Friday, February 5, 2016
Satanic doom champions Goya are giving listeners another reason to revisit their majestically evil and sonically depraved Satan’s Fire EP (review HERE). Released in 2014, both digitally and on limited CD through Owens’ own Opoponax Records imprint, Satan’s Fire found Goya seamlessly blending evil, freak-out psychedelia in the vein of Glitterhouse Records-era Monster Magnet (particularly opening track “Malediction and Death”) with the filthiest, sleaziest riffs to emerge from the bloated underbelly of the doom underground. While the Satan’s Fire 7” is not a literal translation pressed on wax, sadly, as it only features the title track, BUT there is more than enough reason to hunt down the new 7” other than having the ability to bury a needle into “Satan’s Fire” or for simply being a completist. The Satan’s Fire 7” may have shed the awesome “Malediction and Death” and the haunting percussive instrumental “Symbols,” but it does come backed with an incredible cover of Iron Maiden’s “Wrathchild.”
Barely recognizable upon a casual listen, Goya’s subsonic, bass-heavy rendition—like a heaving mass of rising dough—palpably bloats its way through stereo speakers and menacingly threatens to suffocate the listener for its six minute duration. Goya defiantly matches Iron Maiden’s galloping energy with a gargantuan, sloth-like lethargy. Where Paul Di’Anno imbued “Wrathchild” with a streetwise, yet likeable upbeat sneer, Jeff Owens counters with a suitably gruff, road-weary bellow. Both versions have exceptionally killer, somewhat spacey guitar solos, but Owens’ are appropriately twisted and acid-drenched.
No matter what tune Goya had decided to tackle from Iron Maiden’s vast discography the results would have been remarkable, but it is particularly cool that the band chose an upbeat number from the Di’Anno era to deconstruct and rebuild into an abominable golem of doom-and-gloom. Fans of Maiden or not, Goya’s rendition of “Wrathchild” is worth the price of admission alone.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
The phrase “power trio” is often bandied about for any old act consisting of three players, but if there’s any current band truly deserving of that designation it would be Fargo, North Dakota’s Egypt. The band’s second full-length, Endless Flight, spotlights everything that the band has done so well since the release of their debut self-titled EP (review HERE). Endless Flight is a ceaseless blitz of bluesy, often doom-laden riffs, powerful vocals, and molten leads that are both soulful and sublime.
The opening title track is one of the most enjoyable sonic experiences that the band has recorded up to this point. The bluesy opening guitar notes are reminiscent of the late great Junior Kimbrough, but there the similarities ends. “Endless Flight” has a timeless, classic rock feel that simply smokes. This is a blues driven hard rocker that ebbs and flows from upbeat barnburner to laidback, downtempo groove. Vocalist and bassist Aaron Esterby really delivers one of his finest vocal performances by balancing his gruff bellows with more melodic passages.
If there’s a single track that truly reveals the band firing on all cylinders that would have to be the excellent second track, “The Tomb.” It’s a darker journey compared to the album opener and finds the band foregoing calmer waters in favor of in-the-red, amp blowing stoner groove. Esterby and drummer Chad Heille are completely locked in and really lay down a pulsating rhythm that is programmed to destroy. And those leads. Neal Stein layers the tune with fluid, acid-drenched leads while Esterby and Heille keep the momentum rolling at a steady, earth-quaking pace (check the latter half of “Shaman’s March” for an equally awe-inspiring performance).
Endless Flight, with its doom-tinged, blues driven hard rock, is not much of a departure from the band’s excellent 2013 full-length Become the Sun, but it does come across as meticulously refined almost to the point of perfection. Egypt has, from the very beginning, proven to be the real deal and the band continues to hone their sound—the musicianship on Endless Flight is staggering and is in no short supply of obliterating riffs and extended jams. The perfect way to close out a year…
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
On the heels of the excellent 2014 self-titled debut (review HERE) comes the second coming of Adelaide, South Australia’s Lucifer’s Fall. This time around the two-piece incarnation has mutated into an unholy, five-headed beast of a band and the results could not be any more impressive. Those searching for a contemporary traditional doom metal outfit that simply “gets it right” could do much worse. Fuck You We’re Lucifer’s Fall nails it from the beginning.
The EP opener, “Lost,” is an ambitious slab of molten metal that finds the Aussie quintet crafting a heavy, doom-laden anthem for the ages. A morose bassline and sluggish percussion are joined by a rising tide of tortured feedback to kick off the proceedings. It’s a simple, smoldering build-up that is as rewarding as it is downtrodden. Three minutes in and the lumbering pace reaches majestic heights with harmonized guitars before igniting into a scorching conflagration of doom. Think Saint Vitus, Reverend Bizarre, or Lord Vicar at their most upbeat. It’s a killer track that manages to remain engaging for its near fourteen minute runtime.
“Salvation” is probably the evilest sounding tune to come out of the Lucifer’s Fall / Rote Mare camp. Not only is the track centered on a handful of diabolical riffs, but the drumming is a major player in the overall sound. Add to this winning formula leads that are capable of turning rock into magma and Phil Howlett’s impressive and commanding vocal performance and you have another winner on your hands. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s a bit of a Celtic Frost vibe lurking just under the surface of this one (Hell, even the narration from "Lost" smacks of Tom G. Warrior). The latter half of the track launches into the stratosphere, both musically and vocally, resulting in one Hell of a ride.
Doom takes a backseat on the EP closer “(Fuck You) We’re Lucifer’s Fall” in favor of balls-to-the-wall rock and roll. It’s fast, it’s furious, and it takes no prisoners. “(Fuck You) We’re Lucifer’s Fall” is the shortest track penned by the band and it ties up the EP nicely. While the strongest, most engaging material is on the first two tracks the closer illustrates that the band has chops and aren’t afraid to indulge their whims.
The biggest disappointment with Fuck You We’re Lucifer’s Fall is that it is too damn short. Ridiculous complaints aside, it’s killer that the band has new material so close to the release of their debut. The move from being a two-piece to a full-fledged band has definitely paid off as this little EP rips. Hopefully 2016 will see more music from either Lucifer’s Fall or Rote Mare.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
If there ever was a recording artist or band that was in dire need of a Bandcamp page that artist would have to be John Gallo. A search and cursory glance at Youtube would reveal a wellspring of amazing material that has yet to be officially collected and released. Whether the man is concocting a strange, otherworldly doomed brew as John Gallow or with bandmates in Blizaro the end result is always impressive and engaging. Blizaro’s latest demo continues the trend and though it may not be on the same level of “weird” when compared to City of the Living Nightmare or the excellent 2013 compilation Strange Doorways (review HERE), it is some of the best, most sprawling traditional doom to be released this year.
Before even pressing play this demo captures one’s imagination with its song titles: “Death Ressurector,” “Forlorn King,” and “Light of Charon.” Combine those titles with Blizaro’s proven track record and you know you’re in store for something special. The opener, “Death Ressurector,” is an expansive composition that is in no short supply of twists and turns. From the glorious opening through its myriad tempo changes “Death Ressurector” is a scorcher of epic proportions. The track truly hits its stride over halfway through where things get spacey—Gallo’s affected voice seems to emanate from beyond the afterlife and the rhythm section locks into a staggered, lumbering crawl. Where “Death Ressurector” kicked off with a majestic intro, “Forlorn King” goes for the jugular with a muscular, almost barbaric onslaught of percussion and bass. “Forlorn King” is definitely the most aggressive and hard rockin’ track of the collection. It simply rips. Closing out the demo is “Light of Charon,” the dreariest and perhaps grimmest composition of the lot. Gallo’s playing on this track is downright wizardly—the leads are mesmerizing and he utilizes probably the grimiest tone ever unleashed on a Blizaro recording to date. “Light of Charon” is among the best, if not THEE best, doom tracks of the year. Simply stunning.
Blizaro’s forthcoming full-length Cornucopia della Morte is long overdue, but should finally see the light of day in 2016 courtesy of I, Voidhanger Records, the label who incidentally put out Strange Doorways and Gallo’s 2014 solo album Violet Dreams (review HERE). Blizaro’s latest demo, despite its brevity, should hopefully hold fans over until the new full-length is unleashed. The demo has it all, though: Gallo’s distinct wail and unique, unmistakable guitar playing backed by a killer rhythm section comprised of bassist Mark Rapone and drummer Mike Waske. This is doom at its finest—epic, sprawling, and forward thinking.
I, Voidhanger Records Facebook
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Obelisk, like the beast rising from the sea, is a multi-headed blasphemous monster of an album that demonstrates not only Goya’s propensity for crafting evil, unforgettable heavy tunes, but also their ability to manipulate the album’s overall tone with the moody instrumentals “The Star” and “Echo from Space.” Obelisk is easily the band’s most varied release to date, but it also stands as their darkest and grimiest. Goya have channeled a black, twisted psychology with their latest both musically and atmospherically. Full review HERE.
The songs on Absolution are almost as good on wax as they are live. Almost. Khemmis’ debut album certainly deserves the hype due to the seemingly effortless blend of doom metal and infectious melodicism.
Dead Sun Worship is an incredible, well-polished debut and one the finest psychedelic doom albums of the year. Venus Sleeps have simply nailed it: mesmerizing riffs, soaring vocals, and killer guitar harmonies.
Sabbath Assembly have consciously turned their collective attentions toward heavier pastures. Long gone, for the most part, are the pastoral, acoustic laden compositions in favor of what can be best described as occult hard rock and heavy metal. The dusky vocals of Jamie Myers are well-suited for the heavier aspects of Sabbath Assembly and remain, as always, a consistent highlight of the band’s music. She was often able to imbue her voice with both fragility and grace on the hymn-like material of the band’s previous albums. With the heavier compositions Myers often recalls those moments of grace and fragility, but the majority of her vocals are appropriately hardened and more powerful. Full review HERE.
Each of Windhand’s albums have been instantly gratifying, and though Grief’s Infernal Flower doesn’t quite ascend to the heights established on the band’s self-titled debut, it stands, perhaps, as Windhand’s most varied and nuanced release. There is nothing on Grief’s Infernal Flower that matches the intensity of “Winter Sun” from the debut, or the nefarious undercurrents of “Cossack” from Soma, but the overall atmosphere of the band’s latest is unparalleled.
With Time Warriors Horisont managed to master the sound that walked a tightrope stretched across the narrow chasm separating the sound of 70s hard rock and early heavy metal. With Odyssey, the band’s fourth full-length, the Swedes successfully incorporate a heavy dose of progressive rock into the mix for one of the year’s catchiest, most rewarding rock records.
Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions is a stunning album from start to finish and stands as one of the year’s strongest releases, particularly in the doom sphere. And while the band’s debut, Between Two Deserts, was a solid release it is heartening to hear the band progress to such a high level of songwriting. Fans of traditional doom will not be disappointed as the band delivers on every level. Full review HERE.
The Night Creeper is a somewhat grittier affair compared to its predecessor, but the change is subtle and almost imperceptible—the guitars are grimier and the overall production is a bit rougher. While The Night Creeper does not really reveal a large degree of progression or growth for Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, it does show that catchy songwriting and strong performances can go a long way. The band has dialed into a specific sound and they are making the most of it without necessarily rehashing old ideas or recycling riffs.
Behold! The Monolith’s triumphant return, Architects of the Void, understandably marks a slight change in sound and execution. Their third full-length, like its predecessors, is a sprawling metal masterpiece marked by memorable riffs, scorching leads, and intricate song structures. The band, in the face of tragedy, have churned out their darkest album to date that incrementally exchanges the atmospherics that were in abundance on their first two releases for anger and even more aggression. Architects of the Void is not necessarily better or worse than previous efforts…just slightly different, yet still it kicks ass.Full review HERE.
Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress is perhaps Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s most abrasive and tense album thus far. The orchestral moments of sweeping beauty—often engulfed in swirling eddies of noise—are still present, yet elusive and fleeting.
Cosmically atmospheric and seismically heavy are really just two starting points to describe Spelljammer’s triumphant return, Ancient of Days. The Swedish heavy-hitters, now acting as a three-piece, are as sonorous as ever and the reduction in personnel and shifting of duties hasn’t tarnished the band’s mission or overall sound in the slightest. Full review HERE.
IV is a massive, labyrinthine tune that heaves and writhes like the death-throes of a fallen storm giant. Moments of pure, unadulterated menace and loathing are counterbalanced with moodier moments of sparse instrumentation. Due to the band’s sheer negative will IV stands as one of this year’s ugliest releases. Life dealt you a sour hand? Put on Fister’s IV and let the catharsis cleanse and purify you… Full review HERE.
Wrekmeister Harmonies, under the direction of J. R. Robinson, continues to release some of the finest, yet challenging compositions in the realm of heavy music and Night of Your Ascension is perhaps the ever-evolving collective’s crowning achievement. Wrekmeister Harmonies have released a haunting masterpiece that ultimately implodes under its own weight.
Vænir, like its predecessor, is apocalyptically heavy and comes with the threat of cosmic devastation. Guitarist /vocalist Thomas V Jäger seems to transmit his vocals from beyond an interstellar void while unleashing destruction in tandem with bassist Mika Häkki. While much of the album is played out at a lumbering pace, the band has ensorcelled Vænir with an otherworldly atmosphere that few bands manage to fully capture. Full review HERE.
Brothers of the Sonic Cloth is sonic Ragnarök—a devastatingly heavy unfolding of events that is oftentimes cinematic in scope. Whether the music is actively destructive or hinting at the windswept desolation of a fallen empire it’s hard not to imagine Surtr raining down upon the gods and bringing forth the fire that engulfs the Earth. If this is the end result of waiting six years since the band’s 2009 demo, I will gladly wait another six for the next installment. Full review HERE.
Criminally underrated and underexposed French progressive doom band Northwinds have teamed-up with up-and-coming fellow countrymen Marble Chariot for an impressive split album that plays to both bands respective strengths. For two and a half decades Northwinds have been crafting some of the most fantastical compositions in the metal scene by incorporating elements of folk, progressive rock, and doom into a uniquely singular style that sonically embodies strange lands and wistful dreamscapes. Marble Chariot, on the other hand, may not be quite as progressive or as expansive as their compatriots, but they make excellent companions on this split release with their downtrodden, mournful take on traditional doom. Full review HERE.
Goya and Wounded Giant—two heavy-hitters who have already released impressive debuts—have been united under the STB Records banner to release a split album that builds upon and surpasses much of what either band has produced in the past and, hopefully, serves as a harbinger for great things to come from both camps… Full review HERE.
Though the material found on Ira Dei is no great departure from the band’s previous work the three tracks represent some of Black Capricorn’s darkest material to date. Ira Dei is a collection of ritualistic dirges that are as heavy as they are hypnotizing. Full review HERE.
The only thing disappointing about Watchtower’s Radiant Moon is that it is only an EP. This is sludge-driven doom at its finest.
Despite only a two track demo, there is enough stylistic variation to whet one’s appetite for more of Hexenjäger’s take on traditional doom. The band’s demo is beautifully crafted, wholly realized, and perfectly recorded. Hexenjäger is a welcome addition to the growing pantheon of killer French doom acts such as Northwinds, Marble Chariot, Barabbas, and The Bottle Doom Lazy Band. Hexenjäger are starting off on a very high note and it will be interesting to see how they develop in the future. Full review HERE.
Most Anticipated of 2016
1. Wolvserpent - ‘tba’Wolvserpent’s incredible Perigea Antahkarana was ranked at number 10 on 2013’s year’s best list and, in retrospect, the album should have charted much higher. Perigea Antahkarana has stood the test of time and is still revealing is dark mysteries. The duo’s forthcoming album is highly anticpated…
2. Cardinal Wyrm – ‘Cast Away Souls’Cardinal’s Wyrm’s Black Hole Gods was one of the most original doom releases of 2014 and the band managed to dial into a sound that was completely in class of its own. If the band’s forthcoming album is anywhere close to the sheer brilliance of Black Hole Gods it will easily be one of the best of 2016.
3. Lord Vicar – ‘Gates of Flesh’Lord Vicar are simply legends and Fear No Pain and Signs of Osiris (not to mention their handful of split albums) are damn near perfect. The upcoming Gates of Flesh has been conceptualized for several years and the stars have finally aligned. No doubt, Lord Vicar will deliver another masterpiece.
4. The Wounded Kings – ‘Visions in Bone’George Birch is back in the fold. Is there need to say more? The Wounded Kings, in any incarnation, are favorites here at Vertical Chamber Apparatus, but the magic of Embrace of the Narrow House and The Shadow over Atlantis are virtually unparalleled.
5. Curse the Son – ‘tba’Curse the Son’s Psychache was a masterpiece and, as a result, took the top spot here in 2013. This band has it all—killer, Sabbathy riffs, an amazing rhythm section, and great vocals. This is definitely one to watch for in the coming year.
6. Slomatics – ‘tba’Slomatics, another VCA favorite, are an unstoppable force. This band is HEAVY in every sense with just the right amount of experimentalism. A Hocht is nothing short of genius and the follow-up, Estron, was no slouch either. Expect one of the heaviest albums of 2016 from the Belfast trio.
7. The Skull – ‘tba’There have been a few changes in The Skull camp in the past year, but hopes are still high for the follow-up to 2014’s excellent For Those Which Are Asleep.
8. Inter Arma – ‘tba’Inter Arma have been on a roll with both Sky Burial and The Cavern. The band is forward thinking and manages to successfully harness a variety of sounds and styles into one Hell of a potent concoction.
9. Goatess – ‘Purgatory Under New Management’Two Chritus fronted releases in 2016? Fuck yes.
10. Wretch – ‘tba’Really looking forward to where Karl Simon will take listeners with his new project. There’s been a void since the demise of The Gates of Slumber and hopefully Wretch is the answer.
11. Lucifer’s Fall – ‘Fuck You We’re Lucifer’s Fall’ EPThough it seems that Rote Mare is on the back burner for now, Lucifer’s Fall is a more than capable substitution. Phil Howlett never seems to rest and a follow-up to Lucifer’s Fall is highly anticipated around these parts.
12. Witchcraft – ‘Nucleus’If the year was currently 2011 anticipation for a new Witchcraft would be through the roof. Legend really seemed to divide listeners and I, for one, found the album to be a huge letdown. The band’s latest single ”The Outcast,” however, shows hints of the Witchcraft of old so Magnus Pelander and his new rhythm section definitely deserve a spot on this list. Fingers crossed on this one…
Saturday, November 28, 2015
Cosmically atmospheric and seismically heavy are really just two starting points to describe Spelljammer’s triumphant return, Ancient of Days. The Swedish heavy-hitters, now acting as a three-piece, are as sonorous as ever and the reduction in personnel and shifting of duties hasn’t tarnished the band’s mission or overall sound in the slightest. Ancient of Days plays out as both a logical extension and worthy successor to their last epic sonic offering, Vol. II (review HERE).
Album-opener “Meadow” is a smoldering, pulsating slab of intergalactic debris set for a collision course with the Sun that perfectly establishes the tone for the ensuing onslaught of amplifier worshipping aftershocks to follow. Anyone who has had the privilege of catching Sleep live since reforming in 2009 should have a pretty good idea of what to expect while listening to and experiencing Spelljammer’s latest. The riffs, when in full-effect and dialed-in to crush, are all-encompassing and damn near impenetrable. “Meadow” is mostly a slow burn—a sorcerous wall-of-sound force capable of obliterating a small planet. Spelljammer’s proficiency with intertwining massive barrages of distorted riffs with softer, spacier moments has only grown over time.
The trippy, yet bluesy, intro to “From Slumber” elucidates Spelljammer’s deftness with crafting subtle textures and ability to manipulate tension—a tension that is eventually laid-to-waste by the heft of “The Pathfinder.” In addition to highlighting the psychedelic side of Spelljammer, “From Slumber” also illuminates the fluid, wave-like bass playing of Niklas Olsson who had previously played guitar on prior releases. The bass presence on the entire album takes Spelljammer’s music to previously unattainable planes.
Ancient of Days is a more-than-welcome addition to Spelljammer’s stellar discography, especially when not long after the release of Vol. II the band’s future appeared uncertain. Ancient of Days is as good as anything they have released prior and the band is just as potent, if not more so, as a three-piece. Fans of immense, psychedelic doom and heavy rock will not be disappointed in Ancient of Days. Easily one of the year’s very best…
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
With 2013’s Red Skies and Dead Eyes it was apparent that Norway’s Tombstones had joined a select and elite class of musicians who seemed to improve and progress with each subsequent release. Red Skies and Dead Eyes was an immense, earth-quaking album from start to finish that upped the ante in terms of songwriting and musicianship. After spending a few weeks with the band’s upcoming fourth full-length, Vargariis, it’s safe to report that Tombstones have not only matched the obliterating heft found on their standout albums Year of the Burial and Red Skies and Dead Eyes, but they have miraculously somehow managed to make their largest leap stylistically and compositionally. Vargariis finds the Oslo three-piece plummeting into a blackened abyss and unleashing their darkest and heaviest material to date.
The most striking element of Vargariis is how unbelievably immense the album sounds. It’s simply monstrous. Once the feedback begins to wane on the album opener, “Barren Fields,” Tombstones unload a sonorous assault of riffs and percussive battery that is almost unprecedented in their discography. The first thing that comes to mind is the seismic aural attack of Belfast’s Slomatics. The remainder of the album isn’t quite as heavy as the opener, but it comes extremely close.
Though Tombstones have increased their overall heft and expanded their tunes compositionally they have also expanded their sonic palette. Vargariis finds the band stretching their tunes out to even greater lengths and incorporating more blackened elements into their repertoire. “Oceans of Consciousness,” for example, kicks off at a furious, blasting pace before settling into a more familiar Tombstones-like groove. At over ten minute in length “Oceans of Consciousness” barely edges out the other five tunes for longest song length, but Tombstones are able to keep things interesting with shifts in tempo and a few returns to the blasting onslaught that opened the track.
With a release date set for December 4, 2015 it is safe to say that, without a doubt, Vargariis is one of the heaviest albums of the year. And though the band has adopted a darker, grimmer sonic approach the band has not abandoned their love of heavy, mesmerizing riffs. Returns to bluesy, laidback stoner jams also surface on the latter half of “Oceans of Consciousness” and are embedded throughout the album closer “Pyre of the Cloth.” Fans of Tombstones will not be disappointed and Vargariis will undoubtedly garner new fans. Vargariis is a triumph in every way.
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Over the span of three full-lengths and a killer split with fellow countrymen Bretus (review HERE), Italy’s Black Capricorn have been harnessing and channeling cosmic emanations into potent meditations of trance-inducing psychedelic doom. On the heels of their excellent split comes the unexpected, limited time only release, Ira Dei EP. Though the material found on Ira Dei is no great departure from the band’s previous work the three tracks represent some of Black Capricorn’s darkest material to date. Ira Dei is a collection of ritualistic dirges that are as heavy as they are hypnotizing.
Among the many things that Black Capricorn does well is building palpable tension with their song intros and the EP opener, “Evil Horde of Lucifer,” is no exception with its rising-tide of cryptic noise and briefly backmasked instrumentation that ultimately yields to a lumbering groove. The track effectively weaves chant-like French vocals with more forceful vocals sung in English to powerful effect.
“Zeernebooch,” the most memorable track of the EP, spins a grim tale about the destruction of the human race at the hands of the dark god who holds dominion over the dead. The instrumentation is more than suitable for the subject matter and the track features fuzzed out, acid-rock leads buried within the hulking riffs, along with some deceptively nuanced percussion.
Don’t sleep on this one as Ira Dei is only available for a limited time (one week) as the band hopes to use the proceeds from the as-of-now digital only release to help with their upcoming European tour. Though the EP is only available for a limited time digitally the band hopes to use the tracks for either a split release or as part of an EP in physical format.