Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Desert Storm - Omniscient

Written by Ulla Roschat.

Omniscient is about 50 minutes and ten songs of a blues infused southern stoner rock with a definite psychedelic vibe, touching metal territory, especially with the vocals, and spiced with funky jazzy elements as well as with calm acoustic parts. It’s also the 3rd full length album of NOLA based … wait, no … Oxford, it’s Oxford UK they come from… all right, Oxford based five piece rock/metal band Desert Storm.

The opening song "Outlander" is a fast paced blues laden groovy stoner track. With this track the band comes strutting into a dark dive bar, like a genie released from the bottle, blaring boldly: "We are Desert Storm and we are going to set this place ablaze!". With this magic spell the bar comes to life…. there’s drinking, joking and shouting, stories are being told, with passion and emotion.

Each of the following songs is like a different aspect of what is going on in the bar, each of a distinct character with a measured intricacy, surprising moments and twists, but they are complected, with intertwining textures, magically bound together by a secret formula that is only effective within the walls of this bar.

While the first songs are all dominated by a groovy stoner vibe that is slowly sliding into a dark heavy swamp atmosphere, the 5th song "Home" is a kind of break, a hauntingly beautiful, dark, bluesy folk tune with clean vocals. From here the songs take on more of the jazzy, funky, boogie attitude, without ever letting go of the southern boozy swamp feel.

With the last song "Collapse of the Bison Lung" the genie struts out of the bar as bold as he came in, stomping and raging with one last crushing blast to make sure the destruction is complete and the magic goes up in smoke.

Open the genie’s bottle, or simply push the play button for Omniscient and Desert Storm will take you to the magic bar with their intoxicating homemade spice blend of bluesy, funky, psychedelic and dark folky tunes they use to create their unique style of southern downtuned heaviness.

The song "Home" is featured on The Wicked Lady Show 83

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Anopheli - The Ache of Want

Written by Justin C.

There are a lot of ways for metal bands to incorporate instruments that aren't common to the genre. In some cases, like the banjo solo on Taake's Noregs Vaapen, they surprise but then disappear almost as quickly as they arrive. In other cases, like Jørgen Munkeby's sax in Shining or Otrebor's hammered dulcimer in Botanist, they are an integral part of the band's sound. And of course, in some unfortunate cases, a band with more money than sense will hire a string section or a whole damn symphony orchestra to simply double some riffs and bass lines for no musical purpose (*cough* Metallica and Guns 'n Roses *cough*).

Anopheli and their cellist, Nicole, are a fine example of doing this right. The band very accurately self describes itself as "melancholy doom-laden emo punk," and there are a lot of great things happening with this music, but the cello parts are certainly some of the more striking. On Anopheli's latest album, An Ache of Want, the cello is front and center, carrying melodic lines and naturally riffing with the guitars. The album's closing song, "Trade," has a great example of this interplay, with the cello and guitar sharing and trading motifs back and forth. You might not expect a crust punk band to be striking in a compositional sense, but sometimes exceptions to the rule are very happy exceptions, indeed.

But I don't want to make this sound like the band just plays slightly heavy chamber music, because they also happen to be furious and emotionally raw. The line up for this particular album credits three vocalists, featuring plenty of dueling male/female lines. Guitars range between distorted, clean, and acoustic, and likewise, the rhythm section delivers what's needed, both in the doomier and more explosive sections. The band can bruise and delight in equal measure, and it’s a blast listening to them mix them together.

Their previous album, A Hunger Rarely Sated, is also well worth checking out--and I'd almost forgotten how much I enjoyed it until I went back to re-listen to it when prepping for this review--but The Ache of Want is a huge step forward for this band. It may wear its heart (and its rage) on its sleeve, but repeat listens reveal its subtlety.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Forgotten Gods - Twin Sisters

Written by Calen Henry.

Artwork by Dave Stoltenberg

Twin Sisters, Forgotten Gods’ sophomore album is stoner doom from the Desert Altar in the best way. The album oozes hip shaking, head nodding riffs and smooth retro production, while an overall warm sound, and plenty of wah give it a laid back approachability that belies its weirdness.

Forgotten Gods’ first record, Fall of the Dagger, is a great collection of songs, but some of the production didn’t quite fit the hazy space-doom sound. The guitar, in particular, had a bit too much of a snarl for laid back stoner doom and the overall production was a bit "garagey" for the band’s sound. Twin Sisters, on the other hand nails the production. Everything sounds just right; the guitars have just the right “crunch”, the bass thumps out the groove and the subtleties of the cymbals are just as apparent as the thumping kick drum. Production-wise this is the best sounding stoner doom record of the year.

The music complements the excellent production to a T. Monster riffs abound with all kinds of great lead work and some wonderfully excessive, but brief, effects. Underneath all the boogie, though, things are just a bit odd. There are lots of chromatic runs and slightly weird chord voicings. You could miss them if you just want a rockin’ summer road trip album, but they give the record a great additional level for repeated listens. The effect is improved by the band otherwise adhering to genre tropes, rather than venturing into “progressive” or “experimental” territory. The closest parallel is Priestess' Prior to the Fire (one of my favourite metal albums).

With Bandcamp stoner doom is getting to be a crowded space. And while there is lots of excellent traditional doom metal there, between the bong worshipping excess of Eastern European bands and the coat of filth that American bands tend to apply. But there are few bands even attempting this kind of straightforward music, let alone pulling it off with such aplomb, and so successfully walking the line between rocking and weird.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]