February 14, 2020

Konvent - Puritan Masochism

By Calen Henry. Copenhagen based newcomers Konvent are billed as death doom. From the first huge guitar note, however, their blown out fuzz assault is more reminiscent of manic sludge punks Mantar than the likes of Hooded Menace and Runemagick. The trudging pace is certainly reminiscent of those two, though, making for an intriguing sludge doom mix.
By Calen Henry.


Copenhagen based newcomers Konvent are billed as death doom. From the first huge guitar note, however, their blown out fuzz assault is more reminiscent of manic sludge punks Mantar than the likes of Hooded Menace and Runemagick. The trudging pace is certainly reminiscent of those two, though, making for an intriguing sludge doom mix.

Puritan Masochism is the band’s first full length, though they’ve been together since 2015. The result sounds confident, purposeful, and extremely focused. The women in Konvent know exactly what they’re doing: Bludgeoning melodic riffs, guttural growls, witch rasps. Rinse. Repeat.

Such a no frills approach is a bit of a gamble in an increasingly saturated metal world but the band draws enough from doom, death metal, and sludge to create a signature sound while backing it up with good riffs and good vocals It does mean there isn’t a lot to say about them, though. But what more do you need than: Turn on, Tune in, drop into a continuous slow head bang.

February 11, 2020

Riff Spreader Best of January

[Riff Spreader is back with his best discoveries from January. As usual the agenda is: No fash trash. Just righteous riffs]. There’s a new Nachtlieder track called “Avgrunden” and I’m starting to wonder if Dagny Susanne was built in a black metal lab somewhere. If you imagined perfect black metal riffs I don’t think you could get much closer than this song. ["Avgrunden" is a single from the EP Views from the North vol. I, due late February].
[Riff Spreader is back with his best discoveries from January. As usual the agenda is: No fash trash. Just righteous riffs.]


There’s a new Nachtlieder track called “Avgrunden” and I’m starting to wonder if Dagny Susanne was built in a black metal lab somewhere. If you imagined perfect black metal riffs I don’t think you could get much closer than this song. ["Avgrunden" is a single from the Views from the North vol. I EP, due late February].


Artwork by Karmazid.

Hey, there's new shit from Garroted out - a split with Calcemia, who I have never heard but will shortly. Garroted rules, if you didn't know. [So does Calcemia].


Artwork by Lordigan Pedro Sana.

The new Wormhole album has arrived. Slammy tech death with hardcore influence. These guys were a lot of fun live, and I've been waiting for this one for a while. Good times. Actually a lot of the hardcore influence is gone on this release. This is much more proggy/tech than their debut.


Artwork by CT Nelson.

There's a new Sutrah track streaming on Bandcamp and it's very, very good. I almost wet myself at the 2 minute mark. If this track is any indication, the new album is going to be even better than the debut, which is insane. [And the pre-order for the Aletheia EP is only $4].

February 6, 2020

The Doomed Concept - Bull Elephant, Howling Giant, and Bushwhacker

By Calen Henry. Last year saw the release of three great doomy concept albums, all of which I either initially missed or glossed over and all of which are worth revisiting both for music and stories. Anonymous UK collective Bull Elephant dropped their self-titled debut in November. They go all in on their concept telling the story of a slaughtered African elephant reanimated by Nazi occultists
By Calen Henry.

Last year saw the release of three great doomy concept albums, all of which I either initially missed or glossed over and all of which are worth revisiting both for music and stories.

Cover art by all4band.com.

Anonymous UK collective Bull Elephant dropped their self-titled debut in November. They go all in on their concept telling the story of a slaughtered African elephant reanimated by Nazi occultists to further their war effort, only to be interrupted by a witch-shaman and turned on its killers. Elder forces, having other plans for the beast, intercede through time and space. They realize that no matter which side prevails, the earth is doomed to a slow cycle of degradation as humans, a mere cosmic footnote, wage their slowly escalating war on nature. After the great pachyderm falls in battle against its captors and killers, these elder gods raise it for one final battle to catalyze humanity’s ruin and reset the cosmic balance.

Backing up the story is a wall of doom/sludge that constantly churns through riffs, leads, and vocal styles. At first listen the heavier side dominates; thundering drums, crushing guitar riffs and guttural vocals. Ultimately, though, the vocals unlock the album’s potential. The vocalist(s) run the gamut from guttural death metal growls, to black metal rasps, gritty mid-range, and a manic falsetto that just pushes into distorted without turning into a shriek.

The instruments lock in with all these changes, always the right sonic palette for the vocals. They effortlessly slip from psychedelic clean guitar passages into crushing doom riffs, and soaring guitar leads, even dropping into full-on HM-2 fueled OSDM for “Corrupted Truth”. The swirling musical shifts match not only the vocal changes, but the scenes in the story. As the story moves from terrestrial to celestial happenings, and into the future and back the musical backdrop always matches. It makes following the story with the included PDF lyrics sheet thoroughly enthralling.

The icing is that, though Bull Elephant are anonymous and independent, they’ve gone to great lengths to perfect their album. It sounds amazing. No matter how airy, busy, or dirty it is at a given point it always sounds just right. Everything comes through and nothing gets lost.

By delivering the full package of ridiculous kitchen-sink metal concept album Bull Elephant have set the bar high on their debut and are allegedly already working on Bull Elephant II...


Cover Art by Lindsey Camelio.

The Space Between Worlds is Howling Giant's first full length after a series of pulp science fiction themed EPs. This time the Nashville trio has gone full sci-fi concept album. The overarching story is that of a huntress on a journey through the metaphysical realm of humanity’s collective dreamscape. In it she must confront a dream eater in an attempt to stop it devouring dreamers and destabilizing the dimension itself. The actual story is told completely within the dream realm and plays out more like a classic fantasy yarn as the huntress traverses the land on the way to the dream eater’s citadel for the final confrontation.

In contrast to Bull Elephant’s prog doom melting pot Howling Giant play extremely melodic stoner rock. The closest touch-point is ASG (Jason Shi even provides some guest vocals). All the vocals are clean with lots of harmonized parts and the guitar tone is warm and fuzzy. It’s an extremely easy album to listen to, and indeed, I glossed over it on my first listen. Underneath the easily digestible sound the band have written a selection of great songs full of hooks and ear-worm sing-along choruses. Instead of falling into the common stoner rock trap of stringing together some huge riffs and calling it an album, the songs feel intentionally structured to both support the story and come out as good songs. They keep things moving along, rarely riding a riff for very long and often working in 6/8, so that when they do drop into a huge “slow headbang” stoner metal riff it always hits hard.

Like The Sword’s sci-fi concept period (Warp Riders and Apochryphon) Howling Giant aren’t reinventing the wheel. But The Space Between Worlds deliver an exciting concept that’s well executed with a signature sound that’s immediately approachable, but continually rewarding.


Cover Art by Adam Burke.

Originally hailing from Canada’s Klondike, Vancouver’s Bushwhacker go full cowboy concept metal on A Fistful of Poison. It chronicles the downfall of a drug addicted band of desperadoes, tricked by a local barkeep into seeking out a cult rumoured to grow their chosen drug and worship the ancient Egyptian crocodile-headed god Sobek. Matt over at Can This Even Be Called Music delves deep into the story better than I possibly could, and it really requires that level of immersion because the narrative drives the whole album and is essential to its success.

The narrative drives everything from the radio-drama style vignettes to the flow of the music itself. The vignettes are over the top, but so is the whole concept so it works. They unambiguously deliver the core story, letting the lyrics deliver the metaphorical and psychological side of the desperadoes' doomed journey. Between these the musical content of A Fistful of Poison leans heavily on long atmospheric instrumental sections to fully develop the story's pervasive feeling of manic desperation. Bushwhacker take the framework pioneered by Sleep of lengthy passages dominated by a single riff, slowly building and shifting, and employ it in service of the narrative. It's a perfect match for the vocals. The incantation-like delivery, a rhythmic chanting, escalates in parallel with the instruments to an unhinged rasp at key story moments.

Bushwhacker are all in on the storytelling and A Fistful of Poison is a fantastic soundtrack to an engrossing narrative, but without delving into both it risks falling flat. That may make it a polarizing album, but it's well worth the effort to unpack and unlike almost any other.