Monday, May 2, 2016

King Woman - Doubt

By Matt Hinch. Sometimes albums just slip through your fingers. And sometimes someone else picks the album up and puts in back in your hand. That's what happened with the Doubt EP by King Woman
By Matt Hinch.


Sometimes albums just slip through your fingers. And sometimes someone else picks the album up and puts in back in your hand. That's what happened with the Doubt EP by King Woman. Released in October 2014 I just recently got around to it. Not that it hasn't received plenty of praise though. The Kristina Esfandiari fronted outfit saw lots of positive press upon its release. Here's some more.

Opener “Wrong” feels like a SubRosa track with no violins and a different singer. Slow, dark, doomy and massive. The guitars surround and layers move in and out of focus as your ears shift to try and take it all in.

“King of Swords” follows with a more shoegaze slant. I'm reminded of recent Alcest or Explosions in the Sky in the way the tremolos sparkle amid the brooding cadences. Esfandiari's croon sounds freeing, like a burden being lifted from the heart. Her expressive delivery comes from deep within, laying bare her soul.

“Burn” continues with the deceptive nature of the EP. On one hand it feels simple, easy, and uncomplicated as the forlorn melodies and droning pull lumber on unstoppable. But on the other hand there is so much going on. Every member is playing off one another in some way with lush atmosphere and depressing tone. The gentle sway is hypnotic, affecting and unforgettable.

“Candescent Soul” finishes the EP with crawling doomgaze plodding away under painful melody and Esfandiari's haunting voice setting the listener free to carry on their own journey through life. I've heard comparisons to Mazzy Star, Jex Thoth and PJ Harvey but I'm more likely to pick up Fiona Apple for what it's worth.

Doubt is just a short EP but letting it repeat feels right most of the time. As much as it's about casting off shackles and finding ones self, the mood is depressing enough that you don't get that big rush of cathartic relief. But that doesn't mean you can't connect with it. Quite the opposite. Doubt is fit for contemplation, inviting, sensual and comforting in a strange way. If you have doubts, give it a shot.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Paroxsihzem - Abyss of Excruciating Vexes

By Justin C. I don't usually go out of my way these days to pick up more boundary-pushing blackened death metal. My attitude is, "Well, I've got some Portal albums, so I'm all set here." And yet, sometimes a little something interesting sneaks through and asks for attention. Enter Paroxsihzem.
By Justin C.

Artwork by Krag from Paroxsihzem

I don't usually go out of my way these days to pick up more boundary-pushing blackened death metal. My attitude is, "Well, I've got some Portal albums, so I'm all set here." And yet, sometimes a little something interesting sneaks through and asks for attention. Enter Paroxsihzem.

Paroxsihzem's last full length was featured here by Mr. Sunyata. His description of that album as "astoundingly heavy at any speed" featuring "bulbous riffs" and "incomprehensibly irate vocals" also fits their new EP, Abyss of Excruciating Vexes. To me, the band's riff-craft is what really holds my attention. Yes, they're chaotic, diving through and around each other, overlapping pure crunch with dissonant stabs, but in a way, they're surprisingly digestible. (This is all relatively speaking, of course.) The lurching opening riff of "BZ Experiment" could be from any quality sludge album, or at least it could before it fractures into a grinding pulse that seems to be coming in and out of phase with reality. But even so, it never fully abandons that straight-ahead, meaty feel from the intro, and that makes all the difference between interesting composition and "Well, I don't really care where my riffs start or where they end. I make my music for the pure forces of dark and chaos, not for the enjoyment of lowly humans!"

If anything, this EP sounds even heavier and murkier than the self-titled, and how you feel about that highly depends on what you value from this kind of music. Personally, I liked that the riffing was further out front on Paroxsihzem, on almost equal footing with the vocals. Abyss of Excruciating Vexes finds the vocals more in front while the guitars are pushed back into the cavern a bit--a bit too far back in my ears' opinion. I think they deserve to be more prominently showcased, and in fact, I think a more balanced mix like on Portal's Vexovoid would serve Paroxsihzem well. But to be fair, what's lost in clarity certainly adds to the suffocating atmosphere, and that has its appeal as well. Come for the riffing, or come for the smothering heaviness, but either way, Abyss of Excruciating Vexes is worth a listen.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Lucifer's Child - The Wiccan

By Andy Osborn. One of my favorite things about the Greek scene is how the bands can so clearly influence each other while still sounding wholly unique. Katavasia, a supergroup of sorts, emerged last year with an incredible debut that sounded entirely Hellenic but still stood its own, war-torn ground.
By Andy Osborn.


One of my favorite things about the Greek scene (and there are a lot of them) is how the bands can so clearly influence each other while still sounding wholly unique. Katavasia, a supergroup of sorts, emerged last year with an incredible debut that sounded entirely Hellenic but still stood its own, war-torn ground. And with such influential bands as Rotting Christ and Varathron running strong for over two decades, it’s great to see the influences imparted without giving way to (too many) imposters.

I pretend to be a student of this scene, so I was shocked to stumble across Lucifer’s Child months after The Wiccan was unleashed. Their first album is so fun, so unique, and so singularly Greek that one would of imagined it igniting the metallic blogosphere into a drooling frenzy. But with the ‘best of’ rush getting earlier and earlier every year, it’s no surprise that a new, unknown Greek band on what’s traditionally a Norwegian Viking-ish label would get lost in the mix late in the year.

What draws me to Lucifer’s Child is how clearly defined their sound is already despite having no clear history. It’s far removed from traditional black metal, with nary a tremolo or double bass beat to be found and odd, circusy riffs drilling themselves into your brain and triggering whatever sort of dance mechanism black metal fans may have. Vocalist Marios Dupont does his best Sakis Tolis impression, and while that type of thunderous cry has become a mainstay on the peninsula, it’s still a refreshing vocal attack that fits the quartet.

But they don’t reveal this all at once, as the opening track only hints at the cards they’re holding without giving away the full hand. It’s a mid-paced rocker with some - but not too much - guitar trickery that’s a perfect appetizer for the dessicated feast to come. I declare all bands should copy this method: Instead of having some nonsense ambient intro that doesn’t doesn’t sound anything like the rest of the record, make an “Hors de Combat” to tease and intrigue, holding back until you really want to show off.

And showing off is just what they do for the next few tracks. “A True Mayhem”, “Spirits of Amenta”, and “He, Who Punishes Slays” are just plain ludicrous in what they achieve. While the song construction is fairly simple - take a fairly weird and catchy-as-fuck riff and toss in some rockin’ drums - it’s executed so well what it disguises you from what this really is. It’s upbeat alt-rock disguised at black metal. It’s what Queens of the Stone Age would sound like if they moved to Norway and started worshipping the devil. It’s a Kvelertak record from a different dimension. And it’s fucking cool. I’ve played those three tracks more than anything else in the past few months since I discovered them, that's how strong their hold is.

So it’s a bit sad that this epic build-up and subsequent fun doesn’t last forever. The first four tracks are by far the best and really define The Wiccan, because after some middling sameness, “Lucifer’s Child” and “Doom” completely ditch what they’ve been showing off so far and see the band transforming into some sort of psychedelic doom group - a look that doesn’t exactly fit them.

It’s an unfortunate note to end on, as the songs perfectly show the band’s weirdness without any of the fun. Although it doesn’t fully realize its potential, The Wiccan is still a wickedly fun album packed with ridiculously fun riffs and the type of joyful, upbeat rhythm that black metal usually tries to stay away from.