February 16, 2018

Fister / Chrch - Split

Fister and Chrch are both known for being as heavy as really heavy things so putting them together on a split should have caused a collision of black holes. But we're still here and the only black hole you'll find
By Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Ethan Lee McCarthy

Fister and Chrch are both known for being as heavy as really heavy things so putting them together on a split should have caused a collision of black holes. But we're still here and the only black hole you'll find is the one you find yourself in (mentally) after succumbing to the darkness both bands foist upon you with one long song each. One might like to think however, that the resultant gravitational waves from this imagined collision influenced the sheer weight this split contains.

Chrch gives us “Temples”, a nearly 17 minute doom ride that begins with a lonesome guitar intro that seems very Pallbearer-like (if we're doing those kinds of comparisons). Even when the heavy comes there's an undertone that creates the same sort of melancholy, yet married to monolithic doom of the kind not meant to annihilate from the core but to destroy from the outside in. Almost six minutes in that overt doom power takes over as thunderous slo-burning riffs pummel at a measured pace. Atmosphere creeps back in and darkens the heart while squeezing tight. It feels sky high and completely buried at the same time. The vile vocals, sparse as they can be, beckon from a tortured place thick with rasp and vile adding another element to the complex brew. Eventually the track returns to that syrupy slog oozing despair with clean vocals barely audible beneath the crash, bringing in yet more atmosphere leading into towering riffs sure to put a scowl on your face. It then pushes back around to that depressive guitar that began the track. Like completing a circle. Perfect for repetition.

If you're not wise to Chrch and love (old) Pallbearer's style of superb heaviness and heart-wrenching melancholy, look no further. Don't get me wrong. They're far from clones. They're just likely to push the same buttons. But push them harder. If you are already wise to Chrch, this latest service should have you primed for their next LP slated for release in April.

Screams most unholy strip the colour off the picture of pain and darkness Fister are trying to paint with the slogging pace of their concussive “riffs” on “The Ditch”. Repetition wears you down under a mechanical power but the vocals inject muscle to fight your way out of the pit. As you get settled into a loaded 20:28 a spectre of colour suddenly materializes sending tendrils of chaos swirling through the fog in the form of a guitar solo straight from the gut. All that buildup and noise turns to dust as Fister change the atmosphere with their own lonesome guitar. Through this more contemplative section, complete with some interesting noise and whispering, it slowly creeps back to hammering, pulsing, life-sustaining doom. Ascendant riffs run head-on into massive chugs and otherworldly vocals. It continuously pounds the listener like a stamping press, forming something dark and twisted. And much less likely to rise up than it was before.

I'm not sure what Fister has in the pipeline but “The Ditch” should give listeners enough to digest for a while anyway.

Get your doom on, folks.


[Got a heads up from Fister: "our new full length will be out in April on Listenable Records!"]

February 15, 2018

Novareign - Legends

By Calen Henry. Novareign play power metal, the new American style that injects it with traditional metal grit and a bit of death metal heft. They hew closest to other California bands, often sounding like Holy Grail dialed up to Exmortus
By Calen Henry.


Novareign play power metal, the new American style that injects it with traditional metal grit and a bit of death metal heft. They hew closest to other California bands, often sounding like Holy Grail dialed up to Exmortus (and featuring a former member). But they inject a bit of the epic swagger and genre-hopping of recent darlings Unleash the Archers and Aether Realm, as well one of my favourites, Tanagra.

Despite Legends being the band's first full length, they've been together since 2012 and it shows. It's an instrumental fireworks show; drums gallop at lightning speed and riffs fly by. Solos blaze through arpeggios, tapping, and whammy acrobatics.

There is so much going on that, upon first listen, it can all blend together to simply sound like "some neoclassical band", but the album unfolds upon repeated listens revealing all manner of catchy riffs and choruses as well as some diversions into Necrophagist-ey death metal riffing. Impressively, it doesn't come off as self indulgent, but earnest and fun. Novareign don't think they're better than you. They can shred and want you to have as much fun listening as they do shredding.

Front to back, Legends absolutely rips and any fan of the new wave of US power metal will be in for a treat. I get the feeling, though, that the best is yet to come for Novareign . It sometimes sounds like they're pulling of the instrumental acrobatics effortlessly and that they could actually be doing a bit more, compositionally, which is a bit of a back-handed compliment. Their shredding is already top notch, but there are moments of sheer brilliance where an arpeggio or riff goes in a different direction than it first seems and I want to see that creativity pushed further, since their musical skill is amply clear.

Similar to the musicians, it sounds like singer David Marquez is holding back a bit, though there are moments of absolute brilliance that really show what he can do like the sustained note at the end of "Call on the Storm". Across the album, though, he doesn't quite reach the heights of Holy Grail's James Luna, but I think he could.

None of this drags the album down, though. It's a blast, and a really great addition to the US power metal canon but it leaves me feeling like their next record will blow this one away and could shatter expectations the way Apex did, taking an already great band to the top. I'll certainly be along for the ride.

February 14, 2018

Hound the Wolves - Camera Obscura

By Ulla Roschat. Go get your mind's space gear (head phones), because it's got an invitation by Hound the Wolves to join them on a psychedelic journey through Drone, Doom, Stoner soundscapes with their debut album Camera Obscura.
By Ulla Roschat.

Cover art by Adam Burke

Go get your mind's space gear (head phones), because it's got an invitation by Hound the Wolves to join them on a psychedelic journey through Drone, Doom, Stoner soundscapes with their debut album Camera Obscura.

The journey has four stages and takes about 30 minutes.

The first one, the opening song, "If Lost In Mind" is a kind of an intro song. There doesn't seem to happen very much, but it perfectly lays out what the music is about. There is such a hypnotic power to it that entrances and lures you into its spritualistic vibe, opens your mind and senses for what's to come. Drone based, slow paced, echoing, reverberating sounds, ethereal vocals that seem to come from different directions, surround and enshroud you. A rotating droning sound like a spinning gyroscope, or prayer wheel adds a ritualistic element and it softly lifts you up. The very next moment you get hurled into space and into the next song.

"Masquerade" starts off heavier, faster and more aggressive, but there’s always a spacious open sound and a sense of elusiveness. Soon the song slows down and slides into a mysterious gloomy atmosphere with a dark Drone background and murky melodies. Propelling driving drums and bass and many layers of sounds mount into a climactic build up carrying the song to its glorious end. There's a great Sludge and Post Metal feel to this song with different kinds of dynamics and tensions. Throughout the album  the vocals always match the respective moment's mood perfectly well and contribute to its sense of harmony and completeness, but nowhere on the album this is as striking as it is in this song.

"Omnia In Numeris Sita Sunt" then calms everything down again and floats along a gloomy space road in a slow pace . This song somehow seems to balance out the unsettling mood of its predecessor. The mesmerizing vocals, that repeat the song title in mantra-like chants and the rotating, spinning  sound from the opening song brings back the hypnotic, ritualistic feel of that song.

The 4th and final song "Everything Lies Veiled In Numbers", doesn't only share the title with the 3rd song, just in a different language, it also has a similar kind of structure and dynamics. The mood differs, though, going more into a melancholic direction, but it's no less obscure, gloomy and magical.

Camera Obscura is truly trippy and meditative. The way this five piece band from Portland /OR layer the sounds and melodies, keep it all spacious and elusive, lucid and obscure at the same time, connect it with a genuine spirituality that avoids all cliché, is quite unique, highly emotional and powerful.

The track "Everything Lies veiled In Numbers" is featured on The Wicked Lady Show 158