Friday, February 24, 2017

Unearthly Trance - Stalking the Ghost

By Karen A. Mann. New York’s Unearthly Trance have been crafting earth-crushing sludge with a strange, darkly magical quality since 2000. Over the course of several releases, they’ve moved from a blackened sound to one that’s doomier, more psychedelic and experimental. Their latest Relapse release
By Karen A. Mann.

Cover art by Orion Landau.

New York’s Unearthly Trance have been crafting earth-crushing sludge with a strange, darkly magical quality since 2000. Over the course of several releases, they’ve moved from a blackened sound to one that’s doomier, more psychedelic and experimental. Their latest Relapse release, Stalking the Ghost, sees them at their most expansive and diverse. Through eight songs, they cover a lot of ground, from pounding heavy rock to crushing, murky doom to droning noise, all with occasional clean vocals and guitar cutting through the ominous layers.

The album opens with “Into the Spiral,” a straight-ahead, sludgy rocker that seems pretty cut-and-dried, until the song suddenly slows down, with the vocals shouted in like a call from outer space. That unexpected quality is what makes Unearthly Trance such a compelling listen. Just as you’re riding along with a song and think you know where it’s going, the journey suddenly becomes weirder. Not only are you no longer on the same road, you’re not even in the same universe.

This quality is best embodied by three successive songs in the middle of the album. The first is “Scythe,” which begins crushingly, with majestic, classically doomy guitars, and ominous, shimmering cymbals.

“Famine” is cold and crushing, with singer/guitarist Ryan Lipynsky’s death-rattle vocals rumbling under layers of noise. The song veers into clean, minimalism before swirling into a discordant, repetitive riff. An unexpected soaring solo rises, phoenix-like, out of the murk.

Finally, “Lion Strength” showcases the band’s more psychedelic side with a swirling, trance-like melody and ominous vocals that sound as if they’re being yelled from far away, ominous, before the song floods back in with a wallop.

It should be noted that all three members of Unearthly Trance, along with Tim Bagshaw of Ramesses/Electric Wizard/With the Dead, also comprise Serpentine Path, which veers more toward English horror doom than psychedelic sludge. “The Great Cauldron,” with its plodding, angry riffing, is the song is the song where the connection between both bands can best be heard.

Stalking the Ghost truly goes out on a limb with the final song, “In the Forests Keep,” which begins quietly, reverby clean guitars and a foreboding, extended melody as droning noise wells up behind it. As the noise becoming more insistent, a voice, sounding as if it’s being transmitted from outer space, recites the ominous lyrics before the song fades away. It’s an unexpected, and yet appropriate, finale to the album.


[Note: while the album is still listed as a pre-order all tracks are available for stream/download]
Tagged with 2017, doom metal, Karen A. Mann, Relapse Records, sludge metal, Unearthly Trance

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Hymn - Perish

By Matt Hinch. I'm not sure exactly how Perish, the debut full-length from Norway's Hymn made its way to my ears. It was likely something to do with the phrase “two man doom”. There's a magic that often happens under those conditions. OM, for example. Jucifer isn't always doomy but they have it. So do Black Tar Prophet (if you haven't heard of them, check 'em out.)
By Matt Hinch.


I'm not sure exactly how Perish, the debut full-length from Norway's Hymn made its way to my ears. It was likely something to do with the phrase “two man doom”. There's a magic that often happens under those conditions. OM, for example. Jucifer isn't always doomy but they have it. So do Black Tar Prophet (if you haven't heard of them, check 'em out.) I know there's other doom duos out there but they're failing to surface in my mind given the tonal onslaught of “Serpent” inflicting my aging ears at the moment.

As the (almost) centrepiece of the six track LP “Serpent” anchors Perish with a determination and darkness that keeps the album rooted in heaviness. It's mean and evil. As with most the tracks here it never stays in one spot too long, moving through tempos, moods and intensities. It creates space and then collapses it through pounding percussion and mountain shaking guitars.

Photos by Pedro Roque.

“Rise” unfolds over 12 minutes giving it even more time to venture wherever Markus and Ole feel like going. Slow, droning doom, rumbling tank sludge riffs, quick, almost black metal parts, all saturated in volume and epic tone. “Spectre” holds many of these same qualities as well. But it has this simple, martial riff that pulses and hammers at you inducing irresistible banging of the head and stands out at the album's most memorable moment.

As massive as everything is instrumentally, the vocals take care of business in a big way (Yes, that's a Big Business nod.), roaring across continents in the spirit of Jon Davis of Conan. The similarities to Conan don't end there either. Hymn cultivates gargantuan riffs and powerful movements with the ease of their UK brethren. However, Hymn are more dynamic in my opinion. Every song is a journey with its ups and downs, slogs and races wearing you down. Their ability to stitch it all together is confident and unshakeable, deafening and defiant.

Photos by Pedro Roque.

Whether they're slugging out torturous doom, breaking necks with sludge, or injecting adrenaline into the mix to clear cut your consciousness, Hymn do it well. Very well in fact.

Throughout Perish they channel bands like Sleep/OM/High on Fire, the aforementioned Conan, Big Business, hosts of other doom/sludge bands like Black Cobra(!) as well as the mighty Yob. That's not to say they're simply a patchwork of influences. Hymn write their own odes to heaviness and do it with enough dynamics and flow to catapult themselves into the same echelon as the bands they're compared to. Perish curdles and corrodes its way into your mind instantaneously and sets up residence. It's powerful, emotional and exhausting. If you like heavy ass sludge/doom with epic undertones, warmth, and skillful song writing, your prayers have been answered.

Tagged with 2017, doom metal, Hymn, Matt Hinch, Pedro Roque, stoner metal

Monday, February 20, 2017

Indie Recordings roundup: Sahg, Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas, and King

By Hera Vidal. Founded in Norway in 2005, Indie Recordings started as a side label for Indie Distribution, but quickly became one of the leading independent labels in Scandinavia. A major part part of their success stems from developing some of the better-known Norwegian bands - like Satyricon, Keep of Kalessin, and Sahg - into their roster
By Hera Vidal.

Founded in Norway in 2005, Indie Recordings started as a side label for Indie Distribution, but quickly became one of the leading independent labels in Scandinavia. A major part part of their success stems from developing some of the better-known Norwegian bands - like Satyricon, Keep of Kalessin, and Sahg - into their roster, but they also have signed foreign bands, such as Cult of Luna and King. Because 2016 was such a big year for metal, we will take a look at some of the major releases the label has graciously put out that year.

Artwork by Robert Høyem.

I originally wrote about Memento Mori a few months ago and decided to revisit it, since this album became one my favorites in 2016. After another few listens, I can say that Memento Mori still stands the test of time. Revisiting this album is like greeting an old friend: it reminds me of its melodic nature and how it seems to play out, to the listener’s delight. Olav Iversen’s vocals remain as mesmerizing as the first time I listened to this album in its entirety. Each time I listen to this album, there is always something new to focus, giving Memento Mori a lot of replay value. There is something beautiful in the pain the album seems to reflect, and it delivers. Given the heavy subject matter and some of the deeper themes the album focuses on, there is joy at the bottom of it all. The music seems to reflect that; even the weakest song on the album, “(Praise the) Electric Sun” is a jam, which goes to show that Memento Mori has something for everyone.



Clocking in at almost 54 minutes, Mariner is bound to make you transcend into something otherworldly. Continuing to explore impressive themes, this album is the closest thing to space exploration we have in post-metal. What I enjoy most about this album is its peculiarity. The music is majestic and slightly dissonant, reflecting the chaotic nature of space, and Julie Christmas’s voice reflects that nature just on her range alone. At first, I pegged her as another Chelsea Wolfe, but her voice is something else entirely. There is something so chilling and beautiful about her voice and how its vibrancy seems to add layers to the atmosphere the music creates. The second her vocals came in “A Greater Call”, my mind was completely blown and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. On their own, Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas already create impressive music that seems to push the borders of imagination. Together, they craft something unimaginable that cannot be put into words. Although the album may be a little difficult to get into, don’t let that deter you from listening to Mariner. It’s beautiful, dissonant, and filled with an ethereal quality that borders on terrifying.



2016 was a big year of debuts, with heavy hitters and lukewarm releases alike. Fortunately for the Australian band King, Reclaim the Darkness falls on that spectrum of great debuts. This album is blackened melodeath goodness with Satyricon-like vocals and big melodies. However, don’t let the “blackened” label fool you; there are thrash elements embedded in their guitar, showing off their musicianship and their extensive blending of various influences. The vocals are also versatile, going from your standard black metal screams to traditional Swedish melodeath tonalities. The main track especially takes cues from Swedish melodeath, and we can see that the band begins to build their own identity on those cues. What’s even better is the fact that the album has some great drum work; usually, in black metal, the drums tend to be filled with blast beats, but here they are a combination of beats, each suited to what the song needs. They are also so incredibly melodic that they are quickly becoming some of the best melodeath I have heard in recent years. I have high hopes for this band, as Reclaim the Darkness is one of the underrated gems in 2016, showing Australia’s penchant for excellent metal.

Tagged with 2016, atmospheric sludge metal, Cult of Luna, death metal, doom metal, Hera Vidal, Indie Recordings, Julie Christmas, King, melodic black metal, post-hardcore, post-metal, progressive metal, Sahg