August 29, 2015

Forgotten Gods - Twin Sisters

By Calen Henry. 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.
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.

Tagged with 2015, Calen Henry, doom metal, Forgotten Gods, stoner metal

August 25, 2015

Fuck the Facts - Desire Will Rot

By Matt Hinch. Canada’s Fuck the Facts have long been known for their intensity both in the live environment and on record. Having witnessed them perform in the most intimate of spaces (a living room) I can attest to that. Their ability to bring that energy into the studio is what has positioned FtF as one of Canada’s greatest current metal exports but also as a well respected entity outside those borders.
By Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Mel Mongeon

Canada’s Fuck the Facts have long been known for their intensity both in the live environment and on record. Having witnessed them perform in the most intimate of spaces (a living room) I can attest to that. Their ability to bring that energy into the studio is what has positioned FtF as one of Canada’s greatest current metal exports but also as a well respected entity outside those borders. While they haven't rested on their laurels, new album Desire Will Rot is the first time they've captured the magic on a full-length record since 2011’s Die Miserable. It seems like forever but the Ottawa-based grindcore quintet has lost none of the fire that made that album so good.

With a band like FtF one can never be too sure of what to expect. Desire Will Rot makes good on that statement adding some surprising elements to their potent mix of grind and death metal. But of course, save the nearly 8-minute ambient/noise track "Circle", the intensity rarely lets up ensuring maximum aural carnage.

From the opening track, "Everywhere Yet Nowhere" the fierceness of their grind slaps the listener right in the face. Vocalist Mel Mongeon and bassist/vocalist Marc Bourgon trade off his low growls with her feral screams, sending heartbeats racing as guitarists Topon Das and Johnny Ibay try keeping pace with drummer Mathieu Vilandre. This tornado of hateful emotion continues unchecked in one form or another throughout the album. Except the aforementioned (but still cool) "Circle".

Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

Fuck the Facts plunge headlong from one riff to another leaving a stream of twisted bodies in their wake. Much of the time the mood is just plain mean even though the members are anything but. However, they never stick to one mode for too long, shifting from grinding blasts to groovy death metal to powerful doom, often in the same, short song. That’s where they excel though.

Stitching together disparate elements, multitudes of riffs and moods as effortlessly as they do is what sets them apart. No matter how abrupt the change it always feels natural. Instead of alienating the listener by keeping them constantly off balance, they reward them with yet another intense section to sink their moshing teeth into.

"Storm of Silence" illustrates this point (and the unexpected element) perfectly. Ascendant guitars reach beyond the pummeling deathgrind loaded with vicious intent and intense blasts to compound the cathartic release through a series of stops and starts culminating in a very non-grind shredding solo from Das. It’s the kind of track (along with its follow-up "Solitude") that keeps the listener guessing but not waiting.

Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

Desire Will Rot just keeps getting stronger as it goes along. "False Hope" is just outstanding. Das weaves intricacies and temperate melody into the violence. The inertial reaction to the whipping shifts in direction is almost sickening. Blasting grind meets death metal with brief room to breathe and massive hauling doom all tied together with a melody that makes it all feel so cleansing. If the album stopped right there it would feel right but it’s not called "False Hope" for nothing.

After "Circle" the album closes out with "Nothing Changes". Chugging rhythms and quiet/loud dynamics punish with melody bubbling beneath the dark surface. Overall it’s a different turn from the grinding nature but they put no less into it. Each successive note feels like another nail in the coffin until it abruptly rises from that eternal sleep with an air of triumph and unstoppable determination shaded by revenge.

Fuck the Facts, through Desire Will Rot are all about the intensity, creativity and uncompromised savagery. The only concessions they make are the ones they choose to and not without good reason. Every grinding blast, every death metal charge, every vocal growl or shriek stabs deep unleashing a flurry of emotions from violent to mournful. But one thing is for certain, you won’t stand still. The desire to throw yourself head first into any and every obstacle will rot within until it is fulfilled. Desire Will Rot is the sort of grindcore album that takes you over, and works you over until the final note. It’s inescapable.

Tagged with 2015, Fuck the Facts, grindcore, John Mourlas, Matt Hinch

August 23, 2015

Transmissions from the Tree of Woe, Volume 1

By Atanamar Sunyata. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about metal, but those thoughts have failed to coalesce into the ever elusive “album review” of late. Max has been so kind as to give me a venue for this firehose of metal mindfulness. Please consider this the first in a series of first person posts featuring whatever the fuck is tickling my brain. You have been warned.
By Atanamar Sunyata.

I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about metal, but those thoughts have failed to coalesce into the ever elusive “album review” of late. Max has been so kind as to give me a venue for this firehose of metal mindfulness. Please consider this the first in a series of first person posts featuring whatever the fuck is tickling my brain. You have been warned. Besides, I don’t believe in objectivity.

Artwork by Paul Romano

Withered are a band with a singular vision; they've rubbed dank drabs of Sunlight sound on black metal and drowned it all in atmospheric doom. Their warm, subterranean sonic adventures return frequently to my playlist. Withered are also a band due for a new album. Their fourth LP is on the way, and it was recently revealed that Colin Marston (Gorguts, Krallice, everything) plays bass on the recording. This news sent me off into a Withered wormhole where I discovered the band's dedicated Bandcamp page. Therein can be found Folie Circulaire, the band's second album and my favorite to date. Enough will never be had.



Artwork by Adam Peterson

Nile also have a new album on the way, and the death metal devotee in me is cautiously optimistic. My history with the band is checkered. I bought Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka sight unseen from the Relapse Resound catalog when it first came out. As archaic as the idea sounds today, a physical music & merch catalog had a powerful pull on my 20 year old self. That album was an instant classic in my ears, and I ended up seeing the band live a few too many times in that era. I burned out on Nile after Black Seeds of Vengeance, reconnecting only a decade later. The love affair has continued on and off through the band's catalog, flaring up and flaming out by turns. Their new album will no undoubtedly be absent from Bandcamp (Nuclear Blast are stubborn fucks), but the Relapse era LPs are all there. My favorite Nile albums at the moment are Amongst the Catacombs , Annihilation of the Wicked, and Those Whom the Gods Detest (from Nuclear Blast). I'm hoping What Should Not Be Unearthed will rate.




As love affairs go, my Martyrdöd man-crush is unrelenting. Their stellar performance at Maryland Deathfest cemented the band's status as most heroic purveyors of addictive d-beat by way of melodic NWOBHM dual-guitar mastery. Riffs, son. Riffs.

Martyrdöd at MDF. Awful photo by Atanamar

Call this music whatever you want, but it's simply incomparable. That's a problem, of course; I want more. Having said that, I have no allegiance to d-beat, crust, or any of its accoutrements. In fact, I could care less.



Cover collage by Vladimír Vacovský

A balm for that crusty Swedish longing appeared out of nowhere, though, to take the edge off. Say hello to Gattaca. Again, d-beats and crusty punk mechanizations are merely tools of the band's trade. Their self-titled LP is a vessel of dark melody, raging riff-torrents, and satisfying story-arcs. Imagine seering snippets of Neurosis if they could comprehend brevity, or early Pelican on a boatload of amphetamines. Also, Gattaca are vegans; this is relevant to my interests. I dig.



Cover painting by Dan Alex Rivera.

I recently received an album promo by a band proudly calling their music "Dissonant Death Metal." This was jarring; I've described dozens of death metal albums as dissonant, but I've never seen it called out as a thing, a discrete genre to which bands might aspire. I love me some Gorguts, and I enjoy many of the fruits that have sprouted from their sonic loins (Artificial Brain, Pyrrhon, Auroch, etc). That style of music, however, loses its appeal when dissonance itself becomes the focus; there are a lot of skronking hot, technically proficient turds floating around these days. I was surprised, then, to actually be drawn into the album of which I speak. Dystrophy claim allegiance to unrest and incongruity, but they possess the rare gift of songwriting skill. Amidst riffs that threaten to rend space and time, engaging currents of sensibility hold sway. Wretched Host is eminently earworthy and may scratch an aural itch their contemporaries miss.



Until next time, ponder the riddle of steel.
Tagged with 1998, 2005, 2008, 2015, Atanamar Sunyata, black metal, crust, d-beat, death metal, Dystrophy, free download, Gattaca, Martyrdöd, Nile, Relapse Records, Southern Lord Recordings, technical death metal, Withered

August 22, 2015

Twilight Fauna - Shadow of Ancestors

By Steven Leslie. Twilight Fauna is the solo black metal project of a character named Ravenwood. I have usually heard of the project falling under the atmospheric black metal banner, but based only on his latest release, Shadows of Ancestors, a better classification would be ambient black metal, as this album has much more in common with a stripped down Lustre than Wolves in the Throne Room.
By Steven Leslie.


Twilight Fauna is the solo black metal project of a character named Ravenwood. I have usually heard of the project falling under the atmospheric black metal banner, but based only on his latest release, Shadows of Ancestors, a better classification would be ambient black metal, as this album has much more in common with a stripped down Lustre than Wolves in the Throne Room.

There is a cinematic grandeur and stunning beauty to the six long tracks that Twilight Fauna offer up on this release. Pressing play immediately immerses you in rolling hills and breathtaking natural landscapes. A track like "Boring the Auger" is a perfect example, as strummed chords slowly crash gently over an ethereal base melody like waves against the rocky coastline. Twilight Fauna manages to strike a perfect balance between light and dark, bringing the “twilight” in their name to bear in musical form. It’s this balance that makes the Shadows of Ancestors stand out and helps prevent their music from becoming too one-dimensional. The album maintains a slow almost funeral doom pacing with an emphasis on repetition. It's no journey to the stars; instead it remains firmly rooted to the earth and soil. It’s distinctly beautiful, despite being based primarily around swaths of distortion and distant howls - the perfect comedown after a long, hard day.

There is an intangible brilliance at work as Ravenwood manages to weave sublime tapestries of melody with droned-out fuzz. It’s like a meditation soundtrack for the disturbed black metaler’s mind, providing a soundtrack for your next moonlit walk through barren fields or city streets. In fact, barren is a perfect way to describe this album. You really won’t find any instruments that stick out - no guitar lines or drum beats to draw your attention or break your trance. Even when the music shifts, like the wistful acoustic passage in "Purging of Spring", Ravenwood repeats the movement for so long that its initial impact fades away. This is both the album's greatest asset and biggest challenge. While it allows the listener’s mind drift off, it also means that there isn’t much to grab hold of for the short attention span generation. Multiple plays later I am still discovering new parts, not because it is so complex, but because I had drifted off through those sections on previous listens. The other sticking point for some will be the vocals. When done well, as in the "Meadows Afire" the harsh vocals add an extra texture to the music and emotional depth to the song. Other times, the vocals seem tacked on, like "Boring the Augur", where the distant, hollow howls have little to no impact and end up dulling the overall power of the song, when it would be much stronger as a fully ambient, instrumental piece. Luckily, this is just a minor gripe, as the real star here is Ravenwood’s ability to craft enthralling, delicate musical landscapes for listeners to get lost in.

Nine times out of ten an album like this would not connect with me, but this hit all the right notes - building a melancholic but somehow hopeful ambiance on the back of a fairly standard atmospheric black metal template. It is the album’s ability to make you relax and drift away on crashing waves of distortion that makes it worth your time. Next time you want to escape the shackles and mendacity of daily life, give Twilight Fauna a try.

Tagged with 2015, atmospheric black metal, Steven Leslie, Twilight Fauna

August 20, 2015

Acid King - Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

By Aaron Sullivan. San Francisco’s Acid King return after a ten year break with their fourth full length Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere. An album that has them continuing their Stoner/DOOM ways and proving why even with ten years gone they are still one of the tops in their field.
By Aaron Sullivan.

Cover Art by Tim Lehi

San Francisco’s Acid King return after a ten year break with their fourth full length Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere. An album that has them continuing their Stoner/DOOM ways and proving why even with ten years gone they are still one of the tops in their field.

Photo by Pedro Roque.

The beauty of Acid King is really what's great about a lot of bands, they keep it simple. Great riffs, solid bass lines, and drumming that can fill in the open parts. The thing that has always set them apart is their ability to balance the heaviness of the music without ever feeling overbearing. At times it feels as if you're floating. They give off a psychedelic feel without ever losing the heft of the riff. Lori’s voice is a perfect fit with the music. Her melodic drone at times feels like it been recorded at a different speed than the music adding to the Stoner feel. Even with songs in length of over 8 minutes they never drag on. These songs are in no hurry. They want the riffs to resonate, and just as the first chords struck die off the next chord is hit and the colors are bright again.

Photo by Pedro Roque.

Been a strong year for DOOM. Bands like Goatsnake, Ufomammut, High on Fire and Bell Witch will no doubt be getting plenty of deserved praise this year. But don’t sleep on Acid King. Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere isn’t just one of the best DOOM records of the year. It’s one of the better records of the year no matter the genre.

Tagged with 2015, Aaron Sullivan, Acid King, doom metal, Pedro Roque, stoner metal, Svart Records

August 18, 2015

Blliigghhtted - No Temple

By Matt Hinch. The Merdümgiriz camp is nothing if not prolific. It seems like every time you turn around they’re released another evil and twisted take on black metal. The latest in their cavalcade of corruption is No Temple by Blliigghhtted. This particular project was founded by the mysterious and elusive Ruhan
By Matt Hinch.


The Merdümgiriz camp is nothing if not prolific. It seems like every time you turn around they’re released another evil and twisted take on black metal. The latest in their cavalcade of corruption is No Temple by Blliigghhtted. This particular project was founded by the mysterious and elusive Ruhan but No Temple is all the work of Yayla mastermind and Merdumgiriz co-owner Emir Toğrul. It was originally intended to be a Viranesir album but due to its blackness and Satanic totality it fit better under the Blliigghhtted banner.

For nearly 40 minutes the listener is subject to total sonic annihilation. Impossibly fast guitars create a hurricane of unrelenting, razor sharp bleakness stripping flesh from bone. Militant, frenzied percussion and technically scorching tremolos tear asses asunder dictated by titanic, full-chested and grim vocals issued forth with uncompromised force.

It’s not as monochromatic as that seems however. The whirlwinds of black metal terror crest into troughs of determined doominess and as the album develops, death metallic riffing compliments all the fire and brimstone. "The Lie" is eternally dark and sinister, overwhelming the listener. "Eschatophilia" starts with a mean, doomy riff then goes full on black metal then falls into what could be considered a groove before laying waste yet again.

While No Temple starts out dialed in to the release of Satanic fury, chaos reigns on later tracks, dissolving into the mindfuck that is "Voyage". "Anrita" starts the shift with haunting yet spat vocals leading into the arrhythmic thrashiness of "Constant Cancer". So by the time we hit "Voyage" the listener is forced to tremble under the chaos. Toğrul gets fired up, barely able to restrain himself through a possessed display of deadly percussion and fierce death metal-styled chugging filtered through a tangle of atonal black metal. It can get hard to follow, especially given the oppressive hatred pressed upon the listener up to this point but resisting only makes the grip tighter.

Entropy reigns supreme as any good Satanist knows, yet is the natural state of the universe so the descent into musical madness is only to be expected. Although thoroughly rooted in Satan, No Temple also shows the face of the despicable state of humanity, biting off the head of religious righteousness as it first envelopes then burrows deep, fusing into a rapturous, inescapable energy of Satanic maleficence.

Closing out the album is the 14+ minute ambient piece, "Doubt". It’s a synth-driven exploration miles removed from the hate and vitriol Toğrul spews forth on the previous 10 tracks. But as the band explained in a recent Facebook post, No Temple is about casting off confinement and exploring the world; rejecting expectations and forging one’s own path. This sad yet peaceful comedown does just that, taking a 180 from the negativity and coming to terms with plight.

With No Temple Blliigghhtted take a very different approach than they did on Which of You Have Done This? but given the incestuous nature of Blliigghhtted, Yayla and Viranesir nothing coming from Merdumgiriz should conform to expectation. It’s a nightmarish and terrifying journey through damnation that leaves an unsettling impression.

Tagged with 2015, black metal, Blliigghhtted, experimental, Matt Hinch

August 16, 2015

Sunn O))) Monoliths and Opinions: Part XVI - Live Archives

By Craig Hayes. I’ve made it my mission in life to write about all of Sunn O)))'s releases that are available on Bandcamp with this Monoliths and Opinions series. Obviously, documenting the band's exploits in such a way suggests that I am a big fan of Sunn O))). Or that I am a very lonely masochist, with far too much time on my hands.
By Craig Hayes.

Sunn O))) @ Lx Factory, Lisbon, Portugal 2010 by Pedro Roque.

I’ve made it my mission in life to write about all of Sunn O)))'s releases that are available on Bandcamp with this Monoliths and Opinions series. Obviously, documenting the band's exploits in such a way suggests that I am a big fan of Sunn O))). Or that I am a very lonely masochist, with far too much time on my hands. Either way, I should point out that writing this series isn’t a back-breaking task that’s been imposed upon me.

I want to make that clear because there are people out there who would view this Monoliths and Opinions project as some kind of cruel and unusual punishment. They’re the kind of people who think that Sunn O)))'s music is torturous and tedious. Some of those people like to complain very loudly about that online as well. And, not so long ago, I watched a few of those folks launch into some stinging criticism of Sunn O)))'s set at this year's Temples Festival in the UK.


I think that Sunn O))) confounded and crossed the line for some at the Temples Festival is a wonderful indictment of the band’s continued importance. I see Sunn O))) continuing to ruffle feathers in this day and age as a hugely positive sign. Lord knows we need more music that challenges us, tests our temperaments, and isn’t baited with blatant commercial hooks.

Still, it's also important to note that a defence of Sunn O)))'s music isn't necessarily needed or even wanted by the band's critics. We all have bands we simply love to hate no matter what anyone else thinks. We all piss and moan about those bands. And no amount of explaining or clarifying the appeal of those bands is going to convince us to change our opinion one iota.

Really, in the case of providing any explanation for a series like this Monoliths and Opinions project, all I can say is that I'm not indulging in any duplicitous or disingenuous antics here. I'm not trying to sell Sunn O))) to you. Nor is any neurotic or unhealthy fixation keeping me preoccupied with Sunn O)))'s oeuvre. I've simply been fascinated by the unconventionality of Sunn O)))'s music since I first heard the band 15 years ago.


I discovered Sunn O))) via the band's ØØ Void album, which was released in 2000. ØØ Void resonated with me because it spoke directly to that part of me that had been utterly entranced by Earth's Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version album way back in 1993. Of course, Sunn O))) have mentioned the debt they owe to Dylan Carlson's famed band many times over the years. And it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Earth invented the entire drone or ambient metal genre.

At the heart of it, ØØ Void appealed to me because it was very different to anything being released at the time. (Both in metal and experimental music circles.) It felt like a fresh challenge. One where Sunn O))) stripped their music back to the purest and rawest essence of the riff. That was bold, bruising, and inherently idiosyncratic and defiant. Sunn O))) dared you to make it through ØØ Void. I loved that about Sunn O))). Still do. And I imagine that's the same reason that many of the band’s fans continue to tune in.

That said, I completely understand why some people remain utterly perplexed by Sunn O)))'s appeal. Fact is, Sunn O)))'s music is not easy on the ear or accessible. Sunn O))) deal in drone, and drone is an acquired taste and niche musical medium at the best of times. Drone is something you feel (or not) at an instinctual level. And if you happen to feel that drone is monotonous, featureless and dull, then you'll clearly be left wondering how anyone could enjoy any of Sunn O)))'s protracted tracks.


There are no halfway measures with Sunn O))). It's all in or nothing at all. And Sunn O))) unquestionably use provocative musical techniques that could easily lead to a hostile response. We all know how irritating it is to encounter music that immediately rubs us the wrong way. And the soundscapes that Sunn O))) explore are formidable.

Sunn O))) frequently ignore musical mainstays like rhythm or melody. They deal in teeth-rattling distortion, feedback, and subterranean vibrations and reverberations. The band's songs are performed at an incredibly slow pace. And there is absolutely nothing about Sunn O))) that is going to appeal to fans of turbo-speed rock 'n' roll.

Hell, there’s not even an easy entry point into the band's catalogue. Sunn O)))’s most popular album, 2009’s Monoliths & Dimensions (the album's title summing up the band's aesthetic perfectly) did find favour with a wider audience on release. But, even then, Monoliths & Dimensions was still an imposing album with made zero compromises made for the listeners comfort therein.

Sunn O))) @ Lx Factory, Lisbon, Portugal 2010 by Pedro Roque.


Still, no matter the critical adoration or their expanding fanbase, Sunn O)))’s music remains easy to mock or dismiss because that's the way many eccentric forms of artistic expression are routinely treated. A lot of challenging art (and music) is immediately scoffed at. And that frequently reveals more about the underlying values of the scoffer than it does the essence of the art.

Often, gripes arise to mask confusion about the meaning behind avant-garde works of art. None of us like to feel that we're missing the point and, sometimes, it's simply that misunderstandings occur because we're not aware of the particular lineage or history behind off-kilter works of art or music.

Weird music is tough to unpack. To conceptualise. And to appreciate.

However, alternatively, having an aversion to Sunn O))) might not be the result of any of the above issues. Some folks just hate the band because they find them mind-numbingly boring. And there’s nothing complicated about that at all.

I get that too. It's that age-old aversion to music you just find fucking tiresome. And that's exactly how I feel about deathcore. Or screamo. Or goregrind. Or pirate metal. Or most symphonic or folk metal. Or [insert some truly awful band like Dream Theater or Soulfly right here].


For me, the allure of Sunn O)))’s music is that it sounds and feels like a form of orchestrated chaos kicking down those famed doors of perception. The band's sub-harmonic and frequently nerve-tweaking pursuits offer a very powerful experience if you're willing to give yourself over to the band’s music. Immerse yourself in Sunn O)))’s universe and the band’s sojourns become transcendent journeys. There's a jaunt beyond the stars here. A trip to higher plane or another dimension there. Or just a steep dive into the very darkest pits of Hades.

It's really no different to getting lost in or swept away by any other musical form that affects you deeply. Albeit, with Sunn O)))'s mode of transportation being of the more leaden-footed and monolithic variety. Of course, making an effort to understand why fans enjoy Sunn O)))'s music is not on the radar for many of the folks who like to complain about the band. They're often just really pissed because Sunn O))) represents an arm of experimental metal that’s skirted close to wider acceptance.

Certainly, although Sunn O))) are never going to a hugely popular band in commercial terms, many of the group's fans do reside outside of metal's borders. We all know that some folks feel very aggrieved when an outré metal band gets paid any attention by the mainstream media. And we’ve all seen groups like Deafheaven or Liturgy get vilified in quarters of the metal media for turning up on pages of the mainstream press.


The point to keep in mind is that Sunn O)))'s founders, Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson, are not casual metal tourists or newcomers to making in-your-face music. See Khanate, Burning Witch and Goatsnake for proof of that. Nor have O'Malley and Anderson committed some crime against the underground by finding themselves under the spotlight. If anything, O'Malley and Anderson are forging ahead with a distinctly underground attitude by continuing to make challenging music. That’s a laudable feat, I would have thought. Even if you didn't happen to like the noise being made.

Sunn O))) does speak a very unorthodox musical language. Stretching riffs out to infinity while destroying many routine musical motifs sees the physicality of sound often used as a key instrumental component. As a result, a pressure-wave is frequently at the forefront of the band’s sound. Yet, O'Malley and Anderson have always been open to explaining exactly what is it they're doing and, more importantly, why they're doing it without any pretentiousness. In fact, some of O'Malley and Anderson's interviews have been incredibly open and frank and they've subsequently made for truly fascinating insights into the world of explorative music.

Of course, in the end, there’s just no pleasing some folks. Discussions of why and how Sunn O))) make all that noise are of little value to someone who's not going to read them anyway. Obviously, not everyone appreciates everything. And we wouldn't want a world overflowing with sycophants anyway. Some people just instinctively hate the fact that Sunn O))) is deemed interesting or worthy of coverage. And I imagine a negative reaction pleases O'Malley and Anderson just as much as a positive one.

Sunn O))) @ Lx Factory, Lisbon, Portugal 2010 by Pedro Roque.


Ultimately, to my eyes and ears, the whole point of Sunn O)))'s music is to provoke a visceral reaction. And Sunn O)))’s latest Bandcamp venture, a live archive page filled with dozens of concert recordings, is guaranteed to do that.

In fact, for people who find Sunn O))) perplexing, boring or downright annoying, the 77 shows available on the band's live archive page are sure to be a horror show beyond measure. I've been a fan of Sunn O))) forever. And I’m certain I want the band's The Iron Soul Of Nothing collaboration with Nurse With Wound to soundtrack my funeral. But, even then, fandom assured, Sunn O)))’s live archive page still fills me with dread.

It would be a huge challenge to try and pick apart every individual recording on Sunn O)))'s live archive page. So I won’t be reviewing them one by one here. Honestly, writing about the particulars of each one of those live recordings is too much for this old man. But I will say this: The shows on Sunn O)))'s live archive page date back to 2002. They are unmixed and unmastered––i.e presented in their rawest state. And if you're a fan or critic of the band, you'll know exactly what to expect.

There's hooded figures shrouded in fog wielding huge riffs and making a gloriously ear-splitting racket on every one of those live recordings. There are plenty of guests and collaborators adding their own thunderous elements too. And you could certainly look at the sum total of those live recordings as a rather awe-inspiring riposte to Sunn O)))’s critics.


Every one of those live recordings features all the fundamental Sunn O))) elements that folks gripe about writ large and goddamn loud. Which, I have to admit, I kind of love about the band. I love that Sunn O))) have never made any excuses for cutting their own weird and cacophonous path into the hinterlands of experimental music. Pick up any of the recordings linked in this essay, or any other from the band's live archives page and you'll certainly be greeted by different points of exploration. However, what you are facing, in overwhelming abundance on that live archive page, is exactly the same vast wall-of-noise that provokes such intense reactions every single time Sunn O))) takes the stage.

For me, that means Sunn O)))'s live archives page contains untold manna from the Gods of sonic subversiveness. For others, that page might well be Hell on earth. Both are entirely understandable reactions. And both are reactions that I think O’Malley and Anderson would wholeheartedly approve of.

The Sunn O))) Monoliths and Opinions series.
Tagged with 2002, 2004, 2009, 2012, 2015, Craig Hayes, doom metal, drone, Pedro Roque, Sunn O)))

August 15, 2015

Majestic Downfall - ...When Dead

By Kevin Page. If you have been paying attention the past few years, you'd understand why Donald Trump is not a fan of heavy metal. I mean, how can anyone say Mexico isn't sending us their best and brightest? He'd obviously recant this statement if he had heard Majestic Downfall's 2013 release, Three and last year's split with The Slow Death.
By Kevin Page.

Artwork by Robert Høyem

If you have been paying attention the past few years, you'd understand why Donald Trump is not a fan of heavy metal. I mean, how can anyone say Mexico isn't sending us their best and brightest? He'd obviously recant this statement if he had heard Majestic Downfall's 2013 release, Three and last year's split with The Slow Death. And on that note, what has the Mexican Metal Authority (you know, the MMA, that government agency who 'decides' what metal bands are allowed to release albums across the border) have in store for us in 2015? Well, yet another 50 plus minutes of Majestic Downfall goodness, of course.

Now I'm sure there have been other bands that have released 3 albums 3 years in a row, but I challenge you to come up with any that are the sole responsibility of 1 man, and of this high quality. Frankly, I'm astounded. As good as Three was, last year's split was by far the best thing the band has ever done. I stated in my review that "Dark Lullaby" off that album was one of the best metal songs in the past decade. So to say the bar was set insanely high this time around would be a gross understatement.

Have they topped themselves yet again? Maybe, time will tell as the year goes on and I have even more time with this album. What I can say though is we have a worthy follow up to the feel and quality of last year's release. Think of this in terms of a movie sequel, it's very difficult to eclipse the original; there's a natural ceiling to just how awesome and amazing something can be. But this isn't merely a carbon copy of their past material or trying to repeat prior glories, quite the contrary.

The first thing you'll notice is the production has a less polished and much more live feel to it. It's far from raw but I can't help but think this was deliberately planned to coincide with the bands first ever live performances this year. So on that note it's a rather nice tie in. By the time the intro (and title track) "...When Dead" and the lead track "Escape My Thoughts" is through, you feel almost musically satiated with its roller coaster of death metal, doom and atmosphere. Frankly it's amazing how you can make a 15 minute song this interesting. "The Brick, the Concrete" ups the ante even more and rivals last years "Dark Lullaby" as best song of the year material. The main guitar riff and that tone, the rumbling of the bass, topped off by a great old school heavy metal/rock infused guitar solo.

I could go on and on but I think you get the point. As a reviewer you can fall into the trap of becoming numb with the amount of music you hear each and every month. That's why I genuinely appreciate when an album comes along and demands you to take notice. It's always easy to pine away for the old days and claim things were better in the 80's and 90's; Majestic Downfall has proven that metal is ageless and that regardless of time period there are always bands creating exceptional material.

Tagged with 2015, death metal, doom metal, Kevin Page, Majestic Downfall, Pulverised Records

August 12, 2015

Moss - Horrible Night

By Natalie Zina Walschots. The fourth full-length from English purveyors of doom lugubriousness Moss, Horrible Night is a droning monument to misery and the ponderous, inextricable weight of existence; it also represents a distinct lightening in tone and execution from their past efforts. While still drenched in distortion and a profound, reverberating melancholy
By Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

Artwork by Reuben Sawyer / Rainbath Visual

The fourth full-length from English purveyors of doom lugubriousness Moss, Horrible Night is a droning monument to misery and the ponderous, inextricable weight of existence; it also represents a distinct lightening in tone and execution from their past efforts. While still drenched in distortion and a profound, reverberating melancholy, Horrible Night is nimbler than their other releases, featuring two songs clocking in at less than ten minutes (and even one under five).

Deeply influenced by dark, occult atmospheres and the writings of horror icon H.P. Lovecraft, despite this drift towards more dextrous compositions, Moss continue to create suffocating, claustrophobic aural landscapes. It's as though the record is smothering the listener via smoke inhalation, the thick tones and inexorable weight of the songs leeching all oxygen from the room. The towering "Dark Lady" goes for a particularly tight stranglehold, the massive riffs drawing closer with each shuddering revolution, like a boa constrictor crushing you to death with its body, then swallowing you whole.

Not heavy for the sake of, Horrible Night also possesses sophisticated melodies and even bright moments of clarity, especially in the haunting clarion vocals. This is a weird, wicked and intoxicating record.

Tagged with 2013, doom metal, drone, free download, Moss, Natalie Zina Walschots, sludge metal

August 10, 2015

Deathhammer - Evil Power

By Andy Osborn. Show No Mercy is the best Slayer album. While the battle for the top spot usually rages between the unholy trio of Reign in Blood, South of Heaven, and Seasons in the Abyss -- occasionally a vocal minority will claim that Hell Awaits is indeed the victor -- everyone who believes this is just plain wrong.
By Andy Osborn.

Artwork by Eduard Johnson

Show No Mercy is the best Slayer album. While the battle for the top spot usually rages between the unholy trio of Reign in Blood, South of Heaven, and Seasons in the Abyss -- occasionally a vocal minority will claim that Hell Awaits is indeed the victor -- everyone who believes this is just plain wrong. The youthful energy and hellish passion of Slayer’s debut, their answer to Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All, is the most enduring and entertaining piece of work in their entire catalog.

This was long before the days when they started to take themselves seriously, hit the bottle too hard, and ultimately become a self-parody which unfortunately lumbers on to this day. With their debut, Slayer perfected Venom’s style and imagery, but had the added benefit of actually being able to play their instruments and write memorable songs. Sure, the performances can be sloppy and the lyrics laughable, but that’s part of what makes it so endearing. They were forging a new path and having a blast along the way.

Photo © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

A few decades later, Deathhammer’s Evil Power hits this same sweet spot. That their style has been done to death and undeniably perfected long ago makes this third album from the demonic Norwegians less than unique, but that hardly has an effect on the nostalgia trip. The furious back and forth riffing of Sergeant Salsten and Sadomancer is just as good as the Kerry-Hanneman early days and at times even more fun and ridiculous. Salsten, also holding vocal duties, does his best ‘Tom Araya just out of puberty’ impression, bringing his voice to a ball-busting screech as often as humanly possible. The whole thing is a smile-inducing, goofy blur, and I love every second of it.

Photo © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

The blistering leads are pulled off with a wonderfully sloppy elegance. Ever-changing, little is recycled and the songs are short and to the point; other than the wonderfully self-indulgent solos there’s not a moment of filler. Like most of their Hell’s Headbangers brethren, Deathhammer are are obsessed with overt satanic imagery and lyrics. But they clearly don’t take themselves too seriously, to which the cartoon Dark Lord on the album cover can attest.

Evil Power will never be as important or remembered as Show No Mercy. But by harnessing the same attitude -- “Fuck it, let’s thrash and worship Satan!” -- while writing undeniably fun, riff-centric music, Deathhammer prove that there’s nothing wrong with a proper homage; even 30 years later.

Tagged with 2015, Andy Osborn, Deathhammer, Hells Headbangers Records, John Mourlas, thrash metal

August 7, 2015

Gnaw Their Tongues - Abyss of Longing Throats

By Ulla Roschat. Gnaw Their Tongues, aka Mories, the Dutch one man band who scares people with his sonic mayhem since 2006, releases his 8th full length album Abyss of Longing Throats. … and this is not exactly happy music either. It is seven tracks and about 43 minutes of industrial black metal… well, basically
By Ulla Roschat.


Gnaw Their Tongues, aka Mories, the Dutch one man band who scares people with his sonic mayhem since 2006, releases his 8th full length album Abyss of Longing Throats. … and this is not exactly happy music either.

It is seven tracks and about 43 minutes of industrial black metal… well, basically, but there are very many other musical styles and elements involved and they are absolutely masterfully deployed.

Photo by Justin Snow.

There’s an omnipresent backdrop of dissonant noisy, droney sounds that gets permeated, covered and complemented by a raw black metal frenzy, industrial electronic sounds and noise, orchestral, classical parts, spoken word samples, doom and drone sounds.

The vocals sometimes sound like black metal shrieks and screams, or chant-like chorals and sometimes modified, distorted growls like they are creeping through a veil of lysergic dreams. They seem to wander like ghosts, both haunted and haunting, through the dense inextricable soundscape, seeking some escape or salvation from a menacing force that gets increasingly terrifying.

In dark, doomy, ethereal and psychotic atmospheres of utter blackness and bleakness they express their pain and fear, fury, despair and sorrow.

From the start everything gets increasingly disconnected, chaotic, desolate and insane until in the end finally all things fall apart.

Throughout the album there’s not one moment of relaxation or contemplation, even in the few parts where shreds of melodies are involved. The melodies don’t alternate with the harsh and dissonant parts, they are added to them which makes the whole thing climb even higher on the scale of eerieness and disturbance.

Everything cumulates and intertwines into a seemingly chaotic, painful, violent outburst of insanity - seemingly, because it is nonrandom, it’s carefully planned, with targeted movements and it's brilliantly executed,

This chaos is one of the most “symphonious” cacophonies I ever listened to. It’s a complicated, multilayered and interwoven soundscape, an opus of sound with an extraordinary compelling power and intensity.

Tagged with 2015, black metal, Crucial Blast Records, experimental, Gnaw Their Tongues, noise, Ulla Roschat

August 6, 2015

Goatsnake - Black Age Blues

By Aaron Sullivan. Fifteen years after the release of their last full length Goatsnake returns with Black Age Blues. While it may have been a little over a decade since any new material. Black Age Blues just picks up where they left off. Almost literally. The opening track is called "Another River to Cross"
By Aaron Sullivan.


Fifteen years after the release of their last full length Goatsnake returns with Black Age Blues. While it may have been a little over a decade since any new material. Black Age Blues just picks up where they left off. Almost literally. The opening track is called "Another River to Cross" and begins with a slow fade in of the ending of the last track on Flower of Disease called "The River". Before fading into the new song. See the connection?

Goatsnake 2010. Photo by Taylor Keahey.

Goatsnake are no frills, meat and potatoes DOOM. It’s all about the almighty riff. Something Mr. Anderson has plenty of. Using his Sunn O))) amps to deliver the thick riffs. Combining with Greg Rodgers and new bassist Scott Renner holding down the rhythm and madman singer Pete Stahl's bluesy vocals to make for one potent slab of a heavy, down tuned, DOOM-fest. A song like "Coffee & Whiskey" starts as this great blues based butt shaker but ends with a riff so heavy Mr. Iommi himself would be proud. This is an album that begs to turned up to 11. I recently had the pleasure of seeing them live and perform many of the songs off this album. They are as good if not better live than they are on the album. Plain and simple this album just rocks. It will have you playing air guitar, banging your head, while singing at the top of your lungs. Honestly if this album doesn’t get you going, you may want to check your pulse.

Goatsnake 2010. Photo by Taylor Keahey.

As of late Southern Lord has been more of a label used by Mr. Anderson to go back and release some of his favorite old hardcore bands, new hardcore bands, and re-issues of some of the labels most popular albums. I say this not as judgement. It’s his label and he is welcome to do with it as he pleases. It’s just nice as a long time fan of this label to see it return to more of it’s roots. With maybe the exception of Sunn O))), no other band embodies Southern Lord more the mighty Goatsnake, and with Black Age Blues they continue to show why they are among the labels favorites.

Tagged with 2015, Aaron Sullivan, doom metal, Goatsnake, Southern Lord Recordings, stoner metal, Taylor Keahey

August 4, 2015

Macabre Omen - Gods of War - At War

By Kaptain Carbon. I really want to talk about Greece as a heavy metal export, but I feel that Macabre Omen is not the best place to start. With the already stellar releases of Nocternity and Caedes Cruenta, 2015 is starting to look decent for Greece, especially considering their other more pressing financial woes.
By Kaptain Carbon.


I really want to talk about Greece as a heavy metal export, but I feel that Macabre Omen is not the best place to start. With the already stellar releases of Nocternity and Caedes Cruenta, 2015 is starting to look decent for Greece, especially considering their other more pressing financial woes. Macabre Omen's second record, Gods of War - At War, would be a wonderful addition to the country's growing extreme metal scene, if not for the fact that they are not really from Greece. Macabre Omen, as an entity, has the same enigmatic and elusive nature of its music. Macabre Omen started in Greece and then relocated to the United Kingdom with this particular album being recorded in Italy. Sure the band discusses the trials and tribulations of Hellenic culture but given their displacement, I feel Macabre Omen, as an entity is more international and possibly universal. Somewhere hidden behind fog and mist lies two people doing a bunch of different things.

Macabre Omen is receiving a mild amount of press in 2015 even though the band's last record, and debut, came out 10 years prior. Further that with the fact they have been releasing material since the mid 90’s and one can see that this band has a tendency for long gaps in between releases. Looking at the band’s history, one sees Alexandros Antoniou as the ringleader for the project with a rotating, or withering, cast of supporting musicians. Despite a dwindling of musicians and also more time between releases, the project do not waste this time, using it to craft a unique, well-honed release. An entire review could be written on the achievements of Alexandros Antoniou but suffice to say that Gods of War - At War comes with the weight of eternity at its side.

As a force, Gods of War - At War is an interesting dive into pagan black metal, which toggles between inaccessible qualities like the dying raspy vocals and more melodic moments like the interludes and galloping rhythm of the songs. Songs like the opener "I See, The Sea," as well as "Rhodian Pride" have a wonderfully anthemic backbone which mutes the harsh qualities of the music; at least long enough to not realize the type of music which is making ones arms tighten with excitement. From the acoustic interludes and atmospheric backdrops, the listener is acutely aware that this is a record that deserves ten years of craft before its release. The density in each track, which never dips below 5 minutes, is impressive especially given the fact that they never tire throughout the record. I may not be able to comment on the state of Grecian black metal with this band but, suffice to say, Macabre Omen has made a damn fine record in whatever country they want to lay claim to.


Kaptain Carbon writes metal reviews on lesser known contemporary metal at Tape Wyrm, power metal and movie reviews at Hollywood Metal, and moderates Reddit’s r/metal community.
Tagged with 2015, epic black metal, Kaptain Carbon, Macabre Omen, pagan black metal, Ván Records

August 2, 2015

Label Spotlight: Witching Hour Productions

Polish label Witching Hour Productions have now set up shop on Bandcamp. Their bread and butter is Polish death metal of recent vintage (but die-hard fans of Behemoth and Vadar can find releases of early demos and albums). Of course when it comes to death metal who better to separate the wheat from the chaff than the mighty Autothrall?
Polish label Witching Hour Productions have now set up shop on Bandcamp. Their bread and butter is Polish death metal of recent vintage (but die-hard fans of Behemoth and Vadar can find releases of early demos and albums). Of course when it comes to death metal who better to separate the wheat from the chaff than the mighty Autothrall? So without further ado: enjoy his excavation of three massive chunks of death metals from the bowels of the Witching Hour Bandcamp.

Cover art by Zbigniew Bielak

Try and envision a world in which Deicide wrote much better music than they normally do, and incorporated Polish strength blasting and a bit more flashy, thrashing aggression in addition to splitting the layered vocals down to just growls and snarls (and usually not at the same time). This is a world Azarath not only have envisioned, but have manifest into reality for 13 years and five full-lengths, the latest of which is Blasphemers' Maledictions, a brutal execution of dead center production values and rampant, neck snapping anger which leaves but the chalk outlines of corpses in its wake. This would be enough as is, for most folks, and yet they've also seen fit to pen riffs that are actually worth a damn. (read the rest of the review here).


Artwork by Michał "Xaay" Loranc

"White Architect" builds a nice intro atmosphere that instantly gives you hope that you're about to hear more than the average death record, and "Cortex Defamation" cashes in the check, with tyrannical walls of thick bludgeoning rhythms that instantly get the anger level high and the blood flowing through the limbs that then flail about like an induced seizure. Yet, amidst the crawling, battering of the guitars there are nice little touches of distorted backup vocals, and the leads after 3:00 are fantastic. "A Dying World" charges gloriously across some broiling guitar melodies and spastic bass fills before breaking down into a thick series of shifting, crunchy tempos, and "War Machine" is simply a ridiculous, fucking brutal piece which removed at least three of my vertebrae as I was listening and unable to stop from jerking around the booth, flighty arpeggios complementing Chudy's blunt chorus vocals. And from this point...it just gets SICKER. (read the rest of the review here).


Cover art by Mentalporn

Next to Vader's Necropolis (which is a lot more barebones than this album), it's the best Polish death of 2009, easily obliterating the latest Behemoth for that honor. "Revival" opens with a lush cosmic ambience, with a throbbing bass that helps emotionally ascend into a destructive arsenal of storming riffs as the heavens tear asunder. This album is like the Galactus of death metal. Jacek Grecki has a voice very similar to Piotr of Vader, if a little blunter in places. You'll probably want a breather after this first track, but the intimidating "Personal Universe" will not allow such folly, as it bludgeons you into oblivion like a fleet of Star Destroyers en route to a real conflict. "...if the Dead Can Speak" begins with some timid, flowing guitars, elevating with some breakneck chugging, grooves and double bass madness, before the vocals take command over a simple, rolling pattern. "216" then again annihilates the listener into formless space dust. Get used to it, because it's going to happen again with "One Step Too Far", "Divine Project" and the tribally taunting "Simulation". (read the rest of the review here).

Tagged with 2009, 2010, 2011, Autothrall, Azarath, black metal, death metal, Lost Soul, technical death metal, Trauma, Witching Hour Productions