November 28, 2015

Grima - Devotion to Lord

Written by Justin C.

I've always thought "atmospheric black metal" was a bit of a misnomer. To me, the name implies a very wispy, maybe even ambient sound, whereas a lot of atmospheric BM has plenty of fire and brimstone to it. It just happens to be a bit more melodic with some quiet parts thrown in. Case in point: The Siberian duo Grima and their debut album Devotion to Lord. (Their Bandcamp page clarifies that "lord," in this case, is "Mother Nature and no human god," so we're not talking about any "white metal" here.)

The two tracks that Naturmacht originally previewed, "The Beginning" and the title track, really drew me in. Grima play heavily melody-driven black metal. The vocals are primarily an icy rasp, although there are deeper growls and the occasional chant-like clean mixed in. The audible bass is a nice touch and always appreciated, and the riffs are heavy on the tremolos. The title track brings in a little Alcest in its intro, but only for a moment. The two bands certainly share a strong melodic sense and an ability to capture a dream-like feel, but I wouldn't lump Grima in with any of the blackgaze bands. This is more of a hybrid of that sound and the nature worship in a lot of Cascadian black metal.

But that brings me to the other thing I enjoyed about this album. Unlike the polished studio recordings you here with a lot of blackgaze and Cascadian recordings, there's a rough-hewn quality to Grima's sound, not so much because of the production, but because of the performances. Grima isn't afraid to leave an arpeggiated riff naked with no accompaniment, like near the midpoint of "The Beginning," and it has a great "recorded live" feel to it, with an occasional string buzz left in. I often struggle with this in my own chintzy recordings--do I go for a raw, one-take recording, maximizing the emotion of a spontaneous performance, or use whatever limited abilities I have in recording to polish the sound? It sounds like Grima's gone for the former here, and that suits the heavy emotional impact of their music very well. And although that doesn't make for a revolution in the atmospheric black metal subgenre, I'd still highly recommend this for people looking for atmospheric BM with a Siberian twist.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2015, atmospheric black metal, free download, Grima, Justin C, Naturmacht Productions

November 25, 2015

Magic Circle - Journey Blind

By Karen A. Mann. Composed of veterans from a slew of well-regarded Boston hardcore bands, Magic Circle are about as unlikely a doom band as you can imagine. They’re also not terribly visible.
By Karen A. Mann.

Artwork by Joe Petagno

Composed of veterans from a slew of well-regarded Boston hardcore bands, Magic Circle are about as unlikely a doom band as you can imagine. They’re also not terribly visible. There’s no Facebook page or dedicated Bandcamp page (you can find some info on their website and the 20 Buck Spin Bandcamp page), and they don’t seem to play live very often. Any publicity about Magic Circle is almost entirely word-of-mouth from dedicated doom fans and blogs. After gaining a lot of underground attention with their 2013 self-titled debut album, they’ve just released Journey Blind on 20 Buck Spin.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

Magic Circle’s music is just as unexpected as their story. The title song begins with a melodic interlude, followed by a slow, lumbering riff that seems firmly inspired by Black Sabbath. It sounds like some funereal doom, and as the song begins to build, it takes on a kind of Pallbearer-ish feel. But then the song stops, and a new, rocking NWOBHM-ish riff with nods to Witchfinder General begins. Magic Circle isn’t planning to plod along forever. They’re going to grab you by the throat and force your fist into the air.

The band does know when to slow it down and give a good dose of molasses-thick melodies, like on “A Ballad for Vultures” and “Grand Deceivers,” and but they never creep for long. Witness the sweet “Metal Gods”-like breakdown in the middle of “Lightning Cage.”

Photo by Carmelo Española.

The real revelation comes when vocalist Brendan Radigan opens up and lets loose with one of the finest doom (or, really, metal in general) voices since Trouble’s Eric Wagner.

Trouble and, and to a lesser extent Saint Vitus, really are major touchstones for Magic Circle, from the riffing to Radigan’s powerful delivery to the introspective, cathartic lyrics. Magic Circle want to take you on a journey through the history of doom, and they don’t need a bong or a copy of Drawing Down the Moon to do it.

Tagged with 20 Buck Spin, 2015, Carmelo Española, doom metal, Karen A. Mann, Magic Circle

November 24, 2015

Label Spotlight: Transylvanian Tapes. Vol. 3

Written by Craig Hayes.

This is the third in a continuing series of posts highlighting recent releases from Oakland, California-based label Transylvanian Tapes. I first encountered the label back in 2013, when the decidedly fetid and pile-driving death metal found on Caffa’s bruising debut, Day Of Disease, caught my ear. Since then, Transylvanian Tapes has issued a bunch of impressive cassette and digital releases. So let’s dive into some more of that riotous noise.

In some ways, Chrch’s remarkable three-track debut, Unanswered Hymns, reminds me of fellow doom band Samothrace’s first full-length, Life’s Trade. Not because Chrch have plagiarized Samothrace’s musical endeavours in any way on their first full-length. But because, like Life’s Trade, Chrch’s first album features a mere handful of songs and still manages to be an outstanding opening salvo due to the astonishing strength of those tracks.

Like Samothrace, Chrch also deal in deeply emotional and enthralling music. The kind of sludgy and transcendent doom metal that’s imbued with a sense of vast space and chasmic depth. It's the kind of music that clutches at your heart, as it soars into the firmament. And it's the kind of music that drags you down with it, when it plummets into caverns of despair.

So, yes, there are only three tracks on Unanswered Hymns. But every one of those tracks is a soul-shaking voyage of considerable length, breadth and impact. You can certainly point to the aforementioned Samothrace as a sonic reference point. As you could Yob, or Bell Witch, and perhaps you’ll even hear a hint of Hawkwind in Unanswered Hymns’more psychedelic passages too.

The point being, there's many influences poured into an album like Unanswered Hymns.But what resonates most, is that Chrch simply make honest music. Music that comes straight from the heart.

Case in point, Unanswered Hymns 19-minute album starter, “Dawning”. There’s a bold opening statement if ever there was one. It’s a do or die move by Chrch. Because your enjoyment of Unanswered Hymns hinges on whether you can digest and/or unpack a massive and multifaceted track straight away. It's a definite line in the sand. But the band wholly justifies delineating that line with “Dawning” by providing a masterclass in how to craft a ten-tonne epic that never loses focus.

Chrch further explores the potential of heavyweight and hallucinogenic doom on Unanswered Hymns’ remaining tracks, “Stargazer” and “Offering”. And both songs, which are also lengthy and involved excursions, are as equally compelling as “Dawning”.

In essence, Unanswered Hymns is defined by its immensity, and rough-hewn eloquence. It’s one of those superbly expressive underground debuts that deserves far more visibility. However, there’s also a grand sense of promise to the album as well. A vivid illustration of the brilliance that possibly lies ahead for Chrch. Because the band have clearly discovered a colossal creative vein to mine.

Obviously, we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds for Chrch. But, for now, there’s plenty of gigantic reverb-heavy riffing and tons of bludgeoning percussion and amp-melting noise to revel in on Unanswered Hymns. Frontwoman Eva’s vocals echo eerily and decidedly spellbindingly from the album's depths. And her voice, whether howling or whispered, forms a large part of Unanswered Hymns' other-worldly appeal.

Ultimately, what makes Unanswered Hymns’an album that I’d recommend you seek out immediately is Chrch’s decision to let their songs breathe with more minimalist and droning passages. Of course, those passages are always followed by superbly sledgehammering doom. But it's the deftly gauged counterpointing between thundering uproars and more ruminative and expansive movements that make Unanswered Hymns such a entrancing album overall.

Unanswered Hymnsha been wonderfully produced as well. It sounds huge, and raw. All jagged-edged, and monolithic in tone and texture. And all of that combines to ensure that it's is a first-rate debut well worth revisiting, time and again.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Like Chrch, San Diego trio Beira also deal in doom metal. However, Beira’s sound harks back further in time to a more majestic era of doom. The band’s vocalist, guitarist and flautist, Ruby Haynes, takes her time building the tension with thick and muscular riffs and on the four tracks that comprise Beira’s Vol 1 release. And, while the rest of the band stomps along with abundant capability and energy, it’s Haynes voice––savagely tearing into passages here, or whispering more ethereally there––that’s going to keep you hooked.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Take a look at that gruesome cover on Cartilage’s It's Necrotic release below. There’s everything you need to know about the lo-fi carnage found in the band's three-song debut writ large. Not everything has to be complicated or convoluted, and It's Necrotic sure isn't. It's simply a 10-minute deluge of blood and guts. It’s crude in character, and primitive in execution. And both of those elements work perfectly together. So if you’re a fan of old school gore-soaked death metal, or rusty bonesaw grindcore, then It's Necrotic will likely fit the butcher's bill for you too.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Devoid are a self-appointed “transdimensional doom metal” trio based in San Francisco. And the band’s I & II album features a great deal of aptly mind-warping noise. Really, it’s no hollow boast on Devoid’s behalf to say the band is “transdimensional” in nature. Because I & II features exactly the kind of turbulent and sludgy sonic worship that's as mesmerising as it is transporting.

Sure, Devoid might not literally be tearing a rent in reality. But you can't knock the band for making a huge effort to grind our reality into the dust on I & II. Devoid wields that same void-opening weaponry that bands such as Usnea, Neurosis or Thou utilise so well. And there's also a heavy dose of the same tripped-out accent that riff-lords such as Primitive Man, Ufomammut or Bongripper exhibit to be heard on I & II as well. Essentially, at their best, Devoid grab you by the scruff of the neck and hurl you into the nucleus of that swirling tempest illustrated on the album's cover. So, if gargantuan and hallucinogenic soundscapes sound enticing, you know where to look.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Notes: Most of the links points to the band's own Bandcamp pages (and all the Devoid songs from I & II are available as name your price downloads on three different albums). For the tape releases go to the Transylvanian Tapes page.

Tagged with 2015, Beira, Cartilage, Chrch, Craig Hayes, death metal, Devoid, doom metal, drone, free download, sludge metal, stoner metal, Transylvanian Tapes

November 21, 2015

Thy Worshiper - Ozimina

By Ulla Roschat.

Artwork by Anna Malarz from Thy Worshiper

Thy Worshiper originally formed in 1993 in Wroclaw/Poland, but are now, after some changes in their line-up, a six piece band and located in Dublin/Ireland. They already have several releases, some demos and three full length albums, and now they return with Ozimina. They call it an EP, but with its six songs and a playing time of about 36 minutes it could almost pass as a full length album.

Ozimina is an invitation to meet the natural world as well as the supernatural. You're a few minutes into the first song and you feel like you're running through a forest driven by a strong heavy rhythm, accompanied by melodic riffs and the sounds of nature, like howling wolves, dabbling water and tweeting birds later on. The whole EP is an utter percussive matter with ritualistic tribal rhythms, and has, combined with the folky melodies, a great pagan/folk black metal character with obscure gloomy atmospheres.

Photo by Abrisad.

With the first two songs you are just running and following the forceful, compelling rhythms and enchanting melodies. With the third song "Ozyny" you find yourself in some kind of shamanic conjuration of supernatural spirits. A droning hypnotic didgeridoo sound and heartbeat backdrop, spoken words (which I unfortunately don't understand, because they are, like all the lyrics, in Polish) that sound like some magic formula, Jew's harp and bagpipe - all add up to a dense, obscure and dangerous atmosphere of a spiritual world. Other than this song with its thick droning sound, all other songs rather have an open, reverberating sound, which lends them a great dynamic and depth.

Photo by Abrisad.

The next track "Wietlica" throws you back into the "peaceful" forest, beginning with singing birds and a simple rhythm produced by some wooden percussion instrument, which btw. contributes a lot to the overall "forest-feel" of the EP. Yet you get the impression that from here everything is not like it was before "Ozyny", as if the experience of the ritual has altered your mindset by some terrifying and saddening knowledge.

Like I mentioned above, it's too bad I don't understand the lyrics. On the other hand, this way I'm free to develop my own stories to the music. Ozimina is a folk black metal album with a great portion of ethnical tunes from eastern Europe and pagan style rhythms, carefully balanced and with an exciting dynamic flow.

The song "Halny" is featured on The Wicked Lady Show 97

Tagged with 2015, Abrisad, black metal, death metal, folk metal, Thy Worshiper, Ulla Roschat

November 19, 2015

Witchsorrow - No Light, Only Fire

Written by Matt Hinch.

I’ve sort of got a predisposition towards bands with “wizard” or “witch” in their name. It doesn’t always work mind you, but it’s a good rule of thumb. Most often said band names are associated with doom/stoner acts and such is the case with UK-bred doom merchants Witchsorrow and their latest full-length No Light, Only Fire.

As has been the case since their inception, Witchsorrow live and breathe doom both of the traditional sort and the more modern take on the genre. Take opener “There Is No Light, There Is Only Fire” for example. Sonically speaking it oozes the kind of superfuzzed tone that typifies modern doom but the pace here is blistering by doom standards, as well as compared to much of the album. It barrells forth at a gallop, instantly calling heads to bang as the leads soar to the darkening skies. Thusly, one thinks more toward the traditional spectre of doom in the vein of Trouble and the like in how they can convey a pervading sense of dread without syrupy tempos.

That sort of reverence courses through the album along with a wholesome dose of Sabbath worship, perhaps nowhere more apparent that on closer “De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas”. It’s a 14-minute test of endurance throwing horns at both Sabbath and the obvious inspiration for the title, Mayhem. (Witchsorrow have covered Mayhem (“Freezing Moon”) previously on an EP of the same name.)

That particular bookend bristles with menace through painfully slow chords bearing down upon the listener and soulful solos breathing colour into the monochrome crush. Witchsorrow’s stock and trade is in that sort of skull-crushing doom of the droning sort but they’re smart enough to know tempo variation is necessary to keep the listener conscious and interested as we see in the six tracks sandwiched between the two extremes opening and closing No Light.

“The Martyr” is like a tar pit ensnaring the listener as they run at full sprint from the plundering pace of “No Light”. The monolithic riffs feel filthy and subterranean as they construct a towering wall of sound. The doom is eternal if not quite funereal until it rumbles into a more uptempo shameless Sabbath worshipping run.

Elsewhere Witchsorrow balance plodding movements with engaging rhythms and cathedral filling vocal laments. Scowl-faced riffs push forth with unstoppable determination, oppressive walls of sound and mind-numbing drone defeating the will to think.

No Light crawls with a disdain for anything less than pure darkness. This gives the album a blackened edge that’s more felt than heard. Their menacing riffs personify doom on both sides of the fence. They glorify Sabbath and give nods to Trouble, St. Vitus et al as well as going all in with contemporaries in North America like Windhand and Uzala.

There’s a beauty to their agonizing and painful doom, likely assisted by the clean vocals. There’s little room for subtlety amidst their calculated reverberations but it’s there if you know where to look. No Light, Only Fire is simply a huge and enthralling doom album that only gets better with each spin. Witchsorrow are well studied in the genre and it shows in how they craft songs that are memorable, menacing and muscular. Darkness reigns. Embrace the flames.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2015, Candlelight Records USA, doom metal, Matt Hinch, Witchsorrow

A Flare in the Northern Sky - Cosmic Black Metal Roundup

By Calen Henry. Upon reflection it’s not actually all that surprising that there’s so much space themed black metal. After all, when one tires of trying to capture the sound of a cold Scandinavian forest what’s colder than the void of space? Travel with me through the void as I present some of my picks
By Calen Henry.

Upon reflection it’s not actually all that surprising that there’s so much space themed black metal. After all, when one tires of trying to capture the sound of a cold Scandinavian forest what’s colder than the void of space? Travel with me through the void as I present some of my picks.

Cover art by Luciana Nedelea

This is the album that started me down the rabbit hole of cosmic black metal and still my favourite. Phobos Monolith mixes blistering tremolo riffs over lightning blast-beats with soaring melodic leads and spacey ambient passages to come up with Blut Aus Nord from space. My only complaint is that the programmed drums can’t keep up with the astounding quality of the rest of the music but that’s hardly the musician’s fault.

Mesarthim takes an almost comically obvious route of combining black metal with cheesy new age keyboard riffs. It’s like the soundtrack to an 80’s science documentary by Emperor. The ridiculous thing is it works incredibly well. This is partly due to the excellent composition in both the black metal and synth parts ending up with something like “black metal Muse” and partly due to the utter commitment in the vocals. The album is also DR 11 meaning very little dynamic range compression was used, making it sound excellent.

Daharaka is Turkish for “blacker” and he certainly is. Unlike some of the other cosmic black metal artists Daharaka sounds like second wave black metal played from space. His guitars and riffs are fuzzy and amorphous but rather than take the kvlt route of trebling it’s guts out he’s applied some effects that give similar results but sound very spacey. There’s something slightly off with the vocals that prevent me from outright loving the album but his unique approach deserves to be experienced. Trve kvlt space metal.

Cover painting by Brian Smith ("By Midnight", 2010)

Tome of the Unreplenished takes the tried and true melodic black metal approach of bands like Rotting Christ and Thou Art Lord and takes it to space. Complete with chanting and “Hellenic” tremolo riffs.

Cover art by Dis Pater

Midnight Odyssey leans more towards the ambient and slow side of things that the other bands on this list for a sound that’s kind of “blackened Enya”. Be warned, though, the album is ridiculously long; 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Art by Paolo Girardi

While quite musically different from the previous five bands you can’t talk about space black metal without its original purveyors, Inquisition. Guaranteed to be the catchiest black metal about space Satan sung by a toad that you’ve ever heard.

Tagged with 2014, 2015, ambient black metal, atmospheric black metal, Calen Henry, Dahakara, experimental black metal, Inquisition, Mare Cognitum, Mesarthim, Midnight Odyssey, Tome of the Unreplenished, trance

November 13, 2015

Destroy Judas - Forever Like Stars​.​.​.​We Shine

Written by Kevin Page.

Artwork by Fortifem

To this day I own less than a dozen cassettes and half a dozen pieces of vinyl. Heck, I haven't even owned anything to play those formats on in well over two decades. But I've proudly kept onto my 1990 Demo, 1992 Faded Dream promo and the two 7"'s released in 1991 from the mighty (and criminally underrated) Mindrot. Why am I mentioning this in the first place? The reason being, there's a lineage going on here. From the ashes of Mindrot, guitarist Daniel Kaufman & bassist Matt Fisher formed Eyes of Fire. Taking the Mindrot sound into a more straightforward and post metal direction on an EP & two full length albums (all on Century Media Records), the apathetic metal community shrugged its collective shoulders and let another amazing concoction fade into obscurity.

Not one to simply give up, Daniel Kaufman pressed on and took with him Nick Bernardi (drummer of Eyes of Fire) to form Destroy Judas. So where does this new beast sit musically? I'd say somewhere between those prior two bands. It still contains the doomy sludge and the post metal aesthetics of a California band, while retaining the soundscapes and grit of atmospheric death metal.

Forever Like Stars...We Shine is 38 minutes, which is one track in three movements. The first movement (approx 16-17 minutes) is an instrumental soaked with atmosphere that slowly builds to a furious climax of noise and frantic guitar picking. It isn't until the 18 minute mark (and I presume the 2nd movement) that any vocals make their appearance. If you were a fan of Eyes of Fire, the approach is similar (even though this is a different vocalist), sorta a gruff angst, that's not quite death metal. The 21 minute mark then kicks off what strongly reminds me of old school Mindrot: the tribal like drumming, the death metal vocals (yes, they do change styles here) and the guitar riffs, which pay a nice homage to a band that never received its just due. The 3rd movement begins at 28 minutes and quickly changes pace. It begins with nothing but atmospheric keyboards that make you think of the dark sky at night, the stars gently glistening against the moonlight. Even though it's an abrupt change of direction, it works splendidly to give you time to absorb what you just experienced. It once agains builds before erupting before coming to a sudden end. And I say 'experience' as opposed to 'heard' because this isn't an album you just passively listen to. Sure, you can do that, but you're cheating yourself out of what it attempts to deliver. That is an emotional journey that climbs, explodes and then comes back down to earth for its final rest.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

And if you like what you hear, you can also pick up their 2011 debut, Wake, as a Name Your Price download.

Tagged with 2015, Destroy Judas, doom metal, Kevin Page, post-metal, sludge metal

November 12, 2015

Corpse Light - Without Form

Written by Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Jim Webb

In a whirlwind 16 days back in the Spring, Grimoire Records recorded, mixed, mastered and released (with art) Without Form by Baltimore doomsters Corpse Light.

The band obviously take their doom seriously as Without Form is full of painfully slow riffs soaked in earth-shaking tone. But they don’t seem slow for the sake of it, or heavy just to be heavy either. There’s a warmth behind those resonating notes yet a painful emotion drips from every pore.

That anger and hurt is tempered by melodies reaching as high as the gut-rumbling doom is low. That sort of back and forth is measured though. For the most part the pace is consistently lethargic with brief excursions into a more explosive sound or heartfelt regions.

How they hammer down and pull back isn’t so much a tension and release mechanism as it is a stalk and pounce, or simply a parallel to the instability of many of our states of mind. Sometimes a riff will stand out as familiar as there isn’t anything terribly original here. It’s a minor gripe though as there is plenty to enjoy, including some aching solos.

Corpse Light work with the epic flair of Cult of Luna and the sludge dynamics of Neurosis wrapped around despondent doom in the vein of say, Cold Blue Mountain.

Writing about Without Form a good five months after its release actually makes more sense as it’s not a Spring-type album. As the night overtakes the shortening days and death looms on the increasingly bitter winds, Corpse Light and Without Form find a more welcoming home as the darkness falls over the land and sadness creeps into your bones.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2015, Corpse Light, doom metal, Grimoire Records, Matt Hinch, post-metal, sludge metal

November 10, 2015

Panopticon - Autumn Eternal

Written by Justin C.

Panopticon's new album, Autumn Eternal, is surprising in a lot of ways. One of the biggest surprises to me is that it's not being hailed as a masterpiece. People should be running through the streets, tears streaming down their faces, clutching their copies and proclaiming its brilliance to anyone who will listen. Main man Austin Lunn, disappointed after his previous, also-amazing album leaked before it was ready, understandably kept a tighter wrap on this one, which I think is part of the reason it's not getting as much attention as, say, Kentucky did. So I'll have to do my part to shine a bright light on this one

If you listen to the opener, "Tamarack's Gold Returns", you'd be forgiven for thinking that Lunn is returning to a bluegrass/folk-inspired work like Kentucky. This album does not have that heavy bluegrass influence, but let it be known that I'd listen to a full album of music like this. It's not a throwaway opener by any means. But the very next track, "Into the North Woods", kicks in with the usual Panopticon black metal intensity, with swelling tremolos and intricate percussion. It's as good as any fan could hope for based on that intro alone, but near the track's end, we're treated to a martial-sounding drum pattern with mournful-sounding coronet above it, eventually joined by what sounds like chimes and perhaps a fife (or more likely, their electronic equivalents). It's a dramatic shift, but it’s not a startling one. It works beautifully.

In fact, almost all of these songs feature stunning turns that work against all odds. "Oaks Ablaze" starts out ferocious, but then halfway through takes a turn into what I can only describe as a dark 80s movie soundtrack, featuring a rolling tom pattern on the drums, ringing arpeggios, and a bass tone so rich you'll want to spread it on your toast and eat it. "Pale Ghosts" dips into a surprisingly sunny and major-key sound for a song with "ghosts" in its title. And check out those beautiful clean vocals! I think these juxtapositions are the key to the overall feeling of the album. Culturally, we see autumn as an ending and spring as a rebirth, but maybe this is an album that switches that idea on its head, treating autumn as a celebration of survival, not a sad prelude to hibernation. Lunn hasn't provided lyrics with this album, so I could be completely missing the point, but I can only speak to how it makes me feel, and it's a nuanced emotional state that features melancholy mixed with triumph. Then again, I’ve always felt that music is the art form we use to express those subtle feelings we can’t otherwise articulate.

This is a rich, hour-long album that I'll be coming back to a lot. Sure, maybe I've drifted into fanboy territory when it comes to this project, but I'll be damned if Lunn didn't top Kentucky with this one, and that's a truly high mark to reach. Get this album and start proselytizing to those who haven't caught on yet. This is album-of-the-decade material.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2015, atmospheric black metal, folk metal, Justin C, Panopticon

November 8, 2015

Three Metal Blade Epic Wins!

"Metal Blade is now on Bandcamp" we wrote back in July. They started out with some of their newer bands, but recently they have also been adding albums from their past archives. And frankly some of these are classics of a stature I thought I'd never see available on Bandcamp. I mean, Slayer?
["Metal Blade is now on Bandcamp" we wrote back in July. They started out with some of their newer bands, but recently they have also been adding albums from their past archives. And frankly some of these are classics of a stature I thought I'd never see available on Bandcamp. I mean, Slayer?

You can find three of these classics here, presented by the mighty Autothrall (and also gain some insight in the author as both a young, and a somewhat older metalhead). And check out the Metal Blade Records Bandcamp for say, all post-comeback albums by Mercyful Fate and the entire Amon Amarth discography!]

Artwork by Albert Cuellar

Several peers and I once passed a cassette recording of both this and Show No Mercy around to one another, terrified of its contents, perhaps clinging to those vestigial traces of Christian upbringing. Copies were confiscated by teachers and parents, and a few of us got a good 'talking to', myself in particular, for spreading the twisted diocese of Satan through the rank and file of the innocent.

Keep in mind that I was about 11-12 years old at this time, the target of crass, ignorant exaggerations by a Protestant flock, and by no means in thrall of the Prince of Hell. But the damage was done. I bought the actual cassette. My parents took it away. I stole it back. The top of the refrigerator was hardly a sufficient hiding place for my 'unapproved' stock of metal albums. They gave up. I bought the back patch, and was so armored the very day I parted ways from the Protestant faith. What an ironic portrait, a dorky pre-teen armed in denim and devils, striding proudly through a dull spring rain in 1986, having quit Church forever, wearing this image and title on my back. The prescient, magic 8-ball might read that my outlook was not so good (read the rest of the review here).

Artwork by Ioannis

it is the classic Fate's Warning which I hold most dear. There is something truly atmospheric about their first three albums. 1984's Night On Bröcken was a solid debut with a few catchy pieces, but it's follow-up The Spectre Within is not only the finest album in the band's career...but one of the greatest melodic metal albums ever to emerge from the US of A. Each of the seven tracks on Spectre creates a bold narrative vision, laden in the mystique of carefully plotted compositions and the haunting keen of John Arch. Outside of the music of Fates Warning, one might find Arch annoying at best, but within the milieu of old, haunted speed metal landscapes, he shines like a fallen God. (read the rest of the review here).

Cover art by Vincent Locke

Bloodthirst is fast and it is pissed, but most importantly, it's kind of album you can totally bang your head out to. Now, I'm an older guy, looking forward to such end of life triumphs as Viagra, checkers, more tea than I drink now, and finding my social security depleted thanks to bailouts and government entitlement programs; the kind of guy who might find it a little awkward to just break out headbanging his already strained neck. But even in writing this review, I have probably slipped at least three vertebrae from gyrating my spinal cord and planting my forehead against the nearest solid object (computer desk).

The energy here is among the most Cannibal Corpse have ever ventured, and it is the listener who reaps the gain. The album features what many will one day come to know as the 'best', if not the 'classic' lineup of the band, with George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher on vocals, Jack Owen and shredder Pat O'Brien on the guitars, Alex Webster ruling the bottom end, and the veteran skinner Paul Mazurkiewics, and each is at the very top of his career. But this is not some over-indulgent display of axe wankery, it is a force against nature which clearly has designs on the life of every human being breathing our atmosphere (read the rest of the review here).

Tagged with 1985, 1999, Autothrall, Cannibal Corpse, death metal, Fates Warning, Metal Blade Records, power metal, progressive metal, Slayer, thrash metal

November 7, 2015

Bedowyn - Blood of the Fall

By Karen A. Mann. Like their namesake, Raleigh, N.C.’s Bedowyn takes a nomadic approach to metal, journeying through doom, stoner, death and even a little Southern rock, but never settling down with any particular genre.
By Karen A. Mann.

Cover art by Donovan Valdez.

Like their namesake, Raleigh, N.C.’s Bedowyn takes a nomadic approach to metal, journeying through doom, stoner, death and even a little Southern rock, but never settling down with any particular genre. Following their promising 2013 debut, Wolves & Trees, the quartet has delivered a masterful and extraordinarily well thought-out follow up with Blood of the Fall, a raging battle call reveling in death and despair.

The album opens with (and later reprises) "The Horde". This short instrumental is mostly Sabbath-like wah-drenched guitar, (think Electric Funeral), which then segues into "Rite to Kill". With its rolling, chugging drums, intricate guitar, and strong, angry vocals, "Rite to Kill" gives a serious nod to High on Fire, and sets the pace for the remainder of the album. The mood is one of foreboding and excitement, and you almost feel like you’re galloping into a great and terrible war, from which you almost certainly won’t return.

"Blood of the Fall" features some good clean singing from singer/guitarist Alex Traboulsi, who deftly switches from snarling and angry to melodic and clear. "Cotard’s Blade" begins with an acoustic melody, and for the remainder of the album the acoustic touches are more prominent, culminating in the classically-inspired acoustic interlude "For a Fleeting Moment".

Bedowyn is at its best -- and actually most accessible -- on the melancholic, regretful "Halfhand", with Traboulsi showing his full range and guitarist Mark Peters delivering a soaring solo.

The album comes full circle at the very end with "The Horde (Exodus)", which reprises the opener’s ominous wah-drenched riff, but makes it deeper and more despairing. If the album’s opener was all about riding into battle, this is the song where all is lost and devastation reigns.

Tagged with 2015, Bedowyn, doom metal, heavy metal, Karen A. Mann, stoner metal

November 5, 2015

Make - The Golden Veil

By Ulla Roschat. Three piece band MAKE from Chapel Hill/NC have released their 2nd full length album The Golden Veil. The album can roughly be labeled as post-rock with sludge, psychedelic, doom and drone influences…
By Ulla Roschat.

Three piece band MAKE from Chapel Hill/NC have released their 2nd full length album The Golden Veil.

The album can roughly be labeled as post-rock with sludge, psychedelic, doom and drone influences…, roughly, because MAKE use even the typical post rock/metal elements in a way that makes them totally their own. The loud-quiet contrasts, the slow build ups and cathartic release, we all know well. MAKE drive them to unusual extremes at times and they manage to surprise within the well known patterns.

Beautiful, unhurried dreamy melodies provide a sense of abundance of time and space, often steeped in compelling psychedelia you can easily lose yourself in, but the next crushing riff will find and destroy you before you realize what just happened. All contrasts are extreme, be it the dense and the spacious, the loud and the quiet, the frail and the crushing.

Into this abundance of time and space MAKE complect different musical styles and layers of textures easily and smoothly. There are bits of spaced out psychedelia, acoustic folk, noisy ambience, drone, doom, and touches of progressive, black and death metal. All this is used in a thoughtful and unobtrusive way that this sense of abundance of space is retained. The vocals are used in the same vein, diverse in themselves, harsh and clean, but modestly dosed.

The album is best listened to in the given order of the songs. Right from its start the first song feels like an intro and there's a flow between the songs that builds an overall coherence of the intricate soundscapes that allows the nearly one hour and seven songs to evolve and expand their dark and cold, but irresistible atmospheres. And it's, most notably, MAKE's sense for creating spellbinding atmospheres that makes The Golden Veil outstanding.

The song "The Immortal" is featured on The Wicked Lady Show 94

Tagged with 2015, doom metal, Make, post-rock, progressive sludge metal, Ulla Roschat

November 2, 2015

Serious Beak - Ankaa

By Justin C. We're not quite done with bird-themed metal this year. Up now is Australian instrumental act Serious Beak with Ankaa, a follow-up coming almost exactly 4 years after their fantastic debut, Huxwhukw.
By Justin C.

Artwork: Caitlin Hackett

We're not quite done with bird-themed metal this year. Up now is Australian instrumental act Serious Beak with Ankaa, a follow-up coming almost exactly 4 years after their fantastic debut, Huxwhukw. If you know their debut, you generally know what to expect, because their brand of proggy instrumental metal has stayed pretty consistent, although this time around, I think their melodic sensibilities have grown sharper.

The album is a concept of sorts, detailing in four songs the life cycle of our sun--including its formation, its "main sequence" at the present, its eventual expansion into a red giant, and ultimate collapse into a white dwarf and ultimately going dark completely as its fuel is exhausted. Paired with each song/stage is a bird, starting with an Australian songbird and ending, appropriately, with an extinct species. It's a fascinating concept, and it's interesting to think about how one might compose a soundtrack for the trillions of years in the life of a star. It wasn't obvious to me how one might do that, and even after the first listen, I still wasn't sure. But as I spent more time with this album, I realized Serious Beak nails the hell out of it.

The music alternates between proggy dissonance and lovely, tranquil melody. The angrier/proggier parts definitely call to mind King Crimson and bits of Meshuggah-isms, but I almost didn't include those references in this review because I didn't want to color anyone's perception of the music. More than any particular influence, what kept coming to mind when listening to this was the word "balance." The jagged, syncopated riffing is interspersed with beautiful minimalism. The first two parts of "Main Sequence (Dacelo novaeguineae)" emphasize this in spades. Granted, I could have happily listened to a whole album of the shimmering spacey parts, but as it is, the harsh and the pretty are offset perfectly. You can get lost in some music, but this demands more attention.

The third track, "Red (Laniocera hypopyrra)," may be the most aggressive, and it even features some legit guitar heroics. As you might expect, though, the technicality serves the song. The whole thing comes to a beautiful end in the fourth and final track, which perfectly encapsulates the idea of a star coming to the end of its life. Its gentle melodies and lilting tremolos perfectly fit the idea of something ending, particularly something much grander than us little human beings. It's a perfect ending to a wonderfully immersive album.

Tagged with 2015, Art As Catharsis Records, Justin C, progressive metal, Serious Beak