February 16, 2018

Fister / Chrch - Split

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

Artwork by Ethan Lee McCarthy

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

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

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

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

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

Get your doom on, folks.


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

February 15, 2018

Novareign - Legends

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

February 14, 2018

Hound the Wolves - Camera Obscura

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

Cover art by Adam Burke

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

The journey has four stages and takes about 30 minutes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 13, 2018

Basalte - Vertige

By Hera Vidal. Jean Piaget had an interesting theory about object permanence, the concept that objects still exist despite not being observed. He believed that this was one of an infant’s most important accomplishments, as they could understand
By Hera Vidal.


Jean Piaget had an interesting theory about object permanence, the concept that objects still exist despite not being observed. He believed that this was one of an infant’s most important accomplishments, as they could understand that objects had a separate, observable existence. Of course, in the concept of permanence as a whole, nihilism as a philosophy states that nothing has a real existence, even the words that are being written at this moment. In metaphysics, nihilism states that there might be no concrete objects at all, and, if there were, they might not be replaced. This is one of the main concepts Basalte explores on Vertige (“vertigo”), an album that seems to convey the sense that nothing is permanent.

Fin de siècle funèbre, un cadavre tourne le dos au ciel,
creuse vers ses semblables, y cherchant son désespoir.

Vertige starts dissonantly, with random piano notes being played to cover up the sound of the guitar’s feedback slowly creeps from the album. As the guitar gets louder and the piano becomes more atonal, the listener can sense that there is a certain amount of uneasiness and uncertainty that clouds the album’s mood. This is what you will hear for the rest of the album, even as the music lapses into frenzied rhythms that mirror rage and anger. The atmosphere is at work here; even with the blast beats and the howling vocals, it’s the soft, melodic undertones that truly captures the emotions being conveyed. It also adds some interesting tones that act as a cue for the listener to get a sense of what’s going, even with the language barrier. For example, on the song “Acouphène”, there is a persistent ringing that accompanies the song before the main melody fully sinks in. The ringing remains in the background; you can only hope it ends quickly before getting some Advil to cure the headache you can get from the ringing. This is one of the many effect the album has to have the listener completely listen to the album and bask in its story. It also flows well, allowing for the album to play in one smooth sitting, although I don’t think it should be played that way.

Another concept that caught my attention was structural; there are four stories being told on the album. From what happens to a corpse after it has been buried (“Ce que le corps doit au sol”) to the persistent ringing in your ears that leads to sleepwalking and insanity (“Acouphène”), each vignette shows how something can lack permanence. A corpse rots away; the ringing in your ears can be covered by either another sound or, in this case, death; a vial is emptied of its contents; the disappearance of euphoria after the body has metabolized a drug’s effects. This is an album that took the concept of metaphysical nihilism and ran with it, as there is nothing that can replace what has been lost. In the universe the album creates, things sway and change, but lose their permanence. They are abstract and hard to conceptualize, leading to a dizziness that becomes overwhelming. You aren’t fast enough to catch the changes; any sudden movement leads to vertigo, and you are left with the dissonance of it all.

All in all, Vertige is an album filled with a density that requires multiple listens to fully grasp what’s going on. Its concept is highly abstract but understandable, and it requires your full attention. However, choose to selectively listen to parts of the album, and the atmosphere of the album changes. It’s compelling and worth the runtime. Come for the music, stay for the metaphysical nihilism.

February 10, 2018

Dream Tröll - The Witch's Curse

By Bathy Kates. Hello metal warriors! Long time, no see! I’m back to tell you about a band I wrote about many moons ago on Metal Bandcamp: Dream Troll. Hailing from Leeds, England, the band delivered a righteous offering of traditional metal
By Bathy Kates.


Hello metal warriors! Long time, no see! I’m back to tell you about a band I wrote about many moons ago on Metal Bandcamp: Dream Troll. Hailing from Leeds, England, the band delivered a righteous offering of traditional metal that added a sleek coating to the Barbarian metal sound. The Knight of Rebellion was like Iron Maiden and Manilla Road running on Windows 10. And guys, I have to be honest with you right now. Start actively supporting this band right now, because they are going to be the next big thing in traditional and power metal. I promise you. With this new EP, The Witch’s Curse, the band strikes while the iron (maiden?) is hot and proves that their debut was no fluke.

A revelation I had about Dream Tröll while listening to The Witch’s Curse for the first time that I did not include in my original write-up is that the band really isn’t a full-on “throwback” act. It’s subtle, but the band knows how to make their music sound modern both in composition and in production. This hit me during the first track on the EP, “In The Name of Isabella”, where the music breaks down into a bit of a hard rock groove as new vocalist, Paul Walsh, sings “Listen up boy you've only got one chance…”, and suddenly we’re barely in a metal song anymore. Of course, the mighty riffs returns full blast but the short detour adds so much to the character of the music. Hell, there’s even some tasteful cowbell on this thing in later tracks. The same tight production from Rebellion also adds to the more modern approach to a classic sound.

Witch’s Curse is a bit more theatrical than Rebellion. Where their debut album, despite the title, had orderly and neat hooks, Walsh adds some grit and spirit to his lyrical delivery, painting a vibrant picture of the medieval tales and occult drama. To further assist their epic storytelling, their long songwriting is back and better than ever. Dream Tröll never just lets a song write itself with boring, generic riffs. Each section of the song is expertly crafted to fit the words and story. There’s so many harmonies, diverse riff choices, clean sections, and a thrilling rhythm section. It’s actually very reminiscent of Blind Guardian’s approach to their music, especially in their later albums. It’s not that their writing the most dense and complex music of all time. Dream Tröll , like Olbrich and Kursch, simply has a firm grip on their sound and know exactly how to paint the story with the talent that they possess.

This EP will certainly give fans of Knight of Rebellion something more to chew on while they wait for the full follow-up from Dream Tröll. Keep an eye on these guys and check out their absolutely brilliant traditional heavy metal on their Bandcamp page. You will be singing along in no time.

February 6, 2018

Tints of Obsidian - What You Missed in 2017

By Justin C. Much like the Christmas shopping season, sometimes it seems like the end-of-year album lists come earlier and earlier each year. Inevitably, this means some otherwise excellent albums released in November and December get lost in the shuffle.
By Justin C.

Much like the Christmas shopping season, sometimes it seems like the end-of-year album lists come earlier and earlier each year. Inevitably, this means some otherwise excellent albums released in November and December get lost in the shuffle. I'm here to educate you on what you weren't paying attention to: two outstanding splits from bands known and unknown and a full-length from a newcomer.


In late November, black metal bands Barshasketh and Outre released a split called Sein / Zeit. We haven't talked about Barshasketh around here since way back in 2011, which is a shame because they've made some fine albums since then, including their latest full length, Ophidian Henosis. For this split, Barshasketh contribute the Being ("Sein"). Their black metal here has a touch of dissonance and a driving energy. The rhythm is sometimes chunky, sometimes galloping, but always addictive.

Outre brings the Time ("Zeit") and an additional track, and from the first off-kilter, thrashy strains of "Zeit," you can tell that they're a bit more zany in their approach. Is zaniness allowed in black metal? I say yes. The jangly chords and manic vocals add a bit of playfulness to the full-speed meanness in the riffing, and it's a great combination. I wasn't familiar with Outre before this, but I'm going to check out their back catalog.



Siberian Hell Sounds has, thus far in their career, produced short blasts of blackened, crusty noise, with songs usually hovering around the three-minute mark. When I saw that they contributed one, 20-minute-long song to a split with Convulsing, I was worried. Could their signature sound be extended to funeral doom lengths without getting tedious? The answer is yes. Who would have guessed that the band had ambitions to make a damn mini-epic with what I'd actually call legitimate movements while never taking their foot off the gas in terms of intensity?

Convulsing's track is similar in scope and sound, although if anything, their rough parts sound even nastier, although perhaps that's just in contrast with the delicate, barely-there ambient sections, doomy sections, and slow-creepy-death sections, to name just a few of the fascinating interludes contained in this one, long track. Like Outre, Convulsing is another band I need to check out in more detail. This split was another late November release that I feel like slipped by too many people.



In December--if you'd been paying attention--Dsknt brought war to your ears (and sometimes to vowels) with their album PhSPHR Entropy. Their style is definitely bottom heavy, pairing low growls with a bass-heavy production. For reasons I probably can’t defend in a musicological sense, I’m put in mind of Portal--I think they share a dense muscularity, but the big difference is that Dsknt doesn’t employ Portal’s suffocating impenetrability and focuses on songs that mere mortals can comprehend. I couldn't resist the dissonant jabs of guitar overlaying the black-death churn on album opener "Exhaling Dust," and the rest of the album is equally compelling.

February 2, 2018

Hooded Menace - Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed

By Calen Henry. Hooded Menace's new LP grabbed me from the first riff. On Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed they dive deep into doom and gloom creating a slab of devastating Gothic tinged death doom laced with melody and dripping
By Calen Henry.

Cover art by Adam Burke.

Hooded Menace's new LP grabbed me from the first riff. On Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed they dive deep into doom and gloom creating a slab of devastating Gothic tinged death doom laced with melody and dripping with atmosphere. It's the aural equivalent of a decaying manor, once stately rooms still as death, their lace hangings decayed and still, layers of grime hiding the once grand trappings.

The album opens with the two guitars building a slow melody, the kind that usually lasts a few seconds before thundering into a massive HM-2 powered Swedeath riff. But in "Sempiternal Grotesqueries" the riff slowly builds, then morphs into another plodding melodic riff before it picks up into a death stomp.

For a 40 minute record Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed is delightfully unhurried, reveling in every grotesque riff and lingering lead. Despite the pace there's never a dull moment. Tempos vary from funeral doom to slightly more mid-tempo and dual guitar interplay morphs into tomb-shaking death and even into some stomping deathrock riffs with slightly shimmering almost clean leads.

Though most of the members changed since the last album the band is and always has been Lasse Pyykkö's project with him writing and arranging all the material. The vocalist is new which changes the sound a bit, but musically it fits the band's catalog, just a deeper down the Gothic doom rabbit hole. It sounds like Ghost's take on death doom, and indeed it was mixed and mastered by Jaime Gomez Arellano who handled Ghost's Opus Eponymous. The rest of the presentation fits the Gothic shift. Tracks, and indeed the album itself could have been named by an AI picking the most Gothic words in the most Gothic sequence.

The production, for the most part, is excellent and enhances the atmoshere. The drums are thunderous and the guitar tone, just a hair below "Sunlight Studios", is devastating on riffs and darkly pretty on leads. The master, though is quite loud and it does clip occasionally. It's not hugely problematic but an album of such massive songs deserves a more dynamic master like Vainaja's vinyl masters.

With Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed Hooded Menace have created a record with everything I didn't know I wanted from death doom. Longtime fans should also be pleased as the band hasn't drastically altered their sound, simply improving the formula they had already laid down.


[Note: in September, at the Kill-Town Death Fest 2018, you can hear Hooded Menace dig into the past and play their 2008 debut Fulfill the Curse.]