December 23, 2019

Doom and Gloom for the Holidays

By Calen Henry. Holiday music tends to start a bit early and maybe you've had your fill by now. If you need something a bit gloomier for the final stretch, here's a triple dose of doom to bring you down and pull you through.
By Calen Henry.

Holiday music tends to start a bit early and maybe you've had your fill by now. If you need something a bit gloomier for the final stretch, here's a triple dose of doom to bring you down and pull you through.

Artwork by Paolo Girardi.

Perennially underrated death doom stalwarts Runemagick dropped their thirteenth album in late October. Into Desolate Realms, true to its name, album number, and release just before Halloween is all about doom and desolation.

It’s laser focused right from the cover art; an erupting volcano, flanked by the moon and a red sun, surrounded by jagged mountain peaks. The lyrics detail ruined civilizations, arcane rituals, awakening horrors, and creeping dread and they're delivered in a low, but intelligible growl. The songs are predominantly made up of ominous chromatic riffs, and writhing tremolo leads, supported by drum fills to move from riff to riff, rarely settling into straightforward chugging. Most tracks are fundamentally a mid-tempo trudge but within a relatively narrow death doom framework Runemagick keep the songs going with near constant movement in the guitars or drums. It’s a fascinating approach reminiscent of the most recent Hooded Menace, but rather than coming across as Gothic decrepitude there’s a constant oppressive feeling permeating the album giving it a bit of the edge of HM-2 driven old school death metal.

Straddling so close to the line between death metal and doom metal may put off fans leaning more towards one camp over the other. Additionally the album length can be a bit intimidating, but it’s worth noting that the final three tracks (totaling about 20 minutes) are taken from the band’s EP, The Opening of Dead Gates, and are a nice bonus but the album flows better when “After the Sepulchral Lava” is the actual closer.


Artwork by John Gallo.

Ruins of Eternity is only Orodruin’s second album, and it comes 16 years after their debut putting them in an odd place; little known veterans returning to a genre that has since exploded in popularity. The closest modern touch points are Crypt Sermon and Khemmis but Orodruin sounds much more vintage than the former, and more purely traditional doom than the latter. The guitar, both the tone and the playing, set Orodruin apart the most from the pack.

The tone is much mellower than a lot of doom metal, far more vintage tube overdrive than modern distortion. Even the amount of drive is dialed back closer to 60's and 70's rock and proto-metal than full fledged doom metal. The mellow drive doesn’t hinder the riffs though; they still crush, but occasionally breaks into faster galloping metal riffs and fuzzed out leads. The bass and drums fill out the sound nicely, with thumping clean bass supporting the guitars and nice variety in the drums leading from riff to riff. The soft edge to the guitar attack works well with the purely clean vocals to deliver a compelling spin on what, at first may seem like a fairly standard doom record.

That might explain why it seems to have gotten somewhat glossed over, which is a shame, because Orodruin have made one of the better doom records this year, and one that gets even better every time I spin it.



Lord Dying, having put out two albums of Savannah Sludge metal akin to bands like Black Tusk, Baroness, and Kylesa, released something completely different for their new opus Mysterium Tremendum. Looking backwards to 70's prog rock for inspiration, and inwards through personal tragedy, the band deliver a prog infused conceptual sludge opus dealing with the terrible mystery (mysterium tremendum in Latin) that is death.

Catalysed by personal tragedy it's a conceptual record about the inevitability of death, reconciling that with the desire to live life to the fullest giving it a note of hope within the heavy themes.

To address the mastodon in the room, no, it’s not the first time a sludge metal band have reinvented themselves by looking back to classic prog rock to address tragedy, and there are certainly similarities. Lord Dying's abrupt shift to prog over one album contrasts with Mastodon's slow ascend to the prog zenith and where Crack the Skye took a maximalist approach with layer upon layer of instruments, Mysterium Tremendum is austere by prog standards.

Whether it's swirling, droning, leads, quieter acoustic passages or the stomping sludge sections that make up the albums's musical push/pull, the band mostly limits themselves to a bass groove, a guitar groove, and a lead over top. It keeps things approachable, and helps mesh the prog and sludge parts. It also means that, near the end of Mysterium Tremendum where they start to layer the sound and bring in synths, it hits harder and makes the overall album flow extremely well.


[This is the last post on Metal Bandcamp in 2019. See you again next year.]

December 20, 2019

Varaha - A Passage for Lost Years

By Master of Muppets. Doom isn't for everyone. The plodding paces and subsequently stretched out song lengths replete throughout the doomisphere don't always appeal to fans looking for a quick riff fix. Its frequent incorporation of prog and ambient stylings likewise can be seen as a turn-off for the trve/br000tal crowd, and for some strange reason
By Master of Muppets.

Artwork by Travis Smith.

Doom isn't for everyone. The plodding paces and subsequently stretched out song lengths replete throughout the doomisphere don't always appeal to fans looking for a quick riff fix. Its frequent incorporation of prog and ambient stylings likewise can be seen as a turn-off for the trve/br000tal crowd, and for some strange reason many people find that melancholic doesn't make them happy. Baffling. The rest of us, though, know doom to be a rich environment for immersive, emotional experiences beyond the possibilities offered by, say, Goatpenis; to those about to doom, I salute you, and I now present you with one of 2019's absolute best tidings of doom: Varaha's A Passage for Lost Years.

Astute readers have likely gleaned that A Passage for Lost Years is hardly a chaotic affair. There are plenty of aggressive moments and blackened bits, but by and large Lost Years' greatest strength lies in its gentle embrace of clean guitars and violin melodies. Atmosphere is everything here, and Varaha successfully instill and sustain a sombre sense of gravity via masterful utilization of the lighter side of sound. Vocalist and guitarist Fabio Brienza is right in his element amidst this balanced melancholy, shifting from delicate crooning to agonized shrieks with deft aplomb. Think modern Katatonia only lighter and heavier, and you'll be on the right track.

While the compositional ghost of Katatonia present haunts the great cold distance of Lost Years' atmospheric reach, the guitars are largely possessed by the weeping spirit of Viva Emptiness. From the scales used to the ghostly tone of the guitars, the mournful melodies found on A Passage for Lost Years are of an achingly familiar caliber that the Norrman brothers themselves would be proud of. Tracks like "Refrained" or "My World and Yours" recall Last Fair Deal Gone Down with better production and more ambitious songwriting, and if you need to read any more than that to compel you to explore Lost Years then you probably didn't need to be reading this in the first place.

For all the power Varaha wield by guiding listeners with a less-than-heavy hand, make no mistake: these Chicagoans know how to bring the noise. After all, the reason the peaceful presence of bassoon, cello and viola works so well is because it consistently yields explosive, blackened payouts. The transition from morose placidity to death-doom aggression during the first few moments of opener "Severance" makes it clear that Varaha understand balance, and things only become more mesmerizing from there. Lost Years shudders, weeps and crawls forth with organic sincerity, lashing out exactly when it needs to in a feat of expert compositional momentum.

To describe A Passage for Lost Years as the best elements of each incarnation of Katatonia would do a slight disservice to Varaha's own distinct sound, and yet it would hardly be unfair - or anything less than a heartfelt compliment. The tonal duality of Lost Years is as impressive as it is enjoyable, and the album propels itself along with a deceptive grace that completely belies its 68+ minute run time. Simply put: if doom is your thing, A Passage for Lost Years is your thing, and if Katatonia are your thing then you have no business not knowing this thing.

December 18, 2019

Blackwood - Of Flies

By Ulla Roschat. Blackwood is one of Eraldo Bernocchi's several experimental musical and artistic projects (Sigillum S, Simm, Obake...) and Of Lies is Blackwood's second release, an EP of 3 tracks with an overall playing time of about 20 minutes. That's time enough for Bernocchi to get you hooked on this relentlessly crushing Doom Dubmospheres.
By Ulla Roschat


Blackwood is one of Eraldo Bernocchi's several experimental musical and artistic projects (Sigillum S, Simm, Obake...) and Of Lies is Blackwood's second release, an EP of 3 tracks with an overall playing time of about 20 minutes. Time enough for Bernocchi to get you hooked on this relentlessly crushing Doom Dubmospheres. Even more so since he's supported by two greatly talented vocalists who lend their unique touch of eeriness to two of the three songs, Emilia Moncayo of Minipony and Stefania Alos Pedretti of OvO.

Emilia Moncayo's vocals appear on the first song "Of Flies". They are beastly gnarls and incantations complementing the minimalistic rhythms that sluggishly pound their way through the song. The vocals and the wailing guitar melody are kept quite low compared to the omnipresent sub bass lines and drone sounds, and this combination is as terrifying as it is creepy.

The structures and rhythms get increasingly disintegrated on "Seclusion". Word samples like shreds of communication, overlaying effects and especially the oscillating sounds, create a chaotic and nauseating atmosphere. The powerful beats drench everything in an oppressing slow motion nightmare.

And finally Stefania Alos Pedretti's vocals on "Infraworld" provide a very special mood. She uses her vocals as an additional sound effect. There are no words, only sounds... sounds like cries of demons and ghosts echoing from the deepest void where words seem meaningless, anyway. Waves of dark sounds swathe you into a trance like state.

The all-encompassing slow beats and sub bass lines on Of Lies capture you right from the start and take you to an obscure alien place. The minimalistic structures, deconstructed rhythms, all the sound effects and the unusual use of vocals make this place all the more uncanny and scary. It’s a place where dark meditative primeval rituals meet dystopian nightmares, where the beginning of all worlds synchronize with the end of all worlds in a buzzing vibrating tension... greatly disturbing and electrifying.

December 16, 2019

Attic - Foster

By Justin C. Surprise reunions with old friends are a good thing. Way back in 2015, I reviewed the debut album from Attic, a band dabbling in several subgenres and occasionally happy spring-time lyrics, but making it all work. If you’d asked me recently if that
By Justin C.


Surprise reunions with old friends are a good thing. Way back in 2015, I reviewed the debut album from Attic, a band dabbling in several subgenres and occasionally happy spring-time lyrics, but making it all work. If you’d asked me recently if that was the last we’d heard of them, I probably would have bet that they’d moved on to day jobs, families, and all the rest. But here we are, almost five years after their debut, with a second album, Foster, in our hands and ears.

I think it says something that, in the sea of of Bandcamp notifications and promos I get, I immediately remembered who Attic was when I saw the new album notification. Their “bright death metal,” for lack of a better phrase, stood out in a crowd of OSDM caverncore bands. Foster sees the band with a new singer and down one guitarist, but the musical sensibilities that made Seasons so damn enjoyable are still present.

Attic still do the magic trick of mashing up doom, death, black, thrash, and some proggy tendencies all together without sounding like a sonic slop bucket. Hell, you can hear all of these in the opening track, “Of Endless Sage and Sky.” The death-doom intro leads to chunkier riffs, then the song slows down to a crawl with ringing riffs before firing back up to a thrashing good time. It should make for a distracted listen, but Attic uses all these and still sounds like the same band throughout. In a time when it sometimes seems like memorable riffs are few and far between, Attic puts out a barn burner like “The Wyrm,” filled with chugging riffs that make me want to drive a million miles an hour and pound the steering wheel.

Attic has brought forward a lot of what they did well on their debut. The simple, ringing riff that opens “Summer” harkens back to “Spring” on Seasons. “Summer” has a sunrise-breaking feeling carried by all of four notes, but the band favors this kind of straightforward melodicism, and in another move that could turn deadly in leser hands, they use repetition to build momentum, like in “The Washing.” This is not a case of “We like this riff so we’ll keep playing it until the audience leaves to get a beer.” This is “We’re going to wring every bit of metal goodness out of this riff until we’re all spent.”

Add all this in with and overall stronger sense of songwriting and style, while still pushing the edges a bit (check out the cool pizzicato riff and whispering vocals of the closer “Particle”), and we’re left with an album that gives no indication of a long gap between recordings. It’s a unique band that’s managed to survive and progress. But I better not have to wait five more years for another album, or I’ll...furrow my brow? Frown? That’s menacing, right?

December 15, 2019

Ravaged Spleen Outburst - The Church of Anemia

By Master of Muppets. Say what thou will about names and roses, but sometimes a name tells you everything you need to know. With that in mind, let's direct our attention to Ravaged Spleen Outburst. I might not know exactly what you hear when you read that name
By Master of Muppets.


Say what thou will about names and roses, but sometimes a name tells you everything you need to know. With that in mind, let's direct our attention to Ravaged Spleen Outburst. I might not know exactly what you hear when you read that name, but I do know that it's likely loud, vile and violent - and you're 100% right. The Church of Anemia is the full-length debut by the aforementioned gore monger, and it's every bit as fierce and filthy as you've likely gleaned from their name.

While a previous EP (Lymph Node), introduced the Serbian one-man project as a relatively straightforward - albeit wondrously wretched - slam act, The Church of Anemia offers human sacrifices to multiple metal altars. Slam still serves as the album's spine and spirit, yet a strong sense of melody coupled with an eagerness to explore has allowed the aural infection of Ravaged Spleen Outburst to further spread into blackened melodeath territory. When this thing isn't beating your face in, it forces you to bang your battered head to riffs from the filthiest corners of Gothenburg, occasionally dragging you to Hell for black metal refreshments.

While the versatility of this violent vessel is impressive, the most standout - and violent - feature of any Ravaged Spleen Outbursting is the vocal performance by mastermind A. Ð.. The Church finds A. Ð. introducing psychotic black metal shrieks into the mix, but it was his downright inhuman growls that made Lymph Node really stand out to me, and the gurgling bellows that resonate within The Church are something sickeningly special once again. I defy anyone to find anything else as perfectly putrid as Ravaged Spleen Outburst's growls: shy of a boldface lie, it simply can't be done.

While exploration and uniqueness are all well and good, the most crucial part of any listening experience is enjoyability. Fortunately, this Church is fun as fuck. "Breeding the bleeding" blends brutal slam with a barbaric take on melodeath, and "Cult of the Vein" is a straight up insane slab of symphonic obsidian savagery; A. Ð.'s zeal is audible and infectious, this thing tears the listener so many new ones in so many ways and it's hard to imagine anyone with an appreciation for the grimiest side of slam not having an absolute blast in The Church of Anemia.

The squalid sounds of Ravaged Spleen Outburst are not for everyone; The Church of Anemia is not for those who fear riffs, slams and solos, and it is certainly not for those afraid of filth. It is disgusting, raucous and merciless, and if you believe in such heresy as 'too brutal' or any similar nonsense then this is absolutely not The Church for you. Those brave of heart, ironclad of stomach and relentless in their search for riffs, though: rejoice, and get your ass down to Church, there's a rotting miracle waiting just for you.

December 13, 2019

Prava Kollektiv Roundup

By Steven Leslie.

Prava Kollektiv is a “collective” of shadowy bands pumping out a variety of different takes on black metal. As novel as it sounds, the real question is whether it’s worth your time. The Kollektiv’s association with Amor Fati Productions, the late great Fallen Empire, and newly emerging Mystískaos should give you a clue. Read this roundup and you will know for sure.


Released on Bandcamp as two separate EPs, Soulmare I & II are thematically connected and should be consumed as a single piece. Clocking in at 21+ minutes each, these are compositions that demand a lot of the listener and will certainly not appeal to everyone. On their face, most of the elements, especially the pained screeches and unnerving synths, will be familiar to fans of the more depressive and atmospheric sides of the black metal genre. While the tools and even the compositions themselves may be familiar, it’s Mahr’s ability to imbue raw emotion into their music that makes them worthy of your time. The music’s creator sounds as if they’re unravelling and succumbing to the darkness. Soulmare I begins as a much more atmospheric, borderline ambient experience that slowly becomes increasingly unhinged. Soulmare II injects more conventional metallic elements, destructive guitar riffs and blasting drums, into the soundscape established on the first track. Paired with Mahr’s unnamed vocalist’s harrowed shrieks and growls, Soulmare II is the crescendo and submission of the soul to total spiritual collapse. There is genuine pain and suffering deeply entwined within these two EPs, making for one of the most potent and unnerving listening experiences I personally have had this year.



If Mahr is the slow, painful descent, Hwwauoch is a wide-eyed celebration of maddening nihilism. Taking the traditional tenants of depressive black metal and injecting them with a syringe full of meth, Hwwauoch flip the genre on its head and create a euphoric, but no less harrowing listening experience. What really makes them stand out from their contemporaries are the excellent basslines, which are the primary melodic component on which the songs are built. Instead of traditional riffing, the guitar lines are utilized more in conjunction with the synths to fill in the space left by the rhythm section, adding significantly to the aural impact and atmospheric depth of the onslaught. Constantly shifting and often feeling on the verge of full scale collapse, Into the Labyrinth of Consciousness is a harrowing, but strangely empowering listen.



On To Exist | To Breathe Voidsphere offer up two 20+ minute tracks of, you guessed it, void-worshipping atmospheric black metal. Don’t be put off by the track lengths or the atmospheric BM tag, as this is a vastly superior and more engaging effort than the genre usually puts forth. While Mahr relied heavily on emotional resonance to engage the listener, and Hwwauoch reveled in aural onslaught, Voidsphere relies on compositional dynamics to keep the listener on the edge of their seat throughout the album’s 42-minute run time. Coming off as an enigmatic, slightly warmer combination of Paysage D’Hiver’s blackened assault and Midnight Odyssey’s majestic heft, Voidsphere inject some much needed life into what has become an increasingly stale genre. What really helps this standout is the band’s ability to maintain the listeners’ attention with their continually shifting focal points. While always maintaining a lo-fi aesthetic, Voidsphere find a way to dramatically propel the emphasis between the different components of their compositions. The riffs, drums, synths, and even vocals all get their moments to shine as each element ebbs and flows in a seemingly random, but actually masterfully constructed dance. This unique songwriting approach ensures that both tracks never outstay their welcome and offer an element of depth and memorability that not many others in this genre can match. All hail the void.



Pharmakeia, the newest group to emerge from the Prava Kollektiv, is in many ways the most straightforward, traditional black/death band. By that I mean they build their songs around what has become a fairly standard framework of distorted tremolo riffs, blasting drums, and blast furnace vocals. What they lack in creative song structures, they more than make up for in raw intensity. This is some seriously vitriolic shit. After a very short, atmospheric intro, Pharmakeia drops the listener into a dense, suffocating wall of sound that rarely relents, and even when it does, it’s only to make the impact of its return that much more potent. It has the oppressive atmosphere of a more straight up black/death version of a band like Abstracter. While the lo-fi, distorted production does somewhat dull the impact of individual riffs, it allows the excellent drumming to stand out. While opener “Invocation” kicks off with some stock blasting, it only takes about two minutes for the drummer to showcase his or her skill and inject some creativity and groove, which is used to great effect throughout the entirety of Pharmakeia. Special mention should also be given to the searing vocal attack, which pairs the ferocity with a less layered, sharper blackened rasp. Overall, Pharmakeia is a solid and welcome addition to the more atmospheric approaches of the other Prava Kollektiv bands and definitely worth keeping an eye on.

December 12, 2019

Mist of Misery - Absence

By Hera Vidal.

Artwork by Alex Tartsus.

Black metal has no shortage of influences, whether it is Lovecraftian works or someone’s own personal struggles. However, there aren’t many bands that perfectly meld together the romantic atmosphere of Gothic fiction and black metal. I enjoy moments where those things actually work together, creating beautiful music with an atmosphere that lets the imagination run wild. After all, if this is good enough for Dracula, then it’s good enough for me.

Absence is Mist of Misery’s second album, and they have moved towards creating a more emotive kind of black metal. There are ranges of symphonic metal that shine throughout the album, mainly through the heavy usage of keyboards. It almost makes me want to have a full orchestra support the band if they ever decide to tour live. This highly symphonic aspect is what allows the album to transcend the listener elsewhere, allowing them to see things in their mind’s eye. This album is a mood setter, and with half of it being instrumental, it’s easy to get lost in the beautiful music and the emotive atmosphere it creates.

Absence isn't as bombastic as most symphonic black metal albums, instead it's intricate and peaceful. I do wish there were more symphonic aspects to it but it’s still fantastic. The atmosphere is what gets me; it reminds me of cold, dark, rainy nights, with candlelight lighting a room, and with a peaceful quiet that is broken by thunder.

All in all, Absence is a fantastic album that is incredibly straightforward and very beautiful. If you prefer the quieter aspect of symphonic metal, this album might be right up your alley. I am surprised that I didn’t hear this album sooner, but I know I am bound to come back to it again.

December 8, 2019

Andavald - Undir skyggðarhaldi

By Master of Muppets. It's no secret these days that Iceland has become a Mecca of sorts for dissonant black metal, boasting a scene as majestic and impressively fierce as the natural landscape. A handful of obsidian giants have already established themselves as kings of this blackened dominion
By Master of Muppets.

Artwork by Karmazid.

It's no secret these days that Iceland has become a Mecca of sorts for dissonant black metal, boasting a scene as majestic and impressively fierce as the natural landscape. A handful of obsidian giants have already established themselves as kings of this blackened dominion, and new contenders to the chaotic crown constantly crawl forth from the cracks and craters to claim this kingdom as their own. Andavald are one such force of rising Icelandic fury, and their debut album Undir skyggðarhaldi is an impressive bid for the throne, indeed.

Much like their fellow countrymen, Andavald craft metal that's as delirious as it is dark, somehow harnessing the sounds of Hell itself to inflict pure black carnage on an undeserving world 37 minutes at a time. Discordant scales and a fittingly harsh atmosphere engulf the listener, offering little respite throughout the album's 5 tracks. Think 'Dodecahedron on hallucinogens' and you'll be heading in the right direction.

Speaking of Dodecahedron, the last time I heard vocals so monstrous and convincingly unhinged was on Kwintessens, courtesy of the deeply missed Michiel Eikenaar (RIP). Vocalist Axel Jóhannsson's tortured shrieks fit the demented atmosphere of Undir skyggðarhaldi like a dead skin mask, simultaneously blending in naturally with the music as well as standing out with their unsettling intensity. When tracks like "Afvegaleiðsla" or "Hugklofnun" reach their respective fever pitches, Jóhannsson brings a level of ferocity that is every bit as charged and violent as the surrounding instrumentation. Fans of all things discordant are sure to be particularly pleased by this impassioned, psychotic performance.

While the vocals are downright inhuman in their violence, the rest of Andavald churn out dissonant black metal that's decidedly more tame than the typical output of their fellow countrymen... sort of. While not so safe and serene as to be sonically similar to, say, Sólstafir, Undir skyggðarhaldi largely utilizes much more restrained tempos and pacing than what one might expect from Icelandic black metal. Everything erupts into pandemonium eventually, but Andavald take their time getting there. Essentially fusing the pacing and oppressive atmosphere of doom metal with the absonant black fury that has become the sound of their nation and creating something devastatingly different.

Undir skyggðarhaldi may not make you bang your head incessantly, but it will transport you to a place of constant euphoric rage all the same. This is the cacophonous clamor we've come to expect from Iceland, made all the more captivating and calamitous by its creepy exuberance and keen sense of patience. A slow burning grease-fire of the mind, this album is a deranged marriage of brooding hostility and pure unbridled psychosis. With this debut Andavald have issued a fierce challenge to the hierarchy of Iceland's burgeoning black metal scene. Your psyche may not thank you for exposure to such restrained wrath, but your ears and soul will.

December 6, 2019

Cloud Rat - Pollinator

By Matt Hinch. My daughter likes watching tarantula videos. Her favourite part is the “takedown” when the tarantula strikes quickly to take down their prey, enveloping them in a multi-limbed attack for the kill. Cloud Rat take a similar approach. Pollinator is the latest example of their multi-faceted and killer grind spearheaded by piercing vocal venom. It doesn't take a myriad of eyes (or ears) to know Cloud Rat are worthy of attention.
By Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Renata Rojo.

My daughter likes watching tarantula videos. Her favourite part is the “takedown” when the tarantula strikes quickly to take down their prey, enveloping them in a multi-limbed attack for the kill. Cloud Rat take a similar approach. Pollinator is the latest example of their multi-faceted and killer grind spearheaded by piercing vocal venom. It doesn't take a myriad of eyes (or ears) to know Cloud Rat are worthy of attention.

Blasting through 14 songs in under 32 minutes barely gives you room to breathe. “Luminescent Cellar” will put some air in your lungs with a dreamy, melancholic opening before crushing your chest with some fucking heavy, doomish devastation. It's all devastating and it's all sure to make it virtually impossible not to move. Violently.

Obviously, it's not all a foot-to-the-floor maelstrom of flailing limbs. Just the majority of it. “Wonder” hides a black metallic melody within its frantic pace, and “The Mad”, though hard as hell, has parts that one might call airy and emotional that get broken down into some serious elbow swinging swagger.

If you want an onslaught of spine-bending riffs look no further than “Al Di La”. There's plenty to choose from. It's a serious adrenaline shot with a.....different ending. “Biome” feels the same energy-wise, a whirlwind of speed that works in a bangin' riff. And for the love of chaos, the two tracks between them, “Last Leaf” and “Zula”, do nothing to temper that momentum. Lightning in your headphones, man.

From start to finish Pollinator vibrates with a bristling energy. It puts a stranglehold on the listener throughout. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what separates Cloud Rat from other non-meathead grind bands. Unspoken intangibles are often more fun than clinical analysis. One thing's for sure though; Cloud Rat cannot disappoint. Pollinator is one of those albums that will leave you utterly spent and wanting for nothing. A half-hour of pain provides all the pleasure.

December 4, 2019

Priestess - Prior to the Fire

By Calen Henry. In 2007 Priestess' straightforward hook-filled hard rock caught the attention of Neversoft, developers of the Guitar Hero series. The Montreal band became a flash in the pan when “Lay Down”, from their debut album Hello Master was featured in Guitar Hero 3
By Calen Henry.


In 2007 Priestess' straightforward hook-filled hard rock caught the attention of Neversoft, developers of the Guitar Hero series. The Montreal band became a flash in the pan when “Lay Down”, from their debut album Hello Master was featured in Guitar Hero 3. But by that point the franchise was just past its peak so Priestess didn’t get the exposure a band like The Sword did with Guitar Hero II, the series’ apex.

Priestess' much overlooked 2009 follow up, Prior to the Fire, saw the band mixing their hooky, driving hard rock with progressive rock and filling the album with fantasy and sci-fi themes. The final product was such a departure from the radio-ready Hello Master that the band ended up parting ways with their US label, delaying the album's American release until they signed with Tee Pee Records.

The differences from its predecessor, though, are why it’s such an excellent record and why, even ten years later, nothing quite sounds like it. Mastodon’s Crack the Skye is often cited as the pinnacle of rock, metal, and prog’s modern coalescence, and rightly so. It’s my favourite album, but Priestess were right there too adding a heavy dose of prog to hard rock without losing any of the energy. They expertly combined hard driving rhythms with serpentine riffs, time signature changes, and unpredictable song structures, all with vintage sounding production for something unequaled ten years later.

Axemen Mikey Heppner and Dan Watchorn really set the sound for the album with custom stacks made by boutique Montreal outfit Richtone. The warm tube driven crunch was ever present, never spilled over into full-blown distortion and was a great fit for the natural drum sound. Mikey’s vocals were a touch gravelly as well, giving the whole album a tour-tested grit that feels classic even though the songs are about everything from Jack the Ripper and werewolves to Robocop, Lone Wolf and Cub, and Dragonball Z. It’s nerd rock with swagger.

You can even still grab the translucent green/orange double LP and a t-shirt from Bandcamp, which is a bit sad since that seems to mean physical sales were low enough they're still selling the first run of LPs ten years later. As for the present, the band has been on hiatus since 2012 and, though I long for more from them, it seems unlikely. For the rest of you, who may have missed out on one of my favourite albums of all time, it’s right there on Bandcamp. 

December 2, 2019

Vofa - Vofa

By Master of Muppets. So much doom, so little time; such is the perpetual plight of those of us seeking fulfillment among metal's lower octane offerings. Given the myriad subgenres ascribing to some doomy teaching or other, not to mention the signature slow-burn inherent to all things doom
By Master of Muppets.

Artwork by Nona Limmen.

So much doom, so little time; such is the perpetual plight of those of us seeking fulfillment among metal's lower octane offerings. Given the myriad subgenres ascribing to some doomy teaching or other, not to mention the signature slow-burn inherent to all things doom, it's practically impossible to find any one act capable of meeting all of your plodding needs with but a single album… or is it? Meet Vofa, an alarmingly adept assembly of anonymous artists from Iceland who just might have crafted the doom album to end all doom albums with their incredible self-titled debut.

Vofa brings a lot to the table, immediately catching listeners by the ear with some truly impressive harsh vocals. Subterranean growls à la Slow haunt the air, with masterful reverb application augmenting the sound into something gargantuan and terrifying; the roars on Vofa recall a freezing wind howling through the Ninth Circle of Hell, narrating the albums story with a voice that is otherworldly and captivating.

Decidedly less straightforward - but no less enchanting or otherwise expertly executed - are the instrumental aspects of Vofa. Things begin with an eerie bit of atmospheric doom ambience, and from there things slither through the realms of crushing death-doom, riffy stoner doom and lurching funeral doom - and that's just the first track! Over the course of 3 tracks and 37 minutes, Vofa manage to drag the listener across the entire spectrum of doom, somehow blending all these different shades of grey into something vibrant and utterly spellbinding.

Make no mistake, none of the ambitious amalgamation found on Vofa comes at the cost of compositional cohesion. When "II" meanders from stoner riffage into cloying funeral doom atmospherics, the transformation is made to feel completely natural and organic, thanks mostly to the expert timing sensibilities of Vofa's drummer. If the walls of sound painted by the guitars and monstrous vocals constitute the scenery of Vofa, the percussion is the path that guides listeners to these varied destinations, and frankly there could be no better trail guide than Vofa's nameless skinsman.

Vofa have surprised and impressed the Hell out of me with this debut; you'd be hard pressed to find a more diverse doom offering from anyone, and there isn't a single second of this album that doesn't keep me completely mesmerized. Vofa is a pilgrimage to all corners of the doomiverse, a portent of promise and a challenge to their peers. This is a band that doesn't just threaten greatness, they have already brought it and now stand poised not to level the playing field but to obliterate it entirely. As of right now, there is no other doom act that I hold more hope for than Vofa, and I eagerly await whatever multifaceted horrors are yet to come.