Aug 31, 2011

Cosmonauts Day - Live Demos EP ...

What is our heavy Russian reality, is it our domestic underground scene: first off-shoots of psychedelic stoner, aggressive sludge and complex post metal are literally just started to break the eggshell of the deposits of heavy metal, piles of thrash, tumors of brutal death, pale shrouds of mournful death doom and blackish obscurantism. As swallows in the spring - first one came, and then the bloody pack! Quartet of Muscovites has fallen on our heads this time - Cosmonauts Day burn the road with artfully composed post sludgy metal, and I can’t deny that they have the necessary skills for such stuff.

Well, that's right, probably I could say "these guys listened to much of Isis and Neurosis", but it seems that they just didn’t get a good man with a big beard and harsh growl to chant the lyrics, therefore “Live Demos” is an instrumental release. Weight, strength, melody, a bit little of sophistication and a sense of proportion - this is the right recipe of post sludge from Cosmonauts Day. And it’s needless to say, this quartet consists of people who know how to hold their instruments, for example, there’s noted participants of such bands as EndName and Lord of Doubts, I guess you have heard of them. All four tracks from "Live Demos" sound more than integral, and I can not take compare them to the number of mediocre demos of some profane new bands.

The story begins with "Cave of Trees", on which the men decided to show the level of their skills and inclination to write "clever" music: an eight-minute song gets sheer sludge heaviness and a clear, slightly forced, pressure. But I rarely ever seriously worried about the technical side of the process, so more attention was attracted by the second track "Eashmeah", distinguished by a deep and intense atmosphere though it’s not so heavy as "Cave of Trees" is. Main melodic lines sounds natural even when the pace changes dramatically fast and the very post-settlement looks very warm due to the lack of cold and clearly defined "design idea". If the first track demonstrates sludge-side of Cosmonauts Day, and the second one opens in the best shape of post-incarnation, then the third, "Scott Von Scogin", to a greater extent than both earlier songs, shows the fusion of these styles.

Again we hear the pile of riffian constructions, dashing batch from a variety of passages and leading post-plots which replace them very accurately; these musical paintings are multifaceted and emotionally versatile, so I see no reason to dismember each song and examine it under a microscope. However, a sense of proportion is inherent to Cosmonauts Day, and it’s very important for representatives of this genre, I remember few famous progressive or post projects which were too difficult to listen and enjoy because of their lengthy songs. They may be great taken out their tunes but it was too much, it seems that these bands simply forget that they want to say! And Cosmonauts Day know when to stop in time so that all was well. There is only one song left on this album, it’s "The Last Watchman" – the track with a psychedelic, almost ambient, relaxing main line. Frankly, the relaxation component in the first three numbers is hardly present, so much that this track has fallen very much out-of-place. Well, thanks – it works!..

There remains a little room for the medical opinions, and I have no choice but to wait for the dénouement in the form of a larger release from Cosmonauts Day because of the patient’s stability and clear-cut symptoms. "Live Demos" is very strong for a début; you can download the EP at the link posted below, and personally check it.

Review Written By Aleks Aleks Evdokimov

Download “Live Demos”: Cosmonauts Day @ Bandcamp
Cosmonauts Day @ Myspace

Isolation - Closing A Circle ...

Isolation are a band from Germany that have been around for several years and have released demos, a EP, and appeared on a split with Austere but this is their first full length album. Starting off as a black doom kind of band, they have shifted their focus into a more ambient, atmospheric doom rock sound for this album. This review will be short and sweet as there is not a hell of a lot I can say about this album. It is also difficult to review an album when you can never remember any of the songs that are on it. Basically while this album has its moments of musical flair, there is nothing memorable about it and believe me I have look and listened hard. The problem is half of this album sounds contrived and is lacking in grace or any kind of fluency. Also the album starts formulaic and stays that way; never to break out that pattern for its entire length. Now we all know that doom-music isn't exactly bursting with energetic performances but this album is worst than most. It is a pity because the band are obviously good players; their lacking seems to be in the songs themselves.

This album has three or is it four instrumentals; it is so forgettable I really can't remember but it is these songs that seem to work best except for one, the title track which is really the only track on the album that is actually really good. This song has a catchy vibe even though it still plods along; if the album was all like this then it would rate highly. The instrumentals I speak of at least have some ambitious guitar work but one gets the feeling, they overreach themselves sometimes and don't pull-off what they are trying to do; whatever that may be. The vocals also don't help; they seem out-of-tune and some of the high notes are pretty awful. The album also has some way-too-long extended pieces like 'Nomad' and these are songs that have 2 minutes worth of ideas but are stretch into the region of 7 and 8 minute epics. The overall playing seems stiff and the production sounds dull and lifeless.

There are moments littered within these somewhat tedious songs that are great though. There are great bass-lines, infectious sections that grab your attention but as soon as those passages arrive they are usually gone again quickly after. There is something about the atmosphere of these tracks that is engaging and these songs do hint at the fact that these songs could have been classics if tweaked, rearranged and given a shot of much-needed dynamics and some kind of energy. It is like the blueprint is there but the songs were rushed somehow. There are moments where a great melody takes place but it is never expanded upon and so this album becomes frustrating to listen to. Loads of potential in this band and I wouldn't be surprised if they do something incredible in the future but this is a disappointment. If you like the idea of a kind of ambient black-metal version of Neurosis then this might be of interest to you but yes, didn't impressed me much at all..............4/10 ( for some of the great moments I mentioned and for the potential the band possesses. )

Isolation Official
Isolation @ Facebook

Aug 30, 2011

Atriarch - Forever The End ...

This album from Portland's Atriarch had me frothing at the mouth even before I heard it. Decibel has raved about it and a couple of people I know told me, this is the real shit. So I was hyped but worried it might let me down. I am happier than a pig in mud to say, this exceeds all expectations and this is at worse is a minor masterpiece of oppressive, blackened dirge. The keywords here are sparse, emotional, depressive and raw but there is so much more to this band that meets the eyes and ears. On the surface Atriach sound like a blacker metal version of a Cough or perhaps an even Dopethrone-era Electric Wizard with goth elements thrown-in but after many more spins, even more musical depth came out of it to the point where I am a bit lost for words to describe the 'Forever The End' album released on Seventh Rule Recordings. The album only has four tracks and only lasts a mere 37 minutes but its enough to demonstrate the overwhelming intensity this band has.

The band does have gothic overtones especially in some of the melodies coming from the extremely emotional guitar playing but this is a bit too intense in haunting minimalism to fit that true gothic tag. This is an album that gets under your skin and eats you from the inside-out rather than blatantly ripping your head off. The writing that has gone into this is diverse and intelligent and the record comes across as a unique cross between modern miminalistic ambient black-metal and early dark-goth stuff. There are traces of bands like Bauhaus along with crushing doom moments so this is an eclectic release indeed.

'Plague' is a captivating opener but bleeds right into another even bleaker and better track titled 'Shadows' and this is where the album had me sold. While 'Plague' is a mesmerizing slow blackened dirge of the track, 'Shadows' pushes the emotions full-tilt into an absorbing dose of haunting and intricate moodiness. The sound is raw but there is a warmness to the guitar and bass while the drums are kept clean but sparse. The vocals didn't make much of a presence for me personally and to be honest, I don't even think about them till much later in the album but I will get to that. 'Shadows' is beautifully structured with many elements all mixed to perfection from interesting drum patterns, bass grooves to unique guitar ambience.....Excellent track.

'Fracture' is one of the album's more goth-doom moments for a while at least and along with 'Shadows' proves to be the highlight of the album for me. It is rare when minimalist guitar and bass can sound so interesting but Atriach have captured something here that is remarkably dynamic for something so bleak and depressive. The vocals finally make an impression on me here, they range from clean passages to a kind of droning groan; again it is something you don't hear too often. Some folks might think this track is too long but I find its entire length a monumental moment of imposing dark-doom that needs your attention.

The album's last track is titled 'Downfall' and compared with the rest of the album, this one moves along at a driving pace and like the rest of the tracks has its own unique individuality to set it apart from everything else. To me and this might come out wrong but this is the most ordinary track of the bunch; maybe it is because it is the closest track to traditional black-metal or maybe it is because I hear the least genre-bending in this one. Having said that; this is still very good and a good closing track on the album. Unlike a lot of albums reviewed on here I don't know what kind of doom listener will go for this one but I suspect it will be the crossover black metal/goth-doom listener who has a hankering for something a little different - for them this is highly recommended......9/10

Atriarch @ Facebook

Atolah - Relics Review # 2 ...

Let me make one thing abundantly clear: I don’t like instrumental music one bit. I don’t. My main reason is that almost all the time, instrumental songs are structured so that there is no place for vocals even if we wanted to. Those that can include vocals, had the band wanted to (those that sound like they had a singer but then things didn’t work out and the band omitted his parts post-production) can strike my fancy. I also hate drawn-out jams – oh, I respect the fact that all of it (supposedly) came out spontaneously, but I hate them just the same.

Atolah, an Australian sludge/stoner doom band is one of those bands who, despite being built on things I don’t like at all, manage to strike my fancy. Yeah. They’re the combo-breaker. In more ways than one. They even break tradition by having shorter songs in their debut EP, but they make it feel like one beautiful jam. The songs are distinctive enough to come into their own, even in the first run-through, but the album itself blends in beautifully. The songs don’t melt into one, rather, there is a high-level cohesion embedded in the album.

Here’s where I’ll break character: I won’t do a track-by-track breakdown of this five-track EP. It’s meant to be a whole, and I see little point in trying to break it down.

Now. Atolah plays sludgy stoner doom. How does it work? Well, all the fuzz of obese stoner tones are present here, used in churning out lip-smackingly delicious and satisfyingly fat grooves. These are accompanied by good drumming that knows when to take the lead, be it with attacks or punctuating by way of crash cymbals. The bass (a Rickenbacker 4003, if the band pics are anything to go by – a popular choice amongst sludge/stoner doomsters) is filthy, sharp and grinding. Brilliant. But all this is peripheral to the harmony the band can pull off with seemingly effortlessly.

From start to finish, it is Atolah displaying grand master levels of flair, identity, skill and harmony. There isn’t one dislocated part, one quarter-note-slip-of-the-instrument anywhere on this. Hell, okay, here’s an example: “Dead Leg” is basically a feedback loop. It loops same riff throughout, and establishes a hypnotic atmosphere through repetition – and every eight-steps (every time the loop repeats) it seems like it’s getting louder and louder as the riff is revisited, but that’s not the case at all. They make the song sound like it’s building a constant wall of sound around you, but it’s all in good, sludgy, stoner doomy chill.

And that’s the biggest strength Atolah has: the chill part. To use Bill Goodman (The Soda Shop)’s term, they are “the band to burn one to.” It’s so relaxing, so easy on the ears (despite it’s heavy tones) that it borders on the therapeutic. It’s like the music is there to comfort you, and that it does it with such skill and comfort is just… mind-blowing. Get this. Get it good. Get it now. 10/10, easy.

NOTE: The album’s tracklist is: Dead Leg, Relics, Down It or Leave It, Weedy Gonzales, El Duce. I especially applaud “Weedy Gonzales”, for making my day. Oh, and that excerpt from “Last Action Hero” in the beginning of “Dead Leg” also made me smile. One final note: I know I sometimes get too caught up in things not so recent, but hey, they are decent enough to keep me there, what can I say?

Review Written By Sarp Esin

Atolah @ MySpace

Ekove Efrits - Conceptual Horizon ...

Hypnotic Dirge Records has always been amazing at finding these obscure bands that play unique heavy music. Bands that can't be tagged as one direction or another and Ekove Efrits are another one. For a kick-off this band is from Iran - yes you read right; that in itself is unique but musically this band have delivered an album that doesn't just blend genres, it sounds like it is trying to invent a new one all-together.

The only music even remotely close to rock from the Middle-East that I have heard are folk-tinged kind of outfits. This album is the complete antithesis of that. This album is a morbidly depressing mix of ambient doom, black-metal, and beautifully orchestrated, symphonic, cinematic music. On top of that it is all the work of one man who goes by the name of Count De Efrit. Along with many demos and a split, this is the third full-length from this project.

This album has 11 tracks lasting well over an hour but the tracks play out more like sections in a larger conceptual piece. The music is dark, depressing and melancholic but it is the melting pot of various metallic styles, classical and ambient music that ultimately wins you over. Also the only element that yells "one-man-band" is the drums which is obviously a drum-machine and the vocals which are not bad but they don't exactly enhance the music in the way they should.

Regardless of that; this album is an enchanting album despite its depressive value. There is great lead guitar parts, nice keys and it is really good at maintaining a hypnotic atmosphere throughout. Songs don't change much at all and you can be forgiven in losing track of where you are in the albums playing order. Songs do sound all the same at times and the albums extended running length makes it hard to stay interested for its entire duration.

There is some wonderful tracks; the eight minute 'A Celebration For Sorrow' really stands out. The way its moves from acoustic ambience to symphonic black metal and crippling doom all in the one song is stunning. 'Hills Of Ashes' is blackened classical music and is a fascinating piece of work. 'Faceless Moments' is one of the albums more black-metalish tracks but it is also a highlight here. This track starts off haunting then gets severely dramatic as the track progresses. Littered in among these tracks is other good tracks and a couple of fillers; 'Floating Energies From Nature' is one track that is almost a deal-breaker for me but luckily it has an interesting last couple of minutes that keeps me tuned in. This is mostly very captivating and extremely unique. While it gets a little boring at times as the songs are lengthy as is the album, Ekove Efrits is easily one of the best bands I have heard on the Hypnotic Dirge label. Hardly perfect but 'Conceptual Horizon' is an album I will keep going back to for a long time to come.......8/10

Ekove Efrits Official
Official Facebook Page
Hypnotic Dirge Records Website

Aug 29, 2011

The Extreme Doom Series Of Interviews Continues With Mournful Congregation, Hooded Menace & Funeral ...

Adrian Bickle of Mournful Congregation

This is the fifth part of the series of short interviews with prolific and notable extreme doom metal musicians. They were all asked the same questions to see the different perspective they have for specific aspects of the genre. I spoke to Adrian Bickle, drummer for Australian group Mournful Congregation, which in their long history produced mammoth albums such as 1998’s “Tears from a Grieving Heart”, 2005’s “The Monad of Creation” and 2009’s “The June Frost”. 2011 will see another load of darkest funeral sounds from these Adelaide-based doom merchants. “The Unspoken Hymns” is a compilation of rare material that comes out in September. As well there is a whole new record “The Book of Kings” to be released through Osmose before the end of the year.

What was your first experience with extremely slow doom metal?
The early 90's work of Cathedral was probably the first such music I encountered. In the early to mid 90's I was quite a fan of a lot of the Peaceville releases that were emerging but I also liked the idea of taking this style even further.

What inspire you to play such music?
As a drummer, I didn't really consider playing this way until I actually met Damon Good of Mournful Congregation who was composing this sort of material. I liked the idea of playing in such a band but had no idea that there was anyone writing in this way where I lived. Once I heard the first two demos I was convinced this was something I wanted to be a part of.

What is the most important in Mournful Congregation – is it the heaviness, the atmosphere, the lyrics or maybe something else?
I'd say it's probably a mixture of these things but mostly the atmosphere, the feeling. The correct atmosphere is essential in this type of music.

Do you see your music as a very demanding one for the listener?
It depends on the listener. It's not casual music, not the sort of thing the average person would put on as relaxing background music. Our style does require a certain level of open-mindedness and patience but I don't believe that necessarily renders it demanding.

Lasse Pyykkö of Hooded Menace

This is the sixth part of the series of short interviews with prolific and notable extreme doom metal musicians. They were all asked the same questions to see the different perspective they have for specific aspects of the genre. I spoke to Lasse Pyykkö of Hooded Menace, a band’s mastermind, main writer, guitar player and vocalist from time to time who as well was or still is involved in such creepy death metal acts as Phlegethon, Vacant Coffin, Claws or Acid Witch. Finnish doom metal was always on top of the game and so is Hooded Menace with its heavy rocking mixture of colossal riffage and obscure terror-ridden vocals. Both of their records 2008’s “Fulfill the Curse” and 2010’s “Never Cross the Dead” brought loads of classic doom worship and horror film obsession. They have also released splits with Coffins, Ilsa and Asphyx. Lasse speaks about doom metal.

What was your first experience with extremely slow doom metal?
Teemu, our main contact guy in the early Phlegethon days, got Cathedral demo through tape trading when it was put out. It was definitely extreme doom at the time. Painfully slow and heavy songs with weird sort of an half-grunted vocals. I really liked it a lot.

What inspire you to play such music?
I have always dug the rugged and forlorn vibes of doom. When I heard "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus" by Candlemass for the first time in the late 80’s it blew me away! We used to jam their songs such as "Solitude", "Mirror Mirror" and "A Tale of Creation" at Phlegethon rehearsals. We loved that stuff! So Candlemass and particularly their debut album sowed the seeds of doom in me. Of course we must not forget that Black Sabbath was on a heavy rotation on our record players and tape decks before any other doomy stuff. When I write for Hooded Menace I don’t have to feel desperate or pissed off. Pretty much the opposite actually. I need to be giddy with anticipation and just excited to express these desolate, creepy and menacing vibes. Horror movies and soundtracks are definitely a source for the musical and especially lyrical and visual inspiration but first and foremost the music upwells from the heavy music I grew up with. Albums such as "Forest of Equilibrium" by Cathedral, all the first four albums by Candlemass, "The Rack" by Asphyx, "Severed Survival" and "Mental Funeral" by Autopsy, two first Paradise Lost albums, 80’s Maiden, good old classic and epic Metallica, Black Sabbath classics just to mention a few. I know this might sound a bit cheesy but also wandering in well preserved medieval cities kinda puts me in a doomy mode. Gimme a gothic cathedral and that does it, haha! We should get to record in one of those things, haha!

What is the most important in Hooded Menace – is it the heaviness, the atmosphere, the lyrics or maybe something else?
All together but if I had to choose one thing I’d say soul. Without it you are on a feeble ground and you can give it up already.

Do you see your music as a very demanding one for the listener?
Well, if you are a fan of doom and real death metal then our music shouldn’t be too demanding for you. After all our songs are pretty catchy and memorably. There is diversity in the riffs and tempos. Doom purists might have hard time coping with our vocals but hey, we are a death/doom band so what do you expect? One more Ozzy clone?

Is extreme/funeral doom metal more over the top and extreme than super fast grindcore in your opinion?
I’m not following those scenes much but certainly both are pushing the envelope. Personally I enjoy more grindcore (mostly old stuff and to me that is "superfast" or say fast enough!) more than funeral doom which I never really got into. I do get the point of this style but I just find plain funeral doom pretty boring. I’m a bit behind of the modern grindcore scene and it’s bpm. To me Napalm Death’s "Scum" and "From Enslavement to Obliteration" are still very extreme, chaotic and totally relevant stuff. Yeah, I’m an old fart, tell me about it, haha.

Anders Eek of Funeral

This is the seventh part of the series of short interviews with prolific and notable extreme doom metal musicians. They were all asked the same questions to see the different perspective they have for specific aspects of the genre. I spoke to Anders Eek, a drummer and the only original member for legendary Funeral of Norway. Since their debut effort “Tristesse” in 1994 these doom dinosaurs have been delivering the most haunting and depressing sounds in the metal underground. Records such as 1995’s “Tragedies”, 2006’s “From These Wounds”, 2008’s “As the Light Does the Shadow” or “To Mourn is a Virtue” released on Solitude Records in May 2011 defined the band as one of the pioneers of extreme doom. Whole new album by Norwegians is coming out later this year.

What was your first experience with extremely slow doom metal?
I was heavily into tape-trading and got hold of the first Cathedral demo, the first Thy Grief Eternal and some other obscure bands and it instantly blew me away. Prior to this I had been a huge fan of Candlemass, Black Sabbath, Paradise Lost and was really taken by the atmosphere of dirge that they presented. This really gave me the spark I needed to form Funeral and our goal was to take the extreme doom metal to new heights (or lows rather haha).

What inspire you to play such music?
Everything really. I wanted to create the perfect music to a funeral. In my view both sad, beautiful and aggressive, thus the band-name really fit our style, I think. Of course being a miserable bastard also led me into this slow, self-pitying music.

What was the most important in Funeral – is it the heaviness, the atmosphere, the lyrics or maybe something else?
All of the above! I believe in music and the channelling of emotions and I think if you also manage to present a message of some sort I think one has succeeded. Creating an atmosphere of despair really can be quite a good way of getting out different feelings, listening to doom metal makes me happy. Of course this also include playing this kind of music. We really make music that we think is the best but it’s of course flattering when fans say they can relate to Funeral and telling us they feel a sort of comfort from the music.

Do you see your music as a very demanding one for the listener?
Not really. Of course there are a number of details within our songs and we definitely don’t write easy-listening music so this means that Funeral is not for everyone. For me it’s fine. As mentioned above, we really write for ourselves and take it as a bonus if people want to buy our records.

Interviews By Adam Drzewucki
Read The Complete Interviews @ We Wither.Com

Hooded Menace @ MySpace
Official Funeral Page
Mournful Congregation Official Site

Hellbender – Cosmolux ...

This 4-piece from Tennessee proposes an interesting blend of 70’s doom, acid rock and space rock in their new album “Cosmolux”. Definitely the band shows two faces here one the hippy 70’s rock style and one the more psychedelic/hypnotic side. Now if you add some space effects a la Hackwind and some solid doom you’ll have a clear picture on how Hellbender sounds like.

The album is mostly instrumental but when vocals appear it’s as if they come from outer space. There are 4 tracks in total all above 8 minutes but I felt that most songs were unnecessarily long. The opening track and the closer are the best songs in the album. Again, the two songs present a very different vision of the band. For those of you who have already heard Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, their style at least half of the time is very close. Of course, Hellbender released “Cosmolux” a bit earlier, so don’t make naughty thoughts. Long trippy parts which didn’t quite work for me us I found them boring.

Fans of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats should definitely listen to “Neon Cross”. The album packs some nice tunes but balances dangerously between something hypnotic and something simply boring. Nevertheless, this album convinced me to keep an eye open for them in the future!

Review Written By Dr.Doom Metal ( Dr.Dooms Lair )

Hellbender Offical
Hellbender bandcamp
Hellbender @ Facebook
Hellbender @ Myspace

Holy Mount – We Fell From the Sky ...

I said it before, I’ll say it again: Something’s going on in Canada lately… Remember “Dopethrone”? The country has become a fountain of great albums from bands that you haven’t heard before. I take it that the name “Holy Mount” doesn’t ring a bell but that is about to change. The 3-piece from Toronto is really determined to make an entry into everyone’s Top-something lists.

“We Fell from the Sky” could be a metaphor for the way these guys came into my world. So this EP/Mini-CD/Demo/Album whatever you call it has all the characteristics of a Great album. Heavy as hell psych tunes, majestic lead parts.

The album is generally catatonic and that in combination with the heaviness factor, it may remind you of Suborosa’s latest album. On the other hand the psychedelic impact can be compared to that of “Lights from Paradise” of Quest for Fire. At this point, I have to mention the brilliant lead guitar parts which are the trademark of the album. Inspired, dominant, dark. For some strange reason they resemble Greg Machintosh’s (Paradise Lost) melancholic style (“Draconian Times” era). The rest of the band moves in equally high standards with occasional exceptions from the vocals, which bind perfectly with the rest, most of the times.

Usually, I am a bit skeptical when it comes to debuts and I close with something like “We’ll keep an eye for them in the future…”. Well Holy Mount is one of the rare exceptions! I find it impossible for a stoner/ psychedelic fan, not to like “We Fell from the Sky”. It comes too damn close to perfection! Recorded by the band itself, and still unmastered! The album sounds awfully great! Did I mention it is comes as a free download from the bands bandcamp page? No excuses not to love this one…

Review Written By Dr.Doom Metal ( Dr Dooms Lair )

Holy Mount @ Myspace
Holy Mount @ Bandcamp

Dixie Witch, Roadsaw & Sasquatch Announce Euro Tour! ...

As reported on The Sleeping Shaman three of Small Stone Records best are heading to Europe. Roadsaw, Dixie Witch and the mighty Sasquatch together on a tour together - is that legal. Anyway, this will be a killer; here is the dates.

07.10 NL – Sneek, Bollwerk
08.10. GER – Cottbus, Chekov
09.10. GER – Hamburg, Hafenklang
10.10. B – Liege, Carlo Lévi
11.10 UK – Leeds, The Cockpit
12.10 UK – London, Purple Turtle
13.10. NL – Eindhoven, Effenaar
15.10. NOR – Sandnes, Tribute
16.10. NOR – TBA
18.10. GER – Berlin, Wild At Heart
19.10. B – Antwerpen, Trix
20.10. GER – Stuttgart, ZwölfZehn
21.10. I – Milano, Lo-Fi
22.10. I – Roma, Sinister Noise

Dixie Witch @ Myspace
Sasquatch @ Myspace
Roadsaw @ Myspace
Small Stone.Com

Children Of Doom - Doom, Be Doomed Ör Fuck Off ...

Those crazy doomsters from France are at it again. Children of Doom first came to my attention via a pretty cool demo titled 'Ride Over the Green Valley' that was released in September of 2009. The first thing that struck me was how much fun they seemed to be having playing a kind of groovy doom metal. Nothing has changed there; you can see by the album title, these guys mean business and really don't give a damn if you like or not. The band also appeared on a split with The Bottle Doom Lazy Band released early this year. That track titled 'Emanes Fuel' I gather was written for and dedicated to their label, Emanes Metal Records. Children Of Doom play classic, traditional doom mixed with old-school punky metal; kind of like Reverend Bizarre having a drunken jam with Motorhead and it not only works but it kicks serious ass and is a lot of fun to listen to.

'Doom, Be Doomed Ör Fuck Off' is a natural progression from the demo and the split album track. Nothing has changed in their style but they seem to be getting more accomplished musically with each recording. The opening track, 'Mr. Nasty' attacks with a fast pace that might throw some doom fans off, it may be even too fast to be called doom-metal but it is sludge sped up a fraction. It is not the kind of track to marvel how great their musicianship is but rather one to sink beers to and have a good head-bang and that is general feeling I get out of this album. The following 'Technophobia' showcases the fact there more to the band than just muscular riffage. It is not complex stuff but still some time has spent been getting the track just right with a groove that is locked in to perfection. The following two tracks don't fare so well though. '1916' is rich in sabbathisms but without really doing anything unique with them and the vocals which are pure old-school rock and roll are well; let's say an acquired taste.

'Bottle Ben in the Streets' follows the same kind of pattern but with an unexpected saxophone thrown into the mix and the effect isn't bad but just indifferent and run-of-the-mill kind of stoner-doom material. The title track that follows though is a highlight; not ground-breaking in any way but catchy, infectious, groovy stuff. The album gets all psychedelic for the closing 12 minutes of '...Mia's Desert;' the track has its moments of greatness but doesn't really need the 12 minute running time. The tune seems to run out of juice within a few minutes. Basically the story here is Children Of Doom haven't got much variation, no middle ground and it is all about the energetic performance and riffs and on that level, this album is a winner. However, it wont be for everyone as it doesn't have any long-lasting redeeming qualities but it is still great fun, mostly very catchy and the production is a big step up from their 2009 demo. I am not sure how many people will like this but I dig it so I feel comfortable giving it a 8/10.

Children of Doom @ MySpace

Aug 28, 2011

SOL - Black Cloud Of Becoming ...

SOL, the bleak doom/death/drone metal project created by Danish multi-instrumentalist Emil Sol Brahe, started only in 2007 but since then its production has been steadily increasing and, for my taste at least, outstanding.

Here I am writing a review for one of the latest releases, the 2011 tape/EP Black Cloud of Becoming, co-released by the drone & doom label Drowning and Golem Tapes label in mid June 2011. However this release is well rooted in the complex, multifaceted and definitely grim style forged by Emil Brahe.

In neo Latin-speaking people like me “sol” recalls the sun, so the word gives an instinctively friendly feeling. But with Emil Brahe’s creature things are different, starting from the name of the official website, “solarmassacre”, which recalls the apparently friendly-sounding title of the debut album, Let There Be A Massacre.

But no slaughters are found, no gore here. The music in SOL is monolithic and extremely varied and harsh at the same time and is able to mirror both a deep sense of misanthropy (especially in the early works) as well as the perception of how small and uselessly bold humans are in front of natural forces and greater mysteries. This is more or less the direction of thought and the philosophy behind this musical project as a whole, as expressed by the author in interviews. However it is not difficult to grasp these feelings as soon as one “plunges” into SOL.

SOL’s style has been defined “True Jutlandian Doom Metal”. Maybe Denmark is not so morphologically harsh as the Norwegian coasts and mountainlands, but the majestic, “above human”, northern atmospheres rarely fail in conveying grim feelings and the sense of powers greater than us.

So as far as “communication” is concerned, SOL does strike you with emotions, powerful emotions, for sure. But SOL’s style has added values also for the richness in shades and sounds which are all controlled by Emil, who has been playing a wide range of “normal” metal instruments (guitars, bass, drums) as well as unusual, “rural”/folk instruments, such as accordion, clarinet, banjo, bells, maracas, trombone or a horn, plus drony/ambient electronic elaboration of sounds.

Many sources of inspirations for SOL’s “spurious” drony doom/death style are almost obvious and can be found in the drone, doom and sludge monsters like Earth, SunnO))), Khanate, Om, etc., in experimental and neo-folk bands like Current 93 or Death In June, in experimental drony psychedelia like Acid Mother Temple creatures, in northern raw and atmospheric black metal references like Mayhem, Burzum and Darkthrone, in old school death metal …

The sense of SOL’s one-man project may either be the said misanthropy and will of having everything under control, or else the activity of someone who loves to play and learn how to play any kind of musical instruments as well as to do experimentation.

Misanthropy seems to be just related to the emotions created by the music. SOL project has actually variably involved several guest musicians. Guests from the Danish Shiggajon ritual/folk free music collective and from the eclectic experimental band Singvogel (related to SOL as well) collaborated to the making of the Black Cloud of Becoming EP. Also a split and a communal album were released in the past: the split with funeral doom band Grívf and the album Old Europa Death Chants in collaboration with the Danish black metal band Blódtrú. A line-up for live performances has been created as well.

So let’s get bothered about the tunes …

The 2011 Black Cloud of Becoming EP is just majestic and breath-taking. Not the everyday dose of groovy heavy doom tunes for sure, but heaviness comes by loads like a storm announced by a distant rumble.

Maybe it was the effect I got when I first listened to this EP. It was early morning while walking alone along a road flanking a winding river gorge surrounded by steep flanks covered by lonesome woodland, with low wet clouds coming downhill and a grey sky above … It was actually hot and humid but the visual sensation was like being along a fjord.

The EP is slightly over 25 minutes-long and includes three tracks, the first two sum up to almost 20 minutes and the third is around 5 minutes long. By the way, a rip of it is available for free download provided by the label.

Long tracks, thus long albums, are often necessary for this kind of style. However the unusual shortness of this release does not fail in building up a “complete”, self-contained work. This is probably because in this release Emil blended the atmospheric but shaking doom-death sounds and vocal style, occasionally winking to raw black metal, typical of SOL’s earlier releases, with the acoustic experimentation in the 2011 album “Offer Thy Flesh To The Worms” (check out the review in the Archive).

As a matter of fact, the long opening track Womb is totally acoustic, intimate and cold in it solemnity at the same time, in a way that may recall Wardruna’s sounds and ambience. Something huge is evoked by the growing buzz opening Womb, and the clouds are a cool image for something that is huge, above us, and that can be cheerful or grow menacing. The drony electronic buzz seems to start from the deformation of the low sound of a cello or a horn, then it grows in waves and midway through the track it is overlapped by the sounds of accordion, organ and eventually violin playing together. You have to wait for almost 10 minutes and for the second track, Yielding To The Sound Of Clouds, to find SOL’s typical desperately nasty, annihilating, drony doomy heaviness. There Emil’s powerful, scary awesome growls explode and unleash a crushing doom attack done by heavily distorted guitars and bass sounds and extremely slow but gut-shaking percussions (lots of cymbals) over an echoing melancholic melody developing somehow in a background space. The explosion of sounds of the second track extinguishes in a rapid way and gives way to the 5 minutes-long closing track, Becoming Black Cloud. There the desperate screams and the dramatic, distorted sounds of the second track blend with the softer keyboard-accordion (plus horns?) sounds heard at the beginning. The resulting melody is less tragic, it gradually grows into a massively vibrating sound and eventually ends up swallowing up the shouts and the guitar sounds in a tremendously epic and solemn way.

The production in this release is quite something and is perfect for dealing with SOL’s extreme mixture of dark minimalistic and abrasive thumping sounds that have been duly compared to Earth’s multishaded production. The rawness and the echoing effects dominating the second track are perfect to evoke a sense of huge, three-dimensional space, the entrance into something big, after the numbing effect of the buzzy and then solemn intro. The outro is simply monumental and you feel as if you were in the middle of an empty cathedral in ruins. Or else along a fjord … 9/10

Review Written By Mari

Sol's Official Website
SOL’s page @ label Drowning
SOL’s tape @ label Golem Tapes
Free Download from the Drowning label

Wishdoom - Helepolis ...

Damn, if this band had have been around in the mid 80's, they would have been huge. Wishdoom are epic-metal, power-metal, viking metal and traditional mid-tempo doom metal rolled into one and they do it well although they could hardly be called original. If you have never heard these Greek metal warriors, there is something very Manowarish about them but don't let that turn you off.

Wishdoom take the very best Manowar elements, in other words - their heavy doomy moments are run with it. However, this is not a doom-metal album, far from it. It is old-school power, epic metal tinged with traditional doom into a very solid package. This album is released on the Metal on Metal label who are one of the leading labels pushing the old-school true metal style.

They also have Nomad Son, Heathendom and Mortalicum on the label so that shows you were their focus is; on pure old-school real metal with an emphasis on great musicianship and Wishdoom are no different. Great players that ooze a kind of class that is presently lacking in todays heavy metal scene.

The song-titles tell the story here; 'The Battle of Plataea,' 'Zeus the Thunderer,' 'Guardians of Steel' - you get my drift. This is pure raised your swords and lets charge into battle kind of metal. Yes, you can call it cheesy and perhaps out-dated but it is also a lot of fun and incredibly well executed.

The songwriting is very accomplished and reeks of a type of class that takes you back to a time where to play heavy metal music, you had to have some kind of formal training behind you. It is not complex music by any means but metal that is over-loaded with infectious melodies, killer riffs and larger than life vocal performance. All the songs here deal with tales of history, mythology and battle and they have the music to back up the themes. From a doom metal perspective, there is passages that come close to the sound of Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus and even Saint Vitus but mostly this is more of a mix of Ironsword, Iron Maiden, Cirith Ungol, Blind Guardian, Manilla Road, Doomsword and of course early Manowar.

I guess what is the make or break element here is the vocals of Chris Paschalidis. At times they go a bit over-the-top with over-extended notes of epic-ness and they do take a bit of getting used to. Being over dramatic is nothing new in metal, it has been around since metal's earliest days, Rob Halford made a career out of it but it will be the deal-breaker here for many people. The album has real gems as in the album's opening title track that carries on from where Trouble's 'The Skull' left off. 'Screaming Blade' has guitar work to die for, especially the solos and 'Crystal World' has dynamite killer riffing that is instantly infectious. It should also be noted that 'The Battle of Plataea', 'Guardians of Steel' and 'My Wish Your Doom' are also on this album and they all come from a EP they released so if you missed out on that one, you get your chance to hear them here.

My general feeling is 'Helepolis' is an album that will be quickly gathering dust on a lot of headbanger's CD shelves as they choose to listen to the other bands that influences this bands sound and style. That is a pity though as this is very good; it might be unoriginal and even sound dated for some people but it expertly played, extremely well written traditional heavy metal with a doom edge and that is good enough for me. Pretty hard to find many negatives to say about Wishdoom; a more solid heavy-metal act you will not find anywhere.....8.5/10

Wishdoom @ Facebook
Official Myspace
Metal on Metal Website

Aug 27, 2011

Heliotropes Double-Feature: III and Ribbons 7’’ ...

Now, for another stunt, let’s do a double feature. Thing is, some of the time, the bands I discover are just toiling in obscurity, perhaps due to their rather slim amount of output (or resulting in their output being slim, I don’t know.) When this is the case, my work becomes an exercise in minimalism, as I have to make do with what I can find. I mean, let me go all Sludgelord on you and say, look at this: the sum total of this one EP and one 7’’ comes to five songs in 19 plus minutes, that’s it. Slim pickings to say the least, but hey, Anna Coralie had one song and they held up pretty well, can Heliotropes do the same?

Before we get into that, let’s get some basic info out there. Heliotropes hail from Brooklyn and play a nice blend of upper-lo-fi psych-stoner-rock-meets-doom; with a side order of post-punk. No, seriously, post-punk. Therein lies their one strength and one weakness: see, the vocal approach is wildly different from anything you’ll hear and the general air gives it a nice post-punk vibe while still being able to carry on the psych-stoner-doom air. However, the alchemical genres of psych, stoner and doom are built around the all-powerful force of “The Riff” – but Heliotropes usually use the riff very sparingly, and often distract from it with the peripheral instrumentalization. It’s good that they can achieve harmony with it, but if you want a riff you can sink your teeth into, you won’t find it here.

So, let’s see what Heliotropes is made of.

The EP probably takes its name from how many songs it contains, which is, y’know, three. I am, however, less than impressed with the cover. But the cover, I’m afraid, is kind of telling of where this, the band’s (apparently) first recorded work is headed: undecisive, good-yet-could-be-better. Don’t let this throw you off, though, it’s still awful nice, it’s just unable to be groundbreaking.

The EP is headed for a great start with “Early in the Morning” where the band displays their odd blend of post-punk vocalization and guitar inclination with stoner tones, psych-rockish lead guitars, punctuating drums and impeccable, unique atmosphere. The track is marked with hard-hitting, repetitive-yet-quite good riff (again, distracted by everything else going on.) But it’s almost droning guitars, distorted vocals and impressive leads make it an exceptional track that displays the band’s sound perfectly.

For some reason, the second song, “Holy Cross” takes the Crüxshadows route. Yeah. I have no idea where it comes from, but the track is where the post-punk influence basically overrides all other genres involved and shifts the entire music too much in a strange direction. See, the track is basically violin-laden partitions of vocals and “na nana na” background choir play over a basic root-and-fifth bass line – and where it goes, my friends, is post-punk influenced, poppy, industrial track. Not sure where it belongs, but it sure as hell ain’t here.

If they were attempting a folk angle, they find it not at the first attempt but with the final track, “Valentine.” The song is remuniscent of The Flight of Sleipnir in its more acoustic moments. It invokes just as much plains-in-autumn feel and packs a good folksy punch – with it’s acoustic guitar and bass-driven main melody and vocal approach, the track demonstrates apt diversity in both song structure and influence.

As it stands, however, “Holy Cross” is too much of a dealbreaker, so much so that I have to ask why it is even there. It’s not a band song per se, it just has no place on this EP and feels too distracting. As such, it’s a letdown, but the EP displays potential. Overall, it is a very, very nice release that earns a 7.5/10 from me (yes, “Holy Cross” warrants a -2.5 points. It’s that alien.)

This 7’’ has two songs in it, “Ribbons” and “True Love’s Knot” and it all comes to about seven minutes plus.

“Ribbons” is a chill song. It begins with crash-cymbal punctuation on fuzzed-out power chords hitting over and over, much like in sludge. It grooves along, alternating between lazier (and keyboard-oriented) and more guitar-oriented passages. The verses are basically bass and keyboards, with the latter with a busted-up, indefinite sustain ratio – both laid under lush, crooning female vocals. The passages they lead up to are guitars setting the groove with a rise-and-release. It’s a beautiful track that grooves on until it hits a harder-hitting passage, where the band displays a flair for the hard side of stoner rock. Bless.

The 7’’ has one other song, which is the more action-packed “True Love’s Knot” which kicks off with a nice guitar that carries a somewhat grungy vibe. The song, again, alternates between soaring hooks (with the line, if I can make it out correctly, “Apparitions aside, I think you’re real”) with nicely-done vocals one doesn’t often hear in this kind of music; the music is basically rushing guitars embellished with glossy licks. It has a solo passage, however, where the music brings on the psychedelic with guitar and bass for a (damnably) short while before returning to the hook.

All-in-all, “Ribbons”, released in November 2011… wait, what!? Okay, so BandCamp has time-traveling capability now... fine, I’ll run with that. Back to the 7’’: it’s a satisfying affair, but suffers from being too short and being nothing special. I find the band sort of lacking in bringing the riff, as it seems to center too much around the other instruments and the culmination of overall music than the riff, and in psych rock, that can be a plus or minus. Here, it’s neither, so I guess it becomes a plus. So my overall impression is that it’s nice, but that’s it. 7.5/10.

OVERALL, Heliotropes have a way to go, but they have their heart in the right place and the rather odd set of influences they bring to the alchemically compatible genres of doom, psych and stoner (especially the grunge and the post-punk) make me want to hear more of where they can take the music. They clearly got off to a rough start with “III” but where they are determined to go warrants attention. As things stand, they are a non-essential, yet still nice band that fell through the cracks of genre-benders. Their aggregate score, therefore, is 7.5/10.

Reviews Written By Sarp Esin

Heliotropes @ Bandcamp

VoiVod To Curate Roadburn 2012 ...

From Roadburn.Com
Roadburn is elated to announce the curator for the 17th edition of the festival: Voivod. After the band’s widely acclaimed and artistically inspiring performances at the 2011 festival, Voivod has agreed to curate our festival on Friday, April 13, 2012. As curator, Voivod will personally select the bands that will play during their special event at Roadburn and perform a special headline show. We had a revelation this year: namely, that Voivod and Roadburn are not only kindred spirits musically and artistically, but also on the same wavelength in other ways, too. Voivod personifies the laidback Roadburn vibe. Respected by fans and bands that span the festival’s sonic spectrum,

Voivod is the ideal pick as Roadburn’s fifth curator. The band will carry on a tradition that began in 2008 with David Tibet, followed by Neurosis in 2009, Triptykon’s Tom Gabriel Warrior in 2010 and Sunn 0))) aka Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley at this year’s festival. After Voivod agreed to curate the Friday, we could not resist asking them to stay for a second show. It’s on! The band will appear on Saturday, April 14, 2012, too.

Away comments: “We are truly honored to curate the Roadburn Voivod day on april 13, 2012. We will make sure that the whole spectrum of experimental music influential to Voivod is represented.Thanks to the Roadburn folks for inviting us, we’re already counting the days in anticipation of the event !!”

We are overjoyed to join forces with Voivod for the upcoming Roadburn Festival. The band’s take on thrash metal, hardcore, prog rock, avant-garde and punk has been honed to perfection for almost three decades. Captured in various stages and formations on more than 13 albums, including the legendary Killing Technology, Dimension Hatröss and Nothingface trilogy, the chilling Phobos and 2003?s high energy self-titled release, what began as a desire to do their own thing is now recognized as groundbreaking. The band has strongly influenced scores of musicians practicing the kind of sonic alchemy that defies simple tags like “heavy metal” or “psychedelic.”

We are truly looking forward to the new ideas and visions that Voivod will bring to the festival next year. If asked to sum up Roadburn in one word, “progressive” would be a fitting choice. Evolution is a big part of this. The festival is a tribute to the open-mindedness of its bands, curators and audience. The joy comes from expanding musical horizons and looking at familiar territory from new angles. We will definitely be in for some artistic surprises with the always intrepid Voivod as our curator. We are excited to find out what they have in store for us!

Roadburn Festival 2012, including Voivod‘s special event, will run for four days from Thursday, April 12 to Sunday, April 15 (the traditional Afterburner) at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland. Pre-sales will start Saturday, November 26th, 2011.

Mournful Congregation - The Unspoken Hymns ...

'The Unspoken Hymns' is not a collection of new tracks but a compilation of some of Mournful Congregation's best but more obscure works. Set for release in September this year, I am guessing it is for introducing one of Australia's best ever doom bands to American audiences. The compilation features songs and rare versions only previously available on long sold out limited vinyl splits, and being someone who generally hasn't got much time for compilations, I find this to an essential release for both fans of the band and doom-metal fans in general.

If you have never heard the excellence of Mournful Congregation then this proves to be an ideal place to start. Of course these guys play slow, really, really slow to the point where it sounds like the music may just self-destruct and stop completely. They are depressive and full of emotion but characterized by droning guitar passages, simple but incredibly heavy drumming, and an atmosphere of pure torture. Basically the only tempo changes to be heard here is slow to even slower so if you want to hear a band that is truly oppressive, this is it.....

The album starts with a new version of an old track titled 'Left Unspoken.' This track originally appeared on the split they did many moons ago with Otesanek, Loss and Orthadox. This version brings the production up to the quality of the 'June Frost' album they released in 2009. Musically it is not that much different from the original version but with the clearer, heavier production it sounds even more like the funeral-doom monster it really is. Mournful Congregation are a dynamic but slow-moving machine in terms of song arrangement as well as the actual playing. 'Left Unspoken' is a monolithic crawl lasting over 10 minutes and it is a perfect representation of what funeral-doom should sound like; in-short, this is a masterpiece.

'The Epitome Of Gods And Men Alike' first appeared on a split with Worship in 2002, and was later released in the same year on 'The Dawning of Mournful Hymns' album. Like with all of their older material, this track is a much sought after classic of depressive doom but it is also faster than the usual Mournful Congregation songs but keep in mind fast by this bands standards is still a slow-dirge for anybody else. This deserves its place on this compilation as it is truly one of their best songs.

'A Slow March To The Burial' was first released on a split with Stabat Mater in 2004, and more recently on 'The June Frost' album. This version sounds like the one from the split so it lacks the production values of the later version but it is still a powerful take on another classic track. The growls that this band uses are swapped for more of a loud whisper for this song and the song is played with excruciating precision that is incredibly mesmerizing.

'Descent Of The Flames' is up next and is without a doubt one of the highlights of 'The June Frost' album and of course it was also on a split with Stone Wings in 2007 and it is that version that is featured here. It lacks the great production of 'The June Frost' version but the rawness of this recording gives it its own unique vibe while still basically being the same exact song. The band is actually more melodic than they are given credit for because of the use of guitar harmonies and this track highlights how skilled this band really is. Yes, it is slow, depressive, down-trodden doom but dig deep into the song and there is more going on than what is on the surface...great track.

'Elemental' is a Thergothon cover and a very good one at that. This version is almost better than the original and it is very fitting to end the album with this tribute to one of the most underrated bands ever. Thergothen were haunting and epic in every possible sense of the words and so too is Mournful Congregation so this is a perfect end to this great collection of funeral tunes. This is an essential purchase for the Mournful Congregation fans who missed out on the split releases they have been on but it is also just a great doom album that all doom fans should own. I am still amazed that the band isn't praised more in the doom underground especially in the USA so hopefully this will serve as a wake-up call for all you funeral-doom fans out there. 'The Unspoken Hymns' will be released through 20 Buck Spin on September 20th, 2011 in the lead up to the release of Mournful Congregation's fourth full-length album, 'The Book Of Kings.' .....9.5/10

Mournful Congregation Official Site

Aug 26, 2011

Black Cowgirl - S/T EP ...

Considering Black Cowgirl has Ben McGuire (guitar and vocals), and Chris (bass) both of Electric Horsemen, and Mark Hanna who is the ex-drummer of Backwoods Payback in the band; I was expecting a pretty doomy, filthy sludgy kind of release here. Instead this EP is an offering of straight-forward hard-rock tunes with southern blues, country and mild-psychedelic touches. It is still heavy and has its fair share of sabbathy moments but this is still far more generic than what I was expecting. There is melodic hooks and even a pop/rock-aspect to these songs that would easily be at home on any number of classic rock radio stations.

The EP kicks off pleasing enough; Talk of Wolves' and 'Roadmaster' are energetic performances of the old-school stoner-rock variety with psychedelic elements. Listening to this reminds you instantly of the southern-rock of early 'Skynyrd' mixed with a more bluesy take on Black Sabbath with Thin Lizzy styled dueling leads. The drumming has some real punching power behind it while the guitar work has a sophisticated feel to it. So it is all good for the first few minutes but like many other releases, the rest of the EP fails to keep up the momentum and the same quality of the two opening tunes. The energy level drops and while the other tracks are still good, they pale in comparison to the EP's excellent beginnings.

From here on, the EP drops all kinds of different influences and sounds into the ears of the listener. I can hear traces of bands such as Witchcraft, and even more southern-rock elements that come to party in various passages of their songs. As the EP progresses, it seems to get more relaxed and soulful in its own way. This is all well and good but after the fiery start to the proceedings, it does seem like the songs run out of steam. A song like 'Alkaline' is pure Americana with a whisky-soaked psychedelic blues vibe while another track, 'The Ride', is pure vintage hard-rock that could have come from any number of early 70's hard rock records. They break out some heavier grooves for 'Dead Horse' and 'Eclipsor' but still fit in some country twang and it is those sections which really don't cut the mustard for me personally. There is no doubting the skills of the musicians involved but the songs don't leave much of a lasting impression or at least they didn't for me.

Basically most of this is fairly simple heavy blues with even simpler, straight-forward tempos with pop music sensibilities thrown into the mix. I hate to use the word "mainstream" but if you wanted to ease a hard-rock/stoner-rock virgin into the scene without scaring him or her too much, Black Cowgirl would be a good band to start with. The heavy qualities that the EP possesses could be classed as "easy-listening' hard rocking sludge with a southern-blues feel. As you might of guess, this EP didn't rock my boat too much at all but I am impressed by their musicianship even though most of the songs are fairly simple and straight-forward. It is almost impossible to put-down a EP like this too much as there is nothing horrible or offensive about it but there is not much to get excited about either. In other words; it is good for what it is and not much more can be said.......6.5/10

Black Cowgirl @ Facebook

KYPCK - Cherno ...

This is an overdue review of one of the very best Russian doom albums ever released. This album is not their latest, it was released in 2008 but I will bring you a review of their new album in the coming weeks. KYPCK are a curious band, they are actually a Finnish band that chooses to sing in Russian for one thing, all lyrics, titles and the band's name itself are also in Russian and the name KYPCK is often typed out as Kursk on websites but 'Kursk' is a mere transliteration to the Western alphabet. Kursk is a Russian city, mostly famous for the great tank battle that occurred nearby in 1943, during WWII so type both names into Google and you will find this band. Keeping with WWII, the sound of the band is very war-like with an incredibly dark atmosphere that is somehow unique compared with other doom acts from that part of the world. What is strange is this album has all the wartime atmosphere but it is somehow fun to listen to; it is hard to describe but this album has an enjoyable kind of morbid vibe to it so go figure!

The album opens with 'Depth Finder' and yes I am using the English translations for the purpose of this review so I hope I get them right. This track is a 2 minute, apocalyptic instrumental intro that sets the mood for the rest of the record. When the opening riffs come crashing in on the first real track, 'Christmas in Murmansk' the effect is pure devastation. This is one mean, heavy guitar sound that kind of growls at the listener. The only reference point I can think of it is somewhere in the middle of Shape of Despair and Crowbar. The band is pure doom but they have a sludgy edge similar to that of early Crowbar records and other similar acts. From the start it becomes clear that the band is signing in Russian for a reason; it adds an otherworldly quality to the songs but more importantly, this is some of the finest vocals I have ever heard that are sung in the Russian language. There is no language barrier either; even though you might not be able to understand a word of it, everything fits perfectly and you don't even notice it is Russian most of the time anyway. The band has Black Sabbath inspired tuning and rawness, a-la Master Of Reality and while everything crawls along at a painfully slow-pace, most of the songs seem shorter than what they actually are which I think is a sign of great songwriting.

While this is about as dark and depressing as you can get, there is a certain accessibility to their music made from strong melodies and the traditional verse-chorus structured songwriting. Third track 'Traitor' is even heavier but doesn't mess with the formula in any way. What is odd but mesmerizing is the way this was mixed and recorded. Everything is so spacious that even listening to this in a tiny room still gives off the feeling the speakers are a mile apart and the musicians are not playing in the same town, let alone the same studio. Everything seems distant from one another and this gives the album an engrossing atmosphere. '1917' signals a slight change in the music for me, it actually reminds me of the band, 'Thee Plague of Gentlemen' to a small degree and the following track, 'The Black Hole' is also in that vein. This track has one of the many sampled sound effects or interludes that this album has on offer, this one sounds like a guy playing Russian Roulette by himself. At this point I must mention the vocals again. It is rare when you hear an album sung in Russian where the lyrics flow as well as they do on this album. I have read the English translations of the song-lyrics too and they don't make a whole lot of sense once translated so my advice is stick with the Russian.

The emotional-draining atmosphere continues with the next two tracks, 'Stalingrad' and 'Do Not Forgive.' Guitar sections generally switch between chugging and heavy-reverb strumming and while none of this is rocket-science, it is 100% effective doom-metal. The tuning also seems to vary between songs and even during the songs that gives these tracks some real color so it is not all total bleakness. The next two tracks are by far the weakest on the album but they are still very decent. 'The Usual' and one track I couldn't translate at all titled 'Odin Den iz Zhizni Yegora Kuznetsova.' I guess the problem with these two is they just sound like repeats of what has already been heard on the album and so the album loses some of its momentum. However the album ends on one major highlight, the mini-closing epic that is 'Demon.' Filled with depression and the utter feeling of hopelessness, this track captures in eight minutes what real doom-metal should sound like. A excellent way to finish the album so don't switch off till you have heard this gem.

'Cherno' has a lot going for it; strong performance and production values, inspired vocal performance, incredible atmosphere and mesmerizing heavy riffs. The downside is only that some of the songs are too long for their own good and some of can get overly repetitive especially with some of the simple drum patterns. Despite that and a couple of average tracks; this album is one of the all-time great doom-metal albums from Russia or Finland. Finland is their country of origin even though they sing in Russian. I have read a couple of times, people claiming that the Russian lyrics is some kind of a gimmick; well I don't understand how anyone can say that after listening to this fine release. This album has no less than six flawless tracks plus two more that are also very good indeed and that is more than enough for me to recommend this album to all doom-metal fans.............8.5/10

KYPCK @ Facebook
KYPCK Official Website
Click Here For A Doommantia Interview With The Band

Aug 25, 2011

Barbaric Invaders: Interview With CONAN ...

"Conan stand tall by themselves and such reference points are useless when trying to describing a band that has as much sonic power as this."
Buy this and be happy!" 10/10 ( Sandrijn van den Oever - Doommantia.Com )

"Conan are a band that defy descriptions, talking about influences is also an unnecessary point of discussion. Conan stand tall by themselves and such reference points are useless when trying to describing a band that has as much sonic power as this. They have been signed up by the Throne record label who are doing the vinyl release and Aurora Borealis who are releasing the CD. Save your pennies for this because it will leave you devastated." 10/10   ( Another Doommantia.Com Review )

"They summon the heavy riff from the ungodly land and crush the skull of the unbeliever."
( Sputnik Music )

"If you’re a fan of slower tempo metal/doom/stoner metal/sludge, listening to Horseback Battle Hammer is an absolute must." ( Stereo Killer )

"Conan swing the axe and utter a grim oath to their bloodthirsty god Crom – and just like the ultimate barbarian himself, they’ll take yer fucking head off." ( The Sleeping Shaman )

"There’s nothing spacey or psychedelic in their sound, but Conan manage to find substance enough in the weight of the earth beneath them to carry across the songs in grotesquely doomed fashion, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them become more complex with their song structures in the future, which is only going to help them provided they manage to keep the material as heavy as it is on Horseback Battle Hammer. As it stands, the trio has just landed one of 2010’s heaviest blows." ( The Obelisk )

The quotes above say it all when it comes to the doom monster known as Conan who by now must be sitting right at the top of the doom mountain and rightly so. 'Horseback Battle Hammer' is already a "stoner-doom" classic, a sludge mammoth, and a masterpiece of undiluted heaviness. Strangely enough we at Doommantia.Com haven't been treated to a Conan interview till now. This ones comes from the wizard of doom interviews, Aleks Evdokimov who chats with Jon Davis.

Salute comrade! How did you came to the realization of necessity to create something that would sound like the barbaric crushing of a skull of another barbarian in a midst of barbarous world?

-Salute. We wanted to create uncomplicated and heavy music that could be played through big amps at high volume. The name Conan came through a bit of a brain storming session I had once after being unhappy with the names we had been using at the time. Fortunately it was available and the name stuck. The character CONAN is pretty straightforward - he wants to kill, fuck, drink and then do it all over again. In creating this band we drew inspiration from the brutal animalistic parts of his character and although our songs aren't about Conan himself we are very much inspired by tales of brutal victories and gory conquests.

Was it hard to explain to the other guys how your new band must sound? By the way did you ever play in other bands before birth of Conan?

-Explaining the sound - not really no, I think instead that our sound has evolved into what I first wanted it to sound like, we've simply tuned progressively lower and played through more amps as time has gone by. Initially me and a friend (who played drums) created some basic tunes that became Satsumo / Krull / Temple of Mu and Battle In The Swamp. In the early stages I jammed with one or two decent guys and eventually saw an advert by a guy called Paul O'Neil (in 2007 Paul and I immediately hit it off and we changed a few things and then (after changing practice spaces) began to jam regularly. During these early sessions Sea Lord was written. Paul immediately got what I was trying to do, and aside from a brief hiatus between Spring and Winter 2008 (when I had to put the band on ice through work commitments) we have jammed pretty regularly. I think we've pretty much got the sound I was after now, after much swapping and changing of gear.

Before Conan I played in some bands and it was all good fun. It wasn't particularly serious though as we were all into it for different reasons - I think we split up because the other guys wanted to go play fucking covers at parties and stuff, which didn't work out for them.

Jon, I guess that it’s a good chance to introduce the other guys to our good readers and if you add a few more words about yourself, it would be nice too.

-Sure. Phil Coumbe has just joined the band on Bass as David Perry leaves us soon to live in Denmark for a year. Phil lives near me on the Wirral and at the time of writing has yet to actually play with the band. He'll be jamming with us very soon when we get his bass guitar back from the guitar tech (It has been customised so it can play the tunings we use. Phil is pretty new to this scene in a 'playing' sense although he has a vast amount of experience behind the scenes in technical roles and as a driver with other bands - he also played bass and did vocals for a band called My Wooden Brain...... Phil is a big fan of the same sort of music as me, which was a huge part of the decision to bring him in.

Paul O'Neil - Paul has played drums in Conan since 2007. He has played in bands such as Zen Baseball Bat, Rise Dead Man, Grudge 13 and has brought a more technical style of drumming than is typical in the broad genre that we sit within. His taste is music is different to mine (his favourite bands may include Dream Theatre, Pantera and Iron Maiden - where mine would include Slomatics, High on Fire and Zoroaster) you can see that Paul likes bands with great drummers and I only care about guitar tone.......

Do you remember if it was a conscious intention to make a sound so thick, so low and (mostly) slow, and heavy as you have? And why do these components prevail in your music? Look – Conan is a perfect name for some heavy metal band, because Conan was (or is) fast and strong guy, I guess he would prefer some straightforward stuff like Manowar plays…

Our sound has evolved like most band's sound does. We started out with a basic idea and then built on it with extra gear and different amps and stuff. The sound we got on Horseback Battle Hammer was a result of tuning lower than we had before and the studio skills of Chris Fielding who made us sound as bass heavy as we did. The sound on the split with Slomatics was exactly the same tuning and similar gear but slightly different recording style which produced a slightly crisper and brighter sound. We tune so low and play so loud because we prefer the sound we get when we do this - valve amps like to be driven hard and we wouldn't want to disappoint them. Our live rig is pretty serious, we just wouldn't sound as good through smaller setups.

What was your vision of the first Conan release “Battle in the Swamp” Ep? Was it completely fulfilled on the record or it was a situation when guys just do their jam and suddenly they’ve got few songs to record an album?

-Battle In The Swamp was made up of songs that were written by myself and Rich Grundy (who played drums in the very early days). We had played in other bands before (Richie was a bass player really) and were jamming some songs. We decided to record these songs and called the demo 'Battle In The Swamp'. A couple of tracks from this were included on a cassette version of Horseback Battle Hammer that was released by Pissfork Anticulture recently (US indie label). People have asked us if these tracks will be released but we have always said no because they are pretty rough.

The art-work and song titles of “Battle in the Swamp” made listeners prepare for some kind of fantasy doom but did they get it?

-We never released Battle In The Swamp, we split up soon after it was recorded as Richie couldn't play live shows. The artwork was pretty cool though, it was done by some guy from Winsconsin - I can't remember his name now unfortunately.

Jon, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that Conan got real repute after the glorious “Horseback Battle Hammer”, did you expect such heart felt welcome from public and critics? Can you say – with cold heart and clear head – why this release is so popular amongst listeners?

-I'll be totally honest here - we recorded Horseback Battle Hammer at Foel Studio simply to satisfy a desire (on my part initially) to do a recording at the studio as it has always been a dream for me to go there. Once we reformed in Spring 2009 we set out with the intention to practice these songs and maybe do a few shows again and see how things went. We booked some studio time and it was only when we sat down with Chris Fielding and mixed / mastered the tracks at about 3am on the Monday morning that we decided that it was worth putting out. I guess that the artwork and the band name went well for the first release. I guess the fact that we put a lot of effort into the artwork and recording quality helped too. I guess people like the riffs, we play pretty simple stuff and aren't afraid to do so - even to the point of it being repetitive (Krull / Sea Lord). If it wasn't for Paul's drumming and the contrasting vocals provided by John McNulty on Horseback Battle Hammer I reckon its appeal would be less as this added a subtle difference to the tracks (John Mc did an amazing job on vocals in Krull and Dying Giant (a HORN track originally)). People have commented on them liking it because we don't do growling style vocals. I do like that style of singing, but can't actually do it myself - hence why we don't do it - a happy accident really as we have enjoyed using the low tuned guitars and higher ranged vocals as a nice contrast - people say this makes us stand out a bit. Basically, we played these songs in the way that we felt comfortable and it worked nicely. We were surprised with all the good reviews, and I'd like to thank everyone that did review it - I mean we guessed there would be some decent reviews but we didn't realise there would be such a volume.

You embody the very essence of doom in songs of “Horseback Battle Hammer”, how do you evaluate this release now?

-We are very proud of this release. It's value to me is that it helped us get noticed by a few people who perhaps wouldn't have noticed us if we had not been lucky enough to attract the interest of Throne and Aurora Borealis. I think it was important that we self financed this release. I know most labels don't sign bands on the strength of a demo - so I think our decision to pay for artwork and pay for the recording to be done at Foel studios was a key decision in getting us a release on Throne and AB, although we didn't know it at the time. When I sent the download for 'Krull' to Throne initially I didn't expect a reply - instead within a week we had a deal for them to press it and distribute it. We are really grateful to Uge for this and to Andrew (Aurora Borealis) for putting it out on cd.

Jon, what is your secret? How do you make your guitar sound so bloody heavy? And how long do you play guitar?

-My first ever guitar rig was a Marshall VS100R head into a Marshall 4x12 using a white Epiphone Flying V, tuned to dropped D - no distortion pedals just the amps own distortion. I started playing about 17 years ago. For my live rig I now use a Gordon Smith SG1, through some custom made fuzz and distortion pedals, into both Matamp and Marshall heads and then into a mixture of two 4x12 speakers cabinets and two 2x15 speakers cabinets. We tune pretty low and don't forget we have a bass player too, playing an octave below me through some seriously powerful bass gear. It's not just the tuning we use that gives us the sound we have, it's the quality of gear. Our equipment isn't expensive or anything, it's simply good gear that we got for a decent price - most of our recent equipment purchases have been financed by sales of our stuff which is fucking cool.

Man, you’re working right now with Burning World Records to enlighten the world once again with tunes of doom, destruction and damnation. Is it an important step for you to make a record-session in such studio? Foel Studio is well-known amidst rock-addicted citizens for Electric Wizard, Blue Cheer, Hawkwind who spent their time there successfully. Does that fact encourage you to do the best?

-Foel studio was our choice of studio for Horseback Battle Hammer and also the split we recently did with Slomatics. The studio is run by a great guy (Dave Anderson) and our Producer for each recording has been Chris Fielding. Chris is one amazing producer, and is also a fucking great guy. We've enjoyed some great sessions at Foel and we simply don't want to record anywhere else - the place is perfect on every level. Our relationship with Burning World Records started when I discussed working with them on the new album. Jurgen and I emailed each other a few times and then had a discussion on the telephone. From these communications we agreed a deal to release the new album on the label. Since then Jurgen and his team have also agreed to release the cd version of the split we did with Slomatics, this is due to be released in late September this year. The label we had lined up for this cd release had to pull out and Burning World Records was our first option - fortunately for us and the lads in Slomatics we were able to agree something pretty quickly.

What is your favorite “moves” and manners of playing? Did you have a “guitar-idol” or the band about which you could say: “This band has changed my life”? Weren’t you disappointed in some rock-heroes of the past?

-Well, we play pretty slowly mostly and use a dropped tuning style which suits our needs. I'm not sure I have any particularly authentic way of playing but I guess we are all individuals in some way. Rock Heroes - I'm not sure I have heroes personally but bands who changed my life...... I guess Nirvana when I first heard them changed my take on things. I was learning to play guitar when I first saw them play live and I discovered the power chord....... One of the biggest moments of discovery I had was a band from Belfast in Ireland called Slomatics. They play HEAVY detuned sludge / doom using the most amazing tone ever backed up by awesome drums and these trippy spaced out vocals - the perfect combination. This band literally did change my life as they helped me to realise that less is more and, on a personal level, both their music and their support helped to convince me to keep on going with this band when I was going through some rough times a few years ago. If it wasn't for Dave, Chris and Joe you probably wouldn't be speaking to me now. Other influences are Eddie Solis of the LA band It's Casual - Eddie's delivery of vocals is just fucking amazing - he repeats stuff over and over and it still sounds interesting each time because he means it, there is an honesty and a hunger in his delivery that is thoroughly compelling. Some others - Spheres by Pestilence blew my mind when I heard it, the track Open Casket by Death, Persistence of Time by Anthrax is one of my favourite albums,

I must ask you about the rough dates of the new release, about number of songs, it’s working name and so on… You have to understand that – all of us are waiting for new Conan coming! It’s time to reveal your plans.

-I can't reveal too much too soon but I can say that we are working on new stuff that is, at this stage, already sounding fucking heavy. The songs are a million miles away from being where we want them but we are happy with how they are progressing. We have pretty much agreed on an album name and have three or four songs already loosely structured. We're still writing though, so the album length is not yet finalised. Jurgen at Burning World Records has mentioned a release date of February / March 2012 and we are recording in December this year. Tony Roberts is doing the artwork, he is almost like our 4th member now - his instruments are his imagination and his quill.

And I can’t leave this question unanswered – what are your favorite books about Conan? Which one was the first one? I had 16 tomes of Conan’s adventures when I was studying in school but after 4th or 5th book I suddenly realized that Conan already killed and destroyed a half of that old world, and there’s no monsters to kill, no sorcerers to fight and of course no virgins to… mmm… to save! So I left these books in my town’s library and never take them in my hands since that time.

-The Conan stories are amazing although I'll let you into a secret - I read my first one around the time we recorded Horseback Battle Hammer. I'll say my favourite story so far is The Sword of Skelos, this wasn't written by Robert E Howard, but is still a cool story. I have lots of the stories as you can guess but we don't base our songs on Conan himself as this would be very limiting - instead we take inspiration from certain scenes in the books like a hawk being used to kill some warrior on a battlefield or a band of blood thirsty warriors being smashed to pieces by a huge battle-axe.

By the way, what are your favorite doom-topics?

-For writing tunes? Nature gone bad, the things that should not be, things being crushed to fucking death by bigger things - and valve guitar amps. I like to write songs using lyrics which hint at the subject matter rather than make it obvious about when the track is about - I guess this is common amongst people who write songs.....

How do you think… Who would be the winner if fiction heroes of the past (Conan, Solomon Cane or someone else) meet gay-looking “super-heroes” of some modern fantastic universe? Conan crushed beasts and monsters which were more huge and cruel when all enemies of spider-man! I guess he could beat the shit out from Chtulhu itself!

-Conan would smash Spiderman's head clean off within 10 seconds, no question.

Well I have a serious question: what can you tell us about last riots in London? I guess that no one expected such wave of anarchy, though we had to learn a lesson or two from France… Do you have something to add to all those things that we saw in TV and read in newspapers about it?

-I'll bet not one of those folks who caused so much shit would have ever done it if they listened to Earth or Yawning Man regularly - mind you, they can now - on their brand new, ill-gotten, Bang and Olufsen Ipod dock.

And don’t you think that here we meet a real threat – as Rome fell before barbarians so European civilization are going to fall before “stream from the South”… or it will rather fall under the weight of it’s laziness, weakness and corruption?

-I think the strength of cohesive and caring communities would overcome any 'youth uprising' in the long-term. I guess the nest needs to start taking responsibility of the wasps.

It was a really “doom” question, so let us finish our interview with some advice to our readers. Can you teach devoted followers of Doom how to become as Conan is? I bet there could be some special diet and exercises… There must be some secret techniques and trainings, bring it on!

-Tell your Parents that you love them, at least once a week.

Brush your teeth at least twice a day.

Eat your greens.

Interview By Aleks Evdokimov

Conan @ MySpace
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