Suicide Records – Release January 13th, 2017 – Vinyl / CD / DD
Demonic Death Judge had seemingly found their sound on 2012’s “Skygods”, but obviously, five years can change much for a band. I’ll be damned if “Seaweed” isn’t rockin’, forward-thinking proof of that.
For this particular raucous slab or heaviness, the doom and polished sludge (complete with gruff, but fitting vocals) of the past is still very much present, but this time out, the band has added a southern swagger and groove, with a pinch more atmosphere as well. Hell, you even get some banjo for that special Appalachian vibe! Yes indeed, the band is refusing to tread water, but they have found that sweet spot where growth does not mean forsaking the past. No previous fan of the band’s past efforts should feel abandoned; if they do- Shame on them! This is the kind of boundary expansion you want for musicians and DDJ delivers it in a big way!
Admittedly, a more approachable effort than the Judge’s have ever released, “Seaweed” still manages to pack a jaw-swelling punch. You need this one in your collection- Trust me! What a nice way to start the reviewing year….
2. Heavy Chase
6. Pure Cold
Headspin Records & Pepper Shaker Records – Vinyl / CD / DD
You awaken from your artificial sleep, roused by the pulsings and rumblings within your starship’s harmonic hull. Taking the helm, you notice you’ve just exited the wormhole, and you’re approaching your ultimate destination. You’ve traveled both time and space to experience this place, said to be unlike any other in the known universe. The light of this foreign galaxy burns the last semblance of slumber from your eyes. You slowly see the first light glisten and sparkle off it for the first time, the Frozen Planet….1969.
You’ve brought no crew – this is a solo trip. You alone can see the stars shimmer off the planet’s icy ionosphere, you alone will hear the starship sing as its encounters the gaseous upper atmosphere. You alone will feel the heat of the ship’s hull as it dares its delicate descent towards the frozen field below. Slamming on the retro thrusters, you carefully calculate the angle of entry and brac for landing. The impact is minimal, and you quickly gather up your supplies and lower the stairs towards the icy ground below. Bracing yourself for the frigid cold and chill winds, you grab a fur-lined overcoat and pull the hood over your long hair. The oxygen is rich here, though it will become thinner as you climb the frost covered mountains towards the ominous Electric Smokehouse.
You wander past a frozen lake, and see Barbarella’s starship, desperately in need of repairs. You know that she’s about to be attacked by a gang of children bearing dolls with snapping metal teeth, and if you were to take the time to simply rescue her, you could make sweet, sweet love to her on a featherbed inside a giant sled propelled by a sail. Alas, you also know that there’s no time for such diversions, and another will be along shortly to ensure her safety. Your pace quickens, and you begin the steep ascent up the sacred mountain, on top of which lies the Electric Smokehouse, an elusive place chock full of sonic daydreams and mystical soundscapes. As you climb, placing hand over hand and foot over foot, you gaze up in wonder at the small shack resting stoically at the top of the mountain. It approaches faster and faster, and soon you catch the first wisps of rhythm echoing from within the smokehouse’s wooden walls. Soon the frantic pounding of the drums is joined by the throbbing undulation of bass guitar deeply digging into a hypnotic groove. The higher the climb, the more apparent it becomes that the strange noises your heard in the background are from a single six string guitar which speaks in sonic tongues, repeating what seem like mind-warping mantras over and over in some strange electric language that penetrates straight into the inner depths of your psyche.
Finally reaching the summit, you set off down the path towards the small smokehouse, taking in the sights of the planet’s three suns reflecting off the snowy peaks and frozen valleys. The music from within continues to intensify as you open the front door. You’re greeted by three men, who introduce themselves simply as Paul on guitar, Lachian on bass, and Frank on drums. They speak to you without missing a beat or even a single note, and somehow their soft voices are briefly projected above the heavy jams emanating from their instruments. The guitar seamlessly shifts from searing leads to heavy riffs, shimmering chords to strange echoed oscillations. The bass works the groove, while every once in awhile adding in a slice of melody or jammy leads, and the drums alternate between busy rhythms and stoic understatement. Your ears are treated to all manner of otherwordly sounds as the trio jams on endlessly, for what seems like hours, days even week. All too soon, your supplies are deplete and it’s time to make the long return trek to your planet of origin.
As you head back to your spacecraft, you can’t help but think that fans of Earthless may also find a trip to the Frozen Planet….1969 to be quite a worthwhile venture. You climb back aboard your ship, engage the autopilot, open up a fresh wormhole and prepare to enter your cryogenic sleep, with all heavy jams you’ve just taken in still bouncing around in your cerebellum. You smile as the gentle psychedelic slumber overtakes you, and you ponder what new grand adventure will await you when you awaken….
This is the second full length from the Polish doom outfit, Sunnata. While in full disclosure, I haven’t actually heard their debut, Zorya is certainly a breath of fresh air from what I usually hear from more modern “doom.” I hear lots of bands who hear Sleep’sDopesmoker for the first time, get really high, tune down to G flat, play really slow and think that’s the essence of “doom.” I hear other bands that take the retro route, and just try to ape the vibe of the first four Black Sabbath albums. I suppose that’s all well and good, and not particularly awful places to start off in the overall development of a band, though too often it turns into either a bit of a pitfall or a total dead end. Fortunately, Sunnata don’t fall into this trap. I personally like to hear bands that are interested in growth, development, experimentation, and bringing other influences into the fold.
This album doesn’t disappoint in any of those departments – it consistently surprised me with the various musical twists and turns, sometimes within the course of the same song, like the lengthy opener, “Beasts Of Prey.” It starts in a fashion that’s fairly typical of more contemporary doom, with a droning guitar chord and subsequent feedback, while the bass lays down a groovy, slow, slug wading through molasses intro riff. Soon enough, the guitars join in full force, building the bassline into a mighty wall of dark distortion. Twice it peaks with a more chiming, repetitive chord, before settling into a more mid-paced and punishing variation of the opening riff four minutes into the track. From there it cleans things up, with mellow, swirling psychedelic guitars and ethereal vocals delivered in the form of a mantra. Once things hit full throttle, it seems like there are two vocalists, one delivering a slightly more intense dreaminess, and the other offering a scream/throaty growl in counterpoint. It’s little juxtapositions like these that make Sunnata’s sound so effective, and it’s what makes them stand out in the crowded stoner doom crowd.
There’s a cool little guitar solo that kicks in – it sounds like slide guitar run through tons of delay, and it builds up the tension quite nicely with its mixture of melody and sheer mind searing noisiness. Nine minutes in, we see the temp once again shift into the faster “doom” realms where bands like High On Fire often find themselves. The guitars and drums blur more and more into faster, most melodic terrain, eventually taking on a slightly “blackened” timbre with the vocals and tremolo style riffs, before it suddenly peaks and ends. Wow, what an opener; it’s definitely the album’s highlight for me. The second song, “Zorya”, is no slouch by any means, though it is a little more conventional, beginning with the disembodied vocals posing the perpetual question, “Have you ever spread your wings to fly?” Only in my dreams, guys, only in my dreams. This tune is a bit more repetitive and minimalistic with the riffing, though it works, creating a trance-like backdrop for the vocals to alternate between aggression and contemplation, and there’s once again a really cool psychedelic guitar solo building into a chorus.
The third song, “Long Gone”, brings back the swirling clean tones of the first track, this time more downbeat and drawn out, which really gives them space to breath in and exhale all of their psychedelic goodness. Suddenly, things pick up into an exotic sounding motif, and we’re off to the proverbial races. Things get really intense really quickly, with the distortion kicking in along with a wah, which slowly filters the guitar’s tonality from low to high before flowing right into the verse, which follows the same motif and adds the now familiar vocals. The chorus uses some nice rhythmic and melodic variations, and there’s a section afterwards that uses some sweet syncopation as well. From their, the song repeats its clean intro, bringing in some tribal style drums a la Neurosis that leads to another distorted climax and finale. “New Horizon” starts with a fairly standard, slower doom riff, then shifts into more psychedelic territories with the guitars and vocals, which start out with an eerie chant evoking some cosmic monks on an ergotamine bender. The initial doom riff kicks back in, and the vocals pick up their typical counterpoint of styles. It’s a lot like the second song in many respects, more repetitive and trance inducing, though there’s notably a most excellent interplay between the melody of the solo section and the rhythm riff pulsing underneath it in this ascending pattern that echoes many of the themes of the album without speaking a single word.
They close with “Against And Against”, a song that’s lean and mean from the very start, starting off with a riff that’s right out of The Art Of Self Defense playbook and the album’s most aggressive vocals. I can dig it. It breaks done into some of the slowest riffs, punctuated by feedback and weird echoed bubbles of sonic depths yet to be explored. Things eventually grind to a complete halt in what could be classified as a fake ending, though this is just a tease – they’re not letting you off that easily. The riffs rehash, then slowly fade out, leaving only the barest of skeletal guitars by the end, buried in murk and reverb. Once again, this is a tease. A burst of feedback brings things right back to the forefront. Big, throbbing riffs and vocal harmonies pave the way for yet another bizarre fade-out, this one punctuated by seething white noise. It’s an interesting choice for ending an album, and quite an ambitious track.
When all is said and done, this an extremely promising album from a fairly new band. It’s not just paint by numbers doom – it showcases of a variety of influences and a spectrum of styles, all the while retaining a more modern edge. Sunnata never disappear down the retro rabbit hole, nor do they consciously ape any other band. The most apt comparison I could come up with is YOB, though even that analogy falls a little flat for me as well. It probably has more to do with YOB’s willingness to break the mold and experiment with different sounds and influences more than it has to do with actual similarities in sound. I’m definitely going to be watching this band with curiosity as they continue to grow, progress, and reach towards the upper empyrean of the doom multiverse….
Reviewed By Andy “Ding a ding dang my dang a long ling long” Beresky
Coming together from the remnants of the bands REVELATION and AGAINST NATURE, MANGOG represents the latest in what makes ‘doom’ what it is; riffs that punch you in the chest, bass that will rattle your ribcage and time sig’s that seem to twist you around as you roll along with them through this 9-song debut.
Citing Black Sabbath / The Obsessed / Trouble as their influences, it is no surprise that the feel is dark and foreboding. The clock ticking as this opus begins belies the awakening referenced in the album title and five seconds later, the first power chords hits right between the eyes as “Time Is A Prison” makes its way through your veins with a power and rumble that grabs you and doesn’t let go. Clocking in at just over seven minutes, it is quite the introduction to these four guys that stay their mission as using riffs to turn the air solid and taking long walks on a post-apocalyptic beach with a zombie-bride. By the time you get to the first extended guitar solo, you feel it enveloping. Not wasting a second between, “Meld” comes in faster and shakes you awake with the trifecta of cymbal/bass guitar that leads you through the path they are clearing for the first four measures before Myke Wells’ vocal rises to remind you that is is ‘your thirst to my thirst, your mind to my mind’ and there is no turning back.
Full of twists and turns and tales of walking those decimated beaches ‘drunk with fear’, Mangog delivers what promises to be a disc that does not come out of your player anytime soon once you put it in. One of the standout tracks on this is “Daydreams Within Nightmares”, chock full of those time signatures that make it seem like the ‘fills’ are the body of the rhythm line. Closing out this 45 minute opus with “Eyes Wide Shut” demonstrates the roots of mist-filled shadows that gives MANGOG the doom-tag they have assigned themselves. Breathe deep before you hit ‘play’ the first time and keep your eyes open as you never know what is behind you as you wonder if ‘today is a good day to die’.
This is the eleventh Neurosis studio album, and quite honestly, they’re as much an institution at this point as a band. We’re talking here, folks, about a band that is so influential that they’ve literally defined an entire genre, sometimes referred to as post metal. They started off as seemingly another punk/hardcore band, though by their third album they’d mutated into something we hadn’t heard before. They’ve inspired and served as the primary influence for bands like Isis, Cult Of Luna, and Minsk. They’ve continued to develop their sound and evolve, to take chances, and yet they don’t have a single dud in their rather extensive catalog. That alone is an accomplishment worth noting.
What else can I really say about Neurosis? I suppose that I should delve into the actual album at this point, and I’ll assure you, Fires Within Fires sounds very much like a Neurosis album. It’s a bit more cerebral than their last two, and it has a dark, swirling psychedelic atmosphere going on throughout. I like it as much as any of their recent output. For me personally, they’re never going to top Enemy Of The Sun, though I’ll admit that this is rapidly becoming one of my favorites in their catalog based on the psych focus, dynamics, and retention of their heaviest elements. At first, my only complaint was the length – five songs at around 41 minutes. However, there’s no filler; my beef with an album like A Sun That Never Sets was that it was too damn long in the tooth and meandering at times. In the context of this album, the brevity works wonders for Neurosis.
The opening track, “Bending Light” initially sounds like a slowed and stripped down version of the early Pink Floyd classic “The Nile Song” for about the first minute, before it morphs into a quieter, more sinister section for a spell. They re-hash the opening riff in a cleaner manner, letting the atmospheric keyboards and samples come a little more to the forefront, then launch into a full scale assault on the eardrums. It’s everything that’s familiar about Neurosis: harsh, abrasively screamed vocals, guitar riffs that juxtapose the melodic with the dissonant, a thick low end provided by the bass, and intense drumming interlaced with tribal flourishes. All of this is delivered with a weighty emotional intensity and a backdrop of shifting soundscapes.
The second song, “A Shadow Memory” starts off quieter, with pulsing electronics leading into a catchy clean guitar hook. Soon enough the song opens up into full throttle riffs and the familiar vocal styling. The opening is rehashed, giving the song some subtle dynamic touches. Track three, “Fire Is The End Lesson” starts more boldly; the guitars are centered around aggressive hooky chords, though they’re slightly off kilter, which seems to be the theme of the song. Later on, it climaxes in a glorious barrage of heavier, more primal riffs and noisier guitars. The keyboards also add to the wall of sound effect that they achieve by the song’s conclusion.
“Broken Ground” is a pretty stripped down track, focusing on a noisy, repetitive riff and melody for most of the song. Near the end it breaks down into a softer, more psychedelic section. The closing track “Reach” features cool vocal harmonies and an overall softer, more haunting and intimate tone. The final two minutes of this ten minute track descend into dark, heavy riffs punctuated and echoed by divebombing pitchshifted keyboards before it all just abruptly ends.
Like I said above, if you dig Neurosis, I can’t see why you wouldn’t like this album. It certainly centers around atmosphere and psychedelia more heavily than their last two, though there is an urgency to the arrangements that heralds back to their earlier work. There aren’t any glaring flaws, the songs are solid, and there’s also a lot of variety and dimension going on throughout. I’ll admit that I’m a bit bummed that I can’t find something a bit more creative to write about Fires Within Fires, though my rants and diatribes are usually based around criticisms, and I find precious few here to work with.
Twin Earth Records brings us their offering from Heavy Traffic that was purportedly recorded “live to tape” over the course of a March 2016 weekend. Ian Caddick and Tav Palumbo had recorded five albums of material in the two years previous to moving to Brooklyn, New York in 2015, intent on putting a band together to focus on playing live. Two months later this was the result.
First thing I gotta say is the vocal mix is a little too over-saturated and echoplexed to be able catch most of the lyric content on first listen. Leaning heavy on psych rock, combining elements of noise, doom, punk, and shoegaze, most of the songs move along at a tempered slower pace until “Three Stigmata” when the staccato mixes with fills galore lending to a faster pace and listenability that has been missing until. “Medicated Bed” also has a faster pace complete with guitar solos brought into the forefront making this the one I kept going back to as the standout. The bonus song with the release seemingly reflects on two members referred to as White and Green on the band’s Facebook page, presumably Ian and Tav, clocking in as one of the longest songs offered and goes back to the slower tempoed stoner tromp of the first half of this record. The track listing needs to have a smoother flow in and out as they demonstrated they could do with “Acid Sweater” running smooth as glass into “Broth Drain”. We’ll see with the progression of these guys. If they are as prolific as reported, this should be the first of much to come and I hope the polishing continues until it is refined as they find the balance in the vocal mix so the words conveyed are easier grabbed. Seeing Heavy Traffic Live would be the venue to get the full affect in my opinion of this solid debut on Twin Earth Records. If you like your Traffic “Heavy,” this is release is for you!
2016 has been a frustrating year musically, but in the best of ways. The amount of extremely talented bands and their material made it literally impossible to keep track of everything. The overall situation further leads me to skip my usual “Best Of” list because of the wealth of great material from a near-endless array of artists, made absorbing it all a daunting task. That said, two releases managed to separate themselves enough to tie for No.1 Album of the Year. The first is Hill’s magnificent self-titled offering. Let me tell you about the other right now…..
Let me now introduce you to (The) Odd Couple. What makes this Berlin duo so enthralling? Everything. Rarely has a full band, much less a duo cover so many musical genres in one place and make it work. At the heart of the machine seems to be a love of 60’s garage and psych, but narrowing down to just that would be a travesty. Throughout each of the fourteen tracks on display, the listener will encounter the aforementioned styles along with: 70’s pop, Krautrock, Grunge, New-Wave, Pyschobilly and yes, even more. By all rights, such a sonic concoction should be a disjointed mess, but that is where Odd Couple shines brightest. They have somehow taken a massive cache of influences and melded them together seamlessly and without any smug, artsy pretense. Amazing.
“Flugge” is a bold, refreshing statement in the world of underground rock. To sit and absorb it is to feel a deja-vu whisper gently in your ears as you simultaneously travel down freshly trodden paths. It deserves any and all accolades it will hopefully receive and is the best that this year’s many musical excursions has brought to me.
(Extra thanks must to go out to Cargo Germany’s A&R rep for the band, Isabel. She went above and beyond in helping me obtain the record and providing information about it. All labels should be this classy.)
Aqualamb Records – Release Date – January 13th, 2017
Limited to 500 Copies – All Pre-Orders come with a 100-page Book
From the moment the wheels of this ‘big maroon van’ hit the ground with the first chord from this Columbus OH band’s latest release “In Tensions,” it’s obvious their self-stated mission is true; they are out to destroy everything.
Four seconds into debut track “Go West” Jeff Martin shows his vocal prowess drawing you into their signature time stamps, letting his voice wrap around you like a latex glove. Lo-Pan instantly takes you on a sonic ride this stellar EP represents from start to finish. “Sink Or Swim” shifts gears into a faster spin on the choices we all face when it comes to ‘finding our way’. We get a second to catch our breath during the distorted bass fade-in of “Long Live The King” before the hammering power chords bring the sonic dissonance Lo-Pan has established as a staple throughout their prolific career. “Alexis” lets Jeff go full-range vocally and shows the influence of Tool with the spiraling delivery that is so compelling throughout this release. “Pathfinder” is the final offering and continues along the road we have been traveling as the title suggests and is the kind of track to make the biggest stoner/sludge fan squirm in satisfaction. Plenty of sustain, delay and phase shifting to almost induce a head rush or two. Well worth the wait and makes me want even MORE! Highly recommend!
Has any one country ever supported hard rock and heavy metal like Japan? I certainly don’t think so. Since Sabbath crawled out from the primordial ooze, they’ve been there, generation after generation. This would make one think they should be much bigger players in the genre(s) considering their love for it, but that has not really been the case. What they have brought to the table though, has been excellent and underrated. From early hard-hitters such as Blues Creation and Shinki, Speed and Glue, on through to Loudness and E-Z-O, right to today’s rippers like Eternal Elysium and Church Of Misery, they’ve proven they have the goods. That now brings us to Sithter, the latest entry I’ve heard from the Land Of The Rising Sun. Does it measure up to its pedigree?
The answer is, by and large, yes. Rather than taking the more direct, Sabbathized path of C.O.M., “Chaotic Fiend” hops on the road straight to Louisiana and the NOLA sound. Throughout the nine tracks present, there is some serious EyeHateGod (and to a lesser degree, Down) worshiping taking place, and I do stress serious. Snarling, surly vocals, punishing riffs and a slow, grinding pace. The band has it all down quite solidly.
For better of worse, this all means that the band’s strengths are simultaneously their weaknesses. The record is just too close to E.H.G. more often than it really should be. I have to admit the vocals are a bit of a challenge for me as well; a little more diversity and mood from them would really elevate matters.
Wrapping things up, Sithter has delivered a solid effort with “Chaotic Fiend”, no doubt. I think time will address some of the issues brought up here, but until then, this is a good album you should check out.
For an artist, it must take a certain amount of fortitude and confidence to decide to ply your trade in the world of instrumental rock. The genre has long been infamous for being over-populated by under-baked efforts, which in turn has caused many to no longer even bother to give anything from it a fair shot. I’m leery of it myself, but keep checking in because I know something stellar will eventually rise atop the heap from time to time, like The Blue Sunshine Family Band.
Forget being impressive for a debut, BSFB’s first effort is impressive period. Whether it’s natural ability and/or endlessly honing their craft, the band already has a firm grasp on how to do, what they do. With six number-only tracks all clocking in around eight minutes, they are wildly successful at holding one’s interest straight through. Building off of a seasoned stoner foundation, the record pulls from a multitude of metallic resources to add color and variation the proceedings- The southern swagger of C.O.C., an endless supply of wicked guitar melodies via Thin Lizzy, and the propulsive, crunchy, doominess of Serpent Throne. On the “IV” and “VI” songs, you can add groove and speed into the mix as well. There’s more I could reference, but I’ll leave something for those reading this to discover.
Bottom line here folks, The Blue Sunshine Band, both the group and record are really, really excellent. When vocals would appear to actually hurt what you’re doing, you can be pretty damn sure you’re onto something. A definite “Best Of” come year end in a few weeks, and arguably the best instrumental offering for 2016 overall to boot.