Music From The Labyrinth: Part One – Minotauro Records…

Music From The Labyrinth: Part One

By Andy “Dinger” Beresky

 

 So….I was record shopping in lovely downtown Northampton one fateful afternoon, and ran into this dude Glenn, who works for the Italian label Minotauro Records.  I’m not sure exactly how his collaboration with the label came to pass, though we got to talking music: cool bands from New England we’d both been big on, such as Ogre, whose back catalog was re-released by Minotauro Records, incidentally.  At any rate, all good things come to an end, and when Glenn and I parted ways, we planned on staying in touch, and he said he’d send me some stuff to review over at Taste Nation LLC.  Well, as it turned out, he sent me quite a bit of material to review!!  I was thinking of different ways to approach this, maybe figure out what the priorities are, see if any of the writers wanted to take on some of the work.  It seems that everyone else here at Taste Nation always has a ton on their plate, and this was kind of my pet project, so I decided that I’d just forge ahead and do a feature on Minotauro, and basically write mini-reviews of each of the albums that Glenn sent me.

Now, that’s STILL a lot for me to take in and process, and like a lot of my creative endeavors, it really took on a life of its own.  With that being said, I’ve decided that I’m going to break down the feature into two parts, with a longer biographical element on Minotauro in the second part of the feature.

Without further adieu, strap on your shields folks, as we take a trip into the labyrinth, the lair of the Minotaur, in search of our proverbial Daedalus within the dark depths of Italian underground doom and metal….

Where the Sun Comes Down_Album Cover

 

Where The Sun Comes Down – Welcome

Minotauro  – 2017

This collaboration between Death SS founding member Thomas Hand Chaste and Alex Scardavian, who played with Paul Chain, has some of the more interesting cover art I’ve seen of late.  It looks like a child’s drawing done with magic markers, though it’s none-the-less intriguing, especially given the reputation of the folks involved.  This led me to reach for this album first and foremost.  What I really liked about it was that it bucked all cliches of metal and doom in general, and I had no idea what to expect when I pressed play on the album.  Would it be similar to Paul Chain’s material post Death SS?  Even then, Chain’s projects and various solo albums haven’t all sounded the same, and have explored various styles and aspects of his personality.   Would Where The Sun Comes Down opt for a more psychedelic or space rock sound?

It’s actually pretty close to what I’d initially expected: ultra raw cult doom with dramatic, emotional, over-the-top vocals, noisy, blown out Sabbathian riffing, off the cuff guitar and saxophone solos, a sparse yet powerful rhythm section, and haunting keyboards, all delivered with a heavy emphasis on atmosphere, theatrics and the bizarre.  I don’t pull any punches and I’m not going to do so here either: it’s called “cult doom” for a reason.  It’s not going to appeal to everyone, and it’s not meant to.  The vocals alone are a hard sell, as they’re all over the place and quite frequently strained and/or out of tune.  That’s not a deal breaker for me personally, as they have moments when they really shine, and they’re a vital part of the whole experience.  They add a flair for the avante garde, and they make me feel like I’m living in a horror movie for the duration of the album.  This is the perfect soundtrack for October….

Grand Delusion_Supreme Machine

Grand Delusion – Supreme Machine

Minotauro – 2017

Sweden’s The Grand Delusion play pretty traditional doom metal with a focus on the metal.  Blending Black Sabbath, NWOBHM and 80’s metal influences with Wino inspired biker blues licks, big stoner tones,  and just enough experimentation with psychedelic sections and additional instrumentation to keep things interesting.  The vocals also offer up a nice cross-section of influence and variety, from the full throated bellows of the first two tracks, to the Iron Maiden-esque epicness of the two-part “Trail Of The Seven Scorpions” and the operatic choir chants of “Imperator.”

This is a really solid release.  I like the production a lot – it’s fairly clean and polished, and the sheer variety of cool guitar tones and well written compositions benefit from this approach.  There’s a lot of more mid to uptempo sections, which keeps it from feeling like a slog.  They’re not reinventing the wheel by any means, as that’s a tough feet with doom.  However, if you’re bored of the same monotonous stoner doom fare, this is both a bit more nuanced and upbeat.  It wears its influences well, giving them all a chance to shine and never sounding merely derivative.

Kroh_Altars

Kroh – Altars

Minotauro – 2017

 

Birmingham UK occult doom crew Kroh also bring a refreshing take to the table with their second album.  With a new lineup and new vocalist, Polish born Oliwia Sobieszek, they craft a captivating, dark and mesmerizing take on traditional doom metal.  This sound revolves heavily around the powerful and ever prominent vocals and slim song arrangements.  None of the tunes overstay their welcome, all clocking in at under the five minute mark or so, which is a mixed blessing.  In one sense, it makes the album stand out, a concise statement trimmed of all excess.  On the other hand, sometimes the lack of expansive parts makes the songs feel stifled and abrupt.  There’s also the impending sense of predictability when all the songs follow a similar format.  I personally like a bit of decadence here and there, and I certainly like variety.  It’s the spice of life, as a wise woman once sagely stated.  With all that being said, this is a great record, and makes ample space for improvement on future albums.

It’s worth noting that the guitar sound on this album is one of the meanest and most distinctive I’ve heard in recent years.  It’s got that massively distorted, “swarm of bees” hyper-fuzz going on, and it  also retains much of the notes clarity rather than just becoming a blur of notes.  This alone makes this one worth a listen,  just hearing those righteous, crushingly oppressive guitar riffs coupled with the haunting vocals.

Ufosonic Generator_The Evil Smoke Possession

Ufosonic Generator – The Evil Smoke Possession

 Well, once again, this is totally not what I was expecting based on the name, illustrating the old adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover.  I was expecting something a little more space-y, of the more cosmic doom variety, and that’s simply not the case. Ufosonic Generator play pretty straightforward stoner metal, complete with Garcia inspired vocals, uptempo songs with righteous boogie breakdowns, a rock solid rhythm section, and scorching guitar solos.  The songs are a bit paint by numbers – you’re not going to get many surprises, and the influences are the usual suspects: Black Sabbath, Kyuss, Dozer.  You get the idea; it’s a tried and true one.

I dig what Ufosonic Generator are doing on this album.  Its approach is both charming and disarming, just four peeps really going for that proverbial “it”, with songs served meat and potatoes style, lean and mean.  There’s certainly some standout tracks with killer riffs going on throughout.  I’m not going to spoil the magic by giving you the play-by-play, song-by-song analysis.  You’re going to have to do the heavy lifting and figure out for yourself which songs make your mind soar and your booty shake.

Funeral Marmoori_The Deer Woman

Funeral Marmoori – The Deer Woman

Italy’s Funeral Marmoori have a classic doom sound with a 70’s horror tinged vibe, thanks largely to the excellent usage of Farfisa organs, which make them sound like a more evil version of Deep Purple or Uriah Heep at times.  It’s cool to hear a band that has such an intense interplay between the guitars and keyboards, just like the days of old.  They wear some of their other influences on their sleeves, a bit of Saint Vitus styled gonzo guitar solos, some vocal mannerisms reminiscent of Lee Dorrian’s work in Cathedral, and of course a heavy debt to all things Paul Chain.  Hell, they even cover a Death SS song, “Profanation.”

One of the things I really like about this album is the way that the vocals alternate between sounding more theatrical and more psychedelic.  Similarly, there’s excellent variation in the guitar parts: sometimes we’re treated to righteous Sabbath-inspired riffs, other times more otherworldly explorations and introspective moments.  The thing that really makes this one work for me is the rhythm section – the busy bass and drum work keep things moving forward.  The Deer Woman never gets dragged down into the gloomy realms of excessively downtempo dirges, while the music always retains its evil edge.  Highly recommended for fans of cult and traditional doom metal.

Ancient Spell_Forever in Hell

Ancient Spell – Forever In Hell

Los Angeles’ Ancient Spell bring something much different to the table, with a decidedly more modern take on doom metal.  It’s really telling that they list Death, Slayer and Lamb Of God as influences, because they bear more resemblance to these bands than Black Sabbath or Saint Vitus.  The vocals in particular are more on the death metal end of the spectrum, harsh growls and drastic screams with dark and misanthropic themes.  The guitars definitely utilize those chromatic style intervals that Slayer famously made into their trademark, and alternate between a thrash chug and a doom groove.  Though the tempos can get pretty quick for a more doom influenced band, they never approach anything near the breakneck tempos associated with either thrash or death metal.

in keeping with the thrash tradition, this is a pretty short and sweet album, clocking in at under 40 minutes.  That’s a good thing, as there’s not a ton of variety.  It’s interesting to see a band bring together such diverse influences, and this feels like an album where they’re trying to figure out how to make all of those influences come together into something coherent.  While it certainly never lacks in that department (their sound is fluid and polished, and never sounds forced), I think they have a lot of room to grow and try other things.  I’d love to see them incorporate some of the aforementioned faster parts, some death or black metal styled tremolo picking, some super slow doom bridges and breakdowns.  Forever In Hell seems like a great jumping off point for a band that has lots of room to grow and develop.

 

Tony-Tears-Follow-the-signs

Tony Tears – Follow The Signs of The Times

Wow, what an opening to an album!!  This one starts off with a brief intro that could straight up be a Goblin track that’s part of a D’Argento soundtrack.  It nails that sound with a combination of synth washes, blurps and appergiated chords, overlaid with creepy, demonic voices.  From there, we’re treated to more cult, esoteric doom in the traditional Italian style – darkly dramatic vocals reminiscent of King Diamond, 70’s metal riffs, ever present keyboards and a battering ram rhythm section of bass and drums.  True to form, they even cover a Paul Chain song.

I really dig on the production job here.  For me personally, cult doom has to have just the right production: grimy and cavernous, yet with enough clarity to let each individual instrument shine.  Follow The Signs of The times showcases exactly how this is pulled off.  I also really enjoyed the three shorter tracks (intro, an interlude, and an outro) that pull off that Italian horror soundtrack vibe so convincingly.  It’s always great to hear a band so refined in their craft!  Apparently Tony Tears started off as a solo outlet for Antonio Polidori, though he has since added a full band of backing and touring musicians, and I must say that I’m impressed with the results.

My Silent Wake_Damnatio Memoriae

My Silent Wake – Damnatio Memoriae

 Hailing from England, My Silent Wake are another band in the world of doom with decidedly modern influences, most noticeably of the death metal/goth metal variety.  However, that ain’t the end of the story.  There’s also a modern progressive slant to the songwriting and arrangements that keeps things fresh and dare I say, lively?  Take the intro to the song “Highwire” for example, with its bouncing bassline and bursts of jazzy, dissonant chords.  The album is loaded with tons of tempting little musical moments like this, and it makes for a rather refreshing listen.

Basically, if you’re into The Peaceville Three….you’re going to like this.  I’m generally not into the more goth doom bands like Paradise Lost, Anathema, and My Dying Bride.  I do like this album by My Silent Wake, as it’s got a lot of variation, tons of twists and turns.  The keyboards add a nice texture, it ‘s got a clear production, some strategic usage of guest musicians, and they’ve clearly got the chops.  Fans of the bands I’ve mentioned should give this a swing, it’s rather righteous in its ambition and scope of vision.

Misantropus_The Gnomes

Misantropus – The Gnomes

 Oh cool, another album with some truly bizarre and iconoclastic cover art, this one a simple cartoon looking drawing of what I’d assume to be a trio of green gnomes.   I’ve talked earlier about the lack of longer numbers in discussing the other albums, and although this Misantropus album is rather short on the whole, tracking in at just above 35 minutes, it’s only four songs.  So….we’re treated to a 9 and a half minute opening track and closer pushing the 13 minute mark.

http://www.minotaurorecords.com/shop/cd/misantropus-the-gnomes-copy/

These guys are obviously into the occult, as the song titles indicate. “The Gnomes (Ariel)”, “The Salamander (Mikhael)”, “Undines (Gabriel)” and “Elis (Raphael)” all connect an  elemental spirit to the corresponding archangel for each of the Greek elements: earth, fire, water, and air.  It’s obviously some kind of concept album, or ritual invocation – only the creators, an Italian duo, would know for certain.  It definitely creates an air of mystery and intrigue.  Musically, it’s an equally odd piece, consisting mainly of a variations on one stripped down guitar and bass riff with a trance-like drum beat.  There’s a guest guitar solo on the second track, and some cool ambient synth passages that bookmark the beginning and end of the album, and zero vocals.  Their stripped down instrumental approach levies them in my eyes as the Karma To Burn of Italian cult doom.

Once again, this is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.  It’s extremely monotonous, with very few changes, even from song to song.  And while this may sound boring to some, and honestly left me pretty non-plussed initially, I found myself out humming those riffs in my head as I went out and ran my errands today.  There’s something rather captivating and enchanting about them.  If this sounds like your kind of jams, hey….I’d encourage you to give it a listen.

Additional Links to Minotauro Records:
http://www.minotaurorecords.com/https://
www.facebook.com/minotaurorecords/
https://minotaurorecords.bandcamp.com/

Label Logo 2


Bell Witch “Mirror Reaper” Album Review + Stream…

Bell Witch

Mirror Reaper – Double CD // DD

Profound Lore Records – released October 20, 2017

Reviewed by Terry “The Ancient One” Cuyler

Hello everyone this is  The Ancient One and I want to tell you about a new album I came across just recently called Mirror Reaper by the Seattle based duo BELL WITCH. Founded in 2010 by Drummer/Vocalist Adrian Guerra and Bassist/Vocalist Dylan Desmond, BELL WITCH nearly came to an end. Unable to continue due to his struggle with alcohol and meet  contractual obligations, Dylan Desmond had to make the heartbreaking decision to release founding member Adrian Guerra and replace him with Jesse Shreibman, of the grind-core band Transient.  The two of them had been trying to keep the duo together in its original incarnation but were unable to do so because of Guerra‘s increasing addiction.  Alcoholism is motherfucker of a disease, with a mind of its own. On May 17, 2016, Adrian Guerra passed away in his sleep from heart failure while Mirror Reaper was being recorded.

For those unfamiliar with Bell Witch, the Duo occupies a special place in the metal scene as they rely on nothing more than bass, drums, and vocals to create their haunting funeral doom sound. The best way I am able to describe what they do is to imagine having nothing but black paint and a goal of painting a picture leaving no part of the canvas untouched by the paint forcing the artist to rely on texture to create the negative and positive spaces that make up an image. While many musicians can do this with sound to a point, BELL WITCH’s Dylan Desmond and  Jesse Shreibman have taken it to the next level on there 83 minute single track album Mirror Reaper.

Band Pic

As with past albums BELL WITCH’s Mirror Reaper is a continuation of that which is ghostly. After reading an article about the new Bell Witch album in which Dylan Desmond explained that the track’s theme is about mortality and the experience of dying. Some may want to call this ambient and I suppose you could if you sat down reading a book and used it for background noise. But if you actively listen you will find it easy to picture in your head what is going on for the person on their deathbed.

With a steady mournful riff by Dylan Desmond and slow purposeful beats by  Jesse Shreibman, they sound like a mourner crying and the dying person’s fading heartbeat. When I got to the part were of the song in which Jesse Shreibman stops drumming I found it easy to envision those last moments after the heart stops as I listened to the soft crooning and the soft ghostly bass. Listening to this sort of messed me up as it reminded me of being in the room as my own father died.  While I am certain this album started out being an exercise in thought, I believe  Adrian Guerra’s death made the album a reality for  Dylan Desmond and  Jesse Shreibman that affected the end result leaving BELL WITCH fans with a monolithic masterpiece!

From BELL Witch’s Bandcamp page
“During the writing process we were devastated by the loss of our dear friend and former drummer, Adrian Guerra. In love and respect to his memory, we reserved an important yet brief section in the song for him that features unused vocal tracks from our last album. This specific movement serves as a conceptual turn in the piece, or point of reflection. We believe he would be proud of it as well.” Adrian Guerra (R.I.P.)


LOSS ‘Horizonless’ Review; Select Track Stream

LOSS
Horizonless – CD//2xLP//Digital
Profound Lore – May 19, 2017
Reviewed By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker

We are now just a day away from what is expected to be one of the most crushingly depressive releases of the year being set loose upon all. That’s right, the long awaited and oft-doubted return of the Nashville, Tennessee-based Loss is finally at hand. The unholy event would provide ample cause for celebration were it not for the sullen, bleakly depressive hopelessness the unit is so well known for providing. The lividly aural obtuseness that is brought to life, then near death, in the music of Loss is of the utmost cause for alarm. Not is it merely a semi-hellish soundtrack of bereaved emanations but it may very well be the actual house music within a damnable Hades itself.

Six years since the debut ‘Despond‘ was unleashed upon the denizens of the Earth, Loss return with the Billy Anderson-produced Horizonless via Profound Lore on May 19th. All of the prerequisite attachments are still here, ones ranging from atmospheric to funeral doom and more. But there is also a palpable, overwhelming sense of despondency reverberating through every note, Drawn out, sustained death marches into the deepest chasms of soulless emptiness, where each forcible step is one nearer to the point of no return.

Haunting, harrowing and truly horizonless for there is no light at the end of this tunnel’s descent, no momentary glimpse of anything to inspire hope. Much like a Death Row inmate’s last moments, you feel surreally out of body as your physical husk moves slowly toward its inevitable end. And this is the music most ideally meant to accompany you on that journey, on both planes as your last steps on Earth become your first taken into Eternity. The title track’s last few spoken moments perhaps put it best, put it all into perspective: “Something Is Lost..Nothing Is Gained“.

– Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker



 

 


MERCHANT ‘Beneath’ EP Review & Stream

MERCHANT
Beneath – CD//DD
Black Bow Records – Released May 12, 2017
Reviewed By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker

Black Bow Records is the label started by Conan’s Jon Paul Davis and it just released the 2-song ‘Beneath‘ from Australia’s Merchant last Friday, May 12th. It was just little over a year ago that Merchant came crashing on to the heavy music scene with their four-song debut, Suzerain. Now, vocalist Mirgy, guitarist Ben, bassist/vox Wilson and drummer Nick are back with another brutish boulder of harrowing heaviness.

The slowly unfolding first moments of ‘Guile As A Vice‘ are somewhat sedate as a fuzzy riff reverberates and plodding drums render periodic, perfectly timed strikes. Soon a pattern begins to form and from that pattern, a rhythmic roadmap comes into sight..and sound. Equally melodic and epic, things build and circulate, almost reaching a drone like point before gravelly vocals finely enter the mix. Harshly acidic, they herald a tale told from what sounds like pure vocal chord shredding severity amid semi-psyche infused atmospherics of utter dread. At over fourteen and a half minutes running time, there is a lot of transcendental sludge to be explored here for sure.

Second cut ‘Succumbing‘ is instantly more uptempo yet no less savagely brutal and battering. Taking a cue from peers like Neurosis and Yob, the track’s flurry of circulatory rhythmic pulses pull you under. The vocals undergo a turn toward a much more sinister state than the previous track while the hellish audio bog beats you into submission. Another long-player, the song maintains a constant, fevered inferno of activity on varied levels and refuses to let up for the most part. A bit of haziness seeps forth at one point as things begin to pull back in intensity, gradually getting a bit more and more minimalist. That throttling down continues and soon gives way to a cacophony of feedback and dissonance before relinquishing its hold upon your throat.

What strides Merchant has made since their critically acclaimed release last year are more than evident on the new EP, ‘Beneath‘. The sludgier vibes are prevalent and punishing of course with one of the most noticeable differences here is the change in the vocals. I am sure this newly released beatdown of blackened bereavement shall leave no listener unscathed. You can now stream it for yourself via the Soundcloud embed below if you dare.

– Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker