Review: In a world filled with an overload of bands out of nowhere, most as forgettable as their music, it is always amazing to me when a gathering of forces manages to coalesce into a force to be reckoned with and have the means combined to put their vision forth with a barrage of what has been described by this band themselves as “a genre defying mix of hard-hitting metal riffs, off-beat ska rhythms, melancholic piano, accordion, catchy female vocals, with a hint of electro” enquote. They further describe their influences as ranging all the way from Alice Cooper to Alter Bridge, from Diablo Swing Orchestra to Living Colour and even as far as Jason Becker to Lordi. Quite the range of sources to pull inspiration from and with this first full length release, they have it all and THEN SOME in the mix. Quite the build-up before I heard note one and as I was researching Ward XVI, I came across this descriptor of what I was just getting ready to devour. And it read…
“The gates of Whittingham Asylum have been struck open and for the first time in history the high security Ward XVI invites members of the public to meet face to face with the UK’s most violent serial killers. The ward’s longest-standing resident Psychoberrie, listed as the UK’S most dangerous criminal, will give an insight into her life prior to her incarceration. With assistance from medical staff Lex Whittingham and Dr. Von Stottenstein and fellow inmates Min and Jake she will tell the story of the reckless life led by herself and former partner Beardy McStumble and the narcotic induced murders that took place prior to his own decapitation. This is a sordid tale of deceit and manipulation…”
Needless to say, I was intrigued beyond description by this point and I pushed play and cranked it up, ready for what the next 63 minutes held in store and 16 tracks later…
Complete with interludes interspersed between to give further info into the tales spun as Psychoberrie regales us with a clear carry that is her weapon of vocal delivery, each song is the chapter of another as we follow Psychoberry on her road of darkness, told as only she could tell it. Opening with the sound of an old cassette recorder loaded, tape rewound, and it starts with a discussion where in we find out she has been in ‘treatment’ for two years states clearly, she is not insane with a laugh and the story begins with a progression sounding dreamlike as she tells us to ‘take her hand’ as she reminds you that she is more than you can dream along this medium tempo walk and then exactly 1 minute 10 seconds in, pace doubles as the twin guitars punch in over a twisting bass line and key flow that melts perfectly into the hyper-speed drumline as Psychoberrie bids us ‘Welcome to the show!!’ As a fast fade leads right into an almost spacey sound with cymbal washes and that ever present bass rumble gives the body underneath as the keys come up during this build-up before the pick-slide brings in the might behind ‘The Art Of Manipulation” that is an even quicker tempo than the previous and gives the perfect example of what is to be expected from this gathering of six that has created something beyond merely ‘spectacular’ here. “The Flight” is a fast-track that took me immediately to Lords Of Acid with the key-line between verses and this is done in such a manner that Praga Khan himself would be smiling ear-to-ear as Psychoberrie describes being ‘So high, so high’.
“Crystal Ball” carries an almost circus feel with the accordion progression that flows in unity with the tale that seems to be a warning from a fortuneteller, letting us know of Psychoberrie’s tactics that will take you down if you don’t pay attention. Another hyper-speed time shift just past halfway and it is seamless in execution, where ‘Hold Me’ open with a melancholy straight piano jag that let’s the soaring guitar notes and cymbal taps draw you even deeper within to catch her every word as she will ‘suffocate your soul’ and asks to hold her, because she can’t hold herself and the last minute and a half is where the rest of the band get to shine bright with the complexity and intricate weaving in and out and back and forth of each solidifies the way they fit exactly together as a band, even as the song fades out. “Blackened Heart”, “Run For Your Lives” and “Adrenochromania” further showcase the virtuosity of each band member and utilize even further their penchant of mixing as many musical ingredients together to deliver the utmost with each track, and even ‘Inner Demon’ that starts off with sole bass notes quickly coalesces into another instant classic that can stand alone apart from the story of the album, much like each track can and DOES!!
Stand-out tracks for me from this opus would have to be “Toy Box” with the accordion intro and carnival-feel and when the bridge of the songs hits with keys, guitar and vocal harmonizing, it gave me chills of the best kind. “Cry Of The Siren” is another with a touch of electro that is thick and brutal in progressions and time shift and is easily the MOST intricate composition here. And then there is the final track, seemingly the descriptor of where the name of this powerhouse configuration of souls came from and is as haunting as anything I have heard and is the absolute book-end to wrap what is a prelude of what is yet to come. Remember, this is the tale that brought us to the point of ‘two years later when Psychoberry began this diatribe. Whittingham has corroded remember??
From the gauge of this record, there is nothing but amazing things ahead for WARD XVI and I demand you help get the word out, play it for ALL around you and support them if you are granted the chance to witness this live…. Another one of those rare moments when I get to use the ‘I-X’ scale and this is one that blows off the chart with a……what else, XVI!!
The Music Factory, Battle Creek, Michigan – February 17th, 2018
Review by Eric Layhe
Photos by Eric Layhe & Terry “The Ancient One” Cuyler
Review: Speaking as a fan of Progressive Metal, this show was basically a dream come true.
On a chilly February night in Battle Creek, Michigan, a seemingly endless crowd of people representing nearly every age demographic (albeit almost entirely male) crammed themselves into a fairly small music venue for the opportunity to see a group of veritable giants of the music industry play- but more on that later. The night consisted of three musical groups, each of a different distinct sort of progressive metal. As we entered the venue, the stage was packed with instruments, including two normal-sized drum sets and Mike Portnoy’s drum kit, which is so ridiculously large it should have its own zip code and no fewer than five keyboards including a full-sized Wurlitzer Organ.
This jam-packed stage presented something of a challenge for the first act, Dark Trilogy. Dark Trilogy are an instrumental, progressive metal band from South Bend, Indiana with (rather fittingly) three members. Nevertheless, they seemed a bit cramped on the already jam-packed stage setup. That said, I have to say that they made the most of it, delivering a short but well-crafted setlist consisting mostly of shredding prog that gave each member more than enough opportunity to showcase their considerable talents, the peak of which was an excellent drum solo featuring entertaining theatrics and an impressive display with LED drumsticks!!
After a relatively quick reprieve between bands and the removal of one drum set, second act Sifting took the stage. Sifting are a Progressive Metal band from Los Angeles, California. Sifting, the touring opener, has a very radio-friendly but still proggy sound, as if Avenged Sevenfold took some songwriting lessons from Claudio Sanchez of Coheed & Cambria. From the first note, it was immediately apparent why Sons of Apollo chose Sifting to tour with them; While they are indeed a young band, they have immense talent, expertly blending complex guitar work with classically-influenced songwriting and well-executed vocal harmonies.
After the clearing of one more drum set, finally leaving enough room for a band to perform, Sons of Apollo took the stage, and they did not disappoint. For the uninitiated, Sons of Apollo is a Supergroup, comprising of former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, former Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian, Mr. Big Bassist Billy Sheehan, Former Guns N’ Roses Guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra and former Journey vocalist Jeff Scott Soto. This virtuoso pedigree made itself apparent right out of the gates with their album’s opener, “God of the Sun.” The band transformed and contorted with incredible aptitude to fit each and every song from their epic album “Psychotic Symphony”, including several covers (see below). In Sons of Apollo’s case, each member (debatably barring Portnoy) had an entire song peppered throughout the setlist to showcase their world-class talents.
Sheehan and Sherinian each had an original (and possibly improvised) solo section for each of the two, while Thal had a beefed-up cover of Henry Mancini’s famous theme to “The Pink Panther” and Soto had given himself the previously-thought-to-be-impossible feat of covering Queen. He began by mimicking the now-famous call and response schtick popularized by Freddy Mercury and then transitioned into a downright exquisite cover of Queen’s deep track “Save Me”, tastefully backed by Thal on guitar.
The aspect of the show that was most impressive was just how comfortable Sons of Apollo felt with each other on their very first tour. The entire group, even the famously stoic Derek Sherinian, were smiling like goofballs through the entire set, and were playfully joking with each other throughout the show, with special mention going to the mesmerizingly energetic Jeff Scott Soto. Most important, they were clearly having the times of their lives, and if you want to as well, do not miss Sons of Apollo on their continuing tour.
Tracklist: Moon Curser 08:26
Blood Lovers 06:37
Corpse Revival 08:26
Fucking Oath 06:12
Dear Demon 08:10
Old Hopeless 06:37
Spiritual Abuse 05:02
Grand Rites 08:48
On bandcamp the band describe their sound as, “…influences ranging from doom metal to classic rock, Dead Quiet seeks to meld melody with catastrophe as they weave through a dissonant landscape of crushing metallic riffs and somber choral musings.” Dead Quiet masterfully delivers this is high fashion with “Grand Rites”. If you recognize some of the members’ names above that is because Dead Quiet are the closest thing to a modern day “Supergroup”.
As a follow up to their first album it fits in well. They have improved sonically and sound as if they are maximizing the talents of each member while making it a cohesive and flawlessly executed throughout the 64+ minutes and 9 tracks that comprises “Grand Rites”. With their roster set, there truly isn’t a dud in this second album. Like I said before this album is an improvement over the first, they went from a good first album to a great second and sadly, more times than not, bands do the opposite due to a myriad of reasons; time constraints, label demands and just the overall pressure of the “Follow Up” from the “Big Debut”.
Keegan’s vocal delivery is certainly worth noting. The songs are packed with acid laced lyrics ranging from Politics to Religion to The Thrill of the 1st kill in closer “Grand Rites” that name a few subject matters. Keegan preaches to the listener; the concert goer. He draws the listener in to pay closer attention as it is impactful, powerful, meaningful, genuine and most important…..it fits perfectly with the band’s overall sound – a melting pot of Rock, Sludge and Metal. We are only at the beginning of 2018 and we may already have a top 3 contender!!
Current Members: Chris Kosnik – bass, vocals (currently of Monster Magnet, formerly of Godspeed and Black NASA) Bob Pantella – drums, percussion (formerly of Raging Slab, currently of Monster Magnet, Riotgod, Cycle of Pain) Finn Ryan – guitar, vocals (formerly of Core)
Previous Releases: The Atomic Bitchwax (1999) TAB-2 (2000) Spit Blood EP (2002) TAB-3 (2005) Boxriff EP (2006) TAB-4 (2007) The Local Fuzz ‘single’ (2011) Gravitron (2015)
Veterans all, referring to the members of this long-running unit, that all started as a side-project in the summer of 1999 and has since evolved into this raging storm comprised of three forces that meld seamlessly into the animal that stands before us, represented by the band’s seventh offering, “Force Field”.
Twelve songs and thirty-four minutes make up this release and is by far the strongest release yet from The Atomic Bitchwax aka TAB, bringing all of the honing, sharpening and precision born of endless touring here in the States and internationally over the last 18 years together to blast you out of your seat as never before. Having been previously described as a band that ‘specializes in high-octane, 70’s based hard rock, space rock and psychedelia’, TAB has taken that base formula from the edge of the century and brought it to the front in ALL of it’s sonic glory.
From the drum intro of “Hippie Speedball” through the histrionics of “Humble Brag“, there is no lack of bravado tinged with sheer brilliance of power chords, psycho-quick time shifts, hyper-rumbling bass lines and all of the lyrical twists and turns we have come to love and expect from TAB and tracks such as “Tits And Bones” fill that order with ease. Closer “Liv A Little” let’s those 70’s root fly high with the keyboard fills and an over-modulated vocal line that brings you to the sound and feel of what is must have been like at a T-Rex crowd with the energy that is necessary for the listeners of this century.
Two stand outs to me from this instant classic and MUST-HAVE for the long-time fans and the ones just discovering this trio are “Super Highway” with it’s phase-shifted drum intro into a high-speed jaunt with lyrics to match is one of those songs that begs to be played at full-volume and gets your heart racing alongside, trying to keep pace and would be a great track to feature as the lead off, in MY opinion. The second is “Fried, Dyed and Laying To The Side“, an instrumental romp that allows each guy to shine in their own mastery of their individual ‘weapon’ which only brightens the genius of this release.
If you were expecting something closer to a Monster Magnet record, hope you weren’t too disappointed. While the interweaving and endless touring with each band has not stopped and will more than likely not change anytime soon, The Atomic Bitchwax have proven time and again that they are their OWN entity and their finest-hour to date is upon them with “Force Field”. See ’em if they come anywhere close and convert the ‘unknowing’ in your circle.
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 – 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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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.
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:
Nate “Fetus” Phillips – Vocals
Andrew Smeltzer – Bass
Brian Greenfield – Drums
Garan Drozd – Guitars
Review: Traffic Death is certainly an interesting band name. I figured I’d dig into this bad boy while I was stuck in the passenger seat of a large suburban-type vehicle on a long road trip as I tilted my seat back for a nap. Don’t let my nap fool you, this album is heavy as fuck – I just happen to sleep incredibly well with loud abrasive music in my ears. What I can’t sleep through is shit music. It wasn’t long before I nodded off and found myself in a very non-vanilla sex dream about Miley Cyrus that unfortunately ended too soon. Whether Traffic Death’s lullabies inspired my sweet images of leather and chains and Miley, I can’t say.
So now that I’m fully awake I’m giving Dead End a more serious listen. Traffic Death describe themselves as a “high speed, violent crossover 4 piece”. I see no reason to re-invent the wheel here as they’ve nailed their sound in six words though I will elaborate later. Near as I can tell, Dead End is their 3rd exclusive release but they also have a split release with The Lurking Corpses… whoever they are (I’m going to check them out for sure).
Dead End starts out with “Spontaneous Decomposition/Nothing to See Here” which reminds me a lot of M.O.D. and Billy Milano. I hear aggressive, thrashy, unapologetic hardcore with a touch of dark humor. However, it’s not long into this ingeniously titled tune before it steps up a notch, both musically and with the vocals leaving my comparison behind moving to a more Converge-cult sound.
“Mandatory Sentence” opens with some seriously fun speed metal guitar work from Garan Drozd that I just was not expecting after hearing its predecessor. What comes next, though, caught me completely off guard. Nate Phillips rips a speed metal scream reminiscent of early Tom Araya. The rest of the track goes somewhere else but the change in direction is completely fluid.
I’m not going to track-by-track this album because the rest of it is more of the same. Clever and darkly comedic song titles perhaps over-use the “/” to translate multiple concepts. There’s a merge of, or shift into and out of, several styles. It seems to be random but if you go onto the band’s (hyperlinked) Facebook about page and read their influences and you know even half the bands, it all makes perfect sense.
My biggest complaint about Dead End is the fact that it’s only 24 minutes long. So even in waking, Dead End is a would-be wet dream cut entirely too short.
Tracklist: God of the Sun (11:12)
Coming Home (4:23)
Signs of the Time (6:43)
Lost in Oblivion (4:28)
Figaro’s Whore (1:04)
Divine Addiction (4:42)
Opus Maximus (10:39)
American Rock Supergroup featuring:
Mike Portnoy – Drums
Derek Sherinian – Keyboards
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal – Guitar
Billy Sheehan – Bass
Jeff Scott Soto – Vocal
Former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy is a man with many hats. Granted, most of those hats are as a drummer, he has many hats nonetheless. His latest project, yet another Progressive Metal Supergroup called the Sons of Apollo, may actually be his strongest. Sons of Apollo, comprised of Portnoy, fellow Ex-Dream Theater bandmate Derek Sherinian on Keyboards, former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, Mr. Big Bassist Billy Sheehan, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra vocalist Jeff Scott Soto.
Psychotic Symphony is essentially exactly what you would expect from a Portnoy excursion – it’s essentially a Dream Theater album with a harder edge. That’s not a bad thing, however. As long as you like this very distinct and often-imitated sound, you will be very pleased with this album. Solos galore, plenty of irregular time signatures, and top-notch musicianship abound.
As a slightly lesser-known name in the music business, one would expect Jeff Scott Soto to be something of a weak link in the band, but that is simply not true. Soto has a very muscular baritone that does the music plenty of justice and he is a welcome addition to the band. During the Sons of Apollo’s formative year, they sampled quite a few vocalists, such as Strapping Young Lad Virtuoso Devin Townsend and King’s X wailer Doug Pinnick, and Soto just happened to be the one to stick around.
The Production on this album is notable, being performed by band members Portnoy and Sherinian. The mix is very, very bassy, with a lot of priority being given to lower tones over higher ones. The bass is very audible and few keyboard lines go to very high pitches. Even the guitar is tuned as a baritone guitar, all the way down to B Standard tuning for any guitar players reading this. This grants the entire album significant edge and weight, allowing for a heavy groove in nearly every song. However, such a priority on lower sounds can occasionally result in the songs sounding muddled, especially in faster songs like the blistering “Lost in Oblivion”.
As usual with Progressive Metal, the longer tracks are easily the highlight — in this case, “God of the Sun” and the Instrumental “Opus Maximus”, but this whole album is a recommended listen for any and all fans of Progressive Metal. If musical self-indulgence and sheer showcases of talent is a turnoff for you, then this probably earns a skip, but if those things instead pique your interest, then you’ve probably already bought this album. Otherwise, go pick up Sons of Apollo’s “Psychotic Symphony”.
Tracklist: Follow The Holy Riff 06:44
Hobo Magic 06:48
The Poet 04:32
The World Today 06:28
Lady Of The Groove 09:27
Hobo Magic are Stoner Rock band from Noosa, Australia.
But classifying them as just stoner wouldn’t give you a true description of what you are going to hear. The band use their influences of Black Sabbath, Blues, some Jazz rhythms and at some points even Metal.
This whole album is very similar and in the sonic universe of Sabbath’s Paranoid and Master of Reality era. As you listen along you will hear it too. They stay very much in the time period and sounds that can be produced in that time.
Follow The Holy Riff Which should be subtitled “Children of the Groove”, is a groovy tune. Most of the song is spent on keeping an almost sludgy repeating riff (which might be the holy riff) with breaks in between of a melodic reverbed guitar and great slow solo. The time scale shifts continually but they never sound like they are interrupting the flow of the jam.
Hobo Magic This song is less “intense” than the last. It starts of sludgy but slowly picks up pace and becomes faster. It isn’t a heavy but still has a repeating riff and it revs up and up until the ending much like the guitar began at the start of the song. After 1:50 the jamming starts now that the almost warm up sounding beginning.
The Poet The Poet starts off very strangely in contrast to the previous two songs; there is no distortion. This song is more of a melancholy tune, there is just a slow revered riff with slow and vocals that are a little distorted making the song feel cold.
The World Today The title track is a shift from the previous and is back to the norm that the first two tracks set us up for. It is also the most Sabbath sounding sound, the shouted high(er) pitched vocals, more of a jam song with little bits of vocals. Ask a simple question… About the world today. This track straight rips!!
Frostbite This song is more like the first one; the tempo/timescale change quite a bit, and is a repeated bit with subtle changes. It even has moments that sound close to The Poet. The vocals are processed in a similar way. The song is almost eight minutes and feels like it. Kind of slow, like frostbite.
Lady Of The Groove (Favorite) This song is a LOT like “Children of the Grave” (I’m pretty sure they meant it to as well.) The song also works as a way to remind and wrap up all the previous motifs that were in the past few songs. This is a great way to wrap up the album for just that reason.
In a way they are like a band named Magma. Hobo Magic are sticking to the mythos that they have created; all about the groove, the story of the lady finding and jamming to the groove, even their Facebook is curated in a way to complement the mythos just look at their About Us page.
Like I mentioned before, Hobo Magic are descendants from that 1970-1 period of Black Sabbath and they work really well in changing it into their own thing, different riffs, story, and singing. If you are a fan of Sabbath‘s 2nd and 3rd albums then you will definitely DIG this album.
Vengeful Ascension –Vinyl // Digital Download // CD
Metal Blade Records – Released – June 23 2017
Reviewed by Mike Hackenschmidt
Line Up: Ben Falgoust/ Vocals Sammy Duet / Guitars and Vocals Zack Simmons / Drums James Harvey / Studio Bass Robert “TA” Coleman / Live Bass
December 20, 1996
GoatWhore: Just saying the name puts a smile on my face. Say it with me now: GoatWhore. Did you smile? If you didn’t I’m willing to guess you didn’t say it out loud. Maybe you’re on a bus or waiting for the doctor and afraid to be judged? Toughen up a little. PC culture would love to take our GoatWhore away. Are you going to sit back, stay silent and let them take our GoatWhore? Let me hear you! GOATWHORE!
Fuck that feels better! I sure got some dirty looks stopping through white bread America wearing my GoatWhore shirt on my way home from seeing them live at Full Terror Assault. (Check this shit out, best kept secret in American metal). Seeing GoatWhore live has been a treat each time. The energy is electric and these guys know this full well. In fact, according to their Facebook page when they recorded Vengeful Ascension, GoatWhore aspired to match the live experience as much as possible. Let me say, they 100% have the right idea. On one hand, it’s unfortunate that you simply can’t package up the energy of a GoatWhore concert so they’ll never reach this goal. On the other hand it’s fortunate you can’t simulate a GoatWhore concert because you’ll never be able to download it and that means you have to get off your ass and go see them. Each time I have, Ben Falgoust says roughly the same thing (paraphrased): “Get the album. Buy it from the merch booth, off Bandcamp or steal it off the internet BUT come out to a concert and support the band.” So just what are we stealing off the internet?
First the cover of Vengeful Ascension depicts what I believe to be their rendition of Lucifer, having fought his way back from the depths of hell and risen to the earth, clutching the sun and marking it with some sort of magic symbol. He appears to be sucking the energy out of it and into himself no doubt to power himself for impending battle. This imagery seems to hold true to the theme of the album. Straight from their Facebook page, the following is what they intended the album to be all about. I feel compelled to directly quote Falgoust, his words eloquent and clear:
“There’s that whole idea of Lucifer being the anti-hero. He’s cast out from this place in Heaven to the depths of nothing. He keeps trying to ascend to the top again but no matter what, there’s always this significant force trying to destroy him at any point and banish him back to Hell. If you look at it from an everyday aspect in life, it’s the idea of people, hitting the bottom of the barrel or you know, things just aren’t going right in life… emotion plays a huge part in how people react. Whether it’s based on love or hatred or sadness or whatever, there’s always an aspect of emotion that drives people to an extent. So the whole idea of a ‘Vengeful Ascension’ is built on being at the bottom, working your way to the top, and realizing along the way that there’s other facets to the journey aside from just pure retribution. Within negativity there can exist a positive angle as well.”
I would have needed to write a 10,000 word essay to convey this concept. And for this idea alone I would buy this album and use it as a theme to my rise.
Musically speaking, Vengeful Ascension is very similar to what GoatWhore has been offering up for the past 17 years. They somehow manage to blend elements of several different sub-genres together in order to create their own unique sound. Wikipedia lists GoatWhore as “Blackened Death Metal”, whatever that means. GoatWhore’s Facebook page list them simply as “Metal”, which I feel is more accurate. Album to album, track to track we get emphasis on different sub-genres. Vengeful Ascension leans toward black more so than any.
Track 2, “Under the Flesh, Into the Soul” has elements of speed metal yet mysteriously sounds like something that might have come out of Dimmu Borgir’s playbook. This is one of my favorite tracks on this album and these jerks have not deviated from the practice of giving the most complicated titles to the earworms. Try yelling out “Under the Flesh, Into the Soul” between songs next time you see them live. As if to prove my point, “Mankind Will Have No Mercy” shows up later on the album again with that speed metal feel that I can’t get enough of. This one probably has the least blackness on the album.
They follow this up with the title track, “Vengeful Ascension”. Again, this track is heavy in the black metal but thankfully not without a slightly off-key melody. Later tracks, “Abandon Indoctrination” and “Those Who Denied God’s Will”, are structured very similarly. It allows the track to keep that black metal feel without being boring.
Where the “Sun is Silent” is a slower paced track, thankfully the only one of its kind on Vengeful Ascension. I’ll admit my bias right now; I want to spend my live GoatWhore experience in the pit. I’m getting a bit old so one or two slow ones is a welcome breather. I really don’t have time for any more than that.
In summation, Vengeful Ascension is another great GoatWhore album. The band wants you to hear it and it sounds to me like they don’t really care how. The one caveat is that you go out to the shows. I think that’s a pretty fair deal. For those who just aren’t in the right geographical area or for those who aren’t in a financial position: Go back and review the Falgoust quote above and use it as motivation to bring yourself into a better position where you can afford to get out to a show or maybe plan that trip to the festival you’ve always been dreaming of… where you’re sure to see GoatWhore… and maybe pick up a shirt too.
Riding Easy Records – Release Date September 29th 2017
Reviewed by Andy “Dinger” Beresky
Thomas V Jäger – Guitars & vocals
Esben Willems – Drums
Mika Häkki – Bass
I don’t write many reviews of actual doom albums, for good reason. It’s a surprisingly complicated subject, not to mention a very personal one. The whole stoner doom “genre” has a rather rich history, which through inexplicable luck, I’ve been privileged enough to play a small part in. Like any other “genre” (and I use the word very loosely), it’s tough to pinpoint its exact birth, the point where it all started. There are obviously precursors, though for me, the first real groundbreaking record of the genre was Sleep’s Holy Mountain. And what exactly made it so groundbreaking? It was such a convincing replica of the Black Sabbath model, condensed into a power trio, that even Black Sabbath said that Sleep did it best. Perhaps you’ll already see where I’m going with this. Stoner doom isn’t generally about innovation and originality, unless you’re YOB. It’s more about the VIBE, man….
Sleep once again pulled off a landmark album with Jerusalem/Dopesmoker, which was innovative only in that it pushed the limits of length and repetition to their logical extreme, eschewing traditional songwriting structures in favor of elements from classical composition and Eastern motifs. Perhaps most importantly, it established the importance of unique tones and massive low end above all else. It’s largely unimportant from a critical perspective that the album is so monotonous – the repetition actually works in its favor, whereas with other genres, it would not. Dopesmoker simply punishes, relenting only in shorter, quieter sections.
Other groundbreaking albums in the genre followed suit – Acid King pretty much perfected the combination of fuzzed out post-Sabbath riffs and ethereal vocals on Busse Woods. Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone pushed the limits of production to the very extreme, with spaced, blown out vocals, hyper fuzzed guitar, unearthly effects and massively distorted bass. I often deride this album as my least favorite of the Electric Wizard catalog, sheerly because it doesn’t sound GOOD. However, that was never the point. It doesn’t sound like anything else that came before it, and that’s why it’s so important. I remember the first time I heard that bass burst in with that massive riff from “Vinum Sabbathi”, and my jaw literally dropping in disbelief. Nothing had ever sounded like this up to that point. Nothing. Sure, Witchcult Today sounds much better, Black Masses has much better songs….and Dopethrone will always hold a special place in my heart. When you get into these groups, there’s only a couple ways you can get out….
There’s a few other landmark albums I’ll reference for context – Warhorse released As Heaven Turns To Ash, offering a sound that branched into death metal territory, utilized more dynamics and pushed the extremes to which a guitar can be downtuned. Despite their sole album, they’re always going to be fondly remembered as the band that blew Electric Wizard off the stage when they ventured to our lovely continent on their first American tour. Around the same time, Sloth borrowed Electric Wizard‘s gear and somehow unveiled a real corker of an album that seemed to stop both time and space in the wake of its gravitational field. Goatsnake dropped a couple key albums around the turn of the millennium, matching big tone with accomplished vocals and making Sunn 0))) amps a household name and a much valued commodity. A little later down the line, The Sword’s main achievement was in marketing and promotion, though they did introduce faster tempos and broke away from the established power trio format, utilizing NWOBHM inspired harmonies. Conan pushed the limits of volume and heaviness with their first release, issuing forth a single-minded and monolithic statement of intent. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats injected sugar coated Beatles-eque harmonies into their psych-doom, and frankly, also changed the face of marketing by deliberately cultivating an air of mystery, concocting a lovely yet bogus legend around their origins, and then initially refusing to play live. This combination resulted in massive hype.
Of course, there’s also the first Black Pyramid album (full disclosure: I am a member of), which for some inexplicable reason made quite a splash at the time. I don’t know – I just tried to draw influence from these bands, and I also tried to write good, brutal songs that mix things up in terms of tempo and style. I wrote the lyrics to be evil in a way that I didn’t think evil was fully explored in the genre. That’s it. It wasn’t rocket science or anything, and I’ve honestly never fully understood the appeal. I guess it just hit the right spots at the right time.
Enough ruminating on the past, let’s fast forward to the present. It’s 2017, stoner doom is somehow still a thing, and Monolord is the band of the movement. They are a Swedish trio and their bassist was previously in the grind outfit Rotten Sound, whom I rather like. The other two were previously in Marulk, whom I’ve never heard. I suppose that doesn’t matter all that much, as they’re in Monolord now, and I’m writing about them.
What can I say about Monolord? How do they contribute to the landscape of the genre? Well, first off, their name is an excellent description of their sound. Secondly, they’re very obviously influenced by most of the bands I’ve listed above, with the obvious exception of The Sword. There’s some serious Sleep, Electric Wizard, and Acid King worship going on, so if you dig those bands, I don’t see any reason you’d write this off. Thirdly, they’re a relatively young band, though not green by any means. Their first album was released in 2014, and they’ve had an impressive array of releases since. A single here, an EP there, a sophomore album in 2015; they’re certainly staying busy and making a name for themselves. Their sound has stayed pretty consistent from their first release, and it’s everything that you’d want and expect from a good stoner doom band – downtuned, fuzzy guitar interspersed with trippy effects and bursts of feedback, huge bass tones, spaced out vocals, and a rock-solid drummer holding it down underneath all that precious noise. They tend to stretch song lengths upwards of ten minutes at times, though I’d be hard pressed to define what criteria differentiates their decision to keep a song shorter or to extend it. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say they just ride out the riffs that they really, really like to play, and this lends an authentic, organic vibe to what they’re all about. That’s vitally important in a genre that’s so inherently derivative.
If anything, I’d say that the consistency has been Monolord’s strongest suit up to this point. They haven’t made many efforts to tread new ground, and up until, they haven’t really felt the need to. Their second album, Vaenir, is a little more polished than the debut, and this was exactly what they needed to do – double down on what’s obviously working. The Lord of Suffering 10″ showcased a little more maturity in the songwriting department, and it’s still exactly what you’d expect. This brings us up to Rust, where they’ve thrown out everything that’s come before, re-written the proverbial book and drastically redefined who they are as a band.
I’m just kidding, none of that is true. Any one of the songs on Rust could have comfortably fit on a prior release. That’s by no means a bad thing – I’ve already touted the consistency of their artistic vision. The subtle though obvious shift this time around is that they’re beginning to make more use of the studio to explore more textures and sounds, and it makes for delicious little surprises interspersed between gargantuan riffs. After opening the album with two pretty straight forward songs, the title track initiates with a haunting organ intro that drives the catchiness of the vocal hook home. Once the riffs do actually drop, it makes for an extremely effective counterpoint. It’s a seemingly little thing, and it makes a whole world of difference. This is my favorite track on the album, and I think it’s the best song they’ve written to date.
They follow this up with “Wormland”, an instrumental with slower, more deliberate riffing that takes a stark turn once again into more melodic territory, with a most triumphant, transcendent lead guitar line once again surprises by finishing up with a violin echoing the same melody. “Forgotten Lands” once again surprises us by making ample usage of its near 13 minute run time, detouring into a full-blown psychedelic breakdown mid song, with a delightfully wonky guitar solo and more exotic, modal guitar work. The final song, “At Niceae”, basically utilizes a false ending. It’s an otherwise standard track for Monolord, except that the riffs fade out, leaving us with feedback. I thought the album was over, and then an acoustic guitar kicked in, overlaid with some heavily echoed vocals and a sorrowful melody. It’s a great conclusion to a well executed album.
As I stated earlier, there has been a maturity inherent in the development of the band, and it’s firmly showcased on Rust. It’s not like they’ve gone full prog or anything – they still do what they do best, which is just heavy, zonked to the nipples doomliciousness. There is simply an increased emphasis on melody within the songwriting itself, while retaining the heavy, trippy sound that’s made a name for them. As far as how it fits into the continuum and tradition of the genre? Well, they’re currently on top of the game. Electric Wizard’s last album was far from their best work; it’s most likely their weakest. Veterans like Acid King and Goatsnake are only sporadically active. The Sword have a full-blown musical identity crisis on each album. If Sleep actually drops a new album, that will be a game changer based on the strength of the one song they’ve recorded since their reunion. Since for some inexplicable reason, there’s still a lot of interest in this sound, it leaves a lot of room at the top for more established bands that aren’t quite stoner royalty yet, like Windhand and Cough, as well as newcomers who are able to make a name and get some momentum behind them, like Monolord and Vokonis.
In closing, I’m continually perplexed at the longevity of stoner doom. Other genres that are so pigeonholed and overspecialized have only occupied a single moment in musical history before they’ve been forced to evolve or become redundant and obsolete. You can’t really call it a trend – trends quickly rise and fall within the realm of heavy music, though doom’s rise in prominence has been slow, steady, and continual. Indeed, there are those who have already evolved beyond their humble roots, bands like High On Fire, Elder and YOB. What is it about turning up really loud, tuning down really low, and aping Black Sabbath that’s had such a lasting, overarching appeal? Is it that musically, it digs right to the very roots of metal, the birthplace of all things heavy? Is it some primal, ritualistic element buried deep within the collective human subconscious? Is it an attempt to identify with, and thereby transcend the darker aspects of human nature? Some kind of catharsis for our more socially unacceptable emotions and fantasies? Once again, I don’t really know. I can tell you that even I’m not immune to its perpetual pull – even though I’m bored with the more common cliches associated with the genre, I’m such a sucker for a huge, over-amplified Sabbath riff. In that regard, Monolord has delivered the goods in spades. As always, my brain jumps right head to “what are they doing to do next?” It’s a fair question even now. Will they continue down the path of predictable consistency, with a pragmatic and gradual approach to change, or will they choose to truly branch off into the outer limits, returning to us with some unique permutation of psychedelic doom-inspired mayhem that will blow our minds like the forebearers of the genre did before them?