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?
Drums – Ryan Aubin (Sons of Otis)
Guitars – Greg Dawson (Sons of Otis)
Guitars – Chris Hughes (Moneen)
Vocals – Doug McLarty (Jaww)
Bass – Cory McCallum (Five Knuckle Chuckle)
I just finished listening to “Temple” by a band from Canada’s Greater Toronto Area called OLDE. “Temple” by OLDE is the band’s 3rd album. With a focus on crushing riffs that has left me with ringing ears and a spinning head, I had to recover a bit before I started writing this review. Formed by guitarist/producer Greg Dawson who was inspired by a recording session with long-time stoner metal stalwarts and bandmate in Sons of Otis as well as friends in Moneen, Jaww and Five Knuckle Chuckle, Dawson (Cunter, Grift, BWC Studios) handpicked and assembled OLDE.
I loved what I heard on “Temple” but I wanted to hear what OLDE’s past work sounded like to get a better feel for the band. So I cued up their 1st 2 albums as well as “Temple,” turned out the lights, put my headphones on and had myself a musical feast. What I liked most about the music in general is how the band focuses on crushing heaviness and the almighty power of the riff with bellicose vocals and sludgy bass and heavy handed riffing .
Yet the music isn’t just a bunch heavy riff and growling vocals. Just like OLDE’s previous albums – “Shallow Graves” and “I”, “Temple” has tons of meat to it. Besides the amazing guest solo on ‘Castaway’ done by Joshua Wilkinson, and the stunt guitar work of Ryan Aubin on ‘Maelstrom,’ “Temple” is full of intense leads and hooks. Some of my favorites are ‘Subterfuge’ and ‘Now I See You’ which both have some killer riffs with drums by Ryan Aubin that sound positively tribal. The album’s title track “Temple” is an ominous bass heavy doom masterpiece that highlights the vocals of Doug McLarty.
This album will leave you feeling like you’ve been in the mosh pit with Sasquatch (The animal) as you listen to OLDE tell the world “it’s collectively full of shit.”
“Temple” was recorded mixed, mastered, and produced by Sons of Otis, guitarist/producer Greg Dawson at BEC Studio with album art by Joshua Wilkinson. The album also features a guest solo on ‘Castaway’ by Simon Talevski and a stunt solo on ‘Maelstrom’ by Ryan Aubin. “Temple” can be purchased as a Limited Vinyl LP on Bandcamp through STB Records, Limited Edition Cassette via Medusa Crush Recordings and in digital format on OLDE’s Bandcamp page.
Band Line-up: Andy Lefton-Guitar (War // Plague)
Jon Misery-Guitar (Misery)
Tom Radio-Bass (Frustration)
James Adams- keyboards
Michel (Away) Langevin-Drums (Voivod)
Rob (The Baron) Miller-Bass and vocals (Amebix)
Isle of Skye
Having grown up with MTV from it’s inception, I find that if a band really wants me to buy their album, the spectacle of a good music video is sure to catch my attention. About 2 weeks ago while watching music videos on YouTube, I stumbled across the Video “Lazarus” from their 2015 self titled debut album “Tau Cross”. Impressed by the music and the Cinematography I quickly followed the links to their Relapse Record’s Bandcamp. It was there I discovered they had a new album called “Pillars of Fire” due out in a few days. In the mean time I purchased their first album and made a note in my head to return and buy “Pillars of Fire” especially after being blown away by the debut release.
I could probably write volumes about the members of Tau Cross but will refrain as it would turn into a novel. Vocalist & Bassist “Rob (The Baron) Miller (Amebix)”, drummer “Michel-Away- Langevin (Voivod)”, “Jon Misery (Misery)”, “Andy Lefton (War//Plague)” on guitars, and “Tom Radio (Frustration) ” also on bass bring a great deal of talent and creative energy from the punk and various metal sub genres they offer up. Which is why I suspect they refuse to box themselves into a specific genre. But fear not as the unspecified genres are for my punk and metalhead friends. Tau Cross brings a musical Smörgåsbord.
“Pillar Of Fire” is an album that shows Tau Cross has a second act. While listening I found myself engrossed by the songs. While Tau Cross do not sound like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden or Dio, the lyrics, vocals and instrumentation created the same musical spectacle that drew me to them as a teen. Some may try to compare Vocalist // Bassist Rob (The Baron) Miller for his raspy voice to Lemmy Kilminster of Motörhead. While he can sing with a harsh rasp, I discovered Rob has a vocal range that at times had me asking who’s the other guy singing. These are a few of my favorites from “Pillar of Fire” – ‘Raising Golem’ a song the Golem from Jewish folklore, ‘Bread And Circuses’ which speaks of the savagery Rome descended into. Then comes the tale of the horror of being lost at sea done like a good old fashioned sea shanty ‘On The Water.’ I could go on but I am including a link to the album on Bandcamp so you can listen and buy for yourself and “The Short Stories” the band masterfully forged through the lyrics the band kindly offers up (also on their BC Page). The end result is nothing short of Amazing. This should be in your music library yesterday!! Must Buy!!
TAU CROSS, the multinational punk/heavy metal collective featuring Amebix bassist/frontman Rob “The Baron” Miller, Voivod drummer Michel “Away” Langevin, and members of cult crust outfits Misery and War // Plague, has announced their second full-length album, Pillar Of Fire, due out July 21st on CD, Double LP, and digital formats via Relapse Records.
Comments TAU CROSS on the new album: “Pillar Of Fire is the continuation of some of the ideas that were explored on our first album. This time we have managed to share the songwriting more equally and introduce some other textures to the songs. This should help to establish TAU CROSS as less of a one-off phenomenon and more of an ongoing musical collective producing our own distinctive sonic environment.”
Pillar Of Fire was recorded across three different countries and co-produced by “The Baron” in the same manner as their eponymous debut. The drums were tracked in Montreal, guitars in Minneapolis, bass in Seattle and Minneapolis, and vocals on the Isle Of Skye in Scotland.
Physical preorders and exclusive bundles are currently available via Relapse.com at THIS LOCATION. Digital preorders are available via Bandcamp HERE.
Pillar Of Fire further expands the group’s unique musical approach ranging from dark folk witchery to industrial punk metal brutalism; a moody melting pot of Killing Joke’s metallic post-punk and Motörhead’s anthemic, hard rock with flourishes of traditional instrumentation and an infusion of 16th century English mysticism. Pillar Of Fire is a musical unearthing of TAU CROSS‘ philosophical preoccupations: mythological motifs, ultra-terrestrial hypotheses, surreal, social political landscapes, and the endless search for meaning in a controlled universe.
TAU CROSS: Rob “The Baron” Miller – bass/vocals
Andy Lefton – guitar
Jon Misery – guitar
Michel “Away” Langevin – drums
Tom Radlo – bass
James Adams – keyboards
I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the Akron, Ohio band Mockingbird. I’m fairly familiar with them, as I was privileged enough to be able to share the stage with them on multiple occasions. Their sound was a progressive and melodic take on sludge/doom metal, in the vein of early Mastodon and Baroness, yet there was something so PURE about them. They were completely removed from any of the mainstream trappings that the aforementioned bands eventually came to embrace.
I don’t typically like to define artists in terms of their former bands or other projects. All the same, it’s hard to talk about High On Fire or Om if we don’t also talk about Sleep, isn’t it?? Drummer Chad Beverlin from Enhailer also plays with the criminally underrated Mockingbird, and there are enough similarities in their sound that it’s worth bringing them into the conversation.
Enhailer have a slightly goofy name, which is both endearing and problematic for me personally. I like the name, though I know how using puny names can sometimes come with a stigma or turn people off unnecessarily. Yes, I play in a band called Palace In Thunderland. People tend to either love it or hate it. It’s goofy, and funny, and fun….we hope. That’s really up to you, not us. It’s also meant to be a bit artsy, and that’s the same vibe I get from Enhailer. They’re instrumental, so we know that they’re artsy. However, this is not the more stripped down minimalism incorporated by fellow instrumentalists Karma To Burn, nor is it the hip neo-melodicism of Pelican. This is something far darker and dirtier, like if we truly pushed Mogwai into the depths of despair that they’ve always mildly flirted with.
There’s nothing demure about Enhailer. They encompass everything that I love about the American Midwest. If you’ve never been, I’d highly suggest that you spend some time there.
While Mockingbird tended to write more songs with a more traditional vocal-driven structure, the lack of vocals allows Enhailer to work more with a classical, theme and variation motif. The six songs tend to build, evolve, and intensify organically, which is what prompts me to compare them to Mogwai. The major difference is in the atmosphere itself, which is bleak, heavy and haunting, due largely in part to the guest keyboards, which loom and pulse in the background. Technically Enhailer are a trio, though it’s hard to talk about this album without bringing in the keyboards, as they truly add a nice touch. It’s also worth noting that their seem to be some form of growls in the background of a couple songs, though I think this is just for effect, and to add to the atmosphere. I don’t think there are any discernible lyrics.
I really dig the production, which manages to sound both full and never excessive. The songs themselves usually lurk at a comfortable, mid-paced tempo, and combine quieter, more introspective sections with full on dirgy doom riffs. It’s a nice blend with a unique take that firmly separates them from the rest of the post-metal pack. I get the feeling that this is really just a sampling of what Enhailer have to offer. These six songs clock in at just over 30 minutes. I’m thinking that they’ve got a lot more to say, in their typical manner of not speaking or singing a single word.
This re-issue is a welcome gift to the fans they have been accumulating since the first incarnation of California based Cirith Ungol in 1972 and have been growing ever since. If you have never experienced all that IS Cirith Ungol, let me give you a quick history lesson. Greg Lindstrom, Robert Garven, Jerry Fogle and Pat Galligan played together in the band Titanic, their first band in junior high school. With a growing desire to play heavier music like that of bands like Mountain and Grand Funk Railroad, the band parted with Galligan and reformed in 1972 as Cirith Ungol. They played original, instrumental songs before adding Neal Beattie on vocals. By 1976, Beattie had departed and Tim Baker took over vocal duties in 1976. The band was signed to Enigma Records in 1980 where they issued their first album “Frost & Fire”, composed of songs in the style they had become known for and complete with fantasy-based lyrics (particularly sword and sorcery). The band pioneered a style of music that has become known by tags as “early epic doom” and “power metal” today. Their second album, “King Of The Dead”, was released in 1984 with eight songs, followed by “One Foot In Hell” (1986) with another eight songs in much the same vein. They disbanded after their fourth album “Paradise Lost” was released in 1991 due to “…frustration with the music business” by their own admittance.
Per the band’s Facebook page, the band took their name from the mountain pass Cirith Ungol in J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy novel “The Lord Of The Rings”, as the name translates from the Elves’ native tongue as “Pass Of The Spider.” While the place in Tolkien’s book is pronounced “kirith ungol,” the band pronounced it “sirith ungol.” Surviving members of the band came together for the 2015 Frost And Fire music festival in Ventura, California, in their first public appearance as a band since 1991. There they participated in a meet-and-greet, signing items for fans and announcing that they would re-unite for the 2016 Frost And Fire event, playing their first live show since December 13, 1991. Leading us to this amazing package for those of us that have been fans of theirs from some point in the history of this iconic early thrash/doom powerhouse, as well as the new fans that deserve to have their appetite fed with the revitalized original tracks and then feast on the extras!!
With these remastered tracks, there is a new life from each, from ‘Atom Smasher’ to ‘Black Machine’, through ‘Master Of The Pit’ to the fan-favorite ‘King Of The Dead’ title track. The rich tone and ripping guitar edge are enough to literally sink your teeth into as Tim’s signature vox rip through your flesh as ‘Death Of The Sun’ and ‘Finger Of Scorn’ raise your pulse even faster. For the digipak version, there is a second version of ‘Tocatta In D’ that is done as ‘…Dm’ and has a feel of a new version. There are also more audible notes than the original, it clocks in longer and sounds like the perfect update, even if only a remix from the masters. That is followed by the theme song for the band that is as heavy now as back then but with an even cleaner sound, the title track from the first ‘Frost & Fire’. This ‘expanded’ version of the release has a remixed version of that title track from ‘Frost & Fire’ that is just incredible. The digi version has 4 live performances from 1983 and an extra “alternate mix” of ‘Death Of The Sun’ that RIPS like razors. “The King Of The Dead – Ultimate Edition” digipak CD features a full re-mastering by Patrick W. Engel at Temple Of Disharmony, the five bonus tracks, expanded packaging and a bonus-DVD! Get it NOW and take the ride again… or for the first time and share it out to any that do not know…
Battleground Records – Released date: May 12, 2017
Reviewed by Aaron “Red Beard” Wall
The Ditch and the Delta are Elliot Secrist (guitar/vocals), Cory Quist (bass/vocals), and Charles Bogus (drums).The reason I’m starting this review with these dude’s names, is because they need to be known…this band needs to be known. Hailing from Salt Lake City, Utah, to say The Ditch and the Delta are a power trio would be disrespectful. I would comfortably describe them as a three piece of destruction. Releasing their very solid debut EP titled, We Rust last year. We Rust was a small primer of what to expect from these heavyweights. Now comes Hives in Decline. A brand new full length that will be released via the formidable Battleground Records.
The Ditch and the Delta are a splendid oxymoron. Sludgy, yet clean, a touch of doom while still pristine. Metallic with a sheen, though no doubt heavy as an industrial sized machine. These three guys are an amalgamation of all of my favorite late 90.s/ early 2000’s Relapse bands. Such as Mastodon, Baroness, Neurosis and Burnt by the Sun to name a few. The Ditch and the Delta are the heaviest jazz band ever…although I’m not talking free form here. I’m talking intelligence and weight. Dissonant chords and mountains of power. I’m talking beautiful devastation.
The title track opens the record with a soft low feedback intro that builds and triggers immediate anticipation of what is coming forth…and holy fuck does it come! It comes in the form of a gloriously sophisticated riff that bounces from harmonics to thunder, from thunder to harmonics. The crushing rhythm section kicks in with a mid paced off time groove that compels instantaneously. It then slides directly in to a slow paced dirge of heaviness. Hives in Decline starts off this record with teeth.The Ditch and the Delta have an immediacy that ups the intensity and power to a level most bands fail to even come close to.
Second track, Fuck on Asphalt (streaming below) starts with a surge. A badass grooving tempo set by the animals on bass and drums, contrasted against a more melodic riff. Albeit still heavy as steel. Another thing this band does so flawlessly, is mix the beauty with the brute. The center section has amazing, layered and varied leads twisting and turning into each other. Stunning guitar work by Secrist to say the least. The duel vocals of Quist and Secrist really shine on this song. ‘Fuck on Asphalt’ is an amazingly written tune.
‘Sleeping Dogs’ is next. ‘Sleeping Dogs’ is special…very special. It begins with a sludgetasticly deep, hefty, one note riff, that pummels as it varies over the first half of this jam. As they have the whole record, Bogus and Quist serve up a heaping helping of weight. Straight to the face. Now for the second half. Oh my god…the second half. This is where the magic starts. The Ditch and the Delta start throwing boulders like they are pebbles, for the next two minutes. Bombastic riff after bombastic riff. The gazillion ton hammer of the low end, and the thunder bringing drums. Again…’Sleeping Dogs’ (streaming below) is a very, very special song.
The boys give us a little well needed respite on the fourth track ‘Dry Land’. A western tinged instrumental that lets the listener catch their breath. A chance to make sure the guns are clean. Bellies are full, and heads are clear… For the battle continues on.
‘Til Body Quits’ starts the second half of the record. This song is mostly straight forward sludge. I cant praise the rhythm section of The Ditch and the Delta enough. Kory and Charles don’t just lay the foundation, the dig the ditch, as Elliot traverses the delta. The lead in the latter half send you directly into the Egyptian deserts of pharaohs. Another heady, but filthy song that is expertly executed.
The final two tracks on Hives In Decline wrap this journey up with down tuned celebration. ‘Mud’ is a technically furious, discordant jaunt of bliss. The closing track, ‘Dread Spectacle’ leads us on our final march towards the pinnacle. With magnificently placed clean vocals (the only time on the album I might add) singing “body of mine, don’t fail me now.”
Perfect ending. Perfect record. Perfect band.
In closing, The Ditch and the Delta have written a collection of emotional, thought and mind provoking, intense songs. Real songs. Complete songs. Mr. Secrist, Mr. Quist, and Mr. Bogus…I salute you. As a listener I am awed, and as a musician, we now must all step our games up. The Ditch and the Delta have raised the bar. Do whatever needs to be done. You must find and listen to the tremendous Hives in Decline.
I love an underdog, especially one of the metallic kind. Perhaps you may be asking yourself what do I mean by that exactly? Well, I’m about to tell you and in this case, the underdog story begins back in 2010 when former members of Imagika, Dark Angel and Eldritch formed Kill Ritual. The band was one that took its traditional Heavy Metal influences and then blended and molded them into a very powerful, modernized machine. The music of Kill Ritual has always been very guitar-oriented and that’s surely due to the presence of axe-slinger Steven Rice. He has been the one singular, constant presence in the band since the very beginning. In 2012 Kill Ritual issued their debut album The Serpentine Ritual (Scarlet Records) to much critical acclaim and positive acceptance. That was followed by the 2014 effort The Eyes Of Medusa (Golden Core/ZYX) which one again garnered the band increased attention and accolades.
In 2015, changes came to the Kill Ritual camp, the inevitable types that usually become most bands at some point or another. So enter vocalist David Reed Watson (Rage Of Angels, Electric Messiah, D.N.A.) who brought his wide spectrum of emotion-infused banshee vocals to the band. Watson and Rice became the heart and soul of Kill Ritual that fueled the phenomenal 2015 album Karma Machine, an album produced by Steve and mixed/mastered by the legendary Andy LaRocque (King Diamond). The album propelled the band’s status further into the metallic community where increased awareness of Kill Ritual‘s awesomeness grew exponentially with all the right people. That brings us up to now, May of 2017 where incredible things are happening with Kill Ritual yet again. First off is they have a new album in the can titled ‘All Man Shall Fall‘, details of it will be forthcoming soon but you can read my review of it now here. The second bit of news, and it is nothing minor or of any small feat itself, is Kill Ritual are preparing to head to Europe for a tour. But this is not just any European tour as the band will be providing direct support to the lethal duo of Raven and Hirax across the Old Country. The trek launches on June 7th and the guys are in need of some financial assistance so they’ve launched a GoFundMe campaign that you can donate to at this location.
So, now that we’re all caught up, let’s get to the business at hand, shall we? Of course that business is Kill Ritual vocalist David Reed Watson and guitarist Steve Rice and trust me, business is good! The pair have just wrapped up recording the incredible ‘All Men Shall Fall‘, Kill Ritual‘s fourth studio full-length. That alone would be excitement a’plenty for any band, and of course it is with them, but they’ve also just amassed an incredible touring line up for Kill Ritual to ravage Europe with little over a week from now. Being a big fan of the band’s right from the start, I went full-tilt over their last outing, Karma Machine, and now the new record too. Therefore it was a no-brainer to drop a line and get the guys on the wire for some conversation. The following is that conversation, The Taste Nation LLC Interview With Kill Ritual’s David Reed Watson And Steven Rice!
Pat Riot – Let’s start with current events: Kill Ritual are on the verge of releasing your fourth studio album, ‘All Men Shall Fall’. What can longtime fans of the band expect with this latest album? And what about the average music fan that’s never heard Kill Ritual before?
David – Our last album, Karma Machine, was an introduction to me and my style of singing. By no means am I a thrash singer, and Steve knew this but he had faith in me, which I appreciate. It’s nice working with somebody that lets me just go for it. Anyway, I consider myself more along the lines of Jon Bush from Armored Saint or Joey Belladonna from Anthrax. We’re more Hard Rock/Metal Singers. Mixing my voice with Steve’s thrash roots for the last album (Karma Machine) was a true test to what we could create. Some of the hardcore fans, the ones that went back to Steve’s Imagika days didn’t know how to take me (laughs). Seriously, it was a big change from the last singer, who had done The Serpentine Ritual and The Eyes of Medusa. This next album, All Men Shall Fall, was written for me, for my voice. Steve got an idea of what I could do vocally and put the music around me.
The writing process this time around was much smoother and I got to do what I do instead of trying to form myself into what the old singer had done. We are two different animals… and to answer your question about the fans again — some didn’t like it, but WAY more did than didn’t. I think with this next album we’re going to hit a much broader audience while still maintaining a good amount of the San Francisco Thrash roots.
Pat Riot – What was the recording line-up of the band for the new record? Please share a little of the songwriting process of Kill Ritual with us…who does what? Assuming you’re the main lyricist, where do you find lyrical inspiration?
David – This time around we kept it simple. Matt Thompson did all of the drums. Matt, as you well know, is the drummer for King Diamond. Everything he sent to us fit incredibly well to what Steve had written. And, like the last record, Steve did all of the music; Keyboards, Bass, and Guitars, AND he even wrote the lyrics to one of the songs, Dead Man On The Water.
As far as inspiration for lyrics… let’s just say, there is a LOT to write about today. When Steve and I started All Men Shall Fall, we based it on Man’s shortcomings, be it, sex, drugs, politics, religion or spirituality, etc… I tried to touch on as many of these subjects as I could. It might piss off a few people with some of the subject matter, and if it does, good. It gets them thinking. Anything I write I try to get people to think. I’ve never been the boy loves girl, girl loves boy, type of writer. I’ll leave that to Bon Jovi (laughs). I laugh, but in fact the last song on the album [‘Kage‘] I wrote for my Fiancé, Taylor… so I retract that statement (smiles).
Pat Riot – Speaking of inspiration, who are some of your biggest… who would you cite as being your own influences? How did you get started upon the path as a musician (i.e. specific event, album, etc. that opened to door for you so to speak)? Are you a “self-taught” vocalist or no?
David – How long do we have (laughing)? I’ve had a lot of influences in my life. My Dad was a Banjo player and a singer in a band called the Tikis. They toured around New England a bit… record deal, etc. so I guess that is pretty much where it started. Probably my first influences, other than family, would have been, Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), Ian Gillian (Deep Purple) and David Bowie… that was until I saw Ronnie James Dio live with Black Sabbath. That blew me away, I was like, sign me up! I am basically a self-taught singer, although I did sing in the choir, theater… stuff like that. So I got to see other people’s techniques and pick up on them.
Steven – For me, it started with Elton John’s Yellow Brick Road. First album I ever bought and what a great choice. Brilliant stuff. Then it was Kiss, Cheap Trick, Steve Miller and got heavier with Rainbow and UFO. Thin Lizzy was a big influence. But as soon as I heard Priest live as I was at a UFO concert and they opened I was completely hooked and they’re still my favorite Metal band. Two big albums that blew my mind were Priest’s Unleashed In The East and Maiden’s Killers. I was done for after that!
Pat Riot – Each of you mentioned my favorites there too as Ronnie James Dio is/was my favorite vocalist of all time, ever and Judas Priest are my favorite classic metal band as well. Nice!
You (David) joined Kill Ritual prior to the 3rd album ‘Karma Machine’ being recorded…how did you land the gig? Were there any challenges in performing the earlier material in any way? What do you feel that you brought to the table by joining the band (feel free to brag, LOL)?
David – You’re asking a singer to brag (laughs)? Ok, the 3rd album, Karma Machine, was already done, in the can and ready to go out the door when the singer quit. Steve literally deleted all of his vocals then sent me the album. To this day I have no clue what he wrote about, how it sounded… nothing. I commend Steve for doing that because I’ve been down this path before. It’s very hard to write new lyrics and melodies after hearing what somebody else had written. I was fortunate enough never to hear a word. Now, Steve, that’s another story. He got the material back with me singing and I’ll have to let him explain how he wrapped his head around that… I know I would have had a hard time. So to answer your question… there wasn’t a challenge because I never heard anything. Everything you hear on Karma Machine now is me. My lyrics, my melody lines, everything. I remember sitting down with Taylor, listening to it, looking at her, looking back at the music and going. Huh. I think this can work. I like to believe that I took a thrash band to the next level, into more of a progressive metal band. I’ll never knock the old singer… he did what he did, and he did it well, I might add… and I do what I do, hopefully as well. I guess that’s for the fans to decide.
Steven – Like Dave mentioned…I just had to let it go and move forward. I’ve been there and done that many times through the years with singers, etc., so I can get past it pretty quick. It was time for a fresh start and direction so it was great the way it all came together. I’d like to also mention that even though we get associated with Thrash, Kill Ritual isn’t really a Thrash band. To me, it’s just Classic Metal with some Thrash elements. I never want to be pigeonholed into one style of music or metal sub-genre, so Kill Ritual will always bring elements of whatever we feel like bringing in.
Pat Riot – I know Kill Ritual are headed to Europe soon on an amazing tour with Raven & Hirax… how excited about this trek are you all? How exactly did this opportunity come about?
David – I’m very excited! I’ve been to Europe quite a few times but never with a band on tour. I’m a virgin! After our last tour here in the US; 7000 miles, 30 days and 28 shows, this will be a breeze! Some of these places in Europe I’ve never been to so I’m excited to meet the fans and see their beautiful cities.
Pat Riot – Kill Ritual sure has amassed an amazing ensemble of players for the European Tour…how was each selected or decided upon for this upcoming run?
Steven – The guys brought in for the tour are people that I’ve toured with or been in bands with or have known awhile. Jim Pegram from Mudface / Angerhead, Chris Lotesto from Ion Vein, and Dave Chedrick from Ruthless / Ed Force One. It’s always a challenge rounding up guys that want to do these type of things and are willing to make the effort to tour. So it’s been a good turn of events that it’s all worked out and we can pull off the tour with this lineup. Will these guys be here for the long run? I don’t really know, but we’ll keep moving straight ahead and hope for the best.
Pat Riot – Kill Ritual albums always have such fantastic images/artwork…how involved is the band in bringing those images about (i.e. Is there an idea or rough outline presented to the artist or is it entirely up to them, etc.)?
David – You can attribute that to a long time Kill Ritual confidant, Jobert Mello. Steve’s been using this guy for years.
Steven – Yeah, he was recommended by my friend Chris Boltendahl, who sings for Grave Digger.
Pat Riot – In the current, ever-changing music environment… what are, or has been, some of the biggest challenges / obstacles for you all as a band?
David – It’s tough for ANY band, even the successful ones. I’ve got some close friends that have been in major Rock Bands with HUGE budgets through their labels. The challenge for them back then was not blowing all of their cash, pay back the labels and hopefully have something left over. We don’t have that today. Today there is no money up front. You take it out of your own pocket and hope for a good return.
So, I’ll speak for myself here. Money! It’s tough telling your boss that you’re taking off on tour for a couple weeks to a month and having them hang onto your job. I ran into this problem back in 2013 when I was heading to Europe with Rage of Angels. My boss just couldn’t afford to hold my job for me. It was a tough decision and one that a lot of musicians have to face. Do I stick with my day job or do I follow my dream? Well, suffice to say, I’ve got support from Taylor… but it’s a struggle. By the way… Rage Of Angels decided after I left my job that they couldn’t afford to have me come over because a major venue fell through. That was tough because I had a lot of people supporting me through a GoFundMe. I felt foolish telling them that it was canceled.
All in all, the best thing I can say about today, being in a band, is this… it weeds out the ones that just want to become ‘Rock Stars’. You’ve got to love what you do or you’re in the wrong business. If you want that Million Dollar contract… well, those are few and far between.
Pat Riot – What type of non-musical things do you both enjoy doing in your personal life (hobbies, passions, etc.)?
David – I’m an avid Cyclist and have been for years. I used to race Mt. Bikes, now it’s predominantly my road bike (Blue RC-6). I’m also an energy worker… a Reiki Master. I’ve been doing energy work on people for several years now. I used to be a life coach as well! I think that is why I love writing. I want people to know that they matter. Too many people today don’t think they matter. They delve into drugs, alcohol or other addictions. I live in Sin City… If you’ve got an addiction, this is not the place to be.
Steven – For me, it’s cooking. I love to eat so I better be able to cook!
Pat Riot – What are your own expectations with the upcoming album release, EU. tour, etc.? Are there any other Kill Ritual-related items on the horizon we should know about?
David – I’m excited to release it. We’ve got a buzz around us at the moment and we’re seeing the momentum pick up. I think people are actually taking us seriously now. After this tour we’ll be working on some other tours this year which Steve can elaborate on. We’ve also got a video in the works for one of the songs. Shit… Steve’s already got the next album written for me to start working on, so I’ll be tackling that soon enough.
My hope is that we can get a solid crew together and not have it just be Steve and I. I like collaborating as a complete band. That’s my personal feeling. But if it ends up just being us…so be it. We’re writing great stuff.
Steven – Yeah, unfortunately for Dave I write all the time and have already put together a good 8-9 songs for the future. No rest for the wicked and since we have our own fairly decent studio to use at home why not. Better then bowling and trying to fuck the bartender! HA!
Pat Riot – I have a tradition of ending interviews with an open floor… feel free to say, share, rant, etc. about anything you’d like:
David – Support local music! Buy CDs! Buy shirts! Go to concerts! We are not self-sustaining entities with money falling out of our pockets. I think a big misconception of being in a band, of being a musician, is that someday we’ll grow up and get a REAL job. I’ve HAD a real job. I did what I was told to do by society and I was fucking miserable. Seriously… if you’re an accountant and you love accounting… then by all means, follow your passion. But, if you hate it and you do it until your dying day… are you going to say, “I wish I would have (fill in the blank)” or are you going to say, “Fuck! That was one hell of a ride!” (Mic drop)
Put me down for the latter life option, please! But in all seriousness, David is absolutely on point with his comment there and no one can make you happy but yourself. Life truly is what you make it and we each determine our own destinies, I fully believe that. Both David and Steven seem clearly in tune with their own passions as well as they prepare to undertake the next incredible series of events in the Kill Ritual legacy. The imminent release of their new album ‘All Men Shall Fall‘ is coming soon and even sooner than it, Kill Ritual will deliver their metallic goods to the masses of Europe starting next week. Can things possibly get any better at this time?
I want to thank my guests David Reed Watson and Steven Rice of the magnificently kick-ass heavy metal machine that is Kill Ritual! They’re part of a band that more than deserves your attention and support and I urge you to accept that challenge immediately.
The sisterhood of heavy metal is strong as all-female Swiss band Burning Witches are hard at work on their debut album. They have launched aPledgeMusic campaign where fans can pick up the album with some added bonuses from the ladies. The album was recorded and produced in tandem by V.O. Pulver and Schmier of Destruction at Little Creek Studio in Switzerland.
Burning Witches aka Seraina (Vocals), Romana (Guitars), Alea (Guitars), Jay (Bass) and Lala (Drums), have a very traditional metal sound. In fact, their sound is not too far removed from the great Doro Pesch/Warlock if you need a convincing comparison to gauge it by. But what you should do is check out the ‘Burning Witches‘ track below and hear the band for yourself.
The band adds: “We had the dream to form an all women’s traditional heavy metal band – now here we are with our first record and we hope that you gonna help us with your pledge to climb up the first steps of the ladder of our career! We have put together a nice collection of items for you, including signed CD’s, posters, shirts, hoodies, girly shirts and opportunities to spend time with us at rehearsal and hang and party with us! Thanks in advance for your support! Ready to fight!”