German Riffonauts BLACK SPACE RIDERS will release new EP Amoretum Vol. 1 on January 26, 2018.The LP can be pre-ordered on all digital platforms, including Bandcamp, as well as at www.blackspaceriders.com/shop
The album flows from song to song as if from a single cast. The listener wonders after 45 minutes whether everything is really already over, and wants to go back to the beginning again immediately.
But of course everything is not over after 45 minutes in the world of BLACK SPACE RIDERS. The band also announces a second chapter for 2018 … Amoretum Vol. 2 is waiting for us, while we are looking forward to Amoretum Vol 1.
Track List: Lovely Lovelie
Another Sort of Homecoming
Soul Shelter (Inside of Me)
Come and Follow
Friends Are Falling
Fire! Fire! (Death of a Giant)
BLACK SPACE RIDERS are:
JE: Lead Vocals, Guitars, Organ, Piano, Electronics
SEB: Lead vocals, Keyboards, Electronics
C.RIP: Drums, Percussion, Didgeridoo
SAQ: Bass Guitar
MEI: Bass Guitar
Review: One might expect and album that opens with a piano excerpt from “Entry of the Gladiators”, more commonly known as the song they play at the circus as the clowns pile out of their tiny car and climb on their unicycles to juggle bowling pins, or break into a tumbling routine or whatever else clowns do… well you might expect an album that opens with this to be a bit of a joke.
But you’re not quite right. While Mountains of Gaia does have its fun moments, most are relegated to the opening track which is appropriately named “Circus”. Once the piano fades behind the percussion, the bass takes over, carrying the tune while distorted screams point us in a different direction. Thankfully, the screams give way to more melodic, though still filtered, singing. Really, this is where the lightheartedness goes out the window and we begin a musical adventure.
“Backstabber” takes us to a completely different locale of Container’s sound with a little 70’s Black Sabbath worship and an edge all their own. It’s a bit stoner and a bit “garage”, as they put it. It’s clear listening to the band that this was recorded in a studio, but I still think garage is a very apt term to describe a certain rawness or lack of refinement in Container’s style.
“Challenger” is an 8 minute, long, slow piece that musically reminds me of the Doors. Maybe Riders on the Storm or LA Woman, but then there’s some spoken word reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine, if you can imagine these two together. That’s only the first couple of minutes. It picks up with more of a Vol. 4 ambiance before slowing again to that Doors-y, wandering-through-the-dessert-on-peyote feeling with one last increase in pace to close it out.
Even though we’re only about halfway through, it’s hard now to look back and remember the silliness Mountains of Gaia opened with. The album leads us down a path of variety with different tracks blending the (aforementioned) base elements, stoner rock & “garage rock”, with a touch of post-rock, punk and hardcore. The result is an eclectic adventure that might seem to stray yet is uniquely Container. It’s almost surreal how after the 8th and final, the title track, another 8 minute opus taking us through the Mountains of Gaia until the music ends. Surreal, I mean if we decide to press play and take the trip again. We realize we’re started back at Circus. Is it a metaphor?
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”.
Rise Above Records – (Re-Release / Remastered) October 13, 2017
Reviewed by Terry “The Ancient One” Cuyler
Dancing in the Witches Garden
Hello Tasters today I’m gonna serve up some tasty music from a band called Uncle Acid & The deadbeats. Formed in Cambridge England in 2009 by Kevin Starrs, Uncle Acid & The deadbeats was originally: Mastermind & Frontman Kevin Starrs, on vocals and guitars, Kat on Bass, and Red on Drums. While Uncle Acid & The deadbeats transformed from a power trio into a quartet after Kat and Red left. It was with then that Uncle Acid & The deadbeats established it’s signature sound using elements of acid rock, British pop, and metal, with themes on occult, horror, drugs, murder and mayhem.
For those who are unfamiliar with them, until October this year a search on Amazon and iTunes would have only turned up Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats’ 2nd, 3rd, and 4th albums on CD and MP3 . Though it would be released as a limited edition vinyl in 2014 The album Vol. 1 was initially used like a demo. Marketed directly to the fans on MySpace & YouTube with a limited release of 30 albums on CD-R Vol.1 helped the band purchase better recording equipment for their 2nd self produced and recorded album Blood Lust. Which after a limited release of 100 on CD-R was picked up by Rise Above Records in 2011 and re-released introducing Uncle Acid’s signature sound to a wider audience.
While I can find no fault with Uncle Acids decision to initially only release Vol. 1 on vinyl, it was on the pricey side. Those who wanted to listen to it had to seek it out on YouTube and burn a copy from a friends album if they didn’t want to buy it on vinyl. Now that Vol. 1 has been reissued on CD, Vinyl, and MP3 fans can throw away and delete their bootleg copies and get the real deal. Although Blood Lust was the album that got myself and many other fans into Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats it all started with Vol.1.
What I enjoyed most about Vol. 1 is knowing that although it had to be done on a limited budget, Uncle Acid & The deadbeats still managed to create an auditory work of art. Opening with “Crystal Spiders,” I was immediately sucked into the album and still find myself having to fight the urge to dance around like a hippie on LSD when I listen to Vol. 1 in public. I like all of the songs on Vol. 1 but some of the best are “Witches Garden” and “Lonely And Strange.” Both tracks are sort of has The Doors does metal feel with some creepy electric organ and the latter having some stellar electric and acoustic guitar work by Kevin Starrs that boarders on the divine.
Then once again we get to listen to that amazing electric guitar and electric organ in “Vampire Circus.” “Do What Your Love Tells You” the album’s 6th track has just got some gnarly fuzzed out psychedelic riffs. Closing the album out is the creepy song ‘Wind Up Toys.” For those who intend to buy this album on vinyl if you get the band’s special edition it will include the bonus track of Uncle Acid’s cover of the Kinks song “Wicked Annabella”.
Bass: Chris Cappiello
Drums: Kevin Flynn
Vocals: Ed Grabianowski
Guitar: Richard Root
Five Days in a Hole (5:34)
That Witch Rises (6:56)
Warlike Prelude (1:16)
Hollow Moon (4:11)
The Old Road (3:09)
Black Sword (4:28)
Review: Monster Magnet is a band whose far-reaching influence on the world of Rock music is not always properly appreciated. Without them, such Hard Rock giants such as Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal may have never seen the light of day, and yet Monster Magnet has never become the household name that they probably should be. After all, the school of Monster Magnet is a deceptively large one, and an excellent recent graduate of that school has recently surfaced with the name of Spacelord.
There are Monster Magnet followers of two basic varieties: Desert Rockers a laQueens of the Stone Age, Brant Bjork and Kyuss; and Stoner/Sludge Metallers a laSoundgarden and Red Fang. Spacelord straddles this line a bit, but tends to adhere a bit more to the Stoner Metal side of things. As a matter of fact, Spacelord’s self-titled debut is quite reminiscent of the early days, sounding like they’d be right at home among the track-list of Louder than Love, especially tracks like the 6-minute sludgey atom bomb “Warlike”, which opens with lots of reverb and closes with sinewy guitar lines that Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil would be proud of.
Spacelord is first and foremost a very genuine affair. There’s nothing absolutely perfect here. It is perfect in its imperfection. That’s not to say the music is bad – in fact, it’s very much the opposite – But a huge amount of personality is found in those little moments where a backing vocal is a little flat, or a guitar comes in the tiniest bit late. This is not a tightly-composed Progressive Rock opus, and it shouldn’t be. This is an intentionally organic album. The performance here is not done by robots programmed to hit every note with surgical precision, it is done by humans – real living humans, and the interplay and charm associated with such a work breaths through this album impeccably.
Spacelord is the album that it needs to be and not an iota less. With their very first record, Spacelord has asserted a very real identity for themselves. It is one that regales you with the feeling of the early 90’s, when Stoner Metal was at its absolute finest. It gives you hope for another golden era that Monster Magnet and Kyuss would likely welcome with open arms.
Previous Releases: A two track E.P. from 2015 “Deaf Radio”, containing; “Down On Her Knees” & “No Hay Banda”
Tracklist: Aggravation 03:25
Vultures & Killers 04:11
Revolving Doors 04:32
Oceanic Feeling 04:23
…And We Just Pressed The Alarm Button 06:05
Deaf Radio are a Post-Punk/Alternative/Hard Rock band from Athens, Greece. On their Bandcamp they describe themselves as “a rock quartet inspired by the independent rock music scene.”
Aggravation – This track launches us into what we will hear on and off for the rest of this of this album. Rockin’ riffs and lyrics that sound like they are from the late 90’s revival of Punk music.
Backseats – This song starts of slow with a repetitive strumming and builds up with quick little riffs interspersed between the delivery of lyrics. In the final two minutes it introduces some screaming in the background making the song harsh. It reminds me of a We Are Harlot song that I cannot remember the name of.
Vultures & Killers – Here we get another change where their Post-Punk influences come out again and we hear a mid tempo beat with some almost falsetto vocals.
Anytime – (Don’t get too mad at this analogy but) this is their Lana Del Rey song minus the orchestra. It is a slow drug filled atmospheric falsetto vocals (like the last track) until the last minute and the music picks up speed and returns back to the Hard Rock that we have heard so far.
Flowerhead – This song is a lot like Vultures & Killers, almost like it is a continuation or sequel to it. They are structure similar and the vocals are sung in the same way. The exception is this one is heavier on the bass and heart monitor beeping in between bass notes.
Revolving Doors – Here we return to a style close to Aggravation, which reminds me of some of Rise Against’s music. A repeating structure with it being changed in the last minute or two.
Trapped – This song reminds me of a mix of Bush and Muse types of playing and singing. The guitar almost sounds surf like with it’s reverb. The tempo and rhythm change a bunch in this song the music goes back and forth between the types we have heard in the songs before it but it isn’t disorienting.
Oceanic Feeling – This song begins with a simple drum pattern that changes to signal the reverb guitar and bass to kick in. We return to backseats but a slower version of it.
…And We Just Pressed The Alarm Button (Favorite track) – Here we return to the Bush/Muse mix.
The band reminds me stylistically of early Rise Against and Queens of the Stone Age with a good mix of 90’s Hard Rock with Punk influences. Panos reminds me of a mix of the two singers as well. The main guitar reminds me of music that I used to listen to a lot but I cannot pinpoint from what. The bass is one of my favorite parts of the music, especially when it is alone, Antonis just goes at it without it going on too long, making me want more.
This album is good for playing in your car (on the verge of too loud) on your way to work or wherever (which is how I’ve listened to it). It is heavy but not too heavy to add to road rage and is chill enough to kind of zone out and relax to. In essence, Deaf Radio have given us a 1-Stop-Shop with “Alarm”. This band has a very bright future!! Highly Recommend!!
Begin to Float (Intro) (4:44) 2. Sannraijz (9:58) 3. Sometimes Going Too Far is the Only Way To Go (7:13) 4. Sannraijz 2 (4:43) 5. We’re Only In it for the Spacerock (20:28) 6. Make Yourself Heard for the Sake of the World (10:47)
First Band From Outer Space are a Aleatoric/Psychedelic/Space Rock band from Gotenborg, Sweden. Their label describes them as being “Swedish intergalactical starfighters on their eternal quest for infiltrating the human race with their alien psychic powers of enslaving the neanderthals by brainwashing [them] with the finest space rock ever done in Sweden!”
There are two variations of this cover. The one for the original release give you a better idea of what you are getting into once you get into the music. (Meaning it is more atmospheric) There is a person in a spacesuit on the right and there is a light coming from over their shoulder. The second cover is the one for the digital release it is black with a starfield and two light spots similar to CD, but instead of a astronaut there is a small module with the band’s name filling up most of the screen with the album title smaller on the bottom. (Both in the NASA font)
Original Artwork of “We Are Only In It For The Spacerock in 2005
Begin to Float (Intro) – This track whirls in with a slow strumming of the guitar leading us into the First Band From Outer Space version of space. It is similar to “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” (Pink Floyd) in the way it builds and builds on itself. More bloops and bleeps are added and the music starts to pick up in the 2 minute area. Here we get our first clip; “All of my most sensitive areas were inflamed. My extremities pulsing and tingling sensation. …Floating higher and higher. A wonderful feeling! I began to float. Up, away from my body… My brain seemed to be held in a giant vice. Swaying back and forth. A beautiful thing taking me away. My head is spinning. It was a bell… a bell…” now we get fast beat of the drum. Building the tension. The guitar strumming along calmly.. and then
Sannraijz – Now we are in a slightly different area. We are speeding through their space. The track slows at four minutes and then speeds back to it’s normal pace. At five minutes we get vocals. At the end of a comparatively quick singing passage we are told, by Johan that; “The end is always the start of something new” as we continue on our way through the rest of the track. Until it starts to slow in the last 20 or so seconds and our next clip; “No one had a bad trip. It was all very good.” as the next track cuts it off. I could not find a translation of what the title means.
Sometimes Going Too Far is the Only Way To Go – Here is where (more of) the 70’s rock comes in. A cowbell is counting in our next jam. Six minutes in we get our 90’s influence. A layered vocal not quite shouting at us. This is another short bit of lyrics. We are counted out by the cowbell as well.
4. Sannraijz II – Here is an almost Mike Oldfield type of track, there are birds chirping. We have now landed on a strange desert planet. This is the most radio friendly song; it is acoustic and has lyrics throughout. It serves as an intro to the next track.
5. We’re Only In It for the Spacerock – This track is an experience. It is a slow jam calling back to the first track. It is similar to a song by Acid Mothers Temple and the Cosmic Inferno called “Anthem of the Space.” Just a very spacey sounding with heavier guitar. There is another sound clip at the end but I cannot quite make it out. The title is likely in reference to the Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention album We’re Only In It for the Money.
6. Make Yourself Heard for the Sake of the World – This track has a Jethro Tull flute part in it. We get our space or eastern sounding intro then we get a rocking riff and MoonBeamJosue is bringing us home with his flute. Two minutes in we get our 80’s/90’s sounding vocal style again. The track ends how it begins. The tracks are all faded into another so it is a continuous piece.
The synth parts of the music are like a 50’s or 60’s look at what music from aliens, (meaning the bloops and bleeps) that was depicted in the old sci-fi movies/shows with guitar and rhythms from 70’s (and at some points the late 90’s) Rock. This album is a mix of Budgie and Acid Mothers Temple and the Cosmic Inferno that I didn’t know that I needed until now. The band show their influences well while making their own brand of Spacerock.
If you like 70’s style Rock with some space synths added in you should definitely pick this release up.
Stream and download the album here. “No one had a bad trip. It was all very good.”
Ripple Music // Noisolution (Europe) – released September 22nd, 2017
Reviewed by Eric Layhe
The Flying Eyes:
Adam Bufano – Guitar, Lap Steel
Mac Hewitt – Bass
Will Kelly – Vocals, Guitar
Elias Schutzman – Percussion, Vocals
Sing Praise (4:17)
Come Round (3:26)
Circle of Stone (7:29)
Fade Away (5:18)
Rest Easy (4:56)
Oh Sister (8:09)
Review: The Flying Eyes know exactly what kind of band they are: A riff or two, some vocals, a solo, and a heaping tablespoon of Black Sabbath worship- that’s all they want, and to be frank, that’s all they really need.
Despite it being reminiscent of “the good ol’ days”, it’s always refreshing to hear a band that knows that all they need are guitars, bass, drums, with quality guest keyboards from Trevor Shipley, and a good, solid overall composition. That’s precisely what Maryland natives The Flying Eyes deliver.
Opening track “Sing Praise” bursts out of the gates with an astonishingly memorable bass riff. “Drain” opens with reverb guitars that one would be forgiven to expect out of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” before taking a left turn into Sludge and Doom territory with an absolutely blistering guitar solo. Even though the music is well-composed and performed even better, the vocals of guitarist Will Kelly are the real standout here. They won’t be fronting an opera or performing a Tenor aria anytime soon, but they are absolutely perfect for the music that is focused on here. When this music is coming out of a sound system, images of cruising through the desert in a 1970’s muscle car are sure to follow. This is the type of music that should accompany a vision quest or a protest montage of the Vietnam War and The Flying Eyes seem all too aware of this, owning that image with all the confidence in the world.
However, this album wears its influences (or “influence” in this case) on its sleeves perhaps a little too proudly. The Flying Eyes seem to have listened to Black Sabbath’s “Master of Reality” many, many times and that particular influence seems to show itself quite a bit. That’s not to say it’s their only influence, as by the time the 7th track, “Rest Easy”, begins, some sections are reminiscent of Pink Floyd rear their heads. but by the time the listener gets there, they may have already gotten used to the already strongly-established vibe, giving them something of a case of stylistic whiplash. The riff-verse-riff-verse-solo-riff structure permeating throughout this release gets a little old after a while, and a listener would be excused for needing a couple of listening sessions to really get the intended effect from Burning of the Season, and it takes a little bit of patience despite being a fairly short album at a very digestible 43 minutes. Make no mistake, this is a high quality and highly recommended album.
On the whole, Burning of the Season is an album that knows what it wants to be. If you are looking for an album that provides what is promised very effectively despite putting nothing particularly new on the table, then you should look no further than The Flying Eyes’ excellent new release.
Nuclear Blast – Release Date: September 29th, 2017
Reviewed by Andy “Dinger” Beresky
Germany’s premiere retro-metal rockers Kadavar have long been a favorite of mine, since their first album dropped. Their take on the heavy 70’s sound was surprisingly refreshing and convincing for a genre so hell bent on mimicking the past masters, and they had a killer fashion sense to boot. Seriously, these guys dress to impress, and they’ve got some righteous hair and beard styles to match the bombast. In a field that was rapidly becoming over-saturated, this three piece stood out as something special, and their second album still stands as a solid test to their legitimacy, not by treading any new ground, but rather by solidifying and consolidating their alchemist formula: one part Black Sabbath, one part Pentagram, and a heavy handed helping of Sir Lord Baltimore.
It was Kadavar’s third album, Berlin, where we saw some real growth in the band. Not only did they polish up, modernize and thicken the production a bit, they also wrote some songs that were more hook oriented and less blues based, while others took a slightly heavier approach. It’s that heavy approach that’s carried over and is thrust up front on their latest record, Rough Times, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer….
The first three songs are really in your face, with a huge, throbbing bass tone and gnarly guitars cranking out more modern riffs. The title track leads off this album, and it starts with a bombast of hyper saturated guitars smashing through a chain of punctuated and syncopated power chords overlaid by a subtle, subdued lead. This sounds like nothing that Kadavar have ever done before, and if I hadn’t known who this was, I would have probably never guessed, even though the vocals aren’t too different from their past releases. They’ve still got that signature, shrill Ozzy-esque sneer, and “Lupus” still got a really great range. A little past halfway through the song, there’s a groovy breakdown riff that straight up sounds like something that Rage Against The Machine might have played in their heyday.
The second track, “In The Wormhole” continues this approach with a more plodding but equally heavy guitar part that’s more typical of modern doom. There’s also some cool organ on this one during the vocal parts, along with a low and fuzzy guitar solo that adds some dimension. “Skeletal Blues” opens up with another big groovy riff that once again reminds me of RATM….maybe it’s the accentuated bass? Anyways, the verse and chorus are a bit bluesier; perhaps it’s the strange production choice that gives these songs their more modern edge.
It’s not until the fourth song that there’s a shift in vibe and production towards what has come before. With “Die Baby Die”, that we hear anything remotely “retro” or resembling the first two albums, and even then, it’s a more busy, complicated take on that early sound. The ultra-catchy “Vampires” opens with a 60’s inspired psych sound; fuzzy chords ring out, followed by a jovial, simple bassline and some bare bones atmospheric keyboards alongside the vocals. The distortion kicks in for the second half of the verse and remains through the chorus, though it’s still one of the album’s catchier number. “Tribulation Nation” showcases both the more psychedelic side of the band that reared its head on the first two albums and the more hook oriented songwriting from Berlin, and it’s an early album favorite for me. It straight up sounds like a Hawkwind song, complete with the driving Lemmy-esque bassline, and that’s A-okay by me.
The next track “Words Of Evil” sounds a bit like Sin After Sin era Judas Priest with its palm muted power chords punctuated by bluesy runs and progressive flourishes. “The Lost Child” is a more subdued song, with a sinister vibe that creeps into Doors territory with its “riders on the storm” ready keyboard parts and lush guitars, though they do rev up the old distortion pedals for the chorus. Fans of the softer, more acid-damaged Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats tunes will eat this up. True to the album’s form, Kadavar changes gears again for the next song, “You Found The Best In Me”, a laid back, though upbeat, major key Southern rock ballad with some truly soaring vocals. They end the album with the odd “L’Ombre Du Temps”, a more ambient affair with airy whispers of French poetry spoken over the music. It’s interesting to note the contrast, how the last three songs decrease in both volume and distortion, and what a drastic difference this is from those first three songs. In a strange way, it does offer at least some semblance of symmetry and balance to the album.
I don’t often do the whole track by track analysis in my reviews, as I feel like a lot of other reviewers already do that, and they do it much better than me. This time around, it feels like the obvious and intuitive way to approach Rough Times, as it’s both a diverse and an uneven record. There’s just not any other way for me to write about it that would make any sense. There’s no overarching theme or trend in the album other than its variety. I’m not sure if this album was recorded in different studios, though the drastic shifts in productions style certainly point that way. I’ll tell it straight – I don’t really care for the first three songs, and I’m not exactly sure what they were going for. I can appreciate that they tried to go there, did something different, and for me….it just doesn’t work. It’s too jarring, too clunky a shift. Are they trying to veer into the more extreme stylings of modern stoner doom bands like Electric Wizard?
I’m not sure. I’m not entirely against them going for a heavier approach – they managed to do so, much more convincingly in my eyes, on Berlin. “Last Living Dinosaur” was a good, solid heavy track that didn’t sound forced. It sounded organic, natural, authentic, and these are all key ingredients of the sonic cocktail that’s made Kadavar so successful up to this point in time. Those first three tracks just don’t sound like a natural progression to me at all, it sounds phony, and the shift after these tunes towards their more natural inclinations only drives this point home.
photo: Clemens Mitscher
Once the tone does shift, I rather enjoy the rest of the record, and I’m well aware that there will be those who enjoy and embrace the added heft of those first three songs. Hell, I’m aware that there are also people out there who actually enjoy listening to Rage Against The Machine, as odd as that idea might be to me personally. There are probably folks who aren’t going to like some of the other tracks very much, preferences always vary from person to person. I still stand by my point that bands should experiment and vary their sound, they should take risks and try new things, regardless if these new directions align with mine or anyone else’s tastes and preferences.
With that in mind, I’d highly recommend checking out this album, as it does try out a lot of different things – it seems to me that there’s at least something for everyone to like. It feels a bit like a transitional record, where Kadavar are branching out and seeing what works, and I for one am hoping that it leads to greater things down the pipeline. I’d love to see them trim the fat on the next release and really up the bar in terms of their consistency. All in all, the uneven nature of this record isn’t enough to tip the scales and dethrone Kadavar as my personal leaders of the proto-metal pack.
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?