MERCHANT ‘Beneath’ EP Review & Stream

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

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

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

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

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

– Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker

THAL & HASHISHIAN ‘Taurean’ Split EP Review, Stream & NYP Item

Taurean: Split EP – CD//DD
Reviewed By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker

After a string of singles, multi-track EPs and the critically acclaimed 2016 full-length ‘Glitter‘, Columbus, Ohio’s one man abomination that is THAL (The Heathens Are Loose) is back! But the wizard-like maestro behind the project, Vince Green, has brought some friends along with him on this latest offering. Not only is his wytCHord bandmate Kevin Hartnell stepping in to contribute drums and guitars to this new material but hell, there’s a whole other band connected to this release. That band, Malaysia’s Hashishian, contributed three tracks along with THAL‘s three here for this six song, two band recording: the ‘Taurean‘ split EP.

THAL are the first to rumble out of the gate with their bass line-introduced first song, ‘Bloodglutton‘. Things quickly escalate into a full on aural discharge of wailing guitars and crushing drums before the lyrical lull of the first verse draws us into things. Before you know it, a vicious, throat searing scream fully unleashes the track loose upon us all. Things soon settle into a rhythmic patterning while spoken word inserts, in this case news reports, describe sightings of what sounds to be Chupacabra. Next on deck is the southern doom-infused grooves of ‘Flood The River‘, a song driven by thick, chugging riffs and splintering drum work. Hazy tones ripple across the air as Vince’s distinct vocals weave the tale to be told within the track. The last track from the Buckeye State boys is ‘Feast For The Wicked‘ which begins with some seriously Iron Maiden-ish-toned guitars before kicking in. Once fully engaged, the song takes on a bit more airy overtones as its uptempo, energized delivery powers through. You can hear a much different vocal approach here than what we are used to with THAL too but it suits the more European-flared power metal sound of the music well.

Hashishian are a quite bit different than their predecessors, at least style-wise as these guys play more downtuned, slower-paced sludge. Seth Nazgul (Bass/Vocals), Jiesus (Guitar/Vocals) and Sur Gondrong (Drums) are clearly students of the Black Sabbath-meets-Sleep school of sonics. Once the wispy, sedate intro of ‘Carving The Void‘ melts away, things explode into a deluge of fuzzened guitars, shuddering rhythms and acidic, volatile vocals. The thick-ass tones in the track periodically yield to frenzies of furious, punk-ish musicality. However, ‘Journal Of A White Crow‘ unfolds with some bluesy guitars wailing out as the cleaner delivered vocals present themselves. After a moment or two, things abruptly hit a wall of slowly rendered psychedelic flavors before reprising the frenetic intensities once again. Last track, ‘Magic Of Kenna‘, delves into a dizzying den of southern sludge and relentless rivets of drumming before hitting the brakes and turning headlong into some doom. It all escalates into squealing guitars, spiraling bass, and solid drumming before it finds its end and leaves you nearly breathless from what you’ve just experienced.

The unexpected pairing of THAL and Hashishian for the ‘Taurean‘ split EP was a nice surprise and in THAL‘s case, a nice holdover item while the work continues on the follow-up to Glitter. He probably won’t mind me telling you this but Vince recently let me hear a brand new THAL demo track, a work-in-progress if you will. Even in that raw state I can tell you the song is bad ass and definitely displayed some experimentation going on with the band’s overall sound, and vocals too. Anyway, ‘Taurean‘ is streaming in the Bandcamp embed below so check it out but wait, it gets better! Once there, the 6-song EP is available as a NYP (Name Your Price) item so you can snag it for notta if you must go that route.

STRANGE CLOUDS ‘Calm Before The Storm’ Review & Stream

From Poznań, Poland we have received the impressive new effort from Strange Clouds, ‘Calm Before The Storm‘. This five song album possesses an interesting potency of melodic rock that’s founded on bluesy swagger and solid playing. Those bringing that surety through in the music are vocalist/guitarist Lucky, guitarist Żożo, drummer Czarek and bassist Kajo. What they manage to capture in that self-same music are hazy, ethereal qualities that add an intriguing texturing to these songs. Laid back with a definite carefree vibe to them, songs like the scorching introductory cut ‘Heal The Ghosts‘ hit great heights within their groove-laden release. Killer guitar work is stitched throughout the song, including some cool, meandering moments laced with trippy psyche touches. Continue reading…

JESTERS OF DESTINY ‘The Sorrows That Refuse To Drown’ Review

Thirty years is a mighty long stretch between album releases for any band and although rare, it does happen at times. In fact, it just happened this past Friday, April 7th as an iconic act of yesteryear, Jesters Of Destiny, returned with ‘The Sorrows That Refuse To Drown‘ via Ektro Records. See, this is the first new studio album of original material from the duo of jokers Bruce Duff and Ray Violet since 1986’s seminal Fun At The Funeral outing (released through Metal Blade subsidiary Dimension Records FYI). Some might say the new record was by sheer accident while others might claim divine providence, take your pick. Evidently the new music began as an independent, non-Jesters undertaking but as the songs took on lives of their own, it became quite clear they were of such a caliber worthy of a Jesters Of Destiny designation.


See, if you know anything about this cult-revered band then you know that they are the very embodiment of terms like “unique” or “iconic”. They obtained such tags long, long ago when they were first pioneering what we now call Alternative Rock/Metal. At the time, there was no such genre classification and it’s because of the things that Jesters Of Destiny were doing musically that such labels were inspired and attached. They spearheaded the movement itself with their amalgamated hodgepodges of jumbled bits and pieces of various types of sonic smatterings in their earlier life. A touch of this, a taste of that, all blended together to create something unlike anything else in their contemporary surroundings at the time.

That very same approach, the method to the musical madness so to speak, is the very exact formula applied to these new recordings as well. Frenetic flavors of metal, punk rock, psychedelia, new wave and other extensive abstracts are melded into a cohesive, and yes, rather eclectic effort. So many decades in the making has allowed for a truly freestyle process to unfold where limitless elements are instilled into the music. Bassist/vocalist Bruce Duff says it best perhaps by stating: “This is our third record,” he says, “we took 30 years off. It wasn’t like we were sitting around though. We’ve been working on these songs for a while and we think it connects with the same stream of consciousness we previously mined but without looking back to 80’s sounds. We think it’s pretty current. It also required a lot of current.”

There will be no track by track breakdown this time, to attempt such would result in a struggle to properly quantify the myriad nuances contained within this album. And in all humility, I am good but even I may not be THAT good in this case. No, ‘The Sorrows That Refuse To Drown‘ is an album that must be heard firsthand to fathom, to understand fully and appreciate justly. Thank your lucky stars that Taste Nation LLC has provided you the very means to do so in the embedded stream of this opus below. Old fan, new convert, unsuspecting stranger, it matters not as Jesters Of Destiny are a band that must be experienced aurally to either embrace or reject. That undertaking is what I now leave to you and remember, ‘The Sorrows That Refuse To Drown‘ was just issued on vinyl (the version you hear with this premiere), digitally on CD and via download/streaming this past Friday. The vinyl and digital versions are different from one another too as the CD has different mixes of two of the songs, and three songs not on the vinyl, including a cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Two Minutes Silence“. Now, explore and enjoy!

WITCHAPTER ‘Spellcaster’ EP Review & Stream

This past Friday, April 7th saw the unleashing of the 3-song act of savagery from Witchapter, the “Spellcaster” EP though Black Bow Records. This is sinister sludge and damnable doom music for the hopeless human as it is bleakly to the point. The UK-based band itself is in its infancy really as guitarist/vocalist Chris Grenfell, bassist Bobby Smith and drummer Louie Spencer just united under the moniker in 2016. However, it does not take long to manifest a deluge of despair-laden tunes when you find inspiration in history’s horrific mistreatment of people. In this case it is the events called punishment of those that were deemed heretics by the Roman Catholic Church. The band have addressed their muse by saying:

“Prior to the 13th century witchcraft involved a collection of practices and beliefs centered on healing. In practice this utilized ointments and potions prepared using natural ingredients and administered to the patient as a remedy for the particular ailment.”

“This created a destabilizing effect on the church and it was not long before the clergy, empowered by a movement passed by the Roman Catholic leadership, began branding these ‘healers’ as witches and heretics, the punishment being for those found guilty: death by burning.

“The accused were forced to confess, even if innocent, via brutal torture and then burnt alive to purify their souls and ‘save them.’ The lyrical content leans heavily on the accounting of these times and inspires the aesthetics chosen for the graphical representation of the music.”

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t and with this EP, damnation is the name of this most cruel game as ‘Veiled Aggressor‘, ‘Through Smoke And Sulphur‘ and ‘Everywhere I Look I See My Grave‘ are ruthless. Forged upon sludgened riffs, bone-shattering rhythms, and heavily downtuned elements everywhere, this is raw and visceral. Thunderous gutturals permeate the tracks as thick, godless grooves plot the course and render a mutually assured destruction. Deserving or not..hell awaits.

CRACKHOUSE S/T EP Review & Stream [Argonauta Records]

We are but a handful of days away from France’s Crackhouse re-issuing their self-titled debut EP via Argonauta Records. The 2-song effort will be unleashed on April 7th and to prepare you for what’s coming, I’m here to discuss Crackhouse a bit more in detail. So, what do you know about Crackhouse..and by that I mean the band, not the notorius place people go to beam up. Do you know that they are a three man band consisting of members Simon Morlec, Jibus Carton and Guillaume Vaillant? Or that they specialize in creating some lethally damaging, dense sludge riddled with doom overtones and abundant aggression? But there is more, much, much more as the guys meld dense Fuzz/Desert/Stoner Rock portions into their batch of intoxicating heaviness.

crackhouse (4)

With these two tracks the trio cook up a dizzying delivery of deep rhythms embedded in this threatening aural upheaval. Resonating riffs shudder through the air around the listener as jarring drums pound and batter you senseless. Both songs, “Swamp Widows” and “Serpent Suuns“, are wide-ranging in content. Both are lengthy explorations into a sedimentary mire of hypnotic hardness. The former unfolds with a trippy intro that soon crumbles away as the chaos is unleashed. A body blow of mile-wide riffs hit you head-on as the angsty, somewhat hardcore type vocals’ gravelly presence is announced. With Southern Doom vibes reverberating all around, the paces of the tune are then alternated times uptempo and more animated while other times finds them throttled down to a slow-oozing crawl.

The latter song takes on a much more uptempo energy after its initial feedback-ringing introduction. Sure, it too is a heavy handed foray but it is definitely more akin to a caustic, post-hardcore style of music. This is the much more ultra-aggressive side of Crackhouse showing their wares in such a way that it will sear your ears from the inside out when you undergo the experience. Things do gradually settle down a bit as the guys take us into a much headier direction with some hypnotic repetitions of the song’s signature riff. Soon, a flurry of activity hits us from all sides like a beehive of damaging hammering and it hurts so good.

Once again, Argonauta Records will re-issue the self-titled debut EP from Crackhouse on April 7th but you can stream it here and now today. But take heed for this is extreme music, it is dangerous and corrosive in this thickly agitated state. It’s a metallic, hard rock blast that provides its own euphoric rush and will leave you geeking for more. Thankfully you can feed that need to fix with the repeat feature on the embedded stream here.

– Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker

VANGOUGH ‘Warpaint’ Review & Album Stream

Oklahoma City’s Vangough recently released their latest studio effort ‘Warpaint‘ and the accolades have mounted ever since. Rightly so too because this, the band’s fifth studio album (along with an EP and live album as well) is yet another leap light years ahead for Progressive Rock as a whole. Cut from a similar cloth as acts like Soen, Opeth or Dream The Electric Sleep, the music of Vangough is founded on technicality and emotion. Forward-thinking musical expanses constructed on the juxtaposition of differing styles of sonics is what ‘Warpaint‘ is all about. Guitarist/vocalist Clay Withrow, bassist Jeren Martin and drummer Kyle Haws embed massive amounts of feeling and experimentation into these songs.

Exposure begins with the darkly-hued introductory track ‘Morphine‘, a heavy-handed song that shudders with powerful bass lines. Stitched with intricate guitar melodies, things soon take on more melodic elements before erupting into caustic sections of a more aggressive nature. Near song’s end things have dissolved into some truly heavy sonics, ones augmented with guttural vocalizations and crushing density. Shifting intensities, alternating energy levels and multifaceted diversity permeates songs like ‘Dust‘, ‘Gravity‘ and the powerful ‘Till Nothing’s Left‘. The latter a somewhat Tool-like trek into soul-jarring music that’s followed by one of the more haunting tunes of the record, ‘Knell‘. Quite sedate and even, dare I say it, more stripped down, the song pulsates with haunting nuances that bleed like an open wound. Things end with the eleven minute-plus ‘Black Rabbit‘, a track where everything presented prior culminates in this stellar, stand-alone song. Epic and sweeping, this ending song is perhaps my favorite of the album..the drumming alone is mind-blowing too. It is definitely a highlight where the trio pull out all the stops and strut their stuff so to speak.

In closing, it is easy to see, and hear, why Vangough are so well respected and why ‘Warpaint‘ is such an increasingly popular record. Also, it is no wonder they astounded audiences at ProgPower USA XV in 2014 and why people clamor to see the band live when they can. ‘Warpaint‘ is a contrasting, temperamental opus that possesses riveting music and enthralling content in general. Regardless if you are or aren’t a fan of progressive metal, this album will astound you and make you a fan of Vangough period. – Pat Riot Whitaker

DEMON HUNTER Streaming New Album ‘Outlive’ In Full

The Seattle-based modern metal band Demon Hunter have just released their latest album, ‘Outlive‘, via Solid State Records. The powerful new record, the band’s eighth in all, can be streamed in its entirety in the YouTube playlist below. The band issued ‘Outlive‘ in several different formats including CD, double vinyl album and a beautiful box set as well. The box set includes two bonus tracks, a behind-the-scenes DVD, photo cards, booklet, poster, bandana, a ring, and more. It is housed in a drawer-style box with metallic gold detail and is a true collector piece.

Outlive‘ was produced and engineered by band guitarist Jeremiah Scott (The Showdown, Living Sacrifice) with additional production by the group’s longtime collaborator Aaron Sprinkle. The new effort was mixed by ChrisZeussHarris (Hatebreed, Witherscape, Queensrÿche).

Demon Hunter will make a rare live festival performance this summer, appearing at Chicago Open Air, which takes place July 14-16 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois. The band is scheduled to perform on Sunday, July 16.

DH Outlive

“Outlive” track listing:

01. Trying Times
02. Jesus Wept
03. Cold Winter Sun
04. Died In My Sleep
05. Half As Dead
06. Cold Blood
07. One Step Behind
08. Raining Down
09. The End
10. One Less
11. Patience
12. Slight The Odds