Saturday, 21 October 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Shroud Eater - "Strike the Sun"

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Full-length
Date Released: 7/07/2017
Label: STB Records |
Primitive Violence Records


From the eerie, ambient opening to the final crescendo, “Strike the Sun” is a rare “all killer, no filler” beast of a record.  By crafting a truly timeless album, Shroud Eater have managed to distinguish themselves as one of the noteworthy purveyors of American metal. 

“Strike the Sun CD//CS//DD//LP track listing

1. Smokeless Fire
2. Iron Mountain
3. Awaken Assassin
4. Another Skin
5. Dream Flesh
6. It Walks Among
7. Unseen Hand
8. Futile Exile


The Review

With the deluge of heavy bands churning out consistently crushing work, some stellar records manage to lurk at the edges of my consciousness well past the initial release date.  Shroud Eater’s second full length, their first for STB Records, dropped all the way back in July, but has garnered immediate, deserved praise.  It’s a perfect summer selection: the blistering heat and stifling humidity of the band’s home base – Miami, Florida – practically pools around the speakers with every shredding riff and swinging drum fill.  But as the autumn days grow colder in the northeast, “Strike the Sun” reveals new, ominous facets.  From the eerie, ambient opening to the final crescendo, “Strike the Sun” is a rare “all killer, no filler” beast of a record.  By crafting a truly timeless album, Shroud Eater have managed to distinguish themselves as one of the noteworthy purveyors of American metal. 

Intro track “Smokeless Fire” hints at Shroud Eater’s melodic mysticism underlying Strike the Sun’s crackling exterior: Valentine’s ethereal vocals serve as a haunting prelude to the bashing Iron Mountain.  Like a slightly less haggard Matt Pike, Jeannie Saiz’s vocals straddle distinct melody and hardcore barks.  Most improbably, Saiz’s lyrics are actually discernable while being gritty – no mean feat among the standard death growlers and shriekers glutting the metal market.  “Awaken Assassin” may be my go to pick for my “just listen to this one track and you’ll see what I’m talking about” for Shroud Eater – both melodic and soaking in sludge filth, it’s the sinister standout of the record. 

Which isn’t to say “Strike the Sun” ever falters.  Instrumental cut “Another Skin” showcases the band’s technical skill without being a pyrotechnic wank-fest, while “Dream Flesh” evokes the melodies and delicate vocal harmonies of “Smokeless Fire”.  “It Walks Among” lays waste to this brief reprieve, smashing the band back into hellish crunch, highlighted by subtle guitar harmonies that are, frankly, breathtaking.  Davin Sosa’s drum work really shines in “It Walks Among” and balances tribal beats with complex fills in “Unseen Hand.”  Album closer “Futile Exile” acts as a perfect bookend, encapsulating the disparate, remarkable elements Shroud Eater wield so well: intricate picking, smashing power chords complemented by crushing bass tone, clean vocal harmonies and a menacing, croaked finale that feels exhausting and empowering all at once. 


“Strike the Sun” is available here (LP) and here (CS)



Band info: facebook || bandcamp

Friday, 20 October 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Wormwood - "Mooncurse"

By: Ernesto Aguilar


Album Type: Full length
Date Released: 20/10/2017
Label: Translation Loss Records



Wormwood's performance on "Mooncurse" is doom in the purest sense. Purposeful pacing and incredibly weighty riffs aplenty.  As you make your way to "Passage of Fire," Wormwood's greatest traits are on full display: an impeccable grasp of timing, dark musical sequences and undefeatable heaviness

 

"Mooncurse" CD//DD//LP track listing

1. Infinite Darkness
2. The Undesirables
3. Forlorn
4. Mooncurse
5. Parasitic Twin
6. Burn the Psychic Vision
7. Passage of Fire

The Review:

Terms like 'supergroup' are so overused that it is near impossible to truly quantify it with anything real. Shouldn't bands from which players come from reach a particular echelon, sales threshold or, well, something? So when a fantastic band like Boston's Wormwood gets the term hung on it, one has to resist the meaninglessness of the phrase, and instead focus on its gifts.

In the case of Wormwood, those gifts come from both intense chemistry and superlative musicianship. Drummer Chris Bevilacqua and guitarist Chris Pupecki, previously known from local act Doomriders, offered up Wormwood's self-titled debut EP in 2014. The heaviness of that premiere was so warmly received that hopes rose for Wormwood's return. Three years and two new members – Mike Gowell, previously of Phantom Glue, on guitar and Greg Weeks, previously of Red Chord, on bass – later, and Wormwood strikes back, with the 's' word bandied about, and an impressive new album, "Mooncurse," to show for it.

When it was a duo, the band was particularly effective at setting a claustrophobic mood through distortion, rhythm and harrowing effects. Now as a quartet, Wormwood redoubles this commitment by making even richer sounds in this regard. Wormwood touches down with "Infinite Darkness," whose haunting strings set up what becomes quickly a throttling opening cut. Into "The Undesirables," previewed for this album, you hear a prime example of how much larger Wormwood sound with its extra hands and more much more penetrating approach. The pacing of this song and lyrics make it a standout. Meanwhile, "Forlorn," which follows it, a striking instance of a change up that does not sound out of place or confusing; cresting slowly, the song's guitar assault comes in fits and starts, at first with an almost folk-style chord progression into a much more rapacious attack.

Wormwood's performance on "Mooncurse" is doom in the purest sense. Even its fastest playing is in the spirit of some of the best offerings this year. Purposeful pacing and incredibly weighty riffs aplenty. A song like "Burn the Psychic Vision" is such a great listen because it is well arranged, with drums and bass that luxuriously creep through your mind's eye. The new double guitar lineup adds depth to this cut, as well as to entries such as "Parasitic Twin" and the title track. As you make your way to "Passage of Fire," Wormwood's greatest traits are on full display: an impeccable grasp of timing, dark musical sequences and undefeatable heaviness. Whether you subscribe to the supergroup tag or not, Wormwood lives up to the road it cut in its debut, and then some, with a full-length to be appreciated.

"Mooncurse" is available here




Band info: bandcamp || facebook

TRACK PREMIERE: Anglo French progressive sludge duo Lark deliver "Too far gone"



“Lark” an informal noun/verb used in the English language refers to an activity regarded as foolish or a waste of time, enjoying oneself by behaving in a playful or mischievous way or something done for fun, especially something mischievous or daring;  an amusing adventure or escape.  Whilst I cannot discern the true meaning of the word in reference to the band name of today’s guests (Lark is also small ground-dwelling songbird), despite what the name suggests, this progressive sludge duo are set to deliver a seriously weighty debut EP, indeed this is serious shit, where dealing with. 

Featuring former members of Bright Curse, their debut self-titled EP is recommended for those who like (Early) Mastodon, Baroness, Opeth, Katatonia.  With the nucleus of the band, formed by two French brothers (Zach and Raph), living in France and England respectively, the two rapidly found ways around the distance between them and started their first creative collaboration at the beginning of 2017.  The result of that their shared a vision is an EP that combines a massive and textured sound with bucket load of groove and that all important sledgehammer riff.

So, with D Day for the release set for Halloween 2017, you can check out an exclusive new track “Too Far Gone” below.  A foolish waste of time, this not.  Press play now, it’ll be a “Lark”





Band info: facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Iron Monkey, "9-13"

By: Ernesto Aguilar

Album Type: Full length
Date Released: 20/10/2017
Label: Relapse Records


"9-13" offers a shredding sludge attack and is a violent rejoinder of why Iron Monkey got its reputation as a doom/sludge vanguard. All these years later, Iron Monkey remains gritty and uncompromising. Predictions for a return were invariably high. "9-13" does not blow those expectations out of the water. Nor does Iron Monkey disappoint. For that, there's much to smile about.


“9-13” CD//DD//LP track listing

1. Crown of Electrodes
2. OmegaMangler           
3. 9-13
4. Toadcrucifier - R.I.P.PER
5. Destroyer
6. Mortarhex
7. The Rope
8. Doomsday Impulse Multiplier
9. Moreland St. Hammervortex

The Review:

Sterling though it is, Iron Monkey has a name circulated mostly through lore. Its 1996 EP and 1998 full-length, honestly, came out when a fair number of metal fans were children. Of those consciously watching sludge metal at the time, scores of acts have since surpassed Iron Monkey and its sparse output. Yet the notoriety of the band has lingered. Its brash and unfiltered metal through the lungs of vocalist Johnny Morrow was, for many, that blending of punk and metal that ensembles like Crass or 45 Grave were for fans in respective decades previous. Not that the UK crew gained those levels of recognition, or are anywhere the same, but you get the idea: something with an appeal that set it apart from others. After Iron Monkey faded with the untimely death of Morrow in 2002, you could assume the boys from Nottingham would be little more than a faded memory or trivia at a punk club's quiz night.

Not so fast.

Following a nearly 20-year break hastened by the death of its lead singer, Iron Monkey return to take up the accolades the group never received in its heyday. Implausible though that comeback might be its new release, "9-13," rolls up to make a claim for the throne.

Returns like this can be a controversial business at times. Here, founding members Jim Rushby, on guitars and vocal duties, and bassist Steve Watson are back in place, but original drummer Justin Greaves has bowed out. The new Iron Monkey has opted to go it as a trio, replacing Greaves with Scott Briggs, one of the former drummers of Bristol hardcore legends Chaos UK. No Greaves and no original singer may prompt some gnashing of teeth from the outset. Yet having Bushby and Watson, who were nevertheless architects of the band's grimy sludge metal clatter, may keep you curious enough to give "9-13" your full attention.

With the opener, "Crown of Electrodes," you are left with the clear impression that Iron Monkey is rejoining us largely as a punk act. No bones about it that there's plenty of sludge and grind in this corybantic gruel. Still, in what could be Briggs' influence or a new direction decades on, there is irrefutably a hardcore tension in the All Pigs Must Die vein here. Some might criticize Iron Monkey for this or the vocals, which tend to be an echo of Morrow. However, all things change and, to tell the truth, this may be the first real introduction to Iron Monkey a lot of people have had. You can judge this on the strength of "9-13" alone and step away gratified.

There are a few near missteps. "Toadcrucifier - R.I.P.PER" opens with 30 seconds of pointless guitar feedback – although feedback starting "The Rope" is equally unlistenable. Fortunately enough, Iron Monkey makes up for it by delivering a crushing cut that pours on the aggression. The title selection before it uses the same feedback affectation, but similarly the trio redeems itself by serving up a whip tight track of metal-infused punk. In fact, the guitar feedback bit is used on several more songs; it can be cute for the new high school metal band, but gives "9-13" an 'out of ideas' vibe that is unnecessary. In fact, Iron Monkey's layoff has not left members bereft of passion or ideas. The group feels potent and ready to meet both new fans and skeptics. You just wish these small things did not detract from such a dexterous and forceful performance.

"9-13" offers plenty for veteran fans, such as "Doomsday Impulse Multiplier," a shredding sludge attack and the closing, "Moreland St. Hammervortex," which is a violent rejoinder of why Iron Monkey got its reputation as a doom/sludge vanguard. All these years later, Iron Monkey remains gritty and uncompromising. Predictions for a return were invariably high. "9-13" does not blow those expectations out of the water. Nor does Iron Monkey disappoint. For that, there's much to smile about.

"9-13" is available here:





Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Thursday, 19 October 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Bell Witch - "Mirror Reaper"

By: Ernesto Aguilar

Album Type: Full length
Date Released: 20/10/2017
Label: Profound Lore Records


With "Mirror Reaper," the music conveys the reflection back of life and of death; literally that the Grim Reaper is a facsimile of the cycle of life. As with anything Bell Witch, though, such a realization is not engaged with in a fashion that rips at the pain of loss or terror, but rather builds into a deeper, though no less excoriating, meditation on the passage of time


"Mirror Reaper" CD//DD//LP track listing

1. Mirror Reaper

The Review:

The spastic beauty of doom is its blithe but authentic rejection of protocol, even in metal, which itself defies popular music at every turn. Doom is storied for its winding, intricate songs. Doom feels brainier (or nerdier) than what you anticipate, with the number of concept albums about esoterica, space or obscure literature, mythology or history very likely disproportionate to the rest of the genre. And, in the immortal words of Beyonce, when others say speed it up, doom just goes slower.

There is something so beautifully faithful and just-don't-give-a-fuck about that investment in one's own imagination. We all say we'll be artists, but how many of us truly stay that way and how many unconsciously try to fit into the molds we're presented? You may adore thrash metal's technique, grindcore's brief injections of aggression and death metal's roar, but you love doom for being what it is. It simply lurches on, siring even denser progeny such as funeral doom, mainstream acceptance and fake love be damned.

2017 needs Bell Witch. In a year where conflict, culture and politics seem bigger and bigger, the Seattle band's new "Mirror Reaper" feels fitting. It is exactly one track, 83 minutes, 16 seconds in length.

An entire album being a single track is unusual, but not unheard of. Olympia black metal outfit Fauna released the 63-minute "The Rain" in 2006 and then "The Hunt" in 2007, with its only song showing out at nearly 80 minutes. Chicago doom metal act Bongripper debuted in 2006 with its "The Great Barrier Reefer" concluding at just a bit over 79 minutes on the clock. A few other bands, such as Japanese metal collective Boris and Finnish folk metal group Moonsorrow, have done multiple epic songs well into the 50-minute range. Bell Witch itself is no stranger to such a mystique. Its 2015 release, "Four Phantoms," came in at four cuts and around one hour, with two songs wrapping at 22 minutes apiece. However, as they say in the lad mags, size does not matter. You're listening for whether "Mirror Reaper" can bring you this uncurbed promise, and deliver.

Bell Witch has few peers in funeral doom. Chances are Bell Witch is why you listen to this music in the first place. 2011's "Longing" is still praised as one of the great albums in the field. "Four Phantoms" has been called one of the subgenre's best recordings ever. In 2016, 36-year-old Adrian Guerra, the group's founding member as well as drummer/vocalist, died suddenly. His shadow over "Four Phantoms" and formulation of the Bell Witch aesthetic is long. One has to ponder how much Guerra's contributions may leave a hole in the band's return since his passing.

Mixed by Billy Anderson, who's done production for Neurosis and Sleep (coincidentally, Anderson worked on the California performer's 63-minute "Dopesmoker" in 2003), "Mirror Reaper" is planted in etymology related to the words of Hermes Trismegistus, the Greek representation of Hermes and Thoth, and the Hermeticism on which said writings are based. Trismegistus' Emerald Tablet, believed to have been composed between the sixth and eighth centuries, forwards core Hermetic philosophy. The Emerald Tablet would influence Renaissance alchemy as well as the thinking of C. S. Jung and Isaac Newton. For "Mirror Reaper" an Emerald Tablet concept, brought forward in Newton's translation and that in "Aureliae Occultae Philosophorum," is woven throughout. The idea of 'as above, so below' is one of duality – sun/moon, life/death and so forth. Driven by such grandiose ideas – which have literally occupied thousands of books, faith practices and hearts – it should not be all that shocking that "Mirror Reaper" is what it is.

Bell Witch has explored the visage of ghosts, life and death throughout its career. Consistently the band has taken a more cerebral approach in these themes. With "Mirror Reaper," the music conveys the reflection back of life and of death; literally that the Grim Reaper is a facsimile of the cycle of life. As with anything Bell Witch, though, such a realization is not engaged with in a fashion that rips at the pain of loss or terror, but rather builds into a deeper, though no less excoriating, meditation on the passage of time. Under Anderson's hand, as well as the support of vocalist Erik Moggridge, what could become a bloated, verbose exercise in something this ambitious becomes an achievement.

The arrangement of the piece takes subtle and yet exquisite turns. The transition from the 24th minute to the 32nd minute or so; minute 55 into the hour; and the song's final 10 minutes are among funeral doom's best examples of plangency. In a touching tribute, the late Guerra lives on in the form of previously unused vocals from the "Four Phantoms" sessions included in a movement within "Mirror Reaper." Such is perhaps one of the most wrenching parts of the song because it takes the metaphysical storytelling out in favor of real life and real death. The new core duo of founding member Dylan Desmond and drummer Jesse Shreibman include Guerra honorably. They also make it clear in "Mirror Reaper" that Bell Witch is prepared to start a new, compelling chapter.

"Mirror Reaper” is available here:



Band info: bandcamp || facebook

TRACK PREMIERE: Succumb to the beautiful devastation that is Catapult The Dead


Catapult The Dead is a sextet from Oakland, they have been together for around 5 years, playing the style of music which could be broadly described as atmospheric doom.  Thematically their debut full length, ‘All is Sorrow’ released in 2014, felt very cinematic and is very layered production wise, driven as you’d expect from a massive sounding guitar tone, but what felt quite unique is the use of keyboard.  Indeed it is the use of keys which made the band feel truly unique, giving their music a dynamic appeal. Much like the movie The Matrix, no one can really be told what is, you have to see it for yourself. In fact if you substituted Catapult the Dead for the Matrix in that quote, it quite accurately summarized their debut album

What Catapult the Dead have managed to do in their short tenure, is to produce progressive sounding doom, oppressively heavy but never idle, in the sense that it never seems to repeat singular repetitious phrases of music.  Their music is stylistically cinematic because it feels typical of how films are made, like there is one continuous story to be told, and it is always moving forward, evoking a sense that their music is a narrative to some macabre Lovercraftian tale. I feel Catapult the Dead are innovators and perhaps one of the best bands no one seems to know about, but that is about to change with the release of their  spectacular  new album “A Universal Emptiness”  released on 15 November 2017 via Doom Stew Records, and we’re stoked to be able to premiere a brand new track from the album which you stream in full below.  Preorders of the album are available here



Band info: bandcamp || facebook

TRACK PREMIERE: Nomasta infuse doom laden thrash amidst bursts of elephantine riffs on new track “This Trail Got The Best Of Us'



From the ashes of SLUDGELORD favourites Canaya, step forth a brand new 3 piece conjuring up their own malevolent blend of noise magic.  'With the metallic edge of Mastodon and Gojira, mixed with the punishing tones of High On Fire and Kvelertak', Leeds based Nomasta infuse doom laden thrash amidst bursts of elephantine riffs and dancing time signatures, creating a new blend of sonic brutality for discerning metal fans. 

Today at THE SLUDGELORD, it gives us great pleasure to premiere brand new music, in the form of “This Trail Got The Best Of Us'  taken from Nomasta's forthcoming record 'House of the Tiger King', set to be released November 3rd.  Owen Wilson (Guitars, vocals) had the following to say about the track, which you can also stream below


“This Trail Got The Best Of Us' is a real nasty piece of work, in the most metal way! Musically it is an ode to the extreme music scene I was introduced to when I moved to Leeds in 2004, and to the friends I made along the way. Lyrically the song is about understanding how all things can come to an end. It can take huge amounts of mental strength and humility to detach from a situation and regardless of our personal investment, to accept failure and begin starting a fresh can often be the best avenue to pursue.




Band info: Bandcamp || Facebook