Monday, 16 July 2018

REVIEW: Smock, "Interstellar Nobdy" [EP]

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: EP
Date Released: June 15, 2018
Label: Independent

Smock harnesses the darkest corners of retro rock, riding on surf guitar lines, fuzzed out bass, tight as fuck drum fills, and the often sweet but occasionally sinister vocals of Jenne Benicaso.

“Interstellar Nobody” DD track listing

1. Interstellar Nobody
2. Weird One
3. High Life
4. Bleach

The Review:

Maybe it’s the heat.  Maybe it’s the relentless humidity.  Maybe it’s that godawful haze that hangs over the industrial skyline.  But for me, this summer has been punctuated by tripped out psychedelic, punky, metallic garage rock weirdness.  In the same way that black metal treks through frozen tundra feels most effective after the truly bitter January chill has set in, the slick, sweaty, kind of nauseating midsummer swelter makes me feel like around every corner there could be a freakish Robert Crumb caricature or a roving pack of S. Clay Wilson pirate-bikers primed to bash my face with a bottle.  And there are few records as appropriate for these paranoid delusions as “Interstellar Nobody”, the debut EP by NJ’s own Smock.

A lot of neo-psych lays the flower power bullshit on thick, missing the speed-addled discomfort inherent in a lot of the best shit that influenced a generation of Pebbles and Nuggets listeners.  I mean, sure, the blissful Eastern mystic stuff has its place, but does it rock?  Not hardly.  Thankfully, Smock harnesses the darkest corners of retro rock, riding on surf guitar lines, fuzzed out bass, tight as fuck drum fills, and the often sweet but occasionally sinister vocals of Jenne Benicaso.  When, on closer “Bleach”, he croons “You know it. / I’ll wait, I’ll wait / I’m still waiting for you…” there’s something a bit unsavory, especially layered with reverb and over a krautrock progression their forebears from Neu! would be proud of.

The title track on is a sweet slice of doomy stoner rock that reminded me of the most promising tracks by Uncle Acid, but unlike the steadily midtempo jams of the English post-Wizard class, Smock launches into faster garage punk on “Weird One”.  The warbling, trebly high end guitar work of Benicaso and Zach Inkley is deftly balanced by Cameron Smith’s hefty bass tones, and the steady rhythms (courtesy of Dee Morris) makes “Weird One” the type of banger someone could (gasp!) maybe bop along to.  “High Life”, the fastest song on the EP, is also the most neurotic.  Benicaso’s hallucinatory narrations – “Sun becomes the sky / The Mud turns into the clay / The kingdom crumbles down / Are you listening” – are eerie but strangely beautiful.

“Bleach”, the aforementioned krautrock-indebted closer, is really a marvel and a testament to how promising this quartet is.  The opening buildup feels like the classic live-in-studio cuts of the garage greats Smock draws from, but organic, in this case, doesn’t mean low quality.  Both guitars are balanced in the mix, the bass has a solid presence, and Benicaso’s vocals maintain that distance in the mix that more rock bands need to aspire to.  The guitar harmonies are really lovely too, and manage to sound heavy without sounding like atonal noise.  It’s the rare record that drew me in more the further I went, and left me aching for the next (hopefully full length) release.  And while it’s the perfect jam for my summer, I’d be happy to spin these tracks any time of year.

“Interstellar Nobody” is available at here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Drug Cult, "Drug Cult"

By: Charlie Butler

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 29/06/2018
Label: Ritual Productions

Drug Cult’s debut album is a confident display of expert riffcraft cloaked in a shroud of mystery. It is highly recommended listening for doom connoisseurs and hints at an intriguing future ahead, particularly if they indulge in their expansive, psychedelic tendencies.

“Drug Cult” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Serpent Therapy
2). Release
3). Reptile Hypnosis
4). The Wall
5). Mind Crypt
6). Slaylude
7). Bloodstone
8). Acid Eye
9). Spell

The Review:

Bands that seem like they were named by selecting two words from a doom bingo card don’t inspire expectations of greatness. Fortunately, the racket Australian quartet Drug Cult create is leagues above the generic tedium of their moniker. Their debut LP may be low on originality but the bands distinct strain of hypnotic sludge is an intoxicating brew.

The spirit of prime Electric Wizard courses through this records veins. Imagine a combination of the concise songwriting of the “Witchcult Today” era with the spite and filth of “Come My Fanatics” and you get a good idea of Drug Cult’s brand of evil. The band have a seemingly bottomless supply of nasty, killer riffs that fuel the likes of “Reptile Hypnosis” and the slowly unfurling bad trip of “Serpent Therapy”. Aasha Tozer’s powerful vocals enhance the bleary, sinister ambience, hitting a darkly sweet spot between melody and grit. The entire production is caked in reverb that gives these tracks an otherworldly hazy heaviness that sets Drug Cult apart from their peers. This is particularly noticeable during the brief guitar solos in “Slaylude” and “Acid Eye”, glorious explosions of untamed cosmic noise that could easily spiral into endless jams into the beyond. 

Drug Cult’s debut album is a confident display of expert riffcraft cloaked in a shroud of mystery. It is highly recommended listening for doom connoisseurs and hints at an intriguing future ahead, particularly if they indulge in their expansive, psychedelic tendencies.

“Drug Cult” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Sunday, 15 July 2018

SLUDGECAMP #4: A deep dive into the newest black metal releases on Bandcamp w/c 13/07/2018

By: Daniel Jackson

Stíny plamenů,

Welcome back to “Sludgecamp”! Summer is in full swing, so of course I’m about to recommend you a bunch dark, depressing, downright bleak music to ruin all the good energy the life-enriching sun is blessing us with on these long, hot days. Whereas last week was particularly death metal-heavy, this week is essentially an all black metal extravaganza! As always, I hope you find something to love here!

Released this week:

1). Stíny plamenů, ‘20 let kanalizačních zmetků’ (
Czech Republic)

Stíny plamenů is a name I’ve heard over the years, and it’s one I’ve wondered about each time I see it, but I’ve never really pulled the trigger until now. I’m glad I did this week! Though weirdly obsessed with sewers (so much so that it’s the first theme listed in the band’s lyrical themes on Metal Archives), the music is an awesome throwback to that speed-crazed late 90s black metal sound. The riffs here have depth and personality, stabbing and twisting as the songs roll along, all with a touch of melody. The performances here are so precise and yet so natural, which makes this an absolute joy, especially if you’re a big fan of the more melodic side of 2nd wave black metal.

2). Svältvinter, ‘Att Öde Vara’ (Trollhättan, Sweden)

This is some pretty straightforward black metal, but with an obvious eye on whatever the greenest pastures of the genre might be. The songs are written specifically to stick in your head and make an immediate impression. It’s a brilliantly stipped-down, nearly punk rock approach that gives the band plausible deniability when it comes to selling out, while being immediately accessible in a way you might have expected from an early 2000s Moonfog Records band. The vocals are absolutely venomous here, and lead off track “Skogsbrand” even features something approximating gang vocals. The EP concludes with an uncharacteristically atmospheric song, swinging along in a way that almost gives it a folk metal feel. Great stuff all around, if you don’t mind an especially “basic” songwriting style.

3). Kryptamok, ‘Profaani’ (Finland)

Blood Harvest this week brings us a delicious gritty black metal EP, via Finland’s Kryptamok. Where reinventing the wheel clearly isn’t the goal here, the band succeeds in a big way by taking a classic, established sound and just doing it in way that feels raw, vital, and coursing with frenetic energy. You’ve likely heard something that sounds like this, but it’s rarely done this well.

4). Qafsiel, ‘The True Beast’ (London, UK)

The band have self-tagged themselves as blackgaze, and I get that this might appeal to fans of that genre somewhat, but truth be told there’s a lot more going on here, and none of it strikes me as Alcest or Deafheaven worship. So what is going on here? It’s dense and heavy for a black metal band, and the atmosphere here comes across as more powerful than the more delicate vibe you tend to get in a blackgaze band. Really, this is current day atmospheric black metal that should appeal to folks to like a band like Mgła as much or more that it does a fan of Lantlôs or the like.

5). Codex Daemonicum, ‘Doctrines of the Fallen’

Simplified in a similar manner to Svältvinter, though much more atmospherialc bent overall, is Codex Daemonicum. These riffs will often straddle the fence that resides between prime 90s Marduk and ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’. The songs immediately feel familiar, but with a character of its own. As with our last band, the name of the game here is immediacy. Codex Daemonicum seems content to let their classic 2nd wave guitar work take center stage, as the vocals are drowned in reverb and mixed quietly enough that they take a back seat to almost everything else going on. It’s a unique tactic for a band that favors this specific black metal sound, but it works well here. Bonus points to Blood Harvest for having two strong releases come up in one week like this.

6). Solitary Key, “Sulphosfurous”

Raw, lo-fi, punk-ish, and dripping with schlocky charm, Solitary Key are probably the most fun album on the list this week. The key (sorry) here is the purposefully cheap-sounding keyboards, which give the whole thing an almost cartoonishly spooky feel; the stuff of local horror hosts’ late night movie marathons, rather than something more stoic and grim.The riffs here are catchy as can be, with Solitary Key feeling like the kind of band that would fit in nicely on a bill with Carpathian Forest or Emperor in their demo years.

7). Mythic Dawn, ‘En Svunnen Tid’ (Sweden)

To get right to the point: this stuff is super by-the-book. It’s so basic that I’m having a hard time explaining why I’m so drawn to it. There’s something powerful in being this doggedly committed to a subgenre’s orthodoxy. Its black metal stripped down to only its essential core elements. Fans of Darkthrone, Judas Iscariot, etc. have a good shot at enjoying this. It’s cold, fuzzy, harsh, and unabashedly grim, and that’s more than good enough for me!

New Pre-Orders:

8). Dauþuz, “Des Zwerges Fluch’ (25th of August)

With so much to talk about from the albums released this week, I felt it necessary to focus on just one pre-order this time around, so I’m going with Dauþuz. Naturmacht Productions released the band’s excellent ‘Die Grubenmähre’ last year, and they’re already back with a new release next month. It’s the same sort of powerful, pitch black melancholy that made ‘Die Grubenmähre’ so great. In fact, if I’d heard it before the end of the year last year, it would have almost certainly made my year end list. The track we can stream now bodes well for ‘Des Zwerges Fluch’ in 2018!

Thursday, 12 July 2018

RECORDS OF THEIR YEARS....with Joe Rowland of Pallbearer

Few bands have had quite same impact as Pallbearer over the last 6 years. New LP “Heartless” saw the Arkansas quartet complete their journey from underground doom heroes to all-conquering titans of the genre.  Nearly 18 months after the release of “Heartlesss”, Pallbearer have toured relentlessly and perhaps when it was thought there was nowhere else to roam, the band are set to hit the UK this coming Monday 16th July 2018, with five dates including a spot at Bloodstock. Recently I caught with Joe Rowland (bass) from the band, to discuss music, (what else) but more importantly albums from his birth to the present day.  Check it below.  

SL: Favourite album from the year you were born?

Joe Rowland: I had never really kept mental tabs on this so I had to a quick internet search, and much to my delight I discovered a few that certainly rank very highly (Jesus and Mary Chain’sPsychocandy’, Sisters of Mercy’s ‘First and Last and Always’ and ‘Hounds of Love’ by Kate Bush) but there is a clear winner here for me: ‘No Jacket Required’ — I am and always will be an unabashed Phil Collins fan.  Starting with my dad showing me a live Genesis tape when I was a very young child, I immediately developed an affinity for his music, and I can’t even count how many times I’ve listened to this album. I don’t care if it’s not cool, as seems to be the pervading opinion nowadays. Phil Collins forever! 

SL: First album you bought with your own money?

JR: The first album I bought was a CD of some classical music. I don’t even remember what it was! At that point in my childhood it had been determined by the powers that be that it was against the rules in my household to listen to anything other than classical music. Once I had my driver’s license all bets were off though, and I committed the ultimate act of rebellion by going out and buying ‘My Own Prison’ by Creed on CD. Bonus answer, my first vinyl album that I purchased not too terribly long after that was ‘The Argument’ by Fugazi, which I’m pleased to say is significantly less questionable (although Creed is still good for a laugh from time to time, I’m not going to lie!)   

SL: Favourite non metal / rock album?

JR: This is a tough question… and my answer will possibly also be my answer to the following question as well. I’d have to go with ‘Hosianna Mantra’ by Popol Vuh. Popol Vuh is my personal favourite and overall most influential artist I would have to say. This album, despite not having my #1 Popol Vuh song on it, is utterly transcendent and I strive to inch closer and closer to making music that is as emotive and affective as this album makes me feel. 

Runners up (at the moment)

Popol Vuh, ‘Heart of Glass’
Brian Eno, ‘Ambient 4: On Land’
Klaus Schulze, ‘Moondawn’

SL: Favourite album of all time:

JR: I’ll mention my favourite METAL and Rock albums of all time here: 

For metal, it’s ‘Mob Rules’ by Black Sabbath. It’s perfect, I love everything about the riffs, Dio’s performance, Geezer’s bass playing and tone are 10/10. It’s just a great record that has a lot of “fuck yeah” gratifying moments on it. It’s also one of the greatest records to have drunk singalongs to! It’s an emotional rollercoaster, especially ending on the massively sorrowful ‘Over and Over’

For rock, it’s ‘Red’ by King Crimson. This almost defies explanation; it’s such an interesting record, I remember first listening to it and kind of marvelling at how raw it is. Three of the greatest players in relatively recent history, playing what to me is truly emotionally primal music. It’s not polished, but it is very real. It sounds to me to be quite different from the opulent and grandiose sound achieved by many of the other figureheads of prog rock of that time perhaps even rock and roll in general in 1974. There is just something much more mean at work here. And it’s also got that same sort of tragic ending that I enjoyed in equal measure on ‘Mob Rules’

SL:Favourite album of 2018?

JR: It hasn’t been released yet, but I’ve heard the new Deadbird album coming out on 20 Buck Spin, and it is easily my favourite thing I’ve heard this year. 

SL:...And finally The last album you bought?

JR: I recently picked up vinyl copies of Craig Leon ‘Nommos’ as well as Steve Roach ‘Empetus’ (two great 80’s synth records if anyone is curious.) Sadly I have not had the chance to spin them on my home hi-fi system yet, but I’m looking forward to some time off the road to immerse myself!

Pallbearer will be touring the UK from July 16th - 19th – tickets are available HERE.

July 16th – London, The Underworld
July 17th – Glasgow, Stereo
July 18th – Leeds, Brudenell Social Club
July 19th – Bristol, Fleece
Aug 12th - Bloodstock

Their latest album 'Heartless' is out now HERE + brand new single 'Dropout' HERE

Band info: official || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Churchburn, “None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery”

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 13/07/2018
Label: Armageddon Shop

 Churchburn return with more relentless nihilism, it is apocalyptically ambitious and the music is as rabidly unholy as their name would suggest.

“None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery” CS//CD//DD//LP track listing

1. Vexare
2. Lines of Red
3. Misery Hymns
4. Authorized to Cleanse
5. Before the Inferno
6. Relieved by Burning Lead
7. Kaustos

The Review:

In 2014, Rhode Island’s Churchburn unleashed “The Awaiting Coffins” – one of the heaviest, most auspicious debuts in sludge.  With a pedigree that included members of Vital Remains and Grief, the accomplished musicianship wasn’t a surprise – it was the sheer fucking menace that did me in.  The riffs, the production, the punishing rhythms and drum work all coalesced into one of my favorite go-to records.  But with four years and a lineup change, there was, perhaps, the troubling thought that Churchburn would be another one of those miraculous one-and-done projects.  Thankfully, with “None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery”, Churchburn returns with more relentless nihilism than I’d thought possible.  If anything, this is more apocalyptically ambitious, with consistent audio references to natural disaster: waves crashing, winds shrieking, and always the agonized mass of human voices.  And as for the music… Well damn, it’s as rabidly unholy as their name would suggest.

From the seething, crackling ambient nightmare tones of “Vexare”, Churchburn establish “…The Hymns of Misery” as a production layered with pure filth.  The repeated, dirge like riff is vaguely industrial and overtly terrifying – I imagined planetary siege engines, powdered bones trailing behind, crackling through a domain of carbonized waste.  After that intro, the chiming, watery lead guitar of “Lines of Red” belies the real songwriting chops underneath the Churchburn chaos.  There are hooks and harmonies that symphonic posers would love to copy, but these moments are all the more stellar when juxtaposed with the fried, chugging rhythm lines.  Dave Suzuki’s demonic vocal delivery is uniformly unhinged, conveying pure rage at one moment and abject despair in the next.  And the guitar solo on this one is sheer death shred mastery, before the finale of ignorant headbanging perfection.  The contrasts between the ethereal (clean guitar lines and spare, distant samples) and thick, crushing dissonance makes “Misery Hymns” another compelling trek through hopelessness; the plodding trudge that gives way to an epic finale is one of my favorite moments on record this year.

If there’s one element self-appointed “brutal” bands sometimes lack, its virtuosity.  In that respect, Churchburn are astounding outliers, not only for their shred and groove bona fides, but their facility with genre warping and tonal shifts.  “Authorized to Cleanse” and “Before the Inferno” center around guitar pyrotechnics, but they are so tonally distinct it’s mind boggling.  While “…Cleanse” glides between harmonies and neo-classical progressions, and borders on elegant black metal bombast, “…Inferno” is more distinctly avant garde, using Eastern scales on top of groove oriented heavy blues sludge.  Beneath this riff-worship, the rhythm section is relentless, smashing out blast beats, looser classic doom, tribal sounds and inhuman industrial beats, rooted by thick, gnarly bass tones.  “Relieved by Burning Lead” serves as the apotheosis of the record, opening with a haunting spoken word intro before launching into a chilling anti-human anthem.  The winding melodies, throat shredding vocals, double kick onslaughts, even frantic basslines (!) – each time I queue up this track I can feel my blood pressure rising, my BPM slowly sliding into the red.  It’s an ordeal of a song, but I find myself blasting it over and over again, as if I can somehow inure myself to its corrosive power.  Closing track "Kaustos" acts as a parallel of “Vexare” – another dark slab of instrumental metal that is somehow more mournful than the industrial inhumanity of Vexare.  This feels like a requiem.

“None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Zombiefication, "Below The Grief"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 16/07/2018
Label: Doomentia Records

The very best death metal bands sound disparate from one another and Zombiefication manage to inject a whole lot of blackened sounding passages into their aural assault.  For quality and unique death metal, look no further that Zombiefication

“Below The Grief” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Blood Falls
2). Deliverance from the Astral Sea
3). Echoes of Light
4). Death to its Son
5). Heavy is the Crown
6). Hunger Undying
7). Sky Burial

The Review:

Four years after “Procession Through Infestation” and Five years after the absolute masterpiece of “At The Caves Of Eternal”, Mexico's finest death metal export return with seven tracks of gnarly blackened death metal. Once again, the focus is not on pro-tooled perfection, but is more towards a dark atmosphere and real sounding drums.

The sound is cavernous and the band has retained their unique and chaotic sound. I noted last time around that Zombiefication don't really sound like any other death metal band out there and this is a huge strength. The very best death metal bands sound disparate from one another (you'd never mistake Obituary for Deicide) and Zombiefication manage to inject a whole lot of blackened sounding passages into their aural assault.

Opener “Blood Falls is fast and furious, “Deliverance From The Astral Sea is tempered by slower riffing and is hugely listenable with its fast passages and even a creepy clean section. Huge drums open up “Echoes of Light” and the band deliver a genuinely sinister atmosphere along with a grinding chug. The eight and a half minute epic “From Death To Its Son” is the album's centrepiece and essentially it combines all the good aspects of the band and throws them into one track- the atmosphere, riffing, sound, anguished vocals and overall effect are great.

From thereon, the album throws another three tracks at the listener- varied in their approach but consistent in their dark atmospherics. “Heavy Is the Crown” is dark and features an experimental production with serious use of dynamics. “Hunger Undying” is similarly tar-like in vibe and execution with thick blast sections. The album finishes with “Sky Burial” which is as appropriate a way as any to finish this deliciously dark and deep record.

For quality and unique death metal, look no further. Viva Zombiefication!

“Below The Grief” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Friday, 6 July 2018

SLUDGECAMP #3: A deep dive into the newest black/death metal releases on Bandcamp w/c 6/7/2018

By: Daniel Jackson

We’re back for a briefer-than-usual edition of “Sludgecamp”! The ongoing upswing in death metal’s creativity and strength of output is here in full effect this week, with strong showings in a number of the subgenre’s various niches. One of the things I’ve loved most about this column so far is that there’s always someone who’s just put up something brilliant or interesting or exciting, and it can come from anywhere on the planet. There’s so much creativity in the world, and so much brilliant music just waiting to be found and appreciated. I hope you find something to appreciate here.

Released this week:

1). Svartkonst, ‘Devil’s Blood’

This is some damned nasty, filthy, blackened death n’ roll. I’m having a hard time thinking of anyone they’re directly similar too, but this album features some excellent song arrangements, a delightfully grimy-yet-razor-sharp production, and riffs for weeks. They’re listed as unsigned/independent currently, but there’s no way on earth that lasts very long unless sole member Rickard Törnqvist wants it that way. This is simply too good to stay hidden for long.

2). Xvarmart, ‘Xvarmart’

On the other end of the spectrum is this Iranian duo, drowning their grim and bitter black metal in layers of reverb creating a resonant, cavernous atmosphere. Sure there are bands out there doing something similar musically, but this is a great version of that minimalist, lo-fi black metal sound. This absolutely gut-wrenching if you’re in the right mood for it.

3). Nazrak, ‘Cantiques Funèbres’

A little under produced, but more in the sense that it has that thinner mid 90s production to it. The key here is that the riffs, while familiar in style are clever and memorable, and the keyboard work and clean vocals are done tastefully, and offer a very complete listening experience. Even if the recording itself is lacking a bit of heft, the music more than makes up for it if you’re into black metal with a bit of whimsy to it. (Note: The bandcamp page indicates that the album is still a pre-order, even though it says it was released on the 5th of July, so I’m not sure what’s happening there.)

New Reissues on Bandcamp:

4). Pyre,  ‘Human Hecatomb’ Released 3rd August 2018

This tasty slab of old school death metal was originally released by Chaos Records several years ago, but thankfully Redefining Darkness, is stepping up to bring the album back into circulation on CD with an eight page booklet and bonuses in the form of demo tracks and a strong cover of Slaughter’s “Nocturnal Hell”. The songwriting here sets the band apart from the pack, and with this being an edition limited to 300, you’ll probably want to get your hands on a copy sooner rather than later.

New Pre-Orders:

5). Heads For The Dead, “Serpent’s Curse” Released 24th September 2018

Members of Wombbath, Ursinne, and Revel In Flesh make up this new death metal band with a love of classic horror. The artwork rules, which always helps, but the riffs back it up big time. The pre-release single is the album’s title track, and it paints Heads For The Dead as providing some killer death metal with both a flair for drama and atmosphere, as well as a keen sense of melody when called upon. Transcending Obscurity has gone above and beyond for this album with special edition box sets in LP and CD format, if you’re looking for some extra goodies from a band that puts a lot of thought into visual presentation. Well worth your attention.

6). Insignium, ‘Infamie und Urgewalt - Wenn Altes sich erhebt’ Released 31st August 2018

Some very promising melodic black metal coming from Apostasy Records, with elements of thrash and classic heavy metal woven into the tapestry as well. People will point to that classic Dissection sound as a point of reference, but there’s plenty more variety beyond that, as the song available in advance makes abundantly clear.