Monday, 17 June 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Eternal Black, "Slow Burn Suicide"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 13/06/2019
Label: Obsidian Sky Records

Eternal Black have once again delivered an excellent record and represent the best of the American doom genre today. Masterful stuff.

“Slow Burn Suicide” DD track listing:

1). All These Things Destroy You…
2). Lost in the Fade
3). Below
4). The Ghost
5). Sum of All fears
6). A Desert of No Name
7). Three Fates
8). Sinners, Saints, and Madmen
9). All these Things (Slight Return)

The Review:

New York's premier doom outfit return here a couple of years on from “Bleed The Days”. Hal Miller, Joe Wood and Ken Wohlrob have struck back in some style here. After the opening intro of “All These Things Destroy You”, the percussive pummelling that opens “Lost In The Fade” lets the listener know they mean business: it's live and raw sounding, thick and fuzzed out. This is doom as it should be in America today; angry, abrasive and seething with an undertow of disillusionment.

As the record progresses, it becomes clear that the trio have lost none of their knack for “the riff” or self loathing. As Wohlrob asks “How low have I sunk?!” you feel the integrity in the vocal delivery. On the likes of “The Ghost”, there is a hint- well, more than a hint, of the band spreading their wings beyond traditional American Doom to encompass something that might be more akin to Fu Manchu  or even COC. Don't mistake this for a stoner album, as it is not, but there are echoes of other genres to go with the more obvious nods towards Saint Vitus et. al.

Eternal Black still know how to hammer their point home with riffs that are beaten relentlessly into the listener's consciousness and pacing quick enough to get the head nodding, but slow enough to please the most discerning doom head. “Sum of All Fears” and “A Desert of No Name” are equally blunt in their heavier than thou opening riffage, but the latter is a more dynamic affair which allows the trio to sound more than a three piece. It takes skill to do that, particularly when working in a genre that is not well known for aural subtlety. It's also excellent to hear a cowbell placed firmly front and centre on any doom track.

The close-to-three-minutes of “Three Fates” represents a creepy acoustic/electric departure with percussive flourishes that invokes Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds more than, say, Pentagram and it is an excellent change of approach and pace that allows the latter third of the album to feel like a suite in its own right. “Sinners, Saints and Madmen “is whah'd  (not a word!) out and features wonderful riffing and a soulful bent to its delivery. The jazzy inflections present on earlier work are present and correct here and lend the track a schizophrenic feel. It's sublimely played and deftly handled. The best comparison I can give is perhaps that it is akin to reading a Henry Miller novel like Plexus; it's one thing one minute and something else the next.

The closing “All These Things (Slight Return)” echoes the opening statement of the record and is just as powerful at the end as it is at the beginning. The two tracks frame the album expertly and book end the journey that plays out in between. Once again, Eternal Black have delivered an excellent record. It's wider in scope than “Bleed The Days” but delivered with equal conviction. This album is for all those people who have been jamming the new Vitus record endlessly and want some more doom... but something that bit different. Maybe it's something in the water in Brooklyn, maybe Peter Steele is still communicating from beyond the grave but whatever it is, Eternal Black have got IT and they represent the best of the American doom genre today. Masterful.

“Slow Burn Suicide” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Friday, 14 June 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Full of Hell, "Weeping Choir"

By: Eeli Helin

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 14/05/2019
Label: Relapse Records

Weeping Choir” CD//DD//CS//LP track listing:

1. Burning Myrrh
2. Haunted Arches
3. Thundering Hammer
4. Rainbow Coil
5. Aria of Jeweled Tears
6. Downward
7. Armory of Obsidian Glass
8. Silmaril
9. Angels Gather Here
10.Ygramul the Many
11. Cellar of Doors

The Review:

The US noisy grindcore envoys Full of Hell are back with a blast, releasing their fourth full-length (excluding their collabs with The Body) ”Weeping Choir” on May 14th, and the first under Relapse Records. It's been two years since their previous two albums, ”Trumpeting Ecstacy” and ”Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light”, their second album with the aforementioned experimental noise duo. The band's been highly prolific throughout their ten year career, and ”Weeping Choir” sounds like a band on their apex form.

Over time, Full of Hell's sound has evolved from more straightforward, hardcore impulsed grindcore into more noisy, more death metal influenced amalgamation of styles, and the evolution has been nothing but natural. You can also hear how the band has shaped and mastered their own territory, from where they can shoot to any direction without losing themselves or their fans in the process, conveniently always keeping their core exposed. You'll also find numerous confluences between their releases, tying it all ever so elegantly together without coming across as repetitive or harping.

Weeping Choir”, as addressed by the band, is the direct continuation and mirror image of 'Trumpeting Ecstasy'. The idea is imminent since the songs share the same topics and dictums, the artworks are sort of inversions of each other and so on. The 25 minute LP ignites with "Burning Myrrh". With zero bullshit, the song eviscerates everything on it's way, churning unforgivingly for one and a half minutes before collapsing into a doomy outro glazed with haunting clean tones toward the end, fittingly proceeding straight into the second song titled "Haunted Arches". This and the following track "Thundering Hammers" continue to pillage and ravage in customary manner, giving the album one hell of a start. The next turn is slightly unexpected; "Rainbow Coil" is a longer instrumental build-up consisting of only noise and samples. 

Personally, I'm delighted that the band can pull of such an abrupt move so early on without losing the momentum at all. At this point you'll also pay attention to the production of the album. Produced/recorded by Kurt Ballou of Converge and mastered by Brad Boatright like the previous album, the overall sound is punishing but clear, keeping the grindcore identity and integrity without sacrificing itself upon the altar of messy and downright unpleasant execution.

"Aria of Jeweled Tears" picks up the pace and appears as the strongest track so far, followed up "Downward", a piece more reminiscent of the times of ”Roots of Earth Are Consuming My Home” and ”Rudiments of Mutilation”. At this point I might add, and people who like this sort of music will know what I mean, it might be hard to pick up any certain riffs or reasons to why certain tracks come across stronger than others. It's a matter of feeling and flow rather than the individual moments, which there are still many that can be clearly pointed out if necessary. A lot of these moments are sprinkled across "Armory of Obsidian Glass", the Lingua Ignota featuring gloomy and putrid magnificent oeuvre clocking nearly seven minutes, acts as a cornerstone placed precisely where it needs to be. The tracks swirls and sways between pummeling and redeeming, managing to capture a wide range of compositional dynamics and feelings to a single song. Lingua Ignota's feat is also spot on, guaranteed to give kicks to fans of either and both. Towards the end, the song introduces a new, blatantly and facetiously put, emotional side to the bands output, again proving Full of Hell to be a perennial shape shifter.

The remaining four tracks serve some of the highlights of their discography; "Silmaril" offers unexpected tempo changes and a vocal section resembling more of a moving clog in a sewer than a human. "Angels Gather Here" sounds like it could be in one of the collaboration albums with The Body, showing that Full of Hell are more than capable to rejoice in that kind of noise by themselves too. "Ygramul the Many" slaps in a saxophone solo, relating to the closer track in the Merzbow collab. "Cellar of Doors" conjures some pretty disgusting demons before offering the album an appropriate, sudden end.

Without turning this to anymore of a novel, ”Weeping Choir” is currently Full of Hell's grand work. It falls perfectly in line with all of their other releases, and continues their upward crawl back to God. What they do when they get there is unknown, but something to look forward to.

”Weeping Choir” is available here

Band info: facebook || bandcamp

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

6 NEW BANDS: THE SLUDGELORD's "666 Pack Review" (May 2019)

May is here and that means a few things are afoot.  Some of you are wrapping up your studies and graduating to join the rest of us in real life misery…AND…the metal festival season is almost upon us.  Some bands are ok with hanging out in their garage and playing to their drunken friends for gratification, but others aspire to hopefully tour the world and play the summer metal festival circuit someday.  THE SLUDGELORD can’t make any promises on the latter, but what we can do is help your band get some free promotion by submitting your tunes for this monthly column even if you suck!  So, if you’re new to this, each and every month we handpick 6 review submissions and critique them by only using 6 words, then we rate them on a scale from 1 to 666!  Check out our “May your festival pipe dreams not suck” rating scale below: 

1 – Your garage hates you.  Just stop.  
2 – Get some wood, make a stage and steal a couple of lava lamps from a hippie for lighting effect.  This is as close you’ll get to playing a festival. 
3 – You know that local “promoter” that throws 15 local bands together and calls it a festival?  You’re good enough for that. 
4 – You need to get out on the road and push your product.  You’ll land a nice regional fest invite for sure.      
5 – Wacken Open Air holds local auditions and the winners get to invited to play this mammoth festival.   You should enter the contest next year. 
666THE SLUDGELORD should organize the sludgiest of all festivals and make you the headliner.  Wishful thinking…but…you never know???

Caveat:  Even though the “666 Pack Review” is meant to offer humorous critique, there are no safe spaces here and your gripes will only make you sound like a bellyacher.  THE SLUDGELORD is a picky listener…and doesn’t care what you think of his opinions….

1). Kavod “Wheel Of Time” (Perugia, Italy)    Rating: 4

The comparisons to Om are warranted.

2). MA-AT “Find Evil, Feel Fine” (Cape Town, South Africa)   Rating: 2

Plodding and muddy.  Bad combination indeed…

3). Black Seal “SATI” (Delray Beach, FL, U.S.A) Rating: 2

If Kyuss was ADHD on cocaine. 

4). Inhuman Nature “Inhuman Nature” (London, United Kingdom)   Rating: 666!

Sexy thrash ala the Bay Area!

5). Sky Burial “Sokushinbutsu” (Amsterdam, Netherlands)   Rating: 3

Killer tones, but needs more drugs. 

6). Dead Sacraments “Celestial Throne” (Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.)  Rating: 5

Maybe a Dark Lord Day invite? 

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Lord Vicar, “The Black Powder”

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 26/04/2019
Label: The Church Within Records

It's a doom epic and a throwback to the very best records of the genre. Truly, this is a masterpiece of doom metal and a worthy addition to any doom fans collection.

“The Black Powder” CD//DD track listing:

1). Sulphur, Charcoal and Saltpetre
2). Descent
3). World Encircled
4). Levitation
5). The Temple in the Bedrock
6). Black Lines
7). Impact
8).  Nightmare
9). A Second Chance 

The Review

Lord Vicar are doom royalty, of course- comprising as they do ex-members of a couple of the most influential and greatest doom bands of all time. With an opening track timing at 17mins 16secs in the form of “Sulphur, Charcoal and Saltpetre” the band have opted for an explosive (!) start. Quiet acoustics give way to the murkiest ground out riffage after a couple of minutes and Chritus familiar vocal kicks in. Elsewhere there are tracks which run over 10mins and 8mins, so expect true doom.

Naturally, “Gates of Flesh” was similarly expansive in places, as was “Fear No Pain” and so on. This is what the band do. However, this time around the tracks on offer seem darker than ever. “Descent” takes the vibe even further downward, with Kimi's guitars stirring the blackest pitch in an already dark cauldron. It's an unsettling and in-no-way-uplifting listen. The band reference their own work and one member's previous band's work in the lyrics and everything from the double tracked vocal to the tempo shifts are sublime. This is doom perfection.

There are no rays of sun to be found in “World Encircled” either. The downtrodden feel is relentless and it's a reminder that doom is not really about occult stylings, sludge or 70's biker films at all. It's about crushing misery and despair. Saint Vitus know it, Trouble know it, Sabbath, The Gates of Slumber... they all know it too. Lord Vicar are standing on the shoulders of such giants and also standing alongside them as a modern archetype of what doom should be.

There are grooves here and there, too- it's not just a one paced pity-party. Indeed, the tracks are dynamic and organic in that they take their own path and meander through solo breaks, time changes and some very deft rhythm section interplay.

With 9 tracks on offer, this is a lot to take in on one sitting- think The Gates of Slumber'sSuffer No Guilt” opus and how hard to follow it can be until you fully assimilate it. Just like all the best records, though, the album reveals itself with repeated listens (in my case broken up into commutes both to and from work). “Levitation” plays on its title by being positively upbeat in sound compared to other tracks- but still maintains the crucial down factor throughout. More true doom follows in the form of “The Temple in the Bedrock”, this time with an up-tempo start that'll get even the most downcast head banging. It comes complete with a very down-tempo middle section, but the structure and arrangements are absolutely on point- it comes back around on itself and marks itself out as an all out rager right in the middle of the record. Excellent.

“Black Lines” brings some straightforward heaviness delivered expertly. The pace is not glacial, so this is another head-nodder that brings a 70's Sabbath feel to the album. It's deftly handled and another high point elevating the middle of the record to essential listening. Impact is lunk-headed bludgeon riffola which is again guaranteed to get your head banging and even your toe tapping. It's elemental stuff and all the more forceful for it.

Things cannot stay up forever, though, so “Nightmare” brings acoustic sadness and a militaristic middle to the record. A haunting diversion that bridges the previous rockers with the closing epic of “A Second Chance”. The band return to the bleak sound of the opening third of the album here- to great effect. It's bleak, depressing and quite beautiful in its own way.

As noted earlier, it's hard to review a record of this size and scope as it takes in so much and covers so much ground. The quality of the album will shine through on first listen, but the depths of the album can only be explored with repeated dedicated listening. It's a doom epic and a throwback to the very best records of the genre. Truly, this is a masterpiece of doom metal and a worthy addition to any doom fans collection. With that, I can only close by saying that this comes highly recommended and that you will get out what you put in. Incredible.

“The Black Powder” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Friday, 7 June 2019

REVIEW: God Root & Manikineter, "“The Dirt Will Reclaim All It Has Lost”

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Split 
Date Released: 01/06/2019
Label: Independent

"The Dirt Will Reclaim All It Has Lost" CS//DD track listing

1). God Root, Decay is a Womb
2). God Root, Where Life Springs Forth
3). Manikineter, We Don’t Remember Asking
4). Manikineter, Shoot the Chalice (Re-Mixed)

The Review:

Writing about metal, especially the “extreme” spectrum of metal, you don’t necessarily get to reflect on melodic beauty. I’d probably cringe if I had to look at a diagram of how often I remark on the brutality, the malevolence, the dissonance and filthy tones of the releases I get sucked into.  But the most effective moments of tension, for me at least, is hearing a group of capable musicians show off their melodic prowess and then break it into a million writhing pieces.  Maybe that’s what’s drawn me to God Root since their self-titled debut; maybe that’s what has me more excited for what they WILL be doing with each new release. It’s definitely what has me hooked on their latest, long awaited follow-up to “Salt and Rot”.  With fellow Philly cross-genre mastermind Manikineter, God Root explore the beauty in physical corruption on “The Dirt Will Reclaim All It Has Lost” by fusing harmonic vocals and harsh noise, soaring leads and thrashing low end, offering a glimpse of a band that’s thoroughly progressive but undeniably catchy.

The main course here is “Decay is a Womb”, a nine-minute opus that opens with thoroughly monastic, multi-part harmonies, crackling minor key guitar chords, and pulsing, tribal drumming.  The extreme low end vocals, which directly nod to Tuvan throat singing, are beautifully countered by the vocal triad of Joe Hues (guitar), Ross Bradley (bass) and Fred Grabosky, before the shrill noise acrobatics of Jordan Stiff and dual guitar lines of Hues and Kieth Riecke kick in.  There’s some subtle industrial crunch running through the sludge but the rhythm is never stiff.  It manages to pulsate with the biological metaphors at play.  With an intensity that vacillates between agony and jubilation, the nameless narrator intones: “I yield to the heat of decay / Rebirth between the black astral plane / In loam, a time lapse churns my body back to the earth / Swallow me. Rip me away”. It never get back to the delicacy of the opening, but the melody coursing through the song makes the furious eruption of instrumental noise and wordless screams at the end that much more gratifying.

The instrumental “bonus track” of the digital download, “Where Life Springs Forth” is an interesting ambient palate cleanser.  After the life/death/decay/rebirth themes of the first track, the synth-electronic soundscape had me thinking about Godflesh at Justin Broadrick’s most industrial moments and Eraserhead sets blasted by radiation.  This echoey nightmare doesn’t seem to evoke any humanity, or any life whatsoever.  This extended transition is a perfect bridge to Manikineter’s post-apocalyptic avant garde noise wizardry.

“We Don’t Remember Asking” opens as a near inverse of “Decay is a Womb” – a single voice intones a chant, but this isn’t the unifying uplift of “Decay” – this is quavering, extended, looping into inhuman manipulations while an intensely distorted voice rambles under layers of static.  The voice crackles on for minutes at a time, a ghost in the machine, until it’s buried under layers of synth and drum machines.  Synth bass and sparse drum machine fills emerge from the background before Carl Kavorkian’s lyrics flow out like missives from a numbers station.  With the mechanized, steady pattern of his words, it almost feels safely repetitive until a shrieking voice breaks out, describing horrific surreal images: “Despot’s Chest poked, brain in sight thru nose” really stuck with me in a viscerally unsettling way.

Manikineter’s bonus track here, “Shoot the Chalice (Re-Mixed)” is a deeply distressing noise nightmare.  If God Root’s purely instrumental track toyed with post-humanism, this is a straight out antinatalist dirge.  If there’s anything vaguely biological here, it’s the buzzing of carrion flies, the shrieks of metal and machinery that evokes pure agony, the endless looping of synthesized screams forever and ever amen.  This is advanced level noise mastery here with occasional glowing notes thrown in above the miasma.  True disciples of auditory pain will love this – others may be left cradling their precious eardrums.

As a whole, “The Dirt Will Reclaim All It Has Lost” functions how the best splits always do – it pulled me in with one thing I love and introduced me to something else I’d love to learn more about.  The fact that it does so in a cross-genre way is even more exciting and, frankly, something more “EXTREME METAL” bands should consider.  The palettes of so many seemingly disparate scenes are cross pollinating and colliding in ways that go far beyond the simplified “rap meets metal!” cover stories that flooded Hit Parader and a million other shitty magazines that littered my floor as a seventh grader.  Instead, we have two really interesting, important underground musicians on the cusp of even bigger things, both ruminating on themes of decay, loss, death, and chaos.  The fact that I want to see the ways they intersect and diverge beyond this record means I can only see this brief experiment as an unmitigated success.

“The Dirt Will Reclaim All It Has Lost” is available HERE

Monday, 3 June 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Latitudes, "Part Island"

By: Eeli Helin

Album Type: Full-length
Date Released: 05/04/19
Label: Debemur Morti Productions

"Part Island" is a beautifully aching, emotionally overwhelming and all consuming monstrous opus

"Part Island" CD//DD//LP tracklisting:

1. Underlie
2. Moorland Is the Sea
3. Dovestone
4. Fallowness
5. The Great Past
6. Part Island

The Review:

"Part Island", the fourth full-length by Latitudes and their second under the flag of Debemur Morti Productions. On "Part Island", the UK based sludgy post-metal band reinvent themselves on familiar waters, leading into a mental image of a capsized ship representing a previously unseen side of their own sound. The maritime references are more than fitting; The artwork, song titles, lyrics and the albums name all blend together perfectly, keeping the listeners close and feeding them protean visions they feel are apt at any given time.

On their earlier albums, the band has heavily relied on strong instrumentation, often leaving the vocals abaft. The most notable change this time is that instead of building up from a riff or drum pattern, all the songs were embarked with an acoustic guitar and vocal melodies, other instruments following afterwards. Soon after the album begins, you realise that the vocals are extremely integral this time, and it's something you didn't know you missed on the earlier albums.

The album starts off with "Underlie", which acts as sort of an introduction to the album, infused with soft plucked acoustic guitars, keys and fragile vocals. The listener is instantly carried away from wherever they are, into the drowsy and bleak world sealed within this album. The following tracks "Moorland Is the Sea" and "Dovestone" are perhaps the heaviest pieces on the album, creating contrast and boundaries to the otherwise vague and floating settlements. Adam Symonds' vocals sway through the air stronger than ever, constantly reminding how the vocals are indeed where the focus is at this time around. The pair is also mirroring their past works more than the rest of the album.

"Fallowness" starts off with synth swoops and picks up a more prompt pace until it comes to halt, again showing how Latitudes thrive in creating huge contrasts within short periods of time. There’s currently a lot of bands going for that certain kind of variability, but Latitudes excels in it better than most. Trailed by the most sinister track on the album, "The Great Past", you can't help but smirk, knowing how you will enjoy this release for countless repeats. The albums titular closer, the grand ouvre of "Part Island", will take every single mood and emotion strewn throughout the 43 minute album and compress them into one magnificent entity. It is now when you realize words can't do enough justice for the album, it simply has to be heard to be understood. This album will drain you, but it's worth it.

"Part Island" is a beautifully aching, emotionally overwhelming and consuming monstrous opus, which shows that this band is ascending to a whole new class and there's absolutely no limits to their creativity and what one might expect from them in the future.

"Part Island" is available HERE

Band info: facebook || bandcamp

Friday, 31 May 2019

TRACK PREMIERE: "Ghost Army" by Chicago quintet The Hÿss

The Hÿss, a Chicago quintet born out of a mutual love for staples like Black Sabbath, Fu Manchu and Clutch are set to release their new record entitled “Hound” on June 7th, 2019. Tracked mostly live in the studio, the sound of “Hound” is urgent, hard-hitting rock that's sure to satisfy stoner rock, punk and metal fans alike.

After a test run getting their bluesy, doomy grunge sound onto demo tape in August 2017, the band set about honing their live chops in and around their native Chicago. As a result, the songs on this five-track banger are tight and loose in all the right places, moving comfortably within the spacious realm they’ve forged.

Recorded and mixed by Pete Grossmann (High Priest, Something is Waiting) at Chicago's Bricktop Recording and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege (Sleep, YOB, Mutoid Man), each song on “Hound is a concise hit of rock n’ roll, updated and expanded.

There's plenty of variety to dig into on the album, and today you can check out the band for yourself, as we premiere the track “Ghost Army”, so turn it up, hit repeat and watch your speakers die.

Band info: facebook