Thursday 1 November 2012

Ishmael - Hell Is Empty and All the Devils Are Here (Album Review)

Formed in 2009, Ishmael is a Sludge / Doom quintet from Plymouth, United Kingdom.

The band consists of:

Dani Hawkins - Vocals
Rick Metters - Guitar
Jim Willumsen - Bass
Owen Hewitt - Guitar/Howls
Conor McCaffrey- Drums


1. Buried With Fingers
2. Crossed Little Bones
3. The Soul's Dirtied Windows

 Violent, misanthropic doom, blended with sludge and bound with ale - equal parts despair, disillusionment and all-out hatred, steeped in alcohol and thrown to the baying crowd.

A sound as relentless as a mammoth trudging towards better lands, as heavy as its mud-encrusted testicles, and so loud that we will shake all the saints and angels down into Hell.

We are on a quest for the brown note and world domination. There is nothing else you need to know about our formation.
- Ishmael

Ishmael are an unsigned, down-tempo sludge / doom outfit formed in Plymouth in 2009. They have one demo under their belt from their year of formation, more recently self-releasing their latest effort 'Hell Is Empty and All the Devils Are Here' in late July. Alex and Dani had been in a band together for six years prior which split just as Jim’s band was slowing down. They initially formed Ishmael with Jim and Conor and played a few gigs, with Rick joining shortly thereafter in 2010. Alex left at the end of that year to focus fully on The Wounded Kings, sending them on hiatus until Owen joined to completed the five-piece line-up.

Some of the music they enjoy on their free time include: Dragged Into Sunlight, The Wounded Kings, Cough, Burning Witch, Salome, Parole, Ramesses, Electric Wizard, Church Of Misery, Weedeater, Sourvein, Unearthly Trance, Sleep, Iron Monkey, Lazarus Blackstar, Acid King, Sardonis, Elder and Black Pyramid

(Ishmael, will you adopt me please? Thanks for your cooperation.)


I am, once again, honored to review another well recieved album of 2012 with Ishmael's first full-length 'Hell Is Empty and All the Devils Are Here'. A big thanks to the Sludgelords themselves for trusting me with a band from their stomping grounds in the UK. This can be a little intimidating at times, but I am so fond of this particular sound that I think, perhaps, I might just pull it off.

Firstly, I had only heard of the band through word-of-mouth, which was all so positive that I was destined to check the release out promptly on my own hand, but the Lords of Sludge blessed me with it's presence before I even had the chance. I loved it instantly, and noticed a few similarities to bands I tend to lean towards of the misanthropic sort. Dani's vocal style is highly reminiscent of Salome and even a few treasured male-fronted acts we all know and love, such as Grief and Noothgrush. In fact, I didn't realize Ishmael was led by a female until further research, which makes this band even better because they had me fooled.

'Hell Is Empty and All the Devils Are Here' runs a little over the 40-minute mark with just 3 tracks, all of which are down-tuned and as morose as it gets, owing to their overall theme of unlight. I am a huge fan of samples various sludge bands choose to open or close a track with, mainly from movies, and Ishmael is a new favorite along with Rwake, Leechmilk, and countless others that utilize them. The atmosphere attained at a live show or on the album itself with these samples can really set the mood for what's to come.

'Buried with Fingers Crossed' is the opening track that contains one of these enticing samples I take great joy in when done right, and right it is done, followed by 10 minutes of pure down-tempo, aurally offensive, yet hypnotic instrumentations. I can only compare the vocal style to a few bands, but the music is all Ishmael branded, as I've listened to it a shitload of times and can't come up with a similar band aside from blends of many made into it's own.

The second and third tracks, 'Little Bones' and 'The Soul's Dirtied Windows' have some groove to it, like that of many stoner doom bands we like to get our heads right to, but I still find it hard pigeonhole them. The guitars are as heavy as the bass, with tons of sonically amplified riffs, some distortion, and precise percussions to match. You can either be extremely disgruntled, or chilled out to the max, and the pace and mood of this album will still manage to soothe your soul.

If I were to use keywords on this band, they would surely be all of the following: intense, gritty, heavy as fuck, filthy and forboding. Ishmael definitely rank amongst the recent surge of top quality sludge bands also stemming from the UK. We have seen some mighty fine acts emerge in that region as of late, such as Wizard's Beard, Undersmile, Conan and Bastards of the Skies, just to name a few.

I am really looking forward to hearing more from these sludgers in the future and can only imagine what a live gig would be like, especially with the names they have been appearing with on the bill. I will keep my eye out for them and hope you enjoy 'Hell Is Empty and All the Devils Are Here' as much as I did. Check them out on their respective sites below for updates on tours, merchandise and more.

Also, check out the excellent interview with Dani from Ishmael done by our very own Doomentor HERE.

You can hear aspects of our own favourite genres in the sound, there are little hints of post-metal and drone and stuff tucked away in there among the sludge, but we try not to owe too much of our sound to any particular band. Lyrically there are no concepts, just fascinations with death, sexuality and generally the horrible things that people can do to each other. I’m a huge fan of Paul Catten and love his lyrics, especially from when he was in Lazarus Blackstar, so I guess you could call him an inspiration. - Dani

Ishmael - Little Bones (Demo)

Ishmael - Hell Is Empty and All the Devils Are Here (2012)