Tuesday 28 February 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: All Them Witches - "Sleeping through the War"

By: Victor Van Ommen

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 24/02/2017
Label: New West Records

There’s a lot going on and much of the album will surprise those expecting a one-to-one follow up to “Dying Surfer Meets his Maker.” If you get it, “Sleeping through the War” is an album that will continue to grow.

“Sleeping through the War” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Bulls
2). Don’t Bring Me Coffee
3). Bruce Lee
4). 3-5-7
5). Am I Going Up?
6). Alabaster
7). Cowboy Kirk
8). Internet

The Review:

What a strange trip All Them Witches has been on. Their debut album, “Our Mother Electricity” is a classic stoner blues album but done in such a way that it found backing by Elektrohasch Records. You know, the same place that puts out all of the Colour Haze albums. ATW’s follow up, “Lightning at the Door” put the band on an independent mission to find more depth in their sound. This they did, and when their 2015 follow up “Dying Surfer Meets his Maker” was announced, we were all sure that the ’Witches were going to own this stoner-blues thing. Own it they did, though not in any sort of way that their fans were expecting. First off, they were signed to country-rock power house New West Records and secondly, they released an album that lacked focus but made up for it in spades with vibe. If the band’s schedule from the past two years – as well as my humble opinion - is anything to go by, this approach worked very, very well for them.

Just a few days ago, All Them Witches released their new album, “Sleeping through the War.” Anticipation is high on this one and with good reason. The question is, what will the band do now?

A jolty mix of the All Them Witches sonic palette opens up the album. A strange introduction, to say the least. Opener “Bulls” is as dreamy as it is riffy, almost forcibly playing the one off of the other. The song’s back half flies off the handle with a sturdy working of the keyboard which, admittedly, might take some getting used to. “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” follows “Bulls” as a rugged guitar rocker underscored by a slight cowboy theme.

At this point, the questions rising to the surface are - where are the jams? Where is the experimentation? Where is the band that made “Dying Surfer Meets His Maker”?

Just as “Dying Surfer Meets His Maker” jumped around in its opening three tracks, as does “Sleeping through the War.” So the sturdy “Bulls” or the catchy “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” shouldn’t scare anyone off because these two tracks don’t necessarily set the album’s tone. In fact, “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” may be a reference to the closing track on Can’s seminal album “Tago Mago.” And though the Can influence is not felt in this particular song, “Sleeping through the War”’s B-Side certainly shows how All Them Witches have been influenced by Can. So the fact that this cowboy-rocker shares its name with a krautrock jam, “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” might just be the song that sums up “Sleeping through the War” perfectly.

Before the Can influence is heard, though, All Them Witches jump on another riff rocker, “Bruce Lee.” The song rolls nicely – that’ll be a riff you’ll hear in a live setting a lot – and it complements the follow up “3-5-7-“accordingly. Here, All Them Witches focus on the loud-soft dynamic and in doing so, set the stage for a 20 minute live version of this song. To wit, it’s “3-5-7” that straddles Side A and Side B and therefore serves as the pivot point in the album’s sound.

Without ruining too many surprises, the following four songs can be lumped together as a 20 minute high. The subtleties in these songs make for a laid back vibe that reminds a bit of “Open Passageways” from the band’s 2015 outing. The Can influence is more apparent and the listening experience seems to be a logical next step for All Them Witches. The songs here -  “Am I Going Up,” “Alabaster,” “Cowboy Kirk,” and the back porch blues of “Guess I’ll Go Live on the Internet” - are rhythmically groovy and structurally free, a combination only All Them Witches can pull off without coming across as just another jam band.

With “Sleeping through the War,” All Them Witches have given us an album that’s more diverse than anything they’ve done until now. Though the variety on offer here detracts slightly from the album’s flow, these songs are ripe for analysis and repeated listens. There’s a lot going on and much of the album will surprise those expecting a one-to-one follow up to “Dying Surfer Meets his Maker.” If you get it, Sleeping through the War” is an album that will continue to grow. For those who aren’t immediately hooked, this album might be ignored. Only time will tell which of these two groups will be the loudest. In the meantime, All Them Witches seem happy doing what it is they want to do. Their energy is felt in these tunes so it’s obvious the band has made the album they wanted to make.

“Sleeping through the War” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Monday 27 February 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Grey Widow - "II"

By: Grim Trashcan

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 31/03/2017
Label: Independent

This is blackened crust, doomed and stoned at its purest, with angst and despair set to annihilate. Canyon-wide grooves completely assault your senses revealing every trick these sadistic sonic sorcerers have under their fetid robes. This album demands your full fucking sonic attention.

“II” track listing:

1). XI
2). XII
3). XIII
4). XIV

The Review:

Having been completely unfamiliar with this outfit from the UK, I found myself intrinsically digging through any and all online presence of Grey Widow.  Everything I found was like, well- what you might expect from a band who's facebook cover photo contains two key power words: "Annihilation//Amplification". Scrolling down the page, the band took a moment to set the record straight for any followers who may have felt they disappeared like fog mist or perhaps had fallen ill from a venomous sting. 

"After a year of inactivity, depression, solace and apathy, we have risen from the depths of our own human faeces and moulded a sound so heavy and thick it would flatten our meaningless existence on this cursed planet." - Excerpt issued by GW on 2/1/17. 

Four tracks each titled with a Numeral and in this case we find them at "XI". 

"Eleven is one louder" rang through my psyche as I pressed play  and was greeted with the tonal equivalent of lingering bong smoke covering a valley of moonlit shadows until meteoric shards of obsidian and granite pummel to the surface in rhythmic fashion to simultaneously clear away and form new plumes of presence. Everything here sits to set up and serve the song. There is a bright edge to every murky movement. This meticulous building takes place for near 4 minutes until the full force of Grey Widow reveals its callousness and true size. The engineered, meticulous and well-placed facets of this opening track hold steadfast to prove that the production value that Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studios brings to the table is a thing of mythic proportions. He could probably make squirrels sound like elephants. The bass tone alone stands right along probably one of the deepest, thundering bass kicks ever recorded. Rhythmically, this band completely assaults you with flippant disregard at trying to ease you into a hypnotic state. They demand your full fucking sonic attention. Imagine getting dragged behind some kind of necromanced tank over a field of ash and bones. Pissed off and plodding. 

Having picked my head up off my table, "XII" takes off almost exactly where "XI" left you. Mid-paced and cruising along for a bit and then dropping down to pound you into submission. When the first verse takes form and the riff presents its fury, you pick up an almost Brainoil kind of vibe, but not completely. The vocals seem sort of stepped back from the overall mix and then the track kinda eases off completely almost to a relaxing point. Like a dragon rising above the clouds to take a break from toasting villagers in fiery breaths of death - this is a brief reprieve until its back down to crushing altitude. No, that's not a typo - fucking crushing altitude.  Clocking in at just shy of 8:30 and the second shortest track of the album, when it ends I actually wanted it to continue for twice as long. 

I think it was a deliberate choice because the organic extension that the next track "XIII" presents is literally the high water mark for this entire affair. Initially a faster paced intro followed by the setting of a canyon-wide groove where everything comes together to basically reveal every trick these sadistic sonic sorcerers have under their fetid robes. This is blackened crust doomed and stoned at its purest. Angst and despair set to annihilate. Layers of complexity which step forward and disappear so naturally it's downright unsettling. There's a presence here that makes me feel like this song has always existed and these Grey Widow blokes are the lucky ones to have communed with its presence and brought it to us in spectacular fashion. I must have re-listened to this particular track at least four or five times before writing this nonsense. 

The bummer side of doing this particular review was the logistical side of things. I received four ultra-top secret locked down Soundcloud links that I had to cue individually rather than just hit play from start to finish. That's the experience I feel this four song affair deserves. The final number finds us at "XIV" and that's where Grey Widow is most accessible sounding. Whatever that means. The shortest song, clocking it at a mere 7:20ish it's got a memorable hook, extended hypnotic riff structure and a slightly more percussive feel at points. By the way, the drums are mixed for lack of a better term "perfectly" for the entirety of this record. They have a depth and warmth that is pretty much a signature statement. The cymbals sound like living breathing entities rather than obnoxious brash significance constituting rhythmic flair and flash. There's deep murky tones and roomy, big ass bass on the stringed side of things but the drumming is in a spectrum of its own design.

This is a solid release and I'm stoked to have the opportunity to listen to it. Fingers crossed and I'll have a physical copy of it on my most preferred format: a tried and true slab of wax. Hat's off to the Grey Widow gang...you done turned this doom aficionado into an instant fan based off four behemoth sized songs.

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Immolation - "Atonement"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 24/02/2017
Label: Nuclear Blast

Eleven focused and taut tracks of atmospheric death metal is what you get and it is delivered superbly,  this is an interesting and engaging listen with a heart of absolute darkness.

“Atonement” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. The Distorting Light (3:14)
2. When The Jackals Come (3:54)
3. Fostering The Divide (3:27)
4. Rise The Heretics (3:41)
5. Thrown To The Fire (4:04)
6. Destructive Currents (4:26)
7. Lower (4:01)
8. Atonement (4:32)
9. Above All (4:55)
10. The Power Of Gods (3:58)
11. Epiphany (4:22)

The Review:  

Immolation are something of an East Coast death metal institution these days. Ross Dolan and his not so merry men have perfected a kind of “rolling tank” style of death metal which is quite distinct from many other US death metal masters. Certainly, the atmosphere and texture on offer here is different to anything from Florida.

Indeed, this album is a very different proposition to “Kingdom of Conspiracy from a couple of years back. Opener “The Distorting Light” brings a pitch black atmosphere, echoing vocals and a distinctly modern death metal approach to sound and production- reverbed, bassy and big sounding. Much of the material here is not lightning fast- sure there are fast blast beats, but the melodies (if that is the right word) are often quite slow moving, as are the vocals. “When The Jackals Come” is a good example, and in this way the record shares something in common with the best black metal- but is way heavier. “Fostering The Divide” is slow and steady, with the distinctive rolling style that we have come to know and love from Immolation.

There are no epic tracks here, so the arrangements are tight and focused with plenty of riffs and changes, but not so many that the album is hard to follow. Running consistently through the album is a very dark atmosphere, though; it permeates “Rise The Heretics” and “Thrown To The Fire” and even when things are faster, as they are on “Destructive Currents”, the bleakness is all consuming.

There is clean guitar to be heard on “Lower” (and at other points in the record), but only for the intro as things then get very weighty and very, very dark. The title track is a bit of an album high point for me; frenetic changes, dissonant riffage and lovely soloing (as per). The final three tracks (taking the count all the way up to eleven) continue the atmosphere, but “Above All” is more straightforward fare in terms of delivery, as is “Power Of The Gods”. The track placement is solid- more experimental stuff early on and more straightforward death metal down the back stretch to keep the listener interested via direct heaviness and weight of riffs.

As is standard with death metal, by the time “Epiphany” rolls around the album has run the right length. Too much of music this heavy is, indeed, too much. Eleven focused and taut tracks of atmospheric death metal is what you get and it is delivered superbly, as usual. Time will tell if this matches the heights of “Kingdom...” as that was one of my top albums of 2013, but on the first few listens this is an interesting and engaging listen with a heart of absolute darkness.

“Atonement” is available here

Band info: facebook

FFO: Incantation, Morbid Angel, Suffocation, Dead Congregation

Friday 17 February 2017

6 NEW BANDS: Nikos Mixas' 666 Pack Review for February 2017

 The 666 Pack Review
It’s the February edition of The Sludgelord’s 666 Pack Review and will there be love in the air???  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 awesome rating scale below: 

1 – You should give it up and pay more attention to your significant other. 
2 – You know those heart shaped candies?  This one says, meh…
3 – You could try seducing The Sludgelord more with dinner by candlelight. 
4 – There’s a spark here…tell us more… 
5 – Your Cupid just nailed The Sludgelord with about 20 arrows.
666 - The Sludgelord is head over heels in love with you!

It’s the month of romance, but not all will be loved.  The Sludgelord will listen to several dozen of bands throughout the year but only some will be of his liking.  The Sludgelord is a picky listener…and doesn’t care what you think of his opinions….

1). Uhna  - “Betingad Anstandighet” (EP) – Malmo, Sweden    Rating: 5

Uhna want to hear some more!

2). Gyrophares de la Haine  - (Demo 2016) – Rouen, France   Rating: 2

Loser! Loser! Loser! Loser! Loser! Loser!

3).Off The Gallows  - “Cut Yourself” – Siegen, Germany   Rating: 2

I might start cutting my ears...

4).Unearthly Child - “Awaken” – Jacksonville, FL   Rating: 3

Almost as thick as Florida humidity.

5).Insonus - “Nemo Optavit Vivere” - Pescara, Italy   Rating: 4

Black metal warms our black heart.

6). Dawn on Sedna  - “Our Sky Has Changed – Viareggio, Italy   Rating: 6

Fuck yes!  Italy rules this February!

ALBUM REVIEW: Unearthly Trance - "Stalking the Ghost"

By: Chris Bull

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 24/02/2017
Label: Relapse Records

“Stalking the Ghost” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Into the Spiral
2). Dream State Arsenal
3). Scythe
4). Famine
5). Lion Strength
6). Invisible Butchery
7). The Great Cauldron
8). In The Forest’s Keep

The Review:

There are few bands to which the phrase 'criminally underrated' is aptly applied as Unearthly Trance. Arguably spawning the 'blackened sludge/blackened doom' genres, they remain a hidden gem in extreme heavy music that only certain individuals appreciate.  7 years have passed since the superb 'V' with breaking up, 2 Serpentine Path albums, a few Howling Wind releases, a few other projects, a reunion, fatherhood, Thralldom reforming and releasing music coming in the meantime. The question that needed to be asked; will all this time dampen the creative fires that burn within the trident?

Fear not! As 'Into The Spiral', the album's premier track goes straight for the neck muscles with its pulsating, blackened groove, it's a superb start to the album and adds an element of optimism. 'Dream State Arsenal' is more about the gravity; crafting a ludicrously catchy, yet so crushingly heavy riff punctuated by Darren Verni's always exceptional drumming, it's a definite pick up point to where 'V' left off.  'Scythe' crawls like a venomous snake, before striking and infecting your blood stream with its glorious riffs and stop/start rhythm and I'm reminded a little of 2006's 'Electrocution' in stylistic delivery.

Anyone who has heard 'Famine' will know how thick and heavy the guitar sound is, with Ryan Lipynsky's unique riffs sounding apocalyptic yet crystal clear. I heard 'Lion Strength' on a YouTube video of UT playing live, to me it sounded like some of their earlier work...but on record, it's a natural progression from 'V', with Lipynsky providing both the throaty, melodic vocal passages, echoey whispers and his traditional gnarly growls. 'Invisible Butchery' starts with some atmospheric noise before the death growls bellow out like lava spewing from a cavernous volcano. It's the slowest song on the album and will please the doom heads with its subtle nods to Winter and Autopsy. The Penultimate track 'The Great Cauldon' is a 9 minute epic which sweeps through several genres, starting out with head swinging trad-metal and descending into blackened doom, albeit melodic and calculated. As the track travels along, it bares similarities to 'The Scum Is In Orbit' with Lipynsky's trademark croons and guitar solo near the song's conclusion. Excellent stuff. 'In The Forest’s Keep' is the final song and is more of an atmospheric outro than a full song with melancholic guitar passages played over a harsh rumbling before a sample is heard, with added delay over the top. It's a fitting finale to this beautifully crafted album.

To say I had been eagerly anticipating this album would be an enormous understatement; UT are one of my favourite bands and they have rarely, if ever, put a foot wrong along their path. Hopefully, this album will garner the attention and success they deserve. A triumphant return? That and then some.

“Stalking the Ghost” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Thursday 16 February 2017

TRACK PREMIERE: Space Witch take their brand of psychedelic doom to the next level with "Hex Solaris"

Space Witch are a psychedelic stoner/doom band that draw on influences from 70's prog and psychedelia.The band formed in Stoke-on-Trent, England, UK in 2007 and consist of Darren Lee Rowlands (Guitars and founder member), Daniel Mansfield (drums), Peter Callaghan (Vocals and Electronics) and Tomas Cairn (Bass).  In 2008 they released their first demo, a 2 track self-titled affair and quickly followed it up with a stream of gigs in the UK underground. The demo was followed up in 2011 with 'Resurrection' a 7 track demo which included 3 live recordings.

In 2013 they released their first EP 'The Alchemy Paradox'-A 3 track mini album which was released by defunct Bristol based label Cosmic Tomb.  The band followed this up with a number of shows and festival appearances across UK and saw them embark on the 'Hang the Witch' tour. In 2014 the band released a split with the UK Doom band Trollkraftt called 'Wytchkraft' and their self-titled first full length (a double album) released as a joint venture with labels HeviSike Records, Fear Me Music and Orchestrated Dystopia Records. The album was critically acclaimed and was chosen as Roadburn Festival's album of the day.

To follow the album up, the band toured the UK as well as playing Norway and headlining a festival in Edinburgh which featured on a underground documentary about the Edinburgh scene. Since that time Space Witch have supported bands such as Conan and Mars Red Sky before taking time to write their 2nd full length, 'ARCANUM' which will be released in Spring 2017 on HeviSike Records.

The Sludgelord has been fortunate to have heard “ARCANUM”  and make no mistake when we say that that it will undoubtedly be the doom record of 2017, with Space Witch further developing their sound, but retaining all the elements that have made Space Witch one of the premier bands on the scene.  With a release date yet to be finalised, the wait to debut new music from their monolithic face melter is over, with one of the band’s finest and suffocating compositions to date.  I give you “Hex Solaris” by Space Witch, but not as you know it captain.

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

REVIEW: Sleep - "The Clarity" (EP)

By: Jake Wallace

Album Type: EP
Date Released: 10/02/2017
Label: Southern Lord

“This track sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a huge robotic entity slowly trudging through space. ‘The Clarity’ is exactly what every Sleep fan wanted to hear after being dormant for such a long time. If these guys can pull an album out of the bag in the near future with anything remotely close to the calibre of power involved in this, then we are in for a serious slab of mind-altering, heavy doom.”

“The Clarity” DD//LP track listing:

1). The Clarity

The Review:

Sleep. The undisputed lords of doom. Ever since ‘Dopesmoker’ was released back in 2003, enthusiasts of monolithic, weed-steeped music have been crying out for more new material from the holy trio of Al Cisneros, Matt Pike and Jason Roeder. 

In 2014, it was announced that Sleep would be releasing a single entitled ‘The Clarity’ via the Adult Swim Singles Program, recorded by Neurosis’ Noah Landis and mastered by John Golden. It was pummelling, it was cataclysmic, it was tripped out and it was fucking stoned to the backbone. 

Now, in 2017, Sleep have re-issued ‘The Clarity’ via Southern Lord and this time round it has been recut by Adam Gonsalves/Telegraph Mastering and pressed onto a kick ass 180 gram 12-inch vinyl.

‘The Clarity’ begins with a series of morse-code sounding noises, transmitting some form of ethereal communication from a deep void in space. Suddenly, we are met with the crushing sound of the trio in full force as the track takes off and the Weedian proceeds. The nostalgic sound of Al Cisneros’ low-frequency chanting breaks through the extremely dense wall of sound provided by Matt Pike’s astounding tower of Orange amplifiers. This is also the first piece of material with Neurosis’ Jason Roeder on drums and he has completely found his place in the universe’s heaviest trio. 

Around the 2:20 mark, the track breaks down into more tripped out otherworldly sounds via Pike. I saw Sleep play this track in London back in July and this section blew my mind out the back of my head. No matter what anyone tells you or how sure you think you are… get earplugs before you see Sleep. It’s a no-brainer… meaning you will cease to have an encephalon should you disregard this advice. 

The lyrical themes of this track are very expectedly dominant on marijuana. The short, deep chants are a perfect compliment to the riffs with lines such as ‘Stoned chariot ascending, Smokes the true believer’ and ‘Heavy dry weight, hasheeshian smoked relief’. It really isn’t that difficult to see who the target audience are. 

Around the 5:20 mark Pike lays down some Sabbath-worshipping lead guitar licks and the solo actually comes across very cleanly compared to some of his earlier lead parts in the infamous ‘Holy Mountain’ back in 1992. This track sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a huge robotic entity slowly trudging through space. The sustain from the guitar is insane and Cisneros’ bass is flawlessly hefty as always. 

‘The Clarity’ is exactly what every Sleep fan wanted to hear after being dormant for such a long time. If these guys can pull an album out of the bag in the near future with anything remotely close to the calibre of power involved in this, then we are in for a serious slab of mind-altering, heavy doom.

Sleep headline Desertfest London and Berlin this year along with Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona and another performance at Psycho Las Vegas in August. 

“The Clarity” is available to preorder/buy here

Band info: facebook || bandcamp

VIDEO PREMIERE: Greek post sludge goliaths Allochiria debut "Lifespotting"

ALLOCHIRIA is a post-sludge band from Athens, Greece. They were formed in 2008, and released a self-titled EP in 2010. In January 2014, they released their first full-length album,” Omonoia”.

In December 2016, ALLOCHIRIA joined forces with Art of Propaganda for the release of the band’s second album, “Throes”. Having shared the stage with Deafheaven, Year of No Light, Altar of Plagues, and many more, as well as undertaking their first European tour in March 2015, ALLOCHIRIA 's live experience becomes readily apparent across the vast expanses of “Throes”.

Although their music has often been likened to Neurosis, ISIS, Amenra, and Cult of Luna, ALLOCHIRIA assert their own identity in the post-sludge realm with their deep exploration of very human themes. With “Throes”, its theme explores man as a social being, the corruption that defines him in modern societies, his vain struggles, painful routine, and the effect this has in the world around him.

“Throes” retains the same concept as “Omonoia”, which has man in its main area of interest. But this time, ALLOCHIRIA's pursuit of that concept is angrier and more direct, making for an even more intense listen. Speaking directly to mankind, “Throes” expresses anger, pain, and agony in a higher degree; living beings are being killed, drowned, destroyed, and left helpless, and the rest either cause this or witness it. We mourn a little bit, and then go on with our lives - we are hopeless and weak. This is “Throes“, and ALLOCHIRIA are guiding its maelstrom.

Today you can check out the face melting new track “Lifespotting” which you can check out below.  “Throes” is available to preorder/buy here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook