Thursday, 9 February 2017

EP PREMIERE: "Fortuna Havana" by 1968 & their Top 5 Doom albums of all time

Cheshire based 1968 have only been together a short three years. Having released a self-titled EP in 2015, they now return with a second EP before the release of their debut album later in the year. Having been added to the impressive roster at Black Bow Recordings, “Fortuna Havana is a more than solid addition to the bands discography.

Throughout the four tracks on Fortuna Havana, any questions about the name of the band are answered. Homage to Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Mountain and Black Sabbath is duly paid, but there are plenty of nods to the more stoner alumni such as Sleep, as well as hard rocking blues legend Rory Gallagher.

“Vorpal” opens up the EP in towering fashion. The band fly out of the traps with mountains of stoner groove and swagger before building towards some superb solo work to finish off the track. “War Dogs” immediately starts as the opener end and the band veer down a doomier path before exploding in a fury of Thin Lizzy like dual guitars.

The second half of the EP uses the already utilised formula, but “Duchess” really sees the band step up their game. A rolling bass introduction leads to a torrential storm of fuzzy riffs that are held together with terrific drumming. The vocals sneer throughout the track before it shifts towards a highly psychedelic cacophony.  This is the absolute high point of the release and one where the band take their influences and really make the sound their own. The psychedelia continues in the opening of title track to close out the EP. If “Duchess” is the undoubted highpoint of the EP, then the title track is undoubtedly the heaviest piece here. Fuzz riffs and pounding drums drive the track, to bring the EP home.

1968 wear their influences on their sleeve. There are plenty of bands that stalk the planet playing classic/hard rock; the trick is to make it your own and not become a cliché. 1968 walk the line well and come out with originality whilst using their influences to great effect. There is cause to be excited about their forthcoming album which will be produced by Conans Chris Fielding at Sky Hammer Studios. Fielding is also at the controls for this release, and makes the band sound immense and you can check it out yourself below with our exclusive stream of Fortuna Havana in full below

As bonus to this exclusive stream we hooked with to discuss their top 5 doom albums of all time and here is what they came up with.  As we take our weekly trip to the extreme, by cranking it to 11.  Why do we go to 11,  because “It’s one louder, isn’t it?”

Writing a list that is titled the Top 5 Doom albums of all time is a bold statement to
make, after all, music is completely contextual and more opinion-heavy than any
other subject. Heavy music especially, is one of the more opinionated genres out there
and the old saying applies that one man’s treasure is in another man’s record box
heading to Oxfam. So, with a bong-full of salt, I present to you, the top 5 Doom albums
of all time...or at least in my opinion.

5. Black Sabbath“Master of Reality”

This record is the beginning, I mean, out of the first 4 Sabbath records, this one is, to me, the pioneering Doom record; the overall vibe of it is just slightly darker than the other three. The first album; obviously is timeless and hinted at Doom but also had more of a ‘rock’ feel which is understandable as Messrs Iommi, Butler, Ward and Osbourne would have taken off where the late 60’s left off.

“Master of Reality”’s heaviness can potentially be attributed to its overall production. The guitars are tuned to C# standard, which, back then was completely unchartered territory. As many fans know, the slacker the string, the more vibration, the more vibration the longer sustain. When coupled with a late 60’s Laney Supergroup 100w amp, you’re forging the sound for generations to come.

The record itself also flows better to stoned ears too, Iommi’s cough at the beginning of ”Sweet Leaf” is like an air raid siren that there’s a plethora of riffs about to land, with brute force.

The cover needs a mention too, the basic black front with grey and purple couldn’t be more doom if it tried, black and purple being the colours of mourning and grey being a colour that’s grim and often associated with death. Nice.

My favourite Sabbath record is “Vol. 4”, yet it doesn’t have anywhere near the same vibe throughout as “Master of Reality”, that in part could be down to FX being nonsense and “Changes” being massacred in the early 2000’s by Kelly Osbourne. “Master of Reality” is the one record that no fan of Doom or any Doom band can speak negatively about.  “Master of Reality” is the beginning; they started Doom, Stoner and many other sub genres of Heavy Metal. This record is like a horrible old man that watches everything released under the bracket of heavy, and laughs at it...then coughs up a lung.

4. Electric Wizard – “Come My Fanatics”

Moving onto the horrible bastard sons (and now daughter) of Sabbath, Electric Wizard from Dorset. Chances are if you’re reading this, you own this. Electric Wizard have been a huge part of doom for the past two and a bit decades, you could literally pick anything from their back catalogue and still have a solid addition to this list. (However it does seem like the Electric Wizard freight train is being overtaken by bands such as YOB and Conan in terms of integrity and excellent releases).

Anyway, “Come My Fanatics” is my choice for this list, mainly based on the eternally crushing “Return Trip”, this nigh on 10 minute slab of excruciatingly brutal wall of fuzz, bleak vocal, lyrics filled with pure hatred and lumbering rhythm make this record for me.  I’ve spent hours of my life walking around places, driving, reading, people watching with this slamming into my ears and feeling the hatred flow into me from the Wizard. It has always been a beautiful noise.

The overall tone of this record is just nothing but pure doom and also features the bands penchant for adding sound clips from B-movies of the 70’s, cover art is also terrifying, it’s a screen shot of Anton Levay in a satanic sermon doctored by Hugh Gilmour. If you’ve not heard/got this, you need to re-assess your doom collection. There are very few slower and heavier in the field that retain a disgusting groove.

3. YOB – “The Unreal Never Lived”

This wasn’t an easy decision to make; it was a tossup between this and Acid King - III”. I love them both, but this for me, is great example of doom boundaries being pushed.  From start to finish, this record just batters you with relentless doom riffs, like, ones that make you think where did this record even come from.  There aren’t many records out there with 21 minute tracks that don’t get boring like “Mental Tyrant”. Overall this record just slays, its song writing is solid, the rhythms used and phrasing of the guitar parts are second to none.  

The whole record has a great feel to it that can’t actually be bettered. My favourite track is “Quantum Mystic” mainly as it incorporates a somewhat psychedelic trip that has gone completely wrong; swirling guitars, vocals that sound like Dio drowning in a cauldron of bleach and battery acid; just banging.  I’m not saying it’s the future of doom but if more bands followed suit with releases like this, progression within doom would be very well received.

2. Church of Misery -  Houses of the Unholy”

This record, man, I bought this after hearing their split on Leaf Hound with Acrimony back in 2008, I was floored by both bands on that record but Church of Misery had something that I couldn’t quite get over. I guess the riffs on that release were what gripped me like one of the Boston Strangler’s victims.  When “Houses of the Unholy” came out, I bought it, without hearing, knowing that if that band produced gold on the split, then this was going to be badass. Their back catalogue hadn’t been released at that time so it wasn’t easy to get Church Of Misery records or CD’s.

The record features all of the usual traits, all songs about serial killers, huge riffs, swinging drums and vocals that just slay. I watched them play Manchester shortly after the release of this record with Cathedral and Gates of Slumber and there was no dispute in the entire crowd that Church of Misery had levelled the place and should have headlined.

Every track from this record has its own charm, from Black Flag style breakouts to pure Sabbath worship. I did wonder whether or not the inclusion of Tom Sutton on guitar had an impact and by the nature of the rest of their releases since, it definitely did.  I have tried many times to score this on vinyl and have failed every time as the price is always too much for me, if that doesn’t tell you that this album is badass beyond words...I don’t know what does.

1. Slomatics/Agent of the Morai - Split

This one, released on Calculon Records is my number one doom release, I bought this on CD after witnessing Agent of the Morai deafen half of the Northwest region many moons ago. They filled the entire stage with Matamp, Orange and Marshall gear...only to plug in, the least ‘doom’ guitar, A 52’ reissue Fender Telecaster. There was a certain Chris Fielding playing guitar, Andrew Swift on drums and a singer who has a name I always forget.

I stood and watched them or rather felt my blood vibrate in front of them and afterwards bought as much merch as I could, including this.   They shared the release with Slomatics from Belfast who are also number one here for me, the pair of bands both provide throbbing walls of sound that are just relentless, the riffs from both bands almost seamlessly blend into one.

I have heard some seriously heavy bands in my time but none of them tick boxes for cult status, thickness of tone, bludgeoning riffs, solid rhythms and above all else, ridiculous volume. This release literally makes most other doom bands sound like amateurs to me.

The CD of this is long out of print and is only available on the Slomatics bandcamp page, it is well worth checking out and downloading for a fresh fix of (now aging gracefully) doom. Agent of the Morai called it quits a few years back now, Fielding went on to later join Conan and give the world ‘Caveman Battle Doom’.  Slomatics continue to push out killer records whilst retaining their title of Belfast’s heaviest.  You can’t go wrong with anything that Slomatics put their name to.  Doom. On.

“Fortuna Havanaby 1968 will be available here and for more information on the band check the links below

Band info: Facebook || bandcamp