Wednesday 31 October 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies, "Halloween: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack"

By: John Reppion

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 19/10/2018
Label: EVP Recordings

The Review:

Forty years after his atmospheric, autumnal slasher “Halloween” first arrived on cinema screens, John Carpenter is back, not with a new film (the 2018 “Halloween” having been written and directed by David Gordon Green), but with another of his iconic soundtracks. I say "back" but clearly, just like that ever-babysitter-murdering serial garden-lurker Michael Myers, Carpenter never really went away. His film work has been rightly praised for some time now, but it’s only fairly recently that his music has been widely given the credit it deserves.

Prior to 2018’s “Halloween” soundtrack, the last new (i.e. not remastered or anthologised) film scores Carpenter released were for “Vampires” (1998), and “Ghosts Of Mars” (2001), neither of which had the synth-heavy sound he’s mostly known for. 2015’s “Lost Themes”, and the following year’s “Lost Themes II” – written and recorded with Carpenter’s son Cody, and his godson, ex-Karma To Burn vocalist and guitarist, Daniel Davies – were the first original, non-film albums from Carpenter, and both had that authentic electronic sound most of us associate with the man and his work. The trio started touring together in 2016, performing Carpenter’s film themes alongside their own compositions, and last year released “Anthology: Movie Themes 1974–1998”, featuring their re-recorded versions of pretty much all the Carpenter classics.

It’s this trio of Carpenter, Carpenter, and Davies (son of Kinks guitarist Dave Davies by the way, just in case you find that interesting) who are responsible for the twenty-one tracks on the “Halloween Motion Picture Soundtrack”. So, right from the outset, you can be sure we’re in safe hands. That’s so long as you’re a fan of John Carpenter’s previous musical offerings of course; admittedly there’s not much on offer here if you’re not. If, however, you’re someone like me whose idea of fun is to sit and listen through “Prince of Darkness”, or indeed “Lost Themes”, then I think it’s fairly certain you’re going to enjoy “Halloween”.

Rather than being a reboot or offshoot of the original franchise, the 2018 “Halloween” is a played as a direct sequel to the 1978 film with Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role as Laurie Strode, the girl Mike Mayers couldn’t kill. Most of the titles on the soundtrack give away a bit more of the plot than we probably should at this point (given that it’s only been on general release for a couple of weeks) so, in the interest of trying not spoil the film for anyone who’s looking forward to it, I won’t go through every single track here.

Halloween Theme” is a pumped up heart-beat kick-drum driven version of the original, very much in the spirit which Carpenter’s touring trio now perform it. “Laurie’s Theme” has that lovely mix of melancholic, tense, and eerie that Carpenter does so well. This is even more evident in “Prison Montage” which gets near to the Duffer Brothers type synth-wave stuff people now often tend to lump him in with, but it’s much grittier, and heavier than that. As is often the case, elements of the main theme are used as a motif which recurs throughout the soundtrack as a whole. “The Bogyman” is a short, doleful, down-tempo example of this, just like “Ghost Story” is on “The Fog” soundtrack.

There are big distorted stabs, pulse pounding arpeggios, sinister synth strings, terrifying saw-toothed swells, and moody pianos. It is a master-class in electronic horror sound-tracking, and is, in my humble opinion, as good an album as Carpenter has ever put out. “Michael Kills” and “Michael Kills Again” (whose titles I don’t think are giving anything away that we couldn’t have already worked out) are perfect examples of, not just how good a composer and performer Carpenter is, but how he’s managed to move forward and stay fresh and modern sounding, while maintaining his signature style. Often copied but never bettered, if you want the real thing then the new “Halloween” soundtrack is as good as it gets. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some pumpkins to carve. Weirdly though, the knife I had ready seems to have gone missing…

“Halloween: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” is available here

Info: bandcamp

Thursday 25 October 2018

ALBUM PREMIERE: Sumeru find newly discovered ferocity & deliver crushing sophomore release "Summon Destroyer"

Often in life opportunities present themselves but circumstance means that the timing just isn’t right. In the beginning as Sludgelord Records was still finding its feet, I was presented with a record that totally blew me away.  That band, Sumeru and that record, “Summon Destroyer” was something I dearly wished to support, but due to circumstances, it just wasn’t meant to be. Fortunately for me, I have been given the opportunity to do the next best thing and debut Sumeru’s new record to world ahead of its official release on October 26 through Wormhole Death Records/Aural Music (Digital/CD), Medusa Crush Records (Tape) & Mallevs Records (Tape).

A band known for their passionately fierce and ear crushing live shows, Sumeru’s onstage energy is exerted with an almost fanatical dedication that it verges on a cult-like rite of sonic exorcism and visceral upheaval. Add in the long-crafted musicianship of each member of this Sydney 5 piece, their ability to peel subconscious layers off of their audiences was apparent since their inception in 2009.

Coming some 4 years after their debut record, “Holy Lands” Sumeru now stand firmly grounded in the Australian heavy music underground as a defining force of pure riff fury and indomitable low-end groove and with new album “Summon Destroyer”, Sumeru are evermore crushing and have found a newly discovered ferocity, backed by a lyrical spirituality that seeks to take listeners minds beyond any self-imposed jurisdictions they might impose on themselves. Check out the crushing new record “Summon Destroyer” below and orders are being taken HERE. Now turn it up and let your speakers die!!

Band info: facebook || bandcamp

Wednesday 24 October 2018

ALBUM PREMIERE: Wasted Theory put the hammer down on album #3 "Warlords of the New Electric"

Wasted Theory’s second release with Argonauta Records, after the ‘2017 edition’ CD re-release of “Defenders of the Riff,” displays a disturbingly sober vision of slammed down, heavy rock invaders. Completed in the spring of this year, “Warlords of the New Electric” was recorded, engineered, and mixed by Joseph Boldizar (Ruby The Hatchet, Ecstatic Vision, The Age of Truth)  at Retro City Studios in Philadelphia, PA.

Wasted Theory had the following to say about the record

"When we set out to write ‘Warlords of the New Electric’ we wanted to take the energy and enthusiasm of ‘Defenders of the Riff” and develop those vibes even further. In our opinion, this is the perfect companion to the last album. We didn’t want to put out the stereotypical third album where we start getting all experimental and bizarre. So, we did the exact opposite - we took our gritty rock n’ roll origins and pushed them even heavier into the material.

The riffs are harder, the fast stuff is faster and the doom stuff is doomier. This is the perfect album for those hot, sticky summer nights hanging out at your buddy’s BBQ bonfire and having way too much to drink. This album is very much a Wasted Theory album."

Argonauta will release “Warlords of the New Electric” worldwide this Friday  October 26th 2018.  The eight song, full album hammer strike will include Vinyl and CD formats, with Digital Download and today a couple days ahead of the release you can stream the record in full.  So turn in up and let your speakers die

Band info: facebook

Tuesday 23 October 2018

VIDEO PREMIERE: Barbarian Hermit deliver gravy thick riffs on "Black Mass"

Since their emergence in 2017, APF Records have set out to support the very best bands from the UK’s thriving underground doom scene.  Home to the likes of Ba'al, Battalions, Blind Haze, BongCauldron, Desert Storm, Diesel King, Mastiff, Nomad, Pist, RedEye Revival, The Hyena Kill, The Wizards Of Delight, Tronald, Under and Trevor's Head, label head Andrew Field exudes a sense of family within his ranks and is supporting bands that he himself enjoys.  In essence APF Records is about a love of music and is a platform for them to help nurture bands they enjoy.

With around 16 releases to their name in an 18 month period, that is no small achievement, what’s more the standard of music has been extraordinarily high and that is set to continue on 16th November and the release of Solitude and Savagery” the debut album by Barbarian Hermit, a Manchester sludge five piece known for giving it some bastard and bringing the thick, Northern gravy.   Today we have been tasked by wonderful people at Hold Tight PR and APF Records to present the brand new video for the track “Black Mass” which you check out below.  But first check out what the band had to say about the track. 

Introducing ‘Black Mass’, the second single from our forthcoming album, “Solitude and Savagery”.  The track is a twisting, turning sonic assault that meanders through passages of tripped out psychedelia, pure Sabbath worship, thrash and trademark Hermit heavy groove, so it’s fitting that the video that goes along with the song is just as disorienting.

It was actually our old singer Si Prato-Scarlett that approached us to do the video, as since he parted ways with the band he’s been dabbling in film production, whilst also remaining a friend and supporter of Barbarian Hermit. He'd already done the video for “Widowmaker” back in the day so we knew he'd do a fantastic job, but he really knocked it out of the park with this one.

We filmed it over a few days at our practice studio at Brunswick Mill in Manchester, which is full of eerie corridors and weird and wonderful trinkets, which lent themselves perfectly for the dreamlike atmosphere that Si wanted to create.

Ed’s lyrics for the song were inspired by a dream/nightmare/vision he had of a dark figure, a black mass that hovered before him, filling him with fear. The song is about facing those fears head on and letting hope guide your way, though much like the imagery that Si has thrown into the video, the lyrics are very much open to the listener’s own interpretation.

"Solitude & Savagery" is set for release on 16/11/2018 via APF Records and orders are being taken link: HERE and you check out the video to “Black Mass” exclusively below

Live Rituals

November 10th – Cvltfest, Café Independent, Scunthorpe
November 16th – Album Lunch, Kosmopolitan, Manchester
November 17th – Ale Fest, Northern Monk Brewery, Leeds
December 22nd – Rebellion Christmas Party, Rebellion, Manchester

Band info: facebook || bandcamp

Monday 22 October 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Ashes of Ares, “Well of Souls”

By: Richard Maw & Nathan Harrison

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 09/11/2018
Label: Rock of Angels Records

“Well of Souls” CD//DD track listing:

1. Consuming The Mana
2. The Alien
3. Unworthy
4. Soul Searcher
5. Sun Dragon
6. Transcending
7. Let All Despair
8. In The Darkness
9. Spirit Of Man
10. Time Traveler
11. The God Of War
Bonus Track:
12. You Know My Name

The Review:

Ashes of Ares, for those unaware, is the band formed by Iced Earth alumni Matt Barlow and Freddie Vidales. As such, you could have a fair idea of what to expect; power metal with prog/thrash/trad influences and no small amount of bombast and vocal histrionics. That's not to be flippant either: Matt Barlow may just be the best heavy metal vocalist alive. His range, emotive power and delivery are just awe inspiring. The band's 2013 debut saw the band as a confirmed trio with Van Williams (Nevermore) on drums. Van returns here but as a guest rather than a full time member. His performance is fantastic and he showcases a lot of his trademark off kilter rhythms and polyrhythms as well as a killer sound.

The sound and production is perhaps more epic than the first record- definite prog influences and elements abound. There is straightforward metal, lots of soloing and all around impressive musicianship. There are eleven tracks that make up the main album and a rather unexpected and touching tribute to Chris Cornell in the closing cover of "You Know My Name”.

The first album dealt with themes of justice, punishment, faith and death- due in no small part to Barlow's main career in law enforcement. In many ways, it's good to know that many musicians these days also do real work for a living, just like the rest of us- some, like Barlow, in more demanding jobs than most. It's a credit to him that he has kept making music. It can't be easy.

We thought it appropriate for an album of this depth and complexity to bring some discussion into the mix. Nathan Harrison, vocalist for The Human Condition and MAJOR Barlow fanatic seemed the logical choice. What follows is our take on each track, the state of metal and anything else which seemed to be relevant:

“Consuming the Mana”

RM: The intro made for an interesting start; dramatic, perhaps even overblown with its synthesised orchestration. I can see it being used as an intro tape (or digital equivalent) for the live gigs that I REALLY hope the band play. As soon as the main track kicks in, though... wow. What a sound. Fantastic production and playing. Barlow's vocals are as soaring as ever and he seems to utilise the layering recording technique that he used on some of Iced Earth albums to great effect. I like the drums of Williams as he sounds like no one else- a really technical and individual player.

NH: Overblown certainly isn’t a bad thing and this intro from Jonah Weingarten (who recently made a rather excellent album of cinematic music with Barlow on vocals under the name We Are Sentinels) certainly sets the epic tone for the album.  Every time I press play on something new featuring Matt Barlow, I expect to hear a change to his voice that can only be expected from a singer nearing fifty years old but no – as usual he is powerful and commanding, lungs surely bursting with the emotion, range and iconic power that hasn’t changed one iota since his first release with Iced Earth over 20 years ago.

This track knocks it out of the park in every sense – the layered vocals wind around polyrhythmic drums and a good mix of solid riffing and proggy shredding. It certainly gets the record off to a flying start!

“The Alien”

RM: This is a much more straightforward proposition. No intro, just straight in there with a melodic metal master class. I am going to guess from the drum sound that replacements/electronic kit was used. The drums sound incredible and you can hear the echo of the toms and so on. I have no issue with this for this kind of music; you NEED to hear everything and fortunately the drummer is unique, so this does not become a sterile exercise in perfection. I like this track a lot- it is heavy metal in a very advanced form.

NH: This song veers between the epic and the brutal. Barlow’s highs soar in the background under his earth-rumbling lows, framed by monstrous riffing before heading into a double-kick stampede which can’t help but induce some serious fist-pumping. While it’s not a theme that I can directly identify with, Barlow is undeniably frank and sincere in the way he sings about (what I interpret as) his religious beliefs here.

“The Unworthy”

RM: Now this is a track that sounds like it could have jumped straight off the band's debut! It's dark and heavy and one of the best tracks on the album. Powerful stuff and the use of Barlow's lower register is excellent.

NH: I agree – this definitely has elements of ‘What I Am’ or ‘This Is My Hell’ from album one. It offers more of a focus on Barlow’s vocals than any other track on the album, his lower range sounding like its being pushed through a throat full of razor blades whilst still sounding massive and imposing. My only complaint is that the arrangement of this track (the guitar has a few moments where it is very much at the forefront) does show that the guitar sound isn’t quite as rounded as the first album. It sounds a little too trebly to me, whereas the previous releases’ sound had that attack that cut across whilst still maintaining a bit of weight at the bottom end. An otherwise great track.

“Soul Searcher”

RM: So, here we have the first ballad of the album. Musically, this is close to Iced Earth- and may be an acquired taste for some. For some UK listeners this may seem a little overwrought and a little too earnest; but it is not too far away from Alter Bridge who are huge over here. For me, one of the cool things about the debut was that the band didn't just deliver ten identikit tracks and they instead covered a fair bit of ground. For me, this is a different side to the band and one that gives the album more dynamic range. Ballads are not to everyone's taste- I know that- but “Soul Searcher” is a well written song and its presence reminds me that those involved in this record are elder statesmen of the metal world; ballads were very much de rigeur on every album I bought when I first got into metal, so this is a nice continuation of that tradition.

NH: Barlow’s emotional range is really on show here – he turns on a dime from hurt and vulnerable to raging and livid. The lyrical content is direct – there’s very little in the way of imagery and metaphor here. This is a simple song about being betrayed by a loved one and it works beautifully. While it is a ballad, it certainly isn’t short on impact. And anyone who, as you say, Richard, is into their more ‘classic’ metal albums won’t feel that this is out of place – what would “Empire” be without ‘Silent Lucidity’? What would “Sad Wings of Destiny” be without ‘Dreamer Deceiver’? This song provides the dynamic range required for an album of this scope and scale.

“Sun Dragon”

RM: Well, if you don't like ballads, don't worry! This one is pure molten metal fury. Sitting somewhere on the Priest-in-their-“Painkiller”-period trajectory, this is as heavy as lead and just as deadly. It's fast and furious and rocks like a bastard. Yes!

NH: Yup, this one is certainly a contrast. Those high notes at the beginning! Fans of a good old fashioned Halford style heavy metal scream will NOT be disappointed by the first few seconds of this one. It certainly is heavy but manages to pack an epic melody into its chorus. A balance like that is difficult to achieve – now they’re just showing off!


RM: This is equally heavy but with some more dynamics thrown in. Five minutes of metal goodness with some excellent soloing. This is superlative heavy/power metal. Exactly the kind of sound I was looking for from the band.

NH: Again, a slightly doomy sensibility here, but overlayed with furious tub thumping from Van Williams which is then overlayed by equally frenetic picking from Freddie Vidales. Solid as a rock throughout.

“Let All Despair”

RM: Here we have some prime storytelling from Barlow et al. Similar to their Alma mater, this marks the start of a trilogy of songs which link together and form a story arc based around the album's title. Now, as such I wasn't expecting three thrashing metal tracks- I expected a more measured approach that allowed for ebb and flow and changes in emotion. “Let All Despair” delivers exactly that. We are now entering an arena of more involved listening and “concept.” To get the most out of it it needs to be absorbed and listened to... carefully.

NH: This might just be my favourite track on the album – the atmosphere it builds over the course of its five minute running time is just stunning. A similar refrain repeats throughout, but each time there is more there until it reaches a beautiful crescendo before slowly fading away, those layered vocals showing just how effective they can be when paired with the cracking musicianship of the rest of the band. It certainly works as the first part of the trilogy it forms with the following two tracks.

“In The Darkness”

RM: This one sounds how I expected from the title; dark and foreboding. Again, musically it would fit right into the debut but as the central track in a linked trilogy it has to fit with this musical suite. I think it does- it progresses the story of the “Well of Souls” and features really good performances from Barlow and Vidales. I got the impression that they put a lot into these three tracks to make them hang together and progress almost as if the three tracks were one piece.

NH: This track has a fantastic, unrelenting, stomping rhythm to it which mixes perfectly with the lyrical theme of impending and inexorable death and destruction. However, both the vocals and the guitar are given space to be heard and appreciated over this – the drums form the ideal backing for the listener to understand what the song is trying to say. Top notch.

“Spirit of Man”

RM: This one concludes the “Well of Souls” Trilogy and starts off dark- for me, the dark sound of AOA is one of their major plus points. They don't sound like anyone else. Once again- much like Iced Earth- there is no mistaking that this band comes from anywhere other than the US of A. The delivery is serious and no tongues are in cheeks here. UK listeners, used to a more nuanced approach, may find the lack of irony disturbing... but this is metal. Proper metal. It's supposed to be serious and seriously bombastic. As a concluding track for the trilogy this works very well as it finishes the story. However, the pick of the three linked tracks would be “In The Darkness” for me.

NH: Taken together, these three tracks are certainly the stand out part of the album – perhaps a sign that a concept album may be the next logical step for Ashes of Ares? They certainly have the epic sound for it and Barlow has enough storytelling experience from his time with Iced Earth, whose albums almost always have at least an overarching theme if not a full blown concept. Every bit of light and shade that could be expected from a concept album can be found across roughly 15 minutes of music and it is done masterfully. ‘Spirit of Man’ makes for a perfect dénouement, veering from frenetic, almost scatter-gun vocals to a huge chorus leading into a sonically packed conclusion which ends in a suitably abrupt fashion.

“Time Traveller”

RM: This one is pure sci-fi set to power metal. This one could be an example of how to get the genre just right. It's heavy, speedy in places, the vocals soar and offers up a dead-straight hammer blow after the more complex trilogy it follows. Sci-fi and metal go together really well (just ask Blaze Bayley) and this is a great example of how evocative the imagery can be.

NH: That chorus though! Simple but effective would be the best way to sum up both the chorus and the song as a whole. And, yes, sci-fi/fantasy themes will always work with heavy metal – I’ll say it again: concept album please, Matt!

“The God of War”

RM: Barlow and Vidales get things just right here. This is dark, menacing and the perfect closing statement. Again, there are echoes of the debut here and this is masterful metal. The genre does not get much better. Riffs, time changes, multi tracked vocals and a theme that is as universal as it is terrifying. What a track!

NH: Vidales gets his doom on again for the fuzzy intro riff – Barlow’s soft vocals that open up this otherwise pummelling track contrast very nicely. This one is a slow builder – the first minute and fourty-five seconds act as a perfectly menacing prelude to the sonically rich main feature. This is an absolute stand out on an album of wall-to-wall quality.

“You Know My Name”

RM: I liked Chris Cornell (and Soundgarden) and I like Bond films... is this track needed on an Ashes of Ares album? Of course not. Is it a nice tribute? Yes. It is a bonus track; a cover done well, earnestly and is exactly what I expected. It's not out of place exactly, but it never could have been included in the main track list.

NH: When taken as a bonus track, separate from the main thrust of the album this is a good bit of fun – the band rework it enough to make it their own whilst sticking to the original enough for it to be recognisable and maintain the spirit of Chris Cornell. Despite all the praise heaped on Casino Royale as a film, its theme tune is not often mentioned when discussions of Bond music arise. For me this is the joint best Bond theme (alongside A-ha’s ‘The Living Daylights’ – shhhh, it’s our little secret) so it’s good to see such great musicians giving it some attention. Also, it’s refreshing to hear a Cornell tribute that isn’t a tear-inducing version of ‘Black Hole Sun’ – this celebrates his life and work in a more fun way. A good choice all round.

...And there you have it. This record is sure to be one of the best metal releases of this year. Ashes of Ares have kept to the lofty standards of their first record and delivered another tour de force.  I've run out of superlatives to describe the musicianship on display here. We can only hope for live shows and await with interest who will fill out the live line up. This album is for all fans of true heavy metal. Outstanding.

“Well of Souls” is available for preorder HERE

Band info: facebook

Friday 19 October 2018

FULL LIVE SET PREMIERE: King Witch @ Bannerman's Bar, Edinburgh, September 15th 2018

Formed in early 2015 in a dark cavern beneath the streets of old Edinburgh, a lead-heavy brew of old school Metal and the meatiest of 70’s classic rock emerges in the form of King Witch.

Drawing comparisons ranging from Black Sabbath and Candlemass to Mastodon and High On Fire, the band’s debut EP, “Shoulders of Giants” quickly earned them a fan base and saw them touring the UK and Ireland as well as playing festivals in Europe such as the prestigious Sweden Rock Fest, Muskel Rock and the Malta Doom Festival.

The powerhouse vocals of Laura Donnelly give King Witch an unmistakable sound, while Jamie Gilchrist (guitars), Rory Lee (bass) and Lyle Brown (drums) provide a rock-solid and experienced backbone. Late 2017, King Witch signed to Listenable Records who released the debut album "Under The Mountain" on the 9th February 2018.   Following the release of their record to much acclaim the band hit the road around Europe and the UK, from Sweden to Germany to Belgium and the United Kingdom during May 4th through June 8th

Wherever they roam, King Witch has a formidable reputation on stage and following the announcement of dates in Ireland & Scotland in October, and Wall Of Sound Recording Studio have put together a full live recording from a King Witch show in Edinburgh, Bannermans Bar on September 15th and we’re excited to premiere the show at THE SLUDGELORD below. So turn up the volume and watch your speakers die!

Band info: Facebook || Bandcamp 

Wednesday 17 October 2018

TRACK PREMIERE: Ølten deliver a titan of sonic manipulations on "Raus"

Formed in 2012, Ølten are a three piece armed with one guitar, one bass, and a drum kit, taking these individual elements they have coalesced into a titan of sonic manipulations, a trio that doesn’t always need to flex its muscles to display raw power. Their new record “Ambiance” is set for release via Hummus Records on November 2nd,  and you can check out a brand new track entitled “Raus” below.  Preorders for “Ambiance” are being taken (HERE) and band offer some insight to the structure and sound of the track below

The intro riff shares similar sounds with our friends from Unfold, a Swiss band we've all admired for years. This track then continues with a long central part a bit "prog": two guitar notes, four moog notes. And finally, a trax whose brakes give out on the way down.

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Monday 15 October 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: High On Fire, "Electric Messiah"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 05/10/2018
Label: eOne Heavy

Riffs? Huge and drilled into the listener's ears. Drums? Played with animalistic fervour and power. Bass? Distorted and maxed out. Solos? Wild and emotive. Vocals? Vicious and snarling. There is no let up, no backward step. There is only volume, aggression and power.  

“Electric Messiah” CD//DD//2LP track listing:

1. Spewn From the Earth
2. Steps of the Ziggurat/House of Enlil
3. Electric Messiah
4. Sanctioned Annihilation
5. The Pallid Mask
6. God of the Godless
7. Freebooter
8. The Witch and the Christ
9. Drowning Dog

The Review:

At this point, High on Fire are nothing less than underground metal royalty. The ferocious power that the trio exude leads to inevitable Motorhead comparisons- not only that, but the comparisons are actually apt. With HOF you know what to expect and their records deliver what the fans want... even if the band has been developing and progressing from album to album.

Kurt Ballou returns as producer for the third time and the sound and performances are as mighty as we have come to expect. The opening speedball of “Spewn from the Earth” is what the band do best: balls to the wall, take your head off, axe wielding fury. Pike, Matz and Kense  play fast, tight (but loose) and with so much fire. It's breathtaking stuff. The band can do epic just as well; Steps of the Ziggurat/House of Enlil is over nine minutes of very weighty sounds. It's tribal in its sound and focus, huge in sound and zealous in its pursuance of bludgeoning power- no matter which section of the track the band moves through. From there on, the scene is set and the band deliver an absolute tour de force of dirty, greasy rock n roll. The title track is feral, the second epic- “Sanctioned Annihilation”- is a brutal exercise in dynamics, endurance and volume.

Really, that is the key to High On Fire's appeal: they provide an almost alchemical sound in that they take the straightforward  approach and push it to the max. Riffs? Huge and drilled into the listener's ears. Drums? Played with animalistic fervour and power. Bass? Distorted and maxed out. Solos? Wild and emotive. Vocals? Vicious and snarling. There is no let up, no backward step. There is only volume, aggression and power. 

The second half of the album is no less powerful or masterful. There is some melody, on “The Pallad Mask”, for instance- but again the key here is the straightforward approach embodied in the likes of “God of the Godless”. You can feel the force of this stuff through the speakers; it's just elemental and percussive on every level. The band have honed their style and gone more metallic, perhaps, over the years and away from the stoner grooves of earlier works but this has only made them more effective. Just have a listen to “Freebooter” and name one band doing this type of thing at the same level.

The final two tracks both push over the six and a half minute mark and while “The Witch and the Christ” showcases the more rhythmic facets of the band's sound, it is still desperately heavy. “Drowning Dog” introduces an almost maudlin sound to the riffing before swinging like a baseball bat and provides an expert finish to this superbly vicious record.

“Electric Messiah” is certainly up there with the band's best work and further elevates Matt Pike's deity status within the scene. For my money, this knocks Pike's other band's release of this year into a neatly cocked hat. It's just so... adrenaline inducing. It reminds me of why I got into metal in the first place: unadulterated exhilaration. A tour de force, in every sense of the term.

“Electric Messiah” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Tuesday 9 October 2018

BAND SPOTLIGHT: High On Fire favourites, as chosen by the UK's finest doom bands

Through six full-lengths and a number of live releases and EPs, HIGH ONFIRE are an unmistakable force in the realm of heavy metal, influencing many and attracting hordes of avid followers, some of which include many of the UK’s fast rising doom scene.  Today we have invited a number of them to choose their favourite tracks from a band that has inspired others and attracted adulation from many more.  Check out their choices below.  HIGH ON FIRE are touring the UK in support of their new album 'Electric Messiah', 

Dates are as follows:

08/10 Academy 2 Manchester UK
09/10 Tivoli Dublin EIRE
10/10 Limelight 2 Belfast UK
12/10 The Mill Birmingham UK
14/10 SWX Bristol UK
15/10 The Dome London UK

Track name – “Nemesis”
Album – “Surrounded by Thieves”

The art work for this album struck me immediately. Rotoscoped image of a warrior, pure animated Bakshi Lord of The Rings. Matt’s guitar tone, pure Matamp soupiness. Des’s drums like aeons of a mountain forming, compressed into hammer fall precision. This song is High on Fire a top a mountain, slaying hordes of undead, impossible levels of gore and blood streaming down their armour. TOTAL CARNAGE.

Marc Prentice, Ohhms 

Track name – “DII”
Album – “Death Is This Communion”

I was late to the party when discovering High on Fire (from now on to be written HOF) as my first taste of them was when I bought a copy of 2007’s “Death Is This Communion.”  My sole reason for buying was based purely upon finding out that it was Matt Pike from Sleep’s other band. I was lucky enough to get a copy that had a ‘making of’ DVD. Watching the DVD and then listening to the record was enough to sell me. Riffs aside, I find myself attracted to the critical religious, conspiracy and fantastical theme of the song titles and lyrics. Being a fantasy and Sci-Fi fan, I loved the fantastical themed artwork and I’ve always imagined HOF as the Motorhead for Tolkien fans.

My ‘Favourite’ track is, unsurprisingly, from “Death Is This Communion”. It’s the instrumental track “DII”. There’s a part in the making of DVD where you see HOF in the studio creating this song and I think this is a part of the reason as to why I enjoy it. It also it’s great because it has a great heavy riff, melodic solo and a great synth part that plays over the end of a track creating a great otherworldly sound. The tone, mood and vibe on this whole record is great and I think this song captures the feel of this record perfectly. Great instrumental track and an amazing record.

Track name – “Bastard Samurai” 
Album – “Snakes for the Divine”

Love this tune due to its pure brutality and atmosphere it creates.  Plus, epic PHAT bass.  HOF’s use of fast power chord movement has certainly rubbed off on us somewhere. When I saw this band live about 12 years ago I was so high yet they totally destroyed my buzz by being so fucking brutal.   I then got a boner instead, maybe it was because of Matt being topless…  Don’t think I’ve ever had a weed boner before.

Jim Swainston,  Black Moth

Track name – “Snakes for the Divine”
Album – “Snakes for the Divine”

“Snakes for the Divine” is a song that for me is the essence of Matt Pike boiled down into eight and a half minutes of glorious riffery. It has quite possibly one of the best intros to a metal song of all time. When I hear those first chords ring out with that epic lick over the top I can’t help of that brilliant Pike quote from Such Hawks Such Hounds about heavy being about “pissed off and being a warlord.” You know you're about to be punched in the face with the riff to follow. This is warlording at its finest and you can just picture Pike taking his axe into battle. It’s one of those songs that makes you just wanna get loose in the same way that The Stooges’ Search and Destroy does. Raw fuckin power!! 

Wes Leon, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard 

Track name – “Bastard Samurai” 
Album – “Snakes for the Divine”

I bought this album whilst stranded in Europe in 2010 when all flights were cancelled because of the ash cloud from the erupting volcano in Iceland and I ended up playing it on repeat due to it being the only cd I had with me for the hotel's cd player. I like the softness of the verses. Something High on Fire don't do much of is go soft but when they do they nail it, & this makes the heavy riff seem even heavier when it comes in. This track stands out for me because of the slower tempo compared to most of the other tracks on the album. I’d say its a good album to be stranded somewhere with. 

Adam Robertshaw, Barbarian Hermit 

Track Name – “Snakes for the Divine”
Album – “Snakes for the Divine”

The title track of High on Fire's fifth album was the first that really caught my attention and for that reason it will always be a stand out track for me. I was a fan of Sleep and had heard the name HOF but when the album received such critical acclaim in the press I decided to check the album out, and from the off you're greeted by this monster. 

As soon as the epic, Maiden-on-steroids intro kicks in you're hooked in and dragged along for the ride as Pike and co blast through gritty thrash and thunderous groove territories. The guitar riffs and bass lines weave in and out of one another like the eponymous snakes in the title. 

You'll definitely hear the influence of this and other Hire on Fire tracks like it on our new album “Solitude and Savagery”, especially on songs like “Reawaken”