Monday 29 April 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Pagan Altar, "Judgement of the Dead"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 17/04/2019
Label: Temple of Mystery

Simply put, this is a classic recording and one that shaped the genre and continues to do so all these decades after it was laid down on tape. Masterful.


“Judgement of the Dead” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Pagan Altar
2. In the Wake of Armadeus
3. Judgement of the Dead
4. The Black Mass
5. Night Rider
6. The Dance of the Banshee
7. Reincarnation

The Review:

There is not that much that can be written about Pagan Altar that has not already been written. To summarise, they are regarded as one of the first doom metal bands and one of the most influential- despite being NWOBHM in origin and not releasing an official album until the millennium that followed the NWOBHM boom.

“Judgement of the Dead”, then, is their earliest work in remastered form which first saw the (official) light of day decades after being recorded as a top end demo. Armed with that knowledge, it is up to the listener to decide what they are listening to; charmingly lo-fi lightning in a bottle which planted seeds still growing today or amateurish and crude heavy metal which would be perfected at a much later date.

For me, there is something about “Judgement of the Dead” which lends itself to the former description. There can be no argument that the “Mythical and Magical” and “Room of Shadows” are amongst the best doom albums ever put out, but the murky production here may be too much for some to overlook.

With that debate set out, we can now focus on what is here: an unmistakably English vibe, a father and son at the heart of the band and a very eccentric set of songs. Viewed through the lens of the early 80s, this must have been very unusual indeed; satanic invocations, occult themes, crashing chords and huge riffs of plodding slowness. Terry Jones' plaintive wail is present and correct and the guitar work has been emulated countless times since.

From the opening of the band's titular theme song to the lengths of some of the songs themselves, you can tell this is simply not standard early 80s metal fare. The gulf between this and other metal of the time is huge. If the title track brings the epic feel, then “Night Rider” brings the swinging feel utilised so effectively by Sabbath, Trouble and even Saint Vitus. The acoustic “The Dance of the Banshee” is a welcome interlude before the epic closer “Reincarnation” (recorded much later than the bulk of this release).

That the origins of Pagan Altar are so murky and mysterious only adds to their allure- they were there at the start but only came to prominence after years of their legend building up by word of mouth. Where “Judgement of the Dead” fits in their discography is hard to say. Their latter day material is so imperious that it is hard to compare this nascent effort in any meaningful way- a little like comparing Priest'sRocka Rolla” to “Firepower”.

Pagan Altar are essential to any doom fan, so this is essential too. Don't expect crystal clear sound and mixing par excellence, but do expect to hear a uniqueness and an arcane vibe from which you can draw a direct correlation to all the best doom bands operating today. Simply put, this is a classic recording and one that shaped the genre and continues to do so all these decades after it was laid down on tape. Masterful.

“Judgement of the Dead” is available HERE

Band info: facebook || bandcamp

Sunday 28 April 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Vargrav, "Reign In Supreme Darkness"

By: Conor O’Dea

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 29/04/2019
Label: Werewolf Records

“Reign in Supreme Darkness” is a dark and blossoming crystallization of all the threat and wonder of “Netherstorm” - a full opera, a syncretic and well-realized symphony. Recommended without reservation.

“Reign in Supreme Darkness” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Intro – Et In Profundis Mysteriis
2. The Glory of Eternal Night
3. Dark Space Dominion
4. In Streams From Great Mysteries
5. As the Shadows Grow Silent
6. Crowned By Demonstorms
7. Godless Pandemonium
8. Arcane Stargazer

The Review: 

It is unfortunate that the words 'opera' and 'symphony' in metal have come to denote bombast, hyper-ornamentation and bloat. Even the word 'majestic' carries with it connotations of the overwrought annals of power metal gone cancerous and overgrown. The juxtaposed subtlety and power of symphonic and operatic composition perhaps have never found a better mestari than Finland's Jean Sibelius, whose tone poems and symphonies in particular embody the capacity for a profound range of dynamics and emotional expressions. As if that mastery was somehow embedded in the soil of Hämeenlinna and made its sojourn south to Hyvinkää, Ville Pallonen has proven himself a worthy inheritor, and in “Reign in Supreme Darkness”, has skillfully conjugated all the fragmentary grammars of “Netherstorm” into a true FInlandia opus. 

The opening fantasia “Et In Profundis Mysteriis” opera is a dark and brooding conjuration of the dark depths of glacial striations - a fitting portrait of this land of the icy waters of the Suomi-neito. The energy built in this introduction moves furiously into “The Glory of Eternal Night”, which capitalizes on all the blizzard-borne fury of “Netherstorm”, and ushers in an album of unrelenting hibernal glory. The moods here are cyclothymic and ubiquitously intense - the raw, bruising entry of “As The Shadows Grow Silent” brings the pace down slightly only to be reinvigorated in the triumphal “Crowned by Demonstorms”. The closing track, “Arcane Stargazer”, is sorrowful and more deeply pensive than its predecessors - a lone trek into the taiga to commune with constellations and wolves, away from all torchlight and hearths, a solitary soul against a frost-rimed night sky. 

“Reign in Supreme Darkness” is a dark and blossoming crystallization of all the threat and wonder of “Netherstorm” - a full opera, a syncretic and well-realized symphony. The Silence of Järvenpää is ended thereby - the blood of Väinämöinen rises true and strong here. Recommended without reservation.

Vaka vanha Väinämöinen
itse tuon sanoiksi virkki:
"Näistäpä toki tulisi
kalanluinen kanteloinen,
kun oisi osoajata,
soiton luisen laatijata."
Kun ei toista tullutkana,
ei ollut osoajata,
soiton luisen laatijata,
vaka vanha Väinämöinen
itse loihe laatijaksi,
tekijäksi teentelihe

“Reign In Supreme Darkness” is available HERE

Band info: facebook

Wednesday 24 April 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Lord Dying, "Mysterium Tremendum”

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 26/04/2019
Label: eOne Heavy

Not many bands would attempt something so daring and varied. Of course, not many bands are anywhere near as good as Lord Dying, so try this one out and expand your taste. Excellent.

“Mysterium Tremendum” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Envy The End
2. Tearing At The Fabric Of Consciousness
3. Nearing The End Of The Curling Worm
4. The End Of Experience
5. Exploring Inward
6. Severed Forever
7. Even The Darkness Went Away
8. Freed From The Pressures Of Time
9. Lacerated Psyche
10. Split From A World Within/Devoid Of Dreams/Death The Final Loneliness
11. Saying Goodbye To Physical Form

The Review:

Lord Dying are back and Portland's finest have not run out of riffs and hunger just yet! The first thing that hit me when I pressed play was the sound- thick, muscular, meaty and absolutely spot on for this sludge/metal mash up. Sitting somewhere between Mastodon, High On Fire, Death Angel and Jethro Tull (!?) this record has a surprising amount of variation, not to mention light and shade. “Envy The End” will get your head banging at any volume, mind, and after that opening the album has more twists and turns than a sidewinder.

The Doors-esque “Tearing at the Fabric of Consciousness” is just one of the curve-balls here; it's dark and quiet and pretty different to what you might find on the average sludge release. As the record progresses, the band runs the gamut from quieter almost folky moments to thrash riffage and the heaviest of sludge metal. The vocals are just as changeable- clean singing, more metal type singing and screams/growls.

The eleven tracks on offer clip by, being as the song lengths are pretty varied- no formulaic writing here, so instead there is a real mixture of light and heavy. The quiet loud dynamic has worked for the greatest metal bands you can name, so Lord Dying are onto something here. The life/death concept is a good one for the band to explore and gives them latitude with the arrangements; lots of instrumental sections and some pretty psychedelic sections throughout the album are welcome additions to the Lord Dying's approach here.

As a concept album, a track by track is a little pointless and would perhaps spoil the experience for the listener as this is an album to be experienced as a whole or at the very least in track list order. Suffice it to say that most heavy music fans will find something they like here; it covers a lot of ground and approaches (often even in one song) and ranges from the very pretty (“Freed From The Pressures of Time”) to the whimsical to the more extreme metal you might have expected.

“Mysterium Tremendum” is a vast work and is not what I really expected at all- and is all the better for it. Not many bands would attempt something so daring and varied. Of course, not many bands are anywhere near as good as Lord Dying, so try this one out and expand your taste. Excellent.

“Mysterium Tremendum” is available HERE

Band info: facebook || bandcamp

Thursday 18 April 2019

TRACK PREMIERE: Costa Rican doom band Age of the Wolf debut "Herald of Abyssos"

Costa Rican doom band Age of the Wolf are set to release their debut full-length, “Ouroboric Trances”, on May 17th in digital, CD, and vinyl formats via Aural Music.  This fuzz-worshipping outfit delivers crushing riffs and epic melodies, backed by an apocalyptic rhythm section that crosses all spectrums of the sludge/stoner/doom genre. 

Today at THE SLUDGELORD we’re proud to have the band make their debut on the blog with an exclusive premiere of new track “Herald of Abyssos” which you can check out below.  Make no mistake, it is worth your time.  So comply and let your speakers die!!

Band info: facebook

Saturday 13 April 2019

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

By: Nikos Mixas

It’s already March.  Technically speaking, the year is already almost 25% over and as far as THE SLUDGELORD’s “666 Pack Review” is concerned, it’s been an OK year so far.  So, THE SLUDGELORD has a request this month.  Can we please have some audience participation?  In the comments section, let’s hear what some of your favorite submissions have been so far up to this point. We’re intrigued to know if anybody reads this column and listens to the bands that submit their music only to have their dreams of sold out stadium shows and countless groupies to be ultimately crushed by THE SLUDGELORD.   BTW, 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 uninspired rating scale below: 

1 – This is the lowest rating you can achieve you losers. 
2 – And this score is a smidge better than landing a 1.  Feel good about yourself yet?
3 – A perfect average.  Congrats…. yawn…
4 – Four?  Start high fiving yourself and your pets.      
5 – Oh…so close to a 666, but no banana for you!  
666 – You can’t go any higher with us.  You should feel great about, now go tell all your friends and family.  Maybe they’ll care?

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). The biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk “EP (a) Alpha” (Cardiff, UK) Rating: 2

George Thorogood meets Weird Al Yankovic.

2). Gorgonchrist “Blood of Endangered Species” (United Kingdom) Rating: 5

Fans of splattergrind will dig this.

3). Flame, Dear Flame “The Millennial Heartbeat” (Brunswick, Germany) Rating: 3

Poor man’s version of Witch Mountain.

4). Green Inferno “Demo” (New Jersey, U.S.A.)   Rating: 1

Ripping Sleep AND Weedeater??? Try again…  

5). MU CEPHEI “Mantras of the Uniformed mind” (Maynooth, Ireland) Rating: 4

My subconscious drunken state would dig. 

6). Blunt Horse “Clawing Through Earth and Flesh” (Washington D.C., U.S.A.)   Rating: 2

If Voivod decided to dumb down.

Friday 12 April 2019

TRACK PREMIERE: Norwegain power trio Dune Sea set a course for the "Dune Sea"

Dune Sea is a power trio from Norway playing a stoner rock mixed with shoegaze and space rock. The Trondheim based group are often compared with bands like Hawkwind and Queens of the Stone Age.

On the 3rd of May Dune Sea will issued their new album “Cosmic Playground” via All Good Clean Records and features nine tracks that range from stretched out psychedelic sci-fi soundscapes to synth based monolithic riffs. The sound unfolds within a cinematic universe, which is both retro and futuristic. 

Today at THE SLUDGELORD we’re feature the title track from the album which you can check out below.  Frontman Ole Nogva had the following to say about the track.  Preorder are being take HER

“Cosmic Playground” combines big questions about the universe and existential nihilism with melodic guitars and big synthesizers. The scandirock inspired spacerock track is the grand finale of album.

Band info: facebook 

Thursday 11 April 2019

TRACK PREMIERE: self proclaimed "sword and sorcery doomers" HAZE MAGE cast a spell with "Bong Witch"

Forged in late 2015, HAZE MAGE create riff-driven, anthemic fantasy metal that transports listeners to a world of ancient dark forests, savage beasts, and gloomy landscapes engulfed by a menacing miasma of haunting haze. HAZE MAGE weaves their fantasy world through lyrics and sound that draw inspiration from many sub genres of metal including Black Sabbath, Queens Of The Stone Age, The Sword, Clutch, High On Fire, and Sleep to create what they have dubbed “sword and sorcery doom.”

Having quickly gained attention in the Baltimore metal scene thanks to their exuberant and thundering stage shows, HAZE MAGE first caught the ear of local label and friends, Grimoire Records, in the summer of 2016. In 2017, Grimoire recorded and released the band’s “Blood Mist” debut EP to critical praise

On the 19/04/2019 2019, HAZE MAGE will release their first full-length album titled “Chronicles” again through Grimoire Records and it represents an expansion of the fantasy world created in their debut EP. The album and its concept have been in development since 2017 as part of an even broader narrative yet to come. Each song introduces a new character or piece of lore for the listening adventurers to encounter.

Today at THE SLUGELORD you can check out a brand new track entitled “Bong Witch”, so if you like the idea of grooving stoner rock with Danzig esque vocals, you’re gonna love this.  We think the band is rad and well worthy of your time.  So crank it up loud and watch your speakers die.  Preorders for “Chronicles” are being taken HERE

Band info: instagram || facebook || bandcamp

Monday 8 April 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: 11Paranoias, “Asterismal”

By: Charlie Butler

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 15/03/2019
Label: Ritual Productions

“Asterismal” is a powerful distillation of 11Paranoias strengths that results in their heaviest and most hallucinogenic release to date. It is another fine addition to a mighty discography that makes most other doom bands feel tame and grounded in comparison.

“Asterismal” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Loss Portal
2). Bloodless Crush
3). Vitrified Galaxy
4). Prelude
5). Slow Moon
6). Quantitative Immortalities  
7). Chambers of Stars
8). Acoustic Mirror II

The Review:

11Paranoias continue their voyage to the outer limits of heaviness with new LP “Asterismal”. The UK trio have developed their distinct brand of mind-expanding doom over a number of killer releases and this latest collection finds them reaching new heights of crushing hypnotic wonder. 

“Loss Portal” opens proceedings in punishing style with the band lurching straight into a mesmerising slow-motion riff. Once 11Paranoias raise the tempo around the mid-point and Mike Vest's smouldering guitar sets a course into the stratosphere there is no resisting the sensory overload of their full sonic onslaught. 

While there is no doubting the bands mastery of dark, spacey doom it is their unexpected left turns into uncharted waters that really elevate them above their peers. “Bloodless Crush” is a relentless heavy garage rock attack cloaked in a cloud of fuzzed-out solos and swirling vocals. Imagine the Stooges playing through Electric Wizard's backline and you have a good idea of the joys on offer here. 

Adam Richardson's trademark roar is still present but this time around it is projected further into psychedelic territory, cloaked in layers of smoky reverb and delay. There are also instances of him employing a more melodic approach to great effect, adding a haunting, mournful edge to album highlight “Slow Moon”. The hulking, funereal first half of the track gives way to a propulsive second section that launches into oblivion like Earthless having a bad trip with Joy Division. “Quantitative Immortalities” takes a similar slow / fast split approach but this time the high octane finale powers into the heart of the sun like an armour-plated Hawkwind on one final flight into the beyond. “Chamber Of Stars” offers an initially subdued finale with waves of hazy wah guitar conjuring up the bleary, blissed out haze of Bardo Pond before one last glorious wave of noise engulfs all.

“Asterismal” is a powerful distillation of 11Paranoias strengths that results in their heaviest and most hallucinogenic release to date. It is another fine addition to a mighty discography that makes most other doom bands feel tame and grounded in comparison.

“Asterismal” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Monday 1 April 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Grand Magus, "Wolf God"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 19/04/2019
Label: Nuclear Blast 

This is a strong and dark record made by veterans of the form and sees Grand Magus further cementing their reputation as front runners in the niche of traditional heavy metal.

“Wolf God” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Gold and Glory  
2. Wolf God 
3. A Hall Clad in Gold 
4. Brother of the Storm 
5. Dawn of Fire 
6. Spear Thrower 
7. To Live and Die in Solitude 
8. Glory to the Brave 
9. He Sent Them All to Hel 
10. Untamed 

The Review:

Grand Magus are now in the enviable position of being a very well established metal band- this is their ninth album. As noted in previous reviews, their sound has gone from stoner/rock to doom to heavy metal, detoured into hard rock and then gone back to the type of metal that Dio, Priest, Manowar et. al. have made millions from. That Grand Magus are still a somewhat underground band is a travesty. If this was 1984, they'd be headlining Long Beach Arena by now.

As it stands, though, Grand Magus may not be financially rewarded, but they are rewarded with the reverence held in reserve by fans for the very best in the genre. As far as their discography goes, there are no howlers; the debut is an oddity but a fine album and “The Hunt” was just too restrained for my liking- but still with great songs.

Coming off the back of two great records, expectations are high for “Wolf God”. “Triumph and Power” and “Sword Songs” contained some classic metal songs and put the band into a very enviable bracket indeed- that of an act with multiple 4*+ albums. 

The question here is: can Grand Magus sustain their run of form and/or outdo themselves eighteen years into their career? Read on to find out... 

The orchestral opener, “Gold and Glory”, sets the tone in grandiose terms. From there, it is straight into the title track. First impressions? Huge drum sound, mid-paced riffage and bombastic vocals courtesy of JB. Make no mistake, this is weighty stuff and the toms sound as if they are being played by Thor himself.

“A Hall Clad In Gold” picks up the pace and delivers a pounding snare to back each beat of the bar through the verses. Good hooks through the bridge and then an unexpected switch to bass and drums back to the verse. Once again, the band excel at cutting the fat from the songs and delivering catchy verses, strong riffs and memorable structures- think Judas Priest at their best. “Brother of the Storm” is a mid-paced rager; great hooks- before “Dawn of Fire” delivers a more epic approach. Grand Magus have done this kind of 6:8 time feel before and they have done it well (“Triumph and Power” springs to mind) and this is another example of the band nailing a groove to the (longship) mast.

At the halfway point, then, this is an album that has more in common with “Triumph and Power” than “Sword Songs”. It is a little more restrained, a little less bombastic, a little slower and a fair bit darker than either of the two most recent albums. All of that said, when “Spear Thrower” kicks off then the album takes a turn. The tempo goes up, the histrionics are back and the hooks are stellar. The band thus start the second half of the album in the best way possible. The solo is fantastic too. A killer track, front to back.

“To Live and Die in Solitude” is similarly hard rocking- triplet time feel, a muscular riff and the band firing on all cylinders. This is rousing stuff and fits in nicely with the “Wolf's Return”/”Iron Will” era. It's worth noting at this point that Grand Magus may well have paved the way for bands such as Visigoth to rise to prominence. The two bands may be from different continents, but they share the same musical DNA;strong hooks, energetic performances and epic feel. “Glory to the Brave” starts moody and features a rim shot (seldom heard in metal) prior to the guitars bursting in. The band then goes for quiet/loud dynamics and tried and true heroic themes. 

“He Sent Them All to Hel” has a much more hard rock feel to the rhythms and pacing; If AC/DC ever decided to pursue a Viking themed album, then I guess it might sound a little like this. It's a fine and hard rocking track and easily one of the catchiest on the album. The closing “Untamed” tells its tale of rage with conviction and tempo shifts. Strong riffing is the order of the day.

And there we have it. Ten tracks, a mostly fairly dark feel and some real stand outs. Overall, then, this is another good entry into Grand Magus' body of work but does not quite scale the heights of “Sword Songs”. Of course, it is mandatory listening for fans of the band and may well make new converts as well. This is a strong and dark record made by veterans of the form and sees Grand Magus further cementing their reputation as front runners in the niche of traditional heavy metal.

“Wolf God” is available HERE

Band info: facebook