Wednesday, 9 June 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Flesh of the Stars, "Mirror / Vessels"

By: Peter Morsellino
 
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 05/03/2021
Label: Independent



 
“Mirror / Vessels” DD track listing:
 
1). Mirror
2). Mirror (Electronic Realization)
3). Vessels (Single Realization)
4). Vessels
 
The Review:
 
Crafting a sound all their own, Flesh of the Stars excite on their newest release “Mirror/Vessels”. A unique blend of styles come crashing together to create something fresh.  Idiosyncratic in its powerful dynamics, Flesh of the Stars takes listeners on a journey with this release, inviting us into the darkened depths of the human psyche to take a good look at ourselves.
 
Emotionally stripped bear, “Mirror/Vessels” is a rollercoaster of a release. From soaring highs with gorgeous ethereal melodies to crushing lows or crunching chords, Flesh of the Stars crafts a sound that is designed to transport listeners to a different place. Hypnotic rhythms carry you off into the albums narrative and put you into the opportune headspace to bear witness to the emotional web that is being weaved. Eclectic musical arrangements feature prominently alongside an authoritative hard/soft dynamic that creates a cinematic feel to the music.
 
I have to take a moment to offer specific praise to the guitar work of the album. The tone is incredible and sits perfectly inside the mix, never overpowering the arrangements, but taking center stage when need be. Emotionally poignant lead work is a standout of the release for me, with moments of “Vessels” quite literally taking my breath away with their beauty. Honestly, bravo.
 
This is not a release that we can expect to gain universal adoration. Fans of heavier music may shy away from the ambience that flows throughout the tracks, yet it would be difficult to claim the album was lighthearted in any way.  The true heart of the album lies within its multilayered intensity; Its emotional weight; Its varied instrumentation. It's a release that demands the listener's full attention, and from the perspective of this reviewer, that attention is absolutely well deserved.
 

“Mirror / Vessels” is available HERE


Band info: bandcamp || facebook

REVIEW: Kråkslott, "The Witchhammer" [EP]

By: Peter Morsellino
 
Album Type: EP
Date Released: 27/02/2021
Label: Independent



 
“The Witchhammer” DD track listing:
 
1). Ritual of Lies
2). The Witchhammer
 
The Review:
 
In a hailstorm of Sabbath inspired riffs, Kråkslott unleash hell on “The Witchhammer”. Soothing in its chaos, this quick release encapsulates a bygone era of the doom genre while modifying the formula with modern flairs.
 
The release kicks off with the ever morphing “Ritual of Lies”. A track rich with variety as ever there was one, “Ritual…” kicks off with a slow procession of riffs and pained cries before blasting off into chaotic solos and hard rocking energy and lulling us back to the original somber tones to close things off. The eclectic styles presented here make quick work of the tracks near eight minute time span.
 
The title track is up next to finish things off. “The Witchhammer” keeps a more consistent pace for most of its run time, with a sludgy riff fest dominating the early parts and the track dissolving into a downtempo solo of the blues persuasion. This track really sets a mood for the listener and as such connects a bit deeper on an emotional level.
 
The Sabbath influences are hard to ignore on this release and may end up being a deciding factor for some listeners. Its classic vibes might prove to be a bit derivative to modern fans of the genre, while endearing to purists. Personally, I think the songs presented here are a wonderful mix of vintage blues inspired doom with the chaotic lilt of modern sludge.
 
While the entire release clocks in at only just under twenty minutes, being spread between just two tracks provides a more epic feel. The longer run times of the tracks should not be a deterrent, as the songs move at a quick pace and are varied enough to maintain the listener's attention throughout.  Definitely a must listen for any fan of the doom genre.
 
“The Witchhammer” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Dirt Church, "Self Titled LP"

By: Peter Morsellino
 
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 05/02/2021
Label: Independent



 
“Self Titled LP” DD track listing:
 
1). Cicada
2). Psalm 4
3). Husk
4). Days From Land
5). Sirens
6). Less Dead
7). Zephyr King
8). Teeth
9). Hours
 
The Review:
 
Three years after Dirt Church made their claim for sonic supremacy with the release of their 2018 demo, their long awaited Self Titled debut has been unleashed upon the world. A filthy amalgamation of low tuned sludge riffs and pounding hardcore fury, Dirt Church assails listeners with a brutal, yet toe tappingly catchy release that will be sure to please the most discerning of metal heads.
 
Conceived in the bowels of New York's rust belt, Albany's Dirt Church spawns a sound that while uniquely their own, encapsulates the region perfectly. Its dirty, its angry and it's not going to take any shit.  Atmospheric melodies swirl around their music like a fog pouring in, only just obscuring the massacre hidden within. 
 
Violent riffing gives way to mournful, dirge like passages throughout the release as Dirt Church press their rage on display, with a hard/soft dynamic often taking center stage. Vocals morph from pained cries and frenzied howls to feverish spoken word pieces,  adding extra dimensions to the album's storytelling. Despite this, the album is full of ear catching melodies, with songs like “Sirens” clinging to your brain and all but demanding repeated listening.
 
The mix of the album must be noted, as the sound remains crisp and clear despite the chaos contained within. Instrumentation shares real estate perfectly, with no particular sounds battling for space. Vocals maintain a prominent place in the cacophony yet never at the expense of the big picture.
 
Dirt Church presents listeners with a much needed sound with their debut full length. We're all sad, we're all angry. Dirt Church remains empathetic to this fact while granting an escape. It's good time sludge. You can hum it to yourself long after the album reaches its end.  Give this one a listen. I think you'll like it.
 
“Self Titled” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

REVIEW: Cirith Ungol, "Half Past Human" [EP]

By: Richard Maw
 
Album Type: EP
Date Released: 28/05/2021
Label: Metal Blade Records



 
“Half Past Human” CD//DD//LP track listing:
 
1). Route 666
2). Shelob’s Lair
3). Brutish Manchild
4). Half Past Human
 
The Review:

Cirith Ungol's comeback was surely the comeback of the decade; it is no mean feat to revive a band decades after their dissolution AND make an album as convincing as “Forever Black”. Cirith Ungol managed it and are now back with this EP. Four Tracks of trad/doom/hard rock idiosyncrasy. Cirith Ungol have never been the easiest band to like or 'get' and this surely continues here. The themes are fantastical. The vocals are an acquired taste, the bass is bobbling in sound and high in the mix- just like on their debut, “Frost and Fire”. All of that said, this rocks. It's great.

Cirith Ungol are a cult band for a reason- they sound like no one else. They meld genres and sounds like no other band. They fall into a similar bracket to Manilla Road or Pagan Altar: you love them or you are just puzzled.

It is crucial to note that these are not exactly 'new' songs. Instead they are revived from the band's dim and distant past. We assume that they were thus written decades ago; certainly, none have been officially released before. This alone makes for a real fan's treat. Of the four tracks here, you get hard rocking proto-metal on “Route 666” and “Brutish Manchild”, The fantasy element (specifically Tolkien) is fulfilled on “Shelob's Lair”- with a great middle section riff and solo. The biggest treat here is saved for last, though. “Half Past Human” is close to seven and a half minutes in length and is a wonderful track. It is evocative of dynamic and maudlin early Judas Priest moments. Thematically it deals with a dystopian glimpse of the future, science fiction and technology providing ample inspiration.

Overall, then, this is four more new-old songs from Cirith Ungol, all of which sit well with anything else in their discography. For true fans, it’s a must. For casual listeners, this is a perfect introduction to the band, with all their eccentricities on display. It's magnificent, obviously.

“Half Past Human” is available HERE 

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Monday, 17 May 2021

PREMIERE: Dead Hour Noise & Deeper Graves drop their frenetic and frenzy split release

Dead House Noise


Deeper Graves


Holy shit do those damn weekends fly by, you work your goddam ass off five days a week and by the end you’re like “Thank fuck it’s Friday’.  Then in blink of an eye, its Sunday evening and you feel the dread, like “Oh man, do I really have work tomorrow”.   Yep, work does indeed suck, but today at THE SLUDGELORD, we have the perfect weekend hangover cure, with some absolutely stellar earworm from two chaotic bands, in the form of Lansing, Michigan’s Dead Hour Noise and Detroit’s Deeper Graves.

I must be said, I love a good split release, particularly when you get two seemingly disparate acts and throw them together.  Whilst on this occasion, these two acts aren’t exactly polar opposites in terms of style, that doesn’t matter when you get 4 songs of this quality.  Oh man, they are just frenetic, frenzied and absolutely blistering.  Both bands play with razor sharp intensity and the range of styles they somehow merge within the compositions, never come across as forced and are incredibly concise.  Both bands have to be commended here for delivering a kick ass record.

So, yes Monday do hit hard, but this record hits fucking harder and you can stream in full below.  It will be issued via Tomb Tree Tapes on May 18th and you can order HERE


Dead Hour Noise: facebook || instagram || bandcamp

Deeper Graves: facebook || bandcamp

Monday, 10 May 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Memoriam, "To The End"

By: Richard Maw
 
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 26/03/2021
Label: Reaper Entertainment Europe



“To The End” CD//DD//LP track listing:
 
1. ‘Onwards Into Battle’
2. ‘This War Is Won’
3. ‘No Effect’
4. ‘Failure To Comply’
5. ‘Each Step (One Closer To The Grave)’
6. ‘To The End’
7. ‘Vacant Stare’
8. ‘Mass Psychosis’
9. ‘As My Heart Grows Cold’
 
The Review:
 
Memoriam return with this, their fourth full length effort- the blinding speed of creativity! The band are working hard and fast- obviously- and with ex-members of Bolt Thrower and Benediction etc. being a huge selling point, what have they got left now that the cannons have faded?
 
Well, this record is absolutely business as usual. The chugging tank pacing is there from the beginning, the production and sound even better this time around, with a killer mix to boot. Willets sounds as good as he ever has and the band, bolstered by Spike T Smith on drums, really seem to have nailed down their sound. Smith's drumming is excellent- a real masterclass on how to play this kind of music- tasteful ride work, good fills, busy when he needs to be.
 
The tracks are uniformly improved by his drumming and the band seem to be developing their doom leanings. Opener “Onwards Into Battle” is an unstoppable armoured car, they up the speed on “This War Is Won” and hit a mid paced groove on “No Effect” after that. Essentially, then, this is Memoriam running through the gears and the death metal textbook- which at various times the members helped to write in the first place.
 
Conceived as they were as a kind of tribute to late Bolt Thrower drummer Martin Kiddie Kearns, the band has gone way beyond that now. Memoriam have had chart success in Europe and are now a firm fixture on the British death metal scene and circuit. In all honesty, I can’t think of many other UK death metal bands that can boast the same kind of firepower and presence- Carcass, several sizes down there is Cruciamentum... it's becoming a short list.
 
All aspects of the band's sound and strengths are here- bulldozing riffage, gravestone doom- “Each Step (One Closer To The Grave)” is as mournful and slow as anything else in the doom death sub-genre- whilst the band even delivers a powerful title track with shades of classic Sepultura to the opening.
 
The punk elements are here too- “Mass Psychosis” is a good example of the band sounding almost industrial and punk- while the Bolt Thrower-esque lead work is present as well across the record. The album closes mournfully and impressively with “As My Heart Grows Cold”.
 
On balance, I think this is the finest Memoriam album yet and one that can sit proudly with anything the members have done in the past. The UK and death metal as a whole needs this band- standard bearers and bar setters. Long may they reign.
 
“To The End” is available HERE 

Band info: Official || Facebook || Bandcamp || Instagram

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Ageless Oblivion, “Suspended Between Earth and Sky”

By: Richard Maw
 
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 30/04/2021
Label: Apocalyptic Witchcraft



“Suspended Between Earth and Sky” CD//DD track listing:
 
1). In Media Res
2). From Ash and Sulphur
3). All Was Froze
4). Anvil Chorus
5). The Sun Surrenders It’s Crown
6). Cohesion
7). Eldmessa
 
The Review:
 
Album number three for these Hampshire death metallers, sees the band return after an extended absence from the UK scene. For reasons unknown to me, this album comes seven years after their sophomore record. Pleasingly, though, this is a strong album... and it has something a little different.
 
This is death metal, but as opener “In Media Res” makes clear, this is not your standard chug/blast/growl fare. Well, all those elements are present- certainly- but this is not in any way a cookie cutter (monster?) release. The riffing owes a good deal to atmospheric black metal in places- as does the guitar tone. The time changes, beats and drums are very much death metal- but with a very neat progressive and technical element that lends the band a sound all their own.
 
It is certainly technical, it's progressive and it's angular and jarring- but it all hangs together very well. It is smooth through its twists and turns and expertly played. When the band chooses outright speed (“All Was Froze”) it is ferocious and clinical. When they slow down it is unpredictable, well-crafted and even melancholic in terms of the sounds produced. Speaking of which, the production is very good, crystal clear and powerful as well. Gone are the days of a muddy mix ruining death releases.
 
The sheer scale of “Anvil Chorus” allows the band to spread their wings, the short run time of “The Sun Surrenders It's Crown” is not to allow an all-out blasting assault- quite the opposite, in fact. To reference another track here, the whole thing is remarkably cohesive for a record with this many different elements. Ageless Oblivion must be commended for such an ambitious record after such a long time away.
 
It is unusual enough for me to not really reference any one or few bands that this sounds like- because that would be reductive and inaccurate here. Yes, it is death metal, but there are elements of black, sludge and so on within. It is technical and progressive- as noted- but that technicality is not the focus of the album; just one of its facets.
 
Ageless Oblivion have made a great album; it is deathly, daring and different
 
“Suspended Between Earth and Sky” is available HERE 

Band info: facebook || bandcamp

ALBUM REVIEW: Big|Brave, "Vital"

By: Josh McIntyre
 
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 23/04/2021
Label: Southern Lord Recordings



 
“Vital” CD//DD//LP track listing:
 
1). Abating the Incarnation of Matter
2). Half Breed
3). Wited, Still and All…
4). Of This Ilk
5). Vital
 
 
The Review:
 
Big|Brave creates music that consumes the listener. Their exploration of soundscapes (rather than notes) pulsing rhythms, and raw emotional vocals have captivated me since I first saw them opening for Sunn O))) back in 2016. The band is less than a decade old yet here we are with their fifth LP, “Vital”.
 
If we must give a genre description, I find Big|Brave to be more at home in the post-punk field than sludge metal, though they clearly cross paths in terms of the heavy drones. Their sound is somewhere between the pulsing aggression of early Swans and the creeping beauty of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. This has been consistent from the start but the band continuously experiments with their foundation.

“Vita”l continues this trend and is another lively display of what makes Big|Brave who they are. Huge, pulsing sounds (they don’t play many ‘chords’ in the traditional sense) followed by lingering trails of reverb are the standard. The use of negative space is just as crucial. Each track builds, gradually and slowly, until they dissipate. Of this Ilk, the fourth song, becomes one of the most aggressive of the band’s career halfway through. It absolutely pulverizes and then fades away like someone who has finished their point. It’s fairly comparable to an expressionistic painting, one that uses abstractions to show the ambiguity of simple existence.

These feelings are crucial here. Robin Wattie, our primary vocalist, sings and yells while these soundscapes waver around. Her performances are powerful and her lyrics, which regard her feelings and experiences being an ‘Other’ in a society dominated by a complex web in which whiteness and maleness are seen as standards (hence everything else is ‘Other’), put significant weight on “Vital” as a piece of artistic expression. There is such a strong sense of existential exploration on this record that one feels an obligation to listen again and to read the lyrics again, this next time just a little closer.

Big|Brave don’t just put out records that sound cool, even though they certainly do. Each one feels like an extension of the people who made them. They remind us that music is temporal and takes up space. It isn’t just about the notes that we play but how we play them. Big|Brave can pound drums, punch their guitars, scream, and devour us in waves of feedback before taking it all away. We are as vulnerable to their will as they are to their own. We, as people, are also both temporal and spacious. We are capable of being both fragile and powerful. The songs in “Vital” wander about their existence just as people similarly do. They speak of vulnerabilities, marginalization, strength, and endurance. We learn when we listen to each other.
 
“Vital” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Thursday, 29 April 2021

PREMIERE: Check out Freedom Fist's self titled incendiary debut

 

With song titles like “14 Million Cunts”, “Sectarian Centurian” and “Not Ma Queen”, Freedom Fist’s incendiary self-titled debut release is somewhat of a call to arms to the Scottish population, to put aside your fears, take a leap of faith and cut the umbilical cord of Westminster, The Crown and become a sovereign nation and truly independent.

Whilst it could be said, this release is 7 years late, (The Scottish independence referendum was in 2014), given the fractious state of the world, there has perhaps never been a better time to push for independence once more (just look at the damage Brexit has caused).

Set against a backdrop of D-beats, blasts, wretched and tormented vocals, scummy guitars and blown out bass, I sense that Freedom Fist seek to educate the listener, dealing with themes of a heroin epidemic, a culture of violence, and sectarian servitude of the Glasgow football, with the underling message being, these issues won’t  resolve themselves unless a nation pulls together and addresses the societal imbalance.

Harnessing the rage, anger and frustration of a nation, Freedom Fist have created something preposterously filthy indeed and today you can check it out in full below.  “Freedom Fist” is issued tomorrow 30/04/2021 via Ripcord Records (order HERE)

 Band info: facebook

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Cannibal Corpse, "Violence Unimagined"

By: Richard Maw
 
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 16/04/2021
Label: Metal Blade Records


“Violence Unimagined” CD//DD//LP track listing:
 
1). Muderous Rampage
2). Necrogenic Resurrection
3). Inhumane Haarvest
4). Condemnation Contagion
5). Surround, Kill, Devour
6). Ritual Annihilation
7). Follow the Blood
8). Bound and Buried
9). Slowly Sawn
10). Overtorture

The Review:
 
Ah, Cannibal Corpse. The Motorhead of death metal. The Overkill of death metal. The High on Fire of death metal. They are relentlessly consistent. Relentlessly brutal. Relentlessly... relentless. I think it's fair to say that there are no bad CC albums. Equally, there are a few great ones- which most fans agree on (“The Bleeding”, “Butchered at Birth”, “Kill”...). Ultimately, they have always made good albums. I love “A Skeletal Domain” as much as I love “Tomb of the Mutilated”- but any other fan may disagree and pick another pair of albums they enjoy equally.
 
This record finds a line up shift having taken effect. As many will know, Pat O'Brien has legal problems not too far off the themes found in in CC's songs. His technical prowess and creativity are of course much missed- but if there is one replacement who could step up the mark, it has to be Erik Rutan. He's death metal royalty and surely needs no further introduction?!
 
Speaking of Rutan, the sound on this record is incredible. It's crystal clear and incredibly punchy. The snare snaps like a zombie's neck. The bass is springy and easy to pick out without being clanky and overbearing (lovely highlights are to be found in “Follow The Blood”). The guitars grind and shred like any number of torture devices- or DIY appliances.  
 
As soon as I started to listen to “Violence Unimagined”, I knew it would be one of the great ones. It has all the best elements of Cannibal Corpse. The musicianship is absolutely insane. The hooks embed in your brain and refuse to leave. It's brutal, catchy and brilliant. George Corpsegrinder Fisher is as imperious as ever. His vocals are both guttural, clear and forceful in equal measure. Barrett and Rutan really deliver on the riff and solo front. Alex Webster remains the best bassist in extreme metal and Paul Mazurkiewicz brings his precise yet wild drumming to its natural conclusion- the blasts are there, the fills are there and he switches so well around the kit and from hi hat to ride. 
 
Thematically, of course, you know what you are getting. I'll be honest and state that the song titles/lyrics/themes and artwork are the least attractive part of CC's music for me. I'm not really a huge horror fan, I'm not gore obsessed (!) and I have no particular interest in the macabre beyond what most metal fans may have. I can't defend the genre to its critics or explain it to those who are repulsed... All of that said, I do like death metal. No, I love death metal. The sound, the vibe, the extremity: I just have an affinity for it- when it is done well. The classic death metal bands are classic for a reason- Obituary, Deicide, Morbid Angel, Death, Dismember, Entombed; the list goes on. All those bands are great- or were great at the very least. 
 
The thing with Cannibal Corpse is that they were great and are great and will continue to be great. They continue to make incredibly good records. They continue to define death metal in sound, theme and all visual aspects. Whether it's “Ritual Annihilation”, “Inhumane Harvest” or skin flaying opener “Murderous Rampage”, the band has delivered on every conceivable level here. The playing is amazing, the atmosphere is dark and gritty throughout, the songs are memorable and don't ever descend into mindless blasting. 
 
I've really liked the preceding two records to this one- “A Skeletal Domain” is one of my favourite CC albums and “Red Before Black” was another masterclass. My first impressions are that this is better than both and thus is the best CC record in years and that is REALLY saying something. It's majestic in its violence and force. If you like/liked or want to try out death metal- just give this album a listen. I fear that if you can't get into this, you simply don't like death metal. The best in the business are back. Bow down and expect swift decapitation.
 
“Violence Unimagined” is available HERE 

Band info: official || facebook