Tuesday, 11 August 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, "Stygian Bough Volume 1"

 By: Peter Morsellino

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 26/06/2020
Label: Profound Lore Records

“Stygian Bough Volume 1” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. The Bastard Wind
2. Heaven Torn Low I (the passage)
3. Heaven Torn Low II (the toll)
4. Prelude
5. The Unbodied Air

The Review:

Hauntingly beautiful and dripping with emotion, Bell Witch joins force with Aerial Ruin to deliver a piece of art that is worth many times the sum of its parts.  With “Stygian Bough Volume 1”, we are greeted with an incredibly mature and strikingly artistic take on the doom genre. 

The album casts its spell upon listeners with a weight of immense intimacy, creating a deeply personal connection throughout its hour plus run time.  The emotional toll of this album cannot be understated. It moves slowly and sorrowfully and it inserts the solemn voices directly into the listener's soul.

Melancholic melodies reign supreme here, with powerful funerary passages dotting the release from time to time. Acoustic guitars and soulful vocal passages form the backbone of the album. It has very much of a Jose Gonzalez vibe at times, which is something I never thought I'd say on this blog, but it fits in perfectly. Moments of lightness should not be mistaken for levity here, as the emotional toll of these songs proves to be, at very least, as heavy as anything out on shelves right now.

With passages reaching well into the ten plus minutes marks (and several reaching just about twenty,) this one is a long haul for sure. And yet, the album feels woefully incomplete when consumed in bits and pieces.  You might be there a while, but I would highly recommend taking this one in in one sitting. This is an album that needs to be absorbed whole. It's an experience. A journey. Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin share something deeply personal and profound with listeners here, and it is something that needs to be respected.

The mixing of gentle elements into doom works is nothing new, but here on “Stygian Bough Volume 1”, we are presented with a master class on the matter. This is a game changer for the genre, just wait and see. A stand out album for me this year, and will most certainly be making my list.  Give it a go, you won't regret it.

“Stygian Bough Volume 1” is available HERE

Band info: Bell Witch || Aerial Ruin

Saturday, 1 August 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: Lantern, "Dimensions"

By: Thomas Gonzales

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 10/07/2020
Label: Dark Descent Records

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

1. Strange Nebula
2. Beings
3. Portraits
4. Cauldron of Souls
5. Shrine of Revelation
6. Monolith Abyssal Dimensions

The Review:

It is not often that I am faced with an expired deadline for a review, but, then again, I am also not often relegated to self-imposed quarantine, and social distancing. The last few months have been bizarre to say the least, and while the music industry is far less effected than film, the impacts of COVID-19 cannot be easily ignored. “Dimensions” dropped right at the same time I began preparations to return to work; and for me, Lantern’s latest release, “Dimensions”, was an album deserving of far more than a cursory glance, or half-assed write-up. It is a multilayered effort, deserving of an in-depth vivisection to really analyze each substratum of its composition.

While the actual review portion of the release was heavily procrastinated on, I found myself regularly putting “Dimensions” on play throughout my isolation; there is an explicit atmosphere Lantern communicates with their writing; often bleak and weighty, but the energy is intoxicating. Whether I was doing the dishes, cleaning, or combatting the pandemic with new “COVID Safe Practices” in the workplace, I could find time to enjoy “Dimensions” in my daily life.

Influenced by death, horror, and the occult, their inspiration from the mysterious and macabre, ooze out between their screeching melodies, and thrashing riffs, like a creeping and cognizant ooze of malevolence. It isn’t lighthearted by any means, as showcased in it’s beautiful album cover by Timo Kokko, but as others have said, they are a light in the darkness of Black Metal. It could be the melodic sensibilities in their song writing, or the distinctive vocal work of member Necrophilos; but where you often find chaos in the genre, Lantern breathes a sort of life and order into their exploration of death. Formed in 2007, the current line-up featuring Cruciatus, J. Poussu, St. Belial, and the aforementioned Necrophilos may be their finest effort yet and would not be surprising to see on many year end lists.

Hailing from the fetid womb of our Metal Motherland, Finland, Lantern leads their listeners on a dark journey through the underworld, like Kharon, the ferryman of the River Styx. It is no less dark or depraved than other bands in Black Metal, but there is an almost Alighieri-an poetry, meets Lovecraft nature to their vision. Musically, you can expect a diverse amalgamation of brutality and melody, dusting a metaphorical soundscape of storms and skeletons.  At the end of the day, I am happy to be writing again, and I am glad it was Lantern – “Dimensions” that kicked things back into gear. There is a level of despondence that takes over, when the rush of everyday life stops, and it was art that kept me going in those dark times.

“Dimensions” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Monday, 27 July 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: Sorcerer, "Lamenting of the Innocent"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 29/05/2020
Label: Metal Blade Records

“Lamenting of the Innocent” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Persecution (intro)
2. The Hammer of Witches
3. Lamenting of the Innocent
4. Institoris
5. Where Spirits Die
6. Deliverance
7. Age of the Damned
8. Condemned
9. Dance with the Devil
10. Path To Perdition
11. Hellfire (Bonus Track – only available on Digipak CD)

The Review:

Nordic doomsters Sorcerer return with their third full length album. As eagle eyed readers of the blog will know, I'm a fan of the first two records, which I reviewed glowingly. Can the band strike gold (figuratively and not in terms of sales, sadly) again?

First impressions are good- a minute long intro reveals an excellent sound and mix. First track proper, “The Hammer of Witches”, is the business- triplet pacing and a real headbanger of a track. Trad doom like this is always best when it doesn't actually stray that far from trad metal and “Lamenting of the Innocent” does not disappoint in that regard.

From the epically lengthy title track to the acoustic “Deliverance”, the album is like a lengthy trad metal album in terms of structure and content; some tracks rock hard, some up the slow and low content. It's dark and epic in equal measure. At ten tracks it is arguably a little long (and yes, there is an intro and an acoustic track in that number) as many of the songs push past the seven and eight minute mark- certainly, listening to this in full requires a serious time investment. That said, what would you rather have? More music or less music?!

Even on tracks such as “Age of the Damned”- which I would count as a little weaker than some others- there are good melodies and catchy vocal lines which lift it far above plodding status. The fact of the matter is that there is nothing bad on here and the majority of the material is good/great. The histrionics of “Dance With The Devil” would fit right onto any Tony Martin-era Sabbath album (a big compliment) and the band really finish in true grandstanding style with “Path To Perdition”; a really epic doom track.

Such is the length and scope of the album it's hard to assess it against their previous two records- the true detail of the album can only be revealed with repeated listening, I think. This is of course recommended for all fans of trad doom and particularly those who like the epic feel of the genre. It's massive and crushing.

“Lamenting of the Innocent” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

6 NEW BANDS: THE SLUDGELORD's "666 Pack Review" (May 2020)

By: Nikos Mixas

This year is turning out to be an interesting one indeed.  A plague has crippled the world, protests and riots have been commonplace lately and there’s a meteor on a collision course for earth….err…I made that last one up.  But hey!  All of this sounds like fodder for lyrical material for eons to come.  THE SLUDGELORD expects to see a lot of doom and gloom when you email your tunes to us for this monthly column.  So, 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 “the end of the world” rating scale below: 

1 – The end is now.  At least for you.   
2 – Go find and climb into a bomb shelter soon.  Not to save yourself, but to practice a whole bunch more.
3 – The law of averages says that you’ll be the same after all this shakes out… 
4 – You can take off that mask and put down that sign.  Things are looking up for this band.       
5 – Even rubber bullets and a high fever can’t stop you.  Get out there and play…. when venues open up that is. 
666THE SLUDGELORD does not fret when the world is coming to an end.  THE SLUDGELORD only listens when the score is 666!

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). Lammping “Forest For The Trees” (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) Rating:  3

Flower power, or maybe…flour powder? 

2). TRWLR “ATOLLA” (Copenhagen, Denmark) Rating: 4

Soundtrack for rioting and for migraines.

3). Squelch ChamberDown So Low” (Pennsylvania, U.S.A) Rating: 4

Napalm Death and Assuck love child. 

4). Vitskar Suden “Vitskar Suden” (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.) Rating: 4

Maybe if I was a stoner???

5). Rickshaw Billie’s Burger Patrol “Burger Babes…From Outer Space!” (Austin, Texas, U.S.A.) Rating: 666!

 Fucking needed this injection of boogie!

6). Mazzeri “Mazzeri” (Corsica, France)   Rating: 2

The flavors haven’t settled just yet.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

TRACK PREMIERE: Yanomano, "No Sympathy for a Rat"

Named after an indigenous Amazonian group known for ritual endocannibalism, Austrialia’s Yanomamö are back with their upcoming releae, “No Sympathy for a Rat”.

The four tracks on offer drip with whiskey-soaked swagger and somehow blends the collective wisdom of Sabbath, Corrosion of Conformity, and Kylesa - the latter especially in the title track, where crushing heaviness collides with psychedelic groove, and it just so happens that we're debuting it today.

Australia may not be first band on people’s minds for ear-decimating metal, but based on the strength of this kind of release it should be. If you are not listening to “No Sympathy for a Rat”, then what the fuck is wrong you?  Stream the title track below, turn it up and watch your speakers die!! Pre-orders are available HERE

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: Pale Divine, "Consequence of Time"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 19/06/2020
Label: Cruz Del Sur Music

“Consequence of Time” CD//DD//LP track listing:

01. Tyrants & Pawns (Easy Prey)
02. Satan In Starlight
03. Shadows Own
04. Broken Martyr
05. Phantasmagoria
06. Consequence Of Time
07. No Escape
08. Saints Of Fire

The Review:

Pale Divine are back with an extra dimension to their sound, courtesy of Dana Ortt, ex Beelzefuzz. Ortt shares vocals with Greg Diener to excellent effect here. Following up their self titled record from 2019 is no mean feat- that album was/is superb and is still on regular rotation for me on both my turntable and my headphones.

Well, all the praise I heaped upon that record would just as well serve “Consequence of Time”- it is again a loose limbed beast that takes a lot of the best bits of the doom metal/rock genre and then melds it into songs of high quality- tasteful, subtle and weighty at the same time. For a band with so much time and so many quality releases under their belt, Pale Divine have managed to get lightning to strike twice here. To make two great albums in quick succession is rare indeed in this day and age.

Sonically, it's great too. Lovely guitar tones, live and tight drums and audible well mixed bass courtesy of the Celtic-heritage rhythm section of McCloskey and McGinnis...  Eight tracks with a fair amount of variety- there is some Nick Cave as there some is Sabbath here (Phantasmagoria), it's a taut release with the quality control high throughout.

“Tyrants & Pawns” is as good an opener as you will hear and if you were to check that out and the next track, “Satan in Starlight”, you would have a good idea of the flavour of the album and will have probably made up your mind about it. Much like their last record, there is nothing I can criticise here and nothing I dislike. Pale Divine are one of the best bands in the genre and it is so pleasing to see this Pennsylvania outfit going from strength to strength. The title track is a riffing delight that breaks the ten minute mark, rightly recognising that youth is wasted on the young- it takes in a fair few dynamic shifts and musical passages echoing life's ebb and flow. It's fantastic.

The album also closes out strongly with the pacey “No Escape” clipping by at a NWOBHM-esque gallop and then bringing the tour de force that is “Saints of Fire” to finish. The vocals there are sublime and it feels like a culmination the band were aiming for and the record deserves.

It's another excellent Pale Divine record and one that paradoxically expands and focuses their sound at the same time. If the band can keep this momentum going who knows how good the next album will be? Even if they can't, no matter: they've made back to back firecrackers. “Consequence of Time” is a great album and one that deserves to be heard by all doom/stoner fans and, indeed,  fans of  all heavy music this year. A wonderful and striking record.

“Consequence of Time” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Friday, 3 July 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: Empress, "Premonition"

By: Zac McCune

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 24/07/2020
Label: Independent

“Premonition” CD//CS//DD track listing:

1. A Paler Wanderer
2. Sepulchre
3. Passage
4. Trost
5. Hiraeth
6. Premonition
7. Lion’s Blood

The Review:

Empress’ debut full-length release “Premonition” is somewhat confusing and, in this case, that fact is absolutely not a pejorative. Yes, it is understood that most armchair doofuses would describe something as ‘confusing’ in order to nonchalantly exhibit their full neck-bearded disdain. But we need to move on from this sort of stupidity and accept that all things are capable of defying comfortable genre notions of what music is or isn’t, and start critically analysing things for what they are and not for what they sound similar to. Does it even need to be remarked upon that people hoping for bands to sound more similar, from doom record to doom record, are hatefully stupid morons? From a perspective that dimwitted, are we to assume that bands who sound more familiar are “better”; which would propose that bands pushing weird sonic boundaries are (somehow) lesser because they don’t fit in? Fucking gross.

So, despite being a Sludge and Doom and Post-Metal band, it sounds like Empress takes more cues from 90’s buzzbin heroes à la Shiner or even Failure than they do from contemporary clean-production doomers like Conan or Torche or even Khemmis. Empress’ impressive ability to transition between and around these lines is especially present in Peter Sacco’s (Seer) vocals. At times his vocals are big broad ethereal clean-singing overtones which take on synth-like quality. At other times, he conjures familiar screeches that really push Empress’ riffs to their limit.

This is no more obvious than in “Premonition”s second track, “Sepulchre”. As it fires off in one direction with snare-driven marching style bursts of essential 90’s alternative smoothness, it quickly pivots into harsher realms with high timbre screaming and tritonal chugs, gaining access to the familiar domains of Conan, Torche, Floor, and Black Cobra. Helping this chameleon of a song dip between contrasting sonic temperatures, the riffs and drumming shift ferocity. From what feels like only a little bit, but, from what causes a seachange in Empress’ tonal focus, they yank the gloomy atmosphere from once place to another, but without tearing it. To maintain momentum like this is what most would call ‘songwriting’. And Empress has it. Unlike far too many in the extreme music categories, Empress’ focus is on songwriting. They accomplish this by way of artistic flexibility. Where others drone and “crush” and monotonously repeat hard hitting anti-riffs with endless guttural slurring, Empress utilizes a whole helluva lot of stylistic impulses ranging from Rock, Alternative, Psychedelia, and Doom to get their message across, even if it is a potentially confusing one.

With touches of celtic-fantasy via song titles like “Hiraeth” or the religiously oriented content vis-à-vis “A Pale Wanderer”, and coupled with yet another anciently derived European word for a specific mood like “Trost”, it would appear that Empress want to explain themselves or their music in old languages. This may be enough to understand a possible interpretation of humanity that through all eons and all experiences, not much has really changed in regard to the ways in which people experience death and gloom. They are final. “Premonition” becomes a much more knowable title when listening to the album through this lens, as do Empress’ tonal choices.If that sounds a little emo, well, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it sure as hell ain’t a dog. 

More importantly, the way Empress crosses genre lines sounds like an encouragement as if to prove Doom does not need to sound like it (contemporarily speaking) in order to better embody it. You can find doom anywhere you’re willing to look or listen.

“Premonition” is available to order HERE 

Band info: facebook || bandcamp