Tuesday, 26 April 2022

ALBUM REVIEW: Famyne, "II: The Ground Below"

 By: Richard Maw
 
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 13/05/2022
Label: Svart Records



 
“II: The Ground Below” CD//DD//LP track listing
 
1). Defeated
2). Solid Earth
3). Gone
4). A Submarine
5). Babylon
6). Once More
7). The Ai
8). For My Sins
 
The Review:
 
Famyne remain a bright hope for UK doom, getting brighter. Their debut was dark, immense, and unique in all the right ways, so what does their sophomore release hold?! Well, it may or may not be what the band sound like ‘right now’ due to it being recorded over a year ago in the dark days of the pandemic… but it certainly sounds fresh, vital, and full of youthful passion.

Opener “Defeated” (4.45) fairly growls out of the speakers; it’s huge and crushing with an organic drum sound, swirling vocal effects and no small amount of sturm and drang to the lyrics. It’s epic without being melodramatic or camp. It’s heavy without being hard to listen to (like some sludge often is, for instance).

Yes, there are shades of Count Raven, early Paradise Lost and so forth but the influences don’t directly inform the band’s presentation. Famyne are very much their own thing and that is why they are so exciting to listen to. “Solid Earth” (5.22) completes the opening one two punch combination with a meaty right hand that lands appropriately solidly right on the jaw. The drum sound is great; massive and muscular, the guitars have a good earthy tone to them with the mix well presented. Lyrically, the words are open to interpretation- if you fancy a song about astral projection… this could be it. Or it could be about much more introspective themes. Up to you.

The vocals of Tom Vane are essentially another instrument for Famyne to use. They are multi-dimensional, multi-tracked here and there and bring a healthy dose of melody and tonal variety to the album. Of the great bands, they all have unique vocalists; whether they be technically great or just have a certain timbre or sound that makes them stand out (Ozzy, Dio, Dickinson, Di’Anno, Liebling, Wino, Reagers etc.). It’s a more restrained type of track and a left field choice for the third song. Naturally, it gets louder as it builds and contains some nice lead work which pushes Vane’s vocals to soaring new heights. The use of the quiet/loud dynamic forms a motif- or frame- for the songs and while that may be an old trick, it’s still one of the best in the book.

“Gone” (5.40) is a moodier beast with clean guitar and dynamic drums combined with an almost shoegaze type ethereal feel. The band have conjured up this kind of vibe before, but this is done effectively and deftly.

“A Submarine” (7.27) represents the mid-point epic of the record and again it’s quite restrained to start. It’s noticeable that the record doesn’t rely on riffs alone- by any means- instead it creates moods and soundscapes for an epic feel. There are synths/keys present in the mix and the band seem to be exploring different shades in a rather pastoral way (appropriate, considering their Canterbury location). Dynamics are to the fore again, here. This is not your standard doom album.

“Babylon” (6.48) is unremittingly dark. While it may feature varying dynamics, it is pitch black in tone and outlook- musically and lyrically. The central riff is a good one; heavy as lead and just as poisonous. The guitars and bass weave nicely together here and the tempos shift a little too- this is a good thing as doom albums are all too often single paced, leading to one track melding into another when listening through a whole album. Again, the lead work down the back stretch is rather good- another nice dimension to the band.

“Once More” (4.47) may be a shorter track- but it retains the central motifs of the record; dynamics, tempo shifts, dark melody and emotive vocals. All the instrumentation here is excellent with the guitars working together really well and the rhythm section solid and adventurous at the same time. It’s a well-crafted track with enough of a hook to stand out.

“The Ai” (4.04) is another short sharp shock; there is a lot of weight here. One of the best riffs on the record opens proceedings and the band keep the weight on the bar from thereon. The work around the kit here is particularly good; off kilter fills and snare shots, grace notes, double pedal work- good variety and ideas. For me, this is one of the bets tracks on the album. Nice bass tone, too.

“For My Sins” (4.59) finishes the record in some style. It’s pulsing, urgent and paranoid. In fact, it’s a good summary of a certain type of doom; it’s slow but doesn’t drag. It’s heavy but listenable- before I get too paradoxical, suffice it to say that this is a mighty distillation of the band’s sound inside of five minutes. With the first half of the record being longer and the subtle differences in lyrical and musical approaches, I’d be tempted to speculate that the band were taking a leaf out of The Stranglers book on their third Black and White album- a sublime and innovative record that was an album of two halves in terms of approach and content… or that could be way off the mark.

All told, this is a superb album. It’s dark, epic, dynamic and doleful in equal measure and represents progression of the band’s unique sound without being a departure. For a second album this is really all any fan could ask for. In terms of the present and future of UK doom: this is it. It’s here. If your life is chaos and you feel you have no control over it, or complacency and the hidden hand just seems to void your goals… this is the band for you, as you will find much that resonates here.

“II: The Ground Below” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

ALBUM REVIEW: MWWB, "The Harvest"

By: Pim Latuny
 
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 25/03/2022
Label: New Heavy Sounds


 
“The Harvest” CD//DD//CS//LP track listing:
 
1). Oblok Magellana
2). The Harvest
3). Interstellar Wrecking
4). Logic Bomb
5). Betrayal
6). Altamira
7). Let’s Send These Bastards Whence They Came
8). Strontium
9). Moon Rise
 
 
The band formerly known as Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard are going through changes. They shortened their band name and they aren’t using their usual enigmatic Welsh language to name the album. It’s just “The Harvest” now. After the trilogy in Welsh, they’re now making a trilogy with English album names? What’s going on in the MWWB camp? Is everything ok? Well, it is now.
 
The album release was delayed by a year because guitarist Paul contracted Covid and suffered a stroke. Fortunately, he has recovered and what this record represents, is a testament not only to Paul’s undoubted talent, but the bands’ ability to write colossal grooving riffs and create interstellar anthems.
 
Two things that have always stood out on an MWWB record, is their use of sound effects/synths and the vocals of Jessica Ball, and “The Harvest” is no different.  Without the sound effects, the imagination of ‘we are somewhere in space’ would be a lot harder. With them, they take me back to the soundtracks of old John Carpenter sci-fi movies (‘Interstellar Wrecking) and playing Mega Man II (‘Let’s Send These Bastards Whence They Came’). Those influences make this album more vivid and cinematic. Especially when the vocals come in. Jessica’s vocals have that shoegaze smokiness, which is always a delicacy to hear. Layer by layer she builds these harmonious waves that submerse you completely in the cosmos of the Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. Listen to the title track, “Logic Bomb” and “Strontium” if you want to be submerged.
 
What makes this record so great, is the blend of retro synth music, shoegaze and stoner doom. It just works. “The Harvest” is a grand stonerdoomgaze sci-fi opera. It’s a journey through the past, the future and everything in between and outside of it. It makes me remember the magic of listening to concept albums again.
 
“The Harvest” is available HERE
  

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

ALBUM REVIEW: 40 Watt Sun, "Perfect Light"

By: Richard Maw
 
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 21/01/2022
Label: Svart Records



 

“Perfect Light” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Reveal
2). Behind My Eyes
3). Until
4). Colours
5). The Spaces in Between
6). Raise Me Up
7). A Thousand Miles
8). Closure

The Review:

40 Watt Sun have made quite a lovely record here. Not the standard opening for a review on THE SLUDGELORD, but there you go. This is acoustic melancholia. Main man Patrick Walker is ably assisted by a few others- notably Roland Scriver of London doomsters Serpent Venom- but really this is his vision and these are his songs.

There are eight tracks here and they are long. They are mellow. They are sombre. There is only one piece below five minutes and everything else runs well beyond that with sparse arrangements, understated vocals, and some excellent accompanying instrumentation (drums, strings, piano etc.).

To be clear this is not a metal album at all- it is emotionally heavy, not necessarily musically heavy. Going through individual tracks here seems a little redundant- this is a mood piece, and I can't really pick stand outs amongst what is uniformly excellent.

If you fancy a change of pace and fancy digging a little deeper into the human condition, perhaps with a good bottle of whisky, then this is absolutely an album to check out. If you are looking for reference points, I'd say this is somewhere between a sparse Nick Cave record and a Roy Harper one; the folk-ish sounds and references fit, but this its own beast. It's lovingly crafted and very moving.

“Perfect Light” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Sunday, 20 February 2022

ALBUM REVIEW: Corpsegrinder, "Corpsegrinder"

By: Richard Maw
 
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 25/02/2022
Label: Perseverance Music Group



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


1. Acid Vat (feat. Erik Rutan) 2. Bottom Dweller 3. On Wings of Carnage 4. All Souls Get Torn 5. Death Is the Only Key 6. Crimson Proof 7. Devourer of Souls 8. Defined by Your Demise 9. Master of the Longest Night 10. Vaguely Human


The Review: 


Co-Produced by Nick Bellmore and Jamey Jasta, this is the first solo album by the erstwhile Cannibal Corpse frontman George Corpsegrinder Fisher. The involvement of Bellmore (Kingdom of Sorrow) and Jasta (Hatebreed front man, Kingdom of Sorrow) says a lot about what you are getting here. 


Pleasingly, the ten tracks here are not just Cannibal Corpse cast-offs, or paint-by-numbers-death-metal. Instead, there is a surprising breadth of approach and sounds here, coupled with some very catchy hooks. Of course, CC bandmate Erik Rutan crops up on the first track, “Acid Vat”, and it is an absolute winner; hooky and brutal, but with a fair amount of hardcore influence in its deathly folds of flesh. 


For every blasting section of “All Souls Get Torn”, there is a slower approach in “On Wings of Carnage'' or a hook-fest like “Bottom Dweller”. It's never less than brutal, but the thrash and hardcore- in fact: crossover- influence is also quite pervasive. There are plenty of slower sections and plenty of vocal patterns which would fit on a Hatebreed album and it's never less than masterful.


This is a much more accessible proposition than Fisher's day job. It's eminently listenable (so is CC, to my ears, at least!) and full of menacing growls and higher screams. Tracks like “Crimson Proof” are made for a mosh pit; it's gloriously lowest common denominator stuff in terms of easy hooks, exhortations to bring on the bloodshed and frenetic riffing. 


It's sufficiently far removed from Cannibal Corpse and most other traditional death metal bands to be appealing to fans of Fisher's vocal style who also venture beyond the confines of the DM genre in their fandom. As the album progresses, there are no further tricks up the sleeve; “Defined By Your Demise” is a hooky dm//thrash/hardcore mashup- much as most of the tracks here are. It's a tight and focused listen. We are talking three minute songs, with vocals taking centre stage, non-technical death/thrash riffage and rock solid performances by all contributors. 


The slower and darker passages- on “Master of the Longest Night”, for instance, are effective and add grandiosity and atmosphere to an album that fairly races by. Overall, this is a fun and catchy record which doesn't outstay its welcome. Fans of Corpsegrinder's vocals who also like a bit of thrash and hardcore with their death metal will find a lot to enjoy here. Solid. 


“Corpsegrinder” is available HERE

 


Band info: Official ||bandcamp


Monday, 24 January 2022

ALBUM REVIEW: Kreator, "Violent Revolution" (Reissue)

By: Richard Maw
 
Album Type: Full Length (Reissue)
Date Released: 21/01/2022
Label:  Nuclear Blast



 
“Violent Revolution” CD//DD//LP track listing:
 
01. Reconquering The Throne
02. The Patriarch
03. Violent Revolution
04. All Of The Same Blood
05. Servant In Heaven - King In Hell
06. Second Awakening
07. Ghetto War
08. Replicas Of Life
09. Slave Machinery
10. Bitter Sweet Revenge
11. Mind Of Fire
12. System Decay
 
The Review:
 
Kreator are de facto my favourite German thrash band and, as has often been said, are the only thrash band from any nation in the mid 80s who made a record which rivals “Reign In Blood” for sheer violence and intensity. Of course, there is much more to the band's catalogue than just “Pleasure To Kill”.
 
While this album is not in the classic run which featured the aforementioned, “Endless Pain”, “Extreme Aggression” and “Terrible Certainty” (not in that order!) it is the first of Kreator's modern era purple patch which has run from this record through to “Phantom Antichrist” and “Gods of Violence”. After a somewhat shaky 1990s, the band really did roar back with this record. Kreator, to their credit, never went away but they had drifted from their core sound and simply did not maintain much of a presence when thrash found itself out of favour with the press.
 
I'm aware that the reissue features bonus tracks, but as I have only the album here... that is what I'll focus on. It's a fairly raging album. The band meld their socially conscious and socially liberal political leanings with righteous rage. Incredibly, this record is now over 20 years old and still sounds vital and relentlessly heavy.
 
Opening with “Reconquering The Throne” is a vicious mission statement; it really did reassert their thrash credentials at the time and listening to it now, it's no less potent. From there, the material is as weighty as it is well delivered. The production is pretty great; it's not like 2001 was 1971, but even so I was surprised, revisiting this, how clear and powerful the sound is. The drums in particular really benefit from the crystal clear mix and it sounds, well, just really good.
 
Pleasingly, it is also fairly relentless. There are no real detours into melodic territory which have featured more often in later records and instead this is just a pretty straight ahead thrash record, played and delivered expertly. It's a far cry from the endearingly inept “Endless Pain” but not quite as polished as “Gods of Violence”. In short, it is thrash metal with no surprises other than (un)pleasant familiarity.
 
While more mid paced material is not as interesting as the ragers here (“Servant in Heaven”), they are still engaging and nasty enough to be worthy of the band and the record. Strangely, Violent Revolution” has never been an album from their discography I've played that much. I've usually gone for “Hordes of Chaos” or “Phantom Antichrist” as a go-to from the band's latter period... but I'm now wondering why I overlooked this.
 
As reissues go, this is well worth shelling out some cash for if you missed it first time around or if you never paid it much attention. The band keep the pedal to the metal right through to “Bitter Sweet Revenge” and “Mind of Fire” and the eleven tracks are all at least good- no clunkers. Negatives? Well, about the worst thing I can say is that a couple of tracks are a little long- but this is small beer really. The songs are pretty focused overall and certainly are fiery enough to power through on attitude and commitment even at the longer song running times.
 
“Violent Revolution” is available HERE 

Band info: facebook

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

ALBUM REVIEW: Apostle of Solitude, “Until The Darkness Goes”

By: Richard Maw
 
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 12/11/2021
Label: Cruz Del Sur Music



“Until The Darkness Goes” CD//DD//LP track listing:
 
1. When The Darkness Comes
2. The Union
3. Apathy In Isolation
4. Deeper Than The Oceans
5. Beautifully Dark
6. Relive The Day
 
The Review:
 
Apostle of Solitude, doom denizens of Indiana, return after 2018's excellent “From Gold to Ash”. This time around the band... deliver another slab of molten doom metal! Certainly, opener “When The Darkness Comes” is bleak and foreboding with slow, S-LO-W, riffs, massive drums and plaintive vocals in abundance. 
 
The record sounds great- organic but well produced- and the songs are not short on dynamics, either. This kind of light and shade in texture and volume is quite key to this kind of doom being successful. This is trad-doom; Saint Vitus, Trouble, The Gates of Slumber et. al. but a rather forlorn and sorrowful vibe which rules out aggression in the delivery.  As such, it's operating once again in that sphere of slowed down heavy metal where you just have to have the songs and dynamics to keep the listener interested.
 
Fortunately, I can happily report that Apostle of Solitude have them in spades. Of course, it's all uniformly dark and melancholic and most tracks are six or seven minutes in length, BUT the band have played a masterstroke by sticking to a manageable album length. Six tracks; one under three minutes- bringing the playing time to about the length of a classic Sabbath album. Wise move. A little of this kind of emotional and musical heft goes a long way. The record is perfect to listen to in one go and digest as an album.
 
As the album progresses, it doesn't bring any jauntiness to proceedings; “Apathy in Isolation” is just as downbeat as “The Union”, while “Deeper Than The Oceans” is maybe even more so, If you are expecting “Beautifully Dark” to be a three minute thrasher... think again. It is instead exactly as its title suggests. By the time of “Relive The Day”, it's clear: there is to be no respite and no hope. Much like their previous records, this is not for the faint hearted and not for those who want to rock- this won't really make you want to break the speed limit, go on a night out or even bang your head. It's beautifully depressing and relentlessly bleak.
 
Apostle of Solitude have made another great record. The band are a force to be reckoned with live, as I can attest having gigged with them a couple of times in Germany and Austria. They're also top blokes, real gents and deserving of your support. Any drummer who'll lend me their Paiste cymbals for a gig is staunch in my book- thanks Corey. So show some support, buy this record and revel in the gloom.
 
 
“Until The Darkness Goes” is available HERE 

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Wednesday, 29 December 2021

REVIEW: Death Dealer, "Fueled Injected Suicide Machine" [EP]

By: Richard Maw
 
Album Type: EP
Date Released: 10/12/2021
Label: Steel Cartel Records



 
“Fuel Injected Suicide Machine” CD track listing:
 
1. The Dead Never Listen
2. Fuel Injected Suicide Machine
3. Freedom Is Not A Crime
4. Blood For Gasoline
5. Invasion
 
The Review:
 
Death Dealer are as prolific as they are metal- that is to say very prolific and VERY metal. The band is a supergroup of sorts, being as it features the imperious Sean Peck on screaming vocals and no less a legend than ROSS THE BOSS on lead guitar. Stu Marshall is the musical mastermind behind the band and is ably assisted by new recruit Mike LePond on bass and the excellent Steve Bolognese on drums.
 
The band have been busy over the lockdown periods; they put this shredding EP together and main man Marshall is quoted as having album four finished and ready to go... and the bulk of album number five finished as well!
 
For those uninitiated, the band put out debut “War Master” a few years back, followed it up with the massive “Hallowed Ground” and then went one better in 2020 with the excellent “Conquered Lands” album- which was a heavy metal tour de force. This is US style power metal; so a mix of trad, power and thrash. It's adrenaline inducing and anthemic in equal measure and it rocks very hard.
 
This EP has a Mad Max vibe/theme running throughout the artwork and songs. Fans of the first film will recognise the title from the Night Rider's rant. It's a perfect theme for Aussie Marshall to riff on, and riff he does. The title track is a rager; you'll break the speed limit to this one- as you will to “Blood For Gasoline”. “Freedom Is Not A Crime” is a heavy metal anthem and sounds MASSIVE, while “Invasion” rounds out the EP with a mid paced headbanging assault by way of Mongol historical epic.
 
There are order options aplenty from the Steel Cartel label, with a couple of vinyl variants, cover variants, t-shirts etc. etc. This is Judas Priest meets Accept in the outback, ready to shoot some guns and make some noise. It's excellent and is heavy metal to the core. If the next Death Dealer full length album lives up to this, then all true metal fans are in for a treat.
 
“Fuel Injected Suicide Machine” is available HERE 


Band info: Official