ALBUM REVIEW: Goatess ‘Purgatory Under New Management’


‘Purgatory Under New Management’
(Svart Records, April 2016)

The voice of Chritus Linderson (ex-Count Raven, Saint Vitus) is blissfully familiar. Listening to his melodic, Osbournian drone is like sitting in your favourite armchair, watching your favourite movie while sipping your favourite mulled cider, wearing your favourite underpants and having your stressed areas massaged by your favourite adult entertainment star.

Not that it’s all about the frontman. Following on from their self-titled 2013 debut and a period of uncertainty, Goatess have regrouped, bringing their considerable knowledge and skill to bear in a slightly new direction. ‘Purgatory Under New Management’ is more psychedelic than the band’s previous release, expanding beyond stoner doom without shedding the essence of Sabbath or the migraine-inducing tones.

The sheer charisma and quality of the voice and musicianship can mask the frustrations of the songwriting on this album. It seems that some of the songs deliberately refuse to fulfill their own potential, preferring to wander the haze of space at a leisurely 7mph.

The warning signs are there from the start. The first two minutes of the opening track ‘Moth To Flame’ suggest a work of drifting melancholy. Then the riff kicks in and Goatess are suddenly in full swing. But the early fears soon return when the song slides away into further ambiguity. The title track, similarly, features a strong central idea but simply repeats ad infinitum, presumably seeking to hypnotise rather than convince.

At more than an hour in length, the album could / should have been trimmed by some 25%, with tracks such as ‘Murphy Was An Optimist’ and ‘Wrath Of God’ failing to hold the attention or truly capture the imagination. This purgatory is the state of waiting for the songs to explode into life.

‘Shadowland’, however, is much more focused and urgent, although a rare inconsistent vocal performance undermines its impact. Best of all is ‘Silent War’, a barnstorming doom metal beast that’s reminiscent of classic Lord Vicar with a sprinkle of modern magic stoner dust. Here we see Goatess at their classy best, understated and powerful.

With its glorious Göran Nilsson artwork, ‘Purgatory Under New Management’ is certainly an album with a strong personality, while musically it’s a mix of colourful stoner doom and low-key psychedelic meandering.

ALBUM REVIEW: Mantar ‘Ode To The Flame’


‘Ode To The Flame’
(Nuclear Blast, April 2016)

The second album from the German/Turkish sludge duo (and first for the monster that is Nuclear Blast) is a gleefully furious and furiously inventive continuation of the band’s curious story.

Opening track ‘Carnal Rising’ is a cheap and cheerful eruption of power that represents their unfeasible power (how can two people create mayhem that sounds like the day the dinosaurs were wiped out?) but not necessarily their quality.

Then, after another song of pummelling rage, Mantar drop the pace and embark on some Cerebral Fix-style thrash-doom merriment, with a hint of the Dead Kennedys for extra flavour. ‘The Hint’ continues the slowed-down savagery – it’s a kind of blood-curdling sludge ballad of immense proportions, even introducing an epic church organ into the lo-fi mix.

Throughout it all, the pair take huge delight in their ability to devastate. Their thundering sound and stark intensity is the bare stage upon which their inventiveness can shine – ‘Born Reversed’ is a seemingly simple song of pounding mid-paced punk/stoner/black/doom that is laced with quirks and surprises. And by the time ‘Cross The Cross’ comes around, with its cheery rock-sludge sensibilities, it is clear that nothing is off-limits.

Even more than the band’s debut album, ‘Ode To The Flame’ takes the tropes and traditions of various genres and fucks with them like a cruel child. This experimentation, coupled with their ability to concoct crowd-pleasing arrangements, gives them a wide appeal. On the other hand, the disorientating fury spilling from this duo’s battered instruments guarantees a certain underground charm. Mantar’s latest release is a healthy mix of violence and elegance, power and adventure – and all using just a guitar and drums.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Temple ‘Forvermourn’

(I Hate Records, March 2016)

“Made by doom fans, for doom fans.” So says the I Hate Records promo pack for this excellent debut album from The Temple. And while it’s clear that this Greek band is thoroughly immersed in the finest traditions of doom metal (drawing inspiration from Solstice and Warning, amongst others) there is plenty of originality, drive and sparkle coursing through their music.

Album opener ‘The Blessing’ kicks off in style – a refined and well-crafted melodic doom romp. And the quality continues on ‘Qualms In Regret’ – in fact, the quality continues throughout the whole album. The Temple have a very well-defined notion of what makes a “true doom” composition, treading a fine line between beauty and dismay while never falling into the twin traps of melancholy or indulgence. The magnificent ‘Mirror Of Souls’ and ‘Beyond The Stars’ find the band – who formed back in 2005 but attracted attention with a 2015 self-released EP of old material – in imperious form.

Vocally, lyrically and musically, The Temple position themselves within a familiar framework – and in these elegant shackles they excel. ‘Forevermourn’ may not be as profound as Warning’s masterpiece ‘Watching From A Distance’, but it’s not far off. Each song brings a unique quality and adds something new and delightful to the overall experience of the album. The Temple have an ability to switch between time signatures or add in new elements without losing momentum. All of which adds up to a consistently enjoyable series of exquisitely-judged, heartfelt songs.

The clean vocals of Father Alex come across as a little over-earnest at times, lacking both the subtlety to evoke wider emotions and also the range to make some of the grander section truly come alive. You’ll find no growling here, only epic, melodic, heavy, tradition-hugging doom metal of the awesome kind. The band could perhaps introduce some layers to their music and sound (particularly with regards the disparity between shuddering bass and piercing guitar tones) in order to give their music greater depth and warmth. At times, it seems like everybody’s simply doing the same thing at the same time, and while this might help to keep the songs focused and intense it can also feel a little ponderous.

‘Forevermourn’ is a massively impressive debut album of classic, melodic doom metal that should win The Temple many fans with its integrity, vitality and timeless misery!

ALBUM REVIEW: Immensity ‘The Isolation Splendour’

‘The Isolation Splendour’
(Hypnotic Dirge/Solitude Productions, March 2016)

The debut album from this six-piece death-doom band from Greece offers a vast ocean of suffering for the listener to dive into. Over the course of an hour or so, Immensity squeeze in a spectacular number of elements on this release.

The slow, regal riffs remind the listener of Daylight Dies, with echoes of My Dying Bride; the clean vocals provide an elegant foil to the growled misery; the keyboards and delicate picking create a subtly epic atmosphere. And while some of these interweaving elements sometimes interfere with the music’s heaviness, there is never a moment of boredom on ‘The Isolation Splendour’.

These Greek sorrow-sellers, who formed in 2009, have something in common with Opeth in their gently progressive momentum switches. In this sense, each track is a 10-minute saga, unfolding chapter-by-chapter and piece-by-piece. The down-side of this truth is that the album is exhausting to listen to – each individual part is well-executed and the songs are smartly constructed but they tumble over you like a gradual avalanche of emotion and musical drama.

When this style of composition works, it can be wonderful. Take the album’s title track, for example, which demonstrates the band’s confidence and sophistication by patiently building a monstrous song that’s packed with originality and personality. ‘The Sullen’, though, is slightly less impressive, feeling more like a series of concepts strung together to create a song.

This release features two remastered tracks from the band’s 2012 ‘The Lonely Aquarelle’ demo, and these are a little more in-your-face metal, which could be said to be more impactful and ferocious than their more recent material, but perhaps not as assured.

This album sets out to overwhelm you with epic misery. Aside from one or two moments of cheesiness (please stop whispering!), ‘The Isolation Splendour’ is a glorious debut from an ambitious and at times magnificent death-doom outfit.

ALBUM REVIEW: Universe 217 ‘Change’


(Ván Records, March 2016)

This effortlessly smart and original doom-rock from Greece has more ups and downs than a game of snakes and ladders. On their fourth album, Universe 217 sound more vibrant than ever, as if Monster Magnet, 4 Non Blondes, Acid King, Mastodon and Foo Fighters all jumped into a jacuzzi together. The band have been busy since 2007 and all that activity has seen them reach a very healthy place musically and conceptually.

If heaviness is all you crave, then look elsewhere. Generally, Universe 217 are about as heavy as a hamster’s hiccup. But for thoughtful and interesting songwriting, as well as some serious doom-rock chops, this is the place to be.

The female vocals are big and brash. Tanya’s reverberating holler is not always beautiful but its power rips the air apart. The band’s adventurous spirit sees them unafraid to flit across boundaries, and their time signature switches and creative freedom always feel organic rather than deliberate or forced.

You can forgive the moments of post-blah vagueness – it seems to be par for the course to include some boring bits these days (maybe record labels actually insist on it…) because elsewhere there are moments of magic.

Demonstrating the band’s ability to keep the listener guessing – but never feeling too uncomfortable – is the track ‘Rest Here’, which sounds uncannily like Solitude Aeturnus, channeling Robert Lowe to create a doom-laden feast. Ironically, the song ‘Burn’ is slightly under-cooked, taking an age to wake up, then vanishing without trace. ‘Call’ is an effective tension-builder (before another sudden ending), while the 12-minute title track features a stop-start arrangement to keep everyone guessing.

‘Change’ is an appropriately-titled album that is consistently unpredictable. Some parts work better than others, but on this release Universe 217 have built up a fascinating alternative reality where anything goes.

ALBUM REVIEW: Haast’s Eagled ‘II: For Mankind’


‘II: For Mankind’
(Holy Roar Records, May 2016)

The unique music of this wonderful Welsh trio has been described by Holy Roar Records as “kaleidoscopic doom” and “doomloungejazz”. While the latter description refers primarily to one particular part of one song (more on that later), the former is an appropriate summary of the band’s dazzling approach to doom.

Even more so than on their debut album, Haast’s Eagled bring together an intriguing array of sounds, elements and influences into a miraculous maelstrom. Thundering, heavy-as-hell sludge doom, featuring growled (gurgled) vocals, goes hand in hand with extended moments of mellow reflection, epic choruses, echoes of stoner doom, pianos and… jazz.

It’s the soundtrack to a very weird dream, and the excellent production somehow allows it all to breathe naturally. Imagine Alice In Chains, YOB and Dead Can Dance engaged in a honey-drenched death-match on the Moon, and you’re halfway there.

When the band manages to bring these conflicting personalities together into a cohesive entity (which happens about 75% of the time, with the rest being a joyfully bleak muddle) then Haast’s Eagled become a colossal force to be reckoned with – and a doom metal proposition like no other.

Opening track ‘Pyaaz Bhonghi’ is a masterly lesson in aural bewilderment. Later, the 20-minute ‘Zoltar’ features stunning monastic-style singing, embellished with some clean vocals. Then comes the eagerly-awaited, and rather brief, lounge jazz section (it kind-of-works), before the song retreats into searing doom metal. ‘Zoltar’ is a beautiful study in solitude and sorrow.

And finally, the closing track ‘White Dwarf’ (not the one with the Sabbat flex-disc), seems comparatively conventional, almost disappointingly ‘normal’ in its elegant structure and notable lack of saxophones.

The band’s 2013 debut album promised greatness and now, three years later, Haast’s Eagled have reached their huge potential with ‘II: For Mankind’. Yes, there are times when you wish they’d just get on with it. Yes, there are moments when things seem to go a bit wrong. But this is a band with an ambitious vision and the creative intellect to pull it off. Love it.


ALBUM REVIEW: Messa ‘Belfry’


(Aural Music, May 2016)

Unencumbered by commercial considerations, Messa welcome you into their own strange world on their own terms. Mixing ambient drones and occult doom, they possess a bleak determination, coupled with the grainy charm of vintage Pentagram and a modern femininity in the style of Windhand.

In between the album’s rumbling, crackling atmospherics, occasionally a song breaks out. And when it does it tends to be pretty excellent. ‘Belfry’ is blessed with a scattering of spectacular, effervescent moments. Moments when powerful, focused, direct doom metal takes over the world.

Seven minutes of sweet woe, the song ‘Babalon’ sounds like it has always existed in the deepest crevices of your psyche, while the pulsating ‘Blood’ is almost a work of genius but for the excessive hanging-around and clarinet abuse. Later on, the magnificent standout track, ‘New Horns’, has a gentle Viking vibe, like an Italian version of Falkenbach.

The long, sullen passages of grey droning might be off-putting to some, but patience is rewarded when the good stuff explodes into life.

ALBUM REVIEW: Curse The Son ‘Isolator’


(Snake Charmer Coalition, March 2016)

A timely reminder not to judge in haste. The brawny but slightly awkward opening title track on this album suggests that the listener is about to enjoy some pummelling stoner doom that pays homage to the greats of the 1990s. Which in itself would be an excellent way to spend an hour or so.

However, as the third full-length release from this US trio – who formed back in 2008 – continues, the creativity blossoms, resulting in a gorgeously rich, energetic and often thoughtful collection of life-affirming stoner misery and magic.

Sludgy heaviness adds muscle to the band’s superior rock sensibilities – think COC on steroids. The bass guitar sounds like a blue whale’s bowels. And the vocals of Ron Vanacore are at times reminiscent of grunge god Chris Cornell (i.e. like a hot knife beneath your fingernails, but packed with personality). Likewise, you can hear echoes of Layne Staley or Dave Wyndorf.

Songs such as ‘Callous Unemotional Traits’ show the musical influence of Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, while elsewhere traces of Black Sabbath and Electric Wizard spill out like ale from a keg.

The deeply enjoyable and refreshingly simple ‘Hull Crush Depth’ features a funky Primus-style finale, while ‘Sleepwalker Wakes’ is just a fantastic, stately stoner anthem to chill to.

The album loses a percentage point of energy towards the end, but there’s still some consistently great stuff on offer. ‘Isolator’ is the sound of a mature band willing and able to explore itself, while not sounding like it’s trying too hard. Seriously impressive.


REVIEW: Morag Tong ‘Through Clouded Time’ (EP)

‘Through Clouded Time’
(January 2016)

These morose Londoners kick of their careers in misery with a throughly wholesome EP of sludgy stoner mayhem. They are not re-inventing the wheel with this earth-shaking racket, but they do what they do with confidence and style.

This is solid, straightforward music – heavy guitars, big, slow riffs, vocals flecked with suffering and a wee hint of artistry. Groove and melody surge through Morag Tong’s music like lactic acid through a pumping muscle.

The first two songs (‘Monolithian’ and ‘Godhead’) stomp along with a snarl firmly upon their lips, but while Morag Tong do the basics very well it’d be great to hear little more imagination or risk-taking amidst the carefully managed subtly and control. The title track, for example, is overly simplistic in places, building tension deliberately but failing to capitalise on that hard work. In the end, the track fizzles away rather humbly.

Closer ‘The Eyes Of Men’ gets proceedings back to a higher level, though, unleashing a monstrous riff and agonised vocals to create a stentorian call-to-arms for all the world’s woes.


REVIEW: Nest ‘Nest’ (EP)

(Tribunal Of The Axe Records, January 2016)

Nest vomit out some primitive, economical sludge doom that will eat through your flesh and bones and turn you into a puddle of happy jelly on the cold, concrete floor.

Not to be confused with the crusty US doom duo of the same name, the band was founded by Swedish brothers Frederik and Jonas Husborn in 2011 (with Dave Terror on drums). Their shared punk and death metal influences help to maintain a high level of raw energy, ensuing that the songs always sound vivid and fully-charged.

Thunderous opening track ‘Born Against’ is a hard-hitting sludgy wonder, although it drags its feet a little towards the end, losing some of the initial impact. ‘Under The Sword’, with its memorable chorus, is perhaps the most striking of the five songs on offer. And, after 30-plus minutes of soul-sapping anguish, the EP’s closing song ‘Shrinewizard’ offers a meagre slice of comfort through the gentle groove of its central riff.

Apparently, the Tribunal Of The Axe record label was created in order to release a vinyl version of the CD the band had produced, by a friend who had been impressed by the seething bedlam that Nest emit.

Overall, Nest rely too heavily on the ferocity coursing through their strings, and one or two of the songs on this sturdy self-titled debut would benefit from an injection of musical variety and creative enterprise.

REVIEW: Valtiel ‘The Druid’ (EP)

‘The Druid’
(January 2016)

The rotten sludge unleashed by this Alaskan trio is strangely uplifting. From the opening moments of the opening title track, Valtiel’s sweet disease blossoms in your flesh, the perfume of misery fragrant in the icy Anchorage air. And, for a while at least, everything makes sense as you are carried for nine minutes in the arms of The Riff.

The EP’s middle track, ‘Ignis Fatuus’, is comparatively unobtrusive, gently raging enough to merely ripple the waters of the soul. Entertaining and inventive, if not quite captivating.

Finally, ‘The Cult Of Valtiel’ is a snarling and bombastic (and possibly self-aggrandising) sludgy foray that threatens to get a little monotonous before veering off at its halfway point down a dark path of doom and gloom.

As a debut release, ‘The Druid’ is impressive. It begins magnificently, leading the listener confidently on a path through life’s bleak wilderness. But it ends rather innocuously, seeming to run out of fuel before reaching its ultimate destination.

ALBUM REVIEW: Lightsucker ‘Zammal’


(Argonauta Records, March 2016)

Lightsucker’s misguided stoner sludge rock flits between brief spurts of lightweight grooviness and tortured deathly trudge. ‘Zammal’ is a bit of bewildering jumble at times, never settling into a routine or pattern. And while that might be a good thing if the music was original and fascinating, sadly it is rarely either.

There are a few highlights along the way, a handful of addictive riffs that get the air vibrating. ‘All Out Reset’ has a certain bristling quirkiness and power, while ‘Sulfur & Jimson Weed’ is a miniature blast of fun. But ultimately the net result from these Finnish rockers is pretty underwhelming.

The vocals fluctuate from clean and flimsy to raw and rancid, with neither style being especially convincing. It seems that, true to its name, the band has sucked the light and life out of various genres, resulting in a barrage of largely derivative and heartless material. Even the album’s vague and impersonal artwork reflects the uncertainty of the music.

The track ‘Aesthetics Of Emptiness’ sums up the story of ‘Zammal’, opening with doomy glory, introducing some intriguing touches (ie. creepy whistling) and then descending into generic stoner fare. If the idea was to follow Orange Goblin and draw upon numerous influences to create some metal mayhem, then it has not quite worked out that way. Many of Lightsucker’s ideas are great, but they have not been bound together or forged into a focused whole.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Human Condition ‘Pathways’

(December 2015)

This UK doom horde, featuring ex-members of Unsilence, Misericorde and The River, creates the kind of melancholic, melodic doom metal that you might expect from a band with that potent musical DNA. Fans of those bands will find in ‘Pathways’ a familiar sound and mood; warm tones, gentle tempos and fluid, drifting arrangements. It is doom in the vein of Warning, but perhaps not as sharply tragic or insightful.

Six years on from the band’s debut album, The Human Condition seem to have changed very little. ‘Pathways’ is a placidly epic take on life’s hardships and woes. Some of the songs are more memorable than others. The title track, for example, with its graceful guitar solo, is a slow and patient masterclass in misery, while the second half of ‘The Things I Should Have Said’ stands out as a bright spell amid the sullen malaise.

The glowering heaviness of ‘The Gifts I Gave’ creates a genuinely moving and involving song, packed with confusion, confession and musical drama. And, best of all, ’22 Years’ is eight minutes of blissful agony, during which the band’s progressive nature does not interrupt the momentum.

Elsewhere, those more fidgety tendencies can undermine the musical foundations of a song. The track ‘Chrysalis’, for example, rather than experiencing a transformative process, shifts between ideas and begins to lose its sense of direction.

Vocally, the regal concepts often out-strip the earnest delivery, which lacks the emotional dexterity to give tracks a stamp of individuality. Here, The Human Condition hark back to 90s doomsters Stillborn – traditional, beautiful, flawed.

Often magical and epic, sometimes frustrating, The Human Condition’s ‘Pathways’ is an ambitious and layered album that you can explore and enjoy over and over.

ALBUM REVIEW: Centipede ‘Sarnath’

(Inverse Records, March 2016)

Inspired by the likes of High On Fire, Weedeater and Metallica, Centipede pummel your senses with their stomping stoner sludge. The debut album from this Finnish trio (following on from their ‘Tar Pit’ and ‘Brazen Bull’ EPs in 2012 and 2013 respectively) is a wholly enjoyable and convincing experience.

Deliriously pleasing guitar tones, muscular bass and cataclysmic drum work combine to create a rippling sound reminiscent of fellow stoner-thrash-doom acolytes Mage. And this particular arthropod is happy to slow right down and crawl into your soul, then speed up to trample it with a hundred heavy boots.

‘Sarnath’ is an impressively mature and potent debut; it sometimes lacks a degree of freedom or impulsiveness, but it’s always resolutely committed to its filthy cause. Take the track ‘Frostbite’, for example: there’s nothing wrong with this song as such, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Despite its great power and energy, it simply doesn’t quite take off. Unsurprising, really, that a centipede should remain earthbound.

Similarly, ‘Black Mead’ is a well-crafted beast of a song, a whirl of furious groove. But it lacks an element of the unexpected – a change of mood or new sonic dimension – that would elevate it closer to greatness. While Centipede create some serious stuff, it sometimes feels quite safe, maybe too neat.

Throughout the album’s eight tracks, the vocals of Markus Nurminen (who also plays guitar) sound like a cross between a mustard-gas-sucking WWII veteran and a rabid buffalo. His voice is dominant in the mix and can feel a bit repetitive, distracting from the monstrous riffs.

The album’s title track finds the band at their most adventurous, and here they create a triumphant six minutes of towering, sweeping doom metal that hints at what this young band might yet go on to achieve.

‘Sarnath’ is a bruising release that’s packed with enormous, churning riffs and sludgy, breathless vitriol.


  1. Crypt Sermon ‘Out Of The Garden’
  2. Sorcerer ‘In The Shadow Of The Inverted Cross’
  3. Atten Ash ‘The Hourglass’
  4. My Silent Wake ‘Damnatio Memoriae’
  5. HellLight ‘Journey Through Endless Storms’
  6. Vaee Solis ‘Adversarial Light’
  7. Hogslayer ‘Defacer’
  8. Acid King ‘Middle Of Nowhere, Center Of Everywhere’
  9. Avatarium ‘The Girl With The Raven Mask’
  10. Mammoth Storm ‘Fornjot’
  11. Funeral Marmoori ‘The Deer Woman’
  12. Lucifer ‘Lucifer I’
  13. Heavydeath ‘Eternal Sleepwalker’
  14. Cryptrip ‘The Great Magmatic Leviathan’
  15. The Slow Death ‘Ark’
  16. Doomraiser ‘Reverse (Passaggio Inverso)’
  17. Venus Sleeps ‘Dead Sun Worship’
  18. Witchsorrow ‘No Light, Only Fire’
  19. My Dying Bride ‘Feel The Misery’
  20. Phased ‘Aeon’ / Ahab ‘The Boats Of The Glen Carrig’



ALBUM REVIEW: Womb ‘Deception Through Your Lies’

‘Deception Through Your Lies’
Hypnotic Dirge Records / Solitude Productions (Nov 2015)

Spanish death-doom band Womb (not to be confused with the US stoners of the same name) have gritted their teeth and given birth to an album of emotional intensity and interweaving melody.

Part of a triumphant new partnership between doom labels Hypnotic Dirge (Canada) and Solitude Productions (Russia), the debut album from this Seville-based outfit is a mixed bag of complex, sour doom metal. It is sometimes vast and spectacular, other times tangled and uncertain.

The media promo info promises “catchy riffs, dense guitars and a sensual side” – and at least two of these are questionable. Generally, the slowly twisting riffs are about as catchy as a mountain (although the epic standout track ‘March’ does have a certain memorable quality).

The guitar tones are frequently airy and crisp rather than suffocatingly dense or heavy. In fact, the album might be even more forceful and effective if some fuzz and/or low-end was added to the mix.

There is, however, a concerted effort to explore a wide range of emotions, which results in an album of scope, texture and imagination.

There are moments of sheer, ululating brilliance, such as halfway through ‘Equidistant’ where the gates of Hell open up and eternal woe is unleashed upon your ear holes. But there are also periods of drifting banality, such as the shapeless ‘Forgotten By Her Bliss’.

Getting this album released in physical format has taken an impressive global effort, and the world should be thankful to all those concerned. Not least of all the gifted group of misery-mongers who have given life to this finely-crafted and tasteful slab of Spanish sorrow.

ALBUM REVIEW: Mammoth Salmon ‘Last Vestige Of Humanity’

‘Last Vestige Of Humanity’
Self-released, 2015

Calling it sludge would be to ignore the music’s rich, creative groove, calling it doom would dismiss the band’s ebullient nature, calling it stoner might suggest faster tempos than you actually get… So what shall we call it? Let’s just call it massive.

As the Oregon-based band’s ludicrous name suggests, this music is both redoubtable and elusive. Listening to Mammoth Salmon is like stripping naked and wrestling a rabid bear. It’s big, powerful, furry and has a deadly arsenal… but once you’ve done it, you feel an enormous sense of warm satisfaction.

Opening track ‘Ad Nauseam’ kicks things off with a deliriously groovy and pulverizing riff that grabs your throat and refuses to let go. Then ‘Acid Casualty’ continues in a very similar vein, but with a darker, Saint Vitus-inspired vibe.

The title track starts inauspiciously and, although it wakes up towards its stirring finale, the song fails to achieve any great momentum. From then onwards, the album starts to get more sparse and disjointed, requiring patience and perseverance from the listener.

‘Memoriam’ is the sound of a bloodthirsty ogre trampling a village but the beast runs out of puff before it can sink its teeth into any meat. Elsewhere, the middle section of ‘Shattered Existence’ sees the band in full swing, desperate and heavy, while ‘Believe Nothing’, as its name suggests, simply provides 10 minutes of futility and emptiness.

There is a stirring humanity and honesty to the songs, although that personality is sometimes drowned by fuzz, carefulness and duplication and as a result the songs can stagnate.

Paul Dudziak’s earthy vocals and fleshy guitar tones create an energetically anguished combination, but a lack of consistency in terms of songwriting means that ‘Last Vestige Of Humanity’ only intermittently drags itself out of the mire to make its voice heard.

ALBUM REVIEW: Tombstones ‘Vargariis’


Soulseller Records (Nov 2015)

Having largely abandoned the monstrous stoner grooves that made their previous album, ‘Red Skies And Dead Eyes’, such a potent release, Norwegian trio Tombstones have developed into an altogether more hostile and foreboding proposition over the last couple of years.

And while the artwork for the band’s fourth album is about as scary as an episode of Scooby-Doo, the ferocious, aching sludge behind it is enough to give anyone nightmares. The guitars are so heavy they will distort your day out of shape, and the riffs so slow and tortured that you will beg for mercy. Think Conan with a pinch of Kyuss.

Vocal duties are shared between two-thirds of this fuzzy Oslo trio – namely Bjørn-Viggo Godtland and Ole Christian Helstad – and their finely balanced delivery results in an impactful range of agonised rawness and emotional dexterity.

The difficulty that bands face when trying to capture a relentlessly bleak atmosphere on record is trying to avoid it getting stale or repetitive. Tombstones try to leap this potential pitfall in a number of ways; from creative songwriting to entering new stylistic territories.

Their flirtations with black metal, for example, are fleeting, but they at least help make sure that the listener is still paying attention. As for the songwriting, the results are mixed. Some of the songs (all of which lumber along for around nine minutes apiece) batter at the same locked door for too long, waiting for answers that do not come. Others are fascinating adventures into the darkness that ebb and flow like a great tide of tears.

Amidst the oppression and volume, there is scattered evidence of the melody and energy that characterised the band’s previous release. But ‘Vargariis’ is primarily about sonic violence and sour desperation. It’s not pretty, but it’s full of heart.

REVIEW: Major Kong ‘Galactic Cannibalism’ (EP)

‘Galactic Cannibalism’
Self-released (December 2015)

Poland’s Major Kong have been around for five years or so, and the instrumental trio’s winning brand of viciously loveable stoner doom is rarely anything less than hypnotising.

Bubbling with ideas and glowering with dark menace, their latest release, the EP ‘Galactic Cannibalism’, comes almost two years after the excellent ‘Doom Machine’. What’s changed? What’s new? Well, nothing really – this is just more of the same, and thank God for that!

Major Kong don’t look like running out of phenomenally mighty riffs just yet, and their passion for fuzzy heaviness remains undimmed. From the uplifting opening moments of ‘Supercluster’, this EP offers 25 minutes of wordless stoner bliss.

The final track ‘Magnetar’ sees the trio temporarily heading towards slightly more Soundgarden-ish, progressive territory before exploring a slowed-down path of misery, in what is a slight departure from their usual high-energy output. But it works really well, and, just when the listener begins to yearn for a change of mood, these wise Poles oblige with some enormous groove.

Marvellous, molten metal.

REVIEW: High Inquisitor Woe ‘Liquid Times’ (EP)


‘Liquid Times’
Self-released (Nov 2015)

Inspired by the likes of Reverend Bizarre and a passion for epic, heavy music with clean vocals, this Belgian trio has created three tracks of solid, often compelling traditional doom metal.

Formed in early 2015, this is clearly a new band looking for its sound and personality – and as a result much of the music on display here is slightly muddled. Rarely do the various parts of the songs flow elegantly into each other, and between the sinister, gloomy riffs there are often awkward transitions or unnecessary tangents.

‘Liquid Times’ is let down by some shaky vocals, particularly towards the end of the opening song ‘Drink Her Blood, Black Serpent’ when singer Smalle van Suuz bursts into Experimental Mode – his falsetto is particularly, er, surprising.

However, when they do get it right, such as during the second half of ‘Neptune’s Trident’, this Belgian band sounds quite magnificent. Likewise, when the flamboyantly lengthy ‘Lady Saliva’ finally gets going, the listener is treated to some timeless doom metal merriment. Then things get a bit confused again, and the vocal stylings continue to digress.

At their most decisive, High Inquisitor Woe deliver some meaty, pounding misery – and when they fully spread their wings they should be an impressive sight to behold.

ALBUM REVIEW: Funeral Marmoori ‘The Deer Woman’


‘The Deer Woman’
Minotauro Records (Nov 2015)

Florence is perhaps Italy’s most beautiful city, a traditional epicentre of European art and culture. And now, it is home to some of the year’s finest doom metal, thanks to Funeral Marmoori and their fantastic second album ‘The Deer Woman’.

Threaded with warm synths and organic organs, ‘The Deer Woman’ is a multi-layered and effortlessly intricate doom metal offering, binding elements of big-riffing traditional doom with swirling, psychedelic keys that are ever-present without overpowering the guitar-based heaviness.

Three years after the band’s ‘Vol. 1’ debut, things have become even more dramatic and bold, and the band’s hard-hitting hymns of woe are delivered with impressive control, maturity and confidence. Imagine a gloomily grooving combination of Lord Vicar, Paul Chain and Black Sabbath’s ‘Who Are You?’ and you’re getting close to Funeral Marmoori’s strange sound.

Funeral Marmoori’s songwriting abilities are truly impressive. Tracks such as ‘The Hunter’ and ‘Onions’ (?!) come pretty close to being progressive doom metal classics – they twist and turn without ever abandoning the path of true doom.

In both his vocal delivery and guitar playing, Giulio Siena seems slightly restrained at times, as if unwilling to really ‘let rip’. There are a few moments where the album wanders off-track, but these are rare and brief, suggesting that there is even more to come from Florence’s latest great artists.

‘The Deer Woman’ is a real work of art; it’s the kind of album you can listen to repeatedly and never get bored. Italian doom metal at its most solid and inspiring.

ALBUM REVIEW: Wizard Eye ‘Wizard Eye’


‘Wizard Eye’
Black Monk Records (Oct 2015)

If you love eyeball-quivering, psychedelic heaviness, it doesn’t get much better than Wizard Eye. Primitive, sharp and absorbing, the Philadelphia trio’s third album is a triumph of fuzzy fury.

Harking back to the lumbering rock behemoths of the 1970s and the stoner metal kings of the 1990s, there is a monstrous groove underpinning every moment of this self-titled release.

Opening track ‘Eye Of The Deep’ is a swirling, volcanic eruption of a song, fuzzy as a were-peach, heavy as a brain haemorrhage. It merges into ‘Flying/Falling’ which continues the ecstatic riff-driven slo-mo mayhem as well as introducing the exhausted, beautifully ragged vocals of Erik Caplan.

Then ‘Phase Return’ steamrollers your day like Ian Kilmister treading through tar. Oddly, the next track, ‘Graybeard’ is really similar – but it’s such a soul-numbing riff that you can understand why the band wanted to go again.

Other tracks tend to lose their early momentum, and in fact the album – recorded back in early 2014 – fades a little towards the end. The vocals are powerful but lack the degree of melody and versatility which might help to create a more textured emotional experience.

‘My Riposte Is Like Lightning’ changes the mood a little, adding a bit of pace and attitude, while ‘Nullarbor’ is a jangly, spiritual drifter. That aside, you shouldn’t expect anything experimental; songs such as ‘Thunderbird Divine’ add little to the pantheon of East Coast doom, but they are likely give you a considerable headache, and sometimes that’s plenty.

Pummeling your ear-holes like a mix of Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer and an angry space hippo, Wizard Eye are masters of tripping the fuzz fantastic.

ALBUM REVIEW: Black Oath ‘To Below And Beyond’

’To Below And Beyond’
Doomentia/Elektroplasma, November 2015

Black Oath’s memorable 2011 debut album ‘The Third Aeon’ established a template of solid, Solitude Aeturnus-style epic doom metal that was massively enjoyable but perhaps lacked variety.

Since then, the Italian band has developed significantly, creating a peculiar blend of misery, versatility and originality. Less heavy and dense than their earlier work, the Milanese band’s third full-length release nevertheless finds them in a rich vein of creativity. Imagine a bristling combination of Hour Of 13, Ghost, Solitude Aeturnus and Trouble.

Black Oath have not moved away from their epic doom roots entirely, but today they approach their songwriting with a new, expansive approach that was beginning to appear on their 2013 album ‘Ov Qliphoth And Darkness’, and again the results are generally pleasing.

There are a few unwelcome gothic indulgences and cheesy moments – too much whispering for some listeners’ tastes – and some of the big choruses reveal a fleeting, unnerving pop sensibility.

The guitar tones are pretty lightweight, too, veering into rock territory – and the album would benefit greatly from turning up to 11 and getting some low-end rumble rather than focusing the mix so heavily on the (admittedly impressive) vocals.

But then, Black Oath prefer to refer themselves as playing “cursed rock musick” rather than doom metal or even doom rock, a conscious effort to disassociate their output from the powerful forces of sorrow that inspired their origins.

Mighty tracks such as ‘Healing Hands Of Time’, ‘Flesh To Gold’ and ‘To Below And Beyond (Ars Diaboli)’ – a song that does not in fact refer to a nasty medical condition – contain some outstanding melodious doom metal moments. Stylish, emotive, spectacular, but simply too lightweight… ‘To Below And Beyond’ is a curious, cursed album from a band that deserves respect for its undoubted creative enterprise.

ALBUM REVIEW: Pale Horseman ‘Bless The Destroyer’


‘Bless The Destroyer’
Bullet City Records, November 2015

The third album from this Chicago industrial sludge outfit has transient moments of excitement. Inspired by industrial heroes Godflesh and old-school death metal crushers such as Obituary, this is grim and gruesome end-of-the-world fare with occasional glimpses of inventiveness and personality.

‘Caverns Of The Templar’ is reminiscent of Nothingface-period Voivod, while the opening track ‘Clear The Throne’ features some killer key changes that send doomy shivers down your backbone and into the ground beneath your feet.

Elsewhere, some of the riffs feel perfunctory and colourless ‘Pineal Awakening’, for example, spends the best part of eight minutes going exactly nowhere. Even the meandering guitar solo only serves to add to the frustration of chewing on a song that seems half-cooked.

‘Bastard Child’ kicks off like it’s about to fill the void with fuzzy doom, but then simply creeps towards an inevitable, unfulfilling post-metal denouement, a quarter of an hour later (albeit with a few graceful harmonies along the way).

The band’s multiple-vocal style is always intriguing, even if the growled vocals are not always convincing. Despite the vocal creativity, ‘Bless The Destroyer’ generally feels quite one-dimensional – the band’s energy does not often come across in the recording and the moments of magic are too few and far between.

REVIEW: Year Of The Cobra ‘The Black Sun’ (EP)

‘The Black Sun’
DHU Records/Devil’s Child Records

Bass, drums, angelic voice… Seattle doom duo Year Of The Cobra are like a noisily buzzing, lo-fi version of UK traditionalists Alunah. The two bands share a passion for big, bubbly riffs, drifting choruses and the mighty Sabbath. Singer Amy Tung Barrysmith has a delicate, intoxicating voice, akin to Alunah’s Sophie Day, and she controls it admirably in order to possess your mind.

‘White Wizard’, the opening track on this snappy debut EP, instantly grabs your attention with its rippling bass lines and imaginative but simple vocals. Following that, the EP’s title track is a pretty straightforward stoner rock dust-up, before ‘Wasteland’ treads quietly and patiently through a sparse musical landscape.

Smart songwriting keeps you on your toes, although the levels of energy and originality drop off as the EP progresses. Judged on the opening track alone, Year Of The Cobra offer an unconventional and exciting new version of doom rock that simultaneously dreams and snarls as it takes you on a ride into fantastical darkness. However, the two other songs are fairly low-key and less likely to linger in the memory. All together, ‘The Black Sun’ is the sound of hope and dejection combined.

Full-length coming Summer 2016 – can’t wait to see what this US duo will do next.

ALBUM REVIEW: Mammoth Storm ‘Fornjot’


Napalm Records, November 2015

Ivory traders have been braving inhospitable weather conditions lately. Climate change is causing the Arctic ice to melt, revealing the remains of woolly mammoths frozen since the Ice Age. Mammoth ivory is legal and sells for enormous prices, apparently, so the hardiest souls head into the blizzards of Northern Siberia to dig for their grim treasure.

If you’re not an international ivory merchant, however, fear not. There is another type of Mammoth Storm to get your pulse racing – this beautiful, thundering new doom oeuvre from Napalm Records.

Named after a giant king from Norse mythology, ‘Fornjot’ is the debut album from Sweden’s Mammoth Storm, the brainchild of Draconian guitarist Daniel Arvidsson. It is a big step forward compared to the band’s encouraging 2014 EP ‘Rites Of Ascension’, being more ambitious and exciting than the earlier work.

The words “progressive” and “drone” have been used to describe Mammoth Storm, but neither is particularly appropriate. This is essentially good old-fashioned, bone-crushing doom metal, backed by a strong concept. The guitar tones could uproot trees, Arvidsson’s bass sounds like it wants to kill someone, and his vocals fall somewhere between a fearsome snarl and a thoroughly depressed groan. Gentle hints of black metal in some of the delicate guitar work add to the expansive, frosty atmosphere, as do the fleeting keyboards.

The album is unrelentingly slow, dense and bleak but it still courses with musical energy, especially on the glorious ‘Vultures Prey’. Elsewhere, ‘Horns Of Jura’ is reminiscent of Clouds-era Tiamat, while the patience and elegance of the title track is stirring in its unhurried simplicity, allowing emotional drama to build as you slowly drown in the low-end onslaught.

There are a small handful of moments (notably on the lengthy closing track ‘Hekla’) when the sludgy, doom-plod becomes mundane, but these aberrations pass and you are transported back to a snowy land of myth and misery.

This is a classy, thoughtful and intelligently-wrought album from a doom metal band on top of its game. The woolly name might suggest colossal riffs and shuddering tones – and you get those by the bucketload – but there are many other treasures to be found in this Mammoth Storm.

ALBUM REVIEW: Phased ‘Aeon’


Czar Of Bullets, November 2015

Creeping, Saint Vitus-style riffs, sludgy tones and drifting, spacey interludes prove to be a winning combination on Swiss band Phased’s latest album, ‘Aeon’.

These days the former stoner rock outfit prefer to keep it slow and downright miserable, rarely venturing beyond snail’s pace in their pursut of musical nirvana. Neither is there much evidence of founder Chris Sigdell’s noise-rock roots – this is more elegant, understated and heavy than the band’s previous recordings – although the commitment to psychedelic wizardry remains.

Phased have been referred to as the “Hawkwind of doom”, although for reasons unknown the band themselves call their music “motor doom”.

Sigdell’s confidently anguished vocals are as solid and steady as the shuddering chords of woe that his much-abused guitar strings emit. A second guitarist has been added since the album was recorded, so Phased will now pack an even meatier punch on the stages of Basel and beyond.

Phased are living proof that a good riff is pretty much all you need to create a compelling song. Bruising tracks such as the magnificent ‘Eternal Sleep’ and the oustanding ‘Seed Of Misery’ demonstrate the timeless power of a cool, simple doom metal riff when handled with maturity and a pinch of creativity.

Occasionally, and particularly on the track ‘Etched’, Phased head off on a long-distance space mission when perhaps a song might benefit more from staying focused and building atmosphere through smart writing rather than bleary-eyed repetition.

The album could handle a little more variety during its second half, but the pounding languor of Phased’s approach is, it must be said, delightful in its old-fashioned faithfulness. The Swiss band manages to stay true to the genre’s essential traits while adding its own flourishes to create a memorable album of fantastic spaced-out doom.

REVIEW: Return From The Grave ‘Three(p)’


Argonauta Records. Nov 2015

A year on from their triumphant ‘Gates Of Nowhere’ album, this Italian stoner outfit returns with more otherworldly and highly-charged music. Their curiously-titled EP’s monstrous ten-minute opener ‘Timelessness’ touches the sky at times with its gigantic central riff and unique, huskily epic vocals. But the song abandons that initial momentum in favour of floating hypnosis during an extended mid-point break, and in truth the track feels less focused than some of the band’s previous output.

Second song ‘Soul’s Grime’ is the meat in the doom sandwich; a snarling, muscular stoner ride that is impossible not to love. Finally, ‘Sough’ demonstrates the band’s elegantly mature songwriting abilities and brings in an element of gloomy menace. When the song finally reaches its rumbling, grooving peak, after five minutes of building atmosphere, the echoes of Black Sabbath are plainly evident.

Overall, this EP is not as strong, tight and impactful as the 2014 full-length release. ‘Three(p)’ finds Return From The Grave seeking to explore new territories, but the process seems tentative in places, and the music can get momentarily lost amid endless possibilities. The band’s slightly changed line-up might take a little longer to fully settle before we see a return to the creative heights formerly achieved.

ALBUM REVIEW: Avatarium ‘The Girl With The Raven Mask’


‘The Girl With The Raven Mask’
Nuclear Blast, October 2015

The second album from Avatarium blends Candlemass-style doom metal with Rainbow-inspired hard rock and emotive female vocals to great effect. More rounded and elegant than its self-titled predecessor, ‘The Girl With The Dragon – sorry – Raven Mask’ is a bold, confident and sumptuous offering, with enough depth and texture to absorb the listener throughout its eight tracks.

‘The Girl With The Pearl – sorry – Raven Mask’ touches greatness in parts. ‘Pearls And Coffins’, for example, is a thundering, menacing monster, while the final track, ’The Master Thief’ and the enormous ‘The January Sea’ are pretty spectacular too. ‘Run Killer Run’ is an effective and effervescent slab of early Cathedral doom-groove, with maybe a hint of Trouble. It feels kind of wrong to describe doom pioneer Leif Edling as anything other than an innovator, but even when he and his crew are drawing inspiration from others who have gone before, they do it with natural style and power.

Elsewhere, the album settles into a more pedestrian pattern. ‘Ghostlight’ is a feminised, rockier version of good old Candlemass, but then it stops and stumbles off to become something less impressive, sucking upon the teat of classic Rainbow but not quite moulding the track it into the massive epic whole it had threatened to become. Fans who relished the jaunty, stop-start quirks of ‘Moonhorse’ from the debut release will undoubtedly love Avatarium’s new album, while those who appreciated the more graceful ‘Deep Well’ or ‘Bird Of Prey’ will find plenty to enjoy too.

Each band member’s technical skills are on display to be admired. Guitarist Marcus Jidell dons his Ritchie Blackmore hat and struts his stuff, while keyboard player Carl Westholm is given license to twiddle as many knobs as he can get his hands on, like some kind of gleeful 70s synth wizard. Jennie-Ann Smith’s fragile, ghostly vocals combine with pulsating organs and steel-edged guitar tones to create a rich, compelling soundscape.

This site makes no apology for its rose-tinted love affair with Candlemass founder Edling, such has been the enduring impact of the Swedish bass basher’s contribution to metal. ‘The Girl With The Raven Mask’ is a worthy addition to his mighty canon of work. In truth, there are few genuine surprises as this glorious prog-tinged doom opus unfolds, but, typically, you get lots of dark, searing riffs, regal choruses and thoroughbred quality.

ALBUM REVIEW: Chariot Throne ‘The Unholy Design’

‘The Unholy Design’
Self-released, September 2015

Chariot Throne sound like they are about to burst from your speakers – the spectacular power of their imagination is plain for all to witness. They concoct a highly unique kind of doom rock; a curious mix of the gloomy and the avant grade.

Aside from the seemingly obligatory “creepy” audio samples from terrible B-movies that nobody has ever bothered to watch unless they’re showing off to their friends, this German quartet has a raw and natural ability to come up with really original and enjoyable stuff. This is their debut release, but the band sounds like it’s been in the doom-game for more that the mere four years they have clocked up.

From the classic doom riffage of the impressive ‘Descent’ to the blissful groove of ‘Far From The Sun’ to the heavenly expansiveness of ‘The Spirits’ Sanctuary’, Chariot Throne have put out an imperfect but very impressive album.

But at times the band’s performance on ‘The Unholy Design’ seems to be slightly restrained, somehow lacking in confidence or energy. The album’s impact is undermined by low-key production which stubbornly stops them from spreading their wings. If Manowar play on 10, Chariot Throne sound like they’re playing on 6.

While the guitars too often fade into the background, the rocky vocals are front and centre, sometimes a little exposed and lonely in the mix. Also, at just 37 minutes, the album flies by in flash, and perhaps Chariot Throne could settle into their songs with a little more patience and gravitas.

But none of these complaints can disguise the quality of the music – there is excellence aplenty to enjoy here.

ALBUM REVIEW: Il Vuoto ‘Weakness’

Satanarsa Records, August 2015

Matteo Gruppi’s one-man doom metal project from Piacenza in Northern Italy creates a mixed, malevolent noise that veers between beautiful and ugly, invigorating and repugnant. The subject matter of self-harm and depression may be desperate, but Il Vuoto injects it with a kind of abhorrent passion and inventiveness.

This is music designed to make you feel edgy and uncomfortable. The restless arrangements, piercing noises, gothic undercurrents, pianos and orchestral elements create a bitter cocktail of twisted funeral doom. Acidic psalms of suffering such as ‘The Harvest’ are nightmares become real, and often they are a challenge for the listener to endure.

At times, the music ascends to reach peaks of glorious distress and sorrowful melancholy, but elsewhere there is a sense of frustrating hesitancy or indulgence, as with the song ‘Sea Of Emptiness’. Gruppi’s croaking vocals can be slightly off-putting and add little to the album – rather, they can undermine the flow and effectiveness of the music and disrupt the atmosphere.

‘Weakness’ is a curious and memorable debut album that has a number of strengths, but this fledgling one-man project does not always succeed in capitalising on them fully or consistently.

ALBUM REVIEW: HellLight ‘Journey Through Endless Storms’

‘Journey Through Endless Storms’
Solitude Productions, September 2015

Brazil’s masters of misery have created a stunning album of slow, delicate funeral doom that reeks of quality and personality. The latest release from the Sao Paulo band, who started out back in 1996, drips with heartfelt emotion and majestic musicality.

This is 80 minutes of melody and sorrow, and the eight tracks on offer are consistently excellent. The songs are carefully constructed so ensure that they flow gracefully and build momentum. From the choral backing to the sharp-edged riffs that cut through the gloom, ‘Journey Through Endless Storms’ is effortlessly epic. Gentle keyboards are a constant and comforting companion amid the shadows.

With tracks such as ‘Distant Light That Fades’, HellLight can be reminiscent of Hamferd in their ability to combine light and dark, decorating their bleak, pummelling heaviness with sparkling flourishes of imagination.

There are a few brief occasions when it seems a song might plateau or drift away, but, at those moments, guitarist, singer and founding member Fabio de Paula always pulls it back from the precipice and, before you know it, you are transported by yet another glorious solo or soul-crushing riff. De Paula also intersperses his rumbling growl with soaring clean vocals, which are used sparingly and to maximum effect as they get your pulse racing.

Every song offers something new and intriguing, all tightly bound within the band’s signature sound. HellLight are able to pack a lot of ideas into their music while treading a careful path to ensure that the songs do not become jumbled or unfocused. This is a band that has been perfecting its art for 20 years, and all of that experience shows.

If the band’s 2013 album ‘No God Above, No Devil Below’ was impressive, then this is even better. Mature and sophisticated – and often quietly adventurous – ‘Journey Through Endless Storms’ is an album of rare depth and an understated masterwork of melodic doom.

REVIEW: Ex People ‘Loss’ (EP)

Released: May 2015

Throw the Melvins, L7 and Alunah into a food mixer and then gulp down the delicious results. Ex People’s elegant mix of electronic noise and waspish, sludgy riffs is brilliantly purposeful and thoughtful.

If listening to fellow Brits Alunah is like hugging a mushroom while wearing a velvet cape, then the Ex People experience is akin to gnawing the rust from a long-abandoned office chair while drinking rum. The three-track debut EP from these lo-fi Londoners is simple, nasty and bleak – and yet clearly lovingly assembled. It is understated and accessible without ever relinquishing its stark originality.

A slow, relentless groove underpins the band’s fresh and modern take on doom metal. Gorgeous female vocals, replete with engaging lyrics and loveable choruses, drift over the top of fuzzy guitars that corkscrew into your brain, never more so than on the opening track ‘The Erlenmeyer Flask’ (everyone’s favourite flask, right?).

Middle child of the trio ‘Jersey Devil’ sounds like early Sinead O’Connor doing the nasty with The Obsessed, with a dandruff-like sprinkling of Nirvana at their heaviest and most dejected. The song drifts off a bit towards the end, while the vocals lose some of their earlier authority, but this remains some cool and fascinating stuff. Finally, ‘Pilot’ sounds the most “occult” of the three songs, initially pretty repetitive but hypnotising and developing into a curiously satisfying dirge.

This EP is a gut-busting kangaroo kick of lucid, expressive and effortlessly effective new doom. Hopefully, Ex People retain their blissfully unsullied candour during a long and miserable career.

REVIEW: Grey Skies Fallen ‘Earthwalker’ (promo)

July 2015

The long-established New York doom outfit have provided this free, two-track download as a teaser before the release of a new album later in the year. Recording was started in September 2014, but a fire at NY’s Audio Playground halted production for a while. It’s definitely been worth the wait.

The title track is a marvellous example of twisted prog-doom, providing a gloomily intriguing platform for the keyboard-tickling skills of Craig Rossi. Thanks to his fancy swooshing, as well as an epic vocal performance, this bold and intense song becomes a potent mix of Amorphis, Candlemass and slithering Asphyx-style death.

The second track is a little more hit-and-miss, lacking the focus and power of its partner in slime. But this little teaser features some intoxicating stuff, suggesting that the next album from these grizzled US misery veterans should be a blast.

ALBUM REVIEW: Seamount ‘Nitro Jesus’

Seamount Cover

‘Nitro Jesus’
The Church Within Records, October 2015

Seamount are a bewildering proposition. At various points during this, the band’s fifth studio album, you get melancholic AC/DC (‘Beautiful Sadness’), bouncy 80’s soft rock (‘No One Knows’) and random punk-lite (‘In The End’).

The album kicks off like a mid-80s Black Sabbath, with a dollop of Judas Priest, and it seems immediately clear that Seamount, three years after the oddity of the ‘Earthmother’ album, are returning to their roots – namely: melodic, classic doom rock. ‘Can’t Escape the Pain’ ups the doom dosage, with a little Danzig-style drama for show. And then, proving that guitarist Tim Schmidt has lost none of his ability to concoct powerful riffs, the title track is a right hook of raucous stoner metal.

Things seem to be going in the right direction. And they get better still. Despite the overt sentimentality of its title, the song ‘Scars Of The Emotional Stuntman’ possesses musical subtlety and dexterity, drawing upon The Obsessed to re-establish that typical Seamount sound, if such a thing truly exists.

But just when the doom is beginning to take hold, there is a problem. ‘Hold Up The Sun’ is a hateful, cloying brain-fart of a love song. It’s like watching someone with a mental disorder being mocked on a TV talent show.

Life with Seamount is never dull, and even when you stumble across a song that you think simply doesn’t work, you know that there’s gong to be another twist around the corner. And so it is that the groovy hooks of ‘Bulletproof’ try to get the album back on track, but the damage has been done.

The second half of the album trundles onwards, pretending nothing happened… but it did happen, and in truth there are other sections on ‘Nitro Jesus’ that fall short of excellent, from the plaintive vocals of Phil Swanson to the heart-on-sleeve confessional lyrics to the occasional so-so riff. The good outweighs the dodgy, but it’s hard not to be distracted.

ALBUM REVIEW: Carma ‘Carma’

Labyrinth / Altare Productions, October 2015

Carma – hailing from Coimbra in Portugal – create a combination of prickly funeral doom and dark ambient atmospherics. Listening to this self-titled album is like crawling through cold mud and barbed wire towards a hidden destiny – suffering is all around and there’s unlikely to be a happy ending. Then again, if Carma believe in karma, then it’s probably all their own fault anyway.

Lyrically, the band focus on death, loss and other burdensome miseries, and while they are sung in native Portuguese, you do not need a dictionary to translate the crippling cries of pain.

Carma’s music is a mass of sweeping guitars, jangling echoes and slow agony, and the songs are sometimes graceful and fluent but elsewhere a little indecisive. One of the highlights is ‘Feto’, a song that treads patiently with regal poise and features some rewarding vocal creativity and a magnificent finale.

Perhaps best of all, however, is ‘Lamento’, which is based upon movements from Edvard Grieg’s ‘Peer Gynt’, principally the mournful ‘Ase’s Death’. While Carma’s doom metal version does not come close to mirroring the vast emotional drama of the original composition, it is quite an accomplishment to turn the classical dirge into something potent and fascinating. The band have not breathed new life into Grieg’s masterpiece – maybe they have breathed new death into it. The major down side to the song is the oddly playful plucking interlude, reflecting ‘Solveig’s Song’, which interrupts the flow.

If you remove the atmospheric, synth-driven opening and closing tracks, as well as the intriguing Grieg ‘cover’, you are left with just three tracks. And while this trio of songs are great hymns of calamity, this paucity has the consequence of somehow making the band’s debut album feel more like an EP. The balance between dark ambience and raw doom metal is not quite right, but there is more than enough to admire and enjoy on this new release from Portugal’s Carma.

Album review: AHAB ‘The Boats Of The Glen Carrig’

AHAB cover

‘The Boats Of The Glen Carrig’
Napalm Records, August 2015

Before Ahab, people thought of the sea as just an enormous puddle that got in the way of global commerce. But now, thanks to Germany’s masters of nautical funeral doom, it has become a big, soggy source of fascination and inspiration.

Less calculated than the band’s previous album (the slightly brilliant ‘The Giant’) and less suffocatingly heavy than past opuses such as ‘The Call Of The Wretched Sea’, the latest adventure from this endlessly seafaring band is a gently compelling collection of Siren’s songs.

‘TBOTGC’ is inspired by William Hope Hodgson’s novel of the same name, and revolves around fear, survival and strange monsters. It is a rich and rewarding album, a showcase for Ahab’s abilities to create funeral doom with a twist… and then another twist. In fact, it’s twistier than a giant squid in a dancing competition, veering between serenity and terror like a drunken sailor on the open water.

The songs grow and come alive – there is an energy and tenderness behind these slow, salty anthems, and a depth to the sounds, the feelings and the stories. Ebbing and flowing between monstrous riffs and frothy acoustic bits, and with growled vocals unleashed intermittently to great effect, Ahab create a believably scary atmosphere. From the almost-frantic power of ‘Red Foam’ (and its delightfully baffling video) to the crawling sorrow of ‘The Weedmen’, there is mystery and magic all around.

Like some kind of underwater Opeth, the German band have been making this kind of music for more than a decade, so in truth there aren’t many genuine surprises to be found on their latest album. But in spite of their longevity, Ahab remain unique in terms of their scope, ambition and quality.

REVIEW: Lanthanein ‘Nocturnálgica’ (EP)

Self-released 2015

As a sumptuous taster before the Argentine doom metal maestros unveil their debut album, this four-track EP is more than enough to whet your appetite for all things Gothic.

Lanthanein’s wildly dark and dramatic music can be as bewildering as it is beautiful. From the very first moments of opening song ‘Lágrimas De Luna’ – featuring dream-like pianos, church bells, choral backing and thundering guitars – you know that this is going to be as understated as a nuclear war.

The band have a tendency to over-complicate their songs, squeezing a scandalous number of ideas, riffs and changes into every available space. And while this demonstration of relentless creativity is admirable, it does mean that the music is rarely able to settle and flow. When the songs do calm down a little, they can be stunningly effective: for example, the last minute of the title track shows the sheer power of a beautiful voice in combination with straightforward guitars.

Marili Portorrico’s bold, emotional soprano vocals are prominent in the mix and central to the band’s extravagant sound. It could be said that the growled male vocals are underused, but when they do appear they add a gruesome undercurrent and heavy edge.

The orchestration used throughout this EP is ambitious, ornate and textured, although sometimes it jumps from one section to the next as if desperate to get to the end of the song and start the next one. The choral arrangements that the band have created are often stunning, such as on the final track ‘Lacrimosa Et Gementum’. This is a glorious, instantly-loveable song that sounds like Carl Orff on steroids.

‘Nocturnálgica’ showcases Lanthanein’s ability to create numerous spectacular, magic moments of Gothic drama. If they can squeeze this many ideas into an EP, just imagine how action-packed their album is going to be.

ALBUM REVIEW: Vaee Solis ‘Adversarial Light’

‘Adversarial Light’
Signal Rex, August 2015

Vaee Solis warn: “We bow before no-one”. And nor should they, with a killer debut album like this to their name. ‘Adversarial Light’ is elegantly colossal, effortlessly unique, utterly distressing and yet utterly addictive. In short, Vaee Solis are incredible.

The Portuguese band have created six exquisite tracks of raw passion and raging sludge. The snarling guitars possess talons so sharp that they dig into your soul, grabbing your attention with their cruel, grinding riffs, and keeping you hooked for the entire 40-minute adventure. Not burdened with vast amounts of reverberating low-end, Vaee Solis’s music is still seriously heavy.

The violent, black metal-style vocals of Sophia Loureiro surge like poison in your bloodstream. The doe-eyed frontwoman, who also performs with hardcore band Lodge, may look delicate but her bleakly feral shrieking could stop a herd of rampaging buffalo in its tracks. Scary stuff. Sophia’s voice is blissful pain – she spits her blood and wisdom into a blistering sludge-doom hurricane.

And it’s not just the vocals that make this such a memorably malevolent release: the song arrangements are faultless. Tracks lumber along at a slow-ish pace but they never become repetitive or predictable. In fact, they usually grow – patiently, intuitively, naturally – until ultimately they expand into monstrosities of melody and madness. Only the song ‘Feral Isolation’ feels anything less than inspired – it’s a little raw and simplistic, lacking the brilliant energy found elsewhere on the album.

The album was released on cassette in very limited quantities in March, and is now being unleashed on CD format in August before a vinyl version hopefully arrives in a few months. ‘Adversarial Light’ is a fantastic album of ferociously beautiful sludge-doom that deserves to be heard.

ALBUM REVIEW: Witchsorrow ‘No Light, Only Fire’


‘No Light, Only Fire’
Candlelight Records, September 2015

“I’m not a very nice person. I don’t like people. I pretty much hate everything.” These are the inspiring words of Witchsorrow’s universe-despising frontman Necroskull, and his ever-so-slightly negative perspective oozes from the band’s magnificent new album like vomit from a sandwich.

This follow-up to 2012’s excellent ‘God Curse Us’ bursts into life like a flame-hoofed stallion bolting from the devil’s own stables, with a relatively uptempo Doom Metal romp – ‘There Is No Light, There Is Only Fire’ – that puts the focus firmly on the Metal. Thereafter, this gloomy UK trio gets back to more familiar territory, with elegantly plodding riffs and graceful, majestic choruses.

‘The Martyr’ is a fine example of gold standard doom – slow, simple and sublime. It sounds like a mouldy, British version of classic Saint Vitus, not only because of its intoxicating subtlety, melody and quality but also in the snarl and bite that is reminiscent of the LA doom legends. The gleeful guitar solos on ‘Made Of The Void’ and ‘Negative Utopia’ evoke none other than Dave Chandler himself in their impassioned misery. This is good stuff.

Witchsorrow have upped their game since their highly-acclaimed 2012 debut, incorporating greater energy and variety into their music while maintaining the shuddering heaviness that has reduced countless British venues to rubble in recent years.

The band’s increasing army of supporters will soon be earning a new kind of headache thanks to the instant hits to be found here. Another standout track, ‘To The Gallows’, even received some airplay on BBC Radio recently, suggesting that this understated, traditional doom metal outfit are getting some well-deserved attention.

Even as the songs effortlessly ebb and flow, there’s a raw, stark hopelessness pervading the album. It’s the kind of inspired, whole-hearted hopelessness that ensures Necroskull and his black-clad cohorts do not descend into stupefied apathy or depression. After all, it is in the deepest, darkest mines that the brightest diamonds are found. Witchsorrow’s ‘No Light, Only Fire’ is a gem of an album, and a monument to the finest traditions of doom metal.

ALBUM REVIEW: Angakok (Self-titled)

Satanath Records (June 2015)

This Belgian trio have developed their brand of drone-sludge in two directions simultaneously, evolving a curious, experimental side while also achieving intense levels of ferocity. It is a balancing act that they pull off brilliantly in places, with the ensuing chaos sounding like the gates of hell about to burst open. But elsewhere this self-titled debut album feels a little uncertain.

After a droning intro track, ‘Sacrifice’ hits like a fist of misery: at first, it is simple and extremely effective, but later on the song explodes into life with some spectacular drumming (a noteworthy aspect of the album) and a searing stylistic shift. It sounds like a deranged artist tearing apart his beloved masterpiece in a fit of emotional meltdown.

Next up is ‘Collapsing’, which begins at a similarly slow, plodding pace. But we know from the previous track that we should expect the unexpected, and so we wait for an emotional twist… which sadly does not appear. This track does not quite deliver the same impact, and it’s difficult not to feel a little let down.

‘Samsara’ gets the energy levels back up before descending into more drifting drone, and then a couple of strange, short songs flash by like ugly swallows promising summer. Keeping things more focused is the mighty ‘Trust My Scorn’, a wonderful slab of seething anguish that showcases the band at their best.

Angakok’s straightforward, minimalistic riffs are a plain canvas onto which these lords of Liege band adds broad brushstrokes of blood-red pain and suffering. Their debut album is a mix of formulaic, droning sludge, extended samples that sometimes make you feel like you’re listening to the music with the TV on at the same time, and raucous, stentorian distortion. The moments of wonder are scattered.

REVIEW: Hearserider ‘Demo Tape 2015’

‘Demo Tape 2015’
(June 2015)

These Belgian fuzz pedlars emit some heavyweight, up-tempo stoner doom with frenzied eagerness. The two tracks on this enjoyable demo (‘Green Nebula’ and ‘Thora’) flow like unstoppable orange lava, destroying villages, towns and anyone fool enough to stand in their path.

Hearserider’s sludgy, raging stoner racket sounds like High On Fire in a food mixer. The gravel-chewing vocals are slightly monotone and would serve the songs much better if a touch of melody was added to create more light and shadow – but the raw energy and spirit is devastating.

It’s always great to come across a band with a name that makes you smile. And when they can follow the name up with music that has the power to blast your beard off, you’ve got a surefire recipe for success. So get on board this out-of-control corpse-wagon and take a wild ride into a new world of bustling Belgian doom.

ALBUM REVIEW: Witchhelm ‘Conjuring’

Wyrmwood Records, May 2015

Take Pagan Altar, Cough, Pylon, Count Raven and Bathory and send them to Ohio, USA and this might be what you’d get. Another solo project from Sean Deth, the man behind Lucian The Wolfbearer and others, Witchhelm play solid, sinister riff-based doom metal that is unhurried, implacable and – sometimes – a little too straightforward.

With a name inspired by the video game Skyrim, and based around occult and horror themes, Witchhelm concoct some potent droning hymns of misery. The weird vocals will haunt your dreams for a while, the rumbling bass seems made of molten concrete and the guitars reach for the sewers as well as the skies, with acoustic interludes helping to create a broader atmosphere.

Powerful tracks such as ‘Spellbinder’ and ‘Phooka’ provide plenty of magical moments, but across the whole of the album there is perhaps not enough variety or versatility to make a consistently engaging impression. Perhaps that is because the echoing vocal effect becomes slightly predictable as the album progresses, or maybe it is because it is sometimes difficult to feel much passion shine through the neatly-managed guitar playing.

Whatever the reason, the debut album from Witchhelm only manages to conjure its dark spell intermittently – capturing your imagination in fits and starts even if it might not wholly win your heart.

ALBUM REVIEW: O.D.R.A. ‘Sexnarkoman’

BSFD Records, 2015

“Maybe this is not pure original music, but it’s true and full of rage.”

And in that moment of honesty and clarity, this Polish sludge crew elegantly summarise a wonderfully noisy and highly-energised album that’ll make you feel good about feeling like shit.

No, O.D.R.A’s music is not always unique, but nevertheless, ‘Sexnarkoman’ is a thorough convincing and enjoyable romp of bluesy punk-doom that rips the room to shreds.

The Slavic language makes the lyrical content accessible to none but a lucky few, but regardless of that barrier, the passion shine through like a police searchlight into your retina. Don’t expect sophisticated, drawn-out compositions or epic, catchy choruses – this band is in a hurry to drown you in pain.

O.D.R.A. stomp ferociously through a swamp of pain, telling ancient stories of the old Silesia region of Europe / Poland in a raw and wild-eyed style. The Polish band’s take on sludge metal is succinct and angry – the kind of barely-controlled rage that is a beautiful blast from the past. And it’s not just about honouring the past – ‘Sexnarkoman’ really gets into your face in the hear and now.

Underlying the sweat and fury is a warm, bluesy groove that binds the album together like glue. There is heart and soul behind the slow, crunching riffs and thrash power. Get drunk, get angry and listen to ‘Sexnarkoman’ – it will enrich your life.

ALBUM REVIEW: Saturnine ‘Mors Vocat’

‘Mors Vocat’
Terror From Hell Records, 2015

This all-female power-sludge band from Italy don’t have a very high opinion of humans. Their debut album ‘Mors Vocat’ (Death Calls) focuses on humankind’s innately self-destructive nature and the shadow of imminent death that we all face with varying degrees of terror.

Bleak and yet bold, ‘Mors Vocat’ is an impressive volley of lumbering misery, featuring seven solid slabs of Italian doom metal. You know you’re in safe hands as you listen to the songs surge and progress through natural transitions and intuitive journeys, with barely a note out of place.

Saturnine’s gigantic guitars immediately create an atmosphere of apocalyptic devastation and fear, while an ever-present undercurrent of Celtic Frost-style groove (such as on ‘Empire Of Guilt’) adds another level of dark energy to the music. Beneath it all, the lively and intriguing bass-playing adds yet more interest and depth to the songs.

The riffs sound like the planet being torn apart, and the sinister growled vocals erupt like the burning magma spewing from the Earth’s shattered crust. Those rasping vocals are genuinely scary, although a touch more variety in the delivery might help to convey a broader spectrum of emotion.

‘Crimson Sand’ is one of the tracks that doesn’t really ever get started, while one or two other sections seem to get a little bogged down and lost. But, generally, the quality remains high throughout ‘Mors Vocat’. Saturnine’s compositions rarely rely on repetition or sheer heaviness – these songs are unrelenting, but in a way that draws upon intelligence and invention as well as muscle.

ALBUM REVIEW: Plagueprayer ‘Forgotten Witchery’

‘Forgotten Witchery’
GSP Music, May 2015

Creepier than a zombie centipede and slower than an arthritic sloth, Plagueprayer is a “horror funeral doom” solo project by Aimeric, whose work as Abysmal Growls Of Despair is equally horrifying.

As a bleak, haunting and deeply personal examination of suffering, listening to this album is like reading the diary of a suicidal vampire – you know you shouldn’t do it, but the ghoulish temptation is way too strong to resist.

So welcome to 50+ minutes of glacial emptiness and desolation. The music – when it appears amidst the plaintive, sorrowful synths – is agonisingly slow and patient. And yet there is invention to be found, occasional diamonds in the darkness, where melody and beauty appear tantalisingly close before disappearing into gloom once more.

This soundtrack to depression is hardly rewarding. The delightfully dark keyboards offer hope, but time and again the misery overwhelms them, and life’s daily terror and torment engulfs us. At times, Plagueprayer’s guitar tones sound like they are crawling into your skull and might lie there eternally.

So check this out, but tread carefully.

ALBUM REVIEW: My Life’s Despair ‘Invoked With Passion And Pain’

‘Invoked With Passion And Pain’
April 2015

‘Invoked With Passion And Pain’ is My Life’s Despair’s debut album, coming 21 years after the Gothic doom band from South California was conceived – initially as a solo project – by drummer Larshus. Three demos followed between 1995 and 2001, before an EP was released in 2009. After abandoning work on a troubled concept album, Larshus joined forces with friend N. Sanity (geddit???) to create something new.

Most of the songs on this long-awaited debut full-length are well balanced and expertly crafted, building momentum and drama with great patience and control. The album has a distinctive early 90s feel – an innocent and genuinely cathartic approach – while the influence of embryonic Tiamat is very apparent.

The album’s biggest issue, however, is that the DIY production leaves it sounding a little thin and flat, seriously reducing the atmospheric impact of the music. Songs such as ‘Patterns In The Chaos’ and ‘Apparitions Of The Sky’ would be truly spectacular with a bigger, richer sound. The cover of Tiamat’s brilliant ‘A Caress Of Stars’ is not only placed a little too early in the track list to sit comfortably, but also reminds us of the flawed sound quality – it is all too apparent what we’re missing.

My Life’s Despair incorporate synths, pianos and operatic female vocals to great effect and while they could be integrated more delicately in some places, they augment rather than dominate. One or two songs are of lesser quality, with the Paradise Lost-esque ‘She Said Forever’ feeling rather pedestrian in comparison to other tracks, and ‘Dream Dimension’ adding little but frustration, but elsewhere it is clear to see considerable potential.