ALBUM REVIEW: Avatarium

Avatarium1

AVATARIUM
‘Avatarium’
Nuclear Blast (out November 1, 2013)
8/10

It’s impossible to listen to anything new that emanates from the darkness of Leif Edling’s cranium without a lingering prayer that it is going to be as earth-shatteringly awesome as his 1980s masterpieces. In 1984, Edling’s formative band Nemesis released the landmark ‘Day of Retribution’ EP, and he spent the next decade or so perfecting his art through Candlemass’ Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, Nightfall, etc. While Edling has never ventured a million miles from the doom metal framework that he was so instrumental in defining, during the intervening years the unassuming Swedish bass player has tried to push out the boat with varying degrees of success.

Alongside him in his latest venture’s line-up are guitarist Marcus Jidell (Evergrey), drummer Lars Skold (Tiamat), long-time collaborator Carl Westholm on keyboards and the relatively unheralded Jennie-Ann Smith behind the mic. We have to dispute the assertion that this is a kind of all-star doom supergroup. This is not some Scott Weinrich/Matt Pike/Bill Ward fantasy project; this is a real band and it’s trademark Edling through and through.

With Edling, Jidell and Skold delivering typically mid-weight doom with an easy confidence and precision, and Westholm lighting up the northern skies with his dazzling keyboard creativity, all eyes are on Smith to get the vocals right. She has a sweet, bluesy voice, but she sounds almost too fragile to express the emotional depth required of the genre. That said, it is a pleasure to listen to her sing, and there are times when she soars like Messiah Marcolin being fired out of (a very big) cannon.

Avatarium2

It is difficult to shake the sense that some of the tracks on Avatarium’s self-titled debut are simply discarded Candlemass demos that have been spun in a tombola. The opener ‘Moonhorse’ for example, is a pretty obvious latter-day Edling effort which suffers from a slightly jumbled stop-start arrangement. These problems show up elsewhere, too, such as on ‘Boneflower’, despite its Trouble-ish vibe and big chorus, and it’s strange that these were the tracks used to promote the album.

Strange because there are stronger songs elsewhere. ‘Bird of Prey’ is a cohesive and hugely enjoyable doom romp, safely within the Edling framework but no less pleasing for that fact. Likewise, the title track ‘Avatarium’ – which deploys standard spooky organ backing and swirling vocals – grows into a hypnotising carousel of a song, while ‘Pandora’s Egg’ (with its hilariously moreish “egg of evil” chorus) is a tasty lump of hard-boiled metal. Closing track ‘Lady In The Lamp’ provides a glimpse of what the band’s future might hold, featuring patient acoustic strumming and gentle keyboard caressing before finally unleashing a last-minute blast of Rainbow-coloured epicness that leaves you gasping for more.

Hopefully there will be lots more to come from Avatarium. Their debut album is strong and interesting, and it’s easy to imagine a hundred ways in which they develop and experiment further to concoct something even more magical. It sounds almost churlish to suggest, but perhaps Edling – now 50 – is rediscovering his youthful zest. Some of the lyrics on ‘Avatarium’ certainly hark back to childhood, and there are hints of older influences such as Blue Oyster Cult.

There is something exciting about seeing someone who has created so much great doom metal still searching for new pathways through the gloom. Is this as good as ‘Ancient Dreams’? Of course not, but maybe it’s time for some New Dreams.

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20 FAMOUS QUOTES THAT SHOULD BE ABOUT DOOM METAL

1  “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop”
Confucius

2  “When we are born we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools”
William Shakespeare

3  “Rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life”
J.K. Rowling

4  “Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly”
John F. Kennedy

5  “Nothing I do is done by popular demand”
Steve Martin

6  “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me”
Steve Jobs

7  “If you’re going through hell, keep going”
Winston Churchill

8  “Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make”
Bela Lugosi, Dracula (1931)

9  “May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out”
J.R.R. Tolkien, creator of Mount Doom!

10  “The process of delving into the black abyss is to me the keenest form of fascination”
H.P. Lovecraft

11  “I wish I knew why I am so anguished”
Marilyn Monroe

12  “Time spent with cats is never wasted”
Sigmund Freud (we’re pretty sure he meant to say “Candlemass”)

13  “Go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company”
Mark Twain

14  “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind”
Albert Einstein

15  “My life is doomed the way it is. I have no future”
Mike Tyson

16  “Who hears music, feels his solitude peopled at once”
Robert Browning

17  “Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before”
Edgar Allan Poe

18  “I like my music to awaken the ghosts inside of me. Not the demons, you understand, but the ghosts”
David Bowie

19  “Do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness”
George Bernard Shaw

20  “Only in our dreams are we free. The rest of the time we need wages”
Terry Pratchett

Can you think of any more? Email us: doommetalheaven@live.com

LIVE REPORT: Witchsorrow, Sea Bastard, King Goat

WITCHSORROW, SEA BASTARD, KING GOAT
Black Heart, Camden, London
October 26, 2013
9/10

King Goat stepped into the breach at the last minute, following the withdrawal of Rise Of The Simians. A relatively new and unheralded band, King Goat released their first EP, called ‘Atom’ – an epic/trad sledgehammer with proggy undertones – earlier this year.

Last night, they unleashed their thundering riffs with great skill and energy, but what was surprising was the delivery of frontman Trim. On ‘Atom’ the vocals are occasionally overwhelmed by the great guitar work, but here the band’s new singer was the dominant force. Enormously charismatic and engaging, Trim instantly connected with the crowd (sometimes literally as he climbed down from the stage), ensuring that the evening hit the ground running.

KING GOAT

KING GOAT

The Black Heart is a venue that knows how to please its doom-loving patrons. Playing some early Candlemass moments before King Goat appeared was a smart move, and Trim’s voice soared like a mini-Messiah Marcolin. He bears a passing resemblance to the great man, a feature he played on by launching into Messiah’s trademark doom dance halfway through the set.

Sea Bastard would have to deliver something excellent in order to avoid being overshadowed by their fellow Brighton band. Fortunately they managed to keep the standard high, adding their own brand of hypnotising ferocity. This is band whose songs are made for the live environment, and while their 2013 EP ‘Great Barrier Riff’ is an uncompromising slab of trollish doom (recorded live in the studio back in 2011) the slow, sludgy tunes and Monty McDoom’s wildly-swinging meat-cleaver vocals are best appreciated in person.

WITCHSORROW

WITCHSORROW

Headliners Witchsorrow are one of the UK’s most exciting Doom Metal bands, and here they performed a set of such rumbling excellence that the floor seemed to disappear beneath our feet, exposing us to the ecstatic red fires of Hell itself. Or maybe that was the beer.

In any case, Witchsorrow were unsurprisingly awesome. A little more energy from the crowd would not have gone amiss (although at one point there was a contender for the briefest-ever mosh pit when a small assemblage of teenagers got quite excited) but perhaps people were just standing in slack-jawed admiration.

The vocals of Necroskull (who also handles guitar duties masterfully) reached dizzy new heights not yet explored on the band’s recorded material, and when they lumbered into their faster-paced passages of misery, the front rows were a blur of freshly-shampooed happiness. Beautiful to behold.

Three great bands, all offering a unique and inspiring perspective on Doom Metal. A fantastic night’s work that suggests the future of British doom is in safe hands.

“DON’T CALL US STONER!”

Mead Yeti

Sigiriya have issued a warning as they head into the studio to record their new album…

“Anyone mentioning deserts or the tedium of stoner-rock in regard to us will incur the wrath of the Dragon!” bassist Mead told DoomMetalHeaven, half-jokingly (we think, although we didn’t risk it). 

The band from South Wales are heading into the studio next week to begin recording their follow-up to 2011’s thundering ‘Return To Earth’.  

So how does Mead describe their current sound? “Elements of doom, crust, classic rock/metal and spacerock are audible – all filtered through the rivers and valleys of Wales,” he says. 

“From epic swingers like ‘Guided By Mountains’ to dirty rock blasters like ‘The Obelisk’, it’s going to be enormous!”

The cover artwork for Sigiriya’s new album will be created by Jimbob Isaac, the acclaimed graphic designer and frontman with fellow Welsh riff merchants Hark (and ex-Taint).

For anyone familiar with ‘Return To Earth’ or Sigiriya’s previous incarnation as Acrimony, it’s time to get excited. Just don’t mention the ‘S’ word! 

Sigiriya-2011-

INSIDE KNOWLEDGE: Mead has revealed to DoomMetalHeaven that there will be a guest appearance from Charlotte Nicholls (ex-Crippled Black Phoenix), who is playing cello on the album’s final track. Nice. 

EXCLUSIVE! Sigiriya will be sending exclusive studio photos to DoomMetalHeaven while they record their new album. Check for new posts soon!

 

“A NEW DAWN FOR SIGIRIYA!”

Sigiriya-logo

Welsh dragons Sigiriya are heading back into the studio to begin work on their follow-up to the mighty ‘Return To Earth’ (below). “This is a new dawn for Sigiriya,” bassist Mead told DoomMetalHeaven.

“We enter the studio on 28 October to record album No.2, the first with our new vocalist Matt. The new tracks are pushing forward our agenda of positive heaviness and furthering our notion of combining classic rock songwriting with heavy sounds.”

Sigiriya – featuring ex-Acrimony members Stu, Darren and Mead – will be recording with Tim Hammill at the Sonic-One Studio in Swansea (Wales) before sending their creations to the hotbed of doom metal that is Boston, Massachusetts to be mixed by Brooklyn’s Andrew Schneider.

EXCLUSIVE! Sigiriya will be sending exclusive studio photos to DoomMetalHeaven while they record their new album. Come back soon for new posts!

Mead-Sigiriya Sigiriya-ReturnToEarth

Re-live Sigiriya’s amazing ‘Deathtrip To Eryri’ here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGLM2nHdlu4

INTERVIEW: As Autumn Calls

AsAutumnCalls_logo

“Doom Metal allows us to experiment with extremes”

Ahead of the release of As Autumn Calls’ gargantuan new album ‘Cold, Black & Everlasting’ (October 25), singer/bass player James Hawkins talks exclusively to DoomMetalHeaven about what inspires the Canadian band…

Hi James, so why do you play Doom Metal?
We play doom metal because it’s a very melodic and diverse form of music. It can be extremely dark and heavy at times and it can be soft and vulnerable at other times. It allows us to experiment with these different extremes and portray many different thoughts and emotions. I read a quote a long time ago from someone describing doom metal as a very mature form of metal. It is something that has stuck with me over the years.

Which band in the history of music would you like to go on tour with?
Good question. There’s a few bands that come to mind so it’s a bit tough to pick just one. I think it would be cool to go on tour with Opeth because when Andrew and I first started the band we were really into Opeth. We’ve seen them play live a few times here in Canada. Mikael Åkerfeldt and the gang are insanely talented musicians and we really respect the fact that they are not afraid to experiment and make the music they want to make. They seem like decent, down-to-earth, normal guys. Also I have to say Agalloch would be a close second for us. We love Agalloch. I know, neither of these bands are doom, but whatever.

What are you most proud of on the new album?
There’s a lot of things that I’m proud of on the new album. As musicians we’ve all grown a great deal and I think everyone has really added their own mark to the music. Something that wasn’t the case in the past. I’m proud of the overall feel and atmosphere because I think we’ve managed to create a very honest and sincere album.

“The world that J.R.R. Tolkien created has given me a lot of inspiration over the years”

Which public or historical figure do you most admire and why?
I would have to say J.R.R. Tolkien. The man is a literary genius and one of the most creative people to have walked the face of the Earth. The world he created has given me a lot of inspiration over the years and I still take inspiration from it to this day. His work has been such a huge part of my life for such a long period of time. He was also a very modest man when discussing his own life and his work.

What’s your most prized Heavy Metal possession?
Well at this very moment I’d have to say my brand new ‘Blackwater Park’ and ‘Marrow of the Spirit’ vinyls. Both absolutely beautiful pieces of art (see below).

Buy the new As Autumn Calls album ‘Cold, Black & Everlasting’ here: http://asautumncalls.bandcamp.com/releases

DOOM DEBATE: Where do Atlantean Kodex belong?

First, a confession: here at DoomMetalHeaven we have been arguing with each other.

Should we review the Atlantean Kodex album? It is Doom Metal or just slow power metal? Do the band’s pop sensibilities – and subsequent ubiquity – mean they should be shunned on a website dedicated to what is considered a niche genre?

In the end, we decided that there is sufficient ‘doom’ (and certainly plenty of ‘metal’ and ‘heaven’) on the German band’s latest opus for us to proceed. Of course, while we’ve been bickering among ourselves, you have probably already seen a hundred reviews of ‘The White Goddess’ (Atlantean Kodex have been difficult to avoid in recent weeks) so we’ll keep it brief.

cover_ak

This is straightforward but majestically epic metal that has much in common with Solstice, Manowar (without the biceps) and Hammerheart-era Bathory. It’s more mature and well-constructed than 2010’s often frustrating ‘The Golden Bough’ and while Markus Becker’s high-pitched vocals can grate after a while, he leads the songs into spectacular, cloud-puncturing choruses. Few bands have the ability to create such an expansive atmosphere.

The album is also pristinely produced, allowing a freshness and energy to ripple through the slow, 10-minute-long songs. Atlantean Kodex’s self-indulgence remains, however, and their excessive use of spoken word samples is an uninspiring Churchillian voiceover that serves only to interrupt. The song ’Heresiarch’, for example, should have been allowed to flow without interruption, revelling in its own glorious simplicity to become a minor doom classic. But they couldn’t resist.

Our ‘heated debate’ at DMH over whether to include Atlantean Kodex here could also be applied to the band’s Cruz Del Sur label-mates Argus, who have shifted slightly away from their doomy roots. Argus released their new album ‘Beyond The Martyrs’ at the same time as the Germans unleashed ‘The White Goddess’ but with rather less media attention.

Argus-BTM_cover

Argus don’t soar as high as Atlantean Kodex, nor do they strive for such distant horizons, preferring a well-worn, mid-tempo classic metal path that nevertheless can trip up lesser musicians. Drawing inspiration from Grand Magus and Iron Maiden, the dual guitar-loving Pennsylvanians (including ex-Penance singer Brian Balich who brings his characteristically forthright vocals and big personality) also hark back to Doom Metal masters such as Candlemass, with ‘Trinity’ and ‘The Coward’s Path’ being standout moments. Hugely enjoyably stuff.

What defines a Doom Metal album is a question that we (or you, for that matter) may never agree on. Like all boundaries or barriers, definitions and opinions can change in an instant. For now, we’ll leave you with some songs to check out. Meanwhile, we’ll get back to kicking seven shades of Korn out of each other.

argus_BTM_album_image

http://cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com/album/beyond-the-martyrs

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http://listen.20buckspin.com/album/the-white-goddess

ALBUM REVIEW: Gringo

The Cold Burn Cover

GRINGO
‘The Cold Burn’
Catacomb Records
(On sale November 11, 2013)
8/10

Gringo’s self-proclaimed influences include the formidable genius of Tony Iommi and Albert Einstein, and both men would surely approve of this exciting piece of stoner innovation. ‘E’ may equal ‘mc2’ (we’ll trust Albert on that one) but Gringo have come up with their own formula for smart, inventive metal.

The word ‘gringo’ – simultaneously a derogatory Spanish-language term for a foreigner and a descriptor for an outsider who has embraced a new culture – may initially be suggestive of Mexico, deserts and tequila, but this band from the Midlands of England is more complex than that.

In fact, the band’s monicker perfectly represents the two sides of their music. On one hand, The Cold Burn delivers dynamic, big-riffing stoner metal that is familiar and accessible, tying in with the latter definition of the word. But then there’s the other side, which deals with alienation and the unknown, and this is where the band’s wide-ranging influences come to the fore.

In addition to the usual Sabbath and Kyuss nods, this album resonates with the sorrowful wailings of Alice In Chains, AC/DC’s kick-ass attitude, the tight groove of The Obsessed, Voivod’s penchant for avant-garde experimentation, and even the lunatic sci-fi thrashings of Vektor. It’s a captivating combination that ensures Gringo have carved themselves a special niche in the overcrowded stoner market.

Gringo Promo

The Cold Burn cleverly balances progressivity and tradition. Straightforward metal passages that feature uplifting key changes and Iommi-inspired guitar work (particularly in the title track and opener ‘Decaying Orbit’) are countered with adventurous tempo switches and time signatures as well as synthy spacewalks.

A number of the songs feature atmospheric keyboard-tickling that would not be out of place on an Amorphis or Stratovarius album and it works brilliantly. In fact, it’s a shame that Gringo choose not to integrate even more of these passages into their music rather than in slightly self-conscious mini-tracks between songs.

There are a few other missed opportunities, such as the song ‘Curiosity’ – a dense, hypnotising creation that does not quite build into the epic it could have been. And the repeated use of layered vocals throughout The Cold Burn can make it difficult to engage with the central vocal melody. It’s a commonly used trick that too often saps a little energy from the music and here it reduces the impact of Gringo’s intriguing lyrical content. The band’s reliance on this would be understandable if singer (and guitarist) Marc Temple lacked confidence in the strength of his voice, but, as shown in strange little ditty ‘The Great Provider’, his vocals are potent enough in isolation.

The Cold Burn is an original and sometimes brilliant album that is sure to entertain, whether your cranium is accustomed to theoretical physics, Sabbath homage or good old-fashioned head-banging.

http://gringo-uk.bandcamp.com/

30-SECOND REVIEW: Seremonia

SEREMONIA
‘Ihminen’
Svart Records, 2013
6/10
The highlight of this Finnish-language ‘doom rock’ album is undoubtedly its unusual, dark, earthy and alluring female vocals. Beyond that noteworthy feature, Ihminen is a solid, if slightly underwhelming, collection of well-written rock songs that only occasionally lift their heads above average. There are minor elements of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, NWOBHM, hints of Gothic fancy, moments of folkish fun, and, of course, the almost-obligatory flute. Sadly, the problem is too much rock and not enough doom.

 

ALBUM REVIEW: As Autumn Calls

As Autumn Calls

AS AUTUMN CALLS
‘Cold, Black & Everlasting’
Rain Without End Records
(On sale October 25, 2013)
9/10

The very best Doom Metal bands acknowledge that without joy there is no despair, no darkness without light. They are able to marry these opposing forces with originality, eloquence and gravitas. On the evidence of this new album, Canada’s As Autumn Calls deserve to be ranked among the very best Doom Metal bands around.

Cold, Black & Everlasting is a slow, spellbinding and hugely impressive exploration of the shadows. Avoiding the introspective self-indulgence of some other bands to have previously reached such lofty heights (including Anathema, whose formative works peek through here as an influence), As Autumn Calls have created a genuine work of art that lifts the spirit while simultaneously casting a deep shadow across the soul.

The last release from this exciting Ontario band, An Autumn Departure, in 2011, was packed with a vast amount of promise. But now they have taken their music to another level: more mature, breathtakingly atmospheric, heavier and denser, with growled vocals summoned from the deepest pits of Hades. As Autumn Calls tap the same vein of pain as early Paradise Lost and yet they manage to achieve the epic highs of Candlemass.

All seven of the songs on Cold, Black & Everlasting are incredible, but in particular ‘These Doleful Shades’ is so good you might have to change your pants after listening to it. Featuring, in the space of 12 minutes, more heart-wrenching riffs than many bands can muster in their entire career, this song shows that elegantly-crafted simplicity is often the most effective way to convey the deepest of emotions. Amongst the colossal riffs, the album is bound together with a number of reoccurring touch-points, including choral backing, jangly guitar passages and higher-tempo Bathory-esque crescendos. That’s not to say that Cold, Black & Everlasting ever gets predictable: in fact, essential to its charm is its ability to surprise.

There are a few very minor indiscretions which explain why this album doesn’t score a perfect 10. The first half of the second track ‘Black Night Silent’, with its high-pitched guitar and clean vocals, does not mesh together perfectly. This should perhaps have been pushed further down the album’s running order, although the skull-shattering second half of the song makes up for any dissatisfaction. And, to be pernickety, a few of the drum fills attract a little too much attention to themselves, the bass feels a bit harmless at times, and the piano tone occasionally has the merest hint of Ibiza club anthem, which is hardly ideal for the bleak, hope-murdering brand of metal being unleashed.

This album has been on a constant loop here at DoomMetalHeaven for the last few days, and we have no intention of turning it off anytime soon. It is clear that As Autumn Calls draw from a deep well of inspiration, and if they keep up this kind of standard, we could be talking about one of the greatest Doom Metal bands the genre has witnessed.

Bandcamp: http://asautumncalls.bandcamp.com/

30-SECOND REVIEW: SubRosa

SUBROSA
‘More Constant Than The Gods’
Profound Lore Records
9/10
From the moment you experience the sparring male/female vocals in the opening track, it is clear that experimental Salt Lake City sludgers SubRosa have delivered something special. Strange melodies and discordant violins intertwine beautifully with slow, sledgehammer riffs to create an album packed with innovation. Despite a comparatively lacklustre closing song, this is surely one of the best sludge doom albums ever made.

30-SECOND REVIEW: In Solitude

IN SOLITUDE
‘Sister’
Metal Blade Records, 2013
7/10
Fans of Mercyful Fate, Danzig, The Cult and Paradise Lost can all find something to enjoy in the third album from Sweden’s In Solitude. Their brand of atmospheric, mid-paced gothic rock is often theatrical, but never strays into the excessive vaudeville of compatriots Ghost. Sister provides a dose of classic metal tunes that are injected with enough darkness and ethereal charm to keep even hardened Doom Metal fans switched on.

30-SECOND REVIEW: Windhand

WINDHAND
‘Soma’
Relapse Records, 2013
8/10
Windhand take some Doom Metal staples – dense guitar tones, devastating riffs and long, claustrophobic arrangements – and mix them into a hypnotising brew. These may not be the most memorable songs, but they envelope you entirely. Beautiful, otherworldly melodies from Dorthia Cottrell (the best female vocalist in the genre?) add colour to a bleak grey landscape, although she sometimes gets a little drowned out. Much like Pallbearer or Acid King, there’s a single-minded determination underpinning Windhand, who craft intelligently simple music that will, chord by painstaking chord, slowly crush your soul.