ALBUM REVIEW: Kuolemanlaakso

Kuolemanlaakso 'Tulijoutsen'

Svart Records, 28 February 2014

Finland’s Kuolemanlaakso are one of the most exciting bands around – not just in doom metal, but in any genre. ‘Tulijoutsen’ (‘The Fire Swan’) is a masterpiece of original, avant garde death-doom, delivering eight sublime tracks that explode into your brain like black bullets.

Channeling elements of the mighty Triptykon, Amorphis, My Dying Bride, Candlemass, Celtic Frost and of course Swallow The Sun (naturally, as the two bands share the same singer in Mikko Kotamaki), Kuolemanlaakso’s second album perfectly balances misery and melody.

Inspired by the work of poet Aarni Kouta, the Finnish-language lyrics incorporate the opposing elements of fire and water (hence the album’s title and artwork). Musically, too, there is constant tussle between ferocity and melancholy, and the band harness both of these divergent forces masterfully. The crushing guitars are sick and twisted, unleashing enough power to melt bone… and yet beauty shines through, particularly during the clean vocal sections.

The band started out in 2010 as a solo project of guitarist and keyboard player Laakso, and its name can be translated to mean ‘Death Valley’, in homage to a visit he made there during his time living in America. Whereas Kuolemanlaakso’s first album, ‘Uljas Uusi Maailma’ (2012), was written entirely by him, this time around the entire band has been able to contribute. The collaborative approach has resulted in a diverse and rich sound, and is perhaps one of the reasons why there is more than a trace of Amorphis’s classic ‘Tales From The Thousand Lakes’ – which bass player Usva describes as the reason he originally wanted to make music.

Featuring glorious production by Triptykon’s V. Santura, the album was recorded in a wooden cabin in the Finnish forest and, unlike when recording their debut, the band had sufficient studio time to relax, work off each other, and explore new ground. The fruits of that labour are clear: take the opening, horrifyingly heavy moments of ‘Verihaaski’  where they have created perhaps the ultimate doom metal riff.  Or the second half of the song ‘Arpeni’ which showcases varying vocal styles. Or the beautifully understated introduction of female vocals later in the album.

Hopefully, Kuolemanlaakso will focus more on their doomier, melodic side on future recordings, as this is the strongest aspect of their personality. However, this is a band that could turn its mind to practically anything, as the brilliantly baffling folksy track ‘Glastonburyn Lehto’ shows. As founding member Laakso says: “Our journey has just begun. Expect the unexpected.”



ALBUM REVIEW: The Wounded Kings


Candlelight, 24 February 2014

Forget eye of newt, wing of bat. What we need is a pinch of Electric Wizard’s power. A few tablespoons of Saint Vitus’s majestic simplicity. A sprinkle of Jex Thoth’s occultish playfulness. Delicious… Of course, there is no guaranteed recipe for creating the perfect doom metal; it’s a quandary with which many have grappled and few have solved. The Wounded Kings, though, have got damn close.

Ultimately, inspiration must conquer imitation, and while The Wounded Kings are clearly well-versed in those classics of the genre mentioned above, there’s bucket-loads of inspiration coursing through this frothing doom potion.

These British misery mongers stir their ingredients slowly and with a delicate touch, knowing that patience will pay off. The immensely heavy guitars simmer and bubble, never hurried, while the occasional solos lift the heart rate and showcase guitarist and band founder Steve Mills’s impressive talents. Bass and drums stay mostly in the background, adding vast weight and energy. Elongated Hammond organ tones coil through the air like wisps of acrid smoke, building an atmosphere of mystery and magic (with or without a ‘k’, whichever you prefer).

From the first chords of gargantuan opening track ‘Gnosis’, the lava-like descent into hopelessness commences, and it’s beautiful to behold. The seven songs of ‘Consolamentum’, the band’s fourth full-length album, are big, traditional compositions, sometimes tumbling into a sludgy pit, launching into groovier riffs (particularly on the sub-two minute ‘Elige Magistrum’) or wandering down mystical, progressive passageways.

On this her second album with the band (following 2011’s splendid ‘In The Chapel Of The Black Hand’) Sharie Neyland unleashes her captivating siren song sparingly, a sign of the band’s confidence and maturity. Imagine a heavier version of Las Vegas’s Demon Lung, with an arcane, Ye Olde England vibe.

Following a number of line-up changes since starting out in 2005, Mills had promised “our most expansive and heaviest album yet”. The band handle their monstrous power with subtlety and skill. Not for them the slower-than-you competitive streak that hinders so many, nor any misguided Icarus-style quests for Ultimate Epicness. The Wounded Kings achieve intense heaviness and tumultuous emotive dexterity with apparent ease, and that’s the sign of a band in fine fettle.

Wounded they may be, but these Kings are battling on stronger than ever, ‘Consolamentum’ is a spellbinding album that has drawn to them an army of the doomed, willing to pledge their swords to this rising power from the West (ie. Devon). At times dangerously, thrillingly close to doom metal perfection, The Wounded Kings have got their recipe just right.

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The Wounded Kings Press Shots 26/11/13

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REVIEW: Valfader


Single released 8 Feb 2014

Rising and falling like a mighty black ocean, Valfader’s ‘Opening’ comprises 14-and-a-half fascinating minutes of multi-layered doom metal.

Fusing elements of epic, sludge and stoner, this is more ambitious and sophisticated than the British band’s 2013 ‘Whispers Of Chaos’ EP, while retaining a faith in big, noisy riffs.

Melodic vocals dual with throaty wailing, a combination sure to please fans of everyone from Unsilence to Isis. We want more.



EDGE OF HEAVEN: Doom Metal Round-up, feat. Spectral Tower, Bitchcraft, Mammoth Storm, King Goat, Power Fortress, Lizzard Wizzard


‘Spectral Tower’
January 2014
Atmospheric, enthralling, terrifying, this blackened doom will send a chill down your spine. From the eerie, nightmarish vocals to the superbly progressive keyboards, there is all-pervading sense of fear. At times, the ‘metal’ takes a back seat in favour of creepy atmospherics, which is a shame because the heavier passages are the most effective. The biggest problem, though, is that there are either a few saucepans in the drum kit or the computo-drums were programmed by Casio. Spectral Tower, a two-man outfit from California, create a strange, beautifully bleak landscape that might benefit from a fuller, richer sound and more consistent spine of metal throughout.


December 2013
Bitchcraft’s riffs will chew your ears off. These Sabbath obsessives from Poznan in Poland get all warm and fuzzy for the godfathers of doom, producing potent stoner jams in the name of Iommi. The female singer (is she the subject of band’s dubious title?) delivers some strong melodies, her voice rising elegantly, then dropping lower in the mix where it sounds like it emanates from a coffin. Her voice is haunting, but on occasion her phrasing sounds awkward; a minor distraction. While happy to worship at the overcrowded Altar Of Sabbath, Bitchcraft deliver sufficient originality and quality to make this spaced-out, four-track EP an enjoyable addition to the club.


‘Rite Of Ascension’ (EP)
January 2014
You can’t argue with Mammoth Storm’s objective: “heavy riffs in the name of doom” is their mission statement. The young Swedish band, formed late 2012, achieve their ambition in bucket-loads: the two 13-minute-long tracks on this demo are heavy and hypnotising if not especially inspiring. Despairing, coarse vocals echo and reverberate over densely distorted riffs that create a thick meaty soup. There is some subtly haunting guitar work, which adds to the atmosphere of miserable horror. A promising debut.


‘King Goat’ (EP)
December 2013
Having been blown away by King Goat at a London gig towards the end of last year, we were really looking forward to this one. At times, this EP climbs higher than a mountain goat, especially when new(ish) vocalist Trim turns on the Messiah Marcolin power boost. Trim has a great high range but often reverts to a growling style that does not sit perfectly with the band’s epic/prog tendencies. The first of the three songs on this release is a 13-minute monster, although the first eight minutes are taken up with a strangely innocuous pysch-jam intro. Thereafter, when the real music kicks in, King Goat are reminiscent of an Epicus-era Candlemass. And that means good. The revoltingly cool artwork, incidentally, is by Yliana Paolini.


‘Vol 1: And the sea and the stars, they became as one. And so we left this world’
January 2014
This is slow, sludgy stoner metal from some weird, wizard-inhabited alternative universe. Power Fortress tread a fine line between personality and pretension, and at times totter dangerously close to the latter. Ostentatious song titles are well and good, but must be backed up with some seriously original music. True, these Texans produce an impressively sickening rumble, laced with sour riffs and genuine pain. But the wild, shrieking vocals dominate all, and the music becomes secondary. At times there is a brutal ecstasy to the tuneless wailing, but more frequently it just gets in the way.


‘Lizzard Wizzard’
November 2013
Groovy stoner metal meets sludge on this thoroughly enjoyable self-released album from the Brisbane quartet with the ludicrous name. These guys love sci-fi and fantasy, and their passion shines through, most notably perhaps in the awesome artwork (courtesy of local artist Iain Danvers) and in the song ‘Game of Cones’, which is a particularly splendid cover of the ‘Game Of Thrones’ theme music. Generally the songs move effortlessly from slow, bleak and depressing to uptempo and cheeky, with great riffs and tempo changes keeping things interesting. In fact, the constant mood swings can make it tricky to build momentum. Fans of Conan and Sleep will find lots to enjoy here, not least the curious songs titles.




‘A Etilla’
Solitude Productions, January 2014

Masters of their dark art, the secretive Ea create captivating funeral doom metal, resplendent with beautiful choral arrangements and oppressively lachrymose atmospheres. ‘A Etilla’ is one gigantic song, 49 minutes long, but such is the band’s skill that it never gets anywhere near dull.

The singer’s ruined throat cries of ruined landscapes and faded glory, taking you on a journey of sorrow and passion. With lyrical themes based on sacred texts from ancient civilisations, sung in a long-dead language derived from archaeological studies, it is abundantly evident that Ea take what they do very seriously.

This is similarly apparent in the way they have crafted this colossally long composition into a many-layered whole that maintains the listener’s attention more effectively than any three-minute pop ditty. Be prepared to lose the best part of an hour of your day once you hit ‘Play’ and it will be time very well spent.

For reasons unknown, the members of Ea prefer to keep their identities hidden, although it is often presumed that the band is Russian, considering it is handled by Russian label Solitude Productions. Maybe Vladimir Putin himself plays the drums. Nothing would surprise us about good old Vlad. Whatever country these guys reside in, they are producing some of the world’s finest funeral doom at the moment, and ‘A Etilla’ is a shining example of what this kind of super-gloomy music can achieve.

BARABBAS: New album coming soon!

Parisian doom evangelists Barabbas will be recording their eagerly-anticipated first full-length album this spring. The charismatic French band promise “refined stoner doom” that is “dynamic and overwhelming”.

To whet our appetites, Barabbas have launched a Bandcamp page where you can find their rather excellent 2011 EP ‘Liberez BARABBAS!’ as a Name Your Price affair. A bargain on a Biblical scale!



It’s a strong and forceful stoner romp, with elements of Entombed-ish doom’n’roll as well as the subtle groove of The Obsessed and the punchiness of Corrosion Of Confirmity or High On Fire. Fun and inventive rather than progressive, Barabbas demonstrate a sense of untethered pleasure within the genre of misery. Fuzzily raucous riffs swirl and thunder, accompanied by quietly epic choirs and organs. The vocals are in French, but c’est la vie. It is impossible to not enjoy this EP! Can’t wait to hear the new stuff later in the year.