ROUND-UP

Time to catch up with some recent doom metal releases…

ethereal riffian

ETHEREAL RIFFIAN
‘Aeonian’
February 2014
8/10

Ethereal Riffian’s ‘Aeonian’ is a remarkable work of ambitious, exciting, pounding, high-energy stoner-prog. Its four long, winding songs take you to unexpected places, and the Ukrainian band go the extra mile visually as well as musically by creating amazing artwork and even a storybook (in English and Russian) that accompanies the album. An excellent effort on many levels.

restless oblivion

RESTLESS OBLIVION
‘Sands Of Time’
Solitude Productions, March 2014
7/10

More class from the Solitude stable. This young Russian outfit deliver death-doom that is sodden with tears of woe. Rumbling vocals vomit their misery over slow and delicately melodic guitars, creating a beautifully bleak marriage that’s made in Hell. Excellent pacing and arrangement, as well as epic keyboard backing, make these nine tracks enjoyable. And while the tunes may not always be memorable enough to warrant flags and fireworks, this is impressively atmospheric.

grey widow

GREY WIDOW
‘I’
January 2014
7/10

This UK sludge horde concoct a filthy racket that is likely to make you feel sick. Their slogan is: ‘Worship nothing. Follow no-one. Destroy everything.’ Which is impressive in itself. As is Grey Widow’s sheer relentlessness – their brand of slowed-down rage is unremitting and uncaring. Songs titles are numbered I-VIII, with the third track being the standout from a noisy crowd, offering a wicked groove amid the bleakness. When this more flamboyant and creative side comes out, Grey Widow are a real force.

cult of sorrow

CULT OF SORROW
Self-titled EP
March 2014
5/10

The debut from this doom rock outfit from Cincinnati, Ohio features fun stoner riffs but overall comes across as pretty lightweight. The guitars buzz along like a swarm of bee, while the singer is underwhelming and too loud in the mix. Inspired by early metal and classic rock, Cult Of Sorrow are perhaps still finding their own sound, and this is too derivative to wholly impress. On the plus side, it is difficult not to be won over by the band’s sheer enthusiasm and the closing track ‘Black Flame’ is a nine-minute Sabbathy doom-a-thon that shows some promise.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Hirsute

Hirsute

HIRSUTE
‘Still Waiting’
February 2014
8/10

The band name might suggest beardy, beer-swilling stoner rock, but in fact New Zealand’s Hirsute deliver slow, sorrowful and magnificent death-doom that at times is sublime. ‘Still Waiting’ simultaneously brings a tear to your eye and a grin to your face in a way that only quality doom metal can.

It is quite amazing that this is the work of just one man, Justin Chorley, who recorded the whole thing in his home studio. ‘Still Waiting’ is clearly a labour of love for this Wellington-based misery merchant, and his careful dedication to getting all his doom ducks in a row shines through. Inspired by early Anathema, Katatonia and My Dying Bride, some of the album feels pretty familiar – in a ‘hey-good-to-see-you’ kind of way – but there are also plenty of occasions when Chorley’s Hirsute finds its own, clear, mournful voice.

The six songs are packed with a truckload of ideas, all under the umbrella of sadness. The opening track ‘Treatment Begins’ sets the scene with richly musical guitars wailing behind dreary growled vocals, but before long rumbling drums gallop into view like a stallion, carrying with them clean, delicate vocals. Hints of Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt, but perhaps with a little less brute power. The multitude of ideas on ‘Still Waiting’ are always well-honed and brilliantly played – Chorley’s effortless musicianship is remarkable and he has a natural ear for a killer melody.

Generally slow and gentle, Hirsute’s compositions go through numerous changes and transitions, which is testament to Chorley’s immense creativity. However, it can sometimes feel as if the songs are continually restarting, as on ‘To Feel Alive’ and ‘Forever’. The latter of these, the album’s closing track, begins with a handful of spectacular opening verses but these are disappointingly abandoned, never to return. Too many such changes can be slightly unsettling for the listener.

A more positive side of Hirsute’s frequent changes, though, lies in Chorley’s ability to utilise the pauses between them as an emotive device, as on the confident and engrossing ‘Where You Left Me To Drown’. Much like Saint Vitus or 40 Watt Sun, it is often the silence between the notes that builds a sense of anticipation and excitement.

While the album’s title track opens with a slightly forgettable acoustic passage (and then ends almost as soon as it has begun), the following song, ‘Sang The Bird From Its Cage’, which also starts acoustically, is more sophisticated, layered and interesting. It’s crying out for a massive, eyeball-imploding riff to be integrated, but instead the song ends almost too soon. Hopefully in the future, Hirsute will develop this more progressive element.

Perhaps there are two schools of thought when it comes to writing songs: ‘Give Them What They Want’ or ‘Leave Them Wanting More’. Hirsute fall into both categories. Chorley certainly provides lots of what we want, but occasionally leaves us wishing he would allow some of his fantastic ideas a little more space to flourish. Even despite that comparatively minor complaint, this album scores highly because it’s damn good melodic doom metal played from the heart.

http://hirsute.bandcamp.com/

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Dopelord

dopelord

DOPELORD
‘Black Arts, Riff Worship & Weed Cult’
April 2014
7/10

Proud owners of one of the stoneriest band names in the history of stoner doom, Poland’s Dopelord have returned with a five-track album that’s fuzzier than a mammoth’s underpants. From the start, the barrage of riffs comes at you thick and fast (or thick and slow) with heavyweight guitars and earthshaking bass complemented by hypnotising, crash-happy drumming.

The action-packed opening track ‘Addicted To Black Magick’ sets the tone with a killer mid-tempo riff and enjoyably laid-back vocals. And while it may be somewhat predictable lyrically, it’s also fair to say that stoner metal rarely sets out to establish any kind of groundbreaking or newsworthy agenda, so who cares, let’s just enjoy the ride.

For all of the band’s fascination with occultism, horror movies and weed, it is the slower, doomier parts that work best here. In particular, ‘Preacher Electrick’ is a sprawling doom anthem that ebbs and flows like a mighty tide, and even features an almost-gothic piano outro. This is perhaps the standout track on the album, and elsewhere Dopelord prefer to stick to the well-trodden stoner path.

‘Acid Trippin’, for example, is the kind of grandiose Sabbathy sonic adventure that you might expect from such a song title. Similarly, ‘Pass The Bong’ is an 11-minute Polish plod – a dense wall of riffage with pleasingly melodic vocal parts and, briefly, some highly infectious grooves. Let your body lie still in this sun-blessed herb garden, while your soul dances in demonic ecstasy. On the track ‘Green Plague’, Dopelord deserve credit for trying something out of the ordinary, and this slightly faster effort turns into an odd mix of Fu Manchu and Triptykon. It is perhaps a little overly simplistic and disjointed, with some passages working much better than others.

Dopelord have clearly matured since their well-received 2012 album ‘Magick Rites’ and are mastering their own black arts, but, as this album’s three-part title suggests, it seems that they are yet to figure out exactly what kind of a band they want to be. Amid these conflicting influences, Dopelord are one moment dark and doomy, and the next they lean heavily on the swooshy pedals and weed theme. Sometimes the two go hand-in-hand, sometimes not.

Throughout it all, the production is very good, meaning that Dopelord’s Electric Wizard / Sleep-influenced heaviness is given the platform it deserves. ‘Black Arts…’ is a really enjoyable album that showcases an exciting and ambitious young Polish band who know how to crush skulls with their immense stoner riffs, and also explore the darker, nastier corners of existence.

Available (for $6.66) here – http://dopelord.bandcamp.com/

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Vainaja

vainaja kadotetut

VAINAJA
‘Kadotetut’
Svart Records (23 May 2014)
7/10

The great bells groan, the choirs cry out, the amps are turned right up and the doom metal pours out like grey rain from a veiled sky. Following the heavenly/sinister delicacies of the instrumental opener, the second track ‘Väärän Ristin Valtakunta’ hits you with the force of a colossal hammer to the teeth. Its monstrous riff grabs you like the huge fist of some gruesome troll and drags you off to its lair to be willingly, cheerfully chewed alive. To make you more palatable Vainaja’s apocalyptic drums pulverise your flesh, while the deep, relentless bass turns your bones to jelly.

‘Kadotetut’ is based around stories of an evil cult that did some nasty stuff in 19th Century rural Finland, and is sung in the Finnish language. The singer Wilhelm Parvieinen sounds like he has swallowed a 1950’s tractor engine and a gallon of glue, and his guttural gurgling is mesmerisingly horrible to behold.

In parts the album resembles Candlemass’s underrated ‘Chapter VI’ album – played through a cement mixer. The massive, majestic keyboard-backed epicness is swiftly countered with slow, filthy heaviness – Vainaja offer the best of both worlds. This three-headed band is inspired by 1990’s death metal, and there are clear reflections of early Morbid Angel. The album also features a couple of upbeat Amon Amarth moments and, on the song ‘Risti Kädessäni’, an almost-pornographic Celtic Frost-ish passage that not only saves the track from drifting but also underscores this band’s inventiveness and ability to amaze.

It is something that they do not do quite often enough, and the album falters a little in its second half. There’s a two-minute interlude of jangling guitars and spoken word samples, perhaps in the misguided view that the listener requires a breather to put the kettle on or send a few emails. Later, a couple of the songs feel slightly aimless, and too much time is consumed creating a creepy atmosphere at the expense of the meatier riff-based music.

‘Kadotetut’ finishes on a spectacularly high note. ‘Kadotettu’ is an instrumental song that reaches quite ludicrous proportions of epicness and heaviness. The church bells return, the choirs resume their sorrowful song and the world trembles at Vainaja’s incredible power. Those evil 19th Century cultists probably did not imagine that a few generations later their kinsfolk would be writing bleak, crushing doom metal songs about them. But thank God they have, because this is a really impressive album that redefines the word ‘heavy’.

https://www.facebook.com/vainaja

REVIEW: Sadhak (EP)

a1786948773_2

SADHAK
Self-titled EP
Shadow Kingdom Records, 25 March
8/10

Sadhak is a side project of Andreas Hagen (High Priest of Saturn – the band, that is, not the actual job role). If this two-track debut EP is a sign of things to come, then keep your fingers crossed for more releases from this exciting Norwegian act.

This is slow, traditional, desolate doom metal dripping with quality and melody. Sadhak has been compared to UK doomsters Warning, and while there are also hints of Pilgrim and Solitude Aeturnus, it is the influence of Patrick Walker’s band that shines through most clearly.

In truth, the sound is perhaps more akin to Walker’s post-Warning outfit 40 Watt Sun, with dominant cymbals hissing and crashing like an endless tsunami. Above that, thick, liquid guitar tones drip like the earth’s final candle, hot, dark and sombre.

There are more pauses and direction changes in Hagen’s compositions than you might typically find in a Walker song, which interrupts the flow on occasion. Sadhak use choral backing on the second of these two tracks, an epic undertone that Warning or 40 Watt Sun would be likely to shy away from. We’re not entering Candlemass or Ereb Altor kind of territory here, but there is certainly a less claustrophobic, confessional feel to these tracks, a more expansive outlook.

Hagen is clearly not just a Warning fan – as his great work with High Priest demonstrates – and there is plenty of unique character and passion on offer here. As with the guitars and keys, his clean vocal melodies venture into a slightly more epic style; they are not quite as agonized as those to be found on Warning’s breathtaking ‘Watching From A Distance’, for example, and subsequently do not hit the same emotional buttons. However, Sadhak could be said to be more lyrically diverse than Walker, and this, coupled with some ambitious arrangements, provides many reasons to be optimistic.

The only disappointment is that there are only two tracks on this EP. We want to hear more – a lot more. Sadhak has started its journey on a very strong footing, and will hopefully remain on this path of pain, creating subtly beautiful doom metal that makes your heart as well as your ears bleed.

Get yourself some fantastic new doom here:

http://shadowkingdomrecords.bandcamp.com/album/sadhak

http://sadhak.bandcamp.com/

 

 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Slomatics

slomatics estron

SLOMATICS
‘Estron’
Burning World / Head Of Crom (Feb 2014)
8/10

Heading towards their 10th anniversary later in 2014, Slomatics’ aim has always been to “reduce riffs to a primal state of heaviness” and “create a euphoric state of wellbeing”. This Northern Irish band came extremely close to achieving that ambition – or certainly the first part – on their previous full-length release ‘A Hocht’. But with ‘Estron’, their fourth album, they have expanded their ambitions and broadened their musical landscapes, reaching a whole new level.

Warm, rich guitar tones wash over you like a gentle solar wind, sludgy riffs melt your brain like the lava from an ancient Martian volcano, synthesizers create an unfamiliar, otherworldly atmosphere, and vocalist/drummer Marty Harvey carries you with him on a delirious, beautiful, terrifying voyage into the universal depths of blackness. The multi-skilled Harvey brings a cosmic adventurousness coupled with a sense of maturity and melody. Slomatics are no longer just about giving you a nosebleed with their stupendously heavy sound – now they’re about giving you a nosebleed … IN SPACE!

The six songs (plus one brief instrumental) are slow, gargantuan and crushing, but they seem to rocket along at a fair rate of G’s, with stars and planets flying by. Only the closing track – a bleak misery-fest called ‘The Carpenter’ – clocks in at over ten minutes and, before you know it, you’ve reached the end of the adventure. While it is refreshing to hear this kind of accessible-but-still-sledgehammer-heavy sludge, a number of the songs could have been given a little more time to grow and develop. Slomatics might have afforded themselves even greater license to get experimental, particularly with their spaced-out keys and inventive vocal patterns.

‘Estron’ is mightily impressive, superior sludge played with conviction, skill and intelligence. If primal euphoria was the ambition, it’s mission accomplished for Slomatics.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Slomatics/196382747053529

The fascinating artwork was created by Tony Roberts http://www.blackmindseye.org

 

INTERVIEW: Vestal Claret

vestal claret 10

Ahead of the 2 May release of Vestal Claret’s hugely enjoyable ‘The Cult Of Vestal Claret’ album on Cruz Del Sur Music, guitarist/bassist Simon Tuozzoli (above, right), who writes most of the band’s mid-70’s Sabbath-infused music, spoke to DoomMetalHeaven…

How would you describe Vestal Claret?
Vestal Claret is occult metal from New England.

How is Vestal Claret different to Seamount and Hour of 13?
Vestal Claret is much darker than Seamount, more obscure than Hour of 13. Phil Swanson ties all three bands together on the vocal front, but the music is coming from three different guys.

What are your plans for the band?
We haven’t talked about it. We’re extremely laid back. If something comes up, we talk about it and decide.

There’s some dark stuff lyrically – why did you want to tackle this? Why the interest in the occult?
Phil grew up in a time where there was a lot of stories about Satanic cults snatching children. He wanted to create a band that was based upon those stories and the mayhem they brought.

How much of the lyrical content is based on real-life experience?
Some of it is based off true stories. The rest I’ll leave to your imagination.

What depresses you?
When work is slow. I run an underground recording studio.

What cheers you up? 
When the work comes in.

What’s the greatest Sabbath song? 
That really depends on the day. But, most days, it’s ‘Spiral Architect’.

Which bands – from any era – would you love to tour with?
Iron Maiden. I’ve heard they are easy to get along with and they would grant us great exposure.

How healthy is the doom scene where you are? 
There is not much doom in Connecticut. The local metal scene is more like the hardcore type of metal. Unfortunately I don’t listen to much, I feel it clouds my writing skills. No disrespect to other composers.

Thanks Simon. Good luck with the new album. 
You’re welcome, thank you.

https://www.facebook.com/VestalClaret

ALBUM REVIEW: Blackwater

blackwater

BLACKWATER
‘Blackwater’
January 2014
7/10

Produced by Eric Wagner (Blackfinger, ex-Trouble), this self-titled album is a really enjoyable way to spend half an hour of your day. Originally formed in 2002, this five-piece doom metal band from the broad corn fields of Bloomington, Illinois (USA) deliver tight, crunching riffs, big solos and choruses that nestle in your head like cuckoos. Mean-looking cuckoos that are likely to kick you in the teeth if you ask them to leave.

On their Facebook page, the band list a vast number of influences, from AC/DC to Venom, and their diverse tastes are reflected in the decision to cover a Judas Priest song (‘Deceiver’) on this release. But primary among their influences, surely, are Trouble and Clutch, whose slow groove and heavy melody shine through for all to see. Singer Mitchell Barnes has a distinctively Wagner-esque pitch to his voice, but it’s not quite as soulful as that of Big Eric and has a throatier edge – as if fellow doom legend Scott Weinrich is trying to join the party too.

Talking of Wino, it is also possible to hear a degree of The Obsessed in the music, as well as early Queens Of the Stone Age and even some Pearl Jam. Blackwater’s frontman Barnes, meanwhile, comes up with some vocal parts that are both creative and original, as well as a few that fall flat. Or possibly fall sharp – there are one or two discordant, fingernail-scraping moments that Wagner himself would be proud of!

Blackwater manage to get through nine songs in just 33 minutes. Not that these compositions seem hurried; nor do they ever go beyond a steady mid-tempo – they just don’t last very long. Some tracks work better than others: for example, ‘Opposite Sides Of Glass’ grows into a mini-classic and the chorus on ‘Killing Fields’ is sure to get the blood pumping. Others, though, follow a well-worn path. The riffs on opening track ‘Final Solution’ or the title track, for example, seem familiar and uninspiring. Wagner’s production is solid if unspectacular – the drums occasionally sound a little thin and at times you find yourself wishing that the album would really come to life. Because when it does, it is great fun.

http://blackwater2.bandcamp.com/album/blackwater

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Mantar

Mantar

MANTAR
‘Death By Burning’
Svart Records, February 2014
9/10

Suddenly, the world slows to a crawl and life’s spotlight focuses in just one place. Mantar’s stunning debut album, ‘Death By Burning’, is one of those albums that instantly grabs your absolute attention and keeps you slack-jawed and engrossed from start to finish.

Merging doom metal with punk and black metal, this energetically sinister duo from Hamburg make a quite astonishing noise. Featuring ‘only’ the strained screams and low-end blasts of vocalist/guitarist Hanno Klanhardt as well as the apocalyptic drumming of Erinc Sakarya, it seems that the bass guitar is forever redundant considering the rich, hot tones that this German/Turkish two-piece are capable of creating.

Once you have recovered from that raw, skin-tingling sensation of discovering something truly original and inspired, you can enjoy 40-plus minutes of crusty, groovy, sludgy, sickly, malevolent brilliance. Mantar are at once beautiful and ugly, both wild and fiercely controlled. Not a single note is wasted on this trimmed, muscular monster, which switches from lumbering to furious with the recklessness of a drunken bear.

While the Melvins and Darkthrone have clearly been influential in the musical schooling of this dangerous duo, there are traces of a myriad other bands. The Obsessed, Motorhead, Possessed, Asphyx, Kreator, Prong, Entombed, Cerebral Fix – every listener will find their own wonderful touch-points without ever being able to accuse Mantar of being at all derivative.

Svart Records have a huge job on their hands handling this beast – Mantar are creating a massive buzz with ‘Death By Burning’ and will be taking their utterly unique brand of doomed metal on the road very soon. All of life has been poured into this album, making it a very special, compelling record – a must-have for 2014.

http://mantar.bandcamp.com/

 

ALBUM REVIEW: April Weeps

April Weeps

APRIL WEEPS
‘Outer Calm, Pain Within’ (2013)
6/10

Creating powerful, atmospheric doom-laden death metal, Slovakia’s April Weeps is a young band that has kept going despite a rather tumultuous history of line-up changes. Featuring excellent musicianship – especially the impressively creative and distinctive keyboard work – April Weeps are thrillingly symphonic one moment and, the next, tumbling into a black pit of misery – such as on ‘Faded Memory’. This is sweeping gothic melodrama that will make your ears bleed.

Things can get slightly frantic in places, as if the band lacks the patience to settle on one idea before moving onto the next, and the result is that an album which could have been both brutal and beautiful sometimes ends up being neither. April Weeps boasts two singers – one growling male, one soaring female – and it is when they work in unison that the band’s sound is the strongest, such as on the crushing ‘Waiting For The Sun’.

Find out more about the band:

https://en-gb.facebook.com/AprilWeeps

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Annimal Machine

Annimal Machine

ANNIMAL MACHINE
‘This Place Where The Dead Speak With The Living’
March 2014
6/10

Hailing from Zapotlan El Grande in Mexico, Annimal Machine’s commitment to the traditions of doom metal is to be applauded. They play it slow, heavy and loud. Their debut album, following on from 2012’s self-titled EP, contains six tracks of soul-rotting doom with a strong stoner flavour and a spoonful of sludge.

The Mexican band refer to themselves as ‘stoner rock’ but in truth they are heavier and more intense than that description suggests, particularly on the sludgy opener ‘War’ and the 16-minute pain marathon ‘Lake Of Oblivion’. Elsewhere, ‘A Fistful Of Dollars’ is enjoyable, straightforward Kyuss-homage, while ‘Lord Of Shadows’ harks back to early Sabbath.

The singer’s gurgling holler lacks variety but is packed with a genuine, convincing passion. Behind him, pummeling repetition, swampy riffs, bulldozer bass, exploding cymbals, and long, plodding compositions. There is nothing especially surprising about ‘This Place…’ and on occasion the long, sustained chords and empty spaces are a little too sparse to maintain much interest.

‘War’, for example, demands a lot of the listener, opening with six minutes of bleak feedback. When the song’s focal riff finally kicks in, your patience is rewarded, but Annimal Machine could do more to keep their audience engaged. The best track on the album is probably ‘Condenados’ which squeezes their intensity and power into a hypnotising, eight-minute stoner anthem.

The great artwork is by Rene Hernandez.

http://annimalmachine.bandcamp.com/