ALBUM REVIEW: Mesmur ‘Mesmur’


Released: December 2014

Mesmur do not want to entertain you, they want to punish you. Perversely, this American band’s dedication to suffering is extremely satisfying – they are experts in pain. The opening track begins with what sounds like a dentist’s drill whirring behind slow, evil guitars and foreboding drums. From that point onwards, you are in a world of hurt.

Fans of Evoken or Mar de Grises will find plenty to admire in Mesmur’s excellent self-titled debut, but this North Carolina outfit add their own distinctive personality to the funeral doom genre with some impressive flourishes. Unlike some funeral bands, this album does not take the best part of a month to get through – the five songs are over in around 50 minutes. And yet Mesmur never rush; they allow their music to breathe and grow like death in a petri dish.

This is misery on a grand scale. Searing, feral lead guitars duel and writhe against a backdrop of four-stringed torture, while Chris G (Orphans Of Dusk) unleashes his pleasingly hot-blooded growl over fascinating drum patterns. And, throughout, the synth work of guitarist/songwriter Yixya (also of progressive black metal loons Dalla Nebbia), are blissfully sinister enough to freeze the red stuff in your veins.

The songs do not abandon you to darkness entirely – they twist and chug, explode and explore, constantly finding new ways to release the band’s fire-eyed demons. From the agonised, creeping death metal of ‘Lapse’ – a song that overextends a little (these funeral dudes have a tendency to over-indulge, y’know) – to the bleakness of the 12-minute ‘Abnegate’, a crawling, standard epic that does not quite showcase the full scope of the band’s talents, this is an album of intensity and curiosity. The devil is in the details.

‘Mesmur’ is a high-quality doom metal release that welcomes you to a secret world of torment and makes you feel right at home. Packed with seething darkness and beautiful keyboards – and featuring the kind of awesome artwork that you can savour while the music unfolds – it comes highly recommended.


REVIEW: Gévaudan ‘Message For The Damned’ (EP)


‘Message For The Damned’
Released: December 2014

UK band Gévaudan were formed in 2013 and this three-track EP is their first release. A very impressive debut it is too, with some fanciful and melodic embellishments upon the heavyweight stoner theme.

Influenced by Goatsnake and Electric Wizard, they unleash substantial stoner riffs with an electrifying modern edge. With rich, warm, thundering tones, they lovingly embrace the finest aspects of traditional doom, but update and invigorate them with their own personality.

This is not mere bong-eyed stoner drifting, there is a depth and vitality to the playing. The combination of vintage and vitriol makes for a great listen: fun, disarming, entertaining and splendiferously heavy. There are subtle hints of Nemesis/early Candlemass, but Gévaudan never really touch upon the epic side, preferring to pulverise rather than wail.

Adam Pirmohead’s clean vocals are pure and arresting, and he mixes it up with some incongruous and unnecessary growling, presumably in a bid to keep things interesting. However, the level of violence that such vocal diversions provides is a little at odds with the band’s animated take on the stoner genre and their stomping, Kyuss-like vibe.

Similarly, perhaps while pushing too hard to squeeze numerous elements into their compositions, the raging, spoken-word passage on the Mage-like title track is over-egged and the song loses its focus. It is admirable that these Brits are keen to instinctively follow their creative flights of fancy, but not all of them work perfectly.

Gévaudan are a band willing and able to explore new nooks and crannies in the crowded stoner doom scene. Should they avoid the omnipresent spectre of Sabbath replication, to which they occasionally succumb, and cut out the unnecessary bits, this young band could create something special.

ALBUM REVIEW: Gallileous ‘Voodoom Protonauts’


‘Voodoom Protonauts’
Epidemie Records (2014)

This Polish space-doom album is a sometimes chaotic meeting of muscle, melody and madness. With its hard-rockin’, organ-driven progressive undertones, it’s a very different proposition to the music Gallileous once created.

Way back in 1992, the band unveiled a demo of raw, shuddering funeral doom called ‘Doomsday’. Since then, they have endured more than their fair share of personal tragedy, but, having reformed in 2006 with a new, blossoming stoner-ish vibe, the modern version of Gallileous focuses on chunky riffs rather than the bleak, anguished aggression of their past.

Having faced loss and grief, maybe they are now at one with the universe, finding solace in the endless mysteries of space. ‘Voodoom Protonauts’ certainly harks back to the likes of Hawkwind or Deep Purple, as well as the energy and atmosphere of a Kadaver recording.

The album’s solid production helps to naturally bring together the various complementary elements: the sturdy guitars, gleefully reverberating bass and clattering drumwork.

Some of the song arrangements feel slightly jumbled – there are numerous moments of brilliance, but they are not always explored to their full potential. Similarly, the vocals can be indistinct and meandering, lacking real power or precision. These two issues results in an album that is frustrating in places, but excellent in others.

The song ‘The Green Fairy’ is one of the standout moments; an uncomplicated and wholly entertaining composition with a catchy riff, sense of humour and resounding personality. The momentum builds, the music develops with tension and excitement and the song finishes on a high. Elsewhere, ‘Brand New Cosmos’ is a mesmerising intergalactic mantra, but the adventure loses some of its appeal as the song progresses.

‘Voodoom Protonauts’ has plenty of great moments, and is packed with impressive, creative space-doom. But it’s difficult to figure where some of the songs are supposed to be taking you. Maybe that’s the problem with launching into the unknown abyss of space – you never quite know where you’ll end up.

REVIEW: Schweinsteiger (Self-titled EP)


Self-titled EP
Released: November 2014

This is sludgy, crawling, puked-up doom metal from Eindhoven, Holland, with hints of black metal in the vocal delivery and a shades of slow, old-school death in the chugging guitars.

Schweinsteiger are stylish and compelling, but too often the three songs on this EP rely on those familiar tactics of ‘sustain’ and ‘repeat’. They are undeniably and furiously bleak, but are not engaging enough to take the listener along for a fully-immersive ride into the soul of the songwriters.

The final track, ‘Waterbound’, is the most consistent and powerful of the three, rising and falling with admirable control, before reaching a simple but synapse-snapping finale.

The choice of Schweinsteiger as a band name is intriguing. The swaggering soccer star Bastian Schweinsteiger plays for Holland’s bitterest rivals Germany, suggesting a rather hateful and anguished frame of mind from this Dutch outfit.

The world champion midfield player is not known for his pace (a perfect match for this kind of music), but he has the intelligence, skill and elegance to thrive at the highest level of the sport. The band that shares his name is not quite of the same class, but they show glimpses of a winning mentality. They are perhaps more of a Per Mertesacker (Germany/Arsenal FC defender). He is big and powerful, but takes an aeon to change direction.

This self-titled EP from the Dutch band creates a solid but unspectacular framework of slowly rotting doom metal. If they are to emulate their decorated namesake, they might need to show a little more self-belief and push their creative abilities to the maximum.

ALBUM REVIEW: Sorrows Path ‘Doom Philosophy’

Sorrows Path

‘Doom Philosophy’
Iron Shield Records (2014)

This fascinating Greek band was founded back in 1993, inspired by prominent contemporaries such as Solitude Aeturnus and Momento Mori.

More than 20 years later, they have stayed true to the spirit of that heady time, creating deeply personal, individual music that is both heavy and emotional. It veers into glorious power metal at times, even touching upon prog-metal, but always returns to the warm bosom of doom; the eternal caress of woe.

It is clear that Sorrows Path have poured their hearts and souls into this bold, creative recording, which pushes the boundaries of what is possible within the much-derided epic doom genre. Keyboards expertly and tastefully complement the nerve-shredding riffs, and the synthesised support reaches epic proportions on the spectacular ‘Epoasis’.

But elsewhere, in their quest to push the album’s emotional scope, Sorrows Path include ideas that do not always work so well. The ghostly voice that appears on ‘A Dance With The Dead’ and ‘Everything Can Change’, for example, is intended to be evocative and sinister, but ends up sounding almost comically spooky, like a Scooby Doom soundtrack.

That aside, this is a seriously good album. Guests musicians include Snowy Shaw (ex-Momento Mori, King Diamond) and Edgar Rivera (Solitude Aeturnus), and that provenance is testimony to the band’s timeless devotion to the school of epic doom. Angelos Ioannidis’s vocals range from the delicate to the theatrical, his personality shining through as his voice soars and shrinks.

Since reforming in the mid-2000s, Sorrows Path have established a solid reputation for quirky and coercive doom that nods to the past but also boldly strides towards the future. The songs are packed with original, dramatic concepts, and even though these are sometimes tacked together in a way that makes the arrangements seem hurried and impatient, there is an underlying sophistication to the music, as well as undoubted technical excellence.

‘Doom Philosophy’ is not Sorrows Path’s grand opus – the Greek band’s masterwork is yet to come – but it’s a brave and accomplished step towards immortality.

ALBUM REVIEW: Cosmic Plunge ‘Wanderers On The Face Of The Earth’

Cosmic Plunge

‘Wanderers On The Face Of The Earth’
(Released November 2014)

A note to all Promoters, Venues and Doom Fans: Beware!

When groovy Greek stoner leviathans Cosmic Plunge play live, the ground will shake and buildings might collapse. Look what happened at their previous show…

You've Been Plunged

This band from Crete create riffs of immense proportions and play them with strings so low you could use their guitars as skipping ropes. ‘Wanderers On The Face Of The Earth’ consists of seven monstrous tracks of joyous, effortless, rumbling stoner majesty taken from the vault marked “timeless”.

It’s an album of slow, enjoyable Sabbathian groove; in fact, this is probably what Geezer Butler’s dreams sound like. The songwriting is, like the tunes themselves, solid as an ox, and despite the generally pedestrian pace, the album charges along with a resolute energy that is expertly controlled and focused throughout, despite its title.

The bassist calls himself ‘Fucking Wizard’, so it’s probably wise not to spend too much time with him. However, the bone-snapping, atomic-bomb power emanating from his four-stringed doom machine is integral to the ferocious heaviness of the band.

In a genre where Tone is king (guitar tone, that is, not Mr Iommi), twiddling the knobs on your amps to find a killer combination can be half the battle won. Cosmic Plunge have created a winning sound that, while not exactly original, is catastrophically heavy to the point of ecstasy.

It’s not all about knobs, of course. Vocals come from the more sensibly-monickered ‘Jim’, whose singing is original and idiosyncratic, although some of his stylings become a tiny bit repetitive as the album wears on. There are also some beautifully insane lyrics to behold: “Doom, the ship was called. Mad sailors who sail to the edge of the world. There’s a witch weaving alone. Evil mermaid will rest your soul.”

Cosmic Plunge possess all the tools for the creation of thundering, lumbering doom, although they rarely push themselves very far from the basic template. It’s an approach that results in a hugely consistent release which is generally safe and unchallenging – it would be great to see what these guys can do when they really spread their wings.

While they remain primarily guided by the rusty train tracks of classic stoner doom, Cosmic Plunge throw around more than a few new ideas to keep things interesting. ‘Wanderers On The Face Of The Earth’ is a great addition to the stoner hall of fame, keeping the flame burning with unerring faith, passion and enough power to flatten the Parthenon.

ALBUM REVIEW: Hooded Menace ‘Gloom Immemorial’

Gloom Immemorial

‘Gloom Immemorial’
Doomentia Records
(Released December 2014)

‘Gloom Immemorial’ is a compilation of bits and pieces from the superior Finnish death-doom giant Hooded Menace’s seven-year history. It’s a very satisfying collectors’ item, featuring rare and filthy gems dating back to the band’s 2007 demo and including stuff from the 2012 EP ‘Effigies Of Evil’, as well as splits with Asphyx, Coffins, Loss and many more.

In total, you get your doom-hungry hands on 11 excellent tracks spanning around 76 minutes and four different band line-ups. The songs flit between a kind of trundling, leprous Cathedral style to soporific, rotten death in the vein of Autopsy.

Bruising tones, crawling anguish, melodic leads, mid-paced groove, volcanic vocals… Hooded Menace are like some horrendous hybrid of Dismember and Candlemass.

Some songs work better than others; the opening two songs, taken from the demo, seem a little raw compared to more recent compositions, while one or two other tracks wander off-course slightly. But the slow, twisted riffs keep coming like a relentless plague.

Hooded Menace are heavy and dark, but also inventive and fiercely determined songwriters, dancing on your skull like doom-jesters and grinding your soul into dust. Songs such as ‘Abode Of The Grotesque’ and ‘I, Devil Master’ showcase the band’s ability to combine originality with unfeasible power.

As well as new, typically cheery visuals courtesy of Misanthropic Art, the CD comes with original artwork from the previous releases too. All of which makes this the perfect gift for any doom metal fan, to ensure a truly miserable Christmas.

REVIEW: Apneica ‘Pulsazioni… Conversione’ (EP)


‘Pulsazioni… Conversione’
(Released August 2014)

Italians Apneica concoct a unique brand of experimental, death-doom tinged melancholy. Amidst the grey clouds of jangling guitar tones and gently caressed cymbals, wild flashes of colour appear from nowhere, and black thunder explodes. ‘Pulsazioni… Conversione’ depicts an incongruous combination of meandering doom-rock and floor-cracking ferocity. Extreme-Lite is a very difficult trick to pull off, but Apneica make a worthy effort.

Apneica is the brainchild of Alessandro Seghene, whose screaming vocals are countered impressively with gently melodic Italian-language clean singing. There are numerous transitions between the two sides of the band’s personality, but they are not always smooth. In fact, the sudden changes of emotional direction are so frequent that they quickly become unsurprising.

The song structures and arrangements could be better-managed to allow the undoubted creativity a more secure platform upon which to shine. Too often, the band’s impulsive approach to songwriting is a distraction – too many changes, not enough direction.

This four-song debut EP was recorded in Sardinia, mixed in Sweden and is now baffling / enthralling heavy music fans the world over. It is effervescent and energised, but its volatility never quite spills into something dangerous. Though not especially heavy, there is a pleasing depth and inventiveness to the music, though – particularly on ‘In Orbita’, the most complete and satisfying track on offer, and one which is guaranteed to get heads nodding.

‘Pulsazioni… Conversione’ is an intriguing release that flashes between a myriad emotions to create an atmosphere of bewilderment and frustration.

ALBUM REVIEW: Aphonic Threnody ‘When Death Comes’

aphonic threnody

‘When Death Comes’
Doomentia Records
Released: December 2014

Slow, bleak and occasionally spectacular, Aphonic Threnody’s debut full-length release ‘When Death Comes’ is a muscular chunk of lumbering funeral doom. Relentlessness might be the album’s primary weapon, but there are also moments of high drama and delightful instrumentation.

Fans of the genre might consider ‘When Death Comes’ to be a quintessential example of hypnotising quality, while doubters might suggest that it’s a somewhat long-winded misery-orgy. True, there are passages where the chord progressions are a bit simplistic and the music doesn’t try very hard to impress (such as on the largely uneventful ‘Death Obsession’). But elsewhere there is subtlety and sophistication, and it’s all delivered with impeccable style and elegance.

Aphonic Threnody (roughly: voiceless lamentation) were formed in 2012 by Riccardo Veronese of UK doom torturers Gallow God. Following a demo and two splits, ‘When Death Comes’ is an impressively global collaboration, featuring musicians from across Europe and prestigious guests from top doom outfits such as Esoteric and Shape Of Despair. Despite the distance between band members, the recordings sound tight and together, and the songs maintain a high level of energy, aided by solid production.

Aphonic Threnody decorate their mournful death/doom with gently-tickled keyboards and lovingly-caressed cellos. There are epic undertones and hints of majesty throughout the album, although they are rarely explored to the full. The vocal melodies, too, initially promise to be intriguing but for the most part are merely touched upon.

With five songs, each measuring approximately a month, there are plenty of opportunities for creativity to glow through. The well-judged moments of quietude that appear throughout ‘The Children’s Sleep’, for example, demonstrate the band’s ability to create layers of aural emotion, while ‘Dementia’ is a (comparatively) frisky composition that injects life into the slow, deathly parade. The final track wraps it up perfectly: unhurried, regal, classic funeral doom that gives voice to the endless sorrows of life.

REVIEW: Gale ‘Vol.1’ (EP)


‘Vol. 1’
Self-released October 2014

If a gale is an unstoppable force of nature that wants to smash you into the mud and destroy your world, then this Phoenix, Arizona band could not be better-named. Recorded live (almost in one take only), there is a pleasingly natural-sounding unity and dynamism to Gale’s debut release.

The amplified drums are deranged and animated, the shuddering bass gets geiger counters flickering across the land, and the two guitarists brew up a wild, forbidding storm. Together, they deliver twisted riffs that are both powerful and controlled. All four members contribute vocally, and while the fleeting clean vocals could be stronger, they do add a hint of delicate melody to temper the growling fury.

This young band has concocted five sludgy, YOB-like tracks that rarely sound anything other than original, gutsy and sharp as a madman’s axe. Gale are undoubtedly intense, but they use their extremity wisely, never pushing towards tedium or mindless heaviness. The thoughtfully-composed songs grow and beguile as much as they batter and blast.

Gale’s ‘Vol. 1’ is an intelligent and well-judged debut that reveals an exciting young band full of ideas. If this is the calm before the storm, then 2015 could be one hell of a year.