ALBUM REVIEW: Heavydeath ‘Eternal Sleepwalker’

Heavydeath

HEAVYDEATH
‘Eternal Sleepwalker’
Svart Records
(Released: March 2015)
9/10

Slower than a mountain and twice as heavy, this Swedish trio deliver immensely powerful death-doom with a hammer in one hand and a scalpel in the other. For all its bone-snapping muscle, ‘Eternal Sleepwalker’ is also sharp, cutting and cruel. This band does not simply want to flatten you like roadkill; they want to scrape you off the tarmac and carve you open.

Recorded in just two days, this raw, rumbling debut is no-frills, testicle-deflating metal of ultimate heaviness. The band unleash a volley of understated, crawling riffs, and with each sickening chord another fragment of your soul breaks off and dies. Even in the bleakest moments of repetition and drone (which come a little too frequently) the energy never wanes, the passion never fades.

Heavydeath show what can be achieved with a solitary, raging guitar and a whole heap of inspiration. And coursing through the veins of the music is a charismatic vocal performance that lifts the songs to heavenly reaches, and the drives them down to hellish shadow. Vocals and guitars both come courtesy of Nicklas Rudolfsson (ex-Runemagick), with Johan Bäckman cracking floors with his bass and Daniel Moilanen beating the holy crap out of his drums.

There is no shortage of originality on display on this album, and Heavydeath wield their weaponry with masterful skill and imagination. This is the album that those excited by the band’s extremely promising 2014 demos had prayed for. Formed in 2009, the Swedish outfit has almost fallen apart a few times through various complications, and they only begin playing live shows this year. But if they can replicate the alluring ugliness of this recording, the gigs should be worth the wait.

Heavydeath have a distinctive sound and capture a unique mood with their music. ‘Eternal Sleepwalker’ is blessed with resounding love and seething hate in equal measure, and quality in abundance.

https://www.facebook.com/heavydeathofficial

http://svartrecords.com/shoppe/

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ALBUM REVIEW: Wardenclyffe ‘Control All Delete’

Wardenclyffe-Cover

WARDENCLYFFE
‘Control All Delete’
Ván Records
(Released: March 2015)
8/10

Wardenclyffe’s supercharged traditional doom metal effortlessly brings in elements of epic doom and death-doom. Lyrically, the Swedish band deals with some fascinating stuff; themes of transhumanism, global control, cybernetics and occultism abound throughout this thoughtfully thundering debut.

Oh, and lots of electricity. Wardenclyffe LOVE electricity. The band is named after the former HQ of Serbian American electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, who was one of the original members of hard rock band AC/DC. Or something. Adding to the intrigue, their 2012 demo, ‘Ordo Ab Chao’, was actually recorded as a soundtrack to a doctoral thesis written by singer/guitarist and band founder Jacob Nordangård, called ‘The Political History Of Biofuels In The European Union’. See? Fascinating stuff.

There may be some curious cerebral themes at play, and song titles such as ‘Externalization Of The Hierarchy’, but, on the other hand, there is also a rumbling dirge called ‘Merchants Of Doom’, demonstrating Wardenclyffe’s solid footing in the timeless ways of doom.

The pace of the album rarely raises above a trundle, but there are fiery passages of chugging death metal, which add a degree of emotional tumult. You can feel the influence of Paradise Lost, Celtic Frost and Samuel in the foundations of Wardenclyffe’s subtle control and quality, while quirky Swiss doomsters Pÿlon also spring to mind.

Generally, ‘Control All Delete’ is elegant if not always enthralling; it’s often more soothing than electrifying. It may occasionally feel slightly one-paced, but there are exquisite solos and admirable guitar dexterity, against a solid four-string counterweight and some wild-eyed skin pummelling.

Melody is lovingly integrated into the miserable morass. Alongside biofuel expert Nordangård, the band was created by guitarist Ola Blomkvist of the brilliant Griftegard, and there are traces here of that band’s gloomily uplifting nature. There are also plenty of genuine surprises along the way.

Wardenclyffe’s debut album is an extremely enjoyable exploration of mind and misery. This is high quality doom metal that honours the past while heading steadfastly into an uncertain future. Are friends electric? Yes they are.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wardenclyffe/465190890185907

REVIEW: Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard ‘Nachthexen’ (EP)

nachthexen

MAMMOTH WEED WIZARD BASTARD
‘Nachthexen’
Released: February 2015
8/10

It’s safe to say that Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard (hereafter referred to as MWWB) do not take themselves too seriously.

“We are the ideal soundtrack to you next intergalactic voyage or black hole exploration,” they announce, warning that while listening to their music “you may have difficulty focusing.”

But the Welsh band’s comical monicker and frivolous stoner patter belie the genuine menace and magnificence of this synth-soaked cosmic doom opus.

‘Nachthexen’ is a 30-minute song of killer psychedelic riffage that draws on the mightiest influences (Sabbath, Sleep, Cathedral) and then launches into outer space like a bong-powered sludge rocket.

During the opening few minutes, otherworldly female vocals decorate the air like intergalactic butterflies, while swirling guitars pummel and pound like the engines of Apollo 11, the bass rumbles like last night’s curry and the drums course like electricity. Too many dumb similes? Who cares, this is awesome!

Despite the band’s light-hearted warning, there is no danger of losing focus while MWWB are doing their stuff. This is a dynamic, relentlessly entertaining riffathon that demands your full attention and maintains it throughout the entire duration of the kaleidoscopic track.

Riff after riff, MWWB’s creative juices explode from the speakers and ‘Nachthexen’ twists, turns, trundles, reinvents, pauses for breath, goes again, generating a phenomenal amount of groove, gravity and cheer enjoyment.

It would’ve been great to have Jessica Balls’s dreamy voice woven through more of the music, but regardless, this is a gem of spaced-out doom metal. The band refers to their tunes as “colossal interstellar arias” and while they might be kidding around, it’s a definition that fits perfectly.

Don’t miss out. Limited magnetic tapes available in the Spring.

https://mammothweedwizardbastard.bandcamp.com

ALBUM REVIEW: Crimson Swan ‘Unlit’

CrimsonSwan-Unlit_Cover

CRIMSON SWAN
‘Unlit’
Quality Steel Records
Released: March 2015
6/10

German band Crimson Swan perform an atmospheric, floating style of death-doom that encompasses the likes of Swallow The Sun, Paradise Lost, Mournful Congregation and Shape Of Despair. From start to finish, ‘Unlit’ offers solid, blissful heaviness, epic and elongated riffs, and rich, soaring melody.

The seething tones of the guitars work well in a delicate balance against the split clean/growled vocals. And solemn synths are an excellent, mournful ever-presence, underpinning and strengthening the band’s overall sound, especially on the glorious ‘Accusations’ and the stunning funeral-doom album closer ‘Voidhaven’.

The first track, ‘Fade To Nothingness’, has great energy and momentum, but is a little safe and familiar. The same can be said of much of the album’s first half, and it is only later on that the quality steel is unleashed.

Crimson Swan sometimes fall prey to the trap of being overly emotive; squeezing in so many heart-wrenching elements that they begin to have the opposite of their desired effect – turning listeners off rather than drawing them in. There is too much flowery poetry, too much ersatz whispering, too much fairytale. Such emotional overload undermines the gravity of the band’s slow, serpentine riffs and their elegiac musicality.

“Staring at a crimson horizon.” (Oh God, he’s whispering again…) “I am draped in a cloak of shadows.” (OK, I’ll put the kettle on…) Sadly, when he’s not employing unnecessarily hushed tones, the singer’s thinly growled vocals are also less than convincing. In fact, he is at his best when simply singing; something that happens too infrequently on this album.

The final two songs are truly gigantic doom opuses, but that’s not quite sufficient to make up for repeated infringements earlier on. Crimson Swan’s ‘Unlit’ is an ambitious debut that has masterful moments, but is blighted by mawkish sentimentalism.

https://www.facebook.com/crimsonswan

ALBUM REVIEW: Garden Of Worm ‘Idle Stones’

garden of worm

GARDEN OF WORM
‘Idle Stones’
Svart Records
(Released: March 2015)
6/10

After their 2010 self-titled debut album – which was an odd but generally engaging twist on traditional doom metal – Finnish trio Garden Of Worm took a few years off to think things through and find their identity. Now they have returned with something even weirder.

Being named after a King Crimson song, it was always apparent that the band had a passion for the progressive, and they have really allowed this element to come to the fore on ‘Idle Stones’, albeit in a slow and solemn kind of way.

Gentle tides of folky prog rock swirl against an understated, hazy doom vibe as Garden Of Worm unfold their minimalist, freeform compositions in a quiet and unhurried manner. Rarely do the guitars make more than a casual growl, and while there are moments of lively retro occult rock, these are fleeting.

There is plenty of quality and imagination on display throughout this four-track album, but the music is a little too jumbled and unstructured to be thoroughly convincing. The songs sound incredibly relaxed and intimate, wandering through mist and magic before circling back on themselves and ultimately gong nowhere in particular. This almost-casual, improvised approach – notably on ‘Summer’s Isle’ – could be either liberating or deeply frustrating, depending on what kind of a day you’re having.

The final track, ‘The Sleeper Including Being Is More Than Life’, hints at the band’s doom metal past with good ol’ church bells and a rumbling intro, but the 20-minute arrangement never really springs into life. The same can be said for the album as a whole: it’s sparse, original and often charming, but lacking in real purpose and energy.

https://www.facebook.com/gardenofworm

ALBUM REVIEW: Crypt Sermon ‘Out Of The Garden’

CryptSermon-Cover

CRYPT SERMON
‘Out Of The Garden’
Dark Descent Records
(Released: March 2015)
9/10

When God created doom metal – on the Eighth Day, after a hearty breakfast – this is surely what He Had in mind. Fans of Candlemass, even those wearying of the seemingly futile search for a band to fill the shoes of the Swedish epic doom legends, should pay attention. As should fans of Dio-era Sabbath – and if neither of the above definitions fits you, you need urgent psychiatric help. This crew, hailing from Philadelphia, a city better known for brotherly love than for glorious doom riffs, could be the answer to a lot of people’s prayers.

A few epic doom bands have flattered to deceive in recent times, with the likes of Below, Sorrows Path, Order Of Israfel and Aeonsgate simply trying too hard. But this is more like it: solid, heavy guitar tones, mountainous bass, hellish drums, dramatic-but-not-ludicrous vocals, top-quality songwriting throughout and big, memorable choruses.

You can feel the care and attention that has gone into crafting these songs, and savour the technically superb musicianship that underpins it all. Vitally, you can also enjoy the band’s innate ability to know when to stop adding, to know when a song is finished. Even the album’s artwork was painted by singer Brooks Wilson; a real labour of love. Having carved their teeth in other doom outfits, the members of Crypt Sermon have honed their skills to perfection. Tracks such as the enormous ‘Byzantium’ showcase a band that knows exactly what it is doing.

Reminiscent of Solitude Aeturnus as well as the scandalously overlooked German band Doomshine and UK metal monsters Age Of Taurus, this is consistently wonderful slowed-down heavy metal of the highest order. Epic doom is a surprisingly difficult trick to pull off, but there are a few bands who have managed to tick all the boxes in recent months. Puerto Rico’s DoomLord and Indianapolis’s Apostle Of Solitude both unveiled awesome albums towards the end of 2014. But Crypt Sermon’s extra class and elegance gives them the edge – just listen to ‘Into The Holy Of Holies’ and you will be utterly won over.

Crypt Sermon are not quite the perfect doom battalion just yet, and there are a few very minor flaws worth mentioning. There’s a slight lack of definition between some tracks, which means the energy level wanes as the album progresses. The hero homage can feel slightly blatant in places (eg. Dio-style “hmms” and “No light in paradise”), although of course it’s easily argued that this is a plus not a minus. The song ‘The Master’s Bouquet’ fades out too soon, while the album’s title track falls uncharacteristically short of brilliant when judged against their own high standards.

Crypt Sermon’s ‘Out Of The Garden’ is a triumphant debut; an album that sits alongside some of the finest recordings from any era of epic doom metal. This is an album you can explore and fall in love with, and an excitingly accomplished new band to keep a very close eye on.

https://www.facebook.com/CryptSermon

http://darkdescentrecords.bandcamp.com/album/out-of-the-garden

ALBUM REVIEW: Lizard Queen ‘Third Eye’

lizard queen

LIZARD QUEEN
‘Third Eye’
(Released: January 2015)
6/10

Italian band Lizard Queen deliver charismatic lo-fi stoner metal, touching upon desert rock in some parts, doom in others and elsewhere sludge. From trippy chanting and droning to full-on rock raucousness, Lizard Queen pack their compositions with intrigue and invention, ebbing and flowing between hard-hitting riffs and dream-like doomy mantras.

This, their second full-length release, is jammed with original and high-quality stuff, but too often it’s about as heavy as an inflatable sparrow on the moon. That’s because the guitar tones sometimes sound thin and lifeless, while the rumbling bass is often too quiet. Which is a real shame, because many of the eleven tracks on offer here would be pretty awesome if they were infused with a bit (lot) more power.

For example: the track ‘Monolith’ features the kind of classic stoner metal riff that you could sit and listen to non-stop for a week. There are some nicely balanced melodic rock vocals on display and, for once, the churning bass guitar is loud and prominent in the mix. But the song struggles to maintain its initial momentum. It’s not helped by the rather stilted drum fills and awkward transitions, but mainly it is undermined by a  slight disengagement or feeling of distance. Similarly, ‘Summer Of The King’ starts off as a swirling, delicately doomed monster, but the lack of depth in the band’s overall sound again proves critical.

Undoubtedly, the quality and creativity is present, and if you’re not looking for really super-heavy stuff, then you’ll be happy enough with this stoner fare. Hypnotising though Lizard Queen are (such as on the great finale ‘Lotus Of Destruction’), it is difficult not to feel that this album is a missed opportunity. Had they been able to capture all their power and commitment into the recording, then ‘Third Eye’ would be a real blast.

https://lizardqueenband.bandcamp.com

ALBUM REVIEW: Cryptrip ‘The Great Magmatic Leviathan’

Cryptrip

CRYPTRIP
‘The Great Magmatic Leviathan’
(Released: January 2015)
8/10

Scientists at the esteemed Italian Space Agency recently noticed a colossal object hurtling towards Earth. The object was moving at an almost impossibly slow pace, and travelling on a direct collision course. In January, it finally landed: Cryptrip’s debut album, ‘The Great Magmatic Leviathan’.

The Italian band, formed in 2012, have a created a slow, sludgy, stoner acid trip that sounds like it emanates from another galaxy. Opening track ‘Mescaline 1: Journey To The Moon Of Xzvarth’ rumbles into existence like an ancient Sabbath demo that’s been drifting around the cosmos for the last 50 years collecting alien dust. Swooshing, kaleidoscopic synths work well in parallel with long, shuddering riffs; dragging you through a swamp of low-end ecstasy.

Despite its basic premise of “slow and sludgy”, this is an album of many highlights and surprises. ‘My Evil Master Of Stone’, for example, is a timeless, thundering doom metal giant. The track gets your pulse racing even though it crawls like a snail. ‘Green Flesh Of Zombie’, meanwhile, sounds like an old Cathedral LP put through a food mixer and then fed to a diseased old goat. Beautiful stuff. There’s an unexpected blast of stoner black metal to kick off ‘Ghost Of The Pale Mountain’ before normal service resumes – elegantly sludgy traditional doom with a stoner twist.

Elsewhere, Cryptrip use layered, echoing vocals to add to the dizzying atmospherics. There are hints of the band’s death-doom roots when the vocal style gets more ragged, although these are not always the album’s most effective sections. Perhaps the cleaner style is better-suited to their dreamy atmospheres and psych influences.

There are a few occasions where this release loses some focus and becomes too simplistic. But generally ‘The Great Magmatic Leviathan’, which was mastered by James Plotkin in the USA, maintains a high level of quality and originality. There is always an underlying groove and energy to the music, and the songs are neatly packaged to ensure things never get repetitive. Cryptrip’s debut album brings personality and atmosphere to the world of sludgy stoner doom, and when it lands it makes an enormous crater in your world.

http://cryptrip1.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cryptrip/450640035000791?sk=timeline&ref=page_internal

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Diesel King ‘Concrete Burial’

diesel king

DIESEL KING
‘Concrete Burial’
When Planets Collide
(Released: February 2015)
7/10

British hardcore-death-sludge heavyweights Diesel King will drown you in decibels. Their full-length debut is loud, abrasive and lots of fun. If “full-length” is even an accurate description. The entire album last for less than 30 minutes, meaning an average song length of around three minutes. Not exactly stereotypical sludge, then. In fact, most sludge bands write riffs that last longer than a whole Diesel King song. Rather, this filthy five-piece play a kind of slow, sludgy death metal interspersed with rabid fast bits. ‘Concrete Burial’ is an extended heart attack, a blur of pain and palpitations.

Throughout this brief blast of doomed bedlam, there are moments of almost-buried groove as well as echoes of the mighty Entombed. Lacking the variety and cutting edge of that great Swedish band, it would not be quite right to christen Diesel King as sludge’n’roll pioneers, but they certainly do things their own way. And while their repertoire is not one of elegant sophistication, they make up for that with low-end madness that’ll turn your bones to jelly, while Mark O’Regan’s wild-eyed, vomiting growl might make you lose hope completely.

The title track is fantastically incessant, as if trying to strip every last drop of meat from your carcass, while songs like ‘Prone To Destroy’ and ‘Horror. Disgust’ are utterly enormous. There are one or two lesser moments, such as the underwhelming ‘Facesplitter’, while the numerous uptempo twists might put off some doom fans. But Diesel King have an aptitude for turning something plain and simple into something crushingly effective. Diesel King’s music is as heavy as a haemorrhage, as painful as a hammer blow to the brain – and their debut album might kill you.

https://www.facebook.com/Dieselkinguk/info?tab=page_info

ALBUM REVIEW: Torpor ‘From Nothing Comes Everything’

torpor

TORPOR
‘From Nothing Comes Everything’
Head Of Crom / Black Bow Records
(Released: February 2015)
7/10

Heavy and honest sludge entrepreneurs Torpor have unveiled a debut album that successfully merges gigantic riffs with bleak post-metal and hints of hardcore. The album’s title may be slightly obvious and its artwork over-designed, but within lurks personality and invention. ‘From Nothing Comes Everything’ is infused with a breathless, dizzying energy that courses through the band’s raging tones, even despite the repeated mood and tempo changes, to ensure that each of the album’s six songs sounds fresh and elemental.

When they hit their stride, Torpor become a fierce, clattering pain machine. The British quartet can flatten cities with their gloriously interweaving guitars, crippling drums and multiple vocal styles. Nowhere is this deadly combination more evident than at the beginning and ending of ‘Surrender To The Light’, although the song’s middle section is a little less exciting. There are many highlights to be discovered on this interesting and sometimes provocative release, including the shuddering heaviness of ‘Abandon’ and the twisting, evil riffs of ‘Everything We Left Behind’.

But where Torpor’s personality really shines through is during the passages where post-hardcore elements fizz and froth to the fore. ‘As Waves Crash’, for example, may temporarily elbow aside the sludgy bleakness, but it is undoubtedly a standout track because it feels new, intense and memorable. Over the last couple of years, Torpor having been doing the rounds with the likes of Conan and Bast, demolishing gloomy venues around the UK. Torpor, thankfully, offer something a little bit different and they have the creativity and quality to stand out. They are not yet consistently distinctive enough to be challenging for the British sludge crown, but ‘From Nothing Comes Everything’ finds a young band exploring new ways to brutalise.

www.facebook.com/torporsound