ALBUM REVIEW: Zatokrev ‘Silk Spiders Underwater…’

Zatokrev cover art

ZATOKREV
‘Silk Spiders Underwater…’
Candlelight Records
(Released: April 2015)
7/10

The fourth album from these Swiss sludge sorcerers reflects the band’s increasingly experimental musical and thematic outlook. ‘Silk Spiders Underwater…’ is fiercely uncommercial, but there is plenty to savour amongst its sprawling arrangements, monstrous riffs and gargantuan sound.

On the whole, the songs seem designed to be awkward and angular rather than being sculpted into easily-digested packages of aural perfection. The drawn-out, powerful riffs are tossed around upon a wild ocean of voice samples, swirling guitar effects, clattering drums and raging vocals. Bits of black metal and doom are scattered amongst the psychedelic sludge.

One of the best things about ‘Silk Spiders Underwater…’ is that it is totally unpredictable. Zatokrev manage to capture an untamed and explorative essence on this album unlike anything they have released previously, nodding to Neurosis, Celtic Frost, Godflesh, Gojira, but remaining distinctive.

There’s the moaning drawl of ‘Loom’, a song that edges from hushed apology to blur of noise; the deep, thundering sludge ballad of ‘Brick In The Sky’; the space-sludge misery of ‘Discoloration’. And they save the best till last: the epic, chugging doom of ‘They Stay In Mirrors’ is majestically simple by Zatokrev’s own standards and is the highlight of this fascinating hour-plus of music.

The album is a spider’s web of interwoven concepts, not delicate or pretty, but instead seeking beauty in life’s complexity and chaos. Zatokrev harness their darkest thoughts and ideas with creative openness and no lack of heaviness. There are a handful of uneventful passages dotted throughout ‘Silk Spiders Underwater…’ and it’s an album requiring both open-mindedness and patience. But Zatokrev’s latest release is hugely rewarding for those curious enough to try something a little different.

https://www.facebook.com/ZATOKREV

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REVIEW: Leechfeast / Meth Drinker (Split)

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LEECHFEAST / METH DRINKER
Split 12″
Dry Cough Records / Raw Birth Records
(Released May 2015)
7/10

Listening to Leechfeast is about as much fun as smoking a dog turd: it’s filthy, sickening, abhorrent, inhuman. This offering of slow, down-tuned Slovenian sludge is also gently hypnotising with its turgid tones and solemn vocals. The band’s breathtaking bleakness is kind of beautiful.

And then along come Meth Drinker, and you start reminiscing about that dog turd, thinking maybe it wasn’t so nasty after all. Because Meth Drinker’s input into this split 12″ from Dry Cough is utterly soul-destroying. The New Zealanders’ agonising aural sewage is likely to ruin your day, but equally it might renew your faith in sludge.

It all adds up to an impressively horrendous 20 minutes of musical mutilation and torture. The kind of release that’s probably illegal in some territories for fear of the damage it might do to impressionable young minds. At the very least, this’ll mess up your brain for a little while, leaving you dazed and morose.

Neither of these bands is out to change the world, but they offer a fine example of the power of sludge to emotionally cripple you while painstakingly pummelling your ears into a frothing pulp.

http://drycoughrecords.bigcartel.com

REVIEW: Mist ‘Inan’ EP

MIST-Cover

MIST
‘Inan’ (EP)
Soulseller Records
(Released: May 2015)
7/10

There is something refreshing about Mist. There’s no overbearing agenda, or creative pretensions – this is just great, old-fashioned doom metal. It’s like the last 30 years never happened – maybe in Slovenia they didn’t.

Originally an all-female line-up, Mist now includes a solitary male in lead guitarist Blaz Tansek, who has the look of a guy who knows he’s onto a good thing!

Mist’s uncomplicated songs of lamentation are simple but very effective. Some would call this kind of music timeless, others might less kindly consider it to be tired. We’ll stick with traditional.

Think Coven, Mourn, Left Hand Solution, Trouble, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus… think of a dustier, gloomier, coffin-bound version of Jex Thoth. These four songs represent a gloriously unrefined and unconditional love of the ancient art of doom, unhampered by modern fashions or influences.

The title track is a pleasing chugger, stylish and groovy, with an entertainingly ghostly chorus. After that, ‘Frozen Velvet’ provides a more thoughtful twist, replete with Sabbathian riff and groaning church bell. ‘Under The Night Sky’ harks back to Sacrilege’s ‘Turn Back Trilobyte’ with its gently twisting riffs, although this arrangement does not flow as naturally as the first two offerings. The fourth track, ‘Phobia’, is a re-recording of a song from the band’s repeatedly re-issued and sold-out ‘Demo 2013’, and it’s the least mature sounding on the EP.

Melodic, witch-like vocals interweave with growling riffs and grandiose choruses, although singer Nina Spruk’s higher-register moments can get a little strained. Aside from a few striking guitar solos, Mist rely heavily on plodding intensity rather than variety and it would be great to hear more subtle harmonies or layers that might add depth and character.

There are some very fine moments of originality on Mist’s ‘Inan’, though, ensuring that despite its ancient roots, the EP is as fresh as a spring flower, albeit one that grows from the soil of a decaying grave. This Ljubljana-based quintet deliver a solid balance of unassuming traditional doom and heartfelt emotional catharsis.

https://www.facebook.com/mist.doom

ALBUM REVIEW: Aver ‘Nadir’

Aver Art

AVER
‘Nadir’
(Self-released, March 2015)
6/10

Aver’s super-chilled, sun-kissed classic stoner rock sounds like Acrimony, Pearl Jam and Kyuss enjoying a nice day at the beach, relaxing with a few tinnies and throwing some meaty riffs onto the barbie.

Glib Aussie cliches aside, though, this Sydney crew do it right and they do it well – ‘Nadir’ is packed with blissful tracks that swing from serene to stentorian to spaced-out. It’s half bubbling bong cauldron, half coral reef scuba diving.

This is an album that initially grabs you by the throat with its stoner power, then puts its arm around your shoulders and takes you on a peaceful trip into the dazzling haze. The slow thunder of ‘The Devil’s Medicine’ gets things underway with a bang, and the album gets more and more relaxed as it proceeds.

Some of the later songs to not quite live up to the early promise. ‘Setting Sun’, for example, seems to be building to a glistening crescendo, but simply drifts, unchanging, towards a straightforward finale. A little more ambition could have taken this track skywards. Likewise, the ironically-titled ‘Promised Land’ is something of a bongo-battering acoustic let-down.

But with powerful dynamics and groovy ideas, there are plenty of high points too. The grungy ‘Rising Sun’ is pretty enormous, and the album culminates with the floating psych-fest ‘Waves’ – nine minutes of natural rock featuring some lazily awesome riffs to let yourself drown in.

Throughout, the vocals seem to be at their limit in terms of range and power, but Burdt McGirt delivers an enjoyably ragged balance of melody and rawness behind the mic as he does with his buzz-saw guitar.

Overall, ‘Nadir’ offers an understated interpretation of traditional stoner rock. More variation and boldness might help to transform Aver from stoner dudes to creative pioneers, but for now just settle back and let the warm water tickle your toes. If this is indeed the nadir in the lifetime of Aver, we’re in for an astronomical ride.

https://www.facebook.com/Aver.Band/timeline?ref=page_internal

ALBUM REVIEW: Venus Sleeps ‘Dead Sun Worship’

VenusSleepsCover

VENUS SLEEPS
‘Dead Sun Worship’
(Self-released: March 2015)
8/10

The debut album from Ireland’s Venus Sleeps is a fairly brief but thoroughly loveable release. This Dublin four-piece sounds like Electric Wizard channeling the cosmic spirit of Hawkwind, with healthy helpings of traditional doom and stoner metal.

‘Dead Sun Worship’ is a tale of two distinct halves: the first couple of songs are brilliantly unusual, spaced-out doom misfits, while the final two songs are lumbering skull-crushers. And the two halves are separated by a gently hypnotising cover of Syd Barrett’s ‘Golden Hair’.

Venus Sleeps do not attempt your pummel your psyche into surrender, relying on creativity rather than power. Their songs cleverly twist and swirl whilst rarely losing their beard-trembling momentum or over-stretching into prog territory. There’s loads of spacey swooshing and pedal-based shenanigans throughout, and a droning psychedelic undercurrent that takes your mind to far-flung corners of the galaxy where no light ever reaches.

Opener ‘Ether Sleeper’ is like ‘Crack The Skye’-era Mastodon, with its swirling riffs and intergalactic chorus, while the second track, ‘Dawn Of Nova’ is a similarly quirky take on stoner metal, with heavyweight guitar tones battling against dextrous vocals.

Then comes the second half, and things get slower and heavier. That said, even on these final two arrangements, which see Venus Sleep draw more deeply on a Black Sabbath influence, the yin-yang balance between founder/singer/guitarist Sie Carroll’s triumphantly sorrowful vocal melodies and the band’s bone-crunching amplified thunder helps things to sound dynamic, fresh and, at times, spiritual. These latter compositions might linger too long for their own good, undermining their potency a little, but they’re still damn good.

Awesome artwork, great riffs, massive sound, memorable vocals: ‘Dead Sun Worship’ is an impressive debut album. It’s a vigorous, smart and often highly original take on psychedelic doom metal from an interesting new Irish band. Time to wake up to Venus Sleeps.

http://venussleeps.bandcamp.com

ALBUM REVIEW: Leather Nun America ‘Buddha Knievel’

LeatherNunCover

LEATHER NUN AMERICA
‘Buddha Knievel’
Nine Records
(Released: March 2015)
6/10

Not just Leather Nun, but Leather Nun America. Presumably because somewhere in the multiverse there is another bunch of loons who’ve also deemed it the must-have monicker. At least nobody else came up with ‘Buddha Knievel’ as an album title – and why the hell would they?

Anyway, bewildering names aside, this is a solid trouserful of old-fashioned doomy metal. California’s Leather Nun America blend the streetwise vibe of The Obsessed with the melancholic foot-tapping twang of Spirit Caravan, the dusty pallor of Pentagram and plenty of NWOBHM attitude. Leather Nun America have been around for years, helping to keep the “Maryland” sound alive.

Their fourth album gets started with ‘Into Abyss’, a swirling Sabbathian trip, before ‘Warwolf’ kicks in with some groovy Cirith Ungolian bestiality. Despite a promising start, this track loses its momentum, and the album doesn’t fully recover until later on.

In fact, the album’s final two songs are perhaps the strongest. ‘Winter Kill’ is a dark, emotional and sludge-infused exploration, with John Sarnie at his most Wino-ish behind the mic. And ‘Irish Steel’ is an immense rock rumblathon, not quite as Motorhead-ish as some of the band’s early work, but more like a slightly overweight and depressed Judas Priest.

In the album’s middle section, some of the songs don’t quite get into full flight and leave little impression. Only ‘Barghest’ gets the blood pumping, with its early-QOTSA energy, while the slow, sad parable of ‘Priestess’ is let down by plaintive (and plain silly) lyrics.

‘Buddha Knievel’ is an album of creative highs and lows – but when they hit their stride, Leather Nun America unleash some timeless doom riffs to proudly keep the flame burning.

https://www.facebook.com/leatherNunamerica/timeline?ref=page_internal