Great psychedelic stoner doom from Norwayland – album coming in September.
SHRINE OF THE SERPENT
‘Shrine Of The Serpent’
Materia Prima Records / Parasitic Records (April 2015)
Can you imagine Entombed playing Solitude Aeturnus songs? Well, imagine no longer, because Shrine Of The Serpent have made the theory a beautiful reality. Hailing from Oregon, USA, this misery-loving trio have unveiled a high-quality debut that will appeal to fans of the guttural as well as the epic.
This three-track, 30-minute EP will carve you up while it caresses you. Its atmospheric death-doom marries glowering menace and rasping growls with heartfelt eloquence and grace. Trudging along at a respectable pace, Shrine Of The Serpent choose emotional maturity over the pursuit of extremity – this music is heavy without trying to destroy your skull, it is evil without resorting to cliche, and it’s lachrymose without melodrama.
Featuring members of Aldebaran, Tenspeed Warlock and Roanoake, Shrine Of The Serpent are undoubtedly well-versed in the ways of doom, from the filthy to the grandiose. There is a bit of a tug-of-war between these two opposing elements throughout the EP, as if the band is yet to settle on its preferred direction. That said, they pull it off with impressive ease, wrapping you in their world of hurt and holding tight.
‘A Feast Of Virgin Souls’
Razorback Records (March 2015)
The Kentucky duo of Vanessa Nocera (vocals, bass and label owner) and Willie Wardlaw (guitars, drums) have concocted a spectacular vampire-doom epic that brings together elements of King Diamond (musically and in terms of storytelling) and Candlemass – before pouring a huge vat of blood over everything.
This gloriously forthright concept album is inspired by the story of Countess Bathory (who famously bathed in the red stuff while she was busy inventing black metal, or something) and tells the tale of two female vampires battling against a possessed butcher. The tale picks up where the last song from Wooden Stake’s debut album left off, which is a pleasing bit of continuity, especially considering that Wardlaw has joined up since that 2012 release and has written most of the material on offer here.
Talking of black metal, Nocera adopts a demonic, blackened style in addition to her bombastic clean singing, adding a depth and more than a degree of horror to the album. Her fantastic vocal range is one of the band’s defining features, and helps to flip the story between sections and moods.
If there is a complaint (and there’s always a complaint) it’s that the songs have a tendency to rush past the best bits! This means that while all of the ten tracks have plenty of hard-hitting riffs and musical dexterity, it can be difficult to pinpoint each song’s distinct personality within the overall body of the narrative.
With highlights including ‘Cross-Scalded Flesh’ – a masterful demonstration of the band’s talent and artistic ambition – and the instantly loveable title track, this album provides 40-plus minutes of silk-lined, dark doom with plenty of grim charisma, NWOBHM power-play and snarling, blood-soaked fury throughout.
Undergroove Records, May 2015
‘Defacer’ is a mighty battering ram of an album – it’ll smash your day to pieces. Delightfully downtrodden and unrelentingly heavy, sludge maestros Hogslayer revel and writhe in their own personal hell (aka Cardiff) and their pain is our gain.
The songs on the band’s second full-length release are punchy, original, purposeful and scalpel-sharp. We’re not talking about Katy Perry-style catchiness here, but there is a degree of accessibility that allows ‘Defacer’ to burrow into the warm folds of your brain and make itself at home there. The tracks do not outstay their welcome and are crafted into neat, five-minute fireworks – without losing any of their ferocity.
Let’s face it, sludge can be a little tedious. In the wrong hands, this subtle art form can morph into a one-idea borefest of lifeless misery. In the hands of experts such as Hogslayer, though, sludge is an immensely powerful weapon. In fact, this Welsh quintet take the staples of this bone-crushing genre (long, drawn-out riffs that’d cripple a horny hippo and raw, raging vocals that take you to the darkest of dark places) and make it all seem kind of… fun.
Shuddering, reverb-bathed guitars obliterate everything in their path, while Lord Bastard’s vocals are sheer, manic despair and the production seems intent on destroying your speakers with bottom-end heaviness. Take Khanate and Eyehategod and sprinkle on some grey Welsh drizzle and this is the dire consequence. ‘Defacer’ should come with a health warning.
HUNDRED HEADLESS HORSEMEN
‘Hundred Headless Horsemen’
Self-released, April 2015
Written in a dark room during a 2014 Helsinki heatwave, Hundred Headless Horsemen (HHH)’s debut release is a sludgy, psychedelic and ragged exploration of Scandinavian gloom and despair. Packed with thundering death metal elements, including plenty of up-tempo sections, these four tracks capture a band in the heat of the moment – not only did they record everything together live, but HHH also insisted on no edits or overdubs, preferring to keep the original energy of the recording intact.
This EP represents the raw, unfiltered flow of the Finnish quartet’s combined subconscious. As a result, perhaps, there are a few occasions where the music departs on odd, unnecessary tangents, thereby losing its impetus, or switches between styles with little warning, one moment trudging a steaming swamp, the next launching into melodious hooks. But the sheer energy of the recording makes up for any such confusion, and you are left with HHH’s raging bedlam echoing in your ears.
Totem Cat Records (April 2015)
Montreal’s finest sludge machine has churned up another blast of swampy menace, creating a top-notch album packed with the kind of mind-chewing, heavyweight crust-blues that have become their trademark.
Gargantuan riffs, filled with stoner glee and booze-fuelled rage, are blasted out by guitars so distorted that they are barely guitars anymore. Singer Vincent roars and gurgles about drugs and demons like a man possessed / caught in possession.
Hailing from Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, one of Montreal’s poorest areas, Dopethrone pour raw grit and heart into their music. Their dirty, NOLA-esque doom groove and lumbering stoner riffs are immensely powerful.
Not merely Electric Wizard wannabes, they have proven repeatedly to be outstanding composers in their own right and this album is another consistent and convincing showcase for their great talents. ‘Hochelaga’ is the band’s fourth album in just six years – time flies when you’re having fun, and Dopethrone are clearly enjoying themselves.
There aren’t too many surprises along the way, but every song hits hard, elbowing its way past the previous one to force its pounding misery into your face. And they just keep coming. Listening to ‘Hochelaga’ is like drowning in maple syrup – delicious, inevitable, deadly.
Helmet Lady Records (Summer 2015)
Every day, we puny humans face the empty quandary of existence. Saturndust reflect this daily toil through their brand of blazing space-doom. The Brazilian band’s debut album hits like an asteroid to the forehead – a slowly swirling mix of bone-snapping guitar tones, explosive drumming, spacey swooshes and sludgy, sorrow-infused riffs and solos. Jangling melodies sparkle briefly and die like fading stars in the darkness.
The album consists of six atmospheric explorations of distant celestial bodies, each representing humanity’s insignificance in the face of endless emptiness. This Sao Paulo crew find a great balance between bleak melancholy (echoing the peaceful vacuum of space / life) and cruel, carcass-pummeling riffage that slams you back to Earth with a thud.
This intergalactic mission has a tendency to drift off-course occasionally, such as on the track ‘Hyperion’ which opens with all the fury of a Cape Canaveral launch but then fades away into a kind of psychedelic oblivion. Other passages feel slightly disordered and uncertain. Meanwhile, the intonation of the rough-hewn and agonised vocals can be slightly distracting in places.
‘Saturndust’ is a heavy and compelling album of raw, space-themed misery that sets out to take you on a journey to somewhere spectacular…. but this is no fun family holiday. Strap yourself in and enjoy the intergalactic flight.
Self-released, March 2015
Kroh are like a Brummie version of Avatarium – female-fronted doom rock with a taste for big, regal riffs and shifting dynamics. Add in a bit of Alunah-style British thunder and you have the makings of some deeply enjoyable stuff.
Kroh started out in 2011, but fell apart in 2012. That’s until original founder Paul Kenney got together with ex-Moghul drummer Tom Woods and ex-Mistress bass player Darren Donovan in late 2014 to resuscitate the old Kroh songs and write some new, doomier material.
So here we are: two tracks, one old and rumbling (‘Heaving Earth’) and one new and snarling (‘Precious Bones’). Both songs show that the band is back on track, with the line-up enhanced by the addition of 20-year-old Polish singer Oliwia Sobieszek, whose gloomy tones and melodies add a hint of witchery to the doomy brew.