REVIEW: Lanthanein ‘Nocturnálgica’ (EP)

Self-released 2015

As a sumptuous taster before the Argentine doom metal maestros unveil their debut album, this four-track EP is more than enough to whet your appetite for all things Gothic.

Lanthanein’s wildly dark and dramatic music can be as bewildering as it is beautiful. From the very first moments of opening song ‘Lágrimas De Luna’ – featuring dream-like pianos, church bells, choral backing and thundering guitars – you know that this is going to be as understated as a nuclear war.

The band have a tendency to over-complicate their songs, squeezing a scandalous number of ideas, riffs and changes into every available space. And while this demonstration of relentless creativity is admirable, it does mean that the music is rarely able to settle and flow. When the songs do calm down a little, they can be stunningly effective: for example, the last minute of the title track shows the sheer power of a beautiful voice in combination with straightforward guitars.

Marili Portorrico’s bold, emotional soprano vocals are prominent in the mix and central to the band’s extravagant sound. It could be said that the growled male vocals are underused, but when they do appear they add a gruesome undercurrent and heavy edge.

The orchestration used throughout this EP is ambitious, ornate and textured, although sometimes it jumps from one section to the next as if desperate to get to the end of the song and start the next one. The choral arrangements that the band have created are often stunning, such as on the final track ‘Lacrimosa Et Gementum’. This is a glorious, instantly-loveable song that sounds like Carl Orff on steroids.

‘Nocturnálgica’ showcases Lanthanein’s ability to create numerous spectacular, magic moments of Gothic drama. If they can squeeze this many ideas into an EP, just imagine how action-packed their album is going to be.

ALBUM REVIEW: Vaee Solis ‘Adversarial Light’

‘Adversarial Light’
Signal Rex, August 2015

Vaee Solis warn: “We bow before no-one”. And nor should they, with a killer debut album like this to their name. ‘Adversarial Light’ is elegantly colossal, effortlessly unique, utterly distressing and yet utterly addictive. In short, Vaee Solis are incredible.

The Portuguese band have created six exquisite tracks of raw passion and raging sludge. The snarling guitars possess talons so sharp that they dig into your soul, grabbing your attention with their cruel, grinding riffs, and keeping you hooked for the entire 40-minute adventure. Not burdened with vast amounts of reverberating low-end, Vaee Solis’s music is still seriously heavy.

The violent, black metal-style vocals of Sophia Loureiro surge like poison in your bloodstream. The doe-eyed frontwoman, who also performs with hardcore band Lodge, may look delicate but her bleakly feral shrieking could stop a herd of rampaging buffalo in its tracks. Scary stuff. Sophia’s voice is blissful pain – she spits her blood and wisdom into a blistering sludge-doom hurricane.

And it’s not just the vocals that make this such a memorably malevolent release: the song arrangements are faultless. Tracks lumber along at a slow-ish pace but they never become repetitive or predictable. In fact, they usually grow – patiently, intuitively, naturally – until ultimately they expand into monstrosities of melody and madness. Only the song ‘Feral Isolation’ feels anything less than inspired – it’s a little raw and simplistic, lacking the brilliant energy found elsewhere on the album.

The album was released on cassette in very limited quantities in March, and is now being unleashed on CD format in August before a vinyl version hopefully arrives in a few months. ‘Adversarial Light’ is a fantastic album of ferociously beautiful sludge-doom that deserves to be heard.

ALBUM REVIEW: Witchsorrow ‘No Light, Only Fire’


‘No Light, Only Fire’
Candlelight Records, September 2015

“I’m not a very nice person. I don’t like people. I pretty much hate everything.” These are the inspiring words of Witchsorrow’s universe-despising frontman Necroskull, and his ever-so-slightly negative perspective oozes from the band’s magnificent new album like vomit from a sandwich.

This follow-up to 2012’s excellent ‘God Curse Us’ bursts into life like a flame-hoofed stallion bolting from the devil’s own stables, with a relatively uptempo Doom Metal romp – ‘There Is No Light, There Is Only Fire’ – that puts the focus firmly on the Metal. Thereafter, this gloomy UK trio gets back to more familiar territory, with elegantly plodding riffs and graceful, majestic choruses.

‘The Martyr’ is a fine example of gold standard doom – slow, simple and sublime. It sounds like a mouldy, British version of classic Saint Vitus, not only because of its intoxicating subtlety, melody and quality but also in the snarl and bite that is reminiscent of the LA doom legends. The gleeful guitar solos on ‘Made Of The Void’ and ‘Negative Utopia’ evoke none other than Dave Chandler himself in their impassioned misery. This is good stuff.

Witchsorrow have upped their game since their highly-acclaimed 2012 debut, incorporating greater energy and variety into their music while maintaining the shuddering heaviness that has reduced countless British venues to rubble in recent years.

The band’s increasing army of supporters will soon be earning a new kind of headache thanks to the instant hits to be found here. Another standout track, ‘To The Gallows’, even received some airplay on BBC Radio recently, suggesting that this understated, traditional doom metal outfit are getting some well-deserved attention.

Even as the songs effortlessly ebb and flow, there’s a raw, stark hopelessness pervading the album. It’s the kind of inspired, whole-hearted hopelessness that ensures Necroskull and his black-clad cohorts do not descend into stupefied apathy or depression. After all, it is in the deepest, darkest mines that the brightest diamonds are found. Witchsorrow’s ‘No Light, Only Fire’ is a gem of an album, and a monument to the finest traditions of doom metal.

ALBUM REVIEW: Angakok (Self-titled)

Satanath Records (June 2015)

This Belgian trio have developed their brand of drone-sludge in two directions simultaneously, evolving a curious, experimental side while also achieving intense levels of ferocity. It is a balancing act that they pull off brilliantly in places, with the ensuing chaos sounding like the gates of hell about to burst open. But elsewhere this self-titled debut album feels a little uncertain.

After a droning intro track, ‘Sacrifice’ hits like a fist of misery: at first, it is simple and extremely effective, but later on the song explodes into life with some spectacular drumming (a noteworthy aspect of the album) and a searing stylistic shift. It sounds like a deranged artist tearing apart his beloved masterpiece in a fit of emotional meltdown.

Next up is ‘Collapsing’, which begins at a similarly slow, plodding pace. But we know from the previous track that we should expect the unexpected, and so we wait for an emotional twist… which sadly does not appear. This track does not quite deliver the same impact, and it’s difficult not to feel a little let down.

‘Samsara’ gets the energy levels back up before descending into more drifting drone, and then a couple of strange, short songs flash by like ugly swallows promising summer. Keeping things more focused is the mighty ‘Trust My Scorn’, a wonderful slab of seething anguish that showcases the band at their best.

Angakok’s straightforward, minimalistic riffs are a plain canvas onto which these lords of Liege band adds broad brushstrokes of blood-red pain and suffering. Their debut album is a mix of formulaic, droning sludge, extended samples that sometimes make you feel like you’re listening to the music with the TV on at the same time, and raucous, stentorian distortion. The moments of wonder are scattered.