REVIEW: Ex People ‘Loss’ (EP)


EX PEOPLE
‘Loss’
Released: May 2015
8/10

Throw the Melvins, L7 and Alunah into a food mixer and then gulp down the delicious results. Ex People’s elegant mix of electronic noise and waspish, sludgy riffs is brilliantly purposeful and thoughtful.

If listening to fellow Brits Alunah is like hugging a mushroom while wearing a velvet cape, then the Ex People experience is akin to gnawing the rust from a long-abandoned office chair while drinking rum. The three-track debut EP from these lo-fi Londoners is simple, nasty and bleak – and yet clearly lovingly assembled. It is understated and accessible without ever relinquishing its stark originality.

A slow, relentless groove underpins the band’s fresh and modern take on doom metal. Gorgeous female vocals, replete with engaging lyrics and loveable choruses, drift over the top of fuzzy guitars that corkscrew into your brain, never more so than on the opening track ‘The Erlenmeyer Flask’ (everyone’s favourite flask, right?).

Middle child of the trio ‘Jersey Devil’ sounds like early Sinead O’Connor doing the nasty with The Obsessed, with a dandruff-like sprinkling of Nirvana at their heaviest and most dejected. The song drifts off a bit towards the end, while the vocals lose some of their earlier authority, but this remains some cool and fascinating stuff. Finally, ‘Pilot’ sounds the most “occult” of the three songs, initially pretty repetitive but hypnotising and developing into a curiously satisfying dirge.

This EP is a gut-busting kangaroo kick of lucid, expressive and effortlessly effective new doom. Hopefully, Ex People retain their blissfully unsullied candour during a long and miserable career.

Advertisements

REVIEW: Grey Skies Fallen ‘Earthwalker’ (promo)


GREY SKIES FALLEN
‘Earthwalker’
July 2015
7/10

The long-established New York doom outfit have provided this free, two-track download as a teaser before the release of a new album later in the year. Recording was started in September 2014, but a fire at NY’s Audio Playground halted production for a while. It’s definitely been worth the wait.

The title track is a marvellous example of twisted prog-doom, providing a gloomily intriguing platform for the keyboard-tickling skills of Craig Rossi. Thanks to his fancy swooshing, as well as an epic vocal performance, this bold and intense song becomes a potent mix of Amorphis, Candlemass and slithering Asphyx-style death.

The second track is a little more hit-and-miss, lacking the focus and power of its partner in slime. But this little teaser features some intoxicating stuff, suggesting that the next album from these grizzled US misery veterans should be a blast.

ALBUM REVIEW: Seamount ‘Nitro Jesus’

Seamount Cover

SEAMOUNT
‘Nitro Jesus’
The Church Within Records, October 2015
6/10

Seamount are a bewildering proposition. At various points during this, the band’s fifth studio album, you get melancholic AC/DC (‘Beautiful Sadness’), bouncy 80’s soft rock (‘No One Knows’) and random punk-lite (‘In The End’).

The album kicks off like a mid-80s Black Sabbath, with a dollop of Judas Priest, and it seems immediately clear that Seamount, three years after the oddity of the ‘Earthmother’ album, are returning to their roots – namely: melodic, classic doom rock. ‘Can’t Escape the Pain’ ups the doom dosage, with a little Danzig-style drama for show. And then, proving that guitarist Tim Schmidt has lost none of his ability to concoct powerful riffs, the title track is a right hook of raucous stoner metal.

Things seem to be going in the right direction. And they get better still. Despite the overt sentimentality of its title, the song ‘Scars Of The Emotional Stuntman’ possesses musical subtlety and dexterity, drawing upon The Obsessed to re-establish that typical Seamount sound, if such a thing truly exists.

But just when the doom is beginning to take hold, there is a problem. ‘Hold Up The Sun’ is a hateful, cloying brain-fart of a love song. It’s like watching someone with a mental disorder being mocked on a TV talent show.

Life with Seamount is never dull, and even when you stumble across a song that you think simply doesn’t work, you know that there’s gong to be another twist around the corner. And so it is that the groovy hooks of ‘Bulletproof’ try to get the album back on track, but the damage has been done.

The second half of the album trundles onwards, pretending nothing happened… but it did happen, and in truth there are other sections on ‘Nitro Jesus’ that fall short of excellent, from the plaintive vocals of Phil Swanson to the heart-on-sleeve confessional lyrics to the occasional so-so riff. The good outweighs the dodgy, but it’s hard not to be distracted.

ALBUM REVIEW: Carma ‘Carma’


CARMA
‘Carma’
Labyrinth / Altare Productions, October 2015
7/10

Carma – hailing from Coimbra in Portugal – create a combination of prickly funeral doom and dark ambient atmospherics. Listening to this self-titled album is like crawling through cold mud and barbed wire towards a hidden destiny – suffering is all around and there’s unlikely to be a happy ending. Then again, if Carma believe in karma, then it’s probably all their own fault anyway.

Lyrically, the band focus on death, loss and other burdensome miseries, and while they are sung in native Portuguese, you do not need a dictionary to translate the crippling cries of pain.

Carma’s music is a mass of sweeping guitars, jangling echoes and slow agony, and the songs are sometimes graceful and fluent but elsewhere a little indecisive. One of the highlights is ‘Feto’, a song that treads patiently with regal poise and features some rewarding vocal creativity and a magnificent finale.

Perhaps best of all, however, is ‘Lamento’, which is based upon movements from Edvard Grieg’s ‘Peer Gynt’, principally the mournful ‘Ase’s Death’. While Carma’s doom metal version does not come close to mirroring the vast emotional drama of the original composition, it is quite an accomplishment to turn the classical dirge into something potent and fascinating. The band have not breathed new life into Grieg’s masterpiece – maybe they have breathed new death into it. The major down side to the song is the oddly playful plucking interlude, reflecting ‘Solveig’s Song’, which interrupts the flow.

If you remove the atmospheric, synth-driven opening and closing tracks, as well as the intriguing Grieg ‘cover’, you are left with just three tracks. And while this trio of songs are great hymns of calamity, this paucity has the consequence of somehow making the band’s debut album feel more like an EP. The balance between dark ambience and raw doom metal is not quite right, but there is more than enough to admire and enjoy on this new release from Portugal’s Carma.

Album review: AHAB ‘The Boats Of The Glen Carrig’

AHAB cover

AHAB
‘The Boats Of The Glen Carrig’
Napalm Records, August 2015
8/10

Before Ahab, people thought of the sea as just an enormous puddle that got in the way of global commerce. But now, thanks to Germany’s masters of nautical funeral doom, it has become a big, soggy source of fascination and inspiration.

Less calculated than the band’s previous album (the slightly brilliant ‘The Giant’) and less suffocatingly heavy than past opuses such as ‘The Call Of The Wretched Sea’, the latest adventure from this endlessly seafaring band is a gently compelling collection of Siren’s songs.

‘TBOTGC’ is inspired by William Hope Hodgson’s novel of the same name, and revolves around fear, survival and strange monsters. It is a rich and rewarding album, a showcase for Ahab’s abilities to create funeral doom with a twist… and then another twist. In fact, it’s twistier than a giant squid in a dancing competition, veering between serenity and terror like a drunken sailor on the open water.

The songs grow and come alive – there is an energy and tenderness behind these slow, salty anthems, and a depth to the sounds, the feelings and the stories. Ebbing and flowing between monstrous riffs and frothy acoustic bits, and with growled vocals unleashed intermittently to great effect, Ahab create a believably scary atmosphere. From the almost-frantic power of ‘Red Foam’ (and its delightfully baffling video) to the crawling sorrow of ‘The Weedmen’, there is mystery and magic all around.

Like some kind of underwater Opeth, the German band have been making this kind of music for more than a decade, so in truth there aren’t many genuine surprises to be found on their latest album. But in spite of their longevity, Ahab remain unique in terms of their scope, ambition and quality.