ALBUM REVIEW: Chariot Throne ‘The Unholy Design’

‘The Unholy Design’
Self-released, September 2015

Chariot Throne sound like they are about to burst from your speakers – the spectacular power of their imagination is plain for all to witness. They concoct a highly unique kind of doom rock; a curious mix of the gloomy and the avant grade.

Aside from the seemingly obligatory “creepy” audio samples from terrible B-movies that nobody has ever bothered to watch unless they’re showing off to their friends, this German quartet has a raw and natural ability to come up with really original and enjoyable stuff. This is their debut release, but the band sounds like it’s been in the doom-game for more that the mere four years they have clocked up.

From the classic doom riffage of the impressive ‘Descent’ to the blissful groove of ‘Far From The Sun’ to the heavenly expansiveness of ‘The Spirits’ Sanctuary’, Chariot Throne have put out an imperfect but very impressive album.

But at times the band’s performance on ‘The Unholy Design’ seems to be slightly restrained, somehow lacking in confidence or energy. The album’s impact is undermined by low-key production which stubbornly stops them from spreading their wings. If Manowar play on 10, Chariot Throne sound like they’re playing on 6.

While the guitars too often fade into the background, the rocky vocals are front and centre, sometimes a little exposed and lonely in the mix. Also, at just 37 minutes, the album flies by in flash, and perhaps Chariot Throne could settle into their songs with a little more patience and gravitas.

But none of these complaints can disguise the quality of the music – there is excellence aplenty to enjoy here.


ALBUM REVIEW: Il Vuoto ‘Weakness’

Satanarsa Records, August 2015

Matteo Gruppi’s one-man doom metal project from Piacenza in Northern Italy creates a mixed, malevolent noise that veers between beautiful and ugly, invigorating and repugnant. The subject matter of self-harm and depression may be desperate, but Il Vuoto injects it with a kind of abhorrent passion and inventiveness.

This is music designed to make you feel edgy and uncomfortable. The restless arrangements, piercing noises, gothic undercurrents, pianos and orchestral elements create a bitter cocktail of twisted funeral doom. Acidic psalms of suffering such as ‘The Harvest’ are nightmares become real, and often they are a challenge for the listener to endure.

At times, the music ascends to reach peaks of glorious distress and sorrowful melancholy, but elsewhere there is a sense of frustrating hesitancy or indulgence, as with the song ‘Sea Of Emptiness’. Gruppi’s croaking vocals can be slightly off-putting and add little to the album – rather, they can undermine the flow and effectiveness of the music and disrupt the atmosphere.

‘Weakness’ is a curious and memorable debut album that has a number of strengths, but this fledgling one-man project does not always succeed in capitalising on them fully or consistently.

ALBUM REVIEW: HellLight ‘Journey Through Endless Storms’

‘Journey Through Endless Storms’
Solitude Productions, September 2015

Brazil’s masters of misery have created a stunning album of slow, delicate funeral doom that reeks of quality and personality. The latest release from the Sao Paulo band, who started out back in 1996, drips with heartfelt emotion and majestic musicality.

This is 80 minutes of melody and sorrow, and the eight tracks on offer are consistently excellent. The songs are carefully constructed so ensure that they flow gracefully and build momentum. From the choral backing to the sharp-edged riffs that cut through the gloom, ‘Journey Through Endless Storms’ is effortlessly epic. Gentle keyboards are a constant and comforting companion amid the shadows.

With tracks such as ‘Distant Light That Fades’, HellLight can be reminiscent of Hamferd in their ability to combine light and dark, decorating their bleak, pummelling heaviness with sparkling flourishes of imagination.

There are a few brief occasions when it seems a song might plateau or drift away, but, at those moments, guitarist, singer and founding member Fabio de Paula always pulls it back from the precipice and, before you know it, you are transported by yet another glorious solo or soul-crushing riff. De Paula also intersperses his rumbling growl with soaring clean vocals, which are used sparingly and to maximum effect as they get your pulse racing.

Every song offers something new and intriguing, all tightly bound within the band’s signature sound. HellLight are able to pack a lot of ideas into their music while treading a careful path to ensure that the songs do not become jumbled or unfocused. This is a band that has been perfecting its art for 20 years, and all of that experience shows.

If the band’s 2013 album ‘No God Above, No Devil Below’ was impressive, then this is even better. Mature and sophisticated – and often quietly adventurous – ‘Journey Through Endless Storms’ is an album of rare depth and an understated masterwork of melodic doom.