ALBUM OF THE YEAR 2015 Top 20

DOOM METAL HEAVEN’S
ALBUM OF THE YEAR 2015
  1. Crypt Sermon ‘Out Of The Garden’
  2. Sorcerer ‘In The Shadow Of The Inverted Cross’
  3. Atten Ash ‘The Hourglass’
  4. My Silent Wake ‘Damnatio Memoriae’
  5. HellLight ‘Journey Through Endless Storms’
  6. Vaee Solis ‘Adversarial Light’
  7. Hogslayer ‘Defacer’
  8. Acid King ‘Middle Of Nowhere, Center Of Everywhere’
  9. Avatarium ‘The Girl With The Raven Mask’
  10. Mammoth Storm ‘Fornjot’
  11. Funeral Marmoori ‘The Deer Woman’
  12. Lucifer ‘Lucifer I’
  13. Heavydeath ‘Eternal Sleepwalker’
  14. Cryptrip ‘The Great Magmatic Leviathan’
  15. The Slow Death ‘Ark’
  16. Doomraiser ‘Reverse (Passaggio Inverso)’
  17. Venus Sleeps ‘Dead Sun Worship’
  18. Witchsorrow ‘No Light, Only Fire’
  19. My Dying Bride ‘Feel The Misery’
  20. Phased ‘Aeon’ / Ahab ‘The Boats Of The Glen Carrig’

CryptSermon-Cover

sorcerer-in-the-shadow-of-the-inverted-cross

Advertisements

ALBUM REVIEW: Womb ‘Deception Through Your Lies’


WOMB
‘Deception Through Your Lies’
Hypnotic Dirge Records / Solitude Productions (Nov 2015)
7/10

Spanish death-doom band Womb (not to be confused with the US stoners of the same name) have gritted their teeth and given birth to an album of emotional intensity and interweaving melody.

Part of a triumphant new partnership between doom labels Hypnotic Dirge (Canada) and Solitude Productions (Russia), the debut album from this Seville-based outfit is a mixed bag of complex, sour doom metal. It is sometimes vast and spectacular, other times tangled and uncertain.

The media promo info promises “catchy riffs, dense guitars and a sensual side” – and at least two of these are questionable. Generally, the slowly twisting riffs are about as catchy as a mountain (although the epic standout track ‘March’ does have a certain memorable quality).

The guitar tones are frequently airy and crisp rather than suffocatingly dense or heavy. In fact, the album might be even more forceful and effective if some fuzz and/or low-end was added to the mix.

There is, however, a concerted effort to explore a wide range of emotions, which results in an album of scope, texture and imagination.

There are moments of sheer, ululating brilliance, such as halfway through ‘Equidistant’ where the gates of Hell open up and eternal woe is unleashed upon your ear holes. But there are also periods of drifting banality, such as the shapeless ‘Forgotten By Her Bliss’.

Getting this album released in physical format has taken an impressive global effort, and the world should be thankful to all those concerned. Not least of all the gifted group of misery-mongers who have given life to this finely-crafted and tasteful slab of Spanish sorrow.

ALBUM REVIEW: Mammoth Salmon ‘Last Vestige Of Humanity’


MAMMOTH SALMON
‘Last Vestige Of Humanity’
Self-released, 2015
6/10

Calling it sludge would be to ignore the music’s rich, creative groove, calling it doom would dismiss the band’s ebullient nature, calling it stoner might suggest faster tempos than you actually get… So what shall we call it? Let’s just call it massive.

As the Oregon-based band’s ludicrous name suggests, this music is both redoubtable and elusive. Listening to Mammoth Salmon is like stripping naked and wrestling a rabid bear. It’s big, powerful, furry and has a deadly arsenal… but once you’ve done it, you feel an enormous sense of warm satisfaction.

Opening track ‘Ad Nauseam’ kicks things off with a deliriously groovy and pulverizing riff that grabs your throat and refuses to let go. Then ‘Acid Casualty’ continues in a very similar vein, but with a darker, Saint Vitus-inspired vibe.

The title track starts inauspiciously and, although it wakes up towards its stirring finale, the song fails to achieve any great momentum. From then onwards, the album starts to get more sparse and disjointed, requiring patience and perseverance from the listener.

‘Memoriam’ is the sound of a bloodthirsty ogre trampling a village but the beast runs out of puff before it can sink its teeth into any meat. Elsewhere, the middle section of ‘Shattered Existence’ sees the band in full swing, desperate and heavy, while ‘Believe Nothing’, as its name suggests, simply provides 10 minutes of futility and emptiness.

There is a stirring humanity and honesty to the songs, although that personality is sometimes drowned by fuzz, carefulness and duplication and as a result the songs can stagnate.

Paul Dudziak’s earthy vocals and fleshy guitar tones create an energetically anguished combination, but a lack of consistency in terms of songwriting means that ‘Last Vestige Of Humanity’ only intermittently drags itself out of the mire to make its voice heard.

ALBUM REVIEW: Tombstones ‘Vargariis’

SSR084_cover

TOMBSTONES
‘Vargariis’
Soulseller Records (Nov 2015)
7/10

Having largely abandoned the monstrous stoner grooves that made their previous album, ‘Red Skies And Dead Eyes’, such a potent release, Norwegian trio Tombstones have developed into an altogether more hostile and foreboding proposition over the last couple of years.

And while the artwork for the band’s fourth album is about as scary as an episode of Scooby-Doo, the ferocious, aching sludge behind it is enough to give anyone nightmares. The guitars are so heavy they will distort your day out of shape, and the riffs so slow and tortured that you will beg for mercy. Think Conan with a pinch of Kyuss.

Vocal duties are shared between two-thirds of this fuzzy Oslo trio – namely Bjørn-Viggo Godtland and Ole Christian Helstad – and their finely balanced delivery results in an impactful range of agonised rawness and emotional dexterity.

The difficulty that bands face when trying to capture a relentlessly bleak atmosphere on record is trying to avoid it getting stale or repetitive. Tombstones try to leap this potential pitfall in a number of ways; from creative songwriting to entering new stylistic territories.

Their flirtations with black metal, for example, are fleeting, but they at least help make sure that the listener is still paying attention. As for the songwriting, the results are mixed. Some of the songs (all of which lumber along for around nine minutes apiece) batter at the same locked door for too long, waiting for answers that do not come. Others are fascinating adventures into the darkness that ebb and flow like a great tide of tears.

Amidst the oppression and volume, there is scattered evidence of the melody and energy that characterised the band’s previous release. But ‘Vargariis’ is primarily about sonic violence and sour desperation. It’s not pretty, but it’s full of heart.

REVIEW: Major Kong ‘Galactic Cannibalism’ (EP)


MAJOR KONG
‘Galactic Cannibalism’
Self-released (December 2015)
8/10

Poland’s Major Kong have been around for five years or so, and the instrumental trio’s winning brand of viciously loveable stoner doom is rarely anything less than hypnotising.

Bubbling with ideas and glowering with dark menace, their latest release, the EP ‘Galactic Cannibalism’, comes almost two years after the excellent ‘Doom Machine’. What’s changed? What’s new? Well, nothing really – this is just more of the same, and thank God for that!

Major Kong don’t look like running out of phenomenally mighty riffs just yet, and their passion for fuzzy heaviness remains undimmed. From the uplifting opening moments of ‘Supercluster’, this EP offers 25 minutes of wordless stoner bliss.

The final track ‘Magnetar’ sees the trio temporarily heading towards slightly more Soundgarden-ish, progressive territory before exploring a slowed-down path of misery, in what is a slight departure from their usual high-energy output. But it works really well, and, just when the listener begins to yearn for a change of mood, these wise Poles oblige with some enormous groove.

Marvellous, molten metal.

REVIEW: High Inquisitor Woe ‘Liquid Times’ (EP)

 

HIGH INQUISITOR WOE
‘Liquid Times’
Self-released (Nov 2015)
6/10

Inspired by the likes of Reverend Bizarre and a passion for epic, heavy music with clean vocals, this Belgian trio has created three tracks of solid, often compelling traditional doom metal.

Formed in early 2015, this is clearly a new band looking for its sound and personality – and as a result much of the music on display here is slightly muddled. Rarely do the various parts of the songs flow elegantly into each other, and between the sinister, gloomy riffs there are often awkward transitions or unnecessary tangents.

‘Liquid Times’ is let down by some shaky vocals, particularly towards the end of the opening song ‘Drink Her Blood, Black Serpent’ when singer Smalle van Suuz bursts into Experimental Mode – his falsetto is particularly, er, surprising.

However, when they do get it right, such as during the second half of ‘Neptune’s Trident’, this Belgian band sounds quite magnificent. Likewise, when the flamboyantly lengthy ‘Lady Saliva’ finally gets going, the listener is treated to some timeless doom metal merriment. Then things get a bit confused again, and the vocal stylings continue to digress.

At their most decisive, High Inquisitor Woe deliver some meaty, pounding misery – and when they fully spread their wings they should be an impressive sight to behold.

ALBUM REVIEW: Funeral Marmoori ‘The Deer Woman’

funeral-cover

FUNERAL MARMOORI
‘The Deer Woman’
Minotauro Records (Nov 2015)
8/10

Florence is perhaps Italy’s most beautiful city, a traditional epicentre of European art and culture. And now, it is home to some of the year’s finest doom metal, thanks to Funeral Marmoori and their fantastic second album ‘The Deer Woman’.

Threaded with warm synths and organic organs, ‘The Deer Woman’ is a multi-layered and effortlessly intricate doom metal offering, binding elements of big-riffing traditional doom with swirling, psychedelic keys that are ever-present without overpowering the guitar-based heaviness.

Three years after the band’s ‘Vol. 1’ debut, things have become even more dramatic and bold, and the band’s hard-hitting hymns of woe are delivered with impressive control, maturity and confidence. Imagine a gloomily grooving combination of Lord Vicar, Paul Chain and Black Sabbath’s ‘Who Are You?’ and you’re getting close to Funeral Marmoori’s strange sound.

Funeral Marmoori’s songwriting abilities are truly impressive. Tracks such as ‘The Hunter’ and ‘Onions’ (?!) come pretty close to being progressive doom metal classics – they twist and turn without ever abandoning the path of true doom.

In both his vocal delivery and guitar playing, Giulio Siena seems slightly restrained at times, as if unwilling to really ‘let rip’. There are a few moments where the album wanders off-track, but these are rare and brief, suggesting that there is even more to come from Florence’s latest great artists.

‘The Deer Woman’ is a real work of art; it’s the kind of album you can listen to repeatedly and never get bored. Italian doom metal at its most solid and inspiring.

ALBUM REVIEW: Wizard Eye ‘Wizard Eye’

 

WIZARD EYE
‘Wizard Eye’
Black Monk Records (Oct 2015)
7/10

If you love eyeball-quivering, psychedelic heaviness, it doesn’t get much better than Wizard Eye. Primitive, sharp and absorbing, the Philadelphia trio’s third album is a triumph of fuzzy fury.

Harking back to the lumbering rock behemoths of the 1970s and the stoner metal kings of the 1990s, there is a monstrous groove underpinning every moment of this self-titled release.

Opening track ‘Eye Of The Deep’ is a swirling, volcanic eruption of a song, fuzzy as a were-peach, heavy as a brain haemorrhage. It merges into ‘Flying/Falling’ which continues the ecstatic riff-driven slo-mo mayhem as well as introducing the exhausted, beautifully ragged vocals of Erik Caplan.

Then ‘Phase Return’ steamrollers your day like Ian Kilmister treading through tar. Oddly, the next track, ‘Graybeard’ is really similar – but it’s such a soul-numbing riff that you can understand why the band wanted to go again.

Other tracks tend to lose their early momentum, and in fact the album – recorded back in early 2014 – fades a little towards the end. The vocals are powerful but lack the degree of melody and versatility which might help to create a more textured emotional experience.

‘My Riposte Is Like Lightning’ changes the mood a little, adding a bit of pace and attitude, while ‘Nullarbor’ is a jangly, spiritual drifter. That aside, you shouldn’t expect anything experimental; songs such as ‘Thunderbird Divine’ add little to the pantheon of East Coast doom, but they are likely give you a considerable headache, and sometimes that’s plenty.

Pummeling your ear-holes like a mix of Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer and an angry space hippo, Wizard Eye are masters of tripping the fuzz fantastic.