Apologies for the recent silence.
DoomMetalHeaven is now back, reviewing the best new doom releases from all over the world.
Steve, Editor, DMH
Apologies for the recent silence.
DoomMetalHeaven is now back, reviewing the best new doom releases from all over the world.
Steve, Editor, DMH
Self-released (December 2015)
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.
Dangerous death/sludge chaos from Finland’s Grave Siesta
BSFD Records, 2015
“Maybe this is not pure original music, but it’s true and full of rage.”
And in that moment of honesty and clarity, this Polish sludge crew elegantly summarise a wonderfully noisy and highly-energised album that’ll make you feel good about feeling like shit.
No, O.D.R.A’s music is not always unique, but nevertheless, ‘Sexnarkoman’ is a thorough convincing and enjoyable romp of bluesy punk-doom that rips the room to shreds.
The Slavic language makes the lyrical content accessible to none but a lucky few, but regardless of that barrier, the passion shine through like a police searchlight into your retina. Don’t expect sophisticated, drawn-out compositions or epic, catchy choruses – this band is in a hurry to drown you in pain.
O.D.R.A. stomp ferociously through a swamp of pain, telling ancient stories of the old Silesia region of Europe / Poland in a raw and wild-eyed style. The Polish band’s take on sludge metal is succinct and angry – the kind of barely-controlled rage that is a beautiful blast from the past. And it’s not just about honouring the past – ‘Sexnarkoman’ really gets into your face in the hear and now.
Underlying the sweat and fury is a warm, bluesy groove that binds the album together like glue. There is heart and soul behind the slow, crunching riffs and thrash power. Get drunk, get angry and listen to ‘Sexnarkoman’ – it will enrich your life.
Terror From Hell Records, 2015
This all-female power-sludge band from Italy don’t have a very high opinion of humans. Their debut album ‘Mors Vocat’ (Death Calls) focuses on humankind’s innately self-destructive nature and the shadow of imminent death that we all face with varying degrees of terror.
Bleak and yet bold, ‘Mors Vocat’ is an impressive volley of lumbering misery, featuring seven solid slabs of Italian doom metal. You know you’re in safe hands as you listen to the songs surge and progress through natural transitions and intuitive journeys, with barely a note out of place.
Saturnine’s gigantic guitars immediately create an atmosphere of apocalyptic devastation and fear, while an ever-present undercurrent of Celtic Frost-style groove (such as on ‘Empire Of Guilt’) adds another level of dark energy to the music. Beneath it all, the lively and intriguing bass-playing adds yet more interest and depth to the songs.
The riffs sound like the planet being torn apart, and the sinister growled vocals erupt like the burning magma spewing from the Earth’s shattered crust. Those rasping vocals are genuinely scary, although a touch more variety in the delivery might help to convey a broader spectrum of emotion.
‘Crimson Sand’ is one of the tracks that doesn’t really ever get started, while one or two other sections seem to get a little bogged down and lost. But, generally, the quality remains high throughout ‘Mors Vocat’. Saturnine’s compositions rarely rely on repetition or sheer heaviness – these songs are unrelenting, but in a way that draws upon intelligence and invention as well as muscle.
Fancy a bit of doomy sludge / noise rock from Oulu, Finland? Of course you do.
Self-released (April 2015)
This three-strong American sludge crew deliver a bristling clash of punk attitude and stoner groove that does not always dovetail perfectly.
‘Breaking Ground’ is a three-song EP recorded on 8-track analog equipment, meaning it gets up close and personal enough to be able to smell its rotten breath.
And talking of lung power, the vocals on this EP are what lets it down. While the guitar tones will make you gasp and the riffs will make your internal organs quake, the vocals might leave you cold. Raw and spit-flecked, they lack the melody required to work in tandem with the stoner hooks.
There is not enough quality in the raging timbre – it is not sufficient to simply shout over the top of a decent riff and hope for the best. And there are plenty of great riffs on offers here, such as the one on ‘Footprints In Blood’, which sounds like a cross between Black Sabbath and a grumpy rottweiler that’s just had its favourite toy taken away.
Then, on ‘Lifetime’, the guitars swing and groove with élan, while the vocals holler – creating an uncomfortable dichotomy. Finally, the third track, ‘Walk The Earth (No Longer)’ rarely gets out of second gear.
Conclave manage to create music that is pulling itself apart. The green shoots of promise are certainly present in the form of killer riffs, but the band fails to capitalise on these, opting instead for raging self-destruction. It is possible to merge funky riffs and raging vocals, of course, but it hasn’t worked particularly well on ‘Breaking Ground’.
Fabulously over-the-top death doom from Italy, featuring Gregorian-style singing and harpsichords!
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.
The Church Within Records
(Released: 24 October 2014)
Are you listening, funeral doom and sludge bands? You thought 20 minutes was a long song? That’s child’s play! Aeonsgate’s ‘Pentalpha’ is a solitary track clocking in at seven minutes shy of the hour mark. This trance-inducing “doom opera” tells the tale of the first minutes of someone’s death. Written in 2012 by guitarist (and tattoo king) Jondix, it is an incredibly personal exploration, to the extent that you feel you are eavesdropping on a private prayer.
After an impressively self-indulgent eight-minute intro, the guitars and drums finally appear on the horizon like a doom tsunami. For the next 50 minutes or so, thumping, epic riffs rise and fall relentlessly, hypnotising, destroying, mourning. They create a slightly psychedelic, dark melancholia, drifting and meandering. It’s like walking through an ancient citadel in the still of night, filled at once with fear and awe. Each step into the unknown reveals a new shadow.
‘Pentalpha’ feels like an extended doom jam that keeps wandering but never arrives at a destination. A few of the riffs are pretty tame, and despite some interesting musical links between the giant song’s different sections, it is the familiar voice of Mats Leven (Candlemass, Therion, etc) that really helps the music to breathe. He is the star attraction here, and, when he lets rip rather than indulging in romanticised melodrama, his Rob Halford/Johan Langqvist tones can be very powerful.
There are hints of Tony Martin-era Sabbath, as well as Krux and Candlemass – inevitably – and while Aeonsgate do not have the same impact as those bands, there are a few goose-pimple moments, such as at 38:08 when the songs reaches new heights for a while. At various points throughout ‘Pentalpha’ theatrical keyboards are introduced to add a new emotional layer to the pounding doomy atmosphere. In fact, these synths are probably under-used because they really help to define the different parts of the sprawling song.
Aeonsgate unleash an immense doom metal sound and pack this hour-long song with grandeur and grunt. Produced by Billy Anderson, ‘Pentalpha’ certainly sounds great – heavy, rich and expressive. Featuring just one song and one theme, it can feel a bit one-dimensional, but the enormous riffs make it worthwhile and reward your patience. Take a journey beyond the grave with this intriguing collection of musicians and you will discover that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
‘Of Things Seen And Unseen’
The Church Within Records (27 June 2014)
Serpent Venom’s eagerly-awaited second album begins like a cross between ‘Gothic’-era Paradise Lost and misery-mongers Pallbearer, and while this album does not quite reach those lofty heights, it is clear that this UK band have brought a quality offering to the altar of doom. Following 2011’s enormously encouraging ‘Carnal Altar’ album, Serpent Venom had a burden of expectation to live up to, and they’ve delivered.
There are some fantastic songs on this follow-up. ‘Let Them Starve’, for example, is a breathless doom epic with a galloping uptempo finale. Demonstrating the band’s growing sophistication, this track is trimmed and edited down to the bare minimum and is more effective for its comparative brevity. The album closer, ‘Burning Free’, starts inauspiciously but then launches into a doom explosion, an original, compelling song that takes the band’s trad roots and weaves them into new forms – earthy, deep, tortured. Another song, ‘Death Throes At Dawn’, shows a band in fine fettle playing very simple but very effective heavy doom metal, a song in which things just click into place.
Even when one of Serpent Venom’s enormous riffs might seem ordinary at first, such as on ‘The Lords of Life’, the band manages to make it their own, infusing what might have been overly-familiar with a menacing heaviness and special kind of melodic misery. It doesn’t always work out that way, though, and ‘Pilgrims Of The Sun’ is a drawn-our dirge that does little to showcase the band’s creativity. There are traces of fellow Brits Witchsorrow, particularly on the song ‘Sorrow’s Bastard’, but Serpent Venom seem to have a stronger leaning towards angrier, stomping riffs. In the middle of it all, ‘I Awake’ is a flowery little interjection, an acoustic daydream that interrupts the flow of horror for a fleeting moment.
Garry Ricketts’s almost-clean voice lack a little depth and is sometimes stretched, although what his delivery misses in pure accuracy, he more than makes up for in his phrasing, rhythm and interesting patterns. He certainly works hard, and his pleasingly-crafted melodies balance perfectly against the backdrop of seething guitars, provided by Roland Scriver (who replaced Pete Fox) and bass player Nick Davies.
Recorded at Skyhammer Studio last October with Chris Fielding (Electric Wizard, Conan), this is a solid and intriguing follow-up to ‘Carnal Altar’. ‘Of Things Seen And Unseen’ sees Serpent Venom enter a new stage in their musical progression, creating deeply personal, immense and traditional doom metal with a deadly bite.
‘Bravery, Truth And The Endless Darkness’
High Roller Records (6 June 2014)
Awesome epic riffs, heaven-sent choruses, guitar solos that lift your feet from the ground… From the guys who brought us Procession, here’s some more top-quality doom metal from Chile.
Claudio Botarro (bass) and Felipe Plaza (vocals) received much adulation for last year’s ‘To Reap Heavens Apart’, but while Procession is led by the latter, this band is distinctively the brainchild of Botarro. He has even thrown in a few bass guitar solos, and created the album’s classic-looking artwork himself.
More complex than Procession, Capilla Ardiente use a surgical blade rather than a hammer (of doom). Every song is an exciting experience, unfolding like a treasure map to be explored, with ‘Towards The Midnight Ocean’ probably the best of a very good bunch. This track showcases the band’s great musicianship and sophisticated composition skills, which were first unveiled on the 2009 EP ‘Solve Et Coagula’ but which now have reached new heights.
This is an album that could easily sit alongside some of the best offerings of the classic early-1990s epic doom scene, enjoying a richness and warmth in its production, as well as in its homage to some of the genre’s greats. And yet it’s also full of energy and invention, and sounds both modern and relevant.
The PR material that accompanies DoomMetalHeaven’s promo copy of the album makes a number of astonishing claims. “What a record!” it says, which is fair enough – this is a very impressive piece of work. “Album of the year so far!” it hollers – and that will certainly be the case in some people’s eyes. “The most important doom metal release since Candlemass’s masterpiece ‘Nightfall’!” it shrieks. Woah, hang on a minute. The best doom album in the last 27 years? That’s pushing the enthusiasm lever just a little too far.
There are a number of reasons why ‘Bravery, Truth And The Endless Darkness’ is not quite of the absolutely highest standard as set by ‘Nightfall’. Plaza does not have a Messiah-like range to effortlessly hit the ultimate highs and lows and on occasion he strains slightly at the demands Botarro’s music places on him. Not all of the songs on this album deliver a killer central musical theme that immediately stands out from anything else you’ve ever heard and digs into your brain forever. Moreover, the album offers just four full-sized songs plus two small instrumentals, which seems rather minimal, even if the four songs in question each stretch to ten minutes or more.
So, no, not quite ‘Nightfall’ but still better than most. Comparisons with Candlemass, and Solitude Aeturnus, are applicable though, because Capilla Ardiente is one of few epic doom bands capable of making this difficult style of metal sound effortless. ‘Bravery, Truth And The Endless Darkness’ is wonderfully ambitious, dramatic and emotional, without ever becoming pompous or fake. The band demonstrates an enviable ability to be creative and individual, even considering the tight restraints and many potential pitfalls of this most delicate, self-conscious of genres.
Capilla Ardiente have clearly read ‘How To Bake A Doom Metal Cake’ by L. Edling so often that melodic heaviness comes naturally to them. And they have added a few secret ingredients of their own to create something pretty spectacular.