Friday, March 22, 2013

Boudain - Boudain


My love for doom metal over the years has compounded in leaps and bounds. As I delved deeper and deeper into the murky mystery filled underground of the genre it was only so long that you came across Doommatia, and it seemed as if I had hit the jackpot. A highly active site, the amount of information it had, backed by real time updates and writers, who with unbridled passion brought forth the latest of the underground happenings and unholy spawns, was the biggest catalyst to expand the boundaries of the genre. I always wished to contribute something to the doom metal underground, and when I was given an opportunity to join the writing crew here, it was a dream come true.

The first band I was asked to review by Ed was the self titled EP released by a band that goes by the name of ‘Boudain’ which is a four piece out of Monroe, Louisiana. I sadly cannot give you much more information about the band, since nothing more is available on their facebook or bandcamp page.  The music that ‘Boudain’ plays encompasses the inordinately copious riffs of early ‘Acid Bath’, the sense of groove of stoner bands like ‘Spiritual Beggars’ and an aura that reeks of the all out surge of extremely well channeled grit which was the core aesthetic characteristic of a certain ‘Kyuss’ showing the greatest proclivity towards the classic ‘When the Kite String Pops’ by ‘Acid Bath’ as can be witnessed in the oppressively down-tuned guitars as well as the song structures.  As both the band name and artwork encapsulate within itself the thick meaty music that awaits the next lucky victim one has to admire the vocals which reminiscent of ‘Dax Riggs’ doesn't hold back its hostility and are spewed forth with such bile that they add a great deal of character and seem a perfect fit with the maddened gargantuan sludgy riffs. As the drums bash forth the colossal riffs and the bands moves ahead with a swagger that permeates of utter destruction one has to tip their hat to the song writing present here. It was with utmost ease that the band manoeuvres from the slow heavy duty thunderous riffs to a more up tempo pace with its stretched out solos that are an instant throwback to long drives in the sun baked deserts made famous by Fu Manchu.  Whether the band is playing the infectiously catchy stoner rock leanings of ‘Just Got Paid’ which has the innate sense of being able to start a riot among stoner fans anywhere or the skull crushingly heavy riffs on ‘Moonshinin'’ they never stray from their pivotal aim of creating a highly fluid EP that is one of the heaviest pieces of music you will ever come across. Right from the uncompromisingly titanic riffs of opener ‘Slavemen’ to the ramblings of ‘Trailerpark’ which bring to your visual eye a man who is about break all hell loose and the deliciously brilliant main riff of ‘King Of The Cosmos’  the bass work is simply exceptional and instead of just plodding around adds an immense layer of density and thrusts the band towards greater things with its driving bass riffs as witnessed on tracks like ‘Kalifornia’.

‘Boudain’ released this debut after almost 7 years of its formation which took place back in 2006 and with the frequent tempo and mood changes, though the element of heaviness being a constant throughout , the band has released some really dynamic and powerful stuff that leaves you wanting more. An extremely boisterous and fresh release, keep your eyes of this foursome here, who release their debut on the 20th of April later this year.

SCORE - 73/100

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Kröwnn - Hyborian Age


I cannot stress this enough and I know I have said this way more times than I can count, but the combination of Italy and doom is so egregious, so profoundly beautiful and possesses such an innate sense of class, all the while being topped with such a sense of dynamism, that one has to believe that if you like doom in all its down tuned thundering glory and cannot get enough of the genre along with its vast sub-genres then a better scene than Italy doesn’t exist. Out of the country that has graced us with the eccentric mad genius of doom that is Paul Chain, the monolithic dirge draped Abysmal Grief and the incomprehensible conglomeration of doom and progressive rock in a way never dreamed of before by Black Hole, the country, overflowing with musicians of such unfathomable talent and love for doom that happily dives into the territory of fanaticism, has bestowed upon us a new trio that goes by the name of ‘Kröwnn’.

Kröwnn was formed in the summer of 2012 in Venice and has Michele el Lello Carnielli handling the duties of both lead singer as well as guitarist and is backed by two ladies going by the names of Silvia Selvaggia Rossato and Elena Fiorenzano handling the bass guitar and drums respectively.  They released their rather lengthy debut demo entitled ‘Hyborian Age’ spanning almost 40 minutes spread out almost evenly over the six tracks. A cursory look at the artwork leaves you enthralled and curious. A wizard gazes at you standing at an edge of a desert while moons and stars of different colors dot the sky and a gargantuan beast resembling a woolly mammoth roams freely as smoke rises. Combine that imagery with the title of this release and you put together the pieces of the puzzle that give you the thematic proclivity of the band which is an utter reverence towards the fantasy worlds created by authors such as Howard, Moorcock, Tolkien and Martin as well an undying love towards Conan The Barbarian, a topic that fits the genre of doom metal perfectly with all its masculinity and yet is not discussed enough.

Needless to say, Kröwnn play doom metal that has a predilection towards the old school and though they gyrate around power riffs the trio often manoeuvre towards the spectrum of stoner territories and even baste them together with the utmost of repose. However, don’t expect, expansive soundscapes depicting meandering into the sun baked desert or the journeys into the psychedelia induced unknown expanses, but instead take a look at the artwork, drawn in all it warm soothing colors and experience rather a laid back wall of fuzzy sound that acts as in impressive weapon to a strong repertoire of the band. An extremely consistent and fluent release what is truly amazing is their sound writing and how the band manages to string together pieces and form one coherent track after another. Right from the epic feel of the ‘For the Throne of Fire’ which is an instant throwback to ‘Nightfall’ era ‘Candlemass’ or the groove draped stoner embracing that were atypical of ‘The Ethereal Mirror’ era of ‘Cathedral’ on ‘The Woodwose’ each track has some new influences to showcase to listener which instead of sounding derivative and recycled come as a breath of fresh air on an already original release. As the quick choppy riffs of Pentagram and Trouble come to mind on some tracks the band also uses the soft strumming of the bass creating an almost fluid liquid sound as well as swirling riffs on ‘At the Cromlech’ to  remind the listener of later ‘Electric Wizard’. As the trio also throws in elements of hard rock to create catchy choruses and infectious riffs, what is to be noticed is the different moods on each track. If you have ‘Gods of Magnitogorsk’ to sound as the perfect theme to the fight scene in Conan you also have to deal with the depths of desolate despair on ‘The Melnibonean’. If you enjoyed the classic all out rock out parts on ‘At the Cromlech’ you are also subjugated towards going on a trip with the trio through the desert on the lengthy instrumental ‘Stormborn’.

As the lo-fi demo production and feedback a la ‘Sleep’ grips your mind with all its swampy filth you have to give a special mention to Michele. His highly emotive voice thrusts the band all along and has a range that is reminiscent of Messiah Marcolin on the epic parts, the deep sunken bellowing of Glenn Danzig and is at times even reminiscent of ‘Type Negative O’s great Peter Steele in all its sepulchral, forlorn driven power when deciding to sing on a higher register.  Throughout the demo the band permeates an esoteric intelligence by showing it knows what it wants backed by an unbridled creativity of the instruments through which the bands can bring forth unto the listener what the band needs. The song writing and song placing on the album is another brilliant feature innate here and how the band pendulums between the stoner and doom territories, often holding hands of both is truly a testament to the band and its ability to stand out in a genre that is over saturated with bands where the general norm is shelling out recycled Sabbathian riffs backed by no emotion.

Hopefully, these guys can land a record deal, and if they do, I hope they get an opportunity to re record this demo since the lo-fi production takes away a bit of the punch, which if professionally recorded will be a massive one.Keep this beast of a demo in mind. It is one of the best stuff I've heard from a new band for a while, and this is a sign of things to come from ‘Kröwnn’ then brace yourself for a brilliant journey.

SCORE - 78/100

Monday, March 18, 2013

Howling - A Beast Concieved


Death metal never really died. Though the golden era lasted from 1983 – 1996, bands continued to play the genre and amidst bands like Immolation who kept churned out a string of egregious releases and while bands like! T.O.O.H.!, Repugnant, Funebrarum, Runemagick, Stargazer and Azarath produced death metal gems to keep the flame of the death metal torch alive, the scene wasn't very good. However, in 2008, when Razorback Records spewed forth releases from Decrepitaph, Hooded Menace, Acid Witch and Crypticus to name a few in all its 80’s horror/slasher gore soaked glory, it in the process sent such shock-waves within the death metal underground that it revived the genre as a whole and the quality of death metal has flourished cogently ever since.

Enter Howling. A mere look at the logo with its worms, monstrous claws, nests of skulls and oozing muck, all draped in an eerie yellow glow and you know where this band comes from.  The album cover, which depicts a women being torn apart by a couple of ghastly werewolves in the midst of some woods, is drawn by the amazing slasher design artist Justin Osbourn only reiterates the bands thematic proclivity. Screaming classic Razorback in its appearance, the band boasts of Vanessa Nocera on vocals, who has gained quite some popularity in the metal scene because of being signed onto Razorback Records, and for well, being a female. Her vocals alternate between deeply throaty and  gargling screams, and can be seen as a cross between Carcass’ Jeff Walker and Arch Enemy’s Angela Gossow, Tony P on guitars and Elektrokutioner on drums, who for his tireless love for the 80’s and endless bands like Father Befouled, Beyond Hell and Encoffination has gained quite the cult underground following. 

Lasting 38 minutes and spanning 10 tracks, the album unsurprisingly starts off with the howl of a wolf, as the band pays its tributes to cult horror movie classics like The Beast Within, Mountaintop Motel Massacre, and American Gothic. Expect no down tuned goodness or goregrind frenzy, the band in question plays straightforward death metal. Though the roots of the band are firmly rooted in the death metal spectrum influences from the early thrash scene and Carcass are also heard. Another thing that is atypical of the release are the rather long melodic solos in almost each track that are reminiscent of Heartwork era Carcass. In all the blood soaked carnage, the trio show some respectable song writing skills on tracks like ‘As Man Becomes Lycanthrope’ and ‘Six Souls for the Witching Hour’ with its numerous tempo changes and well placed , well constructed, long melodic solos . Nothing overly technical and complex, the band follow the rather underused formula of keeping things simple and effective with catchy riffs and melodic hooks on tracks like ‘Savage Psychosis’. Though the band is usually mid tempo, the band often crosses the territory in face pummeling speeds with an absolute rager of a track in ‘Demented Debauchery’ which along with ‘Six Souls for the Witching Hour’ has riffs that are reminiscent of Arghoslent’s ‘Hornets of the Pogrom’.  As the band slowly builds up to ‘Traumatic Transmutations’, my favorite track here with its early Metallica influenced intro, mid-paced tempo and infectiously catchy riffs, you have to appreciate the bands tenacity and passion.

Though Howling desperately try to keep things fresh and unpredictable with the bass intros and a riff that would be better suited on a stoner album in ‘A Night in the Crypt’ they start losing all momentum on around the fifth track, rapidly inundated in the murky quicksand atmosphere the band had managed to so masterfully and profoundly contrive with its effective song writing and esoteric pacing. It is around here that the band permeates an aura of trying too hard, with failed results and falling flat on its face. As smoothly as the earlier tempo changes and transitions were, as forced and abrasive are the textural changes are now. Vanessa alternates too many times, too fast between her shrieks and growls and in the process absolves the band of all its liquidity thus making a relative short release also trudge along.  The band, especially Vanessa displays a knack for trying too hard to prove a point and instead of just taking the back seat and giving the guitars their breathing space, often indulges in the overboard spectrum, all the while taking center stage, growling and screaming when there be no need for such frippery, and drowning out the rest of the band, which is quite a shame, since, in pure Razorback fashion, the star of the show is once again the guitarwork masterfully done by Tony P, which often erupts into carving a gore soaked path of its own , though never does too much, and basks in an aura that screams of how well the final impact of each break in tempo and each towering solo or each sharp choppy riff was thought of. Though the band shows shades of gearing up for a final hurrah on the final track ‘When the Hills Ran Red’ it slowly decimates into an overly long, disappointing affair as well.

Such an amateurish performance is not acceptable by any standards especially when one has seasoned veterans in the band and when one has been able to create a strong first half. As refreshing as it was to see Razorback trying something new in its overplayed ‘80’s horror death metal’ card with the inclusion of melodic hooks and solos which are easily the bands strong point, it is as disappoint and heart wrenching to see a potentially good album being thrown down the drain.

SCORE - 50/100

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Nibiru - Caosgon


Trust the hub of weird and original doom, Italy, to come up with something refreshing in a genre that is too over stuffed, too unoriginal and too weak to experiment and try something that is not the widely accepted conventional norm. However active the stoner and sludge scenes today might be it cannot be denied that most are just run of the mill Electric Wizard, Sleep and Queens of the Stone Age worship (unless you’re from Germany), and within this saturated realm, a vortex of originality has stepped in a',three piece going by the name Nibiru, and they bring with them a breath of fresh, questionable air.

Nibiru, are a new band, which formed late in 2012 and have self released their debut album entitled ‘Caosgon’.  Nibiru’s music can be described as a portal between the music of the past and the present. Though it has one foot in the boat driven by the likes of Sleep with its hazy elongated riffs immersed deep in the background, it has its other foot ingrained in the roots of early 60’s psychedelic rock with long trips into the psychedelia infused unexplained expanses. With an immensely drowned out production, like the ones adopted recently by Windhand and Saturnalia Temple one discerns as if the music is emanating from deep within your subconscious, and once you wrap your head around that, underlie this with the simmering anger of entire ancestral tribes, all the while heavily laced with long ambient passages that are atramentous, stygian, ritualistic and bleak, and still possesses within them a sense of all that is unholy and the forbidden occult and you have the description of the music made by Nibiru.

If this wasn't enough to warrant bubbles of excitement and a self inquiring attitude, the ingredient that endows the most towards the trio’s sound both stylistically and aesthetically are the vocals which are extremely guttural and throaty. The vocals, which are deeply laden in reverb and echo are reminiscent of ancient throat singing techniques used by tribes in places like Malaysia and Africa, and alternate between growled and clean and gives an added dimension and an experience which I have never in my musical journey ever encountered before. Though the band emanates a clean sound most of the time, feedback isn't a rare phenomenon giving the music the feeling of filth but another prominent idiosyncrasy of the music is the gargantuan amount of attention given to the bass guitar. Taking of most of the playing time, the bass is an entity of its own, the bass interludes, whether a short strum or a powerful splurge, interspersed with the ritualistic drums and the smoky atmosphere gives the band an extremely dense feeling that permeates throughout the 5 tracks that run over 50 minutes. Such an odd use of instruments and choices gives the band the atmosphere they intent to create which is that of a moon bathed dense forest where the listener is subject to a highly psychedelic ritual and the wrath of an entire tribe, and as the tribal shaman does his violent ritualistic dance, his mask glistening in the moon light, you still possess a sense of calm.

Though the band does shift from its usual mid paced tempo to higher paced on tracks like ‘Smashanam, the crematorium ground of Kaly’ and experiments with its soundscape while embracing its ritual vocal sound the tightest on tracks like ‘Aster Argos’, the song writing for a concoction as original and with a thought pattern like this, is highly derivative. Though the songs move on with extreme fluidity lubricated by the emotional performances of the band members and blend of instruments like the liturgic organ and the cowbell with the rare Hawkwind-esque spacey passages thrown in, there are no massive upheavals in sound or enough variations to keep this dynamic enough. Though interesting and adventurous, a trait that most metal seems to be missing today, a lot is left to be desired and the scope of improvement for the band is rather massive. ‘Caosgon’ certainly deserves your attention, but it is an experience only the connoisseur of the sludge genre will want to take a chance upon to quench their thirst for innovative music. Still, the band has easily managed to strum my brain strings enough to keep them in mind and look forward to more from them in the future.

SCORE - 63/100

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Raven Black Night - Barbarian Winter


When you talk about Australia and metal the first bands that come to mind are Destroyer 666, Disembowelment, Abramelin and the likes, but in actuality the said country has quite a budding doom scene as well and has churned out class acts like Murkrat and Misery’s Omen in the past and unleashed upon up with great force are Raven Black Night as well. Veterans in the Australian doom scene, Raven Black Night formed back in 1999.

In the Australian scene, Raven Black Night has built up quite a cult underground following because of their passionate energy filled live performances and now after a gap of 9 years that have given us their sophomore effort entitled ‘Barbarian Winter’ and has been produced by the might ‘Metal Blade Records’. A look at the cover, a muscled beast of a warrior with spiked shoulder pads dragging his boat to the shore, is a visual showcase of the music contained within. It’s strong, epic, heavy and takes no crap from anyone.

Go to the bands Facebook page and you see the words ‘Raven Black Night, true metal warriors of the night, invite you all to the battle of true metal , you can’t hide, Raven Black Night gonna get you.’, and this pretty much describes their music. The bands’ music can be described a concoction of the epicness of Solitude Aeturnus, the song writing skills of early Candlemass played with the sensibility of early Manilla Road and touched off with a flair for the hard rock and a perfect heavy metal attitude. As the first track ‘ Fire In Your Eyes’ starts off with an acoustic intro,  Jim the White Knight (the vocalist) screams out rock and roll with such innate authority, you are thrown back to early power metal days, there is no looking back and you feel a musical treat, a journey back in the olden days awaits. As the vocals which are a bit reminiscent of Mark Sheldon’s distinct vibrato and Messiah Marcolin deep operatic enlightenment plough the bands' aural assault of killer grooves and enthusiasm fueled solos forward you notice the female operatic vocals buried deep in the background which add a bit of a dimension to the sound. And as the band goes forward with its humongous riffs and extremely well crafted towering solos you feel that the extremely raw production nourishes Raven Black Night, who have been well informed in 80’s metal with a burst of power . Apart from the bands penchant for longer track there are all out rockers like ‘Fallen Angel’ and ‘Morbid Gladiator, which its raw production and heavy dosage of wah wah pedals creates a sort of primitive screeching sound, which I have never really heard before  ,embodying the innate sludge of power encapsulated by bands like Brocas Helm. As the band soars forward in all its manly glory with raging guitar solos on tracks like ‘Fallen Angel’ the bands true power is showcased on the brilliant ‘Black Queen’ where the band spreads its gargantuan wings with its absolutely titanic riffs, aberrant number of tempo changes, authoritative vocals lines, an infectious chorus and melodic tinged dragged out solos backed with brilliant pacing and song writing and has produced a doom metal anthem and one of the best doom metal songs ever written. As the band demonstrates textural adventurousness by variations of guitar sound and alternating between different tempos and attitudes, they resist the urge to overload their listener with fake sugar coated keyboards and overtly melodic leads and instead take delight in their own hefty aura.

Sadly, midway through the title track the band just seems to lose control over the mighty ship they have been driving and falls in a whirlpool of chaos which completely wrecks the husky skeletal frame they built and in the process losing direction. As the title track suddenly descends to shades of their debut where the band used to surprise the listener by breaking into the death metal realm which seemed to completely break the flow and seem out of place, the band further decide to derail themselves by doing a bad cover of a Black Sabbath ballad, and doing the unthinkable and giving us three more back to back ballads where the band decides to shun its heavy metal tendency and instead embraces a more radio friendly approach with hues of early glam. As powerful as the vocals are on the bands up tempo doom laced tracks, on slower track they seem way out of place and a pain to hear.

As compared to their debut, this has better song writing, better songs and by almost completely abandoning their random jigs in the death metal realm in between tracks the band has gained fluidity and control. Though the band, throughout the release permeates and reeks a congregation of guys that are highly passionate about what they do and with their band page stating under the interest bar ‘Drinking beer, chasing women and driving people insane with our music’ you know that they are the chosen few that in today’s modern era still proudly fly the ‘Heavy Metal Is The Law’ banner. However, all throughout this album, even on the latter ballads the band has a plethora of masterfully crafted guitar solos and an extremely powerful first half which is well worth repeated listens.

SCORE - 54/100

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Naga - Naga


“Sludge metal generally combines the slow tempos, heavy rhythms and dark, pessimistic atmosphere of doom metal with the aggression, shouted vocals and occasional fast tempos of hardcore punk”  ~ The definition of Sludge metal according to Wikipedia. Dirty, aggressive, angry, filthy and violent with an attitude that showed a penchant towards decadence was what sludge, as its name suggests was supposed to be. It was a canvas that gained massive popularity as it was the music of the rebels who were anti-system and which managed to be a voice of the voiceless displaying the feelings they had towards society. It basically was the attitude of hardcore punk amplified a million times. However, as time went on the music scene progressed rapidly, the defining traits of what was known as sludge were slowly lost and it turned into an easy listening, uplifting genre. Whereas you earlier had bands which boasted names like EyeHateGod, Acid Bath and Sea Of Deprivation, those were replaced by bands with names like Pelican. You get my point. Enter Naga (formerly known as Kill the Easter Rabbit), a trio from the land of doom, Italy to show us what sludge was supposed to sound like with all its abrasive, headstrong, and destructive glory.

In mid January the band released their self titled debut EP which consisted of 2 tracks and lasted 23 minutes. The word ‘Naga’ is Sanskrit for snake and according to Hindu mythology the snakes were of virulent poison, great prowess and excess of strength, and ever bent on attacking those who dared to pass their way. This pretty much is a summation of their music. Right from the album opener ‘The Path’ you are treated to a tsunami of grimy slush of an atmosphere which with feedback fuelled and suffocatingly heavy atmosphere is an instant throwback to the “Through Silver in Blood” days of Neurosis. Much as the band name suggests, this isn’t a band that will use long post rock influenced passages to create an evocatively beautiful landscape, but is one that with its dense riffs, shadowy atmosphere and hypnotic drumming shows its proclivity towards slithering away from the human eye in the deep, shadowy caverns where no light shines. The band doesn't mind baring its venomous fangs with its sharp riffs, screamed vocals and tumultuous song writing. Though elements of space rock and psychedelia add a few hues to the band so as to make it a varied listen, the bands true prowess lies in their innate talent to make each phase of each track flow fluently with its gargantuan riffs and atmosphere of unease, a trait which is atypical on the track ‘Vitriol’. The way the band manages to build a fragile atmosphere and then smash it into a million bits with an earthquake of breathtakingly elephantine soundscapes is something that sludge has been missing for a while.

This impressive debut is a statement and a a huge middle finger to the new age post metal bands and shows them what sludge is supposed to sound like. At times I felt that they restrained themselves a bit , but they are a new band. Such an aural onslaught has been a rare experience in modern sludge and for that I laud these guys. Looking forward to more from them.

SCORE - 71/100

Tribulation - The Formulas Of Death


Over the past few years death metal has witnessed rabid insurgence. While most have fulfilled the needs of the desperate old school death metal fans by taking elements of the overlords of the death metal genre and rehashed them in an innovative way, some have at this junction of time decided to push the boundaries of this genre. Now humans have this tendency to stick to the tried and tested out way, and have a demurring attitude towards change but some have had the urge to boycott this train of thought and instead possess within them a proclivity towards thinking out of the box. Bands like Necrovation infused elements of rock in death metal without disastrous results, Karanrium infused elements of ritual ambient into its music, Antediluvian and Mitochondrion took chaotic brutality to its extremes and Dead Congregation crushing atmosphere would have made forefathers of the genre proud. Now, the boundaries of the death metal genre have been rather solidly expounded by the laureates of the death metal genre that roamed around in the golden era which lasted from 1983-97, but Tribulation have pushed these very boundaries to parts un-thought of.

Now, Tribulation have been around for almost a decade and this Swedish band released their debut ‘The Horror’ back in 2009 which gained wide acceptance as a brutal slab of a death-thrash assault which showed a severe penchant towards the mould of death metal crafted by the likes of Merciless and Repugnant. Now four years later they have released their sophomore effort entitled ‘The Formulas of Death’. First and foremost, expect absolutely nothing like ‘The Horror, because the music impregnated within this revolves around a different axis completely. On ‘The Formulas Of Death’ the band has matured. Now I used the word matured carefully because even on the previous album the band showed that they were very proficient in the language of horror influenced death metal (well, I personally thought it was a decent album, but the general cry of the mass was that it was some of the best death metal that had ever graced our ears) with their song writing and merciless onslaught of riffs and blastbeats and lyrics gyrating around necrophilia, but to be brutally honest, this kind of Swedish death thrash  has been done masterfully well by the likes of Repugnant and Winterwolf, and however good Tribulation were, they weren’t original.

However, on this album they have chosen to take the elephantine burden of death metal on their backs and forge it into something new, something original. It is not highly uncommon for a band to change their style of music as they progress. Many like Darkthrone, Skyclad, Anathema and Pestilence have done it. Closer to their home Tiamat did it, but I believe that the change in sound initiated by this band most closely resembles the metamorphosis in Morbid Angel’s ‘Altars of Madness’ and ‘Blessed are the Sick’. While both Morbid Angel and Tribulation’s debut album were an aggressive sonic strike that were genuinely malevolent and sinister affairs, their follow up LP’s though firmly ingrained within the sphere of death metal focussed a lot on the aspect of creating an atmosphere. Even an inadvertent glance on the artwork and you see that the unsophisticated screaming zombie with the haphazard hair has been replaced by a beautiful foggy landscape which hypostatizes the band music contained here beautifully.

Musically, describing which genre this LP belongs to is a tough one but I’d call it a mix of atmospheric black metal with elements of progressive metal inculcated with touches of early psychedelic rock though firmly adhered within the death metal genre. Lasting 75 minutes this is more than twice the length of the predecessor and the only trait similar between both releases are the throaty screaming vocals of Johannes Andersson and at few occasions the riffing as well. The guitar tone has gone from a bone dry, razor sharp type of feel to a highly layered feel drenched with a ton of guitar effects and pedal work. Apart from that the band has opted for a sound that boasts of numerous but extremely well structured and rich in detail guitar solos which become rather atypical of the album which add to the extensive soundscape repertoire of this album. The production done by ‘Invictus Productions’ requires special mention because their warm production gives the band a much cleaner sound which adds an extra dimension which massively helps Tribulation achieve what they intended to with this release. Though most of the lead guitar work seems comparable to the psychedelic tremolo riffing of bands like ‘A Forest of Stars’ or ‘Hail Spirit Noir’ or the melodic tremolo riffs of ‘Dissection’ there are moments on tracks like ‘Wanderer in the Outer Darkness’, ‘Spell’ and ‘Apparitions’, the riffs of which are an instant throwback to the thrashy vibe of the debut album.

However, the department where the band seems to have taken a quantum leap is that of the intense song writing which has been given thought of the highest order because of which Tribulation has been able to coalesce such a freakish amount of variables into a cohesive and fluid record that never loses direction with its sharp twists and turns and you find something new awaiting you each corner. The abrupt changes in tempo from a brutal chaotic maelstrom to an eerie, calm section and back to the former, which is best exemplified in ‘Spectres’ acts as a testament to how far the band has progressed. Be it the progressively labyrinthine structures of Ved Buens Ende or the classic Deathspell Omega atmosphere (you know, when the band manages to create a cataclysmic and suffocating surrounding only to put that in a pressure chamber and then channel it using all its energy to a particular point) or the alternating between the melodic riff work and the lo-fi, raw soloing reminiscent of early Darkthrone, Tribulation manage to channel them all and make each such section a small piece is a massive puzzle. Everything from the meaningful instrumentals to the violent ragers like ‘Spell’ and the almost post rock influenced tracks like ‘Ultra silvam’ fit in perfectly. On ‘The Horror’ the bands’ up roaring bedlam grabbed the listeners attentions by the throat, but here the onus is on the listener to give his highest concentration to the songs as they progress so they can thoroughly contemplate the aural enlightenment they have been subjected to. Even though it is mostly about noticing the subtle changes and the individual thought patterns and flow of ideas in each track and how each track progresses from section to another and from atmosphere to another, rather than specific attention to any particular aspect, there are moments on tracks like ‘Spectres’, ‘Through the Velvet Black’ and ‘When the Sky Is Black With Devils’ that are highly infectious and catchy. However, the high point for me in the last track, ‘Apparitions’ where towards 8 minute mark the band starts the build up to one of the greatest crescendos ever created which explodes upon the listener and puts the likes of Immortal to shame, and as the crescendo progresses the rhythm guitar enters with its tremolo picked riffs, bass enters with its sepulchral bass lines and the Goblin influenced ethereal horror effects enter. Epic, majestic, beautiful.

The bands central focal point though, throughout the album has always been the evocative atmosphere, as can be seen due to the presence of as many as three instrumental tracks, and if that wasn’t enough, what is to be noticed is that the band do not stick to a particular type of atmosphere only. While the majority of the album brings to mind the experience of meandering in a dense and foggy forest which collides with the artwork of this release there are a plethora of emotions aroused as the LP progresses. While on tracks like the instrumental opener ‘Vagina dentata’ which starts off with a middle eastern sound which evokes an atmosphere of 60’s psychedelic music or the eerie occult like humming in ‘Spectres’ which conjures feelings of agitation, there is a sepulchral and desolate feel on the piano based לילה (Hebrew for Night), and the uplifting phases in tracks like ‘Apparitions’ and ‘When the Sky Is Black With Devils’. While on the previous album the band used horror influenced the straightforward horror influenced sound effects, here the band has shunned those for a more ethereal horror sound effects, like the ones created by Italian progressive rock band ‘Goblin’ for the horror movie ‘Suspiria’ and evidence of that sound in splattered all throughout especially on tracks like ‘Suspiria’, ‘לילה ‘and ‘Apparitions’. Great production vastly enhances the presence of the bass as it plods along with the rhythm guitar and the drums and is reminiscent of early progressive rock bands and thus is an entity on its own. Making the bass audible nearly throughout makes a titanic difference to the atmosphere and the bass riffs / drum fills combination which the band uses in rare instances brings about a sense of dread and impending doom, something extremely valuable for a horror influenced quartet.

And as the last tracks extended outro acts as an intro to the opening track you wonder what message the band wants to convey. Do they wish dwell upon the circle of life or is my noticing this feature just my imagination?I honestly don’t know, but what I do know is that on ‘The Formulas Of Death’, ‘Tribulation’ has done with its ambiguous approach is force the listener to think and to interpret the meanings themselves.  What this is, is an evidence of a forward thinking band. This is evocative and this is thinking man’s metal. This album is a hard pill to swallow and takes many listens to understand. On my first listen I thought it was sloppy and too long, but the more you listen to it the more you understand the complexity and beauty and the catchier it gets. This is the kind of release where you notice something new each time you decide to give it a spin. Keep this is mind, this right here is one the best metal albums of the decade, and being highly original, the band may have created a fountain of inspiration for others to sip from.

SCORE - 85/100

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Dream Death - Somnium Excessum


With the quality and consistency of metal releases, especially in the death and doom metal genres 2013 has dished out to us up till now you’d think it was a missing year from the 1980’s. Jumping on the bandwagon which includes bands like Convulse and Brutality in none other than legendary Pennsylvania doomsters ‘Dream Death’ who have awoken after more than two and half decades of stupor to unleash upon us yet another weighty magniloquent assault that is a genuinely malevolent affair.

To me, their debut album ‘Journey into Mystery’ is the perfect definition of an underground cult album, in the sense not many know about the album, even those who have a rather subterranean taste is music, but those who have had the pleasure of listening to it can not only laud its superior song writing and originality, but also recognize the titanic amount of influence this band may have had on the upcoming death metal and doom metal scenes. The album was a transition between the glorious aggressive violent thrashing days of the 80’s and the second wave of doom metal which gave rise to some of the most exalted and influential doom metal acts like Saint Vitus and Candlemass.

If you ask a person not well versed in heavy metal, what heavy metal is, his answer will probably be something in the vein of harsh guitars and a noisy sound. Well, it is pretty much the same here and it is a wonderful experience. If asked to describe Dream Death’s music I would describe it as an assimilation of the heavy, distorted yet simple riffing style of Celtic Frost, along with the rawness and approach of bands like Brocas Helm and Cirith Ungol drenched in the compact aggression of early NWOBHM-tinged Slayer. Though influences are many, Dream Death is utterly original in nature and do not come off as a copycat band.

This brings us to the bands’ second full length ‘Somnium Excessum’ which is basically Latin for ‘Dream Death’. It is worth noting that the line up of this album is the classic one that created ‘Journey into Mystery’ with Richard Freund on the bass duty, Mike Smail behind the drums, Terry Weston and Brian Lawrence taking on the twin guitar assault with Brian also handling vocal duties. Musically, this album is not exactly 'Journey Into Mystery' part 2, which is great because they don't come off as a band rehashing old ideas, but instead is a progression from the aforesaid album. Like the debut, this album is very traditional in the sense that the listeners’ attention is not deliberately focused only towards the Brian’s powerful vocals that are a bit reminiscent of Tom Araya, or Mike Smail unparalleled sense of rhythm on the drums or Richard’s distorted bass goodness but instead focuses on all aspects equally. This album with its 6 tracks and 40 minutes in length moves around inside the bulky framework defined by the band on their debut, but doesn't sound as raw as the debut because of the production which has more proclivity towards modern production, and is not as infused with the violent spewing thrash elements as before. Though usually mid pace in tempo there is the opening track ‘Feast’ which is an all out rocker where the bands throws caution to the wind and displays such strength, perseverance and aggression which is an instant throwback to the quality of the debut 1987 album. 

The band still gyrates around the murky Celtic Frost influenced riffs as is witnessed an each track but especially on the riff centric  ‘Them ‘ and the extremely catchy intro riff to ‘ Dystopian Distress Signal'. This time around a lot of importance has been given to the bass (which sadly most bands now days do not) which plods along with generous helping of distortion along the way, and huge dollops of distorted bass on tracks like ‘Them’, ‘Dystopic Distress Signal’ and ‘From Inside the Walls’. While the masculine and character drenching vocals of Brian add another dimension to the band all together the band at their crux still focus on the song writing which is dotted with numerous tempo changes and the whole album is about showcasing the bands ability to structure complete tracks by getting together an aberrant number of tempo and changes and riff progressions. In the traditional sense, the band doesn't like to talk much about what their lyrics mean and leave it up to the listener to come up with its interpretation and in the process creating an air ambiguity and the band manage to diffuse this trait in their music as well where you never know what’s coming next with its astonishing tempo and time signature changes which are delivered with precision and punk fueled execution, which for people new to the band may seem a bit discomforting but in actuality is the bands unique selling point. The outstanding track ‘You're Gonna Die up There’, where the band turns up the amplifier to eleven and drenches the sound in bass distortion unfurls such a plethora of tempo changes and great song writing that is reminiscent of “Divine in Agony” on the debut and is possibly my favorite track here. It’s not all catchy riffs and tempo changes though, Dream Death also cracks out the acoustic guitar on the short track ‘Bludgeon’ and the final track ‘From Inside the Walls’. The band has also shifted its focus towards creating an atmosphere as soon on the final track with its unconventional song structures with the dragged out intro, piano and chants on 'From Inside the Walls' and tracks like 'Them' which starts off with an eerie spoken word intro and also descends into a bass/drum interlude, a feature to be witnessed later on 'You're Gonna Die Up There'. In the annals of history, remember in 2008 when Razorback Records went nuts and releases some horror influenced acts like Crypticus, Acid Witch and Hooded Menace? Well, now you know where their influence comes from.

Boisterous, devastating stuff. Full credit to the band for sounding as intense and malicious as they did before. It’s not easy to retain a defining sound after 26 years but Dream Death successfully has done so without any compromise. The way the band has managed to coalesce so many riffs, solos and tempo changes into a wrecking ball of a release and still plough forward with such power and fluidity amazes me. Special mention for Mike’s kit work, an aspect that is often, ignored in this genre, but here has made a mark with his furious drum fills and oscillation between blast beats and snare attacks or abstract rhythm changes  For old school lovers and music collectors, good news for you, the band intends to release this on vinyl in association with Svart records, so keep an eye out for that. This here, is top 5 of the year material, so keep it in mind.

SCORE - 88/100

Listen to album and interview with with Brian (Jump to 45 mins or so)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sacriphyx - The Western Front


Over the past few years death metal has witnessed rabid insurgence. While most have fulfilled the needs of the desperate old school death metal fans by taking elements of the overlords of the death metal genre and rehashed them in an innovative way, some have at this junction of time decided to push the boundaries of this genre. Bands like Necrovation infused elements of rock in death metal without disastrous results, Karanrium infused elements of ritual ambient into its music, Antediluvian and Mitochondrion took chaotic brutality to its extremes and Dead Congregation crushing atmosphere would have made forefathers of the genre proud. Sacriphyx too are one of those bands who instead of sticking to a tried and tested formula have attempted to push the genres of death metal.

Sacriphyx are a duo from Australia who has been around for a while. Having formed back in 2007 they have released a demo, a few splits and a compilation. Now, finally in 2013 the band has released their debut album entitled ‘The Western Front’ in association with record label Nuclear War Now!  who have worked with respected death metal bands like Dead Congregation, Anatomia and more recently Wrathprayer. Sacriphyx are at their crux a death metal band, but as stated earlier they are not a band that plays traditional death metal. Their idiosyncratic form of death metal focuses a substantially on mid paced riffs and creating an atmosphere which was the defining trait of the early Hellenic black metal scene a la Rotting Christ, Zemial and Varathron , while at the same time bearing a semblance of traditional heavy metal.

The concept of Sacriphyx is about Australians at war. Now war themes and metal have had a long and lasting history, but Sacriphyx’s take on war and metal is different one. While most bands focus and the glory, epic battles and violent aggression of war, this band looks at war from points which are often ignored. The band looks at the labyrinthine dynamics of war at an emotional level and captures the feeling of despair, dogged determination, forlornness, frustration, honor, valor and pride within their music and has the uncanny ability to deliver these emotions upon the listener with an extremely powerful and well thought of sonic assault that lasts 38 minutes and stretches over 8 tracks.

As compared to the previous output by the band ‘The Western Front’ has ingrained within itself, elements of Greek black metal  far more than the band has ever done before as is apparent on tracks like ‘Fatal Fromelles’ and ‘Wells Of Beersheeba’. Apart from this the incorporation of long, flowing melodic solos on almost each track add an emotive aesthetic to the album and has contributed highly to the sound and stirring imagery that the band aimed to fabricate with its unique perspective. While the riff progressions do at times  seem to be influenced by a certain Arghoslent, Sacriphyx has taken the idea incorporated by Arghoslent and transformed it into a more varied, effective and successful output and in the process may have created a fountain of influences for other bands to sip from. For those who have been following this band or have heard their previous output you will know that the band has this uncanny knack of creating very well constructed lengthy songs and on this is apparent on this release as well where the 2 lengthiest tracks, ‘Fatal Fromelles’ and ‘Without a Trace’ are indeed the 2 best tracks here. While the latter is slower in tempo it succeeds in creating an atmosphere, because, after all the slower tracks do create more of an atmosphere in comparison to the ultra high speed ones. Almost a ballad in nature, ’Without a Trace’ may be my favorite track on the record with its death metal growls, black metal riffing and heavy metal soloing, aspects the band strives to stand for. While the solos deserve special mention the band has the ability to create highly catchy riffs that are simple, but effective in nature. Riffs like those on ‘Buried behind the lines’ and ‘Food for the Front’ are some of the best the band have come up with. The second half of the album is more up-tempo in sound and thus more traditional death metal in nature with the track ‘The Crawling Horror’ sounding like something out of the manual of later Bolt Thrower. However much you praise the bands guitar work or militaristic drums or atmosphere (which isn't a surprise considering the band members have been part of great Australian doom acts like Murkrat and Misery's Omen) and performance, when you get to the core of the matter, it is the bands’ superior song writing skills that enable the band the jump from a merciless death metal onslaught to a melodic and emotive section with such seamless agility because of which Sacriphyx have thrust upon the extreme metal fraternity a very well paced release which flows with effortless fluidity.

What ‘The Western Front is, is not just a collection of war themed and impassioned songs. This means much more to the band. It is a history lesson of the wars Australia has had to fight that the Sacriphyx wishes to narrate to its listeners through its output as can be seen in the intro self titled track that has sounds of gunfire that acts as a precursor of what is to follow or the track ‘Damn Passchendaele Ridge’ which is an acoustic track and what seems to be an audio log of a soldier who is frustrated out of his senses. To my knowledge there are currently no bands that are playing in the territory this band currently is and honestly, I am surprised that they haven’t gotten more attention than they have considering bands like Arghoslent did and so did Deathevokation with its take on melodic mid paced death metal. Come what may, keep this album in mind. 2 months into this year, this release is my favorite debut by a death metal band in 2013 and is certainly top 10, if not top 5 stuff.

SCORE - 88/100

Friday, March 1, 2013

Stonehenge - Bunch Of Bisons


When asked to give a synopsis on Germany’s contribution to metal most will either talk about the brutal Teutonic thrash scene spearheaded by Kreator, Destruction, Sodom and Holy Moses or will bring up or the influence ze Germans had on modern power metal with bands like Running Wild, Blind Guardian, Helloween or Gamma Ray and some may even bring up the heavy metal exports Accept and Scorpions. However, not many know that the country in question here has a budding Doom and Stoner metal scene as well. As we are talking about stoner here, the German catalogue consists of bands like My Sleeping Karma, Kadavar, Samsara Blues Experiment, Electric Moon and Rotor.

This brings us to the new stoner band on the block. Going by the name Stonehenge which is a 4 piece band the band released their debut album entitled ‘Bunch of Bisons’ early in 2013. German stoner rock is notorious for its grandiose take on the mentioned genre and has gained quite some popularity because of it. Continuing in the same vein Stonehenge unleashes this album upon us. Bunch of Bisons can be described as a conglomeration of heavy fuzzed out stoner rock taking elements from both modern as well as the swamis of the genres ala Kyuss and Fu Manchu along with scanty trips into the psychedelia infused unexplained expanses and bluesy marijuana meanderings in a mirage inducing desert baked by the hot sun. These are meshed together with a rock out and live in the moment attitude of classic rock bands and with touches of krautrock sprinkled throughout all the time backed with the unpredictability and song writing skills of progressive rock bands. After you wrap your head around that, drench this in an organ bathed atmosphere and you have what is collectively known as Stonehenge.

With 7 tracks dragging almost an hour this band do not intend to make an easy listening album and know exactly what type of audience they are looking to target.  Apart from the sporadic vocals this is mainly an instrumental band. The band is at times similar to the fellow country mates Samsara Blues Experiment but instead of the drawn on hazy jams that enveloped the listener with Stonehenge you feel a proclivity towards more structured and thought of songs. While the album opener ‘Arctic Brother’ starts off with a krautrock type intro that lasts over a minute it doesn’t take for the band to get into its groove with the plodding riffs, groovy interludes and solos that can range from soaring to mini dabbles. Though there is the obvious worship at the school of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age, especially on the title track, the band is never a rip off with its numerous tempo changes that contribute greatly to the atmosphere and the bands paltry respect for conventional song structures. Even though the band lays nothing back when it comes to the riffs department the changes in tempo and riffs are at times subtle which if one pays close attention to detail can understand how they complement each other. With each track and each passing minute you understand the band lesser and lesser as the band may at times cover you with a barrage of new riffs be it groovy or a soft strum and it times follow the minimalist approach by attempting to create an atmosphere through repetition and continually surprise you with sharp twists and sudden turns. Whatever the band seems to throw towards the listener be it a earthy and melodic phase or an unpredictable tempo change or a dope induced rambling section or even the fuzzed out heavy leads coupled with the swirling guitar solos you can hear the gargantuan amount of talent this band has and while you are gripped by the complex song structures you can sense the bands high level of amusement and frolic. The way the band has meshed together the unusually high amount of variables and still come up with a release that surrounds you and flows with such fluidity for almost 60 minutes is certainly laudatory.

Johannes steals the show with his organ work
It is not unusual for a bands selling point to be the guitar work or powerful vocals, but here the person who takes the cake easily is Johannes, the guy behind the keyboards and organs with his ‘I sold my soul to the devil’ like grandiose performance. His work is what gives the band its unique sound and thrust the bands to greater levels of originality and greatness. And with this, Stonehenge has once again proved why Germany is the hub of stoner music and is constantly putting out bands and albums in an unimaginable stagnant genre of music. ‘Bunch Of Bisons’ is an extremely powerful debut in an extremely over stuffed and uncreative genre, and with a little luck they may gain the much deserved accolades fellow bands like Kadavar has gotten.

SCORE - 83/100