Sunday, 1 June 2014

Fange - Poisse tape

Fange describe themselves as a 'dirty, massive & loud sludge experience', but this is nowhere near as many adjectives to do their music justice. I'd go with 'utterly putrified gargantuan ear-destroying sludge trauma'. Nope, that still doesn't quite cover it.

Formed by members of France's psychedelic fuzz-worshippers Brain Pyramid and Huata, Fange are a far nastier proposition than either. The sound on debut EP Poisse is what you can imagine would happen if Eyehategod pawned all their gear for, well, gear, and had to borrow Entombed's pedals, and were really fucking pissed off about the whole situation.

While the music was obviously what grabbed my attention, it was the presentation of the release that demanded a purchase. With some demented artwork courtesy of guitarist Benjamin Moreau (check out more of his work here), given the space such intricate lines deserve on a VHS-style cassette box, I couldn't wait to snap one up. It took a bit of distro trawling, but I managed to snag one via Throatruiner. So fucking worth it.

The CDs are just as well presented, and still readily available, but personally I'm a tape man.

Opening with 'Grêle Molle', the massive overblown guitar tone is immediately recognisable as the band's weapon of choice, the Boss HM2, which lends their riffs the kind of snarl often heard within the slower end of the heavy spectrum. The everything-in-the-red mix makes you work to pick out discernable details, but the immediate effect is so simultaneously crushing and catchy that you'll have no problem with flipping the tape over and over to pick 'em out.

'Cloches Fendues' rattles along with a ragged groove like a never-quite-healed scar, while 'Ammoniac' takes a more dynamic approach, switching tempo between a punked-up stomp and a sludgy crawl. There's no way to appropriately describe just how fucking hard these tracks hit, you really need to just hit play, stick your head between your speakers and prepare to bang it.

The sludge staples of feedback and samples that eventually become 'Suaire' give no indication of the true horror to be found in the track proper. If when things really begin to swing you're not thoroughly creeped out, then you probably had the sort of childhood that would make Francis Dolarhyde weep. After the mental-asylum-in-the-bowels-of-hell build-up to final track 'Lucifour', you'd be forgiven for fearing one last unlistenable noise assault designed to leave you truly traumatised, but the multitude of Wizard-worshipping riffs ensure Poisse ends on neck-wreckingly groovy high.

While there seems to be a new sludge band cropping up every day, very few of them possess the true spirit of the genre quite like Fange. Encrusted in filth, awash in feedback, full of hatred; this is music to seethe to.

Fange on Facebook | Bandcamp

Old Skin - :consume:

I've written before about Manchester's Old Skin, back when they had their two-track demo going around about a year ago. When they followed that up with a more rounded, experimental sound on the Mære 7" soon after, I remarked that the UK's hardcore scene was witnessing the birth of something special.
With the release of :consume:, another two-track teaser CD, they continue to build upon that early promise.

First off, the band have chosen an unusual method of releasing this latest concise burst of vehemence, choosing to make it available as both a digital download and extremely limited CD for just one week. At midnight GMT on 1/6/14 it will be taken down, and completely unavailable save for being shared among those lucky enough to have been paying attention.

While the whole 'mysterious limited release' thing has been around for a while, it's been mainly due to deliberately small pressings or complete lack of promotion. By contrast, :consume: has garnered quite a bit of attention, and rightfully so.

Stripping away the overly-experimental flourishes of their last release, we are left with two bare bones tracks that tear past in a mere 6 minutes. 'Swordcharmer' alternates between high-register off-kilter riffage and muscular chugging passages, with some frantic rhythms courtesy of drummer Dan Watson, while 'Snakeswallower' doesn't fuck with that formula too much, but with some seriously unhinged fleet-fingered fretwork from guitarist Joe Clayton. Guaranteed to have heads either spinning or banging, you'll be hitting the replay button either way.

You have 6 hours left from the time of publication of this post to snag these tracks, and I can't recommend that you do highly enough. The band themselves note "This release ends a period of time we are extremely proud of and grateful for, and has given us the momentum to write our first LP, to be recorded in December 2014."
If they continue to mine the same furious vein as they have thus far, the full-length is sure to be absolutely incredible. Don't sleep; consume.

Old Skin on Facebook | Bandcamp

Of Spire & Throne - Toll Of The Wound

Edinburgh's masters of misery Of Spire & Throne satisfy my craving for tectonic heaviness in a way few other bands can. Their devastating dirges have had me swaying perilously close to collapse the couple of times I've caught them live, and their latest release Toll Of The Wound captures their particularly intense strain of doom perfectly.

The disjointed martial rhythm of the opening track can scarcely prepare you for what's to come, as 'Legacy' erupts in a bludgeoning riff, soon joined by guitarist/vocalist Ali Lauder's subterranean, subhuman roar. The cumulative effect is genuinely disturbing, sending a shiver up your spine before crumbling it into dust, as the band alternate between short sharp shocks and guitar-strangling sludgier sections.

There's not a moment of relief to be found, and even the introductory percussive atmospherics of following track 'Tower Of Glass' will set you on edge, dreading what could be coming next with every cymbal tap. This sense of unease continues throughout, as the band never quite bring the track to any kind of conclusion, with Lauder and bassist Matt Davies seeming more content to meander malevolently around Graham Stewart's brilliantly restrained drumming. The looser structure of this track is no bad thing, but a comfortable listen it is not.

Sure to be one of the few releases this year truly worthy of the word crushing, this release is currently available on both CD and tape via the US-based Broken Limbs Records, with a vinyl release to follow soon. For UK folks, the band themselves have copies available via their bandcamp.

Check out my full unedited review of this release at Echoes & Dust...

Of Spire & Throne on Facebook | Bandcamp

Monday, 26 May 2014

Hooded Menace - Labyrinth Of Carrion Breeze 12"

Following their Relapse Records debut in 2012 with the rockin' death-doom masterpiece Effigies Of Evil, 2013 saw the prolific Hooded Menace retreat back into obscurity. However, they weren't merely hanging out watching their 'Tombs Of The Blind Dead' videotape for the hundredth time, as they're back with with yet another monstrous release via Doomentia Records: Labyrinth Of Carrion Breeze.

It's clear from the tone and tempo that 'Chasm Of The Wraith' leans more towards the funereal end of the doom spectrum than their usual fare and when Lasse's chasmic vocals kick in, they'll blow the cobwebs off of your casket, that's for damn sure!

Hooded Menace's strong point has always been in the simultaneous catchiness and heaviness of Lasse's riffs, and this new material is no exception; he packs more interesting riffs into a single song than most bands have in their entire catalogue. Only occasionally descending into histrionics, for the most part this track is all killer, no filler, especially impressive for a 10 minute song!

'The Creeping Flesh' pulls no punches, as that roar emerges from the depths immediately, dragging you down into the darkness. While not quite as varied as the opener, this track does feature some prime ribcage-rattling double-kick work from drummer Pekka Koskelo. For those of you who dig the bands that Hooded Menace take their inspiration from, you'll want to throw on Lost Paradise after hearing this one, trust me.

Hooded Menace are one of the most notable death-doom bands of recent years thanks to a slew of consistently excellent releases, and with the release of Labyrinth Of Carrion Breeze their reputation as one of the best in the genre has only been further cemented. There are still copies of the black vinyl variant going over at Doomentia Records, so snag one while you still can!

You can read my full, unedited review of this record over at Echoes & Dust...

Hooded Menace on Facebook | Bandcamp

Lizzard Wizzard - s/t tape

Lizzard Wizzard are probably Brisbane, Australia's best turn-based stoner doom band, and while I'm still waiting for someone to buy me a place ticket out there to confirm this for myself, their debut recording does suggest it might just be the case.

Also, for their debut release they really knock it out of the fucking park in terms of artwork and packaging. A limited edition tape release of the album was available via California's Houdini Tapes, but thats long gone by now, which came with all these extra goodies for the discerning stoner nerd.

Opening track 'Twilight Of The Terminator' opens with some heavy Sleep vibes, the lurching menace of the riff sounding like guitarists Michael Clarke and Nick McKeon dipped their joints in embalming fluid before before being forced to listen to Dopesmoker 13 hours in a row. Thankfully they keep the running time of the track to a nice concise 5 minutes so as to not send every listener off to the asylum. 'Total Handjob Future' has a similarly woozy gait, with a nice depraved satisfyingly sludgy middle section, the aural equivalent of of waking up still hungover and devouring a cold leftover takeaway. You know you shouldn't enjoy something so horrible, but it's so fucking good.

With the sound of a lighter sparking up repeatedly (a nod to 'Sweet Leaf' perhaps?) the band's take on the popular HBO fantasy series theme song hits its stride when that instantly recognisable riff kicks in. There have been a slew of metal covers of this song because, well, metal is for fucking nerds, but endless youtube videos made by symphonic power metal dweebs with BC Rich Warlocks can't compare with 'Game Of Cones'.
The rhythm of the song lends itself far better to a heavier interpretation, and drummer Luke Osborne totally nails the relentless floor-tom battery of the original, and when they've run through the 90 seconds we're all familiar with, they take the tempo down into serious doom territory, giving the track a genuinely melancholic vibe.
If they don't shoot a highly intoxicated parody of the series for the video to this song, a la Red Fang, then that'd be an excellent opportunity missed.

The album closes out with the twin-guitar-led slow burner 'Dogs Die In Hot Cars', which meanders along in a similarly wasted fashion to the rest of the tracks, until out of nowhere the spirit of Josh Homme possesses the entire band and they kick out the fuckin' jams. When the demented vocals arrive, you'll swear this is a lost Nick Oliveri-fronted b-side from the Deaf sessions. Culminating in more of the old low 'n' slow, and even some heartbreaking puppy howls, it's probably the cutest ending you could imagine for a doom album.

But this isn't just stoner doom... this is Lizzard Wizzard!

Read my full, unedited review over at Echoes & Dust...

Lizzard Wizzard on Facebook | Bandcamp

Friday, 17 January 2014

Culted - Oblique To All Paths

I tried to review this album without mentioning the Culted's geographically fascinating backstory, but the disconnect between the members (Three of whom reside in the remote Canadian prairies while vocalist Daniel Jansson lives in Gothenburg, Sweden. They have never met.) had such an impact on my interpretation of the album that I felt compelled to bring it up. Throughout the entirety of Oblique To All Paths I was unable to shake the feeling that Jansson's voice was like some terrible long-lost recorded artifact, and that the musicians had been tasked with writing an appropriately unsettling piece of music to accompany it, when in fact their recording process is quite the opposite way around.

Both the instruments and vocals are swathed in layers of effects; the guitars can occasionally sound like the scraping of long-ossified bone on cracked concrete, the drums hit with all the impact of anti-materiel rounds fired into the hull of a rusted tanker, and the vocals sound like the last transmission of a man slowly bleeding to death in the middle of a frozen tundra. It is an unremittingly bleak collection of sounds, expertly fused to create an unpleasant but wholly immersive experience.

I would be genuinely surprised if anyone is able to listen through this whole album without needing to take a break more than a couple of times. Sombre piano jabs lead into 'Illuminati' which actually possesses something vaguely resembling traditional song structure, there's a riff and everything! It may be accompanied by more of Jansson's feral, cybernetic howls, but it's a riff nonetheless. However the following track, 'Intoxicant Immuration', contains no such concessions to structure; it's more akin to floating facedown in the slowly pooled blood of a thousand bathtub suicides.

With Oblique To All Paths, a title taken from a quote from occultist Austin Osman Spare, Culted fulfil their intention to "explore an artistic or philosophical path regardless of societal expectations". Whilst filtering elements of doom, black metal, industrial, noise and much more into their musical output, Culted sound completely unlike any other band. Follow down their dark path at your peril...

Read my full unedited review at Echoes And Dust...

Culted on Facebook | Bandcamp

Saturday, 4 January 2014

UPYR - Altars / Tunnels

As far as I am aware, Upyr are the first metal band from Bulgaria that I've ever listened to, and judging by the bleakness of their demo Altars / Tunnels it must be a fucking horrible place to live. Seriously, despite doom becoming the most prevalent genre of metal to arise in the past few years, very few new releases sound as genuinely miserable as this.

Opening with a spot of string-strangling feedback, 'Altars of Necrotic Karma' soon unveils its malicious intent when the skull-rattling drums and doomed-to-death riff kicks in. The mix unfortunately leaves the drums sounding a little too echo-y and out of sync with the rest of the band, but seeing as this is their first demo recording, it's a small fault that can be forgiven.
A fast-paced midsection allows the band to drag things out of doom territory for a short while before the tempo comes crashing back down again, making the slower sections seem all the more devastating. It's clear that the musicians in the band have a grasp of dynamic songwriting that is often all too lacking in the doom genre, whilst vocalist Brodnik has a great range, switching between death growls and blackened shrieks. If UPYR are able to develop the depth of ideas heard in this first track alone, their debut full-length is going to be something truly special.

Second track 'Into the Tunnels of My Sleep' begins with sparse, mournful guitar before unfurling into a monstrously bleak slab of funeral doom. Here Brodnik's vocals are akin to the almost drawled delivery of Scott Kelly, before he dredges up a truly harrowing bellow to accompany the crushing atmosphere of the music. As much as I hate to just endlessly focus on the vocals, there's another section in this track where you would swear that they managed to rope in Jeff Walker to lend his foul rasp, it's such an uncannily accurate piece of Carcass karaoke. The interplay between guitarists Spasm and Tymnokryw is excellent, especially towards the end of the track, when one of them takes the opportunity to rip out a solo that flows perfectly alongside the main riff. It's one of this chill-up-your-spine moments. So damn good.

'Hymn to Pan' opens with some pretty, plaintive guitar, a stark contrast to the oppressive heaviness of the previous track. It's a welcome variation, though you can't help but wonder how long this peace can last? It turns out that the majority of the track is in this vein, but the overall vibe is one of unease, constantly wondering when the calm will end and the storm will descend.

Final track 'Welcome to the Ritual' is exclusive to the cassette release, and is an early rehearsal recording. The blown-out drum sound of the earlier tracks is thankfully replaced by a much more organic sound here, while the music is a heady mix of hypnotic passages and lurching, stop-start riffage. It sounds completely different from the previous tracks, which rather than making the demo sounding messy or unfocused, is an excellent indicator that UPYR simply have more ideas than they know what to do with. If they continue to crank out such interesting, varied tracks on future releases, they could well become Bulgaria's premier exponents of all things heavy.

You can pick up a copy of this demo on cassette via Serpent Eve Records which I highly recommend you do as it's one of the best demos I've heard in a long time.

UPYR on Facebook | Bandcamp

Friday, 3 January 2014

Fleshpress - Tearing Skyholes

Finland's Fleshpress may take their name from a Grief song, but it's clear from the opening moments of 'Washer', the first track of their 8th release Tearing Skyholes, that this is a mere vestigial influence by this point.
During the opening minutes of this track they're more akin to mid-to-late period Earth, replete with bright, clean tones and glacial pace, but things soon take a turn for the harsher with an abrasive noise-rock rhythm and the addition of vocalist Marko's repellant bark.

The absolutely monumental closing track 'Each Eye Holes The Sky' begins with layers of corrosive guitar and pounding drums, increasingly building the tension of the track to the point where it becomes almost unbearable, the layers of guitar interweaving and overlapping before the track finally coalesces into a recognisable rhythm. Revolting, orc-like grunted vocals babble maliciously just beneath the surface, while the band seemingly abandon the momentum they spent so long building in favour of short guitar breaks with an almost western vibe.

This is another perfect example of what Fleshpress do so well on Tearing Skyholes; they establish a solid rhythmic base which they then use to veer off on wild exploratory tangents, without ever becoming convoluted or boring. Yes, there's a fair bit of fretboard fuckery, but never at the expense of interesting riffs. The track deteriorates further with each repetition until the riff is so distended and warped that it's barely recognisable from the track's beginnings, before dissipating into corrosive feedback, the equivalent of the slow death of rusting machinery.

Read my full review of this release over at Echoes And Dust...

Fleshpress on Facebook | Bandcamp

Servants Of The Mist - Suicide Sex Pact

With Suicide Sex Pact, Tampa’s Servants Of The Mist have released a half hour of devastating doom that’s just as fatal as its title.

First track 'Absence' opens with a slurred sample of creepy Christian classic ‘Jesus Loves Me‘, also recently used by dearly-departed UK doom fiends Ishmael on their track ‘Buried With Fingers Crossed’; whether it’s being sung by a children’s choir or a drunken depressive, the effect is just as chilling. Why do those weak enough to need the Christian crutch take comfort from lines like "Little ones to him belong – they are weak, but he is strong"?
I will never grasp the complicit surrender of self to a fictional character just to give people an excuse for their pathetic, weak-minded actions. That docile servitude, indoctrinated since birth as the sampled song proves, has been exploited to nefarious ends for millenia by now, and is still given free reign to continue. Baffling.

The sample draws to a close, replaced by the piercing feedback that has been a genre staple ever since a group of New Orleans miscreants first started to Hate God back in the late ’80s. Guttural growls over distortion and feedback is not a new formula by any means, but the Servants choke the life out of it regardless. What sets them apart is that they sound truly miserable, and by the time the track lumbers to an end you’ll have felt every damn ounce of their weight upon your shoulders. I think that depressive atmosphere is what attracts me to this particular strain of heavy; there’s no better soundtrack to wallowing in your bad decisions, and realising that life is a disappointment.

With this release, Servants Of The Mist may not be reinventing the wheel, but they do give it a few more screeching spins on its rusted axle. Highly recommended if you like your doom despondent, and your samples unsettling.

Read my full review of this release over at The Sleeping Shaman...

Lazarus Blackstar / Black Shape Of Nexus split

I've been a fan of Bradford's bleakest, Lazarus Blackstar, ever since stumbling upon their debut album Revelations many years back. Their maniacal fusion of sludge and noise on that release absolutely sickened me, since at the time I hadn't even heard Eyehategod or Unsane yet, and I guess you could say that Lazarus Blackstar were one of my gateways into the uglier side of heavy music.
It's been with great interest that I've followed them from their earlier material with Paul Catten's demented howl, through to last year's excellent Hymns For The Cursed with new vocalist Mik Hell's fearsome growls.

When they released a split 12" with Glasgow's Headless Kross earlier this year, featuring guest vocals from none other than Alicia Morgan (of NYC legends 13), they really established themselves as one of Britain's foulest exponents of gut-churning doom.

This latest slab of filth, a split 12" with Mannheim's Black Shape Of Nexus via Alerta Antifascista Records, will hopefully turn more people on to both of these excellent bands, and have the current crop of weak UK 'doom' bands cowering behind their Dopesmoker reissues. I'm looking at you, Black Bong Goat Witch Whateverthefuck.

Black Shape Of Nexus begin their side with the monumental 'Honor Found In Delay', a not-so-subtle nod to Neurosis, who are obviously a big influence here. The slow build of the riff is soon joined by vocalist Malte Seidel's hoarse bellow, which coincidentally reminds me in some places of former Blackstar vocalist Paul Catten. Around the halfway point of the track, things switch up to a ominous, bass-heavy rumble, strains of feedback weaving throughout. There's not much in the way of variation, but the sheer propulsive power of the track is perhaps their sole intention. Who needs variety when you've got sheer driving force?

Their second contribution, 'Always And Only', is another sterling example of bass-led riffage, Stefan Kuhn's prowling groove locking the whole thing down. For a band with 6 members, they all sound remarkably focused on creating a solid, unified rhythm, instead of veering off indulging each member's individual whims. Though I've never made it to Mannheim, I have spent a lot of time in industrial Germany, and BSon really do produce a fitting soundtrack to the endless sprawl of purely practical architecture, miles and miles of red brick and steelworks... their sound is as lean and effective as German engineering itself.

Lazarus Blackstar open with 'Command And Control', the guitars of Lee Baines and Izak Gloom possessing a slightly more mournful edge than usual, and Mik Hell's growl even lower and more demented than ever. This track is probably the most out-and-out 'doom' thing they've recorded so far, it has that perfect degree of despair set to a sound heavier than the weight of 6ft of gravedirt on a casket lid.

Closing out their side with 'Whispering Through Broken Teeth', a track just as nasty and unpleasant as it's title, which doesn't so much have riffs as it has audio maelstroms, sucking you down into the murky depths below. Again they eschew the sludgier, more noise-oriented material of their beginnings, in favour of a tar-black strain of doom, even incorporating the sound of a mellotron, and chanted, semi-clean vocals. If this stylistic shift is more than just idle experimentation, and further material in this vein is handled as excellently as it is here, I'm so goddamn excited to hear more from them in the coming year. Here's to hopelessness.

Black Shape Of Nexus on Facebook | Bandcamp
Lazarus Blackstar on Facebook | Reverbnation

This review originally appeared at The Sleeping Shaman.