Posts Tagged ‘Doom’

28th August 2020

James Wells

If a band can’t sell itself up, what hope have they for anyone else? So fair play to Horrible Youth, who pitch themselves as ‘an Icelandic five-piece sludge and grunge band that sprang to life in Oslo in 2016 and quietly recorded their stunning debut, Wounds Bleed.’

And you know what? It is stunning. ‘Monkeys’, the album first track is a low-tempo grunger that blends Nirvana and Metallica and ultimately comes on like Melvins – and if you’re going to for sludge and grunge, Melvins is the band against which any other is going to be judged.

The songs on Wounds Bleed are concise (the majority being under four minutes) and built around simple repetitive riffs cranked out with a big, overdriven guitar, and favouring the mid to lower ends of the EQ spectrum for a dense, murky sound. Only the cymbals crash through the

Single cut ‘Blissful Tropes’ brings a psych twist to the lumbering riffery, and it’s got hooks and weight in equal measure (it’s hardly a pop tune, but there’s a sinewy lead guitar behind the shouting), making it a standout on what is, undeniably, a really solid album.

It sure as hell ain’t soft or gentle, and doesn’t do the cliché ‘mellow’ track at the end of side one or anything, instead slinging riff after riff, with the rawness of Tad at their best. ‘Serve the Plague’ hits a particularly hefty, low-slung, goth-doom groove, and the tempo picking up around halfway through to thrash out a full-throttle attack.

Combining density and intensity, and packing a megalithic dose of angst, Wounds Bleed distils the sound of 1994 and turns the volume up to eleven, and the result is something special.

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EMBR are four musical kindred spirits who have delivered a crushing, yet beautiful debut album in 1823. At this point, it is worth stating that the title 1823 has special significance. It’s not just a numerical title, it has substance. Eric Bigelow (drummer) has been on the list for a kidney for around 4 years.

Eric received a kidney transplant in May of 2019. This happened right in the middle of writing the album. The kidney was from a deceased donor and all Eric and Crystal Bigelow (singer and Eric’s wife) know about the donor is that it was a young woman between the ages of 18-23. The album is dedicated to the donor and the surgeons at Vanderbilt hospital in Nashville TN. And what a fine tribute it is.

Musically, 1823 could be categorized as ‘Doom’. However, on this debut it’s obvious that EMBR have range, drive and a desire to add to the genre, to broaden it whilst staying true to its core fundamentals.

Rest assured, the band have all the nuts and bolts in place. Mark Buchanan (guitar), Alan Light (bass) and Eric Bigelow (drums) keep everything tight and weighty. Massive drop-tuned guitars, chest rattling low end, pounding drums, fuzzy distortion, it’s all there. But they also add in synths, a bit of grunge and alt rock flavours.

The vocal talents of Crystal absolutely soar and strengthen the music. Her range, patterns and harmonies transport the band’s music skyward. Crystal adds soul and an air of melancholia to the musical creations. If a pointer were needed, think Mastodon meets Witch Mountain with epic sweeps and a shade of gothic drama.

The songs on 1823 are loud, brutally beautiful, aggressive, abrasive and at times atmospheric, uplifting and emotional. Welcome to the next chapter of EMBR.

Ahead of 1823, they’ve offered up ‘Where I’ve Been’ . Check the video here:

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Cruel Nature Records – 3rd July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

On the face of it, Newcastle has a conspicuously large and thriving scene devoted to all kinds of noisy / experimental metal shit, until you realise that about 75% of the bands feature James Watts and a number of his mates. Ultimately, that’s col, because Watts is a versatile vocalist – maybe not Mike Patton, but more than adept at affecting all kinds of low-throated metal, as well as anguished elongated notes and monastic incantations, and, as the last song evidences, human didgeridoo.

The band are described as ‘a unique weirdo blend of improvised doom with a drunken psychedelic vibe which is anywhere between THRONES to The Melvins to a very pissed off Butthole Surfers.’ The blurb also goes on to detail that ‘They normally play as a 3 piece, with bass, drums, a little sax and vocals which sound like they are coming out of someone’s mouth who has been trapped in a basement for 20 years and staying alive by licking the mould that grows on beer barrels.’

It’s a fair summary, although there’s more than a little sax here. But no violins. For all the sonic assault, they’re very much pacifists.

There’s nothing like easing the listener into an album gently, and the twenty-three minute opener, ‘Ioniser’ is absolutely nothing like easing the listener into an album gently. An overloading crackle and buzz churns and distorts like hell. It eventually settles into a Shellac-like groove, hectic Todd Trainer-esque drumming driving a grungy low-end grind that provides the backdrop for a display of vocal contortions that celebrate all things tortured and guttural.

Christ, that bass! It’s so low and grindy it could relieve constipation within a matter of bars, and against a jazz-influenced rhythm played with explosive force, ‘Shan patter’ is an absolute beast. The vocals are barely audible and as low, if not lower, than the bass, a chthonic gurgle

‘Shenanigans’ has the looping structure of a dance track crossed with the nagging circular motifs that defined Therapy’s sound on Nurse – only it’s a twisted jazz-funk odyssey, and it’s a complete contrast with the ultra-slow, ultra-minimalist drone-plod of ‘Wallow’ that crawls into a droning boom of repetition, a single chord ringing out for an eternity, the sustain twisting to feedback. Any Sunn O))) comparisons are entirely justified, although the percussion has a certain swing that lifts it from the domain of sludgy doomy drone and into that of something more jazz/low grunge in style.

And if the title of the final cut inspires references to Derek an Clive, the thirteen-minute ‘Horn’ is less to inspire a rush of blood to the penis than a crawling sensation over the skin as another lumbering bassline strolls, battered, bruised, dust and dirt-covered from amidst a fizz of noise before a heavy-hearted brass brays, wails, and honks all over.

While the freeform elements of the pieces give them a sense of looseness, or non-conformity, of spontaneity, of disarray, the way they come together so tightly and intuitively on the extended riffy segments is indicative of a real musical competence and a high level of intuition. It’s special and it’s rare. And it’s a defining feature of an album that’s properly heavy, and at the same time, way jazzy without sucking.

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BlackLab, ‘the dark witch doom duo from Osaka, Japan’ are poised to return with their new long playing record Abyss.

Recorded under a full moon over three intense days, the album has the ‘off the leash’ abandon of ‘Fun House’ era ‘Stooges’ and is marked by a fat dose of doom meets slowed down hardcore punk; filled with loud, ultra distorted guitar, and yet, a surprising amount of melody as well.

In fact, Yuko has said that the band’s name is a combination of Black Sabbath and Stereolab, well here on Abyss is where that strange mix begins to make musical sense.

The band haven’t lost their love of lo-fi or ‘Riot Grrrl’ attitude.

The guitars are loud and heavily gnarled to the point of chaos.

Vocals go from shoegaze melodic to hardcore screams (in fact rarely has a vocalist in this genre screamed so musically as Yuko does) and underneath all this, Chia batters the skins, all rolling and tumbling thunder amidst the riffs.

Yes there is a smattering of ‘Sabbathy Wizarding’ of course, but submerged within dark, deep fuzz and punk rock crank and grind.

In truth the vibe is closer to both the arty heaviness of early Boris, and the sweet savagery of My Bloody Valentine, than any kind of ‘doom’ tropes. And in many ways, Blacklab are continuing the long tradition of Japanese experimental noise that bands like Melt Banana and Bordeoms exemplify. Ultimately though, it’s a sound that is undoubtedly BlackLab’s own.

So over 8 tracks, clocking in at around 42 mins, you get the current Blacklab world view.

‘Abyss’ is an album that is as raw and alive as it gets.

It’s refreshingly free of artifice, and it doesn’t arse around. What more can you want.

Say hello to the Osaka underground and watch the video for new single ‘Insanity’ now.

Southern Lord – 25th October 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The appearance of a new Sunn O))) album just six months after Life Metal represents a significant upsurge in their usually steady output. But then, as much as it is a standalone document, Pyroclasts exists in many ways as a companion and counterpart to Life Metal, which in the slow-moving scheme of Sunn O))) represented a seismic shift on a par with Monoliths and Dimensions in that it brought a new focus. The question posed by Life Metal centred around what precisely could Steve Albini bring to Sunn O)))’s eternal drone guitar noise. In the event, his ‘stick the mics in front of the amps at a precise distance and angle and let the tape roll’ approach brought new sonic dimensions (but no monoliths) to the fore, giving the band a new and unexpected richness of sound. It’s this clarity and depth that also defines Pyroclasts recorded during the same sessions.

An element of ritual is integral to much of Sunn O)))’s work, and while this is perhaps nowhere more evident than in their live performances, the very nature of the music, the image, and the titling of their albums alludes to a certain type of repetitive organisation and (pseudo)spiritual convention. The origins of Pyroclasts is rooted in that ritualism, as is explained in the press release:

‘The Pyroclasts album is the result of a daily practice which was regularly performed each morning, or evening during the two week Life Metal sessions at Electrical Audio during July 2018, when all of the days musical participants would gather and work through a 12 minute improvised modal drone at the start and or end of the day’s work. The piece performed was timed with a stopwatch and tracked to two inch tape, it was an exercise and a chance to dig into a deep opening or closing of the days session in a deep musical way with all of the participants. To connect/reconnect, liberate the creative mind a bit and greet each other and the space through the practice of sound immersion.’

And so the four pieces on Pyroclasts last between 10’54” and 11’04”, and being aware of the time constraints imposed by the players, the endings make sense: the first track, ‘Frost’, is close to what sounds like a natural ending as the drone hum hangs, but fades uncommonly fast when ordinarily they’d let the note hang for an eternity. Likewise the last of the four, ‘Ascensions’, which starts higher, faster, more aggressively than is usual for Sunn O))), and ends abruptly as though the tape was simply stopped dead – which it probably was.

Given the band’s maximalist tendencies and a propensity for sprawling sludgescapes spanning fifteen to twenty minutes this discipline and concision offers a new insight into their methods. Four tracks and a running time of circa forty minutes is tight for Sunn O))), and it works remarkably well.

Pyroclasts is exploratory and experimental in context of Sunn O))), and in revealing new facets while at the same time mining the same seam the band have explored since their inception, it’s an interesting and highly necessary document of their evolution and practises. Moreover, it’s another booming slab of texture-heavy droning doom and absolutely classic Sunn O))).

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New Heavy Sounds – 11th October 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Cold in Berlin’s evolution has followed a fairly steady but swift arc: having emerged in 2010 with the spiky attack that was Give Me Walls, Rituals of Surrender represents their fourth album. That’s a respectable work rate, and over that time they’ve remained true to their dark, post-punk gothy roots, but have become progressively slower and heavier, the guitars growing sludgier, doomier.

In musical circles, there is always a ‘new strain’ emerging, even if said strain is a revisioning of an older strain. Not so long ago, it was post-punk revivalism, then there was a vintage heavy metal return, which in turn spawned the emergence of a stoner / doom / sludge hybrid. Cold in Berlin, having crashed in on the post-punk tidal wave are now more closely aligned to another more niche strain of the latter, namely colossally heavy female-fronted bands who bring an ethereal and emotive aspect to the sludgy / stoner / heavy template. Is it lazy journalism to bracket Cold in Berlin’s latest offering alongside Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and the last couple of albums by Chelsea Wolfe? Perhaps, but the references are at least instructive in terms of establishing a certain thread of stylistic commonality. But for every similarity, there are equal differences, and Cold in Berlin are most definitely a unique proposition in the way they balance the instrumental heft with Maya’s powerful vocals.

The album gets straight down to business with ‘The Power,’ which prefaced the arrival back in early September, accompanied by an appropriately moody, horror-hinting video. The bass and guitar grate and saw in unison over a slow tribal march. The tension builds and breaks in a landslide to a mammoth chorus.

The nine tracks on Rituals are heavy – plenty heavy – with some killer riffs. But that weight and the overloading overdrive is not at the expense of accessibility: the songs are clearly structured and benefit from strong and defined choruses.

Lyrically, the album is strewn with funereal imagery of death and decay, coffins and caskets, yet somehow manages to avoid cliché. The songs also pour anguish. ‘There is grief that tastes good in your mouth / there is grief that takes years to scrub out / There is darkness buried beneath my skin / there is darkness at the heart of everything’, Maya sings, pained, at the start of ‘Avalanche’ against a sparse sonar-like bass boom and a weeping drone of feedback before the drums and power chords come crashing in with crushing force. Can there be onomatopoeic instrumentation? If so, Cold in Berlin have mastered it, the pulverizing

The ritual aspect of surrender is never far from range: ‘You could string her up / you could string her up her body’s a temple for your love’ Maya sings commandingly on ‘Temples’ against a thunderous grind of heavily distorted guitars. Elsewhere, ‘Monsters’ is tense, intense, and grand, drama radiating from every note, and Rituals of Surrender is outstanding in its consistency.

Blending hefty riffology with full-lunged brooding, Rituals of Surrender sees Cold in Berlin occupy the space between doom and goth, emerging like Sabbath fronted by Siouxsie. And they do it so well: this could well be their definitive album.

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Gizeh Records / Consouling Sounds

13th September 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

A-Sun Amissa’s fifth album promises to build on ‘the foundations of previous record Ceremony in the Stillness (2018), incorporating some of the heavier, distorted, guitar oriented themes but this time fuses them with broken, crumbling electronic beats and primal drone movements’.

Perhaps one of the most impressive things about how Richard Knox has steered A-Sun Amissa in recent years has been his systematic approach to producing new output: following a gap of fur years between 2013’s You Stood Up for Victory, We Stood Up for Less and The Gatherer (2017), with the assistance of an array of collaborators, he’s released an album a year. This has likely proved integral to the steady evolution and the sense of progression across the last three albums. And this album being almost a completely solo effort (Knox wrote, recorded, and mixed the entire album, as well as providing the artwork) has really focused his energies on pushing himself in all directions across the album’s two longform compositions

The pieces on offer here are underpinned by vast ambient passages that are drenched in distortion and reverb, slowly unfurling before more industrial, kinetic sounds are introduced and heaving guitars come to the fore. As ever, there’s a melancholic dissonance that resonates throughout, repetition is key and moments of dread are paired with shafts of light as these two monolithic pieces unravel themselves over the course of forty minutes.

‘Seagreaves’ begins as a distant howl of dark, whirling noise, scraping, screeding, creating a dark, simmering tension and a sense of foreboding, of disquiet.When it fades out to be replaced by guitar, the atmosphere shifts from menacing to melancholy. There are hints of Neurosis, and also Earth Inferno era Fields of the Nephilim in the picked notes, gradually decaying in an organic reverb. The cyclical motif is pushed along by a plodding rhythm, forging a slow, lumbering groove that builds primarily through plain repetition. Petering out to almost nothing around the midpoint, we’re left with a vast, open and almost empty space. It’s around the sixteen-minute point that everything surges back in for a sustained crescendo, a cinematic post-metal climax that finds the guitars soar while the rhythm thunders low and slow.

‘Breath by Breath’ is subtler still, elongated drones and whispers of feedback echo as if a long way away, before a piano ripples somewhere on the horizon. The atmosphere isn’t strictly tense or even dark, but shadowy, and it’s difficult to attribute a specific sensation or mood to it. When the strolling bass and sedate percussion roll in, layers of metallic guitar noise filters in – quiet, backed off, but harsh. Voices echo from the underworld, almost subliminally. And then: a momentary pause. It’s barely a heartbeat, but everything crashes in with the driving yet deliberate force of Amenra. And from hereon in it’s incremental, but also cumulative in its growing volume and impact.

Knox describes For Burdened and Bright Light as ‘a more immersive, ambitious, adventurous record of conflicting emotions as the theme of the work tackles the contradictions of being human and explores the duality of light and dark, hope and despair’, and not only is the ambitiousness clear, but those ambitions are fulfilled. Dare I – once again – describe a work as ‘epic’? Yes: the scope of For Burdened and Bright Light is vast in every sense, and it does engage the listener’s senses and provokes contemplation through it’s shifting movements, moving not only between mods but also genre forms. The result is not only unique, but powerful and captivating, holding the attention and rewarding patience over the expansive pieces.

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The Pyroclasts album is the result of a daily practice which was regularly performed each morning, or evening during the two week Life Metal sessions at Electrical Audio during July 2018, when all of the days musical participants would gather and work through a 12 minute improvised modal drone at the start and or end of the day’s work. The piece performed was timed with a stopwatch and tracked to two inch tape, it was an exercise and a chance to dig into a deep opening or closing of the days session in a deep musical way with all of the participants. To connect/reconnect, liberate the creative mind a bit and greet each other and the space through the practice of sound immersion. The players across the four pieces of Pyroclasts are Tim Midyett, T.O.S., Hildur Guðnadóttir, and as always Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson.

Pyroclasts was recorded and mixed by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio on two inch tape July 2018, and mastered by Matt Colton through all analogue AAA process at Metropolis July 2019. The album is released via Southern Lord on 23rd September.

While you’re waiting, you can check the trailer here:

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Svart Records – 30th August 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The Portland two-piece described as purveyors of ‘noisy metal’ haven’t wasted time on naming their third album, which lands five years on from 2014’s Here in the Deadlights, and have instead focused on the contents and rendering it as maximalist as possible. There are a fair few duos around at the moment who manage to conjure a full-band sound. It’s impressive, but how do they do it? Big amps and lots of pedals is the usual answer, but with these guys, there’s got to be something more. I mean, the sound is huge. In fact, no, it’s way bigger than huge. Alchemy. It’s gotta be.

The album’s five songs are all at least seven minutes long, and are, without exception, hefty as hell riffmongous monsters, the noisy metal style being very much of the sludgy stoner persuasion, with Melvins being the most obvious and appropriate touchstone. But they’re no half-arsed style appropriators: there’s a lot going on here, and there’s a slew of other elements in the mix. Punk and psychedelia may sound like an awkward combination, but they pull them together effortlessly, along with a dose of really gritty thrash.

‘Caveman Waltz’ doesn’t sound like it’s actually in waltz-time, but steps up from a lumbering knuckledragger of a riff to doubling the tempo halfway through and thrashing out an uptempo throb with spiralling lead fretwork weaving a sonic mesh over the thumping percussion as the vocals go full-throated holler mode.

And they’ve got tricks galore up their (wizard’s) sleeves. The twelve-minute ‘Funeral of the Sun’ melds black metal and prog to create an expansive piece that rages and snarls but also features moments of rich atmosphere and strong melody.

Closer ‘V’ drives in hard with the most overtly thrash riff, but the vocals go all psych and the lead line is mathy and then… my head’ spinning with all of it after just a minute and a half. Nine minutes in and it’s all over.

You’ll likely often read that metal is running out of ideas, and that doomy / stoner / sludge has become a predictable parody of itself. And it’s not entirely untrue. But then an act like Wizard Rifle will present themselves and completely smash all preconceptions with a blend of killer riffs and wild innovation. Here, Wizard Rifle prove that there’s still a lot of ground to be explored through permutation and hybridity, delivering an album that’s solidly rooted in familiar territories, but at the same time explores new ground and doesn’t sound quite like anything else. At least, nothing I’ve yet heard.

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Wizard Rifle – Wizard Rifle

There are rituals surrounding all acts of surrender; the strange dance we perform before the many endings scattered throughout our lives, before the next beginning rises from the dust. Cold in Berlin’s new album Rituals of Surrender, released on 11th October via London label New Heavy Sounds, offers up thunderous modern fables, crawling from the wreckage of an ordinary life – dark and hopeful – standing tall in the debris.

With new single ’The Power’, Cold in Berlin return with a dark slab of gothic doom just in time to soundtrack a burning world, which they describe as, ‘dark, black and infinitely heavy’. Listen now: