Posts Tagged ‘Doom’

Sacred Bones Records – 31st August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Magus is Thou’s first full-length since 2014’s Heathen. It’s perhaps fair to say that the three EPs which preceded it – which they forewarned would be ‘a complete sonic departure from Magus and from each other’ – which effectively constituted albums in their own right – did nothing to prepare us for this.

But what exactly is this? As the album’s press blurb acknowledges, they’re ‘often lumped in with New Orleans sludge bands like Eyehategod and Crowbar, [but share] shares a more spiritual kinship with ‘90s proto-grunge bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden’, while ‘the band’s aesthetic and political impulses reflect the obscure ’90s DIY hardcore punk found on labels like Ebullition, Vermiform, and Crimethinc’. All this makes them hard to place.

The album’s opener, ‘Inward’, provides just over ten full minutes of snarling fury that carries enough weight to crush weaker souls who may venture forth expecting any of the soft musicality of the Inconsolable EP (which revealed Thou to be capable of extreme gentility, and, indeed, extreme beauty).

Things turn very black and very sludgy and very heavy on ‘Transcending Dualities’; and while it’s a snarling, low-tuned mess of slow-creeping sludge, there are stray notes that break free to squeal to break the trudging oppression. Bryan Funck’s twisted vocals draw every ounce of excruciation into the mix.

‘The Changeling Prince’ brings grace and grandeur to proceedings, and the hushed intro and expansive sound of ‘Sovereign Self’ (the second of three songs to cross the ten-minute mark) calls to mind Amenra, but his is a whole other level of gnarly, demonic savagery, and the overall sonic density is suffocating.

But Magus does find Thou continue to expand and explore in all directions, and there are three shorter tracks that serve as interludes between the towering monoliths which are the songs themselves: the cacophonous racket of ‘My Brother Caliban’ contrasts sharply with ‘Divine Will’, with its ethereal female vocals and pounding tribal drums. Elsewhere, the sprawling epic that is ‘In the Kingdom of Meaning’ introduces a psychedelic twist to the doomy trudge. And there are passages of extreme delicacy, rich in evocative atmosphere, which draw the lister into quiet clearings with dappled light where an air of calm radiates before the shadows loom, the clouds gather and the next tempestuous storm breaks. Such tension-building passages and contrasts of mood and volume create a compelling dynamic and makes Magus a mighty album which requires attention and exploration of the detail.

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Ritual Productions – 21st June 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s perhaps fitting that self-professed occultist doom collective Drug Cult should unveil their debut long-player to coincide with midsummer’s day and the solstice.

They open with a nine-minute sludge-trudge that’s bursting with the trappings of psychedelia and old-school hard rock: ‘Serpent Therapy’ starts so slow, with so much distance between each chord that it sounds like an ending, a protracted grinding to a halt, rather than the start. Yes, this is slow, and this is heavy. The guitars are close to collapsing under their own weight, and threaten to bury Aasha Tozer’s reverb-drowned vocals in the process. It’s the soundtrack to a bad trip into the underworld, and while there’s nothing of such epic proportions to be found during the remainder of the album’s nine tracks, the darkness remains all-pervasive.

There’s a classic, vintage quality to the songs, but it’s all sludged up, twisted and messy, and what the songs lack in duration (the majority are below the four-minute mark) they more than compensate in density. The riffs lumber slow, low, and heavy, the bass grinds just as slow and even lower: the percussion doesn’t propel, but instead lands in thunderous ricochets while the cymbals wash in tidal waves. In fact, it’s like listening to an early Melvins 45 at 33, save for the vocals, which never sound anything less than borderline deranged.

The sense of volume is immense, speaker-shredding, earth-shattering. And just when it doesn’t seem possible to drive any deeper, grind any lower, ‘Bloodstone’ reaches a new low in low, the essence of doom-laden hard rock riffing distilled to its absolute. The form is still apparent: Drug Cult don’t take it beyond the limits as Sunn O))) do, but against contemporaries like Esben and the Witch and Big Brave, Drug Cult stand out for their concision and their eschewing of passages of levity: this is unforgiving, ultra-heavyweight from beginning to end. As such, it’s a truly megalithic work. Worship it.

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Neurot Recordings – 11th May 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The band’s biography locates them as ‘standing at a crossroads of light and dark’, and we learn that Chrch create ‘epic, lengthy songs, with a massive low end, and a supernatural vocal presence, in a perfect blend of height and depth’.

Epic is the word: this, their second album contains just three songs, the shortest of which is just shy of ten minutes in length.

It begins with the twenty-two minute behemoth that is the appropriately-titled ‘Infinite’. Slow-picked notes, bathed in chorus and reverb hang in suspension. Dust motes drift in the spaces between them, and time stalls in a freeze-frame. Gradually, the percussion begins for form rhythm in the background, and some semblance of form begins to emerge. It’s around the five-minute mar when the dual vocal – a banshee howl and chthonic growl – tear through a landslide of trudging guitars so slow and low as to be positively subterranean. The mid-section is delicate as a butterfly’s wing, before the second heavyweight segment proffers forth some kind of doom rendition of classic rock, like Clapton on Ketamine, multiple lead guitar lines intertwining at a fraction of the conventional tempo.

‘Portals’ focuses more on the infinite power chords, screeding feedback, bowel-shaking bass and screaming demon vocals. It’s the soundtrack to a descent into the infernal abyss. The trudging riff that dominates the second half is enlivened by a majestic lead part and Eva Rose’s captivating vocals which soar and glide magnificently. I shan’t deny it: I’m a sucker for a shoegaze voice pitched against slabs of guitar as heavy, grey, and grainy as basalt.

The final cut ‘Aether’ is by far the lightest and most uplifting in its tone, and pushes further into shoegaze territory, despite its agonizing 40bpm pace and the anguished screams in the background. It feels like a crawl toward the light at the end of the tunnel, and despite the thunderous weight and the howling agony which permeates every note, it feels somehow redemptive.

The heavy passages – and they’re seriously heavy – are broken by protracted periods of tranquillity, of mesmeric beauty and delicate grace. But, truth be told, the format’s growing tired, the tropes of the dynamics embedded to the point of predictability now. And so it all comes down to execution and the details. On Light Will Consume Us All, Chrch venture – subtly – into different territories, territories which exist beyond the template of what’s now the doom standard. And it’s well executed. Really well executed.

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Crypt Of The Wizard – 3rd November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

2015’s Of Ruin was a sludgy, doomy epic of monumental proportions, and its successor, PYR (2016), which saw them expand to a three-piece heralded the arrival of a more expansive sound. Stoic signifies a further evolution, and feels like their most focussed work to date. This means that there’s nothing quite as vast as the 21-minute ‘Desperate Thrang’ on Stoic. Nevertheless, it’s an album of immense scope and equally immense weight.

Opening with the nine-minute ‘Nothing Dreamt’, Ghold intensify both the droning doom and the heavy psychedelia of their previous outings. The vocals, low in the mix and drenched in effects, swirl amidst a backdrop of guitars as thick as slow-crawling lava. The thunderous riffology is balanced with extended passages of nuanced atmosphere which are delicate, even beautiful, as elongated drones drift into ambience.

‘Ruptured Earth (Head in Sand)’ brings both pace and volume, showing that Ghold haven’t lost sight of their thrashy roots, but have instead honed their sound into a glorious hybrid that’s uniquely theirs.

‘SKHUL V’ brings the heavy trudge, its ultra slow, ultra low sludgefest reminiscent of early Melvins. The percussion is immense, with light years passing between beats. It bleeds into the raging tempest that opens ‘SKHUL VI’, a frenzied and sustained sonic attack. It shudders and burns, and by the four-minute mark has achieved an optimal throb before gradually disintegrating, collapsing in on itself. It’s twelve-minute duration is a succession of cycles, a slow, grinding riff emerging from the howl of feedback only to become buried, lost in a vortex of its own slowing tempo, re-emerging at last as a crawling slice of glacial, minimal jazz.

If the whole deal sounds a shade incongruous, it’s to the band’s credit that they make it work, and so seamlessly. Stoic isn’t just a solid album, it’s an incredible album that pushes further toward the reaches of categorisation.

AA

Ghold correct album artwork