Posts Tagged ‘New Heavy Sounds’

New Heavy Sounds – 26th Mar 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It was supporting the mighty Black Moth at their final gig at Leeds’ Brudenell a couple of years ago where I first encountered latest New Heavy Sounds signings Sky Valley Mistress. If the world hadn’t gone off the rails, if live music hadn’t been halted, there’s a very good chance that Sky Valley Mistress would have been well on the way to stepping into the gap left by Black Moth, with their no-messing riff-centric brand of rock, having honed their sound and style in front of more live audiences. Because this is how bands so often evolve, and build fanbases. Everything was perfectly positioned…

Still, credit to the band for not resting on their laurels or simply waiting for life to resume, and for maintaining their profile with this new EP, picking up the slack after their lockdown tribute cover of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Every day s Exactly the same’ back in June of 2020, which feels like a lifetime ago. Back then, lockdown still had an element of novelty, it felt like there was an opportunity to use the time gifted creatively, and that maybe the ‘new normal’ could afford something beneficial despite the closure of public spaces.

That optimism has given way to fatigue and a widespread sense of emptiness, , and the acoustic sessions EP very much feels like the stop-gap that it is. Unable to write, rehearse, record, and perform together as a full band as they usually would, laying down an EP containing acoustic versions of songs from their debut album, Faithless Rituals, and coincidentally – or otherwise – marking the anniversary of its release.

To their credit, they’ve done something a bit different: there’s a synth bass that growls in the low-end regions on ‘You Got Nothing’. It returns to bookend the EP on the reworking of ‘She Is So’. In between, acoustic guitars and piano provide the main musical accompaniment to these stripped back reworkings. And they are well-executed, and as such, hard to fault – and makes you long even harder for live shows and for new material proper.

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4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Bandcamp Fridays have been providing a rare and unique lifeline for struggling artists, and while times are still ridiculously tight in what continue to be utterly bewildering times which have hit the music industry where it really hurts – namely grass-roots venues and the artist who depend on them – the opportunity for artists to actually make a proper revenue from sales or downloads and physical releases is a big deal.

And if one thing’s become apparent, its that artists are going all-out to create releases that offer something different for their fans, and the unexpected arrival of an EP of 90s grunge covers from U.S doom quartet Embr.

Recorded in August of this year – in an actual studio, no less – with Matt Washburn (Mastodon, Royal Thunder, Artimus Pyledriver) the EP finds the band bringing a full-blooded sludge tone and a doomy, old-school, Sabbath-esque twist to four songs by leading exponents of the grunge era – with each member of the band selecting a song for inclusion.

Confession time: I absolutely fucking loved Nirvana, and still do. Alive in Chains, I dug, but never really found any enthusiasm for Stone Temple Pilots or Soundgarden, preferring Mudhoney, and the greasy heft of Tad. Nevetheless, what’s clearly apparent from listening to these four cuts is the degree of sincere affection for the songs and the sound that’s on display here. Moreover, they’ve done a great job of selecting songs that suit their own sound, showcasing the strengths of the original songs while sounding like Embr. It’s also something of a revelation hearing songs originally sung by men delivered by a female vocalist, and again, that they’ve pitched them in Crystal Bigalow’s range is a major factor in their success.

If the half-tempo trudge of their take on ‘Heart Shaped Box’ (Crystal’s choice) takes some getting used to, its impact – as the immense power chords drive down hard and heavy – is strong. The ultra-low bass that rumbles at a crawl through the stripped-back second verse is worth the money alone, but ‘Junkhead’ is probably the heaviest track here – which is no real surprise, given that AIC were always at the most overtly metal end of the spectrum in the grunge canon.

Then again, despite the rather poppy middling rock chorus, the repetitive chord sequence of ‘Mailman’ is well suited to a sludgy trudge-along, and ultimately, Embr have done a good job, making Idolatry well worth a punt.

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Embr-Idolatry

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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EMBR

“It seemed to make a lot of sense to strip it back of all the industrial electronic sounds and leave it with just a guitar that sounds like it’s lost in an empty void, because that’s pretty much what’s happening to every town and city around the world right now”

For Sky Valley Mistress the lockdown couldn’t have come at a more challenging time, you see March 20th was the release date of their debut album Faithless Rituals an album that had already had a rocky road to get to the finish line and as momentum grew and everything started to fall into place the reality that the world would soon be standing still and for a period of time the band would have to sit back and not be the centre of the universe albeit for a short time has been testing. With all promotional duties and tour commitments shelved and working out the challenges of lockdown Sky Valley Mistress have simply just got on with it.

Seeing the band live is a sight to behold and the real frustration is that the “Faithless Rituals Tour” and the preparation that went into it hasn’t happened and when it does it can’t help but be different from the Pre-Covid version, we know venues and live music arenas won’t be the same, but we also know as a band Sky Valley Mistress won’t be the same, they haven’t really took to or got the luxury of performing streamed shows but instead have been putting together enough material for a second album and even though its all been done from a distance the band have never been closer and when the time is right they’ll be working in the studio.

To begin their lockdown endeavours and armed with Trent Reznor’s Tambourine which Max & Kayley required live from a Nine Inch Nails Scala show in 2013 they have recorded a version of ‘Everyday Is Exactly The Same’, each part has been performed, recorded and mixed remotely and strips back their usual sound to create a sombre version of this 2005 NIN classic, accompanied by a video created, directed, edited and featuring Kayley filmed in Isolation.  

Watch the video here:

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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.

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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Cold in Beerlin - Rituals

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:

New Heavy Sounds – 1st March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

There aren’t many Welsh-language bands who’ve made much progress beyond the border: Catatonia only really broke through when they switched to English, and they were pedalling accessible indie-pop tunes, not pulverizingly heavy sludgy doom metal.

And so it seems very much against the odds, that the absurdly (and most certainly not mainstream-media-friendly-monikered) Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard broke into chart territory on the release of Yn Ol I Annwn (Welsh for ‘Return To The Underworld’) the third part of the trilogy of albums that began with Noeth Ac Anoeth in 2015 and 2017s Y Proffwyd Dwyll, and is pitched as ‘the final phase of the band’s first intergalactic voyage.’

And ‘intergalactic’ is a fitting description. The band’s intention was to move even further from the standard doom tropes without losing sight of their origins: this involves pulsating, gloopy synths and rippling waves which introduce the album, before a wibbling waft of retro-futuristic analogue wobbles give way to the album’s first megalithic lumbering riffage on ‘The Spaceships of Ezekiel’. It’s every bit as preposterously huge and epic as the title suggests; galactic and of biblical proportions, with fizzing lasers firing left, right, and centre, all framing Jess Balls dreamy, melodic, almost folksy vocals to create something that’s out of this world, but also has clear ties to vintage Hawkwindian space rock.

‘Fata Morgana’ pursues the folksy aspect further, and colours it with picked guitar that’s pure vintage gothy post-punk and wouldn’t sound out of place on a Sisters of Mercy record circa 1984/85 before the power-chords crash in at the mid-point – from which point it builds, and builds, to a sustained crescendo propelled by pounding percussion.

It’s all in the detail on Yn Ol I Annwn. For all the devastating grind, the ribcage-crushing, heart-stopping heaviness, there are layers and details that make it an album to listen to. The nuance doesn’t reduce the force, but simply makes this an album with more points of interest than your average in its field. The spiralling synth incidentals should sound corny but work incredibly well; it’s perhaps because it’s delivered with both conviction and panache, meaning MWWB rise above pretence to drive it home not only sincerely, but artfully.

Significantly, for all the synth and cello, there’s no shortage of repetitive, grinding riffage, with the thirteen-minute ‘Katyusha’ bringing all the overdrive as the band up the pace and really rock out while synthy fireworks blossom and bloom all around. It bleeds into the slow, heavyweight trudge of ‘The Majestic Clockwork’, and the closer, the ten-minute ‘Five Days in the Abyss’ is a full-weight doom crusher of a climax.

With each release, MWWB have broadened the scope of doom, and Yn Ol I Annwn sees them forge another immense expansion, and further solidify their unique place as trailblazing innovators in the genre.

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MWWB

London/Brighton heavy contingent Grave Lines who released latest album ‘Fed Into The Nihilist Engine’ in the first half of 2018 have announced UK tour dates for February 2019 with Dystopian Future Movies. Vocalist Jake Harding comments,


‘We always enjoy working with bands that fit in with our ethos and aesthetic without necessarily having the same kind of sound and Dystopian Future Movies intense atmosphere is a perfect fit for that so we couldnt resist teaming up with them for a short run of dates.  To make it a bit special we are also collaborating on some music with them which will be available on the tour in a limited number of copies. We’ll be bringing the gloom two fold in February!"

Released via London label New Heavy Sounds, ‘Fed Into The Nihilist Engine’  is a must listen for fans of all things heavy, however anybody seeking music that delves into the darker and more introspective aspects of the human condition, will find much to love within its expansive tracks. At times quiet and melancholy. At times an oppressive and miserable onslaught of crushing riffs and filth-laden grooves. Fans of Yob to Neurosis, even Bauhaus or Dead Can Dance, take heed, FITNE reaches out to encompass elements of them all.


UK tour dates w/ Dystopian Future Movies:

Thursday 7th February, Record Junkee, Sheffield

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Friday 8th February,  Wharf Chambers, Leeds

www.wegottickets.com/event/456847

Saturday 9th February, Black Heart, Camden, London

www.seetickets.com/event/grave-lines-dystopian-future-movies/the-black-heart/1293168

Sunday 10th February, Chameleon Arts Cafe, Nottingham

dystopianfuturemovies.com/shows

Watch the video for ‘The Nihilist Engine’ directed by Noomi Spook:

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Grave Lines Promo 5

New Heavy Sounds – 20th July 2018

Originally released independently in February, Under The Strawberry Moon 2.0 sees Blacklab’s debut receive a vinyl release, wider distribution, and augmented by an additional track. It sounds like we’re arriving halfway through a song at the start of the album’s opener, ‘Black Moon’. It’s a slow, hefty riff that grinds out of the speakers at high volume. Yes, it’s loud and mastered even louder. Then the pace picks up the drums really get cracking and everything just throbs.

Yuko’s vocals are astonishing, switching between full-on gutsy hard rock, and witchy ethereal, and snarling deep and demonic. And they’re not afraid to send the needles into red, everything cracking with a fuzzy edge of overloading distortion. It’s this in-yer-face production that really makes Under The Strawberry Moon 2.0 the album it is. You don’t just listen to it: you feel it. You visualise the speaker cones on a massive rig vibrating, can almost feel the air being displaced.

‘Warm Death’ takes the face down and exploits the classic quiet / loud dynamic thing, and against a tidal wave of overdriven guitar the banshee howl vocals are nothing short of terrifying. Closer ‘Big Muff’ goes all the way for maximum downtuned sluge, with enough low-end to give rise to an uncomfortable sensation in the bowels. And it does so for ten whole minutes, in an audaciously excessive workout worthy of Melvins.

Coming on at times like Boris at their best, it’s hard to conceive that Blacklab are just two in number. Because this is some dense noise, gritty, driving and raw. There’s chug and grind, and there’s thunderous powerchords in abundance. In fact, there’s no let up – and no filler. And they could only ever have come from Japan: while we’ve seen a number of female-fronted stoner/doom/heavy bands emerging recently, Blacklab stand out as one of the fiercest, most intense and most-far out. They promise ‘Fuzz, fuzz, fuzz, doom, stoner, more fuzz,’ and they deliver it with the knobs all turned to eleven.

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