A début EP can be a very worthwhile investment for a new band, indeed. A chance to introduce the world to their sound and style, without having to commit to (or wait until you’ve written) a full albums worth of material; a chance to not just test the water, but begin to feel out what really works and what doesn’t within a band’s prospective oeuvre. And in the case of Godthrymm, boasting a cast of talented beasts a-plenty, they’ve more than made the most of the opportunity to plant their dark and melancholic flag.
The brainchild of Hamish Glencross (My Dying Bride, Vallenfyre) – guitars and vocals – and featuring Chaz Netherwood (Solstice) amongst other luminaries, A Grand Reclamation (Transcending) is unmistakably British in origin, bowing deep to the Peaceville 3 and the great British tradition of Doom (not the fuzzy, US Desert variety but the Heavy Metal origin’d sort). First offering ‘A Grand Reclamation’ builds, introducing an epic Candlemassian feel to Glencross’s impassioned and heroic vocals, before hitting a chugging pay-off, more in line with Solstice than MDB. Second track ‘Sacred Soil’ lurches into a Cathedral meets Corrosion of Conformity groove. Between those, and the sprawling ‘The Pantheon’ all the elements are there for Godthrymm to build something very interesting, and this prologue sets a promising scene indeed that leaves the imbiber looking forwards to reading on. [7.5]
Canada’s Vile Creature deal in a murky, abrasive tonality, dragging slabs (such a shame Slabdragger has already been taken as a band name) of fuzzy, unmelodic dirges as Vic (drums and vocals) and KW (guitar and vocals) howl and smash their way through four tracks that are heaved rather than played, rather like tectonic plates grating against each other, over forty minutes of unpleasant Blackened Doom. With an exceptional amount of effort poured into telling a dystopian Sci-fi story that, perhaps, seems slightly at odds with the more personal nature of what is usually a very “human” and feelings based style of music (not that they should be denigrated for attempting something more progressive or allegoric in their lyrics to their fellow pessimistic sludge contemporaries), as an immersive experience Cast Of Static And Smoke (Halo of Flies) lumbers and churns and feels like a piston with the battery run right down, meticulous and still slowly pummelling with a relentless measured approach. The vitriol is real, but Vile Creature doesn’t quite plough the depths of nihilism or true harrowed feeling that some of their tortured missives seek to do. That said, there is enough ugly intent and genuine sullen purpose in this grubby outing to suggest Vile Creature, if they truly live up to their band name next time out, could become something sickeningly wonderful. [7.0]
Another act riding the tide of scum and villainy (not really… I actually mean internet kudos, hipster praise and kvlt points) are the soporific Eagle Twin and third outing The Thundering Heard (Songs of Hoof and Horn) (Southern Lord), an album that, on paper at least, ticks so many cool boxes that its protagonists could glide on scented turds from coast to coast with a menagerie of man and beast following and bowing to their every guff. Yet, in reality, their drawn-out Stoner Rock meets meandering Desert widdle is quite possibly the single most boring aural experience in my forty-year existence. And I’ve listened to myself drunkenly recount the same tales from my youth 8,979,263 times. It’s fuzzy, it’s allegorical, it’s snaky, and oh-so-beardy. It’s what would happen if the worst parts of Conan and Neurosis fell into a cavern with a load of Sleep outcast material. Most of all, it’s utterly, utterly dull, bereft of hooks of any description, and unless your idea of heaven is a slow-to-mid-tempo fuzzed up slew of mediocrity with no payoff or any deviation into the realm of something interesting, I’d say avoid. That said, the coolest of the cool are drooling into their (now groomed and styled) facial hair over it, so expect to see them on many a hipper than hip line up throughout 2018. [4.0]
St Fenton The Tainted, however, are much more inclined to mix things up lurching from crushing unsteadiness that gives way to an Entombed-meets-Stoner outburst of uncultured, Neanderthal boulder-punching on Jaw Of The Tyrant Hills (Hybernacular). While most definitely not the anticipated sound of semi-rural middle-class white England, slackers born from such a stultifying environment are not unknown to produce such ugly tones… Calling themselves Redneck Sludge, there is little by the way intricacy in the atonal dirge-cum-stoner drizzle the pair emit on the opening outpourings, before the pairing of ‘God Sent Rain, You Sent Blood and Piss’ and ‘Ghost Of The Stillborn Summer’ package Celtic Frost chromaticism with a grindier, more aggressive yield, reaping reward from their capricious means. Unrefined (and that is absolutely not a negative thing), somewhat primitive, this is a gnarled and unpleasant offering, and, while there is definitely room for improvement, particularly sonically, it is all the better for its unrefined and belligerent nature. [6.0]
With a hint of Chelsea Wolfe ‘Snakeskin Drape’ (love the song title) slinks in with Sara’s understated drawl, before Messa hit the stoner vibes as Feast For Water (Aural) opens its retro arms and enters the desert. In a way, it’s a shame that what follows such an interesting build is undeniably generic, and the vocals so uninspired, as the occult, darker moments that are hidden between the expected licks and twills and stock Sabbathian chuggings hint at a much more interesting band. In the main, though, for all their talk of “Jazz Doom”, the reality is a more nominal outfit than the descriptions suggest. There are hints of earlier Avatarium, and some interesting moments, such as the midsection tremolo piece in ‘The Seer’, but all in stock Doom is the overriding sensibility on display here. [6.0]
Yet our wilting, triumphant black rose comes as Osmose and 20 Buck Spin team up to present Australian Funeral Doom (there’s a phrase you don’t hear very often) quartet Mournful Congregation’s potential crowning glory. A manifestation of melancholic, protracted grief spread across eighty minutes of sumptuously crafted epics, The Incubus of Karma is every inch the involved magnum opus the band have always promised. Fashioned strictly on their own terms, things unfurl in the slowest of motions, more polished than on previous outings while still retaining a chasmic heaviness to the steady churn and chug segments that litter throughout. Meanwhile the progressions of melodic motifs, always in the most minor and reflective of keys, are delicately placed to play against the guttural vocal emissions. Being critical, where the guitars are unafraid to progress My Dying Bride-esque affectations and interplays, the lack of a vocal progression beyond a growl, or mutter intonation, is perhaps a hindrance to fully realizing the emotions Mournful Congregation summon, as a more outspoken melancholy leading these requiems could, as with MDB’s ‘And My Father Left Forever’, introduce an even more humanising vulnerability that is evident in the music, but not the impenetrable vocals. That said, though, the weaving invocations of cascading guitar interplay and the tumbling atmosphere of reflection and solitude (this is not the nihilism of a Winter, more the meditative, contemplative post-Gothic cousin that could easily have been born of British soil of the nineties underground) are the key to the majesty of this offering. The uncharacteristic (of the genre) guitar leads are a high and most interesting embellishment, adding to the morose canvas painted by these miserablist artists. The Incubus of Karma is not for the short of attention, is not for the surface listener, is not for the easily distracted, nor for those without the opportunity to indulge in it as immersive piece of art. It is, though, for those who are prepared to accept its specific requirements, a pessimistic yet worthwhile journey into the gloom. [8.5]