Being self-analysed as having “…the total absence of tonal sanity” can cover a multitude of sins for a band, including that of openly peddling a load of pretentious shite in the name of self-expression. Fortunately, German quartet Bellrope contains some serious pedigree, being formed from the Musk Ox-bludgeon that was Black Shape Of Nexus, so debut long-player You Must Relax (Exile On Mainstream Records) is dripping with intrigue even before it begins. Continue reading
Four years ago, Bast’s Spectres (Burning World Records) hit the racks and quickly gained a reputation as one of the best British underground debuts of recent times. The world seemed to be the Blackened Sludge trio’s oyster yet, save for a smattering of gigs here and there, they seemed to vanish and earn mythical status in the process. Continue reading
From the fetid depths of Nottingham’s catacombs comes Shrykull, a duo whose severe, wicked noise would shake the foundation of their city. Debut album Shrykull (self-released) is a sub-half-hour blast through blackened hell and pummelling Sludge which commences with the unholy ‘Plagued’: a brutal maelström preceding a morose, often funereal-paced second movement which is wonderfully controlled by William Powell’s spiked riffs and Kez Whelan’s hammer blows. Whelan’s screams cut to the the bone, never better displayed than on the rampant ‘Deafened By The Echo’, Powell’s ireful guitar buzz covering the frantic yet controlled battery. Continue reading
In 2015, Liverpool-Manchester hybrid Bodies on Everest produced The Burning (self-release), a ferocious slab of ultra-heavy, underproduced despair which its creators christened ‘Dungeon Wave’ and which tragically glided under the radar. Three years later that Blackened Doom crash has been reinvented on follow-up A National Day of Mourning (Cruel Nature Records / Third I Rex): the minimalist production accompanied by a more pensive, Drone-led violence, offering up a suffocating dystopian nightmare. Continue reading
So, to recap: evil Chicago entity Lord Mantis spawns from three-quarters of Blackened Sludge quartet Indian. In 2014 the band split spectacularly with troubled yet horrifically effective vocalist Charlie Fell: upon which the parent band folds and becomes the new incarnation of the progeny, Indian vocalist Dylan O’Toole assuming the role of the heinous rasp. Moreover, since the recording of new EP Nice Teeth Whore (New Density), guitarist Scott Shellhamer and bassist Will Lindsay have also departed, with Alletta Ergun moving in.
Got all that? The debris from the Fell departure has finally settled and it’s now time to see if the Mantis can silence those who doubt the credibility of the band without him. Initially Nice Teeth Whore seems something of a return to the excellent days of sophomore album Pervertor (Candlelight Records): the slurring, quickened Black boom of ‘SIG Safer’ swelling to a final crescendo and highlighting O’Toole’s hostile bark, spearing the mind yet missing that sense of ‘serial killer’ depravity Fell exudes so effortlessly.
The title track runs at a more familiar and ominous, Doom-laden pace: the sheer violent malevolence of O’Toole’s delivery complementing Bill Bumgardner’s colossal drums; the switch between rumbling riffs, shimmering Blackened passages and some wonderfully emotive yet spiked leadwork utterly compelling. It’s this reined-in brutality, desperately attempting to break free yet unable to escape from the choke-hold, that is the essence of both bands and leaves the listener fraught, nerve-shredded and exhausted in a blissful fashion
Bumgardner’s drums are again to the fore in ‘Semblances’, pummeling their way through a savage, sawing chorus from which screams resonate and slice the skin. It’s the languid, funereal hostility of ‘Final Division’, however, where the heady days of this terrifying outfit truly return: vocals so oppressive as to clog up the throat; a hateful, slow-burning intensity crawling lazily through the gut, leaving hungry leeches in its wake.
The warm, beefy production and undercurrents of howling leads may steal a little menace, but make no mistake: Lord Mantis are back to their punishing best. Let’s now hope that some stability can allow this febrile ferocity to fester…
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Still They Pray (Relapse Records) is the first long-player in six years from legendary Virginian Doom quartet Cough, with a couple of later ‘splits’ the only things preventing their status from slipping into the mythical. Thankfully this time lapse hasn’t seen the band’s power or collective ability diminish.
Album opener ‘Haunter of the Dark’ exudes the heavy, Occult feel of their one-time ‘split’ mates The Wounded Kings: riffs and leadplay evoking the bone-crumbling mysticism of George Birch and Steve Mills. This is allied to the fuzzed sound and laconic, harrowing vocal of Electric Wizard, which is apt given that Jus Osborn handles production here. Follow-up ‘Possession’, however, and wonderful album highlight ‘The Wounding Hours’ with its haunting keys, both take on a new resonance: obsidian screams leading a slower trawl through infested swamps, resulting in the more familiar funereal pace. The standout feature here and in the crawling, sinister warmth of ‘Dead Among the Roses’ is some mournful, stirring leadwork, squealing and moaning through an oppressive riff and pummeling rhythm section like a speared anaconda.
This is, of course, the mark of this lumbering leviathan: it’s a sound you’ve heard before but, as with TWK, Cough adds a variety and subtlety which supposedly more influential contemporaries seem loath to display. The sheer evil of ‘Masters of Torture’s Blackened Sludge vocal heightens both the intensity and the omen: while wailing solos add morose emotion to a creeping, hideous body, suddenly enlivened by a rumbling, Dorrian-esque groove. The beautiful, leaden balladry of ‘Let it Bleed’, meanwhile, is graced by a Hippy drawl which still manages to carry a certain malevolence; as does the monstrous instrumental ‘Shadow of the Torturer’, Parker Chandler’s basslines plumbing the Pacific depths whilst seedy, seductive leads screech and oscillate, easing Joseph Arcaro’s lazy yet powerful drums to a crushing main section.
It’s a sound undeniably British, whilst reminiscent of Chandler’s work with Windhand and, as evinced in the acoustic-led closing title track, a late 60s Haight-Ashbury Americana. With such obliterating Doom spirited by the fire, despair and hate of the 21st century, Cough has never sounded so vital.
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Around the same time last year, Primitive Man and Sea Bastard released two of the most hateful – and well received – products of the year. The former’s vicious EP Home is Where the Hatred Is (Relapse) and the latter’s nightmarish split with Keeper (Dry Cough Records) were followed by a joint tour of the UK last spring and, with this split release (Dry Cough Records), the bonds the two outfits have forged now become indelible.
Primitive Man’s two tracks kick us off, and with a familiar feel: the band’s squalling, Blackened Sludge given added horror by the face-melting roar of Ethan McCarthy. The clanking, Low-end ferocity of ‘Cold Resolve’ is certainly augmented by some of McCarthy’s most fearsome barks to date, and the portentous squeals of the sinister drop are enough to collapse the nervous system. The resonance of bass and drums launching us into ‘Servant’ also have a primal minimalism which clears the bowels: its fizzing, sparing riff a tolling bell which flays the skin with each swing, McCarthy’s voice the scouring brush rubbing salt in the open wounds, the brief quickening a Deathly flash. It’s a terrifying assault: appalling, guttural, startling, physically affecting…and damn satisfying.
Another near-20 minute slice of snaking pummel from Brighton’s finest closes this tormenting platter. ‘The Hermit’ largely follows the Bastard template but unusually, so gradually you hardly notice, it gathers pace through a viscerally pounding, pregnant centrepiece. Oli Irongiant’s deep, singular, painfully slow riff sets the tone before the lumbering behemoth is brutally awoken by the pulverising rhythms of Steve Patton and George Leaver. Telling the tale of the persecuted Northern monk St Cuthbert, Monty’s screaming roar wraps itself around the mellow hundredweight like your favourite Serpentine villain, rising and falling with each line, carrying that Sabbath-esque quickening toward a low, nefarious final movement which is both torturous and earth-shaking.
This “split” has been in the pipeline for some time and, thankfully, it’s been worth the wait. Crushing and hostile, these are two of the most exciting Doom-centric bands around right now and to have them both on one plate is a horrifying bliss.