What you see is certainly what you get when it comes to Maule‘s self-titled debut. The Vancouver quartet secures themselves in the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal style, echoing the twin guitars, clanky bass, and street aesthetic of groups like White Wizzard, Traveler, and Pounder. The playing is tight, the pacing is energetic, and one can even detect hints of heavier influence with the vocals’ more thrash-leaning demeanor.Continue reading →
When looking at Mortuary Drape’s latest EP, the thing that immediately draws one’s attention is the cover of Mercyful Fate’s ‘Nightmare Be Thy Name.’ In addition to being the only cover to show up on one of Drape’s proper studio releases, it’s a deep cut from one of Fate’s more overlooked efforts. Thankfully it’s ultimately a solid rendition; the obligatory King Diamond falsetto emulations make it an inherent outlier, but the added grit and ominous guitar acrobatics ensure it isn’t out of step with the EP’s original tracks.
While Embrace The Unknown (Frontiers srl) sees Spirits of Fire continue down the path of classic metal emulation last seen on their 2019 debut, its presentation sees more polish this time around. The production job courtesy of Aldo Lonobile, is considerably cleaner than before, giving the performances much better clarity. Guitarist Chris Caffery continues to lead the charge with an array of Savatage-inspired acrobatics while bass legend Steve DiGiorgio and drummer Mark Zonder make for a hard-hitting rhythm section without getting too flashy.
It’s been twelve years since composer Arjen Lucassen released 2010’s Victims Of The Modern Age under the Star One banner, which in itself was eight years removed from 2002’s Space Metal. Fortunately, the project’s vision remains intact despite its sporadic output with all the tropes that fans have come to expect out in full force on Revel In Time (InsideOut Music). There’s plenty of cheesy Prog goodness to go around informed by Power Metal tempos, crunchy guitars, bombastic keyboards, and a slew of vocalists delivering pop culture Sci-Fi lyrics in over-the-top fashion.
Tony Martin has kept his name out there with some guest performances in recent years but full-lengths have been unfortunately rare to come by. Thorns (Dark Star) the singer’s third solo album, has been a long time coming, being his first full appearance since Giuntini Project‘s IV in 2013 as well as his first proper solo outing since 2005’s Scream (MTM). While this effort could’ve just been a stopgap for Martin to reassert his brand of doomy AOR, it ends up being an opportunity for him to explore some different aspects of his style.
Having released multiple EPs and splits since their 2014 formation, Born Of Obsidian is the first proper full-length from Kurokuma. The UK group plays a style that could be best described as ritualistic Sludge Metal, incorporating tribal percussion somewhere between Sepultura circa Roots and Gojira overseen by a hypnotic aura not unlike Oranssi Pazuzu. The former influences are most immediately apparent on the one-two punch of ‘Smoking Mirror’ and ‘Sacrifice to Huitzilopochtli,’ which are largely driven by downright bouncy rhythmic chugs punctuated with extra fuzz.
However, the band’s atmospheric side gets time to shine as the album goes on. ‘Jaguar’ saves the harsher guitar crashes for its climax, allowing the percussion to provide a more subtle buildup that is given even greater precedence on ‘Ololiuqui’ and the closing ‘Under The Fifth Sun.’ It’s an accessible listen as far as this sort of freakout sludge goes; the less than forty-minute runtime isn’t too tough to digest, and the rhythmic focus gives it a more pulsating presence than most. A strong journey suited well to the balance of brutal and trancelike.
8 / 10
Sleepwulf – Sunbeams Curl
Sleepwulf’s second album, Sunbeams Curl (Heavy Psych Sounds) continues down the path of Doomy Occult Rock set up by their 2020 self-titled debut. The mood is a tinge more ominous with a slightly heavier push in the guitars and tighter drumming, but the vocals retain that jovial warble with enough of that rustic aesthetic to trigger comparisons to Witchcraft, Kadaver, and Graveyard.
‘Stoned Ape’ and ‘Toad Licker Mushroom Picker’ are the biggest highlights, adding some extra Psychedelia as suggested by their righteous titles, while ‘Man Under The Mountain’ dares to stomp into full-on Doom territory. It’s a simple package perhaps better done these days by groups like Green Lung and Magic Circle, but enjoyable enough to satisfy fans of those bands looking for more of the same.
7 / 10
Fostermother – The Ocean
Fostermother’s sophomore album sees some considerable expansions to their Shoegaze-informed brand of Heavy Psych. In addition to a move to Ripple Music giving The Ocean a larger platform than before, the songs noticeably run longer and play heavier than those on their 2020 self-titled debut. The album isn’t too drastically different from its predecessor but upgrading to a trio lineup certainly gives the proceedings some appropriate power.
Putting more emphasis on the Doom portion of Stoner Doom admittedly makes for less varied songwriting, but this methodical approach works well in its own ways. The guitar and bass fuzz are as thick as ever with the vocal effects providing an ethereal contrast without getting too overwhelmed. Things really pick up in the second half as ‘Unholiest Of Days’ and ‘Redeemer’ put in more upbeat hustles, the former seeming to channel classic The Sword, that are strongly counteracted by the title track’s particularly oppressive riff set. It may not have the same quirky appeal for me as the debut, but The Ocean is a worthy step forward.
8 / 10
Hazemaze – Blinded By The Wicked
Hazemaze plays the sort of Doom Metal that’s somewhere between Cathedral and Electric Wizard, driven by fuzzy mid-tempo riffs and an occult aesthetic without getting too zoned out. Their third album, Blinded By The Wicked (Heavy Psych Sounds), offers more of the same albeit with a somewhat darker tinge than their previous efforts. While the execution is admittedly vanilla at times, there are some strong songs that come out of it.
‘Divine Harlotry’ is my pick of the litter for its winning riff and equally catchy chorus with ‘Malevolent Inveigler’ coming close with its thicker riff set. There’s also promise in the atmospheric keys on ‘Ceremonial Aspersion’ and ‘Luciferian Rite.’ Another album that’s simple in design with a style arguably done better elsewhere, but enjoyable enough to warrant a listen.
7 / 10
Obsidian Sea – Pathos
Obsidian Sea has seen some neat evolution since they formed in 2009, rooted in Saint Vitus-esque Traditional Doom and gradually picking up a more laid back, Psychedelic disposition ala Orodruin, Pale Divine, and Kings Destroy. Their fourth album, Pathos (Ripple Music), pushes the trajectory forward even further with the hazy overtones threatening to completely overtake the Doom riffage. Fortunately, it’s a natural transition as the guitars keep an organic vibe, the vocals are pleasantly workmanlike, and the structures allow for plenty of jammed out instrumental segments.
In a fun twist, the more mellow tracks may be where the album shines the most. ‘The Long Drowning’ is a pretty smooth Blues track complete with climactic speedup, ‘I Love The Woods’ has an almost Folky touch appropriate for its pastoral theme. Elsewhere, ‘Sisters’ has an almost Grungy swagger and ‘The Meaning of Shadows’ closes the album with its most disorienting, Prog-oriented structure. It’s great to see the evolution that came about with 2019’s Strangers followed-up with even bolder confidence.
After mixing up their formula by adding vocals on 2018’s Black Heaven, Earthless‘ fifth full-length goes back to their usual brand of jammed out instrumental rock. The awesomely titled Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons (both Nuclear Blast) hearkens back to the format of albums like Sonic Prayer, consisting of three tracks each stretching to nearly twenty minutes of Heavy Psych informed by spacy Krautrock meandering. The title track is split into two parts with ‘Death To The Red Sun’ rounding things out.
Kontact’s debut EP is rather tricky to pin down in terms of style. Voivod makes the most immediate comparison with an aesthetic immersed in similar cosmic theming and the vocals channeling Snake in a similarly manic yet almost robotic sneer. However, the guitar work draws more on Speed Metal gallops and doomy riffs than the high-pitched dissonance that would come with such an association. King Gizzard at their heaviest might also be an applicable reference point though there isn’t quite as much psychedelic fuzz wafting about.Continue reading →
Having left their Doom Metal roots behind on 2016’s Wider Than The Sky(Radiance), 40 Watt Sun completely doubles down on slowcore with their third full-length album. In fact, Perfect Light (Svart/Cappio Records) might even be a little softer than its predecessor with nary a trace of fuzz or distortion to be found. It often feels more like a slow-motion singer/songwriter record, especially with the Jerry Cantrell-esque twang throughout. I suppose it’s only fitting when you consider that guitarist/vocalist Patrick Walker is the only returning band member, having recruited an entirely different cast of musicians for this effort.
Culled from the same sessions that birthed the Lavender Blues EP in 2020, Big Scenic Nowhere’s second full-length expands the supergroup’s jammed out take on Desert Rock. However, The Long Morrow (Heavy Psych Sounds) sets itself apart from Vision Beyond Horizon by means of a more grounded approach. There aren’t as many songs as before and the album is about ten minutes shorter than its predecessor overall. The guest list also isn’t as loaded this time around, only featuring keyboardist Per Wilberg and The Cure/David Bowie guitarist Reeves Gabrels on the colossal title track.