ALBUM REVIEW: Witnesses – Doom II

As hinted by the title, Doom II (Self-Released) isn’t Witnesses’ second overall album but rather their second to expand on the Doom Metal style that was established on2019’s To Disappear And To Be Nothing. Its predecessor’s combination of glacial riffing, distraught vocals and bleak mood is well-preserved here and the overarching narrative of a ship lost at sea allows them to be conveyed even more powerfully than before. Convoluted naming conventions aside, it’s a bold leap forward by every metric.

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ALBUM REVIEW: High Spirits – Hard To Stop

 

High Spirits’ endearing sincerity has always been a shining contrast to the often-sour realms of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, and that feelgood brightness is needed now more than ever. While it’s been four years since the release of their last album, 2016’s Motivator, the Chicago project’s fourth full-length doesn’t skip a beat and their established blend of AOR and Classic Metal is well intact. You always know what you’re getting but it’s presented with far too much enthusiasm to ever feel stale.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Kingnomad – Sagan Om Rymden

Kingnomad’s Prog Rock tendencies have been at the forefront from their inception, but these elements are expressed in their purest form on Sagan Om Rymden (Ripple Music). The group has about completely phased out the Stoner Doom tinges that helped shape their first two albums, allowing their third to expand their dynamics without a single hint of fuzz to be found. While this does make a less heavy album on the surface, a combination of energy and commitment to atmosphere results in what is easily the band’s boldest effort yet. Continue reading

ALBUM REVIEW: Judicator – Let There Be Nothing

While Judicator’s fifth full-length offers their signature brand of historically themed Power/Prog Metal, it comes at a more personal angle this time around. The story of Let There Be Nothing (Prosthetic Records) is based on the life of Belisarius, a 6th century Byzantine general who reclaimed remnants of the Western Roman Empire while wrestling with a crippling marriage. The album never quite reaches the catharsis of 2015’s At The Expense Of Humanity, but it’s nice to see their Blind Guardian worship be tempered with a little extra pathos.Continue reading

ALBUM REVIEW: Butterfly – Doorways Of Time

Butterfly’s full-length debut isn’t the least bit shy about its Seventies Rock inspirations. That is made immediately apparent with the cover art contrasting Vikings and a mystical title with an innocuous band name, but the music plays out like a grab-bag of Montrose, Uriah Heep, and Budgie among others. Its free-spirited attitude is comparable to their contemporaries in Freeways and one can occasionally detect hints of otherworldly haziness in line with Tanith and Brimstone Coven.Continue reading

ALBUM REVIEW: Thomas V. Jäger – A Solitary Plan – RidingEasy Records

As cool as it’s been to see some of doom’s most iconic figures go acoustic lately, sometimes it’s even more exciting when fresher faces try their hands at the style. Thomas V. Jäger is one such example, stepping beyond his duties as Monolord’s vocalist/guitarist to release a full-length solo album. It’s an especially interesting transition when you consider that band’s heightened melodicism on 2019’s No Comfort, and this album pushes the idea to even more introspective ends.Continue reading

ALBUM REVIEW: Stygian Crown – Stygian Crown

Stygian Crown’s full-length debut sits comfortably within the Epic Doom Metal niche, but their particular style comes from a more aggressive mindset than many of their peers. This is especially apparent with the guitar work, which exhibits a grainy tone and bulldozing riff patterns that are chunkier than the Classic Metal-derived fare of more conventional outfits. It never goes full-on Death/Doom but the band’s declaration of a Candlemass meets Bolt Thrower sound certainly makes sense when viewed through this lens.

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EP REVIEW: Midnight Dice – Hypnotized – Underground Power Records

Coming off a self-titled demo in 2019, Midnight Dice’s first EP, Hypnotized(Underground Power Records/Hoove Child Records), sees the Chicagoans continuing to build their momentum. Comparisons to the musicians’ previous band Satan’s Hallow remain inevitable as Hypnotized rides on a similarly anthemic Classic Metal style. However, there are also developments that show the band beginning to carve out a more distinct identity.Continue reading

ALBUM REVIEW: Vestal Claret – Vestal Claret

While a self-titled album often serves as a summary of an artist’s particular style, Vestal Claret’s third full-length is unlike anything else they’ve done before. The Doom Metal that defined the occult collective’s past efforts has been completely phased out in favor of a subdued presentation that is somewhere between Folk and introspective Psych Rock. An esoteric aura still wafts with vocalist Phil Swanson (Hour of 13, Sumerlands) offering his signature mournful, nasally wail, but the vibe has more in common with Hexvessel or Sabbath Assembly than Pagan Altar.Continue reading

ALBUM REVIEW: Wino – Forever Gone

As much as Wino deserves his doom godfather status for fronting groups like The Obsessed and Saint Vitus, there’s something to be said for his more recent singer/songwriter excursions. Whether going it alone or with such collaborators as Conny Ochs, the acoustic style suits him surprisingly well and the volume contrast brings a fuller perspective to his haggard lifer persona. This is especially true for his third album, Forever Gone (Ripple Music), which may be his most low-key effort to date.Continue reading