Burning Vow – Burning Vow

We’re nearing the end of another year and no doubt we’re all scrabbling together our now mandatory album of the year lists, all the while agonizing over those handful of records that we leave out or forget, to showcase our personal highlights and the standouts that will be used in future years as a signifier for the high quality of music 2018 has bestowed upon us. Continue reading

Alunah – Amber & Gold

As EPs go, this release by Birmingham doomsters Alunah is perhaps a necessary one. In the wake of their founder/head vocalist Sophie Day leaving the band last year, the need to establish her replacement, Siân Greenaway, as quickly as possible means Amber & Gold (self-released) has a purpose, if nothing else. Continue reading

Esben And The Witch – Nowhere

Four years ago, at Cult of Luna’s heralded Beyond The Redshift festival, I saw a band that went toe-to-toe with the headline acts and matched their beauty, elegance, and musical depth. Ten years into their career and with their fourth album Nowhere (Season of Mist) about to grace our ears, we find Esben And The Witch at their darkest. Continue reading

Windhand – Eternal Return

Much of personal significance has happened to the members of Virginia Doom troupe Windhand since third album Grief’s Infernal Flower (Relapse) dropped in 2015: the resignation of co-founder and guitarist Asechiah Bogdan, after which the band has remained a quartet; the death of a friend close to the band; and the birth of guitarist Garrett Morris’ child. Given the joy and despair surrounding such events, it’s understandable the new full-length Eternal Return (Relapse) is a different beast from the droning sound usually expected. Continue reading

High On Fire – Electric Messiah

I don’t know how Matt Pike does it. Six months since Sleep dropped The Sciences (which is still ace and you should totally buy if you haven’t already) seemingly out of nowhere, the man who has forgotten more brilliant riffs than most of us will ever know has effortlessly created another world-beater. I admit that might be a case of me showing my hand a bit too soon – saying a High On Fire record is great is about as predictable as the sun rising in the morning, but both are positive reminders that good things are always on the horizon. Continue reading

Hangman’s Chair – Banlieue Triste

The ten tracks of the fifth album by Hangman’s Chair, Banlieue Triste (Spinefarm) clock in at a wee bit over an hour. The title track ‘Banlieue Triste’ opens the album. It was an odd choice. It’s almost three minutes of maudlin slow-moving fare. It gives you no indication of what’s to come. To wit, if I were a casual listener, I’d switch it off and that would do a disservice to the rest of the album. Banlieue Triste, the album, is best described as atmospheric angsty Sludge. The second track ‘Naive’ more encapsulates the overall sound of Banlieue Triste: the music sounds as if it’s in an echo chamber. This production choice enhances the listening experience as it impacts the depth of the music. The listener feels just a tad “off”.  There is a constant unnerving expansive feel to every song. Continue reading

Lucifer – Lucifer II

Whilst there is no pre-requisite for nominative determinism in music when you call your band Lucifer, you do set a bit of an expectation that your sound is going to, at the very least, a bit dark and evil. No one seems to have told Lucifer this. Their second album of what can only be loosely regarded as Occult Rock weaves its (black) magic in a way that is as unexpected as it is compelling. Continue reading

Black Moth – Anatomical Venus

Anatomical Venus (New Heavy Sounds), the third album from doomy Stoner Rock outfit Black Moth is the sort of album that can get those usually jaded rock critics very excited indeed. It has a number of leitmotifs that tick the proverbial boxes of listeners who tend to like their records to tick their proverbial boxes. If you think there is a “but” coming you’d be right as, for all the effort and invention, Anatomical Venus resolutely remains the sum of its parts. And that, somewhat disappointingly, is this record’s main problem. Continue reading

Avatarium – Hurricanes and Halos

Two fingers to convention, I’m jumping straight to the reveal: Avatarium are a superior breed of band that you’d be mad to overlook and Hurricanes and Halos picks things up where the sultry excellence of The Girl With The Raven Mask (both Nuclear Blast) left off. Fashioned from the music of yesteryear, don’t be fooled into thinking this is “just another” Retro outfit, or an “Occult Rock” band; this is the mastery of the music of a fifty years ago, not to be cool, or hip, but as a means of producing powerful, diverse and strong songs. Continue reading