FESTIVAL REVIEW: Download Festival 2022 Part II


My Saturday at Download began over at the main stage where I caught the retro new wave of classic rock act Those Damn Crows, a band who have amassed a significant following in Wales thanks to appearances at the likes of Steelhouse Festival and other rock-oriented affairs. Possibly one of the smallest acts to perform on the main stage this year, the band spared no expense offering a fantastic wake-up call with some unremarkable if solid hard rock tunes. The day’s proceedings then continued firmly in the rocky territory with a southern, slightly heavier twang with Black Label Society, in their first festival appearance on UK soil since 2015, and with less of Zakk Wylde’s expectedly lengthy and tiresome soloing. Don’t get me wrong, Zakk was still doing his usual thing, but with a much-needed addition of percussion, making the moments of instrumental wankery much more palatable than usual.

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FESTIVAL REVIEW: Download Festival 2022 Part I


After a prolonged absence from the British metal scene courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic (save for a scaled-back pilot event in 2021), Leicestershire’s iconic summer rock, punk, and metal weekender, Download Festival returned to Castle Donnington in a maximalist blaze of glory, packing in a full-scale 5-day experience with some familiar favorites, hotly tipped up-and-comers and some of the best international acts that rock and metal scene has to offer.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Friends of Hell – Friends of Hell


There may not be a “classic” doom metal genre, officially (is there really an official subgenre list of heavy metal?), but when I think of the classic doom metal sound, I think of the UK style. Super beefy guitar riffs, slowed down tempo, lyrics about the occult and psychedelics, and of course, clean high end pitched vocals to tie it all together. Friends of Hell does just that on their self-titled debut album (Rise Above). Tas Danazoglou (Satan’s Wrath/ex-Electric Wizard), and vocalist Albert Witchfinder (Opium Warlords/ex-Reverend Bizarre) are the driving force behind this doom machine and seems like that is all that is needed.

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REVIEWS ROUNDUP: Kurokuma, Sleepwulf, Fostermother, Hazemaze, and Obsidian Sea


Kurokuma Born Of Obsidian

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

 

SleepwulfSunbeams 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

 

FostermotherThe 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

 

HazemazeBlinded 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 SeaPathos

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.

 

8 / 10

CHRIS LATTA


Download Festival 2022 Adds Deftones, Korn, Megadeth, Steel Panther, The Ghost Inside, Funeral For A Friend, Descendents, Electric Wizard, Sepultura, and More!


Download Festival 2021 is postponed to summer 2022, but the fest has wasted little time stacking the bill. Already headlined by Iron Maiden, KISS, and Biffy Clyro, seventy new bands have been added including Deftones, Korn, Megadeth, Steel Panther, The Ghost Inside, Funeral For A Friend, Descendents, Electric Wizard, and Sepultura. Watch a video teaser with the updated poster and buy your tickets now!

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ALBUM REVIEW: Bongzilla – Weedsconsin


 

Bongzilla’s fifth album comes with an interesting set of curveballs, being their first full-length release since 2005’s Amerijuanican as well as their first to be recorded as a trio. However, very little has changed about the Wisconsinites’ vision in the sixteen years they’ve been away. As evidenced by an appropriately dumb but endearing title like Weedsconsin (Heavy Psych Sounds), the Sweet Leaf remains the focal point of their aesthetic and their Stoner-Sludge sound is as potent as ever.

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KISS, Biffy Clyro, System Of A Down and More Booked for Download Festival 2021


Download Festival will return for 2021, featuring headliners KISS, Biffy Clyro, and System Of A Down and many more bands including A Day To Remember, Mastodon, Control The Storm, Gender Roles, Jamie Lenman, Myles Kennedy & Company, Deftones, Korn, The Distillers, Steel Panther, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, The Darkness, Black Veil Brides, Creeper, Alestorm and The Pretty Reckless. Seventy-three bands in all have been announced! Tickets go on sale on August 7th at 9 AM GMT. More bands have yet to be announced. The three-day festival takes place on 4-6 June 2021 at the spiritual home of rock in Donington Park, Leicestershire. Tickets will go on sale at this link here. Continue reading


ALBUM REVIEW: Black Spirit Crown – Gravity


Black Spirit Crown’s first proper album sits right on the line between Doom and Stoner Metal with hints of Prog seeping through. The fuzzy riff work is rooted in Sleep and Electric Wizard tradition, the hustling tempos remind me of Orange Goblin, and the tripped-out atmospherics and vocal filters echo Howling Giant or Mastodon. These traits were already distinct on the Red Sky EP released in 2017 and the Cleveland group takes them to even further extents with Gravity (Self-Released).

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Hellfest 2020 is Officially Canceled, 2021 Fest Announced


Faith No More in Boston, by Meg Loyal Photography

Crushing news for the summer festival season in Europe, as France’s legendary Hellfest, has been canceled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The festival announced today it was unable to host the festival, which takes place in Clisson, France, outside of Paris. Hellfest 2021 is already announced for next summer. The 2020 edition was to have had Faith No More, and Down will be joined by Deftones, System Of A Down, Incubus, Korn, Mastodon, Opeth, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, The Offspring, Infectious Grooves, The Darkness, Obituary, Death DTA (the Death tribute featuring members of Death), At The Gates, Entombed AD, Sacred Reich, Devin Townsend, Meshuggah, The Black Dahlia Murder, Dying Fetus, Misery Index, Mayhem, Abbath, Rotting Christ, Primordial, The Great Old Ones, Wardruna, The Hu, Taake, Watain, Alcest, Borknagar, Gaahl’s Wyrd, Electric Wizard, Baroness, Om, Witchcraft, Black Mountain, Elder, ASG, Envy, Mono, John Garcia & the Band of Gold, High On Fire, Pelican, Killing Joke, Perturbator, Life of Agony, 3TEETH, Inter Arma, Body Count, Suicidal Tendencies, Youth of Today, Slapshot, Jesus Piece, Higher Power, Social Distortion, Anti-Flag, Agnostic Front, Reverend Horton Heat, Grade 2, Code Orange, and more. Dumb and Dumbest Podcast had an episode dedicated to the fest last summer. Continue reading