Ghost Cult once again brings you another “End Of Year” list, as we close out 2016. Today we get a list from David Gates of Nashville sludge and doom rockers Season Of Arrows. The band just signed a new record deal with Argonauta Records, Give it to the Mountain, due out on March 24th 2017. David puts down his axe, and picked up his laptop to send us in his essential list of albums from this past year, and it’s killer!Continue reading →
The world of sludge/doom metal continues to impress as veterans, Graves at Sea, attempt to blow your mind with their first full length, The Curse That Is (Relapse Records). This album ensures that you feel nice and grimey by the end of the seventy-seven minute journey that is anything but a curse. By the end of said journey, your head will feel like a crushed soda can on the side of the road from the power of the fuzzy riffs.
The greatest part about The Curse That Is would have to be how each track is its own story yet nothing strays too far from the over feel of the record. With a short build up, Graves at Sea hits you with album title track ‘The Curse That Is’ to jump-start the album. The whole introduction is a nice sample plate of what kind of guitar leads you can expect but then drops down to a sluggish tempo. ‘Tempest’, although one of the shorter tracks, certainly feels like a storm of heavy riffs and thunderous drumming, destroying everything in its path. Crushing riff after riff, the onslaught does not stop for over seven minutes. As the storm passes, we witness the aftermath in ‘The Ashes Made Her Beautiful’. This fifteen minute epic slows down and pulls at your heartstrings through the first half of the song. A tad past the midpoint comes quite the build up which finally spills over to another heavy yet fuzzy passage of this story. The ending continues to grow on itself and spills into a final refrain of the chorus.
The Curse That Is turned out to be quite a listening adventure for me which I time and time again keep coming back to. From start to finish I did not feel like there were any weak spots as each track really brought its own characteristics to the table. As much as I did like the shrieking vocals on each track, I think just slightly altering this up on a track or two more would have scored a few more points with keeping every element on the record fresh. Having said that, I would not even call that a complaint and nor do I really have any with this release. Graves at Sea really knocked this one out of the park on their first go at a full length.
The soreness had began to set in by this time, yet my body had no say in preventing further torture. There was yet more on the plate for this exercise session from hell. Luckily for my muscles, a one-two-three heavy handed slap of stoner/doom in the form of Windhand, Bongripper and Graves At Sea was how the Sabbath day was to begin. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if the former two bands practiced and recorded stoned and played sober?
My next gym coaches in Misery Index, however, demanded a few proverbial pushups, despite the lack of shade. How cruel of them to play ‘Traitors’ when they know that it’s impossible for me to stand still during such a thing.
The new track(s) from the newest opus The Killing Gods (Season of Mist) were business as usual; brutalising politically conscious death/grind the way Misery Index has delivered it to their hometown of Baltimore and the world for 13 lucky years. I’m assuming they all walked home after Deathfest, since they probably live up the street.
Pseudogod, they existed, and Wrathprayer from Chile played Blackened Death Metal that was surprisingly not too generic, though little stuck out in particular from their performance. The wizardly dissonance of Colombia’s (now based in Seattle, WA) Inquisition was much needed following these two noble, if not uninspiring acts.
Dagon’s trademark croaks take some getting used to if you’re not already into that thing, which I found out some years ago when I first heard ‘Those Of The Night’. I thought, “How the fuck are these Black Metal vocals? Weak shit, kid”, and fell in with the camp that didn’t enjoy the Popeye With Throat Cancer treatment. However, with time, I came to see them as an integral part of their sound, as important as the spiraling, dark melodies and atmospheres that blanket their deceptively simple aural landscapes. The tastefully militant blasting and appropriately placed groove sections provided by drummer Incubus are done well enough to the point that variety is not of great concern. Dagon even had the foresight to have two mics set up so he wouldn’t simply stand in one place the entire time, and that somehow made it a lot less likely to be bored while watching their ministrations. Clandestinely keeping you titillated since 1989.
A smorgasbord of Louisiana’s most metal featuring members of Goatwhore, Crowbar, and Eyehategod; SoilentGreen are an unexpectedly well-done mixture of blues-tinged sludge metal and blasting deathgrind. I’d go so far as to say they’re one of my ‘favourites’ among bands I had gone in not expecting to be good, much less pretty darn good. Makes for good BBQ eating soundtracks. Because, y’know, the South. Following them were the band voted least likely to have anything to do with gore or guts, Gorguts, who are equal parts surrealist staircase-to-nowhere artists and death metal.
Reanimating ‘Orphans Of Sickness’ from The Erosion Of Sanity (complete with slamdown) and ‘Inverted’ from From Wisdom To Hate, Gorguts shows that they’ve not gone entirely soft on us. That is, if you consider the fact that they’ve run with the avant-garde angle from Obscura onward going ‘soft’. Opening with two songs from Coloured Sands (Season of Mist) as if to say “now that we’ve got that out the way”, they proceeded to blow some minds the way they have been for a quarter century. Damn, they’re old. Luc Lemay’s stage banter will tell you that much. Why isn’t he my uncle?
Yet another fuzzy treat for my unaware ears were Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, who got my vote this year for the category of “Why Is This Band Playing Deathfest?” in the same way Anvil did two years ago. Good old fashioned psychedelic doom rock worship aside, they should seriously consider changing their name to Sharp Dressed Man: The Band. Sure beats the hell out of Ghost and Bigelf as far as semi-metal 70s hard rock goes. Just out of curiosity: why do none of these bands ever wear ‘normal’ clothes?
And now came the apex of sadness: Having to abandon the truest Sabbath worshippers in Sweden’s Candlemass after their opening song, ‘Mirror, Mirror’ to go catch Japan’s legally insane grind outfit Unholy Grave at the Soundstage. Mats Levén of Therion fame handling vocals and the fact that I missed ‘At Gallows’ End’ just makes me want to cry forever. Ancient dreams of an alternate reality where this was an easier choice. Almost makes me wonder; was it worth it? I don’t like to ask myself these questions, because regret is an unproductive state of being.
The misery continued with the U.K.’s masters of the maudlin, My Dying Bride, with front man Aaron Stainethorpe sporting a newly shaved dome after my only having ever known him with perpetually soggy lachrymose locks. Sadly (word choice?), ‘Deeper Down’ and ‘My Body, A Funeral’ didn’t make it onto their set list, and I’m woefully (word choice?) unacquainted with much of their discography, though ‘The Dreadful Hours’ and ‘Turn Loose The Swans’ rang somewhat familiar. Hymns to never ending grief, complete with the mourning, sobering sound of a violin, though unfortunately (word choice?) no rain to complete the ambiance. If it can rain during Neurosis, Electric Wizard, and even Pelican, why no appropriate weather this year? You sicken me, skies. To compound my consternation, I noticed the beginning sign of an oncoming suckfest; that sensation of having a patch of permanently dry skin at the back of your throat, the messenger of death, the common cold. It only got worse from there.
All sordid business with the Edison Lot now done, I had a hot date with the Soundstage and Ratos de Porão, who play fucking fast.
Brazil’s Ratos don’t play no bossa nova, fool. It’s balls-to-the-wall with no breaks at all crossover thrash meets the rawer (or rawwwwwwrrrrrr) sounds of 80s hardcore. Think Suicidal Tendencies in their Join The Army days if they took more cues from ChargedG.B.H.’sCity Baby Attacked By Rats, and you’ve got an approximation of how this beast sounds. Pure energy and speed, but always on the right track, like a studded train full of crusties hitting you with a fist made of metalheads. Someone eventually decided that a trash can would have more fun near the pit, and the result was a lot of beer cans and empty food containers on the floor that was once just covered in beer and sweat.
Perfect way to cap off the Soundstage skullduggery.
Meanwhile at Ram’s Head the progressive death metal Kiwis in Ulcerate serenaded all present with uplifting tunes such as ‘Confronting Entropy’ and ‘Clutching Revulsion’ from their newest opus Vermis (Relapse). Packed full of enough angular riffs to make your head spin, and heavy enough to make it flatten itself, they and Immolation provided an ideal closing combo for this year’s Maryland Deathfest. Emphasis being on the death, Yonkers’ Immolation packs a firestorm of riffs that haven’t died down in over 28 years as a band. From their debut Dawn Of Possession to their most recent Kingdom Of Conspiracy, all eras were covered as they burnt the fest to ashes.
Yours truly got kicked out of a hotel (rather, kicked himself out) because someone decided smoking a cigarette in the hallway was a good idea. To be fair, I tried to help them by putting it out, but what’s common sense? Some people just can’t hang, and those people are hotel security. Oops.
Then on the walk ‘home’ I found some people being obnoxious and singing random metal songs at the top of their lungs on the front porch of a hotel. Naturally I go over and join them. I found some beers and a girl that’s sexually attracted to snakes or someshit, and she stole the inflatable dinosaur that the guy dressed as a doctor during Impaled’s set gave me. Presumably to fuck it.
Then I drank with said doctor and he showed me the horror show that was his hotel bathtub. Thing was a mess of fake blood and empty beer cans. We drank some whiskey for our faces and peaced out. He had a D.R.I. cigarette case, which was rad.
Thrashers, meet your king, passed out on the steps of said hotel at 6 in the morning. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still hungover to this very day, because that kid was literally drunk the entire weekend. And I saw him a lot (he was in just about every pit at Edison), so you know I’m not bullshitting.
Then, just in time for me to get onto a cold 4 hour bus to New York and a subsequently cold 4 hour bus to Boston, my cold reaches fruition, and I die in my seat. Somehow I came back to life to write this review, and all I can say after this glorious headbanging, circlepitting, beer drinking, weed smoking, not-drug-doing, skirt-wearing, awkward-socialising weekend is: Fuck the common cold. Maybe I’ll do this again next year.
Departing in 2008, it’s been six years of silence from Graves in Sea, and a massive nine since we have been treated to a release. This year, however, they return with two, a split with Sourvein and their EP This Place is Poison (Eolian).
Opening the EP with standard distorted doom riffing, it holds little hint of monstrous tracks that await the listener. The band really begins to stand out when the vocals kick in. Although they use the usual growls, it’s mixed up with a high blackened rasping that really captures the sounds of torment. This is nowhere more evident than in opening track ‘This Place is Poison’, where the vocals take the song from sludgy riffing and make it deliciously filthy in its delivery.
The second half of the EP consists solely of Sabbath covers, a bold move by a band that has returned with so little original material. Unlike so many covers though these are no simple rehashes of the old songs and seem to breathe new life into tracks, infusing their own personal style into the sound. ‘Orchid’ is transformed into a slow dirge methodically marching onwards, the acoustic passages slowed and simplified till they teeter on the edge of recognition. The song is dripping in a melancholy that is not achieved by the original, a haunting passage that leads us through to the closing track ‘Lord of this World’. Dropping into a fuzzed wall of tone, it is a mix of stoner groove infused with a hefty dose of Graves at Sea’s bleak sludged out noise that gives the track a truly satisfying depth.
Despite all the years away, the band has pulled together an impressive EP. Coming in at a mere twenty minutes long, they are teasing us with yet another small taster of what they are capable of. The record appears to be as poisonous as the place though and I quickly found it hard to pull this one off my record player. It really is true to the lyrics of the opening track, “you can check out anytime, but you can never leave”.