ALBUM REVIEW: The Earth Below – Nothing Works Vol 2: Hymns for Useless Gods

Deepak Raghu is an extremely diverse, creative entity. His previous forays into Rock and Metal have embraced many outlying elements such as Americana, Folk, and Soul: on Nothing Works Vol 2: Hymns for Useless Gods (Unheard Music), his latest outing with solo project The Earth Below, he melds those traditional sounds with melodic weight, in turn baffling and eventually ensnaring the senses. Continue reading

Druids – Monument

When Iowan trio Druids‘ EP Spirit Compass (Self-release) hit my ears sixteen months ago, I was staggered by the apparent ease with which the bandmelded the darkness of Sabbath and the violence of Mastodon with the joyous, Summery Grunge of Blind Melon. It made for a heady mix and new offering Monument (The Company) promises the same excitement amid a paradoxically heavy flexibility. Continue reading

The Sonic Dawn – Eclipse

It seems wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen is quietly earning a name for Rock bands in recent years, with retro Psych trio The Sonic Dawn gaining a particularly favourable reputation. Eclipse (Heavy Psych Sounds) is the band’s third full-length release in four years and, despite being influenced by undisclosed personal tragedy, the sound is as bright as ever. Continue reading

Trees – Trees

Search online for bands named Trees and the only entries you’ll find are references to the glorious British Folk outfit of the late sixties and early seventies. Deep in the recesses of Finland, however, comes another such incarnation: one that joins the gathering of acts that have revitalised the genre this year. Continue reading

Cough – Still They Pray

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Still They Pray (Relapse Records) is the first long-player in six years from legendary Virginian Doom quartet Cough, with a couple of later ‘splits’ the only things preventing their status from slipping into the mythical. Thankfully this time lapse hasn’t seen the band’s power or collective ability diminish.

Album opener ‘Haunter of the Dark’ exudes the heavy, Occult feel of their one-time ‘split’ mates The Wounded Kings: riffs and leadplay evoking the bone-crumbling mysticism of George Birch and Steve Mills. This is allied to the fuzzed sound and laconic, harrowing vocal of Electric Wizard, which is apt given that Jus Osborn handles production here. Follow-up ‘Possession’, however, and wonderful album highlight ‘The Wounding Hours’ with its haunting keys, both take on a new resonance: obsidian screams leading a slower trawl through infested swamps, resulting in the more familiar funereal pace. The standout feature here and in the crawling, sinister warmth of ‘Dead Among the Roses’ is some mournful, stirring leadwork, squealing and moaning through an oppressive riff and pummeling rhythm section like a speared anaconda.

This is, of course, the mark of this lumbering leviathan: it’s a sound you’ve heard before but, as with TWK, Cough adds a variety and subtlety which supposedly more influential contemporaries seem loath to display. The sheer evil of ‘Masters of Torture’s Blackened Sludge vocal heightens both the intensity and the omen: while wailing solos add morose emotion to a creeping, hideous body, suddenly enlivened by a rumbling, Dorrian-esque groove. The beautiful, leaden balladry of ‘Let it Bleed’, meanwhile, is graced by a Hippy drawl which still manages to carry a certain malevolence; as does the monstrous instrumental ‘Shadow of the Torturer’, Parker Chandler’s basslines plumbing the Pacific depths whilst seedy, seductive leads screech and oscillate, easing Joseph Arcaro’s lazy yet powerful drums to a crushing main section.

It’s a sound undeniably British, whilst reminiscent of Chandler’s work with Windhand and, as evinced in the acoustic-led closing title track, a late 60s Haight-Ashbury Americana. With such obliterating Doom spirited by the fire, despair and hate of the 21st century, Cough has never sounded so vital.

8.0/10.0

PAUL QUINN

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Elephant Tree – Elephant Tree

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The eponymous debut album from London-based quartet Elephant Tree (Magnetic Eye Records) is graced by a sitar, no less, and is a bewitching amalgam of crushing weight and heartfelt melody. Its riffs akin to having both an elephant and a tree dropped upon you simultaneously, it nevertheless possesses a light dexterity which allows them to sashay gracefully through your ears.

‘Wither’ sees said riff growl, moan and howl along a wicked, lazy groove. The beauty here is in the decoration, the Low-end melancholy garnished with wistful, dreamy overlays: a solo oscillating through the mind, the Psychedelic vocals and atmosphere introducing Jar of Flies-era Alice in Chains to San Francisco trippers Sleepy Sun. Lead release ‘Dawn’, meanwhile, allies a filthy Stoner element to a Jon Davis-like scream.

The variety of the early stages is an absolute joy to behold: the hippy acoustic whimsy of ‘Circles’ sends those of us who grew up cocooned in Americana right back to the late 60s we yearn for. The riff of the ensuing ‘Aphotic Blues’ is so encompassing, pulverising, that this pleasant reverie is squashed like a bug: the crushing Sabbath-esque stomp still possessing enough cosmic, acid-drenched languor to keep the remains floating on air toward a vicious, pulsating close. ‘Echoes’, meanwhile, lends a 10CC mellowness to the bluesy notes and warm production before exploding in an Uncle Acid-like fuzz, its gentle mid-section bubbling beautifully.

It’s the juxtaposition between power and dreamy insouciance which is the real hallmark of this enthralling set. The titanic, warbling riff of ‘Fracture’ growls and crawls along like a sated behemoth while indolent, sleepy vocals caress its wounds. It’s a glorious feel, a heady atmosphere reeking of both patchouli oil and Kula:Shaker’s eastern melodies and rhythms, yet full of an easy vitality. This is all wonderfully brought together in the monolithic, drifting closer ‘Surma’, its moving, driving solos riding a trammelling riff toward a delicate coda of piano.

Fresh as a breeze, heavy as a mountain troll, and bloody addictive, even at this early stage Elephant Tree will sit atop a few weighty lists come the end of the year.

8.0/10.0

PAUL QUINN

 

Kristian Harting – Summer of Crush

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Much as with Eddie Vedder’s ukulele musings, there’s often debate as to whether the somewhat-less-than-Heavy products of Rock stars deserve attention from the scene purely because of their purveyors’ status. Step forth Dane Kristian Harting, whose early Thrash / Noise tendencies are sacrificed in favour of a spiky, summery Americana.

There are moments of true beauty within Summer of Crush (Exile on Mainstream): the harmonies of opener ‘Traveller’ and ‘White Spirits’ touching the heart alongside Harting’s honeyed airs, the latter tracks squalling lead guitar adding a post-style crush to an acoustic riff which evokes those late ‘Hippy’ highs such as CSNY. ‘Temporary Rooms’ and ‘How High’ have a Country Pop twang, the vocal adding some real sunshine to worlds normally coated in a hellish darkness.

The insouciant chanting of the brief ‘I Am You 2’, fired by a pedal-affected riff which resonates through the instrumental ‘Spirits Revisited’, adds experimentation and atmosphere to a largely stripped-down sound. ‘Ship Of Fools’, meanwhile, sees those of us of a ‘bongo’ bent patted into ecstasy alongside a harsher yet still melodic vocal and more atmospheric organ, increasing to a euphoric crescendo in not dissimilar fashion to early 90s Rock adventurers Largo.

More hostile squealing punctures the fragile, sparing lilt of ‘Digging Up Graves’ and it’s here that one fully realises the level of creativity and skill on display. It would be easy for these brief flurries of Harting’s roots to stick out like sore thumbs and make a track ‘clunky’ by merely not belonging. Here, they have an organic meld like instant displays of emotion: the fizz of lead squalls in the hypnotic, dreamy ‘South North Passage’ epitomising the rude disturbance of a deep meditation, telling its story wonderfully.

The main feature is of course that light melody, reminiscent of late Beatles or Oasis in the penultimate ’Soul Sister’: an edgy, electro-brushed ballad which could be the final straw for some yet, for those of us who are capable of appreciating the softer things in life, the gathering of the most heavenly aspects of an album both delightfully enticing, and just barely Rock.   

 

7.5/10.0

 

PAUL QUINN