Probably due to the bitterly cold December weather, the Academy 2 is already full to bursting by the time opening act Healing Magic hit their stride. Featuring a Cavalera who prefers to spell his name correctly, the Arizona based band are fronted by Max‘s youngest son Igor, and kick off the evening with some Black Sabbath inspired riffery which unsurprisingly goes down well in the home of metal. Continue reading
Highly-respected Ulster Sludge/Doom outfit Slomatics is as well known for its countless splits, most prominently with fellow Doom yellers Conan, as it is for its own produce. So it’s something of a surprise to discover that Canyons (Black Bow Records) is the band’s sixth album in its fifteen-year existence, but as expected it shows a soupçon of originality in the unrelenting, slothlike heaviness. Continue reading
“Satan rules!” states the bio of French Doom/Stoner trio Witchfinder. Dear, oh dear…more expected is the apparent devotion to hedonism and, on the band’s second album Hazy Rites (Black Bow Records), both are seemingly hallowed in equal measure. Continue reading
During an interview a few years ago, Conan’s Jon Davis told me he didn’t want to release music by his worshipped band on his own Black Bow label, in an effort to keep the two projects separate. Well, Ungraven is no Conan. A darker, more Industrial beast than the Caveman Doom outfit he has lovingly tended to for the past thirteen years, debut EP Language Of Longing (Black Bow Records) sees the more savage edges roughened up and thrust to the fore. Continue reading
“It’s Pink Floyd turned up to fifty”, my mate said. I’d never heard Waters or Gilmour roar with the same ferocity as Steff, lead vocalist of Sheffield quartet Ba’al, but the band do display a level of progression and turn of pace that would fit in with the Prog legends’ template. The phenomenal power and blackened hostility of the music, however, leaves any such comparisons in the shade. Continue reading
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.
With both Idols and Samothrace members involved, the melodic, mournful qualities of Un’s Funeral horror comes as something of a pleasant surprise.
The sparse, shimmering beauty of ‘Epigraph’, the opening track from début album The Tomb of All Things (Black Bow), gives way to the Bell Witch-esque ‘Sol Marasmus’: not quite possessing the pulverising claustrophobia of that band’s gut-wrenching intensity but with all of their emotion, the atmospheric mid-point coming across like a Doom-laden Amenra with the tortured holler of Conan’s Jon Davis atop it. The surrounding textures are heavy and lamenting, contrasting Monty McCleery’s voice: a roar of nefarious depth which leaves used tar barrels everywhere shuddering in fear. Humming, lowing riffs rumble without the expected crush, yet the drop to the gentle coda is so sudden it is paradoxically deafening.
The chord progression opening ‘Forgotten Path’, meanwhile, is an utter reducer which invokes images of Dylan Desmond’s petrifying bass work, whilst the crash introducing a heart-rending melody awakens the listener from their cocooned stupor. Again, the descents into quiet introspection are as startling as the reanimation, which is occasionally quickened by Andrew Jamieson’s artful stickwork, yet always possesses the gravity of the saddest moment of your life. McCleery’s vocal is Ethan McCarthy-like in its fearsome power while the lead and rhythm guitars blend the inconsolable musicality of Pallbearer and Vulgaari with sinister overtones.
Those drums patter delicately across ‘Through the Luminous Dusk’, gorgeous post- melodies offsetting the guttural agony of the enveloping roars and screams. Whilst the overwrought soloing is occasionally more at home in a Rock ballad, Jamieson’s sticks, gradually increasing in power, maintain the track’s impact. The sumptuously mellow chords introducing the closing title track, however, regain that emotive quality and set the scene for some truly crushing riffs which are only augmented by that funereal pace.
Exquisite and poignant leadwork befits the closure of an album which, for the most part, balances perfectly its light and dark elements. A blackened scream takes us into an explosive, stirring finale and fully embodies the anger, pain and crippling sadness coursing through an affecting and memorable release.