Ghost Cult is stoked to bring you the new single by post-Hardcore band Same Gods, “Remission”. Coming off their debut album Worried Eyes, due out this July, the track is an emotive breath of fresh air in today’s landscape of dirge-like, angry songs. Although the group is relatively new, the members are scene mainstays: Steve Sopchak (writer/producer who has worked with Ice Nine Kills, Motionless in White, Such Gold), Jon Davis (Another Breath), Brendon Flynn (Freya) and Shane Conzone (Of Fortune and Fame). The band describes themselves as sounding like a “love letter to 90’s alternative rock and post-Hardcore, written with an evolved sensibility’, but we feel they have a lot in common with the classic greats of the genre too. Check out ‘Remission” now! Continue reading
In some hypercritical sections of the Stoner world, it was suggested that Hyborian, Volume I (The Company), the debut album from Kansas City heavies Hyborian, was rescued from a certain monotony merely by some lighter, synthetic nuances. Whereas it may seem an indicator of a lack of imagination to see the follow-up named Volume II (Season of Mist), it’s an all-too-common error to assume that the content will follow the same path. Continue reading
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.
So, you tell a band that the only thing you haven’t heard of theirs is their debut EP… and they tell you that they’re about to re-release it. “A Sea of Dead Snakes (Blindsight) was very Grunge influenced” states Tom McKibbin, drummer with Oxfordshire Drone quartet Undersmile, “and we’ve gone down a much more dirge-infested road since then! We’ve just had another re-pressing done, and given it a purple tint. It’s our ‘Ribena’ edition! It’ll be going out in November, as that’ll be five years since it first came out.”
The band, comprising two couples, has had a number of experiences in their relatively short existence: “We were so disliked in the beginning; we’ve cleared many gigs before now, particularly playing in Oxford!” Tom muses. “Initially you tend to get thrown onto weird, eclectic bills where you don’t belong. One was a Gay Pride gig where they cut the electricity!”
“They came to us and said ‘Stop! You’re making everyone leave!” continues rhythm guitarist / vocalist and Tom’s partner, Hel Sterne, “We couldn’t believe it. Then on came Sassy Ribbons, a drag act…”
The band’s second album, Anhedonia (Black Bow Records), has been out some months and has met with serious acclaim. Tom is enthusiastic about the reaction: “It’s been really great. The weirdest thing is that it was album of the month in Terrorizer, which you normally feel is reserved for Metallica or Slayer!”
The inclusion of cello on certain tracks has been considered a vital ingredient by many of the album’s admirers: “Taz [Corona-Brown, guitarist / vocalist] and I have always been obsessed with cello”, states Hel.
“We both have similar feelings about melodies, so it was basically something that had to happen. Our cellist Jo Quail is very talented: we told her to just do what she felt, and she did. She just went into that sombre zone which is where we like to lurk!”
There’s a wonderful blend of light and the disturbingly dark in Anhedonia, something that the band are aware of: “It was necessary in order to translate the amount of heartbreak that was intended in some of the songs”, Hel thoughtfully explains. “Some of those things, however, refer to other, nicer times. It’s so important to have contrast.”
“As long as I’ve known Hel and Taz, they’ve naturally gravitated to this close-harmony, slightly discordant edge” Tom feels. “As they’re the main songwriters, that’s what comes out in the music, and Olly [Corona-Brown, bassist] and I just try to bring it along. The Drone influence of Undersmile actually came from loads of different areas: Classical, Indian, Shoegaze, through The Melvins and Earth; but this time we wanted a more dynamic range. It’s nice to get these really clean chords – it has the same effect but with a cleaner, crisper sound. It can still be as mournful as it is with the distortion.”
“I think it can be more mournful” rejoins Hel. “Some people listen to music like that because they find it medicinal, purifying, even though it’s filthy, and I completely understand that. I listen to brainwave entrainment a lot, and I find a similar ‘cocooning’ thing in there too.”
The band is now with Black Bow Records after releasing stuff on a whole host of labels. “We recorded at Skyhammer, Jon Davis’ (Black Bow founder and Conan leader) studio,” Tom acknowledges. “Jon offered to put Anhedonia out in time for Roadburn, which was really important for us. He’s well-connected of course, people are really interested in what he’s doing, and so that was it. We did our parts over four days; then it was all mixed in sixteen hours’ straight with Chris (Fielding, producer and Conan bassist) who managed to get such a wonderful, natural guitar sound. Obviously we’d be interested in working with Jon again, but it’s just whoever is interested in working with us really. In the past it’s been as a result of friends asking us if they can put stuff out, or friends we’ve made by putting stuff out. They’re all good people.”
Undersmile played two big sets at Roadburn this year – one as themselves, the other as their more acoustic, ‘Grunge Unplugged’ alter-ego Coma Wall – and has two more big sets to come in November. Tom explains further: “We’re playing the memorial gig for Grimpen Mire’s Paul van Linden, who sadly passed away in June. We knew he’d been unwell but his death was still a massive shock. We did a mini-tour with them, Conan and Serpent Venom a couple of years ago and we all got on so well: Paul was always such a lovely guy each time we met. So we’re really honoured to be a part of that. Damnation Festival just came up quite recently. It’s something we’ve wanted to play for a while so it was a ‘no-brainer’, but once we saw the line-up it was incredible! We’re on quite early in the day, so we’ve got the rest of the day to enjoy the music and get drunk!”
So, do the couples ever take a break from each other?! “We have this year, post-Roadburn!” confirms Hel. “We’re all just so busy: there are Taz and Olly’s family commitments; we’ve just moved house; I run an acupuncture clinic and Tom is very career-focused at present; we’ve a lot of material for Coma Wall…with all that, we’re really having to ‘cherry-pick’ gigs. We did realise that we were spending so much time just working – Taz and I are best friends – and we thought ‘when do we actually make time to just go out and do ‘friend’ things?”
Finishing with another exclusive for Ghost Cult, Hel explains the band’s latest foray into the visual world: “We’ve just finished shooting a video for the Anhedonia track ‘Sky Burial’. So that’ll be two music videos this year!” she laughs.
Stardom? Probably not, but there’s certainly no doubt that the star of this incredibly hard-working, creative and crushing unit is well and truly on the rise.
WORDS BY PAUL QUINN