Ever since Cathedral decided to hang up their Doom-encrusted boots, the UK has been dying for someone to fill the void with the same level of otherworldly mysticism and crushing heaviness. Obviously, we do have Conan making waves if you’re a fan of the weight of the world pounding you into the dust, but if you like your Doom with a touch more class and Sabbath flair, Witchsorrow should already be on your radar. Four albums in and the trio are still able to conjure some of the most infectious riffs and choruses, laden with vivid imagery and nihilistic sensibilities.Continue reading
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.
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Noticing Amenra would be doing an acoustic set on Saturday, it brought nothing but confusion since they are well-known for their vigorous, powerful live performances. Acoustic? Singer Colin van Eeckhout even admitted feeling very nervous at the beginning of the set. The band was sat in a circle in the semi-darkness of the stage, only slightly illuminated by beams of light. 013’s brand new main stage felt almost obscenely big for such an intimate setting. However, once they got started, this added a vibe of disconnection from the band that almost gave you a feeling you were watching something you weren’t supposed to see. They managed to find a way to play their 2009’s acoustic EP Afterlife so timid and delicate, that the crowd seemed to be in trance and didn’t wake up until their cover of Tool’s ‘Parabol’, which earned them a deafening applause. For their second set at the Afterburner, they were back to their post-metal selves, screeching, pounding and shredding in exactly the way we know and love them. Leaving us to timidly watch the ripples forming in our beers as if a T-rex came stomping by, while the magic from the night before faded to a distant memory.
An unexpected highlight on the Saturday was Brothers of the Sonic Cloth. Both captivating and furiously loud, their psychedelic visuals and droning music created the perfect setting for a lot of people to hang out on the floor of the main stage and take in the wall of sound the Americans produced. For those of us feeling more awake, progressive space-rockers Astrosoniq, led by a very Rock’n’roll looking singer, gave a more fast-paced performance in the Green Room. Walter, in official terms the artistic director of Roadburn, but in reality the true heart and soul of the festival, brought out his visuals to accompany Astrosoniq’s very psychedelic guitar riffs.
Roadburn 2014 favorites The Vintage Caravan showed up for a surprise gig at café Cul de Sac on Sunday. Well, I say surprise, but 30 minutes before showtime the venue was absolutely packed with people. There is only one way to actually see a band in Cul de Sac: be hella early. So we found ourselves snuggly between 150 hot and sweaty, hungover fans with no chance of reaching the bar or the toilets in the next hour-and-a-half. But boy, was it WORTH it. The Islandic rockers tried to drill out our hangovers with their heavy bass and guitarist Oskar‘s relentless headbanging let us forget that this was our fourth day at the festival already and we were supposed to be very tired.
The greatest thing about Roadburn must be the diversity of the people you meet. Surrounded by more foreigners than native Dutch, you usually leave the festival a couple of Finnish words wiser than you were before (none of which probably as innocent as they led you to believe). However, I’m not going to lie: people watching is right up there on my list of favorite pastimes, and there really isn’t a better place for it than Roadburn. Mainly because metal shows in themselves are beacons of creative and eccentric people. And Roadburn, well, that is the holy grail of metal shows. Amidst a goldmine of glorious manes and enviously long beards, there seem to be more crust punks than usual (thank you G.I.S.M and Converge) and of course every back patch under the sun.
One of the most spotted patches this year was obviously Neurosis. You’d think that playing two ’30th Anniversary’ sets would bring about its problems. After all, having a thirty-year spanning discography to choose from can’t be easy. Remarkably enough Neurosis managed to represent each and every one of their records during their shows, right back to their 1985 hardcore punk debut Pain of Mind. It is astounding to see how much they have grown and changed over the years, before they settled into their skin of a contemporary hurricane of genres, set to a baseline of doom. When the final tones of 1999’s ‘The Doorway’ sounded at the Afterburner, it left us with nothing but goosebumps, hands sore from clapping and a profound sense that 366 days are way too many to wait until the next Roadburn.
WORDS BY CÉLINE HUIZER
Dorrian. Bagshaw.Greening. One band. Shall we just stop now?…
Given the press surrounding the marriage of ex-Electric Wizard (and please can we not forget Ramesses?!) members to Rise Above founder Lee Dorrian, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’re about to experience our own version of the mid-90s East-West Rap war. So let’s forget all that nonsense and focus on Doom supergroup With The Dead’s eponymous debut album.
With The Dead (Rise Above) ploughs a similar furrow to their West Country rivals yet delivers a filthy edge to whirling vocals and Tim Bagshaw’s riffs which energises the sound somewhat, and lifts it above that over-trodden path. The crushing riff of opener ‘Crown of Burning Stars’ is lightened ever so slightly by a slow groove, slightly fuzzed production and a Psych effect to Dorrian’s bellow which doesn’t dilute its lascivious, malevolent sneer. The ensuing ‘The Cross’ possesses a lively yet portentous structure, sonorous rhythms performing a lazy American smooth with the mind, the groove almost catching but never testing the gravitas.
Whilst the occasionally bloated ‘Nephthys’ falls into the same stodgy moss as Witchsorrow, a Sludge mentality gives the titanic, crawling ‘Living With The Dead’ an early fire: first flattening with oscillating guitars and roars, then dropping to a gentle, sparing rhythm. The explosion is coming however, and in true Hammer Horror-drenched fashion: the hypnotic yet mournful crush swaddling the listener in a diseased cocoon. The head-nodding, slow rut of ‘I Am The Virus’ is decorated with cosmic effects and more cavernous roars, those brief flashes of lead and hulking drums enlivening some rather clunky lyrics. In an unbearably tense finale the crushing weight of closer ‘Screams From My Own Grave’ gradually imbues the sense of claustrophobic, crawling terror that is so obviously the intention.
With The Dead is yet another 2015 Doom album that won’t win prizes for originality, and one wonders how much further this particular twig of the branch has left to grow. It’s an album that does, however, possess enough variance, power, identity and nefarious intent to be a worthy addition to the annals.
When doom metal legends Cathedral finally called it a day in 2013, there was much sadness but also a great outpouring of gratitude for the music recorded in their twenty-three year career as titans of the doom scene. A thoroughly British institution with a penchant for eccentricities, the quartet would in later years branch into stoner and prog territory, but their birth in 1990, with vocalist LeeDorrian having decided that life in Napalm Death wasn’t for him, came at a time when doom/death was in its infancy; and it was that sound, or rather a more traditional doom one that Cathedral would go for on their first demo In Memoriam. First re-issued in 1999, the time is now right to re-visit this first effort, again via Dorrian’s own Rise Above Records, and, with the benefit of hindsight, appreciate how bloody good Cathedral were.
Opening track ‘Mourning of a New Day’ is slow, ponderous and menacing, demonstrating the power of taking it slowly at a time when the rest of the world wanted to play as fast as possible. The guitar tone is stark and heavy, Lee Dorrian’s vocals are guttural and a tad awkward, and the whole thing seems drenched in a miasma of pain and sorrow with tales of vampire suns and Witchfinder Generals nowhere to be seen. A suitably downbeat cover of Pentagram’s classic ‘All Your Sins’ follows with all the hippie vibe stripped away before a grimly powerful early cut of ‘Ebony Tears’ rears its head. Final track ‘March’, a joyless, militaristic number doesn’t really go anywhere and would have been a better fit for industrial legends Godflesh, also newbies at that stage.
The live tracks, recorded in Europe in 1991 show a young band with a fiercely professional outlook and a tight, devastatingly weighty sound. The first three tracks of the demo are replicated here along with forgotten classic ‘Neophytes for the Serpent’s Eve’ from the band’s second demo and a gut-wrenching version of Forest of Equilibrium (Earache) classic ‘Intro/Commiserating the Celebration.’ Dorrian’s stage banter is polite and to the point and while the muffled cheers from the audience hint at Cathedral’s limited appeal in the early days, their skill and power was never in doubt.
A timely reminder of where it all began, when four miserable lads from Coventry decided to replicate the grimness of their surroundings and in doing so created one of the most important bands in the history of underground music. We are poorer for having lost them but with classic re-issues such as In Memoriam, their legacy will live on forever.
2014 saw the spectacular rise and burning fall of The Oath, a critically acclaimed (oc)cult NWOBHM / retro act, with the duo going their separate ways almost as soon as their self-titled debut (Rise Above) was released. A year on and Johanna Sadonis (vocals) is speaking to Ghost Cult from her home town of Berlin about the launch of Lucifer, her new phoenix from the flames, and their debut album, Lucifer I (Rise Above).
Lucifer’s debut album Lucifer I, is out less than a year after The Oath separated. Were these ideas you had in mind for a second Oath album?
“No, I just had a lot of ideas and a lot of energy, so when The Oath disbanded and died I was sitting there with empty hands. I thought about everything I had planned for The Oath and thought, no, I’m going to take this energy and channel it right away instead of being frustrated about it. It took me a few weeks to leave one thing behind and decide to go on. The ideas weren’t there before. If The Oath hadn’t disbanded, that would have been my band, and not with these ideas.”
“It wasn’t my choice for things to happen this way, but it turned out, in the end, to be a really good thing for me. As much as I loved The Oath, Lucifer has come even more so to be my thing, so now I’m even more passionate about Lucifer.”
You turned to Gaz Jennings (Cathedral/Death Penalty) as a writing partner…
“I’d been in contact with Lee (Dorrian – former Cathedral frontman and Rise Above head honcho) all during The Oath falling apart, and he was someone I was seeking out to speak to – and he said “Hey, why don’t you ask Gaz, because he really likes The Oath”. Garry’s crazy, he plays so much guitar and has so many riffs piling up so I asked, and he said yes straight away.”
“I love Cathedral. I saw them for first time over 20 years ago, when I was 15, so we started writing and I gave him ideas for the types of riffs. I gave him certain songs as references, like “How about you make a song that sounds like a ballad from Scorpions In Trance album, or how about a Technical Ecstasy Sabbath kind of song.”
“I gave him suggestions, and he came back with riffs, so we could structure the songs together.”
While there are similarities across the two bands, there seems to be a much stronger 70’s rock bent to Lucifer, less of the NWOBHM influence that was prevalent in The Oath…
“After The Oath split up, I sat down and formed the concept in my head, so it was planned for Lucifer to be different to The Oath.”
“I really loved The Oath for what it was, and there is a common core to the sounds, particularly in terms of the influences; Black Sabbath being the main influence for me, for Garry (Jennings), also Linnea (Olsen – The Oath)’s favourite band.”
“But, the two differ so much in their guitar playing. Linnea, she had a more punky, raw, Motorhead kind of style that fit really well with the NWOBHM thing we were doing with The Oath. Garry’s playing is more complex, heavier on the doom.”
“I didn’t want to repeat The Oath as I felt the best thing in a situation like this is just to do something new.”