I guess Deathkings really missed us since the release of 2016’s All That is Beautiful and decided to do something really nice about it. Being the sweethearts that they are this Los Angeles collective have gifted us a little something in the form a new EP, Ex Nihilo (self-released). And while it’s only two tracks on the shorter end of the spectrum (compared to the usual Sludge/Doom fare) it’s a potent and deadly reminder of what Deathkings is capable of. Continue reading →
Throwback North American Black Metal act Wald Krypta will release their new full-length album, Nature Enigma, tomorrow via the Eternal Death label. The band plays uncompromising raw kvlt music that hearkens to the early lo-fi days of real true black metal, as opposed to its lesser modern-sounding, too pretty offshoots. Ghost Cult is proud to share the full album stream to you today before it drops tomorrow. Continue reading →
Oh, Black Metal production values, why do you do this to me? I’m not sure if it started with the proto-Black Metal of Venom, or if it’s a holdover of the second wave of that overtook Norway in the early 1990s, but it’s still here with us. It’s certainly all over Wolvhammer’s latest punisher, The Monuments of Ash & Bone (Blood Music).
Conan frontman Jon Davis has launched a new side project, DOS, termed as a “lo-fi” heavy metal . DOS also features Joe Allen of Kurokuma on drums. The band is heading into Sykhammer Studio now for a 2017 release. Continue reading →
Gobsmacking is the word I’d use to describe Crystal Fairy’s newest, self-titled album (Ipecac Recordings). This aural stunner that is the Crystal Fairy album is brought to you by the good people of Teri Gender Bender from Le Butcherettes, Buzz and Dale from TheMelvins, and Omar from At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta. Continue reading →
Like spaghetti bolognese, it is hard to dislike Nuclear Assault, a thrash metal band who released a three well regarded albums in the mid-to-late 80’s, before internal combustion and some lesser offerings. Like spag bol, they were no nonsense, popular and easy to digest to the taste buds of all who liked their metal fast and thrashy. However, to over-extend the metaphor to the length of a string of tagliatelle, they weren’t as flavourful or complete as others, lacking the depth of ingredients in comparison to their contemporaries, and it’s very unlikely many would call NA their favourite dish.
Since announcing his impending retirement from live playing Dan Lilker has been a machine, blurring (sic) at the pace of his picking hand, bringing each of his projects to a concluding fruition, which has included the Lazarus act being applied to Nuclear Assault once again. Setting out to intentionally write “four killer old-school thrash songs”, the Pounder EP (Sidipus) is the band ramping up to a “Final Assault” tour and album in the second half of the year.
Achieving the majority of their pre-conceived idea, they have written four old-school thrash songs (well, three, and one, ‘Died In Your Arms’, that sounds as if Alan Averill was wailing along to a Metal Church outtake but not able to hear himself through noise-reducing headphones), though they’ve failed to live up to the “Killer” part of that promise. With what could kind-heartedly be called a “raw” lo-fi and DIY production, Pounder displays uncultured punky, chromatic thrash, a dearth of songwriting ideas and John Connolly’s once distinctive yelp having clearly seen better days.
One hopes this is merely the itching to get out of the blocks, let’s get something out there, false-start that serves as a irrelevant pre-cursor to a gold medal winning final sprint, but the portents don’t look promising for the final assault to do anything other than flounder and perish meekly.
It’s very rare in this game to be surprised. As in genuinely “Well, I wasn’t expecting that!”. Tribulation managed it earlier in the year, but very few do as expectation is there, or at least, a preparation for what a band is going to sound like. So, fair play to God Damn. The Midlands outfit aren’t the sort of band I usually go for, and Vultures (One Little Indian) isn’t the sort of album you’d normally associate with Ghost Cult, but the quality of their hybrid tunes stands out, which is why if even a little of what is written about it below piques your interest, dive in my friends.
The album kicks off with ‘When The Wind Blows’, a quirky Clutch groove that flitters into a raspy distorted vocal, before ‘Silver Spooned’ dances from a grungey intro then barrels into a lo-fi desert groove with dreamy melodies. ‘Shoeprints’ dances and swaggers, wide-legged, from sassy Monster Magnet territory, ending up in a dark, heavy powerful alleyway. ‘We Don’t Like You’ touches heavy psych, Nirvana juvenility and jangle, dark Seattle melodies and the very best of British alt rock, while the eight-minute ‘Skeletons’ has moving acoustics, world-weary vocals and expansive brooding fuzz.
Hand in hand with the alternative rock is a host of fuzzy doom, and it’s the amalgamation into stoner, alt noise, groove, rock and doom n’ roll via Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and a host of other versatile references that makes this an interesting proposition. Vultures doesn’t just do one thing, except for be God Damn. They’ve successfully built themselves a whole new box, over to the side of all the normal boxes, and are all the better for it.
More than a hotch-potch of references from yesteryear, throughout they deliver on the song writing front too, even if they do self-consciously shy away from “the anthem”. There is more than enough to suggest a potential cross-over to more mainstream success in their future. Despite the lo-fi chops, God Damn could equally pulling in the plaudits at a Reading/Leeds type festival. Vultures should open some pretty big doors for them.
Let’s get something straight here – I do know the difference between a lo-fi production, and an inferior one. The latter is riddled with poor judgement and imbalance, and is a shocking crime deserving of heavier punishment than docked points in a review. So there. Thankfully there’s no such (lack of) quality afflicting the Gone With The Night EP (self-released) from Los Angeles trio of cousins Wake Up Lucid; just a delightfully warm fuzz leaving a layer of dust atop a seriously sleazy, often laconic sound. Riffs hit perfect time with hi-hats in the drifty yet energised Punk-Blues ballad ‘Let It Roll’, the descent of the lead riff producing a serious, irresistible cab hum.
Opener ‘White Collar Love’ is the definitive embodiment of the initial comparison: a twisty, laid-back, wasted Indie, drenched in that delicious fuzz, Ryan Baca‘s voice blending the drawl of Joey Ramone with Julian Casablancas‘ aural swagger and sexy grit; whilst lead flexings evoke Jet‘s similarly snot-nosed yet emotive irreverence. ‘Don’t Fear’, paradoxically, is a dreamy ballad, its attitude encased in the lazy yet plaintive melodic vocal; the twangy, sparing lead riff smacking beautifully of a Country Americana also reflected in the Acoustic Folk-driven, closing title track. It’s completely at odds with the waspish fizz, pummelling rhythms and anguished roars of the rolling, driving ‘I Want’ and it is this diversity, whilst still retaining the core sound of filthy old Blues Rock, that really gives these boys an added spark.
The deliberate, pensive ‘Get Fucked’, laden with psychedelic effects, lights up with wrought leadplay and a fiery, bitter vocal that ain’t a million miles away from Cobain country. The increasingly vital bassline and riff completes the most radio-friendly (despite the title) yet still credible rock sound I’ve heard for some time, and in the case of these naughty chaps that’s a good thing.
Anybody here with broad tastes recall The Blue Nile? They of 80s Indie Electronica fame? For some reason the wrought moments of their minimalist, stark melancholy spring to mind when harmonized, plaintive vocals burst through the chaotic ambience of Texan super-project Pyramids. The rest sounds nothing like, of course…
Doubtless somewhat responsible for the complex, occasionally harsh noise surrounding those honeyed tones, Blut Aus Nord‘s Vindsval and Gorguts‘ Colin Marston join Mike Dean‘s men for sophomore album A Northern Meadow (Profound Lore). Lead track ‘In Perfect Stillness, I’ve Only Found Sorrow’ emerges like some lo-fi, Post-Black Doves; shoegaze Indie strains blending with slashing yet melodic guitar, while the high-pitched, soaring vocals bring Thom Yorke into the equation. Though this is the early template, strange soundscapes envelop the structures with the intricate rhythms and Post leadwork furthering the Radiohead connection, albeit with more weight to the body – an at times crushing sequence of blows bursting a colliding crescendo of noise in both ‘The Earth Melts Into Red Gashes…’ and ‘The Substance of Grief Is Not Imaginary’.
As the titles suggest cheery this ain’t, yet the euphoric effects of the music at times contrast from the intent and that pensive, melancholy voice despite the obvious emotion of the whole: the resonant, rising harmonies and emotive, synthesized atmospherics of ‘Indigo Birds’ charging the soul and calming the frozen wastes of agonised, railing riffs.
In many ways this is the aural depiction of a nervous breakdown, the conflicting emotions crashing together, those fluctuating rhythmic structures and occasionally blackened riffs being the violent mood swings. The complexities and contradictions in the sound are both zenith and Nemesis, highlighting both the harshness and the beauty but also occasionally dampening just as things threaten to explode. Picture Red Sparrowes or Alcest if you will, with the hostile anguish retained just to tease whilst remaining an integral part. The dark-Mastodon feel of ‘Consilience’, a sinister organ adding to the portentous mass, closes an album in equal parts exquisite, beguiling yet a sprawling achievement; one most definitely worth sticking on every time you’re dwelling on that crossroads between depression and ecstasy.
In 2015, when an album has lo-fi or muddy production, it’s generally fair to assume that some kind of statement is being made. Our Metal ancestors often had to struggle bravely with bad equipment, disinterested producers and no money at all, but in an age where anyone with an internet connection and the patience to learn can produce a listenable sound without significant expense, those bands who release rough, messy-sounding albums are generally choosing to do so.
I mention this here because the production is the first thing that strikes you about Oceanclots (Acephale Winter) – “lo-fi” if you want to be positive about it, “a fucking mess” if you don’t. Biscuit tin drums, box-of-angry-wasps guitars, vocals that sound like someone in the next room screaming through a pillow – you’ve heard cheap Black Metal before, you know what I’m talking about. The second thing you notice, however, is how much is going on underneath that buzzing noise.
Dhampyr play “atmospheric” Black Metal in which the a word describes not the background farty hand-waving that it often does, but a dense, layered wall of sound in which raw, savage Black Metal riffing clashes with classical picking, harsh Noise and ambient dreaminess to create something which is both chaotic and oddly contemplative. It’s not an easy listen by any means – most of the eleven tracks are open and meandering, easy pay-offs are traded in for abstract ambience and at all times the intentionally raw production creates an atmosphere of minimalist passivity which runs counter to the preferences of most Metal fans – but if you succeed in engaging with it in the right mood it can be a genuinely moving one.
Oceanclots is a rich, immersive and genuinely fascinating album with a lot to offer someone prepared to work at it, but it demands a lot from the listener, and at times the pay-off is too wilfully abstract to entirely satisfy. It’s also arguably longer than it strictly needs to be, later tracks meshing into an ambient soup from which it is hard to distinguish individual details.
Probably not something that many listeners will visit regularly, but worth having for those moods when it really clicks.