Continuing down the same nihilistic and misanthropic path of their previous releases, southern England’s Grave Lines are back with their third bouncy and joyously upbeat full length, Communion (New Heavy Sounds). Taking the doom of Neurosis, the post-punk rock of Killing Joke and gothic punk tendencies of Bauhaus, the perpetually disgruntled four-piece return with a little more ambient experimentalism which, however momentarily, relieves at least some of the crushing isolation.Continue reading →
If ever two bands were put together in order to aurally depict the turgid, depressing slog that is Life In Northern England Under An Elitist Bunch Of Fascists, it’s Liverpool’s Bodies on Everest and their Newcastle-based touring chums Lump Hammer. As joint release Whelmed (Inverted Grim-Mill Recordings) is a “split”, one would expect around half-an-hour of bile and Sludgy hostility: but as if to ram home the belief that There Is No Hope, this thing grinds along morbidly, relentlessly, for a full hour and forty minutes.Continue reading →
Ghost Cult’s DJ Astrocreep caught up with the members of Dead Witches at the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest earlier this year in London. The band is a low key Stoner Doom supergroup (ex-Electric Wizard, With The Dead, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Sea Bastard), with a fascinating lineage and power songs. Their new album The Final Exorcism is out now via Heavy Psych Sounds. Check it out! Continue reading →
No relation to UK Doomsters Sea Bastard, the equally brilliantly named Cave Bastard were formed in 2014 by former Cattle Decapitation bassist Troy Oftedal and ex-Bridge Jumper guitarist Nick Padron. Based in San Diego (which, as everyone who has seen Anchorman knows, was discovered in 1904 and is German for “a whale’s vagina”), the band soon added rhythm guitarist Chase Ferguson, drummer Steven Reed, and former Gutrot vocalist Steve Pearce. Releasing a two-track demo in 2016 and appearing on a split LP with Texan act BLK OPS in 2017, Cave Bastard are now ready to unleash their debut album The Bleak Shall Devour The Earth (Accident Prone).Continue reading →
Formed by members of Sea Bastard, Landskap, Dead Existence and Throne, Grave Lines could be regarded as some form of UK underground supergroup. That pedigree should also give one an idea what to expect from début album Welcome to Nothing (Black Reaper Records), but there are elements of surprise. Continue reading →
There are two things that most definitely will not be missed when Manchester’s “Old Lady” is criminally levelled to make way for unnecessary and unwelcome redevelopment: the appalling quality of their draught ale; and the surly, unwelcoming behaviour of the corpulent head barman. Everything else about this wonderful little venue, from its weathered, ageing exterior to its intimate attic space, will be a terrible loss to the history and future of this proudly cultural city.
Barbarian Hermit, by Rich Price Photography
Battling against The Angus Young Quintet a mile up the road, tonight the S&G was treated to the second visit to the city in fourteen months from Denver monsters Primitive Man and their friends and touring partners, Brighton’s Sea Bastard. Repeating last year’s scenario, local Black Thrashers Satanic Dystopia dropped at the eleventh hour so it was left to fellow Mancunians Barbarian Hermit to blaze the trail. Though less sartorially striking than at the NOIZ All-dayer two months earlier, their Sludge-flavoured NOLA template woke up the room: charismatic frontman Si Scarlett’s roar carrying an incredible depth, his Ollie Reed-like features reinforced by the drama of his performance. With Scarlett and similarly-attired bassist Chris Wood launching their baker boy caps early doors, however, the lack of visual strike from this albeit powerful, entertaining band exposed the music which, despite the heavy groove and some electrifying leadwork from Adam Robertshaw, didn’t carry the intensity of the other bands.
Sea Bastard, by Rich Price Photography
As the first crushing chords came in, Sea Bastard frontman Monty looked as sleepy as his shirt. The south-east monstrosity came wading in, however, with the colossal weight and sluggish movement of a rudely-awoken Kraken. ‘The Hermit’, their massive contribution to the recent ‘split’ with their touring buddies, seemed so much more brutal live: Monty’s cavernous, blackened roar duelling with the sarsen-dragging rhythm section and Oli Irongiant’s crushing axe, entertainingly and expressively wielded as ever. The band are completely transfixing and, in this little room, the implosive, crawling portent made one feel physically sick in the most passionate, euphoric fashion. To witness Irongiant undertake the riff solo of the ensuing ‘Astral Rebirth’ and feel the pain of every chord was both moving, terrifying and euphorically ominous, foretelling the phenomenal crush that soon arrived and duly sent the rafters for cover. The subtle yet bewildering speed of bassist Steve Patton and touring drummer Sam Chase in the track’s quickening, meanwhile, displayed the gamut of skill possessed by this unit: one of the greatest from our shores and certainly responsible for one of the all-time great performances here.
Primitive Man, by Rich Price Photography
Primitive Man shouldn’t be here again, but thank fuck they are. Their sound is a hideous joy: Ethan McCarthy’s diseased, crazed delivery comes from one of the nicest guys around, his bulging eyes as terrifying as his roaring mouth, which gave the impression that his whole face was opening. Jonathan Campos’ bass, in turn, isn’t a bass: it’s 20,000 articulated engines crushing your soul with every pluck of the string. New drummer Joe laid waste to his kit, McCarthy eyeing the ceiling with the torment and belief of a guy who’s actually seen God. Suddenly, all of the musicians who’d appeared earlier were transfixed, videoing the performance as if we’d never see the Man’s like again. The pace switched whilst maintaining the horror, a stark isolation blending with raw emotion, and to do that with such pregnant hostility was utterly enthralling.
Primitive Man, by Rich Price Photography
The vicious, howling breakdown of the set closer (“Just a new track” McCarthy typically understated later) is the most harrowing expression of pain and hate I’ve ever witnessed, turning possessed devotees into shirt-ripping zealots with the sheer uncontrollable tension of it all. Shattered, spent, deaf, and grinning from ear to ear, I was by no means alone in caring not a jot for any damage done to my creaking body. It was a joyous surprise to see both of these bands so soon, and who knows how long it will be until the next time. When that does come around, there is quite simply no good reason for your absence.
2015 was a big year for Californian duo Keeper: the original issue of EP The Space Between Your Teeth following mere months after their mammoth split with Sea Bastard, and just weeks before an evil joint release with Canadians Old Witch. This reissue (Third I Rex) sees its two epic, crawling tracks get a fresh press and boy, do they deserve it.
The howling, lamenting guitar opening ‘The King’ decorates a Funeral pace before Penny Keats’ hideous, prurient larynx covers the body in unholy juices. A Blackened scream full of pain, evocative of ex-Lord Mantis rasper Charlie Fell, its relentless pitch is both unnerving and affecting. The weight of the brutal yet monolithic mid-section is pulverising and lifted only slightly by the evocative bass passages of Jacob Lee, so reminiscent of Dylan Desmond. This graces the final move toward a consuming, resounding swell: a euphoric yet terrible triumph, The Great Diseased railing to the skies against their plight.
Segueing seamlessly into ‘The Fool’, Keats’ slightly more uplifting drum pattern duels against the harrowing squall before a reverb-drenched riff accompanies more horrific utterances. With a filthier, more malevolent expression does the EP’s second half spew forth, creeping with similar intent to that of the girl emerging from the well in the remake of The Ring. It’s an oppressive sound yet, with the merest hint of quickened pace from those cleverly dictating drums, it is lifted from the occasionally turgid monotony: a gradually building wall of portent suddenly dropping into an utterly crushing mid-section. In raising the track back from the floor Keats’ voice assumes demonic proportions in both foetid hostility and power, underpinned by more subtle bass lead, until a barely controlled explosion seeps and squeals through the speakers, and alarming drums send the fulminating close careering into the dank earth.
It’s hard to acclaim a reissue as a tour de force, but this is as close as it gets. It’s a testing listen yet, for those of us with a more disgusting and slow musical palate, it’s an opportunity to bask in the most wondrous embodiment of acrid recrimination and ferocious protest.
Around the same time last year, Primitive Man and Sea Bastard released two of the most hateful – and well received – products of the year. The former’s vicious EP Home is Where the Hatred Is (Relapse) and the latter’s nightmarish split with Keeper (Dry Cough Records) were followed by a joint tour of the UK last spring and, with this split release (Dry Cough Records), the bonds the two outfits have forged now become indelible.
Primitive Man’s two tracks kick us off, and with a familiar feel: the band’s squalling, Blackened Sludge given added horror by the face-melting roar of Ethan McCarthy. The clanking, Low-end ferocity of ‘Cold Resolve’ is certainly augmented by some of McCarthy’s most fearsome barks to date, and the portentous squeals of the sinister drop are enough to collapse the nervous system. The resonance of bass and drums launching us into ‘Servant’ also have a primal minimalism which clears the bowels: its fizzing, sparing riff a tolling bell which flays the skin with each swing, McCarthy’s voice the scouring brush rubbing salt in the open wounds, the brief quickening a Deathly flash. It’s a terrifying assault: appalling, guttural, startling, physically affecting…and damn satisfying.
Another near-20 minute slice of snaking pummel from Brighton’s finest closes this tormenting platter. ‘The Hermit’ largely follows the Bastard template but unusually, so gradually you hardly notice, it gathers pace through a viscerally pounding, pregnant centrepiece. Oli Irongiant’s deep, singular, painfully slow riff sets the tone before the lumbering behemoth is brutally awoken by the pulverising rhythms of Steve Patton and George Leaver. Telling the tale of the persecuted Northern monk St Cuthbert, Monty’s screaming roar wraps itself around the mellow hundredweight like your favourite Serpentine villain, rising and falling with each line, carrying that Sabbath-esque quickening toward a low, nefarious final movement which is both torturous and earth-shaking.
This “split” has been in the pipeline for some time and, thankfully, it’s been worth the wait. Crushing and hostile, these are two of the most exciting Doom-centric bands around right now and to have them both on one plate is a horrifying bliss.
If Undersmile’s snail-like tempo is too slow for you, stop now. On debut album Unavailing (Dry Cough), Nottingham duo Bismuth coats that pace in a warm yet evil fuzz, every chord bringing the world crashing down around your ears with a weight similar to a Sea Bastard riff.
What the listener will find here is that the ingredients and tension build ever so gradually until the willing victim is uncomfortably writhing in their seat. Opener ‘Tethys’ does all of this yet closes with a delicate, lamenting final movement: extremely reminiscent of the aforementioned Undersmile, but with Tanya Byrne’s smooth harmonies more in tune with Windhand’s Dorthia Cottrell.
A sparingly picked, torturously slow acoustic riff leads the ensuing ‘Of the Weak Willed’, and for the first half of this sixteen-minute epic that’s really all that happens. Then comes the slightest change, a crawling increase in volume; and the hushed, singular drumbeat of Joe Rawlings that’s been whispering in the background for some time, alongside a mournful intonation, is suddenly very noticeable. Here is the magic of this hidden gem of a band: by the track’s three-quarter point, where the crushing mass and Byrne’s guttural screams are seamlessly and almost surreptitiously reintroduced, the increase in pressure has been so smoothly executed that it’s been with you like an old friend by the time you realise it’s there.
Following sinister, solitary drumbeats, the odd, sporadic bass notes of ‘The Holocene Extinction’ begin that building process all over again into a crawling, horrific echo: the riff city-levelling, the rasping howls a seduction into Hell. Closer ‘Solitude and Emptiness’ is the oddity of the set: its hypnotic beats and oscillating, pulverising pummel being of a slightly faster ilk and disembowelling from the off, the second period’s return to a slower template still crushing yet evoking the spirit of the track’s title.
Silence is often a great thing and, for us Low-end freaks, it’s an essential part of the listening experience. It augments this delightfully horrific album, another cracker from the Dry Cough stable and an exercise in creative perfection. Rest assured it will warm the cockles of those who love their riffs to be colossal and their aural terror to be slooooowww…
After bumping into three-quarters of Undersmile who by their own admission were now “on a band outing”, it was time for tea, and also to enjoy half an hour with our “Pressed out” esteemed UK Editor. As Diego Costa massacred a defender’s facial features (odd that…) on the big screen, the magnificent Old Bar provided wondrous sustenance in the form of a chilli dog, death burger and storming IPAs for just around £15.00.
This was all damaged in time to witness one of the final showings of the majestic Altar of Plagues, a band still vital, still relevant, always adored and fully compelling. The Blackened Industrial outfit caused the first real queue into Eyesore, testament to the appeal of the Irishmen who showed with mind-blowing creativity and a little more action (plus a real drummer) what C.R.O.W.N. could have achieved. It was almost impossible to see through the – yes, you guessed it – ridiculous light display, but the drama that the Boys infused into all by the inflections of their riffs was impossible to ignore. Leaning on the cabs of the mixing desk it’s staggering to see the calm yet assured way mixers Johnny and Harry help to make this all sound so dynamic: indeed, as the impossibly youthful James Kelly issues a subtle “cheers Leeds”, you’re nevertheless almost unsure who to watch next. Especially as there were no flashing lights emanating from the lesser-known duo…the swell of the closing coda was a fitting climax to a blinding set in more ways than one.
The second journalist to take the stage today, Nick Ruskell’s Witchsorrow plied forth their ElectricWizard-esque Doom which, though musically strong and ripping through the packed room, is not augmented by Ruskell’s limited vocal and rather unimaginative stage banter [PQ].
Solstafir at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
Last year, Icelandic post-rockers Solstafir walked away with all the (non-Bolt Thrower) plaudits, with the second stage unable to contain their emotive, powerful epics, punters locked out and the room filled to bursting. Invited back to sprinkle their magic dust over the main stage, once again Aðalbjörn Tryggvason holds Leeds University effortlessly in the palm of his hands, their beautiful, lapping, and pervasive striking hymns swirling and rapturously received [ST]
Amenra at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
Listening to Colin van Eeckhout, however, is like listening to a tormented angel. First harmonising in Benedictinestyle, then screaming in twisted agony. Barefoot and in shorts, he sprang as the incredible Amenra reduced the hall violently to tears in an instant; Eeckhout facing backwards, bounding and screaming maniacally whilst vast swathes of post-Black Metal crashed about him. There were few flashing lights here: just a black-and-white backdrop flickering between speeding clouds, rippling water and Flanders fields-style explosions. The drama, the mysticism, was as potent as the sparing chords shimmering from the guitars of the frankly alarming Levy Seynaeve: van Eeckhout’s head bowed, the aching wounds apparent in the ensuing screams. Halfway through ‘Nowena 9|10’, he spun and faced us ever so briefly, and the image was complete. Subsequently removing his t-shirt as he knelt toward the drums for the unnerving ‘Boden’, the tension and empathy could be touched. Shattered, spent bodies were somehow stood absorbing every last increase of sound. All bar the knelt, bowed body of the greatest living ball of intensity I’ve ever encountered.
Amenra were beyond moving and I’m unashamed to say that I was violently sobbing as I rocked back and forth with the troubling yet transcendent experience.
Robbie is in his fifties, and took his security role seriously yet with a degree of deadpan which endears him to the punter. “There’s never any bother here. Well, apart from it killing mi legs” he reflected with a cheeky yet droll sarcasm. Directing entry to both the Terrorizer and ‘Mine areas, it was an intense yet obviously enjoyable role for him.
Meanwhile, at ‘Mine, it was hard misfortune that saw arguably the UK’s best Occult Doom band slotted in between two of the best live draws in World metal, and clashing with High On Fire. As a result, the dungeon was half-full for a crushing set from The Wounded Kings. An atmospheric experimentalism married with a pulverising groove, Steve Mills’ solos were a real breath of air whilst George Birch’s oscillating vocal is almost unique, Pete Steele-like; his guitar squealing, his shapes mesmeric, the man has grown into a consummate frontman. It was great to see the two old friends duelling together in what is now a real unit, with closing track ‘The Message’ a whirling mass of pulsating noise.
Primordial at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
And so to the Greatest Band in the World™. Certainly, surely, the greatest frontman. It’s staggering that there’s room at all to get in to see Primordial, but thank the Heavy Metal Gods that there were a few slivers for a chubby dude to slip in to. “We meet again!” hollers Nemtheanga after a rapturously received ‘Where Greater Men Have Fallen’, and once more a rapt throng is in the palm of his hand – if there was ever any doubt. ‘Babel’s Tower’ saw a worshipping collective almost motionless as they dropped on every word, every dramatic itonation, every plaintive act of defiance, every indelible scream. “Everywhere I look I see old friends” uttered a typically effusive Alan Averill, subsequently leading the audience participation of ‘As Rome Burns’, a powerhouse which grabbed all in roared intonations. The euphoric yet moving ‘Wield Lightning to Split the Sun’ had Averill beckoning and clawing his belly with wrought passion, asking the usual question: “Are You With Us?!”
Primordial at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
As ever, as One, we were.
As is always the case, the closing band on the ‘Mine stage was half-attended. As always it was a big miss for the ovine hordes. Tonight 40 Watt Sun were minimalist, light yet crushing, and utterly heartbreaking. This band transcends Doom heaviness, Post musicality, Shoegaze emotion, and Folk personification, to create a chilled yet pained entity which simultaneously relaxed and tweaked every synapse and demanded to be heard and enjoyed. Patrick Walker delicately strummed his guitar, whilst his edgy Folk voice shattered the soul with its poignancy. And still, people didn’t shut the fuck up. The delight is that new songs were being played, the second of which – if Walker’s hushed whisper is to be correctly interpreted – was called ‘Beyond You’. It’s arguable whether such pared-back, Funereal balladry belongs at such an event, but not for the lachrymose souls like myself and what seems like most of the Belgian contingent, one of whom tells me to ‘Ssh’ quite vehemently as I’m instructing a fellow watcher to do the same; go figure… ‘Carry Me Home’ was received like a long lost friend and intoned lovingly and emotionally; there was a growing fear that the early finish was permanent before the trio returned to deliver a hackle-raising ‘Restless’ which, in true ’Queen in Rio’ fashion, was sung emotionally and lustily to Walker for the most poignant, tear-inducing end to a night I’ve ever been a part of [PQ].
The reason for the thinner crowd than deserved for 40 Watt Sun? A triumphant conquering from Swedish legends, and festival headliners, At The Gates; a barnstorming non-stop roil of jagged riffs and powerhouse anthems spilling forth in a slew of genuine metal classics. Liberally sprinkling the set with visits to last years At War With Reality (Century Media) showed the newest addition to their canon more than holds its own in the presence of greatness.
And if you wanted extreme metal greatness, you got it. ‘Death And The Labyrinth’ begat ‘Slaughter Of The Soul’ running headlong into ‘Cold’ in a set opening par excellence and par violence, matched only when ‘Under A Serpent Sun’ vomited into ‘Windows’ into a vitriolic ‘Suicide Nation’. Elsewhere ‘Nausea’ brought the sickness, and ‘The Book Of Sand’, amongst others, crushed as ATG delivered their strongest live performance on these sceptre isles since reforming.
As the beers (by now the in-venue piss of Red Stripe) flowed as quickly as the riffs, an encore of ‘Blinded By Fear’ and an unbelievably scything ‘Kingdom “Fucking” Gone’ devastated, before the fuck you of ‘The Night Eternal’ sent the throng home sated in HEAVY metal brilliance. [ST]
At The Gates at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
Damnation is always one big rush: for fan, organiser, band member, reviewer, and every one of those wonderful unsung heroes that help to run the day. That situation is made worthy by the realisation of the anticipation: all of the friendships forged throughout the day; the fan rubbing shoulders and glasses with the performer; the scribe meeting old friends in the form of fellow scribes, interviewees and Legends. For all of the magical days on a Metal fan’s calendar, there aren’t many to compare with the sheer enjoyment and camaraderie of this first Saturday in November. Amenra didn’t so much steal this one as clutch it to their fractured breasts for all eternity, but there were many more acts making this one so special. This has to be the greatest value-for-money exercise around right now, and the small but heroically dedicated band of organisers has left itself one massive, collective headache to work out how to match this for next year [PQ].
At The Gates at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price