Bismuth – The Slow Death Of The Great Barrier Reef

Nottingham duo Bismuth, as its name implies, is renowned for its crushing, unflinching take on Doom and Drone. Sophomore album The Slow Death Of The Great Barrier Reef (Medusa Crush Recordings) is largely comprised of the thirty-two minute title track and is as moving as it is difficult, as absorbing as it is challenging. Continue reading

The Wounded Kings – Visions in Bone

The Wounded Kings - Visions in Bone ghostcultmag

Devastatingly, the return of the prodigal son heralds the final statement from British Doom legends The Wounded Kings, the band recently having decided to split after twelve years of incredible creation. Visions in Bone (Spinefarm Records) is George Birch’s first album with the band since he returned to the fold two years ago, to the delight of those devotees who shunned the eerie chanteuse qualities of Sharie Neyland. Continue reading

Cough – Still They Pray

Cough - Still They Pray album cover ghostcultmag

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.

8.0/10.0

PAUL QUINN

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NOIZ All-Dayer, Rebellion, Manchester UK

Noiz Alldayer ghostcultmag

He was so deeply huddled under a blanket that it took a while to locate the source of the voice hollering my name. Eytan Wineapple, curator of the rumbling beast that was the NOIZ All-Dayer, initially celebrated its second incarnation looking like death warmed up. After a long couple of days, with Wineapple escorting eventual headliners Dukatalon to Sheffield and back, they eventually bedded down in today’s venue. “They got here around 3 a.m., and I tucked them all in!” joked Rebellion manager and event collaborator Hayley. Five minutes later, the flat-capped Wineapple was bounding around like a madman: putting to serious shame Ghost Cult’s scribe who, twelve hours later, and still nearly three hours from the denouement, interviewed said host in a rather weary and addled fashion…

NOIZ is not your average festival. Displays of album-style art and guitars in various stages of completion (one of which is raffled off later in the day) stand beside the S.O.P.H.I.E. merch stall in the upper level of the club-style venue. A dedicated handful, meanwhile, witness the pulverising Industria of openers Khost: looking for all the world like a couple of local scallies bumbling about on a stage, yet laying waste with a mystical power which deserved a better slot and much more attention. The Birmingham duo’s ambient, crushing set, its implosive chords and guttural scours blending with a wonderful and passionate line in Middle-Eastern vocal samples, ended bang on time: a courtesy that some of the festival’s other performers could have tried harder to match.

Continue reading

Damnation Festival Part 2: Live at Leeds University

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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 Electric Wizard-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

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

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 Benedictine style, 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

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

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

At The Gates at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price

 

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WORDS BY PAUL QUINN

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICH PRICE

Damnation Festival Part I: Live at Leeds University

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Half an hour after doors opened to the latest instalment of what is surely one of Europe’s premier indoor Metal festivals, my gig buddies and I witnessed a spotty oik giving lip to a (albeit somewhat intolerant) doorman; meanwhile, one or two of said security bod’s less experienced colleagues were being unnecessarily stringent in barring perfectly acceptable entries to the Leeds university Old Bar. Youth, it would seem, is not always the desirable status us old’uns seem hell-bent on recreating…

The King is Blind (28)

The King Is Blind at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price

As if to prove a point, the experienced boys of Colchester’s The King Is Blind ripped the Terrorizer stage a new one with their Blackened Death Doom hybrid and, in doing so, gave Damnation 2015 a fiery opening. The initial crowd had bred tenfold by the end of opener ‘Devoured’, and it was obvious from frontman Stephen John Tovey’s grinning visage that this was as enjoyable for the protagonists. Tovey threw horns with gay abandon and the band produced drops with the weight of a crash of rhino. New track ‘Genesis Refracted’ was lapped up by a crowd which needed a little time to get going, but eventually whipped up a small but vicious ‘pit’.

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Undersmile at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price

Undersmile had the crowd to themselves in the day’s only ‘non-clash’ slot on the Electric Amphetamine (referred to as the ‘Mine), third, stage, and every note of their shuddering Grunge  Drone splintered bone. The screamed “Swim on” refrain of set opener ‘Atacama Sunburn’ disembowelled, the bewitching defiled dolls Hel Sterne and Taz Corona-Brown holding court whilst rhythm partners Olly Corona-Brown and Tom McKibbin waited to deliver the crush. A snaking, pulverising ‘Sky Burial’ concluded a hypnotising yet visceral set and surely gained this prepossessing quartet more fans in the process.

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Wiegedood at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price

The first offering of three from the Belgian ‘Church of Ra’, Wiegedood’s blackened assault packed out the second stage, no doubt partly due to the Amenra connection, but that doesn’t take away from the deeply meaningful assault; whereas our first visit to the Eyesore saw the fiddle-graced Post-Rock of Talons compel a sizeable throng, and my first encounter with the dreadfully affecting, strobing lights.

Beer was flowing freely in the University’s Terrace bar so it was somewhat surprising to see ‘Jack and Alice’s storming burger joint doing less well. Guys, the cheese and bacon special was to die for…!

Positively shocking was the crush to get to see relatively unknown Kent outfit Ohhms at ‘Mine: two minutes into their set showed the reason. Their bluesy, low-end Reef-esque workout was injected with added spice by vocalist Paul Waller whose mad barefoot ‘surfing’ was the Heavy world’s Bez / Ian Brown hybrid. Captivating, dangerous, infectiously active, the whole band created one of the festival’s most talked-about sets.

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Voices at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price

French duo C.R.O.W.N. sought to wrest that mantle but their nevertheless atmospheric, Industrial post-Sludge was lacking in movement. Their hypnotic beats graced by static imagery it was a creative and sonically violent set, lazy yet striking, and musically brilliant which almost switched attention from the lack of stage presence – and those fucking lights that also plagued a dramatic set from Voices, for whom the Akercocke spin-off tag was  firmly banished by the incredible London (Candlelight); their technical darkness holding the room in its thrall despite missing a certain mobility. Over at Jӓgermeister the Church of Ra’s second offering was laying waste: Oathbreaker’s Blackened Hardcore onslaught drew a huge crowd; vocalist Caro Tanghe leading a frantic, animated delivery.

Sea Bastard (6)

Sea Bastard at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price

It would have been interesting to see if Sea Bastard would have filled the main room, as ‘Mine was utterly rammed for the eleventh-hour replacement for Black Tusk. This is a band of implosive power, Oli Irongiant’s lofty stature possibly the only thing to dwarf the power of The Riff, and let rip with the set of the day to this point. Oppressive, the shudders displaced vertebrae along with Monty’s coruscating rasp, while Steve Patton and George Leaver based rhythms that would have crushed Everest. Never has the world seen a guitarist who feels every chord like Oli: grimacing, building the riff with sways of his giant body, his roars needed no microphone. Monty’s dreadlocks hung from his face like the monstrous sea creature they portray during forthcoming track ‘The Hermit’, the rare faster sections still trampling most other acts to dust.

Maybeshewill (11)

maybeshewill at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price

In complete contrast to Vreid’s vicious yet occasionally inventive Black assault over at Terrorizer, Maybeshewill have decided they’ve been peddling their melodic heaviness for long enough and that’s a great shame. With more than a nod to the likes of Sigur Ros they packed out the notorious left upper room and left few dry eyes in the process: their sound icicle-cold yet sweet, nostalgic and heavy, their effusive thanks incredibly moving. Closing one’s eyes and allowing the pulses of light and utterly heart-breaking sound to wash over the head, it was easy to underestimate the fact that 40 Watt Sun was still to come.

The brittle beauty of the outgoing quintet’s melodic sweep seems apt for the story of Jim Willumsen, once of The Wounded Kings and the late, great Ishmael, now doing his fifth festival of the year as a fan. A protagonist of my favourite-ever gig, he is nevertheless happy with his lack of band involvement for now. “It gives me a chance to see loads of different stuff” said this quiet legend of the low-end. It’s also a fitting soundtrack for a meeting with Ian Davis, as former drummer of Grimpen Mire another crucial ingredient of that night and still mourning his former bandmate Paul van Linden, outside the room.

The Ocean (16)

The Ocean at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price

The Ocean came complete with cellist and a whole host of atmospherics, aided by my Bee 17 hybrid lager which, at £4:00 for a coke-sized can, seemed steep but it was a very pleasant change from the swill usually found at such events. This all embellished the German ensemble’s largely Prog effect but also contrasted superbly with the harsher elements of their sound. Jӓgermeister’s main stage was suitably packed, making it hard to believe there was a capacity cut for this year, but their set in 2013 benefited more from the vantage points of this year’s Terrorizer room. Ghold’s appearance at ‘Mine didn’t attract the numbers that previous bands had brought to that area but their darkened doom, like a Death-riddled Conan, rattled already battered heads. The inclusion of a guitarist gave their live presence another, more beneficial dimension to that on record.

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Ghold at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price

 

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WORDS BY PAUL QUINN

 PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICH PRICE

Black Moth – Condemned to Hope

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2014 has been a ground-breaking, redefining year for doom, almost overriding the fact that many of the genre’s female-fronted outfits have produced some mesmerising music for a couple of years now. The unique qualities of Harriet Bevan‘s Leeds quintet Black Moth have been setting tongues wagging for some time and second album Condemned to Hope (New Heavy Sounds) reaffirms their particular status of a sassy, doom-rooted outfit whose satirical outlook is augmented with biting lyrics on modern life.

The colossal groove of opener ‘Tumbleweave’ lends gravity to whimsical lyrics about “porkers from the Daily Mail”, paper tiaras and burger queens, all delivered in Harriet’s laconic, incanting yet quintessentially English voice. Riffs crash rather than rumble yet still carry weight, with variations between trad doom and the stoner currents of ‘Looner’, whilst Jim Swainston‘s lead-work is flashing, emotive, and carved from the finest slabs of 70s heavy rock.

Atmospherics abound with the threatening fizz of amps during hushed moments of the stellar, sexy ‘The Undead King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’, resonant tub-thumping heightening the sinister effect and slower sections possessing a bewitching sway that’s difficult to resist. Guitars occasionally have shimmering pedal effects similar to those of The Wounded Kings Steve Mills, more often applied to the lead but muddying Nico Carew‘s riffs deliciously on the cascading, swirling ‘The Last Maze’, which is also graced by one of Swainston’s more memorable solos. Aside from those waggish phrasings other styles are infiltrated, with the indie-punk of ‘White Lies’ and ‘Room 13’ blending with a reverberating low end and complementing the Britpop feel of the lyrics and delivery. ‘Slumber with the Worm’, meanwhile, marries a Pulp Fiction-esque spaghetti twang with lead riffs verging on black metal.

This may not wield the same portentous mass as some of its contemporaries, and Bevan’s voice occasionally shows limits, save for some soaring notes on the hypnotic closing title track. All of this, however, enhances Black Moth’s charm and identity. They’re a little bit different and, in the quirky fashion of oddities from these shores, unmistakably ours. Quite frankly this rips, and deserves some serious investigation.

 

7.5/10

Black Moth on Facebook

 

PAUL QUINN

Knowledge of the Spirit – Steve Mills of The Wounded Kings

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Steve Mills comes across as affable and enthusiastic: like a best friend you haven’t seen for ages. The occasional expectation of otherwise is something that narks him: “People diss doom as a bunch of Neanderthal cavemen who can’t play properly and don’t have two brain cells to rub together. They would be wrong. There’s a big thought process in doom music, and a lot of creativity and effort in there.”

There’s certainly nothing dull about aptly-named The Wounded Kings, the Devon quintet Steve created in a very different guise ten years ago, and currently basking in the glory of across-the-board acclaim for their fourth and most recent album Consolamentum (Candlelight Records). After earning his spurs with future luminaries from Ramesses and Ishmael, and garnering interest as a drummer in Jus Oborn’s pre-Electric Wizard incarnation Lord of Putrefaction, Steve felt it was time to branch out with his own ideas. “In 2004, I couldn’t find many like-minded musicians in my area so bought an old 16-track, and recorded the vast majority of the music of the first two albums myself. I then hooked up with George (Birch, original vocalist), who at the time was a singer-songwriter with a quite unusual voice which is something I like. We had no aspirations initially other than to get a record deal and get the stuff out there – that was our sole aim, as it is with most young bands.”

Amazingly, that first deal took three years to appear. “No one would touch us with a barge pole for a while. Back then nobody wanted that occult feel, and you had to really put the shifts in and believe in what you were doing. Then Duncan Dinsdale – who was brilliant – saw something in us, and put our debut album out. Unfortunately his label folded but, by then, we’d been heard and were picked up fairly quickly by IHate.”

As well as lamenting the slow demise of MySpace, which helped the band form a base through its formative years, Steve talks fondly with regard to An Introduction to the Black Arts, the split release with US doom monsters Cough which followed hot on the heels of second album The Shadow over Atlantis in late 2010. “None of the band’s output has ever come about by design. Even the fact that each of the albums deals with one of the four natural elements wasn’t conscious: it was only when my partner said one day ‘D’you realise what you’re doing here?’ that it actually dawned on me what was happening. The weird thing is, we’d recorded our contribution to the split (the fifteen-minute Curse of Chains) almost a year before it actually came out. I’ve been asked since if I’d ever do another split and, whereas I’d never say never, it would be hard to top it as for where we were at the time that was pretty much perfect: a work of art.”

It was then, however, when things began to unravel. “We got our ground-breaking Roadburn gig off the back of our debut album – back then we were a pimple on the arse of doom, and it would’ve really given us a boost had we not hit the floor soon after that gig. We already knew our drummer Nick was going to emigrate, but soon after Roadburn George announced his desire to leave, as it wasn’t really suiting his style. This really pulled the rug from under my feet, but thankfully everyone agreed to stay on until after we’d done a UK tour. Just before it Nick broke his arm…it was a hell of a time. Happily we’re all still good mates and I’ve got nothing but the fondest memories of that time. But then I was back on my own again.”

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Steve’s focus never shifted, however, and after a nervy few months he was back on his feet with some new bandmates: “All of our albums were a product of where we were at the time, and the sound is what’s going through my head right then. Embrace of the Narrow House (the debut album) sounds really low-key due to the lack of equipment and expertise I had at the time. By …Shadow, I’d gained a bit more experience so the sound was a little better; then of course, by the time In the Chapel of the Black Hand (the third album) came around, we’d got a little bigger and labels were interested in putting a bit of money to the recording element. Though in a strange way, even if we had the same tools in our early days the sound wouldn’t change too much as I have a style of writing which shows through in all the albums. In the early days I just had to drench everything in reverb!”

To complete the four elements cycle, Steve wasn’t really sure how to reflect the remaining ingredient of air within new album Consolamentum. “As we all know, air is light. But we’re a bloody doom band! So I really wasn’t sure how we were going to portray that property through the music”. The result is an almost lazy, laconic groove filtering through this quite mesmerising release, sliding seductively alongside the trademark colossal riffs and powerful, leaden rhythms. Electrifying lead work dances and writhes in an achingly beautiful fashion, lifting the soul from the dark, incanting torch voice of Sharie Neyland. The occasionally ethereal nature takes you on a weirdly uplifting journey and is exactly what Steve desired, as he explains in a typically self-deprecating way:

“I like the low-end: simple as that! I classed …Chapel as a dense, layered, wall of sound effect, which is just what I was after as it reflected the nine circles of hell – the fire element – but I probably don’t do it enough justice by saying it’s a little one-dimensional. What I wanted for Consolamentum was space. Two rhythm guitars, myself and Alex (Kearney) left and right, leaving others to work their magic, such as Mike (Heath, drummer) to ease in with his own beats and fills.” So does Steve invite ideas from the rest of the band, or is he the time-worn studio despot? “I’m more of a guide as I have the initial idea how I want it to sound. But at the end of the day someone like Mike is in the band because he’s a fucking great drummer, and you don’t stifle somebody’s creativity as that’s why you want them there in the first place. Sharie, for example, believes every word she’s singing, and really makes you sit up and listen. She’s the only woman I know who can sing in B, and to deliver it as strikingly as she does is amazing. I bring the idea to the table, then let everyone do their thing. I’m just really happy and proud they trust and have faith in me. We’ve been going three years in this incarnation now, together with Al (Eliadis) on bass, and I tell you this line-up’s a keeper.”

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This shines out of the performance; the overall sound of Consolamentum showcasing five musicians right at the top of their game, all sharing in the spotlight and utilising it to amazing effect. Steve puts this down to the way they fit together: “The nice thing is, I don’t feel this is a new band anymore. We just work so well together: we’ve been out on the road, doing loads of shows, and we’ve reached the point where we can second-guess each other. There’s a real conviction on this album, and this is borne out in the fact that we recorded the basic tracks for the album live, and in one evening.” Given the accomplished sound and frightening majesty of the album, this is a staggering achievement.

So will we see this album toured around the UK and abroad? Sadly but understandably, this seems a forlorn hope. “The last UK tour we did nearly destroyed the band, and left me saddled with a heavy debt which, thankfully, the Cough split helped me out with. When on tour we’ve got five members’ kit plus drivers, vans, fuel costs to pay out. We’re not after Download-style fees, and don’t want to be treated like royalty, but we have been treated more like human beings in Europe than in our own country, and tend to get what we’ve been promised. There are one or two exceptions to the rule – those promoters know who they are – so there will be a couple of shows on our shores. We’d really love to do more but we just can’t afford to return in the state I did on the last occasion. We also need a fairly big stage – the last thing you want is Sharie’s hair in your monitor!! ”

This is becoming a depressingly familiar tale, especially from bands trying to spread the good news from the extremities of our sceptered isle. Hopefully more home promoters will see fit to make it affordable for The Wounded Kings to play everywhere because, as their latest fantastic effort testifies, they’re too bloody good to be kept a secret.

The Wounded Kings on Facebook

Paul Quinn