FESTIVAL REVIEW: DesertFest London 2022 – Various Venues


Desertfest, GloomyLightsPhotography

2022 is a special year for desert rock / stoner rock / doom metal extravaganza Desertfest London. The event, which takes place across multiple venues in and around Camden and has become a mainstay of the UK heavy music scene, was cancelled in 2020 for obvious reasons and then rescheduled as a special 10-year anniversary event for 2021. Inevitably, the 2021 festival was again cancelled, so the 2022 edition is not only the first Desertfest London for three years, but also a chance to celebrate in earnest a “Decade in the Desert”.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Alunah – Strange Machine



The UK doom scene continues to pump out solid releases and the latest from Alunah is no different. Strange Machine (Heavy Psych Sounds) kicks right off with the album track and does not let up on the psychedelic rock/doom metal mixture. A lot of fans of the scene tend to just say things like “Oh it’s just more Sabbath worship”, but rest assure, these Birmingham natives are not here to hit copy and paste.Continue reading


ALBUM REVIEW: Tome of the Unreplenished – Earthbound


Atmospheric black metal project Tome of the Unreplenished have upped the ante on Earthbound (Avantgarde), the band’s forthcoming album. After laying the groundwork on a few initial releases, multi-instrumentalist Hermes brought in a full-band for 2017’s Theurgy – Act I. A departure from the more musically straightforward debut, 2015’s Innerstanding (both I, Voidhanger), the first “full-band” release, probably alienated some listeners. If you aren’t open to noise and industrial experimentation (think more Throbbing Gristle than Nine Inch Nails) you may want to leave that one alone. The latest release is far more in keeping musically with the debut record and it’s a satisfying forty-six minutes of riffing and atmospherics.

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ALBUM REVIEW: The Hellacopters – Eyes of Oblivion


After 14 years in the dirt, classic rock band The Hellacopters have returned from the dead to do exactly what Swedes do best: make damn good rock ‘n’ roll. Like many, many bands, The Hellacopters had no intention of getting back together post-breakup in 2008, but their new 2022 record, Eyes Of Oblivion (Nuclear Blast), goes to show that bands really do suck at staying broken up. We’re certainly not complaining, because this is one hell of a comeback record. Continue reading


ALBUM REVIEW: Greenbeard – Variant


Work on Greenbeard’s third album started four years ago, but numerous line up changes and the dreaded C word delayed things slightly. The wait is over as the Texan Stoner Rock groups third album, aptly titled Variant (Sailor Records/Kozmik Artifactz), is finally with us – it sees them mix fuzzy stoner rock with psychedelic, blues, soul and heavy metal influences.Continue reading


REVIEWS ROUND-UP: ft. Emma Ruth Rundle, Emily Jane White, Eight Bells, and Hangman’s Chair


Emma Ruth Rundle – Orpheus Looking Back (Sargent House)

On the back of 2021’s exceptional Engine of Hell release, melancholic song-writer extraordinaire Emma Ruth Rundle cannot resist but cast one last longing look over her shoulder at the material prepared, written, and relating to that period, which included the break-up of a significant relationship – the subject of her previous, delicate, powerful full-length.

Consisting of three songs, each different in sound and style that didn’t completely fit with the dynamic of Engine…, Orpheus Looking Back nonetheless brings beauty in its wistful minimalism. ‘Gilded Cage’ is a strummed acoustic piece, ‘Pump Organ Song’ a spontaneous creation during the recording sessions on, well, a pump organ, while ‘St. Non’ is a breathy, guitar / vocal reflection.

While the format is less immersive than the previous full-length, Orpheus… is further example of Rundle’s class as a song-writer and ability to transfer emotion to bare music.

7 / 10

 

Emily Jane White – Alluvion (Talitres)

Taking a fuller approach to production, singer-songwriter Emily Jane White is reflecting on loss, grief and the impact of recent events on Alluvion, her downbeat and reflective sixth album.

Coaxing a gothic beauty to the underlying synths and minimal instrumentation, there is something of a gentle electro-pop feel to tracks like ‘Show Me The War’ and ‘The Hands Above Me’, a song that introduces subtle guitar peals and swells, and a hint of folk and shoegaze – as does the cello-backed ‘I Spent The Years Frozen’. ‘Mute Swan’ mixes in a repetitive eighties synth refrain with a comforting and underplayed vocal, and the standout track ‘Heresy’ is an ominous and effective duet with Darkher, with sparse chants recalling elements of Chelsea Wolfe.

There is plenty of scope in this reflective offering, as White’s intimate and open tones sit softly over the lush arrangements of multi-instrumentalist Anton Patzner and offer not just escape but hope amongst the darkness of our current situations.

 

7 / 10

 

Eight Bells – Legacy of Ruin (Prophecy Productions)

Patience is indeed a virtue, and good things doth verily come to those who are prepared to take their time dwelling in anticipation. It may be six years (and an overhaul of the supporting cast) since the last Eight Bells release, but the progressive, introspective vehicle of Melynda Jackson (guitars, vocals) is all the better for it. The addition of Cormorant’s Matt Solis works as a perfect counterfoil, either with harsh blackened backing vocals, or when chanting in unison with Jackson’s haunting, melancholic intonations. Solis also pops up in the spaces with as some interesting meandering bass runs, working intuitively with the atmospheres that Jackson creates.

This request for patience bears out in the individual tracks, too. Opener ‘Destroyer’ walks us through hints of progressive metal, psych, sludgy tones and touches of blackened cascades, before using a sparse guitar refrain to take us home and into the doomier, eleven-minute sprawl of ‘The Well’. Dynamically as a whole, this is further played out with the mid-album conjoined dreamy pair of ‘Torpid Dreamer’ and ‘Nadir’ combining and paying off; the former dark and doomed, with the latter bringing us through a moment of reflection to peace with its integrated dual vocals, at times reminiscent of a heavier Fleet Foxes – a feeling which is continued into ‘The Crone’, before the blackened elements of the Portland natives arsenal are unleashed.

And all of this is with the hulking presence of standout track, and album closer, ‘Premonition’ still to come; a summation of all the previous parts. Tremolo refrains scythe under a merging of howls and chants, before things settle, breathe and expand into a stately, melancholic close to moody, yet welcoming album.

8 / 10

 

Hangman’s Chair – A Loner (Nuclear Blast)

Tags and sub-genres, when misapplied, can be quite detrimental at times to bands. Not only are they misleading and mis-set expectations but can lead to people who would embrace and celebrate an act missing out on something that would be a perfect addition to their collection. France’s Hangman’s Chair have been labelled as Stoner and / or Doom (which in itself has a couple of different applications), yet there is nothing Desert or Weed-based here, as their sixth album A Loner continues the evolution and progression of their sound, and is a gorgeously reflective album of downbeat, shimmering Downer alternative rock, laced with moments of shoegaze.

Where there is anything sludgy, it is in some of the Stephen Carpenter / Deftones style looping, rolling low-slung supporting guitar moments, such as on ‘Cold and Distant’, a track that demonstrates Hangman’s Chair have a neat line in understated chorus, too, as does ‘Second Wind’. Moreover songs such as with the aptly titled ‘Supreme’, underline a Type O Negative influence that runs throughout, building in Life of Agony melodies and moments. Cédric Toufouti deals in layered vocals and lines of harmonies to support a voice that sits perfectly floating on top of the cinematic music, at times (‘Who Wants To Die Old’) reminiscent of Kristoffer Rygg.

 

Atmospheric and considered, the pairing of ‘Pariah & The Plague’ – a beautiful, layered non-vocal piece of music with tinkling guitar effects and brooding electronics – and the melancholy title track sum up the strengths of this unsung album.

8 / 10

 

STEVE TOVEY

 


ALBUM REVIEW: The Last Vinci – The Revolution is Made Together


Alex Vinci, Brasko, and Conal Murphy of The Last Vinci have released a lovely album in The Revolution is Made Together (Narrow Door). The album is like happiness flying through the clouds. The songs on The Revolution is Made Together have a pleasant, even keeled feel.

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REVIEWS ROUNDUP: Kurokuma, Sleepwulf, Fostermother, Hazemaze, and Obsidian Sea


Kurokuma Born Of Obsidian

Having released multiple EPs and splits since their 2014 formation, Born Of Obsidian is the first proper full-length from Kurokuma. The UK group plays a style that could be best described as ritualistic Sludge Metal, incorporating tribal percussion somewhere between Sepultura circa Roots and Gojira overseen by a hypnotic aura not unlike Oranssi Pazuzu. The former influences are most immediately apparent on the one-two punch of ‘Smoking Mirror’ and ‘Sacrifice to Huitzilopochtli,’ which are largely driven by downright bouncy rhythmic chugs punctuated with extra fuzz.

 

However, the band’s atmospheric side gets time to shine as the album goes on. ‘Jaguar’ saves the harsher guitar crashes for its climax, allowing the percussion to provide a more subtle buildup that is given even greater precedence on ‘Ololiuqui’ and the closing ‘Under The Fifth Sun.’ It’s an accessible listen as far as this sort of freakout sludge goes; the less than forty-minute runtime isn’t too tough to digest, and the rhythmic focus gives it a more pulsating presence than most. A strong journey suited well to the balance of brutal and trancelike.

8 / 10

 

SleepwulfSunbeams Curl

Sleepwulf’s second album, Sunbeams Curl (Heavy Psych Sounds) continues down the path of Doomy Occult Rock set up by their 2020 self-titled debut. The mood is a tinge more ominous with a slightly heavier push in the guitars and tighter drumming, but the vocals retain that jovial warble with enough of that rustic aesthetic to trigger comparisons to Witchcraft, Kadaver, and Graveyard.


‘Stoned Ape’ and ‘Toad Licker Mushroom Picker’ are the biggest highlights, adding some extra Psychedelia as suggested by their righteous titles, while ‘Man Under The Mountain’ dares to stomp into full-on Doom territory. It’s a simple package perhaps better done these days by groups like Green Lung and Magic Circle, but enjoyable enough to satisfy fans of those bands looking for more of the same.

7 / 10

 

FostermotherThe Ocean

Fostermother’s sophomore album sees some considerable expansions to their Shoegaze-informed brand of Heavy Psych. In addition to a move to Ripple Music giving The Ocean a larger platform than before, the songs noticeably run longer and play heavier than those on their 2020 self-titled debut. The album isn’t too drastically different from its predecessor but upgrading to a trio lineup certainly gives the proceedings some appropriate power.


Putting more emphasis on the Doom portion of Stoner Doom admittedly makes for less varied songwriting, but this methodical approach works well in its own ways. The guitar and bass fuzz are as thick as ever with the vocal effects providing an ethereal contrast without getting too overwhelmed. Things really pick up in the second half as ‘Unholiest Of Days’ and ‘Redeemer’ put in more upbeat hustles, the former seeming to channel classic The Sword, that are strongly counteracted by the title track’s particularly oppressive riff set. It may not have the same quirky appeal for me as the debut, but The Ocean is a worthy step forward.

8 / 10

 

HazemazeBlinded By The Wicked

Hazemaze plays the sort of Doom Metal that’s somewhere between Cathedral and Electric Wizard, driven by fuzzy mid-tempo riffs and an occult aesthetic without getting too zoned out. Their third album, Blinded By The Wicked (Heavy Psych Sounds), offers more of the same albeit with a somewhat darker tinge than their previous efforts. While the execution is admittedly vanilla at times, there are some strong songs that come out of it.

 

‘Divine Harlotry’ is my pick of the litter for its winning riff and equally catchy chorus with ‘Malevolent Inveigler’ coming close with its thicker riff set. There’s also promise in the atmospheric keys on ‘Ceremonial Aspersion’ and ‘Luciferian Rite.’ Another album that’s simple in design with a style arguably done better elsewhere, but enjoyable enough to warrant a listen.

7 / 10

Obsidian SeaPathos

Obsidian Sea has seen some neat evolution since they formed in 2009, rooted in Saint Vitus-esque Traditional Doom and gradually picking up a more laid back, Psychedelic disposition ala Orodruin, Pale Divine, and Kings Destroy. Their fourth album, Pathos (Ripple Music), pushes the trajectory forward even further with the hazy overtones threatening to completely overtake the Doom riffage. Fortunately, it’s a natural transition as the guitars keep an organic vibe, the vocals are pleasantly workmanlike, and the structures allow for plenty of jammed out instrumental segments.


In a fun twist, the more mellow tracks may be where the album shines the most. ‘The Long Drowning’ is a pretty smooth Blues track complete with climactic speedup, ‘I Love The Woods’ has an almost Folky touch appropriate for its pastoral theme. Elsewhere, ‘Sisters’ has an almost Grungy swagger and ‘The Meaning of Shadows’ closes the album with its most disorienting, Prog-oriented structure. It’s great to see the evolution that came about with 2019’s Strangers followed-up with even bolder confidence.

 

8 / 10

CHRIS LATTA


EXCLUSIVE VIDEO PREMIERE Grave Next Door – “As Heavy As Texas”


Michigan Stoner Doom power trio Grave Next Door will release their debut album, Sanctified Heathen, via Black Doomba Records on March 18th, 2022. The band’s gritty brand of deep stoner grooves have been earning notice for the last few years and the band has also been touring a lot of late, spreading the good word of riffs. Check out the video for their latest single “As Heavy As Texas” – only here at Ghost Cult!

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ALBUM REVIEW: Earthless – Night Parade of One Hundred Demons


After mixing up their formula by adding vocals on 2018’s Black Heaven, Earthless‘ fifth full-length goes back to their usual brand of jammed out instrumental rock. The awesomely titled Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons (both Nuclear Blast) hearkens back to the format of albums like Sonic Prayer, consisting of three tracks each stretching to nearly twenty minutes of Heavy Psych informed by spacy Krautrock meandering. The title track is split into two parts with ‘Death To The Red Sun’ rounding things out.

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