Kings Destroy – Fantasma Nera

Pure, bluesy Rock music has undergone somewhat of a revival of fortune in recent years. Not only have the old guard of legends remained strong and as popular as ever, but a slew of younger talent has held the flag of that sound flying high through an earnest passion and solid songwriting. In amongst this ever-widening crowd, Boston act Kings Destroy can easily find themselves a part of that bracket on latest effort Fantasma Nera (Svart Records) and yet simultaneously offer something vastly different. Continue reading

Superfjord – All Will Be Golden

Finnish Prog Rock merchants Superfjord have the kind of name that should cement immediate status as cult legends. Somewhat marvelously, they also sound as if the last forty-five years have never happened. The powerful resonance of the music they produce has, incredibly, seen the band embraced by BBC Music, and second album All Will Be Golden (Svart) could leave the average rocker wondering if this is finally an avenue into awards that have previously excluded our genres. Continue reading

Throat – Bareback

Throat’s Bareback (Svart) is the type of album you used to notice getting high marks in magazines like Pitchfork or NME. You know, the types of magazines that you got into for a brief while in college right around the time you started drinking lagers and attempting to smoke cigarettes. You didn’t particularly care for most of the articles, but reading these musical journals sure raised the right flags. You are cultured. You are no longer the rube with the cheap shoes. Continue reading

Witch Mountain – Witch Mountain

On their fifth and self-titled LP (Svart), Witch Mountain are trying to decide if they’re the most melodic Doom Metal act or the heaviest Blues band currently on the planet. Blues informed riffage has always been a part of Doom, and we dearly thank Black Sabbath for that contribution, but many a modern practitioner have ditched tradition in favor of harsher noise. Witch Mountain is not about modern convention, but about sticking with tried and true basics. Continue reading

Cognitive Dissonance V

Authentic static television on a television screen.

In which Richie HR dives into the maelstrom of abstract Metal, Noise and Ambient, and comes back up with something awful… Continue reading

Death Toll 80K – Step Down

I just listened to Death Toll 80K’s new album and overall second full length, Step Down (Svart Records) and my first instinct was to search the floor for my glasses and any missing teeth. Not to worry, gentle reader, my teeth are still firmly attached, and no physical harm has been visited upon my Ray-Ban’s, but Step Down is bound to leave some scars on my psyche. Continue reading

Death Hawks – Sun Future Moon

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The snowy vistas and verdant forests of Finland are more often associated with the grimmest of black metal pandas than the out-there world of psychedelia but it seems no-one told Riihimäki natives Death Hawks, for they have just released their third album in the short space of four years and sound as if they have just stepped off a Californian freeway, so breezy and sun-kissed is their third album Sun Future Moon (Svart).

Employing elements from a variety of disparate genres including blues and world music, Death Hawks clearly have no musical boundaries and like all good psych, aim to transport the listener to a different world altogether. Opening track ‘Hey Ya Sun Ra’ is a languid, trippy opener you might hear at a hippy yoga retreat as thoughtful keys intermingle with heavy-lidded vocals and skittish yet gentle drums. The pace quickens on the engaging ‘Ripe Fruits’; an upbeat hip-shaking little number where trumpet, jangling piano and spacy keyboard swells co-exist gracefully. ‘Dream Machine’ follows with its engaging vocal hooks, instantly hummable guitar licks and those ever-present bubbling sound effects in the background to remind you that Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Unfortunately, the middle and second part of the record fail to maintain the levels of intrigue and beguiling wonder that the first part set so well. ‘Behind Thyme’ is a deadly boring stroll through pastoral acoustic folk that you half suspect will segue into ‘Kum ba yah’ at any minute, ‘Seaweed’ is the kind of elevator muzak meets whale-song that plays in shops that sell dreamcatchers and crystal skulls, while the lazy synths of ‘Wing Wah’ are what you’ll hear at a psy-trance rave at 5am when the DJ decides to make stuff up on the hoof.

Truly a record of two halves, Sun Future Moon has some treats for those who enjoy quirky psychedelic rock but far too much quasi-mystic fooling about for this embittered scribe.

 

6.0/10

 

JAMES CONWAY

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Skepticism – Ordeal

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Live albums – a glorious celebration of a band at their most urgent, or a badly-recorded set of songs you already own designed to fulfil a contractual obligation? Not content with pretty much inventing their own subgenre, seminal Finnish Doom masters Skepticism have decided to change the way we see live albums too, by recording their fifth album in its entirety in front of a live audience. Captured on their first official performance, Ordeal (Svart) simultaneously breaks the usual studio/live dichotomy and demonstrates a band at the very height of their confidence and cohesion.

Skepticism’s ’95 debut Stormcrowfleet (Red Stream) is credited as one of a small handful of albums responsible for creating the Funeral Doom subgenre with all elements in place, and their career since then has focussed on developing the strength of their composition rather than progressing their style; thick, mournful riffs, elegiac keyboards, tortured withdrawn growls all woven together into long but focussed songs that highlight an emotional honesty and range not usually heard within Metal. Skepticism are a textbook example of why it’s often better to master one approach than to experiment with many – musically there’s nothing on here that they didn’t play twenty years ago, but they do it with such depth, power and vision that it’s impossible to see that as a weakness.

If the songwriting on Ordeal is beyond question, the same can’t necessarily be said for the live recording. The band’s performance is absolutely flawless, and the sound is rich and powerful, but aside from a very small spattering of polite applause it’s almost impossible to tell that this is a live album at all. As a testament to the tightness and professionalism of the band it’s a striking achievement, but it’s not clear what it actually adds to the album. The six tracks of Ordeal proper are followed up by live versions of classic songs from their first two albums which have more in common with the traditional live album, but they’re strictly an extra to the main event – and even they’re delivered in a controlled, banter-free style that might as well be live in the studio.  Skepticism are strictly a Let’s Hear Some Noise Motherfuckers free zone.

Whether the live performance is a gimmick or a vital part of the atmosphere is open for debate, but what is beyond discussion is that Ordeal is a masterful album of rich, textured and utterly commanding DOOM (trust me, it deserves capitals) from a band utterly in command of their chosen style.

 

8.0/10

 

RICHIE HR

Speedtrap – Straight Shooter

 

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It’s easy to be dismissive of today’s heavy metal revivalist bands. Aside from the fact they’re ten a penny at a time when even the most obscure bands from the scenes heyday are reforming and enjoying renewed popularity, most just sound and look like cheesy tribute acts.  Finnish quintet Speedtrap might be one of the few that are worth your time, however. Their sophomore album, Straight Shooter (Svart), is brimming and energy and authenticity that most of their peers are lacking.

From the first “slide into a solo” of opener ‘No Glory Found’ Speedtrap don’t let up. It’s pure, old school speed metal of the most satisfying variety. Fast riffs, faster solos, and fist pumping vocals. Whether it’s a the rock and roll of ‘Running Rampant’ or the thunderous fury of ‘Serve Your Masters’, Straight Shooter is straight up heavy metal as it should be. Guitarists Ville Valavuo and Jaakko Hietakangas trade solos like Dave Mustaine and Chris Poland, while Jori Sara-aho endlessly wails his way through the 35-odd minutes. His voice might grate on some but it adds to the DIY, slightly rough-around-the-edges appeal.

They occasionally gallop (‘Heavy Armour’), occasionally thrash (‘Savage the Prey’) but mostly just rock. Most of the tracks (‘Eyes for Conquest’ or the title track) occupy that rare sweet spot that’s faster than the boring mid-paced plodder, but slower than your standard thrasher that’s perfect for banging your head along too.

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What sets Speedtrap apart is that they manage to sound genuinely authentic – I could tell you these were a bunch of guys from Yorkshire who appeared on a Metal for Muthas compilation and you’d believe it – but manage to avoid sounds like they’re rehashing their favourite Iron Maiden riffs. The artwork – an oil painting of a leather-clad guy on a car bonnet with a guitar-shaped minigun – deserves a special mention too.

If you like proper horn-raising heavy metal, you’ll like Speedtrap. It’s uncomplicated, unfussy, but more importantly, it’s fast, it’s loud, it’s fun. Go listen to it.

 

8.0/10

 

DAN SWINHOE

Morbid Evils – In Hate With the Burning World

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Keijo Niinimaa, the vocalist behind Finland’s grindcore group Rotten Sound, has taken his talents to a new sludge/doom metal project. Morbid Evils have released their debut album In Hate With the Burning World and it is an absolute juggernaut. This is a pure heavyweight that demands your attention.

From beginning to end the album drags the listener through pure destruction and never lets up. With the opening track ‘Cruel’ you’re treated to a steady build-up that leads into a crushing riff that could be paired with the stomping of elephants marching. About halfway through the track, the drone aspect picks up a bit of a groove making it very difficult to keep your head from moving in pace.

The next track ‘Crippled’ has more of a haunting groove to it, yet the brutality remains. This groove showcases the freshness of this album, keeping it from becoming just another boring and uninteresting doom album laden with just a simple chugging riff. My favorite track, and unfortunately the shortest of the album, would be ‘South of Hell’. Named rightly so this album will drag you down to the bowels and even further than where the sinners dwell.

In Hate With the Burning World is one hell of a debut release. Dare I say even better than all material Niinimaa created with Rotten Sound? I feel unfortunate that they ended up with the name Morbid Evils, as their sound to me really represents a creature such as a Mastodon or Behemoth. Recently it feels that doom metal has been gaining more of a following, and this album will just strengthen that interest and lust for the sound of dismemberment.

8.0/10

DEREK RIX