Formed in 1985, Louisiana’s Exhorder left a brief but lasting impression on a dying thrash scene with their controversial 1990 debut Slaughter in the Vatican and its more mature, but equally impressive 1992 follow-up, The Law (both Roadrunner). Just as thrash was making way for the unplugged introspection and tatty woolly jumpers of grunge, Exhorder arrived in an attempt to revitalise the scene. Continue reading →
There are some great ideas and passages on Static Tension’sAshes To Animation (Buried By Sky). A marriage of Grunge, Alternative Rock, elements of Prog and a smattering of Stoner and Trouble’d Doom, the bands’ first full-length is an interesting proposition; a hotchpotch of ideas pulled in from The Doors to Metallica, but mainly operating a Progressive Grunge arena.Continue reading →
Nearly twenty years into this twenty first century of ours, and retro is once again the chicest tone in town. Fuzzed, bluesy guitars, seventies licks and threads, and an aching earnestness for a sound of yesteryear is where the coolest of cats are chilling. And down such alleyways we find Belgian quartet Black Mirrors and their impressive full length debut Look Into The Black Mirror (Napalm).Continue reading →
Swedish doomsters Sorcerer has an interesting story. Formed in Stockholm in the late 80s, they’d already broken up by the time a compilation of their demos was released in 1995. And that was it. No more demos, no proper début albums. Cue twenty years of silence suddenly punctured by 2015’s In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross (Metal Blade); a massive record that was one of my favourite Doom records that year.Continue reading →
Given that so many festivals are shutting up shop – Heavy Fest announced only last month it was closing down for good – it’s nice to see London hostingDesertfest for its fifth installment. Although its shed the Prog and Heavy Metal stages from last year, it’s still a glorious weekend of celebrating all things bong and Black Sabbath across some of the best venues in London’s Camden town.
Crowbar, by Jessica Lotti Photography
Friday night saw big name bands such as Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, Raging Speedhorn and JK Flesh (Justin K Broadrick of GODFLESH) join forces with lesser known but excellent bands like Lionize, Asteroid, Black Pussy, Guapo, Teeth of the Sea, Gurt and more.
Saturday is opened hairy doomsters Poseidon, and they nearly rattle the Black Heart apart in the process. Their thick, monolithic slabs of reverberated riffs draw a decent crowd for so early in the day and probably shake out a few fillings in the process. Thought the vocals leave a little to be desired and the near-pitch black lighting means there’s little in the way of audience connection, it’s a pretty solid start to the day.
Counterblast, by Jessica Lotti Photography
Taking on of the early stints at the Underworld, Counterblast are loud, abrasive, and largely joyless. One of the few bands to go for synths and a triple vocalist attack, Swedish quintet combine the sludge of early Mastodon with a crusty punk edge. There’s a lot going on, and it’s a challenging listen, but also rewarding if you stick it out.
UK four piece Telepathy are first instrumental group of the day, and the first to make an effort to engage with the audience during their set. Playing a decent mix of post-metal with doomy influences, they don’t let a torn drum skin spoil the show. A band with promise, but perhaps not enough quality material to sustain the whole set.
Conan, by Jessica Lotti Photography
Over at the Electric Ballroom, Scouse purveyors of “caveman battle doom”, Conan, draw a massive crowd. It’s easy to see why; massive, grinding riffs, thunderous drums and plenty of chances to headbang. However, the pained screams of Jon Davis’ vocals are an acquired taste and if they’re not your cup of tea, it all quickly becomes a chore to watch.
It takes until the mid-afternoon and Dusteroid’s blend of heavy desert rock and spacey vocals before the afternoon takes a slightly more chilled direction. They’re the first band to lay the riffs on thick without approaching nosebleed-inducing levels of aggression.
Truckfighters by Jessica Lotti Photography
If you take the fuzzy rock of Queens of the Stone Age and have it played by AC/DC’s Angus Young, you might be halfway to a Truckfighter’s live experience.Niklas “Dango” Källgren is easily the most energetic person at the festival, and not just because of what people have been smoking all day. Before the first song he’s already run across the stage a few times and thrown his shirt into the crowd, and once he’s strapped in he’s jumping, windmilling, playing solos behind his head, and throwing every kind of rockstar shape possible. Blessed as well with a good frontman in Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm, Truckfighter’s blend of big melodic rock with plenty of fuzz makes for one of the most entertaining shows of the day and is rewarded with an energised response from the Ballroom.
Pelican, by Jessica Lotti Photography
It’s not always easy for instrumental bands to not only fill a venue, but play music that grips the audience for the whole set. Pelican and Russian Circles, however, are two bands how have perfected the dark arts. Pelican play first, and their heavy take on progressive post metal is a delight. It’s got the grind to make you bang your head, but also the atmospherics to get lost in.
Russian Circles, by Jessica Lotti Photography
Russian Circles, despite having two less members than Pelican, make a lot more racket. Less proggy and chin-stroking in nature, but more direct and bigger on riffs, they act as the other side of good instrumental music. It might be quite as thoughtful, but it’s easier to mosh to. Both bands get rapturous applause between each song, and hardly a word has been said onstage for almost three hours between the two band’s sets. But it doesn’t matter. Epic bands don’t need to chat when they can create massive soundscapes.
At last year’s event, Manchester’s Ten Foot Wizard provided a surprise in one of the best sets of the weekend. And it’s no surprise that they do the same again this year. Having them close the tiny Devonshire Arms after the main headliners was an act of genius by the organizers. Shame that nearly the entire festival tried to cram into what was literally the back corner of a local boozer.10FW know how to put on a good show; it’s sweaty, it’s fun – where else would you gets songs like ‘Turbo Dick’ (working title) or ‘King Shit of Fuck Mountain’? – and they know how to write a good rock tune. The mix of Clutch’s boogie with a touch of QOTSA-style guitars, plus a band who know how to rile up the throng in front of them, makes for a killer end to the day. Plus there’s a Theremin solo!
If the Black Keys had balls and a sense of humour, they’d be a lot like Dyse. The German two-piece are on an early shift at the Underworld, but deliver a huge helping of rawkus rock and roll. Between each sweaty song, the audience are treated to a dry dose of humour; where else would you get a drummer singing Grandmaster Flash’s ‘The Message’ before diving in? Although not quite as alluring on record, live they are probably the best thing from Germany since Rammstein. Less fire though.
Over at the Black Heart, fellow German outfit The Moth lay on some decent heavy metal-inspired doom with some occasional ventures into more death/sludge territory.They can clearlywrite a meaty riff but live it all falls a bit flat.
Necro Deathmort are one of one the biggest oddities of the weekend. An electronic two-piece, their music is a strange mix of synths, vocal effects, and guitar distortion and reverb. It’s dark, haunting, and very introspective: the band don’t acknowledge the crowd or look up from the deck until the very end, when we’re treated to a little wave. It’s actually surprisingly very good, but at almost complete odds with everything else that’s playing this weekend; more like music to get lost to in a dark room than rock out in a large venue. Which might explain why it was so under-attended, which is a shame.
Elder,by Jessica Lotti Photography
Over at the Koko, Elder couldn’t be more opposite to Necro Deathmort. The Boston, MA, boys are all about riffs, guitar solos and long psychedelic jams. They almost outshone John Garcia when supporting him in London last year, and have no trouble filling the big stage with their blend of 70s rock and big doom thunder. Of the six songs they manage to squeeze into their hour long set, we’re treated to a new one that definitely fits into the standard Elder mould. The crowd lap it up and this is clearly a big destined for more success.
It’s a shame to see the crowd thin out after Elder leave the stage, because they miss a treat in Trouble. Probably the oldest band in attendance – and occasionally showing their years with the cheesy moves – you won’t see better examples of twin guitar leads this side of Iron Maiden. Frontman Kyle Thomas, formally of thrash outfit Exhorder, has a great set of pipes on him and handle’s the band’s older material with ease. It’s hard to argue with classic such as ‘The Tempter’, ‘The Skull’, or ‘At the End of My Days’, while the new material have a real energy about it. The cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Supernaut’ is a particular highlight.
Electric Wizard, by Jessica Lotti Photography
Closing out the Koko and festival is the mighty Electric Wizard. Along with the likes of Orange Goblin and Kyuss, Dorset’s finest worshipped Sabbath long before it became cool, and have spent 20-odd years honing their brand of satanic, psychedelic, druggie bliss. Played to a background of 70s exploitation skin flicks, frontman Jus Oborn snarls his way through the more modern epics like ‘Witchcult Today’, ‘Dunwich’, ‘Satanic Rites of Drugula’, ‘Black Masses’ and of course a handful from 2000’s magnum opus, Dopethrone. The band have changed little on the whole over the years, and each track is and ode to zoning out and wallowing in a fug of massive riffs. There’s no encore, and nothing from their upcoming but untitled new album. But it’s still a hell of a closing act, and one of par with Sleep’s closing set from last year.
The crowd Electric Wizard, by Jessica Lotti Photography
Electric Wizard, by Jessica Lotti Photography
It’s been a great weekend that showed off some of the best Britain has to offer when it comes to dirty stoner, epic doom and everything between. Roll on next year.
Though it was released it little fanfare, Magic Circle’s self-titled debut was an unheralded highlight of 2013. A combination of classic Sabbath-infused doom a la Trouble or Pentagram unafraid to inject the energy and melody of your favourite heavy metal bands, it was satisfying in all the right ways. The Boston quartet’s sophomore album, Journey Blind (20 Buck Spin) has received significantly more press, and ups the ante.
Where almost every song on the debut was built around a long, slow build-and-release dynamic, Journey Blind shows far more variety in the song-writing without compromising quality. It’s still boasts that raw 80s-souding production, and the likes of the title track and ‘Ghosts of the Southern Front’ still lumber on before kicking things up with blazing NWOBHM riffs, but the album also boasts some shorter, high tempos numbers.
The likes of ‘The Damned Man’ and ‘Lightning Cage’ – both of which are blessed with annoyingly addictive lines that make it hard not to squeal along – act as perfect foils to the longer, more intricate numbers. The epic seven minutes of ‘A Ballad for the Vultures’ is probably the best song the band has recorded yet, boasting a host of riffs that bring to mind Dio-era Sabbath and Iron Maiden gallops, a flurry of reverberating solos, while the vocals are out of this world.
Vocalist Brendan Radigan, for a long time found snarling exclusively for punk outfits such as the Rival Mob, has in recent years shown he’s more than capable of sounding like an air raid siren fronting a NWOBHM band: like a cross between Ozzy Osbourne and Eric Wagner, he wails his way through the album but never ends up in a comedic “someone stood on my balls” scream that so many retro-revivalist bands seem fond of.
As with their debut, Magic Circle have shown off a rare skill; making an album that could easily be mistaken for a lost classic from the 80s, yet doesn’t feel outdated or like a rehash. It’s everything you want from an album; energetic, addictive, fun, epic, and incredibly satisfying: A combination of timeless song writing and faultless quality makes Journey Blind one of the best records of the year. Go and buy it. Treat yourself for Christmas. Buy your gran one too.
Breaking from the embracing arms of The Process Church of The Final Judgement sees Sabbath Assemblyreborn, emerging from their cocoon blinking into the light with fresh purpose and a redefining self-titled release. Although officially the bands fifth release Sabbath Assembly (Svart) really does sound like a new beginning for an act reinvigorated by pursuing a modified philosophy. Whether the freedom comes from stepping away from the scriptures of others, or through the musical progressions and developments they’ve chosen to make, nonetheless the evolution is welcome.
No longer tethering themselves to releasing the hymns of The Process Church, Sabbath Assembly sees nine wholly original compositions that, while occult in reference and dark in musical style, transposes their previous work into a new entity. Musically, while influences and styles are clearly rooted in yesteryear, the move to increase the presence of distorted guitars and the proliferation of NWOBHM breaks and passages amongst the Trouble-ed moments is a celebrated addition to their genealogy, meaning the band no longer sit under the “Occult Rock” umbrella, but embrace now their own, more distinctive, sound.
Jamie Myers adds a stronger, more dominant tone of Hammer Horror idiosyncrasy to her previous geniality, as quasi-ritualistic poetic intonations add to an overwhelming atmosphere of 1700’s witchcraft made flesh. Her new approach dovetails with the inherent upbeat catchiness of tracks ‘Confessing A Murder’, ‘Ave Sathanas’ and ‘Burn Me, I Thirst For Fire’, while Kevin Hufnagel’s 80’s influenced guitar work segues from Candlemass dripped doom-shaking to Satan (the band) esque gallops. ‘Only You’ teases a Mercyful Fate bolt, settles into a darkened brood, before racing to the end in a bounce of classic heavy metal riffery. Traditional metal solos enhance and embellish the album throughout, as do the melodic Witchfinder General touches and leads.
Taking an atmospheric turn for the latter third of the album means, dynamically, Sabbath Assembly feels a little strange; not quite tailing off, but as if emerging out the end of a night-time ritual into the stillness of the darkness before dawn as ‘Sharp Edge Of The Earth’ and the beautiful, folky ‘Shadows of Emptiness’ are reflective and breathy.
Of course this isn’t a “new band”, but neither is this a representation of previous ideology, either musically or philosophically. Whatever the impetus for the change in Sabbath Assembly, the culmination of the transformation is overwhelmingly positive in terms of their artistic growth.
In some people’s minds the history of the 1970s goes a little bit like this: a grey decade of bad fashion and even worse food. Three day weeks and striking miners; thank goodness for punk and Year Zero. Then there’s the rest of us who know a lot better – the 70s were packed full of heavy metal bands with the love of the riff, the art of the song and the odd pint of patchouli oil. It’s this latter version of history that Minnesota’s Wicked Inquisition have tapped into. And how.
This highly enjoyable album contains more cap-doffing to the 70s than a milliner’s emporium and the reverence for times past is so genuine and warm hearted that you can’t help but feel a large amount of affection for the band and their record. I’m writing this review with the record playing loudly in the background and I can see from the reflection in the laptop screen that I have a grin that is a mile wide; it’s THAT kind of fun.
This is doom metal, but doom metal put through a focussed, song-writing lens. The band appear to have as much in common with Blue Oyster Cult as they do with Sabbath and their ilk which is no bad thing. On ‘Black Magick Nacht’, the album’s opening salvo, we are treated to something akin to a riff masterclass that is genuine and genuinely thrilling. The tempo drops for the Sabbath dripping ‘Crimson Odyssey’ whilst the upbeat riffing of ‘Sun Flight’ is not unlike early period Iron Maiden mixed with Trouble.
‘M.A.D.’ is the most obviously “doomy” of any of the tracks here, a snaking riff and metronomic pace adding to the mood and ambience with aplomb. Meanwhile, ‘In Shackles’ is what would happen if Sabbath had downed a bottle of groove juice before recording Sabotage (Vertigo) it’s mighty and gripping.
The opening riff on ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ is straight off AC/DC’s Highway to Hell (Atlantic) masterpiece before jogging off for more 1970s riff shoplifting like some indiscriminate hoodlum. If you think I’m being critical, you couldn’t be further from the truth; the riffing here is joyous and inspired and the love of the music that this band have is as true and deep as the quality of their playing.
Wicked Inquisition (Tridroid) imbues a love of doom metal with an attention to detail and delivery that is admirable and enviable. It is not going to win any prizes for originality but for well-crafted heavy metal, it will do me, and you, very nicely indeed.