Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Khemmis : "Desolation"

This guys take another step away from the Pallbearer style of doom that originally marked their first album. The first thing I notice that is different with this album is the vocals are lower and sung with a little more power. He can still get up there, up it's done more sparingly. The riffs are back to being more Pallbearer as they have an angular quality that is like puzzle pieces finding their place in one another. This song also gets heavier than certainly the previous album. The guitar heroics are in place, though coming from a more metallic place. Harsh vocals come in at the end of the first song. They are off to a more classic metal gallop on the second song with guitar harmonies following behind. It's more power metal like but it works. "Flesh to Nothing" is even more power-metal however this time it doesn't strike me as being heavier and three songs in it's evident this album is not going to be doom.

They get back to a chug with more weight on "the Seer". This riff has more sinew to it's groove. The vocals continue to soar here. It reminds me a little more of Solitude Aeturnus. The harsh fight for dominance on "Maw of  Time". The song is other wise still on the power metal, but with a darker kick. "From Ruin" is moodier and more melodic which is a needed shift in dynamics. It turns back around into the more traditional brand of metal they have already been forging with some authority for the bulk of the album. The guitar solos are pretty much what is to be expected for this kind of metal and some of the punches to this song are more Iron Maiden than what I remember being these guys stock and trade. So they have grown away from doom for sure, though their sound still bears some shades of it.

I'll round this one down to an 8.5. It is heavier . It does move them further from influences they have worn on their sleeves in the past, but the songs don't grab me as much as they used to. While the previous album did find them moving into this more power metal place, their feet are planted much more firmly on it for better or for worse depending on where you sit with power metal. Not to say this is as entrenched in that as say Hammerfall, I would prefer these guys to be more doom, but a band is going to grow in which ever direction they are going to grow in . The album is getting  this score from me at present as I don't foresee myself getting as much mileage out of it as I did the previous albums.  20 Buck Spin releases this album in America June 22nd and the rest of the world will get it from Nuclear Blast.

Fotocrime : "Principle of Pain"

 The first thing I notice by the debut full length is that production wise it sits on the slicker side of the 80's than the Bat Cave, so think more Billy Idol than Christian Death. There is more of a new wave feeling to the more Depeche Mode like groove of " Love In a Dark Time". There are also hints of New Model Army in the vocals, though this reminds me more of the dark wave / future pop project Covenant when they take on a little less organic feel on the song "Don't Pity the Young" that follows. Thanks to the more plaintive vocal they stay in that place New Model Army was in when they first crossed over into the dark side on " the Rose and the Thorn", with more of the typical post-punk tension running with the guitar melody. They are doing a good job of replicating the sound they are going for. If you told me this album came out in 1985, I might be inclined to believe you if I didn't know who these are.

If you ever wondered what a more new wave version of Nick Cave might sound like that question is answered on "Autonoir". Here mood and groove are perfectly married and this becomes what I want them to give me more of . Just because this is what I want doesn't mean it's always going to be easy for them to hit that same spot. They give a shot on the song directly after this time including female vocals and it leans more in a dark wave direction that is not as convincing. There is a more rock slant put to the post-punk tension of " Enduring Chill". This goes back to the more New Model Army direction. The bass that drives "Infinite Hunger For Love" gives me an "Ah Ha Moment" where I realized the difference between what is different when a post-punk band does this and when a goth or death rock band does this and the answer is goth or death rock bands do it with more slink that makes it in turn darker. This song is good, but like many of these songs it could stand to be a shade darker.

There is more of a rock feel to "Confusing World". To their credit the bass has a more aggressive stomp to it that works well. The end the album with a more subdued tone on "the Soft Skin" . Overall this album has some strong moments, but is rather middle of the road when it comes to how deeply it delves into the darkness. I'll round it down to an 8.5 for that reason, but it is still an engaging listen and most people are a little more willing to compromise on the darkness than I am so those can round it up a little.

Monday, May 14, 2018

GosT : "Possessor"

For some reason I have been on a more electronic kick. This came about due to a Blood Music Records kick I was also on. The retro synth trend that makes everything sound like it could be on the soundtrack to "Stranger Things" is pretty widespread as we even heard it seeping into the new Ihsahn album. This is this projects obvious stock and trade.  Here is an electronic album that is as dark as industrial and as heavy as industrial, but has more of a retro synth wave sound battling inside of them like angels and demons. "Prowler" has enough groove to support itself as an instrumental and the samples certainly help give the song a voice. He smoky vocals of "Sigil" work , but make the song a little more melodramatic and gothy in a 90s darkwave way.

There is a heavier blast on "Beliar" then it takes an angular glitch turn like something Igorr might do doom paced legion screamed vocals and odd retro synth melody. the pace picks up  for Shilohs Lament Malum has somewhat goth tinged vocals , some of the synth melodies are too happy . The album's theme is translated by the samples which are all exorcism. The lyrics to "Malum" don't really convey the same thing and appear to be about wasting time on someone.

"Commandment" gets more aggressive , but the synths keep it from being industrial along with the fact the programmed drums don't have as much of a kick to them. The over driven vocals would not be out pf place on an industrial album. It is at time like electro grind core in some of the explosive outbursts in-between church bells ringing and Art Bell samples. I'll round this down to an 8. Some of this gets redundant and then the vocals sometimes remind me too  much of cheesy darkwave rather than cool dark wave because of the melodramatic breathiness of the vocals.  Despite this the album is certainly worth a listen even though I am not going to gild the coffin for you . The other word of warning would be it's not as Satanic as some might lead you to believe, once again I review black metal half the time so the bar is high for the level of goat kissing and Christ fucking we want around here.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Horror Vacui : " New Wave of Fear"

This was released April 15 with little buzz. I guess the death rock revival is not getting much hipster press these days and going back underground where it belongs. Fine with me as the music is better for it if judging by the opening track of this band from Italy's new album. The guitar tone lightens into a shade of gray on the title track. The vocals are really showing the most improvement moving down into almost a Sister's of Mercy like croon. The guitar mix is a little murky like the effects could stand to be slightly compressed. "Forward" finds the guitar riffs beginning to get a little uniform, thankfully they switch it up when the vocals come in . "We Are The Ones" finds the guitar tone continuing to makes things bleed together. I think they needed to spend a little more time with giving things space in the mix when it comes to post- production. Things are beginning to get a little monochrome in their dynamic flatness.

There is a little bit of a darker groove to "On the Other Side". Tempo wise it pretty much falls in line with the rest of the album up to this point. :Behind" gets a little more aggressive , but aside from that doesn't really stand out from the other song and races long the same panic pace of the others. Its the increased growled grit of the vocals that makes this stand out more than the guitar. The bass coming up in the mix helps "Don't Dance With Me". If these songs gave themselves more room to expand and contract the melodic touches that are buried under the wall of redundant guitar might work better. The vocals remind me a little more of Iggy Pop on this song.

The effects on the vocals at the beginning of "Upside Down" work really well and display what this album could have been if more attention to detail had been given in the production end. They do have more atmosphere on this song, though drone a little more. I'll round this down to an 8, because it's a mixed bag. I think the songs work more often than not, but the sound is not really dialed in and it could use more clarity in the mix . Live I can see how if this is as good as it gets mix wise then it would be a loud punk blur.


Cruachan: "Nine Years of Blood"

I think my thoughts on the folk metal have made a few things clear to most readers. Most of them can be summed up by saying I want to like it , but most of the time it's not dark enough for me. Last week we were going to the Renaissance Festival and folk metal was obviously needed for the trip down. So I downloaded this album and the new one by Heidevolk. The Heidevolk album was too happy. This one made the cut. The folk elements are blended into this Irish band's sound in a very fluid manner. Like most folk metal album their are a few little instrumental interludes that you have to sort through. These guys use harsher vocals and sung vocals. There guitar tone has balls to it and there is aggression that is not just LARPing. They do fall into a little more of a jig on "Blood & Victory" than I might prefer , though make up for it on the melodic break to some extent.

Lyrically these guys are pulling from the history books, makes the songs rather bardic. Lots of Irish pride going on here. When the fiddles are busting out more of a minor key melody, it works better for me though sometimes this is undone when they go into something that sounds more like a drinking song. "the Battle Of the Yellow Ford" has more scathing vocals on the verses , but doesn't strike me as inspired as the first few songs. While it has a commanding thrash gallop the folk melodies laid over  "Cath Na Brioscai" fall a little flat on me. "The Harp, the Lion, the Dragon and the Sword" has enough of thrashing energy to keeps it's momentum despite the happier touches of folk. Some songs grab me harder than others as it heads into the album's third act. The bands harder moments leaning closer to thrash than black metal. It is some of the more melodic touches that have the most impact.

"Back Home in Derry" closes the album. An odd choice considering how compact the song. It does show the two sides of the band and show the extremes of these two dynamics working together. It actually pretty catchy. This album runs into some of the genre's pitfalls , but is generally aggressive enough to thrash past them. I'll give this album an 8.

Friday, May 11, 2018

the Sword : "Used Future"

Never really been all that into these guys. Reasonably familiar with their work, prefer their older more metallic moments. They have grown into more of a 70s styled prog band that is still more song oriented like the more radio friendly albums from that era, so not King Crimson. "Deadly Nightshade" is the kind of retro rock I expect from them. After a few listens the song din't blow me , but is easy to listen. I like the groove to "Twilight Sunrise", but the vocals are not as catchy as those on the previous song. The guitar is busier. "The Wild Sky" has more punch when it comes down from space at hits you with the chug. It a cool drugged out jam with interesting sound, and for an instrumental manages to keep my attention. There is more of a 70s feel to "Sea of Green" that almost feels more like ZZ Top. So far this is the strongest song on the album as all the varied elements work in conjunction to create a groove. The plaintive vocals sit in the right space. The songs winds it way around to a more 60s haze. The guitar solo is well placed and performed. I can see these guys doing well with jam band kids.

"Nocturne" is less of an instrumental that stands on it's own and more of an interlude. It is very Pink Floyd with hints of kraut rock. There is a very stoned glaze to " Don't Get too Comfortable". It works as a song, but doesn't stand out against the others. The title track sounds like it could be a Lynyrd Skynyrd b-side. For what it is it's entertaining. "Come and Gone" reminds me of early 60's psyche rock like Coven or Atomic Rooster, more floating and surreal than mystic. They get back to a more ballsy rock approach on "Book of Thoth". It establishes a pretty decent groove. Not as fantasy oriented as Uriah Heap, it does come from a similar era of sound.

"Brown Mountain" is a return to more of a southern rock sound. Progressive rock atmospherics sit behind it to create an odd landscape. I would be leery of anyone claiming this is the album of the year,but it's better than their acoustic stuff and they are good at what they do .I'll give this one an 8.5, while i enjoyed the listens I gave this one , when I want to hear this sort of thing chances are I'll go to the source. If you are a fan then it will live up to your expectations.

the Evil : " Evil"

This band from Brazil is darker and heavier than most of the female fronted stoner/doom bands that pass through my in-box. Granted she has a masculine voice in some sense, if we are talking about a man with a feminine voice...think Rob Halford styled power metal here. So while this does give them a late 80s doom sound the fact the guitar is so dense brings if up into this decade. The bass tone is pretty 80s though. "Screams" finds their groove getting murkier and the sludge heavy guitar tone not pulling the weight by itself. Doesn't suck but doesn't grab my attention like the first song. "Sacrifice to the Evil" has more of a cheesy Halloween sound to it with some "Omen" style chanting. I guess it makes about as much sense as some of Acid Witch's stuff, but Acid Witch gels better thematically.

They trudge on with "Satan 2 " I guess this a sequel. Not sure where they lyric "from Russia with love/ comes in " ?   With doom or really any genre the challenge is to be your self, but bring something new to the table .With black metal the problem is blast beats begin to sound the same. With doom it's recycling the Sabbath chug. Think of it like warming up a piece of day old pizza in the microwave. The first time you nuke it, the pizza will still be worth eating. The second time , it's going to be either soggy or like rubber. This is what happens on "Sliver Razor". I can only taste the rubbery aftermath and not what worked on the first song.

They give "Ancients" a little more breathing room, it follows a similar formula as the song "Black Sabbath" by the band of the same name, you may or may not have heard of them. This brings us to doom rule number 1 " a little Black Sabbath worship goes a long way". Now these kids are not breaking this rule as bad as many bands. The fact the vocals are not going all Ozzy certainly helps. I would just like to hear them pull from more colors of influence. I am beginning to hear people already calling albums the album of the year and it's not June yet. This is not bad but I am giving it a 7.5 so it's safe to say it's not going to make my 10 doom albums of the year list. If you like things that are as dark as Acid Witch , but more doom than death metal then it might be worth your time.