Wednesday, 23 August 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Blessed Realm - “Doomography 1993-2002”

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Compilation
Date Released: 14/07/2017
Label: At War with False Noise

This is a lengthy and worthy collection from one of the unsung bands of British doom- from an era when doom was not in anyway commonplace.  This is an essential and extensive release, which will fit nicely onto the shelf right next to your Sabbath and Cathedral albums.

“Doomography 1993-2002” CD//DD track listing:

1). Red Dawn
2). Where Winds Whisper My Cry
3). Lost Horizons
4). Circle of Misery
5). Wasted (Rehearsal ’99)
6). Bleeder
7). Black Hole
8). Two Time Loser
9). Crawl
10). Jezebel
11). Before My Eyes (Rehearsal ’99)
12). Spiritual Solitude

The Review:

Blessed Realm hailed from Northern England, emerging as a doom band in a time when doom bands numbered in single figures in the UK. Going for the classic doom line-up (you know the one) of Sabbath, Vitus et. al. This compilation brings together all the band's studio recordings from their nine years of existence.

As a document of British doom in that time, it is as genuine as it gets. This is a band that never made the big leagues and remained underground, but with a keen influence on the genre (much like, say, Unsilence from the North West) and other bands who sprang up in their wake. Naturally, as this is a compilation of demos from a time when Pro Tools was not the standard recording methodology, the sound quality here is varied. The “Redemption” demo of 1995 has plenty of hiss for all you old schoolers who remember it on tape from twenty years ago not to mention epic song lengths which would become standard for the genre.

“The Chasing The Dragon” Demo of 1996 features a drum machine- the material is worthy, but the feel is lost for me as the mechanical element of using a machine takes some of the life out of the songs- for me, anyway. That said, the performances of the rest of the band are strong and the programming is solid- particularly for its time.

“The Return To Zero” demo of 1998 is a step forward for the band and features live drums once again with strong songs such as the sinister “Bleeder” and the punchy “Two Time Loser”. “The Crawl Demo” of 2000 is the strongest selection here for  me- I note that it may be a little further from their pure doom roots, but this takes in an almost Iron Man/Trouble sound along with the dark moods of earlier material.

Alongside the official demos there is a sprinkling of rehearsal tracks from different eras and the superb finisher “Spiritual Solitude” from 2001. This is a lengthy and worthy collection from one of the unsung bands of British doom- from an era when doom was not in anyway commonplace (remember the snide comments Cathedral used to get for playing slow and “looking 70s”?!).

This is an essential and extensive release, packaged in a luxurious digipack with photos and liner notes, which will fit nicely onto the shelf right next to your Sabbath and Cathedral albums.

“Doomography 1993-2002” is available here

Band info: facebook

6 NEW BANDS: Nikos Mixas' 666 Pack Review (August 2017)

 Artwork: Joshua M. Wilkinson

It’s the August edition of THE SLUDGELORD’S 666 Pack Review!  For some of you, school is back in session so you need your metal reviews short and to the point.  Well, it’s your lucky day!  If you’re new to this, each and every month we handpick 6 review submissions and critique them by only using 6 words, then we rate them on a scale from 1 to 666!  Check out our awesome rating scale below: 

1 – What the hell did I just listen to???
2 – This is the musical equivalent of smelling limburger cheese. 
3 – There are no participation trophies here…just shaming…
4 – Remember when Pantera was a glam band?  You see, there’s hope for you yet! 
5 – With a nuclear apocalypse looming, your music should be the soundtrack. 
666THE SLUDGELORD bows down…and you are worthy of the most sludge laden praise…

The 666 Pack Review is meant to offer humorous criticism and is not meant to hurt feelings, however, there are no safe spaces here.  THE SLUDGELORD is a picky listener…and doesn’t care what you think of his opinions….

Konvent  - “Demo” (Copenhagen, Denmark)    Rating: 5                                                        

Distortion, upon more distortion.  Medusa sings.    

High Priestess - “Demo” (Los Angeles, USA)   Rating: 4

This demo rivals most current releases.  

Hallucinatorium - “Slum Wizard” (Canberra, Australia)   Rating: 2

Cursed by the slum glum wizard… 

Between The Lines - “Between The Lines” (Galway, Ireland)   Rating: 4

Tasty as a Guinness on draught.  

Eye Sea Black - “Stigma” (Udine, Italy)   Rating:  5

Eye’d like to Sea them live!

Menin - “Lord of Pain” (Portland, USA)   Rating: 3

Great cover artwork, average sludge/doom.

TRACK PREMIERE: Hundred Year Old Man release crushingly dense debut single "Black Fire"

Hundred Year Old Man a six-piece collective based in Leeds, UK are set to release their debut single “Black Fire” via Gizeh Records this forthcoming Friday August 25th 2017.

Hundred Year Old Man's sound can be distinguished within the parameters of post-metal, doom and crushingly dense heavy music. Formed in 2015, the band have spent the last 12 months touring and playing shows with the likes of Deafheaven, Ohhms, Moloken, Employed To Serve, Conjurer, Fen, Opium Lord, Canvas and Wren as well as a recent performance at the UK’s premiere underground metal festival Bloodstock

“Black Fire” is the perfect introduction to Hundred Year Old Man, indeed this track encompasses everything this crushing conglomerate  is about, 10 minutes of heavy, atmospheric riffs build and descend through the sonic ether and  the listener is ultimately  rewarded in spades. We’ve heard it all before, but this band seems intent on doing things differently.  The abrasive and the aggressive offset by  a kaleidoscope of divine light.  Today “Black Fire “can be stream in its entirety below (order here) and precedes a 12” EP due in January with their debut album to follow later in 2018.

Band info: facebook || bandcamp

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Low Flying Hawks - "Genkaku"

By: Ernesto Aguilar

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 25/08/2017
Label: Magnetic Eye Records

Low Flying Hawks come at you with a chugging, thick mélange of sound you will not soon forget, there's an aesthetic through this release that makes their  second foray sound quite breathtaking.

"Genkaku" CD//DD//LP track listing:

1.) Smile
2.) Uncool
3.) Virgin Witch
4.) Space Wizard
5.) Hallucination
6.) Twilight
7.) Sinister Waves

The Review:

Sporting a bond to sludge metal icons the Melvins is never a bad thing. And such a relationship is all the more noteworthy when your bag is self described as ambient metal, known otherwise depending on who you ask as drone metal. In the case of Low Flying Hawks, they're even closer to the Washington State legends than throwaway words in a press kit. As Low Flying Hawks features Crover's peerless stylings as well as Melvins' producer Toshi Kasai and guest vocals from King Buzzo himself.

Do not come to the recording expecting the Melvins' crunch, though. On its successor to the 2016 debut “Kōfuku”, Low Flying Hawks instead come at you with a chugging, thick mélange of sound you will not soon forget.

"Genkaku" (Japanese for “hallucination” or illusion”) is a mind-bending journey. The swirling guitars and indecipherable words in "Uncool" are indicative of that trip – dreamlike, or nightmarish, paths lain bare with Crover's pensive drum duties. A song such as "Hallucination" has almost a shoegaze feel to it, even though it is most decidedly doom in nature. The discerning listener will find a bit of a psychedelic rock influence in several tracks. Although you may hear such especially in our sludge metal friends, prototypical notions of 'Melvins side project' this is not. Rather, there's an aesthetic through this release that makes Low Flying Hawks' second foray sound quite breathtaking.

At the same time, the release is punishing when it needs to be. As in “Kōfuku”, the sophomore recording takes plenty of toilsome turns. The big sound is present and accounted for, complete with multilayered instrumentation and riffs that build to impressive arcs throughout. You have to appreciate the King Buzzo-fronted track "Space Wizard" for its pacing in this regard, as well as that of "Virgin Witch," which is one of the most Melvins sounding songs, in all of the best ways, on this recording. All in all, Low Flying Hawks exceeds the anticipation one might have about its members' histories. The band also gets you thinking about how they can expand past that.

"Genkaku" is available to preorder/buy here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

VIDEO PREMIERE: Swedish hard rock sensations Märvel hit the headlines with "All Over The News"

On October 7th 2017 Swedish hard rock sensations Märvel will release their new album “At The Sunshine Factory”. The band have worked hard to create a ”larger than life” sound, building a studio of their own to get enough time to develop their songs to perfection. A cheerful production disguises a darker lyrical theme affected by today's world situation. 

Having inked a deal with The Sign Records in the beginning of 2017, they have started to re-release Märvel’s earlier albums on new formats, but new material is what fans of the band have been craving and Märvel have never been this well equipped and ready to make a first and lasting impression on a new audience, and are set to deliver something fresh and invigorating.

Märvel’s music has been described as sweaty group sex with The Hellacopters, Turbonegro and Electric Six at a KISS-themed children’s party. Throw some 60s soul and the good kind of 80s metal into the mix and you’ve got it.  So if that sounds like your kind of party, check out their new video for “All Over the News” below which is taken from their forthcoming album. Preorders for the album are available here

Band info: Facebook

Monday, 21 August 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Wild Rocket - "Dissociation Mechanics"

By: Ernesto Aguilar

Album Type: EP
Date Released: 07/07/2017
Label: Art for Blind

Their debut "Geomagnetic Hallucinations," earned a reputation for its immersive music and brainy, intriguing lyrical themes. With their follow up they give you that again, and more. Make no mistake this group is a high-quality original that stands on its own. The stupendous "Into The Black Hole" is a true testament to that.

“Dissociation Mechanics” CD//DD//LP track listing

1. Caught In Triangle Again
2. Infinite Reconnaissance Imager
3. Into The Black Hole
4. The Future Echoes
5. The Edges Of Reality

The Review:

Defunct noise rock visionary band Sonic Youth experienced much popularity over its near 30-year career, including the commercially successful albums "Goo", "Dirty" and "Daydream Nation." Hardcore fans point to a recording like 1985's "Bad Moon Rising" to be the birth of what would be the definitive Sonic Youth sound: sheets of avant garde influences, rambunctious guitars and off-the-wall effects that were a fertile bed for Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon's irascible songsmithing.

In listening to psychedelic punk crew Wild Rocket. One cannot escape an ambience that feels very much like the most animated version of Sonic Youth circa "Bad Moon Rising" and possibly "Daydream Nation." In the case of the Dublin, Ireland outfit's sophomore recording, the emphasis on noise punk, like Sonic Youth, belies a uniquely crafty selection of music.

On the opener "Caught In Triangle Again" the tenor of the past is evident. You can almost lean back and picture what Moore would do with this, it is such a faithful interpretation. Make no mistake though, because the group is a high-quality original that stands on its own. The stupendous "Into The Black Hole" is a true testament to that.

When Wild Rocket released their debut, "Geomagnetic Hallucinations," in 2014, it earned a reputation for its immersive music and brainy, intriguing lyrical themes. In their return, the quartet of punk, doom, noise and rock tested performers give you that again, and more. With "Dissociation Mechanics" – an SY-style christening if ever there was one, by the way – that blend is all out on beautiful, chaotic display.

Wild Rocket's return is centered musically around several concepts, including the sea and deep space, as metaphors for cultural and global destruction. Effects laden vocals convey the depressive mood and the churning rhythm section, not to mention Jon Kelly's synthesizer work, make those stories feel like they're closing in on you. The listener has such a tempo on tracks like "The Future Holds" – steady, thick and swirling it is, among others.

"Dissociation Mechanics" is available here:

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Sunday, 20 August 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: River Black - "River Black"

By: Mark Tremblay

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 17/07/2017
Label: Season of Mist

River Black’s self-titled release picks up right where Burnt by the Sun’s “Heart of Darkness” left off, the riffs and instrumentation are crushing, as well as vocalist Mike Olender being the best he has ever been, For anyone who enjoys Metal and hardcore at its finest will find this record to be of their choosing.

“River Black” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Jaws
2. Honor
3. Low
4. Shipwreck
5. River Black
6. South x South
7. Boat
8. Move
9. #Victim
10. Haunt
11. Sink
12. Everywhere
The Review:

River Black’s self-titled release picks up right where Burnt by the Sun’s “Heart of Darkness” left off in ways that are both impressive and terrifying. The positives are that the riffs and instrumentation are crushing, as well as vocalist Mike Olender being the best he has ever been. The terrifying element is that the lyrical continuity between “Heart of Darkness” and “River Black” indicates the human condition has only grown worse in the band’s absence. Fans of Burnt by the Sun will not only welcome this new record, but also be blown away by the progression of River Black’s sound.  

The album gets off to a pummelling start from the get-go with “Jaws” and “Low” are riff-oriented tracks very reminiscent of the “Soundtrack to the Personal Evolution” era of Burnt by the Sun. The album takes a turn in the middle with the self titled track and “South x South”. These songs show a more matured band exercising restraint and understanding the best qualities of their sound. It is the little things that make such an impact; particularly with the double kick pattern and the string arrangements on “South x South”, you see the growth still capable within this band. As mentioned previously, Mike Olender’s vocals are nothing short of spectacular. With “River Black”, the listener really gets the sense of a man who has had many life experiences between his studio albums. Particularly with songs like “Haunt” and “#Victim”, you get the sense Mike is not only a seasoned lyricist, but has completely mastered his craft as a metal vocalist.

For anyone who enjoys Metal and hardcore at its finest will find this record to be of their choosing.

“River Black” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: End Christian – "Energy & Strength"

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 18/08/2017
Label: Translation Loss Records

“Energy & Strength” CD//DD track listing

1. Froze Red
2. Traverse
3. Preacher
4. Delivered in Shame
5. Ballinger
6. 8 Hour Job
7. Quiet Nights
8. A Relaxing Time
9. Ore Da Barbarian
10. Oscillate Forms
11. Call About Trix

The Review

 “This is a message of energy and strength!”  Among the wispy, heavily processed, often indiscernible vocals and lyrics of End Christian’s full-length debut, this mantra serves as a thesis statement for a collective that continuously shifts between genres and emotions.  Comprised of members of Fad Nauseam (Dreadful), Hex Inverter (McKenna), Starkweather (Rosa), and Brutal Truth (Hoak), End Christian eschews the “heaviest lineup/heaviest sound” posturing that damns most supergroups.  Instead, “Energy & Strength” embraces their retro pop, shoegaze, and techno obsessions – which have recently garnered crossover success for artists like Perturbator, Gost, and Youth Code within the heavy music scenes.  Despite these analogies, however, End Christian’s debut doesn’t coast on nostalgia, but manages to be a rewarding, challenging work of experimental music.

Opener “Froze Red” is a blissed out slice of dream pop that would fit alongside any entry into the classic 4AD catalogue – whispery goth vocals, swelling synth chords, just the right amount of rhythm to slow dance with your pale companion or all by yourself.  If they continued in this vein, “Energy & Strength” would be a serviceable foray into pop for at least an EP.  But instead “Traverse” turns on the darkness, locking around a doom and gloom bass line that recalls NIN’s “Ghost” recordings.  “Preacher” goes full ambient mode, while “Delivered in Shame” is a buzzing piece of electronic hardcore and retro drumpad beats, while a Vocoder makes the whole thing twist into a track like Giorgio Moroder on downers.

By the end of the record, I was mostly recalling seminal compilations like “No New York,” that captured a brief era in the morphing post-punk and art rock scenes of the late 70s using just four artists – disparate but collaborative, bound by aesthetic similarities but not yet distilled into any formula for success.  This borderless experimentation can be taxing, as the relentlessly loose “Quiet Nights” verges on excess, while the frenetic avant jazz weirdness of “A Relaxing Time” is as “no wave” as it gets.    And yet there is undeniable positivity that flows through the record, balancing the darkness creeping at the edges.  The Vangelis-meets-dub beauty of “Oscillate Forms”; the slightly askew string lines of Ballinger; the repeated reminders that “This is a message of energy and strength!” – are just a few of the beautiful moments that propel End Christian’s debut through any rough spots.  I, for one, hope they continue to challenge, experiment, and confound expectations.

“Energy & Strength” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Friday, 18 August 2017

RIFF REWIND (18/08/2013): Secrets Of The Sky - "To Sail Black Waters"

Three of the band’s six members each contributing with multiple instruments, SECRETS OF THE SKY projects a unique brand of cinematic, cerebral, atmospheric metal with a heavy persuasion towards doom metal and even more blackened influences citing The Ocean, Opeth, Isis, Agalloch and others.

The debut album from this new by this sadly missed act, “To Sail Black Waters”, was recorded over an eight month period with engineer/producer Juan Urteaga (Testament, Machine Head, Cattle Decapitation) at Trident Studios, the massive album boasting SECRETS OF THE SKY’s entirely modern and unique back-bending of elements from a multitude of genres. With up to three guitar tracks, two and three keyboards at a time and a multitude of vocal styles — clean and epic lines against hollow and blackened battle cries and crushing, low-end growls — the band creates huge build-ups and epic movements as expansive as the cosmos.

Today we’re rewinding back 4 years, with our original review of a review of SECRETS OF THE SKY’s phenomenal debut “To Sail Black Waters”, So if you overlooked this band/album, be sure to remedy your error by checking out our review and the record is streaming in full below

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 8/10/2013
Label: Kolony Records

If you are looking for a record that is a little different with elements of multiple sub-genres, give this album a try. Truly accomplished stuff and, yes, mesmerisingly bleak.

“To Sail Black Waters” CD//DD track listing :

1. Winter
2. Decline
3. Sunrise
4. Black Water

The Review:

Epic progressive doom with blackened influences and aspects. So what do you get for your money. You get four tracks- the shortest of which is (7.43) long. This Oakland CA six piece know what to do with the time; each track is expansive, multi-faceted and will hold your interest. It's bleak stuff, which does not sound very Californian. Then again, I suspect much of Oakland isn't exactly how you might imagine/want California to be.

Winter” comes in over the nine minute mark with a suitably icy sound. Screamed and low vocals trade off while the guitars range from melodic and mellow to positively feral. The production is pleasingly clear and bright- but still raw and grimy enough as to be appropriate.

Decline” is mesmerising in its bleakness (that kind of sums the whole record, to be fair). It continues and indeed expands on the opener. Clean vocals add a Gothic aspect (think Type O, not The Cure) that is unique and welcome. Keyboards add another layer to the sound as the guitars weave together expertly. This is brilliant stuff. The pace is slow but fluid and the generous 12 minute plus length of the track allows you to really get into this most unusual of sounds. The final 3 minutes plus are even heavier than what goes before and features an excellent riff prior to the track breaking down.

Sunrise” starts with a lumbering doom riff (backed with an interesting keyboard counterpoint) and thereafter dynamics are used effectively with some truly unpleasant vocals too. Again, there is a definite gothic influence here (to my ears, anyway) and I like it. The opening riff gets returned too; this is not just progressive “throw anything in” writing- the tracks work as pieces of music and structured songs.

Black Waters” at (11.22) closes the album is impressively expansive style. The intro builds things very nicely as the crystal clear drums crash in with a well worked groove that the bass propels along until the vocals come to the fore. Real heaviness follows with those black metal-esque vocals ripping out of the speakers. The track then twists and turns its way along numerous pathways before stripping away towards the end.

If you are looking for a record that is a little different with elements of multiple sub-genres, give this album a try. Truly accomplished stuff and, yes, mesmerisingly bleak.

Band info: facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Atriarch - "Dead As Truth"

By: Ernesto Aguilar

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 11/08/2017
Label: Relapse Records

There is so much to enjoy about the new Atriarch release. You have heavier cuts like "Dead" and "Devolver" to mix among the more pensive songs. The songwriting is superior. And, best of all, you have a talented group back for a release that is sure to remind you why you enjoyed its brutal sound when they debuted.

“Dead As Truth” CD//DD//LP track listing

1. Inferno
2. Dead
3. Devolver
4. Void
5. Repent
6. Hopeless

The Review:

Atriarch are one of those bands that cuts across a ton of subgenres. For many outfits, that can go lots of ways, for better or worse. There are more than a few examples of times this does not work. Too many metal performers trying to be too much to too many people, and it can be exasperating. Similarly, in this Portland-based group, you can hear hard rock, gothic, post-punk, black metal and doom, but it is altogether better than all that sounds.

On their fourth full-length recording, "Dead As Truth," Atriarch does so famously because its members build upon a series of well-received releases with a sound that, for all it is advertised as, does the core parts so remarkably.

Atriarch bills itself as classic death rock, but there is a good chance you will hear tinges of old-school death metal here. From haunting singing to touches of dirge and, in truth, a lot of heavy, sludgy guitar, you will catch the screams of some of death metal's originators in Atriarch's blast. Instead of the screeching, indecipherable C-list material you can find anywhere, though, Atriarch paints some ghastly images without the nonsensical bombast. "Dead As Truth" continues the growth of the group's sound and, in many ways, makes it far more intimidating because it is more cerebral than most.

Fans of the band's past recordings may believe this new package sounds toned down compared to past collections. Such an observation is largely true, but rather than chill, this one feels like a more sophisticated entry. The restraint you hear from the opener, "Inferno," to the closer, "Hopeless," is used to support savage storytelling. "Void" taps a similar lyrical delivery, until it unleashes the full bore of anguish on the listener.

There is so much to enjoy about the new Atriarch release. You have heavier cuts like "Dead" and "Devolver" to mix among the more pensive songs. The songwriting is superior. And, best of all, you have a talented group back for a release that is sure to remind you why you enjoyed its brutal sound when they debuted.

"Dead As Truth" is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook