Performed by just two members (Marcelo Aguirre on vocals and percussion, Ari Almeida on guitars and bass), this mini-album bridges the gap between the German group's first album, Cauldron Messiah, and their second LP, which is still cooking. Over the course of this release's five songs, the duo brew a mean atmosphere of low tones, strained strings, fierce wailings, and malefic attitude, bringing slow doom slogs and sludgy burners together with panache and a startlingly large-scale vibe. Heavy slams and gnarly riffs are in plentiful supply, there's a hefty Death SS cover which Evil Spirit does a great job of making into their own thing, and the music includes several creative surprises that are rather neatly worked into the flow. If you're like me, and haven't yet heard the group's first LP, this is a great introduction to the band's style and capabilities, and should leave you wanting to check out more of their catalog. Of course, that'll mean you'll end up hungering for that second album to show up, but that's an acceptable price to pay for music this stimulating.
For Fans Of; Brume, Heavydeath, Narcosatanicos, Sunken, Uroboros
Gnaw Their Tongues are pretty damn prolific for a one-man group, having put out a dozen albums (not including splits and side-projects) since self-releasing his first LP back in 2006. Keeping up that pace, GTT's first album for 2018 launches out from its start with howls, monstrous bass, and an enveloping sense of doom, compressing the massive-feeling music into just a little over half an hour of material. Electronics augment the nasty vibes, generating unstable fields of disturbance and high-speed percussion that ramp upwards into harder and harsher power. Industrial strength solvent for the nerves, high-pressure doom, nightmare factory recordings, and a big dose of unhinged, unrestrained maddened outpouring come together with fantastic results, while titles like “The Doctrine of Paranoid Seraphims” lure in unsuspecting listeners expecting something symphonic.
Not something which will appeal to everyone (thank goodness), Genocidal Majestyfinds GTT continuing to experiment, but doing so with the confidence and dependable underlying technique that comes from having been at this for over a decade, with no signs of compromising the effort or earnestness of the various approaches he's taken in that time. The demonic passion which consumes GMat times (during “Cold Oven”, for instance) puts a long list of extreme metal groups to shame with how fiercely it comes at the listener, and the coatings of programming do nothing to get in the way of that assault. High-grade audio pain, intense and superb.
For Fans Of; Boyd Rice, Iron Justice, Skin Chamber, Sunken, White Darkness
With albums in their catalog dating back to 2005, there's no question that the Swedish group of Burning Saviours have a firm handle on the hard rock they play. With this latest album, they pay homage to some of the forebears who made the links between original doom metal and hard rock stand out most clearly, keeping the songs of Deathheavy and theatrically menacing while emphasizing chuggy riffs, burnishing thick bass slabs, and singing about (what else?) the inevitable cessation of life.
Though there's a lot of homage filling the music, it also stands strong as a solid batch of old-school doom pulled off in fine form. Head-banging beats and hooky riffs are supplied in ample measure, the amping sounds warm (and pretty close to period-accurate for the style they're working), and refusing to stay small when there's a chance to go big with the rocking add up to an album which comes in without a trace of fear and does everything it sets out to do. Really, the music explains it better than I could, so as soon as the album drops (March 9th, through the good people at Transubstans Records), grab yourself a copy and get ready to ride a time-traveling train of heavy riffs back to the days when every piece of metal cover art would look good on the side of a van.
For Fans Of; Black Knight, Candlemass, Pentagram, Saint Vitus, Salem Mass
Making their debut back in 2016 with a self-titled EP, the trio of River Cult are dropping their first LP this year, and for a group rooted in Brooklyn, they do a pretty damn respectable job of channeling the bluesy heavy psych sound into the five hefty tracks Halcyon Dazeboasts. Thick pedal-boosted string textures and rolling drum rides build rich atmospheres of warm bleariness, and with not one of the songs dipping below seven minutes in length, the band gives themselves plenty of room to flesh out and shade in the nuances with care. It's heavy without losing momentum, psychedelic without going (too far) off the rails, and fucking groovy with hardly any bloat.
While the vocals are a lot of fun, keeping a sort of grungy, cool indifference going even in their roughest yells, the band packs in plenty of instrumental rocking, twisting their way through gnarled riffs, riding crescendos to a peak before leaping to another one, and getting down 'n' dirty in the earthiest tones. They've got heart, they've got chops, and from the sound of it, they're having a lot of fun bringing them together while pushing past emulation of their influences into something really great. Check this one out once it lands on February 9th (in CD, digital, and vinyl formats), play it loud, and play it again; just don't expect to catch all the details on your first time through.
For Fans Of; Acid Elephant, Desert Suns, Frozen Planet....1969, Major Kong, Zombie Picnic
Debuting back in 2016 with their album A Suburb of Earth, Zombie Picnic made quite an impression on us with their free-wheeling strain of prog rock. They're back with their sophomore album now, due for release in March, and with it, the Irish quartet has assembled ~40 minutes of new material, perfectly portioned for the vinyl release it'll receive through Burning Shed.
Things start off in a low-key approach on “Democracy Cannot Survive”, with a gentle melody line cycling about as it finds footing, rising energy and expanding drum flourishes steadily infusing the measures, and the sharp, clear guitar tones wrapping firmly around the whole. The intensity continues escalating from there, with follow-up “They See Science as Dangerous” highlighting the group's ability to tighten up on a riff-ride while bringing all the members into vibrant action, with the bass-lines in particular grabbing listeners by the ear-balls.
Almost half of the album's duration is covered between those first two tracks, and for the rest of it, the songs are served up in more easily digestible form, from the focused drive of “DEFCON” on through to “Anger in Storage (Denial Will Follow)” and its relatively brief outro crash. Concise samples discussing the merits and impact of science fiction, among other societal concerns, are sprinkled throughout the music, and it's from these (and the titling) that the otherwise vocals-eschewing grooves get their thematic flavor. Whether they're really needed is up to the listener to decide, but they do add a nice splash of character (and personally, I'm always in favor of a well-used sample or ten).
Looking at the album as the group's sophomore outing, ZP have certainly managed to grow while holding on to the weird facets that helped make their first so distinctive. Fans of prog rock should go ahead and earmark some money for a copy, and fill the time before release by checking out the group's first album if it managed to slip past them.
For Fans Of; Crown Larks, Indukti, Mondo Drag, Planes of Satori, early Porcupine Tree
We last heard from NEST about two and a half years ago, with the release of their self-titled debut EP, which made a good impression with its stylish treatment of a blackened doom base. After a follow-up EP in late 2016, NEST are back again to deliver their first LP, and with its half-hour or so of new songs, the Kentucky-based duo show that they're still in fine form when it comes to crafting concise assaults of weight-laden fury. Instead of going the route of sheer blow-out screaming and thrashing, they put in the work to build carefully-developed melodies, letting listeners get attached to the tunes before smashing in with bolts of harsh violence, and keep that defiance of easy templates going the whole way.
While they've got a certain distance kept between themselves and rock-out vibes, they do have the ability to tap into those head-banging energies (check out the end section of “Gallows of Forever” for a demonstration). Again, though, it's a work in contrasts; without the more serious majority of the music, those leaps into more traditional metal vibes wouldn't have the impact they do. Similarly, their ratio adjustment between the doom and black metal takes them through a nice, wide range of effects and atmospheres, finding just as much room for deep grooves as they do for bone-rattle beatings, not to mention some good old feedback-soaked power drives. Hell, I actually found myself throwing up the horns while listening (to “Divining by the Entrails of Sheep”, for the record) and I genuinely can't remember the last time a record provoked that response from me. Even more impressive, they got the whole album recorded in just three days, with the songs' cohesion reflecting that feverish outpouring.
The time NEST have taken to put these songs together has been well-spent, no doubts there, and it's exciting to hear them stretching their style in so many different ways on their first full album. As with their first EP, they pack in one song which dwarfs the others. This time, it's penultimate track “Life's Grief” (embedded below), which rolls out to nearly ten minutes of powerful resonance, mixing its huge-sounding majesty with a deep-trenched coat of filthiness, capably covering the album's two extremes (plus the band's more experimental side) while also pounding out some heavy power. If you're a fan of grisly doom and you're not sold by now, check the full album out once it drops, and let that take you the rest of the way.
For Fans Of; Hesperian Death Horse, Odradek Room, The Sleer, Sunken, Trees
Returning three years after their last album, Apostle of Solitude have assembled forty-five minutes of new material for their fourth solo LP, due out February 23rd, working big riffs and heavy atmosphere to nice effect. It's doom with some force behind it, and as the band moves along through the seven tracks, they balance the slabby bass-lines with emotive vocals, drums both thunderous and gentle, and some fierce guitar-work. Almost all the songs break the 6-minute mark, so you get to hear the band build some big structures and give them thorough exploration, all the while using some lush production to bring out the finer details in the resonating chords.
The band also maintains a strong sense of character and consistent tone through the songs, without falling into monotonous drudgery or predictable tricks. It's an album that really hits the feel of being conceived and executed in one fruitful go of it, while still fitting into the larger scope of the band's full catalog. Closing out on the funereal “Grey Farewell”, the band shows that they've developed the important quality of restraint with their doom, letting sparseness and simplicity have their place without being buried under tons of fuzz or over-amped bass wallows. By emphasizing the role of well-made melodies in the style, AoS give promise that there's more ideas yet to be shared from their group, and that they'll be given the time and growth they need to come out smashing.
For Fans Of; Below, Earthshine, The Fateful Hour, Of Spire & Throne, Pilgrim
With his first EP, the one-man band of Drift Into Black spins out half an hour of heavy-hearted explorations, with Craig Rossi (Grey Skies Fallen) handling vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass, and all of the song-writing. Fusing elements from doom metal, goth rock, symphonic metal, and several other styles, the music develops an almost laid-back approach to the mood of endured suffering, evoking some of the more sober-minded doom acts like Candlemass and Below.
There's a lot more experimentation going on than most of those groups attempt, though. Muted bass-lines with electronic interference call to mind comparisons to Jesu, and the richly-textured melodies have such a lushness to them that, at times, they push past rock and metal designations into sheer audial expressiveness. But despite the variety of approaches packed into the EP's five songs, Rossi pulls it all together with character and drive uniting them in fine fashion. There's a lot to unpack in the music, and on top of the diverse song-writing styles, the demonstrated ability to make songs of seven minutes or more stay interesting and organic hints at some colossal doom to come from DIB. Give this EP a few goes, and keep tuned for more from this intriguing project.
For Fans Of; Below, Dead Hand, Gnaw Their Tongues, Jesu, White Darkness
Set for release on the last day of this year, this latest EP from the Philadelphia-based group of Narcos Family Band boasts four quick tracks of dirty rock, rolling along on fuzz-swaddled guitar riffs, belted vocals, flexible drumming, and plenty of hooks. With each track, they tease an opening, then dive in to thrash about and have fun, then barrel their way out before things get too redundant to be fun anymore. At times, it's almost like sludge on mood enhancers, with the grinding tone of the guitar and the clear punk allegiances joining playful conduct and a focus on rock power over downbeat kicks. And the careening grooves show a knack for the looser side of psych rock, infusing the songs with a bubbling, unpredictable recklessness that only lifts their rocking all the higher. Fun, gnarly, and quite tasty, this should be on your list if rock that colors outside the lines appeals to you in the slightest.
For Fans Of; Butthole Surfers, Crown Larks, The Heavy Co., Poor Dumb Bastards, Sex Scheme
Hailing from India (and the excellent Transcending Obscurity record label), Djinn and Miskatonic made their debut with the album Forever in the Realmback in the year of 2013. Now they're back, with another six songs of doom and dread, rumbling bass and slow-moving riffs, and they're well in their element.
Kicking off with “I, Zombie” (no, not a cover of the White Zombie track), the band plugs into a heavy current, waves of chords drifting back and forth, as they dig into the opener for the better side of fifteen minutes. Having made their demonstration of how well they handle size, the band trims things back for a few following songs, before returning to the ten-plus size for the last two. And through that total hour of dirging, the band tests out some flavor experiments while keeping the modern doom base firm. There's drizzles of black and death, stretches of clean vocals (usually quickly countered with guttural rasping), but the main drives are built on the backs of workhorse riffs, just rolling on and on with some small twists worked into their cycles.
The biggest fault with the music, from my perspective, would be how straight-forward it is. Both the album and band name suggest some mystical elements, but what you get is pretty standard, if jumbo-sized, modern doom metal from start to finish. There's no real toying with unusual sounds (a spot of keyboards here and there would have done wonders in that regard), and the steadiness of the weight makes things feel more sloggish than crushing by the end of it all. It's good stuff, just don't go into it expecting the psychedelic elements suggested by the cover art.
For Fans Of; Brume, Electric Wizard, Major Kong, REZN, SwampCult