With this half-hour EP, the Swedish group of Vanhävd roll out three tracks of powerful doom metal, bringing an edge of deathly deftness to direct the heavy momentum in interesting ways. There's a funereal morbidity lingering over the affair, with the fully slow portions feeling properly monolithic, and when the tempo picks up into hammering anxiety, the merging of the two energy extremes is handled incredibly well for a band's first release. It's certainly experimental, but at the same time, the band keeps a firm grounding in tunefulness and logical flow, keeping their swerves from coming too sharp for the good of the song. As this is supposed to be a 'sampling' of what their first full-length will hold, things are sounding extremely promising for Vanhävd, and fans of creative heavy music would do well to tune in as early as they can.
For Fans Of; Battle Path, Earthling, Heavydeath, Mamaleek, White Darkness
Making their debut with this four-song EP, the Swedish band of Fred Vinters (a quartet at live shows, but apparently just the band's name-sake in the studio for this) introduce themselves with some stripped-down bluesy hard rock. Electric guitar riffs and steady drum beats complement the earthy vocals, building a well-grounded base of clear-cut rock with few frills. Some boosts in amping, a layer of backing vocals, and an extra kick to the percussion in the chorus is about all the studio touch-up the basic tracks get, and it fits them well. There's a general downward slope of energy over the course of the EP, with the final song, “I Can't Stand the Sun”, consisting of just a bass groove, hand-drums, and singing. It'll be interesting to hear how this band develops, so go ahead and check them out if you're a fan of uncluttered rock.
For Fans Of; Deadboy & The Elephantmen, Grusom, Muddy Moonshine, The Stone Fox, The White Stripes
With their debut EP, the Austin-based trio of Runescarred put their years of experience in previous bands to work in the service of creating metal that pulls from a variety of the genre's sub-styles, ranging from death metal-flavored beats and guitar tone, to British heavy metal vocals, doomy bass-lines, power metal solos, and thrashy breaks. It's a fast-moving mix with a lot of depth to its action, and it makes sense for the band to let curious listeners get a toe wet with the three songs of this EP before throwing a full album at them.
Still, though the songs duck and weave through their knots of style-merging, they keep a firm emphasis on melody and listener-friendly song-shaping. The leaps aren't blind, they're built from the preceding structures of the songs, though it takes some attentive listening to pick up the clues. That attention to detail makes it a great pick-up for those who like digging into their music, though, and should keep them tided over until the group's first full LP arrives. Until then, try to catch the band live if you happen to be in Texas, and stay tuned for big things from them.
For Fans Of; Artension, Gamma Ray, Rhapsody of Fire, Symphony X, Twilightning
We first heard the Slovenian band of Mist back in 2013, with their succinctly-titled Demo. Two EPs and five years later, the group has their first full album ready to share with the world, and in its ten tracks, the quintet show how they've developed their style over half a decade. Big sound, bold riffs, and a solemn atmosphere typify the album, with assertive guitar-lines and rich vocals providing the main guidance to the melodies. There's very much a 'retro doom' vibe to the songs, with traces of the more somber giants, like Candlemass and Saint Vitus, evident in the deliberation shaping mood and bass shading.
As such, while the usual aggression common to metal does show up regularly, its in the music's slower and more thoughtful moments that it really shines (“December” being a prime example). The heaviness is more of a means to an end than the be-all, end-all of something like Ommadon, but it's also deployed with effective dedication and thoughtfulness, wrapping around the core melodies with impressive bonding for what it is. A little more resonance or up-mixing of the bass would have been nice, but considering the need to balance five members' contributions, the end result is understandable. In any event, it's a pleasure to see this group finally put out an LP, and for something five years in the making, it certainly doesn't disappoint.
For Fans Of; Blood Ceremony, Demon Head, Disenchanter, Pilgrim, Saint Vitus
While this may have been released last year, the efforts the band went to in order to get a physical copy to me (intercontinentally, and relayed from one old address to the next) were enough to win me over into doing a review for it anyway.
So, this is the first EP from the Belarusian duo of Gray Dog, who are currently operating out of Poland (good company there). The EP's five tracks unearth some blues of the dirty and heavy variety, with twanging strings and wounded yells forming the main thrust of the music. Regret and pain are the main themes, as is commonly the case with blues, and the fretwork is nimble, sparing, and stylish. The production is likewise kept uncluttered, though the grimy tint comes through undimmed, and the growls and strings both get their full register across in fine clarity. Percussion is limited to thumps on the guitar's body (and a couple slaps of a background tambourine), which helps keep the sense of physical immediacy strong. There's a real sense of life to it (especially when they start baying like coyotes), and it's a welcome change-up from the dense posturing all too common in heavy rock. If you've been looking for something off the beaten path, but still truly heavy, here's your prescription.
For Fans Of; The Barnburners, Cebo))), The Midnight Ghost Train, Muddy Moonshine, T.K. Bollinger & That Sinking Feeling
Over the course of the two songs on this EP, the LA-based outfit of Ancient Altar unpack about 24 minutes of stern doom metal, building from firm bass and drum foundations up through growls, toothy guitar-work, and clear but imposing singing. The first half, “Cosmic Purge”, works up to a powerful momentum, with a few breaks scattered in among the otherwise unrelentingly heavy roll-along. There's tunefulness threaded in, though the aggressive weightiness stays at the fore-front, and it carries itself well for its ~11-minute size. “Foie Gras”, the second and longer track, picks up from it with a little more emphasis on the riffs, and a little more speed to its crashing impacts. It's a nice twist from the atmosphere set by the first, and its faint touches of psychedelic exoticism on the guitar's solos lend things an appreciable expansiveness. Between the two tracks, it's a solid and enjoyable release, one which bodes well for the subsequent album on their own Transcendental Void Records label. Hopefully that'll arrive before too long, but in the meantime, get yourself acquainted well with this EP, and soak up the menace.
For Fans Of; Abstracter, Bell Witch, The Munsens, Raedon Kong, Wounded Giant
Back with their third album since debuting with 2012's Spaghetti Cowboy, the Italian quartet of Black Elephant have spent the four years since their last LP honing their heavy stoner rock hooks, and it certainly shows in the seven tracks of Cosmic Blues. Hot guitar grooves, echoing slides, mellowed-out bass that swings in for kicks, and drums that firmly lay down the beat are all at play, showing the fusion of blues, rock, and consumption-tuned psychedelic flavors in fine form. Once the band launches into a riff, it leads to a slew of others, slipping and sliding out to a finish until the momentum carries them right into another riff train. It's heavy but fast-moving, a little bit funky in the right places, and the guitar tones have such a nice seasoning to their twang, it's nice that the band lets them hold sway over a good stretch of instrumental passages. Grab this one if you've been hungering for some solid stoner rock with an emphasis on big riffs and tuneful cruising.
For Fans Of; Daily Thompson, Farflung, Fatso Jetson, Mos Generator, Stone Machine Electric
Following up on their Prelude to Revoluton demo from 2015, the London-based quintet of Dygora have returned with four more tracks of death metal with a dusting of sludge influence, sounding pretty polished with the production of their beats and growling guitars. The vocals, despite their consistency in delivering a rough gnashing, are probably the least interesting component of the music, and often feel like they're just distracting from the instrumental meshing, with their most engaging usage being when the rasping is played as a rhythmic counter-point or overlay. Past the dirty tones of the guitars and bass, and a couple of spoken samples in the last song, there's not that much sludge influence to be found, unfortunately, and for the most part, the songs chug along without taking breaks to indulge in more textured effects, or to push their intensity and aggressiveness up to blackened levels. While it may be an improvement from their demo days, it also shows plenty of room for the band to continue defining their style as something more distinctive, though the near-half-hour of material here should please those who are just looking to satisfy their cravings for some blast-beats and barking.
For Fans Of; Blood of the Wolf, Matalobos, Necrophobic, Reign In Blood, Throne of Heresy
The last time we covered my favorite Russian band here on TBB was back at the start of 2016, to review Groggy's release of the Turtle LP. Though they've had a couple of releases since then, this EP makes for a nice point at which new-comers to the group's heavy stoner metal can jump in and check out what they're about, or just some extra enjoyment for existing fans. Opening track “IFLNTS” throws some wild, almost punkish intensity into that metal base, bashing hard and riding a fast-rolling groove through to the end. “TAAB” kicks in with a clear and savory riff, leading to funky string warbling and deeper rocking that keeps sinking further into heaviness. Lastly, “DSOTWE” leads the way out with a crunchy cook-up of chords, cymbals, and crashing drums, slowing fading out into a sizzling psychedelic wash. Tasty stuff from start to finish, and just as fun as it is heavy.
For Fans Of; Bomg, Hot Knives, The Munsens, Weedeater, Wounded Giant
With this debut EP, the Brooklyn-based quartet of Hot Knives offer up three tracks of bleary psych rock, taking cues from an audibly wide range of influences while coating it all together with big slatherings of fuzz. And by just riding the grooves where they might go, HK effectively evoke the feel of '70s psych bands without it feeling even close to the clumsy aping that most retro-psychers fall into with their efforts. They're not hung up on being 'pure psych,' but like the originals, they're willing to mix in some punk rawness, some bluesy soulfulness, straight-up rocking, and whatever else does service to the songs.
True, it's a pretty quick experience, just barely breaking a quarter of an hour, but the band maintains quite a high level of quality with impressive consistency through that run, which is just what you want to make happen with your first release. On top of that, there's enough depth to the tangles and snarls of grooving to keep follow-up listens engaging, so if you dig some psych rock with real life behind it, hit up their BandCamp page to grab a copy for yourself, and throw them some spare cash if you want to hear more from the group in the future.
For Fans Of; Frank Sabbath, The GTVs, The Heavy Co., MC5, Purge Solenoid