Friday, 4 September 2020

The Baguette Doom Series XIX and XX - Le Strasbourg Spécial with Monoatomic God - Astronaut Witch Bootcamp (2020) & Dionysiaque - Dionysiaque (2018)


Monoatomic God - Astronaut Witch Bootcamp (2020) / 75%

The Baguette Doom Series pt. XIX: Strasbourg I

The oddly named quartet impressed the hell out of me when I was working on the undying Band Queue of the Metal Archives and I knew I had to tackle their debut release for my Baguette Doom series. The band guided by the powerful vocals of Laetitia Convertini (great Astérix name!) was able to bring three condensed, strong but atmospheric nuggets of groovy doom/stoner on Astronaut Witch Bootcamp.

While probably inspired by the spacey themes and name of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard (or maybe a stoner metal name generator, who knows?), the French band doesn’t mess around with long psychedelic movements and approaches things differently. There’s still some cosmic touches here and there such as the synths on “Effroyable Sphère” or “Funeral Orbiter” but the songs are mid-paced and dynamic with riff driven tempos. In spirit, I was reminded of High Priest of Saturn but without the Om/Sleep worshiping. I’m surely mistaking here but the mix of ethereal female vocals with a psychedelic doom vibe reminded me of the Norwegian band. Monoatomic God incorporates strong 70s vibes in their blend too (Deep Purple, Rush?) with modern stoner sensibilities and it works pretty damn well. Sure, proto-metal plus stoner isn’t new (Spiritual Beggars, The Sword) but I felt their formula was fresh and somewhat exciting, especially for a debut extended play. Don’t expect something like Windhand or even Blackwater Holylight either, it’s not that sort of trance inducing doom/stoner with dreamy, fey vocals. We’re in groovy tight doom territories, the energy, the type of riffing and the vocal delivery reminds me of Castle as well and that’s certainly a good thing.

All in all, Monoatomic God delivers the goods on their debut EP, it’s hard rockin’ doom/stoner with strong melodies, catchy and well delivered vocals and a legit familiar but enjoyable spacey atmosphere. I’m stoked to hear more from them.

Monoatomic God on Bandcamp

Dionysiaque – Dionysiaque (2018) / 85%

The Baguette Doom Series pt. XIX: Strasbourg II

Probably named after the philosophical ideas (from Nietzsche) rather than a reference to Dionysos, the god of wine, Dionysiaque are one hell of a band and they're much too sad to be about parties and celebrations. Their first release comes off as a strong foray into traditional doom territories with overt dark atmospheres. Like some other French bands like Barabbas, they’re able to create a fairly unique take on a genre that’s too often at ease with worshiping the greats.

While their riffs are very good and the two guitars do bring an extra oomph to their compositions, their moods are perhaps the best thing about them. They have this occult, crypt feel akin to the best style of black metal. Some riffs (check out “Doctor Kerjentsev”) can almost bring us back to the proto extreme metal days (see Mortuary Drape, Celtic Frost) in their execution. The first two tracks (about four minutes each) are mid paced goodness while the third brings us something more solemn and slower but still full of fucking heavy riffs. The vocals of Nathaniel Colas are extremely good and fits the intent of the band like a glove. He alternates between some madmen cavernous clean chanting and some more putrid harsher tones. He sounds like he’s underground while the rest of the band is vanquishing the undead in the graveyard. I'm not asking for much more in life.

I don’t usually like cover songs but Dionysiaque picked an interesting one from an obscure 70s English band called Tractor. The hard rockin’ vibes fits their style well and it’s a cool ending for the demo, it's full of catchiness while having a quasi goth rock vibe, very nice. I’m pretty sure their debut full length will propel them to the doom metal Mount Olympus. Essential demo.

Dionysiaques on Bandcamp

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Purification – Perfect Doctrine (2020) / 92%

You can’t fuck with Forces of doom

Purification, that mysterious Oregon entity is back with their second full length in 2 years and I predict tons of carnage between them and The Wizar’d for doom metal album of the year. The Tasmanian’s nasal odes to Pagan Altar on one side of the battlefield ready to unleash an army of emus against the Portland Witchfinder Generals lookalikes could be a sight to behold. Those comparisons between the two bands aren’t just for show, they’re both apt at taking sounds of the past and processing it into a palatable yet contemporary formula. They’re also both incredible.

While deeply rooted in this sort mournful historical romanticism, their funereal approach can of course be linked to today’s morose happenings. "God is dead. America is fallen. Give up hope and move into the mountains." is something they wrote on their Bandcamp page and it’s telling. It’s easy to link past historical events to the current “plague” hitting the world. Through their sometimes edgy but precious lyrics, they’re observing reality within the confines of doom and they do it well. One of the most effective lines is in fact the opening lyrics of the album:

The whole world is a warzone and your life is getting grim...

It’s a wonderful, ominous start to the lineup and has those tight guitar leads reminding me of Uncle Acid’s Blood Acid album, ultimately one of the most influential doom records of the decade. There’s a definitive improvement in terms of both production values and overall musical proficiency compared to their debut Destruction of the Wicked, a good but uneven record. Purification's progression has been interesting, they have a career that could be similarly compared to Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. Two of their three members were in Thrown, a much rawer (and somewhat sillier) version of what we have here, they even had speed, thrash and heavy metal influences. Perfect Doctrine still has an acceptable amount of filth in its sound, just enough to make it shine through the detritus that is life. I guess they’ll have to split up and come back a few decades later at some point as well.

Their guitars are bright with just the right amount of haziness and power, their leads are not complex but damn they’re savoury and melodic. There’s a lot of short moments where they let slow psychedelia take over and I thought the guitars did a monumental job there. I don’t think it’s “tight” musicianship and I really don’t care whatsoever, it’s emotional and their aim has been thoroughly accomplished. The bass is as loud as I was expecting from ‘em, it just fills the whole damn church with vibrations while the drumming coming from the crypt is heard by the whole village. The vocals are sometimes too buried underneath a few coffins for my taste but it adds a cavernous feel to their doom metal and it’s not unwelcome. They could be a bit more powerful but that’s a mild complaint and I was just looking for weaker spots at this point.

The band is transparent about their influences (fine with me) and they namedrop Saint Vitus (of course) and you can certainly notice their influence. It’s thundering, undisciplined doom that’s never been opposed to collaborating with hardcore and punk. Their tight but rich songwriting is something also found on albums like Mournful Cries or Born Too Late. Vitus were never really messing around with longer tracks. They also namedrop Reverend Bizarre (I don’t need much else than them in life) and that’s certainly two of their biggest mentors. Purification are obviously fans of the tongue in cheek/Finnish humour aspect of the dissolved trio. They delve into the same (anti)religious themes and have similar references and aesthetics and yes, if you like the Reverend, you’ll probably end up liking those Americans. It needed to be said. It has been said. The groovy bass, the charismatic semi operatic vocals, the loose guitars... All the elements were there to convince me to send them $6.66 for that record. With that said, they’ll hopefully find a label to release it physically, it needs to be done or help me Satan.

You can’t fuck with Forces of doom
We have come to Destroy the empty tomb
Fuck your silent god
And fuck your wicked faith
We are Witness to the end
Of your failed master race

The band succeeds at giving us this apocalyptic despair with tracks like “On The Wings Of Pestilence, Darkness Takes Flight” or the hag bog/medieval atmosphere of “Lunar Hymn 999” ending the record, there’s nuggets of hidden potent atmospheric potential. Reminiscent in spirit to the seminal oeuvres of both Cathedral (for their flippant approach) and Paradise Lost (for their hard hittin’ Goth side), Purification aren’t a one trick pony. A track like “Sabbatharian Blood Feud” reminds me of both The Carnival Bizarre and the Icon/Draconian Times era by mixing wonderful stoner but not quite stoner riffs with evocative warlock-esque vocals.

They’re deceptive wizards shrouded in aura of DIY mystery but their doom chops are without question. Their doctrine has been executed to perfection. Purification are here to remind us that the world was always a fucking fetid void, thanks guys.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Valkyrie - Fear (2020) / 87%

Time Flies but What Remains?

The Adams brothers are back with a new Valkyrie album five years after the excellent Shadows and it’s perfect for those sunny weekends where you do nothing except drink beer and chill on the patio. Just like today, actually. This summer is blurry, time flies, it feels like March was last week but metal and beer is always there to keep me grounded and entertained. Good news since their songwriting is both laid back and engaging, crafting entrancing nuggets of good feelings.

With Valkyrie, you get the twin lead guitar harmonies of Peter and Jake Adams, those guys are emotional masters. They’re able to convey so much with their instruments, it’s almost unreal. Peter is of course known for his time in Baroness (he played on Blue Record and Purple, two of my favourites) and Valkyrie certainly navigates similar areas in their sometimes perilous travels. You’re getting the same sort of fluid, idiosyncratic leads that he was known for during his years with the famous Virginian band. That style of particular guitar player makes Fear such an airy album, it also ends on such a note with the ghastly instrumental conclusion “Exasperator”.The rhythm section is also fantastic, the bass is thick and never overshadowed too much by the riffs and the drums is inventive and melodic in an odd but technical way. The vocals are also immensely powerful for me(the highlight would be “Fear and Sacrifice”), for a dude who’s more of a guitarist, it’s well done. While sporadic, they’re clean, soulful and gives another heavy rock layer to the album. Those guys don’t need a powerhouse singer, they’re not arena rock, they’re in fact the opposite. It’s heartfelt, concise while elaborate metallic rock done by dudes in full control of their instruments and direction.

They’ve always been a band that’s been blurring the thin lines between classic, hard rock and heavy/doom and while it’s still the case on that 2020 record, it’s a different beast than it was on records such as Man of Two Visions from 2008 or their self titled debut from 2006. Their essence is retained but Fear is a more subdued version, it’s calmer and less tempestuous. Nevertheless, their urgency and relatively fast tempos are still intact.

Valkyrie’s past (and sometimes actual) approach could be described similarly to Slough Feg in a way as they also include their fair share of proto metal (read Thin Lizzy) alongside NWOBHM (dual lead guitars for the win) but of course, they love Sabbath and American doom (read The Obsessed) and stoner metal (past comparisons to The Sword were appropriate, not so much now) quite a bit too. Fear brings a newfound progressive tinge and it’s very pleasing. Firmly evolving in the proto rock/metal niche, I do feel they served their material with a modern sauce. A compact sauce that’s never too salty or sugary. For me, modernity means the ability to really work on the production to make it sound tight and dreamy at the same time. It’s taking (possibly) dated sounds to make them sound contemporary and robust.

On their second album for Relapse Records, the veterans were able to evolve and offer us something different while still retaining their roots. It’s high quality atmospheric heavy rock that’s still inclined to give doom metal a chance.

Friday, 24 July 2020

Lüger– Cosmic Horrör (2020) / 85%

Leather in Space

The dangerous Montréal quartet is back with a four track extended play and it’s pure fire. I liked their 2018 opus (the Realm reviewed it) quite a bit but Cosmic Horrör (the umlauts are important, of course) sees the band improve and push their sound to the next echelon. They’re a pretty unique beast in the Montréal metal scene with their apocalyptic blend of influences and I’m stoked to see them on stage again whenever it will be possible.

“Space Coma” opens the record with blistering drums and features insane guitar solos with a melodic psych rock edge. It’s an effortless mix with their bass heavy approach to Motorized and Pentagrammed heavy metal. Jim Laflamme’s semi-harsh, tough vocals are emphasized by being judiciously but sporadically used (they only appear midway through “Call of the Snaggletooth”) and they feed the riffs perfectly.

The opener of side B appropriately named “Psychotropia” could have been twenty minutes as far as I’m concerned. It starts with an extended spacey intro that wouldn’t be out of place on a Ufomammut album before descending in their usual airy but demented riff heavy affair. It’s like driving a Martian bulldozer that’s been fueled with acid.

There’s a lot of stuff in Lüger’s cosmic Harley Davidson’s leather pouches but it’s so adequately condensed in one potent formula that’s both original in its dated but timeless recipe. Incorporating more than just heavy metal, doom metal or hard rock, the boys also feed their machine with adequate doses of punk, thrash, space rock or even hints of black smoke here and there. It’s raw but it sounds like a wall of brick that’s been built by master builders who look like deviant bad boys based on what your boomer aunt thinks. Even if there's a sense of familiarity to their music, it's exciting and enticing enough to be a fucking good record.

They’re the type of bands that are able to develop an image that becomes deeply tied to their sound. Leather, shades, tattoos, wearing vests while being shirtless etc. All bands have an image, the ones who say that they don’t have are the same ones who will gladly tell everyone that “they’re one a political band”. The important is to craft a solid and interesting look that will instantly embody the music you play. Well, Lüger plays rocky, punky sexy metal exploring the vastness and deserted confines of space and they look the part. The old school video game look of the artwork also does a great job at describing their sound. Undead evil knight? Space Castle? Yes, you betcha.


Thursday, 2 July 2020

Draghkar - At the Crossroads of Infinity (2020) 87%

Killer artwork by Karmazid, as always.
A Clash of Kingly Elements

Draghkar, one of the children of LA based guitarist Brandon Corsair finally released its first full length after a bunch of demos, splits and extended plays and it’s a different but meaner beast now. The band now solidified with a strong lineup composed of members of bands such as Drawn and Quartered (freaking underrated American legends) or Vastum (one of today’s best death metal bands), delivers one hell of a record.

The Mediterranean climate of California surely shaped that album. Corsair’s love for the Greek olde goldies could also have been an important factor too, I guess. Maybe! Draghkar basically sounds like death metal that’s been compressed with the warlike nature of Hellenic black metal but also with a truckload of other disparate elements such as epic heavy metal and Swedish and Finnish old school death metal.

Sophisticated while armed with an unhinged and aggressive approach, the tightly knit debut album is rife with excellent solos from Kelly Kuciemba. His leads add another dimension to the band (see the intro of “Beyond Despair, The Dawn of Rebirth”) and reminds me of both the “non melodic” melodic death metal that some few bands did so well (Deathevocation? Intestine Baalism? The racist cocks of Arghoslent?) and a style of raw, heartfelt epic metal that could be something cooked by King Fowley of Deceased in Mortuary Drape’s bloody kitchen. Slow without being doom/death metal, their speed is perfect for me as I like my death metal varied but mostly mid-paced and crushing. There’s a few longer tracks crammed with riffs such as the title track and it’s an expansion of the same ideas found on the shorter tracks but pushed to its epic paroxysm.

The vocals of Daniel Butler (Vastum, Acephalix) are on point, high powerful rasps that could work for a lot of extreme metal styles are something I dig. He’s replacing Brandon who’s focusing on songwriting and guitar and that’s a respectable decision even if I liked his more cavernous vocals on releases such as “The Endless Howling Abyss”. Butler’s vocals are relatively intelligible and I dig the production on them, there’s a slight martial edge reminding (Hail of Bullets, God Dethroned?) and that’s a good fit to the belligerent songwriting. The bass is also another clear highlight of that record, it’s loud, significant in the mix and even has clear moments to shine “An Erosion of the Eternal Soul”, it’s fun to hear such a lively bass in a non technical death metal band, it’s not something I encounter often.

The mix of styles here demonstrates how well those guys know their metal as it’s a seamless progression of extremely good things and could appeal to a diverse crowd into riffs and solows. There’s an academic feel to the whole thing and I really like that. Akin to a wizard studying their craft for years to unleash the most potent spells, Draghkar is a knowledgeable student of all sorts of metal schools who were able to craft something special.

It’s a short album but there’s some a few ambient moments that could have been somewhat extended such as the chanting at the start of “Seeking Oblivion” or the conclusion of the title track. I felt that there’s a mournful angle that could be more thoroughly explored without losing the expert musicianship and ear for melody those guys showcase on that thunderous debut. 

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Lay's Wavy Cheddar & Sour Cream Snack Review

So I went to my local grocery store earlier this week and to my total surprise, the family size bags of Lays were on sale for 3 for 8 bucks (8 Canadian dollars, that's like 6 USD or 130 Mexican Pesos, man) so I bought the new BBQ less salty (BLUE BAG), the safe but always original bacon Lays and this new wavy cheddar and sour cream flavour. I sat on the couch at around 10 pm and I slapped the whole bag while watching the new Eric Andre special on Netflix. I ate two small millefeuille before trashing the bag so I wasn't even that hungry. Anywayyyyyyyyyyyyy.

Packaging: Orange bag, cheddar colored. The bag shows the wavy texture of the chips, a block of cheddar and a small bowl of sour cream (I'd eat that shit with a spoon if I didn't restrain myself, it's like tzatziki sauce, spread that on my chest, please). Lay's always does a good but subtle job for their graphic design.

Texture: Pretty different than the widely known Ruffles, their biggest competitor. The Wavy Lay's are somewhat bigger chips and they're cut differently. Easy to eat and it has a textured feel on the tongue.

Taste: The most important part, eh? They're pretty good! They're super creamy chips with the right amount of zing zing as far as cheese chips goes. Not as complex as the Miss Vickies sour creams chips (top tier, let's be honest here) but they're frankly pretty decent and easy to devour in one, easy sitting. I tried a lot of cheese chips as I'd kill for cheese and the Lay's are a solid albeit a bit safe choice. Not disappointing.


Shezmu - À Travers Les Lambeaux (2020)

Controlled Chaos

The first proper album for Shezmu after a bunch of extended plays and demos, À travers les lambeaux (could be translated to “through the shreds”) is a blistering piece of occult death metal that will help you get through this summer if your main vice is listening to hellishly dark music. Their first release as a three piece since the arrival of Yannick as a full time bassist, the short but sweet album doesn’t mess around with any aspects of their identity.

With their inspirations fully assimilated and ready to torn apart the competition, Shezmu delivers a well written and intelligent record full of twists and turns. Without playing a fully epic blend of metals similar to what bands like Sarpanitum or Necros Christos do, the Montreal band prefers to focus on pure death metal while incorporating some slightly foreign touches. The vocals of axeman and band leader Olivier (also in a wide array of other cool bands like Palmistry, Complot! or Moulin Banal) are deep, thunderous but also tortured clean screams reminiscent of Bolzer. It’s not a technical band, the focus is on riffs and riffs alone, there’s no unnecessary wank, it’s just riff worship and that’s totally fine with me. They’re mixing this sort of subtle antique feel with the evil energy of Incantation and it works. Not totally unlike Dead Congregation did.

The interlude “La rage” divides the album in two with a middle-eastern feel similar to the grandiose instrumental compositions found on Melechesh’s “The Epigenesis” and it was a welcomed respite since Shezmu are so fucking intense. There’s some shorter numbers like “Les secrets des ziggourats” and it brings forth a quasi blackened grind element to the fast compositions. Still, the bulk of the album is the two bread slices around it, its two longer compositions located at the start and at the end. They allow themselves to slow down and pummel you with “Lex Talionis”. At the edge of cavernous death metal, Shezmu’s guitars are pretty clear as far as death metal is concerned. The opener and title track has those hypnotic riffs that almost gives me the same effect (good) stoner metal has on me. This is perhaps their biggest strength, this sort of thundering but controlled chaos handled through efficient but minimalist musicianship is just so good. Shezmu are the cream of the crop for Québec death metal alongside Outre Tombe. Let’s see if Sedimentum can beat ‘em with their upcoming debut album.