Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Khôrada - Salt (2018) / 90%

Tasty like salt-cured pork

After the highly publicized dissolution of Agalloch, one of this generation’s most important band, we were promised two different projects by its members. Pillorian was formed by the “leader” John Haughm who received a lot of flack for the way Agalloch ended and the three other members (Don Anderson, Jason William Walton and Aesop Dekker) decided to join forced with Aaron John Gregory from California’s Giant Squid, recently put on hold

I’m not gonna do a review within a review but it’s hard to talk about this album without talking about Pillorian too. I was far from thrilled with the new project from Haughm and the way he pushed his fellow band members under the bus definitely left a sour taste in my mouth. Pillorian’s Obsidian Arc felt like an unfinished continuation of Agalloch’s black metal identity. While competent, it didn’t impress me and I thought originality was lacking. While the album was released, I had high hopes when Gregory was announced to be a part of the second band as Giant Squid’s Minoans was one of my favorite albums of 2014. My hope wasn’t misplaced as this a grand and epic album.

We’re served seven elaborated pieces of music all furnished with elaborate rhythms and time signatures while remaining fairly melodic and atmospheric. The influences of Sculptured (Don Anderson’ band who’s been quiet since 2008) and Giant Squid are fairly present but it’s its own thing. Their style is fairly hard to categorize (which frankly can often be an inane thing to do) as they mix a lot of different styles into one really solid amalgam. While heavy enough to be seen or considered as metal, there’s a smooth feel throughout the whole record. Dekker’s intense and uncompromising drumming casts light where darkness is present and the guitars of Anderson and Gregory have never felt so vibrantly intelligent. From quasi funeral doom to blackened elegance, songs like “Seasons of Salt” encompass their whole sound in a compact nine minutes. It’s fast, elegant and can bring back some of the late 90s avant garde/doom/gothic/progressive death black sound found in Northern Europe, something Agalloch was also quite fond of.

There’s a lot of subtle surprises on Salt. From the ode to family that is “Augustus” which feels like a mix between a lullaby and some folky gospel to the quasi synthwave overture of the closing song “Ossify”. Let’s not forget the beautiful opening of “Glacial Cold” with its cello. Despite those moments, the album is a constant masterpiece without any boring sections or unnecessary parts. Aaron John Gregory’s vocals are surely the highlights for me. From raw and deep to soft and charismatic, he did a great job at the helm of Khôrada. He reminds me of Alan Averill (Primordial) with the way he can make clean vocals an eerie affair and still maintains an aura of darkness with the combination of his lyrical prowess and vocal exercises.

Gregory also wrote all the lyrics which are painting a pretty grim portrayal of Earth’s natural equilibrium. “Water Rights” speaks of how profit is ruining our resources and “Wave State” talks about how we’ll be destroyed by a drought and possibly engulfed under water as the Earth is destroyed. Regardless of the lyrical matter, I feel that their music isn’t without hope and the album serves more as a conceptual lecture about what sort of catastrophes the future has in stock for us than an arrogant warning written by someone who joined Greenpeace last week.

Nature is convinced
it's time for a sixth
extinction event
before man has the chance
to gnaw her to the bone

While I loved the album, I’m sure Khôrada can actually do better and I have high hopes for their future. Salt is both bright and grim, it’s both balanced and inventive and never forgets to be profound while maintaining an accessible approach.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Smoulder – The Sword Woman (2018) / 84%

Engrossing magical doom

With the recent releases of Palmistry, Loviatar and Sons of Geezora, Canadian doom continues to grow and impress. It’s now the time for Smoulder to join the war against bad riffs. I had the chance to hear some of their early demos when Sarah and Shawn crashed at Metantoine’s headquarters for the final edition of Wings of Metal last year and I was pretty dazzled by what they showed me. Almost a year after that, their first foray into doom is out and it doesn’t disappoint.

Smoulder exactly has the things I like in doom. It has solid, heavy riffs, soaring clean, semi-operatic vocals and a gritty fantasy approach. Influenced by the balls to the wall sound of The Gates of Slumber, the intelligent epic side of Solitude Aeternus and the uncompromising ideals of Reverend Bizarre. The Canadian core of Sarah and Shawn joined by three other members including some Americans (two members of Illinois’ Olórin) displays a deep understanding of what traditional or epic doom metal stands for and what it should be. Shawn Vincent already showed his above than average metalness with his solo heavy project Ezra Brooks (covered by yours truly) and currently handles the bass with the impressive Toronto unit Manacle. Sarah works as a metal journalist and she’s in the music industry but this was the first time her vocals were recorded and she does a great job, she sounds like a young Valkyrie who will only get better as time goes by. The mix of her vocals and the groovy, impatient riffs reminds me of Mourn's sole album released more than twenty years ago and that's not a small deed since I consider that self-titled album to be the best female fronted doom album of all time.

The twin guitars add a complexity often found in bands like Atlantean Kodex, Pagan Altar or Solstice and the loud bass fills any void that could have been there. Check out the interesting bass break in "Voyage of the Maiden Chaser"! Overall, the musicianship is tremendous but it's never overly flashy. Nevertheless, I would have liked a longer, slower track but that’s just me. I feel those long ass songs truly show what a doom band is capable of! Maybe they’ll unleash one on their debut full-length.

Even though it was released on 4/20, there’s nothing related to weed culture here. It’s seriously engrossing sword and sorcery doom of the highest caliber. Get this demo as soon as possible.

Smoulder on Bandcamp

Friday, 16 February 2018

Basalte - Vertige (2018) / 95%

The Righteous Mastery of Atmosphere and Might

Basalte’s debut album was a thoroughly impressive piece of Quebec black metal and it impressed the hell out of me when it was released in 2014. Four years after “Vestige”, they’re back with “Vertige”, an album with an intricate and exhaustive sonic approach. The work on the production was meticulous, almost to the point of being monastic and it paid off.

Between the two records, the trio became a quartet when they got a full time bassist and he now contributes to the songwriting while improving the live performances of the band. They also played a special, secretive gig in the forest back in 2016 in front of about fifty people (including yours truly) and it added an aura of mystery and DIY attitude to the project. After that, their drummer was flown to Indonesia for a year to study music and while it made the recording process more complicated, it will certainly add something extraneous to the band’s future compositions. After L.’s return in August 2017, they finished the album, played one of their first gigs in a while when they opened for Falls of Rauros and now, they just released their sophomore effort. An album I had to chance to digest a bit before the actual release. It’s not an easy piece of art to assimilate but it’s a rewarding one.

Let’s not waste any time here, “Vertige” is an excellent album and it will certainly end up to be one of the most memorable and essential black metal albums of 2018. The four extended tracks are vast and filled to the brim with riffs, interesting time signatures, emotional tremolos and intense but yet natural drumming. The bass acts as the icing on the cake while the subtle, electronic bits can be seen as an added layer to their solid foundations. The vocal approach (three different vocalists but all four members sing live nowadays) is full of raw strength and unwieldy passion. From high pitched screeches to deep and buried aggression, their palette has a wide variety of colours, mostly shades of black and grey though but you don’t need anything else.

The guitars are loud, heavy, distorted but clean at the same time. The interplay between the two guitarists is always joyous but what they play is downright dark and brooding. Furthermore, the production did wonders to highlight all the instruments in a clear but troubling raw way and I’m glad they took their time to truly craft their songs like they wanted to.

Interestingly enough, they’ve always had an urban approach. While I thought “Vestige” explored the figurative and literal decay found in urbanity, “Vertige” acts as the opposite. It seems to look for the suffering in newer, modern and seemingly intact structures (as seen on the artwork) and that’s a fresh way to grow as a sonic storyteller. This research, reflected through their music, puts them at odds with the rest of atmospheric black metal, often busy contemplating waterfalls and picturesque landscapes. What Basalte declares with their poetic but somber lyrics speaks of neurosis, claustrophobia or apathy. Concepts I personally consider to be related to the city life.

The best bands are often hard to categorize and it’s true here as well. Basalte doesn’t play safe and adds a wide array of other styles to their formula and not just as afterthoughts or sprinkles of “hey listen to our prog metal section!”, it’s integrated within their songs and effectively changed their identity. The main aspect is surely the hardcore presence (“Acouphène” is the best example) but there’s loads of post-whatever (or whatever the hell is “atmospheric sludge”), shoegaze and ambient elements. Regardless of what Basalte play as a genre (it’s ultimately unimportant), there’s nothing faulty, boring or unpleasant on “Vertige”. What’s also worth mentioning is that the Montréal quartet never forgets to unleash the heaviness and riffs, “La sclérose coule dans ses veines” even goes into funeral doom territory with great results.

“Vertige” is a modern masterpiece transcending the outlines of what black metal should be in 2018. I mean, Deafheaven should be opening for ‘em. They’re a revamped, hungry and evolving band that’s pushing the envelope into foreign but exciting directions. Full support.

Tape release

Thursday, 9 November 2017

The Snack Series – Lays BLT

The Snack Series – Lay's BLT

Price: $2.99 Canadian for a 180 grams bag. Not too bad.

Packaging: Bright blue with a big BLT on the bag. I’m a bit disappointed by the fact it’s a smaller bag than their usual bigger ones but considering Lay's did some weird experiments in the past (during their contests, remember the cinnamon buns flavour? EWW!), it's understandable that they're not doing gigantic bags for their temporary or special releases.

Texture/look: Normal colour, same as the original Lay's brand but there's some black spots on the chips. Nothing quite special here.

Taste: It doesn't really taste like a BLT at all but this was to be expected with simulated flavors. The flavor at the forefront would be mayonnaise and then there's some slight bacon and tomato in the aftertaste but I had to eat the whole bag in 30 mins to find those. I'm a big mayonnaise fan (it's not an instrument, by the way) but those Lay's weren't really interesting. I'd say that they're a bit better than the Bacon Lay's though.

Spend your snack money on something else. They're not bad but they're uninteresting and uninspired.


Thursday, 2 November 2017

Metal Bounty Hunter: Volume 11 /// 2017 DOOM SPECIAL

"Doom metal is dead", that's what Reverend Bizarre told us back in 2007 but more than ten years after the final album of the Finns, the genre is still alive and kicking. Thank god! Here's a bunch of demos or extended plays released this year. Canada, Germany, the US and even Israel are represented in this special volume. 

Palmistry – Demo (2017) / 80%

Magickal Doom from Poutineland

Full disclosure: I work with half of Palmistry as a gig promoter/booker in Montréal
and I also know his wife who's the second half. My relationship with them has nothing to do with my appreciation of their music. Doom metal is dead, anyway.

This new project from Montréal unleashed their first demo back in July and it's an insanely great first effort. Composed of a young couple, Palmistry plays super catchy trad doom with a penchant for epic moments and melodic leads. Obviously influenced by Candlemass, their music goes beyond worship and has this special touch.

The two songs are short (for doom, eh) affairs and considering it's a demo, it's really well produced. The guitar is crisp and just plain fun. The riffs are well composed, dynamic and has this quasi arabic vibe. It feels like crusader doom! The solos on "Capharnaüm" are subtle, soft and aren't unecessarily flashy. The vocals of the feminine side of the duo are solid. They sound like an occult incantation and they're pretty ballsy.

All in all, the Palmistry demo shows a lot of potential and talent and I'm stoked to be able to follow their development. It's great when the music made by friends is actually good and you don't have to force yourself to dig it!

Fvneral Fvkk ‎– The Lecherous Liturgies (2017) / 91%

Essential doom, epic as fvkkkkkk!

With members from known to almost known German bands such as Ophis, here comes Fvneral Fvkk and despite their silly name, they probably released the best doom demo/EP of 2017. Their style is midway through epic doom and traditional doom and they're already at the top of their game. I mean, we're talking of veteran musicians and not simply newcomers. The situation is similar to Dautha, the new Swedish band formed by members of Griftegård, Scar Symmetry or Wardenclyffe.
Those guys know what sound they're looking for and they have the experience and skills to create it.

Fvneral Fvkk comes from the tradition of tongue in cheek doom bands but even if their lyrics are blasphemous and somewhat fun, the riffs and compositions are serious. They do evolve in the modern doom sound as well, the Warning/Pallbearer sound is present but the Germans bring an added urgency and evilness to the formula. The production is crisp, the guitars heavy as fuck and the vocals sombre and dark. The songs are packed to the brim with desecrated doom and there's no wasted moments to be found here.

It's an essential release for any doom fans and I don't know how they'll be able to top it.

Make sure to get the digital version with the 3 tracks since the bonus song is also excellent.

Bridegeist – Waste of Kings (2017) / 75%

Fresh and tight sword & sorcery doom

The Wichita, Kansas quartet doesn't waste any time in establishing their identity. Their sound is huge, rough and immensely heavy. The dual guitars makes 'em quite fun and punishing and the harmonies are present underneath the heaviness. Just like Khemmis, they do like to mix sludgey influences to their heavy/doom and it's apparent in the use of semi harsh vocals used by Steven Turner.

Their metal is groovy, full of catchy manly riffs and while it's mostly extroverted metal, it's easy to enjoy. I mean, complex and "smart" metal is often shit and annoying. You get what you ask for here, solid steel for twenty minutes.

Residing in the same city as epic metal forefathers Manilla Road could had been an ordeal but Bridegeist delivers their own take on sword and sorcery by cranking the amps to the max and by being more aggressive than a pack of hungry hounds.

Lavaborne – Demo 2017 / 65%

Peculiar Midwest garage doom

With the technology we have today, demos are a bit of a dying art. It's totally possible to have a semi professional suburbian recording done in your mom's basement nowadays. Unfortunately, that's not the case for this demo. Ok, Lavaborne's production isn't that bad but I've heard better for doom demos. Chris Latta's (also in Spirit Division) vocals are decent but they're way too loud in the mix and it's hard to focus on anything else. His deep voice almost goes into spoken word territory at times and it adds a certain weird charm to the band. The drum machine is annoying as it often is in metal.

The songs are pretty good though, it's heavy/doom but it's peculiar and doesn't really sound like what we could expect of the genre. It has a wide array of influences ranging from grunge, hard rock to thrash. While I can't really say that I'll go back to the demo, I can say that it's interesting

P.S.: I have conflicting feelings about the artwork. It looks like a skateboard ad made in collaboration with a local nu-metal band. Sorry Chris!

Still Dead – Demo no. 1 (2017) / 67%

Still Dead are the first Israeli doom band I've came across that aren't Orphaned Land (who played doom for like twenty minutes anyway) and they're not bad at all! The raw production highlights the thick bass lines and the cavernous clean vocals well and for a debut release, it's quite professional.

The songs are moderately lengthy and offer a lot of repetitive riffs and atmosphere. It's a gloomy affair with Still Dead as you could expect from their moniker.

The thing is that the songwriting is mostly derivative and boring. They're not really fresh, exciting or super heavy to compensate for the lack of groundbreaking ideas (a direction many doom bands pick) but it's worth checking out if you want to hear true doom coming from an unusual location!

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Church of Void – Church of Void (2017) / 83%

Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen

Church of Void from Finland has always been a pretty damn good band but they never really won me over until their contribution to the split album “Coalition of the Anathematized” released last year. In the company of their countrymen Cardinals Folly and the totally underrated Swedish trio Acolytes of Moros, their two songs (“Moonstone” re-appears here) convinced me that they were ready to fight for Finland’s traditional doom metal throne.

The quintet lead by Magus Corvus is surely inspired by the classics of the mid-paced doom style (see Pentagram, Count Raven or Saint Vitus) but they still manage to sound fresh and exciting by bringing some external elements to the fold. Judging by their chosen aesthetics, it’s not really a stretch to say that those guys dig goth rock (true goth rock, hey!) as it’s the main flavor found in their doom recipe. In a way, I’d compare it to “Sister”, the final offering of In Solitude but with a different core sound. God knows I really liked the swansong of the Swedes.

Compared to some of their contemporary trad doom compatriots, Church of Void attacks with two guitars and this really gives the band depth and might. It’s quite obvious in the ending of “Lovecraft” with its lush and subtle instrumentation. It’s also one of the strongest moments of this self titled effort since it goes somewhere else for an instant.

The compositions are often epic in scope but also totally restrained and pack a punch. There’s two songs near the eight minutes mark but they’re not a band willing to go all in like The Wandering Midget (the reigning kind of Finn trad doom, by the way) with extended Reverend Bizarre-esque tracks. That’s probably a good thing since it’s pretty damn hard to pull off if you’re not, well… Reverend Bizarre.

They’re not an “epic doom” band but they have some slight ties to that sound from time to time. I can hear remnants of The Gates of Slumber in the vocals and the galloping riffs (check out “Passing the Watchtower” and its intense riffing.) Corvus has a deep, powerful voice. He’s pretty expressive and totally has the romantic but misanthropic feel you need to have as a doom vocalist. 

I believe the strongest asset of Church of Void is their cunning simplicity masked by strong musicianship and a top notch atmosphere.
This apparent or alleged simplicity makes them a bit too safe but they do have their moments of complete ecstasy. As far as I’m concerned, they’ll never be the best doom band out of Finland but they’ll always have their place as a close advisor to the king as they’re basically faultless.

Church of Void on Facebook

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

The Snack Series - Doritos Sonic Sour Cream

Price: Doritos are getting pricier and pricier but there's no way I'm not gonna try their new flavours! The 250 grams bag was like $4.50

Packaging: The packaging is INTENSE. Bright guacamole green with some purple and a big ass bowl of sour cream and some red onions. It definitely attracts the eye... and the hand. Finally, a big plus for the totally bonkers name. Sonic sour cream? Gotta go fast, right?

Texture/look: It's the same as your usual Doritos flavor. Were you expecting something wildly different? The chips are as white as snow. Perfect if you're a cunt and you're listening to some NSBM while eating 'em!

Taste: Not too dissimilar from a ranch taste but it's absolutely better. There's this tangy sour cream flavor and it's persistent in a lovely way. I'm not too sure it tastes like sour cream but whatever! It's a bold taste and definitely another success for Doritos. I'll definitely buy again.