Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Phantom – The Powers That Be (2013) 82%

"Smooth as an android's bottom"

Formed after the demise of Ash Lee Blade, Phantom released their debut EP this year and it's a nice traditional heavy metal release. That's a style that Canada's metropolis Toronto is getting known for with bands like Cauldron, Axxion or Skull Fist. The NWOBHM influence is omnipresent on this Ontarian scene, the love for their ancestry is perfectly fine in my book as this sound is one of the best metal has ever seen. I gladly accept the love for the English monarchy in exchange for tasty heavy metal like Phantom.

While I appreciate Axxion (I reviewed their first EP here!), Phantom is way more enjoyable in my opinion and their sound is more varied and a bit more brainy. The thirty minutes release has two epic songs and these tracks really made the album for me. “Killing Concubine” pushed aside the Manowaresque lyrical themes of the first three tracks, I love metal too, but no dudes, no need to dedicate songs to it all the time. But this seven minutes track is much different and more interesting, it has this fantasy vibe not quite found elsewhere on “The Powers That Be”. The other peculiar song is “Edge of the Night”, it's a ballad-esque track and it's quite well done, it's followed by an instrumental outro called “Riker's Beard” and like The Next Generation's character, it's very good and sexy. The four other songs are fast numbers that are very catchy. The chorus on “Keepers of the Flame” is great and entertaining. They have the ability to write very memorable vocal lines and even though D.D Murley is a predominantly a guitarist, he's alright on the record and I really like his soft vocals on the the ballad . I can understand that the trio format works for them but a standalone singer like on Ash Lee Blade but eh, singers can be pretentious assholes! Nonetheless, I think the vocals of Phantom are way too similar to the other bands of the scene. This kind of clean, high pitched melodic vocals are good but they get samey after a while.

Phantom is pretty strong musician wise, it's a traditional trio akin to Raven. Energetic, a shitload of riffs, loud steveharriseque bass lines, “Athletic Rock” for sure! The sole guitar is doing a job and I don't think I complained once about the fact that there's no Maidenesque solo duels. There's groovy drums opening the first track, simply by hearing these, I knew it was gonna be a solid release. For a first album, it's very professional and there's nothing bad to say about the production nor the presentation of the band. Most of the songwriting shows an obvious maturity which isn't that translated that much into the lyrical themes but metal doesn't need to be that intelligent most of the time. I do like great imagery and fantastic lyrics but not a lot of bands have a Mark Shelton or a David Defeis in their lineup. Anyway, If you care that much about "smart music", you should maybe listen to djent or something.

The 3 dudes really can write enticing hooks that are giving the band an infectious sound, rooted in classic metal influences and balls deep in reinterpretation of vintage mastery. To be played loud, guys.

Phantom on Facebook

*thanks to the band for the CD*

The Baguette Doom Series: Conclusion and Compilation

I had a very fun time writing this series of reviews about the French doom metal scene. There's some bands I wanted to review but I thought that the magical number of 10 was a good sign telling me to stop. I plan to do an Italian doom series soon enough as the scene is even better!

I wanted to do a podcast featuring all the bands but I decided to simply do a compilation as my English accent is, well, not quite better than a Frenchman to say the least! If you ever want to check some of these bands and can't find a downloadable link, contact me and I'll hit you up.

Here's the Dropbox link: CLICK ME! it's 80 minutes of awesome French doom.

Here's all the albums I reviewed:

I: The Bottle Doom Lazy Band - Blood for the Bloodking Read the review
II: Northwinds - Masters of Magic Read the review
III: Horrors of the Black Museum - Gold from the Coast Read the review
IV: Funeralium - Deceived Idealism Read the review
V: Marble Chariot - The Burden is so Heavy Read the review
VI: Weird Light - Doomicvs Vobiscvm Read the review
VII: Shelder - God of Vikings Read the review

VIII: Rising Dust - Rising Dust Read the review
IX: Children of Doom, Doom, Be Doom or Fuck Off Read the review

X: Eibon - II Read the review
XI: Barabbas - Barabbas Read the review

Monday, 26 August 2013

Eibon – II (2013) | 90%

The Baguette Doom Series pt. X : War Triptych

Eibon is back with their sophomore album after their excellent debut “Entering Darkness” and II definitely pushed their sound forward with its adventurous format of two song for forty minutes of music. I believe the identity of the band is more refined on the new album, it feels very French compared to the rather international sound of their first full length. There's samples in French related to the First World war and this mixed with the awesome painting of Otto Dix, one of my favorite artists, really evokes the despair and the mindless violence of the Great War. The suffocation of the trenches and the foul, deadly odour of the mustard gas are present throughout the long dirges. It's not something romantic like the gardens of Versailles, it's the dark look of 20th century France, full of bitterness, full of rivalries, full of corpses.

The first track, “The Void Settlers” starts with a lot of feedback and despite its nineteen minutes duration, it doesn't waste any time and attacks the listener with a fast riff and the harsh throaty vocals of Georges Balafas (also in Decline of the I , a post black band and Drowning, death metal). Even though they like lengthy numbers, the band can't really be integrated into the current post metal or atmospheric sludge trend but it can be compared to the first 2 Cult of Luna, their self titled and “The Beyond” were more violent than their later material and it's definitely an influence on Eibon. Their material can be atmospheric but it's always rooted in stoner doom rather than in Neurosis styled explorations. Slow heavy riffs, distorted bass licks and interesting yet simple crescendo riffs. Their double guitar is also well used in their sound and not just during the crushing moments but also in the calmer, unsettling moments without vocals like midway through the first song. A guitar is playing this cool lead while the other keeps throwing heavy groovy riffs at you, the songwriting is as good as the musicianship.

II is subtle but bold at the same time. The band managed to pull off the twenty minutes track concept with ease and dedication. I'm not particularly a fan of ambient or noise music but they're very good at it. I even felt this side of the band could had been expanded. Like on “Elements of Doom”, there's a two minutes ambient intro and it's quite well done and it ends with lush keys and the sound of water hitting the dry concrete of your pitiful art deco neighborhood. Navigating the fiery fields of world war I, the beauty has evaporated. It's mean and aggressive and it even has some black metal elements both in the tremolo riffs and the vocals delivery from time to time.

Eibon's II is one of the essential sludge release of 2013. Their sound is massive and ugly like a beautiful woman giving birth to a midget. It has this appeal that only the masters of the genre can achieve. Maybe this French band can become one as they're definitely on the right track.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Children of Doom – Doom, Be Doomed or Fuck Off (2011) | 86%

The Baguette Doom Series pt. IX : Bataille de la Somme

To complete my portrayal of the traditional French doom scene, here's one of the most well known bands : Children of Doom. Their sweat reeks of doom metal, they are a good embodiment of the spirit of the genre and knows the whole Handbook of Doom by heart. Named after the Saint Vitus (probably the worst record the Americans did), they're obviously inspired by the seminal band but they thoroughly read all the other chapters of their sacred book.

Composed of six tracks, the album is damn good and has a lot of interesting things going on. Akin to Rising Dust ((reviewed here: CLICK ME  ), they're also a power trio but compared to the other band, they do have a potent bass presence. And while the vocals here are also very good, they also play a prominent role in the band's music. Even if their sound is tainted by booze and bikes, it's still a pretty intelligent and well crafted piece of engineering.

The fuzzy sound of Vitus is never too far and the soloing is obviously an important part of their sound, as it should be since their guitarist is pretty good. The songwriting can adventurous as demonstrated by the epic instrumental closer “Mia's Desert” which has saxophone solos that would make John Zorn proud. I would actually welcome a full album of this kind of experimental doom jams not too dissimilar to the Italians of Ufomammut and the likes. The five other songs are still very interesting, they're all between five and seven minutes, no time is wasted anywhere. It's pretty damn groovy and catchy, from fast to mid-paced doom, it fucks you up and pushes you around the bar.

It's very fun music full of frivolity. It transpires to be nothing else than an adequate testament to doom and what it represents to the trio. Fighting the disparagingly modern music of the occident, it's conservative for its own sake and worships at the altar of Iommi and Chandler erected somewhere deep down the collective minds of all doomsters alive and dead. From the heavy drum fills to the powerful clean soaring vocals, it's doing a fine job at pleasing the ancient spirits.

Bombastic, feel good doom is the music you'll find here. From the first notes of the weirdly distorted leads of Mr. Nasty, you know you're gonna listen to something exciting here. The music is in fact very focused on the presence of leads, more than your usual trad doom band. Even though there's only one guitarist (Étienne Testart, who's also the singer), there's enough riffs to give the advantage to the French against the Germans during the Battle of the Somme. There's a real symbiosis between the impressive musicality of the songwriting and the towering vocals. The only thing that feels forced is their fist in your face.

Although I really like the vocals, they're pretty hard to understand at times, even on the only track in French “1916”. Maybe it's because of the production on them (adequate but a bit underwhelming) or the fact they're so soaring. Anyway, it's perhaps because I really want to sing them like a mad man, they're so catchy!

I think this album is a good starting point for the French doom scene. Ignore the mediocre band named Surtr (I know I did for this series) and check out Children of Doom. Be doomed or fuck off.

Rising Dust - Rising Dust (2005) | 91%

The Baguette Doom Series pt. VIII: Dust of Paradise

This band is yet another hidden gem found in France's doom vineyard, furthermore this album is perhaps the grand cru of the batch. While many of their brothers like The Bottle Doom Lazy Band are playing a dark, traditional sort of doom often inspired by Reverend Bizarre, Rising Dust plays a very groovy kind of doom with extra stoner overtones.

The sound of Cathedral's “The Ethereal Mirror” is noticeable and as one of my favorite albums of all time, it's always a joy to hear it as an influence. Their sound is thick, heavy as fuck and perfect for their sound. They have this bluesy accent intertwined with this heavy rock sound but it still stays cohesive throughout the album. It never stops to give you a breather, it's a full blown doom attack on your senses in the purest Pentagram tradition. Seven songs for forty five minutes, there is no time wasted, from mid paced to fast doom, it's blistering and hard hitting.

Musically, it's nothing quite new but if you're accustomed to the genre, you shouldn't expect anything else. It has heavy, catchy riffs and cool lengthy distorted solos. The drums and bass are rather underwhelming though, they do their job but the guitar and the vocals are essentially the focus. The songs can be long but they're always interesting. The eight minutes “Dark Wild Lady” doesn't deviate from their sound, it's simply pushing the boundaries of their genre towards completion, perhaps with added epicness. Even if it's not adventurous, the songwriting is very solid and it's all killer, no filler. Sure, perhaps a little diversity would had been appreciated, maybe a darker atmosphere and some additional time to develop some riffs here and there. But overall, I only have minor complaints about the music. Oh! And good use of samples, I believe they're from that Witchfinder General (1968) movie but I'm not quite sure.

The vocals of David Guittonneau are superb, he has a real intuition for melodic vocal lines that are utterly catchy. I'm drawing a blank here, his delivery is hard to compare but he's definitely one of the best doom vocalists I heard who's not involved in a epic doom band. I guess he can be compared to Ben Ward of Orange Goblin but more talented and cleaner. He has a lot of range and power and he's the opposite of subtlety but that's totally fine. If you dig the raw power that traditional doom vocalists can deliver, you'll be pleased by his performance. The band reminds me of The Obsessed in spirit as well, Guittonneau also plays the guitars so he's like the French wino! There's a drunken vibe to find in his delivery, it's rough without being gritty and not weird like Lee Dorrian could be. It wouldn't be out of place on an heavy metal album or even on a pure stoner rock one. Speaking of stoner, some members of Rising Dust formed the band Hangman's Chair, it's pretty decent, albeit not as good as Rising Dust, it's stoner/doom with some grunge influences, worth your time as well.

All in all, “Rising Dust” is one of the best modern French metal releases, even if it doesn't feel French at all, it has this pristine and inspired sound that's still actual almost ten years after its release. 

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Shelder - God of Vikings (1988) | 68%

The cover art is very nice, vikings, drakars, tits! It has everything except Satan.

The Baguette Doom Series pt. VII: Thorgal

This album is kind of an alien in the French metal scene. During the 1980s, it was mostly about heavy or power metal for the Frenchmen with bands like Vulcain or Sortilège. While Shelder definitely has a classic metal vibe, it also has clear doom metal influences. Only 1000 copies were pressed of the album, it's definitely one of the reasons it has attained this semi-cult status but yeah, don't be fooled it's not a classic that deserves your full attention if you're not a true aficionado of their genre.

Even if it's 1988, the production is simply freaking awful. Self produced by the band, it demonstrates the limits of the ''do it yourself'' approach. Before recently, you had to pay an awful lot of money to get the album, I never did since paying absurd prices for music is not really something I can or want to do! All I have is this vinyl rip but I believe it's a quality one as I read these same criticisms on some other websites. It sounds like it was recorded 20 years earlier, basically. I really don't understand why the tone of the guitars is so bad, the drums are pretty pathetic too, Def Leppard's drummer would be better even if he loses an arm, he'll have to drum with his mouth. I mean, Shelder's drums is basically three boxes of wine and a baguette. Cult! Sadly, it's not your usual dad's cellar black metal bands.

The album would had been way more enjoyable with a better sound and while Daniel Hacquebey is not a bad guitarist (he's even a pretty good soloist), it's kind of weird that the album is dedicated to Randy Rhoads, he's not in the same league or even the same genre as the late guitarist. The lyrics of the song ''Star Mythique'' are about him and they're utterly terrible, it's in French so I guess if you can't understand it, you can call yourself lucky. Trust me there's better reasons to learn the language (High Power and ADX are good examples)

The riffs are mostly decent, albeit as previously mentioned not heavy enough. The album is only thirty minutes which is probably a good thing since it would had probably been more boring that it already is. Their music kind of sounds like an untrained proto Pagan Altar worship band. There's still plenty of good moments like the catchy chorus of “Shelder”, the 6 minutes ballad near the end of the album or the title track with its rockish vibe and its cool solo. But it's like eating yogurt covered sausages since the production is so abysmal.

While I can't trash the production of “God of Vikings” enough, there's a certain charm to be found here. Especially in the vocals of Corinne Hacquebey. Although the production isn't good on them either, it's still better than the soft and weak guitars. Her vocals are pretty enjoyable in my opinion, albeit a bit amateurish just like the rest of the album. They're high, nasally, poppy and I think they inadvertently created this airy atmosphere and I found it pretty interesting. The lyrics are a mix between French and English, they're pretty mediocre most of the time especially in mundane songs like “Rock'n'Roll star”. But I'll admit that it's always appealing to hear some metal in French, perhaps I'm biased! The vocals of Shelder saved the album for me, maybe because of their novelty but it was still fun to listen to.

As a debut (and last) album, their influences can be a bit obvious at times. Mostly Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and perhaps Manilla Road (I suspect the last track is named after them) but that's forgivable. I always imagine the possible future of a short lived band, it's somewhat amusing to guess what they could had done. In Shelder's case, a good producer (well, even a lame one who knew how to mix a guitar) would had been a blessing. Unfortunately, this album is not a jewel although it's worth a look. Don't pay 200 bucks for it, dudes. They probably paid less than that to produce it. Remaster that stuff and perhaps we'll talk.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Weird Light - Doomicvs Vobiscvm (2007) | 87%

Baguette Doom Series Part VI : “The Holy Father!!!”

Doom scenes are all pretty small throughout the world and while France has a better scene than Québec, it's still composed of a passionated minority of obscure bands. Weird Light is definitely one of the best kept secret of the underground. Their only released demo, a release of 2 songs for 23 minutes of music is a doom jewel and it's almost a tragedy that the band split up one year after it.

It's pure traditional doom classicism and that's perfectly fine for me. The duo found their niche rapidly and you can hear that their sound was already mature. I already mentioned the influence of Reverend Bizarre on the French doom scene but it's much more obvious on this demo. The music is slow, simple and driven by the single guitar delivering heavy riffs. It's fairly lo-fi as well. The musicianship is not astonishing but it hardly matters with the style they play. The production is pretty decent for a demo release. It's airy and atmospheric like on the ending of “Obsidian Temple” with its clean passage. The tone is pretty depressing, somewhat akin to Warning's “Watching from a Distance” but not as whiny and personal. It's mesmerizing stuff, it succeeds at creating a special aura with elementary tools and that's a real proof of their songwriting skills. It's dark but enchanting and never really tongue-in-cheek or too serious for its own sake.

The vocals, like some of the other French doom I reviewed, are the strength of Weird Light. High, operatic clean vocals are always something truly awesome in traditional doom and it's also the case here. While not thoroughly powerful, they are pretty damn good and they sound great for such a release. The vocals are slow and catchy especially on “Gogmagog (Under the Trumpets of Doom”). They have these weird, romantic vocal lines that I kept singing to myself. The ability to write memorable vocals is not given to everyone but I think they had it. The music itself is traditional doom but the vocals are adding this fabulous epic doom edge à la Candlemass.

A damn shame the duo were fairly inactive, their songwriting truly worked, the production is optimal for a demo. Their image, the artwork, everything is excellent. I'll go praise Satan and ask for their return. It's an essential demo for the doom fans, it's true and honest and one of the best offering the underground French doom scene has to offer.

The band is dead and their stuff is probably not findable so I don't think anyone would object that I share the demo, DOWNLOAD IT

Monday, 19 August 2013

Interview with Mat Davis of Castle, August 17th.

Nice evening on Jean-Talon's street near the Il Motore in Montréal before Castle's gig with The Sword and American Sharks. We did the interview while walking near some restaurants, Liz Blackwell was with us but I did the interview with Mat Davis, the guitarist and main composer of the band.

Antoine Richard : So you've been touring a lot since the release of Blacklands, I've seen you guys 2 times already in Montréal.

Mat Davis : The first time wasn't really a tour, it was 2 dates with Witch Mountain (Toronto and Montréal). The last one was a full tour with Witch Mountain and now we're back with The Sword.

AR : Biggest tour so far, I guess?

MD : By far, yeah. Playing a whole different size of venue. The venue tonight is kind of small..

AR: Around 300 people, I've seen Nails and Hammers of Misfortune there.

MD: Ah cool, most of the venues have been closer to 500, 600 or 700 people. We got good crowds.

AR: You went to Europe too, for Roadburn if I remember correctly?

MD: Roadburn was amazing, we did a European tour with Intronaut and Roadburn was the highlight of the tour.

AR: Yeah, I want to go there.

MD: Great people that run, great bands, what can I say? Everyone raves about it and for good reasons.

AR: Was it the highlight of your recent career?

MD: Yeah, probably. Also playing in London, England was up there. It was a personal goal of mine. Playing the Desert Fest which was a lot of pretty cool bands (Pentagram, Pagan Altar, Ufomammut...). Those two shows were probably the highlight of the tour but also the band's touring career so far.

AR: What was the worst city you've been to if you want to answer that? And what do you do with Liz when you visit a city?

MD: Oh man, what if I offend people! Because even if the city is crap we have fans there. We rarely do stuff because our schedules are so tight, 8 hours of driving, 3 hours of setting up and like right now we have half an hour before the doors open and we have to be there to sell merchandise and say hi to people and then we play, tear down and go! Sometimes when we have a day off, it's usually spent in a motel, laying there watching tv, trying to rest. But you know after our European tour, both times we stayed in Europe for like 10 days and just try to relax and look around like we were in Berlin the first time and London the second tour and it was awesome.

AR: I think you guys are married, how's the couple life on the road if you feel comfortable talking about it?

MD: Sure, I mean it's just something that you kind of adjust to and we make it work. 'Cause we both want to take this band as far as we can so you have to compromise a little bit for your privacy and simple things people might take for granted. You're stuck in a van with a bunch of dudes who stink, you know it's not for Liz, she's a woman right? But it's awesome, you share great moments like great shows and being in a cool part of the world.

AR: A question about the future of the band, have you started writing songs for the new album?

MD: Yeah, we recorded a couple in Toronto with Ian Blurton who was in bands like C'mon and Change of Hearts. He goes way back to punk rock and garage rock. And then before The Sword tour we had a little studio set up in Los Angeles in our apartment. We were writing and demoing, so we have maybe 3 more songs. The album is close to half being written and that's where we'll go after this (tour)

AR: What can we expect from the new album? Because Blacklands was a very fast and short album, I really like as you know because you read my review (here's the review!)

MD: More of the same! Even though all our music sound a little bit different, it all has a similar riff heavy, trying to write good songs that are catchy, so that's not gonna change. There's also, I guess, more vocal parts we may record in a more live fashion rather than a lot of overdubbing.

AR: Because you're really powerful live.

MD: Yeah and the more we play, the better we get. We just recorded at Concordia University today on the radio. We recorded 5 songs that they're gonna broadcast next sunday, I think (note of Antoine: I'll keep you guys posted on that recording). That felt great, just going and blast through the songs in a live way so I think we're gonna work on that but we'll see. It just depends what works and who's producing the record and how they work. Everyone has to feel good about it. We have a few producers in mind but we haven't really talked to them yet

AR: And you worked with Billy Anderson on the latest album.

MD: I don't know if he'll be available or we don't know where we'll do it. Like we may try to do it in Canada and it would be harder for him to come here.

AR: I know you're from Toronto so how's life in the US and do you miss the old country from time to time?

MD: The US is much different but San Francisco is very similar to Canada culturally, very liberal. But Liz and I also spend a lot of time here in Canada in Ontario. In Toronto and Saint-Catherines. We haven't been there during the winters much but we've spent some summers in Canada. We kind of have two homes.

AR: That's cool, you have the best of both worlds. Since I know you like occult rock (stuff like The Devil's Blood), is there an influence on the new songs? It's pretty trendy these days with bands like Blood Ceremony.

MD: Even though we played with a lot of these bands, I never thought we mixed entirely with that. I think we're way more of a metal band, they have a lot of folk, blues into their sound that we have none of.

When I go and do a record, I kind of have a conscious vision of what exactly I want. I try to filter the sounds. I guess in a way, there's a few bands that really inspire me when I write and these bands are Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. I think they're two giants and two masterful songwriters. I do listen to these bands to get some inspiration. Like one of the newer songs is kind of a metal “ballad” and not anyone will find that influence exactly since it doesn't sound like a Judas Priest song but it's definitely there.

AR: The spirit of these bands! You are a power trio, how do you manage to play as a three member band all the time?

MD: It takes some work, man. Like we had to basically rewrite many songs. Like “Blacklands” has like 5 guitar tracks simultaneously

AR: it's very different live since you're the only guitarist.

MD: Very different, I mean you've seen us, I think tonight you'll notice even more that we reworked the songs to make it sound more natural. I think it's only a matter of taking the key components to keep the songs as it should be and utilizing the bass to play some of the guitar parts.

AR: You guys signed to Prosthetic Records for the US, it was a very weird choice for me since you're quite different from most bands on their lineup (death metal, deathcore, metalcore, thrash...).

MD: Hahaha yeah and really no one which sounds like us, which is fine. The album was already out in Europe and to re release it in the US wasn't a big release like they usually do. But it allowed us to make the record available for people here.

AR: Yeah, because to import it from Van Records can be expensive.

MD: It also allowed us to get on a bunch of tours because we got a support here in North America so for us it was great. We will also do a lot of legwork for the next record and when this record will come out and it will be simultaneous in Europe and North America so we'll have two record labels. So we'll have to get them to work in conjunction with each other. It's difficult enough sometimes to keep one label so we'll see how two goes. But yeah, they've been great. It is what it is, I don't think a record label is what people think it is. They don't give you tons of money, they put your record out and if you're not afraid to do the work, you'll do alright. We worked hard before getting a label and we still work hard or not harder to maintain that level. They allow you to get your name around in a more readily fashion.

AR: Thanks Mat, do you have something to say to conclude?

MD: Maybe that we're in one of my favorite cities on the planet, I'm very glad to see people like you who are supporting the band and hopefully we'll see you every time we'll come down the road, you know!

Castle's Facebook page

Friday, 16 August 2013

Atlantean Kodex - The White Goddess (2013) | 90%

Galadriel, the fairest of them all

A solemn pilgrimage through nightclad wintry woods”
Three years after their acclaimed debut album “The Golden Bough”, epic German metallers are back with another strong slab of mythological iron. Even though it was the album I was expecting, it's nonetheless another strong effort. I do think they deserve the throne of epic metal and their new full length is only confirming this. Procession and Evangelist should all kiss the hand of the white goddess because it's a excellent album.

Composed of four epic ten minutes tracks, three interludes and a shorter eight minutes track, the album is a nice trip into philosophical or religious territories with “Heresiarch (Thousandfaced Moon)” and “Sol Invictus (With Faith and Fire)”. Their lyrical theme is absolutely excellent, I'm pretty sure the guys are historians or theologians since there's a true clerical research found here. Named after the famous book of Robert Graves, both this book and this album is a continuation of “The Golden Bough”. Taking the magical and poetic influences of these books, the band managed to create a rich lyricism for their music. It's much more subtle than many other lyrics and you can see that there's a real effort but into them. To be honest, many metal bands just seem to disregard their lyrics as an afterthought. It's perhaps not as much as important as the music for this style of music but I consider that if you want to be a complete band, it's essential to have a solid lyrical representation. It's not Sarcofago so bad lyrics are not an excuse

At the standing stones the scythe will set him free. Bound to the oak, the Kingpriest‘s life for our creed”

Musically, I feel the band explored a doomier realm this time. There's no four minutes catchy track like “Disciples of the Iron Crown” to be found here. The catchier track is probably “Twelve Stars and an Azure Gown” with its awesome melodic repeated lead and the Churchill Zurich speech in 1946 and it's about the fate of Europe and the intestinal rivalries between the countries that destroyed the continent. It also has this awesome lead inspired by heavy/power metal and showcases the out of this world clean vocals of Markus Becker. His voice, not tough or rough, is perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of Atlantean Kodex, he's like this prince with a golden voice protected by the other four members of his kodex. The production on his vocal is less airy and tighter than on the previous album and that's an appreciable improvement.

If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance, there would be no limit to the happiness, to the prosperity and the glory which its three or four million people would enjoy”1
I think the songwriting is more mature and rich as well while not intrinsically different from their early releases. I was listening to “The Pnakotic Demos” yesterday and except for the mediocre production, the basis of their sound is still there especially in the epic first track “From Shores Forsaken”. The sound only grew to an higher echelon here, the songs are as long but they're more focused and better overall. The guitars are heavy and the vocals destroys all the opposition in the epic metal world. Even if they already has this huge Solstice influence early on (hurry the fuck up Richard, it's been 15 years since “New Dark Age), it's a bit more present here or at least the epic doom atmosphere ate a large part of the traditional heavy/power sound. There's still the cool USPM inspired parts here and there, I guess you can still hear the mark of Cauldron Born especially in the high clean vocals.

The guitars of Koch and Trummer are excellent, from blistering leads to acoustic parts such as the short interlude “Bilwis (Sorcery and Witchcraft in Eastern Bavaria)”. They're never doing too much, never too flashy and they just deliver these good riffs one after one. Nonetheless, I almost think they're a bit overshadowed by the vocals, there's so many lyrics that even an eleven minutes song can feel short and busy. This can be both a good and a bad thing in some cases since the album can become overwhelming. Everything is great but it's so epic that it hurts. I wish the interludes would be longer or that they would have included a ballad of some sort on their album. The one hour album feels massive and even though there's still some interesting tempo changes, it can get a bit monotonous at times. I mean, I'm sure the taste of a deep fried hot dog is totally sublime but yeah, I wouldn't eat...OK I probably would but that's because I'm a pig!

The White Goddess” is still grandiose enough, the epic connoisseurs will enjoy its bombastic approach and its rich songwriting. The album ends on an high note with a three minutes piano conclusion integrated on “White Goddess Unveiled”, a great twelve minutes song. The band has the balls to pull off interesting things but I feel they can and should do more exploration. Why not write long ass instrumental songs à la Melechesh and Lykathea Aflame! I believe they have the necessary vision and potential to do such things. I simply wish they would expand the clean moments found on a song like “Vesper All Hymn” featured on their previous album, it had this almost western or flamenco touch (quite unsure about myself here obviously) that I enjoyed a lot. Furthermore, with the integration of a slower/doomier sound, the catchiness of “The Golden Bough” has evaporated a little. Their 2013 release is more one sided and less varied than their esteemed debut.

The album is a safe sophomore to say the least, I wasn't of course expecting a new age record but the quality is optimal. The production is great and atmospheric, the musicians are top notch, the lyrics are perhaps the best written the genre has seen in a while and it's very epic, perhaps too much. This is still the best epic metal album of 2013, I, without certain restraints, welcome the new reigning kings to their throne.

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*Originally written for the Metal Observer*

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Marble Chariot - The Burden Is So Heavy (2012) | 75%

 The Baguette Doom Series pt. V : Geodude

This young band from Bordeaux managed to impress me a lot with their debut EP, while nothing quite new, it's mixing a lot of different traditional doom schools into one decent half an hour release. What we have here is 3 fairly long numbers with 2 tracks being 10 plus minutes and for a first album, it's more than enough as I don't think their actual sound would work as a full 60 minutes full length as it necessitates some adjustments.

The band, like Bottle Doom Lazy Band (read my review of their album here: CLICK ME ) or Children of Doom is based on American doom. It has the simple despair found in Saint Vitus or in new slow gods The Gates of Slumber. The French scene is pretty inspired by the Reverend Bizarre as well as I can't stop mentioning them in this series and it's not because it's one of my favorite bands. The lengthy compositions, the (somewhat restrained) operatic feel of the vocals and the overall emotion drain reminds me of the productive Finnish scene.

Marble Chariot can sometimes sound like a stoner band but it would be a mistake to classify them as such. The bass is loud and it reminds me of the more laid back/fueled by weed bands but without the psychedelia. Maybe it's because of the raw production (albeit, adequate for their sound). It's natural, warm and not awfully epic or overtly slipping on its own tears like many newer bands of the new doom revival have a tendency to do (I'm looking at you Pallbearer). It can still be emotional while never selling its soul to a crying Jesus. The first track, the shorter one on the release, reminds me of the heavy metal edge of Alice in Chains, the vocals in particular. They have this gritty but clean feel to them. Not as powerful as they should be, they're still pretty cool and fits slower stuff as well.

I was a bit fooled by the song “Orphans of Doom”, it's a very good start for this extended play but the 2 long tracks following it are pretty hit and miss. They're just too lengthy for their own sake. Indeed, “The Wandering Soul” is perhaps 4 or 5 minutes too long and the riffs aren't that good. It still has a nice classic doom solo and awesome vocal lines though. It relies too much on the atmosphere it creates and has very slow, distorted guitars played in an unashamed Vitus fashion. The band could grow if they would add a second guitarist to the lineup as I feel some of the riffs are just way too empty and the songs aren't rich enough. Nonetheless, I was impressed after my first listen as I worship this sound but it doesn't have the songwriting to make it an unforgettable album, not yet at least. It's still saved by the vocals, I'm a sucker for this kind of dramatic clean voice. The album art is also pretty damn interesting, it has this romantic and poetic influence and it fits the songwriting of the band. The lyrics are kind of mediocre though, it's obvious that they weren't written by an English native speaker as they lack depth, originality and subtlety. As I wrote into my Northwinds review, it would be nice if they could write their words in French. I mean, it's not a particularly popular scene, it wouldn't matter that much and it would give the band a more refined identity..

So, the band has a shitload of potential, although they need to write tighter songs since they're good at it. Maybe keep 1 or 2 epic tracks on a full length but write these 5-6 minutes groovy heavy/doom tracks, bands with a varied sound are often the shiniest. They're interesting if you're a doom fan and a promising band for the French doom scene.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Funeralium - Deceived Idealism (2013) | 92%

 The Baguette Doom Series pt. IV : Humpback Whales

France is actually quite well known for its handful of funeral doom metal bands. 2013 is an awesome and important year for the fans of this slow and painful music as it marks the release of the new albums of Funeralium and Ataraxie, their first in 6 and 5 years respectively. Offering almost 3 hours, my appetite for the genre is definitely satisfied. “Deceived Idealism”, a double album of 87 minutes is another massive testament to everything heavy and should shut the mouths of the French naysayers, these guys are never gonna surrender.

Sharing 2 core members, both bands are somewhat following similar paths as they play the same yet not very common metal style. Funeral doom is not for your overall plebeian metalhead as it requires a lot of attention and effort to get through half an hour songs. But if you survived the 37 minutes song on Elysian Blaze's latest album, you'll be fine here. Funeralium has a lot more sludge and experimental/noise influences than their brother band who's all about anguishing funeral doom/death. The death metal elements, outside of the cavernous vocals, isn't quite present here, it's a bit more near depressive black metal but that's still a stretch. After their superb self titled album, the band released an album maybe not as original and weirdly distorted but I believe it's more focused (even though it's longer) and their style has been refined.

The album has 6 tracks, 3 on each CD and both sides are opened by shorter introductions. “Blood, Phlegm and Vomit” is a noisy, sludgey opener with harsh distorted vocals. Even though it doesn't sound quite like their usual stuff, it's setting the tone of the album perfectly. It's torturous and weird within the limits of what funeral doom can achieve. It's a fitting introduction to an uneasy (in the most pleasant way possible) album. After its mere 3:45 minutes, the intro track gives his place to “21st Century Inepsia” and its crushing demeanor. The opener of CD number 2, “Hang These Bastards” is a six minutes track and you know the samples you can find in a movie torrent to show the quality of the rip? Well, this track is encapsulating their formula 

Alternative cover art for the vinyl version
The band has nothing to envy to the English legends Esoteric in terms of atmosphere, songwriting and musicianship. In fact, if they were to fight, it would probably be the Hundred Years' War part two since they're both slow and fucking violent in their emotional intensity. They should perhaps do a 4 hours split together and see who's the best at annihilating the souls of their listeners?
Marquis' vocals are once again superb. Going from cavernous Dutch influenced harsh vocals to higher pitched blackened goodness. Most present than in your usual funeral doom band, they drive the enormous wall of noise created by the duo of guitars. From clean and atmospheric to tremolos of vividness, the 25 minutes title track is encompassing everything Funeralium can do. They're explorers of the deepest abyss of the humans' cosmos and their slowed down approach makes it even more thoughtful.

The extreme French doom scene is really growing with the help of Funeralium, they're pushing the funeral doom genre forward with ease and class. “Deceived Idealism” is definitely one of the highlights of the year.