Thursday, 23 April 2015

Ranger – Where Evil Dwells (2015) / 83%

Gotta go fast for Satan

After two pretty good extended plays (2013 and 2014), Ranger from Helsinki are back with their debut full length and they're ready to tear you a new asshole with it. The Fnns, like Carl Hagelin who plays with the New York Rangers, are hellishly fast. They're even trying to make you summon Satan, check out “Black Circle” with its occult “Say you love Satan” line repeated numerous time at the end mimicking the infernal opener of Hell Awaits (happy thirtieth birthday, by the way!) This song is about the famous Acid King affair, a pretty metal subject, to be fair!

Speed metal can be a hard genre to define, sometimes it's wrongly used or simply added to another style to be more precise. For me, speed metal is the clever mix of heavy, thrash and power metal into a super fast (that's a given) lunchable. It's also often more melodic than your usual thrash metal. Ranger are one of those bands, they play bombastic speed metal with dual lead guitar solos and an overall badass attitude.

The album is the perfect length for its style, a bit less than forty minutes and it works so well for the ripping approach they favor. Nourished by the Canadian two headed school of speed, Razor and Exciter but also by Americans Agent Steel or even Megadeth. There's legitimate Mustaine influences in the super high and screeching vocals and some of the more politically inclined lyrics (see the opener “Defcon 1” without any of the nutcase propaganda of ol' Dave. Dimi's vicious vocals fits their well written and over the top lyrics. 

It sure is fast but the dudes know how to write interesting long numbers, the title track is even an ambitious ten minutes track (not totally unlike some of Blood Tsunami's stuff). It succeeds at keeping things relatively fast and interesting with its military beat and its excellent leads all over the place but it's hard for anyone to pull off a truly compelling track like that, it does sound like a bunch of songs mashed together. Still, that's a minor concern and the overall pacing of the album is quite okay. A bit weird that the single “Storm of Power” is finishing the album though but it ends on a high note as it's ripper. 

Even if they're fast as fuck, they take their time to blast your head with a wide array of riffs and they remember to unleash some mid-paced goodies from time to time. Their musicianship is strong and despite the two guitarists being recent acquisitions to the team, a certain chemistry is present. The drums are thundering and doesn't rely on blastbeats to be in your face, there's some cool bass licks and the instrument is more present than in your usual speed/thrash/power metal band. The guitars are quite incisive and the overall production suits their needs like a ten ton bulldozer. 

They took their time with their debut full length and it shows, I think they achieved the sound they wanted and while it's not original, that's irrelevant due to its awesomeness. It's retro metal, it's well done and they preach and worship the right entities. It's never boring and it's fun, evil metal that doesn't take itself too seriously and that's always a plus for a genre like theirs. Sure, Where Evil Dwells doesn't reach the level of quality of their classic influences but

It's pure energy with blistering solos. Alongside Speedtrap, they're the best speed metal representatives of Finland. Gotta go fast!

Friday, 17 April 2015

Trust Your Heart– Trust Your Heart (2015) / 0%

Turd Fannyback Christian Metal

Oh god (appropriate use of that word considering what I review), this is truly something else... After releasing a bunch of awful black metal albums under the name Animae Capronii, Cesare Sannino decided to change the name of his project to Trust Your Heart. After album titles like Jesus Is My Hope When I Am Hopeless , Heavenly Unblack Metal or Please Forgive Me Oh Lord, he probably wanted to completely remove the black metal aesthetics from his music. Sort of weird when he already had a heavy/power metal band under his own name and released four full lengths till 2010 but I guess they weren't about JESUS!

Cesare might seem like a troll but I'm 100% certain he's as legit as these old grand-mothers I see leaving the church when I go get some beer at the convenience store near my place. I mean, he's from Italy, a country widely known for its catholic roots. I like to believe that people are serious about their art, if we can call this album “art”, that is. Anyhow, the album isn't bad because it's about Christianity, I like a lot of doom metal about Jesus and Warlord freaking rocks, it's bad because the music is simply awful manure.

Jesus christ is the light, the word of god incarnated”

Trust Your Heart is like a very bad B series movie, you know like these Chinese movies by Godfrey Ho that you watch with your friends to have fun and laugh at how bad they are? It's so bad it's good, it made me laugh a lot and it was fun to share the experience with others. The music is heavy metal, I guess? It's hard to say because it sounds like it's totally unfinished. The programmed drums are bad, they sound like a little wooden stick punching some cardboard and the guitars are often replaced with a twenty bucks keyboard/keytar found in a pawn shop. It's sterile, under-produced (self produced, of course) “metal” with really unusual (in a bad, autistic way) melodies. He even tries to include some black metal like this cover of this (probably awful) British unblack metal at the end. It doesn't even fit with the rest of the album, it's just there at the end, finishing the turd.

He tried to mix some music genres to create an “epic” atmosphere like many legendary and competent Italian bands did before him (think of Dark Quarterer or Adramelch) but he simply isn't talented enough to pull it off. It's cheap casio music that will be played at his local church by an embarrassed priest. I'd be embarrassed to actually release something with the kind of vocals present on this album, they're so whiny, weak and so annoyingly obnoxious. He sounds like the worst singers who did auditions for TV shows like The Voice that you can find on the Internet. He's like an Italian William Hung but it's even funnier since he's taking himself seriously.

With song titles like “Dark Thoughts in my Head” and “Too Many Visions of the Apocalypse”, you know you're in for a trip into putrid cheese territories. The dude can't write semi coherent lyrics to save the life of Jesus, I know it's not his first language and Italians aren't exactly well known for the quality of their English but come on now. It's middle school level stuff written by a dude wearing a fannyback.

The dude behind Trust Your Dream is so amateurish that he can't find anyone to join his projects and since that's the case, he has to do everything on his own but he barely has any skills whatsoever so his music isn't worth anything.

Indeed, it's a free download (well, at least it's free 'cause no one should have to pay for this crap) is in 128 kbs, I feel that a better bit rate would probably ruin the experience altogether. The shitty quality fits the awfulness of the music, like mustard and ketchup on a hot dog, it's the best experience you can get for choosing to listen to something like that. Like hot dogs, it's surely bad for you but you'll at least enjoy it. Nevertheless, unlike processed meat, this will never leave my body, it will forever be in my head like Christ is in heart, I guess?

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Cave of Swimmers - Reflection (2015) / 98%

Superb artwork, quite evocative

The water is great, the doom is greater

Cave of Swimmers were on my check out list for a while when I received the promo for Reflection, what a better way to discover a band than with their newest album? I was more than surprised with the quality of this band, they're perhaps my discovery of the year (or maybe the decade???) so far, it's so good, it's almost hard to comprehend.

The band is actually a duo composed of Venezuelan childhood friends who both moved to Miami, Florida in the mid 2000s and oh boy, they're so talented that I became emotionally unstable when I first heard the album. I only get these sort of reactions once or twice a year nowadays. It's hard to discover something that will trouble your tripes that much when you're deeply involved in metal, especially doom, a genre I've been exploring thoroughly for a while now. These guys touched me with their music like Opeth did when I was a mere teenager who was still buying the latest System of a Down albums.

What are they playing though? That's why I'm here, right? Well, it's hard to explain but I'll try... At their core, they're a very epic doom band with soaring clean vocals and it's not everyday you hear a better singer than Messiah Marcolin but Guillermo Perez is unbelievable and chilling. His deep, rich vocals are so powerful than they probably woke up Hugo Chavez from the dead. He's operatic as hell, he's very lyrical and delivers the lyrics in a hypnotic way. Musically though, they're nowhere near what most epic doom metal bands are doing these days (see generic bands like Below or even the latest Sorcerer who are on aping at the altar of their Swedish masters). These guys are truly doing something else here, they include a fair load of progressive metal/rock, especially in the glorious, melodic and intricate guitar solos but also with the river-like song structures. It's hard to describe their progressive side, it has the classiness of Queen's heaviest material and the epic might of Rainbow's Rising and even some Rush (the first song starts with some keyboards similar to Rush's 2112) To emulate these bands and to honor their heritage, you need quite the singer and Cave of Swimmers is lucky to have such a talent.

They don't stop there though, they'd be mad not to continue their superb blend of styles! The duo also includes some Latin influences, like the percussion break in the first song “The Prince of the Power of the Air” that made me change my pants when I first heard it. It made me think of the experimental Latino side of The Mars Volta mixed with the operatic power of Dantesco's Puerto Rican epic doom. This link to their homeland doesn't feel forced or gimmicky, it's an integral part of their sound and it's influencing the other sides of their identity. There's also some stoner rock/metal and some alternative rock bits (more prevalent in their self titled debut album though). A stew of all good things can only be great if the sauce is thick and able to form a connected whole, they manage to be cohesive throughout the four songs.

The album is sort of composed of two sides. The first one includes two long numbers (both around ten minutes) and the second has two shorter compositions containing the self titled instrumental track that's ending “Reflection”. The release also includes a shorter edit of the first track, it's the featured song on their Bandcamp page. The album, excluding that edited song, is less than thirty five minutes and you've left wanting more since it's so damn great. I think the band has the potential to become even more epic and grandiose and that's only a tease (but a magnificent one) of things to come. At least they're not offering a bloated eighty minutes album like some bands are doing.

Lyrically, the band is very focused and doesn't use a lot of words, they prefer to repeat the tremendous lines and create a mesmerizing feel and it's so freaking catchy. Sometimes less is more but that's only the case for their lyrics since they go all in everywhere else.

Proving they're not scared of experimenting with anything, Cave of Swimmers managed to craft a compelling and very smart diverse album with a bombastic atmosphere and some of the best and most interesting musicianship the metal world has to offer.

There's almost nothing here I don't like but the short length has left me hungry for more just like you want to eat a BLT and there's no more bacon in the house, it's that tragic. But sometimes, a tease can be better and more rewarding that the actual act. Cave of Swimmers made me want to jump into their clear and interior pond, that's for sure. So remove your coats, put a smile on your face, a swimsuit on your body and dive into their excellent music.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Papa Bear Tony's Podcast -Kitchen sink selection- April 15th 2015

Here's a very diverse (but hopefully cohesive) podcast about plenty of stuff I really dig. Some of these albums were reviewed on this blog (Ningen Isu, Aktor, Mausoleum Gate and Legionnaire). There's a whole section dedicated to Québec rock and this was fun to do. From pure heavy metal to post punk and progressive doom, there's some of my favorite music here. Enjoy!


Here's the tracklist: 

Band – song – album – year

First section 0:00 to 8:30
Circle – Satulinnut – Sunrise - 2002
Circle – Tulilintu – Tulikoira - 2005
Aktor – Buried by the Sea – I Am the Psychic Waves – 2013

Second section 8:30 to 24:35
Ningen-Isu – Motto Hikari Wo – Rashoumon - 1993
Ningen-Isu – Dokusaisha Saigo No Yume – Ougon no Yoake – 1992
Sigh – A Messenger from Tomorrow – Graveward – 2015

Third section 24:40 to 45:34
Galaxie – Dragon – Zulu - 2015
Corridor –Panique au village - Un magicien en toi - 2013
Chocolat - Fantôme – Tss Tss - 2014
Fred Fortin – Grandes jambes – Plastrer la lune - 2009
Madking Ludwig – Division Sun – Seven Stairways – 2008

Fourth section 45:34 to 1hr08
Seremonia – Alfa ja Omega – Kristalliarkki – 2015
Screaming Females – Ripe – Rose Mountain – 2015
Paul Banks – Games for Days – Julian Plenti is.. Skyscraper – 2009
Kesä - Tuuli kääntyy – Kesä - 2015
Kesä – Harmaakuvia – Kesä – 2015
The Exploding Eyes Orchestra – My Father the Wolf – I – 2015

Fifth section 1hr10 to 1hr32
Remmirath – Iram of the Pillars - Shambhala Vril Saucers – 2015
Solar Halos – The Vast White Plains – Solar Halos – 2014
Cave of Swimmers – The Prince of the Power of the Air – Reflection -2015

Sixth section 1hr33 to 1hr44
Mausoleum Gate – Magic of the Gypsy Queen – Mausoleum Gate – 2014
Legionnaire – The Guardian – The Enigma of Time – 2015
Lord Fist – Master of the Witches – Green Eyleen - 2015

Brenner and Baltimore Trilogy

John Brenner is an influential musician (or he should be!) from Baltimore, Maryland, a place known for its doom metal scene. He's known for being the guitarist and vocalist of Revelation but also Against Nature. He deserves to get the recognition he deserves and I hope this trilogy will get him one or two new fans!

The first part is Chowder, an instrumental prog doom band Brenner joined before their split. He's actually not on their sole album but he helped with the production.

The second part is Against Nature's The Anxiety of Influence. A giant two songs album of epic proportions.

The third and final part is Revelation's classic album Never Comes Silence. A subtle and masterful doom album.

Revelation – Never Comes Silence (1992) / 91%

Baltimore & Brenner trilogy, part III: Shush!

The early 1990s weren't the perfect era for traditional doom, it was considered a sort of regressive music and it wasn't heavy enough to compete with the uprising of death metal and the groovy proto-nu metal of Pantera. Doom was also getting extreme with bands like Eyehategod so, trad doom didn't have a lot of place and was confined to the underground even though classic top notch material was released (such as Iron Man's Black Night, the Obsessed's Lunar Womb or anything Count Raven did) still bands like Cathedral made it but times were dark for the genre.

Revelation are one of those bands deserving of a better place in metal's history because of the sheer quality of their music. Despite changing the creative core of the lineup after this album, the band stayed pertinent with ...yet So Far. Never Comes Silence was then the last album under the leadership of John Brenner before the reformation in 2007 with a new lineup (the exact same dudes as Against Nature) and it's perhaps the band's finest hour (well more like 70 minutes, to be exact).

The only difference in the lineup is the presence of Josh Hart (bass) and he's as incredible but a bit more subdued than the current bassist Bert Hall Jr. Musicianship is important in doom even though it's neither complex, fast or “technical”, it's all about creating interesting atmospheres with a limited yet sufficient instrumentation. It's a trio with the usual metal or rock instruments and with their talented skills and it works fine. Brenner's solos are tremendous and very well written such as the ones in “Spectre” or “Ashes”, they're not a very heavy band even for trad doom standards but the riffs are here and they're all pretty good.

The songs are mostly long, emotional and slow. While they can speed things up, it stays morose and sad. They're definitely a precursor to the emotional side of doom metal found in bands like Warning. Revelation's lyrics are introspective and personal, something admittedly quite different from what their contemporary peers were doing and while I prefer some fancy evil or mythological subjects, it fits their music like a glove.

How thin the walls which seal my mind / How close the final episode of apathy”
What do I see in visions discreet / Futures unseen, paths not meant to be”

The progressive elements are quite subtle here, it's more in the way that songs are composed and played that they're different than their peers. It's not that obvious when you're not quite familiar with the doom genre but for me, the song structures and the type of riffs used are not owing everything to Black Sabbath like it's the case for Saint Vitus or Pentagram. Revelation plays a very smooth sort of doom and they owe a lot to Rush too. The pièce de résistance of this album is the eighteen minutes title track at the end and you can definitely hear the 70s Rush influences (think Caress of Steel) there. Nonetheless, don't make the mistake to compare it to Dream Theater's seminal classic Images and Words, released the same year as it's nowhere near the same kind of progressive metal. Revelation explores a sort of lo-fi, simple yet evocative doom.

Never Comes Silence is an underrated classic in dire need of more recognition. It's still relevant today as it was innovative for its period with the way they merged sophisticated but restrained progressive influences with a refined, sentimental yet riffy, melodic and profound approach to traditional doom metal.

Against Nature - The Anxiety of Influence (2007) / 92%

Baltimore & Brenner trilogy, part II: No problem

John Brenner reformed or took back the leadership of Revelation in 2007 after more than a decade under the mantle of Dennis Cornelius (Memory Driven, Place of Skulls) but this project was formed three years before that. At first, they were an offshoot of Revelation, a sort of kitchen sink for their weirder vibes since while their older brother can safely be categorized as progressive doom, they never got truly truly demented. They're one of those bands with such an extensive and varied discography that they're a bit scary to discover and embrace. Sadly, the band seems to be dead nowadays as Brenner has started a new charming project called Mole Hill that's continuing in the blues rock/classic rock steps Against Nature were taking since like five or six albums (2010 to 2012!). It's possibly for the best that the musicians are taking their time for a change.

They're not really going against their nature here (excuse the easy pun), it's really more an extension of their sound than a total turnaround into something else. This album is quite unique in their catalog since it's only composed of two very long tracks. Action at a Distance only contained three tracks but it's sort of instrumental ambient/space rock album so that's sort of an exception (a great one, if I may add). The songs are not vocal centric at all, there's barely any lyrics, I mean the first half of “Aporia”, the fist track is entirely instrumental. You're not expecting the vocals to come either, you're not like “ehhh, it's already been eight minutes and it's getting boring...”, no, no, no. They're so tight instrumentally that the vocals are almost unnecessary and they know how to fill a long song with a lot of creative songwriting. Also, let's be frank, John Brenner is first and foremost a guitarist, his vocals aren't quite good but he knows how to make them work when he uses them.

The trio composed of all three current Revelation members has obvious chemistry and so much talent. Bert Hall jr. is a terrific bass player, one of the best and most underrated I've ever heard, he's unreal. The bass is high in the mix since it's apparent that they preach at the altar of Rush and Geddy Lee every day. Brenner's vocals are clean, simple yet effective but yeah, his guitar riffs and solos are the real deal here. The dude knows how to write varied music with a lot of atmosphere while keeping things grounded and cohesive.

The Anxiety of Influence still has definite doom metal roots and it's perhaps one of their best albums I heard (I have yet to hear them all unfortunately, that's quite an endeavor). It's sort of a reconstructed traditional doom metal as it's using a lot of retro influences, there's even a big blues section in the second song (a prediction of things to come from the band) and there's lot of heavy prog too. The desert stoner rock sound is there even though they're from Maryland! I can hear some Kyuss as it's heavy bluesy metal/rock with a desolate vibe. Still, their sound isn't sad at all, it's groovy, almost joyful and with a lot of soul and passion. They finish the album on a very calm and serene note and it has some sort of dark beauty.

Sure, it's perhaps not the best album to start with Againt Nature because of its non traditional track-list. They have a bunch of shorter and streamlined progressive doom releases like Appease or Safe Dissonance which can serve as an introduction to the band but I believe this one of their finest releases. Against Nature is still quite unknown and it's a damn shame. They have a lot of extremely good material to check out. It's all on Bandcamp and it's cheap!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Chowder – Passion Rift (2012) / 82%

Baltimore & Brenner trilogy part I – Clam Chowder

Formed in the early 1990s by Josh Hart (guitar, synths...) and Chad Rush (drums), Chowder's sole full length album was only released in 2012 and oh boy, it's good. Hart, known for his contributions to many important doom bands located in Maryland's metropolis such as Earthride, Unorthodox or Revelation. John Brenner, leader of Revelation would later join Chowder before their split, did some recording, mixing and produced this album and also released their previous extended play on his label Bland Hand Records.

What we have here is weird and intricate instrumental progressive doom metal with an extensive use of sonic layers and a great sense of intertwined bass and guitar dynamics. The heavy guitar riffs are a force to reckon with and the loud, in your face, bass is a clear highlight (it would had been fun to hear an album with Brenner though). To be a successful instrumental band, I can see two major strategies. The first is to be as blistering and intense as possible even though your approach can be interpreted as simplistic (see the excellent Karma to Burn) and the second is to adopt a luxurious and plentiful approach. Chowder, like their peculiar name could indicate, is a rich and creamy soup of many good things.

Blending unusual and familiar doom riffs with a wide array of additional instruments (synthesizers, mellotron, theremin, acoustic guitars..), Chowder knows how to build interesting songs. They also mix longer songs like the titanic 18 minutes title track (the band itself called it their “Hemispheres” in relation to the classic Rush album) with shorter, incisive and catchy numbers. The musicianship is impressive (necessary for an instrumental band, obviously) and the songwriting is tight and airy. There's not a lot of solos but there's great technical leads and riffing (it's not Blotted Science or anything too saccharine and lifeless though) but it's fun to hear some traditional doom metal combined with space and psychedelic elements.
The band mentions the legendary Canadian proggers in the introduction of “Insidious”:

Alright. It’s Saturday night, I have no date, a two-liter bottle of Shasta, and my all-Rush mixtape. Let’s rock." -Fry in Futurama

There's some judicious use of samples throughout the release like the opening of album closer “Custody” with the vicious sound of a man being whipped, possibly from a movie such as The Passion of the Christ. These are always fun to give some personality and flavoring to the music since there's no vocals or lyrics and if it's used sporadically like it is here.

Chowder had some members who were also in hardcore bands and I guess there's a slight sludge influence here amongst the spacey progressive doom core. There's also a lot of stoner rock/metal but the melting pot still works well and sounds totally cohesive despite the numerous genres.

They're definitely not for newcomers to the genre, well the progressive doom genre isn't either but it's high value material composed with care and ingenuity. It's Rush mixed with quirky alternative rock like Primus and a huge dose of Maryland doom and it couldn't be more interesting to these ears. It's sad the band was laid to rest though since they were evolving in a rare but rewarding genre.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Legionnaire – The Enigma of Time (2015) / 75%

Raw true traditional metal recorded in a sauna.

This young quarter from Finland is quite charming, they play an enduring form of heavy metal that's always fun to hear. Pure heavy metal is seeing a resurgence in this country with bands such as Lord First and Mausoleum Gate. Legionnaire follows in their footsteps but they don't have all the elements to step into greatness just yet.

The Enigma of Time is their second demo and it's following last year's self titled effort. While still recorded in their rehearsal room, this one has a better production but we're still a long way from a truly professional endeavor from these guys. That's a good thing since every band should take the time to work on their craft and songwriting. We see bands burning themselves with their first full length while a bunch of demos could have solidified the identity of their sound.

I can safely see a solidification with their sophomore demo, the sound is tighter and the tempo is faster, I think this was sort of an issue with the debut since the songs were asking for it but it wasn't a skill that they had acquired yet. The vocals were pretty terrible but in a appealing and likable sort of way, I think what improved here is the sense of delivery and the superior vocal melodies they used. There's many heavy metal bands that aren't centered around the vocals and they should be one of them, they even included a pretty cool instrumental track (named after a star system) on this demo.

The vocals are mostly buried underneath the mix but I really dig the approach here, it's simply fun, timeless traditional metal did with a lot of passion and care. They're not powerful but they do the job, many NWOBHM bands didn't have great vocalists (see Angel Witch!) and they had to rely on their other skills to get their point across.

The sound is also more epic and it's getting classier, they're still an apprentice to the masters and there's absolutely nothing wrong with this, quite the opposite in fact. The dual guitars are firmly in place and that's a positive aspect. Disciples of the Murray/Smith or the Mike Scalzi schools of leads and there's no better education than those. To put it bluntly, Legionnaire's leads are fucking awesome and the best thing about the band, it drives their music and they're a more than valuable counterpart to their competent but middle of the road riffs.

Thematically, it's simple fantasy stuff and we've all read these sort of lyrics before but who the hell cares? I mean, I watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy each fucking year and I never got bored by the swords and sorcery genre
 and if you are, you probably lie to yourself by telling everyone that you're a grown up now and that you pay taxes.

These guys truly dig Liege Lord, Maiden and Brocas helm and so should you. There's always something in the beer in Finland that gives the band a quirky identity and it's the case here too, it's hard to describe though. I guess I'll need to travel there and get drunk in a sauna with the dudes to truly understand their ways.

Join the legion, it will be fun and you'll be able to see these guys improve an already very enjoyable heavy metal sound. If raw heavy metal is your thing, then check these fellows, order a tape, smash a beer can and punch a djent fan in the arse.

Special mention to the badass logo and the cool lo-fi but evocative cover art illustrating the first track “The Guardian”. Also pretty cool that they're the first metal band to use the Legionnaire moniker.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Acolytes of Moros - Herald of the Imminent (2015) / 90%

Cool At War with Satan inspired artwork

We are the Acolytes of the Temples of Moros!

The Swedish trio is back with a demo after a pretty decent EP released in 2013, I've been expecting a full length release and I believe they're working on it right now. Currently independent, that self released tape was released to gauge the interest of labels worldwide. It would be quite a shame if they're not signed anywhere since it's pretty damn great doom metal that have nothing to envy to well known bands and are quite better than some of the current big names (cough Pallbearer cough). 

Related to Anguish (signed on Dark Descent), their brand of doom is much more subtle and ethereal. While I sort of like the Celtic Frost mixed with Candlemass sound of their Uppsala brothers, Acolytes of Moros doesn't need to rely on ultra heavy riffing to get their point across. The spirit of true doom metal is way more overtly present here and you can feel that it's the real and honest project of Christoffer Frylmark (bass, vocals) and Rasmus Jansson (drums) who are merely glorified session members in Anguish. If you expect blistering and rumbling riffs from doom metal, you should perhaps listen to sludge, stoner or death metal since that's not the core of the genre for me and it's the same ideology these guys. It's dark, brooding doom with a blackened approach and while the demo has a cohesive approach, the two songs are showcasing two different sides to the band. Both sides fit the mythology of Moros effortlessly, he supposedly was the spirit or god of depression, deathly fate or a desire driving humans to a their end.

The first track, “Venerate the Dead” written by the guitarist Simon Carlsson highlights the proggy doom influence of Revelation, that excellent American cult band while the second track “Quotidian” succeeds at mixing Burzumish shadows with Warning and Reverend Bizarre. Combining the odd, charming repetitiveness of the legendary Finn doomsters with the fragile emotional depth of the sad Englishmen, it's a wonderful song.

Compared to Illusions of Progress, the two tracks demo keeps the same songwriting structure. We get long, river like songs clocking both at more than ten minutes and that's perfectly fine in my book. Some would argue that they need to edit their material but not me. With that length, you can throughly develop your ideas and use the time-slot to expand on hypnotic riffs and be patient. They're also one of these bands who aren't afraid to give a rightful place to the bass, as it should always be with doom bands, it's thundering and a true brother to the guitar.

Even though their riffs are super good, Christoffer's vocals are possibly the best aspect of Acolytes of Moros. From clean and powerful Gregorian/operatic vocals to some gloomy harsh vocals giving the band a dark depressive vibe. Once the band gets a better/studio production, that guy will really shine and he'll receive a lot of praise. The lyrics are also quite well written albeit dispiriting and bleak as hell, the lyrics of the first track written by a friend of the band are a bit more memorable and interesting though. Evoking majestic nature and ancient times with a dark aura, it fits their music like a glove. It's fun for bands to have some guest lyricist since, well, many metal musicians are hardly eloquent.

Can you hear her whisper the stories of our ancestors? Listening unlocks the secrets of ageless wisdom

The ancient snow-clad mountain slopes are an abode of souls / Drifting under the cerulean skies

Acolytes of Moros simply writes high caliber doom and labels should notice them. Even though it's music for the real aficionados of the genre, I feel they could appeal to a lot of metal fans if their material could get some more recognition/distribution/presence. The tape is unfortunately sold out  but it's free/pay what you can on their Bandcamp so there's no excuses!

Get the demo on Bandcamp

Nécropole - Ostara (2015) / 86%

Perdu dans la nécropole, Perdu dans la nécropole!

Even though Caverne and its offshoot band Nécropole (they share two members) are French, a country most famous  for Les Légions Noires, its cult scene from the 1990s, these two projects have more in common with the black metal composed by their Nordic friends of Finland (think Baptism or Vitsaus). 

It's cold, sinister and ethereal métal noir but with a clear sense of melodic riffs and leads and a very huge thundering bass approach. That's always nice to hear such a rhythm section in black metal, you often hear the constant state of blastbeats but the bass is usually subdued or even absent. Sometimes, the bass seems to almost bury the guitar and this creates a pleasant groovy side to their music.

A new trend in black metal is to keep a relatively raw or a traditional approach to black metal sound and merge it with a very melodic edge, that's apparent in bands like Mgla or Sargeist for instance. I mean, it's not melodic black metal played with a non Nuclear Blast production but it's a bit more approachable than your usual basement/bathroom/wardrobe black metal. These Frenchmen are doing it too and it works well for them.

Nécropole's compositions are long and involved and features many tremendous riffs, the tempo is mid paced to fast but the songs are packed with content and these seven and eight minute tracks doesn't feel as long, that's always a cool thing. Their sound is very groovy and almost possess a black and roll influence that fellow Frenchmen Peste Noire developed. The vocals have some depressive black metal influences, they're high pitched, powerful and well enunciated, I can understand some of the lyrics (all In French, I love that) and while I don't have access to them, their themes are mostly philosophical or dark instead of the usual Satanic fare that bores me to death.

Compared to their counterparts of Caverne (who are even better if that's possible), Nécropole is less epic and influenced by Québecois black metal (there's a feel similar to Forteresse in Caverne), there's also some pagan influences and let's say a subtle antisemitic/Nazi identity. Both the epic feel and the racist/nationalist side is downplayed in Nécropole. Dumb and bigot views aside, these bands are composing some wonderful music and if you're able to be comfortable enough with your own ideologies for a moment, you'll be fine. 

I know it's probably a stupid thing to say but the most important thing in black metal is the actual songwriting and these guys truly deliver some sort of very magical and entrancing music. Its atmosphere is grandiose and it's even more impressive that it's not pushing its limits towards atmospheric/cascadian/forest/barbecue/camping black metal but stays safely within the grounds of classic black metal. Being able to build a decent, intriguing atmosphere based on the power of your riffs alone is what makes a black metal band a great one, Nécropole is destined to greatness and a proof that the French black metal scene has worthwhile material to offer in 2015 outside of the dissonant fun fest created by Deathspell Omega. I'd say that this demo is essential if you're a black metal fan who's not only into Watain.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Inner Altar - Vol I (2015) / 73%

Strong smoke yo!

Ahhh yeah, the retro rock scene can scare some people but I think it has its fair share of gems and interesting bands from all over the world. We can safely add Missouri to the list with the first demo of Inner Altar, a quartet from Kansas City (yeah, the one in Missouri and not... Kansas, these Americans are insane). Anyway, I'm not here to talk about geography even though it's an awesome subject, what about their music?

The four musicians all named with nicknames reminding me of fun Native American appellations mixed with weed culture slang (Strong Smoke or Long Feather!) came up with a very dynamic and somewhat interesting mixture of doom metal with psychedelic rock, hard rock and even some Medieval folky overtones. It's a very tight demo with an excellent production for a first release (it sounds like a full length to me, to be honest). The four songs are quite fast and rocky with a good ear for catchy guitar melodies and also includes short, fun quiet psych moments (see “Fall of the Rebel Angels” and its bluesy guitar licks). While I think they could slow things down a little and work a bit more on the riffs they use (I dig the repetition of big doom riffs), there's nothing inherently wrong with the way their songs are written and you'll spend a good twenty-five minutes in their company.

It seems that a trend these days is the amalgamation of genres, a sort of kitchen sink approach to metal or rock and these Americans are disciples of this approach. The difficult thing is to coherently mix the styles and they do it well. The demo starts with a two minutes soft The Doorsesque introduction with ethereal yet simple guitar playing before branching out into Black Sabbathian inspired proto doom metal.

The main problem (if we can call it one) with them is that they're sticking to a safe formula and doesn't deviate from the norm. You've heard this before if you like bands like Graveyard, Kadavar and their more metal counterparts in Witchcraft, you know what to expect. Add a pretty talented singer who channels Albert Witchfinder (Reverend Bizarre) and Jim Morrison and you're set for something that's enjoyable but mundane. Still, it's quite fun and worth a look, just don't expect to be blown away by originality or by some tremendous songwriting. We'll see where this band goes but for a first demo, the production values are high and Inner Altar already established their sound quite well. It's vintage as hell and it's well written, I already expect Vol II, that's a band that I'll follow and so should you if you dig their sound.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Basalte – Vestige (2014) / 85%

Black rock? Nope, atmospheric black metallic alloy!

Basalte is a young three piece (2 guitarists and a drummer) from Montréal and like many newcomers (see Entheos or Gevurah) to the scene, they explore a different black metal perspective than we're used to. The “Métal noir québécois” is/was usually all about grimness, how winter is so fucking harsh and long, nationalism (both observed from a left or right wing point of view) and forests/nature. These subjects while fun and all can be identified as conservative and, ultimately a tad boring (see Chasse Galerie). It's always a plus when your scene can diversify itself and release some original and enjoyable black metal. That's the case with Vestige.

The voluntarily lack of bass in their music is pretty interesting and pretty much a non-issue as the two guitarists make up for it with their intertwined interactions and the very feelsy approach they have. One of the guitarists is a music student and, from an uninformed and non musician opinion, I think it's apparent in Basalte's music since they have the “less is more” ideological stance. It's intricate without being spastic, overly complex material that's dissonant for the sake of trendy opportunism. Their songs are lengthy (almost 40 minutes with only 3 tracks) and there's certainly a lot of atmospheric work going on but instead of relying on Cascadian influences, it's more on a sort of post black metal sound rooted on urban decay (see Altar of Plagues, an obvious influence both musically and thematically). This aspect of their music is showcased with the eerie concrete ruins picture (taken by a band member) used to illustrate the album. The shattered pillars are a good metaphor for the sound of this album, it may seem all over the place and with certain weaknesses but it still stands and let the light through.

Willing to include nods to a lot of different genres, mostly non metal ones like post-hardcore, shoegaze,
jazz (mostly in the drumming) or post rock, Basalte still a pretty restrained manner and relies on subtle and methodical songwriting methods that are a given if you want to write compelling long compositions like they did.

There's not a lot of vocals here but the dark philosophical lyrics are delivered in an array of interesting types including dissonant black/death (think Mitochondiron) and a type of metallic post hardcore shouting that could be higher in the mix in my opinion. The three members are also taking turns handling the microphone duty but it's nowhere near problematic, quite the opposite really. The sound seems to be uniform at first but this is probably due to the cohesive and well written quality of their music since there's a certain variety found throughout the plethora of interesting riffs.

While the production could be tighter, its relative rawness is enjoyable and airy and fits their genre well. For a self produced debut, it's quite well done, the guitars are incisive, the drums while a bit distant are urgent. Also, as mentioned, the lack of bass is irrelevant since they're not relying on blistering heaviness but more on distinguished emotions and evocative abnormal yet sometimes familiar black metal melodic guitar riffs. Finally, it has some depressive black metal vibes from time to time to complete the thorough mix of genres.

Vestige is a strong effort for this promising young trio and I'm certainly expecting great things from them in the near future.
It's original atmospheric black metal with interesting twists and vivid interpretations. So put on a good pair of headphones
and explore the Montréal decayed urban remains with them.

Montréal music fans should come see them live as they'll play a lot this summer. Toronto metal fans should also go see them in June at the Briefcasefest alongside bands like Sortilegia, Akitsa or IRN. Furthermore, the full length is available for free/pay what you can on Bandcamp and also as a tape, released by Productions Haineuses.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Weirding – Each Birth Is A New Disaster (2011) 61%

An underwhelming disaster, I managed to survive.

From British Colombia, Weirding's first full length was released four years ago and while I have some reservations concerning it, it's still an album that managed to blend many particular influences and it wasn't the worst things I managed to discover this week.

Releasing a LP before experimenting with demos is always a bit tacky even though access to (cheap and proficient) recording gear is way easier than it used to be. Admittedly, This band should have released some demos before this full length since I think the production frankly blows. It has way too much distortion, the bass' feedback and huge presence is simply not quite enjoyable and it doesn't quite fully fit the genre they (try) to play.

I don't think it's an appropriate production for a full album but it gives a dirty/DIY sound to the doomy stoner/sludge found on their debut and that's not always a negative thing. Weirding could benefit from a heavier than thou production since that's the sound they're going for. This production can't compare to the massive hitters of the scene (thinking of Ufomammut for instance). The immense and sometimes earth shattering is often the weapon of predilection of a stoner band and I can't that I was shattered enough with Each Birth... The sound of this album can be compared to Mastodon's excellent debut minus the trampled under hoof production. I guess I'm sort of picky as I want my doom/stoner/whatever to sound like a freaking two tons rock but eh!

Nonetheless, The trio is certainly composed of tight musicians, the sole guitar attack is fun enough and doesn't need any extra help to get the band's point across. The drums are quite impressive albeit a bit too low in the mix but they're a good complement to the mid paced to fast sound delivered without a break here. The guitarist, Tim Wearing (weirding?) is also the singer and he's sort of okay. He uses the sort of semi harsh vocals, an approach that's quite generic for the genre they play but it works well in this context. They're rightfully placed in the mix and aren't too obnoxious or overly present. I think they should be way harsher or cleaner though, they're stuck in a middle zone and could benefit from a “think outside the box” option. It would give them some originality as there's plenty of (better) bands evolving in their genre. They could be more psychedelic and be a bit more complex.

The songwriting, as mentioned in the introduction is a bit all over the place but due to the poorness of the production (or perhaps its ability to make everything sound fairly the same) it's not that apparent. They go from modern stoner metal/rock to sludge quite often and, weirdly, the best track on the album (“Drowning in Flame”) is the one that branched out into stoner catchy territories. Sometimes, the riffs just don't fit the thin and harsh production, it's quite a bit groovy and almost joyful at times even though they probably didn't want to sound like that. 

What I hear is a band that has yet to find its right sound and has some difficulties concerning their approach towards how they should present themselves. Their songs aren't bad but they're not memorable either. It's a decent debut album from a band that needs to work on its craft a little, check it out if you're a big stoner/sludge/doom aficionado.