Friday, 12 June 2015

Remmirath - Shambhala Vril Saucers (2015) / 86%

Too weird for Agent Scully

Imagine something weird, something magical and truly out there or something hidden in the highest mountains of Nepal and you have yet to reach the pinnacle of what Remmirath is about. The Slovakian's troop second full length is one of the weirdest albums you can find in metal nowadays. Sigh wishes they would be this exploratory and avant-garde but Mirai is probably too busy hanging out with Mikannibal backstage. This quintet definitely went to the Master's Hammer's school of wonders (think of their controversial album Šlágry), it's just one country away and everything is nearby in Europe while I need to pack provisions for a week if I'm going out to get the newspaper here.

I knew that I was in for an experimental ride when I noticed that the album had a member dedicated to and I quote “Effects, Tingsha and Throat chanting”. Some other instruments included on the record are the Melodica, the Glockenspiel, the Thunderbox, the jaw harp, the claves or even some maracas. We're pretty far from the traditional bass, guitar and drums setup, friends. They still manage to incorporate these elements gracefully, it's all over the place, yes but not in a highly chaotic, dissonant or disorderly manner. Compared to their excellent debut “Polis Rouge” released back in 2008, this album is less metal but perhaps as good and interesting.

The six songs release could be divided in at least two parts but let's keep it minimal and say that the first four four tracks are an amalgamation of extreme metal and well, everything that they managed to fit inside their minds. This includes ethnic world music (think Indian, Nepalese and obviously Eastern European as the band is Slovakian), progressive metal à la Alchemist, surf rock and Sergio Leone spaghetti western music reminding me of one of my favorite bands, Leeches of Lore (listen to “The Gunfighter's Quest for Enlightment”).

Secondly, the last two songs are non-metal psychedelic explorations with strange sampled vocals and Melechesh-esque Mesopotamian rhythms. The album's ending is unusual but it's not a bad thing, it's incredible to hear an album that's so diverse but so cohesive at the same time. It almost has nothing to do with Satan's favorite music though, it's more about the Dalai-Lama playing poker in space while getting a blowjob from an Indian hooker living in Bratislava.

The opener “Tiger of the City” starts with a bang and these deep harsh vocals and includes a wide array of psychedelia. It has a vintage video-game
section before going back to the melodic progressive black metal riffs that you heard early on. The metal riffs, when present, are legit, not always black metal either, it has this progressive death metal vibe from time to time. Outside of the unorthodox instruments mentioned earlier, the traditional rock music elements are through the roof. The bass is thick, highly audible, almost fret-less in its presence and the drums are varied and technically proficient. Nonetheless, these doesn't quite matter in the grand scheme of things, I was wooed by the tremendous originality of their music. It's not for everyone, probably for a small minority of people, this is uncompromising and weirder than Yoko Ono on acid.

Also, random fact, the album was released on my birthday and I heard it on the same day. It was a weird anniversary to say the least!

Remmirath on Bandcamp

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Occult Burial – Promo MMXV (2015) / 75%

Evilness from the Capital

Occult Burial is a power trio from Ottawa and they play a vicious, old school sort of metal that will turn the dead into nightly shadowy creatures. The three dudes (including the drummer of super good trad metallers Iron Dogs from the same city) are on the edge of releasing a full length or, fuck I need them to!

This demo is about 10 minutes of pure first wave black metal fury with all the rightful elements you can expect from a band worshiping the tape-trading days of the 1980s. It has Cronos-esque vocals intertwined with the lovely “ughhhh” from Tom Gabriel Warrior's book of proto-extreme metal, evil thrash riffs from hell with solid but brief soloing and fast, backbeats drums. Think of a even more primitive Aura Noir and you're not far from what these dudes managed to sound like. It's super fast black/thrash with some heavy and speed injected into its undead organs. The production is raw but adequate and the riffs are distinct and hellishly heavy and uncompromising. I've seen the band live last summer and their energy was easily transposed to the stage. Bullet belts, alcohol and Satan is always a good mix.

Signed on the great Irish label Invictus Productions, Occult burial was born to rip you a new nasty hole. It's fun and wonderfully retro while never forcing the issue. They just love Bathory's debut so much and it's apparent and frankly, there's nothing wrong with that. Solid demo from these Canadian headbangers. Get it for free on Electric Assault's Bandcamp page.

They're playing an evil gig in Montréal soon, here's the event page.

Terminal – Heavy Metal Lokomativa (2014) / 90%

Locomotive Breath

A one-man band formed by Enforcer's bassist Tobias Lindqvist, Terminal also plays heavy metal but instead of the typical and classic influences of the former, Tobias explores old school metal from the Communist bloc. Bands like Pokolgep (Hungary) or Aria (Russia) are obvious influences here. Add Slovenian lyrics (even though this is a Swedish project) and you're in business. While this is can be interpreted as a gimmick, the quality is through the roof and I'd listen to this short demo all day.

Eastern bloc heavy metal could be described as a super melodic form of Iron Maiden influenced twin guitar acrobatics. Aria were known as a Maiden clone but they were even more melodic and had hard rock leanings compared to the Brits. I think the fact that Steve Harris and company were, alongside Judas Priest, the most popular European metal band of the 80s had a lot to do with the sound developed in these communist countries, mostly secluded from Western Europe. They were the biggest around (watch Behind the Iron Curtain) so it's logical that their influence was grand. It's fun to hear a band that's inspired by what these countries were doing, it's some sort of second hand influence, it's like if NWOBHM was filtered through a bunch of eastern European nations and thrown into a big pool full of vodka.

Heavy Metal Lokomativa is like a shot of vodka, it's only six minutes long but oh boy, it rips hard. The two songs are showcasing two different sides, the first one, the title track is a fast track with pummeling riffs and super solid leads of epic might. It definitely has this locomotive vibe like an old Russian train making its way through the snowy landscapes of Siberia. On the other hand, “Slovo(farewell in English) is more subdued, slower and emotional with some slight AOR tendencies but still retains the wonderful melodic leads of its predecessor. Terminal doesn't have any speed metal influences like Enforcer and the execution, ambiance and feel are more fringe, obscure and enjoyable. The mix is tight and the instrumentation is quite well done. I assume Lindqvist did everything himself, he's a pretty talented fellow then!

Tobias' vocals are legit, the Slovenian lyrics are giving them an original vibe and I always liked trad metal sung in another language, it's fun and fresh. The lyrics are apparently located in cheese country but goddamn, who cares, the Metalucifer metal school is a highly respectable institution. His voice is not quite powerful but the vocal lines are very catchy, he's not too high pitched and doesn't kill the vibe with unnecessary screeching falsettos. Nevertheless, the real stars are the guitars, they're singing beautifully and you should listen to what they're saying.

A new single will be released this July but I can't wait for a full length! Impressive stuff, guys.

I believe both the tapes (2 pressings on Ljudkassett) and the 7 inches vinyl (Electric Assault) are sold out but you can download it for free or pay what you on Bandcamp.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Abrahma – Reflection in the Bowels of a Bird (2015) / 84%

The Baguette Doom Series pt. XIII: Paris Psyché

From the eternal French capital city of Paris, this quartet released their sophomore record some months ago and it's certainly an impressive one. Formed under another moniker (
Alcohsonic, I'm glad they changed their name...) a decade ago, these dudes are pretty fantastic. First of all, they don't sound French at all, their music is more in line with what Americans, Italians or Germans are known for. Secondly, they manage to sound totally fresh despite having some ancient forefathers.

Abrahma is an excellent mix of many influences into a very coherent whole. The first band I noticed is Alice in Chains, the Frenchmen really love the Jerry Cantrell lead band and its combination of grunge, heavy metal, stoner and doom. The vocals of Sébastien Bismuth also remind me of the melodies the Seattle legends are using. This kind of hypnotically tired, slack vocal delivery is enjoyable, he's able to keep things interesting throughout the album too by varying his style. To give an example, when things become calmer, he switches to this sort of ethereal whispering and it fits the music quite well (like on closer “Conium”. Sometimes, the vocals are simply used as a background instrument and it adds to the atmospheric side of Abrahma.

Outside of the Alice in Chains influence, there's some southern metal influences joined to a spectacular and super heavy psychedelic backdrop. Think of Yob but more streamlined and accessible and you wouldn't be too far from their actual sound. Add some traditional doom metal, some modern occult rock and you have a fine record. Bismuth is also handling one of the two guitars but most importantly, all the psychedelic effects and keyboards. The song structures are to the point and most songs are around five minutes. Their blend of styles is groovy and features heavy, catchy guitar riffs, thick bass lines and desert rock inspired guitar leads. They intertwine between soulful, emotional pieces and heavier ones like a charm. The musicianship is pretty solid (the rhythm section is two brothers so the chemistry is obvious)

Their music is subtle yet fun and like its magnificent cover art, it's full of details and colors. Abrahma are capable of navigating the seas of both rock and metal and they sail them well, assembling the elements they used isn't a simple task but they were ingenious enough to make it sound effortlessly.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Forsaken Peddlers - Songs of Fate and Freedom (2014) / 68%

The Baguette Doom Series pt. XII : Normandoom

Formed when the defunct Fatum Elisum was still existing, Forsaken Peddlers (they share or shared three members) from Upper Normandy served as a traditional doom metal counterpart to the more extreme inclination of their older brother. This is their debut album released last year and it's quite decent for a first effort.

The four songs full length is a pretty solid epic doom release inspired by Candlemass, Solstice and even modern bands like Atlantean Kodex. The songs are almost all near twelve minutes and it's a bit samey after a while. I think I would had liked the band more if this was an extended play with only two songs. Alexandre's vocals are pretty powerful and he has a lot of range but he's pushing it too much sometimes and I think he's a bit grating. I'm a bit disappointed that the lyrics aren't in French too, I think their aesthetic and style were appropriate for the language. It's certainly a missed opportunity as the singer also has a thick accent, it's not awful or anything but this would had been easily avoided if it was in their native tongue (like Barabbas is doing).

Despite the cover art inspired by medieval religious art, I think the music lacks this certain epic flair prevalent in Solstice. Not that it's a bad thing but I was expecting this sort of personality. Their epic doom is without frills and surprises (except perhaps the middle section of their namesake track), nevertheless they're decent songwriters and there's good riffs to be found here. The opener “The Brave” remains my favorite song, the soloing is good and it's groovy. I think with the lengths of their songs, they could had been more atmospheric and diverse, it's a bit formulaic and redundant. The album feels like it's more than a hour even though it's not even fifty minutes. Writing slow paced compelling traditional doom metal is difficult and these guys aren't the best at it, I think their songs could benefit from a diet since it's still well written but simply dragged down because of their unnecessary length. Still, this is probably me being a grumpy doom fan since I usually like trad doom with long songs...

The production is pretty solid, the guitars are heavy enough and the vocals are judiciously placed in the mix. Despite some of my reservations, Forsaken Peddlers delivers a pretty good debut album and it's a good addition to the burgeoning French doom scene. Fans of epic doom will surely dig these songs of fate and freedom.

Pyre of the Earth - Mountain Temple (2015) / 74%

Psychedelic camping trip

This is the first release of this quartet from Glasgow and it's pretty legit. The two song extended play is a rightful mix of doom/stoner and psychedelia combined with hypnotic female vocals from a Scottish druidess (Pete Steele would definitely ask her to be his druidess...). She also did the mysteriously orange cover art (like their amps?) and it's a fitting visual counterpart to their aural production.

The two songs are both around nine minutes and they're slow and thundering. Despite the vocals, this is not atmospheric pop doom like Jex Thoth. They're more disciples of the mighty Sleep and their drug fueled mesmerizing heavyness. You can certainly hear the Al Cisneros' inspired vivid bass tone. Speaking of Al, there's some Om as well, for damn sure, just read the spiritual lyrics to be sure. The guitars are heavy as hell and are almost always constantly exploring some psychedelic induced trips. There's a fair share of soloing and leads, it's super cool, fuzzy and it's one of the reasons that their extended song structure formula works well.  Not as good as High Priest of Saturn, a Norwegian band that could be identified as a similar being, Pyre of the Earth is already showing many signs of maturity as their sound is developed enough. I could see them push the psychedelic envelope a little more in the future though.

Eilidh Harris's vocals are clean and lovely but she's not a powerhouse like Uta Plotkin, she's rather subdued and a bit too buried in the mix for my taste but the combination of her soft voice with the stoner goods is worthwhile. It's a good debut for these guys and I'll follow their endeavors.

Pyre of the Earth on Bandcamp
PotE on Facebook

The band is currently looking for a bassist and a drummer if you're in Scotland and willing to groove.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Mist - Inan' (2015) / 74%

Cerulean doom

The Slovenian troop is one of the up and coming bands in the doom world, not only they took the Girlschool approach (all girl band!) but they’re from a small European country that isn’t quite known for its metal scene. Let’s compare the 2 million people country with one of its Nordic counterparts, Finland (about 5 million people). Slovenia has exactly 234 bands archived on the Encyclopedia while has more than 3000! It’s fun to see metal scenes develop like the Indian doom scene with Bevar Sea or Shepherd and maybe Mist can help develop the Slovenian one.

Inan’ follows the two track demo released in 2013 and the new extended play shows an improved (on all front) version of the band. The addition of lead guitarist Blaž Tanšek (damn, these names are cool) reinforces the band. Still, it’s a combo breaker, he’s now the only man in Mist, it’s opposite day in metal! Usually, IF there’s a woman, she’s alone and kept in stereotypical roles (keyboards, vocals) and it’s awesome that we’re really seeing some improvements on this front.

Musically, Mist doesn’t disappoint at all. Their blend of fast paced traditional doom metal can recall the glory days of Pentagram and a more streamlined, flute and keyboard less Blood Ceremony. Nina’s vocals are powerful and entrancing, she’s the soul of the band and she shines on tracks like “Frozen Velvet”, an intricate slower and longer number. The clean sung vocals have this classic rock vibe reminding me of Coven and Heart (Ann Wilson rocks!). They’re haunting, romantic and fits the music like a charm. Mix this with the doom metal riffs and you have an enjoyable release.

The dual guitar is nice and the rhythm guitar gives the lead guitarist its place while keeping the heaviness and groove alive. The almost twenty minutes extended play is a bit on the safe side but it’s fun and well written doom with hooks. I feel they have the potential to be something more epic, something more grandiose. There’s these semi-operatic vocals that could be pushed further and they seem to have the songwriting chops to achieve a higher degree of doom greatness.

The band has been a bit slow to release their music and there’s not a lot of it out there yet. This EP is including “Phobia”, one of the two tracks appearing on their debut demo is closing Inan’. I think they could be ready to unleash a full length album but not everything is memorable here and the musicianship could be a bit tighter and heavier (excluding the guitars). I think they’re still developing their sound and we could be destined from very good music from these women (and this man!).

They simply don’t have the personality and aura (yet!) of Mansion who still is the best “mum doom” band (accessible female fronted traditional doom) band around and I’m impatiently expecting their full length. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty good release that fans of the current wave of traditional doom should check out. They certainly know how to present themselves (this cover art is superb) and they have the music and potential to back it up.

Originally written for The Metal Observer

Mist on Facebook