Karnon – Le temps sombre (2016) / 68%
Nah, it doesn’t sound like Agalloch
The Montréal quartet’s first release is a combination of modern melodic black metal, death metal, some progressive sludge/post-metal influences and metalcore. The most interesting thing about them is definitely the pagan theme explored throughout the French lyrics, it’s like a modern version of Belenos or just dudes like me who grew while reading Astérix comic books. I’d say this mythological angle is a welcome change from similar bands who generally have generic lyrics about life or something.
Musically, it’s not really my cup of tea. While I dig some of their influences (or used to, at least), the blend of sounds seems a bit artificial to me. At times, it’s like injecting the cold, mechanical sound of The Ocean to modern Immortal and while it’s mostly enjoyable and has well crafted riffs and guitar leads, it’s not something I’ll go back to. Also, I think that their shortest track “Vierge noire” with its Amon Amarth feel was more pertinent than the other, possibly more epic tracks.
The drumming is solid, the production and compositions are truly professional but Karnon is a band that’s developing its identity and should continue to do so. Nevertheless, if you dig melodic death/black with a pagan (non folk!) vibe, this is for you.
Black Lung – See the Enemy (2016) / 76%
No bass, no problem
This trio from Maryland plays a vivid sort of psych doom/stoner with very groovy guitar riffs and buried, clean vocals. There’s some stoner bands who don’t have guitars and only rely on bass hooks (see Zaum) but Black Lung decided to go with two electric guitars instead. The rhythms are still infections since the instruments are downtuned as hell. “Crooked Fingers” basically sounds early Danzig turned psych stoner and it’s lovely. I haven’t heard their debut album but apparently it was softer and not metal like this one, nevertheless they still have some rock influences such as some balladesque parts of “Priestess”.
Their guitar tone is solid, they have sweet ass leads and the mix and mastering are well done but they lack a certain originality to distinguish themselves in this saturated doom/stoner world. If you like the genre and you’re always looking for another band to enjoy, check ‘em out, it’s fun stuff.
Gargoyle – Reborn in Blasphemy (2016) / 74%
"Have you heard the new Gargoyle?" asked my Swedish friend.
“The Japanese band?” I replied.
“Nah, this new Italian doom band”
And this is how I’ve discovered this quartet from Calabria, great story, right? Well, I can assure you that their music is a bit more interesting... Following in the footsteps of the horror doom masters Abysmal Grief, their music is occult dirges showing how dark and obscure the traditional doom genre can actually get.
The three songs are lo-fi doom with hints of blackened metal and distortion. The production is on more on the amateurish side than any doom I’ve heard this year but it fits the dark aura the songs go for quite well, I’d still would be curious to hear them with a solid production, one which could highlight their forces even more. Just find a larger cavern to record, guys. The vocals are somewhat harsh and were probably recorded in an underground cave or the small bathroom of one of their moms, there’s a lot of reverb and it fits the current occult black/death/doom movement. They don’t mess around with their compositions either, they’re kept relatively short and to the point, something that many of their peers don’t or just can’t do. Solid first release.
Wretched Wizard – Empty Throne (2016) / 75%
This young Ohioan duo just released their first album, a 19 minutes forray into aggresssive style shattering metal. On these eight songs, they go from hard hitting sludge to stoner/doom and metallic hardcore and they often do that on the same song. There’s a primitive, almost southern-ey influence as well as it’s not just heavy, it’s also atmospheric and some ideas could benefit from extraneous moments. I thought the short one minute interlude was cool but, yeah, it was only one minute.
I liked the loud production on the drums and guitars but the vocals are grating, not that they’re bad, the harsh growls are full of venom and spite as you could expect from a band like them but they’re much too predominant in the mix and frankly a bit hard to handle.