Saturday, 22 December 2018

Witching Hour - ...And Silent Grief Shadows the Passing Moon (2018) / 90%.

In the pale moon light! In the witching hour!

When I got this in my email from Hells Headbangers, I was expecting nasty black/thrash, something like Nifelheim, Desaster, Occult Burial or Bonehunter (from HHR as well) but no, I was surprised to hear what Witching Hour actually play. I’ve been familiar with the name for a while but that’s actually the first album from the German trio I check and it’s a banger.

What surprised me about this record is how smart it actually is. It’s really rare that a black/thrash band manages to be actually intelligent while retaining their primal destructive instinct. Witching Hour are like a barbarian who didn’t dump their intelligence stat. I think the latest non Vektor thrash band I’ve heard that wasn’t completely only into destroying corpses with their teeth musically was Norway’s Nekromantheon (definitely fucking due for a new record, by the way) and that’s saying something. I guess we could say that the shadow of Deceased isn’t far as well and Fowley’s mark is surely present in Jan Hirtz’s rough drawl.

Their approach is epic and long winded. The decision to start with a ten minute track was bold, especially considering that the first half is instrumental. It did create an interesting and worthwhile introduction to the album. It then continues with five packed tracks full of intricate thrash riffs not only content in delivering aggression but also focusing on delivering interesting time signatures without entering Mekong Delta German progressive thrash territories. Witching Hour also incorporates a large amount of heavy metal in there, it’s ancient occult metal and it made me think of Demontage, the unknown jewel from Toronto, in many ways. Drawn out songs full of incredible riffs combining melodic might with precision, wits and passion are what they offer on here.

They also offer some moments to breathe and gather your spirit such as the first moments of the superb closer “As I Walk Among Sepulchral Ruins” and its repetitive but atmospheric guitar introduction. I got nothing bad to say about this record, it gives me what I want in thrash metal in 2018, it’s not overly long, it delivers the riffs, it’s not fucking dumb and about pizza or “fun” and it remains evil while never becoming unnecessarily full of thicc nacho cheese.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Sadomagickal Seducer – Testicular Torture (2018) / 80%

Cum See Daddy

This had “magickal” in the name so I obviously had to review it. The fact that there’s a naked man being tortured on the cover was just the cherry on the sundae. Sadomagickal Seducer is yet another project by Comte Bergaby/Olivier B. Emond who’s known as Turbo Sodomizer here. He’s currently known for Shezmu, Palmistry, Complot, Pénombre, Hexeth or his new folk black project Moulin Banal. He’s quite a busy man. Unlike many underground metal musicians who have a boatload of projects, Emond finds the inspiration to make them sound all different and distinctive.

SS’s debut extended play is an intriguing mix of unhinged sexual tension. There’s a lot of things going on at the same time on those four dense tracks, all below the four minutes mark. There’s huge proto black/thrash/speed riffs à la Midnight mixed with some metallic punk lubricant not too dissimilar to what Satan’s Satyrs or Alucarda should sound like. The vocals are put through a wall of sexual moaning and lamentations, they’re rough and it sounds like there’s a maniac who’s being maniacally tortured by a bunch of horny Quebecois lumberjacks.

The special thing about the project is the huge layers of orgasmic keyboards all around the songs, it creates an atmosphere where a special orgy could happen. The EP ends on a lovely cheap church dirge and some sobbing just to make you feel uneasy. The project delivers enjoyable riffs with a peculiar ambiance and the room smell like a massage parlor once the release is done.


Thursday, 20 December 2018

Mirror of Deception – The Estuary (2018) / 92%

Wurst Doom Ever I: Baden-Württemberg

2018 is a grand year for German traditional doom as it marks the album releases of three of the most important bands of that tiny but intriguing scene. I’m speaking of Angel of Damnation, Dawn of Winter and of course, the reason I’m sitting at my desk right now, the esteemed Mirror of Deception is back after a long break. Now, if only we could get a new Wheel full length…Oh, we also got the debut full length of Goat Explosion!

While I’m a big fan of traditional fan, I reckon that the genre can be interpreted as samey or even “easy” to play. “Just write some Black Sabbath riffs, dude”. Sure, ok, but no, it’s not that simple. The best doom bands are the ones who go beyond the usual requirements and create distinct identities and pocket dimensions of goodness. MoD doesn’t sound like anyone else, they truly have an idiosyncratic take on the genre. It’s weirdly atmospheric with intriguing vocal melodies and trippy but subtle guitar riffs. I feel there’s some hints of Gothic rock in there or maybe crumbs of atmospheric rock but that’s just me trying to find where the uniqueness of their sound comes from. Veteran doomster Michael Siffermann has this German precision in his vocals, he’s mournful but confident. Alongside fellow guitarist Jochen Fopp, he took his time during after they got back together in 2014 to craft interesting and strong compositions

Their process and approach reminds me of Revelation, perhaps the best American doom band of all time that never got their due. I feel the same ritual was done with Mirror of Deception, they spent countless hours in a dark chamber where old progressive rock was then fused the hell out of it with doom metal. What was left was a sorrowful potent blend of unique metal that’s challenging my understanding of what the genre should be or become. It’s not progressive per se, it just feels wonderfully odd and the choice of melodies is charmingly off putting. Their doom is both accessible and obscure, both catchy and obtuse… They’re a band of differences being thrown together.

Ultimately, trad doom is a genre relying on the strength of the riffs but the emotional weight of those involved is also quite important. Mirror of Deception handles both masterfully without being cheesy and overly into sadguy sadness like 40 Watt Sun.


Lycanthro – Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (2018) / 75%

Strong heavy metal lads in development

The second extended play from those Ottawa metallers is a professional homage to a bunch of heavy metal masters but they’re also starting to get their own identity amongst a sea of NWOBHM worshipers.

James Delbridge, guitarist/singer and what I assume main songwriter is only twenty and that’s possibly why his influences are so apparent. Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and 70s Rush are to my ears the most prevalent and I mean, those are some of the best bands ever. There’s a bunch of other things too like some thrash, power, speed or even progressive metal and symphonic elements in there and it creates an enjoyable mix of engrossing snacks. Delbridge is definitely a gifted vocalist and guitarist, he demonstrates that on all tracks.

Like modern Maiden, most tracks are on the long side and the album’s culmination is the fourteen minute epic “The Pale Rider” with its beautiful piano segment à la X Japan. They’re a good mix between emotions and strong musicianship and that’s something usually akin to the European sound (bands like Blind Guardian or Wuthering Heights come to mind.) The band still has to release a full length album but I’m confident they’ll do good, they nailed their production on this EP (that could had been a full length to be honest). They simply need to be a bit more original and distinctive to establish themselves as Ottawa’s premier modern heavy metal band. They have the potential to be more than a local opener for well known bands.


Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard - Y Proffwyd Dwyll (2016) / 85%

Carl's Sagan Deep Fried Burrito

“What a fucking stupid name” is quite possibly what almost everyone would say if I mention the subject of this review and I mean, I can’t blame them even if they’d be wrong. I see it more as a parody of those super boring “dank” weed themed stoner bands who are trying to write the next Dopesmoker while working night shifts at a suburban convenient store. That welsh band is much more than that and their second release that can be googletranslated to “The Proof of Fraud” or “the False Prophet” based on what MA says is an austral voyage to an unknown and probably better not to be discovered aural plane.

Compared to their debut album, they decided to extend the tracklist to six numbers instead of having one long half an hour song, it’s a wise decision since it’s a bit more listenable that way. MWWB are a hard band to classify, I think it could be summarized as “psychedelic doom metal” and we could call it a day...

Oh you’re still here? Sure, I’ll continue. Well, the first element that really came to my mind with that band is the dichotomy between the vocals of Jessica Ball and the immense riffs displayed by the two guitarists. Ball’s voice is soft, feminine and melodic while the guitars are thundering and massive. This is The Gathering - Mandylion era or SubRosa maximized with a lot of vitamins and protein powder, probably some Red Bull mixed Vodka too. It’s big and it’s like me after I drank too much energy drink and I’m crashing down, it’s quite slow, heavy and hypnotized.

The songs, all between six and ten minutes, are dense with otherworldly effects that are really wrapping the normal metal instrumentation in a special vibe. It’s like if you deep fry a meat lover burrito in duck fat, it’s a bit too much at times and it can overwhelm your senses but it’s consistently tasty. With their spacey prowess and their desire to be unequivocally uncompromising, I guess we could call them the doom metal Mithras.

All in All, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard are good at putting the doom/stoner tropes in the garbage, putting the garbage can on fire and throwing it into a star gate where it can come back with a symbiotic entity who’s actually chill as fuck and just likes to blaze it while watching old Carl Sagan documentaries.

Allfather - And All Will Be Desolation (2018) / 81%

My father is proud that I review metal

I was sold right away when I first heard of this British quintet. Their look, their political stance (anti nazism, antifascism etc) and their blistering sound were good selling points. The main aspect that really made me go bonkers is that fact that they’re basically what happened when you really slow down Nails. “Suum Cuique” from Abandon All Life made me cum buckets and I was salivating at a whole album of that stuff.

Allfather is indeed tough guy slowed down beatdown but they’re guys who want to beat down white supremacists and they support trans equality. The kind of tough guys I want to actually support, you know. Not thinly veiled right wing metalloids. Still, their lyrics are full of dark images and putrid realities. The Brits mix a lot of things in their sound, from American sludge to mid-era Entombed (think Morning Star) to modern doomy/crust. You know the genre that a lot of bands play nowadays, a scene where the hardcore and the metal divisions are really blurred. It’s not a bad approach at all.

Their songs are heavy dirges, sometimes slow, sometimes mid-paced but almost condensed and compact. The opener “Black Triangle” starts with a quasi ethnic guitar introduction before delivering the good and the eleven minute closer “Lampedusa” offers a Crowbar-ish vocal performance armed with an epic song structure full of snappy heavy riffs and an a prehistoric elephantine drumming. The riffs are varying in quality, sometimes it’s fucking incredible like on those previously mentioned opener and closer but the middle of the album is a tad weaker. That’s the q-tip method and it’s often used in music. I can’t blame them. All in all, it’s a pretty solid essay by those cool Englishmen and alongside Dawn Ray’d, they represent left wing metal in the UK. Full support.


Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Musta Risti - Musta Risti (2018) / 86%

NWOFHM #13 - Worship the Black Cross

Doom metal. Finland. Svart Records. I mean, I knew this was gonna be at least immensely solid. My guts were right. Musta Risti (black cross) was formed back in 2012 and it took them six years to unleash their debut album and while I’ve only discovered the band, I’m sure it was well worth the wait. Finland is a fertile land for doom of all horizons and the Lahti quintet is apt mixing some of those obscure sub genres together.

Vocalist Einari Toiviainen shines on that record. While I regret not speaking Finnish to understand the lyrics, he delivers them effortlessly and with conviction. He’s a strong vocalist with a traditional voice that could easily fit in heavy metal or hard rock bands. Musta Risti bangs hard and don’t waste any time. Seven songs, less than forty minutes, it’s short and condensed like a cute grandma baking pies from a rustic Scandinavian village. They remind me of a band like The Gates of Slumber with how varied they are. They alternate between groovy heavy/doom to psych trad doom and they do it well.

They’re mostly able to distance themselves from the omnipresent presence of Reverend Bizarre in current Finnish doom but the longest track “Kaaoksen lapset” (The Children of Chaos) evokes the masters. The presence of Minotauri isn’t far either. You know, the good influences. Musta Risti is a band with two guitarists and it’s evident. They use their lineup well and indulges in feelsy leads. The bass could be more present but sometimes it’s unleashed like on the closing track. I think the production could had been a bit thicker at times but overall, it fits the band. I’m stoked to see how the band will evolve. They have a lot of potential just like the Montreal Canadiens’ new rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Alongside Mansion or Deep River Acolytes, Musta Risti released one of the strongest doom albums from Suomi and proves that the scene still has a lot to offer.


Iron Griffin - Iron Griffin (2017) / 87%

NWOFHM #12 Metal Conquest

Released the same year as the second Mausoleum Gate album, this extended play by the new solo project of its drummer managed to surprise me a lot. Iron Griffin formed by Oskari Räsänen joins the rank of the highly effective Finnish heavy metal scene currently lead by the likes of Chevalier, Lord Fist, Legionnaire or the new excellent Outlaw. While I loved Mausoleum Gate’s self titled album, their sophomore bored the hell out of me so I was happy to discover that Iron Griffin managed to make up for that with this fresh and exciting release.

After a synthwave intro reminiscent of the Stranger Things soundtrack, Oskari delivers four solid heavy metal tracks. He handles almost everything on the EP and for a debut release, he knew which direction to follow. He even did the super geeky but highly evocative artwork.

Session member Toni Pentikänen did a wonderful job at the mic even if his resume is basically empty as far as I know. We’re served clean, high pitched and screamy vocals of pristine quality. The keyboards were handled by F.F. Nieminen of the excellent Rivette (covered by the Magickal Realm back in 2017) and they add a certain classiness to the compositions. The songs are catchy, melodic but they’re never cheesy or overly saturated. “Message from Beyond”, “Metal Conquest” and “Journey to the Castle of the King” are all bangers below the four minutes mark and they’re super fun. “Lord Inquisitor” ends the short release with a more epic song structure and some badass lyrics.

With iron, with steel / I will avenge for the gods / With power and force /I command /And claim my throne again!

The bass lines are thick the guitars vibrant, subtle but really outgoing. Iron Griffin aren’t about heaviness at all, they’re all about atmosphere and songwriting. The riffs are a necessary tool for their identity but Iron Griffin doesn’t entirely rely on them and that’s a strength for that particular style.

Like the bands I mentioned in my introduction, Iron Griffin surely play heavy metal but they do it in a way where it’s devoid of fake nostalgia and easy copycat posturing. The Finns are academicians of heavy metal, they know how to craft memorable songs with an original sound worth praising. 


Lüger – Hellraisers of the Waste (2018) / 80%

Sleaze, Leather and Metal

The Montreal quartet finally released their debut album this year and it’s a lethal banger. The band led by singer/guitarist Jim Laflamme are proud sleazy fellas and they brought their A game for their first full length. It’s forty minutes spent in a post apocalytipc world where the only thing you can find to drink is whiskey that tastes like motor oil and there’s apparently a strict dress code since everyone wears leather pants and all the men are shirtless. It’s a world where the gimp from Pulp Fiction is having a lot of fun and where you can see a young Mel Gibson roaming around.

The band owes a lot to Motorhead and Pentagram, it’s dangerous, uncompromising and highly sexual. The record smells like it was conceived during an orgy in a secret Montréal basement. The guitars of Laflamme and Max Meunier are huge and really shows how well the band has managed to create their distinct sound. One huge dose of fast paced doom metal, a lot of speed metal, some heavy metal and some devout praise to the gods of dirty rock & roll. They also integrate a fair share of psychedelia (the overture of “Beneath the Red Sun” for example) and it helps them create an occult and entrancing mood. The aggressive bloody vocals reminds me of the most idiosyncratic thrash singers from the hey days of the style, an approach not too dissimilar from Tom Angelripper from Sodom!

The eight minutes track “Lust Paradise” is my highlight of the record, it shows everything the band can do and add an enjoyable epic feel. Lüger has strong musicians, above average songwriting but I do feel they could be even better and that it will be a wild ride to see them evolve and crush motherfuckers with their explosive biker sound.


Akitsa – Credo (2018) / 95%

I’m a credible reviewer so I’m not gonna namedrop Darkthrone

Unlike Quebec’s sovereignty project, Quebecois black metal has been quite healthy recently. The scene is diversified and hits hard from both Québec City and Montréal. There’s the occultism of Gevurah, the icy winds of Cantique Lépreux, the atmospheric/post power of Basalte or, obviously the nationalistic panache of Forteresse. Akitsa, at least for me, has always been a lone wolf in terms of sound even if they have a varied discography. With Credo, their sixth full length and first for Profound Lore, they bludgeon the competition with their sharp riffs and their arcane knowledge of second wave black metal.

I’ve probably said it before but for me, the quality of the riffs is the most important thing in black metal (if you’re not Summoning, that is). You’d say that it’s important in all metal genres and you’d be right but for that specific style, it’s usually the main focus, especially when we have to deal with raw bands. If you do a simple pizza and its only topping is the tomato sauce, your sauce needs to be fucking good. It’s the same here. We’re lucky though since Akitsa are master riff crafters. They cultivate rawness like we cultivate apples to make ice cider. “Siècle pastoral” opens the album with an introduction buildup of urgent and primal guitars. You know what you’ll get right from the start.

They’re skilled at creating atmosphere with the strict necessary (like our ancestors dealt with life), they could do it with the strength of their riffs alone but there’s some interesting touches like that chanting on the opening track. Those riffs are so good that they’re able to hypnotize by their drony repetitiveness and their punk might akin to Darkthr... uhh Bone Awl or Raspberry Bulbs! Furthermore, the vocals of Outre-Tombe are spiteful and they’re able to deliver the French lyrics well. If you think they’re too raw, you might not listen to the adequate genre for you.

The blast beats ferocity of “Espoir Vassal” transports you into the frigid time of the year in Québec where the snow melts and cold mud just enters every pore of your body. Speaking of its thematic approach, Credo develops themes very well. It’s mixing history, poetry and a clear focus on the rough Quebec winters. Just like their music, it’s abrasive, buried in dark realities. Akitsa burns with coldness. It’s like sticking your tongue on a frozen hockey net on a dare. For some weird reasons, once your tongue is released from that ordeal, you’ve still enjoyed yourself.

They’re strong musicians but they’re also quite apt at creating a solid identity for themselves. From the old campfire photo used as the artwork (taken in 2000) to the cult forest band pictures, it’s rooted in traditional black metal aesthetics and I mean, I’m fine with that since I’m a big fan of Darkthr...oh shit!

All in all, Akitsa defied my expectations and managed to beat Cultes des Ghoules to gain the prestigious number one spot for black metal released in 2018. It combines excellent riffs, epic song structures and a mighty ambiance. 

Monday, 17 December 2018

Heavy Sentence – Protector/Darkest Hour (2017) / 85%

Gunz, Axxxes and Spykkkes.

I’d be lying if I said that I checked Heavy Sentence because I was interested in the music. It’s obviously because they had the best artwork I’ve ever seen. It’s over the top, silly and fun. I knew I had to acquire the seven inches, my wall asked for it for its birthday. From the lady with the latex suit, the weird boobs and the big gun to that winged skull head dude, it’s incredible. If you don’t like the artwork, there’s chances that you really suck at parties and that you order your 12 inches subway sandwiches without any sauce and cheese.

Luckily, Heavy Sentence’s music is fucking cool as well. The debut release of the Manchester based band gives us two fast paced numbers with a lot to digest. It’s heavy metal, sure but there’s a plethora of interesting genres included in their recipe as well. There’s the rough, throaty vocals of Gareth Howells who’s in a lot of bands I’ve never heard of that gives me a sort of blackened thrash/speed vibe. There’s surely some punk here too mixed with their NWOBHM love. It’s only like seven minutes but it’s all over the place and they mix melodic leads with an evil, vintage voice. What’s great about them is that it’s pretty unique despite their familiar sound. Exciter, Maiden, King Diamond? Sure, but it doesn’t sound like anyone in particular. The two songs are somewhat different too. “Protector” feels more like outgoing classic heavy/hard rock and “Darkest Hour” is like a dark mournful speedy heavy number.

It’s not cute nor safe heavy metal and this was made clear with the troglodyte wielding a great axe on the cover. Buy or get decapitated.

Un - Sentiment (2018) / 82%

Ruins & Flowers

The American west coast (Portland, Seattle etc...) sure has a distinct sound, call it Cascadian or whatever, it’s unimportant in the end. What matters is that most of those bands are pretty damn good and interesting. Acts like Lycus, Alderaban, Ash Borer, Usnea or Bell Witch put a lot of atmosphere in their extreme metal and they help the creation of a potent sound.

Un (one in French) released their debut full length back in 2015 and I thought it was an impressive slab of slow stuff. Sentiment, their sophomore album improves their formula ever further. Funeral doom is a hard style to mess around, its primary components make it hard for its disciples to truly distinguish itself. They’re like those black cultists preaching at the altar of the olde godes like Esoteric or Thergothon. While Un aren’t iconoclasts or genre revolutionaries, they did enough to separate themselves from the pack. 

Funeral doom is often seasoned with death metal or even black metal (see Nortt) but using the American blend of sludge (high in trans fat, see Crowbar) was definitely a good idea. It doesn’t make a super huge difference in the final result but it’s a bit more exciting than your run of the mill funeral doom band. The growls of front-man Monte Mccleery (probably also a cowboy with that name) are deep and ultimately quite traditional but what sets them apart is their guitars. You obviously have those slow, crunchy riffs but the band lets itself loose with those big joyful melodic leads like at the end of the title track. It’s borderline post metal at times but it’s never unfocused.

Just like the artwork where ruins are meeting a meadow of colorful flowers, darkness meets light. The inclusion of female vocals on “Pools of Reflection” did wonders for their atmosphere as well. Un’s strength relies on the small details and their propension for melody and beautiful guitar leads.

Un on Facebook

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Carcolh – Rising Sons of Saturn (2018) / 89%

The Baguette Doom Series pt. XVIII: Risen

Risen from the remnants of the promising but ultimately deceased Marble Chariot (read Baguettes V and XIV), Carloclh unleashed their debut full length back in March and they're now signed on the excellent Emanes Metal Records.

The French quintet from Bordeaux are able to go beyond the confines of traditional doom metal and find a sound of their own through the somber plains of the style. They don’t sound like anyone else and that’s already an important quality to have in 2018 doom when everyone are worshiping at the diminished altars of Electric Wizard or Sleep. Some French bands like Huata or Witchthroat Serpent are guilty of this misdemeanor. Not Carcolh. No sir.

Something important about Rising Sons of Saturn is that it never sounds derivative or forced to evolve in a certain niche. It’s authentic and it sounds authentic. From the natural and subtle production to the well written riffs (the most important component of doom), Carcolh has everything.

After an intriguing introduction with some piano intertwined with their riffs near the end, the real deal starts with the sorrowful but fat guitars of “Signs of the Afterlife” and we’re served more than forty minutes of top tier doom. Like any good doom bands, Carcolh knows that varying their tempos is the way to go. We have the fast gem in “Master of Midnight” and the slow dirge of the ten minutes epic “Into Eternity, I Will Rise Again” as dichotomous examples. They excel at all the speed they’re trying and they’re also able to keep the slower moments interesting.

In terms of likeness, they’re probably closer to Weird Light, France’s best hidden doom secret. Heavy riffs, dark atmosphere and grandiose clean vocals are their similarities. If Carcolh’s riffs were not as good as they are, the vocals of Sébastien Fanton would be the highlight. He’s even better here than he was with Marble Chariot. His strongest strength is his ability to be rough and moody while at the same time keeping things clean. Fanton’s approach is diverse but like the whole band, it’s focused and nothing is out of place. He gives us his best performance on the heartfelt “And the Sun Died”. On the other hand, the top notch solos of Olivier Blanc (now gone from the band) add another layer of musicality to Carcolh and I hope they’ll be as effective on their future releases. I’d take more bass in the mix next time though, it’s there, I can feel it but I’d like to shake a bit more.

From atmospheric and brooding to catchy and robust, the seven songs record explores many facets from trad doom that aren’t always combined under the same umbrella. They mix them with ease and panache and were able to release one of the top doom albums of the year alongside Acolytes of Moros, Dautha or Solemn Ceremony. What Carcolh offers us is trad doom that can play in the major league and for a rookie, it’s impressive. It’s obvious that those dudes aren’t novices. They clearly knew what sound they wanted and they did an impressive job with their debut full length. Support French doom. Supremely good baguette.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Tanith - Citadel (90%) / 2017

 Cold but Warm

This single really took everyone by surprise when it was released last year. It's a blistering ten minutes of uber catchy heavy metal/hard rock and I'd probably sell my grand mother to get the full length before everyone else.

The best thing is that it's timeless but also able to bring you back to different rock eras with ease and panache. You get some hints of prog rock, especially in the way the four musicians are playing (they have skills for days) but also a fair share of other elements, intricately put together. The title track showcased the proggier and epic sound reminiscing of the hey days of NWOBHM and the proto metal of Uriah Heep while "Eleven Days" demonstrates some folky overtones with beautiful acoustic vocals and some deep electric soloing. For a short release, it's really varied and demonstrates how well Russ Tippins has assimilated all those sounds in one compact comet. It's not quite heavy and never needs to be to put you on a brief voyage through cold but warm lands as illustrated on the classic looking artwork.

The highlights of the release are the twinned guitars and the twinned vocals of Tippins and his American counterpart Cindy Maynard. Both vocalists do take an AOR approach but it fits the hyper melodic guitar riffs and the loud but evocative bass lines. It's clean, easy to sing along and just makes me happy and jolly.

The American/British quartet showed everyone how quality heavy/hard is done. I'm stoked to see what they can do on a longer medium. Maybe some extended tracks with proggier moments!? STOKED.


Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Idle Hands – Don’t Waste Your Time (2018) / 83%

Idle Hands – Don’t Waste Your Time (2018) / 83%

Idle No More
After In Solitude's demise, I was longing for the style they showcased on their swansong album "Sister" and while some bands did approach that sound (Tribulation for example), my itch wasn't satisfied. Portland's Idle Hands definitely follow into the Gothic fueled footsteps of the Swedish corpse but bring enough new elements to create an exciting take on heavy metal.

Gabriel Franco's vocals are full of emotions and might. He's able to perform the sorrowful lyrics with panache and ease. His deep but comforting voice would be the highlight if it wasn't for the intricate and melancholic compositions found on that debut release. On Don't Waste Your Time, we're served five compact numbers that, well don't waste their time with the listener. They're full of both empathy and despair and translate those feelings with the help of heavy traditional riffs and guitar leads (from maestro Sebastian Silva) reminiscent of the NWOBHM scene and the German greats. They intertwine their metal influences with an healthy dosage of Gothic rock, new wave, alternative rock and post punk. From the old school influence of The Sisters of Mercy to the modern touches of Katatonia (see those leads in "Can You Hear the Rain"), there's a lot to ingest here and twenty minutes is not enough! I'd like to hear them go slower and be even gloomier, I think they could even more impressive.

There's a lot of urgency in those midpaced songs, it's catchy and dreamy. Like a good heavy metal, they don't forget the riffs and like a good goth band, they don't forget the airy atmosphere. The production (handled in part by Franco) fits the sound that Idle Hands wanted perfectly. It's aerial and there's a lot of place for the vocals at the forefront of their formula. Sometimes, the rhythm guitars could benefit from a bit more oomph but that's just me. With their debut EP, we see a band in full control of their identity, I'm stoked to hear what they'll do next.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

The Snack Series - Lays Taco and Lays Pizza

As you can see, I only pick healthy choices when I do my groceries

Lays just unleashed a new trio of flavors upon all the Canadian fatties and I had to try them. I now regret not buying "Grilled Cheese", the third flavor but it looked a bit too tame. I think this new series called Lays StEATS is a good idea despite the lack of originality. Lays has been quite bold with the contests they had and it wasn't often a big success (those Cinnamon Buns chips remain one of the most disgusting thing I ever tried and the only chips bag I had to throw away without finishing it). Sure, those three flavors are safe choices but they're also safe bets and classics.

Price: $5.50 for two 240 grams bags. Pretty damn fair.

Lays Pizza

Packaging: blue isn't a colour I tend to associate with pizza unlike green, red or white but fine, ok, I'll buy it anyway. The slice on the bag looks Italian and not the bastardized American version which is a good thing.

Texture/look: slightly reddish colour, nothing out of the ordinary. I wasn't expecting anything weird. Were you? No, there's no dried tomatoes in the bag!

Taste: One of my only points of comparaison were the Pringles Pizza and surprisingly the Lays are better. The taste is milder but more pizza-esque. The tomato taste is subtle but present and there's a slight herb touch to be found. It doesn't taste like pepperoni or cheese which could be interpreted as a welcome change or a risky interpretation depending on who you ask. Appreciable but not mind blowing.

White bowl = Taco - Green bowl = Pizza. I actually ate more than 2 bowls to be fully honest.

Lays Taco
Packaging: This time, green is a colour that works for the flavor. Lettuce is important for a taco!

Texture/look: Once again, it's a traditional Lays chip... There's some weird blackish spots on there to indicate that you're not eating normal bland Lays.

Taste: the Taco flavor is more complex than the Pizza one, there's hints of salsa, ground beef, spice, lettuce and even (maybe?) cheese in there. There's a short lived bang in your mouth too and it's more than just dipping your tongue into a little bag of taco spice powder. It's a good effort and I think it would perhaps be good enough to win a blind contest of "what does this taste like?". Recommended.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Ice Queen - I and II (2018)

Here's my take on the two releases of Ice Queen, the new project of Leeches of Lore's leader Steve Hammond. The debut was released back in March while the second was just unleashed earlier this week. The reviews are part of a new thematic series focused on "ice" related bands!

Ice Queen – Ice Queen (2018)

Ice Bucket Challenge I

I was saddened to hear of Leeches of Lore's recent termination but I was confident that their leader Steve Hammond would continue to produce top notch music and I wasn't wrong. Ice Queen, his new solo project, is basically a continuation of his former band with many twists and spins.

The first really noticeable element is the fact that it's pretty much a voluntarily raw project and it’s much heavier than what Leeches of Lore did on their latest albums. Hammond seems to be fine with just unleashing simple but efficient ideas with almost an approach similar to automatism. Motel of Infinitely, LoL’s swansong showed heavier tendencies but Ice Queen isn’t as eclectic and varied as its former identity. Hammond increased the noise, crust and thrash metal influences and decreased the duration of his songs. That direction made Ice Queen really intense, almost like a grindcore approach. The guitars are thick but sharp and the bass is loud and filling (check out “Burrowing”) and there’s hardly any time to rest except for the country ballad of “Black Water”, a stylistic influence much more prevalent in Leeches of Lore or Hammond’s other non-metal projects.

Ice Queen are hard to classify, really. The structures are quite simple but the coating has all kind of things to make it shiny and exciting. It’s like if you took NWOBHM heavy metal but added a bunch of iconoclastic thrash and Melvins-esque sludge to the formula. It’s just fun riffs with an identity and soaring fun vocals. Hammond can’t do no wrong as far as I’m concerned.


Ice Queen – Ice Queen II (2018)

Ice Bucket Challenge II

The second release of Ice Queen expands where its predecessor left off and brings out some new things to the fold. While the debut showcased a brand new take of Hammond’s peculiar metal sound he spent a decade exploring with Leeches of Lore, II has some fun with the new sound.

Ice Queen is once again built upon a core of fast paced heavy metal with noise, hardcore and thrash elements but wait, there’s more! There’s layers of experimentation here such as the minimalistic dark ambient of “An Abandoned City” or the noise and voice effects of the closer “Quiet”. There’s also a bunch of metal experimentation such as the doom/death riffs of “The Witch King of Urbana” which are intertwined with eerie bits of electronica or the ghostly drone of “Dreams, Dreaming” and it all works. Hammond’s signature special move is that he’s able to assemble a wide array of styles together to form a solid, oozing mass capable of grasping your interest till you’ve heard the same twenty minutes album on repeat.

Regardless of the experimentation, there’s still some pretty metallic bangers like the thrashy/sludgey anthem of “Blizzard of Ants” with its harsh screams or the incisive Mastodon-esque “The Bunt”. All in all, Ice Queen II justifies its existence by exploring other themes than the debut. It would had been easy to release them as a “full length” album of forty minutes but I like that shorter format. It’s easy to focus on the different strengths of those to the point compositions and gather everything you can from them.

Get them on Bandcamp
Check it out on Facebook

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Khôrada - Salt (2018) / 90%

Tasty like salt-cured pork

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 20 April 2018

Smoulder – The Sword Woman (2018) / 84%

Engrossing magical doom

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

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

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

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

Smoulder on Bandcamp

Friday, 16 February 2018

Basalte - Vertige (2018) / 95%

The Righteous Mastery of Atmosphere and Might

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tape release