Sunday, 20 June 2021

Mindforce - Excalibur (2018) / 90%

Crossover for KINGS like you

I don’t review crossover often (or at all even) because I feel there’s not a lot to say about the genre. While it’s somewhat the case with Mindforce as well, this album has been really hitting the spot since I discovered it recently. I was automatically intrigued because of the artwork and the title and even though I wasn’t expecting crossover mixed with Obsequiae and medieval folk music but it distinguished them from the usual fare we get in the scene.

As expected of a twenty-one minutes record, this is quite ruthless, unhinged and hella fast. The title track, the longest number here, is also possibly the slowest and hard hittin’, recalling Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss to a certain extent. When the riffs get slower is when I lose my shit, they know how to be a crowd pleaser. What I like about crossover is that it relies entirely on how good and dangerous your riffs are and how good and aggressive your singer is. Well, New York’s Mindforce definitely delivers on all fronts. Short one to two minutes tracks is what you’re getting here, it flows nicely and crushes you like a thick lady would crush a watermelon between her thighs while saying “you’re next”.

There’s subtle details that elevates the band as well such as those short, sorrowful leads on “Fades Away” but overall, it’s pretty meat and potatoes thrash/crossover/hardcore with hardcore vocals and immense riffs and breakdowns. If you like Power Trip or Drain and don’t know those guys yet, get on board. Just like their music, I’ll keep this short and let you enjoy their idiotic metal made for idiots like us. To be played loud. All day.

Metal Bounty Hunter Volume 12


 


The Metal Bounty Hunter series is back with four short-ish reviews, all about doom and heavy this time.



Zodiac - Stone Command (2015) / 85%

Digitally Challenged: Part 6 The Zodiac Killer?


This short lived doom band from Brisbane impressed me a lot with their final recording, a three track extended play released on tape by the excellent Heavy Chains Records. Three of the members are now playing in Knifer, some sort of Motorheadish heavy/speed metal about booze, but Zodiac was all about traditional doom metal.

The first two tracks are around five or six minutes, both faster affairs while Legacy is close to ten and encompasses their sound well. The nasal vocals by Ben Peters can obviously recall the legends of Sabbath and Pagan Altar and he does a great job at reciting the classic occult but fun lyrics reminding me of Cathedral or Witchfinder General. Their production is pretty tight and professional, the two guitars are heavy and super punchy, delivering riffs that would please any doomsters and top notch solos as well (check “The Devil’s Cavalry”). All in all, it’s honest, hard working, blue collar doom that’s super well written and on the edge of being memorable. A shame they died, really.


Eldritch Rites - Hell And Doom And Days Long Gone (2020) / 82%

Pub doom

The trio from Melbourne plays raw heavy/doom with an unhinged passion possibly fueled by liquor. Also evolving as Open Door of Doom but with a designated English singer, Eldritch Rites are pretty fun stuff unfortunately plagued by a lackluster production. It’s sort of like it was recorded live in the pub on the weekend to make sure the dudes had an easy access to booze served by the devil. I can’t really blame them to be fair.

Regardless of my first impressions about the production, this is a band with strong musicianship and songwriting, it’s more layered than I was expecting to be. It’s downtrodden trad doom made by men in their thirties or forties and it’s fairly effective at its goal. Songs like “If These Walls Could Speak” are miserable, it’s heavy, slow and makes you feel like you just got divorced and she’ll obviously get the kids and even the dog. 10 minutes closer “They Came to Raise the Dead” has this epic but still raw feel and ends with “Lunar”, a joyful but mournful acoustic guitar recalling English progressive folk.

There’s a certain English mood throughout the album and it’s also encompassed in how sad it is. Dudes, there’s koalas in Australia, why are so fucking sad? Go check how slow they move or something. The guitar playing of Shayne Joseph (also in prog rock/heavy metallers Trebuchet) is quite excellent, it’s pretty brutal, crunchy for the genre (see “Witch Woman”) and has this heavy rock quality to it. His vocals possess this sort of accented exaggeration and they wouldn’t be out of place in a Monty Python sketch about witches or some shit.

Recommended if you like your doom cooked slow and possibly still blood red.




Assembly at Dusk - Assembly at Dusk (2013) / 88%

Digitally Challenged: Part 7 We leave at dawn.

Got the tape, I'll write a review during my Christmas break. Thanks a lot!” - yours truly in 2013

Well, better late than never, you know. Sorry dudes! I’ve been meaning to tackle this tape for years now as it’s very good metal deserving of more scrutiny. Unfortunately, Connecticut’s Assembly At Dusk broke up shortly after I failed to write a review for this compilation regrouping the two demos they did in 2013. Their take on heavy metal was fairly fresh at the time and I feel it’s something that could be somewhat trendy today with bands like Spirit Adrift. The super melodic but tight vocals of Jeffrey Schaefer (hopefully related to the redneck terrorist we all know) are the most powerful aspect of the band but the compositions are top notch too.

Their sound as its core is epic heavy metal but there’s a lot of doom (think The Gates of Slumber) and even some blackened elements in how the riffs are composed. “Money, Gods and Greed” or “Before This City is Aflame” pretty much sounds like black/heavy metal with clean vox, almost a mix of Enslaved and Manilla Road. Even if it was record in the basement of their guitarist, I think the production is excellent, especially for demos, I’d prefer the vox to be a bit more on forefront but I barely have any complaints about the crunchy riffs and the black & tremolo infused leads. Their songs are intricate and most are around the six minute mark, they’re filled with details and there’s no filler here.

They’re another sublime band who died too quickly, this is still on their Bandcamp so no excuses not to check ‘em out.

--------------------------------------------

Trebuchet – Trebuchet (2020) / 70%

Not quite breaking down the walls yet


Formed by Dave Gilbert (who’s also in four other bands I’ve never heard of) and Shayne Joseph (Eldritch Rites, Dire Fate…), Trebuchet plays an interesting form of doom metal with strong ties to the past. It could be described as some sort of proto doom with a lot of psychedelic, hard rock and progressive rock influences. While on paper, this sounds like a dream to me, I wasn’t super crazy about them. I’d rather go back to Quicksand Dream or Realmbuilder.

The self titled full length starts with two ten minutes tracks and they’re both too long for nothing. I usually like long songs but those two bored me real quickly. The three other songs are shorter, all around seven minutes. “Girl from the Fen” right in the middle of the album is a soporific ballad but the two other more metal tracks don’t really go anywhere either for me. As much as I like Geddy, Ozzy or Terry, Dave Gilbert’s vocals aren’t for me and I don’t like the fuzzy effects on ‘em, probably there to hide the fact they’re not good at all. With that said, I quite like the guitar tone and would have liked to life the riffs and songs more. There’s some good moments here and there but they’re a bit too few for my liking. I might applaud how well they mix the different genres though, that's not really the problem I have with them. Just found the album mostly boring, you know. To conclude, I’m sad I didn’t enjoy this. Semi epic doom/prog about the Middle ages with a name like Trebuchet? Maybe my expectations were too high.

Saturday, 19 June 2021

Legacies Unchain – Satan is Strong and Always Near (2016) / 95%

"Is he though?"
"Yes, he is."


Composed of the sole member of the excellent Misantropical Painforest and another dude known for Wormphlegm and its funeral doom classic, Legacies Unchain is definitely my discovery of the year (or last year, no idea, time is blurry right now) and I’m thankful for Hops from the Ride Into Glory community for the recommendation. Their take on metal is one that speaks to me quite a bit, it’s occult, slow and lures you in the dark Finnish forest to sever your arms with a hand axe.

Satan is Strong and Always Near (one of the best album titles of all time) is pretty much only three extended tracks with its title track being a bit more than twenty minutes. There’s three untitled instrumental including two to start the album, for some dark magical reasons, they’re not on the tracklist! The first and third are some guitar doodling moments that puts you in the mood. The second is one minute of shamanic aboriginal music preparing you for some ritualistic black metal, it’s not randomly placed either as there’s comebacks to this sort of primitive atmosphere throughout the album. The use of the didgeridoo, this cool wind instrument from pre-colonial Australia highlights the barbaric, primal feel of Legacies Unchain and it can be found alongside your normal metal instruments in “All Hail the Great Sperm” (what?) or “Dragon City”. The instrument announces the arrival of those two dudes on the artwork as they’re storming the camp full of goblins in order to slay ‘em all. In the name of Satan, of course.

The whole thing sounds like a do it yourself barbaric black metal assault to me and I mean, I really love this kind of stuff. Apparently recorded in 2004 but only released more than a decade later, their kind of metal is pretty timeless. It’s mixing the raw occult power of black metal with the stupidity of heavy metal and the brain dead riff onslaught of death metal for our selfish pleasure. It’s a riff worship ceremony and the unworthy ones were sacrificed to some primordial spirits. The duo is able to write interesting, river-esque songs with only the power of powerful metal riffs and Satan. Spiritually linked to black/heavy bands like Demontage or Malokarpatan, Legacies Unchain slashes you with mid-paced riffs until you’re out blood to offer. They use those traditional elements well such as on the title track, it’s like if funeral doom was combined with black/heavy/thrash, it’s long but epic and flows nicely and it’s 100% hateful, obviously.

Their vocals are also pretty diverse in their commitment to barbaric prowess. To high pitched screams to more deep growls and to some insane chanting, there’s something for everyone. The title track concludes its twenty-three minute run time with a mad clean scream, probably a shamanic priest dying during a ritual or something. Those guys like their crushing brutality too, the death metal influence can be felt at the beginning of “...Sperm” while “Dragon City” is rooted and drenched in heavy metal riffs. Their vocals are a constant though and they anchor the band into Satanic overload.

Satan being always near them managed to motivate the guys, this is one hell of album. Even though it’s somewhat inaccessible due to the sheer length of its songs, there’s an entrancing vibe that rewards you. It’s similar to Cultes des Ghoules’ masterwork Henbane (the pinnacle of black metal as far as I’m concerned) in how it makes me feel, it’s riffs after riffs and you may think it’s dumbed down but it’s actually oddly subtle and genius.


Thursday, 17 June 2021

Carcolh – The Life and Works of Death (2021)

 



The Baguette Doom Series pt. XXII: Death is doing some overtime.



The debut album from Carcolh was one of the best doom records of 2018 but it went largely unnoticed (not by me, I reviewed it. Check baguette XVIII)) ‘cause well, French traditional doom isn’t exactly Gojira. Well, good news if you haven’t heard it yet, their sophomore is even better. Formed after the demise of Marble Chariot (also covered by yours truly), a band I thought had a lot of potential but died too quickly, the Bordeaux quintet plays the exact sort of metal I crave.


Their sound is dark and rich. It moves slowly but at a steady pace and confident in its ability to keep the prisoners in their cells forever. I think the band is at their best (and they got better at it) on the longer numbers like “The Blind Goddess” or the album closer “Sepulchre”, both around ten minutes each. It’s this sort of trad doom that’s more interested in building moods than just bludgeoning you with riffs, there’s a few rare bands that can do both but they’re the top dogs. Carcolh can do it occasionally though.

The highlight of the album for me was “Aftermath”, an atmospheric piece about the First World war and the Battle of the Somme in particular. It’s a sad and mournful ballad and while it’s a break from doom metal, it’s probably the darkest moment to be found on here. Sébastien Fanton delivers one hell of a performance on there, his clean vocals fits the mood and establishes the man as the leading man in French trad doom metal. He has this pretty unique voice and his English delivery is part of the charm for me. He can be gruff, powerful or poetic.

Showing that Carcolh are also apt at punchier, faster numbers, “When the Embers Light the Way” is a groovy number with some harsh vocals and a thunderous guitar solo. Who said that doom metal can have monotonous or boring musicianship? Those guys are tight but their playing is subtle and engaging. They’re not flashy and they serve the songs well. The two guitars lineup help the band moves forward as well. With the right people, it can make a world of difference, especially when it’s time to recreate the more intricate or profound sections of those compositions.

I feel they’re an entity of their own. While, of course, their music is rooted in existing doom tropes, it’s not too easy to pinpoint where their worship altars are. When your influences are melted together is precisely when you can really call your take on a genre genuine.


Bandcamp

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Purification – Dwell in the House of the Lord Forever (2020) / 87%

 

Psychedelic transition in Portlandia




The second full length from Portland’s Purification appeared as an offering from Santa on Christmas 2020 almost six months after their previous album. Following the excellent Perfect Doctrine, the most accessible release from this group of guys, Dwell… goes back to some of their weird antics. Under the name Thrown, two members played some sort of Carnivore infused noisy heavy/doom/speed and while we’re far from that sort of stuff, it’s a subtle departure from the first two Purification LPs.

Their debut was raw traditional doom, I liked it but not as much as the “refined” product that followed. Their third effort goes deeper into psychedelia, it’s almost ambient trad doom at times. The artwork is a pretty good indicator of how it sounds, acid induced psych doom with a sort of religious, divine feel. The two longest tracks (about half the length of the album) start and end the album with drawn out, mournful but atmospheric riffs. The vocals are strong when present, ominous and clean but with a secluded monk approach. Overall, it’s more restrained than their previous material but it’s moodier and shows another side of the band, one where they’re confident in their ability to create landscapes of sounds delving beyond the metal realm.

Speaking of exploring new areas, the original material includes two instrumentals and it’s quite hypnotic and has a desert drone mood to it, not unlike Earth’s western albums like The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull. “Ar Soudarded Zo Gwisket e Ruz” is five minutes but could had been extended to ten or fifteen with ease while “Bombfog” is a short ambient, film music-ish introduction to the last metal track of the record.

I must admit that I’m a bit scared of the pace they’ve been releasing their music, one album every six months or so is a bit much. They have one coming up in two weeks already. Ultimately, I can’t complain because it’s all been very good but I don’t want them to become something like Haunt/Beastmaker and spreading their sauce too thinly. Still, this is kind of a glorified extended play turned into a full length. There’s two covers, a well rendered one of the obscure NWOBHM classic “Rainbow Warrior” and one from David Benson, a Christian doom nobody. They’re both pretty interesting picks, thanks for not covering Sabbath or Candlemass, dudes.

Yeah so pretty moody, atmospheric quasi ambient traditional doom metal is what you’re getting here. It’s diverse, well written and sends love letters to many different bands and subgenres. It’s very much an album between two albums but there’s still a lot of rewards to be found here.


Bandcamp


Monday, 14 June 2021

Steel Bearing Hand - Slay In Hell (2021) / 86%

Slay baby, slay!


I was sold when I saw the name of the band. Right from the start. I mean, what more do you want in metal? I was immediately seeing a big ass orc with a great axe in hand slaying puny peasants and I found comfort in that. Luckily we’re getting the equivalent of this with the Texans’ second full length. I discovered the Dallas natives with this album and I instantly preordered it when I saw the Mark Riddick inspired artwork. The art includes mandatory elements to be a metal band. Skeletons, demons, fire, axes, swords and the list goes on. It’s pure badassary and a good reflection of their music.

They’re riff worshipers who went on enough adventures to know what to bring in a fully packed dungeon. Their main strength is their ability to be totally homogeneous in their metallic approach while showcasing a wide plethora of influences. Their main core of thrashy death metal is then appropriately seasoned with black metal, heavy metal, crossover and even doom. It’s pretty damn efficient and recalls the seminal works of Deceased with their over the top blend of true metal. The guitars are big, loud and insanely good. The extended solos of main man Wyatt (remember we’re in Texas y’all) are over the top and they’re Slayer at 150% strength with twice the skills. His vocals are cavernous in an old school way and they’re mostly rooted in death metal aesthetics. 

They start the adventure with two fast numbers before serving us longer songs, they know a thing or two about pacing and track lists. Whether they’re playing faster or slower, they’re always super intense. “Tombspawn” takes about three minutes to “start”, it has this slow intro that just lures you in the graveyard and then the putrid vocals pushes you in the freshly dug grave. The solo near the end just finishes the job. Superb occult metal right there.

They end the forty minutes record with a twelve minutes epic that just pushes you to the brink of madness, this number has death/doom vibes mixed with fast riffs and mournful but still quite potent moment. The halfway mark break almost sounds like Hooded Menace (that’s a good thing if you were wondering) before going back to thrash goodness. They’re talented fellas as they’re able to avoid being too one note, a complaint I often have with thrash metal. There’s a lot to unpack here but it’s tightly written, tightly played and much more intricate than it appears. Essential modern kitchen sink thrash, fellas.

Monday, 29 March 2021

White Magician/Prelude to Ruin – 2018 split / 93%

 

Uncut Gems

The fact that Demon Bitch and Borrowed Time (rest in peace) are assuredly the best American heavy metal bands of their era is a secret that more people should know. White Magician released one of the best albums of 2020 and their buddies of Prelude to Ruin are planning a release for 2021 (if my insider information is to be trusted) and both of those projects are related to the aforementioned bands. They happened to have released a split album back in 2018 and it’s pure fire. You shouldn’t expect otherwise if you were familiar with the people behind those bands.

White Magician is the entire Demon Bitch lineup except Brian, their bassist. Some of them play a different role here though, like Logon who plays bass or Derek who’s also tasked with the lead vocals in addition to his guitar task. While Demon Bitch play a super unhinged and insane sort of heavy metal, their other project leans more on pure traditionalism and is more Blue Öyster Cult than Mercyful Fate. One of things that I always like about the way those Detroit fellas write songs is that it’s completely devoid of posturing or attempts at mimicking the greats. It’s like if it was written in space with the distant memories of the bands they liked when they were still on Earth like the rest of us. Their ten minutes side starts with The Great Kaiser’s White Magician, an allegedly different entity, doing a two minutes introduction. It’s a high pitched guitar lead repeated alongside the name of the project and it’s, I have no idea why, fantastic. The bulk of their split side is obviously the track “Antipathy”, originally recorded in 2017 but re-recorded here. It’s a multidimensional epic showcasing everything the band can do. From the soft, almost 1970s Rush introduction to the agile, always pertinent riffs, the song is like a crescendo towards joyfully exuberant guitar leads concluding its eight minutes run-time. Like Demon Bitch, their guitar leads are great and always well placed and needed. They’re like icy daggers entering softly but firmly your body.

Their debut full length“ Dealers of Divinity” leaned even more into hard rock but the foundations were built before as White Magician are really great at crossing the line between rock and metal several times per song. While, without a doubt, they’re a metal band, they don’t burden themselves too much with that fact. The vocals are well thought out, melodic and powerful in their own ways. They don’t really strike me as metal vocals, the way they’re written is but the delivery is subdued, subtle and very interesting. Antipathy is an outstanding track, it’s as strong as anything they’ve released so far.


Prelude to Ruin is the new (or old) project formed by the Ruiz brothers who were both in Borrowed Time. I’m not totally sure who’s on this release except Victor and David Ruiz but nowadays, they’re joined by guitarist Matt Preston (Borrowed Time, Dungeon Beast, The Swill…) and other members of Borrowed Time, Demon Bitch/White Magician. It’s an incestuous family but… for the right reasons!

We’re served two relatively fast paced numbers with strong melodies and blistering guitar riffs. More rooted in power and even speedier metal than Borrowed Time were, there’s an almost epic power metal feel throughout the first song “Weird of the White Wolf”. They’re in that zone where USPM meets European power metal. Where the robust riffs of Liege Lord would hangout with the pre-symphonic ballsy power metal of Blind Guardian. Prelude to Ruin are the kind of band that heavy metal guitars fans want to hear. Their leads are oozing with skills, passion and thundering might. They’re the clear highlight of their identity even though the rest is also super solid.

While Jean-Pierre Abboud (vocals in Borrowed Time) is gone and there’s a small drop in talent on the mic, it’s still pretty damn dynamic and enjoyable. Speaking of J-P, I’ve never liked him as much as I did when he played with those guys, Traveler and Gatekeeper never used his skills as well. I think that’s also a proof that the Ruiz bros are hella good composers. The second song “One More Fight” has shrill, weird vox in its beginning to surprising but effective effects and overall, the high-pitched vocals work well with the speed demonstrated here. Unfortunately, the production is a bit too lo-fi and muffled for those two songs to truly truly shine and hopefully, this will be fixed for their upcoming material.

Overall this split release has two very strong sides with two bands clearly in possession of immense heavy metal skills. They’re two of the brightest gems the US metal underground produced, don’t sleep on ‘em.


White Magician's Bandcamp

Prelude to Ruin's Bandcamp