Sunday, May 6, 2018

Sergeant Thunderhoof - Terra Solus (2018)

Kaleidoscopic Mushrooms from Outer Space

I stumbled upon Sergeant Thunderhoof a few months back while surfing through my YouTube feed. It was a music video of the band performing the first track off their debut full-length Ride of the Hoof. It sounded so effortlessly catchy and dynamic that I instantly
listened to the album as well as their first EP Zigurat. Technically the EP can be considered as a full-length since it clocks around 40 minutes or so. Anyway, both the releases not only met my initial expectations of finding a solid chunk of stoner metal but surpassed it as Sergeant Thunderhoof's unparalleled synthesis of Sabbathian grooves, transcendental psychedelia, and unpredictable hooky flair make them more than just a stoner rock band.

Enter Terra Solus, the sophomore full-length release by these psychedelic heavy rockers from Somerset, UK. It’s every bit of a consistent opus as their previous outputs and perhaps more sophisticated, diverse and expansive. Right off the bat the gigantic bottom-heavy Sabbathian lurch of “Another Plane” begins this loud, epic and trippy extraterrestrial journey. The pace and dynamic remain in the heavy territory with the thunderous riff-o-rama of “Stellar Gate Drive”. Even though this album is more of a cohesive, consistent piece of work with practically no filler, “The Tree and the Serpent” is still a definite highlight of the record for me. It’s a six-minute psychedelic spiritual trip surrounded with a hauntingly infectious verse-chorus structure carried remarkably by airy, bluesy reverberating rhythm section and Dan Flitcroft’s charismatic soulful vocals which peaks with Mark Sayer’s orgasmics leads. “Priestess of Misery” is another absolute favorite of mine. It’s a stupendous moody doom metal piece which shifts back and forth between sludgy grooves, haunting monolithic chorus and intense leads.

As I’ve stated earlier that Sergeant Thunderhoof is not easily categorizable, sure general genre adherents can associate them with the stoner/doom spectrum and I think the band is totally fine with that. But their emphasis on catchy grooves, huge chorus, psychedelic meanderings and overall memorable songwriting is as much aesthetically akin to Deep Purple, ZZ Top, Soundgarden as it is to Black Sabbath, Cathedral and Kyuss as well as Pink Floyd to some extent. A prime example of this is “Diesel Breath” which comes across as a groove-laden heavy rocker at first until the grinding metallic crawl of the bridge and the soul-searching Floydian culmination of the outro. 

“Half a Man” is a really different sort of piece altogether which evokes a ballad-like feel upon
first listen but It’s not really a ballad. It’s simply an introspective, heartfelt, quiet vocal-driven atmospheric tune. The dreamy, pensive psychedelia of “Om Shaantih” brings closure to the contrasting, kaleidoscopic trip that is Terra Solus. Call it metal, heavy rock, stoner, doom or whatever, Sergeant Thunderhoof is definitely one of the most original sounding entities out there right now and I hope that they will continue to impress us with their mercurial brand of heavy rock for years to come.

Terra Solus is scheduled to be released on May 12th. Pre-order is up on Bandcamp for limited edition vinyl, limited edition cassette, compact disc and digital download. You can stream the first track "Another Plane" via the Bandcamp attachment below.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Return!

The return of the schizophrenic eggs are imminent. But it will be sporadic as you know that they are quite lazy, hehe! In case you were wondering, if I've written anything worthwhile, then the answer is yes, to some extent anyway. Two of my recent write-ups were featured on Cosmo Lee founded revered metal blog Invisible Oranges. They are respectively the review of Indian sludge rock outfit Shepherd's debut album Stereolithic Riffalocalypse and a brief write-up for a track premiere from the upcoming Howls of Ebb mini-LP The Marrow Veil. Now behold the review of King Giant's stellar new album Black Ocean Waves.

King Giant - Black Ocean Waves (2015)

Headstones and Heartbreak:

Whether it’s Alice in Chains or Acid Bath, I’ve always been primarily drawn towards heavy music that simultaneously pummels your skull with ballsy rhythm section and alleviates those wounds with elaborate, soulful melodies. Like confronting the psychological demons from your past, dealing with the misery, overcoming
all the hardship and frustration to achieve mental redemption. That’s exactly the kind of feeling you get while listening to King Giant’s profound, solemn and heartfelt metal anthems.

Although King Giant have gotten bluesier and more texturally varied over the course of their three full-lengths, the gritty unrelenting sludge of their debut EP Identity is still discernible at times. For instance, “Shindig” from Southern Darkness and from its successor, the doom-drenched “The Fog”. Black Ocean Waves is no exception when it comes to no frills heavy riffage, in fact immediately after the epic instrumental opener “Mal De Mer” it leaps right into the dominant galloping crunch of “The One That God Forgot to Save”, a harrowing tale of a prostitute’s revenge on the society. “Trail of Thorns” is again a straightforward heavy rocker about a devil-may-care spree killer full of foot-stomping hooks complemented by a nostalgic southern-fried bluesy solo. And as much as I love Evil Elvis dare I say that nowadays I’m a bit more partial towards David Hammerly? As I find his gravelly baritone more broad and flexible.

Black Ocean Waves is also the album where King Giant embrace their melodic prowess to the fullest. As evident in “Red Skies” which more or less serves as the disguised titular track as it accentuates the album cover art in the audible form. An intense composition about the slaughter of an entire whaling ship’s crew by its captain and his regretful confessions. It features expansive layers of harmonized twin-guitar, multi-tracked vocal harmonies and aplenty variations. “Blood of the Lamb” revolves around the perennial debate on redemption. It's a gloomy hard rocker full of sardonic atmosphere and abrupt yet catchy tempo shifts.

This is not the kind of record where you’d seek a particular stand-out. In Black Ocean Waves every song has its own defining moments and characteristics. But
still, the album peaks with the aptly placed closure “There Were Bells”, a wistful and moving metallic ballad where the band laments the passing of their friends and dear ones most notably the band’s original vocalist Bob Dotolo.

If Southern Darkness and Dismal Hollow were the footsteps that trembled the face of the underground then Black Ocean Waves is that gigantic stomp that would establish King Giant as the bona fide kings of whiskey-soaked nostalgic heavy metal.  

Rating - ★★★★★ (98% on Metal-Archives)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Atragon - Volume I (2012)

Doom from the ghoulish crypts of Edinburgh:

At first listen Atragon may turn out as the Scottish counterpart of The Wounded Kings due to their massive, gnarly wall of sound. But no, upon further listening
you'll realize that they have this unusual and weird rock-out sensibilities attached to the writhing mass of gargantuan riffing. So, the outcome is not as ritualistic as The Wounded Kings neither as wretched as Cough even though comparisons remain viable to some extent.

They draw from every facet of doom metal, be it the abrasive sludge that pours from the first track, the more bouncy up-tempo tendencies of Pentagram, Saint Vitus and Crush the Insects era Reverend Bizarre as heard in the primary rhythm section of "Jesus Wept" disparated by its bridge which plunges into the hallucinatory depths of drone.

Psychedelic leads are also to be found on both the tracks and that too judiciously incorporated during the build-up. Jan Gardner's vocals fall
somewhere between the revolting snarl of Henry Rollins and the theatrics of Layne Staley. Too much of a compliment? No, his voice is really that damn good and you have to hear it to believe it.

Overall, this demo is very promising and regardless of what kind of doom you're into Atragon's crushing sonic waves oscillate between cathartic hallucinations, massive grooves and morbid atmosphere of the Edinburgh Vaults. As far as I've heard they're currently working on the debut full-length and I simply can't wait to hear it.

Rating - ★★★★ (87% on Metal-Archives)

Available for free download from Witch Hunter Records

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