Monday, December 29, 2014

Interview with gun slinging metal veteran Alan Averill aka Nemtheanga (Primordial/Dread Sovereign/Blood Revolt/Twilight of the Gods)

Primordial have yet again produced a rock-solid opus known as Where Greater Men Have Fallen (review) which is being highly hailed in various metal-zines across the world. In light of that and also regarding Alan's various projects and the recent Dread Sovereign album I did this little chat with him. Enjoy! 

Moaning Eggnog: How's it going over at the shooting range? Gearing up for
the next Blood Revolt?

Alan Averill: Life is going more or less ok down the shooting range, some stray bullets here and there. Strangely enough I talked with J. Read about making another album only about a month ago. We agreed in principle over the idea but I definitely think the last one is kinda of definitive statement so maybe we need to change tack on some of the music. We shall see what happens, watch this space.

M.E: Actually my elder cousin got me into Primordial through your Metal Blade debut "The Gathering Wilderness." At that moment we were really into Venom, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, the Norwegian scene, Abigor, Marduk, Setherial, Sarcofago, Mystifier and all sorts of 'kvlt' stuff as well as traditional, thrash, death and doom metal. So, my cousin gave me a copy of TGW and told me, "Listen to this shit man. It's like a doomy love child of Celtic
Frost and Bathory raised in Ireland by a pensive twin of Bruce Dickinson. How unique is that?" And as expected I was totally blown away upon hearing it. So, did you have this sort of songwriting approach in the mind from the very beginning? To my ears Dark Romanticism... sounds fairly atmospheric and catchy for a raw black metal oriented demo even though it doesn't feature much of your latter intense clean vocals.

Alan: No we don't really make plans, what happens happens and the songs on that album in particular were just what we were working on at the time, you don't really have a sense of what you are fully creating until it's out there in the public domain and people react to it. The song writing just reflects where we were as people at the time, it's a dark claustrophobic album that without a doubt has some sonic flaws but as an overall texture it works. I think you can still hear it's the same band from the demo to the new album, we just forged our own path and kept with that.

M.E: Now that I've seen you mention "The Alchemist's Head" is Voivod influenced it really does sound quite off-key and twisted. It's kind of stupid of me that I didn't get it earlier. Anyway, I think most people wouldn't have guessed it because it still sounds like Primordial and way more sinister than Voivod (although I rarely associate 'sinister' with Voivod, they're more on the insane and fun side and sometimes a bit moody like Angel Rat or The Outer Limits) even though the influence is really there as you've mentioned. 

Alan: Well it took me a long time to crack Voivod, I had the albums as a kid/teenager but the punky shouty vocals really put me off for years. It's only really in my 30s that I've fully grown to love that band immensely. But what the band represents is something incredibly unique and that in itself is inspiring, that even over the various chapters in the band they held their heads high and created this fiercely individual sound. The Alchemist's Head also has some modern ortho black metal kinda vibes as well if you ask me, a little Deathspell
Omega perhaps, who knows. definitely something more sinister at work there.

M.E: Does the opening of "Babel's Tower" remind you of a more doomy take on "Freezing Moon" as well as lot of fans are getting that vibe including me to some extent. Apart from that I think it has nothing whatsoever common with the Mayhem classic except that it's already quite a Primordial classic. I think it's a far more introspective and factual song rather than sinister or mystical.

Alan: Ughhh another person saying this. I can see the similarity in the picking kinda style but really the notes are different and it's a really lazy kind of comparison to me personally. Definitely Mayhem was not on Ciaran's mind when he wrote this song. I love de mysteriis but I wouldn't consider it an influence.

M.E: Human Antithesis is a one of a kind. It's a different sort of masterpiece but shamefully overlooked. I don't come across stuff like that much often even though I listen to a lot of doom bands and it's actually my favourite subgenre.
Would you like to do something like that or collaborate with the duo from Void of Silence (I'm not even aware of their current status, they don't seem to be active at all) again?  

Alan: That was a special period in my life actually and I have nothing but amazing memories from going to Rome to make the album. It really showed me personally that I could make it happen and rely on my own talents outside of Primordial. It is indeed a unique and one of a kind album but far from whatever the trends are in doom metal. Not occult or hippie enough for most people I would imagine but it has its fans and I didn't make it with the intention of it being huge. It could do with a repress perhaps now though! I'm always open to musical collaborations within reason and I have a strong feeling the next album I make will be something non metal....and definitely in 2015. 

M.E: I love the Roadburn EP and I liked the wall-of-sound approach of "All Hell's Martyrs" but overall it didn't hit me as hard as 99.9% of your stuff does. Do you
want to keep the sound of that album and expand upon it in the next Dread Sovereign? 

Alan: Well, I really don't know what to say then, I think the album is a stormer! in truth and honesty from the aesthetic to the sound it's something very close to my heart and I don't think you'll hear anything out there for example like the final track "Live Through Martyrs / Transmissions from the Devil Star". I understand that people have short attention spans these days and an EP for the underground is easier to digest but we had to make it like this. Listen again is all I can say, there are some more textures and layers to the album!

M.E: Your political stance has been a subject matter in most of your works. I remember reading one of your old interviews with the obelisk where you've been very critical towards the governing body of Ireland. You even went on to say that the common people helped them to perpetrate their various misdeeds. Whether it's Ireland or India, do you think that people should stop electing the culprits over and over again? Is it better to somehow amend the electoral
process (well, it's easier said than done) because in India whichever party gains control the leaders and party members turn out to be hypocrites, thieves and even rapists afterwards. We have numerous examples of that.  

Alan: Well you get what you pay for don't you? unless you live in a dictatorship. People here complain about Fianna Fáil (the main ruling party over the last 100 years) but they always voted them back in. I used to say I was against the church and the state and for the people but lately I've been finding myself against all 3 historically in Ireland. People hid from the truth, whether it was recognising paedophile priests in their midst and doing nothing or never standing up to the institutions of the state that oppressed and abused them. The world is ruled by power and economics and democracy is just smoke and mirrors. A poorly worked ideal that lies to you that your vote matters at all. If you want to change things start a lobby group and learn to be as bad as the people you oppose. 

M.E: What are some of your favourite non-metal acts apart from your much acknowledged appreciation of David Eugene Edwards (Wovenhand/ex-16 Horsepower)?

Alan: Loads, Nick cave, Leonard Cohen, Klaus Schulze, Joy Division, The Cure, Bauhaus, Rome, Arditi, Townes van Zandt, Johnny Cash, Popol Vuh, Unit Black Flight.

M.E: What are some of your favourite records of 2014 (both metal and non-metal)?

Alan: This was my top 20 for deaf forever magazine

which neglect to mention Behemoth's 'The Satanist' which was a great record

1 -Woven hand - Refractory Obdurate
2- Nick cave - Push the Sky Away
3- Dead congregation - Promulgation of the Fall
4- Grand magus - Triumph and Power
5- Kreigsmaschine - Enemy of Man
6- Solstafir - Otta
7- Bolzer - Aura
8- Unit black flight - Tracks from the Trailer
9- Necros Christos - Nine Graves
10- Satan - Life Sentence
11- Arditi/Puissance/Acherontas/Shibalba - Pylons of the Adversary
12- Slough feg - Digital Resistance
13- Bohren and der Club of Gore - Piano Nights
14- Lana del Rey - Ultraviolence
15-Crippled Black Phoenix - White Light Generator
16- Bullet - Storm of Blades
17- Reign wolf - Sessions
18- Electric wizard - Time to die
19- Midnight - Mayhem with Mercy
20- Winterfylleth - Divination of Antiquity

M.E: When are we gonna witness "Children of the Harvest", "The Coffin Ships" and "Empire Falls" being performed here in India, in the flesh? 

Alan: I have no idea, if there is a promoter tell them to get in touch with us! We need to come and play some different places. 

M.E: Thanks a ton for your time. It was my utmost privilege to get the chance to interview one of my biggest musical heroes.

Alan: No problem, take it easy.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Caskets Open - To Serve the Collapse (2014)

Oh, Sensuela!!:

Finland is no stranger to doom metal. From Reverend Bizarre, Spiritus Mortis to Fall of the Idols and The Wandering Midget, Santa's homeland has produced many a great act to please all the dirge worshippers around the world
and continues to do so by unleashing pissed off undead corpses To Serve the Collapse onto humankind this time around. That's right, the sophomore full-length offering by up and coming Finnish punk-doom metallers contains hour-long filthy and brooding invocation of the undead. 

Caskets Open have already established a quite intriguing sound with their debut But You Rule by fusing the crushing, slow traditional doom tempos of Reverend Bizarre and the punk/thrash/doom sensibilities of Carnivore and early Type O Negative. This time they have returned with the aforementioned dynamics only with more rage and a more grinding heavier production. They've also re-recorded a few tracks from two of their recent demos.

The bass-heavy lurches and despondent lead guitar melodies of "Phantom Wood" marks the beginning of the end. It ultimately leads to almost sludgy territories when Timo Ketola aka Horror employs his raspy hardcore/thrash oriented shrieks during the outro chorus, "Sleep till death...Sleep till death." "Subwoman" (re-recorded from In the End demo) is based on Teuvo Tulio's cult classic Sensuela which is regarded as a cheesy, ridiculous over-the-top semi-softcore flick nowadays. Horror gradually tells Laila Walk's ill-fated story with this crushing piece as its rifftastic nature, rock-steady drumming and catchy hooks unfold only to boggle your mind further with an orgasmic solo. 

"Humanist" begins with full-on punk/thrash attack and culminates with doom. "Funeral Home" is free from the punk tendencies in its entirety. It mostly revolves around painfully heavy trad doom riffs, clean bellowing vocals and atmospheric breaks. "Mayhem" sort of acts as a sequel to aforementioned "Humanist". It basically reverts the opening and closing rhythm of its predecessor by picking up from the doom outro and closing down with barn-burning punk/thrash. 

"The Law" is again a fantastic riff-orgy and features a cool Iommic vibrato which
also reminds me of a similar bending rhythm from the outro of Blood Farmers' "Orgy of the Rats". "Hetero" offers more mid-paced doom crunch before collapsing into the gloomy dirges of "I don't Mind" which is one of the earliest songs composed by the band for their very first demo. While this retake lacks the raw punch of the demo version it successfully makes up for that by becoming more cathartic and coma inducing.

To Serve the Collapse is a solid record that borders on greatness. I think it's not too far when Caskets Open will reach their full potential and produce something truly overpowering. Maybe they will achieve it with their next offering. I'd be looking forward to that.

Rating - ★★★★

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Inconcessus Lux Lucis - Crux Lupus Corona EP (2014)

NWOTBM = New Wave of Twisted Black Metal:

This emergence of freaky and twisted black metal is quite engaging to me. Be it Urfaust's drunken rituals, Negative Plane's black magic with a tasty surf rock
undertone or Head of the Demon's Sabbath meets Darkthrone approach all of these guys are pretty damn unique in their own ways. Now comes Inconcessus Lux Lucis! Huh! Inconcessus Lux Lucis is Latin for "Prohibited Light". Now the music is not quite dark or gloomy but it's definitely as deranged as the band name. Well, maybe Whorethorn seemed a bit too naive for this kind of sound!

Crux Lupus Corona is the after effect of the maniacal disorder caused by its full-length predecessor Disintegration: Psalms of Veneration for the Nefarious Elite which was released back in April. The EP is named after the containing individual tracks respectively apart from the intro "Via Dolorosa" which initiates this aberrant ceremony with an atmospheric and anthemic tone with piper like lead guitar melodies dominating over jangling grooves and poignant harmonized vocals. The strongest aspect of this duo is they know how to write killer hooks and classy rhythm. Constant Interplay between black and thrashy shifts with more rock-out and punk sections, texturally varied harmonics, swirling grooves and even a bit psychedelic flirting they utilize all these styles to create their own brand of oddball black metal.

Imagine Hail Spirit Noir jamming with Venom and Motorhead with a schizophrenic twin of Nocturno Culto on vocals. That's how bizarre and ridiculously dope they managed to sound with "Corona". Just make sure you have a bottle of Corona to accompany you when you howl-along,
"O hollow temptress, I call to thee - Fuck me! 
Come, join the slow dance, with maggots, shit and entropy!"

The crunchy headbangable riffs are appeasing to traditional metal, hardcore punk and thrash fans alike yet raw enough to please die-hard black metal fans. So, if you're a fan of good quality heavy metal in general, be it Motorhead or Celtic Frost and open for bands with quirky approaches then Inconcessus Lux Lucis might rock your socks off.

Rating - ★★★★

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Primordial - Where Greater Men Have Fallen (2014)

Psalms for the exiled:

The Irish heathen metallers have received much acclaim and gained quite a following over the past few years since their highly praised masterwork To the Nameless Dead. Their eighth full-length Where Greater Men Have Fallen continues the trademark gloomy yet fierce, melancholic yet aggressive sound
which they have founded with their sophomore effort A Journey's End and perfected with each release since then.

While me and some of the other fans of the band alike believe that they have peaked with To the Nameless Dead, Primordial still delivered a quite solid successor in the form of Redemption at the Puritan's Hand. Now the question is how long can they remain viable? That I don't know but they are still quite flawless and interesting with this record, at least to my ears. 

Although the title track which is also the opener bears the hallmark of the openers of their previous two records in the manner of standard verse-chorus-verse form it isn't as varied and majestic as "Empire Falls" or "No Grave Deep Enough". So, it ends up being a bit monotonous. "Babel's Tower" almost channels the opening riff of Mayhem's "Freezing Moon" by slowing it down to a more doomy pace and it sounds quite awesome. The riffing halfway through gets even heavier and doomier and then you're in for a folky interlude and a breathtaking solo which features some great heartfelt shredding. "The Seed of Tyrants" is pure savagery as it recalls Primordial's absolute black metal moments from Imrama and Storm Before Calm although the vocals of Nemtheanga remains within his latter cleaner territory with some harsh yelling in parts instead of pure black metal screaming.

The tempo becomes slower again with the doomy crawl of "Ghosts of the Charnel House". "The Alchemist's Head" is the utmost standout of this record. The atmospheric arpeggios in the beginning reminds me of the excellent "Bloodied Yet Unbowed" from the previous record although not quite
melancholic in nature instead the verse riff sounds sinister if anything and it maintains this brooding vibe throughout even during the folky bridge section. "Wield Lightning to Split the Sun" ends the album on a high note as it recaptures the epic vibe of Viking/Nordic era Bathory much like the closer of their previous record.

While Where Greater Men Have Fallen is not as remarkable as Spirit the Earth Aflame, The Gathering Wilderness or To the Nameless Dead it's still a quite worthy addition to their glorious, near flawless catalogue and also a big relief for Nemtheanga fanatics who were a bit disappointed by his recent inconsistent outings with Twilight of the Gods and Dread Sovereign.

Rating - ★★★★1/2 (90% on Metal-Archives)


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Melvins - Hold It In (2014)

Federation of Freaks:

Name a band with a career spanning over three decades that contain about two dozen records, numerous mini-albums and non-stop touring. That's right! Melvins are a rare breed which not only spawned the Seattle and New Orleans scene almost single-handedly but also a benchmark to a generation of experimental heavy acts like Boris, Sunn
O))), Earth, Khanate, Neurosis, Isis, Mastodon, YOB, Eagle Twin and the likes. Hold It In is the latest addition to their ever evolving consistent catalogue.

The duo from Big Business are on a break this time around as King Buzzo and Dale Crover have opted to churn out some freaky jams with two of their other weirdo kins, Paul Leary and Jeff Pinkus from Butthole Surfers. This is not a collaboration between the Melvins and the Surfers instead Paul and Jeff are serving as the full time members of the Melvins with bringing in some of their own ideas as well. 

The opener "Bride of Crankenstein" truly lives up to its name by showcasing some of the trademark massive wall of sludgy riffing. It's just so relentlessly pounding and loud that unaccustomed listeners may end up in a trauma. Oh, the lyrics, they're as wacky as ever - "What was that shit you sold me? We both know you should've told me. It got me spinning 'round the wrong way, It's gonna be a long day!" Just when you're in a mood for more of these sick, loud and freaky soundwaves Melvins troll you by becoming nonchalant and feel-good in the following two tracks "You Can Make Me Wait" and "Brass Cupcake" while the former, written by Paul Leary is a quirky almost surprising take on shoegaze with ethereal psychedelic layers and upbeat rocking melodies and reverb soaked vocals, not to mention the exuberant bluesy solo in the middle. The latter is a bit more conventional laid-back groovy punk rocker. However, the heavy returns with the noise-doom torment of "Barcelonian Horsehoe Pit" and the gigantic stoner lurch of "Onions Make the Milk Taste Bad". "Eyes on You" is a total sing-along freak 'n' roll anthem.

"Sesame Street Meat" is as meaty as its title, full of slow-burning heavy gallops, molten drumming of Crover and infectiously catchy howls of Buzzo. "The Bunk Up" offers more of the Melvins' psyched-out Beefheartian take on Sabbathian metal. They let their much acknowledged KISS influence shine on "Piss Pisstopherson" before the absolute avant-garde climax of "House of Gasoline".

Hold It In is a total package. It offers the iconic sludge of the Melvins as well as their ever-present experimental traits to the maximum. Enough said! Off to worship the King's 'fro. 

Rating - ★★★★1/2 (96% on Metal-Archives)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Phobocosm - Deprived (2014)

Let Chaos Reign:

Enter the dreadful domain where chaos reigns supreme. Phobocosm. Deprived is the first draft of schizophrenic sonic devastation by this Canadian death metal quartet. And the moment you put it on your speakers or headphone it will drag
you to the cataclysmic centre of the murky cover art. So, be prepared for a perennial journey through the darkest maelstrom.

Phobocosm's brand of dark death metal isn't something radically original but still their sound has enough individual characteristics to draw the attention of both the purists and openminded fans of metal and extreme music. The album fluctuates between Immolation inspired apocalyptic atmosphere with heaving chromatic riffs accompanied by traditional death growls, blast-beats and Incantation influenced dirgy inclinations and even rings in a Deathspell Omega tinged blackened undertone which is present throughout.

This assymetrical approach requires adept songwriting skills and Phobocosm have near perfection in that department as well. "Solipsist" and "27 Days of Darkness" are prime examples of grimy and malfunctioned layerings laid in a remarkably catchy structure. Ranging from discordant ambient jarrings to transition between mid-paced bludgeons and relentless tremolo pickings they basically nail in every aspect. "Knives in the Senate House" oozes with black metal riffing in the first half but the tempo crashes into almost Neurosis like atmospheric sludge territory before finishing off with the malevolent blackened death assault yet again. "Drowned" is another example of this intriguing synthesis of Neurosis meets blackened death metal. I hope they make a more pronounced utilization of this style next time around. The closure "Forever in Doubt" is a bit dragging but, nonetheless wraps things with enough grace by
showcasing Phobocosm's full potential which highlights the darkest traits of death, black and doom metal.

So, with pouring quality releases from Thantifaxath, Horrendous, Swallowed and Phobocosm the Dark Descent camp seems to be on a roll this year. Wicked!

Rating - ★★★ (86% on Metal-Archives)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cross Vault - Spectres of Revocable Loss (2014)

Chestnut Tree Be My Gallows:

It's not surprising that a band named Cross Vault hails from the medieval corners of Germany in fact it's thoroughly fitting and the style of their music is also quite
anticipated. Cross Vault consists of N. (Nerrath/Niklas Thiele who has been involved in a plethora of German metal projects) on vocals and drums and M. on guitars and bass. Their intention is to evoke fathomless streams of despair upon their followers and trust me Spectres of Revocable Loss will satisfy each and every wretched soul out there.

Much like the cover art which is inspired by George Orwell's classic dystopian novel 1984 there's a sort of dark romanticism all-over the record which is most apparent on "At Our Bleakest" as it is directly referenced with the demise of Winston and Julia. The overall sound remains slow and ponderous to slightly mid-paced throughout with quality spellbinding doom riffage and an exceptional melodic nature for instance "A Query in Chains" which is already a stone-cold classic in my book. A not so usual but remarkable doom metal ballad much like Type O Negative's "September Sun". I have to reiterate that their melodic sense is absolutely astounding. The way they execute melodic leads interlaced with acoustic passages on "Void of Old, Void to Come" and "Rails Departing" is nothing short of hypnotizing.

"Home" is a nostalgic doom-dirge which features dense riffing accompanied by bass-heavy rhythms and astute drumming topped with a morose lead around three minute mark and a solemn solo. "Rails Departing" is sort of Cross Vault's
progressive take on doom metal. It begins with a relatively fast-paced rhythm but quickly breaks into slow and very heavy dissonant riffage and Nerrath's vocals are also slightly aggressive here when compared to his benevolent and
introspective vocals in rest of the album. A well-executed cover of Warning classic "Footprints" concludes the record. It's actually quite fitting like serving as the aftermath of Winston and Julia's bleak demise which is the subject matter of the penultimate track as mentioned before.

Spectres of Revocable Loss is a remarkable debut and without a shadow of a doubt one of the best metal albums of this year. Do yourself a favour by plunging into its gloomy depths to embrace the chalice of entropic wine.

Rating ★★★★1/2 (95% on Metal-Archives)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Opeth - Pale Communion (2014)

Eternal 70's Prog Homage Comes Forth:

When the much beloved Swedish progressive metal titans opted to discard their death metal roots for their tenth album Heritage as a fan of both the band and 70's prog rock music I was much curious to see how things will work out. It was definitely not an easy decision to make a sudden departure from their original much appreciated sound that has influenced a generation of underground metal bands. But I've always liked Opeth for their brazen creativity. Alas, it didn't click that well for Heritage as it did for Damnation.
While it wasn't something appaling it wasn't exactly decent either. The result was a set of folk-jazz-progressive rock fusion tunes which sounded rather 'dull' than 'innovative', a word much associated with the band prior to this album. While the band gained some new followers old fans were alienated regarding their opinion.

Pale Communion attempts to rectify the errors of its predecessor by making the sound much tight and balanced. The long time associate of the band and Mikael Akerfeldt's soulmate Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, Blackfield) is back again for mixing duties and Travis Smith demonstrates a gorgeous piece of artwork yet again.

The record kicks-off with "Eternal Rains Will Come", with organs trembling all over, a few moments of acoustic calmness to slow things down, soon after the organs come pumping again leading to Akerfeldt, Akesson and Svalberg's multi-tracked vocal harmonies. The solo is quite well executed as well. "Cusp of Eternity" is full of melodrama with a cheesy chorus and blurry rhythm section. Also the solo is overdone like Steve Vai or Buckethead noodling and didn't seem to complement the song. "Moon Above, Sun Below" begins with a jazzy pace but all of a sudden gets surprisingly heavy with the burst of Blackwater Park territory riffing and even a glimpse of Akerfeldt's good ol' growl (although it sounds more like howling than growling) during "....They will eat from your head" but he holds back. Then it gradually delves into a progressive epic. Definitely the best song the band has churned out in recent years with a shade of old Opethian brilliance that we all love and crave.

The instrumental "Goblin" is a tribute to the namesake Italian prog rockers and it wouldn't seem out of place in their Roller record. The drumming of Axenrot and synth playing of Svalberg are clear highlights on this one. "River" is a catchy tune, while mostly acoustic ventures into heavier territory during
closing minutes. The album concludes with plodding, gentle and rather unexciting "Faith in Others" which harks back the dull moments of Heritage.

Pale Communion is certainly a step up from its predecessor but overall it doesn't sound 'innovative' and 'fresh' as words like these used to be synonymous with Opeth. While a much better homage to 70's prog rock than Heritage the basic body of work found here has been done before a million times by bands like Spock's Beard, King's X, Unitopia and Karmakanic. Buy it if you're a die-hard fan or for Travis Smith's brilliant artwork, otherwise download "Eternal Rains..", "Moon Above, Sun Below" and "River" from iTunes.

Rating - ★★★ (64% on Metal-Archives)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden (2014)

Bearing Naysayers with Pride:

Since the debut of the Arkansas doom quartet they've gained a fair amount of
acclaim as well as negligible number of naysayers. And like all wise minds Pallbearer too don't care about their detractors. That's why they're back with all of their defining traits in their sophomore effort. Foundations of Burden has all the characteristics of Sorrow and Extinction and a few fresh stylistic approaches to expand their sound into a new ground.

First of all the album is mixed by Billy Anderson whose reputation within the doomy domain of rock and metal is no secret. From Melvins' Houdini to Eyehategod's Dopesick he has produced some of the topmost classics in doom and its subcategories. And certainly his touch has made Foundations of Burden more dynamic and varied than its predecessor.

Let me make this clear that Pallbearer are not about groovy and meaty "let's get stoned" riffs. If you're expecting doom akin to Sleep's Holy Mountain or Cathedral's The Ethereal Mirror then this record is not for you (probably most of the naysayers are having this problem I guess). They have some echoes of Patrick Walker's former band Warning in terms of doom with emotional depth. But that's about it. Their approach to doom metal is all about creating a melancholic atmosphere and forlorn aura. Of course a lot of doom bands have done it in the past but Pallbearer's sound rings perfection. For instance, the tranquil and serene nature of "Ashes" where Joseph Rowland's piano led atmosphere and Brett Campbell's spaced out pensive vocals take control. Of course there are Phrygian riffing in all of their heavy compositions but as I've said they are not about the grooves or catchiness but to complement the grief-laden melodies.

"Worlds Apart" begins with a Katatonia like lead coated in lumbering drones. The definite highlight of this song is its masterfully crafted a cappella-esque chorus. "Foundations" has a typical Sabbathian main riff, two other distinctive rhythmic improvisations, a moment of clean guitar silence after six minutes of funeral dirge and voila you're in for an epic closure:

"Descendants of dust
With faces carved from stone
The legacy of what has gone
Our paths connected by a thread
Only remains of the lies we led
Impart the weight of the years we shed"

"Watcher in the Dark" is arguably the heaviest song on the record featuring a thumping main riff unleashed right after a creative percussion jam. "The Ghost I Used to Be" is the ultimate stand-out drenched in somewhat weird uplifting
psychedelia and an unconventional almost alternative approach to traditional doom metal.

Coming back to the point of band's naysayers. While they're small in number their brain cells spend abnormally large time to cherry-pick vague flaws like "Hey! their album cover is un-metal or pink or purple or violet" (Born Too Late by Saint Vitus anyone? or Voivod's Nothingface or Sabbath's Master of Reality) or they're not quite heavy (Haha! There's enough crunch to their riffs. Ask Mike Scheidt of YOB) or "identity crisis" huh? Pallbearer's sound is rooted within traditional doom metal and they borrow influences from drone, funeral doom and psychedelia as well. Yea, it's not that complex but their execution is what makes them unique and stand out. Save the phrase "identity crisis" next time for bands like Orchid. And finally Brett Campbell's vocals. Seriously? Check your ear drums if possible. Because his wistful vocals bring perfection to "doom" metal. So, if you love doom metal, heavy metal in general or emotional heavy music you can relate to then cast aside these skeptics and get your copy of this masterpiece straightaway.

Rating - ★★★★1/2 (90% on Metal-Archives)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Blood Farmers - Headless Eyes (2014)

Homecoming of Gore Doomsters:

One of the most mysterious and covert groups of all time is New York's Blood Farmers. Formed way back in 1989 the band has gone through a flurry of line-
up changes but the core members Dave 'Depraved' Szulkin (guitars) and Eli Brown (vocals) remained intact. After twelve years since the release of their self-titled cult classic the band reformed with three of the original members in 2007. But unfortunately bassist and Dave's cousin Phil 'Dr. Phibes' Markonish passed away in 2010. Since then vocalist Eli Brown took over the bass duties and ex-Toxik drummer Tad Leger joined the band.

Headless Eyes is the sophomore full-length release by the NY doomsters and it's every bit of a worthy successor of their 1995 self-titled masterpiece. It's filled with trademark Szulkin riffs, creepy somewhat uplifting psychedelic leads and 70's horror movie inspired atmosphere especially what Blood Farmers and Szulkin are known for. However, the biggest surprise of this record is the album closer, "The Road Leads to Nowhere", a cover of a song featured on the soundtrack of the 70's cult horror film The Last House on the Left originally performed by David Hess. It's a pretty well executed intriguing cover with acoustic guitars kicking in layered within spacey dream like psychedelic leads and Eli Brown's plaintive vocals. The song remains into psychedelic territory throughout without delving into doom metal heaviness. Although this cover may not come off as surprising to well acquainted fans of the band as Szulkin's association to horror movies and his bestseller book about the same film is no secret like I mentioned previously.

"Gut Shot" is classic Blood Farmers. It has all the elements of the band's sound but it's unlike any of their earlier songs mainly because of the production. The production here is a treat for every doom metal fan. Top notch pounding and bottom-heavy. The title track is clearly the winner and all these
so called new flock of doom bands should learn from it that how to write a long doom composition without sacrificing catchy hooks and remarkable variation tempo-wise.

"Thousand-Yard Stare" is the most Sabbathy track of the album and it acts as a bridge between "The Creeper" and "Night of the Sorcerers" which are the usual Blood Farmers instrumental psych doom jams in the vein of "Twisted Brain" and "Awakening of the Beast". "Night of the Sorcerers" in particular begins with a hypnotic middle-eastern tinged clean guitar melody further delving into pounding doom riffs and trippy psychedelic solos. The album concludes with the aforementioned "The Road Leads to Nowhere".

Headless Eyes is a triumphant return by Blood Farmers. It's a must have for doom metal fans and if you're into 70's horror and B-movies then it's a bonus. I just hope we don't have to wait two decades for its follow-up.

Rating - ★★★★1/2 (90% on Metal-Archives)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Best of 2013

Top 5:

Cathedral - The Last Spire: Majestic final opus by British doom legends. Check out my review here.

Alice in Chains - The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here: Killer follow up to one of the greatest comeback albums in rock/metal history. Albeit a bit mellower than its predecessor there are enough heavy moments present to please every loyal AiC fan. Such as the sludgy opener "Hollow", Sabbathian groove of "Stone" and the colossal doom riffage of "Phantom Limb". And there are trademark beautifully layered soul drenching ballads like "Voices" and "Choke".

The Ruins of Beverast - Blood Vaults (The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer): Alexander von Meilenwald's supreme streak continues as he yet again effortlessly channels black metal and funeral doom through his trademark sinister and foreboding atmospherics.

Voivod - Target Earth: The weirdo Canadians are back with their avant-garde thrash assault and it's as good as ever.

Kongh - Sole Creation: The third offering from the Swedish sludge/doom trio (now performing as a duo since the bassist left) is undoubtedly their most mature. Dynamic and eccentric psychedelic textures and above all frontman David Johansson's versatile vocals (most prominent on the closing track "Skymning") give the album a really unique flair.

Other favourites:

Mourning Beloveth - Formless
The Flight of Sleipnir - Saga
The Fall of Every Season - Amends
Batillus - Concrete Sustain
Trouble - The Distortion Field
Kylesa - Ultraviolet
Oranssi Pazuzu - Valonielu
Tribulation - The Formulas of Death
Spiritual Beggars - Earth Blues
Witherscape - The Inheritance
Beastmilk - Climax
Inquisition - Obscure Verses for the Multiverse
Dream Death - Somnium Excessum
Deep Purple - Now What?!
Abysmal Grief - Feretri
Vastum - Patricidal Lust
Skeletonwitch - Serpents Unleashed
Ice Dragon - Born a Heavy Morning
Obelyskkh - Hymn to Pan
Sahg - Delusions of Grandeur
Gallow God - The Veneration of Serpents
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away
Church of Misery - Thy Kingdom Scum
Melvins - Tres Cabrones
A Pale Horse Named Death - Lay My Soul to Waste 
Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance
Red Fang - Whales and Leeches
Primitive Man - Scorn
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats - Mind Control
Motörhead - Aftershock
Hail of Bullets - III: The Rommel Chronicles
Atlantean Kodex - The White Goddess
Meat Puppets - Rat Farm
Age of Taurus - Desperate Souls of Tortured Times
Clutch - Earth Rocker
Ghost - Infestissumam
Beelzefuzz - Beelzefuzz
New Keepers of the Water Towers - Cosmic Child
Warbringer - IV: Empires Collapse

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cathedral - The Last Spire (2013)

"The Circle of Time Has Stopped":

Cathedral have always set themselves apart from their Black Sabbath worshipping peers. From the proto-funeral doom dirge of Forest of Equilibrium to groovy hard rocking bluesy metal oriented mid career to 70's progressive rock
influenced stoner/doom of The Guessing Game, they have incessantly re-invented themselves over the period of their legendary 25 year career which has been concluded with The Last Spire.

In Lee Dorrain's words "The Last Spire should have been our second album". Absolutely, spot on. The Last Spire ventures back to the dirgy gloom of their debut with a slight tint of progressive tendency. The guitar tone of Gaz Jennings on this record is heavy enough to crush the entire universe. The album begins with the eerie "Entrance to Hell" which is full of feedback and gonging bells with Lee Dorrian chanting "Bring out your dead" repeatedly in the background. It gradually delves into the longest track on the record "Pallbearer". "Infestation of Grey Death" starts with crushing riffs but has a somewhat upbeat mid section, clean acoustic passages during the chorus and a surprisingly soothing lead guitar melody after the second chorus. It's kind of a reminiscent of one of the band's classic tunes "Cosmic Funeral" and probably my most favourite song on the record followed by "Tower of Silence" which features an excellent palm-muted sludgy main riff accompanied by muddy basslines of Scott Carlson and mammoth stomp drumming of Brian Dixon. 

The album features guest vocals from Rosalie Cunningham (Purson) who is also featured on the video of "Tower of Silence" and Chris Reifert (Autopsy) has also lend his howls on "Cathedral of the Damned". Both of them have done commendable job in their respective departments.

Altogether, The Last Spire is hell of a worthy swansong for Cathedral. Not many bands can craft such a powerful and effective final opus which would solidify their legacy further and further. Now that the circle of time has stopped once and for all, we're doomed for eternity. R.I.P.

★★★★★ (96% on Metal-Archives)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue (2009)

Downright Brooding:

Alice in Chains had hardly anything to do with grunge, the catchphrase for each and every early 90's hard rock band that came out of Seattle. They sounded nothing alike their 'grunge' contemporaries, song structures usually consisted of eerie atmosphere, Black Sabbath like proto-doom metal riffs, wah-driven subtly textured solos and dark, gloomy lyrics. Anyway, 'grunge' is long gone but Jerry Cantrell had other plans. He opted to resurrect AiC from ashes. It becomes nearly impossible for most of the bands to continue after a tragic demise of the frontman and prolonged inactivity. And talking about frontman, dealing with the loss of such an iconic frontman like Layne Staley, who made AiC special with his astounding vocal abilities and harmonizations with Cantrell, it's hard to believe that AiC could return with a different vocalist and deliver something as good as their previous materials like 'Dirt' or 'Facelift'. But AC/DC has done it, why can't AiC? Yes, AiC can and they did. 

Beside Layne Staley's dark, gritty voice and songwriting, Jerry Cantrell has always been the driving force behind the band. His harmonizations with Layne produced the trademark sound as I mentioned above, he has written almost 70% of the lyrics and he has written some mind boggling riffs. With Black Gives Way to Blue he has done the same as well as re-inventing himself in certain ways. At first, I wasn't too sure about William DuVall but he sure has got a cool and diverse voice which reminded me of something in between Chris Cornell and Ronnie James Dio. 

"All Secrets Known" announces the rebirth of a tragedy-ridden legendary band when Cantrell sings ''Hope, a new beginning.....Calm, all wounds are healing''. A cracking opener with gloomy and pulsating main riff driving heaviness all the way through. The single "Check My Brain" is a sludgy delight with sort of a stoner rock thing going on. There are enough mellow contents present to complement the overall heavy context of the record. Such as the single "Your Decision" which is a reminiscent of 'Jar of Flies' era, the psychedelic "When the Sun Rose Again" or the title track "Black Gives Way to Blue" featuring legendary pianist Elton John which is a tribute to Layne.

The freaking creepy "Acid Bubble" is my personal favourite. It's an out and out doom metal composition with 7 minutes of gruesome heaviness. William DuVall sounds really good when he harmonizes with Cantrell in traditional AiC manner and successfully displays some sparks of his own on "Last of My Kind" and "A Looking in
View". I've heard some complaints about the production of the album but I haven't noticed any such issues maybe because I've always preferred this kind of murky production on heavy metal albums which brings the heaviness out.

Altogether, 'Black Gives Way to Blue' is an impeccable album and nothing short of a comeback masterpiece. Each and every song is rock solid, well written and contains vintage AiC feeling alongwith some fresh new hints on the band's direction. I'm extremely excited for the follow up to this majestic comeback.

Personal Favourites:

"All Secrets Known", "Last of My Kind", "Your Decision", "Acid Bubble" and "Private Hell"

Highly recommended!

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

This review is also available on Metal Archives under my pseudonym doomster999

'Sup Niggas!

As of now a few things I'm going to do are share some of my most prized records of all time, review new and old stuff (flicks, albums) and most importantly goofing around.