This week my state suffered a major catastrophe brought on by something as innocuous and terrible as weather. It is sheer coincidence that for this week I had queued up for review the tremendous "Skeleton Dixie" by Scattered Hamlet . . . scattered hamlets . . . de rigueur for central Oklahoma for two days straight this past week. As I'm listening through this ass kicking album, as well as the equally awesome "The Depths" from The Blackwater Fever throughout the week in attempts to not only prepare for the review but to escape from the horrors of the Fujita Scale, even if only for the drive to work and back each day, I was struck by some of the lyrics in Scattered Hamlet's stirring "Warning":
We all make our choice
And choose our destiny.
Through all the pain and loss
Nothin's clear to me
Too young to die,
Heed my warning.
Just snatches of a lyric embedded within gargantuan music and a personality as big and powerful as a wall cloud, but it jumped out at me. Those lyrics and their accompanying music were a powerful analgesic against heartbreak. The troubling thing, though, is the effect of the storm on me is minimal because it missed my neighborhood on both days, even if just barely. The poor folks in the paths on Sunday and Monday need strong analgesics of every sort, now and perhaps for evermore. I can only hope some of those folks will find such in the power of all the great music found on Heavy Planet. I know I do.
SCATTERED HAMLET - "SKELETON DIXIE"
Hailing from all over the damn place and calling no place home, Scattered Hamlet are a big personality, but they don't use that mammoth projection as a cover up for little to no talent as some loud, obnoxious bands do because it could be easily argued the music behind Scattered Hamlet's persona is larger by a magnitude of significant proportions. Meaning the music is huge and hairy, filled with the dust and grit of dried wheat stacks searing in a white hot southern sun as guitars grind and clang with force and daft deft skill, bass rumbles and roars like pitted, bygone bulldozers plowing cracked ruts out of red clay, an uncanny cadence of drumbeats echoing off cliffs of sun scorched strata, and the crackle and spark of distorted amplification carrying the power and presence of overriding, dominating vocals.
Scattered Hamlet consist of:
Adam Joad - The Appalachian Apostle - vocals, guitar, harmonica, banjo
Redd Yoachum - The Texan - guitar, slide
Rich Erwin - The Kentucky Assassin - bass, vocals
Jake Delling le Bas - The Irish Thunder - drums
"Skeleton Dixie" consists of eleven songs crafted with raunchy attitude, a fervent disregard for convention, and a freight car full of retrospect and reflection on legends past and dear. Every big southern rock band you've ever heard has made a small space in the swirling vortex of Scattered Hamlet's pulse pounding melodies.
This band nails all the major points of great rock and roll. Guitars are, simply put, always engaging with riff and solo alike. Always. Bass and drums step out of bounds on several occasions, adding spice and flavor to an already gritty stew of metal shavings and discarded weldings. Vocals are powerful and fierce, able and adept in fulfilling requirements on all songs. And through it all, melodies engage and entwine lickety split, delivering memorable riffs and hooks not soon discarded.
As with the opening monster, "Shelter", where a primal, engaging rhythm of power and heat accompanies the initial experience of Joad's prodigious personna, "Falling Off the Wagon" is immense in every facet of the song, expansive in scope, gargantuan in delivery, a momentous melody of lasting forcefullness.
The winning title on the album is "Powder Kegs and Gasoline" and the accompanying music does not disappoint. This is raunch in the mud and roll in the grime fun. The closer, which happens to be the title track, is a clever and apt choice to end a perfectly blissful listening experience with a peal and roar tempered by athletic deftness in rapid fire rifling riffs of deep, low thumping distortion.
This album is fun, plain and simple, delivering brightness and cheer through power, grace, and fury, easily lifting spirits no matter how low and black they may be.
In 2012 Scattered Hamlet attended the humongous rock n roll show held in Pryor, Oklahoma. Today they are my signature band for the events of May 19th & 20th, 2013 in Edmond, Shawnee, and Moore, Oklahoma, bringing a fury and power of their own, but not tearing down, instead building up as do all the great stoner, retro, psychedelic, doom, and sludge bands offered by Heavy Planet on a daily basis. Hail! Hail!
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THE BLACKWATER FEVER - "THE DEPTHS"
Endearing, searing, soaring, roaring melodies of melancholic pain and astonishing depth have been indelibly etched onto the amalgamation of blues rock songs captured in atmospheric majesty on The Blackwater Fever's monolithic "The Depths".
This three piece band from Brisbane, Australia recorded and produced this album entirely on their own in their home studio, and while it's their third album, it's the first self produced release. There is certainly no signs of home grown amateurism on the sounds captured within this 14 song bundle of piercing energy and soul stabbing clarity.
Band members include:
Shane Hicks - guitar, vocals
Andrew Walter - drums
Jed A. Walters - organ, bass, synthesizer
The uniqueness of each of the fourteen tracks is matched in entirety by the signature sound of the band on each song. That is a fait accompli of enormous proportions, stamping both uniqueness and signature on a baker's dozen plus one.
Deep abiding fuzz is meted out in massive portions on "Can't Help Yourself", carried along on a bed of raspy, rusty riffs like a nailbed in a hailstorm, inexorably fascinating, haunting, long carved into consciousness and memory.
Hicks' is gifted in both vocal and riff, while Walter delivers power and guile with his stickwork, and Walters is inexorably reliable in volume and depth with bass that does more than simply blend into the woodwork.
A great example of uniqueness and signature is "Don't Fuck With Joe", a song that at first listen seems like a bit of a colloquial anomaly with its Americana stamp, but familiarity breeds recognition and admiration on a melody that takes you down a back alley of sleazy pleasure that is still carpeted in deep pile fuzz and filled with blues rock components on a journey that hearkens intrinsically to Jim Croce with spiking voltage and well developed sinew.
"Now She's Gone" is a blistering, haunting, scorching horse race through deep dark mud on a background of bright, searing sunlight, immensely enjoyable and deeply memorable, while "End of Time" provides a similar, but unique experience of stirring, soaring melodies and hooks.
"Won't Cry Over You" is thick with distortion, low tuned, metronomic and masterful, split by white heat solos bridging the distance between mountains of gargantuan gravel. "Running of the Wildebeest" is an instrumental tour de force, showcasing the skillsets of each of the three band members without attention grabbing vocals in distraction. It's brutal and majestic, complex and clear, offering up an accessible platform on which to ride strands of vibration through clear and jagged streams of blues rock.
This album is superb in every way, deeply satisfying, and deserving of immediate attention, and at the end of the year when accolades are meted, as well as forevermore in a fine, riff fueled buzz bomb of extraordinarily beefy blues tunes.
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Saturday, May 25, 2013
Friday, May 24, 2013
Two years ago I named Äppelträdet by Sweden’s Skraeckoedlan as my top album of 2011. It goes without saying that I became a huge fan of the band after hearing that record, so when I read last month that they’d be taking their fellow Swedes, Silver Devil out on tour with them, it was a no brainer for me to check out this opening act for myself. Of course, given that the Atlantic Ocean presents a bit of an obstacle in terms of me actually attending this tour in person, I did the next best thing and went in search of Silver Devil on the interwebs. To my surprise I discovered that we had already featured these guys as a "New Band To Burn One To" way back in February 2010, but then somehow overlooked their beast of a debut album, which was released a year later in May 2011. Given that I couldn’t exactly just show up early to see Silver Devil as they opened for Skraeckoedlan, I figured I could at least spread the word and shed some light on their phenomenal, yet unsung debut record to all of you good people. So in case you missed it like I did, I’d like to introduce you to Silver Devil.
Now the first thing you’ll notice is the dual guitar attack of Jonas Hamqvist and Otto Molin as the two combine punishing riffs with melodic hooks and solos that add more depth to these songs than you’re likely to hear from your typical stoner rock band. And that’s a common thread throughout the album; making this debut as memorable as it is heavy by ensuring that each song finds a place to bury itself inside your head. “Cactus Kicker” (best song title ever) is a perfect example of this, with its rumbling riffs accompanied by slick fretwork that slices right through the wall of fuzz. Throw in the ultra-chill, slacker style vocals of Anders Löfstrand, the low end rumble from bassist Erik Bergkvist and the thunderous beats and consistent crash from drummer Marcus Ström and you’ve got yourself the musical equivalent of a V8 saddled hot rod burning down the highway. The entire album is a highlight, but if you dig recommendations, take “7.8” for a spin and then check out “In Space.” Man, you couldn't find more fuzz if you shoved your head up the ass of a stuffed bear named Fu Manchu. But just as a reminder, this one’s already two years old, so don’t waste any more time. Put the top down, roll up your sleeves and take a ride with Silver Devil…this shit is cherry.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
"MONACHUS. capturing an organic timbre that invokes images of these swedes toiling over beloved instruments... Deep down... BELOW."
Formally of Icos, the 3 Swedes that make up Monachus have been true stalwarts of the Euro Doom scene since 2001. Every release by these guys, either as Icos or as Monachus has been some of the best Sludge and Doom with roots firmly laid in Hardcore and Crust, that I have heard yet. Coming from the same Doom-Crust directions as Neurosis, Amenra and Fall of Efrafa, their Sludge is of a melancholy type played with honor and from passionate hearts and with their latest, "Below" released back in March on Alerta Antifascista Records, Monachus have outdone themselves.
Slothenly dirge-drenched riffs, introspective twangs and droning atmospherics, interspersed with ultra-bluesy word delivery and earth shattering drum work, as can be heard in track 2, "Curse", typify Monachus' sound. Make no mistake, Monachus are heavy but they do not fall into the trap of playing heavy for heavy's sake and leaving out excellent song writing. The albums closer, "Onward" shows this in a blazing glory of encouraging voices that had me imagining all my buddies stood behind me shouting "Onward! Forward my friend!" while I walked away well armed to battle my demons. There are samples of what I think is John Hurt from the film version of V for Vendetta, which are placed well in the track and avoid any easy distractions, making it my favorite on the album but not only for that reason. The opener that is "Waves" carries a spurring tone with tumbling pounding riffs and a haunted chant to shouted incantations leading to upraising Post-metal style echoed licks. Towering repetitive riffs return building upon what came before as the Monachus ship sails proudly and defiantly towards a doomed Sun until their vessel is tossed into a huge swell of Neurosis-like noise-out only for the Monachus ship to burst forth into a triumph of melody that drives the track to its ending in minimal ambiance. In track 3 "Circles" begins an atmospheric drone that carries the track into a maudlin and quiet tone that drifts around the head and setting you up for the onslaught of driving heavy sludge that eventually collapses on you, bringing you out of your mind wandering like a brick to the head when sleeping. Arm raising and airy calls are brought in to lift you out of the sludge only for you to be dropped back in again to have your head pounded by galaxy sized riffs. The track shift-shapes into melancholy meanderings until a heavy thrust of sludge surges forward in triumphant celebration and thus ends yet another mighty fine album from Monachus.
"Below" is available now from Alert Anitfascista Records and from their Bandcamp.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
KATLA: "I Will Hunt You / Foaming Waters"
Surprise, surprise, surprise... More excellent tunes from Sweden. Here at the 'Dose this Wednesday we have a shot from Sweden, Stockholm centered and swelling with dark psych, acid blues, and a touch of folk inspiration. This is KATLA, a quartet layered with distortion, fuzz, loads of melody, and topped off with a gorgeous set of female vocals. The group describe their sound as, "...like having your brain smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick". Although I do agree with the gold and the lemon, I do not get the "smashed out" sensation after jammin' to their latest 7" release entitled I Will Hunt You / Foaming Waters. Here KATLA's attack is covert and clandestine. This isn't your smash and grab, get pummeled style of rock. Within moments of spinning side one,the I Will Hunt You single side, your ears are quickly aware of this dragon's cunning intellect. KATLA aren't here to overpower you and take you against your will, (no smashing necessary) they are here with a sonic lure that will have you freely walking into their lair. This attraction, through seduction, begins with a beautifully toned blues guitar measure. There is a slight surf rock vibe coming from the electric guitar once the enticement has initiated and before you know it you've been struck powerless in the sonic field reverberating from the vocals. Flip the 7" to the opposite side and you will immediately notice more of that appealing guitar tone. This mated to the perfect lo-fi, analog style production bring an authenticity to KATLA's sound. Here we are now fully immersed in Foaming Waters, and that rich guitar tone is really what drive KATLA's fruit deep into my conscious. The track is elevated in grandeur as the dark and reminiscent strings of a violin enter the room and graze your mind. This classy and tasteful addition to Foaming Waters soon disappears as that tonal guitar steps to the fore-front with what is quickly becoming my favorite guitar solo of 2013. The violin appears again only this time joining the guitar for a rich, indulgent outro. Awaking now in silence you are fully aware that KATLA have vanished leaving you with little but a memory, just enough to hold onto until you meet again. So, in the end we return to KATLA's own description... the sound is gold, priceless and the lemon (fruit) we can only hope will multiply in the form of a full-length album in the near future. Get your copy from Who can you trust? Records... NOW!
New Keepers of the Water Towers: Cosmic Child
New Keepers of the Water Towers aren't new to the 'Planet. I reviewed their sophomore release The Calydonian Hunt back in the summer of 2011. There we found a young band, full of aggression and spewing some heavy stoner-focused sludge metal. With this latest release, entitled Cosmic Child, New Keepers... have dropped the sludge moniker almost entirely, all while opening the gate-way for their music to drift into a psychedelic and much more progressive spectrum. It is truly magnificent to see a group of musicians grow so much over the course of a few years. Here Cosmic Child has taken what was good song writing and arrangements within the confines of The Calydonian Hunt and transformed those basic characteristics into genuine brilliance through more concentrated song writing and a spacey atmosphere.
Cosmic Child begins with opening song, and the albums first single, The Great Leveller. This opener acclimates previous listeners gradually into the Keepers... new sound. All you first time listeners out there, just enjoy the ride. The Great Leveller sounds most like its predecessor through the thunderous and tribal stomp of the percussion and the shear mass of the rhythm section. The chanting styled vocalization brings an eerie sensation upon you while the guitars taunt you to come just a step closer. The Great Leveller disperses abruptly through a swirling flush and is soon all but a memory. Here the music doesn't only transform, it is revolutionized with the entrance of track two, Visions of Death. Greeting our ears is a much softer and lighter side of Keepers... The band chose to deceive us through the inviting sound of an acoustic, or possibly even classical, guitar. This very European inspired, medieval folk touch erodes away with the build of a dominant electric ether. That heavy RIFFING clashes with the cleanly sung lyrics creating a beautiful emission, something that reminds me of Alcest, although by a completely different musical path. With the close of Visions of Death we find ourselves evolving with the band once again. Now, in a very melancholy and retrospective state the Keepers... carry us through the dark by careful acoustic plucking and some murky notes played on a piano. Welcome to Pyre for the Red Sage. Full of some of the most textured Pink Floyd style soundscapes Pyre for the Red Sage further unfolds by the wailing of a pained guitar. The final twenty minutes will transport you higher into Cosmic Child's astral plane and leave us return listeners bewildered at the fact that this was the same band that crushed us with the weight of The Calydonian Hunt. Be sure to check out the full album stream of Cosmic Child over of at Metal Hammer and if you dig it a CD copy can be ordered from Listenable Records.
Adam Forsgren - Live Synthesizers
Björn Andersson - Bass // Vocals
Rasmus Booberg - Vocals // Guitar // Moog
Tor Sjödén - Drums
Victor Berg - Guitar
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
HEAVY PLANET PRESENTS...CROMLECH
Slow, loud music from Middlesbrough UK. For fans of large structures.
James Morrison - Bass/Vocals
Ben Goodwill - Guitar
Gordon Archer - Drums
Cromlech, from the UK, come with a 2 track demo of stripped down and low down doom metal. Like a massive be-denimed and leathered sloth, dragging it's knuckles and swollen belly and shaking the ground as it hulks onward, the 2 tracks on here lurch with huge gritty riffs, devastating drum avalanches and Jus Oborn style guitar + wha freakouts. There is an effective melancholy edge to their sound which reminds me of "We Live" era Electric Wizard but Cromlech manage to forge their very own heavy homunculus which keeps their take on Doom Metal monolithic, saturnine and bewitching all at once.
Their demo EP was released as a free download at their bandcamp earlier this month so head over there and pick up some satisfyingly heavy Doom Metal for free. I'll be keeping an eye on Cromlech for future releases as I'm sure they have plenty more riffs to unleash upon the world of doom.