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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday Sludge: Best of 2012


These year-end lists can make you crazy. What you won't see on my forearm are the half-dozen band names I've carved out entirely. Great as they may have been, I had to cut it to twelve. Shit, I fooled myself into thinking I could pare it down to ten. But there was simply too much great sludge metal slung my way in 2012. Whether it's straight southern thickness, sped-up filth, or dusty bounce laced with sprawling post-metal drift, sludge is more expansive than you thought and too frequently overlooked.

I couldn't bring myself to rank these from 1 to 12. Some days I find Fistula's angst to be the essential middle-finger to my boss. Other days I catch myself dissecting Canto III Inferno by In the Company of Serpents. And had EYEHATEGOD spewed eight or ten more tracks that sounded as good as New Orleans is the New Vietnam, they may have shot right to number one (what a great fucking song). As it stands, these are the twelve Sunday Sludge-featured albums I returned to most frequently.


-(16)- - Deep Cuts From Dark Clouds

Jerue's bark is more symptomatic of choice than struggle. The only match for this is the low and vile whir of rhythm that's never out of death's reach. Without tricks and without fluff, -(16)- tread the broken ground abandoned by their contemporaries. Ubiquitous pain has evolved into flared indignation, and the resulting sound is -(16)- at their greasy pinnacle.







Fistula - Northern Aggression


Hit the e-brake all you want, but Fistula's in full control. The plod balances the shred and the fury lines every note with napalm. The tempo shifts suggest a bi-polar, manic, borderline personality glitch, but nobody will raise a red flag. The sleeping giant you poked with a stick never woke. Instead, Fistula again showed up without warning. Your skin is bubbling, your left eye is gone, and you're drooling as you sift through the soil looking for loose teeth.





Grizzly - Fear My Wrath


We're rarely met with material this overtly homicidal and self-satisfied. Lyrics can be oft-considered sludge's afterthought, shouted or muffled or buried in brilliant rotting moss. Grizzly's vocal delivery on Fear My Wrath perfectly ensnares listeners by snagging a fish hook in your lip, rubbing your skin raw with sandpaper, and leaving spit-trails of hostility dripping from your hair.






Sonance - Like Ghosts


The forty-two minutes on these two tracks breathe and haunt more like an undying memory, surging and waning beyond your wishes. These ghosts are seemingly within you, not around you. You can compartmentalize the chills, but the lucidity is never sealed off. And when you've been lulled to comfort and feel a cool sigh can be enjoyed, you're jarred by descending sludge terror.






Spider Kitten - Cougar Club


...After eleven months of sifting through some pretty incredible offerings from some pretty accomplished acts, it's difficult to find many that are this complete and this proficient. Cougar Club is thick with mood, heavy on variation, and thoroughly stung with riffs and rhythms that'll knock you flat. Moving forward, waving back, and setting the knob to "simmer" is just the beginning for Spider Kitten.





haarp - Husks


Planting their feet as sludge metal gods, haarp take their time trimming the fat and let the truth simmer. Between the sludge barrages and atmospheric back roads is tempered, expertly-timed black gold. The band's proficient but patient approach is lined with beautifully rich and vile vision. Husks isn't merely another NOLA sludge-metal record; it's a sonic catapult for a band wholly deserving of every accolade they accrue.






HUSH - Untitled I


On Untitled I, despair clouds every luxury. Every happiness is whittled and boiled. The sludge-doom truths pique our senses, but the vexed lyricism here serves as effective a weapon. The songs are strongly-structured, the shifts are well-placed. Ultimately, the songs are smart and despondent, truly questioning where we're headed. Blame doesn't need to be assigned because you know you're guilty. I suppose the first step is admitting you've got a problem. The second step is listening to HUSH.





In The Company Of Serpents - Self-titled


Down-tuned plod melds with Netzorg's withdrawn but enticing vocals. Burying licks under a canvas of fog has the track feeling like a stumble through a misty hamlet, buzzing and grinding like your old man's dusty table saw that he's too drunk to use. What's surprising for this sludge, however, is its groove. The palpable, nod-inducing rhythm is what sets apart ITCOS from their sludge-doom contemporaries. Under an electric blanket, the band's sludgy plod melts into a stoner groove, resulting in some pretty cool sounds.





Pigs - You Ruin Everything


Spin it, say your prayers, and hope your hands don't shake so badly when you wake up.  Pigs aren't gonna cure your ills or pull you from the dry well, they're gonna jump down there with you.  And by the time the police show up, each of these songs is stuck on your tongue.








Rabbits - Bites Rites 


Bites Rites challenges and antagonizes via immediate, in-your-face hardcore bullying. Rabbits are direct and all ambiguity is checked at the rotting, unhinged door. You don't have to wallow in the mud; sometimes you need to jump in and throw it at others. And if Rabbits don't manage to catch your attention with flaming piles of loose earth, they'll just gnash their teeth and rip off your face.






Rodha - Raw


Employing just five tracks of melded design, Rodha should have little trouble finding a rabid fan-base.  That a band can so strongly assert it's mettle on what they call a demo is nothing short of stunning, and their generosity is a testament to the confidence they have in themselves and one another.  These tracks are heavy, smart, well-structured, and dirty enough for sludge-o-philes to instantly fall into submission.






Make - Trephine



In Metal Songwriting 101, Trephine would be the curriculum's cornerstone. Your head is gonna swell and your skull is gonna pound, but MAKE's death rattle has unparalleled warmth and voluminous complexity.Trephine is the perfect ailment and the perfect antidote, complete with enough syrup to dull the edge.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Nuclear Dog's Atomic Split: DSW - "Dust Storm Warning" / Bison, Bison - "Bison, Bison"

The year draws to a close and my thoughts turn to compiling a 'Best Of' list, which has compelled me to review all the music reviewed or submitted for review over the past year on Heavy Planet, not just mine, but everyone's, certainly a serious amount of music. As I was going through it all I discovered I had let at least one excellent album slip through the cracks. DSW's "Dust Storm Warning" is a stoner rock treasure trove released back in May. It was always on my list of albums to review, it's way too good not to be showcased on our site, but due to the plethora (don't you HATE that word?) of new and wonderful music produced and released every year that fits the Heavy Planet criteria sometimes even great albums fall to the wayside. It's a bit ironic in that this is the type of album you live for as a reviewer. The second feature album for today is Portland, Oregon's Bison, Bison whose debut album was released in August, is chock full of big time stoner riffage, and was another in danger of getting lost in the kerplunk and shuffle until I very fortuitously came across it one day in pursuit of other review prey.
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DSW - "DUST STORM WARNING"

It would be a mistake to think DSW is an acronym for Dust Storm Warning, the name of their first full length album, especially when you discover their initial release, an EP from 2011, was titled "Dawn Storm Watchers", making up the same abbreviated moniker. As far as I've been able to tell, DSW aren't providing anything more in depth as to the meaning or story behind those three letters, so we don't know if it's interesting, purposeful, or just plain narcissistic. It doesn't really matter, though, because what matters, of course, is the music, and the music on "Dust Storm Warning" is quality stoner rock, music of the highest quality, a sound that will remain with you quite likely for life, as the best albums always do.

You wouldn't be wrong if you classified DSW's sound as desert rock since they hail from the desert of Lecce, Italy. Having formed in 2010 their only lineup change has been the vocalist. Currently, DSW's members include:

Wolf Lombardi - Vocals
Marco Papadia - Guitar
Stephen Butelli - Bass
Fabio Zullino - Drums

"Dust Storm Warning" charges right out of the gate with a declaration of power and energy on the opening track "Outrun". It's a song with a tight, fast tempo underlying a superbly down tuned guitar used to perfect effect in establishing what to expect from the music that follows - huge jaw shattering riffs and solos, magnified and amplified to grab the ends of your soul and stretch it to its limits, allowing the fluid of fuzz to flow through, enveloping your psyche and fusing into pleasure receptors of pure, perfect, true rock.

Wolf's vocals are meaty, heavy, and as fuzzy as the sound for which it accompanies. Marco's guitars never waver from their multi-pronged mission of riff and solo delivery, of exciting the neurons of stoner rock ecstasy, of effortlessly delivering on the promise of quality. Stephen's bass, too, is a vanguard of power, clearing out any chaff by delivering precise explosions of pure low tuned power. Fabio's stickwork is incredible and fierce throughout each song, carrying the rhythm, accentuating key moments, and melding all into a ferocious cohesive onslaught of music.

"Tripping the Drill" is a tight, harrowing showcase of gargantuan sound, with guitars attacking in wave after wave of ferocious, joyful tempo. "Rise" is a slow, smoldering volcano, beginning with suppressed power and slowly building with beauty to a point of inescapable power.

 



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BISON, BISON - "BISON, BISON"

Bison, Bison is a three piece rock and roll metal band from the St. John's neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, boasting currently of members:

Grant Gerald Miller - Guitar, Vocals
Dylan Reilly - Bass, Harmonica
Eric Johnson - Drums

These three rock virtuosos, having just recently formed in 2011, deliver on this album a sound huge and mighty, betraying their seemingly slight roster. Tempo and melody are a staple of the song collection on this self-titled debut, as well as the aforementioned gargantuan nature of each song track contained within. Beautiful and low, the guitar work on this album is rapture incarnate, as the riffs deliver a tortured, twisted, misshapen beauty of amplified distortion, blending perfectly on highlighted solos and booming bassnotes, always leaving a huge yearning for more than gets delivered. Such is the beauty and power of delivery by Miller on these debut tracks and initial foray into the stoner/doom/psych rock world.

"She Says" wastes no time in setting the standard for tempo, tone, and might. The guitar here is a giddyup delight of galloping power. Reilly's bass work on this, and all songs, stands out by separating from the undertones at key times with flourishes of exquisite riff deliveries. "Rivertown" takes more of a stoner approach with a slow, measured, power of coalescing fuzz and scarcely restrained fury. "Sweetish" takes a fresh approach to the slow build, like a smoldering volcano releasing slight amounts of fury at a time, while simultaneously delivering deep vibrations of kinetic distortion, building and boiling, releasing jets of ferocious solos and riffs, rumbling long and low until the inevitable explosive crescendo.


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Friday, December 28, 2012

New Band To Burn One To: ALEPH NULL

HEAVY PLANET presents...ALEPH NULL!


BAND BIO:

A great Sludge/Stoner/Doom-three-piece from Düsseldorf.


THOUGHTS:

"Aleph Null-Definition: The first of the transfinite cardinal numbers. It corresponds to the number of elements in the set of positive integers. Now that we have the origin of the band name out of the way, let's get down to bizness. This German three-piece play gritty NOLA-style sludge in the lines of Down, but add their own unique touch. A bit more grimey and a hell of a lot more fuzzy (my ears are still buzzin'), the band lays down some pretty sweet ass slow and low soul-searchin' grooves and even shows their grunge influences on the track "Sidewinder". Released in January, this 6-song album unfortunately eluded my ears until now. Better late than never. Go to their Bandcamp page and download this awesome slab o' southern sludge. Do it now!"

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Double Review: Dapunksportif & The Quartet of Woah!

Dapunksportif – Fast Changing World
2012 was a great year for music in Portugal with new bands coming into scene and others confirming their position. Dapunksportif are one of those bands. They are a rock due hailing from Peniche, a small city in the center of Portugal near the Atlantic Ocean.
“Fast Changing World” is now their third album, following up to their successful releases “Ready! Set! Go!” and “Electric Tube Riot”. In the past they were constantly compared to bands like Queens of the Stone Age and Kyuss but now they have matured and blended those influences into their own style. They have definitely gained their own identity with this new release.
What we can notice in these 42 minutes is a great combination of strong rhythms, heavy bass lines and great guitar work (the riffs!). Basically it is just good ‘ol Rock ‘n Roll! Special guest drummers Marco Jung, Ze Carlos, Pedro Cação (Pigs in Mud), Johnny Dynamite (Murdering Tripping Blues), David Canhoto (ex Mister Lizard) and Samuel Palitos (A Naifa / Censurados / Ladrхes do Tempo) give different dynamics to each song with their special touch. Some songs are more bouncy (“Lazy Human Being”, “Illusionary Individuality”, others more groovy and danceable (“Hunting on the Dancefloor”), others fast paced resulting in a very well balanced album.
This is a very fun album to listen to, especially if you are a fan of good ‘ol Rock ‘n Roll without the clichés and that kind of stuff. It’s honest and in your face. Try listening to it loud while enjoying a nice car ride to the middle of nowhere. I recommend it.

http://www.reverbnation.com/dapunksportif

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The Quartet of Woah! – Ultrabomb

The Quartet of Woah! is one of the newcomers of 2012 and also one of the biggest surprises. Born in 2010, The Quartet of Woah! is a band formed by members of other Portuguese bands such as LunaSeaSane, Melange, Nicorette, Blasted Mechanism, Zorg and Philharmonic Weed. They took their musical influences to build a unique genre of rock with heavy influence from the 70’s and 80’s.
“Ultrabomb” is a concept album inspired by “La Ultrabomba”, a children’s book written by the Spanish authors Mário Lodi and I.Sedazzari in 1974. It is about political and social criticism held in a fictional universe. This book ended up being banned in most European countries as well as Argentina.
The record tells us the story of Master Lever, a man who was driven by his thirst of power and greed.
This is a true musical journey. Diversity is the word here. It is such as sweet mix of stoner rock riffs, psychedelic jams, keyboards, a little pinch of Queen here and there, progressive and jazzy segments… There is a hell of a lot going on but in fact each song flows perfectly into the next one.
It is not really fair to point out or highlight any of the thirteen songs that are part of this album. It only makes sense when you listen to it as a whole and I do recommend you to do so. Over and over again. It is addicting.
As I said before, “Ultrabomb” is one of the biggest surprises of 2012 and one of the bands to keep an eye on in the future. It is a pleasure to listen to records like this one.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Zac's "Double Dose": Bantha / Lento


Bantha: Fuzz Totems I 

Last week's first dose was a one man project from Vancouver. Well, Mr. Langer is back again this week with a completely different project and under a completely different alias. Furthermore we will refer to Mr. Langer as Wailin' Lord Bebelton and his project Bantha could not be more different from The Civil Dead. Where The Civil Dead consume the listener in isolation Bantha pick up the pace and allow the grooves and fuzz do the dirty work. Taking a lo-fi approach the tunes sound raw and the guitar is so fuzzy you'll need more than your Dad's Norelco. Give my favorite track With Blood Planets In His Head a spin and if you need more head over to bandcamp.

 

Members: Wailin' Lord Bebelton


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Lento: Anxiety Despair Languish 

Lento, our second shot, are a Roman quartet established back in 2004. Basing their creation in an instrumental sludge root, their sounds will attract fans of Baroness (the early years), Mare, Cult of Luna and Sleep. Having released two albums and one live recording Lento enthusiastically set out to break some boundaries by combining the sheer aggression of their early work and a condensed vision of heavy music in recent history and how it shaped their art. Check out some of their latest record Anxiety Despair Languish at soundcloud or get a copy from Denovali Records or Lento's web-store. Did I mention the excellent artwork?!

Monday, December 24, 2012

New Band To Burn One To: SEA OF DISORDER

HEAVY PLANET presents...SEA OF DISORDER!


BAND BIO:

We both were born in Salzburg / Austria where we still live and create our music. Our main influences come from Doom, and we wanted to create melodic, atmospheric but also rough and sometimes brutal sounding mixture of our own style. We are only two persons, and played all the instruments ourselves, did some drum recordings in our hometown Salzburg first, and then recorded the guitars, bass and keyboards in our own little ‘studio’ ( also known as: at home ).

We also feature two guest Musicians on our first EP: Loic Rossetti who sang on the last two [ The Ocean ] Albums ‘Heliocentric’ and ‘Anthropocentric’ appears on Track 3 & 4 with some vocals, which was a big honor to us! Chris Huber from Salzburg, who is mainly known as ‘Wach’ with his own Ambient / Noise Project and released three Albums on various Labels, made the Intro Track for Song 1 & 2.

[ ~ Sea Of Disorder ~ "EP" ] is about ‘something’ awakening deep below the Sea as a metaphor for the beast that slumbers in every human being and is being suppressed by the daily circumstances that are going on in everydays life that block the real emotions and feelings people would and should have…



THOUGHTS:

"With an outpouring of wave after wave of crushing guitars and cymbal crashes, this two-member band from Austria creates a beautiful yet devastating piece of atmospheric post-metal sludge. The band sets the tone by using oceanic sound effects and soft guitar passages in preparation for the release of what lurks beneath. Once the beast has risen a huge guttural howl is emitted creating a towering storm filled with furious and erratic drum fills. The story ends with the epic album closer "Chapter III ~ Reinvigoration / Thalassophobia". This is music that opens your mind, creating a vision that lets you escape the realities of our sometimes mundane existence."


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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday Sludge: DIAZEPAM - "Demo 2"


Well, the fuckin' holidays are here! Maybe you've got a few days off work, maybe your spoonfed kids are gazing at the stack o' gifts under a dying, poorly-lit tree, and maybe you've got just enough bourbon in the cupboard to choke down all the stupid rituals handed to us by our parents. But for those of us who struggle to "Keep Christ in Christmas," there's hope in the form of free sludge metal downloads. A little stoner-sludge merriment boosts the buzz, and the creepy cousin you only see once a year won't come near your bedroom if you cloud it with filthy thickness.

Careful with that booze, Weezy. They'll tell you "Do not drink alcohol while using Diazepam." Well, fuck that! These four Idahoan sluggers caught Heavy Planet's eye back in the spring with a demo presenting what Reg called "heavy as tar riffs, slow as molasses rhythms, and regurgitated vocals." Well, the year's nearly run its course and I couldn't let another week pass without featuring the band's dense, heady Demo 2. Five tracks of total fucking saturation is enough to pass me through the holiday push, but the crunch and swagger is also gonna keep me tuned in on whatever Diazepam has dialed up for 2013.

Buzzing with flies and chewin' on tainted glass, Sunn of Skam is shit-slung sludge opened low and fuzzy. The track boils and burns while Drew's vocals do as much to cake and crust the sound as any instrument could ever promise. These tracks are so suffocatingly dense that you'd be right to accuse Diazepam of malevolent sadism. Listeners are held underwater on Ancestor Worship. Throw your hands skyward and scratch all you want; the steady pick-up and evolved nod to Sabbath will put a swagger in your stagger. Your body's gonna move involuntarily, and this time you can keep a straight face when you tell girls "no, it's not a tic!"

The riff-wrangling hasn't been left behind this time, evidenced on Sunn of Skam and the pissed and dripping Weak Fist, Sleight of Hand. Stomping through a town square as mothers cover their children's eyes, this violent trudgefest is slow and deliberate, bloodied and pulsating through thick fur. But the gritty desert-wind solo steals top-billing. Blight Hard's thick club swings mercilessly, a slow-motion invasion of cool headbangs and bouncing bass toils. The track's evolution toward toolshed stoner-doom is the perfect cadence on the demo's best track. Hitting below the belt and swirling with dusty, coughing kick-ups and a vocal echo that demonstrates confidence and progress, it's hard to accept Diazepam have existed only 13 months.

I was drawn to this today. The approaching Christmas chaos brewed the perfect need for some sooty, down-tempo "vallies." Taking heavily from sludge titans Iron Monkey, Grief, Weedeater (Scabbed Up is a dirtier Woe's Me), and EYEHATEGOD, there was simply no avoiding Demo 2. Where the trailblazers flung their shit is where Diazepam sniffed for scraps. Keeping things thick and muddy, however, is merely half the fun. These five tracks seem to resonate a bit longer, like sippin' Boone's Farm in the basement with your uncle's too-young-for-him fiancée. She's got a few more miles than the girls your age, but she knows a thing or two that're gonna keep her on your mind all winter. Diazepam have found the formula to ease this season's lament: ignore the warnings.



Saturday, December 22, 2012

Nuclear Dog's Atomic Split: Skanska Mord, Abrahma, Lord Fowl

The year has flown right by, at least for me. It's been so much fun getting to know the best new music on the planet in an up close and personal manner this year. Of the many wonderful characteristics of stoner/doom/psych/retro rock there is one that just flabbergasts me, and that is how much new, original, MOUTHWATERING music is generated each year. Granted I've only been truly engaged for two years now, but I am staggered by how much new and incredible music I've found. There is so much that it's hard to showcase it all on Heavy Planet. Today I am showcasing three instead of the usual two. There have been a lot of 'best of' lists on Facebook the past several weeks and these 3 albums tend to make a majority of those lists, whether they be from fans, reviewers, or musicians. All three are from the ubiquitous and incomparable Small Stone Records label. Small Stone has cranked out more than their fair share of great, new music this year, and if rumors are any indication next year will at the very least match that output if not top it. Today we get to hear the incredible music of Örkellijunga, Sweden's Skånska Mord, the down home rock of New Haven, Connecticut's Lord Fowl, as well as the treasure chest of metal from Paris, France's Abrahma. Plug in, sit back, rock out, if you please.
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SKÅNSKA MORD - "PATHS TO CHARON"

Skånkska Mord are somewhat rare as a band because all members are from the same hometown, and while they didn't all start together as Skånkska Mord, they took full advantage of the demise of  former bands to form a new, tighter, more highly skilled and motivated band, one able to meld their seemingly disparate and individual sounds into something quite strong and exciting, something powerful and intoxicating, something that more rightly expresses the artistic qualities within each member of the new formation. They've now been together since 2006 and have generated nothing but music of the highest timbre and quality, culminating to this point with "Paths to Charon"

Skånska Mord are comprised of:
Patrik Berglin - Guitar
Petter Englund - Guitar, Backing Vocals
Patric Carlsson - Bass
Janne Bengtsson - Vocals, Harmonica
Thomas Jönsson - Drums, Percussion

They play a heavy, low tuned, and vibrant brand of psychedelic rock that slings the fuzz while wrapping a haunting and dark blanket of sound over magnificent, perfectly matched vocals from Englund and Bengtsson. The guitar work from Berglin and Englund is nimble and unforgiving as they inexorably carve their way through a thick, dense, nirvana of sound, all the while accompanied ably by Carlsson's monster bass and Jönsson's heavy caliber percussion.






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LORD FOWL - "MOON QUEEN"

Lord Fowl is:
Jon Conine - Bass
Don Freeman - Drums
Vechel Jaynes - Guitar, Vocals
Mike Pellegrino - Guitar, Vocals

Lord Fowl's music is an extension of some of the great, great rock of the 70s, with a slight southern tinge despite its creators hailing from the heart of yankee country. It's as if the decade had never ended, but instead endured through the ensuing three and half decennium, spawning a surfeit of incredible, delectable music.

Lord Fowl do not spare the riffs on this jam packed album. Guitars are salient, plentiful, and unburdened, spawning generous amounts of fuzz laced, down tuned distortion intertwined throughout with hot, searing solos and scorching riffwork. The vocals are perfectly matched to the music, bearing the slightest of raw edges, while percussion and basswork massivley encompasses all, expressing perfectly Lord Fowl's melodies of magic.




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ABRAHMA - "THROUGH THE DUSTY PATHS OF OUR LIVES"

This Parisian foursome have delivered a treasure trove of bright shining jewels, perfectly cut, formed to perfection, exquisite in composition and detail with "Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives", an album of 15 catchy, heavy, clever, intelligent songs.

Band members include:

Sebastien Bismuth - Vocals, Guitars
Nicolas Heller - Guitars
Guillaume Colin - Bass
Benjamin Colin - Drums

with help on the album from Ed Mundell of Monster Magnet notoriety playing solos on "Big Black Cloud", as well as the cover artist for the album, Alex von Wieding, who also is the musical mastermind behind Larmon Clamor, contributing the song and vocals for "Oceans on Sand . . . ". How cool is that?

There is plenty of fuzz and low tuned music laid expertly over clever and often ingenious melodies generating a climate of fun and fury for riffs and solos, vocals and rhythm, chorus and refrain in this stoner rock fest of an album.






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Friday, December 21, 2012

In Case You Missed It: Witchcraft - Legend



Despite the fact that we do our absolute best here at Heavy Planet to stay on top of the unbelievably vast array of tuneage that comes our way, on occasion even we manage to let an amazing album slip through the proverbial cracks.  Well no more!  With this segment, I intend to sweep up those albums that get left behind.  Consider this feature to be the equivalent of a cleanup hitter in the Heavy Planet lineup.  If a few months (years even?) go by and a worthy record goes unnoticed, this is where it’ll receive its proper day in the sun.  From now on, those lost records have a voice and that voice will be called In Case You Missed It!

This inaugural edition of In Case You Missed It is a perfect example of what I’m trying to do here.  You see, as 2012 rapidly comes to a close, I’m scrambling to decide which albums will find a place on my hallowed top 10 list and I inevitably realized a major oversight.  How could one of my favorite records from this past year never have been given a proper review here on Heavy Planet?!?  With three months having passed since its release, I think it’s high time we give mention to the Witchcraft reboot that is the band’s excellent fourth album, Legend.   

Why a reboot you ask?  Well you see a lot has changed for Witchcraft in the five years since the release of their last album, The Alchemist.  For starters, the band found a new home in metal mega-label Nuclear Blast Records.  Furthermore, this ain’t your big brother’s version of Witchcraft.  In fact, the only band members returning from the last album are vocalist Magnus Pelander, who apparently decided to drop guitar from his resume, and bassist Ola Henriksson.  With the addition of guitarists Simon Solomon and Tom Jondelius and drummer Oscar Johansson (better known as Pezo from Truckfighters) this is a re-tooled, five-piece version of Witchcraft.  

Of course, external to the band’s lineup, the musical landscape has also shifted during this last half decade.  Let’s face it…retro-loving 70’s worship, for lack of a better genre title, has nearly reached a point of oversaturation, as more and more bands hit the second hand stores in search of bell bottoms and analog recording devices.  So leave it to the band that seemingly started the retro-craze nearly 15 years ago with their Pentagram-inspired debut to jump off the bandwagon just as everyone else seems to be jumping on.  New label…new members…why not a new sound to boot?   

And that brings me to Legend.  To say that Pelander and company decided to go in a new direction would be an understatement.  Gone is that pseudo-vintage tonality as if the album is being played through the dusty record player you found in your granddad's basement.  If you're at all familiar with Witchcraft, you'll notice the difference immediately.  Produced by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Paradise Lost), Legend is crisp, clean and in your face.  And nowhere is it more apparent than on the first track "Deconstruction", which teases with a traditional doom riff that is soon abandoned for a more uptempo pace more akin to a modern take on Thin Lizzy than Black Sabbath.

Another change you'll notice on the album's opener is a shift in the band's lyrical content.  The tales of magic and murder have been replaced with a more mature sense of frustration and genuine distaste for modern society, from government to organized religion.  In fact, Pelander's first line on Legend is this gem: "Say me, Mr. Officer…what is it that you want from me?…I'm just another brick in this fascist regime…society."  And before I stop pissing myself over Magnus, let me also just throw it out there that this dude has one hell of a set of pipes.  Don't get me wrong, you can hear it throughout the album, but if you need just one example, check out the latter half of "Flag of Fate" where he sings the line "I saw it coming" with a sort of vocal vibrato technique that you simply won't hear anywhere else in this genre of music.   

Speaking of "Flag of Fate"…it is anthemic…it is brazen…and it is catchy as fuck.  But not as catchy as "It's Not Because of You" which is one of those songs that you'll hum all day after hearing it.  "An Alternative to Freedom" is an atmospheric disparagement of religion that opens with a mind-numbing slide guitar that ultimately gives way to a breakdown wherein the three newcomers to Witchcraft finally step to the forefront.  The guitars interweave mercilessly while Johansson batters his drums, reminding us all that he really goes by the moniker Pezo.  "Ghosts House" is the centerpiece of Legend and finds Witchcraft venturing into the multiple tempo shifts of prog-rock further shifting the limelight heretofore dominated by Pelander to the new dual guitar attack of Solomon and Jondelius.  

Finally, with "White Light Suicide" all five band members seem to coalesce.  The vocals start at the forefront…"cast your stone into the water now, and watch them ripples spread like poison"…but Henriksson and Johansson plow ahead with a cavernous rhythm section that nearly…I said nearly…overwhelms the guitars, but they don't and by the end the entire ensemble is running like a machine.  "Democracy" is the most vehement example of Witchcraft's new direction both musically and lyrically.  If you haven't caught on to Pelander's mindset, get a load of this.  "Fuck your heros…or screw your Gods…fuck your icons…deal with the real…your made up morals…your media fix…fuck you all…degenerative politics." 

"Dystopia" tapers the tempo, with a tenderness and warmth in the guitars and vocals laid so bare that it's obviously a set up to be broken and tattered.  The song is like some acid trip wherein you're watching The Doors slowly morph into Black Sabbath.  Un-fucking-believable!  And then to top it all off, Witchcraft close their latest opus with the epic "Dead End", which showcases every aspect of what this band has become, which is to say a juggernaut.  There isn't a weak link in this lineup and if you want to hear the five components cohesively contribute to a piece of music, then listen to this twelve minute epic.  Not a second is wasted here…not a second.   

Look, this is a band that has always been rooted in the classic elements of hard rock and heavy metal and that hasn't changed.  But what Witchcraft have done with Legend is to stop paying tribute to the past and to start paving the way for the future.  This feels new and fresh without sacrificing quality or substance.  Legend is a rebirth for Witchcraft in terms of style and musical direction and it gives notice to the rest of their retro-rock brethren by thrusting a genre that has arguably become overpopulated into a whole new direction.  But of course, I only tell you all of this…in case you missed it.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Zac's "Double Dose": The Civil Dead / Juggernaught


The Civil Dead: Bird Bones 

Droners unite! This first dose will take some patience, but fans of Earth are sure to enjoy The Civil Dead's summer 2012 release Bird Bones. The brains behind the project, Christopher Langer, resides in a strange realm where drone collides with some interesting genres like folk and western music. Like most good drone jams an overwhelming feeling of isolation blankets the listener. Bird Bones is a small five track EP, but spans an enormous forty minutes. Spin my favorite track Bird Bones (Nest of Teeth) below and check the rest of this fresh drone at bandcamp.

 

Members: 
Christopher Langer

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Juggernaught: Bring the Meat Back 

This weeks second serving is a testosterone-infused South African quartet labeling their murky classic blues as MAN-ROCK. Juggernaught got started in 2008 with a relentless touring schedule, playing some of the biggest festivals South Africa has to offer. Late in 2009 the four-some released their debut Act of Goat. In 2012 Juggernaught continued with tradition, slingin' ax heavy guitars and pounding their chests with whiskey soaked fists, producing and releasing their sophomore effort Bring The Meat Back. Check out their latest video, title track, Bring The Meat Back in all its' meaty glory!

 

Members: 
Herman - Guitar // Vocals 
Jovan - Guitar // Backing Vocals 
Oneyedogman - Drums 
Angilo - Bass

I facebook I web I youtube I

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

New Band To Burn One To: MERLIN

HEAVY PLANET presents...MERLIN!


BAND BIO:

Imagine a world besides yerown. A world with no Industry. A world with no Electricity. A world where magic and law were the same, and science was in the stars. Imagine yerself walking in a dark, grassy field, in the middle of a forest with trees so immense, you cannot see the sky. Fog covers the ground beneath yer feet, and glowing mushrooms tower above. Will 'o' Wisps fly around you. There's a st ram up ahead, pouring into a small pond of glowing blue water. The color is amazing. You see a nearby furry creature drinking from it. Suddenly it hears a sound and runs. You remained silent, and turn around. Suddenly a black armored giant, with two glowing green eyes is running toward you. His face covered with a skull. You don't know what to do. Then, from behind you, coming out from the stream, a naked woman, more beautiful than anything you've ever seen in yer life hands you a staff of gold. You take the staff and aim it towards the giant. You utter four words you've never heard of and fire spews from the crystal ball at the end of it. He explodes. You turn around and she's gone. You wake up.

Merlin is like that dream, only you'll never wake up.

Band: 

Jordan Knorr: Vocals, Theremin, Kaoss Pad
Carter Lewis: Guitar, Floor Tom
Caleb Wyels: Drums
Evan Warren: Bass
Bret Liber: Keys, Eerie Sounds.


THOUGHTS:

"This is probably some of the most fucked up shit I have ever listened to, and I mean that in a good way. I have always enjoyed music that goes out of the boundaries and makes you perk up and say what the hell. This band from Kansas City simply known as Merlin is the ultimate head trip. Their music is a mixture of eerie sound effects, doomy passages, creepy spoken word and middle earth-like instrumentation. The band has only been together for eight months but have managed to record a full-length album, an EP and a live album which are all currently available on their Bandcamp page. Check them out, but be prepared for something utterly unique."

((facebook|bandcamp))

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Monday, December 17, 2012

New Band To Burn One To: GIZA

HEAVY PLANET presents...GIZA!



BAND BIO:

Giza was formed in March of 2012 by Steve Becker, Trent McIntyre, and Richard Burkett with the goal of writing loud and massive instrumental music. In May of 2012 Giza recorded 6 songs with Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, Minus the Bear) which will be self released in January of 2013. Giza is currently playing shows in the Pacific Northwest.


THOUGHTS:

"I have been on this huge instrumental band kick as of late, so when I received this band the other day it sent my adrenalin soaring. The music represented on this debut full-length from Seattle's Giza is a moody, dark and desolate journey paralleled by the cloudy and rainy climate of the Pacific Northwest. The heaviness continuously explodes amidst meandering tempos, down-tuned guitars and crushing aural pleasantry. There are no guitar acrobatics or soaring vocals to be heard, just what I would call heavy as fuck chill-out music. My favorite track "Hour of the Bullfight" is introduced by the mellow intro of "Interlude", once the intro subsides, a heavy aura surrounds you with monsterous tones and savage drum fills. The playing is tight, the production is stellar and the sound is massive, combine that with some sweet album artwork and "Future Rains" by Giza comes out a winner. I highly recommend this shit for anyone jonesing for some post-apocalyptic instrumental sludge metal."

For fans of Mastodon, Isis, Russian Circles and Minus the Bear

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sunday Sludge: Sonance - "Like Ghosts"


You'd have a hard time finding a lighthearted American this weekend. Media saturation spills across the pond, so the melancholy is likely hovering over the rest of the world by now. I'm not sure if what we'll hear for today's Sunday Sludge is an antidote to the poison or perhaps a mere extension of the symptom, but there's no denying it's an appropriate and paralleled complement to the mood we've recently had thrust upon us.

I won't contend that a trip with Bristol's Sonance is boiled down to a handful of benzos, but the pharmaceutical effects the band imposes are staggering nonetheless. On Like Ghosts, Sonance broaden the already impossibly expansive metal continuum, utilizing ambient drone to tranquilize listeners between stunning swells and collapses. There's no mold to break, there's simply a tapestry of brilliantly woeful uncertainty, ambient with waves and punitive with walls.

Like Ghosts is like ghosts, but not in a sense of paranormal bumps and whispers. The forty-two minutes on these two tracks breathe and haunt more like an undying memory, surging and waning beyond your wishes. These ghosts are seemingly within you, not around you. You can compartmentalize the chills, but the lucidity is never sealed off. And when you've been lulled to comfort and feel a cool sigh can be enjoyed, you're jarred by descending sludge terror.

That terror is no more immediately evident than on Side A, interrupting a brief hovering swarm. Icy guitar grows poetic, mirroring Slint's tinny Spiderland jabs. Rhythms twist as much as they hammer, with jagged swirls invading every teetering emotion. Tom's vocals cling to Chino's thumbings like drying blood, while Will's tortuous accompaniment sets a landscape of agony that provides no repose. Drone drips as fears are examined with an ambient caution, but the slugs of doom greet that pensive lament. It's devastating and beautiful.

The mood takes center stage on Like Ghosts, but musicianship deserves its moment in the sun. Ben's screwdriven assault on frets is more Alex's violent droog than Thurston's sonic experiment, while the film-score precision on Side B tiptoes with early-hour cold. This is where your bones feel it, Sir. The cackles and windchimes are a sort of harbinger, but for what? Will the fog lift and let the day emerge? Perhaps. But paranoia and bleak gusts follow every sideways glance toward empty fields. Long, incredibly ambiguous, and heady as fuck. Fourteen minutes in, though, doom shakes us from our gorgeous trance and resonates with drift until chiding buoyance clubs us senseless. Sludge atmospheres funnel toward chaos, pushed abruptly and appropriately. Should we expect an end? Sometimes it just happens.

Does isolation hit us as we believe it does? The eyeless, faceless malevolence in waiting is as frightening in thought as it is in presence, so perhaps the isolation shields in any sense. With numbing resonation, these Brits pull at every fear until bones are bare. You're exposed, your fears no longer matter, and the dead air is all you need. Like Ghosts is an album that burrows and lingers long after you've put your head to the pillow. You may find yourself wishing you had the company of lost spirits. These ghosts are much harder to shake.





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