Sunday, June 29, 2014
It's funny what you come across, the ways things serendipitously collide to smack your face cold and point you in one direction over another. My day job puts me behind a desk from lying delinquents, some just punked-out teens and others entirely tracked toward the justice system's carousel. As one cherubic drug-dabbler explained why city curfew was broken, she offered a long tale about her friend being hospitalized after trying to flatten himself with an oncoming train. When I asked what her friend had taken that night, she responded "Nothing. He was possessed."
Alright, I had to call bullshit on this. But it stuck with me, half-funny and half-curious. So stumbling upon London's Possessor just two days later first had me rolling my eyes at irony. But this "occult metal" outfit delivers exactly what this blog is all about on the nine-track Electric Hell. It's not a sludge record, it just has those sludge trademarks. It's not doomed-out, smoked-out, or psyched-out, but the fuzz pairs with low-wrought rhythmic groove to clot what has immediately emerged as one of my favorite albums of 2014.
When whispers of occultism weave through a band's themes, the results are often campy and borderline cringe-worthy. Possessor kicked expectations down a ravine and hold enough balance between stripped-down, hollow cruisers and slow timber-turners to keep these songs in heavy rotation this weekend. Blasting through the gate and scurrying with skittish Manson family pacing, Chasms of Malice and Invisible Face hold palpable groove but still riff the fuck out. Frets are fondled and filtered through layers of fuzz and that low bass rumble tickles the insides. Vocals benefit from a veil and bark from darkness, but the throwback elements take the spotlight on this tandem. The long, swirling passages pause only to quickly return and burn up every ounce of daylight.
Perfectly-placed are the towering jambs Limb from Limb and Heavy Dreams. Slowing, thickening, and chugging toward a sticky swamp, the former slings enough viscous shit to pull you off course, while the slow-burning rumble of the latter slugs low and gutteral. THIS is why we're here this morning. These rugburns are simply collateral damage, and we can only gape in awe as the sludge-doom pillars crack and collapse.
Oh, but the closing triptych may be Possessor's best self-sketch, illustrating perfectly what this band aims to do. Bookended with the instrumental Skeletal Form and Electric Hell, dark and nebulous nuances emerge through the unbearably heavy filth. Despite its vocal's absence, Skeletal Form stands as the album's most complete track. Drums earn a medal here, and you can't ignore the possibility of some fucked-up backmasked messages. Face the Possessor is fifth-gear stoner-metal dominated by a more evil, more cryptic vocal than previous tracks. And *gasp*! A guitar solo?! The closing title track is the band's coup, though, steadily summoning disciples and tramping toward a sacrifice. Immediately epic in its brooding feedback, this drawn-out, strung-out death rattle is gorgeously haunting and malevolent. There's steady ascent, but this is truly a calculated administration of sludge-doom demise.
The barely detectable but ever-growing burn at the base of your skull could be any number of things. Possessor understand you can't just light a torch, you've gotta control it. Weaving through Electric Hell is more than a hush of evil, it's nearly saturated. But the craft is never lost and the shifts never let the taste sit on our lips too long. Just as nostalgia peaks, Possessor veer on their own course and take us deep into heavy thickets of varying densities. Don't worry when nobody believes you.
For fans of: Black Sabbath, St. Vitus, Fu Manchu
Pair with: Two Women Classic Country Lager, New Glarus Brewing Co.
Friday, June 27, 2014
Rejoice all you psychedelonauts, Wo Fat is back with another heaping helping of their trademark brand of malevolent blues rock. On their latest offering, The Conjuring, the boys from Big D take the custom sound they've crafted over the previous four albums and sculpt it into a stoner blooze masterpiece.
The title track opens with a sinister intro that sounds like a cauldron bubbling or perhaps Satan himself cooking up a pot of Texas chili before kicking in with a chugging guitar over a lumbering rhythm recorded at the precise speed at which zombies ambulate. "Forbidden words are spoken and the runes are cast" intones Kent Stump in his gravelly Lemmyesque articulation. With all apologies to his unique off-kilter vocal phrasing, it is Stump's guitar that is the star of "The Conjuring" as it spews forth searing white hot licks. The followup "Read the Omens" is a throbbing fuzz fest highlighted by bassist Tim Wilson's low end rumble.
"Pale Rider From the Ice" begins with a bluesy scat intro before succumbing to a battering piledriver of a riff. Michael Walter bangs out a cranium crushing beat as the searing solo filets your cerebellum. Seriously, if ever there was a song to act as the soundtrack to performing an amateur brain surgery this is it! The undisputed standout of the album though is "Beggars Banquet", a struttin' cock of seventies boogie double baked by the sweltering Texas sun and too many bong hits. Augmented by a hellacious solo and the judicious use of cowbell, the song is a veritable blitzkrieg assault of aural rapage. Closing out the album in epic fashion is the sprawling 17 minute "Dreamwalker. The track smolders its way at a diabolical pace as Luciferian licks insinuate themselves in your brain, eviscerating the last vestiges of your sanity.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
The arrival of a new Fu Manchu album always triggers a Pavlovian response of welcome familiarity in the majority of us above a certain age. Much like AC/DC or Motorhead, you always kinda know what to expect from Fu Manchu but that consistency is a virtue. It's kind of like beer. While it's always cool to experiment with the vast variety of flavor-of-the-month crafts brews that come out on the market, there is ultimately nothing quite so satisfying as sitting in the pub and having that familiar taste of your favorite ale hit your lips. That's Fu Manchu...they are like comfort food for your stoner rock soul.
Consistency in product notwithstanding, there has definitely been an evolution of that trademark Fu Manchu sound over the course of their discography, from the laid back cool of the classic era to the more aggressive punch of their most recent offerings. However, recent tours have seen them revisit some classic lps, such as The Action is Go, and play them in their entirety. This extensive re-exploration of their old material has definitely influenced their latest release, Gigantoid, which finds the band accentuating their modern aggro approach with some of their vintage California vibe, and perhaps some seminal punk as well.
Gigantoid kicks off in ripsnorting fashion with "Dimension Shifter", which starts out as a balls-out snarling affair before the band steps in a time machine midsong and transport themselves back in time to 1997 and settle into a sludgy Sabbatherian groove accentuated by oscillating guitar licks. Next up is the beautifully belligerent "Invaders On My Back" with its staccato riff, start/stop rhythm and wah-drenched solo from Bob Balch. It is "Anxiety Reducer", however, which is clearly the album's transcendent track. Its' fuzzy gargantuan riff is otherwordly, otherweirdly, and as subtle as a drill bit being bored into your skull. Admittedly, I am a Fu Manchu apologist but seriously this riff not only reduces anxiety it obliterates all the synapses of your brain.
Much of Gigantoid finds Scott Hill delving into his punk rock roots as evidenced on the breakneck speed of tracks such as "Mutant", "Triplanetary", and "No Warning", the latter clocking in at under 90 seconds of brutal tuneage. Elsewhere we find"Radio Source Sagittarius", perhaps the most quintessential Fu Manchu song on the record, with its serpentine riff and obligatory cowbell from Scott Reeder. "Evolution Machine" is my personal dark horse of the album. With Hill spouting B-move lyrics over a scratchy riff and syncopated beat, the song just exudes a vibe of coolness that stands in sharp contrast to the blistering solo that combusts in the middle of it. Everything culminates in "The Last Question", a monolithic thumpster with prominent basswork from Brad Davis that devolves into a languid beachy fadeout that serves as San Clemente's answer to "Laguna Sunrise".
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
It's hard not to like a band that writes great songs with a classic, heavy influence. Electric Citizen reminds us of what music can still be; earthy and original yet familiar. Although the production on the record lacks a bit of polish, the band's charm more than makes up for it. There's nothing soft about Sateen.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
It's been ages since Windows Media Player got any use on a computer I've used, but technology's progressions have their failures. When forced to revisit 1991, I realize I'd forgotten about the trippy visualizations accompanying and syncing with every note. Then I can't help but think some forty-something is still sitting fully-robed in his hazed apartment flicking ash, blazing through a pirated Primus album, and gaping as the orbs and geometrics pixel the fuck out.
Well, the heshers are gonna dig this. Psychedelia abounds on Ancient Altar's four-track doom-crusher, twenty-seven self-titled minutes of unrefined sludgedelia teeming with despair and leaving your skin flayed. Bookended with eerie, sullen doom foundations and stuffed to the gullet with buoyant homages and burning sustain, this debut just might set fire to your panties.
The opening screeches of Tidal are jarred by dual vocals, combining Mike IX torment with cold, dark promise spewing from a mudhole. The back-and-forth is deep, low, squalid... y'know, all those descriptors you're gonna need if you try to explain the sound to someone who hasn't heard it. Guitars worm and weave between the rhythm's supports, but as elements tighten their bonds, they also fatten their breadbaskets and throw themselves into the pioneering sounds of forty years ago.
Ominous, isolated brooding on Ek Balam carves a path straight into a shadow-cruise of Kyuss's El Rodeo. We're involuntarily tugged west until the gurgle crawls from a pit of wet sand. There's no avoiding getting wrapped in humming, hanging tapestries beyond the ugliness. The sludge-doom despair, however, takes marquee billing with fully realized drawn-and-quartered anguish. But what the fuck? Swamp-assed stoner-sludge breaks the clouds on Feed, taking us in an entirely unexpected direction a la Grizzly in its head-swiveled trot. As sweet as it is sticky, the choppy militant movements enter Sabbath's Electric Funeral (y'know, that fucking awesomely frantic one-minute passage sandwiched between thick slabs) and listeners will be flat-out fucking stoked. Spit, sputter, and laugh with your greasy pals as the engine smolders roadside. It was worth it.
When it was assured "The oceans will consume," you were given no reason to doubt. You're still dizzy from the album's inspired midsection, but Pulled Out (grow up, dude) is a sunken-eyed tug soothing yesterday's open wounds. The promise of pendulumic doom is delivered upon with a steady descent into filth. Weary and weathered? Fuck, Ancient Altar offer one final acid heave, bubbling our skin as we gaze upward. By the time they toss us down a concrete staircase, we're half-snuffed anyway.
Don't worry about that exposed bone. And don't let knobby labels fool you. Doom out all you want, but Ancient Altar offer a vast expanse of soiled soundscapes. Crashing doom with swirling, torrid-clip chasers of stoner metal, complete with frayed ends and shifted gears. Strap on your ear goggles but for fuck's sake, turn off the tie-dye spiraled media player before you get bedspins. On this wholly flattening debut, we're enticed, we're drawn closer, and we're ultimately swallowed by what we're unable to predict.
For fans of: Black Seal, Boar, Skepticism
Pair with: BackMasking Oatmeal Stout, Three Floyds Brewing
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
"As the band's Facebook page proclaims "Eagle Tears aren't reinventing the wheel, we're just keeping it rolling." That is about as accurate a statement as you can get, but I'll be damned if this band's debut album, which is slated for release sometime this summer, doesn't somehow make it onto my year end top ten list. Sure, there are only two songs here to revel in, but these two songs are just there to plant the seed. Good hard rock bands are hard to come by these days and Montreal's Eagle Tears is one that is sure to blow out your speakers. Thoroughly influenced by the classic hard rock sound from the seventies, the band fuses the tried-and-true blend of killer riffs, soaring vocals and simple yet catchy melodies, albeit with a sizzling triple-guitar attack and modern rock and roll mentality."
Monday, June 16, 2014
Those Greek psychedelic stoners 1000 Mods have returned from their great super van vacation to show that the promise from their debut lp was merely a harbinger of things to come. Any worries about a sophomore slump are quickly dispelled as soon as the needle hits the groove on the newly hatched Vultures, an album which oddly sounds as if it exists simultaneously in the late sixties and the early nineties.
A jangly guitar riff heralds the mod festivities on album opener "Claws". "This is what I wanna be, a pretty vulture in my nest" sings bassist Dani over an upbeat groove-o-rama that slowly dissolves into a molasses-like morass of feedback-driven fuzz. Speaking of vultures, you can almost hear them circling on the languid title track, a sun-baked desert rocker replete with various guitar strafes and grungy atmospherics from guitarists Giannis and Giorgos that is periodically punctuated by storm clouds of gnarly distortion and guitar licks that slice like talons ripping flesh.
1000 Mods specialize in rock that is slow and grungy and bloozy as evidenced on "She", a Bataan death march of a tune highlighted by a guitar solo that's as incisive as a switchblade to the gut. The vibe continues on "Low" which features a scratch-n-sniff riff over a slowly simmering rhythm before erupting in a vomit spew of psychedelic guitars. It all culminates in what is far and away the coolest track on the album, the instrumental closer "Reverb of the New World". An itchy riff scrapes across a hypnotic percolating bass line before drummer Labros propels the whole goddamn thing into a full throttle cosmic rocker that hyperdrives itself into spaced-out oblivion.
Sunday, June 15, 2014
Stripping away expectation and ignoring trends appear to be parallel endeavors. Depending on subjects and themes, turning off can be either second nature or an exercise in futility. And perhaps I shouldn't cluster heavy instrumental acts into a "trend," that's not fair. What's really going on is that I lately find myself drawn far more to instrumental acts than ever before, which is nowhere more evident than right here every Sunday morning. So rest your weekend ennui on my shoulders, will ya?
If there's an antidote to the tedium and a break from the mold, you'll find it on MotherSloth's five-track sophomore effort, Moribund Star. Following up their 2012 debut with this (mostly) instrumental shape-shifted colossus demonstrates the band's thickened mettle via stoner-sludge tread balanced by soft, subtle doom-rolls. Looks like these four Madrid heshers are done fuckin' around.
Buoyant plucks introduce Hazy Blur of Life, a twelve-minute layered fuzz bath that, as it expands, takes in as much as it gives off. Elements emerge as the track braces for a cosmic death, haunting with gorgeous blur through smooth whispers. Growing to a stomp and hitting incredible depths without alert or apology, the awesome cathartic buzz is an easy Sunday start. Holy Wall, however, follows with jagged guitars and deliberate, jarring slugs. The gentle lead has become a stern yank away from our creature comforts. Pacing shifts, passages are entirely unpredictable, and the subtropic tip-toe is barbed with poisoned arrows and a barrage of cascading flames. As a doom grind descends, we learn peace was never really in reach.
Ominously hovering with long, drawn-out doom, Death Flower is pensive and damn-near vision-inducing. And there's the mask of what's really going on. A hidden, molten landscape unveils and spreads as accomplished guitar licks tickle our feet. Again, there's a betrayal of expectation as calm breaks for mammoth stomps growing in both size and frequency. The brief, intermissionary Blackened Dawn is simple, but bold in its unclad style, offering placid breaths before the closer, Dry Tears. Easing in on tender guitar, there's really a circling of targets. Ghastly tapestries drip with sticky riffs, splitting open and gradually shuffling toward an imminent end. Just as an embrace of cold death seems to blaze all hope, a vocal breathes re-birth into a dying star. Swelling with plod and swirling with stoner-sludge, these sounds hang their heads but boldly face forward.
Rather than shudder and bark back, MotherSloth stare down fate with self-assured structure and weave a nebulous, therapeutic trail of tears. Moods shift with tempos, and expectations (fuck, there's that word again) drown before they even see daylight. Moribund Star hits all the stops without ever detouring, pinching together contemporary progress with a reverence for all that's classic in heavy music. There's no fucking trend. But this is an album I can blame for my amped loyalty to prophetic instrumental peril and the journey on which it takes us.
For fans of: Karma to Burn, Horn of the Rhino, Colour Haze
Pair with: #9 Not Quite Pale Ale, Magic Hat Brewing Company
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
"As I was driving home from work today, I was listening to all of the over-commercialized and over-played bullshit that comes with listening to terrestrial/satellite radio wishing that I had queued up the playlist before putting the car into drive. I couldn't wait to get home to listen to something far less familiar, something that more people need to do when it comes to music, to get out of their comfort zone per say.
Today I was looking for something that was heavy and had an intense groove. I found that in Norwegian band Warp Riders. On their latest 4-song EP "Astral Plane", the band displays an over-abundance of weighed-down bluesy riffs and body trembling groove with a bit of psychedelia thrown in for good measure.
With an ear tilted towards the seventies, these four tracks are loaded with double-layered fuzz, free-flowing leads, and hard-driving bass lines. Passionate vocals and steadfast drumming round out this gratifying aural quickie.
Recently, the band was named one of the nation's most promising bands of "Pyro on P3 (National Radio), and has been on tour in Germany.
I look forward to hearing more from this band hopefully in the near future.
For now I'll just jump on board for a sensational ride."
Sunday, June 8, 2014
Straight outta hell via Ohio's backwoods comes Fuzz Lord's chop-block tandem of abrasive, swaying sludge-doom. At times numbing, other times staggeringly malevolent, these sounds hang torn fuzz tapestries and pan between aches and anxiety. Darkly soothing, lumbering and noodling between timber, this is Sunday's perfect drawn-out eye-rub.
Oh, fuck. My skin wasn't ready to burn like this so early. This calculated yet chaotic debut track from one-man sludge act Southerner 1779 spills onto the floor and spreads the flames. Drums tin up and guitars dive due South on this frantic crawl through a dark basement. After five minutes of this, you may need a smoke and a shot o' penicillin.
This beastly EP is loaded with gigantic, ominous moods administered slowly through hallucinogenic psych-doom haze. Dense sustain, thick riffs, and long hovers transform into riff-n'-roll stoner passages that recall eras past. Breathe heavy and turn down the lights. You'll wanna take in every moment o' these buzzing grooves.
Opening on a bed of hot ash and glowing embers, Heathen Bastard's s/t opens up to awesome fat-riffing stoner sludge. Long drags on smoky doom ride this fuzzer straight into an approaching storm. As it smolders, it satiates. Heavy as fuck and damn-near perfect, these five tracks made my day.
Grizzly's first track since 2012's Fear My Wrath is southern sweetness glazed over rollicking angst. It offers an expanded breath at times, but whiskey and gravel marry and go down easy here. Picking up right where they left off, these Hungarians turn us into sweaty rag dolls, bind our extremities, and throw us head-first into a hot trunk. Welcome back, fellas!
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Valley of the Sun has a familiar, comforting feel—just like a favorite leather jacket. The production on the recording is stellar and there are many layers to this band if you dig a little into the name and the lyrical symbolism. This three-piece delivers a solid, heavy rock vibe that is sure to have you nodding your head and planning a return trip to the Valley.
Sunday, June 1, 2014
So this vinyl swing had to show up and fuckin' ruin everything, huh? Oh, multiple color schemes, bonus tracks, digital download coupons, limited releases, alternate artwork... I'm guilty of nodding into all this nerdy shit, but I'll never lose sight of the importance of actually immersing myself in the sounds spit from the grooves. Fuck the naysayers, but fuck the purists, too. And c'mon, Mastodon. Seventy clams for a "limited edition" LP?
When LA's ambient sludge-doom foursome Deathkings decided to press their 2011 Destroyer triptych to vinyl, they had to surgicalize it just a bit. That meant splitting the staggering, unsettling Martyrs into two tracks. Strangely, nothing's lost in the transition and both volumes swing with concrete fists. Vol. I proves bulkier, heaving lead repetitively and bloodying as much as it numbs. Sean Spindler's drums are absolutely assaulted, while scraping guitars pit listeners against a wall and stuff their mouths with stones.
The violence never relents and the whole of part one is loaded with abandoned hope. Promise is jarred loose and despite the rhythmic shift toward lifted sounds, we're prepared to re-descend. Vol. II serves an awesome drone hover peppered with drums and crushed by massive doom slabs. The reverberating static tightens to spew sludgy despair that's downright vile. The mud is given time to crust over just until cracks emerge.
The collective thirty minute bookends of Halo Of The Sun and the closing title track are swollen, fragmented journeys into dark, primitive reflection. The opener's despondent atmospheres deliver a collective melancholy that just won't fade, cascading with riffs and chugging toward seasoned, penetrative barks. Bleak static glazes the track, hanging and spreading enough to make us shudder. Slowly burning and sliding toward earthier elements, the progressions are unmoved by the choppy seas ahead. And soothing as they are, the merciful closing chants offer more dread than anything.
Heavy in both form and function is the closing title track, sounding as much like a funeral chant as a backwoods sacrifice. Buzzing through what seems like lifetimes is a boiling angst, spilling until the emergence of a cruel death-rattle. Echoed licks splinter into shards and the swinging doom pendulum marries the very real, sobering vocal. As the Earth scorches, the album delivers on its promises. Wider at each breath and thicker with every lurch, the sludge-doom carry-out is a brilliant, punchy final gasp.
Destroyer lays a low rumble that sits heavy in the chest, never quite making its way out of dense, nebulous cavern. Each of these three tracks is its own journey, none of them leading toward the sun. But cold reality has its place here, and the austere metering is drawn-out just enough to soften the sting. If the promised follow-up is another enduring slug to the back of the head, we welcome it in our swooning trance.
For fans of: Neurosis, Rwake, Sunn O)))
Pair with: Darkness Russian Imperial Stout, Surly Brewing Co.