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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Nuclear Dog's Atomic Split: The Black Widow's Project - "Heavy Heart" / Half Gramme of Soma - "Half Gramme of Soma"

What's the cliché? Something about strapping yourself in because you are in for the ride of your life? Yeah, that's as good as any. Geneva, Switzerland is where the first set of fuzzbombs are carefully packaged before ignition and blastoff. Athens, Greece is the source for the second set of high octane combustibles. We've often gotten great fireworks from Greece and at least once from Switzerland, so this is no anomaly, but a trend of the most exciting kind, where distortion, talent, volume, passion, and melody are blended into tightly wrapped packages bursting with explosive potential. So, ladies and gentlemen, ye who venture into the realms and domains presented daily by Heavy Planet in order to visit the deviantly deft denizens and their concoctions . . . strap yourselves in and prepare for blast off!



The Black Widow's Project is a three piece band from Geneva, Switzerland. "Heavy Heart" is their second offering, the first under the current lineup of:

Al Castro - Vocals, Guitar
Raph Legend - Bass
Mathieu Sink - Drums

Formed recently in 2010 the band quickly released their first EP, "Benefit of the Doubt", which garnered a ton of interest due to its huge, intelligent songs. After going through a bass player change with Raph recently joining the group, this small band with the big sound have now released their second collection of original fuzzbombs, but this time in the form of a full length record, crammed to overflowing with 14 stoner/retro rock originals.

The fuzz is huge on this album, as is the creativeness. The songs are well written and well executed, which makes for an incredibly enjoyable experience. Add to it the passion, the obvious and intense exertion in unfolding each creation in perfect time, and you get a special album.

The influences come from decades of great rock music, and influences beyond. You can hear sounds similar to hundreds of songs and rock bands down through the decades, but similarity doesn't mean replication. The song writing here for both music and lyrics is exceptional. The tapestries created are tight, bright, and satisfying. Each song is woven through with a myriad sounds from guitar, bass, drums, and vocals that make for the kind of album you can listen to a hundred times and pick out different and various pieces that go together to make a wholly satisfying whole on each of the fourteen offerings of "Heavy Heart". I don't hear one song sounding much like the next, while the sound for all remain uniquely that of The Black Widow's Project. Play any one song alone and you would know it was their creation. Listen through the whole album and you will be deeply engaged for each of the fourteen due to the uniqueness of each. That is rare and welcome ability, especially when it comes to rock music.

My favorite songs, something easier said than decided upon because I truly love them all, would include the following:

It's hard to beat the opener. It sets the tone most times for the rest of an album and on "Heavy Heart" that's exactly what happens. A lone guitar, distortion tuned to proper fuzz levels, kicks off the song on a brief intro that gives the listener the perfect indication of what's to follow, both for this song and for this album. Once "Ha Ha Ha Uh" kicks in you're in the stratosphere flying fast and high. The tempo is quick, the riffs are plentiful and varied, the bass is energetic and powerful, and the drums do the job of both driving the song's rhythm and adding to it's interest with stick fills and drum riffs that intrigue and satisfy. Alongside the amazing guitar work on this song is the equally amazing vocals. The raspy passion of Castro's belting of the lyrics falls just shy of amazing. He hits the proper tone with this rock and role vocal blast, never yelling as so many vocalists do, and certainly not quite singing in a prim, proper manner, which we would not want. He hits it just right, matching the tone and intensity of the instrumental portions of the song.

"Ain't Gonna Tell You Lies". To start with, who in Geneva, Switzerland says 'ain't'. We certainly do here in Oklahoma. But that's not why I like this song. I like the simple guitar strum opening with Castro singing in normal pitch, revealing that when he's not stretched to the max he still has a beautiful voice. A solo precursor within this song is a bass so low, so huge, it has to have been played by heavy rock moving machinery. The song is steady and simple, and somehow strikes a satisfying chord deep within.

"We Have to Be Free" is a beautiful song, plain and simple. It has a bluesy feel to it throughout as it goes back and forth between calm control, ignition, and fuzzbomb explosions. Moving through the various feels and tempos makes this one of the more intriguing songs on the album. The incredible execution by all three members playing their four instruments simply adds to the maximum pleasure. This is an addicting song that will have you longing for the next time through the album to hear it again.

"Spirits" is a spare, haunting song of incredible beauty that still manages to fuzz out around the edges.

The closer, "Innerwar", is one of the best of the bunch, along with the opener. These guys know how to open, and then how to close. "Innerwar" sounds like something from a concept album, obviously telling a story that's part of a larger whole, while remaining true to the single tale within. The ballad-like feel of the first few minutes of the song leads into a trippy, almost psychotic journey where the instruments lightly touch upon the sounds that play heavily upon your listening psyche, slowing building with textures of new riffs and subdued vocals.


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There is a HUGE contingent of stoner/retro rock from Greece, much of it from Athens. It's a large city, so why not, but it still seems as though an inordinate amount . . . which is a good thing . . . of underground rock n' roll calls Athens its home. Add to the list this tremendously gifted, rockin' band, Half Gramme of Soma, hereafter referred to as HGoS (almost hogs, almost ghost, defintely rock n' roll).

It's amazing to me when bands come from Europe how much the vocals can sound as if the singer is from down the road somewhere here in the U.S., and HGoS is no exception. I have no idea how much effort they have had to put into their studio performances to accomplish this sound, but it certainly gets my attention. Not nearly as much as their beautiful music screams for notice, though. The starting point for any band associated with the underground sound of stoner/doom/retro rock are the heavy, low tuned, fuzzed out guitars. It's what sets them apart from the no-riff uber-raff on the radio. HGoS is no exception here either. The guitars are pure meth and adrenaline mixed with . . . well, why not mix it with SOMA . . . creating an instantly satisfying warmth throughout your body, charging up your metal receptors, and creating a condition of pure party atmosphere pleasure, whether listening alone in your car, or cranking it up at a booze fueled end of the week celebration, or anything in between.

HGoS band members include:

John V. - Vocals
Alexandros K. - Guitars
Takis A. - Guitars
Nick G. - Bass
Uncle Jim - Drums

HGoS, having formed recently in 2011 and having honed their craft in the various live venues in and around Athens, manages to deliver high quality sound on all parts and pieces of their instrumentation. John V. has a great set of rock pipes, using them to great effect throughout the album. The twin guitar assault of Alex K. and Takis A. are effective, effusive, and effing awesome. Nick G. has somehow strung his bass to the heavy machines used in building tunnels through mountains, and Uncle Jim knows how to impeccably navigate the skins through the heavy maze of riffs from the 3 guitars by using just a pair of wooden sticks. Most of all, the fivesome know how to slap a song together in such a way as to make it memorable, exciting, enticing, and dripping with anticipation, all by mainly making clever and satisfying melodies, songs that not only rock, but bring a sort of fuzzy funk that fits perfectly with the low tuned, distorted bazooka blast emanations of the various string sources. While most stoner/retro bands draw heavily either from the great era of the 70s or the grunge and high desert eras of the 90s, HGoS seem also to have thrown in a sound that hearkens to the new wave sound of the 80s, which makes for a very intriguing metal sound, something that almost feels like they've solved the puzzle that existed on too much 80s so called rock. . . adding the big, fuzzy sound of stoner rock guitar.

This self titled album is their first foray into studio production and contains 9 melodic creations layered thickly with fuzzy metal shavings, crafted in such a way as to be most enjoyable when the amperage is set to ultra high levels and you have room enough to violently move about the room.

"Burn Your Shadows" opens with a funky guitar ditty that leads into the opening hooks and riffs that are slightly reminiscent of the B-52s or The Cure, except with a much heavier, beefier sound, especially when the instrumentation is isolated for several incredible minutes.

"Feed Your Hell" opens in a measured pace that leads into a more up-tempo refrain. John V.'s vocals lend a ballad like quality to the song as the twin guitars provide both a heavy undercurrent of deep, dark riffs plus a more penetrating and insistent interlude. The music here is telling a story, one that isn't all light and sunshine, but replete with dank, musty revelations.

"Secret of the Fox" is a partner piece to its predecessor above. It's steady, unyielding tempo is full of various textures of twisted metal licks and fills riding on an undercurrent of heavy bass, and narrated with melancholy, haunting vocals.

After several songs of deep, dark melancholia comes a song that is a masterpiece of tempo, melody, and listening enjoyment in "Dead End". I am not a master of culling out the lyrics to a song, so while the title would seem to convey failure in the journey of whomever is travelling through these songs, the atmosphere of the music seems to convey the opposite. A quicker pace, insistent and deadly drumwork, and metal rending guitar riffs accompany dual vocals on this song, providing the listener with an intriguing melody infused with heavy textures and bigger than life substance.

Immediately following is an incredibly haunting piece, "Wings Rusted Away", that allows for instrumental isolation to an extent, allowing the listener to go one on one with the huge guitars and whipcord drums. Vocals are magnified as well, as the melancholy of the tune intensely permeates throughout your body, taking over, inducing a trance-like state akin to a natural endorphin rush.

Melancholia and haunting melodies close out the album with "Under a Malign Star", where HGoS make sure to go out with a universe deafening explosion of metal distortion and amplification.


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