Thursday, 23 November 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Monte Luna - "Monte Luna"

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Full-length
Date Released: 02/09/2017
Label: Indepedent


With a little bit of trimming, their debut would be a contender for breakout of the year.  As it stands, this should portend greatness for a duo as eclectic and skilled as any I’ve heard in 2017.



“Monte Luna” CD//DD//CS track listing

1). The Burning of Elohim
2). Nameless City
3). 6000 Year March
4). Nightmare Frontier
5). Inverted Mountain
6). The End of Beginning


The Review
               
This year has been an absolute banger when it’s come to excellent records.  With so much brutal filth to laud,  Owlcrusher, Belus, Shroud Eater, and Fister all put out shatteringly exceptional releases. 

With a self-released, self-titled debut LP, Monte Luna throw their hat in the power duo ring and perform admirably, a psychedelic, spacey blast of eclectic stoner metal, Monte Luna goes all in with six tracks that range from blast beat fury to soulful blues riffage.

It’s tempting to think “The Burning of Elohim”, the shortest track (at nearly five minutes), is an introduction for the massive cuts that follow.  But it’s too full on its own to be a mere intro cut.  Clarke’s abrupt shifts between shriek and croon are almost disarming, but ultimately a real asset.  His dexterity in guitar styles serves as an guiding principle for Monte Luna, as Phil Hook can instantly lock into a bluesy, soulful swing or pummel through punishing blast beats.  On “Nameless City”, a thirteen minute doom jam centered around beefy riffing and Clarke’s grungey, bluesy vocal, Hook stands out with precise but loose meat and potatoes rock drumming that serves the doom fretwork, especially when guest guitarist Jon-Paul Girard goes for an extended wah-wah jaunt through pentatonic scales loaded with some vintage Blue Cheer fuzz.
               
The feedback-heavy martial tone of “6000 Year March” sounds like the music an orc would blast before heading into battle, complete with shrieking tri-tone riffs and a husky, yowling vocal delivery from Clarke.  The ambient outro, layered with samples of occult movie dialogue, feels a bit overlong, especially since the next track, “Nightmare Frontier”, is an abrupt departure.  Pushing his voice into soulful heights, Clarke almost sounds like Cedric Bixler-Zavala, albeit in a less falsetto register. The subdued bass and drum line, countered by a sinewy, sludgy riff, makes “Nightmare Frontier” an irresistible banger.  When the track culminates in an ascending guitar lead, there’s no doubt that this is the standout cut on the record.
               
If “Nightmare Frontier” is the catchiest cut, “Inverted Mountain” may be the absolute filthiest track.  Clarke pushes his vocals to shredded extremes, and the relentless feedback is molar rattling.  A downbeat midsection, seething with sonic manipulations courtesy of Hook, witnesses Clarke careening from forlorn wailing to sinister crooning, before launching into speed metal mania.  The end of this brutal sprint also highlights the one glaring issue of the record: the extended ambient codas.  When the following track, “The End of Beginning”, has its own mellow intro, the appended few minutes feel like a real drag.  Which is a shame considering the finale is a brutal assault on its own, vaulting from slow dirge to blast beat assault.  Clarke once again pushes his vocals to extremes, and his guitar ranges from ethereal to demonic.  That this stellar track has another outro – this time acoustic – only diminishes the transcendent, destructive finale.
               
When measured against the heft and might of the majority of this otherwise excellent debut, Monte Luna’s sonic noodlings are a bit nitpicky.  But the truth is that this stellar combo only obscures its own songwriting and performance chops.  The finale to “The End is Beginning” feels like the chaos and violence of Ragnarok itself… until they tack on a few extra bars and nature sounds.  With a little bit of trimming, their debut would be a contender for breakout of the year.  As it stands, this should portend greatness for a duo as eclectic and skilled as any I’ve heard in 2017.


“Monte Luna” is available here



Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Witchery - "I Am Legion"

By: Daniel Jackson

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 10/11/2017
Label: Century Media


What ‘I Am Legion’ boils down to is this: Witchery proves here that they’re a band still capable of greatness and creatively this is Witchery’s best album in sixteen years.
  


‘I Am Legion’ CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Legion
2. True North
3. Welcome, Night
4. Of Blackened Wing
5. Dry Bones
6. Amun-Ra
7. Seraphic Terror
8. A Faustian Deal
9. An Unexpected Guest
10. Great Northern Plague
11. The Alchemist
12. Ragnarök (Bonus Track)
13. Apex Ghoul (Bonus Track)


The Review:

It can be a challenge for fans and bands alike whenever a band ventures away from the sound that earned them their fan base. Not all fans are willing to make that journey with a band, and the new sound very rarely ever has the same meaning or impact as what came before. The Crown is an example where their later material suffered from their shift toward down-tuned death metal, all but leaving their speed metal leanings behind, and their musical charisma and personality disappeared with it. Over the years, Witchery’s albums fell at a similar trajectory to The Crown, though the changes they’ve made in style are less severe.

It’s easy to forget just how brief Witchery’s original peak really was. They released three top notch albums and an EP, all within a two-and-a-half year window: October 1998 to February 2001. Since then, their output has been a lot less frequent and less noteworthy. All of the albums following ‘Symphony For The Devil’ have been missing something to one degree or another as they’ve struggled to find their footing.

That brings us to ‘I Am Legion’ and while the Witchery of old and the Witchery of now may not have as much in common as long time fans might like, they’ve clearly put themselves back on solid ground again. The album proper begins with its lead single “True North”, a deliberately-paced stomper, with a chorus that would have fit in nicely amongst Bathory’s viking metal material. The song is also something of a red herring, though nicely paired with “Welcome, Night”, another mid-paced, rhythm-centric track.

After that point, Witchery shifts into higher gears. “Of Blackened Wing” is a smorgasbord of riffs and styles, ranging from it’s Sabbathian opening riff, into crossover thrash, and even a pinch of recent Darkthrone in the song’s second half. As the album carries on, there’s a healthy balance of thrashing fury and fist-pumping mid-tempo heft. ‘A Faustian Deal’ even flirts with Satyricon’s black n’ roll feel, though they find a way to make it fit within their own established stylistic framework. All of this variety definitely counts for something, but really it’s the inspired songwriting that carries this album, whatever the speed. Creatively, ‘I Am Legion” is Witchery’s best album in sixteen years.

What ‘I Am Legion’ boils down to is this: Witchery proves here that they’re a band still capable of greatness. Getting back up to this level hasn’t been quick or easy for the band, and it’s hard to tell what changed during the brief period between this album and last year’s ‘In His Infernal Majesty's Service’. Whatever it was, they need to find a way to bottle it and save it for anything they do going forward because this is exactly where they needed to be, and it didn’t require reliving old sounds to get here. Witchery is a great band again in 2017, and it’s a joy to be able to say it.


“I Am Legion” is available digitally here and on CD/LP here.


Band info: Facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Godflesh - "Post Self"

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Full-length
Date Released: 17/11/2017
Label: Avalanche Recordings


It may be a disturbing, challenging last will and testament of humanity’s futurist hopes and dreams, but “Post Self” is an invigorating, complex, and honest piece of industrial metal.  Perhaps most importantly, in a genre that can be glutted with repetitive speed metal riffs and samples of shouting despots, Godflesh stands as one of the smartest bands working today.


“Post Self” CD//DD//LP track listing

1). Post Self
2). Parasite
3). No Body
4). Mirror of Finite Light
5). Be God
6). The Cyclic End
7). Pre Self
8). Mortality Sorrow
9). In Your Shadow
10). The Infinite End

The Review:
               
Crack into any futurist, or hell, even a Neil DeGrasse Tyson wiki-hole, and all sorts of wild speculative bullshit will have you thinking we’re on the cusp of some magical utopia – a paradigm shift, or line of code, or thinkfluential bleeding edge app from unlocking the Jetsons vision of tomorrow.  The transhumanist vision of Ray Kurzweil, the cult of revelatory Singularity, is just the latest, scientific positivist take on apocalyptic rapture snake oil.  With the right tech, the right drive, the right “difficult geniuses” at the helm, we’re all going to beat death and toil and everything desperate and mind-numbing about modern life and finally have the time to bask in our uploaded consciousness for all eternity.  Nevermind the endless sequence of fuckups modernity seems to display – the relentless argument AGAINST letting mankind extend its petty bullshit ad infinitum.  If any band were to write the soundtrack for humanity’s defeat at the inexorable reality of death, it’s Godflesh.  And with “Post Self”, their eighth album, and second since reforming in 2010, Justin Broadrick and G.C. Green have crafted a distinctly industrial, metallic slab of nihilistic dread.  A haunting eulogy for a species intent on extinguishing all its potential in a solipsistic pursuit of immortality.
               
From the highly processed guitar crunch, to the inverted disco backbeat, the opening title track sets the stage for a Godflesh album that lurks in the niches of queasy anxieties.  There are few fully rocking industrial metal moments in “Post Self”, and that decision seems to be a conscious one – Broadrick and Green acknowledged they hewed closer to a foundation of early industrial and post-punk, and the ties to Throbbing Gristle, Public Image Ltd. and Einsturzende Neubauten are, perhaps, more distinct than they’ve ever been.  On a heavily dissonant track like “Parasite”, the wheedling guitar lead sounds so contrary, so confrontational, so “anti-hook” that it can’t possibly be “rocking”.  The doomy “Be God”, with vocals so processed that they sound like an entirely inhuman language, is remarkably underscored by a dreampop guitar coda, with defiantly beautiful tones that ebb and flow like an ocean of battery acid.  The shoegaze sound bleeds into “The Cyclic End”.  The clean vocals are a welcome respite in the warped hellscape of Godflesh’sPost Self” – but of course the sweetness has to curdle by the finale.
               
“Pre Self” opens with one of the most harrowing guitar licks I’ve ever heard.  A solitary, echoing clang set against an ambient background, Broadrick adds a simple beat and clean vocal litany that, as I listened looking out across the polluted industrial skyline of Newark, was as depressing as a Lars Von Trier marathon.  This amplification of loneliness runs through the album, but is sometimes obscured by soundscapes or effects.  The deranged surf guitar of “In Your Shadow”, or the psychedelic tones of “Mortality Sorrow” can sometimes sideline the hopelessness at “Post Self’s” core.  But with the restrained synthetic strings of “The Infinite End”, the message is clear: this is a requiem mass for a humanity already doomed.  The sparks of soul or individuality within the ten preceding tracks are ghosts in a machine – corrupted, decayed remnants of mankind.  The Singularity is a pipe dream – we have already encoded ourselves into our digital tombstones, and after we leave a used husk of a planet, these vague, screeching entreaties for meaning and salvation will remain.  It may be a disturbing, challenging last will and testament of humanity’s futurist hopes and dreams, but “Post Self” is an invigorating, complex, and honest piece of industrial metal.  Perhaps most importantly, in a genre that can be glutted with repetitive speed metal riffs and samples of shouting despots, Godflesh stands as one of the smartest bands working today.  If they can look to their past and still offer an album so prescient and confrontational, there are a few things we can still be optimistic about in 2018.


“Post Self” is available here



Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

SATAN'S DOZEN: 13 Unearthly Hymns Unearthed (November 2017)

Compiled by: Andrei Moose
Artwork by: Josh Mashesh


SATAN’S DOZEN is our attempt to present the very best music the underground scene has to offer and whilst we’d love to review every band submission we receive, not to mention the countless recommendations you send our way, in practical terms that is just not possible.  Therefore because we don’t want killer music to pass you by, each and every month Andrei Moose will painstakingly sift through the music labelled “all killer  riffs” and choose 13 of the best new albums released via bandcamp and bundle them together into the mightiest riff sandwich.

Whilst all the albums we have included below are top tier stuff, we have compiled them into a chart on a sliding scale of 1-13. So we hope you dig our selections for November and enjoy 13 Unearthly Hymns Unearthed.  

These bands need more exposure, so go “like” “share” and “follow” their pages, but most of all enjoy some of the best music the underground has to offer.  THE SLUDGELORD most sincerely approves.   Now, go heavy or go home.

1) Bone Church – “Bone Church” (Connecticut) Released October 30, 2017


Psychedelic / stoner / doom / metal



2) DROID – “Province” (Melbourne, Australia) Released November 9, 2017

Sludge / Stoner / Doom / Metal



3) Presumption – “Presumption” (Le Mans, France) Released November 17, 2017


Stoner / Doom / Metal



4) Mauvaise Foi“Mauvaise Foi” (Paris, France) Released November 3, 2017


Doom / Sludge 



5) Snowy Dunes – “Atlantis” (Stockholm, Sweden) Released October 27, 2017


Psychedelic / stoner / rock



6) Indian Goat – “1” (Spokane, Washington) Released July 24, 2017


Fuzz / stoner / rock



7) Zong – “Zong” (Brisbane, Australia) Released November 4, 2017


Heavypsych / instrumental / stoner / rock



8) The Dues – “Time Machine” (Winterthur, Switzerland) Released October 18, 2017


Blues/ stoner / rock



9) Mojo Wizard – “The Mystic Peephole” (Sherbrooke, Québec) Released October 25, 2017


Psychedelic / stoner / rock



10) KER“Buried At Sea / Comfort The Blind” (Konstanz, Germany) Released November 6, 2017


Blackened / Doom / Sludge




11) MouthBreather – “PIG” (Boston, Massachusetts) Released October 10, 2017

Grindcore / Powerviolence / Noise / Mathcore



12) Transylvania Stud – “The Red Queen” (Nashville, Tennessee) Released November 17, 2017


Desert / stoner / rock




13) Temple Of The Fuzz Witch“EP” (Detroit, Michigan) Released November 4, 2017 


Stoner / Doom / Metal



FOR THOSE ABOOT TO ROCK: Riffs of Canada with Pale Mare (Toronto, Ontario)

By: Mark Tremblay

Album Type: EP
Date Released: 10/11/2017
Label: Medusa Crush Recordings


For those of you who long for the days of “Blessed Black Wings” era High on Fire, this record is the perfect trip down memory-lane.  If you dig thick and dirty riffs, you’ll dig Pale Mare.

“Pale Mare EP” CS//DD track listing:

1). Descolada
2). Carthage
3). Hoplite

The Review:

Toronto’s Pale Mare has finally released their long awaited self-titled EP. After making a name for themselves locally opening for acts such as Windhand and Weedeater, Pale Mare have unleashed their well-honed brand of sludge metal. For those of you who long for the days of “Blessed Black Wings” era High on Fire, this record is the perfect trip down memory-lane.

The EP comes out of the gate swinging with “Descolada”; a song built upon a heavy riff that would make Matt Pike smile. Where Pale Mare break from the pack, however, is this jazz break they’ve fused into the middle of the song. The clean shimmering guitar chords and wah-tinged bass give them a nuisance and balance not often found in riff-driven music.

 “Carthage” is a straight out banger that page homage to early Baroness EP’s “First” and “Second” while adding their own twists. Luke Roberts’ drum fills on this track are particularly jaw-dropping. Given the fact that he is also the guitarist and main creative force behind Ayahuasca, it begs the question “Is there anything Luke Roberts can’t do?”.

The albums closer “Hoplite” is continuation of all these elements mashed together in one riff-crammed magnum opus. Pale Mare is a throwback to the hey-day of the Savannah sludge metal of the early 2000s, only with a twist. If you dig thick and dirty riffs, you’ll dig Pale Mare.

“Pale Mare EP” is available here




Band info: bandcamp || facebook

6 NEW BANDS: THE SLUDGELORD'S 666 Pack Review (November 2017)

By: Nikos Mixas
Art: Joshua M. Wilkinson 
Welcome to THE SLUDGELORD’s November installment of the 666 Pack Review!  As the weather continues to cool, we’re turning up the heat every passing month with 6 more victims….errrr…newish bands to review.  Each and every month we handpick 6 review submissions and critique them by only using 6 words, then we rate them on a scale from 1 to 666!  Check out our awesome holiday foods inspired rating scale below:

1 – Do you know what Lutefisk is?  Well, I liken this band to it.  It stinks and it’s intolerable…
2 - Fruitcake.  It’s almost ok to eat.  This band?  It’s almost ok to listen to.   
3 – No matter how you slice it (no pun intended), this band is average, just like turkey.
4 – It’s not the pumpkin pie that does it for me, it’s the whipped cream.  Yes, this band is sweet.
5 – Green bean casserole with toasted onions and mashed potatoes with gravy….mmmm…mmmmm!  You see where I’m going with this???
666! – THE SLUDGELORD loves the tasty riffing, the sweet drumming so much that he’s going back for seconds! 


The 666 Pack Review is meant to offer humorous criticism and is not meant to hurt feelings, however, there are no safe spaces here.  THE SLUDGELORD is a picky listener…and doesn’t care what you think of his opinions….

Dirt War - “Loss” – (Buffalo, USA) Rating: 1

We’re off to a poor start…

  
Soyuz Bear - “Black Phlegm” (Toulouse, France) Rating: 3

Five seconds in, it’s all EYEHATEGOD.



Obscene - “Sermon to the Snake” (Indianapolis, USA) Rating: 2

Martin Van Drunen sounding sick.  Nope.   

    
Diuna - “The very best of the Golden Hits” (Torun, Poland) Rating: 3

I present thee…the Polish QOTSA



Apotelesma - Timewrought Kings” (Utrecht, Netherlands) Rating: 3

The “vokills” ruined it for me.




Dumblegore - “Misanthropic Ritual” (New Jersey, USA) Rating: 5

When black metal meets Missing Persons.




REVIEW: Cetacean - ‘Dichotomy’ [EP]

By: Daniel Jackson

Album Type: EP
Date Released: 16/11/2017
Label: Apes Who Looked Up



‘Dichotomy’ is dynamic, brilliantly composed and dense enough to keep giving you something new on repeat listens. It’s tough to nail down whether this is doom, post-metal, or something else altogether, but whatever label you want to place on it, it’s fucking powerful.


‘Dichotomy’ DD track listing:

1. Zephyrvs
2. Dichotomy

The Review:

The peaks and valleys approach isn’t an easy one to get right in a metal context. There are no shortage of bands implementing the soft verse/heavy chorus formula well, but where compositions are less rigidly formulaic; a lot of bands fall short or half-commit. Neurosis has been great at it for more than twenty years now, and there have been a handful of others too, but they’re exceptions to the rule.

Cetacean are a relatively new band, but they’ve absolutely mastered the art of building to big climactic moments. Right from this EP’s opening minutes, the band take their time, adding layers and heft as they go until the song explodes with scintillating melody and soaring lead guitar. From that point on, the music ebbs and flows; retracts and expands. When it’s loud, it’s some of the most beautifully layered heavy music I’ve heard this year. When it’s subdued, it comes at the perfect time, and it always does a wonderful job of setting the stage for whatever peak comes next.

Another area where ‘Dichotomy’ excels is in its use of less conventional instruments. The saxophone and organ work on the title track suits each moment perfectly. The saxophone comes in at the midway point, taking on a similar role to the instrument's used in Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them”, before returning in later heavier sections, providing musical unease when opportune. Even better is that these unique elements aren’t hamfistedly shoved into the mix of things for the sake of it, but rather as tasteful accompaniment and only under the right circumstances.

 Whether it’s bursting with color and melody or taking things into darker musical terrain, Cetacean take you on a journey over the course of these two songs and eighteen minutes. The valleys are alternately comforting or foreboding and the peaks are electric and satisfying. ‘Dichotomy’ is dynamic, brilliantly composed and dense enough to keep giving you something new on repeat listens. It’s tough to nail down whether this is doom, post-metal, or something else altogether, but whatever label you want to place on it, it’s fucking powerful.

Full Disclosure: Daniel contributed guest backing vocals to Cetacean’s previous release, ‘Breach | Submerge’.


‘Dichotomy’ is available here



Band info: Facebook || bandcamp