Spiders – Shake Electric (Spinefarm)

Spiders - Shake Electric (Spinefarm, 2014)There’s been yet another wave of high-profile quotes from celebrity musicians about how rock ‘n’ roll is dead and nothing rocks with passion anymore, blah blah, whine whine. All the while there’s amazing bands like Gothenburg’s Spiders rocking the fuck out right in front of their stupid faces. Rather than complain, maybe they ought to remove their ears from their assholes and spread the word about the great albums that do come out. Spiders’ 2012 full-length debut Flash Point (Crusher) was one of the best of that year along with the ones by fellow Swedes Graveyard, Witchcraft and Troubled Horse. The fact that they probably still aren’t known enough to tour North America without losing money is a freakin’ crime.

Their second album retains the band’s recognizable hard rock sound rooted in the simplicity of garage punk, but performed with the masterful musicianship of big league players. They’ve tweaked their direction a bit, veering from Detroit proto-punk and metal to incorporate some glam, early KISS, Heart, UFO and even some genius vocal hooks worthy of Fleetwood Mac. Skeptical? Check out moments like the gorgeous vocal bridge at 2:20 in “Give Up The Fight,” or in “Bleeding Heart” when Ann-Sofie Hoyles sings, “…soothes my soul, through darkness…” Those are bona-fide rock ‘n’ roll transportive moments that may very well cause listeners to drive too fast, kiss too hard, or just shake their fist in their cubicle like a dumbass. And those aren’t even the tracks that have been featured as videos and singles (yet). Those would be the brooding, buzzing “Shake Electric,” the terse, punk anger of “Control” and the tough album opener “Mad Dog.” “Lonely Nights” is another memorable highlight, with a catchy but simple riff and “woo-ooh” chorus that are tied together with Hoyles’ charismatic performance.

Full disclosure, there is a cowbell, in more than one song even. And some use of wah-wah. Does this mean this is merely retro music to be dismissed as irrelevant? Hell no, none of this album recognizably sounds like anyone other than the Spiders. These songs feel like the band were just compelled to create them. There’s not much likelihood they will be hits and make the band big stars, as much as they might deserve to be. On “Hard Times” they try their hand at a ballad and it’s quite different from the rest of the album. But it’s great, with Hoyles sounding much more soulful than most contemporary artists who specialize in the style. After a dark “War Of The World,” the album feels over way too soon. The only course is to play it again, and maybe dig up their other album and EP. They way they tore it up at Roadburn a couple years ago, by all accounts they’re a shit-hot live band too. Let’s hope they can finally make it over to the U.S. soon, maybe with Spinefarm labelmates Electric Wizard or better yet, here’s a dream all-Swedish lineup: Blues Pills, Spiders, Troubled Horse. What the heck, I haven’t seen Witchcraft in seven years, toss them in too. Let’s do this! | Buy

Posted in New Album(s) of the Week, Reviews, Videos/Singles | Tagged , | Comments

Doom Colossi – Electric Wizard & Witch Mountain

It’s often assumed that doom metal is merely a retro genre that refers exclusively back to the 70s and 80s. But there’s another possible story. Doom didn’t even really exist in the 70s. Sure, Black Sabbath has a handful of proto-doom songs, particularly on Master Of Reality that are clearly the launchpad of the genre. Pentagram ran with it, but no one really noticed until the mid-80s. There are undeniably some classics in the 80s from Pentagram, Saint Vitus, Candlemass, Trouble, The Obsessed, Pagan Altar and Witchfinder General. But doom is a slow moving beast, and kept growing and expanding through the 00s, and arguably is enjoying its biggest audience ever right now. Black Sabbath may have never directly acknowledged being part of doom to my knowledge, but something influenced them to revisit their early 70s sound, resulting in 13 being undeniably doomy. Pentagram was featured in a documentary and seem to be at peak popularity along with Saint Vitus, along with younger bands like Pallbearer and Witch Mountain. We’ve seen some big releases recently from Pallbearer, Earth and YOB (all of whom were featured on the covers of glossy magazines that don’t always focus on doom like Decibel and Rock-A-Rolla. Anticipation for Electric Wizard’s eighth album seems more feverish than even the tortured, extended wait between Come My Fanatics… (1997) and Dopethrone (2000).

Electric Wizard - Time To Die (Spinefarm, 2014)Electric Wizard – Time To Die (Spinefarm)
If there was ever case of my being a big fan of a band I wouldn’t necessarily want to know personally, it’s Electric Wizard. Jus Osborn by most accounts seems to be extremely difficult to work with. Alienating his biggest longtime supporter Lee Dorian and his Rise Above label was pretty pointless. They somehow figured they’d have more control over their destiny by starting their own label Witchfinder, and release the new album in May. That obviously didn’t work out, and they ended up with Finnish label Spinefarm, who has the distribution muscle of Universal Music Group. The label has developed a pretty large metal roster since 1999 and should be fine. Meanwhile, Osborn moved further out into the countryside to percolate in his misanthropic lair with wife and bandmate Liz Buckingham who joined in 2003. He lured original drummer Mark Greening back long enough to record the album before unceremoniously dumping him again, and hired bassist Clayton Burgess to replace Glenn Charman. Burgess also leads his own great band Satan’s Satyrs.

Despite the unstable lineup, Time To Die is their best since Dopethrone. The experimental Let Us Prey (2002) was disappointing at the time but has its merits, and We Live (2004) was kind of underrated. Witchcult Today (2007) saw the band make another surge in popularity, despite the fact that they lost their low end and sounded somewhat neutered, and by Black Masses (2010), it seemed their old claustrophobic, insanely evil and heavy sound was a thing of the past. That shitty low-fi sounds seemed to be a big influence on Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats. The popularity is likely a reason that the ever-contrary Osborn decided to make a switch to their most bilious, nasty sound ever. This decision I heartily agree with. Electric Wizard ooze with hate, and in that respect Time To Die is probably their most honest work. Osborn promised something “savage, hateful and mind-destroying,” and that’s just what we get.

At the beginning of “Incense for the Damned” we hear the sounds of a babbling brook. Rather than the idyllic Blakeian vision of the English countryside, I imagine a dead body in the stream. Throughout the album, Richard ‘Ricky’ Kasso’s ritualistic murder of Gary Lauwers in 1984 is referenced via newsclips. The 17 year-old was high on acid at the time and hung himself in his cell a couple days later. The song lays out its statement of purpose with conviction, leaving behind the anemic analog Toe Rag recordings of the past two albums, and kicking into glorious full range overdrive. By the time they reach the bombed-out breakdown at 5:40, the guitars are squalling nightmarish landscapes, the band are screaming “die!” and the reverb of the bass drum is shaking the rafters. The chaos is reigned in by 7:40 with a perfectly placed riff, and they repeat the simple sentiment, “We want to get high before we die” for the rest of the 10:42 long track. On my fifth listen it never sounds too long. In lesser hands it might, but Electric Wizard are without a doubt the masters.

“Time To Die” almost sounds like the previous track had kept going, with the droning guitar lead remaining in the same key. This gives the album a feel of continuity, an hour plus tour of Hell. It features a fairly simple, cyclical riff and repetitive exhortations of “wake up baby, it’s time to die” with occasional wah-wah guitar lines that remind me of The Stooges’ debut album. “I Am Nothing” is even more simple and brutal, and also the longest track at 11:31. For most it might be the most impenetrable. So perversely it’s the first track the band released on video. I suppose if one kept this on the background and didn’t pay much attention it would be boring or irritating. But what kind of asshole listens to Electric Wizard that way? You’ve either got to be all in, willing to submit your attention and psyche to the power of the music, or don’t fucking bother. For fuck’s sake. The truth is that it’s one of many masterful performances on the album. Greening’s drumming and newcomer Burgess’ bass lock into a groove that contracts and expands, and with the perfect guitar accompaniment from Osborn and Buckingham, is one of the Wiz’s most satisfyingly trippy accomplishments.

“Destroy Those Who Love God” features news and documentary footage throughout the track, which put it in danger of of being filler. In a way it is, but the clips are well chosen, thought provoking and eerie. It works, and in the context of the rest of the songs, is over in the blink of an eye of 3:03. Starting with the almost chooglin’ “Funeral Of The Mind,” the rest of the album is almost festive compared to the initial punishing bleakness. There’s a touch of garage-psych in the chorus which could have been found on a lost outtake from Alice Cooper between Easy Action (1970) and Love It To Death (1971). The sound is all Wizard though. “We Love The Dead” is more atmospheric, sounding like what they were aiming for on Black Masses but got it right this time. “Sadiowitch” sees the band effortlessly rolling out another classic title with a memorable riff set to a steady groove. “Lucifer’s Slaves” reaches another peak, and edges out the others as my favorite track. Overall this album is not heavier than Dopethrone. I think that was a conscious choice in order to make the experience more dynamic, so that moments like halfway through “Lucifer’s Slaves” when the bottom drops out, you feel jolted and tune into the incredibly heavy tones more intensely, and makes the echo-laden psychedelic coda with reverb and wah-wah feel all that more profound. That might seem silly to an outsider who only sees the kitschy occult surface of the band. But even with the organ-laden instrumental outro “Saturn Dethroned,” which perhaps ties back to “Saturn’s Children” from We Live and even “Saturnine” on Witchcult Today, it’s clear that the band is reaching for some kind of transcendent state beyond the violence and emotions. The final experience is going to vary for each listener, but to me there’s no question that Electric Wizard expertly constructed and performed a nearly perfect soundtrack to the journey. | Buy at Electricfuckinwizard.com

Witch Mountain - Mobile Of Angels (Profound Lore, 2014)Witch Mountain – Mobile Of Angels (Profound Lore)
To drum up interest in these two albums, I posted a sort of battle of bands question in some forums and social media. It’s not exactly a fair fight, with Electric Wizard’s legendary status looming over the entire doom landscape like the true colossus that it is. However, on their fourth album, Witch Mountain are no slouches. Neither are they exactly new doomers on the block, considering they’ve been together since 1997. There was a long gap between their debut Come The Mountain (2001) and South Of Salem (2011) during which singer Uta Plotkin joined, bringing a lot more attention to the band. Despite there being no shortage of women vocalists and bandleaders in metal these days, Plotkin’s style stands out with her impressive chops and range, masterfully incorporating the blues into the band’s repertoire in a way that sounded startlingly fresh. To some she might even be too good a vocalist for the genre, while most would disagree. Uta even gamely switches to some good ol’ sludgly growls now and then.

Mobile Of Angels completes a trilogy of albums featuring Uta, who is leaving the band at the completion of their tour with Nik Turner’s Hawkwind to hopefully keep doing her thing in a solo context. It features some of her best work, with “Psycho Animundi” showing Uta more confident than ever, singing in a forceful lower range that’s arguably her most appropriate performance in the context of doom so far. The whole band is on, showing off how they have reached a new level of tight musicianship through their years on the road. It’s a stunning start to the album, one of their best songs in their catalog. “Can’t Settle” is more similar to the band’s standard lumbering doom fare, but with plenty of flair to also stand out in their catalog. “Your Corrupt Ways (Sour The Hymn)” hits another career highlight, an extended 10:27 centerpiece with Uta’s most soft-spoken, intimate performance so far. Seven minutes in it also features some exceptional guitar solos from Rob Wrong. The title track is a deliciously spooky organ-laden psych gem that takes a page from Jex Thoth’s influential occult atmospherics. It’s an all too brief bridge to the album’s conclusion in “The Shape Truth Takes,” where Uta takes on a higher, ethereal register that floats over the subdued music featuring a beautiful chord progression that ascends into their most beautiful work of their career, and as emotionally powerful as the best the likes of Pallbearer and 40 Watt Sun have to offer.

A lot of fans will be disappointed that Uta is leaving the group, but the band wouldn’t have reached these heights without Rob Wrong, the band’s key songwriter, mastermind and, along with drummer Nate Carson, founder. Wrong handled the vocals on their debut, which were a bit influenced by Kyuss-era John Garcia, which were fine at the time, but not a fit for where they are now. The band will take their time to find a new vocalist. They had their Dio, and now is perhaps an opportunity to find their Ozzy. My only disappointment is that their slot opening for Nik Turner’s Hawkwind was barely a half hour. They sounded better than ever during that short performance, and at this point they really should have had a triumphant headlining tour where they played all their best stuff. Perhaps Uta could be convinced to do one more big festival appearance next year.

So who wins this battle of the bands for album of the week? I still keep going back and forth. Time To Die is at least Electric Wizard’s third best album, which is a huge accomplishment for the legends. But Mobile Of Angels sees Uta exiting at the band’s peak. It’s kind of a tie, a yin-yang situation between two very different albums that represent the wide spectrum that the doom genre includes these days. I’ll need more time through the end of the year to see which album fits my moods most consistently and successfully. Between all the aforementioned albums in the beginning of this review, and the upcoming albums from Alunah, Occultation, Apostle Of Solitude and 11 Paranoias, it’s a damn great time to be a doom fan.

Posted in Bandcamp, New Album(s) of the Week, Reviews, Videos/Singles | Tagged , , | Comments

Goat – Commune (Rocket Recordings/Sub Pop)

Goat - Commune (Rocket Recordings/Sub Pop, 2014)Goat – Commune (Rocket Recordings/Sub Pop)
When Goat’s debut World Music came out in 2012 and immediately earned a pile of praise and attention, I had mixed feelings. On one hand I welcome a new Swedish psych band with interesting ideas of mixing Afrobeat and kosmische with voodoo-based costumes and stage show. On the other, the hype they received seemed disproportionate to the overall quality compared with some other bands in the scene. Despite a few attention-stretching lulls in the album, their whole concept was just too well executed to dismiss. They proved themselves with a captivating live show with the amazing costumes, dancing and musicianship. I don’t care whether their claims to freakish cult spiritualism is bullshit or not, they work their asses off  to create powerful experiences.

The new album remains committed to the hypnotic Afrobeat on acid theme, and while much of the sounds are familiar, it succeeds by improving on the first album in pretty much every way. The hooks are more substantial, the grooves are groovier, and it sounds harder and even more dangerous, as if modeled after the badass Toureg band Tinariwen but with more lysergic guitar solos.  And amazingly, it feels like the lyrics are not just there for decoration, but they truly do have some kind of spiritual message. Mind you, their shouty ceremonial style is sometimes hard to understand, but snippets emerge with references to the human wreckage of war, abuse of power, people living on their knees, and in the spoken intro to “To Travel The Path Unknown,” “the positive force of the constant creation of evolution.”  Okay, so maybe these Swedes are more hippy than scary occult whackadoos, but it’s all good when the music gets this great. Especially when it grows fangs like on the excellent, driving and fairly menacing sounding “Goatslaves.” The only thing left for them to master is to come up with some amazing videos that can do their sound, image and myth justice.


Posted in New Album(s) of the Week, Reviews, Videos/Singles | Tagged , , , | Comments

The Well – Samsara (RidingEasy)

The Well - Samsara (RidingEasy, 2014)The Well – Samsara (RidingEasy, 2014)
Small Stone isn’t the only indie heavy rock label that’s ablaze with a string of great releases. RidingEasy Records (they had to change their name from Easy Rider for legal reasons) looks at first like someone’s irreverent hobby label with Sabbath Worship patches, “Keep On Fuckin’” shirts and novelty cassette tape releases. But in just over a year they’ve built up an impressive roster of over a dozen bands covering stoner, doom, psych, garage, punk, hard rock in all kinds of hybrid variations. The latest this week is a stellar debut from Austin’s The Well. Since 2012 they’ve released well received records in a single and EP.

Most of the songs were re-recorded for their full-length debut, but still retain the fuzzed-out edges of their garagey psych-doom, laced with some bluesy proto-metal (think Blue Cheer, Mountain). While they inhabit a niche that has a few close neighbors in Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats and Satan’s Satyrs. Like those bands and the massively influential Electric Wizard, who’s latest album comes out a week later, they’re big fans of campy occult horror films, and exude that lava lamp and incense vibe, but freshened up with some punk attitude. Just because a handful of similar minded bands have emerged the past few years, don’t let some assholes poop on the party and say it’s already tired or played out. If anything’s played out, it’s the thousands of shitty fame-whore pop artists you hear non-stop, everywhere. As far as I’m concerned, if I don’t have the option to go out and hear a live performance of mind melting psychedelic doom rock just about every week, there there aren’t enough of these MFers.

I’ll be stoked to see The Well live when they eventually come around, as they’ve distinguished themselves with a recognizably unique signature sound with the layered vocals of guitarist Ian Graham and bassist Lisa Alley.  They don’t harmonize so much as pigpile on each other in an approach that isn’t terribly melodic, like a doomy X, but sounds nicely menacing and meshes well with the music’s lazy groove. From the Rod Serling-like audio clip about the Egyptian temples of Amun-Re to the pounding blues of “Trespass,” the riffs stretching out to jams that completely hold my interest every second, this is a damn good debut. The only track I’m captivated by is “Lucifer Sam,” a cover of the Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd classic that I’ve never really loved. The poppy 60s melody sounds slightly out of place, and I feel like they could have been less reverent and done more to improve it and make their more more of a signature statement of their own peculiar insanity. But perhaps that’s my own baggage, as I’m sure it’s a big hit at the live shows. “Eternal Well” is a better example of what they do best, progressing from a slow, woozy psychedelic crawl to a raging rocker with captivating solos, and circling back to their heavy, memorable doom riff. Even the CD bonus track “I Bring The Light” goes from strength to strength.

I don’t know what’s going on in Texas, like their hot sauces contain some super doom powers, but there’s quite an impressive group of bands that have come up lately with Venomous Maximus, Hornss, Funeral Horse and of course The Sword and Wo Fat. The Well measure up nicely, with the potential of growing like a radiation-charged lizard. | Buy

I’m not kidding about the quality of RidingEasy releases. Along with The Well, I got a batch of CDs in my order, and even tried one (The Picturebooks) unheard. While the vinyl can be pricey, the CDs are only $7 each.

Monolord – Empress Rising | Review
Electric Citizen – Sateen | Review
Spiral Shades – Hypnosis Sessions | Review
Hornss – No Blood, No Sympathy | Review
The Picturebooks – Imaginary Horse (Oct 7)
Salem’s Pot – Lurar ut dig på prárien | Bandcamp
Aleph Null – Nocturnal | Bandcamp
Sons Of Huns – Banishment Ritual | Bandcamp

Posted in New Album(s) of the Week, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Comments

Shellac – Dude Incredible (Touch and Go)

Shellac - Dude Incredible (Touch & Go, 2014)Shellac – Dude Incredible (Touch and Go)
Despite Shellac’s infrequent shows and albums (Dude Incredible is only their fifth album in 20 years), I was lulled into taking them for granted for a while. Since first seeing them live in 1993 at the Lounge Ax, where they set up on the floor rather than the stage, and buying their first three singles with hand-painted art, I’ve been a fan. Steve Albini’s willingness to take those in the music industry to task for various crimes and misdemeanors generated split opinions about his music, leading some to misjudge his bands. Sure, there was always a molten core of punk rage to his work, but to see them live usually meant a lot of jokes. The trio exuded the good-natured aura of musicians enjoying what they do without the pressure of trying to win over a larger audience, impress industry execs or feed their families with long tours. They have their day jobs, and when they can, they do what they love best, making music with friends. While At Action Park (1994) is a complete classic which measures up to the finest work of the bands Albini admired the most at the time, The Jesus Lizard and Fugazi, Terraform (1998), 1000 Hurts (2000) and Excellent Italian Greyhound (2007) were solid, interesting albums, but felt somewhat lacking in urgency to my ears. Continue reading

Posted in New Album(s) of the Week, Rants, Reviews | Tagged , , | Comments

Post-Punk Rundown

It’s been such a great year for stoner/psych/doom that I’ve just been soaking in it like a hot spring, and neglecting other genres. I’ll always have room for post-punk, and have been following the releases pretty closely. It just hasn’t been as busy a year for high profile releases as 2012-13 (Savages, Beastmilk, PINS, Weekend, Holograms, Palma Violets, Merchandise, Deep Time, Makthaverskan, etc.). Still, there’s some albums worth noting. Not anything (yet) that’s going to haunt my top 40, but hovering just under, with the exception of some albums where post-punk is an element, but not the primary one, like the latest from Wovenhand, The Sea KingsThe New Christs, Swans and Parquet Courts. Coming up on October 20, The Mark Lanegan Band’s Phantom Radio will have some post-punk influences. “…although the Trees drew on Nuggets psychedelia, 13th Floor Elevators and Love, we were actually listening to Echo And The Bunnymen, Rain Parade, the Gun Club. A lot of British post-punk. We loved that stuff. I just waited until I was in my late forties before I started ripping it off” Lanegan told Backseat Mafia.

There was a bit of anticipation for the recently released second album by Merchandise, which took an audacious new pop direction to mostly successful ends. Interpol’s first album in four years and first since a lineup change was both anticipated and dreaded by fans, often simultaneously, for good reasons. But the results are a pleasant surprise.

Interpol - El Pintor (Matador, 2014)Interpol – El Pintor (Matador)
Interpol have been my post-punk whipping boys for well over a decade. Despite the ridiculous lyrics, the music of their debut Turn On The Bright Lights (2002) has stood the test of time. But I guess part of me never forgave them for an interview where they claimed having never heard The Chameleons, Comsat Angels, and probably some other key post-punk pioneers. That was complete bullshit, as I heard their influences all over the record. They might as well have denied knowledge of Joy Division, Echo & the Bunnymen and The Smiths. It’s one of the reasons I prefer metal bands, who would never be so disingenuous as to blatantly deny their obvious influences. Antics (2004) seemed a complete letdown at the time, but compared to the greatly diminished returns of the next two albums, it doesn’t seem so bad in retrospect. I admit I experienced some schadenfreude from their failure, but I still kind of hoped they could bounce back and make another great album. And so with these greatly diminished expectations, we are presented with El Pintor. It’s a promising title, a little bold and cocky sounding, though it simply translates to “The Painter.” They shed Carlos Dengler and his dark energy, and singer Paul Banks gamely took on bass duties. It’s early to say it’s a total triumph, but it’s definitely a comeback. I don’t know if they redeemed themselves by kissing Mark Burgess’ ring, or if they’re just refreshed after a long break and culling the herd. From the slow buildup to a pretty great, high energy single in “All the Rage Back Home” to “Anywhere,” “Ancient Ways,” “Breaker 1,” “Everything Is Wrong,” to even the somewhat odd pop of “My Blue Supreme,” they hit the target every time. They may never match their debut, but this is easily better than Antics, which is more than anyone ever expected.  I’m glad they stuck it out. Continue reading

Posted in Bandcamp, New Album(s) of the Week, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments

Doom Tectonics: Earth & YOB

Earth - Primitive And Deadly (Southern Lord, 2014)Earth – Primitive And Deadly (Southern Lord)
Earth and YOB are two bands that I’ve admired for years. Earth’s flawed but groundbreaking Extra-Capsular Extraction (Sub Pop, 1991) influenced drone-doom just as much as Slint and My Bloody Valentine influenced other genres that year. Like our planet’s drifting continental plates, they evolved just as gradually as the early instrumental tracks seemed to unfold, experimenting with many styles, ending up with a sort of world-weary, cactus-dry Americana on their past few albums. While requiring a bit of patience, most of their albums are pretty rewarding. But in their explorations, there was also an emotional distance that was such a given, I never even though to wonder, “what if…” Dylan Carlson did, however. After the extremely laid back acoustic based Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light Vols. 1 & 2 (2011-12), recorded while Carlson was dealing with some health issues, he’s ready to rock out with his cock out. Or at least write and record with more focus an energy than ever before. Continue reading

Posted in Bandcamp, New Album(s) of the Week, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments

New Albums of the Week

The dog days of summer are not usually the time of year I see a lot of high profile releases, which is why I was so surprised that over ten good to great albums came out around August 5th. The albums from Blues Pills, Brimstone Coven, The Sea Kings, Spoon, John Garcia, Saturn, Spiral Shades and John Gallow probably weren’t highly anticipated by a lot of people, but they were some of the best 2014 has had to offer so far. This week we’re really rolling with even more releases. With over 15,000 albums released a year, of course there’s always a lot of crap coming out, but a batch of thirteen albums worth hearing in August is certainly worth noting. My excitement isn’t quite the same as with the last batch, but they’re significant releases that all have their fans, many well worth checking out.

Death Penalty - Death Penalty (Rise Above, 2014)Death Penalty – Death Penalty (Rise Above)
This is released only in Europe so far, which I don’t understand. Staggering release dates by country is a completely antiquated practice. It’s 2014, when an album is out, it’s out. Labels and bands would be better off making sure everyone can buy it at the same time. Despite being a debut album, this has a pretty high anticipation factor, considering it’s leader is Gaz Jennings, who played guitar in Cathedral for 25 years. He recruited a couple members of the excellent Belgian doom/sludge band SerpentCult, including vocalist Michelle Nocon, and a member of Belgian death metallers Tortureama. Given how great the results were when Leif Edling of Candlemass recruited Jennie-Ann Smith for Avatarium last year, I felt there might be some friendly competition from Death Penalty. For the most part, it delivers, but leaning more towards traditional metal than doom. The performances have a nicely loose and gritty feel, kind of like a slightly slower Christian Mistress or Castle. However after over a dozen listens, I can’t quite rave about it like I expected, as a few of the songs just don’t quite do it for me feeling a bit flat. There’s great standouts like  ”Eyes of the Heretic” and “She is a Witch,” but overall it’s not consistent enough to quite measure up to the aforementioned bands, recent albums by The Oath or Satyress, or even SerpentCult’s Raised By Wolves (2011). Nevertheless, fans of Jennings’ career and his love for classic metal will find much to dig into. Continue reading

Posted in New Album(s) of the Week, Rants, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments

Double Dose of Doom: Pallbearer & Cardinals Folly

Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden (Profound Lore, 2014)Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden (Profound Lore, 2014)
When I saw Pallbearer live after releasing their debut album Sorrow and Extinction (2012), it was clear that they take their doom seriously. With such somber subject matter, some might wonder how else one would expect them to be. But there are plenty of doom bands that emphasize other aspects, such as campy love of horror kitsch loaded with obscure, nerdy humor. Doom might not be the first metal genre to bring to mind “party music,” but it exists! Pallbearer aren’t out to ruin your party, but they’ll be there for you after, at 3 a.m. when your girlfriend has dumped you. Not that they’re exactly about romantic breakups, but rather more colossal calamities like bloodlust, crippling regret and the end of time. They’ll make your problems seem not so big a deal. Continue reading

Posted in Bandcamp, New Album(s) of the Week, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Comments

The New Christs – Incantations (Impedance) & Hits – Hikikomori (Conquest Of Noise)

New Christs - Incantations (Impedance, 2014)The New Christs – Incantations (Impedance) 
Someone coming across The New Christs’ latest album Incantations in the top ten for the year in the post-punk and garage rock charts at Rate Your Music could easily believe they’re a relatively new band. The sound isn’t exactly brand new, but the menacing edge and vital songwriting suggests an energy not normally associated with ones pushing 60. But they’re not so new, having been a band in varying forms since 1981, lead by the not so young Rob Younger, best known as the lead singer for the legendary Aussie sons-of-the Stooges Radio Birdman from 1974-78. Along with The Saints and The Birthday Party, they established templates in punk and post-punk that would be followed by bands in Australia and throughout the world. Continue reading

Posted in Bandcamp, New Album(s) of the Week, Rants, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments