Dhampyr: Oceanclots

Dhampyr - Oceanclots album coverOpening with some finger plucking guitar and discordant background noises this is the new release from two piece lo-fi depressive black metal band Dhampyr.

It is mostly a two piece with a couple of add-on session vocalists. Not long and we are introduced to the crashing cymbals, buzzing guitar and harsh vocals. The breakdowns into psychedelic guitar give it some balance creating the intended atmosphere, and the barrage of guitar, cymbals and screams put up an impenetrable wall of sound.

There are some incredible track titles here; ‘This Nirvana of Tangled Bullets’, ‘A Cholera Meditation for Scylla’ ‘Waltz of the Salivating Avalanche’ but this is more than a standard black metal album, it is a coming together of depressive, downer low-key, lo-fi sounds, with psychedelic undertones and spectral nuances. There’s not too much vocal here, which suits this release, and the rise and fall of ‘Dissipate, My Beloved’ keeps the track moving along and includes some psyche out guitar that would feel at home in any Small Stone Records album!

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Twilight Fauna/Old Thunder: Bloodlines Split

Twilight Fauna/Old Thunder - Bloodlines Split album coverThis split release ‘Bloodlines’ has caused me much excitement, not since Opium Lord or Old Skin have I felt this excited. Both artists hailing from the Appalachian Mountains which play such a central role in this music. Twilight Fauna, a sole vision of one man and his relationship with the Appalachian Mountains and its people was formed in 2011 and has so far released 4 pieces. He blends dulcimer and tin whistle with more traditional harsh black metal guitars and tribal drumming.

‘Blood From a Stone’ uses the former traditional folk instruments to create a rhythmic droning track where the tin whistle piques, this fades as the barren, decadent black metal guitar encroaches. I have never visited the Appalachians, however I do experience a feeling of soft beauty and harsh barren landscapes. It’s as if I am trapped on a mountainside during a storm! The guitar batters me and I have little to resist it with, although I do get some relief half way through the 11 minute ‘A Revelation (Concealing the Scars), but it’s like the aftermath, the destruction the storm left.

Old Thunder are another one man outfit with a similar outlook and connection to the surrounding Appalachians. A tad doomier affair this, a more solid sound as ‘An Inheritance of Ashes’ what a title, adds to this sense of burden and loss. The subtle guitar picking heaves pangs of despair upon me, as his vocals sound searching and wanting.

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Earthmass: Collpase

Earthmass - Collapse album coverSeeing your name on the credits is always a boon, and reminds me of my mid 90s days when I was more active, but now I am a couch slacktivist, and crowd-funding is a great invention.

Earthmass used this method for this release, and after a stalled attempt it worked. Earthmass are a mostly instrumental space rocking psyche dooming beast of a band. On stage they plug-in, tune in and turn inward as they take you on their trip like true jazzers. Heavy pounding bass, twin guitar greet us early on in opener ‘Awake/Crisis’, which cuts swiftly in to bowm ba-baowming bass with ‘off mic’ vocals on Divergence.

It could be post rock, it could be doom, heavy cosmic rock, all I know is that it is a huge sound that fills the room, and blasts you about. They couldn’t have chosen a better name. I close my eyes and see enormous planet sized lumps rock tumbling through endless space. I can’t recommend them enough to you, one of my favourites of the local London scene.

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Greenbeard: S/T

Greenbeard - S/T album coverI am not sleeping well at the moment, and this album appeared like it was a prescription dose.

Three Texans plug-in, sit back and let it flow. It’s just what the doctor ordered. The album starts with the pounding Bellerophon, a deep belter of a track that starts you on their journey. Love is Pity has a drum beat that nears Motorik standards, however towards the end of the track it breaks down in to squalling acid fried stereophonic psyche guitar.

All this energy has worn them out as Eris starts a sun baked stoner groove, making me feel like tumbleweed as I get slowly tossed along the desert by a warm zephyr…..pulling from the breadth of hard and heavy bluesy rock with their acid baked stereophonic guitar play.

Sludgito is a stand out track, slow and low and all I can manage is the doom nod to keep in time. With classic peaks and troughs of fuzzy doom and slightly distant vocals bringing an ‘otherworldliness’ to it, reminding me of Sleepy Sun.

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Byzanthian Neckbeard: From the Clutches of Oblivion

Byzanthian Neckbeard - From The Cluches of Oblivion album coverThis is another chance encounter on Twitter that got me excited. Byzanthian Neckbeard are from Guernsey, just south of Britain, nearer to France than Blighty. I can’t say it any better than their blog; “Stranded on an island, enveloped in fog, lost in the English Channel and forgotten by time, there is only doom.”

Yep, where do I sign up!?

A four piece heavy down tuned slow sludge monster, only going since 2013 have delivered on this their first release.

Guernsey had a labyrinth of tunnels during WW2 and I love the image of them practicing in a war-torn bunker. Whilst others ran to their own bunkers when they heard them plug-in and unleash HELL!!

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Vukari: En To Pan

Vukari - EN TO PAN album cover The United States has seen so many Atmospheric Black Metal bands through the past few years. From the darkest ones to the bands who came up with pink sunshiny album cover which wanted to break the dark and kvlt boundaries of Black Metal, and to define some new imagery.

Some of these bands are coming forth with a more artistic outfit, which is a bit rare now in black metal business, like Wolves in the Throne Room, who is not playing black metal anymore, at least at this period of time.

With a closer look there’re a lot of bands who are trying to represent a huge combination of both artistic and dark vision and one of them is Illinois, Chicago’s young-blood quartet, Vukari.

After releasing the brilliant debut album “Matriarch” in 2013, the band has returned to release the four-piece EP “En To Pan” as their second effort. “En To Pan” comes up with an eye-catching album cover, done perfectly by the band’s drummer/keyboardist Mike DeStefano, which covers the artistic part of the band’s vision so well. “En To Pan” starts with a seven minutes powerful opener “Din Of Consciousness” with a one minute and thirty seconds hypnotizing intro attached to the beginning of the song, which clearly shows playing stylish Post-Rock is still one of the band’s musical hobbies and they’re not afraid to put some of those Post-Rock parts in-between the song(s). “Din Of Consciousness” has enough time and mesmerizing atmospheric parts to take you away, to an adventurous meditative journey.

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Askrinn: Hjørleifsljóð

Askrinn - Hjørleifsljóð album coverI don’t know how I came across Askrinn, it may have been on Twitter or somewhere similar, it seems a long way away from the 80s and 90s when my life revolved around scrappy flyers bundled in with tapes traded from all over. With the instantaneous gratification we get these days it is still rewarding to find something refreshing.

Askrinn – meaning ‘the Ash tree’ in Old Norse, deal in harsh cold sounding barren and bleak pagan black metal. And I do like the aesthetic developments in this scene how album covers now depict cold eerie landscapes as opposed to goats heads dribbling blood.

And this one starts off setting its stall out right from the off, Askrinn will take no prisoners. This piece is influenced by an Icelandic saga ‘Halfssaga’ and I found this of particular interest as I was in Iceland earlier this year, a pilgrimage I had promised myself for many years and enjoyed the country very much.

The tunes have frenetic guitar, constant pounding drums and lots of cymbals as de rigueur of bleak black metal. The vocals are on the money, with the hag-like witchery telling the saga story of Hjørleif and his travels and adventures.

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((OHHMS)): Bloom

OHHMS - Bloom album coverBloom is the new release from Canterbury band ((OHHMS)). The city has a long pedigree of progressive slightly off kilter music in the likes of bands such as Caravan and Soft Machine. The Canterbury scene was of course developed by David Allen in the last 60s/early 70s.

Bloom updates this sound, with a two-track release on Holy Roar records. ‘Bad Seeds’ starts off quietly with a post hardcore vocal, ‘Baited we wait’ he says, and so do we, the guitar solo then sings and soars until 2 minutes in the drums and power kick in.

And then you feel the vocal and musical anger. It breaks down halfway through this 18 minute only to build up again like a granite punch!

It gently soothes towards the end allowing the spatial sound to waft over you in waves and eases you in to track two, ‘Rise of the Herbivore’. ((OHHMS) come from that loud …QUIET… loud approach, not unlike Kogumaza, Conifer and Isis where they take their time to play with you, like a cat with its prey, before letting rip.

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Mage: Last Orders

Mage - Last Orders album coverOo-er, this starts a bit fast and frenetic does this. But it soon calms to a steady pace. This is the second album from Mage, both on Witch Hunter Records and it really reminds me of something from the 80s, like an early doom band from the stable of Pentagram and Pagan Altar and the like. The first track, ‘Dark Matter’ offers us the pulsing riffage as well as a Maiden style gallop and shows how much tighter they are on this release.

Produced by Chris Fielding, he of Conan, Electric Wizard and others, shows how it can all come together. The last minute of “The Fallen” gets a right boogie on, with some sweet noises emanating from the guitar and by track three “Lux Mentis” I find I have a good nod on!

“Beyond” slows things down to a Trouble style power crawl. With thick chugging guitar riffing and vocal styles akin to Electric Wizard or Cathedral, where the lines are delivered like statements, more than songs. And we break down with some more boogie stomp towards the end.

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