Fister/Norska: Split

Fister/Norska - Equinoctial Split album coverFister is a three piece doom metal band from St. Louis, Missouri. The band incorporates heavy influences from the black and death metal genres into a depressing sludge spewing heaviness that many have attempted, but few have mastered. Fister’s latest full length ‘Gemini’ is a testament to this, as the band captured the aural equivalence to watching a Cronenberg film on barbiturates.

Norska, made up of Jim Lowder, Aaron Rieseberg (Yob), Dustin Rieseberg and Jason Oswald, are a sludge/mountain-man doom outfit from Portland, Oregon, and thereabouts who have managed to find a home for their diverse musical disciplines in a project that is both sonically and cerebrally heavy. Norska’s unique brand of metal displays the extremes of human emotion in musical form.

I’ve been a fan of Fister since 2011’s ‘Bronsonic’ record, so I was thrilled when I heard they were releasing a new song. And when I found out it was a 7″ vinyl split with Norska, I thought this is going to be insane. And it is.

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El Drugstore: Plague Ship

El Drugstore - Plague Ship album coverEvery time I hear the words “plague ship,” I’m reminded of the Public Enemy song “Can’t Truss It,” even though they are saying “slave ship.” Anyway, I’m finally getting around to giving El Drugstore some due respect. I mean, it’s only been almost 15 months since they dropped their debut full-length ‘Plague Ship’ back on December 31st, 2013. The fact that I’ve waited this long is a sin, in fact it’s a crime.

My first taste of New Jersey’s El Drugstore came back in 2011 when I came across their split EP with label mates A Fucking Elephant. I knew then that they were something special. The band consists of three guys, guitarist Kevin Conway (ex-East of the Wall), drummer Seth Rheam (East of the Wall) and bassist Rolando Alvarado. Together this trio creates a freakishly hyper blend of sonic instrumental goodness.

From the opening chords of “Tell Them I Said Something,” to the closing seconds of “Steakback,” there is an immediate underlying sense of urgency to El Drugstore’s music. Even when things slow down a bit, as heard on “Hipster Tits,” that same sense of urgency can still be felt. But it is not a sense of urgency accompanied by panic, it’s more like “my heart is pounding really fast, but I’m ok. It’s all good.”

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Towers: II

Towers - II album coverI never knew that Towers had a first album, or let alone existed for that matter, until I was fortunate enough to stumble upon them via Eolian Empire’s Bandcamp page. They are most definitely flying under the radar, and it’s a damn shame too because their latest offering, the smartly titled ‘II’, is a fucking brilliant slab of chaos and devastation.

Bass-and-drum duo Rick Duncan and Darryl Swan, aka Towers, hail from Portland, Oregon. Portland has been a veritable hotbed of outstanding heavy music lately. Eight Bells, Stoneburner, Lumbar and Lord Dying are just a few of its recent, noteworthy exports that you should not miss out on. Graves at Sea are also from Portland.

“Hell” gets things going with a distorted bass line which evolves into a churning ball of echoing destruction. Blending elements of sludge and doom and even sounding a little psychedelic in the vocals at times, hell finally does come around the seven-minute and forty-second mark. “The Door at the End of the Hall” has a unique and abrasive swing to it. It reminds me of the theme song to a locally hosted Saturday night horror show that I watched as a kid called ‘Creature Feature’.

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King Dead: S/T

King Dead - S/T album coverHey, you got your spaghetti sludge in my western. No, you got your western in my doom spaghetti. Come again now?

King Dead is a three-piece bass/synth/drum unit that call Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania home. They refer to their brand of unique, instrumental noise as “spaghetti western doom sludge.” “Spaghetti Western” refers to a specific genre of Italian produced films that started emerging in the mid 1960s. Imagine Clint Eastwood’s movie ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ meets the apocalypse. This is King Dead’s music.

While not always heavy in tone, the songs are most heavy in their gazing, heavy-eyed bleakness. Opener “Ghosts along the Riverbank” crawls along at a snail’s pace, putting the listener in a trance. You are instantly hooked. “As One Plows and Breaks up the Earth…” is a perfect example of the bands ability to tell an instrumental story. King Dead take the listener on an incredible, doomtastic journey filled with moments of hope… and despair.

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Terra: Untitled

Terra - Untitled album coverIt always amuses me how towns get ‘twinned’ with other towns all over the world. Most times I am befuddled as to why they have made the link – no obvious similarities spring to mind.

But here we have natural synchronicity, Dewar PR based in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada are promoting Terra, a three-piece from Cambridge, UK. This is how twinning should work!

Terra are a relatively new band, only a year or so old, but their sound does not demonstrate nerves or anxieties, quite the opposite, it is a competent, confident black metal album along the lines of Wolves in the Throne room. It’s a simple three-piece of drum, bass, guitar and twin vocals that create some very exciting sounds, the soaring buzzing BM guitar with some little lifts out of the barrage, along with the type of vocals that remind me of Golem being tortured in the Lord of the Rings movies….’Ssshhiiirrreee!!!….Baaggiiinnnsssss’

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Lamentations of the Ashen: Libertine Cyst

Lamentations Of The Ashen - Libertine Cyst album coverWidely tagged as Black Metal, Lamentations of the Ashen from New Mexico have broadened the palette with ‘Libertine Cyst’ to include a doomier feel.

Introducing us with a slack, slow waves of guitar and slow drums. But don’t you get that incense cone out just yet, the slow crashing riffs may think you are entering sludge territory, but as the vocals start, we’re in to goblin-like growls and traditional BM speed.

The opening track, ‘A Profane Illvmination’ clocks in at 12 minutes, so this enables them to include different paces and styles. There is the slower doom angle, faster fiercer black mental plus a shoegaze element, ending on a white noise barrage.

‘II’ and the subsequent two tracks on this album, are all 12 – 18 minute expanses. ‘II’ opens with the lackadaisical, listless guitar and drums like Monarch, and then develops in to Bathory-like triumphant exclamations. There is something monumental about this album.

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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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