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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Beak: Let Time Begin

Beak - Let Time Begin album coverMy first taste of Chicago’s Beak came back in 2012 with their outstanding debut EP, Eyrie. The band, consisting of Jon Slusher (Guitar, Lead Vocals), Andy Bosnak (Guitar, Vocals), Jason Goldberg (Bass, Keyboards, Vocals) and Chris Eichenseer (Drums), tore through five tracks of thick, fuzz-laden sludge with sheer perfection.

One of the first things that you will notice on Let Time Begin is the keyboard work. It is far more dominating this time around, and that is a good thing. Jason Goldberg, in addition to playing bass and singing background vocals, adds his electronic mastery to the mix. If you’ve ever seen Beak live, which I have and I highly recommend, then you know exactly how hard Jason attacks his keys.

Another thing that separates Let Time Begin from Eyrie is the overall production and sound. Eyrie was loosely produced, giving the entire EP a gritty, thick, dirty sound that shook the foundation and your soul. On Let Time Begin, the songs are a little more polished. Don’t get me wrong though. The production doesn’t take away from the fact that Beak are as heavy as fuck, and Let Time Begin will melt your face off just as Eyrie did before.

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Bulletbelt: Rise of the Banshee

Bulletbelt - Rise of the Banshee album cover“This is brilliant and… inhuman!” Back in the day, it was the first thing that came to my mind when I was listening to Bulletbelt’s debut album “Down In The Cold Of The Grave” for the first time. When you have an album in your hands with such great music imagery, definitely you’re waiting to hear something more from the band that has created such a thing! Now, Wellington, New Zealand’s very own Bulletbelt strikes back with their brand new album “Rise of the Banshee”.

Bulletbelt has a great taste of choosing the coolest artworks as their album cover. Their first album cover was done by their townsman and a great artist Nick Keller, which caught my attention and made me listen to the album immediately. Now, “Rise of the Banshee” artwork is done by acclaimed New York-based illustrator Scarecrowoven and yet again it is charming and powerful. “Rise of the Banshee” consists of 8 songs, same as their previous album but 10 minutes longer, spanning up to nearly 40 minutes. The album doesn’t spend a lot of its moments for an intro song, immediately starts with seven minutes long “Death Tinted Red”, which is the longest song of the album. This song completely portraits everything this Banshee album is. Fast tempo parts mixed up with catchy and melodic riffs, which is in the same direction of the debut album. “Murderer’s Collar” strikes as the second song of the album based on the same structure the first song is built on. “Sniper” and “Deathgasm” are reincarnating some of the greatest classic Thrash Metal tunes; revolving around the old school and modern Thrash Metal, which is the most of the album sounds like.

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Fistula: Vermin Prolificus

Fistula - Vermin Prolificus album coveCleveland, Ohio’s restless cancer spreader, Fistula is hot again in underground music news. After releasing three albums in 2008, two of which (Lessons in Lamentation and Inverted Black Star) are nothing short of noisy Sludge odysseys, and releasing tons of EPs and splits, Fistula’s long-awaited sixth full-length album, Vermin Prolificus, is finally out. To many, Fistula’s music is very hard to get involved with. Dirty, harsh and chunky tunes that don’t fit in every person’s body and soul and they (mainly Corey Bing who has carried the torch throughout all these years) have kept it ever since their days of formation back in 1998 and years later with their 2001’s soul-vomiting debut album “Hymns of Slumber”. Now, Fistula has a new album on the counter and with “Vermin Prolificus”, “Sick Heavy Sh*t!” has found a new meaning!

Despite Fistula’s 2008 albums all being an hour-long records, Vermin Prolificus is shorter, containing 7 tracks of crushing hateful hymns, spanning up to 35 minutes. Vermin Prolificus’ album cover is well illustrated and its filthiness takes the listener to the tombs surrounded by serpents and rats, to the throne of cannibal bishop and disembodied crucified woman. With a brief, bitter humor lying underneath its image, the album cover is Verminous and prolific enough to handle the name of Vermin Prolificus, explaining its rotting and depraving sound. This (bitter) humor is still going on while the first and the opener song of the album “Smoke Cat Hair and Toenails” is coming around. This 5 minutes song is so famous right now that it is called “Mom, Dad, Marty! The Drugs Are More Important Than You!” with a voice of a girl, which is sampled and used in the song, repeating these words. “Smoke Cat Hair and Toenails” is an utterly brilliant yet neck-wrecking grand opener, with thick bass line and guitar riffs, throwing the poor listener into the dark and wicked spiral, dragging it down to the reworked version of the grinder “Harmful Situation” taken from their 2012’s EP “Northern Aggression”. Vermin’s “Harmful Situation” sounds slightly different from the original one, and is more in-the-face than the opener song.

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