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Tag: heavy metal

A Heavy Psychedelic Gem From 2016 Takes on New Relevance

The ancien regime gets old and feeble and increasingly entitled. They’ve repressed the peasants for so long they think they can get away with new levels of sadism and torture.

But they’re doomed to fall. How many times have we seen this throughout history?

The French royalty, 1789. The Russian tsarist regime, 1918. The Nazis, 1945.

The Gates Foundation, 2021.

You live your life in palaces
Raised up inside your head
Time shield from the world
Underneath your bed
Trapped in the materials
Insatiable until you’re dead
….So scared that you will fall, out of touch
…You think it’s fun
Using words instead of guns
Hiding in a cell
Without a door or even walls
Knowing how to feel so scared
That you will fall
Out of touch in your palaces

That song, Palaces, is the high point of heavy psych band Panic in Eden‘s album In the Company of Vultures, which hit the web about five years ago and is still streaming at Soundcloud. It starts as a brooding acoustic folk ballad and then shifts from 70s stoner metal to four-on-the-floor punk fury and eventually an outro straight out of LA Woman. Who knew it would be so prophetic?

The rest of the record is strong, and psychedelically diverse. The chromatic menace of the intro to the first track, Out For Blood, is a false start: it quickly turns into a web of 70s bluesmetal riffs set to tricky rhythms, Slade meets Rage Against the Machine. Who’s to Blame is a surreal mashup of early Genesis and Led Zep stumbling through open-tuned acoustic blues. The catchy anthem War on the Rocks could be political….or just a kiss-off anthem to a femme fatale.

Passerby is a 70s psychedelic epic with a bizarre, mythical lyric: “Is it wrong to question what we’re taught?” frontman Lucas McEachern finally asks. The group follow the mutedly sinister instrumental White Elephant with the spiraling riffs and clanging guitars of Could It Be You, which wouldn’t be out of place on Nektar’s Down to Earth album.

Hang with Shapeshifter through the math-rock to the psychedelic freakout. The band finally go over the edge into dystopian circus rock, as they’ve been hinting all along in The Waltz. They close with the cynical, diabolical heavy blues of A Revelation At Its Finest.

Relentless, Assaultive, Deceptively Catchy Gloom Metal From Paysage D’Hiver

Today’s episode in the ongoing October-long Halloween celebration here features Paysage D’Hiver (French for “winter landscape”), the one-man project of a mysterious Swiss metal artist who calls himself Wintherr. It’s a German pun – get it? Since the teens, he’s built an immense (some would say obsessive) body of work centered around an interminable walk in the wilderness, in the dead of winter.

There’s an abrasive, flat, midrangey Garageband quality to his albums: bass doesn’t matter much to this guy. His thing is big chords drenched in reverb or chilly delay. His long, hypnotic songs can be assaultive at high volume, as they’re obviously meant to be, but when played quietly actually have the opposite effect. Wintherr will typically run a series of changes over and over again, with subtle shifts between major and minor: his songs are catchy despite themselves. And he’s definitely the only guy to write an industrial metal song titled “Blueberry” – in French.

His latest album Geister is streaming at Bandcamp. The beats vary from hammering and industrial to straight-ahead, fast four-on-the-floor rock, with screamed vocals buried in the mix. The seventh track sounds like the Modern Lovers’ Roadrunner on crank. There are also a lot more doomy chromatics filtering through the dense sonics here than usual in the vast Paysage D’Hiver catalog.

The sound effects scattered throughout his most recent album were a Blair Witch sequence of footfalls and woodsy sonics: here, it’s mostly wind across the Alps and churchbells. If bleak relentlessness is your thing, this is your holy grail. In fact, you could say that with the lockdown, Wintherr’s gloomy vision reached prophetic proportions. Here’s hoping that global totalitarianism is truly in its death throes – as it appears to be – and that Wintherr goes on to greater heights of assaultiveness. In a fictional sense, of course.

Edge of Paradise Welcome You to Dystopia

This being Halloween month, it’s the most likely time of the year to find a nebulously dystopic metal-flavored album here. Edge of Paradise‘s new release The Unknown – streaming at Soundcloud – is more for fans of anthemic, retro 80s new wave sounds than diehard metalheads. But it’s hardly lightweight.

The first song on the record is Digital Paradise – let’s say frontwoman/keyboardist Margarita Monet doesn’t exactly see this hall of avatars as heaven. It’s a steady backbeat tune, as Missing Persons might have done it (but didn’t) with a brief, muted finger-tapping solo from guitarist Dave Bates grafted on. Throughout the album, Monet sings through a maze of effects, further enhancing the bleak, techy, futuristic chill.

She goes up to the top of her forceful yet airy range in My Method Your Madness, a ba-bump cabaret theme with crunchy guitars. It’s closer to an old 80s Moody Blues hit than, say, Gogol Bordello.

Layers of subtly but wickedly intertwined guitar roar rise to redline in Tidal Wave along with Monet’s righteously raging vocals. The album’s title track starts out as a strangely floating soundscape, then the band take it into aggressive action movie theme territory. The next cut, Believe is a defiant resistance anthem, Monet’s leaps into the stratosphere grounded by bassist Ricky Bonazza’s crunchy chords.

Bates’ muted machinegun riffs line up against Monet’s blustery synth in False Idols. From there the band segue into You Touch You Die, drummer Jamie Moreno hanging back suspensefully until the synthy skies break. “You were given a perfect world and you threw it away,” Monet accuses.

Darkness descends anxiously to match the metal crush in One Last Time – it’s the album’s best and heaviest track. Leaving Earth is the bounciest and poppiest number: “Who’s in control, machine or man?” Monet wants to know. The title of the anguished, drifting final cut, Bound to the Rhythm, telegraphs how this ugly story ends. There’s also a bonus track, an “industrial remix” of My Method Your Madness which is actually quite good since it’s more of a dub version.

A Bushwick Gig and a Couple of Hot Records From Cold Dice

More about that killer heavy rock quadruplebill happening at Our Wicked Lady on Aug 12 starting at 8.

Cold Dice open, followed at 9 PM by Certain Death, whoever they are, then at 10 PM the fuzzily surreal stoner sounds of Grave Bathers, with the sinister, female-fronted Castle Rat headlining. Cover is $12.

Cold Dice’s new single and also their debut cassette are up at Bandcamp as name-your-price downloads. They’re a power trio with an unusual lineup: bassist Aidan also fronts the band, joined by guitarist Frank and drummer Ben.

The single is Vengeance Calls: simple, catchy and riff-driven, with a tantalizingly short guitar solo welded on. The B-side, Lure of the Animal, is more of a punk song, with serpentine bass and a Dead Boys/Radio Birdman feel. Yeah, that good.

The cassette opens with White Ooze, a simple, thrashy punk-metal number. Demon’s Tongue could be the UK Subs at their most metal-ish with a more assaultive singer. Wild Irish Rose is a sort of cross between the two, a shout-out to daydrinking on a tight budget.

Side two begins with Walkin’ on the Wire: you don’t expect a band this heavy to have this much of a groove, but they do. It’s cool to hear such a good rhythm section playing something this loud. The last song is Unholy Union: follow the bubbling bass and the searing guitar solo all the way to early AC/DC. New York needs more bands like this.

A Killer Metal Show in Bushwick on the 12th

As we fight to derail Bill DiBozo and the World Economic Forum terrorists’ scheme to impose a Chinese communist-style surveillance state this September 13, there are still a ton of good concerts happening this month. One of this summer’s best is an epic bill on Aug 12 at Our Wicked Lady in Bushwick, with anthemic speedmetal band Cold Dice, at 8 PM, at 9 PM the debut of Certain Death – the house band from Pfizer or Moderna, maybe? – then at 10 PM the wild, fuzzy stoner sounds of Grave Bathers, with the possibly even more macabre Castle Rat headlining. It’s a lineup worthy of St. Vitus (and would probably be happening at St. Vitus if they were open right now). Cover is $12.

Castle Rat have a venomously catchy single up at Bandcamp as a free download. The epic A-side is It Isn”t Clean, frontwoman/guitarist Rat Queen’s cynical, lurid vocals hovering over the Count’s smoldering fretwork, bassist Dr. Mouse and drummer Sgt. Young anchoring it with a purposeful attack. The names may be cartoonish but the music is anything but.

The B-side is Different Dirt, a killer fuzztone doom metal song in an Electric Citizen vein. How long has it been since there’s been a metal quadruplebill this good in this city? Let’s not lose our music scene a second time after September 12!

Careening Through Space with Psychlona

Psychlona are very heavy and very immersively psychedelic. They like hypnotic riffs, and volume, and organic textures that degenerate naturally into distortion and fuzz. And it’s obvious that this album wasn’t recorded to a click track. If your idea of a good time is getting so stoned that you can’t get off the couch, this is your jam. This music doesn’t move around a lot, either: it just hits you over and over again. The band’s 2016 album Mojo Rising – which has nothing to do with the Doors – is streaming at Bandcamp.

The distantly tolling guitar riff that kicks off the opening track, Stone, doesn’t hint at the all-enveloping crush that develops soon after. The band’s publicist nailed it when he mentioned early Orange Goblin; early Sleep is another good comparison, especially when it hits you that this is basically a one-chord  jam.

From there the group  – guitarists Phil Hey and Dave Wainfor, bassist Martyn Birchall and drummer Scott Frankling – ride a wave of screechy fuzz into Ride, the second track. It’s a funny, brisk boogie in an early Fu Manchu vein, where the guys want to get into the weed and the wine but the girl talking in the right channel isn’t into it. Down in the Valley may be hypnotic, but it’s an evil place – and that halfspeed Psychotic Reaction hook will have you nodding your head despite yourself.

Big River is about as far from Johnny Cash as you can possibly imagine, following Sleep-y fast/slow dynamics with layers of wah wafting through the mix: here and there Birchall’s bass slithers up for air. The band go back to heavy stoner boogie for Your God, an even more immersive one-chord heavy spacerock jam.

Master of Reality wah bass converges with into-the-fan vocals in Juju, as the band go doublespeed and back. Black Dog is not the Zep classic but an original where the foursome careen their way up to another doublespeed wah guitar boogie. They close with Beakfoot – all of a sudden the grit is off the bass, replaced by watery 80s sonics as the guitars go unexpectedly bluesy, over nine minutes worth of a one-chord jam where everybody in the band eventually goes through every one of their stompbox settings to keep things interesting.

Shiraz Lane: Metal Grit, Fearlessly Populist Wrath

While there are hardly any genuine artists who are extreme right-wingers, a few styles of music have always had an authoritarian streak. Hardcore punk is one; heavy metal is another. But Finnish band Shiraz Lane are different. When’s the last time you heard a metal band taking a stand for racial equality, or screaming truth to power about economic injustice – without being annoyingly p.c. about it? Their album For Crying Out Loud, a mix of crunchy three-and-four-minute 70s heavy rock songs, is streaming at youtube. Is this a sign of things to come, a paradigm shift? Let’s hope so.

“Fight the power!” frontwoman Hannes Kett wails as the guitars of lead player Jani Lane and rhythm player Miki Kalske come together out of a shrieking intro in the album’s first big punkish anthem, Wake Up. “We’re blinded by black and we’re blinded by white…wake up!”

An evil pickslide kicks off Momma’s Boy, a funny, strutting 70s style riff-rock kiss-off tune: “Go home, momma’s boy!” is the chorus. Here and there, a hip-hop influence rises to the surface: the early part of the catchy, slow-burning House of Cards reflects that. Kett’s unearthly wail gets unleashed pretty much everywhere as well.

Begging for Mercy is the really heavy hit Pat Benatar only wishes she could have written. The album’s title track and Same Old Blues are a pop ballads in disguise. The snide riffage of Mental Slavery is less cock-rock strut than sarcastic cautionary tale: “Still you keep on laughing when the joke’s on you,” Kett sneers at people who just don’t get it.

Behind the 8-Ball rises and falls in waves of heavy blues, with some of the album’s most focused, dynamic guitar work: “You’ll die behind the 8-ball!” is the warning. Bleeding is slow and sarcastic:the chorus is “Shoot me down, can’t you see that I’m bleeding.” The band wind down the album with M.L.N.W. (i.e. make love not war), an unexpectedly successful attempt to really rock out over an rapidfire, echoey U2 repeater-pedal riff.

Some peoople will hear this record and laugh that this is Aerosmith with decent lyrics and vocals that don’t suck, and sometimes that’s true. But Shiraz Lane bring a message of resistance to an audience that punk and hip-hop might not reach. There’s strength in numbers, and all those numbers count.

Swedish Metal Band Alastor Deliver a Morbid, Psychedelic Response to the Insanity of 2020 and This Year

Swedish metal band Alastor‘s riff-metal surrounds you in walls of distortion and fuzz, but with refreshingly oldschool production values and swirly organ which amps up the psychedelic factor. The band like slow, sludgy songs with tarpit acid blues solos and more interesting structures beyond simple verses and choruses. Only a couple of tracks on their new album Onwards and Downwards – streaming at Bandcamp – clock in at less than seven minutes. It’s interesting to hear a band that’s always been associated with doom metal switching out the usual macabre chromatics and horror riffs for a more circling, mesmerizing, immersive attack.

There’s cold clunk from Jim Nordström’s drums behind frontman Robin Arnryd’s spring-wound, growling bass as the opening track, The Killer in My Skull follows a slow sway, up to the distorted, circling chords and distant organ in the hypnotic, riff-driven midsection.

The second track is Dead Things in Jars, a toxically foggy update on Master of Reality riff-sludge with slowly shifting rhythmic changes, guitarist Hampus Sandell’s screaming wah lines winding down quickly to a slow space-blues interlude.

Death Cult is an unexpectedly fast, pounding, slurry number that’s a lot closer to Brian Jonestown Massacre spacerock. Sandell gets the fuzz and the distortion going with his hammer-on riffs as the bass and drums take a much slower prowl in Nightmare Trip.

They follow the brief rainy-day acoustic guitar interlude Pipsvängen with the album’s epic title track, slowly shifting from one anthemic, burning theme to another, making you wait for the big payoff. They close the album with Lost and Never Found, a grim metal take on a ba-bump stripper theme.

As a whole, the album is a response to the insanity of the past fourteen months. You may wonder why a Swedish group would be complaining about the lockdown, considering that Sweden basically didn’t (and their COVID death rate was much lower than regions that did). Well, Sweden is cashless: there’s no need for lockdowns when all citizens’ purchases and whereabouts can be surveilled. Public health, after all, is just a pretext for instituting a locked-down 24/7 surveillance state.

A Grimly Majestic Lockdown-Era Album From False Memories

False Memories play metal ELO. High Romantic angst boils over in the Italian band’s ornate, majestic anthems, which manage to be catchy yet unpredictable. Wild guitar solos are not their thing: their sound is built around roaring chords amid synthesized orchestration, with echoes of 80s dreampop and goth music. Their new album The Last Night of Fall is streaming at Spotify.

Frontwoman Rossella Moscatello is a brooding presence in the midst of steady, relentlessly unsettled, clanging changes that rise with an enveloping crunch and then recede in the opening number, Black Shades. Guitarists Francesco Savino and Moreno Palmisano hit a gritty mathrock interlude as the string synth wafts behind them, bassist Gianluca Zaffino and drummer Emanuele Cossu maintaining a surprisingly low-key pulse.

As you might guess from the song titles, Moscatello sings in English, with a wounded, sometimes sullen delivery; the gloom is unmistakable, the specifics of it much less so, especially when she’s half-buried in the mix. Case in point: track two, Rain of Souls, which could be an early 80s gothic Cure tune with a leadfoot rhythm and a woman who likes soul music out front.

From there the band segue into Voices and its slow but tricky rhythmic shifts behind an increasingly ominous haze. The chromatics get more grim in Hysteria, an absolutely priceless mockery of lockdown-era paranoia and totalitarian regimentation, complete with a litany of rules to follow.

The band build The Illusionist around a creepy music-box riff: it’s not clear exactly what the deception here is, but it’s definitely evil. Lingering clang, syncopated crush and symphonic swirl all come together in Erased, followed by White Crows, which is basically part two, Moscatello reaching for the rafters and then backing away mournfully. Everybody goes out in a vortex, rising out of the murk but never quite shaking off the muck in Unfaithful Dream, the album’s most dense and enigmatic track.

A desolate, funereal atmosphere contrasts with waves pummeling the beach, more or less, in Sea of Nothingness, the album’s darkest and most musically interesting track, complete with a tantalizingly brief guitar solo. Deep Breath – something we could all use right about now, right? – is a bleak, pounding tableau: “The ground is wet, but nothing grows there,” Moscatello observes.

The album’s final cut is Don’t Forget, a crushing, dirgey, familiar word of warning: we all know what happens to people who ignore the past. As strong and consistently interesting as this album is, Moscatello is an underutilized weapon in this band. Processing her vocals for the sake of dynamics would work: doing it on every track gets old fast. Singers like her cannot be caged: they wreak infinitely more havoc when they run free.

A Tantalizingly Short, Heavy Album From Ancient Settlers

Spanish metal band Ancient Settlers’ new short album Autumnus – streaming at Spotify – kicks off with a catchy, plaintively circling symphonic instrumental. The first song, A Monument Restored is just as catchy, an interesting mix of 70s heavy psych and art-rock set to a pummeling mathrock beat, with a tantalizingly brief twin guitar solo half-buried in the mix.

They follow that with Die Around Me, a big anthem in densely recorded, pounding disguise: it seems like some kind of sci-fi nightmare. The final cut is Diamond Eyes, building from an ominous minor-key sway to a fullscale gallop. It makes you want to hear more of what guitarists Carlos Chiesa-Estomba and Emmy Reyes, drummer Herman Riera, keyboardist Rene González and bassist Miguel Herrera have up their sleeves.