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Tag: metal music

Solemn Vision Bring One of the Most Brilliantly Original Metal Albums of Recent Years to Gowanus

Metal band Solemn Vision did an incredibly cool thing with their debut album, which they had the good fortune to release just months before the 2020 lockdown: they put out two versions, one instrumental and one with the vocals. That means that if singing over some of the smartest, most unpredictable metal released in the last few years is your thing, you can grab the record at Bandcamp as a name-your-price download. No disrespect to frontman Aaron Harris, but this band’s epics are so interesting and outside-the-box that they work perfectly on their own without the vocals. Everything on the record other than the brief instrumental intro is in the eight or nine-minute range, with solos that are on the short side and leave you wanting more.

Obviously, most people are going to want to hear the vocal version of the record. Even better, you can catch the group live when they headline a multi-band bill at around 11:30 PM on Dec 9 at Lucky 13 Saloon. Cover is $15

Let’s be counteirntuitive and give the instrumental version of the record a spin, shall we? A bright, synthy intro that could be Nektar or Rick Wakeman disappears when the crunchy guitars kick in. And in the first song, A Perch For Demons, when axemen Kadin Wisniewski and Mauricio Gutierrez fire up the jagged tritone chords and allusive chromatics over the surprisingly nimble rhythm section of bassist Anthony Rafferty and drummer Carlos Crowcell, it’s game on. The song is pissed off, with a weary, exasperated edge: the guitar solos that veer back and forth from jagged and menacing to crazed volleys of tapping are spot-on. Maybe it was just bad lucky that the plandemic was unleashed when it was, but this band deserves to be headlining stadiums.

Next up is Perish, an epic feast of thrashy, stampeding tremolo-picking with unexpected hints of glamrock, a swirling, cyclotron chorus of multitracks and a closing solo that will absolutely slay you. Midnight Sun begins with a swirly reprise of the album’s opening theme and quickly shifts to a bitter heroic theme in slowly galloping 6/8 time: it’s arguably the catchiest tune here and just gets more ornate as it goes along.

The Soul Impaled has a creepy, icy, dream sequence that one of the guitarists slashes his way out of with a mean pickslide, followed by brontosaurus-on-steroids interludes and a slight return to the tritone menace of the first song. The band plunge deeper into that macabre atmosphere in Fortress of Solitude, which grows both grittier and more riff-oriented than the other tracks here, with some tantalizing twin lead breaks.

Purposeless has a pulsing Pink Floyd-tinged acoustic guitar-and-bass intro, followed by a galloping attack and another rich, resonant, multitracked series of choruses. The final cut, Reincarnate, is a much shorter reprise. With or without vocals, this one of the most astonishingly good metal albums of the last few years.


Toxic Metal in Gowanus Tomorrow Night

There’s a metal quadruplebill tomorrow night, Dec 3 at 8 PM at Lucky 13 Saloon with a couple of solid bands at the top and the bottom of the bill. It might be an even better deal for a $12 cover if the acts in between were more interested in building their brands. Name your band after a saint, or a notorious crypto scam, and the search engins will bury you if you don’t have something like a Soundcloud.

The 11 PM headliners, Fire Haze, are a death metal act who aren’t well represented on the web but what’s up at youtube shows that they have plenty of riffs and use them ruthlessly. The openers, black metal band Antimony, are new. Multi-instrumentalist Sasan Kasravi recorded their debut album, Ending, as a solo project, which is up at Bandcamp as a name-your-price download.

How toxic is this four-part suite? Kasravi layers offhandedly brutal tremolo-picking, vampy distorted chords that get more ambitious as he goes on, and staggered, loopy riffs with the guitars front and center. After awhile, the whole thing essentially becomes a single, enveloping sonic cauldron: each one of the tracks clocks in at more than ten minutes. Paysage D’Hiver’s endless winterscapes seem to be an influence. The mix is on the midrangey side: it doesn’t sound like there’s any bass on it, and the drums, doublebass kicks and all, are in the back where they should be.

Kasravi likes enigmatic, brooding modes and uses them a lot. There are places on the record that bring to mind the more interesting instrumental parts that Sonic Youth would detour into in the late 80s. Elsewhere, there are a couple of fleeting, baroque-flavored acoustic chorales, a bittersweet Britfolk-tinged interlude and a snowstorm. All this is as catchy as it is relentless.

Ruby the Hatchet Release a Hauntingly Diverse Reflection on the Lockdown

Has there been a better title for an album released this year than Fear Is a Cruel Master, by Ruby the Hatchet? More and more artists are putting out songs and albums about the lockdown, and this is one of the best, right up there with Mostly Autumn‘s 2021 release Graveyard Star. It’s less distinctly anguished than a reflection on alienation and isolation.

Ruby the Hatchet have made a name for themselves as one of the most melodic and unpredictable bands in doom metal, but here they move into styles as diverse as vintage powerpop and new wave, with tinges of psychedelic soul and garage rock.

The album – streaming at Bandcamp and available on limited-edition clear vinyl – opens with The Change, a pretty stunning but successful departure into new wave, complete with organist Sean Hur’s swirly lines behind singer Jillian Taylor’s bright vocals and guitarist Johnny Scarps’ catchy downstroke riffs.

Drummer Owen Stewart’s tricky tumbles open the second track, Deceiver in tandem with bassist Lake Muir, With the organ, it’s a smokier take on a classic late 70s acid rock sound, with a vintage Maiden-ish stampede out. Primitive Man is a killer, dark stoner boogie tune, with Taylor railing against authoritarians who would “steal my rights.”

The angst hits redline in 1000 Years, a slow, wounded ballad in 6/8 time: the point where Scarps suddenly ignites a fireball will give you goosebumps. The band slowly make their way out of the murk to an ominous ba-bump groove in Soothsayer, fueled by the organ and Scarps’ guitar multitracks.

They slow down again for Last Saga: imagine Blue Oyster Cult covering the Moody Blues’ Nights in White Satin (without the orchestral break). They follow with Thruster. the band at their phantasmagorical, propulsive best, with the smoky organ, stampeding drive and some surprising 60s garage licks, it’s the best song on the record.

They close it with Amor Gravis: “Looking back, I never knew you,” is Taylor’s mantra as the band shift between a familiar downward progression and a heavy soul gallop. So good to see how these guys survived the lockdown at the top of their game: one of the best albums of 2022.

Early Moods Deliver a Macabre Heavy Psychedelic Masterpiece

Early Moods play high-voltage, dynamically unpredictable heavy psychedelia and doom metal. Early Sabbath is the obvious and pervasive influence, but frontman/keyboardist Alberto Alcaraz has his own sound and isn’t trying to ape Ozzy. Their debut full-length “mystery color” vinyl album, one of the best of 2022, is streaming at Bandcamp.

One thing that elevates this album above so many other groups gathered around the glyph in the shadow of Sabbath is the nimbleness of the rhythm section. Another is the relentlessly ominous riffs and big anthems that come thisclose to careening over the edge, but somehow the band hold the songs to the rails.

On the album’s opening track, Return to Salem’s Gate, they shift back and forth from edgy fuzztone chromatics to a smoldering Fender Twin burn, drummer Chris Flores’ machinegunning salvos capping off the big peaks, with an edge-of-the-abyss wah-wah solo from lead guitarist Oscar Hernandez.

The Sabbath influence bubbles to the murky surface in the second cut, Live to Suffer, from the menacing first verse, to the doublespeed interlude with Hernandez’s tantalizingly shivery lead lines.

Alcaraz opens the band’s signature song with distantly drifting unease from his synth, Hernandez levitating from funereal belltones through a series of increasingly agitated variations  to a full-bore stomp in tandem with bassist Elix Felciano.

Defy Thy Name starts out gritty and briskly hypnotic: a tensely pounding halfspeed interlude leads to a bone-chilling, acid-flamenco dance of death, the high point of the record. From there they segue up into Memento Mori, a mini-dirge straight out of the first minute of Sabbaths’ first album and then work the gloomy implied melody in Last Rites for all it’s worth. Hernandez could go on at the end for ten times as long as he does and it wouldn’t be boring.

They hit a gallop in Curse the Light, but it’s a restrained one, Hernandez letting his grim, fuzzy notes linger in the toxic air. The band slow down a bit with a skewed take on a classic Arabic mode in Damnation, with a wry reference to an iconic busker tune and a famous Geezer Butler riff.

They close the record with Funeral Macabre, the most phantasmagorical and 60s-inspired track here, from a leering, carnivalesque theme through a long, gonzo, woozy Hernandez solo out. Doom metal purists who appreciate the classics, from Sabbath through Candlemass, St. Vitus and Radio Moscow, will love this record.

Enter Through Cavernous Gate For Audio Dystopia

The brooding, minimalist chorale that opens Cavernous Gate‘s new album Voices from a Fathomless Realm – streaming at Bandcamp – goes on for almost four minutes, mystical temple chimes included. If there’s anybody who knows how to build an atmosphere and keep it going, it’s multi-instrumentalist Sebastian “S.K.” Körkemeier, who’s pretty much a one-man band here beyond a little help from singer Jenny Kalbitz. This is a great record, one of the best of 2022 and today’s installment in the ongoing, October-long Halloween celebration of dark music here.

He builds his signature melodic black metal atmosphere with layers of machinegunning guitars, ominously symphonic organ and a spare but heavy drive in the first epic, Old Graves Stir. Körkemeier paints a mini-horror movie for the ears, from dissociatively punchy interludes, to funereal desolation, reverberating blue-velvet Lynchian sonics and grimly simmering, glowing-iron tableaux.

Körkemeier hits the hammering sprint earlier in Through the Morass, There’s a somber, quiet interlude when the narrative reaches the “gates of power” where the earth spirits dwell, and they don’t appear to be pleased – not that they would, with what’s happened since March of 2020. From there, a funeral march rises to a literal roar and the charge is on again.

Conjuration, at more than eight minutes, is almost as long, veering from tinges of the baroque, to a menacing, anguished sway punctuated by skeletal acoustic moments and a battle scene with piano serenely floating above the brutal exchanges.

The album’s mightiest epic is A World in Shade: the delicious, swooping chromatics kick in immediately, Körkemeier devising variations from there, interpolating descents into moments of gloomy calm and dissociative, loopy textures. It’s the best song on the album.

Smoke drifts over distant cannon fire and the occasional flicker of sound in the instrumental Watcher of the Vast. Then the pace picks up again with The Artefact, the album’s grittiest track.

The final cut is The Turning Veil, a sober fugue that eventually ascends with a guitar crush, followed by the brief outro Skeleton Path. Fans of classic death metal like Cathedral as well as Körkemeier’s other projects Helrunar and Sun of the Sleepless will love this mightily orchestrated, dynamically rich and relentless stuff.

Hell Fire Stampede and Burn Through Their Best Album Yet

What would Halloween month here be without at least a handful of metal bands? One of the best metal albums to come over the transom this year is Hell Fire’s latest one, Reckoning, streaming at Riding Easy Records’ Bandcamp page. Much as calling this new release their Master of Puppets invites screams about hubris, it’s definitely the band’s strongest effort yet in their ongoing crusade to sustain a well-loved 80s sound.

They open with the title track: first, a lingering, flamenco-tinged two-guitar intro before the stampeding Iron Maiden triplets kick in. It’s a familiar, satisfying NWOBHM vibe: twin lead harmonies and some tasty Bach-via-Malmsteen chromatics from guitarists Jake Nunn and Tony Campos over Mike Smith’s boots-to-the-wall drumming.

Track two is Medieval Cowboys, a brisk, catchy, thrashy tune that looks back to the earliest Maiden days. It Ends Tonight has more of a Royal Hunt-style viking ballad feel, with an unexpectedly delicious, Middle Eastern-flavored guitar break.

Thrill of the Chase is exactly that, a stampeding opportunity for Campos to take his tapping to the next level, joined by Nunn for an extra level of fireworks midway through. Then Smith shifts into frantic overdrive for Addicted to Violence – good title for a song from 2022, huh?

The closest thing to a big epic here is Tortuga Nights: this one’s for the mead-drinking, helmeted warriors, veering from ba-bump metal cabaret to what sounds like quadruplespeed and then back, with a surprise ending.

Eye For an Eye has surprisingly allusive chromatics and some tricky rhythms. The band look back to an early Judas Priest turbocharged pop feel bolstered by additional guitar pyrotechnics in Many Worlds: sub bassist Matt Freeman (who has since been replaced by Kai Sun) holds up well playing music this heavy.

Nowhere Fast is their Ace of Spades, more or less. They completely flip the script with the unexpectedly plaintive, druid-folk tableau A Dying Moon, with one of the album’s most unlikely savage solos from Campos. They close the album with The Executioner, Freeman getting into the baroque blaze along with the guitars.

Your Venuses, Your Fires, Your Desires?

On one hand, the idea of a fortysomething self-styled macher like Kim Fowley slobbering all over a petite, teenaged Joan Jett is just plain gross. On the other, imagine a bunch of metal guys with their ears wide open, who scheme up a project featuring a frontline of some of the best female singers they can find from all over Europe and Scandinavia. Frontiers Music did that, and the result is Venus 5, whose debut release is streaming at Spotify.

It took a little sleuthing to track down the genesis of the band. Chad Rowar of Heavy Music HQ reports that the label enlisted the trio of Jake E. from Cyhra, Stefan Helleblad of Within Temptation and Per Aldeheim to come up with the songs. Many of them have an early 80s feel: without the heavy guitars, they could be new wave hits. The vocalists, who take turns when they’re not harmonizing, include Infinite & Divine frontwoman Tezzi Persson, Karmen Klinc of Slovenian band the Hellcats, Herma Sick of Sick ‘n Beautiful, Albania’s Erina Seittlari and Serbian Jelena Milovanovic.

Everybody sings in impressively good English. Persson is the most eclectic of the bunch, with a bluesy wail but also a goth side and remarkable subtlety. Sick has a throatier delivery that she uses for accusatory intensity. Seittlari, Milovanovic and Klinc are all clear-voiced and for that matter harder to distinguish, especially when they’re singing together.

They open the record with Lioness, a defiant, minor-key new wave tune in very heavy disguise, A three-guitar section manned by Stefan Helleblad, Aldo Lonobile and Gabriele Robotti deliver the crunch and sailing leads, peppered by Antonio Agate’s squiggly synth.

The five women make a martial frontline in The Simulation, Lonobile channeling David Gilmour in a tantalizingly brief solo. Bassist Dann Arisi snaps and crackles over drummer Alfonso Mocerino’s steady sway in Nothing But a Heartache, Persson’s wounded, pensive vocals joined by her bandmates’ gale-force choir.

The women form a vengeful ghost chorale in Bride With Blackend Eyes, a return to the turbocharged 80s ambience of the album’s opening track. Monster Under Your Bed is just plain funny: imagine a horror-flick Abba with crunchy guitars.

“Every day I keep my pain inside,” is the key line from Inside, as the neoromantic angst rises amid the orchestral swirl and the jackhammer guitars.

Is the single Tom & Mrs. Amy Lee about the mysterious 2021 death of an Australian woman? The Evanescence lead singer and some random dude? You be the judge.

There’s a little sci-fi art-rock flickering through the exchange of voices in Because of You. The “get ready for another war” tagline in We Are Dynamite seems like more of a brag than an omen. Get rid of the roar and slip in a drum machine instead of the big kit on Save You and it could be Beyonce. The final cut, appropriately. is Bury Me. They’ve got it, yeah baby they’ve got it.

A Broodingly Elegant, Heavy New Album From Besvarjelsen

Swedish band Besvarjelsen distinguish themselves as one of the most purposeful, tuneful bands in heavy European rock. The bandname means “conjuring;” their anthemic songs are big on riffs and short on extended solos. Their new album Atlas – streaming at Bandcamp – is closer to brooding art-rock than full-on metal assault. Betrayal and treachery, on a societal level, pervade the lyrics, no surprise for an album released in 2022.

Frontwoman Lea Amling Alazam airs out her powerful, bluesy low range in the hypnotically hammering opening track, The Cardinal Ride, “A rollercoaster of the seven deadly sins,” over drummer Erik Bäckwall’s pouncing riffs. Track two, Acheron is not a tribute to a long-gone Brooklyn metal joint but a slowly swaying, ominous, blues-infused number, guitarists Staffan Stensland Vinrot and Andreas Baier’s minor-key crunch bringing to mind the late, great Desert Flower.

Alazam channels regret and angst over the reverb and clang of the two guitars in Clouds, then bassist Johan Rockner comes in with the drums: the circling gothic atmosphere is very early 80s. The band hit a steady chromatic crunch in House of the Burning Light, which would make a good fit in the Electric Citizen playbook.

Paradise seems pretty sarcastic: it’s a slow, sludgy dirge built around simple, woundedly lingering broken chords from the two guitars, a mist of string synth rising in the background. The blend of grit and clang reaches toward symphonic proportions in Digerliden, equally sinister and enigmatic.

“You smell like rot inside, no god would bear to save you,” Alazam intones over the elegant, elegaic jangle and sweep in Descent, a bitterly catchy indictment. “Do you fear me now, a millions miles above you…do you fear me now that the truth is out?”

Celestial, a moody horn overture, introduces Obscured by Darkness, a cynical mashup of Siouxsie and heavy blues about a hooker. Watery, flangey ominousness gives way to distorted roar in the album’s final cut, Divided Ends, with a long, searing wah-wah solo for a coda,

As a bonus, Alazam’s resolute, evocative vocals aren’t autotuned. That’s not to suggest that she, or any other good singer, needs that vomitous effect, but it’s refreshing to hear a female-fronted band in this style of music who have the guts to resist that. In an increasingly crowded field of new albums released this year, this is one of the best.

Whirlwind Violin Metal at a Favorite Uptown Spot Tonight

“Your prism is just a prison,” Stratospheerius frontman/violinist Joe Deninzon sings on the band’s latest single, Prism – streaming at Bandcamp – which they recorded live at the Progstock festival in New Jersey in 2019 . It’s surprisingly mellow for such a ferocious band, who dance through the tricky rhythms of this characteristically ambitious blend of 70s stadium rock and artsy metal with Andalucian violin flourishes. They survived the lockdown intact and are back tonight, May 12 at 11 PM at a favorite Manhattan spot, Shrine. The Harlem venue is a scruffy little place which is not known for being particularly organized. Considering the location, it’s highly unlikely that there are any apartheid door restrictions.

The band have another single from the Progstock show, Game of Chicken, which is also up at Bandcamp. Moving through clustering minor-key riffs, the band build to a ferocious guitar/violin duel on the way out. “Drowning in the false alarmers…Chicken Little is hungry for you, on your way to your alley of doom,” Deninzon sings: a prophetic statement from right around the time the Gates Foundation and Johns Hopkins were staging Event 201, the final rehearsal for the 2020 plandemic.

A third single, Cognitive Dissonance, could be the Alan Parsons Project at their heaviest and most complicated.

The last time this blog was in the house at a Stratospheerius show, it was in late May, 2018 at Gold Sounds in Bushwick on a killer twinbill with another tyrannosaurus of a band, Book of Harmony. Tragically, there is no field recording of the show in the archive here, although Book of Harmony did have the presence of mind to put several songs from a Drom show earlier that year up at youtube. Their band’s lone album is still up at Soundcloud: serendipitously, the oceanic first track is titled Echoes of Freedom. Less serendipitously, the band did not survive the lockdown.

That album features the band’s original singer, Leah Martin. By the time the group reached Bushwick, they had a new singer, an Asian woman with a dramatic intensity that may have been influenced by pansori or kabuki theatre. Bandleader/lead guitarist Anupam Shobhakar is also an accomplished sarod player and has a background in Indian music, which translated less in terms of riffage than long, labyrinthine, rhythmically impossible tone poems that seemed to go on for fifteen minutes at a clip.

If memory serves right, Stratospheerius headlined (the master concert list here isn’t clear on that). Deninzon was a whirlwind onstage, leaping down into the crowd and firing off lightning, Romany-flavored cascades of notes while the band pounced and roared behind him. The metal intensity grew as the show went on, the guitarist’s flurries of tapping entwined with Deninzon’s shivery, supersonic volleys. The crowd grew slowly, to the point where Deninzon actually had to dodge audience members as he spun across the floor in front of the stage. He may have to stay put at Shrine where there is less room for those kind of shenanigans.

Slomo Sapiens Bring Their Ominous Heavy Psych and Metal Attack to Brooklyn

Philadelphia power trio Slomo Sapiens play a no-nonsense blend of stoner boogie, doom metal and heavy psychedelia. Their latest limited edition cassette, Slomos Volume 1 is streaming at Bandcamp. They’re bringing their disquieting intensity to a Bushwick gig on April 24 at around 9 PM at Our Wicked Lady. There’s a techy opening act and then a couple of similar acts afterward: none of them are worth seeing. The venue’s webpage says cover is $13.60: it’s probably safe to say that the door person is unlikely to be making change with dimes and nickels, so bring fourteen bucks if you’re going. Things are getting weirder and weirder everywhere we look!

The first track on the album is Sandpounder, a catchy bumpa-bumpa-bumpa fuzztone stoner boogie tune. Frontwoman/guitarist Ceallaigh Corbishley brings surprising angst and nuance to the second track, There’s Nothing More Evil in This World Than Time, shifting from bassist Greg Geiger and drummer Jon Pritchard’s ominous gallop to a toxically swirling ambience and then back.

Slurry hammer-ons, dystopic vocoder sonics and macabre chromatics fuel the next tune, Spook the Prince, up to a dizzying, dissociative rhythmic interweave. Salem is a surreal mashup of twangy surf rock, sludgy slowcore grit and skin-peeling wah-wah riffage. They wind up the cassette (pun intended) with Chi, an echoey sound collage with some tantalizing twin guitar leads half-buried in the mix.