Tuesday, 20 March 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Golgothan Remains, "Perverse Offerings To The Void"

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 08/02/2018 |
Label: Impure Sounds


The expansive, noxious sound of the album feels like it may be causing irreparable internal harm, blackening and liquefying your vital organs, but it’s too punishingly satisfying to resist another spin.

“Perverse Offerings To The Void” CD//DD//LP track listing

1. Vehemence (Through Pain Divine)
2. From Chaos It Has Come
3. Vile Blasphemy
4. Bone From Dust
5. Phantom Earth
6. Void
7. Timeless Eradicator
8. Looped Depraved Spell
9. Golgothan Remains
10. Flagellation (Torrid Tongues)

The Review:

There’s a particularly haunting chapter of Alan Moore’s redefining run of Swamp Thing... which is saying a lot when there are so many unsettling themes and images in his 40 issue take on the ecological deity that it practically established a whole new set of rules for horror comics.  But in this particular story (Vol. 2, issues 35 & 36) a deranged drifter, nicknamed Nukeface, continually sips on irradiated beers, oblivious to the damage it’s wreaking on his body, and the world around him.  Another homeless man takes a sip and quickly decays into a puddle of goo, teeth loosening and spilling to the ground, eyes sinking into their putrefying sockets.  Nukeface – though his nostrils cave in, his hair sheds in clumps, and his skin cracks and peels off in strips – keeps cackling in pleasure.  He revels in his own toxic nature, as the ground beneath his feet sizzles and dies with each step.  Nukeface doesn’t die at the end of the story, but continues his wretched path across the land in a joyful, poisoned delirium.  As I absorbed the ten malignant tracks on Golgothan Remains debut album, I kept thinking of this singularly disturbing character – seeping venom but blissfully enduring his decay.  The expansive, noxious sound of the album feels like it may be causing irreparable internal harm, blackening and liquefying your vital organs, but it’s too punishingly satisfying to resist another spin.

“Perverse Offerings To The Void” is clearly indebted to classic death metal – from the punky d-beat outro of “Vehemence” to the galloping opening riff of “Timeless Eradicator”, the Australian quartet hits all the right notes and doesn’t push too far into genre hybrid territory.  They generally operate in the two extreme ends of the sonic spectrum: chugging rhythms and piercing high end leads.  Vocalist Matthieu Van den Brande (a.k.a. “C”) bellows out consistently inhuman death growls, often loaded with reverb – like some beast creeping from the depths.  Like many of my favorite bands, they offer up a “theme song” on their debut that is particularly frenetic, energized, and concise.  “Bone from Dust”, starting with a 6/8 intro, is a sick slab of death, with consistent changeups in timing that never drops a beat.  Drummer “M” does some great double kick work on “Golgothan Remains”, as well as my favorite cut, “Vile Blasphemy”.  D’s bass tone is palpable when you blast the record but sometimes sits a little low in the mix.

If there is any criticism I can reserve for “Perverse Offerings…”, it’s that the production is beneath a band of this caliber.  There are fadeouts that hit a bit too quickly, the aforementioned low mixing of the bass and, unfortunately, a consistent midrange murk that sometimes clouds the rhythmic changes.  In a few spots, particularly when the blast beats get extra hectic and the guitars mesh into a sickening wall of death, there’s a tendency to lose clarity.  I love the nasty murk of lo-fi death metal, but I was trying to hear chords and snare hits instead of enjoying the filthy tone.  Thankfully, these spots are few and far between.  The quality of the songwriting, and the committed fury of Golgothan Remains, shines through any rough patches, and establishes the Australian quartet and a nascent death powerhouse.  Crack into their debut and enjoy your own putrefaction – if you can endure it.

“Perverse Offerings To The Void” is available here and preorder for the LP here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Leechfeast, "Neon Crosses"

By: Stephen Murray

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 30/03/2018
Label: Dry Cough Records |
Rope And Guillotine

Taken altogether, the vacillation between violence and misery is compelling

Neon CrossesDD//LP track listing:

1). Sacrosanct
2). Halogen
3). Tar
4). Razor Nest

The Review:

It’s not that I would nail myself to the masochist mast, but I have to admit there is something ritualistically cleansing about laying down in a dark room, depriving all senses except hearing, and shattering that peaceful seclusion with a high volume deluge of grisly, bone-biting aural violence. Despite the horrific grime one is subjected to, the effect is one of paradoxical cleanliness and peace. But for the ritual to work it must be pure; nothing watered down into a thin, homeopathic tincture; it must be something viscous and foul-tasting that lets you know that you’ve been medicined, a spiking that lets you know you’ve been spoken to. If you need this treatment as much as I do, then “Neon Crosses” is your draught.

This is Leechfeast’s first full-length for five years (their second overall), and their first release since the split with New Zealand's now defunct grime lords Meth Drinker back in 2015. Perhaps significantly, this is the first recording since Hans Wubs took over the sticks from Marko Ĺ ajn in an otherwise remarkably consistent line-up since their nascence in 2010.

As the title suggests, it cuts an urban path. For Slovenia’s Leechfeast, the children of the night are not wolves, but other predators skulking between the streetlights. They represent the mould growing in the gutters, the weeds pushing through the concrete, blackened foil in the alleys and the screams of victims slapping back off wet brick, steel and glass.

At first harken, I quickly understand why comparisons have been drawn between “Neon Crosses” and the excoriating sounds of Cough and Moss, but it is no carbon copy. Instead, the band manage to steer their sound safely across the ever busier shipping lanes of modern doom, deftly avoiding collision with the other lumbering tankers which seem to be riding in each other’s wakes.

An example of this subtle divergence comes on the second track, ‘Halogen’. Its linchpin riff is like someone heartlessly slinging on a string of Reggie Dixon numbers when you're too goofed to intervene, leaving you to be waltzed through to some dreadful other dimension.

Highlight song, ‘Razor Nest,’ well positioned at the end of the record, opens with gloomily melodic, reverb-washed singing, drawing parallels with 40 Watt Sun, except with all the hope for tomorrow extinguished. Then despair gives way to anger once more and the vocals lash out again, the guitars moving from minors to chromatics, the whole peppered with samples from what sounds to be space age American public information films. The effect is that of a broken emergency broadcast system piping messages exhorting calm which echo through the empty streets of a post-neutron bombed world.

At no point does “Neon Crosses” feel protracted, each of the eight to ten minute tracks is extremely well judged; the bars allotted to the changing riffs and motifs is perfect and the sound achieved in the studio and in post-production is crisp, capturing some of that high-end fizz that gives character to otherwise bass rich guitar tone and slow skin pummeling.

The record invokes that horrid yet splendid feeling of your flesh being torn from you in long, misshapen strips, and then dresses the wounds in melancholic, chant-like singing and single picked guitar lines more apt to surrendering to the darkness than exalting it. Taken altogether, the vacillation between violence and misery is compelling. Would definitely recommend for your next isolation tank session

“Neon Crosses” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Monday, 19 March 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons, "The Age of Absurdity"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 26/01/2018
Label: Nuclear Blast

Fans of Motorhead will find what they are seeking here. Likewise, fans of more conventional hard rock acts like Guns n Roses and even earlier Aerosmith will find much to enjoy here. A solid and hard rocking record.

The Age of AbsurdityCD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Ringleader
2. Freak Show
3. Skin and Bones
4. Gypsy Kiss
5. Welcome To Hell
6. Dark Days
7. Dropping The Needle
8. Step Into The Fire
9. Get On Your Knees
10. High Rule
11. Into The Dark

The Review:

Phil Campbell played guitar in Motorhead from 1984 to the end of the band. Over thirty years on the rock n roll front-lines. It's no surprise, then, that this record is a rocking shot of adrenaline, but some might be a little taken aback by the bluesy inflections in much of the material and the classic rock inflections to the solos and hooks. In fact, while opener “Ringleader” has a fair bit in common with Campbell's Alma Mater, the likes of “Freak Show” are bluesy swaggerers which would have fitted in perfectly on much more melodic records- think The Wildhearts by way of Free and you have it about right.

As the record progresses, it is clear that Campbell hasn't used up all his bullets with his extensive output with Motorhead and instead must have saved up a wealth of  material which he did not feel was right for Lemmy, but makes perfect sense. When the tempo ratchets up, as it does on “Gypsy Kiss”, of course the spectre of the greatest rock n roll band of all time will loom large- but the cleaner vocals and melodies are a departure.

Over the course of the eleven tracks there are a variety of tempos- from the gallop of vinyl tribute “Dropping The Needle” to foot stompers like “Welcome To Hell” and the blues rock of the excellent “Dark Days”. Neil Starr's vocals are a real strong point of the release- confident and melodically powerful, they provide a great counterpoint to Phil and the bass/drums/guitar supplied by his sons- and as you would expect, the band are a tight unit.

Over the course of eleven tracks you get bluesy, swaggering rock n roll, delivered at maximum volume. The final three song stretch is catchy and hard driving and even thoughtful as on the closing “Into The Dark”. Fans of Motorhead will find what they are seeking here. Likewise, fans of more conventional hard rock acts like Guns n Roses and even earlier Aerosmith will find much to enjoy here. A solid and hard rocking record.

“The Age of Absurdity” is available here

Band info: facebook

Friday, 16 March 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Earthless, "Black Heaven"

By: Victor Van Ommen

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 16/03/18
Label: Nuclear Blast

“Black Heaven” is going to grab 2018 by the nuts and set the bar for what makes a good classic-rock influenced record. We can all take a lesson from Earthless.

“Black Heaven” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Gifted by the Wind (6:28 )
2. End to End (5:16)
3. Electric Flame (8:51)
4. Volt Rush (1:53)
5. Black Heaven (8:45)
6. Sudden End (8:26)

The Review:

If you thought Earthless was still an instrumental power trio from California, it’s time to make an adjustment. On their new album, “Black Heaven,” Earthless hits the streets with 45 minutes of rockin’ songs. That’s right, songs. With choruses, verses, bridges and yes, even vocals.

Guitarist Isaiah Mitchell let the cat out of the bag and told his band mates that he can sing. And how! Sure, Golden Void is Mitchell’s side project, and it’s one that has him step up to the mic, but his vocal performance on this new Earthless record is a whole different kettle of fish.

The added value to “Black Heaven” isn’t just the addition of vocals. “Black Heaven” goes further and posits these Californians not only as instrumental bad asses who are technically gifted. This album goes so far as to show that these cats can lay down a tasty lick, tie it together with some verses, and come out the other end with a helluva tasty song.

So what does Earthless sound like playing these songs? Well, I hear a lot of Van Halen coming through the speakers. Certainly when it comes to “Gifted by the wind”and the 9 minute centerpiece, “Electric Flame.” But the classic rock and metal influences don’t stop here. You hear elements of Cream pop up in “End to End” and some colorful southern rock harmonies brighten up the place in the album’s closer, “Sudden End.” There’s even a little ZZ Top shuffle sprinkled over everything. What’s not to like?

Yeah, the record’s pretty retro. But, believe it or not, it’s also original. Earthless aren’t copying anyone, they’re channeling the greats. These boys know what they’re doing, too. There’s no instance of phoning it in. Earthless uses “Black Heaven” to show that they’re more than a one trick pony. They’ve got more up their sleeves than instrumental jams that go on for eons. And that’s awesome. Earthless also uses “Black Heaven” to show how to keep things fresh in a genre that’s dangerously close to being played out.

“Black Heaven” isn’t a masterpiece. It won’t stand the test of time in the same way that the Sabbath’s and the Zeppelin’s have. That’s fine, because for now, “Black Heaven” is going to grab 2018 by the nuts and set the bar for what makes a good classic-rock influenced record. We can all take a lesson from Earthless.

“Black Heaven” is available here

Band info: facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Mournful Congregation,‘The Incubus Of Karma’

By: Daniel Jackson

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 23/03/2018
Label: Osmose Productions (EU) |
20 Buck Spin (US)

This band has always been the gold standard when it comes to dense, emotive funeral doom, but this latest hallmark in their discography takes that heart-shredding melancholy to its furthest extreme yet.  This is Mournful Congregation’s crowning achievement. ‘The Incubus Of Karma’ is a fucking masterpiece.

‘The Incubus Of Karma’ CD/LP/CS/DD track listing:

1. The Indwelling Ascent
2. Whispering Spiritscapes
3. The Rubaiyat
4. The Incubus of Karma
5. Scripture of Exaltation and Punishment
6. A Picture of the Devouring Gloom Devouring the Spheres of Being

The Review:

I sit here struggling to find the right words, or really any words at all, to convey the weight and impact of ‘The Incubus Of Karma’, Mournful Congregation’s first new album in over six years. I’ll do my best, anyway. This band has always been the gold standard when it comes to dense, emotive funeral doom, but this latest hallmark in their discography takes that heart-shredding melancholy to its furthest extreme yet.

To get this out of the way immediately; the lead guitar work throughout ‘The Incubus Of Karma’ is absolutely incredible. I’m not just talking about their trademark thick, layered guitar harmonies. I’m talking about those ascendant high-fret leads that sail and glide above them. Each and every one of them is immaculately composed and performed in a manner meant to cut even the most callous facades to the quick. Whether it’s during a devastating funeral crawl or a plaintive low-dynamic interlude, the sorrow just doesn’t let up. It’s mercilessly sad.

The crux of this entire album is the band largely deciding to stay out of the way of the guitars. Drums, vocals, bass, and keyboards: they’re all in almost exclusively supporting roles. Drummer Tim Call is also known also for his work in bands like Aldebaran, Nightfell, and Weregoat, and in each of those bands, his drumming is considerably more active than his performance here. I’d be shocked if he averaged more than one actual drum fill every 2-3 minutes in total.

This isn’t a criticism, by the way. It may be a uniquely bare bones performance, but it’s exactly what the music calls for. Even his drum sound is subdued, with a snare sound that recalls that of the first Danzig album, drenched in reverb, and the cymbals mixed even quieter than normal for a Mournful Congregation album.

Again, the guitars are the axis on which ‘The Incubus Of Karma’ spins. If you’re looking for a specific example, look no further than the album’s instrumental title track. The song is an absolute testament to the astonishing emotion that lead guitar can conjure, as these ultra expressive solos cascade over gentle acoustic guitar. And there’s equally brilliant leads all over the album. These aren’t note-spamming, “virtuosity for its own sake” solos. It’s all about the articulation, the bending of notes in a specific way to wring every last ounce of passion and sadness from the strings.

Look, if it feels like I’m just spouting label and band-friendly hyperbole, I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to do because as I sit here writing this, that’s all I feel does the album justice. One of my biggest pet peeves in metal is an album going longer than an hour. This album is damn near 80 minutes and I can’t think of any section I want shorter or cut altogether. That just doesn’t happen for me. It’s made the strongest early impression of any album so far this year, and the strongest early impression of any funeral doom album I’ve ever heard. This is Mournful Congregation’s crowning achievement. ‘The Incubus Of Karma’ is a fucking masterpiece.

‘The Incubus Of Karma’ is available in Europe through Osmose, or through 20 Buck Spin in North America.

Band info: Facebook

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

TRACK PREMIERE: Lausanne's Abraham declare its a "Wonderful World"

In my day job as a social worker, the buzz word in terms of good practice, is the ability to be good at reflection.  In life, whether we’re at work or whatever the situation may be, we need time to consider what we have done and the reasons why, because although our actions at the time may have been the right one specific to that situation or circumstance, once we reflect,  we may reach a different conclusion and in turn our actions may be different in the future.  

Today’s featured band, Abraham emerged from the flourishing Swiss music scene of the past decade. During their 8 years of existence and through festivals and tours supporting Cult of Luna and The Ocean, the band have forged their reputation as one of the top bands in Europe, however when you consider it has been 6 years since their last full length, consider this and let us pause for a moment and reflect, what have done in this time, what have you achieved and would you have made the same choices?  Now over the last 6 years, I have had three kids, sold a house, bought a house, changed jobs and it just so happens that 2018 is my six year anniversary at THE SLUDGELORD, now there may be many things I would have done differently, but being part of this blog is not one of them (I love my kids btw),

Now Skid Row once said we’re “Slaves to the Grind”, so what better way to take a much needed break and listen to some killer tunes, all I am asking of you is 4 minutes of your time.  After 6 long years, the beards of Abraham are back, their new record is finally here and it really is... something else.

 “Look, Here Comes The Dark!” is, simply put, a concept album about the end of times: a classic post apocalyptic dystopia and today at THE SLUDGELORD, we’re delighted to be able to debut a brand new track entitled “Wonderful World”.  Released on May 11th via Pelagic Records, the album is divided into four consecutive periods, one for each vinyl record, throughout which the story of the disappearance of all life on Earth is told. Each section is defined by a unique approach in terms of style, song writing, and degree of experimentation and choice of instrumentation.   Check out “Wonderful World” below and don't forget to reflect, haha.   Preorders are being taken here

Band info: facebook || homepage || bandcamp

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Dead Empires, "Designed to Disappear"

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 23/02/2018
Label: Silent Pendulum Records


“Witnessed live and through my speakers, “Designed to Disappear” is a juggernaut of a record – one that hops easily between genres while remaining the work of a distinct, remarkable quartet.  I’m onboard for whatever challenging, inspiring output they have in store.”

“Designed to Disappear” CD//CS//DD//LP track listing

1. Spectacular Ruin
2. The Form
3. Slay Rider
4. Reverse Speak
5. A Summertime Song
6. Ones and Zeros
7. Ergot (feat. John Carbone)
8. Designed to Disappear

The Review:        

The term “progressive” gets thrown around pretty egregiously in metal – most often you’re left thinking of bands like Dream Theater or Iced Earth, and even then thinking in terms of scale, length, or concept albums.  Far too frequently, it’s easy to forget how the genuine first wave of “prog” artists, from King Crimson and Santana to Yes and Rush, embraced weirdly abstruse musical styles.  While a ton of modern prog enthusiasts will point to the longform arena rock epics like “2112”, there aren’t many who hold up the 80s pop experimentation of Yes as key progressive cornerstones.  Yet with the supremacy of total oddball artists like Mike Patton and his onetime collaborators in the dearly departed Dillinger Escape Plan in the 1990s and 2000s metal/math/whatevercore scenes, there is growing appreciation for boundary-free heavy music.  New York state’s Dead Empires, formerly an instrumental trio, have all the hallmarks of these monumentally talented virtuosos with a healthy injection of pop sensibility to match. 

Intro track “Spectacular Ruin” displays the muscular guitar- focused energy at the heart of Dead Empires winning formula, allowing John Bryan space to lay down harmonized, rousing leads that will please the Thin Lizzy fanatics out there.  The Form” unleashes vocalist Jason “PRKR” Sherman for the first time – his monstrously distorted vocals and noisy manipulations are all the more exciting when his melodic strengths come to the foreground later.  The rhythm dynamic of Phil Bartsch and DJ Scully is monumental – heavy as the heart of a neutron star.  And Bryan’s apt countering of chugging rhythm and shrieking high end melodic guitar work sounds like the best Mars Volta leads we never got. 

“Slay Rider”, a thrashy two minute blast of galloping drums and blast beat choruses, is a great example of the Dead Empires’ bold disregard for genre conventions – they could have forged on with the noisy, experimental math rock of the first two tracks and had a pretty solid record, instead, they go full on groove-thrash attack before the heady, jazz grind freakout of “Reverse Speak.”   And that’s only the first two minutes of the track, before a beautifully salsa infused guitar and piano (guest Jason Volpe) tradeoff, pounding double bass drumming of Bartsch, or the magnificently melodic bridge vocals.  Just when you think you have Dead Empires’ formula pegged they drop into a spaced out dub metal (is that even a thing?) track like “A Summertime Song”.  Like a 311 song if they could just muster the grit to be HEAVY, “A Summertime Song” is the unlikeliest, weirdest 7 minutes I’ve heard on an album this year that actually works as a pop single.  DJ Scully’s gnarly bass gets some time to shine here and it’s easy to see why he’s an in demand multi-genre bassist – dude has some serious tone and chops.

The instrumental “Ones and Zeros” is a bit of a palate cleanser after the consistent tonal changeups of the record so far, recalling the meat and potatoes harmonies of “Spectacular Ruin”, with some moments that recall Big Country (maybe the most overlooked non-metal guitar group of the 80s), and others that once again have me thinking of Phil Lynott and company.  Ergot” may be the most “conventional” post-metal/metalcore piece of the whole record, if a punishing metal song in the midst of all this post-rock beauty, featuring a spoken word coda courtesy of Moon Tooth’s John Carbone, can be called conventional at all.  The epic, titular finale is a 12 minute, anthemic journey through regret and mortality that is cinematic, rewarding, and ultimately uplifting, even with lyrics like “death, the great equalizer / everything will end one day / that’s the hard truth we go to bed with everyday, / designed to disappear we all go away”.  Somehow it’s far more inspiring than you’d imagine, with moments of seriously dissonant brutality.  More than any other track, I could see this as full on arena rock – it deserves an audience of thousands to truly appreciate its massive scale.

Though there are only eight tracks on their newest record, Dead Empires’ offer lightning fast jaunts through multiple genres, embodying the bold heart of progressive music’s infinite potential.  While their forebears like Dillinger Escape Plan have retired, or Mike Patton has stopped only occasionally to focus on projects that exist as more than one-off experiments, Dead Empires has the potential to continue as a band to watch, as every move seems to take you to new, unforeseen destinations.  It’s really amazing to see it replicated live, as I had to pleasure to experience this autumn, and hear so MUCH coming from a stripped down quartet.  If you have a chance to see them during the upcoming tour, I’d absolutely recommend it, as the pure intensity and prowess is somehow just as monumental, even in a small venue.  Witnessed live and through my speakers, “Designed to Disappear” is a juggernaut of a record – one that hops easily between genres while remaining the work of a distinct, remarkable quartet.  I’m onboard for whatever challenging, inspiring output they have in store.

“Designed to Disappear” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook