Friday, 20 October 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Iron Monkey, "9-13"

By: Ernesto Aguilar


Album Type: Full length
Date Released: 20/10/2017
Label: Relapse Records


 


"9-13" offers a shredding sludge attack and is a violent rejoinder of why Iron Monkey got its reputation as a doom/sludge vanguard. All these years later, Iron Monkey remains gritty and uncompromising. Predictions for a return were invariably high. "9-13" does not blow those expectations out of the water. Nor does Iron Monkey disappoint. For that, there's much to smile about.

“9-13” CD//DD//LP track listing

1. Crown of Electrodes
2. OmegaMangler           
3. 9-13
4. Toadcrucifier - R.I.P.PER
5. Destroyer
6. Mortarhex
7. The Rope
8. Doomsday Impulse Multiplier
9. Moreland St. Hammervortex

The Review:

Sterling though it is, Iron Monkey has a name circulated mostly through lore. Its 1996 EP and 1998 full-length, honestly, came out when a fair number of metal fans were children. Of those consciously watching sludge metal at the time, scores of acts have since surpassed Iron Monkey and its sparse output. Yet the notoriety of the band has lingered. Its brash and unfiltered metal through the lungs of vocalist Johnny Morrow was, for many, that blending of punk and metal that ensembles like Crass or 45 Grave were for fans in respective decades previous. Not that the UK crew gained those levels of recognition, or are anywhere the same, but you get the idea: something with an appeal that set it apart from others. After Iron Monkey faded with the untimely death of Morrow in 2002, you could assume the boys from Nottingham would be little more than a faded memory or trivia at a punk club's quiz night.

Not so fast.

Following a nearly 20-year break hastened by the death of its lead singer, Iron Monkey return to take up the accolades the group never received in its heyday. Implausible though that comeback might be its new release, "9-13," rolls up to make a claim for the throne.

Returns like this can be a controversial business at times. Here, founding members Jim Rushby, on guitars and vocal duties, and bassist Steve Watson are back in place, but original drummer Justin Greaves has bowed out. The new Iron Monkey has opted to go it as a trio, replacing Greaves with Scott Briggs, one of the former drummers of Bristol hardcore legends Chaos UK. No Greaves and no original singer may prompt some gnashing of teeth from the outset. Yet having Bushby and Watson, who were nevertheless architects of the band's grimy sludge metal clatter, may keep you curious enough to give "9-13" your full attention.

With the opener, "Crown of Electrodes," you are left with the clear impression that Iron Monkey is rejoining us largely as a punk act. No bones about it that there's plenty of sludge and grind in this corybantic gruel. Still, in what could be Briggs' influence or a new direction decades on, there is irrefutably a hardcore tension in the All Pigs Must Die vein here. Some might criticize Iron Monkey for this or the vocals, which tend to be an echo of Morrow. However, all things change and, to tell the truth, this may be the first real introduction to Iron Monkey a lot of people have had. You can judge this on the strength of "9-13" alone and step away gratified.

There are a few near missteps. "Toadcrucifier - R.I.P.PER" opens with 30 seconds of pointless guitar feedback – although feedback starting "The Rope" is equally unlistenable. Fortunately enough, Iron Monkey makes up for it by delivering a crushing cut that pours on the aggression. The title selection before it uses the same feedback affectation, but similarly the trio redeems itself by serving up a whip tight track of metal-infused punk. In fact, the guitar feedback bit is used on several more songs; it can be cute for the new high school metal band, but gives "9-13" an 'out of ideas' vibe that is unnecessary. In fact, Iron Monkey's layoff has not left members bereft of passion or ideas. The group feels potent and ready to meet both new fans and skeptics. You just wish these small things did not detract from such a dexterous and forceful performance.

"9-13" offers plenty for veteran fans, such as "Doomsday Impulse Multiplier," a shredding sludge attack and the closing, "Moreland St. Hammervortex," which is a violent rejoinder of why Iron Monkey got its reputation as a doom/sludge vanguard. All these years later, Iron Monkey remains gritty and uncompromising. Predictions for a return were invariably high. "9-13" does not blow those expectations out of the water. Nor does Iron Monkey disappoint. For that, there's much to smile about.

"9-13" is available here:





Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Thursday, 19 October 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Bell Witch - "Mirror Reaper"

By: Ernesto Aguilar

Album Type: Full length
Date Released: 20/10/2017
Label: Profound Lore Records


With "Mirror Reaper," the music conveys the reflection back of life and of death; literally that the Grim Reaper is a facsimile of the cycle of life. As with anything Bell Witch, though, such a realization is not engaged with in a fashion that rips at the pain of loss or terror, but rather builds into a deeper, though no less excoriating, meditation on the passage of time


"Mirror Reaper" CD//DD//LP track listing

1. Mirror Reaper

The Review:

The spastic beauty of doom is its blithe but authentic rejection of protocol, even in metal, which itself defies popular music at every turn. Doom is storied for its winding, intricate songs. Doom feels brainier (or nerdier) than what you anticipate, with the number of concept albums about esoterica, space or obscure literature, mythology or history very likely disproportionate to the rest of the genre. And, in the immortal words of Beyonce, when others say speed it up, doom just goes slower.

There is something so beautifully faithful and just-don't-give-a-fuck about that investment in one's own imagination. We all say we'll be artists, but how many of us truly stay that way and how many unconsciously try to fit into the molds we're presented? You may adore thrash metal's technique, grindcore's brief injections of aggression and death metal's roar, but you love doom for being what it is. It simply lurches on, siring even denser progeny such as funeral doom, mainstream acceptance and fake love be damned.

2017 needs Bell Witch. In a year where conflict, culture and politics seem bigger and bigger, the Seattle band's new "Mirror Reaper" feels fitting. It is exactly one track, 83 minutes, 16 seconds in length.

An entire album being a single track is unusual, but not unheard of. Olympia black metal outfit Fauna released the 63-minute "The Rain" in 2006 and then "The Hunt" in 2007, with its only song showing out at nearly 80 minutes. Chicago doom metal act Bongripper debuted in 2006 with its "The Great Barrier Reefer" concluding at just a bit over 79 minutes on the clock. A few other bands, such as Japanese metal collective Boris and Finnish folk metal group Moonsorrow, have done multiple epic songs well into the 50-minute range. Bell Witch itself is no stranger to such a mystique. Its 2015 release, "Four Phantoms," came in at four cuts and around one hour, with two songs wrapping at 22 minutes apiece. However, as they say in the lad mags, size does not matter. You're listening for whether "Mirror Reaper" can bring you this uncurbed promise, and deliver.

Bell Witch has few peers in funeral doom. Chances are Bell Witch is why you listen to this music in the first place. 2011's "Longing" is still praised as one of the great albums in the field. "Four Phantoms" has been called one of the subgenre's best recordings ever. In 2016, 36-year-old Adrian Guerra, the group's founding member as well as drummer/vocalist, died suddenly. His shadow over "Four Phantoms" and formulation of the Bell Witch aesthetic is long. One has to ponder how much Guerra's contributions may leave a hole in the band's return since his passing.

Mixed by Billy Anderson, who's done production for Neurosis and Sleep (coincidentally, Anderson worked on the California performer's 63-minute "Dopesmoker" in 2003), "Mirror Reaper" is planted in etymology related to the words of Hermes Trismegistus, the Greek representation of Hermes and Thoth, and the Hermeticism on which said writings are based. Trismegistus' Emerald Tablet, believed to have been composed between the sixth and eighth centuries, forwards core Hermetic philosophy. The Emerald Tablet would influence Renaissance alchemy as well as the thinking of C. S. Jung and Isaac Newton. For "Mirror Reaper" an Emerald Tablet concept, brought forward in Newton's translation and that in "Aureliae Occultae Philosophorum," is woven throughout. The idea of 'as above, so below' is one of duality – sun/moon, life/death and so forth. Driven by such grandiose ideas – which have literally occupied thousands of books, faith practices and hearts – it should not be all that shocking that "Mirror Reaper" is what it is.

Bell Witch has explored the visage of ghosts, life and death throughout its career. Consistently the band has taken a more cerebral approach in these themes. With "Mirror Reaper," the music conveys the reflection back of life and of death; literally that the Grim Reaper is a facsimile of the cycle of life. As with anything Bell Witch, though, such a realization is not engaged with in a fashion that rips at the pain of loss or terror, but rather builds into a deeper, though no less excoriating, meditation on the passage of time. Under Anderson's hand, as well as the support of vocalist Erik Moggridge, what could become a bloated, verbose exercise in something this ambitious becomes an achievement.

The arrangement of the piece takes subtle and yet exquisite turns. The transition from the 24th minute to the 32nd minute or so; minute 55 into the hour; and the song's final 10 minutes are among funeral doom's best examples of plangency. In a touching tribute, the late Guerra lives on in the form of previously unused vocals from the "Four Phantoms" sessions included in a movement within "Mirror Reaper." Such is perhaps one of the most wrenching parts of the song because it takes the metaphysical storytelling out in favor of real life and real death. The new core duo of founding member Dylan Desmond and drummer Jesse Shreibman include Guerra honorably. They also make it clear in "Mirror Reaper" that Bell Witch is prepared to start a new, compelling chapter.

"Mirror Reaper” is available here:



Band info: bandcamp || facebook

TRACK PREMIERE: Succumb to the beautiful devastation that is Catapult The Dead


Catapult The Dead is a sextet from Oakland, they have been together for around 5 years, playing the style of music which could be broadly described as atmospheric doom.  Thematically their debut full length, ‘All is Sorrow’ released in 2014, felt very cinematic and is very layered production wise, driven as you’d expect from a massive sounding guitar tone, but what felt quite unique is the use of keyboard.  Indeed it is the use of keys which made the band feel truly unique, giving their music a dynamic appeal. Much like the movie The Matrix, no one can really be told what is, you have to see it for yourself. In fact if you substituted Catapult the Dead for the Matrix in that quote, it quite accurately summarized their debut album

What Catapult the Dead have managed to do in their short tenure, is to produce progressive sounding doom, oppressively heavy but never idle, in the sense that it never seems to repeat singular repetitious phrases of music.  Their music is stylistically cinematic because it feels typical of how films are made, like there is one continuous story to be told, and it is always moving forward, evoking a sense that their music is a narrative to some macabre Lovercraftian tale. I feel Catapult the Dead are innovators and perhaps one of the best bands no one seems to know about, but that is about to change with the release of their  spectacular  new album “A Universal Emptiness”  released on 15 November 2017 via Doom Stew Records, and we’re stoked to be able to premiere a brand new track from the album which you stream in full below.  Preorders of the album are available here



Band info: bandcamp || facebook

TRACK PREMIERE: Nomasta infuse doom laden thrash amidst bursts of elephantine riffs on new track “This Trail Got The Best Of Us'



From the ashes of SLUDGELORD favourites Canaya, step forth a brand new 3 piece conjuring up their own malevolent blend of noise magic.  'With the metallic edge of Mastodon and Gojira, mixed with the punishing tones of High On Fire and Kvelertak', Leeds based Nomasta infuse doom laden thrash amidst bursts of elephantine riffs and dancing time signatures, creating a new blend of sonic brutality for discerning metal fans. 

Today at THE SLUDGELORD, it gives us great pleasure to premiere brand new music, in the form of “This Trail Got The Best Of Us'  taken from Nomasta's forthcoming record 'House of the Tiger King', set to be released November 3rd.  Owen Wilson (Guitars, vocals) had the following to say about the track, which you can also stream below


“This Trail Got The Best Of Us' is a real nasty piece of work, in the most metal way! Musically it is an ode to the extreme music scene I was introduced to when I moved to Leeds in 2004, and to the friends I made along the way. Lyrically the song is about understanding how all things can come to an end. It can take huge amounts of mental strength and humility to detach from a situation and regardless of our personal investment, to accept failure and begin starting a fresh can often be the best avenue to pursue.




Band info: Bandcamp || Facebook

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Chelsea Wolfe - "Hiss Spun"

By: Joosep Nilk


Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 22/09/2017
Label: Sargent House




 
Whereas “Abyss” and its predecessor were largely paving way for new sounds, the cohesiveness of her latest album is a sure attribute of Wolfe´s singular vision finally realized. More self-aware and self-assured in her vulnerability than ever, with the band in intimate tow, “Hiss Spun” indeed feels much like a logical continuation.




“Hiss Spun“CD/DD/LP Track Listing

1. Spun
2. 16 Psyche
3. Vex
4. Strain
5. The Culling
6. Particle Flux
7. Twin Fawn
8. Offering
9. Static Hum
10. Welt
11. Two Spirit
12. Scrape

The Review:

As if with spill-overs from the amp-heavy “Abyss”, Chelsea Wolfe's latest album makes first bet on immediacy. Having shed light on some of her influences in interviews, the Earth-inspired riffs open up bold and distorted, with brazen guitar strangulations following foot, that come off as an immediately familiar theme from previous works.

Similarly, on the lamenting ’Two Spirit’ she sounds a lot like herself on a developed version of ’Reins’ off “Pain Is Beauty”, losing herself in a ghastly yet enchanting drift of a lull. Elsewhere she reprises herself on a piano-driven -interlude, which along the pensive unravelling of other delicate tracks do well to form together one somber storyline. Even the build on 'Static Hum' that comes off initially radiant soon turns into a reiteration of the song title, like an analogy to repeating the same mistakes, until it all swells and fades into but a faint whisper.

It’s not all dire hopelessness though. A few interludes soften the blows, with the odd electronic track 'The Offering' dribbled in there, rightly deserving of the title given. Even though she doesn’t forego her pop sensiblites entirely, ’Static Hum’ and first single ’16 Psyche’ being the obvious examples, it makes the anguish only slightly easier to digest.  The use of repetition on the prior feels like it might perhaps wear out after a few dozen listens, whereas the latter’s on the contrary returns each time for more addictive effect, highly fitting after all, as the lyrics are spent dissecting promiscuity and codependence. On this track and the following 'Vex' Chelsea Wolfe blends into the reverb-soaked background, as if taking a step back to detach from the situation. Alongside her as if with sword and shield, Troy Van Leeuwen and Aaron Turner (Isis, Sumac) take center stage, (with guitar and voice, respectively) and the harshest blows are struck.

Separated only by the dramatic 'Particle Flux' the definite highlights are the pairing tracks of ’Twin Fawn’ and ’The Culling’. The prior’s blissful melodies just staying long enough to elicit a false sense of security, then take a turn for the nightmarish as Wolfe’s voice looms increasingly ominous, with the reprehension of the latter growing to be near unfathomable. This same approach is used to even greater effect to the sweetness of ’Two Spirit’, which is offset by the screechingly beautiful atmosphere setting in almost immediately after. All of it cements the notion that exposing oneself in such vulnerable manner doesn't happen without bearing teeth in the process. This sentiment is driven home by the severe closer where she finally delivers the callous truth of the matter.

It’s here by the end of the album that one truly acquires another appreciation for Wolfe's whole array of vocal abilities. Still caught in some of the circumstance, she comes across more embracing of the direness. At once bewitching and punishing then straight into wallowing in hallowed misery. Having culminated in a cacophony sounding like the upheaval of quite a few stubborn and crooked roots, she spins the album title around a myriad of near-senseless words at the close of 'The Culling', as if barely scraping herself together to make sense of it all.

Whereas “Abyss” and its predecessor were largely paving way for new sounds, the cohesiveness of her latest album is a sure attribute of Wolfe´s singular vision finally realized. More self-aware and self-assured in her vulnerability than ever, with the band in intimate tow, “Hiss Spun” indeed feels much like a logical continuation. Beginning with “Pains Is Beauty” it could very well be seen as the end of a cycle of albums, with both her power-electronic and riff-minded sides more developed. It comes together as one heart-wrenching journey into the heart of self-acceptance, all the harsh discoveries it entails. As she reminds herself (and the listener) in barely distinguishable whispers on the second track, the way out is through.

“Hiss Spun” is available here





Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Kadavar - "Rough Times"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 29/09/2017
Label: Nuclear Blast


The sound off the album is positively low-fi, the title track a noisy and lurching beast and “Into The Wormhole” sounds like a slowed down record being played through a torn speaker. There are sojourns into more proggy territory with “The Lost Child”, but for me it is when the band utilise the most Neanderthal sounds that they are most effective.  The verdict? A lot better than their first two albums and an interesting, engaging listen.


“Rough Times“CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Rough Times (3:38)
 2. Into The Wormehole (4:17)
3. Skeleton Blues (4:24)
4. Die Baby Die (4:18)
5. Vampires (4:48)
6. Tribulation Nation (5:04)
7. Words Of Evil (3:37)
8. The Lost Child (5:52)
9. You Found The Best in Me (4:58)
10. A L'Ombre Du Temps (3:57)

The Review:

Kadavar are Berlin's premier 70's retro rock revivalists and I have followed their career somewhat loosely since their 2013 “Abra Kadavar” album which featured a very seventies production in terms of instrument placement and a small dose of Sabbath to go with their Deep Purple, Budgie, Coven, Blue Cheer, Zeppelin et. al. references. Not doom, for sure, but not only classic rock... Since then, of course, a myriad of bands have come to the fore who deal in similar retro-nostalgia (Gentleman's Pistols are still the best outfit with a retro leaning).

With “Rough Times”, I have missed out on one of the band's albums so I don't know quite how this fits into their continuum but I do know that this is much rougher than the first two records- as the title may obliquely suggest. This is closer to the MC5 and The Stooges in terms of sound and aggression than it is to Budgie. The sounds is positively low-fi, the title track a noisy and lurching beast. “Into The Wormhole” sounds like a slowed down record being played through a torn speaker.

The rest of the record is just as gnarly- “Skeleton Blues” is a primal groove of distorted bass and guitar with reverb drenched vocals. The lyrics capture the Zeitgeist of fake news and confusion in prescient terms. As such, then, for a retro band Kadavar are remarkably up to date in themes and concerns- of the ten tracks, all sound like they could have been recorded between 1968 and 1975, but most of the lyrics could only come from the here and now- an odd combination, but one that makes their sound more alluring, at least for me.

Whether it be the lost innocence and cynicism of “Vampires”, the political sounding “Tribulation Nation” or even the straight rocker “Words of Evil” with its metaphors, all the songs are bang up to date: or could apply to any era of trouble and strife you could name. There are sojourns into more proggy territory with “The Lost Child”, but for me it is when the band utilise the most Neanderthal  sounds that they are most effective. There is melody aplenty in “You Found The Best In Me” and it features as the middle track in the closing triumvirate where the band spread their wings beyond the Berlin/Detroit axis and venture into more unusual sounds and styles. The final statement of “A L'Ombre Du Temps” is again current, retro and a departure for the band.

The verdict? A lot better than their first two albums and an interesting, engaging listen.



“Rough Times” is available here


Band info: official || facebook

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Blut Aus Nord - "Deus Salutis Meae"

By: Ernesto Aguilar

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 27/10/ 2017
Label: Debemur Morti Productions



what is truly most evident is an extreme music group that will not be bound to definitions, or at least is willing to experiment to ascend beyond what we think we know of a genre.

"Deus Salutis Meae" CD//DD//LP track listing

1. δημιουργός
2. Chorea Macchabeorum
3. Impius
4. γνσις
5. Apostasis
6. Abisme
7. Revelatio
8. συχασμός
9. Ex tenebrae lucis
10. Métanoïa

The Review:

Black metal features a handful of longtime performers in its midst. Among them is France's Blut Aus Nord. Since 1995's "Ultima Thulee," the now-quartet have grown from a vehicle for vocalist Vindsval, who began the project as Vlad in 1993, into a fully realized band crafting some of the already adventurous black metal scene's more daring music.

Most notably, Blut Aus Nord's777” trilogy of records, comprised primarily of works led solely by Vindsval, and its “Memoria Vetusta” trio of recordings wedged in between them, put forward the pensive detail for which the act is best known. Though its discography is a thread that carries on the tradition of first-wave black metal buried within its performances, the band is almost as a rule devoted to obliterating what you think of the subgenre. Its music is hard to categorize and virtually changes with every release. Sometimes loud and caustic, songs are equally at turns sweeping and cinematic. Consider its interlocking tracks from the 2016 split "Codex Obscura Nomina," where classical influences, which have frequently appeared in Blut Aus Nord's music, led the way through its four selections. If you are new to the group, this is music you are undoubtedly going to be pushed by, because this is a band that refuses to let you get comfortable, and instead keeps you focused on how songs, and in fact the arc of its performance progress.

As with anything Blut Aus Nord, you can't talk about "Deus Salutis Meae" on a track-by-track basis. Instead, you have to approach it as a complete work. As such, the French group's upcoming album is both a departure from its split with Ævangelist and "Memoria Vetusta III - Saturnian Poetry," its 2014 recording. That last full length saw Blut Aus Nord return to its roots – terse guitars, rangy bass and one of the best vocal efforts by Vindsval to date. Heavy in delivery while nimble in how it was performed, this particular effort was certainly hard, yet stayed beguiling in its tonality. Like previous albums, the listener was treated to a fresh experience that made it altogether creative. "Codex Obscura Nomina" was a complicated affair that divorced the old sound in favor of multi-layered effects, synthesizer and a moody, swirling mash. Brilliant on its own, this release's outcome took some by surprise. However, with "Deus Salutis Meae," you hear Blut Aus Nord constructing onto the foundations it made on the split the echoes of the classic black metal of "Memoria Vetusta III," into something that sounds futuristic and forward.

Take a song like "Impius" or even "Chorea Macchabeorum" where both, at first listen, sound like particularly good black metal, as can be said for "Apostasis," which was released as a preview track. On a second, third and fourth listen, it is apparent how breathtaking Blut Aus Nord's musicianship truly is. Its masterful percussion, pulsing bass, keys that add texture and vocals that set a mood, but never dominate the arrangement, are among the most stunning for black metal this year. Blut Aus Nord have always been masters of ambience, and the new album is no exception. The group creates a despairing atmosphere, divergent from the black metal methods of its past endeavors yet somehow not far out of that territory. It's already been said by critics that Blut Aus Nord may be veering more into a death metal or funeral doom direction here. You can hear that at turns, but what is truly most evident is an extreme music group that will not be bound to definitions, or at least is willing to experiment to ascend beyond what we think we know of a genre.

The existential joy for listeners, though, will be exploring the songs and concepts. For all its volume and flame, Blut Aus Nord has always been at its very heart an intellectual band. Its songs have always explored faith, humanity and the many shades of darkness therein. "Deus Salutis Meae," the album's title, roughly translates to "the god of my salvation." Let that sit with you as you take what is an accomplished recording, if ever there was one.


"Deus Salutis Meae" is available here



Band info: bandcamp || facebook