October Tide re-shuffle lineup, maintain sense of anguish on ‘Tunnel of No Light’

october tide
I almost never read bio information about a band before listening to their new record, unless it’s a new group I’m encountering because, in that case, it helps to be armed with a lot of info. But if it’s a band I’ve experience with, I just want to hear their new creations first, and I’ll fumble over the details later.

Part of not heavily immersing myself in a band’s current history, lineup, etc., is because I want to experience the music and not be influenced by things like band member changes or philosophical alterations or planned musical diversions. It can cramp your listening style. I mean, there are obvious things, like Joey Belladonna returning to Anthrax, that can’t be avoided, but those are exceptions to my personal rule. There are so many bands now and so many things going on with them that it’s impossible to keep track of all of it, so going to the music first solves all.

October tide coverIt also can provide surprise, like when I got a first listen to October Tide’s new record “Tunnel of No Light,” their first for Pulverised after putting out their tremendous 2010 effort “A Thin Shell” on Candlelight and getting a stronger push into the world. It was pretty clear something was different about the Swedish band, most notably the vocals and who was delivering them. Yes, Tobias Netzell (also of In Mourning), who sang for the band since 2009, is out, and in his place is Alexander Högbom (who also plays with Spasmodic and Volturyon). He probably won’t go down as doom and death metal’s most dynamic singer of all time, but he acquits himself nicely on this record and gets across the band’s brand of pain and anguish as well as his predecessor. Lineup changes are nothing new to this band anyway, as the door has revolved quite a bit since their formation in 1994 (they once boasted Jonas Renske of Katatonia in their lineup, as he was one of the people who started the band), but their music isn’t suffering for it, so who are we to question?

The rest of the lineup keeps the bulk of the “A Thin Shell” lineup in tract, with guitarists Fredrik “North” Norrman and Emil Alstermark and drummer Robin Berg, with bassist Mattias “Kryptan” Norrman the other newcomer to the group. Despite the personnel switches, the music still is in the vein of grisly, stormy doom metal, with a touch of death, and folks into bands such as Opeth, Amorphis, and aforementioned Katatonia should find plenty to like about this album. The songs are moody and memorable, and Högbom’s vocals are scratchier and more abrasive than Netzell’s, though no less expressive.

Opener “Of Wounds to Come” is spacious and cloudy, with strong melodies and fearsome vocals, where Högbom howls, “Same faces, new pain.” Yeah, things are still pretty daunting and depressing in these corners, and I doubt their listeners would have it any other way. “Our Constellation” is the longest track on the record at nearly nine minutes, and it stretches its black wings across you and sweeps you into its sadness. “Emptiness Fulfilled” is a little punchier and pushes the tempo more than the songs that precede it, with Högbom spreading foul messages of curses and dread. “Caught in Silence” has a buzz-filled open, like a swarm of insects coming to envelop you, and while it chugs and punishes in its mid-tempo ditch, there is plenty of atmosphere as well, like you’re caught in a light storm cloud.

“Watching the Drowners” probably doesn’t need explained much based on its title, because you can’t get much more upsetting than that scene. The song is smoggy and dreary, with muddy growls and warnings of “no resistance left” from Högbom. “The Day I Dissolved” is enough to make you want to cover yourself in a blanket and hide in darkness over the overwhelming despair, though the screamy vocals cut a path through that feeling and remind you to lash out at what ails you now and again. “In Hopeless Pursuit” is rough and awash in psychological torment, with Högbom lamenting, “I have failed you,” and the closing minutes of the song help the band transcend into outer space as they explore that vast eternity of darkness. Closer “Adoring Ashes” drops the lid on this record, with a renewed sense of doom and murk, solemn passages that aim to empathize with your most upsetting experiences, and it grinds to an anguish-filled conclusion.

October Tide remain as strong a melodic doom unit as there is these days, and even tons of personnel changes haven’t stopped that. “Tunnel of No Light” isn’t quite the record that “A Thin Shell” is, though that one’s going to be tough to top anyhow, but it’s pretty damn good in its own right. I feel like October Tide are perfect for gray, rain-filled days where all you can do is mope, and this record has that same personality. Maybe if this lineup can stay together for a while, they can pull out another gem.

For more on the band, go here: http://octobertide.net/

To buy the album, go here: http://pulverised.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.pulverised.net/

VHÖL bring together notable players but an unexpected sound on awesome debut

VHOL
The idea of a supergroup is one that got pretty big in the 80s when members of corporate rock outfits would get together and make some blowout record that was supposed to get their collective fans all bothered for the genius that would result from all of these forces combining. Sometimes they sucked, sometimes they were OK.

Metal has had its share of supergroups (which is a stupid term, by the way), bands made up of members of other notable bands combining forces to see what would come of their collected creative energies. Bands like Shrinebuilder, Bloodbath, Fantomas, and recently discussed Ensemble Pearl all did it right, making music that didn’t ape their own projects and did have lives of their own. Then there have been some pretty awful ones that we might as well forget ever existed. Ov Hell, anyone? Have we stopped laughing at Adrenaline Mob yet? Because I haven’t. OK, they’re not really metal, but Chickenfoot? That shit is proof Satan is real and he hates you.

VHOL coverNow comes a new project mysteriously titled VHÖL that combines members of some of the finest, most revered independent metal bands of the last decade whose union could only mean glorious things, right? I mean, you have guitarist John Cobbett of the mighty Hammers of Misfortune and who also played with the Lord Weird Slough Feg and Ludicra. There’s Mike Scheidt of doom crushers YOB, whose constantly evolving and shape-shifting voice is out in front of this band. You have Sigrid Sheie on bass, who also plays with Hammer of Misfortune and Amber Asylum, as well as Aesop Decker on drums, also of Ludicra, trancey Worm Ouroboros, and world-beating Agalloch. How could those forces possibly lead you astray? Or is that too much good for one project that everyone cancels each other out and it ends in a mess? That wasn’t out of the realm of possibility when this project was announced.

Yet, the band’s debut album finally is in our hands, and the results were not quite what was expected. By that I mean I naturally expected parts of all these members’ bands to be represented in some way, but that doesn’t really happen. This sounds like a brand new band, with fresh ideas, newfound directions, and a sound that isn’t the sum of all parts. If any band’s sound is most dominant in the music, it’s Ludicra’s, which is understandable, but that’s only very mildly here and there. Otherwise, this collection of savage, inspired, fucking brilliant songs sound like the band’s members pulled together all of their diverse influences, plugged in, and fucking went for it. It’s a devastating record that gets better with every listen. There are nods to classic metal, some furious D-beat punishment, some doom, some blackness, some everything.

The record rips open with menacing “The Wall,” which totally isn’t a Pink Floyd cover. I am certain some of you wondered. The track begins with a long instrumental section that gets about as Ludicra as things do on this record, but eventually Scheidt rips in with vicious screams doubled over by his clean, reach-for-the-stratosphere wailing, proving two Scheidt voice tracks are better than one. By the way, it sounds superior on headphones where you can get full appreciation for the composition. “Insane With Faith” gives us some nasty D-beat carnage that eventually meets headlong with classic metal guitar work, and Cobbett is in total fucking command of this song. “Plastic Shaman” again has Scheidt seeing just how far he can push his voice, and the choruses damn near have a hook to them. It’s a sticky little section that’ll stay in your head, and it’s the band’s most show-offy song on here. It’s a lot of fun. “Grace” is a full serving of metallic carnage, with the growls delivered in a deeper tone, the music melting into a thrash/death metal meltdown, and lightning sharp soloing.

“Illuminate” has a cool start-stop introduction that eventually takes off with more D-beat goodness, some adventurous sounds all around, including some mud-caked bass work, and a direct path into vicious “Arising,” that is speedy as hell, trippy as shit at times, and sounds like Judas Priest reborn, having trudged a path through hell. Scheidt’s vocals are unreal, and the guitar work lets loose all over again. Great song. “Set to Wait Forever” is a perfect closer, with black guitar chugging, some cleaner guitar work trickling through the mix, furious drumming that could set brush fires, and some deeper singing from Scheidt, traits of which we’ve heard on YOB’s albums. It mystically fades away into the darkness, and it’s a great capper on an incredible record.

Turns out with VHÖL that the sum is greater than its parts, because they didn’t just show up and do what they’re used to doing with their other bands. Everyone brought something new and fresh to the table and took an exciting, unexpected path, and wouldn’t you know it, they came up with something as unique and untouchable as their other bands. Hopefully this band has more fodder in their canon, because I’d love to hear what they come up with after a few more years, and shows, together. There’s a good chance that record might kick this debut’s ass. We can only hope.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/vholatile?ref=ts&fref=ts

To buy the album, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

Germany’s Amber combine great chops with cascading emotion on ‘Lovesaken’

amber
It would seem playing heavy metal and hardcore music without a ton of passion and energy would be impossible to do, yet bands seem to pull that feat off more and more every year, which is another reason it’s tougher to snag gems out of a pile of shit.

Yet, when a band hits on a moment, when they truly channel their energy and translate that to their art, something special can happen and can help that band transcend. Actually, showing genuine passion for one’s work can make rudimentary, rote songwriting seem not as glaring. See: As I Lay Dying. Yet when a band combines really strong songwriting along with leaving their heaving bleeding hearts on the stage or studio floor, you know you have something that’s bound to be around for a while and make special art well into the future.

amber coverIt’s clear even from a cursory listen to Amber’s new full-length “Lovesaken” that something is different about them compared to the tons of other young bands dotting the worldwide metal scene who are hoping to make connections with their listeners. The German band has been so well regarded since their initial release that three labels have a hand in putting out the band’s latest platter (Halo of Flies, Protagonist, and Narshadaa), so clearly a lot of people believe in them. If you sit down with this five-track, 35-minute album, chances are you’re going to be convinced to climb mountaintops for them as well. They just feel genuine and alive, and combined with songs that have oceans full of substance, you’re taking on a band that sounds like it is onto something special.

Simply calling Amber metal is lazy, but I’m using it as a generic term. Obviously the genre is made up of so many different sounds that using the term is more a touch point to bring all lines of thinking together, and describing this band takes more than one word to get it right. The five-headed band comprised of guitarists Christian and Dennis, bassist Tobias, drummer Jakob, and powerhouse vocalist Anna could probably be most accurately described as post-hardcore, but there is some shoegaze, some power, some doom, some blackness mixed in as well. All of the elements mix quite effectively, and Amber get in and get out, make their point, and leave you wanting more. Really, what more can you ask from a band?

Most of the tracks are about six minutes long, not including the finale, and things get started with “Kings Like Us,” a song that opens with feedback squall, pulverizing melodies, and Anna’s awesome, powerful vocals that can rip a hole right in your chest and go for your heart. And not in the loving, caring way. The music is fluid and exciting, and the song has a volcanic finish that feels satisfying and cathartic. “Lost” has a slow, eerie beginning before it emotionally caterwauls and overwhelms you with volume and panic. Anna pushes her throat and vocal cords to their limits, really going for it, and it also finds ways to hit a fevered pitch before finally subsiding. “Silent Lies” can be drubbing and ugly at times, but it also soars at others, finding a strange common ground between uplifting and punishing.

“Fading Away” pulls back the reins a bit, staying at a middle tempo for the bulk of the song musically and incorporating some cleaner, gentler tones. That doesn’t go for Anna, who once again topples planet earth with her devastating, anguishes vocals that sound like she’s at the tip of some sort of psychological bloodletting. She sells this song so well, you cannot but help but live vicariously through her pain. The closing title track runs 10:25, and it continues some of the musical themes of “Fading Away,” staying softer and more reflective at times, but also lets lava flow as well. Anna’s expression should get to you emotionally, unless you’re dead at heart, and the band lets the song boil over before finally letting go and slipping off into space. It’s a fantastic final epic that’s a summary of what the band does well now and shows promise for even bigger things in the future.

Amber is a great young band that is yet another fantastic find for Halo if Flies, who we’re getting damn near ready to blindly follow anywhere. Their gift for expression and genuine humanity is something not all bands are able to do, and the fact that they put great songwriting behind their emotion is icing on the cake. “Lovesaken” is a strong statement from a band who very well could dominate in the future.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/hereisamber

To buy the album, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/releases/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/

Light Bearer’s storyteller ‘Silver Tongue’ is an early candidate for album of the year

light bearer band
OK, it’s only the beginning of April, but I don’t think it’s too early to start thinking about album-of-the-year candidates. After all, I have heard a good deal of the releases scheduled through May (with one notable exception that I hope to hear damn soon), so I think it’s OK to start putting stuff in preliminary position.

With that in mind, one of the first records so far this year that knocked me for a loop and made me excited about music in general is the new release from London’s Light Bearer, a four-song, nearly 80-minute adventure that demands your full attention and your patience but certainly will reward you outright if you give into their music. Most of the six songs push the 10-15-minute mark and are packed with ideas upon ideas. Yet while that might seem like a little too much to endure and something ambitious beyond fault, it all works magically and takes your breath away. At least it did mine.

light bearerThere’s a good reason the band’s second full-length “Silver Tongue” is as epic as it is. It is the second chapter of a very long and imaginative story (that started on debut “Lapsus”) dreamt up by vocalist/lyricist/conceptualist Alex CF (also of Momentum), who put together a story that centers on the fall of Lucifer from heaven, his disenchantment with a God he loved, and his journey to become the dark leader who provides freedom of will and thought for all those who follow him. The story, which will continue over two more full-lengths and EPs also will move toward Eve, her decision to reject God’s directive in Eden, and her role in the formation of humanity. Hell, it sounds like records wouldn’t be enough to tell this whole tale. Where’s Peter Jackson when you need him?

The rest of Light Bearer is rounded out by guitarists Jamie Starke and Matthew Bunkell, bassist Gerfriend, drummer Joseph, and sample specialist Lee Husher. Sorry. I had some full names, and some I only have first names. I’m sure everyone will live. The band’s music moves from post-metal to post-hardcore, into classic, late 90s/early 00s screamo, and even some black metal and sludge, and they need all of those parts to tell each section of the story properly and with the right amount of emotion. It’s a killer, cascading effort that’s akin to that giant book you never think you’ll conquer, but once you get into the meat of the story, you find it impossible to put it down. Same goes for “Silver Tongue.”

“Beautiful Is This Burden” begins this chapter with ambiance, gorgeous strings, and horns that seem to indicate the end of all creation is near. It takes five minutes of build for the song to open up and swallow you, with harsh screams, post-metal-style drama, and incredible shoegaze-like stretching. The song goes back and forth, also coming upon peaks of vicious thrashing, and once it subsides more than 18 minutes later, you’re likely to be out of breath. “Amalgam” and “Matriarch” feel like parts 1 and 2 of the same track but are indeed separate. “Amalgam” is dusty and mucky, with a chugging pace, gruff vocals, and a total assault on your imagination, while “Matriarch” starts to feel aquatic and somewhat prog-fueled, but it also has some devastating, earth quaking moments that feel like the very ground beneath you swallowing you whole and pulling you to the core of the planet.

After the brief “Clarus,” that is creaky, ambient, and death-filled, it’s into “Aggressor and Usurper,” a 17-miniute piece that also is sludgy and heavy like so much of the record, but suddenly the song heaves itself into a faster tempo not heard before on the album, and it grows into a crushing, fevered pitch that should make your insides melt away. The end of the song gets grisly and ugly, but also beautifully emotional, as the promise of, “I will not yield!” is howled and the song fades away. The titanic title track closer is the perfect final scene, the ideal climax to this amazing record. The song opens gently and, dare I say, on a note that reminds me of pop. It’s melodic and gushing, and it’s a great red herring that shields you from the explosion ahead, when the track rips itself open.  The vocal expression borderlines on heart-wrenching, reminding me of envy, and before the apocalyptic, decimating finish, there’s a sequence where the pace halts, the sounds die down, and a folk-like section rises up. It’s lovely and cathartic, yet you then realize we’re only halfway through the overall story, so any emotional shine is temporary.

Lightbearer have come up with a musical and philosophical masterpiece, something you could recommend to fans of Neurosis, ISIS, and Thrice as well as those who love Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” It’s a dark, yet hopeful journey, and it’s some of the most imaginative metallic compositions of the year so far. Go out of your way to hear this thing. You, too, might add it to your short list of album of the year contenders. Yes, already.

For more on the band, go here: http://lightbearerband.wordpress.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/releases/

Or here: http://www.protagorascollective.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/

Moss’ third doom platter ‘Horrible Night’ unfortunately derailed by flat vocal work

Ester Segarra
We talk so much about bands trying new things that I feel like I can write a standing template intro about it and just insert it every time that’s a major topic of an album we’re discussing. Change is good, as is expanding your thinking and actively trying to push yourself to get better.

As much as we’d like our favorite bands to keep putting out the same record over and over again forever, that would get really boring really quickly. There are bands that basically do that, a ton of them, and it amazes me sometimes how their audience just keeps coming back for the same old stuff. Doesn’t the taste get bland at some point? Don’t you want some adventure? I guess considering the stale, dead state of mainstream art, perhaps people are fine treading water.

But UK doom merchants Moss are not content to sit around and keep trying to same tricks. With three full-lengths under their belts, no one can lump their records together and say that they’re aping each other. Each effort has tried to be something different, and while their retching, droning, hulking doom style remains intact, they have tried to add different spices and new twists to their work over the years in order to keep their art interesting. I’m sure that helps both their listeners who buy the records and the band that plays these songs. It’s nice to know they’re not complacent and will keep you guessing from release to release.

moss coverThat said, not all change ends up being for good. As much as I admire what Moss tried to accomplish with “Horrible Night,” their third long player, it feels flat to me. Well, not the entire package, to be honest, but the vocals from Olly Pearson, who just about entirely ditches his screams and shrieks of old for clean vocals in the vein of Ozzy Osbourne. In fact, he downright seems to be imitating him at times, right down to his cries of, “Oh NO!” and “Oh YEAH” that sound pulled from the Black Sabbath archives. The problem is Pearson’s delivery often sounds painfully flat and uncomfortably off key. I find myself cringing way too often listening to his vocals, and they sound unnaturally stretched. I can’t imagine him pulling off these songs live, because it sounds like he’s struggling with his pitch. But hey, every other review I have read after multiple listens to “Horrible Night” seem to be cool with the vocals, so maybe it’s me. But I’ve tried multiple times to get with Pearson’s work, and I just can’t. It hurts to hear.

Rounding out Moss’ lineup are guitarist Dominic Finbow and drummer Chris Chantler, and they hold up their end of the bargain quite nicely, rolling out massive, slithering, punishing doom that isn’t nearly as epic in length as what we met on the awesome 2008 album “Sub Templum” but are a little more in line with what we heard on 2009 EP “Tombs of the Blind Drugged.” Pearson certainly has his heart in the game, and he has charisma, but his performance really takes away from these songs for me. Too bad, because otherwise this would have come highly recommended.

“Horrible Nights” opens the album with slow, murky tones, hammering terror, and the first clean strains from Pearson as he observes, “These nights seem darker than I’ve ever seen before,” but he eventually lets out some shrieks to let you know that part of the vocal range is still as strong as ever. Too bad that’s about the last we hear of it. “Bleeding Years” trudges and brutalizes musically, with melodies that seem to be conjuring dead spirits and suffocating smoke. In fact, some of that smoke seems to catch up with Pearson as the song winds down, as he stretches for higher notes and ends the piece hacking and choking. It’s a strange thing they left in the song, and it sounds like his voice cracked and left him heaving. “Dark Lady” runs 11:03 and opens with a sheet of noise, bells, and lurching bashing from the band. Pearson temporarily delivers his words in a deeper tone, sounding a little but like Tom G. Warrior, and that approach seems to fit him better. When he strives for more, his voice sounds too tired to keep pace.

“Dreams From the Depths” is an interlude piece that gives you a breath of fresh air, with its eerie noises and acoustic flourishes, and that leads to “The Coral of Chaos,” the most Sabbath-inspired cut on the entire record, and one where Pearson really works on the nerves. I think he might just need singing lessons to strengthen his voice. This is hard to listen to, which is unfortunate because musically it’s pretty awesome. Closer “I Saw Them That Night” finds Pearson improving a little bit, though it may just be because the song suits him better, but he’s convincing when he bellows, “Welcome to the ritual.” There is feedback wail, thick noise, and doom blazing that ends the album on the right note.

Really, this all comes down to one element trumping all, that being the vocal work. As noted, there are plenty of reviews out there that take the opposite stance on this matter, but for me, I have a hard time finishing the album on a single listen because I can’t handle Pearson’s voice and how he uses it. Maybe he’ll get better after more live shows, maybe he’ll work to strengthen his voice, but I hope he does something otherwise this band will be ruined in the future for me. And that saddens me greatly.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/mossdoomcult

To buy the album, go here: http://www.metalblade.com/us/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/item/18127/

Cough, Windhand join forces to create smoke-filled doom on split ‘Reflection’

cough cover
I’m not exactly revealing a big secret here, but if you’re into underground metal, moving to Richmond, Va., probably isn’t the worst idea in the world. How many more killer bands can that area possibly cultivate? Just last week we brought you the latest from Inter Arma, a band from that region that boasts members of equally devastating Bastard Sapling, and that’s only scratching the surface.

Also from that city is Municipal Waste, the hard-partying, beer-soaked thrashers who are making music for Nuclear Blast, not to mention higher-profile bands such as Lamb of God and Gwar who are pretty much household names. How much quality metal can one area possibly contain? Everyone seemed content to throw tons of accolades Atlanta’s way a few years ago when that area was a hotbed, but how about some adulation for Richmond?

Also from that town are two other bands who both call Relapse home, druggy sludge doom unit Cough and smoky, psyche doomers Windhand, a very recent signing for the label. Both have been making boiling cauldrons of goodness for some time now, with Cough’s last full-length “Ritual Abuse” coming in 2010, and Windhand’s powerful, self-titled debut dropping last year on Forcefield. Both appear to have very promising futures ahead of them, and each are interesting additions to Relapse’s suddenly expanding lineup that has gone way past the death metal and grind era of years past. Good for them.

Both bands are represented on a new split effort “Reflection of the Negative,” a 37-minute collection of three tracks that Relapse is releasing to the masses. It serves as an excellent reminder of what made Cough so damn intriguing and deadly in the first place, while it also gives people new to Windhand a taste of what they do so well. It’s a really good collection, and fans of the bands and newcomers to each who just love doom would do well to invest in this release, which is the best split effort we’ve heard so far in 2013.

Cough

Cough

Cough are comprised of four dudes–bassist/vocalist Parker Chandler (also of Windhand), guitarists David Cisco and Brandon Marcey, and drummer Joseph Arcaro–and they sound as evil, fucked up, and droning mad as ever before. They contribute one song, but that cut is an epic designed to boil your senses and leave you with no clue where you traveled during their ritual.

“Athame” is a slim, trim 18:31 long, so yeah, you’re going to be there a while. But that’s totally fine because it’s a scorching song that trudges in mud and psychological torture, and every step of the filthy journey is awash in chaos. The tempo is slow-driving and at times coldly mechanical, and there are thick sections of drone that keep the song unapologetically heavy. The vocals are screamy and grimy, but now and then when they reach for higher, they remind of Mike Scheidt’s from YOB. “The time has come for sacrifice!” Chandler howls, and eventually the song slips into trippy, psychological terrain, heavy noise, and a drug-addled haze. It’ll mess you up good, and it’s a track so good that it makes me salivate for a new full-length from the band. Not to be greedy.

Windhand

Windhand

Windhand is comprised of five members including the aforementioned Chandler, guitarists Asechiah Bogdan and Garrett Morris, drummer Ryan Wolfe, and vocalist Dorthia Cottrell, who is in total command on the band’s two songs. In fact, Cottrell bursts with life and power, and she has improved as much as any vocalist I can think of in the past few years. And she already was really damn good to begin with, but she’s ascended into the stratosphere with her work on this split effort.

“Amaranth” is witchy and smoky, and it’s the perfect introduction for new listeners who need a quick taste of what this band does well. Right away it is noticeable just how powerful and commanding Cottrell is on this record, as she just soars like a dark spirit in the night. The band’s brand of doom is buzzing and numbing, and the melodies on this song are catchy and sticky, leaving them in your head for long past the cut’s expiration. “Shepherd’s Crook” is unreal, the best song the band’s even created, as organs spill out and fill the room with fog, the music enraptures you and leaves you in a trance, and Cottrell’s expressive singing carries the band’s agenda wherever it needs to go. She’s so good on this song and has such a presence, it might not be long before she is acknowledged as one of the best new voices in doom metal if she can continue turning in performances this good. The rest of the band? Yeah, they’re pretty damn good too.

This is a must-have collection for anyone huffing the fumes of underground doom who want to be up to speed on the sub-genre’s best up-and-coming acts. The fact Relapse claims both on their roster is a giant coup for them and shows their ears are near the ground, and both of these bands have what it takes to be doom heavyweights for years to come.

For more on Cough, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Cough666

For more on Windhand, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Windhand/115952841804204?ref=ts&fref=ts

To buy the album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/store.html

For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/

Norse warriors Kvelertak rage back with glorious, unstoppable new record ‘Meir’

Kvelertak
Having gigantic expectations to live up to is both a blessing and a curse. First, it means you’ve had a modicum of success and that the next thing you do will be under heavier scrutiny and will be met with a mountain of anticipation. Second, it means the next thing you do better be good, or your stock will drop like a rock.

Such is the situation that greets Nordic band Kvelertak on their second record and follow-up to their mammoth self-titled debut from 2010. That thing lit the world on fire with its mix of black metal, hardcore, and rock and roll, and it seemed after a while, everyone was on board with this raucous crew and owned at least some piece of their merchandise. I think Kvelertak is the band that I see represented most when I peruse local metal shops, and why not? The artwork is colorful, the band is killer, and everyone just seems on their way riding the tidal wave of their good fortune. It’s the feel-good metal story of the 2010s.

meirNow comes their follow-up effort “Meir,” released by powerhouse label Roadrunner (it’s nice to know they have at least one other good band besides Opeth) that has been met with the fervor I expected. From the John Dyer Baizley album art (you can tell his work from across a stadium blindfolded) to the songs and lyrics written and sung in their native tongue, to the Kurt Ballou produced-sound, everything is in place for Kvelertak to not only make good on coming up with a proper sophomore album but to take this rowdy machine to the next level and capture even more souls. But would the music on “Meir” measure up and be what it needs to be for these guys to continue slaying the masses? You bet your ass it is. Imagine throwing Immortal, Guns n Roses, Turbonegro, Judas Priest, and Converge into a pot, and you’ll have a good starting point for how this record sounds.

While there are some stylistic and textural changes on “Meir,” fans of the band from their debut will feel right at home otherwise. The band still plays big, loud, and spirited, the vocals remain delivered in a sharp, harsh bark, and the hooks and melodies are enough to bury you alive, but leave you feeling pretty damn good about it. This is a great rock record with cutting metallic edge to boot, and if rock radio wasn’t a corporate block structure, these guys have what it takes to be a real phenomenon. Yeah, so they don’t sing in English. Big deal. I’m glad they didn’t bend to American needs and kept their own ways about creating their art, because it would have been the only genuine way to go about it. Plus, once you hear these crushing songs, you won’t give a shit if the band is cursing out your own family in alien tongue. You’ll be too caught up in the music to care.

The album takes a few minutes to get moving into high gear, but that’s only because the opening of “Åpenbaring” lets the noise sizzle at the start before it launches into a Torche-like melody and Erlend Hjelvik’s trademark shrieks come barreling in and douses you with craziness. “Spring Fra Livet” is built on glorious classic guitar riffs, more screamy vocals, and a blast of adrenaline that is impossible to ignore. “Trepan” starts more black metal-based with fast guitars and crushing vocals, and eventually exuberant gang shouts and sugary rock goodness take control. “Bruane Brenn” is one of my favorite cuts on the record, with punk meeting Southern rock fire, a garage rock style of play, and a fun chorus that I can’t decipher for the life of me but always captures me nonetheless. Seriously, it’s such a good time. “Evig Vandrar” has an acoustic opening that explodes all of a sudden with menacing screams, though the tempo of the track stays toward the middle. It’s a cool changeup.

“Snilepisk” seems a little Wild West at first, but more black metal thunder spills in and the pieces go flying all over. “Månelyst” is punchy and, like every other song on the record, impossibly catchy, and  that sets the stage for an interesting three-song pack that extends the time limits, lets the boys jam out a bit more, and shows what they can do. “Nekrokosmos” is the nastiest of the bunch, feeling like an evil spirit that crept out of a Nordic forest looking for blood. There is plenty of black metal fury within its confines, but also adventurous guitar work and, after you think the song has ended, a wacky little instrumental section that’s designed to flick you in the nose. “Undertro” has some sleazy glam metal riffs within it, spirited shouts, and even some passages that sound like AC/DC’s longer, more ambitious guitar lines. “Tordenbrak” is the longest cut at 8:53, and it has some slick bluesy guitar licks, ultra-catchy melodies, and a section toward the end that sounds like them trying to stretch out a Southern rock noodling session all the way to Norway. Then their namesake song ends it on a blast of a note, a song perfect for firing back quality beers and singing along at the top of your lungs, even if you don’t know the words. That’s the power of this album.

Kvelertak are one of metal’s great success stories, and with two unstoppable, classic albums already on their resume, they seem primed for total domination. “Meir” had gigantic shoes to fill and enormous expectations to meet, and they blew it all away. What’s scary is this band is only at its start, and they’re already a terrifyingly well-oiled machine.

For more on the band, go here: http://kvelertak.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://store.roadrunnerrecords.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/