Doom newcomers Demon Lung unfurl hellacious tale on ‘The Hundredth Name’

demon lung
There is no knowing the depth of doom metal and all of the evil and strangeness it is able to hold, but as long as bands are willing to keep stretching its boundaries and parameters, chances are we’re going to get some artists now and again that will come out of nowhere and surprise the unholy shit out of us all.

Take, for instance, Las Vegas quartet Demon Lung, whose debut record “The Hundredth Name” doesn’t stamp out a ton of new ground in the doom genre, per se, but does establish a fiery new presence and a band willing to examine the depths of the sub-genre’s past in order to take it into the future. And wow, is this stuff every psychedelic and witchy, balancing their Black Sabbath, Candlemass, Jex Thoth, and Electric Wizard tendencies with singer Shandra Fredrick’s incredibly strong, emotive vocals that make it sound like she’s in the middle of calling spirits from the past to excise the present. She’s a haunting, unforgettable presence, and the band backs her up with the proper black majesty.

demon lung coverBefore this record, the band had only a 2012 EP “Pareidolia” to their name, and they’ve only been a band since 2011. That’s shocking in and of itself because they sound like they’ve been together for a decade or more. They’re such a strong unit, and this debut should thrill to the core those who love doom and hunger for new acts to keep the banners flying. Demon Lung is more than capable of taking on a leadership position in the field, and this impressive debut record is one you should go out of your way to hear. Do it right now.

Along with Fredrick’s incredible pipes are three other major players who bring the sludge, drone, and filthy riffs in doses that should leave you gorged. Phillip Burns handles the guitar work, Patrick Warren is on bass, and Jeremy Brenton is behind the drum kit, making vicious, dark noises for all to hear. The album is conceptual and as dark as they come, telling the story of Satan’s son coming to earth to assemble the three parts of the devil’s bible so he can say the name of God backward and undo creation. The album was recorded with Adam Myatt and the mighty Billy Anderson, and the result is a hulking, apocalyptic record that does its subject matter justice over and over again.

The tale opens with “Binding of the Witch,” which spills tidal waves of burning doom and drone, letting the noise build into a frenzy before a strong riff erupts, thick, deep singing from Fredrick begins to spin this hellish yarn, with her observing, “Bodies lie in the wake,” and the band eventually hitting a gallop and driving dust into your lungs with the dawning of “Devil’s Wind.” That cut rips open with sludgy bashing, expressive vocals, and a Sabbath-like haze that settles over everything and makes you convinced you’re going to suffocate. “Eyes of Zamiel” is built on slowly delivered chugging melodies and morbidity, with Fredrick delivering the fateful words, “Only through me can you undo creation.” “A Decade Twice Over a Day” is a stunner, quietly witchy in spots, trippy and mind-altering in others, and sometimes brutally savage when the tempo kicks up. Great song that leads us into the second half.

“Heathen Child” is punchy, sweltering, and to the point, with Fredrick’s vocals positively swaggering and the band backing her up with muddy transmissions. “Hex Mark” also has some faster parts, with soulful vocals and atmospheric trudging, and for the most part, the song crushes you under its feet. “Hallowed Ground” slows things down again, with heavy organs, smoky winds, and more emotional singing from Fredrick as she starts to draw the tale to a close and get you ready for the ultimate ending. Closer “Incantation (The Hundredth Name)” begins with eerie acoustic picking that slips into slow-driving heaviness. “I will bring the end of time,” Fredrick sings, while face-melting sludging and apocalyptic spookiness erupt behind her, and as the song bleeds to its conclusion, you get the idea that fade out is akin to the world disappearing into nothingness, like it was never there in the first place.

Horrific stories and end-of-times nightmares are nothing new to the world of metal, but it’s certainly part of its lore. Demon Lung do an excellent job adding to that world and making your skin freeze, but really where they stand out is in their performance. They could be making songs about their personal diaries and their music and Fredrick’s singing would make it sound just as devastating, just a fiery. This is a great new band with a strong label in Candlelight behind them, and there’s nowhere for Demon Lung to go but up. Even if their hearts are down in the dirt, in the cavernous realms of hell.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.manicmusiconline.com/demon-lung-the-hundredth-name.html

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

Bizarre black metal band Mortuary Drape get new life with ‘Tolling 13 Knell’ reissue

mortuary drape
Surely there will be no argument when I suggest that heavy metal can ridiculous. King Diamond wailing about grandma, Bruce Dickinson wearing a bird mask, and bands posing for promo photos in graveyards all count when defending that argument, but it’s also a major reason why I love metal and why so many other people are drawn to it. The music can be dead serious, but in the end, it’s OK if there’s a really good show involved too.

I say this because we’re going to discuss long undervalued Italian black metal band Mortuary Drape and the reissue of their 2000 full-length “Tolling 13 Knell,” the group’s third full-length overall and a collection that really lets you see into the bizarre psyche and black carnival-like showmanship this band possesses. It seems like ever since the band played a primary slot at last year’s Maryland Deathfest that people are finally waking up and paying attention to the Drape, and getting your hands on this record that’s back into wider circulation thanks for Peaceville is a great way to start if you’re one of those who has been lagging behind.

moortuary drape coverMortuary Drape entered the world nearly 30 years ago, having formed in 1986, and they released their “Necromancy” demo a year later. This bizarre, occult-driven band would keep working on their weird magic, releasing more demo recordings before finally serving up their debut EP “Into the Drape” in 1992 and finally getting their first full-length into the world with 1995’s “At the Witches Dance.” Another EP followed in 1996, followed by their second full-length “Secret Sudaria” in 1997, and “Tolling” would come three years later. They’ve only offered up one more full-length since then, 2004’s “Buried in Time,” that will be reissued later this summer, and they’re only now working on a new record to shroud the world in their updated brand of sickness.

Wildness Perversion remains the man in front of the Drape having handled lead vocals through their entire run and drums early on, and alongside him is DC (also known as Left-Handed Preacher), who plays bass and guitar and also has contributed vocals over the years. The rest of the current lineup is new, but rounding out the band on this record were bassist Without Name, guitarists Roaming Soul and Demon Shadow, and drummer I.O.R.R. Will Revealed (who plays with Black Flame, Dead to This World, and Hate Profile).

The 10-track, 56-minute record opens with “Dreadful Discovery,” a bizarre, loopy lurker that sounds like early ’90s death metal and prog smooshed together. “Liar Jubiliem” is the first of a few cuts on here that bear a resemblance to Mercyful Fate’s heyday, as it blows open into off-kilter savagery and crazy bass work that’s a trademark of this record. “Vertical” is theatrical and sits in a mid-tempo groove while the words spew from Wildness Perversion’s mouth like he’s rambling off instructions to make a strange tincture. “Not Still Born (The Unborn Plane)” opens with hummed chants and slips smeary guitars, more over-the top growling and wailing, and rock-solid lead guitar lines. “Laylah” is one of the strangest cuts on the record, which is saying something, and is a horrific storyteller that is psychologically damaging but also eerily calculating.

“Winged Priestess” has a doom feel that’s reminiscent of Pentagram, with bizarre singing and an atmosphere that should make you quiver inside. “The Last Supper” is supremely evil and has a hypnotic presence, and as its creepiness grows, the pulverizing gut punches they eventually throw register as that much more effective. “Birth’s End” is crunchy and warped, and it settles into an Iron Maiden-style gallop, with inventive, monstrous vocals from our host Wildness Perversion. “Defuncts” is proggy and bizarre, with strong lead guitar and waves of thrash and death pulverization. It’s a tricky, horror-filled adventure that’ll make you wonder more than once what the fuck is going on. Closer “Lantern” sounds like it was ripped from King Diamond’s songbook and imagination, with fiery guitar work, more prog bubbling, and an overall torturous story that unfurls, captures you, and doesn’t let go until the funereal bells chime out at the end of the cut.

Attached to the end of the record are five re-recorded tracks from their “Doom Return” demo, reimagined during the “Tolling 13 Knell” sessions. Naturally the songs sound better than they did first time around, and the band doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of the savagery and rawness of the originals.

As the metal world fills up with more and more bands and sub-genres swell at the seams, there seem to be fewer groups that come along like Mortuary Drape, who dress their evil incantations with personality and a dramatic flair. These guys are showmen, as much as they may hate that term, and swell with charisma and weirdness. Of course, the music is what matters, and these guys bring quality in bundles, so if you’re new to Mortuary Drape or you simply want an updated copy of “Tolling Knell 13,” you need to make a point to get this reissue in your collection.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.mortuary13drape.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://burningshed.com/store/peaceville/

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

Liar in Wait’s members move past metal boundaries on shadowy, depressing EP

liar in wait cover
A bunch of us (if three can be considered a bunch) made the pilgrimage to Maryland Deathfest this past weekend which, and as you might imagine, it’s a collection of every type of heavy metal accessory known to humankind, worn by people proud to show off their metallic heritage. A friend of mine, whose metal shirt collection frighteningly dwarfs mine, had different ideas though, as he chose instead to wear Depeche Mode and Portishead shirts to the fest to throw off the scent.

I’m sure he got some weird looks, but his tactic actually made a lot of metal sense to me. Much of the music we listen to is dark, dreary, and depressing. There is more room for brooding and personal anguish than we sometimes care to admit, and that line to bands like Depeche Mode, Sisters of Mercy, and the Cure is there for the grabbing if we care to examine that side of ourselves. Clearly those are the influences important to new dark, gothic rock outfit Liar in Wait, as their debut self-titled EP shows.

Made up of four tracks—three originals, one a stunning Fields of Nephilim cover—this excursion put together by members and ex-members of decidedly metallic groups such as Chrome Waves, Nachtmystium, Mourner, and Iron Thrones is a perfect companion on a drab, rainy night, when all you have to keep you company is a bottle of spirits and your loneliness brought on by your suspect decision making. Nothing here is designed to lift your spirits or help you see the bright side. Instead, you’re more than likely expected to get down in the gutter and wallow with these guys, as they examine and drain every drip of pain and sorrow from their bodies in ways they don’t quite get to do with their other bands. It may take a few listens for this to settle in, but once it does, it’s impossible to shake.

The band is made up of dudes you know if you’re underground extreme metal circles—and you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t—with vocalist Adam Clemans (Wolvhammer), guitarist Jeff Wilson (Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium), bassist/synth player Jim Adolphson (Shaidar Logoth), and drummer/synth player/guitarist Peter Clarke (ex-Iron Thrones) rounding out this dark lineup. They certainly show some interesting, drab corners on this EP, and there’s enough good stuff here that intrigue for a full-length should be forthcoming.

The EP kicks off with “Faithless,” a song driven by a cold bassline, shimmering synth, and Clemans’ trademark deep, droning vocals, as he notes, “I watch the vultures pick my bones.” There’s both a depressive state and emotional disconnect to the song to make you worried about the artist’ well-being. “Conversations in Violet” picks up the tempo a little more, with Adolphson’s bass again a major factor in the composition, and the wrist-slashing sentiment coming home full force with, “We don’t care who we hurt tonight.” This song didn’t really grip me the first few times around, but the more time I spend with it, the more I think it might be my favorite cut here. Eerie “Fall With Me” is awash in damnation and bad intentions, with the watery murk trickling along its path and down the drains beneath the earth. There is even more vocal variety from Clemans, as he imagines being “in a world of eternal flames,” and his voices quivers up and down, reaching tumultuous highs and lows. Capping off the record is the aforementioned cover of “And There Your Heart Will Be Also,” a pretty chilling, yet faithful, reading of the Fields of Nephilim cut that these guys do a nice job with. The thick synth helps the song reach its hopeless climax, and the song drizzles slowly over your own heartache and despair. Great version.

This is a project perhaps most people wouldn’t expect from these guys at least on the surface, but their other bands certainly show enough shades of this style of darkness that this can’t come as a shock. Having Profound Lore behind the album makes total sense, as they’re more than willing to stretch their boundaries beyond metal, and this band hopefully will continue even further into the future to produce a full-length that’ll depress the fuck out of us.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Liar-In-Wait/190183801106266

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

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

Eldkraft’s debut ‘Shaman’ explodes with Pagan melodies, classic metal adventures

eldkraft
Wars, battles, and mythology are important parts of metal’s ever-expansive DNA, and every band that’s able to add capably to that should be welcomed into any fan’s home. Most of us cannot get enough of those topics, and there is no such thing as our hearts being too full new adventures.

With Sweden’s Eldkraft having swung in with their riveting debut record “Shaman,” we have yet another band bringing us Pagan adventures, battle-scarred hymns, and blood-surging anthems that should capture your heathen heart in no time. If you’re into bands like Primordial, Tyr, later-era Bathory, and even Amon Amarth and Bolt Thrower (more for their philosophies than their sounds), you probably will be more than excited to tackle this 10-track, 57-minute album that’s chock full of melodies and glory. It should be noted that those of us who speak English only will be scrambling to understand everything going on, as the lyrics are mainly comprised in their native tongue, but that won’t prevent you from being swept up in the emotion of it all.

eldkraft coverEldkraft’s core is comprised of vocalist/keyboard player J. Sandin and guitarist/bassist H. Karlsson, who play together in other groups such as Horde of Hel and Odhinn, bands with similar ideas and inspiration dug up on “Shaman” but that don’t quite take things to the level the boys do with Eldkraft. N. Fjellstrom also played drums on the record, and combined, these forces sound promising as far as the future is concerned, and they already have a pretty good grasp on how to make a dramatic, swelling record. One slight drawback is the record feels a little too long in places and loses some of its effect as it stretches toward its finish. I think it would have worked better at eight tracks. But that’s just me, and musically, I have no other complaints with this fine new band.

“Gammal Krigare” opens the album with a power metal-style assault, gruff clean vocals from Sandin, some harmonizing over the chorus, and strong Pagan melodies that righteously introduce you to the band and set the stage for what’s to come. “Undrets Tid” rips open with rousing drums and the feeling that troops are amassing for a Dark Ages-era battle. The track has a strong dose of brutality, and the strong leads glisten on top of the chaos, with Sandin’s vocals driving everything home. “Fate’s Door” is sung in English and reminds me of heyday-era Dio, with power-infused guitars and fist-pumping emotions swelling. “Moder Liv Till Grav” is built on folk-friendly guitar work that’s both violent and surging, and the vocals hit a level of passionate bellowing in which you can’t help but get caught up. “Ursprungskallan” runs a little over seven minutes and begins with a deliberate, calculating pace. It gets atmospheric but crunchy, and it spends its time going back and forth from sweltering to punishing.

“Patterns,” another track sung in English, opens with folk-style acoustic strumming, but eventually the storm arrives and spills everywhere. Doomy horns rise up, guitars get chugging, and the drums blister your face. It’s a darker-sounding track, one that’s full of foreboding chaos, and it leads to the front door of “Granslos Grans.” Drums explode from the moment that song lands, and the exploratory guitar work and emotional vocals get the message across no matter what languages you speak. “Grey Man” has a thick bassline that snakes through the center, deeper clean vocals from Sandin, and a landscape that reminds of modern-day Iron Maiden. “I Dodens Famn” has a charged-up open, one that bursts with electricity but that isn’t particularly fast, and the slower pace continues through the song’s lifespan, adding greater senses of drama and doomsday visions. Closer “Rimthurs” is an outro piece with tribal chanting and droning throat rumbling, and it caps off the record nicely as it lets you bask in the glow of war glory.

This is a nice debut from Eldkraft, one that’s sure to find favor amongst the Pagan metal crowds and Wacken enthusiasts. Their emotion cannot be questioned, their approach is pretty spot on, and even if the record is a little long, it’s a minor thing that doesn’t overshadow the good about “Shaman.” There’s a lot to like about Eldkraft, and if they can iron out some of the wrinkles in the future, they could be a glorious band to behold.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords

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

Canadian black metal punishers Gevurah debut ominously with EP ‘Necheshirion’

gevurah
I love a record that, as soon as you play it, you can feel the anger and fury coursing through the band’s veins, into their music, and into your head. You don’t have to listen for words or look up the songs titles or do any other kind of introspection to know you’re in the presence of pure hate.

The debut EP from Canadian black metal force Gevurah is one of those types of efforts, and every time I hear it I practically beg for a violent thunderstorm or some sort of chaos to erupt so there can be a surrounding force just as crushing as the music I hear from these guys. This effort “Necheshirion” is but five songs and lasts a little over 32 minutes, but even in that EP-sized explosion, you get a full dose of maniacal energy and heathen force that I wonder how devastating a full-length effort from this band would be. God forbid we meet the day where we find out, but I do believe that day could be coming.

Gevurah coverIt’s probably not a mistake that it sounds like these guys—drummer/vocalist X.T., and guitarist/bassist A.L.— are dishing out punishment, as they take their name from the Kabbalistic tree of life and the word that represents the wrath God in judgment of those who deserve it. We’ll let you guess which God they refer to in these songs. There is no positivity, no goodness, no happiness, only pain. And you can hear that spewing forth from this band’s  stabbing, violent black metal that serves as a severe, serious reminder than this sub-genre has been flooded by bands that just don’t fucking mean it. This is a lifestyle, not a sound, and Gevurah hammer that point home until your face and ears are swollen and split.

Opener “The Essence Unbound” has a slow-driven start, as the smoke starts to rise, then it explodes in a fury, with guitars raining down like burning nails, churning melodies twisting your guts inside of you, and bleak, infernal vocals that sound like they officially represent the mouth of hell. This song should give you hope immediately that this dark path you’re down is the right one. “Flesh Bounds Desecrated” wastes no time setting fires everywhere, with penetrating mangling designed to separate your head from your body. Some pained wails can be heard at one point, taking on a gothic feel, and this burner ends with weird, horror strings and synth rising up and enveloping you.

“The Throne of Lucifer” is doom-filled and spooky, and it also gives you the answer to which path they travel, and the low-level growls and charnel guitars leave everything bathing in filth. “Diving Ignition,” an eight-minute epic journey filled with complete ugliness, storms and breathes fire, leaving a huge black stain where this explosion originated. Beyond the heaviness and grinding assault, there are hypnotic rhythms and melodies that allow the mind to wander just a bit. “Entering Timeless Halls (Malign)” brings things back around again and ends the EP on a tone that will leave you defaced and bruised. There are thick basslines and an uncontrolled madness to this song, and it’s the perfect way to end a collection that feels like the embodiment of damnation.

Gevurah’s resume may be short, but this band is awfully dangerous already. They play with a hatred and fire so few bands who label themselves black metal these days can claim, and this is only the beginning of their campaign of terror. This is 32 minutes of pure human terror that can only end badly for your psyche but good for metal in general. The world needs more bands like Gevurah, scary as that sounds.

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

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

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

Kylesa’s sixth album ‘Ultraviolet’ shows added musical, psychedelic progression

kylesa
Kylesa’s
journey has been an interesting one. The Savannah, Ga., band started off much heavier and scuzzier, playing crusty, punishing metal that hinted at sludge, and they seemed to be a band that wanted to seize you and beat you into submission with their fury and dual vocal approach that sounded like two very upset people yelling in each of your ears.

But, as bands that accumulate experience are wont to do, they changed their sound slowly and calculatingly. They never left their punk or metal roots behind, but they did add more Southern rock sweat, psychedelic wailing, and melody to their sound, and over the last few albums, they morphed into an entirely new beast. Their teeth are sharper, they know how to swipe at prey even better, and lo and behold, their profile swelled as they became a pretty well-known band in extreme metal circles. But these alterations and changes came about organically and never sounded like something they forced on themselves, plus they managed to strengthen their songwriting chops to create some of the most adventurous material of their career on 2010’s impressive “Spiral Shadow.”

kylesa ultraviolet lp gatefold v5.inddThree years later, after many miles have been traveled, hundreds of shows have been played, and from the sounds of it, much hurt has been encountered, Kylesa return again with “Ultraviolet,” their sixth record and second since aligning with French metal giants Season of Mist. Sure enough, their growth continues as they expand their sound even further, and there are times on this record where one can question whether the band is truly metal through and through, which would be dumb argument to have because who cares? The music continues to get dreamier and trippier, the heavier parts burst with melody, and the band itself exudes confidence even when expressing pain and dealing with situations that left them scarred.

The heart of Kylesa remains dual guitarists and vocalists Laura Pleasants and Phillip Cope, who long have been the mouthpieces and guiding forces behind this band. Along with them are bassist Chase Rudeseal, and drummers Carl McGinley and Eric Hernandez. As usual, the band sounds tight, though as you’ll notice going through this record that they’re aiming less for heaviness and more for melody and dreamy simmering. It’s a pretty natural progression from “Spiral Shadow” to “Ultraviolet,” so depending on how you felt about the direction on that record, this will either be really good or really bad news. I like the direction they’re going, and they sound at home. I wouldn’t call “Ultraviolet” a home run by any means, but it’s a damn steady stand-up double. You can’t discount those.

The album actually begins a little unsteady with “Exhale,” a song that sounds like a traditional Kylesa song, with Pleasant and Cope taking turn shouting back the lines, allowing room for a lot of give and take between the two. Problem is the song sounds a little forced, like they had to make a typical Kylesa song, and that causes the album to open with a minor thud. But then “Unspoken” hits, and things look up in a hurry, with strong, buzzing guitar grooves, a nice hazy atmosphere, and Pleasants turning in some of her best singing to date. That momentum continues into “Grounded,” that opens with a damn tasty Southern rock-style swagger, spacious weirdness, and enough trippiness to keep you chilled as they go for it. “We’re Taking This” finds Kylesa turning in a heavy metallic jam that really resonates, as Pleasants’ anger when screaming the words, “What goes around comes back around!” makes it seem like venom is spewing from her mouth, through your speakers, into your face. Wouldn’t want to be the person who inspired this song. “Long Gone” has a desert, sunburnt feel to it, and while it has its punch and its crunch, its melody also lets you trance out and ride on the waves of its simmering soloing.

“What Does It Take” has a neat shimmer to it, and while it’s faster and more aggressive, it’s equally poppy and approachable, with Cope delivering smoother vocals and wondering, “Is this really happening?” “Steady Breakdown” delves into ’90s college rock, though it also has some elements of doom, and Pleasants shows even more range in her singing, going on like she’s a lost Deal sister. “Low Tide” hints back to “What Does It Take,” a more approachable rock song, and I sometimes have trouble distinguishing the difference between the two. “Low” isn’t a bad song, but it isn’t the best one on here. “Vultures Landing” brings some of the sludge and heaviness back, and it has some of the best guitar work on the whole record, filled with psychedelic wonder and atmosphere. “Quicksand” is a quick burst that seems like it’s going to be an interlude at first but actually gets filled out with fun vocals and a pushy tempo. “Drifting” is your closer, and like the opener, it falls a little flat. It has an airy mid-tempo pace for the most part, though it charges up a bit as it goes on, with some tough shouting from Pleasants, but it kind of peters out sans drama. It’s not a bad song, but it isn’t really doesn’t leave the best lasting memory.

“Ultraviolet” is a pretty decent sixth record from the band, albeit not their best chapter yet. I appreciate the band’s development, and they seem capable of making a really great record with this approach. This isn’t that record, but if the next one is the blowaway effort, we’ll look at “Ultraviolet” as the steppingstone to get there.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://e-shop.season-of-mist.com/en

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

Blood Ceremony strike evil, occult gold on great third record ‘The Eldritch Dark’

blood ceremony
I’m a major proponent of listening to an album many times before deciding on what I think of it. That might seem like a basic, obvious thing to say, but considering so many gut reactions flood the internet when a record is released, I wonder how many people remember to sit back with a piece of work, immerse themselves in it, and see if they don’t come around.

If I didn’t practice patience and absorption in listening, I might have written off “The Eldritch Dark,” the third record from Toronto-based occult rockers Blood Ceremony. I listen to their first two records–their 2008 self-titled debut and 2011’s “Living With the Ancients”–constantly and know those albums inside and out, so when this new record dropped and had an approach and personality completely different from those first couple of releases, I had to deal with a sense of shock. This is not the type of music I expect from this band, free-spirited, classic rock-style compositions that bubble with life and are practically joyous in their outward demeanor. I was used to longer, more brooding, more adventure-style songs, so it took some time to get used to this.

blood ceremony albumLuckily I kept at it, and now I might prefer “The Eldritch Dark” over the rest of their catalog. It’s immediate, it’s catchy, it sounds inspired by the past but made by modern-day musicians who take their muse in a different direction. I can’t stop listening to the thing, and as weird and diverse as this record is on the surface, it’s still Blood Ceremony through and through. It’s still alluringly dark, it feels like it was pieced together from the pages of tragic and violent folklore. It just might be the record that gets this band over with a larger audience in the States, because this album rocks with a style and swagger never heard before from this band that they handle and pull off expertly. This very well could be their breakthrough effort, and damn it if they don’t deserve it.

Alia O’Brien remains the centerpoint of this incredible band, both because of her powerful pipes that drive their dark storytelling and her flute playing, which rivals Ian Anderson’s work with Jethro Tull. But let’s not discount the rest of this unit, including excellent guitarist Sean Kennedy, who does some of his finest work to date on this album, and rock-solid rhythm section Lucas Gadke on bass and Michael Carrillo on drums. The band created a record that should satisfy those who have been on board for the last few albums, and it should expand their audience even further to grab those who get into classic rock and more traditional forms of metal. These songs are killers, and if they got radio airplay, there’s no way anyone could think the tracks were out of place.

The record kicks off with the raucous “Witchwood,” a song that could make new Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Heart overcome with pride, from the guitar work that cuts down the middle, to O’Brien’s expressive storytelling, at one point warning, “We rise and meet you at your door.” Just a splendid opener, one that is emblazoned on my brain. “Goodbye Gemini” keeps the adrenaline going, proving to be one of the catchiest, most memorable songs this band ever created, and O’Brien’s flute playing and singing keeps you not only engaged but actively participating in the jaunt. Folk ballad “Lord Summerisle” is a true change of pace, not only for the record but for the band itself. Gadke takes over lead vocals, quite capably might I add, O’Brien provides lush, lovely backing, and the track has a classic Moody Blues essence. “Ballad of the Weird Sisters” reminds me of Heart again but also of The Decemberists, not just for the pushy folk rock vibe and active strings but for weaving murderous events into a disarmingly sticky song. Great work.

The title track kicks off sounding like vintage Black Sabbath with its bluesy guitar swagger, doom groove, and more forceful, grittier vocals from O’Brien that you don’t often hear from her. “Drawing Down the Moon” has a poppier disposition at times, though, of course, it’s doused with dread in the form of spooky organs and the guitar work, though the vocals give the song something of a shimmer. “Faunus” is a bouncy, flute-led instrumental that finds the band showing off some of their progressive tendencies, and that leads to our eight-minute epic closer “The Magician,” a song about magician Oliver Haddo from a book of the same name by W. Somerset Maugham. Haddo is a caricature of Aleister Crowley, and the band retells the devious tale of love, betrayal, and the occult, with a pulverizing, exciting doom rock tempo that ends the record on a surging note.

Blood Ceremony have achieved a different level of greatness with “The Eldritch Dark,” and this is an exciting new direction for the band. This record should result in them taking on a great deal of new suitors, and I’m excited to hear how these songs come across live. They made all the right adjustments in their sound, paving the way for what has to be a bright future, even if it’s mired in darkness.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/item/19486/

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

And here: http://www.metalblade.com/

Swedes Tribulation return with stunning second emission ‘The Formulas of Death’

tribulation
Usually you can tell right away when you’re hearing a record that’s particularly special, one you’ll be discussing toward the end of the year when compiling best-of lists. It’s a piece of work that reaches out and grabs you and refuses to release its grip.

But that isn’t always the case. Take for example “The Formulas of Death,” the second record from Swedish death metal unit Tribulation. First time through this record it sounded really good, but it didn’t really sink in as something that deserved extra special attention. But the more I played the thing, the more it made its impact and started to infect me. It wasn’t just some run-of-the-mill new death metal band trying to make its mark in a scene that’s already flooded with music. Instead, it was the sign of a group that wanted to expand its thinking, take things further than they had on their debut, and make something that would stand out among the pack. They managed to do just that with this 11-track, 75-minute effort that refuses to leave my ears.

365925The band formed nearly a decade ago, and they put out an EP and a demo before offering up their 2009 debut “The Horror,” an album that held promise for the band but certainly didn’t seem like an indication that greatness was ahead. Over the time since their first album landed, they’ve simply become a much better band. They have added more black metal influences to their sound, which has added levels of atmosphere and melody to their music, and they just sound like a more seasoned collection of musicians who are better are pulling off their big ideas. The songwriting and creativity is stronger, and that’s made a major difference.

The lineup is pretty much the same as who’s been in the band from the start, including bassist/vocalist Johannes Andersson (also of Sars, Stench), and guitarists Adam Zaars (Sars, Repugnant, that also features an evil pope-like guy) and Jonathan Hulten (Stench). Joining them is new drummer Jakob Ljungberg, who also plays in Sars, and combined they make for a formidable unit that’s capable of creating great things like this stunning second record that you’re bound to hear a lot about as this year progresses.

Opening with the weird, whirry intro “Vagina Dentata,” they then blast into “Wanderer in the Outer Darkness,” a seven-minute-plus track that is full of creative fury and even progressive metal dashes, and later on in the track, it gets trippy and psychedelic. “Spectres” is vicious and forceful, remaining in a rage and in your face during its running time and giving you no opportunity to back away or gain your own ground. An untitled interlude follows, filled with drizzling piano and watery guitar, and then it’s into “Suspiria,” an eerie, chilling track with large section of instrumental exploration, unexpected guitar textures, but also venom and madness, with Andersson howling like his throat is full of hornets.

“Through the Velvet Black” simmers as it starts, with drums building into a frenzy, an explosion on the cusp of fully enveloping you. The tricky guitars move and stab, the vocals are threatening and purposeful, and the soloing inspired and easy to get lost in. It’s a thrashier song, with some pockets that get particularly fiery, but for the most part it’s channeled very scientifically. “Randa” follows, and its swirling guitars and unique melodies make it one of the standout tracks on the record. It feels sickening and aggressive, and it never lets up in intensity.” When the Sky Is Black With Devils” starts like it’s going to pull things back, but then the song erupts, and it’s a savage journey into the mouth of hell. “Spell” starts with a fast guitar line, drums meeting up with it to help with the demolition, and vocals that are intent to maim and wreck. “Ultra Silvam” takes things back into space again, with weird, starry melodies and intent to set a mood for the blistering finale, the 13:17-long “Apparitions,” where the band leaves some of their best material for last. You get a nice collection of sounds you heard on the first 10 songs, from death-like hammering, black metal-style majesty and glory, meaty thrash sections that’ll get your blood and fists pumping, and vocals delivered with a raspy violence that keeps you alert and aware over the entire song’s running time. It’s a wonderfully chaotic finish to a great, eye-opening record.

Hopefully Tribulation continue this remarkable improvement and work to become even better songwriters. It’s not enough to just add influences from metal’s wide spectrum and hope that’ll be enough to make a compelling record, but I think these guys know that as they prove that over and over on this album. “The Formulas of Death” is one of the year’s most explosive albums and a real pleasant surprise. What’s even more exciting is Tribulation are only at the beginning of their story, and they have plenty more chapters to fill in from here.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.tribulation.se/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.theajnaoffensive.com/collections/ajna

Or here: http://www.invictusproductions.net/shop/

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

And here: http://invictusproductions.net/

Surachai recruits deadly co-conspirators to create best album yet with ‘Embraced’

Surachai Sutthisasanakul

Surachai Sutthisasanakul

If metal had more artists half as adventurous as Surachai Sutthisasanakul, the terrain would be a lot more exciting to traverse. Over the course of three full-length albums and a handful of EPs, the Chicago-based artist has made some of the more perplexing and stimulating sounds the genre could boast, and he made these weird, metallic creations on his own, with no backing band.

But he changed his mind about the collaboration deal going into the third Surachai album “Embraced,” a platter being released on Trash_Audio and Bandcamp, and that he made, for the first time ever, with a full band. It’s not like his audience was clamoring for him to try something different, because this project was moving along nicely, having last checked in with 2011’s tremendous “To No Avail,” a two-track, 21-minute wonder that remains in my listening arsenal to this day. But what the audience wants and what the artist wants don’t have to be the same, and considering Sutthisasanakul is the one in charge of making this art, he needs to follow his whims, and we need to trust him. Luckily doing that pays huge dividends with “Embraced,” one of the fieriest Surachai albums to date.

surachai coverThis three-track, nearly 34-minute album is the beefiest Surachai album to date, and perhaps having extra personnel to help Sutthisasanakul achieve his vision also helped him expand his creativity. The songs are boisterous, aggressive, but also very intelligent, and the closest comparison I can think of to compare this to is Krallice’s work. But that’s only a comparison, as Surachai’s music is completely distinguishable from that band, but if you need to associate it with another group’s sound, there you go. Surachai always changes things up with weird noises, heady programming, and other sonic additions that complement the music and keep you wondering where this is going next. It’s an incredible experience all around, and it’s the best Surachai album to date.

I mentioned the extra cast surrounding Sutthisasanakul, and they are guitarists Shane Prendeville (Guzzlemug, Murmur) and Andrew Markuszewski (who you’ll know from his black metal project Avichi, as well as from Nachtmystium and the mighty Lord Mantis), acoustic bassist Tom Kelly (also of Guzzlemug), drummer Charlie Werber (also of Guzzlemug, Murmur), sound designer Richard Devine (Warp, Schematic), and buchla easel player Alessandro Cortini (How to Destroy Angels). That’s a formidable collection of musicians in general, but the fact they’ll all Chicago-based is a little intimidating.

The band launches into “Ancestral,” with dizzying melodies, guitars that are trying to hypnotically warp the mind, and harsh vocals that sound savage and determined. This is where the Krallice comparison first feels right, but just as they lean into that weird, spacey black metal headspace, it comes to a halt, and programming slips in, treating everything with a chilly woosh. Then it blows back up again into a full storm, only to slip back into an alien calm that takes us into “Sentinel.”

That song also begins with a breezy frame of mind, but before long a doom-infested landslide takes place, and out of that rises shoegazey guitars and more crazed howls. There’s a nice long section in the middle where everyone plays off each other musically, and it ends in full robotic mode, feeling like someone’s trying to process your emotion in some kind of antiseptic lab. Closer “Surrender” rises from the ashes, still ensconced in the lab but also ready to ramp up its fury to new, frightening levels. A black haze and off-kilter strangeness spill in and change the complexion of the song, going even further into adventurous sonic examinations, sometimes letting chaos back into the picture. But as the song boils seemingly out of control, serenity glides in, the band lets their lungs fill with air, and you’re allowed to exhale with them as the album comes to its conclusion.

Surachai’s journey continues to go into unexpected corners, and it’s one of the reasons this project remains so rewarding to follow. On top of that, Sutthisasanakul’s creativity know no bounds, and whether he’s by himself or with an incredibly accomplished group of players, he always comes up with compositions that keep you engaged and enthralled. This is his best work to date, though I don’t question he’ll top himself next time around. It’s just what he does.

For more on the band, go here: http://surachai.org/

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

Or here: http://surachai.bandcamp.com/album/embraced

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

Black metal heathens Ruin Lust unleash chaos on their destructive debut album

RL_promoI’ve mentioned before that I try to go out of my way to not read biographical material on new bands because I don’t want anything in a press release or history to sway my manner of thinking about the music I’m about to experience. Fair or not, those details can influence a way a person thinks about or prematurely judges music, and that can be unfair.

But avoiding bios or press releases isn’t always something that can be done, and in fact, try as I might not to read too far ahead the first time I hear a band, I’m typically not successful in that venture. In fact, when the debut from Ruin Lust landed in my inbox, all I had to see was a member of Fell Voices was in that band, and it immediately made me anticipate a certain sound and a particular way of doing things. Fell Voices have their times where they can be volcanic and confrontational, but their epics tend to be atmospheric and thought provoking, giving you a few punches in the gut when you need it. But we’re only talking one FV member in this band — that being drummer Mike (who also contributes vocals) — that having that preconceived notion wasn’t giving proper due to the other two members. Of course, one visit with their five-song debut changed all of that.

PV-VI Ruin Lust coverRuin Lust seem hell bent on destroying you mentally and physically form the word “go,” and the molten fury that sprawls forth on their self-titled album sounds like the product of pure anger and aggression. These guys mar the shit out of you, and in a live setting, I could see things perhaps getting a little out of hand. Guitarist/vocalist Joe and bassist/vocalist Seth join Mike to create thrashing, mashing, doom-friendly black metal that goes right for the throat. They’re not concerned with playing with atmospherics and trying to set a heady mood. They’re here for the pure demolition of it all, and you’ll know that to be true mere moments after you put the music on and let yourself be abducted, beaten, and left in a field with the air stinging your oozing wounds.

Opener “Obedience” gives you a good idea of what’s in store for you on this record, with deep, vicious growls, crushing savagery, and thrashy meanness that has nothing but ill intent in store for you. Eventually it slows down and slips into doomy terrain, lurching like a monster. “Primal Vision” is fast, fiery, and violent, mashing you into submission, and driving and penetrating into your face with its drilling melodies. Toward the end, Joe’s soloing catches fire and shows a more dynamic side to the band. “Tethered and Lashed” is blistering and totally dominating, with drums that seek to bruise your face and thrashy lead lines that are as fun as they are violent. Toward the end, the guys hit a nice groove and light shit on fire, with scorching chaos spilling all over the place.

The final two cuts make up the two-part “Skin Hunger” that takes up about the final 12 minutes of the collection. Part 1 is drubbing and doom-infested, trudging along in its gruesome tracks and letting things reach a new level of ugliness. Harsh, skin-shredding vocals blast into the scene, and it sets the pace for Part 2, which ignites from the start. A thundering drum assault blasts open, and the guitars reach a spooky black metal-style haunting that might ice your skin cells. The song is a clobbering serving of metallic carnage that never relents for even a second and ends the record of a smoldering note.

Ruin Lust’s debut is a fantastic listen, and I imagine these songs will sound even better and more explosive in a live setting. These three guys do a fine job suiting and dealing out punishment, and while they still have a ways to go before they match the underground profile of Fell Voices, there’s no reason they can’t get there in time, if that’s something that even matters to them. In the meantime, I hope they keep refining their skills to become an even deadlier killing machine.

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

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

For more on the label, go here: http://psychicviolencerecords.blogspot.com/