PICK OF THE WEEK: Pencey Sloe’s shadowy gaze brings chills on misty ‘Don’t Believe, Watch Out’

Photo by Lou Beauchard

As much as I have grown to appreciate summer, this stretch of year when autumn is right over the horizon is my favorite time. It won’t be long until cold rains fall, fogs rise in the morning, the bones are chilled inside damp clothing, and darker music becomes even more welcoming. I’m getting a little excited in the stomach just thinking about it.

A month or so ago, I dug into “Don’t Believe, Watch Out,” the immersive debut record from French trio Pencey Sloe. Right away I dreamt of colder winds and decaying leaves, even though I was a couple months from it, and now that we’re closer than ever, this music feels like it’s tightening its dark embrace. The band’s doomy shoegaze mixes elements of groups such as The xx, Daughter, True Widow, and even countrymates Alcest. The music operates in the shadows and sneaks up on you, with the choruses to their songs tackling you from behind and making your heart race. The band—guitarist, singer, main composer Diane Pellotieri, lead guitarist Valentin Beaucourt, drummer Clément Aulnois—aren’t metallic heavy from a volume standpoint, but they’re mighty from an emotional pull and easily made a disciple out of me with my first listen. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been back.

“Lust of the Dead” starts the record in murk, with Pellotieri’s voice floating, and don’t be surprised if you’re immediately arrested by her singing. “Can’t find the answer, did they ever live? Can’t find the answer, don’t you see?” she calls before a great chorus that rouses, and the track ends with your head in the clouds. “Buried Them All” is rugged and doomy as it starts, as the verses tread steady waters, and the choruses wash you with mist. The pace later swaggers a bit before sweeping into dreamy clouds and churning into the air. “All OK” bleeds in before the tempo kicks up and a gazey thunder rumbles. Like most of the songs on here, the chorus is tremendous with Pellotieri calling, “It’s all right, it’s all OK, and now you stay for me, I’m falling for you.” The track gives off a chilly ambiance as guitars caterwaul, and the volume stings on its way out. The title track is ominous and ghostly when it first appears, swelling and gaining storm clouds as lush singing pushes its way ahead. The bends are softer and emotional before the intensity picks up for a bit, while the song has a gentle landing. “Gold and Souls” has the drums driving and the gloom thickening, while the singing is alluring as always, with Pellotieri wailing over the chorus, “I’m on my knees, on my broken bones, I’m on my knees, and it kills my soul.” Later on, the song gets smokier as the strong chorus returns and powers to the end.

“Sins” has the guitars arriving in a mucky cloud as a cold wave emerges, voices echo, and the chorus swells with power. The band buries dreams in the words and music as things surge, suffocate, and create an elegant, frosty finish. “Empty Mind” is the longest track at 6:52, and space debris flies into the skies, while a strange ambiance is created. The bulk of the pace stays within the same headspace, which allows you to lock in and float with them, and then the sounds explode before the lava cracks through the surface. This continues to gather heat and power before the song breathes its last. “It Follows” is an introspective track built by acoustic flourishes and static-filled loops, while the singing is pulled back and more delicate. The song keeps hovering overhead, darkening the ground and spreading the sadness. “Bright Water” has a mellow character, easily breaking open and plodding along before gazey fires are stoked and rage. The chorus is pulverizing, with Pellotieri wailing, “Cause you fight with the water, till the light, and you shine by the fire, you’re drowning your lies,” as guitars pick up and simmer in a sound bath. “17 Springs” closes the record by starting delicately and echoing in the air before it slowly comes to life. Pellotieri sings of longing, especially on the chorus where she calls, “On the edge of the world, I’ll be thinking about us, on the edge of the reason, I’ll be thinking, thinking about us.” The song trickles and shows vulnerability, as the cut tracks back to the chorus again, letting hearts pump blood before it tapers off into the horizon.

Pencey Sloe are arriving at a perfect time when temperatures are about the drop, and cold mists will envelop us all here in the States. Their debut full-length “Don’t Believe, Watch Out” is mesmerizing and chilling, a record that works its way into your bloodstream and refuses to leave until you are fully infected. That partially explains the shivers you’re bound to experience listening to this great record, with the band’s haunting presence making up the second half of that sensation.

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

To  buy the album (U.S.), go here: https://us.prophecy.de/prophecy-prophecy-1/pencey-sloe-don-t-believe-watch-out.html

Or here (International): https://en.prophecy.de/prophecy/pencey-sloe-don-t-believe-watch-out.html

For more on the label, go here: https://en.prophecy.de/

Descendants of Crom crushes Pittsburgh for third time with the Obsessed, Brown Angel, etc.

Summer’s dying, the leaves will change in two months once it cools off, and there’s an ominous vibe in the air, which must mean it’s time for the annual, mighty Descendants of Crom. But things were not without worry just a few days ago.

Last weekend, A.S.G., one of the main bands set for the third edition of Descendants of Crom, had to drop off the festival with about seven days’ notice. Things happen, right? But that’s a terrible hole to be in with a week to spare, but yet the dark gods moved heaven and earth, and an even more massive band stepped in to take their place.

Yeah, in A.S.G.’s place? Goddamn doom legends The Obsessed who, no offense on the group they’re replacing, actually made the entire weekend even more massive. That’s like replacing a reliable player on a sports team with one of the best players ever. Perhaps fest organizer Shy Kennedy has a little bit of goodwill with those aforementioned deities to pull that one off, but she’s also been bringing killer bands to town for years now, even when she’s not hosting DoC. This year, the fest shifts a bit as it starts with the pre-show gala tonight (it usually kicks off on Thursday), with two full days at Cattivo Saturday and Sunday. I’ve said this before, but this is one of the most fun, well organized, arms-open events you’re bound to find in heavy music, and even if you don’t know some of the bands, chances are you’ll find something you really like (like I’ve done with Horseburner and Doctor Smoke) the past couple years. Below is the lineup for the event. There literally is something for every heavy music fan, as well as the debut of the fest’s official beer, Doom or Death whipped up by North Country Brewing.

Friday, 8 p.m., Howler’s

Motometer (8:15): Pittsburgh-based proggy adventurers.

Fox 45 (8:55): Grimy, punchy psyche metal that’ll level you.

Void King (9:40): Foggy, stoner doom rock n roll.

Submachine (10:25): Legendary Pittsburgh-based hardcore punk band.

Enhailer (11:10): Akron-based doom tanglers.

Icarus Witch (12:05): Pittsburgh long-running epic metal band that just put out their best records “Goodbye, Cruel World.”

Saturday, 4 p.m., Cattivo

Old Dream (4:00): Experimental project that’s half written, half improvised, always inventive.

Coma (4:25): Pittsburgh stoner doom trio.

Action Camp (4:55): Pittsburgh-based trio combining doom, art rock, and post-punk.

Night Vapor (5:25): Pittsburgh noise rock that’ll fuck up your whole day.

Pillars (6:00): Sludgy, thrashy maulers from Cleveland.

Tines (6:35): Heavy progressive rock band from Buffalo.

Witchkiss (7:10): New York-based sludge doom trio.

Potslammer (7:45): Indiana doom trio that occasionally sings about the marijuana.

Sun Voyager (8:20): Psychedelic desert doom conjured in New York.

Kingsnake (8:55): Philly-based rockers that feed from rock’s and doom’s roots.

Foghound (9:30): Baltimore stoner pounders.

Argus (10:05): Pennsylvania-based epic doom metal band. Glorious shit.

Irata (10:45): Loud stoner bashers from Greensboro, N.C.

Valkyrie (11:25): Heavy doom superpower featuring former members of Baroness and Earthling.

The Obsessed (12:10): Doom legends featuring Wino Weinrich that reunited in 2016 for comeback record “Sacred.”

Sunday, 4 p.m., Cattivo

White Alice (4:00): Bizarre drone instrumental solo project from a pretty OK guy.

Riparian (4:25): Pittsburgh death metal warriors whose debut came out on Grimoire Records.

Pale Grey Lore (4:55): Columbus psyche doom metal adventurers.

Killer of Sheep (5:25): Pittsburgh hardcore punishers who will leave you bruised.

Lightning Born (6:00): Throwback doom conjurers containing members of C.O.C and Hour of 13.

Spacelord (6:35): Buffalo-based stoner rock.

Leather Lung (7:10): Boston-bred stoner metal cult.

Frayle (7:45): Heavy, rumbling, mysterious doom machine powered by Gwyn Strang’s vocals.

Brimstone Coven (8:20): Classic hard rock revivalists from Wheeling, W,V.

Backwoods Payback (9:05): Pennsylvania-based stoner doo trio with legitimately spooky name.

Solace (9:50): Long-tenured Jersey stoner doom band.

Brown Angel (10:35): Pittsburgh’s hallowed doom drone harsh noise warriors. Bask in their greatness.

For more on the festival, go here: https://www.facebook.com/DescendantsOfCrom

To buy tickets, go here: http://www.descendantsofcrom.com/Tickets.php