Lungs (photo by Bronson Karaff)
Doing this site isn’t easy sometimes, because there are moments when the music just pours in like crazy. We have that situation right now with too much stuff to talk about this week, so we’re going to capsule a few releases you should keep your eyes and ears on. The four artists who created these three records could not be any more different from each other, so there’s a lot of sample.
Minneapolis-based doom-sludge artists Lungs are one of those bands that likely could find an audience outside of heavy music. Yeah, they’re meaty as fuck, and their music can dent in your sides, but they bring something entirely different to this style in their vocals. You definitely will get some guttural screams, but you also are rewarded with stellar harmonizing that stands apart from so much of what other bands of this ilk tend to do. And it is so refreshing. Their new record is “Estuary,” and it comes with a heavy heart as it’s dedicated to their late guitarist Sean Tobin, who passed away last year. Its current lineup—guitarist/vocalist Jonas Kromer Yela, bassist/vocalist Mike Cushing, guitarist Dan Lee, drummer/vocalist Jeff Nicholas—delivers a five-track opus that’s powerful, emotional, incredibly human, and wholly unforgettable. It also features guest vocals from Erin Severson of the awesome Former Worlds, and everything on here may need time to sink in, but once it does, you can’t shake it.
“Matriarch” begins the record with guitars simmering before barked wails interject, then the vocals smooth out with some lurching singing. Things turn muddy and ominous as guitars melt, eerie harmonizing drips, and the guitars sizzle out. “Unbecoming” glimmers in calm, as hearty singing slathers, feeling psychedelic and dreamy. “Will you be forgiven?” they ask before the track punches, muddy basslines pummel, and the track heads into proggy waters before disappearing into the void. “Oak” is gentle and jazzy as it starts, as the signing pulls you in only to have you bludgeoned with power. Growls scrape while the song goes back and forth from threatening to mentally soothing, twisting and turning all the way, dragging you through the thorns. “At the Estuary” is the longest cut, running 10:05 and easing you through the cosmos as it goes. Much of the song is reflective, with the singing boosting the tendency to float away. Later on, the track stomps heavily as the soloing catches fire, and the pace jerks and crumbles. Howls ring out as the music spirals, and the pace is ramped up hard, with the final minutes paying off in smashing devastation. “A Blessing, a Curse” closes the album, simmering in strings before destroying the senses. Riffs swagger as the band unloads chaos, and though there are stretches where we pull back and achieve calm, the bulk of this thing goes right for you, jostling and maiming, leaving you a heaping pile of flesh when it’s done.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/lungsmusic/
To buy the album, go here: https://lungsmetal.bandcamp.com/album/estuary
To me, the best split recordings are ones that pit bands that are not much alike, though their music makes sense together. That’s what we have with the new collection from Toronto doom dreamers Volur and long-running San Francisco-based neo-classical ambient unit Amber Asylum. Each side of this thing could not sound any more in conflict, but it works perfectly. You get the volcanic and adventurous thunder of Volur with bassist/vocalist Lucas Gadke, violinist/vocalist Laura Bates, and drummer Jimmy P Lightning on their four “Breaker of Rings” movements that suck you right in and mash you. Oh, if you’ve never seen Volur live, change that. They’re stunning. Amber Asylum brings you back down and has you floating through mysterious ghost worlds as they—the lineup for the record includes Kris Force, Jackie Perez Gratz, and Erica Stoltz, though Fern Lee is also a member—enrapture you and let you drift away with them to explore places you didn’t know existed.
The first of the four “Breaker of Rings” tracks opens with sounds quivering, violin streaming, and a mournful sentiment, with the song slowly forming and the drums opening, crashing into the second movement where Gadke’s singing kicks in, hovering over the murky playing. The violins swarm like a storm, sounding ominous and drawing you into the dark as the third section takes over, mostly built by Bates’ violin playing that thickens the drama and even comes off like a horror score at times. The final segment runs 10:02, breaking open and rumbling with lurching growls and soaring strings. Corners are dark and enchanting, others are volcanic, and everything comes to a gigantic finish that crunches. The Amber Asylum portion also consists of four tracks, starting with haunting “Séance” that has a cosmic ambiance that swims in the stars, pushing toward 11:07-long centerpiece “Blood Witch.” The singing floats, strings and bass fold into the mix, making everything dreamy and foggy. That leads the track into strange mists, slowly haunting as it goes, with the call of, “His cruelty is kind,” bruising as the song subsides. “Swarm Interlude” vibrates and echoes, melting into closer “Malaria,” where strings numb and the music glazes over. Cello beckons beneath it all as dark drama stretches, and everything disappears into the cold.
For more on Volur, go here: https://www.facebook.com/VolurDoom
For more on Amber Asylum, go here: https://www.facebook.com/AmberAsylum.official/
To buy the album, go here: https://prophecy.lnk.to/voelur-amber-asylum
For more on the label, go here: https://en.prophecy.de/
We get a lot of music submissions from bands looking to get something onto our site. It’s very humbling that people care what we think. A lot of times I’ll read the bio and decide if I want to dig deeper. To be honest, when I first read the description for Grand Rapids, MI, extreme metal band Vestigial, I didn’t give it much hope of ending up on the site. DevilDriver is mentioned in the bio, one of my least favorite bands of all time, and some of the other groups noted are a collection of not-my-cup-of-tea artists. Nothing at all wrong with those bands; they just do nothing for me. But then I realized I was being a little unfair, so I gave a test run to “Crown of Serpents,” the band’s second record, and I’m glad I did. This doesn’t really sound like the bands they note in their bio as it’s much heavier and nastier. It’s well-played death metal, the type that a label like Unique Leader might snap up, so if that’s your thing, you’d definitely want to give these guys—guitarist/vocalist Michael Stellema, guitarist vocalist Tyler Stellema, bassist Joey Barnett, drummer Mike Miller—a solid listen.
“Phantasmagoria” is a quick opener to this concept record, and the song gives you a taste of what is ahead. Their brand of death is pretty straightforward, and it leads you into the other beasts lurking. “Dethroned” hammers and feels adventurous (the glitchy effects should go, as it’s become a genre trope), as fluid soloing rises, and piercing shrieks rain down. “Usurper” is in a similar vein, going full bore after you and doing damage, while “The Swarm” has jerky riffs that cut through steel as well as growls that sound like they’re gurgling on blood. “King Carrion” is meaty with molten guitars and a very heavy hand, landing heavy blows. This is another where some of the washed-out effects feel stale, and really, the music is strong enough to stand on its own without those dashes. “Hangman” is swaggering and drips with attitude, while closer “Rust” pulls back a bit and lets the music simmer, which makes a world of difference. This shows another side of the band as they remain heavy but also show reflective tones, as the guitars explore and even have a touch of prog strength to them.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Vestigialband/
To buy the album, go here: https://vestigial.bandcamp.com/album/crown-of-serpents