PICK OF THE WEEK: Trio Sanhedrin direct focus on societal issues, cracks in justice with ‘Lights On’

Photo by Suzanne Abramson

The past few years have done plenty to so many of us, one of the largest thing being we have been ripped out of our comfort zones. That’s both good and bad. Being out in public and spending time around people is more difficult and riskier due this ongoing virus, but during that time, we finally have learned hard lessons about power structures and oppression, despite some burying their heads in sand.

Brooklyn-based traditional metal trio Sanhedrin has not been immune to this either, and their new record “Lights On” directly confronts a lot of these issues and more, making it a record that sounds incredible but also refuses to shy away from hard lessons. The band members—vocalist/bassist Erica Stoltz, guitarist Jeremy Sosville, drummer Nathan Honor—personally were impacted, suffering the loss of family and the fact that they had to work on this new record isolated from one another, but they powered through and created their most impressive record so far. This is full of energy and metallic glory, helping you revel in their gritty glory.

“Correction” is a punchy, direct opener that takes on the last two years of our lives without pulling punches. “Dead of winter 2020, a plague is on the rise,” Stoltz howls as the guitars pick up, and the pace gets the energy going. “When every child becomes a human sacrifice and everybody’s seeing darkness in the light,” Stoltz lashes over the bridge before the chorus, and the band keeps dashing harder and harder to the end. The title track is a blazing force, Stoltz reminding, “History is a vicious circle,” a lesson we’ve learned too often especially the last two years with Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and so many others being robbed of justice. The pace is defiant, the guitars rip into your nervous system, and the chorus rushes again, ending the track in flames. “Lost at Sea” is stormy and hazy when it begins, punching through the verses, making things bloody and rowdy. “Seven generations lost at sea,” Stoltz laments as strong soloing takes off, and the final moments flatten and leave you heaving on the floor. “Change Takes Forever” delivers great riffs, a total assault, and another message about how trying to make a positive impact in society often faces roadblocks. “It’s now or never!” Stoltz calls, trying to ignite those fires that often take so long to spark, and the soloing adds an extra dose of desperation, giving off an incredible classic metal jolt.

“Code Blue” delivers something missing from much in heavy music anymore: a classic bolt of sexual desire. “Code blue, code blue, I want you,” Stoltz declares over the chorus, and the playing is bluesy as hell, psychedelic in other spots, and everything here properly scorches. “Scythian Women” is an anthem honoring female warriors discovered buried in Russia, and it brings a fast, chugging approach, totally melting flesh from bone. “Nothing can stop them, they are the wind,” Stoltz declares as the bass rumbles and the guitars blaze, ending the track in a blast of power. “Hero’s End” plays with elements of a classic power ballad and formative roots of heavy metal, just nailing all the right buttons. The verses take their time building the structure, and the chorus just slams home the intent, making the hairs stand on your arms. The music is powerful and impossible to shake, and when Stoltz wails, “All hope is fading,” it eats into your heart and mind. Closer “Death Is a Door” is the longest track at 7:04, and it starts with the drums rolling in echo and the playing taking its time to develop an ambiance. The track then bursts to life as the playing jars, and Stoltz calls, “Live for survival, you’re pushing too hard.” Hearty woah-oh-oh calls get your adrenaline going, the guitars lap, and Stoltz’s reminder that, “I think we’re in denial,” is that last stab trying to wake up a society easily lulled to sleep.

Not only do Sanhedrin deliver one hell of a fiery heavy metal record with “Lights On,” they’re another band who decided to use their voice to shine a light on the problems in our country and world and refuse to shy away from them. This band always has been one of the more powerful banner carriers for classic metal, but with this record, they’ve created something incredibly special and powerful. This is Sanhedrin’s finest moment, and this is a record that carries a message that still need to be amplified so those asleep finally are jarred awake.

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

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

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

Kuolemanlaakso end lengthy hibernation, delve into natural disasters on crushing ‘Kuusumu’

We’re reaching the tail end of winter here in the United States, so the colder days soon will be a thing of the past, and people can go outside and get some relief from their mental strife. At least I hope so. But the change of the seasons is a luxury of sorts when you look back at history and some events that caused climates to react strangely, something that always could happen again.

For their new album “Kuusumu,” doom powers Kuolemanlaakso sunk back into the volcanic winter of 536 and the subsequent decade-long winter the Western hemisphere endured at the time, which was one of the most dramatic weather shifts in documented history. It impacted crops and cultures, later was met by the Bubonic plague and famine, and that led to a miniature ice age that lasted all the way to 660. Grim. Frostbitten. It’s been a little while since we heard from Kuolemanlaakso, eight years to be exact, and the band—vocalist Mikko Kotamäki (also from Swallow the Sun), guitarist/backing vocalist Laakso, guitarist Kouta, bassist Usva, drummer Tiera, and guest vocalist Lotta Ruutiainen (of Luna Kills)—combines for seven weighty tracks that are dark, foreboding, sometimes alarmingly gorgeous, and completely buried in wintry oppression.

“Pimeys laski” begins with thunder and piano melting, creating a dreary landscape that leads to the power kicking in and bruising. Clean calls blend with the growls emitted from Kotamäki, mixing nightmare with dream, and that duel continues as the song progresses, the track dramatically crash landing at the end. “Katkeruuden malja” begins with guitars jolting and the pace getting more aggressive, with a great chorus enhanced by Ruutiainen’s singing. The playing keeps mashing as clean vocals sweep, Ruutiainen rises again, and the emotion swirls as the title is called repeatedly, knifing into your chest. “Surusta meri suolainen” lands in a doomy haze as the vocals walk through foggy tones, and gothy pumps add an essence of mystery. Synth clouds whir as the drums get more aggressive and the growls devastate, growing more violent and volatile as things end in tornadic glory.

“Kuohuista tulisten koskien” crushes hard as the growls mar, and a melodic fog lifts and surrounds you with intimidating force. The vocals become a larger phantom, Ruutiainen and Kotamäki combining and making your blood rush, the mists increasing, and the track dissolving into a heatwave. “Surun sinfonia” delivers melting guitars, glorious speaking that booms, and the guitars creating a bright glaze before morbidity sets in. Gruff speak singing pushes into the verses as the moodiness increases, and Euro-style melodies are generated by the keys, the chorus sweeping back for one more ride as the final moments swell your chest. “Pedon vaisto” punches in as the growls settle, carving through at a glacial pace. The track rumbles back and forth from aggressive to calming, spooky keys make your nerves tingle, and the playing gets even more intense. The leads move back in and tear things apart, the speed increases, and everything ends in a heavy dose of disorientation. “Tulessakävelijä” closes the record with a gothy, punchy gust and a chugging pace, the growls welling and collecting blood. Ruutiainen returns to add her dreamy textures, and the storm increases, stirring and haunting. The final moments gather all voices together, keys that make your blood rush, and synth swirling out into the unknown.

An eight-year wait between records didn’t hurt Kuolemanlaakso’s momentum as all as “Kuusumu” is a properly dour, oftentimes elegant record that picks at all the right nerve endings. The material that gave the record its inspiration is dark and threatening, and its wintry vibe can be felt through this entire thing, chilling you to the bone. Hopefully we don’t wait another eight years for this band to return, but as long as the music is as good as this, we’ll maintain our patience because we know it’ll be worth it.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://svartrecords.com/product/kuolemanlaakso-kuusumu-album/

For more on the label, go here: https://svartrecords.com/

Jersey crushers Hath progress further into death intensity on scathing ‘All That Was Promised’

Bands should advance from record to record, which is the moat obvious thing ever. Sometimes they don’t, and we get music that doesn’t advance all that much, and maybe that’s OK. But if you’re going to make a run at this and you don’t want to keep cranking out the same shit, making moves and taking steps between records is healthy, unless you’re advancing toward “Load” or something. Huh?

New Jersey force Hath has shown a pretty marked improvement from their 2019 debut record “Of Rot and Ruin” and their new creation “All That Was Promised,” offering a deadlier more forceful brand of their progressive death metal. They remain influenced by black metal roots as well, and that helps make this nine-track, 51-minute beast into a force with which to be reckoned. The band—guitarist/vocalist   Frank Albanese, guitarist Peter Brown, bassist/vocalist Greg Nottis, drummer AJ Viana—wrote together as a four-piece unit for the first time, and the results are clear as this thing is a crusher that forces you to battle it up to the final smoldering minutes.

“The Million Violations” trickles in before the power detonates, and then the band pummels you into a paste. Scathing vocals begin to jerk and smother, the direction gets stranger, and vicious roars pound over the haze, ending with a stunning stampede. “Kenosis” is devastation as soon as it arrives, bludgeoning and smearing blood on the ground, the growls tearing through the cosmos. Clean vocals mix with hammering growls, and then things spiral as the spacey vibe multiplies, ripping at guts and disappearing into a void. “Lithopaedic” starts with synth and chants before the quaking begins, and a scathing attack is mounted. The playing zaps and melts into a calm section, coming out of the other end with a black metal-style force, and the chaos continues until everything mixes into a gothy aura. “Iosis” starts delicately with acoustics, giving you a false sense of security as the track comes to life. The pace is aggressive and deadly, going off in a crazed manner, fluid soloing flooding and crushing. The growls massacre, and then a doom meltdown arrives, ending everything in darkness.

“Decollation” opens with the drums decimating everything on front of them, growls and clean calls mixing, and the band slamming on the gas pedal. Synth strangeness breaks up the violence, psychedelic colors flush, and then the madness accelerates, bleeding into the ground. “Death Complex” burns in, taking swings and making contact, aggravating the collecting fires. There’s a muddiness to the mix, and then the soloing cuts through that, soaring into the atmosphere and robbing you of breath. “Casting of the Self” begins delicately, pushing into the stratosphere, and then things come apart, spewing muscles and bone. The vocals jolt as the melody plays a bigger role, the chorus feels raspy and raw, and guitars drip before suddenly fading. The title track slowly thaws as the guitars well up, and then the band starts to slay dangerously. The playing gets more intense as creaky speaking mars the senses, and things turn mesmerizing and humid, blistering to a violent end. “Name Them Yet Build No Monument” closes the record and is wiry when it starts, working into your bones, blasting into chunky thrashing. The guitars char as the pace stomps, the vocals get more maniacal, and the heat meets up with a heavy fog, ending the track in misery.

Hath sound channeled and animalistic on “All That Was Promised,” turning in a powerful, sharp performance that mixes death metal with blackened fury. Their precision is impressive but never trades heart for chops, and it’s an album that should go down easy for anyone with an appetite for heavy music. This is a solid step forward for Hath, who seem to be finding their hideous and devastating powers.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.willowtip.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.willowtip.com/home.aspx

Urushiol’s baffling death metal can eat away at psyches, destroy realities on ‘Pools of Green Fire’

Usually, I come into these stories with a plan. Not necessarily a great plan, but a plan nonetheless. Today is an exception because there’s no way to prepare for something you can’t even properly define to yourself, so how are you supposed to do with in 600 words to help other people decipher when you cannot? Well, at least it made for some unconventional thinking for a change.

There is very little I can say about “Pools of Green Fire,” the debut offering from Urushiol, that’ll even make any sense. This project, the creation of Yellow Eyes bassist Alexander DeMaria, is fucked up in a way we have not approached before. The label experimental death metal has been affixed by some to this album, and sure, why not? I guess in the most simplistic terms, that’s what it is. The music actually reminded me of Jeff VanderMeer’s The Southern Reach Trilogy and the defacing of nature into some warped form in Area X where you know you recognize the terrain, but it looks like something even the most deranged of dreams could not envision. This record likely isn’t best consumed by anyone on the brink of panic or by listeners easily jarred by strange and deformed melodies. This record is a task, one that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed even as I’ve tried to defend my psyche. Good enough? OK, let’s go.  

“Phase Lock” starts with warped chirps of deranged nature that ravaged and twisted by some cosmic force, and then the song storms open. The guitar work is absolutely insane, sounding almost like someone rapid fire playing a theremin (it’s like that for almost the entire album), and the power is uncompromising. The whole thing encircles and forces you to confront your own madness, the zaniness amplifies dangerously, and things fold and mash, bleeding out into terror. “Pillars of Red Smoke” delivers what can only be called cursed riffs, vocals that tangle your brain, and a relentless pace that challenges your stability. The drums savage, and the music starts to feel like a mental chemical burn, the guitars stagger, and the pressure mounts, ending in wild pressure.

“Iridescent Darkness” delivers swelling guitars that search the surroundings, daring and racing to who the fuck knows where. Guitars shriek as the growls are buried in hell, things get speedy and spacey, and things keep eating away, spitting fire and ending in craziness. “Curved Air” bludgeons and scars, while the bass clobbers and sends jolts down your spine. Beastly howls pound you as the guitars zap and hypnotize, and the pace speeds and warps, adding to your confusion. The assault blisters as things get even more bizarre, the shrieks pelt your skull, and the noise whips into unexplored alien terrain. The title track ends the record, jabbing and lathering, instantly putting you to the test. The strangeness collects like a slime, and the howls reverberate inside your brain, increasing the anxiety. The drums pummel as the playing gets even more impossible, sucking you into a sound halo that removes you from this world.

I’m not sure the words above can accurately or competently describe “Pools of Green Fire,” the debut offering from Urushiol. It’s easily one of the most baffling death metal records you ever will hear, hyperbole intended, and even after several visits, I still can’t make heads or tails of this thing. Is it here to intimidate? Haunt? Taunt? All of the above? This is a hectic and psychotic display almost impossible to put into word. At least not human words.  

For more on the band or to buy the album, go here: https://urushiol.bandcamp.com/album/pools-of-green-fire

For more on the label, go here: https://augurtongues.bandcamp.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Eight Bells get up from ashes, make triumphant statement with ‘Legacy of Ruin’

Photo by Cody Keto

There are only so many obstacles that can be placed in front of someone before they start to wonder if the venture is even worth pursuing. While everyone faces struggle in their lives, sometimes the circumstances just get to be too heavy, and it’s understandable when that ends projects in their tracks. But there are some who cannot be deterred, even when the water is up to the neck.

The story of Eight Bells has not always been a smooth one, despite the band making some of the most compelling music in all of metal’s terrain the last decade. But a leg injury guitarist/vocalist Melynda Jackson sustained on their tour with Voivod a few years back was a big physical setback, and then the dissolution of the lineup that recorded their last record “Landless” seemed to be another massive blow. But Jackson didn’t give in. She kept searching for the right parts that she found in bassist/vocalist Matt Solis (Cormorant, Ursa) and drummer Brian Burke (No Shores, Cave Dweller), and that unit produced “Legacy of Ruin,” the band’s excellent second full-length. The progressive ambitions and melding of all types of rupturing sounds from the trio is enthralling and pummeling, and the vocals remain vital and entrancing, this time mixing gender voices and adding a different element to the mix.

“Destroyer” starts with noises swelling and Jackson and Solis merging their voices for haunting harmonies. “I am death, destruction, I am strife and struggle, I am suffering, helpless, I am hopeless, careless,” the anger and frustration flooding through. Jackson’s shrieks rip, feeling cathartic as the playing chugs and sprawls, and then calm dawns as the voices float. The guitars go off as the bass jolts, making the final moments compelling and powerful. “The Well” is the longest track, running 11:10 and starting in eerie waters, the harmonized voices chilling with guest vocalist Melynda Marie Amann entering the fray. “Finding no redemption, sentenced, say a prayer to no one, muted,” Jackson calls, haunting your blood as the power really kicks in. The playing combusts and mauls, dripping in psychedelic power, even calming for a stretch as Jackson mournfully wonders, “Will you be there when I die?” The doomy hammers drop anew, haunting and destroying, Jackson calling out, “Our well runs dry, Lord hear our cry.” “Torpid Dreamer” is punchy and aggressive as it opens its gates, a haze hanging over, Jackson and Solis blending seamlessly. Moody leads stretch as the leads circle, trudging power chugs, and everything ends in mesmerizing storming.

“Nadir” dawns amid a heavy mist, setting the stage for the heaviness to crumble and adds even more pressure. “I am sure there’s no heaven, to adore is my weapon, right now is all we have,” amplifies the emotion that bleeds from every pore. The melodies take off, the intensity spikes, and everything lathers and floods toward “The Crone.” That track moves in as the singing drips like water droplets from an icicle, and then sunburnt, wondrous playing envelops you, leading into vicious shrieks and growls. “Witch! Crone! Bitch! Diviner!” is howled as the fury rages like lava from the earth, Jackson vowing, “Retribution, fucking vengeance, I’ll return,” as the last blasts melt away. “Premonition” is the 9:28-long closer that starts hypnotically and immersive, leaning into heavy stabs and violent shrieks, disrupting any sense of sanity. “Precious gift, nothing left, husk of an empire, dormant,” rattles cages as the guitars lather and the melodies build. The moodiness increases in the final stretch, the darkness folds, and the playing drubs, ending in lush acoustics licking the final embers of a city burning down.

This is a triumphant return for Eight Bells and Jackson especially, coming back from a gruesome injury and watching her band fall apart around her, only to find the right pieces and deliver “Legacy of Ruin.” This feels like a band reborn, bubbling back up from the ashes to prove their might and resolve, combining forces from other sources to create a greater whole. This is a tremendous statement, one of the band’s strongest to date, and no one ever should doubt Eight Bells and the weaponry they possess.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://lnk.spkr.media/eightbells-legacy

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

An Evening Redness drink deeply from desert skies, spread psyche doom on alluring debut record

Photo by Nohemi Moran

I lose myself in music that immediately gives me visions of some far-off place or something that activates my imagination. It’s why anytime music transports me into the cosmos, I tend to gravitate toward it because I’ve never been to the stars and likely never will, so the musical experience is as close as I’ll get to alien terrain.

An Evening Redness’ self-titled debut album (the band name and themes are inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian) falls into this same category, though it’s not taking us anywhere beyond this earth. Instead, the music, a rich mix of drone, dusty Americana, and doom, transports the listener deep into the desert, playing with heat and isolation as well as colorful evening skies that breath new life into your lungs. Composed, arranged, and produced by Brandon Elkins, this six-track album also soothes with warm hallucinogens, bloody lands, and biblical terrors, and he’s joined by vocalist Bridget Bellavia (BLKTXXTH, Piggy Black Cross), guest soloist Brendan Sloan (Convulsing), and drummer Ryan Jewell to flesh out these creations. Bellavia’s vocals are especially haunting, and the music is impossible to shake as your dreams take you right into the driest part of the land where your mind tells you stories you didn’t know existed.

“Alkali” is the 12-minute opener that stretches its legs and expands as it basks in acoustics and electric hum, slide guitars make the dusk thicker and tastier, and the haze turns into drone. That elements picks up and double, sizzling in eerie whirring, dumping you harder into western terrain, making your stomach rumble, disintegrating into the cold distance. “Mesa Skyline” has keys swarming as Bellavia’s voice enters the fray, feeling both sultry, soulful, and calming. The guitars make your mind melt, bringing a spacey chill, adding a noiry country sheen and then basking in slurry atmosphere. “Winter, 1847” melts in and vibrates, delivering a cosmic swirl amid crackling fires and dramatic synth darts. Theatrical orchestration kicks in and creates some of the most unexpected moments of the entire record, and the returning slide guitar brings some redness to the sky, scorching flesh and delivering darkness.

“The Judge” runs 10:39 and dawns amid steely harmonica and rain pattering, the synth knifing in behind and creating imaginative psychedelic colors. The atmosphere thickens as majestic swirling picks up and increases the falling mists, and then the harmonica returns and calls from the distance. The desert vibe thickens even more, your ears begin to ring, and darkness lurks as the horizons turn orange and purple. “Pariah” brings more fire and precipitation as Bellavia returns and calls into the night, balmy temperatures working their way in and making flesh crawl. The vocals stretch as the keys glisten, the singing lures souls from other dimensions, and the playing ends at the heart of a fever dream. “Black Flame at the Edge of the Desert” ends the record with lush country ease and voices calling, jazzy guitar making the hair stand on your arms. Western vibes and the yawning night sky meet as acoustics add a gentle flourish, and then the agitation arrives. “No salvation!” Bellavia wails, the sounds combust, and everything collapses into an angelic wonder.

I’ve never been to a desert, but I feel like I have an idea of what to expect psychologically just from taking on An Evening Redness’ self-titled record. The music sinks into your mind and body, teasing you, testing you, asking for your full emotional commitment. Every component woven into this record is key to making this whole thing work, luring you into the trap to let the music have its way with your mind.

For more on the band, go here: https://twitter.com/alkalidweller

To buy the album, go here: https://transylvaniantapes.bandcamp.com/album/an-evening-redness

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/TransylvanianRecordings

Blood Incantation peel back on death, unleash cosmic ambiance with celestial EP ‘Timewave Zero’

Death metal has no boundaries, no expectations, no rules. Not anymore. We’re better off for it because the subgenre has grown and pushed itself into areas no one ever expected when it crept from a swamp three decades ago. There still are bands that deliver meat and potatoes, which the sound definitely needs, but the bands that defy what’s expected are the true explorers.

It’s not hyperbolic to say there is no other death metal band quite like Colorado’s Blood Incantation, easily the most inventive and challenging of any artists pushing the sound. They’ve developed a reputation that’s become godly, but they deserve it because their first two full-length albums have redefined the style forever. But this band—vocalist/guitarist Paul Riedl, guitarist Morris Kolontyrsky, bassist Jeff Barrett, drummer Isaac Faulk—isn’t here to meet your expectations. Their new record “Timewave Zero,” named after a Terence McKenna theory (you have Google), contains none of the instruments listed above. It’s a synth-driven ambient space record with some Moog, Hammond organ, a solitary guitar for a moment, and just a vast maw of space for you to explore. This summer, I am going to listen to this record outside with the stars as my companions and let it wash over me. We are reviewing only two tracks as the third, “Chronophagia,” was not provided and is a CD exclusive. But the two we were given are the soundtrack of deep space isolation, where only you and your thoughts are relevant.    

“Io” starts simmering as noise builds and the keys seal the heat, feeling like a ghost hovering overhead as you try to get your bearings. Spacey lines spill as a sci-fi ambiance stretches, staying cold and haunting, mixing into the mist and the second movement that develops an eerie sense of isolation and confusion. The synth makes jolts go down your spine but also soothes at the same time, spinning in time and making your balance questionable, sinking into the third movement that gives off a heat hum that works on your psyche. Sheets float through the clouds as the melody lines swim among the stars, feeling downright Floydian as the waves continue to lap and increase the sense of dreaminess, spilling into the fourth and final portion. That section feels like it floats freely, cooling and circling, folding in darkness. The vibes are strange and unsettling, turning into dust and disappearing into the cosmos.

“Ea” is mesmerizing and numbing as it takes form, rolling through clouds and settling in your cells, feeling completely mind altering. The pace remains static and hypnotic, slowing the tempo, mixing into the second part that allows the pressure to build right away, sounds zapping like your brain is under the influence of chemicals, teasing your sanity. Electric impulses deal strange vibes that make your curiosity level build, moving you into the third section where the playing gets moodier, cymbals crash, and a lone acoustic guitar jags. Keys increase the unsettling ambiance as drops land slowly, and then we move toward the final movement where the melody bleeds into the picture and your mind freezes, moving purposely glacially. Frost builds on your lashes as the synth gushes and creates haziness, and then everything settles into the unknown, with your body lightly convulsing.

Blood Incantation are running on a different level than just about every other modern death metal band, and coming up with an all-ambient album when you just know people are dying for riffs takes some balls. But the bulk of their listeners likely have wider imaginations than most, and what they’ll find is a mind fuck of a journey that would feel perfect at night outside on your back, gazing up at the universe. They’ll certainly be back with the heavy shit before you know it, but let’s not discount this imaginative gust into the unknown that is going to haunt me for years to come.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://centurymedia.store/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/centurymedia/

Swedish beasts Firebreather pepper their doom with riffs, melody on ‘Dwell in the Fog’

For as much doom as I consume on a regular basis, which is quite a lot, I almost never do so in an altered state. I know, I’m doing it wrong, and I fully acknowledge this. I’ll try to work on this during 2022 as I strive to become a better person. I feel like because of this, I have not really indulged in what doom truly can mean to imagination and body because I’m always of clear mind.

Maybe I’ll start this venture with “Dwell in the Fog,” the third record from Swedish stoner doom crushers Firebreather who make one fuck of a case for vibing out with riffs on this six-track album. Thing is, every experience I’ve had with this record I’ve been 100 percent sober, so that goes to show you the power of this music and the energy they inject in these songs because I’ve done nothing but enjoy this beast every time I went to bat against it. The band—vocalist/guitarist Mattias Nööjd, bassist Nicklas Hellqvist, drummer Carl-Axel Wittbeck—lays it on thick battering you with killer riffs, a rumbling low-end assault, and vocals that are harsh but approachable, making for a record that’ll go down even better when the temperatures warm up.

“Kiss of Your Blade” heats up with heaviness in the form of doomy punchiness and gruff shout singing, pumping the blood in your veins. Great leads steam, and then we hit a higher energy level, as Nööjd howls, “Shake the ground! Levitate!” as the pummeling melts out into energetic haze. “Dwell in the Fog” has guitars bubbling in before things unload in a calculated manner, the singing scraping flesh. The vocals stretch out and flex as burly tones take over, the power bristles, and feedback clouds coat the skies. “Weather the Storm” starts cleaner before things get aggressive and the howls punish before the tempo kicks in harder. Defiant vocals and electric jolts combine to let the lava flow heavily, the bass prowls dangerously, and the track hammers to a numbing end.

“Sorrow” cuts in and chugs, the roars stretch, and the pace begins to sink in its teeth, tearing away muscle. The leads begin to light up and gash through steel as the heat continues to increase, the playing crushes, and everything ends in mauling energy. “The Creed” starts with the drums spilling and a blistering low end blackening eyes as the fuzz kicks up and accumulates. The soloing floods as punches land and do ample damage, swimming in raucous energy. “Spirit’s Flown” is the closer that dawns in spacey noise and dusty guitars before things erupt, and a blistering, trudging assault starts to gain steam. The guitars blossom into psychedelic storming, aggravating fires and taking their time to increase the ambiance, and the things gets crunchier and abrasive, ending in feedback flattening.

Firebreather use “Dwell in the Fog” not only to deliver a hammer blow to those who choose to take on this record but also to increase their own profile in the swelling stoner doom category. They do it with precision, some muscle, and a lot of energy, making it feel like you’re battling a noise storm that is intent on making it feel like you’ve been through a battle. On the other side of it, yeah, you’ll be sore, but you’ll also know you weathered a journey worth the mileage.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/product/firebreather-dwell-in-the-fog/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Deathbell put metaphysical, spiritual forces in focus on ‘A Nocturnal Crossing’

We speak often about music that is able to take you places in your mind and help you have an experience that goes beyond simply putting on a record and absorbing the music. It tends to mean a little more and stick to you harder when the music gives you something extra, and if that can flow into planes beyond this realm, then it’s even better as long as that’s something you can manage.

French psyche doom force Deathbell is one of those bands not just interested in putting their music on record; they also want to transport you and get inside your spirit. Their powerful second record “A Nocturnal Crossing” creates a tie between the life and death, delving into metaphysical forces and spiritual introspection that gives the listener a taste of something they perhaps haven’t had before. The band—vocalist/keyboard player Lauren Gaynor, guitarist/keys player Bastien Commenlongue, guitarist Fredrik Bolzann, bassist Valentin Troï, drummer Robin Draye—pushes out smoky, emotional doom that burns and takes its time setting up ambiance, pulling right into the middle of their hypnosis.

“The Stronghold and the Archer” is a stunning opener, working into psychedelic smoke as Gaynor’s powerful vocals first rear their head. The guitars are heavy and spacious while heat is generated and spat generously, and then the vocals reopen and surge, heavier punches land, and the final moments bleed out in color. “Devoured on the Peak” unleashes a bluesy sheen with Gaynor’s vocals super powering everything, and the guitars blurring and flexing. The leads heat up as the fuzz contingent multiplies, the song kicks back pretty hard, and a strong, emotional flood washes away the flames. “The Ladder” bleeds in with guitars emerging and synth billowing, feeling gothy and spooky. Things get grittier even as the melodies increase, the synth glistens, and the singing gets deeply sultry, sending jolts down your spine. The playing mesmerizes heavily, slow-moving heat scorches, and a final stomp runs through and leaves the paths they created scorched.

“Silent She Comes” starts with guitars drizzling and organs haunting, Gaynor’s vocals kicking in and adding bruising. The song keeps picking up tension as it goes, the humidity thickens, and Gaynor howls about “your demon eyes” as the track ends in sweltering stickiness. “Shifting Sands” slowly lands and takes a calculated approach, the vocals absolutely killing. The guitars move into the psyche void, delicately melting as Gaynor wails, “You don’t know!” The organs sprawl as the guitars stretch, and the singing again pumps juices, sprawling in the sand. The title track closes the album with eerie keys bubbling and doom waters blackening, Gaynor absolutely going off. Heartfelt magic buzzes in your chest as Gaynor calls, “Out of the dark, into the light,” the guitars generating lava. The fires build as your nerves are on end, everything catapulting off into a cloud of smoke.

“A Nocturnal Crossing” is a record that truly feels like it is branching the cavern separating the living and the dead, and the music here equally is scathing and psychedelically rich. Deathbell take a pretty big leap from their strong debut to this second record, and they feel like they’re figuring things out, really establishing their metallic spirit. This is an album that demands your full participation, body and spirit, and it will reward you over and over for that commitment.      

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

To buy the album, go here: https://svartrecords.com/product/deathbell-a-nocturnal-crossing-album/

For more on the label, go here: https://svartrecords.com/

NY death legends Immolation rip into bruised muscle, flesh with pummeling 15-track ‘Acts of God’

It’s stunning just how much heavy metal royalty remains in our plane of existence, still putting out great work and absolutely killing it live, that is when they’re able. To be able to breathe oxygen into our lungs at the same time as Iron Maiden, Obituary, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Carcass, and so many legendary acts are carrying ravaging torches is something for which to be eternally thankful.

Let’s not forget New York death metal institution Immolation who have been at it for more than three decades and remain an intimidating force live. They have returned with their 11th record “Acts of God,” their first in five years and a mammoth of a collection that will overstuff you in the best possible way. This thing is 15 tracks that stretch over 52 minutes, and while that might seem like a classic example of failing to edit themselves, it’s really not. Everything on here crushes as the band—vocalist/bassist Ross Dolan, guitarists Robert Vigna and Alex Bouks, drummer Steve Shalaty—is channeled and ferocious, sounding impressive, scary, and jam packed with horrors about our modern world, burning down your psyche. Things flow seamlessly, nothing overstays its welcome, and its impact is mighty. This is a tremendous album, one that should please even those who have been on board since “Dawn of Possession.”

“Abandoned” is a classic-style intro cut as eerie clean guitars cut through, paving the way for “An Act of God” that absolutely tears everything apart. Dolan’s growls wrench as the guitars chug and strike, mashing bones to paste. The drums disrupt, fluid leads gush, and things burn out and head into “The Age of No Light” that ignites with guitars as it dawns. This one is rowdy, a crumbler that feels like it’s cutting through the earth, the leads warming your blood. The band keeps pounding away, stripping away your psyche, ending with the pace hammering. “Noose of Thorns” jabs with one of the most memorable riffs on a record packed with great ones, and it’s easily one of the most infectious songs on this collection, clobbering and rupturing veins. Vicious growls jolt as the guitars weigh down, leaving everything bloody in its wake. “Shed the Light” brings chunky guitars and harsh growls, the tempo jerking your neck viciously. There’s a brief haze disrupted by blinding guitars and mauling drums with the whole thing ending abruptly. “Blooded” thrashes and delivers devastation, heavy heat scarring flesh. The guitars snarl before hitting an even higher level, and the growls squash bowels, coming to a furious end. “Overtures of the Wicked” hits speedier paces, the vocals are spat out, and the precision grinds away. The growls smother as the evil spirits mar, leaving burnt flesh behind. “Immoral Stain” starts with dark, clean guitar lines, but then the power kicks in, and the band heads into total destruction. The playing goes all in, absolutely killing everything in front of them, delivering ominous warnings about impending destruction, falling away with jarring chaos.

“Incineration Procession” pushes in with a start/stop assault, pummeling with beastly growls jabbing through rock. Drums splatter as the guitars get more intense, vicious howls increase, and the final moments devastate. “Broken Prey” brings scarring playing and the leads totally swagger, the growls bustling and delivering haymakers. Everything rains down as the leads engulf, and the finish is punishing. “Derelict of Spirit” punches in as humid leads wilt flesh, and then the rhythm section mashes, bringing on unforgiving brutality. The guitar work is again sinister and impossibly sharp, and the growls lacerate as everything rushes out. “When Halos Burn” begins with a drum assault that is impossible to experience without taking on damage, and the rest of the track follows the lead, squeezing marrow from your bones. “Let the Darkness In” brings riffs that increase the heat dangerously, and it feels like scarring is picking up and putting your well-being in question. The track gets even darker, things come unglued, and the intensity explodes, ramping up and pushing the chaos into hell. “And the Flames Wept” is an instrumental piece that is both sizzling and hazy with isolated guitars buzzing and setting the ambiance for closer “Apostle” that saves one of its tastiest riffs for last, chewing and mauling, slicing into muscle. The band thrashes viciously, the growls roar, and the leads lather, ending things on a menacing note.

It might seem 15 tracks is a lot to handle, but Immolation make it feel like a great feast, and the album whips by in a flash. “Acts of God” is a toppling creation that proves these trailblazers of death metal not only still have it, but they sound as hungry and bloodthirsty as they ever have as there is not a wasted moment on this thing. It’s great getting a new Immolation album in any year, but having one this good in which to indulge is something for which we should be morbidly thankful.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.immolation.info/acts-of-god?fbclid=IwAR3hUCIvrvxtkUz1LnbAGF1Q4z1tOEwyMhIoijzdWA5ckc8SgXEmXvwelys

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/nuclearblastrecords