PICK OF THE WEEK: Cough’s nasty doom spreads hopelessness and despair on ugly ‘Still They Pray’

CoughHey, who’s ready to party? It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the States, so the shitty beer will flow like, eh, water, and people will do dumb things in honor of America. On top of that, we have a joke candidate clinching a party’s official nomination, which has to mean the Masonic-envisioned Armageddon may really be upon us, and another probable candidate who may have done some criminal shit. So let’s unleash the doom.

There may not be a more fitting time for Virginia doom horde Cough to return to us, six years after their last full-length record “Ritual Abuse” scorched the Earth. Now they drop into our laps the vicious, gnarly “Still They Pray,” a 67-minute face burner that has the band seriously stepping up their game (not that they needed to do that in the first place) and firing a blinding warning shot that they’re here to dominate the genre. The record is produced by Electric Wizard’s Jus Osborn, and let’s get this out of the way, yes, it does have a serious EW vibe (especially vocally) that bashes you in the face right away, mere minutes into the fray. But the sound suits them, and they’ve actually been travelling this road for quite some time, so if anything, they sound in place.

12 Jacket (Gatefold - Two Pocket) [GD30OB2-N]Cough have been doing their thing for a little over a decade now, but they haven’t really flooded the market with music. Less is more, right? Other than aforementioned “Ritual Abuse,” they also have their 2006 EP “The Kingdom,” their 2008 debut full-length “Sigillum Luciferi,” as well as splits with Windhand and The Wounded Kings to their name. “Still They Pray” arguably is their strongest effort yet, and the band—bassist/vocalist Parker Chandler (also of Windhand), guitarist/vocalist Dave Cisco, guitaristr Brandon Marcey, and drummer Joey Arcaro—sound on fire and determined to spread their dark arts to any willing or unwilling participants who stands in their way.

“Haunter of the Dark” rips open the record with stinging feedback and burly doom riffs, with Cisco’s psyche-washed singing hanging over top like a fog. The track keeps mauling and tricking your brain, with some harsh screams entering the mix at times, and monstrous punishment flattening your chest. The track ends amid sonic torment and dark, smudgy playing. “Possession” runs 10:25 with the bass slinking in, and then the storm unloading. Harsh screams ramble along with the deliberate tempo, as the track sits in a steaming simmer. The guitars later bubble and blaze, stomp and swagger with energy, as the whole thing heads into the void. “Dead Among the Roses” is a 10:47 bruiser, with the singing more menacing, guitars spitting static, and a mucky sentiment. The track keeps sprawling, with strong soloing breaking out and unleashing molten power, and the pace suffocating. The band pours every ounce of vitriol over the finish, as the song disappears into corrosion. “Master of Torture” keeps the slow pain rolling, with a smoky pace and gurgling growls adding to the bloodshed. In fact, the track sits in the mud for a long stretch until things suddenly kick into higher gear, and the assault is on. “Live to hate, hate to live,” Chandler wails, as soloing melts over top and burns out everything.

“Let It Bleed” is the most surprising thing on this or any other Cough record. It’s a sun-scorched ballad filled with torment and confusion, something that reminds me of something Black Sabbath would have turned out in their glory years. By the way, don’t let the word “ballad” fool you. This still is hellish and rife with torment, with Cisco wailing, “Life and death, all the same,” amid passionate guitar playing and imagery of everything you know burning down. It picks up even more intensity toward the end, ending the track on a fiery note. Great song. “Shadow of the Torturer” is a disorienting instrumental, with a long jam section built into the first stretch of the song before really going off and letting the chaos fly. This feels like an emotional bloodletting, one that sets the path for the rest of the record. “The Wounding Hours” has haunting organs pouring in, gut-wrenching growls, and awesome soloing that could blind you. As the track reaches its finish, it finds a way to get even nastier, ending its run with a bristling onslaught. That all bleeds into the closing title song, another disarming one that travels a rustic folk road, one that leads to horrific discoveries. Acoustic guitars ring out, while Cisco’s raw singing pushing the pace, painting an unsettling, almost hopeless picture. That darkness crawls along right up to the final moments, where solemnity disappears into a cavern of noise that gets sucked back into space the moment it appears.

Cough’s name deserves to be mentioned among modern doom’s finest acts, and “Still They Pray” might be their act to violently take that distinction for themselves. This is a sludgy, evil-sounding, crushing nightmare of a record, and it should terrify the uninhibited. There’s no turning back now, the world is burning, and Cough is just the right band to add the fuel to the flames.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/cough666

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

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

Tombs reshuffle the deck again with lineup additions, doom-fed blackness on ‘All Empires Fall’

TombsBands that constantly change their colors are not all that common. It seems that many bands get comfortable in their ways of being and settle themselves in those areas for the long haul. Nothing wrong with that. It makes for consistency. But bands that always change things up are pretty damn fun, too.

Ever since they got started nearly a decade ago, Tombs have done their part to keep things interesting and their audience guessing. It’s weird in a way, because you always know Tombs when you hear them, but each time out, they add different shades to their overall output. That’s one of the things that has kept Tombs so vital and exciting, and it pumps a hell of a lot of vitality into their great new EP “All Empires Fall.” The band really seemed to hit their stride on 2014’s “Savage Gold,” but further lineup changes and additions, as well as stretching out even further beyond their borders, makes for what could be the most exciting era of Tombs to date.

Tombs coverOut front of the band is Mike Hill, who has been there since the beginning and is the band’s unquestioned voice and heart. His gritty growls, wild wails, and dreary clean vocals give the band their trademark DNA, and he’s one of the most refreshing and ever-changing figures in metal. As this band is wont to do, there have been plenty of personnel shifts since “Savage Gold,” with only bassist Ben Brand as a holdover. The most interesting addition is synth/noisemaker/second vocalist Fade Kainer, himself a member of the awesome Batillus, who adds a whole new dimension to the band. Also part of the fold are guitarist Evan Void (Hivelords, Sadgiqacea) and drummer Charlie Schmid (Vaura), who also add thunderous elements to this band and hint at a cataclysmic future.

“The World Is Made of Fire” is a quick instrumental opener and one that gives you a huge hint of what’s in store. Murky sci-fi keys sweep in and glimmer, letting thick clouds roll over, and out of that comes thundering riffs that beat the hell out of you. That paves the way for “Obsidian” that opens with pure black metal strains raining down, as well as vocals that smear together guttural growls and ear-piercing shrieks. There is a storming chorus that creates one of the most memorable sections in Tombs history, and the pace manages to find another gear as the track blasts toward its finish. “Last Days of Sunlight” has a mystical ambiance and a deathrock feel, with Hill going for warbly clean vocals that remind of Tom Warrior. The song is dark and dreary and leaves black streams in its wake. “Deceiver” is another massive destroyer, with a thick, chugging pace, vocals scraping, and as savage-sounding chorus that means business. Soloing rips out at the end, with spacious noise flooding up, and a clubbing finish that bruises you. Closer “V” begins with a gust of furnace-powered noise before it splits open. Hill again goes with his darker clean voice, with black metal melodies dripping and cascading over the chorus, harsh wails pounding, “Fall into the great divide!” and vicious guitars emerging and sending everything into chaos.

If this is a new start for Tombs, then I’m absolutely pumped. There was nothing wrong with Tombs in any of their forms, and I’ve loved everything they’ve ever put out. But they’re onto something on “All Empires Fall.” This feels like a strong, furious vision the band has been seeking since they got started. Way more of this, please.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Wolvserpent stretch their cosmic chaos on expansive EP ‘Aporia:Kala:Ananta’

WolvserpentCreativity and reimagining metal have kept the genre vital and alive. Yeah, there are those people who want everything played a certain way and generally reject anything that isn’t adhering to a formula. But if everyone played by the same rules, we wouldn’t have creative advancements, and everyone would be playing the same thing.

Credit bands that are doing ambitious, daring things on the outer edges, such as Boise, Idaho, duo Wolvserpent. While not metal in the classic sense, this band certainly has shown a heaviness and darkness that warrants their inclusion in any discussion surrounding the style’s most interesting artists. Ever since taking on this moniker in 2010 (they went under the name Pussygutt for five years before that), this band has taken parts of doom, drone, black metal, and death metal and melded them with classic strings, otherworldly ambiance, and haunting atmosphere. Their tracks come off more like true compositions rather than standard metal tracks, and as they’ve grown, they’ve become more immersive and challenging as artists. They’re a personal favorite (they’re one of the highlights of 2014’s Gilead Fest), and their new EP “Aporia:Kala:Ananta” was a highly anticipated one for me.

Wolvserpent coverThat effort has arrived, and it contains one 40-minute track that demands your undivided, uninterrupted attention, and chances are they won’t have to beg for it. From moment one all the way up to the breath-taking conclusion, guitarist/vocalist Blake Green and drummer/violinist Brittany McConnell build the picture, stitching the track piece by piece and taking you on a ride that hits emotional highs and guttural lows. If you liked what they accomplished on their excellent 2013 album “Perigaea Antahkarana,” be prepared to enter the next level with this amazing band.

The track, which shares the title with the album, has a serene, slowly building first half, with more of the woodsy orchestral tones taking over, making it feel like you’re walking through a cosmic marsh. The violin cuts through and establishes a strong center point, while other colors are filled in around it. As the trail moves on, elements are added to the mix, from the drumming, to hushed growls that roll underneath the mire, to creaky noises splattering. Waves crash and solemn melodies arrive, as noises swirl and, finally, hell truly arrives.

Slow-driving doom begins to crush you, as dark clouds crowd the airspace, monstrous roars smash at the walls, and a dizzying pace sets in. There are some black metal-style melodies that stretch over the piece, drizzling down darkness while noise and drone hovers. Deliberate pounding thrashes away, while melodies begin to swell, and sounds keep charging and sprinkling as the fog gets ever thicker. A looping guitar line spirals through the midsection, surviving a gargantuan assault of drone fire, stretching its way all the way to the end, where the song seems to dissipate into the air. When the track is over, your lungs should be full of air, and your mind buzzing and pulsating after what you’ve just experienced.

Wolvserpent remain one of metal’s finest innovators and gutsy dreamers, and their work on “Aporia:Kala:Ananta” is another step forward for this gifted duo. They continue to define what’s possible in metal and heavy music, and their magical, haunting stratosphere is one in which to get lost and never want to return. This EP is an excellent chance to let go, drift off into the unknown, and sink into a journey unlike anything else you’ll get in metal or any other style of music.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Cretin’s sick grind, repulsive storytelling make ‘Stranger’ disgusting fun

CretinHere, on this day, when we run the final review of the calendar year before we get into a few weeks’ worth of 2014 in review, we bring you the most disgusting, perverted, disturbing of records. This one should put a smile on your face, and if it doesn’t you may have no capability to feeling the sheer glee of a band rolling in filth and chaos. Yeah, we saved the sickest for last.

Cretin are a long-standing death-splashed grindcore band. But even though they’ve been together for more than two decades, we only have two full-length records from the band—2002’s splattering “Freakery” and their brand-new opus “Stranger.” It’s not that the band hasn’t had inspiration or plenty of horrific stories to tell, but its members have been plenty busy with other ventures. Plus, the story of guitarist/vocalist Marissa Martinez-Hoadley’s coming out as a transgender woman and continuing to defy anyone who stands in her way not only was a major step for the closeted, macho, often unaccepting world of metal, but for her personally. She has been an inspiration to so many. Maybe some meathead out there wondered if Cretin would retain their savagery and sick sense of humor after all of this—and if you’re one of those people, perhaps consider wallowing in embarrassment—but that was pure silliness. This is Cretin. This is a grindcore force, and on “Stranger,” they’re more than willing to rip a hole in your chest and piss in it.

Cretin coverWe’ve covered Martinez-Hoadley, whose vocals are even deadlier and full of bloody character than they were on “Freakery.” She’s an absolute joy to hear rage on these tracks, and I can only imagine how great they’re going to sound live. Along with her are longtime bandmates Matt Widener, who plays bass and also pens the horrific words you hear barrel out of Martinez-Hoadley’s mouth; destructive drummer Col Jones; and new secret weapon Elizabeth Schall, one of the most impressive and dynamic lead guitarists in all of metal, who fronts the scathing Dreaming Dead. This formation of Cretin is a monster, with each member contributing to the muck, and “Stranger” is a record that will haunt and taunt you long after it’s done.

A nice thing about Cretin’s work is their songs are longer and more realized than most grind acts. There are very few 30-seconds-and-done cuts, and that begins with “It,” complete with dizzying playing, Martinez-Hoadley’s grunt-like growls, and maniacal thrashing that wastes no time getting you into the bruising. “Ghost of Teeth and Hair,” a pretty gross title, opens with dazzling soloing from Schall that lets things burn before the track hits its guttural, deathly glory. The track is muddy and ugly, and when that weird bicycle bell rings at the end, you’ll feel a little uneasy inside. “The Beast and the Drowning Bucket” absolutely mauls, with mucky vocals crawling out and drums being obliterated. It’s hard to keep your head above water on this one (fitting, right?), and the fierce shrieks that erupt toward the end should rip your skin apart. “Knights of the Rail” is another nasty one that starts with a hefty assault but then hits another gear part of the way through, like they’re blasting into hyperspeed. “We Live in a Cave” rampages from the gate, with total heaviness, spat-out growls, and a lightning-fast chorus that blows by so fast, you won’t know what hit you. “Sandwich for the Attic Angel” is one of the most memorable, creepy songs on the record, with Martinez-Hoadley blasting through a volcanic chorus that puts a knife right in the heart of this ghost story. The title cut is speedy, raspy, and violent, with Martinez-Hoadley howling, “Stranger!” over and over, while the rest of the band plows through frightening power. Schall stabs her way in with another stellar solo, adding a sense of classic metal to this mangy crusher.

“Mr. Frey the Janitor Guy” is uncomfortable, bursting with rage, and pretty damn disgusting, and surely the band would have it no other way. The track is grossly fast, with Martinez-Hoadley howling the story about the underappreciated, sadly mocked mop man who gets his comeuppance in the most self-destructive manner possible. Seriously, don’t be eating while reading the words. “Mary Is Coming” is gory and mangling, just crushing everything in front of it, leading into “Honey and Venom,” a track that makes me a little uncomfortable due to my bee sting allergy. The drumming is rapid-fire killing, and the band hits a thrashy groove that might be designed to get you maimed live. Who’s to say? Or complain? “Freakery” follows, which also is the title of their debut record, and it is mashing, smashing chaos. The story is forced out of Martinez-Hoadley’s mouth, and Schall’s guitar work tears through like a sword looking to draw blood as quickly as possible. This thing’s just mean. “They Buried the Lunchbox” has a vicious tempo, with speedy vocals that rage out of Martinez-Hoadley’s jaws, and the bulk of this assault is soaked in rotting meat. “Husband?” is the shortest and one of the most disturbing cuts on the album, a blast of total carnage that gets an extra hint of creepiness with the closing whistling. Yikes! Closer “How to Wreck Your Life in Three Days” actually starts with a calculated pace, making it seem like Cretin might let you down a little easier. You should know better than that. This sucker rips apart, with more guttural growls that destroy, an awesome dose of thrash goodness, one final razor-sharp solo, and everyone chanting, “Fire!” as the record reaches its end. As does the main character’s existence.

Hopefully Cretin’s studio output will become as little more common after this head-ripping second album “Stranger.” This is a deadly, vicious lineup, and this record is the best grind album that came out in 2014 by a long shot. Remember to keep the buckets nearby in case the stories get to be too much and some analgesics for your pain, because you’re going to need both once you spend a trip letting Cretin destroy your body and psyche.

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

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

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