Vastum – Hole Below ALBUM REVIEW

A punishing album full of riffs that bring you pain, and growls that bring you doom, Hole Below could very well be that of the hole where a serial killer keeps its victims, which in this case you’re 15 feet down in. It’s almost industrial like sections bring the listener an overwhelming sense of dread, creating a massively unsafe and uneasy environment. The inescapable feel of dread fills the listener at every waking moment, as if every strum of the guitar is a footstep of the killer about to come fetch you and bring you to your demise. All in all, this is an album for those who want to feel as if they are in mortal danger, and for those who wish to have their organs turned to spaghetti sauce…

…Is what I feel like I should feel when listening to this. Alas, I do not. It could just be chalked up to current listening mood, the temperature in the room, how much I shat today, who knows. Even after repeated listens, I’m not feeling this. I recognize that this is a great work, but my feelings aren’t syncing up with that. The album, although executing its desired vibe well, feels hollow. It feels like every song is relatively the same, which isn’t typically a complaint I have with death metal, as that’s sort of a staple with most traditional death metal tracks. But here it’s amplified for some reason. Perhaps just because I was expecting more, as it starts out promising with an industrial/ambient like intro, which I expected to be utilized much more throughout the album. I debated on whether or not I should give the my approval anyway, however I feel like I should stay true to my gut feeling and give this a more modest rank. I still encourage people to check this out, as I’m sure everyone else will feel differently than me.


Putrevore – Tentacles of Horror ALBUM REVIEW

Overall a solid work. Very riff focused, which is a bit refreshing in the world of caverncore and competitions on who can be the most bro0tal. The vocals are a bit reminiscent of Demilich, in that they are very much more gurgles and demonic-like spasms rather than real death vocals. They certainly aren’t exactly to that extreme, but it’s towards that area of the spectrum. However despite having a touch of uniqueness, it’s mostly an album that goes in one ear and out the other. I found myself using it more as background noise than as a real album to focus on. A good work, but not something I would uphold to high acclaim.


Khemmis – Absolution ALBUM REVIEW

Not many bands attempt to describe their sound in four words. Even fewer put those four words up at the front of their bandcamp page. Khemmis is not one of those bands, and boldly attempts to describe what usually takes at least a paragraph in just about as few words as possible: Slow, Loud, Heavy, Denver. The first three are pretty standard for doom metal, so while they’re most likely correct, I don’t think they’re really breaking any barriers with that. Denver’s kind of a weird one, because although they are from Denver, bands don’t typically describe their sound with where they’re from. Though I guess it could be like when a rapper randomly says the name of where they’re from to get cred or something. I guess any city that’s cold as fuck and a mile above the earth has metal cred to it. There’s also legal weed, so that’s a major plus on any doom metal band’s origin cred. But of course, it isn’t just about how the bands describes themselves, I’m reviewing this to describe how I feel about it. And personally, I’m not quite sure they described themselves accurately. And no, I’m not just going to go through each of their self descriptions and analyze if they are indeed that, that’s dumb. I don’t think I can measure “Denver” in any objective sense anyway. Instead I’ll do it the old fashion way; through hard analysis, and lots of metaphors.

First off, before I take a microscope to every fault on Absolution, I do want to point out how great the production job is. It’s not really super unique, or especially fitting to the theme, but it is the quintessential “this is how doom metal should sound” kind of production. It has enough fuzz to make you feel the hammering, bring you down to earth, bone crushing tonics, while being clean enough to where you can actually hear every note. If there is a single kind of production that can go with pretty much any doom metal album, it’s the job that’s done on this album.

Unfortunately, Khemmis doesn’t fully capitalize on that fact. The very first thing I noticed within the first few minute of the first song, is how little of an atmosphere there is. Now, there’s a common misconception in the metal community that there’s a division between atmospheric metal and riff based metal. This is completely false. ALL metal albums have atmosphere. I could even go further and say that all albums in general have atmosphere, but I don’t want to go too far off topic. Even riff based metal albums have an atmosphere to them, because any time you play a note, or hit a drum, or do anything with any sound ever, you’re going to evoke a feeling in whoever is listening. And that’s all atmosphere is, the feeling the music brings. This is true all the way from Hellhammer’s first demos, to Filosofem, to  [INSERT ANY MODERN ATMOSPHERIC BLACK METAL ALBUM HERE]. The point is, all music has atmosphere, even if the main goal of the music is not to be atmospheric. So relating this back to Absolution, even though this is mostly a melody and riff based album, the lack of atmosphere still hurts it. It feels sterile and lifeless. The musicianship and musicality are rather good, but it lacks a certain sense of personality to it. Part of that the fact that this album has the strange and not often found problem of being too melodic.

Typically a strong sense of melody is a good thing in almost any circumstance. A common criticism of metal is how unmemorable the melodies are, especially in genres like power metal, melo death, and other more melodic based metal. Even outside of that, melody is almost universally seen as a good thing. The problem here is two-fold. For one, even though they do focus on the melody often, the actual melodies are a bit too obvious and unexciting, as well as overextending a bit, as to being more a long melodic line than being an actual repeated melody. Not that the songs don’t have repeated themes, but they get lost in slightly long-winded melodic sections, so nothing really sticks in your head. The second problem is that they traded being melodic with what doom metal is best known for: hard hitting, crushing, short, and catchy riffs. This is not a very riff based album, something which shouldn’t normally be a thing you want to say about a doom metal album. Not that the riffs don’t exist, but they often sound like slightly melodic chugging, rather than an actual hard hitting riff. So in the end, they trade riffs for melody, and end up doing neither well.

I mentioned earlier how the production was really quite good on this album, the kind that could sound awesome in just about any doom metal album. While this is still true, I did also mention that they didn’t capitalize on that. I expanded on that with mention of the atmosphere, however i want to further expand on that on a more general level than just notes and melody. Khemmis simultaneously tries to sound both clean and dirty at the same time, and of course, whenever you try to do two things at once, you’re much more likely to do neither well. In a more general sense, they contrast the very sludge influenced doom sections, with these much more melodic and clean sections, that sounds more like melo-death, or even deathcore (more on that shortly) than doom metal. While as a whole, there probably is a bit more focus on the sludgey doom sections (I admit, I wasn’t exactly counting the seconds that each got focus so I don’t know this for sure, shame on me), neither has enough of a focus overall to be done well. An even production job doesn’t necessarily mean even music. Because if you have an even production job, with an even amount of dirt, and an even amount of cleanliness, and neither is executed in a particularly good manner, you end up creating this middle of the pack, and ultimately bland sound that takes advantage of none of the strengths either influences has to offer. The great thing about this particular production job is that it can accent anything, not that you’re supposed to go middle of the road with the middle of the road production. Focus on doing one thing well, not multiple things mediocre.

Moving on from the production job while stilling talking about the overall bland atmosphere, one of the culprits to this is the vocals. Initially, I heard the clean vocals and was quite happy, and even noted that they sounded perfect with the music. I’m a huge fan of trad doom, even though I don’t listen to nearly enough of it. Clean, somewhat relaxed vocals in doom metal will always have a place in my heart, if anything because it reminds me of when I first understood Born too Late. But just as soon as I was writing the praise of this vocal style in my notes, the most awful noise cam about. As if taken right from a generic metalcore album, these uncouth, barbaric, uncultured death barks came in. It took me extremely off guard, and it put me way off on this album. It didn’t help that on the first track it was basically just injected into the music seemingly out of nowhere. It was like decorating a vanilla cake with Tapatio hot sauce. Tapatio is mentioned in particular, because although I love hot sauce, and I’m sure you could make vanilla and hot sauce work, Tapatio is like if hot sauce was twice digested, vomited up, shat on, then mixed with moldy cum rags and sold for people to put on their burritos. Therefore this negates any indication that what I said could be seen as a good thing. Anyway, the combination didn’t work and I initially wrote the death barks off as awful.

But a funny thing happened on the way to The Bereaved. Or rather, two funny things. For one, I noticed the pattern in how they used these vocals, and how it changed throughout the album. Initially, the harsh vocals were used as a change-up during the climax of the song, switching back and forth in a very core-like way, mostly accompanied by a melo-death like background (hence the melodic death metal influence I put at the top). Later in the album, starting towards the end of Serpentine, there was a switch. A slow one, but a switch nonetheless. The death barks became the main vocals, and the clean vocals took a backseat. As a result, you now had as a main focus the harsh vocals accompanied by the sludge/doom sections, and the clean vocals accompanied by the more brief melodic sections. This seemed a lot more natural, and better overall, which in turn leads to the second funny thing. I realized that the harsh vocals were actually better. The album really reaches it’s peak during the 5th track “Burden of Sin”, in which the transition in roles of the two vocal styles finally completes. The large majority of the track has the harsh vocals in it, and in turn, for the first time, there seems to be a focused atmosphere.

But why does any of this matter? I’m sure many (as in 4 out of the 7 total at least) of you reading this are probably thinking that I’ve spent this entire time nitpicking. And by itself, yeah this is mostly nitpicking. However there is a larger point to this, and it’s a great lesson in why reading the lyrics, even to a metal album, is extremely important.

While it’s hard to say exactly what in particular this album is about, the general theme of the album, at least lyrically, is that humanity has done a bunch of awful things, and that now they must pay with the apocalypse. This is especially apparent in the track Antediluvian. For those of you that don’t know (which included me until I looked this up, I’m not THAT smart), the antediluvian refers to the time before the biblical flood. So the obvious implication here is that we’re in the theoretical antediluvian, about to be swept up by the great flood, and the lyrics reflect that. In short, the theme here is the Apocalypse. That’s a pretty large theme to relate to in 41 minutes, or any amount of time for that matter. Which leads me to the ultimate failing of this album. It feels so small in comparison to how large it’s trying to be.

There isn’t just one reason for this, but we’ll start by going back to talking about the vocals. The cleans Khemmis uses here evoke a sense of homeliness, a sense of being down to earth, nostalgia, and relatively speaking are much more relaxed. Whereas the death vocals are urgent, punishing, and unforgiving. It’s sort of like your mom telling you that if you keep making that face it’ll stay that way, compared to gunnery sergeant hartman yelling “YOU HAD BEST UNFUCK YOURSELF OR I WILL UNSCREW YOUR HEAD AND SHIT DOWN YOUR NECK!”. You can ignore your mom saying that. You can’t really ignore the threat of literally eating shit. Considering the main point of this album is that humanity must pay or else, I’d much rather have this message relayed in a way I can’t just tune out. This is what the harsh vocals do. Again, there’s urgency involved, and in a more abstract sense, punishment. There’s a feeling that by listening to these, I’m already being punished, and I mean that in a good way. Sort of like that you know you’ve been a naughty boy, and now master Ben Hutcherson will punish you. Except then you realize you forgot the safeword and now he’s literally going to kill you. That’s how this album should feel. The harshness should be the punishment, the cleans should be the relief, but ultimately you should feel a sense of doom. This doesn’t happen nearly enough. In fact I’d really only say it happens during one part of Antediluvian, and the majority of Burden of Sin. The rest of the time it feels like they’re trying to relay the message of our demise in the meekest, and least pressuring way possible. It feels small… with one exception.

I referenced this earlier, along with a 1960s musical comedy, but the final track is called “The Bereaved”, a track which the label claimed was the “doom metal track of the year”. Seeing as how labels never lie about the quality of their music, I was shocked to find out that this is in fact NOT the doom metal track of the year. In fact, it isn’t even the best track on the album. One thing I will say is that this is the first time the album actually feels large. Unfortunately, sort of like a Dane Cook comedy routine, it’s obvious how hard they’re trying to be that way. Right away with the acoustic guitar intro, and then with the post-metal-like buildup to the main music, Khemmis is pulling in all the stops to make sure the track blows you away. Unfortunately for them, it climaxes at about 1:10 out of the 9:00 length, and then never goes anywhere. It’s loud, it’s slow, it’s heavy, it sounds epic, it’s from Denver, and it doesn’t do shit for the album. It’s sort of like ordering Bob’s Big Ass Burger at your local diner. Sure it’s big, and sure it’s filling, but in the end, you probably would’ve been much happier with a smaller, but much higher quality meal.

Now I just want to make this clear that although I’ve spent this entire review taking a big fat shit on the record, this is not bad by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, this is pretty dang good. Even though it has a lot of faults, and even though I said the nitpicking I did was important, it’s still nitpicking, and the point is, aside from taking a magnifying glass to it, this album sounds good. When they do get the right combination of vocals and instrumental influences, and it sounds like it should sound, there’s a lot to like. I’d probably rate this in the mid-high 7 range if the entire album sounded like Burden of Sin. There are also some unbelievably awesome solo work here, especially on The Bereaved, which is easily the best part of that track. These guys know how to play their instruments well, and it shows.

Unfortunately, and I know I’ve been going back and forth on this, even though those are just nitpicks, they’re important nitpicks, and they prevent me from putting Absolution into the official seal of approval. The album sounds good, but ultimately it took on too big of a theme for their sound. If they can get that combination of influences correct for an entire album, watch out. But for now I think I actually prefer the Muse album by the same name.


Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful ALBUM REVIEW

I’m typically adverse to the whole symphonic metal business. Not because I innately dislike symphonic sounds (I study classical music in college and very much enjoy it), but because it’s usually done very poorly with bad synths and extremely campy and generic “epic” sounds that are supposed to mimic what a classical piece sounds like, but never actually sounds like anything resembling classical music. Fortunately for Nightwish, they’re famous and have money, so they don’t need to worry about crappy synths and can actually hire an orchestra to do their bidding. So props to them for that (I never said I graded fairly). So they avoided the first pitfall of symphonic metal. But what about the generic “epic” sound? Unfortunately, they did not avoid that, though if you’re going to cheese, you could at least do it in style, which there certainly is plenty of in this album. Lush symphonic timbres are abound in this lp, which combines aspects of power metal, symphonic metal, and elements of celtic folk music, and it does it in a way that doesn’t seem like they’re trying too hard, which is a major trap that a lot of symphonic/power metal bands fall into. Part of that is I think, again, that they have money, and can actually create what they are trying to achieve without taking any cheap shortcuts. I also felt the rather subdued, but not exactly bored female vocals added a nice touch, which to me made the celtic influences more authentic (I’ve actually only ever heard celtic style singing preformed by a male once, and that was at a live concert at a church in front of about 20 people. It was great stuff though, they combined celtic, american, and indian folk music into an amazing performance, I really wish I’d remembered the name of the band and I’d link their site). The highlight of the album is easily the 24 minutes track aptly labeled “The Greatest Show on Earth”. And it is a great show. A spoken word tale told with the massive help of a variety of instrumentations, from the obvious (metal and symphonic orchestra) to the less obvious (dark ambient and some electronic tracks), to even quoting a Bach prelude, which I thought was a nice touch.

So then why “only” (as if it’s a bad grade) a 7/10? Well for one, I’ve always had a hard time rating symphonic metal high because I’ve always heard it as a cheap imitation of classical music. That’s not really the genre’s fault, that’s my own interest in classical music’s fault. But above anything else, if there’s one thing that brings down this album, it’s its length. That 24 minute track? That comes after already hearing about 55 minutes worth of music. This is a 79 minute album in all. Usually when an album is that long, it’s a double album, or it has a massive amount of progression and different styles to where it’s almost like you’re listening to multiple short albums. This doesn’t have that. While it’s nice hearing properly implemented symphonic and celtic sounds in metal, and I wouldn’t say that all the tracks “sound the same”, the entire album really only has one atmosphere throughout. That isn’t a bad thing, it’s typically expected, but it’s hard to do that for so long and keep the listener interested. Had they gotten rid of the 4 tracks previous to the last track (or really any 4 tracks previous to that, none of them are indispensable, which is part of the problem), this would’ve been a much easier album to digest. But alas, as it is it’s very difficult to listen to this lp without at least some sort of a break. I didn’t however, and maybe that’s why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could’ve.


Domovoyd – Domovoyd ALBUM REVIEW

This had all the makings of an album I would love. Stoner Doom is my favorite genre. It had psychedelic influences that I love. The album had both progression and atmosphere to it. And also that is some sick cover art. And I really hate to give it a score like this, because concept wise it doesn’t deserve it. But sometimes it’s not really the big things that make an album not top tier, it’s just a bunch of somewhat little things that add up. That’s what happens in this album and it makes up one of the biggest “almost but not quite”s of this year.

First off I want to say that the intro track is absolutely amazing. Quite honestly had this been just the first track and it had been an ep, I would probably give this a 9. The start of it builds up tension perfectly with the violin and cello drones, along with the psychedelic wah-wahs of the guitar. Really what makes a lot of this so amazing is infact the trippy, psychedelic atmosphere of the track. It gives a pseudo 70s feel to it, albeit heavier overall. And just when it’s about to release that tension, it cock-blocks you and coolsdown. Another great part about this track is it’s ability to cooldown from the heat of the buildup so perfectly. Which then leads to a miniclimax, which continues the nature of the buildup but with the introduction of heavy, sludgy guitar tones. The problem comes when the vocals come in. Probably the single biggest flaw with this album is how unfitting the vocals are. I wouldn’t call them bad, as along they’re just plain mediocre, nothing special. But they never seem to fit in with the music no matter what style they do them in. At the first climax they seem just too nasally for the heavy tone of the track. After that there’s another cooldown, but this time with an increase in tempo that adds a nice change of pace. I also want to take this time to comment on how awesome the bass is on this album when it actually has a bit of focus to it. Really riff focused instead of just keeping counterpoint or letting you know what key the track is in, which is always a plus. I love bass when it’s done well, and have always been found of when bass gets either a solo, or isn’t just left to never be heard with the rest of the music. I really do think that’s one of the strengths of stoner doom, the ability to bring out the bass and give it a chance to shine. The final climax on the intro track comes close to the end, and keeping with the overall excellence of the entire song, delivers most of what you could hope for. I really wish the drums weren’t as loud however, they seem to drown out some of the rest of it, which is really unnecessary when you should be focusing on literally anything else. The vocals, once again, are also not up to part, as the far away sounding roughish vocals, while theoretically fitting in, don’t really seem right in context. Still though, it’s an amazing first track, and sets up high expectations for the rest of the album

Which isn’t really delivered. The entire first half of the second track is, to put it simply, lame. Nothing particularly goes on except for generic heaviness, and not really the bonecrushing kind, but the “yeah I guess that’s kinda heavy” kind. I will note that the solo on the latter end of the second track is fucking amazing. It plays along a harmonic minor, which is pretty standard for stoner doom, but with the extra added epicness you typically don’t see from this kind of music.

Third track is a spoken word ambient track that would normally fit perfectly in the middle of the album, and ambiance wise, it does. Except that once again, the vocals come to drag things down. Though really, this isn’t a vocal thing as much as just a talking thing. When you’re hearing someone ramble on about mystic shit to the tone of some psychedelic, otherworldly ambient music, you don’t want that voice to just sound like a completely normal Swedish dude. You want it to match what you’re talking about, you want it to sound mystic, wise, and from another world. Anything else just takes away from the immersion, which happens here. It’s a shame because it’s set up so well, that something so small really just drags down the track so much.

The next two tracks continue to bring down my initially high rating, because essentially, they’re filler. They don’t progress the album like the other tracks do, and nothing of note happens in them. They probably could’ve been cut out from the album entirely and nothing would’ve changed. Actually no, something would’ve changed, the album would be better. The 59 minute runtime feels more and more unnecessary as the album goes on, and it ends up being one of it’s major faults. But I had hope. The last track was actually longer than the amazing first track, and I expected it to really save the album and bring it up to an 8 so that I could put this on the Obscure Metal 2015 chart I’m making.

Only to be really disappointed. It starts off well, very similar to the first track, if more calm and less tension building. There’s the return of the violin and cello, which I really wish they would’ve used more of in this album, as it’s a really unique feature that adds something totally different than what other stoner doom bands have done, not to mention sounding awesome. But then it just sits there for about 7 minutes. I kept waiting for the tension to be resolved, only to be met with more nothing. And I understand prolonging the resolution so that when you do hear it it’s much more satisfying, but there comes a point where it no longer is building tension, it’s just boring the listener. Even when it does finally come it just isn’t as satisfying as the first track’s is. I can’t really explain why, but something about it doesn’t resonate with me as much. I think maybe part of why that is is because it just withdraws all the psychedelic influences that were used throughout the album. Though really looking back on it, the only really psychedelic tracks were the first and 3rd track, which seems strange when the bands lets on that psychedelic influences are supposed to be a major part of this. I mean, how can you look at the cover, listen to the first track, and not think you’re on an acid trip? And once again, the vocals just aren’t up to par. Just about everything about this track is complete disappointment and empty buildup, which is such a shame because I was really counting on that to be able to give this album a really high score.

Domovoyd would’ve been improved so much by just being instrumental aside from the spoken word. The vocals do nothing but this album, as do the sections where it goes way too much on the heavy and not enough of the psychedelic. I honestly think the reason this isn’t in the 6 realm is just how strong the first track is, along with how much potential I see in this band. This very easily could’ve been a really fantastic album, but again there are just too many things that are a bit off, and a confusion of identity and tendencies to be too sludgy for me to consider this one of the top albums of the year.


General Grievous – Oppression ALBUM REVIEW

I will admit, I am extremely guilty of judging a album by it’s cover, or at least, downloading it because of said cover. This actually didn’t meet any of my super secret album review criteria, but I couldn’t resist a sludge record that had fucking General Grievous on both the cover and name. It was just too tempting. I became alarmed however, when I saw the extremely low rating on RYM. So I immediately thought “oh, this is probably gimmick star wars metal, just perfect”. However I decided to review anyway, if anything so maybe I could write a funny review about how star wards is overrated as hell or something.

I was pleasantly surprised when in fact there was nothing about star wars on this EP (except for maybe the track titles, I’m not sure if those are star wars references or not). And once more, I actually was enjoying how Oppression was starting out. And then the vocals kicked in. Oh jesus christ those vocals. Normally incoherent screaming is perfectly fine in metal, but this sounded like the guy had no vocal training whatsoever. It doesn’t help that the recording quality on the vocals isn’t the best either. The sad part is, other than that, despite the first two tracks being nothing special, as the EP went I realized that there are really 8/10 instrumentals. There are some fantastic moments hidden withing this if you can just get used to being assaulted with what sounds like a 15 year old trying death metal singing. The solo on Povsednevnost has fantastic arpeggiation, the downtuned guitars sound fantastic, the riff along with the tremelo on Greshnoe Remeslo is great, and the chugging of the major chord on Incest brings a triumphant end to an album that is all about soul crushing sludge. This really is an EP you can headbang to with ease.

But again… the vocals. It’s just so hard to overlook how bad they are. And in the end, I can’t give this a higher score because of how much they bring an otherwise really solid work down. I don’t think this deserves a sub-2.5 rating on this site, but I can easily see why people wouldn’t give this a proper chance after the first track.


Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud ALBUM REVIEW

Folk metal and music that uses folk influences is always balancing between seeming real enough to sound authentic, while still retaining as much elements of the original genre as possible. This is a very delicate, and often butchered practice that leaves so many albums feeling like they just shoved celtic music down your throat while simultaneously trying to play death metal, instead of it all flowing seamlessly. Under the Red Cloud has lots of really cool ideas, including doing one of the coolest tuning ideas I’ve ever seen. At one point in the album they actually tune the guitar to sound like a sarod, despite not being one. In this case, it doesn’t feel forced or fake, and more just like a band being very creative, which I very much admire. Unfortunately, that can’t be said for the rest of the album. While arabic scales and celtic flutes dance melodically across with pianos and organs, none of it really seems “real” at any time. It feels a bit unnatural and plastic, completely getting the listener out of the immersion into the album. I actually don’t blame the very clean production for this, as that’s pretty much the go-to for progressive metal. No, instead I blame the fact that the ethnic influences seem nothing more that prevalent decoration. It’s like putting a nativity scene in your house as a christmas decoration. You probably don’t actually care about jesus, you just thought it’d look nice. And to be fair, it does. While not being fully immersive, at a superficial level, Red Cloud does sound nice. I will give credit for Amorphis actually going beyond the progressive sound to actually experiment occasionally in their record. But it’s just so hard to get that plasticy taste out of my mouth. Red Cloud is a great sounding album, but it feels a bit too much like a vegas reproduction of the world, rather than actually going to those places yourself.


Abiotic – Casuistry ALBUM REVIEW

I really, really wanted to like this. It had a lot of potential, and Nightmares of your Conception, the fifth track of this album, would be in contention for top metal tracks of the year, if I made such a list. And there are times where I get chills, mostly during the sections of immense beauty. That’s actually the main problem with this album. From what i see, the point of this album is contrast between ugliness and beauty, however there never is really a right balance. It’s mostly leans on the ugly side, which isn’t bad, but instead of relying on actual atonal riffs, sort of like Ad Nauseam this year, it relies on deathcore chugging of seemingly tonal neutral chords, and alternating between deep gutteral death vocals, and much higher pitched death vocals, which isn’t necessarily bad, but there really isn’t a rhyme or reason to alternate, it’s seems like it’s more on whim than for a reason. This album had a lot of potential but didn’t deliver, which is really a shame, because there are moments where it’s fantastic, it just isn’t anywhere near consistent.

So I actually went back and analyzed that riff from Nightmares of Conception because I’m a nerd like that. Its actually just noodling around on a Gm11 chord (basically a G minor triad over an F major triad), but what actually makes the riff so great is first that it’s just a really nice sounding chord, and secondly something I typically hate in metal. The core chugging during the riff accents on the off-beats and creates a syncopated, poly-rhythm like effect. So the lesson hear is, if you’re gonna chug, chug as rhythmic counter-point, not to fill space.


Ten Foot Wizard – Sleeping Volcanoes ALBUM REVIEW

My first impression of Sleeping Volcanoes was that it was run of the mill stoner rock, mostly made by the corny lyrics and unimaginative nature of the music. Which surprised me, considering this band has one of the most laid back names I’ve ever heard, and the music felt like what you’d listen to at a trailer park in the south. It became apparent that this is very intentional, as Ten Foot Wizard is a VERY southern influenced band. It edges way more towards the blues side of stoner rock, which is especially pronounced in the guitar tone. The album includes banjo interludes, even having a track that sounds like someone recorded a guy fiddling around on his banjo while sitting on his rocking chair on his front porch (I say he because let’s face it, this is the south we’re talking about). There’s a certain quirkiness to this album that adds some flavor in what is mostly an average record. The sound is very old school, which is in direct opposition to the current trend of modernizing stoner rock/metal. There’s also two brief periods of stoner doom, but they feel more like afterthoughts than any major part of the album. What truly separates this album from the rest of the stoner rock lot of 2015 is the last track, Ode to Death. Because boy, it FEELS like an Ode to Death. It starts off calm, with a bit of tearful twang in the guitar. God damn that guitar tone. It sounds like typical blues guitar, but it just so contrasts with the rest of the album being all “get drunk and fuck a pig” that I can’t help but feel moved. The track builds tension of momentum better than the large majority of post-metal bands ever could. When the climax hits, it hits at just the right level of hard. Enough to feel it good, but not enough to blow you off your feet and disorient you. The unfortunate part is that this climax comes at around the 60% mark of the track, the rest being some light noodling over a sample of a monologue about death and our place in life. I won’t lie, the sampled speech does feel fitting, and it isn’t a totally bad closer, but I do feel that this would’ve been much better if Wizard let the music do the talking, instead of someone else. Sleeping Volcanoes feels like it’s sleeping while the music is nothing but sleepy, then awakens when the music takes a chill pill to relax, only to erupt when the time is right. A good but not great album with a cover art that couldn’t represent the band’s name better unless it was literally a 10 ft wizard on the cover.


Bell Witch – Four Phantoms ALBUM REVIEW

This is probably the most single frustrating album I’ve listened to this year. Because I want to love this. I want to give this a least a 9 and proclaim how great the soundscape of this album is, how it’s droning and trudging on crushes all the hope out of you. But I can’t, because honestly, despite how much I tried to like this, and how much I tried to understand this, I got bored. This is almost a 70 minute album. I can only listen to an album basically in stasis for so long. To be perfectly honest, I still don’t fully know how I should rate this. Is this really just a boring album, or do I just not get it? At some point I’ll probably revisit this, but for now, the rating will suffice. I still encourage people to listen to this, as it has a lot of really good things about it, and maybe others will get it and love it, but for me, I can’t help but feel like I could’ve listened to just the first track of this album and still gotten everything I needed out of it.