Refract – Refract

Interesting album to say the least. It’s this weird combination of doom metal and stoner metal, without really sounding like stoner doom at all. The band identifies as progressive metal and heavy metal, which is not even close to the case, further adding confusion. It’s hard to review this because the album is so short and the content is so little. It all sounds like one big song, but with not much differentiating content to drive that. The female vocals are kinda nice I guess, but overall it’s rather forgettable, other than it being a genre-bender. Also tip to the band, don’t charge 10$ for a 33 minute debut album when you have no apparent record label.


5.25/10

https://refractband.bandcamp.com/album/refract

Grimirg – Night Be My Grave

Creates a really nice calming and depressive atmosphere, and I REALLY love the female vocals. However even for funeral doom standards, and even despite it’s incredibly short length, the album feels uneventful. Even music that’s supposed to be as slow and patience testing as possible needs some kind of variety in it, and I feel like Grimirg just gives you a much more standard experience that’s’ wrapped up in a somewhat unique atmosphere. I think one more track that explores some textures a bit would’ve upped this into the 7 category, but as is, I’ll rate this as enjoyable, but quite disappointing.


6.75/10

https://grimirg.bandcamp.com/album/night-be-my-grave

Swampcult – The Festival

Simultaneously manages to be too conceptually large for the band to handle, while also containing, on an equal level, completely unadventurous music. It’s not terrible, but even it’s short length is wearing and none of it’s ideas achieve their intended purpose of scaring and possibly shocking the listener. A failed experiment, but there was at least an earnest attempt.


5.25/10

https://swampcult.bandcamp.com/

Donggripper – Immeasurably Bummed

If you ever just want to have heavy, fuzzy, riffy metal, with none of the other bullshit that comes with it, this is the album for you. Donggripper doesn’t do anything fancy, or add anything necessarily unique, or create anything you haven’t heard before. But damn they know how to make some good heavy fuzz. I wouldn’t even say it’s that riffy honestly, the riffs themselves are not amazing, but those dirty, fuzzy chugs get me every time. This band has got their sound down, and I hope they keep it up. If they can maybe add some vocals (not too much, just enough to add some textural variety) this’ll be a band to look out for. I can’t really score this super high because of how one dimensional it is, but I’ve always said that I’m fine with one dimensional if you’re one dimensionally superb.


7/10

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6ZE3o1dluE&feature=youtu.be

https://dickcrushrecords.bandcamp.com/album/immeasurably-bummed

Plasmodium – Entheognosis

God, where the fuck do I even begin with this thing? Yeah, a thing, I wouldn’t really call this an album. This is more like 60 minutes of a complete deconstruction and reconstruction of extreme metal into pure textural form. This is 60 minutes of me loving the absolute fuck out of guitar feedback wank for the first time in my life. This is just 60 minutes of pure fuck. That’s it, it’s just fuck, I can’t really think of how else to describe it. This psychedelic, noisy, bewildering, oppressive, evil, crushing, zooming, absolutely mind boggling 60 minute fuck-a-thon 3000. This thing, Plasmodium’s Entheognosis, is something I can safely say I have never heard the likes of in my entire reviewing career.

Sure, I’ve heard noise mixed with black metal before. Not much of it, but it’s there. When people think of noise and black metal, they instantly run to Gnaw Their Tongues. They think of edgy, disgusting, ear numbing and raw black metal that sounds like it came straight for the scariest horror film one could think of. Fuck I would say it SOUNDS like a horror film itself. If that’s what you’re expecting here, throw that out the window. This is something much worse than that. Not worse in that it’s got more edgy cover art, or that it’s louder, or that it has more spooky industrial black ambient parts to it. It’s scarier in a different way. There’s something much more terrifying about music that is horrifying without trying to be horrifying. That the band in question isn’t trying to make their music as scary as possible, it’s just that terrifying in it’s natural state. That’s what we have here.

The most complete way in which I could possibly describe Entheognosis is a 60 minute, 4 track album consisting of psychedelic, noisy avant-garde black metal, that often obscures riffs all together for the sake of just shrieking textures on the guitar. That absolutely does not do this music justice, but it’ll have to do for now. It sounds as if Plasmodium took the aspect of raw aggression in extreme metal and broke that down, than reanimated it without paying head to any sort of musical conceptions of what extreme metal is supposed to sound like. So like post-metal, except actually creative. This is post-extreme metal in the most extreme way possible. Sure you’ll hear vague influences from black, death, and doom metal (black metal like vocals, death/thrash drumming, slow, doomy bass guitars), but if you’re focusing on that, you’re missing the point of the music. Instead you get these, fuck not even journeys, just explorations in texture and what it means to have aggression and evil in music. If that sounds massively pretentious, trust me, it isn’t. I would put this on full blast if it was. The album sounds so genuine, which is all the more impressive considering how grand and far out the concept is.

This is an extremely difficult review because I genuinely have no background to go by. I simply haven’t heard anything remotely close to this before, and I’m 99.999% sure whoever is reading this hasn’t either. If this band had a wider audience, this could be a revolutionary work. But you could say that about a lot of bandcamp bands. Albums like this are the best part of being a reviewer. It’s finding spectacular records that nobody else gave a chance. It’s finding that one speck of gold in the entire Colorado River. This has been a shit year for black metal, with none of the popular records blowing me away, and the obscure finds not doing much for me either. I can definitely say that this record is my black metal AOTY so far, which is a major relief to someone who loves the genre so much. Though calling this black metal is like calling a Schoenberg prelude a song. You’re technically right, but completely fucking missing the point. For as weary as the concept of this album can get (the length is a bit much and the ideas don’t always support it anyway), I kept having the thought that maybe the point of this record wasn’t to have structured variety. Maybe this isn’t a record that’s meant to be analyzed like any other album. Maybe I shouldn’t be trying to find faults in every bit that’s made. Perhaps this is simply something that’s meant to be experienced. Something in which you just get lost in the textures and ideas, not trying to figure out if they’ve been repeated. Nah who am I kidding, that would take letting go of what I already know. And even though some blessed bands are able to do that, I’m going to sit here staring in awe, still trying to find a reason to subtract points on an imaginary scoring system like the complete simpleton I am.


9.5/10

Head of the Demon – Sathanas Trismegistos

It’s extremely rare that I find an album that’s tagged as just doom metal and nothing more. The modern trend is to have doom metal be an either supplementary genre, have it be a subgenre of doom metal, or have it be the main genre but with other stuff filled in. At this point it’s almost like tagging something as just black metal. It really doesn’t describe the album at all. Black metal could mean a ton of things, and similarly just doom metal could mean any number of things, especially as I don’t believe I’ve ever reviewed something tagged as only doom metal (I didn’t check though, don’t quote me on that). So I went into Sathanas Trismegistos completely blind, and came out completely satisfied. It’s like they showed me what I wanted to hear when I didn’t even know myself. Head of the Demon puts forth in their second album a fantastic occult doom metal journey that above all goes against the trend of adding heaviness and noise, and instead focuses on what actually matters when it all comes down to it; songwriting.

The most important point I can make about Sathanas, above anything else I will write here, is how carefully crafted each riff is. Every riffs succeeds the next in a logical fashion, and not in just “I’m going to repeat this endless then switch like once or twice”, but as in the riffs and constantly evolving and changing to the music, creating an actual structure to the music. The tracks here in a way remind me of some instrumental djent albums (bet you weren’t expecting that analogy huh?) in that the songs are not so much songs, but progressions that continue on a logical path. There isn’t so much a main riff as much as a continuation of riffs that bring the listener towards the end. Not a single note on this entire album is wasted, and I always need to mention that every time it comes up, because it’s such a refreshing thing to hear in metal every time it comes up, let alone in fucking DOOM METAL of all things. You know, the “we’re going to be as heavy and monotonous as possible” metal genre?

That actually brings me another point of a refreshing aspect of this album, it really isn’t heavy at all. Heaviness is such an overused technique in doom metal today, to where I am almost considering it a negative nowadays. Fuck, I just reviewed an album today that I bashed for being nothing more than heavy mush, and that will certainly not be the last album I critique as such this year (or even this summer I bet). The actual heaviness level of this album is psychedelic rock tier, aside from maybe the title track, which bring forth the one time on the album where they decided to tighten the grip on the listeners ears, but just a tad. And that just demonstrates how intelligent these guys are at making music. There’s only one part of the entire album that gets heavy at all, and it’s probably the best moment of the album. The song flows perfectly into a buildup and climax with the harsh (well, somewhat harsh) vocals, and the crushing (well, crushing like a hard pillow) guitars, and then fades away at an appropriate pace. I really just can’t emphasize enough how good these guys are at crafting music, it’s so awesome to hear this stuff coming from an unknown doom metal band. As  music writing myself, I appreciate the fuck out of this, mad props.

The problem is once they blow their load, they kinda just sit there in a stupor wondering what to do next. No song sounds the same, but no song sounds different either. It’s all another take on the same formula, sans the title track somewhat. I personally think to create a great album, you need at least one track where you show what else you got, and really change things up, while still remaining true to the albums themes. Head of the Demon stay true to the themes, but never really go outside for that.

Which isn’t really that awful here, the themes they lay upon are pretty great. This calm, ominous, satanic doom metal atmosphere has the aura of a black metal album, but the soul of an old school doom record. For all it’s faults (well, one major one), it delivers a very unique experience in this day and age, and is absolutely one of my top doom metal albums this year.


8.5/10

Cough – Still They Pray

You know it dawned on me while listening to this that it’s actually been around 5 months since I’ve reviewed a proper stoner doom album. Sure I reviewed Church of Misery’s new record in March, but that was much more stoner than doom. You really have to go back to Conan’s record Revengeance that I reviewed in mid February to find a proper heavy as fuck stoner doom album. And even then I didn’t like it at all. Even in general I’ve had a massive lack of doom metal reviews compared to last year, where I reviewed almost 50 I’m pretty sure. This year has been around 15 past the halfway mark. It’s just funny because doom metal (stoner doom in particular) was really the first metal genre that got me into the whole scene. Literally this whole episode of my life was started because one morning before school I decided to listen to Dopethrone. Last year I even commented while trashing some no name band from Russia’s stoner doom album that I didn’t think it was possible for me to hate a stoner doom album until now. A year later I barely listen to doom metal at all. Funny how things change.

I really do think if I had reviewed this last year I would probably be giving it a damn high score. I’m talking maybe high 8 range. This is in part due to the fact that the first half of Still They Pray is Cough’s shameful Electric Wizard worship. I mean worship that’s so hard they’re sucking that wizard’s cock like his cum is bong juice. I guess they can claim that it’s more atmospheric and less riff-centric than E-Wiz, but you’re splitting hairs at that point. Even right down to the exact guitar tone and vocal mannerisms, this is some shameful riff-off shit. Now that sounds like I’m shit talking them, and I am, but only for being uncreative. Musically, if you need to rip-off a band, Electric Wizard is a pretty damn good band to rip off in my opinion (as if that wasn’t obvious by this site’s name). And again, due to this, a year ago I would’ve praised the fuck out of this. But I have some more miles on me now. I’ve seen a fair amount of shit, and that shit’s told me there’s better shit than this shit right here. My pants no longer get soaked by anything ridiculously heavy, I am a more refined man, who would rather listen to poorly played guitars screech randomly while some Norwegian guy yells about how much he wants to kill black people and Christians, than a few British dudes playing extremely heavy blues rock and singing about weed. Artistic merit and whatnot.

But man, thank god albums come in two halves, right? Yeah, the first half is just copying the kings of their genre in a pretty correct but overdone way (I mean fuck, not even the band literally named Dopethrone copies this hard). But the second half is where the album really starts. Let it Bleed is the top track on this album, featuring a MUCH more subdued, almost heart aching, mostly instrumental doom experience that doesn’t let up at all until the end of the album. The final four tracks are like almost an album by themselves, a weed induced journey through your mind and soul. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt sad listening to a stoner doom album. They have this reflective quality in them that’s almost meditative in a way. I mean fuck me, those strained vocals on The Wounding Hours get to me man. Those don’t sound like far out stoned vocals, those sound like cries for help. And the organ to end the track just… fuck man. Since when does music for cheech and chong make me soft in the dong? I will say that the closer, the title track Still They Pray is a bit weak. Yes, it’s nice to have that cooldown with the clean vocals and acoustic guitar, but I really wanted that held organ chord to end the whole thing. Would’ve bee much more powerful, and brought the album time down slightly (which would be good, this shit’s 68 minutes long).

When Cough isn’t being a copycat, they make some great shit. I get it, this produced by one of the dudes from Electric Wizard, so they’re going to leave their mark somewhere. But it would’ve been nice if I hadn’t had to wait through around 35 minutes of ok music to get to the good part. But when the good part hits, it’s hits it harder than a junkie going through a breakup, delivering a uniquely somber, psychedelic, and satisfying experience that I had only wished I could have experienced a bit longer.


7.25/10

Inverloch – Distance | Collapse

If anything, I’ve now found the record I will always lead people to the next time (read; the first time) someone asks me “hey I want to get into death doom / funeral doom, where should I start?”. Inverloch’s debut album takes their experience from diSEMBOWELMENT and uses it to create a much cleaner, listener friendly experience. In a way, this is a massive disappointment. Personally speaking, funeral doom and death doom are genres that, at least speaking for myself, their fans enjoy because of it’s oddball nature. I don’t have a massive amount of experience with death doom outside a few classics, but I do know from what I’ve listened to that it has a certain bit of oddness in often being guttural and monster like, but in a much more subtle and calm way that fans of traditional death metal might not always appreciate. Funeral doom, of which I have lots of experience, takes this even further. Aside from the obvious aspect of slowling doom metal to a crawl, you have bands like Thergothon, early Esoteric, early Funeral, Fungoid Stream, Sketicism’s Stormcrowfleet, fucking Mordor, and other artists who push the boundaries of what could be considered sane music, even by metal standards. Even Ahab’s Call of the Wretched Sea, which is considered to be THE starting point for an aspiring funeral doom fan, is a pretty weird album to someone who isn’t familiar with the genre. The almost whispered vocals and unapologetically low budget synths would be strange to anyone who didn’t really know what to expect out of funeral doom. In a way, I feel like in order to be a great funeral or death doom record, you need a bit of weirdness to give your record personality.

There is no weirdness to be found on Distance | Collapse. It seems like this record was tailor made to be funeral/death doom for people who had never heard either of those genres before. On all levels, this is a textbook example of every genre this album includes (funeral doom, death doom, death metal). Fuck, they even separate which genres they use at which times. Sometimes they’ll be death doom, then transition over to pure death metal, then transition over to pure funeral doom, etc. It’s like that one Benjamin Britten piece A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, where they separate all the instruments from each other to give the beginning as sampler of what each instrument sounds like. That’s basically what this album is, a sampler of all 3 genre’s involved. It’s even less than 40 minutes to boot, because you know, who has time to actually get into a genre, let alone 3?

Now I want to make this clear, what I’ve been saying is not necessarily a criticism of the album as much as it is a comment on how it works in my mind. Even as by the book death doom, this is about as good as you can get by only following the guide in the imaginary book of metal genres. It’s like cooking a recipe exactly by the book (god, why the fuck do I use food in my metaphors so much, I only eat like 2 meals a day, what the fuck?). It’s going to be fine doing it that way, but it’ll lack personal touch, and often that’s what separates a good meal from a fantastic meal. Distance | Collapse sounds like a very impersonal album, as if these death doom veterans were going through the motions, rather than trying to create a unique masterpiece such as Transcendence Into the Peripheral. It’s still a good piece of music that I absolutely enjoyed listening to, but it’s clear that some (maybe a lot) of creative spark is simply gone.


7/10

Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows

I really, really love atmospheric sludge metal. Even though I don’t have a massive amount of experience with it, it’s definitely in my top 5 metal genres, maybe top 3 when done well. I also really, really hate post-metal. Now this is a bit of a strange opinion, as the general consensus is that post-metal and atmospheric sludge metal mean essentially the same thing. I would argue however, that they absolutely do not. In my mind, atmospheric sludge metal is something more in the vain of Neurosis. Sludge metal that uses atmosphere and older post-rock elements to create massive, momentous atmospheres, and often utilize other genres while still keeping very much in the realm of sludge metal. Post-metal on the other hand, is essentially just really heavy 3rd wave post-rock. Now, despite my distaste for one and like for the other, this is not to say that all atmospheric sludge metal acts are amazing, and all post-metal acts are steaming piles of cat vomit and old condoms, mixed together with the same 3 types of chord progressions over and over again. However I will say that when a band really takes what atmospheric sludge metal means to me at heart, it’s something I can greatly appreciate.

I love creative music, music that pushes boundaries. I also like metal, which is only known for being very creative in a more modern sense. Most of the old out there bands did that by a bit of an accident (or so it seemed that way much of the time). When they did, they became cult classics (i.e, Written in Waters, Nespithe, Drawing Down the Moon, etc.). Inter Arma is a modern band, with a modern sense of how atmospheric sludge metal should work, however they maintain that bit of creativity and stay at least somewhat true to the foundations that Neurosis laid upon the world. In such they create an epic adventure of an album, filled with variety in emotional expression, and one that I certainly won’t forget any time soon.

That being said, I do feel like the album doesn’t really “start” until track 4. The intro is pretty much an afterthought, and to me seems honestly a bit pointless, especially since it doesn’t have much in common with the rest of the album. Tracks 2 and 3 are basically the same track, stated in slightly different ways. That’s not to say they’re bad, quite the opposite. The first introduction you get to the album are these brutal, sludgy atmospheres, which are done well here. However I can hear that on any old album. Lots of bands do really awesome, super heavy, doomy sludge metal, even atmo sludge bands. What makes this album special is what comes after.

Primordial Wound takes a new angle, moving away from sludge and into straight up doom metal. It’s a hypnotic, almost ritual like track, which is backed up by the distant, ancient sounding ritual vocals, almost like some kind of Gregorian chant. This is the first demonstration of how Inter Arma can change styles from track to track without sounding schizophrenic. And they prove me correct in the next two tracks which I think are the highlights of the album.

The Summer Drones and Potomac are the two shortest tracks on the album sans the intro, but both are the biggest statements that Paradise Gallows makes. Summer Drones is structured almost like a modern Swans track, starting off with some low-key, yet ominous bass riff that evolves into these soaring, driving guitars that keep droning their riffs louder and louder until you can’t take it anymore. Then they keep going anyway. It climaxes in a way that doesn’t give a resolution, so it feels like you just took at that pounding for no reason, and yet despite feeling no sanctification, you enjoyed every moment of it. There’s a sexual joke in there somewhere, but I feel like there’s no way I could make without sounding overly explicit, even for me. Use your imagination. Anyway, it segues into Potomac, which, in a bizarre yet not unwelcome turn of events, is this epic, heavy metal-esque ballad that puts the entire album on it’s head. God fucking damn, that main riff is going to be stuck in my head for a while, that’s legendary shit right there. If you were tasked with creating the most epic and memorable sludge metal track possible, you would be hard pressed to do better than this. I feel like it’s the best track on the album, which is no disrespect to the rest of the tracks (except maybe the intro). This just feels like something I haven’t heard much before, if ever. You don’t typically hear riffs that sound like they came from if Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was released in 2010 in a sludge metal album. And now that I heard it, I fucking want more, which sucks, because there’s no way to google “heavy metal riffs in sludge metal albums” and find good results. I tried, fucking Godflesh came up. It kinda sucks now, because this band has set a president of shit I want that I can never find by any other way than sheer luck.

And by sheer luck (or stupidity, probably stupidity) Potomac managed to end the worst possible fashion possible. It’s a fucking fade out. Like what the mother fuck? I was actually thinking to myself “you know, if this does anything but fade out, this is gonna be one of my tracks of the year”, AND IT FUCKING FADES OUT LIKE ARE YOU SHITTING ME? This is literally KD going to the Warriors, nigga chose the one solution out of every conceivable solution that no one wanted, how do you fuck up that bad? KD could’ve literally hung up his cleats and joined the Westboro Baptist Church and everyone would’ve been like “ok KD, you do you man, you do you”. But no, he wanted to be the evil empire. This is the evil empire of track endings. Ok yeah, maybe as an album closer that would’ve been ok, but fuck there’s still 3 more tracks to go, jesus. If there is one actual fault of this album, it’s the transitions. The track transitions are in these awkward states where they flow from one to the other, but not directly. So like one track will end, then fade out slightly and there new track will begin. It makes it seem like the tracks are trying to be related to each other, but they really aren’t in any way. It’s not really terrible, just really awkward.

The final 3 tracks aren’t quite as good as the two middle ones, but still of high quality, as expected. The title track continues on the theme of Potomac, while giving it a much more sludgy vibe, and trading epic solo material with more questioning, and sometimes even a bit bluesy sludge riffs. It leads right into Violent Constellations, which as the title implies, is pretty fucking violent. It harkens back much towards the earlier tracks, however nothing is held back as it acts as a rhythmic assault on the ears. This track is also where the black metal influences are the most pronounced, in both guitar tone and blast beats. I feel like the black metal aspects are played up a bit too much by other people, but I will agree that they are there. It’s probably a good thing they aren’t a played up, I feel like there’s just enough to keep things spicy without detracting from the fact that this is a sludge album. Kinda like a cherry on top, except people would actually eat it. If someone actually eats the cherry on top, don’t trust them, that’s the kind of dude who’s going to say yes to absolutely everything and his computer will crash because he clicked on too many popups that said “CONGRATULATIONS, YOU WON!!!!” and “WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU PAY FOR DICK PILLS??!!”. As a closer, I feel like it would’ve been fine, definitely better than what actually closed the album.

In a way, aside from the intro and outro, the album kind of goes full circle. Starts off raw, gets more progressive towards the middle, then ends really raw. I would’ve like that as a possible intentional detail if tracks 2-8 had been the whole album. Unfortunately this is not the case. The final track, Where the Earth Meets the Sky, is essentially a whimper, focusing on acoustic (this actually said “autistic” for like 10 minutes until I realized what I wrote, wow) guitar and the promise of an epic secret track. Full disclosure: I fucking HATE secret tracks. Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate them. There has never been a good secret track in the history of music. They’re supposed to be rewards for those who stayed around after the credits so to speak, and instead act as ways to mock the listener, saying “Haha holy shit, you actually just sat through 20 minutes of silence for this? What a fucking loser! What would your mom think of you if she saw you now? Hey, let’s take his lunch money…” etc. This album is no different. After 5:30 of actual music, you get 20 minutes of silence until your finally greeted with basically that shit you get that takes like 20 minutes to actually get out of your asshole, and then when it is it’s like the size of a quarter. You’re massively disappointed and you feel like nature itself just conspired to rip you the fuck off.

That said, aside from the transitions between tracks, none of the negative things I said about this album are really faults, just disappointments that prevented it from being better than it already was. I can shit talk that fade all I want, but let’s be real, it’s a fade that literally lasted like 10 seconds of the 70 minute album. As whole, this is absolutely my sludge metal AOTY so far, and I’m really curious to see what tops this, both in terms of heaviness, and sheer creativity in atmosphere.


9/10

Katatonia – The Falls of Hearts

This album is like finding out your second favorite baseball team lost an early regularly season game.

This album is like stubbing your toe on a beanbag chair.

This album is like having a breakfast sandwhich from Burger King.

This album is like getting a B- as a final grade for a class and your parents going “well that’s not too bad I guess, try harder next term honey!”.

This album is like waking up 20 minutes before your alarm is supposed to go off.

This album is listed on the WWF’s endangered species list, but doesn’t have any danger signification next to it because it’s not quite there yet.

This album is like gathering your whole family to go to Olive Garden, then realizing Olive Garden isn’t actually that good, but you get unlimited salad and breadsticks so it’s w/e.

This album is that B student kid at your middle school who really liked dinosuars but never spoke in class and became a gas station attendant at Arco.

When you buy this album it comes with one free, unscented, plain red sticker.

If this album were a country it would be Latvia.

This album is like if pudding tasted like tapioca.

This album is like finding out the co-creator of the Simpsons died last year.

This album is like buying adderall off the street, using it 3 times, then pitching it because it’s “not your thing” and you don’t want to get in trouble.

This album was certainly an album I listened to and can’t really comment on any further other than making up mediocre roasts that sound like they came from a 19 year old’s twitter page. Could be worse.


5.75/10