Lycus – Chasms ALBUM REVIEW

It’s already January -1st and I already have an album I was hyped about! Lycus’ 2013 debut was an extremely solid funeral doom record with massive soundscapes that gave off an aura of depression, somberness, and I would even say oddly enough, hope at times. It didn’t feel nearly as bleak as other funeral doom records do. However now the gloves are off, and Lycus starts right off with a guitar shriek, before going into a dirge of filth and doom.

While I would put Tempest on the lighter side of funeral doom, Chasms feels like its title indicates, that it’s the sound that lurks in the chasms of the underworld. However, while it is refreshing to hear a different sound, I don’t think that’s what Lycus does best. Their best work is when they throwback to their last record, ironically on the title track of the album. What really gets me about this track is the harmonies and chords they use, specifically starting at around the 8 minute mark.

They go through a slew of jazzy chords, including the repeated use of the C7b5 (if it’s not C, it’s still certainly a 7b5). You don’t often hear jazz chords in funeral doom, so I never quite realized how refreshing and delightful it is. It’s sort of like putting together whiskey and ice cream. Hard hitting, but with some sweetness to it, though I imagine getting drunk off whiskey and ice cream would be a lot more pleasant than getting drunk while listening to funeral doom. While I wasn’t feeling the violins to close and end the piece (they felt more like decoration than anything else), the track itself was a lush, beautiful, and heartbreaking doom ballad that’s easily the best track on the album.

However then the band does something even different from that, going into an infrequent blast beat frenzy on Mirage, with the track sounding more chaotic and less pleasing to hear than what they previously offered. It’s certainly an interesting direction, but it’s not the direction I think the band should go. As I said before, Lycus is at their best when the listener feels sorrowful, yet strangely inspired, not when the listener to scrambling to figure out what the heck they’re listening to. The fourth track feels like a mere afterthought, meant to be an epic finale, but feels drawn out and bland compared to the rest of the tracks on the album.

Overall this is another solid record from the US based doom band, a slight improvement at that. However there are times where I simply get bored, and as much as I can praise this, there’s never a moment where I feel like this album is any more than an 8 at max.


Ahab – The Boats of the Glen Carrig ALBUM REVIEW

Full disclosure, Ahab is my favorite band. I even went so far as to get an Ahab shirt for Christmas, one which I’ll gladly show off for years to come. I’ve been saving this review for the end of the year, as I feel like it would be a nice closure to 2015. However I found that I really just don’t have a whole lot to say about this record.

It follows the familiar Ahab sound, with crushing doomy riffs (albeit at a slightly more brisk pace this time), coupled with beautiful calming clean vocals, and acoustic passages. On previous Ahab records I felt that they were exploring the notion of wandering at sea, with the waves crashing against your vessel, creating a struggle of man vs water. On The Boats of the Glen Carrig, I feel like Ahab has finally dove into the water, as the cover indicates, giving off a more atmospheric and lighter approach, rather than being sloth like in their riffs, which makes me feel like I’m exploring the vast, colorful landscape of the ocean floor that’s filled with life, rather than the bleak, desolate surface. Ahab has almost totally abandoned the funeral doom aspect of their music, making this much more a post-death doom record than anything else.

It goes without saying that this is a fantastic record, though that’s more due to the fact that I’m not sure if Ahab can produce something that’s not amazing. But, hold on a sec guys. Nalpam Records. The second in command of the Legion of Shitty Entry-Level Records (also know as L.O.S.E.R) right behind Nuclear Blast. So of course they gotta make this more accessible to the avant-teen. In this case, while the tracks are fantastic, they follow an extremely predictable pattern of acoustic intro, buildup, crushing doom section, outro. Every single track does this without fail. There’s none of the subtle variety of the previous Ahab albums. While the sound is great, it overall feels sterile and catered towards mass appeal.

So yes, I feel like this is Ahab’s worst output yet. That isn’t really saying much however, as Boats is still a marvelous record that even when tainted by big industry, manages to stand out above the rest of the Napalmed metal jungle as one of the best doom albums of the year.


Cult Leader – Lightless Walk ALBUM REVIEW

It’s not secret that as far as imagery and atmosphere in metal, violence is a key component to the more harsh scene. This is especially prevalent in the more underground death metal, sludge metal, and then more ubiquitously grindcore, crust punk, deathgrind, etc. Lightless Walk is absolutely no exception to that, featuring mostly shorter tracks that beat your face in while making in a point in as little time as possible, then continuing on to the next track of mostly the same thing. While this is pretty standard for crust punk, even though it is especially well executed here, the major difference that makes this album truly great is the way they change up the emotional pace of the album, and utilize much more melancholy atmosphere’s to contrast the violent smashing of heads with a more reflective approach.

The shorter tracks are exactly what you’d expect from a crust punk band. Violent, abrasive, rebellious snippets of punk anger towards an unjust world. While these are executed well here, I feel like they’re more filler than the central part of the album. Not as if they aren’t need, quite the opposite in fact. It’s just I feel like they’re there more to supplement the more soft sections so as to create a proper conflict.

And boy what a conflict it is. Or rather, how little of a conflict it is despite the opposing atmospheres. While for the most part these approaches remain contained in separate tracks, the listener gets a glimpse of what could be in tracks like Sympathetic. The start of the song seems like a fairly standard track among what you’d expect in a crust punk album. However at around the halfway mark, there’s a subtle bit of melodic structure and soft tones interwoven in the harsh music, which creates probably the best moment in the album. It catches you totally off guard, and turns out just to be a teaser for what is to come.

Unfortunately, there is never another look at the two styles mixed together, however on tracks like How Deep it Runs, and A Good Life, you,  do get the change of pace of slower, doomy, melancholy pieces. I’ve always thought that tonality is best used sparingly in which it is mostly absent. That is, mostly atonal with some tonality for maximum effect. To me it feels like such a release to listen to, having listened to all those “unpleasant” tones, and then finally getting the sweet release of a major triad. Lightless Walk doesn’t do this enough, but when it does, it’s quite something to hear. But what really separates this album is not just the fact that it combines harsh with soft, but in how slow those soft sections are. Like I said earlier, this borders on funeral doom at times, going so slow that it forces you to reflect on the music, rather than just take what it gives you at face value. The repetitive riffs on these tracks add a hypnotic feel that lulls you into a sense of daydream, completely forgetting all the pain the previous tracks reminded you life can bring.

If there’s anything really wrong with this, it’s its length, clocking in at not quite 37 minutes. It’s not really a bad length, but I feel like an extra 7-8 minutes or so would’ve done a lot of good. They also could’ve spaced the longer tracks with the shorter tracks a bit better, as right now it seems a bit random as to when you’ll hear one, rather than being more evenly spaced and used as tactical breaks. Even so, this is a fantastic album that reaches just under the AOTY candidate category. Worth a listen to anyone looking for a different kind of crust punk album.


Tyranny – Aeons in Tectonic Interment ALBUM REVIEW

Funeral Doom is a genre for which previously I knew nothing about, and have recently grown in love with. I’ve always loved doom metal, it’s been my favorite genre of metal since I first put on Dopethrone and began my foray into the metallic arts. But for the longest time Funeral Doom never really clicked with me. I mean yeah, it’s slow, but so what? Most people don’t just slow down other music tracks and listen to that for fun. I mean I did because I’m weird (some of the songs from Pokemon Fire Red sound way past cool when slowed down, just for the record), which may explain why I eventually came into favor with the genre. But that’s not something that people typically like, right? It’s not normal to like funeral doom, even as a metal fan, right? Well yeah, right. It does take an abnormal kind of person to enjoy funeral doom. I don’t mean to say that I’m some sort of special snowflake, but the genre is certainly not for everybody. Especially when your favorites include Mordor, early Esoteric, and Thergothon, the rank kinda funeral doom that sounds like it was literally made in a morgue. So what’s my point, where does this put Tyranny’s latest album “Aeons in Tectonic Interment”? While Aeons is certainly one of the more accessible funeral doom albums there, it is also one of my albums of the year, both for it’s immense atmosphere and amazing production value.

In Tyanny’s first full length album, “Tides of Awakening”, there was a feeling that something was coming. Some danger was approaching, something dark, something sinister. Because of the feeling that all of this was impending, that album came off as a bit weaker than was probably intended. Kind of like a climate scientist desperately telling his conference that the world is going to end in 50 years, only for people to slow clap and get on board with next presentation “BP’s Guide to a Slightly more Sustainable future (now featuring recycling!)”. It was a great album, but it lack a bit of oomph. Aeons in no way lacks any umph. You were warned, and now the danger is here to wreck havoc. The feeling I get from this album is that this is the music that would play as the Illuminati carries out the end of the world.

And what’s more impressive is that this is not carried out with sheer volume, or any titanic riffs that are so often the focal point of funeral doom. No, Tyranny does a different rout, that of atmosphere. Pure, fucking, awe inspiring, atmosphere. Screeching violins combine with gargantuan synths and towering guitars to create a literal sense of funeral doom. As if you’re doomed to die and given a funeral by the maggots in the ground. One particular detail that facilitates this are the vocals. I was unsure of them at first, as they were much more frog-like than I am typically accustomed too in funeral doom, however after a few minutes I grew to love them. They sound as if the vocalist is literally suffocating on his words. Or to put it more dramatically, as if angel of death him(her?)self is speaking the gospel of despair. That the four horseman have come to bring out the ultimate destruction. It’s beautiful.

I typically don’t even really like over produced funeral doom, but this might’ve changed my mind on that. Like I said earlier, I’m typically one of the lo-fi, crusty funeral doom. I like the idea of a thin fog layered over a weak drum beat going on for 20 minutes or so. Typically if I find something bombastic it’ll just be a massive turnoff. However while this does feel quite over the top, to the point of being epic (which is something I’m not typically fond of in funeral doom), it gets one essential element right that makes that all ok; it’s depressing. This is one fucking depressing album. Not in the suicidal way, but in the pure emotionally destructive despair kind of way. As I said before, the feeling of ultimate demise can’t be avoided when listening to this, and there’s never that one bit of positivity in this record to keep your hopes up. It’s just straight up sad, sad, and more sad the whole way through, and I love it.

If there is one weakness it’s that Aeons never really improves on it’s sound. The first two tracks hit you so hard that the other three don’t make nearly as much of an impact. It should be worth noting that part of this is because the first two tracks are essentially one full track split in two. I was immensely disappointed when I heard the break in between the second and third track to signify the change of ideas, even more so when I realized the ideas really didn’t change. It’s hard to keep a lot of variety in funeral doom, and generally you don’t need to. I think the undoing of this is the fact that Aeons setup for this epic journey through the end of time, filled with twists and turns and awesome adventures in billions of people dying. It raised my expectations so high that there really wasn’t any way to meet them. Because there isn’t a drop in quality throughout the rest of the songs. But there is a set of unfulfilled exceptions that fair or not, lesson the experience just a little bit.

I’ll have to revisit Screaming at the Sun, because deepening on my re-review of that, this may be my doom metal AOTY. If you need an album to express your desire to see all of humanity perish, this is the album for you.


Shape of Despair – Monotony Fields ALBUM REVIEW

The timing of my listening to this album couldn’t be better, because I’m actually starting to get into funeral doom, having just given Ahab a try recently. Having absolutely loved it, I figured it would be a good time to finally give this a listen. It’s not often that a funeral doom album from a completely new/unheard of band gets high in the charts so quickly after it’s release, so I was very intrigued as to what people saw in this. Unfortunately, what I got was a bland, uninspired, mess of sameness that bored me to tears. I can actually recall the one moment on this album where I thought I was hearing something with creativity involved, at that was on the third track. Towards the middle, at basically the climax, there are these clean vocals singing/chanting what is essentially a pretty sounding tritone. Throughout the entire album, the atmosphere is incredibly neutral, feeling like neither a dark and crushing funeral, nor a melancholy and depressive introspection. It feels like nothing, which is what I ultimately get out of this. It actually feels like you wasted your time listening to this, that you got nothing out of it. But that one section with tritone chant, that’s the one section where I feel there’s personality to it. Where I’m hearing something with any sort of imagination, something new. It takes advantage of the neutral atmosphere and creates a true feeling of being inbetween dark and light, not because it’s neither, but because it feels both hopeful, and hopeless at the same time. It’s a wonderful yet uncomfortable feeling that I’ve rarely ever heard duplicated. Too bad that’s nowhere else on the album. I don’t even want to say this album had potential because of that one moment, I do think it shows that this band is at the very least, capable of making 1 minute of their 10 minute long borefests interesting. That’s more than I can say for some bands, but enough to give this any kind of a good score.


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.


Lucian the Wolfbearer – Paradise ALBUM REVIEW

It’s really quite a shame. This album has so many great ideas, and they’re all executed on at least a superficially good level. The problem is that when put together they’re all really disjointed and end up making an album that’s overall very confused and lost. The first part of the album is a great marriage between space ambient and doom metal, which got my hopes up for the rest of the album. However the next two tracks are basically one giant space ambient track with some metal elements in it. To make things even more disjointed, the final track is a stoner doom track with a random space ambient section in it. The vocals aren’t even consistent, with the first 4 tracks having guttural vocals, and the last track have clean vocals. It’s not as if anything on this album sounds bad, it’s just that it’s A. completely disjointed from one another, and B. not executed in an interesting way. I think if the entire album had been like the first two tracks, this would’ve been a much better album, probably a 3.5/5. Hopefully this band sticks to one idea in their next album, because they have a lot of potential.