Phantom Winter – Sundown Pleasures

I really like the direction the band has gone with this album. Their last record was much more on the heavy sludge side, with some atmo sludge elements, and here they go much more on the atmo sludge side, with very heavy sludge elements. I really enjoy the sort of soaring, climactic approach to a dirty, heavy sludge album. Songs like The Darkest Clan embody this more than anything, giving a sort of grander scale to the album, rather than staying close at home with the heavy sludge riffs. The album just feels larger this way, and the experience is much more unique than if they had just played loud and proud.

Hence why the first track is so inexplicably mediocre. Phantom Winter introduces the album by playing this noisy, chaotic sludge track, that tries to masquerade as atmo sludge. The doesn’t work, and makes the fact that the entire rest of the album doesn’t follow this trend all the more confusing, especially considering the consistent quality of the other 5 tracks. I think all Phantom Winter needs to do is give their 110% for a full album, and maybe up the time to around 45 minutes rather then 40, and they’re be approaching the 9/10 category. Really enjoyed this, some of the best atmo sludge this year.


8.25/10

מזמור [Mizmor] – Yodh

This album is like porn in musical form to me. It’s got the perfect combination of aggressive, somber, evil, and reflective content that I crave in every album I listen to but never get. They combine their influences near perfectly (although I can’t really agree that i hear drone metal in this), and the only reason this doesn’t get a higher score is that they didn’t do anything “extra” to really wow me. This is still an absolutely amazing album, if anything because they managed to make an hour long album not feel long in the slightest. Track 3 is a masterpiece. If you like blackened doom at all, this is a MUST listen.


9.25/10

https://mizmor.bandcamp.com/

Beldam – Still the Wretched Linger

This is absolutely the heaviest, rawest, most punishing sludge album I’ve heard this year. This isn’t purely heavy like Sumac, this has a kind of sloppiness (sometimes to a fault), chaotic, and evil kind of heaviness that you just don’t see out of sludge in the modern day. But it maintains enough different textures to keep you interested with tracks like Her Unbearing Abyss. It gives you these somber, yet ominous soft textures that constantly have you guessing as to where the album is going to go next. If Inter Arma didn’t release a near masterpiece, this would be sludge AOTY easily. It’s certainly the best non atmo sluge album this year however, and I hope other bands follow in it’s footsteps of bringin back nasty, aggressive sludge, that also has a bit of a brain to it.


8.75/10

https://beldamofficial.bandcamp.com/

Witch’s Heart – The Harrowing

Harrows Hymn is actually a pretty damn cool industrial black ambient piece, and the desolate beauty is a surprisingly pleasant to listen to psychedelic, quiet, sludgly black metalish track. Unfortunately the rest of the album is boring, mindlessly repetitive industrial sludge noise that tries to make itself out to be experimental and satanic. It’s an interesting take on blackened sludge, but interesting does not equate to good every time.


5.5/10

https://witchsheart.bandcamp.com/album/the-harrowing

Sumac – What One Becomes

They’re back and better than ever. Sumac got heavier and added more nuance to their music, creating this mathy sludge monster with a truly unique guitar tone and atmosphere that separates themselves from any other atmo sludge band around. I have to take points off for how much of a massive disappointment Blackout was. Didn’t go anywhere, felt like a long waste of my time, especially compared to how awesome the rest of the tracks were. Other than that, this was a step up from their last effort, which I also loved. Gonna be interesting to see where this band goes, I have a feeling these guys could change the game.


8.75/10

Raging Speedhorn – Lost Ritual

A LIST OF GENRE COMBINATIONS I’VE NEVER HEARD, AND DON’T WANT TO

  1. Gamelan Slam Death Metal (no, it would suck and you know it)
  2. New Age Groove Metal
  3. Blackened Twee Pop
  4. Post-Disco (another one that sounds interesting, but deep down you know it would be awful)
  5. Post-Vaporwave
  6. Post-Trap
  7. Post-Any genre invented after Twitter became popular
  8. Funeral Melodic Metalcore
  9. Literal Meme Rap (No, I’ve never listened to Childish Gambino and don’t plan to for this very reason)
  10. Crunk Jazz
  11. Conscious Black Metal
  12. Swans albums made into nightcore (I lied, I’ve actually heard this, it’s just as bad as you think it is)
  13. Chopped and Skrewed / Vaporwave made up of segments of Alex Jone’s radio show
  14. Ambient Grindcore
  15. Ironic Neofolk
  16. Chiptune Drone
  17. Symphonic Miami Bass with Devin Townsend-like Prog Metal elements
  18. Caverncore Detroit Techno
  19. Caverncore Detroit House
  20. Caverncore plus the sounds of Detroit’s decades of financial suffering
  21. Meme-Djent (so basically modern djent in general)
  22. Waaam

Lost Ritual is much less of an ambitious combination, being a combo of heavy Stoner Metal and Groove Metal. What you get is disappointingly everything you would expect; monotonous, repetitive, and very mediocre heavy stoner riffs, that go nowhere, and don’t even try to. I’ll give the album that it’s heavy, but lots of things are heavy. I’m an American, as a people we’re pretty heavy, but that doesn’t mean we should all just fatten up on garbage, nutrition-less foods all the time. This album is basically just junk food that fills the gap of silence. It’s just satisfying enough to not be annoying, but is useless for anything beyond pointless (because let’s face it, metal fans don’t exactly exercise beyond walking around the house a few times a day) carbo-loading. I filler album if I’ve ever heard one.


4.25/10

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

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

Nails – You Will Never Be One of Us

Instead of doing a proper review of this album, I figured I would list the top 5 reasons to become a murderer:

  1. The Earth has a population problem. By the year 2100, the earth’s population is estimated to be around 12 billion. This is absolutely unsustainable. Obviously no one is going to voluntarily die (the pussies at the human extinction movement just aren’t breeding, by the time they die it’ll already be a problem), so the best possible way to solve the problem as quickly as possible is by murdering randos. People do it with deer, why not other people?
  2. Humans are fucking awful. Aside from the fact that we are killing the planet via pollution and man made global warming, aside from the fact that our world is run by politicians and corporations who shit on the less fortunate for profit, and aside from the fact that we will literally fund our sports teams before any actual education, we’re just fucking ugly. Fucking, chimpanzee, naked mole rat lookin ass niggas. That’s probably worth a few dozens of killings right there.
  3. Dream Theater exists. This doesn’t really have much to do with anything, I’m just really salty about having to review The Astonishing. Tbh if I had to listen to another 2 hour Dream Theater album, I’d probably grab my rifle, go to the nearest shopping center, and pull a Jolly Mally myself.
  4. We all kill each other anyway. The US just sends flying robots to bomb the Middle East because we haven’t met our quota of killing innocent brown people for the day. Then those brown people go to Europe (who actually welcomes them in) and bombs random places in their cities because they haven’t met their quota of killing innocent people who disagree with them for the day. The fuck does a few more dead matter?
  5. You could go your deeds while listening to this album for wicked cool vibes. But you won’t, instead you’ll just sit at your computer all day, calling people the n word on the internet, calling anyone who implies women are not perfect misogynist, all while sitting in your room eating doritos in the safest place possible. You are the epitome of all bark not bite, and forever will be a spineless coward who’s idea of evil music is fucking Weakling. Because you will NEVER, be one of us.

    8.75/10

Subetroth – Native Alien

Hoooly shit this is massive. Just like, a fucking fireball of sound coming right for your fucking face. This is easily the heaviest record I’ve heard this year. The guitars are tuned to the lowest possible frequency, giving it the djent quality without sounding too clean. I love the slight intermixing of clean vocals at the right times here, gives you just a little break without sounding over-dramatic. It’s nice that while this record is hugely sludgey and destructive with it’s screeched vocals and crushing guitars, there is just a little bit of thought put into the music, with it’s emotional climaxes, and at certain times, a semblance of songwriting. But of course, that’s not the point of Native Alien. The point is to skull fuck you until you’re so fucked in the head (literally) that you beg for more. The record rapes you to the point where it’s not rape anymore, you can’t get enough of it. If you want pure, extreme doom goodness, check this shit out.


8/10