Archive for the ‘Sleeping Shaman Reviews’ Category

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Brimstone Coven are the essence of 70s doom. When doom wasn’t quite a thing, it was more occult rock shot through with a smoky, sepulchral haze. West Virginian sons, and only together for four short years, Brimstone Coven bring forth that hazy 60s and 70s vibe to their bluesy rock and roll. It’s utterly infectious, and their new record is out via Metal Blade now!

The opening title track has this insatiable groove, summoning the spirits of early Sabbath, a dash of Witchcraft and the kind of blues that you can feel deep within. You can also feel that Appalachian darkness seeping through each whiskey soaked riff, and each soulful vocal part. There’s a slightly rawer Led Zeppelin influence lurking in the urgent ‘Black Unicorn’ and the jagged, almost Western vibe of ‘Beyond The Astral’.

The acoustics of ‘As We Fall’ provides a poignant break in the rock and roll, where Brimstone Coven becomes an almost evil Eagles cover band. When the soulful solo kicks in, you become enraptured in this moment of rock simplicity. It is a piece of awesome 70s music, captured in modern times. ‘Black Magic’ is an authentic sounding album, lacking the clarity of more modern ‘occult rock’ bands, and creating a truly vintage feel about the record. If you told me that ‘The Plague’ was when Simon and Garfunkel started listening to Pentagram, I’d believe it. It captures a moment in time perfectly.

The soaring Zeppelin influence rears its head again on the proggy ‘Upon The Mountain’, which also grows into a Sabbathian groove. The super catchy swagger of ‘Slow Death’ is an instant hit, especially with the bluesy bassline that kicks in later in the song and just adds to it perfectly. The whole of ‘Black Magic’ encapsulates the good things to come out of the occult rock phase. You wouldn’t find higher quality occult doom if you looked all year.

‘Black Magic’ impresses at every turn. From up tempo rockers to gloomy acoustics, an omnipresent fog hangs over everything, smothering each well-crafted song into a melancholy ode to the misty mountains. By the time the grinding ‘The Eldest Tree’ comes to an end, Brimstone Coven have taken you on a journey through hazy 60s/70 psychedelic occultism, all the time keeping the guitar front and centre. Hypnotic, addictive and gloriously retro, ‘Black Magic’ stands tall against all occult doom releases of the past few years.


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Hooded Menace are what people are talking about when they think of death/doom these days, even if they don’t know it. The Finnish masters of darkness have long been crafting a career from the sludgy, endless void of riffs, summoning Lovecraftian beasts to serve as their inspiration. ‘Darkness Drips Forth’ is their new record, and while only four tracks, serves us some of the most tortured, dense and punishing death metal since their last emanation.

‘Blood For The Burning Oath/Dungeons Of The Disembodied’ belches from the starting blocks in typical, cavernous fashion.  A threatening, monotone hum drones from your speaker, screams begin to echo amongst it and then it happens. The riff descends from its place amongst the Dark Gods and comes slamming down upon us mere mortals. The voice of Hell erupts with malevolent intent; a gurgling, bilious roar that shakes the ground. Hooded Menace do creeping, crawling fetid death better than almost everyone, and ‘Darkness Drips Forth’ is a perfect encapsulation of their sound. Even when the pace is upped slightly, nothing is lost from their sickly death.

Hooded Menace do more than just shamelessly worship the likes of Autopsy or Coffins. They drag you along a journey, a quest of sorts, through the realms of death and decay. In anyone else’s hands, ten plus minute dirges of death metal would become tedious and repetitive. Hooded Menace have mastered this art. It’s swampy but never unintelligible, as the mammoth lurch of ‘Elysium Of Dripping Death’ shows. Vocalist Lasse Pyykko belches immensely brutal vocals, while each riff drips with a malevolent tone.

‘Ashen With Solemn Decay’ looms from the fog with a Cthulhuan might, like an ancient titan of death and doom. Hooded Menace reaffirm their status as the pinnacle of this genre with ‘Darkness Drips Forth’, because the extended song lengths allow them to create slowly, to build and to nurture that riff. In the same way a wave can build to a tsunami, ‘Beyond Deserted Flesh’ builds the rumbling drums, the icy Swedeath chainsaw riff, the unholy utterings, into something that, by the close of its ten minutes, is an unstoppable cliff of death metal and doom.

Hooded Menace may continue this path, they may revert back to their shorter songs. But either way, ‘Darkness Drips Forth’ is undeniable proof that they are the undead kings of death/doom, and their ashen granite throne shows no signs of cracking. Unbearably heavy, and unspeakably dark.

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I used to review a lot more for The Sleeping Shaman than I do now, simply to help Lee out when he needs reviews done. He gave me a good break into writing, a place to work on my style and my prose. My blog has taken off to an extent now, and with all the review requests I get, I find it harder and harder to do stuff for him. But I love The Sleeping Shaman, because it brings me such great doom records I’d have never found otherwise.

This one is a lot shorter than I normally do for him, as I only had eight minutes of music to write about! You should definitely check it out though.

Owl - Aeon Cult

‘Aeon Cult’ is shorter than some of Owl’s previous songs, let alone releases! This EP is the third release in a year from Owl, following on from ‘Into the Absolute’ and ‘The Last Walk’ in 2014. It continues their progression through the weirder fringes of doom.

Opener ‘The Abyss’ brings jangling discord to a crushing riff pattern, adopting an almost Meshuggah type groove within a monolithic doom framework. Churning heaviness plunders new depths, and the ethereal weirdness of ‘Ravage’ bellows with primal thunder. The slow and deliberate percussive assault underpins the groove and provides a base for each lumbering, tectonic riff. You can almost imagine yourself becoming that album cover, as each uneasy riff is piped into your brain. Your face contorts, attempting to understand just why you feel sick but yet mesmerised.

The stomping ‘Mollusk Prince’ closes the EP with a flourish; an unstoppable juggernaut of doom that comes on slow but steady, relentless, unbreakable. It’s difficult to explain what is so good about this EP. It’s almost painfully short for the style, to the point where you’re totally ready to fall into the void and follow the path it is taking you. Then it’s over. The good thing is, if you put it straight back on, the feeling remains. Each listen reveals new strangeness in the background of the music. Odd effects loom in the murk, while the slightly manic vocal delivery gives you an extra dose of brutality.

‘Aeon Cult’ is probably too short to jump up anyone’s best of lists at the end of the year. But I’ll tell you what, Owl have this addictive, sickening groove and an eerie, esoteric ambience about their riffing that is captivating. Short but ultimately, supremely sweet.

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Windhand have been responsible for two of modern doom’s finest records in the past few years; their bewitching debut and their megalithic ‘Soma’, which I still hold up high as THE best doom record by a new band in years. Their dense, Electric Wizard riffs coupled with a ritualistic vocal and an innate sense of the groove gives them this magical status. Their latest effort, ‘Grief’s Infernal Flower’ comes with an already stellar legacy to protect.

At first listen, opener ‘Two Urns’ isn’t as immediately heavy as ‘Orchard’ was on ‘Soma’. It’s a more trippy groove, almost upbeat, and the solo is a thing of melodic beauty. The instantly recognisable ethereal vocal is what makes Windhand for me. It’s what I imagine Jus Osborn would sound like if he hadn’t spent so much time with horror movies and Satan. And was a woman. That same, irresistible stoner groove penetrates every song on the record, from the soothing rumble of ‘Forest Clouds’ to the tectonic earth mover riff that opens ‘Hyperion’.

A lot of bands want you to believe that they can conjure up the spirit of the 70s, injecting their riffs with bland, attempted psychedelica without truly grasping the core concept. Windhand do it so naturally you’ll almost miss it, like the subtle acoustics in lumbering monster ‘Kingfisher’ or in the creepy ambient parts of ‘Forest Clouds’. You’re almost too busy being crushed under the awe-inspiring fuzz of the riff. ‘Sparrow’ shares the same vibe as Dorthia Cottrell’s solo album, released a few months before, and closer ‘Aition’ is almost heartbreakingly bleak.

Cottrell’s vocals ooze this hypnotising, ethereal magic that entwines itself around every riff, every hanging note with deadly ease. You find yourself hooked entirely in songs like ‘Hesperus’, where groove and croon combine to create that transcendent moment. That moment where you cannot turn it off, you cannot turn it down. Windhand have you when that happens, and they’ll never let go. You might remember reality one day, but you’ll never truly come back to us.

‘Grief’s Infernal Flower’ is not an album that rewrites the book of doom. Windhand have no time for your petty rules and your expectations. Windhand are a band that cast us mere mortals a glimpse into the terrifying, endless void and tempt us, siren-like, to give in. You’ll tell your children of this day; the day Windhand ascended to doom’s broken, monolithic throne. ‘Soma’ was their ascension ceremony, ‘Grief’s Infernal Flower’ is their crown.

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Doom is an extraordinary, multifaceted genre of metal. Here, musicians and heavy music alchemists have stretched and strained the genre’s basest elements into so many warped and ear destroying shapes that sometimes it becomes a struggle to keep up. From Sunn O)))’s punishing drones to the tearing sludge ferocity of EyeHateGod, there are examples too numerous to mention. But then, we have bands like Iron Void, bands who keep the traditional flame alive.

‘Doomsday’ is the follow up to last year’s Self-Titled debut, and sees the band treading a well-worn path of traditional doom ala Trouble, Pentagram and the masters, Black Sabbath. The title track welcomes us to ‘Doomsday’ with a rumbling riff that crawls from the guitar, crushing those before it. Each riff is delightfully cliché, reminding us of the primal power that pure, unadulterated doom can have. This isn’t an attempt to reinvent the wheel, nor even perfect the turn, it is simply doom played for the sheer passion of it. Most of us would have it no other way.

‘Path To Self Destruction’ has one of the most killer grooves I’ve heard all year. I was hooked on it instantly, and that feeling is reinforced when it comes to the catchy ‘The Devil’s Daughter’. The grandiose Candlemass worship of ‘Lost Faith’, the galloping ‘The Gates Of Hell’ with its eastern flourishes and the stomp of ‘Eye For An Eye’ show what variety can wrought from a trad doom perspective, and also gives props to the song writing skills on show here. ‘The Answer Unknown’ oozes a touch of Witchfinder General, mixed with some Sabbathian blues.

Iron Void’s quality comes from the fact that they’re just a band, playing good music that they enjoy. There’s no arching occult concept, there’s no flutes or violins or any fucking misery. This is exuberant, almost joyful, doom that revels in the sheer rock and roll spirit that underpins everything that heavy metal is about. There’s classy soloing, grooves a mile wide and riffs that hit like an atom bomb (listen to the swagger of ‘Colosseum’ and tell me I’m wrong). It makes ‘Doomsday’ a pleasure to listen to over and over again.

For indeed, “Welcome to Doomsday, too late to pray for your salvation now…” slip under and let the riff envelop you. Each song has a glorious magic to it, and it helps Iron Void and their interpretation of heavy metal’s primal beginnings remain triumphant. Rise up from your misanthropic misery and your smoky occultisms, because ‘Doomsday’ is a victory for tradition over experimentalism, and it fucking grooves.

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Seattle doom newcomers Serial Hawk recently signed to Bleeding Light Records to release ‘Searching for Light’, their debut full length record. The three piece have developed quite the reputation for their devastating, wall of sound live shows and their swelling cascades of riffs are a pleasure to hear.

Opener ‘Desolate’ builds gracefully, layering riff upon riff with a rumbling patience, waiting for that key moment to unleash the torrent. Vocalist Will Bassin has got that great, primal roar that echoes above the swelling riff, as tribal drumming builds the anticipation for the payoff. There is more than a whiff of classic Isis here, but it isn’t derogatory to the band’s efforts. Their shadow looms long over Serial Hawk, but the tectonic crash of guitar is far more hypnotic and primal than Isis ever were.

‘Lying in Wait’ is a more straight forward, almost Unsane-like noise rock track that is far more immediate in its delivery. The repetitiveness worms its way into your mind and plants itself there; a seed for the cultivation. ‘Of Decay’ nurtures it with waves of rolling guitar and thunderous drumming. ‘Of Decay’ also produces the first proper moments of calm that manifests itself as breathing space, before the riffs flow back on top. Serial Hawk create this almost droning wall of sound effect, but keep it interesting so you never get truly lost in it.

The eighteen minute closing epic title track contains, in a microcosm, all that is truly great about what Serial Hawk do. It begins with what sounds like wind, rushing across a vast, featureless plain. Slowly notes begin to drift from the fog, eerie and faint before the drums begin. The track branches out into hypnotic, almost desert rock like riffs that drift off into the night, before settling into calm. Suddenly, riffs stab down into the peace, and in true Neurosian fashion, the riff becomes the centrepiece once more. ‘Searching For Light’ is one of those songs that takes repeated listens to truly appreciate, but only one to understand its quality.

Serial Hawk are a band to watch out for. ‘Searching For Light’ is a remarkably sure and mature record for a debut, each track crafted with care to ensure each riff, each roar and each beat is milked of its potential. An avalanche of primal metal will meet you when you put this record on, and you’ll have no choice but to let it sweep you away.

‘Dead Earth’ sees Los Angeles doom titans Ancient Altar return after last year’s eponymous debut, armed with more crushing riffs to steamroll those unlucky (or lucky) enough to be in their way. Creating a loose concept album about how humanity is slowly killing the Earth is perfect for these kind of riffs, and it is here where Ancient Altar come to life.

The riff powerhouse kicks in early with the massive ‘Leader, Liar’ which rolls in waves of vintage doom guitar heft. A vast, earth quaking riff underpins the whole song, while a primeval roar echoes across great cliffs of heavy as fuck guitar. A wailing solo appears and vanishes, leaving us breathless as the hypnotic dirge crushes on. ‘Leader, Liar’ is one of those tracks that should open every doom record, as it encapsulates the true feeling of desperation and hopeless that good doom tracks should, while not forgetting that it is also about worshipping that riff.

Sometimes it is easy to put your finger on what it is about a certain record that gets you right in the spot. Ancient Altar do all the things that I’ve heard plenty of this year in doom, yet they have something that sets them apart, sets them above the rest. Maybe it is parts like that wonderful sun scorched intro to ‘Albion’, which leads you out into that rust coloured, post-apocalyptic desert, in search of something. Ancient Altar seem like they are looking for that answer to why the world will die. ‘Albion’ seems almost hopeful, with a delicate, soaring keyboard lurking in the back ground behind crushing guitar, like an answer will be found. Simply beautiful work.

The title track kicks in with a riff that Josh Homme would’ve killed for in the early 90s, and then begins to descend into heavier territory without ever losing that unquantifiable groove that has permeated the whole record. Ramping up to a High On Fire-esque stomp, ‘Dead Earth’ brings back some memories of Remission-era Mastodon, before the ground gives out and you are sucked down into the depths.

Closing with the sludge doom majesty of ‘Void’, Dead Earth is a worthy successor to the Self-Titled debut. Ancient Altar have crafted a fine piece of crushing doom here, especially considering they’ve been a band for only a year. As the riffs pile up, and the infectious, desert rock melodies make appearances, it only makes the album more alive, more vital. For those who worship doom, we have found you an Ancient Altar.