Archive for the ‘Sleeping Shaman Reviews’ Category

Paradise Lost - Obsidian

First published here:

Where do you even begin with a band as legendary as Paradise Lost? Pioneers of death/doom and gothic doom, creators of some of metal’s most iconic records and songs, and have maintained a career of 30 years plus with barely any creative missteps. You’d think that the band may have began to wane creatively at this point, but their last two records, ‘The Plague Within’ and 2017’s superlative ‘Medusa’ proved that is not the case. So comes ‘Obsidian’, the latest opus in a discography littered with classics, but will it continue this trend? ‘Obsidian’ is out now on Nuclear Blast.

It is a funny thing to review a record by a band so influential, because every time you hear a certain tone or style you have to remember that this doesn’t just sound like Paradise Lost, it IS them. It’s a revelation at that point just how important they’ve been. The bleak acoustic and softly sung opening to ‘Darker Thoughts’ paints a scene of classic Yorkshire misery, and when the song opens up there is a wonderful gloom coating this melodic powerhouse. Paradise Lost have never been a band to shy away from using different styles to create their particular brand of haunting heaviness, with ‘Fall from Grace’ wringing mournful lead guitar over a refrain of ‘we’re all alone…’ and the driving ‘Ghosts’ reaffirming their gothic metal credentials, bringing to mind Sisters of Mercy or even a little Type O.

Their most goth moment comes in the bleak ‘Forsaken’ however, as hook filled as a song this cold and miserable could possibly be. The solo is a high point in an album full of them, and the album never loses steam from here. The serrated riffs of ‘Serenity’ draw back the doom which then filters through the violins and grandiosity of ‘Ending Days’ and the rich post punk tapestry of ‘Hope Dies Young’ into the war torn regality of ‘Ravenghast’, a baroque doom masterclass that conjures some traditional Northern pessimism as well as some of the best riffs Gregor Mackintosh has ever pulled from his six strings.

It feels very reassuring to hear a band fully absorbed by their past but creating new music that is as vital as their iconic releases ever were. Sure, there are hundreds of bans that do what Paradise Lost do, but none will ever come close to the masters. ‘Obsidian’ is an important addition to their legacy; a reinvigoration of their gothic roots while remaining fully rooted in the doom that brought them to the dance. Dark and beautiful.

Dopelord - Sign of the Devil

First published here:

Lords of Eastern European classic doom, Poland’s Dopelord have returned to follow up their classic third record, ‘Children of the Haze’, with their newest offering. ‘Sign of the Devil’ is out now through Green Plague Records and it feels ready to fill time until the next Electric Wizard record is conjured from the hazy depths. I must note as well that the album artwork is stunning, encapsulating a lot of classic doom influences; religion, kings, plague, death and magicks.

Electric Wizard is an obvious first comparison point when the rolling, fuzzy riffs of super catchy opener ‘Witching Hour Bell’ rumbles from your speaker, down to the dense groove and Ozzy-esque wail. In fact, there is more than a little Sabbath lurking within these occult riddled walls, albeit layered below deep layers of distortion. ‘Hail Satan’ is a thunderous stomp through Satanic rituals, while the anthemic ‘Heathen’ has riffs strong enough that they’re worth getting high on. The whole record ripples with a tunefulness that this kind of music often lacks, and sacrifices none of the weight to achieve it.

It isn’t merely all bulldozing cliff face riffs though; the dreamy psychedelica of the start of ‘Doom Bastards’ provides a respite from the heavy but doesn’t lift the gloom as there’s plenty of driving stoner riffs lurking further ahead, as well as an absolutely killer solo too. ‘World Beneath Us’ is a more traditional slab of lumbering haze w hile the short rampage of ‘Headless Decapitator’ has a great burst of punkish attitude injected into it and is like nothing else here.

‘Sign of the Devil’ is already a front runner for my doom album of 2020, and considering how much of this year I’ll probably spend inside listening to music, I doubt I’ll come across many that come close. Addictive melodies sweep through massive riffs, skittering through some psychedelic moments but never leaving behind any of the glacial crush that makes this such a great record. Dopelord are ‘bastards of doom’ indeed.

Voidlurker - Industrial Nightmare

First published here:

Voidlurker call Birmingham, England home, and the grinding industrial weight of the city’s bleak history weighs heavily on ‘Industrial Nightmare’. The weight of their home town’s musical legacy is also undeniable, and this new four track EP feels like an encapsulation of both influences. Having recently visited the home of Sabbath, I can see exactly where this dark and miserable music comes from… It is out now through APF Records.

The churning riff that opens the album is a thing of murky, dense beauty. Drowning in fuzzy guitar tones, the elephantine groove is unmistakable and the tortured snarl of frontman Brad Thomas is the perfect accompaniment to the crushing apocalypse wrought from his guitar. Low end is also a speciality of Voidlurker, as the bass heavy density of ‘Jeffrey Doomer’ feels like if Kyuss lived in an urban sprawl and had a heroin habit. It’s also incredibly infectious, and immediately prompted me to repeat it again and again.

The Electric Wizard-esque intro to ‘Rotten Seed’ is glorious, as is the bleak rumble of closer ‘Bitchcraft and Misery’, which returns from their debut demo. Sadly there’s no sign of that demo’s other killer track ‘Ravenous’ but hey, we can’t have everything. Be thankful that we have this though. You’ll struggle to find a more potent three piece in the sludge/doom genre than Voidlurker. They appear to have little interest in reinventing the genre but have a vested interest in keeping it as heavy as possible. The mammoth groove that strides throughout is simply stunning, and I can imagine live they would be a sight to behold. ‘Industrial Nightmare’ is teeth-rattlingly heavy, and anyone who likes testing the foundations of their home should get this and turn it up.

Frayle - 1692

Originally published here:

The dark rock/doom stylings of Cleveland’s Frayle have come creeping into the light, with their debut full length ‘1692’, coming out on February 14th through Laybare Recordings/Aqualamb Records. A record that draws influences as far and wide as Cocteau Twins, Kyuss, Chelsea Wolfe and Sleep, they straddle a thin line between rumbling doom and almost dreamy, ethereal pop sensibilities.

The hypnotising drone of the introduction, coupled with the whispering vocals, leads us perfectly into the haunting dark rock gloom of the title track. Vocalist Gwyn Strang has a gorgeous voice, at once both eerie and yet fragile and beautiful. It flows in perfect synchronicity with the bleak drive of the guitar work. ‘Gods of No Faith’ adds in some male growls, but the main focus is always that ghostly interplay between the heavy and the light. ‘Darker Than Black’ is my favourite track here by far; riffs swaying in hallucinogenic atmospheres while dense drumming underpins probably the best vocal performance on the album.

This is a record that has become addictive over multiple listens. There has always been an important place for female voices in doom; the fragile nature of the style lends itself well to the more haunting female vocal, but there is something special about Frayle’s contributions. It isn’t just big riffs but a more nuanced approach, allowing the heaviness to build not just from the guitar but from Strang’s storytelling. Weaving tales of anger, heartbreak, resolution and hypocrisy, she adds that intangible that takes ‘1692’ away from the crowd and into a space that they alone inhabit. The brooding ‘Burn’ takes you in directions you wouldn’t expect, as does the gentle gloom of ‘If You Stay’. But it is the Triptykon-esque darkness pervading parts of ‘Godless’ that really gets to me in a primal way.

‘1692’ is a record that will stay with me all year. It gives me the same feeling as when I heard Mount Salem’s ‘Endless’ for the first time a few years ago; I didn’t know music could be this bleak and yet so beautiful. Frayle conjure those same feelings, and for that makes this a real gem. As they say themselves, this is a place to feel vulnerable amongst the chaos, and that is a welcome sight indeed.

V - Led into Exile

First published here:

Out earlier in the autumn, Sweden’s sludgey doom lords V’s second record ‘Led Into Exile’ is a forty minute journey over six tracks, and looks to establish them as potential pretenders to the throne currently occupied by fellow Swedes Cult of Luna. This is full of sweeping dynamic shifts and huge riffs, but can they bring anything else to the table?

The opener ‘Broadcast from the Shadows’ begins with a slow-burn build, an almost hypnotic drone accompanied by tribal drumming before some dense riffs crash down. But this doesn’t just become your average ‘riff-shout’ assault that many other bands try for. There are genuine moments of melodic interludes, where the heavier sections are given a chance to breathe and the atmospherics flex themselves. ‘Illviljan’ has a harsher and raw sounding guitar tone, rumbling along with an eye on the grinding early work of Isis or Neurosis. These bands are obviously a great influence on V, and the titanic crush of ‘Hostage of Souls’ that follows just reinforces this. However this isn’t just the glistening weight of ‘Celestial’, nor the primal heft of ‘Through Silver in Blood’.

‘Led Into Exile’ is its own master, be it the ghostly almost silence that creeps through ‘Hostage of Souls’, the swaggering Sabbathian doom riffs that open ‘Phantasmagoria’ or the bleak folk acoustics of ‘None Shall Rise Again’. V are chameleonic; one moment hitting you with visceral heaviness and the next tugging on your emotions with beautiful material. It is this that makes them so appealing. Not every band in this style will risk opening themselves up like that, but V do it with aplomb.

As the monolithic title track thunders us to the close of the record, ‘Led Into Exile’ has left quite an impression on me. Whether crafting massive riffs that loom above like cliffs in the night, wretching vocals echoing around them or allowing us an insight into the quieter moments with acoustics or electronica, V are not just going to play the game the way we expect them too. ‘Led Into Exile’ is a surprisingly poignant work, and the sooner we can get more from V the better.

Golden Core - Fimbultýr

First published here:

This Norwegian duo are the definition of potential, with a 15 year old and a 17 year old powering this righteous noise meaning that they could have decades of material to come. What might bother me is the ‘progressive’ tagged onto their style, as that is normally added to anything that is even remotely long without actually featuring any prog elements. Golden Core’s debut came out in 2016, and ‘Fimbultýr’ is a record that belies their maturity with a staggering amount of talent.

The opening drive of the title track is magnificent, with thunderous doomy riffs propelled with a fuzzy bass line and pounding drums. Imagine Kyuss if they lived in the savage north rather than sun baked desert. The raspy throaty vocals give an extra oomph to proceedings as well, but it isn’t all just driving, bluesy stoner metal. The triumphant heft of ‘Rúnatal’ builds with tribal drumming and shimmering guitars into a lumbering, Cathedral-esque monster. Weird vocal effects cascade over massive cliffs of doom riffs, and this is the kind of prog I want in things labelled as progressive. Not just long songs. ‘Hrafnaspá’ is my favourite track here though, a rough and ready, punkish Queens of the Stone Age banger that is one of the more overtly ‘RAWK’ moments here, while the short and almost black metal ‘Villist Vættir’ is a nice surprise.

Golden Core’s songwriting skills are top notch, and if I hadn’t read in their press release that they were so young, you could’ve convinced me they’d been doing this for decades. It just SOUNDS so authentic, from the guitar tone and impressive licks, to the bass and drum thunder below. There is no more pleasant a surprise in finding a band that totally gets the style they are playing and get it at such a young age. I mean, turn up the powerful, folk tinged ‘Buslubæn’ and just bathe yourself in its glacial awesomeness. Golden Core are a superb band, and ‘Fimbultýr’ is hopefully just the beginning.

Originally published on the Sleeping Shaman:

German sludge rockers Red Stone Chapel release their debut record, ‘Omega Boombox‘, on the 25th of October through Argonauta Records and it is eight tracks of southern rock with all the stoner, progressive, sludge and blues influences you could need in your life. The Sleeping Shaman even managed to snag ourselves a premiere for it. But in a world of a thousand bands that claim to do this kind of music, can ‘Omega Boombox‘ stand out from the crowd?

The short answer is yes. ‘Omega Boombox’ may not reinvent the wheel but that wheel is beautifully looked after. Opener ‘Squid Limbo‘ hits you with a big ol’ riff that just hits that sweet spot with bluesy groove. The gruff vocals of frontman Dimi suit the whiskey-soaked attitude perfectly, and the swagger is retained throughout. Red Stone Chapel are a band that aren’t short on confidence, and the Orange Goblin-esque thrust of ‘Dead Man’s Chime‘ and ‘Praise the Fool‘ are things of beauty. The great, looming shadow of Clutch also is very noticeable, and the opening to ‘Panta Rhei’ would make Neil Fallon and crew proud! Red Stone Chapel are no tribute however. They’ve got a sound of their own.

I’m a metal fan that appreciates all the brutality, ethereal blackness or suffocating death that I can get, but we all must admit to a weakness for massive bluesy grooves. I mean, this is where all hard rock and metal grew from; a style that if nurtured properly can still electrify even after decades of being overdone. Red Stone Chapel add a nice, rough and gruff edge to their stuff, giving it a real authentic feel. Like some rough old mountain lads kicking back some Zeppelin and filtering it through a little early Mastodon. I’ve been listening to the psychedelic doom rock of ‘The Paper King‘ on repeat for days, and I’ll never get sick of it.

Omega Boombox‘ has most of everything you’re going to want in an album like this; hefty blues, swaggering RAWK grooves, gravelly vocals that aren’t missing an ounce of soul and some absolute killer riffs. Red Stone Chapel’s debut is packed full of potential hits, and enough subtle touches to make it all their own. This is a band to keep an eye on for the future, as if they can build on their foundation here and maybe go even a little weirder next time, it’ll be special indeed.

Exhumed - Horror

First published on the Sleeping Shaman:

What more do you need to say about gory death metal icons and legends Exhumed? Well nothing really, as their musical legacy will always speak much louder, so simply put ‘Horror’ is their newest work and it fits into their discography as neatly as a mortician’s saw through bone. Continuing their 2010s comeback with stronger and more mature material, ‘Horror’ is their reminder that they can still shred with the best of them.

Opener ‘Unsound’ is an immediate knife thrust to the jugular, where you’re hit with instant brutality and savage vocals. Maddening solos puncture the assault, as a relentless drumming battery powers everything along at a breakneck speed. Anyone who thinks Exhumed would have mellowed with age have no idea what they are on, as this is as fresh and exhilirating as they have ever been. Beset by some killer thrash riffs, ‘Ravenous Cadavers’ follows suit and the more said about the grinding carnage of ‘Scream Out in Fright’ the better.

Exhumed have really re-embraced their grinding roots on ‘Horror’, with the longest song, ‘Slaughter Maniac’, clocking in at a mere 2:23. The band are going hell for leather with the shred and the grind here, tearing through prime cuts like ‘Ripping Death’ and the superlative grinding of ‘Rabid’ like there was no tomorrow. It always feels good when a band that has been on the go since 1990 can come back feeling vibrant and vicious, not just rehashing the same old songs. It has been a long time since Exhumed were this precisely savage, and it is welcome.

You get fifteen songs in twenty six minutes, which feels both too short and yet absolutely perfect. There is no messing about, just gory guitar work laced with some poisonous vocals and the confidence of veterans just hammering out great material. Not every album needs to be an epic, and in Exhumed’s case this makes you want to experience the whole thing again straight away. I mean, the best song here is called ‘Naked, Screaming and Covered in Blood’, if that doesn’t make you want to throw horns and go crazy then what will?! ‘Horror’ reminds everyone that all these new bands are great, but sometimes there is nothing quite as satisfying as the old school.

Coffins - Beyond the Circular Demise

Originally published on the Sleeping Shaman:

Legendarily prolific Japanese death/doom lords Coffins have returned with their first full length record since 2013’s ‘The Fleshland’, but they haven’t been quiet. Lots of splits and EPs have filled the gap, but there’s nothing quite like a full length Coffins record. ‘Beyond the Circular Demise’ releases on the 20th of September through Relapse Records and looks to be another record of superlative quality.

I’ve followed these guys since their superlative 2008 record ‘Buried Death’ and they’ve rarely disappointed. Immediately grinding out a nasty, Swedeath riff in the opener ‘Terminate By Own Prophecy’, the guttural death growls belching untold blasphemies. The doom is strong in the crush of ‘The Tranquil End’, but it neither overshadows nor gets lost in the crunchy death metal. Coffins balance the two genres perfectly, making the transitions from savagery to imperious, monstrous riff feel so natural. And the doom comes with churning intensity, with the monolithic opening riffs to ‘Impuritious Minds’ being an immediate standout but not the only one.

What I’ve always enjoyed about Coffins is that their brand of death/doom has never been the vast, clean doom riffs layered with brutal growls. They have always felt like a true amalgamation of nasty, raw death metal and the crushing nihilism of someone like Winter or Burning Witch. Their music has never seemed majestic or imperious; it feels like a true musical representation of death and decay. The gut wrenching weight of ‘Gateways to Dystopia’ possessing aching riffs, while the savage growl of ‘Hour of Execution’ maintains that nasty edge.

Coffins have created an art form out of this style of music. ‘Beyond the Circular Demise’ is yet another exhibit in their gallery of gore, death and rumbling decay. Lots of bands claim to make music that feels like the end of the world. Coffins actually do it, and while their tectonic riffs help our dying planet on its way we can all bathe in the glory of it. All hail visceral, toxic, TRUE death/doom.

Originally published here:

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.