Posts Tagged ‘The Sleeping Shaman’

Bull Elephant - Created from Death

Review by Sandre the Giant

Originally published here: https://www.thesleepingshaman.com/reviews/bull-elephant-created-from-death/

Anonymous UK collective Bull Elephant have returned with the second part of their trilogy, picking up from last year’s self titled release ‘Created from Death’ takes us to even weirder places, with the eponymous animal now resurrected in human form in order to fight black magick wielding Nazis. Or something. It is very complex and strange but yet absolutely absorbing. It is out in August through Eat Lead and Die Music.

The initial groaning rumble coming from opener ‘Created from Death’ isn’t quite as heavy as you expect, but the smooth transitions between lumbering doom and a more fast paced melodic death metal-esque sound are very nice, as are the slow elegiac moments in the middle. You know straight away that you’re not just getting a bog standard metal release here. ‘Oneiromantic Rites’ positively throbs with a soulful groove, an almost psychedelic feel seeping through, while the mighty ‘Lebensraum’ has a titanic rumble coursing through its veins, coupled with an old school death vibe too. Bull Elephant cannot be pinned into one particular genre style, and that is really to their credit.

The blues riddled soul of ‘Cult of the Black Sun Nemesis’ creates this dreamy state that the band revisit repeatedly throughout the album. The transitions from this ethereal journey back into bone crushing reality are never jarring; instead they feel like the most natural thing in the world. The pounding drive of one-two punch haymakers ‘Last Defilement’ and ‘Perverted Science’ are a tremendous example of the weight Bull Elephant can bring when asked, while the triumphant striding doom of ‘Escape to the Arctic’ is a slice of pure magic. And to close with the Mastodonian stomp of ‘Wayfarer’ is a perfect cap to an album that rules.

Bull Elephant continue to be one of the more esoteric and interesting bands to follow in the doom/heavy metal universe. Their concepts are bonkers but somehow the music creates this real tapestry from it, and what emerges are albums of quality, of variety. ‘Created from Death’ has thrown dashes of extremity into a psychedelic doom and vintage heavy metal melting pot and the resulting dish has proven to be quite appetising. I’m waiting with baited breath for the final part of this trilogy.

https://bullelephant.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.facebook.com/bullelephant/

 

Astral Sleep - Astral Doom Musick

Originally published here: https://www.thesleepingshaman.com/reviews/astral-sleep-musick/

Ah Finland. Land of a Thousand Lakes. Home of some of metal’s most incredible and influential bands, particularly in the field of doom. Astral Sleep have been churning titanic riffs for over 15 years now, and their third full length ‘Astral Doom Magick’ is another opus of mournful, marsh quaking doom for us all to sink down into oblivion in accompaniment. It follows the crushing ‘Visions’ from 2012 and the more recent psychedelic EP ‘Subconsciousnesslesskoe’ and is out now through Saarni Records.

Four tracks spanning over forty minutes will tell you a lot, but not all of the tale can be told by length. Opener ‘Vril’ begins our journey with a rumbling, paleolithic riff that is drenched in classic death/doom before a more Reverend Bizarre-esque majesty appears. Melancholic leads churn below growled vocals, skittering gently upon the surface of a lake of pure darkness. ‘Integration’s grand sweep and soaring melodies form a glorious dichotomy within Astral Sleep. You’ve got some serious death/doom weight flowing beneath the kind of massive epic doom melodies you might find lurking on a Candlemass record, where delicate clean guitars can invoke the bleakest of emotions and hefty riffs can crush those same emotions to miserable dust.

The gatefold vinyl edition of this record comes with its own board game, which tells the tale of the album’s mythical world. You could definitely find it easy to become absorbed in this world of light and dark, feuding endlessly through time for supremacy. The album personifies that, with the dense low end and mourning guitar wails battling against an innate sense of melody. The glacial crawl of ‘Schwerbelastungskörper’ is pure misery, howled into a void of painfully wrought guitar leads, while the closing ‘Aurinko ja Kuu’ is more open and spacey. In fact, it wouldn’t feel out of place on some latter day Devin Townsend records, which is not a reference I thought I’d be making at the start of this review. But after a section that nods to the band’s more psychedelic past moments, we delve downward into some heavier territory to close.

In a world where we’re all facing misery, the grim face of death haunting our thoughts and the collapse of society, it is kinda nice to have a record that brings you a soundtrack to it with a little hope lurking in there. ‘Astral Doom Magick’ is a conjuration of grey beauty, where the rawest of sorrowful rage exists besides an emotional plea for a better place. Astral Sleep are magnificent, and this is their greatest triumph.

https://astralsleep.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/astralsleepdoom

https://www.astralsleep.net/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZNHusm51GMmTIlW4SSpTtQ

Hand of Omega - Left Hand Wrath

First published here: http://www.thesleepingshaman.com/album-ep-reviews/review-hand-of-omega-left-hand-wrath/

The debut demo from Stoke on Trent’s Hand of Omega is called ‘Left Hand Wrath‘, and this sludge doom quartet are looking like devastation is their forte with a two track, twelve minute bludgeoning on the cards. It is out now self released.

The sickening guitar tone that rises from ‘Amazon Burning‘ is met by the equally disease ridden vocal snarl, drowning within a suffocating murk. It’s a pretty heavy place to start, and it only continues down this path of nihilistic dread. There are moments of utter Lovecraftian insanity, when the pace rises and the song flails like an unknown beast. The second part of this miasma, ‘Convolution‘, has absorbed much of the same bile that infested the opener, and sounds like if EyeHateGod released a bedroom black metal demo. Except with way more low end. The bass crunch on these tracks is thunderous, and unlike a lot of sludge there is no bluesy groove saturated in here, just pure straightforward violence.

Left Hand Wrath‘ is a brutal reminder of how lo-fi, sanity cracking sludge can feel like the end of the world, and why that self destruction is so addictive. Hand of Omega are here to be feared, and there will be few survivors.

https://www.facebook.com/handofomegaband/

https://handofomega.bandcamp.com/releases

Golden Core - Fimbultýr

First published here: http://www.thesleepingshaman.com/album-ep-reviews/review-golden-core-fimbultyr/

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.

https://www.facebook.com/goldencoreband/

https://goldencore.bandcamp.com/album/fimbult-r

Gatecreeper - Deserted

Originally published at the Sleeping Shaman: http://www.thesleepingshaman.com/album-ep-reviews/review-gatecreeper-deserted/

Tucson, Arizona’s Gatecreeper are the latest band to find their way onto the mighty Relapse Records, and the three year wait from their debut ‘Sonoran Depravation’ is going to be worth it. ‘Deserted’ is out on the 4th of October, and is a tribute to the classic Florida and Swedish death metal scenes.

The riffs that open the title track, and open the record, immediately conjures up a feeling of nostalgia for the 90s. The guitar tone is a thing of ancient beauty, the simple chunky riffing, the guttural roar; it is all a certain kind of magic. Kurt Ballou’s production renders everything in a wonderful crispness, despite the guitars insistence on sound like a saw tearing through flesh. There is a certain majesty to the doomy riffing of ‘From the Ashes’, and you’ll find this regularly on ‘Deserted’, that the band do not just tear ahead at all times. Gatecreeper draw heavily from the Obituary school of Floridian death metal, and the ‘Slowly We Rot’-esque thunder of ‘Ruthless’ is a perfect example.

Why no one has really nailed a ‘Entombed playing Obituary songs’ like this before blows my mind. It seems so obvious in retrospect. I suppose because it isn’t just as simple as that. There are so many little elements playing their part here, from the sludgey trudge of the behemoth ‘Sweltering Madness’ with its maddening guitar solos to the early Paradise Lost-esque majesty of closer ‘Absence of Light’. The true greatness of ‘Deserted’s is to be found in the songwriting, where such an overwrought genre feels fresh and exciting again.

In a world where old school death metal bands are ten a penny, and the injection of lumbering doom into it is even more common, Gatecreeper have a sound that pays homage to an iconic past but yet creative enough to never feel boring or trite. ‘Deserted’ is as modern and cutting edge a take on this particular genre as you’ll find and it is a decadent experience.

https://www.facebook.com/gatecreeper/

https://gatecreeper.bandcamp.com/

http://relapse.com/gatecreeper-deserted/

This was originally posted here: http://www.thesleepingshaman.com/reviews/album-reviews/l/lurch-st-ep-cs-dd-2013/

This is a very interesting proposition. Take two nasty Irish sludge/hardcore bands who shared a split back in 2011 (Drainland and Trenches), throw some of their members together in a new band and remove a couple of layers of nihilistic sludge and see what appears…

Lurch is the result of this collaboration, and it’s a very intriguing result indeed. Featuring little of what could be referred to as an ‘expected’ style, the opening track is reminiscent to ‘Bleach’-era Nirvana. They have much more in common with noise rock or early grunge than their previous bands. ‘Butcher’s Rainbow’ is a menacing, writhing beast of noise rock riffs, clean vocals and distorted roars. It is suitably terrifying and great at the same time.

The Removed’ kicks off almost more conventionally, a lurching (sorry) riff then drops into delicate picking without losing a sense of the dark, the disturbed. It is a twisting track, difficult to pin down. Elements of indie rock crash into dirge riffs and pained howls, punishing guitars and drumming thunder takes us home.

You’re Drunk’ is more urgent, off kilter and dissonant. Vocalist Jamie Grimes reminds me of someone who I can’t quite place; but it is a rich mix of early Kurt Cobain and Stephen Richards from Taproot. That’s a good thing by the way, he always had a pretty unique voice for being part of a very average nu metal band. ‘You’re Drunk’ is the most straight forward track on the EP; its hard and fast and catchy as hell. The monolithic closer ‘The Company You Keep’ rounds off this EP in style, building slowly with whispering and gentle notes into a crescendo of crashing cymbals and dissonant riffs. It then builds from the same, quiet section, jerking the listener from lulling respite into strict attention.

Lurch are a band who will appeal to those of us who hoped ‘Bleach’ would have been the blueprint for Nirvana from then on, or that noise rock heroes Harvey Milk would hurry up and make a new record. They aren’t for the easily pleased; this EP is a tangled, twisted entity that with perseverance unlocks its greatest moments for those who look for them.

This review was originally posted here: http://www.thesleepingshaman.com/reviews/album-reviews/m/mist-demo-2013-cd-dd/

Mist are an all-female doom band from the beautiful city of Ljubljana, Slovenia. That caught my eye immediately, not only because I don’t know many Slovenian metal bands but I’ve been to their fair city a number of times, and I love it. The country is great, and their MetalDays festival is the shit. Well, it was when it was MetalCamp, I haven’t been since they changed it… Anyhoo, when you think of ‘occult doom’ and ‘female’, you’re instinctively drawn to conclusions like Blood Ceremony or The Devil’s Blood. With Mist, you couldn’t be further from the truth. These girls are refreshingly different.

Their two track demo opens with the grinding ‘Phobia’. There’s something deliciously Sabbathian about them, especially the mournful melancholy of the vocals, and the guitar leads. This is not a band who deal in flutes or any of those esoteric additions. Mist deal in heavy metal, riffing as if it were melded to their DNA. For a band who only began in 2012, to have written one song that is this accomplished is a treat. ‘Phobia’ blows most occult-doom-with-female-vocals out of the water.

The Living Dead’ is quirkier, more upbeat. It shows promise in its variety, a range that will be interesting to explore. Vocalist Nina Spruk is mesmerising; she has a powerful, soulful voice that captures the atmosphere perfectly, but doesn’t retract from the other pieces of the puzzle. It reminds me a lot of Jex Thoth, which is a major compliment since I’ve found her to be THE benchmark for female vocalists in this style.

Mist could be a staggering proposition in the coming years. They are poised to break through the 1970’s worship of recent occult doom and take us further. They have more in common with Vitus and Sabbath than Coven or Blood Ceremony. Their demo is only the beginning. With the right songs, and the right opening, Mist could be the next big thing.

This review was originally posted here: http://www.thesleepingshaman.com/reviews/album-reviews/m/mammoth-storm-rite-of-ascension-digital-ep-2014/

There’s something about the name Mammoth Storm that intrigues me. Is it referring to an enormous weather front, or a storm made of ACTUAL mammoths? Either would be sound reasoning, but after listening to the first thirty seconds of this crushing two track release, I’ll wager the latter.

Rite of Ascension’ is a thunderous, lumbering beast of a track. The first two minutes is probably one of the heaviest riffs I’ve ever heard. Doom bands have this knack for pulling out repetitive riffs that sink slowly into your mind and suddenly become THE riff for a day or two. There’s a ponderous, earth shaking rhythm to it, in which you feel somewhat small and insignificant. Mammoth Storm have distilled the essence of early Mastodon here, but slowed it down to a crawl and removed all the adventurous prog rock influences. What you’re left with is simply heavy as fuck. Overlaid with a primal roar, this is the soundtrack to a lost world, where huge beasts walk REALLY slowly. To the sound of riffs the size of mountains. I love it unashamedly. It has a similar hypnotising quality as say, Electric Wizard.

Track two, ‘Obscure Horizon’ starts with a much more swaying groove, which feels less heavy but it isn’t, it’s just a different kind of heavy. It then fades out to eerie picked notes peeking through a distorted mist. The vocals are much more haunting on this track, and ‘Obscure Horizon’ seems a lot creepier and more menacing than the title track. It’s an interesting dichotomy presented with the more straightforward ‘Rite of Ascension’. It’s good to see a band display attempts at variety in this style of music. Too often you can get lost amongst songs and riffs with this kind of ponderous, rumbling doom but these tracks are different yet somehow the same. ‘Obscure Horizon’ is like the unstoppable crawl of tectonic plates; crushing yet achingly slow. It feels like if Isis had spent more time listening to Electric Wizard; with the slow build of dynamics to the mournful choral voices in the final minutes. A showing of stark vulnerability.

My only problem is that it’s slightly short. I’m fully aware of the irony of that statement considering it is two tracks covering a total of 24 plus minutes. But I’m left wanting more, wondering what else we have yet to see from Mammoth Storm. If it’s more of this, then we are all about to be blessed. Hopefully this is just a sign of things yet to come.

This review was originally published on The Sleeping Shaman here: http://www.thesleepingshaman.com/reviews/album-reviews/g/godhunter-city-of-dust-cd-lp-dd-2014/ and I’m also hopefully going to be interviewing them in the near future too. A band that I have thoroughly enjoyed discovering.

Godhunter are from Tucson, Arizona, yet the scorching sunshine of their home state seems to have left little trace on their dark, dense, sludgy outpourings. Their debut LP, ‘City Of Dust’ has an overpowering sense of groove. There’s the unmistakable sludge doom fingerprints over Weedeater or EyeHateGod in their DNA, but they lack the former’s zoned out weed influence or the latter’s nihilistic, drug addled hatred. What Godhunter do have in spades is riffs.

Riffs in metal are sometimes overused or underutilised. The key to a good riff is being memorable and heavy as fuck, generally. Opening salvo ‘Despite All’ is a good example of this, a solid scorched earth riff that rumbles along, steamrolling anything in its track. There’s almost a sense of desert rock about its structure. Add forty layers of fuzz and it could be a Kyuss riff. This is good, as it adds an identity to what could have become just another heavy doom/sludge outfit. There are also touches of Black Flag in there too, vocally. ‘Rats In The Walls’ is a slow burner, a rumbling menacing track that brings to mind Neurosis but with a bit more melody. The track sways and groans under the heaviness of the riffing. ‘Brushfires’ is another monstrous riff workout, in the style of Electric Wizard.

There’s an eclectic mix of prime sludge riffs with a hardcore edge and vocal delivery. I hate to call it ‘sludgecore’ but I guess that’s what it is. The influence of ‘My War’ era Black Flag is evident, but so is the nihilistic groove of sludge behemoths like EyeHateGod or 16. My favourite track has to be the sludge blues of ‘Snake Oil Dealer’. It has it all, the riffs, the cleaner intro, the tortured howl of vocalist Charlie Tousell. Before three minutes of it is over, the riff drops out into crashing waves of heavy. For a place so far away from the spiritual home of sludge, ‘Snake Oil Dealer’ has pure NOLA written all over it.

The album continues with such weight, it’s impossible not to be impressed. From the crushing and instantly catchy ‘Palace Of Thorn’ to the closing monolith ‘Plague Widow’, the album displays a startling maturity. ‘Shooting Down The Sun’ could be the darkest country song ever written, and even though it appears very different from the tracks around it, it fits seamlessly in with the overall feel of the record. There’s a haunting nakedness to it, a stripping bare of a band that up to this point has been caked in muddy riffs. But then the vulnerability is gone, swallowed back within gang vocals and tar thick riffs. But it was there, like a ray of light through the black, itching for the moment when it can be released again. My instinct suggests that they should embrace that.

City Of Dust’ is a record by a band coming into their own. It possesses a much more assured sense of identity than their ‘Wolves’ EP, while retaining that release’s sense of groove. Godhunter could become something very special one day, and this is only the beginning.

https://www.facebook.com/godhuntertucson666

http://godhunter.bandcamp.com/

http://www.earsplitdistro.com/collections/263162-all-products/products/4903894-godhunter-city-of-dust-cd

This review was originally published on The Sleeping Shaman here: http://www.thesleepingshaman.com/reviews/album-reviews/o/orchid-the-zodiac-sessions-cd-10inch-lp-2013/

Do you remember Black Sabbath? I don’t mean the new/old reunion that released one of 2013’s best metal records. I mean the classic Sabbath, who with ‘Master Of Reality’ essentially defined doom with every classic element. Orchid remember them. Boy do they remember them…

The Zodiac Sessions’ is a remastering of Orchid’s debut EP ‘Through The Devil’s Doorway’ and record ‘Capricorn’ onto one CD, or for vinyl lovers 10″ & LP, with tasty new artwork. First of all, that artwork style is just gorgeous; taking you back to the early 1970s with its psychedelic and occult overtones. But what of the music? ‘Capricorn’ was a critically acclaimed record when it first appeared in 2011, and rightfully so. ‘Eyes Behind The Wall’ is an Ozzy wail away from actually BEING the reincarnation of Sabbath circa 1972. The title track is a throbbing, blues-drenched slice of doom rock, and ‘Black Funeral’ continues the Sabbath worship vibe. It’s a fine line to sound like someone, but not shamelessly ape their sound without originality. Orchid avoid this pitfall by simply writing good songs. ‘Black Funeral’ for example is painfully catchy, and it’s not the only one with a riff or melody that worms its way into your mind, plants a seed and lets it grow. ‘He Who Walks Alone’ is another one that is simple yet memorable.

Cosmonaut Of Three’ has a great fuzzy opening riff, and is a bit more expansive and progressive compared with what has come before. It’s a bit more psychedelic and different, which is no bad thing. An entire album of Sabbath tribute would have been a bit tedious after a while, but Orchid uses this track to establish themselves as a more twisted, unique entity. A wise choice. It makes them more than yet another Sabbath clone, it gives them identity.

Albatross’ closes the ‘Capricorn’ part of the remaster with a very ‘Planet Caravan’ vibe. There is definitely more of a tendency towards Sabbath worship here than there is on their stunning ‘Mouths Of Madness’ record from last year. On that they evolved into their own band playing their own music in the style of classic doom. On ‘Capricorn’ it veers almost too close to derivative. I still like the record a lot, but they get better the more of their own ideas and style they mix in.

The debut EP stuff is a lot more straightforward, with the hard rocking ‘Into The Sun’ a particular favourite. ‘Eastern Woman’ has a thick main riff that has a great blues swagger. It’s an interesting reference point to see where the band came from. ‘Son Of Misery’ has the groove and psychedelica, with also the first feelings of menace. ‘No One Make A Sound’ is a striding anthem, and it brings the EP to a satisfying end.

Orchid are now a great band. They have become a great band, from a good band that tended to rely on Sabbathisms a little bit too much for their debut. But in no certain terms is that a bad thing. Few bands could play like this and pull it off with vigour and soul. Orchid did that, and ‘The Zodiac Sessions’ is definitely worth a listen. It riffs and grooves hard, sometimes that’s all you need.