Posts Tagged ‘USA’

Solar Flare - Solar Flare

Review by Geary of War

Hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, home of the Bengals, Solar Flare deliver a slice of old school heavy metal that might not be reinventing the wheel but does deliver a decent smile. It is out now through the band’s Bandcamp.

The album opens with the galloping ‘Medievil’ has all the hallmarks of the bands their Facebook page declares as influences. The musicianship is clear to hear and the shredding is immediately apparent. It also ties together the feel that the bright and eye catching album cover conveys. The Iron Maiden influence is clear on ‘Under the Sun’ while Judas Priest is apparent on the very opening of the highlight track ‘Born to Burn’. This is the track you would pick out for a mate to listen to too. The solo will absolutely have you reaching for the air guitar and pulling out some back to back shenanigans with your previously mentioned mate.
However this album is not without its foibles.

While clearly drawing from the power metal/NWOBHM world the guitar tone is a lot more distorted and muddy sounding for a band in this genre. It is great to see bands trying something new but in this instance the distortion can feel at odds with the soaring effect Ethan ‘Loki’ Jackson is trying to achieve. Speaking of Loki, he delivers a really solid performance and has a fantastic range. The only time I ever felt he was off the pace was some of those higher notes in the thumping track ‘Pharaoh’, a track which ends in a stunning battery of pinched harmonics and head banging.

As we close out the self titled album ‘Taken to the Other Side’ has all the signs of a crowd singing along which would no doubt be brilliant to be part of. ‘World in My Head’ sees the album off just as it began, at a high tempo with soaring vocals, thick sounding guitars and foot tapping gusto that leaves you smiling.
In the six years these guys have been going, you can tell they care what they are about and have talent in abundance.

That fresh new band energy comes though “Solar Flare” in spades. However I can’t help but feel that with six years behind them they would feel a bit more polished and have a tone which doesn’t take you out the moment as much. But overall I enjoyed this album and look forward to what they have in store next.

Afterbirth - Four Dimensional Flesh

Long Island’s Afterbirth have been caving skulls since 1993, and their pioneering brutality shows no sign of softening with age on their newest release, ‘Four Dimensional Flesh’. It is however evolving into new and intriguing ways and taking us in directions hinting at through that gorgeous, ‘Dune’-esque artwork.. It is out now through Unique Leader Records.

‘Four Dimensional Flesh’ is an interesting dichotomy. With the bulldozer crush of ‘Beheading the Buddha’ or the slamming gutturals of ‘Never Ending Path’, Afterbirth hit all the genre standards. There are some very nice flourishes though, like the gross rumblings and almost Atheist-like atmospheres of ‘Spiritually Transmitted Disease’, but the real surprises are the progressive metal interludes, replete with synth and the kind of glacial melody that Devin Townsend has perfected. I did not see this coming when I turned this on. On the previously mentioned ‘Never Ending Teeth, the latter half of the song is a thrilling mix of the guttural and the sublime spaciousness. ‘Dreaming Astral Body’ feels like a perfectly dreamy bridge between the styles, like a rainbow bridge between dark voids.

A truly enigmatic and exhilirating listen for brutal death and prog metal fans alike, ‘Four Dimensional Flesh’ plays on your expectations and delivers with power. The expansive ‘Blackhole Kaleidoscope’ or the destructive ‘Swallowing Spiders’, either will sate the hunger of all but the most jaded of extreme metal fans. ‘Four Dimensional Flesh’ is nuanced, evolutionary and markedly different from most of their peers, and for this Afterbirth should be applauded.

Behold the Arctopus - Hapeleptic Overtrove

I first came across Behold…the Arctopus years ago on ‘Skullgrid’, and frankly I’ve never been quite able to wrap my head around their particular brand of mind bending technical progressive metal. I’ve diving back in though with their new record ‘Hapeleptic Overtrove’ which is out now through Willowtip Records.

The press release for ‘Hapeleptic Overtrove’ tells tales of English free jazz inspirations and the evolution of drumming into a more chamber music form using chimes, glockenspiel and metal pipes. It leads to a mesmerisingly weird experience, when the concept of a ‘song’ is stretched to its limits. ‘Telepathy Apathy’ tinkles and bends along non-Euclidean angles, while momentarily heavy bursts in ‘Blessing in Disgust’ brings us a little closer to metal I suppose. There’s lurching doom moments in ‘Forgotten Explanations’, ‘Other Realms’ feels like two interludes on djent records played at the same time, and actually the sanity testing ‘Hapeleptic Perspective Respect’ is probably my favourite track here, a jagged atonal splinter that worms its way beneath the skin.

‘Hapeleptic Overtrove’ is incredibly interesting, but I’m not entirely sure I can recommend it unless you have a very free musical mind. Not all of us do in this world of metal. It is challenging almost to a fault, but if you immerse in it completely, there are plenty of moments to grab hold of. Just watch them though, they may vanish again into that other dimension where this all makes sense and Behold… the Arctopus are Kiss.

Blood Star - The Fear

Utah heavy metallers Blood Star have just released their debut 7″ EP ‘The Fear’ back in May, and it is two tracks of darkly fantastic heavy metal available through Shadow Kingdom Records.

Short but so sweet is the best way to describe ‘The Fear’, as it is only two tracks and not even ten minutes long but this is absolutely pure heavy metal bliss. The opening track is like global pandemic infectious, lodging itself firmly in your mind and it’ll never leave. ‘The Fear’ gallops with fearless abandon, super melodic vocals from frontwoman Madeline Smith writhing through some killer Angel Witch riffs, while the slightly more introspective and slower ‘Tortured Earth’ has a really nice, smoky 70s proto metal feel about it.

As an initial release you couldn’t ask for much more. A two track debut is old school as fuck, much like the music contained within but I’ll tell you, the wait for the full length is going to feel like eternity. Hear ‘The Fear’ as soon as you can possibly can.

Lexington Kentucky is not number one of my list of places where a death/doom band of such awesome miserable proportions would live, but then America is slowly sliding into being a Rotting Kingdom so maybe I misjudged. Rotting Kingdom’s debut self titled EP from 2017 was fantastic, but their new record and full length debut ‘A Deeper Shade of Sorrow’ is going to build on that shattering foundation. It is out now through Godz ov War Productions.

The decrepit majesty of opener ‘Sculpted into Life by the Hand of Death’ is plain for all to see, melancholic leads building into a driving, doom stride while deathly growls echo down from above. A glorious example of the style, and more evidence that there is little more potent in music than misery and hate. ‘Barren Harvest’ follows with soulful leads and heaving swell through what you’d almost call ‘catchy’ by the end, and by the time you soar through the Bloodbath/Vallenfyre rage of ‘Absolute Ruin’ and the spiralling Opethisms of ‘The Antechambers of Eternity’, you’re about ready to crumble yourself. An underrated moment is the esoteric electronica of ‘Decrepit Elegance’, providing a calmness amongst the tempest. We close up with the title track that consolidates everything you’ve just heard into a magnificent eight minute monster.

There is little here for the short of attention span, but the more you sink into this album, the more reward you find. Rotting Kingdom are a fresh voice in a genre that struggles to move outside its constraints. They are the light that finds the doomed ship in their cover artwork, a glimmer of hope that death/doom hasn’t reached its zenith quite yet. Rotting Kingdom are another step towards that goal. Awesome

Automb - Esoterica

The debut record from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Automb came out in 2018, but ‘Esoterica’ is an album that I’ve just found lurking in my collection. It was released by Satanath Records and looks to claim a place in the slowly overcrowding American black metal scene. Their new album is out this year, so it makes sense to visit this first.

After the gloomy intro title track, we get the even gloomier harshness of ‘Horned God’ which, even though it brings fiery riffing and some killer drumming seems to be smothered in this dense melancholy. The guitar tone is sharp and precise; there’s a little bit of Hypocrisy in there and the savage thrust of ‘Mourned’ is a potent track among an album littered with them. ‘Call of Hekate’ ripples with the kind of melodic leads that Dissection would’ve been proud of, while the blasting ‘Blood Moon’ reminds you that the brimstone fury is still very much a driving force underneath ‘Esoterica’s blackened bonnet.

‘Esoterica’ is a strong debut, full of ferocious black metal shot through with a little Gothenburg guitarwork. But the regal bleakness of ‘Frozen’ is an example of where Automb are capable of taking their sound if they should decide. I’m going to search out their new record with a little more urgency now. Excellent.

The debut album from Los Angeles black/death metallers Azath features members of Draghkar, Ripped to Shreds, Falsehood and Lord Gore so you can kind of guess what kind of fetid, foul noise lurks beneath the monochrome beauty of the artwork. ‘Through a Warren of Shadow’ is out now through Pulverised Records.

After the opening ‘Into the Charnel’ sets the scene ominously, first track proper ‘Draconian Impalement’ instantly kicks in with a raw death metal assault. Riffs slice through the air with rusted precision, while guttural vocals belch and roar through a thick, swampy black metal atmosphere. The band’s mission statement is to play as fast as possible without becoming a grind band, and the kick of songs like ‘The Whirlwind’ and the howling rage of ‘Mortal Sword’ certainly achieve that aim. There’s a certain clattering chaos that really gives you a feeling of unhinged madness that I quite like, particularly my personal favourite track ‘Knight of Chains’, although the grinding nihilism of ‘Children of the Dead Seed’ pushes it very close.

Azath’s debut is fiery, raw and uncompromising. It barely stops for breath apart from the odd morbid interlude, and this commitment to honing their craft to a razor’s edge has served them well, because ‘Through a Warren of Shadow’ is a consistent barrage of necrotic psalms being spat out from your nearest swamp. Fucking brilliant.

Smoke Mountain - Queen of Sin

First published here:

Florida’s Smoke Mountain have been around for a few years now but their debut full length, ‘Queen of Sin’ is just new out on the well respected Italian label Argonauta Records. With its 60s occult b-movie cover, band name and thick, stoner doom riffing, I think its a safe bet that we are looking at something fuzzed out, tripped out and rippling with the blues.

As that first, rumbling and heavily distorted riff weaves hypnotically from the speakers on the opener and title track, you can feel immediately that I was right in my safe bet. But it is so much fuzzier and heavier than even I was expected, and coupled with the eerie wail of vocalist Sarah Pitt it lends the song a particularly sinister vibe. The soulful croon of ‘The Master Serpent’ belies the weight of the hazy doom blues grooving underneath. Imagine Kyuss but darker and you’ve got the idea. There’s a glorious simplicity to it all; write immensely catchy doom riff, coat in gallons of fuzz and then raise incantations to the stoned dead. The driving ‘Touch of the Sun’, the hazy melancholy of ‘I Walk Alone’ and the insidiously memorable groove of ‘Deathproof’ shows that Smoke Mountain don’t just write that same song over and over. Each one has its own identity, all the while keeping the album as a coherent structure.

‘Queen of Sin’ definitely has a much more sombre tone than a lot of stoner doom bands, and I think this really helps it stand out amongst its peers. This isn’t all just misery by any means, but Smoke Mountain do not shy away from incorporating a dash of Sabbathian gloom when it is called for. The driving ‘Devil Woman’ and grinding rumble of ‘End of Days’ bring this interesting and varied record to its close, and it has been an excellent journey.

Worm - Gloomlord

The Floridian swamps birthed Worm, whose second release ‘Gloomlord’ is out now through Iron Bonehead and looks to enhance their reputation as purveyors of horrendous, suffocating doom. I reviewed their debut full length, ‘Evocation of the Black Marsh’, here in 2017 and yet in 2020 there’s nothing more apt in these times of disease ridden armageddon than an album that sounds like this…

The bleak drudge of ‘Putrefying Swamp Mists at Dusk’ opens the album with eerie atmospheres and sludgey vocals. The guitar tone reeks of tar and murk, seeping through a lightless gloom. If this is an ‘intro’, the rest must be terrifying. It is, with the morbid crawl of ‘Rotting Spheres of Sentient Black’ gurgling up from fetid voids deep below the earth. The eerie, almost weeping tones echoing throughout the rumbling slime of ‘Apparitions of Gloom’ is haunting, while the wailing solo that winds through the tectonic crunch of ‘Melting in the Necrosphere’ is devastating in its execution.

The closing salvo of the lumbering monolith ‘Abysmal Dimensions’ is an encapsulation of how Worm’s spectre is growing, and looming large over the genre as a whole. There are bands who try to reach the kind of foul misery of ‘Gloomlord’, but very little even comes close. This is a magnificent expulsion of music.