Album Review – Black Box Warning / Attendre La Mort EP (2018)

A high dosage of Sludge and Doom Metal split in five corrosive tracks recommended for fans of devastatingly heavy, sulfur-smelling tunes, courtesy of an up-and-coming French power trio.

Their medicine is not a syrup. Formed in 2015, French Doom/Sludge Metal band Black Box Warning is here to offer us all a heavy über rhythm section, staggering as a depressive overdose of neuroleptics ready to commit the irreparable to silence the voices in his head, obscure guitar sticks and a black tar singing that graze your brain and you inexorably asphyxiate neurons. Comprised of Kevin Dubois d’Enghien on vocals and guitar, Hervé Bettios on bass and Julien Rousset on drums, this French unity is releasing their debut EP titled Attendre La Mort, or “waiting for death” in English, featuring a dark artwork by Gilles Da Costa and five corrosive and downtrodden tracks highly recommended for fans of devastatingly heavy, sulfur-smelling tunes à la Crowbar, Primitive Man and Old Man Gloom.

It takes the power trio only a few seconds to blast an overdose of heavy, sluggish sounds in the opening track, titled 5 mg, with Kevin firing some deep, obscure growls while Hervé and Julien keep the music dense, menacing and thunderous with their sharp bass lines and beats, respectively. Then faster, more aggressive beats and tones ignite another Sludge and Doom Metal extravaganza by the power trio, this time lowering the dosage and naming it 4 mg, before morphing into that old school sluggish-as-hell Stoner Metal sonority we all love so much. Furthermore, the strident sound of the guitar by Kevin brings a touch of finesse to the music, boosting its impact and taste considerably, with its last part being a frantic fusion of sounds with Julien smashing his drums furiously while Hervé extracts devilish roars from his bass guitar.

1 mg, the lowest dosage of the album, begins in the most traditional Sludge Metal way, flowing smoothly but at the same time violently from start to finish, with highlights to its neck-breaking rhythm led by the intricate beats by Julien; and the distorted bass by Hervé kicks off the most Stygian of all tracks of the EP, 2 mg, with the beats by Julien getting more intense and vibrant while Kevin slashes his guitar strings mercilessly, generating a rumbling and captivating sonority. And 3 mg, the last track of the EP, brings sheer aggressiveness and heaviness spearheaded by Kevin and his demonic gnarls, resulting in another tune perfect for banging your head nonstop with the band’s stringed duo blasting flammable, metallic lines while Julien once again doesn’t show any mercy for his drums.

In case you want to have an overdose of Black Box Warning, you can enjoy all 15 mg of the corrosive Sludge and Doom Metal found in Attendre La Mort at once on YouTube or on Spotify, and purchase your copy of the album from their official BandCamp page, as well as from several other locations. In addition, you can also keep an eye on all things Black Box Warning by following them on Facebook, on YouTube and on SoundCloud, and never miss your necessary dosage of crushing riffs and aggressive roars thanks to this talented power trio of Sludge Metal doctors.

Best moments of the album: 4 mg.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. 5 mg 3:37
2. 4 mg 5:54
3. 1 mg 4:28
4. 2 mg 5:47
5. 3 mg 3:26

Band members
Kevin Dubois d’Enghien – vocals, guitar
Hervé Bettios – bass
Julien Rousset – drums

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Album Review – Altars of Grief / Iris (2018)

Highly influenced by the desolate landscapes and the solitude of long, prairie winters, here comes one of the biggest names in Canadian Blackened Doom with a superb new album narrating a tragic story of a deeply flawed man and his dying daughter.

Formed in November 2013 in Regina, the capital city of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, Blackened Doom act Altars of Grief has worked over the years to develop a weighty concoction of Death Metal, Sludge Metal, Funeral Doom and Atmospheric Black Metal along with a strong focus on storytelling and the desire to convey authentic emotion, highly influenced by the desolate landscapes and the solitude of long, prairie winters that inspired the moniker of “Prairie Doom Metal”. After the release of their 2014 debut fill-length album This Shameful Burden, the band returns in full force with the bold and multi-layered Iris, narrating a tragic story of a deeply flawed man and his dying daughter, named Iris.

Featuring a stunning artwork by Travis Smith from Seempieces, brilliantly depicting Iris’ final moments as she kneels before the winter beset church and embraces her fate, and the mesmerizing cello by Raphael Weinroth-Browne (who by the way played cello for Canadian Folk/Melodic Black Metal band Thrawsunblat on their amazing 2016 opus Metachthonia), Iris is not just an album of heavy music, but an amalgamation of emotions that will transport your mind and soul to the desolation of the prairies. “The story of Iris is very much rooted in our prairie surroundings and deals with the struggles of addiction, sickness and religion. A father finds himself unable to connect with and care for his young daughter, Iris, who has fallen seriously ill. Spiraling deeper and deeper into his vices, and feeling rejected by Iris’ new found and unwavering faith, he gets into his car and decides to leave her behind. Somewhere along the icy road, he loses control of his vehicle and perishes. His purgatory is to watch helplessly as Iris slowly succumbs to her illness without him”, comments the band’s lead singer Damian Smith.

Melancholy and grief permeate the air in the opening track Isolation, a masterpiece of darkness led by the strident and somber guitars by Erik Labossiere and Evan Paulson, while Damian obscurely declaims the song’s lyrics through his anguished gnarls, proving why he’s a poet of the underworld. Hence, the music flows majestically until its grand finale, setting the tone for Desolation, where a Stygian atmosphere is suddenly joined by heavy-as-hell riffs and the crushing Black Metal beats by Zack Bellina, also presenting introspective and touching words (“I opened my eyes / To the night sky / The unending storm / Revealed itself before me / Weightless in my resolve / But, still a burden remains / With this final breath / Please, forgive me”). Moreover, it’s simply impressive how Altars of Grief can sound so distinct from one song to another, also bringing forth a perfect balance between harsh growls and deep clean vocals.

The title-track Iris brings forward more of the band’s enfolding musicality, blending the aggressiveness of Atmospheric Black Metal with the obscurity of Doom Metal, also presenting very subtle nuances of Melodic Black Metal. In addition, Erik and Evan once again fire a mix of rage and harmony through their flammable strings, enhancing the taste of this very complete and bold composition. Then we have Child of Light, where an epic and melancholic intro evolves into a full-bodied sound, and with Zack together with bassist Donny Pinay building a massive, atmospheric wall of sounds with their instruments, generating the perfect ambience for all vocal styles used by the band; followed by Broken Hymns, another captivating, neck-breaking tune where Raphael is truly outstanding with his cello, adding a marvelous touch of delicacy and melancholy to the overall musicality. In other words, this is a song tailored for closing your eyes and letting the band guide your mind and soul to their dark and mournful world.

And Altars of Grief personify the grievous, obscure voices of the bitterly cold winds of winter in the Atmospheric Black Metal extravaganza titled Voices of Winter, with Damian’s growls being delicately complemented by Raphael’s stunning cello sounds and the whimsical guitars by Erik and Evan, whereas in Becoming Intangible the sound of the cello and the acoustic guitars walk hand in hand in the smoothest way possible before morphing into contemporary extreme music, sounding very atmospheric, gripping and bold until its beyond piercing ending. Zack is once again a beast on drums, not to mention the latent poetry found in the song’s lyrics (“I can barely see the sun / I guess this path was truly flawed / Judgement comes with revelation / And, I’ve never felt so close to God”), flowing into one of the most beautiful outros in underground extreme music, titled Epilogue, performed by Raphael and his always astounding cello.

You can listen to Iris in its entirety on YouTube, follow Altars of Grief on Facebook, and purchase your copy of this masterpiece of the underworld from the band’s own BandCamp page, from the Hypnotic Dirge Records’ BandCamp or webstore in distinct bundles (Iris CD, Iris CD + Nachtterror / Altars of Grief – Of Ash and Dying Light vinyl split, Iris CD + shirt + patch, and Iris CD + Nachtterror / Altars of Grief vinyl split + shirt + patch), as well as from iTunes or from Amazon. If you were not familiar with “Prairie Doom Metal” before listening to Iris, now you have a very good reason to get to know more about such distinct sub-genre of extreme music. But if Altars of Grief are already a recurrent part of your playlist, the emotional story told in Iris will simply make you even more addicted to their desolate and imposing sounds.

Best moments of the album: Isolation, Iris and Broken Hymns.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Hypnotic Dirge Records

Track listing
1. Isolation 9:19
2. Desolation 6:15
3. Iris 6:20
4. Child of Light 7:02
5. Broken Hymns 8:11
6. Voices of Winter 7:26
7. Becoming Intangible 9:17
8. Epilogue 2:05

Band members
Damian Smith – vocals
Erik Labossiere – guitars, vocals
Evan Paulson – guitars, vocals, programming
Donny Pinay – bass, vocals
Zack Bellina – drums, vocals on “Broken Hymns”

Guest musician
Raphael Weinroth-Browne – cello on “Isolation”, “Child of Light”, “Broken Hymns”, “Voices of Winter” and “Becoming Intangible”, all instruments on “Epilogue”

Album Review – Malefic By Design / Definitive Indication of Supremacy (2018)

Behold a band of underground veterans from Finland and their deadly debut full-length strike, a pulverizing opus that will summon you to a claustrophobic journey through blazing Armageddon.

Founded in 2015 in the city of Turku, Finland by underground metal veterans Mika Ikonen on vocals, Ville Pekkala, Sasu Haapanen and Miska Lehtivuori on the guitars and Antti Hakkala on drums (and if you haven’t noticed yet, there’s no bass player in their current lineup), who by the way have already released several previous efforts through multiple bands such as Searing Meadow, Ablaze In Hatred, Fall of the Leafe, Mormânt De Snagov and Devastracktor, Blackened Death Metal beast Malefic By Design has just released their deadly debut full-length strike, titled Definitive Indication of Supremacy, a pulverizing collection of catchy choruses and incendiary melodies that will certainly please all fans of modern extreme music.

Recorded in quiet solitude and far away from the public eye, Definitive Indication of Supremacy thoroughly blends the band’s Death Metal core essence with nuances from other styles such as Black and Doom Metal, summoning you to a sinister and claustrophobic journey through blazing Armageddon surrounded by a somber and devilish atmosphere.  The dark and primeval cover art is a good indication of what you’re going to face as soon as you hit play and start listening to the 12 Stygian tracks from Definitive Indication of Supremacy, showing Malefic By Design are among us to spread evil, hate and blasphemy. What else can you ask for in first-class Blackened Death Metal, right?

 The atmospheric and eerie intro Descending Sirens Of Evil opens the gates of the underworld to the demolishing Sickness Of Christ, a heavy and obscure Blackened Death Metal hymn with Mika delivering disturbing, deep growls while Antti dictates the rhythm with his precise beats. Then it’s time for almost seven minutes of pulverizing sounds and tones in Impending Doom, bringing together the most demonic elements of Black and Death Metal, with the band’s guitarists blasting a “melodic hell” with their strings; and the band goes full Black Metal in the visceral and brutal Enslaved By Birth, where Mika sounds more demented than before while Ville, Sasu and Miska bring forth another feast of satanic riffs and solos, resulting in one of the most complete (and therefore best) moments of the album.

Leaning towards traditional Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal, the band fires harmonious and visceral lines in the mid-tempo composition titled Repress The Oblivious, being beyond perfect for headbanging like a true disciple of darkness, whereas in Frozen Phantoms an ominous acoustic intro morphs into another explosion of blackened music by Malefic By Design, with the whole band being in some sort of demonic sync led by the boisterous drums by Antti, with Mika’s growls getting deeper and deeper as the music progresses. And Salvation For Everyone showcases hints of Symphonic Black Metal before reaching a frantic and heavy pace spearheaded by the once again furious drums by Antti, all embraced by a sinister background full of uncanny keyboard notes and sheer heaviness.

Medieval Beliefs is an old school Black and Death Metal creation tailored for succumbing to the dark side and snapping your neck headbanging, with the band’s stringed trio firing more of their diabolical riffs, creating an instant connection with the also very melodic Counterstrike Despise, also closer to more modern Melodic Death Metal while maintaining a vile aura in the background. Furthermore, Mika and his sick gnarls make a good balance with the delicate but fierce riffs by Ville, Sasu and Miska, which is also the case in Regenerated Reflections, an eerie fusion of contemporary Death Metal with traditional waltz (if that makes sense to you), also presenting elements from Doom and Dark Metal, and that amalgamation of styles results in a bold and thrilling chant with highlights to its beyond eccentric and obscure vocal lines. Then an enfolding atmosphere builds the stage for the heavy, mid-tempo Black Metal tune At The Gates, which despite being a good song it’s below the rest of the album in terms of electricity, falling flat after a while, fading into the acoustic outro Satanic Harmony, an interesting way to “depressurize” from all the madness blasted during the entire album.

In summary, Definitive Indication of Supremacy, which is available for a full listen on Spotify and for purchase through several channels such as the More Hate Productions’ BandCamp, Keltainen Jäänsärkijä, Record Shop X, iTunes, Amazon and Discogs, not only brings top-tier Blackened Death Metal to your avid ears from start to finish, but it also positions Malefic By Design as one of the strongest new names in contemporary Scandinavian extreme music. Now it’s just a matter of seeing how impactful their debut album will be on Finnish territory as well as worldwide, and when we’ll be able to savor more of the band’s pugnacious malignancy in the form of a new album.

Best moments of the album: Enslaved By Birth, Salvation For Everyone and Regenerated Reflections.

Worst moments of the album: At The Gates.

Released in 2018 More Hate Productions

Track listing
1. Descending Sirens Of Evil (Instrumental) 1:58
2. Sickness Of Christ 3:46
3. Impending Doom 6:39
4. Enslaved By Birth 3:11
5. Repress The Oblivious 4:17
6. Frozen Phantoms 3:58
7. Salvation For Everyone 4:23
8. Medieval Beliefs 4:00
9. Counterstrike Despise 4:23
10. Regenerated Reflections 6:11
11. At The Gates 6:41
12. Satanic Harmony (Instrumental) 1:44

Band members
Mika Ikonen – vocals
Ville Pekkala – guitars
Sasu Haapanen – guitars, vocals
Miska Lehtivuori – guitars, vocals
Antti Hakkala – drums

Album Review – The Black Swamp / Witches EP (2018)

Australia’s own five-headed creature from the swamp is back with a short and slimy album of Sludge and Southern Metal that celebrates the riff-driven sound they’ve become known for.

For the love of the riff, Australian Southern/Groove Metal group The Black Swamp was formed as a live act in 2012 in the Gold Coast, in South East Queensland, soon evolving to a full-bodied band and releasing their debut EP Foulness in 2014, followed by the full-length I Am, in 2016, not to mention a handful of unofficial releases on their way to support slots with Hellyeah, Black Label Society and Sebastian Bach, as well as their own national tours. Always playing a sludge sound reminiscent of the 70’s and 90’s, “the swamp” is back in 2018 with a short and slimy EP titled Witches, a celebration of the riff-driven sound they’ve become known for, also marking their first release with new frontman Luke Hosking (from Australian Groove/Thrash Metal band Azreal). Hence, the quintet comprised of Luke on vocals, Grant Scott and Jesse Kenny on the guitars, Rohan Downs on bass and Brendan Woodley on drums again focuses their energy and creativity on raw sounds, highly inspired by Heavy Metal pioneers Black Sabbath and Doom/Sludge Metal masters Crowbar.

And “the swamp” needs only a few seconds to blow our ears with their ruthless and heavy-as-hell Stoner Metal in the opening track Headless, with Luke delivering sheer rage through his Phil Anselmo-inspired deep, crude vocals, while Grant and Jesse are simply bestial with their crushing riffs. If that’s not heavy enough for you, just keep banging your head nonstop to another soulful and aggressive Sludge Metal creation by The Black Swamp, named Event Horizon, where the bass lines by Rohan feel like if he was rubbing metal to metal so piercing and thunderous they sound. Put differently, this is a drinking-smoking-slamming-headbanging tune, bringing a classic rhtythm tailored for lovers of the genre. Then we have 1487 C.E., a short and serene bridge that sets the stage for to the demolishing title-track Witches, showcasing the heaviest and most whimsical elements found in Sludge, Stoner and Doom Metal, with Brendan pounding his drums mercilessly while Luke continues his musical rant à la Pantera, not to mention the always crisp and furious riffage by the band’s guitar duo.

In a nutshell, it’s quite impressive the amount of heaviness and rage found in each one of the four tracks of the EP in a littles less than 17 minutes, proving The Black Swamp are not joking around when displaying their admiration and passion for Sludge and Doom Metal. If you want to show your support for this resonant quintet, go check what they’re up to on Facebook and buy your copy of Witches (which by the way is available for a full listen on YouTube) directly from The Black Swamp’s BandCamp page, as well as from iTunes or from CD Baby. After this brief “attack” by Australia’s own five-headed creature from the swamp, I’m sure you’ll get curious to know what comes next in their career, getting more and more addicted to their sluggish, vile and totally awesome music.

Best moments of the album: Headless and Witches.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Headless 4:32
2. Event Horizon 6:46
3. 1487 C.E. 1:00
4. Witches 4:13

Band members
Luke Hosking – vocals
Grant Scott – guitar
Jesse Kenny – guitar
Rohan Downs – bass
Brendan Woodley – drums

Album Review – Kaos Reign / Epiphany (2018)

This American Groove Metal power trio returns with a brand new album showcasing more of their crushing guitars, gritty vocals and thrash and groove drumming.

Norwalk, Connecticut-based Groove Metal power trio Kaos Reign is here to assault your senses with their unique mix of Death, Doom, Groove And Thrash Metal, drawing influences from early Sepultura, Slayer, Death and Pantera. Formed in 2013 by lead singer and guitarist Bill Klopfer and drummer Chris Anderson, the band has been on a roll since their inception, having already released the full-length albums Embrace the Fire, in 2014, Screaming for Salvation, in 2016, and now in 2018 their brand new opus Epiphany, an album that continues to follow Kaos Reign’s path of crushing guitars, gritty vocals, and thrash and groove drumming, but at the same time showing an evolution in their music.

More refined and dynamic than its predecessors, and featuring a straightforward, dark artwork by the band’s own Bill Klopfer, Epiphany brings a band that’s in absolute sync, with Bill’s vocals sounding versatile while his riffs are memorable and captivating. Bassist Matt Duggan rounds out the sound with the execution of his distinctive bass lines, whereas Chris Anderson’s extreme drumming portrays confidence and style. With its lyrics touching on themes of inner struggle, determination to overcome, and societal issues, encouraging us to proceed with caution and understand the chaos that consumes us, Epiphany will certainly please fans of fast and extreme music who are also searching for gripping background stories that effectively spice up the music being played.

Wicked, dark sounds ignite a belligerent Groove Metal onslaught by Kaos Reign titled Selfish Backstabber, displaying a solid instrumental, endless electricity, and Bill screaming the song’s acid lyrics like there’s no tomorrow (“I watch your actions and learn / You preach your belief, you don’t believe / You taste so sour I yack / The aftertaste, post nasal burning”). Following such sharp start we have a hybrid of Thrash Metal and Hardcore named Dispatch the Threat, where Chris keeps smashing his drums, therefore inspiring us to slam into the pit, with the song’s cleaner vocals sounding like a metal version of Rage Against The Machine’s Zack de la Rocha; and Lethal Injection, bringing more rumbling and groovy sounds blasted by Bill and Matt while Chris continues to add intricacy to the band’s violent music. Put differently, this is an excellent choice for their live concerts and a fantastic addition to the playlist of anyone who loves modern Groove Metal. And the title-track Epiphany presents darker elements in its intro, suddenly morphing into another crushing metal attack and also displaying hints of Southern Metal, with all instruments together generating a hurricane of heavy sounds and tones.

The album loses its grip a little with the not-so-inspired tune The Criminal Inside, despite all aggressiveness showcased by the band and the always rhythmic beats by Chris, but fortunately in Parasite the band gets back on track with their flammable Groove Metal, with highlights to the thrilling guitar lines by Bill and to more of their austere and aggressive words (“Leeching off society / A parasite sucks the blood / Right from / the eye of the storm / The side effects / are visible”). Under the Knife is the most visceral and destructive of all songs, and therefore one of the top moments of the album, with all three band members extracting crushing sounds form their instruments, presenting a great sync between Bill’s riffs and Chris’ drums, not to mention the metallic bass lines by Matt, whereas in Everyone is Offended they slow down their dementia, but still sounding heavier than hell. In a nutshell, this is a mid-tempo, groovy creation by Kaos Reign where Bill keeps sending a not-so-happy message through his demented vocals.

And their slamming party goes on with another melodic and fierce song titled How Do You Sleep at Night?, where Chris doesn’t stop pounding his drums and Bill even brings forth some thrashier riffs the likes of Slayer and Testament. Punish Myself is perfect for headbanging like a maniac, blending the thunderous sounds of Groove Metal with the slashing insanity of Thrash Metal, with Bill smashing his strings mercilessly without forgetting to add harmony to the music; followed by Placebo, a lot less groovy and venturing through Southern Metal grounds, singing about the dangerous market of addictive legal drugs (“I am on a big dose / I feel so comforted and relaxed / Why live life sober? / When you can be prescribed happiness”). However, despite being a relatively good song, it definitely lacks the band’s characteristic speed. And Isolation Chamber, the most somber and wicked of all tracks, closes the album on a high (and obscure) note, even presenting elements from Doom Metal (especially on Chris’ beats and Bill’s vocals).

If you want to show your support to this talented and unrelenting American power trio, you can purchase Epiphany (which by the way is available for a full listen on Spotify) from the band’s own BandCamp page, from CD Baby or from Amazon, but as you already know the world of Kaos Reign is not limited to Epiphany only, which means you can get an overdose of their belligerent music by visiting them on Facebook, on YouTube, on ReverbNation and on SoundCloud. And I believe you might be asking yourself what will be the next step in the evolving path crafted by Kaos Reign, right? Well, let’s hope it doesn’t take too long for us all to have an answer to that and get more of their sharp metal music sooner than expected.

Best moments of the album: Selfish Backstabber, Lethal Injection, Parasite and Under the Knife.

Worst moments of the album: The Criminal Inside and Placebo.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Selfish Backstabber 5:12
2. Dispatch the Threat 4:11
3. Lethal Injection 4:45
4. Epiphany 4:09
5. The Criminal Inside 4:21
6. Parasite 4:54
7. Under the Knife 3:53
8. Everyone is Offended 4:39
9. How Do You Sleep at Night? 4:35
10. Punish Myself 5:26
11. Placebo 4:32
12. Isolation Chamber 4:53

Band members
Bill Klopfer – vocals, guitar
Matt Duggan – bass
Chris Anderson – drums

Album Review – Suum / Buried Into The Grave (2018)

Enjoy this Stygian and occult album featuring seven tracks of pure gloomy Doom Metal, masterfully delivered by an Italian quartet that has already succumbed to the dark side of music.

Let’s dive deep into the sluggish and obscure realms of old school Doom Metal to the music by a Italian quartet that goes by the name of Summ, formed in 2017 in the Italian capital Rome. Comprised of Mark Wolf on vocals, Painkiller on the guitar, Marcas on bass and Rick on drums, Suum are releasing now in 2018 the full-length album Buried Into The Grave, featuring seven tracks of pure gloomy Doom Metal, bringing to your ears not only a Stygian sound tailored for the doomed, but also cryptic lyrics about darkness, doom and occultism, being highly recommended for fans of Black Sabbath, Danzig, Candlemass, My Dying Bride, Electric Wizard, and all other bands and artists that have beautifully succumbed to the darkest and most lugubrious side of music.

If there’s rain, thunder and wind, you know the music is going to be doomed, which is exactly what happens in the opening track Tower Of Oblivion. Marcas kicks off this damned feast with his low-tuned bass until the rest of the band joins him in darkness, with lead singer Mark Wolf haunting our souls with his Black Sabbath-inspired vocals while Painkiller fires sheer obscurity through his riffs, with all vileness increasing in intensity until its crisp ending. And their Doom Metal mass goes on in Black Mist, led by the steady beats by Rick while the phantasmagoric vocals by Mark and the heavier-than-hell riffs by Painkiller generate a truly somber atmosphere; followed by Buried Into The Grave, which in my humble opinion is the most Stygian of all tracks of the album (hence, it would definitely make Tony Iommi proud). Not only the vocal lines are deep and deranged, but the combined sound of guitar, bass and drums create this gloomy creature that will mercilessly enfold you just like pitch black darkness.

Last Sacrifice is another classic Doom Metal tune spearheaded by the slashing riffage by Painkiller and the slow but intricate beats by Rick, putting you on a trance and inspiring you to crack your neck headbanging, with the music flowing smoothly and darkly until the end. Then bringing the most acid and somber elements from Stoner Metal and Rock we have Seeds Of Decay, an atmospheric and sluggish creation by Suum with highlights to the rumbling sounds extracted by both Painkiller and Marcas from their hellish strings, whereas in the melancholic and introspective instrumental The Woods Are Waiting we face more rain and wind, going on for a bit too long though (albeit nothing that will make you skip it). And finally, rhythmic drums and scorching hot riffs ignite their last breath of old school Doom Metal, the somber extravaganza titled Shadows Haunt The Night, where Painkiller sounds absolutely on fire during the entire song, adding an extra touch of malignancy and obscurity to the final result.

You can succumb to total darkness by listening to Buried Into The Grave in its entirety on YouTube, by visiting Suum’s official Facebook page, and obviously by purchasing such dense and entertaining album from the band’s own BandCamp page, from the Endless Winter webstore, from the Hellas Records webstore, or from Discogs. Those four skillful Italian metallers not only live up to the legacy of traditional Doom Metal, but based on the high-quality of the music found in Buried Into The Grave, they’re also more than ready to carve their names in the history of such distinct music style.

Best moments of the album: Tower Of Oblivion, Buried Into The Grave and Shadows Haunt The Night.

Worst moments of the album: The Woods Are Waiting.

Released in 2018 Endless Winter/Hellas Records

Track listing
1. Tower Of Oblivion 6:25
2. Black Mist 4:40
3. Buried Into The Grave 4:55
4. Last Sacrifice 5:13
5. Seeds Of Decay 5:44
6. The Woods Are Waiting (Instrumental) 3:38
7. Shadows Haunt The Night 4:23

Band members
Mark Wolf – vocals
Painkiller – guitars
Marcas – bass
Rick – drums

Album Review – Ov Shadows / The Darkness Between Stars (2018)

Representing an exploration beyond the sane and mentally sound, this talented Swedish horde is ready to haunt our souls with seven unrelenting tracks of atmospheric and sinister Black Metal.

“Embrace your shadow self – your dark aspects. Don’t hide away. Let those harmless creatures, turn into raging monsters. Let chaos guide your consciousness. You are ov Shadows.”

Those few sentences frame the concept behind Swedish Black Metal horde Ov Shadows, representing an exploration beyond the sane and mentally sound. With their music and lyrics, Ov Shadows acknowledge the duality that divide a persona and the shadow self, continuing further into the dark, a portal into chaos without barriers and rules. And after crossing that portal, you’ll be ready to explore the sinister realms of Atmospheric Black Metal ruled by Ov Shadows in their brand new album, entitled The Darkness Between Stars.

Formed in the city of Gothenburg in 2016, the band comprised of RA (aka Ronny Attergran) on vocals and bass, AF (aka Andreas Frizell) and AA (aka Anders Ahlbäck) on the guitars, and JW (aka Jonas Wickstrand) on drums returns after their 2016 debut EP Monologues with more of their Stygian sound, delivering epic riffs that turn from mournful to triumphant in a way that is stirring and emotionally satisfying. In other words, The Darkness Between Stars has everything that one could possibly want out of a Black Metal album, those being a truly dark atmosphere, an epic feel, the right mix of melody and grimness, and an engaging song structure.

Ominous sounds emerge from the dark chambers of hell until the quartet begins their devilish mass in the title-track The Darkness Between Stars, blasting sheer brutality and blasphemy during its almost 7 minutes of music.  RA sounds like a possessed demon on vocals, while JW delivers the most classic form of blast beats, generating a straightforward musicality recommended for admirers of the genre. In Bellowing Shadows, darkness and rage keep flowing from the band’s instruments in an excellent display of Black Metal, with their evil guitar duo AF and AA cutting our skin with their old school riffage, whereas RA’s gnarls sound and feel even more disturbing. And displaying hints of Doom Metal and Blackened Doom (but still reeking of putrid Black Metal) we have The Hanged Man, where JW continues his pulverizing path while both guitars sound as sulfurous as they can be, all spiced up by a sinister atmospheric passage before all hell breaks loose again.

The acid Disguised As Altruism is another demolishing Black Metal feast by Ov Shadows, with its guitars getting more and more scorching as the music progresses while the overall malignancy is considerably boosted by JW’s unstoppable beats, living up to the legacy of Scandinavian Black Metal. The Ritual of the Natural Flame already begins in full force, with the four members of the band summoning total darkness with their Stygian instruments, in special RA and his high-pitched demonic roars (not to mention the song’s somber and absolutely menacing break). After such beautiful blast of Black Metal, strident riffs and gnarls set the tone in the dense metallic extravaganza named Hordes Abiding the Narrator, with all instruments generating a mesmerizing dark ambience perfect for RA and his vociferations. Lastly, their final onrush of blasphemy and obscurity comes in the form of a 7-minute devastating tune named A Sky In Vain, where AF and AA create a wall of darkness with their riffs while JW switches between classic Black Metal drumming and Doom Metal-inspired beats, flowing into a melancholic and obscure ending.

If you want to take a detailed listen at The Darkness Between Stars, click HERE and enjoy this very cohesive and professional album in its entirety. Also, in order to show your true support to this skillful Swedish horde, simply visit their Facebook page for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know details about the band, and their YouTube channel for more of their unrelenting Black Metal. And of course, purchase The Darkness Between Stars on BandCamp or on Big Cartel, letting the somber music by Ov Shadows penetrate deep inside your mind, blackening your thoughts until there’s no way back.

Best moments of the album: Disguised As Altruism and The Ritual of the Natural Flame.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Black Market Metal

Track listing
1. The Darkness Between Stars 6:58
2. Bellowing Shadows 5:40
3. The Hanged Man 6:26
4. Disguised As Altruism 5:56
5. The Ritual of the Natural Flame 7:19
6. Hordes Abiding the Narrator 5:58
7. A Sky In Vain 7:42

Band members
RA – vocals, bass
AF – guitars
AA – guitars
JW – drums

Album Review – The Rocket Dolls / DeadHead (2018)

A fresh, contemporary collection of music that combines the best bits of heavy rock, grunge, punk, and pop smart sensibilities, symbolizing a reflection on personal demons and modern day society.

Brighton, England-based Heavy Rock trio The Rocket Dolls are ready to set fire to the scene with their brand new studio album DeadHead, featuring just the right amount of melody with straight up hook laden driven riffs combined with curveballs when you least expect them, being highly recommended for fans of the music by Alice In Chains, Foo Fighters and Kings X, among many other renowned rock bands. Recorded at London’s award winning British Grove Studios (David Gilmour, Razorlight, Mark Knopfler), and featuring a stylish arwork by Sam Hayles at DOSEprod (Earthtone 9, Pitchshifter, Jayce Lewis), DeadHead offers the listener a fresh, contemporary collection of music that combines the best bits of heavy rock, grunge, punk, and pop smart sensibilities, all meticulously put together by the band’s unstoppable trio.

Lead singer and guitarist Nikki Smash had a few words to say about the album art and how it connects to the music. “Sam captured the essence of what our new album is about. It’s a reflection on personal demons and modern day society; the split in the wolf (half animal/half machine) symbolizes the transformation between good to bad and bad to good. It demonstrates not just the struggle of depression and anxiety that inflicts itself upon our society, but also the wolf in motion should be seen as a symbol of hope and the need to fight and overcome what’s wrong in our world.” And you better get ready to rock with this wolf pack hailing from the UK, as they’re not kidding when they say DeadHead is their strongest collection of music to date.

Crushing their instruments from the very first second as if they were the Incredible Hulk of Hard Rock the trio offers us None Of This Is Right, a song about recovering from being ill and being addicted to prescription painkillers presenting a solid instrumental with rumbling bass lines and potent beats, all led by the slashing riffs by Nikki. Then we have She’s Starting Something Now, where Nikki discusses about domestic violence against women and their sweet revenge, showcasing heavier-than-usual riffs and beats (and even with all that heaviness this song can still be played on any radio station), and the title-track DeadHead, narrating Nikki’s battles with depression, drugs and prescription painkillers. Furthermore, although the song does have a darker feel when compared to its predecessors, it’s still very vibrant, with drummer Benji Knopfler showing he’s not only precise with his drums, but he also knows how to properly pound them.

A lot smoother and more melodic, She Said is a radio-friendly composition where Nikki fires some interesting semi-acoustic guitar lines while bassist Joe Constable makes sure the atmosphere remains as dense as possible; whereas The Last Thing On My Mind is an introspective heavy ballad by the trio displaying a great vocal performance by Nikki, while the song’s background orchestral elements bring a sense of melancholy to the overall result. Nikki said that Stop The Dead Men Crying is the hardest song for him to sing and play due to its content and meaning, and the final result couldn’t sound more obscure, including even hints of old school Doom Metal, with his henchmen Joe and Benji providing him a fantastic support with their thunderous instruments. And in Drowning, a somber tune about suicidal thoughts (which explains its gentle but at the same time piercing sonority), you can sense that lancinating feeling flowing from both Nikki’s clean vocals and his enraged screams.

Putting the pedal to the metal The Rocket Dolls fire the thrilling and harmonious The Desperate, inspired by modern-day Punk Rock and led by the rhythmic beats by Benji, while Nikki fires what are probably his best riffs of the whole album. Following that explosive tune, his battle with mental health issues goes on in the also dark and pensive Strain, where Benji shows no mercy for his drum kit by smashing it like there’s no tomorrow (and the same can be said about Joe, who produces an ominous sound with his bass). In Rusty Bones, Nikki once again talks about taking painkillers for his osteoarthritis knee pain, and all the drinking and abusing that can sometimes make everything feel sluggish and slow, with the music being highly inspired by Stoner Rock and Metal, therefore bringing a neck-breaking riff and tons of agony and pain to our minds; and the band’s last blast of fury comes in the form of another thunderous Stoner Metal-like tune titled Trigger, where Joe doesn’t get tired of crushing his strings. It’s a very dense and bold composition, and needless to say a fantastic closing act for such personal album for the band’s talented frontman.

In a nutshell, I believe Nikki more than succeeded in turning all his personal demons and struggles with drug and alcohol abuse into high-quality rock music, pointing to a great direction for The Rocket Dolls wolf pack to keep following with their future albums. If you want to know more about the band and about how music has helped Nikki overcome all his fears and problems, go visit their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and don’t forget to grab your copy of DeadHead from the band’s own Big Cartel page, from iTunes, from Amazon or from Cargo Records. It’s always a pleasure to see how rock and heavy music can help a normal person like Nikki beat such delicate topics like drug and alcohol addiction and abuse, and an album like DeadHead only confirms that while Rock N’ Roll exists, nobody is alone in this world.

Best moments of the album: None Of This Is Right, The Desperate and Trigger.

Worst moments of the album: She Said.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1 .None Of This Is Right 3:54
2. She’s Starting Something Now 3:35
3. DeadHead 4:35
4. She Said 2:58
5. The Last Thing On My Mind 3:51
6. Stop The Dead Men Crying 4:29
7. Drowning 4:25
8. The Desperate 4:05
9. Strain 4:45
10. Rusty Bones 4:04
11. Trigger 3:43

Band members
Nikki Smash – vocals & guitar
Benji Knopfler – drums & backing vocals
Joe Constable – bass & backing vocals

Album Review – High Reeper / High Reeper (2018)

Reeper, deadly reeper, it’s time to rumble to the flammable fusion of Stoner Rock and Doom Metal by this up-and-coming five-piece act from Philadelphia.

Formed in 2016 in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest city, in the United States by Zach Thomas on vocals, Pat Daly and Andrew Price on the guitars, Shane Trimble on bass and Napz Mosley on drums, Hard Rock/Doom Metal act High Reeper originally started as a studio band, but it rapidly became apparent that their music was meant to be heard live and loud, making their debut in the Philly stoner rock scene in early 2017 with success and, as a consequence, being followed up by the release of their self-titled debut album now in 2018. Deeply rooted in modern Stoner Rock but still giving a nod to the early days of Black Sabbath, the band’s first offering is driven by pounding rhythms, thick guitars and soaring, screeching vocals, meant to be played loud and to be played often.

In other words, High Reeper is an unapologetic punch in the face for fans of early 70’s proto-metal, with the sound and smell of leather, weed, boozing, gambling and death permeating the record from start to finish. Produced, engineered and mixed by bass player Shane Trimble at TTR studios in Philadelphia as well as his home studio Delwood Sound in Delaware, the sound is laced with old school elements while still maintaining the focus of a modern-sounding release, being highly recommended for fans of the aforementioned Black Sabbath, as well as other noisy and obscure bands like Saint Vitus and Orchid. Throughout its 42 minutes of music split into nine unique tracks, each one with its own purpose and soul, High Reeper will take you on a psychedelic and stoner musical journey, running from up-tempo straight-ahead rock, to slowed down, heavy, early doom.

Otherworldly riffs kick off the flammable Doom Metal feast titled Die Slow, a fun tune that will certainly put you into a trance where Shane with his rumbling bass and Napz with his rhythmic beats set the stage for the Ozzy-inspired vocals by Zach; and enhancing their electricity and stamina to a whole new level, the quintet delivers a rockin’ hymn titled Chrome Hammer, showcasing a great riffage by the guitar duo comprised of Pat and Andrew in what’s in my humble opinion the best song of the entire album. Keep in mind the party is just starting, as in Soul Taker we’re treated to another excellent Black Sabbath-like anthem by High Reeper, with Napz smashing his drums and Pat and Andrew delivering pure feeling with their strings.

The title-track High Reeper is sluggish and somber as expected in good old Doom Metal, ignited by the low-tuned bass by Shane before it becomes a drum feast by Napz, flowing into a thrilling, metallic ending; whereas in Reeper Deadly Reeper a dark and menacing intro evolves into a hard rockin’ Stoner and Doom Metal mass, with Zach putting his heart and soul into his performance, therefore enhancing the song’s already powerful vibe considerably. Then we have Weed & Speed, where the name says it all, with the weed part coming in the form pure Stoner Metal flowing from their instruments, while the speed appears every now and then amidst the most sluggish and soulful riffs you can think of. However, the final result doesn’t feel as cohesive as the other songs, falling flat after a while.

In the fantastic Double Down And Let It Ride, simply let their doomed sounds and noises invade your senses, led by the always thrilling guitars by Pat and Andrew. This is what I would call the perfect depiction of a hybrid between old school Doom Metal with modern Stoner Metal and Southern Rock, and a path High Reeper should definitely keep exploring in their future releases. Black Leather (Chose Us) is an ode to the 70’s lifestyle where heavy rockers used to wear black no matter what, translated into top-tier Stoner Rock full of crisp riffs and solos, rhythmic beats and the inebriate vocals by Zach. And last but not least, closing this feast of witchcraft and psychedelia we have another solid tune titled Friend Of Death, where we’re able to enjoy all the dexterity by the band’s guitar duo as well as the precision and feeling of Napz on drums for over six minutes, not to mention Shane with his blackened low-tuned punches, with its last part being a thing of beauty for fans of the genre.

You can easily enter the psychedelic world ruled by High Reeper by visiting their Facebook page and by purchasing their incendiary album through the Heavy Psych Sounds BandCamp or webstore (as a regular version or as a bundle that includes the album plus a T-shirt and a patch), as well as on iTunes, on Amazon, and on other retailers like Saturn and Best Buy. Because, you know, it’s time to rumble to the flammable fusion of Stoner Rock and Doom Metal by this excellent band from Philadelphia, and once you get into their vibe there’s no way out.

Best moments of the album: Chrome Hammer, Reeper Deadly Reeper and Double Down And Let It Ride.

Worst moments of the album: Weed & Speed.

Released in 2018 Heavy Psych Sounds Records

Track listing
1. Die Slow 5:28
2. Chrome Hammer 2:53
3. Soul Taker 3:27
4. High Reeper 4:37
5. Reeper Deadly Reeper 6:09
6. Weed & Speed 5:37
7. Double Down And Let It Ride 4:40
8. Black Leather (Chose Us) 3:28
9. Friend Of Death 6:07

Band members
Zach Thomas – vocals
Pat Daly – guitar
Andrew Price – guitar
Shane Trimble – bass
Napz Mosley – drums