Album Review – Olde / Temple (2017)

Putting society and personality in its crosshairs, attacking the traits that make people hide behind various masks in order to survive, here comes a Canadian Doom Metal brigade ready to crush our skulls with their heavy-as-hell new album.

Inspired by a recording session with long-time Stoner Metal stalwarts Sons of Otis, guitarist and producer Greg Dawson (Cunter, Grift, BWC Studios) began to handpick and assemble Canadian Doom/Stoner Metal brigade Olde, emphasizing a powerful and economic approach to doom music. Enlisting the help of drummer Ryan Aubin (Sons of Otis), bassist Cory McCallum (Five Knuckle Chuckle), guitarist Chris “Hippy” Hughes (Moneen) and vocalist Doug McLarty (Jaww), this Malton-based band began to take form, releasing their debut full-length album simply titled I, in 2014, followed by the EP Shallow Graves, in 2016.

Always true to their heavy, bludgeoning roots, Olde are back in 2017 with a brand new full-length instalment, the pungent and resonant Temple, an album where Olde put society and personality in its crosshairs, attacking the traits that make people hide behind various masks in order to survive, and how the ranks of the disguised, with their ulterior motives, aren’t exacting worried about the average Joe in their quest for self-preservation and “progress”. Olde’s sound has also grown since the band’s inception, encompassing more abstraction and harmony, whilst never forgetting to bludgeon their fans, as needed, with riff after riff, driven by the sophisticated-caveman drums of Aubin and the harsh, yet always clear, vocals of lyricist McLarty. Featuring an eye-catching artwork by Joshua Wilkinson, Temple will undoubtedly punch you in the face with all its doomed strength, like it or not.

Heavy, sluggish and thunderous from the very first second thanks to the amazing stringed trio comprised of Chris, Greg and Cory, the opening track Subterfuge is an excellent Doom and Stoner Metal composition, bringing the best elements of both genres to our avid ears, but it’s when Doug begins vociferating the lyrics that things get really dark and serious (“The blood you seek is out there, / On the frayed edges of town / Just point your boots, and follow… / Your rotten heart”). Ryan kicks off the following tune, the obscure Now I See You, with his pounding, damned beats, before Doug offers more of his grumpy and raspy vocals perfect for the music being played. Furthermore, I love when it’s possible to listen to those metallic bass punches like the ones blasted by Cory due to the album’s crisp production, but of course without losing the band’s amazing rawness. Also, if I were you, I would check Olde playing this excellent song at the NP music studio for the National Post Sessions, in order to fully enjoy the band’s catchy sonority and refined technique.

The Ghost Narrative is an excellent depiction of the most sluggish and deranged form of Stoner Metal, where Chris and Greg are kicking ass on guitars with their riffs and solos in an overdose of heaviness flowing from all instruments, which is also present in Doug’s enraged vocals; followed by the title-track Temple, the longest of all songs, starting in a somber manner through the bass sounds crafted by Cory and quickly morphing into a neck-breaking Sludge and Stoner Metal hymn. Its hostile sounding, led by the beats by Ryan, only gets more belligerent when joined by the vocals by Doug, hitting you hard and mercilessly until its dark ending. And increasing their aggressiveness and speed, Centrifugal Disaster presents modern and poetic lyrics (“The world heaves under the weight of our existence / A population siphoned from, stretched beyond all reason / Exploit everything for a fraction of what it’s worth / Rallying cry of modern Man: / Give me convenience, or give me Death”), piercing guitars and rumbling bass lines boosted by the intricate drumming by Ryan, culminating in a Stoner Metal extravaganza highly recommended for fans of the genre.

Bringing hints of Southern Rock and old school Rock N’ Roll, Maelstrom reminds me of some of the classic tunes by Down, with highlights to the excellent job done once again by Chris and Greg on guitars. Put differently, this is a song perfect for enjoying a cold beer and banging your head vigorously together with the band, presenting an excellent guitar solo at the end as the icing on the cake. And lastly, closing the album Olde brings forward an ode to darkness titled Castaway, reaching deep into our most deviant thoughts. This low-tuned and slow composition is led by the potent drumming by Ryan and the rabid, deep growls by Doug, while the rest of the band makes sure the atmosphere remains as cold-hearted, gloomy and unhappy as possible.

You can always keep up to date with everything Olde are doing, including their tour dates (especially if you live in the Greater Toronto Area), by following them on Facebook, and purchase your copy of Temple through their BandCamp page, the STB Records’ BandCamp page or Big Cartel, or the Medusa Crush Recordings’ BandCamp page. Temple is not only a top-notch album of Stoner and Doom Metal made in Canada, but it also cements Olde’s name in the Canadian independent scene, opening the doors for the band to reach new heights and to properly explore new markets in a not-so-distant future, like the United States and the UK, where their music style is extremely appreciated. And, of course, to support Olde in their mission to crush everyone’s head with their heavy-as-hell damned music wherever they go.

Best moments of the album: Subterfuge, Now I See You and Centrifugal Disaster.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 STB Records/Medusa Crush Recordings

Track listing
1. Subterfuge 4:06
2. Now I See You 4:27
3. The Ghost Narrative 4:17
4. Temple 7:48
5. Centrifugal Disaster 5:04
6. Maelstrom 6:16
7. Castaway 7:05

Band members
Doug McLarty – vocals
Chris Hughes – guitars
Greg Dawson – guitars
Cory McCallum – bass
Ryan Aubin – drums, guitar solo on “Maelstrom”

Guest musician
Simon Talevski – guitar solo on “Castaway”

 

Album Review – Stabbed / Long Way Down (2017)

A beautiful step further in the promising career of a Hungarian Post-Sludge Metal act that presents to the listener a slightly different sounding, showcasing a mad balance of Progressive and Groove Metal.

Following the release of their ambitious 2016 EP Submerge, Hungarian Post-Sludge Metal act Stabbed returns now in 2017 with their first full-length installment, entitled Long Way Down, a beautiful step further in their promising career that presents to the listener a slightly different band, tipping the balance in favor of dominating, heavy grooves, overwhelming raw energy over dark ambience and Post-Rock elements, also showcasing a mad balance of Progressive and Groove Metal.

In addition, Long Way Down is not only the debut of bassist Marcell Demeter with Stabbed, replacing Dávid Roskó (who left the band by the end of 2016), but it also features a welcome surprise in the album closer performed by guest vocalist Tadeusz Rieckmann, primarily known as the drummer of Týr and Dalriada, and the artwork by longtime collaborator Zénó Farkas (Artphetamin), who returned for this album to represent the band visually and artistically. Throughout the album’s eight tracks, this Budapest-based group aimed at materializing through their cryptic lyrics and sharp sounds a portrait of a world full of angst ridden people running in circles, blinded by their fears and apathy, bringing a stronger taste to their musicality.

A modern intro grows into electrifying contemporary Sludge Metal with elements from Metalcore and Melodic Death Metal in the title-track Long Way Down, opening the album on a higher-than-usual note. Furthermore,  frontman Alex Karamuskó sounds bestial with his demented screams, while the guitar duo Attila Kecskés and Gergely Kovács are simply lancinating with their riffs, not to mention the amazing European melody supporting the song in the background. In the vicious Becoming, the whole band is in their most aggressive mode, sounding like an enraged hybrid of Sepultura from the Roots-era with Caliban, with Márk Potkovácz with his potent beats together with newcomer Marcell and his rumbling bass enhancing the song’s ravenousness considerably. Whereas in Tides a somber beginning led by Márk is gradually accompanied by both guitars and bass, before Alex comes with his blend of demonic growling and obscure clean vocals. In other words, this great display of their vibrant Post-Sludge Metal couldn’t sound more modern, metallic and consequently perfect for their live performances.

The following tune, titled Nyctalopia, brings forward more violent sounds with a precise harmonious base, becoming one of the band’s most progressive creations to date with all its breaks and variations, as well as its acid and darkling lyrics (“Descending from the coruscating lights / Into intangible doom / Chimerical phantoms tearing away / The spark from my weakened soul / Complacent proprietor in the house of lies / Leading my rendition to a Blind idiot God”). Then we have Lataris, which just like all of their songs is very cohesive and energetic, showcasing fierce riffs by both Attila and Gergely while Alex keeps hitting us with both his smooth, clean lines and his sick gnarls; and Mute, a song that clearly draws influences from bands like Pantera and Lamb of God in an aggressive mix of Sludge and Groove Metal, with Alex and Márk leading the musicality with their screams and beats respectively, sounding dark and gripping from start to finish.

In Devoid,  Stabbed slow down a little after all their usual display of anger, providing the listener a more melodic and alternative sonority where a solid instrumental with some spot-on guitar solos keeps the momentum going for the band, despite not being one of their best creations. And finally, featuring guest singer Tadeusz Rieckmann, Vessel displays an epic vibe in its intro, morphing into an obscure Post-Sludge Metal anthem with a Groove Metal twist,menacing guitars and bass, and poetic lyrics (“You have to spit to see the shine / Wallow in mud / Look all your demons in the eye / Killing your mind / We have not built this ship to wreck / On promised lands / Take nothing, fuck the test / All that you’ve bled”), as well as the raging guttural by Alex, flowing into an abrupt but climatic ending.

In order to follow Stabbed on their upward journey to success in heavy music with Long Way Down, simply visit their Facebook page for new and tour dates and their YouTube channel for more of their groovy and mordant music. And if you want to buy Long Way Down (which is available for a full listen on Spotify), you can get it at Stabbed’s BandCamp page or on Amazon. After Long Way Down it’s hard to imagine the world of Post-Sludge Metal without Stabbed, a band that has been building a solid reputation since their genesis and that’s becoming a synonym of modern metal music not only in their homeland, but anywhere else where good music is appreciated.

Best moments of the album: Long Way Down, Tides and Vessel.

Worst moments of the album: Devoid.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing 
1. Long Way Down 3:52
2. Becoming 4:47
3. Tides 4:24
4. Nyctalopia 3:10
5. Lataris 4:33
6. Mute 5:32
7. Devoid 4:10
8. Vessel (feat. Tadeusz Rieckmann) 5:07

Amazon bonus tracks
9. Long Way Down (Instrumental) 3:52
10. Lataris (Instrumental) 4:33

Band members
Alex Karamuskó – vocals
Attila Kecskés – guitar
Gergely Kovács – guitar
Marcell Demeter – bass
Márk Potkovácz – drums

Guest musician
Tadeusz Rieckmann – additional vocals on “Vessel”

Album Review – OHHMS / The Fool (2017)

Spanning the course of 60 minutes and focusing on corporate and personal politics, the first full-length album by this British quintet is not only a huge step forward in their career, but also a lesson in Sludge and Progressive Metal.

Armed with the thickest riffs and fieriest will, Sludge/Progressive Metal act OHHMS was formed in 2014 in Kent, a county in South East England, aiming at blowing our minds with their monolithic, doomed music. After the release of their debut EP Bloom in 2014, followed by another EP title Cold in 2015, OHHMS started to build a strong reputation in their homeland’s underground scene, playing big festivals such as Desertfest and Temples, and also sharing the stage with acts like The Skull, Conan and Rolo Tomassi. Now, three years after their thunderous beginnings, the band is back with their debut full-length album, the heavy and sludgy The Fool, another step forward in their short but solid career.

Spanning the course of 60 minutes of hard-hitting, progressive music, The Fool delivers five thunderous songs that focus on corporate and personal politics, all wrapped up in an elegant tarot-inspired packaging designed by Black Sails Design. With two of its songs going over the barrier of 10 minutes (one of them having over 20 minutes in duration, by the way), something inconceivable for any regular radio station or TV show, The Fool won’t provide any sort of “music for the masses” to you, but an introspective and very peculiar journey through the minds of the five talented musicians behind OHHMS, and that’s in my opinion what makes this album so distinct and impactful.

The acoustic intro Shuffle, Cut and Reveal slowly introduces us to the sluggish and heavy The Magician,  which after a fast-paced beginning smoothly flows into traditional Stoner Metal, with Max Newton smashing his drum set while lead singer Paul Waller blasts sheer anguish through his vocals. The Hanged Man is a top-notch musical voyage, flowing from an ominous intro into 13 minutes of progressiveness, slow-paced passages and a somber ambience. Max adds endless intricacy to the music with his beats, while guitarists Daniel Sargent and Marc George alternate between heavier riffs and gentle lines, with the overall result being so compelling you won’t notice the length of the song at all. Even more progressive than its predecessor, The World is a song that combines in a potent way the heaviness of Stoner Metal with the experimentations of Progressive Metal, not to mention its hints of several other styles such as Industrial and Doom Metal, with Max and bassist Chainy Chainy building a more-than-thunderous atmosphere with their respective instruments.

The superb The Lovers is beautiful and thrilling from start to finish, with all instruments creating the perfect ambience for Paul and a mysterious (and wonderful) female voice to complement each other’s lines flawlessly. It’s a slow and serene ballad recommended for true lovers, or in other words, simply close your eyes and feel your significant other’s embrace while listening to this awesome composition. And as the icing on the cake OHHMS present to us The Hierophant, a bold, complex and mind-blowing 21-minute extravaganza, where the whole band is able to display all their skills as great musicians they are. After over two minutes of initial dissonant noises, Paul arrives with his somber vocals, and this eccentric atmosphere goes on until at around six minutes the rest of the band joins him, becoming a sonic experimentation through the realms of Sludge and Stoner Metal, with highlights to the bestial, crushing riffs by both Daniel and Marc (in special during the song’s final part).

One might say The Fool is not an album for the average listener, but in my humble opinion I think this album is a great opportunity for newcomers to the world of the lengthy and sluggish sounds of Stoner and Doom Metal to explore the uniqueness of this subgenre of heavy music. Well, newcomer or not, you should definitely go check what OHHMS are up to at their Facebook page and, if you’re already hooked on their music, purchase The Fool through their BandCamp page, at the Holy Roar Records’ webshop, on iTunes, on Amazon or at Discogs.

Best moments of the album: The World and The Lovers.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Holy Roar Records

Track listing
1. Shuffle, Cut and Reveal 1:15
2. The Magician 8:10
3. The Hanged Man 13:24
4. The World 6:42
5. The Lovers 8:03
6. The Hierophant 21:49

Band members
Paul Waller – vocals
Daniel Sargent – guitars
Marc George – guitars
Chainy Chainy – bass
Max Newton – drums

Album Review – Lunatic Hooker / Embracing The Filth (2017)

Be embraced by the filthy and crushing Grindcore with a Sludge Metal twist crafted by five British musicians who got together to reignite their inner fire and passion for extreme music.

The music business can be spirit crushing and soul destroying, where bands that start as groups of friends with a passion for music can end up disillusioned, with the flames of their passion near extinguished. This happened to British musicians George (vocals), Ross (guitar), Tim (guitar), Duncan (bass, vocals) and Rafael (drums) in their respective bands, but rather than let those last flickering embers burn out for good, they got together to reignite the fire, forging in 2014 a new evil entity that goes by the name of Lunatic Hooker, blasting a roaring fusion of Grindcore and Sludge Metal perfect for nonstop slamming and headbanging.

After the release of a two-track demo in 2015 and a single with their cover version for Motörhead’s all-time classic (We Are) The Road Crew in 2016, this London-based squad is unleashing upon humanity their debut full-length opus, titled Embracing The Filth. Featuring twelve tracks of unrelenting, punishing and pulverizing Extreme Metal, all enfolded by a captivating artwork by Dan Capp (Winterfylleth) and crackling with that irresistible rediscovered electricity, Embracing The Filth is one of those albums you might not know what you’re dealing with at first, but that you’ll get addicted to as soon as you hit play and let its piercing sounds invade your ears.

Rafael and his doomed beats ignite the sludgy party named My God Is Bigger than Yours (what a clever name for a song), before chaos reigns through the putrid gnarls by George and the dirty and fast riffage by Ross and Tim. Once again uniting Grindcore with Sludge Metal, demonic sounds emanate from all instruments in Beard Feared, in special the blast beats by Rafael and the devilish growling by George, with its brutal slamming rhythm drawing influences from Slayer, Napalm Death and other devastating groups; followed by The Pen Is Mightier than the Sword, another song with a very intelligent name that also presents crushing riffs and beats while George sounds more demonic than ever (and let me say that, if you survive the intense circle pit this song can generate, you’re pretty much immortal), and Unearthed Dead Children, a sonic onslaught of Grindcore bursting heaviness through the cavernous growls by George and Rafael’s ruthless drumming.

The title-track Embracing the Filth lives up to its name, being a dirty, crude and absolutely vile composition of darkness. Moreover, it feels like the guitars by Ross and Tim are an extension of George’s sick vocals, consequently enhancing the song’s overall impact, with Rafael once again showing no mercy for his drum set. In Blood Eagle we face an eerie start that lasts for almost half of the song before the band gets back to their sick high-speed musicality, with its guitars and drums exhaling sheer Grindcore, whereas Fucks All brings elements from Hardcore and Thrash Metal to their already aggressive sonority. Tim and Ross keep firing some sick dirty riffs to make the whole song more demonic, also presenting Black and Death Metal blast beats thanks to the unwearying Rafael. And the excellent Cult Chaos begins at full speed, reminding me of some of the most visceral creations by Cannibal Corpse, with all instruments sounding extremely sharp from start to finish. Hence, this slamming composition should work really well during their live performances.

In Transformation Walrus, a song inspired by and featuring footage in its official video from Kevin Smith’s 2014 film Tusk, darkness takes control of the band from the very first second, with George leading his crew with his deranged growls, before See the Light, perhaps the most violent of all tracks, showcases deeper guttural vocals by George and the merciless drums by Rafael highly influenced by old school Death Metal. In other words, Lunatic Hooker offer us two and a half minutes of pure brutality, with some harmonious guitar lines and solos to give more balance to the overall result. There are two more songs to go in this demonic opus, starting with Spain in the Neck, another recommended soundtrack for a sick mosh pit where Ross and Tim sound like two beasts with their flammable strings, while Rafael keeps the adrenaline high with his unstoppable beats. And finally, the closing of their awesome casket comes in the form of a 6-minute demented extravaganza named Sarlac, where George reaches the deepest and most obscure growls of the entire album. Slow and steady, almost sounding like Funeral Doom, this composition is very different from all previous tracks, showing the band’s crisp versatility in Extreme Metal.

If you feel more than ready to be embraced by Lunatic Hooker’s filthy and crushing Grindcore with the sluggish twist coming from their Sludge Metal vein, go join their demented crew at their official Facebook page and enjoy more of their cutting music at their YouTube channel. In Embracing The Filth, available at the band’s Big Cartel, at the Black Bow Records’ BandCamp and on Amazon, Lunatic Hooker were extremely successful in concentrating all their passion for extreme music and transform that metallic amalgam into reality, leaving all doors open for another blast of their vicious music anytime soon, and hopefully for many years to come as well.

Best moments of the album: My God Is Bigger than Yours, Embracing the Filth and Cult Chaos.

Worst moments of the album: Blood Eagle.

Released in 2017 Black Bow Records

Track listing
1. My God Is Bigger than Yours 3:16
2. Beard Feared 2:32
3. The Pen Is Mightier than the Sword 3:08
4. Unearthed Dead Children 2:48
5. Embracing the Filth 3:07
6. Blood Eagle 4:13
7. Fucks All 2:46
8. Cult Chaos 3:24
9. Transformation Walrus 3:32
10. See the Light 2:35
11. Spain in the Neck 2:46
12. Sarlac 6:24

Bonus track
13. (We Are) The Road Crew (Motörhead cover) 2:44

Band members
George – vocals
Ross – guitar
Tim – guitar
Duncan – bass, vocals
Rafael – drums

Album Review – Ibyss / Hate Speech EP (2017)

A feast of modern and industrialized sounds by a dynamic duo of German metallers who are not afraid of expressing their rage against censorship and rising authoritarian tendencies.

When it came to my attention that several German webzines and even leading print magazines refused to review or publish any news about Hate Speech, the brand new EP by German Industrial Metal duo Ibyss, because they think the album title is too “problematic” or “provocative”, I instantly thought there’s something wrong with the media and their “invisible” censorship. The duo even states in their material the specific topics their non-political EP deals with, such as third-wave feminism, trigger warnings and toxic masculinity, in an aggressive and unapologetic way against censorship and rising authoritarian tendencies in the midst of a battle of the sexes (which are already sweeping into the Heavy Metal subculture).

Formed in 2013 and highly influenced by the music by renowned acts like Nailbomb, Godflesh and Ministry, the duo comprised of Jens (vocals, guitars) and Nihil (guitars, bass, drum programming) hails from Düsseldorf, a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, known for its fashion industry and arts, having released in 2014 their very experimental debut album Obsidian, as well as a couple of singles in the coming years, carving their name in the German independent scene. Moreover, they nurture a deep passion for alternative and industrial music, they love to experiment with unusual and heavy sounds, and they’re not afraid of discussing about controversial topics through their creations. Put differently, they use their austere music as their form of expressing their view of our modern-day society, and Hate Speech deserves a shot for being such an honest and meaningful album. There’s nothing wrong with that, don’t you agree?

Anyway, opening the EP in a metallic and groovy way we have Bois Ton Sang (or “drink your blood” from French), where Jens begins screaming his acid words violently while Nihil’s bass sounds very old school, resulting in a German Industrial Metal extravaganza perfect for breaking your neck headbanging. Moving on with their industrialized attack, electronic elements permeate the air from the very first second in the excellent Face Off, an aggressive Industrial Metal chant the likes of Fear Factory where the razor-edged guitars by both Jens and Nihil dictate the rhythm, with the song’s thunderous and menacing bass lines bringing even more electricity to the already belligerent musicality presented. And making use of tons of industrial elements in the background and featuring German legend Rüdiger Schuster (Stumpff, U.L.A.A, Unlucky Childz) as a guest vocalist, Home Is Where The Graves Are also brings forward rumbling bass lines and piercing guitars to enhance the song’s potency and impact in a brutal way.

Like Drones feels like traditional Industrial Metal with hints of Sludge Metal, reminding me of some of the newest songs by Sepultura due to its grooviness and creativity, not to mention the great job done by Nihil with the drum programming by making it sound very organic and raw; whereas the ruthless Frontlines keeps up with the rest of the album in terms of electricity and punch. This time Jens presents not only his tormented growls, but also his gentle, clean voice, creating an interesting paradox of vocal lines throughout the whole song. Finally, when you reach the last song of Hate Speech, entitled Senseless Ordeal, you’ll be able to clearly acknowledge what the music by Ibyss is all about, their sonority and characteristic sounds, showing how cohesive the whole EP is. The duo keeps smashing their guitars unceasingly during the song’s seven minutes, sounding threatening and coarse (but always with a lot of harmony), building what can be considered a fusion of the music by Fear Factory, Marilyn Manson and Triptykon, or in other words, an Industrial-Doom-Gothic Metal feast.

Why the media is not supporting such riveting underground act is beyond my comprehension. If you think about it for one second, they come from the same country as Neue Deutsche Härte icons Rammstein, who gave the world extremely polemic creations such as “Pussy”, “Amerika”, and especially “Mann gegen Mann”. If you also think we all have the right to express our ideas, if you think freedom of speech is still important, and especially if you like modern and industrialized music, go check what Jens and Nihil are up to at their Facebook page, enjoy their music at their YouTube channel and SoundCloud, and buy your copy of Hate Speech at their BandCamp page. As mentioned before, this talented duo is not afraid of expressing their anger against censorship and their view of other controversial topics, and by doing that through their experimental compositions they ended up providing fans of heavy music an excellent and noteworthy option outside of the comfort zone of traditional metal.

Best moments of the album: Face Off and Senseless Ordeal.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Bois Ton Sang 4:50
2. Face Off 3:52
3. Home Is Where The Graves Are (feat. Rüdiger Schuster) 4:19
4. Like Drones 2:40
5. Frontlines 4:43
6. Senseless Ordeal 7:01

Band members
Jens – vocals, guitars
Nihil – guitars, bass, drum programming

Guest musician
Rüdiger Schuster – additional vocals on “Home Is Where The Graves Are”

Album Review – Mastodon / Emperor of Sand (2017)

Follow the inspirational story of a desert wanderer who has been handed a death sentence in the brand new excellent album by the trailblazers of Progressive and Sludge Metal.

Anything I say about the music by American Progressive/Sludge Metal trailblazers Mastodon won’t be enough to describe the amount of madness, intricacy and feeling flowing from the instruments from this unique Atlanta-based quartet. Now with the fantastic Emperor of Sand, the seventh studio album in their remarkable career, Troy Sanders (bass), Brent Hinds (guitar), Bill Kelliher (guitar) and Brann Dailor (drums) add an extra layer of complexity to their music by revolving the entire album around the concepts of death and survival, inspired by experiences they had when members of their families and friends were recently diagnosed with cancer.

Featuring a beautiful artwork by Alan Brown (Medusawolf), the concept and story in Emperor of Sand follows a desert wanderer who has been handed a death sentence. “At the end of the story, the person simultaneously dies and is saved,” said Brann. “It’s about going through cancer, going through chemotherapy and all the things associated with that. I didn’t want to be literal about it. But it’s all in there. You can read between the lines.” Troy also had a few words to share about the whole concept behind Emperor of Sand. “We’re reflecting on mortality,” mentioned Troy. “To that end, the album ties into our entire discography. It’s 17 years in the making, but it’s also a direct reaction to the last two years. We tend to draw inspiration from very real things in our lives.”

Percussion sounds ignite pure heaviness in the form of music, titled Sultan’s Curse, where it’s impressive to see how those four guys can sound so polished and raw at the same time in a perfect fusion of Progressive and Sludge Metal. Furthermore, not only Brann has a superb performance on drums, but their already famous rotation of vocals only makes things even more entertaining. Despite sounding a bit too commercial at first, Show Yourself is a damn good song, being electrified and upbeat with the awesome vocals by Brann leading the musicality, while Brent and Bill deliver classic, sharp riffs and solos. In addition, if you want to see how awesome this tune sounds live, simply watch this excellent video of the band performing it at Jimmy Kimmel Live. Precious Stones is the type of song fans will love to see them playing live, offering another high-speed metallic voyage and showcasing more of their beautiful guitar lines and a rumbling performance by the unstoppable Troy on bass; whereas Steambreather starts with a dark, low-tuned sonority thanks to the guitars and bass sounds, keeping a blackened aura throughout the whole song but with faster passages to maintain the overall result very interesting (not to mention the once again excellent vocals from start to finish).

The next track, named Roots Remain, sounds heavier than all previous songs, with Brann smashing his drums while Troy fires his more aggressive vocals, also providing tons of progressiveness flowing from all instruments in a display of classy and modern Sludge Metal with hints of Groove Metal. In my humble opinion, Word to the Wise is the best of all songs in Emperor of Sand, with the poetic lyrics emanating from the harsh vocals by Troy matching the music flawlessly (“Diamond in the wishing well / Fallen underneath its spell / Save me from the wicked ways / Pulling me with all its weight”). Moreover, I love when they speed up their music without losing their progressive touch, maintaining a beautiful pace while at the same time firing some flammable guitar solos. Ancient Kingdom is another composition with a solid and intricate instrumental supporting the amazing vocal work done by all band members, and what Brann does with his beats is like a lecture in drum playing; followed by Clandestiny, which to my ears sounds like a less commercial and consequently heavier version of “Show Yourself”. It’s one of the songs with the strongest Progressive Metal base of all, and it’s impossible not to feel its energy flowing inside your mind.

With guest musician Kevin Sharp of Brutal Truth on vocals, Andromeda, a great tune to break your neck headbanging, also presents a darker side of Mastodon. Brann is absolutely on fire throughout the whole album and it couldn’t be different in this amazing chant, which makes me wonder how powerful it should sound during their live concerts. And featuring another guest vocalist, this time Scott Kelly of Neurosis, we have Scorpion Breath, the second to last track of the album, being very rhythmic with the bass lines by Troy bringing thunder to the musicality, while the guitars by Brent and Bill will cut your skin like a razor-edged blade. Last but not least, if someone asked me to summarize the music by Mastodon in two words, those would definitely be Jaguar God. This is a complex, detailed and very creative creation by the band, presenting amazing guitar riffs and solos, an intricate and groovy drumming, smoother passages, and beyond whimsical lyrics (“Terrestial fire, ascending from underground / Godspeed divine, so we control our mound / Shape shifter, spirits whisper / Guide me through this black sorcery”), not to mention that when the music gets really heavy, it becomes the best Progressive Metal you can think of.

I personally recommend that before (or maybe after) listening to the album in its entirety you go check the band’s outstanding series of videos on YouTube titled The Making of Emperor of Sand, as those will make a lot of difference to your own view of the music found in Emperor of Sand, giving additional details and even new meanings to what you think you know about Mastodon. You can also check what the band is up to at their official Facebook page, and get ready for their always fun visit to your city in a not-so-distant future. Some will say Emperor of Sand is their strongest work to date, and some that the band lost their touch, just like what happens with every renowned band nowadays. All I know is that Emperor of Sand is a bold, cohesive and inspirational metal album, and that it will hit you hard no matter what, proving Mastodon are not among the biggest and most influential names in contemporary heavy music in vain.

Best moments of the album: Sultan’s Curse, Precious Stones, Word to the Wise and Jaguar God.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Reprise Records

Track listing
1. Sultan’s Curse 4:09
2. Show Yourself 3:03
3. Precious Stones 3:46
4. Steambreather 5:03
5. Roots Remain 6:28
6. Word to the Wise 4:00
7. Ancient Kingdom 4:54
8. Clandestiny 4:28
9. Andromeda (feat. Kevin Sharp) 4:05
10. Scorpion Breath (feat. Scott Kelly) 3:19
11. Jaguar God 7:56

Band members
Brent Hinds – lead guitar, lead and backing vocals
Bill Kelliher – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Troy Sanders – bass guitar, lead and backing vocals
Brann Dailor – drums, percussion, lead and backing vocals, bass on “Jaguar God” intro 

Guest musicians
Kevin Sharp – additional vocals on “Andromeda”
Scott Kelly – additional vocals on “Scorpion Breath”
Mike Keneally – keyboards

Album Review – Crossbones / WWIII (2017)

The most longstanding and influential metal act from Albania returns with a brand new opus, combining American Thrash Metal influences with a dark sound and typical Eastern European sonorities.

When vocalist Olsi Ballta grabbed an Albanian-English dictionary in 1996 and picked the first word on the page he randomly opened, he had no idea he would be founding the most recognized metal act in Albania and the only band from the mid 90’s that kept going. That’s how everything started for Tirana-based Heavy/Thrash Metal band Crossbones, the first Albanian rock band to have released a genuine full-length album on CD (their debut album called Days Of Rage, from 1997), who led them to play several concerts and festivals in the local scene, as well as within the region comprised of Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece and Kosovo, and to perform alongside major names such as Ian Paice (Deep Purple’s legendary drummer) and Rotting Christ.

After the release of a few singles, demos, a live album, a compilation and a stylish box set in the following years, Crossbones are finally back with new material, the full-length record entitled WWIII, combining American Thrash Metal influences with a dark sound and typical Eastern European sonorities in order to provide the listener a full-bodied metal attack that effectively represents not only the name and the artwork of the album, but also the core essence of the band. Perhaps due to the fact that Crossbones have been active through a couple of decades already, the music found in WWIII will provide you a voyage through old school and modern metal music, which only brings more flavor to the entire album. And let’s be honest, for a band that comes from a country where metal has absolutely (and unfortunately) zero support, what these guys do with their music is beyond fantastic.

The high amount of heaviness and groove emanating from all instruments from the very first second in I’m God, a potent mid-tempo Groove Metal composition with blazing guitar solos and neck-breaking riffs, will punch you in the face mercilessly, with lead singer Olsi Ballta delivering classic and melodious Thrash Metal vocal lines. And that’s only the beginning, as the straightforward tune Gates of Hell, led by guitarist Ben Turku and his slashing riffs, will please all fans of heavy music, with drummer Theo Napoloni and bassist Klejd Guza adding tons of groove to the musicality with their pounding beats and thunderous notes, respectively. In the slightly more atmospheric (but still as heavy as hell) Gjallë, or “alive” from Albanian, Theo and Klejd once again become the dynamic duo of fierceness, setting the perfect tone for Olsi to growl the song’s lyrics (which by the way are in Albanian).

The interesting WTF, which obviously means “what the fuck”, is more alternative than all previous tracks, focusing on the cutting strings by both Ben and Klejd while Olsi fires anguished and acid vocals, therefore increasing the song’s obscurity, with its ending being a sheer Groove Metal feast; whereas Messing with the Masses is a lot more introspective and somber, albeit not as exciting as the rest of the album. The dissonant and macabre guitar solo by Ben halfway through it is very effective though, while its second half sounds like a completely different song, being a mix of Alternative and Nu Metal. Schizo gets back to a more direct metal sonority thanks to the high dosage of harmony coming from the guitars by Ben, with Olsi also singing in his mother tongue and sounding more aggressive and demented, in sync with the theme proposed by the song’s name.

Rise offers thrilling Heavy Metal the way we headbanging bastards like it, also bringing elements from Sludge and Stoner Metal (therefore showing the band’s versatility) while Klejd simply kicks ass with his bass lines, supporting the song’s old school metallic lyrics (“I’m taking my chances / Roaming the streets / A wild stab in the dark / And over the fences / A million of thoughts / And fresh blood in the heart”). After a short eerie intro, the band delivers a dark version of Groove Metal with elements from Gothic Rock and Metal in You Fool, where Olsi steals the spotlight with his melancholic growls, supported by the heavy, obscure sounds blasted by all other bands members; followed by That Kind of Feeling, a dark semi-ballad by Crossbones featuring melodic elements from contemporary metal music blended with traditional vocal lines and the punch of Groove Metal, adding more taste to the album. And the second installment of the opening track, simply titled I’m God, Pt. 2, closes WWIII, beginning in a very sorrowful and pensive manner and being a lot more atmospheric than any other song of the album. In other words, a beautiful ending for WWIII, with Olsi having a truly passionate performance on vocals.

If you want to show your support to Crossbones and Albanian metal, simply visit their Facebook page, YouTube channel, SoundCloud and ReverbNation, and buy your copy of WWIII on iTunes, Amazon, Target, CD Universe, Walmart, hbdirect.com and several other retailers. We might not be ready for a real-life World War III, but we should all be more than happy with the music presented by this longstanding Albanian squad in WWIII, an album that will certainly cement the legacy of such important band for metal in Albania, in Eastern Europe and anywhere else where good music is appreciated.

Best moments of the album: Gates of Hell, Gjallë and Rise.

Worst moments of the album: Messing with the Masses.

Released in 2017 Nadir Music

Track listing
1. I’m God 6:55
2. Gates of Hell 5:52
3. Gjallë 4:39
4. WTF 6:32
5. Messing with the Masses 5:23
6. Schizo 6:05
7. Rise 4:41
8. You Fool 4:38
9. That Kind of Feeling 5:58
10. I’m God, Pt. 2 3:39

Band members
Olsi Ballta – vocals
Ben Turku – guitars
Klejd Guza – bass
Theo Napoloni – drums

Album Review – Bathsheba / Servus (2017)

From the depths of the black charcoal mountains rises a new Occult Doom Metal entity, bringing endless sadness, pain and anguish with their first full-length opus.

From the depths of the black charcoal mountains rises Bathsheba, an unholy gathering of four talented musicians hailing from Genk, a city located in the Belgian province of Limburg, aiming at spreading grief and agony all over the world with their first full-length opus, the excellent Servus. Portraying a biblical name and fronted by the stunning she-devil Michelle Nocon (Serpentcult, Leviathan Speaks, Death Penalty), this distinct quartet formed in 2013 brings forth an occult version of Doom Metal intensified by elements from Sludge and Black Metal, resulting in a blackened feast of atmospheric and schizophrenic sounds.

The mystical frontwoman Michelle, together with guitarist Dwight Goossens (Disinterred), bassist Raf Meukens (Death Penalty, Torturerama) and drummer Jelle Stevens (Sardonis), released a demo  tape in October 2014 and shortly after signed to Svart Records, releasing an EP titled The Sleepless Gods in May 2015, which then led the band to participate in important underground festivals such as Doom Over London, DesertFest, Incubate, Dutch Doom Days and Doomed Gatherings. However, it’s with Servus, which features a stylish artwork by Olivier Lomer-Wilbers (Dissolvtion), that the band has reached a new level of wickedness, offering the listener six complex and peculiar songs about struggle, sadness, constant threat and distortion of the mind. In other words, Bathsheba will drag you into the horror of existence under the crushing weight of reality with the doomed music found in Servus.

Somber words work as an intro to the sluggish and obscure tune Conjuration of Fire, with the slow, dirty rhythm carved by Dwight, Raf and Jelle opening the gates of hell for the she-demon Michelle to start mesmerizing us by declaiming the song’s poetic lyrics (“Art of chaos / come over me / I wander endlessly / Are you the One / the One for me / Divided in Earth and Sea”). Furthermore, the second part of the song gets beautifully heavier and more diabolical, turning it into a modern-day witchcraft hymn. Like a tenebrous tempest, Bathsheba come crushing our souls in the boisterous Ain Soph, displaying old school doomed beats by Jelle and whimsical guitars by Dwight. Michelle delivers some deeper, darker vocal lines, while a saxophone creates a gripping paradox with the song’s more extreme Black Metal-inspired sounds. And the somber aura present in both previous songs continues to penetrate our skin in Manifest, where an atmospheric background and the smooth voice by Michelle are slowly joined by the other instruments until the music reaches a fierce Doom Metal stage bursting with melancholy and heaviness. Put differently, this excellent composition will offer you 10 minutes of hopelessness emanating from its sharp riffs, flammable solos and those potent and steady beats only found in old school Doom Metal.

Wandering through a desolated field, Bathsheba fire Demon 13, an awesome Doom and Sludge Metal chant with a demonic vibe showcasing a growing excruciating pain through the rumbling roar by Raf’s bass guitar and the pounding drums by Jelle, with Michelle sounding more menacing and pleasant and the same time. Inspired by the most obscure creations by Black Sabbath, Dwight brings tons of feeling to the music in the slow-paced and melodic composition The Sleepless Gods, while Michelle becomes some sort of enchantress through her vocals; and if you love truly dark sounds, I, at the End of Everything will certainly please your ears, being like a tribal version of Doom Metal displaying Stygian guitar lines in sync with Jelle’s rhythmic beats, not to mention the song’s conjuring lyrics (“And by the virtue of the Highest One / I command Thee / To perfect the Creation / Make me myself again / Universe tremble again / You who is worthy of all praise”). After this song is over, I bet you’ll go back to the beginning of Servus again and again so addictive Michelle’s performance is throughout the entire album, proving how gripping the music by Bathsheba can be.

Servus is already on sale at several locations, such as Bathsheba’s BandCamp or Big Cartel in different formats (CD, LP, CD + shirt package and LP + shirt package), at the Svart Records’ webstore, at Record Shop X, at Discogs, on iTunes or on Amazon. This, my friends, is the sorrowful and eldritch world crafted by this dark entity called Bathsheba, an obscure land where although happiness and peace are not welcome, we’ll indubitably enjoy living in its shadows.

Best moments of the album: Conjuration of Fire and Demon 13.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Svart Records

Track listing
1. Conjuration of Fire 7:34
2. Ain Soph 5:42
3. Manifest 10:33
4. Demon 13 5:45
5. The Sleepless Gods 7:14
6. I, at the End of Everything 8:25

Band members
Michelle Nocon – vocals
Dwight Goossens – guitars
Raf Meukens – bass
Jelle Stevens – drums

Album Review – +MROME+ / Noetic Collision on the Roof of Hell (2016)

If you’re eagerly looking for truly independent music in the world of Heavy Metal, this idiosyncratic Polish project will satisfy your craving with their fresh and unorthodox experimentations.

Rating5

mrome_ncotrohThe last review of the year is the epitome of independent metal, something we at The Headbanging Moose truly love to support, being absolutely raw, anti-mainstream, not interested in promoting band members and not interested in touring at all. Founded in the now far, far away year of 1995 by a group of teenage friends in the city of Andrychów, located in Southern Poland,  Death/Black Metal project +MROME+ was reborn in 2009 after almost a decade of silence, finally releasing as a duo now in 2016 the idiosyncratic album Noetic Collision on the Roof of Hell.

+MROME+ produce their music in their own primitive studio in complete isolation from the local scene, with their only principle being that every new recording is a new start for the band, a new stage, keeping things as different and interesting as possible, and they do that by not labeling their music nor sticking to a predetermined formula. If you take a listen at their collection of demos from 1997 to 1999 baptized as The Basement Sophisma, you’ll see how versatile +MROME+ are, ranging from devilish extreme music to unique cover version for non-metal classics such as Faith No More’s “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies”, and in Noetic Collision on the Roof of Hell the band continues with their heavy experimentations, always pushing their creative boundaries further and further.

When the opening track Colors begins, you’ll be facing a crossover of Death, Sludge and Progressive Metal, with its bass lines rumbling in your face, while Key V transpires aggressiveness through his harsh vocals and P provides the right amount of heaviness and intricacy behind his drums. Then +MROME+ turn up the heat and blast a dark and vile Death Metal composition titled Crush the Moon, sounding amazingly underground and powerful. It has an old school punch thanks to its catchy chorus and melodious, angry guitars, being in my opinion one of the best songs of the whole album. And in Migration Cult we have a great fusion of Death Metal and Rock N’ Roll, with its flammable Thrash Metal riffs complementing Key V’s deranged representation of the song’s wicked lyrics (“Marching far south from Eden / There is still something what push us on / Missing primal fixations / Will we abandon the code / The Holy Fuck”).

How the Gods Kill is an awesome tribute to one of the most eccentric musicians of all time, the one and only Danzig, keeping up with the obscurity of the original version with the low-tuned and menacing sound of bass guitar paving the path for an explosion of evil Heavy Metal. Following that superb cover song, Trust brings forward more of the band’s uproarious Death Metal with Key V and P delivering straightforward heavy music to our ears in a compelling way, whereas Generation Anthem is heavy and distorted music from the pits of Hell. Furthermore, the duo seems to love those menacing mid-tempo songs, firing blazing riffs and fierce beats nonstop. But just when you think the band is going to stick to some sort of formula they fire Piss & Laugh, showcasing a somber rhythm inspired by Dark Metal with the Blackened Doom guitars and the deep gnarls by Key V enhancing its damned atmosphere. At this point of the album, you’ll realize that calling +MROME+ just as Death or Black Metal is an understatement of their musical range and capabilities.

mromeOnce again bursting poetry and madness through the lyrics (“Monstrous iron worms / Feeding on fire / And flash / Choke the ground / March against the dawn / East from nest of crow / Days of hunger / Lions hunt”), Locust Follows Word presents a berserk intro followed by more thunderous bass lines and a grumpy attitude, with all additional elements in the background helping in strengthening the musicality considerably. The second to last blast of underground metal by this interesting project, titled Magister Figurae Morte, will kick you in the face with its pounding drums and energetic riffs in this solid display of ruthless metal from darkness, before The Arsonist closes the album majestically, with Key V impersonating the arsonist himself by setting fire to the musicality with his growls and riffs. In addition, P accelerates his beats to a traditional Black Metal style, generating a high-end feast of hellish music with a climatic ending.

+MROME+ do not have a Facebook page, a Twitter account or any other type of social media. As previously mentioned, it’s all about their music and the concept behind it, which means all things +MROME+ are summarized to their BandCamp page in the form of heavy music, with Noetic Collision on the Roof of Hell being their newest sonic experiment, but not their ultimate one at all. Fans of truly underground metal will hear more about +MROME+ in a not-so-distant future for sure, as they’re already recording Roi-de-Rats, their next full-length opus. Well, I’m already eager to see what Key V, P and the band’s original bassist (who has just rejoined the project after all these years) will offer from their arsenal of extreme and primeval music.

Best moments of the album: Crush the Moon, How the Gods Kill and The Arsonist.

Worst moments of the album: Generation Anthem.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing
1. Colors 4:03
2. Crush the Moon 4:33
3. Migration Cult 3:31
4. How the Gods Kill (Danzig cover) 5:46
5. Trust 4:09
6. Generation Anthem 3:45
7. Piss & Laugh 4:24
8. Locust Follows Word 3:48
9. Magister Figurae Morte 4:32
10. The Arsonist 6:18

Band members
Key V – vocals, guitars
P – drums

Album Review – Big Guns / Six Shooter EP (2016)

After the six shots of visceral Death N’ Roll fired by these dynamic duo of Russian outlaws, you’ll be pretty much dead.

Rating5

coverSome people might agree that whenever you face a really big trouble, all you need is a really big gun to solve that once and for all. With that insurgent idea in mind, two experienced Russian metallers from Moscow teamed up earlier this year to fight stagnancy in music and decided to shoot some traditional Rock N’ Roll music spiced up by the brutality of Death Metal, giving birth to the quick-draw, high-speed Death N’ Roll project Big Guns and releasing their debut EP entitled Six Shooter for the delight of all headbanging gunslingers all around the world.

Big Guns are comprised of multi-instrumentalists Postie (Conflict) on guitars, bass, drum programming, backing vocals and mixing, and Vaarwel (Frozen Ocean, Goatpsalm, Smothered Bowels) on vocals, lyrics and mastering, and based on the music found in Six Shooter, featuring a gory Wild West-inspired cover art by Anton Baskin (Contrast Arts), the synergy between these two outlaws of heavy music is beyond amazing. Postie and Vaarwel fire together six short, violent tunes perfect for getting piss drunk at an old saloon and have a pistol duel with that gunman that wants to steal your sexy lady from your arms.

Although Postie and Vaarwel have only six bullets locked and loaded in their first stint as Big Guns, the final result is truly devastating. Hard as Tin brings forward a minute and a half of madness, with the blast beats blending Death and Thrash Metal by Postie together with the deep guttural by Vaarwel turning this demolishing tune into the epitome of badassness. In Nightmares of Tomorrow, a pub-fighting Rock N’ Roll tune the likes of Chrome Division tailored for drinking a beer or slamming into the pit, simply enjoy its gentle lyrics (“I sang about entrails and gore / I extolled splattered women / I praised mutilation and deeply adored / Dead bodies choking on semen / Hate! Exsanguinate! / Hate! Eviscerate!”) while bass and drums burst sheer electricity into your ears. And in the metallic Natural Attraction, another brutal Rock N’ Roll creation by this explosive Russian duo, Vaarwel sounds like if the Devil went full Western.

big-gunsOur Moscow outlaws add a lot of gunpowder to their instruments and fire a high-octane tune perfect for some sick mosh pits titled Grammar Guerillas, with highlights to the amazing riffs by Postie and its berserk rhythm; whereas in Pearl Jammed an eerie love story is narrated in a very obscure way (“I met her at the Bon Jovi gig, she was pretty delightful / Long leather boots, violet wig, talking so happily sprightful / Word by word we felt this, chemistry burst like a blast / Pelvis dreamt of pelvis, lust language was unsurpassed”), leaning towards sheer Death Metal with hints of Sludge and Doom Metal just to make things more tasteful. Their last shot of aggressiveness, Dragon Hedge, gets back to their Death N’ Roll core essence, offering the listener deep, enraged growls enhanced by sharp guitar lines and heavy beats. When it’s over, I’m sure you’ll be eager for more of Big Guns’ immoral fusion of Death Metal and Rock N’ Roll.

Are you ready to face the most wanted duo of Russian bandits in the world of heavy music? If you have the guts to challenge them for a duel, all you have to do is visit their Facebook page and purchase Six Shooter through their BandCamp page. Six Shooter might be extremely short in duration, but that doesn’t mean this cool EP doesn’t have the devastating effect of a bazooka, all thanks to the intensity and dexterity of two musicians that have an insane amount of lead and gunpowder flowing inside their veins.

Best moments of the album: Nightmares of Tomorrow and Grammar Guerillas.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing
1. Hard as Tin 1:37
2. Nightmares of Tomorrow 1:55
3. Natural Attraction 1:43
4. Grammar Guerillas 1:48
5. Pearl Jammed 2:10
6. Dragon Hedge 1:53

Band members
Vaarwel – vocals
Postie – guitars, bass, drum programming, backing vocals