Monday, 15 August 2016
This three-track EP begins with Black Sabbath-esque riff that cuts through the silence like a gunshot in the wilderness. This opening song, Lost starts slow but quickly launches into a faster tempo that allows Phil Howlett to bellow epic lyrics until the song drops back into an abyss of doomy dissonance.
Salvation continues this theme, with a sludgy intro that gives way to a stoner-doom feel with ear-melting, repetitive chords interspersed with canny hooks. Howlett's voice gets as low as I've ever heard it and he sounds resolutely fierce.
Finally we get to the title track, and wow, I'll be damned if it's not impossible to resist headbanging to it! It starts with a machine-gun riff that harks back to Motorhead. The body of the song has tremendous shifts of urgency that propel the song to its crescendoes of 'bringing doom and death to you all... fuck you, we're Lucifer's Fall' and a classic heavy metal solo. This is the most rock 'n' roll Lucifer's Fall have ever been, and it's fantastic.
The band have just released a compilation of demo and rehearsal recordings in advance of their next album, which promises to be ridiculously heavy if this EP and those tracks are anything to go by. Available from https://lucifersfall.bandcamp.com/album/fuck-you-were-lucifers-fall
Sunday, 7 August 2016
Their debut offerring, simply titled Royyy, is one track after another of seamless worship of the riff. The band clearly enjoy their craft, as you'll discover if you watch them live, set up in a circle, and their tracks ooze personality - no mean feat given that they have no singer.
The record (is it an album or an EP? I think the line between the two is blurred these days) has so many great parts, it's hard to know where to start. The bass and guitar harmonise perfectly and the riffs are superbly crafted. Mirroyyyed and There's no Such Thing as Soft Metal are heavy and groovy, with more crunch than a family-size bag of potato chips. More subtle moments are to be had... actually, hardly anywhere: this is a heavy band, and I'll be damned if they don't pack a ton of riffs into a relatively confined space, without it ever sounding incoherent.
Mad Mary is probably my favourite track, with oodles of fuzz, flange effects and wonderful, almost funky bass playing. The drums are perfect, driving the track along mercilessly.
If you get to see Royyy live, do, as they are tremendous fun, but until then, savour this meal of delicious riffs. Hats off to you, Royyy, as I never knew doom could be this fun!
Available from https://royyy.bandcamp.com/releases
Tuesday, 2 August 2016
The most notable aspect of the band is the vocalist, Tania, whose voice is truly different. It has a twang and an androgynous timbre to it that is both haunting and rousing. Tania climbs the highs, clambering over the deep riffs, and scours the lows, mingling with sparse chords and jangling harmonies.
The band's sound mixes a rich history of rock experimentalism (think of Nirvana's In Utero mixed with 80s goth) and traditional doom, though they rarely embrace anything resembling pure metal. Instead, the songs meander through a haze of sludgy downtuned amplifier worship, accentuated with fabulous brass instrumentation that hints at the symphonic, Lovecraftian feel of the best funeral doom bands, without every going over the top.
Their 2013 album, Never, was a tour de force of bleak doom that I honestly thought they could never top, but the intervening years have not been wasted, and, after some flirtation with songs of a more gentle nature, Universe 217 have returned with a bang with Change.
There are slow, massive riffs galore, and Tania's vocals are more haunting than ever. Liberal use of reverb takes us into a despairing world of melancholy. The album opens with a headbanging, old school track, Undone, that has an absolutely massive sound. This is very well produced.
Counting Hours tricked me into thinking I would be hearing some sort of stomping grunge track, thanks to the groovy bass intro, but in reality it's a classic Universe 217 track, with massive bursts of ringing minor chords. Tania's voice is particularly clear, as it lazily scythes through your auditory system.
The album's closer and title track, Change, is 12 minutes of doom that take us through Tania's anguish via massive riffs and echoing, disturbing breakdowns. The track actually goes silent for a while before gradually building up to a bleak finish.
The album is packed with the bleakness of the best doom, and is highly recommended. I'm off press play again. One listen just isn't enough. Available from https://universe217.bandcamp.com/album/change.
Tuesday, 2 June 2015
David Locke is a great guitarist. Let's get that out there right now. With two instrumental albums under his belt, Locke is quietly making a name for himself as that unassuming yet talented guitarist from the UK. That much can be said from his harmonised riffs and solos that lend a depth to the tracks.
The album bursts into life with opener Foundation, full of sweet gentle melody, underpinned by some chunky riffs. The major keys used conjure memories of Emerson, Lake and Palmer's heyday, with the riffs lending a modern sensibility that binds the parts together as a pure example of modern guitar virtuosity.
Locke cites Brian May as his inspiration, and this is certainly noticeable in the way solos meander through the tracks, offering up those melody lines that would normally be taken up by a vocalist.
Stand out tracks include States of Mind, which is full of grandiosity and pomp, and Time Shift, with its unusual time signatures and Prince-like funk chops.
Transitions is cast in much the same mould as Locke's debut, 2013's Riding Out Youth, but I can't help wondering if Locke couldn't have done more to progress from one album to the next. I guess there's no harm in being the Motorhead of the progressive rock world, but I would suggest that Riding Out Youth is the more experimental and bold of the two albums. Still, that doesn't stop Transitions being an enjoyable romp through a playground of string bending, tapping and improvisation.
You can listen to and buy Transitions at https://davidlocke.bandcamp.com/album/riding-out-youth
Wednesday, 17 September 2014
Sounds Evolution is Machinergy's second full-length, and the Portuguese three-piece have produced one hell of thrashy beast!
Singer (and guitarist) Rui Vieira has a vocal style that seems to mix the styles of early Fear Factory with mid-era Prong, producing an aggressive but forlorn sound that complements the industrial feel extremely well. The guitar work is very technically accomplished without being too technical, leading to fast and brutal songs that have great hooks.
The industrial elements are limited to samples and intros (such as in the excellent track Venomith) and imagery rather than musical content, leaving the album as a rather stripped-back thrash affair. There is the occasional melodic death element, and I can hear some Metallica and even Machine Head influences! The riffing is therefore varied enough to keep the listener's interest throughout.
Carne & Mal has some great riffs and a neat retro groove section, Cado Falso has some excellent lyrics that will speak to fans of Testament, and Waterwar (great title!) has a solo that definitely needs to be witnessed to be believed!
Machinergy have managed to pack a lot of vintage thrash into a modern album, aided by the mixing which is slightly bass-light, and an excellent drum recording. If I had one criticism, it is that the vocals lack body. There are times where they could have been brought to the front of the mix more, giving them the room they deserve, powerful as they are.
Portugal is not known as a place to find great thrash, but give Machinergy a chance and you may just find your new favourite band.
Available from https://machinergy.bandcamp.com/album/sounds-evolution
Sunday, 8 June 2014
Hok-Key's dramatic new album is something you should definitely hear this year. The Belorussian folk metal band have been producing quality music since 1994, when they started as a comedy metal band. Since 2004 they have ploughed the furrows of folk metal, incorporating violins and keys into their grandiose sound. Znak Biady bursts into life with a dramatic introduction, and the following songs meander between chugging bursts of riff, beautiful folk strings and vocals, and bombastic, Finntroll-esque sections of bouncy melodic metal.
The vocal sound is huge and epic, with vocalist Dmitry Rudovich singing in a clean style, which is quite a departure from previous efforts, where he tended to produce a vicious scandanavian-style snarl. The new style works well with the bombastic production, however, and there are even some female vocals.
There are some unusual melodies, not least in Opener, Ruch, and some wonderful acoustic folk parts that sound very melodic and well considered. If you're looking for the Pantera-inspired riffage that littered previous albums, you may be disappointed, but tracks such as Spadčyna and Horad M have some great heavy parts.
This album, one which is altogether more coherent effort than 2009's Ad Libitum and more epic and natural sounding than previous album, R.I.P., comes highly recommended for fans of symphonic and folk metal alike.
The album will be available on CD, but, in what is quite a generous move, you can download their entire discography, including Znak Biady, from their website at http://www.hok-key.com/page.php?id=3
Thursday, 17 April 2014
I quite like the fact that this band has only two members, one of whom does the drums and the other of whom does everything else. One- or Two-man bands often have a tight focus that is missing from larger bands. Iskald are entirely focused on recreating the feeling of an arctic blizzard in your front room, and they do it pretty well. If you're looking for a reference point, they've clearly learnt a lot from Immortal, with the excellent drumming providing the backing for riffs that quickly move from sauntering groove to icy blasts. The arpeggios are a particular joy, with a crackly edge to them that conjures images of the glittering crests of icebergs.
Underworldly is a track that borrows from Blut Aus Nord, with some particularly chilling atonal chord lunges. The track is largely instrumental, but the vocals that are used are vast yet comprehensible and suitably emotional.
The song Iskald is worth checking out, mainly for the strained vocals that sound more Impaled Nazarene than Iskald, but the riffs are much broader and epic than in the other tracks, and contain that Marduk-esque style of moving down the fretboard as the song goes on rather up it. There's even a touching solo, though don't expect any fret-wankery here - it's a sparse solo, drowning in a sea of chords.
You've got to hand it Iskald: they know how to create that frozen atmosphere. They're no Immortal, but they're clutching at the same frostbitten cloak. The album is not as varied as it could be, but the formula works, and there are parts of this album that are classic black metal, with a chilling vocal performance. Good work from these chilly Norwegians. Someone light them a fire.
Out now on Indie Recordings.
Click here to listen to 'Underworldly'