Grey Widow – I

Grey Widow - I - cover

I is the debut album from English group Grey Widow. The group was formed by members of other bands such as Dopefight, Parole, Thread and The Ergon Carousel and as such is seriously heavy. The album has an oppressive sound with snarling bass and anguished vocals with a distinct sludge metal style mixed with black and doom metal. Each track has a strong feeling of Despair and anger punctuating everything from the vocals to the drums and there is a somewhat distorted sound also in the mix which adds to the malicious atmosphere that permeates the album. The album gets more aggressive the further you progress with vi being a highlight and viii sounding like the onset of hell. Overall the album has an old school approach in that it sets out its theme and expands on it impressively but also manages to keep it minimalist, there is no filler here, no track to simply bulk up the numbers. What is here is dark, nasty, uncompromising, seething with rage and it wants to smash your head in. Fans of doom, sludge or just good metal in general will find plenty to love here and many may find their new favourite band. An excellent listen.

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Hammerstorm – The Lonely Wanderer

Hammerstorm - The Lonely Wanderer
The Lonely Wanderer is the debut release from international Atmospheric / Black Metal duo Hammerstorm. Featuring Immortal Frost Productions’ very own Surtur on vocals and Slikver (Astral Winter’s Josh Young) handling all instruments this long running relationship has had a hand in some of the genres best work and this is a strong first release that deserves to be heard and indeed successful. Opening with ‘Mystics Of His Soul’ where Surtur screams over some medieval keyboard. It essentially acts as an intro to second track ‘The Lonely Wanderer’, which carries the same melody on keyboards but it soon takes a back seat to some traditional Black Metal guitars and frenzied drumming. ‘Along The Shades Of Darkness’ is a battle hymn that opens with combative percussion, speared with classic Black metal shredding from Slikver. Unfortunately, the momentum gained from previous songs is lost somewhat by long intros to most of the tracks. ‘Whispers From The Depths Of The Forest’ is a personal favourite due to the varied musicianship on it. The quickly executed guitar riffs are comparable to classic Iron Maiden. The only downside is that the lyrics seem slightly lost in the mix. Elsewhere ‘When Darkness Falls Upon Me’ leads the second half of the album. The opening drum track sounds misplaced though and lets the track down. However, after a minute and a half this is no longer the case and business is resumed. Well worth checking this one out.

Hammerstorm is:
Slikver (All instruments), Surtur (Vocals).

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Doom:VS – Earthless

Doom:Vs - Earthless

After almost 6 years Doom:VS is finally back with a new album, “Earthless”. “Earthless” is the third full length from this side project of Draconian guitarist Johan Ericson and was released this past May by the Russian Doom label Solitude Productions.  On previous releases Ericson took on all of the vocal duties himself – and did a really nice job of it. This time around however, he has enlisted the help of Saturnus vocalist, Thomas A.G. Jensen who brings his trademark deep, guttural growls and soft spoken words. Jenson’s vocals bring a strong Saturnus feel to the music which blends with uncanny ease into the Doom:VS, Draconian style. Although Jenson’s vocals are very strong and his spoken words add a new element to the music, I’m a bit disappointed that Ericson has chosen to leave out a lot of the clean vocals that made the previous album “Dead Words Speak” so great. This is not to say he has forgotten about them entirely. They do find their way into the last two songs “Oceans of Despair” and “The Slow Decent”. In any case Jenson’s thunderous growls have a way of sending chills through your spine and his spoken word is as strong and sorrowful as ever which more than makes up for the lack of clean singing.

There’s no arguing the fact that “Earthless” is a very solid, doom metal release. In fact it’s one of the best extreme doom releases this year in my opinion. It can be however, slightly predictable. Sometimes though predictability is a welcome thing. Sometimes it’s nice to throw on an album knowing full well that you will find quality song writing, strong production and you can sit back and relax, loosing yourself in the familiar, welcoming feel of the music. I’ve always been fond of the guitar tones Ericson uses. They are unique and recognizable. There’s feeling in the slow, dark riffs and sweeping harmonies of the leads which create a very melancholic yet familiar atmosphere. With Doom:VS this sound is a bit more raw and organic than with Draconian or Saturnus.

As with all Doom:VS releases the music is slow death/doom and does not quite reach funeral doom territory. There are six tracks on the album with the shortest being just under 7 1/2 minutes. The songs flow very well from the opening song “Earthless” to the very last note of “The Slow Ascent”. I can’t say there are any weak moments. Every song is strong and well thought out.  The whole album is just over 50 minutes long but it flows through quicker than you might expect. A sign of a good album and not something a lot of bands in this genre can accomplish.

No matter which way you cut it, “Earthless” is a must listen for any fan of death/doom or even funeral doom. It continues down the tried, tested and true path set by the project’s earlier releases so if you’re expecting ground breaking innovation you will be slightly disappointed. If you just want some very strong, melancholic doom then this album will fulfill all of your expectations and more.

Doom:VS is:
Johan Ericson (All instruments)
Guest vocals performed by Thomas AG Jenson (Saturnus)

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Open Tomb – Dead Weight

Open Tomb - Dead Weight
New Zealand Funeral Doom / Sludge trio Open Tomb follow up their warmly received split with Meth Drinker and ‘Servants of Slow’ cassette with a new LP entitled Dead Weight. Featuring three new tracks of absolute misery and forbidding torture lasting under forty minutes, they seem to be sticking to the formula that served them so well on their aforementioned releases. This release is another raw open wound, vulnerable and angry, very angry. This is also the first venture by label Dry Cough Records into vinyl territory on their own, so this will have particular importance to the label. And, as this is a new chapter in the labels somewhat short history, Dead Weight sounds like someone’s last dying moments caught on vinyl for all to hear. Raw, slow and disconsolate to the point of insanity. This particular sub-genre is often overlooked and disregarded altogether by fans and critics who are too comfortable with their own more favoured genres. Opening and stand out track ‘Blood and Flies’ features all of the above and is an uncomfortable listen. The overdub of a female inconsolable weeping and buzzing of flies, paints a dark and disturbing picture. Not a record to have on while the in-laws are visiting, but very good and also an important and very significant release from an impressive label that is still very much in it’s infancy. A tough listen but repeated visits to this will prove fruitful. Time and patience are once again required in abundance for this one. The vomit inducing artwork (a bit too strong to show on here) is not for the faint hearted either.

Open Tomb are:
Dane (Drums, Backing Vocals), Tonamu (Bass), Sean (Guitar, Vocals)

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ICOSA – The Skies Are Ours

ICOSA - The Skies Are Ours
Progressive / Metal trio ICOSA have been turning heads of late with their debut EP entitled The Skies Are Ours. It’s not difficult to understand why either. Lead track ‘Ermangulatr’ kicks off the EP rather calmly with some gentle guitar work before the drum work of Jack Ashley pierces the speakers with a catchy yet complex beat that is soon followed by dual guitars from Messrs Tattersall and Douglas. There are some clever tempo changes on here, showcasing the talents of this London based group even further. The EP is available to purchase through the band and it comes in a very well presented card wallet with artwork having been supplied by Hannah Tattersall. Sandwiched nicely between the aforementioned ‘Ermangulatr’ and closing track ‘Trepidation’ is ‘The Skies Are Ours: 1′ and ‘The Skies Are Ours: 2′. Part 1 sounds much like Mastodon, with a catchy and swirling riff that creates the backbone of the track. Part 2 is a little shorter in length but a lot more groove-laden with the rhythm section sounding more like Tool this time. There are blast beats here and some frenetic riffage which you will find yourself nodding along to. Final track and my personal favourite ‘Trepidation’ is yet another monster track, the main riff is fast, dirty and superbly executed. The outro features a brilliant trickling guitar riff hovering nicely over the main rhythm guitar that bursts to life in the closing minutes. Overall a very impressive offering from ICOSA, and they certainly have a lot of fresh ideas that I for one will be looking forward to hearing more of in albums to come.

ICOSA will play The Horn, St. Albans in September and Esquires, Bedford in November. Well worth checking out.

ICOSA are:
Tom Tattersall (8 String Guitars & Vocals), Stacey Douglas (7 String Guitars), Jack Ashley (Drums).

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Hagstone – Ancient, Majestic

Hagstone - Ancient, Majestic

The story of Hagstone begins in 2009 as four men sat in a “boozer” in the north of London. On that fateful night the guys gave themselves unto the God of Doom and set forth determined to create heavy, riff driven music. The result of their efforts is their debut EP “Ancient, Majestic”.

As you may have gathered from the title and perhaps the cover artwork, “Ancient, Majestic” is heavily influenced by ancient, mythological stories and legends. It also borrows from some darker concepts inspired by writers such as Poe, Byron, Coleridge, Shelly and Lovecraft. Hagstone combines elements of stoner rock with some of the more down tempo elements of traditional doom. I’d go so far as to suggest that Hagstone leans more towards the traditional doom metal side. The clean, quivering sound of the vocals really gives the music a classic doom kind of a feel. Hagstone does lack some of that oh so precious dirty fuzz of other stoner branded acts opting instead for a slightly cleaner, overdriven sound. That being said it can still be heavy at times. There’s a bit of an 80’s metal vibe that shines through like on the track “Not a Dream”. Something that might just be amplified by the sound of the vocals. It may be appealing to some but if I’m being completely honest it is a bit of a buzz kill for me. It’s not that it is necessarily a bad thing, it just doesn’t quite fit in with my own personal tastes. All of this together gives “Ancient, Majestic” a somewhat classic era doom metal vibe.

The first song “Nowhere Child” is one of stronger tracks featured on “Ancient, Majestic”. The opening riff is by far the best riff on the EP bringing visions of tripping on peyote as desert sands swirl and tumble weed bounces beneath a blistering sun. It immediately sets the head in motion without so much as a second thought. The song looses some of its muster midway through as it turns into an 80’s ballad but regains strength as it builds back up, returning to the desert rock groove of the opening riff. “Like a Rat” showcases more of the traditional doom aspect of Hagstone’s sound with chunky, palm muted riffs. “A Moment of Clarity” is a cool little instrumental track that lives up to its name acting as a quick break before the final two tracks. As I mentioned already “Not a Dream” has a bit of that classic 80’s vibe I’m not so keen on but “Burn Me Blind” might just be my favourite track. There’s nothing overly special about it, it’s just heavy and catchy as shit.

Overall Hagstone have put forth a strong debut offering. The production is solid, the music is tight and for the most part the songs are all different and memorable. It is music that you can re-listen too without any hesitation.

Hagstone are:
Andy (Bass), Istvan (Drums), Deko (Guitars), Rob (Guitars), Gio (Vocals)

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Wolvhammer / Krieg – Split 7″

Wolvhammer / Krieg - Split 7"

This July will see much admired Broken Limbs Recordings release a mouth watering split featuring two of America’s finest bands in Wolvhammer and Krieg. Side A features Wolvhammer with their track ‘Slaves to the Grime’. This Minneapolis/Chicago blackened sludge quintet are due to release their third LP entitled ‘Clawing into Black Sun’ through Canadian label Profound Lore Records in the same calendar month as this offering. Therefore hardcore fans will undoubtedly be salivating with agitation at the prospect of two physical releases in such a short space of time. The track is six minutes of pummeling guitars that is carved only by the frenetic vocals of Adam Clemens. The guitars (in parts) are somewhat reminiscent of Danish, Funeral/Doom metal trio Black Wreath on their 2009 Magnum Opus ‘A Pyre of Lost Dreams’. A very strong offering altogether. Side B features New Jersey Black metallers Krieg’s ‘Eternal Victim’.  Once again the quality of the guitar playing is something that is of most prominence here. Having been around since 1995, these guys effortlessly convey a unique ambience that many bands strive, unsuccessfully for their whole career. There are indeed similarities in the sound of both acts, this is most likely due to the fact the bands have crossed paths in the past, Wolvhammer guitarist Jeff Wilson has previously played guitar with Krieg. There will only be 500 copies of the split 7″ available through the label so fans will need to act fast if they would like to own a physical copy.

Wolvhammer are:
Adam Clemens (Vocals), Jeff Wilson (Guitar), Brenden Seven (Guitar), Joe Noel (Bass), Heath Rave (Drums).

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Krieg are:
Neill Jameson (Vocals), D. Weston-Ball (Guest Vocals), A. Poole (Guitar), D. Zdanavage (Guitar, Bass), J. Dost (Drums).

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