In the storm: Spiritus Mortis, «The Year Is One»

theyearisone-coverDear friend,

sometimes you can feel that an album will be one of your favourite right from the start: it takes just a few seconds, one riff and a verse, and you know. Listening to The Years Is One, by the lasvishly Finnish Spiritus Mortis, was one of these happy moments in my life as a metalhead. It’s based on a recipe we all know, but it’s glorious, sumptuous, and sounds as new as if classic doom has been invented yesterday.

Listening after listening, I was especially won by the special demeanour, the noble composure, with which SM displayed their musical despair: it’s like you can see all five of them building seriously and patiently their black blocks of sound. The easy grammar of big, deep, slow notes is used to its maximum effect in a set of jumbo riffs, all sustain and no hint of fading. The astounding vocal performance, (because it’s not easy to stay on top of) the massive guitar tone, the hugeness of bass&drums: everything contributes to the overall impression of a band of old Giants playing in the storm.

In this large dance of the elements, they also go for the «epic tone», and reach it in Holiday in the Cemetery and especially in the last track, the beautiful World of No Light, which, despite the title, opens up like an infinite landscape. And I wish I can describe the exact moment when the slow, first riff gathers its momentum and shift in the long final ride: it’s a moment of recognition, of going home, of bliss.

Yours heavily, mp

Spiritus Mortis, The Year Is One, Svart Records 2016.

 

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Awakened from the deep: Megatherium, «Superbeast»

superbeast-coverDear friend,

most of the times there is a specific moment when an album wins me: it could be everything and everywhere. Speaking of Superbeast, the aptly titled debut by stoner/doom quartet Megatherium (from Verona), it was at 1’24”, when the first riff of the first track, after the atmospheric intro, punched me directly in the face. It’s a huge «hand riff» (as opposed to the «finger riff»), all about heaviness, rhythm and weight. And from that moment on everything was better and better.

Let’s have a quick look of what I liked about Superbeast.

  1. Why not start with the cover? So let’s start with the cover: nothing too special, but very good.
  2. Then the general mood, the album as a whole, as a proposition, the way it is played, with relaxed confidence, deriving from the precise knowledge of their abilities, and still with enough urgency and need, with no distraction in any of its part. Not just one single drop of tension.
  3. The sound (the guitar tone): big and good, hulky and dragging down.
  4. The riffs, of course: so many riffs, high-tonnage riffs, breaking-back riffs, stone-handed riffs…
  5. No splinters of the ‘Italian singing tradition’, which could be a real problem even for a heavy metal band – not the case, good, very good.
  6. A really nice taste for details, the little things you noticed behind the waves of heavy – effects, echoes, kicks, slides, and saturations.
  7. The way the drums, here and there, broke my neck.

So, there’s nothing I didn’t like? Actually there is just one regret: they had a fantastic coda ad libitum (in Slow Down), and they cut it short. If they asked me, I’d say to go on for at least ten minutes…

Yours heavily, mp

Megatherium, Superbeast, Andromeda Relix 2016.

 

Salva

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Schwermetall: Cobalt, «Slow Forever»

cobaltslowforeverI must confess that I landed, at last, on Cobalt between the woundrous Gin (2009) and the new album, Slow Forever (2016), which is another shining piece of metal art: a long double album packed with so many ideas that could have filled three, if not four different albums. You know I like the albums built upon a bunch of riffs repeated to infinity and beyond, but the variety here is so overwhelming and strong that it can’t be dismissed: at the end of each of the longest tracks it seems like an entire record is gone by, not just a song. The landscape is the same, but endlessly transforming, and growing like a tree with infinite branches.

Guitar and voice, like they belong to each other from the beginning. The guitar work is spectacular: although not particularly big in sound, Erik Wunder’s is a tough and rough guitar, nervous and agile, jumping from a riff to another, but also capable of the deepest dive: she often seems to get tired quick of the riff she just stumbled upon, and in need of roaming elsewhere. The voice is the perfect hat for that giant: aching and explosive, Charlie Fell’s vocals come in exactly where they’re needed, with even strenght and ferocity.

You realize quite soon, going down the twelve tracks, that there is no need of a genre’s label, or, if you just can’t go without it, that the word that unite us all is enough: heavy. Taking freely something from many of our beloved genres and subgenres, Slow Forever is heavy, quintessential and pure heavy, flattening ‘n’ grinding the listener from start to finish, with just a couple of acoustic breaths along the way. You can feel a sense of urgency, of running away from the fire – or into it –, that finds temporary relief in some furious and solid codas.

Despite its ingredients – the ones you can taste immediately, the ones you can guess in the back –, Slow Forever shines and sparkles with infectious vigor and power, and a very strange kind of irrefutable joy.

Cobalt, Slow Forever, Profound Lore Records 2016.

 

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Patience, prudence & care (Brunt, «Blackbeard»)

bruntblackbeardIt took a while for having new music from – as someone put it – «everyone’s favorite Guernsey hailing instrumental stoner metal favorite Brunt». More than a couple of years, actually, which nowadays may seem a lot of time, but now it’s all right: a new ep, Blackbeard, is here, with three lovingly crafted tracks that – as we all put it – keep growing with every listening.

The raw material, taken from the stoner-psych department, is quite simple – riffs, sound, songs’ structure, dynamics, avionics –, so, what I find really compelling is the final result: a brilliant example of – as you may put it – the sum of it being something more than the single parts put together. I like many things: the gestures I can imagine behind the music, the power of the riffs at full throttle (Blackbeard), the pauses, the grooves and the solos (Son of Smoke), the not too hidden taste for drone (Cetus), the heaviness capability (Cetus again), the togetherness of the usual trinity, I like how one idea – one riff – leads to another: with patience, prudence and care.

Brunt, Blackbeard, self-released 2016.

 

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A brief note on Faces of Bayon’s second album

FacesOfBayonFour long tracks – with an intermezzo – of heavy doom: heavy & gloomy. Ash and Dust Have No Dominion, which is already more than one year old, is a thick & dark sonic mass with neither frills, nor tricks. The vocal duties of every song – sometimes clean, more often growling – are quickly fulfilled, and then you can loose yourself in those stretched & persistent chains of riffs, following one another in a seemingly endless road. A remarkable drumming work, tense & diverse, lies at the side of that road, dotted here and there by biting guitar solos.

Everything’s in order, and just when you think you can file Faces of Bayon among others solid doom artisans, you arrive at So Mote It Be, the twenty minutes huge boulder that closes the album, and you can instantly feel the fire burning up.

You can jump in that fire, and let it cleanse you, because ash and dust will have no dominion.

Faces of Bayon, Ash and dust have no dominion, self released 2015.

Salva

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Uplifting heaviness: Slomatics, «Future Echo Returns»

FutureEchoReturnsDear friend,

the new album by Slomatics (a hyperpower sludge/doom trio from Belfast) isn’t just heavy. Future Echo Returns is perfectly and wonderfully heavy, and it’s the logical sequel to Estron (2014), but it isn’t just that. As soon as you get accustomed to the incredible level of heaviness provided by the first two tracks, you begin to feel something else. It must not go unnoticed, btw, the spectacular transition between those two tracks: from the furious chaos of Estronomicon’s ending (a title which marks strongly the link with the previous album) to the supersimple and superheavy riff of Electric Breath: a very, very simple rhythmic figure, but played with such strenght and sound to be put on repeat for hours (pure headbanging bliss, that kind of a blow I’m always awaiting to be knocked down).

Some tracks’ titles give you a clue of what’s happening: Ritual Beginning, Super Nothing, Into the Eternal. As the record goes on with the carpet bombing of riffs, you can feel, for instance, the heaviness of Electric Breath, which is definitely going downwards, deep in the ground, starting track by track to go upwards, into the air above. I wouldn’t call it spiritual doom, but as you get to Into the Eternal, with its chanting and slow procession  of big chords, you may hear something quite ritual, almost liturgical: an unexpected choral, an anthem to sing along.

I mentioned the previous album, Estron, and the ingredients of Future Echo Returns could easily be listed as the same – still, the results sound different, at least to me: they are seven Slomatics’ songs, brought to a higher level, higher and better. Many thing are quite the same, and at the same time they are quite better, they are ‘perfected’.

And there is this very interesting ambiguity, this strange, exciting uplifting heaviness which seems to me a major accomplishment. Outstanding.

Yours heavily, mp

Slomatics, Future Echo Returns, Black Bow Records 2016.

 

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A few notes on Hammerhands’ new album, «Largo Forte»

LargoForte1. I remembered quite well Glaciers, their previous album, especially for the heaviness, the good ol’ heaviness, which I always like when is deeply rooted in some band’s intention. So, I was very glad when I heard from canadian quartet Hammerhands about a new album, Largo Forte.

2. The title, btw, is quite curious, combining two musical notations, one of tempo (the slowest), the other of expression. It seems like a plan, a declaration. Though HH play always forte, they don’t play always largo (they play from adagio to andante con moto).

3. The cover, btw, is also very nice.

4. You’ve just begun to taste the album when you are presented with the hugest track of the record, a wild beast, aptly named Thunderchunk. Here you have everything you need in terms of power, devastation, and riffs. Excellent.

5. Then comes a ‘song’, High Plains, a heavy march, but definitely a ‘song’, quite enjoyable too. And all of a sudden you don’t know any longer what to expect, which is always a good thing.

6. You’re going to have two other ‘songs’, and another huge block of heaviness, screams and riffs. A bit of sonic chaos is still there, for instance in Mezzo Grave, and at the end of Darkerness (and the memory goes to the half a hour long Equus track on Glaciers).

7. When guitars and vocals go their way, trying less usual paths for a heavy metal album, you can always count on the beloved couple of drums & bass for exceptionally strong foundations.

8. Constant changing is the key to Largo Forte, constant transmutation of the heavy in as many forms as you can put in a record, until the last of the three ‘songs’, aptly titled The Hardest Thing, which ends the album with a kind of a night-club heavy farewell sung by a Tom Waits gone sludge.

9. I didn’t get from Largo Forte exactly what I was expecting, but I’m grateful to HH for this, and for what I got, which is new, powerful, and quite promising for what might come.

Hammerhands, Largo Forte, self-released 2016.

 

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Somewhere down: Trapped Within Burning Machinery; Crawl; Monuments of Urn (Promenade métallique # 48)

TheFifthElement  RiseFeastBroken

My dear friend,

I think I’ve already told  you that I like albums, that I try to think in terms of albums. Still, no shame in getting stuck sometimes in single tracks. This weeks, for instance, I got really stuck in three quite long tracks, for no particular reasons, but that they are very good and well meant.

The first one is a funeral doom song, taken btw from an excellent funeral doom album: it’s the opening track, Leeloo, of Trapped Within Burning Machinery’s second album, The Fifth Element, which I think completely deserves your darkest attention. It has almost everything that is needed: the mandatory lenght, just under 15’; the slow chanting introduction; the mighty riff – well, really mighty, able to support almost ten minutes of repetitions and variations; the screams, the despair & the glide towards the low end; the epic feeling; the crescendo into diminuendo ending. It may seem that I’m talking about an average f-d track: definitely not! Because everything is put together with a lot of sense & sensibility. You can easily restart it how many times you want – and that riff is really made of stone.

The second one is a huge slab of drone/doom, signed by Claw, a powerful trio of gentlemen from Atlanta, Georgia. It’s called Rise. Feast, and it’s a 18’ track published as a single. Built upon a very little sonic cell, deeply explored and exploited, it’s a beautiful exercise in obstinacy, which you know I like a lot. It’s a dark string meditation, slowly descending like a spiral towards a black subterranean lake of resounding nothingness.

And then we have the seventh one-track ep from the quite mysterious, and prolific (I urge you to explore everything), New England one-man-band Monument of Urns: Broken. A 20’ dark pit of sludge/drone/doom, with no windows, no air, no light. What is there to like here, you may ask. Don’t ask, just drown in the sound, in the raw, rough & restless sound that seems to gush from some kind of being trapped down below.

Yours heavily, mp

Trapped Within Burning Machinery, Leeloo, in The Fifth Element, Midnite Collective 2015; Crawl, Rise. Feast, Stone Groove Records, 2016; Monument of Urns, Broken, Hand Hewn Timbre 2015.

 

Salva

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Into Black Air: Disrotted, «Divination»

DisrottedDivinationDear friend,

I remembered them well from the last year, with their self titled debut. Well, to be honest, if you’d asked me, I’d say I remembered the heaviness, and this is what I just found again in their second album. Yes, Divination by the Chicago trio Disrotted is all about heaviness – sublime, unadulterated, sheer heaviness.

You may argue that this does not come as a surprise, as far as I’m writing to you about heavy metal. Well, yes, but not every heavy metal band build their house just on the heavy. Disrotted do, at maximum level and with excellent results.

Aside from the strange and unsettling interlude of Beneath the Earth, you are presented with three long tracks (the last one very long) saturated with a quite perfect string tone, tortured growls and screams, and a colossal drumming (and we all know that slow drumming is way more difficult). Then you have the riffs: three slow giga-riffs going endlessly downwards, just a step before absolute stillness.

Droning with such a heavy sonic material is not easy, but they succeeded in combining the two drives, and at the end of this enormous digging, at the end of the beautiful and epic sixteen minutes of The Arcane Oath you find yourself somewhere very deep but also unexpectedly breathing.

Yours heavily, mp

Disrotted, Divination, Nerve Altar 2016.

 

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Background radiation: Ommadon, «Fundamentalist Drone»

OmmadonVIIMy dear friend,

you can either consider Ommadon’s music of the space, or music of the Earth, but in both cases you have to add ‘deep’ – deep in the outer space, or deep down in the ground (and maybe also deep in time). The music of Glasgow drone/doom duo (Mr David Tobin & Mr Ewan Mackenzie) comes from ‘somewhere’, it is the record of a place where primal elements confront themselves.

I’ll put an end to this silly flow of metaphores, but let me say that the cathartic power of their sonic Behemoths is huge – not easy, if you are not accustomed to such dark musical explorations, but rewarding.

A perfect example of what I’m trying to say are the hypnotic 36 minutes of their last output, Fundamentalist Drone, which you can find in their split lp, titled Crumbling Experience, with Legion of Andromeda. A grandiose black river of noise (guitar & keys), flowing without interruptions, coming from and ending in some sort of background radiation. There is not just one ‘current’ in this river: you can hear collapses, deviations, bongs & demolitions. The sound is always moving, shifting, and carrying you away. And as it seems to get heavier and heavier… you just feel lighter.

As with the previous installments of their journey, I want very much to hear where Ommadon will go next.

Yours heavily, mp

Ommadon, Fundamentalist Drone, in Crumbling Existence, At War with False Noise 2016.

 

Salva

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