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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Intensity & Intention: Monoliths, «Monoliths»

MonolithsDear friend,

sometimes it’s like when you read a recipe: you consider the ingredients, and then, after a quick thought, you’d say: this must be good. Same thing with Monoliths (btw, as a metalhead, let me dream of a world where everybody is able and willing to discuss similarities and differences between Monoliths, Monolithe and Monolith): when I read that Byrne from Bismuth, Tobin from Ommadon & Davies from Moloch, to quote their words, «came together in Nottingham through a love of raw and heavy metal [to] play heavy and slow. No plan, no goals, just riffs», I said: this must be awfully good.

And it is.

You may ask in which ways this could be called ‘good’. Well, in several ways, actually.

First of all I always find exciting when you can hear the birth of the riff, starting from the raw material sunk in the feedback: it takes nearly three minutes to the three guys to extract and set in motion the riff of the first track – quite aptly titled Perpetual motion –, and then you have it: a black engine (a «monster of a traction engine», as Paul Quinn of «Ghost Cult» says), a reactor with unlimited fuel that can take you really down below.

Moreover the doom is definitely there, in that half an hour of music. It’s the kind of doom I like the most: heavy but not too angry, serious but not stuffy, obstinate but vast, slow but not motionless. With the strong use of repetition comes also a strong sense of drone, which is always the testbed for the power of the riff.

Then you have a sharp sense of spontaneity and need – the noise of the strings (and the drums) being played with as much intensity and intention as possible. Still, you can easily imagine them playing their riffs for ever, as if there were nothing else left to do.

As you can see, I always try to find poor words for what is just good metal, very good doom in this case, so let’s say that Monoliths sounds like a powerful and healthy radiation, and let’s hope this is just the beginning.

Yours heavily, mp

Monoliths, Monoliths, Dry Cough Records 2016.

 

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Sweet doom: Goatess, «Purgatory Under New Management»

PurgatoryUnderNewManagementDear friend,

you know that I don’t make comparisons any longer: don’t ask me that. I don’t say they’re wrong, it’s just that I don’t care. It’s quite obvious that my ears – everybody’s ears – are ful of past riffs & screams, and they pop up when I’m listening to something new, but it’s always what I’m hearing that matters.

So, I cannot find a single flaw in Purgatory Under New Management, Goatess’ second album. On the contrary, I’ve found a lot of good things, substantial things & tiny details, beyond the obvious homage to the masters. Everything is meticulously crafted, and you can get a precise idea of that since the first track, Moth to Flame, the longest one, unusually placed at the beginning: you get the riff, the very nice bass line, the perfect verses, the doom, the psych flavour, the drone too, the sound, the sum of all these things. It’s a very good track, and it’s just the beginning.

Almost every other song is able to start again just when you think it’s done, and every track has something set aside for you. It could be a bridge as simple as good and the perfect vocals on Murphy Was an Optimist; the drone temptation of Crocodilians; the coda of Shadowland; the riffing on Silent War; and so on until the very end: till the catchiness of Good Moaning

The ease of the flow is quite admirable, as it is the musicianship; I’d say this is smiling doom, it’s dark but not desperate, it’s thick but not suffocating. Sometimes you need it just like that, you need Goatess.

Yours heavily, mp

Goatess, Purgatory Under New Management, Svart Records 2016.

 

Salva

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A big snake: Omega Monolith, «Fungus»

FungusDear friend,

sometimes I feel immediately at home in a record. More often because of the sound, more  rarely because of what is being said, and I don’t mean the lyrics. In Fungus, second album by Greek duo Omega Monolith, there are no lyrics at all, but there’s definitely a speech, a discourse, and I’ve founded myself listening to it attentively since the first notes. Their music is a way of thinking, and I liked it a lot.

I would say, first of all, start from the very beginning, take your time, and develop every idea without haste; when you land on something, stick to it, because it’s only with enough repetitions that you can squeeze some meaning from a (musical) idea; try specific ingredients out of their usual context, and let be taken away by the power of compulsiveness.

Fungus is a very serious record, deeply rooted in drone and repetition, and offering a wide spectrum of sounds, ideas, and wisely chosen effects, with a lot of things going on under the surface, especially in the rhythm department. Fungus is a big, hypnotic snake that wrapped you in its coils and rock you to oblivion (no surprise that at its centre you find a Rust Cohle sample). It’s heavy, when needed, it’s mysterious and coming from who-knows-where (the beginning of The Future is Gone), it’s cryptic (the first minutes of The Past is Now), it’s quite often surprising.

You have to be really sure of what you’re doing to avoid a single second of bore, and OM succed at this without any sign of effort: they mean exactly what they’re playing. I’d bet they’re really satisfied with Fungus – they should.

Yours heavily, mp

Omega Monolith, Fungus, 3 Shades of Black 2016.

 

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Elegant moves: Messa, «Belfry»

BelfryMy dear friend,

you know sometimes – quite often – I get stuck with a riff, or with a little detail. It’s quite common for a metalhead: after a couple of listenings, the whole album is almost forgotten, and you keep coming back to the same song, over and over, the counter flies, and in a while you would like that particular piece of metal to be heard in every corner of the town, night and day. Your inner-headbanging never stops, your inner-air-guitaring sometimes reaches the surface.

I owe the last occurrence of this brilliant phenomenon to Italian doomsters Messa, and to their first lp Belfry. It’s a good album, actually very good: well written, assembled, played & sung, and I’d like to write to you about its many virtues: the classic feeling, the riff outfit, the unusual episodes, the burning guitar solos (including several nice hommages, to the Skynyrds for instance), the clarinet & the sax (Blood is excellent), the nice cover and the rain, etc., but… But this evening two of its riffs took the stage, and now I hear only them, anything but them: the main riff of Babalon, and the second riff of Outermost.

So, get the album, but first I urge you to listen to those riffs: they are open-winged, they have a sad smile, a melancholic twist, they are a little slower than what you could expect, they are sticky like glue, and elegant like an old man move.

Yours heavily, mp

Messa, Belfry, Aural Music 2016.

 

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Shining black: Fórn, «Weltschmerz»

WeltschmerzDear friend,

names are relevant, so Weltschmerzla douleur du monde – by Fórn grabbed immediately my attention. On top of that I remember very well The Departure of Consciousness, their first album back in 2014, and I was expecting a new demonstration of huge riffing mastery: well, I got it, and much more. Made of two tracks (Saudade and Dolor, so you definitely got the concept), divided in two parts each, Weltschmerz is a quite perfect exercise in funeral sludge/doom: slow, when you have to be slow in order to move heavy loads; deep, when you can only go deeper; black, like its cover; clear, when you need a pause; vast, as the seas of feedback you have to sail; painful, like the growl that resonates down there.

Weltschmerz has a particular narrative quality, it is like an Eighteenth century symphonic poem, where every traditional element of our beloved doom conjures to make you see something in addition of what you hear. From this point of view, Dolor (Part II), which closes the album, is something that can’t be dismissed as just «atmosphere»: it’s the logical conclusion of what came before. It’s a really evocative record, without being abstract, because underneath every shade, and every desperate scream, you can always hear guitars, bass & drums (the drums!).

I said I was expecting huge riffing… well, you won’t forget what rises up in front of you, of us all, at 4’52” of Dolor (Part I): the sound of a mountain on the move.

Yours heavily, mp

Fórn, Weltschmerz, Gilead Media 2016.

 

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