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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Darkness Department: Bethmoora, «Demo 2016»

BethmooraDemoDear friend,

the cathartic power of heavy metal is no mystery, it’s quite common experience actually. Its degree, though, can be very different, and you know something special is happening when you feel you are not just listening, even if you’re sitting at your table with your headphones on.

I got that feeling from Bethmoora’s Demo 2016, «a sludgy doom monster from the darkest depths of Copenhagen», in their own words. Black is the colour of this demo, black like a shiny cut of obsidian. You know from the first, dry chords that you are entering a menacing place, which becomes really unsettling when the vocals take the stage – distorted, desperate, and agonizing. Underneath them the usual gear seems to dig the ground with distinctive ferocity: no particular riff, just slow black heavy majestic chords stacked one on another, with a nice drony attitude which emerges especially in the second, outstanding track, Ousted.

You may think that you will be haunted by the sound of that voice… And yet, when the music’s over,  you find yourself cleansed, in a way; crushed, yet surprisingly lighter.

Bethmoora are not alone in this department of darkness, and yet they seem already mastering it. So, I hope this is just the beginning for them, although it seems like they play the music of the end.

Yours heavily, mp

Bethmoora, Demo 2016, self-released 2016.

 

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The handling of the heavy: Tombstones, «Vargariis»

VargariisIn their (relatively) new album, Vargariis, Tombstones show a distinctive quality, which had already hit me since the previous record (Red Skies and Dead Eyes, 2013): you keep on coming back to their sludgy doom, and give it another listen, and then another one, just for the pleasure of it, and so on. I’d love to find the exact musical reason for this coming back, for these repetitive listenings, but the only thing that I can point out for sure is their excellent «handling of the heavy» – which may sound obvious for a heavy metal band, but it’s not. The Norwegian trio knows exactly how to deal with heaviness, how to conjure it and carry it along, how to crush without choking, how to shake you down without burying you.

It’s all clear from from the beginning, since that single note that opens Barren Fields, a relaxed, self-assured, heavy note, which stands like a foundation, a clear statement, and then evolves throughout the entire track until the pacey ending (Tombstones are very good also at ending songs). Heaviness is the North of their compass, they always come back to it from their detours (the bluesy ones are quite good), and every little cue could be the starting of another rumbling feast, despite the structure of the song – little phrases, a storm of chords, the ghost of a riff (go to minute 3 of …and when the Heathen strive, Vargariis rise). The tone is always there: a nice, muddy, saturated tone; which is not just a matter of the guitar tone – although it’s a big part of it –, but the result of the three main ingredients (best results can be heard at the end of The Dark High and during Pyre of the Cloth): when they’re done with vocals, they hammer you down with undistracted focus – and that’s what we like the most, don’t we?

Tombstones, Vargariis, Soulseller Records 2015.

 

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