Posts Tagged ‘Metal’

Dhidalah

Japanese power trio Dhidalah makes use of greater expanses on their new album; each side contains a side-long stare into the mouth of the volcano, and each track in turn burns away the worrisome flesh and then cools the wound with the cosmic rays of the space’s empty void. The band has studied their heavy-psych playbook, found the flay and cut fast and precise for the major arteries in any listener. They’ve spent some time honing up on space rock’s gravitational pull too. Though they understand that the eight ton hammer is effective and blistering riffs are key, they know that running the stew through a strainer of effects and sonic swirl can have a very pleasing effect on the output.

The first side is the seismic crack in the crater, a whallop of Thor’s hammer to the surface and the fallout of destruction that ripples in it’s wake. The title track, on the flip, is where they really begin to find the nuance in those cold, lonely ripples of space. The build in the first few minutes is tranquil, languid, a peaceful respite acting as somewhat of an eye in the hurricane of No Water. Then comes the second wave of destruction, heavier than the first wave, less furious, but with a much more menacing crush. The band covers a lot of ground in just two tracks, but for doom a single monolithic track has always presented an opportunity to stretch out. Dhidalah are proving here that they’re just as much a part of the dark pantheon as Earthless, Sleep or High On Fire.

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Whores.

I was sorely missing out on Whores. until a friend tipped me to their last EP, Clean., which was an acerbic, taut blast of metal that tore through the AmRep soundbook, picking up cues cinched down to the block cut design of the sleeves. The band has an obvious affinity for Jesus Lizard, Melvins and Helmet style riffs with little room for flourish and an intent to pummel the listener within an inch of their life. They continue the legacy laid out on their EPs with, Gold, their debut LP proper. The record was, in fact, produced by Ryan Boesch who has helmed releases for both Helmet and The Melvins, so they’re not missing a beat on the completeness of their heart-on-sleeve influences. But the band is more than just a welcome trip back to ’90s glory days of heat-fused amp rippers and sensible black check flannel. They’re pulling from a wave that knew how to fold the non-metalhead into a show and let them loose. Back when grunge and metal bedded down in the same venues, there was room for both Nirvana and Metallica fans in the Corrosion of Conformity pits. Gold feels like a page out of this egalitarian mosh meeting.

Just like the aforementioned touchstones (Helmet, Jesus Liz, etc), the band’s strength lies in the ability to craft light and heat into catchy bits that knock you flat on your ass, then won’t let your brain shank the riffs for the next 24 hours. There’s something about the grunge grind of catchy but crunchy metal that’s got a timeless feel to it, like it always just existed to run an engine of thrash on a tall boy of King Cobra, primed, pumped and dumped into a Kelly green Camaro on an endless stretch of highway. Gold pulls not a single punch and there’s no note wasted in its tight set of ten songs. They’re economical but efficient, that’s for certain. The band kicks hard to the sternum with each new song, and thankfully, along with their crisp delivery, they eschew many of metal’s trappings of angst, excess or self-importance. Anger they’ve got, intensity, you bet, and they dole it out with the skill of a welder fusing iron beams to support a massive weight. Gold delivers on the promise the band’s been making with live shows and short form releases for the past few years and if you’ve been missing out on the heavier side of things until now or need a reason to scream it out this week, this might be a perfect point to dive back in.


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Pentagram – First Daze Here

If ever there was a woulda-been, shoulda-been in metal’s history, its Pentagram. The band formed and reformed time an again from 1971 and 1985, when their first official album was released. The intervening years are what brought them to prominence, finding footing in D.C. and hacking out a sound that would grow thicker and more indebted to Black Sabbath over time. First Daze Here, however, is focused on that early period before they’d finally coalesce. Recorded on the cheap in several studios across D.C., the collection had been formed and remastered by Relapse in the early aughts and is now making its way to vinyl. The sounds here are more indebted to an evolution out of garage, finding their way through The Groundhogs and into Blue Cheer’s fuzzy embrace on the path to total Sabbath immersion. There’s a second collection that gets further into the garagey beginnings but its not as hard hitting or as revelatory as First Daze Here. Much as its interesting to hear an early Pentagram cover Syndicate of Sound’s “Little Games” its much more indicative where they’d find their start to hear “When The Screams Come” or “Review Your Choices”.

The doom metal they’d ultimately use as a calling card began to crawl out of these songs. Eventually, amid so many lineup shifts its a bit hard to keep track, the band evolved and became the force that emerged on Relentless. Their debut still stands as a classic talisman to metal heads with ears that were wider ranging in the ’80s than what graced the radio dial. Pentagram laid the groundwork for a new wave of doom metal to poke its head through the sand as the ’80s would wear into the ’90s and eventually birth the type of fare that Southern Lord built their house upon. There are even some clearer versions here of the band’s classics. I’d wager that the version of “20 Buck Spin” on First Daze Here carries more weight than the Relentless version, and definitely speaks to the influences at play in the song better than the shoddy production work on their more well known recording. Its been around the block at this point, but for those with History of Metal 101 on the syllabus in perpetuity, this is a vital vinyl snag to be sure.



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Black Rainbows

I’ll admit it, I have a soft spot for Stoner Metal when done right. Too much sludge and it gets bogged down, too many blistering riffs and it hews too close to 80’s cheese, but when its that right mix of pounding drums and smoke thick guitar, fuzzed to hell and riding tempos like sand dunes into oblivion, then its perfect for blasting through the speakers on any given afternoon. Italy’s Black Rainbows are five albums deep at this point and offshoot band Killer Boogie throws down some serious riffs as well, so its clear that by now propulsive force Gabriele Fiori knows his way around the dank corners of 70’s metal worship. On his latest, Stellar Prophecy, there’s plenty of mile high guitars, stacked and smoking with the mix of Black Sabbath/Blue Cheer stomp that’s expected, but he’s gone the mile roping in the mystical qualities and prog instincts that charmed bands like Wolfmother into the hearts and minds of public consciousness back in the early aughts. For sheer the volume blasted swirling psychedelic bedroom warriors out there this is a perfect fit. This one’s for the blacklight poster set, hiding out and letting volume eradicate any of the day’s wrinkles and worries.




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S to S – S to S

Proof there’s still gems to be found in an age of countless reissues and rarities. S to S were a Belgian band that straddled the bounds of hard rock and proto-punk. Their sole album was recorded in ’77 and released in ’78 on their own Overcome label in an edition of just 300 copies. The band formed out of the ashes of Etna, another Belgian band that brothers Fulvio and Mirco Cannella were in prior. When that band folded the brothers decided to pare down their setup and push into a power trio with drummer George Abry. The sound was rooted in pounding drums, fuzz riffs that could peel paint and a pace that pushed them well past the normal late 70’s boogie blues knockoffs.

Exchanging studio time for help building the studio itself, they hooked up with producer Michel Dickenscheid who had a huge hand in shaping the fuzz sound by building a set of fuzz pedals used on the album. The band nudges themselves into late Hawkwind territory, finding that sweet spot where Lemmy got a bit more leeway before splitting himself to form Motörhead. There’s also a bit of Leaf Hound’s smoke hangover in there as well and The MC5 at their more reigned in. The band weren’t fans of the logo added to the LP jacket, a move made by their manager at the time and with its connotations of the SS, and I can see why they’d chafe to that as well. The dispute over the logo delayed the album’s release. Once the album was released they pressed on through the 80’s, though with multiple lineup changes and no other official release. This one stands as a nugget lost to time and perfect for those proto-punk enthusiasts who think that the well is running dry these days.



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Messa

This Italian foursome is picking up the yoke of doom and pulling the cart into the half light of a blood moon. The band’s debut Belfry on Aural Music is a crushing blast of apocalypse scented metal that’s given a bit of a reprieve from becoming leaden by the coven croon of their singer, who goes by the singular Sara. The band uses the term Scarlet Doom and that’s not off base, the guitars grind with the sulfurous heat of High On Fire and the opener “Alba” is straight out of the Sunn o))) tome of seismic ramble but there’s light in the mix and the vocals keep Belfry from sliding into the cavern of sludge that can sometimes earmark the genre. They have a crossover appeal to psych folk’s harvest rituals, though pushed into much darker territory. The band also seem to feel this kinship, citing a love for Pentagram and letting the closer, “Confess,” strip back the cinder smoke of of the rest of the album to just pair vocals and guitar for a quiet slide into the mire.

Messa kneel at the altar of doom metal but they don’t always stay, there’s plenty of heavy thrash on “Hour of the Wolf” that pushes tempos and knocks a few of the thunderheads out of the sky. “Blood” dabbles with woodwind and brass buzzes that dip even further into the psych-folk connection and tip into psychedelics as well. The band really is pulling from all edges and painting them black with doom’s influence, and that willingness to experiment makes this feel like a refreshing update on riff worship and self-serious hooded doom bands, not that the band don’t feel deadly serious in their incantations, they just feel like they have a richer well to tap.


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Zig Zags

Zig Zags are back with a follow up and its fodder for those that loved the first. If you were a metal kid that fell in with the punks, then every inch of Running Out of Red is prime listening. The album is raw, but with a knife edge. Producer Chris Woodhouse gives the album a spit sheen that glints off the jacket studs of the heaviest head in the pit. At its heart, though, the album is soaked in beer and sweat and denim and something tells me that the L.A. crew would have it no other way. There’s plenty who pack in the heavy riffs, especially in Castle Face’s ever expanding roster, but Zig Zags are bringing the fiery solos and and the raised fist rumble like no one else in that stable.

The genius of Running Out Of Red is that every song seems like it could soundtrack a chase sequence in Maximum Overdrive. The band’s been to the alter and made an offering and now they’re just bringing back unburdened garage metal for those who want speed and spit and to just not think for 30 minutes of unadulterated shred. I can practically smell the studio in each take, and that grease caked, leather punch has been sorely lacking of late. If this year’s general turmoil is any indication of entropic slide into the void, Zig Zags seem like a pretty good soundtrack for the chaos. Note perfect to burn it all down.




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Like Rats

So normally my tastes in metal run more to those that have a bit of love for the complex; space rock flecks, doom breakdowns or proggish undertones, but there’s something to be said for sure for an all out brutal assault on the senses. Like Rats pulls from hardcore and black metal in equal cupfuls and while the vocals gargle gravel with the angriest of tormented souls, the aural barrage underneath is a taut and unrelenting in its attack. Its absolutely impossible not to feel beaten and bruised after one listen through II and from that beating springs catharsis. I’m a sucker for an album with cover art that perfectly encapsulates the feelings of the album it drapes and, here, the creeping mountain fog of II is an all too ominous nod to the overwhelming doom and despair that underpins tracks like “Gates” and “Grief Incarnate.” That sense of dread hits right at home here and elevates this album from the amassed pack of black metal growlers. By the closing strains of II there’s a physical toll on the body and mind and if that isn’t the sign of a great album, I can’t think of what is.




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Mammatus

Long an RSTB favorite, Mammatus returns with an album that showcases their ability to swerve from tranquil space-outs to crushing guitar heft in the course of a song. Though in this case, those songs have plenty of space to work with, with all of Sparkling Waters edging past the fifteen minute mark per track, the band aren’t exactly churning out pop ditties. But what they are doing is stretching towards the horizon line with gentle cosmic thrust on the opener. Yawning like the seascape that adorns the cover, it opens into a mix of syths, flute and the far off rumble of percussion that whips into a tempest by the time the track closes. As the track builds they bend the formless eddies into craggy bits of Krautrock fed metal squall still underpinned with windswept keys but now churning like waterspout off the Bermuda coast. The take another turn through Kosmiche and crunch on Part 2 before they turn up the heat. The second LP brings more bite than the first, re-centering the band’s roots in heaviness and giving the guitar gluttons something to chew on, but they never give in to riff fully, bending and shaping both sides into movement based epics with an appreciation for Prog’s footprint. The album is an ambitious step forward for the band but it never turns into a sprawling excuse to just jam over four sides of wax, rather it winds up just the kind of album that gatefolds were made to hold, a space opera that glows and growls through four sides with a pure sense of ebb and flow.

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