Castle_Welcome to the Graveyard

Welcome to the Graveyard was easily one of my most hotly anticipated releases of the year. As a big fan of Castle‘s eclectic take on occult doom rock since their 2011 debut, I couldn’t wait to see what they would come up with after 2014’s mammoth Under Siege. Said album showed an interesting progression in their style and an overall streamlining of their sound and that continues here in small ways as we get another high-quality dose of moody, dark tales spun by the creative powerhouse duo of vocalist/bassist Elizabeth Blackwell and guitarist Matt Davis. It’s classic Castle but a bit more stripped down while somehow remaining intriguingly nuanced. It’s also quite heavy and yet deeply soulful. And the paradoxes are rampant as Castle‘s deft touch pays big dividends and assures them a place apart from the rest of the occult doom genre for yet another release cycle. Let’s see why!

Welcome is an admirably short, concise album clocking in just shy of 40 minutes and they use every second to effectively paint their grim tapestries. Opener “Black Widow” erupts with simple but impactful riffing and when Elizabeth’s passionate bellow appears, all is right in the metal world. The song has a strong 80s Sacrilege vibe and reeks of vests and trveness and wow, that chorus is something else. This may be one of the best tunes Castle has penned to date and it sucks you into the album.

Follow up “Hammer and the Cross” is a slow burner with malice, edge and Sabbath-y riffs aplenty. Elizabeth’s vocals are ominous and powerful and when she declares “I am the hammer,” you definitely believe her. Davis uncorks a series of interesting guitar embellishments, most of them just little details and flourishes rather than showy solos and the whole song is based around dramatic leads and fat grooves. The title track is slightly more sedate but very moody and eerie with a strong 60s rock vibe and the chorus is so simple but so effective it should be dissected and examined fully. Other gripping moments arrive with the rocked out power of “Flash of the Pentagram” which could have been on their debut, the gripping dark balladry of “Down in the Cauldron Bog,” and the odd Jefferson Airplane-like hippie flower power of closer “Natural Parallel” where Elizabeth gets to spread her wings and soar vocally.

Castle_2016

There is no filler or weak tracks, but a few songs fall a bit below the high levels heard on stellar albums like Blacklands and Under Siege. Another issue is the production, which is a somewhat muddy. It isn’t a deal breaker by any means, but a bit more clarity would really bring the little details out in a positive way.

Elizabeth Blackwell remains one of my favorite vocalists and she spends much of Welcome reminding me exactly why. Her delivery is more and more like that of Janice Joplin with each release, but she has a much darker, more ghoulish side to her voice than Ms. Joplin ever did. There’s just something about her voice that hypnotizes and terrorizes and she gets better over time. Wily and unorthodox guitarist Matt Davis is the perfect match for her voice, wrapping her vocals in what seem like simple riffs and ideas, but they have surprisingly depth and grace. He’s always been good at crafting the odd, offbeat lead, but as time goes on he’s perfecting an understated but unusual playing style that really rewards attentive listening. Take the title track for example – the riffs themselves are the height of simple but they stick so deep. They’re a potent pair musically and it informs every song.

I doubt there will ever be a bad Castle album. They simply have too much working in their favor to fail and that’s not something I would say about many acts. Welcome to the Graveyard features some of their best songs, but overall it’s a slight drop off from prior outings, though that black magic is still flowing strong. If you haven’t caught onto Castle yet, you’re not taking a thing about your career as a metal fan seriously and I just won’t stand for that. Hear this, feel the power and glory and put on the vest!


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: heavycastle.com | facebook.com/castleSF
Releases Worldwide: July 15th, 2016

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  • AnnieK13

    Love these guys – looking forward to listening to the whole album.

  • GardensTale

    I barely ever listen to metal with female vocals. I listen to a couple of bands with women singing but that’s mostly stuff like Florence & the Machine, MS MR, The Joy Formidable, non-metal stuff like that. Diablo Swing Orchestra is the only exception I can think of.

    This sounds good though! Very Black Sabbath. The master even sounds like it was recorded in a shed in the early seventies. I might need to check out more of this.

    • For doom and female vocals, Demon Lung are pretty damn good. It’s a shame that A Dracula didn’t get a review here or on Last Rites. :(

      • GardensTale

        Female doomy stuff I did enjoy was Black Math Horseman though it never really stuck

    • Dethjesta
    • Reese Burns

      Occultation are the only female-fronted band I’m really into. Never was able to put my finger on why I can’t dig female vocals, but for what it’s worth, Occultation are definitely worth checking out.

      • Name’s Dalton

        Anyone heard Helms Alee? Male/female vox. Both can let it rip.

        Immortal Bird is also pretty fkn awesome.

        • Reese Burns

          Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll look into them

    • brklyner

      I guess if you’re not into it I won’t be able to change your mind, nor would I want to. I saw Sabbath Assembly recently and they were really tight, with Jamie Myers vocals nailing the occult highs and especially lows about as well as any singer could, male or female. But I also like the less occult Lucifer, Witch Mountain and Royal Thunder, not to mention Messa. No shortage of great vocalists, IMHO.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Two words for you: Jex Toth

        • brklyner

          Listening to them now and so far I like what I hear. Thanks!

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            You’re welcome!

        • FutureBeyondSatan

          Also, check out Purson.

      • De2013

        Yes, Messa indeed. Also Alunah.

        • lennymccall

          Alunah is one of my huge faves right now. Can not wait for the new record they are recording.

    • bolok

      Check out tombstone crow, they’re pretty cool loud groovey/thrashy band and vocalist Debi lisle has the got a really brutal sound, she’s the kind of gal that’l swig a beer and punch you in the face. They’re awesome live

  • What, Steel likes his metal so thick with nostalgia you can cut it with a knife?

    The real story here is that Stevie Floyd of the duo Dark Castle (founded in 2005) is totally going to beat up Lizzy Blackwell for being so unoriginal as soon as I can get my dreams to come true.

  • Gaëtan Baratin

    They pushed the Sabbath worship to the point of using almost the same font as them for their album name!

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Finally I can give their last album a break and play this one to death instead!

  • Ed Howard-Jones

    Okay AMG, at this point it feels like you’re not updating the ROTM because you want Pale Communion to stay on the front page. We’re onto you.

    • Reese Burns

      Anyone got their predictions for the Record of the Month yet? Not much has jumped out at me this month.

      • ferrousbeuller

        If I were a betting man (and unfortunately for my children, I am) I’d say probably Inter Arma or Fates Warning; they were both great.
        Personally, I’ve been loving the tits off Spellcaster, Bat and The Vision Bleak, too.

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          The Vision Bleak! Spellcaster kicks ass too.

          • ferrousbeuller

            I thought the Thrawsunblat was great, too, but the album I’ve played most this month has to be The Vision Bleak. Those beautiful bastards.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            Yeah, I am also really enjoying Thrawsunblat. Great stuff.

        • Reese Burns

          Actually, I forgot about Be’Lakor somehow. If it were up to me, that’d get it.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        I really like the Fates Warning it’s also the only one I can think of that AMG might make RotM

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    I like their official URL. It works because I’ve only seen one castle that wasn’t heavy, and that was the inflatable one I rented. Those things weigh a good bit with air in them of course, but against my better judgment I invited Tom Brady to the party and it became much lighter. Really deflated the mood.

    • As a fan of the Jets, I am forced to endorse this comment.

      • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

        I’ve always been partial to Benny.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      You are unbelievable…

  • AngryMetalBird

    that song is pretty good, I’m looking forward to the album. apart from that…. WHERE is the album o’the month for June?! I DEMAND it NOW!

  • Morten

    Can’t say I’ve heard the album Under Attack. Under Siege on the other hand is a great album.

    • Yep, you got me there. Must be that Destruction album rattling in my brain.

  • Pacal

    I saw them live for the second time last weekend and they were even better than before, which was already really great! Also got a chance to talk to Liz and Matt for a while before/after the show; great people.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I don’t get the Janis Joplin comparison at all… Besides both being female singers.

    • I hear it.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I guess I’ll have to listen to more Castle, I didn’t get it from the embedded track.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      She doesn’t have the range of Janis but I get it.
      She has a bit of a rasp to her voice and a raw gutsy quality that Janis had. Also there’s a bit of a drawl that sits back or slides across the music kinda like she might be a bit drunk. Janis had that quality (Janis probably was)… I really like her vocals on their last record there where times I though she sounded like an interesting combination of early Ozzy / Janis / Jinx Dawson and even a bit of Lemmy!

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Like I said before, I guess I’ll have to listen to more Castle…

  • dblbass23

    Their first 2 albums REALLY kick some ass. I love the drums on those 2 albums. Double bass drums…..not the solid db riff…but the odd drum riff that utilizes both kick drums. If you’re a drummer…you know what I’m saying. Anyway…..I love this band!!

  • Tom Hardy

    No disrespect to you Steely, but I’d be curious to read a Castle review by someone who hasn’t written the other Castle reviews on the site. Fresh perspective is all.

    • No deal!

      • Tom Hardy

        Haha fair enough mate.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Great review, I’m getting some nice Danzig feels from Hammer and Cross. The guitar is Christ like…
    I really like these guys they impress with a simple formulae of straight up G/B/D/V and good song writing.
    I just hope they put this one up in Bandcamp

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    In both pictures and videos Elizabeth Blackwell looks… deranged. In a way you can’t fake. Or is it just me?

    • 26milez .

      Deranged and sexy!

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        So, you find deranged to be sexy, you naughty boy! ;)

  • De2013

    ‘If you haven’t caught onto Castle yet, you’re not taking a thing about your career as a metal fan seriously and I just won’t stand for that.’

    Darnit, so far for my career then. Still the junior rookie I was all those years ago. That’s why I coming back here, learn new stuff. Thanks for the great review.