Doom Metal

Devil – Time to Repent Review

Devil – Time to Repent Review

Ghost may have unintentionally triggered a little retro within retro trend with their well received Opus Eponymous debut. The similar acts are already starting to pop up like evil mushrooms and Norway’s Devil is one of the first. Their debut Time to Repent harkens back to all things 70’s and its melodic doom rock all day long. They wield a sound that falls somewhere between Black Sabbath’s Vol. 4 and the NWOBHM vibe of Witchfinder General with a few traces of old Pentagram mixed in. I’m sure that sounds like a heady brew to many loyal readers (not AMG though, he hates blues-based doom like I hate light beer). Time to Repent offers up eight tales of sorcery, evil women, open graves and all such good family fun. It’s stripped down, simplistic, melodic and not the kind of doom that crushes you or brings on bouts of crippling despair. Instead, its very rock-based and groovy. While some of the material is worthwhile and shows real potential, more of it is pure amateur hour, cringe-worthy garage rock and unlikely to make anyone forget about Ghost anytime soon.

Sinister Realm – The Crystal Eye Review

Sinister Realm – The Crystal Eye Review

I think we’re finally approaching the tipping point for 80’s retro metal. By that I mean if these 80’s worship albums keep coming, the space-time continuum will shift and we’ll all get dumped back in the 80’s for reals. That would pose problems for me since I no longer own parachute pants and high tops. Despite the obvious perils we all face, if the retro releases sound as good as Sinister Realm, I’ll take my chances. These stalwart retro rockers from Pennsylvania released a killer self titled debut in 2009 and it was one of the best albums that year that no one knew about or heard. Undeterred, they rise again with The Crystal Eye and its more quality, righteous metal for the masses. Sounding like a mash up of Argus, Manowar, Cirith Ungol and Heaven and Hell era Black Sabbath, Sinister Realm excels at stripped down but classy traditional metal with a doom influence. Its straight forward, no nonsense, rocked out metal and I have to say, I love it. There’s more balls on display over the course of this album than a lot of bands show over a career. Simple at times, heavy all the time and exceptionally catchy, this may finally get these sinister ones some well deserved attention.

Ghost Brigade – Until Fear No Longer Defines Us

Ghost Brigade – Until Fear No Longer Defines Us

Another depressive, bleak band from Finland? What a surprise! Although they don’t seem to a band on everyone’s lips yet, Ghost Brigade have staked out their own little corner in the doom rock genre. Their first two albums were entertaining platters of doomy metal with a notable rock/post-rock edge and nods to death metal. Some lauded 2009’s Isolation Songs as a genre defining classic. I wouldn’t go quite that far but it had some great moments of downcast unhappiness. Along comes Until Fear No Longer Defines Us and they’ve really outdone themselves and reached a whole new level. Featuring a more laid back (but still highly morose) sound, Ghost Brigade drifts away from the heavier aspects of their sound and toward a more moody, rock-based style. Now, these guys were never what I would call knuckle smashing heavy to begin with. Sure they would toss in some deathy snarls and some heavy riffing but the focus was always on sullen, despondent vibes with enough rock sensibility to keep things moving. That hasn’t changed here, just reached a more effective, accessible phase. At times they sound similar to recent Katatonia, Rapture and the less deathy moments of Swallow the Sun. Does it work? Absolutely it does and most of Until is a testament to what quality songwriting will do for a band.

The Living Fields – Running Out of Daylight Review

The Living Fields – Running Out of Daylight Review

Now this was a tough album to review. I had a devil of a time trying to get through the music and honestly couldn’t even figure out what genre, sub-genre or sub-sub-genre these Chicago progressive metallers belonged in. You see, The Living Fields are so all over the place with their sound on their sophomore release Running Out of Daylight, they utterly defy conventional pigeonholing. At various times during the album’s playtime, they touch on ambient, darkwave, post rock, black metal, death metal, doom metal, folk and power metal. Yes, they cover their bases fully. In some ways these chaps could be called a more linear and rational version of Therion. They have all the same orchestration, pomp and variety and sport multiple vocalists of varying styles. However, they lack Therion’s lunatic charm, off the rails approach and overall entertainment factor. Although far more restrained in their songwriting, their compositions have a cold feeling and lack of cohesion that made it very difficult to get into. While I can’t dispute their creativity and musical ability, this is a strangely distant album that has resisted all my efforts to enjoy it in a meaningful way. It’s also a very challenging album to describe so stick with Steel Druhm and he will do his bestest.

Angrily Unreviewed: November’s Doom – Aphotic

Angrily Unreviewed: November’s Doom – Aphotic

Yep, this one didn’t get by our formidable musical radars, we just didn’t get around to reviewing it due to questionable time management, manpower issues and the whole “having lives” thing. November’s Doom is hardly a band that needs to be brought to people’s attention. They’re a veritable doom metal institution with seven albums of well done, death-tinged doom behind them. Aphotic, their eighth, is more of the same and its good stuff as usual (available via The End Records). In fact, it’s very much in line with what they have been doing their past few albums. Opener “The Dark Host” has that classic mix of urgent death metal and somber, depressive moments and its quite emotional (I love the chorus in this song). Other standouts include the darkness of “Harvest Scythe” and “Buried Old” and the creepy, angry storytelling in “Six Sides” (there’s a lot going on with the lyrics in this one, very dark). There’s even a cool “Planet Caravan” quality to parts of “Shadow Play.” The highlight is the truly beautiful and gut-wrenchingly poignant “What Could Have Been” where Paul Kuhr is joined by Anneke van Giersbergen (formerly of The Gathering). It’s a ballad in the same mold as “Twilight Innocence” off their The Novella Reservoir album and its very touching and melancholy. Anneka’s voice is filled with emotion and frailty and it works damn well.

Manilla Road – Playground of the Damned Review

Manilla Road – Playground of the Damned Review

Manilla Road, thy name is cult! These aged metallers from Kansas have been keeping it “true” since before the 80’s. Over their long existence they released no less than fourteen albums of old school, vintage metal to the acclaim of a small but loyal niche following. Led by guitarist/singer Mark “The Shark” Shelton, they’ve plumbed the depths of 70’s and early 80’s metal, some albums sounding like old Cirith Ungol, some moving closer to Manowar, Doomsword and Slough Feg. They’ve always lived in that realm between classic metal and doom and their discography has its great moments (and a few missteps as well). In some circles these guys have attained legendary status and while they clearly deserve it for dedication, I never thought their material was all that consistent. However, I always find myself rooting for them to succeed. I did so again with their fifteenth album Playground of the Damned, but I’m not too thrilled with the end product. Like some prior albums, there are great moments but some cringy ones as well. Definitely an acquired taste and not for everyone, this is one of those bands you really have to hear for yourself. However, I will endeavor to do my humble best to describe what lies within as only the Lord High Protector Steel Druhm can.

Disma – Towards the Megalith Review

Disma – Towards the Megalith Review

At last, an album that’s the musical equivalent to falling face first into a cesspool. Crusty, endlessly filthy, unspeakably nasty and no amount of showering will ever get you truly clean. That’s what you can expect when you press play on the debut by New Jersey’s toxic swamp denizens Disma. Towards the Megalith is eight grueling sojourns through the terrifying underbelly of old school death metal a la Autospy, Grave and Entombed. Featuring several members of the brutal death act Funebrarum, this is not the least bit “modern,” nor does it bear the slightest trace of “melo-death.” If you’re familiar with the level of corpse grinding heaviness Funebrarum delivers, then you have an idea where this is going, but this is even murkier and more corrosive. Yes, these songs are the dregs stuck to the bottom of the musical septic tank. Appealing to the current lust for old school Swedish and American death and joining acts like Entrails and Blood Mortized in the crusty scab sweepstakes, Disma shows just how raw and ugly things can get while still being thouroughly enjoyable, though this will be too much for many to digest (ewww). If you haven’t already gotten up to find this, kindly wait until you finish reading this stellar piece of prose.

Castle – In Witch Order Review

Castle – In Witch Order Review

Raucous, aggressive doom metal with female vocals? Sure, why the hell not. Joining such similar female fronted acts as Jex Thoth and Blood Ceremony, San Francisco’s power trio Castle have arrived to carve out their own slice of the retro doom pie (which is pumpkin in case you were wondering). Their debut In Witch Order is a surprisingly refreshing platter that harkins back to the glory days of Witchfinder General and Trouble with just a pinch of Cathedral tossed in like an eye of newt. That last ingredient may be the most important and unlike the others in this niche genre, Castle brings down the witch hammer hard with slashing, bruising riffs and a go-for-the-jugular approach that almost seems untoward for a doom troupe. All I can say is, it works well and makes In Witch Order another happy surprise in a year full of them.

Draconian – A Rose for the Apocalypse Review

Draconian – A Rose for the Apocalypse Review

It’s Angry Metal Confession time kiddies. Steel Druhm has many things he should confess but for now, lets focus on aspects of the metal scene I’ve grown weary of. First up has to be symphonic black metal. Its been done, overdone, redone and ultimately, undone. Another very overused gimmick is beauty and the beast vocals (death metal vox paired with soaring, usually operatic, female vocals). Since Theatre of Tragedy came out with Velvet Darkness They Fear, every gothic metal band under the moon tried their hand at the style and while it can be amazing, it’s been overblown in a major way. Because of the staleness in this approach, only the very best practitioners leave any impression on me. Draconian is one such expert unit and while I liked their early material, I LOVED their 2008 release Turning Seasons Within. That opus managed to balance heavy doom with ethereal gothic sensibilties and they made the beauty and beast approach work magnificently. Now with A Rose for the Apocalypse, these Swedish glumsters have done it yet again and offer a top quality gothic-doom/death album brimming with emotion, intensity and dark atmosphere. Its good enough to make me rethink my position on the entire paradigm and its a real slobberknocker of a metal album.

Lake of Tears – Illwill Review

Lake of Tears – Illwill Review

In the Whack-A-Mole game that is genre pigeonholing, Lake of Tears pop up all over the board, defying you to anticipate their next move. These Swedes have been around a very long time and have always defied easy answers as to what style they actually play. Generally described as gothic metal, they’ve wandered between psychedelic doom, goth-rock, quasi-thrash and pseudo-death over the years. Each album had its own unique flavor and approach while always keeping the distinctive LoT sound. Here on Illwill, their eighth album, they keep the guessing game alive while delivering a strange mix of styles, but it all hangs together somehow and works well. With parallels to Paradise Lost, Cemetary, Charon and Type O Negative to name a few, they run all over the place but it’s always dark in tone and plenty melodic.