Doom Metal

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.

Loss – Despond Review

Loss – Despond Review

Ever felt the need to sit amidst the shadows and brood darkly over lost loves, personal failures, lack of objectivity in music reviews and other existential mumbo jumbo? If so, I may have the perfect musical accompaniment for your days of shoegaze. Despond, the debut from Tennessee’s Loss, is one mammoth slab of remorseful, gloomy funeral doom/death that will harsh anyone’s mellow and kill any and all buzz. It’s snail paced, ponderous and crushingly heavy in that way only real doom can be. On the highway of metal music, this thing has its hazard lights flashing and moves slower than a senior citizen with cataracts and a bum hip. Now, I’m well aware that funeral doom isn’t for everyone. I myself rarely find the style compelling enough to sit through an album’s worth regardless of how well the band executes. For that very reason I was surprised by the impact Despond had on me. Not only did I enjoy listening to the entirety of Loss’s mortuary muzak, but I kept going back for more and ultimately, it left me blown away. That either means they have something truly special going on or I have a brain tumor pressing on my music appreciation lobe. Either way, this is an weirdly addictive album full of gloom and despair with some unbelievably powerful emotions and atmosphere to it.

While Heaven Wept – Fear of Infinity Review

While Heaven Wept – Fear of Infinity Review

2011 got off to a rollicking start for metal and it seemed that we in the reviewer game were going to have our hands full trying to select a top ten come December. However, as March wound into April and we got to hear some very highly anticipated releases, things started to look a little less stellar. Angry Metal Guy was less than blown away by the new Amon Amarth and Septic Flesh among several others not yet reviewed. Now it’s my turn to feel less than floored by a much beloved band’s new material. As a huge fan of While Heaven Wept and their epic, beautiful doom style, I must admit to being slightly let down by Fear of Infinity, their fourth album. Now, before people get the wrong idea, this remains a very solid, well done doom metal album and maintains the style and sound of past While Heaven Wept material. However, it just doesn’t achieve the towering heights of excellence heard on their Of Empires Forlorn and Vast Oceans Lachrymose albums. Something seems amiss on some of the material here and I can’t quite place my finger on it.

Pentagram – Last Rites Review

Pentagram – Last Rites Review

Pentagram has been around almost as long as actual pentagrams have. They’re seriously grizzled, wiley vets of the doom scene and the fact they’re still churning out material is amazing to me. This band has been together in one form or another since 1971 and now they’re back again in 2011. In case you somehow missed the boat on these doom titans, Pentagram plays 70’s styled doom metal similar to early Black Sabbath or old Saint Vitus and they’ve created some of the best moments in the style over their long life. For those already familiar with the Penta-brand, what makes this album a Big Fucking Deal (thank you, Joe Biden) is the return of founding guitarist and doom demigod Victor Griffin (Place of Skulls) who hasn’t graced a Pentagram platter since their last great effort, Be Forewarned way back in 1994. With one of the true masters of doom guitar reunited with one of the founding fathers of doom vocals Bobby Liebling, can things end up as anything other than unnaturally bad ass? No, no they can’t and Last Rites is the strongest and most consistently killer album since Be Forewarned and may even be better. From start to finish, this sounds like a fully recharged and hungry Pentagram and what makes it even better, it sounds WAY heavier and more battle ready than the recent string of releases with Joe Hasselvander playing all the instruments. This is Grade A doom with some serious attitude and it delivers a major kick to the arse. Not what you would expect from a bunch of old codgers eh?

Before the Dawn – Deathstar Rising Review

Before the Dawn – Deathstar Rising Review

Ah, the life of a reviewer. It has it’s share of perks for sure. The promos, the forum for spouting self-righteous opinions, the money and of course, the women. However, all of that glory fades when compared to the thrill of reporting that a beloved band’s new album is fantastic. This right here was a release I’ve been waiting eagerly for and I had to beg, harass and harangue Angry Metal Guy into letting me review it. Because he’s a harsh but fair employer, he finally relented and let me address the sixth album by these gents from Finland (although that probably means I have to review a crapload of cheesy metalcore albums in the near future [How’d you know!? – AMG]). For those unfamiliar, Before the Dawn is a little difficult to pigeonhole neatly into one genre. They’re essentially a melodic death metal unit with a fair amount of gothic, and at times, doom metal added in. It’s been a successful and highly enjoyable combination and these guys always impressed me with how they blended heaviness with melody and huge hooks. I’m very happy to report that Deathstar Rising is another big success for these guys, contains some of their best material so far and is one of the best releases of the still early year.

Acid Witch – Stoned Review

Acid Witch – Stoned Review

Toward the back of the Big Book of Metal Ingredients there is a little known concoction. It calls for one part Saint Vitus, one part Cathedral and one part Necrophagia. To that mix, add creepy church organs, horror movie samples and trippy/psychedelic flourishes. Finish by generously seasoning with magic weed, baking heavily and voila! You get Acid Witch and Stoned is an apt title indeed since this will give you a sore neck and a serious case of the munchies. This is the second album by these death/doom/stoner weirdos from Michigan and they stay true to the odd sound pioneered on their 2008’s debut Witchtanic Hallucinations and provide another wack0, tongue-in-cheek trip through metal and reefer madness. While I highly doubt this will find a very big audience, it’s a pretty entertaining, heavy yet silly slab o death/doom and unlike anything else out there.

Helrunar – Sol Review

Helrunar – Sol Review

Well, we’re certainly off to a great start for black metal in this shiny new year. First we get a righteously good release from Belphegor and now the unheralded German unit Helrunar erupts from relative obscurity with a double album of masterfully grim, bleak blackness. Yep, you read that right, a DOUBLE ALBUM of massive black metal clocking in at ninety minutes! So, you might be asking, who do they think they are? How dare they release a double album? Well, the short answer is, they’re Helrunar and a whole lot more people are going to know them REAL soon because Sol is going to stamp them firmly on the black metal map.

Shadows’ Grey – Bonjour Tristesse Review

Shadows’ Grey – Bonjour Tristesse Review

You know, if you read this blog all the time you’d probably be getting the impression that I hate female fronted bands who are doing sort of the gothy thing. But that’s not true. It’s actually something I really enjoy when it’s done right! I have no issues with gothic metal, I don’t find the sort of dramatic, over-the-top stuff to be a turn off really. It just needs to be done well, something that it is serially not. And there are varying levels of ‘not done well,’ but let’s say that Shadows’ Grey, the German band formerly known as Scargod who had one EP in 2007, is one degree of the idea.