Victor Griffin’s In-Graved (S/T)

Today we have Jayaprakash Sathyamurty covering the self-titled album from Victor Griffin’s In-Graved  released via Svart Records.

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Tracklist

1. Digital Critic
2. What If…
3. Late For An Early Grave
4. Fading Flower
5. Thorn In The Flesh
6. Teacher
7. Love Song For The Dying
8. Never Surrender

It was no big surprise when Victor Griffin walked out on Pentagram (again) after the Last Rites kinda-reunion album. Pentagram’s central figure and visionary, frontman Bobby Liebling has never been an easy person to work with, by all accounts, and it’s unlikely that the classic line-up of Liebling, Hasselvander, Griffin and Swaney will ever play together again for any extended period of time. More surprising was Victor Griffin’s decision to pull up stakes and disband his long-running act, Place Of Skulls. Your ability to appreciate or ignore that band’s frequently faith-influenced lyrics (Griffin isn’t just a high priest of the heavy guitar; he’s also a devout Christian) may vary, but the music was always right on target: heavy, dark and distinctly doomy. Nonetheless, Griffin has decided to make a fresh start with a new band, albeit one with many familiar conspirators on board, at least in the studio. These include drummer Pete Campbell, former Trouble bassist Jeff Olson on organ and a smorgasboard of bassists who’ve played with bands like 50 Watt Shaman, Goatsnake, Acid King and of course Pentagram.

So what makes this band different from Place Of Skulls? Perhaps not all that much; for one thing, I’ve heard that a couple of these songs have been in Griffin’s kitty for more than two decades, so it isn’t like everything here has been created totally from scratch. Such considerations fade away as the thunderous grooves of ‘Digital Critic’ stride into contention. The tone is thick and juicy – vintage Griffin – and the riffs are everything you’d expect from one of the most legendary hard rock/doom metal guitarists in the scene. Griffin’s vocals are assured and powerful, making Bobby Liebling only the third best vocalist of the classic Pentagram line-up. The song is apparently a screed against, er, online critics (like me!), but any faint sense of persecution is rendered insignificant as Griffin unleashes a swirling, hypnotic multi-tracked lead with a fiendishly groovy backing rhythm. ‘What If…’ is a more stately number, where Griffin’s warm, rich melodies are ably backed by Olson’s organ. ‘Late For An Early Grave’ would make a great fit on any vintage Pentagram album, and is a brilliant showcase for Griffin’s lead skills.  Whether or not you share or even tolerate Griffin’s faith, it fuelled some very soulful songs on Place Of Skulls and this trend continues with the more downtempo track ‘Fading Flower’. An implacable, lead-footed riff surges like a force of nature, embellished with striving organ chords. Griffin’s vocals are passionate and his soloing is, in a word, divine. Best of all, that morose, melancholy aura you’d quite rightly expect from a doom song is never far away. ‘Thorn in the Flesh’ would have sounded equally in place on a Pentagram album or one by Place Of Skulls, but it’s all good, at least we have a band and an album to listen to an excellent recording of an excellent song. The organ adds another layer of drama to some of Griffin’s rhythmic breaks in the song. The next song is something of a coup – a cover of the early Jethro Tull single, ‘Teacher’, that somehow sounds like it’s been filtered through desert rock. I never thought Tull’s hard rock/metal Grammy was all that undeserved. There’s always been a central core of heaviness running through their music, and it is great hearing Griffin do his stuff with this track. ‘Love Song For The Dying’ is the album’s epic. A thunderous intro dwindles to a sustained organ note before a grinding, lugubrious riff steps in. Griffin’s vocals are dramatic and tuneful. The band is in fine form, pacing themselves through the changes. There are effective organ and guitar solos, but the focus is on the grooves and the lyrics. The song is a massive, brilliant downer, and maybe that’s why Griffin chooses to end the album with a Detroit-style uptempo rocker called ‘Never Surrender’. I understand the impulse, but frankly this song feels a bit slight after the majesty of ‘Love Song For The Dying’.

The album is very well produced, with the caveat that the organ sits rather low in the mix. Just a few notches higher and the music would have preserved its guitar-first focus but which just that little extra bit of texture. Still, it’s Griffin’s band and he calls the shots. I’m not complaining, and neither will you.

Kongh – Sole Creation

Today we have  reviewer Jayaprakash Satyamurthy from the bangalore based band Djinn & Miskatonic doing a review of the new album from Kongh titled ‘Sole Creation‘. The record was released on the 5th of February via Agonia Records.

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Track listing:
1. “Sole Creation”
2. “Tamed Brute”
3. “The Portals”
4. “Skymning”

Review in Haiku – A Gradual Cataclysm

It’s hard to believe that it takes just three people to make such a massive sound, but there you have it. Kongh’s third full-length has all the ponderous poise and earth-shaking presence of its cinematic part-namesake, King Kong, perhaps in a freeze frame, caught leaping from one skyscraper to another in a doomed race for freedom. Bucking the ‘more is more’ trend of too many modern albums, the three musicians who constitute Kongh opt for a modest runtime of around 40 minutes, and that time is taken up by just four songs.  This in itself shouldn’t come as a surprise to fans of the doom/sludge sonic space Kongh operates in, but what matters is that these four songs are all massive, immersive journeys through vast riffs and hypnotic textures.

The title track, ‘Sole Creation’ is ushered in with a ritualistic drum beat and takes us firmly into pre-Superunknown classic grunge territory before moving into sections that are more in the Yob camp and even some stratospheric soundscapes that suggest post metal without the flab that genre is sometimes given to. The vocals are a surprise, and a pleasant one – instead of the one-dimensional approach often heard in this kind of expansive yet grimy music, they switch between a menacing, quavering and deep sludge-oriented style and a soaring, tuneful, but still burly delivery.

Stream the entire album on bandcamp below

‘Tamed Brute’ covers much of the same territory, featuring brilliant combinations of lead-footed riffage with soaring guitar squalls. There’s a definite tendency to go for the slow build, copped from the likes of Neurosis and with a similarly vast impact, like a gradual cataclysm. This approach also makes the most of the deep, rich guitar tone, giving it space to shimmer and roil, and let’s face it, a lot of doom/sludge fans are as much fans of hearing great guitar tone effectively deployed as anything else.

After two songs that never overstayed their welcome, despite their length, ‘The Portals’ doesn’t quite make the same impact. The main problem is that it’s simply more of the same, and doesn’t bring in the dose of diversity this album needs at this point. It’s still a superior song with some memorable, wailing lead work.

The final track, ‘Skymning’ makes up for any loss of interest. In this song, Kongh take the pace down a few notches, rolling out a meditative, almost ethereal soundscape with measured vocals and a laid-back, langorous pace that serves as a great offset from the intensity that has been sustained for so long and reminds us just how heavy the band actually gets elsewhere, in terms of sheer mass rather than tempo, of course. The craggy, grungy vocal delivery really comes into its own here, although still placed fairly low in the mix. 8 minutes in, the song moves into an incredibly effective endgame with wavering surf guitar chords streaming across a rhythmic backing that slowly evolves into a viscous, ropey sludge installation.

Long, spacey songs that can meander and soar without losing their way, a sound that is as psychedelic as it is heavy, and a doom/sludge approach that eschews any of the obvious stratagems of its genre – Kongh has crafted a Sole Creation to be proud of and an early entrant to any self-respecting riff maniacs’ best of 2013 list.

 

NOTE: If you want more of KONGH then stream away their last album “Shadows of the Shapeless” on the Soundcloud player attached below

Hanging Garden – At Every Door

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Tracklist:

1. Ten Thousands Cranes (6:21)
2. Ash And Dust (6:25)
3. Heigra (6:33)
4. Wormwood (6:23)
5. At Every Door (4:24)
6. The Cure (8:20)
7. Evenfall (4:53)
8. To End All Ages (10:33)

Hanging Garden… I bet ‘Babylon’ comes to mind. But it does seem as if band names keep getting ludicrous over time, but not be fooled!! I chanced upon the Finnish Hanging Garden while going through the rest of Omnium Gatherum’s label(Lifeforce Records) mates. After being entranced by the beauty  ‘Ash and Dust’(First single off their album ‘At Every Door’), I headed on to explore the rest of their discography . The band having established themselves in as early as 2004, have released two full lengths on Spikefarm records At Every Door: Inherit the Eden and Teotawki. ‘Teotawki’ was the only album that I bought off flipkart, but it failed to impress me for it sounded like your average death/doom with drab gothic elements. And for some reason the vocals seemed a tad too hollow and less befitting for the kind of music that they intended to portray. The album did have its moments though, but were too few and far between for one to sit up and take notice. Yet I was far too enamored with their latest single ‘Ash and Dust’, and something kept pressing me to check this new album out. Finally I did get got hold of a promo, and boy wasn’t I floored!

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