Goatess – Goatess

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviews Goatess‘ self titled debut released via Svart Records.

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Tracklist

01. Know Your Animal
02. Alpha Omega
03. Ripe
04. Full Moon at Noon
05. Oracle Pt. 1: The Mist
06. Oracle Pt. 2
07. King One
08. Tentacles of Zen

Doom vocalist Chritus Linderson is on a roll. He took a hiatus from music, then returned to the doom fray at the helm of Lord Vicar, the brainchild of Kimi Karki (ex-Reverend Bizarre), releasing at least one album that will be counted among the true masterpieces of the doom genre in the 21st century. Now, he’s launched another band, Goatess, and its first album may well be another addition to that list of instant doom classics.

What sets this album apart from a lot of traditional doom revivalists, apart, that is, from the credentials brought to the table by Chritus? Most of all, the music. Yes, it’s clearly rooted in traditional metal, orthodox doom and a snifter or two of vintage stoner metal, to say nothing of the 70s hard rocking legacy underlying all these styles. But there’s nothing staid or stale about the way this band approaches its idiom. Rather than a whiff of mothballs, these songs evoke the heady, ozone-laced atmosphere that precedes a thrilling thunderstorm.

Consider the opening track, ‘Know Your Animal’. Commencing with a pedal-point riff that’s pure traditional metal, it moves into a power chord driven, fuzz-saturated refrain that cleverly works in references to the original melody. Chritus sings like a more craggy, yet soaring Ozzy, openly referencing the batmuncher’s delivery on ‘Never Say Die’, yet the song and the singer retain more original identity than the Orchids of the world. ‘Alpha Omega’ starts with a riff that is pure traditional doom: slow, melancholy and earth-shaking. Chritus cuts in with bluesy, confrontational vocals over a lurching, staccato riff, and then launches into a plaintive, wailing chorus over a vast, melodic riff. The changes are so organic, so fitting that the song pulls you along effortlessly. Songwriting of this caliber goes beyond questions of influence and style; its sheer excellence cannot help but draw you in.

Then there’s ‘Ripe’, where the bass introduces an instantly memorable, slow, bluesy figure that the guitarist then picks up, adding depth and warmth. We’ve heard this gambit  before, but the riff in question is so good, the delivery so assured, and the subsequent changes so effective that there is no questioning the validity of this old-school-rooted approach or the freshness which inspired music-making like this brings to the mix. I could continue praising each song in a dreary track-by-track commentary, but let me just call attention to the kraut-rinsed jamming on ‘King One’ and the slightly Eastern, very psychedelic touches on ‘Tentacles of Zen’.

It’s hard to believe this band began as a weekend jam thing. There’s not a single throwaway element: all the songs stretch over 7 minutes (with a solitary exception, which is anyway part of a longer song-suite), and that running time isn’t the product of shapeless noodling but of satisfying, long-form structures packed with memorable melodies, riffs and vocals. It isn’t just a Chritus showcase, although the range and variety he displays is dazzling – Niklas is a versatile guitarist with mountains of feel and Findus and Kenta prove to be a dynamic, tasteful rhythm section, always wonderfully idiomatic. Goatess shows the would-be old school doomsters of the world how it’s done: not with slavish imitations of the past but by building on a legacy in an imaginative, individualistic way, neither intimidated by nor disdainful of influences.  In other words, it’s a bloody good doom-metal-hard-rock-stoner-psych album and you really ought to go give it a listen.

Flotsam and Jetsam – Ugly Noise

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviews the new album from Flotsam and Jetsam titled Ugly Noise, released via Metalblade Records.

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Tracklist:
1. Ugly Noise 04:10
2. Gitty Up 03:09
3. Run And Hide 05:28
4. Carry On 04:19
5. Rabbit’s Foot 04:17
6. Play Your Part 05:29
7. Rage 03:25
8. Cross The Sky 04:45
9. Motherfuckery 03:07
10. I Believe 02:53
11. To Be Free 03:08
12. Machine Gun 03:17

I’m only intermittently familiar with Flotsam and Jetsam’s back catalogue, but here are the broad strokes: in their early days they were fierce thrash contenders, by the mid-90s they’d arrived at a more polished sound, with Eric AK’s vocals tempered to a tuneful yawp which, combined with a considerably streamlined riffing style and melodic interludes, made them sound like a heavier Queensryche at times.  A lot of old school thrash fans dismiss material like their 1992 album, ‘Cuatro’ as an attempt to access a mainstream audience, but the music definitely had a drama and intensity of its own. However, it didn’t seem like they could muster up the same level of creativity from album to album and their subsequent albums are pretty inconsistent in quality.

I haven’t heard the previous albums they released after their brief post-2005 hiatus, but ‘Ugly Noise’ sounds like more of the same phenomenon – a middle-of-the-road, middle-aged thrash sound that’ll never recapture the youthful energy of the early speed-maniac days and that has only sporadically benefited from the additional depth and songwriting maturity that this many years in the saddle should confer. The main problem is that everything here has been done before; these songs often sound less like original compositions than collections of tried and tested maneuvers and stratagems. Even the newer elements in the sound are a couple of decades old.

In a way, the mid-paced stomp of ‘Play Your Part’ sums up the juncture the band finds itself in: they haven’t blazed the kind of protean, self-contradicting trail some of the thrash giants have in the past decade, but they haven’t arrived at the hard-won consistency of an Overkill either. They’ve mainly been treading water, playing a part they’re pretty much locked into by now, churning out material that’s just a bit proggy, kinda thrashy and not likely to light a fire under listeners – or to alienate an equally aging thrash audience who are willing to settle for something, anything, with a familiar label on the cover if it doesn’t sound core. There are some out and out clunkers like ‘Rage’ and ‘Motherfuckery’which chug along, some ill-advised electronic layers and never seems to go anywhere, sometimes sounding like a rejected pro wrestling anthem, and no out-and-out classics.

This is competent metal music that sounds like it’s stuck in the mid-90s retrograde action undertaken by metal acts who could have dreamed of mainstream glory a few years back and now had to find ways to evolve without overtly selling out to grunge or nu metal. There are lots of quasi-breakdowns and dissonant bits mixed in with the more melodic segments. The musicianship is effective if rarely stellar, dressing up some very prosaic ideas with facile embellishments. There’s no real reason to slam this album or to offer it anything more than weak praise, just remember not to set your expectations too high when you choose to spin this one.

 

Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats – Mind Control

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviews the new album from Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats titled Mind Control, released via Metalblade Records.

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Tracklist:

1. Mt. Abraxas
2. Mind Crawler
3. Poison Apple
4. Desert Ceremony
5. Evil Love
6. Death Valley Blues
7. Follow the Leader
8. Valley of the Dolls
9. Devil’s Work

Uncle Acid and the Dead Beats’ 2011 album, Blood Lust, was a coup, one among the handful of instant classics of the doom genre I’ve heard in this decade. With a mysterious, shrouded and infectiously tuneful sound, like some bizarre 60s pop-influenced version of Electric Wizard, and a lyrical approach that was the equivalent of a learing, homicidal seduction by a 70s B-grade British horror villain, and most of all, with intensely hummable and memorable tunes like ‘I’ll Cut You Down’ and ’13 Candles’, it was a near-perfect breakthrough album.

The news isn’t quite so good on the follow-up, ‘Mind Control’. First, the good: Uncle Acid and his Dead Beats haven’t really altered their basic sound. Although the mesmeric opening track, ‘Mount Abraxas’ and ‘Follow The Leader’ are more sprawling, and in the case of the former more openly Sabbathoid than anything on the previous album, we’re obviously in the same soundworld of sinuous, insinuating, dreamy vocals, louche, swaggering riffs and uncanny sex magick. What’s changed is the consistency of song writing. Some of this material is forgettable, and at least one song, ‘Valley of the Dolls’ is simply a badly written song: dull, overextended and repetitive.

That’s not to say that tracks like the two previously mentioned aren’t worth listening to, or that ‘Desert Ceremony’ and ‘Evil Love’ don’t strut about in platform shoes and bell bottoms and make darkly veiled threats of rapine and murder with as much verve as anything on the preceding album, but they aren’t the norm, this time around. The somnolent ‘Death Valley Blues’ marks a descent into a set of slower, less memorable tracks that trade the tension between glorious melody and insalubrious ritual that was such a great part of ‘Blood Lust’s appeal for a tired, over-extended doom rock formula that isn’t half as unique or arresting as I’d come to expect from this band.

So this is only about 1/3 of a really good album, and that’s a shame. I hope Uncle Acid can power through whatever songwriting slump he’s caught in and deliver the goods again with his next album. In the meantime, we’ll always have Blood Lust…

Stream the entire album at Spin.com.

 

The Vein – Scouring the Wreckage of Time

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviews the debut album/double EP from The Vein titled Scouring the Wreckage of Time, released via Shadow Kingdom Records.

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Tracklist

Chapter I: “The Poisoned Chalice”
01. “Pale Dawn Rising”
02. “Seeds Of Blasphemy”
03. “Acedia”
04. “The Poisoned Chalice”

Chapter II: “Born into Grey Domains”
05. “The Great Deception”
06. “Carving A Labyrinth Of Despair”

I’ve been guilty of rendering excessive praise to derivative bands in the past, but in my defense it’s because there are days when the metal scene seems to offer nothing but core crap and retro throwbacks. At least the bands who are trying recapture the magic of classic extreme metal acts from Bathory to Incantation are riffing off something I can relate to, and that can make me over-estimate them for a while. But if I’m honest, generic metal is just generic metal and has little repeat value, as can be seen by the pile of OSDM-worshipping CDs that I own but rarely replay. What really makes my day is finding a band that adds something new and valid to the metal mix, or does old things in an original way. The Vein, a fascinating new side-project from members of the epic doom act Altar Of Oblivion, does both.

Their sound draws on the more lugubrious elements of second wave black metal, a certain trace of early death metal and it also parlays epic riffs and melodies into a sound that’s much more extreme and raw than its parent band’s. The starkest difference lies in the growled vocals of course, but that’s not all. These songs don’t stop at evoking a single texture or style; without being willfully eclectic, they combine elements of slow yet pummeling black/death with long-breathed melodies, massive, elegiac riff structures and wistful interludes. This is questing, creative extreme metal music for the listener with the time and discernment to apprehend originality. Those looking for another posse of troglodytes storming long-crumbled ramparts in bullet belts, denim vests and all the other metal necrophilia fetish gear can apply elsewhere, but so can the trend-hoppers looking for some facile and ultimately inane mash-up.

 

Stream songs from the album below:

 

From the grinding slow-death of ‘Seeds of Blasphemy’ to the masterful passages in ‘The Poisoned Chalice’ that combine dolorous keys and a very classic metal riff with death metal vocals, The Vein effortlessly merges disparate elements into a sound that is as captivating and bleak as the quote from the latter-day SF classic film, ‘Sunshine’, which opens the album. This is a well-named album, conveying a sense of devastation and emptiness in a time and place beyond the last failed human hope. The music has variety, space and drama. The only shortcoming I find is that individual songs don’t always come across as sufficiently distinctive entities in themselves, although they all contain great passages and add immensely to the cumulative impact of the album. All in all, this is a compelling, distinctive debut and I hope that this project doesn’t turn out to be a one-off.

 

 

Besieged – Victims Beyond All Help

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviews the reissue of the album from Besieged titled Victims Beyond All Help, released via Unspeakable Axe Records.

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Tracklisting:

‘Internal Suffering’
‘Death’
‘Buried Alive’
‘The End’
‘Victims Beyond All Help’
‘Trapped Inside’
‘Black’

This is fierce! Besieged isn’t just another gang of wistful reprobates longing for a mid-80s utopia of denim vests and white hi-top sneakers. They’re a fast, furious band who prove that thrash metal isn’t just an outmoded subgenre or an exercise in nostalgia. As far as I’m concerned, there are very few thrash revival acts out there worth listening to, and Besieged’s straight-for-the-jugular attack and relentless barrage of whipcracking riffage make it clear that they’re here to chew gum and kick some ass.

Remember when Sepultura was awesome? I’m talking Beneath The Remains and Arise. Remember Dark Angel at their peak? Remember how there was a time when death metal and thrash weren’t that far apart, when you could hear the genres bleeding into each other at the edges? Besieged operates in that space, but that’s not to say that their sound is a throwback. A song like the simply-titled, aggressively perfect ‘Death’ with its swirling riffs constantly ratcheting up the heaviness factor isn’t just an attempt to recreate the past; it’s an absolutely up-to-the-minute, vital and immediate song in a genre that still has a lot of life in it in the right hands. Nolan Smit’s furious, barked-out vocal delivery is pleasingly reminiscent of Max Cavalera at his most furious or Mille Petroza in his earlier years. Unlike the usual Bay Area necrophilia, the riffing draws as much on the Teutonic thunder of very Sodom as it does on American thrash. This makes for a volatile cocktail, one that erupts with dazzling incendiary violence on another album highlight, ‘The End’ or the title track, a veritable feast of riffs with enough chunky, sizzling mosh fodder to whet even the most jaded appetite.

There’s nary a misstep on this steaming platter of some of the juiciest thrash metal it has been my pleasure to consume in the past decade or so. The album was originally independently released, and major props are due to Dark Descent’s thrash sub-label, Unspeakable Axe who’ve picked another real winner for their sophomore release. I can’t wait to see what this band, and this label, has lined up for us next!