Friday 23 February 2024
Sunday 18 February 2024
Opening track "Chora" tells you everything you need to know about what Birds of Vale bring to the table with their music as well as serving as the perfect indicator of what to expect from the rest of the album. The songs heavy blues groove, enhanced by exquisite sliding guitar and grainy emotive vocal tones is the stuff those of us of more advanced years grew up listening to and those of more tender years may of have heard blasting out of their parents sound systems, in other words classy melodic blues tinted hard rock of the type bands like Bad Company, Cry of Love and Free once called their own. Following song "Indian River" sees Birds of Vale showing us that along with classic rock bluesiness and southern swagger they also have some alt-metal grunginess in their locker, Kangelidis laying down a mixture of slurred refrains and searing solos ably supported by Papagiannopoulos' grizzled bass lines and Manatos' blend of tight and loose drum patterns, Liakos applying the cherry to the top of the cake with a powerful vocal that channels touches of the late Chris Cornell (Soundgarden/Audioslave) in its delivery. Its back to the heavy blues for "Howler" an atmospheric torch-song boasting a full on and feel drenched vocal sang mostly at the higher end of Liakos' range, a stunning opus that is then followed by title track "Limbo" a more traditional country blues song that sees the band getting low down and suitably swampy. Fans of early Led Zeppelin will be left with gaping jaws while listening to next track "Caviar" the song giving the chance for Kangelidis to play Page to Liakos' Plant while Papagiannopoulos and Manatos lay down a groove Bonham and JP Jones would have been proud to call their own. A deliciously dank Papagiannopoulos bass motif kicks off next track "Dream" a mid tempo rocker that melds aspects of grunge/alt-metal with the blues that then leads us into "Raff" a song boasting much the same dynamic as its predecessor only this time with a little more sting in its tail. Finally we arrive at "Sungun", here we find Birds of Vale closing out, what has been an utterly engrossing and highly enjoyable album, with a soaring blues heavy opus that routinely switches between smouldering smokiness and white hot heaviness, incendiary stuff!
Many bands have attempted to meld grunge/alt-metal with doom and stoner rock, and done so quite successfully, but not too many have attempted to merge grunge/alt-metal with heavy blues, Birds of Vale have, with "Limbo", done just that and in doing so may well have made one of the best heavy blues based albums released this year!
© 2024 Frazer Jones
Thursday 15 February 2024
We tend to expect new albums to open up with something monstrous so as to set the scene for what is to follow and Witchorious deliver on those expectations with the appropriately titled "Monster", a track that encapsulates everything that is good about this band, the songs mix of sneery clean melodies and low guttural harshness supported by thrumming refrains and thunderous rhythms is manna from heaven for those of us who like our sludge and doom crunching and heavy but at the same time imbued with an element of old school classicality. "Catharsis" follows and here we find Witchorious ramping up the gnarliness by adding a little extra bite to their sonic attack but then routinely dialling back on that nastiness with off kilter vocal harmonies and alt-metal flavoured, guitar textures. The band dip their toes into occult rock territories next with the wonderfully atmospheric " The Witch", again the vocals posses a delicious sneery quality in their delivery but what really makes this song great rather than just good is the horn like motifs employed on the songs more up beat sections which punctuate the songs gloomy occult atmospherics like angels trumpets announcing the coming of divine judgement. "Blood" seeps out of the speakers next, a deliciously dank and dark opus boasting an intriguing mixture of clean and quirky vocal harmonies and harsh growls over a groove that carries an essence of Polish riffmeisters Dopelord in its execution. An element of spacious heavy psych is introduced into the mix for next song "Eternal Night", bassist Lucie handles lead vocals here, her fey but not quite ethereal tones adding a pleasing haziness to the proceedings, a haziness enhanced by the cosmic swoops and whirls that wind themselves around the songs heavily psyched out doomic groove. And so it goes for the rest of the album, the gloriously schizophrenic "Sanctuaire", the instrumentally weird "Amnesia", the gnarled and sludgy "Watch Me Die", the reflective "To The Grave" and the superbly atmospheric final track "Why" are all well above average songs that are rooted in doom, hard rock and sludge but not anchored down by those roots, the band bringing elements of off-centred quirkiness and otherworldly spaciousness to their grooves to create a sound that resides in the canon of doom but is sat way to the left of its centre.
Wednesday 7 February 2024
Saturday 3 February 2024
Wednesday 24 January 2024
Cheddar are a Spanish outfit hailing from Burgos consisting of Clara Dorronsoro (vocals);Daniel Bitrián (guitars); Pablo Cabornero (guitars); Miguel Alonso (bass) and Javier Macho (drums). Now unless you have some personal connection to the band or have seen them play live in their homeland there is no reason why you would recognise any of those names or even have heard of the bands name but that might change when you have gotten a load of their astounding debut "PSYCHE", an astounding mix of crunching prog-like riffage and heady lysergic languidity tinted with elements of occult rock and fronted by soaring vocals that are an enticing mix of power and fragility.
The sound of chirping birds accompanied by high pitched drones, keyboards and sampled narrative make up intro piece "PSYCHE" which is then followed by "CHRYSALIS I" a stunning mix of arpeggiated noodling and electric guitar crunch framed by rhythms that alternate between languid and loose and heavy and tight over which Dorronsoro layers a sublime vocal that ranges from a seductive whisper to a banshee-like howl, man can this lady SING! Next up we get "CHRYSALIS II" a song that like its sister piece showcases Cheddar's ability to go from heavy to lysergic in a heartbeat. Bitrián and Cabornero's guitars play off and around each other on the songs quieter moments but come together in perfect unison on the songs heavier sections but what really impresses here is Alonso and Macho's almost telepathic understanding of each others parts in the whole, the pair driving the groove hard where it is needed and laying it down loose lysergic and jazzy when and where that dynamic is called for, all four musicians creating the perfect platform for Dorronsoro to launch her incredible vocals from. Cheddar allow the listeners a moment to catch their breaths with the achingly beautiful "LE MORT" then rips that breath away with the quiet /loud/quiet dual attack of "IMAGO I" and its sister piece "IMAGO II", the latter just shading it over the former thanks to Dorronsoro's slightly more emotional vocal. "LIMERENCE" begins life fey and ethereal, with Dorronsoro waxing lyrical about being addicted and disconnected in lush creamy tones, but then takes a turn for the heavy in its last quarter with Alonso and Macho laying down a barrage of groove for Bitrián and Cabornero to decorate with thrumming refrains, tonally opposed motifs and soaring solos. Last but not least comes "LUA" a song that sits sonically somewhere between a less sludgy Rosy Finch and a slightly more heavy Evanescence, which given how good this tune is seems a not too bad place to be sitting.
Tuesday 23 January 2024
Been a while since Desert Psychlist dived down the stoner-doom rabbit hole so what better way to revisit said hole than with an EP released by a band from The Psychlist's own UK homeland. The band in question are a trio, Zak Larkins (bass/vocals). Guy Southam (drums) and Keir Sheehan (bass), who go by the name Dungeön and describe what they do as "noise terror and riff worship", which given the dank, dark nature of their self titled debut EP "Dungeön" is a pretty apt description.
Opening track "Green Throne" begins, like so many songs do in this genre, with sampled narrative lifted from a horror movie then erupts into low slow reverberating bass and guitar riffage replete with the necessary pounding drumming over which bellowed semi spoken vocals tell their dark tale, it all sounds pretty par for the course so far doesn't it? Well actually it's not and the reason it is not comes down to how well Dungeön structure their sound, yes there is plenty of repetition and riff reliance going on here but there are also places where the band go off-piste and dare we say get a little cosmic and out there. Following track "Parasite" starts off life eerie and full of menacing suspense then the hammer goes down and the band explode into a seriously fuzzed out and distorted stoner doomic refrain that if it were any heavier would be in danger of totally collapsing into just noise. Vocals here are again delivered in a tuneful bellow but, thanks to their placement in the mix, are not overbearing or too in the listeners face, a pet hate of Desert Psychlist's is when these type of vocals are pushed too high in the mix but these sit perfectly in the "goldilocks zone" and serve to enhance rather than detract from the songs overall impact. Final number "Condemn The Earth" eases back a little on the fuzz and distortion, albeit only slightly, and boasts a groove that sits somewhere between stoner and proto doom with the latter of those two dynamics being a touch more Electric Wizard than it is Black Sabbath, again there is not much variation to be found in the songs riffs or for that matter the vocal delivery but, like the two previous songs, there is enough for things not to fall into tedium, the swirling solo's and use of sampled narrative elevating the song to a level far above the usual generic plodding this genre can sometimes descend into.