Ulthar, Providence review (20 Buck Spin, 2020)

Oakland’s own Ulthar release their second album, the Lovecraftian enterprise Providence, and by doing so demonstrate their commitment to shattering your nerves.

Ulthar is a trio peopled by Shelby Lermo, Steve Peacock, and Justin Ennis; guitar, bass, and drums. The name of the band is a reference to some of the writing of H. P. Lovecraft, and you can easily imagine this music being created along the mythical Miskatonic River in a cellar off the beaten path in the dodgy part of Arkham. The Great Old Ones would definitely approve.

The band’s first album, Cosmovore, was released in 2018 and established a viable energy and engaged aggression that was legitimate and intense. This new album is even harsher than the first one, less melodious. It is more overall along the lines of “Entropy-Atrophy” from Cosmovore than, say, “Dunwich Whore” from that same album, which had significant doom metal elements to it, especially up front and at the end. There is more chaos in Providence, more mayhem and musical violence. There is still the occasional thundering doom pause here and there, but the black and death metal characteristics are fully brilliant throughout.

“Churn” opens the album with a two minute punch in the throat. It reminds me of “Denial of Life” from Death’s Scream Bloody Gore for its ferocity, but the vocals on “Churn” are harsher. This short song is a Welcome To Providence announcement, an invitation, a menu, maybe, of what lies ahead. Let’s see, what are some highlights: “Undying Spear,” “Through Downward Dynasties,” and “Cudgel.” As you listen your way through the shattering musical landscape Ulthar has created, the message of suffering is increasingly clear. By the time you take the last two steps, “Narcissus Drowning” and “Humanoid Knot,” there is no apparatus of denial left to grasp. The music is intriguing, engaging, and punishing all at once. With two superior albums in a row, I have growing admiration for this band. Recommended.

20 Buck Spin has many formats of Providence available, and you can also get a download at Bandcamp.

Band photo by Melissa Petisa.





Ulthar, Providence review (20 Buck Spin, 2020)

Tia Carrera, Tried and True review (Small Stone Records 2020)

Instrumental metal blues groove psychedelic masterminds Tia Carrera release another stream of altered consciousness with Tried and True.

Tia Carrera is a band best experienced live in the same way you want to hear Sleep or Earthless in person. The strong improvisational element to the performances make the experience more personal – it could very well be that what you are listening to was never played that way before and won’t ever be played just that way again. You can record it and listen to it later, but if you were there I bet you’ll hear that recording differently than people who listen to it and weren’t.

The Texas trio has been creating acid-soaked renderings for more than fifteen years. The current lineup includes founders Jason Morales and Erik Conn, joined by Curt Christenson who appears to be there to stay. The rumor is the band has a massive treasure trove of recorded material, both in-studio and live, that they have yet to release. They curate what goes public very carefully, only letting out small bits here and there. Any new release is big news, and with Tried and True they have broken off a big chunk instrumental wonderment for the eager public.

All the musical stylings on this album have an urgency and an explosive originality. You can hear the bass line and the drums clearly at all times alongside the guitar. Each part is distinct and at the same time fit together in a fierce synergy rivaled only by perhaps Frank Zappa at his most berserk. The music is very bluesy with an extra helping of chimerical phantasmagoria. There are five principal tracks, the anchor being the 14 minute title expansion that is, in the words of Poe, a dream within a dream. The CD has two bonus entries that together are more than 30 minutes so give that serious consideration – they are “Visitors” and “Early Purple,” previously released last year on vinyl. It is an experience.

Out tomorrow, Friday June 12, from Small Stone Records, drop Tried and True into your brain as soon as you can.You want as much Tia Carrera as you can get.






Tia Carrera, Tried and True review (Small Stone Records 2020)

Ormskrik, review (Fysisk Format 2020)

The new album from Ormskrik is the best possible kind of surprise – a dark thrash masterpiece we are going to listen to for years to come.

Ormskrik is a young band from Norway. The band is: Gjøran Bårdsen (vocals), Anders Skjæveland and Tormod Hansen (guitars), Erik Bakke (bass), and Kristoffer Fikstvedt (drums). Thrash is where I would put them if I had to pick a one-word description, but the black metal tradition in strong here too. If we try to analyze the alchemy, we might say the music begins in a black metal field that is infused with thrash then hastened with modernity and a saturating conjuror’s imagery. You almost never come across a new band that can survive a comparison to Slayer, but Ormskrik does. The music has that kind of speed and adds a black metal tone and a death metal tinge in the vocals. It is a mystical amalgam.

When I first listened to this album, I conceptualized it in three parts – two opening songs, an interlude, three middle songs, another interlude, and then the closing four songs. I am on board with the entire set, but it is the last part that really implanted itself in my mind. The troika of “Helheim,” “The Morbid Arrives,” and “Hecatomb” simply lays waste to your musical consciousness and the final track, “”Eye For An Eye,” verily finishes you off. The pulsing rhythm hooks and myriad merging confluences are propelling forces you cannot shake off. When the closer turns reflective halfway through, it is not what we expected, but it lands just right, as does the acoustic outro creating, as it does, a sort of final fugue (second voice). I am going to wrap this up now so I can go down to the lake, sit by myself, and get all clinical in my head about this album because I think there is a lot going on here. You don’t have to do a deep dive into your psyche to get into these songs, but you’ll know when you hear this album that it is something different, it is something special.

Orsmkrik is available now from Fysisk Format for a vinyl edition and Bandcamp for the digital. Get ahead of the curve and listen now. Highly recommended.

Band photo by Martine Cecilie Berger.




https://www.facebook.com/fysiskformat https://www.fysiskformat.no

Ormskrik, review (Fysisk Format 2020)

Divine Weep, The Omega Man review (Ossuary Records 2020)

Divine Weep releases another impressive metal album with The Omega Man, showing that the tradition is alive and growing.

There is strong force for death metal and heavy metal bands in Poland. You think first about Behemoth and Decapitated and Vader, and there are so many more. Divine Weep is another band that you should know about if you don’t already. Formed in the mid-90s, the group has seen a reigniting of its energy and passion in the last several years, releasing the album Tears of the Ages in 2016 and now The Omega Man. The current line-up is: Mateusz Drzewicz, vocals, Bartosz Kosacki and Dariusz Moroz on guitars, Janusz Grabowski on bass, and Dariusz Karpiesiuk, drums. The band’s music has changed somewhat over the years, as most bands do. The new album is very much in a classic heavy metal style, reminiscent of Dio and Judas Priest, maybe a little Iced Earth in there, too. Their sound is their own, though, make no mistake. Drzewicz’s voice is distinctive, and the guitar riffs and progressions are unique.

“Cold As Metal” starts the album with a growl and crunching riff upfront, leading into a fast, rolling hook. The song has all the elements that define the album – rapid guitars rhythms, precise drumming, blistering lead breaks, and a great stadium anthem line for fans to sing along: “Be cold as metal!” The next song, “Journeyman,” pushes and expands this basic structure, stretching the musical construction with more speed and clever shifts. The narrative tone of the songs tend along the lines of alienation, of being an outsider. Also betrayal. These ideas match the well what you hear from the instruments. There are a couple of slower songs, but mostly they are up-tempo, on the speed side of metal. The overall arc of the set is an updated, refreshing take on traditional metal. It did the trick for me. Recommended.

The Omega Man is out now and can be had in the usual places, notably Bandcamp where you can grab the download or CD. Listen to a sample first then go all the way. There are no regrets with Divine Weep.




Divine Weep, The Omega Man review (Ossuary Records 2020)

Junkowl, Making Out With My Death review (2020)

I saw Junkowl last year at Heavy Montreal. They were the first band on Sunday and they came out swinging. They made an impression on me and ever since then I have been waiting for them to release an album. The wait is over.

Junkowl is a four-man band from Montreal: Jesse Frechette (vocals), Dom Labrie (drums), Marco Larosa (guitar), and Sam Matte (bass). Formed only a couple years ago, the band has pulled together solid compositional skills. While their music has a groove metal feel it also has a sharp edge.

Making Out With My Death offers “Snakecharmer” first, a mystical incantation about a succubus. It has a longish 90 second intro before Frechette jumps in with both feet to alert you that the song is going someplace else entirely. “Quarrantine Us All” is next, and it is just a punch in the face. Man, the lyrics (which I will let you discover when you listen to it) are some tough straight talk. Before you can really be sure what just happened in that song, “Shake Me” screeches your nerves. By now you are rattled, so the heavy riffs in the next song, “Dead Hooker,” give you a chance to collect yourself, but not completely. Junkowl has a way of keeping you off balance in your expectations – you cannot anticipate what the song is going to do next, and by extension, where the album is going. You just have to hold and go with it. “Crawling Up My Feet” is a stand-out track for me for the steadfastness of its rhythm running against the vocal parts which range from calm to hysterical. Another one to look for is the crowd pleaser, “10,000 Vultures,” memorable for so many reasons including its earnest bleakness. Overall this album exceeds my expectations. I liked Junkowl the first time I heard them play, and I am bigger fan now. Recommended.

You can get Making Out With My Death now from your favorite digital retailer. Give it a listen and consider buying a download. We have to support the music we like.

Band photo by Alexandre Guay.





Junkowl, Making Out With My Death review (2020)

Gratitude Compilation for NHS Charities Together

The Gratitude compilation was an idea brought to life by Deadfall Artist/Band Management, Secret Sin Records, and The Cage Studios to show support for and to raise money for NHS Charities Together during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Over 80 bands from the alternative music scene worldwide got involved and supplied tracks for the compilation. A renowned artist and friend, John D’Anter, volunteered to do the artwork which is a poignant portrayal of the Covid -19 situation, and the heavy burden fallen on the NHS in the United Kingdom.

Due to the overwhelming response from the bands in the scene, the compilation had to be split into two parts in order to accommodate the number of tracks used.

Gratitude Parts 1 & 2 are available to download via Bandcamp and has a minimum suggested donation of £ 7.99.



Gratitude Compilation for NHS Charities Together

Sorge, review (2020)

Directly from DC to you, heavy eclectics Sorge release their debut EP.

Coalescing in 2017, Sorge has been engineering a swelling evolution in sludge and doom. The band is Christian Pandtle (bass), Joshua Gerras (guitars and vocals), Mike Romadka (drums), Logan Boucher (lead guitars), and Jake Filderman (synthesizers). That’s a lot of musical firepower, and they use it all. The keys and sounds wrap around and through the traditional heavy music instruments, fomenting resolutions undiscovered in other places. Gerras’ voice puts me sometimes in mind of David Eugene Edwards (that’s a deep pull, folks – you’ll probably have to look that up), but he sets it in these exploratory compositions perfectly. Joined with the insistent rhythm and the churning guitars and the synth, the result sounds like what might emerge in nature after a cosmic incident.

There are four long songs on the EP, taking the minute count to almost full-length measures. The wake-up is “Faith of a Heretic,” a complete introduction to the Sorge way of doing things. The song has a classic doom intro, then the beat picks up and the vocals change. The lead guitar walks you in another direction before the synth steps in to shine jagged light on the story. “A Horse In Turin” and “Argent” (my favorite track) hold the middle ground, expanding on ideas presented up front. The closer, “Astral Burnout,” has the heaviest feel to me, and it is the most up-tempo. Guitars rule in this landscape, and the doom riffs are pepped up by the lead work near the end. This set is an excellent beginning for the band, showing talent and promise. Recommended.

You can grab the new Sorge EP at Bandcamp and the usual places tomorrow, Friday June 5. There is talk of physical versions of the album coming out down the road but right now it’s the digital. Hearing it is the most important thing.

Band photo by Matt Carter.




Sorge, review (2020)

Ripple Round-Up 2020, Round 01

Ripple Music is releasing some of the best heavy music in the business. Their catalogue is truly amazing. We got behind here at The Cabal and couldn’t do full reviews of these albums, but we couldn’t let them go by without comment, either. So here is one paragraph on each. Oh, and don’t forget to add “Highly Recommended” to the end of every paragraph because it belongs there.

Wolftooth, Valhalla (May 22)

Many have noticed and remarked that there is a strong presence of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal style in Wolftooth, and allow me to pile on. There is a broad resurgence of this kind of music, with varying results – the result here on Valhalla is impeccable. Part of the success in the music is that it’s neither an homage nor a repetition. Instead, the songs integrate NWOBHM with other approaches like doom metal. “Firebreather” stands out to me because of its companioning rhythms and urgent march passages. “Scylla & Charybdis” is another one that has lodged in my mind, this time due to its eerie roll and escalating intensity. There is not a bad one in the bunch. No skips required.

War Cloud, Earhammer Sessions (May 22)

“Vulture City” opens the album with a solid crack right to your brainpan. The classic metal style holds up for War Cloud throughout, and their playing is spot on. Earhammer Sessions was recorded live, presumably in studio at Earhammer Studios. It adds up. The band stated that they wanted to capture the energy and vibe of the set they had been playing on their European tour. I didn’t see that tour but this album does have a live feel to it with its raucous explosive fury. “Chopper Wired” is a fine example of what I mean with the drum solo in the second half of the song. You don’t usually get that kind of thing in a studio album. “White Lightning” follows immediately and it is not possible to push Lemmy out of your mind listening to it. What I am saying is: this is rock and roll.

Forming The Void, Reverie (May 8)

The vocals are soaring and echoey, making them sound either ethereal or extraterrestrial or both. The distorted rumbling guitars form impressions and make assertions about time, space, and in between. Reverie is the band’s fourth full-length release, and their confidence shows. They are pushing at the edges of the sound they have been working with over the past five years, and the results are impressive. The feel of the album is gloom, and it is epitomized by “Ancient Satellite,” starting out as it does with dreary hopelessness. It does take a turn toward false hope a couple of times, but the ending sounds like the last wandering transmission of a conquered planet. You will have to look elsewhere for happiness but you can find an excellent doom album right here.

The Watchers, High and Alive (April 24)

The four songs on this EP were captured live at the House of Rock in Santa Rosa in Fall 2019. The set starts out menacingly, then slips in a wah-wah and a phase shifter which lightens the atmosphere a little on “Black Abyss” but not the guitars. “Just A Needle” has a nice buzzy bounce. The main lead break sounds like a spy novel.  “Sabbath Highway” is a heavy metal rodeo that rolls right over you. “Starfire” is my favorite track on the album because of its sheer exuberance, but I mean it when I say they are all great. The musical precision combined with pulsing vitality of the band is an incomparable combination.

Bone Church, Acid Communion (March 13)

One of the best bands in the heavy guitar-driven bluesy industry brings a monster to your doorstep. “You’re always welcome at the Church of Bone where you can live the life divine.” The track I most remember is “Iron Temple” for its expansive stature, and it is also the place in the set where the music shifts gears a little and leads into the valley of the closing movement. On the other hand, “Iron Temple” could be the mountain that is summited and traversed from the beginning of the album and the end of the album. That debate is one for the listeners to work out on their own. The final song on the album is the title track, almost nine minutes long, and it is an epic story told with powerful, heavy guitars. I am delighted by Acid Communion and I can’t wait to get my ears on more.


Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/

Wolftooth, Valhalla, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/valhalla

War Cloud, Earhammer Sessions, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/earhammer-sessions

Forming The Void, Reverie, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/reverie

Bone Church, Acid Communion, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/acid-communion

Ripple Round-Up 2020, Round 01