Steve Vai, Vai / Gash (Favored Nations 2023)

Steve Vai’s collaboration with Johnny “Gash” Sombretto finally gets a wide release thirty years after it was recorded.

There are stories about lost albums, entire records that were recorded but never released. The reasons are sometimes contractual or esoteric. In the case of the Johnny “Gash” Sombretto and Steve Vai record, the reason it never came is tragic. Vai, an avid motorcycle enthusiast, met Sombretto through a friend around 1990. Steve put together a collection of songs over the years inspired by his love of motorcycles, and he convinced Sombretto to sing on the album. Sadly, before the music could be released, Johnny died in a motorcycle accident. Steve Vai put the recordings aside in 1998, but has now decided to let the world hear the music as a tribute to a singer most people never knew about.

“In The Wind” opens the door on goodtime hard-edged nineties rock and roll. Sombretto does sound the part, and I have no doubt that if events had taken a different turn and luck had been on his side, he could have had a long career as a front man. It is a hearty rock rollick that is hard to resist. “Busted” has a slightly heavier edge to it, a grittier feel. The melodic moments come fast and furious on this one, too. Vai’s lead breaks are short and sweet on these two, but the guitar picks up some with “Let’s Jam.” Not very much, though – the center of attention on this record is clearly Gash. “Woman Fever” closes side one on a bluesy note.

The flip side continues to walk the ground established by the first four songs. The record is fairly short, and the songs tend to cruise in a radio lane. “Danger Zone” is the pushiest piece, and “Flowers Of Fire” is the most contemplative, essentially a ballad. The album is worth hearing for its place in rock and roll history, and to listen to a singer who could have been big. Steve Vai’s presence is prominent throughout as well, of course, shining through on the compositional front and the always-impeccable guitar contributions. Recommended.

CD and digital versions are available on January 27th with vinyl to follow in February through Mascot Label Group’s Favored Nations Entertainment.

Links.

Steve Vai website, https://vai.com/

Bandcamp, https://stevevai.bandcamp.com/album/vai-gash

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/stevevai

Favored Nations Entertainment, https://www.favorednations.com/

Mascot Label Group, https://usa-store.mascotlabelgroup.com/collections/steve-vai

© Wayne Edwards

Steve Vai, Vai / Gash (Favored Nations 2023)

Clouds Taste Satanic, Tales Of Demonic Possession (Majestic Mountain 2023)

Let the new music from Clouds Taste Satanic engulf you: Tales Of Demonic Possession.

Clouds Taste Satanic is the best instrumental doom band in the land. I have been a fan for as long as I have been aware of them. For about ten years and across six previous full-length albums (plus the exceptional Satanic Singles series), the metal quartet from New York has shown itself to be limitlessly inventive. The new album adds not only to their canon, but to their legend and lore. The band is Sean Bay (bass), Steven Scavuzzo (guitar), Greg Acampora (drums), and Brian Bauhs (guitar).

There are four long tracks on the new album, one for each side with each running about twenty minutes in length. First is “Flames and Demon Drummers.” The song begins softly and quietly. The music is a bit melancholy, but otherwise light-hearted. The big guitar riffs do enter, and they land firmly, with the rhythm wall standing up an avenue for the lead. The composition charts a path and sees it through, encountering a few unexpected ripples along the way. “Sun Death Ritual” follows and opens with an invitational guitar posture, bringing in the doom sentiment shortly thereafter. The guitar is very active, as it must be on all the tracks, really, carrying a lot of the weight in the instrumental setting. The sound here is grimier than the first track, in the best possible way. It turns spacey then comes back, and toward the end there is a march through a dark land that is harrowing, indeed. Fantastic.

The second disc gives us “Spirits of the Green Desert” on side three. The wind whistles through the crusty rocks and you begin to hear drumming in the distance. The music that comes up is a clear indication that spells are being cast nearby. What is not immediately clear is the manner of magic being invoked. The heaviness of the music is a sign, but before you know enough to react, you are bewitched, fixed in place, immersed. “Conjuring the Dark Rider” is the final piece. It is the most dramatic to my ears, and the song with the most narrative clarity. There is a fantastic jam just before midway that stays with me even now. The ending demonstrates incredible sway. This is excellent music all the way through, and it is exactly what I was hoping for in the new record. Highly recommended.

Tales Of Demonic Possession is out on Friday, February 3rd in multiple formats, including vinyl, through Majestic Mountain Records. Have a look at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://cloudstastesatanic.bandcamp.com/album/tales-of-demonic-possession

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/CloudsTasteSatanic

CTS roundup at FFMB, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2020/04/07/a-quick-look-at-clouds-taste-satanic/

Majestic Mountain Records, https://majesticmountainrecords.bigcartel.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Clouds Taste Satanic, Tales Of Demonic Possession (Majestic Mountain 2023)

Iron Void, IV (Shadow Kingdom 2023)

Iron Void emerges from the mist with their fourth full-length doom album.

Iron Void started twenty-five years ago in the UK, laying down the doom and dark fantasy. Over the course of a live album, an EP, and three previous full-length albums, Iron Void has become known for their focus on myth and dark stories, including the Arthur legend. The new album retains the heaviness but takes off in more pedestrian narrative directions, dealing with many everyday horrors. The band is Jonathan “Sealey” Seale (bass, vocals), Steve Wilson (guitar, vocals), and Scott Naylor (drums).

There is an intro ramp and then eight songs on the new album. “Grave Dance” is a mid-tempo stomper that has a heavy groove and a noodling presence. It is hard-driving metal that made for a great single last year. “Living On The Earth” is more contemplative, and doomier. “Pandora’s Box,” is a radio-length banger that weaves a wicked groove around the irresistible vocal delivery. This one will be a crowd pleaser, and no mistake. “Blind Dead” is more serious in tone, and heavier in the riff. It is exceptionally well set-up as a massive doom song at the end of side one.

Th back half of the record is every bit as good as the front. “She” leads the charge in a mysterious vein, quieter and in many ways more determined to get its message across. “Lords Of The Wasteland” is a dusty song of gigantic proportion. The lumbering behemoth could crush you and not even realize you were there. “Slave One” reminds me of a non-Ozzy Iommi riff and cadence, while the closer, “Last Rites,” is the kind of song that takes you over before you know it, and holds you in its sway until it finishes. Dramatic in a Ritchie Blackmore kind of way (if he were in a dreary mood), it etches its signature on the inside of your skull, tying a nice black bow on the set. Recommended.

Iron Void’s fourth album is out on Friday, January 27th through Shadow Kingdom Records on digital, CD, vinyl, and cassette.

Band photo by Rob Benson.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ironvoid.bandcamp.com/album/iv

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/ironvoid/

Shadow Kingdom Records, https://www.shadowkingdomrecords.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Iron Void, IV (Shadow Kingdom 2023)

Seer Of The Void, Mantra Monolith (Venerate Industries 2023)

Seer of the Void is back with more impressive doom metal on their second full-length album, Mantra Monolith.

From Athens, Greece, Seer of the Void has been around since 2019. Their debut album, Revenant (2020), was a strong signal that they were a force to be reckoned with in the heavy music community. The release of their sophomore album, Mantra Monolith, puts them squarely at the center of attention. The band is Greg “Maddog” Konstantaras (bass, vocals), John Amariotakis (guitar), and Ilias Samartzis (drums).

“Astride” wakens the beast with beautiful doom. Konstantaras’ vocals have a dramatic weight to them, a sort of guttural pleading that is not asking anything, but rather is a definitive instruction. The lead guitar is not what I was expecting – it is a lithe and deadly serpent, twisting and curling hypnotically. “Electric Father” takes a different tack. It is a curious inculcation of Black Sabbath and Weedeater with an Adriatic tincture for good measure. Odd and wonderful. “Death is my Name” brings a different kind of clash, with clickety-clack percussion giving way to an undulating, basal ululating musical metalation. Listen to the track and tell me I am wrong.

All eight pieces of the set have their own space to operate in, and each contributes essentially to the whole. The band namesake track, “Seer of The Void,” is a favorite of mine due to its charging, relentless nature. It is an excellent policy statement for the band. “Demon’s Hand” and “Hex” compete in heaviness, and the latter has the edge. “Necromancer” wraps the proceedings with determined grit and boundless energy. This is an album you don’t want to miss. Highly recommended.

Mantra Monolith is out on Friday, January 27th through Venerate Industries. Check out the label’s on-line store below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://seerofthevoid.bandcamp.com/album/mantra-monolith

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Seerofthevoid

Venerate Industries, https://www.venerateindustries.store/

© Wayne Edwards

Seer Of The Void, Mantra Monolith (Venerate Industries 2023)

Ashen Horde, Antimony (Transcending Obscurity 2023)

Progressive blackened death metal band Ashen Horde summon essences from the beyond for their fourth long-player, Antimony.

Initially, Ashen Horde was a one-man band, but since its beginning the line-up has expanded to Trevor Portz (guitar, clean vocals), Stevie Boiser (harsh vocals), Robin Stone (drums), and Igor Panasewicz (bass). With at least seven EPs and three previous long-players in their catalogue, the band has a lot to offer. The new record expands and deepens the musicians’ legacy, moving them closer to the vanguard of contemporary metal.

After a short intro, “The Throes of Agony” is the ice breaker. At the beginning, the music feels like a battering from a rock hammer – on the pointy end. The weight of the metal accelerated by the swing assists in the deep penetration of the probing end. The lead guitar break is surprisingly lyrical, and the riffs have an underhanded hookiness to them. The vocals are half-hissed. When the elements are brought together this way, the blast beats enter easily and the gruff vocals, when they arrive, are perfectly in place. Excellent. “The Consort” brings its own introduction, which distracts from the cliff you are walking toward. The music reminds me of a dark carnival in many places. But then in the second half, there is a long guitar break that brings on nostalgia for metal from the past. The dueted vocals are a surprise.

Not counting the intro bit and the short “bonus” track at the end, there are eight longish songs on the album. Each is a combination of different genre lanes, assembled carefully for impact and consistency. Listening to the entire album is an unusual experience because, despite the angular differences in the pieces – both within and between – it all fits and flows so nicely together. “The Barrister” is an excellent example of this by itself. There is not much dissonance, although you will find it in places, like on “The Neophyte.” Overall, this is a great metal album that will have a broader appeal than I at first imagined. Recommended.

Antimony is out on Friday, January 27th through Transcending Obscurity Records. Tons of great merch and format variants are available for this release through the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ashenhordeband.bandcamp.com/album/antimony-black-death-metal

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/AshenHorde

Transcending Obscurity Records, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Ashen Horde, Antimony (Transcending Obscurity 2023)

Dead Will Walk, A New Day Of Dawning (Dawnbreed 2023)

European death metallers Dead Will Walk brand the pages of history with their latest music, A New Day Of Dawning.

It has been six years since Dutch death metal band Dead Will Walk released new music. Their first published work was a split with Entrapment in 2017 followed in that same year by their debut EP Unleash The Dead. Fans have been on tenterhooks ever since. The good news is A New Day Of Dawning will certainly sate their musical thirst. The band is Patrick de Vaal (guitar), Sander Vos (vocals, drums), and Rick Schonewille (bass).

There are six tracks on the new EP. “Raise the Horde” leads the way. It has a military feel to it, and, while the music fits firmly in the ranks of death metal, I enjoyed a nice flush of black metal rippling beneath the skin. “Nightscreams” is a paint peeler, with surging punk energy and a raking vocal delivery that matches perfectly the lyrics. The horror vibe is real and pulsing, saturated in the dark music. I anticipated a heavy dooming vault for “Concrete Wombs,” but the song turns out to be very active and it has a smashing nature to go along with the doom vibery and massive heaviness. The shifts are regular and sometimes sharp. It is like walking through a dungeon and discovering new terrors around each corner.

“From Moving Grounds” continues the contemplative slugging from the end of side one and takes it even deeper. There is a long heavy chop at center stage, contained by the established undulating moat. “Day of Dawning” is positively aerobic for long patches, accepting tinge and tint from other regards to complete the picture. The set finishes with “Headstone Tales.” My favorite track on the album, this anchor piece is a massacre at midnight, incorporating all the best elements the band has showed off so far and seamlessly integrating them into a dark anthem. Once you reach the end, your first thought will be that you must hear it again. Recommended.

A New Day Of Dawning is out on Friday, January 27th through Dawnbreed Records. Check it out at the links below.

Band photo by Ronald van de Baan.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://deadwillwalk.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/deadwillwalk/

Dawnbreed Records, https://www.dawnbreed.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Dead Will Walk, A New Day Of Dawning (Dawnbreed 2023)

Robot Death Monkey, Intergalactic Party Powder (2022)

Scotland’s Robot Death Monkey slap down another irresistible slab of metal on Intergalactic Party Powder.

For a dozen years now, Robot Death Monkey has been ruffling feathers in the stoner metal world. In a good way. They have released a string of fierce EPs, including Booze Cruise (2015), Big Pussy (2019), and Druid Odyssey (2021). The music is heavy groove metal with a rock and roll propulsion that you can’t get enough of once you start listening. The band is Shaun Forshaw (bass, vocals) Sam Forshaw (drums), Alan Travers (guitar), and Fraser Lough (guitar).

“Bantha Rider” has a great punch. The song structure does put me in mind of Clutch, but the music is much more metal, maybe in the Orange Goblin direction. Great riffs, great pound. The lead guitar solo is fantastic. It is an instrumental heavy metal feast. “Asgardian Micro Whitey” is another rambler, and our first clear listen to Forshaw’s vocals, which are rugged and declarative. The lead break on this song is lethal, and it’ll pin your ears back.

With a title like “Dragon Clit,” it almost doesn’t matter what the song sounds like. Thankfully, it turns out this track is a killer. The riffage is like a line of lance-wielding Spartans advancing unstoppably, all the while stabbing straight for your eyes. It is another instrumental juggernaut. “Kittens and Coke” opens gently, like a murderer laying in wait. Suddenly, the entire group jumps out, every hand swinging a heavy hammer. We are told straight up that there “is only one thing that I need: kittens and coke.” Well, sure, who hasn’t said that themselves? And here we have it set to music. This is a tasty party song the legions will welcome.

Listening to this four-song EP on repeat might lead to spontaneous human combustion. Recommended.

Intergalactic Party Powder is out now. Bandcamp is the reliable hook-up. While you are there, check out the band’s other albums – there is lot of great music ready to be heard.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://robotdeathmonkey.bandcamp.com/album/intergalactic-party-powder

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/RobotDeathMonkey/

© Wayne Edwards

Robot Death Monkey, Intergalactic Party Powder (2022)

DoctoR DooM, A Shadow Called Danger (Ripple 2023)

DoctoR DooM, the four-piece stoner rock act from France, helps you start your year off right with A Shadow Called Danger.

I first came across DoctoR DooM when I heard their album This Seed We Have Sown (2015) that I picked up during a Ripple Music sale. The vibrations I experienced that day live in my synapses still. I have been waiting ever since for another infusion – at last it has arrived. The band is Jean-Laurent Pasquet (vocals, guitar) Bertrand Legrand (guitar), Michel Marcq (drums), and Sébastien Boutin Blomfield (bass).

The new album is heavier than the last, doomier in parts. The first track, “Comeback to Yourself,” starts off that way, heavy, but shifts into a lighter frame after a number of bars and starts to cook. Immediately, you start to feel 1974 rising from its resting place and sweeping the room with renewed vigor. Light yet meaningful, delivered with purpose. The perfect jump. “What Are They Trying to Sell” follows with a different tone. I don’t know what they had in mind when they wrote it, but to me it makes me see the beach from the perspective of the PCH. But then it slows and becomes dramatic, telling a different story. It is a journey. Nice organ work on this track by Jim Blomfield, too.

“Ride On” is a quiet piece, filled with eager solitude that builds to eventual explosion. The switch (or you might call it a progression) happens in other songs, too, like “Hollow.” Here though it is more gradual and has the biggest tidal change. These songs, the whole album, are lookbacks in a way, sure, but they are reinventions more than replications. In that sense the music is filled with surprises even as it brings on nostalgia. The beautiful and sad “Sarabande” closes the show and leaves you wanting more.

If the new album is any measure, the second decade of DoctoR DooM will be even better than the first. Recommended.

A Shadow Called Danger is out now through Ripple Music. Explore the possibilities at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://doctordoom.bandcamp.com/album/a-shadow-called-danger

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/doctordoom09/

Ripple Music, https://www.ripple-music.com/

© Wayne Edwards

DoctoR DooM, A Shadow Called Danger (Ripple 2023)

Ahab, The Coral Tombs (Napalm 2023)

Extreme doom metal band Ahab drags you beneath the waves and shows you horrors on their latest album, The Coral Tombs.

It all began in Germany in 2004. Ahab arose. The music they create is typically categorized as funeral doom, but that does not capture it very well. I don’t dispute the description. I simply think that their music covers considerably more ground (or sea, as the case may be) than you might expect from the typical funeral doom band. Besides that, the narrative theme is specific and sweeping, especially on the new album, which is the fifth long-player from the band, marking their nineteenth year in existence. Ahab is Cornelius Althammer (drums, Daniel Droste (vocals, guitar), Christian Hector (guitar), and Stephan Wandernoth (bass).

“Prof. Arronax’ Descent Into The Vast Oceans” is a long story. It starts out shrieking, then goes suddenly dead quiet. A funeral doom pace ensues, but the music itself is more lyrical than you might expect for that genre. Enormous oppressive guitar riffs do slowly emerge, threatening to overwhelm the movement. Instead, there is a long guitar soliloquy. “Colossus Of The Liquid Graves” comes next and presents for all the world as a deep sea terror tale in sound and action. The vocal croak comes from a humungous beast at depth, and the clear singing that follows might be from a doomed soul. You start to feel an entrenchment of evil in this music, and it is a feeling that only deepens as you wind your way through the tracks that follow.

The first two songs put you through the wringer and there is still fifty minutes to go. Epic mysticism is in store for you on “Mobilis In Mobile,” and the drowning of hope is inevitable on “A Coral Tomb.” The writing might very well be on the seafloor but still there is no avoiding the magnificent conclusion voiced in “The Mælstrom.” The music is expansive, existing in a realm not often traversed by bands, no matter how heavy. Recommended.

The Coral Tombs is out now through Napalm Records. Press the links below to harvest it.

Band photo by Stefan Heilemann.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ahab.bandcamp.com/album/the-coral-tombs

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/AhabDoom

Napalm Records, https://label.napalmrecords.com/ahab

© Wayne Edwards

Ahab, The Coral Tombs (Napalm 2023)

Azken Auzi, Azken Auzi (Argonauta 2023)

Sludgy doom band Azken Auzi release their self-titled debut.

Stationed in Toulon, France, Azken Auzi is a new band formed by musicians from other metal acts. Deciding they wanted a change of pace, they veered from death metal and noise toward atmospheric doom, frequently touching on funeral doom landscapes. Their new album is a deary delight.

“Disgrace” brings notes of fear to the beginning of the set. Slow and ominous, the lead-in sets up perfectly the gruff howls of despair that follow in the vocals. This is grim stuff, and unrelenting. “Azken Auzi” is up next, and it takes the music down a notch into funeral doom territory. Over the course of the song the tempo does pick up considerably, but the sentiment does not brighten. It is a thunderclap that keeps rolling. “I Hate You” is almost pleasant in comparison. The hopelessness and sorrow saturate the musical palate of this song as well, although here there is a sense of movement, an active sort of despair, you might say. Hate, after all, is actionable.

“Rho Scorpii” offers a sort of emotional parallax because the droning rhythm can set you down the path of darkness but there is also a reassuring known-ness to it as the song progresses. This is the sort of music that could go on for twenty minutes and you would still be hanging in there with it. “K.R.L.H.” is a graveyard dirge; lovely, drowning darkness. The pace turns after a while, and the narrative seems to switch toward a campaign – a path of intention. “Home” is the anchor and the longest track of the set. It has a tentative beginning that is clearly heading toward something else – change is in the air. This song is the most exploratory, and it covers the most ground. At the very end there is a bonus track, which is an alternate version of the title song. I appreciate the dark menace of this music and the dedication of the compositions to their purpose. Recommended.

Azken Auzi is out now through Argonauta Records. Get yours at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://azkenauzi.bandcamp.com/album/azken-auzi

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/azkenauzi

Argonauta Records, https://www.argonautarecords.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Azken Auzi, Azken Auzi (Argonauta 2023)