Photos by Wayne Edwards.
© Wayne Edwards
Photos by Wayne Edwards.
© Wayne Edwards
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.
Ripple Music, https://www.ripple-music.com/
© Wayne Edwards
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.
Napalm Records, https://label.napalmrecords.com/ahab
© Wayne Edwards
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.
Argonauta Records, https://www.argonautarecords.com/
© Wayne Edwards
Warsaw stoner rock band Müut lets loose on their debut long-player, Made Me Do It.
Müut began just a couple of years ago. Initially inspired and informed by punk and hardcore music, the compositional direction of the band eventually shifted toward a hard rock version of stoner rock, with big nods to classic forms. The result is a cracking set of rock and roll with exotic undertones. Müut is Vlad Guzmán (vocals, bass), Mateusz Pacholczyk (drums), Krzysztof Geryk (guitar), and Szymon Kaim (guitar).
“Another Bill To Pay” is a hard-charging rock song, up-tempo and loaded with catchiness. The lead break is designed for broad appeal as well, not taking up too much space. A very good, rollicking beginning. “Graso” seeks to keep the energy high, but in a very different way. The opening lyrics have a stabbing quality to them, like an attack on the listener. They mellow as the song continues, but you never forget the opening peal, which is itself repeated for good measure. “Fight The Müutonegro” offers a nostalgic appeal to old school tropes, and so does “Braindead,” in many ways, although different ones. These familiar bits a remolded and integrated into modern settings, giving them new life. Side one ends on “Enter Thy Name,” a pensive, reflective number that is an effective cooldown.
The back half continues with the premise establish by the early songs. I especially like “Last Tattoo,” which has a dominating presence and is a genuine battering. The tone changes midway, and the song transforms somewhat, making it all the more appealing. The final track stands out as well, “Salvation Fix.” It is a gruff way to exit, and I like it a lot. This record is good hard-edged rock and roll. Give it a spin.
Made Me Do It is out now. In the US, Bandcamp is a good place to pick it up.
© Wayne Edwards
Italian stoner metal band Demonio puts it all together on Electric Voodoo Of The Black Dawn.
Demonio is a power trio that plays doom stoner heavy psych metal music that will open your mind, whether or not you are chemically prepared for the journey. Peopled by Matteo (bass), Paolo (drums), and Anthony (guitar, vocals), Demonio have put out a long-player and an EP in the past couple of years, titled, respectively, Electric Voodoo (2021) and Black Dawn (2022). The new record collects these two in one place and makes them available in new physical editions to go along with the digital that already exists.
The spirit awakens with “From the Grave,” a trippy, groovy, guitar-driven delight. If anything is coming out of the grave, it is just popping up to light the bong, so never fear. “Lust for the Dark” takes a step back to consider the impetus of carnality and its association with dim lighting. Heh-heh. Not really. It is a slower cook, and that just makes the notes all the more tender to the touch. The lead guitar is either the charmer or the snake, and, whichever is true, the effect is hypnotizing. “Acid’s Dream” is fuzzier and grungier and every bit as potent. The established range is challenged throughout, enriching the musical environment.
The title tracks have a special place in the set. “Electric Voodoo” is a warbly enabler, encouraging deeper explorations than have so far come to pass. “Black Dawn” is one of the longer songs in the compilation, and it makes expert use of all the afforded space. The long, languid middle keeps your mind from exploding, and the punching ending is an excellent send-off. Recommended.
Electric Voodoo Of The Black Dawn is out now in digital and CD through Regain Records, with a vinyl version to follow in 2023 from DHU Records.
Demonio Bandcamp, https://demonio666.bandcamp.com/album/electric-voodoo
DHU Records, https://darkhedonisticunionrecords.bigcartel.com/
Shadow Records, https://www.shadowrecords.se/
Helter Skelter Productions, https://www.facebook.com/helterskelterproductions/
© Wayne Edwards
If you ever have any questions about doom metal, the answers are in this book.
Aleksey Evdokimov has compiled and assembled an astonishing amount of information regarding doom metal music. On the surface, Doom Metal Lexicanum is exactly what it appears to be: an encyclopedia of doom metal bands. You do get broad coverage of more bands than you can imagine. I thought I knew a lot about this vein of music, but clearly I was wrong. There are bands here I have never heard of, dozens and dozens of them. The entries are different lengths, depending on how long the band has been around, how much they have performed, and the number of albums they have released. For new bands or short-lived one, you will find a couple of paragraphs. For legendary groups like Candlemass, the entry goes on for pages.
Evdokimov covers 360 bands, in doom and closely related fields. I performed an experiment wherein I tried to think of a band that wasn’t in the book. I didn’t do very well. In fact, I couldn’t come up with any, except for ones that aren’t really doom bands or are new enough to have missed the publication deadline. The coverage is comprehensive and, while it might not be exhaustive, it is close enough to confound any metalhead I know. In addition to the entries describing the bands and their work, you also get a few essays at the end of the volume discussing related topics like witchcraft and black magic in doom, Lovecraftian influences on the music, and so on.
The current incarnation of the volume is the second edition. The author notes that the text has been revised only slightly. Essentially, the selected discographies have been updated for important new albums that have emerged in the four years that passed since the first edition, along with a few minor other changes, but the text from the first edition remains largely intact. The new edition is in hardcover, which is an improvement over the original paperback, and the layout is a bit different, too, also enhancing the reading experience.
If you are a doom metal fan, this book is absolutely essential. You can order a copy through the link below or gather one up at your preferred bookseller.
Doom Metal Lexicanum, second edition
By Aleksey Evdokimov
Published by Crypt Publications and Cult Never Dies in 2021
© Wayne Edwards
Are four-day music festivals too much of a good thing?
Do you remember when big music festivals lasted for three days? I do. It was just a couple of years ago, before the covid-19 pandemic. Ah, the good old days.
All major music festivals were cancelled in 2020 because of covid, so when the next year rolled around – and we were still facing covid restrictions – festival promoters had the idea that an extra day added on to the festival would be a nice bonus because we all had missed out completely the year before. That sounded pretty good at the time. More bands, more beer, more food, more music. And it was pretty good. The first year. 2023 is the third year in a row where four-day music festivals are commonplace, and it is starting to wear me down.
The thing about four-day festivals is they are really long, an expensive. For fans, that is an extra day they have to take off work, an extra day in a hotel (or camping), and extra day of food and drink expense. It adds up. For some people, like me, the third day was a bit wearisome, having spent day one and day two hitting it hard. A fourth day can test your limits of endurance, and if it does that, the fun really starts to slow down.
So why does the fourth day persist? I can think of a few reasons off the top of my head. For one thing, there is the illusion of value. Prices have gone up for festivals, but they did not go up 33% as we might expect for that extra day. Four days then seems like a good deal to people (setting aside those extra day expenses I mentioned a second ago). Most importantly, the fourth day persists because there really isn’t any choice, is there? If you are going to a festival in the area where you live, you probably don’t have three or four different ones to choose from every year with the kind of music you want to see. So, you take what’s available.
From the promoter’s point of view, four-day festivals make more money because they sell food and booze and merch for an extra day. The rental of the festival grounds might be a little higher, but the biggest expenses are fixed cost – the headliners, the stages, etc. – so an extra day does not add to those costs much, if at all. They would have to pay more bands to play, if there were more bands playing. You might have noticed, though, that many of the big festivals have reduced the number of acts per day as they added an additional festival day. Are there really more bands? Not many.
I think the situation is that four-day festivals have become expected, so scaling back might be perceived as a loss in value and quality. Therefore, we might just be struck them for a while. Personally, one of my favorite festivals was always Heavy Montreal, and that is a two-day festival. It was paired with the one-day ’77 event (a punk festival), so you could easily opt out or in, depending on what you wanted to do. Psycho Las Vegas has the optional add-on Psycho Swim on the Thursday before the festival, making a nice separating option. That’s a good way to go, too. The only thing you can do along these lines for most four-day festivals is by one day at a time, which is priced to be considerably more expensive.
I hate to miss out on the big festivals where heavy metal bands play, but I am worn down by the four days. This year, I am going to concentrate on the smaller events (one- and two-day metal fests) and the ones that kept it to a tight three. For the most part, anyway. I do expect to be at Blue Ridge Rock Fest this year, and probably Aftershock, but otherwise I am capping it at three days. So, that’ll be Psycho Las Vegas without the swim (I’ll be there on Thursday but look for me sitting at the tables), Metal Threat, Heavy Psych Sounds, Hell In The Harbor, Rock Fest, and festivals like that. I love music festivals. I just don’t want too much of a good thing.
Photos by Wayne Edwards
© Wayne Edwards
The new Obituary album sums up the state of the world: Dying Of Everything.
Legendary death metal band Obituary started out in Florida in the 1980s as Executioner (Xecutioner), releasing a few demos and a split in the middle of that decade. With the name change to Obituary in 1988, the band really started to take off and garnered increasing attention. Their first few albums are classics, particularly Cause Of Death (1990). Other great records followed, and in the past few years, Obituary is better than ever. Their recent albums have been embraced by fans and critics alike. Dying Of Everything is the eleventh Obituary album, and the first new studio album in six years. Founders John Tardy (vocals), Donald Tardy (drums), and Trevor Peres (guitar) are joined by long-time members Terry Butler (bass) and Ken Andrews Jr. (guitar) on the new record.
There are ten blistering tracks on Dying Of Everything. The door is kicked open with “Barely Alive,” and it is a ripper. It starts with a roar and has riffs like canon blasts. John Tardy is setting a high vocal standard at the jump, and he keeps it up throughout. “The Wrong Time” has a longer build, raising tension until the guitars hit hard with a charging menace. Two songs in and you already feel the weight and magnitude of this album.
The title track has a special allure, and its reckless speed is a dangerous attractor. The lead guitar work is bewildering. “My Will To Live” is another one to look out for. There is an insidious gruesomeness to the layers of the song, and the delivery of the vocals has a permanent impact. “Torn Apart” is another favorite track of mine. The persistence of the music, the insistence of it. It is exceptional, and that is saying a lot about a single song from set that is overall of such high caliber. Don’t miss out. Recommended.
Dying Of Everything is out on Friday, January 13th through Relapse Records. Hit up the links below to listen and buy.
Band photos by Wayne Edwards.
Obituary website, https://www.obituary.cc/
Relapse Records, https://store.relapse.com/b/obituary
© Wayne Edwards
Kansas City thrash band Hellevate crack the whip on their latest EP, The Purpose Is Cruelty.
Hellevate has been shaking the earth for more than a decade. Their self-titled EP came out in 2008, a herald for the likewise labeled full-length record that landed four years later. Over the years, the band wrestled with a few line-up disruptions, but the music kept flowing with another long-player in 2016, Weapons Against Their Will, and a second EP a couple years back. Hellevate is Robert Browne (vocals), Joshua Cole (guitar), Dan Whitmer (guitar), Zack Burke (bass), and R. J. Whitmer (drums).
“The Purpose is Cruelty” announces the set in grand style, with a dramatic ramp and voiceover. When the music kicks, it kicks hard. Talkative vocals lay down the law and the rhythm section keeps everything on track. The baseline is monster, and the two-part lead guitar break inspires confidence. “Dagon” digs in on mysticism, swinging weaponized riffs. Fantasy joins the thrashing for a harrowing ride. “Buried Under Mistakes” is like waking up beneath an overpass with a splitting headache, trying to put last night together in your head and not having much luck. The song is melodic thrash, offering singable moments fans will immediately embrace.
“Die or Be Killed” is a fire-spitting mold breaker. The music has a rising quality to it you used to hear sometimes in dark metal way back when. Here, though, the spin is decidedly modern, and the exit ramp is an oddity. The curtain comes down on “(No) Further Action is Required.” The voiceover is back. This time, however, it is breaking up and the wheels seemed to have come off. The music has a more aggressive quality to it, and the vocals are determined. This EP is a keeper, with excellent thrash that will get your pulse up. Recommended.
The Purpose Is Cruelty is out on Saturday, January 14th – grab it at Bandcamp.
© Wayne Edwards