Doctor Smoke, Dreamers and the Dead (Ripple Music 2021)

The second album from Ohio heavy rockers Doctor Smoke stirs the cauldron and speaks the words.

The Witching Hour came out in 2014. That album set a rattle in my bones that still gives me a tingle now and then. The music is a collaboration with darkness and groove, horror and insight, and it presents the world to you in a way you might not have thought about before. And yet it rings absolutely true. There are not a lot of groups who can do that, so Doctor Smoke occupies a rarified ethereal realm. The band is Matt Tluchowski (guitar and vocals), Steve Lehocky (guitar), Jeff Young (bass), and Cody Cooke (drums).

Ten sinister tracks of rock and metal mayhem, that’s what Dreamers and the Dead is. The tendency is toward mid-tempo enhanced by an enthusiastic flair that moves the music along like an evenly distributed accelerant. Rebellious shifts abound revealing alcoves and clandestine mysteries. As an example, “These Horrid Things” is a song burbling with variegation and insistent twists highlighted by elegant guitar work. And it is not the only one. The entire album is an enigma in the sense that it is fascinating – a reliably wicked puzzle from which you cannot look away.

I particularly appreciate “What Lies Beyond” with its lounge-tuned section followed immediately by a ripping lead break, and title track, with its blunt assessment of the nature of reality. This album absolutely cracks. I was enormously impressed by the band’s first album, and I like this new one even better. If you don’t yet have Doctor Smoke on a playlist you are really missing out. Highly recommended.

Dreamers and the Dead is out now from Ripple Music. You will find the digital, CDs, vinyl, and merch at the links below.

Links.

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

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

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/product/doctor-smoke-dreamers-and-the-dead-deluxe-vinyl-editions

Doctor Smoke, Dreamers and the Dead (Ripple Music 2021)

Gwar, The Disc With No Name (Pit Records 2021)

Horror metal masters Gwar punch you quietly with an acoustic set.

There is a long story to Gwar and a short story. Let’s go short. It is a metal band composed of musicians who dress in elaborate prosthetics to represent space aliens. The costumes look more like medieval dark fantasy legends than aliens to me, but in either case they certainly are impressive. There is quite an extensive backstory and you can read all about it on their website. The music is loud and the lyrics are obnoxious and the live shows are amazing. Most people do not have a middle-of-the-road opinion of the band. It is a love them or don’t situation.

The Disc With No Name is an acoustic set of four well-known songs from the Gwar catalogue. It was hard for me to even conceive of what this would sound like. Their music is so boisterous and in your face that toned-down versions seem like something from another world. Wait a minute … maybe that does work after all.

The songs included are “Fuck This Place,” “Gonna Kill You,” “I’ll Be Your Monster,” and “The Road Behind.” If you are a fan of the band you will certainly recognize these titles. What does it sound like? Well, it is the chords from these songs played acoustically with mostly clear vocals. You have to hear it for the full effect, of course. The main thing that is jarring is the cognitive dissonance of listening to gentle, quiet, soothing music with lyrics from, say, “Fuck this Place.” It messes with your head a little.

This one is a curiosity and I don’t expect the band will repeat it often, or ever. Fans of Gwar are going to like it. I expect the physical versions will sell out fast but there is always the digital. At the very least you want to hear this so hit up a streaming service to get a taste. Recommended.

The Disc With No Name is out now. Gwar has all the goods at their website.

Links.

Gwar website, https://gwar.net/

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

Gwar, The Disc With No Name (Pit Records 2021)

Silver Talon, Decadence And Decay (M-Theory Audio 2021)

The first full-length album from dark power metal band Silver Talon is an epic attack on your senses.

With a sound as big and complete as Silver Talon produces, Decadence And Decay is a promising sign of what we hope will turn out to be a long string of mesmerizing albums. The band is unusually large, with three listed guitarists: Wyatt Howell (vocals), Bryce VanHoosen (guitar), Sebastian Silva (guitar), Devon Miller (guitar), Walter Hartzell (bass), and Michael Thompson (drums). They make the most of all these assets in the performance of their sweeping compositions.

The music the band creates is usually described as Power Metal but that does not catch all the aspects of Silver Talon. The precision of the lead guitar – and the astonishing speed – has to be heard to be believed. There are many prog elements here, too, with complex parts working together to achieve a greater whole. Wyatt Howell’s vocals press to the soaring in a broad range. The rhythm section is at times in the service of the meter and at other moments a whirling inclination of its own. Taken together, the effect can be overwhelming.

The lyrical themes are often dark fantasy and breathe the essence of large gathered forces in conflict. The eight songs on the album average in the five minute range giving plenty of opportunity for extension and expression. The epic closer, “Touch The Void,” runs over eight minutes at the end and has the full complement of entreaties. It is essentially a suite, and it tests the highs and lows, the speeds and slows. If you are looking for spacious metal with both straight-forward and complex compartments, you will be glad you found Silver Talon. Recommended.

Digital, CD, cassette, and vinyl versions become available from M-Theory Audio on Friday, May 28th.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://silvertalon.bandcamp.com/album/decadence-and-decay-2

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

Silver Talon website, https://www.silver-talon.com/

M-Theory Audio, https://www.m-theoryaudio.com/

Silver Talon, Decadence And Decay (M-Theory Audio 2021)

Tribulation, Where The Gloom Becomes Sound (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Tribulation strike out on their fifth crusade of long-playing gothic horror, tuning the guitars to mysticism and setting the compass toward cemeteries.

The band began in Sweden around the turn of the century under another name playing a style of death metal that curved over time toward gothic metal and doom. Since 2004, Johannes Andersson (vocals and bass) and Adam Zaars (guitar) have been the driving forces in the band. Oscar Leander (drums) and Joseph Tholl (guitar) arrived more recently to ply sonic dimensions of decay with the founders. The most recent studio album was Down Below (2018) and the band released a live set in 2019, Alive and Dead at Södra Teatern.

The music begins sounding for all the world like the soundtrack to a horror movie – you can see in your mind the dancing skeletons when you hear the eerie refrain. The guitars land with a muted push, and the vocals are presented at a death metal crossover level. The melody of the guitar is an echoing lament and the chorus is solidly rooted in an old school metal style. The bridges are theatrical, mimicking bow-touched strings. The lead break is a soaring epitaph. It is a major production, “In Remembrance,” and it is just the first song.

In some ways, the music is a bit like a modulated, more approachable Mercyful Fate essence, although clearly less doctrinaire in the narrative. The songs are more about the vaporous essence and feeling than they are about pushing a specific idea or intention. “Leviathans,” for example has lilting quality to it while being surrounded all the while by a heavy mist that could be holding dire consequences.

“Lethe” is a lovely, sad piano piece and the very next song (my favorite on the album) is the crashing, rampaging “Daughter of the Djinn.” Heading toward the end of the album, “Funeral Pyre” is an adrenaline-fueled climax, setting up “The Wilderness,” the final song that walks you into the woods and leaves you there, feeling somehow ready to face the unknown. The experience is dark and dramatic. Recommended.

Where The Gloom Becomes Sound is available now from Metal Blade Records in all manner of visual variants.

Links.

Website, https://www.tribulation.se/

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

Metal Blade Records, https://www.metalblade.com/tribulation/

Tribulation, Where The Gloom Becomes Sound (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Yaotl Mictlan, Sagrada Tierra del Jaguar review (American Line Productions 2020)

Salt Lake City Metal band Yaotl Mictlan take us on a savage journey with their third album, Sagrada Tierra del Jaguar.

The band is brothers Yaotl and Tlatecatl joined by Tenoch (according to The Metal Archives). The press release reveals: “The brothers shared a mutual passion around their Mexica and Mayan culture. Their lyrics focus on the belief that after Christians colonized Mexico, their people lost their identity and succumbed to a colonized way of life; the lyrics are inspired by the unfortunate way in which at the present time their people live in extreme self-hatred. Ultimately, they would like to see the end of the colonized way of thinking and for their people to embrace their roots.” Knowing the background and inspiration of the composers sometimes gives listeners additional insight into the music, thereby making it more impactful. I definitely think that is true in this case because the motivation is so powerful.

The music is extremely heavy, even with the gentle opening of “Entre lluvias Fuertes.” Well, gentle – I mean quiet, but it is very unsettling with eerie wind instruments and rattles, and voices in a lilting disembodied elemental frame. The first guitar riff drops about a minute and a half in and pushes you over as if you were made of dry reeds. When the vocals begin, you have started to become part of the object that is the layered, ambient, dark energy surrounding you everywhere and penetrating.

The music on the album has a living mysticism to it in sound and narrative, and a feeling of melancholy – and often hopelessness. In that sense it lies in the land of Doom Metal, but the feeling of it is more like Black Metal, or what I have heard called Dark Metal. And then there are rising moments of power and what might sound like hope, furthering the complexity of the music and the message.

The songs are typically riff heavy, with many, like “Ba’alche’o’ob” and “Tezcatlipoca – Espejo Relumbrante,” riding on driving, punishing percussion, and others, such as “Nuevo Fuego,” with long, ethereal moments surrounded by the rising walls of harsher sound. The closing song, “Sombra del Mictlan,” is the longest, running about eleven minutes and beginning with an invocation in voice and what sounds like a wooden flute. Doom riffs follow with harmonic whistles and rattles broadening the musical vista. It is an amazing piece. The heavy sound of Yaotl Mictlan truly is unique. Recommended.

Out now through American Line Productions and available through Bandcamp. If you are looking for something other than the digital, check out the band’s website at the link below for CDs and other merch. If you have never heard the band before, this album is a great place to start.

Links.

Band website, https://yaotlmictlan.com

Band Bandcamp, https://yaotlmictlan.bandcamp.com

Band Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/yaotlmictlanband

Label website, http://www.alprods.net

Label Big Cartel webstore, http://www.alprods.bigcartel.com

Yaotl Mictlan, Sagrada Tierra del Jaguar review (American Line Productions 2020)