Stones Of Babylon, Ishtar Gate (Raging Planet 2022)

Instrumental doom band Stones of Babylon unfurl their second full-length album, Ishtar Gate.

Stones of Babylon is from Lisbon, Portugal. They play a psychedelic-infused brand of instrumental doom. They came together five years ago, and have released a demo, a live album, and the debut long-player Hanging Gardens. The band is Alexandre Mendes (guitar), João Medeiros (bass), and Pedro Branco (drums).

What’s the album about, you ask. “Somewhere in Babylon, in a space almost lost in time, the eighth gate of the city was erected. Like any door, the Ishtar Gate symbolizes access to coded worlds, the closing of crossroads, or simply the thunderous force of power.” When you peruse the track list, you get a further idea of the geographic and mythological locus of the themes explored in the music. In any case, with instrumental music you can make it about anything you want when you listen. However, in this case, the music matches the theme perfectly and knowing the ideas behind it all improves the listening.

There are six long tracks on the album, starting with “Gilgamesh (…and Enkidu’s demise).” The riffs are massive and extra buzzy, filling the space around you ears. The first lead guitar enters a couple of minutes in, and a little later, the Middle Eastern nuances of the music step into the spotlight. The pairing of these seemingly divergent attitudes is one of the main sources of the music’s strength. “Anunnaki” follows, stepping in with a lighter approach than its predecessor. Quiet and cautious, the music builds slowly. You wait more than two minutes for the wall of guitar to bowl you over. “Pazuzu” begins with a spoken narration (from The Exorcist) introducing the evil spirit for which the song is named. To me, the riffs on this song are the most threatening so far – they generate at least trepidation, if not fear. The quieter passages, then, stage an anticipation that evolves quickly into dread. Well done.

Side two: “The Gate of Ishtar,” “The Fall of Ur,” and “Tigris & Euphrates.” The final three songs are where I was absorbed fully into the music. Each track is quite different, and yet they go together like movements of a larger whole. You can listen to one at a time, but I think the experience is greatly enhanced by taking it all in at once in a single sitting. I love instrumental doom music and Stones of Babylon does it right. Highly recommended.

Ishtar Gate is out now through Raging Planet Records in digital, CD, and vinyl. For this one, I would go with vinyl. The music lends itself to the form.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://stonesofbabylon.bandcamp.com/album/ishtar-gate

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

Raging Planet Records, http://ragingplanet.pt/

© Wayne Edwards

Stones Of Babylon, Ishtar Gate (Raging Planet 2022)

Photo Gallery: Tommy Stewart’s Dyerwulf, Tennessee Metal Devastation 2022

Photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Dyerwulf Bandcamp, https://tommystewartsdyerwulf.bandcamp.com/album/doomsday-deferred

Tennessee Metal Devastation, https://metaldevastationradio.com/Metal-Devastation-Music-Fest

FFMB article on Tennessee Metal Devastation 2022, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2022/10/11/tennessee-metal-devastation-lexington-tennessee-october-8-2022/

© Wayne Edwards

Photo Gallery: Tommy Stewart’s Dyerwulf, Tennessee Metal Devastation 2022

Estrangement, Disfigurementality (Aesthetic Death 2022)

Baroque funeral doom band Estrangement present their first full-length offering, Disfigurementality.

Estrangement is the creation of Australian musician JS, a multidisciplinary metal master. He incorporates baroque music with his metal premises, engaging the talents of other artists for the additional (non-metal) instruments such as double bass, violin, cello, piano, flute, and classical guitar. Add in guttural vocalizations and throat singing, and you have something new under the sun. This musical project has been active since 2010, releasing a demo and a split along the way. Disfigurementality is the first long-player by Estrangement.

“Destitution Stench” brings melancholy strings and a sorrowful, warning voice. It seems introductory at first, but really I think the song is better described as an invocation. “Detritivore” is the first track that gives you a clear view of what to expect for the rest of the album. Told at a funeral doom pace, the integration of grating, tortured vocals with strings, massive guitar riffs, percussion, and a flute is off in a direction you have never heard before, unless you have heard Estrangement.

There are slower, melodic movements throughout the set, like “Belong Beneath,” that have a soothing effect. Still, while you are hearing them, listening, you know that any moment the music will take a darker turn. Massive songs like “Womb of Worlds” and, especially, “Doppelganger,” are extensive journeys with rich, divergent constructions living together in both turmoil and harmony. I can hear this record as a funeral doom album, and I can also hear it as death metal. It is best just to admit that it isn’t any one thing, and take the trip for all it is worth. Recommended.

Disfigurementality is out on Friday, November 25th through Aesthetic Death. Find out more at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://estrangement.bandcamp.com/album/disfigurementality

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

Aesthetic Death, https://www.aestheticdeath.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Estrangement, Disfigurementality (Aesthetic Death 2022)

Candlemass, Sweet Evil Sun (Napalm 2022)

Legendary doom metal band Candlemass release their thirteenth studio album, Sweet Evil Sun.

One of the earliest and most influential doom bands to ever rise, Candlemass formed in Sweden in the early 1980s. Few question the significance of the band’s first full-length album, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986), and, for me, it is a record I can return to time and again with no loss of awe. I greet each new Candlemass release with a sort of luxurious expectancy, and I have never been disappointed. The most recent long-player, The Door To Doom (2019), continues to get regular spins in the den, and there is no doubt Sweet Evil Sun will receive the same treatment. Candlemass is Johan Lanquist (vocals), Lars Johansson (guitar), Mappe Björkman (guitar), Leif Edling (bass), Janne Lind (drums).

The characterizing elements of the music are massive guitar riffs, sweeping melodic vocals, and mesmerizing lead guitar work. The choruses tend to be memorable, even catchy, and the reliable structure of the songs creates anticipation in a state of recurring temporal existence that is unswervingly rewarded.

The first of nine songs is “Wizard of the Vortex.” It opens with a clobbering riff that is tense and foreboding. When Johan Lanquist begins to sing, the trepidation grows. An early guitar flourish sinks the hooks in deep enough for measurable permanence so that when the instrument returns halfway through you are ready for the bigger presentation. The opening thunder returns, and the music moves toward its resolution. It is clear we are on the path. The next track is the title piece, and I have heard it before because it was released earlier as a single. This song shows clearly what the album, in its completely unfurling, will reveal.

“Angel Battle” is one of the heaviest pieces on the record, and that gives it high starting marks. After the intriguing dirge-like opening, the guitars turn more active, pressing the advance. “Black Butterfly” similarly inspires dread, calling forth some of the vibes I remember from the first time I heard Rainbow’s “Gates Of Babylon,” but with the signature Candlemass guitar sound and expression. “Goddess” is the final song, appropriately mournful. The last word is the short yet formidable outro piece “A Cup of Coffin.” The album is excellent. It is exactly what I was expecting and hoping to hear. Highly recommended.

Sweet Evil Sun is out now through Napalm Records. Investigate the possibilities at the links below.

Band photo by Linda Akerberg.

Links.

Candlemass website, https://candlemass.se/

Bandcamp, https://candlemass.bandcamp.com/album/sweet-evil-sun

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

Napalm Records, https://napalmrecords.com/english/candlemass

© Wayne Edwards

Candlemass, Sweet Evil Sun (Napalm 2022)

Witchfinder, Forgotten Mansion (Mrs Red Sound 2022)

Witchfinder brings out another great record with their third full-length album, Forgotten Mansion.

The French psychedelic doom quartet Witchfinder is Clément Mostefai (vocals, bass), Stanislas Franczak (guitar), Thomas Dupuy (drums), and Kevyn Raecke (keyboard). Since their first album dropped just five years ago, they have been on a winning streak with Hazy Rites two years later, and the well-received Endless Garden earlier EP this year. Their newest album is some of the best music they have made so far.

“Approaching” has a trippy, psychedelic ramp that pushes into a classic doom guitar drop. The vocals are cast from the distance in an echoey framing which pulses perfectly inside a mind that has achieved an altered state. The lead guitar segment that first appears is laid back and effective, setting up a tempo shift and that offers a mid-song lift, providing fertile ground for the following Iommi-inspired riff. The construction of the song is a credible integration of psychedelic entreaties in a doom architecture. “Marijuana,” which features Haldor Grunberg adding vocal depth, puts the lead guitar near the front, placing it as a signpost for the changes that follow. Here again we have the beautifully heavy, fuzzy riff and rhythm that carries the water for the ethereal vocals. Excellent. And then “Lucid Forest,” the shortest song so far at a mere five and a half minutes, slides in trippingly and lightens things up a little. It is still heavy, of course. It seems more reflective to me than its predecessors, changing the mood a might. The keys are more prominent in my ears, too, and the lead guitar break stands out.

“Ghosts Happen To Fade” is my favorite track. I like the entire album, but this one lands just right in my ears and brain, touching a place with the guitar that hadn’t been activated yet. The vocals are more sinister here, and that has an appeal as well. “The Old Days” wraps things up and brings back the straightforward doom at the front of the track. The music turns up the psych knob halfway through and reminds us of the range of the band. The album is solid psych-doom through and through. Recommended.

Forgotten Mansion is out now through Mrs Red Sound Records. Bandcamp is the place to go in the US to pick this one up.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://witchfinder.bandcamp.com/album/forgotten-mansion

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

Mrs Red Sound Records, https://mrsredsound.com/

FFMB review of the Endless Garden EP, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2022/06/06/witchfinder-endless-garden-mrs-red-sound-2022/

© Wayne Edwards

Witchfinder, Forgotten Mansion (Mrs Red Sound 2022)

Floating, The Waves Have Teeth (Spirit Coffin 2022)

Sweden’s Floating debuts with a remarkably layered progressive death metal album, The Waves Have Teeth.

Floating is the duo Arvid Sjödin and Andreas Hörmark, both known for their work in the band Morbid Illusion. They decided to branch off with this new project after the former band split in order to “explore the possibilities of merging deformed and dissonant death metal the old-school way with their newly bolstered post-punk sensibilities.” The result is impressive and innovative.

There are six collateral songs on the new album. “The Seep” begins as a doom metal rumination then transforms smoothly into death metal that courses back and forth between melodic, traditional, somber, and groove. It is an intriguing combination in all of the instruments. You notice the shifts in the percussion, sure, but also in the guitars, rhythm, and vocals. It is captivating and entangling. “Gag” is a bit more linear, straight-forward horror metal song with a nice, twisted riff and periodic screeching and blast beats. “Pile of Birds” is practically a rambler, generating a great rolling guitar alongside sensational growling vocals. Feisty.

“No Eyes” lays down a prominent bass line and follows it through. The movement toward the middle is quiet almost to silence, and its reflective depth is the strength of the song. The gentle ending leads directly into “The Hill Will Know Him” where the music turns toward the esoteric and peculiarly frightening. There is no mistaking the unease that is introduced in advance of the harsher passages. It is a diabolical precursor for the final nine-minute movement, “The Floating Horror.” One song bleeds into the next throughout the album, and that transitional technique is most effective here. There are short and extended builds, as well as vast plateaus. The final flourish is muted and eccentric, delivering a final touch of uncertainty and one last shiver. Recommended.

The Waves Have Teeth is out now through Spirit Coffin Publishing on CD and digital. A tape version will follow in December.

Links.

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

Spirit Coffin Publishing, https://spiritcoffinpublishing.bigcartel.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Floating, The Waves Have Teeth (Spirit Coffin 2022)

Griefbringer, The Horrible Wilting (Church of Crow 2022)

Italian doom veterans combine to form Griefbringer and unleash The Horrible Wilting.

Luca Frazzoni (guitars, vocals), Andrea Zanetti (bass, vocals), and Dario Casabona (drums) have worked in the Italian heavy music scene for some time, and now they have come together to create a new band, Griefbringer. The title suits the music, that’s for sure. What you will hear on this record is on the funeral doom side of doom – it is music with a steady grinding momentum told at an imperturbable pace.

There are eight tracks on the new album. The slumbering beast is wakened with “Blind Harbinger.” The riff and melody give off a feeling of determined execution. That is, you get the impression that something terrible is being related that cannot be refuted and, further, cannot be stopped either. You can see it coming but you cannot get out of the way. “Disfigurement” is more actively threatening in the vocals in a kind of looking-you-in-the-eyes sort of way. You can see the weapon and you can feel what it will do to you. The unforgiving guitar and tromping rhythm reinforce the menace. In “A Warlock,” the vibrations are more mystical, while “Ghosts of the Desert” duets the vocals in a way that deepens the dark effect, taking an unexpected turn.

Side two holds more horrors. “Grimace of Madness” cranks up the tempo to its most accelerated so far, sending our imagination on a journey. The title track is a sinister rumination, like a spoken black mantra. “Obeying the Owl” is the longest track, and it is a contender for my favorite of the set with its melodious singing walking through the ravaged lands the guitars describe. Exceptional. The final story is “The Creeper,” a well-placed doom standard setup turned around by the vocals that sound at times like the ravings of a deranged monk. It is a nuanced finish. Recommended.

The Horrible Wilting is out on Friday, November 18th through Church of Crow Records. Look to Bandcamp for the quick pick-up.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://griefbringer.bandcamp.com/album/the-horrible-wilting

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

Church of Crow Records, https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100083225595772

© Wayne Edwards

Griefbringer, The Horrible Wilting (Church of Crow 2022)

Marc Urselli’s SteppenDoom, SteppenDoom (Magnetic Eye 2022)

Marc Urselli brings together doom metal and an international cast of throat singers to create SteppenDoom.

SteppenDoom is the new project from Marc Urselli, the well-known audio engineer, sound designer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist who has worked with a broad array of top bands. The idea is to invite and unite “eminent musicians from the doom metal genre and legendary indigenous singers employing ancient throat signing traditions from around the globe.” That’s right. Doom and throat singing. It is the perfect combination. The artists involved include heavy metal veterans Matt Pike (Sleep, High On Fire), Aaron Aedy (Paradise Lost), Steve Von Till (Neurosis), Christopher Juul (Heilung), Dave Chandler (Saint Vitus), and Scott “Wino” Weinrich (The Obsessed), as well as renowned throat signers Alash Ensemble, Batzorig Vaanchig “Zorigoo”, Huun-Huur-Tu, Tanya Tagaq, Albert Kuvezin (Yat-Kha), and Alexey Tegin.

The main release has six tracks. Here are the full details so you can see who is involved. 1. “Etugen Eke and Od Ana” featuring Matt Pike and Batzorig Vaanchig “Zorigoo”; 2. “Garuda Khuresh” featuring Aaron Aedy and Huun-Huur-Tu; 3. “Agloolik Igaluk” featuring Johannes Persson and Tanya Tagaq; 4. “Tamag and Ocmah” featuring Steve Von Till and Albert Kuvezin; 5. “Imdugud in Shambhala” featuring Massimo Pupillo (Zu) and Alash Ensemble; and 6. “Peri to Ela Guren” featuring Trey Spruance (Secret Chiefs 3, Mr. Bungle) and Erdenebat Baatar (Erka). If you buy the artbook or boxed version, you also get the bonus tracks 7. “Sedna and Eliduc” featuring Lori S. (Acid King), Utelo, Karen Panigoniak and Maria Illungiayok, and 8. “A-dkar Theg Pa” featuring Dave Chandler, Anders Møller (Ulver), Norman Westberg (Swans), Scott “Wino” Weinrich and Alexey Tegin (Phurpa).

What does this sound like? If you have heard throat singing before, then you can put this together in your head. When you actually hear it, though, it is more amazing than anything your imagination can conjur. I would put this music in the folk doom category, but whatever anyone might call it, these exceptional musicians working together produce synergistic results. Some of the music is haunting, some of it frightening. To me, all of it is moving, and, since doom is my favorite metal lane, I was enthralled the entire time.

SteppenDoom is out on Friday, November 18th through Magnetic Eye Records. Check out the label link below to see all the varieties. If do recommend getting a version that includes the bonus tracks because the final one is a 33-minute-long life-changer. Highly recommended.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://steppendoom.bandcamp.com/album/steppendoom

Marc Urselli website, http://www.marcurselli.com/

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

Magnetic Eye Records, https://en.merhq.net/en/Artists/Marc-Urselli-s-SteppenDoom-spkr/Marc-Urselli-s-SteppenDoom-SteppenDoom.html

© Wayne Edwards

Marc Urselli’s SteppenDoom, SteppenDoom (Magnetic Eye 2022)

Dysgnostic, Scar Echoes (Transcending Obscurity 2022)

Defilementory undergoes a transformation into Dysgnostic on Scar Echoes.

Dysgnostic is a band from Roskilde, Denmark that was known as Defilementory from 2008 until last year. Under the former name, the band released an EP and a well-received long-player, The Dismal Ascension (2014). Under the earlier name, the band had a primary focus on technical death metal, and they delivered it with dedication and sincerity. The transformation into Dysgnostic has led to somewhat different perspective. The musicians now accentuate dissonance in the context of death metal, black metal, and even doom. The band is Thomas Fischer (bass, vocals), Simon Klem Kannegard (guitar, backing vocals), and Richardt Olsen (drums, guitar).

There are eight fierce tracks on Scar Echoes. The opening movement is the band’s namesake, “Dysgnostic,” and it leans heavily into the dissonance architecture. It is the shortest piece on the record and still in it the premise is firmly established. “Silvery Tongues” is frantic and bewildering, by contrast, working in the mystifying elements later in the song. “Beneath Abyssal Plains” takes more of a black metal tone for its initial banner, twisting soon enough to prey on your insecurities and hold a mirror up to your most closely guarded fears. It is a truly disturbing piece of music.

“Oceans of Grey” resonated with me and stands out as one of the most effective instantiations of the form. It is particularly unbalancing. “Nothing’s Embrace” offers a sweet, subtly off-kilter opening that transmogrifies into a beautiful dooming ramp toward oblivion. The journey comes to rest with “Darkest Muse,” a deeply sinister track that is, fittingly, the song most likely to haunt you beyond the initial listening. Recommended.

Scar Echoes is out on Friday, November 11th through Transcending Obscurity Records. Check out the many variants, formats, and merch available at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://dysgnostic.bandcamp.com/album/scar-echoes-dissonant-death-metal

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

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

© Wayne Edwards

Dysgnostic, Scar Echoes (Transcending Obscurity 2022)

Photo Gallery: Gatecreeper at The Webster Theater, Hartford, October 28, 2022

Gatecreeper is a death metal band from Arizona that is creating some of the most interesting music in heavy metal today. Their 2021 album An Unexpected Reality is a monumental achievement with a very unlikely structure – seven songs that run about one minute each and an eleven-minute epic as the anchor. The hooks and crushing riffs were in all their full-throttle glory, and they devastated and primed the crowd for what was to come next. This is third time I have seen Gatecreeper this year and every time is better than the last.

Photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Gatecreeper, https://www.gatecreeper.com/

Hatebreed main article, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2022/11/02/hatebreed-at-the-webster-theater-hartford-october-28-2022/

Webster Theater, https://webstertheater.com/

Closed Casket Activities, https://closedcasketactivities.com/collections/gatecreeper

© Wayne Edwards

Photo Gallery: Gatecreeper at The Webster Theater, Hartford, October 28, 2022