Death the Leveller, II, Review

Death The Leveller is an Irish doom metal band that has found the perfect name to describe the vibe and turn of its music. Clear, resonant vocals travel over the solid ground of heavy guitars and steadying percussion to convey elegantly the profound message of mortality.

The name of the band comes from a poem (published in 1646) with the same title written by James Shirley, an English dramatist. Shirley tells us in the poem what we already know but we like to pretend isn’t true: death will claim us all, and in that sense, we are all the same. Death is the great leveler. This theme is fertile ground to plow for a doom metal band.

In some ways, Death the Leveller is a continuation of the band Mael Mórdha, from which three members of the current line-up came: Dave Murphy (bass), Shane Cahill (drums), and Gerry Clince (guitars). Denis Dowling joined on vocals, and the band released its first album, I, through Journey’s End Records in 2017. Although it is referred to as an EP, the four songs on I total almost 40 minutes and that makes a full-length release in my book. Compared to the last Mael Mórdha release, I was more somber, more ponderous, and had no whistle. The thematic focus has tightened, too, and the attitude engendered by the name of the new band showed through on all the tracks.

The new release, II (Cruz Del Sur Music, 2020), is an expansion of the ideas from the formative release. Soaked with melancholy, the songs have the sense of epic ballads and the stories of loss and tragedy. This is not folk metal in any way, though. It is heavier. It is doom. The first song, “The Hunt Eternal,” sees life as an endless hunt where everyone plays a part: Are you predator or prey? This notion is fundamentally human. What the song brings out is the truth that the hunter/hunted, predator/prey relationship is also animalistic, and the proposition that this conflict is eternal. The music gave me a deep sense of solitude which is a juxtaposition to the universal nature of the roles – we all share in the situation and at the same time we are all alone. Primed by the opener, the second song, “The Golden Bough,” named after the famous mystical book, carries you away into the ether in the first half then blasts you with lightning in the second when the guitars turn sharper and more aggressive before finishing off with a shroud of pure desolation. “So They May Face The Rising Sun” is a bit more funereal at the beginning and the end, while the final song, “The Crossing,” is nearly an homage to the earlier album, but it is laced with the more biting tone of the inevitable future that awaits us all.

Death The Leveller II is out March 13th and you can listen to/watch the lyric video now for “The Hunt Eternal” (link below). You can also pre-order the physical from Cruz Del Sur Music – streaming and downloads will be available on Bandcamp and other platforms. If you want to see them live you need to go to Ireland, for the moment at least. With any luck Death the Leveller will play a few US dates in 2020. They would be a perfect surprise addition to Psycho Las Vegas …

Links.

Lyric video for “The Hunt Eternal,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSgcfhx1mjg

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

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

Cruz Del Sur Music, https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/

Death the Leveller, II, Review

Bull Elephant, New Release Review

The self-titled opener Bull Elephant (Eat Lead and Die Music) stormed onto my computer and stabbed me in the ears this morning. A metal band with a secret roster, Bull Elephant calls itself “hybridoom” on Instagram and “progressive doom” on Twitter. The music to me moves between what we have come to know as doom and branches out into death metal territory, with even a little speed in a couple of flashes and maybe a folk metal moment, too. This diversity of music styles in the same set by a single band speaks to the range of interest that fans have – we like lots of different kinds of metal.

Here is how the press release describes the album: “Bull Elephant is the story of a slain African elephant that occultist Ahnenerbe SS attempted to bring back from the dead as a new form of battle asset. However, before re-animation could be completed it was intercepted by a mysterious witch-shaman, pursuing her own agenda and redirecting the undead creature’s purpose.” Wow. How’s that for a concept to construct an album around?

Across seven songs, the concept is interpreted more in the music than even in the lyrics. The title song begins the rampage with a growling roar hurtling out of the darkness. This is doom. 40 seconds in there is a tempo change and the vocal goes melodic only to peal into rage a half a minute later. You get the sense of something wrong in paradise. These tempo changes are used in the next couple of songs as well, but in different ways to further the ideas of breakdown and change. Suddenly in the middle of the album “Corrupted Truth” launches a blast of speed that will loosen your teeth. The intermittent chaos is cranked up a notch in the second half, culminating in the closing song that sums up the whole affair, “Dread Reactor.” This final song has great hooks and the heaviest guitars, along with cascading percussion and deadly persuasive lead breaks. You can feel the zombie elephant stomping the terra – if you close your eyes and put your mind in right place, you can live in the middle of it. It’s a monster track.

The official release date is November 29, 2019, but you can check out a song or two ahead of time on YouTube. Bull Elephant is getting a lot of play in the office around here and it still sounds strong every time. Highly recommended.

Bull Elephant, New Release Review

Horseburner, Set Review, Monkey House, Winooski, Vermont, October 8, 2019

I have been going to music festivals all summer – huge, overwhelming affairs held in the great outdoors with multiple stages and thousands of people, dozens of bands. They’re great. I love them. Going to one after another of these extravaganzas, it is easy to forget that there are other ways to enjoy music. Like in a club, or a bar. I was really happy, then, to go to the Monkey House tonight in Winooski, Vermont to see Horseburner and get a refresher course on how a small venue can, in many ways, be a bigger experience.

Horseburner is a doom band from West Virginia. They are gearing up for a US tour in November and made a stopover in the North Country supporting their newest release, The Thief (out now on Ripple Music). Horseburner was the middle act on the Tuesday night show between the opener, Sachem, and the headliner, Wolfhand, both these other bands being Vermont products. The Monkey House is a great little bar in a small town that is adjacent to Burlington, the largest place in Vermont (but it is still not very big). There are not a lot of places to hear heavy music in the Burlington area, so metal fans are lucky to have the Monkey House which DOES sometimes feature loud rock – the Sunday lineup this week, for example, includes Scaphism, Callous, Crypitus, Hell Priest, and Shitangel. It is a small bar, so bands like Horseburner have a sound that is sometimes a little too much for the space. But that is one of the things that is so great about seeing bands in bars and small places because it is a whole different experience. Hearing a song in a tight room late on a Tuesday night is a whole other thing than hearing the same song by the same band on a Saturday afternoon standing outdoors in a parking lot in front of a giant stage.

Horseburner only had 35 minutes and they made the most of it, featuring new material and cracking the whip from the small stage in the back. During the heavy driving movements, the four-piece creates a full sound, giving the impression that the room is being surrounded by an advancing army. The bridges are dramatic, and lead you right off the cliff. Quiet, even soft moments don’t last long, and the occasional lead break, when it comes, is blistering. It was an excellent set.

Check out Horseburner while they are out on the road next month rolling all over the US. And listen to The Thief, too – it is on Spotify or you could always buy it at Bandcamp and other places. Having seen them play at a bar, now I’ll be looking for Horseburner on the festival circuit. They have made my list.

Horseburner, Set Review, Monkey House, Winooski, Vermont, October 8, 2019

Void King, Barren Dominion (Off The Record, 2019).

Doom Metal keeps expanding at what seems like an exponential rate. It is a little puzzling, but trends are never easy to predict. Maybe it is the stoner angle so much of doom relies on – it caught a wave on the edges of the ever-widening decriminalization of cannabis products at the state level in the US. Or maybe it is just that there is a lot of grey area with crossover potential so the fan base is expanding like slowly rising waters in a gradual flood. Whatever it is, there are more doom bands than ever now, and that’s good for me because I am a doom fan.

One band to keep an eye on is Void King, who have a new release called Barren Dominion blowing in on a dark wind from the Midwest. Contemplative, buzzy, and riffy, the eight songs have a consistent structure of rising from quiet to urging persistent percussion and then heavy drops the doom. Jason Kindred’s vocals put me in mind of Tony Martin’s performance on The Eternal Idol with echoes of Danzig laced in there as well. The effect is impressive, and vocals pile on to the other instruments in creating a big sound that fills all the corners of your head. This new one is the band’s second release, and it is a step up in song writing and performance that signals an expanding future. It is difficult to stand out in the doom field because there are so many bands, perhaps necessarily, that have a similar sound. It is therefore difficult to produce something memorable like Barren Dominion.

If you can catch Void King live, that’s the way to go. Their next gig is in Indy on September 14 at Black Circle Brewing – it is the release show for Barren Dominion and it will be a great way to spend your Saturday night.

Links…

Buy: https://voidking.bandcamp.com/
Band Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/voidkingband/

Words by Wayne Edwards, © 2019.

Void King, Barren Dominion (Off The Record, 2019).