Aphonic Threnody, The Great Hatred review (Transcending Obscurity 2020)

Abandon all hope and embrace the infinite with the new album from Aphonic Threnody.

The band is Juan Escobar C. and Riccardo Veronese, and they have released three full-length albums (counting the new one – and four if you count First Funeral) along with several splits since 2013. The music is full fathom five Funeral Doom. Consider the name of the band – “aphonic” means not able to make sound (or only a whisper) and “threnody” is a song for the dead. In the music of Aphonic Threnody, there is a dirge supported by steady vocalizations, sometimes gruff, sometimes quietly melodic, sometimes gently spoken. The non-vocal parts shift from dramatic to stalwart, always conveying an inevitability.

Every song has a different depth of feeling and  perspective. The guitar in “The Great Hatred” is filled with indescribable sorrow that can only be understood in the listening, and the strings just after are a retelling in soaking sadness. The coarse vocals in “Drowning” are filled with frightening menace even as the piano is reassuring (although deterministic). “Locura,” which opens the album, is sheer hopelessness while the closing song, “The Fall,” has a more calculated thread of demise with uplifting moments that are nevertheless firmly set in the incontrovertible certainty of doom.

The compositions are carefully and deeply layered to create an immersive experience. The atmosphere is a preternatural inescapability and if the music does not provide comfort for the terminal subjects in their waning moments it does offer surety that the path is unalterable and that, in the absence of acceptance, there is only suffering. This album is going to be high on my 2020 Funeral Doom list. Recommended.

The Great Hatred is out now from Transcending Obscurity and through Bandcamp. Great bundles are available from the always-reliable Transcending Obscurity. Links below.

Links.

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

Band Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/aphonic.threnody.5

Band YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/c/AphonicThrenody

TO website, https://tometal.com/

TO Bandcamp, https://transcendingobscurity.bandcamp.com/

TO US Store, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Aphonic Threnody, The Great Hatred review (Transcending Obscurity 2020)

Ixion, L’Adieu aux Etoiles review (Finisterian Dead End 2020)

The fourth album from French Doom duo Ixion is a further exploration of sound, feeling, and meaning in the dark corners of existence.

Ixion is Julien Prat and Yannick Dilly. They have been releasing albums since 2011 in the vein of Atmospheric Doom, on the edge of Funeral Doom, really. Their most recent album is from 2017, Return, and it had a lighter feel to it in expression and tone compared to the first two albums. The new one sidles up to the dark side again taking the music on a deep space doom journey.

Ixion is the name of a king in Greek mythology that was condemned to spin on a “fiery wheel” for eternity for recalcitrant un-smiled-upon deeds. Traversing first in space and later in hell (Tartarus), Ixion is an icon of suffering. The firmament of this legend enhances the listening experience of L’Adieu aux Etoiles – I can see the burning wheel spinning in my mind while the music plays.

“Stellar Flight” is a somber traversing through the vacuum of time, and it is here the journey begins. All the primary elements are introduced from the enrichment of the dark forever to the melancholy of elegant doom. Throughout the album vocals both clean and corrupt wander the ethereal landscape of guitar and synthesizer. Occasional Prog sentiments appear but they do not stay long. There is a commitment to gloom and what sounds like either hopelessness or regret. Or both. The sorrow conveyed by the bowed string instruments on “Havoc” is elemental. The choir heard in the background of “The Black Veil” is beautiful, angelic, and sinister. Every texture has a surface feeling and a deeper layer, sometimes many, that bleed through the more you listen to them. The meaning is there if you want to know it. Recommended.

L’Adieu aux Etoiles is out on Friday, October 9th from Finisterian Dead End and available through Bandcamp. The back catalogue is on Bandcamp too for the committed.

Links.

Band, https://www.ixiondoom.com/

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

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

Finisterian Dead, https://finisteriandeadend.com/shop/en/29-ixion

Ixion, L’Adieu aux Etoiles review (Finisterian Dead End 2020)

Yatra, All Is Lost review (Grimoire Records 2020)

Yatra release their second set of masterful doom this year: All Is Lost.

The first album from Yatra was Death Ritual, released only two years ago. Blood of the Night followed in January this year, and now there is All Is Lost. The three-piece band from Maryland is Dana Helmuth (guitars and vocals), Maria Geisbert (bass), and Sean Lafferty (drums). The sound they create is fundamental but I wouldn’t call it stripped down. It is heavy with purpose and lithe as a leviathan in the ocean.

Recorded in June this year, All Is Lost is the perfect theme for 2020. The themes are ominous and dark. The lyrics are less about narrative structure on many songs and are filled with vivid imagery. The perfect example is “Blissful Wizard,” which repeats the refrains “blissful wizard / rides the night” and “bless this mountain” to convey the thematic structure while the music fills in the story. This approach puts the listener in a general conceptual frame of mind and allows subtleties to be individually interpreted as the music speaks in ways everyone can experience differently.

The music is doom – heavy guitar riffs, gruff vocals, pulsing rhythms. The opening song is the title track and it starts the set off on the path of fear, uncertainty, and darkness. There is a real feeling of not knowing what is going on but knowing for sure that it is bad. “Reapers ride the blackest winds / harvesting the death foretold.” A blackened prophecy of death seeping in, unstoppable. The lead breaks are potent and brief, as in “Winter’s Dawning,” where it lives between tectonic riff shifts. A track that sticks out in my mind is “One For The Mountain.” It is a dark fantasy theme carried on a veritable river of music created by the guitar in both lead and harmony. This song is the set stone piece for the album to my ears, and it is surrounded by metal that is going to have a lasting impact on heavy music. Highly recommended.

All Is Lost is out this Friday, October 9th and this is one you don’t want to miss. The digital, CD, and limited vinyl (100 copies) are available through Bandcamp. You can get ready for the new one by catching up on the first two albums if you haven’t heard them yet.

Band photo by Nichole Strouse.

Links.

http://yatradoom.bandcamp.com

http://www.facebook.com/yatradoom

http://www.grimoirerecords.com

http://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com

http://www.facebook.com/GrimoireRecords

Yatra, All Is Lost review (Grimoire Records 2020)

Jupiterian, Protosapien review (Transcending Obscurity 2020)

Jupiterian brings another round of atmospheric doom into the world straight from the heart of South America.

The four-piece metal band from São Paulo has been building its reputation in the heavy scene brick by brick over the last five years. Their first album, Aphotic (2015), is an impressive entry into the musical world. It oscillates between a traditional Doom Metal approach and Funeral Doom, pressing forth with a gargantuan heaviness. Terraforming (2017) begins like an ayahuasca chant with “Matriarch” and pushes on to turn and rise like a lumbering, impossibly tall giant tilling the planet for its on purpose and design. These two albums were early signs of things to come – the first two steps.

The latest release begins with heavy brass horns blaring threatening blasts and what sounds the distance metallic pounding of an enormous hammer against the hull of an ancient, derelict spaceship. Dripping water, buzzing insects, and then “Mere Humans” takes off. The sound has a sharp edge along with the weight of the vocal, guitar, and rhythm space. “Voidborn” thrums your sensibilities into raw strips with its insistent, insidious probing, turning almost frantic in the second half. “Capricorn” brings a stormfront of distortion that resolves in a blistering lightning storm, and “Starless” feels like an incarnation of hopelessness. The final song is “Earthling Bloodline.” It is the essence of “Protosapien” and the plain expression of album’s theme. Drawn out, deep growls (as if from the depths of the earth) surrounded and infused by thundering bass and guitar motions, kept on track by relentless, inexorable percussion.

Doom Metal is the organic center of the music from Jupiterian, enhanced by related genres at the command of the composers. Across their three albums there is a movement in the music’s complexity and presence. With the latest release, having heard the first two, you can detect a clairvoyance in the entity that is the music the band has created. Highly recommended.

Protosapien is out now. Transcending Obscurity has some amazing format variants and merch – the vinyl is a genuine showcase for the cover art by Mariusz Lewandowski. The download is available through Bandcamp and other fine vendors.

Band photo by William van der Voort.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/jupiteriansect/

https://jupiterian.bandcamp.com/

https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Jupiterian, Protosapien review (Transcending Obscurity 2020)

Hymn, Breach Us review (Fysisk Format 2020)

Hymn is back with Breach Us, a further exploration of the chaos that exists in the sludge.

There are only two members in the Norwegian band Hymn, Ole Ulvik Rokseth on guitars and vocals, and Markus Støle handling drums. The Spartan simplicity of the membership is not obvious in the music, which has a robust and full sound. We might have to categorize the music as doom or sludge, but it is more of a duopoly of heavy inspiration, really, writ large.

Perish was the first album by Hymn, released in 2017. It is a dramatic piece of adventure, like scaling a mountain in a free climb. Breach Us is more polished and refined in all aspects, ranging from the vocals to the compositions themselves, even in the parts that seem improvisational in their rawness.

There are four songs on the new album, and it definitely has a Side 1 and Side 2 feel. “Breach Us” and “Exit Through Fire” are the first couplet, and these songs bear the greatest resemblance to the first album both in the singing and the presentation of the drums and pulsing riffs. Guest appearances by David Johansson and Guro Moe add greater depth and broader reach to the second two entries, “Crimson” and “Can I Carry You.” This is especially noticeable on the latter, which has distinct movements in the fourteen and a half minutes of the song that demonstrates shifts in feeling and style. The biggest single presence throughout is the strumming guitar that generates heavy riffs, occasionally perpendicular to each other. There is a pliant verisimilitude that permeates these musical creations, and it gives me the feeling that Breach Us portends ascent.

CD, vinyl, and download formats are ready to go at Bandcamp, and of course you can stream it all at Spotify and the other usual places.

Cover art by Danny Larsen.

Links.

https://urskoghymn.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/hymnoslo

https://www.fysiskformat.no

https://www.facebook.com/fysiskformat

Hymn, Breach Us review (Fysisk Format 2020)

Atramentus, Stygian review (20 Buck Spin 2020)

The debut album from Funeral Doom virtuosos Atramentus is called Stygian and it is a dark, nonpareil wonder.

Atramentus is from Longueuil, Québec, which is immediately east of Montréal across the river. If you are unfamiliar with the music scene in the beautiful Canadian city of Montréal you should acquaint yourself with the amazing variety of metal and the consistent quality of the bands.

It is worth listing the credits for the musicians in the band so you can get a sense of what sounds you will be hearing when you listen: Phil Tougas: throat, chants, screams, guitars; Claude Leduc: guitars; François Bilodeau: synths, piano, dark ambient elements; Antoine Daigneault: bass; and Xavier Berthiaume: drums. The basics you need for Doom are in there with the guitars and bass and drums, plus there are those others which surely contribute to the atmosphere such as well, “chants” and “dark ambient elements.”

The music is Funeral Doom, so you know it is ponderous and ominous. The album has three songs, two long pieces and a bridge (or chasm) piece sandwiched between. Here again let me list some information that clues you in to what the music is all about, the song titles: 1. Stygian I: From Tumultuous Heavens… (Descended Forth The Ceaseless Darkness), 2. Stygian II: In Ageless Slumber (As I Dream In The Doleful Embrace Of The Howling Black Winds), and 3. Stygian III: Perennial Voyage (Across The Perpetual Planes Of Crying Frost & Steel-Eroding Blizzards). The titles are like a libretto.

Each composition has its own separate theme and feel, while of course they are all dark and foreboding. Set on an alternate Earth, part of the story is, “Granted immortality through the gift of the God’s sword, the nameless knight eventually witnesses the death of the sun and the end of all life on Earth. Surviving the great deluge, he is left to wander amongst the ruins of a now frozen earth under a sunless sky for eternity, alone and unable to die even by the scorching-cold blizzard winds around him, enduring perpetual physical torture while haunted by the memories of his past life and everyone he once knew buried under miles of ice.” You can see this story in the song titles, and you can hear the progression of it in the music. Each entry carries the sentiment of the events that are occurring, the calamity of it all, and the crushing sense of loss and loneliness. And abandonment. Listening to this music requires openness and patience to appreciate fully, and it is well worth it. Recommended.

Available Friday, August 21 from 20 Buck Spin, there is the download plus many physical formats (although some of the vinyl variants are already sold out).

Links.

http://www.20buckspin.com

https://20buckspin.bandcamp.com/album/stygian

{An aside … if you are going to Heavy Montréal, here is a pro tip: stay in Longueuil because the hotels are cheaper than Montréal and it is only one Metro stop to Parc Jean-Drapeau from Station Longueuil – Universitié-de-Sherbrooke.}

Atramentus, Stygian review (20 Buck Spin 2020)

deathCAVE, Smoking Mountain review (Satanik Royalty 2020)

Seattle Doom Metal trio deathCAVE unleash their first full length album, Smoking Mountain, to remind us that nothing is permanent.

The musicians are Freiburger (bass, vocals), Benny Koslosky (drums), and Tony Muñoz (guitars, vocals). Last year the band released an impressive three-song demo and now they have opened up and broadened their musical scope with Smoking Mountain. The title refers to a volcano (there is a famous one just south of the Seattle area we might all remember), literally and as a symbol of the geologic evolution of the planet that takes everything with, animals, land, and sea.

The set opens with great foreboding and drama, the sinister feel of the tone and notes wraps you like a shroud: “Death Cave.” The song breaks into speed blasts now and then and remains grim throughout. “Last Breath” follows and it is full-on doom. “The Road” has a strong Black Sabbath homage elements, and on “The Seer” venom verily drips from the opening voice while the guitars and percussion carry you along like a rumbling river. “Poison Wizard” wraps it all up, and offers a sharp guitar dalliance in a dense layer of smoke that is the distorted bass line. The acerbic tantrum of the principal instruments challenges the direction of the vocals but in the end they come together as a conquering force. There are three guests on the album, all singing: Dave Verellen, Andrea Vidal, and Neil McAdams. These additional voices deepen the impact of the album and expand its reach. It is the right kind of heavy. Recommended.

Out now, Bandcamp is the fast lane to grab up Smoking Mountain. There were even a couple cassettes remaining of the band’s demo when I checked a minute ago, but I don’t know about now – get there quick to see if you can grab one of the last few instances of this rarity.

Band photo by Onyx Wolf Gang Aerial.

Link.

http://deathcave.bandcamp.com

deathCAVE, Smoking Mountain review (Satanik Royalty 2020)

Bull Elephant, Created from Death review (Eat Lead and Die Music 2020)

Working toward the big reveal, part two of the Bull Elephant mythological trilogy rises from the dead to shake you up.

Last year the secret band Bull Elephant released their self-titled album and started the generator of an emerging mythology. To recap, “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.” Back again now for Part II, the story gets stranger.

The story (or maybe just the environment) this time is teased by a journal entry. “I wept at the pain of loss for my child destroyed. But now he is born again; created from death as once he was, yet in a new form. He will be safest under the protection of the ape. As for myself, I can feel the end is near. The coming world war will be fought both in conventional theatres and as a secret war for control over a cosmic power that neither side fully understand. – Journal of Olivia Parnell, 23 August 1939.”

What happened to the elephant? It was destroyed at the end of the last album and resurrected/reconstructed in human form and placed in the care of that ape (see the cover image). There is a lot more going on here. The bird’s eye view of the story is, “As with the debut album, think of the background concept as Raiders of the Lost Ark set to a doom-tinged heavy metal soundtrack where Judeo-Christian mythology is replaced by the even more sinister universe hinted at in the writings of H. P. Lovecraft…with Nazi zombies, assault wolves and a battle-armoured whale that makes Moby Dick seem tame.”

The story is mostly lost on me, but the music is still there. The lyrics to the songs are interesting and engaging, and I prefer to take them as separate pieces even if they do fit together into some greater whole.

“Created By Death” opens this episode on a very cosmic doom note. The vocals alternate between death-metalesque growls and mid-heavy clarity, which captures the essence of the theme well. “Oneiromantic Rites” has many quiet and calm moments, but the gravity of the menace is never far removed. The fury picks up in the next song, and falls away again with a gentle outro. The entire album has this unsettling pulsing pattern that keeps you on the move in your head. The rumbling rhythm holds you on the path while the vocals and lead and riff guitar work propel the action and nuance. Towards the end of the set there is the spastic punch of “Perverted Science,” a two and a half minute guitar rampage followed immediately by “Escape to the Arctic,” a six minute epic-colored seafaring space opera. The closer is “Wayfarer,” and it has the feel of a song that is setting up the final movement, yet to come.

Available Friday, August 14, in corporeal form as well as digital, you can snap it up at Bandcamp. If you can follow the story, that’s great, but even if you can’t the music is a plundering dynamo that’ll ring your ears. Recommended.

Links.

https://bullelephant.bandcamp.com/releases

https://monsterworks.bandcamp.com/

FFMB review of the 1st Bull Elephant album, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2019/11/15/bull-elephant-new-release-review/

Bull Elephant, Created from Death review (Eat Lead and Die Music 2020)

Merlock, that which speaks … review (2020)

Merlock unleashes an intense labyrinth of ruin and decay with the epic EP that which speaks…

This Spokane, Washington foursome released a three-song demo in 2018 that had great, traditional sounding metal reminiscent of Ritchie Blackmore in a dark mood. This new one is different, more straight ahead doom and sludge, and with even grimmer themes than the 2018 songs. The press photos of the band are tongue-in-cheek and light hearted, but the lyrics sure aren’t. How about this stanza from the leadoff song, “spit out your purple lung/they will drown you/as you learn to swim/so claw your way to the surface,” and then this, “your reality devoured/in this realm of hopelessness/disgorge your viscera/abandon your human form.” Not exactly a traditional letter home, eh?

A lonely hum and a faraway bass line eases you into “Idolon,” the first song on the album. The build is steady then steep, with heavy a bass presence throughout and hammer drop cliffs in a couple places. The vocals alternate between hoarse shrieks and melodic incantations. A wailing guitar solo closes the door near the end. “Prolapse” is next, and is more up-tempo and has a death metal tone to start, before turning Opethish then clamping down on the doom artery at the halfway point. “[vessel]” is a song where the music is the absolute perfect match to the narrative of the lyrics, “wandering through this world barren of true light/the moon eats shadows on a sun it swallows whole.” Hopelessness objectified. The last word is “Condemnation,” which seems fitting. Don’t let the peppy opening vamp fool you – the path ahead is dour in the extreme. The vocals at the beginning are a hissing reptile, and at the end, a disembodied tortured spirit. This album is an experience, and it will put you in a very particular place. I really got into this music and I can’t wait to hear what Merlock does next. Recommended.

Out now and available at Bandcamp, that which speaks… is ready for the taking. It is labeled as an EP, but with a running time of just over thirty minutes, it is as long as a lot of “full-length” albums I have bought in my day.

Links.

https://merlock.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/MerlockSpokane/

Merlock, that which speaks … review (2020)

Northern Crown, In A Pallid Shadow review (2020)

Another exploration is launched with Northern Crown’s third full-length album, In A Pallid Shadow.

The band is a little bit hard to pin down if you are looking to label them in a category. I have most often seen them called a doom metal act, but that isn’t quite right. Elements are there, it is true, but that is not their overarching vibe, at least not to me. Prog, too, I’ve seen quite a bit. That category is broad enough to encompass a wide array of bands, but I wouldn’t call Northern Crown prog, either. A hybrid band, then, a crossover, or maybe just a category all their own. One thing is certain: every album sounds different.

The credits listed in the press materials make no reference to anyone playing keyboards, but they are a prominent feature of the music, literally in every song. Maybe it is more mysterious that way. The album begins with “Leprosarium,” which has a very grungy sound to it. I kept expecting Eddie Vedder to jump off a balcony. That’s it for the grunge, though, because in the next song, “The Last Snowfall,” the music turns to campfire storytelling with the non-vocal instruments playing supporting roles. That is true in the first half. Past the midpoint, the music fills in the story and the playful lead break has something to say as well.

A solo piano line opens “A Vivid Monochrome.” Appropriate. Slow and quiet in the first half of the song, electrified strings muscle some of the placidity out in their roll toward the end. “8 Hours” has a quiet beginning too but it is a tease. Heavy riffs and dramatic vocals insist the song in a theatrical direction. The closer, “Observing,” pops on like a heavy metal Kansas song with Point of Know Return keyboards and guitars. Not for long – the rest of the song has more in common with a Dio anthem than with the 1970s pre-prog masters. There is much to appreciate in this new album, and it comes at you from many different angles.

Available on July 3, make it a point to catch up with Northern Crown and see where they are on their journey.

Links.

https://music.northerncrownband.com/

https://www.facebook.com/NorthernCrownDoom/

Northern Crown, In A Pallid Shadow review (2020)