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)

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)

Mother Of Graves, Where The Shadows Adorn (Wise Blood 2022)

The debut full-length album from Indianapolis doom band Mother of Graves is Where The Shadows Adorn.

Mother Of Graves came together in Indiana’s capital city in 2019. Just last year they released their first EP, In Somber Dreams, and the title track from that record made on to Metal Blade Records’ Metal Massacre XV anthology. I think of their music as doom metal because I have such an abiding affection for that kind of music. In fact, Mother Of Graves has a broader reach and, while their sound is massively heavy, it spills out into the musical lands that surround doom. The band is Brandon Howe (vocals, keys). Chris Morrison (guitar), Ben Sandman (guitar), Corey Clark (bass), and Don Curtis (drums).

There are eight songs on the new album, beginning with the title track. A solitary piano breaks the silence and starts an avalanche that is slow at first, then builds momentum and force until is flows over the cliff. Howe’s commanding voice delivers the message surrounded by abominable riffs and lyrical keys., Rather than being in juxtaposition, the combination and enmeshing of these forces coalesce into a greater whole. While the opening track is a shining example, you can expect this manner of creation in the other songs as well.

“Rain” is a bit more straightforward in its construction and features a beautifully somber movement. “Tears Like Wine” goes in another direction and has the feeling of a story (and/or a warning) told by a traveling heavy metal mage. Very mystical. “Of Solitude and Stone” has one of the greatest ranges in sound and force in the set and “Ghost in the Twilight” is filled to its very edges with drama.

It all comes to a close on “The Caliginous Voice,” the longest track on the record. The lead-in bars are filled with emotion. When the big riffs land, you are in a state to accept the weight of the unfolding message. Paced perfectly, the song takes you on a journey that will stay I your mind long after the music stops. I would say the same about the album overall. Recommended.

Where The Shadows Adorn is out now through Wise Blood Records. You can listen and buy at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://motherofgraves.bandcamp.com/album/where-the-shadows-adorn

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

Wise Blood Records, https://wisebloodrecords.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Mother Of Graves, Where The Shadows Adorn (Wise Blood 2022)

Lathe, Tongue Of Silver (Grimoire 2022)

Droning doom band Lathe open the way westward toward an uncertain, peculiar place on their debut album, Tongue Of Silver.

Lathe is Tyler Davis (guitar, bass, organ), Eric Paltell (pedal steel, guitar), and Flynn Diguardia (drums). They are an instrumental doom band from Baltimore, Maryland. This manner of composition is the sort of thing I greatly appreciate because, to me, this is clearly doom music but it is also country music, obviously, and the drone elements are unmistakable, too. None of these separate lands are compromised by the amalgamation. What results is unique.

“Vinegar” is a lonely country tune at the beginning. After a few bars, the music shifts into a more ethereal lonely country tune, with peculiar side bars laying at odd angles, some almost perpendicular. “Drain” is even more sorrowful and downtrodden, offering a beautiful lead guitar presence. “Heat Wave” slows the pace and deepens the atmosphere to a point so thick it begins to close off your air. “Rodeo Fumes” is an upbeat rambler compared to its predecessors. It has a good clip, and a nice melody. There is still the echo of uncertainty that keeps this one in the doom realm.

Things start to get more peculiar on the second side. “315W” has a droning noise bed that tones slip into and around. “Cauliflower” lays on the blues, and the guitar here is a highlight in the set. “Journey To The East” is the big dog in the barnyard and has the most Lost Highway weirdness feel among the contenders, I would say, all the while maintaining the established laid back attitude. It is unhurried, certain. Lastly there is “Morris,” a song to nourish your darkening soul. The powerful rumbling of the guitars is a cushion for the beautiful lead string rambling. A tinge of bitter flashes in once or twice, reminding you that this is real. I am captivated by this album. Recommended.

Tongue Of Silver is out on Friday, July 29th through Grimoire Records. Touch the links below to see the sites.

Band photo by Daniel Regner.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/album/tongue-of-silver

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/lathe66

Grimoire Records, http://www.grimoirerecords.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Lathe, Tongue Of Silver (Grimoire 2022)

Behold! The Monolith, From The Fathomless Deep (Ripple Music 2022)

Los Angeles metal band Behold! The Monolith have created a doom-laden masterpiece with their new album From The Fathomless Deep.

Behold! The Monolith have gone through some changes since their inception fifteen years ago. They have released an EP and three previous long-players prior to the latest album. The band has shifted and reshaped since the sudden loss of vocalist and bassist Kevin McDade in a car accident in 2009. Reorienting to a trio on the new album, Menno Verbaten plays bass and sings, Matt Price is on guitar, and Chase Manhattan, drums. This latest music is some of their heaviest to date.

There are six tracks on From The Fathomless Deep. “Crown/The Immeasurable Void” opens the set and establishes a weighty foundation. All instruments, including voice, hit on the first note laying out a heavy front of doom. Slow and monstrous, you can feel the behemoth getting closer as the song moves along. The tension grows throughout and, when you hear a quiet passage, it is positively ominous. “Psychlopean Dread” has a mysterious beginning and melancholy lead work. Verbaten’s gruff vocals churn primordial forces to create meaning from the mist. “Spirit Taker” picks the pace up, and then some. The stabbing guitar riff and rapid-fire percussion catch you off guard and hit all the harder for it. It’s a rager.

Side two leads with “The Wailing Blade,” a song that has a less ominous but more directly threatening tone. It is short and cracking. “The Seams of Pangaea” is a fascinating title when you think of the implications it carries, and the music delivers a full-on expression of the possibilities. The overlayed lead guitar work is exceptional, and the Pink Floydian movement is an experience. The album closes on the eleven-minute epic “Stormbreaker Suite.” This piece has some of the most progressive segments on the record, to my ear, anyway. Over the course of the song, an ambitious array of ideas is explored, and the answers are found.

The is album is very heavy, and it is one of my favorites, not just from Behold! The Monolith, but among the all the albums I have heard so far this year. Highly recommended.

From The Fathomless Deep is out now through Ripple Music. Secure your treasures at the label’s site, or at Bandcamp, like I did.

Links.

Band website, https://beholdthemonolith.com/home

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/from-the-fathomless-deep

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

Ripple Music, https://www.ripple-music.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Behold! The Monolith, From The Fathomless Deep (Ripple Music 2022)

Lucid Grave, Cosmic Mountain (Electric Valley 2022)

Stoner doom band Lucid Grave release their debut long-player, Cosmic Mountain.

Situated in Copenhagen, Denmark, Lucid Grave has been haunting stages for a few years. After a demo and an EP, they have now put together an impressive full-length album for their ever-expanding fan base to groove on. Heavy psych, doom, ritual, and stoner vibes infiltrate every nook in this music. The band is Malene (vocals), Jon (drums), Alex (bass), Casper (guitar and synth), and Kriller (guitar and synth).

There are six tracks on the new album, three long ones and three very long ones. The title track kicks the set off with opening ambient tones and an eerie, emotive vocal. The voice is mesmerizing, having the effect of a chant in this context, rather like ritual metal. It is nearly three minutes in before the first big guitar riff lands, and when it does the impact is titanic. The pace is slow but determined and meaningful. “Old Spirit” follows in a completely different way, reminding me at times of a Nina Hagen – digging in with punk attitudes and contemporary sentimentiation [I made that word up just now]. The lead break toward the end is very trippy.

The differential existence of both faster-paced and slow-paced songs works exceptionally well on this record. “I’m Still High” is next and it has an arc the other songs largely avoid. “I Feel The Fire” is somber and not at all sober. “Stay Away” is a Pink Floyd tonic and the closer, “Curse Of the Crow,” digs in deep. The massive natural musical weight of the composition gains access to your deepest inner self if you have prepared for it properly and if you are open to the experience. The ramp out could be effective in an Ayahuasca exploration. This song, and this album, could change you. Recommended.

Cosmic Mountain is out on Friday, July 15th through Electric Valley Records.

Links.

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

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

Electric Valley Records, https://www.electricvalleyrecords.com/category/electric-valley-records-releases

© Wayne Edwards

Lucid Grave, Cosmic Mountain (Electric Valley 2022)

Negative 13, Mourning Asteri (2022)

The sophomore album from Negative 13 is an ambitious affair, Mourning Asteri.

Negative 13 is a band from Pittsburgh, and it is the new incarnation of the band Negative Theory which proliferated in the early aughts. The music is sludge-centered with adventures in many other directions. The musicians are Scott Fisher (vocals), Edward Banchs (guitar), Chip Reynolds (drums, vocals), and Mary Bielich (bass).

I listened to the record straight through and wrote down a one-line knee jerk reaction to each song. These are not really based on the lyrics and mostly have to do with whatever popped into my head as I heard the songs for the first time. It is what the music made me think of and therefore what I plastered onto it. I wouldn’t take this too seriously.

Here we go. “My Scars Are Showing Again” – like a hoarse, wandering goblin minstrel drinking in a rural English pub talking about its day by candlelight. “Never Ending Exit Wound” – a very punk piece that turns into doom toward the end. “Pain Prism” – belligerent angst stemming from the lost search for peace and isolation.

“Mourning Asteri” – a sinister instrumental mood track. “Crack the Code” – continues from previous song and builds into a journey where many things go terribly wrong. “The Key and the Coat” – a hot punk take up front meandering off into the psychedelic wilderness as the song goes on. “Parahell” – wandering somewhat lost in mental confinement, searching for an exit. “Villain” – somber long-form doom, beautifully dark.

More thoughtfully, let me say I really like this music. In its totality, is unlike what I usually hear. The idea of combining sludge and doom with punk is a winner for sure. Adding psychedelic and even ambient-like passages deepens the effect. Give it a listen. Recommended.

Mourning Asteri is out on Friday, July 8th. Check it out at Bandcamp or any other elsewhere you like.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://negative13.bandcamp.com/album/mourning-asteri

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/people/Negative-Thirteen/100063690412382/

© Wayne Edwards

Negative 13, Mourning Asteri (2022)

Witchfinder, Endless Garden (Mrs Red Sound 2022)

Hazy stoner doom band Witchfinder cast out their new EP into the world, Endless Garden.

Just a few years ago in France, Witchfinder began creating music with hallmarks of doom, sludge, and heavy psych. Leaning toward the stoner end of the room, they released two full-length albums, a self-titled one in 2017 followed by Hazy Rites in 2019. There is a new long-player on the horizon, and meanwhile they offer Endless Garden. Witchfinder is Clément Mostefai (vocals and bass), Stanislas Franczak (guitar), Thomas Dupuy (drums), and Kevyn Raecke (keys).

There are two long tracks on the new EP beginning with “Eternal Sunset.” Any song that runs nearly eleven minutes will have some change-ups, or an arc, or both. Here we have a quiet opening, reflective music establishing space to expand into. Guitars and keys arrive in due course. There are moments that seem like self-contain songs themselves, and other, longer stretches that feel like a movie soundtrack. The vocals are spacey, almost cavernous at times, adding depth and mystery. The hallmarks of riff-driven stoner rock never stray too far from focus.

“The Maze” starts with a wandering bass, paired with a guitar that looks in a different direction. The mood here is darker than on the first song, instilling trepidation in the listener. The vocals offer what seems like a warning, or at least a sinister tale to put you on your guard. Decisive plodding appears, and is like a marching force on a mission; they will not be swayed. There is a sudden, violent shift at the end, an abrupt black metal moment that signals the conclusion of the conflict.

The band has planned a full-length album for later in the year. These two songs will hold us over until then. It is also a rewarding enterprise to listen to Witchfinder’s earlier albums in the interim. Recommended.

Mrs Red Sound will release Endless Garden on Friday, June 3rd. Bandcamp is a good stop when you are looking for this music.

Links.

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

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

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

© Wayne Edwards

Witchfinder, Endless Garden (Mrs Red Sound 2022)

Weedevil, The Return (Abraxas Records 2022)

Weedevil presents dark stories told in doom on their first full-length album, The Return.

From São Paulo, Brazil, Weedevil is Flávio Cavichioli (drums), Lorraine Scar (vocals), Dani Plothow (bass), Paulo Ueno (guitar), and Bodão (guitar). The records show that the band has been releasing material for only a couple of years, with two EPs and a live album already out. The Return is their first long-player, and it is solid through and through.

The new album includes five huge slabs of doom. First up is “Underwater.” It is a steady heavy beat that seems at first slightly softened by Scar’s vocals until you realize what she is singing about. The music matches the desperation of the narrative and complements the turn towards dark power that occurs. “The Void” follows and grinds on you like pyramid stones being dragged up a ramp, forcing down the weight of history and reality on your being.

“The Return” has a deep-seated witching feel to it. To wit, “Offer me green grass and accursed men’s head / I will keep the beast away, if I’m well fed.” The circumlocution reinforces the powerful chant and the spell sinks ever deeper in. On “Isn’t A Love Song” the approach is more melodic but the messaging does not stray far from grim tidings, even with the beautiful piano in the finish.

The final track is “Genocidal.” It has an impressive tall-wall presence in the guitars and a creepy, disturbing whistling at the front. As with every track, Scar’s vocals are a center point, and a place of return. This song is the most determined, grimmest conclusion in a set that has been full-force doom all along. It is a welcome end that has you turning back to start at the beginning and experience it all over again. Recommended.

The Return emerges on Friday, April 8th in digital through Abraxas Records, with vinyl to follow from DHU Records.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://weedevil.bandcamp.com/album/the-return

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

DHU Records, https://darkhedonisticunionrecords.bigcartel.com/

© Wayne Edwards.

Weedevil, The Return (Abraxas Records 2022)

Monolord and Firebreather at Black Circle Brewing, March 19, 2022

Two bands from Gothenburg, Sweden rolled in to Indianapolis on Saturday night and laid down the doom.

Black Circle Brewing is a restaurant and bar in Indianapolis that attracts an impressive roster of heavy music acts throughout the year. On Saturday night, it was Monolord and Firebreather who took the stage. Both stoner / doom bands from Sweden are touring on new albums. The local opener was Ancient Days, and they have new music out, too.

Ancient Days is a five-piece doom outfit with a mysterious, bewitching vibe. I arrived at Black Circle just as they started to play, so I head their sonic emanations spilling out into the neighborhood as darkness was folding over the city. It was an amazing way for the show to begin. Check out their music at Bandcamp – their latest album is Sign of the Times.

Firebreather is playing every stop on the tour, and they have a titanic rumble about them. Their latest album is Dwell In The Fog, and once you hear it, you won’t be able to stop listening. The music is a rambling groove of rushing heavy, and their live performance is a nonstop push that probes your cerebellum and gets your head swinging.

Monolord is a band I have been following for years and years. Your Time To Shine is their latest album, and I have been on the bandwagon since Empress Rising. I don’t know how it is possible, but this is the first time I had ever seen them live. I have heard every song they have released and I’ve seen recordings of their performances, but being there is a whole different experience. That’s why we go to shows, right.

Black Circle Brewing is a small, intimate place. There is no pit, so you can stand right up by the stage, which rises only a couple feet so it feels like the band is in the same space you are. The show was sold out and the crowd was a solid sea of doom fans. We got everything we were looking for and more. Unsurprisingly, this performance made me want to see Monolord again even more, if that is possible. Then again, how could it go any other way? I know for sure I’ll catch them at Psycho Las Vegas at the end of the summer – get those tickets while you still can because that event is going to legendary.

Monolord and Firebreather have several more dates in March in Texas, Arizona, and southern California. Check out the tour poster below and see if they are coming your way.

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Monolord, https://monolord.bandcamp.com/

Firebreather, https://firebreatherdoom.bandcamp.com/

Ancient Days, https://ancientdays.bandcamp.com/

Black Circle Brewing, https://www.blackcirclebrewing.com/black-circle

© Wayne Edwards.

Monolord and Firebreather at Black Circle Brewing, March 19, 2022