Demonio, Electric Voodoo Of The Black Dawn (Regain 2022)

Italian stoner metal band Demonio puts it all together on Electric Voodoo Of The Black Dawn.

Demonio is a power trio that plays doom stoner heavy psych metal music that will open your mind, whether or not you are chemically prepared for the journey. Peopled by Matteo (bass), Paolo (drums), and Anthony (guitar, vocals), Demonio have put out a long-player and an EP in the past couple of years, titled, respectively, Electric Voodoo (2021) and Black Dawn (2022). The new record collects these two in one place and makes them available in new physical editions to go along with the digital that already exists.

The spirit awakens with “From the Grave,” a trippy, groovy, guitar-driven delight. If anything is coming out of the grave, it is just popping up to light the bong, so never fear. “Lust for the Dark” takes a step back to consider the impetus of carnality and its association with dim lighting. Heh-heh. Not really. It is a slower cook, and that just makes the notes all the more tender to the touch. The lead guitar is either the charmer or the snake, and, whichever is true, the effect is hypnotizing. “Acid’s Dream” is fuzzier and grungier and every bit as potent. The established range is challenged throughout, enriching the musical environment.

The title tracks have a special place in the set. “Electric Voodoo” is a warbly enabler, encouraging deeper explorations than have so far come to pass. “Black Dawn” is one of the longer songs in the compilation, and it makes expert use of all the afforded space. The long, languid middle keeps your mind from exploding, and the punching ending is an excellent send-off. Recommended.

Electric Voodoo Of The Black Dawn is out now in digital and CD through Regain Records, with a vinyl version to follow in 2023 from DHU Records.

Links.

Demonio Bandcamp, https://demonio666.bandcamp.com/album/electric-voodoo

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

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

Shadow Records, https://www.shadowrecords.se/

Helter Skelter Productions, https://www.facebook.com/helterskelterproductions/

Regain Records, https://regainrecords.bandcamp.com/album/electric-voodoo-of-the-black-dawn

© Wayne Edwards

Demonio, Electric Voodoo Of The Black Dawn (Regain 2022)

Vitskär Süden, The Faceless King (Ripple 2022)

Los Angeles doom tripper foursome Vitskär Süden unleash their new album, The Faceless King.

Vitskär Süden create a measured kind of progressive rock that is encompassing and immersive. You can feel that on their first album, but on the new one the effect is far stronger. I will talk about it a little here, but truly you must listen to it to know what it is. The band is Martin Garner (bass, vocals), Julian Goldberger (guitar, keys), Christopher Martin (drums), and T. J. Webber (guitar).

The saga begins with “The Way,” told in two parts. Imagine a renaissance fair and think about what might be going on around the edges of it. The dark edges. The risky edges. The misty edges. Slow to middling in pace, with a beating heart propelled by, well, we cannot be sure. Quiet with an underlying expansive power. Thrumming, pulsing. At the wrap you are pretty sure it is not truly over. Next is “Archdiocese Of Worms,” which is louder and more directly menacing. It is more upfront about the threat, you might say, than the earlier movements. The whispering is still there, the quiet singing, yet here it takes a more determined stance. “Voices From Beyond The Wall” is positively dreamy by comparison.

“Shepherds On The Roadside” is a long song, a solid bridge. The bigger story to me from side two is the shorter next song. “Bonedust And Dark” rests on evil, dark whispers and a beautiful Floydesque guitar opening. My favorite track on the album, its resonance is more than aural and physical. Sit with the lyrics for a minute, these words that are spoken as the music begins … “Enveloped by nebulous shadow of sin / Flame and avarice spat from a serpentine tongue / Now lost to the endless dunescape of bonedust and dark / Allow these whispers, these incantations / To usher this dying ember back from The Deep / Back to the world of men.”

“The Broken Crown” brings the story to a close, places the body down and lets it be. And again, here again, it does not seem like the end. This is music you get lost in, not in the sense that you do not know where you are but in the manner of being integrated into its presence while you listen. This kind of thing does not happen with most music. Recommended.

The Faceless King is out now through Ripple Music. Listen.

Links.

Vitskär Süden website, http://vitskarsuden.com/

Bandcamp, https://vitskarsuden.bandcamp.com/album/the-faceless-king-2

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

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

© Wayne Edwards

Vitskär Süden, The Faceless King (Ripple 2022)

Ruby The Hatchet, Fear Is A Cruel Master (Magnetic Eye 2022)

Ruby The Hatchet returns with their trademark heavy psych music on Fear Is A Cruel Master.

I am not even going to try to pretend I am not a big fan of Ruby The Hatchet. Truly, one of the very best experiences I had this year was seeing them perform at Psycho Las Vegas. It might sound a little over the top, but I like everything about this band – their sound, their compositions, and they way to approach live performance. The musicians are Jillian Taylor (vocals), Johnny Scarps (guitar), Owen Stewart (drums), Lake Muir (bass), and Sean Hur (keys).

I have heard everything Ruby The Hatchet has released, starting with the early self-titled EP through to Planetary Space Child (Tee Pee Records 2017) and Live At Earthquaker (Magnetic Eye Records 2022). I have been ready for the new studio album for some time now.

Fear Is A Cruel Master has eight tracks, beginning with high-energy opener “The Change.” This song has great single potential with its grooving hook and catchy, singable chorus. You can hear every element working together on this song. “Deceiver” is heavier with a darker story. The echoing lead guitar in the first half of the song casts a lasting spell. “Primitive Man” offers a grungy menace for a foundation and mesmerizing guitar and keys lines, while “1000 Years” lies along a more somber path. Taylor’s voice is the feature here and she sounds better than ever.

Side B opens with “Soothsayer.” It’s an exuberant undertaking with a mystical sensibility. “Thruster” sounds like a dark magician at work on something diabolical, then “Last Saga” slows the pace for melancholy reflections and powerful vocal duet. The final song is “Amor Gravis.” There are vibrant, even speedy elements in this song that complement perfectly the heavier overtones. It is a good vehicle to bring us back to earth at the end of the set. It is always good to have new music from Ruby The Hatchet, and the new album is even better than I expected it to be. Highly recommended.

Fear Is A Cruel Master is out on Friday, October 21st through Magnetic Eye Records in the accustomed forms. Don’t wait if you want any of the physicals because they might not last very long. Links below.

Band photo by Don Vincent Ortega.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://thehatchet.bandcamp.com/album/fear-is-a-cruel-master

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

Magnetic Eye Records, https://en.merhq.net/

© Wayne Edwards

Ruby The Hatchet, Fear Is A Cruel Master (Magnetic Eye 2022)

Greenbeard, Variant (Sailor Records 2022)

Greenbeard gives us Variant, a bluesy album with heavy desert grooves and many unexpected turns.

From Austin, Texas, Greenbeard is Chance Parker (guitar, vocals), Buddy Hachar (drums), Pat Seals (bass), and Joe Samson (guitar). They have been stalking the stage for a few years now and have released several albums, including 2014’s self-titled EP, Stoned At The Throne (2015), Lödarödböl (2016), and then another EP, Onward Pillager (2018). The new set covers quite a bit of ground, and showcases both the songwriting and performance talents of the band.

Let’s track-by-track this one, shall we? “Creatures of the Night” charges right at you with a groovy hard psych attitude that is almost like a fuzzy surf version of acid rock. It cooks, and the lead breaks are a joy to hear. “Burns Like Basketweave” is spacier than the opener, with a pushing, buzzy throb. The dream sequence just past the center is a tribute to psychic exploration. “Get in the car. No time to explain.” Now this is a driving song, and I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise given the title. There is a slow, catchy vamp in the middle that goes bluesy and walks back that driving-down-the-road feel in exchange for a whole different vibe. The backing vocals will give you chills.

“Diamond in the Devil’s Grinder” is a slow heavy blues number. A beautiful song with amazing guitar segments and an unforgettable saxophone. The tempo gets whipped up in the final third for a big finish. “Sanitario de la Soul” sends you on a long, deep path of self-reflection. “Exodus” brings back the push and the heavy roll. The buzz in the guitar is on the roar again. It has a great climbing chorus that sets up a blistering lead guitar break-out.

The last song is “Bare Bones.” It starts with a clang and rings on with high energy riffs that sound amazing even when lights come back on. Put me down for a “hell yes” on Greenbeard. This album is excellent. Recommended.

Variant emerges April 9th through Sailor Records in the US and Kozmik Artifactz in Europe.

Band photo by Dave Creaney.

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

Greenbeard website, http://www.greenbeardtheband.com/

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

Sailor Records, https://www.sailorrecords.com/

© Wayne Edwards.

Greenbeard, Variant (Sailor Records 2022)

Spiral Skies, Death Is But A Door (AOP Records 2022)

Radio-friendly heavy psych band Spiral Skies release their second album, Death Is But A Door.

Centered in Stockholm, Sweden , Spiral Skies is a band of mystery. They released an EP in 2015 called A Queendom To Come, and their debut full-length album, Blues For A Dying Planet (2018), attracted good notices. Their musical style is an amalgam of 1970s and 1980s European rock themes combined with a light version of heavy psych, perhaps designed to reach a broader audience than a heavy stoner vibe likely would. The band is Frida Eurenius (vocals), Dan Svanljung (guitar, key, didgeridoo), Jonas Lyander (guitar), Eric Sandberg (bass), and Daniel Bäckman (drums).

There are nine tracks on the album, starting with “The Endless Sea” which begins sweetly then turns toward the aggressively dramatic before you have a chance to get fully settled in. The shifting landscape in this composition signals what is to come. Not every song plays with this much variety, but a good deal of ground is covered throughout the set. “Into The Night,” for example, is a peppy, radio-friendly song, and a diversion from its predecessor. It reminds me a little of some of the music by Demon I used to listen to in the eighties, except more lyrical and, well, better.

“Time” is a track to look out for as it has nice lead guitar work. The closer, “Mirror Of Illusion,” is quiet and reflective, and it turned out to be a favorite of mine as well. The music is very listenable. Frida Eurenius’ voice is beautiful to hear, and the compositions are engaging and approachable. The guitar-driven light stoner vibe is just the ticket when you are in that place in your head. Recommended.

Death Is But A Door is out through AOP Records on Friday, March 25th. Links below.

Links.

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

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

AOP Records, http://www.aoprecords.de/

© Wayne Edwards. All rights reserved.

Spiral Skies, Death Is But A Door (AOP Records 2022)

Fostermother, The Ocean (Ripple Music 2022)

Psychedelic Texas doom band Fostermother offer their second full-length album to the expanding universe.

I liked Fostermother’s first album, the self-titled one that came out in 2020. It is an excellent stoner album and, while I wouldn’t call it light-hearted, it had a kind of buoyancy to it, a sort of groove. The new album is a bit slower in tempo and a touch dimmer in tone. Whether in a loud moment or a quiet one, you can feel the doom surround you. It will definitely appeal to the band’s fans, and will gather up a new crowd among those who had been standing around the edges. The credited musicians on The Ocean are Travis Weatherred (vocals, guitar, drums, and synth) and Stephen Griffin (bass, keys, and guitar).

“Sunday” opens the show with a tentative pulse. A better way to put that is the music makes you feel tentative and on edge when you hear it. The vocals have a mystical and somewhat unsettling tonal quality – they seem like they might be a warning. The riff is heavy, buzzing with shadows. We know at the gate, then, that this is a doom album in the stoner lane that also has a dark shade to it. “Seasons” goes even deeper in a heavy, fuzzy trudge and the next track after that, “Hedonist,” punches it up a bit in the first look before quietening down and going ethereal. The journey we are on with this music is becoming a shifting kaleidoscope of blues and reds and yellows.

Each next step puts you a little off balance with a new tilt, and while there is familiarity in every track, I did not get the feeling of being in loop. Some of the songs have a grungy feel to them, like “Dark Desires.” Others force an insistent dismalness, like “Arrival.” Each port that is visited has its dangers and its charms. Put Fostermother on your must-hear list from here on out. Highly recommended.

The Ocean is out now from Ripple Music. Bandcamp and Ripple’s website are where you can get the details.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://fostermother.bandcamp.com/album/the-ocean

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

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

Fostermother, The Ocean (Ripple Music 2022)

Matt Pike, Pike Vs. The Automaton (MNRK Heavy 2022)

The newest music from Matt Pike takes the form of Pike Vs. The Automaton.

Matt Pike is an icon of heavy music. I we are all familiar with his work in High On Fire – one of my all-time favorite bands – and Sleep. I saw him perform with Sleep at Heavy Montreal in 2018 and with High On Fire at Psycho Las Vegas a couple years ago. Damn. He is an amazing talent. Now, in addition to Sleep and High On Fire, Matt Pike has a new project, Pike Vs. The Automaton. The reference in the title is to Talos, a giant bronze robot of Greek mythology that was established as a protector of Crete, patrolling the island and chucking enormous boulders at any invaders. This music fights against the protectors of the establishment, then? Sounds right.

The new album is a little more on the psychedelic side, according to Pike, than his other work. It does sound a bit different, but in the best possible way. There are all manner of divergent moments sprinkled throughout, including the thoughtful and quiet “Land.” This is a heavy album, though, and make no mistake. The vocals are forceful overall, and the unforgettable guitar work goes straight for your spine and sets it alight.

There are ten songs on the album running over an hour altogether. My favorite tracks are the longest ones, but that is a peccadillo of mine that runs deep. Still, “Trapped In A Midcave,” “Apollyon,” and “Leaving The Wars Of Woe” are all truly inspired compositions that clock over eight, nine, and ten minutes, respectively. Look, I know what I am doing, here – when I hear these long songs, I imagine seeing the live performance, and longer pieces where Matt Pike is leaning into it and wailing on the guitar are my favorite concert memories.

To be clear, you don’t want sleep on the short ones. “Acid Test Zone” is a savage little rager, and the opening song, “Abusive,” is a mood-setter if there ever was one. So, yeah, this album does sound a little different from the others we’ve heard so far yet still it fits right in. Fans of High On Fire and Sleep are going to love it. Highly recommended.

Pike Vs. The Automaton is out now and available everywhere. Check out a stream then pick up a physical product from MNRK Heavy while they are still available.

Links.

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

MNRK Heavy Records, https://mnrkheavy.com/collections/pike-vs-the-automaton

Matt Pike, Pike Vs. The Automaton (MNRK Heavy 2022)

Earthless, Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Heavy psych-metal trio Earthless are back with a new two-track, sixty minute album: Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons.

Earthless is a trio that play guitar-driven, primarily instrumental, music. You could call it stoner, and that counts, but heavy psych makes a little more sense to me. I am a huge fan of instrumental heavy music, and Earthless has been a favorite of mine since I first heard them – so label them however you like so long as you listen to the music. The band is Isaiah Mitchell (guitar, vocals), Mike Eginton (bass), and Mario Rubalcaba (drums).

Earthless is known for long instrumental pieces, as on their seminal on albums Sonic Prayer (2005) and Rhythms From A Cosmic Sky (2007). More recently, on 2018’s Black Heaven, they created shorter songs, many with vocals. While the singing was a surprise, I liked that album a lot, too, because it still had the amazing musical compositions I had come to expect from the band. On One Hundred Demons, it is back to the long form.

According to the band, the new music was sparked by an ancient story. “The album and its title were inspired by an ancient Japanese legend in which a horde of demons, ghosts and other terrifying ghouls descend upon sleeping villages at night, once a year. Known as Hyakki Yagyō, or the “Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons,” one version of the tale states that anyone who witnesses this otherworldly procession will die instantly—or be carried off by the creatures of the night. As a result, the villagers hide in their homes, lest they become victims of these supernatural invaders.”

There are two tracks on the new album. The title track is forty minutes long and split into two parts. The second song is “Death To The Red Sea,” a mere twenty minutes. The short one was released in advance of the album, so I heard it first. It is an incredible high-energy heavy metal guitar jam sustained over the entire run time after only a very short on-ramp. It is simply incredible. It don’t know how the musicians can do it, frankly, especially Mitchell, whose fingers must have been on fire by the end.

“Night Parade of One Hundred Demons” begins more slowly and has a beautiful opening section that builds quietly, hopefully. The tempo turns sharply about seven minutes into a more dramatic posture and urgent style and pace. There is a roaring guitar movement near the fourteen-minute mark that is the inevitable result of the preceding arc. The second movement takes off in the mysterious direction and leads us along the ever-blurring path of nighttime and the cosmic realm. The incredible guitar passages are here, too, of course, and the finale is a grand exposition.

Earthless delivers on every level with this new album. The extended, intricate pieces are absorbed into your psyche while you listen. This is top-form work. Highly recommended.

Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons is out now through Nuclear Blast Records.

Links.

Website, https://www.earthlessofficial.com/

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

Nuclear Blast Records, https://www.nuclearblast.com/eu/earthless

Earthless, Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Madmess, Rebirth (Hassle Records 2021)

The debut album from Portugal’s Madmess is an ambitious sashay in the psychedelic universe.

Madmess is from Portugal, and they are currently stationed in the United Kingdom. Plying their trade in the crowded psych-rock scene, the band – Ricardo Sampaio (guitar), Luis Moura (drums), and Vasco Vasconcelos (bass) – stomp a heavy groove. It is a weighty sound with a treble edge and plenty of fuzz. They released Madmess in 2019, a long EP. Rebirth is the band’s first full-length album.

There are five long tracks on Rebirth. The echoing “Stargazer” breaks the frozen surroundings with its glow and has the feel of intergalactic exploration. Forceful rhythm allows for sharp lead guitar attacks. The lead break toward the end is particularly raucous and benefits from exploiting two aligned yet independent tracks. The title song starts out quieter but doesn’t stay that way for long. In fact, they drop a riff so heavy that it would feel comfortable in a doom scene. The guitar sparkles in the gloom and brightens the track immeasurably.

“Albatross” has a mournful ply. It is not as sad as Zappa’s “Watermelon in Easter Hay” but it made me think of that song for some reason even though it doesn’t sound like it at all. The music throughout is essentially instrumental in that vocals are not a large part of any track and this song is the set stone of that ideal. “Shape Shifter” is comfortable rollick with languid, easy-on-the-ears guitar work.

“Mind Collapse” made my think of a long drive on a lonely highway at dusk, just a person alone with their thoughts as they wander and focus and move around to this and that. This one might be my favorite of the bunch but I have to say all five songs resonated with me. I hope Madmess head over to the US in 2022 because this is a band I am aching to see perform live. Highly recommended.

Rebirth is out Friday, December 10th, through Hassle Records.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://madmess.bandcamp.com/album/rebirth

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

Hassle Records, https://store.hasslerecords.com/

Madmess, Rebirth (Hassle Records 2021)

King Buffalo, Acheron (2021)

The second album of a proposed trilogy from King Buffalo is Acheron.

King Buffalo is a heavy psychedelic rock trio from Rochester. They have been quite prolific in the last lustrum, and their new album is the second of 2021. They excel musically at the long form and Acheron is a welcome showcase for their talents. The band is Sean McVay (guitar, vocals, keys), bassist Dan Reynolds (bass), and Scott Donaldson (drums).

Each song on the new album is about ten minutes long, and there are four of them. “Acheron.” You hear dripping water, running water, then a guitar. Percussion and rhythm. Gentle vocals in a surprisingly upbeat tone for a song sung in a cave (the album was recorded underground at Howe Caverns in New York). Punctuating coarse intrusions do not despair the languid underlying currents, even when the roughhousing guitar takes the lead for an extended time.

“Zephyr” has a different attitude, a more active demeanor. Still there is the gentleness, which we can begin to interpret by now as intrepidness. The guitar leads are expansive, as if moving toward an ideal that has been established by the keys. “Shadows” I find to be more reflective than the first two tracks, more introspective. It ticks and pulls at your inner core.

“Cerberus” is the deepest song, in my hearing. It feels dank and unsettling, a little frightening, even. The distorted lead guitar claws at the fabric of reality, searching for a way out (or maybe a way in). The tension grows and builds all the way to the end where the riff gives no respite. The music is dramatic and powerful.

There is no telling where the third part of the series will land. So far, though, with the first two sessions locked in, it looks for all the world like the totality will be something special. Make sure you hear The Burden of Restlessness and then go spelunking with Acheron. Highly recommended.

Acheron is out now. Look to the band’s website or Bandcamp for hardcopies and/or stream it wherever you stream.

Live photo by Wayne Edwards, State Theatre, Portland, Maine, 2021.

Links.

Website, https://kingbuffalo.com/

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

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

King Buffalo, Acheron (2021)