Sun Crow, Quest For Oblivion (Ripple Music 2021)

When I think of Doom Metal this is what I hear in my head: Sun Crow’s debut album.

Quest For Oblivion was released late last year by the band, and now it is getting broader distribution through Ripple Music. The musicians are Ben Nechanicky (guitar), Brian Steel (bass), Keith Hastreiter (drums), and Charles Wilson (vocals). The band as it is might be fairly new, but the members have a solid history of honing their talents and together they are pure metal lava.

There are eight tracks on Quest For Oblivion, four of them over ten minutes long. The album starts with “Collapse,” a slow-opening heavy doom statement with planetary-scale riffs and soul-freeing power. The music is unhurried. Sure of itself, the composition moves in its own natural direction. “Black It Out” is next with a quicker build and a sound just as big. “End Over End” hits next, and it might be my favorite track on the album, although picking one among this pack is a fool’s errand because every song has so much to admire. Here I am enthralled by the lead guitar work and voice, the rollicking drums and muscular bass which together compartmentalized my mind and gave me a feeling like I was existing in a distinct cranial collective rather than a single source of thought.

There are two shorter songs, six and five minutes each, and they have a generally quicker tempo – “Fear” and “Nothing Behind.” The shift is a shove that rattles you around to secure your attention for the final two, “Hypersonic” and “Titans.” The penultimate song is a trip to the stars the final one brings the celestial to the terrestrial and shakes the prehistoric structure of the earth. Taken together as a full set or one song at a time, Sun Crow has set a standard with Quest For Oblivion to which other doom music will be compared. Highly recommended.

The digital download is available now at Bandcamp through the band directly or through Ripple Music. Physicals ship in July from Ripple.

Links.

Sun Crow Bandcamp, https://suncrow.bandcamp.com/

Ripple Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/quest-for-oblivion

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

Sun Crow, Quest For Oblivion (Ripple Music 2021)

Thunder Horse, Chosen One (Ripple Music 2021)

Following up on the tectonic power of their self-titled debut, the new album from Thunder Horse is both crushing and uplifting, in a planetary resurfacing kind of way.

Stephen Bishop, Todd Connally, Uncle Dave, and Jason West are channeling the spiritual sources of the sound on this album, bringing the elementals to bear. This music is doom metal with a lot of lead guitar work and call-ins from classics in the form as well as Southern rock roots. The combination is fascinating and unique but it is the execution the moves the needle into the red. I hope this band is around forever.

“Let Them Bleed” opens with a single guitar hammering a slow, powerful riff. The guitar solo past the middle could be in song like “Comfortably Numb” as easily as it is here in this doom-laden smasher. “Among The Dead” appropriately slows the pace a bit and wiggles in the sinister. I expected then a charging rampage in the next song, “Rise of the Heathens,” and instead heard a dramatic presentation and an orderly push of the heavy front. There is a charge in there toward the end and the rampage is the ripping solo guitar.

The title track has a very heavy Black Sabbath vibe and delivery, all to the good. It is a stand-out track for me, and so is the rumbling “Halfway To Hell.” “Texas” is a surprise in its quietude and melancholy, and the short piece “Remembrance” is ethereal and transitory, bringing up Southern rock memories. The capper is a cover of “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and now I will never hear that song the same way again. There is also an extended version of “Texas” right at the end. This album is one you are going to listen to over and over. Highly recommended.

The vinyl has been selling fast, reports say, so it might already be too late. There is always a download, and maybe a CD, though. Have a look at Bandcamp or wherever you like to plunk down your money because Chosen One is out now.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/chosen-one

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

Website, http://www.thunderhorseofficial.com/

Thunder Horse, Chosen One (Ripple Music 2021)

Jakethehawk, Hinterlands (Ripple Music 2021)

Pittsburgh psychedelic metal band Jakethehawk deliver a new entry into their evolving canon of self-styled Appalachian Desert Rock with the trippy Hinterlands.

I saw Jakethehawk on a livestream sponsored by their record label a few weeks back. There were four bands on the bill and they were all great, but it is Jakethehawk that I remember most because their performance was fluid and expressive despite the claustrophobic nature of livestreams. I hadn’t heard them before and that preview got me excited for Hinterlands.

In 2018 the band released an EP, Year Of The Hawk, and a long-player, To Build A Fire. The music is a steady, cosmic, psychedelic effluence with hearty riffs, smooth vocals, and mesmerizing lead guitar breaks.

Hinterlands has six tracks, mostly in the six minute range. They tend to have gentle openings about half the time and languid movements into heavier lands. The other half have heavier gates with the mysticism on the inside. There is an ethereal ambience surrounding it all like a heavy mist, and sometimes the music and voice function like incantations, or even mantras, and they draw you all the way in to a place where the edges blur. The edges of everything blur.

The music is a brand of stoner rock you could say, and it is non-aggressive after that fashion, but it is not frivolous – the music has something important to show that comes through on every piece. The lead guitar is especially fervent, teed up as it is by the other instruments. I could pick as favorite any song on the album and be telling the truth, never regretting the declaration.

Hinterlands fulfilled my every expectation; it actually over-delivered. Highly recommended.

The album dropped today on Ripple Music, and you can pick it up at the label link below in digital, CD, or vinyl. For the previous albums, hit the first link for the band’s Bandcamp link.

Links,

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

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

Ripple, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/hinterlands

Jakethehawk, Hinterlands (Ripple Music 2021)

Appalooza, The Holy of Holies (Ripple Music 2021)

French heavy stoner trio Appalooza tell stories of distress and decline in their latest long-player.

The band formed only a couple years ago in Brest, France, issuing their first album (self-titled) in 2018. That album has a grungy pulse to it, deterministically joining the informal revival of that bygone time. With many desert-scented colors whirled into the song writing, the album is very listenable.

The new music has a crisper presence. It is not as murky in the mix and has generally sharper edges. There is still strong, sometimes overpowering, grunge reflection throughout, and the desert feel runs deeper this time. According to the Bandcamp page, the band is Sylvain (vocals and guitar), Vincent (drum), and Tony (bass), with additional mystery contributions.

The first song on the album is “Storm,” and it has a muted opening after an initial distant ethereal vocal. I am repeating myself in my head, so let me lay it down here: this is a grunge album. The ghost of Layne Staley can be heard clearly in “Reincarnation,” perhaps the most direct Alice In Chains homage, although there are many. Nearly every track, in fact. The band does tell you this in the descriptive material on their social media pages, mentioning AIC specifically as an enduring influence. They mean it.

Looking back from the end of the set, there is more here than a retreading of popular 1990s genre music. Traditional music influences from the Mediterranean (and Middle East) add depth to the pressing guitars, and the song structures, especially on the second half of the album, stretch out to test and expand the borders of the band’s compositional universe. Living in their own space and telling their own stories, Appalooza brings a new perspective forward in the cloak of the venerable past. Recommended.

The Holy of Holies is out now. CDs, vinyl, and downloads can all be snapped up at Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://appalooza.bandcamp.com/album/the-holy-of-holies

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Appalooza.OfficialPage/

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

Appalooza, The Holy of Holies (Ripple Music 2021)

Kabbalah, The Omen (Rebel Waves Records 2021)

Kabbalah are brewing a psychedelic elixir in their cauldron of dreams and it is called The Omen.

The trio from Pamplona, Spain creates music that is a fascinating amalgam of contemporary fuzzy doom matched to a seventies-era rock passed through a grungy sifting machine where unexpected elements latch on, including beautiful melodic vocals and eerie themes and harmonies. The band has released a few EPs, as well as the full-length album Spectral Ascent (2017), leading up to the new one, The Omen.

The album is described in the band’s press release in part as an “occult rock grimoire where sticky melodies, funerary riffs and haunting vocals come together.” All of these things are true. I can think of a couple of bands from the past that appear to be clear influences on Kabbalah, but I have never heard anything quite like the music they make so let’s set those other names aside.

Some of the songs have a sharper edge, like the opener “Stigmatized” with its gravelly guitars, and “The Ritual,” which comes across more directly serious and dramatic. Much of the music is very laid back and hypnotic, with clearer seventies-inspired guitar tones and lovely, lilting vocals, as in “The Night Comes Near.” The echoing whispers and urging rhythms in “Labyrinth” come back to you at night when you are falling asleep, and the closer, “Liturgy,” is convincingly summative. You can feel the living desert infused in the notes of this music, and you when you close your eyes as the album plays you come to know the spirit of the ceremony.

If you rotate this album into your listening queue your life will be better. Recommended.

The digital for The Omen is at Bandcamp, Rebel Waves Records (an imprint of Ripple Music) has the CD and vinyl, and you can get a cassette from Stoner Witch Records.

Links.

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

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

Ripple Store, https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/products

Stoner Witch Store, https://stonerwitchrecords.bigcartel.com/products

Kabbalah, The Omen (Rebel Waves Records 2021)

Cortez, Sell The Future review (Ripple Music 2020)

Album number three from Cortez is Sell The Future and it rides a heavy wave of riff-powered demolition.

From the Boston area, Cortez has been releasing music since their 2006 demo. They have had a couple of lineup changes over the years, as most bands do. For Sell the Future, earliest members Jay Furlo (bass) and Scott O’Dowd {Scotty Fuse} (guitar) are joined by long time players Matt Harrington (vocals) and Alasdair Swan (guitar). Alexei Rodriguez (drums) is newest, dating from 2017 (if The Metal Archives has it facts straight).

Harrington’s voice is powerful and fierce when he wants it to be and yet he can attenuate it for different emotions and effects. The compositions rely on solid grooves and big riffs, with well-placed and clever lead breaks adding nuance to the work. The rippling and surprising percussion bursts that you hear from Rodriguez in unexpected places are a fundamental building block to the unique sound of the band.

“No Escape” is a banger, and the perfect choice for an up-tempo lead off song. The title track is next and sets a serious tone with a purposeful riff up front then pushes on with a heavy swagger. The tempo gets a switch in advance of the lead break, which flays the carcass of reason. “Look At You” has a driving rhythm that just won’t let you turn away, and if you are not hooked on this album by the time the third song is over, I don’t know what to say to you. I cannot pick a single favorite, but I will point to the way the songs dissimilarities enhance the set as a whole – listening to the furiously paced “Vanishing Point” right after “Sharpen The Spear,” which has a more plaintive structure, puts you off balance in just the right way for the closer, “Beyond.” This album was worth the wait. Highly recommended.

Sell the Future is out now. Bandcamp is a good place to look for the digital, and there are couple vinyl variants there, too.

Band photo by Bruce Bettis.

Links.

Ripple Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/sell-the-future

Cortez website, http://www.cortezboston.com/

Cortez Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/cortezboston/

Cortez Soundcloud, https://soundcloud.com/cortezboston

Cortez, Sell The Future review (Ripple Music 2020)

Arcadian Child, Protopsycho review (Ripple Music 2020)

The third album from the Limassol, Cyprus psychedelic rock band Arcadian Child is a wellspring of musical circumstance. It has tendrils that will touch you even when the quiet comes.

I do not know much about the band. According to the internet, it is populated by Panagiotis Georgiou (vocals, guitars), Stathis Hadjicharalambous (guitars), Andreas Kerveros (bass and vocals), and Constantinos Pavlides (drums). Their first album was Afterglow (2017), followed by Superfonica (2018). These two albums have a more grunge-like approach than the new one, and they are a bit more musically linear. The latest is a departure. It is not completely different, but it has a more ethereal quality to it. Listening to Protopsycho muted my cerebral filters so let me just recount what poured out through my keyboard while it was happening.

“Snakecharm” has a definite winding and rectilinear undulation to it, with an exotic echo that becomes the musical pattern. “Wave High” continues the desert warble and magical theme, while “Sour Grapes” has more blatantly psychedelic elements and inward looking conceptualizations. Mysticism lives in “The Well,” from its harmony wave background (as in South Asian music) at the beginning to its ethereal insinuation that becomes the primary companion. The peace is disturbed by heavily distorted guitars on the back end that turn the trip toward a more sinister aspect.

“Bitter Tea” was released as a single. It has a plucky and chatty essence. “Bodies of Men” is a drive down a lonely road at night with only one working headlight and 3/8 of a tank of gas. Very catchy riffing. “Raisin’ Fire” has a long steady chanting set up for the sprint at the end, where things really start to kick in. The closer is the title track. It is the culmination of the ritual that has been going on since the record first started to spin. The music rises and repeats in a rotational confrontation to exterior motion. And then it comes to rest.

Protopsycho is a Rebel Waves Records release from Ripple Music, available at Bandcamp and the other regulars. I am going to have to sit with this music for a while to allow the full impact to land. My first impression is: recommended.

Links.

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

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

Band YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKI7gQhSPURQglbhd3MMm4g

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/

Arcadian Child, Protopsycho review (Ripple Music 2020)

Crystal Spiders, Molt review (Ripple Music 2020)

Raleigh, North Carolina-based Crystal Spiders add a new entry in the Stoner Rock ledgers with their full-length debut, Molt.

The band is Brenna Leath and Tradd Yancey, bass/vocals and drums, respectively. They released a three-song demo last year, and Molt is the rapid follow up. Leath is also in the bands Lightning Born and The Hell No, creating music there and already finishing the principal writing on the next Crystal Spiders album after Molt. She is keeping the creative fires alive in this first year of the pandemic.

The new album has a straight-forward sound and a practical approach to Stoner Doom that sits atop a solid underlying heavy rock structure. There is occasional the lead work like near the end of “C.U.N. Hell” that complements the abiding rhythm, but it is those bass lines and the assertive percussion that gets the biggest notice. And the vocals, of course. Leath’s voice is clear and soulful and vaporous all at once, in the neighborhood of Jillian Taylor (Ruby The Hatchet) but a bit lower in register and huskier tone.

A couple of the songs stood out and stuck with me even among the field of excellent music the album creates. “The Call” is a rousing, pulsing rocker, with a piercing guitar upfront and a ponderous then menacing back end. The ethereal sounds and tones in “The Fog” were absolutely hypnotizing – I was so wrapped up in listening to it I didn’t even realize when the song ended and the album was done. The title track is a crackling burst of Punk energy and “Chronic Sick” is pure doom.

Molt is out now from Ripple Music at their Big Cartel store and through Bandcamp. I just finished listening to the new album again and I am already anticipating the next one. Recommended.

Band photo by Marissa Straw.

Links.

https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/molt

https://www.facebook.com/crystalspidersinmymind

https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/

Crystal Spiders, Molt review (Ripple Music 2020)

Ripple Round-Up 2020, Round 01

Ripple Music is releasing some of the best heavy music in the business. Their catalogue is truly amazing. We got behind here at The Cabal and couldn’t do full reviews of these albums, but we couldn’t let them go by without comment, either. So here is one paragraph on each. Oh, and don’t forget to add “Highly Recommended” to the end of every paragraph because it belongs there.

Wolftooth, Valhalla (May 22)

Many have noticed and remarked that there is a strong presence of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal style in Wolftooth, and allow me to pile on. There is a broad resurgence of this kind of music, with varying results – the result here on Valhalla is impeccable. Part of the success in the music is that it’s neither an homage nor a repetition. Instead, the songs integrate NWOBHM with other approaches like doom metal. “Firebreather” stands out to me because of its companioning rhythms and urgent march passages. “Scylla & Charybdis” is another one that has lodged in my mind, this time due to its eerie roll and escalating intensity. There is not a bad one in the bunch. No skips required.

War Cloud, Earhammer Sessions (May 22)

“Vulture City” opens the album with a solid crack right to your brainpan. The classic metal style holds up for War Cloud throughout, and their playing is spot on. Earhammer Sessions was recorded live, presumably in studio at Earhammer Studios. It adds up. The band stated that they wanted to capture the energy and vibe of the set they had been playing on their European tour. I didn’t see that tour but this album does have a live feel to it with its raucous explosive fury. “Chopper Wired” is a fine example of what I mean with the drum solo in the second half of the song. You don’t usually get that kind of thing in a studio album. “White Lightning” follows immediately and it is not possible to push Lemmy out of your mind listening to it. What I am saying is: this is rock and roll.

Forming The Void, Reverie (May 8)

The vocals are soaring and echoey, making them sound either ethereal or extraterrestrial or both. The distorted rumbling guitars form impressions and make assertions about time, space, and in between. Reverie is the band’s fourth full-length release, and their confidence shows. They are pushing at the edges of the sound they have been working with over the past five years, and the results are impressive. The feel of the album is gloom, and it is epitomized by “Ancient Satellite,” starting out as it does with dreary hopelessness. It does take a turn toward false hope a couple of times, but the ending sounds like the last wandering transmission of a conquered planet. You will have to look elsewhere for happiness but you can find an excellent doom album right here.

The Watchers, High and Alive (April 24)

The four songs on this EP were captured live at the House of Rock in Santa Rosa in Fall 2019. The set starts out menacingly, then slips in a wah-wah and a phase shifter which lightens the atmosphere a little on “Black Abyss” but not the guitars. “Just A Needle” has a nice buzzy bounce. The main lead break sounds like a spy novel.  “Sabbath Highway” is a heavy metal rodeo that rolls right over you. “Starfire” is my favorite track on the album because of its sheer exuberance, but I mean it when I say they are all great. The musical precision combined with pulsing vitality of the band is an incomparable combination.

Bone Church, Acid Communion (March 13)

One of the best bands in the heavy guitar-driven bluesy industry brings a monster to your doorstep. “You’re always welcome at the Church of Bone where you can live the life divine.” The track I most remember is “Iron Temple” for its expansive stature, and it is also the place in the set where the music shifts gears a little and leads into the valley of the closing movement. On the other hand, “Iron Temple” could be the mountain that is summited and traversed from the beginning of the album and the end of the album. That debate is one for the listeners to work out on their own. The final song on the album is the title track, almost nine minutes long, and it is an epic story told with powerful, heavy guitars. I am delighted by Acid Communion and I can’t wait to get my ears on more.

Links.

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/

Wolftooth, Valhalla, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/valhalla

War Cloud, Earhammer Sessions, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/earhammer-sessions

Forming The Void, Reverie, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/reverie

Bone Church, Acid Communion, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/acid-communion

Ripple Round-Up 2020, Round 01