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

High Priestess, Casting the Circle Review (Ripple Music, 2020)

The new album from High Priestess is the next step in their atmospheric doom ensemble that will take you to places you have never been before.

High Priestess is a three-piece band from Los Angeles: Katie Gilchrest (guitars, vocals, organ), Mariana Fiel (bass, vocals), and Megan Mullins (drums, percussion). Their first album, High Priestess, met with significant praise in 2018 for its rich compositions and boundary-challenging style. The guitars and themes of the music are heavy yet often the music is deceptively gentle at times, insinuative. Many of the passages in their songs have a deep desert aura and are mesmerizing to the point of hypnosis. And still the heavy is in there, and so is the doom.

The new album is Casting the Circle.The opening track, fittingly titled “Casting the Circle,” is a somber meditation for the first couple of minutes, and then it opens up into an aerial view of an encamped army on a low sloping hillside at dusk with campfires just beginning to appear. “Erebus” follows and it definitely feels like a dark ritual and a spell. Fitting, given the name. Very mystical and creepy. Halfway through the 9+ minute song, a forlorn guitar bleeds into the soundscape and tells a story of blood magic and sadness. The mood is heavy in these first two pieces. In the third song, “The Hourglass,” there is more of a narrative message and the song structure is rather Floydian, to an expanding positive effect.

The centerpiece of the album is the 17 minute “Invocation.” It is a long journey that is well rewarded. The parameters are established early, and by the five minute mark the band is working in a beautiful and intoxicating guitar lead before transitioning into the choral mantra of the cycle. By the end you have become an initiate. The album closes with “Ave Satanas,” an echoey acapella conclusion of beautiful, overlaid voices. As a whole, Casting the Circle is entirely satisfying. It is complete in its construction and execution. It is original and captivating, so much so that it lodges itself among your memories and in your desires. This is one you will not soon forget. Recommended.

The CD and vinyl, as well as streaming and digital download, are available today, April 10, 2020. You can get them at Bandcamp and the usual other outlets (links below).

Photo: The band photo is from their Facebook page, by @roadrash666.

Links.

http://www.highpriestessmusic.com

https://highpriestessmusic.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/highpriestessmusic/

High Priestess, Casting the Circle Review (Ripple Music, 2020)

Review of Enter Galactic Wasteland, Mr. Bison and Spacetrucker (Ripple Music, 2020)

Ripple Music, the unrivaled Doom Metal label, has launched Turned to Stone, a new series of splits. Chapter 1 is Enter Galactic Wasteland featuring three tracks each from Mr. Bison and Spacetrucker.

Mr. Bison inhabits side one. They are a band from Italy, and their music is full of vibrato and slow builds. There are a lot of drifty, ethereal elements cushioning the strong blues-soaked guitar advances. All three songs are about seven minutes long, giving the musical theory behind them time grow and discover itself. The names of the songs even signal the sound of the compositions: “The Grace of Time,” “The Stranger,” and “Oracle Prophecy.” You know what plane you’re on when you take off, but you are not exactly sure where it is going. Free your mind.

Mr. Bison

Spacetrucker leads us through the second half of the journey, and their jam is less trippy and more earthshaking. Also a three-piece, this band puts the guitar right in front with their opener, “Nosedive,” where it blasts a path wide open for the barreling bass, drums, and vocals. The lead breaks are aggressive, and the tempo is on the speedy side of the doom spectrum. The next song is “Distant Earth,” where we slow down a little, reflect on our place in the cosmos, and let that guitar tell us the story. “King Cheeto” is the closer and runs like a single – just under three minutes, it is a sharp crack on your skull.

Spacetrucker (Photo by David Torrence)

Mr. Bison and Spacetrucker are an expertly curated pair to open the Turned To Stone series. With a split, you want two bands that go together but that do not sound too much alike. Yes? That’s what you get here. Enter Galactic Wasteland needs to go in your daily rotation now. Recommended.

You can get the digital at Bandcamp. Even better, if you subscribe to Ripple Music there, you get all the new releases automatically. Physical versions are also available in different vinyl shades but they are almost sold out already, on Day 1.

Links:

Main website, https://www.ripple-music.com/

Ripple at Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/

Direct album site, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/turned-to-stone-chapter-1-enter-galactic-wasteland

Mr. Bison:

https://www.facebook.com/mrbisonband

https://www.instagram.com/mrbison_band/

https://mrbison.bandcamp.com/

Spacetrucker:

https://www.facebook.com/spctrckr/

https://www.instagram.com/spctrckr/

https://spctrckr.bandcamp.com/

Review of Enter Galactic Wasteland, Mr. Bison and Spacetrucker (Ripple Music, 2020)

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

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

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

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

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

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