Boss Keloid, Family The Smiling Thrush (Ripple Music 2021)

The soundscape presented by the new Boss Keloid album Family The Smiling Thrush rivals the stirring of primordial oceans.

Going back more than ten years, Boss Keloid has been creating some of the most interesting and sweepingly original heavy music on the planet. They have a way of translating musical complexity and quirkiness into a common language that everyone can hear. The band is Paul Swarbrick (guitar), Alex Hurst (vocals and guitar), Ste Arands (drums), and Liam Pendlebury-Green (bass).

Sometimes sounding a bit like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer while at other times moving more in a Zappa vein and then suddenly shouldering a hard turn into the inexplicable, Boss Keloid’s music cannot be predicted. Family The Smiling Thrush opens with the nine minute track “Orang of Noyn.” The song defies succinct description. Heavy prog rock is a functional label but it leaves a lot out. The music takes you over and you quickly lose track of how long you have been listening. If another song hadn’t started after, I am not sure how long it would have taken me to realize the first track had ended.

“Gentle Clovis” is up second and it has a reassuring anthropological feel to it. You get transported back to the 1970s with the keys and guitars in the lines, riffs, and echoes. There is a battering drama at the end that is entirely appropriate and it runs right on into the next piece, “Hats The Mandrill.” If you are not feeling the scope of the musical vision at this point then you should start the album over and try again because by now it should entirely surround you.

There are builds big and small throughout, all of them engaging, and welcoming and demanding, too, simultaneously. I was particularly swept up by the pair “Smiling Thrush” and “Cecil Succulent.” I suspect that the experience will land differently for individuals and yet still I wager there will be places you are drawn to, no matter how much you like the work in its entirety. There will be a part that takes hold of you and finds something to fulfill you didn’t even know was wanting. The album is elemental. Recommended.

This one is out tomorrow. Some of the limiteds have already flown, but you can still get physicals through Bandcamp or Ripple Music, and the digital is there, too.

Links.

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

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

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

Boss Keloid, Family The Smiling Thrush (Ripple Music 2021)

Wytch, Exordium (Ripple Music 2021)

The debut album from Sweden’s Wytch is a rugged and dynamic statement of intent burgeoning with both straight-forward and clandestine perambulations.

Formed in 2017 as Aska, the band released an EP under that name and then switched to Wytch for their first long-player, Exordium. The musicians have performed with numerous other bands over the years, including Vintersorg. The roster is Simon Lundström (bass), Fredrik Nilsson (drums), Niklas Viklund (guitars), Mattias Marklund (guitars), and Johanna Lundberg (vocals).

There are eight tracks on the album. Each song is set up with a clever and catchy hook that the song develops around. It is a bluesy heavy psych sound defined by those rummaging guitar parts and Johanna Lundberg’s unforgettable, haunting voice. The zippy lead breaks are sometimes pepperpot shots and at other times are languid and insinuating. Sturdy bass and drum lines free the voice and guitars to crossover each other while simultaneously self-actualizing therewith, engendering a synergistic construct. It all sounds effortless but of course it couldn’t be. Music like this is rare.

Stand-out tracks for me are the pairings of expansive “Blood” with “Evil Heart” and doomy “Break You Down” with “You.” That’s half the set, isn’t it – I’m not really narrowing it down much. The thing is when you first hear any song on the album it immediately draws you in and holds onto you with a mystical spell that may or may not be sinister. It is not like a Siren song but instead it is more like the snowfall that awakens the intrepid journeyers in The Wizard Of Oz. It just doesn’t make any sense to stop listening. Recommended.

You can get Exordium right now. Look over the options at Ripple Music’s store or on Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/exordium

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/people/Wytch-Band/100063579726744/

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/product/wytch-exordium-limited-digipak-cd

Wytch, Exordium (Ripple Music 2021)

Moon Coven, Slumber Wood (Ripple Music 2021)

The return to full-length form for Moon Coven brings more thoughtful melodic doom into the world.

The band is from Sweden and has been around for nearly ten years. They released a series of EPs leading up to the self-titled long-player in 2016. Slumber Wood is their second full album. The music has changed a little over time and now the sound produced has a very clear doom intent, the way I hear it, no matter what narrative element might be running at any given time.

The opener, “Further,” and its spiritual companion, “Ceremony,” establish a slow and deliberate pace of heavy stoner psych highlighted by and with the vocals which hover on the light side, and the ethereal. Then suddenly “Potbelly Hill” quiets the rumble down but keeps the doom going with softened sounds for the first minute before taking a turn by introducing a surprisingly turbulent riff that changes the tone of the song entirely. It is a bit dizzying. By the end of third track you don’t know what to think.

Next up is “Eye of the Night” and it sounds like a crime story. The short piece “A Tower of Silence” is a transitional passage to “Bahgsu Nag,” which starts off with a strum. The song has a very different sound, something all its own and apart from the others on the album. Bringing us ultimately to the last two songs, “Seagull” and “My Melting Mind,” which are more in line with the early tracks. The anchor song has a special resonance – maybe it is the phase shift – that ties a knot around you and hangs on. Truly, I can’t get it out of my head.

You can take this album in a number of different ways. The steady ardent doom with surprising bulges and flares is the way I took it and it settled in well with me. Recommended.

Slumber Wood is out now. Vinyl and CD versions are available, as well as the digital download.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/slumber-wood

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

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

Moon Coven, Slumber Wood (Ripple Music 2021)

Void Vator, Great Fear Rising (Ripple Music 2021)

The new set from Los Angeles metal masters Void Vator will shake the winter off you and get you reaching for the moon and stars.

Stranded came out in 2019 and I knew immediately this was a band I needed to keep track of. The music was crisp and piercing, fast and ferocious, and wrapped up in a delivery system that went straight into your bloodstream. “Put Away Wet,” “Everything Sucks,” “Monster” … one song after another a festival for your ears, and endless reservoir of adrenaline. The music is up-tempo metal fearlessly riffy and recklessly speedy on the curves.

“I Can’t Take It” is a disruptor, the perfect attention-getter. What’s this, you think, and it gets you walking that way. “I Want More” is second on the album and if anything it is a notch up on the frantic. A more urgent clip, a tenser atmosphere. The vocals are stabbing in the verses and salving in the chorus. The lead break is a blur or whirling blades. “There’s Something Wrong With Us” is Caesar crossing the Rubicon. There’s no turning back after you hear it.

“Great Fear Rising” strikes a monumental accord while “MacGyver’s Mullet” is a clipper cruising down country roads in the summertime steam. Something here for everyone – “Poltergeist” has an eerie story with a sinister feel and “Infierno” feeds into delirium like Act II of Peer Gynt. There are all manner of shades and tints on the album and for me nothing to dislike. I would call it a step up from the previous record even though I don’t have any serious criticisms about that earlier one, either. What you get here is great hard-hitting music flowing from every opening and crack.

Out now from Ripple Music, Great Fear Rising will sign you up to the Void Vator legion forever. Recommended.

Links.

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

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

Void Vator, Great Fear Rising (Ripple Music 2021)

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)