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)

Sergeant Thunderhoof, This Sceptred Veil (Pale Wizard 2022)

British stoner metal band Sergeant Thunderhoof stomp the terra again with This Sceptred Veil.

Sergeant Thunderhoof has been around for nearly ten years, and in that time they have released three previous full-length albums, an EP, and a split. It was that split I heard first, actually, Ripple Music’s Turned to Stone, Chapter 2: Masamune & Muramasa where they shared a side with Howling Giant. I was captivated by the more-than-twenty-minute song and since have sought out more at every opportunity. This Sceptred Veil is the best music they have produced to date, as far as I am concerned.

There are nine tracks on the new album. “You’ve Stolen The Words” is a wakening. The heavy fuzz arrives almost immediately, conveying the distant mercurial voice, ever melodic and punctuated now and then with exceptional exertion. This is desert stoner music but high plains, I must insist, with mountains near enough by to have an influence. I can feel melancholia in the song.

“Devil’s Daughter” comes next, and it is a little more actively probative, and, additionally, oracle-like. The riffs conceal the solemn thunder leeching from the dark grey clouds edging nearer, largely unnoticed atop the foothills in advance of the spiritual lead guitar line. Fantastic. And then with not a moment to gather yourself, “Absolute Blue” surrounds you with its silken folds. The first three songs establish the necessity that the next six songs be heard.

The album is marvelous – a wondrous, heavy fuzz presence that pulses and undulates and lifts you away. “Foreigner” is filled with power and “Woman Call” is extra bluesy. Every song makes important and impressive use of guitar, and still “Show Don’t Tell” stands a bit apart on that front. The final passages are “Avon & Avalon Parts I & II,” together running over eighteen minutes – could be a full album side. These two deserve a separate review unto themselves (but sadly will not receive it here). Coming where they do in the set, the impact is significant as the story emerges and the mysticism unfolds. This album is amazing, and I hope it reaches the ears of all the people of the earth. Highly recommended.

This Sceptred Veil is out on Friday, June 3rd through Pale Wizard Records.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://sergeantthunderhoof.bandcamp.com/album/this-sceptred-veil

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

Pale Wizard Records, https://palewizard.bigcartel.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Sergeant Thunderhoof, This Sceptred Veil (Pale Wizard 2022)

Cities Of Mars, Cities Of Mars (Ripple 2022)

Heavy fuzz doom trio Cities Of Mars self-title their third long-player.

Sweden’s stoner doom band Cities Of Mars began in 2014, releasing an EP, Celestial Mistress, a couple year later. The music falls squarely in the land of doom, but the subjects and trajectories of the compositions align with the stars. Joining their first two full-length albums, Temporal Rifts (2017) and The Horologist (2019), the new record continues the sure-footed journey. The band is Danne Palm (bass, vocals), Johan Kuchler (drums, vocals), and Christoffer Norén (guitar, vocals).

“Before The Storm” is a beautiful spacey opening for the album. Patient, building slowly, the song introduces an ethereal voice signaling the beginning of the journey and, importantly, the need for it. Gentleness gives way to heavy doom guitar riffs on “Towering Graves.” The vocals are still mysterious but much more menacing now. The massive riffs continue on “The Prophet,” growing tall enough to block out the dim setting sun on the red planet.

“Song of a Distant Earth” is an acoustic piece; a mood shift before the devastating “A Dawn of No Light.” The tempo picks up and the rhythm is more assertive, and the lead guitar freer in its explorations. “The Dreaming Sky” has a forlorn quality to it. Harmonizing vocals and melancholy guitar lines waken suppressed feelings. “Reflected Skyline” is an airy piece, and sad, too, in my hearing.

“The Black Shard” is the twelve-minute final word on the album. In some ways you could see it as a reinterpretation of the ideas earlier expressed. You could also see it as a furthering of those notions. It is an exceptional piece and, if nothing else, you should listen to this one. It has many powerful moments, and regular returns to altered pace, attitude, and sentiment throughout. Much like the album in its totality. Recommended.

Cities Of Mars is out now through Ripple Music. Bandcamp is always a good place to pick up the goods.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/cities-of-mars

Website, http://www.citiesofmars.se/

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

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCavaUFPTEDKYjAxJ8Qapbeg

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

© Wayne Edwards

Cities Of Mars, Cities Of Mars (Ripple 2022)

Wo Fat, The Singularity (Ripple Music 2022)

The seventh album from Texas stoner doom band Wo Fat is a world of its own, The Singularity.

Wo Fat hit the ground running with their first album The Gathering Dark (2006). It is legendary now, and it set the stage for a blistering run of records including Psychedelonaut (2009), Noche del Chupacabra (2011), and The Black Code (2012). The band plays psychedelic stoner doom rock that sounds like it was anointed by the cosmos. The new album is another chapter of astonishing guitar-based music that beguiles the listener and holds them in its sway.

The new album has seven big tracks, with a run time averaging over ten minutes each. You can hear “Orphans of the Singe” in the distance. As the music gets closer, you bend toward it and fall in. Down the rabbit hole. This is desert groove jam music; sounds that way to me. There is magic here, the kind that coalesces from nowhere just as the sun is disappearing beyond the horizon. Incredible jams over inspired rhythm. And then some.

I don’t know how it is possible to be so engaging over such a range with this level of endurance. It just keeps getting better as you listen. Skipping ahead a couple of tracks (about twenty minutes or so), “The Unraveling” claps its sinewy hands on you and gives you a good shaking. It is an up-tempo, high energy push. “The Witching Chamber” follows and you feel enchanted but not inveigled. Riffs bigger than the Mississippi is wide form an encampment where you could live for the rest of your days if you wanted.

How could there be more? Then the title track queues up and you know that you are still in it and the journey is not over yet. “The Oracle” ends the set on a sixteen-minute parable of psychedelic swamp doom that has no peer and faces no rival. The musicians have a breathtaking command of composition, improvisation, instrumentation, and elevation. I feel bad for anyone who has not heard this album yet. Highly recommended.

The Singularity is out now through Ripple Music. Check them out on Bandcamp or the Ripple site. What you should really do is subscribe to Ripple Music on Bandcamp – if you had done that, you would have The Singularity already.

Links.

Website, https://wofat.net/

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

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

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

© Wayne Edwards

Wo Fat, The Singularity (Ripple Music 2022)

Ruby The Hatchet, Live At EarthQuaker (Magnetic Eye Records 2022)

Ruby The Hatchet drops a 7-inch teaser – Live At EarthQuaker – anticipating a new album later this year.

Love at first listen is the way I would describe what I think of Ruby The Hatchet. The first music I heard from the band was Valley of the Snake (2015) and it sent me down the rabbit hole to find everything else that existed by them. The music is lush psychedelic rock, heavy and smooth and soulful. Jillian Taylor’s vocals are haunting and unforgettable, and the guitar-driven environment is one of a kind. The most recent long-player was Planetary Space Child (2017) and that one also still gets heavy rotation at the Shardik Media offices, I can tell you.

The new record has three songs. Two of the tracks are early versions of songs that will be on the upcoming album emerging later this year, and they were recorded live in Akron, Ohio at EarthQuaker Devices – that’s the maker of the pedals Ruby The Hatchet and so many other bands use for tone and effect. The third is a cover of the Uriah Heep standard “Easy Livin’.”

“1000 Years” opens quietly and has a steady build with endearing plateaus. The guitar line is a somber affair, urging drama toward the end. “Primitive Man” is a trippy number that lays on the smooth and rolls up a few rapid punches for you, too. Apparently, these are initial versions of songs that will be on the upcoming album, but they sound finished to me – more great Ruby The Hatchet music.

“Easy Livin’” popped up in 2019 as a stand-alone single. You know the song and, while you can probably imagine what it might sound like when Ruby The Hatchet sings it, the real thing is even better. It is nice to have this take wrapped in with the two new tracks.

Live at EarthQuaker is out now through Magnetic Eye Records in CD, vinyl, and digital. Ruby the Hatchet is on a mini tour right now, bookending with shows opening for Candlemass. See them whenever you can, and make sure you get to Las Vegas this year for Psycho Las Vegas as their performance is certain to be a highlight.

Links.

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

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

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

Magnetic Eye Records, https://us.merhq.net/us/Artists/Ruby-The-Hatchet/Ruby-the-Hatchet-Live-at-Earthquaker.html

Ruby The Hatchet at EarthQuaker, https://www.earthquakerdevices.com/ruby-the-hatchet

© Wayne Edwards

Ruby The Hatchet, Live At EarthQuaker (Magnetic Eye Records 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)

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)

Crowbar, Zero and Below (MNRK Heavy 2022)

The twelfth studio album from Crowbar is yet another monumental earth-shaker: Zero and Below.

One of the biggest sounds to emerge from the New Orleans heavy music scene, Crowbar are pioneers of sludge metal. Kirk Windstein (vocals, guitar), Matt Brunson (guitar), Shane Wesley (bass), and Tommy Buckley (drums) deliver not merely a new album, but a vitally important one. There is no half in their game – it is a full-on assault from beginning to end.

Sludge metal is a lethal amalgam for doom and aggression. Windstein vocals blast power and energy that combine with the titanic riffs and percussion to forge an instantly recognizable and unforgettable sound. While Crowbar has been a clear influence on many successful bands, they have never rested on their success and, for more than thirty years, they have held the throttle wide open.

There are ten killer songs on Zero And Below. The opening track hits you at speed, “The Fear That Binds You,” and turns you right around. The guitar riff is like an advancing legion. “Her Evil Is Sacred” animates the wicked into a reckoning. “Confess To Nothing” leans into the doom realm heavily to great effect, then the pace pounds on with “Chemical Godz.” The music keeps you moving this way and that.

There is all manner of pace and shift in this set. “Denial of the Truth” imbibes a kind of “Planet Caravan” vibe, but it is much heavier than that classic. “Crush Negativity” pushes steamroller weight while “Reanimating A Lie” is more nimble in the clip and every bit as heavy in the narrative. “Bleeding From Every Hole” is a show-stopper, and I would put the title track high up on the list, too, with its surrounding, melancholy ever-presence. This record wreaks havoc from every angle. Highly recommended.

Zero and Below is out now through MNRK Heavy – vinyl, cassette, longbox, digital … whatever you want. Grab them while you can. And see Crowbar on the road – they are out now with Sepultura and Sacred Reich on tour, and they will be doing dates with Gwar, Nekrogoblikon, and The Native Howl later in the spring and summer.

Band photo by Justin Reich.

Links.

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

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

MNRK Heavy Records, https://mnrkheavy.com/

Crowbar, Zero and Below (MNRK Heavy 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)

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)