Friday, 5 February 2016

Metal Bounty Hunter: Volume 3





Glass Shrine – Impurities (2015) / 79%

A fragile shrine to worship
A one man band from the United States, this new project is like a breath of fresh air on black metal, the 3 songs, 8 minutes demo is fast, melodic and almost happy metal. The vocals are super great, there's even a clean break on the first track “Pyrrhic Bliss” and it was a pretty sweet moment, it had this martial atmosphere and it felt surprisingly epic.

The brief tracks are a mix of punk influenced black metal (not as much as bands like Raspberry Bulbs, of course), the more experimental side of Krallice but in a low-key, subtle manner and some more conservative, raw black metal. It's a demo so it doesn't have a Nuclear Blast production and thank god for that, it's a mix of self-assumed lo-fi ness but it's still pretty clean all things considered. The guitars are crisp and the vocals are not too buried, the drums could had been a bit heavier though. I've been doing my best to spread the word about this interesting new project, I know he's working on a full length album and he'll have a bigger internet presence once it's done but in the meantime, check out this demo!
Listen to the demo here:





Black Sword Thunder Attack – Promo 2015 / 84%


Six Minutes of Pure Epicness
Greece really likes epic metal, Manilla Road are gods over there (as they should be everywhere else) and this is no exception. This short demo is composed of two songs from a planned full length (on the ice since some members moved, from what I heard) and it's simply excellent. The biggest inspiration is surely Lordian Guard, the vocals (apparently by a man) are cleans, womanly chant and they sing those very catchy lines. The guitars are almost in constant lead mode for the duration of these two three minutes tracks and it's tasty as hell. Their epic heavy metal is both atmospheric and engaging. I'm in love with these kind of explosive riffs, it's timeless and perfect for the genre. Recommended for all the fanatics of the olde metal with a theatrical twist.

In the purest Ageless Wisdom, the two tracks demo is fun Greek trad metal. It's smart epicness with the best band name ever. Elric would be proud.

Listen to the demo here:







Corman – The Corman
Film 
School (2015) / 73%

B movie trad doom
While I'm not familiar with the cult movies of Roger Corman that inspired the lyrics here (I'm not much of a B movie buff to be honest), I'm widely familiar with traditional doom metal and that's what these Portuguese trio play. I really didn't dig their sound at first, I thought it was inexplicably weird but I kept trying and finally found their secret. They have this weird approach to a traditional genre, a bit like Realmbuilder, it's highly unorthodox both in the vocal and songwriting departments.

I thought the vocals were pretty terrible at first but they're really charming and fits the peculiar, insane music displayed here. The clean, operatic approach works well here and I'm totally fine with bad good vocals for doom metal, this is a genre at its best when, deep down, it's made by real amateurs and lovers of the genre. The musicianship is nevertheless quite solid, the riffs are fast and the songs short and to the point. The band leader promised that the future material will be stronger and catchier in an interview so I'm anxious to hear that. Recommended only to true fans of of trad doom who are tired of listening to Pentagram or Minotauri. 

Ex People – Loss (2015) / 82%

Mulder and Scully investigates the doom metal phenomenon


Originality is always a plus as far as lyrics are concerned and this newly formed British quartet definitely understood that. The three songs are all based around episodes from the first season of the X-Files and like many old 80s heavy metal bands, the series just did a comeback so the timing is quite appropriate! Their doom is interesting, it has a woman handling the mic (wonderfully and subtly, I might add) but it's very far from these occult mom doomy bands everywhere nowadays (think of Lucifer, Purson or Blood Ceremony), it's noisy and has this cold mechanical feeling. 

It seems like these guys don't really fit in the metal scene (two members were in this indie pop/rock band called Internet Forever) and just happens to play very heavy and loud music similar to what we know as doom metal since it fits the strange investigations of Mulder and Scully. There's an enjoyable rawness to the heavy guitars and they're not too dissimilar from what an alternative/noise rock band would use. The songs are slow dirges but they're the perfect length to keep us interested and the production fits this sort of urban, ugly doom metal very well.

It's mysterious, dark and like the cover art, it's spooky. This first release by Ex People made me feel hopeful for the British doom scene after being disappointing by the latest albums of With the Dead and Electric Wizard. Some people still care about breaking boundaries.



Thursday, 4 February 2016

Metal Bounty Hunter: Volume Two



Khazaddum – In Dwarven Halls (2015) / 75%

By Gimli's beard!
The Wisconsin quintet plays a very cool sort of brutal death metal inspired by the likes of Nile and Suffocation but instead of writing about ancient Egypt or plain evil stuff, they decided to follow the Amon Amarth/Summoning path and accept J.R.R. Tolkien as their saviour. Their songs are slow for the style and they have the epic riffy as fuck approach of Bolt Thrower at times. The guitars are pretty legit and the soloing is quite decent, the drums are competent blastbeats as well and the production is solid as hell for a first independant release. The vocals are not your usual
breee breees”, they're more rooted in traditional death metal, deep manly growls are my favorite for this sort of metal! It would had been cool to get some Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit samples thrown in there for the sake of it though, it would add a fun cheesy side to the band that they already have anyway. Anyhow, that's a well done debut EP for these guys and I think the 15 minutes format works well for this style of primitive brutal death.

Bandcamp - Pay what you can



Pluie – d'Hochelaga (2014) / 78%
Wet dirty montreal black metal
The trio from the Hochelaga neigbourhood of Montréal plays a dirty kind of black metal inspired by their location. The production isn't that raw and it's quite richer than I thought it was at first,
it's also highly interesting. It's not experimental or written to reinvent the genre but there's originality within the confines of their solid riffs and depressive vocals. The tempos are varied, ranging from aggressively fast (“La dèche des ruelles”) to mid-paced heaviness (“Sorcier des rats”). Their music is highly emotional and features vicious but still beautiful melodies played by these incisive guitar tremolos. The bass is also high in the mix for this kind of metal, it's pretty enjoyable and adds a lot to the mix. Formed by musicians coming from many different musical scenes and backgrounds (such as the awesome experimental grind of Expectorated Sequence), Pluie evolves in a different direction than most Quebecois black metal, it's not about winter or nationalism, it's about how disgusting how humanity is and that, my friends, is universal.


Angel Sword – Rebels Beyond the Pale (2016) / 84%

Enter the Court of Chaos
Finland is easily becoming one of my favorite niches for trad metal, their scene oozes badassery and pure 80s fashion flair. Alongside bands like Legionnaire or Lord Fist, Angel Sword really found their sound in old compilations full of German and American bands and they're freaking awesome. Many will argue that the vocals of this band are mediocre but I really love this sort of amateurish, bad good style of delivery, he really fits the heavy metal sound found here. Like most Finnish metal, there's a certain peculiarity even if it's without a doubt traditional metal with the vintage themes.

The songs are all pretty short, super melodic affairs with juicy riffs and the choruses are awesome and well written, they remind me of Accept
or Running Wild (minus the pirate element) with they variety and appeal of Slough Feg (the last track “Witches Never Die” reminded me of the San Francisco band). It's efficient, meta metal of the highest quality with madman vocals. Highly recommended for true fans of true metal. Despite their name, they're far from generic.

Angel Sword on Bandcamp






Yetzer Hara – Demo 2014 / 76%

Dark obscured doom

This young Swedish mysterious unisex duo plays a vibrant form of doom/stoner while keeping only the necessary elements of the genre. Huge ass heavy guitars played by a small lady and loud slow drums played by her manly viking acolyte. The four instrumental songs are slow, thunderous dirges with a self assumed improvisational identity. It feels like they're in a dark smokey room and they're recording themselves play for half an hour before going out in the snowy climate of Norrköping. The theme of the band and their music is mostly related to Judaism but unlike fellow Swedes Meshuggah, they're subtle, introspective and smooth.
While I think some vocals could had been cool (think of High Priest of Saturn), the compositions are well thought out, repetitive but not overly so and the guitar tone is super good for such a recording. The inclusion of a short sample in “Ha” was thoughtful as well. I really like the ending of the demo, there's some sort of little bells resonating in the background and it's special. I'd really like to hear a full length from these guys, they're a bit elusive and slow to release stuff though but I'll be there waiting in the shadows!


Bandcamp - Pay what you can

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Fuath - I (2016) / 93%

Andy trimmed the fuath
Andy Marshall definitely likes to form new projects, release one album with it and then form a new one (I'll ignore Falloch since they were truly mediocre and it wasn't a one-man band). It happened with Askival at first, and then Àrsaidh changed its name after the debut album called Roots. Finally, the newly entitled Saor released Aura in 2014. The thing is that those three projects shared very similar identities, they were all super entrenched in Scottish folk music and had all sorts of folkloric instruments like the tin whistle. I can understand changing the Àrsaidh name since like my fellow reviewer Caspian said, it sounds like arsehead but eh, it's still fun to watch him evolve through his music.

Fuath on the other hand leaves this behind to explore a simpler, streamlined and in the end mostly more rewarding style. While I liked Arsaidh a lot, it was still a somewhat cheesy and jam packed album and I think the writing is more mature and developed. Sure there's not a lot of variety but it's not needed and it's not the point of this style of music. It rarely works when yourself to include as much genres and influences as possible, restraint is a great quality in metal music and Andy used this concept to his advantage here.

This debut album has the same rich sound but Andy definitely simplified his approach, it's basically only atmospheric black metal inspired by the modern acts such as Vemod or early Wolves in the Throne Room (not as “cascadian”, whatever this means). The four tracks are sprawling numbers and they all contain a huge amount of riffs, it's atmospheric because of the natural aura the production has and the sense of grandeur the simplified yet totally epic feel the songwriting is. The guitars are subtle yet incisive and the vocals shadowy yet entrancing and emotional. There's still some remnants of the folky side but it's mostly in the background recalling the days of yore (such as in the second track “Blood” and it's done tastefully. The real difference maker in atmospheric black metal is the worthiness of the riffing combined with the airy ambiance and both are top notch here.

Nowadays, the musicianship and production values of one-man bands can often be exceptional (see The Ruins of Beverast or Midnight Odyssey) and Fuath is no exception. There's nothing unnecessary on this 41 minutes album, everything is produced like it should be, it's not too clean, not too raw and the instrumentation is super good. The people who thought Soar was too pompous (this includes myself) are gonna dig this record, it's less flamboyant but the black metal roots are much much evident and they're used to concoct this potent Scottish potion.

Fuath on Bandcamp

My review for Arsaidh written in 2013: ROOTS

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Tarot – Reflections (2016) / 91%

Reflecting the past into the present


Since its formation in 2011, Tasmania's Tarot (formed by Wil Fried, the frontman of excellent The Wizar'd and owner of Heavy Chains) has been churning quality releases steadily and many people including myself were excitedly expecting their debut full length. Like all the projects of Wil (called The Hermit here), Tarot is quite special in its traditionalism and they're simply top notch. Compared to his other bands, they're more soothing and explores different facets of classic rock music.

Admittedly short at 34 minute, the 7 tracks are all excellent and while the influences are easily perceivable (Uriah Heep, Deep Purple), it's so much more than a cheap throwback. Tarot are mixing the lovely organ found in heavy rock of long ago with the most relaxing heavy metal known to mankind. The two main metal bands I was reminded of during Reflections are Pagan Altar and Lordian Guard. The supple guitar tone and the ethereal guitar leads combined with the high pitched nasal vocal delivery of Wil (not as exaggerated as in his trad doom metal band) recalls the contributions to metal from these two great bands. If you're familiar with Lordian Guard (founded by the creator of Warlord), you'll hear the similarity in the vocals right away, same if you like the late Terry Jones.

Mixing hard rock, NWOBHM, proto heavy metal, prog rock and even folk is not a simple task but Tarot definitely does it well. There's bits where they remind me of the folky side of Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull like the short instrumental title track and I really dig this and I'd like them to expand this side! The tracks are catchy, mid-paced affairs, a track like “Mountain Throne” has these truly memorable guitar parts and the solo rocks. It's streamlined, has no useless moments and has this super expansive instrumentation. Wil plays the guitar, the keys, the organ and sings so he's the cornerstone of the project.

It's mesmerizing and it feels good when you're listening to them. If you're looking for metal or rock that's dangerous or dark, listen to something more edgy and vulgar because this is far from that. The music from this Tasmanian trio is introspective in a timeless way. They have this brillant British medieval influence that's not absent from the aforementioned metal bands but also reminiscent of Genesis' Selling England by the Pound… Their sound is both classy and majestic (an appropriate adjective the band uses itself to describe their music), the guitars are really friendly with the organ and they live together in this rich, grand loft. It's also the best production they ever had, the riffs aren't heavy most of the time but they sound very good and I'd fuck this organ sound if I could, it's so lovely.

I need to talk about the artwork a little since it's freaking gorgeous. Karmazid is currently one of the best metal artists and I'm happy the band picked him for this debut full length. Tarot always had superb artwork but they were lo-fi amateur affairs (except the compilation The Warrior's Spell), they were quite charming anyway but this one is fully detailed and showcases the occult side of the project. The album has been released digitally (and soon on CD) but a vinyl version will follow on the excellent Van Records and I'd say it's worth to own, not only because the art is fantastic but because the music is superb as well.


Sunday, 24 January 2016

The Hyle – EP (2016) / 87%

Corn doom

Denmark's The Hyle released a pretty good demo 2 years ago and now they're back with a brand new extended play composed of 2 extended tracks for a bit less than 20 minutes of doom metal. It certainly feels longer since I've been pressing the repeat button all day…

Playing a style of traditional doom betting highly on atmospheric moments and downtuned heaviness, the band is right at the border of doom/stoner without entering it. They do dig Electric Wizard a lot and their riffs are pretty distorted but they're way deeper and entrancing than your usual stoner band, they even include some psychedelic moments. It's slow, repetive (but not overly so) and full of subtle textures. Like near the end on the first track, there's those little touches during the calm break before the heavy end.

It's crushing but totally laid back and features a pretty original take on doom reminding me of the Canadian duo Zaum (they're freaking awesome) as they're also including some middle-eastern influences (mostly apparent on track 2 “Samaa”). The use of the sitar midway through the song made this song truly special. The electric guitars are superb and the production is top notch, the leads at the end of the same track are well done, there's many guitar tracks at once and it creates a rich sound environment. The vocals while rare are quite good, not buried under the whole thing at all, they're clean and quite soothing, really.

The two tunes are taking their time to develop, The Hyle doesn't mind two minutes introductions and I don't either when the riffs are that good. These guys are ready to unleash something more substantial, they have found their sound and it's pretty freaking legit. It's loud but classy and smart doom and I'm convinced.

Magic Circle, Cauchemar & Starlight Ritual @Katacombes in Montréal, January 22nd 2016


For my first gig of 2016, I couldn't ask for a better opportunity to go out in the harsh coldness of Québec's winter. We were served the cream of Montréal's up and coming trad metal scene and the best doom the American east coast has produced in ages.

*All shitty pictures by yours truly*

Poster by Annick Giroux
Starlight Ritual is a newcomer to Québec's metal scene and this was I believe their third gig ever (I saw their first one as part of the Grimposium festival when they opened for California's Cardinal Wyrm) and they were once again impressive. The quarter composed of inexperienced but super impressive guys except for J-F Bertrand widely known for being a member of black metallers Forteresse are bringing metal back to its roots. Fronted by Damian, heavily inspired by Dio is a force to be reckoned with on stage and managed to impress the jam-packed crowd (gigs on Fridays are always awesome) and also the dudes of Magic Circle. Their songs are mostly long numbers with rich and loud guitars, thick bass lines and a bunch of influences ranging from Rainbow to epic doom metal and it's marvelous. Their debut EP was all kind of cool (check my review : HERE) and they're currently working on a new one, the track they played they played from it was superb and I'm excited to hear their new stuff. It's quite a travesty that they're still an independant/unsigned band, they're the real deal, a real metal band for real fans of the genre. They made the stage their bitch and make you feel like you're seeing a band in a really small stadium since their music is so ballsy and timeless.


Starlight Ritual on Facebook





Cauchemar is perhaps my favorite local band, the occult doom quartet is so entertaining and I was surprised that even if I saw them so many times (including their first gig ever when they opened for Vulcain), I've never actually wrote a live review for one of their gigs Well, here it is! It was their first gig with their new drummer Xavier Berthiaume (who's usually playing black metal) and he rocked the drumset like a bald madman. Cauchemar are very freaking tight live, the Gibson of Francois Patry is heavy and never misses a note, this dude's rhythm skills are impressive and Andrés Arango's bass playing is simply technically great. Annick Giroux is always super charismatic on stage and her presence overshadows her lack of range compared to the two other singers showcased tonight. I always liked the spooky fun feel Cauchemar, their French lyrics are intelligent and well written, it's cool to have your favorite style of metal sung in your mother tongue.

They played a strong set composed of many old tracks from their debut EP “La Vierge Noire” like the bloody “Magie rouge” or “Les ailes de la mort” or the sombre “Le voile d'Isis” but also some tracks from their excellent debut full length (review of Tenebrario: HERE) like “Le fantôme” or “L'appel”. The main appeal of their gig for me was the new songs from their upcoming yet untitled full length due for later this year. Songs like “La vallée des rois” or “Sepolta Viva” were great numbers and I'm excited for their new album. Their doom metal is fast paced and keeps things short and precise like Pentagram often do, their riffs are solid and their short leads awesome. It's just groovy, well played traditional metal and it's a joy to see live, I've seen them more than six times and I'm looking forward to their future performances. They're about to leave for a short Mexican tour/trip with Metalian (local heavy metal heroes, they share their bassist with 'em) and Voltax (who played Wings of Metal III this summer), Cauchemar would go well with tacos and cold Dos Equis!










Magic Circle is no less than the best doom metal in America right now. Their debut self titled album was a masterpiece and my discovery of 2013. When they were announced as part of the first Wings of Metal festival already 3 years ago (also at the Katacombes), I was astonished and ecstatic. Their set didn't disappoint and they were even better tonight.

I'm quite grateful that the band actually that the band who doesn't play a lot of gigs picked Montréal, I know Brendan Radigan (vocals) really like the city so this might have something with this. I'm selflessly happy since they're one of my favorite bands right now. Strong from the release of their second album, the excellent
Journey Blind released on 20 Buck Spin, Magic Circle absolutely crushed with a tight and superb set encompassing their two full lengths. We were served 5 of the 7 tracks from the new one, they opened with “The Damned Man”, played “Ghosts of the Southern Front”, the title track (my pick for “best moment of the night”) and they finished the set with the speedy “Lightning Cage”. The 3 tracks from the debut were also most welcomed, “Scream Evil”, “Magic Circle” and my personal favorite “Rapture” were all very good. While all playing in many different bands (including death metal like Innumerable Forms or hardcore like Mind Eraser, the musicians are truly compelling and really know their shit concerning traditional heavy/doom metal. They're not trendhoppers!
The quintet from Massachusetts is one of those “complete” bands who does everything right. From the twin guitars of Corry and Ducas trading thundering riffs and juicy leads to the punk fueled drumming of Q (James Bond fan?), it's pure bliss from start to finish. Heavily inspired by the heydays of NWOBHM (huge Witchfinder General and Pagan Altar influences) but also the pure energy of traditional doom of the faster and crunchier kind, Magic Circle is exactly the kind of band I want in my life. Watching Radigan on stage is simply amazing, this dude rips and he's one of the best clean singer around. There's no reasons to waste your time and money to see Black Sabbath when you can see these guys for the price of a beer at one of those big arenas while Ozzy destroys his legacy on stage. If only Radigan and the boys could play some Stone Dagger live, I'd probably die... I've heard that they're working on a full length for this heavy metal project and I can't wait to hear this.

Even if their set was a bit on the short side (I don't mind since this allowed me to see all of it and take the metro to go back home), their set was excellent, the musicianship was top notch and the crowd was really into 'em. Great evening.
Magic Circle's official website



Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Hexenjäger – Black Titan (2016) / 79%

The Baguette Doom Series pt. XV : Chasseur de sorcières


After a decent demo released last year, the French quartet from Saint-Nazaire unleashed their debut full length this week and it's a definite improvement on their previous release. 

The album, divided in two parts, is massive and flows very well. The first three songs are all around six minutes and they're quite groovy numbers. As for the the fourth title track, it's almost twenty minutes and it's more exploratory and slower. It takes like six minutes for the heaviness to start as it has a bass heavy introduction not too dissimilar from Reverend Bizarre's epic track “Anywhere Out of this World”.

Merging traditional doom
with stoner metal/rock and some subtle hints of sludge (in the instrumentation), Hexenjäger knows how to combine the crushing bass thematics of stoner with a melodic edge full of bluesy guitar aerobics and dynamic solos. Obvious fans of Cathedral and Kyuss, the sole guitar has this crunchy yet round feel and they deliver many powerful riffs helped by the solid production. The vocals of Charly are also on the forefront and they're totally enjoyable. The Frenchman has a lot of range and evolves mostly in a stoner metal vocal style but still not as rough as Ben Ward (Orange Goblin) and he definitely likes Lee Dorrian (Cathedral) but he's not as weird and out there.

I really like when this style of music doesn't mess around and keeps things relatively brief and contained, four tracks, a bit less than forty minutes is all you need sometimes. The riffs are efficicient, everything is at it rightful place and it's simply a very enjoyable first full length from these guys.