Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Lucifer's Fall - Lucifer's Fall (2014) / 91%

Knockin' On Hell's Door

I've been following the development of this project since I heard the Dungeon Demos 2013 rough rehearsal. My crave for their traditional doom approach has finally been fulfilled with the release of their first self titled album (out digitally for now, out physically this Autumn.) The main dude, Phil Howlett has been quite active since the formation of Rote Mare in 2005 but I never quite got into this band. I thought it was usually long-winded and that it didn't have the trad doom passion found in grander oeuvres. It wanted to be more than what it was with the inclusion of harsh(er) vocals and it didn't quite work.

Fast forward to 2014 and we have Lucifer's Fall, a neophyte could question the need for a new doom project created by Howlett but I really won't since this is widely different in its approach. It's like he stumbled into Wino, Chandler and Albert Witchfinder and ate some shrooms all night. It's way more focused, full of might and, primarily, doesn't try to reinvent the wheel by adding unnecessary estranged elements. The raw production compliments the carefully composed bass and guitar lines very well, it's heavy, never too slow and it knows when to be groovy. It's textbook trad doom of the higher calibre and considering that's perhaps my favourite metal genre, this album is freaking marvellous.

As Satan is my name! Lucifer's Fall! Cast down from Heaven!

I kind of believe that the whole Satan subject is tired but it's definitely a classic one that I'll always welcome. I'd like bands to be a bit more original theme wise but there's nothing wrong with sticking with the good old formula and Howlett does it well. He's proving that he really feels the genre, doom is about guts and feeling and it's the case here. His vocal delivery is top notch, clean and adequate vocals with a lot of power and personality. He's even delivering some high pitch lines similar to the The Wizar'd's latest doom masterpiece. The slower moments of tracks like “A Sinner's Fate” almost reminds me of the atmosphere bands like My Dying Bride were able to convey early during their career. It's emotional, well written and doesn't drag even though some tracks are on the longer side (nonetheless, never more than ten minutes.) The editing is good unlike many of their current peers and their blend of doom and heavy metal has a clear sense of direction.

Australia is not well known for its traditional doom metal but rather for its more extreme doom with bands such as Mournful Congregation. Hence this fact, the band worships at foreign but interesting altars. The main one being located in Finland, you can certainly hear Reverend Bizarre and their disciples (The Wandering Midget, Caskets Open...) on Lucifer's Fall's music. There's this sort of cold tongue in cheek darkness particular to this Northern Europe (or Scandinavia depending of your point of view) and the Aussies have it too, they probably spend a lot of time in the desert at night.

The album respects the forty minutes unwritten rules and is a blistering, catchy, intense doom release deserving to top the best of lists of 2014, a feat I never thought possible of Howlett's Rote Mare project. He lets everything loose here, like the best doom albums, it's emotionally draining in its self pity and its classical darkness.

Mandatory doom, gentlemen.


Monday, 7 July 2014

Wo Fat - The Conjuring (2014) / 85%

Deep Fried Doom with a side of blues

The boys from Dallas, Texas are back with their fifth album since their inception in the early 2000s and it's a fucking massive album. After their excellent 2012 album The Black Code which probably was the band at its peak, they really didn't have to change their sound for their new album since they reached a perfect understanding of it.

The trio led by Kent Stump rocks super hard and even though they're from the Obese nation of America, they're all pretty thin dudes. Pretty disappointing considering the name of the band but oh well, their riffs are greasy as fuck nonetheless. Musically, it's quite groovy and the guitar, bass and drums formula works well within their boundaries. The basis of their compositions is huge doom/stoner metal which is deeply rooted in southern American blues so you can definitely feel the melting sun of Texas on your forehead with these guys. The guitar playing of Stump is superb, he's delivering intense, heavy yet catchy riffs alongside long ass solos with a jam band feeling. There's a perfect harmony with the rhythm section composed of Tim Wilson and Michael Walter, the band has been playing together since the beginning and no lineup changes has plagued their unity (something unfortunately rare nowadays.)

Stump also sings but the vocals are far from being the focus of Wo Fat (damn, I like saying their name, it feels like eating a deep fried Oh Henry or something.) They could be an instrumental band for all I care and it won't change what I think of them (in fact, there's an instrumental version to be found!) The closer “Dreamwalker” is a seventeen minutes song so there's not a lot of vocals and nevertheless,  it's never boring. They always added subtle but enjoyable psychedelic elements that are only giving another layer of intricacy to the band. Their music can feel a bit overwhelming at times, it's full of emotions and grasping but the length is perfect for them, it's much more condensed than their two debuts (both like seventy minutes, that's just too much, brothers)

The vocals are sparse and nothing special overall. It's gnarly clean but drunken vocals. He's good enough for what they're doing but don't expect anything spectacular on that front. There's this huge blues influence such as in “Pale Rider From the Ice” with its slide guitar riffs and groovy, sentimental vocals. Their lyrics are pretty decent, psychedelic, metaphorical fantasy based themes are their forte for this one compared to the science fiction/pulp of The Black Code.

I can certainly fee the Kyuss influence here, it's crossing the stoner rock frontiers quite often and even though it remains a metal band, they're not that heavy. I'm sure that if I show Wo Fat to some old bluesemen, they'll dig them. There's this certain honesty about them that you can't simply can't fake.

Before the enjoyment of this album, you will need:
-A sixer of cheap watery beer.
-Some BBQed chicken and sausages with perhaps some Tex Mex food.
-Old Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top vinyls.

Wo Fat's Fatbook page

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Barrow Wight - Power from the East (2014) / 74%

Look into the Palantir!

This trio from the Canadian capital of Ottawa plays a very old school sort of metal and they do it quite well. Led by a cool dude from Manitoba called Andrew, Antero, Aragorn or something, they're inspired by all the right things. Their music fits the 80s revival that we're living nowadays but it's not as cheesy as other Canadian stuff such as Cauldron. It's sure is sloppy but I like my cheeseburgers with a lot of melted cheese so I'm totally fine with that sort of metal.

I remember getting their latest demo at a Natur gig in Montréal (live review here!), it was enjoyable but pretty fucking raw so I decided to wait a bit to cover them. Now with their first EP (now released by both Heavy Chains and Dying Victims after an indie tape release) is still raw on the edges but the production is pretty much perfect for their brand of ultra traditional heavy metal mixed with the oldest black metal influences you can find. Think of Venom at its dirtiest, old funny Anvil and Bathory at its formative stage and you're on the right track. Instead of the evil approach of Cronos, Barrow Wight (formidable name) explores the Lord of the Rings lore and even if it's perhaps an overdone subject, it's always a very cool one.

It's gritty but quite melodic too, songs like “Rock into Mordor” (haha!) has a nice sing-along chorus and sweet, simple guitar playing. The band just fucking rocks the Middle-Earth with groovy riffs, semi harsh vocals with a very greasy bacon vibe, it's not quite excellent but it does the job. Nothing is tight because nothing needs to be, it's a crusade against modernity and the saccharine elements it brought to the genre. Fuck modern Septicflesh and its sterilized approach, this is fun, raw and metal as hell.

The five songs, twelve minutes extended play is short and it's easy to just press the repeat button, it starts with this noisy evil intro and extends to this nasty “Anvil of Mordor” affair. The songwriting remains simple, perhaps not yet well refined yet but their goal is clear and quite achieved for a first professional release. Don't expect to be blown away by anything here but it's entertaining and you'll spend a good time with the Wight. The drums are nice, the bass is loud but could be pushed to higher grounds and there's a certain will to push the boundaries of their agenda further in their sound and I'm sure it will be explored.

Garnished by a cool drawing from Ian Miller, an authority in fantasy art (Lord of the Rings, Dungeons and Dragons...), Barrow Wight doesn't mess around and release a promising, catchy and metal to the bones EP. Not the most original thing around but check if they care, that's not the point and it shouldn't be enforced!