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Reviews Written by
Tom Chase (London)
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Volume One
Volume One

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Humble Beginnings, 9 April 2008
This review is from: Volume One (Audio CD)
I have to disagree slightly with the 4 star review here. I'm a huge fan of Sleep's later releases, "Holy Mountain" and "Jerusalem/Dopesmoker", but this is a rather humble beginning. First of all, it's not actually stoner/psychedelic metal in the vein of the later material. Granted it has the odd heavy doom riff courtesy of a young Matt Pike, but the sound is often far more aggressive with lots of screamed vocals. This original line-up saw Pike joined by a second guitarist, but the poor production really loses potential heaviness, and actually creates a rather thin and abrasive guitar sound, not the warm deep sound you might expect.

So, overall if you're a fan of Sleep's legendary later albums then "Volume One" will certainly be an interesting listen - just don't expect the same heavy stoner sound.


Memento Mori
Memento Mori
Offered by rightpricediscs
Price: £7.25

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like A Rapid Slug, 9 April 2008
This review is from: Memento Mori (Audio CD)
Defining "heavy" is something of a grey area, and I've found over the years it divides metal fans down the middle. Does sublimely fast black metal make for the most "heavy" brand? Or is it actually the most severe of slow doom/drone with the thickest, most otherworldly guitar tone? Well, Withered don't give a s**t about this argument. They play both. Well.

Yes, death/doom/grindcore is Withered's deal. It's not a new sound at all - in fact, one of doom's most heralded bands, My Dying Bride, used to gallop into black metal territory with gay abandon. But Withered sound utterly heavier. More raw, more engulfing...just all round more brutal. Their sound has an uncomfortable claustrophobic feeling, largely thanks to a very thick guitar production which I really dig. And they switch between tempos and styles at brake-neck speed with absolute ease. The changes come fast, and out of nowhere. No pretentious atmospherics, or bridges building up climaxes - it's just hit after hit. Opener "It's All Said" sets all this up perfectly, ripping through a variety of riffs and speeds, all encapsulating their thundering, juicy guitar sound, abrasive vocals and lightening drumming. My favourite track here is "Like Locusts", mostly for its enormously heavy and beautiful doom opening. It's up there with the very best doom openings and riffs I've heard, and I'm an avid listener of the genre, so it's saying something. The rest of the songs follow suit, and there isn't really a dull moment to be found.

"Memento Mori" is a very solid debut and promises much for this talented act. Worth checking out for fans of doom/death metal.


Saturnalia
Saturnalia
Price: £9.78

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heaven's Quite A Climb, 8 April 2008
This review is from: Saturnalia (Audio CD)
Where "Saturnalia" succeeds most is in fusing the styles and sounds of the two artists. Like all of Lanegan's solo albums, there is an overwhelming sense of maturity and wisdom in his delivery. His voice is as gravely and whiskey-drenched as it has ever been. The two voices are constantly shifted to great effect; the best examples of this would be "Circle The Fringes" in which Lanegan rips through Dulli's melodic lines with a rumbling quake, instantly blackening the song's atmosphere. If not within the same song, the two deliveries are often placed side by side, such as with Lanegan's Tom Waits styled romp "All Misery" and Dulli's beautiful ballad "The Body".

"Saturnalia" is yet another remarkable outing from Mark Lanegan, and for me, some of Dulli's work best since the Afghan Whigs heyday. Perfect for fans of either artists, or those simply wanting some real gritty folk blues.


Witch
Witch
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £10.17

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 - Enjoyable Retro Rock, 8 April 2008
This review is from: Witch (Audio CD)
Witch's 2006 self-titled debut is a very retro affair. At the helm is Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis, who surprisingly keeps beat as opposed to ripping up the guitar. Don't expect music in the same vein as Dinosaur Jr though, as this album is a bluesy 70s stoner rock outing.

The major downside to "Witch" is it looses steam and becomes too repetative. The opening track "Seer" is the best piece on the album and everything I was hoping for, fusing the high-pitched vocals with fuzzy bluesy riffs and some excellent solos. Solid tracks such as "Black Saint" and "Changing" continue the heavy 70s vibe well, wearing the Black Sabbath influence heavily on the sleeve. But gradually the sound becomes a little too repetitive, as the band doesn't really mix the attack and it becomes laboured listening at the end.

If you're a fan of Black Sabbath and stoner/doom rock in general, then this should be up your street. Witch's self-titled is a solid and promising debut, if not a little repetitive.


Mana
Mana
Price: £15.35

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overlooked Psychedelic Rock, 1 Mar. 2008
This review is from: Mana (Audio CD)
Current day stoner rock is becoming an increasingly hit and miss genre. Far too many bands are re-hashing the retro fuzzy riff-rock sound with no new edge or progression. Thankfully there are a handful of bands out there, Norway's Gas Giant being one of them, that are pushing the genre into new territories. "Mana" is the band's second release through Elektrohasch records, and like label mates Colour Haze, Hypnos 69 and Los Natas, the band tend to veer more towards heavy psychedelic rock rather than staple stoner. Also akin to these bands, Gas Giant put great emphasis on melody, especially in the vocal department with an enigmatic Dave Wyndorf esque singer, and also strong elements of jazz and jam band styling.

From start to finish the album is very consistent. Opener "There's One" gives an immediate impression of the Gas Giant sound - fuzzy riffs, a strong sense of groove, catchy melodic chorus and an intricate breakdown. Other songs such as "Not A Man" and "Orange Fender" continue this style through the album. But where I feel "Mana" really shines and stands out from the stoner field is in the slower more psychedelic songs. Songs such as "Greeny Valley", the title track, "Dragon's Cave" and my personal favourite "Back On The Headless Track" all showcase a very trippy vibe, with huge psychedelic melodies, distant wailing guitars and a deal of acoustic strumming. At times this sound moves into more space rock territory, akin to early Monster Magnet in the combination of psychedelic and melodic rock.

If you are a fan of the stoner/psychedelic rock movement and the bands I have mentioned then Gas Giant's "Mana" will go down a treat. It has become one of my favourite albums in this genre in recent years. Highly recommended.


Deliverance
Deliverance
Price: £5.45

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Southern Fried Metal At Its Best, 1 Mar. 2008
This review is from: Deliverance (Audio CD)
"Deliverance" sees COC leaving their old thrash crossover style completely behind. Pepper Keenan ( of Down) entered the band and really took control of this album, laying down his superb vocals and song writing ability. The sound changed to more southern styled metal, akin to a lighter Pantera with more melodic vocals and the odd thundering Sabbath inspired riff. While this didn't go down with the hardcore fans of the band's old thrash style, it drew in a wider metal and grunge fan base.

There is a host of great rocking tracks, all enveloping that southern swagger and a great bent for melody. My favourites include the grooving opener "Heaven Is Not Overflowing", the slow-burner "Albatross", "Clean My Wounds" which is one of the band's most catchy and well known songs. There's the brooding doom of "Broken Man", the fun groove of the title track and my personal favourite "Seven Days" which showcases the most powerful and booming chorus the band has ever put out. I'm also a big fan of the slower songs, especially the closer "Pearls Before Swine" which is really quite menacing and ends the album on a poignant and intense note.

"Deliverance" is a consistently great southern rock/metal album with a host of melody and some great heavy riffs. Probably my favourite release from COC, and a great place to start for newcomers.


Australasia
Australasia

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pelican's Most Complete Album, 12 Feb. 2008
This review is from: Australasia (Audio CD)
Pelican's career is an interesting one for me. Being both a fan of post-rock and sludge/stoner metal (call it what you will), they often hit the spot perfectly. Their debut EP quenched my unabashed desires for monumental heaviness, sounding reminiscent of the most thunderous Isis or Neurosis climax, and the two latest releases ("The Fire In Our Throat..." and "City Of Echoes") are more geared towards the post-rock fan in me. Ultimately, I like these albums for different reasons. "Australasia", on the other hand, manages to combine these aforementioned qualities rather splendidly. It can whisk me up into ethereal places with its progressive post-rock styling, but equally, it can take my face off with outrageously powerful grooves.

Opener "Nightendday" is a perfect example of this. The song showcases airy, gentle, almost ambient moments - then there are typically Pelican melodic chord progressions - and then it is all shattered down with huge monolithic doom riffs. Perfect. And the rest of the album tends to follow suit. There is the utter groove-based sludge metal throughout "Drought" (quite possibly Pelican's most brutal and endearing piece to date) contrasting to the beautiful melodic strumming of "Angel Tears" and the serene acoustic untitled piece. The band really balances the album, giving just enough moments of splendid tranquillity to combat the monolithic heaviness. It is for this reason that I feel "Australasia" is Pelican's finest album to date. It manages to combine all the other standout elements of other releases, making it their most interesting and varied release. Fans of bands such as Isis, Neurosis, Mogwai, Red Sparrowes, Old Man Gloom etc will enjoy this.


Los Sounds De Krauts
Los Sounds De Krauts

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fundamental For the Fan of Psychedelic Rock, 9 Feb. 2008
This review is from: Los Sounds De Krauts (Audio CD)
As far as I'm concerned Colour Haze are just about the best stoner/psychedelic rock band playing today. As I've noted in my review for the band's self-titled, not since my first Kyuss experience has a band in this genre blown me away so much. For those not in the know, they are a power trio from Germany, lead by guitarist/singer/songwriter Stefan Koglek (who also runs the superb Elektrohasch record label, a great haven for current stoner), and they play an enthralling heavy psychedelic rock - blending classic Kyuss-esque desert rock riffs, progressive song structures, fluid Hendrix styled guitar lines, jazzy musicianship and ethereal vocals - it is a sumptuous and wonderfully unique sound.

"Los Sounds des Krauts" is perhaps the band's most ambitious work, spanning over two discs, and showcasing a number of monumental epics. Obviously with such grand works, designated listening is required to really feel and get the album as a whole. If you let them, the lengthier tracks such as "Overriding", "Sundazed" and "Weltraummantra" really draw you in, engulfing you in a sea of sounds and styles, and all hit the skies with amazing climaxes. Perhaps my favourite moment of this is the thunderous climax of "Overriding", which really does sound like psychedelic Hendrix interspersed with the most addictive and raging of Kyuss grooves. In-between the lengthier tracks are shorter, often more rocking songs that give the album flow and balance. "Roses" is the best of these, and manages to capture the same heights of the longer songs in a mere 6 minutes through superb song writing and really addictive hooks.

Fans of the stoner/psychedelic scene without this album, or any of Colour Haze's for that matter, should hunt this down right now. Simply essential listening.


Witchcult Today
Witchcult Today
Price: £9.99

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Return To The Old-School Wizard, 31 Dec. 2007
This review is from: Witchcult Today (Audio CD)
The superb English doomsters Electric Wizard are back with another monstrous slab of slow, brain bludgeoning riffs and grooves, fuzzed to the extreme and laced in sumptuous psychedelic overtones. Essentially, doom metal doesn't get any better than Electric Wizard. Past releases such as "Come My Fanatics" and their generally regarded peak, "Dopethrone" slay the rest of the doom/stoner metal field. While recent albums such as "Let Us Prey" and "We Live" are outstanding works when compared to the hundreds of lacking bands in the genre, the new line-up (new from "We Live") needed something to surge them back to old form. "Witchcult Today" does exactly that.

There is not a second wasted on "Witchcult Today". Like "Dopethrone" and "Come My Fanatics" I can just spin the album without ever wanting to skip. The one-two punch of the title track and "Dunwich" is blistering, with the title track flowing through various powerful grooves, riffs and an infectious chorus. "Dunwich" picks up the pace a little, again blasting through superb riffs and another excellent vocal melody in the chorus. Thankfully the band decided to keep this relatively up-tempo song at a reasonable pace, something disregarded in the last two albums with two overly fast tracks that just sounded messy and out of place. Slow brooding doom is what the band does best, and it doesn't get much better than "The Chosen Few". The songs menaces its way classic EW riffs and culminates with a haunting vocal harmony laced with one of the album's most infectious riffs. "Torquemada 71" reminds me of "We Hate You" from "Dopethrone" thanks to its simplicity and resulting accessibility. My favourite riff on the album and an equally compelling chorus hook makes this song the album's would-be lead single...would-be, if there was a popular chart for doom and stoner metal that is. After the atmospheric and often psychedelic flow of "Black Magic Rituals" the album closes with the excellent "Saturnine", which thunders through a catchy main hook and ends with an all-out jam full of fuzzy soloing, trancelike sounds and atmospherics and of course a driving groove to earth it all.

This is exactly the album I wanted Electric Wizard to make. Gone are the questionable experiments, replaced by unapologetic, classic EW. Fans of the band's old material should absolutely love this release. The doom masters are back!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 8, 2009 2:07 PM BST


III
III

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly Good - But A Little Overlong, 6 Dec. 2007
This review is from: III (Audio CD)
Acid King made a highly revered album a few years back with "Busse Woods". The album put them on the stoner/doom circuit, showcasing some unique female vocals and chunky Sabbath styled riffs to create an often trippy and psychedelic sound. While "III" is similar in sound and style, at times it becomes a little dragged and tired sounding due to overlong song lengths, which is a shame, as this could have been a killer album.

To give the album due credit, there are enough moments of quality to warrant a decent rating and it should please the average fan of this genre. Songs such as the opener "2 Wheel Nation" showcases big fuzzy riffs, trippy vocals and is pleasantly concise at 5 minutes. As I mentioned earlier many of these songs tend to drag, with some around 6 and 7 minutes. "2 Wheel Nation" shows the band can create groove and power in a tighter structure. "Bad Vision" furthers this argument, being both my favourite track on the album and the shortest. "War of the Mind" is the one time where I feel the extended writing works, clocking in at 11 minutes, it does actually work. The song flows and grooves and fashions a perfectly psychedelic chorus. The rest of the tracks I find overlong and find myself getting a little agitated. Still, there are some moments of brilliance to be found here for fans of this genre.


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