Sometimes a track is entirely made by its intriguing instrumentation, its complex composition, or an otherwise original modus operandi. Sometimes a unique voice or lyrical theme serves as the hook that gets you in the door. Not so here. In the case of True Enemy, the latest single from Budapest’s Vanta, we're here for one thing and one thing only: that goddamn riff.
Yeah, you know what I’m talking about--or you will in short order. Just hit play below and succumb to that inevitable bludgeoning. This is a gravel-crushing steamroller of a riff, plain and simple, and nothing stands in its way. Like a mossy sasquatch stomping around whilst strapped into mechanical armor, Vanta is seemingly bent on wanton destruction. Your eardrums (and spinal column, no doubt) stand little chance against this churning distortion and brobdingnagian swagger. Seldom is the Sleeping Village’s conclave of ink-splattered scribes slapped upside the head with such massively belligerent riffage, so if I’m blathering at this stage, just assume I’m utterly concussed.
The vocals are appropriately violent, working with the guitar to provide an absolute sludge onslaught. A filter effect gives the vocalist a particularly intimidating aura, and lends the entire package a distinctly industrial persona. Vanta describes themselves--perhaps obtusely, but honestly accurately--as “Black sonic river.” I’ll be damned if I know what that means per se, but it sounds about right. These guys rip, tear, and obliterate their way through the doom/sludge umbrella, leaving little behind but shreds and twisted metal. If you’re feeling like a pick-me-up may be in order, we highly recommend you try on True Enemy for size.
My music-listening experience this winter has been haunted by an intriguing conundrum. At any given moment I have the option of subjecting myself to a bevy of new music from an impossibly wide range of genres--music that I will inevitably find enjoyable. But an alternative perpetually looms: listen to Sacred Monster’s stunning debut yet again. From a purely mathematical standpoint, the latter option ranks supreme. This album has flesh-rending hooks, and putting it down has been a genuine struggle. The year--despite still in an admittedly infantile stage--has been concretely defined by Worship The Weird, and I'm honored and excited to have the opportunity to share it with you today. For those of you lookin' to get directly to the good stuff, you can find Worship the Weird streaming in full below.
As described in our review/stream of lead single “High Confessor,” Sacred Monster’s aesthetic is a peculiar (and wholly singular) blend of Gloryhammer’s campy exultance, spliced through the riff-centric approach of Orange Goblin. Why Gloryhammer? Despite not wanking around the sonic confines of power metal heaven, Sacred Monster apply a palpable sense of nerdy excitement to everything they touch. When it comes to being fans of weird shit, Sacred Monster is an unabashedly jubilant outfit, and their energy is infectious beyond cure. Joe Abercrombie, Twilight Zone, Stephen King’s Gunslinger, Lovecraftian existentialism, and the general ambiance of prosthetic-laden horror are all on gratuitous display. Goofy it may be, but it’s most certainly not fluff. Despite cheesy subject matter, Sacred Monster are undeniably worldbuilders and storytellers--and, even when those fantastical elements technically belong to some other creative entity, these interpretations are never simple re-hashery. Take, for example, the explicit Twilight Zone worship of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” Despite maintaining a firm grasp on frankly ridiculous material, this hard-hitting track takes a turn as its narrator appears...sympathetic? It's all oddly endearing.
Sacred Monster's sound is honestly difficult to describe, due largely to an expansive palette of instrumental influences. While riffage is generally omnipresent and blocky in stature, it recalls a variety of genre, from the hefty footprints of stoner doom to the galloping drive of NWOBHM. Despite a fairly fuzz-free application, the aforementioned Orange Goblin’s aggressive bite-first-ask-questions-later approach is apparent. Meanwhile, the general heft recalls, at times, the carpet-bomb'd groove of Corrosion of Conformity, as well as the bluesy hard-rockin’ appeal of Danzig or Clutch. Because the guitar tone is so pleasantly modern, I almost hesitate to mention Pentagram, but a certain Griffen-esque willingness to gleefully cram riff after superb riff into a track remains a defining characteristic. No question: Robert Nubel, the appointed Riff Finder General, knows how to write 'em gnarly and mean. Nothing here feels derivative, overused, or otherwise tired...and for a band that falls, tangentially, into the stoner doom category, that’s a goddamn accomplishment. Melodic intros and occasion blazing solo reinforce the General as a formidable force. One-trick-pony he is not. Sacred Monster is relentlessly uptempo, and so, not to be outshone, Guillermo Moreno and Ted Nubel--Bishop of the Bottom End and Priest of Percussion, respectively--keep things consistently intriguing. Guitar-centric songs all-too-oft feel shallow, but here, a tangible weight is carried throughout. Sacred Monster contends with some obvious star power, and it is to their credit that the band so clearly operates as a unit. Worship the Weird is relentlessly solid. Stoic, even. There's not a track here that suffers from undercooked songwriting or unbalanced arrangements, and as a result, Side B fares just as well as Side A at delivering uniquely kooky material wrapped in brobdingnagian heft.
Speaking of star power: I give you Adam Szczygieł, The Minister of Screams Himself. This man has an unbelievable range, from the guttural roars of “Re-animator,” to the throat-wrenching chant of (standout track) “Face of My Father,” to the King Diamond-esque wails scattered, liberally, throughout. The vastly divergent vocal techniques employed only adds to the substantial interest, and it is to Szczygieł’s credit that one never really knows what to expect. Forget the thematic trappings: this man is a monster unto himself.
Sacred Monster is wondrously proficient, approaching the madness of the Frankenstein-ian protagonist of "Re-animator" in their uncanny ability to execute an appropriately weird vision. With Worship the Weird, they deliver what is easily the most straight-up entertaining album to lay siege to the Sleeping Village's walls in a very, very long time. In promo material, Sacred Monster invites listeners to “celebrate...the unexplainable and the inescapable; the shapes just outside the corner of your eye. Pay tribute to the beasts that haunt your dreams and their creators. Join with us in wicked ceremony to give praise to the things that lurk below, outside space, and just beyond your door.” For once, I actually believe the hyperbole, and in this way, Worship the Weird is as much of a mission statement as it is a ritualistic command. I, for one, am obliged to bow my head in supplication of the strange. Needless to say, this album comes at the highest order of recommendation.
Sacred Monster's Worship the Weird will be released March 1st. In the meantime, listen to the album in full here:
If you’re in Chicago, join me in welcoming this behemoth of a record into the world at Sacred Monster’s album release party, presented by Forever Deaf. This Friday, LiveWire lounge. Be there.
Sacred Monster can be found:
While the ol' scriptorium here at the Sleeping Village has been scantly populated this week, fear not. This particular reeve* has spent the past few days embroiled in pre-review fury--i.e., I’ve been listening to a whole lot of good music, so get ready for some appropriately complementary reviews. In the meantime, however, we’d like to direct your attention to a three-track EP that always finds a way to reinsert itself in the rotation. For demo peddlers, Merlock display resolve and remarkable staying power.
Merlock EP is a fun lil’ demo without pretension or sophistication, the kind of music that results when a band throws down and simply plays a blend of genres that pleases them. In the case of Merlock, that formula is equally influenced by the spaced-out aura of psychedelia, and the hard-rockin’ momentum of trad metal. Merlock is subtly off-kilter in the best of ways, an odd amalgamation of The Jesus Lizard’s intrinsic weirdness, and the astral wanderings of Merlin--albeit abbreviated, and sans brass. The result is a kind of caustic, trippy, and rough-around-the-edges stoner doom, and it lights a little fire in my heavy (metal) heart.
While I wholeheartedly recommend you spend the time and give the three tracks herein their due, a personal favorite from this project is opener “Spiral Nemesis.” Constructed around a bouncy and certifiably hooky central riff, this track is particularly effective at presenting a balance between a rock-solid template and a psychedelic edge. While “Spiral Nemesis” is fairly straightforward--despite a slower psych-oriented passage midway through--it never loses its structural integrity. All told, a very enjoyable track, and suitably representative of a sound I’m hoping Merlock will continue to produce. Listen to it here:
*Effectively a village administrator, a position held by a man of otherwise low stature, responsible for overseeing the manorial motley crew. Sleeping Village Reviews: expanding your medieval-specific vocabulary since 2018.
Yes, yes. The observant reader will note that The Sleeping Village was host to a review of this single many months ago. But today, the occasion is ripe to break the same dastardly write-up out of the ol’ archives. On March 9th, Detroit Doomsters Temple of the Fuzz Witch will be releasing their self-titled debut under Seeing Red Records--and "Bathsheba," the track we previously spoke highly of, serves as the lead single. If you missed it, here's a chance to remedy that mistake.
As a figure of literal biblical proportion, Bathsheba is an admirably complex character. An obvious victim of David the adulterer, Bathsheba was nonetheless a cunning puppet-master who made the best of a bad situation, solidifying immense power for her bloodline. This is all to say that Temple of the Fuzz Witch’s homage to Bathsheba is significantly more black & white than the character herself. Fortunately, nuance isn’t the goal for these riff-worshippers. Like with the fuzzy witch's prior EP, we’re presented the opportunity to revel in some no-nonsense fuzz induced occult gloom, and boy, does this hit the spot.
When we talk Sabbathian influence, Iommi’s thick riffage is usually the topic in question. Here, however, the bass is pure Geezer. Thick, forward-facing, & nearly recalling Dopethrone in its stoic delivery, the bass provides a well constructed foundation for the titular fuzz. The Electric Wizard influence extends to vocals as well, manifesting in filtered, heavy-lidded howls that prowl low in the mix. Like everything else, the vox lacks frills, but it’s an excellent performance to be sure. The soloing around the 4:10 mark is particularly well conceived. Simple but delightfully timeless in its distorted, steadfast delivery.
These are the sounds that made me fall in love with doom in the first place, & the continuation of that god-given tone is truly a delight to behold. A review of Temple of the Fuzz Witch's debut in full shall manifest shortly, but for the time being, we implore you: spend a lil’ precious time with Bathsheba. And get on that $6.66 pre-order.
Speaking generally, I'm the only villager 'round these parts with a particular (read: desperate) affinity for the lower 'n' slower end of the sub-genre spectrum. Something that is a. decidedly not doomy, and b. accessible by design doesn't, then, necessarily fit in my wheelhouse. Describing themselves simply as "an American metal band," the vision of Gods Shall Burn is "to breathe new life into a dying scene." You know what that means, folks: it's 'core time. You know how long it's been since I've reliably listened to the chug-leaden strains of metalcore? I'm not necessarily the most experienced in these testosterone waters. A little out of the ordinary, but hey, sometimes you just need a goddamn breakdown. Thus: "Reborn."
The breakdown on single "Reborn" itself, lest ye be misled, is actually handled quite impressively. Rather than devolving into generic chugs without actually preparing a structure to actually, well, break down, Gods Shall Burn hit with an absolute ripper. Simple yet engaging grooves lead the charge, but the true star here is the interplay between harsh and cleans. In terms of the latter, think the fresh-faced energy of mid-era Of Mice & Men, without the obnoxious filters. These are offset nicely by the growls, which remain surprisingly massive, carrying a substantial heft and displaying tangible grit. As with the genre in general, the low end feels limited in terms of sheer impact, but to Mr. Mammola's credit, the drums carry themselves with a hollow forward-facing weight. All told? Well played.
"Reborn" has been the most repeated track on my gym playlist for, like, a month. Does Gods Shall Burn represent a metalcore renaissance? Doubtful, but I'm genuinely looking forward to some quality time spent with their debut EP, Life After Last, which will hit sometime soon. In the meantime, listen to "Reborn" below.
Written by: Tales_of_deception
Most of the time, singles off of records are my least favorite thing to cover/review, but on the other hand, why not pick one my favorite tracks off a record and talk about that instead? Welcome in Wulfhound. A three-piece doom metal outfit from Tennessee that pulls few punches.
Now, I could be reaching extremely far here but just stay with me, please? Imagine this: Ozzy Osbourne and a sprinkle of Candlemass all wrapped into one giant burrito. Add a vocal style that is a bit similar to a very young Ozzy Osbourne along with what early Candlemass produced, and you have everything you need from Wulfhounds' Riddle In The Dark. In an effort to capture my attention these three giants decided to do what I love in doom metal, and that's build me up until I can't take it anymore. Hitting me right in the chest with the drums and walls of harsh fuzziness from the guitars until those vocals come in and dominate me to the point where I can't say no anymore. Production is on point with a little bit of grit and grain, but still clear enough you can check mark the boxes for what you hear. Their EP is out now so don't believe a damn thing I say, go check out for yourself.
Like I said above, I could be reaching so tell me what you think after you here what I've heard. Riddles In The Dark is streaming below so make sure to push that play button to see what all the glorious noise is about. Want more of Wulfhound? Purchase the record on bandcamp.
Sometimes, a conceptual underpinning is all a song has going for it. Not so in the case of Glow, a walloping track that comes to the Sleeping Village by way of Chicago's own Cloud Cruiser.
Steeped in a thick desert rock fuzz and convincingly constructed around a monolithic central riff, this track chronicles the protagonist--a young man--as he seeks out powers of flight. It's everything one wants out of hard-rockin' desert rock, plain n' simple. A top-notch job in the production job makes for an aggressive low end, and vocals are mournful, gruff, and just reminiscent enough of Red Fang to pass you firmly into the genre's windswept (yet assuredly badass) embrace. It may sound a little trite, but my only critique of this track is that, as a stand-alone, it could definitely use some company. This particular villager eagerly awaits developments in Cloud Cruiser's "I: Capacity" installment.
Give Glow a listen here. For those of you in Chicago, Cloud Cruiser will be playing a show on February 8th at Burlington Bar.
TOXIC TRAP - Suffering In Diseases
Written by: Tales_of_Deception
The beginning of my journey with metal started nearly two decades ago. Possessed, Testament, Overkill and Death were my life force at the time. I was a strapping young lad with zero spark on what my future would hold. All I knew was that I enjoyed the hell out of the bands mentioned above and couldn't get enough of them. As time went on, I slowly experimented with different genres of music and for some reason, the passion I had for pure thrash metal or head crushing death just sort of went the fuck out of the window. Flash forward to present day and I may have found the saving grace that has more potential to drag me out of the pits when it comes to thrash/death metal than I've heard in nearly a decade.
Suffering In Diseases is the debut record from Germany's own Toxic Trap. At first listen, I was a little on the boarder of "really enjoying this record" and "it could use some work in spaces". By the end, I was in bliss and didn't want to come out of whatever I was in. The opening track, "Black Death," really hits the nail on the head when it comes to embracing the roots of the founding fathers of thrash. A slow melodic, creeping intro for a mere 30-seconds is what you get until the flesh from your ears is ripped apart from the throttling bass and addictive speed of the drums. It might start there but it most definitely does not end at that point. Track by track Toxic Trap does everything they can to hold the listeners attention.
To be honest, it seems that they have it all figured out. When it's time for one track to end and the next to begin, you prepare yourself for the same thing on repeat for damn near 47-minutes. At least that's usually the case with most of the thrash/death records I've heard in the past. Spoiler alert! Suffering In Diseases isn't that! It's a record that can be repeated a hundred times on a loop and you will hear something brand new every single time. Just look at the track below, "Burned To Death." It's a whirlpool of destruction that consistently slaps you right in the fucking mouth but then graciously doctors the wounds it just pounded into your skull. Best of both worlds, right?
In closing, the thought and depth that the guys from Toxic Trap put into this whole project is very welcomed and loved, at least by me. All the words in the world couldn't begin to explain how pleased I am with this record as a whole. From front to back and every inch in between, this record is exactly what I want from a thrash/death record, if you couldn't tell from the above paragraphs. Don't take my opinion for facts, give it a listen and support it if you enjoy it.
Country of Origin: Germany | Genres: Thrash/Death Metal | Record Type: Full-Length | Release Date: September, 2018
Toxic Trap can be found:
INNER ALTAR - Vol III
Sorry to break it to ye, hopeful peasantry: life here at the Sleeping Village is, alas, generally a little mundane. Cobblestones must be swept, crude chamber-pots must be chucked from second story windows, plague pits must be dug. Day in, day out. Thus, when something unexpected enters our humble township, must fanfare must be made.
The unexpected article in question? Vol III, the debut album from Kansas City doom rockers Inner Altar. Bearing a minimalist album cover and a distinct lack of adjectives in their promo material, Inner Altar seem like masters of understatement. From the onset, who knew that their debut album contains such an impressively well-conceived and well-articulated breadth of sights and sounds?
Vocally, Inner Altar’s approach reminds, fairly significantly, of Domkraft’s expansive stylings. Howl-into-the-void vocals are certainly coming into their own as of late, and while the echo and deliberate weightlessness are certainly a continuation of modern doom’s spaced-out leanings, they feel somewhat rooted in the distantly melancholic whine of the immortal Terry Jones, or even early-era Liebling. The Pagan Altar connection doesn’t end there--the momentous central motif on the paganic Altar, for example, would feel at home on a Vol III highlight such as "Undine’s Kiss." It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Inner Altar’s subtle shapeshifting goth-rock tendencies give them an edge in a sea of amp worshipers. While the guitar tone is certainly present, hefty, and otherwise effective, riffs don’t ever feel like the sole focus. Significant attention is given to melody, to percussion, and, most especially, to the transitions between passages. While they never truly approach the post-punk accessibility of, say, The Chameleons, a regard for gothic introspection is apparent across the board, particularly in the refreshing approach to hooks. If you’re looking for more namedrops, Demon Head’s folksy leanings seem fairly apt. But at the end of the day, these guys sound like their own damn band, not a simple knockoff. Credit where credit is due.
Doom lives or dies by its ability to keep things fresh and intriguing. To their great credit, Inner Altar take this challenge in stride, and interesting moments abound. Take, for example, the tempo shifts in "Pagan Rays | Numbered Days." The pseudo-pastoral baroque on "Prelude." The balls-to-the-wall Sabbathian riffage that (appropriately) busts the door and storms in on "Castle Storm." The brief percussive march thrown into "Dethroned & Fugitive," which breaks up plaintive wails and hefty bass with a certain grace. Not to be undone, the title track features a notably aggressive vocal stance. While remaining utterly unlike anything else the album offers, fits the bill incredibly well. Moments like these maintain my vested interest in a given track--and thus, the album as a whole. All told, Vol III consistently displays songwriting that deliberately avoids fatigue. Evoke a gloomy mood without boring your audience: usually much, much harder said than done. Not so here.
The most difficult aspect of reviewing this album has been consideration of its staying power. It’s an unusual conundrum, yet one that garners Inner Altar a net zero negative points. While time spent listening to Vol III is completely satisfying in its immersive quality, I found time after time that as the title track’s droning outro fade, I struggle to remember distinct moments from the album--riffs, hooks, melodies. They seem to exist entirely within the confines of the albums runtime, and while this ultimately makes for a genuinely excellent experience in the moment, there is little that carries over when Inner Altar isn’t actively filling airspace. With that said, a tangible side effect is that the past few weeks have born multiple instances of turning to Vol III, simply because the listening experience is so supremely gratifying in the moment.
With surprising variety in genre influence, and clear attention given to composition, Vol III is a complex album. More than that, it is a distinct triumph. Whatever they are doing down in Kansas City’s doom department is working inordinately well, with Inner Altar being further proof of actualized potential. Vol III is, quite simply, a wonderful effort. Highly recommended.
Inner Altar - Vol III was released Jan. 18th from The Company
Evidently raised on a diet of Twilight Zone reruns, fantasy, monster flicks, and Iommi riffs, Chicago’s Sacred Monster is, first and foremost, a pretty unique outfit. Take the campy and otherwise nerdy jubilance of Gloryhammer, splice it through the sludgy riff-driven aesthetic of Time Traveling Blues-era Orange Goblin, and enjoy the resulting concoction whilst having your molars removed in the damp confines of a medieval dungeon. Ah, hell. Throw in an aggressive vocal tone accented with Them-worthy shrieks for good measure. That (in an appropriately weird nutshell) is what you get with Sacred Monster’s debut LP. Worship the Weird is, without a doubt, the single-most entertaining album I’ve heard this year, and I’m very, very excited for its release on March 1st.
Fear not: We’ll be writing a full review of Worship the Weird in good time. Today, however, is all about lead single High Confessor, which can be streamed below. Taking inspiration from the sneering Sand dan Glokta from Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, the track follows a torturer and his victim through the inevitable grisly affair. “Go ahead,” the protagonist growls in his cruelly contemptuous tone. “Beg God for mercy... but He doesn’t hold the pliers down here.” High Confessor is a track that ratchets up the riff-centric intensity--both thematically and sonically--with shameless abandon. The result? A wildly groovy and aggressive ride.
I could blather all day. But let’s get to the music, shall we? Check out High Confessor...and if you are equally smitten, take it upon yourself to check out that pre-order.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!