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.
Written by: Loveloth
Unlike anger, sadness is a constant, lingering emotion that slowly overtakes every fiber of your being if not unleashed in some way. For me, this is what makes sad music so special, its honesty and intensity are unmatched--if done right, of course. The Finnish doom scene is famous for its gorgeous and heart-rending music and Swallow The Sun should immediately come to mind. As some of you may know, Juha Raivio, the band's mastermind, lost his longtime girlfriend and wonderful vocalist Aleah Standbrige due to cancer in 2016, and to alleviate his pain he created Hallatar, a titanic death-doom supergroup. Now, almost four years after their ambitious (and badly produced) triple album Songs From The North I, II & III, Swallow The Sun returns with When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light, which pays respect to Aleah in a different manner. Unlike their previous work and especially Hallatar, the band decided for a more restrained and spacious approach, and it works wonders. Impressive considering Juho Räihä and Jaani Peuhu (both live members of Hallatar) make their debut here, but they do this in a very memorable fashion.
Accompanied by two cellos, two violas, and a single piano, the record starts off beautifully with the excellent title track that, despite containing a lot of ideas, manages to realise them all successfully. Beautiful strings, melancholic and ethereal trem picking, acoustic strums, it all sounds great but as soon as I heard Mikko Kotamäki shriek in the chorus, I knew this would be something really special. After a soothing, evocative, and lengthy intro, "The Crimson Crown" blossoms into a majestic and subdued beast. This sense of growth and space is what made Swallow The Sun so special and the band simply expands their formula but take a more gothic, post-rock and even symphonic approach instead reminding me of Fields Of Nephilim, Anathema and Pardise Lost. The record feels more intimate and warm because of this and I am sure it reflects Raivio's current phase of mourning his lost love.
If the lack of metal sounds underwhelming, "Upon The Water" will definitely win some cold hearts with its plodding riffs, ghastly shrieks and sudden bursts of metallic fury. "Clouds On Your Side" behaves similarly but opts for guttural grows reminiscent of good ole' Nick Holmes when the heavier parts arrive. Now is a good time to mention the songwriting as I noticed a trend that isn't necessarily bad but it's still a trend on this record. Most of the choruses found here are sudden, explosive and it's perfect considering how the band lulls you in a false feeling of security with the gentle and moving soundscapes they oh so carefully crafted. All of this would be void if the production wasn't good and the sextet luckily delivers with a well mixed record whose layers give enough room to the wonderful string section to breathe. However, my favourite part of this record is Mikko, who definitely deserves more attention and praise. His varied and convincing performance continues what he established on Songs Of The North I, II & III, he alone is worth checking this record out.
With only one song under five minutes, When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light is still the band's shortest record that clocks in at "only" 53 minutes. to be frank, some songs could use a trim or two, but these are minor flaws of an otherwise very good record. Personal favourites are the title track, "Firelights", "Upon The Water" and "Here On The Black Earth" and all of them are perfect sadboi material. I didn't pay much attention to Swallow The Sun for a long time and this was a very convincing wake up call. I suggest you do the same because When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light may not be as immediate as their previous work but the amount of hidden details make repeated listens a must. This is a soundtrack of loss, pain and mourning and it's raw and cold as much as lush and gorgeous. Thank you Finland for providing among the best soundtracks for gloomy days, this sadboi appreciates greatly.
Swallow The Sun - When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light was released Jan. 25th from Century Media
As you eagle-eyed readers may recall, the Sleeping Village featured, some months back, a grisly music video for “Feeling Dead,” the lead single from Doors & Fours’ second LP. At the time, I described--in tantalizing detail, I’m sure--the process of rubbing together gritty, blood-stained hands in eager anticipation of said album’s release. Well, well. Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs has been here for a week, so it’s certainly high time we talk about it. The mosh beckons.
From an instrumental standpoint, Black Majik is, as "Feeling Dead" indicated, decidedly solid. The formula of hefty bass, angular riffage, and forward-facing drums remains, as my grandmother might say, built like a brick shithouse--no flair, but going above and beyond in the utilitarian department. If this comes off as a coy way to state that this Ontarian trio meet the bare minimum, that certainly isn’t the intent. While there are few flashes of technicality, this genre, and the Doors & Fours brand in general, necessitates a reliably bludgeoning and high-energy display of technique. To this end, this trio delivers in spades.
As alluded in the original track review, Paige McAleney’s drums maintain a delicious momentum and a vivacious energy. While accolades usually go to the dirty riffs n’ vocals, punk is so dependent on a percussionist who is able to maintain a consistent and ferocious output. In this respect, McAleney feels incredibly central to the success of Doors & Four’s stability. The guitars, which remain crunchy and jagged throughout, lend the entire affair a head-bopping groove, particularly in the overtly punk-influenced riffage of “Full Moon Tonight” or “The Weather is Nice in Purgatory.” These particularly aggressive tracks serve as focal points for the album, and would remain my recommendation for anyone looking to test the waters.
An interesting strength of the production is the tendency for the guitar (and, in particular, the bass) to move, from track to track, further behind or further forward in the mix. This allows for a certain sense of dynamism that often loses hold on your average punk album. A minor misstep in this regard is outro track “Bad Philosophy,” which significantly slows down the pace. Despite being enjoyable in and of itself, doesn’t feel like it exists within the same universe. Looking at the big picture, however, the ability of the riffage to provide space where needed allows Adam Peach’s boisterous vox the ample room it requires.--and indeed deserves. In a similar vein, the subtle melodicism that weaves and wends through the vocals is provided the occasional moment to shine without being buried beneath crushing riffz.
Speaking of the album’s overall construction, the length is worth note, but not worth criticism. At under half an hour, Black Majik is a very brief ride. Brevity fits the bill, and a longer runtime may have reduced the punchiness of the package as a whole. Given the multiple surprises Doors & Fours offers, the consideration given to depth in the course of composition is most impressive.
Beyond all this, however, there’s an overarching reason that Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs has graced the halls of the Sleeping Village fairly incessantly these past few weeks. As someone who conquers a slog of heavy music on the daily, most of which is attempting to be as ANGRY and ANGST-ridden as possible, fun is an absolutely essential component. Doors & Fours is refreshingly jubilant, and sound like they are having as much fun playing as I am listening. Here’s an example: Doors & Fours is so infused with this spirit of gleeful irreverence that, upon mistakenly hearing the chorus for “Dead Bodies” as “make love to dead bunnies,” I left the engagement utterly nonplussed. This fun-loving ambiance is a decidedly lovable quality, and in a world filled with bands vying for attention, taking yourself too seriously is sometimes a bit of a turnoff. A little humor in the lyrical arena goes a helluva long way at drawing the listener back in, and little gems like “we're here for eternity/cause we're fuckin' zombies/we're already deeeeeeeaddddd” only serve to reinforce a tangible sense of glee. But yet, these tracks carry themselves with a serious horror aesthetic weight. That’s a hard combination to nail.
Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs is simultaneously fun and menacing, jubilant and aggressive. Not to mention utterly addictive. Albums like these make for very welcome encounters, and Doors & Fours will undoubtedly remain in heavy rotation for the sheer enjoyment they deliver. The grisly bottom line? This satanic orgy comes highly recommended.
Doors & Fours - Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs was released on Feb. 1st from Aborted Productions
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.
Written by: Tales_of_Deception
Today marks a day that will forever be remembered the history books of my life as a very successful day. For those of you who don't know me very well, I enjoy my metal very much on the underworld side of things. The lower the vocals and the more going on behind the scenes, the better of a listen it is for me. I could go on for days listing off bands that name zero on paper but work on record. Miscarriage is one of those bands, and at this point my life, as a metal lover, I think I'm as complete as I can be.
How can I best describe Miscarriage? That's the main question that's been running through my mind for the last couple days. The only logical explanation I can give is that this band is a perfect mixture of Bongripper, Waking The Cadaver, Pathology & Eyehategod. It's extremely hard to explain on paper, like I said before, but when it pops through the headphones, it's a blissful journey of shit covered gold. The low end of every instrument really tags along great with the intense guttural work that the vocalist brings. Things don't change up a ton during the track, but it's a rhythm that really crushes what most bands are doing these days. All I can say is that Miscarriage created a world and it's filled with murky skies, disembodied corpses hanging on inverted crosses along with a building that mentally rapes your mind for everything it's worth.
So that's that. I, for no reason at all, will not stop listening to this band. February 22nd, 2019 can't get here quick enough and it's most definitely marked on my calendar as a holiday for the metal community. As always though, don't listen to a fucking word I have to say. Give this record a million spins and be engulfed by every second of it.
Miscarriage can be found: