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.
Look, we've got a lot of stoner metal to get through today. Rather than bore you with a vaguely tangential introduction, let's just get to it, shall we?
earthdiver's Leave Something Witchy is one helluva EP, taking the smudgy groove of stoner metal and infusing it liberally with the glorious devil-may-care vivacity of punk. The entire 3-track is delightfully raw, rough-edged, and nearly feral in its execution--like if Pan, the God of the wild things, decided to throw away the pan pipes and start a garage band. Angsty vocals and slightly goofy samples are upheld by the loosest and otherwise grooviest bass I've heard in a long damn time. This thing grinds and bounces around with a deliciously organic bent, keeping the low end moving forward with an egregiously thunderous confidence. Indeed, the bass forms the backbone of earthdiver's approach, with the uber-distorted guitar appearing more as embellishment to the groove.
It's seldom that I encounter a fresh-faced band with such jubilant energy behind them. Doom benefits greatly from a swift kick in the ass, and earthdiver might just be the ones to deliver. If you like a little zest and zeal in your stoner doom, this particular Villager highly, highly recommends you check this one out. Listen to the title track here:
There’s a certain timeless appeal encapsulated by Ireland’s Withered Fist. Their doomy approach isn’t drenched in excessive distortion, nor tempered by stoner metal’s typical head-in-the-clouds mentality. Rather, assertive melodic overtones, attention to compositional interest, and a seemingly no-nonsense attitude, sets apart their debut EP--entitled This is My Mountain--in an admittedly crowded field. This Irish doom rocking duo is, simply put, solid.
The forward-facing vocals, while not flashy or aggressive, get the job done with a workmanlike flair. Harmony and melody reign, regardless of the weight of the track in question--look to the contrast of “The Dread” and closing track “The Journey” for an indication of Carl King’s obvious abilities in the vocal department. The former is markedly hefty and aggressive, yet never feels bogged down in its own presence or import. On the latter track, King deftly handles a simple chorus and some particularly gentle passages on the back half, seemingly approaching the affair in a straightforward and upbeat manner, which feels, I must admit, quite fresh.
The instrumentals, which are all handled by the multi-talented Justin Maloney, are simultaneously monolithic and lighthearted. Truly a quality that, when combined with the aforementioned vocals, lends This is My Mountain an understated dynamism. The title track, by way of example, has moments that soar, and moments, in turn, that feel mere steps away from sludgy peat-bog thick riffage. Withered Fist avoid stagnation with grace. As a result, the lengthy tracks contained herein feel nearly half their respective lengths. All told, this duo has set themselves up quite nicely for a debut full length. This EP has been gaining a lot of airtime as of late, and I’m anxious to see what more they are capable of.
Withered Fist - This is My Mountain was released January 2019. Listen to "The Journey" below, and check out Withered Fist on bandcamp.
Sometimes, an album I place on frequent rotation for review simply...well, never leaves rotation. It becomes so integral to my listening habits that the notion of writing a review becomes almost antithetical, because to write a review is often an admittance that it's time to wrap up my thoughts, take a break, and move on to other releases. Where Light Goes to Die, the sophomore effort from Atlanta's hard-rocking HOT RAM is, needless to say, such an album.
This power trio have been waiting a long damn time for this write-up, so let's get to it!
In many ways, HOT RAM appears to hit the ground running as a fairly prototypical doom/stoner rock outfit. Thick and bluesy grooves. Relaxed and expansive vocals, with just enough pent-up aggression to merit that sweet sludgy association. Fuzzy riffs that stretch and wind with a laid-back mentality and an exploratory spirit. That's all well and good--I mean, honestly, what else are we really here for. But alas, HOT RAM conquers the expected tropes with ease, and, fairly immediately, demonstrate that they have much more in store.
Where Light Goes to Die is, at heart, a hard rockin’ album, and it is this quality that took me most by surprise. HOT RAM fire on all cylinders with marked consistency, performing with the braggadocious air of a demin-clad classic rock outfit, without delving into the airy arena of radio-friendly singles. It’s like if Accept or early Judas Priest were converted by the Church of Misery. This mix of high energy riffage, pounding drums, and bass with ‘tude on one hand, and psychedelic meanderings on the other, is pretty damn potent.
The guitar feels fairly staple and straightforward in its approach, but it becomes apparent quite quickly that mere amp-worship ain't necessarily the name of the game. Take, for example, the frantic scale climbing that marks the finale of "Tribes of Titan," or the delightful sidewinding riff on (psych standout) "Petra," or the grinding aggression of "Nova Caesari," or the earnest rollicking of "Snake River." It is to their great credit that these tracks, and indeed every song here, feels like a very unique entity in the album's overall fabric. There's nothing here that should be cut, or refined, or even trimmed. As much as I love the genre, we all know the truth of the matter: in the hazy confines of stoner rock, sophistication and brevity aren't always the qualities most sought. HOT RAM throw that stereotype in the woodchipper, delivering six massive (yet varied) bangers.
I just listened to this album in full for the sole purpose of determining which track is my favorite. In conclusion? I genuinely cannot make that determination. Yer just gonna have to grab this HOT RAM by the horns and experience it in full unadulterated glory. Be part of the reason these guys get a little more attention. If it isn’t obvious thusfar, Where Light Goes To Die comes highly recommended. But yet, the question remains: will it leave constant rotation as a result of this review finally being unveiled?
In the ‘verse of metal bloggers, there are many small establishments doing cool stuff, and despite the grizzled, ink-splattered, and decidedly misanthropic appearance of our scribes, we here at the Sleeping Village are, on occasion, cordial folks. As the inhabitants of our extensive grave pit will tell you, it’s an undeniably violent world out there. When the marauders return once more to our homely township, we certainly appreciate our allies mettle (and, well, metal. In a manner of speaking). It’s good to have friends.
This is all to say that Alternative Control, out of the wildlands of Connecticut, is one such blog doing cool stuff. As you may recall, we ran a review a while back for their Volume Doom compilation, which featured some truly excellent tracks of the low ‘n’ slow variety. This spring, Alt Ctrl is back with a seasonal sampler--a collection of songs from bands who have appeared on the blog, in some fashion, over the past few months. While the genre cohesion is nonexistent in this case, the general trend is not. To quote site proprietor extraordinaire Jessie May, this sampler contains "no garbage tracks," plain and simple. Sign me up.
There are eight great songs on this compilation, ranging from hardcore, to depressive black metal, to stoner. Each is highly enjoyable in it’s own right. Things kick off with a killer track from German dark metal progenitors Bethlehem--"Niemals mehr Ieben," which features Yvonne "Onielar Wilczynska on haunting vocals, comes from their forthcoming May release. I know the alphabetical nature of the tracklisting makes this a happy coincidence, but if we're going the thematic route, Bethlehem form an excellent bridge from winter's depressive side to a lighter--err, springier--soundscape. From there, Blind Scryer's doomy treatise and Dread These Day's hardcore approach should, on paper, clash, but both are such solid singles that any lost continuity is a complete non-issue. The same can be said for the remaining 5 tracks herein. London's groovy-yet-rockin' Gramma Vedetta, the avant-garde and deliciously bass-heavy Laster, and the ever-provocative Necrosexual all deliver in spades. Owl Maker contributes the penultimate track, the experimental Lizzy-esque "Owl City" from their recent 2-track EP, much beloved by our humble Village. The standout track, however, is the closer--Scabby Ghouls deliver an upbeat and punky Misfits-esque romp. "Knife Fight" is a whimsically horror-themed ditty, and the delightfully bombastic chorus has been stuck in my head for the better part of a month.
All told, this Spring Sampler is a first-rate collection of equally first-rate tunes. Alternative Control is hitting it out of the park with these compilations, and we're very excited to see where this trend takes them. Summer awaits!
1. Bethlehem - "Niemals mehr leben"
2. Blind Scryer - "Delta V"
3. Dread These Days - "Eldfell"
4. Gramma Vedetta - "Address Unknown"
5. Laster - "Haat & bonhomie"
6. Necrosexual - "Trust No One"
7. Owl Maker - "Owl City"
8. The Scabby Ghouls - "Knife Fight"
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry