Written by: Reese
I'm sure that most of you are aware that not all Cryptopsy albums are created equal. Those of you who’ve heard 2008’s metalcore-flavoured outing The Unspoken King are certainly aware of this fact. I will maintain that Cryptopsy have never released an album I would classify as “bad” but some come much closer than others. But fortune has smiled on the last handful of Cryptopsy releases, and the band seem to be on a much-needed upswing. After three years of keeping fans in suspense, Cryptopsy have finally unleashed the follow-up to The Book of Suffering - Tome I: Tome II.
I mentioned that Cryptopsy have been on a win streak over the course of their last few releases and they keep the momentum up on Tome II. This is very much a continuation of the sound found on Tome I. Cryptopsy are playing fast, and they’re playing tightly. Fortunately, they also manage to sideswipe the typical speedtrap that most modern tech death bands fall into: useless self-indulgence. There aren’t any riffs on this release that made me think “why?”, and the sad reality of the situation is that for Cryptopsy in 2018 that’s an accomplishment. I find that the EP is able to hold my attention for the entirety of its runtime, something unfocused, rambling techdeath rarely manages to do, even in short sub-20 minute bursts such as this.
Vocally, this is one of my favourite performances of Cryptopsy’s career. Matt McGachy’s screeching and howls are all over the place. He’s got a great range and he’s not afraid to play with it, something that helps develop modern Cryptopsy’s sense of identity that they might not otherwise have. The riffs on the other hand are a bit more hit and miss. For the most part though, they hit. They’re tight, technical and aggressive, but maybe not the most memorable. I enjoy myself while the songs are playing, but there are certain riffs I’d have a tough time remembering after the fact. But for the most part, these riffs are winners. I’d kill for the ability to play even half of them, and the tasteful but brief solos they toss in every once in a while only sweeten the deal.
My largest gripe with this EP is something that plagues the overwhelming majority of not only techdeath, but modern death metal bands in general: lame production. Not poor production, lame production. You can write the meanest riffs in the world, but when you scrub all the dirt off them in the mastering phase they’ll lose a significant amount of bite. Imagine this EP with None so Vile’s production. That would be sweet! I live for the day that death metal bands realize they aren’t doing themselves any favours with production jobs like these; not only does it take away from your band’s unique “sound”, it just makes your music sound less intense. And that’s the absolute LAST thing you want from your death metal.
All in all, this is a good EP that has some very good moments. It’s the best Cryptopsy have been in a while and it shows that the band recognize they have room left to grow and are doing their best to fill it. Whatever comes next for Cryptopsy should be even better. With a few more scans and a little more scum in the production and maybe a sharper set of hooks, Tome III (or whatever else the band have up their sleeves) could be a real killer.
Written by: Reese
After spending untold hours uprighting the fruit carts, replacing the cobblestones, and hiding the corpses in the plague-pit, we here at the Sleeping Village were forced into a conclusion of sorts: maybe our Town Square isn’t the best place to celebrate 2018’s absolute domination in the death metal department. But oh, what righteous dominion! In reflection, despite some furious big-name releases, this year belongs to the lesser-known bands. Those bands are (more often than not) represented by some of the most innovative & forward thinking labels of our time, and these labels deserve our support. Example? Redefining Darkness Records, who notably put out Oxygen Destroyer and CIST this past year, are always on my radar in terms of extreme music that both embraces the past and celebrates ingenuity. The forthcoming 2-track demo from Warp Chamber--who, judging from their short bio, prefer to let their music speak for itself--fits brilliantly into this fold.
Taking inspiration from the obvious death metal greats--they cite Suffocation, Morbid Angel, and Demilich, but you could honestly take your pick of early 90’s death metal and call it a wrap--Warp Chamber is an exercise in chaos. Unlike these early influencers, however, individual Warp Chamber songs never feel tied to a central theme. Featuring two tracks of respectable length, Abdication of the Mind is a pummeling voyage through brief soundscapes. In the midst of exploration, some moments seem to lurch deliberately--like a subway car that is perpetually achieving a little too much momentum before each stop, Warp Chamber often applies the brakes with a gleeful aggression, before launching once more into a breakneck pace. If you prefer a musical comparison, think early Dying Fetus’ tendency to adjust tempo at the drop of a hat, perhaps mixed with Nocturnus’ excitable and perpetually shifting riffage. The result is a constantly evolving piece of music. The growls and guitar weave and wend, the drums lurch, and both tracks are stitched together with unexpected complexity and technicality.
While not particularly unique in the grand scheme of death metal howlers, the nature in which the vocals are buried really allows Abdication of the Mind’s ambiance to gel. Abandoning all attempts are remaining a vehicle for lyricism, the vox becomes another feature in the chaos. The throat-clearing hacks and snarls on the title track are particular highpoints--in the swirling aether, these noises keep Warp Chamber with one foot firmly planted in the grotesquery of firma terra.
At 16 minutes, give or take some twisted riffage here and there, Abdication of the Mind is a perfectly timed affair. A solid intro to Warp Chamber’s dimension-trodding sound, and a wholly worthwhile addition to the year’s veritable corpse-tsunami of quality death metal.
The Sleeping Village owes a massive debt to Black Sabbath…& not just because we blatantly lifted our moniker from their plunder-worthy supply of deep cuts. Because Sabbath have left such a veritable canyon in the firmament of heavy music, we dedicate Sundays to highlighting a lesser-known band that carries the Sabbathian mantle of doom. Today we review 1455, the second EP from Purification, a Cromwellian-by-way-of-Portland doom outfit of the trvest order. Welcome to Sabbath Sunday. Let’s get our St. Vitus dance on.
I’ll make one thing clear from the start: if you’re one of the (very few) doom purists out there who gives a damn about production value, you’re a. doing it wrong, and b. probably not going to have a good time with 1455. Bottom line, the mix is appropriately medieval, and the master is nonexistent. However, judging a band’s worth by the amount of money they’ve poured into the production is supremely antithetical to the aesthetic, and with that, it is this Sleeping Villager’s honor to speak on the important matters. Namely, the ways in which Purification’s 1455 is a release worth your witchfinding while.
Purification is a two-piece, which means the bassist (Marshall William Purify, for the uninitiated) is pulling a lot of weight in the riffage department. In fact, the only guitar present on this puritanical display is acoustic, featuring exclusively on ambient number The Night March. Much like Pagan Altar’s use of acoustics on Volume 1, the effect here is immediate--a reprieve from the downtrodden tracks proper. With traditional doom, there is all-to-oft an emphasis placed on the sheer heaviness, while the more naturalistic elements of the environment is never adequately conjured. Not so here.
Focus on the bass doesn’t, of course, discredit Lord Donanagato, whose subtle technique in the drum department allows the sonic weight a little room to ebb, flow, and otherwise breath. Look to closing track 1455 (A Call to Christian Thanes of Noble Blood) as a prime example. Despite a generally dark ambiance, the cymbals throughout, combined with (frankly chilling) vocals, lend the track an uplifting air. Viewing the EP as a whole, the traditional cultist doom aesthetic--lordly titles, olde-timey language--feels utterly persuasive. Liberal use of samples, while a feature that originally seemed heavy-handed, feels necessary over the course of multiple listens. Purification made a smart choice here. A concise and explicit narrative arch works well in the context of a band taking a seemingly overwrought subject with such solemnity.
Purification assuredly claim that they walk in the footsteps of their--as they say--"coven elders.” This isn’t mere talk. Bands such as Cathedral, Witchfinder General, and Pagan Altar rose to heights because they knew intrinsically how to construct a catchy tune within the confines of their narrow traditionalist appeal. Here, tracks such as Marston Moor (An Exhortion of Cromwell) and the aforementioned title track are, put simply, catchy as hell. Marshall’s distant, sorrowful warbling contain that certain irresistible hook--these choruses have been stuck in my head for the better part of a month now. Given the number of choruses that traverse this ol’ noggin, that’s no small feat.
Purification have set, defined, and met the demands of their aesthetic. These practitioners of true doom are the real deal, and this Sleeping Village recommends them highly on this doomy day. Head over to their bandcamp to drink deep of their archaic concoction, and expect a debut LP this coming year, may Cromwell’s will be done.
Let’s start Sunday off with something fun. Between the doom and the depressive black metal, we here at the Sleeping Village get, on occasion, a little too gloomy for our own good. The cure for such a self-inflicted diagnosis? Our plague doctor heartily recommended some overt NWOBHM nostalgia...and what kind of plebs are we to deny the good doctor’s word? To that end, let’s talk about High Risk, lead single (and title track) from Blade Killer’s forthcoming debut album.
High Risk is plucked directly from the 80’s. As such, the most common comparison, musically speaking, is undoubtedly Di’Anno-era Maiden. Prominent bass a la Harris? Check. Energetic vocal stylings with just a hint of graceless gruff? Check. Galloping--nay, runaway train riffage? Just let me have that check, please. If we’re talkin’ shameless NWOBHM gravitas, however, Angel Witch, Tokyo Blade, and the ever-fantastical Tygers of Pan Tang might be closer to the mark. High Risk is a track imbued with an undeniably rambunctious energy, a pure distillation of no-nonsense 80’s headbanging glory. No intro is necessary--the guitar kicks right in with a head-bopping enthusiasm. The lyrics, while fairly standard fare, are delivered with a similar gleeful kineticism.
This is air guitar-inducing, chorus-belting, demin-stitching music if ever there was, and Blade Killer’s blatant commitment to the NWOBHM aesthetic comes highly appreciated, even in a fairly saturated market. If the rest of the album has an inkling of the balls-to-the-wall determination of its title track, its safe to say Blade Killer have gifted a worthwhile depository into our collective horn-throwing hands. From what I’ve read thusfar, no worries on this front. Lookin’ forward to Nov. 23rd.
High Risk will be released Nov. 23 through M-Theory Audio.
Check out Blade Killer on Bandcamp.
No matter how us prejudicial critics slice it, it seems that LA’s own Goliathan are playing a dangerous game. Modern doom, plus post-rock, sans vocals. Given each genre’s proclivity for repetition--even with the benefit of vocals to break up the monotony--this Sleeping Villager’s first assumption was not, in fact, that Goliathan writes a particularly dynamic brand of metal. But man, was I ever wrong. Their 2017 EP, entitled Awakens, shot first & never bothered to ask questions, utterly smoking expectations in the process. Albion, released yesterday from Metal Assault Records, only reaffirms Golithan’s profound ability to create nuanced & cutting-edge music. I’m just going to state the obvious: Albion is an absolute Goliath of a sophomore effort.
The titular track is equal parts harrowing & hooky, with a sludgy, crunching tone that blossoms, in the second half, into an ambient passage before closing back in. A toothy bite, if ever there was, with substantial care & thought apparent in the composition. While the driving theme recalls Scheidt at his zenith of aggression, Albion’s willingness to explore & develop an idea beyond the obvious hard-rockin’ extremities is strongly reminiscent of Boghaunter. While mere snippets indicate a lack of sonic cohesion, this track--indicative of the EP in general--flows with such a natural current that transitions simply...happen, without making an announcement first. Golithan are clearly accomplished instrumentalists, but the main takeaway here is that their songwriting chops are top-tier.
As good as the intro track is at setting the stage, Vaalbara is the true crown jewel. Starting off with an intense low end, with hollow drums & no-nonsense bass, Vaalbara employs a motif that feels nearly Smashing Pumpkins-esque in its hooky delivery. There’s something timeless about the central riff--& indeed, something timeless about the guitar across the entire effort. Simple yet layered, driving yet hypnotic. Goliathan writes rockin’ riffs, plain & simple, & their dual guitar-driven melodic overtones are so effortless that the lack of vocals never--& I mean actually never--feels like a hindrance. Album closer Aberration is a bit of an odd duck, but adds a necessarily derivation from the established formula. This piece is a proggy, multifaceted piece of paranoia is an upwards, sweat-inducing climb that simultaneously recalls the jarring angularity of the title track, but still manages to leaves one far from where the album began. If that isn’t a measure of a work’s ability to represent a journey while remaining tied to thematic roots, I don’t know what is. Goliathan know what they are doing, & they do it inordinately well. In this arena (and, frankly, in all arenas) Albion is markedly consistent, and a genuinely beautiful sonic experience.
At the end of the day, vocals, or lack thereof, don’t define the band. This is a trap I have fallen into far too often, but Goliathan has shown me--twice now--the error of these unfortunate ways. It is not genre tags that determine the quality of a musical project, but rather the dedication and passion of the respective musicians. For a band that continues to surprise, this only foretells equally great things to come. From a critical perspective, the only downside is the brevity, but the smartest artists always leave a ravished audience hungry for more. Albion comes highly, highly recommended.
Written by: The Soliloquist
In my opinion, funeral doom is not only one of the heaviest genres of metal, it is also probably the most suitable genre for evoking emotions in the listener. While those two aspects do not necessarily coincide in other genres of music, they do in funeral doom. I guess what I am trying to say here is that the heaviness of funeral doom and its emotional impact on the listener are two dimensions of one phenomenon. It’s the substance of the music that is heavy, both sonically and emotionally. Of course, this only is the case if the songwriting allows for it to happen. Funeral doom can be beautiful and devastating, hopeful and crushing, dark and uplifting all at the same time, if it is well-composed. That’s what I love about the genre--its ability to confuse and exert your emotions and leave you completely shattered in the end. Clouds manage to do just that on their latest album, Dor.
Clouds are a relatively young international band currently based in London, UK, and founded in 2013, whose music can be described as atmospheric funeral/death doom metal. Their compositions focus a lot on the atmosphere of the music, and the band uses plenty of musical elements such as ambient samples and orchestral instruments to create said atmosphere. Their deeply melancholic mixture of death and doom metal already impressed me when I heard their debut album Doliu, which is one of the best funeral/death doom records I’ve heard to this day. On their third album Dor, released today, Clouds once again offer an absolutely crushing and beautiful album that no fan of the genre should miss out on.
Dor lives off the contrast between atmospheric, floating orchestral/synth soundscapes, beautiful melodies and crushingly heavy riffs, clean harmonious singing and devastating low death growls. Dark and light, hope and desperation collide in these compositions. The lyrics talk of disappointment, disillusioning and doubt--they tell the story of a soul losing a loved one, and as a result falling into a pit of crushing sadness. Depression, despair and darkness characterize the mood of the lyrics. But at the same time there is beauty in these songs. There is wonder and hope piercing through the desperation, like sunlight through a thick wall of clouds. This album is a truly beautiful piece of art that leads you into darkness and transforms it into light.
The album is absolutely wonderfully written. The incorporation of orchestral elements into the compositions is as close to perfect as it probably can be. The use of the cello on the title track is only one example of a near perfect marriage of death-doom and classical music. Generally, the timing of calmer, more melodic and heavier sections is fantastic and very effective. I was already impressed by the way Evoken balanced such different elements and moods on their latest album Hypnagogia, but I actually think Clouds did an even better job here. You are thrown into darkness, picked up again, elevated to the light and thrown back down again by this album. It’s beautiful and painful and beautifully painful.
As if the fantastic music by the band wasn't enough, Dor features guest vocals by artists such as Gogo Melone (Aeonian Sorrow), Pim Blankenstein (Officium Triste), Sylvaine, Mihu (Abigail), Kayla Dixon (Witch Mountain) and Caleb Bergen (Sleepwalkers,) who all do a great job here. The album feels very thought-through and fleshed out. It’s well-rounded and logical in its development. I really can’t say anything negative about this album, except one or two spoken word sections that come off a little cheesy (I had the same complaint about the latest Evoken album, so it might be a general issue I have with the genre). Apart from that, it’s pretty much a perfect melodic/atmospheric funeral/death doom album and you should definitely check it out if you are a fan of anything melancholic, emotional, and dark.
Written by: The Soliloquist
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry