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
Given the obvious influences affecting today’s mustard-yellow EP in question, let me just slip into this cozy confessional & state the uncomfortable truth: all things considered, I could probably live in a world without EYEHATEGOD. Despite undeniable deity status in certain circles, Mike William’s particular vocal quality has never rubbed me the right way--nor, for that matter, the wrong way. Franky, it just doesn’t really rub me at all (and now, pardon me for a minute whilst I hand in my sludge card.)
This isn’t to say, however, that I could live (or even remotely enjoy) a sludge-less existence. As a genre, it remains a toxic concoction, combining the depressive gloom of doom with the sheer rabidity of hardcore. It’s messy. It’s dirty. It’s a sputtering engine, suffocating in grease and drowning in mud. For a relatively simple formula, Tombtoker’s particular brand is a distillation of everything I find appealing about sludge metal. Cobbled together from the sarcophagal scraps of metal history--Black Sabbath, Weedeater, Iron Monkey, Black Flag, Crowbar, Wolf Blood, the aforementioned EYEHATEGOD, & maybe even a lil’ Neurosis--Coffin Texts, Tombtoker’s forthcoming debut EP, is a well-conceived effort. And that’s putting it lightly.
Starting from the ground up, Tombtoker plays stoner doom with a punky, aggressive, and otherwise rusty edge. The sonic qualities of the bands listed above are all prevalent, but Coffin Texts doesn’t necessarily feel like a regurgitation of existing material. It’s a unique bent on the whole genre package, and this outfit’s obvious skill and ability to write intriguing songs are undeniable. Armed with hooks-a-plenty, these are the kind of tunes that drag you down with ease. For the most part, the dual guitars grip tightly to each other, establishing a pythonian groove early on. That said, the occasional solo rises from the muck, and if not for these moments, the duality would feel underutilized. The riffs are crunchy as one might expect, and then some--slow, dense, an algae-coated Sasquatch wading through the Northeastern wilderness.
While sludge often suffers from, well, a sludgy mix, Coffin Texts sounds pretty damn fine. The bass work here is worth a special mention. Like a besmirched baker vengefully frosting a shit cake, Mr. Hagen lays it down with a disgustingly thick intensity. “Warfare revolution” and “Blood freak” carry themselves with an unprecedented weight, while finisher “Globster” feels like it was written exclusively to showcase that meaty low end. Vocally, Mark Kuczak’s deep growl and rusty bark never overpowers the guitar (or drums, for that matter). He’s got a helluva lot hidden up his sleeve, and over the course of the EP, reveals a bevy of vocal deliveries. This only adds to Tombtoker’s noteworthy dynamism.
Standout tracks? It is to Coffin Texts’ extreme credit that choosing is, in fact, an impossibility. Every track contained within this 20ish minute runtime has its own slimy charm, and over numerous visitations, listening to this beast from top to bottom is an inevitability. Bottom line? Tombtoker does sludge metal proud.
These guys have been on my radar since they first starting liking my instagram posts (hey, vanity pays!) Needless to say, the Sleeping Village shall be following Tombtoker quite intently from this point forward. Coffin Texts is a very high quality debut. Heartfelt recommendations are in order
Coffin Texts releases Dec. 7th from Seeing Red Records. In the meantime, may I point you in the direction of that $6.66 preorder? Don’t mind if I do.
Tombtoker can be found at:
Upon fishing Psychlona’s debut from the Global Stoner Conveyor of Kyuss-ian psychedelia, my initial (& unfair) impression was that they sounded a whole lot like Fu Manchu, otherwise known as the okay-ist desert rock group of the decade. Upon further inspection, however, something became remarkably clear: Psychlona is not a middling band. The result? Mojo Rising makes a colorful addition to this year’s coffer of pleasant surprises. While this groovy outfit from northern England does feel, at times, like the aforementioned Foo,’ their sonic radius is actually fairly large, & they possess the ability to reach beyond obvious influences.
Take, for example, the back halves on Big River & Burning Cave, which both sound like Jethro Tull & Merlin (referring to band and warlock both, I suppose) had a multigenerational lovechild. Down In The Valley, a slightly cautious shroomy celebration, (This is the valley where the fungi grew/don’t overdo it boy, just try a few,) exudes that fuzz-bathed early Truckfighters vibe to a tee. Black Dog has that groovy 1000mods riffage similarly pegged, before breaking into a mean solo that remains both appealingly trippy & assuredly grounded. A common pattern here is for the back half of each track to revert into instrumentality, which, while always pleasing, eventually turns monotonous--granted, this from the perspective of decidedly sober critic.
In a similar vein, towards the end of Mojo Risings’ 45 minute length, the tracks become less distinct, & thus less memorable, with little variation in tempo. With that said, this is more a critique of the subgenre in question--ultimately, this Sleeping Villager remains suitably impressed by Psychlona’s abilities, both instrumental & compositional. While the album cover honestly tells a pretty accurate story, this outfit still has some secrets. Despite Ripple Music’s already stacked roster, Mojo Rising is certainly unique enough to merit worthy addition. Recommended both to fans of the genre, & to those of you looking to try a fresh-faced band on for size.
Released Nov. 9th via Ripple Music
Psychlona can be found:
The process of reviewing a split is informed by an intrinsic complexity, when compared to an album or EP proper. On one level, a split relies on both band’s individual abilities to deliver the goods. On another, however, a split is also dependent on the interaction between the bands, their capacity to communicate with the other in a shared environment to create a mutually beneficial experience for themselves & the audience. In an ideal situation, the two sides either serve to concretely reaffirm the other (such as this year’s Vastum/Spectral Voice EP), or to expand upon their counterpart by presenting a foil. A good example of the latter might be Windhand’s recent split with Satan’s Satyrs, or Iron Reagan’s work with Gatecreeper. In both cases, the sonic quality each band brings is distinct, but the entire package has an utterly unique quality, greater than the sum of its parts. This is the arena in which a split will tailspin or triumph. It is with visceral joy that Sleeping Village confirms: Coffin Rot & Molder work together with a grisly voracity.
Both bands contribute three tracks--two originals & a well-curated cover each. First up is the Rottin’ Coffin, whose demo EP released earlier this year has been re-appearing in my rotation with a respectable resilience. Putting the “Old Skool” in OSDM, these Oregonian underground plague merchants display an instant maturity. Living Cremation brings the rabidity, & the significantly lengthier Unmarked Shallow Grave contains distinct movements, a sure sign of sophistication in the death metal universe if e’er there was. Their cover of Hung, Drawn, and Quartered brings plenty of grit, maintaining an exfoliating intensity in the guitar department that rivals Cancer’s original--a feat in & of itself. Here, Hayden Johnson’s vocal quality is particularly forthright & (dare I say) repugnant. The strongest suit of an already disturbingly competent cover.
Purveyors of the B Side, Molder are no less grisly in their offerings. Indeed, their approach feels more primitive than their counterpart’s. While Coffin Rot is digging up bodies with a steam shovel, Molder resorts to using their ragged fingernails. The result is a welcome contrast, a lo-fi expression of underground death. Across the split as a whole, Condemned to the Catafalque is a standout track, due in large to the simplistic belfry-burning riff & Aaren Pantke’s straight-to-the-point distressed bark. The general approach is one of few excesses--this is death metal reduced to the essentials, exemplified especially in their version of (the aptly titled) Repulsive Death, by fellow Chicagoans Morgue.
Sonically, of course, there are distinctions between the two. Coffin Rot’s production is as ripe as, well, a rotting corpse, whereas Molder’s half sounds like it has been pulled from the locked jaws of a dusty cadaver. In other words, Side A sounds like compost, Side B sounds like a crypt. The latter has the appeal of a hand-me-down cassette, with strangled dynamics & a dry tonality. This, combined with the breakdown on Sulker, evokes a certain DIY punk aesthetic. With a tendency for rumbling monotony, neither crosses the threshold of professional production, but if this isn’t appealing to you as a listener, we here at the Sleeping Village suspect you might have stumbled into the wrong neighborhood.
The world of underground death metal pulls few punches, but all to often flounders in derivation. While the covers of classics are the primary commercial draw here, Coffin Rot & Molder add a whiff of fresh air into the formula by way of sheer energy. In some ways, it’s odd to associate such a violent form of metal with a feeling of jubilation, but fans of underground death will undoubtedly pick up what I’m layin’ down. Listening to this split is an absolute grin-inducing joy, made only more enjoyable by each band’s tendency to highlight a different aspect of the fetid death metal aesthetic. If we can expect this kind of music from both Coffin Rot & Molder in the future, we’re in for a treat. Standing before you are, undoubtedly, the genre’s forthcoming (lich) kings. Highly recommended!
Every once in a blue moon there’s a piece of music--&, even more rarely, an album--that truly transcends the bounds of genre convention. We’re talkin’ a genuinely innovative work that throws our system of categorization into a well-deserved state of catastrophe. The latest effort from Swedish doom-mongers Domkraft is not such an album, but thank heavens for that. Us devotees of the riff, frankly, don’t need another altar at which to worship. While obviously not as foundational to the genre status quo as, say, their influences of Monolord or YOB-ian magnitude, Domkraft’s sound is a monolithic distillation of modern doom.
Flood is generally defined by thick hypnotic riffs, howl-into-the-void vocals, & a willingness to meander into the astral fuzz-regions. Predictably, the prominence of the riffage is a key component, with the aforementioned Monolord being a close comparison in terms of sheer heft & undulation. This tone is suitably massive, yet ebbs with regularity, leaving pockets of breathing room before folding back in with a restrained density. There’s no violence in this fuzzy embrace. It's not crushing, nor smothering. This particular flood is a slow ordeal, and the most memorable tracks are often an exercise in intelligent reiteration of the central riff.
The danger in constructing a fortress on repetition is, of course, dependence on the audience’s persistence. Here, this is seldom an issue. Despite lengthy passages, it never feels like Domkraft are dragging their feet--or worse, beating a riff to death. Sometimes it feels as though everything has been done in the world of low ‘n’ slow axemanship, but Flood is far from stagnation. Perhaps it's more a credit to the strength of the songwriting, but on album highlights such as “Landslide” & the title track, these riffs are as fresh as the morning dew. Martin Wegeland’s ethereal voice, while an used trope at this stage in the game, has an instantaneously likeable quality. Not quite strained, not quite nonchalant. Given its deliberate depth in the mix, a lack of power is inevitable in the delivery, & towards the latter tracks the vocals are the only element that feels in need of variety. That said, the echo effect, while far from subtle, is a smart way to lean into the more spacey passages.
Domkraft are masters of development--the gradual shift in tempo across “Sandwalker” from a sludgy crawl to a (relative) franticism being a prime example. A nice break in the expected formula arrives mid-album in the form of “They Appear To Be Alive,” their most overtly space-rock oriented piece to date. Even, however, taking such psychedelic tangents into consideration, Flood is a hefty slab of doom, through & through.
As a statement of pure dedication to their genre wheelhouse, Domkraft have done themselves proud. In sum, this isn’t an introduction to doom. As an example of the genre’s staying power, however, Flood is one of the finest examples of its ilk I have encountered this year.
Flood was released October 19, 2018 from Blues Funeral Recordings.
Domkraft can be found at Bandcamp.