Post-metal is an intrinsically fickle beast. While a more forgiving genre such as sludge or death can exist--and flourish--simply on the merits of its particularly bombastic nature, post-metal consistently toes a line between repression and expulsion. While this particularly sleepy-eyed Village isn’t that well versed in the post-metal ‘verse, I do know this: a band must walk that line with grace, displaying both self-reflective ambiance and explosive catharsis, the inevitable result of an emotional and sonic bottleneck. How, then, does the band in question handle to pressure? Dawn Fades are a mighty quintet based out of LA, and prior to their debut, the reputable immersive nature of their live performances served as a calling card. While this may be their first release, these fellas are markedly professional and mature in their craft. I’m happy to report that when Dawn Fades commits to emotive bombast, they blow the walls out.
While these moments of catharsis are few, they define the album’s ability to maintain interest and immersion. Buildup is everything, and Dawn Fades’ true strength is their ability to maintain interest through the more ambient, acoustic, and otherwise gentle passages, while simultaneously knowing how and when to strike without isolating or boring their audience. If that isn’t a success story, what is? Gentle and often near-elusive guitar sets the stage, and well-considered use of cleans and harshly blackened rasps provide a barometer for intensity. None of this feels contrived or--gasp--overly academic.
Take the periodic brief pauses in instrumentation on Ashes, a track that slowly grew to become a favorite. While another band might have used this as a chance to showcase an animistic screech, or another suitably violent vocal exorcism, Dawn Fades elects for a subtle silence. In interrupting the pattern, it helps the song as a whole catch an (occasional) jagged breath. As a result, attention is focused. Quite smart. Moments like this, which frequent the album, seem particularly well constructed for a live environment, where the audience can be pulled and manipulated through a tangible atmosphere.
From a critical perspective, the drums, which significantly define the motion of the album throughout, could use more heft--while light on their feet, they generally lack punch. That said, the crunchier tracks--such as lead single Freeze--feel particularly massive in comparison. More concretely, the utilization of lyric-less cleans in Shackle seem slightly out of place given the prior sophistication of atmospherics. Considering the overall achievement here, minor complaints. On a personal level, Dawn Fades was very much worth the expedition into unfamiliar genre waters. If you are a fan of post-metal--or perhaps similarly uninitiated--this debut will undoubtedly prove an intriguing and satisfyingly immersive experience.
Dawn Fades will be released February 8th from Metal Assault Records. In the meantime, we here at the Sleeping Village highly recommend you bend your ear in the direction of Lean and Freeze. Solid singles both, and a strong introduction to Dawn Fades’ uniquely precise line in the sand between introspection and violent spectacle.
Well, this is refreshing. Typically, when promo proclaims that a band represents a "bold new take" on a traditional, well-trod style, you can expect the same: yet another forgettable "revitalization" of a sound and aesthetic that has been done to death, reanimated, and then slaughtered by copycats once more. In the case of Tzimani, the status quo is effectively put in its place. Despite sparking synapses associated with a variety of high-octane hard rock and metal birthed in the days of yore, this self titled debut EP genuinely feels fresh-faced. Pull on your leather, put the pedal to the metal, and smell the gasoline: Tzimani begins with menacing distortion, a rumbling engine of Mad Max-ian proportion.
Modern trad metal works best when A. the songwriting feels like it has been dredged from the past, and B. the musicianship sounds like the result of decades worth of practice. Here, the brotherly duo--frontman Eddie Vazquez and drummer Sebastian Vazquez--are certainly beyond their years in terms of skill. The instrumentality is remarkably tight for such untested newcomers, and the writing reflects an unprecedented maturity. These seem like tracks resulting from years of failure and eventual triumph. Take, for example, We Are the Ones, a blazing number that begs for repeat listens. It’s catchy as hell, with appropriately corny lyrics and a lot of gleeful rock ‘n’ roll presence. This is all due to a predictable structure, but Tzimani aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here, so much as play tunes that would have undoubtedly filled stadiums--had they the good fortune to be released 30 years earlier. Drums are tight and precise, the bass is audible enough to leave a sizable impact, and the vocals are surprisingly flexible. Eddie has a decent range, and he isn’t afraid to throw some vaguely Hagar-influenced inflection into the triumphant refrains.
While Tzimani is impressive on all counts, the nail in the coffin of this EP’s success is the brilliant display of axemanship. Face-melting solos, finger-blistering arpeggios, and a Skull Fist’d shred’s-not-dead approach to riffage is worth the price of admission alone. While never flying off the handle or stooping to mere wankery, a vibrant enthusiasm for flashy displays of technique is evident in Eddie’s highly skilled fretwork. The solos absolutely rip--'nuff said. His ability to craft galloping NWOBHM tinged riffs and licks with a distinct sneering competency a la Motley Crue, and the earworm sensibilities of the aforementioned Skull Fist--or perhaps Def Leppard--is truly something to behold. There's definitely a little Maiden in there as well, which only adds to the splendor.
Originality is always going to come into question, and while this all feels necessarily familiar, it doesn’t feel, well, done. The Crue Connection, for example, is most apparent in closer Get Me Out Of Here, which recalls Kickstart My Heart's central theme, yet comfortably reinforces Tzimani’s (already established) trademark: balls-to-the-wall momentum. This track proves that these guys aren't here to let off the gas and coast in the strength of a couple tracks, allowing listeners to flounder in the filler and fluff so often associated with this brand of hard rock. To be frank, there isn't a track here that would seem out of place as a high-octane radio single.
It sounds cliche, but the greatest weakness of this EP is just that--it’s only an EP. When Tzimani drop an album proper, they are undoubtedly going to become recognized as a force to reckon with in the face of revitalized American metal. This monster has swiftly climbed the list into my top 5 EP’s of 2018 (spoiler!) and thus comes highly, highly recommended.
Here at the (less-than) gilded halls of the Sleeping Village, us highfalutin peasantry have a certain appreciation for potential. There’s something endlessly exciting about coming across something that bodes well--be it a band who have steadily improved across a bevy of albums, or a demo that hints, not so subtly, of greater things to come. Today, we examine the curiously entitled Querent ov Self, a demo EP from one-man-black-metal-band Mortem Cultum. Lest ye be confused, Mortem Cultum’s first effort falls squarely in the latter category: this intriguing little demon of an demo reeks of potential. Over two days of intense listening (involving a feverish nap, no less!) I’m quite convinced that this outfit’s next endeavors are, without a doubt, going to do their fair share of damage.
This all isn’t to say that Querent ov Self doesn’t stand up on its own feet, free of future projections. Built on a foundation of simple yet bone-rattling riffage, ghastly rasps, and drums that lend a certain rolling thunder to the proceedings, the tracks presented here exude a jubilant momentum. Even acoustic closer Manifestations in Scorpius I avoids stagnation--compared to its blackened predecessors, it’s a gentle current, but a current nonetheless. Forward motion is crucial, especially so in the confines of a stereotypically oppressive and heavy-handed genre. Across the first three tracks, I’m reminded of the adage that black metal is just surf rock with distortion. This should by no means be taken negatively, ‘cause damn, surf rock is catchy as hell. Eternal Blasphemy, in particular, has a delightfully bouncy braggadocio. Compulsively listenable. Not, let it be known, a bad quality. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
There are certainly improvements to be made, of course, but nothing so absurd that a little extra attention the next time around won’t help smooth over. While vocals are generally a strong suit, there are several odd moments on Journey to Agartha where the sneering delivery vaguely reminds of College Humor’s overblown take on Batman’s phlegm-ridden rasp. A mite distracting, but not enough to derail an otherwise crushing track. On a similar note, transitions between riffs and passages are occasionally marred by a certain abruptness, but over time, as Mortem Cultum’s production garners additional attention, this issue ultimately seems of little concern. Generally, the mix feels appropriately muddy, given the fetid underground from which Querent ov Self crawls. Much like our attachment to the hand-me-down cassette aesthetic in genres such as speed or thrash metal, an imprecise production job is practically what this particular brand of black requires.
An epic quality pervades the demo as a whole--a fitting soundtrack, perhaps, for the impishly demonic figure featured on the cover. For black metal, it’s punky in execution, adventurous, and pleasantly light-hearted. For black ‘n’ roll, it’s sharp and just a little bit dastardly. Querent ov Self is a regrettably brief ride--I really can’t get enough. Needless to say Mortem Cultum exudes the potential we villagers crave. Highly recommended.
Lest the masses be confused:
I am decidedly an album guy. A truly well-conceived arrangement of tracks, designed with the explicit purpose of flowing and interlocking with deliberate grace--for me, this is the holy grail of the music-listening experience. With that said, this month has been all about the singles, evidenced best by the number of goddamn times I’ve hit repeat on Red Beard Wall’s (certifiably) unstoppable latest.
For those of you not in the know, RBW plays a wickedly cacophonous brand of sludge
--a brutal slugfest between the hooky pseudo-melodic stylings of Torche or Helmet, and the bayou groove of NOLA’s finest. Here, the formula hasn’t changed all that much, thank the lord. Given past experiences I went in expecting a lot, and this track absolutely brings it in the execution department, due in large to the multifaceted vocal delivery. Raspy roars one moment, chant-along-the riff cleans the next. It’s a delicious recipe, to be sure, accented by crunchy, head-bopping riffage and some absolutely crushing work in the percussion department. This is sludge rock at its finest--thick, unique, and relentlessly repeatable. It’s a rabble-rouser, a neck-snapper. As a single, The Warming does its job...inordinately well.
Red Beard Wall’s (excellent, I assure you) sophomore album, The Fight Needs Us All, releases February 22nd from Argonauta Records. Full review shall follow in good time. In the meantime, we Villagers, effectively woken from our slumber, highly recommend you find your way over to that preorder.
Red Beard Wall can be found:
Despite Homme’s declaration that Kyuss was inspired more by Black Flag than the progenitors and perfectors of psychedelic heavy rock--say, Blue Cheer or Black Sabbath--the desert rock scene’s worship of the amp and riff are surely tied to the ingenuity of early doomsters. 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, in some fashion, the Sabbathian mantle. Today we review Electric Mountain’s s/t debut, straight outta Mexico City on the wings of inspirations aplenty. Welcome to Sabbath Sunday.
At this point in the Sleeping Village’s doomy coverage, it feels a little cliche to declare, but here goes: Electric Mountain doesn’t deal in subtilty. Borrowing Kyuss’ thick riffs and Orange Goblins aggressive percussive flair, this meaty and otherwise fuzz-tastic take on the belov’d stoner rock template remains a highly enjoyable listen, despite zero intention of breaking the mold. And yes, I can harp on the unoriginality here, but while the formula remains consistent, there really isn’t a bad track on this slab. Upon many repeated listens, Going Under and Green Mountain Side are clear standouts, especially if you’re particularly diggin’ the crunchy Black Pyramid vibes. Into the Maelstrom provides that crisp mid-album acoustic flavor, and Free Woman/Space Rocket provide that feisty one-two punch in the album’s early stages. This is a lesson in hookiness--with riffs characterized by near-sensual groove and a near-impenetrable haze, fuzz idolatry is the name of the game.
Gib’s filtered vocals are distance and tinged with a forthright familiarity, serving as an effective sidekick to his joyously energetic guitar. Bouncing from riff to lick and back again, there are no slow moments here. While the occasional riff does recall earlier tracks, each song has its own unique identity. Electric Mountain as a whole squarely hits the mark in terms of length--long enough to satisfy, brief enough to incite a round of questioning: what will they deliver next?
If your relationship with rock of the overt desert and psychedelic varieties can be qualified as mere flirtation, Electric Mountain might not be the introduction necessary to sway you over into the riff-filled land. That said, fans of the genre with undoubtedly find this debut a significantly worthwhile affair.