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
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.
Sorry to break it to ye, hopeful peasantry: life here at the Sleeping Village is, alas, generally a little mundane. Cobblestones must be swept, crude chamber-pots must be chucked from second story windows, plague pits must be dug. Day in, day out. Thus, when something unexpected enters our humble township, must fanfare must be made.
The unexpected article in question? Vol III, the debut album from Kansas City doom rockers Inner Altar. Bearing a minimalist album cover and a distinct lack of adjectives in their promo material, Inner Altar seem like masters of understatement. From the onset, who knew that their debut album contains such an impressively well-conceived and well-articulated breadth of sights and sounds?
Vocally, Inner Altar’s approach reminds, fairly significantly, of Domkraft’s expansive stylings. Howl-into-the-void vocals are certainly coming into their own as of late, and while the echo and deliberate weightlessness are certainly a continuation of modern doom’s spaced-out leanings, they feel somewhat rooted in the distantly melancholic whine of the immortal Terry Jones, or even early-era Liebling. The Pagan Altar connection doesn’t end there--the momentous central motif on the paganic Altar, for example, would feel at home on a Vol III highlight such as "Undine’s Kiss." It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Inner Altar’s subtle shapeshifting goth-rock tendencies give them an edge in a sea of amp worshipers. While the guitar tone is certainly present, hefty, and otherwise effective, riffs don’t ever feel like the sole focus. Significant attention is given to melody, to percussion, and, most especially, to the transitions between passages. While they never truly approach the post-punk accessibility of, say, The Chameleons, a regard for gothic introspection is apparent across the board, particularly in the refreshing approach to hooks. If you’re looking for more namedrops, Demon Head’s folksy leanings seem fairly apt. But at the end of the day, these guys sound like their own damn band, not a simple knockoff. Credit where credit is due.
Doom lives or dies by its ability to keep things fresh and intriguing. To their great credit, Inner Altar take this challenge in stride, and interesting moments abound. Take, for example, the tempo shifts in "Pagan Rays | Numbered Days." The pseudo-pastoral baroque on "Prelude." The balls-to-the-wall Sabbathian riffage that (appropriately) busts the door and storms in on "Castle Storm." The brief percussive march thrown into "Dethroned & Fugitive," which breaks up plaintive wails and hefty bass with a certain grace. Not to be undone, the title track features a notably aggressive vocal stance. While remaining utterly unlike anything else the album offers, fits the bill incredibly well. Moments like these maintain my vested interest in a given track--and thus, the album as a whole. All told, Vol III consistently displays songwriting that deliberately avoids fatigue. Evoke a gloomy mood without boring your audience: usually much, much harder said than done. Not so here.
The most difficult aspect of reviewing this album has been consideration of its staying power. It’s an unusual conundrum, yet one that garners Inner Altar a net zero negative points. While time spent listening to Vol III is completely satisfying in its immersive quality, I found time after time that as the title track’s droning outro fade, I struggle to remember distinct moments from the album--riffs, hooks, melodies. They seem to exist entirely within the confines of the albums runtime, and while this ultimately makes for a genuinely excellent experience in the moment, there is little that carries over when Inner Altar isn’t actively filling airspace. With that said, a tangible side effect is that the past few weeks have born multiple instances of turning to Vol III, simply because the listening experience is so supremely gratifying in the moment.
With surprising variety in genre influence, and clear attention given to composition, Vol III is a complex album. More than that, it is a distinct triumph. Whatever they are doing down in Kansas City’s doom department is working inordinately well, with Inner Altar being further proof of actualized potential. Vol III is, quite simply, a wonderful effort. Highly recommended.
Inner Altar - Vol III was released Jan. 18th from The Company
Evidently raised on a diet of Twilight Zone reruns, fantasy, monster flicks, and Iommi riffs, Chicago’s Sacred Monster is, first and foremost, a pretty unique outfit. Take the campy and otherwise nerdy jubilance of Gloryhammer, splice it through the sludgy riff-driven aesthetic of Time Traveling Blues-era Orange Goblin, and enjoy the resulting concoction whilst having your molars removed in the damp confines of a medieval dungeon. Ah, hell. Throw in an aggressive vocal tone accented with Them-worthy shrieks for good measure. That (in an appropriately weird nutshell) is what you get with Sacred Monster’s debut LP. Worship the Weird is, without a doubt, the single-most entertaining album I’ve heard this year, and I’m very, very excited for its release on March 1st.
Fear not: We’ll be writing a full review of Worship the Weird in good time. Today, however, is all about lead single High Confessor, which can be streamed below. Taking inspiration from the sneering Sand dan Glokta from Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, the track follows a torturer and his victim through the inevitable grisly affair. “Go ahead,” the protagonist growls in his cruelly contemptuous tone. “Beg God for mercy... but He doesn’t hold the pliers down here.” High Confessor is a track that ratchets up the riff-centric intensity--both thematically and sonically--with shameless abandon. The result? A wildly groovy and aggressive ride.
I could blather all day. But let’s get to the music, shall we? Check out High Confessor...and if you are equally smitten, take it upon yourself to check out that pre-order.
Written by: Vattghern
Time is money. More notably, time is limited. In this modern day and age, for the majority, everything needs to happen fast. I need my news fast, I don't have time to cook, and I especially don't spend time on anything I don't really need to. It's sad, really, but why this pretentiously philosophical monologue to start the review of Zohamah's Spread My Ashes?
Because Zohamah approached their record in similar fashion--which in this case, works in favour of the music. The record is roughly half an hour long and given the type of music that is presented, a more stretched out approach would undoubtedly have taken away much of its charm.
Kicking off things with thunder and stormy rain is new World, and it captures the soundscape of what is to come accordingly. A bit of dissonant black metal, a bit of doomy atmosphere, and some death metal chugging. Genre traits are not bound to exact attributes though, since variety is subtle but noticeable. While Black Cloud is very fast paced, with hints of death metal, the intense vocal performance and tremolo picked melodies across the album scream "black metal."
Given the underlying diversity of influences and styles, some transitions don't work out as they should. At points an abrupt change or not-so-smooth transition occurs, but luckily for the listener, this is more of a rare occurrence.
With a production that gives spotlight to every instrument and a blend of genres that provides the listener with something fresh yet oddly familiar, Spread my Ashes succeeds in most parts. Especially the decision to cut corners where needed, which ultimately forms this into a short but sweet record.
Zohamah -Spread My Ashes will be released Feb. 1st from Redefining Darkness Records
Dirty rock n’ roll--as High n’ Heavy self-describes their genre of choice--invokes a pretty obvious sonic palette: fuzz-ridden guitar, unrestrained bass, cigarette n’ whisky vocals. It’s a form of 70’s worship that works only if you throw yourself wholeheartedly into the aesthetic, and Warrior Queen is a perfect example of that sheer dedication in practice.
With their latest LP, High n’ Heavy creates the medieval equivalent of a biker bar--instead of leather-swaddled Lemmys, picture a crew of six-string wielding knights in rusty armor. If you’re used to clean edges and keen production, look elsewhere. If, however, you like music that remains as fiercely dedicated to the amp as it is to the pipe...your quest is over, friend. High n’ Heavy reminds me of so many different bands from so many different genres, to the extent that listing them all feels, in many ways, counterproductive to actually describing what they sound like. That said, the unrefined edge of early Free or Zeppelin rears a bluesy head, and the Wolfmother vibes are particularly strong, especially in the stylistically overextended vocal delivery. Speaking of vocals, there’s a little bit of Circle Jerk’s gruffness swirling around as well. In terms of the retro scene from which they have spawned, there’s some Killer Boogie in the occasionally boppy riffage, and maybe High Reeper in the general scummy irreverence. Instrumentally, Warrior Queen takes a doomier bent than past outings, with Mike Dudley’s hefty low end bringing the atmosphere to greater depths, and John Steele’s riffage and keys lending the whole affair a deliciously antiquated glow. And while we’re running through the roster, Mr. Perrone keeps things rock-steady whilst maintaining a pleasing presence in the percussion department.
Oftentimes, rock outfits suffer from an unsophisticated spread of talent--in other words, one person clearly rises above the rest. Not so here. As a unit, High n’ Heavy is workmanlike in that everyone seems to contribute substantially to the final product. That said, the vocals are High n’ Heavy’s most unique trait, plain n’ simple. Ranging from the Plant-esque howl of “Grown Tired,” to the punky shouts of “Catapult,” to the discordantly melodic strains of “Lydia,” the variety Kris Fortin brings is impressive, to say the least. A weak moment is evident on the intro to “Join the Day,” where some heavier instrumentation feels necessary to hold his reedy warble, but otherwise, Warrior Queen’s intrinsic rawness is very well balanced.
All told, Warrior Queen is a highly enjoyable album from an understated band, an appropriately grungy dive into the dumpster of rock and stoner trappings. High n’ Heavy’s raw brand is dependent on a certain love for the fundamentally dirty spirit of rock n' roll, and for this commitment alone, I applaud them. Bottom line? This particular villager recommends you strap on your armor, ready your steel, and try the Warrior Queen on for size. While High n’ Heavy don’t smash genre barriers or present monumental songwriting chops, that’s not why they are here. And frankly, that’s not--and forgive me if I'm wrong--why any of us are here either.
High n’ Heavy - Warrior Queen will be released Jan. 25th from Electric Valley Records
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry