Only one (praiseworthy) release to their name, and Richmond's own Conductor have already thrown a bit of a wrench in my typical review-writing process. Generally, when encountering an artist for the first time, inevitable questions arise that then allow for further analysis. Why does this music work (or not work, for that matter) in it's current state? Conductor neatly bypass this part of the process by providing two versions of their debut EP: one with vocals, and one without. Thus, the primary question that arose whilst enjoying Icarus--namely, does this brand of doom afflicted post-metal work best in a purely instrumental form--was answered by default. More on that later, though. Before we get too far into the weeds, let's talk about just how goddamn impressive Conductor are.
Icarus is an effortless journey through genre boundaries. While the majority of the 23 minutes contained herein are of the post-metal variety--expansive, voluminous, and otherwise exploratory--a distinct aggression remains a constant presence, whether lurking on the fringes or launching inward with a blackened bite. The former aspect is comparable to the softer moments of Amenra, Pallbearer, or early Sumac; the latter, perhaps, of Mizmor's abrasive edge. And yet, while they never sound directly comparable or derivative, they are in good company execution-wise. They command a delicate balance between clean and harsh vocals, between melodious exploration and emotive pugilism. And while the blackened bent is used sparingly throughout, it hits hard when called into play.
Conductor demonstrates a keen ability to move between gentle and harsh in a way that reminds me of Omega Massif's dynamism. Look to "Go to the Mast at Dawn" for a prime example of the subtle buildup and sheer cathartic release that these guys are capable of. Genre melding aside, that ability to construct a foundation and then knock it out with one massive blow is central to their songwriting chops. Indeed, this is what gives the opening track such a professional and emotionally satisfying feel. Even given their status as a doom-adjacent band, they aren't entirely focused on the riffs, but yet riffs are central to the buildup and subsequent release. Icarus opens with a nuanced and sophisticated track, and if I wasn't aware, I would have assumed this was the product of a much more mature outfit.
Most notable is the earworm quality Icarus maintains. As those who are forced to live with me may attest, I've been breaking into (horrendously out-of-tune, but heartfelt nonetheless) refrains of O Captain! My Captain! for the better part of a month. "Go to the Mast at Dawn" sticks in my head with a fierce and unpredictable tenacity, and if a track manages to hold on for so long, buffeted about by the current of a thousand promos, it's a great song, plain n' simple. The longing-yet-furious "Catch Me" has a similar effect, with each precious refrain sinking teeth deep. I wish it were a longer track simply so more of those choruses could weasel their way in, and as one who worships brevity in songwriting like no other, that's saying something. Post-metal lives (and dies) by its memorability, and Icarus has memorability in spades.
The aforementioned question regarding the role of vocals--or lack thereof--is raised by the title track itself. Whereas the vocal delivery on the bookends is fairly impeccable, "Icarus" represents a bit of a falter. The pseudo spoken word delivery, while intriguing from a narrative perspective, ultimately doesn't flow with the instrumentation. It's an awkward bump in an otherwise stellar track, and, as a result, this track flows better on the instrumental version of the EP--especially given the brilliant back half, which is a harrowing and emotive journey in its own right. That said, the remaining two tracks are heightened wondrously by their respective vocal accompaniment, and on their respective instrumental tracks, feel otherwise incomplete.
There's room for improvement in Conductor's approach, but it's worth iterating that this improvement need not come across the board. The first track here is a true standout, a prime example of the massive potential they are packing. And, as always, a little more heft in the bass department wouldn't go amiss. But all told, Conductor have a lot on this not-so-Icarian post-metal platter to be proud of. They fly high, but never plummet. Given their penchant for dynamic innovation, I'm very curious to see what they come up with next. Conductor "hopes that anyone who stumbles upon Icarus will feel something from its intense 3-song exhibition." From this particular villager: mission accomplished, and then some.
Conductor's excellent Icarus was released May 2019.
This review is brought to you courtesy of a good friend of the Sleeping Village--the one 'n' only Brian from Metalhead World. If you aren't familiar, MHW is swiftly becoming a top-notch hub for underground metal reviews, interviews, news, and other assorted miscellany. If you happen to stumble over there after imbibing deep of 1782's doomy offerings, we certainly wouldn't mind. Without further ado:
1782's single "She Was A Witch" caught the attention of a lot of people and swept the doom metal scene like a storm. In the 4 months since, 1782 was quickly signed to Heavy Psych Sounds, released two more singles that introduce their fuzzy riff driven sound and a theme of evil and macabre. It all culminates into the release of 1782's self titled debut.
I awaited this album since it's announced production. I can honestly say that when I first heard the first single, I was so taken aback by it (in a good way), I thought it might be a side project and Scott Ian would have a "gotcha" moment on the album premier. I jokingly expressed this to Marco Nieddu (24moons / Raikinas), the mind behind not only 1782, but also popular doom metal indie label Electric Valley Records, who assured it was the real deal.
The story behind the band name is as follows: In 1782 Anna Goldi was condemned and was subsequently tortured and killed in the process. Anna Goldi's case was the last known Witchcraft trial documented in Europe.
So you know what 1782 is about. How about the album?
As the intro sets the theme of a dark bonfire with church bells (all sounding very authentic), "Night of Draculia" kicks in with a nice fuzzed blend, yet it sounds very crisp. The groove in the breakdown of this and Marcos' distorted vocals set the tone of this album perfectly, but when you hear "The Spell - Maleficium Vitae", you get grabbed and sent strait to hell through the rest of the entire album and you feel it strait to your soul. When the chanting kicks in on The Spell, you realize the energy in this album is effective. And maybe at one point, it might even be a bit much for those that aren't evil purists at heart who might see this as a classy, yet more evil efforts some may have heard in regards to music dealing with the occult.
And that is a bold yet genuine statement from this writer. I personally loved every moment.
We get a cleaner and more polished version of "She Was A Witch" with guest Gabriel Fiori of Black Rainbows which I thought turned out exactly like it should. I was wondering how this would turn out and I was very satisfied with the result.
"Black Sunday" has a riff where the pitch bends, and give a nice demonic sound.
"Oh Mary" is a single many already know. This to me was what set the tone as far as what 1782 is about. With the lyric video you get the idea throughout this album of 1782 doing a show in this very setting. Very classy. Very vintage. Very occult-ic. And the sense of evil is welcoming instead of fearful.
The album closes out with the tracks "1782" and "Celestial Voices," which go out in true fashion for the band. With a hooky and groove driven riff and dark wavering organs straight from Mother Earth herself, this predominant two-song instrumental leaves one last carbon footprint of energy that leaves you wanting more after seeing what this two piece outfit is truly capable of. It just feels good and releasing. These are the type of songs that you would spend alone time with that evil demon of a human in your life.
With the hallmark Sabbath-laden riffs that we have come to know and love, some innovative songwriting (that bass outro in "The Spell"), vocals strait from Satan himself, and percussion beating like a wild heart, 1782 takes it way further than I expected. The songwriting accomplishes everything it was setting out to do as far as the energy involved with an album such as this. Marco did a fabulous job in every step of this masterpiece.
Marco doesn't get all the credit as Gabriele Fancellu played a significant role in providing a wide array of drum work that I would compare to Mark Greening as far as style is concerned. This truly adds the element of magic in this album. Gabriele's efforts on this album is appreciated as it would not be nowhere near the same feel without it.
I thought the self titled Black Sabbath track was one of the creepiest, scariest, dripping with evil, tracks that contained yet a certain type of class and sophistication in the song. I can honestly say 1782 may in the running with this entire album.
The thing about 1782's album, though, is that it's not just an album you play like you would Slipknot or even classics like Pantera. This is an album you listen to at night, preferably early morning, candles lit, lights dimmed or off and just let the energy this half hour album gives take hold and release your inner demon.
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.
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry