Written by: Blackie Skulless
On Hallow’s Eve, the newly formed label Wise Blood Records, based out of Indianapolis, dropped one of the hottest albums in the occult rock circle. Vexing Hex summons phantoms from the rural graves of Illinois, and their first full-length record Haunt is as strong as it is captivating. Though the cover may lead you to expect something extreme, this is actually a full-plunge into the calmer world that bands like Ghost have been dishing out.
With that in mind, you can expect everything to be injected with spooky instrumentation and clear vocal articulation. The classic horror film auras surround the keyboard and electric organ passages, which are built around rather mean riffs. To top it off, your vocals get a layer of howls and moans to back up what already feels very concise, getting a bit operatic at times. What helps Vexing Hex’s approach stand out is the suspense factor that doesn’t lead into anything overly intense. Instead, drops of doom metal influence come in.
Huge thanks to the illustrious Chris Latta for penning this guest review! If yer unfamiliar, Chris writes at Ghost Cult Magazine and makes music via epic doom outfit Lavaborne and acoustic project Christopher Steve.
Written by Chris Latta
I feel like Alice In Chains may be one of the more understated influences in the realm of doom, sludge, and stoner metal. The Seattle legends may have been grouped with the grunge movement, but their emphasis on crushing riffs and debilitating misery gave them more in common with the likes of Saint Vitus or Type O Negative than their contemporaries in Nirvana or Pearl Jam. With this in mind, it only makes sense for Magnetic Eye Records to release another one of their signature tribute albums covering what could be considered the band’s most impactful release.
What makes Dirt (Redux) particularly interesting compared to other tributes of this nature is how much liberty the bands have taken with their chosen songs. There are plenty of bands whose covers adhere to the originals as closely as possible, but a good majority of songs on here either exaggerate previously unexplored aspects or even sound like songs that the bands could’ve written themselves. This does make for a less cohesive listen and the overall effect is less viscerally personal than the original, but those are to be expected with any song-by-song recreation.
Written by: Volt Thrower
Drainbow! No, it's not a psychedelic effect of household cleaning supplies, it’s the eclectic, ambitious project of solo act extraordinaire Nick Sarcophagus, who brings us his debut long player The Tower of Flints. A dark twisting journey of extremities, whether it be the bounds of genre, or the limits of nature's capacity to sustain, viewed through the lens of her most vulnerable inhabitants. “To the victor the spoils," which just so happens to be whoever lays ears on this record.
I love it when an album's cover art perfectly encapsulates the sound found within, and this is a great example. A tip of the cap to Sarah Allen Reed for another work of art, really summing up the beautiful yet harsh reality of the natural world surrounding us. From its most tranquil moments of animal calls and keys, to its most frenetic of wails and galloping progressions, the story is to be found within the walls of said art.
Written by: The Administrator
Like many of our music-blogging contemporaries, this particular scribe does, indeed, fuck with Soundgarden. As luck would have it, I also fuck with Vancouver's ever-evolving Seer, whose latest effort, Vol. 6, caught eyes of several Villagers with its dark and delicate take on doom. Thus, finding out that the two have been combined by way of glorious tribute was enough to elicit a (rare) grin on this three year anniversary of Chris Cornell's death. Seer's cover of "Room A Thousand Years Wide" is a heartfelt homage to one of their most beloved heroes--and, beyond that, it's a damn good track.
Let's get to it, shall we?
In the expansive metalverse, doom is my first love. When a band delivers a fat Iommi riff drenched in the fog of genre convention, I am content to sit, passively, in the palm of their momentarily almighty hand.
What ye may not know about this particular scribe is that, in addition to the doom, I also encountered a pretty sizable grunge period in my late teens. Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, et. al. were the name of the game, and the tropes associated with those melancholic wells still run deep in my musical preferences. Thus, when the two combine in unholy matrimony, my cold heart inevitably warms and weeps. This sentiment, of course, leads us to the track before us now--CELLARDOOR’s excellent debut single, released today.
Once I know something about a musician’s character, separating that knowledge from the fruits of their labor can be, well, a laborious affair. In the case of Red Beard Wall, that certainly isn't a bad thing. Judging from our interactions, I have gathered that whatever the red-bearded frontman Aaron Wall does, he does with the utmost enthusiasm and fervor. Take, for example, his online comments, which remain an ALL HAIL hailstorm of goat and flame emojis. His persona’s omnipresence feels remarkably sincere, and is always realized with noteworthy vivacity--which, in turn, results in a unique sound solidly founded on glorious zeal. Less we get too highfalutin, let me state the obvious: Red Beard Wall is also really fucking weird. Rest assured, this slumbering villager likes weird. Weird is what gets me up in the morning, and The Fight Needs Us All is the epitome of this oddball brand I have come to wholeheartedly enjoy.
Several months back we ran a brief review of “The Warming,” lead single from the Wall’s sophomore effort. While recycling may be in bad form, these are words I stand by: “Red Beard Wall 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...this is sludge rock at its best--thick, unique, and relentlessly repeatable. It’s a rabble-rouser, a neck-snapper.” At the time, “The Warming” seemed a distillation of the components that make this project so special...and now, given wider vision, I consider it the focal point of the album. No question: “The Warming” is truly the hottest track amongst a cabal of barn-burners.
The obvious first stop on the road to dissecting the Red Beard Wall methodology is the two-tongued vocal style, split between throat-wrenching screams and along-the-riff cleans. It’s a real Jekyll/Hyde situation, and throughout the album, Wall continually pulls off the odd juxtaposition with a delightfully bludgeoning grace. While contrasting vocals certainly aren’t new in the world of sludge nor rock, there is little out there that demonstrates a similarly visceral approach. And while this dichotomy has always been the outfit’s strongest suit, both forms of delivery have improved significantly from debut in several ways. The screams are increasingly savage, in the pent-up-animal sense of the word. Conversely, Wall’s cleans are employed with increased regularity, adding a much-needed melodic focus to the pummeling riffs.
The guitar itself is utterly sasquatchian--never floundering in whimsy, but remaining rooted in straightforward groove. There’s glimmers of influence here, from the scuzzy heft of early Bill Kelliher, to the head-bopping flow of Siamese Dream-era Billy Corgan. Thick and heavy, the guitar remains a cornerstone for the vocal acrobatics. The back-to-back punch of “Come On Down” and “To My Queen” is a prime example of this technique in practice. And! Lest they be forgotten, the militaristic drums match the riffage in terms of aggression and sheer weight, pound-for-pound. Viewed as a whole, The Fight Needs Us All is a bloody bout, rather than an exercise in instrumental harmony.
The album is compulsively listenable and endlessly enjoyable, yet from a songwriting perspective, there are some oddly paradoxical challenges. The general structure is unique, but that uniqueness doesn’t indicate an overly sophisticated plane of songwriting. This results in a number of Side-B moments recalling--perhaps too strongly--that which came before. Realistically, a weird approach becomes less weird each time you hear it, and for this reason, some variety throughout would accent the potency of Red Beard Wall’s core motif. That said, existing breaks in the formula do contribute significantly to the beginnings of a balance. The doomy instrumental ambiance of “Reverend.” The slower moments of “Tell Me The Future of Existence,” which recalls early Mastodon at their most somber--think “Trilobite.” The alt-rock pace at which clean vocals passages weave between riffs on the aforementioned “Ode to Green.” Given Wall’s obvious ability to seamlessly break (and subsequently bridge) genre expectations, I’m hopeful that the future bodes well for continued experimentation. A wall may be stationary by definition, but with two high-quality albums at this stage, Red Beard Wall is dealing with the kind of structural stability that allows for flourishes. Y’know, ramparts and gargoyles and shit.
The Fight Needs Us All builds on the promise Red Beard Wall previously displayed, and, for the sake of comparison, this album has spent more time pummeling my eardrums than any other this month. It’s ridden with meaty hooks and melodic swells. It’s relentlessly repeatable, passionately aggressive...and just off-kilter enough to merit a double-take. As the soundtrack to a purported revolution, it remains as invigorating as ever.
In sum? Red Beard Wall requests--nay, demands--your presence at the fight. All Hail!
Red Beard Wall - The Fight Needs Us All was released Feb. 22nd from Argonauta Records.
Whilst compiling, cross-referencing, and copy-editing the Great Year End List of ‘18, the walls of our slumbering Village were battered by the tides of death and doom. As a result, some calmer tides are in order, and those gentle swells are brought to us today in the form of a single from Austin’s own A Good Rogering. Described briefly (if...not inaccurately) as “non-metal,” Out Of Reach demonstrates a stark contrast to AGR’s typical brand of eclectically raucous heavy rock. 2017’s EP, the ridiculously enjoyable and irreverently entitled This Is Death Metal, sets a much more electric tone. This release, as with AGR’s prior work is groovy, bouncy, and wonderfully off-kilter. Wearing the aesthetics of feel-good heavy rock on their sleeves, this outfit was seemingly slotted into a singular Primus-meets-Manowar category of their own.
Out of Reach, then, is a stark change, yet not unwelcome. In the same way that both Alice In Chains and The Smashing Pumpkins are instantly recognizable by their uncanny ability to provide well-written tracks across the spectrum from crunchy to acoustic, AGR proves that they have an apparent bevy of tricks up their sleeves. Here, the Alice In Chains comparison feels particularly apt, as the vocal delivery adopts a certain laid-back Staley vibe. The track builds in intensity, but never breaks into blustery rock ‘n’ roll rodomontade. A true testament to AGR’s ability to write a compelling tune. The vocal melodies are plenty hooky, no hefty riffs necessary. Much like the grunge of my childhood, Out Of Reach scratches that introspective, melancholic itch quite handily. The acoustics are presented with a competent grace, the chorus is a real earworm, and the lyrics, while suitably dark, remain comforting. All is well.
AGR is due for an album this coming year, and if it manages to balance the quiet emotive numbers such as this with their more heavy-handed side, I will be suitably impressed. With that said, Out Of Reach hasn’t left rotation for weeks, and with songwriting this good, I can expect the best. Our recommendation? Check it out on spotify, post-haste.
A Good Rogering can be found:
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!