Look. In the hunt for excellent heavy metal with which to rudely awaken our slumbering populace, we're well aware that some genres, by nature, aren't...how shall we say. Subtle in their execution?
The nasty blackened thrash/speed metal/punk conglomerate brokered by Wraith is the definition of one such sonic palette. Gloriously exemplified by high-octane riffage, rabid vocals, and a general sense of fun-loving wild abandon, their sophomoric album is an effort as energetic as it is loud. Take opener "Devil's Hour" as a prime example of all that follows: a raucous ride, equal parts deadly and jubilant. Think Midnight, Witchtrap, or perhaps Exciter, all by way of Venom. While the more critical among us would comment on the extreme brevity and the general lack of diversity, I'm here to say, emphatically: who gives a damn? I went into Absolute Power expecting an absolute ripper, and that's exactly what I got. No more, no less. Thank god.
While it may go against convention at our humble Village, I think, in this case, it’s best to let the album artwork do all the talking. Those (techni)colors. That monstrous chain-whipping entity. The iron-clad horde. The font. Need I really break out the thesaurus to describe what Portland’s endlessly entertaining Soul Grinder sounds like? Methinks not. This is heavy metal at its most overt, and, thus, its most...fun. From the massive drums, to the riffs, to the wretch’d screams of April Dimmick (aka Prilzor), The Prophecy of Blight encompasses and exudes the slimy excess--sonic, visual, and thematic--that we fans of the genre crave. Secretly or no. But yet, through the jubilant viscerality, Soul Grinder treat their craft with an earnest and mature confidence.
There are two (non-original) versions of Dolly Parton's immortal "Jolene" that I can, in good faith, recommend. The first is the hauntingly beautiful 45-at-33rpm monstrosity that some madman decided, quite accurately, was a good idea. The second is Turkey Vulture's rompish take on the classic--this track being the b-side to their debut release, which descends on ragged wings at the end of this month.
The joint effort of Jessie May (of Owl Maker) and Jim Clegg (of Lobsterface), Turkey Vulture blends grimy Americana with pedal-to-the-metal...well, metal. The entire 5 minute affair is distinctly flavored with bloody punk rock 'tude, leaning into the unbiased and seemingly belligerent anger of the 90's punk scene. On single "Boxer," Jessie May's abrupt fluctuations between harsh and pseudo-clean vocals sound like the bastardly combination of Lemmy's grit and Poly Styrene's sing-song menace. Meanwhile, rollicking--dare I say bouncy--riffage leads the charge, and Clegg's wild drums lend the affair an appropriately unrestrained maniacism. "Boxer" is a cautionary tale, filled to the brim with a pertinaciously punky verve and vigor.
Promo material cites, among others, Motorhead and Social Distortion; if we're going the route of gritty leather-clad rock + rockabilly pun, Danzig and The Distillers feel like an equally apt comparison. The same can be said of the aforementioned "Jolene," which feels like a wholly unique take on the song we all undoubtedly know and love. It's fast paced, it's startling, and yet it still maintains that hooky Parton charm. This is punk rock operating at it's finest. Lastly on the docket is bandcamp exclusive track "Bee Avenger," a humorous slice o' life in the lives of May and Clegg. It's upbeat, fun, and merits inclusion if only for the grin-inducing goofiness. Punk doesn't do so well when it takes itself too seriously. Turkey Vulture can be angry and still have a good time, and that's nothing to scoff at.
Prognosis? Boxer is, like, 5 minutes. Even if it weren't so short, it would certainly merit your attention, cuz this thing is fun as hell. When Turkey Vulture's next release hits, we'll be waiting.
Turkey Vulture - Boxer will be released June 28th, 2019
As a sobered collective of secularists, the Sleeping Village wouldn’t typically welcome a High Priest into our midst. But here we are: praising, with undisguised zeal, the latest effort from these Chicagoan doom-slingers. Such is the power of the riff. High Priest's forthcoming Sanctum is a wondrously enjoyable release, and we’re honored to spread the good word.
Sanctum is an addictive 4-track slab, a well-conceived coagulation of influences. Promo material cites Alice In Chains, Pallbearer, and Trouble, while additionally recalling the group’s genesis at an Electric Wizard show. These are bold comparisons for an untested crew...but comparisons with which I am very much inclined to agree. While the downtrodden AiC style vocalizations and the swirling Wagner-esque compositions are spot-on, I’d argue that High Priest occupy a surprisingly subtle spot in the doomverse. While undeniably (and characteristically) riff-centric, no track here even begins to feel weighed down or drawn out. While melancholic and sorrowful, Sanctum never wallows or loses its delightful dynamism. And while approaching, at times, NWOBHM’s trademark melodic drive, it never feels excessive, nor does it fly off the rails with reckless abandon. In this sense, High Priest demonstrate the genre-melding abilities of Valkyrie, or perhaps even Desolation-era Khemmis. It’s hard to bring something new to the doom game, but High Priest feel remarkably unique in their tempered approach. Bottom line: this EP displays a very modern edge while simultaneously illustrating a variety of sounds that helped define doom and sludge. Not, my friends, a bad place to be.
Sanctum kicks of with the excellent Descent, which remains, to this Villager’s ear, the best thing these guys have ever written. Here, High Priest is firing on absolutely every cylinder. Militaristic drums, decidedly soulful vocals, expansive-yet-immersive riffs that weave and meld with confidence. The twin guitar approach rips with power and precision, and the chorus is an absolute beast. Descent is on course to become a contender for most played track o’ the year, and for good reason.
Beyond this unabashed display of prowess right outta the gate, Creature and Paradigm reinforce initial assumptions. That is, High Priest know how to write a compelling song. As alluded to before, there is little space for stagnation. The tastiest licks and most rollicking riffs are afforded the perfect amount of time in the spotlight. And while that’s all well and good, the latter track, in particular, displays some notably fantastic work in the percussive department. For a band and genre that inherently places such (deserved) emphasis on the guitars, it’s genuinely wonderful to hear such a strong showing from the drummer. Truly a standout performance. Closer Offering, while displaying a certain Troubleing vibe and strong dynamism in the vocal delivery, does feel a tad long. Given otherwise impressive fat-trimming chops, the back half here does feel slow in comparison. As a whole, however, we’re left with a very well executed package.
As riff-worshipers, you and I are walloped with a lot of doom on a daily basis. Keeping that in mind, it’s fair to say that High Priest are going places. Sanctum comes highly recommended. If you need some convincing, listen to Descent below:
As obnoxious as it is to have people stoically refuse to admit that rock is, in fact, not dead, it's more obnoxious still to have a critic point out how patently absurd that statement is. So I'll refrain from falling down that particular rabbit hole. Needless to say, LA’s Void Vator plays some damn fine rock ‘n’ roll with the best of ‘em, and, from all accounts, they've got nowhere to go but up. With Stranded, their new massive 6-track EP, these boys are currently on the last(ish) leg of a national tour. If there was e’er a time to dust out the cobwebs and get back into chorus slinging high energy rock, yer looking at it.
Biographical material indicates a similarity to bands as diverse as Nirvana, Pantera, Megadeth and Foo Fighters. An eclectic mix, yes, yet oddly accurate. Take quite literally any track here--let’s say Nothing to Lose or the dynamic Put Away Wet, for argument’s sake--and you’ll find the best elements of the aforementioned lurking mere inches below the surface. Bottom line: if you want your rock to have it, Void Vator wears it proudly. Short tracks. Grin-inducing solos. Blatantly air guitar-able riffs, which create and subsequently release kinetic energy like one taking a boltcutter to a tightly wound coil. Straightforward head-bopping groove. Aggressively present drums. Some of the more earwormy vocal melodies I’ve heard in a very long while--and this, I mean genuinely.
“Don’t bore us, get to the chorus,” riffs Grohl in some long-forgotten internet video. Rock may live and/or die by the guitar, but within the genre confines, a band’s staying power is often dependent on the vocalist’s ability to write the kind of chorus that get trapped in your head for days. Here, Void Vator succeeds remarkably. Take standout track Inside Out, which features a hook that wouldn't go amiss in a newfound single from Audioslave or (the oft-neglected) Manman God. Lucas Kanopa’s classically gruff voice has the golden ability to inflict nostalgia-ridden glee, and if your track delivers a reaction of that pedigree, you’re doing something right. From an industry standpoint, “radio ready” has, unfortunately, become a bit of an unfortunate insult. Stranded deserves a wide audience, plain ‘n’ simple, and they’ve got the potential in spades. This EP's high octane strains have graced the Sleeping Village's halls upwards of 20 times this past week. It's dangerously repeatable, to the detriment of a certain stack of promos.
Critically, the catchiness of each track does depend largely on the vocals. Personal preference, no doubt, but a thicker guitar tone might make these catchy-as-hell riffs a little heftier in stature. There's a thin line between remaining accessible and beating up your audience, but as it stands now, the guitar sounds a tad thin.
Perhaps most importantly, Void Vator aren’t boring. If that sounds like a grossly under-applied veneer of accomplishment, know that dynamism and maintained interest are...startlingly rare. For a genre that has historically gotten by on singles and lots of filler, packing a punch with all 6 tracks is a victory. Let there be no doubt: as long as high energy bands like Void Vator are doing the rounds and writing kickass tunes, rock ain’t going anywhere. Keep fighting the good fight.
Void Vator’s (highly recommended)Stranded was released March 28th. They are currently embroiled in their Skeleton Crew tour. Listen to the aforementioned Inside Out, and check out remaining dates below:
4.14 Chicago, IL @ Underground Lounge
4.15 Louisville, KY @ Highlands Tap Room Bar & Grill
4.17 Memphis, TN @ Growlers
4.18 Arlington, TX @ Division Brewing
4.19 San Antonio, TX @ The Guillotine
4.20 San Angelo, TX @ The Deadhorse
4.21 El Paso, TX @ RCBG Thunderbird
4.22 Tuscon, AZ @ The House of Bards
Void Vator can be found: