As you eagle-eyed readers may recall, the Sleeping Village featured, some months back, a grisly music video for “Feeling Dead,” the lead single from Doors & Fours’ second LP. At the time, I described--in tantalizing detail, I’m sure--the process of rubbing together gritty, blood-stained hands in eager anticipation of said album’s release. Well, well. Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs has been here for a week, so it’s certainly high time we talk about it. The mosh beckons.
From an instrumental standpoint, Black Majik is, as "Feeling Dead" indicated, decidedly solid. The formula of hefty bass, angular riffage, and forward-facing drums remains, as my grandmother might say, built like a brick shithouse--no flair, but going above and beyond in the utilitarian department. If this comes off as a coy way to state that this Ontarian trio meet the bare minimum, that certainly isn’t the intent. While there are few flashes of technicality, this genre, and the Doors & Fours brand in general, necessitates a reliably bludgeoning and high-energy display of technique. To this end, this trio delivers in spades.
As alluded in the original track review, Paige McAleney’s drums maintain a delicious momentum and a vivacious energy. While accolades usually go to the dirty riffs n’ vocals, punk is so dependent on a percussionist who is able to maintain a consistent and ferocious output. In this respect, McAleney feels incredibly central to the success of Doors & Four’s stability. The guitars, which remain crunchy and jagged throughout, lend the entire affair a head-bopping groove, particularly in the overtly punk-influenced riffage of “Full Moon Tonight” or “The Weather is Nice in Purgatory.” These particularly aggressive tracks serve as focal points for the album, and would remain my recommendation for anyone looking to test the waters.
An interesting strength of the production is the tendency for the guitar (and, in particular, the bass) to move, from track to track, further behind or further forward in the mix. This allows for a certain sense of dynamism that often loses hold on your average punk album. A minor misstep in this regard is outro track “Bad Philosophy,” which significantly slows down the pace. Despite being enjoyable in and of itself, doesn’t feel like it exists within the same universe. Looking at the big picture, however, the ability of the riffage to provide space where needed allows Adam Peach’s boisterous vox the ample room it requires.--and indeed deserves. In a similar vein, the subtle melodicism that weaves and wends through the vocals is provided the occasional moment to shine without being buried beneath crushing riffz.
Speaking of the album’s overall construction, the length is worth note, but not worth criticism. At under half an hour, Black Majik is a very brief ride. Brevity fits the bill, and a longer runtime may have reduced the punchiness of the package as a whole. Given the multiple surprises Doors & Fours offers, the consideration given to depth in the course of composition is most impressive.
Beyond all this, however, there’s an overarching reason that Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs has graced the halls of the Sleeping Village fairly incessantly these past few weeks. As someone who conquers a slog of heavy music on the daily, most of which is attempting to be as ANGRY and ANGST-ridden as possible, fun is an absolutely essential component. Doors & Fours is refreshingly jubilant, and sound like they are having as much fun playing as I am listening. Here’s an example: Doors & Fours is so infused with this spirit of gleeful irreverence that, upon mistakenly hearing the chorus for “Dead Bodies” as “make love to dead bunnies,” I left the engagement utterly nonplussed. This fun-loving ambiance is a decidedly lovable quality, and in a world filled with bands vying for attention, taking yourself too seriously is sometimes a bit of a turnoff. A little humor in the lyrical arena goes a helluva long way at drawing the listener back in, and little gems like “we're here for eternity/cause we're fuckin' zombies/we're already deeeeeeeaddddd” only serve to reinforce a tangible sense of glee. But yet, these tracks carry themselves with a serious horror aesthetic weight. That’s a hard combination to nail.
Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs is simultaneously fun and menacing, jubilant and aggressive. Not to mention utterly addictive. Albums like these make for very welcome encounters, and Doors & Fours will undoubtedly remain in heavy rotation for the sheer enjoyment they deliver. The grisly bottom line? This satanic orgy comes highly recommended.
Doors & Fours - Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs was released on Feb. 1st from Aborted Productions
Speaking generally, I'm the only villager 'round these parts with a particular (read: desperate) affinity for the lower 'n' slower end of the sub-genre spectrum. Something that is a. decidedly not doomy, and b. accessible by design doesn't, then, necessarily fit in my wheelhouse. Describing themselves simply as "an American metal band," the vision of Gods Shall Burn is "to breathe new life into a dying scene." You know what that means, folks: it's 'core time. You know how long it's been since I've reliably listened to the chug-leaden strains of metalcore? I'm not necessarily the most experienced in these testosterone waters. A little out of the ordinary, but hey, sometimes you just need a goddamn breakdown. Thus: "Reborn."
The breakdown on single "Reborn" itself, lest ye be misled, is actually handled quite impressively. Rather than devolving into generic chugs without actually preparing a structure to actually, well, break down, Gods Shall Burn hit with an absolute ripper. Simple yet engaging grooves lead the charge, but the true star here is the interplay between harsh and cleans. In terms of the latter, think the fresh-faced energy of mid-era Of Mice & Men, without the obnoxious filters. These are offset nicely by the growls, which remain surprisingly massive, carrying a substantial heft and displaying tangible grit. As with the genre in general, the low end feels limited in terms of sheer impact, but to Mr. Mammola's credit, the drums carry themselves with a hollow forward-facing weight. All told? Well played.
"Reborn" has been the most repeated track on my gym playlist for, like, a month. Does Gods Shall Burn represent a metalcore renaissance? Doubtful, but I'm genuinely looking forward to some quality time spent with their debut EP, Life After Last, which will hit sometime soon. In the meantime, listen to "Reborn" below.
Given a proclivity towards the general aesthetic of the holiday, this particular Sleeping Villager has spent these days after Hallow’s Eve in the pursuit of an appropriately visceral soundtrack. Something to maintain a healthy dose of terror in the hearts of my neighbors. Preferably something bloody & skeletal, wearing nothing but the tattered, mildew’d remains of a bygone era. Is that too much to ask? Of course not, because when one asks Rotted Life Records for the goods, Rotted Life delivers, serving death metal delicacies on a maggoty platter. Today we’re dissecting (& digesting) Imitation, the forthcoming 3-track demo from Bay Area death thrashers Laceration.
In the grand scheme of things, the return of Laceration from the dreaded precipice of Everlasting Hiatus has not been a pressing issue in my music listening existence. Their prior efforts (2 demos + an EP + a split,) while by no means bad, is uniformly characterized by a certain quality--let’s call it “aggressively run-of-the-mill.” Despite eliciting some impromptu headbanging, these early efforts are like going to the same haunted house for the 3rd or 4th time. You know it's supposed to be edgy & scary, but predictable jump scares & an absent element of surprise makes for little more than an exercise in averages. Before you jump ship now, let me be clear: I only speak this harshly of so that it's painfully obvious how good their triumphant return actually is. Experiencing Imitation is like going to that same haunted house, only to find that the that the chainsaw-wielding hobo isn’t a paid actor, & that the spring-loaded skeletons have been replaced by genuine cadavers. Here, the stench of rotting flesh overpowers the sticky-sweetness of fake blood. Laceration, in other words, just got...real.
At the end of the day, this isn’t complex stuff, & for that, I love it. Sonically, listen for the calculated immediacy of Mortal Throne-era Incantation, combined with the thrashy sensibilities of Skeletal Remains or Demolition Hammer. Aesthetically, Laceration clearly takes inspiration from a wide gamut of late 80’s, early 90’s death, so in short, there is no shortage of viscera here. Take the title (& opening) track as a prime example--before we’re treated to an evisceration via jackhammer blasts & thunderous riffage, we’re witness to, well, an evisceration. An appropriate opening act, if ever there was. Granted, all this would fall into the bucket of been there, done that, but for several particularities.
Firstly, despite the gory ambiance, Laceration prove remarkably steady-handed surgeons. While many bands on the thrashy end of the death spectrum tend to play fast ‘n’ loose, these boys don’t mess around when it comes to precision. This holds particularly true in the case of Donnie Small’s blistering(ly brief) solos, the sheer intensity of which still catches me off guard 15+ listens later. Also of note is Mike Simon, who pounds the skins with the intensity & precision both of a talented newcomer with something to prove, & an experienced veteran with a reputation to maintain.
Secondly, Laceration can compose a song outside the bounds of a standard slaughterfest. Take (highlight track) Weaponized Dominion as a prime example. Despite a fairly standard structure, in under 4 minutes we’re treated to a full array of abilities, with a short bassy breakdown, thrashy riffage galore, squealing leads, & a particularly punishing chorus. It doesn’t get much better.
On Imitation, Laceration has excelled at trimming the fat. As a result, each (remarkably talented) member is given the appropriate time to shine, & this 3 track demo leaves us wishing for more. Despite the unfortunate brevity, I’ll keep coming back to this haunted house, season after season. Fear not.
As you are undoubtedly aware, a team of battle-scarred (yet remarkably personable) scribes have recently moved into our humble Village. First out of the gate is the mighty Ancient Hand. Best give him your undivided attention voluntarily, lest he demand it. - Mgmt
Black Tongue’s sound is made to be the heaviest thing in the known universe. There’s no flash or unnecessary showiness in their music; it simply wants to be as heavy as it possibly can. On their last record (2015’s “The Unconquerable Dark”), Black Tongue did an incredible job blending funeral doom and deathcore to create a deep, heavy, and monumental record that bridged the gap between two very different sub-genres of metal. Now, in 2018, Black Tongue have undertaken a follow-up release that seeks to solidify their sound and add new elements on top of it.
Right as the record kicks off, it’s clear that Black Tongue is trying some new things out. The ambient guitar work that builds to an ominous breakdown drips with dark atmosphere. The opening track itself, “The Eternal Return to Ruin,” features lyrics that elevate the album to heavenly heights, while also featuring vocals that sound as though they were birthed from the deepest pit of Hell. The lyrical themes are consistent throughout much of the release; the afterlife, pain, death, hopelessness, and the abuse of God and people are all used to create one of the darkest records of the year.
This record also features heavy influences from black metal that the band pushes to the forefront of many songs. Most notably, the beginning of “The Cathedral” burns with the same intensity of Norway’s churches in the early 90's.
In addition to wearing black metal influences on their sleeve, Black Tongue covers Celtic Frost’s classic “A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh,” and, to my surprise, they do a wonderful job. Singing is retained for this song (its only instance on the entire record), but Black Tongue still manages to make it their own with their signature sound towards the end of the track. Other songs to note are the punishing “Contrapasso” and the crushing “Parting Soliloquy.” The former also makes use of black metal influences from shrieks to tremolo-picked guitars, and the latter features some of the most haunting vocals I have heard all year with the repetition of “Please don’t leave me here” layered over harsh noise that sends shivers down my spine after multiple listens.
Overall, this record brings Black Tongue to the next level. It is very clear that they mean business, and their goal of blending these two seemingly contrasting sounds of deathcore and doom metal can still have even more sounds added into it. With a release this varied in metal influences, lyrical quality, and consistency between songs, I think it’s safe to say that Black Tongue have created one of the most punishing, dark, and stellar metal albums of the year.
Written by: Ancient Hand
Some demos are rough ‘round the edges, & that is to be expected--but this statement should, under no circumstances, be taken to imply that Soul Grinder’s debut effort is somehow incomplete or unintentionally unfinished. Rather, I’m suggesting that instead of accepting a certain roughness as inevitable, these Portland-based thrashers tied their debut EP to the mast, broke out the trusty ol’ cat-o-nines, & lashed away until there weren’t any tangible edges left. Terraflesh is a wounded & angry beast of an EP, & Soul Grinder has made evident that they are not, in fact, here to mess around.
Vocals are the obvious first stop on our trip down Soul Grinder lane. At first blush, the wild-eyed April “Prilzor” Dimmick recalls Benatar at her sticky-sweetest. This carpet is promptly & elegantly pulled out, however, as she switches gears into a significantly more visceral affair. On first-round listens here at the Village, our monkish librarian astutely remarked that for any lovers of medieval literature Prilzor’s shriekish tone is like unto the vox of Grendel’s mother: grisly, rageful, tortured. Her true strength, however, is the uncanny ability to switch between a sensual croon to throat shredding howls within the span of a syllable. As the most effortless display of musicianship Soul Grinder has to offer, it lends a certain bent to the entire package. But that ain’t all to love.
Instrumentally, the guitar is clunky ‘n’ chunky, full of hooky leads & (combat) boot-stomping riffs. Timing feels a tad rushed in parts, but that is, undeniably, part of the appeal. As I mentioned several weeks ago, Soul Grinder a just a little discordant, but a whole lot unhinged--& that’s the entire reason we seek out such thrashy ‘n’ groovy tunage. In other words, we’re not here for precision. We’re here for chaos, & in this sense, axeman Alex Avery absolutely delivers. With that said, there are the occasional moments of pure NWOBHM fervor--take, for example, the intro on Hound of Doom, which strongly recalls both Maiden’s trademark gallop & Priest’s leather-clad badassery. Despite the outward appearance of wild abandon, Mr. Kevin Ross does a fantastic job holding everything together in the rhythm section, with drums on the title track worth particular mention. Aggressive & dense, a delightfully bonky moment in the spotlight helps break up the template.
I do, as the critic in the room, have a small bone to pick with the songwriting. The EP starts out with its best foot forward, & is, as a result, pretty frontheavy. Towards the end, it feels like difference in delivery--the singsong chorus on Iron Crone, for example--is what keeps the individual tracks distinct, rather than a more fluid & exploratory approach to composition. While not truly a significant issue here, adopting more break-the-pattern moments might prevent stagnation further down the line. But to reiterate, Terraflesh is an effort where sheer energy, not needle-threading precision, is the name of the game. As an embodiment of heavy metal’s bloody take-no-prisoners ethos, this flayed monstrosity of a demo comes highly recommended.