Written by: Reese
I'm sure that most of you are aware that not all Cryptopsy albums are created equal. Those of you who’ve heard 2008’s metalcore-flavoured outing The Unspoken King are certainly aware of this fact. I will maintain that Cryptopsy have never released an album I would classify as “bad” but some come much closer than others. But fortune has smiled on the last handful of Cryptopsy releases, and the band seem to be on a much-needed upswing. After three years of keeping fans in suspense, Cryptopsy have finally unleashed the follow-up to The Book of Suffering - Tome I: Tome II.
I mentioned that Cryptopsy have been on a win streak over the course of their last few releases and they keep the momentum up on Tome II. This is very much a continuation of the sound found on Tome I. Cryptopsy are playing fast, and they’re playing tightly. Fortunately, they also manage to sideswipe the typical speedtrap that most modern tech death bands fall into: useless self-indulgence. There aren’t any riffs on this release that made me think “why?”, and the sad reality of the situation is that for Cryptopsy in 2018 that’s an accomplishment. I find that the EP is able to hold my attention for the entirety of its runtime, something unfocused, rambling techdeath rarely manages to do, even in short sub-20 minute bursts such as this.
Vocally, this is one of my favourite performances of Cryptopsy’s career. Matt McGachy’s screeching and howls are all over the place. He’s got a great range and he’s not afraid to play with it, something that helps develop modern Cryptopsy’s sense of identity that they might not otherwise have. The riffs on the other hand are a bit more hit and miss. For the most part though, they hit. They’re tight, technical and aggressive, but maybe not the most memorable. I enjoy myself while the songs are playing, but there are certain riffs I’d have a tough time remembering after the fact. But for the most part, these riffs are winners. I’d kill for the ability to play even half of them, and the tasteful but brief solos they toss in every once in a while only sweeten the deal.
My largest gripe with this EP is something that plagues the overwhelming majority of not only techdeath, but modern death metal bands in general: lame production. Not poor production, lame production. You can write the meanest riffs in the world, but when you scrub all the dirt off them in the mastering phase they’ll lose a significant amount of bite. Imagine this EP with None so Vile’s production. That would be sweet! I live for the day that death metal bands realize they aren’t doing themselves any favours with production jobs like these; not only does it take away from your band’s unique “sound”, it just makes your music sound less intense. And that’s the absolute LAST thing you want from your death metal.
All in all, this is a good EP that has some very good moments. It’s the best Cryptopsy have been in a while and it shows that the band recognize they have room left to grow and are doing their best to fill it. Whatever comes next for Cryptopsy should be even better. With a few more scans and a little more scum in the production and maybe a sharper set of hooks, Tome III (or whatever else the band have up their sleeves) could be a real killer.
Written by: Reese
After spending untold hours uprighting the fruit carts, replacing the cobblestones, and hiding the corpses in the plague-pit, we here at the Sleeping Village were forced into a conclusion of sorts: maybe our Town Square isn’t the best place to celebrate 2018’s absolute domination in the death metal department. But oh, what righteous dominion! In reflection, despite some furious big-name releases, this year belongs to the lesser-known bands. Those bands are (more often than not) represented by some of the most innovative & forward thinking labels of our time, and these labels deserve our support. Example? Redefining Darkness Records, who notably put out Oxygen Destroyer and CIST this past year, are always on my radar in terms of extreme music that both embraces the past and celebrates ingenuity. The forthcoming 2-track demo from Warp Chamber--who, judging from their short bio, prefer to let their music speak for itself--fits brilliantly into this fold.
Taking inspiration from the obvious death metal greats--they cite Suffocation, Morbid Angel, and Demilich, but you could honestly take your pick of early 90’s death metal and call it a wrap--Warp Chamber is an exercise in chaos. Unlike these early influencers, however, individual Warp Chamber songs never feel tied to a central theme. Featuring two tracks of respectable length, Abdication of the Mind is a pummeling voyage through brief soundscapes. In the midst of exploration, some moments seem to lurch deliberately--like a subway car that is perpetually achieving a little too much momentum before each stop, Warp Chamber often applies the brakes with a gleeful aggression, before launching once more into a breakneck pace. If you prefer a musical comparison, think early Dying Fetus’ tendency to adjust tempo at the drop of a hat, perhaps mixed with Nocturnus’ excitable and perpetually shifting riffage. The result is a constantly evolving piece of music. The growls and guitar weave and wend, the drums lurch, and both tracks are stitched together with unexpected complexity and technicality.
While not particularly unique in the grand scheme of death metal howlers, the nature in which the vocals are buried really allows Abdication of the Mind’s ambiance to gel. Abandoning all attempts are remaining a vehicle for lyricism, the vox becomes another feature in the chaos. The throat-clearing hacks and snarls on the title track are particular highpoints--in the swirling aether, these noises keep Warp Chamber with one foot firmly planted in the grotesquery of firma terra.
At 16 minutes, give or take some twisted riffage here and there, Abdication of the Mind is a perfectly timed affair. A solid intro to Warp Chamber’s dimension-trodding sound, and a wholly worthwhile addition to the year’s veritable corpse-tsunami of quality death metal.
The Sleeping Village owes a massive debt to Black Sabbath…& not just because we blatantly lifted our moniker from their plunder-worthy supply of deep cuts. Because Sabbath have left such a veritable canyon in the firmament of heavy music, we dedicate Sundays to highlighting a lesser-known band that carries the Sabbathian mantle of doom. Today we review 1455, the second EP from Purification, a Cromwellian-by-way-of-Portland doom outfit of the trvest order. Welcome to Sabbath Sunday. Let’s get our St. Vitus dance on.
I’ll make one thing clear from the start: if you’re one of the (very few) doom purists out there who gives a damn about production value, you’re a. doing it wrong, and b. probably not going to have a good time with 1455. Bottom line, the mix is appropriately medieval, and the master is nonexistent. However, judging a band’s worth by the amount of money they’ve poured into the production is supremely antithetical to the aesthetic, and with that, it is this Sleeping Villager’s honor to speak on the important matters. Namely, the ways in which Purification’s 1455 is a release worth your witchfinding while.
Purification is a two-piece, which means the bassist (Marshall William Purify, for the uninitiated) is pulling a lot of weight in the riffage department. In fact, the only guitar present on this puritanical display is acoustic, featuring exclusively on ambient number The Night March. Much like Pagan Altar’s use of acoustics on Volume 1, the effect here is immediate--a reprieve from the downtrodden tracks proper. With traditional doom, there is all-to-oft an emphasis placed on the sheer heaviness, while the more naturalistic elements of the environment is never adequately conjured. Not so here.
Focus on the bass doesn’t, of course, discredit Lord Donanagato, whose subtle technique in the drum department allows the sonic weight a little room to ebb, flow, and otherwise breath. Look to closing track 1455 (A Call to Christian Thanes of Noble Blood) as a prime example. Despite a generally dark ambiance, the cymbals throughout, combined with (frankly chilling) vocals, lend the track an uplifting air. Viewing the EP as a whole, the traditional cultist doom aesthetic--lordly titles, olde-timey language--feels utterly persuasive. Liberal use of samples, while a feature that originally seemed heavy-handed, feels necessary over the course of multiple listens. Purification made a smart choice here. A concise and explicit narrative arch works well in the context of a band taking a seemingly overwrought subject with such solemnity.
Purification assuredly claim that they walk in the footsteps of their--as they say--"coven elders.” This isn’t mere talk. Bands such as Cathedral, Witchfinder General, and Pagan Altar rose to heights because they knew intrinsically how to construct a catchy tune within the confines of their narrow traditionalist appeal. Here, tracks such as Marston Moor (An Exhortion of Cromwell) and the aforementioned title track are, put simply, catchy as hell. Marshall’s distant, sorrowful warbling contain that certain irresistible hook--these choruses have been stuck in my head for the better part of a month now. Given the number of choruses that traverse this ol’ noggin, that’s no small feat.
Purification have set, defined, and met the demands of their aesthetic. These practitioners of true doom are the real deal, and this Sleeping Village recommends them highly on this doomy day. Head over to their bandcamp to drink deep of their archaic concoction, and expect a debut LP this coming year, may Cromwell’s will be done.
Written by: The Soliloquist
In my opinion, funeral doom is not only one of the heaviest genres of metal, it is also probably the most suitable genre for evoking emotions in the listener. While those two aspects do not necessarily coincide in other genres of music, they do in funeral doom. I guess what I am trying to say here is that the heaviness of funeral doom and its emotional impact on the listener are two dimensions of one phenomenon. It’s the substance of the music that is heavy, both sonically and emotionally. Of course, this only is the case if the songwriting allows for it to happen. Funeral doom can be beautiful and devastating, hopeful and crushing, dark and uplifting all at the same time, if it is well-composed. That’s what I love about the genre--its ability to confuse and exert your emotions and leave you completely shattered in the end. Clouds manage to do just that on their latest album, Dor.
Clouds are a relatively young international band currently based in London, UK, and founded in 2013, whose music can be described as atmospheric funeral/death doom metal. Their compositions focus a lot on the atmosphere of the music, and the band uses plenty of musical elements such as ambient samples and orchestral instruments to create said atmosphere. Their deeply melancholic mixture of death and doom metal already impressed me when I heard their debut album Doliu, which is one of the best funeral/death doom records I’ve heard to this day. On their third album Dor, released today, Clouds once again offer an absolutely crushing and beautiful album that no fan of the genre should miss out on.
Dor lives off the contrast between atmospheric, floating orchestral/synth soundscapes, beautiful melodies and crushingly heavy riffs, clean harmonious singing and devastating low death growls. Dark and light, hope and desperation collide in these compositions. The lyrics talk of disappointment, disillusioning and doubt--they tell the story of a soul losing a loved one, and as a result falling into a pit of crushing sadness. Depression, despair and darkness characterize the mood of the lyrics. But at the same time there is beauty in these songs. There is wonder and hope piercing through the desperation, like sunlight through a thick wall of clouds. This album is a truly beautiful piece of art that leads you into darkness and transforms it into light.
The album is absolutely wonderfully written. The incorporation of orchestral elements into the compositions is as close to perfect as it probably can be. The use of the cello on the title track is only one example of a near perfect marriage of death-doom and classical music. Generally, the timing of calmer, more melodic and heavier sections is fantastic and very effective. I was already impressed by the way Evoken balanced such different elements and moods on their latest album Hypnagogia, but I actually think Clouds did an even better job here. You are thrown into darkness, picked up again, elevated to the light and thrown back down again by this album. It’s beautiful and painful and beautifully painful.
As if the fantastic music by the band wasn't enough, Dor features guest vocals by artists such as Gogo Melone (Aeonian Sorrow), Pim Blankenstein (Officium Triste), Sylvaine, Mihu (Abigail), Kayla Dixon (Witch Mountain) and Caleb Bergen (Sleepwalkers,) who all do a great job here. The album feels very thought-through and fleshed out. It’s well-rounded and logical in its development. I really can’t say anything negative about this album, except one or two spoken word sections that come off a little cheesy (I had the same complaint about the latest Evoken album, so it might be a general issue I have with the genre). Apart from that, it’s pretty much a perfect melodic/atmospheric funeral/death doom album and you should definitely check it out if you are a fan of anything melancholic, emotional, and dark.
Written by: The Soliloquist
Upon fishing Psychlona’s debut from the Global Stoner Conveyor of Kyuss-ian psychedelia, my initial (& unfair) impression was that they sounded a whole lot like Fu Manchu, otherwise known as the okay-ist desert rock group of the decade. Upon further inspection, however, something became remarkably clear: Psychlona is not a middling band. The result? Mojo Rising makes a colorful addition to this year’s coffer of pleasant surprises. While this groovy outfit from northern England does feel, at times, like the aforementioned Foo,’ their sonic radius is actually fairly large, & they possess the ability to reach beyond obvious influences.
Take, for example, the back halves on Big River & Burning Cave, which both sound like Jethro Tull & Merlin (referring to band and warlock both, I suppose) had a multigenerational lovechild. Down In The Valley, a slightly cautious shroomy celebration, (This is the valley where the fungi grew/don’t overdo it boy, just try a few,) exudes that fuzz-bathed early Truckfighters vibe to a tee. Black Dog has that groovy 1000mods riffage similarly pegged, before breaking into a mean solo that remains both appealingly trippy & assuredly grounded. A common pattern here is for the back half of each track to revert into instrumentality, which, while always pleasing, eventually turns monotonous--granted, this from the perspective of decidedly sober critic.
In a similar vein, towards the end of Mojo Risings’ 45 minute length, the tracks become less distinct, & thus less memorable, with little variation in tempo. With that said, this is more a critique of the subgenre in question--ultimately, this Sleeping Villager remains suitably impressed by Psychlona’s abilities, both instrumental & compositional. While the album cover honestly tells a pretty accurate story, this outfit still has some secrets. Despite Ripple Music’s already stacked roster, Mojo Rising is certainly unique enough to merit worthy addition. Recommended both to fans of the genre, & to those of you looking to try a fresh-faced band on for size.
Released Nov. 9th via Ripple Music
Psychlona can be found:
The process of reviewing a split is informed by an intrinsic complexity, when compared to an album or EP proper. On one level, a split relies on both band’s individual abilities to deliver the goods. On another, however, a split is also dependent on the interaction between the bands, their capacity to communicate with the other in a shared environment to create a mutually beneficial experience for themselves & the audience. In an ideal situation, the two sides either serve to concretely reaffirm the other (such as this year’s Vastum/Spectral Voice EP), or to expand upon their counterpart by presenting a foil. A good example of the latter might be Windhand’s recent split with Satan’s Satyrs, or Iron Reagan’s work with Gatecreeper. In both cases, the sonic quality each band brings is distinct, but the entire package has an utterly unique quality, greater than the sum of its parts. This is the arena in which a split will tailspin or triumph. It is with visceral joy that Sleeping Village confirms: Coffin Rot & Molder work together with a grisly voracity.
Both bands contribute three tracks--two originals & a well-curated cover each. First up is the Rottin’ Coffin, whose demo EP released earlier this year has been re-appearing in my rotation with a respectable resilience. Putting the “Old Skool” in OSDM, these Oregonian underground plague merchants display an instant maturity. Living Cremation brings the rabidity, & the significantly lengthier Unmarked Shallow Grave contains distinct movements, a sure sign of sophistication in the death metal universe if e’er there was. Their cover of Hung, Drawn, and Quartered brings plenty of grit, maintaining an exfoliating intensity in the guitar department that rivals Cancer’s original--a feat in & of itself. Here, Hayden Johnson’s vocal quality is particularly forthright & (dare I say) repugnant. The strongest suit of an already disturbingly competent cover.
Purveyors of the B Side, Molder are no less grisly in their offerings. Indeed, their approach feels more primitive than their counterpart’s. While Coffin Rot is digging up bodies with a steam shovel, Molder resorts to using their ragged fingernails. The result is a welcome contrast, a lo-fi expression of underground death. Across the split as a whole, Condemned to the Catafalque is a standout track, due in large to the simplistic belfry-burning riff & Aaren Pantke’s straight-to-the-point distressed bark. The general approach is one of few excesses--this is death metal reduced to the essentials, exemplified especially in their version of (the aptly titled) Repulsive Death, by fellow Chicagoans Morgue.
Sonically, of course, there are distinctions between the two. Coffin Rot’s production is as ripe as, well, a rotting corpse, whereas Molder’s half sounds like it has been pulled from the locked jaws of a dusty cadaver. In other words, Side A sounds like compost, Side B sounds like a crypt. The latter has the appeal of a hand-me-down cassette, with strangled dynamics & a dry tonality. This, combined with the breakdown on Sulker, evokes a certain DIY punk aesthetic. With a tendency for rumbling monotony, neither crosses the threshold of professional production, but if this isn’t appealing to you as a listener, we here at the Sleeping Village suspect you might have stumbled into the wrong neighborhood.
The world of underground death metal pulls few punches, but all to often flounders in derivation. While the covers of classics are the primary commercial draw here, Coffin Rot & Molder add a whiff of fresh air into the formula by way of sheer energy. In some ways, it’s odd to associate such a violent form of metal with a feeling of jubilation, but fans of underground death will undoubtedly pick up what I’m layin’ down. Listening to this split is an absolute grin-inducing joy, made only more enjoyable by each band’s tendency to highlight a different aspect of the fetid death metal aesthetic. If we can expect this kind of music from both Coffin Rot & Molder in the future, we’re in for a treat. Standing before you are, undoubtedly, the genre’s forthcoming (lich) kings. Highly recommended!
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry