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:
Robots of the Ancient World. If that moniker--and the accompanying artwork--doesn’t conjure a spaced-out and otherwise smoke-afflicted ethos, I urge you to back away from this decidedly cosmic Kyussian watering hole before it's too late. That's right. This impressive debut is comfortably tied to the generator rattlin’ desert rock of terra firma, yet brings enough psychedelic and astral gravitas to give credence to their cosmos-trawling identity. An appropriate Carl Sagan sample only adds to the ambiance--but really, isn't that an inevitability?
Before this particular scribe gets too mired in the nitty-gritty, let’s make two facts abundantly clear: 1). Cosmic Riders is a highly enjoyable album, quite possibly one of the genre’s best this year, and 2). as an up-n-coming stoner/desert/doom crew, Robots of the Ancient World can hang, quite comfortably, with the best of ‘em.
Instrumentally, you’ve undoubtedly heard something of a similar ilk--although perhaps without such a defined sense of nuance. Robots of the Ancient World’s are rockers through and through--pounding drums, groovy bass, and a hard rockin’ pedal-to-the-metal mentality keeps them grounded in the desert department. In terms of the general ambiance called to mind, tracks such as “In My Head” and the aforementioned “Sweet Lady” recall blazing sun and burning rubber, more so than psychedelic starlit soul searching. Given the album as a whole, however, neither “thick” nor “hefty” feel particularly apt, as the riffs remain expansive. Undeniably fuzz-ridden, yet delightfully light footed. Typically an album that actively encourages mind wandering, rather than constantly demanding attention, will fall under my spit-shined critical lens. Not so here. The (comparatively) relaxed second acts of “High and Drive” and the titular “Cosmic Riders” don't constitute mere background noise in the slightest, but their expansive and subtle nature demonstrate a very calming effect. Surely the modus operandi of these interstellar Robots, if the intro to “High and Drive” isn't enough of a hint.
A true highlight of the guitarwork is the solos--few and far between, but excellent nonetheless. See the back half of “Sweet Lady” for a particularly sweet lil’ fretboard diatribe. These exploratory guitar-centric moments work incredibly well to draw the listener in. While the central riffs never feel stale, the solos serve as glimmers of particular interest. The issue with the majority of stoner rock of the astral variety is a tendency to fall too far into the abyss. Robots of the Ancient World are quite proficient at letting you drift, but occasionally reeling in the tether.
This quality is only strengthened by the fantastic vocals, which I've seen compared, interestingly enough, to both Danzig and Jim Morrison. The former is certainly apparent--look, for example, to the self-assured gruffness on “God Particle/Oblivion Stone.” In terms of the latter, while Mr. Mojo fanboyism is, quite possibly, my greatest pet peeve, I'm frankly inclined to agree. A certain chiller-than-thou poise proliferates the entire package, adding a level of emotion that has been unfortunately lacking in the genre’s recent deluge of shout-into-the-void delivery. That said, rather than residing in languidity, he's capable of turning it up a notch--an expansive, distant, and at times mournful howl. When this is pushed to the limit, he tantalizing walks the line, stretching each note to a frayed edge. It suits the tone and shape of Cosmic Riders quite well.
Again, this is an impressive debut. In fact, the only vague misstep in sight is the penultimate “Five Eyes,” which feels overly long given its position in the album's mesh. At six and half minutes, this is an excellent track carrying some unnecessary baggage on burly shoulders. Otherwise, Cosmic Riders remains compulsively listenable and relentlessly enjoyable. It’s a noticeable step up from their self-titled debut, which frankly says a lot on its own. More than representing maturity, however, Cosmic Riders serves as a declaration of Robots of the Ancient World’s intent: to join the impressive entourage of PNW bands toiling to reinvigorate the spirit of rock. To this end, their debut credits the genre’s foundational elements, but doesn’t turn tail when prompted to deliver music that feels just unique enough to spark interest. Cosmic Riders comes highly recommended.
Robots of the Ancient World's Cosmic Riders was released March 26th, 2019.
Cloistered high in the Sleeping Village’s Ivory Tower, amidst the industry of scratching quills and churning parchment, this particular scribe enjoys a moment of reflection, now and again. Without getting preachy, today’s topic is an unfortunate trap that I find myself falling into: I pigeonhole certain genres (and, by extension, bands) as intellectual, operating in contrast to those who are driven by emotion. As a thought process that unconsciously promotes a high-over-low-brow mentality, it’s particularly dangerous when this becomes a system for ranking the quality of music. The takeaway? There are multiple factors that define a band’s sound and approach, and if you approach new music assuming otherwise, you miss out. Case in point: Bather. With a bio that refers to Thomas Hobbes’ civility-be-damned exposé of humanity’s ugly underbelly, William Etty’s Musidora: The Bather 'At the Doubtful Breeze Alarmed, and the poet James Thompson’s Summer, it’s apparent that this Columbus, Ohio quintet approaches art from a decidedly well-read standpoint.
But does that mean their sound itself is stuffy and esoteric? Not in the slightest. Sonically, Bather recalls the good ol’ early days of ‘core, before everything was brought down by uninspired breakdowns and drenched in sappy lyricism. Y’know, neutered. They eschew the jubilantly punk oriented sound of the earliest acts--i.e. Agnostic Front--but 90’s frontrunners such as like Indecision’s Unorthodox, Integrity’s System Overload, or perhaps Hatebreed’s Under the Knife get you in a similar arena of hardcore spite and sasquatchian riffage. Promo material rightly compares Bather’s furious sound to Destroy the Machines, the debut album from metalcore tough guys Earth Crisis. Aggressive, dense, misanthropic. Throw in a healthy dose of death-tinged sludge for good measure.
Influences aside, Bather are undeniable bruisers. Drums are clobbered into submission, and the guitar is...weaponized, for lack of a better word. Whether chugging or thrumming, this tone is walloped around like a bat wrapped in barbed wire. The riffs themselves, while mighty, exist largely as a staging ground for muscular vocals, which act as the debut’s hooven glue. Like a wasp-stung muskox, this guy grunts and yelps with vivacious intensity. He alternates between styles of delivery with a certain abandon that, while seeming wild, is undoubtedly calculated. This expressive range lends Bather a dynamism that is frankly stunning for such a belligerent brand of ‘core. Look the the chorus on “All Dark Rooms,” or to the moments between chugs on “Birds,” where the vocals are particularly repugnant (and this, of course, in the best sense of the word). Thick, brooding, swathed in sweat. Even the more straightforward delivery on “The Path” utilizes a burly knuckle-dragging swagger, which is, in time, counteracted by a higher pitched tone. It’s both brutal and nuanced. A hard balance to hit.
As a result, nothing here feels stale. Take, for example, the aformentioned “All Dark Rooms,” which adjusts the tempo and general atmosphere, bringing the aggression from a boil to a menacing simmer. Similarly, closing track “Leaves Like Bones” changes the pace to a near-dirge at points, which is a well-played distraction from the fury of prior tracks. The latter may have succeeded more so as a mid-album interlude of sorts, as a punchier conclusion may have left the audience with a fresher welt. An exceedingly minor complaint, however, because in reality, reaching the end is essentially an open invitation to smash the repeat.
It's grimy, but beyond that, the whole affair is tinged with the miasma of sin. By tapping into the aggression, tension, and brutality of a short life sans society, Bather have done the near-impossible: they’ve crafted a metalcore album that holds appeal for academic riff-addicts. Honestly, when’s the last time you’ve been able to say that about ‘core? This debut is an impressive feat. Highly recommended.
Bather’s self-titled debut will be released April 12th, 2019 from Appalachian Noise Records.
Written by: Loveloth
Iceland – the land of ice and fire. It's every geologist's dream land, due to it being packed with countless natural peculiarities. But this is far from the only thing that piques my interest when it comes to this fascinating country. Iceland is rough, very rough in fact, so people adapted via usage of geothermal and hydroelectric energy, fishing, or aluminium smelting--but everything changed in 2007 when the Great Recession struck. People were desperate. Some fled to Norway in hope of finding a better life, but those who stayed endured. Now, you may be saying to yourself: "Oh mighty Loveloth, what does this have to do with anything?" but fear not, this unnecessarily long intro is getting to the point, so hear me out. Because Iceland is so isolated, there is a sense of community, so people partake in sports, media, or create music insert the sound of a point being gotten. And Iceland always had a superb music scene, but something sinister evolved during the pinnacle of said recession--black metal. All these things I mentioned fuel this scene with volcanic might. Bands like Svartidauði, Misþyrming, Sinmara, and Wormlust are just some of the brilliant bands you can come across but this year, we got another. Kaleikr.
Formed from the ashes of Draugsól, Kaleikr burst from the icy depths with Heart Of Lead, a debut I've been excited for since I heard "The Descent" last year. Rooted in dissonance and good ole' atmosphere, the duo grabs and drags you through Heart Of Lead's many murky corridors, and I, for one, greatly enjoyed this violent and claustrophobic voyage.
This vague, semi-descriptive sentence is nothing new in the world of wordsmithery so let me elaborate. Kaleikr play a blend of progressive black, progressive death, and a dash of post-metal for good measure, and it becomes apparent pretty quickly with the slow, unraveling arrival of "Beheld At Sunrise." The violas and piano are a nice touch but it takes a bit too much to get going but as soon as you hear Maximilian Klimko's earthy growls and Kjartan Harðarson's blastbeats, the true journey starts. The duo possesses immense synergy, synergy most bands strive for and most songs here prove this. Angular, melodic, ethereal or start/stop, Klimko's riffs and general guitar work is impressive. However, even more impressive is the fact he takes care of vocals, bass, and the arrangements. This may seem like he is the star of this record but Harðarson's clever, rich and overall superb drumming demonstrates that both of them are absolutely crucial. Each of the songs presented are vast, dynamic and engaging and the record's unusually clean production tries emphasizing this. Tries because the record tends to sound flat when things really start going haywire. Those moments of pure insanity are always welcomed but I love when Kaleikr throw surprises at you like that Enslaved-like guitar section in "Of Unbearable Longing" or the nasty opening riff and viola-infused ending section in "Internal Contradiction." That ending section in particular is hauntingly beautiful and transitions perfectly in "Neurodelirium" which is one of my favourite tracks from Heart Of Lead.
With all these positives I listed, it seems Heart Of Lead is really good. It is, but there are flaws. Apart from the production, some tracks simply overstay their welcome, the title track and intro of "Beheld At Sunrise" being the biggest culprits, but there is a few more instances of meandering.
However, the good greatly overpowers the bad and what we're left is a very good debut from a band that is poised for success. I would greatly appreciate if Kaleikr doesn't share the same fate as Draugsól because the potential for a monumental record is here and ready to be expanded upon. The individual performances, lyrics, songwriting (aside the aforementioned), it all comes together and we ended up with one of the best debuts of 2019. I am sure this won't change when we reach the year-end mayhem so definitely give this record a listen, preferably more than one because there are many details you'll miss on the first listen.
There is just one thing I want to say: "Thank you, Iceland."
Kaleikr's Heart of Lead was released Feb. 2019 from Debemur Morti Productions
Written by: Reese
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably a big fan of atmospheric black metal, but not so much a fan of the recent blackened synth craze that’s been sweeping the underground. You’ve probably also got a recurring itch on your back that’s frustratingly just out of reach. Maybe that one is just me though. But I digress, it’s not hard for me to get swept up in a good atmospheric black metal album, but I’m much pickier with my ambient music. That’s why I’m such a big fan of Moulderyawn; this one-man black metal band truly brings together the best of both worlds in a way that’s both interesting and engaging.
A Dreamworld’s Oeuvre is Moulderyawn’s second full-length album. I became aware of this band after discovering their 2016 debut album, From Whence the Woods, on Bandcamp, and while I was a fan of that album, A Dreamworld’s Oeuvre is on an entirely different level. On past releases, the ratio of ambient to metal has been roughly 40:60, but on ADO it’s much closer to a 50:50 balance. Normally that would be a huge red light for someone like me who isn’t much of an ambient listener, but Moulderyawn's way of approaching songwriting allows the ambient soundscapes to be worked into the album in a manner that feels dynamic and robust. The fluid transitions from black metal to ambient make the album feel like one multi-textured movement rather than several black metal songs broken up by unrelated ambient interlude tracks, like many albums of this nature do.
But of course it’s the black metal that has me coming back. A Dreamworld’s Oeuvre is paradoxically a pretty album and an abrasively raw album. Part of ADO’s charm is the album’s ability to create something beautiful from such “crude” building blocks. A gorgeous chord scale is still a gorgeous scale even when it’s played with several layers of distortion, and Moulderyawn realize this. They took that ball and ran with it as far as they could. The whole album feels like you’re in a lucid dream that you can’t wake up from; on one hand it’s very surreal and pretty, but on the other hand something feels “wrong” and there’s a pervasive malevolence that gives ADO a real set of teeth, as any good black metal album should have.
In the vocal department we’ve got all the usual shrieks, yelps and howls you’d expect from this style of depressive black metal, and mercifully absent is the clean singing that stains so many albums of this variety. Moulderyawn keep things grim and nasty, and when they want to give listeners a moment of calm to catch their breath, they let the music speak for itself. In keeping with the surreal, dreamlike theme of the album, the vocals are drenched in feedback and static; they sound like they’re being performed in a long hallway and being listened to through an old radio.
If this album is any indication, this is going to be a very good year for black metal. Had A Dreamworld’s Oeuvre been released last year it would have easily been among the year’s best. Sadly, ADO is set to be Moulderyawn’s final album, at least for the foreseeable future. But it’s a good note to bow out on, and a good record to be remembered for.
Moulderyawn - A Dreamworld’s Oeuvre was released Jan. 2019
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry