While the ol' scriptorium here at the Sleeping Village has been scantly populated this week, fear not. This particular reeve* has spent the past few days embroiled in pre-review fury--i.e., I’ve been listening to a whole lot of good music, so get ready for some appropriately complementary reviews. In the meantime, however, we’d like to direct your attention to a three-track EP that always finds a way to reinsert itself in the rotation. For demo peddlers, Merlock display resolve and remarkable staying power.
Merlock EP is a fun lil’ demo without pretension or sophistication, the kind of music that results when a band throws down and simply plays a blend of genres that pleases them. In the case of Merlock, that formula is equally influenced by the spaced-out aura of psychedelia, and the hard-rockin’ momentum of trad metal. Merlock is subtly off-kilter in the best of ways, an odd amalgamation of The Jesus Lizard’s intrinsic weirdness, and the astral wanderings of Merlin--albeit abbreviated, and sans brass. The result is a kind of caustic, trippy, and rough-around-the-edges stoner doom, and it lights a little fire in my heavy (metal) heart.
While I wholeheartedly recommend you spend the time and give the three tracks herein their due, a personal favorite from this project is opener “Spiral Nemesis.” Constructed around a bouncy and certifiably hooky central riff, this track is particularly effective at presenting a balance between a rock-solid template and a psychedelic edge. While “Spiral Nemesis” is fairly straightforward--despite a slower psych-oriented passage midway through--it never loses its structural integrity. All told, a very enjoyable track, and suitably representative of a sound I’m hoping Merlock will continue to produce. Listen to it here:
*Effectively a village administrator, a position held by a man of otherwise low stature, responsible for overseeing the manorial motley crew. Sleeping Village Reviews: expanding your medieval-specific vocabulary since 2018.
Like any other, our little Village has its little pranksters and jokesters, and theirs is a crude, unsophisticated humor. We don’t get much wit nor deadpan ‘round these parts, so when someone rolls into town possessing the unique ability to keep a straight face whilst performing something capriciously off-kilter, I tend to be suitably impressed.
This isn’t to say that LA’s heavy rockin’ Deathchant don’t take their art seriously. To the contrary, in fact. It’s quite obvious that TJ Lemieux and Company (John Bolino, Colin Fahrner and George Camacho) are very accomplished musicians, and their debut LP is, frankly, quite the stunner. Rather, I’m suggesting that what makes Deathchant so unique is the ability to launch into experimental passages and then out again with nary a glance backward, maintaining the guise that they’ve been playing a standard heavy rock number the whole damn time. At first, the casual nature in which a track--such as opener Pessimist--slips from recognizable psychedelic fare into a passage inhabited by a post-singularity beehive before ending back at Lemiuex’s sultry, fuzz-laden voice is....unexpected, to say the least. Very quickly, however, this becomes a trademark motif. A similar compositional technique rears its head in album highlight Ritual, which turns a seemingly driving intro riff into an extended experiment in psychedelia, before devolving (or evolving?) into pure noise. It's a neat trick, and Deathchant's ability to maintain composure throughout sells the package.
Because these four switch things up so frequently and unexpectedly, it remains difficult to peg them--both in the case of the direction of individual tracks, as well as the general genre. It has the brooding weight of a new-age doom act, but there’s a propulsive heavy metal element, as well as a distinctly avant-garde jazz ambiance. For a prime example of the latter, look to the somber Eulogy. Closer Trigger is the most aggressive track, the most outwardly “metal,” but still, that’s excluding the extended intro and outro, which are entirely constructed from the reverb-drenched strains of an organic brand of industrial noise. Its weird stuff, and from a standpoint of both personal preference and critical awareness, Deathchant’s formula (if it can even be referred to as such) works very well. The unique song structures prevent a dull consistency that I unfortunately have come to expect from both heavy psych and noise. Beyond that, each track is goddamn interesting on its own merits. There isn’t a song here that doesn’t brings its own flavor to the Deathchant universe, and that is something to celebrate.
Despite the obvious jarring nature of the more noisy elements, a melodic and near-harmonious air hangs, hazily, over the whole affair. The vocals are delightfully laid-back, yet richly emotive when needed. Instrumentally, there are no weak links. Drums, as mentioned, possess a jazzy bent--but they also lay it down with a fierce intensity when the occasion arises. The guitar holds that lovely distortion in loving arms, and whether plodding or bursting into an impromptu canter, that sweet psychedelic tone is never abandoned. Despite remaining unpredictable, Deathchant knows how to comfort their listeners.
Critically speaking, the only real item of note is the length. At 29 minutes, this hardly qualifies as a full album in my (admittedly self-published) book. The fact that I want more is, if anything, a testament to the strength of what these rockers have conjured up. While this groggy wordsmith might not have the vocabulary to accurately describe what exactly Deathchant have created here, I will say this with certainty: whatever it is they do, they’ve done it with great skill and aplomb. Needless to say: highly recommended!
Deathchant arrives January 10th of next year, courtesy of King Volume Records. In the meantime, both singles--Hex and Pessimist--are available for streaming. Otherwise, we highly recommend you saunter, levitate, or otherwise ooze your way over to that pre-order. It’s really not the sort of decision you’ll end up regretting.
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:
It’s Sunday, & you know what that means. We’ve had our black coffee + black metal, & now that we’re all keyed up, it’s time to kick back with some old-skool doom. As you may know, we spend time every Sunday exploring highlighting a lesser-known band that carries the mantle of Sabbathian legacy. Today we briefly shine the light on @witcherscreed, a young band whose very promising EPs are ample advertisement for their forthcoming debut. Slip on those headphones & dim the lights, dear reader; it’s time for #sabbathsunday.
When we talk about bands that emulate the 70’s, the risk is always that the group in question misses the encompassing sound of the decade in favor of poaching a little too aggressively. Not so here. While, for example, lead single Salem (Resurrection) feels Sabbathian in its mass, and demo 1’s self titled track has distinct Mississippi Queen vibes, Witchers Creed ain’t a copy/paste type of band. With boulderous (indeed, Mountain-esque) riffage liberally interrupted by acid-washed solos, a deliberate drumming style that recalls Baker’s contributions to Cream’s more straightforward numbers, & deliciously understated vocal harmonies, Witches Creed comes at the 70’s with a fresh-faced enthusiasm demonstrated by their many influences. Like early Saint Vitus or Pagan Altar, these young’uns display a delightful confidence, unmarred by uncomfortably clean production. Modern attempts at retro doom tend to focus exclusively on the nasty riff, & less so on the intricacies that keep things interesting. As mentioned, the soloing here is extensive & playful--this guy must know he can shred with a vibrant jubilance, & doesn’t allow stale notions of song construction to clip the wings of his stellar axemanship.
With a total of four distinct tracks up on bandcamp, burning through Witchers Creed isn’t exactly a major time investment--but oh, is it ever time well spent. That said, look for their debut album, courtesy of Ripple Music, sometime in the near future. If Awakened From the Tomb… is anything like what we’ve heard thusfar, the Sleeping Village certifies that it’s gonna be damn good.
Witchers Creed can be found at:
This particular Sleeping Village owes a massive debt to Black Sabbath…& not just because we blatantly lifted our moniker from their plunder-worthy supply of deepcuts. Because Sabbath have left such a veritable canyon in the firmament of heavy music, we dedicate every Sunday to exploring their own discography, or to highlighting a lesser-known band that carries the mantle of Sabbathian legacy. Today it's a case of the latter, as we briefly review Lunar Eclipse, the 2nd EP from @Stonus.band, a stoner doom outfit from Cyprus. Slip on those headphones & dim the lights, dear reader; it’s time for Sabbath Sunday.
Perhaps the ultimate touchstone for stoner doom & space-rock is Planet Caravan. While Stonus runs the gamut from hard rock to blatant psydoom, this EP is a gradual voyage that results in an updated approximation of the universe-traversing aesthetic. Aspirin, the 1st track proper, is a Pagan Altar-eque rocker with muffled vocals, jubilant cymbals, & some wonderfully catchy licks. It’s an enjoyably unpredictable track in & of itself...but then Spiritual Realities kicks into gear, & Stonus deftly maneuvers their way through a tonal shift, demonstrating modern prog leanings à la Tool. Just when you feel like you have some sort of handle on what to expect, the title track leaves firm ground & goes for a bit of a jaunt through the ether. To describe Lunar Eclipse as “chill” feels diminutive, but honestly, this is a supremely laid-back experience--yet still rockin’ enough to facilitate attention to the details.
The intro & outro feel unnecessary & add little to the atmosphere, but as the aforementioned songs are simply outstanding, this is a minor quibble. No bones about it: this EP is a fun & relaxing listen, not least because of the obvious attention paid towards consistent exploration. Stonus may not be innovators & wayfinders per se, but their ability to avoid getting lost in the stereotypical stoner doldrums is incredibly admirable--a trait that sets them far beyond their many colleagues in the genre. Despite sounding familiar, Stonus are genuinely unique.
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry