And now for something a little different, both in format and in sonic content! To adequately assess the latest offering from Slow Draw, two Village-dwellers--Continuous Thunder and The Administrator--took up the pen to express (complimentary) views, making for a somewhat rare double review 'round these parts. Without further ado:
Written by: Continuous Thunder
I’d like to start this with a bit of a disclaimer that I went into this album with no previous knowledge of Slow Draw or Stone Machine Electric (something I will be correcting immediately). I just saw the drone tag and I hit play. Drone can mean any number of things, but as this was a drone project of a member of a stoner band, I went in with expectations of good vibes and ultra-long riffs. What I didn’t expect was just how sparse the arrangements would be. Seriously, there’s little more than an electric piano, synths, and a guitar at any given moment on this album, and it lines up more with ambient music than drone.
Sparsity in music can be a blessing or a curse. On one hand, it strips things down to their bare elements, removing any fluff or embellishments that distract from the core of the composition. On the other, it reveals just how strong or weak a composition actually is. I think back to the last album from Earth where they dialed back the fuzz and reverb and had to lean on their riffs more than the atmosphere. Gallo does the same thing but to an even greater extent. The guitars are (mostly) acoustic, buzzy synths only serve as a backdrop, and there is very little, if any, percussion.
Written by: Continuous Thunder
In the world of heavy psych-rock, the majority of influences often come from the rock bands of the ‘70s, and if we’re honest, the modern bands more resemble hard rock and early heavy metal. Ultimately, this is understandable; modern heavy psych likely comes from a desire to trace heavy music back to its roots, and the origin of heavy metal is often, though not without contention, considered to be Black Sabbath’s 1970 self-titled debut. As such, many of the sounds and aesthetics emulated in heavy psych come from the time period immediately before and after that key event. You rarely hear modern bands going for the sound of the true psychedelic rock of the mid-’60s, and that’s why The Sonic Dawn is different.
Hailing from Denmark, The Sonic Dawn completely embrace original psychedelic rock in ways few modern bands do, right down to the floral shirts and mustaches.
Written by: Volt Thrower
As a kid the countless hours spent driving under starlit prairie highways in the 90’s, on the way to various campgrounds and theme parks, laid the foundation for desert rock being able to bring a wash of fuzz driven comfort later in life. There’s something incredibly soothing about being able to lose yourself in a locked in groove, essentially time traveling through the hundreds of km’s of nothingness. Heavy rockers Heavy Hands from Boston, take a stab at a classic style with some modern flair with their latest self-released offering “Through the Night.”
A rolling drum groove, with some fuzz drenched bass open things up on “Devil Nets”, sure to make Brant Bjork blush. Kicking things off with a nostalgic blast is a great hook, but they build upon that opening, with a really unique sound that the band feels out across the dozen fleeting minutes. The soulful delivery of the vocals on “Villain” really compliment the underlying bass and drum groove, but the guitar is the real scene setter for most of the album. Ranging from bluesy psychedelic washes, to straightforward riffage, to a near black metal tremolo picking style, giving it another layer with a sense of urgency and despair. Lyrical themes starting with, of course a desert highway cruise with your girl, to a poetic exploration of the plight of the never good-enough, ending in a mental “Breakdown.” Clean production wraps it all up into a nice, tight little package.
Written by: Scorpi
Let me set the scene. You’re in one of those fancy Venetian longboats. But you’re not in Venice, the budget in my imagination isn’t that large. But you’re on a river nonetheless. And up ahead there are towns & villages that light up the embankment of the river, this is where you’re heading.
The boat jitters forward and starts floating across the river, smooth as silk.
The start of this journey is accompanied by “Rengeteg,” the first track off of Ajna’s debut album of the same name. This leg of the journey is soothing and relaxing. You can hear birds singing, then some chirpy, catchy guitar melodies start playing in your head, along with a catchy drum beat. The boat travels along at a steady pace as you take in the sights. There’s some pretty, forest-like landscapes on the embankment with the setting sun shimmering through the leaves. More pleasant guitar licks are playing in your head, along with some funkier bass lines now but they aren’t front and centre, rather sitting gently underneath the pleasing guitar sounds. The music gets a little livelier every now and then, much like the excitement building within you to get to the first stop on your journey.
We Villagers are a busy lot this time of year, what with the silliness of year-end (and decade-end) lists. Thus, Captain Graves has taken the reins in the review department, as of late. Good thing too--the longer he's occupied with killer tunes, the more time we have to dig our own graves. - Ed.
Written by: Capt. Graves
We ate way too much Tumulan fungi last night in the Village. Needless to say, there wasn't much sleep going on. Instead, I spent the night listening to Rabbits by Brume, and down the hole I went chasing that fluffy white rabbit. In that hole I found a wonderland with talking animals and floating clocks.
The first track, "Despondence," brings you in and out of riffs and atmosphere. The vocals here are extremely powerful--they will send you spiraling into the abyss, and shoot you back out the other end. One thing I didn't enjoy about this track was the length. It felt like it was going nowhere by the end, like I'd been listening to the same riff for hours. "Scurry," however, has much more depth in the songwriting, and really starts to bring out the band's strong suits. More soaring vocals to send me deep into space, where I belong. A nice gentle atmospheric interlude to bring you around to an epic, slow, gritty guitar solo. This song feels like it has some nu-metal influence, and I can dig it.
While the Good Captain has, as of late, been all too happy to make himself at home in the Sleeping Village's humble confines, it's been a while since he graced us with a demonstration of his prowess with the ol' pen. Maybe...maybe the (self-described) Destroyer of Worlds is getting a tad too comfortable? Only time will tell. - Ed.
Written by: Capt. Graves
Hails from the Village, I have stepped foot among this filthy place again. For me the putrid smells, and humid air really make me feel at home. As we all got stoned around the fire last night, I decided to hunker down and listen to the new Opium Warlock album, and man did it send me spiraling into the abyss. This is some heavy shit, boys and girls. Opium Warlock is a band out of Prague and they deliver some of the best doom The Swamp has to offer.
The leading track, "Signals from Uranus," is layered in synths and bells. I may have just had a signal from my anus, and it's quite tingly. "Meth Desert" has some guest vocals from Ganja Mutt, and this man really knows how to make me tingle too. I think this song should have been called..."Signals from Uranus."
Captain Graves is back. Guess he's too busy writing reviews to destroy worlds these days. To each their own, I guess. - Ed.
I've been on a rampage here in The Village. These stoned fools have dubbed me "Space Friend" thanks to Concilium, and it really makes my intergalactic blood boil. I guess all the flak I send their way is really getting to them. Solving this with humor isn't really conducive with my way of thinking. I prefer setting folks on fire, and then watching Varic eat their planet whole.
Here we have Blackwater Holylight, and I'm actually honored to write this review. Their reverb drenched self-titled was a delight, so I was ecstatic to find they had a new album (Veils of Winter) on the horizon with Riding Easy Records.
Captain Graves is on what we earthlings might refer to as "a tear," and I'm certainly not going to stand in his way. Enjoy his latest treatise. - Ed.
I've been kept busy over here at The Village. They took me to their vomit pits for a glorious session. Watching feeble humans excrete from every orifice is quite satisfying if I do say so myself, and I do.
When The Deadbolt Breaks' Angel's Are Weeping... ...God Has Abandoned... is far from vomit inducing. It's more homicidal/suicidal, and I really get into that. Destroying worlds and making people suffer is somewhat of an expertise for me. The first track "Centering Through Isolation" has a long intro, it almost turned me off from writing this review, but I'm glad I gave it a chance. Its atmospheric and sludgy nature reeled me in. "Blood Born" also has a long intro, but the guitar is trance-like and seems to tell a story on it's own. I do love wet guitar lines. It turns into a sludgefest after that, switching between operatic vocals and deathly screams.
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.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!