Sometimes a track is entirely made by its intriguing instrumentation, its complex composition, or an otherwise original modus operandi. Sometimes a unique voice or lyrical theme serves as the hook that gets you in the door. Not so here. In the case of True Enemy, the latest single from Budapest’s Vanta, we're here for one thing and one thing only: that goddamn riff.
Yeah, you know what I’m talking about--or you will in short order. Just hit play below and succumb to that inevitable bludgeoning. This is a gravel-crushing steamroller of a riff, plain and simple, and nothing stands in its way. Like a mossy sasquatch stomping around whilst strapped into mechanical armor, Vanta is seemingly bent on wanton destruction. Your eardrums (and spinal column, no doubt) stand little chance against this churning distortion and brobdingnagian swagger. Seldom is the Sleeping Village’s conclave of ink-splattered scribes slapped upside the head with such massively belligerent riffage, so if I’m blathering at this stage, just assume I’m utterly concussed.
The vocals are appropriately violent, working with the guitar to provide an absolute sludge onslaught. A filter effect gives the vocalist a particularly intimidating aura, and lends the entire package a distinctly industrial persona. Vanta describes themselves--perhaps obtusely, but honestly accurately--as “Black sonic river.” I’ll be damned if I know what that means per se, but it sounds about right. These guys rip, tear, and obliterate their way through the doom/sludge umbrella, leaving little behind but shreds and twisted metal. If you’re feeling like a pick-me-up may be in order, we highly recommend you try on True Enemy for size.
My music-listening experience this winter has been haunted by an intriguing conundrum. At any given moment I have the option of subjecting myself to a bevy of new music from an impossibly wide range of genres--music that I will inevitably find enjoyable. But an alternative perpetually looms: listen to Sacred Monster’s stunning debut yet again. From a purely mathematical standpoint, the latter option ranks supreme. This album has flesh-rending hooks, and putting it down has been a genuine struggle. The year--despite still in an admittedly infantile stage--has been concretely defined by Worship The Weird, and I'm honored and excited to have the opportunity to share it with you today. For those of you lookin' to get directly to the good stuff, you can find Worship the Weird streaming in full below.
As described in our review/stream of lead single “High Confessor,” Sacred Monster’s aesthetic is a peculiar (and wholly singular) blend of Gloryhammer’s campy exultance, spliced through the riff-centric approach of Orange Goblin. Why Gloryhammer? Despite not wanking around the sonic confines of power metal heaven, Sacred Monster apply a palpable sense of nerdy excitement to everything they touch. When it comes to being fans of weird shit, Sacred Monster is an unabashedly jubilant outfit, and their energy is infectious beyond cure. Joe Abercrombie, Twilight Zone, Stephen King’s Gunslinger, Lovecraftian existentialism, and the general ambiance of prosthetic-laden horror are all on gratuitous display. Goofy it may be, but it’s most certainly not fluff. Despite cheesy subject matter, Sacred Monster are undeniably worldbuilders and storytellers--and, even when those fantastical elements technically belong to some other creative entity, these interpretations are never simple re-hashery. Take, for example, the explicit Twilight Zone worship of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” Despite maintaining a firm grasp on frankly ridiculous material, this hard-hitting track takes a turn as its narrator appears...sympathetic? It's all oddly endearing.
Sacred Monster's sound is honestly difficult to describe, due largely to an expansive palette of instrumental influences. While riffage is generally omnipresent and blocky in stature, it recalls a variety of genre, from the hefty footprints of stoner doom to the galloping drive of NWOBHM. Despite a fairly fuzz-free application, the aforementioned Orange Goblin’s aggressive bite-first-ask-questions-later approach is apparent. Meanwhile, the general heft recalls, at times, the carpet-bomb'd groove of Corrosion of Conformity, as well as the bluesy hard-rockin’ appeal of Danzig or Clutch. Because the guitar tone is so pleasantly modern, I almost hesitate to mention Pentagram, but a certain Griffen-esque willingness to gleefully cram riff after superb riff into a track remains a defining characteristic. No question: Robert Nubel, the appointed Riff Finder General, knows how to write 'em gnarly and mean. Nothing here feels derivative, overused, or otherwise tired...and for a band that falls, tangentially, into the stoner doom category, that’s a goddamn accomplishment. Melodic intros and occasion blazing solo reinforce the General as a formidable force. One-trick-pony he is not. Sacred Monster is relentlessly uptempo, and so, not to be outshone, Guillermo Moreno and Ted Nubel--Bishop of the Bottom End and Priest of Percussion, respectively--keep things consistently intriguing. Guitar-centric songs all-too-oft feel shallow, but here, a tangible weight is carried throughout. Sacred Monster contends with some obvious star power, and it is to their credit that the band so clearly operates as a unit. Worship the Weird is relentlessly solid. Stoic, even. There's not a track here that suffers from undercooked songwriting or unbalanced arrangements, and as a result, Side B fares just as well as Side A at delivering uniquely kooky material wrapped in brobdingnagian heft.
Speaking of star power: I give you Adam Szczygieł, The Minister of Screams Himself. This man has an unbelievable range, from the guttural roars of “Re-animator,” to the throat-wrenching chant of (standout track) “Face of My Father,” to the King Diamond-esque wails scattered, liberally, throughout. The vastly divergent vocal techniques employed only adds to the substantial interest, and it is to Szczygieł’s credit that one never really knows what to expect. Forget the thematic trappings: this man is a monster unto himself.
Sacred Monster is wondrously proficient, approaching the madness of the Frankenstein-ian protagonist of "Re-animator" in their uncanny ability to execute an appropriately weird vision. With Worship the Weird, they deliver what is easily the most straight-up entertaining album to lay siege to the Sleeping Village's walls in a very, very long time. In promo material, Sacred Monster invites listeners to “celebrate...the unexplainable and the inescapable; the shapes just outside the corner of your eye. Pay tribute to the beasts that haunt your dreams and their creators. Join with us in wicked ceremony to give praise to the things that lurk below, outside space, and just beyond your door.” For once, I actually believe the hyperbole, and in this way, Worship the Weird is as much of a mission statement as it is a ritualistic command. I, for one, am obliged to bow my head in supplication of the strange. Needless to say, this album comes at the highest order of recommendation.
Sacred Monster's Worship the Weird will be released March 1st. In the meantime, listen to the album in full here:
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.
Yes, yes. The observant reader will note that The Sleeping Village was host to a review of this single many months ago. But today, the occasion is ripe to break the same dastardly write-up out of the ol’ archives. On March 9th, Detroit Doomsters Temple of the Fuzz Witch will be releasing their self-titled debut under Seeing Red Records--and "Bathsheba," the track we previously spoke highly of, serves as the lead single. If you missed it, here's a chance to remedy that mistake.
As a figure of literal biblical proportion, Bathsheba is an admirably complex character. An obvious victim of David the adulterer, Bathsheba was nonetheless a cunning puppet-master who made the best of a bad situation, solidifying immense power for her bloodline. This is all to say that Temple of the Fuzz Witch’s homage to Bathsheba is significantly more black & white than the character herself. Fortunately, nuance isn’t the goal for these riff-worshippers. Like with the fuzzy witch's prior EP, we’re presented the opportunity to revel in some no-nonsense fuzz induced occult gloom, and boy, does this hit the spot.
When we talk Sabbathian influence, Iommi’s thick riffage is usually the topic in question. Here, however, the bass is pure Geezer. Thick, forward-facing, & nearly recalling Dopethrone in its stoic delivery, the bass provides a well constructed foundation for the titular fuzz. The Electric Wizard influence extends to vocals as well, manifesting in filtered, heavy-lidded howls that prowl low in the mix. Like everything else, the vox lacks frills, but it’s an excellent performance to be sure. The soloing around the 4:10 mark is particularly well conceived. Simple but delightfully timeless in its distorted, steadfast delivery.
These are the sounds that made me fall in love with doom in the first place, & the continuation of that god-given tone is truly a delight to behold. A review of Temple of the Fuzz Witch's debut in full shall manifest shortly, but for the time being, we implore you: spend a lil’ precious time with Bathsheba. And get on that $6.66 pre-order.
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.