RIPPER OF THE MONTH
VHOL (Profound Lore)
Released: April 16, 2013
I’m not a black metal aficionado so I will be completely forthcoming: I probably wouldn’t have looked twice at VHOL, but upon hearing of a band comprised of members from Hammers Of Fortune and YOB, it was impossible to ignore. Rooted primarily in black metal, they incorporate elements of d-beat hardcore and classic metal to formulate a whirlwind of an album. The turn-on-a-dime rhythm section highlights drummer Aesop Dekker’s (Agalloch, Worm Ouroborus, Ludrica) furious blasts and gallops and the crunchy bass of Sigrid Sheie (Hammers). YOB mastermind Mike Scheidt propels a mix of black metal howls with a nod to the screeching of Celtic Frost and Judas Priest. Lead guitarist John Cobbett (Hammers, Ludicra) spawned this band as a way to channel the post-Ludicra material. While I never paid much attention to Ludicra, you can definitely pick up his signature leads and shreds from Hammers Of Fortune. Their self-titled debut is intense and awesome from start to finish, and while the “supergroup” term causes folks in the metal world to grimace, VHOL is certainly greater than the sum of their parts.
Anciients – Heart Of Oak (Season Of Mist)
Released: April 16, 2013
I would listen to Opeth if Opeth sounded more like Vancouver’s Anciients. The comparisons are evident. First off, the musical proficiency is OFF THE CHARTS. Each member in the band can play their instrument, and play it very well. The vocals are incredible. The growls offer just the right “bite” and the clean vocals are crisp and serene. The songs are lengthy but well-crafted, progressive but memorable, melodic but heavy. Each track in this adventurous debut offers several riffs that will leave a lasting impression. So yes, with those descriptive traits, you could easily compare Anciients to Opeth, but I don’t give a shit about Opeth. You *should* give a shit about Anciients.
Blaak Heat Shujaa – The Edge Of An Era (Tee Pee)
Released: April 9, 2013
Parisian imports Blaak Heat Shujaa have made LA their new home, a much more productive environment for their brand of heavy psychedelic desert rock. When I say “desert rock”, your mind might automatically jump to a band like Kyuss, which is fine, but while I proudly wave the QOTSA flag, I can’t get into Kyuss. BHS is much more weird and interesting. “The Revenge Of The Feathered Peasant”, off last year’s The Storm Generation EP, initially caught my ear (and eyes, the picturesque video shown above), and their latest full-length builds further upon it, adding layers of middle eastern influenced licks and classic prog rock. Seriously, be sure to watch the above video on YouTube on full screen and 1080p. Drugs or not, it’s quite the trip.
Shining – One One One (Prosthetic)
Released: April 23, 2013
Norwegian self-proclaimed “blackjazz” metallers have compiled another album of weird proportions. Although a little more straight-forward than their last outing, One One One still manages to throw a few curveballs along the way, which is why I keep tabs on Shining. They inject some electronic spaz with trippy keyboards on “My Dying Drive”, and mainman Jørgen Munkeby still has some freakout saxophone moments on “I Won’t Forget” and “The One Inside”. I’m more attune to this Shining album than Blackjazz, because I felt Shining was trying TOO hard there (did we really need a “21st Century Shizoid Man” cover?). While One One One is a bit frontloaded, it’s still a refreshing change from the metal monotony.
GHOST – Infestissumam (Loma Vista)
Released: April 9, 2013
From the moment they uproariously arrived on the scene a mere three years ago, GHOST instantly split the metal community in half. You either love or hate them. Go on any metal blog, and you’ll see the same song and dance: “They’re not metal”, “Costumes are nothing but a gimmick”, ”Satan worship really??”, “They’re on a major label now?”.. blah blah blah. Hey, if your band crafts songs with infectious soaring choruses like “Year Zero” and “Depth Of Satan’s Eyes” and spins Mr. Bungle quirkiness (“Secular Haze” and “Zombie Queen”), I don’t care what you look like. I fell hard for their debut Opus Eponymous and I am further entangled in this latest release. And I’ll be seeing them in person (for the 2nd time) next month in Milwaukee!
Bovine – The Sun Never Sets On The British Empire (F.D.A.)
Released: April 12, 2013
Can’t say how happy I am to have stumbled upon this independent English band. They’re a lovely blend of the southern sludge, Mastodon and Baroness, with vocals reminiscent of Chris Cornell. And as I’ve said before, if you throw any tinge of grunge into your metal, SIGN ME UP. No seriously, the riffs are insanely catchy and the vocals are simply perfect (w/a little Josh Homme in there too).. big but not too pretty. I will jab these guys for the album’s title track which bears a little too much resemblance to Baroness’s “Swollen And Halo”. But all in all, I was on board from the minute one. Unlike listening to most music for the very first time, the payoff with Bovine’s debut is instant and gratifying. Choice cuts include “The Battle Of The Sinkhole”, “Ghost Chair”, and “Military Wife”.
Cough/Windhand Split (Relapse)
One song from doom heavyweights Cough and two from Virginia’s Windhand, who also have a full-length due later this year. It’s never a competition, and despite both offerings being extremely heavy, Windhand wins this race. Streaming at Brooklyn Vegan.
Lair Of The Minotaur – Godslayer EP (Grindhouse)
A couple of brutal tracks from Chicago’s very own doom/thrash act, celebrating Record Store Day with this latest EP. The closing synths on “The Black Heart Of The Stygian Drakonas” really threw me for a loop though. In a good way, of course. Streaming from their Bandcamp.
Tried it but didn’t like it: Purson, Zozobra, Across Tundras, Howl, Coliseum, Black Pyramid, Beastwars, The Moth Gatherer, Lo!, Halmos, The Ocean, Enabler’s EP, and most disappointingly, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats. I loved their debut, Blood Lust, but nothing clicked with Mind Control. The helium-pitched vocals were buried a little too deep in the mix this time around, and there was certainly nothing living up to the occult-loving fun I had with “I’ll Cut You Down“.
Hear most of the above-mentioned albums on my Spotify playlist.