Ilsa – Intoxicantations (Review)

ilsaWell, isn’t this the proverbial hidden gem. Filthy, dirty sludge Metal with elements of thrash and death ‘n’ roll mixed in. Quite simply this is brilliant.

The overall feelings and structures of the songs are composed in such a way that this is a very complete album. Each song easily identifiable from the rest and together forming one of the most enjoyable albums I’ve listened to in a while. I haven’t been able to stop listening to this the last few days.

Very insipid; the riffs crawl their way into your subconscious and refuse to dislodge. The production miraculously manages to sound both dirty and clear at the same time. The guitar tone in particular is strong and powerful. Crushing in fact.

Each track has its own character and personality, comprising of top-shelf riffs and attitude. There is no filler here; each song is its own entity and more than capable of standing on its own merits.

Snarling, vicious vocals accompany the metallic mayhem and perfectly suit the musical vision of the rest of the band. As a reference point they are sometimes reminiscent of the Darkest Hour vocalist and have the same level of passion and legibility. The singer of Ilsa gives an excellent performance in all ways.

This album is first-rate. If you are a fan of metallic sludge and like plenty of depth and longevity in your music then this will certainly be a must for you. So far, alongside the first album by Morality Crisis, this is a very strong contender for album of the year as far as I’m concerned.

Eye of Solitude – Canto III (Review)

Eye of SolitudeAnd it begins – the start of the apocalypse is soft and gentle; slowly building and eventually giving way to a torrent of Doom so monolithic it’s almost overbearing. The sheer oppressiveness of the deep, deep vocals washing away all resistance to the new world that this depressive, bleak, yet wonderful music heralds.

First comes the Doom, and then comes the blast, but Eye of Solitude even manage to infuse blastbeats with a sense of hopelessness and despair. It may not sound like it, but for this kind of music that’s a compliment. 15 minutes in and the first song has finished. The second starts with no intro; it goes from silence to destruction in the space of a heartbeat. The sense of majesty is terrible to behold.

The nature of Eye of Solitude songs is one of a constant oppressive misery, spiked with the occasional uplifting, hopeful moment, only to have this hope removed and crushed without comment. The songs are long, the emotions deep. There is also a sense of frustration at play here; as if there is a railing and thrashing against the inevitable, before final acceptance takes place.

One of the clever aspects of this album is the simultaneous appearance of uniformity and linearity while at the same time having dynamics that are merely disguised by the highly emotive atmosphere that Eye of Solitude foster. This is a masterful stroke as it adds a layer of depth and complexity to the songs that is not always apparent on first listen – the very definition of discovering something new every time.

Based on the strength of their previous releases this is an album that I have been looking forward to, and I am very pleased to say I am not disappointed. Essential.

Coven 13 – Destiny of the Gods (Review)

Coven 13Well this is an enjoyable romp of an album! Traditional Heavy Metal mixed with elements of Revered Bizarre-style Doom, 70’s psychedelic influences and some good old rock ‘n’ roll swagger for good measure.

Attitude and plain old metal fun is the order of business here. Not to imply that they are a novelty band or “jokey” in anyway. Not at all; rather they have a joyousness to their sound that I imagine would translate very well live and that their performances would be, well, fun!

Traditional song structures and strong choruses abound, as well as some nice fretwork and solid tub bashing. The vocals immediately strike the listener as the most noticeable element of the band as the sheer enthusiasm and character that they have is a welcome change – there’s no way you could accuse this singer of not giving his all. The vocals appear to be imbued with the full force of his personality in a way that is relatively rare these days. In fact the entire album sounds out of place in today’s modern metal climate in many ways as it is a very individual record with scant regard for trends and cliques, etc.

A refreshing blast from the past come to liven up the present.

Monte Penumbra – Heirloom of a Sullen Fall (Review)

Monte PenumbraA rich amalgamation of Black Metal and Doom; Monte Penumbra’s début album may be relatively short at only 35 minutes, but it is packed to the hilt with texture and interesting things going on.

Slow, doom-laden Black Metal played with skill and passion; Monte Penumbra know their art and know how to get the most out of their songs. Interesting riffs, atmospheric interludes, tempo changes; this is bleak-yet-Black Metal that hits the spot; sludge hijacked by Black Metal and bent to its will.

The vocals are varied – ranging from chants, screams to powerful almost-singing; a welcome change from the generic.

This is an enjoyable album for those times when you’re in the mood for something a bit more brooding and well-paced, thoughtful and introspective yet still drenched in Black Metal’s distinctive colours.

Funeral Circle – Funeral Circle (Review)

Funeral CircleFuneral Circle play Epic Doom Metal. This album is all about the songs, the feeling of Doom, and the weighty guitars.

At 51 minutes it is a decent length and every track is really enjoyable. Harking back to an older time of more traditional song structures and Doom inspired themes and feeling, yet with a powerful production and sound that makes it sound contemporary, without ever sounding too polished or stale. Funeral Circle have a sound which is alive and warm, wrapping their arms around you like a comfy blanket. Only it’s a comfy Doom Metal blanket, of course.

The songs are well-crafted and perfectly judged, never outstaying their welcome or straying into pedestrian areas. The musicianship is first-rate and does justice to the songwriting, bringing each track alive. With vocals that are powerful and inspiring, the singer perfectly fits the music with a great range and depth to his voice.

This is traditional-style Doom Metal played with conviction and power. Along with bands like Pallbearer and 40 Watt Sun this is exactly what this genre should sound like in 2013. Strong harmonies, excellent vocals and everything focused on the song. A win.

Abbotoir – MCMXV (Review)

AbbotoirSometimes music can seem more than just music – sometimes it seems like a force of nature. MCMXV is like that. Only two tracks, but over 50 minutes of music. Heavy, colossal, doom. This is the début album by this Irish doom band. Their first release was an EP (XLI) which whet the appetite nicely and this album follows hot on the heels of that.

Their style of doom is a filthy, dirgy, primal one. Primarily slow, (obviously), but not afraid to mix it up now and again in true sludge fashion. Indeed; both songs have their faster moments, but even these are covered in grime and filth, and the atmosphere steadfastly remains one of decay and neglect, further enhanced by the effects in the background of the primary instruments.

This is an album that will only improve with time. The repetitive nature of some of the dirgy riffs burrows into your subconscious and refuses to leave. A most welcome, if rotten, earworm; loudly insisting that you return for more foetid delights in the dank recesses of the Abbotoir.

With this release Abbotoir have proved that they are not one-(bong)-hit wonders and instead are capable of carving a niche for themselves in the doom scene. And I, for one, hope they continue to do so far some time to come.