Owlcrusher – Owlcrusher (Review)

OwlcrusherOwlcrusher are a blackened doom/sludge band from the UK and this is their debut album.

Here we have some truly ugly, colossally heavy music, the likes of which you don’t stumble upon too often. Which, for the listener’s sanity and well-being, is probably a good thing. Continue reading

Ashtar – Ilmasaari (Review)

AshtarAshtar are from Switzerland and play Blackened Doom. This is their début album.

Ashtar play music that incorporates elements of Black Metal, Doom and Sludge. I do love a bit of Blackened Doom, and if you’ve been keeping up with the likes of Usnea, Mourning Pyre, Atriarch and Upyr then Ashtar should be your cup of tea too.

Even though the album cover screams Classic Doom, Ashtar’s musical aesthetic is more on the Black Metal side of things. Aspects of Classic Doom do make it into their sound, but these have been Blackened and corrupted into the sickening Sludge mass that they are now.

The vocals are mainly Blackened shrieks that seem to scratch at the back of your eyes like something unclean that wants to come into our world. The singer seems to have a knack for this kind of malevolent rasp, although she does occasionally use her voice in a few other ways throughout these six tracks.

The songs are bleak and sobering glimpses into the mindset of their creators. There are enough riffs and quality guitar lines here to keep anyone satisfied, but Ashtar are primarily about the mood and atmosphere that they create with their chosen medium.

The band are a duo and as such the music is relatively minimalistic, however it rapidly seems to expand to fill a large amount of space with its gloominess and it never seems like you’re listening to anything other than a full band. This is especially true when they incorporate additional sounds and instrumentation into their songs to further deepen the atmosphere.

There’s something extremely satisfying about this release. From the occult feelings to the Blackened bile; from the Doom aura to the impressive riffs; Ashtar have crafted a release that will appeal to the darkness inside.

Highly recommended.

Usnea – Random Cosmic Violence (Review)

UsneaUsnea are from the US and play Blackened Doom. This is their second album.

We’ve met Usnea before on their split with Ruins. This, coupled with their début album, (which is absolutely amazing, by the way), means that Random Cosmic Violence is an album that I have high expectations of indeed.

Usnea write riffs that are huge Blackened tsunami’s of tar and malevolent urges. This is Doom that’s as colossal as it is unfriendly. The Black Metal influence is still a definite part of their sound, albeit a little less closer to the surface on this release.

Multiple vocal styles of attack are present on this; from high-pitched screams, to bowel-shaking growls, to spoken word, to haunting cleans.

The interesting thing about Usnea is that their songs may be monolithic slabs of shaded darkness, but importantly they can write actual songs; the shortest track here is just over 12 minutes in length but Usnea have an exceptional ability to write songs that are catchy.

It may sound strange for a band like this, but the winding melodies really seep into your brain and it’s easy to find yourself humming along with the tunes. This was a hallmark of their début and they’ve carried this over to their second album with great aplomb.

The dark atmospheres that the band create are a pleasure to explore. Each track has its own personality, character and place on the album.

Everything about this album screams quality, longevity and depth. The songs draw you in and mesmerise. Even on first listen you know you’re dealing with a truly special album, and after multiple listens it’s confirmed; Usnea are just fucking brilliant.

What more can I say? If you like interesting, heavy music then this is essential.

Upyr – Altars/Tunnels (Review)

UpyrThis is the first release from Bulgarian band Upyr.

They play Blackened Doom and do this extremely well. The first track Before the Altars of Necrotic Karma starts with towering slow riffing and alternates this with a more mid-paced attack that evokes murky landscapes and a blackness to get lost in.

Vocals alternate between high shrieks a la Black Metal, and deeper growling and vocalisations. These are quality vocals as the deeper ones sound really menacing and the shrieks, (the predominant style), are savage and as sharp as black ice. Neurosis-style clean vocals are also used sparingly and contribute to the grim whole.

I really like the mood that these songs set for the listener. Although it may describe a bleak and inhospitable environment for the average person, for the connoisseur this is the sweetest of delicacies. The combination of monolithic Doom guitars with a scything Black Metal sheen to them is a dark pleasure to savour.

Taking the blueprint of Doom and infecting it with the corrupting influence of Black Metal is yielding great results for bands like Usnea and Battle Path; now we have another name to add to this glowing list of honors – Upyr.

A top quality first release and may there be many more in the future.