Stygian is a monster of dark funeral doom. Three tracks sprawl out over 45 minutes, promising nothing but glacial moods and barren hopelessness, and delivering. There are two colossal songs that bookend a shorter ambient piece. Continue reading
2017 was an amazing year for music, with so many top-notch albums seeing the light of day. I pretty much say this every year, of course, but that doesn’t seem to stop it being true. With this in mind, the 2017 list was especially hard to put together, and I agonised over this one more than I did for any of the lists in previous years.
As is traditional, I also want to mention some releases by bands that could easily have made it onto the list, and should have by many rights, if only I could have somehow managed to fit them all in –
I urge you to check out all of the above releases, in addition to the ones in the actual list below. I could probably keep adding more bands you should give a listen to, but a line has to be drawn somewhere, I suppose.
So, without further ado, let’s get right down to it… Continue reading
I must confess a deep love for Usnea at this point; all of their previous work thus far has been stunning, (check out Random Cosmic Violence and their split with Ruins as just a couple of examples. It’s also no surprise that they made it onto my best of 2014 end of year list). Continue reading
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
This is sludgy doom metal that has heart. It’s heavy music that doesn’t skimp on the emotive qualities that make sludge so compelling. Continue reading
Featuring a wealth of instruments and influences, this is an epic album that lasts 73 minutes and takes the listener on a tour of all of the dark places.
The bedrock of the band’s sound is grim, murky Black Metal; this immediately differentiates them from some other Blackened Doom bands as usually the style is predominantly Doom with added Blackness; here it’s a good mix of two, probably leaning towards the Black Metal side of the equation a little more overall. There’s plenty of serrated Blackened parts to keep the blood pumping.
Elements of Crust, Post-Metal and pure Doom work their magic in among the blood-fed trees of the Black Metal forest in which the music grows. Litany is powerful, wonderful, ambitious and terrifying in equal measure. Taking aspects of bands like Hope Drone, Neurosis, Wolves in the Throne Room, Myrkur, Usnea, Nux Vomica, Bergthron, Lycus and a whole host of others, this is an impressive body of music that brings something different to the table with each track, all within the established framework of the band.
Sharp Blackened screams are juxtaposed with softer cleans, both male and female. Dark growls populate the undergrowth and harsh, rolling shouting stabs in like spikes. Guest vocals appear throughout the album, making the entire performance varied and interesting for the listener.
The overall feeling is one of a refined, sombre misery. Viola and other instruments give the music an additional air of sophistication and Dead to a Dying World are nothing if not accomplished at the spells they weave; the band are adept at creating thick atmospheres and dark moods.
The recording has a sickly, unnatural warmth to it, like something alive that shouldn’t be. It’s soft when it needs to be and roiling, churning and destructive at other times.
This is a long, involving and emotive listen that builds, crests and waves through the six tracks like a dark tsunami, crushing and destroying yet followed by calm and retrospection, reflecting on all that has been lost.
A very special 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.
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.
Ruins are first with their track Discrimen. It starts with an eerie riff and then builds in the bass and drums with a lumbering gait like some twisted swamp creature stalking its prey. This develops into a very satisfying riff that still manages to sound a little uneasy even while it’s rocking out.
The vocals are dirty and deep, sounding like some balaclava-wearing bruiser who’s only out to hurt you. These change about halfway through to a slightly more emotive sounding semi-clean and the song becomes energised.
Ruins are a curious blending of Crust/Hardcore and Sludge with even a slight hint of Post-Metal in the mix. Either way it makes for an enticing listen and I think I’ll be looking into what else this band has done.
After Ruins we get Usnea with Only the End of the World. Usnea are great band who have released an excellent self-titled début album of Blackened Doom, which I heartily advise everyone to immediately go and get. I was especially interested to hear their half of this split as at just under 6 minutes in length it’s a lot shorter than any of the songs on their album.
Their contribution is slower and more monolithic than that of Ruins; with the song seemingly dragging itself along against the burden of time immemorial.
The chasm-like vocals seem to open wide and swallow the light. They appear like fissures under the foundations of the song and it seems like it would be so easy to fall into the blackness there. Later as the higher vocals come in the massive holes in the world are replaced with piercing shrieks that cause their own no-less fatal puncture wounds.
Usnea don’t disappoint. It may be shorter than their other work but that doesn’t stop them from making the most of the playing time and ramming it chock full with Doom delights.
A highly recommended EP. Two great songs from two great bands. Seek it out.
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.