Friday, July 24, 2015
The vast 13-minute pastiche of opener “All He Has Read” thrusts us from an introductory summoning of dark spirits before it switches up and kicks into gear with echoing bell tolls and melodic riffs. There are forceful impressions of folk in the rhythmical drum runs and the accompanying rise and fall of the backing vocals breathe a symphonic air into proceedings. The insidious tone of the second movement and minor chords of the guitars mark out the band’s gothic leanings whilst the whole employs some, at times, pretty rough cloak-and-dagger lyrics all breathed out by Thomas Sabbathi’s strained, affected delivery. I had to check the liner notes to check to see if it wasn’t actually Suede’s Bernard Butler!
Upbeat numbers like “Pillars Of The South”, the addictive blast of “Riders & Vultures” and the bluesier “Vermin” jink back and forth upon solid riffs whilst slower, more foreboding tracks like “The Emma”, laced with pantomime villainy, and the Jethro Tull-esque “World Of Wonders” drink deep upon proggy blasts of mellotron allowing the band to really sink their teeth into the flesh of their chosen subject matter.
Dig deeper and you’ll find wedged into the middle of the album are the curio couplet “The Wind” and “Black Sunlight”. Both are invigorated by employing the galloping country rhythms, harrowing narrative and dull baritone of Nick Cave. A trickle of unhinged discomfiture in a sea of assuredness.
Relentlessly engaging without ever really demanding of the listener, The Unspeakable is a solid hitter played with a straight bat. It’ll certainly be interesting to see if next time out they go for something a little more thematically grizzled, perhaps with an eye towards engaging with the extreme, because this hints at it and they have left plenty of room for manoeuvre.
Monday, July 20, 2015
One suspects their live show must be a bit hairy seeing as the three members all play bass. Luckily, Kyle M. is also adept at playing lead guitar and their vocalist, Willy P., also has a knack for bashing ten bells out of a drumkit. They’ve been hoiking out demos and EPs since 2005, and this latest release marks a compilation of some of their later material. Shot through with distortion and overdrive, the music within is undeniably aggressive, oppressively doomy, dense to the point of crushing and yet curiously hypnotic.
“Indignation” is the equivalent of aural mincemeat. Teeth-rattling bottom-end, sludge-hurling chugs and Neanderthal guttural sounds and animal grunts that form themselves into such eloquent wordplay as “Steel toe mother fucking your head into the curb” and “Choke on your last fucking screams”. No surprise then when it all slowly begins to disintegrate into a torrent of feedback. “Buried In The Darkness” digs out a soft and sweet longwave riff, whilst the scrambling “Bowels Of Hell” goes for something with a similarly bludgeoning sound and equally sympathetic lyrics – “Just another example of living human waste”. Oh hell, what a bundle of joy, this is.
There are no pauses between tracks but you’ll catch when they switch as the thing is like a patchwork quilt of jumps, skips and oblique key changes. There is very little variation in tone or deviation from style. “Sewer Dreams” makes a stab at it, with some flitting, tuneless, ethnic instrument buzzing like a rampant fly stuck in your right ear, but even here they refuse to let you out of the gutter. The grooviest thing is the Sloth cover, “Sassy Pants”, which pitches back and forth with a lively drum section and a quick switch-up in chord structures. It’s quickly down into their usual fare of heads-down, dark droning though. If you can make it as far as the fearsome “Temples Of Perdition” you’re doing well, but I swear if you do the band will have broken you. They broke me there – hell, I even cracked an exhausted smile. Something I last did at an Annotations Of An Autopsy show back in late 2008.
Essentially this is 45 minutes of careless, low-fi slops and barrel-scraping, death-obsessed, elephantine doom-mongering watered-down to the simple joys of constructing a song round a riff, spewing hate and ejecting face-melting levels of distortion. Basic, honest music with zero frills. And therein lays the true pleasure of The Whorehouse Massacre. With so many bands these days welding multiple genres together and throwing everything but the kitchen sink at their music, TWM stick a defiant middle finger up and say “suck on this, you fuck”.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Spending months rather than weeks writing this latest effort allowed the band to really stretch themselves. Bassist Casey Aylward explains: “I think we had a lot of time in the studio to mess around with details and textures… we were diving into different territories a lot on this record”. This extra time taken meant they were keen to find a producer who could bring the most out of the wealth of this fresh-sounding material and so they searched out Sanford Parker (Yob, Twilight). He certainly seems to have given the music more colour than much of their previous material and has retained the visceral edge that so defines them.
Firing us into a squall of feedback, “Dawnlands” sets the pace with classic lines and dark portents before “Colony” picks up the baton and introduces a strident, battle-hardened groove to proceedings. Here, the lyrics begin to disintegrate into binary and the structure and pacing quick-steps between the track’s many facets. Like some bizarre, mutated combination of Lamb Of God’s “Straight For The Sun”, Isis’ “Wavering Radiant” and Steak Number Eight’s “Photonic”, the magical post-doom of “Yearn” settles into a memorable, cyclical riff accompanied by a roared vocal hook. It takes just these three tracks together for us to establish our place upon Settler‘s musical roundabout.
Like its neighbour, the accurately-titled “Glory” similarly takes its influence from the post-metal kinks of Isis, yet summons their more explosive side, piling raging power on top of Nicholas Thornbury’s maniacal, howled vocal. It pitches us straight into the slowly-emerging structure and hefty theatrics of the truly epic “Heirs”. It’s a track that whisks us from speeding metallic grunt to drifting melodics and barbarous, deathly grooves before finally cramming us into the closing dynamic oblivion of something truly special.
Most certainly there are weaknesses in the album, but these are confined to the odd disrupting stumble between segues and a failure to fully-integrate the faster, less accessible parts. The fans should be happy with the result but mere passers-by may find themselves alienated by the looser, more ragged hits of “Impact” and the title-track. What cannot be disputed is Vattnet Viskar’s desire to experiment. From the very first glance of that conflicted and emotionally-cutting front cover (a recreated photo of a beaming Christa McAuliffe training for NASA’s ill-fated 1986 Challenger mission) right through to Settler‘s closing combination of melody and feedback, the band are seeking to expand our minds and their own. They toy with a huge concept by applying varying degrees of pacing and atmospherics. The end result isn’t flawless but it is, ultimately, beguiling.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
For four straight tracks they strap you beneath the wings of an aircraft, dangling in the heat from the jet engine, billowing in the drag of 60,000 tonnes of thrust. Opener “The Black Plot” powers up their instantly recognisable swathe of rotational vortexes and gutsy, crushing machinations whilst the howling “Carcosa” and “The Sunless Years” both come infused with a warming buzz, oodles of stoner doom grunt, wild resounding solos and are splattered with the thick, gargled vocal that rattles from the scarred lining of Pike’s newly-sober throat. A veritable bag of nails, it laughs in the face of the earth-shaking instrumentation attempting to flatten it.
This time round, happily for those needing a breather after the spiky, speed-demons that are “Slave The Hive” and the title-track, California’s finest have littered the album with little air holes out of which pours energising melodics and sleek, dark portents that wrap themselves round simmering, beautifully-paced growers. Riding upon “The Falconist” you absolutely get the sense of mounting the back of this rising bird of prey, wedged between its beating wings. It douses itself in hints of classic rock and NWOBHM with its simplistic progressions and organic patterns. From the crush of Torche and Crowbar into the loving arms of Iron Maiden yet never leaving the core of their sound far behind. It would be remiss of me here then to not also mention the Monster Magnet-esque psychedelics and echoing, vocal drift that forms “The Cave”. It is the brooding hinge on which this whole album swings. Without it, the album would be bereft of its most interesting flavour.
Having torn into Luminiferous, their seventh long-player, with the same verve and power that they riddled their debut with, it seems almost unfathomable that the band even know how to create a weak or maniacally experimental album. The one thing that they rarely pull from their repertoire, however, and something that is missing here too, is the invention of a brash, repeating lyrical hook, an unforgettable riff or irresistible earworm. Instead, they choose to build their music close to the ground; they were born to do so. It defines them. The need to lay a rock-solid foundation oozes from their pores. As a consequence, the High On Fire label has become a sign of assured quality. Fans will know what to expect, newbies will either move on or absolutely devour its intensity and crave more. Just remember, before you press play… buckle up.
Friday, May 22, 2015
Thus, with something akin to the storytelling of Agalloch, Anathema or Alcest whilst drunk on Sabbathian doom and Opethian melancholy, the Californian quintet unveil an opus with cold, bleak beginnings leading to later forays into their harder, darker material.
Now, 13 tracks for a band like SOTS would indicate a complete change of tack. It is with some relief, then, that once you’ve got past the superb concept of having seven short, tension-building, feeder sound recordings then you’re left with a mere six full-lengths to pore over. Yes, it’s a gimmick to separate one type from the other but at least they don’t hide them behind complex titles, opting for simple Roman numeral formatting instead.
Following the introductory crashing of waves upon a shoreline (which also neatly bookends the album), they serve up “Three Swords” and our first taste of Garett Gazay’s clean vocal, which rises from amidst a swathe of minor keys, starting at a whisper, continuing through to strident song and finally into his more recognisable blackened shriek and roar. Initially the light, melancholic tone can make the clean vocal feel tentative, weak and, dare it be said, tuneless and at times overtly preachy. It’s hard to ignore the way they baby-step you into the album with dull, cyclical phrases such as “lying on a river” (from “Three Swords”), or “love this [life]” and “I don’t care anymore” (from “Another Light”) but they are balanced by the simple joys provided by the shrewd folk metal crunch of “Angels In Vine” and the brilliantly dark split-delivery of “Garden Of Prayers”, with the latter-half subtly hinting at the enigmatic delivery of Palms’ Chino Moreno.
Echoing footsteps upon a stone path, via the obstacles of trickling water, inhuman chuntering, industrial clanking and mantra chanting, have somehow led us inevitably to a roaring fire and the gloriously-consuming, black-edged “Fosforos”. It’s the signal for all-hell to let loose and the change of pace and instant freedom that comes with it is palpable. The chugs become more fervent and the screech and roars unhinged as the flames lick around our feet. Then, with a final flourish they power home their masterpiece, “Eternal Wolves”, which effortlessly combines the album’s constituent parts to create a single, unforgettable microcosm that positively glows from within with sweeping builds, chiming threads and poisonous barbs right through to that final guillotine moment.
There’s no doubting the sonic shift from the threatening, gritty malice of their debut to something more subtle, mournful and introspective. In its final moments, the picture is revealed in glorious monochrome. There are also definite bonus points here for ignoring the usual charade of tracklisting the heavier material up front, and thereby adhering to the ‘journey’ and the gradual unveiling of the concept. Consequently, the album flows beautifully through all of its rises and falls. Sure, it isn’t without its weaknesses, but it’s a Pathway I’d heartily recommend you walk.