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Album Review: TBA

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Album Review: Ketch - The Anthems Of Dread

Hailing from Arvada, Colorado, a city built on the original site where the first nugget of Rockies gold was discovered in 1850, doom-dwellers Ketch have discovered something far darker lurking in their waters.

Anyone dipping their sluice pan in this river will find a mixture of death, sludge and, as their album-title so eloquently describes, plenty of dread. This first long-player from them comes with their self-titled EP tacked on the end so this release certainly isn’t short on playtime.

They open up with a lilting bassline that curls itself around your senses like smoke, but soon bursts into flame and meaty riffery. With the screeching vocal completing the set, those listening will be sent whirling like dervishes, banging heads, punching fists. “Fertile Rites By Sacrifice” is a fine introduction – simple, aggressive and weighty.

From here things start getting a little fraught as the disturbing madness that lurks within their song-writing starts tearing the structures apart. Chaotic rhythms, furred-up electrics, anomalous chords and bristling vocal that tears maniacally at the flesh. Rumbling butchery that eventually catches the groove before suddenly disappearing from view.

“En Nomine Eius” [translation: “In The Name Of Jesus Christ”] echoes elegiacally, warbling sweetly before tearing your face clean off with a single swipe. The double-kicking fury is bone-shattering. Like a mix of Iron Monkey and Slabdragger, with hints of Monolord and Weedeater, this is heaviosity in overdrive; low-lidded and psychotic. Pitching straight into “Monsters Of The World”, an atonal death growling bastard from the very depths of Hell itself. You know something’s afoot when your cat fixes you with narrowed eyes and pins its ears back yet refuses to move from the room.

One sore point – “Estranged”, with its tuneless piano collapse and echoing whispers intoning scripture it’s clearly designed to bring to mind the horrors that lurk in the mind, but by the second play simply starts drives you nuts. “ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY…”

Happily, all’s well that ends well as they resort to type. Oh, and their 5-track EP that follows has plenty to offer the doom fiends amongst you. Definitely, check out “Counting Sunsets” – it’s a cold-blooded killer of a track.

Ketch don’t do things by halves. This is hearty, brutal fare with exotic flourishes that hint at something beyond your usual experience. Slap on your death mask, bring your weed and come get some.

Album Review: Royal Thunder - Wick

Grabbing the chance to wade into Royal Thunder’s world is always a bit of a pleasure. The Atlantan quartet are right up my alley often warping the softer edges of classic rock and grunge with deft psych touches to create a warm, unctuous sound. New album, Wick, has promised to offer something a little different though so we’ll see in which direction they’ve veered.

It’s a slow, melancholic start with Mlny Parsonz’ strong, part-growled vocal outpourings, saving the weak MOR melodies, rhythmic plodding and cloying, overwrought threads from anonymity. Happily, as the tempo picks up, to coincide with the rollicking force of “The Sinking Chair”, the disparate structures begin to mesh together and throb beautifully. Her vocal even kicks into growl mode and the twisted overdrive in Josh Weaver’s guitar really ram home the band’s intent and passion. It’s a right old rocker all wrapped up in bookends of feedback.

There’s elements of stoner plod, dirty pop and blues boogie in here, but it’s the rich vein of frazzled country that shines through strongest of all. The balletic “Plans” is pure Black Crowes, the over-dramatics and soporific nature of “Push” and “The Well” are tinged with Creedence and Fleetwood Mac, whilst the lilting kick and rattle of “Anchor” is delivered with a sneer, a swagger and a truckful of capricious intensity that only comes from extended Country & Western immersion – I bet they recorded it wearing ten gallon hats.

Ultimately it’s the weaker numbers, such as the loose-limbed “We Slipped” and the wheedling, naval-gazing title-track that leave this coming up short of their best material. Despite the clipped song structures, multi-instrumentalism and new clean lines they are sporting this, by no means, is an album that has strayed too far from the nest but it does come fired up by this strong sense of purpose. It’s interesting to notice that Parsonz found making the album a bit of a struggle. “It was a fight, but to hear it now, to see it finished, is so gratifying. I’m looking at it, going we’re done, it’s over, be free.” For me, the overwhelming sense from reading that quote is one of relief, rather than achievement. Let’s hope that the pieces fall into place a little easier next time.

Also online @ Ave Noctum =

Album Review: Karg - Weltenasche

What Austrian J.J. (the artist formerly known as V. Wahntraum) does is a mouthful, but what the one-man Austrian band calls himself is not. He dabbles in ambient-oriented, post-atmospheric black metal but he simply calls his project KARG.

Weltenasche is his fifth full-length studio album and is the first to be completely performed in the dialect J.J. grew up with and which is spoken around the mountains of his hometown. Being gloomy and emotional, you’ll pick up subtle hints of Alcest and LantlĂ´s in here.

Take, “Crevasse”. It’s an 11-minute opener that lays bare his tonal calling card. Part-ambient, part-aggressive, the construction is detailed and invites introspection. It’s steady opening and resplendent chiming background is quickly obliterated by a viciously shrieked vocal that repeatedly drowns the softly-spoken underscore whilst the introduction of massively-distorted guitar scrawl kicks it fully into submission.

The rhythm bucks and shakes as the drum patterns shift constantly making it tough to grab a firm grip on proceedings. The juxtaposition of rough and smooth creates an antagonistic power play but the overall sense of drama is unerring. Melancholia envelops all – easy-listening this is not.

By the end of third track, “Le Couloir De Ombres”, we are already well over 30 minutes into this beast with the promise of at least another 45 minutes to go and already the abrupt key changes and panicky, affected nature of the song-writing is causing heart-palpitations. Grinding on as I must I find the shackles tightening and crave freedom. It becomes beyond oppressive, I start to writhe, burn, itch and fester. Not due to the extreme nature of the music, but the incessant, imposing structures that obliterate one another. It makes no sense.

It’s a tough one – these could all be special places to the right ear, but to mine the levels of perseverance required to fully engage the bronco requires me to strip my psyche to the bone. Each vast piece takes us careering into uncharted territory. Through NWOBHM, 80s kitsch, recordings of blazing rows and into incendiary spots of classical music.

Ultimately it is the dull, recycling chord structures that kill it. This is J.J.’s own all-consuming psychosis, not ours. It’s just too easy an album to walk away from. Without rules, there is only chaos and this is what miserably deliberate, self-absorbed chaos sounds like.

Also online @ Ave Noctum =

Album Review: Queen Elephantine - Kala

With a production value as rough as a hangover, Queen Elephantine cast a little one-take stardust over their music. It’s lo-fi and dissolute. Hearing them recorded can’t be far away from the aural experience of seeing them live. Feedback and fuzz are their friends. Farting sub-bass is a constant bedfellow and hissing snare is their heartbeat.

In opener, “Quartered” they thrust together a visceral, spiked form of electro-punk and staple it to the slow drift of melancholic doom. Think of a heavy-lidded, tripping version of Bleach-era Nirvana and you won’t be far off. The two-chord attack of “Quartz” (and twin “Deep Blue”) takes us a step further by introducing yawning vocal stabs with spasmodic bursts of guitar. The mid-track drop into a maudlin build lets the bass rumble play on alone to really dig out a groove.

Elsewhere, the tribal toms of “Onyx” lay the rhythm for a slow-burning psychedelic jam: sliding, trundling, chaotically pulsing and phasing with discordance, chaotic input and abstract warmth. A kind of loose-seated Weedeater with added feedback. To finish, the marvellously-titled “Throne Of The Void In The Hundred Petal Lotus” is a sedate, amorphous sludge oozing its way down a blood-red river clogged with writhing, pain-racked bodies and in through the gates of Hell.

What you’ll find is so stripped, so devoid of complexity, so unloveable and so unrefined that it offers little beyond that initial impact of rediscovering the thrill of the avant-garde; the early flush of youth where quality mattered little. If lo-fi doom is your bag, you’ll get a kick from this but you won’t cherish it for long.

Also online @ Ave Noctum =