Music Reviews


Asteroid - Asteroid

...And another space-rock, stoner rock, and psychedelic band goes unnoticed among the music population. Asteroid is the name, and they reside in the country of Sweden, the land of many stoner rockers to be exact. This album right here is their debut full-length, which was released in 2007 on Fuzzorama Records. If there is one thing Asteroid takes seriously, it is a precise sense of jamming and crafting a melodic song behind it.

Asteroid starts off in "The Great Unknown," and in this very unfamiliar territory, a slow jam oozes full of heavy guitar riffs and accompanying organ to take over space. To add to the foundation, there's a nice balance between a lower register vocal and high register vocal harmony between the guitarist and bassist. Throughout the album each vocalist will trade off the main vocal duties, but usually the choruses are full of great harmonies; for example, the choruses to "Panoramic Telescope" and another favorite, "Doctor Smoke," are great sing-a-longs for such rockin' tunes. Asteroid is said to be a three piece, but there's a fine addition of organ and dual guitar leads to make the album sound more full, spacey, and rocking. The distortion from the guitars is covered in fuzz, a trademark within this genre, but honestly, it always makes the riffs sound massive. Just check out "Strange Trip" or "The 13th Witching Hour," when the fuzz kicks on, the power of the riff will compel you!

If you are new to stoner rock, or if you are veteran to the genre, definitely give this album your full attention. They deserve credit for their sense of melody, use of vocal harmonies, and songwriting quality. And if you like "influences" to enjoy music, you have definitely come to the right place in space.


The Hidden Hand - Mother*Teacher*Destroyer

Scott "Wino" Weinrich, a name so familiar to the underground hard rock/metal world. If you don't know him, he has been in Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan, Place of Skulls followed by a solo career and Premonition 13. In 2002, The Hidden Hand formed in Maryland comprising of Scott Weinrich (vocals/guitars), Bruce Falkinburg (bass/vocals), and Dave Henessey (Drums). After their debut, Divine Propaganda, The Hidden Hand wanted to continue their politically driven, psychedelic-induced rock and take their songwriting a step further; in return, they gave us Mother*Teacher*Destroyer.

"Declination ascertained. Ascension is
on the rise. Echoes from within the
system. A structure ill-defined."

Above, is an excerpt from the opening track, "The Crossing," which presents the theme of Mother*Teacher*Destroyer continuing in the political/social direction of Divine Propaganda. Musically, The Hidden Hand is hard to describe because one can't pinpoint who else they sound like, but the fact is, you can definitely tell this is a Wino project. There are traces of psychedelic elements especially on tracks like "Black Ribbon," "Currents," and "Magdalene," and then you heavy/slow hard rock riffage present in songs like "Desensitized," "Travesty As Usual" and "Sons of Kings" that are a definite Wino trademark. Additionally, not only do they do a good job of infusing heavy riffs with psychedelic atmosphere and tones, but Wino and Bruce trade off vocals appropriately. Depending on the song, the melody, the riff, the chorus, etc., one of the vocalist takes the forefront, and it works. In "Half Mist," the unmistakable Wino vocal melodies compliment over the guitar melodies of the song in the verse and chorus. "Black Ribbon" is a good example of Bruce's vocal ability; it is melodic yet gruff, but distinguishably different, and that is important to the impact of Mother*Teacher*Destroyer musically.

"Pour the wine onto the sand, mix
the blood of fallen men. War for
beauty must now end, leave the
broken sword for the son. Sons of
kings we return today forsaken by the
gods we've slain we're lost. Our fast
ships on the grey ocean, we kneel
and wash our weapons in the sea."

If you are a fan of Scott "Wino" Weinrich, and haven't checked out The Hidden Hand, this album is recommended. It isn't a repeat to what Wino has done in the past, but a continuation of where he started and would go in future projects. A fair and balanced approach of heavy, hard rock riffs, but not afraid to step out of the box and make it melodic.


Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction

Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction

Pallbearer hails from Little Rock, Arkansas and includes members of the bands SPORTS and Deadbird. Arkansas has created quite a scene over the past 10 years with the bands mentioned above as well as Rwake. These Arkansas doomsters started creating a lot of buzz when they were signed to Profound Lore last year, and the 2010 demo came to light for the rest of the world. The 2010 demo made doom fans excited for what was to come, and fans anxiously awaited their Profound Lore debut. Now, that we have Sorrow and Extinction within our grasp, the melancholy and sorrowful atmosphere presented will bring clarity and happiness into new life created.

Sorrow and Extinction starts off with, "Foreigner,"a 12:23 journey into sadness and death. The recording almost sounds like it was done in a church, or a hall. For example, the vocals have an adequate level of reverb mixed with a touch of delay to make them sound distant and disconnected with the music, but in a positive way. When you combine the distant and disconnected vocal recording with Brett Campbell's melodic and sorrowful cries, it sounds beautiful when mixed with the guitars, bass, and drums. Which brings us to the music, the guitars sound heavy and provide excellent textures between the harmonies and melodies. "The Legend" and "An Offering of Grief" are perfect songs to demonstrate the well-crafted melodies and harmonies that Pallbearer execute flawlessly. As far as the drums and bass, they are the backbone that supports the heaviness and power, the slow and dynamic of force of the melodies, the riffs, the song structures, and Brett Campbell's voice. Without them, the songs would not sound as organic or natural. With the journey coming to an end, "Given to the Grave" closes the casket to the Sorrow and Extinction. Literally, this song sounds like you are being put to rest indefinitely.

Crafting such a melancholy, depressing doom record, and making it sound hopeful, beautiful, and uplifting is not an easy task to achieve. However, Pallbearer prove that it is possible, and do it extremely well. Sorrow and Extinction would make a perfect funeral album for someone that you love, and when it is over, peace overcomes you knowing that that person is still with you in memories, your heart, and your mind.


The Wounded Kings - In the Chapel of the Black Hand

For a little back story, The Wounded Kings formed in 2005 and originated from Dartmoor, England.  In the Chapel of the Black Hand is their third full length album, and first album featuring female vocalist, Sharie Neyland.  I am sure many people were unsure of the sound of the band without the powerful vocals of George Birch, but with the end result, they change was far from disappointing.  Within the past few years, we have seen a rise of female vocalist in the genre of doom, occult rock, and metal in general, and these women add an element of uniqueness, mystique, and power to the genre of doom.  And this album is a perfect example of that because Sharie's vocals on top of the heavy guitar riffs just creates a dreary, depressing, and horrific blend of doom (in a excellent way!).

In the Chapel of the Black Hand is a total of 4 tracks and clocks in at 41:08; so, you know you are in for a long ride of some heavy fucking doom!  A slowly building organ sound from the church of hell slowly builds to become The Cult of Souls, and once the guitars come in, the sacrifice may now commence.  The guitar tone on this record is just so damn crunchy, thick, and ballsy, and to have it accompanied with such menacing slow, down tuned riffs adds to the heaviness displayed.  And to add, Sharie's clean vocals doused with tons of vibrato flowing over the riffs makes her sound possessed, demented, and tortured.  Which leads me to the overall production, the vocals don't overpower the music and vice versa; everything is evenly mixed.  None of the musicians are overly flashy, each instrument works around the riff and the organic nature of the song.  

One may can a 14 minute song keep you enthralled throughout the entire arrangement?  Well, The Wounded Kings add a good element of layers and textures full of organs, feedback, guitar effects, and chants to give the song dynamics.  With all of these elements involved it gives the songs the personality that they are trying to perceived through the lyrics.  As the album is about Sharie (or fictitious character) being sacrificed at the altar and the darkness that lurks around her.  The album closer, In the Chapel of the Black Hand, is a perfect example of the atmosphere of the whole entire album.  If the music doesn't drag you any closer to the dark realm, the closing lyrics of  "The body is gone, but the head needs the soul.  The heart no longer beats, but still the blood it flows" repeating over and over again shall draw you in.  And now we now see the doors to the chapel closing and the sacrifice is complete.

In conclusion, this is an excellent slab of doom and one of the top 10 contenders for heaviest records to come out this year.  The Wounded Kings are back stronger than ever, and without Sharie being on this record, I don't think  the record would sound as evil as it does.  Be doomed!

4 and half dropped A# chugs out of 5

Orchid - Capricorns

During the year of 2007, "God" created a band named Orchid to carry the torch that Black Sabbath left behind after the Sabotage album, and to some extent Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. In 2009, a taste of what was to come was presented in the four song ep, Through the Devils Doorway. We now know that we are taking a ride back to the early 1970s, and we are excited for what it is to come. However, it wasn't until the end of last year that Orchid released Capricorn, which dare I say, could have been recorded by Black Sabbath anywhere between Master of Reality to before Sabotage. First of all, the band's name is Orchid, which is a Sabbath song off Master of Reality, and let me begin with, we have heard many bands incorporate the sound of Sabbath within their riffs, their vocals, their influence, but NO band has actually captured the vintage recording, the spirit of Tony Iommi's riffs, the spirit of young Ozzy's vocals, the spirit of Geezer Butler's attack, and the spirit of Bill Ward's fills and groove.

"Eyes Behind the Wall" starts off with a mighty riff, and the first thing you realize is, you really are going back in time. For those that wanted to hear a new, old school Black Sabbath album, you will be giggling like a little schoolgirl. When I talk about vintage recordings, this is no joke, the retro-vintage sound has been making its comeback since 2002, but Orchid studied or whoever produced the album knew exactly how the Sabbath records were recorded. The highlight track on this record is "He Who Walks Alone," not only does the spirit of Sabbath, but the spirit of Saint Vitus ring true in this epic, rock-heavy riff number. This song has many parts to it that just make it so heavy and fist pumping, that one part after another, you will be so enchanted with this band that you will never ask for another classic Black Sabbath like this. We, now, have this new band named Orchid, that has graciously accepted the torch. The album closer is "Albatross," and this song sends the message that your "journey," "trip," or "ride" back to the 1970s is now over. Think of "Planet Caravan," or well, the song, "Orchid." It is a nice, soothing ballad that will leave you wanting more from this awesome band.

Now, a track by track summary could have been displayed or more detail, but the assumption is that most people know what Ozzy-fronted Black Sabbath sounds like. And this very well is the record that Black Sabbath could have recorded before releasing daring albums such as Technical Ecstasy or Never Say Die. In fact, this would have been a better closer to that line-up, however, it happens that this band wanted to keep the legacy alive. If, for any reason, this review made you curious, just go listen to "He Who Walks Alone," and you will have a new favorite band. If not, God may not forgive you, and you will forever, walk alone.

4 and a half riffs out of 5

Ghost - Opus Eponymous

This is not true at all, but you must admit that this sounds exactly like an album that would have come out in the late 70s or early 80s because of it's heavy influences revolving around bands such Mercyful Fate, Witchfinder General, a hint of Black Sabbath, and Blue Oyster Cult. With these influences, they combine a great retro band that should shock and excite fans of old school metal. Hailing from the Stockholm, Sweden region, Ghost came to fruition in 2008 by a bunch of nameless Ghouls that wanted to spread the message of Satan himself. In fact, they say that Satan inspires the riffs, lyrics, and overall them of the album, Opus Eponymous.

The album starts off with a short instrumental lead by what sounds like an organ, "Deus Culpa," which creates an image of Satan's children congregating into the circle to start the black mass; a perfect way to begin a 1970s prog record. "Deus Culpa" leads into "Con Clavi Con Dio" with some thundering bass and riffs that shine the likes of Witchfinder General and Black Sabbath. Lyrical themes are drenched with the summoning of Satan, performing rituals, giving props to Elizabeth Bathory, witchcraft, giving birth to the devil, and everything evil. One of the strongest aspects of this album are the vocals, they are clean, crisp, and to add, the vocal harmonies are eerie, cheesy, and beautiful; this makes a great sing-a-long album by the way. Turn to one of the standout tracks, "Ritual," to provide vocal harmonies of cheese and beauty that sound straight out of a Blue Oyster Cult album.

"This chapel of ritual
Smells of dead human sacrifices
From the altar bed
On this night of ritual
Invocing our master
To procreate the unholy bastard"

Another positive note is the heavy use of the organ throughout the record, whether they are in the background, or the centerpiece of the song, they really lay out the atmosphere from what makes this record so magical. An example of this would be in the song, "Death Knell," the organ provides a scary, horror movie-esque landscape in the pre-chorus/chorus, and at the end of the song, Ghost not only pays homage to some Slayer riffs, but King Diamond himself. Then again, there are many elements on this record that pay a ton of respect to King Diamond and the rest of Mercyful Fate. "Elizabeth" could have been a lost Mercyful Fate song that featured a guest appearance from the Blue Oyster Cult camp; the main riff, the verses, the vocal pattern, the guitar solo and the way it was recorded screams Mercyful Fate, and it is fantastic. The album closer, "Genesis," is an instrumental that gives everyone a taste of what may come next for Ghost. Once again, just like the opener, it is a perfect way to end a 1970s prog record. It is epic, uplifting, beautiful, horrific, and leaves you wanting more.

Ghost is carrying the torch that King Diamond bestowed to us long ago (lyrical themes, songwriting, presentation of the material, the logo for the band), and also presenting a fresh sound that embodies the sounds of the late 70s and early 80s of yesterday. No band has incorporated it like this yet and have done it so well. Yes, we hear tons of bands that are influenced by older bands, but their ability to mix the styles of Mercyful Fate and Blue Oyster Cult matched with their songwriting skills, it is a monumental time to relive the past and worship Satan at the same time.

"Oh Rebel Cheif, destroyer of the Earth, rise from precipice through birth."

4 and a half bologna sandwiches out of 5

Om - Variations on a Theme

Om are the ex-members of Sleep minus Matt Pike, who most of us know from High on Fire fame. After several years of Sleep disbanding, Al Cisneros on bass/vocals and Chris Haikus on drums formed Om in 2003. Yes, they are a two piece band, but don't let that fool you because Al and Chris provide enough heaviness on their own because if you are familiar with Sleep, then you know these guys really know how to groove. And it really shows on their debut album, Variations on a Theme, which was released in 2005 containing three extremely slow, massive songs of drone clocking in at 44 minutes and 31 seconds.

The album starts off with "On the Mountain At Dawn," this song being the longest song on the album running at 21 minutes and 19 seconds. Right off the bat, the distorted bass kicks in with a killer stoner-like riff, and then bam, the drums follow right along with the riff creating a solid marijuana-induced journey. With no guitar present on this album at all, at first you may think that this can't be that heavy, but really, the distorted bass is really all you need. Honestly, if there was guitar on this album, it would take away from the what makes Om so unique and mesmerizing. Now, that brings me to the best part of this band, Al Cisneros's vocals. It may not be too impressive to the untrained ear, but it really sets the mood for the ride that the music takes you on. In a way the singing is monotonous, but unlike singing, it is more like chanting. According to Wikipedia their music is somewhat based on Tibetan chanting, now, this may not be too reliable of a source, but the vocals definitely have the feel of a Buddhist ritual that should take place at dusk before fasting a month straight. You could definitely "meditate" to this album after indulging in a some sticky green substance that alters you state of mind into total relaxation. "Kapila's Theme" and "Annapurna," both clocking in at just 12 minutes, bring more of that spaced out, groove laden drone. The detail of each song would be more of the same, but that doesn't make the album boring by any means because throughout the whole album, the riffs are tasty and huge, the drums are smooth and crisp, and the vocals are captivating and solid.

Now, if you are looking for an album that has a lot of tempo, style, and/or multiple riff changes, this album will not be for you. Yes, you wonder how an album with songs that are longer than 12 minutes long can keep you fascinated through the whole listening experience. Well, the best part of the music is that it is so monotonous, groovy, and riff heavy that you kind of find yourself getting lost in the music. One really doesn't have to be stoned to listen to this album because if you listen to this album long enough, you will feel like you are stoned. And that is what makes Om excellent, that if you focus on the music long enough, it will take you on a self-exploring trip into oblivion. However, if you have a short attention span, this album may lead you to plead insanity.

4 shit stains out of 4

Witchcraft - Witchcraft

For those of you familiar with the vintage collection of Pentagram material released over the past decade, you should really give this band a listen. In the year 2000, Witchcraft was originally a collaboration formed by Magnus Pelander as a tribute to Bobby Leibling of Pentagram and Rory Erickson of 13th Floor Elevators. However, after recording a demo with the song "No Angel or Demon," the band was signed to Lee Dorian's label, Rise Above Records, and produced this self titled debut

The album starts off with "Witchcraft," which will completely bring you back to the 1970s with the style of production. They recorded this whole album on vintage equipment and on analog. Now, how many bands would actually do this these days? Not many, but that is what gives this album that old school feeling. This album is drenched in Black Sabbath/Pentagram style riffing and drumming, but don't let that deter you away from this album because they do a magnificent job of creating their own personality within the songs that they write. For example, "The Snake" and "Lady Winter," while they may have reminiscent riffs, it is Magnus Pelander's singing style that gives their music it's own distinction. His vocals provide an eerie, soft spoken kind of demeanor that reflect around the lyrics of, witchcraft (why of course), women, and evil. As you listen to this you feel like you should be surrounded in a dark room with candles lit, around the pentagram, and chanting the last rites of the naked virgin lying in front of you.

There is no question why Lee Dorian wouldn't have signed this band after listening to "No Angel or Demon," the chorus is haunting and vocal harmonies are beautiful at the same time. And the guitar solo break brings the rock with a similar chord progression as "All Along the Watchtower" with a funky edge. This brings me to the highlight track on this album, "You Bury Your Head," Bring your joint and your fist because this song flows like a stoner jam that Sabbath and Pentagram could have definitely created in the early 70s. The groove is slow, the guitars are doom-like, and the music puts you in a trance as it progresses so gracefully. Witchcraft ends this album with an epic tale called "Her Sisters They Were Weak." Now, this song has a hint of Jethro Tull, as they provide some flute in the mix. Not many rock bands introduce a flute in their music unless it is deemed necessary, and it is most certainly necessary. Around the three minute mark, the song turns into a new direction with heavy Sabbath-like riff leading you into a bad acid trip that you can't escape, but at the same time, you don't want to leave. As the album draws to a close a scary music box melody plays as the music slowly fades out.

For fans of Black Sabbath, Pentagram, and even Jethro Tull, you should really give this album a listen. Witchcraft should have been a 70s band, but it is awesome that a band of this day in age create music with such a vintage feel. Some bands have tried, but I don't think any band can do it as well as Witchcraft. Hell, not even Black Sabbath or Pentagram could make an album sound like this these days. Smoke some weed (if you smoke), crack open a beer (if you drink), and put this album on. Close your eyes, and you won't believe that Witchcraft came out in 2004. Highly recommended.

Standout tracks: "Witchcraft," "The Snake," "Lady Winter," "No Angels or Demons," "You Bury Your Head," and "Her Sisters They Were Weak."

4 and a half mogwais out of 5

Grand Magus formed in 1999 in the city of Stolkholm, Sweden. The line-up on this album consists of Janne "JB" Christoffersson on guitars and vocals, Fox on bass and backing vocals, and Fredrik "Trisse" Liefvendahl. After releasing their debut album in 2001, Grand Magus, Grand Magus brought us this devastating slab of doom metal entitled Monument. Monument contains 7 tracks that range from 3 minutes long to 10 minutes long of pure heaviness.

A wooden door opens and the album begins. "Ulvaskall (Vargr)" starts with some clean guitar, as the cold, winter winds whistle, and the sound of a viking ship moving down the seas...and then BOOM! The slow, heavy riff starts the groove, and the guitars sound very crunchy just like you would expect when it comes to doom. Now, there are three elements that make Grand Magus an excellent band, their riffs, JB's voice, and their hooks in every single one of their songs. JB's voice is a little reminiscent of old Chris Cornell, but just a little bit, he has a very soulful and powerful voice that insinuates the music and the melodies portrayed in the instruments. Their lyrics deal with paganism, death, war, and in return, relates a lot to the mindset of the vikings, as in the chorus, "I'm cursed, and I'm damned forever...battles my only friend...," in "Ulvaskull (Vargr)." Or the chorus to "Brotherhood of Sleep," "Sleep, drink, what's your choice? Brotherhood of Sleep." Now, this song is very tasty musically. If you are fan of Black Sabbath type of riffs, this song right here has it all. Including a very soulful guitar solo, and which gives this album another bonus, JB's guitars solos. They aren't technically amazing, but the emotion and soul he puts into his solos are what makes it so genuine. Next, we have "Baptized in Fire", and of course the sound of fire burning kicks this off, and then you get more of the sabbathy riffs, and the doom ensues. This song has a lot of dynamics, the verse is sub-dued, the guitar line is played palm muted, his singing very calm and quiet, and then when the chorus comes in, he starts to scream and the guitars and drums start blasting.

Ok, so, I could go on about this riff or that riff, but I am going to save you the agony because you should get the gist of it. What you need to know is that if you are fan of doom, or if you like really good licks, tasty guitar solos, soulful, clean yet gravely type vocals, then you must get this album immediately. If you are new to the doom genre, I would still give this album a try. However, I must mention the closer track, "He Who Seeks Shall Find," which clocks in at 10:29, but don't let that fool you. The track is epic, fist pumping, and heavy as all balls. There are different variations and changes that are involved in this song compared to the other songs, but at the end of the song they just let loose and rock out. A total awesome rock ending, and the albums end with the wooden door closing.

Standout tracks are "Ulvaskall (Vargr)," "Brotherhood of Sleep," "Baptized in Fire," and "He Who Seeks Shall Find."

4 and a half middle fingers out of 5

The Abominable Iron Sloth formerly known as The Indomitable Iron Sloth until several members of Will Haven joined the ranks on guitars, bass, and drums formed in 2004 between Chico, CA and Seattle, WA. The main songwriter and member of the band is Justin Godfrey and has gone through several line up changes throughout their formation, but in 2006, the debut album was released with the members of Will Haven. This self titled debut features 12 tracks of pure groove and sludge that fans of the genre should throughly indulge themselves in.

The album starts off with "Hats Made of Veal And That New Car Scent," and from the get-go, down-tuned guitars with meaty distortion accompanied by solid drumming following the rhythm of the guitar. This song will melt your face off from the beginning and to the end. Vocals throughout the album are in the vein of high pitched screaming, not like in black metal, but in the since of screaming like the world is going to end. For example, if you are familiar with Iron Monkey or bands of that nature, the vocals are reminiscent of their style. The down-tuned riffage, and the drumming following along with slow groove of the riff give this album the heaviness that makes this release so powerful. "A Hot Pink Shell of My Former Self" is a prime example of their great usage of guitar effects on the chords over the heavy riffs, which gives it that Will Haven sound at a slower tempo. However, they make it into their own kind of sound. The guitar effects like digital delay, tremolo, phaser, and reverb over the down-tuned meaty guitar attack help layer all of their sounds and give them a sense fullness.

They sure do love giving their song titles long names like "The Family That Stays Together Slays Together" and the "A Distant Pond From The Rivers of Human Limelight." However, the emotion and aggression that is displayed on each of these help bring light to the names of these songs. In "A Distant Pond From the Rivers of Human Limelight," the guitar melodies of the slow groove make you feel like that you want to reach limelight, but you will never be close enough to reach it. "The Family That Slays Together Stays Together" is a full on metal attack of wanting to kill and slay. You may not understand the words being screamed throughout the album, but the music speaks for itself, and if you need to understand the words to listen to this album, then, maybe this isn't the record for you. "Sailing the Edge of the Earth" ends this album, this song is what distracts the album from being a classic. All it is is an annoying bass line, drums over the top, with some spoken word. This could have easily been avoided and taken off the album.

For fans of sludge, down-tuned guitars with heavy distortion and thick riffs accompanied by a layer of guitar effects, slow grooving drums that compliment the riffs, and high pitched screaming, check this beauty of an album out. I would say even for fans of Will Haven, give this album a shot, you might be surprised. Standout tracks include "Hats Made of Veal And That New Car Scent," A Hot Pink Shell of My Former Self," "A Distant Pond From the Rivers of Human Limelight," and "The Family That Slays Together Stays Together."

4 and a half pussy cats out of 5

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