Tag Archives: doom metal

Mastodon – Emperor of Sand

Mastodon - Emperor of Sand coverFor the best part of the last two decades Mastodon have carved a path through hard rock and heavy metal that is all their own. Often combining conceptual themes with crushingly heavy sounds they have gained a formidable reputation across six albums and have now release their seventh, Emperor of Sand.

From the off everything one would expect is here as the four-piece build from a clear influence from metal originators Black Sabbath to create a sound that marries thrash, doom, stoner and prog into a unique package.

Within all of this the band find a core that is remarkably accessible and this really comes to the fore on Show Yourself that has a sing along type streak and hook laden feel that almost takes it into pop metal territory.

Precious Stones meanwhile brings elements of the concept, based around time, to the fore in impressive style before Steambreather shows the band’s groovier tendencies excellently and that’s followed by several moments that I can’t help but think current Metallica is ironically striving (and largely failing) to emulate.



Across the record as a whole there’s a feeling that Mastodon are doing their best to fill every space  with a sound of some sort and, while in the hands of some this could be unbearable, they balance it out so nothing is overriding something else and, while it can be claustrophobic at times, it never feels like this isn’t the band’s intent.

That said there are moments where it feels like Brent Hinds might be heading slightly too far into guitar histrionic territory but it stays just the right side of being over the top and just feels like guys who can play and aren’t ashamed to hide it.

As the record goes on it builds in power and intensity with largely clean vocals giving way to more abrasive sounds and the soaring solos are matched by swirling riffs escalating it all into a maelstrom of sound that could easily derail things but comes with a smoothness often not present in more experimental metal (not that it always needs to be, but here it fits perfectly). This all reaches a bracing crescendo on Scorpion Breath.

Mastodon liveThis is all brought to a point on final track Jaguar God that seems to do everything the preceding 10 tracks have done in seven and a half minutes as it weaves its way from a piano and acoustic opening to an astral plane tripping climax that, like the rest of Emperor of Sand, continues to stake Mastodon’s claim as one of the most interesting heavy bands coming out of America this century.

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Ghost and Purson – The Warfield, San Francisco – 23/10/15


Papa Emeritus III of Ghost

Papa Emeritus III of Ghost

While both my previous visits to California have included live music events – Warped Tour in San Francsico in 2006 and Alice Cooper and Marylin Manson in Los Angeles in 2013 – seeing Swedish doom metallers Ghost at The Warfield on Market Street (with support from Purson) is the most comparable to gigs and shows I’ve attended more regularly in the UK.

This comparability is mostly down to the fact that the show took place in an old theatre venue, reminiscent of the Shepherds Bush Empire or Brixton Academy. The Warfield’s vintage neo-classical style was particularly appropriate for this night’s headliners, but before them came support band, psychedelic rockers Purson.

As soon as the band fired into their set the most striking thing was the voice of Rosalie Cunningham. Her vocal style, along with her flares, screamed 1970s rock and that’s what we got for half an hour or so. 



At their heaviest the British band had hints of Black Sabbath while it was clear a large part of their influence came from a slightly lighter, more melodic place, with thick layers of organ and fuzz drenched guitars all coming from vintage amplifiers accompanying Cunningham’s impressive pipes.

While the five-piece didn’t do much that was new or innovative they did what they did well and got a good reaction from those who had arrived early, despite some issues with front of house sound – but they weren’t to be the only ones to suffer from that problem.

Ghost are a band with a reputation that precedes them – from the anti-Pope image of frontman Papa Emeritus III to the myths that surround the band’s members and history – but until tonight I was largely unfamiliar with their music.

From my arrival, queuing outside the venue it was clear Ghost are a band who inspire a dedicated following as, amongst the standard metal uniforms, many were bedecked in a kind of Ghost cosplay with facepaint, mitres, wimples and more. 



As the five masked Nameless Ghouls made their appearance, following an extended but appropriate intro tape of pseudo-religious chanting, the audience was electric and on their feet all around the venue – even up to the back of the balcony from which we were viewing the show.

Bedecked in full anti-Pope regalia with robes, mitre and corpse paint, Papa Emeritus was a charismatic and engaging presence for the near two hours the band spent on stage. The first chunk of the set was entirely based on the religious imagery aping as, while the Ghouls did a sterling if understated musical performance, Emeritus preached from behind his microphone, complete with swinging censer (at times), and the crowd ate it up.

After a brief instrumental interlude Emeritus reappeared without the religious affectations, in a suit but still with the face paint, and for the rest of the show was a more directly engaging presence chatting to the crowd and playing the more conventional metal frontman. 

Papa Emeritus III

Papa Emeritus III

During this Emeritus came across as genuinely funny at times though there were moments where he was guilty of over explaining things and almost pleading the crowd to mosh, though seeing the design of the venue’s lower level I don’t think a huge amount of moshing was ever likely.

Along with this Nameless Ghouls began throwing more conventional shapes and poses, though they remained masked and silent at all times.

Mixing material from new album Meliora with older the material the set seemed to represent their whole career, even including a well delivered acoustic number, before rounding off with a cover of Roky Erickson’s If You Have Ghost. This had the feel of being the band’s theme song and was certainly one of my highlights of the night before encore Monstrance Clock which left the crowd calling for more but seemed to send them off into the night satisfied.

While both Ghost and Purson both put in great performances, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the sound was, at points, near unlistenable as the high frequency tones coming from the stage cut through everything else so much there were times the bass sounds got entirely lost in the mix.

On top of this Ghost’s lighting designer seemed intent on blinding at least the balcony with front facing floodlights making some parts of the show very hard to watch.

Despite this I came away wanting to explore both bands further and generally impressed by Ghost for being far more than the seemingly one diensional most media coverage I’d seen would suggest.

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Byzanthian Neckbeard – From The Clutches Of Oblivion

Byzanthian Neckbeard - From The Clutches Of Oblivion album coverWith a storming set at Chaos 10 now under their belts and a slot secured on the bill of Bloodstock, Byzanthian Neckbeard have unleashed their debut album, From The Clutches Of Oblivion, on the world.

Mixing doom with a bit of death, thrash and black metal the four piece have only been playing together a little over a year but have already made their mark on music in Guernsey with some great shows.

You can get hold of From The Clutches Of Oblivion on Byzanthian Neckbeard’s Bandcamp page and there is talk of them putting out a physical version of the record in the future as well.

My review of the album was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 28th June 2014:

Byzanthian Neckbeard album review scan - 28:06:14

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SpoonFest 2 – The Fermain Tavern – 27/07/13



Update: The Niche website has now been taken down, scroll down the page to read the full review

On Saturday 27th July 2013 Teaspoonriverneck staged their second mini-festival at The Fermain Tavern with a line up of bands, DJs, movies and other entertainment all selected by them.

Across the night acts from Guernsey, Sark and Jersey took to the Tavern’s stage with music ranging from crushingly heavy doom metal to freaked out folk including The Recks, Whitechapel Murders, Lifejacket, Bright_Lights, Byzanthian Neckbeard, DJ Oneofakind and, of course, Teaspoonriverneck themselves.

My photos from the show are up on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review was posted on the Niche Showcase website and can be seen by click on the screen grab below:

SpoonFest 2 - Niche Showcase - screengrab

The first half of 2013 has seen many standout events spanning musical genres and showcasing acts from around the Channel Islands, but, aside from the two weekend long festivals, I’d be hard pressed to name one that sums up the live music scene in the islands better than SpoonFest 2.

“Curated” by the guys who make up Teaspoonriverneck, their second mini-festival saw six bands take to the stage spanning sounds from dance rock to doom metal with a bit of funk, hip-hop and rock ‘n’ roll all featuring on the night too.

Things started out early and heavy as newcomers Byzanthian Neckbeard started the noise just after 6 o’clock in the evening. Following a debut set that, while good, was somewhat underwhelming at Chaos a couple of weeks ago, here the five-piece seemed to find more of a groove (when necessary) and otherwise just proceeded to crush those who’d turned out early with their viciously heavy riffs.

The more intimate environs of The Tav certainly seemed to suit the band better than the huge tent at the festival and Byzanthian Neckbeard set the tone for the night, at least in terms of quality of music, if not style.

Stylistically things couldn’t much more different as Bright_Lights were up next with about the only similarity to Neckbeard being that they sounded huge. Once again guitarist Oliver and drummer Barney were the band’s energetic focal point (with Oliver putting so much into his playing he managed to sprain his ankle) and despite the still early stage of the evening it was clear many had come to see Bright_Lights and even if people weren’t full on dancing many heads were nodding to the combination of electronic beats and noisy guitars.

While the band were excellent musically my only criticism of them is that despite the best efforts of Oliver and Barney vocalist Fran and bass player Joe often look bored which, for me, causes a fairly major distraction and means the breaks between songs often drop the energy levels the tracks do so well to build.

For their set tonight Lifejacket were down a bass player so had drafted in Stace Blondel, more well known as a singer, for the show. Despite Stace being a comparative novice on the instrument the band stormed through their set and, to be honest, if I didn’t know their songs so well I wouldn’t have know this wasn’t their regular line up.

Once again it was the inventive lyrics and rhythms that stood out and tonight Claire Mockett’s drumming seemed to have stepped up a gear from an already high level. These two factors combined to show why Lifejacket are generally one of the most underrated, and criminally under-appreciated, bands on the circuit today.

Things got heavy again next as Jersey three-piece Whitechapel Murders brought their unique take on heavy metal to SpoonFest with Dave Spars sporting a stillsuit, as seen in the movie Dune, hinting at the concept for many of their songs.

Describing Whitechapel Murders is never easy, as there are few other bands like them, other than to say their conceptual noise is some of the heaviest music I’ve ever heard live.

While it is certainly not easy listening and I got the impression is something people either love or hate, for me they came close to stealing the show, particularly with their take on Heave’s Smoking Molasses and they got many heads banging tonight and seemed to win some new fans as well.

Of course the show wouldn’t be complete without an appearance by the band who put it all together and it was with a raging One Riff Pony that Teaspoonriverneck launched into a set of two distinct halves. The first portion of their performance took us through their second release, Craft of Lisia, in almost its entirety, with every song greeted with a warm reception but the crushing Gideon and the Black Jaws getting the biggest reaction.

While the first half of the set had a somewhat nostalgic feel to it the second half launched us into new territory with three new songs showing that Teaspoonriverneck are a band who never stop. Their newer tracks may be more focused on groove rock than the doomy sounds of Lisia but it remains clearly the sound of the same band and the new songs were welcomed with almost as big a reaction as their older, more familiar, material.

The set was, of course, rounded off with Eaten By The Devil which saw the crowd explode and go nuts (a bit too literally in one case) as the band once again showed why they are one of the most celebrated on the island.

Between all the bands tonight music was provided by Jersey based DJ Livingstone who, like the show, mixed disparate sounds to keep the nights vibe going. With everything from rock ‘n’ roll to 60s TV themes being thrown into the mix he certainly lived up to his billing as “the eclectic wizard”.

The live music for SpoonFest 2 was rounded off by The Recks who in the eyes of Guernsey crowds, it seems, can do no wrong – and that’s largely because they have stormed every set they’ve played in the last few months in astonishing style. Once again the dance floor was packed and moving from the start of their set and didn’t let up throughout and they once again got a reaction like no other band playing original music in the islands that I can remember.

Certainly The Recks also highlighted the mix of genres that had marked SpoonFest 2 as a whole and rounded off the live portion of the night in spectacular style and left many wondered quite what the Teaspoonriverneck boys could do to top this next year?

After The Recks, DJ Oneofakind took to the decks and, while a few were up for dancing, his late time going on and the fact that he came straight after such a high energy performance, meant many headed outside, or in fact left, before he’d even begun, which was a shame as Oneofakind has consistently proved himself to be a great DJ – though I will admit that 7 hours into the show I too sloped off before Oneofakind finished his set.

For the second year in a row SpoonFest has provided a highlight of the local music calendar. Where it goes from here remains to be seen, but I certainly hope it continues to provide such an eclectic and accomplished mix of music from the islands as it goes forward.

I got a video of Byzanthian Neckbeard on the night:

Guernsey Gigs and SugarSlam’s own Plumb also got some great vids you can see on their respective YouTube channels, and here’s a taster:

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The Future Shock present Iron Cobra, She Haunts The Roads and Heave

Iron Cobra – Photo by Tom Girard, courtesy BBC Introducing Guernsey

On Friday 17th August 2012 The Future Shock presented a night of heavy metal sounds with a strong influence from the deep south of the USA at The Fermain Tavern in Guernsey.

On the bill were Iron Cobra (who are playing a few special reunion shows this summer), She Haunts The Roads and Heave.

You can see my pics from the gig over on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page (just click on the photo to go to the gallery) and read my review from the Guernsey Press here:

And here are a few videos from the show:

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High On Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis

High on Fire do what they do best, provide an hour of crushing heaviness and rage, on their new album.

I first discovered High On Fire around the time of the release of Death Is This Communion and thanks to a lyric in the song Blonde Witch by Teaspoonriverneck. At that point they quickly became a band I had more than a healthy respect for thanks to their combination of heaviness and intensity, which is unlike any other band I’ve come across.

So we come to their sixth full-length album, De Vermis Mysteriis which in some ways carries on directly with the sounds developed on Death Is This Communion and Snakes for the Divine, but adds a harder and rougher edge to it.

The album starts off with a trio of tracks which more than ably demonstrate the band’s influences from the world of American hardcore punk. Bloody Knuckles in particular shows this with its intense wall of noise where guitars, bass, drums and vocals all serve to totally fill your ears for the duration without a break for breath.

This hardcore is tempered by a groove which comes from High On Fire’s pronounced stoner rock background which gives their slower, and in my opinion more successful, tracks a feeling of being the bastard offspring of Black Sabbath and Black Flag.

High on Fire at SXSW 2012 – Photo from thehundreds.com

This slower, groovier, sound is clear on Madness of the Architect and King of Days in particular and it is here, where there is space within the music and the sounds open up, that the band really shine and their genuine musical ability comes to the fore.

Another track which shows off the band’s musicality is instrumental track Samara, which really serves to counterpoint the intensity of their more hardcore inflected songs.

One of the things that most fascinates me about High On Fire, on this and their earlier albums, is the way Matt Pike’s voice is used, in a way, as just another instrument. At no point do the vocals soar, in terms of volume or tone, above the music and it serves to add to the togetherness of the band’s sound.

Pike’s voice also has it own unique quality. While it may not be the most adventurous or versatile vocal style around, it sounds frankly astonishing in places and comes across as something like Motorhead’s Lemmy might sound if he had been in a DC hardcore band rather than a rock ‘n’ roll machine.

Across the album the production of De Vermis Mysteriis feels a lot more rough and ready than High On Fire’s last two albums, but this is no bad thing as it suits the mix of hardcore, doom and stoner sounds much better and adds a more punk feel while the previous two had something more controlled and prog-y to them.

In the end De Vermis Mysteriis is a crushing album in terms of heaviness but with this manages to be varied and dynamic at the same time leading to what is to me, at least the best of High On Fire’s three most recent albums.

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