Tag Archives: doom

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.

Mastodon

Mastodon

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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Brunt – Blackbeard

Brunt Blackbeard coverFollowing the release of their debut album in 2014 Brunt put out a vinyl edition and then headed back into their bunker, aside from a few live outings, to work on new material.

Now two and a half years later that new material has been released in the form of three track digital EP, Blackbeard.

Continuing where they left off the EP consists of three slow and heavy tracks bearing all their hallmarks but showing a band more in groove with each other than before.

The EP is available through the band’s Bandcamp page and they have suggested a vinyl release might also be happening, though not in the immediate future.

My review of Blackbeard was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 12th November.

brunt blackbeard review 12-11-16

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Doomed, Dangerous and Dashing – The Fermain Tavern – 13/02/16

Last of the Light Brigade

Last of the Light Brigade

As soon as doors opened at The Fermain Tavern on Valentine’s weekend there was a sense of anticipation in the air, and not for the annual forced celebration of all things consumerist that happens on 14th February. Instead what people were looking forward to was, not only a night of great new music, but also the return to the stage of two of the island’s most popular bands in Last of the Light Brigade and, opening the show, Byzanthian Neckbeard.

After nearly two years away from a Guernsey stage (in which time they’ve lost a guitarist) doom metallers Byzanthian Neckbeard made a statement from the off with the use of sheer volume. Normally Paul ‘Taz’ Etasse’s drums are the loudest things in any room, but here the sound blasting from Phil Skyrme’s twin amp stacks outstripped even that.

It would have been easy for such volume to be too much but, given the style of music being played, it made for the perfect, crushing, sound and emphatically made the point that this band are back.

Byzanthian Neckbeard

Byzanthian Neckbeard

Playing as a three-piece now the sound has morphed slightly with less of the ‘solos’ (if that’s the word) and feedback work, but it was just as satisfying. Phil’s screaming, roaring, vocals were suitably backed in places by Dan Robilliard’s while Dan’s bass locked into tight, thunderous grooves with Taz’s drums to great effect, leading to the highlight of the set for me in the very groove driven closing number.

With a large crowd down in front of the stage throughout, Byzanthian Neckbeard felt like a band with something to prove and they certainly delivered not just ear-splitting volume but heavy, powerful songs that all combined in a performance that could rival bands of this style at any level.

The audience was already warmed up and still growing as To The Woods launched into their set with more purpose than I’ve seen from them in sometime and certainly having a large, enthusiastic crowd seems to add extra power to frontman Bobby Battle’s already impressive energy.

To The Woods

To The Woods

It was at this point that it struck me that, with the cross-section of ages and fans of different genres, the audience gathered at the Tavern bore more of a resemblance to those at the L’Ancresse Lodge and such in the past, than any I have seen in a while, adding even more fuel to the good atmosphere.

With a couple of new songs further bolstering To The Woods selection they tore through the set with aplomb, with Bobby ending up in the crowd on at least three occasions. Bass player James Ogier meanwhile, looked to be having as good a time as ever as his more understated performance included a spot on delivery while drummer Dan Garnham was on blistering form.

While this was happening on stage a pit kicked off on the floor in a way I haven’t seen in a long time, complete with stage diving from Bobby’s former Iron Cobra band mate Dave Riley.

To The Woods

Dave takes a dive

When To The Woods first formed Bobby made the point that it was a band he hoped would make people sit up and take notice and, based of this performance, that’s certainly what they’ve done.

With Byzanthian Neckbeard providing the doom and To The Woods providing the danger (certainly for those in the path of Bobby when he headed off stage), it was down to indie rockers Last of the Light Brigade to bring the night’s dashing element.

After a spell on the (no doubt financially more lucrative) local cover and function circuit Tyler Edmonds and Stu Carre have now solidified the four-piece version of the band they founded more than a decade ago, with Kyle Torode on bass and John McCarthy seemingly now a permanent addition on second guitar.

The time away from regularly playing their own material may have seen the band’s followers drift and, combined with the quite major difference in style from the night’s earlier bands, left them playing to a noticeably smaller crowd. As the set went on though the number on the dancefloor rallied as people got into Light Brigade’s slightly tweaked sound.

Last of the Light Brigade

Tyler of Last of the Light Brigade

The new line up has morphed the band’s earlier mod-revival/indie-punk sound into something with a little more reserved cool to it. Still present are the attitude and songs of old but added to it is something of the swagger demonstrated by the likes Of Empires, making for an ultimately satisfying combination typified on new song, and set opener, Sweat.

With such a long time playing together it was clear to see the onstage relationship between Tyler and Stu, with Tyler a more confident frontman than ever. Next to this Kyle and John still come across as the ‘new guys’ with Kyle often almost playing up to the audience too much and John, if anything, doing the opposite and hiding in the shadows.

As the set went on, and the crowd got more involved, it clearly helped the band increase their energy further on stage leading to a closing duo of older songs My Girlfriend’s Been Sectioned and an extended Little Billy rounding off a great night of music that excellently showed off just a small selection of the impressive new and original music being made and played in the island.

You can see more of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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Brunt gets vinyl treatment

Brunt in The Peace Tent

Brunt in The Peace Tent

I recently had the chance to catch up with Elliott Mariess of psychadelic doom metallers Brunt and Jay Ackerman of HeviSike records to talk about the upcoming release of Brunt’s debut album through the label on vinyl.

You can read my review of the album’s digital release here.

And here is the article about the vinyl from the Guernsey Press on Saturday 1st November 2014:

Brunt vinyl feature scan - 01:11:14

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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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Chaos Goes Star Wars – The Fermain Tavern – 04/05/14

Static Alice

Static Alice

It doesn’t take much of an excuse for the guys who organise the annual Chaos festival to have a party so, as last Sunday fell on a bank holiday weekend and it was May The Fourth (Be With You… if you’ve not been keeping up with the puns) and thus Star Wars Day, it seemed a perfectly suited time to warm up for their 10th anniversary festival at the end of June with a long evening of live music at The Fermain Tavern.

Things started in mellow mode with Autumn and her harp playing a selection of songs and tunes. Its been a while since I’ve caught Autumn and I have to say while her harp skills had always been great she had, in the past, sometimes been let down by her vocals. Here though there was no such issue as she sang and played in a nicely relaxed style to start the day and, while many stayed outside on the Tav’s deck in the sun, those inside they were treated to something unique.

The Black Vote

The Black Vote

Following an appearance by The Phantom Cosmonaut (who I won’t review for obvious reasons, look him up, you’ll see why) it was The Black Vote’s time to hit the stage and really kick up the speed and noise with a set of their brand of punk rock.

As ever The Black Vote delivered exactly what everyone has come to expect and, while it’s not to everyone’s tastes, and wavers on taking things too far most of the time, if hard, fast, noisy punk rock is your thing then they kicked off the full bands in style.

Much like a few weeks ago at Fermain Fest, The Doomsday Project had the job of following The Black Vote. With a set of pop punk it seemed more to the tastes of the crowd as frontman and bass player George Russell, complete with Darth Maul costume, and co played through a set of mostly pop-punk covers that, for me, took me back to the late 90s and early 2000s.

The Doomsday Project

The Doomsday Project

Performing a few songs with a guest female vocalist varied their sound a bit, which was nice to hear, and they had some originals in the mix too which hint that they are heading in the right direction and could be a band to keep an eye on over the next few years – although Cuttlefish is fast becoming a stand out, ill-fitting, low point of their performances – decent tune but could do with some reworking in the lyrics.

It was time for a debut next as One Mind To Lose took to the stage. Fronted by Gemma Honey, formerly of Party In Paris, a good vocal performance was expected and delivered and the rest of the band all seemed to be hitting their marks admirably (despite a couple of issues from the lead guitarist’s cables).

One Mind To Lose

One Mind To Lose

With a mix of pop-rock covers and originals on offer they delivered a set that sounded a little loose and undisciplined in places, but for a first public show it was an admirable outing and with a bit more stage presence One Mind To Lose could become another on the list of new bands to watch out for.

The night was rounded off by a couple more established, but still fresh, bands. Brunt began this, hot of a performance at the previous weekend’s Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses event (the final of which is coming up on May 17th).

Brunt

Brunt

As ever their sound stands out from the crowd in the current crop of regularly performing bands over here but once again it attracted a dedicated group of followers and the vaguely psychedelic, stoner grooves seemed to draw in quite a few others as well.

Bedecked in Sith-style robes Brunt seemed more at ease of stage here than I have seen them in the past and there seemed to be some new material in amongst tracks from their recently released debut EP and, while it was slow and heavy, they seemed to strike a chord at the Tav.

The night was rounded off by Static Alice, back on more familiar ground than at their #Triplestoked show, as they mixed covers and originals and really got the crowd going despite the show running a bit late – well it is called Chaos!

Luis of Static Alice

Luis of Static Alice

Dressed in a range of Star Wars inspired outfits, including guitarist Luis rocking a Princess Leia look without a care, Static Alice’s wall-to-wall pop rock brought a great, fun atmosphere to the show and there seemed to be much more balance and dynamic amongst the band members than at their last outing here.

It’s not often you see Lightsabers on the dancefloor but they were all but mandatory during Static Alice’s performance and, even though it was late, the party kept rolling to the bitter end of Ballroom Blitz and an original song that worked brilliantly to close the night and showed a real confidence from the band in their own material which is always encouraging to see.

With a little less than two months until the festival, Chaos continued the road to their big show with great style tonight, and some amazing Star Wars inspired costumes from both bands and audience to boot.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the gig on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Thursday 15th May, here it is:

Chaos Star Wars Day gig scan - 15:05:14

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Whitechapel Murders – Dune Hexalogy EP

Whitchapel Murders - Dune EP coverEven before you get to the music the arrangements of instruments in Whitechapel Murders let you know that what is come is not conventional. Comprised of two bass guitars (played by Dave Spars and Kyle Lopes) and drums (Chris Day) the trio make music that, so far, has been largely inspired by mid 20th Century sci-fi, so, following on from their debut EP predominantly based on Orwell’s 1984, we get their long hinted at work drawing on Frank Herbert’s epic Dune series.

Starting with a wall of sound the music coalesces into God Emperor which draws on the sounds of David Lynch’s film version of the book to create a soundscape that uses noise to paint a picture of the vast empire and the sprawling history and genealogy on which Dune is based.

(l-r) Dave Spars, Chris Day and Kyle Lopes

(l-r) Dave Spars, Chris Day and Kyle Lopes

At this point I’ll point out I am a fan of both the books and, in a sense, the film, and I think that without knowledge of these things the themes may not coalesce in the same way – that said, from a musical point of view, I don’t think this knowledge is essential.

It is in this first track that we get the sound that has marked Whitechapel Murders since their formation as the two bass guitars take turns to create what could be described as ‘rhythm’ and ‘lead’ parts while their sounds swirl together and are joined by the off-kilter beat of the drums to create not just a soundscape but a ‘spacescape’ appropriate for the subject matter.

Whitechapel Muders - Chris and KyleAs the EP goes on the tracks draw on everything from stoner rock and doom to extreme metal and avant-garde rock, with Dave Spars’ vocals barking and crooning within the mix adding an extra layer to the sound that comes to the fore at times but at others joins the instrumental noises to add to the atmosphere.

Each track has a title taken from the books and deals with motifs and ideas relevant to them so, on Atreides, we are confronted with the existential angst of the series lead character, Paul Muad’dib, while on Harkonnen we get a sense of the industrial destruction of the antagonists and Children of Dune and Arrakis, Dune, Desert Planet paints a picture of the world the stories are set on and its Fremen inhabitants conflict with outsiders.

Whitechapel Murders - Dave SparsThis all comes together on the EP’s epic closer Messiah which sprawls and swirls across eight minutes of jarring sounds, music and samples to create a dense piece that, like every track here, can at once get heads nodding and brains ticking depending on how you want to listen.

If heavy and noisy isn’t your thing then its unlikely you’ll find much in this EP, however, if you like to push the boundaries of music into territories that are less often seen and explore a dense world of sound, then Whitechapel Murders’ Dune EP is certainly worth exploring.

You can download the EP via the band’s Bandcamp page.

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