Mini-Reviews from Around the Bowl: 06/01/17
Feast and be merry, for half the year is almost up. While you wait around, lather your ears up with WhiteNails, Rienaus, Pyreship, Corpse Light, Shivered, Fleshpress, Appalling, Tornado Kid, Varmia and Paladin.
If the loss of Chris Cornell has you jonesing for grungy hard rock with psychedelic touches and dramatic vocals, then WhiteNails may be able to help you out. Hailing from Quebec, the six-piece (there’s a keyboardist!) combines an early 90s sensibility that brings Soundgarden and Alice in Chains to mind with a healthy dose of stoner rock riffs along the lines of Fu Manchu or early Queens of the Stone Age. The band displays plenty of attitude and has the requisite fuzz pedals in full effect, taking a few intriguing left turns like the Sabbath-inspired “Brazen Bull” and the moody closer “The Crooked Lake.” However, where much of the album is lacking is in the big, memorable hooks it takes to stand out in an overcrowded field of guys with Orange amps and vintage bell-bottoms. Right now, they seem like the kind of band you could catch playing an opening set, nod your head appreciatively, and then forget entirely by the next morning – but there’s plenty of potential here if they can take their songwriting to the next level. —Kolkey.
I wager Eetu “Mavforos” Ikonen would much rather be remembered, in the year of our dark lord 2017, from something other than Azazel‘s, erm, “successful” appearance at Steelfest. That other being his own project Rienaus‘ sophomore full-length, Saatanalle. 37-minutes of raw-ish black metal on both sides of mid-tempo. The debut was more a decent start than a mind-blowing, and Saatanalle doesn’t swipe the slate clean either, although improving greatly upon it. For one, Rienaus no longer sounds like a poor man’s garage band, there’s clarity and crisp to be found in the sound, despite retaining a certain rawness – and even a bit of that fabled cold atmosphere. “Hänen Armostaan” and “Polku” are a good opening pair, but both songs are also very ordinary. Not as in “traditional”, but as in “I recognize the quality, I admit that there are memorable riffs/leads, like the one halfway through “Hänen Armostaan”, which I really like, but they are so damn usual I’ve heard them a thousand times”. Not a problem if the rest of the album ends up blowing my mind, these aren’t boring riffs after all, only unremarkable. Unfortunately this is where the album falls into a minor slump, and when the album starts collecting rounds again from the title-track onward, it’s of no greater memorability than the first two. I will no doubt be getting good mileage out of Saatanalle, but this pig will have to go home without a prize. —Karhu.
Pyreship brings together sludge and post-metal influences for a combination that will appeal strongly to tone snobs and anyone who longs for the glory days of bands weaned on Neurosis and Isis. The full-bodied production on debut album The Liars Bend Low ensures you’ll feel the power of that tone, along with the force behind every tom hit. This is a cleaned-up, accessible form of sludge with plenty of alt-rock influenced melodic hooks that bear the mark of the quartet’s stated influence from Soundgarden. Pyreship offers a humanistic outlook to contrast with the many bands trafficking in slow riffs and nihilism, most clearly expressed by the samples from Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator on “Machine Men” and from a speech by Bobby Kennedy on “When Leaves Turn to Blood.” This is clearly a band with loads of ambition, and it will be interesting to see where it takes them as they stretch out from their Houston stomping grounds. —Kolkey.
Imagined bells ring across a vast plain to introduce the slow post-metal groove that kicks off Mother of God. Vocals chime in to point you in the direction of intensity to come, but the riffs stay slow and full of doom. The hint of a Cult of Luna influence is impossible not to notice, but instead of pounding industrial climaxes, Corpse Light transitions into exultant southern doom riffs. The transition between post and doom is pretty flawless, and the variation it adds makes “Pythia” and “$5.75” the highlights of the album. If I have one complaint, it’s that the tempo stays consistent throughout, and even though the results of the songs that build are great, sometimes you need a little more excitement along the journey. Otherwise, this is an excellent debut LP with a unique voice. —Joaquin.
Sad, reflective music may be a staple of the northern European nations, but Iran’s Shivered brings the cold, negative feelings on Journey to Fade. Guitarist/vocalist Mohammad Maki churns out an album that is mournful, yet fearsome thanks to a mixture of solid riffs and sincere vocals. Though the album is emotional and depressive, it never feels oppressive or over-the-top in its expressions of loss and fear. Journey to Fade sounds like an album Katatonia would make if Jonas Renske wanted to take his feelings and hold them under water until they stopped struggling. That album art, though… RIYL: Katatonia, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost —365.
Fleshpress are a hard one to pinpoint. Their beginnings lie in rumbling sludge, but over the years swathes of prog, heavy-handed psychedelia and sometimes touches of atmospheric post-metal, in the general sense one would understand Neurosis as post-metal, have permeated their overtly hostile sound. Occasionally the band has also stripped down their “outer” influences, so it’s always impossible to say what will you be getting exactly. This time around the band has added a percussionist/synth-player (and it’s worth mentioning that MA lists a wrong line-up, the band unconcerned if anyone knows who plays among their ranks today and who doesn’t). Hulluuden Muuri is is an amalgamation of aggressive prog and distorted sludge that, the psych only a faint touch this time around. —Karhu.
To my surprise, the two songs featured on a recent Toilet Tuesday piqued my interest, and I was happy to find that the rest of this debut holds up pretty well. Appalling come out the gate blasting, but are quite happy to change gears frequently, and while they go full Black Metal here and there (e.g. “Additives…” and the occult-sounding midsection of the title track), the album is generally more at home reveling in grime and filth. Take mid-tempo stomper “Deep Dead” for example, which ultimately drowns in the mire it’s trudging through after briefly mutating into some unabashedly fun death’n’roll. Some variety plus unpolished, crunchy sound plus throaty rasping vocals make for enough stench of death to keep me quite entertained. The nature of the sixth track is a little baffling, and there’s some sloppiness on display (full-on blasting sections are not their strong suit I think), but the album boasts enough filthy fun to warrant at least a couple of spins and to keep these guys in mind. —Hans.
Nothing says southern rock like…St. Petersburg, Russia?! Believe it or not, but Tornado Kid manages to have that good ol’ “we’re gunna drink some beers, have a party, and maybe make a little sweet lovin'” sound from the city once known as Petrograd. If it wasn’t for a slight accent from vocalist Dima the Dog, you’d think they were from the US. Rocking riffs, catchy choruses, and enough sing-along parts to make the kids happy, Hateful 10 sounds like The Living End had a baby with Every Time I Die and then covered it in cheap whiskey. It’s an incredibly fun listen for fans of both rock and metal. Tornado Kid gets an A for Hateful 10, and an A+ for having a name that sounds like a professional wrestler. RIYL: Every Time I Die, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Wilson —365.
This is a very promising debut from the Polish folk/pagan black metal group Varmia. When in full black-metal mode, their tremolos are constantly shifting key and pace, creating riffs worth your attention. They threaten to become dissonant at times, but primarily stick to a more palatable sort of progressive black metal. What really makes them stand out though is their ability to shift to sections that sound like modern Enslaved grooves. Some clean vocals even make the cut. While the more-often used harsh vocals are nothing out of the ordinary for a black metal band, they are exactly as savage as they need to be. The production also straddles that line of being just filthy enough while still being pretty dang pleasant. I’m not a guy who has many black metal references, but I think fans of Batushka could dig this. —Joaquin.
With a name like Paladin, you should already have a vague sense of what this is going to sound like: POWER METAL. One of the first things you’ll notice is that, despite being an independently released demo, the production is extremely high quality. Thick, crunchy guitars oozing with a creamy bass filled center, expertly mic’d drums, and fantastic clean/lead guitar tones are a huge plus for a band so early into their career, although I know members Taylor Washington and Alex Parra have already done plenty of work in other groups as full members or guest musicians. Both songs are great fun, and of particular note are Taylor’s clean vocals and the excellent melodic style of guitar soloing from both him and Alex. My only gripe is that I LOVE the singing, and wish there was more of that instead of the harsh vocals, although that’s almost certainly a personal preference type thing. Point is, watch out for this band. Two songs in and they’ve got me convinced their next release WILL slay many a poser. —Randall Thor.
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