Missing: Slow Stuff from 2014
The riffs were lost. Now they’re found.
This year, I surprisingly found a bunch of quality doom/sludge/stoner releases from last year that seemed to have slipped through the cracks. For all fans of low and slow, I have carefully rounded up a list of these relatively unknown albums (along with the best songs from them) into one tidy article to get them directly in your sights.
According to Urban Dictionary, “iced out” apparently means something along the lines of showing off a ton of jewelry. I don’t know if this has any relevance to the name of these English bastards, but Iced Out sure do have plenty of pummeling riffs to sling your way. These guys mix sludge and tough-guy hardcore together to create an amazingly brawny combo that will have people wondering why more bands aren’t doing this already. If you like what you hear, make sure to check out their new EP (that I personally think leaves Jukai in the dust).
I’ll be honest in saying that I haven’t listened to this album all that much. In my defense, Black Capricorn does not necessarily make it very easy to obtain their music. Most of their albums are released exclusively on vinyl (with very rare CD-press exceptions) and are shipped from Europe (which equals: more expensive, longer waiting time, and possible album damage). However, since the release of their 2013 album, Born Under the Capricorn, Black Capricorn has been a band that I know is well worth it to keep on my radar. Cult of Black Friars proves to be no different in that it’s good, drugged-out sounding doom that is simple, psychedelic, and plays out like the soundtrack of a horror movie. If you like doom bands that vary their albums with vocalized and instrumental songs, you may also have a higher appreciation of these guys. So please, Black Capricorn, I beg of you, make your music available to purchase digitally for us poor American waifs!
I really enjoyed these guys’ 2013 EP, Gift of the Sun, but was left wanting more. Lo and behold, in the spring of 2014, my prayers were answered. On this album, you can expect to hear stonery, sludgy jams that all have a real “rocking” vibe to them. This album has some general twists and turns, but overall stays in a relatively familiar tempo. While this may irk some, I can’t really seem to find much of a problem with this formula; it’s good, it’s to the point, so what more could you really want? It should also go on record that vocalist Rob Hoey has some killer pipes on him. The dude is able to maintain a semblance of range while simultaneously belting out shrieks that make him sound like he’s been eating sandpaper since he was five. Check out their new song, “Ghost Dance”, that will be on their next full-length album, Terminal, due in September of this year.
And now for something REALLY different, I bring you, Zebulon Pike, who have existed for over 10 years, have five full-length albums under their belt, and yet I never hear a damn thing about (Hessian, Edward, any comments?). To be honest, I am very new to these guys as well, and the fact withstanding that they are an instrumental prog/doom band who have songs that generally average out around 10+ minutes, I don’t know if they were ever poised to win many followers in the first place. That being said, as a guy who generally doesn’t care for instrumental-based doom bands, I really recommend checking this album out. These guys pull no punches with the riffs they write and make songs that move along very quickly, which eliminates the usual “when the fuck is the next riff coming in” anxiety I get when normally listening to songs of such tremendous length. No, with Zebulon Pike, I truly can just hop aboard their riff train and settle into the experience of the journey itself, taking in all of the musical scenery that whizzes by me. All aboard! (<– CT-12 note: LAME!)
Speaking of bands with some history behind them, Ningen Isu has A LOT. We’re talking 20+ years with a full-length album to accompany just about each year of their existence. While it may seem dumbfounding and suspicious that these guys have never really broke into a Western market, let me assure you it’s not because of unremarkable material.
While the music on Burai Houjou follows a general heavy/doom pathway, you’ll find the guys in Ningen Isu like to change stylistic gears quite frequently. For instance, you can find simple, straight forward doom on a song like “Namahage”, then thrash out to “Meishin”, and bring it all down to the delicate ethereality of a song like “Ligeia”. These ever-changing elements make this album very well-rounded and an incredibly approachable treat to hear. Also worth noting is the interesting flavor that both vocalists Kenichi Suzuki and Shinji Wajima bring to the table when singing. Their primary use of the Japanese language adds another layer of annunciation and phrasing to their vocal sound that I personally haven’t heard in many Western metal acts (Disgustache, take note here). Listen to these guys and tell me you’re not in love (check out their back catalogue if you’re hankering for more).
Talk about a turnaround. It’s with no malicious intent that I say that A.O.S.’s Last Sunrise did not do the trick for me. A lolbuttzy cover slapped on top of an album that musically came off as indecisive and awkward seemed poised to make me forget about this band forever. However, A.O.S. did everything right on this album, and have truly made something to be very proud of. After hearing the second track, “Blackest of Times”, for the first time, I noticed a vast improvement in riff-writing, song structure, and just about everything I once thought wrong with them. And as I listened further into this album, it became apparent that the tracks on this album really work off one another, in essence making this a real, “true album”, and not just a compilation of standalone tracks. Employing this “true album” focus really allowed these guys to spread their stylistic wings, but have it all make sense by the time you reach the final tracks. Apostle of Solitude, you made a badass album. You have my compliments.
“Looking for things that still hold magic / Trying to find, but no one has it” – lyrics in “Last of My Kind”
You know who does have it? Desolate Pathway have it. These guys are epic with a capital “E”, and have captured in Valley of the King a true magic that I have yet to discover in most other bands I’ve listened to. While this album is surely cheesy and clumsy in some regards, the sheer fervent gusto and determination these guys possess shows an unspoiled, indomitable spirit that brings me back to when I first started listening to bands like Iron Maiden or Candlemass. And with the aforementioned song and others such as “Desolate Pathway” and “Shadow of the Tormentor”, I truly believe these guys have captured a magic that is sure to charm the hearts of all that are willing to listen. Keep your eyes peeled later this year for the release of their new 2-track single entitled, “Into the Realms”. (sidenote: If you want a CD, I completely recommend buying one from them – it got to me in about 2 days time).
Thanks for reading!