Tag Archives: Doom Metal

Hour Of The Nightingale

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As we’re rapidly approaching the end of 2016 there’s one more album that I want to talk about before I get around to counting down my personal top ten albums of the year – which is going to be pretty hard to narrow down having listened to nearly six hundred albums this year!

Aleah Stanbridge
Aleah Stanbridge

The last one to get the individual treatment has to be “Hour Of The Nightingale”, the debut album from a melodic doom / gothic metal band called Trees Of Eternity. The genesis of the group was the getting together of singer Aleah Stanbridge and Swallow The Sun guitarist / composer Juha Raivio to work on material for the latter band’s 2009 record “New Moon”.

Juha Raivio
Juha Raivio

Stanbridge contributed vocals to “New Moon” and both subsequent Swallow The Sun albums, including last year’s phenomenal “Songs From The North” triple album. Away from his band Raivio continued to work on separate material with Stanbridge and the pair became partners in life as well as partners within music.

Fredrik Norrman
Fredrik Norrman

Album sessions began, I believe, in 2013, although videos for some of the tracks have been floating around the internet for several years already, presumably in demo form. The resulting record features the couple with guitarist Fredrik Norrman and his bassist brother Mattias Norrman (both of October Tide) as well as current Nightwish drummer Kai Hahto. There are clear similarities with Raivio’s day job but the finished product is, to my ears, a much gentler and soothing piece of work.

Mattias Norrman
Mattias Norrman

Opening track “My Requiem” is closest to Swallow The Sun’s material, I think. This is the track that grew out of Raivio and Stanbridge’s initial session for “New Moon” and immediately it’s the vocals that really make an impression, such is the beautiful and ethereal quality to Stanbridge’s voice.

Kai Hahto
Kai Hahto

Not that the backing is lacking, mind you. There is a heaviness to the musical performances that accompany the voice, that somehow even makes itself felt on the gentler passages.

The whole record is dense with melancholy and the mournful aspect of the music becomes so much more pertinent when you realise that Stanbridge tragically passed away from cancer six months before the album’s eventual release, aged just 39.

Aleah Stanbridge
Aleah Stanbridge

As a result listening to the album is both sad (at the loss of a very talented and a beautiful woman) and yet uplifting at the same time (thanks to the effect of her beautiful voice).

Juha Raivio
Juha Raivio

In a statement shortly after her death, Raivio said “…our Trees Of Eternity album will be released as it has been ready to be released for a while… we both loved it from the first note til the end and I’m so proud we had a chance to share a life and write this album together… been working on Aleah’s solo album for some time and will continue on that (at) some point…”

Nick Holmes
Nick Holmes

There are guest performances from Antimatter vocalist Mick Moss on “Condemned To Silence” and Paradise Lost frontman Nick Holmes on the epic closer “Gallows Bird”, but for the majority of the record it is that haunting voice of the late Stanbridge that grabs the listener’s attention.

Aleah Stanbridge
Aleah Stanbridge

My personal highlights on the record would be “A Million Tears”, “Broken Mirror”, the relatively brief “Sinking Ships” and the aforementioned tracks “Gallows Bird” and “My Requiem”. It’s a great shame that there will presumably be no further Trees Of Eternity records. One can only imagine the pain that Stanbridge’s passing has caused Raivio. This is a fabulous album and highly recommended listening.

Aleah Stanbridge & Juha Raivio
Aleah Stanbridge & Juha Raivio

I’ll leave the last words to Raivio – “…this cruel world needs this angel now more than ever. There will never be another voice like hers… She was pure magic, light and dark…” I hope that this record, and therefore the voice, will get the exposure and recognition that both deserve…maxresdefault-1

“Hour Of The Nightingale” tracklist:

1. My Requiem / 2. Eye Of Night / 3. Condemned To Silence / 4. A Million Tears / 5. Hour Of The Nightingale / 6. The Passage / 7. Broken Mirror / 8. Black Ocean /  9. Sinking Ships / 10. Gallows Bird

Triangle

Schammasch 2016 Triangle

Swiss avant-garde black metal band Schammasch was formed in the city of Basel in 2009 by guitarist / vocalist Christopher “CSR” Ruf, drummer Boris “BAW” AW and guitarist Marc “MA” Altorfer. They were joined in 2012 by current bassist Swart “AT” (CSR having also handled bass guitar up until that point).

Christopher "CSR" Ruf
Christopher “CSR” Ruf

I’ve not been able to find out much about this somewhat mysterious outfit, save that the band’s name is taken from that of a sun-god in ancient Babylonian mythology. The group’s debut album “Sic Lvceat Lvx” was released in 2010, and the second album – a double album titled “Contradiction” followed in 2014 and was a marked improvement on the first record.

Not being content with producing a double album, the group’s latest release is no less than a triple album, which is titled “Triangle”. Each disc has its own title – I is “The Process Of Dying”, II is “Metaflesh” and III is “The Supernal Clear Light Of The Void”.

Schammasch
Schammasch

Although “Triangle” follows in the footsteps of Swallow The Sun’s excellent “Songs From The North” triple album last year, with a distinct sound to each disc, Schammasch have taken the concept even further by carefully arranging for each disc to have a running time of 33:30 thus ensuring that each point of this particular triangle accounts for exactly a third of the whole. Granted, 100 minutes of music could easily be spilt into just two discs but the Swiss troupe clearly felt it was important for their artistic statement to be arranged in the manner in which it is presented.

Schammasch
Schammasch

Conceptually the project, according to songwriter CSR, reflects “three different steps towards a fulfilled state of being. The Process of Dying describes the experience of loss and change through death, and furthermore its acceptance. Metaflesh stands as the balance between earthly life and the spirit world, pointing out the necessity and the reality of both of them. The Supernal Clear Light of the Void represents the final state, the mastering of the ego, a state of freedom, light or void.” In addition, it would seem that the band’s albums are, thus far at least, connected to numerology in that the debut was looking at the number one, “Contradiction” concerned the number two (hence two discs) and “Triangle” obviously also tackles the number three, with the album “based on the number three in which is the symbol for the state of unity in various religious contexts. The three chapters of the album can be seen as an abstraction of the holy trinity symbol.” 

1So far, so deep. But what of the musical contents? Well, kicking off with “Crepusculum”, the first of two instrumentals on “The Process Of Dying”, disc one is the most traditional sounding in black metal terms. There are doom metal influences to be felt too, but the overall atmosphere is very much black metal. “In Dialogue With Death” and, especially, “Consensus” are the standout tracks on this disc.

2The “Metaflesh” disc begins with “The World Destroyed By Water”, and this track demonstrates that this is going to be a more experimental sounding piece of work. There are no instrumentals on this disc, but the songs all have numerous stylistic changes and textures within them, with much more clean vocal and guitar lines in evidence, with “Above The Stars Of God” being the highlight of the record, “Metanoia” coming a close second. The comparatively delicate “Conclusion” brings part two to a suitable end.

3Finally we have “The Supernal Clear Light Of The Void”. For the most part this is an instrumental piece of work, with the exception of the last track “The Empyrean”. This disc has ambient and world music elements, tribal percussion, chanting and non-singing vocals – making the whole thing seem initially very un-black metal. However, many black metal bands are expanding their musical horizons these days whilst still staying true to their beliefs and artistic vision and clearly that’s what Schammasch are attempting to do here, with some very impressive results.

I don’t think Schammasch have quite managed to produce a work as impressive as the aforementioned Swallow The Sun release, as “Songs From The North” is more accessible and contains more beauty (not perhaps a word generally associated with black metal anyway) to my ears. Nonetheless, “Triangle” is a seriously good piece of work and should be heard by many more people than it is, sadly, likely to reach. Worth a spin…Schammasch btm

“Triangle – Part I : The Process Of Dying” tracklist:

1. Crepusculum / 2. Father’s Breath / 3. In Dialogue With Death / 4. Diluculum / 5. Consensus / 6. Awakening From The Dream Of Life

“Triangle – Part II : Metaflesh” tracklist:

1. The World Destroyed By Water / 2. Satori / 3. Matanoia / 4. Above The Stars Of God / 5. Conclusion

“Triangle – Part III : The Supernal Clear Light Of The Void” tracklist:

1. The Third Ray Of Light / 2. Cathartic Confession / 3. Jacob’s Dream / 4. Maelstrom / 5. The Empyrean

Lord Of Misrule

Lord Of Misrule

Sean Kennedy
Sean Kennedy

Originally hailing from Toronto, Canada, psychedelic occult rock band Blood Ceremony were formed sometime in 2006 by guitarist Sean Kennedy, who recruited vocalist / flautist / organist Alia O’Brien, bassist Chris Landon and drummer Andrew Haust.

Alia O'Brien
Alia O’Brien

The band’s name was apparently taken from the English translation of the Spanish horror movie about the Countess Elizabeth Báthory from 1973 titled “Ceremonia Sangrienta”. This is rather appropriate in two ways. Firstly the band’s music is firmly rooted in the early Seventies, the likes of which you may have found on the legendary Vertigo label (particularly early Black Sabbath) as well occult rockers Black Widow and the great Jethro Tull, the latter thanks to O’Brien’s flute work. Secondly the band’s lyrical stance is concerned with all manner of occult themes – witchcraft, magick, devil worship etc.

Lucas Gadke
Lucas Gadke

The group’s debut album “Blood Ceremony” was released in 2008 and was followed in 2011 by the record through which I originally discovered the band, their second album “Living With The Ancients”. By thistime bassist Landon had been replaced by current bass player Lucas Gadke.

Michael Carrillo
Michael Carrillo

A further line-up change occurred prior to the recording of album number three “The Eldritch Dark” (2013), with Michael Carrillo taking over the drum stool from Haust. That record, influenced in part by classic horror film “The Wicker Man”, had a much less overt Black Sabbath influence than the first two, and continued the improvement in the band’s sound and material.

Blood Ceremony
Blood Ceremony

Now, following lead single “Old Fires”, comes the group’s fourth album – and second with the line-up of Kennedy, O’Brien, Gadke and Carrillo – titled “Lord Of Misrule”. The album kicks off with a fabulous seven-minute-plus song “The Devil’s Widow” which contains all that is great about this band. Doom metal style guitar riffing, progressive twists and turns, folky flute playing to rival that of the aforementioned Jethro Tull and a nicely sinister vocal delivery from the frontwoman – not to mention that it’s really catchy too.

Sean Kennedy
Sean Kennedy

Chief songwriter Kennedy has done a marvellous job here, as there is not one duff track and the album feels like a natural progression from the last one. Gadke and Carrillo provide solid foundations, but it is the material and guitar playing of Kennedy and the multi-talented performances of O’Brien that really give this band their magical retro-inspired sound.

Alia O'Brien
Alia O’Brien

Personal highlights on the album include “Loreley”, the acoustic “Things Present, Things Past”, the brilliant “The Weird Of Finistere”, “Half Moon Street” and “The Devil’s Widow”. The band have stayed true to their early Seventies vibe and pagan sensibilities whilst also managing to broaden their sonic scope. A great album that really appeals to my love of Seventies progressive and folk rock, great songwriting and, of course, matters related to paganism and the occult. Fabulous stuff and highly recommended…Roadburn-2016-Blood-Ceremony

“Lord Of Misrule” tracklist:

1. The Devil’s Widow / 2. Loreley / 3. The Rogue’s Lot / 4. Lord Of Misrule / 5. Half Moon Street / 6. The Weird Of Finistere / 7. Flower Phantoms / 8. Old Fires / 9. Things Present, Things Past

The End

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Earth In 1969
Earth In 1969

Legendary British heavy metal band Black Sabbath have been with us since 1968. Formed in Birmingham by guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, vocalist Ozzy Osbourne and drummer Bill Ward, the blues rock band was originally known as Earth. At the end of that year Iommi left briefly to join Jethro Tull, before returning to Earth early in 1969.

Black Sabbath In 1970
Black Sabbath In 1970

The band changed their name to Black Sabbath, apparently inspired by the Mario Bava film of the same name, and took a new musical direction. A recording contract followed and their eponymous debut album was one of the first albums to be released by the famous Vertigo record label.

Black Sabbath In 1978
Black Sabbath In 1978

Iommi has been an ever-present member since then, and indeed the original foursome lasted until 1977 when Osborne quit, only to return the following year for the “Never Say Die!” album. However in 1979 he was shown the door.

Black Sabbath In 1980
Black Sabbath In 1980

Numerous musicians have graced the ranks of the band since then, with perhaps the most notable being vocalist Ronnie James Dio (1979-1982, 1991-1992 and 2006-2010 – when the band traded under the moniker Heaven & Hell playing only Dio-era material (although they used the Black Sabbath name for the three new songs recorded for the 2007 “The Dio Years” compilation album). The other recording vocalists have been Ian Gillan (1982-1984), Glenn Hughes (1985-1986) and Tony Martin (1987-1991 and 1993-1997).

Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy Osbourne

Osbourne himself served as vocalist from 1969-1977, 1978-1979, 1997-2006 and from 2011 to date, Butler has provided bass guitar from 1969-1985, 1990-1994 and 1997 to date, whilst Ward’s tenures were from 1969-1980, 1982-1985, 1994-1997, 1998, 2006 and 2011-2012.

Geezer Butler
Geezer Butler

The original foursome reunited in late 2011 after Heaven & Hell had ended as a result of Dio’s death from cancer in 2010. Unfortunately, for reasons that the four don’t seem to be able to agree on even the cause of, Ward pulled out of the reunion in early 2012 and was replaced on tour by drummer Tommy Clufetos who’d worked with Osbourne on his 2010 solo album “Scream”. Keyboardist / rhythm guitarist Adam Wakeman, who also appeared on “Scream” also appeared on tour.

Bill Ward
Bill Ward

When Iommi, Butler and Osbourne entered the studio in the summer of 2012, however, they enlisted the services of former Rage Against The Machine drummer Brad Wilk as a session player.

The resulting record, titled “13” surfaced in 2013, and was the band’s nineteenth studio record and the first full album of new Black Sabbath material since 1995’s “Forbidden”.

Tony Iommi
Tony Iommi

A big hit, “13” was planned to be followed up by a new album in 2015. However, it has since transpired that the three founding members could not agree on doing so with Iommi laying the blame on Butler, stating that he had “…so many riffs. I wrote a whole load of stuff for another album and we met up in L.A. but the others… well, Geezer didn’t particularly want to do another album…”, whilst Osbourne for his part said “…I’m 67 in December, it would take three or four years to write and record an album,and so we decided just to do a farewell tour…” Given that “13” was recorded in the space of six months this latter claim seems a little suspect. Nonetheless, the band are now working their way through their final “The End” world tour.

Black Sabbath - 13
Black Sabbath – 13

For those of us who wanted to hear more after the excellent “13” album there is good news. Whilst the deluxe version of “13” boasted twelve tracks (as opposed to the regular edition’s eight), it turns out that the band actually recorded sixteen. And so it is that the remaining four tracks have been released as an EP, also called “The End”, with the addition of four live tracks.

Brad Wilk
Brad Wilk

So, how does it hold up and is it a fitting end to the band’s long career? Well opener “Season Of The Dead” is seven-plus minutes of excellence. Iommi’s riffing is peerless, Osbourne’s multi-tracked vocals are spot on and Butler and Wilk provide a solid and thunderous rhythm section. There are some tasty martial rhythms in the guitar and drum parts too. Why this didn’t make it onto “13” is a complete mystery!

Black Sabbath Live In 2012
Black Sabbath Live In 2012

“Cry All Night” is just under seven  minutes of doom metal at its finest and “Take Me Home” features a nice acoustic guitar solo from Iommi on top of another of his trademark riffs.

Tony Iommi
Tony Iommi

Meanwhile “Isolated Man” is blessed with an incredibly catchy riff that dominates the final minute of the track, following another great Iommi solo. I could have happily listened to that riff for another minute or two at the end to be honest!

Geezer Butler & Ozzy Osbourne
Geezer Butler & Ozzy Osbourne

Of the four live tracks, the near-ten-minute “God Is Dead?” is sonically poor – bootleg quality really – and sadly highlights the deficiencies in Osbourne’s live vocal abilities these days.

“Under The Sun” sounds better, as do the final two tracks, though Osbourne still struggles. Only one of these four songs, “God Is Dead?”, made it onto the band’s 2013 live album “Live… Gathered In Their Masses” so it’s nice to have versions of two more “13” tracks performed live, but realistically it’s only going to be the four studio songs that receive repeat plays here in the shadows.

So, half of it holds up to “13” – even betters some of it – and that same half is a fitting end to the Black Sabbath story. It’s just a shame about the second half. Shame the three of them couldn’t have agreed to record a proper final studio release, as I expect that would have been a far better epitaph to this great band…Black-Sabbath-the-End-poster

“The End” tracklist:

1. Season Of The Dead / 2. Cry All Night / 3. Take Me Home / 4. Isolated Man / 5. God Is Dead? / 6. Under The Sun / 7. End Of The Beginning / 8. Age Of Reason

1 – 4 recorded during “13” sessions (2012/13) / 5, 7 & 8 originally from “13” (2013) / 6 originally from “Vol. 4” (1972)

Feel The Misery

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My Dying Bride In 1990
My Dying Bride In 1990

Time for a bit of doom today, I think. As was the case with Paradise Lost, Yorkshire was the birthplace of doom / gothic metal band My Dying Bride. The latter were formed in Bradford during 1990 by guitarists Andrew Craighan (who also performed keyboards) and Calvin Robertshaw, singer Aaron Stainthorpe and drummer Rick Miah.

Andrew Craighan
Andrew Craighan

Bassist Adrian Jackson was on board by the time the group recorded their debut album “As The Flower Withers” in 1992. Various other band members came and went until the group went on hiatus following 1999’s “The Light At The End Of The World” album.

Returning in 2001 with their seventh studio album “The Dreadful Hours” the band have continued to record and perform even as the line-up has fluctuated. September 2015 saw the release of the band’s twelfth studio album “Feel The Misery”, coming three years on from the excellent “A Map Of All Our Failures”.

Calvin Robertshaw
Calvin Robertshaw

The band now comprises founder members Stainthorpe, Craighan and Robertshaw (who rejoined in 2014 after a fifteen year absence) alongside bassist Lena Abé (who both joined in 2007) and violinist / keyboardist Shaun MacGowan (since 2009). Drum work was handled by Dan Mullins.

Aaron Stainthorpe
Aaron Stainthorpe

The record begins with the relatively up-tempo (at least in places) but most certainly not upbeat “And My Father Left Forever”, a song inspired by the death of Stainthorpe’s father, to whom the album is dedicated, which clocks in at nine-minutes-plus. In fact, four of the eight tracks on the album have a duration of nine minutes or more, with closer “Within A Sleeping Forest” approaching eleven minutes in length.

Lena Abé
Lena Abé

Although the opening track is nicely gothic it isn’t all that doom-like. That’s soon put right, however, when “To Shiver In Empty Halls” comes roaring in with Stainthorpe’s mournful vocal turned into a deathly growl over suitably melancholic guitar lines and monolithic sounding riffs in a track than slows to a crawling pace some six minutes in.

Shaun MacGowan
Shaun MacGowan

“Feel The Misery” is a highpoint on this record, along with the Cathedral-like “I Celebrate Your Skin”, the gothic ballad that is “I Almost Loved You” and the aforementioned closing track “Within A Sleeping Forest” which is sublimely brilliant.

Fabulously atmospheric, My Dying Bride continue to build upon the template that they helped to create a couple of decades ago. Although not an upbeat album in terms of music or lyrics, nonetheless I feel that there is something strangely uplifting about doom metal (or maybe I’m just a miserable old so-and-so?!) and this is a very good example of the genre. Great stuff…my dying btm

“Feel The Misery” tracklist:

1. And My Father Left Forever / 2. To Shiver In Empty Halls / 3. A Cold New Curse / 4. Feel The Misery / 5. A Thorn Of Wisdom / 6. I Celebrate Your Skin / 7. I Almost Loved You / 8. Within A Sleeping Forest

Songs From The North

Swallow-The-Sun

Juha Raivio
Juha Raivio

Although there is a perception that music has become very disposable with some many people cherry picking songs and having random playlists etc., it’s clear that there are those that still believe in the album format. I personally suspect that this applies more to fans of what could be termed niche genres – heavy metal, jazz, folk etc. – than to those who listen to pop. In any event 2015 has been quite a year for the album as a complete piece of work, including some superb double album releases from Iron Maiden and IO Earth.

Pasi Pasanen
Pasi Pasanen

Now the bar has been raised once more with the latest offering from Finnish melodic doom metal band Swallow The Sun. Formed in 2000 by Juha Raivio (guitars) and Pasi Pasanen (drums), the pair were joined in 2001 by Mikko Kotamäki (vocals), Markus Jämsen (guitars), Matti Honkonen (bass) and Aleksi Munter (keyboards).

Mikko Kotamäki
Mikko Kotamäki

This line-up released debut album “The Morning Never Came” in 2003, and followed this up with three further studio albums – the more gothic tinged “Ghosts Of Loss” (2005), and “Hope” (2007) – with the vast majority of the material being penned by Raivio.

Kai Hahto
Kai Hahto

Pasanen departed before the recording of “New Moon” (2009) and was replaced by Kai Hahto, who is also a member of the band Wintersun. Swallow The Sun’s fifth studio album, titled “Emerald Forest And The Blackbird” was released in 2012.

Markus Jämsen
Markus Jämsen

With Hahto working with Nightwish on their excellent 2015 album “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” and the following world tour whilst that band’s regular drummer dealt with health issues, the band had to find a replacement for the follow-up to their “Emerald Forest And The Blackbird” album.

Juuso Raatikainen
Juuso Raatikainen

In December 2014 they posted via their Facebook page that “…Kai won’t be playing drums on the next Swallow the Sun release, or on upcoming tours. Kai’s job with Nightwish will take so much of his time, at least for the next couple of years, that we all have agreed that from now on it is better for the amazing Juuso Raatikainen to take on the drums officially. Kai is our brother, and will always be a member of Swallow the Sun, so he has not been kicked out, nor has he resigned, but now we have Juuso on board as well…”. Unusual, certainly, but a refreshing change to see such a harmonious statement rather than the often seen vitriol when band line-ups change.

Matti Honkonen
Matti Honkonen

The resulting release is “Songs From The North”, a huge triple album of new material lasting two and a half hours! Split into three distinct albums, the group announced them with the description “Songs from the North I continues in the vein of the albums before it – first-rate death-doom. Songs from the North II is a beautiful acoustic foray, unplugged revel in the darkness. Songs from the North III is the most extreme album, a complete ride into most horrific abyss of finely crafted, conscience-crushing funeral doom.”

Aleksi Munter
Aleksi Munter

Epic is a word that’s bandied around a fair bit. Indeed that is something that I’m sometimes guilty of myself when describing a longer track on an album. However in the case of “Songs From The North” it seems to be a wholly appropriate term to use.

1“Songs… I” begins with the acoustic guitar introduction to the nine minute “With You Came The Whole Of The World’s Tears”. As if the title isn’t clue enough, the first (and last) line of the song is “Saint Peter save me and send me down to Hell”. Then a densely heavy yet beautifully melodic guitar riff comes crushing in.  Going back and forth between the delicate acoustic sections and the heavy, a happy happy joy joy song this is not.

Aleah Stanbridge
Aleah Stanbridge

“Rooms And Shadows”, another belter with fabulous growled vocals mixed in with the melodic harmony vocals underpinned by some more seriously heavy instrumentation is also found on “Songs… I”. Possibly the most gorgeous song on this record, though, is “Heartstrings Shattering” which features a wonderful guest vocal from Trees Of Eternity singer Aleah Stanbridge, although the track “Silhouettes” is yet another highlight of the first volume.

2“Songs… II” is a gentler affair, but still carries the same sense of melancholy and sadness in its songs. Instrumental piano-led opener “The Womb Of Winter” leads into the acoustic guitar and tubular bells of “The Heart Of A Cold White Land” which in a way sums up the whole experience with the lyric “…this heart of a cold white land in the dark of the endless nights and the light of summer that never dies in these songs from the North…”. My favourite tracks on this record are “Autumn Fire”, “Pray For The Winds To Come” and the second instrumental track “66°50’N, 28°40’E” (which, according to Google maps, is in Salla near Finland’s eastern border with Russia).

3The third disc, “Songs… III”, begins with the longest track here, the thirteen minute hymn of despair and pain that is “The Gathering Of Black Moths”. The deathly slow “7 Hours Late” follows, feeling akin to the end of time itself, and it’s fair to say that the pace has not picked up by the time we get to the highlight of the third record, the glacial “Abandoned By The Light”, in which Saint Peter makes a return to the lyrics and Kotamäki’s deathly growl intones about suffering “…the purest form of pain, my heart pulled apart by ebony horses unaware of their powers, gentle in their calmness until their eyes lit up like the fires of Hell, or was it just a reflection of mine…”.

swallow-the-sun (1)Swallow The Sun are a truly great doom metal band that have incorporated a wide palette within their core sound. Now that winter is settling in and we are treated to rain, mist and dark skies I feel that it is the perfect time for something like “Songs From The North”. The fact that the project is on such a huge scale just makes it even better in my view. An ideal, and oddly uplifting, soundtrack to the melancholy and darkness of winter. Very impressive…

SWALLOW_THE_SUN_tour_2015

“Songs From The North I” tracklist:

1. With You Came The Whole Of The World’s Tears / 2. 10 Silver Bullets / 3. Rooms & Shadows / 4. Heartstrings Shattering / 5. Silhouettes / 6. Memory Of Light / 7. Lost & Catatonic / 8. From Happiness To Dust

“Songs From The North II” tracklist:

1. The Womb Of Winter / 2. The Heart Of A Cold White Land / 3. Away / 4. Pray For The Winds To Come / 5. Songs From The North / 6. 66°50’N, 28°40’E / 7. Autumn Fire / 8. Before The Summer Dies

“Songs From The North III” tracklist:

1. The Gathering Of Black Moths / 2. 7 Hours Late / 3. Empires Of Loneliness / 4. Abandoned By The Light / 5. The Clouds Prepare For Battle

New World Order

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Void Of Sleep Live In 2011
Void Of Sleep Live In 2011

Time for a little something from the dark side today. Formed in 2010 by singer / guitarist Andrea “Burdo” Burdisso, guitarist Marco “Gale” Galeotti, bassist Riccardo “Paso” Pasini and drummer Andrea “Allo” Allodoli, Italian band Void Of Sleep describe their music as occult progressive metal.

Void Of Sleep - Tales Between Reality And Madness
Void Of Sleep – Tales Between Reality And Madness

A debut album, titled “Tales Between Reality And Madness” saw the light of day in 2013 and the group’s follow-up effort, “New World Order” has recently been released.

In theory, given the increasing amount of occult and extreme metal, not to mention progressive rock, that I’ve been listening to in recent years, this should be right up my street. So?…

Andrea “Burdo” Burdisso
Andrea “Burdo” Burdisso

The record follows in the steps of the promotional lyric video “Slaves Shall Serve” which has a procession of images providing an effective visual accompaniment to the song’s Luciferian theme. Although bearing the same title, this is a more 70s hard rock / doom sounding song than the Polish black metal act Behemoth’s ferocious track.

Marco "Gale" Galeotti
Marco “Gale” Galeotti

The album’s opener “The Devil’s Conjuration” has a nice sludgy doom metal feel topped off with vocals akin to Ghost, and picks up the pace a little towards the track’s climax.

“Hidden Revelations”, meanwhile, hints at influences from the likes of Opeth with its progressive metal guitar riffs and melancholic vocal passages.

Riccardo "Paso" Pasini
Riccardo “Paso” Pasini

The aforementioned “Slaves Shall Serve” is followed by “Ordo Ab Chao” (translation – order from chaos) which has plenty of light and shade even though the song is generally slow and heavy.

“Lords Of Chaos” is a forty-two second interlude and introduction to the title track which sees the band channelling Tool at their most reflective, and is one of the highlights of the album.

Andrea "Allo" Allodoli
Andrea “Allo” Allodoli

That just leaves the closing number “Ending Theme”. At a little over fourteen minutes this is by far the longest track on the record. It starts with some atmospheric and discordant guitar before the drums and vocals join the fray, and before you know it all those influences mentioned above are making their presence felt through your speakers.

Void Of Sleep Live In 2014
Void Of Sleep Live In 2014

Given those influences this is clearly not a hugely original album. What the band have done, however, is to take those influences and produce something fresh and interesting from them. The band members’ musical ability is not in question as they shine throughout.

Is it up my street then? It’s certainly in the neighbourhood. As a whole this is an album rich in texture. There is plenty of great guitar riffing to get your teeth into and harsh vocals to display aggression, whilst there are more memorable melodies and harmonies present than on your average album of this type. The sound gets more complex and challenging as the album moves into its second half, but flows beautifully as a whole piece of work. So overall this is impressive stuff…void-of-sleep-new-world-order-promo-album-banner-2015-033069momnss3

“New World Order” tracklist:

1. The Devil’s Conjuration / 2. Hidden Revelations / 3. Slaves Shall Serve / 4. Ordo Ab Chao / 5. Lords Of Conspiracy / 6. New World Order / 7. Ending Theme (I Mourn / II Triumphant / III Void)

The Girl With The Raven Mask

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Candlemass
Candlemass

Swedish bassist and songwriter Leif Edling formed doom metal legends Candlemass in the mid 1980s. Although that band is still reportedly active, their eleventh (and stated to be final) album was “Psalms Of The Dead” in 2012.

Leif Edling
Leif Edling

A side project, another doom metal band named Krux started by Edling and Candlemass bandmate Mats Levén has thus far produced three studio albums since 2003.

Marcus Jidell
Marcus Jidell

More recently, in 2013, Edling got together with guitarist Marcus Jidell, vocalist Jennie-Ann Smith (Jidell’s wife) to form Avatarium. The band’s line-up is completed by drummer Lars Sköld and keyboard player Carl Westholm.

Jennie-Ann Smith
Jennie-Ann Smith

A self-titled debut album was issued in 2013, and was a solid and heavy doom metal record. Drawing comparisons with the likes of Jex Thoth and Blood Ceremony, album number two “The Girl With The Raven Mask” is now out.

Lars Sköld
Lars Sköld

First track “Girl With The Raven Mask” gallops out of the speakers with more pace than anything on the debut album, and is full of hard-hitting guitars and a powerful vocal performance from Smith.

Next up is the album’s longest cut, at just under eight minutes, “The January Sea” which is very much a crushing slow doom track with a definite melancholic edge.

Carl Westholm
Carl Westholm

“Pearls And Coffins” is a more classic hard rock tune, with lots of light and shade, some tasty Hammond organ and you could just imagine the likes of Ronnie James Dio, Ian Gillan or David Coverdale singing on this at the peak of their powers. The same could be said of the truly excellent “Ghostlight”.

Avatarium
Avatarium

“Hypnotized” is, honestly, quite hypnotising with psychedelic keyboard sounds under an insistent guitar riff and another superb performance on the mic.

Jennie-Ann Smith
Jennie-Ann Smith

“Run Killer Run” is quite Cathedral-like in terms of the guitar sound and riffs and ushers “Iron Mule”, a track that initially sounds like a ballad until it really gets going.

Avatarium Live In 2014
Avatarium Live In 2014

Closing track “The Master Thief” is another light and shade filled epic before the bonus track “In My Time Of Dying” which shines a slightly different light on the group with a swampy and bluesy vibe.

Avatarium
Avatarium

All told this is slightly less heavy than the debut album, but benefits from more dynamism which allows Smith’s bluesy vocals to cut through loud and clear. Jidell and Edling provide some suitably crushing riffs on top of Sköld’s powerful drumming and there are some tasty guitar solos too. Finally, Westholm’s keyboards help fill out the sonic picture nicely.

A great doom metal album with psychedelic and progressive rock elements, “The Girl With The Raven Mask” is highly recommended listening…

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“The Girl With The Raven Mask” tracklist:

1. Girl With The Raven Mask / 2. The January Sea / 3. Pearls And Coffins / 4. Hypnotized / 5. Ghostlight / 6. Run Killer Run / 7. Iron Mule / 8. The Master Thief / 9. In My Time Of Dying

With The Dead

With-the-Dead

Cathedral
Cathedral

Legendary doom metal band Cathedral announced their split in 2011 after twenty-odd years and prior to the recording of their final studio album, 2013’s “The Last Spire”.

Lee Dorrian
Lee Dorrian

That album was, oddly perhaps, the only studio album by the band that was released through Cathedral founder and main-man Lee Dorrian’s own record label, Rise Above Records, which has been in operation since the late 1980s. Since the group’s split Dorrian has devoted himself solely to work connected to the label.

Electric Wizard In 1995
Electric Wizard In 1995

Another Rise Above act were Electric Wizard, who released seven studio albums and a number of EPs through the label between 1995 and 2010.

Jus Osborn
Jus Osborn

However, in 2013 Electric Wizard founding member vocalist / guitarist Jus Osborn (who had started the band with drummer Mark Greening and bassist Tim Bagshaw) stated in an interview that “…we have a new LP but it cannot be released. Rise Above Records have a lawyer to stop us releasing records or even using our name. Of course we are fighting…but with the law it is all money, money, money…. Maybe our fans will convince them to treat us with respect.”

Ramesses
Ramesses

Back in 2003 Greening and Bagshaw had parted company with Electric Wizard and formed a new band Ramesses. However in 2012 Greening returned to Electric Wizard for the “Time To Die” album – the first release on their own label after the problems with Rise Above.

Mark Greening
Mark Greening

Greening was let go after recording “Time To Die” – somewhat acrimoniously it would seem, as Greening states “I haven’t even heard “Time To Die” yet – they still haven’t paid me for writing and recording the album or even given me a copy of it” – and he joined forces again with Bagshaw (who handles both guitar and bass) to make music, with the intention that Greening would sing.

Tim Bagshaw
Tim Bagshaw

However, having spoken with Dorrian about Rise Above releasing their material, Greening and Bagshaw then invited Dorrian to become the singer for the new venture, named With The Dead.

Liz Buckingham & Jus Osborn
Liz Buckingham & Jus Osborn

Given the issues between Rise Above and Electric Wizard, that may seem surprising, but maybe it’s indicative that the problems were specific to Dorrian on one side and Osborn and his long-term bandmate, guitarist Liz Buckingham (who is also his partner), rather than the whole band, on the other. With each side blaming the other and claiming the moral high ground who can say?

Cathedral - Farewell Show Poster
Cathedral – Farewell Show Poster

So, what to make of With The Dead? Is it a case of Electric Wizard meets Cathedral, or something entirely different?

Well, to my ears it’s more a case of the former – unsurprisingly really. That said, there is little in common with latter-day Cathedral as their final few releases had something of a progressive rock element to them.

This is a brutally heavy record, with Dorrian explaining that the goal was to “make the most crushing, oppressive heavy album we can make with the rawest performances”. That goal has most definitely been reached.

With The Dead
With The Dead

After a brief sample the album proper kicks off with the fuzz-heavy “Crown Of Burning Stars”. Bagshaw’s bass and guitar playing are super heavy, Greening pummels his kit for all he’s worth and Dorrian does his thing, sounding rather like the evil-looking priest that he resembles on the album cover. There’s nothing flashy or showy here, it’s all basic and raw, and very powerful.

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Tim Bagshaw

“The Cross” picks up the tempo a fraction – but we’re not talking thrash metal speed here folks – and in case that’s too much they dial it back again for third track “Nephthys”, named after the mythological Egyptian goddess who symbolised death.

Even more crushing and slower again is “Living With The Dead” which has an almost tranquil section around halfway through its near eight minute duration before Dorrian’s otherworldly screams usher the heaviness back in.

Mark Greening
Mark Greening

“I Am Your Virus” is the most concise number, at just over five and a half minutes, and then the closing funereal epic “Screams From My Own Grave” which feels rather like the aural equivalent of a grainy 1970s horror movie.

With just six tracks coming in at just over forty minutes – very much as albums used to be in the vinyl era before CDs came along and practically doubled the available space – the record doesn’t outstay its welcome. All but one track is over six minutes, and the final number approaches nine minutes.

Lee Dorrian
Lee Dorrian

Make no mistake though, listening to this feels longer than forty minutes – in a good way – such is the slowness and heaviness on offer. There’s no reinventing the wheel with regard to doom metal but I reckon you’ll struggle to find much more authentic sounding traditional doom metal elsewhere right now…10603230_410873789087855_2428544987571467977_n

“With The Dead” tracklist:

1. Crown Of Burning Stars / 2. The Cross / 3. Nephthys / 4. Living With The Dead / 5. I Am Your Virus / 6. Screams From My Own Grave

Doomsday

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Here’s something new I’ve just stumbled across. Iron Void are a doom metal band hailing from Wakefield, Yorkshire.

Jonathan "Sealey" Seale
Jonathan “Sealey” Seale

Originally formed in late 1998, the band’s lineup consisted of bassist / vocalist Jonathan “Sealey” Seale, guitarist Andy Whittaker, vocalist Paul Whale and drummer Damien Park.

The group split in 2000, with no releases to their name, but reformed in 2008 with Seale and Park being joined by guitarist / vocalist Steve Wilson (not to be confused with Steve Wilson, formerly of Porcupine Tree!).

Iron Void - Iron Void
Iron Void – Iron Void

The new band’s first studio album “Iron Void” was released in 2014 – adorned with a distinctive cover art hinting at psychedelia and occultism and somewhat reminiscent of fellow doom metal band Electric Wizard – to some very good reviews.

Damien Park
Damien Park

Now sees album number two hitting the shelves, in the form of “Doomsday”. Produced by Chris Fielding (Winterfylleth, Conan) and recorded at Skyhammer Studios in Cheshire. The group’s stated influences include Black Sabbath, Pentagram and Saint Vitus, which is clear to hear in their recorded output, but they have enough of their own take on doom and personality to stand out as something a little different from their influences.

Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson

“Doomsday” is a more varied piece of work then the debut album, with a greater range of tempo and texture explored, whilst still remaining very much in the doom metal camp.

My favourite numbers here include “The Devil’s Daughter”, “Upon The Mountain”, “Eye For An Eye” and “Gates Of Hell”.

Iron Void Live In 2015
Iron Void Live In 2015

Iron Void are not an especially original band, and I suppose there’s only so much you can do with doom metal before it becomes a different beast altogether.

What seems clear, however, listening to this record is how sincere the band are in what they do and how much fun they have while they’re at it. This is very much traditional doom metal, and very welcome it is too. Very impressive…

12003223_10153246534772833_6138986978186293523_n“Doomsday” tracklist:

1. Doomsday / 2. Path To Self Destruction / 3. The Devil’s Daughter / 4. Lost Faith / 5. Gates Of Hell / 6. Eye For An Eye / 7. The Answer Unknown / 8. Colosseum / 9. Fire Nerve / 10. King Of Utopia / 11. Upon The Mountain