Thursday, 22 March 2018

REVIEW: Knaaves, "January" [EP]

By: Ernesto Aguilar

Album Type: EP
Date Released: 20/02/2018
Label: Independent

“January” is a defiant hardcore manifesto that feels unrelenting from literally the first five seconds out of the gate.

“January” DD track listing

1. January
2. Nine Lives Lost

The Review:

Although it is hard to call the two-song "January" an EP, Milwaukee's Knaaves emerge with a bellicose stance and plenty of reasons to keep an eye out for this viscerally tantalizing four-piece.

While the band is not exactly a supergroup, Knaaves has several explosive regional performers in its midst. It may be best known for the inclusion of Amanda Daniels. Bassist Daniels formerly played in hardcore act Enabler, which gained traction not too long ago. She departed the group in 2015, alleging physical and sexual abuse by former boyfriend and Enabler's chief songwriter and vocalist Jeff Lohrber. Dustin Albright, who toured with the band, issued a long Facebook statement then backing up Daniels' claims, including assaults he'd witnessed. Lohrber went on the offensive after Daniels' story broke, virtually denying the accusations and claiming a witch hunt against him. Shortly thereafter, however, Enabler dissolved into indefinite hiatus land. A few years may have passed, but it is evident Daniels' formidable bass work is as transcendent as ever.

The title song is a defiant hardcore manifesto that feels unrelenting from literally the first five seconds out of the gate. There are likely a dozen apt and favorable comparisons one could make to this sort of intensity. Suffice to say Knaaves represent themselves on the opener quite well. Andy Parmann is a volatile frontman, caterwauling hard against the jagged guitar riffs of Jamie Kerwin. Kerwin grabs you with his musicianship throughout, in fact; blistering chords at the start of the song melt into a wailing, anguished conclusion.

Drummer Antonio Ninham is also going to catch your ear on "January." He punctuates both songs from the beginning, and interpolates fast, aggressive beats with melodic playing that blends effortlessly into Daniels' bass lines. "Nine Lives Lost" showcases the experience in Knaaves' narcotic rhythm section, with Daniels blasting charcoal-black thickness to the music and reminding you why she's been appreciated for so long as a musician. Knaaves make the most of this song, which stays within hardcore conventions mostly, but still manages to be subversive and dystophic in the presentation.

Your only complaint is that these abrasive selections are quite scorching, and you want to know what else Knaaves has in the tank for more than two songs. There is much to like about "January" though. Now let's have the full-length.

“January” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Solleme, "This Infinite Violence"

By: Jay Hampshire

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 01/02/2018
Label: Independent

Solleme conjure an unholy racket, but one that is woven and crafted with a keen eye. ‘This Infinite Violence’ might well see your play count stretching into the infinite too.

“This Infinite Violence” DD track listing:

1. Cost Of Conviction     
2. This Infinite Violence
3. Dolore Fra Noi
4. Sanguine Earth
5. Bide  
6. VI       
7. In Suffering

The Review:

For a city so synonymous with cheerful positivity and acceptance, Brighton is currently producing some of the rawest and most desolate heavy music around. Genre-confine-bucking triumvirate Solleme’s sound might be difficult to pigeonhole, but ‘desolate’ at least begins to convey the void black undercurrent of bleakness that suffuses their debut album ‘This Infinite Violence’.

And it’s not an album that eases you in gently. Opener ‘Cost Of Conviction’ is like barrelling through a dimly lit labyrinth, constantly shifting, the ground moving under your feet. From the intro’s distance noise and sparse guitar that drifts like smoke, the calm belies the growing storm that drops in as concrete-thick grinding chords and lances of feedback. From this, racing blackened tremolo guitars spur things on, more akin to the expansive blackgaze of Deafheaven than the sweeping northern exposure of acts like Mayhem. The trio rip into a driving, chugging groove, drums and guitar locked in mechanically tight, before ending strong on one-two hammerblow chords.

The title track encompasses doom influences, pillars of held chords interwoven by spider-like atonal guitar notes and crashing cymbal hits. It’s unhurried, lumbering at a predatory pace, lurching from one vitriolic riff to another. ‘Dolore Fra Noi’ (Pain Between Us) broods with distant shrieks and uneasy, groaning feedback, the muffled shouts materialising into a breathless warning from across the void.

‘Sanguine Earth’ lays down a thick foundation of rolling drum work before shrieked vocals firmly establish the centre ground, guitars ambling in a class-edge sharp waltz as the drums nail things in place. Things take on hardcore infused shape through a breathless d-beat section before an abrupt end stops things dead. ‘Bide’ inhabits the distance, tolling guitar notes ringing and echoing out until a feedback drenched riff barges in, galloping into a strident chug, hefty kick drum hits used almost like punctuation. ‘VI’s steady, slow drums are surrounded on all sides by a shimmering, almost industrial noisescape.

Finale ‘In Suffering’ whips away, carried aloft by a pulsing black metal headwind, descending into a crawling, sludge infused riff that opens out into creeping guitars. The band prove they can shift dynamics on a dime, blindsiding with false endings, opening out to cast their sounds into a seemingly infinite aural negative space. As the track slows and winds down amid final throat ruining screams, there’s a sense of wearied exhaustion that no doubt connects band and listener alike.

In a scene creaking under the weight of the sheer number of formidable riffs, where bands seek to channel as many disparate influences as possible, it’s rare for an act to manifest both so effortlessly, and rarer still for this to happen on a debut album. While drummer Fred and guitarist Sam’s musicianship lays solid foundation, it’s vocalist Frank’s stunning delivery that secures the final piece of the jigsaw. While not fully conveying his magnetic live presence, the record still showcases his inhuman talent. There’s a glut of heavy vocalists making all sorts of horrible noises, but few do it with such tortured finesse, with such communicated emotion. Despite being ‘just’ a three piece, Solleme conjure an unholy racket, but one that is woven and crafted with a keen eye. ‘This Infinite Violence’ might well see your play count stretching into the infinite too.

“This Infinite Violence” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW & TRACK PREMIERE: Monster Magnet, "Mindfucker"

By: Victor Van Ommen

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 23/03/2018
Label: Napalm Records

If you’re ready for a simple space rock record that’s sturdy, hooky and well written, take “Mindfucker” out for a spin. 

“Mindfucker” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Rocket Freak
2). Soul
3). Mindfucker
4). I’m God
5). Drowning
6). Ejection
7). Want Some
8). Brainwashed
9). All Day Midnight
10). When The Hammer Comes Down

The Review:

Monster Magnet’s evolution has been fun to follow. Back in the day, when front man and key driving force of the band, Dave Wyndorf, got his band of psychedelic gods together, they got weird. As time progressed, the ‘Magnet remained a psychedelic powerhouse, but one that consistently moved forward from where they began. The days of long, drawn out and druggy jams are behind us. Now, we’re reveling in a period of shorter, leaner songs with big hooks. Fans of Monster Magnet are sometimes divided in the camps of “early” and “modern” Monster Magnet. There’s no need for these camps, though, because Monster Magnet has always been - and will always be - a band that knows when it’s time to get weird and when it’s time to rock out. Isn’t that what stoner rock is all about?’

So it’s now 2018, almost five years removed from Monster Magnet’s last studio album, “Last Patrol.” Where that album, and certainly the redux albums that followed it, brought both hooks and jams to the fold, this new album, “Mindfucker” is all about the rock and the roll. “Mindfucker” tells a simple story to the tune of compact riffs and songs that move pretty quickly. About half of the songs are around the 4 minute mark, which reflects the simple song structures.

But rest assured, simple isn’t bad, by any means. In the case of “Mindfucker,” simple is even somewhat a breath of fresh air. There’s that MC5 vibe in these songs and punk rock is never far out of reach. The hooks are firmly mounted and effortlessly carry the weight of the songs. Bob Pantella and Chris Kosnik play their asses off, running the sturdy rhythms up and down the dance floor.

Like any good Monster Magnet set list, the weirder tracks are spread out evenly between all the ragers. “I’m God” (exclusively streaming below) rears its head after the three songs that open the “Mindfucker” party. This track is the largest of the bunch, with a huge chorus that has Wyndorf stepping to the mic to proclaim that he, in fact, is God. Kind of a strange claim to make, sure, but Wyndorf’s lyrics have always been pretty out there, rather arrogant and more or less out of this world. After all, he delivers these lines with such conviction that he makes the lyrics work. The song uses every second of its 6:16 run time to fly off into space, in only the way that Monster Magnet knows how; Wyndorf at the helm, one foot on the monitor, colorful, flashing lights everywhere…all seen through a fish-eye lens.

The songwriting aside, the production of this album is also top notch. “Mindfucker” is a party, despite some of the themes in the lyrics. The way the guitars sound and how this is mixed with Pantella’s cymbal work, makes this record sound rambunctious. “Mindfucker” even goes so far as to sound like a live recording, one that has Wyndorf pulling in the crowd and having the audience scream their lungs out for the entire duration of the record.

If you’re ready for a simple space rock record that’s sturdy, hooky and well written, take “Mindfucker” out for a spin. Go on, let loose of the hopes that Monster Magnet are going to make another “Spine of God.” The band’s moved on and is having a great time doing it. Join them for the ride, you won’t regret it.

“Mindfucker” is available here

Band info: facebook || bandcamp

BAND SPOTLIGHT: Kosmogyr defy conventional methods to create "Eviternity"

By: Daniel Jackson

Kosmogyr is a long-distance collaborative effort between Shanghai resident Xander Cheng and former Shanghai resident Ivan Belcic, now living in Prague. Their potent black metal brew is one of both melodic grandiosity and colossal sonic weight, that added heft given from the judicious use of deep, churning melodic death metal. The band displays a clear understanding of what’s made these styles work so well over the last twenty-plus years, while still sounding very much a part of the here and now.

In that sense, Kosmogyr acts as a musical counterpoint to the idea of post-black metal. Its existence is proof of how black metal has necessarily grown and adapted rather than morphed into something else altogether. There will always be plenty of bands holding down the fort for traditionalism, and the genre still thrives even within those rigid boundaries. But it’s the genre’s ability to blend with new sounds and seamlessly interact with different musical contexts that makes it so creatively viable more than twenty years after its original peak.

The Process

That Kosmogyr have accomplished what they have on ‘Eviternity’ despite the expansive distance between Shanghai and Prague helps define Cheng and Belcic’s drive and passion for the music they’re making, when so many others would likely have tried to find new outlets, rather than commit to a more complicated system for making music. Thankfully, Belcic offered to help explain the collaborative process that went into making the album:

“The typical Kosmogyr song begins with a collection of riffs from Xander, along with rudimentary drums underneath to give me an idea of what he has in mind. He’d send me a set of riffs that belong together, and I’d go through them to sort out which feels to me like a chorus, which has more of a “main riff” vibe, and so forth. I might ask him to flesh out a section, or bring another riff or two in, depending on the direction I’m seeing for the arrangement.

“After coming up with a first draft of the arrangement, I’d bounce it back to Xander for his feedback, and based on that, we’d make whatever final changes were needed before arriving at the final song structure. After we locked it in, I’d go back and write all the detailed drum parts with fills and such.”

An approach based on one artist rearranging and fine tuning the pieces put forth by another isn’t one you’re likely to come across very often, at least not in black metal. It speaks to a selflessness in Cheng that he’d create riffs to be put together in ways he may not have imagined himself. It also speaks to Cheng and Belcic’s symbiotic musical relationship even across such a great distance. That’s especially impressive given black metal’s history with one-person projects and inflexible creative methods.

 The Humanity of Drum Programming

The use of drum programming as opposed to a live drummer has, and will continue to be, a subject of debate among metal fans. Some fans are strongly against it, regardless of whether it’s done out of necessity, born out of lack of resources, reliable musicians, or anything else. For some listeners, the circumstances surrounding the use of drum programming don’t factor in at all. But like anything musical it’s all about how it’s executed. Someone who is generally against non-human drumming might still be a fan of albums released by Type O Negative (from 1996-2003), Anaal Nathrakh, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Limbonic Art, or Summoning.

Often, the best programming will come from someone who understands drumming to begin with. It’s extraordinarily helpful to know how a drummer might accent certain notes or how to use dynamics to give programmed drums a more human groove element that a lot of drummerless albums lack. Belcic describes his own approach to programming:

Though I am a drummer, I am sadly one bereft of the chops, stamina and discipline needed to pull off this style of music with perfect timing and finesse. The programming on the record is what I would play, if I could play it at the required level.

The drums were programmed note by note using the same MIDI composition software as the songwriting. Despite this, I tried my best to take as natural an approach to the drum programming as possible. I’d listen to the riffs and air-drum along to the drum parts I’d hear in my head, and so that’s how I’d figure out what each riff would get. The same goes for fills — I’d listen along, and anytime my brain-drummer threw in a fill, I’d transcribe what I “heard” with the software.

That existing knowledge of how drums should be played shows in the end result. While the tones themselves still have a somewhat mechanical sound to them, the beat selection and natural flow to the programming makes the experience much more genuine than it would be otherwise. I asked about specific drummers Belcic might have looked to as an inspiration for his programming style, but there wasn’t as much direct influence as you might expect:

There was only one time I remember purposefully grabbing influence from a specific drummer, and it was after spending an hour or so in a YouTube rabbit hole of Anup Sastry videos. I think it was while doing the drums for “Iridescent,” so if you hear any fills in that song that sound particularly badass, that’s why. Anup, if you’re reading this, thanks for slaying.

Crushing Sounds, And The Voice They Require

Turning our gaze back to the guitars, one of the things Kosmogyr brings to the table that few others do is a robust and heavy guitar tone. The closest black metal comparison I can think of is the tone on Gorgoroth’s ‘Twilight of the Gods’, though it’s not as murky. Cheng is inclined to view it as an obvious, natural choice:

For me as a producer, the guitar sound is not about taking influence from which bands or which genres — it’s all about creating a rich sound that is enjoyable to hear. For the audience, a rich sound overall is more fulfilling than an unbalanced mix, even with excellent songwriting. I wanted the music to be welcomed by a wider group of people, so before I started the production, I’d already created my concept for our sound and our mix.

For posterity’s sake, Belcic adds “Those fat chords under the main riff in “Eviternity,” though, that was all me. It’s my one actual bit of guitar writing on the record, and the world must know”.

When it comes to vocals; it goes without saying that every band is going to be different. While strictly-defined vocal limits might work for bands as different as Meshuggah or early Darkthrone, Belcic’s more varied approach on ‘Eviternity’ is just what’s needed. Having found plenty of extreme vocal space to explore between his caustic highs and thundering growls, Belcic sheds some light on his vocal approach:

I’ve always been drawn to vocalists who utilize a dynamic range of textures, and it’s the type of vocalist I try to be. It was important to me that our songs be given this sort of treatment, as opposed to more of a one-style-fits-all approach.”

And as to whether this was something mapped out in advance or played out by ear, Belcic clarifies further:

“The vocal choices were made on a very instinctual level. I wasn’t consciously making decisions so much as responding to each passage of a song with the vocal style that it evoked. It came down to how each riff affected me as I listened to the songs, and how adjacent sections would complement and contrast with one another.”

His range didn’t come easily to him, though:

“For many years, the high-end black metal shrieks have stubbornly been the toughest vocal style for me to grasp, and so it was an inspiring challenge to hack my way through these recording sessions. I did all the vocals in the bathroom of my apartment…I can’t imagine what my neighbors must think of me.”

The Last Word

Lyrically, Kosmogyr prefer to remain something of a closed book. Where some bands have created a captivating musical identity by wearing their political beliefs on their sleeve; Belcic is tight-lipped, preferring to let us all sort these things out for ourselves. Knowing that Kosmogyr recently appeared on the socially-conscious ‘Crushing Intolerance’ black metal compilation series, I’d wondered if their political views had found their way into their lyrics at all:

“I don’t want to characterize or contextualize our lyrics in any sort of overt way, because I think everyone should be able to create their own sense of meaning for the songs. I can say that while I’m quite open about my views online, and while we’re proud to have been included on last year’s Crushing Intolerance compilation with Black Metal Alliance, our album isn’t an explicitly political record.”

With that left to our imagination, Kosmogyr has given us more than enough to process and appreciate on ‘Eviternity’. It’s not just the devastating waves of sorrowful melody, the gorgeous atmosphere provided by the ambient lead guitar work, or the multifaceted vocal performance giving the album the voice this music demands. It’s also about all the effort and patience that went into it, as a long distance collaboration of this sort would have required. That the album ended up being so damned good must have made all of that work worthwhile.

“Eviternity” is available to buy here

Band info: facebook || bandcamp

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

FOR THOSE ABOOT TO ROCK: Riff of Canada with Holy Grinder (Toronto, Ontario)

By: Mark Tremblay

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 02/03/2018
Label: Independent

 This is a modern grind record that doesn’t overstay its welcome, and is a step forward in an often stagnant metal subgenre.

“Cult of Extermination” DD track listing:

1). Bootlicker (1:03)
2). Tomb of Disgust (1:56)
3). Bile Overdose (0:34)
4). End Terror (0:45)
5). Infinite Knife (0:26)
6). Secret Scum (1:14)
7). Violent Death (0:39)
8). Grave Dog (0:29)
9). Noise V (0:42)
10). Cult of Extermination (2:52)
11). False Grinder (2:26)

The Review:

Holy Grinder’s debut record, “Cult of Extermination”, is a welcome addition into the world of grindcore. With its incorporation of death metal, industrial music and noise, “Cult of Extermination” is a new classic in the canon of grindcore.

The album wastes no time in getting into the blasts beats with “Tomb of Disgust” and “Bile Overdose”. From there, the record jumps element to element, and employs something new once the listener gets comfortable in a particular sound. Whether it is the technical bass leads of “Infinite Knife” and “Grave Dog”, to the strangled noise of “Noise V” and “Secret Scum”, or the industrial hardcore vibes on “Cult of Extermination”, the listener is never quite sure what to expect from Holy Grinder.

On the surface, this is a raw as hell grindcore record that references many of the genre’s forefathers, but has so many nuances to it after multiple listens. This is a modern grind record that doesn’t overstay its welcome, and is a step forward in an often stagnant metal subgenre.

“Cult of Extermination” is available here

Band info: Bandcamp || facebook

6 NEW BANDS: THE SLUDGELORD's 666 Pack Review (March 2018)

By: Nikos Mixas
Art: Joshua M. Wilkinson

Welcome to THE SLUDGELORD’s March 666 Pack Review!  We don’t know if it’s the weather or shitty timing or what, but the majority of the releases this year have kind of been…well, for lack of a better description, meh.  Thoughts on the new Judas Priest anyone?  Anyway, SLUDGELORD RECORDS has been releasing some killer material worth youR attention so check it out!  Besides the shameless plug, each and every month we handpick 6 review submissions and critique them by only using 6 words, then we rate them on a scale from 1 to 666!  Check out our awesome rating scale below: 

1). WTF! WTH? LOL! Do I need to spell it out? 
2). The leprechaun of sludge says “not really.” 
3). You’re average, just like corned beef and cabbage. 
4). Four is just one better than three.  Don’t get too excited…
5). You have reason to be proud…keep it up.   
666). The leprechaun of sludge says “Follow the dandelion tea toward the riff filled land!” 

Some of you aren’t paying attention to this part…take notice!  Even though the 666 Pack Review is meant to offer humorous critique, there are no safe spaces here and your gripes will be taken with a grain of salt.  THE SLUDGELORD is a picky listener…and doesn’t care what you think of his opinions….

1). Conteiner, “Conteiner EP” (Bilbao, Spain)  "Basque cheese?  No. Good Basque tunes."


2). Iron Moth, “The Kill Room Journal” (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) "This moth is not so iron…"
Rating: 2

3). Clawing, Spectral Estate” (Montgomery, USA) "Soundscapes to kick start your nightmares.2 
Rating: 4

4). L.o.W., Bones” (Szczecin, Poland) "Sludge forced through a rusted grinder."


5). Estuary Blacks, “Estuary Blacks” (Swansea, Wales) "Pelican meets Elder meets amber ale."   

Rating: 666!

6). Thra, “Mourn” (Phoenix, USA) "My speakers are begging for mercy."

Rating: 4

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Golgothan Remains, "Perverse Offerings To The Void"

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 08/02/2018 |
Label: Impure Sounds

The expansive, noxious sound of the album feels like it may be causing irreparable internal harm, blackening and liquefying your vital organs, but it’s too punishingly satisfying to resist another spin.

“Perverse Offerings To The Void” CD//DD//LP track listing

1. Vehemence (Through Pain Divine)
2. From Chaos It Has Come
3. Vile Blasphemy
4. Bone From Dust
5. Phantom Earth
6. Void
7. Timeless Eradicator
8. Looped Depraved Spell
9. Golgothan Remains
10. Flagellation (Torrid Tongues)

The Review:

There’s a particularly haunting chapter of Alan Moore’s redefining run of Swamp Thing... which is saying a lot when there are so many unsettling themes and images in his 40 issue take on the ecological deity that it practically established a whole new set of rules for horror comics.  But in this particular story (Vol. 2, issues 35 & 36) a deranged drifter, nicknamed Nukeface, continually sips on irradiated beers, oblivious to the damage it’s wreaking on his body, and the world around him.  Another homeless man takes a sip and quickly decays into a puddle of goo, teeth loosening and spilling to the ground, eyes sinking into their putrefying sockets.  Nukeface – though his nostrils cave in, his hair sheds in clumps, and his skin cracks and peels off in strips – keeps cackling in pleasure.  He revels in his own toxic nature, as the ground beneath his feet sizzles and dies with each step.  Nukeface doesn’t die at the end of the story, but continues his wretched path across the land in a joyful, poisoned delirium.  As I absorbed the ten malignant tracks on Golgothan Remains debut album, I kept thinking of this singularly disturbing character – seeping venom but blissfully enduring his decay.  The expansive, noxious sound of the album feels like it may be causing irreparable internal harm, blackening and liquefying your vital organs, but it’s too punishingly satisfying to resist another spin.

“Perverse Offerings To The Void” is clearly indebted to classic death metal – from the punky d-beat outro of “Vehemence” to the galloping opening riff of “Timeless Eradicator”, the Australian quartet hits all the right notes and doesn’t push too far into genre hybrid territory.  They generally operate in the two extreme ends of the sonic spectrum: chugging rhythms and piercing high end leads.  Vocalist Matthieu Van den Brande (a.k.a. “C”) bellows out consistently inhuman death growls, often loaded with reverb – like some beast creeping from the depths.  Like many of my favorite bands, they offer up a “theme song” on their debut that is particularly frenetic, energized, and concise.  “Bone from Dust”, starting with a 6/8 intro, is a sick slab of death, with consistent changeups in timing that never drops a beat.  Drummer “M” does some great double kick work on “Golgothan Remains”, as well as my favorite cut, “Vile Blasphemy”.  D’s bass tone is palpable when you blast the record but sometimes sits a little low in the mix.

If there is any criticism I can reserve for “Perverse Offerings…”, it’s that the production is beneath a band of this caliber.  There are fadeouts that hit a bit too quickly, the aforementioned low mixing of the bass and, unfortunately, a consistent midrange murk that sometimes clouds the rhythmic changes.  In a few spots, particularly when the blast beats get extra hectic and the guitars mesh into a sickening wall of death, there’s a tendency to lose clarity.  I love the nasty murk of lo-fi death metal, but I was trying to hear chords and snare hits instead of enjoying the filthy tone.  Thankfully, these spots are few and far between.  The quality of the songwriting, and the committed fury of Golgothan Remains, shines through any rough patches, and establishes the Australian quartet and a nascent death powerhouse.  Crack into their debut and enjoy your own putrefaction – if you can endure it.

“Perverse Offerings To The Void” is available here and preorder for the LP here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook