BONUS Ocean of Grief—Fortress of my Dark Self EP (2016)

Ocean of Grief—Fortress of my Dark Self (2016)

Ocean of Grief—Fortress of my Dark Self (2016)

Details

Release 12 February 2016 on GS Productions (Russian).

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Band

  • Charalabos Oikonomopoulos—Vocals
  • Filippos Koliopanos—Guitars
  • Dimitra Zarkadoula—Guitars
  • Giannis Koskinas—Bass
  • Aris Nikoleris—Keyboards
  • Thomas Motsios—Drums

 

Tracks

  1. Spiritual fortress
  2. House of misery
  3. Futile regrets
  4. Drowned in nostalgia
  5. The birth of chaos

Review

Back in May I received a kind email from Phil Koliopanos inviting me to review his band, Ocean of Grief’s new EP Fortress of my Dark Self. Here’s the review, a couple of months later. Sorry about that.

Melodic doom/death metal band Ocean of Grief were formed in Athens, Greece in late 2014 drawing inspiration mostly from Saturnus and Slumber. This is their first official release.

My immediate response after listening to the album on Soundcloud was to email their guitarist saying simply “Wow! This is great! Loving is so far.”

Overall the EP reminds me very much of early Gothic-era Paradise Lost. And that, for me, is a good thing. A very good thing.

The EP opens with “Spiritual fortress” (track 1).  A grand organ sound introduces the song, over which the guitars weave a lamentful melody. Gutteral, deep, growling vocals carve their way through the music. It is a doomy, gothic, lamentation.

“House of misery” (track 2) begins with a descending guitar arpeggio that builds to another beautiful and simple guitar melody. “Futile regrets” (track 3) is an up-beat and rocky number that employs another simple melodic guitar line that carries the song. About halfway through the band drops out for a guitar-only middle eight that introduces a new tick-tocking riff.

“Drowned in nostalgia” (track 4) opens slowly and gently. It’s the eeriest, most haunting track on the EP. Which is built on later as the vocals descend to a whisper.

The EP closes with “The birth of chaos” (track 5), another upbeat (for doom!) track

Conclusion

If I was looking for some criticism, I might say that there is not much variety in the EP. One song almost blends into the next. But on a release of this quality I can’t fault it on that. The songs are solid, tight and hold enough interest and individual character that it simply reminds the listener that these songs are part of a coherent collection by the same band—part of the family. Albeit a dark and lamentful family that sings tales of death and doom.

All in all, a brilliant first release that took me back to everything that I loved about Gothic (Paradise Lost) but to which Ocean of Grief added their own character and other influences.

More like this please.

Review score: 95%

Man of the Hour—Destroy the Machines of Slaughter (2007)

Man of the Hour—Destroy the Machines of Slaughter (2007)

Man of the Hour—Destroy the Machines of Slaughter (2007)

Details

Produced by Man of the Hour and Mike Brown. Engineered by Mike Brown. Recorded at Seagate Studios, Dundee in April 2006. Mastered by Jeff Waters at Watersound Studios.

Band

  • Tommy Concrete—Vocals and lycanthropic enemy of the cyborgs, second guitar solo of “Spores of the black unicorn”
  • Stevie Power—Lead guitar, reefers and backing vocals on “I only give a shit…”
  • Matt Justice—Lead guitar and steel
  • Soo C Diamond—Bass, bongs, bombs, bucky and erm… bumming (?!)
  • Bud—Drums and vocals on “The troll king”

Tracks

  1. The whirlpools of Hades
  2. I only give a shit…
  3. Destroy the machines of slaughter
  4. Werewolf lover
  5. Red nails
  6. The hideous mummified corpse
  7. The final battle
  8. We’ll show you the way to the wolves
  9. Stealing from the dealer
  10. Spores of the black unicorn
  11. Fang bearing brother
  12. Beware of the gnomes

Review

The difficult second album. That familiar psychological barrier that grips many a band following a successful first opus doesn’t appear to have phased Man of the Hour in the slightest. Like Iron Maiden before them album number two appears to be even more focused, even strong than their debut.

For outing number two Man of the Hour seem to have embraced their doom roots with a bit more vigour but also taken things a little gothic. There is more than a little Danzig in there. Particularly on tracks like the title track “Destroy the machines of slaughter” (track 3) which could have been lifted from pretty much any of the Evil Elvis’s post-millennium albums.

This is a strong album. While Skull Orchard (2004) was good, it did feel a times like Man of the Hour were really pushing things to the limit in terms of tongue-in-cheek homages to the genre. But like a pupil who has been coasting through class and has suddenly become aware of their potential, here they’ve knuckled down and delivered the album of their lives.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. The lyrics are still pure metal nonsense. Take “Red nails” (track 5), a track inspired by a story by Robert E Howard.

Axes. Sledgehammers. Conan the destroyer.

Red nails! Red nails! Red nails!

And the album cover and booklet aren’t great. The artwork has no continuity, there’s an annoying variety of often illegible fonts superimposed over confused photographs.

Conclusion

But do you know what? None of that matters. because the music is great! It’s uplifting. It’s heavy. It’s melodic. It’s delivered with passion and self-belief.

This is a Scottish band that I can be proud of. The only thing is… where are you? Your hour may have come and gone… but what an hour!

And who can argue with a band whose final recorded track is called “Beware of the gnomes”?

Review score: 97%

Koreisch—This decaying schizophrenic Christ complex (1999)

Koreisch—This decaying schizophrenic Christ complex (1999)

Koreisch—This decaying schizophrenic Christ complex (1999)

Details

Recorded in the year of your Lord MCMXCIX [1999] in Sheffield, north England. Calculated Risk products. Catalogue number: Risk #3.

Band

  • Koreisch — Lyrics, music, noise, tape hiss, backward programming, experimentation and improvisation

Tracks

  1. Justification by faith
  2. Forced attrition
  3. Submerged Tao fixation
  4. A premonition of life’s erosion
  5. 1 inch stab wound
  6. Caress this violation
  7. Eclectic powder burn
  8. Preordained incarceration
  9. The Kevorkian solution
  10. Evolution through pessimism
  11. Archaicathodemission
  12. 4,000 years of suppressed dissection
  13. Bleed like Christ
  14. The eating of food sacrificed to idols

Review

Encyclopaedia Metallum classifies Koreisch as “doom metal/grindcore”. But not in the traditional sense are they. While this album contains elements that lean in the direction of doom and grindcore, it is predominantly an experimental album.

I think I have only one other CD in my collection that comes close to the experimentation that permeates this release and that’s Faith No More / Fantômas / Tomahawk front man Mike Patton’s 1996 album Adult themes for voice.

My four year old, Isaac describes the music as “naughty music”. He said while cowering in the corner of the room, through hands protecting his face. “Put it off! It’s horrible!” he exclaimed.

To be fair, I did play him perhaps one of the creepiest tracks on the album “The Kervokian solution” which sounds like a series of Jurassic Park dinosaurs break through a plate glass window while a motorbike purrs in the background, only to discover themselves in a choir rehearsal.

The album is a hotchpotch of noise, hiss, screams and shouting, blasts and riffs. It’s more art than music, at times it feels like it’s almost verging on therapy.

Conclusion

The compact disc itself has a white label with a black ink scribble. This seems to be also a perfect analogy for the music it contains.

It’s certainly not an easy listen, and as much as I appreciate what they’ve done I’m not sure I would choose to listen to this terribly often.

Review score: 50%

 

Decayor—Re-occurring times of grief EP (2009)

Decayor—Re-occurring times of grief (2009)

Decayor—Re-occurring times of grief (2009)

Details

All music composed and performed by Decayor. Engineered, mixed and mastered in Firetech Studios, Donegal by Kevin McCloskey and Decayor. CD kayout and photography by Grace Kennedy.

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Band

  • Pauric Gallagher—Voice, guitars, keyboards
  • Kevin McCloskey—Bass guitar
  • Gary Byrne—Drums and percussion

Tracks

  1. Stir of echoes
  2. Veil of despair
  3. The sacred heart is bleeding
  4. Weeping willows

Review

Last week was a rather busy one for me so I managed only to listen to the first two tracks of this EP all week. The last 24 hours has been a bit of a Decayor-fest.

My excuse? Well, I went back to work for a couple of full days on my phased return to work, and then I looked after our three boys (5, 5 and 3) from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon while my wife was in Northern Ireland. Which, rather conveniently, is where Decayor hail from. The album, which appears to be self-financed and released, reveals that it was recorded in Donegal in the west of Northern Ireland—south west of Derry, due west of Belfast.

The only other Northern Irish metal band that I have in my collection, that I can think of straight away, is Therapy? So it’s good to hear something else from there.

First up, the CD artwork is fabulous, which is really surprising given its homemade nature. It looks far more professional than many a release. There’s a mournful atmosphere to the cover artwork, alongside the almost obligatory illegible band title. All that lets it down is the off-the-shelf font for the album title.

This album is a curious mixture of death and doom metal influences. There are the slow, ponderously heavy riffs fused with gruff, shouty vocals. There are moments that hold a funereal soberness next door to thrashing riffs of fury.

There may only be four tracks on this EP, but boy! do they know how to craft long songs. The atmospheric piano and keyboards opening track “Stir or echoes” lasts only 1′ 20″ but that’s then the only sung under nine minutes long!

“Stir of echoes” ends with a peal of thunder than rolls into track two “Veil of despair” that reminds me in equal part of early Paradise Lost and early Candlemass. It clocks in at an epic 12′ 06″.

There is definitely a prog element of these songs. “Veil of despair” for example moves into a steady, clean arpeggio that then builds through to a heavier and darker riff and death metal growls. I’m not entirely convinced of the transition but it gets the job done. And to complete the bell curve, around nine minutes in the band returns to the original riff again. It’s quite a journey and while I did wonder on my first listen whether they had tried to cram in too many ideas, on subsequent listens I’ve quite enjoyed it.

Track three, “The sacred heart is bleeding”, has a rather pleasant riff. Definite echoes of early Paradise Lost again, right down to the growling vocals. This song has dynamics, crushing guitars and melody. There is a moment around halfway through the song where as part of the riff it sounds like Gallagher strums his guitar strings the other side of the nut. I’ve never heard that before in a metal song: good work!

The EP closes with “Weeping willows”, which in many ways is a more straight-forward, lamentful doom metal song… until it picks up some pace around halfway through but even then it doesn’t lose its doom-esque timbre. Again, references to Gothic (1991)-era Paradise Lost are easy to make.

Conclusion

When I started listening to this EP I was a little hesitant, uncertain about what I might hear. But I was very pleasantly surprised. This is a keeper for me.

Sure, there were a few moments that didn’t excite me but overall I can see beyond those to the larger picture and all in all this is a pretty decent collection of death/doom metal from the UK.

Review score: 80%

Lair of the Minotaur—War Metal Battle Masters (2008)

Lair of the Minotaur—War Metal Battle Masters (2008)

Lair of the Minotaur—War Metal Battle Masters (2008)

Details

Recorded at Volume Studios in Chicago by Sanford Parker, October 2007. Mixed by Sanford Parker and Steven Rathbone. Mastered by Scott Hull. Music and lyrics by Rathbone. Produced by Lair of the Minotaur. Executive production by Sanford Parker.

Band

  • Donald James Barraca—Bass
  • Steven Rathbone—Guitar, vocals and synth
  • Chris Wozniak—Drums

Tracks

  1. Horde of undead vengeance
  2. War metal battle master
  3. When the ice giants slayed all
  4. Slaughter the bestial legion
  5. Black viper barbarian clan
  6. Assassins of the cursed mist
  7. Doomtrooper
  8. Hades unleashed

Review

This is actually the very first album I listened on this project. Having just bundled four carrier bags of CDs into the back of my car I grabbed one at random to listen to on my drive home. And this was it. And I was impressed.

Having listened to the album for the best part of a week I have to say that I am still impressed. There is no pretence about this album. This is heavy music with clear influences from the likes of early Metallica, Slayer, and Death, as well as elements of doom and sludge metal. It’s a good mix.

Throughout the album, the guitars sound amazing. Some bands dial in a harsh, thin distortion often from effects pedals or digital effects, but these guitars sound like they are simply screaming through not much more than an over-driven amplifier: not too warm, but with just the right amount of crunch.

The album opens with feedback before warming up with a few crashing chords as it builds the tempo into the ‘Horde of Undead Vengeance’.

Track two, the title track ‘War Metal Battle Master’ has more than a tip of the hat to Ride the Lightning (1984) era Metallica, including a riff at 1’00’ that had me singing in the car, quite involuntarily:

Do unto others as they’ve done to you
But what the hell is this world coming to?

from ‘Fight fire with fire’.

Next up, ‘When the ice giants slayed all’ has more than a little feel of being a Slayer track, as the song title hints at. Not just the thrashing power chords but the dual, squealing riffs too that punctuate the middle of the song.

Even at three tracks in, with so many respectful nods of the head to these thrash titans this album doesn’t feel ripped off, there is an integrity to the music, in the tradition of everything is a remix. This album is like a melting pot of the best elements of the thrash genre. And I like what has been formed from that combination. I like it a lot.

I’d really be doing the album a massive disservice too if I didn’t mention the song titles. How ‘metal’ are these?! I know I’ve listed them above, but let’s just appreciate them once again:

  • Horde of undead vengeance
  • War metal battle master
  • When the ice giants slayed all
  • Slaughter the bestial legion
  • Black viper barbarian clan
  • Assassins of the cursed mist
  • Doomtrooper
  • Hades unleashed

How much more metal could this be? And the answer is… none. None more metal. It’s like the results from a perfect metal song title generator.

Track seven ‘Doomtrooper’ has a quite a different feel to much of the rest of the album. It opens with an atmospheric, almost Arabian feel—with horns (literal and metaphoric)—before handing over to a pounding, doom-laden riff and the deepest, gruffest vocals of the album, like a slowed-down Morbid Angel.

The album closes with a mournful riff that opens ‘Hades unleashed’ which quickly morphs into something that could easily have been on Slayer’s Hell Awaits (1985) album

Conclusion

I really like this album. So much so that I didn’t want to have write this review as it would mean I needed to move on to the next album. And I know what’s coming up, and on my first few listens of that I really didn’t like it. Please make it stop. Please me have to listen to this album for another week.

Of course, I will. This is going to be on my MP3 player for quite a while to come. Brilliant! Thank you Lair of the Minotaur.

Review score: 100%

Video

WARNING! Utterly ridiculous video for a thrashing masterpiece resplendent with lots of fake blood, an imitation eye, and erm… naked, lesbian, vampire cannibals!?

Sludge—Lava (2008)

Sludge—Lava (2008)

Sludge—Lava (2008)

Details

Produced by Makro. Mixed by Serge Morattel at recstudio Geneva. Mastered by Alan Douches at Wet West side music. Lava was recorded at studio Roystones, guitars, bass and vox at studio des Anges. Cover artwork and design by PUD / Second Skin. Info news and contact www.sludge.ch.

Band

  • Ulik—bass
  • Pud—drums
  • Makro—guitars
  • Odin—vocals

Tracks

  1. 60 mm
  2. Idi na hui
  3. Lava
  4. Carnivore
  5. Below
  6. Monolith
  7. Machine
  8. Inquisition
  9. The end

Review

The first thing to note about this album is that it sounds absolutely terrible… in the car. I listen to a lot of the albums on this 195 metal CDs project in my car during my 20-25 minutes’ commute. But this album was mostly unlistenable: the guitar, bass and drum frequencies pretty much matched the frequencies of the road rumbling beneath my wheels, and the wind whistling beneath the roof box (yes, we’re that cool!). So I listened to this album mostly on headphones, at work, at home, in bed.

The second thing to note is that despite the name, Sludge do not play sludge metal. Theirs is a balanced blend of death and doom: doomth metal.

The third thing to note is that I loved this album. Some albums I have to force myself to listen to a second time, to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. I’ve more or less had this album on repeat play for the last week and a half.

Musically, Sludge reminds me of a twisted fusion of Meshuggah, Godflesh, Napalm Death and ‘Monotheist’-era (fellow Swiss) Celtic Frost. The music is heavy, like molten rock being expelled from a volcano, and like lava is seems to flow where it likes. This is progressive doomth metal.

Even though I’ve barely listened to anything else in the last 10 days, I still don’t know the songs. They still surprise me. They are like a stream of metal conscience.

This is Sludge‘s fourth full-length album. I’m in two minds about wanting to hear the previous three. I like this album so much that there is a chance that the others may disappoint. What if this is the pinnacle of the volcano? I’ll chance it… this is so good.

Conclusion

I doubt I would ever have come across Sludge had it not been for this project. It’s these kind of gems that I have looked forward to uncovering as I gradually play my way through this mountain of metal. Right now, I’m glad to be cascading down the side of the mountain in this river of lava.

This review is a couple of days late. I didn’t want this week to end, to be honest. Like when you’re coming to the end of a novel and you eke out the last few pages just so that you can stay with the characters for a bit longer.

This album is going to stay close to my playlist for some time. I can’t give it anything less than 100%.

Review score: 100%

Video

Recorded in their rehearsal space using a children’s toy microphone.

Bigelf—Hex (2003)

Bigelf—Hex (2003)

Bigelf—Hex (2003)

Details

Produced by Damon Fox. Recorded at The End, Lund. Engineered by Ian Lehrfeld and Carl Grandberg. Additional recording at Varispeed, Lund. Mixed by Ian Lehrfeld and Kevin Wilson at Radiostar Studios, Weed. Additional engineering: Rich Veltrop. Mastered by David Schultz at Digiprep, Los Angeles.

Band

  • Damon Fox: Vocals, organ, mellostron, synthesizers, piano, guitar
  • Ace Mark: Lead and rythmn guitars, slide guitar
  • Duffy Snowhill: Bass
  • Froth: Drums and gong

Tracks

  1. Madhatter
  2. Bats In The Belfry II
  3. Pain Killers
  4. Disappear
  5. Rock & Roll Contract
  6. Sunshine Suicide
  7. Falling Bombs
  8. Black Moth
  9. Carry The Load
  10. Burning Bridges
  11. Bats In The Belfry I
  12. $
  13. Psyclone
  14. Brown-Eyed Girl
  15. Why_
  16. Bats In The Belfry III

Review

Of the 195 CDs in this project I have only seen three of the artists live in concert: Kreator, Motörhead and, remarkably, Bigelf. I saw them on the Prognation 09 tour with Opeth and Dream Theater.

Their live set was a good, old fashioned rock show. It felt like I had been transported back to the 60s or 70s, the stage dominated by two enormous Hammond-style organs and jammed in between them their own mad hatter Damon Fox: all hair and top hat.

If you’ve ever wondered what you would get if you mixed in equal parts the sounds of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Clutch, and Orange Goblin then wonder no longer. The answer is Bigelf.

The album kicks off with “Madhatter” which has a sludgy, stoner-sounding riff in the Orange Goblin/Clutch ballpark but which morphs into a trippy early-Floyd chorus before returning to the opening riff.

“Bats In the Belfry II” reminds me of The Beatles Abbey Road or Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band era in its orchestration and vocal treatment. It has a psychedelic 60s feel to it.

“Disappear” opens with a smooth bass riff around which a very simple organ line winds itself. It sounds like a Faith No More b-side. But it’s brilliant. The melody gets into your head and more than once I’ve found myself humming it to myself hours after listening to the album.

The same for “Rock & Roll Contract”. I’ve found myself walking down the street singing lines from that song out loud. Unusual given that the song opens with a solo piano that leads into a very Beatles-sounding melody.

The opening riff to “Black Moth” clearly draws more than a little inspiration from Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” before heading in its own direction as a ponderous song  with a rolling guitar riff that must be so fun to play.

And that’s the thing about this album. It’s tremendous fun to listen to. It’s an effortless listen. It draws on so many classic rock influences that it immediately sounds familiar, it immediately sounds contemporary (how can it be ten years old?!), it immediately sounds like a classic album in its own right. But it never makes the mistake of sounding like a cliché or a pastiche.

Conclusion

I was a bit nervous about listening to this album because I’d enjoyed their live set so much, I didn’t want lose some of that magic. I needn’t have feared. This is a brilliant album. It is varied, it’s interesting, and there is something for everyone. It’s prog, it’s doom, it’s classic rock, it’s heavy metal, it’s psychedelic, it’s stoner, it’s sludge. It’s Bigelf and I love this album.

Review score: 95%

Video