Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
It’s seemingly quite easy to be a contentious band in black metal, all one needs to do is something different. If there’s one band who typify this more than any other, it’s Deafheaven. The band’s blend of black metal and shoegaze has been turning heads for a while now, both from those who herald them as a more creative alternative to traditional black metal and those who see them as the posturing instigators of a movement of so-called “hipster metal”. Indeed, this debate has seemingly made them the figurehead for alternative takes on black metal in recent years, inspiring a wealth of fresh young artists who seek to reclaim the genre from the barbarism associated with its past.
OHCL is certainly in keeping with this goal. The more alluring strain of blackgaze they offer here has even less in common with the primitive noise of ‘90s Norway, and you have to commend the band’s approach. Just as some of the most innovative artists of this century have done, Deafheaven are ignoring the very notion of genre here, happily drifting through uplifting piano-led numbers (‘You Without End’), cinematic ballads (‘Near’), ethereal anthems (‘Night People’, featuring the amazing Chelsea Wolfe) and lengthy tirades that care not for the opinions of their critics – if you’ve ridiculed Deafheaven in the past, this one certainly won’t win you over.
Though sometimes only present in subdued blackened yells or ominous atmospheres, there is still a black metal core running through the album, but even at its most volatile, OCHL is happy to jump from one texture to the next regardless of how #metal it is (or, more often than not, isn’t). ‘Honeycomb’ stands as one of the album’s most unfiltered blackened assaults, but even here the tremolo picking ascends in a post-metal-esque upwards arc, and the instrumentation is unafraid of delving into much, much more radio-friendly arenas than the average metalhead is probably used to.
In fact, the album is downright serene in places, and holds an open-hearted sensibility often lacking from the macho-obsessed metal scene that, though borderline cringey in places, is truly touching once you let your guards down. Even for a band who are infamous for splitting opinion, ODHL is a fascinating listen that genuinely surprises.
Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is out now on ANTI-. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr
Secret Cutter – Quantum Eraser
Whilst four years may be considered a long time to wait between records, we can forgive Secret Cutter‘s tardiness within a few seconds of sophomore full-length Quantum Eraser, as soon as the first bone-splintering groove erupts from the speakers.
Although many are quick to emphasise the Pennsylvanian trio’s grindcore tendencies, Secret Cutter are ostensibly a sludge metal band, the likes of ‘Bended Knee’ and ‘Transient‘ swallowing their succinct bursts of blast-driven horror with the sort of hypno-doom dirges usually reserved for the vitriolic chaos of Iron Monkey or Eyehategod‘s punch-drunk stomp, each track an exercise in scowling, de-tuned menace.
It is all thunderously unpleasant, and as the band continue to surge from high-velocity percussive tirades and thudding, monochrome riffage, shades of Godflesh and even Neurosis style heavousity make it quickly apparent that Secret Cutter are simply harder and nastier than most of their peers, refusing to allow even a moment’s solace from their sustained, churning onslaught. Indeed, there are moments during the climatic ‘Oblivion’ that you can practically feel vocalist Ekim’s spit hitting your face, and with the year over halfway through you will be hard pushed to find a record as thrillingly, crucifyingly heavy as Quantum Eraser. Joyously uncompromising stuff.
Quantum Eraser is out now on Deathwise/Holy Roar. Purchase here.
Words: Tony Bliss
Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury
No messing around: Vile Luxury by Imperial Triumphant is one of the best releases of the year, and is sure to be talked of in future years in the same way we do 666 International or Rebel Extravaganza. The New York band don’t so much twist black metal into new shapes as utterly re-write its DNA, with the technical and forward-thinking aspects of jazz – think Coltraine or Miles Davis – just as integral to Vile Luxury‘s sound and atmosphere as the likes of Deathspell Omega or Portal. As this might imply, it’s a bit of a trip, taking the promise of their previous releases and more than delivering upon it.
Angular, spine-twisting riffs sit next to darkly majestic horns and noise sections, conjuring an atmosphere of opulence; of monarchs reigning over some nightmarish underworld, alien yet disturbingly familiar – suitably so, given how integral New York City is to the trio. This is the sound of limits not just being pushed, but obliterated; of genres being toyed with and destroyed; of absolute chaos and decadence. An album that moves from utter head-fuck to something almost sublime with repeated listens, Vile Luxury is gloriously damaged, ingeniously creative, and all-but impossible to do justice to.
Vile Luxury is out now on Gilead Media. Purchase here.
Words: Stuart Wain
Ripis – Shadow Dies In Morning Light
Given the recent success of the likes of Pallbearer, doom’s unstoppable crawl into the public consciousness has turned the light onto bands that otherwise might not have had a chance. Hailing from Austin, Texas, Ripis are big fans of speed deprivation, melancholy and big amps, all of which get a solid airing on Shadow Dies In Morning Light.
Opening with the 10-minute ‘Burdened By Stone’, Ripis have a clear soft spot for Electric Wizard back when they couldn’t get through a gig without splitting up. Sprackling, billowing guitar and frail, wounded vocals hang over an initially surprisingly flimsy mix, with the snare in particular incredibly small and dry. Given the nature of previous record Monolith, this seems an unusual choice, but ‘Void’ casts this choice in an understandable light.
Possessed of a strange, fragile elegance and genuinely sad, …Morning Light isn’t designed to be a Sabbathian, piledriving record. It’s much more akin to Pallbearer than Primitive Man, with a sombre, funereal feel. Nowhere is this more pronounced than on ‘Water In The Basin’; a ruined tower of a number, its lack of physical strength is an odd angle for praise, but praise there is nonetheless.
Skirting post-doom territory, Ripis have made ¾’s of a grand record here. The first half of the title track is a bit dreary, but on the whole this is a broken, baleful suite, just as the band intended.
Shadow Dies In Morning Light is out now. Pick it up from the band’s Kickstarter.
Words: John Tron Davidson
Witchkiss – The Austere Curtains Of Our Eyes
The debut album from New York doom trio Witchkiss runs at a reasonable 40 minutes in length, but takes it’s time developing. Five-minute interlude ‘Death Knell’ hangs on a repeated acoustic guitar arpeggio sounding like something Low would have recorded in the ’90s. The moody, dreamy vocal trade-offs between guitarist Scott Prater and drummer Amber Burns bring a downbeat folky vibe. There are still some explosive moments across the album, with the highlight being the twelve minute ‘Blind Faith’, which introduces those signature trade-offs between Prater’s Crowbar-esque growls and Burns’ sensual clean vocals.
Witchkiss have a genuine moodiness and despair in their sound, which is something pretty common in doom. There is also a strong ’90s aesthetic going on, especially in the production sound. It’s the lack of exciting riffs that bogs this album down to something distinctly middle of the road though. Often it feels like Witchkiss spend more time building up riffs that lead to no payoff. Prater’s growling vocals sound too one-dimensional, waning to Burns’ superior range. Witchkiss could have future potential, but this debut is just too average and indistinct, especially when CHRCH‘s latest album delivers similar sounds but far better.
The Austere Curtains Of Our Eyes is out now on Argonauta Records.
Words: Chris “Frenchie” French
Lucifer – Lucifer II
Well, this is quite something. Despite a massive lineup change, with their original guitarist and drummer leaving, Lucifer have returned with Lucifer II, a 41-minute rollercoaster of old-days doom and classic rock and roll. If you’ve ever wondered what music would result if Ozzy-era Sabbath got into a bath with Heart, Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac and Mount Salem, then II is it.
Joined by Nicke Andersson of Entombed/Hellacopters fame, vocalist Johanna Sardonis is still flexing that Nancy Wilson/Ozzy crossover muscle, but from the opener ‘California Son’ through to ‘Faux Pharoah’, this is a lucidly realised, well-conceived and dynamic record. ‘Dancing With Mr. D’ starts in full blues/doom territory – complete with cowbell – before breaking the backing vocals out in a big way and cruising into knowing sleaze-rock turf.
If you need that ‘70s flair to flap your loon pants, the second half of this album is even more outrageously old-school, and in truth, even the spikiest-gauntleted amongst you would be hard pushed not to picture the highway disappearing behind you during ‘Reaper On Your Heels’. II isn’t a mould-splitting evolutionary leap forward, but a borderline masterful distillation of everything that was great about rock from the ‘70s into the early ‘80s. Brilliant.
Lucifer II is out now on Century Media. Purchase here.
Words: John Tron Davidson
Burial Invocation – Abiogenesis
Living as we do in something of a golden age for underground death metal, keeping au fait with the seemingly unending amount of remarkable new bands is nigh-on impossible. Blending pinpoint tech-death freewheeling, refined songwriting chops and touches of shrew progressive ingenuity, Turkey’s Burial Invocation may have been around for over a decade now, but the emergence of their debut full-length Abiogenesis brings to the table yet another essential deathly delight.
As with the majority of their peers, Burial Invocation are well versed in plundering past glories, yet maintain a steely core of modern vitality and fresh ideas. And so, whilst opening track ‘Revival’ may employ the lobotomised slam grooves of Suffocation and plenty of latter-day Death‘s melodic flair, some subtle shades of black metal weirdness balance out the otherwise stridently sprawling assault, whereas elsewhere a twelve-minute-plus title-track introduces some Slayer-esque hellfire and slow-motion horror alongside its sublime guitar histrionics, and ‘Tenebrous Horizons’ closes the record on a sort of mutant acoustic/classical string section hybrid that is tailor made to jangle nerves and trouble dreams. This is death metal of the very highest caliber, and Abiogenesis is a uniformly stunning listen.
Abiogenesis is out now on Dark Descent. Purchase here.
Words: Tony Bliss
Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters – Come & Chutney
Anyone who frequents gigs and festivals spearheaded by bands who prefer their riffs slow and fuzzy will most likely have come across the unignorable live show of Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters at some point in the last couple of years. If their name doesn’t grab you, their hippie-meets-black-metal attire certainly will. As their debut full-length, Come & Chutney sets out to prove that the band are much more than their amusing gimmick suggests, boasting song titles like ‘Döner Trump’ (“you’ve got your tiny dick, you fucking make me sick”) and ‘Doggy Bag Of Slurry’. Importantly, though, the music behind the absurdity ain’t bad neither.
Offering riffs that bring to mind the likes of Weedeater and Fu Manchu, Bad Kush (the less tiring abbreviation they’re also known by) favour a grainy strain of bluesy stoner/sludge metal, with throaty vocals and a tongue-in-cheek approach that, amongst the solemn backdrop of modern music, feels vitally refreshing. It’s as fun an album as you’re ever going to see from the doom scene, and the band aren’t afraid of different approaches, flirting with occasional moments of increased pace and the odd touch of psychedelia, most notably on closer ‘Psychedelic Hallucinogenic Vagrancy’, which features brief appearances from vocalist Chantal Brown of Vodun, guitarist Gary Harkin of Ten Foot Wizard and keyboardist Thom Carter of Riddles.
Some would argue that the strength of the doom scene is beginning to stray into oversaturation, and perhaps the kick up the ass the genre needs is a band bold enough to put literal fart noises on their debut LP.
Come & Chutney is out now on Riff Rock Records. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr