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Album Review: Doom Crew Inc. by Black Label Society

Black Label Society is back with album 11, aptly titled Doom Crew Inc. “Set You Free” opens the album with a sorrowful acoustic guitar that abruptly ends with Zakk Wylde’s signature chugging guitar riffs. “Set You Free” is one of the more radio friendly tracks on this record, but still packs a punch. “Destroy & Conquer” is a hellish blues metal track one could easily hear in a biker bar. The opening riff is a bit generic, but the slowed down doom riff during the song’s midsection and twin guitar leads save the song. “Forever And A Day” is an introspective ballad that shows Zakk’s soft side and is one of my favorite tracks on Doom Crew Inc. The chorus is beautifully haunting and the guitar solo heightens the feeling of loss. “End of Days” is eerily reminiscent of Alice In Chains, but is certainly not an imitation. The heavy, somber guitar riff hovers over the song like a dark cloud. Still, the dual guitars of Wylde and Dario Lorina are the track’s centerpiece as they transition from soft phrasing to sweeping arpeggios. The spirit of Black Sabbath overlooks the plodding “Gospel Of Lies.” The volcanic, foreboding opening riff sounds like something Tony Iommi wrote. The heavy blues jam during the bridge again showcases Wylde and Lorina fusing blues with shred to great effect. “Farewell Ballad” is a fitting closing. The downcast lyrics and weepy guitar evoke the reluctance of saying goodbye to a loved one. However, there is a feeling of acceptance as we realize that we have reached the end.

Doom Crew Inc. has great production. Zakk produced this album at his home studio, the Black Vatican. Each instrument is audible and the vocals sound fine. The guitars are the focal point of any Black Label Society album and they are loud and clear on this album. There is little to critique production wise.

Ultimately, BLS fans will enjoy Doom Crew Inc. The album is diverse offering cohesive blend of doom laden metal, sad ballads and blues tinged hard rock. Perhaps the one sticking point is the album’s 63 minute length. However, that is eclipsed by the band’s musicianship and the monolithic riffs of Wydle and Lorina. Doom Crew Inc. is a dedication to the band’s road crew and fans, and the band pull out all the stops on this one.

Check out the band’s offical website for news and tour dates

http://blacklabelsociety.net/

CD review: “The Door To Doom” by Candlemass

The doom metal luminaries in Candlemass return with the band’s newest release in seven years, The Door To Doom.

The gargantuan riffs on “Splendor Majestic Demon” leave no doubt that the listener is in store for a heavy experience. Original vocalist Johan Langquist makes his triumphant return after a 33 year absence. His soaring vocals have not faltered and carry the same demonic majesty as they did on the band’s 1986 debut Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. “Splendor” features a crushing galloping riff that explodes during the track’s chorus.

“Under The Ocean” commences with a dreary, psychedelic riff before it is interrupted with a colossal riff and ground shaking drums. Drummer Jan Lindh keeps a stomping mid-tempo for the duration of the track. The following track “Astorolus-The Great Octopus” delves deeper in to the seas of doom as none other than heavy metal progenitor Tony Iommi guest stars on this track. This slow, haunting monody imbues a sense of hopelessness as Langquist laments of a great sea monster that will swallow the earth. Iommi’s bluesy solo serves as fitting music as the planet is devoured.

“Death’s Wheel” is notable for its circular, galloping riff like a carriage traveling to hell. Guitarists Lars Johansson and Mats Bjorkman’s riffs drip with sludge and the double drumming during the song’s chorus heighten the song’s heaviness. “House of Doom” is another highlight with its ripping guitar riff and spine tingling organ during the song’s midsection. Candlemass conclude Door with “The Omega Circle”, the longest track on the record, clocking in at over seven minutes. The trudging tempo and mammoth riffs transition to a soft acoustic passage as Langquist sings of a satanic dream before things turn heavy again. A mighty end to a mighty record.

The Door To Doom is not a door, but a lofty gate that once opened strikes the listener with crushing riffs and operatic vocals. The members of Candlemass do not rest on their laurels and prove why the band is so revered. Bassist and key songwriter Leif Edling creates the perfect balance between heavy and soft as the band never over does it. The record’s softer moments are not just rest areas for listeners but good pieces of music. Of course, when the band plays heavy, the earth shakes and the demons listen. Door is forty-eight minutes of doom metal played extremely well. While the lyrics are awkward at times, they barely detract from the quality of this record.

Candlemass has not lost its step since its formation 35 years ago. The Door To Doom is a stellar record that should please fans and those new to the band. Open the door and revere the colossal splendor before you.

Check out the band’s website:

http://www.candlemass.se/

CD Review: “Electric Messiah” by High On Fire

High On Fire pay tribute to the legendary Lemmy Kilmister with its aptly titled eighth record, Electric Messiah. The trio’s blend of Motorhead, Black Sabbath and Slayer is in full throttle throughout the record. “Spewn from the Earth” is a straight trasher replete with frontman Matt Pike’s guttural wails and ground shaking guitar riffs. Drummer Des Kensel’s manic double bass only heightens the song’s intensity. “Steps of the Ziggurat/House of Enlil” is one of two epic songs on this album that surpass nine minutes. A metallic take on the history of Sumeria, “Steps” is a towering piece of riffs that trudge forward, engulfing the listener’s ears. Things speed back up on the title track, which would do Lemmy proud. “Electric Messiah” is a blitzing take-no-prisoners assault of pummeling double bass and lighting palm muted riffs. This track offers little breathing room and forces you to bang your head. The way it should be. The second epic track, “Sanctioned Annihilation,” is composed of a driving triplet drum pattern underneath sludgey guitar riffs. This leads to a disjointed, yet cohesive tempo that is slow but mid-paced. There is little drag despite its 10 and a half minute duration, and it stands as the record’s centerpiece. Album closer “Drowning Dog” is a galloping psychedelic rocker that concludes the album in grand fashion.

Electric Messiah rarely lets up throughout its 56 minute duration. This record pays homage to Lemmy in the best way: playing loud, fast and heavy. Matt Pike’s riffs attack from every angle while bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Kensel easily keep up. The record’s primary weak spot is “The Witch and the Christ” which lacks direction. Matt and company are at their best when they are dynamic and have an end goal. Luckily, this is only one misstep and the other eight tracks more than make up for it. The production is rugged yet clear, and one can hear the band’s pugnacious sound in all its glory.

Matt certainly paid proper respect on Electric Messiah. A heavy, thrilling musical journey that will leave ears bleeding and necks hurting. Fans of the band should pick this up as well as folks new to the group. This is certainly worship music for the Church of Metal.

Check out the band’s official website here:

http://highonfire.net/

CD Review: “The Sciences” by Sleep

The seminal stoner metal band Sleep has been dormant nearly 20 years while the side projects of guitarist Matt Pike (High on Fire) and vocalist/bassist Al Cisneros (Om) took the spotlight. There had been rumors and rumblings, the occasional tour and a new single, but year after year no album materialized. Some Sleep fans were skeptical, but it’s not out of character for the band to move at sloth’s pace. It’s also not out of character for the band to eschew a Record Store Day release in favor of a surprise “4/20” release date.

Thankfully, the wait wasn’t wasted. The Sciences is a behemoth of an album. It’s crushingly heavy and glacially slow but maintains the band’s meditative aesthetic. The riffs are hypnotic in their repetitive lumbering, each built on a strong foundation of psychedelic blues. New drummer Jason Roeder (Neurosis) adds a percussive stride that goads Pike and Cisneros into bolder experimentation on tracks like “The Botanist” and “Antarticans Thawed” and drives the aggressive riffs of “Giza Butler.”

The writing on the album is heavily focused on the music over the lyrics which, when present, are delivered with Cisneros’s mantra-like chanting. But like Jerusalem, there is a sort of story underlying the album. What lyrics there are expand on the band’s existing mythology, calling back references to the holy mountain, marijuanauts, and the sonic titan. There’s also a lot of Sabbath worship, A LOT of Sabbath worship. This is a narrative where Tony Iommi is the namesake of a religion, a planet and a layer of atmosphere (it’s safe to guess what that atmosphere consists of). Such slavish idolatry would be cringe worthy if the album was taking itself seriously, but this is an album about a marijuana-powered astronaut who may or may not actually just be a stoned-off-his-ass hippy living under an overpass.

The Sciences might be Sleep’s strongest effort. The music is nothing short of trance-inducing and the album itself is rife with codes and hidden references that might lead fans down a conspiracy laden rabbit hole but are never actually meaningful. It’s the sonic equivalent of getting high and that, perhaps, is the highest praise that can be offered a Sleep album.

CD Review: “Wizard Bloody Wizard” by Electric Wizard

Electric Wizard keep the doom wheel rolling on its ninth record Wizard Bloody Wizard. Six songs of bluesy sludge wrapped in psychedelia, the occult and melancholy. The record’s initial single “See You In Hell” is a primordial blues stomp akin to Black Sabbath. Front man Jus Osborn’s signature dissonant vocals wail through like a drunken mage while bassist Clayton Burgess keeps the bottom end depressingly groovy. “Necromania” is heavy psychedelia with its fuzzy guitar effects and light drumming. The song’s haunting lyrical content bizarrely fits the musical mood as though we are witnessing a satanic ritual in London circa 1969. The intro on “Wicked Caresses” perfectly creates the haunting mood on this track with pounding drums and minor guitar chords. This track moves and grooves thanks largely to Simon Poole’s drumming. Album closer “Mourning Of The Magicians” is the album’s magnum opus. An 11 minute elegy with a driving bass line that conjures a picture of people marching in a funeral procession. Jus’s despondent vocals capture the downcast aura on this track. It is beautiful in its sadness and relishes in its finality, especially with the line “here’s the darkness/ that you always wanted.”

Many point to Electric Wizard’s 2000 release Dopethrone as the band’s finest work and it is hard to disagree. However, Wizard Bloody Wizard shows the band is still capable of producing ear deafening doom metal 24 years since its formation. There is a looming darkness on his record even during its light moments which comes through in the muddled fuzz and feedback. Yes, the production is muddy, but not amateur or poor. It harkens to the production of Sixties and Seventies hard rock and metal records, only with a modern polish. The major weakness is the tinny sound of the guitar leads. There is some great lead guitar work on Wizard, unfortunately it is sometimes drowned out by the rhythm guitar and bass.

Wizard Bloody Wizard gets its point across in six songs which is Electric Wizard do sludge metal like no one else. Sure, this record is not up to par with the band’s earlier releases but that means little in the long run. The band’s heaviness has not dulled and the epic “Mourning Of The Magicians” is one of the band’s best songs. Pick this record up if you love the band or need some doom to crush your ear drums.

Check out the band’s website here: http://www.electricfuckinwizard.com/

CD Review: “Sacred” by The Obsessed

The immortal Wino keeps the doom coming on The Obsessed’s newest record in 23 years, Sacred. This record is old school stoner metal for a new generation. The opening track “Sodden Jackal” has a slogging riff that trudges without relent. “Punk Crusher” is the second single off Sacred, which makes sense due to its accessibility. The fuzzy guitars and lively guitar leads have a 70s vibe, while the double drumming keeps the song on edge. The title track is a grooving slab of riffs and bass. Wino and company play in the pocket while occasionally leaping out for some mean guitar leads. The riffs ooze with dark psychedelia but the band never loses its rhythm. Things speed up on “Haywire” which clocks in before two-and-a-half minutes. Hardly filler, the track breaks up the sludge trail from the first third of the album, and gets the head bobbing. “It’s Only Money” is the funkiest track on the album but is slightly mired by the cheesy lyrics. A tale about the dangers of hard living and greed, Wino’s raspy vocal delivery is comical, and takes away from the song. However, the music is solid with a tight beat. The bonus track “On So Long” is the strongest track on the album. A nine-minute blues metal saga, the riffs drip with a melancholic passion, that conjures the spirit of Tony Iommi. The track does not saunter one bit despite its title and captures one’s attention until the journey has concluded.

Sacred is old school metal, and does not pretend to be anything else. The Obsessed is one of the most influential and copied bands in doom metal. Wino is a metal legend whose name is revered worldwide. Thus, the only pressure on him was to release a good record, which he did with ease here. The guitar riffs on this record take center stage, while the rhythm section propels them to greater heights. It is basic, no frills metal as one would expect. Sure, Sacred slips a bit in some places, but as a whole the album is solid.

Sacred will satisfy fans that have waited 23 years for a new Obsessed record. While metal continues to evolve and morph, one cannot deny the basics. Wino sticks to the fundamental elements of heavy metal and it works. Let us all bow at the Altar of Doom.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s official website: https://www.theobsessedofficial.com/

CD Review: Down – IV Part 2

 

CD Review: Down – IV Part 2

 

downalbum2014ivpart2Review by David Feltman

 

Maybe it’s just side project fatigue. Phil Anselmo has a new record label and an amazing new solo act. Jimmy Bower has a new Eyehategod album (the first in four years) nearing its release date. And though by no means greenhorns, newly joined members Bobby Landgraf of Honky and Patrick Bruders of Outlaw Order, Crowbar and Goatwhore have definitely changed the dynamic of the band. Pepper Keenan is the only original member giving Down his full attention. Whatever the reason or the context, Down IV Part 2 is just as just as loose and lazy as its predecessor.

 

The second half to 2012’s Purple EP is chock-a-block with classic riffs and devilish solo work, but the sound is bright and tinny. All the content for a good album (or half an album) is present and all of these songs are beastly when played live opening night in Birmingham. But the EP is largely maligned by faults in production and editing. Songs that start off heavy quickly loose steam and deliciously sleazy riffs are derailed by Anselmo’s phoned-in wails and grunts. IV Part 2 is deprived of the bottom end “oomph” you’d expect from a super group of southern metal gods. It’s neither as tightly composed as NOLA nor as explosive as the solo work with The Illegals.

 

Like II, many of the songs on Part 2 are borderline classic/hard rock rather than true metal, but that’s by design. Tracks like “Conjure” and “Bacchanalia” both capture the spirit of Sabbath worship that informs IV as a whole. These songs are nothing short of sexy, even if both tracks fall apart at the end. It’s evident Down is attempting to pay homage to the doom-addled forefathers of the southern metal sound, but the band is at its best when it focuses on its own sound. While IV Part 2 is a decent album, it’s ultimately more satisfying to go back and listen to those classic bands Down is emulating (Black Sabbath, Trouble, St. Vitus, Witchfinder General, Pentagram…) rather than to enjoy the tribute Down is offering.