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Album Review: “A Driftwood Cross” by Witchskull

Australian metal trio Witchskull conjure occult imagery atop a fuzzy, distorted musical foundation on its third record, A Driftwood Cross. Cross is a straightforward, no frills album with eight tracks that do not cross the six minute mark. Album opener “Black Cathedrals” is a down tuned galloping rocker with a grimy riff that propels like a motorcycle down a desert road. Marcus de Pasquale’s soulful wails and brief guitar leads energize the track before it concludes with a slow tempo and bluesy solo. “Baphomet’s Child” is a grinding track which is more stoner hard rock than desolate doom metal. “The Red Altar” opens with a simply, creepy bass line before the drums and guitar join in for the ceremony. “Altar” is more doom than the previous tracks with its slow tempo and crunching guitars. The sorrowful solo and minor guitar riffs punctuate the hopeless feeling on this track. Cross speeds back up with “Dresden,” with its military like tempo and pounding bass drum. The Judas Priest and Iron Maiden influence shows on the first half of this song. However, the track slows at the midpoint with a haunting clean guitar chords and Tony McMahon’s chilling bass line. “Nero Order” opens with building drums and psychedelic guitar chords that explode in to a thick, rumbling riff. The title track concludes the album and opens with a sludgy guitar riff and plodding drums before speeding up towards the end. It is a dirty, spacey song that properly sends A Driftwood Cross away.

Driftwood Cross is notable for its brevity as the album is roughly 38 minutes long and the band never jams on this record. Long, slow songs are typical in the doom and stoner sub-genres, yet Witchskull eschewed this convention in favor of dynamic songs that are fairly mid-paced. Thus, the despair and hopelessness commonly associated with doom metal is not prevalent on this record as opposed to a band like Konvent or Crowbar. The band’s gritty sound is not over produced and all three instruments are audible.

Witchskull’s third effort is a solid one and fans of stoner and doom will take to A Driftwood Cross. However, this album is not filled with dirges like a Paradise Lost or My Dying Bride album. This album skews more hard rock but still maintains a degree of doom metal. Witchskull are carving a niche for itself and A Driftwood Cross shows the trio are not drifting away.

Check out the band’s official website here:

https://www.witchskull.com/

CD Review: ‘Red Robes’ by The Order of Israfel

It is rare that a band can successfully meld several sub-genres without sounding awkward or insincere. Swedish doom metal quartet The Order of Israfel pull it off with ease on its sophomore effort Red Robes. The Romani influenced violins that open “Staff In The Sand” provide a haunting prelude for the melancholy riffs that follow. The downbeat, mountainous riffs plod like a giant in a winter storm. The title track has a touch of stoner metal with its psychedelic main riff. The ominous riffing is further accentuated by the chorused singing throughout the track. The chants and creepy bassline in the middle of the track would invoke the Devil himself. The grooving “In Thrall To The Sorceress” is one of the shorter tracks on the record. It is a straight up rocker that breaks up the bleak atmosphere of the previous songs. Yet, the highlight on Red Robes is “Swords To The Sky,” a progressive doomy venture equal parts Black Sabbath and Opeth. Tom Sutton’s wailing vocals paint a picture of a battle worn knight marching forward. The acoustic passage of “Fallen Children” is both and tragic and beautiful. The band focuses on war and the relationship between man and the supernatural.

Red Robes shows The Order of Israfel as its best. The band can play doom, folk and progressive metal without a hint of hesitation. This gives the music several layers of depth and it is never monotonous. The band’s influences are apparent but not cheaply imitated. Production wise, it is a mix of vintage Seventies with a modern update. The guitars and drums are at the forefront so one can feel those molten riffs melt your ear drums. The only minor problem is that Tom’s Sutton’s vocals are slightly drowned out, however, it is not terribly bad.

Red Robes is one of the best metal records released this year. It is only May and we have seven months to go, but this is a strong release. Fans of Paradise Lost, Candlemass or Electric Wizard should pick this record up. The Order of Israfel’s members have every right to point their swords to the sky with Red Robes.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TheOrderOfIsrafel/

CD Review: “The Plague Within” by Paradise Lost

Three years have passed since British doom metal masters Paradise Lost released the excellent Tragic Idol. The group’s newest release, The Plague Within, shows the band returning to its death metal roots. The dreary “No Hope in Sight” features growling vocals, which were absent on Tragic Idol. The song is a crunching piece of melancholy that will surely become a fan favorite. The driving “Terminal” pounds along like an army marching to war. The goth tinged “An Eternity of Lies” is another standout track with its symphonic introduction and baroque structure. The piano, violins and guitar are beautifully arranged to create a powerful emotion of sadness and isolation. The grooving “Punishment Through Time” is pure serpentine sludge reminiscent of Black Sabbath. Another notable track is “Sacrifice the Flame,” an appropriate title for this dirge.

 

The production is good, compliments of Jaime Arellano. Arellano gives the album a Nineties feel with a contemporary flavor. One can listen to this album and there is a feeling of mid-Nineties Century Media or Earache. However, the sound is not muffled and very clear. While I am partially biased to the production of Tragic Idol, I think the sound on Plague Within perfectly fits the heavy gloominess of the album.

The Plague Within is another awesome record by one of the U.K.’s best bands. The band did not emulate Tragic Idol and instead went in another direction, which is why this album is so good. It is also why Paradise Lost has longevity because of the band’s willingness to take chances and not make the same record. I highly recommend buying this record.

For more information on the band, visit http://www.paradiselost.co.uk/