[Click on band name for samples and more info]
Dead Witches - Ouija (N/A)
Mark Greening, former drummer with Electric Wizard, returns with his newest Doom Metal band, a quartet based out of England and featuring stunning Italian singer Virginia Monti, of Psychedelic Witchcraft fame. This is most blatantly that Greening has mimicked EW in all of his post-Wizard projects, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The fuzzed out, repetitive riffs burn and churn like molten lava and the bass rumbles along underneath, while Greening adeptly handles the kit. Meanwhile, Monti’s vocals provide a soulful counterpart to the typical EW grunts and howls, even though the vocals are buried beneath a mound of reverb. Thousands of bands have tried to copy the Wizard over the past 20 years and no one ever really comes close, but Dead Witches have come closer than anyone. This album will absolute please any EW fans and may even grab a few new listeners. In a world of atonal Doom, it’s nice to hear some melody and ace songwriting once in a while.
Demonic Death Judge - Seaweed (Suicide)
This Finnish quartet returns with their 3rd full-length album, an absolute raging slab of Sludge/Stoner Metal. The guitar tones and massive riff hooks immediately grabbed me on this one, offsetting the disappointing, typical shouted Sludge vocals. The vocals have grown on me after repeated listens, but they’re just a tad too routine to push this record into the stratosphere. The music, on the other hand, is fantastic. The typical overdriven stoner sounds are loaded up on steroids here, creating an absolutely gargantuan barrage of tasty heaviness and the riffs always end with a huge hook that sticks in the listener’s brain immediately. There’s a lot of Kyuss influence here, as should be expected in genre where no one really pushes the envelope, but in a much more metallic sense than the industry standards. The psychedelic interludes offer a pleasant reprieve and are sprinkled throughout evenly and tastefully. This is a very solid record for fans of the stoner genre who need a little more aggression in their music.
Mors Principium Est - Embers of A Dying World (AFM)
One of the few bands who can hang with Insomnium in the dying world of Melodic Death Metal, Mors Principium Est are back with their 6th album. After the genre ran its course in the classic Gothenburg era, there wasn’t much room left to explore, but this Finnish 5-piece and their aforementioned countrymen continue to not only carry the banner, but impress the hell out of me with every subsequent release. I could do without the bullshit electronic elements here, but they are sparse enough to ignore. Basically all I ask for in a 21st century Melodeath album is stunning musicianship and an overwhelming sense of melancholy. This record has each in spades. Heavy, thrashy riffs are complemented by gnarly, intricate melodic counterparts and some pretty killer leads. The vocals are good enough to not distract from the majestic beauty of the music and the lyrics actually add to the atmosphere ("The only god is death and he has won'). This one is a headbanger from start to finish and goes on the way-too-early list of top albums for 2017.
Wiegedood - De Doden Hebben het Goed II (Consouling Sounds)
Frequent perusers of this space know that I’m not particularly fond of Black Metal (and believe me, I get more BM promos than anything else, so I hear a lot of terrible shit), but those readers also know that when I hear an incredible BM album, I give credit where it’s due. This Belgian trio (no bass…grrr), featuring two dudes from Oathbreaker and a member of Doom titans Amenra have crafted a brilliant piece of atmospheric heaviness on their second album. With only 4 songs clocking in at just over 33 minutes, it’s a quick listen and bludgeons the listener over the head without becoming monotonous. The dreaded blast beats are kept to a minimum, which is always appreciated. The tremolo-picked guitars weave a haunting tapestry and the raspy vocals mostly blend in with the overall sound. These guys are quickly becoming darlings of the underground and it’s quite apparent that they deserve those accolades with two excellent releases to date.