Blackwülf – Thieves and Liars
Album: Thieves and Liars
Label: Ripple Music
Release Date: February 3, 2023
Location: Oakland, California
Blackwülf have given us what I regard as one of the finest offerings of progressive stoner rock/doom metal so far in 2023. Not only is the album chocked full of killer riffs, captivating vocals and just the right amount of fuzz, but it’s the band’s superior song writing ability that really makes it a home run.
Pinning down the band’s sound and influences isn’t as simple as you may think, there’s the more obvious inspiration comes from the likes of Black Sabbath, but more so from bands such as Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats with that subtle layer of grime and bite. Outside of those clearer stoner influences I pick up on some very clear 70s psych/prog rock inspiration, as well as some subtle Alice In Chains grunge influences. Less sutble though is the band’s Tool inspiration, drawing on their technical, progressive elements to elevate the album. There’s a perfect blend between groove, fuzz, technicality and catchiness on display here and that’s what will keep you coming back for more.
The album’s vocals are easily one of my favourite elements, thanks to Alex Cunningham’s impressive vocal range and on-point delivery. At times he sounds impressively similar to Ozzy, at others Uncle Acid and then more surprisingly at others Maynard James Keenan. These styles are partly why I made the above comparisons, but the instrumental work also plays a large part in those similarities. The guitar work in particular helps transport the listener between these vastly different realms. At times its bluesy stoner rock inspired, then at others its very much prog rock/metal, but the transitions between each style feel seamless and effortless. I also have to give some serious praise to the bass work on the album for both groove and technicality, which at points is equally as prominent in the mix as the guitar.
While I loved the whole release, there are some clear standout tracks, songs that either blew me away or were simply so catchy that I couldn’t get them out of their head. Three songs though really won me over on both fronts, my first pick (and my favourite song on the album) would have to be Failed Resistance. This song just goes so much harder than it had to, the band give us killer riffage, dramatic and powerful vocals and some tasty cowbell, but it’s the chorus that really shines here as Alex belts it out at full power.
The other major standout for me is Thieves and Liars which has some serious Uncle Acid vibes, and I’m talking peak UA, Blood Lust/Mind Control era. There’s just a killer energy to the track (I can only imagine this one live) and an equal mix of grime and swagger. Alex is on fire on this track too, belting out “THIEVES AND LIARS” with impressive power. You’ll also find plenty of stellar guitar work and more riffs than you can shake a bong at. Lastly I have to give some praise to Psychonaut / Edge of Light, the band really showcase their variety here, with the first half being hard hitting and powerful and the second taking the listener back to a relaxed yet stunning 70s prog rock sound.
Overall I was a big fan of the album and I can’t wait to see what the band does next. They’ve managed to weave together some seriously varied influences and make it feel natural, more so, they’ve made sure that it feels fresh and exciting. If you enjoy fuzz laden metal with an old school influence and a progressive edge, then this album is for you.
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New Mexican Doom Cult – Necropolis
Artist: New Mexican Doom Cult
Label: Independent, with future vinyl from Ozium Records
Release Date: February 26, 2023
Location: Gävle, Sweden
Despite how misleading their name may be New Mexican Doom Cult are actually a stoner doom band from Sweden who describe their music as Långsamrock, or roughly translated ‘slow rock’.
The band’s sound is fantastic blend of stoner rock, doom metal, fuzz rock and hints of alternative rock and sludge. These elements are expertly woven together and driven by the exceptional guitar work of Nils and Emil. While Emil is crucial to maintaining rhythm and providing a great deal of additional layering and energy to the mix, its Nils who really blows me away here. His sound is massive, his riffs are unreasonably catchy, and he sits high in the mix, bringing the real power, force, groove and swagger of the band. Pär adds to this power with his contribution on bass, which works in tandem with the guitar to expand and develop the overall sound. Drum wise Andy does his job perfectly, adding just enough energy to the mix to drive the album, but not so much that it detracts from the guitar.
Vocally Nils gives us a solid offering, with a stoner rock style clean vocal delivery that has just enough of a blend of bluesy swagger, heavy metal epicness and relaxed stoner energy. Every so often the band deliver layered vocals or echoed effects, but they use them wisely to maximize their impact. These vocals are further compliment by the use of keyboards and synthesizers to help develop the necessary mood to match the energy of each track.
As far as favourite songs on the album go, the band happened to choose one of my favourites as their opening track. Architect really hooks you from the get go, immediately instilling a desire in the listener to push on through the album. The leading riff on the track alone makes it worth your time, its just so groovy, fuzzy and powerful and boy does it get stuck in your head. As great as the opener its, the one truly standout track for me is Necropolis, but for vastly different reasons. This is not only the longest track on the album at 8:10, but also happens to be the heaviest and moodiest and most brooding. Of all the songs on the album this hits the closest to old school traditional doom, with emotion laden vocals, menacing riffs and a slower tempo.
Overall the album is well worth the time of any fuzz lover and should tick a lot of boxes for a lot of people. Whether you’re Mexican or Swedish it doesn’t matter, as long as you love heavy music then this album will be right up your alley.
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Lucifer’s Fall – Children Of The Night
Artist: Lucifers Fall
Album: Children Of The Night
Label: Morbid And Miserable Records
Release Date: April 7th, 2023
Location: Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
I have to say that Lucifers Fall is actually a fitting name for this band, it suits their fusion of tongue-in-cheek dark humour and devil worshipping, head banging swagger.
I would describe their sound as a blend of Venom, Saint Vitus and Reverend Bizarre with some punk elements thrown in. There’s that that old school rock and roll energy to the music that immediately hooks you and makes you think “goddamn I wish I could hear this live”. There’s a subtle experimental essence running throughout the EP that came sometimes come across as being over the top but that to me is its greatest charm, it’s the same reason I love artists like King Diamond.
For me the album’s main drawcard are the vocals, Deceiver has one of the best doom metal vocal styles I’ve heard in recent years. It perfectly blends gruff, gravely delivery with epic heavy metal power and showmanship but most importantly it has a grimy, menacing, occult tone to it. There’s a certain level of dramatic flair to the delivery that really captivates the listener and has them hanging on every word. The inclusion of wild unexpected shrieks, piercing highs and barked almost harsh vocals all add that much more punch and excitement to the mix.
The album delivers a solid offering of blended doom and heavy metal instrumental work that should easily satisfy fans of both genres. You’ll find a great mix between moody doomy fuzz and higher energy riffs with just enough gallops to give it that NWOBHM feel. I’ll be completely honest though, as great as the instrumentals are it just keeps coming back to those vocals for me, they really just steal the show.
As far as favourite tracks go I actually have to agree with the band for choosing the single that they did, because Children Of The Night is an absolute banger and a perfect way to kick off the album. There’s just such a great theatrical power to the song and it really sets the mood for the rest of the EP. Deceiver showcases exactly what it is about his vocals that makes me appreciate him so much.
Overall, this is one hell of an EP and a perfect sendoff to a band that has far too much going for them to call it quits. What a high note to go out on though! If you’re a fan of theatrical doom//heavy metal that is primarily vocal driven, then do not miss this.
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Breath – Primeval Transmissions (Remixed and Remastered)
Album: Primeval Transmissions (Remixed and Remastered)
Label: Desert Records
Release Date: March 3rd, 2023
Location: Portland, Oregon, United States
I hope you’re ready to enter a trance like state, because Breath have remastered and remixed their debut full-length album Primeval Transmissions.
The band play a meditative, spritualistic blend of stoner, doom, psychedelic, drone and desert rock. You could easily compare their sound to acts such as OM, thanks to its laid back and transportative nature. Most distinctively though their music features no guitar, choosing to be bass driven. This decision adds a real richness and depth of tone to their overall sound and helps to set them apart from many of their contemporaries. This richness is even more prominent now thanks to the album’s shiny new coat of auditory paint, which somehow managed to improve on a sound that I already though was perfect in the first place.
The vocals on the album are a semi sung, semi shouted style, yet they come across as somewhat hushed and atmospheric in nature. There is a perfect level of echoing and distortion effects applied to them to give them that bit of extra character. The drumming and percussion on the album is equally as powerful and is the third and final piece in the puzzle of the band’s atmosphere and sound. While being somewhat minimalistic, the heavy use of cymbals proves to be highly impactful, especially when paired with instruments such as maracas.
Let’s be clear here, this album shows exactly why band’s don’t need to be fast, aggressive or technical to be impactful. This is very much a case of the tortoise beating the hair, with the slow and steady approach winning the race. Although it could be argued that the race would never have happened in the first place had both participants been listening to Primeval Transmissions, as they would be far too deep in a state of meditative bliss to even ponder the concept of competition.
Overall I’m a huge fan of this album, a fact that I made very clear when I reviewed its original version a few years back. I felt compelled to promote the release again though, because a) its a killer album and everyone should hear it in its new found glory and b) I looked back at my original review and realised how far I’ve come as a writer in a few years and had a lot more insight to provice this time around. Long story short, give this album a spin immediately, hell give it three.
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