Transfiguration – Lovecraftian Rhetoric (C60, Existentiell)

Black metal, doom metal, Music, Review, Uncategorized

Transfiguration is the doom metal/black metal project of Cathal Rodgers, also the artist behind Spermacidal, Wereju, and more. Lovecraftian Rhetoric is the only release that I can find from this particular moniker, a slow-moving cassette from 2014 released on Existentiell; here, Transfiguration offers up three tracks influenced by the titular writer H.P. Lovecraft as well as Dante Alighieri, steeped in depression and mired in an ethereal muck. Both sides of this tape contain the same three tracks, making it easy for listeners to flip and repeat.

Purveyors of blackened doom will certainly enjoy Lovecraftian Rhetoric‘s often glacial pacing, with plodding tracks that reach the 9 minute mark almost every time. “Comedy Divine” keeps the same heavy bass thudding throughout with excellent depressive, melancholic synth patterns that shudder throughout the track. It’s an enveloping experience, and Transfiguration allows the notes to soar and sustain, holding them out like a wallowing wail. The vocals on this track, too, are more akin to black metal’s cries.

“Some Mute Inglorious Milton” centers more in doom territory, though, with heavy rhythmic riffs and a deeper-toned growl that echoes through the muddied recording. That murky sound is a boon to Transfiguration, creating a foggy atmosphere that makes these recordings – particularly Lovecraftian Rhetoric‘s second track – eerie and unnatural, a perfect fit to Lovecraft’s often indescribable settings.

The title track, “Lovecraftian Rhetoric,” takes on a similar tone, slowly paced with fairly simplistic drum beats and an overall synth tone that carries the track throughout. It’s another great doom offering from Transfiguration, but it also signals a problem some listeners may have with this tape: the tracks often meld together, especially at longer lengths, because of their similarities. For this reviewer, it’s not a bother considering how largely similar most doom tends to be anyway, with the differing tones elevating these tracks. But less focused listeners may find themselves struggling to pick out what makes each track distinct.

Still, Lovecraftian Rhetoric is an immensely enjoyable experience for those who like slow, funereal doom and black metal. Transfiguration has done some great work on this cassette, and it’s unfortunate that the project hasn’t – to my knowledge – released anything else yet. You can check out this release on the Existentiell Bandcamp page!

Sludgethrone – A Megadose of Unusual Gain Structures (CD-R, Earthmover Records)

doom metal, Music, Noise, sludge

sludgethrone

Sludgethrone is another project of Harvey (I recently reviewed his other noise/sludge project Griefhound), along with Mike and Ram. This time, though, their sound is more entrenched in sludge and doom, without any of the noisy interludes that their alter-ego utilizes. What A Megadose of Unusual Gain Structures brings is an intense 20-minute workout of repetitive sludge song structures with heavy riffs and an excellent vocal delivery.

There are three tracks on the album, and they’re mixed with a grainy quality that gives them an added dosage of grittiness. The vocals are dry but echoing, and they feel right at home with the slow drudge of the instruments; the drums themselves are played with such a robotic tenacity that there’s no stopping the doomy procession.

Sludgethrone don’t really change up the rhythms much in each song; the riffs tend to stay the same, but the way they’re played switches from mechanical slowness to more nuanced portions, especially towards the end of “Street Trash/Catastrophe,” which branches out from its initial riffs in the last few minutes.

While A Megadose of Unusual Gain Structures doesn’t break the mold for sludge/doom, it does fit right in with other acts that are doing similar things right now. Sludgethrone aren’t afraid to take a riff and smother you with it, but they’re also open to changing the structure of their songs as they see fit. It is, however, the unique vocal delivery that really makes the album come alive.

Griefhound – Griefhound (CD-R, Not On Label)

doom metal, harsh noise, Music, Noise, Review, sludge

griefhound

Griefhound is an interesting doom/noise project from Harvey and Novak, both members of various other projects including Snuff Film and Leach Mine. Their self-titled release finds the duo working through five tracks of heavy riffing laced with selective noise and drone works, switching back and forth between the two with relative ease.

The first couple of tracks, “Holy Flesh” and “Mizzah Mills and the Temple of Gloom,” sit more comfortably within the slude/doom territory of Griefhound’s sound. They combine heavy bass riffs with Novak’s pounding percussion, often a bit more frenetic than most doom metal allows for, and occasionally mix in noise atmospherics akin to Indian or Buried At Sea. It’s an effective element, and Griefhound does it well.

The final three tracks are noticeably longer and filled with more noise, relying less on doom song structures and taking breaks to incorporate longer passages of drones and swirling, pulsating sounds. “Behemoth,” at over 20 minutes, works as a series of vignettes; the riffs give way to noise, then back to riffs, then noise, a concept that sounds good enough but is perhaps a bit too extended. “Ghost Ship” and “Date Raped By the White Wizard… In Space” allot nearly all the running time to buzzes and hiss, a nice way to break up what could have been more of the same gloomy doom.

Griefhound is a great introduction to this duo’s output, a release that caters to doom and noise fans. Those who don’t like their music filtered with grating harsh noise might be turned away, but it’s unlikely, since Griefhound’s heaviness is attractive to those with more experimental palates anyway.

Trees – Sickness In… (CD, Crucial Blast)

Black metal, doom metal, Drone, Music, Noise, Review, sludge

trees

Trees are heavy; there’s really no doubt about it. They perform lumbering doom/drone metal, the sort of thing you’d expect to hear from Khanate or Sunn 0)))’s metal output or maybe a car engine backfiring down a crisp woodland dirt path. Guitar and drum hits clash together as Lenny Smith delivers tortured vocals; you’ll think the next chord will come, and it won’t, at least not at the tempo expected. Trees refuse to play by the rules of doom metal, opting for an even slower approach to rhythm than others in the genre.

Sickness In… doesn’t change things very much from the rest of their output. There are still just two tracks on this release clocking in at 15 minutes apiece; the tracks are still just barely formulated, resembling almost an amorphous blob of sound that feels improvised during the time of recording. Both tracks have flurries of feedback and distortion that break up the constant onslaught of droning chords, and in a way this does help to differentiate them, but ultimately Sickness In… is another release that refuses to change the speed of Trees’ music.

It can be both a good and bad thing. There are moments when these tracks are crushingly heavy, and for a while, the consistent plod of chords works. But across two tracks (and Trees’ discography), this approach grows tired and, worse, expected. There’s no shock in what Trees does; going from “Cover Your Mouth” to “Perish” does not yield new territory or an emphasis on expansion. Trees just do what they do, and you accept it or you stop listening.

Depending on your mood, Trees can grab you or lose you. At some point, it’s difficult to decipher if Sickness In… is intensely bleak and grueling or if it’s just Smith howling out his grocery list to some guys banging a guitar against a cymbal. I guess it’s both, and that makes it commendable and disappointing at the same time.

Mors Sonat – Comforts in Atrocity (CD, Crucial Blast)

Black Noise, dark ambient, doom metal, Drone, harsh noise, Noise, Review

comfort

From the opening track “Holy Holy Holy Nil,” Mors Sonat’s new album Comforts in Atrocity feels like it’s set up be a release full of dark doom metal – cello chords are scraped, guitar is fuzzed and drums are struck slowly, tenderly, and with a focus on cymbal tinkling. And yet the end of this track builds up to a huge crescendo of static that threatens to overtake the melancholy rhythm heard before – there are screams in the rumble and feedback in the electronics.

Comforts in Atrocity is not your average doom album, although you’ll often find those components within. Mors Sonat have a tendency to move from quiet ambiance to cacophony in a matter of seconds, and those climaxes are the best part of this album. But the duo of Mors Sonat aren’t always using the blown-out bass and static patterns of typical harsh noise; “Sanctuary in Soil” actually does feel like the listener might bet getting buried, slowly, with the sand making a perfect staccato against whatever wooden box we’re housed in.

These tracks are often matched up with louder ones; “The Vengeance of Embrace” is the longest on this release and also one of the most interesting as a straight-up noise track. It’s got huge bass drones and a pattering rhythm at the forefront, but it also has a ton of industrial sounds and whispered voices in the background – not overly harsh or off-putting, but complex with a hint of rhythm.

Mors Sonat’s tracks often feel like they could fit in multiple genres; “The Sweet Long Legs of Hate” has a nice droning groove to it, with off-key piano and a sustained chord leading the track throughout its length. Then, there’s an absolute crushing noise track after with “So Shall I Weep in Liberation Within the Ecstasy of Decay.” There’s something for everyone, and Mors Sonat do all of it well.

Ninika – Ninika EP 2012 (C62, NoVisible Scars)

doom metal, Drone, Music, Noise, sludge

ninika ep 2012

Reviewed in digital format.

Ninika are a droning sludge band featuring Paul Aphid (of Poison Tongue, Degenerate Slug) and the duo behind Teeth Engraved With the Names of the Dead. This four-track album, or as Ninika title it, an EP, is a single-sided 62-minute cassette – or 31 minutes of sludge. The project combines the harsh and electronically blurred vocals of Aphid with industrial-tinged music from the TEWND artists for some heavy and lo-fi music, most of which tends to fall into more droning territory because of the effects used. Fans of Sunn O))), Khanate, and similar groups will find themselves at home with Ninika.

Opener “Am I Corrupted” jumps right into the sludgy textures with a very lo-fi sound; the drums and guitar are so muffled that their definition isn’t there. You can hear something of a tone from the guitar, but it’s mixed so low that it’s more of a feeling than it is a rhythm. The drums bash away while Aphid screams over top of everything, and the vocals also seem to feature a warble that gives them an underwater, drowning sound.

The tracks are somewhat repetitive, too, creating that drone effect. “Am I Corrupted” features a slight buzzing that carries throughout the song. “Heat” is a slow build-up of crushing guitars and echoing effects that sound created by using the sheer volume of the recordings as microphone feedback. “Sorry, I Can’t Be With You” does a similar take, but with Aphid pronouncing the title over and over again as though a mantra for himself. Ninika combine those heavy riffs with Aphid’s intense vocals for some fantastic doom metal; the liner notes indicate the vocals feature lyrics based on sex and perversion, but it’s too bad we can’t make out what they are in the murky production.

Ninika EP 2012 is a perfect example of real sludge music – the production is so lo-fi, the drums and guitars tracked so deep in the mix, that everything blends together for a heavy mix of industrial, vocally deranged music. It works well together, and though the tracks are often similar, they have their own unique qualities. The sound is quite scorching as well.

Dresden/Leningrad – Vader (MP3, Not On Label)

doom metal, Music, Review, sludge

vader

It’s difficult to craft a sludge record taking cues from Black Sabbath without sounding too much like operatic arena rock or like the riffs were stolen from influencing artists. And the doom genre as a whole doesn’t allow for much deviation from the norm; if the songs are too fast, they don’t fall into that category, but if they’re too much of a dirge they would be considered more drone-like. It’s the vocals that set most of these bands apart – delivery is everything, and the deep-throated growl has become the average.

But Dresden/Leningrad, a stoner doom band from Amsterdam, work with the older stylings of doom. The vocals sound like Alice in Chains, but the slow, chugging riffs come from the harsher tones of current doom metal. The band uses an effective pairing of the two sounds to craft Vader, a four-song EP that plods along with a good sense of direction and some catchy rhythms.

Opener “Vader” works somewhat like an intro; the guitar repeats, the drums pound, and the vocals wail away without much change throughout; at six minutes, it’s an overly long beginning and a less expansive one than the other songs on the album, but it sets the listener up for what’s to come in the next track “Herder”; a simple but effective guitar line is matched with the aforementioned Alice in Chains-stylized vocals. The production is a little rough, and the vocals are placed a bit too high in the mix for my taste (the delivery isn’t the best, somewhat nasally, and the guitar licks are what really drives this stuff) but the effort is noted.

The last two tracks, “Slaap” and “Niemandsland”, feature slow but catchy rhythms, with “Slaap” in particular shuffling along at such a stunted pace that it’s surprising that the whole thing doesn’t fall apart. “Niemandsland” is an extended track at over ten minutes; it combines the doom with the war themes of the album with background noises from battle. While it does tend to drone on for a bit too long because of its repetitive nature, it’s a culmination of what Dresden/Leningrad are working towards throughout Vader. The two final tracks seem to have vocals that have been pared back as well, giving the guitars more room to sprawl.

It’s a good beginning for a band in a heavily saturated market. Dresden/Leningrad carve out a specific niche with this EP, and the DIY aesthetics of the sound work well to muddy the sludgy tones even more. It’s a project to keep an eye on, at least, one that seems to be trying to carry on a faltering blend of doom metal that takes influence from Sabbath and Sleep more than Eyehategod.