Reviews by Paul Castles
To doom or not to doom, that is the question. From Chicago’s Indian comes album number five, From All Purity; Richmond’s Windhand bring us their second album, Soma; and we also have two debut full lengths from Helsinki, the first the eponymous debut from Tombstoned and Darkness Sustains the Silence from Altar of Betelgeuze. Doom, that is the answer. Come, let us doom…
Indian – From All Purity
Indian’s latest release is an unholy barrage of painful white noise. While these Americans fit somewhere into the general land of the damned and the doomed, theirs is a more savage take on the genre. It’s feisty furious and sharper than a broken bottle in a nightclub ruck. With an opening track coldly named ‘Rape’ the sheer brutality of From All Purity is evident from the start, an excruciating journey through the dark doors of hatred and hostility.
This is Indian’s fifth album and second on Relapse. It was the 2011 release Guiltless that really sent the jungle drums into overdrive. Indian create a mood that is deep dense and disturbed. Whereas many doom acts feature the warmer tones of a female singer, there’s no such comfort with this Chicago quartet. What we get instead is a pained aching screech that permeates through the destructive din, breathing sickly evil energy into the rhythm.
A pounding relentless throb introduces second number ‘Directional’ before Dylan O’Toole’s piercing invective pushes the level of barbarism through the scales. The fifth track ‘Clarify’ is just about as diseased and disturbed a scab of distortion that you’re likely to come across. It’s mindblowing festering fury flattens you before you’re gingerly helped back up by final track of six ‘Disambiguation’, another sprawling swathe of deadened drums and persecuting percussion.
Not for the faint-hearted, but then who cares about them. Indian are on the warpath. Prepare to be scalped.
9 out of 10
- The Impetus Bleeds
- Rhetoric Of No
Windhand – Soma
What was that I was just saying about female-fronted Doom groups? Well please don’t think I was in anyway denigrating these maidens of metal. Dorthia Cottrell is the singer with Windhand, like Indian on Relapse Records, and what a revelation their second full length release Soma is.
Opening number ‘Orchard’ has some compelling riffs and harmonies that are simply irresistible. This music is so warm you just want to wrap yourself up in it. The melodies are precious pearls and Dorthia has a beguiling voice that’s more hypnotic than Paul McKenna on a good day.
Hailing from Richmond, Virginia – yep, Lamb of God territory – Windhand’s sound is scintillatingly smooth but still carries that dense doom heaviness through to its very core. Lyrically it’s crater deep, with Dorthia wailing on the wonderful ‘Woodbine’ “Come on Satan, surround me”. ‘Feral Bones’ fuzzes with layers of distorted dissonant guitar rhythms, a mid-track solo tingling with anticipation and angst. ‘Evergreen’ breaks free to expose an easier sound with a gently lullaby-like song that will certainly help any baby nod off – struggling parents please note!
While vocally Dorthia’s delightful pitch penetrates through the suffocating fog of this album the length and depth of these tracks is sufficient to satisfy lovers of suffocating doom. Final track ‘Boleskine’ comes in at an epic half-an-hour. It’s an extraordinarily poignant piece but one we probably won’t experience live when Windhand perform at Scruffy Murphy’s with Inter Arma and Alunah on April 13.
9 out of 10
- Feral Bones
Tombstoned – Tombstoned
Tombstoned’s self-titled debut release is a positive pulsating gem. Neatly threaded textures are interwoven with majestic mastery resulting in an album of hedonistic heavenly harmonies. With at least one foot firmly planted in the hallucinogenic heyday of Sabbath and Hawkwind this trio of Helsinki headbangers have created a six-track mini marvel bursting with imagination, colour and enterprise.
Weighed down with some doomful dollops of melancholy, Tombstoned (album, not band) is given the time and space to breathe and develops into a mercurial marvel. Formed in 2010, Tombstoned have managed a demo and an EP up until now but this groundbreaking full length album (in time if not in terms of numbers of songs) ensures their Finnish flag is set to climb the greasy pole.
The six tracks have a dirty destructive element that includes more fuzz than an old episode of The Bill. Second track – the perfectly titled ’Daze of Disintegration’ is a meandering mammoth, a hairy lairy swaggering beast that ambles off into a sonic smoky spiral. Tracks such as ‘Rat Race’ and ‘The End’ quiver with the pace of some inspired riffs while vocally this trio are not dissimilar from Venomous Maximus, and that’s certainly not a bad direction in which to head. Tombstoned is another crunching offering from the enterprising Svart Records.
8 out of 10
- Through Days
- Daze of Disintegration
- Rat Race
- The End
- Last Waltz
Altar of Betelgeuze – Darkness Sustains the Silence
Although the quartet of bands featured in this round-up are brought together under the cloak of doom it’s reasonable to state that the fit is not so snug upon the shoulders of Altar of Betelgeuze. That though in no way detracts from Darkness Sustains the Silence, which is a very good album that pulses with energy and no little inspiration.
The intro ‘Epitaph’ is a sufficiently morose start to tickle the doom tastebuds and the first track proper ‘A World Without End’ is a great slovenly troll of a track stamping along at a steady pace with an inviting rhythm supported by some great gravelly vocals from Matias.
‘The Spiral of Decay’ kicks in with a neat stoner riff, gathering momentum as the deep vocals pitch in. But then we see the different side of Altar of Betelgeuze with some clean as a whistle style vocal harmonies joining the party.
The unexpected juxtaposition continues through the song, beauty and the beast, bouncing off each other, but the track itself remains engaging and impulsive. The latter stages dominated by the cleaner delivery verge into pure heavy rock territory, steady drums in the distance with a sharp rhythm guitar cutting through. It’s not your regular contribution from one of Finland’s more unorthodox outfits but it kind of works and ‘Steamroller’ is another great stomping number with a basic steady beat. ‘Smouldering Clouds Above Orion’ is 10 minutes of atmospheric gloom, cleanly picked riffs before some death metal vocals rip through the desolation.
With some members of Altar of Betelgeuze also involved with Decaying it’s no surprise to hear some of the vocals sound as though Satan is barking out his orders from behind the gates of Hell. Following a thundering shuddering extended intro ‘The Approaching Storm’ opens up again with the cleaner vocal delivery, mixing up the genres, and challenging the conventionality of what doom is or isn’t.
For a debut release this has to go down as an impressive piece of work. How many debut albums do you know end with a 17-minute melancholic monster? That’s exactly what Altar of Betelgeuze have done with the curtain closing final title track which slumbers through a plethora of contrasting styles ranging from stark ambient bleakness to chugging brutality and old school solos. The almost frighteningly diverse vocal styles flitter between death metal mayhem, cleaner crisp choral mixes and some Lucifer loving spoken words from the depths of the catacombs. Compelling listening.
8 out of 10
- A World Without End
- The Spiral Of Decay
- Smoldering Clouds Above Orion
- The Approaching Storm
- Out Of Control
- Darkness Sustains The Silence