With a name like Temple Of The Fuzz Witch you should be fully aware of what you are getting yourself into when you hit play on the Detroit band’s eponymous debut. What is surprising is how good of a debut album these seven tracks make up. These disciples of the mighty Electric Wizard are charting their own course in the land of fuzz and feedback. Album closer Servants Of The Sun deviates from the template a bit by touching on a loud/quiet dynamic that really pushes the band outside traditional fuzz-drenched doom territory.
Horseburner – The ThiefStandard
The perpetually touring Horseburner somehow found some time to record a new album in between shows and they have really raised the bar for other stoner rock bands. The Thief is an album with just as much mood and shading as riffs. The band sound tight as they explore some wider soundscapes such as the intro to A Joyless King. This new batch of songs will sound great live so make sure you look for them most likely soon in a town near you.
Duel – Valley Of ShadowsStandard
Duel continue an impressive streak of heavy releases with Valley Of Shadows. The band expands upon their retro-tinged heavy metal and up the production with this latest release. Some of the rough edges have been smoothed out when compared to earlier releases such as the excellent Witchbanger. Production quality aside, this is still a heavy album with plenty of dirt under it’s nails. Strike and Disappear may start off with a lighter tone but quickly launches you on a wild metal ride.
Riot City – Burn The NightStandard
Calgary’s Riot City bring enough metal fire power to blow the t-tops out of your ’84 Camaro mid-cruise. The band’s debut album is full of ripping solos, galloping double-bass and soaring vocals that will be transport you back to a time when heavy metal parking lots were a way of life. Between time warriors, steel riders and living’ fast, this band covers all the authentic metal topics in a single release. Fans of NWOBHM and 80’s metal pick this up now!
Devil Master – Satan Spits on Children of LightStandard
Just when you think you have heard every genre and sub-genre mixture possible, a band like Devil Master comes along with a new sound that helps to push metal even further into new territories. Philadelphia’s Devil Master has created a swirling black cloud that draws from the macabre goth punk of the Damned as much as it does classic Venom and NWOBHM. The band set some lofty expectations based on the well-received debut Manifestations that dropped last November which collected a couple early EPs. Devil Master’s full-length debut Satan Spits on Children of Light finds the band honing its sound and amping up the creep factor.
The track Skeleton Hand on the new album showcases the band’s unique sound by creating an atmosphere of dread with squealing and swirling guitars before the punk velocity kicks the song into overdrive. Her Thirsty Whip is almost catchy enough for modern rock radio until the band summons all the demons for a mid-song detour that sends the band hurling blackened crusty punk cords crashing into black metal thrash riffs. It is a standout track on the album and perfect example of the band bringing its own sound to the metal world. Devil Master should be receiving some well-deserved attention soon as it takes their sound on the road playing some dates with Skeletonwitch as well as a spot at this year’s Psycho Las Vegas.
Volcano – The IslandStandard
Sometimes I go into a new album wanting to like it based on the individuals involved in its creation, even if it is a genre of music I am not familiar with at the time. Volcano’s debut album is a perfect example of this experience. Early reports of this new group tossed around genres such as Afrobeat and Zamrock which were all completely new to me (full disclosure: I had to google Zamrock). Musical uncertainty aside, I was completely confident in the musicianship of the group based on a couple of its founding members, namely Zach Oakley and Gabe Messer. Oakley is one third of heavy psych blues hustlers JOY and Messer plays with the acid rock freak show Harsh Toke. These two bands get plenty of spins at STC HQ, so I knew I would be in good hands exploring this new musical territory.
Naked Prey leads off the album introducing us to all the players right away by locking into a tight groove about a minute into the track that manages to instantly transport the listener to a new musical land. Messer’s dramatic vocals weaves a story across the album’s six tracks sometimes acting as narrator and main character. Although there is plenty of funk to be found on The Island, the grooves are all based on a heavy riff and beat that should please most fans of heavy music. The album’s title track is another great example of the group dialing in a beat and moving in sync with one another making it hard for the listening to remain still. Broaden your horizons and give this album a spin, you will not be disappointed. If you dig it, I highly suggest you also check out JOY and Harsh Toke for further journeys into the musical stratosphere.
Witchers Creed – Awakened from the tomb…Standard
Sometimes an album cover is all it takes for me to instantly love a band. Even in the digital age where you only get a thumbnail preview, a good album cover will speak to me no matter the size of the pic. Witchers Creed’s new full-length release Awakened from the tomb… brings that quality doom artwork that signifies this is a release that requires immediate attention. The Swedish band is relatively new to the scene having formed in 2016 shortly after the members left high school. Based on a lot of repeated listens so far, the future is bright (or should it be dark?) for this doom band.
Witchers Creed mine the depths of classic rock, doom and proto-metal to form a modern take on a classic metal sound. Raven’s Claw recalls early Pentagram with a chorus that sounds as if vocalist Dennis Blohm Hedlund was mentored by Bobby Liebling himself. The band absolutely crushes through nine tracks climaxing with the song Monolith that is the heaviest track on the album. Although it spaces out in the middle, the track ultimately falls back to earth with an instrumental groove that segues perfectly into the album outro. Rather than layering on additional fuzz or distortion, the production is surprisingly polished allowing for the band to expose some of its jagged edges. It is very early in the year, but I cannot see another release in 2019 dislodging Awakened from the tomb… from the top of my list. And the cowbell, so much glorious cowbell!
Grayhawk – The Sacred SealStandard
Swords and sorcery and heavy metal have been linked since the primordial days of the genre. Both interests were most certainly pursued in basements across the country so it is no surprise that they would soon influence one another. The fantasy influence remains strong with many current metal bands including the likes of Pittsburgh’s Legendry and Texas’ Eternal Champion among others. Picking up the battle ax to continue the journey is Columbus’ Grayhawk with their ambitious new album The Sacred Seal.
The band’s first full-length is an epic 12 track story complete with an intro that serves as a prologue to the story that unfolds as well as the band themselves. The story really takes off with the galloping opener All Is One. Jack Proctor’s drums and Ron Camstra’s bass are the horses carrying Zac Szymusiak’s fiery guitar work into the first of many solos about three minutes into the first track. The band really starts to find it’s groove on Dragic’s Deal with a chugging riff and a hook that requires repeated listens. The album’s centerpiece Test Your Metal is a thrash metal epic that takes some proggy turns before it races to a glorious double-bass finish. The Sacred Seal closes with The Tale to Come… which hopefully means there are more metal adventures to come from Grayhawk. Are you willing to roll the dice on this journey?
Holy Grove – IIStandard
Portland’s Holy Grove is a modern doom metal band that perfectly balances forward looking song writing while leaning heavily on past musical influences. In fact, those past influences mean so much to the band that they posted a playlist of tunes that gave them the inspiration to craft the epic “II” (thanks for the Beck, Bogert, Appice tip by the way). II is the anticipated follow up release to the band’s 2016 self-titled debut album which garnered well-deserved praise for strong doom riffage and Zeppelinesque vocals. Using that album as a launching pad, Holy Grove blast off for the stratosphere with II.
The drum kick to start off the album swiftly demonstrates the band’s intent to up the heavy on this new release. Crazy drum-fills provided by Eben Travis throughout opener Blade Born adds an extra layer early on that signifies a heavier direction for the band. II clocks in at over 43 minutes spread across five tracks which allows the band to explore each song thoroughly. Epic closer Cosmos is a showcase for the entire band, especially vocalist Andrea Vidal. Her wail fades perfectly into a Trent Jacobs guitar solo just past the half-way point of the track that sets the course for the closing of the album. Many bands will never be able to write a song as epic as Cosmos and Holy Grove has found it within themselves on only their second release. This bodes well for the future of the band, but in the meantime set the controls for the heart of II and get lost in the riffs.
Rezn – Calm Black WaterStandard
Chicago band Rezn’s second full-length album Calm Black Water is certain to end up on many best-of lists this year due to a unique blend of heavy psych and doom metal that requires repeated spins in order to sort it all out. The riffs emerge from the murky depths early on album opener Iceberg and continue throughout six heady tracks. Rezn creates additional atmosphere by layering heavy effects on the vocals that help to fold them into the textures of the music. The vocals maintain an ‘under water’ type vibe that contributes to the overall nautical feel of the album.
Vocal effects aside, this album floats (literally) between spacey interludes and mile-high climbing riffs that explode but then drop out in an instance as demonstrated in the track High Tide. The track ebbs and flows along a calm beat and vocal delivery building up to a crushing riff that finishes out the track. Rezn has crafted a beautifully heavy album that tweaks the doom metal formula with their own unique spin. Set sail on the black waters!