The online publication CVLT Nation has released an impressive string of whole album covers featuring metal and punk bands from around the world. In addition to Black Sabbath, you can check out album tributes to Black Flag, Misfits, Bathory and more. The Vol 4 sessions boast some of the best current doom bands making music today including Potion, Mindkult and Yidhra.
Oakland band Yarrow slows down and stretches out Tomorrow’s Dream to a dreadful crawl and manages to sneak in a taste of the first Black Sabbath album during a short segue. Reinterpretations abound all over the album highlighted by Bongripper’s 14 minute(!) rendition of the desolate studio exploration FX. CHRCH feels right at home amping up the terror on Cornucopia whose opening riff surely had a hand in conceiving all of the bands on this comp. Amazing renditions of absolutely classic songs.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
Hot takes on new and recent releases as well as some that we just discovered.
Beastmaker – Eye Of The Storm
With one final EP release (the 11thin less than a year!) Trevor Church winds down the mighty Beastmaker so that his new project, the more traditional metal band Haunt can rise up. The EP series was an amazing feat that ends on a high note with our favorite of the series. Eye Of The Storm combines the best elements of Beastmaker with the new stylings of Haunt to craft a perfect epilogue to the Beastmaker era and prologue to what is to come from Haunt.
Gale – Gale
Arizona band Gale immediately hits you in the face with huge riffs on the opening track of their new self-titled release. Big, thick riffs paired with vocalist Brandon Tutty’s distorted screams make for a formidable follow up to the band’s 2014 release Vol.1. The decimated forest on the cover of the album is a perfect wrapping for this scorched earth sludge release.
Flight – A Leap Through Matter
A fresh slab of late 70s NWOBHM from Norwegian group Flight. The band takes a big leap in both production and song writing on their second release A Leap Through Matter. Flexing their guitar muscle on tracks Reviving Waves and One With The Sun show that the band is comfortable stretching out a tight riff with a solo or two to create a dynamic metal album.
Green Lung – Woodland Rites
The highly anticipated full-length debut from Green Lung lives up to the hype with eight tracks of fuzzed out occult rock. Green Lung brings a slightly more subdued, melodic sound to Woodland Rites which ups the sinister feel of each track without losing their edge. Let The Devil In pulls back just enough to let the hook really grab you before the riff takes over.
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.
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!
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?