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.
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!
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.
Bourbon Train is a bit deceiving at first, a band that zags instead of zigs but ends up in a good place nonetheless. Coming into to this release, I expected more of a sweaty mix of heavy blooze riffs and vocals that would veer more toward a plodding stoner blues sound. I am happy to report that my assumptions were quickly dashed by the aptly titled First Stop. It takes about a minute for the band to kick into a high energy opening riff carried swiftly by bassist Andy Shaw and drummer Justin Kaplan’s steady gallop. Travis Anderson’s vocal delivery comes in somewhere between James Gang era Joe Walsh and an amped up Bob Hite from Canned Heat although a bit more unhinged (in a good way).
First Stop is the first proper release by the Columbus Ohio band and brings with it a tight sound that can only be built through late nights on a barroom stage or rehearsal space. Whiskey Litch is built around a serpentine blues riff that rises and falls between huge solos by Casey Haubach and Tyler Lust. End of the Line is the heaviest track on the album with double bass and heavy riffage to spare. Bourbon Train defies expectations on this first release with a muscular sound and velocity that creates a unique blues-based heavy rock release.
I am of the opinion that we are living in a great time for heavy music. Heavy metal’s genesis can be traced back to the late 60’s thanks to the almighty Sabbath, as well as bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and many others. That sound was deepened and expanded over the course of the 70’s which witnessed the release of many landmark proto-metal albums. Fast forward to the current generation of metal bands, many of which grew up with parents that listened to these landmark albums from the fledgling days of metal. Many in that current generation took a left turn during adolescence through the punk scene with bands like Black Flag and Bad Brains before finding a permanent home in their parent’s record collection. The music they create now has that 70’s feel and structure with the edge and intensity of 80’s punk.
Rough Spells fit the above description almost too well with their brand of riff heavy, retro-tinged rock. Modern Kicks For The Solitary Witch kicks off with a riff that sounds like you mistakenly played Burracuda by Heart only for it to hit you in the face with a galloping beat that could have easily been buried on Hell Bent For Leather. The EP continues with a fun mix of 70’s metal with all of its points sharpened for modern consumption reaching its summit with the soaring Confessions Of The Dominant Class. I am excited to see more from this band as I think they are just getting started.