The debut EP of Belgian four piece Black Mirrors was called Funky Queen whether name of the EP and the song on this album is a reference to singer Marcella Di Troia we won't know but there's certainly a groovy, if not funky, the mind-bending concoction of Jack White fuzzy blues riffs, QOTSA weirdness and soulful vocals Look Into The Black Mirror is their full length and it's a direct poke to the eyes with biting alt-rock mastery. The aforementioned Funky Queen has got some funk licks coming off and disco bassline, Lay My Burden Down is a smoky foot-tapper while Inner Reality has a soaring ambience, making the most of the breathy gaps during the verses.
At times this record has snotty garage rock, at others stoner riffests and Moonstone is a ghostly psychedelic ballad that burns slowly like modern QOTSA. A comparison that can be drawn about the whole album, there's a danceability to these tracks that do get you going, but similarly to Homme's twisted mind and to the program of the same name there is a darkness sitting at the heart of it, Look Into The Black Mirror if you want because you'll like what you find. 7/10
Nattravnen: Kult Of The Raven (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Paul H]
Tearing at the darkest and blackest hearts, Nattravnen sees original Death and Massacre vocalist Kam Lee combines with Jonny Petterson of Heads For The Dead and Wombbath to devastating effect. Nattravnen is about the legend of Night Raven, a self-written story by Lee. Dark and dripping with malevolence, Lee’s sinister gargling vocals compliment the crushing death metal, intricately laced with black metal and atmospheric doom elements. It’s heavier than virtually anything I’ve heard this year, relentless in its rampage, bludgeoning intensity which blisters paint and splits wood. Captured as death dark metal, engulfing and obliterating all in its path, this is a monstrous album which should appeal to both death and black metal aficionados alike. Sometimes less is more. This is one of those. 8/10
Skull Fist: Way Of The Road (NoiseArt Records) [Matt]
Four years since their last album Canadian speed metal scumbags Skullfist return ready for the world to get fisted once more. The gap between records was due to frontman Zach Slaughter injuring himself in a skateboarding accident as well as numerous other obstacles but according to Slaughter "With every album we did including that E.P. we tried to find a sound but I think if there was anything that summed up my idea of what Skull Fist was and is it would be this record."
So it's the culmination of everything Skull Fist have set out to be, while it maybe a record for the personal satisfaction of Slaughter there's a lot here for the listener too from the more melodic I Am A Slave, the 80's style title track and Heart Of Rio and of course a tonne of speed metal fury fit for shredding on a board or driving a clapped out van down the freeway (Better Late Than Never).
It's the stripped back approach of this record, it all sounds like it was recorded live in the studio with as little interference as possible which is all for the better as it displays what Skull Fist can do. If you've listened to either of the first two Skull Fist albums you may feel that this record does move away from their original snotty sound but change can be a good thing, I'd say it's a more mature Skull Fist here and all the better for it. 7/10
Damaj: Ashen Path (Self Released) [Matt]
I reviewed Damaj's second EP on this blog and I gave them the benefit of the doubt, marking them up as they were a relatively young band. However the production wasn't great and to be brutal the vocals weren't either, there were more notes missed than hit. So when I pressed play on their debut full length I did have a strange feeling of déjà vu, the drumming is tinny, the guitars fuzzy, the vocals buried in the swampy mix. When you can hear the vocals they are once again hard to deal with the talk-singing approach on the first track immediately putting me off.
Musically the band are talented but the production really puts a damper on the things, the sound is muddier than the Taff after a flood meaning barely anything was audible, even on my (admittedly too big) stereo I had to turn it up quite loudly to hear anything at all. There's been a lot of talk about Damaj and I can understand that they have a fanbase but personally I can't hear any progression on what is supposed to be their next step as a band. 5/10