Since 2007 Oxford sludge merchants have been digging canyons with their riffs over the course of four albums and numerous tours with Karma To Burn, Nashville Pussy, as well as support slots to the likes of Orange Goblin, Red Fang, Crowbar and Mondo Generator, they have established themselves as one of the UK's chief purveyors of proggy sludge metal. Coming off the back of their heaviest effort yet Sentinels in 2018, they have taken a slightly different approach with Omens, they still have the crunching heaviness on The Machine with pulverizing foundation from Chris Benoist (bass) and Elliot Cole (drums) it's sludge metal 101 followed by the groovy Lockjaw taking the two heaviest songs on the album.
Elsewhere though Desert Storm have embraced more melodic strains, this album has a conceptual tone to it vocalist Matthew Ryan taking the role as sage narrator as well as brawny screamer, carrying the lyrical weight of this album by himself he weaves the tales here as guitars come from Ryan Cole and Chris White, who also handles bass and keys too. The more melodic tones on Omens means that Black Bile has some gurgling organs, The Path Of Most Resistance starts out with acoustic playing before the song itself moves into almost hard rock realms. Although it's closing ballad Rebirth which is a haunting acoustic track rich in Americana. It's not to say that the band have mellowed, they still play grooving heavy metal but with a few more proggy moments on songs like Pain, Grief And Suffering that really segregates them from other sludge bands out there. Omens is Desert Storm evolving out of the primordial ooze into a more multi-faceted unit. 8/10
Make Them Die Slowly: Ferox (FETO Records) [Rich Oliver]
Ferox is the debut album from Make Them Die Slowly. They are named after the Italian cannibal exploitation horror movie from 1981 with Make Them Die Slowly being the US release title whilst the European title was Cannibal Ferox which is the namesake of the album itself. Trying to find out anything about this elusive band was extremely difficult but upon listening to Ferox I thought that it sounded a lot like Anaal Nathrakh and Fukpig and as it turns out Make Them Die Slowly are made up of anonymous members of both bands (I’ll leave you to figure out which members). Being named after a horror movie the themes on Ferox are very much centred around old school horror movies and the so-called ‘video nasties’ of the 1980’s. The album opens with the intro Profonde Tenebre which is an atmospheric piece full of samples about video censorship and classification.
This kicks straight into Murder Night which sets the tone for the rest of the album being a vicious piece of melodic black metal with hints of death metal. The music on the album is very reminiscent of Anaal Nathrakh being a less apocalyptic and more melodic take on the sound. The album is a ferocious mix of blackened tremolo riffs, death metal chugs, atmospheric synths and depraved throat shredding vocals. Ferox is an enjoyable album though it does come across as a less hideous version of Anaal Nathrakh and lacks the terror and dread of the parent band. Regardless Of This Ferox is still a very solid album with some savage tunes such as Pieces, The Bastards Have Landed and Eaten Alive. An enjoyable horror themed cocktail of black and death metal. 8/10
Graveyard Disciples: Devil’s Night (Self Released) [Simon Black]
This is the debut album for this Canadian Hard Rock/Metal outfit. Like many new acts taking the DIY approach they suffer from a lack of biographical information to make the publicity machine work (if you Google them, you generally get links to a bunch of North American Metal fan club chapters!), but I can tell from their Facebook page that they hail from the French Speaking Quebec. Although the formal release has been delayed due to the Covid-19 situation, they have made the decision to make the material available through YouTube. I’m not sure this will help. I know many acts still think that selling physical disks at gigs keeps the machine oiled, but in this unusual day and age you need to be across as many platforms as you can and hammering the publicity machine, so chaps please run not walk to a web platform near you. (This maybe because the band spilt in early 2020 before the release of this record - Ed)
The sound mix is pretty solid. I can hear what each of the instruments are trying to do, and there’s a nice vocal performance throughout, although I get a sense that singer J.F. Crow is holding back a bit on record and if he really let go could push some of the less successful songs on here to a new level. Dark River is a great track, and definitely the stand out song on the album – a solid traditional rocker with a catchy riff and chorus, plus a guitar sound reminiscent of Greg Macintosh when Paradise Lost are on form. Only Lovers Are Left Alive is another track with a good solid riff structure that I found myself coming back to, and it’s worth calling out If It’s Over, which is a brave attempt to do something unusual, with its haunting keyboard only instrumentals and moody vocals. In summary, there’s an eclectic mixture of stuff on here and in essence when the music’s good, it’s very very good, but when it’s not it’s a bit average. 6/10
Dali: Volume 1 (Self Released) [Alex Swift]
Sometimes you know if an act is going to bring a new quality to their genre from the opening notes. The new EP from Dali is one such example. Beginning on a mystical chant, and Celtic refrain, Borrowed Time grabs the opportunity to develop into something huge – the rhythmic elements eloquently underpinning the sense of anticipation, with the guitars exuding massive grooves. Across its three minute runtime, the piece alters from slow to fast, menacing to tranquil – and if you’ve ever raid any of my reviews you’ll know that I’m a sucker for the unexpected. Close is a cathartic and stimulating anthem about toxic relations – once more the instrumentation is incredibly taut, yet not rigid in a way which may sacrifice the emotion on display. Instead, these musicians draw the listener in and compel them to dance to mosh, to scream to do anything that compliments the feverish tone.
Wasteland is a drowsy and serene Indy tune – there’s a lot less sheer vigour at play, yet the playing maintains its diverse and expressive feel, while the lyricism retains its tendency to paint a detailed and realistic picture, even of something as humble as an empty room. By contrast, You’re Not The One is a primitive and relentless closer which leaves the listener in a state of excitement for Dali’s future work. Indeed, the only criticism I can level at Volume 1 is that there's not enough music here to fully satisfy my quenching for this kind of emotive alternative (How I love when that’s my only criticism). One final word, I recall seeing the band name on gig posters and event line ups, yet for one reason or another have never actually been at any of them. I can promise that when gigs happen again, I won't be so complacent towards seeing them live. 8/10