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Tuesday 14 July 2020

Reviews: Inter Arma, Conan/Deadsmoke, Bog Wizard, Saints Of Death (Matt & Paul S)

Inter Arma: Garbers Days Revisited (Relapse Records) [Matt Bladen]

Garbers Days Revisited is a special covers album from Richmond, Virginia's Inter Arma. The band have always indulged in covers making a change from their usual blackened, sludge, post metal assault, following on from the excellent Sulphur English this album features some left-field covers that you may not readily link to the more extreme sounds of Inter Arma's normal assault. Yes there's the thumping ominous Scarecrow (Ministry) which opens the record and the raging Hard Times (Cro-Mags) along with a thunderous version of March Of The Pigs (NIN). Elsewhere there's the thrashing The Girl Who lives On Heaven Hill (Hüsker Dü) and a pretty faithful rendition of In League With Satan (Venom) complete with echoed Cronos vocals. But there some odd choices which are done very well indeed Neil Young's Southern Man gets a haunting gospel reworking that morphs into crushing death doom and the final two songs on the record are the farthest reaching in terms of what you'd expect from Inter Arma with heavier take on Running Down A Dream (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) which is still very similar even exploding into the final solo fest. It's followed by a drawling, evocative, gritty cover of Purple Rain (Prince) which closes the album with a bit of magic. An intriguing curio from Inter Arma, I'm not usually one for covers records but this one is quite entertaining and ideal for a self isolated party. 7/10

Conan/Deadsmoke: Doom Sessions Volume 1 (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Paul Scoble]

This is the first of a series of split albums being released by Italian Doom/Stoner/Psych label Heavy Psych Sounds. In the coming months a number of split albums featuring bands from the labels roster, this first one features Doom heavyweights Conan and Italian band Deadsmoke.

Conan shouldn’t need that much of an introduction to anyone who knows a bit about the British Doom scene, the three piece led by guitarist and vocalist Jon Davis and based in Liverpool, have been making huge and heavy music since 2006 and in that time have released 4 albums. Conan’s side of this split is 1 track called Beheaded. The 17 minute track has been released before as Conan’s half of a split with Bongripper in 2013. It is instantly recognisable as Conan’s signature slow and heavy riffing, with Jon’s echoey bellow over the top. The track has the same tempo and pacing throughout, the main changes come from differences in intensity, the track has a minimalist section about halfway through, same pacing but much quieter for a few bars. Although this is enjoyable, this is Conan in 2013, the band have developed a lot in the intervening time. Since this was originally recorded Conan have released 3 really great albums and have grown as a band. It’s interesting to hear where the band were 7 years ago, but what this track does mainly, is remind me how good Conan are now.

Deadsmoke are an Italian 4 piece, the band have been together since 2015. In the five years the band have been in existence they have made 2 full length albums and 1 Ep. Deadsmoke’s half of this split features 2 songs. First up is Dethroned Concrete, which opens with a big Psych Doom riff, before a nastier sludgy riff comes in, accompanied by some very nasty vocals. This then goes into a huge and heavy riff that is a little bit reminiscent of Electric Wizard. The track then speeds up to a much more aggressive tempo for a dissonant and punky section, which then morphs into a very tuneful melody lead. The track ends by drifting off into psychedelic noises. Second track Dead Minds Army opens with a section that is slow, heavy and relentless, this section then gets faster, punkier and with added nasty vocals. The song then gets nice and dissonant and develops into some very aggressive punk, before heading back into huge, heavy and relentless till the track and the album comes to an end.

This is definitely an album of 2 halves. The Conan side, although it’s a perfectly acceptable track, is a bit of a disappointment. It’s an old track that has already been released, and the band is much better now, than they were when this was recorded. So, it’s an interesting track to have, but it’s really for completists who already have all of Conan’s albums, I don’t think it’s a vital track that will win them any new fans. Deadsmokes half however, is much more enjoyable. Both tracks are interesting and varied, the punk aspect of the sludgy Doom really added to the songs. I’ve really enjoyed the songs on Deadsmoke’s half, they feel more complete as songs than the Conan side. Conan 6/10, Deadsmoke 8/10, Whole Split Album 7/10

Bog Wizard: From The Mire (The Staggering Paladin) [Paul Scoble]

Bog Wizard are a three piece from Michigan. It won’t surprise anyone who has a passing interest in heavy music that these three play music that they describe as ‘Sludgy Doom’. The band name, the album cover, the title of the album and songs all shout DOOOOOOOM. The doom scene is about as congested as a scene can be at the moment, so do Bog Wizard stand out? Is the band, made up of Ben Lombard on Vocals and Guitar, Harlan Linke on Drums, Vocals, Synths and Didgeridoo and Colby Lowman on Bass, worth taking not of in such a crowded genre?

The bands style features a lot of what you would expect from a sludgy doom album; huge riffs, thundering drums, tempos that would make a dead man headbang and roaring vocals. As with all doom albums there is a definite nod towards Black Sabbath (but I expect you knew that as soon as you read Doom), but also Electric Wizard, Weedeater and Yob. In particular the sound on this album reminded me most of Doom super group Shrinebuilder ( Scott “Wino” Weinrich, Scott Kelly, Al Cisneros, Dale Crover). There are a few deviations from this sound, Bog Wizard clearly like to keep things interesting, and seem to like to throw the odd curveball. Lyrically the band are obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons, the album has an intro that features a sample of someone warning parents of the dangers of D&D, and fantasy and D&D are the subjects of most of the songs.

The bands style is ably demonstrated by the track Submission In Defiance; mid-paced stoner doom which is driving and heavy, really great vocals that are very powerful and packed full of personality. The song also boasts a very atmospheric guitar solo and a very heavy ending. The Wizard In The Bog is huge and heavy in an Electric Wizard way, it features a massive main riff and the echoey vocals are very effective. As the track develops it gets faster and more rhythmic and the vocals morph from clean to huge and harsh. There are two places on the album where Bog Wizard choose to wrong foot the listener. The first place is the song Shapeshifter, where there is a subtle change in the riffing style from the huge doom riffs to a more stummy style that is a little bit reminiscent of some of Yob’s heavier moments, and also a little like the style of riffing you would usually expect of Pagan Metal. Shapeshifter also features the harsh style of vocals and it works so well with this style of guitar.

The other place where Bog Wizard move away from Huge Doom is the track The Orange Goblin. The Orange Goblin is a pretty basic form of Black Metal. It’s low-fi, tremolo picked nastiness, with harsh vocals that sounds a little bit like early Darkthrone. It’s also got a bit of a Hardcore vibe to it as well, which fits with the sludgy elements on this album. It’s a little strange having a Black Metal track on a Doom album, but as it’s a great song I’m not complaining. Doom, Stoner and Sludge is a very congested scene in Heavy Metal at the moment, but Bog Wizard have definitely done enough to rise above the also rans. This album is varied, and interesting, the band are clearly open to other influences in their music, whilst not straying too far from their huge doom sound. There is a massive amount of melody and tunefulness in everything that is on offer here, the riffs are eminently hummable, and I have spent the last few days humming them to distraction. If you are looking for something interesting in the Doom and Stoner scene, then this is something you should definitely check out, highly recommended. 8/10

Saints Of Death: Ascend To The Throne (Head Rattle Productions) [Matt Bladen]

Now there's groove metal and groove metal and it seems Vancouver four-piece have tried to play music with as much groove as possible employing one lead guitar (Ashley Blue), one drummer (Christopher James) and two bass guitarists, one with a 5-string (Juan Helluva), one with an 8-string (Twan Holiday). Musically though they are a mix of black/death and thrash metal, though I do hear quite a lot of Devildriver on tracks such as Watching Me Die and the chunky God Can't Help You Now. But for the most part it's all pretty bog standard stuff, simplistic riffs and songwriting and their entire gimmick of having two bassists isn't that noticeable on the record. By the time you get to the Hellyeah-lite of Soldiers Of Metal it wears a little thin. a curio and nothing more really. 4/10

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