Oceans Of Slumber - Starlight And Ash (Century Media) [Matt Bladen]
Texan masters of beautifully seductive, emotionally resonant, progressive music; Oceans Of Slumber come back with their fifth album and carrying on from the journey they started on 2020's Oceans Of Slumber
(and to be honest before that) they all but do away with the extreme metal style their first albums, the blast beats and heaviness coming in waves behind a strong surge towards a Southern Gothic/gospel sounds that, as the PR puts it, transports you to a evocative fusion of Nick Cave and Type O Negative but with nods to the Denver dark country groups such as The Handsome Family and of course the political and ideological imagery of fellow Texan Gary Clarke Jr, the shapeshifting witchery of Chelsea Wolfe and musical magicians Zeal & Ardor. Drummer/pianist and band leader Dobber Beverly confirms Cave, Cohen and Waits as his inspiration behind Starlight And Ash. The pandemic allowing him and the band to truly experiment with this more expressive, less metallic style which still has an emotional gut punch.
Built around the yearning vocals of Cammie Beverly, Oceans Of Slumber drain every ounce of emotion they can out their music, her soulful croon is both defenceless and defiant evoking her history and the darker realms of American history to tell these tales of sorrow and despair. Her vocals are used to their full potential here, carrying a beauty that is often not full realised in the heavier genres. Every note she hits be it a soaring cinematic top or a despondent, depressive bottom is driven by extreme talent and conviction to giving the best performance possible. The pathway of Oceans Of Slumber can be defined by their chosen covers, each of their albums features one and this record is no exception as they take on the old standard House Of The Rising Sun, imbuing it with a sadness not heard on previous iterations, it's a good way to showcase what to expect on the rest of the album as the style of Oceans Of Slumber is truly defined here.
The argument about whether this is a 'metal' record or not is redundant, it's the truest form of expression the band have created since their inception, an album that is very much their own individualistic statement. The husband and wife team are joined by Mat V. Aleman (keyboards), Semir Özerkan (bass), Jessie Santos (guitars), and Alexander Lucian (guitars), to weave a mystical, cinematic spell over the listener, embracing quiet and more stripped back compositions to hammer home their Southern roots through the medium of a conceptual storyline set in a fictitious coastal town. The duo of the percussive gospel The Lighthouse and it's companion piece, the cathartic doom of The Ship Builders Son, wash over you with a poignant, dramatism which keeps its grasp around you.
Cammie gives tracks such as the harrowing, throbbing The Hanging Tree, the alt country meets blastbeats of Red Forest Roads and the spiritual Salvation an emotional depth, though all three are different in their composition, they retain the mystery and melancholic attitude of the entire album, it's Cammie that brings them each a sense of individuality, her voice is insistent on the opener The Waters Rising, while Hearts Of Stone brings some shimmering jazz met with anthemic rocking, while Star Altar is built on soul and cascading riffs. Her crowning achievement here though is Just A Day which actually brought a tear to my eye, reminding me of my youth listening to the first Evanescence album after heartbreak, it's one of the most powerful pieces here, crashing piano, strings and doom riffs into brilliance.
I'd say that Starlight And Ash is my favourite Oceans Of Slumber album so far (and I'm a fanboy for sure). Like a masterfully painted piece of art, it gives more with each experience. Magnificent. 10/10
Behold! The Monolith - From The Fathomless Deep (Ripple Music) [Rich Piva]
Behold! The Monolith have unleashed an ungodly beast upon the world with their latest record From The Fathomless Deep
. The Los Angeles trio have always been skull crushingly heavy, but on the band’s fourth full length, and their first for Ripple Music, Behold! The Monolith maintains their heaviness but has refined it to create a more sophisticated and elegant record that still absolutely rips your head off and destroys your city and all the surrounding metropolitan areas. I said it about earlier this year’s Mother Iron Horse album, but now I think From The Fathomless Deep
may be Ripple’s heaviest release.
Who am I joking? it very much is. Some of my stoner/doom fans who are off put from not so clean vocals may shy away but I suggest hanging in to experience the elegant brutality that these guys bring. sludgy doom at it’s absolute finest. We have some aspects of more of the extreme metal genres too, which is why I say this record is above and beyond the heaviness that we have seen from Ripple and for those extreme metal fans who usually don’t venture into the stoner/doom pool of the usual Ripple roster may want to check this out as well. Right off the bat we have a slow burn doom/sludge ripper with Crown/The Immeasurable Void
, which sets the stage for the destruction that Behold! The Monolith is about to turn lose upon the world. It’s like you can see the creature lumbering across the landscape destroying everything in its wake. But the difference here is that the production and the attention to detail makes this different from these types of bands and honestly what we have heard from the band before.
Matt Price’s guitar work and riffs shine through all over From The Fathomless Deep, but nowhere more than on Psychlopean Dread. Heavy and breathtaking axe work, absolute next level stuff. Spirit Talker reminds me a bit of what some of the “death n’ roll” bands are doing, think Nite or Midnight. The Wailing Blade will be the song that the not so clean vocal detractors will dig the most with some Mastodon/Early Baroness vibes. The album concludes with the back-to-back ten-minute epic doom sloggers The Seams Of Pangaea and Stormbreaker Suite which are not for the faint of heart or those of you who have a three minute only song attention span, but the payoff for those who hang in is so worth it. The heavy doom/sludge of these songs outlines perfectly as to why Behold! The Monolith are above and beyond what a lot of similar style bands are doing today.
Behold! The Monolith have been though a lot since starting the band in 2007 (look it up, it is a lot). Seven years after their last record they have now created their best album yet. Through it all, they have persevered and have delivered a sludgy/doom masterpiece that is something to truly Behold! 9/10
Onyria – Feed The Monster (Onriya Records) [Zak Skane]
Born in 2012 Italy, Onyria was founded by producer/guitarist Simon J. Gilman and singer Elena Pinna. Since their formation the bands sounds has been consistently changing from their Goth Rock tinged debut single Revenge which was released from the album Break The Silence to their stand alone dynamic story telling single Father. Now with the band recently releasing their single Living The Lie, they have a new album coming out this year.
The album opens up with Denial performing ambient clean guitar passages whilst Elena provided haunting intro verses before it comes into groove laden riffs whilst Helena elevates her range from soft spoken poeticisms to power house soaring choruses demonstrating the vast scope of dynamics that this song writing duo are capable of. After their bombastic introduction the band take it up a gear with their albums debut single Living A Lie packing old and modern school rock with it pentatonic riffs and high energy drumming. The anti authoritarian anthem No Obedience contains soaring vocals and melodic leaded guitar lines that would get stadiums singing back.
Along with producing fist pumping anthems the band know how take down a notch but yet still keep the listener feeling moved with the self assuring ballad Be Yourself that makes you feel empowered whilst listening to the waltz rhymed melodies, another great ballad featured on this album is Little Man with the lyrics helping us look back on leaving toxic relationships with pride reminding us on how little those people were. The heavy highlight on this album which is the politically driven Blind Man provides a great reminder to their old school fans they still haven’t lost their metallic flames.
When is comes to rock music these days it’s either hit or miss for me, it’s either sounds too dated and less authentic or too polished and staged but the duo have pulled it out of the bag. The guitars are produced to perfection by still containing that rock and roll bite but with a modern edge, drums sound punchy and well performed…and speaking of well performed Elena’s vocals sound amazing, the way she channels her emotion into every line and tells a story in her lyrics take us on a journey.
I’ve got to add that her vocals are powerful, wide and most importantly authentic every note she sings is perfectly performed with no sign auto tune any where. The only critique I would put out is that the structure pattern in each song is quite persistent through out the album which is good if you were releasing each one as a single but in an album concept I did find it quite repetitive and as a result it made me miss remember some of the other songs featured on this album. Nevertheless this a great modern rock master piece 8/10
Nicolas Cage Fighter - The Bones That Grew From Pain (Metal Blade Records/Blacklight Media Records) [GC]
Let’s get straight to is and address the obvious elephant in the room right off the bat, that name! Yes, Nicolas Cage Fighter is an awful name for a band and with that we rightly expect the music to take center stage and distract from that, unfortunately the music doesn’t really make up for it either! Its all just very uninspiring for what clams to be ‘ruthless hardcore that infuses late 90’s metal and death metal influences’ what we really get is one paced groove metal that at best and I am pushing it here sounds like Pissing Razors mixed with Slipknot.
It’s all very tame really there are a couple of songs that got my foot tapping like opener Grey Eye and the short and sharp Coughing Nails but there is nothing here that makes me want to destroy everything around me which is the sort of thing I look for in this style of music, I want breakdowns so heavy it makes me feel I can headbutt holes in walls alas there are none on offer for the listener here! There isn’t one single track that grabs you by the neck and drags you along for the ride, every track just blends into the next without you really noticing. Musically the riffs are fine, all very standard metalcore fare and the rhythm sections offers up exactly what you would expect fast double bass that keeps the songs ticking along but without the bludgeoning heaviness that is required to make you pay attention and the vocals are just ok and certainly don’t offer dynamic, wide ranging vocal techniques as claimed!
They have said that they are expanding their music and taking it in new directions on this album? I really can’t see where on this that anything could be classed as expanding a sound and I’m also not sure what their old stuff sounded like but if this is expansion then I think it will stay that way! Unfortunately for Nicolas Cage Fighter, this formula has been done a thousand times over and has been done a lot better, a lot more times and if they keep this standard of output going, they aren’t really going to inspire much and are destined to be that 2nd band on a 4-band bill that people just sort of watch and shrug at then go back to the bar before the headliner. 5/10