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Wednesday 9 November 2022

Reviews: Dr Acula, Wizrd, Devils Witches, Coathanger Abortion (Reviews By Matt Cook & Rich Piva]

Dr. Acula - Dr. Acula (Silent Pendulum Records) [Matt Cook]

Even though Dr. Acula formed in 2005, the decision to self-title their sixth studio album is apropos of quite a bit. The deathcore band - that also dabbles in hardcore, grindcore and rapcore - has found their identity and their formula after shuffling through 18 former members in 17 years. Despite the litany of faces and personalities that have had a hand in the group, this current iteration feels as pure and organic as ever.

Dr. Acula is the Long Islanders’ first full-length on Silent Pendulum, and keeping with tradition, represents the fourth label to date (and for those curious at home, Dr. Acula has had six vocalists, five drummers, three keyboardists, three samplers, three guitarists and three bassists not including the present lineup). And newsflash: despite the flurry of changes, 2022 Dr. Acula is fucking unstoppable. Janky electronics permeate the 11 songs which meticulously add to the overall discomfort felt over the 27 minutes.

Yup, that’s all.

In 27 minutes, vocalist Rob Accardi is in a fight for his life, staving off becoming possessed while in the process sounding like a feral dog. The booming riffs sound like Flak 88 thumps and feature durable chugging lines that rival even the most devoted kegstander. The apocalyptic drumming especially influences and further provokes the jumbled assault. Stay Out Of The Basement lets escape a killer hardcore verse nestled in between the surrounding carnage. Lo-fi electronica meanders, hunts and crescendos (Don’t Go To Sleep!) which feeds adequately into the next track.

Accompanying the sight-to-be-seen album cover is Accardi’s notebook of viciously screamed lyrics, a hearty shower of gravy dousing the stuffing that is the album’s explosive energy. “Everything’s wrong, everything’s wrong / my eyes are wide open but everyone is gone.” “Close the goddamn door!” “There’s no fucking point to anything!”

The knee-jerk vocal gymnastics continuously joust with the volcanic rhythm section. Dr. Acula stands as the dream home that’s been painstakingly built following years of renovations, improvements and seemingly endless projects. Its finished state deserves to be put on a pedestal and appreciated. 9/10

WIZRD - Seasons (Karisma Records) [Rich Piva]

Proggy, jazzy, psych, 70s proto weirdness is what you get from the debut album from Oslo, Norway’s WIZRD. Formed at a jazz conservatory with a lineup that includes past experienced members of the rock/psych/stoner community, WIZRD gives you all of that and the kitchen sink with Seasons, with mostly positive results.

The easiest comparison here is if Yes and Steely Dan started jamming together this would be the result. This is very evident on the opening track, Lessons. The track bops around with a gloriously early 70s feel with some interesting time signatures and unique guitar noodling. You get full on prog weirdness in track two, Free Will, which sounds like ELP on shrooms. But that poppy 70s rock feel is never too far away. This sounds like Reelin’ In The Years if King Crimson arranged it. The aptly named Spitfire picks up the pace and is a fun and frantic track with those time changes and some more of their sunny disposition. We get very proggy jazz next with the eight minute All Is As It Should Be, including elements of Kraut and some nice psych leanings as well. 

This is the boys just getting at it, but once again try listening to Seasons and not think of Becker and Fagen, as well as anything Rick Wakeman has been a part of (check the keyboard solo on this one). Show Me What You Got is the most Yes-esque track on Seasons, but WIZRD still trying to make it their own, with some free form weirdness halfway through. Does Devine sound like a jazzy prog Bee Gees or have I just not gotten enough sleep? All the songs on Seasons are done very well, but I think I would have been fine with the debut being a couple tracks less than wheat it turned out. By the time we get to the last third of the album you are a bit drained; a follow up EP with a few of these tracks may have made this experience a bit more enjoyable given how much is going on with Seasons.

I enjoyed this, but I would have enjoyed it more if it was about fifteen minutes shorter. Seasons however was a fun listen. These guys can sure play, and their skills allow them to go into all different directions with mostly excellent results. Maybe a bit of editing and some focus would have made this even higher ranked, but this is a solid debut for the WIZRD crew. 7/10

Devil’s Witches - In All Her Forms (Majestic Mountain Records) [Rich Piva]

I have had mixed feelings with past albums from Devil’s Witches. Sometimes I love them other times I walk away confused and wanting more but not more of the same of what I got. Their debut Velvet Magic is amazing, but some of the EPs I could take or leave. The UK band’s latest outing, In All Her Forms, is another mixed bag for me with some good songs but some other strange choices and muddled production.

I am not sure if it is the copy of the promo I have, but In All Her Forms sounds muffled, like it was recorded under water. I want to hear a song like Successive Slidings Of Pleasure clearly, because it is a killer track. I love the spooky piano and the vibes that Devil’s Witches are known for. Blood Of The Witch leaves me wanting more of the rocking version of the band; to me this is just a generic squeaky acoustic track with some evil leaning lyrics of which they have done better on previous outings. All the short musically interludes to me are unnecessary. I get you are building a vibe, but the great songs on this record do that already, case in point Space Age Sorceress. A doomy psych dirge that is probably my favorite track on the record. Shadows In The Mirror is another one along the same lines that I dig. 

I think that is the version of Devil’s Witches I enjoy more. Queen Of Wands is another track I enjoyed where the band picks up the pace a bit with a bit of Sabbath worship. This was the ultimate mixed bag for me, which is pretty much how I feel about this band overall. Tracks like Queen Of Wands and Space Age Sorceress are killer tracks but then much of the rest is somewhat forgettable to me. I would love a full, consistent record from the band, but this is just me. I know these guys have a huge following and are beloved. I would just like to see more consistency and better production on the next record. 6/10

Coathanger Abortion - Plan C (Comatose Music) [Matt Cook]

Aside from the obvious connection to recent abortion rights controversies which have once again swept through the ever-polarized United States, let’s tackle Coathanger Abortion’s Plan C from a brutal death metal perspective. The artwork depicts a completely nude, drenched-in-blood female appearing to rip a fetus out from the womb to dispose of it on the floor. It’s either an attempt at shocking people into wanting to explore more, or an unnecessary amount of gore.

In fact, “unnecessary amount” quite appropriately describes the record. What Lies Underneath is over seven minutes - SEVEN MINUTES - of brutal death metal that is both musically and structurally unsure of itself. The entire offering tops out at over 45 minutes. Of all genres to boast lengthy run times, this surely isn’t one of them. I can’t conclude if Coathanger Abortion “lucked out” by releasing their record months removed from the destruction of Roe v. Wade. Or if they shoehorned whatever scraps they could muster for the sake of releasing something.

Millville Madness is another chore at six-and-a-half minutes. It drones and sputters, much to the chagrin of this author. It’s overkill. It’s stabbing your victim in the heart 27 times overkill. Plan C comes four years removed from 2018’s The Hate Divide which, given the release year, immediately conjures hellish images of a Trump-led country rife with disinformation and disgrace. I don’t know if CHA have turned into a media buzzword metal band. But it’s clear they feel quantity supersedes quality. Who knows. By 2025, we might get an EP titled Election Deniers Gone Wild! 5/10

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