Exhumed – To The Dead (Relapse Records) [Lee Burnell]
I can’t think of an album that has kicked my ass so much in a short space of time as Gore-Obsessed death metallers, Exhumed and their 2022 release of To The Dead. Exhumed have been on form throughout their storied career and this album shows no hint of slowing down, if anything, they’re still as filthy and furious as ever. From the disgusting opener of Putrescine and Cadaverine, Exhumed have once again channelled their melodeath grindcore roots and produced a potential album of the year candidate for me.
Exhumed haven’t changed much over the years and they haven’t needed to, every album has been incredibly hard hitting but also feels weirdly nostalgic if you were a fan from the beginning. Matt Harvey belts out some ferocious riffs continuously throughout the offering especially superb yet disgustingly named Defecated. All in all, this was an absolute belter of an album and definitely makes it into my top 5 albums of the year and is absolutely worth checking out! 10/10
Mournment - Smouldering Into Dust (Ardua Music) [Mike JC]
Hailing from Chile, Mournment deliver a crushing, beautiful album that pulls from the folklore of their country and wraps it all up in another delightfully heavy package of melancholic doom.
Right from the off On Rain and Thunder draws you in, a beautiful acoustic guitar melody leads on to whispers, strings, setting the mood, but as the thunder suggests, this is a precursor to heavier things. The whole track flows between crushing guitars, monk like chanting, delicate piano interludes, excellently delivered death metal vocals, it really is a sonic journey.
Melancholy is something that is interwoven throughout this record (as the album title suggests), two such tracks that exemplify this are Sea Of Desperation & A Funeral Poem. I name them both as they weave into each other so well, Sea Of Desperation using acoustic guitar once more, beautifully played over rain, as the rain subsides strings and singing add to the layers, it feels very stripped back, imagining a lonely figure standing atop a mountain, aware of how small they are in the grand scope of the universe. You see! Mournment have a way of really pulling you our of yourself, this track is a palette cleanser of sorts but more so a precursor to the excellent A Funeral Poem.
Striking immediatly, you are pulled back to earth from your existential crisis and met with a classic doom riff, guitars harmonize above it to bring a real sense of melody to the heaviness. This track is one I feel defines this record, it features everything Mournment have done so well across the record, the violins are a particular track highlight.
If you like your doom to make you feel (even if its sad feels) this is a great record, but more than this if you want your doom to feel epic yet somehow restrained in equal measure I highly recommend Smouldering Into Dust. There are just so many things going on sonically that add depth, nuance and real emotion here, Mournment have done an excellent job, I am very excited to hear what they deliver next. 9/10
Witchfinder - Forgotten Mansion (Mrs Red Sound) [Richard Oliver]
Forgotten Mansion is the new album from French stoner doom mob Witchfinder. They are a four piece from Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes who formed in 2016 and have a handful of prior releases to their name with Forgotten Mansion being their third full length album.
They have garnered a sizable following among the underground scene opening for stoner and doom heavyweights such as Red Fang, Corrosion Of Conformity, Dopethrone, Ufomammut, Conan amongst others. Their last release was the Endless Garden E.P. released earlier this year and introduced keyboardist Kevyn Raecke to the band though Forgotten Mansion is the first full length album to feature his playing.
If you have never heard Witchfinder (much like myself prior to this review) then what you get is standard stoner/doom metal fare with clear influences from bands such as Electric Wizard and Windhand but what it is lacking in originality it makes up for in sheer quality. The riffs from guitarist Stanislas Franczak are dirty and ponderous with a sludgy edge to them but are immensely satisfying with it nigh on impossible not to nod your head along. The keyboards add a spooky undertone to the bands sound which contrasts well with the dense and suffocating riffage going on and is a delightful match.
The rhythm section of Clément Mostefai on bass and Thomas Dupuy on drums keep this straightforward and steady whilst also providing plenty of low end. Vocals are also tackled by Clément and they are of that nasally style favoured by lots of stoner and doom bands and whilst not of any note they are perfectly suited to the music. The odd moments featuring harsh vocals appear throughout the album and they are of the throat shredding style favoured by many a sludge metal band. The album itself is made up of five songs with the two longest - Approaching and Marijuana - taking up the first half of the album. My personal favourite Lucid Forest arrives at the album midpoint and is gnarly as hell whilst also being undeniably catchy which is always a good combination.
Witchfinder for all intents and purposes are very much a by the numbers stoner/doom band. You won’t find anything here that hasn’t been done by other bands but the quality of the music and performances on Forgotten Mansion ensures that this is a thoroughly enjoyable listen. Completely unoriginal but wholly enthralling. Witchfinder are a living example of a tried and tested formula yielding fantastic results. 8/10
To Bloom - A Healing Kind Of Rain (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]
A Healing Kind Of Pain is the debut four track EP from To Bloom, a band who play a very expansive style of progressive rock. Trying to capture their live shows on four tracks, they have drawn on their post-hardcore base to make a much more musically dexterous approach. Founded by vocalist Bruno Lopez-Vargas and guitars it's Kevin Payne, they have the same sort of symbiotic relationship as Cedric and Omar of The Mars Volta so it's no wonder that opener Scarlet sounds like the Texan band as numerous shifts in pace are done by odd signatures, fluid guitar playing and some soaring vocals.
This has been in the making for five years with the tracks tweaked and changed until they give the best representation of what the band do, as the band name reflects the 12 years of collaboration to get where they are now. Post hardcore is what much of this album is hinged on with Marionette also having the big choruses of Coheed & Cambria, but there's jazz, classic prog, AOR and some Latin rhythms there as well to really bring a dynamic sonic palatte.
In the backroom Sean Dawson's bass and drummer Logan Gardner's percussion can give you heaviness on Wander, but then in a blink of an eye they can bring a new dimension to a song such as We Can Never Go Back To Arizona which undulates between emotional emo, jazz inflected melodies and atmospheric post rock, where Logan Gardener shows his incredible drumming. A Healing Kind Of Pain is a debut EP that has had a lot of work put into it, for fans of emotional prog then you'll love it and I'm looking forward to a full length from this Portland Group. 8/10