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Tuesday, 24 January 2023

Reviews: Slegest, Ahab, Tidal Wave, Gypsy Chief Goliath & End Of Age (Reviews By Paul Scoble & Rich Piva)

Slegest - Avstand (Dark Essence Records) [Paul Scoble]

Slegest was formed in 2010 by ex-Vried guitarist Stig Ese, who is also joined by Håvard Ese on bass, Sven Roger on guitar and Anders Christian on drums. The band is based in Norway and has released 3 albums and an EP before Avstand; the self titled EP was released in 2012, first full album, Leydom in 2013, second album Vidsyn was released in 2016 and the bands previous release was called Introvert and was released in 2018. So after a four year wait Slegest are back, has the wait been worth it?

Well, the short answer to the question is Yes, it has been worth it. Here's the long answer:

Slegest’s style is made up from several different elements, first is black metal in a fairly Pagan style, the album is full of great riffs that remind me a little of early Kampfar, and the sound has a definite blackened edge to it. However, this is more simple and direct than a lot of black metal, and the tempos feel more like punk or hardcore, they are driving uptempo stomps that are filled with energy and verve. 

All the riffs feel tight and energised, whilst also having huge amounts of melody, I have found pretty much all of the material on Avstand to be very memorable and very hummable, it’s like they go straight to the part of you that wants to have a great time, I found it went strait from my ears to my dancing feet (I always made sure to be wearing my dancing feet when listening to this album, rather than my sitting, walking or scarpering from the Rozzers feet). There's also a couple of curve balls, but we’ll deal with them when we get there.

Opener Innsikt is taut black/pagan riffs in a driving tempo that will have you instantly nodding your head, it has loads of energy and a nice melodic solo. Evigheit På Evigheit is at a similar pace to the song that preceded it, some of the riffs have a little bit of a Motörhead vibe to it, which if you consider the elements that make this up, makes sense. 

Forløysning og Rus is tight and controlled, it’s still full of energy, but in more of a measured and insistent way. Vinterkristus is the fastest song on the album, this style pushed to greater speed becomes a superb piece of black thrash, absolutely savage, and extremely rapid. 

Next we get one of the curve balls, Gåte is slower, in a very controlled and measured way. It reminds me of mid-eighties power metal, a little like Dio, a little like Judas Priest, but a lot like Balls To The Wall-era Accept, a walking pace stomp that is very enjoyable. 

In the second half of the song it changes a lot when a Saxophone comes in and the tempo changes, now this is reminiscent of Peaches En Regalia by Frank Zappa and the song drifts to its end. However, we get a final curve ball just before the end when the song goes into a set of twelve bar riffs that are very similar to the chorus of Status Quo’s song Whatever You Want, which is very interesting due to the final track on the album.

Er Det Deg Livet is initially darker than a lot of the material on Avstand, with a brooding quality to it, then in the second half the band release the tension with a much more melodic section with a melody lead. Til Det Største Som Finst is melodic with a tempo that swings and boogies, it’s loads of fun and has a melodic instrumental section in the second half of the song. 

The last song which I alluded to earlier is a cover version of Status Quo’s song Oh Baby, taken from the 1972 album Piledriver. The cover is very close to the original, and proves that The Quo were an awesome rock band who made really great albums. The Slegest version is a great slab of uptempo hard rock that would definitely have me putting my dancing feet on. 

Avstand is a stunning album. It’s full of infectious riffs that are effervescent and addictive, it’s bristling with energy and drive, it sparks and crackles with vitality, vim and vigour. An absolutely brilliant mix of black metal, punk, thrash and hard rock, it’s the first really great album I have heard in 2023, I’d advise anyone reading this to search it out, you won’t be disappointed. 9/10

Ahab - The Coral Tombs (Napalm Records) [Paul Scoble]

Anyone with passing interest in doom metal will already be aware of Ahab. The band formed in 2004, in Heidelberg, Germany, and is made up of Daniel Droste on vocals, guitar and keyboards, Cornelius Althammer on drums, Stephan Wandernoth on bass and Christian Hector on guitar. In their time together Ahab have released 4 albums before The Coral Tombs; they released their debut album The Call Of The Wretched Sea in 2006, three years later they released The Divinity Of Oceans, 2012 brought us The Giant and in 2015 Ahab released their critically acclaimed album The Boats Of Glen Carrig. The Coral Tombs is Ahab’s 5th studio album.

As you have probably already realised Ahab are obsessed with the Sea, they have even created their own sub-genre of Nautik Doom for themselves and all the other seafaring doom bands. Ahab take lyrical inspiration from Nautical literature, and The Coral Tombs is no different, this time they have also ventured into Science Fiction as well, as this album is based on the adventures of Professor Arronax from Jules Verne’s masterpiece 20000 Leagues Under The Sea (Arronax and his crew attempt to discover the enormous sea creature that has been destroying ships, only to find a metallic monster, The Nautilus and her Creator Captain Nemo). So on this album Ahab have moved from being Mariners, and have descended under the oceans waves to become Sub-Mariners.

Musically this is mainly funeral doom; huge, slow and heavy with softer, clean sections. The album features both harsh and clean vocals by Daniel Droste, the harsh voice is guttural and very low, and is a great juxtaposition to Droste’s clean voice which is pure and crystal clear, and one of the best things about this album. Not to say the the performances of the other members aren’t important; the vocals couldn’t have been this affecting without near perfect accompanying music. The album also features two guest appearances that bookend the album; Chris Noir of Ultha is featured on the opening track, and Greg Chandler of Esoteric appears on the final song.

The album is full of melancholy, a fairly common Ahab trait, but it is also feels disturbing and disorienting, as if you were trying to understand an environment that is totally alien to you.

The album opens with Prof. Arronax' Descent Into The Vast Oceans which begins with a savage, dissonant blast of black metal with Chris Noir of Ultha, before we get a a much softer section and our first taste of Droste’s fantastic clean vocals. The song gets heavier and more mournful as it progresses, but is always tempered by the vocals. There is also a very pleasing lyrical melody lead that also helps us deal with all the sadness. Next come the song Colossus Of The Liquid Graves, which features heavy and dramatic riffs with harsh vocals that jostle with really great expansive riffs with soaring clean vocals, in a way that works very well.

Next we get Mobilis In Mobili which opens with huge and very heavy riffs with harsh vocals that drive the song forward and feels very purposeful. There is a break for quiet, clean brooding riffs to unsettle us and make us feel unsafe, before the huge and heavy returns for a very heavy end. The Sea As A Desert features a relentless clean riff that builds to become a relentless heavy riff with harsh vocals, after a short time the vocals switch to absolutely beautiful clean vocals, there is a component of how this is sung that remind me of religious music, as if this part should be sung in a cathedral.

The nearly title track A Coral Tomb is mainly soft and melancholy with beautiful vocals that are mournful, contemplative and introspective. The music does build towards the end of the song, but this is mainly beautiful and affecting. Ægri Somnia is a mix of very slow, sad and very heavy riffs with harsh vocals and sorrowful guitar harmonies with breathtaking vocals that I find quite reminiscent of Warning’s album Watching From A Distance, and if that isn’t a huge compliment I don’t know what is.

The final track on the album is The Mælstrom. The Mælstrom is initially huge, expansive and despondent with fantastic clean vocals. After this the song drops into a tighter and heavier section feathering Greg Chandler of Esoteric’s very distinctive bellow. These two sections swap places another time before we descend into a very dissonant end for the song and the album.

The Coral Tombs is a stunning album. It’s sad, disturbing, affecting and very beautiful. I would personally put this at the top of Ahab’s discography, and considering how good Ahab’s other albums are that is really saying something. The quality of the writing and performances is nothing short of superb, the album is long and involving and does take a few listens to really hit you, but when it does this album soars. One of the best pieces of funeral doom I have ever heard, and the best Nautik Doom album as well. 9/10

Tidal Wave - The Lord Knows (Ripple Music) [Rich Piva]

It’s amazing how similar the tastes are between this writer and head honcho of Ripple Music, Todd Severin. I am not just saying this because I seem to love every Ripple release with an almost concerning passion. Two bands who have records coming out this quarter on Ripple, Tidal Wave and Hail The Void, both have albums that are two of my favorites over the past five years pre-Ripple connection, and now both are set to release album of the year candidates in back-to-back months for my favorite label.

Coincidence? Let’s focus on the absolute ripper from Sundsvall, Sweden’s Tidal Wave, who follow up their delicious last offering Blueberry Muffin with the possibly even better sophomore album, The Lord Knows. Top tier fuzzy stoner rock that is produced perfectly and just rocks your socks off end to end. These guys have the riffs and have the songs to bring us the first album of the year candidate for 2023.

The opening track, The Lizard King, has all I mentioned above and is catchy as hell to boot. I love the crunchiness and the gallop to this track. I have heard mixed comments on the vocals on this record, but I love them, especially when singer Alexander Sundqvist rears back and goes for it like he does on The Lizard King. End Of The Line will invoke Kyuss vibes which is obviously never a bad thing, and I love a song that starts out telling me how bad I fucked up. This stoner rock ripper has an edge and an attitude that will have this as one of their highlights of their live show. 

The weed worship tracks on stoner albums can be a bit tiresome (I know, I know), but Marijuana Trench is so much more than that. Another high-octane ripper with a killer and catchy breakdown and some doomy bits that makes this maybe my favorite track on the record. We go full on evil with the Sabbath worship of Pentagram, which is exactly what you would think a song called Pentagram would be if done by Tidal Wave. Welcome to the circle of Satan indeed. Robbero Bobbero is another catchy and killer stoner jam that had been released as a single a couple years ago and is a welcomed addition to the eight tracks on The Lord Knows. I may have mentioned it before, but Tidal Wave is so damn catchy without losing any of their energy. 

By Order Of The King is more of a stoner slow burn to start with those killer vocals showing off (also the drum sound on this track and all the record is great) and a killer solo as the track heats up while Purple Bird brings the doomy, riffy goodness. Thorsakir is a perfect closer that dooms it up a bit while invoking something from the early Danzig records. Tidal Wave have our first album of the year contender, and it is only the middle of January. All eight songs on The Lord Knows are killer; energetic, catchy, expertly executed, and sound amazing. This is a must listen if you like this stuff or just like anything that rocks. It doesn’t have the delicious title of their debut record, but it is even more tasty. 9/10

Gypsy Chief Goliath & End Of Age - Turned To Stone Volume 7 (Ripple Music) [Rich Piva]

I am always here for another addition to the awesome Ripple Music Turned To Stone series, this time with Volume 7 we have two bands that were new to me but I have now become very familiar with, as it usually works with this collection. For the latest we have Canadian stoner rockers Gypsy Chief Goliath and a new band out of Pennsylvania, End Of Age, who both contribute five absolute rippers that quench the thirst of the heavy rock lovers we all are but leaving you wanting more, creating a nice pregame beverage before a new full length. 

Let’s start with the Gypsy Chief Goliath contributions, which upon first listen prompted me to check out all of their stuff, including the amazing Masters Of Space And Time that everyone reading this should check out immediately. The five tracks offered here are not your standard straight ahead proto or stoner rock. GCG doesn’t really sound like anyone but borrows from a lot if that makes sense. There is a lot going on their side, from the time changes to the killer doomy riff, to the unique vocals, and this is just on the first full track, Demons Suffer

High Priest sees a bit more straight ahead proto with more conventional singing and a bit more chill than their other material, but it works very well. The track Solar Love reminds me at times of the excellent Canadian band The Tea Party (maybe it’s the vocals, someone tell me if I am nuts) and it may be my favourite track out of their five, especially the tail end of the song, but its another one that goes a lot of places in almost seven minutes. The three full tracks and two instrumental interludes are nice additions to the GCG lore and should create some new fans that will seek out the rest of their killer stuff.

End Of Age are a new band with the main man from the band Black Cowgirl (excellent) are more on the proto side of things, but they also have some 90s worship lurking about in their five tracks. Listen to Want To Go and tell me that this could not have been on rock radio in the mid-90s. I love the guitar sound on this and their other four tracks. Yelling Tree has more of that 90s feel, but it’s not all the way 90s. You hear some NWOBHM influence here, some 70s UK hard rock stuff going on too (think Slade, or again maybe I am nuts) to create a catchy and downright surprising addition to the split. 

Cat’s Blood has a great riff and is more along a straight ahead 70’s metal path and is catchy as hell where Dormant Hibernation is a killer instrumental track those shows of the band’s musical chops. The creepy Aestivation is a cool way to wrap up to leave us waiting for that debut full length. I feel like a broken record, but this is another amazing split from Ripple, who, as I mentioned before, is THE Stoner/Proto/Doom matchmaker. 

Todd has such a great ear to be able to pair two bands that somehow create a cohesive full length listening experience while allowing these great songs to get out there for more of the masses to discover how excellent these bands are. Great stuff as usual and I can’t wait for what’s in store for Volume 8. 8/10

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