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Friday 3 March 2023

Reviews: Temptress, Witchthroat Serpent, Woewarden, Ravenstine (Reviews By Rich Piva, Paul Scoble, Rick Eaglestone & Simon Black )

Temptress - See (Metal Assault Records) [Rich Piva]

The veteran musicians from the Dallas, Texas band Temptress unleash their siren song on the world in the form of their debut full length, See, and just try not to be mesmerised by their haunting calling of doomy stoner psych heaviness. With duelling male/female vocals, killer riffs, and an element of looming danger, See is going to be one of the most remembered debuts of 2023.

The trio of musicians in Temptress have been around in the scene for a while, but I think they have found their winning formula together on See. I love the riffs and doomy breakdown in a song like Waiting, as well as the very cool call and response male/female vocals. Death Comes Around is an excellent opening track, reminding me of Hippie Death Cult or perhaps Ruby The Hatchet, catchy and heavy. The band goes full on doom with the track Cry, leveraging the killer haunting female vocals combined with the lumbering doomy, psych-tinged riffs for perfect results. 

Serpentine is a doomy epic track with chant like vocals and is the true siren song of this album, calling you to the evening’s ritual where something sinister will go down for sure. The closer, Hopeless, is more riff filled goodness, with the male vocals leading the way, sounding like a deranged preacher of doom spreading the word that the end is nigh. A killer way to close out the record.

Temptress is living up to their name on See. Try not to be sucked in by the six tracks of gorgeous heaviness on this next level first full length. I am always here for the beautiful heavy, and Tempress brings just that. Great stuff and will be one of the debuts of the year. 9/10

Witchthroat Serpent - Trove Of Oddities At The Devil's Driveway (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Paul Scoble]

Hailing from France, Witchthroat Serpent have been making huge and very doomy music since 2011. The Toulouse based band is made up of Niko Lass on Drums, Fredrik Bolzann on vocals and guitar, Ügo Greifengeier on bass and Djé on guitars. In the 12 years the band have been together they have released 3 albums and 1 EP; They released their self titled debut in 2014, two years later in 2016 came their second album Sang-dragon, next in 2017 Witchthroat Serpent released an EP called Striped Dragon and a year later they released Swallow The Venom their last album before Trove Of Oddities At The Devils Driveway. The band have taken a little longer to release this new album, have the extra years added to this new release.
Witchthroat Serpent’s style is about halfway between occult and stoner doom, there is a similarity to Electric Wizard but then they’re so influential now who on the Doom scene isn’t influenced by Electric Wizard? The style on Trove Of Oddities At The Devils Driveway (love the title by the way, sounds like Satans having a yard sale) has a slow and slithery feel to it, the vocals are clean, clear and fit beautifully with the music. The riffs are slow and heavy, they’ve managed to find that tempo that is unhurried and yet still makes your head nod, and they have a talent for the slow build.
The album opens with Multi-dimensional Marvelous Throne, which features big slow walking pace riffs, has great clean vocals and a really good Wah-Wah heavy solo that fits with the song and definitely adds to the it. Nosferatu's Mastery is more minimal and introspective at the beginning, has a great expansive section mid-way through which leads to second half of the song building in belligerence to drive the song to it’s end.
Next comes a short instrumental called The Gorgon, its made up of guitar noises and spooky horror film samples. The Gorgon takes us into the next track, the wonderfully titled The House That Dripped Blood. The House That Dripped Blood is slow and insidious, kind of Horror doom that slithers and slinks along in a deeply unhealthy way, the song feels heavy and threatening. The track has some great sample use, and another really great Wah-Wah solo.
Next up is Yellow Nacre. This track feels slow and sickly for the first half, before the song builds in power and drive to be Heavy and pounding, the drumming is very good, and yet another great solo. Trove Of Oddities At The Devils Driveway ends with Mountain Temple In Bleakness which has some great heavy riffs and really great pacing, the song has a swing to the tempo that nods your head and makes walking a lot of fun. As the song progresses it builds to be powerful and relentless and is a very strong way to end the album.

Trove Of Oddities At The Devils Driveway is a great album. The style they play has its origins back in the late Sixtes, but as long as they can make music this enjoyable, affecting and heavy, and can keep on adding new ideas to it then it will never become stale, and will always feel original. The album is full of really great riffs, tunes, vocals and solos, I liked it the first time I heard it and every subsequent listen I found more and more to like. 2023 is already looking like a great year for doom, this is another great doom album to make this year sound huge. 8/10

Woewarden – In The Art Of My Caged Existence (Bitter Loss Records) [Rick Eaglestone]

Perth’s purveyors of mournful feelings Woewarden are once again weave desolate tapestry of
torment and despair with latest release In The Art Of My Caged Existence. Immediately from the album’s opener Ravelled it’s apparent that the listener is going through a journey through nine tracks of depressive and atmospheric black metal which is very much highlighted in early stand out track Prisons Within Prisons which also has some wonderfully dark and bleak vocals. 

If there was any track that was to perfectly encapsulate the aesthetic it would absolutely be Excised the atmosphere spirals through the varying tempo’s effortlessly, this is followed in similar fashion by The Name Of Suffering The most enjoyable part of the album is the trio of Wreath Of Viscera, Degenerate and Alexithymia which also containing slower, despairing elements which are wonderfully embedded into chaos. 

Continuing with this amalgamation of rage and beauty is The Blade Draws More and concludes with the longest and title track In The Art Of My Caged Existence which has some of the album’s most atmospheric parts as well as its most piercing vocals and is the perfect choice to close with. Woefully dark and hypnotic. 8/10

Ravenstine – Ravenstine (ROAR! Rock Of Angels Records) [Simon Black]

If old fashioned traditional heavy metal is ancient history, why does it still survive and thrive? Because like very few forms of popular music hailing from the 20th Century, it’s because it’s a massive part of our cultural furniture. We are still relatively lucky at this point in our artistic history in that some of its architectural progenitors are still around, recording, touring or all three. 

Whilst that statistically cannot continue for much longer, these decades old bands have not only spawned offspring in the form of more sub-genres than I can realistically keep track of, but the original form of the music continues to inspire new acts to take the root style as the starting point, brush it down for the current decade and make it their own. Hello Ravenstine…

Ravenstine started life as a lockdown project from Martin Sosna, pulling in contributors through that period from more established acts and taking that metal root as the starting point and like many lockdown projects utilised remote recording to compensate for the diaspora of locations around Europe of its various contributors. 

Not quite a supergroup, given that not everyone in the band is a familiar name, but a project from a bunch of friends that started as a way to keep sane in lockdown, and actually turned out to have some serious legs. After cranking a demo, a full album has now come to pass, and I have to say I’m rather enjoying it. The press release waffles that this is neither a studio project nor a full band, which I guess is evasion speak for “we’re not sure if we can tour this yet”.

When you’re not writing with that sort of end goal of live audiences and full time commitment in mind, that allows for a little experimentation to creep in and despite the very traditional HM template for foundations, there’s plenty of that going on which means the style shifts around enough to be interesting. 

Opening with traditional fist-pumping metal bangers, the album doesn’t lose pace and this experimentation just illustrates the not inconsiderable skill and experience in the ranks here. When they play around, such as the slightly odd Still Alive, which makes you think it’s going to be instrumental, roping in all sorts of instrumental oddities such as a trumpet before actually deciding to give you some lyrics after all… in Klingon! It should stand out for the wrong reasons, but actually it works because it’s handled with the right sense of humour and some damn fine technical playing and writing.

Performance-wise this is pretty much bang on – with vocalist Zak Tataji presenting a strong and powerful range, with a very charismatic delivery to boot. He’s also happy to move away from the traditional clean style to something more guttural in places, so I’m guessing he’s the guy who can speak Klingon… Chon! The guitars demonstrate some workmanlike weaving from Martin Sosna and Ian O´Sullivan – nothing too flashy but soulful, emotive and tight as you like, with a pounding rhythm section in bassist John A.B.C. Smith and Mystic Prophecy’s drummer Hanno Kerstan. Add in a fine production job from Smith, and the fifty-five minutes of run time breezes by faster than you would think.

Most of the songs are very much the raise your fist and yell style of metal, and I’m absolutely fine with that. The album closes with a couple of very precise covers of Ozzy Osbourne’s I Don’t Know and Pink Floyd’s Run Like Hell, which are actually two rather tough songs to attempt covers of, let alone ones which really are very close to that of the originals, but to be honest I would have preferred more of their own material despite who blisteringly accurate these renditions are. 8/10

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