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Thursday 1 June 2023

Reviews: Bongzilla, Seven Impale, Messiahvore, Order Of Decay (Reviews By Richard Oliver, C Hunter, Mark Young & Paul Scoble]

Bongzilla - Dab City (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Richard Oliver]

Wisconsin stoner metal maniacs Bongzilla return with their sixth full length album Dab City their second album as a three piece and their second album for label Heavy Psych Sounds. Dab City is an ode to the purest form of THC and the band’s hometown of Madison, Wisconsin and sees the band on standard fuzzed out, groovy and abrasive form.

If you have heard Bongzilla before then you know what you are going to get and the band remain their consistent selves but for the uninitiated the music on Dab City is very much a mix of stoner and sludge metal with gnarly fuzzed out guitars bringing forth a barrage of fat groovy riffs with bags of psychedelia and the throat shredding vocals of frontman Muleboy. The songs range from lengthy numbers with a free flowing jam element to them such as Cannonbongs (The Ballad Of Burnt Reynolds As Lamented By Gentleman Dixie Dave Collins), American Pot and the title track to shorter numbers where the riffs do the talking such as C.A.R.T.S. and King Of Weed’. 

As you can probably tell from the band name and song titles the theme of marijuana is prevalent throughout and has been since day one with the band. The band has stated that for these recordings they procured 10g plus of the finest concentrates they could lay their hands on and somewhere north of 120g of cannabis flower with the recordings completed over two sessions and to analogue tape.

Dab City is another enjoyable slab of sludgy stoner metal goodness from Bongzilla. The album doesn’t offer up any surprises but is just Bongzilla doing what they do well and getting very high in the process. The shorter songs are the most effective on the album with the lengthier ones going into jam territory at times and dragging on a bit but those elongated trippy sections make those moments when the riffs come piledriving back in all the more effective.

If you are a fan of sludgy, stoner and fuzzed out sounds then you can do no wrong in giving Dab City your time. 7/10

Seven Impale - Summit (Karisma Records) [C Hunter]

An insane and brilliant concoction of organised chaos. Norway’s Progressive Heavy Jazz Rock hexad Seven Impale’s Summit is a thing to behold. Hunter doesn’t take its time to creep up on you.The gentle and eerie noir-esque keys almost act like diversion before you’re assaulted by the beefy brass of Bergen, as they make the sax sound like it was somehow designed for doom. If you put King Crimson, Frank Zappa and Electric Wizard in a blender, pulsed it a few dozen times, poured the contents into a cauldron and had it blessed by a time distorting witch, then you’d have wasted your time, made a mess and killed a bunch of inspirational musicians. Luckily, nobody need do such a daft thing. As we’re already onto a strong starter. 

Traditionally the Hydra had nine heads, the first head of this beast is in an atmospheric transient dream. The second, the head of carnal knowledge, 70s style … I know … it’s the sax, but the sax will always feel that way. The third rides a Harley and enjoys the repetitive chug of rock guitar. As I ponder how a head could ride a bike independently of its connected peers, I grow tired of my own analogy and decide to just enjoy the song. Some great wonky riffage, sagacious time and feel changes, in parts having the free form/feel of a jam whilst also seeming too thought out to be so. Ikaros; apart from the bee trapped in the vocal booth at the beginning… Imagine if you took Mastodon, Elephant Tree and The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and put them in a blender … the blender would have to be pretty big… which is exactly what this song is. It’s heavy, It’s dark, it’s as powerful as ten bears on performance enhancing drugs and it also has some haunting vocal harmonies. 

Sisyphus. Unlike the Sisyphus of Greek mythology who had to repeat his actions for eternity. This Sisyphus only goes on for a mere thirteen minutes. However, during those thirteen minutes, Seven Impale barely repeat a beat. Playing out like a Progressive Heavy Jazz Rock medley of madness, multifunctional in mood and masterful in its musicality we’ve migrated the mountainous melodies to the monument of Seven Impale’s Summit.What a Journey. An eccentric, eclectic example of prog perfection and my favourite album of the year so far. For me Ikaros is the highlight of the album. A song that I currently listen to again whilst deciding if I can bring myself to give an album more than a 9 ……… 10/10

Messiahvore - Transverse (Iron Head Records) [Mark Young]

And keeping up with new music, I have Transverse by Messiahvore. Their second full length release via Iron Head Records. It promises a combination of punishing music and stoner/doom/groove metal and to quote the very brief mission statement on their website: TO FUCK SHIT UP. So, this could be the perfect companion whilst working away from home in deepest, darkest Worksop.

But is it?

Yep, it almost makes up for being in Worksop. It has that gnarly tone to it, discordant riffs that is lo-fi whilst being big enough at the same time. I’ll come back to this in a mo.

Discipline Of Violence, static from a wireless and we are off. It’s a pretty solid opener with an insistent main riff and drums that are giving it full whack. The Unkind has that same vibe this time with a more pronounced stoner riff going through it. When you think of driving in the summer you can have that classic rock (available from K-Tel and not in the shops) or you can have this blasting especially with that earworm riff and vocal. So far, so good.

Deconstructor has some serious low end going on and has a fantastic tone set with a great progression. Its keeping things going but just has that slight difference from the others to prevent it getting samey. What it does do is groove, monstrously so. Live, this will rattle your fillings out of your mouth. Transverse, our title track opens with a spoken piece then Boom! Avanti another infectious riff with that slight change in tone that seems more pronounced as we make our way through the album. They keep that groove moving and its royal.

One Million Mistakes comes across as the most sludge/doom so far with a riff that is so insistent it gives the song the heft it needs to keep it moving. It also has the most spaced-out vocals -so far; the structure is more heavily built than the preceding tracks, but it has a cracking solo break that just lifts it up further and this would be a blinder to play. Well in! Hopes Of The Living Dead gives you the necessary smack round the back of the head with another smasher. Tonal changes again with another in your face groove-inducer of a track with doom just giving it that depth. It’s got that urgency to it that propels it along without sounding hurried, just great stuff.

Antidote mixes up the loud / quiet dynamic, it’s all rumbling bass and sweet, sweet fuzz, especially with the harmonies kicking in towards the end of the song and then we hit Replicant that says hello doom, I’ve missed you. Its psych out time with the vocals and another head mover of a track. This one gives massive Sabbath vibes and just brings the album to a triumphant end.

The whole album flies past so quickly, despite its near 40-minute run time and is chock full of some of the best groove-riffs I’ve heard in ages. There are subtle changes in the guitar tone from start to finish, it changes from this gnarly buzzing wasp of a thing to this massive-warm beast of a thing, even when they have the quiet moments in Antidote it still sounds huge so when kickover comes in its massive.

Did they achieve their mission statement, no but I reckon live it would be a completely different affair because live, I think these riffs would just grow into a different animal altogether. 8/10

Order Of Decay - Mortification Rites (Sentient Ruin) [Paul Scoble]

Hailing from Scotland, Order Of Decay are a suitably mysterious and fog shrouded. I cannot tell you who is in the band (although the record company has pointed out that all members are highly experienced members of the Scottish extreme metal scene), I can’t tell you who is in the band or even how many members the band has got. The mysterious nature of the band fits entirely with dark, desolate and dense nature of the music; this is death/doom of a very dissonant, blackened and impenetrable style. There is a similarity in feel to bands such as Abyssal, Esoteric, Grave Miasma or Lycus

The album opens with Rotten Souls which mixes slow and dramatic sections with very dense riffing, a slow tempo and busy drumming that causes an anxious feeling in the listener, and blasting dissonant death metal sections. The song also contains some very nasty melodies. So far so putrid, next comes Vows Of Death which continues the sickening melody theme. The song is filled with unpleasant tunes that could have come from an Autopsy album, in places these melodies are harmonised to increase the horrificness. The song is mostly slow but builds the intensity to immense proportions.

In Thrall To Suffering has a nasty blackened doom feel to it, in a way that is a little reminiscent of Australian band Obed Marsh. Most of the song is slow and unpleasant, but it does have a fast blasting section that has a beautifully chaotic feel to it. Blood Libation is another track filled with putrid tunes, and particularly nasty vocals, the middle of the song has some pleasingly dissonant and chaotic blast beats, but this track is mainly slow, sickening and heavy.

Scents Of Flesh has the balance on the side of the blasting dissonant death metal, that insane swirling chaos feeling is back as this track batters you into submission. The song has a slower section with the anxiety causing fast drumming and a dissonant melody lead, but this song mainly brings the chaos and savagery.

Necrotic is a very interesting song. It opens with slow and very heavy riffs, there is a feeling of hugeness caused by the layering of guitars and keyboards, harsh vocals are added and the drums increase to blasting, this feels a little like Portal as it builds in intensity. After a short slow and atmospheric section the song goes into some huge blastbeats with dissonant death metal riffs that feel huge due to the aforementioned layers, the drumming at this point becomes so aggressive it boarders on abusive. Over all this massiveness another sickening melody is added before the song collapses into dissonance. Charnel Meditations is a slow atmospheric track full of keyboards that is nicely spooky.

Final Track Bone Lords brings the album to its close in an incredibly heavy and intense way. The song is full of nastily dissonant riffs that are vastly heavy overlaid by putrid guitar harmonies, all with overtly aggressive and savage vocals. The song is very intense despite its slowness, at one point there is a mid-paced death metal section but this just highlights how heavy the slower parts are.

Mortification Rites is a great album, it won’t be for everyone as this deeply intense and savage take on death/doom will be an acquired taste, anything this extreme, dense and chaotic will need a special kind of listener. However, if this is something you can appreciate, then you’ll get a lot from it as there are very few bands doing material that is this intense and savage. The album feels as if it was created under extreme pressure, as if they made it at the bottom of the Mariana Trench or at the heart of Neutron Star. It’s dark, dense and difficult, but is also very affecting and powerful, highly impressive and original. 8/10

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