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Monday 19 June 2023

Reviews: Church Of Misery, Vulture Industries, Breaths, Alt. (Reviews By Rich Piva, Matt Bladen, David Karpel & Mark Young)

Church Of Misery - Born Under A Mad Sign (Rise Above Records) [Rich Piva]

Japanese doom/heavy stoner legends Church Of Misery are back with their first new material since 2016, which is way too long because CoM rules. If you are not familiar, you should be, because the band has been around since 1995 and plays heavy, tuned down stoner doom with psychedelic leanings and oh by the way, all their songs are about a different serial killer. 

What’s not to like about that? The answer is nothing and the new album, Born Under A Mad Sign confirms that I am correct, because you get seven more flawless tracks that are meant to scare you and delight you all at the same time which is what a good horror movie about a mass murderer is supposed to do, these guys just do it in musical form.

Beltway Sniper and Most even are a killer one two punch of brutal murder done is stoner rock form. The production and guitar tone are perfect on this album and these two songs are perfect examples. The pace gets a bit more frantic with Freeway Madness Boogie with its breakneck pace (for CoM) and killer guitar work. Murder Castle Blues brings some serious tuned down doom with a killer riff and is eight minutes of the musical equivalent of the song’s protagonist, H.H. Holms committing all his acts of depravity (Google it) both dragging the body for the first half of the song and running from the authorities the latter half. 

Church Of Misery is not afraid to add some Deep Purple boogie to their murderous ways with Spoiler, that incorporates some keys and a more psych leaning style, creating my favorite track on Born Under A Mad Sign. Given me an organ solo any day and I am in and the guitar work on this song of the year contender is nothing to shake a stick at either. 

You want more riffs? You get them with Come And Get Me Sucker, which is an ode to Waco wacko David Koresh. Maybe if he listened to Church Of Misery everything would have turned out differently because his focus would have been on something like the killer psych solo on this track instead of mass suicide. Butcher Baker ends the spree nicely with a bit of an occult rock feel to open until you are crushed by the weight of the doomy riffs that bludgeon you about the head an neck until you are no more.

Damn this record kills especially for a band that has been around since 1995 and gets delightfully distracted with their other awesome side projects. But when Church Of Misery focuses on what they do best, the result is an album of the year contender that will just slay you. Sorry, I had to add one murder pun, but go listen to this before it’s too late and you are the next victim. 9/10

Vulture Industries – Ghosts From The Past (Karisma Records) [Matt Bladen]

If you were to make me guess where Vulture Industries (whom I know nothing about) were from on the back of first tack New Lords Of Light, I’d say Norway and I’d be dead on. This avant garde metal band are from Norway and they sound…Norwegian, the gothic/heavy rock of Audrey Horne or Sahg mixed with a husky, baritone croon of Madrugada and the experimental sound of Ihsahn or Leprous all trademarks of that dark Scandinavian musical history from the country with not much daylight (or too much daylight). 

I knew nothing about the bands before this record but Ghosts From The Past has got me extremely interested in discovering more about the band. It said that their album straddles Morricone Westerns on the smoky This Hell Is Mine or Deeper where the trumpet is featured brilliantly, along with Nordic Noir on Not By Blood, But By Words, with all the shadowy spaces in between, where demons dwell and the world is still a puzzle. Yes to all of that and so much more.

Having started writing it in 2018 Ghosts From The Past was their longest creative process to date, that sense of loss and being directionless plunged into the album while they were writing it, to make it their most difficult but most rewarding album yet. I mentioned Madrugada earlier and a track such as Deeper is so close it hurts, although Vulture Industries are perhaps heavier though as artistic and experimental with soundscapes. This comparison to me, is a very positive one as I love Madrugada so Vulture Industries will likely feature high on my end of year list. 

What caught my attention while I was listening was how it adds a lot of variation on every song, but sounds like a complete record, not just a collection of random songs. That’s a hard skill to pull off but Vulture Industries have been doing it since the late 90’s. The use of organs/keys fundamental to their evocative, smoky, sound on tracks such as the throbbing lust of Right Here In The Dark, while the final number Tyrants Weep Alone, showcases everything that makes this album brilliant. 

Yes that’s the word, brilliant, unlike much else I’ve heard his year. I’m a convert! 9/10

Breaths - Fourit (Trepanation Recordings) [David Karpel]

Breaths returns with a crushingly heavy fourth full-length after 2022’s ambient instrumental album Isolera. Foruit, which means “a perfect flourishing of a person or movement,” is a concept album that includes 13 tracks of blackened doomgaze based on an idea that turns our understanding of progress upside down: everything we’ve done to achieve anything in this world as a collective of selfish humanity has only beckoned our ultimate self-destruction ever closer, so all we have left is the choice–go along with it, or take action to change our course. 

Here are tunes to set the mood for the end-of-times. Multi-instrumentalist Jason Roberts (vocals, guitar, synth, bass, programming, engineering, mixing, and mastering) mashes up multiple heavy genres, from blackgaze to hardcore to post-metal to progressive metal and more, creating a powerful, if dark and emotionally deep listening experience. While fans of such disparate groups as Hum, Pallbearer, The Ocean, and the Deftones will find familiar sounds in some passages, Breaths’ sound is uniquely their own. 

Despite a sludgey tempo, the songs are driven by emotional tension in the instrumentation and the mix of clean and singed, growling vocals. Degeneration, a brief  instrumental soundscape, sets up the conceptual nature of the album. Winds Of Change and The Summit kick the mid-tempo crush into motion, both songs–powerfully emotive, driving, and attention grabbing–demonstrating Roberts’ penchant for giving an even mix to the instruments and the vocals. 

Nothing here sounds out of place. Passages awash in Roberts’ melodic singing, guitars, bass, and percussion, drive the songs forward. Just when you think your ears are full, Roberts heightens the atmospherics with synths, and then that deathly growl, like an instrument itself, lets us not forget the menacing tension of these songs. We See You sludges into a progressive doom/nu-metal combination with spaces for introspection. The almost emo sensibility is highlighted by lyrics like “when you think you’re invisible, see you” and “we all need to belong.” Not everyone can combine a sense of creepiness and comfort successfully. Roberts does so here. 

The Road leans into those introspective sections to create a really beautiful song that doesn’t grind into hardcore machine gun riffing until the last minute of the song, should we need to be reminded that all of this will end badly. In the song Flourish we’re “relentlessly chasing shadows,” greed driving us through progress only leading us to “destroy ourselves.” Passages of clean singing and gravely growls over a melodic guitar line are given a solid foundation of crunchy riffs. 

Meanwhile, Squander (and later Royalty Of Emptiness), sounds like a Quicksand/Sunny Day Real Estate mashup, and I’m here for it. What follows is just another twist in what to expect from Roberts. Gone Mad is a sad and beautiful song that questions if selfless consideration and empathy are dead. Synths, light drums, and the general tone lend a sense of drama to the progressive psychedelic feel of the song. When the guitars and heavier drums pick up, they keep it slow and low, letting Roberts’ vocals soar. 

At Least It’s Something comes closest to the kind of atmospherics of the melodic darkgaze of Astronoid. The serious subject matter given that sugary treatment increases the sense of righteousness laced through the lyrics. When those gravedug vocals return, the mix is so well done, they perfectly fit into the passages Roberts weaves them into. Finally, Ruination, at a bit over 7 minutes, is an epic lament acknowledging “everything will end by our hands,” summing up the essence of the album’s message, musically and lyrically. 

Roberts sings “we think we’re invincible” and though “we could have fixed it,” he concludes that “we’re killing Earth” and the hope for a future. The message is clear and it’s delivered with an unrelenting heaviness that carries through the melodies, through the arrangements of these songs, whether quietly or through stomping riffs. Breaths goes deep and the catharsis for anyone whose political awareness aligns is real. This is more than just a banger of an album. Give it time to grow on you because it will. 8/10

alt. - ABEYANCE (Resist Records/Sharptone Records) [Mark Young]

Hailing from Adelaide, we have alt presenting their debut album courtesy of Resist/Sharptone Records. Abeyance seems to sit within that world of electronica for expanding the sound, heavy guitars and the quiet / loud build structure, which in itself is great for fans of that genre.

And in here lies the problem. There is nothing wrong with how it sounds, or how it is played. Its fine but it doesn’t do anything for me, in that it feels ‘light’ even in its heavier moments like it has an overly polished sheen to it. The songs feel as though they have come from a Nu-Metal playbook, mixing rap / screams / soft spoken vocals against a guitar sound that is not heavy enough to provide a counterpoint or dynamic to make them really fly.

The album itself doesn’t stop for breath with the ten songs dropping in 34 minutes its a punchy affair but even saying that there is an overriding familiarity to each one that grows as you make your way through the album. To be honest, once you get to A.D.D that has that electronica start which drops into a ‘Linkin Park’ feel, the remainder mostly follow that tack. That is not to say these are poor songs, absolutely not. Each one is well written and structured in a way to squeeze as much emotional heft as is possible from them and give you that anthemic feel. The Only Good Thing has an absolute blinder of a chorus, great build and structure and Abyance, has live blinder written all over it, and you know it will cause carnage.

It’s possibly an age thing but these will appeal so much more to younger listeners rather than those who are more inclined to listen to, for example Slayer. Or are over 40. From what I’ve read online, in the live arena they really go for It in terms of putting a great show on. Everything I’ve heard here suggests that they will sound amazing live, the crowd feeding into them and vice versa. However, I don’t get anything from this that makes me want to listen to it again. 5/10

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