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Friday 15 September 2023

Reviews: Tomb Mold, Danko Jones, Damnation's Hammer, Roots Of The Old Oak (Reviews By Rick Eaglestone, Zak Skane, Mark Young & Rich Piva)

Tomb Mold - The Enduring Spirit (20 Buck Spin) [Rick Eaglestone]

Canadian death metal outfit Tomb Mold sent fans into raptures with the announcement of the fourth studio album The Enduring Spirit, their first since 2019’s Planetary Clairvoyance – within a week of the announcement the album will be available digitally with physical copies to arrive around mid-October.

Opener The Perfect Memory (Phantasm Of Aura) is a hugely cataclysmic re introduction (as if we needed one) everything blends like it should with meticulous details and thundering drum patterns and it swings into Angelic Fabrications its abundantly clear that this is a clear statement of intent shrouded around soul crush riffs and vocals.

The absolute gem for me is Will Of Whispers as I know what a hybrid of Ozric Tentacles and Morbid Angel would sound like, cosmic, prog like tones amongst savage death metal – I have that all day and then some, this then continues in parts for Fate’s Tangled Parts this though has some slower death/doom parts nestled in subtly that I really enjoyed.

Entrapped in a visceral cocoon swirling with solos is Flesh As Armour which then blends into the faced paced technical demonstration of musicianship is Servants Of Possibility.

Following this is final track is easily the most ambitious The Enduring Spirit Of Calamity being the longest track at eleven and half minute’s fits in with aesthetic of the album but demonstrates Tomb Mold’s ability to be able to really flex their creativity and amalgamate a collection of well-placed influences and experimental soundscapes whilst never fully closing that death metal umbrella.

The Enduring Spirit is easily worth the high level of anticipation it has already received with will only be amplified when this is released fully into our sphere.

Cozmic and surreal death metal at its finest. 9/10

Danko Jones – Electric Sounds (AFM Records) [Zak Skane]

Introducing this album we have the meat and potatoes delivery of the tongue and cheek opening title of Guess Who’s Back. The track oozes attitude, which just fills the gaps of the spacious grooves provided by the Danko, John and Rich. Danko spits out every line whilst the guitars and drums are locked in with machine like precision. Just from listening this track we can see why Danko and his boys have earned themselves slots to play along with the greats such as Motorhead and Volbeat due to their big rock star sound fired in such a small package. 

The trio's second track introduces us one of the many party anthems that this album provides. Good Time supplies pounding down stroked power chords and bluesy unison bends from the guitars, whilst low fuzzy bass tones, upbeat drums including some classic rock star swagger is channelled from main man Danko. The title track Electric Sounds provides thumping grooves and pentatonic sounds, which would please any Clutch fan, whilst Danko catchy hooks would make Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy look down and gleam with pride. The easy-riding track Get High provides major structured up beat riffage with some of the best chorus harmonies that Danko and his crew have got to offer on this album. 

On the second half of the album starts with the playful up tempo She’s My Baby which will wow the girls whist also getting them moving. Eye For An Eye sees the trio delve into Rockabilly territory with Danko channelling the classic singers that have delved into this style prior from the likes of Glenn Danzig of The Misfits and Mike Ness of Social Distortion, whilst also carrying the punk energy of bands like Volbeat. The Thin Lizzy vibes return with the groovy swagger of I Like It and Let’s Make Out continues the sexy groove laden themes sprinkled with some Kiss star power riffage. Their closing track Shake Your City end the album with frantic energy generated by punchy down picked pentatonic riffs, clean cut stabbing grooves and meat and potatoes delivered hooks.

Overall this was pleasantly a good listen. From the first listen you’ll think from the opening track Guess Whos could come off a bit cheesy, but once you listen to the rest of album, you will started to understand that this Dankos sound. It’s loud, bally and a tad obnoxious. If you are a fan of Monster Magnet, Kiss and Thin Lizzy you will enjoy this album. 7/10

Damnations Hammer - Into The Silent Nebula (Massacre Records) [Mark Young]

Damnations Hammer latest opus comes off the back of a number of singles released this year and a support slot on the Summer of Love tour with Sacred Reich. Heavy with doom overtones they acted as a welcome counterpoint to the headliners with their thoughtful and measured approach that placed a firm emphasis on song craft.

And a love of popular fiction, which is always nice to see as inspiration.

Sutter Cane kicks us off and in one song Damnations Hammer show us what they are all about. There is melody, urgent riffing and the feeling that they can go fast when required. This is a great start, possessing some dense bottom end. Everything sounds clear, with guitars on the right side of dirty. Obviously, any song that is devoted to In The Mouth Of Madness gets a thumbs up from me.

Do Not Disturb The Watchmaker slows down with an expansive opening into stomp along. Its clear that writing decent riffs that engage and keep you engaged is not something they struggle with. They really knock it out of the park with Outpost 31 which is an anthem for one of the best sci-fi / horror films ever made (I will not be taking any questions on this), The Thing. This sits within my top 5 films of all time and so when you get any sort of reference to it in music, I hope that it does it justice. And it does, starting with an oppressive subtle opening before breaking out the main chorus riff. Its heads down, as they take you through a journey of assimilation and destruction. Musically they are on point with this, shifting dynamics to suit before they launch into a Wah soaked solo break which completely fits within the arrangement. Quality.

With its pounding drums, Into The Silent Nebula brings a more immediate feeling, upping the tempo with some stop-start riffing and parts that seem to be coming sideways at you. One thing that is consistent is the sense of being to headbang to this, it’s just a riff-fest that falls into The Silent Nebula with a more restrained opening that opts for that lighter touch acting as the other side of the musical coin. Atmospheric, with tasteful solos it is an effective circuit breaker to allow them to reset into The Call Of The Void. It starts as it means to go on with one of those mid-paced riff patterns that just lends itself to moshing. Again, its tight, effective and keeps that high level that has been apparent all the way through with some fabulous riffing which for me is king.

The Hex IV hits with an atmospheric break in proceedings before ushering in The Moon and The Waters Of Death, which starts with a grand arrangement that stomps into place, building into another yomp, with that spot on riffing they have done all the way through.

This is one for those who love their metal occupying that controlled riff space, where they are presented in a way you can chew on them. This is the case here with a thick tone that isn’t muddy, and you can pick out the changes, the triplets and those little tricks that make the songs themselves take on a life of their own. I’ve seen first hand on how these go down in the live arena, they transpose really well and get people moving.

They have a unique approach and style that is all their own. What they do have is that gift to write riff-heavy songs that engage and have that groove to them. They can sit within doom circles or within heavy circles and seem comfortable anywhere. It has the sound just right with enough grit in there to stop it from sounding too sterile. One criticism is that the vocals (courtesy of Tim Preston) just needs something, possibly boosting a little to really hit the songs home. It’s a minor thing and had I not seen them live then it probably wouldn’t have registered. This is a strong offering from them, showing a good grasp of arrangement with some razor-sharp riffing combined with a tight sense of rhythm. What is great is that here is another example of UK metal, of a band that are well honed live and can repeat it in the studio.

Those wanting high velocity and guttural vocals may be disappointed. Those who dig on the riff, won’t be. Its chock full of them and is worth your time 8/10

Roots Of The Old Oak - The Devil And His Wicked Ways (Hammerheart Records) [Rich Piva]

UK band Roots Of The Old Oak play slow, plodding death/doom and the band sounds pretty much like their name, which makes more sense when you hear their debut album, The Devil And His Wicked Ways. In their bio, they mention death/doom with atmosphere, and I can buy that, especially if that atmosphere is an old forest in the UK where the trees want to eat you. Right off the bat I want to call out the vocals, because we are in full growl/death mode here, so if that is not your thing maybe move on to my Mondo Drag review, but if you can deal there, there is some cool stuff going on here.

Atmosphere is the key word here, as an underlying synth line accompanies the slow doom dirge of the opener, I Defy Thee. There is a kind of buzz to the guitars as well that drives the overall feeling of the record, which comes across very heavily on the second and best track on the album, Cheating The Hangman. You get the deep death growl as well as a more screamy approach to the vocals here, and using two vocalists works well. There is a cool, minimalist approach to these songs by the trio, but the sounds they make all mean something significant to the tracks on The Devil And His Wicked Ways. These guys are not going for riff of the year on the next track, Forest Dweller, but I dig the slow grind of the guitar that pairs nicely with the guttural growl just in time for Halloween. 

A Ballad Of Two Ravens is an interesting little instrumental interlude, showing that these guys are not all crunches and screams and is a nice break up of the plodding death/doom. It does get chunky at the end of the two minutes, which leads nicely into the title track that brings and even slower and more plodding death/doom dirge to the listener. My other favorite track is the fastest track on the album, relatively speaking, Cosmic Dark Age. This one has some major old school vibes to it and goes for the more screamy vocals than the guttural growl. Speed this up a bit and you got a death and roll kind of feel, so this reminds me of like a slowed down Midnight. 

You get some creepy spoken word stuff too, doubling down on this being a potential part of your Halloween playlist. We slow it down again with the last two tracks, Allfather and Take The Throne, the former bringing you some nice instrumental doom and the latter rounds out the story (this seems to be a concept album) with a seven-minute death doom dirge in the similar style and quality of the proceeding tracks.
If you dig minimalist, slow death/doom Roots Of The Old Oak is going to be right up your alley. Don’t go into their debut looking for a lot of signature changes, complexities, or crossing over of genres, because The Devil And His Wicked Ways has its path and it is sticking to it, no matter how dark and sinister that forest gets. Some may say it is a bit too similar throughout, but if you like this kind of stuff the debut from Roots Of The Old Oak is worth checking out. 7/10

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