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Friday 6 October 2023

Reviews: Restless Spirit, Dopelord, Apotheus, Left To Rot (Reviews By Rich Piva, Paul Scoble, Matt Bladen & Mark Young)

Restless Spirit - Afterimage (Magnetic Eye Records) [Rich Piva]

Growing up on Long Island, I wish I would have had access to a band like Restless Spirit the way the kids have today. Sure, I had some killer LI hardcore influence in my life but to be exposed to a band like Restless Spirit in my formative years would have expanded my musical mind even further outside of the circle pits and the hardcore screams. However, beggars can’t be choosers, so I just need to be happy that Restless Spirit is with me now, bringing me amazing stoner doom goodness that incorporates all sorts or other elements of heavy music to the mix as well. Back with their third album, Afterimage, the band takes a step forward and expands their sound, which is quite a feat given how strong the output has been so far. These tracks are both raw and complex, simultaneously catchy and heavy, as well as produced and executed perfectly.

Take the opening track, Marrow. This one has it all. From the killer guitar work and top-notch vocals to the musical complexity that stays heavy but still an earworm that will not leave your head. The riffs are ever present too, the best example of many being on Shadow Command. The band mentions Type O and Sabbath a lot in their bios, and here you go if you want those vibes, but in vibes alone, there is nothing in this track that you could say is anything but the band leveraging those influences to make their own signature sound. Of Spirit And Form brings more riffs and I love the vocals on this track, as well as the parts that slow down the pace until the excellent solo kicks in. All Furies makes me think that Paul may have had some LIHC exposure as well, as this one is a compact ripper that fits nicely in between the stoner/doom goodness that is the rest of Afterimage

The short, but rifftastic interlude Brutalized leads to my favorite riff on Afterimage, the one that opens The Fatalist. This is the most Type O of the tracks on the record, and that makes in no surprise that it my favorite amongst the eight tracks. It's not just musically, it also the vibe of desperation that fills the room when this track is blasting. The second half of Afterimage is flat out amazing, as Hell’s Grasp slows it down and highlights the great vocals and ability to go super melodic when called upon to do so without compromising the atmosphere of heavy that is consistent across Afterimage. From The Dust Returned is more of the Sabbath/Type O mashup vibe, with more crunchy riffs and a Steele-like performance from a passion perspective until the stoner side of the band kicks in to round us out.
Everything on Afterimage is a step forward for Restless Spirit. The songwriting, the playing, the ability to consistently move ahead and offer something different without compromising their overall sound are all reasons why the third record from Restless Spirit is their best. If you are not aware, change that, because Afterimage is a colossal piece of heaviness that should be experienced by all, regardless of how or where your musical tastes were formed. 9/10

Dopelord - Songs For Satan (Blues Funeral Recordings) [Paul Scoble]

Dopelord have been purveyors of thunderously heavy doom since 2010. The Polish four piece have released four albums before Songs For SatanMagic Rites was the debut in 2012, two years later came the appropriately titled Black ArtsRiff Worship And Weed Cult. In 2017 they released Children Of The Haze, and their last album before Songs For Satan was released in 2020 and was called Sign Of The Devil. The band is made up of Piotr Zin on bass and vocals, Pawel Mioduchowski on vocals and guitar, Grzegorz Pawlowski on guitars and Piotr Ochociński on drums.

The style of thunderous doom that Dopelord play sits nicely between occult and stoner doom, although that should be obvious from the bands name and album titles. The riffs are huge, heavy, sometimes aggressive and often full of melody.

The album opens with an atmospheric introduction featuring field recording and a hooting Owl, before the first song comes crashing in. The Night Of The Witch is a wonderful piece of occult/stoner doom with huge and heavy riffs, great melodies in the riffs and in the melody leads and solos. The vocals are clean and crystal clear, in fact the vocals performances are great throughout the album, this song features something else that is all over Songs For Satan and that is brilliant choruses. 

The song comes to and end with a softer and more psychedelic version of the chorus in a way that works very well. The Chosen One is next, it has a slightly faster and more flowing tempo than the song that preceded it, we get another great chorus and lots of melody. The second half of the song is faster with several very good guitar solos, and more fantastic vocals.

The next track is One Billion Skulls, which is huge and sludgy, it’s very heavy and slow, with a fair amount of aggression despite the slowness. In some places it reminds me of the British Sludge act Ohhms. The song does have a minimal softer section with a guitar solo, but the song soon builds itself back to being a huge and crushingly heavy piece of aggressive metal.

Next comes the song Evil SpellsEvil Spells is also huge and heavy, but with a slight drifting or dreamlike quality to the pacing, despite the heaviness. The vocal performance again is stunning, the song is lyrically a strange little love song with a wonderful chorus that I can’t stop singing. The song also features a great melody lead, a heavier second half and more than one really good guitar solo. I love this track, there is something almost sweet about it, even with all the occultness, if I’m being honest, this is one of my favourite songs I’ve heard this year.

The last of the full songs is the track Worms a big, heavy and simple track, the vocals are harsh this time giving the song a little bit of a Weedeater vibe. The song features a genuinely brilliant guitar solo, and a second half that is faster with a huge bass led groove that could make a corpse dance, and even manages to have another great guitar solo before the song ends.

The album comes to and end with the track Return To The Night Of The Witch a simple play-out track that features a keyboard melody to the tune of Night Of The Witch from the beginning of the album, a great way to bring all this awesomeness to an end, marvellous!

As you’ve probably already worked out, Songs For Satan is superb, I hope the Horned One is appreciative of the work that Dopelord have done getting this collection of awesome blasphemy together for him. The riffs are great, the vocals are really good and very memorable, the choruses and other bits you can sing along with a stunning, I have sung along at the top of my lungs (this has got me some weird looks at work) and I just cannot get all the tunes and solos out of my head. I’ve listened to this a lot and it just keeps growing and growing, getting better and better, it’s a nine out of ten now, in a couple of months it could well be a ten out of ten. If you love doom, do yourself a favour and seek this album out. 9/10

Apotheus - Ergo Atlas (Black Lion Records) [Matt Bladen]

From Portugal but sounding pretty damn Nordic, Apotheus play a progressive, atmospheric style of dark metal that is influenced by Leprous, Soen and Katatonia, where booming low vocals turn into growls and the songs shift from distorted heavy riffs into more melodic, gothic single chord passages. Brooding and deceptively complex, Ergo Atlas serves as direct sequel to their last album The Far Star, a science fiction story set millions of years in the future but with the threat of A.I reminding those of us in this century of what could happen, the inspiration coming from Asimov whose work is less fiction year by year, serving as a warning of what could happen. 

Enough about the impending threat of A.I and down to the music (as I type this on a computer and listen to this album digitally), Ergo Atlas, if it were a sci-fi film, would be one of those dystopian 70’s sci-fi’s like Logan’s Run. Shape And Geometry and The Unification Project both establish Apotheus’ for anyone that may not have heard them before. Heavy riffs from Miguel Andrade (rhythm guitar), Daniel Rocha (bass) and Albano (drums), are used to bring the industrial thud to The Unification Project, with djent technicality but doom-like muscle, it’s modern prog metal that weaves in some stirring lead guitars from Luis, his deft playing never tries to be overtly flashy, letting the rhythms play the stop start modern metal riffs while he brings clean triplets, arpeggios and emotional solos. 

Speaking of emotional, Miguel’s vocals are brilliant, bleeding every moment of fervour out of tracks such as Cogito and giving a fervent delivery of clean and harsh on the forceful Ergo Bellum. On this third album Apotheus, maintain the substance and style of their last album, adding their name to the wealth of moody, intelligent progressive metal bands that beguile the listener. 8/10

Left To Rot - Breath Of The Tomb (Self Release) [Mark Young]

About as death metal as you can get, Left To Rot hailing from Austin, Texas their new EP does exactly what you think it should. They just want to come in and melt faces and leave. And over the course of 16 minutes they just about achieve it. Intro has a cool 80s horror vibe to it that ushers in a zombie attack that is brutally followed up by title track, Breath Of The Tomb. This is unashamed, pummelling death metal. Blast beats, guttural vocals the lot. Those of you looking for sweep picking, technically challenging time signatures or other signs of ‘virtuosity’ look elsewhere. 

This is a collection of songs whose sole intention is to get you to move and just embrace the heaviness on display. There is some cool riffing on display with this one and The Hidden One has that absolute class 90’s swing to it that just makes you bang your head. It may appear simple but being able to capture that swing is difficult. Its down and dirty, conjuring up images of the dark, of dirt and something unholy. The vocals are class, getting that balance between growl and still getting the words across as they are practically spat out.

Come To Me just grinds itself, low end firmly in place and has a storming arrangement that is just straight forward menace with that medium pace leaving them plenty of space to breathe to throw in trem picking just to break things up. Quality. Already Dead explodes with a propelling drum attack, dragging the rest of them along in its wake. This has that OSDM stamp all over it, that feel that just grabs you and is a fine closer to a fine EP.

This is pretty good stuff and I think they have made a wise decision in getting an EP out as they continue to hone their craft. Having their 4 best songs (at this time) here just gets them out there as this is a cracking collection of death metal where each of the tracks has some moments of class that shows what tools they have at their disposal. The production is clear enough for you hear everything and for me they achieve what they set out to do. Its heavy, grimey and downright brutal. There is a lot more to come from them, so get behind them!! 7/10

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