KFJC 89.7FM

Crust “Stoic” [No Name]

atavist   1/11/2022   A Library, CD

I slipped a limb into the Slim Bin to reveal a fresh cut of doom metal from Russia. Crust wear their hearts, and their rather earnest lyrics, on their sleeves—all in English, and surprisingly easy to discern. What sticks out to me is the unusual production that brings the vocals to the forefront more than other projects working in the same vein. Mournful, dabbling in faster death metal passages on one track, and stonery guitar meanderings on the next. It was a riff on the third track, A Blind Man in Darkness, where something clicked and I started to see Crust’s full potential emerge. I find myself enjoying the instrumentation despite the self-help/don’t fall victim to your urges/be a stoic! vibe to the lyrics. This is one of the weirder doom records I’ve reviewed for that reason alone. Once we settle into the second half of the album, the works seem more encumbered by resignation than truly unbridled by rage. Tracks six and seven nearly collapse under their own weight, but a more patient listen will discover finer elements. The instrumental closing track, Desert, provides a relief from the vocals with some borderline psych feels from the soaring guitar.

Rider / Horse “Select Trials” [Ever / Never]

atavist   1/11/2022   12-inch, A Library

Those familiar with Spray Paint will recognize the spoken/chanted vocal stylings of Cory Plump. Here he’s getting through a pandemic with some jangly, angular, minimalistic rock in collaboration with Chris Turco, who has contributed to projects like Trans Am and Les Savy Fav. We encounter pounding rhythms, jittery guitars, and various electronically induced textures running underneath. Some amorphous weirdness on the last two tracks must be the pedal steel by Zoots Houston. The sound quality is a little sharper than some Spray Paint stuff I’ve heard—props to Turco for handling the engineering where they opted to make this thing, in Plump’s COVID-shut down music venue. The sound is sharp, anxious, and full despite the minimal instrumentation. A dance of structure and discohesion. Chime Inn and Code Clicker are early favorites. “I’m growing tired of getting tired” he says in The Windows are Your Arms. For real.

Gateway “Flesh Reborn” [Chaos Records]

atavist   1/3/2022   A Library, CD

Descend into the black cavern and hear the voices rise echo around you in a foul greenish glow—thundering drums, viscous guitars. Belgium’s Gateway craft the massive doom-hammer riff and frequently ratchet the tempo up to a solid gallop. There are some instances of odd vocal textures paired with the rancid crypt breath. The first three tracks are relatively short and quickly unfurl the pummeling onslaught. The title track, in contrast, is the longest and closes out the 26 minute EP, a mournful dirge that, in time, introduces a ghastly riff, but otherwise keeps the tempo low and the atmosphere thick with decay. 

Aldebaran “…From Forgotten Tombs” [Kreation Records]

atavist   1/3/2022   12-inch, A Library

This 12” from 2008 compiles tracks from a couple of this Portland, Oregon doom band’s early 7” and split releases (plus a cover of “The Ghoul” by Pentagram). A little stonery, a bit crusty, all cranked into the red and heavy. Appropriately foul vocal stylings, guitars perpetually on the verge of careening into unrestrained feedback. They dig Lovecraft, and track 3, “They Bend the Trees and Crush the Cities” is instrumental save a Yog Sothoth incantation audio sample. “Aldebaran Red” is the big epic track, and “Tower of Famine” has a bluesy riff that gives way, in the middle, to a wild sprint before stumbling, as if catching its breath, into thick plodding doom. “The Ghoul”, with its satisfyingly ghoulish lyrics, closes out a consistent record. Every track does the trick.

Nadja “Sonnborner” [Broken Spine]

atavist   1/3/2022   12-inch, A Library

Two contrasting sides of a 12” from the stalwart minimalist guitar dronescape pioneers Nadja. Side A, played at 33rpm, is a 21.5 minute sonic landscape that slowly builds and builds from a quiet, somber beginning into a classic Nadja wall of sound via plaintive swells of strings. Having led the listener through the storm, the track fades out into an extended passage of haunting strings. Side B, played at 45rpm, consists of three quick, high-tempo and high-energy tracks followed by a slow tempo closer. Though distinct, the side B tracks essentially run together—the pauses between them are almost non-existent. Slabs of distorted drone wash with pounding programmed drums cut through with straight up metal riffs. Ghostly whispered growling vocals amidst a wash of echo. “Stillborn (A Fragment)” provides a respite from the onslaught, sunlight breaking through the thunderheads—but it clocks in under 2 minutes. Sunborn (Coda) wraps up the album with a return to Nadja’s typical tempo, eluding to side A before sinking under its own weight. This release sees Nadja trying out new textures and compositional structures and the result is moving and intriguing.

Cult Leader “A Patient Man” [Deathwish]

atavist   11/16/2021   A Library, CD

Cult Leader work through their pain with two distinct aesthetics on A Patient Man. Tracks 1, 2, 6, 7, 8: Raw and unyielding, pummeling onslaught, hardcore and metal mashed up in mathy structures. Pushed into the red, vocal chords strained to the point of shredding, whiplash chord changes, washes of screeching guitars. Tracks 4, 5, 9: sullen, sorrowful, almost plaintive ballads with rich, clean, baritone vocals. Tracks 3 and 10 are sort of hybrids of the two aesthetics, mixing the slow and mournful with the spitting fury. Crystal-precise engineering throughout by Kurt Ballou (the Converge guitarist who runs Godcity)—you’ll feel the bass strings rattling under your molars. FCC track 6.

Vengeance Space Quartet “The Decaying of The Year” [Live Bait Recording Foundation]

atavist   11/16/2021   A Library, CD

Semi-improvisational jams recorded over a three-hour period in 2016 that are intended to resemble the Cleveland band’s inebriated live offerings. It kicks off with a few minutes of slowly building, kinda eerie sounds, and by minute four, the track “White Dwarf, Red Giant” is pretty heavy and getting into some doomy dirge. Track two, “Parting Shot”, picks up the pace a bit. Muddy, a bit of grit, jangles, frayed nerves. Driving, pounding drums. They don’t shy away from noisier passages, frequently unleashing a nearly incoherent din as synths and processors pile on top of manic strings in “I’ll Take Trouble for 3”. Track four, “This Is Not a Time for Reflection”, has a pretty nice epic-feeling riff to open it up a bit. It’s a bit of a clarifying agent after track three’s cacophony. Strange near-atonalities, music on the verge of falling apart. But fear not, the year is decaying but the music is hanging in there (by a thread in some cases). Track five, “Mini Malice Ring”, is another slow builder that falls into a laid-back stroll with eccentric deviations. About 10 seconds of silence conclude the track. They wrap up with “Lurking Down the Drain”, in which a heavy riff is tempered by clanky malfunctioning machinery feels. Are there FCCs on this track? I honestly can’t tell. VSQ’s willingness to do things their own way makes for some unique sounds. Some of it’s pretty murky and doesn’t always land, but that’s actually what makes it work. Three tracks are 10–11 minutes long and the other three are about 6 minutes long.

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats “Blood Lust” [Rise Above Records]

atavist   7/16/2021   A Library, CD

Evocation of the caveman dawn of doom rock, refried brain wake and bake of the early seventies. The summers after the summer of love got hotter and love gave way to Blood Lust. Released in 2011, the second of five releases (so far), featuring the original power trio configuration of this Cambridge UK project. Vintage signal chain and capture. Grooves, solos, clean falsetto vox. Sonic accompaniment for smoke-fueled sorcery. Track 9, a bonus track for the CD format, has 34 seconds of near-silence at its beginning. Track 6 is an early favorite.

Peace Killers “Magnetic Mountain” [Transylvanian Tapes]

atavist   7/16/2021   A Library, Cassette

These guys from Sacramento like to throw some full-throttled hardcore into their old-school stoner rollin’ metal. The stylistic swing from track one, Make My Day to track two, Pendulum, is pretty wild—not quite like two bands on a compilation, but moving in that direction. By track three, they’re finding ways to mash up clean stoner metal vocals and hardcore screams in the same track. Fast, rollicking, raucous, and sometimes a bit more subdued, but for the most part you’ll get straight-up rock and roll when you drop it in. FCC on track 1, which also is pretty quiet for the first minute and a half.

Saturno “Menhir” [Transylvanian Tapes]

atavist   7/16/2021   A Library, Cassette

Thick crushing doom that jumps into faster death metal passages. This is the debut full-length from this Santiago, Chile-based project, comprised of members who, for the most part, have been active in the stoner doom scene there for over a decade. With this project they want to go a bit more brutal, even tiptoeing up to black metal moments without fully crossing over. There is raw emotion here, beauty found in melodic riffs, ferocity and speed as well as slow expanses of filthy dirge. Saturno is never content to dwell on one idea for too long, so each track provides an exhilarating range of sounds.

Karma to Burn – “Almost Heathen” – [Spitfire]

atavist   6/2/2020   A Library, CD

Groove laden, instrumental stoner(ish) rock. Not stoner metal, that is—the vibe is more of the “take a shot of whiskey and jump in the mosh pit” variety than “smoke a bowl and space out on the couch”. The energy level is high, with a precision-engineered rhythm section and disciplined guitars that swerve, stop, and start to match. Reminds me of bands like Walrus who were working in a similar vein at that time in the mid-late 90s and early 2000s. They frequently draw comparisons to Kyuss. The tracks on this CD are pretty interchangeable, in that they are consistently well-made and will induce rhythmic head nods of approval if this is your kind of thing. Not having a vocalist means they never stay in one place too long. They allow themselves to get a little spacy and chilled-out in the last track. Turn it up and hit the wayback machine to 2001.

Cemetery Urn – “Barbaric Retribution” – [Hells Headbangers Records]

atavist   5/18/2020   A Library, CD

Scummy death metal from Melbourne, Australia. They are mainstays in the extreme scene there, and dedicated students of the craft. Double bass kick pummels and crusty dual guitar attack, with the occasional big guitar solo. Filthy vox that sometimes get lost in the mix. I’m totally cool with losing the vox in the mix, but I might want some other element to enter in its place…a middling reviewer’s perspective. What do you need to know? Every track is brutal, stripped-down, maniacally focused on the endgame. The album builds in force as it progresses, and the conflagration licks at the eaves by track 5, Manifesto Putrefacto. Here we find some really cool dynamism—wild, careening changes in tempo and cascading guitar riffs that have a narrative arc to them, a sense of taking the listener somewhere rather than simply stringing together one brutal passage after another in head-pummeling delirium. The title track has epic ambitions that nearly get there. Drop in Semblance of Malignant Mastery for four minutes of a nearly relentless speed that flirts with complete abandon, including an unhinged solo. Unwilling to go out timidly, they close out with moments of rapture amidst the flames in the final track. In summary, a pretty consistent release. The first four tracks are good, but the best stuff is found in tracks five through nine.

Ghast – “Terrible Cemetery” – [Forgotten Wisdom]

atavist   5/18/2020   12-inch, A Library

Frenzied tortured vocals of the damned. The landscape bereft of hope. Released on CD ten years ago, and re-released on vinyl five years later. Track one, eight minutes of building walls of dislocated delirium held in a stasis, suspended on the edge of misery. When they pick up the tempo, you understand how the term black metal comes to be associated with this project, but doom is always mentioned in the same breath. Track two has a longer run time (20 min) to lay rotted foundations and erect walls of pitted, charred stone, piece by cursed piece. A pitiless sky for a roof. The overall mix, the approach to the guitar picking, the song structures, point to something idiosyncratic. Yes, it’s doom, yes, it’s blackened, but these guys are weird. There is something strange about them, and they aren’t trying to be, they just are. About halfway through the second track the weather changes and it’s almost like a ray of light pierces the black clouds (almost). Fury unleashed in vain. Concludes with a brilliant ethereal fade-out.

Sun Worship – “Emanations of Desolation” – [Vendetta]

atavist   3/11/2020   12-inch, A Library

The sound of Germany’s Sun Worship is associated with a particular kind of black metal that features expansive atmospheres and longer compositions, and are sometimes compared to bands like Wolves in the Throne Room and Ash Borer. The guitar rips the air like a chainsaw and the blast beat drums rattle the earth. The production quality is relatively good—the guitar work is clearly discernible and the cymbal crashes don’t overwhelm the mix. One of Sun Worship’s distinctive features is the vocal style. It’s a weak point for some black metal observers on the internet. For this listener, there are shades of a very hoarse Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom, Sumac, et al) captured live. Fortunately I don’t find it too distracting, but there are parts where he actually sings, like in Track 4, “Torch Reversed”, and it almost doesn’t work. At the very least, the eccentric vocal style offers a different texture/dimension. Track 1, “Zenith”, is a brief intro track that starts off with a marching drum beat with some spacy sounds thrown in. Soon, the full power of the sound drops in with the second track, “Void Conqueror”. Track 3, “Devoured”, has ringing chord structures and evil riffs amidst the relentless drums. The epic quality of the record really picks up with track 5, “Soul Harvester”, and continues for the remainder of the tracks. Side C is particularly riveting on this count, starting with the cold, minimal, brooding synth intro of “Pilgrimage” all the way through the captivating “Coronation”. This record demands my attention and keeps me guessing how they will bend and shape their ferocity next.

Mizmor – “Cairn” – [Gilead Media]

atavist   3/9/2020   A Library, CD

Here lies beauty to pierce your heart with a shard of ice. Here sprawls a desert of jagged cliffs weathering under the wind. Mizmor has demonstrated the ability to create cold atmospheres and skull-rattling, doomed textures on previous works. However, this recording presents a new level of craft and complexity. The end result is something to get lost in, and you may feel like you’ve gone somewhere by the end. Four tracks, ranging from roughly 10 to 20 minutes, and each its own self-contained epic. A colossal achievement.

Tomb Mold – “Planetary Clairvoyance” – [20 Buck Spin]

atavist   3/4/2020   A Library, CD

Death metal from Toronto. Tomb Mold can deliver mind-hammering heaviness with highly technical aptitude. What keeps me enthralled is the proggy inventiveness applied to the medium. A proper base of brutality is cut through with creative twists on familiar riffs and tropes, often producing what some might call “grooves”.

Track 5 might be the most straight-ahead/conventional track on the album. Elsewhere, you’ll find twists and turns in each track. The first track starts out quietly before delving into the chasm, with a quieter acoustic guitar interlude in the middle. Early favorites: tracks 1, 2, 4, and 7. Track two induces involuntary head nodding with iron-clad riffing. There simply are no flaws in this dual guitar attack. Track 3 is one of those instrumental, atmospheric pieces found on death metal records these days to further the overall narrative. There are glitchy samples with a beautiful, forlorn guitar part playing underneath. If you must know, the lyrical themes and concept for the album cover artwork orbit around extra-terrestrial invasion, death serving as a portal to other dimensions (or perhaps additional, miserable lives), horrific death. Track 7 is a proper way to close out this album—the attack is sustained, unrelenting, the bass and guitars create interesting (dis)harmonies in the riff architectures, and there’s even a massive guitar solo if you’ve found that lacking in your life. Similarly, in a breakdown halfway through track 4, Tomb Mold exhibits the type of riff construction that simultaneously soars and crushes, writhing in that tension between destruction and transcendence.

Noxagt – “Consulatet Kalendar 2020” – [Drid Machine Records]

atavist   2/24/2020   7-inch, A Library

Noise rock. A little mathy, but mostly belligerent. For those familiar with Noxagt, you know they do mathy, noisy stuff. The recording on this flexidisc is notable for its lofi production. Blown out, pounding, incessant cymbals, dazed guitar, throbbing bass undercurrents. Trebly, hot blast furnace sound. The tri-fold scheme of the flexi disc seemed to resist the weight of my tonearm, so I used a razor blade to sever the flexi from its folder. An act of deliberate, surgical mutilation of the original seems to carry the theme of the audio forward (and make the disc functional). All instrumental, five and a half minutes. Give it a spin.

St. Hugh, William – “Saturnus” – [self-released]

atavist   2/12/2020   A Library, CD

The arrival of “Saturnus” provides ethereal sounds with orchestral-inspired keyboard instrumentation. Minutes stretch in a haze of drifting shimmers and the occasional dramatic surge of sound. This recording moves slowly like the score for a moody, somewhat eerie film. It’s very much a companion album to this artist’s earlier release “The Luciferian”, added to the library last August. Tracks are fairly consistent across the CD. To my untrained ears, all the tracks are pretty similar, so you might select based on how much time you need in your break clock, and you’ll get a consistent atmosphere of unease and wilting beauty. A couple tracks, like “Red Sun Rise” start out quietly. Tremorous dreams await.

Vastum – “Orificial Purge” – [20 Buck Spin]

atavist   2/10/2020   12-inch, A Library

The Bay Area’s Vastum have unleashed their latest release, and it continues in the vein of their previous works, including “Hole Below” from 2015. This is considered old school death metal, and the band is frequently compared to Bolt Thrower, a band active from the mid-80s to the early 2000s. The old-school element comes from the riffs that are heavy and at times complex, but played at medium tempos that are seldom mind-bendingly fast or glacially slow. Two vocalists work well off each other: Daniel Butler and guitarist Leila Abdul-Rauf, whose distinctive vocal style can be found in other projects known to KFJC, like Saros and Hammers of Misfortune. An early favorite is Abscess Inside Us (A3). An off-kilter time signature teeters on a razor wire edge before dissolution swallows the end of the track. On its heels, the title track has a great intro, dripping with ghastly atmosphere. Generally, this record rewards a close listen, and each track has its merits. Borderline mathy/proggy structures are woven to support the overarching goal: to paint a bleak picture of shame, pain, and anguish from violence, including sexual violence. Riffs are held in check, so that the ultimate release covers the sky in darkness. To be sure, Vastum flashes the blades of previous recordings, but the cuts here are new, fresh, and deep. The haunting guitar solo in the final track crushes.

Teitanblood – “Baneful Choir, The” – [Norma Evangelium Diaboli]

atavist   2/5/2020   A Library, CD

Teitanblood has been known to KFJC dating back to the Firebunker era, and their new release needed to be sought out, post-haste. This will be the third Teitanblood release to stain the library with punishing, blackened death metal. Most tracks are blistering fast and brutal, with a few cinematic interludes/intros/outros. A track breakdown follows.

1. Ominous intro, washes of sound, minimal hums and atmospheres
2. Grim, crushing heaviness starts out slowly and builds momentum
3. High speed insanity, guitars spiraling out of control, blast beat mayhem, dripping with evil
4. More mayhem, unrelenting, continuing the tradition of the spiraling, unhinged guitar solo
5. Battering ram assault
6. A segue track, or intermission; the tolling of bells in a forsaken landscape of char and ash, with electrically distorted voices and intonations
7. Continues track 6, with mad men introduced. a light touch of malevolence
8. Tracks 6,7,8 are designed to basically run together to form a piece with a total run time of 11:43. From the charred landscape, the baneful choir rises, triumphant in its purely malevolent glory. You will submit; you have been bested. Track 8 unspools in a long, deliberate, extraordinary build to an enveloping din, and fades out with keyboards and churchy sounds.
9. Enough concept, let’s pulverize!
10. Opens with a big, crushing riff. The drums are a bit less diabolically fast and the thick, filthy guitars fill the space. By the end the tempo is cranked up to full insanity once again.
11. Starts out quietly; the calm descends on glowing embers cooling into a cold, deepening darkness. Demented, a baneful choir of spectres rises.

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