Djinn and Miskatonic – Forever in the Realm

Achintya Venkatesh reviews the new album released by Djinn & Miskatonic titled Forever in the Realm, released via Transcending Obscurity India.

Djinn and MiskatonicArtwork by Nicolas Huck

Tracklisting
1. 7 Year Witch (11:37)
2. Book of the Fallen (08:37)
3. Vulcan’s Forge (04:54)
4. Voice from the Tomb (00:58)
5. Weird Tales (16:56)

Doom metal is a style that is still relatively foreign in the embryonic metal ‘scene’ and its enthusiasts in the subcontinent, and the past few years have seen the rise of a few bands playing around with the genre, which has at the very least brought to fore the existence and awareness of this slower side of extreme metal. This has always been overshadowed by the more dominant, velocity-fuelled side of things regardless of geographic location. Doom metal has trodden a variety of paths since its inception during the zenith of Black Sabbath and the then incipient Pentagram and similar bands, and has thereon gone onto spawn forth a variety of stylistic derivatives. While not all of these are congruent with the proto-type of the genre, perhaps the most obvious commonality all these aural offspring have is their lumbering pace and crushing minimalism. If Bevar Sea presented the more jammy, convivial side of Bangalore’s nascent doom/stoner movement (if one could call it that), and Dying Embrace the monstrous local overlords of the death/doom mould, then Djinn and Miskatonic present a more reticent, sedated and punctilious position that is more thematically focused and staid. The band name’s etymology is an open exaltation to their thematic inspirations, ranging from classic horror to weird fiction, à la H.P Lovecraft. The name is a play on the gin and tonic cocktail – djinn being the Qur’anic equivalent of genies and Miskatonic being a fictional university, featured in a series of stories in the Lovecraftian mythos.

Forever in the Realm’, the band’s debut album after being active for around two years as a live band, merges a variety of these styles into its creative mould – primarily traditional doom in the vein of Trouble and Saint Vitus with very healthy doses of more jammy, stoner influences – think Electric Wizard and Sleep, and even hints of death/doom and sludge metal. The introduction of a guitarist in the band in turn omitted the more drone-driven, spacey quality that the band previously exhibited, and this is certainly evident in the album. ‘7 Year Witch’ is the tone setter of this record and opens with a direfully commanding spoken word about the depravity that is witchcraft, and soon descends into an infectious riff that is rather standard by doom norms but enjoyable nevertheless. The vocal approach is something one immediately takes note of, and showcases a wide range of styles that cover everything from impassioned warbles to harsher growls. The leads are laden with striving lead work that is reminiscent of Dave Chandler or even Tony Iommi. The band drops a bombshell with a bombastic, groove-laden, thrashing segment that I’ve often observed is an additive to the dynamics of the band’s sound in a live setting, and it is no different on record. ‘Book of the Fallen’ brings to fore a more robust facet of the band – the pace is almost marching in a sense and the entire mode of action is far more menacing than foreboding. It certainly isn’t devoid of coercive doom segments, which have some excellent melodies that are complimented by befittingly clean vocals working in congruence with the aforementioned leads.

The track that follows, ‘Vulcan’s Force’ enters the realm of dark humour and surrounds alcoholic excesses and consequential contemplation on the futility of existence. The guitars take a step back and make way for more fuzz-driven, baritonal bass work. The ritualistic electronic/ambient track ‘Voice from the Tomb’ serves as an interlude of sorts that features undecipherable waves of spoken word from the deepest crypts. ‘Weird Tales’ is the goliathan track of the album and is in a sense a summation of the various elements that forms the Djinn and Miskatonic creative canvas, channeling the bizarre, abstruse and esoteric. Dismal, cheerless and creeping bass-lines bleed into guitar riff-led dawdling, with tempo changes and vocal modulation aplenty.

The charm of this release essentially lies in its sensibly primal minimalism. Axe-man Sriram K.R’s presence in the band has turned its sound into something less befogged and more monolithic, while Jayaprakash Satyamurthy’s bass work is likely to seem drowned out to the casual listener courtesy of the dominating guitars. However, a seasoned listener of the heavier side of music will quite easily be able to construe the bass-lines, which serve to illuminate and accentuate the riff in focus. A casual enthusiast need not fret apropos this nebulosity; as fuzzed out, solo bass guitar segments are ample which successfully throw light on this highly imperative instrumental facet of these droning-doomoid rockers. The bass work could perhaps be compared to the likes of Tim Bagshaw, who is known to alternate between bone-crushing dirges and spaced out, yet jammy elegies. The guitar tone is satisfactory, and is sufficient to please the seasoned doomster, while not scaring away the casual listener either. Siddharth Manoharan’s percussive dexterity is solid and handles tempo changes with ease, and certainly brings in some enjoyable grooves and fills into the compositions. Gautham Khandige’s vocal style is rather unique, at least going by the little knowledge I possess of the genre, and invokes sonorous theatrics, aural timidity and harshness at desirable and appropriately opportune times. If a comparison is a must, I would liken his vocal approach to the likes of, say, Scott Reagers, who had excellent operatic/clean vocal abilities and yet had an enjoyable dissonance to his voice that made Saint Vitus all the more unusual and noteworthy. Yet at times, the more harsh vocals are eerily similar to Lee Dorrian of Cathedral (circa Forest of Equilibrium era).

The cover artwork, conceptualized and furnished by Nicolas Huck is impressive, and envisages a sense of otherworldly allure and fantasy. In summation, ‘Forever in the Realm’ is an effort that certainly impressions upon one, and is unique in a variety of ways, although it doesn’t impart anything very groundbreaking stylistically sans the welding of the various sub-genres of the greater doom sphere. But it would be unfair to view it purely from a genre-specific angle, and one should take into account the demographics of the band’s local scene, and in that light the band is certainly a unique force, and is hopefully one of many such releases from the area.

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Lord Dying – Summon the Faithless

Mohammad Kabeer reviews the debut album from Lord Dying titled Summon the Faithless, released via Relapse Records.

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1. In a Frightful State of Gnawed Dismemberment (5:10)
2. Summoning the Faithless (4:43)
3. Greed Is Your Horse (4:41)
4. Descend into External (4:53)
5. Dreams of Mercy (4:58)
6. Perverse Osmosis (4:03)
7. Water Under a Burning Bridge (4:52)
8. What Is Not…Is (6:33)

Relapse Records have played a huge role in supporting the contemporary sludge metal scene. All of the great bands that today’s generation associates sludge with have been a part of this roster. Baroness, Kylesa, Mastodon and of course the band which partly sowed the seeds of this genre, Neurosis, comes to mind. Another band, which has now joined these names, is Lord Dying.

Lord Dying is a four piece from Portland Oregon, and their music can be best described as simple straightforward sludge metal and that’s pretty much it really. These guys take the best from what’s already been done and apply it to a much more simpler, a somewhat more mid tempo format. There are tracks here that do flirt with other genres such as Greed is your Horse, which sounds like a cross between something Portal would do and traditional doom, and Perverse Osmosis, the starting of which is very powerviolence-ish , but  mostly  the band stays directly under the shadow of sludge.

However that being said, they do stay firmly attached to their roots. For this album  has everything a good sludge metal, should  have ,  really dirty heavy guitar riffs, a very detailed yet heavy drum sound,  and  changing dynamics  between  massive guitar chugs and a more overdriven hard rock style, which makes this a fun album. Although not revolutionary by any means, this will definitely stay in my playlist for those times when I want to hear something a bit off kilter than the usual grind routine. I wouldn’t really recommend this to people who are new to sludge but avid sludge fans should definitely lap this up.

Stream the entire album below

Anciients – Heart of Oak

We apologize for the dip in our review rate… Gosh! You ought to know that we’ve got lives as well!!

That said, Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviews the new album from Anciients titled Heart of Oak, released via Season of Mist.

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Tracklisting:

1.  Raise the Sun
2.  Overthrone
3.  Falling in Line
4.  One Foot in the Light
5.  The Longest River
6.  Giants
7.  Faith and Oath
8.  Flood and Fire
9.  For Lisa

Somewhat disingenuously described as ‘progressive metal with extreme metal elements’ or ‘progressive stoner metal’, Anciients’ music is modern sludge in the Baroness/Mastodon vein. Remember how quickly those two bands went from crossover powerhouses to meandering, dentured versions of their old selves? Anciients manage to capture the spirit of their forerunners right on the cusp of that shift, not quite putting out the intensity of Remission-era Mastodon, but rarely achieving the bloat of Baroness’ Blue Album.

 

 

They’re good musicians – there’s no denying it. They have complex, involving guitar melodies, mile-wide riffs and a powerhouse rhythm section. It’s hard not to be drawn in by the energy and musicianship of this material. Still, ‘Overthrone’ sounds too much like an attempt to channel the chug and vocal delivery of ‘Leviathan’. Building from a clean, melodic opening, ‘Falling In Line’ has a compelling ferocity and a nicely eastern-tinged solo as well. The puling bassline provides a great underpinning to the questing, flowing dual-guitar lines. ‘The Longest River’ mixes in classic metal melody and touches of both Baroness and Opeth in music and vocal delivery.  ‘Faith and Oath’ showcases some of those extreme metal influences with an opening that could almost have been battle-ready old school death metal with a slightly different sound. However, we’re soon back in the loping, noodly modern sludge space. The vocals are too cheesy for my taste, both the melodic, soaring voice and the cartoonish cookie monster growl, but your mileage may vary. The rest of the songs are basically cut from the same cloth, apart from the flowing, melodic jam ‘For Lisa’.

Anciients have a lot of talent. Nearly every song contains great riffs, intricate and effective arrangements and balls-out brilliant playing by everyone in the band. I’m less convinced about their song craft, and about the derivative nature of their music. This style of melodic, epic sludge metal hasn’t proven to have much staying power, with the pioneers of the genre rapidly diluting their own formula. Perhaps the prog aspirations will prove to be Anciients’ saving grace, compelling them to move away from the fortuitous but somewhat shallow pool of zeitgeist influences they’re currently channeling. They certainly have the chops for it, and perhaps it’s time there was an alternative to the Dream Theater paradigm of prog metal.

Stream the entire album below:

Age of Woe – Inhumanform

Mohammad Kabeer reviews the new album from Age of Woe titled Inhumanform, released via Give Praise Records.

inhumanform_cover

Tracklisting
1. Like Embers
2. The King of Thieves
3. The Antagonist
4. Black Rain
5. At First Light
6. Red Eyes
7. Cold Cycle
8. Rite of Passage

Here I am again  with another review and this is a very  special  moment  for me  as this is the first time  I will be reviewing  something from  Give Praise Records,  which is a label  that introduced me to Hardcore,Grind and Powerviolence .  I have such great memories listening to gems like Soil of Ignorance, The Afternoon Gentlemen and Titanarum, and now to know that I have gotten an official    promo from the label itself is indeed an honour. The very band that I will be reviewing from this label today is Age of Woe and the album is called In Human form.

 

 

Age of Woe are from Gothenburg, Sweden, a place famous for harvesting Melodic Death Metal, this band however are a different breed. The band’s sound can  be described  as sludge  mixed with hardcore  and that’s pretty much it really, not saying that that’s  a bad  thing. I mean  the band has everything   that makes up for some good  sludge/hardcore, dirty  guitars ,  massive breakdowns   energetic drumming  ,adding slower sections  so that there is some breathing space etc.  Then again I do feel  that it all of it  comes out sounding a little  … well for the lack of a better word  a little redundant.  Honestly  they don’t   really have anything   new that they  can  bring to the  table , although they do try   to  at times  with songs  like Black Rain  which add elements of funeral doom and The Antagonist,Cold  Cycle  and A Rite of passage  which   gives the band’s  sound  a melodic turn  but these few bright moments can’t really hide that.

But then again for what it is Inhumanform is a lot of fun, if you  just   want  to let loose  without thinking   too much, this would be a pretty good choice, not the best but definitely a good one.

Seven Sisters of Sleep – Opium Morals

Today we have Mohammad Kabeer reviewing the new album from Seven Sisters of Sleep titled Opium Morals, released via A389 Records.

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Tracklist:
01. Ghost Plains
02. Moths
03. The Flock
04. Grindstone
05. Sunday Mass Grave
06. Orphans
07. Reaper Christ
08. White Braid
09. Recitation Fire
10. Part 2

I had   first  heard of  Seven sisters of Sleep  two  years ago, back in 2011, when it was praised highly by Jason Campbell aka JGCsound an internet reviewer who specialises  in Grind, Hardcore and Sludge. Unfortunately   I didn’t really   agree with his views and  thought of the band as a very dull Eyehategod clone, I was surprised then that the  band now was getting a lot of buzz  and  many  people were actually anticipating this album. To be honest  I had mixed feelings about this, I was  worried that this might  turn out to be  abysmal  and a tedious listen  but I was hopeful as well, maybe the buzz was true. Thankfully it was… oh yes it was!!

 

Start streaming the entire album while you read out the review 🙂

 

Seven Sisters of Sleep are a five piece from California.  The kind of music  they  play  can be described as  a very  harsh  mix of  hardcore/sludge ,with the extremely distorted ,very dirty,  very beefy  sounding guitars that  use a lot of gain and  have a lot of  low end  on them that  just trap  you in a  suffocating  wall of sound .  It literally gives you no room to breath , you are either being hit  by speeding bursts of molten lava  or are slowly beaten to death by  a massive  rock  which  breaks every  bone in your  body. The vocals  add to the atmosphere a lot,  switching  from unholy  monstrous  growls  to torturous  screams  to more traditional  hardcore vocals. Now although the band is undeniably brutal , they do balance that  with their simple yet  sophisticated songwriting and every  song  even though has the same main characteristics, it is quite different from the other and maintains  its own identity, this is exemplified in Grindstone  which adds  some crust punk to the mix, Reaper Christ  which  sees the band  experiment  with their sound using some Death Metal  and a slight  touch  of  stoner towards the end  and Witch Braid  which has a certain part where the band  uses  double bass drums   over  traditional heavy/doom metal riffing.  But what intrigued  me most about this band  are their transitions which seem very  organic . The band blends both the parts to their song and   the two genres seamlessly ,  knowing exactly  when   and what to play, not once sounding mechanical or rehearsed, almost  like  a jam band.  It seems that they don’t   talk much about what to play and what would come next in the jam room, they just play.

Now.. I know a lot of what have said seems rather sadistic, but honestly I found the experience quite exciting.  Seven Sisters of Sleep  have come a long way from where they first began  and it shows  in this album. They definitely deserve all the buzz they are getting and I wouldn’t mind creating some of it for them.