Sequoia: Doom it Up!

Another big rage last summer was Poland’s Major Kong.  Providing us with an immense dose of slow doom, they ticked mine and DeHud’s palates with the superb ‘Doom for the Black Sun’ release.

Well, the Polish doom scene shows no signs of abating, and while Rip It Up napped, they sneaked out a new track back in February entitled ‘Sequoia’.  Building on their previous melodic outing, they have delved even deeper into the dark pit this time, with the track oozing a stoned, confused mix of guitars and fuzzed up bass, all held together by Bonham-esque drums.  The emphasis this time around seems to be less on heaviness and more ‘rock’ orientated, [it even goes off on a Hawkwind-esque reverie at about 8 minutes] but it’s a great track for sure and hopefully serves as a portent of exciting new material to come.

Check this out:

 

Conan / Bongripper Split

Last year we made great play about Liverpool doom merchants Conan, with their brand of super-downtuned slow doom.  And just as I thought they couldn’t possibly top their last efforts, they’ve just released a split ep with Chicago’s Bongripper on Lion’s Roar records, which showcases a new 16 minute behemoth, the subtly entitled ‘Beheaded’.

A drummed intro gradually gets overlaid with the deep, warm hum of their vintage valve amps.  This continues for a couple of minutes until the super low tuned riff kicks in, and it pretty much stays like that for the duration.  That is Conan’s trick – they simply use the riff to bludgeon you into submission, and somehow they make art using the most basic ingredients.

This is a corking track and a progression as well for the band.

Learning to Crawl

Waaaay back in May this year, when we were still enjoying torrential rain of Biblical proportions, I posted about a band I had picked up on called Crawl, who hailed from Douglasville, Georgia.  At the time, I described their initial outings – little more than demos posted on Soundcloud – thus:

“A recent discovery has been a band that hails from Douglasville, Georgia and who go by the name of Crawl.  Only formed this spring, the band comprises Eric Crowe on guitar[of FULCI and ex-Social Infestation, Molehill & Hog Mountin], John Holloway on bass [Of Legend] and Tommy Butler on drums. This three-piece like to play heavy, downtuned southern rock with gusto.  Not yet in possession of any releases, you’ll have to check out these two tracks from Soundcloud and make your own mind up, but early signs sound promising.”

Well, they’ve now got their proverbial shit together and produced a really cracking 4 track ep, which is so sleazy and dirty it makes you afraid to touch the speakers.  The line up for this release is: Tommy Butler – Drums , Eric Crowe – Guitar & Vocals , Brad Claborn – Guitar, Bass.

In case you don’t know, Crawl delight in getting soaked in southern bluesy sludge – think Weedeater having a whiskey and crack evening with Tony Iommi and you’re not even close!  Slow and enjoyably fast in the same song, they have really come together on this release, a notable progression since their initial forays.  My feet were tapping away as I listened to this on the Mac, and I can only imagine how great this sounds in a smoky, sleazy club with the bass cabs pushing the fetid air right into your chest!

This eponymous slab of doom is buzzing with low frequency mischief and it shoots right up to the higher reaches of Rip It Up’s releases of the year.  There are, it has to be said, far too many bands out there unwilling to get a bit of dirt under their fingernails, and frankly this is the aural equivalent of an evening of the strongest pale ale and the hottest curry you can imagine – searingly good stuff, boys.  Play this loud, right now!

Mage: New Album Preview and Mini Interview with Leicester’s Finest Doom Merchants

Back in May, Rip It Up alerted you to the fact that Mage were an original sounding band hailing from DeHud’s spiritual home, Leicester.  I have recently been chewing the fat, internet style, with the band’s guitarist, Ben, about their new album ‘Black Sands’, which is due out soon.  If you don’t know, Mage are a 5-piece band comprising Ben – Guitar,  Andy – Drums, Tom – Vocals, Mark – Bass and Woody – Guitar.  With admirable frankness, they describe themselves as “we’re basically five guys who’ve been around in a variety of bands over the years, brought together by a shared love of “THEE RIFF” and a desire to jam and see what happens.”  My senses were alerted to them when I picked up on the self titled ep, released on the excellent Witch Hunter Records.  Combing heaviness, riffage and a mixture of doom, metal and a splash of hardcore, I was intrigued.

So here is a taster and a short interview with Ben about the band and how they work.

I started by asking Ben a bit about how the first ep had been received and how the band had formed.

“I think the overwhelming response we got from the self titled EP was that people really enjoyed it, but wanted more, it was a scant 15 minute run time as we were sort of limited by budget and time constraints at the time so our first release had to be an EP really. We hadn’t been together long as a full five piece as when we first started it was just myself, Andy on the drums and Mark on the bass having a jam as we were sort of in between bands at the time, so we wrote some tracks together as we were trying to acquire a vocalist, Tom came along as a mutual friend of myself and Mark and we clicked straightaway, so we carried on writing with added vocals but something was still missing. That’s when Woody entered the scene, he knew Mark  and again, it just clicked right away.  The first EP was sort of written by three different lineups really with a definite focus on being a Stoner/Doom band Initial riffs and whatnot were done as a three piece instrumental, which then changed as Tom joined the fold and changed again to accommodate Woody on guitar.”

Ben continued by telling me a little about the style and influences of the band.

“The new material on Black Sands has been written as a solid unit, a full band, everyone bringing something to the table, and adds a lot more of our shared and individual influences. We have a shared love of the whole Stoner and Doom thing, Black Sabbath, Kyuss, Fu Manchu etc. but there’s a whole lot more there too and I think it shows in the new material. To use a clumsy cooking analogy Stoner/Doom is the base but we garnish with bits of Thrash, traditional Metal, Hardcore elements and a dash of whatever takes our fancy really. It wasn’t really a conscious effort, it’s just how the songs grew organically really, I’ve slipped into a clumsy gardening analogy now… Basically, we’re not constricted by genre “rules” and have no problem throwing in a galloping Maiden-esque section, a chugging Hardcore breakdown or any manner of other stuff that tickles our fancy.”

The new album’s teaser tracks show a cracking production, and a maturity in the song structures.  I asked Ben to explain the way they go about songwriting.

“Our song writing process is pretty much exclusively jam based, we get together, plug in, stand around scratching our heads for a bit, then (all being well) inspiration will strike one of us, a riff will start and we all pile in and hammer away at it as a unit and see what happens. We have one of those handy little digital recorder things so can get stuff down at practice/jam sessions pretty easily as a bit of a rough sketch. It’s usually a good indicator that you’ve got something that “works” if you find yourself humming the riff you just wrote on the drive home or the next morning, there’s a lot to be said about a catchy riff, think of the famous Sabbath songs, catchy, direct riffs, but still heavy as hell, I think that’s what we strive for deep down.

After we’ve got a basic structure together, or at least a couple of riffs that feel right together we start to put it together, at first, in a traditional intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus type of structure, record that and Tom works on the lyrics and vocals. Once there’s a bit more of a song there that’s when we mess with it, lengthen a section here and there, throw in a fast bit, make room for a solo etc. and we all contribute to that process, it’s very much a group effort which is why I think the Black Sands material has that variety of influence but it still grooves along and works as a solid album, it’s not just disparate elements welded together for the sake of it.”

So which bands have influenced Mage, both generally and in terms of the new album? I’d say the ubiquitous Sabbath, CoC, a little bit of early ish Metallica and a flavour of Fu Manchu fer sure?

“Our influences are all over the place really really, we have a shared base of: Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Clutch, High On Fire, Karma To Burn, Corrosion Of Conformity, Goatsnake and all the usual suspects, but individually we take inspiration from a variety of all the different flavours of Metal and beyond: Mastodon, Anthrax, Hatebreed, Lamb Of God, Metallica, Carcass, Entombed, Slayer, Iron Monkey, Helmet, Primus, Rush, KISS, Foghat, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Iron Maiden, Napalm Death, Cream, and all sorts of stuff in between.”

Rounding off, I asked Ben to explain the process of writing, recording and releasing the new album – which must be a fraught process I’m guessing….

“It’s been quite hard work getting Black Sands to a finished state, our initial plans were to write through the Autumn/Winter of 2011 and record sometime around March 2012. Which didn’t quite work out, we had a few gigs which set back the writing process as the scant time we could get together was spent running the set instead of writing so the plans kinda slipped to recording around May time, which again slipped, and we ended up hitting the studio in late July for 2 days and then doing half a day in August to finish off. Again, budget and time constraints meant that we had to focus on getting things as tight as possible before hitting the studio to maximise what we could achieve.

Our recording process runs a bit like this: full band in the same room together plays the song live (this is used as the base of the track and keeps a live feel and groove), myself and Woody overdub an extra guitar each at the same time, Woody overdubs any solos as required, Tom does a first vocal pass, then a second vocal pass, mix it all together and you’re sorted. Which sounds kinda easy, but fitting 10 songs of that process into 16 hours and leaving time for mixing etc. was GRUELING, hence us going back for half a day in August to finish up.

How do you feel about the end result though?

We’re all really pleased with the end result though, it captures what we’re all about and adds some funky studio based bells and whistles to bring it to the next level. I’m personally very proud of what we’ve achieved with such limited funds and time, there’s always gonna be niggles and bits that you think “ohhhhh, I wish I could re-do that little bit”, but at the end of the day you have to draw a line and say enough is enough, and you have to realise that these bits that you may personally obsess over won’t matter a damn to 99% of the people who listen to it.

It’s hard to separate yourself as a musician and a listener at times especially when it’s something you’ve written, played hundreds of times and know inside out. It’d be nice to be able to hear it as a “punter” hears it rather than thinking “oh no, I bent that note a fraction more than I usually do” or whatever. But once you accept that it’s never gonna be flawless, and just stick it on in the car or at home and turn it up real loud it feels great knowing that you had a hand in creating that.”

So when can we expect the album on the streets?

“The masters are away for duplication and print now and we should have the final product in our hands early October. The rest of the tracks will trickle onto the Bandcamp page at some point before then and I’m sure we’ll have an online source for purchasing a physical copy at some point too.”

Cheers to Ben and the guys – and check out the preview tracks below – we’ll let you know when the album is available.

Effigies of Evil: Hooded Menace

Earlier in the year, we raved about the quality and quantity of doom that was emanating from Poland – bands such as Major Kong, Dopelord, Belzebong to name but three. Well the talk on the more doom-influenced blogs out there is that Finland is on fire as far as slow, heavy doom is concerned! I can kind of understand why this style is popular up there, it being generally speaking cold, dark and windy with the added inconvenience of a beer costing as much as a small house. Add these problems together and they multiply out of control, until you are left with the reasons why Hooded Menace were probably formed.

Now this is fully at the ‘metal’ end of the doom spectrum, which is not really the territory in which I feel most comfortable, my superb and honed punk sensibilities making me feel uneasy where white face paint, the iconography of death and funerals is concerned. But this slab is a really ripping mass of down tuned heaviness that bludgeons you into submission with every beat of the drums. Recalling late 80s and early 90s proto-doom with death-grunted vocals like Cathedral, for example, Hooded Menace carve out an epic, monolithic collection of deep, impenetrable riffs and a grey fog of cold, bleak doom. Chugging guitars twist the smoke that seeps out of the speakers, while the relentless drums shatter your bones and the vocals suck the life out of anybody in hearing distance, replacing it with emptiness and despair. Nice!

Hooded Menace, which emphatically does not seem to be a lament about the hordes of young boys roaming our streets with their Nike trainers and faces hidden by the hoods on their JJB Sports sweatshirts, have delivered an album which extends to eight tracks, not especially long but all harrowing in their own way. This is a slab of doom that you might wish to chuck on the stereo at considerable volume following the loss of a job/girlfriend/home/dog – it will almost certainily cast you into a swirling pit of despair from which you will only emerge a better, wiser man [or wo-man].

Slomatics New Album Due Soon!

It’s been a while since either DeHud or I sat back on our respective charity shop armchairs, popped a Tennents Super and cracked open a Doom jam on the stereo.  Regular readers of Rip It Up will know that in between the piles of punk we throw around, we are both fond of slow, low and downtuned music too.  And so, as I reported some weeks ago, we can now look forward to another hotly awaited release.  This one is coming from Northern Ireland’s excellent Doom mongers, Slomatics, who are due to release their 3rd Album in September 2012 on 12″ by Head Of Crom and CD by Burning World/ Roadburn Records.

Entitled ‘A Hocht‘, this is an 8 track slab of heavily downtuned doom, which makes me salivate when I play the teaser track, attached below.  Coming with a killer cover design by Tony Roberts, this album continues the theme which I wrote about in my review of their split with Conan, whereupon I felt that the music summoned the righteous spirit that lies within rock ‘ n roll:

“My experiences have led me to conclude that the Lester Bangs / Julian Cope view, that there is a Righteous path that some music takes you down, is essentially correct.  There is a certainly a purifying element in the brutality of the music that Slomatics play; somehow, because it is so slow, so low and so brutal it transcends normal judgments that we make about any song we hear.  This has the magic ingredient – the thing that bands like the MC5 and Sunn, for example, were shrewd enough to see – that some musics are attuned so that they reach our [essentially Pagan] souls and, by arriving there, impart their message directly.  Slomatics have decided that, in this weakened state, any information that they pass to the listener will bypass their learned conditioning, and go straight into their brain!  Awlright!”

The guys have spent the summer playing live, often in the company of Liverpool doom lords Conan, and indeed they are due to play Edinburgh together on 11th August.  Check out the sample track below and get an order lined up for when this monster drops!

 

Belgian Doom War

Right then.  I’m just back from the big city of London, and I’ve been involved in all sorts of exertions involving running the British 10k.  After standing in the rain for an hour and a half waiting to start whilst being assaulted by the sounds of Heather Small singing on the top of a double decker bus, we got going and I clocked a rather decent time of 48 minutes and 45 seconds.  That’s enough sports jock bragging – I am also here to step up what will inevitably become a doom war! 

Did you hear me? I said this is Doom War!

If you’re as old as me then you might have heard of a band called Magma.  Way back in the early 1970s, this French jazz-rock powerhouse was a real cult outfit, featuring as it did the twin massive talents of drummer Christian Vander and bassist Jannick Top.  They were so into their ecological jazz concept trip that they invented a parallel reality, a utopian planet [Kobaïa] for whose people they even created a language – Kobaïan.  But [and this is compressing the fascinating story rather massively] things turned sour after some highly regarded albums, when the two men took their musical differences to an entirely new level.  It is said that Christian Vander declared Magic War on Top, and in a truly prog rock fit of dudgeon, they each rented a castle on adjoining hill tops in Spain in order to simmer with rage and to plot and wage their Magic War on each other.  This reached its zenith, as Julian Cope explains in his mandatory rock’n’roll history/autobiography, ‘Repossessed’,

the original group had come to a stunning and savage conclusion in Spain after a wild magic battle between Magma’s leader, the percussionist Christian Vander, and the epically named bass player, Jannik (sic) Top. Vander had rented a hilltop castle for his own uses, which had annoyed Top’s ego. He had rented a similar place within sight of Vander and the two proceeded to wage magic war upon one another. [Magma’s manager] Martin Cole told of how he had ended driving from one castle to another trying to patch the band up, only to discover Jannik Top with serious chest wounds, screaming that Vander had caused him to tear his own chest open.……

…when Jannik Top awoke one Spanish morning to discover that his former partner/boss had caused him to rip open his own chest during the night, whatever despair he then lived through must have eventually been overtaken (perhaps much much later) by the realisation that, together in temporary unity, a bass player and a drummer had not only glimpsed that Kobaian Utopia which they had projected into the heavens – but, like Igjugurjuk himself, they had sustained long enough to visit that imagined planet and its Utopian culture and bring us all back a piece

Why, although important from a Righteous point of view, is this at all relevant to this article? 

I’ll tell ya why.  Because if DeHud thinks he can trump my recent punk avalanche with his awesome pick of Belgian doom, then I’ve gotta roll out the big guns, right?  Well here they are then.  This ain’t Magic War, Holmes.  This is Doom War! 

Did you hear me? I said this is Doom War**!

You want Belgian?  You want heavy?  You want downtuned?  You need SardoniS.

SardoniS was formed in the summer of 2006.  They’ve released a 4 song 7”EP on September 1st, 2008 which was highly acclaimed by both national and international press.  To promote the EP, SardoniS did a load of gigs in the winter and spring of ’08/’09, sharing stages with Grand Magus, Torche, Pelican, Kylesa, Coalesce and Voivod.  That’s a heavy heritage which gives you a taster of what this band is all about.  With two 7″ releases and a new album just out their discography is increasingly impressive.

Shattering, bludgeoning power issues from this music, black in colour, and birds of all nightmarish kinds fly out of the cold, dark void that is created as a result.  Heaviness is redefined by such doom – and they’re only a two-piece for goodness sake!  And despite the onslaught, they manage a varied collection of music.  It’s lighter in some places, with acoustic guitars making a nervous appearance, and yet the after a brief lull we are off again into the land of dinosaurs and weird creatures as the music crushes our senses.  Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes all out death metal, SardoniS are never dull.

Check this release out, it will scare you senseless, but all the time, your senses will be battered by rage, yet pleased by the hot, intense experience.

**Foot Note: As you will see from the comments on this thread, DeHud has dismissed my invocation of a doom war.  Although I am a little bit disappointed, it is also a relief, because it would have involved increasing work on both our parts to raise the doom levels on Rip It Up in general, so perhaps it is best that we agree like gentlemen to leave it here.  I guess it’s time to balance things out with some more punk rock then, folks!

Slow and Low with Compel

If you are a regular reader of Rip It Up, you will know of our great love for slow, instrumental doom amongst other things.  Bands we have so far featured in this little sub genre include the marvellous Thorun from Wales, Slomatics, and Poland’s excellent trio of Major Kong, Belzebong and Dopelord.  There is something satisfying about digging heavy music that does not have the distraction of a lead singer and lyrics; you may think it leaves the song incomplete, and I agree that there is less ‘personality’ in such musics, but on the other hand, you can get down and nod along, as happy as a short legged labrador in mud. 

In this vein, I have been contacted by Joe Horne, guitarist in Summerville, South Carolina based doom band Compel; he informs me that this two – piece, which is made up of him and drummer Tim Davis, have a similar lack of need for a vocalist.

Compel released a three-track, eponymously titled ep in April this year, and it is an intriguing listen.  Eschewing identikit doom, the band show their musical chops in the way they trade complex, technical licks and structures.  No fools, they know that a doom band should be part heavy, part dreamy, part rocking; this music moves from psychedelia through straightforward heavy rock and into slow, battering stoner grooves with applomb.  I will let you make your own judgment on this band by including, as usual, their tracks below.  They are a pay what you want download, so give the boys some encouragement, and inspire them to further doom!

Galaxicon: Deeply Dark Doom

Memphis, Tennessee has a heritage of rock n roll that is almost unequalled by any city except Liverpool.  Let’s face it, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Elvis, Roy Orbison, B.B. King and many other notables either originated here or got their break playing in the city.  And it so happens that I have been contacted by another band that hails from Memphis, although it’s unlikely that their style of music will ever be mentioned in the same breath as those listed above.  That’s not because I don’t rate them; it’s because they play uncompromising, heavy doom!  Meet Galaxicon.

Galaxicon is Paul on drums, Ben on guitar/vox and Shawn on bass/vox.  Between the three of them they construct a towering, dark edifice of doom so negative and angry that if you walked around it, you would most likely be sucked in.  They bring to mind bands like Zoroaster, and thus their excellent spin-off, Order of the Owl, in the sense that they whip up an unrelenting fury that doesn’t just drift off into downtuned stoner, but hauls in influences from other areas such as Sabbath-y rock, the desperation of Death Metal and even the good time, whiskey – soaked groove of Weedeater.

On 7th July they release their debut album on Good for Nothing records, entitled ‘Old Gods‘.  It is a diverse affair, because of the mix of styles and also tempos and structures.  It’s mastered by James Plotkin, who also worked on the Slomatics excellent release amongst others.  Never ones to shy away from complex timing changes, which is one thing I always loved about bands like Metallica and Sepultura, these boys have got a good ol’ grounding in music and it shows.  It’s always a risk that things get too dark when listening to doom bands, but Galaxicon manage to pull it out of the swamp and crank up the tempo when things get too inward looking and intense.  The sleeve design also wins points for having an inverted pyramid, a single eye and mystic symbols in one design.

Check this release out, crack the top of a bottle of Bourbon if that’s your thing, and whip up a doom in your living room with this one!  Hot tip: start with track no. 1, ‘Serpent Savior’, crank up the volume and let the doom hit you!

Skraeckoedlan – Äppelträdet LP

Try pronouncing that after a few beers! This morning I had a message waiting for me from the mysteriously named ‘K’ at Gaphals Records from Sweden.  The Scandinavian scene is becoming a bit of a recurring theme on Rip It Up at the moment; there is a healthy punk/hardcore/metal scene going on there for sure!  Anyway, I checked out a couple of releases from the label and thought I would mention this one, which is actually an LP that has been around for a while, although the release date is given on the label’s Bandcamp page as April this year because Gaphals have now released it in gatefold sleeved vinyl glory.

Skraeckoedlan is a doom band from Norrköping in Sweden, comprising Henrik Grüttner on lead guitar, Martin Larsson on Drums, Robert Lamu on vocals and guitar, and Tim Ångström manhandling the bass and providing backup vocals.  They have been cranking out heavy jams since 2010, having already produced two eps prior to Äppelträdet, their debut album.  It’s good to see something quite diferent from what is ostensibly a hardcore label – myself and DeHud were beginning to think that Eastern Poland was the only place where doomy riffage was being practised!

Kicking straight into a no-nonsense, bass heavy jam, the band excites at once and brings to mind a more lively feel that some of the recent Polish stuff we’ve been featuring.  This appears closer to Fu Manchu, or some of the early SST bands in terms of its lively pace – but it offers the same gorgeous layers of riffing and traces of psychedelic guitar.  In fact it’s almost a perfect synthesis of melodic hardcore and doom – which is a pretty damned good mixture of you ask me.  This is available as a download or as a vinyl release from Gaphals by clicking on the link.  I’ll bring you more releases from this label in due course!