Unkind – Harhakuvat

Back in August, when most of us were trying to get a bit of sunshine on our backs and find a long enough break in the rain to fire up the barbie, Finland was the setting for the unleashing of this furious slab of prime D-Beat from Unkind.  I know that it’s always tempting to refer to the dark/cold/extreme northern-ness of Scandinavia when reviewing a release from bands hailing from this region, but in this case, you can’t draw any other conclusions.  ‘Harhakuvat’ is a collection of despair and rage, with few let ups.

A five piece band, this eight track ep is their fifth release since 2005, and although there is an obvious influence of Discharge simply by virtue of this being classified as ‘D-Beat’, the influences on show here range from metal to downtuned all out punk that brings to mind the hellish despair of Wolfbrigade’s excellent ‘Damned’ outing earlier in the year.  Slow, metallic passages give way to all out headlong rushes into a snowdrift of angry punk.  I dunno if it’s something in the water up there, or if it’s the long periods of night time and the price of a beer [ok, that’s enough cliches thanks…..Finland Tourist Board] but something has got under these boys’ skin and they have produced a powerful, hard hitting slab of dark punk rock.  Have a bad day and then play this loud!


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!

Liberty Crawls….but Deviated Instinct Stride

I posted a preview of this some time ago, but yesterday as I arrived home there was a package waiting for me, and its shape gave it away as a record. It was my long awaited copy of ‘Liberty Crawls’, the new 12″ release by Deviated Instinct. The sender’s address on the label revealed it to be from Stian, head of Nakkeskudd Plater, the Oslo, Norway – based label which co-released the record with the band’s own Terminal Filth label. Quite why I chose to get mine sent all the way from Norway as opposed to thirty miles up the road [or ‘ruud’ to be correct] in Norwich I am not sure…but hey! Enough of my yakking!

After tearing off the packaging in a fevered state, the record I held in my hands was clearly a thing of beauty. Not since I bought a well used secondhand 1972 copy of Led Zep II from Dead Wax records in Huddersfield way back in 1991 [not that I am in any way an anorak where music is concerned] have I felt such a substantial slab of vinyl. Thick, heavy, gorgeously packaged [the sleeve is hand made and features artwork by guitarist Mid, who has established something of a name for himself in the record sleeve artwork world] album hinted at the promise of the music within. And the promise was not a false one.

My copy of “Liberty Crawls’ is in heavy company as I sort my collection out.

Blunt Instrument‘ is an entirely appropriate name for the opening track. Slow, ultra heavy and with those metallic licks that have always characterised the band’s music, it lopes along angrily before Leggo’s barking vocals kick in. He has clearly become a lot more metal influenced over the past few years, his attack suggesting something between Tom G Warrior of Celtic Frost and newer bands such as Wolfbrigade. Thundering into a slightly faster verse structure, the track lurches into a mid paced battering ram which encapsulates its title perfectly.

At once, ‘Architect of Misery‘ blasts off from the starting blocks with a fast paced metallic sound. This really rocks – sounding almost full blown Death Metal in style, it delivers heaviness in spades and leaves the listener battered into submission, but pleased by the experience. Shared vocals between Leggo and Mid add extra interest.

Flip the platter with your by now shaking hands and you get ‘Thorn in Your Flesh‘ – which is my current favourite track. Starting slowly with heavy riffage, it breaks down into a thunderous mid paced stormer which really rocks. Once again, vocal duties are shared; Leggo layering on the growling attack during the verse, Mid delivering the choruses with savagery. This track also, for me, showcases the band’s awesome rhythm section. Snapa creates a massive, thick bassline and Tony is a revelation as drummer. His style is hard hitting, technical and damned groovy.

A wall of harsh, metallic feedback introduces the final of the four tacks, ‘Blandscape Slavebait‘, subsiding into eerie recorded sounds of disembodied voices layered with distant guitaring. The track kicks off with a – dare I say it – melodic introduction, before diving head first into a mid paced, powerful rush with chugging guitar chords overlaying the solid bassline. The mixture of tempos adds interest, and at no point does the band enter the dangerous waters of over indulgence.

This release is a revelation. I followed Deviated Instinct way back in my German army shirted, late 80s hardcore days. They always frustrated me because although their material was hard and raging, with the intrigue of metallic touches making it more exciting, their previous recorded output was disappointing. They were always let down by sound quality and production, and this meant that a lot of people became disenchanted with the band’s records.

Liberty Crawls‘ shows the world that this band has matured and developed into what we always hoped they would become; a band with shattering delivery, crisp, technical production [respect to Bri Doom and Brad Boatright], tight, accomplished musicianship and, quite frankly, the impact needed to blow your balls off. Well, that might not be a great selling point thinking about it, but hey! You know what I mean….

Get this now, you’ll also get some bonus download tracks too!

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!

Let Dopelord into your Life…

Lublin, a city that sits in Eastern Poland, must have something strange in the water.  You may recall, if you are a dedicated reader of Rip It Up, how we featured the city’s immense Major Kong, who purvey a slow, stoner-y sound that suggests much too long spent in second hand record shops and a liking for rare herbs.  Well, I can tell you that I have recently been contacted by another band based in Lublin, this one called Dopelord, who are also immense, slow, downtuned and frankly bloody wonderful.

Dopelord consist of four members – Klusek – bass, Mroku – guitar, Arek – drums and my new contact, Miodek – who handles guitar and voices – although the main output of the band is that wonderful instrumental attack that we so loved with Major Kong.  Think dark, seedy club, low, green lighting, a haze of smoke flickering around candles, and lusciously thick, slow, downtuned riffiage.  This is a mixture of potent forces from all the ages of music, including St Vitus, Sabbath, Fu Manchu and as I have remarked before, a touch of the stand up righteousness of the Holy MC5.

Seven thick slabs of riffs are presented to the listener in this release, entitled ‘Magick Rites‘.  The songs ooze a strange, very intense green juice which might be a herbal extract.  They just don’t let up – this is what guitars were invented for.  What Dopelord have understood in their herbally enlightened state is that the stringed instrument was put on the earth to impart a higher form of consciousness to the human mind, thus enabling us to rise above the pettiness and pointlessness of our day to day endeavours.  Fuzzed out, distorted, wah-wah crazed chords just rain down on you as you listen, stunned, but pleased by your new found perspectives.

What I know is that, whilst you are in this state, which you have entered simply by clicking on the ‘play’ button of the Bandcamp widget below, you will realise that $3 is a pitifully small price to pay for such a stunning album of heaviness.  Get it – now, before I click my fingers and wake you up!

Breakfast in Sweden

To kick off the week, DeHud has already posted a short piece on the excellent Wallrides from Sweden.  And now, to act as the jam on this punk rock toast, I am going to introduce you to some more excellent releases that have emerged from up north in Sweden, courtesy of Monument Records.  It goes to prove that the country is capable of far more than just churning our D-Beat bands!

Let’s kick things off with a real blast in the face wake up call – Final Exit, which is a band that has spun off from another Swedish outfit, Refused.  A 5 – piece, they got together in order to go ‘back to the roots’ and play basic, straight ahead hardcore during their four year career.  As the label describes them:

“Sometimes they played naked and sometimes they even invited the kids to take the moshpit out to the street. One can say that if the members controlled their madness and rage in their regular bands they got out of control totally in Final Exit”.

Moving on, the next band I want to feature is a really solid sounding band called Artificial Conspiracy, whose 2 tracker, ‘Dead Eyes’, is released this month on Monument.

Heavy, hard and reminiscent of a slice of NYHC put through a blender with Prong, this ep pleases and leaves the listener shaken as their senses are assaulted by a wall of bass and guitar whilst hard drum slaps complete the assault.

Outlast! is next.  A long established straightedge band in Sweden, Monument have collected and released their discography in a – get this – 57 track LP, of which sadly only two tracks preview here.

Proffering a hard-hitting, punchy hardcore sound with crunchy guitar and hooligan chanted choruses, they make for a rousing listen.  As the song says, ‘Get into the Pit!’

No Omega have released an album entitled ‘Metropolis’ which is a heavy, heavy effort that introduces anguished sounding vocals, thunderously heavy guitar and bass that makes the ceiling plaster crack, and variations in pace that keep the listener intrigued.  My only criticism of this storming release is that the vocals tend to be a bit on the ‘screamy’ side for me, which is not something I find it easy to listen to.  But a varied, melodic and hard hitting effort nonetheless.

Finally, in order to really make your Monday morning complete, here is Dead Reprise.  Their second lp, ‘The Unveiling’ showcases a savage hardcore attack with a hint of that famous Swedish D-Beat sound, but made contemporary by the addition of liberal quantities of East Coast US hardcore power – the pace varies from slow mosh parts that will make you jump up from your breakfast table and form a circle pit, to fast chugging, Sick of it All style hardcore.  A worthy release and a good sign that Swedish hardcore is in fine fettle!