Bong – Mana-Yood-Sushai

Bong

Mana-Yood-Sushai
Ritual
Murmurs in the Bong camp have been quiet since Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s heaviest four-piece dropped ‘Beyond Ancient Space’ upon us all last year, a record so earth shattering and mesmerising even in a sober state was I able to be taken away by the hum and the drone of the band’s heavy brew. A few live shows aside, there’s not been much to see or discuss about their activity since. That’s probably just how they lie. No worries though, as their previous discography shows a prolific release record that has just been added to with new album ‘Mana-Yood-Sushai‘.
Where their previous release nearly consumed the whole disk (in physical terms), ‘Mana-Yood-Sushai’ comes in much less voracious at a comparatively standard fourty-six minutes. Even so, the band are in no less mood to entrance you with just two songs, and they’ve not necessarily become any easier to listen to, even though this is, incredibly, their first studio recording in seven years as a band. ‘The Dreams of Mana-Yood-Sushai’ is the album’s opening track, over twenty-six minutes long and equally rich in concept, based upon the first god and creator of all other gods in Lord Dunsany’s fictional work ‘The Gods of Pegana‘ (thank you Wikipedia, and The Sleeping Shaman for the tip). After a lengthy opening development that includes an ominous warning on Mana-Yood-Sushai, the song explodes into full ominous lurching mode, pinning down an ultra-slow four bar riff with the chant of ‘Mana-Yood-Sushai‘ booming in the background. The length of the song is such that it seems quite fitting in relation to Skarl, the fictional drummer who ceaselessly drums in order to keep Mana-Yood-Sushai asleep, to prevent him from destroying the world.
The second track, ‘Trees, Grass and Stones’, is at first a more refrained affair, with the bass drone somewhat muted to begin with, slowly becoming more prominent during the song. The ethers slowly burn away as the drone increases, revealing a slow low-end three note groove that underpins the melody, as psychedelic flourishes prevail more and more as the song approaches the end of its nineteen-minute-plus duration.
I personally don’t like this record quite as much as ‘Beyond Ancient Space‘ and some of their other selected works, but that’s not a major complaint and after the beyond-earth trip of the previous album, it is great to see Bong using even the slowest of melodies to create an otherworldly experience this time around. This record holds your attention throughout despite the gargantuan lengths of each song, and I managed it despite once again being completely abstinent of any supplemental vice, though again I can see why it might enhance the experience. Anyhow, there’s not many who do this thing better than Bong at the moment, and their reefer continues to burn strong.
Peter Clegg
Buy ‘Mana-Yood-Sushai’ here

Stream excerpts from the album below:

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Ufomammut – Oro: Opus Primum

Ufomammut

Oro: Opus Primum
Neurot
Ufomammut’s sound defies any natural explanation of doom. Intrinsically the core elements are there, the body hammer riffs, the booming drums, the thick sludgy grooves. The ethereal vocals, the spacey effects and the mystery with the band serve to convolute matters. Not that’s it’s a bad thing – everyone loves a bit of mystery. And then there’s their lofty ambition to stand out from the rest of the pack. Be this their collaboration with Malleus to provide their stunning visuals or the concepts they employ, and you can see why Steve Von Till was keen to make them an addition to the Neurot family. Following on from the success of ‘Eve’, Ufomammut’s next step is to unleash a two-part opus entitled ‘Oro‘. The first of those parts ‘Opus Primum‘, has dropped like a proverbial atom bomb, and even the highest of expectations for the new relationship between Neurot and Ufomammut have been blown away thus far.
Oro: Opus Primum‘ consists of five epic, sonically-charged tracks that elevate Ufomammut to even newer heights. The opener ‘Empireum’ slowly builds with an almost alien-synth noise that slowly echoes across the initial hum, the melody of which returns in different forms across the album. Eventually it kicks in with some fine sludge jamming, but things really go up a gear on ‘Aureum’, with a fabulous sludge groove that shifts around the 4:15 mark leads to a cracking groove and encounters many more twists and turns before it’s finally done. From there its reaches a sense of triumphalism, with the soaring ‘Infearnatural’, the thick low end slurry counterpointed by bassist Urlo’s majestic, entrancing voice as it starts. If you ain’t drawn in by that rare vocal moment, then I honestly don’t know what will. The lack of vocals don’t hinder Ufomammut whatsoever, but when they do use them, as they do on this song, they deliver. That spooky melody does indeed return at the beginning of ‘Magickon’, providing a nice set-up, and a fitting one at that, for closer ‘Mindomine’, which the melody plays out in full riff form, bringing about the experience full circle. 
Ufomammut – Aureum
The progression is such that it could be presented as one individual track – as previously indicated, riffs, sequences and lines are echoed at various points in the record, not unlike Meshuggah’s ‘Catch Thirty-Three‘ or, more recently and more closely, Mike Patton’s soundtrack for ‘The Solitude of Prime Numbers‘. It gives ‘Opus Primum‘ a cinematic feel almost, something in keeping with their audio/visual collaborative, and it makes it all the more interesting for it. Indeed, the vinyl versions of the record come with a DVD with the visuals for the album, an experience at this stage I can only anticipate to be mindblowing. The tracks certainly stand up alone, but it’s in its entirety that ‘Oro: Opus Primum‘ truly excels.
I kept my expectations well in check for this release, even given Ufomammut’s previous successes, but this is seriously a bar raiser for doom metal in 2012, and I really can’t help but wonder and anticipate what ‘Oro: Opus Alter‘ might bring when it is released in September.
Peter Clegg

Stubb – Stubb

Stubb

Stubb
Superhot
If one thing is certain about psychedelic rock and blues rock, it is that they will never die. Any style of music that can continue to pervade and influence some fifty or more years after bands started shoving them together in a drug-addled, scuzzy haze is obviously completely incapable of being killed off and might well outlive humanity. Until that day, we might as well continue to enjoy it, particularly when it comes to Stubb, a London three-piece comprising two members of the avant-garde grunge sludgers Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight (in the form of the rocking rhythm section of Chris West on drums and bassist Pete Holland) and guitarist and lead vocalist Jack Dickinson. Sent to me a few weeks ago by the band, ‘Stubb’, their debut album, is something of a diamond in the rough.


Proclaiming to be influenced by ‘heavy rock and psych from 60’s-70’s among other influences, Stubb originally formed in 2006 by now only original member Dickinson but it was only 2009 when the current line-up came together. ‘Stubb’ was recorded live with minimal overdubs and with a nice thick guitar tone, which is recognisable from the off. Any trepidation about this being another clichéd psych-rock release is thankfully largely unfounded. While Stubb are perfectly opaque when it comes to displaying their influences, they do so with effortless quality and with sparkling relevancy. ‘Stubb’ is eight tracks of mostly dirty, heavy rocking grooves, and the opening quartet are a real treat. The muddy tones of ‘Road’, complete with vocal mimicry of the post-chorus pre-solo lick make for a nice mid-to-fast flashy groover, before the deeper, bluesier grooves of ‘Scale the Mountain’ come into focus. The third track ‘Flame’ is epic, beginning in Kyuss-esque fashion, before morphing into a wonderful groove halfway through, and the uptempo boogie of ‘Soul Mover’ is bound to make you want to shake.

The album’s finale, ‘Galloping Horses’, is possibly my favourite track of the record, indeed what a way to finish. I had worried the album was beginning to ebb slightly; the folky acoustic track ‘Crosses to Bear’ is a change of tack, though it took a few listens to fully get into. The next couple of tracks suffer from that problem, for me personally at least, and it threatens to meander to the finish. But with ‘Galloping Horses’, just as it looks as they’ve dropped the proverbial baton, Stubb recover it to go out with a bang, with an incredible earth-shaking main riff which at one point speeds up and eventually slow downs. That riff is wholly infectious, and propels this seven minute monster into stratospheric rock bliss.
This is one of those albums best involved with an ice cold beer and maybe even some bell bottoms. Fans of the likes of Blue Cheer, Cream, Jimi Hendrix and modern acts like Graveyard are bound to find something to like here. It’s not all out trippy or anything like that; the psych influences are reined in enough just to make their presence known, leaving the real rock action to take centre stage. I’ve often made my plea for more real, more dangerous British rock bands to get more attention over the so-called pretty boys, and I wholeheartedly welcome Stubb to this renaissance, however much it owes to the past.
Peter Clegg

NB: Cheers to Stubb for supplying a promo

Live Review: The Devil’s Blood @ Moho, Manchester, 17/02/2012

Due to my poor timing and the journey taking longer than planned, we managed to arrive moments after Funeral Throne finished. Now, with only candles set up around a shrine in the middle of the stage, and droning atmospheric ambience for entertainment, we waited for what seemed like a long time. The ‘scary music’ was unceasingly dribbling out of the PA system, giving a restless and cheap feeling that probably wasn’t what The Devil’s Blood intended. Not to worry, this at least gave me more opportunity to spend over three pounds a pop for cans of lager.

Eventually five very serious looking figures covered in mud, blood and adorned in tight leather pants enter the stage. The frontwoman or ‘priestess’ remains out of sight for the moment, while her brother, the creative and spiritual force behind the band, tightly harmonises and solos with the other two guitarists.

The guitarist closest to me chants to himself whilst staring directly ahead in a way that makes me think he might have seen action in ‘Nam. The Devil’s Blood haven’t ever given the impression that they do this for the love of music. Anyone who’s read up on the band will know that their objective is possibly more sinister and occult; it’s also of much less interest to me. Obviously I can’t speak for all as Ghost’s recent success has shown; there seems to be a lot of people who find it fascinating. Still, The Devil’s Blood were crazy long before Ghost started dressing up as necrotized Klan members and spouting their devil worship. The Devil’s Blood’s explanation of their agenda and belief seems cryptic and long winded, but is basically aimed at instilling rebellious behaviour, and it’s no surprise to me that they ideologically align themselves with the likes of Jon Nodviedt from Dissection, whose beliefs lead him to shoot himself instead of making another fucking album.

The band’s creation of atmosphere is the first thing to be emphasised. Songs seem to be more of a ritual than played track after track. Lengthy build ups lead into a sublime moment where songs such as ‘On the Wings of Gloria’ come in with a spine shattering bass line. This is where The Devil’s Blood’s brilliance, which is their strength of their songs, becomes apparent. The vocalist stands close to the crowd, her arms open wide, beckoning, with wild hair and shrouded in smoke. Her powerful, melodic voice slices through the mix like a razor through flesh. It would be easy for her to over indulge, yet the performance fits the band’s psychedelic rock influenced style perfectly, adding another dynamic that makes The Devil’s Blood special. Another is the bands ambiguity in terms of their musical design, their certainly black metal fans but draw just as much in their style from the likes of Fleetwood Mac amongst an array of trippy 70s rock. I find the band avoids mediocrity and distastefulness completely, even lyrically, on a subject I generally find to be arrogant and stupid. ‘The Yonder Beckons’ was certainly a highlight in the set, with the band at their most imposing, creating a powerful energy to the haunting march of the song, which gives prominence to the bands most powerful weapon which is their musical subtlety.

Unfortunately the electrical atmosphere these moments created did not last, and the band did not attempt to keep it flowing by moving on quickly. Jams inbetween and during songs were far too lengthy; there would come a point where the crowd, nodding along, would expect the start of the next song, and instead were subjected to another five minutes of solo trade-offs between guitarists. I felt sorry for the bassist having to hold onto what shred of a riff they were playing ten minutes ago. Although it would have worked in moderation, there were several point’s when I wanted them to stop fucking about and play a fucking song. It was a shame that these moments had to contrast so much with the great ones, and also with the band’s ability to write songs with none of the bullshit or ego that was displayed live. This, combined with the venues’ consistently bad sound didn’t stop the band from being an impressive, enjoyable experience and I left happy, also I’ll know at what points to go to the bar when I watch them at Hellfest.

Michael Collins

Trouble – Manic Frustration

 
Previously, this series has focused squarely on individual songs that I feel are either under-rated or simply worthy of a little more love and attention. This series is not restricted to individuality, however, and today’s feature marks the first in the series to look at an entire album that for me is a classic that simply emerged at the wrong time to hit its maximum potential.
 
While Trouble will rightfully be remembered for their landmark doom metal albums ‘The Skull’ and ‘Psalm 9’, but their years on Rick Rubin’s Def American label undoubtedly brought about some of their most interesting work. Having further explored their psychedelic interests on 1990’s self-titled effort; those interests were fully honed and merged with another much less doomy, more energetic album titled ‘Manic Frustration’. Trouble were known from early in the career to openly reference the Bible and religion in general, but they binned this approach with the self-titled album, and portions of ‘Manic Frustration’ continued with this new lyrical stance, although I will touch upon my own thoughts when I begin to wrap this up.
 
The opening track, the riff friendly ‘Come Touch The Sky’, certainly suggests a spiritual awakening, although it could easily be a hazy trip (‘Tell them you came to look in my eyes/saw the morning appear in the skies’). Never the less, it’s not all drifting to the sky and magic trips – second track ‘Scuse Me’ is a real heavy metal anthem, standing for individualism and personal pride. Beyond that, there’s more mixing of Sabbathian riffs and bouncier Priest licks, including stand out tracks such as ‘The Sleeper’ and ‘Tragedy Man’. There’s not a great deal of variation between these, but Trouble were well on top of their game here, sometimes effortlessly spitting out quality riffs and songs that would befit any rock radio station’s playlist, such is their (somewhat unseen) commercial appeal.
 
Where the album straddles the divide between great and spectacular is reflected in the album’s two slower, more psychedelic, more melodic and indeed, Beatle-esque tracks. The first, ‘Rain’, appears fifth in the eleven track sequence. It does feel a little odd, as it doesn’t sit anywhere comfortably in Trouble’s then-current sound and their original trad-doom sound. But it’s a welcome change of pace from the old-school metal influences that pervade Trouble’s sound.
 
The latter, the closing track ‘Breathe…’, is as incredible an album closer as any I’ve heard. In contrast to ‘Rain’, it’s as close to Trouble’s classic doom metal sound as they get on this record, with Wagner delivering spoken word vocals on the themes of death and burial during a dark first half of the song, before turning on a sixpence halfway through and finishing on an uplifting note with another Beatles-style melody, the refrain of ‘down below the ocean/where I wanna be/she may be’ resounding towards the end of the song as Wagner flexes his pipes more and more towards the culmination. Simply incredible.
 
 Trouble – Tragedy Man
Alas, for all the critical acclaim it received, ‘Manic Frustration’ sold poorly, as grunge dominated the landscape with the dreaded lurgy of nu-metal about to stumble into the landscape, Trouble’s relationship with Def American came to end and while they soldiered on with 1995’s ‘Plastic Green Head’, they never did reach the metal spotlight that they had aimed for during their time with Def American, and went on hiatus in 1996. Thus, ‘Manic Frustration’ was consigned to ‘cult classic’ status. Trouble came out of their slumber in 2002 and still plays for a loyal fanbase today although they now only contain core members, guitarists Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell, and include former Warrior Soul vocalist Kory Clarke in their line-up instead of Wagner, who left the band in 2008.
 
Regarding the lyrics, ‘Manic Frustration’ does seem to fall into the pattern set out by its title, with tracks like ‘Mr. White’, ‘Tragedy Man’ and ‘Fear’ all dealing with themes of mental agony, while the rest of the album discusses mystery, confusion and more regular themes such as love and death. All with the exception of ‘Scuse Me’, of course, as that’s a statement of individual defiance. Songs such as ‘Come Touch the Sky’ and ‘Fear’ do still point towards some sort of spiritual influence, even if Trouble weren’t openly referencing the Bible any more. Lyrically, there’s nothing that stands out head and shoulders above everything else to be closely scrutinized – they are fairly standard by heavy metal fare. But Trouble more than managed to prop them up through a cohesive metal delivery, and without question, this ought to have been a triumph.
 

 
I had a lot of difficulty getting hold of this album and was determined not to resort to a cheeky download. Incredibly, the first copy of this album I managed to obtain was on cassette, which I found in a charity shop in Leeds early last year! But I didn’t want to play the tape, even though its potential collector’s value was lost due to the inlay being perforated. Unfortunately, the CD version too appears to be out of print, and finding a CD is very hard to find; hence, if you’re to find this, you’re probably best trawling eBay, or taking an MP3 download, legal or not. I eventually saddled with Amazon.

 

That said, don’t be put off exploring this album, particularly if you like your metal old-school. It’s a fantastic record and well worth the effort to track down. If only more metal fans in 1992 shared my enthusiasm.

 
Peter Clegg
 

Wiht – The Harrowing of the North

Wiht

The Harrowing of the North

Doomanoid

To the majority of you, Wiht will be an unfamiliar name. But to those of you among the UK stoner/sludge/doom underground, the Leeds three-piece are a burgeoning force. Having had the pleasure of sharing a bill or two alongside them, I can vouch for their vast potential and incredible live performances that are starting to get them noticed. ‘The Harrowing of the North’.

‘The Harrowing of the North’ comprises only two tracks, but over a running time of roughly 33 minutes. It’s a concept EP, as the bands puts it:

Taking influence thematically from the subjugation of the North of England by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, it tells the troubled history of doomsday-era Yorkshire- the king massacred it’s people and destroyed the land to ensure it held no economic or cultural worth and would remain under his subservient rule.

The title track, which opens proceedings, weighs in at a hefty 20:46 on the clock, but isn’t weighed down by it at all. It takes a good three and a half minutes before there’s any sign of the drums, preceded by a tolling and ominous intro, but soon rolls into action with a storming riff. The song twists and turns through numerous different passages, ranging from thunderously heavy to psychedelic and even minimal. The S/T EP was good but this is a major step up, incorporating all kinds of influences and melding together for one satisfyingly heavy jam.

Track two, ‘Orderic Vitalis’, gets on the front foot a little quicker, a bass intro soon leading into a mighty big riff. It soon heads back to the prominent bass riff with some psychedelic guitar and ambience effects, and minimalistic drums. This continues on this route for some time, taking you on a journey through a chasmous place, eventually building back up at about the 4:25 mark. The riff that soon follows is huge, backed up by bass and thunderous drums. Psychedelia filters back in around six minutes in and there’s a huge astral riff around 6:50 to get your head around. The remainder of the song continues down this path, mixing heavy stoner rhythms and echoey guitars frequently as the song heads for the sky, fading to synth at the very end.

‘The Harrowing Of The North’ is a masterclass from start to finish, and despite the huge song lengths, it’s entirely attention-keeping throughout, thanks to plethora of ideas placed on show. Fans of bands such as Neurosis, ISIS, Pelican, etc. would be far worse off for not checking out this band. And as a pay-what-you-like download, you owe it to the band to go check them out and discover one of Yorkshire’s best-kept secrets – which surely won’t remain that way for too much longer.

Peter Clegg

Alternative chill-out


In the last couple of years, my world view went from somewhat overly positive to that of a more realistic, slightly negative outlook. I haven’t found myself entirely pleased with my career track so far, to say the least. My moods haven’t always been the greatest – at one point I was a proper grouch, to say the least.
 
People have their vices. Mine is music. At my lowest I could took in songs more than ever before and found certain rock/metal/alternative songs to hold powerful leanings. I’ve found myself exploring certain songs and the energies they channel. Here’s where the words ‘alternative chillout’ come in. Chill-out is traditionally the realm of electronic music, mellow in style and no faster than medium tempo, and was originally conceived in order to give ravers a little bit of a break and evokes images of the tide drifting in and out of a sandy beach.

Alternative chill-out isn’t quite the same – it’s just a title for a feature on this blog at the end of the day – but the songs I’m about list I personally find to have that relaxing effect on me. They can still sound heavy, but have that ‘calm down’ feeling about them. It’s open to debate, and I’d be keen to see what other traditionally heavy songs or bands people find to have a relaxant effect on them, if only to try and narrow down ‘alternative chill-out’ or indeed give a little more clarity on what I’m setting out.
So here goes nothing:

1. Deftones – Sextape
[from Diamond Eyes, Maverick, 2010]
‘Sextape’ is an obvious one for me. It begins with that echoey surf guitar sound, akin to looking out across an ocean shore, before Chino Moreno’s vocals ease in. As the song builds to the chorus, Moreno asks to be taken ‘one more time/one more wave/for one last ride’, and then it’s the epic ‘tonight’ chorus. The song’s possibly about some amazing night he had with a girl. I’m not actually reading into that too much. I just find the song completely relaxing.


2. Jesu – Medicine
[from Conqueror, Hydra Head, 2007]
‘Conqueror’ is often regarded as Justin Broadrick’s premier Jesu album, and with songs like ‘Medicine’ its not hard to see why. The opening riff is absolutely crushing, but one Broadrick starts singing, the song elevates to another level and by the end, you’re on another plane altogether. It really does have that lifting feeling about it, almost as if you’re being taken away from this planet. And you can genuinely submerge yourself into this song without any aid in particular.
3. Earth – Rise To Glory
[from The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull, Southern Lord, 2008]
Taking a much different track to the first two tracks named, this track was second on Earth’s 2008 album ‘The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull’, and continued to mark Earth’s return with more Ennio Morricone, experimental and country influence. ‘Rise to Glory’ has a strange, cool down effect on me. Its one of those songs you need to listen during sundown, on a warm summer’s evening, perhaps with a whiskey in your hand.

4. Weedeater – Whiskey Creek
[from Jason…The Dragon, Southern Lord, 2011]
It’s hardly a pounding sludge anthem and it doesn’t sound remotely metal from Virginia’s finest weed monsters. Yes this slab of bluegrass, complete with the sounds of the swamp in the background, is the comedown you need from your reefer-induced trip. Or indeed, from the pounding you probably just took from the whiskey infested sludge feast that is ‘Jason…The Dragon’.



5. Premonition 13 – Senses
[from 13, Volcom, 2011]
This is one for the nights in the desert. Or, perhaps less exotically, in a field on a camping trip, for example. The ones where you’re watching the sundown, as the sky briefly goes red as day turns to night. ‘Senses’ then additionally works as you look up at the night sky. I truly believe any vision of the sunset and the stars could be improved by this trip, layered with echoing chords, and long drawn out bass notes, inspired by Mesoamerican culture.
I’m still padding out this theory of alternative chill-out, or the idea that heavy music can be used to take five and relax. I might bring back this feature with additional suggestions in future but I’d love for people to get involved and discuss this notion. Leave any suggestions for songs or improvement to this potential feature (or indeed how we should define it) in the comments box. Gracias.
Peter Clegg