Megalodoom – Tectonic Oblivion

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Megalodoom
Tectonic Oblivion
Witch Hunter

Some records are so heavy, you feel the weight of their delivery in your ears. Megalodoom’s ‘Tectonic Oblivion‘, quite appropriately, will do just that. Having previously impressed with their demo jam ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Grief‘ (later properly released through Tartarus Records), their debut EP, recently released through Witch Hunter Records, sees them truly accomplish what you’d expect from a band whose mantra is ‘No words. Just riffs‘. The opening track ‘Polar Vortex’ sounds just evil, in an ominous, Sabbathian way, but such is the boom coming out of every groove from the low end of the guitars and the thunderous bass that it isn’t just a superlative. And as the EP progresses, the Nottingham quartet show they’ve not just enhanced their ability to drag out a riff without losing its appeal, but also to create moments of such cacophony that they might well register on the Richter scale. The opening rumbles of ‘Sword of the Spirit’, the longest track here, are slightly reminiscent of High on Fire or Grief before they throw in another truly monstrous and devastating riff. The superb production ensures Megalodoom’s quaking delivery is pushed to the fore – overall ‘Tectonic Oblivion’ is another fantastic release that should belonging in your already bulging collection and confirms Megalodoom’s belonging in this frankly stupendous stoner/sludge/doom scene we have on these shores.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘Tectonic Oblivion‘ here (name-your-price)
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BongCauldron – BongCauldron EP

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BongCauldron
BongCauldron EP
Superhot

Hailing from Leeds, Jay (drums, aka drunken bog dweller), Biscuit (guitar, relentless Squatch hunter), and Ben (bass, abominable cave goblin), make up the sludge power trio BongCauldron. One look at the name of this band will tell you everything you need to know about what they’re going to sound like, and what they’re likely to sing about. That doesn’t make them any less deserving of your attention or your judgment. The fact is, BongCauldron serves up an addictive stew of stoner rock, sludge metal, and boogie, on their debut s/t EP. It won’t surprise you greatly, at least not lyrically, but the band know how to jam through tracks such as ‘Tree Wizard’, which contain equal amounts of groove and gruff aggression. There is some neat variation between songs though, with the single ‘Up’ a hearty display of riff and reverb, the speedy blasts of ‘Vehemence’, and the Sabbathian sounds of ‘Gimp Jig’. Overall, it’s a pleasing body of work, falling somewhere between Wo Fat, High on Fire, and of course, Sabbath, given a slightly rough production job to maximise the distortion and drive in every bludgeoning groove. These five tracks will firmly establish the band within the swellings of the UK underground, surely pleasing these hungry swamp creatures.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘BongCauldron’ here (CD/download)
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Review Roundup: Witch Hunter Records Special

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The year might be coming to an end but for Witch Hunter Records, the releases keep coming, and one of the UK’s finest independent labels has rounded off another fine year with three more releases, all of which we roundup in a special label-centric feature.

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First up, we have Old Wounds, a New Jersey trio with their debut release for the label, ‘II’. Three tracks of fast furious crusty hardcore, all clicking in under two minutes in length. This serves as a taster for a future full length which should see release in 2013. Fans of the likes of Cursed and Converge to name but two should have no problem getting their teeth into this, which snarls and bites at every turn.

Buy/download ‘II‘ here
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image Second up is Atragon, a Scottish quintet who play trudging doom metal in its truest form. The two tracks of ‘Volume 1’ conjure up images of Crowbar jamming with Sabbath, after smoking a giant Electric Wizard spliff. The second, fifteen minute ‘Jesus Wept’ is a galloper of a doom tune that reaches a slow impasse halfway through and elongates it for all its worth, squeezing every last drop of sweat from lore and listener. The vocals and drums are a little low in the mix for my liking but this doesn’t compromise the quality too much, and this is a promising statement from a band of misers.

Buy/download ‘Volume 1‘ here (name-your-price)
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Finally, we have a full-length from stoner rock crew Mage, entitled ‘Black Sands’, which the promotional flyer calls ‘for fans of Kyuss, Corrosion of Conformity and Goatsnake’ And wow, as a fan of all those bands, I was not disappointed. True, vocalist Tom possesses some of the same tones as one John Garcia, and you might swear you’ve heard some of these riffs before, but these are some mighty grooves from start to finish. There’s no harm in lifting from your peers if you sound good, and Mage sound great. Tracks like ‘Rust’ and ‘Super Supremacy’ are full of attitude and powerful riffs, emphasised by thick chunky bass that gives this quintet even more roar. Every self-respecting rock and metal fan should get this. I, for one, am seriously impressed.

Buy ‘Black Sands‘ here
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Black Sands‘ below:

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All other Witch Hunter releases and related merchandise can be located at the label’s official store.

Peter Clegg

NB: The label kindly provided promo on this occasion.

Ufomammut – Oro: Opus Alter

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Ufomammut
Oro: Opus Alter
Neurot

The indelible and esoteric trio from Italy known as Ufomammut have already dropped one stunner on us this year, the first part of this two-part trip, ‘Oro: Opus Primum‘, and as promised, the second part, ‘Opus Alter‘ now greets our ears.

It’s impossible not to compare ‘Opus Alter‘ with ‘Primum‘, unfair as it seems. It’s more than a companion piece, its a continuation of ‘Oro‘s theme. And that feels evident as this latest part progresses. Opening track ‘Oroborus’ features a groove-shaking riff that only changes nearly four minutes in for another riff, going round and around like the self-consuming serpent of lore, with some effects designed to unsettle just slightly. Repetition seems to be a theme running through ‘Oro‘; the aptly-titled ‘Sublime’ utilizes a build-up into one cracking riff and then back out again, while ‘Luxon’ is basically a reprise of ‘Infearnatural’ from ‘Primum‘. It seems to feel more immediate than ‘Primum‘ too, with less of the slow brooding and a little more forward purpose. Any questions asked about the truth that statement are firmly answered when ‘Deityrant’ brings down the curtain on ‘Oro‘ with a straightforward verve and a penchant for grooviness.

Overall, I feel as though I can’t resist a comparison with ‘Primum‘, and with that said, ‘Alter‘ is just a shade behind its predecessor in terms of its overall quality – but still a fantastic album in its own right, and in its entirety, ‘Oro‘ is nothing short of quintessential.

Peter Clegg

Ufomammut – Oroborus

Buy ‘Oro: Opus Alter‘ here

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High on Fire – The Art of Self Defense

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High on Fire
The Art of Self Defense
Southern Lord
 
The power of the riff compels me!
The power of the riff compels me!
The power of the riff compels me!

Rarely I have been so thrilled at the reissue of the album than I have with High on Fire’s debut album, ‘The Art of Self Defense’. Matt Pike’s stint in rehab and his recently stolen guitar aside, it has been a stellar year for Pike so far, with not one, but two magnum opera being (re)released – the stunning ‘De Vermis Mysteriis’ and the rerelease of Sleep’s infamous and incomparable ‘Dopesmoker’ that Southern Lord also reissued earlier this year. Some successful touring with both Sleep and High on Fire has commenced, prior to Pike’s entering rehab to overcome an alcohol addiction.

High on Fire have enjoyable gradual, considerable success since ‘Surrounded by Thieves’ and, in particular, ‘Blessed Black Wings’ emerged, but back in 2000, when nu-metal was still dominating the airwaves, Pike’s re-emergence with the then-fledgling High on Fire gathered little attention. Originally issued on Man’s Ruin Records, and then again with bonus tracks by Tee Pee Records, it was an excellent debut album let down slightly by a (perhaps to be expected) low-budget production that meant that the stoner metal vibe that High on Fire were trying to project at the time was slightly lost and the true power of these songs were never truly realised.

The last time I listened to any part of this album, it was a dreary day in Hull’s Rail Station years ago. I listened to the reissue initially on a walk through rainy Huddersfield. I immediately forgot I was in the middle of a soaking. 

Brad Boatright, just as he did with the recent Sleep re-issue, has done an incredible job once again of remastering and enhancing ‘The Art of Self-Defence’. Any initial thoughts about missing the old-school production eventually subsided simply due to the raw power. Like any High on Fire record, it needs to be blasted through the speakers to generate the full effect, to gain the full experience. After all, it’s the first Pike record post-Sleep, and one which sees his new band going that bit more aggressively, but still rooted in Sleep territory. Unlike later High on Fire records, ‘The Art of Self-Defense’ relies less on speed, more on broad thunder, crashing down with each repeated riff.

High on Fire – Blood From Zion

I mean, those drums are positively powerful. The intro to ‘Blood From Zion’ is positively explosive. The repeated tom rolls of ‘Last’ boom across the savannah, instead of fizzling through my headphones like that rainy day in Hull. There is a much more repetitive nature about some of these songs than on later albums, but that’s not a bad thing here – it feels perfectly natural. The intro to ‘Fireface’ could well have come from Sleep’s discography, and ‘Last’ certainly wouldn’t have felt out-of-place either, as it leads us all to another satisfying riff trip. The zap of ‘Master of Fists’ is the perfect finisher to regular proceedings, an impassioned stoner jam in honour of Bruce Lee, it would seem. One half a lumbering mammoth of a track, the second an ominous warning as it thunders out the remainder of the original tracklisting.

Of the extras, the bonus tracks ‘Steel Shoe’ and a faithful cover of Celtic Frost’s ‘The Usurper’ are much more what High on Fire were to become, the former should certainly have you headbanging properly. The remaining three tracks are demos that completists will certainly enjoy, the improved production highlighting their rough edges but still an exciting document all the same.

Plenty of bands try to conjure images of demons, witches, neophytes, monsters, tuskans, winged beasts and more – but none do it quite so fittingly as High on Fire. It’s grand that this once hard to find release has been given a new sheen, boosting its best qualities – the trademark Pike guitar, chunky bass and boomshot drums – whilst retaining that raw power and grit. It’s a must not just for long time fans of the band like me, but also fans who might have only just gotten into High on Fire as their profile has risen. Stylistically, yes it is somewhat the unfinished package – but their odyssey into thrashing songs of foreboding lore can once again be traced back to the start.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘The Art of Self-Defense’ (reissue) here

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Limb – Demo

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Limb
Demo

Limb are a newly formed stoner/sludge metal band hailing from London. Their debut demo was unleashed unto the world very recently, along with a video for the song ‘Daemoness’.

While I’m no expert on the matter, one thing to gather about the production of this record is that its sounds closer to how demos traditionally used to sound – that is, with that slightly scuzzy, lo-fi quality that fizzes across the records. The production is still above that but has that fizz running across it when at volume. This could be attributed to the noise coming out of the guitar or bass amps, but whatever it is, its a nice contrast to the relatively slick demos you get nowadays, and it aids this sort of music very well.

Nonetheless, slick production or scuzzy, it means nothing if you can’t deliver. Thankfully, Limb  show here they have more than just potential across the three tracks on offer, with a real Weedeater swerve mixed with the grooved aspects of Acid King, Goatsnake, etc. There’s plenty of steady riffs and crushing beats brewing from this quartet that certainly earmarks them as ones to watch.

Peter Clegg

Download ‘Demo‘ here
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