Friday, 18 May 2018

Amarok - Devoured

Labels: Translation Loss Records
Formats: Vinyl/CD/Digital
Release Date: 22 Jun 2018


1. VI - Sorceress
2. VII - Rat Tower
3. VIII - Skeleton
4. IX - Devoured

It's been just over five years since the last new music from Californian sludge/doom band Amarok. That last release came in the form of a split tape/LP with Oregon's Hell. They're now safely in the  Translation Loss Records fold, a label with an enviable track record when it comes to slow and heavy music. "Devoured" is the band's first full-length and features four songs, that continue their use of Roman Numerals, spread over nearly seventy-minutes. That artwork has captivated me ever since I laid eyes on it!

I’ve not been listening to nearly enough heavy music over the last week, even though I’ve felt the pull of so much, which is why it’s a relief to be sitting here now. I’ve been wanting to write about this album ever since I caught a glimpse of it’s stunning cover art and album opener VI - Sorceress doesn’t disappoint. The acoustic guitar introduction, which draws in layers of noise and feedback, breeds a sense of great anticipation as the band increases in volume. The instrumentation remains restrained as the pained screams take their place on top. Amarok’s sludge and doom has been evolving since the turn of the decade and they seem to be at peak heaviness here, albeit with plenty of atmospheric progression too. The changing of dynamic near the mid-way point in the song, with more metallic (but still slow) riffs and deeper growls taking over, the quartet breeds a gloomier outlook that’s catching.

From that harrowing opener you’re greeted with melancholy and a strange but reassuring calmness as VII - Rat Tower begins. Be warned though, that calmness only lasts so long! While the heaviness of the band breaks through again, Amarok certainly knows how to interweave moments of abject beauty into their music. There are moments of drone and feedback-ridden noise that transports you to a different place at times. This is so much more than just straightforward sludge/doom. From the darkest moments the brightest lights shine.

There’s no big build up on VIII - Skeleton, as Amarok flails headlong into a shorter but no less intense piece. You’ll notice that throughout “Devoured” there’s a lot of continuation within the melodies created by the guitars. It’s continuation that works well, as if the songs on here were once one long song, before being split into separate movements. The bass tones throughout leave a rumbling imprint on both your brain and your body, making it the doomiest, most bone-shattering song on the album. There’s plenty of groove present in the it too though, especially towards it’s conclusion.

“Devoured” ends with IX - Devoured and it’s glorious guitar, which at times sounds like a siren. It’s a crafted expanse of melody, layered together to relax you before one final stark and despondent stretch of sludge. I guess that stark and despondent aren’t terribly good descriptors, as they paint an image of something that’s hard to listen to and depressive, which this album is not. It’s incredibly immersive from start to finish, which an album should be. It’s meant to be listened to in one sitting and not in short bursts. This album is another example of what is great about sludge/doom in 2018. 

You can stream VIII - Skeleton and pre-order "Devoured" on all available formats below:-

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Elessar - Is This All We Are EP

Labels: Self-Released
Formats: CD/Digital
Release Date: 27 Apr 2018


1. Half Love
2. Stay
3. In All Honesty
4. Careless
5. Saudade

I'm going for something a little easier tonight. Elessar is a four-piece emo/alt-rock band from Gloucester, England. They released their debut EP "Reflections" back in 2016 and have recently released this, their newest EP on cd and on digital platforms. They recently went out on a short tour in support of "Is This All We Are" with fellow Brit up-and-comers Halfway Hope and EDM/Rock band Hyde Project, taking them to London, Leeds & Manchester amongst other UK cities. 

Elessar kick things off in a heavier fashion than I was expecting on EP opener Half Love. Driving guitars give way to clean vocals and instrumentation that’s reminiscent of bands like Hidden In Plain View and Drive-Thru era bands of old. It’s catchy and while the sound is very polished, it’s got enough heft as well. There are moments throughout where Elessar chooses slightly off-kilter song-structures in place of the more standard 4/4 time signatures. It shows through on Stay and proves that they’ve grown up with many of the UK’s more intelligent alt-rock/post-hardcore bands. It’s great stuff so far. 

The gentler verses of In All Honesty and the impressive percussion/guitar work propels “Is This All We Are” further into memorable territory with all of the true emotion and sensitivity that many bands struggle to find, even with more years of experience behind them. I’ve sort of eluded to it above but it’s like going back in time a decade or more, when the sub-genre wasn’t so washed out and thrived on variation. The punk-laden uptempo approach of Careless gives off a ton of energy, in the same way that Cave In did on “Antenna”, while the atmosphere that swirls through EP closer Saudade is very much tempered with restraint and relief. it paints a picture of loss and pain but does so in a euphoric way. 

My comparisons may be at odds with those of others, but they reflect the feelings that Elessar provoked in me. The UK has a rich history and present day when it comes to alt-rock and melodic bands. Elessar will be a huge part of the scene in years to come, hopefully and right now they’re are a band that we can rightly be proud of.

Elessar have "Is This All We Are" available for streaming and digital download from the usual outlets and you can here Half Love below:-

CD digipack versions and merch can be picked up via their bigcartel page here -

Monday, 14 May 2018

Blissful Stream - Dead Religious EP

Labels: Self-Released/Medusa Crush Recordings
Formats: Tape/Digital
Release Date: 03 Mar 2018


1. Downfall
2. Into The Abyss
3. Dead Religious
4. Black Ships

Doom metal has always dragged itself up from the darkest of places. While it has been long considered that doom metal originated here in the UK thanks to Black Sabbath, it's DNA has been gathered up and spliced via many countries from around the world since. One-man doom band Blissful Stream is from Hägersten in Sweden and "Dead Religious" is the band's third release, following the "Ascending Demons" EP from 2016 and the split with Lightsabres that followed latest year. "Dead Religious" was originally self-released but will be getting a limited tape release via Medusa Crush Recordings.

I’ve been allowing myself a bit more social/me time of late and have been a quieter on the blog front, which is why reviews haven’t been flowing as frequently. Sometimes that little break is good though as it allows me time to refresh and for the excitement to build again. Like the excitement I feel when pressing play on “Dead Religious”. It feels very much like Blissful Stream is a doom band from the old-school end of things. No lengthy 10+ minute songs but still enough gloom and groove to remind you of the band’s persuasion. Opener Downfall is certainly a fine example of this. It’s instrumental for the most part but unlike a lot of solo recordings, it doesn’t sound like it’s lacking put it that way. Into The Abyss is an up-tempo slab of doom that features more than just a hint of traditional metal and thrash. Martin Sällström’s vocals more than match the urgency of the song, reminding me of a few of the Swedish greats along the way. 

The title-track’s opening guitar riffs remind me of classic Westerns. The song itself again is groovy and loud. The traditional metal/hard rock influence is more evident here too and it’s sounds like Martin was there at the time that the sub-genres started and isn’t just aping them to sound relevant. EP closer Black Ships is slightly more stripped back and the fact that the lyrics are audible make it all slightly more approachable for those that maybe haven’t ventured into the true underground depths yet. That’s not doing it a disservice though, as it’s a cracking song and it rounds out an EP that ticks all the boxes. There no pretence here, it’s just pure heavy metal worship and that’s fine with me. Definitely give Blissful Stream your attention.

You can stream and purchase "Dead Religious" digitally from Blissful Stream below:-

Keep an eye out on Blissful Stream's page above or Medusa Crush's page below for news on that tape release.

Friday, 11 May 2018

The Infested - Raw Ensemble

Labels: EHC Records
 Formats: Vinyl/CD/Digital
Release Date: 21 May 2018


1. Believe
2. Hoax
3. Shackles
4. Shackles (Part 2)
5. Fight Or Flight
6. Dopamine
7. Monsters
8. SSRI Or Die?
9. Buy To Survive
10. Another Life
11. Outro
12. Turn The Page (Demo/Bonus)

It's safe to say (and it has been said many time) that Leeds (West Yorkshire, England) has one of the best music scenes of anywhere in the UK. From the most extreme metal right down to the artiest punk, Leeds has so much to offer musically. It makes sense then for the city that gave birth to Slam Dunk festival to be producing punk rock and ska bands that could rival any band that appeared on that festival's stage in it's early days. The Infested have been building their brand of "Punk Rock Ska-Core" since 2003 and are due to release their third full-length "Raw Ensemble" in a couple of weeks. The album title bares a cheeky little nod to Slayer (War Ensemble anyone?), but the music could not be further removed.

My frame of reference when it comes to punk rock bands employing Ska is the likes of Mad Caddies and Less Than Jake, but I’m probably a bit out of touch with such bands in the UK. Believe proves that The Infested are all about fun, while having a serious message within their lyrics. The music is solid but the vocals take a bit of getting used to, even for someone who likes hardcore and noisy punk. On Hoax, the melody from the guitars and the grittiness of the band as whole is great. In fact they could be the UK’s answer to Zebrahead, but with more bite. In true punk fashion they don’t hang around at any point on this record. Shackles exhibits their instrumental song-writing, which is super good. Shackles (Part 2) is a ridiculously fast number that makes use of a lot of hardcore influence but retains the band’s infectious punk as well. 

By the time The Infested reaches Fight Or Flight, they seem to have definitely found their song-writing chops. The longer running time and the added melody in the vocals seem to thrust the record to another level (in my opinion!). They stick to a briefer formula with Dopamine and the up-tempo urgency really stands out. It drags you kicking and screaming into the album’s second-half with raging drums and old-school punk flair. Thrash metal riffs and dual-guitar harmonies greet you on Monsters and that should give a clue as to how heavy this song is. That said, The Infested does still throw down plenty of skilfully played ska during it’s latter passages, creating a song of two distinct halves. They dial things back slightly on SSRI Or Die? but the ska is still alive and present, in a song that’s probably the angst-ridden anthem of “Raw Ensemble”. Absolutely brilliant! The further you get into this album, the better it becomes and the better in makes you feel. 

On Buy To Survive, The Infested play their longest song. Once again the longer playing time suits their music just as much as the fast stuff does. They’re even classy enough to throw an acoustic song into the mix. Another Life gives you more restrained musicianship but with the same intense vocal delivery. The Outro, which is actually the penultimate song of the album is an orchestral song complete with the usual pomp and drama. it’s really cool though in a slightly cheesy way! There’s a demo/bone song stacked on the end of the record called Turn The Page and it’s the closest song The Infested has to something nearing pop-punk. Overall this is a great record with bucket loads of energy. The harsh vocals may be a bit abrasive for some but this is punk rock and it was always meant to go against the grain. Nice job!

You can stream album opener Believe via EHC Records below:-

It's currently available to pre-order via the bandcamp page above on all formats.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

10 Questions: Scum

This interview was going to form part of a larger article; however, I've decided to post it up this evening so that I'm not keeping Scum waiting any longer. Scum are a London based hardcore band with links to links to Harrogate, where I reside. Those links have seen them release a split cd/digital EP with local hardcore band Ericbana (who I'll be featuring in the coming weeks). They came up here recently to play and EP release show alongside Ericbana, Leeds punks Strong Boys and fellow Harrogate band The 7ups. Thanks to Scum for taking the time to answer my questions. 

Who is in Scum and where are you from?

Scum is a four piece from Harrogate and London, Ross Lilley is our vocalist, Ash Merritt on guitar, Jamie Lyons on drums and Alin Lordache on bass. We're essentially nasty fellows who play something resembling metal/hardcore with a bit of thrash and grind thrown in for good measure. 

What is the history of the band? When and how did you form?

Scum was started by me (Ash) and Lyons around 2014 as a way to let off steam and exercise our musical muscles outside of the more straight ahead punk bands we were playing in around the time the band started. It didn't take us long to come to the realisation that we way preferred the musical freedom and heaviness of playing in a band like Scum, it quickly became both of our main gig! It took us a little bit to find Ross and Alin, two years in actual fact, we're still trying to get rid of them. Initially we started off a little more techy but as the band progressed, the groove became king, more extreme elements of punk seeped which takes us up to where we are right now. 

Have any of you played in previous bands and are you in any other bands currently?

Lyons and I (Ash) have played in a bunch of bands together over the years, we've done everything from hardcore to twinkly emo music but currently Scum is our main and only. Ross has played in supremely heavy bands namely Blind Mentality around the Pompey (Portsmouth) area which is where he's from. Alin played in a Birmingham based tech metal band called Rise Of My Empire for a good few years before joining us. 

Who write’s the lyrics/music? Is it collective?

The process tends to be that I (Ash) write the rough outline for a tune, then Lyons and I will properly get together in the practice space and structure it out and make it sound like us. Alin will then re-write the bass parts (always for the better). Lyric wise Ross is a loner so we solely rely on him to come up with shit. He's good at it so we basically leave him to it! 

What subjects do you cover in your lyrics?

It tends to be all quite serious and po faced! The folly of humanity, war, mental struggle, financial struggle, the political and social state of the world at large all are topics Ross has covered. 

Are there any bands that have influenced you?

A fuck tonne, the Dillinger Escape Plan are a massive one for me (Ash), mainly from the perspective of our approach, i.e. fuck the conventional path, make your own. Early Trash Talk and early Hatebreed for the groovy hardcore side of things. We personally grew up on a steady diet of Metallica, Pantera and Sepultura which all have a huge bearing on the riff style. That being said, we really try to not borrow too much from any one band in particular, we're incredibly conscious of when things do and don't sound like 'us' and we fully intend to keep it that way. 

What are your favourite albums/EPs at the moment?

...From the Ground by this band called Scum, duh. Seriously though, recently we all really dug the new Code Orange, we've also been on a massive Jamie Lenman hit recently, Devolver is fucking dope as are Reuben who amazingly i've only just discovered. I also recently discovered Bark Market who are incredible for that lo-fi rock and roll southern fried sound. The most recent Car Bomb album kills, and on that heavy side of things, the most recent releases from all Pigs Must Die and Nails, Employed to Serve, Knocked Loose, Fit For An Autopsy, Carpenter Brut are nuts. We're also heavy into various other genres from Horace Silver to Jamiroquai to MF Doom. 

What is your favourite gig/tour story? 

Every gig tends to be rife with alcohol fuelled shenanigans, it's the mental people that you meet gigging that stick in my mind. We played the Devonshire Arms in Camden a little while back, spent the whole day getting rather messy with strange old punks. The sound engineer turned out to be one of the said old punks, he went by the name of Diesel and bought a pitbull (who was much nicer than he was). He was a quick to temper old gentleman who did not take kindly to me calling him son in true Yorkshire fashion in a urinal encounter. People like that make gigging hilarious! 

What is your local heavy/punk scene like and who should we check out (band-wise)? 

Scum had two main phases of existence, for the first few years we were in London and unfortunately there wasn't much of a scene but in the North there’s Leeds with it’s famously sick hardcore scene, bands like Broken Teeth (Manc) and Higher Power (Leeds) are sick as well as more underground bands like Hex (Leeds). We're basically down with most of the bands that play places like Temple of Boom and Chunk. We aren't too aware of of whats going down in York but we're playing there at The Spread Eagle on the 13th of April (plug) so I guess we'll see! 

What is your favourite tipple?

The band drink is basically rum and coke, a drink we can consume to a shameful degree. Lyons is an alcohol bin and will drink basically anything. Alin occasionally brings us back home made Romanian moonshine from his trips to the motherland which tastes like petrol and could knock out a small army. Great for a cold, because it will kill you. 

You can listen to their split with Ericbana, as well as thier earlier EP below:-

Both are available as name-your-price downloads too.

Once again, cheers to Ash and Scum for taking part in this interview. I'll be posting up a review of the split soon too.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Black Earth - Diagrams Of A Hidden Order

Labels:  Bile Noire/Sentient Ruin Laboratories/In Solace Publishing/Malignant Records
Formats: Vinyl/CD/Tape/Digital
Release Date: 09 Mar 2018 (Vinyl)


1. Mantric Resonances Along Fields Of Dissolution
2. Upon Labyrinths Of Broken Mirrors
3. To Cloak A Nebulous Sun

Now for something truly noise-ridden and filthy. Spanish experimental black/noise trio Black Earth recently released their 2016 record "Diagrams Of A Hidden Order" on vinyl through BileNoire and Sentient Ruin Laboratories, having previously already been pressed on cd by Malignant Records and on tape via In Solace Publishing. The trio makes use of a myriad of electronics and sound manipulation, alongside the more traditional use of guitar, bass and vocals to present a sound that's cold and isolating. See you on the other side!

I’m apprehensive about the next twenty-minutes or so. Black Earth begin “Diagrams Of A Hidden Order” with distance ambient noise on record opener Mantric Resonances Along Fields Of Dissolution. You can certainly here the black metal that’s nestled within the jarring and harsh soundscapes, while the guitar and synths paint very distant melodies. It’s like descending into hell knowing that you’ll never return. It resonates with high-pitched noise (though that may also be screams) and a ghostly sense of foreboding throughout.

Upon Labyrinths Of Broken Mirrors starts off in a more restrained manner, but slowly builds with layers of claustrophobic intensity. It feels as though Black Earth is holding back slightly as times here, but you might be happy about that given the ferocity of the opener. The screeching ambience is back though and it fits the mood of the song really well. 

Closer To Cloak A Nebulous Sun hammers the final nail into the torturous coffin. Black Earth’s industrial leanings are clearer here and the images that are created by their experimental hymns are the stuff of nightmares. Extreme metal has always been a place of escape for many, though this record may seem too extreme for some (so let that be a warning to those who venture in). It does however, have an infectious element to it that is strangely compelling. 

You can stream and purchase "Diagrams Of A Hidden Order" digitally below:-

Physical copies (on vinyl, cd & tape) can be purchased from the links below:-

Bile Noire (vinyl) - 
Sentient Ruin Laboratories (vinyl) - 
In Solace Publishing (cd) -
Malignant Records (tape) - 

Social media pages for the above labels are below:-

Sentient Ruin Laboratories -

Monday, 7 May 2018

Atomicide - Furious And Untamed 7"

Labels: Iron Bonehead Productions
Formats: Vinyl
Release Date: 22 June 2018


1. Intro/Furious And Untamed
2. Flagellant Rust/Outro

The relentless pace of the Iron Bonehead Productions release machine keeps on going. I've roughly counted about twenty-or-so new releases that are already out (or are due out) via them already this year. This new 7" from Chilean black/death/thrash band Atomicide is due for release towards the end of June. Atomicide's journey amongst the underground depths began in 2003 and since then they've released two-full lengths, as well as countless EPs and demos. The trio of Atomizer (vocals, bass), A. Prophaner (drums) and Deathbringer (guitar) have current and past links to the likes of Hades, Death Skull and Unausspreclichen Kulten, to name but a few.

Side A of this 7” features both the Intro and the title-track. The Intro is typically gruesome and flows well into the fast flowing death/thrash of Furious And Untamed. Brimming with razor-sharp lead work, fast drumming and rumbling bass all matches by the equally low vocals. South American bands have always had a style all of their own when it comes to death metal and it’s no different here. The benchmark for me will always be Pentagram (Chile) but Atomicide does a great job of making the sub-genre their own here.

The B-side continues in neck-snapping style with Flagellant Rust, which serves as a battering ram. Even dirtier than the previous side yet there’s loads of groove buried within the music too. Another screeching solo reminds you of their old-school affiliation and breaks up the ground and pound. The Outro closes the EP in the same way it started. Atomicide certainly makes great use of the 7” format here by cramming over 11 minutes of music onto it. This is just really solid and hellish death/thrash that’s written and performed without pretence. The heady days of Sarcofago and early-Sepultura that put South American extreme metal on the map are being brought back to life by the current wave of bands like Atomicide and they may even surpass them.

Iron Bonehead has uploaded a stream of Side A to their Soundcloud page. Check it out below:-

Keep an eye on Iron Bonehead's website and on their social media page for information regarding the release:-

Iron Bonehead Website -

Friday, 4 May 2018

10 Questions: Respire

These interview features are starting to pick up a bit of pace. This instalment features Toronto (Can) based post-hardcore band Respire, as they release their latest record "Dénouement". I won't give too much away in the opening paragraph. My thanks go to Rohan and Respire for taking the time to answer my questions.

Who is in the band and where are you from?

Respire are from Toronto, Canada. Our current family is Ben Oliver (bass), Travis Dupuis (drums), Darren Scarfo (guitar), Egin Kongoli (guitar, vocals), Rohan Lilauwala (guitar, vocals), and Eslin McKay (violin, viola). We’re a collective in spirit and in practice - we have an open-door policy for our extended family of talented friends and collaborators. That means sometimes we have six musicians on stage, and sometimes there’s ten or more.

What is the history of Respire? When and how did you form?

Respire started in the bitter early months of 2013 when a few of us started writing songs in the basement of defunct punk house Skramden Yards. We quickly found a shared commitment to making music that was cathartic, honest, vulnerable, while also creatively and conceptually ambitious.

Have any of you played in previous bands and are you in any other bands currently?

We all met playing together in the Toronto DIY scene. Various combinations of us have played in bands like Foxmoulder, Tell-Tale Hearts, Quone, Araby, Ramon Gris, Delo Truda, Ruzan Orkestar, Homage, Marla Singer, and Tower of Silence. Egin currently plays drums in And Always, and a couple of us have other unnamed side projects in the works.

Who writes the lyrics/music? Is it collective? 

On Gravity and Grace, I think our songwriting process was conflict driven - we’d all have competing visions for the direction we wanted our songs to take, and the best or sometimes most convincing ideas would win out. On Dénouement we’ve adopted a far more collaborative songwriting approach. Many of the movements were often written together, in the same room. Sometimes someone may have brought a motif, sometimes it might have come together right there. The music of Respire builds ground up - we start with the bones and work from there. We take the time to score out our music so that we can share it with our contributors and make sure there is no unwanted dissonance. Often by the end of our writing process, whole new melodies emerge that become the focus, changing our initial idea of what the song might be.

The lyrics are often a separate endeavour altogether, taken on by Egin.

What subjects do you cover in your lyrics?

Dénouement only started coming into existence after our Europe tour, last July. As a composition, it is a direct reflection of where we were in our lives through the winter of 2017. On November 15th, 2017, Egin checked into an in-patient treatment facility for substance abuse. The following month in rehab really set the stage for where the majority of the lyrics in Dénouement were written - many of the lines come straight from the notebook they kept during their time. As a result, the lyrics are a reflection of early recovery - that first yearning for something better. A product of looking inwards, of radical honesty, radical vulnerability, of coming to terms and searching for closure. Above all else, Dénouement is a record about hope - about desperately wanting to believe that even through our traumas, the crushing burden of regret, shame, and self-hatred - there’s a light still fighting within us all.

Are there any bands that have influenced you?

Our influences are all over the place. We all grew up listening to 90s/00s screamo, which is the main common thread that binds us together, but we draw from genres as varied as post-rock, indie, metalcore, classical, black metal, shoegaze, and hardcore. Here’s a list of ten records that influenced the writing of Dénouement:

What are your favourite albums/EPs at the moment?

Some cool new stuff we’re playing at the moment includes Massa Nera, Shallov, Ostraca, Nevasca, Øjne, Ghost Spirit, Cassus, and Sans Visage.

What is your favourite gig/tour story?

After a show in Solingen, Germany, we decided we wanted to go swimming, and our friend Marta knew of a “pool” somewhere nearby. We hopped a fence, and ended up in carnival on the other side, which was confusing and surprising altogether. We rode a boat across a lake, posed for photos with some garden gnomes, and even rode in a carousel! That’s until we heard some angry yelling and barking, and ran out as fast as we could - only to realize that Rohan had left his bag behind. When we returned to retrieve our bag, we were confronted by a guy with a gigantic dog and a sword (yes, a sword). Luckily, Marta talked us out a sticky situation, and the guy was cool enough to invite us to indulge in our original purpose - to go swimming in their pool!

What is your local heavy/punk scene like and who should we check out (band-wise)?

Toronto is in what feels like the midst of a DIY renaissance at the moment and there’s lots of cool new bands popping up. Two members of our family, Egin and Rohan, currently run New Friends DIY with our good friends from local hardcore band Digest, Vanessa and Nicolas, in an effort to grow our little scene, bridge gaps with DIY communities around the world, and flourish an environment that can be seen as an alternative to the state of arts/culture in Toronto - something communal and shared, co-owned and co-operated - something worth fighting for. Our friends play in bands such as Digest, Life in Vacuum, Terry Green, Growing Fins, Tower of Silence, BOG, Lilim, Iris, Chris, Stresser, And Always and Nanette.  

What are your favourite tipples?

Our tastes range from PBR to craft IPAs. We’re all pretty excited about touring Europe again however, where we can drink lots of warm local lager, pfeffi, absinthe, and of course - Club Mate.

"Dénouement" is now available to stream and order on vinyl, tape or via digital download from Respire's bandcamp page below:-

You can also pick it up from the labels that helped to release it below:-