Wednesday, February 24, 2021

2020: My Favourites

It goes without saying 2020 was fucked. But between all the flaming garbage I think I made big personal strides in really discovering what mattered to me. And well, here are the albums from 2020 that mattered to me. Top 20 and Next 20, in alphabetical order, because numbered rankings are pointless.

All these albums are available on Spotify and/or Bandcamp. You know how the internet works.

TOP 20

16 - Dream Squasher (Relapse)
The Atomic Bitchwax - Scorpio (Tee Pee)
Bantha Rider - Binary Sunset Massacre (Bantha DIY, Piranha Music, AimDownSight)
Black Rainbows - Cosmic Ritual Supertrip (Heavy Psych Sounds)
Brant Bjork - Brant Bjork (Heavy Psych Sounds)
Dead Quiet - Truth and Ruin (Artofact)
Electric Hydra - Electric Hydra (Majestic Mountain, Tee Pee)
Gypsybyrd - Eyes of the Sun (Cosmic Stone)
Hymn - Breach Us (Fysisk Format)
Killer Be Killed - Reluctant Hero (Nuclear Blast)
Khruangbin - Mordechai (Dead Oceans, Night Time Stories)
Local H - Lifers (Antifragile)
Moths & Locusts - Exoplanets (NoiseAgonyMayhem)
Oranssi Pazuzu - Mestarin kynsi (Nuclear Blast)
Psychlona - Venus Skytrip (Ripple)
Sevendust - Blood and Stone (Rise)
Sons of Otis - Isolation (Totem Cat)
Somnus Throne - Somnus Throne (Burning World)
Turtle Skull - Monoliths (Art As Catharsis)
Yawning Man - Live at Giant Rock (Heavy Psych Sounds)


Acid Mammoth - Under Acid Hoof (Heavy Psych Sounds)
Big Scenic Nowhere - Vision Beyond Horizon (Satin) and Lavendar Blues (Satin)
Body Count - Carnivore (Century Media)
The Budos Band - Long in the Tooth (Daptone)
Deftones - Ohms (Reprise)
Elder - Omens (Armageddon Shop)
Dirt Woman - The Glass Cliff (Grimoire)
Goatriders - The Magician's Keep (self)
Huanastone - Third Stone from the Sun (Argonauta)
IAH - III (self)
Lowrider - Refractions (Blues Funeral)
Lucifer - III (Century Media)
The Pilgrim - ...From The Earth To The Sky And Back (Heavy Psych Sounds)
Pink Cigs - Pink Cigs (Harvest Studios)
The Re-Stoned - Thunders of the Deep (Qiasum Music)
Sepultura - Quadra (Nuclear Blast) 
Spirit Adrift - Enlightened in Eternity (20 Buck Spin)
Thomas V. Jӓger - A Solitary Plan (RidingEasy)
Tombs - Monarchy of Shadows (Season of Mist) and Under Sullen Skies (Season of Mist)
Yatra - Blood of the Night (STB) and All is Lost (Grimoire)

Special Note: Laat maar, ik verhuis naar het bos by Beaten To Death was available on vinyl only in 2020 and I didn't get a copy. The digital mix is being released as 4 EPs in 2021. The first three are crankable as usual.

Monday, March 30, 2020

2019: My Favourites

2019 was a good year but an odd year. As you can see I'm not writing as much. I'm listening to possibly more than ever but I'm just enjoying the experiences and not worried about "keeping up". Like how during "list season" I spent two weeks listening to music released from 1992-1997. I'm getting old and my memory has never been good. I've now realized I don't need to waste my time TRYING to like something. I've got nothing to prove. Music is personal. If I have to try too hard I'm moving on and filling my ears with the easy stuff. It has to leave an impression. It's like my brain has music receptors. Sometimes I don't have receptors for noise, or tech death, or weird screaming stuff. But I'll always have enough receptors for doom, sludge, stoner, etc. More often than not certain grind and death metal will find a place. It's all over the place. But as my hermit powers grow stronger and my circles get tighter I just want to enjoy every second of sound entering my ears. Here are 40 of the best albums I enjoyed listening to in 2019. And honourable mentions of course.

(Note the above intro was written well before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. My hermit powers are even stronger now.)

Honourable Mentions: Cult of Luna - A Dawn to Fear, Scissorfight - Doomus Abruptus Vol. 1, Speedealer - Blue Days, Black Nights, Alunah - Violet Hour, Smoulder - Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring

40. Yawning Man - Macedonian Lines (Heavy Psych Sounds)

39. Alcest - Spiritual Instinct (Nuclear Blast)

38. Takafumi Matsubara - Strange, Beautiful and Fast (selfmadegod)

37. No One Knows What the Dead Think - No One Knows What the Dead Think (Willowtip)

36. Tool - Fear Inoculum (Tool Dissectional/RCA)

35. Exhorder - Mourn the Southern Skies (Nuclear Blast)

34. Godsleep - Coming of Age (The Lab/Three Chords)

33. Russian Circles - Blood Year (Sargent House)

32. Year of the Cobra - Ash and Dust (Prophecy Productions)

31. Lightning Born - Lightning Born (Ripple Music)

30. Ithaca - The Language of Inquiry (Holy Roar)

29. Mars Red Sky - The Task Eternal (Listenable)

28. Vastum - Orificial Purge (20 Buck Spin)

27. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard - Yn Ol I Annwn (New Heavy Sounds)

26. Cruickshank - Cruickshank (No Why)

25. Magic Circle - Departed Souls (20 Buck Spin)

24. Ringworm - Death Becomes My Voice (Relapse)

23. Cloud Rat - Pollinator (Artoffact)

22. Crypt Sermon - The Ruins of Fading Light (Dark Descent)

21. Yellow Eyes - Rare Field Ceiling (Gilead Media)

20. Creeping Death - Wretched Illusions (Entertainment One)

19. False - Portent (Gilead Media)

18. Cattle Decapitation - Death Atlas (Metal Blade)

17. Gatecreeper - Deserted (Relapse)

16. Call of the Void - Buried in Light (Translation Loss)

15. Dead Feathers - All Is Lost (Ripple)

14. Danko Jones - A Rock Supreme (Indica)

13. Ian Blurton - Signals Through the Flames (Pajama Party)

12. Immortal Bird - Thrive on Neglect (20 Buck Spin)

11. Wizard Rifle - Wizard Rifle (Svart)

10. The Pilgrim - Walking Into The Forest (Heavy Psych Sounds)

9. John Garcia - John Garcia and The Band of Gold (Napalm)

8. Ancient VVisdom - Mundus (Argonauta)

7. Mizmor - Cairn (Gilead Media)

6. Irata - Tower (Small Stone)

5. SÂVER - They Came With Sunlight (Pelagic)

4. Monolord - No Comfort (Relapse)

3. Tomb Mold - Planetary Clairvoyance (20 Buck Spin)

2. Blackwater Holylight - Veils of Winter (RidingEasy)

T-1. Spirit Adrift - Divided By Darkness (20 Buck Spin)

T-1. Colour Haze - We Are (Electrohash)

Saturday, May 4, 2019

We Hunt Buffalo - Head Smashed In

We Hunt Buffalo return with Head Smashed In, their second album for Fuzzorama Records. It’s one of those albums that’s deceptively dense. On the surface it seems pretty straightforward but there’s some stuff going on in the back you might not pick up on at first. Vocally at least. Speaking of vocals, “Angler Must Die” has the clean vocals present throughout but there’s also some screaming that comes right out of left field.

We Hunt Buffalo also drop down into some heavier moments than I wasn't expecting. This is basically fuzz-laden hard rock so that added crunch comes in pretty handy. Ya know, a little extra flavour. It’s not that there’s a lack of riffs though. There’s lots of that to go around but you gotta season the meat, right? (or in my case, marinade the tofu)

Head Smashed In is a relatively “safe” spin. There’s great tone, sweet solos, and the parts where they aren’t pushing full ahead are sprinkled in appropriately. Some songs have great muscular energy and some…. not so much. Personally, I find their softer songs and/or parts lacking. Dynamics are fine, but they just don’t play to their strengths as well in my opinion. Personal preference.

They do craft good songs though. No awkward transitions, no overstayed welcomes, nothing sticking out like a wart. Psych atmosphere has its place as well as a subtle Southern feel at times. It’s consistent too. “Heavy Low” sucks you in to start and “Anxious Children” as the penultimate track grabs your attention again just in case. It’s got a sweet main riff, cool atmosphere and the bass just rules on this one.

Inoffensive, solid, riff-centric hard rock when you’re going to get here, equally suited to dedicated listening or background tunes. You definitely won’t smash your head in! I hope. Go ahead and crank the fuzz!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Favourite 40 of 2018

I read once that on average, people stop looking for new bands to listen to in their mid 30s. I turned 40 late in 2018 and I'm definitely feeling the pull of complacency. Maybe it's just because I'm getting old but my patience level has plummeted. Time is precious and I no longer force myself to listen to something because I feel obligated to. If I wrinkle my nose enough in the first three songs, I'm out. Besides, the endless swarm of new albums and bands that only gets bigger with each passing year is too much to consume. I wasn't giving anything a fair shake. So in 2018 I shrugged my shoulders and said "fuck it." I spent as much time with whatever album as I wanted to. A solid month of almost nothing but the new Corrosion of Conformity? OK! A deep dive into Brant Bjork's solo career? Why would I ever stop?! Weeks of Tomb Mold worship? Oh, Canada! With such a pullback on new explorations, I'm surprised I even had 40 albums I felt deserved to be on my list. I did have some rather unfortunate cuts to make though. Who cares? Anyway, here are the 40 albums that made me happiest in 2018. That's all that matters.

Please note, Clutch's Book of Bad Decisions is my absolute favourite of 2018 but I CANNOT be objective with Clutch under any circumstances.

40. Lucifer - Lucifer II (Century Media) - For some reason I was reluctant to like this. Still busted up about The Oath being a one-and-done? Regardless, I thought this rocked enough to make sure I mentioned it. 

39. Deicide - Overtures of Blasphemy (Century Media) - I was into Deicide before I was into Cannibal Corpse, okay? They're my kind of death metal. Deal with it.

38. Scorched - Ecliptic Butchery (20 Buck Spin) - Again with the my kind of death metal. Brutal. Hard. Dark. Sci-fi themed just makes it that much cooler! 

37. Ulthar - Cosmovore (20 Buck Spin) - Whoa! Death metal again? Ya, man. It was a good year. Ulthar throw a little more technicality into the brutality but do so with just the right dosage. 

36. Bongripper - Terminal (Gilead Media) - Instrumental, leaden doom will bring me pleasure every day of the week. So long as it's done as expertly as these laid back dudes who know how to name a band.

35. Sundrifter - Visitations (Small Stone) - So smooth! This kind of desert rock influenced warmth will take me to my grave. I could listen to these fuzzy-eyed jams til the end of time.

34. Domkraft - Flood (Blues Funeral) - Give me psychedelic doom or give me death! So blissfully easy to completely lose yourself in their dense and textured sound.

33. A Storm of Light - Anthroscene (Translation Loss) - Always been a fan of Josh Graham's work with this band. Thoughtful and hypnotic darkness that repeatedly smacks you in the face.

32. Trappist - Ancient Brewing Tactics (Relapse) - Beer and grind combine to make an intoxicating brew of absolute good times. I got 99 problems but Trappist ain't one! 

31. Monster Magnet - Mindfucker (Napalm) - This is far from the best Monster Magnet album. More rock and less psych isn't usually what Monster Magnet fans ask for but I'm still psyched at how much it rocks! 

30. Extremity - Coffin Birth (20 Buck Spin) - Top shelf death metal and 20 Buck Spin go together like peanut butter and jelly. As in, consumed by me on a very regular basis. This one just plain old tears your throat out.

29. Mountain Tamer - GodFortune // Dark Matters (Magnetic Eye) - You could throw this in with the stoner rock crowd I suppose. It is the riffs that make this so addictive after all. But the real clincher is the "SATAN!!!" scream. I won't tell you when it hits. 

28. Alice in Chains - Ranier Fog (BMG) - Fine. They're a different band since Layne died. We get it. What did you expect? That doesn't mean they aren't still one of my favourite bands EVER and don't deserve it, goddammit! 

27. Dead Meadow - The Nothing They Need (Xemu) - I heard Dead Meadow playing in a record store back in 2001 and bought it immediately. They still connect with my soul.

26. Vile Creature - Cast of Static and Smoke (self) - This heavy-as-fuck Canadian duo made quite the splash in 2018. The nihilism and heft of this crushing slab of catharsis should make everyone want to join their angry queer doom cult.

25. Wiegedood - De Dodden Hebben Het Goed III (Century Media) - I wasn't as enamored with this one as I was with II but there's something bewitching about the tornado of fierce black metal they employ to put the ice in my veins. I can't shake the desire.

24. Khemmis - Desolation (20 Buck Spin) - I saw Khemmis play at Migration Fest and they needed a longer set. Such great songwriting. Power, melody, passion. Even better with beer.

23. Psychlona - Mojo Rising (Ripple) - Sometimes I just need an overdose of psych dancing in oblivion with a god-like profusion of fuzzed-out riffs. It gets my mojo rising. Man.

22. Castle - Deal Thy Fate (Ripple) - Speaking of riffs... This duo really cranks them out. Sorta lo-fi, sorta retro, lotsa headbanging fun. A doomy crunch nodding to classic rock. Catchy as all get out!

21. Sunnata - Outlands (self) - Oh my goodness have I enjoyed sinking into the ethereal place this album takes me. The psych factor here is sky high. Dangerously hypnotic and completely mesmerizing.

20. Conan - Existential Void Guardian (Napalm) - I'm always down for some caveman battle doom! And with that extra muscle the new drummer brings you know my steering wheel is getting a serious beating! 

19. Slaves BC - Lo, and I Am Burning (Fear & The Void) - I had the pleasure of meeting drummer-vocalist Josh Thieler and he's basically the polar opposite of the gnarly, dark, at times terrifying menace that comes blasting out of my speakers. Only ashes remain.

17 and 18. Black Space Riders - Amoretum Vol. 1 & 2 (Black Space/Cargo) - Not sure how to describe this. It makes me think of 80s/90s goth/emo/new wave but they carry a swagger and a hard edge that keeps it from feeling sappy. And we got two albums of it this year! Did I mention the tags of psychedelic, stoner, prog and space rock on their bandcamp?

16. Corrosion of Conformity - No Cross No Crown (Nuclear Blast) - Pepper's back!!! Not that I didn't like the other lineup (again) but I discovered the band during the previous Pepper years so this return to form hits all the right spots!

15. Tomb Mold - Manor of Infinite Forms (20 Buck Spin) - Funny how I had to go all the way to Pittsburgh to see Tomb Mold when Toronto is two hours down the road. It was worth it to see all their filthy death metal in the flesh.

14. Gozu - Equilibrium (Metal Blade) - I bought one vinyl record in 2018. This one. How was I lucky enough to see them "at home"? No matter. There's stoner rock/metal and then there's Gozu. They are like a drug. A highly addictive, psychedelic, somewhat progressive, hard-hitting drug. With the year's best album cover. (Edit: I bought the Slaves BC vinyl too.)

13. Beaten to Death - Agronomicon (Mas-kina) - Keeping a new B2D album out of the top 10 was hard. But it came out on Christmas Eve. I basically had to postpone this list because it. They are their own brand of melodic grindcore. Crazy good craziness.

12. Skeletonwitch - Devouring Radiant Light (Prosthetic) - I never doubted Adam Clemans as the new singer in Skeletonwitch but now I have fully embraced him. This seems like a more mature album that still rips as hard as they always have.

11. Wolvhammer - The Monuments of Ash and Bone (Blood Music) - Speaking of Adam Clemans.... He kills it with Wolvhammer too. This album takes over my body until I am "The Failure King"! Burly black metal that still hammers the riffs into you forever. Incredible.

Because I thought I did a good job, and because I want to get this thing posted now that it's MARCH, the following blurbs are copied from an original post at Enough procrastinating!!!

10. Cancer Bats - The Spark That Moves (New Damage/Bat Skull) - I was more than pleasantly surprised when this dropped out of nowhere on April 20. (Coincidence?) The Spark That Moves feels like a comeback record to me. They’ve never not been great but this has an energy that supercharged my being in a way they haven’t since Hail Destroyer. It was a daily listen for months. The summer months were definitely the brightest days thanks to their high energy, meaningful, and fun fusion of hardcore, sludge and whatever else they can squeeze in. I saw some these songs live too and let me tell you, dude…

9. Soulfly - Ritual (Napalm) - I would usually leave Soulfly off a list like this altogether due to personal bias (the first tattoo I ever got was a Soulfly logo) but Ritual warrants the recognition due to the change in direction the band takes. Soulfly had been going in a more intense death-thrash direction on recent efforts but Ritual sounds more like Max Cavalera in the mid-to-late ’90s. Late Sepultura, early Soulfly. Not nu-metal though. Groovy? Sure. Tribal? Some. Intensity? You better believe it. It impressed many fans who had given up ages ago and even some that have hung in the whole time.

8. Windhand - Eternal Return (Relapse) - Virginia’s Windhand teased ever so tantalizingly with their half of a split with Satan’s Satyrs. That appetizer was the perfect setup for the satisfying main course. Eternal Return satiates all doom desires. The warm tones penetrate your body while the flowing riffs liquify your bones into a vaporous syrup. Dorthia Cottrell continues her reign among the most affecting doom vocalists of this, or any age in the genre’s evolution. Windhand’s earthly and bewitching doom is a blessing of mood music. The beauty of it is there’s a whole range of moods Eternal Return can amplify or soothe. A potent elixir for all your ills.

7. Secret Cutter - Quantum Eraser (self) - Have you ever seen an industrial metal stamp in action? Bending thick steel into whatever shape the creator desires. Intense irresistible downward force. Complete obliteration. That’s how Secret Cutter destroy you. They crush so hard you’re erased down to a quantum level. It’s a heavy as fuck exercise in sludge, doom, and grind. Spine-tingling vocals set hairs on end as their curiously bent chords mold your skull into new and interesting shapes. Nothing else out there this year hits like the planet smashing sledgehammering Secret Cutter dish out. This music will bruise you.

6. Astrakhan - Without New Growth Process is Bloodshed (self) - RIP Astrakhan. With this release it was made known that Astrakhan was to be no more. The SADness of February’s cold days took a new twist as Sans Astrakhan Disorder. The cure actually comes in the form of listening to the album. WNGPIB is masterful. There’s no term for their progressive, post-, hard-charging, doomy, sludge-into-stoner metal. That indescribability adds to its charm. Serpentine riffs and dynamic intensity take the listener through a lifetime of emotional shifts. Harmonies and vocals stretch your soul like puddy, solos send your mind exploding across galaxies, and the whole package… sadly wasn’t released on vinyl. I’m pretty excited for the guitarists’ new project Brugada though.

5. Fu Manchu - Clone of the Universe (New Damage/At the Dojo) - All that really needs to be said about Clone of the Universe is that there is an 18 minute song on it that features Alex Lifeson of Rush. He doesn’t play for the whole 18 minutes mind you but it’s still way cool. It’s also pretty cool that a band known for short-ish punchy tunes pulled off such a monster track and even embedded it with a new essential Fu Manchu moment. Light the throttle!!! Scott Hill and company do have surprises up their sleeve! Rest assured though the runtime friendly anthems of California-baked coolness that make up the rest of album leave their mark too. Fu Manchu doing Fu Manchu, with an adventurous twist.

4. Sleep - The Sciences (Third Man) - I’ve been a Sleep fan since I first discovered them in 2000. Jerusalem was unlike anything I had heard before. I finally got a chance to see them play back in August. They didn’t play all of Jerusalem/Dopesmoker but they did play some of it. They also played a bunch of songs from The Sciences, their first full-length since Dopesmoker was originally released in 2003. “Sonic Titan” is a holdover from those days given a boost from studio production. The songs range in length from the 3 minute intro/title track to the 14:23 of “Antarcticans Thawed” and every second is unmistakably Sleep. “Giza Butler” might be the second best song they’ve ever written. There’s a riff in there that is my spirit animal. Throw me off a bridge. I don’t care as long as that’s what I hear on the way down.

3. Brant Bjork - Mankind Woman (Heavy Psych Sounds) - This past year or so I have REALLY gotten into Brant Bjork. I loved Black Power Flower and Tao of the Devil but I never really dug into the past. I did this year. Partly due to Mankind Woman. I needed more. And more. As much as I could get. (HPS is actually reissuing most of his back catalogue so….) I can’t even get enough of this album though. Shades of funk and blues. Groove. Psych. Stoner vibes. An overwhelming sense of chill. These are some of my favourite things…about the album. And the lyrics. Songs about life. Diamond hard nuggets of wisdom. “Nation of Indica” is my favourite song of the year for just such reasons. Stay chill, my friends.

2. High on Fire - Electric Messiah (eOne) - My guess is that after dragging his strings around in Sleep and their new material he needed to balance that by making a new High on Fire album as intense as humanly possible. There is a fire burning under Electric Messiah that’s heating those riffs to a rapid boil. Add in the white hot electricity of this trio and you’ll be seeing God. Everything feels 110%. They’ve been at this a long while, and not without challenges, but they bludgeon with such conviction here you’d think their faces were young and fresh. So muscular, so intense, so brilliantly executed. I don’t care how people feel about High on Fire production (I hear nothing wrong here). It’s about the songs. I LOVE THESE SONGS.

1. Yob - Our Raw Heart (Relapse) - Yob’s Mike Scheidt fought a battle with death and won. Our Raw Heart is the result. No album this year made me FEEL as much as this one. As heavy as it is triumphant, it stirs the emotional pot for the duration. “Beauty in Falling Leaves”, the longest track on the album, challenges “Marrow” for most heart-wrenching Yob song ever. It feels like the band really came together on a higher level for this. I’m still baffled there was a time I didn’t even like Yob. Now I can’t imagine a world without their music. Such powerful doom is therapeutic, transporting the listener to a place both of and beyond suffering. To me at least, music like this is essential.

Thanks for hangin' in there.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Coffin Torture - Dismal Planet

Cover art by Thorfinn

Coffin Torture couldn't really have chosen a better name for their album. Dismal Planet works as both a reference to the state of the Earth in these times and as a reflection of the gargantuan sludge/doom the duo rely on to break up all that wax crusting up your ears.

Thorfinn handles guitar, bass, and vocals with Blind Samson handling drums, keyboards, and samples. You'll have to listen hard for those keys and samples but that's okay because this begs to be cranked to maximum volume. Secure any loose items first unless you want them on the floor. The level of low end distortion emanating from the speakers registers on the Richter Scale. It's a planet-sized record bleeding filth and darkness enough that “dismal” could be the most appropriate descriptor needed.

Coffin Torture work through a variety of tempos but by and large they operate on two levels; doom and sludge. Slow and not as slow. The faster parts are really driven by the percussion as the fuzz truly permeates the auditory spectrum and flows into one overwhelming wave of distortion. Layers stack upon one another until it creates a sound so thick and sustaining that silence is just not an option. The notes though are not hidden by the blanket of sustained noise affecting every nerve in your body. They just resonate. The notes hit like hammers and leave a lasting impression of residual amplifier strain.

The nuance here is subtle but effective. A ringing phone here, some psychedelic flavouring there, etc. In a way the straightforward nature of their low-slung sludge-conjuring doom doesn't have much to say but when the music holds you down and delivers this much pain the most poignant things to say don't even come out as words. In much the same way the lyrics come as perhaps less important than the way they are expressed. I'm sure Thorfinn would disagree, and I'm not trying to discount lyrics in any way but you can't help but feed off the rawness of the vocals.

It's pretty obvious what you're getting with Dismal Planet. Mountain-crumbling doom fused to sick sludge riffs heavy enough to affect your gas mileage. Coffin Torture bury the listener neck deep in fuzz then deliver a righteous beating that only dents the wall of distortion. Duos like this have a way of getting in, kicking ass, and getting out before the supernova explodes. Explode away.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Kingdom of Noise Picks the Best of 2017: Top 20

Hey! Yeah, I meant to get around to posting this weeks ago but life gets in the way. Life is continuing to do that so I'm just going to post my Top 20 of 2017 without blurbs and stuff. Just the band, album, label and a link. That should be enough, eh?

20. Monolord - Rust (Riding Easy)

19. Archspire - Relentless Mutation (Season of Mist)

18. Cannibal Corpse - Red Before Black (Metal Blade)

17. Necrolytic Goat Converter - Isolated Evolution (self-released)

16. Mutoid Man - War Moans (Sargent House)

15. Woe - Hope Attrition (Vendetta)

14. River Black - River Black (Season of Mist)

13. Pallbearer - Heartless (Profound Lore)

12. Ufomammut - 8 (Neurot)

11. Queens of the Stone Age - Villians (Matador)

Villains on Spotify

10. Spirit Adrift - Curse of Conception (20 Buck Spin)

9. Space Witch - Arcanum (HeviSike)

8. Royal Thunder - Wick (Spinefarm)

Wick on Spotify

7. Hell - Hell (Lower Your Head)

6. Wiegedood - De Doden Hebben Het Goed II (Consouling Sounds)

5. The Atomic Bitchwax - Force Field (Tee Pee)

4. Elder - Reflections of a Floating World (Stickman)

3. Couch Slut - Contempt (Gilead Media)

2. Olde - Temple (STB/Medusa Crush)

1. Alunah - Solennial (Svart)

Until next time!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Kingdom of Noise Picks the Best of 2017: 30-21

I think most of us were ready to put 2017 to rest. It was a tough year. I've had some personal hardships and some musical favourites have passed on. But 2017 wasn't a bad year for music. I really had to throttle back on the number of new releases I tried to consume. And I unintentionally cut way back on my writing. I'll try and fix that in 2018 but I can't make any promises. But in listening to fewer albums I was able to dedicate more time to the releases that I really enjoyed. That made making this list relatively easy as there weren't many other albums that I kept circling back to or that I could turn to no matter my mood. So know that I feel strongly about my picks. There will be some glaring omissions but I regret nothing.

Without further ado, our (my) picks for 2017's best releases #30-21!

30. Cavernlight - As We Cup Our Hands and Drink From the Stream of Our Ache (Gilead Media): You want misery? You got misery. This is the most miserable, depressing release I heard all year. Mind you, depressing music doesn't actually make me depressed so we're all good! But seriously, this kind of doom will break a person.

29. Young Hunter - Dayhiker (Fear and the Void): This one took some time to grow on me but when it did it spread like a fungus. Not necessarily a psychedelic fungus but visions of captivation by its subtle groove, smooth guitar work, and vocal interplay definitely danced in my head. Emotional. Soft yet heavy. Highly addictive.

28. Extremity - Extremely Fucking Dead (20 Buck Spin): How could a band consisting of Shelby Lermo, Aesop Dekker, Marissa Martinez-Hoadley and Erika Osterhout NOT kick ass? I'll have you know it kicks plenty of ass. Death metal ass. In "The Year of Death Metal" it's the fresh blood (er, new bands) that did the most damage to my ears. Brutality reigns!

I can't get the bloody embed to work. Click here for Extremely Fucking Dead on Bandcamp.

27. Bison - You Are Not the Ocean You Are the Patient (Pelagic): I see the Van City sludge stalwarts were able to drop the b.c. from their name. That's nice. It doesn't mean their riffs contain any fewer middle fingers though. New bass player, new label, same heaviness. I remember my bangovers from seeing them live and this one gives me the same feeling without even moving.

26. Woodhawk - Beyond the Sun (self-released): Woodhawk riffs are sweet riffs. Songs about Star Wars earn bonus points. A guest appearance by Kevin Keegan ices the cake. But all you really need are the riffs. Woodhawk put the whole package together with great songwriting, extreme catchiness and vocals you can sing along with. Hard rockin' and easy ridin'!

25. Void Ritual - Heretical Wisdom (Tridroid): If you're craving the icy pain of Scandinavian black metal but prefer it searing your flesh in the New Mexico sun, look no further than Void Ritual's debut full-length. Daniel Jackson threads powerful and gripping darkness right into your bones all while scorching a path of destruction through a vortex of determination. Dude just flat out rules.

24. Unearthly Trance - Stalking the Ghost (Relapse): 2010's V got me through many a cold Canadian Winter's night. I feared that may have been the last we heard of Unearthly Trance. I was extremely pleased when UT resurfaced to spread filthy doom across more frigid midnights. Scowl as you must and bang with all you've got; that ghost isn't going to stalk itself.

23. Necrot - Blood Offerings (Tankcrimes): FUCKING DEATH METAL!!! I can't dig all these death metal bands making things all weird and shit. I want death metal to kick me in the mouth over and over again with skull-cracking riffs that I can actually headbang to. Necrot give me all the old school death feelings I crave from the downtuned, guttural vocalized, bone-breaking end of the metal spectrum.

22. Electric Wizard - Wizard Bloody Wizard (Spinefarm): Electric Wizard could put out an album of cow patties hitting the ground turned into riffs and I'd fucking buy it. But that takes nothing away from their newest effort. The British doom institution delves into Uncle Acid territory on this one but maintain their classic EW identity in the smokey haze that proves eternally addictive.

21. Cavalera Conspiracy - Psychosis (Napalm): Max Cavalera is basically metal royalty to me so it was a given that anything he put out this year was going to show up on this list. CC's latest doesn't disappoint with its varied attack. The Cavalera Bros. tear shit up like only they can and manage to sound less like Soulfly than on previous albums. I spent more money on this album (deluxe box) than any other this year and it was totally worth it.

Top 20 when I get around to it. ~Matt

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Olde - Temple

Let’s get this out of the way first: I love Olde. I’ve been boosting this band from the beginning. Heavy-ass, sludgy doom from my neck of the woods? Yes, please! In case you don’t know by now, Olde was put together by guitarist Greg Dawson (Cunter). He recruited strangers from the same city to form the band back in 2014. (Or at least that’s when debut album, I was released.) Bassist Cory McCallum (Five Knuckle Chuckle), vocalist Doug McLarty (ex-Jaww, Catharsis, Holy Order), guitarist Chris “Hippy” Hughes (Moneen) and a fellow I’d been listening to for ages, drummer Ryan Aubin of Sons of Otis round out the quintet. With each release, including 2016 EP Shallow Graves, Olde just keep getting better and newest opus, Temple is proof of that.

Let’s start with the title track. My notes indicate bludgeoning slow groove. But there’s more to it than that. Like McLarty’s gravel-throated bellows for one. Aubin pounds away as Dawson, Hughes and McCallum churn through the heaviness, letting each note reverberate through your core, building up the chorus and smashing the ceiling, or rather, causing it to crash down. It shifts gears ever so slightly past the halfway mark where we find a sweet solo worthy of the song’s title.

Elsewhere Olde deliver track after track of doomy sludge. If bands like EyeHateGod, Buzzov*en, Crowbar, etc. come to mind, it would make sense. Although personally I feel Olde carve their own niche in riff-driven HEAVY music. It also depends on how you define doom. Opener “Subterfuge” is full of huge, muscular riffs of the hard and heavy variety. Their rubbery elasticity induces a furious banging of heads and when Dawson and Hughes lock in together it is unstoppable.

Bluesy, atmospheric solos cut through the murk, sometimes with a melancholic edge. Massive power sends the weak scurrying in the face of the Southern sludge-styled apocalypse conjuring, stomping it all to dust. “Fast”, mid-tempo, or slow, it matters not. Olde bring it from start to finish. Their m.o. - riffs - strikes right in my heart. They make you a puppet, pulling at you, moving you, destroying you. Take “Maelstrom” for example. There’s this riff that hits around the four minute marks that hits so hard that you can’t help but bang your head. I saw them play a small club a few weeks before the album’s release. They played a bunch of these new tunes. I was already in pain (because I’m old) and when that riff hit, I was powerless and went all out. It left me in pain for weeks. Weeks! But despite that, I still banged away while driving as I just couldn’t stop listening. “Centrifugal Disaster” yields similar results.

Closer “Castaway” is that easy end people who “need a breather” need before cycling back to the fury of “Subterfuge”. Syrupy basslines meet guitars ringing into the night, Aubin sounds most in Sons of Otis mode, and tremolos ride on ascendant chords spiraling up and crashing back down with the splash of a cymbal. It’s the closest thing to beauty these boys muster.

Temple is insistently catchy. I’m not saying that because I’ve listened to it a hundred times. (Ah, the privilege of band relations!) These riffs are hot. Dirty doom to the highest degree. Sonic beatings, broken necks, thoughtful lyrics and endless groove all come together to make not only for quite possible Canada’s best album of 2017, (sorry, Bison.) but one of 2017’s best globally. Oh no! I’m a globalist!

Worship the tone. Bathe in the glory of the riffs. Offer praise to percussion. Bow before the bellows. Enter the Temple.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Death Metal Epic Book II: Goat Song Sacrifice by Dean Swinford (ATLATL Press)

It seems like forever ago that I reviewed Death Metal Epic Book I: The Inverted Katabasis for a site that no longer exists. (2013!) So here's a little recap before we get to Book II: Goat Song Sacrifice.

Death Metal Epic follows our protagonist David Fosberg navigating post-high school life as a death metal guitarist in Miami during the heyday of Floridian death metal. Tape trading, fanzines, no internet. You get the idea. His band, Valhalla needs to fulfill their contract with Plutonic Records but the rest of the band split for college and gave up on the DM dream. Typical. Happens all the time.

David just happens to hook up with Juan, an eccentric fellow with some great ideas. Together they craft a very experimental album that satisfies the label enough that they are sent on a promised two week tour in Europe. Great, right?

The tour is a fool's errand. A way for the label to get Valhalla off the books and out of their hair. A disaster from the start, David and Juan quickly abandon the tour altogether. In the meantime, David meets with Nekrokor, a mysterious black metal musician and label owner who originally hated Valhalla's “life metal” but now wants to take the rechristened Katabasis under his wing. Book 1 ends with Fosberg taking a chance and staying in Europe to try and make his music dreams come true.

Book I (and Book II) are full of references to classic death metal bands as well as plenty from other subgenres. Swinford places these in such a way that -- and really, shapes David as a character -- exposes the metal culture as outsider culture. Which it is. But it also shines a light on how deeply passionate fans can be no matter how ridiculous it may seem, as anyone reading this probably knows from an insider's perspective. Swinford has struck the perfect level of self-awareness with Fosberg. Fosberg himself is even quite skeptical about just how INTO it some of his compatriots are. He, when you get right down to it, just wants to play some metal.

Nonetheless he faces the challenges of his new environment head on. Juan stuck around in Belgium too and their lives continue to intersect. I'm trying not to give away too much of the story here! The ethos of Fosberg's new associates, Nekrokor, Nordikron and Svart (and Juan to an extent) and their band Desekration can seem fairly ridiculous but it gives (at least to me) an accurate portrayal of that scene in the early '90s. Death metal is getting old and tired, black metal is the total death. They take the darkness very seriously, at least on the surface. I mean, how serious can you be when you still live at home with your mother, Svart?

It's relatable though. Think about it. How “cool” would metal be if those involved didn't put on some kind of act? You can't take your book store persona (Fosberg's old job) on the stage. Lame. Even for me, I talk one way when I'm writing a review of some nefarious filth cut to wax the colour of eternal darkness splattered in the blood of innocents, and completely different when I'm shooting the shit with pals. Even if I'm talking about the same thing. Swinford exposes that duality even if the characters in the book don't want to admit it.

Character-wise we see Fosberg coming out of his shell. He's living on a different continent, trying to immerse himself in a different culture, and still chase the metal dream. That's a far cry from feeling trapped in a dead-end job in the swamps of South Florida. He's even putting old loves behind him. Sort of. We'll have to wait until Book III to see how that plays out.

All the strengths of The Inverted Katabasis are replicated in Goat Song Sacrifice; Swinford's intriguing, relatable and interesting characters, his deep knowledge of both metal history and the locations described (he grew up in Miami and studied in Ghent, Belgium) and his way of describing it all with just the right amount of detail. You can picture it all but it doesn't distract from the story.

The story itself is a page turner. It's easy to read for us neanderthal metalheads and our more learned peers should still find themselves engaged. Digging a little you'll find out that more than a little of the Epic is autobiographical. No goat sacrifices that I know of though. Knowing that puts a different spin on how you read the books. Swinford didn't just do his research, he lived it.

I highly recommend the series. Where else are you going to read death metal fiction? Ya, I thought so. Prepare a worthy offering and receive Death Metal Epic Book II: Goat Song Sacrifice!

P.S. There's a cliffhanger at the end of this one too. Damn you, Dean!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Fuzzorama Records Label Feature: 2016 Releases!

Swedish label Fuzzorama Records has been around since 2003 but you're forgiven if you've never heard of it. I have to forgive my myself as I've only been aware of their rock solid catalog for a few years now. That seems kind of impossible since the label is owned and run by none other than Truckfighters! How was I not on board in 2003?

As one would expect the Fuzzo roster is loaded with bands that share some (read: a lot) of stylistic similarities with the riff generators running the show. 2016 only saw three releases on the label (plus a live Truckfighters album) but quality over quantity wins every time. When you're done checking out the three releases featured below dig a little deeper starting with We Hunt Buffalo and Deville. Solid, solid stuff.

Hail the fuzz!

Valley of the Sun – Volume Rock

I've talked about this release before but in the intervening months nothing has changed. Volume Rock is still the perfect title for the album as it a) does totally rock and b) needs to be cranked to 11. It's an inoffensive, groove laden bitch of an album. Apparently this Cincinnati product has been around for a while (2010) but I'm just hearing about them now. Shame.

They couldn't be a more perfect fit for the label. They've got all the Fuzzo touchstones that are expected; riffs, groove, tone and that intoxicated/intoxicating vibe. There are no frills. Just straight up rockin'. There's dynamics though. Their movements from big sky openness to heavy-handed throwdowns are fluid and clean. Speaking of clean, that's how the vocals are.

Not just clean though. Ryan Ferrier has range! The kind of range that recalls vintage-era Chris Cornell. In fact, fans of Soundgarden's older (pre-Superunknown) material shouldn't find anything to complain about here.

Valley of the Sun have a real sense of drive. Their ample energy and sweet solos push and pull at the listener in equal measure. It's a weird sense in that you want to remain in place and take it in but it compels you to move. Not just the constant head nod/bang and toe taps. But move toward some sort of transportation and let the tunes rip as you cruise down an empty highway with the vocals moving you in a different way on tracks like “Speaketh” and “Land of Fools”.

Valley of the Sun and Volume Rock aren't doing anything new or innovative but that's really okay. If you just want to listen to fuzzed out riffs, bone-shaking bass and purposeful percussion, and not get screamed at, you don't need anything other than this. Just give this baby all the volume you've got and set your spirit free!

Truckfighters – V

V is, you guessed it, the fifth album from riffsters Truckfighters. Releasing your own band's albums give the boys a freedom to do whatever the hell they want (even though V is sub-licensed on Century Media, which is likely the reason it's not on bandcamp) and for this one Truckfighters have ventured off the path a little. You're still going to get a bevy of riffs and a warm, fuzzy tone that's just dialed right in, man. But this album feels and sounds a little more mature. This different approach has been met with some negativity and that's not without warrant. But that's typical of any band that evolves really. Also, sources must be considered. ie. YouTube comments for one.

Where V differs from the norm is in how they have stretched things out. At seven songs over 47 minutes that put the average song length at almost 7 minutes. A little long for stoner rock, eh? Well, Truckfighters have added some prog into the mix. Sections that feel more jammed out work into the structure, lengthening the tracks. Plus there's some straight up slow, pretty parts (“Storyline”). Sure, it's a different energy and depending on mood it could drag you down but you can't expect the same thing every album. I read once that Josh Homme loves these guys and look how diverse his career is.

If you listen close you'll hear the progressive influences, especially in the bass. “Hawkshaw” in particular features a bass line walking along a trail blazed by Tool. It's pretty great. You could follow that with some comparisons to Anciients in how they incorporate prog elements while still nailing tone. When Truckfighters aren't laying back they've still got ample crunch. And those riffs! No matter how you feel about V you can't fault the plethora of riffs coming at you.

Tone, riffs and groove are what we've come to expect from the Swedes, but this time they fleshed the plan out giving it more substance, and a maturity that some people (not just YouTube trolls) apparently aren't ready for. I'll admit at times my attention wandered (more than usual) but then Truckfighters will come in with some bangin' riffs to bring me right back. You just have to be patient and remember, they can only make Gravity X once.

Asteroid – III

Asteroid is another band who have been around a while but have just made their way to my ears. And truth be told, sitting down to write this is perhaps the first time I've listened to III sober. It's a stoner rock album after all! Or heavy psych. Pick your descriptor. Either way if you haven't already separated yourself from reality, III might just do it for you.

Listening clear headed does nothing to harsh the mellow or bring you down from the inevitable high Asteroid provide. It's the same sort of feeling you get from older Witchcraft or (a long lost favourite) Mammoth Volume. Everything just unrolls in its own good time spreading grooves and a raw, vintage tone far and wide. Not that they can't amp it up a little but for the most part they're content to soothe rather than slam. But that rollicking riff on “Wolf & Snake” mated to the soulful solo? Hot damn! That's fire, man!

That's a good track to highlight the dynamics on III though. After that high energy passage it gets low and slow, burning with a dirty tone and doomy riff. Contrast the earthly and sub-earthly facets against the heavenly heights Asteroid can reach with delightful melody, spacey atmosphere and soaring vocals and you've got one killer stoner rock album that begs repeat listens.

III captures a retro sensibility as well. Other than production value (Which is aces in this case.) you could drop this into 1972 and no one would bat an eyelash. Ok, “Them Calling” might blow some minds. The low end tone of this is incredible which enhances the bluesy, Sabbathian riffs. It's a balanced heavy and the chorus feels empowering and would be particularly endearing to fans of The Sword (pre-High Country).

III gets better with every spin. It's addicting and oh, so smooth. It grooves at all the right times, rocks when it has to and trips with every smoked-out second that hazily rolls by. This was easily one of the best stoner albums of 2016. Break out the bell bottoms and get those Coven and Wicked Lady records on standby.

There you have it, the 2016 Fuzzorama Records releases all in one handy place! Rock on!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Top 10 Canadian Albums of 2016

Originally posted at along with the picks from the rest of the team.

Honourable Mentions: Dopethrone - 1312 EP, La Chinga - Free Wheelin’, Thrawsunblat - Metachthonia, The Night Watch - Boundaries, Panzerfaust - The Lucifer Principle.

10. Domestikwom - Pater Vita EP (self-released): Domestikwom is a one man black metal project from Jonathan Petkau. I like to think “domestikwom” means “pet cow” in a language I don’t know. But this isn’t a funny EP. It’s admirably bleak and cut with electronic touches and somewhat morose spoken word. The atmosphere is spread thick over the dynamic whole. This project has plenty of potential. Wait, were those horns?

9. Harangue - No New Prey (Pluto Records): I’ve been repping Harangue since Day One, yes. But this TOHC crew continues to impress. No New Prey shows an increased range while still managing to piledrive the listener into paralysis. Well, at least you’ll be paralyzed after moshing like a madman to their take on ‘90s Hardcore. I can still hear those little hints of Helmet too. This band is underappreciated to say the least.

8. Black Wizard - New Waste (Listenable): Who doesn’t love a good riff? I know I do. Black Wizard do too. So they packed New Waste with riffs. Of the stoner rock kind. I’ve passed a joint and drank beers with these guys so I know their laid-back-but-edgy sonic aesthetic isn’t a put on. Some good times were had in 2016 getting wasted with New Waste!

7. Forteresse - Thèmes pour la Rébellion (Sepulchral): I can be pretty picky with my black metal but I like this kind. Depraved vocals, soaring tremolos blazing across dark skies, and jackhammer percussion. It’s relentless and epic if not exactly original. Originality is hard come by while staying within genre boundaries but when done this well it doesn’t matter. It’s one of my favourite black metal albums of the year, Canadian or otherwise.

6. Olde - Shallow Graves EP (self-released): Do you like Eyehategod, Buzzov*en, -(16)-, Bongzilla, Crowbar and other sludge acts of that ilk? Then you’ll like Olde. They’ve got an LP coming out on STB next year but this year’s EP is enough to satiate even the biggest Olde appetite. Gravelly vocals, endless killer riffs, tone for days and an all-star cast from the Toronto scene. What more do you want? How about a Motörhead cover? DONE. Besides, have you seen how cool those motherfuckers look in their bandcamp cover photo? DOOM ON!!!

5. Begrime Exemious - The Enslavement Conquest (Dark Descent): I can get picky with my death metal too (note the lack of Chthe’ilist, Auroch or Phobocosm) but I’ve no problem with the raw, raging death of Begrime Exemious. They’ve got the kind of old school, foot to the floor approach that causes concussions and makes chiropractors see dollar signs. I really should get a copy of this on CD but it might make driving dangerous. Oops. Just ordered the t-shirt bundle.

4. Astrakhan - Reward in Purpose (War on Music): Like their Vancouver brethren Anciients, Astrakhan can be classed as progressive sludge. Astrakhan however replace the former’s deathly edge with an almost doomy feel. And more melody than you can shake a stick at. But their real game changer is the vocals. Toth and Zawistowski soar and scream and harmonize and raise the album above the considerable heights achieved musically. The reward here is letting the album consume you.

3. Public Animal - Palace Arms (Yeah Right!): I knew a couple of Public Animal songs before I saw them play with Olde. And I was somewhat familiar with Bionic and C’Mon. But now nothing makes me feel as good as Palace Arms. It’s an instant pickmeup. Ian Blurton is a national treasure. Caitlin Dacey is as wondrous as DisneyWorld fireworks. Eric Larock and Ryan Gassi are the rhythm section sent from the gods. Palace Arms is psychedelic garage/prog rock fire to fall in love with.

2. Blood Ceremony - Lord of Misrule (Rise Above): I literally cannot get enough of this album. Keys, flute and all. Alia O’Brien is incomparable. But that wouldn’t mean a thing if the band didn’t rock like they do. Vintage occult rock virtually without equal. Their spell over me cannot be broken. There hasn’t been a single moment since I got the promo that I didn’t want to listen to and absorb this. Captivating doesn’t even scratch the surface. And my kids don’t run away when I play it.

1. Anciients - Voice of the Void (Season of Mist): Recently someone commented that Voice of the Void is soulless and boring. I don’t want what they’re smoking because I find this soulful and exciting. The multi-faceted vocals are spectacular, the solos deliver all the goods and the prog on display is well-crafted and balanced with the crushing sludge. This is only their second full-length, man. You could say they haven’t even hit their stride yet as you know, that’s kind of the point of progression. This is even better than Heart of Oak so I’m really looking forward to loving what’s next even more.