Tag Archives: sludge metal

Review: Iron Witch’s A Harrowed Dawn

13645302_1128910937168736_5735790256873360803_n

It feels like Iron Witch’s debut album has been a hell of a long time coming and the journey that the band has gone through has certainly been an interesting one, with quite a few line-up changes over the years. Thankfully, A Harrowed Dawn is still very much an Iron Witch record and it’s probably the most expansive they’ve ever sounded.

On past releases, Iron Witch have definitely straddled the sludgier end of the metal spectrum, but with A Harrowed Dawn, the band have moved into a larger, doomier playing field. This darker, more brooding sound has given Iron Witch a new lease of life and the music on A Harrowed Dawn sounds utterly monolithic when you compare it to the band’s back catalogue.

Songs like Salvation through Nothing get to boast a riff so monstrously gargantuan that it becomes a wonderfully stompy time for all involved. We even get a weirdo, psychedelic breakdown in Machinery of Violence before it unleashes another crushing, mosh-pit riffstrosity. Iron Witch have never sounded so electric and the whole record sounds enormous thanks to the brilliant production job that puts the band’s past releases to shame.

Iron Witch also manage to do that thing I love about the best low tempo music; they don’t compromise playing slow for writing uninteresting songs. A lot of doom bands really bludgeon their riffs to death for far too long, but that’s never a problem with A Harrowed Dawn. It isn’t even that slow of a doom record; songs twist and turn in a surprisingly progressive manner like on the furious Under the Pyre, but Iron Witch always know when to get your attention and beat you with another massive riff. This really is a masterclass in doom metal song writing.

Iron Witch have certainly spent a long time getting to this record and at only 6 tracks long it is a bit slight for a long-player, but those years of writing and touring have turned them into a well-oiled, doom-making machine and A Harrowed Dawn is the realisation of all their achievements so far. This is easily the best and biggest sounding Iron Witch release to date and an essential purchase for any doom fan.

8/10

Iron Witch’s A Harrowed Dawn is out now and available to purchase from Secret Law Records.


Live Review: Sea Bastard, Hooden and Allfather at The Dev 20/8/16

The Dev is one of those venues that was clearly not originally designed to be a music venue. There’s about as much floor space in front of the stage to accommodate 20 people packed in tight, the ladies’ toilets are right next to the stage and there’s two massive speaker stacks situated at the front of the stage, obscuring the band. But hey, you can’t complain too much because tonight they’re hosting Sea Bastard, Hooden and Allfather for the grand old price of £Bugger All.

ALLFATHER
allfather

Kicking things off with their special blend of sludge metal and hardcore, Allfather have been a band we’ve had our eyes on for a while. With two great EPs under their belt, the band take the stage with confidence and command their audience with ease. Allfather sound great live with the constant switch between bruising hardcore riffs and low-tempo, sludgy beatdowns being just as exciting live as it is on record. Allfather get a suitably warm reception which is lovely to see from the audience, and for the opening act no less.

HOODEN
hooden

Things step up a gear for Hooden. The band deals in an aggressive form of hardcore punk that utilises a lot of bluesy guitar work to add an extra layer of punishment. Musically Hooden sound great, straddling the sort of punk sound that isn’t quite Cancer Bats and isn’t quite The Exploited but somewhere in between. Vocally is where the band falls down somewhat. Their vocalist certainly puts in an unhinged and wild performance, but his actual vocals suffer due to this. There’s no consistency here; the vocal phrasing seems improvised and he jumps around between low-end belching and high-pitched yelps and wailing and it’s pretty abrasive on the ears. Hooden put on a great show regardless but if they could reign in their vocalist a tad then they’d really be onto something special.

SEA BASTARD
seabastard

This is going to be a difficult passage to write. I don’t like to criticise bands, especially if they feature members of other bands I really adore (Oli used to play in the mighty War Wolf) and that’s exactly what I’m going to have to do here. Sea Bastard just aren’t for me. While their stompy, chunky doom metal is certainly commanding, there’s just not enough going on and it ends up sounding like the band play one continuous song with almost no discernible moments of interest. Sea Bastard structure their songs around slow tempos, a thunderous bass-line and lots of power chords, but there’s a distinct lack of riffs and hooks. It’s almost impossible to tell each song from the next and it just wasn’t engaging me in the way I like.


Live Review: Funeral for a Friend (Hours Show) at the Kentish Town Forum 20/5/2016

ZOAX
zoax

London post hardcore act Zoax are a great booking for these final Funeral for a Friend shows. They’re a young, confident band with hooky rock anthems to draw the earlier attendees in. They also get the audience moving early thanks to vocalist Adam Carroll’s insistence on being everywhere. Carroll makes his way onto the Forum’s balcony before making his way onto the floor and getting the audience moving. It wasn’t obnoxious either; the man has a charisma that’s hugely endearing. Zoax left a great impression and put the room in good spirits.

RAGING SPEEDHORN
speedhorn

Booking a band like Raging Speedhorn was an odd choice for this show considering how much louder, heavier and screamier they are than everyone else on the bill, but it was great to see some variety that reminded me of a lot of my early gig experiences. Raging Speedhorn weren’t exactly greeted with the same enthusiasm as Zoax but they weren’t booed either; definitely a warm reception, just not a particularly fiery one for a band this aggressive and my God was it aggressive. Raging Speedhorn don’t feel like they’ve been away at all and they power through classics like Fuck the Voodooman and The Gush while showcasing a few numbers from their upcoming album Lost Ritual. The new songs sat perfectly alongside their older material and this offering certainly has me excited for what might be one of the greatest British comeback records in recent years.

FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND
ffaf

When a very soft-spoken Matt Davies-Kreye takes to the stage unceremoniously and then followed by his bandmates, it brings with it an honesty that has always permeated Funeral for a Friend’s music. This is a band that just wants to make music and play it to people. There’s a sombre tone in his voice throughout tonight’s set and he takes every opportunity to give the fans a little backstory about each song from Hours, something he has previously shied away from.

There’s a bizarre atmosphere in the room throughout their performance. Davies-Kreye establishes from the get-go that this is a celebration but that it’s perfectly acceptable to cry if you feel you must and if anything, it felt like he himself actually would at any point during tonight’s set. The audience are phenomenally loud regardless and every song off Hours is sung with enormous enthusiasm by every person in the room.

Funeral for a Friend mean a great deal to a huge amount of people and the band treat the fans to some great surprises in the form of Streetcar b-side I Am the Arsonist and a surprise reunion with Darren Jones and Ryan Richards for a retro version of Juno from their debut EP Between Order & Model. Even so, at no point do Funeral for a Friend go over-the-top tonight. There’s no fanfare and no encore, just wonderful, honest music. God damn it Funeral for a Friend; I’m going to miss you.


Review: Allfather’s Bless the Earth with Fire

allfatheralbumpic

Allfather return with their debut… album? Mini-album? Can a 6 track record clocking in at just under 34 minutes really be classed as an album? Sorry, I’ve lost myself already. These things matter to me, okay?

Allfather’s debut album is called Bless the Earth with Fire and it marks a stylistic shift in sound that sees the band move away from their groovy, Raging Speedhorn-esque hardcore to a more sludge and doom-lead sound, similar to the way Iced Out have changed over the years. The band now sound more like Gurt or Iron Monkey which is definitely no bad thing.

Sludge metal suits Allfather down to the ground. The songs on Bless the Earth with Fire are now more long-form with a bigger emphasis on groove. No, wait; not just groove, but punishing groove. Album opener Raskolnikov showcases Allfather’s new found confidence and the power of the riffs lends the sound a lovely swagger that persists throughout.

Things get really doomy for The Bloody Noose which puts Allfather’s new found appreciation of long-form song-writing front and centre. Luckily the band have also seen fit to not completely dump their hardcore roots and have blended them nicely into their new found appreciation of sludge. Mouth of the Beast in particular starts out as the most hardcore-sounding song on the album before moving back into the slower, sludgier tempos that have come before it.

The real highlight of Bless the Earth with Fire comes in the form of the 11 minute behemoth Death, and Hell Followed with Him. Quite easily the best thing the band have produced so far, this song starts out like a doom track, unleashes a fantastic solo around the 4 minute mark and then brings back that savage groove around 6 minutes. It’s so wonderfully diverse and loaded with neck-breaking riffs; a real treat for fans of heavy music.

Allfather have evolved significantly since their debut EP and with Bless the Earth with Fire we see the band writing more diverse and interesting songs that complement the shift towards sludge metal. It also rocks like a mother fucker.

8/10

Allfather’s Bless the Earth with Fire is out now and can be bought on CD and cassette direct from the band.


Review: Slabdragger’s Rise of the Dawncrusher

a1678417040_10

It’s been a long time coming, but Slabdragger are back in action with their sophomore album Rise of the Dawncrusher; a massive, sludgy, behemoth of a concept album that improves on their debut in every conceivable way. Got your attention?

Slabdragger were already a force to be reckoned with and their debut album Regress showcased their ultra-dense grooves and long-form song structures in a fantastic way, but with Rise of the Dawncrusher, everything is now even heavier without sacrificing melody and it’s just glorious. Genuinely glorious. I felt like I was having a metal epiphany listening to this record. I imagine if Hendrix was into Black Sabbath, this is the sort of thing he’d make.

Opening with the 11 minute beast that is Mercenary Blues, Slabdragger put their quite brilliant guitar work front and centre and it makes for a seriously punishing yet hugely memorable experience that will keep fans of all things slow and groovy extremely satisfied. The amount of amazing riffs in this song should be illegal and they all deserve to be included in ‘Top 10 Riffs of All Time’ articles.

It doesn’t end there. This record is an absolute monster from start to finish. Slabdragger follow up the opening track with the unashamedly ripping Evacuate!; one of the most disgustingly noisy things Slabdragger have ever concocted. Then it’s back to the groove with the monstrous Shrine of Debauchery; a song with a title so metal it’s probably chrome-plated.

Look, I realise this review is big on the hyperbole, but it’s not often I’m given a record so delicious and as utterly mouth-watering as Rise of the Dawncrusher. It’s everything I want from a sludge record and more and it’s honestly quite difficult to believe it actually exists.

The UK is spoilt for great sludge as Slabdragger are competing with other brilliant acts like Limb, Gurt, Monolithian and Opium Lord, but Rise of the Dawncrusher sets a new standard for UK sludge metal. Slabragger have written a follow-up so utterly devastating that it demands your attention. Slabdragger, man; what a band.

10/10

Slabdragger’s Rise of the Dawncrusher is out now and available to buy on CD and vinyl from Holy Roar Records.


Total Rock: Catbird’s Sunday Roasting 17/1/2016

total rock logo

On Sunday the 17th of January 2016 we finally returned to Total Rock to appear on Catbird’s Sunday Roasting! If you missed our appearance on the show then you can click below to listen to the podcast on MixCloud. Here’s a list of our picks and the time-stamps for each song are listed beside them:

11:59 – SikTh – Philistine Philosophies
42:18 – Boxkite – Cycles
50:29 – TORPOR – As Waves Crash
1:04:23 – Gnarwolves – Boneyard
1:14:25 – I, The Lion – Hold Strong
1:20:21 – Eulogy – Deaf Cult
1:44:17 – Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters – Chopsticks and Bad Meatballs
1:50:20 – Iced Out – Man’s Ruin
1:53:58 – TEEF – Consumed
1:56:25 – Samoans – Stompbox
2:05:06 – Mage – One for the Road


Year End: The 10 Best EPs of 2015

yearendeps

10) Geist – Faith Healing

faithhealing

Faith Healing ends with a monologue about the futility of worshipping a God who hasn’t done anything to prove that he actually, “loves you”. It’s a stark, bleak ending to an EP loaded with some of the most unforgiving hardcore the UK has to offer and a timely reminder that we need bands like Geist to provide a visceral release from the shitstorm that is real life.

Click here to read the full review.

9) Boxkite – Self Titled

boxkite

“Boxkite have burst out the gates with a hardcore debut that doesn’t mess about. This is 6 tracks of solid, bouncy yet strangely forlorn punk that leaves a serious mark. Anyone looking for the next great UK hardcore band might want to seriously consider grabbing Boxkite’s debut EP while it’s hot; you won’t regret it.”

Click here to read the full review.

8) Eulogy – Eternal Worth

eulogy

“Eulogy have hit their stride on Eternal Worth. This is a record that doesn’t mess about and gets straight to the point. This is a laser-focussed metallic hardcore assault that is big on groove and if the name change wasn’t a big enough indicator, it marks an important step up for Eulogy as a band.”

Click here to read the full review.

7) Simmer – Yellow Streak

simmer

“Simmer’s Yellow Streak is a rare gem of a record. The EP is full of soaring melodies and satisfying riffs that are punctuated with a beautifully reflective vocal performance. Even though this is only the band’s second EP, it feels like they’ve already mastered their craft and Yellow Streak might be a defining moment in their career.”

Click here to read the full review.

6) Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters – Earth Hog

earthhog

“Earth Hog is an easy recommendation to make. If you’ve ever enjoyed a riff that might result in whiplash then Chubby have delivered an absolute haven of guitar wizardry. Earth Hog is loaded with some of the best grooves stoner rock has to offer and it’s one of the most satisfying debuts of any band.”

Click here to read the full review.

5) I, The Lion – Run

Run EP Cover - FINAL

“I, The Lion’s Run is a wonderful celebration of riff rock. It’s a gargantuan-sounding EP loaded with some of alt-rock’s most thunderous melodies and it constantly evolves and welcomes new ideas into it’s already accomplished sound. A lacklustre opening hides one of rock’s most enjoyable EPs and I, The Lion need to be a band you start paying immediate attention to.”

Click here to read the full review.

4) Iced Out – Man’s Ruin

icedout

“Iced Out have finally found their comfort zone. Man’s Ruin is an enormous, towering beast of an EP that sees the band embrace slower tempos and tunings so low you might soil yourself. Now it’s time for Iced Out to take their sludgecore leanings and finally deliver the sort of devastating album that Man’s Ruin is threatening to. Good luck, boys; we’re looking forward to it.”

Click here to read the full review.

3) Maths – The Fires Courting the Sea

maths

“Maths’ The Fires Courting the Sea is a phenomenal melodic punk record which manages to cram some of the most beautiful yet utterly pissed off music it can into its 10 minutes. Maths are still one of the UK underground’s most treasured acts and it would be sacrilege for any punk fan to skip on this record. You know what to do.”

Click here to read the full review.

2) SikTh – Opacities

opactities

“Opacities is a fantastic comeback by one of the most dearly missed UK metal acts. SikTh are just as exciting and vital as they’ve ever been and despite the 9 year gap between Opacities and Death of a Dead Day, it genuinely feels like the band have never been away. Opacities has a wonderfully natural progression to it and it sounds exactly like the follow-up to Death of a Dead Day that we all dreamed of. It feels wonderful to finally say this but welcome back SikTh. We’ve really missed you.”

Click here to read the full review.

1) TEEF – Admit Defeat

admitdefeat

“TEEF have put together one of punk’s brightest moments. Admit Defeat is a non-stop powerhouse of grotty violence that’s amazingly memorable despite its aggression. No band in the UK has managed to meld fury with song-writing this catchy nearly as well as TEEF have managed to here and it’s a massive shame that the band won’t be making anymore music. Admit Defeat might be the last TEEF record but as swan-songs go, this couldn’t be any better.”

Click here to read the full review.


Review: Limb’s Terminal

terminal

Desert rockers Limb are not messing around with their sophomore album Terminal. The band only released their debut album last year and despite a change in drummers, they’ve powered into this new record and produced something really special.

What’s instantly recognisable about the Limb’s music is how much their song-writing has improved in such a short space of time. While elements of their self-titled debut could sometimes feel under-produced, Terminal sounds utterly monolithic in comparison.

After the short introduction of Three Snake Leaves we are treated to one of the best songs Limb have ever written in the form of Ghost Dance. Ghost Dance is the groovy riff-beast you expect all Limb songs to be, but this time there’s more melody in vocalist Rob Hoey’s voice and there’s a greater urgency to the music. Limb are done with messing around on this record and each song often starts with some of the best riffs hard rock has to offer.

This continues with the absolute barnstormer that is Micromegas. Bolstered by a chunky, Motorhead-like riff, this is an astoundingly massive sounding rock song that deserves to be heard by as many fans of heavy music as possible. The band’s dancey, sludgy grooves grab you by the throat, force you to head-bang before giving you a moment to gather yourself and then it’s back to the fun.

Fun is something we’ve spoken about a lot when referring to Limb as this is something all too rare in the sort of down-tuned, often po-faced sludge that the band deal in, but Terminal is still stuffed full of enjoyable, overblown silliness in the form of songs like Down By The Banks. Limb revel in their almost classic rock leanings and it’s a gleeful thing to be involved in.

Terminal is the natural continuation from Limb’s self-titled debut and it’s an infinitely more enjoyable and masterfully crafted slab of hard rock. The band haven’t rested on their laurels and continue to get better on every record they release. The pressure is certainly on for the next release, lads!

9/10

Limb’s Terminal is out now and available to purchase from Cargo Records.


Review: Monolithian’s The Finest Day I Ever Lived, Was When Tomorrow Never Came.

monolithian

Blackened doom two-piece Monolithian have finally seen fit to drop an album that accurately showcases the band at their finest. Monolithian are a weird prospect in that their melody is entirely achieved through a bass guitar and while they sound absolutely beastly in a live setting, their recorded output tends to be a hit and miss affair in regards to capturing the size and weight of their sound. Thankfully, debut album The Finest Day I Ever Lived, Was When Tomorrow Never Came. captures this perfectly and it becomes Monolithian’s best work in the process.

For a band with only two members, Monolithian have a surprisingly large amount of ideas to showcase on this record. The band constantly switches from down-tempo, lurching sludge metal like on opener The Finest Day… to fast-paced blackened nastiness like Black Flame Candle. It’s a thrilling display of heaviness that keeps you on your toes throughout and occasionally both styles manage to blend resulting in some of the best material the band have ever written. Great examples of this come in the form of Second of the Istari and Treebeard which trudges along at a steady pace for the majority of its run-time before taking a turn for the dangerous and throwing in some filthy black metal riffs.

Then there’s album closer Thought Out of Existence. Clocking in at just under 13 minutes, this is a behemoth of a doom track that also features input from noise act Knifedoutofexistence. It turns out this collaboration is something of a revelation as not only does it showcase exactly what Monolithian are about, it also includes some wonderful atmosphere and tension that makes the experience feel wholly desperate and depraved. It’s one of the finest pieces of music the band have achieved and you owe it to yourself to hear it.

The binding element that really helps showcase the band’s music in the best light is the fantastic production and mix. Every aspect of the band’s sound is razor sharp yet all the dirt and grime that comes with something as disgusting as blackened doom metal is there for all to enjoy. This sounds like Monolithian playing live and it’s a frightening, crushing prospect that’s absolutely essential for fans of sludgy, bass-heavy metal.

Monolithian are quite a special little band. This guy and gal have managed to master their craft so well that the limitations of a two-piece are blown apart to create a sound that is… well, monolithic. The Finest Day I Ever Lived, Was When Tomorrow Never Came. is the album the band have always threatened to make and I welcome its arrival with open arms.

9/10

Monolithian’s The Finest Day I Ever Lived, Was When Tomorrow Never Came. is out now on limited edition 12″ vinyl through the band, Atomsmasher Records, Animal Defence Records and Skin & Bones Records.


Review: Allfather’s No Gods. No Masters.

allfather

Allfather describe themselves as a sludge, doom and hardcore crossover act and while there’s elements of these genres in their sound I was pleasantly surprised to hear that they deal in the sort of groove metal and hardcore genre hybrid that the mighty Raging Speedhorn and Cancer Bats deal in.

Their debut EP No Gods. No Masters. is a thunderous display of chunky riffs and gruff, bellowed vocals. Opener The Great Destroyer lays down the foundations with a massive groove that will ignite some dangerous mosh pits. The riff is also accompanied with a meaty rhythm courtesy of drummer Kieron and it’s this satisfying combination that makes Allfather’s music so instantly enjoyable. Stick this on in a rock club and the high-kickers will go on a rampage.

No Gods. No Masters. continues to be a wonderfully no nonsense EP that’s big on fun. While the start of the EP leans more on mid-paced sludge metal stylings, the latter half is considerably punkier as a result. Post Austerity Blues and The Worms Won’t Have Us are short, sharp bursts of aggression that once again put forward a huge riff and some pounding drums to devastating effect. Allfather have managed to boil down their sound to its core elements and focus on beating you around the head with them and it’s nothing less than fantastic.

The only thing that really disappoints is how quick it’s all over with. With only 4 songs clocking in at just under 11 minutes, Allfather manage to whet our appetites for more chunky grooves and hardcore punk drumming but the EP ends rather abruptly. This is a real shame because by the end of the last song it feels like the EP should have a lot more to offer.

However this is a minor grievance in what is a seriously intense and satisfying combination of hardcore and groove metal. Allfather have stumbled onto a hugely entertaining sound that will satisfy both fans of metal and punk and I cannot personally wait to see where the band goes from here. No Gods. No Masters. is a debut that any band would be proud of.

8/10

Allfather’s No Gods. No Masters. is out now and available to download direct from the band.