Articles by Jamie Jones
Wrekmeister Harmonies’ new album sees them playing against type, and against their own strengths, eschewing the shamanic bombast of their previous works to craft sombre ballads. It’s closer to Nick Cave than to Swans and whilst they feel lovingly crafted they sadly fail to convince.
Clawing, the Alabama based industrial drone trio featuring spoken word artist Matt Finney, come as close as anyone to crafting horror in musical form. And not the horror of camp zombies and jump scares but gnawing, insidious horror that clings to your mind like dirt you can’t wash away.
Vile Creature made some noise for their second album simply by existing, daring to play cruise-liner heavy doom whilst identifying as queer. ‘Cast of Static and Smoke’, a post-apocalyptic concept album based on a self-penned short story, proves they’ve much more to offer than upsetting all the right people.
Ore, aka Sam Underwood, is a ‘tuba doom’ project originally planned as a gift for his dying father. Given that genre label you might expect a mildly diverting novelty, and with that back story you may be wary of an unbearably heavy listen. Neither factor begins to tell the story contained within ‘Belatedly’.
Gholds latest record – the first release from London records store Crypt of the Wizard – sees them take up residence in a Leeds Chapel. It’s not short on bluster and low end carnage – and surprisingly effective ambient noise – but struggles for definition.
Belgium’s Charnia follow up their promising post-metal debut ‘Dageraad’ with an ambitious, sprawling 40 minute piece combining ambient, drone and post classical elements to bolster their melancholic, stirring sound. Whilst still perhaps a work in progress ‘Het Laaste Licht’ features enough stunning moments to warrant immediate investigation for fans of Amenra, ISIS, Neurosis et al.
Birmingham industrial metal duo Khost’s latest offering is full of familiar parts – warped Arabic vocals, heaving industrial percussion and relentless crushing guitar alongside spoken word pieces from Eugene Robinson of Oxbox and Syan and cello from Jo Quail – but it’s imbued with a sense of horror and a purpose that elevates it above their earlier work.
Italian psych-doom masters Ufomammut’s return to action following their 15th anniversary celebrations sounding somehow more full of energy than ever. Recorded live in the studio ‘8’ sees them at their sludgiest and most furious, and is as relentless a trip as they’ve ever taken us on.
Monarch! have long reigned as one of doom’s most drone heavy outfits, utilising colossal heaviness and hypnotically slow guitar thrumming across typically epic song lengths. On ‘Never Forever’ they add a little more light to the shade and craft perhaps the most distinct album of their career.
Big|Brave don’t change their formula on Ardor, they just refine it a little, distil its essence down into 3 long tracks. The result is an incredible piece of slow, heavy, emotional metal, a landmark for both the band and heavy music in 2017.
Cloakrooms second record – and first for Relapse Records – is a happy marriage of slowcore despondency and stoner rock heft that hits the sweet spot between sad-sack mopery and soaring, fuzzed out catharsis.
‘How We Lived’ is the first collaboration by Ukranian multi-instrumentalist Heinali and American spoken word artist Matt Finney since the latter walked away from music in 2011. It details the dark years spent in the wilderness and makes for an uncomfortable, but compelling listen.
The idea of bass sax virtuoso Colin Stetson forming a metal band with Liturgy’s Greg Fox is intriguing on paper – and surprisingly fun in practice. As Ex Eye they explore the possibilities of heaviness together, pushing each other to impressive heights.
Space Witch play cosmic doom metal – and embody that concept as well as anyone else has to date. On ‘Arcanum’, their second record, they expand their palette a little, with often intriguing results.
After the acclaim of 2015’s ‘Lore’ Elder return with an extra guitarist and an expanded sound. Their lengthy prog/stoner odysseys are even richer and more complex and despite a couple of missteps ‘Reflections of a Floating World’ further cements their reputation as stoner rock’s best kept secret.
‘Afrobeat meets psych rock’ is a proposition that pretty much sells itself. If you’re at all intrigued rest assured that Antibalas’ Marcos Garcia has put together a quartet that is both mind expanding and groove-laden enough to do both halves of that equation justice.
Newcastle’s Blown Out release yet another album of intense, coruscating instrumental heavy psych for the ever impressive Riot Season Records. At this point they’re pretty much counter-cultural national treasures – with none of the fustiness that might imply.
Planning for Burial, aka Pennsylvanian artist Thom Wasluck, makes miserabilist doomgaze for drunken shut ins and doomed romantics. On ‘Below the House’ he chronicles a particularly bleak time in his life – and mines a rich vein of melancholy for his most affecting and complete sounding record yet.
Iowan trio Aseethe make their Thrill Jockey debut with a record of difficult drone-like doom that is more reminiscent of a slowed down version of cerebral metal artists like Sumac and Old Man Gloom than it is Sleep or Sabbath.
They say the one silver lining to our current political situation is that punk will be good again. Lawrence English’s Cruel Optimism makes a compelling case to look for dissent in less obvious, more abstract genres.
After 5 years away Grails have returned. Never ones to repeat themselves they’ve indulged their crate digging impulses and drawn from several new sources for Chalice Hymnal – not all of which may be to the tastes of the faithful. It’s their most cinematic, and least predictable, work yet.