Sloth. – Slow as Shit
Location: London, UK
With track titles centered around consciousness (namely, whether or not something’s asleep), the debut album from one-man band Sloth. goes for psychedelic doom metal of a well-baked sort. Laying down sweet-toned guitars and thick-fuzzed bass while leisurely kicks come from the drum-set, Sloth. do a good job evoking the slow-paced greenery of their name-sake’s environment, exploring the melodies with a thorough but relaxed pace that calls Albinö Rhino to mind.
For a one-man effort, there’s some great work put into layering the various elements, tying them together at some points and letting others simply roll out into sprawling terrain. Though about half of the songs hover around the ten-minute mark, they tend not to drag on (well, assuming stoner psych doom is to your taste to begin with), thanks to the fluidity and, to a large degree, the already mentioned emphasis on tone. Though things feel a little aimless at times, it wanders around in a way that seems appropriate to the style; while this may put off sober listeners, those in the (presumable) intended head-space for the swirling, dripping, resinous licks might find it a nice unwinding treat.
While there are a few instances of guttural vocals creeping out from the undergrowth, Slow As Shit is mostly an instrumental album, so fans of Bongripper and similar acts may want to prick their ears up at this one. Since there are a few surprises waiting to be sprung on first-time listeners, and enough treacle-thick grooves to suck in returning visitors, Sloth. have done a respectable job setting out on a trek with grassy scenes to be explored and little danger of getting anyone’s pulse out of control.
Stellar Master Elite – III: Eternalism – The Psychospherical Chapter
Label: Essential Purification Records
Having not heard the previous two chapters released by this German outfit, I was curious to find out how they’d execute their described blend of black and doom metal; going by the names of the band and album, it would at least be ambitious. And it was, going for a semi-symphonic arrangement of the instruments with sizable acoustics in the mixing lending it a sense of expansiveness well-suited to their hyper-cosmic setting, while the visceral black metal gave it a human element to keep things grounded.
As the album progresses, more experimentation and deviation from the base settings emerge, coming to life in touches such as burbling synthesizers, extra harshness to the vocals, moody interludes, and more flourishes added to the percussion and guitar parts. Tucking in some sparse audio samples here and there provides another element stretching things past the common range, and the ‘news records’ sound quality to these lends the storyline Stellar Master Elite have going some sense of having been a long time in the making.
On the downside, while the dense fog of cold grimness is sturdy beyond a superficial level, there may not be a lot to really reach out and grab you, or stick in your ears once you’ve put the album down. There seems to be more focus on dependable work-horse riffing than on spacy madness, to put it one way. And really, having heard too many releases where a firm foundation gets left out in favor of jamming in stuff that screams ‘look at us!’, I don’t count it as too much of a fault against this album, I just wish there had been more ostentatious riffs to get tangled in my memory. And to be fair, there are big, powerful sweeps of sound and harmony, drawing from the more majestic sides of their two main styles, but it’s something they work up to instead of throwing it in your face from the start.
Taken as a whole, SME have put enough work into both the basic and the ornamental parts of the music for III: Eternalism – The Psychospherical Chapter to hold up well to repeated listening for those who want something to scratch their black doom itch (and if they want it with some sci-fi flavoring, all the better). If the band is expecting people to use the full title when casually recommending it to friends, though, they’ll be in for some disappointment on that front.
Archaea – Catalyst
Location: Gothenburg, Sweden
Forming in 2007, Archaea have been on an eight year long journey involving a revolving cast of musicians, and even building their own studio to record their first album. Now in 2015 we see their melodic death metal Frankenstein come to life, but does it have the guts and brutality to terrorize the villagers while maintaining a more soft and complex side? Let’s take a closer look into the workings of their monster.
The most commendable aspect of Catalyst is in the fine-tuned equilibrium between the soft and brutal elements. At times they sound much like Dragonland, with sweeping keys and a sheer feeling of grandeur in the sound, while at other times they emulate the likes of Finntroll in crushingly fast and marvellously dirty sections. The balancing act between these two sides is done superbly as neither dominates the other and instead complement each other, working together to produce a sound with an exciting degree of variation that flows beautifully.
There are abundant sources of energy and relentless force in the sound that can easily get the heads banging, bodies moving, and moshpit grinding. This is developed through lowballing, fast paced guitar riffing and on point percussion. Adding to the insanity are the vocals which come in as a ferocious growl that embodies the demonic vibes and energy produced by the the band. This coupled with the imagery created by the melodic portions makes for a performance dripping with drama capable of sowing raw emotion into the mind of the listener.
Archaea may have taken a long time to release Catalyst, but it was well worth the effort. The album is masterfully assembled and is reflective of the passion and dedication that went into its conception. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take them as long to produce their next one.