Escape Is Not Freedom – Goldsmith
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Goldsmith, the latest release from Chicago’s Escape Is Not Freedom, sounds like something that could have been released by Amphetamine Reptile Records. For those not familiar with that label, Amphetamine Reptile Records (often shortened to AmRep) released some truly uncompromising, noisy records from bands like Hammerhead and Cows, and have some pretty notable alumni, such as Unsane, Helmet, and Today Is The Day. Had they formed in the late 80s or early 90s, Escape Is Not Freedom surely would have been a perfect fit for AmRep, with their jagged riffs and aggressive, punk-influenced vocals.
Escape Is Not Freedom manage to take the melody of Smashing Pumpkins and couple it with the heavier edge of The Melvins, creating an intense sludge rock sound reminiscent of bands like Fight Amp and Whores. The guitars on Goldsmith are super fuzzed out, as can be heard on songs like “Night Light” and “Sodium,” and have an audible hiss, which gives the music an abrasive edge, even when the riffs are fairly melodic. The drums are big, but not overproduced, and the bass gives enough punch in the low-end to really give the riffs a solid dose of heaviness. Guest vocals by Emily Jancetic give an even bigger melodic boost on “Annul,” “Dispossess,” and “Harbinger,” with “Dispossess” in particularly being a moody, shoegaze-influenced track that gets a bit heavier towards the end, similar to Made Out Of Babies.
The production on Goldsmith has a heavy garage rock influence, with guitars allowed to feedback, and a bit of reverb on everything, giving the record an ambience usually heard only on live albums. This tone actually suits the music pretty well, sounding like it would give you a bad case of tinnitus in person (ALWAYS a good thing in an album). Though Escape Is Not Freedom clearly have a lot of influences from the 90s, they manage to not sound dated, and are very skilled at bringing those influences into a modern setting. If you like AmRep, or sludgy noise rock in general, pick up a copy of Goldsmith.
Temptation’s Wings – Skulthor Ebonblade
Location: Asheville, North Carolina
My preconceived notions of doom metal were all thrown out the window when I first heard “Solitude,” on Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. I guess I’d expected something closer to My Dying Bride, having assumed that all doom was gothic sounding, and was essentially just slowed down death metal. I had a similar awakening when I first heard Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone; I didn’t know anything so slow could be so damn heavy! North Carolina’s Temptation’s Wings proved once again that I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
When I saw the cover for Skulthor Ebonblade, the latest release from Temptation’s Wings, I assumed the record would probably be a sludge record in the vein of Mastodon, and I couldn’t have been any more wrong. The opening chords on “Burning of Hjalmar” have a melancholy tone, and an almost classical sounding progression. “I Destroyer,” however, really took me by surprise, sounding like the really early material from The Sword, if they had Messiah Marcolin on vocals. There’s definitely a southern-tinge to the music, more in attitude than in choice of melody, since the riffs have a classic heavy metal vibe, with some pretty killer lead-guitar bits, coupled with some crunchy, heavy riffs. If Candlemass were formed in the bayous of Louisiana, instead of Sweden, and Messiah had a slightly gruffer tone, this is exactly what they would sound like. “To Forge a Legend (Ulfbehrt)” starts off with a very Tony Iommi-esque riff, before going into a choppy southern sludge galloping rhythm, and is one of my favorite tracks of the record.
The production in the album is pretty clean, though sometimes it comes of a little “too clean”, as I would have liked to hear a little bit more sustain in some of the guitar bits, and a little less choppy sounding-rhythms. Still, Temptation’s Wings have created a pretty unique sound that puts them a little ahead of the curve. With a classic sound, as well as mythological lyrics evoking images of Vikings and battle, I would definitely recommend any fan of heavy music picking up a copy of Skulthor Ebonblade.