UPDATE: Corrected CHVE’s score
Sanzu – Heavy Over The Home
Location: Perth, Australia
Sanzu play an intense form of death metal that straddles the line between the new and the old-school death. Featuring former members of Perth heavyweights Malignant Monster, Sanzu released their debut EP, Painless earlier this year to much acclaim. To keep the momentum going, they have quickly followed it up with Heavy Over The Home.
Heavy Over The Home is a truly malevolent slab of death metal that can’t easily be pigeon-holed into any particular subset of the genre. The guitar tone shows a little bit of a Gojira influence, and there are definitely plenty of modern-style riffs throughout, particularly on tracks like “Those Who Sleep In The East” and “The Chill.” That being said, Sanzu also have plenty of traditional sounding tunes that take their cues from bands like Morbid Angel or Deicide, as you can hear on “Ubiety.” There is plenty of atmosphere throughout Heavy Over The Home, and even hints of melody, making this a pretty well-rounded album. The guitars aren’t the only exciting thing about Sanzu’s sound either; vocally they are all over the map, from deep death growls to higher-pitched screaming similar to Meshuggah.
Title track “Heavy Over The Home” is my favorite song on the record; this is simply because it ties everything great about this album together. Plodding, nightmarish riffs start the track off, and build up into some of the angriest, most explosive riffs of the entire record, reminding me (again) of early Meshuggah material. This track also highlights the excellent production, with layered vocals, plenty of low-end bass and 6-string guitar work, and loud drums, without a single instrument overpowering the others.
I’m pleasantly surprised with Heavy Over The Home, and I suggest you give it a spin if you like a good sonic pummeling along the lines of Meshuggah and Gojira, mixed with a healthy dose of old-school death metal.
Slomatic – Kalceanna (Reissue)
Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Label: Black Bow Records
If you’re a fan of the fuzzed-out, amplifier-worship type of doom metal, chances are you’ve heard of Slomatics. If that’s the case, you’re wondering why are we just now reviewing Kalceanna. Well, in an exciting bit of news for fans of the band, Slomatics have signed with Black Bow Records, who are reissuing the band’s first two albums, so if you missed out the first go-around, here’s your chance to see what all the fuss has been about!
Despite only having three members, Slomatics manage to fill up a lot of sonic space on Kalceanna, with monolithic riffs, thunderous drums, and rumbling bass. “By Thor” truly sounds like the kind of tune you’d play if you were trying to summon the God of Thunder (the Norse God, not that asshole from Kiss). Sludgy, colossal riffs similar to what you’d hear on a Conan or Bongripper album abound in this piece of modern doom history, and will certain gain Slomatics a new legion of followers. Vocals are pretty sparse in the album, wiuth the band instead choosing to let the riffs speak for themselves; when the vocals are present, though, they’re usually of the gruff, guttural yelling variety. The production is on par with what you’d expect from this genre; loads of fuzz, and a slightly psychedelic-sounding atmosphere, which sounds like I’m describing Dopesmoker by Sleep, an apt comparison. None of the instruments lose definition in the mix, though, which is a big plus, as there have been many albums in this genre that could have sounded so much better, were it not for the muddy quality of the production.
There aren’t enough adjectives to describe how massive and heavy Kalceanna is, you really have to experience this album for yourself. Fans will enjoy this trip down memory lane, probably accompanied by “herbal supplements,” and will piss all their neighbours off since the only way to listen to this album is as loud as possible.
Black Oath – To Below and Beyond
Label: Terror from Hell Records
Although Black Oath‘s third album takes its time gearing up, after a few minutes of slow-moving build-up, the vocals break in, the guitar comes out in earnest, and the drums start hitting harder. From there, the band allows its traditional form of doom metal flex where needed, and slow to morbid introspection elsewhere, throwing in semi-noodly guitar lines and hard riffs to keep the energy balanced but not monotonous.
The mixing sounds fine for the most part, but there are times when the shine of a power chord seems a little smothered. Nice work is done in keeping the bass prominent without overpowering the rest (though some doom fans may find that a disappointment), and the drums generally sound good, if a little too obscured. Good work is also done with the levelling of the vocal, bringing them up for the dramatic wails and sliding back down a little for the more subdued sections, while keeping them well-proportioned to the other instruments. There’s also some clever harmonizing between the guitar and vocals, probably the most evident example of the musician’s individual parts playing off of each other.
The lyrics are, admittedly, fairly bland for the style, drawing heavily from old-school doom without much to stamp a sense of their own character on them. That said, they play it well enough, with some tasty flourishes thrown in, and there’s a reliable audience for satisfactory ‘moon-lit graveyard’ doom, so faulting them for playing it faithfully doesn’t amount to much of a criticism.
All told, To Below and Beyond is an album that’s perfectly serviceable for what it does, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of new interpretations. If you’re looking for something to scratch that particular genre itch, have at it, but keep your expectations low for a pleasant surprise instead of getting let down by high hopes.
CHVE – Rasa
Label: Consouling Sounds
I really love shitting on non-traditional releases. I often get the feeling that artists find themselves so desperately trying to differentiate themselves from others that the they rely on gimmicks or pseudointellectual masturbation to get their work out. This was my first impression with Rasa, as it started with nothing but an unsettling noise in the background. It was so strange, actually, that at first I thought the sounds were coming from my computer, maybe a pop-up window or something, instead of the album. Yet, I soldiered on, and I’m glad I did.
I used the word “unsettling,” and I believe that word is the best way to describe Rasa. Even though it’s not cacophonous (the eerie sound at the beginning does subside), and there is a certain sense of melody, I don’t think that this is an album that you are supposed to enjoy, at least not in the traditional way.
It often reminded me of Hans Zimmer‘s work in the film Gladiator, even if CHVE (short for Colin H. Van Eeckhout) is, of course, going at it at a much smaller scale. Indeed, he is here armed exclusively with his hurdy gurdy and his voice (although occasionally he also gets in charge of the drums and the bohdran), and yet he still manages to convey so much.
The use Celtic and European instruments is masterfully made, giving the whole experiment a vibe that would not be out of place in a film soundtrack portraying some sort of fire funeral. The album’s one song is just soaking in an overwhelming sense of loss, despair and mourning, and which at times just makes it hard to listen.
I cannot describe CHVE in a way that will make you know beforehand what you’re getting into. All I can tell you is that the journey is absolute worth it, and that you owe it to yourself to, at the very least, listen to some of it.