Death Mother (Church Road Records) is the debut full-length from Sweden’s Blodet, and it arrives after the tragic death of their guitarist Rickie Paleski-Östland, who contributed to the writing of the album. In spite of the inevitably difficult process of getting the record finished, it is nevertheless described as “cathartic”, “mesmerising”, and “alluring” by the press release which also draws comparisons to Chelsea Wolfe, Cult of Luna, and Sonic Youth.
In an ever-increasingly rich and exciting underground Death Metal scene in the UK, Celestial Sanctuary have been a prominent standard bearer and the ones most likely to break out to bigger things. 2021’s Soul Diminished was a case of a very strong debut album which also showed strong potential to be realised and was backed up with some feverishly received live outings, with the band maximising their opportunities with the likes of Undeath, so expectations on the follow up were always going to be high. Expectations which have been well and truly smashed with the immensely realised Insatiable Thirst For Torment (Church Road Records).
Whilst perhaps not as highly regarded for the genre as the likes of Norway, the United Kingdom does have a formidable pedigree for producing Black Metal, whether that being down to recognisable names such as Cradle Of Filth up to a current and brilliant crop including the likes of Underdark and Dawn Ray’d. Adding to these ranksare the enigmatic The Sun’s Journey Through The Night, led by vividly masked architect No One (and now joined by equally mysterious Corvus, Deimos, and Lune) and quickly growing a formidable reputation following three, contrasting, full-length albums encompassing raw Black Metal and a full ambient release, plus several smaller releases and demos, leading up to this, their fourth full-length and most realised and adventurous work to date.
It All Returns to Nothing (Church Road Records) is the debut album from London-based four-piece Burner, and has been highly anticipated by those in the know, who have been following the singles releases the band have been drip-feeding since the end of 2021. And Burner are the latest in a long line of artists who have found a suitable home on Church Road Records, one of the UKs thriving independent labels for heavy music.
I: Oblivion (Church Road Records) is, despite the inference in the title, actually the second part of the album series, as Vnder A Crvmbling Moon released 0.1 Prelude back in February. And, don’t be fooled (again), just because this British band spells their name with a bunch of V’s they are not black metal – the VACM sound falling in the cracks between sludge and doom.
Since their previously solitary release, Portland, Oregon doom metaller’s Burial Clouds have undergone a significant change into an almost entirely new entity. Once entirely an instrumental outfit, the band have since added vocalist Michael Malarkey to their ranks; and with that have added extra dimensions to their sound as shown on debut full-length Last Days Of A Dying World (Church Road Records).
Much like the dense expanses of sci-fi space that their music thematically focuses upon, the UK’s Wallowing are a band of mystery. With their identities largely hidden and their physical presence in cloaked and masked outfits, Wallowing instead allow their music and their theming of darkened science fiction to be the true focus of their creative outlet.
It’s been a tic since I’ve heard a doomy sludgy style album that I enjoyed. After a while it becomes rote. It all sounds the same. Thankfully, Rot (Church Road Records) by the oh-so-brilliant Ohmms brings back that delicious, doomy, sludgy, bombastic sound. Can a doom album make one happy? Oh yes, Ohmms’ Rot can.
After two EPs worth of hard-slamming hardcore punk since their formation in Manchester in 2019, Going Off are delivering a larger beatdown with their debut LP, What Makes You Tick? (Church Road Records) with a fresh style that mixes older and new hardcore genres with plenty of destruction all around.
With their third outing Texas-based Narrow Head have created a body of music that if you were there, will well and truly spin you back in time to the mid-nineties. And if you weren’t there but nonetheless love the alternative rock sound of the time, then you’ll also find yourself intriguingly transported back to the era when baggy clothes and dirty scuzzy guitar riffs were the sign of the times. And on top of that Moments Of Clarity (Church Road Records) may well be considered a classic today, was it released some 25-30 years ago amongst the influences that it clearly wears on its sleeve.
And the record stands out today, as it lulls you into a sense of security before changing style and introducing heavier elements where the band sounds on their peak for me, before then throwing in a highly experimental closer. So the album opens with ‘The Real’ and a fuzzy grunge riff, with the vocal of Jacob Duarte sounding somewhere between an early Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, and an early Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan. There is a lighter nineties indie alternative rock style to the sound, which continues into ‘Moments Of Clarity’ invoking memories from the likes of Weezer, Placebo, and The Lemonheads. It’s clear from the first couple of tracks that Narrow Head can write one hell of a catchy riff with highly engaging vocal hooks, and then on ‘Sunday’ they introduce a Deftones-esq riff which more than hints at what’s to come.
‘Trepnation’ kicks like a mule with dirtier down-tuned guitars and a heavy chugging bass, and my attention has well and truly been captured by the change in tone. ‘Breakup Song’ is melancholic with a lovely entwine between the main riff and a rolling bass, while ‘Fine Day’ is another sweet heavy cut with crunching guitars.
On ‘Carline’ Narrow Head reverts back to the more melodic feel of the album’s first quarter, but from here it changes tact once again with the darker muddy sounding ‘The World Sunday’ and the explosive ‘Gearhead’, which slams into a late-nineties era Deftones style, with Duarte channeling a shoe-gaze Chino Moreno vocal. And with the first screams on the album laid down before a furious outro of impressive drumming and heavy distortion … More of this, please!
And the band delivers on ‘Flesh & Solitude’ with the further subtle use of screams in amongst the heavy intoxicating music with a beautiful outro of avant-garde percussive cacophony. The aptly titled ‘The Comedown’ follows with lush strumming and kind of a Pearl Jam flavour, which gradually builds to the climax of ‘Soft To Touch’ where a mischievous guitar line perfectly plays over electronic beats. I love the way this album twists and turns from the indie rock style into a heavier alternative beast, before turning full circle and then going completely leftfield with the use of electronica. And these changes in tone create a real album experience which should definitely be absorbed as one. This is where rock music needs to be, for me, in 2023.