On our quite limited list alone, we had eight different records being released on September 22, with a handful of them being doom records. Thus, and for as much as both the releases by Yellow Eyes and Godspeed You! Black Emperor deserve all the attention they can get, we decided to just throw ourselves at the records by Monarch, Process Of Guilt, Ufomammut, and With The Dead. Yes, they are all slow, but as we’ll argue below, actually constitute a bunch of diverse ways of going about slow music.
Monarch – «Never Forever» | [Profound Lore]
The new record from French quintet Monarch is a feast of good taste. Not only does the title seems like a call back to records from Turbonegro and Kate Bush, but most importantly, they offer a vast range of different Monarch sounding songs without compromising the solidity of «Never Forever» as a whole. They introduce new elements in a way that is perfectly in tune with the songs and, most importantly, give us one hour of bloody good drawn-out doom with many a surprising layer to be discovered. While certainly slow, it’s a brilliantly paced record, intercalating three fifteen-plus minute songs with two shorter pieces, the second of which is the brilliant cover of Kiss‘s «Black Diamond». This way, they go from the more horrific tomb dwelling from the opener, to the haunting beauty of «Song To The Void» and let it all wash away with the overt funeral doom leanings of the fantastic «Cadaverine», which starts with an amazing call back to 1979’s cult film «The Warriors». They’ve been doing this trio live and the results are stunning, with Eurogirl‘s vocals being as intense on a stage as they are on this record. That brings us to the final highlight of the record, which is Bresson’s vocal work. On the one hand, it possesses a range we simply had not witnessed from her, but mainly, it’s how much the nuanced execution adds to the songs, frequently taking a simple transition between two long-lasting riffs and adding a scream of despair in just the right place, or taking a simple instrumental section to new haunting heights through the use of spoken word or clean singing. «Never Forever» includes an increased use of melodic passages to the instrumental, of diversity in the songwriting and in vocal execution, and somehow retains the Monarch identity unaltered. That, with the good taste displayed throughout, is a definite triumph for the French collective.
Process Of Guilt – «Black Earth» | [Bleak / Division]
«Black Earth» took Process of Guilt longer to put together than they would have liked. As vocalist/guitarist Hugo Santos explains in an interview to be featured in #199 of Loud! Magazine in stores next week, this was in part due to a change of cities when it comes to the location for rehearsing and writing material. Fittingly, opener «(No) Shelter» kicks things off in furious and disconcerting manner; after the initial feedback, it’s a frantic full-steam ahead for two minutes with some very interesting and non-trivial drumming from Gonçalo Correia. On «Black Earth»’s predecessor «Fæmin», the band’s doom had expanded through paths once paved by Belgium post metal outfit Overmars, whereas the «Liar» movements from the split with Rorcal had a more experimental nature, with pounding riffs intertwined asphyxiating atmospheres. Now, these ideas were condensed and given more of an industrial touch-up, particularly in some of the vocal/guitar combinations and, perhaps even more markedly, in the bass sound, more than evident in the monumental title track. Said song also serves an important structural role in the record, coming after the initial powerful trio comprised of the opener, «Feral Ground» and «Servant», and providing somewhat of a breathing ground to the proceedings, even if the notion is hard to apply to such a bleak and heavy movement. More importantly, it perfectly paves the way for the mighty wall of sound of closer «Hoax», perhaps the most surprising track in the album, with its constant backdrop of menacing tremolo-driven guitar some particularly memorable vocal lines. «Your life was taken by lies // They give all you have // and all you have is nothing!» Not only it is a perfect way to bring «Black Earth» to an end, but also works tremendously in that role on a live setting, as we recently witnessed when the band performed at SMSF back in June.
Ufomammut – «8» | [Neurot]
The music of «8», while deeply ingrained in the Ufomammut aesthetics, develops at a brisker, more direct pace than those of recent offerings, particularly the «Oro» records. Consider their path, from the much more straight-forward and stoner-infused riffs of «Snailking» and the way the dirty bass sound stood out in the mix, to the more drawn out excursions of «Eve» or «Oro», in which the weight of the compositions was much more heavily decorated by overarching psychedelic themes. In «8», they picked up the pace, somehow managed to keep all the things they picked up along the way and made it all carry a punch, arguably unlike any record they’d done before. While one could argue that texturally there is not much of a surprise in «8», that would be missing the point. Now that the experimental paths have been mastered, it seems like it was the perfect time to take them and just write an in-your-face, properly heavy doom record with all those additional elements engraved on it, and that’s exactly what «8» is to great effect.
With The Dead – «Love From With The Dead» | [Rise Above Records]
When, in 2014, it became known that Lee Dorrian, Tim Bagshaw, and Mark Greening were forming With The Dead, fans of the British school of doom rejoiced. After all, Cathedral had just ceased activities the year prior, Ramesses were on a hiatus, Greening had just left Electric Wizard after a lacklustre second presence in the band, and Serpentine Path was clearly following more of the Winter footsteps than those of Bagshaw’s past (. In other words, there was clearly a void to fill in the world of doom and the credentials carried by all three musicians made everyone believe that it would be done. And it was done, even if it took them one lukewarm record, the departure of Greening and subsequent additions of Chrome Hoof bassist Leo Smee and former Bolt Thrower drummer Alex Thomas to do so.
With this almost inexcusably long introduction out of the way, «Love From With The Dead» sounds like its name suggests in context, that is, a love letter to the extremely heavy doom we associate with some of the aforecited bands; a simple and straight-forward letter, focusing on dirge-like cadences, Dorrian’s unique tone, menacing guitar leads and distortion ridden riffs everywhere. All done in as slow a manner as one would want and as stripped down from all that’s unnecessary, be it that compressed sound that is so annoyingly prevalent these days, or pointless psychedelic endeavours.
That’s not to say there’s no variety. In «Watching the Ward Go By» you’ll feel sunk in a minimal funereal dirge for over five minutes, with an ominous voice eventually entering the fray. When the riff finally explodes (slowly, but an explosion nonetheless), it’s like a raw version of old Cathedral and Electric Wizard combined is slowly emerging all deformed from a murky tomb. It’s ugly then as it is in the following «Anemia» when he hear the cutting screams of “No joy! No life!”, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Further listening: «Love From With The Dead» is available for stream via Loudwire at this location.