Tuesday, 8 October 2013

E.P. Epidemic!

We're going to do something a little different here today.  We're going to talk about a few new things but we're also going to rectify a few mistakes / oversights and get around to featuring some bands that otherwise passed under the paranoid radar screen because I always emphasize albums here over E.P.'s.  Today's post is all about the extended play release.  I'm drowning in them over here and I wanted to share so many with you that I just decided to write them all up at once.  It's a regular EP-stravaganza!


CULT OF THE HEADLESS WITCH - ST (4 songs / 23:50) - This Swedish doom trio is actually without a full-time vocalist, at least for the moment.  For this, their debut self-titled E.P. they've enlisted the aid of Thomas "G.G." Eriksson who sings here in both English and in Swedish (on "En Ny Tid").

This is a band that prides itself on the melodic content of its songs and that comes through crystal clear as early as the first couple minutes of opening track "Ghost of the Headless Witch", an anthem of sorts for the band.  There is an emotive power which goes along with the melodic emphasis like hand in glove and leads to powerful dynamics.  The excellent news is that right now this sucker is available as a free no-questions-asked download on their bandcamp page.  If you're into Swedish doom, it's well worth a peek and a free download too.
From: Alingsås, Sweden.  Best song: "Master Your Fate".  Rating: 4/5


EXILES - Wreck (4 songs / 14:13) - The first of two doom rocking bands from the twin cities of Minnesota on this E.P. Epidemic express, Exiles just play some straightforward heavy rock n roll.  This quartet glories in the irresistible power of the riff and they can do it different ways.  While the opening cut, "SWB" is a dark and doomy rock n roll monsterpiece which brings to mind both Pentagram and Summoner, its follow-up "Black Candle" hearkens back to the days of the trio of 80's home state legends The Replacements, Husker Du and Soul Asylum.  "Supervolcano" is something of a meeting of the two styles.

This is a promising debut which puts a couple different styles on display, while emphasizing heaviness.  Exiles is available as a free download on bandcamp, or you can pay what you think is fair.
From: Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Best song: "SWB".  Rating: 4/5


IRON & STONE - Maelstrom (5 songs / 22:17) - Iron & Stone is a heavy duo from Germany, that's the easiest way to say it.  While never truly settling on one sound, Iron & Stone usually take the heaviest, bluntest and most energetic path through stoner, doom, sludge and grunge territory.  Throughout the effort, a darkness, a kind of emotional suckerpunch curses the music with pain and sorrow while still remaining energetic, creating an intense, manic atmosphere through which doomed and tragic people move like ants plugging dams while the mound is attacked by unstoppable forces.

Psychedelic tendencies throw tendrils into the affair, latching on to the gears of a song like "Blizzard" and finding a comfortable home amid the thickly oiled heavy machinery.  With an in-your-face vocal approach courtesy of  Henning Lührig and an aggressive edge to the music, Iron & Stone make a strong impression and create a full listening experience with just 5 songs.  Once again this is available as a pay what you want download on bandcamp.
From: Hildesheim, Germany.  Best song: "Maelstrom".  Rating: 4/5


MEXICAN WEREWOLF - MXWF (5 songs / 17:40) - This Chi-town trio kicks out the jams until the heads cave in.  Hard, heavy and bludgeoning rock n roll with hardcore tendencies, Mexican Werewolf are aggression personified, which suits the name implicitly.  This band is all about extremity and momentum, pushing things to the limits but having enough sensitivity to understand where the borderline is between rock n roll excess and punk rock oblivion.  At the risk of sounding like a one note kind of band, 'MXWF' builds up a running head of steam on opening track "Villalobos" and carries it through the full 17 plus minutes of the release without fumbling.

This E.P. is available in a ton of different packages on bandcamp with the best being $4 for a CD, which is a dollar cheaper than the strict digital download set at $5 right now.
From: Chicago, Illinois.  Best song: "Villalobos".  Rating: 3.5/5


NIGHT DEMON - ST (4 songs / 13:55) - I'd be totally remiss not to give this band a solid plug on the blog here so it's great to finally rectify that omission.  By now, Night Demon is no secret, having been snatched up by megalithic proto-doom label Shadow Kingdom Records who re-mastered and released this gem on CD back in August.  At this point, we're waiting patiently for a full length and it's going to slay, there's no doubt about it.

Primitive metal is the name of the game here.  Priest, Maiden and Metallica (of the 'Kill 'em All' period) are done proud by this young Californian trio.  Let's be blunt here: this is what it's all about really.  If metal hadn't splintered off into the 36000 chambers of separate subgenre (usually differentiated by hairsplitting minutiae), so early into its history, every one of us would still spend more time listening to the original stuff than we would the new stuff, there's just not enough of it that's of this quality.  Night Demon's got you covered all the way around, old, new, high trustworthy quality, yes they've got it all.  You can listen to the stream on the player below, then pick up the CD from Shadow Kingdom Records online shop.
From: Ventura, California.  Best song: "Night Demon".  Rating: 5/5


Cover artwork by John Trimmer
OLDE GROWTH - OWL E.P. (4 songs / 18:57) - Here's another excellent E.P. from earlier in the year that I never got around to mentioning on this here blog.  What a crime, I must confess!  I ordered this extended play on CD and I promptly forgot all about once it arrived.  It's not the band's fault!  They've deserved a much better fate than that, and this is my chance at redemption.

'Owl' is terrific, moody doom with just the right touch of melody in the vocals.  This Bawston duo maintains a sludgy tone while always moving things along at a good pace.  They've played shows with some of my favorite underground bands (Balam, Destroyer of Light) and they compare well to fellow New Englanders, Curse the Son.  There are times on this E.P. where the band takes things in an old school metal direction but always manage to remain au courant.  At other times the tone and mood is so dark it's as unsettling as a horror soundtrack.  Olde Growth are the real deal.  Free download or pay what you want, I picked up the CD and it's also out on tape, all of which are available on bandcamp.
From: Boston, Massachusetts.  Best song: "Edge of the Sea".  Rating: 4/5


OXXEN - ST (3 songs / 23:35) - Chattanooga doom is here to slay!  Oxxen builds a wicked head of steam on their self-titled EP that brings to mind the busily pummeling fists of High on Fire.  And when those flying fiery fists hit the mind ... brains explode.  The trio of brains behind Oxxen whip their wildly thrashing mad scientist concoctions into a frenzy that remind this listener of Behold! The Monolith.  Ferocity, tenacity and truculence are the hallmarks of Oxxen, exuberance permeates the record.  At a glance, they appear to fit in nicely with the joint Portland, Oregon / Savannah, Georgia brands of stoner metal so popular with Metal Blade records right now.

Oxxen don't really do 'slow', not on this EP anyway, but they do do slightly less pummeling / a sliver of room to breathe quite well on 11 minute "Riddle of Steel".  They can also turn on a dime, switching gears so suddenly you'll think something went horribly wrong.  It didn't of course, no more horrible than going from punching the listener in the face to working the soft tissue of the body.  What Oxxen won't do on their self-titled EP is pummel the listener with gentle kisses.  'Oxxen' is available for $3 on bandcamp right now.
From: Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Best song: "Stoic Men Under Ancient Lord".  Rating: 4/5


PALM DESERT - Adayoff (6 songs / 28:37) - It wasn't enough for Palm Desert to have released one of the best albums of the year in 'Rotten Village Sessions', they had to go back into the studio and release a killer E.P. on top of it.  What separates this Polish stoner quartet from the pack is their looseness.  Palm Desert makes their hay with improvisation, rattling off fully realized songs with startling ease while casually throwing structure at riffs that doesn't sound planned or is made to look easy, but feels complete nonetheless.

The tag line that accompanies 'Adayoff' is "Took off: 2 songs, 3 riffs, 48 beers.  Landed with: 6 songs, 3 beers left, 1 EP" and that's the spirit of this thing.  At the end of the day, you'd be hard pressed to identify which songs and riffs they went into the studio with versus which ones were written off the drunken cuff.  I've always thought that you can see who a person really is when they're drunk.  Functional drunkenness isn't as easy as it sounds here, Palm Desert sound like the same band they always were.  'Adayoff' is waiting for you on bandcamp, the asking price is $3 for a digital download and $8 for a CD.  I grabbed myself a CD.
From: Wrocław, Poland.  Best song: "Dusty".  Rating: 4/5


SUMERU - ST (4 songs / 18:07) - I can't imagine a world in which you will hear the second track from this E.P., "Kingdom" and not fall in love with it.  Allow me to shamelessly label this as one of the best songs of the year.  Luckily it's abutted against three killer tracks that hold their own as well.  This Sydney, New South Wales based quintet is composed of veteran musicians from pieces of several other bands, the most well-known to me being Lomera.  Sumeru is it's own thing obviously but that calm confidence of experience shines through here.

Sumeru play tough-as-an-office-lady's-corns stoner rock with metal tendencies, somewhat like Down on uppers (if that's not too much of a conundrum to wrap your mind around).  They play with tempos and grooves the way Olympian gods toy with the fates of mortals and the results are equally entertaining.  Sumeru's self-titled E.P. is not to be missed, no, not by nobody.  This puppy is waiting for you on bandcamp at $3 Australian or you can get it on CD for $5 Australian.
From: Sydney, New South Wales.  Best song: "Kingdom".  Rating: 4.5/5


Cover artwork by Holly Axelrod.
WICKED INQUISITION - Silence Thereafter (4 songs / 15:52) - Minnesotans don't do compromise, not when it comes to their metal that is.  These four young dudes from Minneapolis / St. Paul get downright stubborn with their style of firebrand doom.  High energy seems to be a pre-requisite for Minnesotan metalheads, if nothing else it's a way to try to stay warm.  The metal is sharp-edged, the beer is golden and the tundra explodes at the coming of Wicked Inquisition.

The opening track "The Jester's Clown" has to be on the shortlist for best song of the year.  Headbanging commences immediately upon the arrival of the drums meeting the Sleep / Corrosion of Conformity style riff.  "Radius of Fear" scorches too, in a churning Saint Vitus kind of way.  Wicked Inquisition seems to have much goat-sacrificing respect for their elders and bring an old school approach to their doom.  It's face-ripping stuff.  'Silence Thereafter' is ready for you as a pay what you think is fair download on bandcamp right now.
From: Twin Cities, Minnesota.  Best song: "The Jester's Clown".  Rating: 4/5


There's still much more where this came from.  This was fun, let's do it again some time soon ...

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