Friday Full-Length: Apostle of Solitude, Sincerest Misery

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Apostle of Solitude, Sincerest Misery (2008)

Sure enough, doom has rarely offered miseries that seem so sincere. Part of what makes Apostle of Solitude so resonant on that level, I think, is the utter lack of drama in their sound. That’s something that was true of them on their 2008 full-length debut, Sincerest Misery — which was released by underrated and now-defunct imprint Eyes Like Snow — and it’s remained true of them ever since. Somehow, coming from the Indianapolis outfit, it seems particularly American, and in the case of their first record, that’s a spirit emphasized by the everyday-rural-woes spoken sample included in “This Dustbowl Earth” in the album’s back half, but even more than that, it’s the point that Apostle of Solitude right away seemed to spurn any sort of morose posturing or poetic theatricalities. “A Slow Suicide” tells a story about substance abuse. “The Dark Tower” references Stephen King in its title. But with guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown‘s sorrowful delivery, the emotional crux of Sincerest Misery comes across as being on a perpetual fade. It’s not about scribbling lines to Horus by moonlight — nothing against that, mind you; when it works it’s brilliant — but about the doom can infect one’s day-to-day experience of life. It doesn’t need that added drama to get its point across.

Comprised of eight core tracks plus a hidden cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Electric Funeral,” Sincerest Misery begins with a snare count-in on “The Messenger” from founding drummer Corey Webb that sets in motion the key dynamic that will play out throughout the course of the record — namely that between himself and Brown. As the guitar on “The Messenger” and the subsequent “Confess” sways between chugging and drawn out lumber, Webb demonstrates a core tactic that the band has continued to utilize on their three-to-date LPs in switching between forward propulsion and a half-time swing that seems to make everything slower despite no tempo change from Brown — joined on guitar here by Justin Avery, while Brent McLellen handled bass and backing vocal duties — drawing back and lurching ahead with a change that’s both subtle and beaning the listener in the head. Together, “The Messenger” and “Confess” make up a pivotal opening salvo that I’d argue helped establish Apostle of Solitude immediately among the stronger US-based purveyors of traditional doom metal, showcasing them quickly as more than just an offshoot of The Gates of Slumber, in which Brown had previously served as drummer, and setting the stage for the slower crawl to come on “A Slow Suicide,” the 14-minute closer “Sincerest Misery (1,000 Days)” or the penultimate “Warbird,” which at nine minutes is perhaps Sincerest Misery‘s most dynamic track in its melody and the patience of its execution, starting with a hypnotic undulation of bass and slowly doling out its riff before exploding into nodding crash en route first to a fistpump-ready midsection, then through another slowdown that builds toward a payoff in the last minute that, even on its own, outside the context of the rest of the outing around it, shows the potential that existed in this band at what was more or less their outset, the first full-length having been preceded by the 2006 Embraced by the Black EP and an eponymous demo in 2005.

The cleverness of having the guitar count-in at the start of “Last Tears,” which on the vinyl version closes out side A in answer to “The Messenger,” is one example of nuance presented throughout, and certainly the instrumental rollout of “The Dark Tower” has its classically progressive elements, but again, what makes Sincerest Misery as a whole even more affecting to the listener is the overarching rawness that seems to be emanating from it at all times. One gets the sense in listening to the the turns and howls of “Confess,” the lurching chug of “Last Tears” and the ultra-dug-in plod of “Sincerest Misery (1,000 Days)” that the damage suffered is recent, and it sounds no less so more than nine years after the initial release — it turns a decade old in Oct. 2018 — than it did when the album first came out, because like the best of doom, Apostle of Solitude‘s Sincerest Misery has retained a sonic potency by seeming not to belong to its own era so much as an ongoing pantheon of style.

Crucial as well for what it set in motion in terms of Apostle of Solitude‘s sound in how they’d take the harmonies of “Sincerest Misery (1,000 Days)” and the “Electric Funeral” cover and make them a pivotal aspect of their approach — particularly after bringing in guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also of Devil to Pay) for their triumphant third full-length, 2014’s Of Woe and Wounds (review here), which followed the Profound Lore-released, got-a-bum-wrap-because-of-its-cover-art 2010 sophomore work, Last Sunrise (review here) — Sincerest Misery earns a place of distinction in that aesthetic pantheon not just by living up to its title, but through the unabashed emotionalism it presents. If you want to put it to scale, Pallbearer‘s first demo was still two years off, so it’s worth emphasizing that Apostle of Solitude were well ahead of the curve in a lot of what’s become taken for granted as modern doom.

That’s not to say Sincerest Misery is perfect. It’s not. Including the Sabbath track, it reaches an unmanageable 70-minute runtime and there are stretches where it’s clear the editorial impulse that would show itself in a tightening of songwriting by the time they got into Last Sunrise and Of Woe and Wounds was still in development. But especially as their debut, it shows the mindful approach to their craft they’d continue to progress as they moved forward and brings forth righteousness enough that, nine years after the fact, one is left thinking that it’s high time Apostle of Solitude were considered among the foremost purveyors of American doom throughout the last decade.

As one looks forward to the arrival of their fourth outing in 2018, revisiting their first offers a chance to be reminded of how much they have to offer in style and substance, and as always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

Yesterday was the solstice, the darkest day of the year. And it felt it perhaps even a little more than usual with the passing earlier this week of Rev. Jim Forrester, shot down outside his place of employment in Baltimore with no sense of motive yet uncovered and no suspect arrested last I heard. Shit is fucked. Fucked. Fucked. Fucked. Today is the memorial service down there, and next Friday in Frederick, Maryland, is the first of what one hopes will be a series of benefit shows (info here) in his honor and with proceeds going to his family.

I guess if there’s light at all to take away from that situation — which, it needs to be said again: fucked — it’s seeing the Maryland heavy underground rally together as it always does. Earlier this year when Jim had his health issues stemming from a blood clot in his liver (discussed here), the people in Maryland’s scene got together to offer their support and it’s always encouraging to see that community take care of its own. Brings out the idea that it’s the music tying everyone together, but it’s the people that really make it what it is down there, and Jim’s loss, I know I’ve already said this, is significant. He’s someone who will continue to be missed, and not just for the music he made or his riotous stage presence — but for who he was as a person.

A pretty devastating way to go into the holidays, but that’s where we’re headed. Monday is Xmas. I’ll be traveling, so probably not so much posting, but I’ll be working for the next four days as well on putting together the Top 30 of 2017, which if everything goes according to my plan will be posted next Wednesday. Everything’s tentative, with baby, and holidays, and what’s turned out to be a bevvy of doctor appointments — physical therapy for The Patient Mrs., check-up for The Pecan, dentist for me (was supposed to have a root canal yesterday that I postponed to next Friday) — but in addition to the top 30, I’d like to do a year-end podcast (those are always fun) and a song-of-the-year post as well, so keep an eye out. There’s still a lot of 2017 to squeeze in. Here are the notes:

Mon.: Nothing. Happy Xmas.
Tue.: Year-end podcast; news catchup.
Wed.: Top 30 of 2017; High Reeper video maybe.
Thu.: C.O.C. review if I can fit it in time-wise.
Fri.: Song of the Year.

Doesn’t look like much, I know, but it’s actually a pretty staggering amount of work to be done, and not a little daunting as a prospect, particularly with the wrap of the Year-End Poll and the Quarterly Review looming not far behind, and then, sometime in January, the list of 2018’s most anticipated albums to go up. I don’t even know how many I’ve got in my notes at this point. Has to be more than 100. Last year worked out to be more than 200 by the time I was done updating the thing. Woof.

But one thing at a time. I hope first and foremost that if you’re celebrating the holiday this coming Monday that you have a good one and that you’re spending it how you want to spend it. The Patient Mrs. and I (and The Pecan, naturally) will be indulging our annual Xmas Eve tradition of watching Die Hard and, hopefully, Die Hard 2, before traveling to CT to see family on the day itself, so should be good times all around. I’m looking forward to it.

Either way, have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

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The Flight of Sleipnir’s Saga Due Feb. 15

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 4th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Last heard from with 2011’s Essence of Nine (review here), Colorado duo The Flight of Sleipnir will release their fourth album, Saga, on Feb. 15 through Eyes Like Snow. And in case you were wondering just how serious is the super-serious business they get up to, the tracklist is in Roman numerals. They also have their own runes. Yeah, it’s like that.

The news came in on the PR wire and it’s one more on an increasingly long list worth looking forward to. Dig it:


“Saga” is the band’s 4th album and by now I think we can dispense with comparisons. The Flight Of Sleipnir have become their own reference – a fact to which a large and continuously growing fan base attests.

On “Saga” David & Clay have further refined what has become their very own style, a totally unique combination of Viking and Doom Metal with progessive elements, which they developed and improved with every release.

In this respect, the new album is a consequent continuation of “Essence Of Nine”, with its focus on acoustic parts, melodic guitar leads and clean vocals on the one hand, and raw Viking/Black Metal outbursts on the other, everything merged into a seamless whole. In short, an exciting and never boring or repetitive journey through a rough northern landscape, interspersed with relaxed nights around the campfire.

The album will first be released in A5-Digi (ltd. 1000) and CD jewel case, and in late Spring 2013 on double LP incl. 8-page booklet & A2 poster. Attentive fans may be able to grab one of the very limited Die Hard Editions we’ve planned for the A5-Digi and LP.


I. Prologue
II. Reaffirmation
III. Reverence
IV. Harrowing Desperation
V. Heavy Rest The Chains Of The Damned
VI. Judgment
VII. Demise Carries With It A Song
VIII. The Mountain
IX. Hour Of Cessation
X. Remission
XI. Beneath Red Skies
XII. Epilogue

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audiObelisk: Vinum Sabbatum Stream “Tombstone Rider” from Bacchanale Premiere Full-Length Debut

Posted in audiObelisk on June 29th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Due out Aug. 24 on Eyes Like Snow/Northern Silence, Finnish trad doomers Vinum Sabbatum‘s Bacchanale Premiere follows an impressive 2011 split CD with mischievous British stoners Groan (review here) and a reissue of their debut EP, Songs from the Convent. The new full-length finds the Hyvinkää five-piece well assured of their aesthetic and what they want to be as a band, the kind of doom they want to make and just how much classic and cult heavy rock they want to put into it.

The answer to that last question seems to be “a lot.” More even than their EP or the split, Bacchanale Premiere places itself next to the heavy of old, sonically, and as a result, atmospherically. The prevalent organ (hee hee) of Tomi Korpela alongside the guitar of Juha Köykkä keeps that feeling consistent throughout the record, and between the inventive blues rhythms of bassist Mika Pajula and new drummer Jarno Jaakkola and the woeful wails of vocalist Janne Salo, their classical allegiances come through loud and proud as one of their central defining characteristics.

Another, and one I think you’ll be able to hear as you stream the track “Tombstone Rider” on the player below, is a core of songwriting that underlies the obviously considerable amount of stylization. “Tombstone Rider” has the organs, it has the bluesy groove, but it also has a solid hook and memorable performances from the band. I’ve included some info from the label after the player. Hope you enjoy:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Vinum Sabbatum‘s first full-length displays a band grown into a tight unit. The material is somewhat removed from the doom metal approach of Songs from the Convent and showcases more of their love for prog and hard rock rooted in the ‘70s, such as Uriah Heep, Deep Purple or Atomic Rooster, along with blues-based heavy rock á la early Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Warhorse and Iron Claw.

So there is still heaviness here, they merely traded the obvious doom metal leanings for an exciting mix of bluesy doom and gloom, combined with psychedelic and rocking grooves with enchantingly catchy melodies, and crowned by the remarkable voice of Janne Salo and the Hammond organ and keyboard of Tomi Korpela.

The first press of the CD comes in A5-digipak, limited to 1000 copies, and a vinyl version will also be released later on.

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audiObelisk Premiere: Stream Apostle of Solitude’s Demo 2012 in its Entirety

Posted in audiObelisk on June 20th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Of all the discs I picked up on my recent excursion to the Middled West, in stores or at merch tables, none so far (and I had about 15 hours in the car to listen) has made the same kind of impression as the three-song Demo 2012 by Indianapolis doomers Apostle of Solitude. Perhaps it was seeing two out of three of the tracks live first and their having made such an impression that way and then following that up with the CD, but whatever it is, that was some of the best cash I spent on the whole trip, and don’t tell The Patient Mrs., but I spent a bit.

Somewhere in the depths of rural Michigan, as I put on “Blackest of Times,” I recognized the song immediately. If you ever wanted to know what kind of impact low end at its best can have on trad doom, listen to when “Iron” Bob Fouts kicks in on the leadoff cut on Demo 2012. Together with drummer Corey Webb, Fouts promulgates an insistence of groove that’s both classic and definitively modern in its style, and at the same time, the integration of guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak alongside Chuck Brown has both pushed Brown more to the fore as a singer and presented an avenue by which the melodic complexity of the band can develop.

To wit, “Die Vicar Die,” a song that’s as catchy as anything in Apostle of Solitude‘s still-budding catalog — yes, even “The Messenger” or “Hunter Sick Rapture” — also finds room in its near eight minutes for a ranging instrumental break that lets Brown and Janiak explore guitar interplay no less lyrical than ultra-fitting and ultra-doomed early verse lines like, “How could a righteous god/Forgive a monster like me,” simultaneously expanding on the galloping riff-led finish of “Blackest of Times.” Demo closer “Good Riddance” is the shortest of the three tracks at 5:59, and also built around a strong chorus, a chugging riff straight out of classic metal driving home the growth of the band without sounding like a put-on or over the top.

“Good Riddance” cuts off right at the end — that’s how it is on my disc, from which these tracks were directly ripped — and it’s important to keep in mind that Demo 2012 is just that; a demo. The performances are live-sounding and I don’t think it’s mastered, but from where I sit it gives an excellent impression of where the band is headed for their next full-length.

Check it out right here:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

For more on Apostle of Solitude, you can see the interview I did with Brown following the release of their second full-length and Profound Lore debut, 2010’s Last Sunrise, also reviewed here. Or you can just hit them up on Thee Facebooks. Either way. Special thanks to the band for the permission to feature the songs.

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The Flight of Sleipnir, Essence of Nine: Odin Rides to the Rockies

Posted in Reviews on June 30th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Taking on a host of aesthetics for their third genre-bending album since their 2007 inception, Colorado duo The Flight of Sleipnir weave their way through blackened folk metal and a progressive-edged doom on Essence of Nine. With the rich (if often used) lore of Norse mythology as their lyrical inspiration, multi-instrumentalists Clayton Cushman (guitar, vocals, bass, keys) and David Csicsely (drums, vocals, guitar) provide a varied approach across Essence of Nine’s eight cuts, flowing smoothly from song to song despite a relatively lo-fi production and managing to affect a dark but still emotionally-communicated atmosphere – that is, they’re not just angry and blasting out – with switches between early Opethian clean singing and more blackened forest screams.

Their second offering through German imprint Eyes Like Snow, it’s hard to get an immediate read on Essence of Nine from opener “Transcendence,” since the song starts with a doomed riff and groove that – were the tone fuzzier – would be pure stoner rock, and moves before long into an acoustic part before giving way, in turn, to far-back screams and heavier guitars and drums. The Flight of Sleipnir do a lot of back and forth between heavy and mellow, but in the context of the songs themselves, it’s not redundant, since Cushman and Csicsely keep what they’re actually playing so varied. “Transcendence” has some repetition of parts, but the chorus isn’t hooky in a songwriting sense, and if the start of the record makes anything clear, it’s that The Flight of Sleipnir are concerned more with stylistic complexity and the contrast between musical light and dark than pop catchiness.

Still, the track gives only a cursory glance at the diversity Essence of Nine carries with it. “Upon This Path We Tread,” which follows, provides even smoother transitions and an effective inclusion of acoustics à la modern Negura Bunget, and the album proceeds from there to unfold with the engaging riffs of “A Thousand Stones” and an increasingly developed atmosphere. There’s something definitively European about the sound The Flight of Sleipnir elicit and the imagery these songs provoke, but for its doom elements and effective balance between the metal and folk in folk metal, I wouldn’t call Essence of Nine redundant. Even on “As the Ashes Rise (The Embrace of Dusk),” which arguably accounts for some of Cushman and Csicsely’s most raging moments, that metallic indulgence is complemented in the second half of the song by an acoustic-led wistfulness that leads gorgeously into the 7:31 centerpiece, “Nine Worlds,” the high point of the album.

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Lord Vicar and Funeral Circle Split: The Cemetery Waits

Posted in Reviews on June 13th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

A well-suited pairing between Finnish and Canadian outfits, Eyes Like Snow’s recently-issued split between Lord Vicar and Funeral Circle is doom for traditional doomers. It’s available in a variety of vinyl editions as well as CD, and with a total runtime of 22 minutes across three tracks, it’s a decent opportunity for anyone who hasn’t yet to get to know either band. Lord Vicar, with former members of Reverend Bizarre and Saint Vitus/Count Raven, is obviously the higher-profile act of the two, but Funeral Circle, who formed in 2007 in Vancouver, give a solid showing of themselves and even cover Witchfinder General to add memorability to their side of the record. It’s over quick, either way, but both Funeral Circle and Lord Vicar have something to offer doom heads: Namely, doom.

For Lord Vicar, this split with Funeral Circle follows one from this past winter with Swedish act Griftegård and will lead into one with Maryland doomers Revelation and the follow-up to 2008’s Fear No Pain debut full-length, reportedly titled Signs of Osiris. One thing that should be abundantly clear right away, then, is that Lord Vicar likes to keep busy. And why not? Guitarist Peter Inverted has been able to maintain the steady momentum of limited releases that helped Reverend Bizarre’s cult and sphere of influence grow as wide as they did and continue to do, and his pairing with vocalist Christian “Lord Chritus” Lindersson – who sang on Saint Vitus’ underrated C.O.D. album after fronting Count Raven for their 1990 debut, Storm Warning – has led to one of the most formidable partnerships in the current European scene. Here, Lord Vicar offers the 13:50 woeful epic “The Fear of Being Crushed,” which unsurprisingly finds Peter taking the lead on guitar with bassist Jussi “Iron Hammer” Myllykoski and drummer Gareth Millsted (ex-Centurions Ghost) adding righteous thickness behind. The song weaves its way, slowly, through longer heavy sections and offsetting acoustic breaks that do more to complement the atmosphere than detract from it, also – in the case of the middle one as opposed to the song’s intro or outro – allowing for Lindersson to show his emotional range in a kind of existential “how low can you go?” verse before the driving electric riff kicks back in with the bass and drums. Even without the context of Lord Vicar’s pedigree, it’s easy to hear in “The Fear of Being Crushed” why they’re among European trad doom’s forerunners; their overall melodic sensibility, Peter’s riffing, the tonal strength of Myllykoski’s bass (as heard when everything else cuts out 12 minutes in), Millsted’s steady plod and Lindersson’s sparse but effective vocals are not only paying homage to the foundational principles of their genre, but are helping to refine them as well. With crisp, clear production and the stateliness of their approach, the “duh” factor is high, as in, “Well, of course it rules. Duh.”

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Apostle of Solitude Announce July Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 29th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Well, it’s a new announcement in the sense of the specifics, but as savvy Obelisk attendees know, Apostle of Solitude frontman Chuck Brown was talking about heading east this July for shows all the way back in February during our interview about his band’s second album, Last Sunrise. Glad to see it’s all come to fruition.

The dates came in via the PR wire from Profound Lore, and since there aren’t that many of them and it’s not like Apostle of Solitude is on tour eight months out of the year, I strongly urge you check the band out should they be in your area. Doom:

Indianapolis doom metal heroes Apostle of Solitude will be embarking on a mini US tour this July which will take them on the road in support of Last Sunrise. The dates and bands listed to play with AoS for the tour are listed below, with some venues TBA (which will be updated of course upon confirmation). We can only imagine how monumental the tracks from Last Sunrise will sound live. Dates are as follows:

07/17 The Loud House, Cincinnatti, OH (w/ Beneath Oblivion and Highgate)
07/18 TBA, Pittsburgh, PA
07/19 The M-Room in Philadelphia, PA

07/20 Court Tavern, New Brunswick, NJ (w/ Maegashira)
07/21 Ace of Clubs, Manhattan, NY (w/ Archon, Kings Destroy)
07/22 Bug Jar, Rochester, NY (w/ Orodruin)
07/23 Annabell’s, Akron, OH (w/ Mach II, Mocking Bird)
07/24 Metal Shaker, Chicago, IL (w/ Iron Tongue)
07/30 Melody Inn, Indianapolis, IN (w/ Earthride, Valkyrie, and Bible of the Devil)

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Apostle of Solitude Interview with Chuck Brown: Looking Forward to Go Back

Posted in Features on February 26th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

The above headline, “Looking Forward to Go Back,” is modified and taken out of context from the last line of my recent telephone interview with Apostle of Solitude guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown. Brown was talking about touring Europe, which is something he did as a member of The Gates of Slumber. But I think the phrase can be applied to Apostle of Solitude as a whole, what the band does, their sound and their execution. They look forward to go back.

The music on their sophomore offering, Last Sunrise — the follow-up to 2008’s stellar Sincerest Misery — is undeniably modern in structure, sound, feel and production, but there’s also no question that it is traditional doom, and linked to a lineage of bands that spans decades. But, with eyes geared toward the future, they’re not just rehashing old Sabbath or Trouble riffs and calling it a record. They’re bringing that sound, and us as listeners, forward with them.

Brown, who is joined in Apostle of Solitude by Justin Avery (guitar), Brent McClellan (bass) and Corey Webb (drums), recently took some time out for an in-depth telephone interview to discuss the careful processes behind making Last Sunrise, and the consideration that went into the details of the album. Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy.

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