Hour of 13 to Release Black Magick Rites on Shadow Kingdom

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 1st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Last September, Hour of 13 founding multi-instrumentalist and spearhead Chad Davis let slip the info that the band’s fourth record would be released through Shadow Kingdom Records and titled Black Magick Rites. The new song “His Majesty of the Wood” also went up at that point. That announcement apparently was preface to a 24-hour limited digital release of the album on Nov. 1 — shame on me for missing it — and it seems likely that it’ll be Sept. 2021 before the album sees broader release, as Davis said, through Shadow Kingdom. Or maybe they’ll wait for Halloween. Why the hell not? It’s been nine years since 2012’s 333 (discussed here). You mean to tell me they’re gonna rush it now?

In addition to the LP sneak-peak, Davis also released the Deathly Nights EP under the Hour of 13 moniker last Fall. You can stream that as well as “His Majesty of the Wood” below, following this info from the PR wire:

hour of 13

HOUR OF 13 sign with SHADOW KINGDOM for long-awaited new album

Shadow Kingdom Records announces the signing of the legendary Hour of 13 for the release of their long-awaited fourth album, Black Magick Rites, on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats.

By now, Hour of 13 should require little introduction. For the better part of two decades, mainman Chad Davis has pursued a unique and intensely personal iteration of traditional doom metal. Along the way and over the course of three albums and numerous EPs, Hour of 13 have built a formidable discography that’s amassed a fanatic following awaiting each spooky ‘n’ somber offering Davis and his rotating cast of cohorts creates. And while he’s released records for a variety of labels over the years, in between a couple breakups, Davis brings Hour of 13 back to Shadow Kingdom, who released the band’s self-titled debut album in 2007 long before the hype started.

Hour of 13’s first full-length offering in over eight years, Black Magick Rites was available digitally on November 1st, 2020 for only 24 hours. Just as uniquely, Black Magick Rites also marks the first Hour of 13 album where he handles not only all instruments, but also all vocals. Indeed, Davis’ vocals evoke an ancient nostalgia, of doom metal before it was “doom metal” – of the days when bands like Black Sabbath, Pagan Altar, and Witchfinder General simply followed their respective muses wherever it took them. And for Davis, Black Magick Rites sees him taking his Hour of 13 muse toward a rougher, more rock ‘n’ roll expression and yet tinged with an emotive melancholy that resonates deeply within the soul. No, no flavor-of-the-week “occult rock” cliches here, for Davis still prizes blue-collared authenticity in his doom, but he likewise never lets it hamper his immediately recognizable songwriting, which here ever so subtly inches closer to classic deathrock territory (think the likes of early Christian Death and Voodoo Church). Naturally, with a title like Black Magick Rites, an indulgence in occultism is expected, and you can literally feel the fingers of the black beyond reaching out to you across every electric minute of this 44-minute monolith.

Despite those isolated breakups, Hour of 13 continue to get better with age. Perfectly titled as any record in their enviable discography, Black Magick Rites is the sweet sound of salvation…through damnation.

Release date, cover art, tracklisting, and preorder info to be announced shortly. For more info, consult the links below.

https://hourofthirteen.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ShadowKingdomRecords/
http://www.shadowkingdomrecords.com/

Hour of 13, “His Majesty of the Wood”

Hour of 13, Deathly Nights (2020)

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Hour of 13 Announce Black Magick Rites LP; Post New Song “His Majesty of the Wood”

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 16th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

For an original post that was all of one sentence long — actually it was two, but the second one was just encouraging social media sharing so I left it out — there’s an awful lot to unpack in this post concerning Hour of 13. By astounding coincidence, I was already planning on closing out the week with the band’s 2007 self-titled debut, and I may or may not still do that, but the announcement that the band has a new album in the works is a genuine surprise. Founding guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/sometimes-vocalist Chad Davis would seem to have put the original incarnation of the band to rest in 2016, issuing the compilation Salt the Dead: Rare and Unreleased (review here) on Shadow Kingdom Records, which also put out the aforementioned debut.

Davis, who relocated to California as one will, sort-of-revived the band in 2018 under the banner of Hour of Thirteen and professed with a couple short releases a love of dark punk and heavy rock, traditional metal and cultish. The sound was tied in some ways to what Hour of 13 had been, but as 2019’s two-originals-and-two-Samhain-covers EP, A Knell Within the Crypt, showcased, it was also a new direction worthy of consideration on its own level. In re-adopting Hour of 13 — the number “13” instead of the word — as a moniker, Davis likewise refocuses on the doomlier side of the band. He handles vocal duties on “His Majesty of the Wood,” the new song that’s been posted with the announcement of the forthcoming Black Magick Rites that will apparently also see release through Shadhow Kingdom.

When? I don’t know, but I’ll take it whenever. Kind of hard to imagine it’ll be out before 2021 — because, I mean, if you weren’t contractually obligated to put something out in 2020, why would you? — but maybe Black Magick Rites can serve as an “October surprise” late next month. I suppose anything’s possible since, you know, it exists in the first place.

So here you go. One sentence and a song. Some bands, that’s all it takes to get excited for a new record:

HOUR OF 13

**HOUR OF 13 premiere**

I present to you a track from the upcoming album “Black Magick Rites” on Shadow Kingdom Records.

https://hourofthirteen.bandcamp.com/
http://www.shadowkingdomrecords.com/

Hour of 13, “His Majesty of the Wood”

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Quarterly Review: Ocean Chief, Barnabus, Helen Money, Elder Druid, Mindcrawler, Temple of Void, Lunar Swamp, Huge Molasses Tank Explodes, Emile, Saturno Grooves

Posted in Reviews on March 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’m not saying I backloaded the Quarterly Review or anything — because I didn’t — but maybe subconsciously I wanted to throw in a few releases here I had a pretty good idea I was gonna dig beforehand. Pretty much all of them, as it turned out. Not a thing I regret happening, though, again, neither was it something I did purposefully. Anyone see A Serious Man? In this instance, I’m happy to “accept the mystery” and move on.

Before we dive into the last day, of course I want to say thank you for reading if you have been. If you’ve followed along all week or this is the only post you’ve seen or you’re just here because I tagged your band in the post on Thee Facebooks, whatever it is, it is appreciated. Thank you. Especially given the global pandemic, your time and attention is highly valued.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Ocean Chief, Den Tredje Dagen

ocean chief den tredje dagen

The first Ocean Chief record in six years is nothing if not weighted enough to make up for anything like lost time. Also the long-running Swedish outfit’s debut on Argonauta Records, Den Tredje Dagen on CD/DL runs five songs and 59 minutes, and though it’s not without a sense of melody either instrumentally or vocally — certainly its guitars have plenty enough to evoke a sense of mournfulness at least — its primary impact still stems from the sheer heft of its tonality, and its tracks are of the sort that a given reviewer might be tempted to call “slabs.” They land accordingly, the longest of them positioned as the centerpiece “Dömd” seething with slower-Celtic Frost anxiety and the utter nastiness of its intent spread across 15-plus minutes of let-me-just-go-ahead-and-crush-that-for-you where “that” is everything and “no” isn’t taken for an answer. There’s respite in closer “Den Sista Resan” and the CD-bonus “Dimension 5,” but even these maintain an atmospheric severity consistent with what precedes them. One way or another, it is all fucking destroyed.

Ocean Chief on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records store

 

Barnabus, Beginning to Unwind

barnabus beginning to unwind

Come ye historians and classic heavy rockers. Come, reap what Rise Above Relics has sown. Though it’s hard sometimes not to think of the Rise Above Records imprint as label-honcho Lee Dorrian (ex-Cathedral, current With the Dead) picking out highlights from his own record collection — which is the stuff of legend — neither is that in any way a problem. Barnabus, who hailed and apparently on occasion still hail from the West Midlands in the UK, issued the Beginning to Unwind in 1972 as part of an original run that ended the next year. So it goes. Past its 10-minute jammy opener/longest track (immediate points) “America,” the new issue of Beginning to Unwind includes the LP, demos, live tracks, and no doubt assorted other odds and ends as well from Barnabus‘ brief time together. Songs like “The War Drags On” and “Resolute” are the stuff of ’70s-riff daydreams, while “Don’t Cry for Me My Lady” digs into proto-prog without losing its psych-folk inflection. I’m told the CD comes with a 44-page booklet, which only furthers the true archival standard of the release.

Barnabus on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Relics store

 

Helen Money, Atomic

helen money atomic

To those for whom Helen Money is a familiar entity, the arrival of a new full-length release will no doubt only be greeted with joy. The ongoing project of experimental cellist Alison Chesley, though the work itself — issued through Thrill Jockey as a welcome follow-up to 2016’s Become Zero (review here) — is hardly joyful. Coping with the universality of grief and notions of grieving-together with family, Chesley brings forth minimalism and electronics-inclusive stylstic reach in kind across the pulsating “Nemesis,” the periodic distortion of her core instrument jarring when it hits. She takes on a harp for “Coppe” and the effect is cinematic in a way that seems to find answer on the later “One Year One Ring,” after which follows the has-drums “Marrow,” but wherever Chesley goes on Atomic‘s 47 minutes, the overlay of mourning is never far off.

Helen Money on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records store

 

Elder Druid, Golgotha

elder druid golgotha

Belfast dual-guitar sludge five-piece Elder Druid return with seven tracks/39 minutes of ready punishment on their second album, Golgotha, answering the anger of 2017’s Carmina Satanae with densely-packed tones and grooves topped with near-universal harsh vocals (closer “Archmage” is the exception). What they’re playing doesn’t require an overdose of invention, with their focus is so much on hammering their riffs home, and certainly the interwoven leads of the title-track present some vision of intricacy for those who might demand it while also being punched in the face, and the transitional “Sentinel,” which follows,” brings some more doomly vibes ahead of “Vincere Vel Mori,” which revives the nod, “Dreadnought” has keys as well as a drum solo, and the penultimate “Paegan Dawn of Anubis” brings in an arrangement of backing vocals, so neither are they void of variety. At the feedback-soaked end of “Archmage,” Golgotha comes across genuine in its aggression and more sure of their approach than they were even just a couple years ago.

Elder Druid on Thee Facebooks

Elder Druid on Bandcamp

 

Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter

mindcrawler lost orbiter

I know the whole world seems like it’s in chaos right now — mostly because it is — but go ahead and quote me on this: a band does not come along in 2020 and put out a record like Lost Orbiter and not get picked up by some label if they choose to be. Among 2020’s most promising debuts, it is progressive without pretense, tonally rich and melodically engaging, marked out by a poise of songcraft that speaks to forward potential whether it’s in the coursing leads of “Drake’s Equation” or the final slowdown/speedup of “Trappist-1” that smoothly shifts into the sample at the start of closer “Dead Space.” Mindcrawler‘s first album — self-recorded, no less — is modern cosmic-heavy brought to bear in a way that strikes such a balance between the grounded and the psychedelic that it should not be ignored, even in the massively crowded international underground from which they’re emerging. And the key point there is they are emerging, and that as thoughtfully composed as the six tracks/29 minutes of Lost Orbiter are, they only represent the beginning stages of what Mindcrawler might accomplish. If there is justice left, someone will release it on vinyl.

Mindcrawler on Thee Facebook

Mindcrawler on Bandcamp

 

Temple of Void, The World That Was

Temple of Void The World that Was

Michigan doom-death five-piece Temple of Void have pushed steadily toward the latter end of that equation over their now-three full-lengths, and though The World That Was (their second offering through Shadow Kingdom) is still prone to its slower tempos and is includes the classical-guitar interlude “A Single Obulus,” that stands right before “Leave the Light Behind,” which is most certainly death metal. Not arguing with it, as to do so would surely only invite punishment. The extremity only adds to the character of Temple of Void‘s work overall, and as “Casket of Shame” seems to be at war with itself, so too is it seemingly at war with whatever manner of flesh its working so diligently to separate from the bone. Across a still-brief 37 minutes, The World That Was — which caps with its most-excellently-decayed nine-minute title-track — harnesses and realizes this grim vision, and Temple of Void declare in no uncertain terms that no matter how they might choose to tip the scale on the balance of their sound, they are its master.

Temple of Void on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records store

 

Lunar Swamp, Shamanic Owl

Lunar Swamp Shamanic Owl

Lunar Swamp have spawned as a blusier-directed offshoot of Italian doomers Bretus of which vocalist Mark Wolf, guitarist/bassist Machen and drummer S.M. Ghoul are members, and sure enough, their debut single “Shamanic Owl,” fosters this approach. As the band aren’t strangers to each other, it isn’t such a surprise that they’d be able to decide on a sound and make it happen their first time out but the seven-minute roller — also the leadoff their first EP, UnderMudBlues, which is due on CD in June — also finds time to work in a nod to the central riff of Sleep‘s “Dragonaut” along with its pointed worship of Black Sabbath, so neither do they seems strictly adherent to a blues foundation, despite the slide guitar that works its way in at the finish. How the rest of the EP might play out need not be a mystery — it’s out digitally now — but as far as an introduction goes, “Shamanic Owl” will find welcome among those seeking comfort in the genre-familiar.

Lunar Swamp on Thee Facebooks

Lunar Swamp on Bandcamp

 

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes, II

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes II

The nine-track/42-minute second LP, II, from Milano post-this-or-that five-piece Huge Molasses Tank Explodes certainly finds the band earning bonus points based on their moniker alone, but more than that, it is a work of reach and intricacy alike, finding the moment where New Wave emerged from out of krautrock’s fascination with synthesizer music and bring to that a psychedelic shimmer that is too vintage-feeling to be anything other than modern. It is laid back enough in its overarching affect that “The Run” feels dreamy, most especially in its guitar lines, but never is it entirely at rest, and both the centerpiece “No One” and the later “So Much to Lose” help continue the momentum that “The Run” manages so fluidly to build in a manner one might liken to space rock were the implication of strict adherence to stylistic guidelines so implicit in that categorization. They present this nuance with a natural-seeming sense of craft and in “High or Low,” a fuzzy tone that feels like only a welcome windfall. Those who can get their head around it should seek to do so, and kudos to Huge Molasses Tank Explodes for being more than just a clever name.

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes on Thee Facebooks

Retro Vox Records on Bandcamp

 

Emile, The Black Spider/Det Kollektive Selvmord

Emile The Black Spider Det Kollektive Selvmord

Set to release through Heavy Psych Sounds on the same day as the new album from his main outfit The Sonic Dawn, The Black Spider/Det Kollective Selvmord is the debut solo album from Copenhagen-based singer-songwriter and guitarist Emile Bureau, who has adopted his first name as his moniker of choice. Fair enough for the naturalism and intended intimacy of the 11-track/39-minute outing, which indeed splits itself between portions in English and in Danish, sounding likewise able to bring together sweet melodies in both. Edges of distortion in “Bundlos” and some percussion in the second half’s title-track give a semblance of arrangement to the LP, but at the core is Emile himself, his vocals and guitar, and that’s clearly the purpose behind it. Where The Sonic Dawn often boast a celebratory feel, The Black Spider/Det Kollective Selvmord is almost entirely subdued, and its expressive sensibility comes through regardless of language.

Emile on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds store

 

Saturno Grooves, Cosmic Echoes

saturno grooves cosmic echoes

Sonic restlessness! “Fire Dome” begins with a riffy rush, “Forever Zero” vibes out on low end and classic swing, the title-track feels like an Endless Boogie jam got lost in the solar system, “Celestial Tunnel” is all-thrust until it isn’t at all, “Blind Faith” is an acoustic interlude, and “Dark Matter” is a punk song. Because god damn, of course it is. It is little short of a miracle Saturno Grooves make their second album, Cosmic Echoes as remarkably cohesive as it is, yet through it all they hold fast to class and purpose alike, and from its spacious outset to its bursting finish, there isn’t a minute of Cosmic Echoes that feels like happenstance, even though they’re obviously following one impulse after the next in terms of style. Heavy (mostly) instrumentalism that works actively not to be contained. Out among the echoes, Saturno Grooves might just be finding their own wavelength.

Saturno Groove on Thee Facebooks

LSDR Records store

 

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Tyrant Set May 15 Release for Hereafter on Shadow Kingdom Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The first full-length from Los Angeles heavy metallers Tyrant earns further intrigue — and likely its Candlemass-esque Thomas Cole artwork as well — with the inclusion of vocalist Robert Lowe. The powerhouse singer joined Tyrant, which was founded in 1978 by bassist Greg May, in 2017, following the conclusion of his stint with the aforementioned Swedish doom legends. Of course known for his work as well in Solitude Aeturnus, Lowe invariably brings some of his patented Dio-of-doom spirit to Tyrant‘s Hereafter as well, as the streaming title-track readily demonstrates.

The release is May 15 on Shadow Kingdom, whose affection for traditional metal goes back well beyond the current revivalist trend, and the band will also travel east to headline the New England Stoner and Doom Fest, as the PR wire informs:

tyrant hereafter

Shadow Kingdom Records sets May 15th as the international release date for the long-awaited comeback album of America’s Tyrant, Hereafter, on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats.

Hailing from Pasadena, California, Tyrant formed in 1978 and put out their first demo in ’82. However, it was with their pair of albums for Metal Blade – 1985’s Legions of the Dead and 1987’s Too Late to Pray – where they’d etch their name into cult heavy metal legendry. Proud and powerful, theirs was steel tempered in the purest and proudest tradition: neither NWOBHM nor speed metal nor doom nor hair metal by any strict definitions, but uniquely dipping that blade into all at any given moment, and given an almost medieval atmosphere considering the ever-changing stylistic landscape during those years, which would be deemed “old-fashioned” as the 1980s came to a close. It took nearly a decade for Tyrant’s next album to arrive, 1996’s King of Kings, and indeed were the band even more out of place in that landscape; despite staunchly sticking to their guns, this would be their otherwise-final album.

Just like Tyrant were when they originally formed so long ago, there existed true believers across the pond who were keeping the traditional metal faith alive as the ’90s came to a close, as well as a quietly growing renaissance in the States as the 2000s began. Tyrant’s catalog subsequently received a long-overdue reappraisal, and a new, younger generation of metalheads investigated their mysteries of steel. Although never “broken up” officially, the sleeping beast awoke, with the original Tyrant lineup reuniting for 2009’s esteemed Keep It True festival in Germany. Shadow Kingdom, who’ve indeed kept it true since the beginning, reissued Tyrant’s first two albums in 2018, furthering that reappraisal and bringing the band’s name to an even younger, hungrier generation. The stage was thus set for a grand return…

At last, it arrives with Hereafter, courtesy of truest believers Shadow Kingdom. With founding member Greg May on bass along with longtime guitarist Rocky Rockwell and powerhouse drummer Ronnie Wallace, who’s been with the band since 2010, Tyrant now feature a significant new addition on vocals: the one and only Rob Lowe, he of Solitude Aeternus and ex-Candlemass fame. His addition proves especially significant given Tyrant’s doomier direction on Hereafter. While no doubt sounding like the same band who delivered those two classics on Metal Blade so long ago, the Tyrant of Hereafter conjures forth a classy, ominously melodic style of doom METAL – or at least traditional heavy metal steeped in doom, much like Black Sabbath in the early ’80s with Dio and then Ian Gillan on the mic – with each of these 11 mini-epics headbanging forward with power, poise, and a stately sort of grace. Aiding that granite-thick surge is the production of one Bill Metoyer, the legendary producer who’s recorded all of Tyrant’s albums to date. Evading any sort of “retro” moves, Metoyer keeps the sound on Hereafter rich, robust, and above all timeless, just like Tyrant’s ever-unyielding style of metal. Truly, this is the homecoming the legions have been waiting for!

To coincide with this momentous event, Tyrant will be headlining this year’s New England Stoner & Doom Fest, performing the new album in its entirety along with a full set of classic material. In 2020 and beyond, long may Tyrant live Hereafter!

In the meantime, see & hear the brand-new lyric video for the title track “Hereafter” HERE at Shadow Kingdom’s official YouTube channel. Preorder info can be found HERE at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp as well as HERE.

Tracklisting for Tyrant (U.S.)’s Hereafter
1. Tyrant’s Revelation
2. Dancing on Graves
3. The Darkness Comes
4. Fire Burns
5. Hereafter
6. Pieces of Mine
7. Until the Day
8. When the Sky Falls
9. Bucolic
10. Beacon the Light
11. From the Tower

Tyrant are:
Greg May (bass guitar)
Rocky Rockwell (guitars)
Robert Lowe (vocals)
Ronnie Wallace (drums)

https://www.facebook.com/TYRANT-172515856798/
https://www.facebook.com/ShadowKingdomRecords/
https://shadowkingdomrecords.bandcamp.com/

Tyrant, “Hereafter”

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Altar of Oblivion, The Seven Spirits

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 23rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

altar of oblivion the seven spirits

[Click play above to stream Altar of Oblivion’s The Seven Spirits in full. Album is out April 26 on Shadow Kingdom Records.]

There is a special place in the halls of metal for those who partake of epic doom. It shares with power metal a sense of grandiosity and an absolute need to be all-in, irony-free in order to be properly pulled off, and Danish five-piece Altar of Oblivion nail it. The Seven Spirits, on Shadow Kingdom, is their third album, following behind 2012’s Grand Gesture of Defiance (review here) and their 2009 debut, Sinews of Anguish (review here). They had an EP out in 2016 called Barren Grounds, but The Seven Spirits is the Aalborg-based doomers’ first full-length in seven years. Consistent with that and its title, there are seven tracks on the outing, and no lack of spirit in the delivery, as the band taps ’80s classic metal and early doom metal in order to hone their sound, distinguished by the varied delivery of frontman Mik Mentor, whose low-register approach is deceptively malleable to the melodies called forth by the guitars of band-founder Martin Meyer Sparvath (also backing vocals and keys) and Jeppe Campradt (also keys).

Tasked with thickening the proceedings and making them move are bassist Cristian Nørgaard and drummer Danny Woe, and they only add to the sense of precision throughout the LP’s 40-minute run, whether it’s the thudding start and careening groove of opener “Created in the Fires of Holiness” or the suitably mournful plod in the second half of highlight “Gathering at the Wake” before the big finish takes hold. Regardless of tempo or mood in a given track, the band remains firm in their take on the metal of eld, and there’s never a moment where their sincerity is in doubt. As keyboard lines weave between the two guitars and fill out the arrangements and atmospheres, the sense of drama is palpable, but there’s no questioning Altar of Oblivion‘s commitment to what they do. This is epic, doom, metal. If you can’t handle it, turn in your denim at the door.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Altar of Oblivion are quick to show their doomly credentials in “Created in the Fires of Holiness.” The song thuds the record to life quickly and crashes into its dual-guitar opening lead, very much the over-the-top intro before digging into its first verse, with Nørgaard‘s bassline righteously prominent — counter to a mistake so, so, so many in classic doom and metal make — as the guitars ring out and Mentor establishes his command over the turn to the chorus. By the time the opener is halfway through, the course is set in terms of style, and though its songs are varied, it ultimately does not waver from the mood that “Created in the Fires of Holiness” sets forth, coming apart gradually at the end and allowing for a moment of silence before Mentor starts “No One Left,” imagining a world where doomsday prophecy is fulfilled and nobody is there to see it.

altar of oblivion

Speedier and shorter, “No One Left” is a standout in the tracklisting, but well positioned near the start of the album in order to build on what the opener has set forth in tone and general vibe. It makes a hook of repeating its title line, and has a distinctly ’80s metal infusion of keys starting in its midsection, which the subsequent “Gathering at the Wake’ will depart in favor of raw chug initially, only to see it return later as the track embarks on a, well, epic break in its second half, worthy of comparison to earliest Candlemass and building in speed and energy until its gallop again collapses in tempo to a slowdown at the finish, leaving the vocals to end the track alone, and transitioning to the sparse guitar that opens the centerpiece title-track, also the finale of side A. Backing vocals recall Blind Guardian for a brief second in the first verse, but it’s a tease — why not go all out? — and the song unfolds in brooding, keyboard-laced fashion, its chorus resonant in the theatricality of its delivery and its guitars leading the path through a more subdued feel than anything yet presented.

It would be even more hypnotic for that if the title-track weren’t also so brief, being the shortest inclusion at 4:18. Still, it’s a relatively melancholy finish to side A, and it leaves “Language of the Dead” to pick up on side B with a resiliency that mirrors “Created in the Fires of Holiness” at the album’s outset in its general modus, finding new footing in its chorus and revitalizing the approach ahead of the closing duo “Solemn Messiah” and “Grand Gesture of Defiance.” The former of the two, “Solemn Messiah,” is a pinnacle of The Seven Spirits‘ fulsome aspects, with a patience in its execution that holds despite the grandeur of the surrounding arrangement and the layers of guitar, vocals, and keys at play over the still-solid rhythm section. It is arguably the most memorable of the cuts, though there’s plenty of competition there and it’s a question for the longer term in the end, but it serves in its penultimate position as the crescendo of Altar of Oblivion‘s third full-length, and they cap it with a quick stretch of quiet guitar that leads into the fading-in chug of “Grand Gesture of Defiance.”

Curious that they’d end this record with a title-track for the 2012 outing, but the keyboard-centric feel marks a turn in balance with the guitar — at least until the solo — that piques interest just the same. The chorus doesn’t quite land with the same effect as in “Solemn Messiah,” Mentor pushing his voice down to really emphasize that titular solemnity, but the speedier section that gives way to keys and softer guitar at the finish is a fitting enough way to go out given the focus on melody throughout the entire offering prior. Make no mistake, Altar of Oblivion are doom metal for the converted. This is get-a-vinyl-and-a-patch-at-the-merch-table fare, and while its songcraft is ambitious, part of that ambition is homage to what’s come before. Still, The Seven Spirits lacks nothing for its own personality, and after such a long stretch from the band without an LP, it’s a welcome and doomly return.

Altar of Oblivion on Thee Facebooks

Altar of Oblivion website

Shadow Kingdom Records website

Shadow Kingdom Records on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records on Bandcamp

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Fatal Curse Stream Debut Album Breaking the Trance in Full

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

fatal curse

New York-based classic metal trio Fatal Curse release their debut full-length on April 19 through the venerable Shadow Kingdom Records. By and large, it is a ripper. Sure, they cut the pace a bit on “Priestess of Fire,” which is also the longest inclusion on the record at 5:39 and appears right ahead of closer “Eyes of the Demon,” but for the greater majority of its seven tracks and 28 minutes, Breaking the Trance is more about the three-piece tearing through their material with righteous velocity and headbanging intent. It is not an overly complex aim, but a noble one particularly when it comes to homage to the metal of yore. One could rattle off a list of reference points of varying obscurity, but at this point, the style of classic metal, whether it’s infused with retro thrash or NWOBHM pomp or as in the case of Fatal Curse some combination thereof, has become its own aesthetic. Fatal Curse seem less outwardly committed to the style than some — at least going by their press shot, you wouldn’t look at them and say they’re “in costume” as others might be — but their bleed-for-metal ideology is writ large all throughout the brief, intense and well stated long-player.

So maybe cuts like the opening title-track and subsequent “Blade in the Dark” are about fist-pumping, neck-breaking metal for metal’s sake, but the production on Breaking the Trance — and indeed the cassette-ready thrash-rasp of vocalist Mike Bowen when he’s not soaring over the razor-edged riffs of guitarist Dave Gruver and the rush of Chris Bowen‘s drums — gives a sense Fatal Curse Breaking the Tranceof rawness that doesn’t tip over to retroism in terms of trying to sound like it’s 1984, but neither comes across as overblown in such a way that would detract from the naturalism at heart in the material. It’s not quite garage thrash, but if you’ve got a garage, and they could play there every now and again, that’d be really cool, man. “Gang Life” follows the opening salvo and continues the energy with a catchy chorus and a oh-hello solo in its second half that works in stages and works its way toward blisters one way or another before bass gallop reignites the charge for the full band, soon enough joined by a blazing motor-riff. I’m just going to go ahead and give heavy metal bonus points — for those of you keeping score at home — to the band for calling the centerpiece of their debut album “Can’t Stop the Thunder.” Somewhat shockingly, they don’t have any songs specifically about “the night” — “Blade in the Dark” might count; I’d have to see a lyric sheet — but at an all-go 2:49, “Can’t Stop the Thunder” is as charged as Fatal Curse get on Breaking the Trance, and the method suits them, to put it mildly.

The sense of precision there underscores how crucial it’s always been for a band like this to be tight. In some respects, heavy metal has always been a test — can you play this fast? can your ears take this? do you get it? — and those who’ve passed have been all the more loyal for it, but there’s no pretense on Breaking the Trance, and while Fatal Curse have their chops, at least on their first record there’s no condescension in their songwriting or grandiosity in their approach. The vibe throughout is that these are dudes who love metal and just want to manifest that. It’s not about picking out which riff sounds like which one from which year — though that’s fun too, and I’m sure there’s plenty of fodder for it throughout — but about celebrating the release that metal was in its adolescence. Fatal Curse careen and chug their way through “Chains of Eternity” before “Priestess of Fire” and the mosh-shove of “Eyes of the Demon” cap off, and even then, their style remains brash but not conceited. They very clearly take what they do seriously, but that never had to come at the expense of a good time, and it doesn’t here either.

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating that Shadow Kingdom has an ear for classic metal and doom that is simply unmatched in its reliability. Fatal Curse aren’t reinventing metal or classic metal their first time out, but Breaking the Trance is all-heart, front-to-back, and even more than how well the songs come together or the band’s performance, it’s the heart behind it that makes it so prime for repeat listens.

To that end, I’m thrilled today to host the full stream of Breaking the Trance ahead of the release on Friday. Please find it below, followed by more from the PR wire.

Enjoy:

SHADOW KINGDOM RECORDS is proud to present FATAL CURSE’s striking debut album, Breaking the Trance, on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats.

Hailing from New York, FATAL CURSE are a veritable throwback to earlier, simpler times. Theirs is a roots-oriented sound squarely focusing on early speed metal on both sides of the Atlantic and America’s contemporaneous power metal movement. No thrashing like a maniac here: FATAL CURSE create classy ‘n’ cruising anthems of ageless heavy metal might on Breaking the Trance!

Indeed, much of FATAL CURSE’s flash ‘n’ finesse stems from their power-trio lineup, with each member locked in to the other and pumping out seamless, gleaming-chrome odes to such timeless topics as “Blade in the Dark,” “Priestess of Fire,” “Chains of Eternity,” and “Eyes of the Demon,” among others. Nope, you “Can’t Stop the Thunder” here, especially those lightning-explosive yet narrative leads at the hands of guitarist Dave Gruver.

From later Thin Lizzy to Tokyo Blade in the prime, early Virgin Steele to early Jag Panzer, Borrowed Time-era Diamond Head to Witch Cross’ Fit for Fight, Liege Lord to Omen to Helstar and beyond: step onto the wayback machine with FATAL CURSE and start Breaking the Trance!

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Troll Set April 12 Release for Legend Master; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 16th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

troll

The appeal of Portland’s Troll was readily apparent from the self-titled debut (review here) that Shadow Kingdom picked up for release last year — their still-traditional-feeling doom resonates with emotion and melodies atop patient rhythms and a feel that’s no less modern than it is classic, at once of the post-Pallbearer and Windhand school of doom while holding to a march that seems to stem from earlier influences in the genre. Legend Master, which I guess will serve as their second album, though I could’ve sworn the self-titled was an EP. Either way, they’re streaming the first part of the two-chapter title-track, “Legend Master, Book I: Proverbs of Hell,” and the epic feel in the cut is worthy in every fashion of the punctuation its title carries.

You can hear that for yourself at the bottom of this post, and if I can go out on a limb, I’ll say it’s worth your time to do precisely that. Album preorders are up now through the label.

Dig:

troll legend master

Portland’s TROLL set release date for new SHADOW KINGDOM album, reveal first track

Shadow Kingdom Records sets April 12th as the international release date for the highly anticipated second album of Portland’s Troll, Legend Master, on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats.

Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Troll released their first demo in 2015. Not long after came Troll, their debut album, which was originally self-released on cassette tape. Its original edition sold out quickly, and soon came to the attention of Shadow Kingdom. Duly impressed, the label simply had to release Troll’s album on wider-available physical formats and get the band the attention they so truly deserve.

And indeed did Troll get that attention with its Shadow Kingdom re-release in early 2018: Troll’s swampy, primordial doom ooze was critically acclaimed far and wide, with many salaciously awaiting the band’s next move. And now, that next move has arrived, and it’s more molten and momentous: the ominously titled Legend Master, Troll’s first brand-new material since 2016.

The title Legend Master is a telling one: here, Troll dial back the swampier excesses of their more stoner-indebted work and aim for a more regal, prog-inclined style of doom. And yet, even with such a significant shift, the band’s powers are truly hitting a fever pitch here, seemingly able to weave a majestic-yet-mournful tale at every turn. And there are five “turns” here, each of Legend Master’s five tracks an expansive epic in their own right. With two songs clocking in at eight minutes and the other three topping 10 minutes, Troll render the album a world unto itself; riffs lumber and crunch and then fold and wander, creating atmosphere and tension alike, as enigmatic vocalist Rainbo really reaches into his soul to deliver a goosebump-inducing performance like no other. After 52 minutes, you’ll feel like you’ve gone on a journey of a lifetime, yet will be pressing “play” again immediately after: Troll have truly become that engaging.

Shadow Kingdom is so confident in Troll’s Legend Master, it promises the album’s like sipping a fine wine – subtly intoxicating, savory to the palate, ever mysterious to the very end. Adorned with a classy cover and spellbinding layout, Legend Master will surely put Troll in the league of such luminaries as Pallbearer, Warning (UK), Solstice (UK), and the Lord Weird Slough Feg. Begin the journey to the Legend Master NOW!

Start the journey with the new track “Legend Master, Book I: Proverbs of Hell” HERE at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp, where the album can be preordered. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Troll (Portland)’s Legend Master
1. The Flight of the Dragonship
2. Legend Master, Book I: Proverbs of Hell
3. Legend Master, Book II: Three Evil Words
4. The Door
5. Building My Temple

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Troll, “Legend Master, Book I: Proverbs of Hell”

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Altar of Oblivion Set April 26 Release for The Seven Spirits; New Song Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

altar of oblivion

It’s been seven years since Altar of Oblivion released their second album, Grand Gesture of Defiance (review here), and apparently the Danish outfit decided that’s long enough. The Seven Spirits will be issued backed by the ever-reliable taste of Shadow Kingdom Records this coming Spring, and they’re advancing its arrival and marking the opening of preorders by streaming the title-track now. You can take a listen at the bottom of this post, because that’s how it goes, and dig into the very metal cover art and album info below.

Of course, it all comes courtesy of the PR wire:

altar of oblivion the seven spirits

ALTAR OF OBLIVION set release date for long-awaited new SHADOW KINGDOM album, reveal first track

Shadow Kingdom Records sets April 26th as the international release date for Altar of Oblivion’s massively anticipated third album, The Seven Spirits, on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats.

Altar of Oblivion are simply one of the best pure METAL bands around right now. The Danish kings proved it with 2012’s classic Grand Gesture of Defiance album, they proved it with the teasingly short Barren Grounds EP in 2016, and they prove it more than ever with The Seven Spirits. Arguably more so than any of their no-less-considerable and widely celebrated records, here Altar of Oblivion skillfully glide from morose ‘n’ mournful DOOM to absolutely EPIC and daresay regal traditional metal, safely evading any cliches or easy classification whilst reverently adding to the rich and enduring lexicon of heavy metal. If anything, this is as close to total ’80s metal as the band have gotten – but as always, done in that special Altar of Oblivion way.

In many ways, each of the seven tracks comprising The Seven Spirits is a tale in its own right, rife with both bloodlust and tragedy, redemption and remorse. They wind along many roads, some darker than others, with a robust ‘n’ rumbling heft that’s simply Altar of Oblivion’s heaviest production to date. And yet, for all this fleet-footed thunder, those seven songs remain as passionate and emotional as anything around. Just hearing Mik Mentor’s pipes is believing, and on The Seven Spirits, the frontman delivers a performance like no other. These songs could bring you to tears – or galvanize you to conquer any foe before you. The choice is yours across these 41 unforgettable minutes!

Seven years is an interminable length of time between albums, but when the standards are as high as they are with Altar of Oblivion, there’s just no arguing against perfection. Behold The Seven Spirits and bow before their majesty! Begin bowing with the new title track “The Seven Spirits” HERE at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp, where the album can be preordered. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Altar of Oblivion’s The Seven Spirits
1. Created in the Fires of Holiness
2. No One Left
3. Gathering at the Wake
4. The Seven Spirits
5. Language of the Dead
6. Solemn Messiah
7. Grand Gesture of Defiance

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Altar of Oblivion, The Seven Spirits (2019)

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