Argus – Beyond the Martyrs (2013), From Fields of Fire (2017); Arduini/Balich – Dawn of Ages (2017)

ArgusBeyond the Martyrs (Cruz del Sur Music, 01 October 2013)

 

Arduini / BalichDawn of Ages (Cruz del Sur Music, 24 February 2017)

 

ArgusFrom Fields of Fire (Cruz del Sur Music, 08 September 2017)

 

I can still remember the first time I heard Argus — in the burgeoning days of the early 2010s, the song was “The Damnation of John Faustus” from their self-titled album. I can’t say for certain, but it was probably on Foundry of Doom radio, since that’s what I spent most of my time listening to back then. And here, among epic tracks by the likes of Solstice, Atlantean Kodex, Solitude Aeturnus, etc., this song’s dark themes and powerful vocals really caught my ear.

This was still months, maybe even up to a year, before the genesis of my career as a writer, but I’ve always been inquisitive and wanted to research and learn more about everything I heard. In this instance, I was struck by how new the band was (their first demo dates back ten years, now, but at the time of this story the debut full-length was about a year or two old), but even more surprised to see that these guys were local (originating in Franklin, PA, just about an hour and a half north of Pittsburgh)!

I also discovered that the vocalist, Brian “Butch” Balich (formerly of Penance), is also a member of Molasses Barge, another local doom band that would greatly impress me when I saw them for the first time just months later. Eventually I’d manage to catch Argus live, as well, and they definitely managed to live up to the high expectations set by their incredible recorded output. I believe this was just before the 2013 release of their third album Beyond the Martyrs — one that immediately made its way onto my writing “to do list” but inexplicably has stayed there for these past years.

But now there’s a ferment of activity surrounding the band once more: they recently announced that their fourth album will be coming later this year — and I’ll be discussing both of those today, with an added bonus that was released a few months back by a side project involving Balich. And to top it all off, Argus will also be performing in Pittsburgh THIS FRIDAY (14 July) at an event that doubles as a preview of September’s Brewtal Beer Fest as well as featuring the world premiere of the new beer produced through a collaborative effort between the band and Big Rail Brewing! So after you’re done reading about the music, pop on down to the comments section for more information about that.

 

Continue reading

Body Count – Bloodlust (2017)

Body CountBloodlust (Century Media Records, 31 March 2017)

 

Some of our younger readers may recognize Ice-T as the curmudgeonly old guy in the “It’s Lemonade” commercials, or maybe they’ll recall his stints as a reality tv star (here and here). Perhaps he’ll even seem familiar from his portrayal of a police officer on Law & Order: SVU. But before he was gracing screens small and big (and by the way, his acting career has included roles as cops dating back more than a quarter-century), the man born as Tracy Marrow in New Jersey (and then raised in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles) made quite a name for himself as a hugely influential part of the music industry.

Known primarily as one of the innovators who helped to shape the gangster rap genre, with songs like “6 ‘N the Morning,” he later formed the group Body Count with some high school friends who shared an affinity for hard rock music — introducing the band on a self-titled track on his 1991 album O.G. Original Gangster before they came out with a full-length self-titled album the following year.

They have been heavily influenced by fellow Californian contemporaries in the worlds of thrash (like Slayer) and especially crossover (like Suicidal Tendencies) — but for years I’ve seen a lot of negativity expressed towards these guys within the so-called “metal community,” from some of its more closed-minded individuals. Whether that’s a refusal to acknowledge rap or hip hop artists as genuine musicians, or a xenophobic reaction to a perceived “outsider” tresspassing into the “scene” — well, Ice-T‘s spoken-word intro to the original “Body Count” song can be applicable in both directions: “You know, as far as I’m concerned, music is music. I don’t look at it as rock or R&B, all that kind of stuff, I just look at it as music. […] But I do what I like, I happen to like rock ‘n roll. And I feel sorry for anybody who only listens to one form of music.”

 
Continue reading

Borracho – Atacama (2016-17), Beastmaker – Inside the Skull (2017)

BorrachoAtacama (Kozmik Artifactz, 02 December 2016 CD/digital, 10 March 2017 vinyl)

 

BeastmakerInside the Skull (Rise Above Records, 19 May 2017)

 

Hey folks, let’s take a look at some recent (and semi-recent) releases from another two bands who are appearing were scheduled to appear at this weekend’s Maryland Doom Fest, one of whom will still be performing* — specifically, they’re both kicking off the festivities Thursday night at the Pre Fest Party. Representing the east coast, D.C.-area heavy-fuzz dealers Borracho, clearly no strangers to this website, dropped their third full-length at the tail end of 2016, while left coast doomsters Beastmaker saw the release of their second LP just last month. Listening to either of these would absolutely be time well-spent, so please feel free to continue reading …

Beastmaker has announced that they will be unable to make it to this year’s Doom Fest. Borracho is still slated to be there Thursday night!

 

Continue reading

Wretch – Wretch (2016)

WretchWretch (Bad Omen Records, 26 August 2016)

 

From the instant I first heard 2008’s Conqueror, I’ve been a huge fan of Indianan doom titans The Gates of Slumber. Certainly one of the greatest highlights of running this website was getting the opportunity to chat with that group’s founder, guitarist and vocalist Karl Simon, back in 2013 — and then a few days later actually meeting him and bassist Jason McCash in person before their incredible performance at the Winter’s Wake festival in Pittsburgh. Tragically, the following year would see the loss of iconic bassist McCash, and a grieving Simon decided to put the band permanently on hold.

Since that time, though, he seems to have felt the need to continue expressing himself musically, and with the help of bassist Bryce Clarke and drummer Chris Gordon (who has done previous tours of duty with both TGoS and fellow Indianapolitans Devil to Pay) formed a new trio named for his previous band’s final album, 2011’s The Wretch. By last summer this new group had put together an album’s worth of material and released their self-titled debut, which happened to be one of the best things I heard last year. And now I’d like to share that record with all of you, in advance of Wretch making an appearance at The Maryland Doom Fest later this week (along with a handful of other shows — scroll down to the comments section for more details)

UPDATE 21 June 2017: all Wretch shows that were scheduled for this week have been cancelled.

 
Continue reading

The Ravenna Arsenal – I. (2013); Gholas – Litanies (2014)

cover

The Ravenna ArsenalI. (self-released, 23 February 2013)

 

gholas-litanies_1000x1000

GholasLitanies (Dullest Records, 11 February 2014)

 

Hello out there, folks. Hope this week has gone well for you all. Over the past few days — during which things got pretty crazy busy, to the point where I didn’t have any time to get anything written — I’ve heard some pretty incredible brand-new releases, and I definitely look forward to sharing those with you. But not quite yet; instead, today we’re going to turn back the calendar a little bit, and spend some time with a couple of my favorite releases from years past that I just never quite got around to writing about yet. These were featured in my Top 13 of 2013 and Top 14 of 2014 lists, respectively, chiefly due to the fact that both of these bands know how to write a hell of a song. These are both albums that I’ve listened to front-to-back like dozens of times, and I feel pretty certain you’ll agree that every single song on each is of excellent quality …

 

Continue reading

Derkéta – In Death We Meet (2015 Reissue)

a2646178647_10

DerkétaIn Death We Meet (originally self-released 2012; remixed/remastered CD and vinyl edition Ibex Moon Records, April/December 2015)

 

Named for a goddess of death in the mythology of the fictional kingdom of Stygia (analogous to Egypt in the Hyborian era setting of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories), the band Derkéta are widely regarded as Pittsburgh’s own goddesses of death/doom metal. You remember Derkéta, don’t you? Formed almost three decades ago, active on and off throughout those years with many of the same core members rotating in and out of the line-up; released a number of demos and EPs but then finally put out their debut album in 2012?

For a quick refresher, you could get a more complete history by checking out this interview that I did with founding guitarist/vocalist Sharon Bascovsky about three and a half years ago, when the band was about to perform at the Winter’s Wake festival in Pittsburgh.

Since that time, In Death We Meet was remastered for a vinyl release via Ibex Moon, and during that process they went ahead and polished up the recordings for a new CD version as well — which (in my opinion) was a vast improvement to the overall mix (generally sounding louder and heavier, wider and more spacious, with a more even blend of all the instruments rather than having the cymbal crashes dominating everything else) and warranted an “Honorable Mention” on my Top 15 of 2015 list.

And now — tonight, in fact — the band will be appearing in Pittsburgh once again, this time alongside the legendary Deströyer 666 at the Smiling Moose. You can find the relevant details about that right here if you happen to be in the area, but first, whether you’re planning on going to the show tonight or not, this seemed like a perfect opportunity for us to discuss In Death We Meet

 

Continue reading

Battle Path – Ambedo (2015-16); Hollow Leg – Crown (2016)

Battlepath-Cover-FINAL

Battle PathAmbedo (digital+vinyl Inherent Records / Crimson Eye Records, 09 November 2015; cassette Wood and Stone Productions, 24 June 2016)

 

Hollow leg crown

Hollow LegCrown (Argonauta Records, 04 March 2016 EU / 24 June 2016 NA)

 

Well good morning, readers, and a happy Tuesday to you all. I’m finally back after taking an extra week off from writing — partly to recover from the Independence Day holiday weekend (and that Primitive Man show last Monday night!) and partly because of me being so overloaded at my day job. But as always, there’s tons of stuff to tell you about — both old and new — so here we go again. Today we’ll be taking a look at albums by two different bands from the southeastern United States, Battle Path from Murfreesboro and Hollow Leg from Jacksonville. Each of these albums originally came out a little while ago (Ambedo back in November and Crown in March), but they both just got reissued near the end of last month (the former has now come out on cassette, while following a European release the latter is now also available domestically).

 

Continue reading