EP review: Alastor “Black Magic”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish doomsters Alastor have arrived on the scene with a great three-track EP.

This is an EP with three rather lengthy tracks that live in a very hazy soundscape. Alastor plays timeless doom rock. It has a stoner feeling to it with small hints of 90s alternative rock (yes, a bit of shoegazing in slow motion among the doom rock). To be more precise this sounds like a cross of early Black Sabbath riffs and heaviness blended with psych rock and stoner rock. Doomy, groovy and dusty, this is a great soundtrack to your life, whether it is miserable or top of the world. “Black Magic” works equally well to get a new day going together with your morning coffee or as a soundtrack to your late-night after party.

Not much is known about this band other than that they are a bunch of musicians from the southern part of Sweden that have created a great EP. The title track is terrific and the other two tracks, the opening track “Enemy” with its extended instrumental intro, and “Nothing to Fear” are almost equally great. The fine guitar work stands out on all three songs. Lyrically and image wise, Alastor has an occult theme going on that fits very well with the music.

The EP has been recorded by Magnus Sörensen at KulturVerkstan and mixed and mastered by Hannes Heed at Black Sword Studios. The music feels timeless while the production sounds fashionably vintage (most likely intentionally).

“Black Magic” will be released via Twin Earth Records on 18th March.

www.facebook.com/alastordoom / www.facebook.com/twinearthrecords

Album review: Murkocet “Digging Mercy’s Grave”

rob_0024By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Arizona rockers Murkocet give us modern brutal American metal on their fine debut album. It’s heavy but not sinister in a great mix of styles.

The band Murkocet was formed in Arizona in 2013 by vocalist Richie Jano, guitarist Nate Garrett, drummer Mike Mays and bassist Brandon Raeburn. They have now released “Digging Mercy’s Grave”, their very solid debut album. The music is brutal, heavy and angry. But it’s not so dark or sinister.

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Something is a bit different here and I like it. There are some obvious Lamb of God influences here, but there’s more to it than that. One of the tracks, “Strip Club Massacre”, has been selected as a soundtrack for a horror movie. Despite that, I don’t see too much darkness here. This is not evil, but it is aggressive in a hardcore punk sort of way (a small whiff of Suicidal Tendencies perhaps).

This very competent band certainly plays a form of modern extreme metal, but there are plenty of “normal” heavy metal guitars on the songs on this album. Those guitars make Murkocet’s music more melodic and accessible while the songs still remain very heavy and mostly brutal. This is very good and modern American metal with some serious groove.

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“California Smile” is an obvious favourite and the furious “Repo Man” (brutal rock’n’roll) is perhaps the album’s best track. The album’s eleven tracks are all good and make this a very solid debut album by a very promising band.

Murkocet’s “Digging Mercy’s Grave” is out now.

www.murkocetband.com / www.facebook.com/murkocetmetal

Album review: Svart Crown “Abreaction”

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By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

French blackened death metal band Svart Crown is back with a fierce new album. Angry as hell, possessed, heavy and darker than dark.

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“Abreaction” is the Nice-based band Svart Crown’s fourth full-length studio album. Since the last album, 2013’s “Profane”, half the band has left. JB Le Bail (vocals and guitar) is still the ringleader and bassist Ludovic Veyssière is his right-hand man. They have been joined by drummer Kévin Paradis and guitarist Kevin Verlay, both from the band Agressor (they are now on double duty playing in both bands). Based on the new album, the new line-up works great. They’re tight, precise and brutal.

The album starts on the slow side with “Golden Sacrament”, which is a slow-paced, doom-laden and atmospheric intro. Then the mayhem starts. “Carcosa” is a full-on assault of musical aggression. But in the middle of the chaos there is a glimmer of hope with some fine guitar playing appearing among all the rubble. “The Pact: To the Devil His Due” is one of the album’s best tracks. It’s dark and heavy extreme metal, but with a bit of a doom-feel to it as it grooves along. It’s a rather interesting mix of styles that works well. In the middle of the track, everything stops and we get some medieval chants before the song gets back on track again. Great stuff. This terrific dark mix of brutal assaults and slower doom parts continues throughout this possessed album. “Khimba Rites” has some great guitar work that gives the song something extra while the sinister and somewhat Behemoth-like “Orgasmic Spiritual Ecstasy” is an obvious favourite song. “Nganda” closes a fantastic album in pure fierceness.

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Svart Crown’s “Abreaction”, recorded in Paris by French producer Francis Caste, is out now on Century Media.

www.facebook.com/svartcrown

EP review: Hellfire “Goat Revenge”

hellfireBy Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Ukraine’s Hellfire plays a fantastic form of old-school, underground black metal with thrash metal guitars and terrific melodies.

When a band names its EP “Goat Revenge”, how can one not pay attention? Fortunately, this is not just an EP with a great title, it is also a record jam-packed with great brutal music.

More than anything, Hellfire is a band has some great songs. They are far ahead of many other bands playing old-school, underground black or death metal. There are some terrific thrash metal influences on this EP that makes Hellfire’s music quite different. It’s heavy and brutal, yet with some fantastic melodies. It is perhaps best described as a less polished form of blackened death metal with more of an underground feel and plenty of heavy metal guitars. The EP has a rather basic production and a raw old-school DIY sound. The down-in-the-basement production fits the music like a glove. Just the way I like it. The music appears somewhat simple on the surface, but is actually rather complicated with many different twists and turns in a multi-layered and riff-heavy soundscape.

Hellfire was formed in Ukraine in 2014 and the band made its live debut in 2015 playing original black metal music with some influences from old-school thrash and death metal. The current line-up is Karargh on guitar and vocals, Necrobaphomet on bass and Skullcrusher on drums. The “Goat Revenge” EP is the band’s first record release and it promises a great future for this talented band. Hellfire’s “Goat Revenge” has been recorded in Ukraine, produced by the band and is out now on the Witches Brew label.

www.facebook.com/hellfireua

www.facebook.com/witchesbrewthrashes

EP review: Primal Age “A Silent Wound”

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By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Wake-up call: Primal Age’s French metallic hardcore goes well with your morning coffee.

The Slayer-loving French band Primal Age has been around for a while and released several albums and toured the world. Now they’re back with a great new EP on French independent label Deadlight Entertainment.

The four-track EP is furious and heavy but with some great grooves going on. Primal Age’s music is relentless. There are no breathing spaces, no coming up to the surface for air. It’s angry, it’s political, but more than anything it’s great, in-your-face music. Particularly the title track stands out as a fab song, but the whole EP is even with no dips. A four-track EP with no dips is so much better than a full-length studio album with a couple of filler songs. The EP finishes with “To Jeff…”, a good-fun Slayer medley as a tribute to the late Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman.

To put a label of any sort on a band’s music is often difficult and dangerous. Primal Age gives us quite an interesting mix of various forms of extreme metal and hardcore with some modern touches to it – a bit metalcore-ish. Is it metallic hardcore, or melodic metalcore or something else? I don’t know, I don’t care about the label. I like it and it goes great with my morning coffee as a wake-up call. I like this stuff.

Primal Age’s “A Silent Wound” EP will be released on 3rd March via Deadlight Entertainment.

www.facebook.com/primalage / www.facebook.com/deadlight.fr

EP review: Heavy Temple “Chassit” | Groovy and doomy stoner rock

heavy-templeBy Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Heavy Temple invites us on a groovy rock ride away from Philadelphia.

Heavy Temple has a doom label plastered on them, and sure, this is rather doomy. But it is also quite stoner rock-ish with psychedelic parts to it. This is more distorted stoner rock than doom metal. Call it doom rock, stoner doom or whatever you want, it’s good music. There is clearly some kind of trip going on here, but it is more about music than substances. I think that more people than me will want to get on this magical carpet ride together with Heavy Temple to some far away musical soundscape. There is a foundation of sorts in blues rock here and plenty of fantastic distortion. The four tracks on the album shoot off in different directions, largely as a result of what sounds like uncontrolled jam sessions. Bloody gorgeous.

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The band formed in 2012 by High Priestess Nighthawk on bass and vocals. Its current line-up features drummer Siren Tempestas and Archbishop Barghest on guitar. With “Chassit” this Philadelphia band has created a great soundtrack for the Roppongi Rocks headquarters and probably for your after parties too. The EP grooves along nicely throughout its less than half-hour length. The length of the EP is no coincidence. Great music should finish before the listener gets bored. It should leave you wanting more. That is very much the case here.

The band’s music seems to be created and delivered so effortlessly, as if the band members were born to play this music. That is all probably rubbish, as I am sure that these musicians practice their craft like crazy in some rehearsal studio. But the end result is fabulously fuzzy yet natural. They are jamming away like it’s nobody’s business. “Chassit” feels and sounds like someone has cross-bred Glenn Hughes’ Trapeze with Candlemass via Electric Boys and Monster Magnet. Sort of. As if Jon Lord were a guitarist. Love it. Great stuff. I want more.

Heavy Temple’s “Chassit” is out now via Van Records/Tridroid Records.

www.facebook.com/heavytemple

www.facebook.com/tridroidrecords

Album review: Dead Kosmonaut “Expect Nothing” | Solid hard rock from Sweden

Johan Langqvist, Pelle Gustafsson and Mattias Reinholdsson. Photo: Soile Siirtola

Johan Langqvist, Pelle Gustafsson and Mattias Reinholdsson. Photo: Soile Siirtola

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Solid hard rock debut album by Sweden’s Dead Kosmonaut, featuring current and former members of Candlemass, Unleashed and Firespawn.

“Expect Nothing” is quite a varied hard rock album shooting off in different directions. Dead Kosmonaut is a band which combines deep roots in 70s hard rock like Black Sabbath with melodic storytelling. The tempo on most of the album is on the slow side, in a doom-tastic kind of way.

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“Grimeton” is a glorious instrumental 70s prog rock song while “Craving Mad” is fantastic progressive rock with some doom influences. “Dead Men Walking” is another of the album’s finest songs. “Concrete Sky” sounds somewhat more modern with a big atmospheric, almost hypnotic, soundscape pierced by some fine guitar work.

Mattias Reinholdsson is Dead Kosmonaut’s mainman. He is the sole songwriter and the band’s bassist. The band also features Fredrik Folkare (Unleashed, Firespawn) on guitar and production duties and Pelle Gustafsson on vocals. The closing track, “Grey Hole”, is one of the album’s strongest. It is a song that keeps building up momentum and plenty of feeling throughout its seven minutes and forty seconds. The track also features none other than Johan Langqvist on vocals. He is most famous for having been the lead vocalist on doom masters Candlemass’ legendary debut album “Epicus, Doomicus, Metallicus” in 1986.

Overall this is a great, grown-up rock album. It’s doomy, mostly slow-paced, but not so gloomy and more melodic in nature. “My ambition has been to make a hard rock album the way they used to be,” Reinholdsson tells us with a reference to how some hard rock music has evolved into ever harder and heavier sounds. Dead Kosmonaut is more about dynamic rock music with melodies. Electric guitars, yes of course, but also acoustic instruments (as can be experienced in the instrumentation on the terrific track “House of Lead”). This is craftsmanship by someone who won’t compromise his music in order to fit in with certain trends.

Dead Kosmonaut’s “Expect Nothing” will be released on 24th March via TPL Records and digitally distributed by Playground Music Scandinavia.

Dead Kosmonaut on Facebook