Hex A.D. – The Last Nail in the Coffin Lid (2016)

This is the second full length album from my fellow countrymen with the peculiar name Hex A.D. I’m not really sure if this is a band or a solo thing from drummer Rick Hagan. I’ve seen them live a couple of times and I saw some footage from a show they did with current Candlemass-singer Mats Lèven, which was absolute killer.

I was never able to get a hold of their debut, which I believe may only have been released on vinyl, not really sure. I heard this band through a sampler, Doom over Cthulu, and have been a fan ever since. The track was called Fields of Gehenna and back then the band was simply called HEX, which seems a better name. I guess someone was already called HEX and they just added the A.D. later.

The music on the album is absolutely amazing, beautiful and very well crafted. There is only one thing I don’t really care for on this record, and that is the Deep Purple mark II organ sound that is used on several tracks. The whole album seems heavily inspired by the seventies, but I personally can’t stand this sound. It screeches in my ears.

The album opens with a four minute instrumental piece, which is a bold move I must say, but it works. The Bitter End is a beautiful piece. The sound and opening riff has a soothing effect on me.

A Nocturnal Report continues the feel from the Bitter End and seems almost like a continuation of the former track. The melodic guitar sets a mood, a heavy mood, a gloomy mood. It builds and rolls, and builds again. The vocal delivery is incredible, the phrasing and melody brings the song together in a major way. I also enjoy the lyrics, this is some Poe-ish stuff right here.

Another Graveyard Shift is in the same direction as the two previous tracks. Beautiful guitars, well crafted melodies and sinister sounding lyrics. The most interesting song is the 15 minute epic The Madrigal of the Black Hooded Crow.  I’m not usually one for songs that stretches past ten minutes, but when they work, it’s usually in a great way. This track works, for the most part. The way riff follow on riff, without being dragged out or passed over. I’m not too fund of how the songs ends. It’s this acoustic, Celtic sounding, melodic thing, that sounds like Primordial doing a ballad. Just doesn’t work for me and might be the only musically thing I’m not into on the entire record.

The album finishes off with a short Opeth, circa Black Water Park, sounding tune called as a Doornail. This might be the heaviest track, in the traditional sense.

I will give this album all kinds of recommendations. It’s got this seventies Sabbath meets Rainbow with Dio meets Deep Purple mark II and III, played in the sound and style of eighties Candlemass kind of feel. So I guess if you like any of these bands, you should check this band out.

Recommended tracks:  A nocturnal Report, The Madrigal of the Black Hooded Crow.

Rating: 4,5 / 5

 

Candlemass – Death Thy Lover (Napalm 2016)

It’s been quite a while since Candlemass released new music, but the style, sound and songwriting hasn’t changed. This sounds so much like Psalms for the Dead that it wouldn’t surprise me if these tracks are from that same recording session.

This EP is very varied and it shows off a lot of Candlemass’ different sides. You have a rocking, mid paced tune with a great melodic touch to it in the title track. Sleeping Giant has more of an epic / story telling approach. It changes from a groovy riff on the verses to more of doomy gloomy chorus, and builds slowly back to the groove with some nice guitar harmonies. Although Sleeping Giant is the most epic sounding track on the EP, it’s also the shortest. I for one am glad that they kept it below seven minutes on all four tracks

Sinister and Sweet might be the most classic sounding. It has a slow pace, heavy guitars and extremely heavy bass. It creeps along, sort changes a bit stylistically for the guitar solo, which is almost Yngwie-ish, before it slows back down for doomy harmonies and into the next verse. The closer, The Goose, is real melancholy track. It sports some incredible melodic guitarparts.

 

The production is great, everything sounds heavy and fuzzy, but also clear and distinct. Leven could enter a Rob Low sound-a-like contest. I loved Robs voice in combination Edlings music, thus Leven is a perfect fit. The rest of band sounds great. The drums sound is amazing.

 

Recommended track: Death Thy Lover, Sinister and Sweet

Rating: 4/5

 

Candlemass – The King of the Grey Islands (Nuclear Blast 2007)

Candlemass was for a long time a band I knew existed, I knew their logo and that they had made a rather big impact on the doom scene in the eighties, but I had never truly listened to them. About 2007  I was quite heavily into “Alone” by Solitude Aeturnus, when I read somewhere that their singer, Robert Lowe, was doing the new Candlemass record. I checked it out and it wasn’t too bad, not too bad at all.

The thing I dug about Solitude Aeturnus was the combination of Roberts voice and the slow dark doomy stuff that, when it works, it blends together in this true horror movie kind of way. The pain, the despair and the loneliness that his vocals could portray was pure magic to me.

Candlemass taught me quite a lot about doom metal with this album. Doom doesn’t always mean slow, heaviness can also come from classically inspired melodies and bass driven songs doesn’t necessarily forget about the guitars. But most importantly fragile vocals can still bring forth heavy, heavy music.

“Emperor of the Void” has wav- structured riff that keeps hitting you then lets you go for a brief moment just to hit you again. I love it. “Devil Seed” has a sing-along quality and has this proper doom feeling.

“Of Stars and Smoke” is nothing short of a masterpiece and Rob shines on this. The riffs, melodies and rhythm section just melts together in a perfect way.

“Demonia 6” is just an example of how Black Sabbath inspired doomy gloomy metal should sound, man what a good song this is. “Clearsight” is another example of the same. I was reading The Song of Ice and Fire at the time I got into this album and I this song always reminded me of the Greyjoys and their Iron Isles, actually the whole album does remind of the Greyjoys, but this song more than the rest.

“Man of Shadows” is not a bad song, but it doesn’t stand out and sort of pales in comparison to the rest of the album. “Embracing the Styx” is also sort of a letdown, at first. When the chorus kicks in the long and rather disappointing intro is forgiven.

This album was my first taste of Candlemass doom, I have since bought and checked out most of the Candlemass catalogue and I still think this is their finest work. Only their debut comes close to rival this album in my opinion.

Bloody Hammers – Spiritual Relics (2013)

Bloody Hammers - Spiritual Relics - album cover

 

I heard of this band on a metal podcast at friends house, and I just had to hear more.  The  song that got me hooked was on Spiritual Relics, but I couldn’t remember what the song was called, so I bought the entire thing. The band is quite new, formed in 2012, and has already released their second album. I also bought their first album and it’s no way near as good Spiritual Relics, so I’ll just pretend it doesn’t exist.

 

The one thing that really got my attention was the vocals. I was reminded of the 90’s. I got a Marilyn Manson vibe, and somehow it also reminded me of grunge for some reason.

The production has a sort of basement sound, horror movie basement.

 

I’m thinking these guys are quite inspired by Black Sabbath, Candlemass and Danzig, because the sound is like a mix of these bands. I’ll explain; the overall sound is reminiscent of the classic Sabbath sound of the 70’s, most of the riffs could easily been penned by Mr. Edling of Candlemass. And the melodies and arrangement seems to be borrowed from the first four Danzig albums.

 

I read somewhere that they play occult gothic doom metal, and yeah, that pretty much sums up the lyrics. Not particularly clever or creative, but fun.

 

The album starts of brilliant with a monster of a riff and What’s Haunting You is a great opener. Actually all of the four first songs are dark, brooding and rocking tunes. But halfway through mediocrity sets in, and sadly doesn’t go away for the rest of the album. Maybe an album a year isn’t the best idea for new band? I don’t know. Night of the Long Knives sounds a bit like a high school band recorded it, and is the low point of the album. It’s a shame that the latter part of the album is so bland and boring, because the first part is really great.

 

rating: 3 / 5

 

Black Sabbath – 13 (Vertigo – 2013)

Black Sabbath - 13 - album cover

Like all other metalheads and rockers out there, I awaited the new Black Sabbath with mixed feelings. Would they piss all over their legacy, compliment it, release something completely forgettable or a master piece? And with mixed feelings I can’t honestly say; they did it all!

I went about this album in the old fashion way, and pre-ordered the vinyl at my local shop. The album looks good. The artwork works very well, and is stripped down and reminiscent of some of their classic albums. With the mind bugling Vertigo-label, the look of the record is complete. I could have wished for a little sticker with the words “digital download included”, but no matter.

The album starts off brilliantly with End of the Beginning. A heavy, doomy song that couldn’t have been written by any other group of people. Tony Iommy shows why he’s considered to be the godfather of heavy riffs. Geezers bass is rumbling and tumbling in his signature way. Ozzys voice now, leaves something to be desired, but lets all just be happy that he stills breathes and is able to sing. Guest drummer Brad Wilk has most certainly listened to a lot of all Sabbath records, and emulates Bill Wards drumming to perfection.

God Is Dead was released as single, and is a good pick as a single. It pics up the feel of the opener and keeps the doom close to heart. I think this might be my favorite track. Ozzys emotional vocals really gives you that certain vibe and the heavy, heavy rhythm of the song is just amazing.

But, the brilliant opening couldn’t last. Loner is barely over the OK-mark. Besides the great solo a couple of minutes into the song, it sounds … well, it’s hard to describe, but this is a big let down from side-A. Zeitgeist is a weaker and less interesting brother of Planet Caravan, and brings nothing exciting to the b-side. It also brings the band dangerously close to pissing on their own legacy, but thankfully the song is not dragged out and the boredom comes to an end.

Side-C starts off with Age of Reason. A big, solid riff is the backbone of this song, but that’s it. Iommys guitar work is, as always, impeccable, but somehow doesn’t really come together in a proper way on Age of Reason. Live Forever is a nice little rocker, but I suspect this song was written with Dio in mind for the vocals, as this song reminds me of the Black Sabbath of the early eighties. The song doesn’t quite make it, it lacks something I can’t quite put my finger on.

The final side av the double vinyl release sees a return to the seven-plus-minute anthems (like the A-side), and a marked return to greatness. Both Damaged Soul  and Dear Father are great classic Black Sabbath, with all the hallmarks that requires. They are both doomy, heavy and creative, with some impressive instrumental parts, featuring some great bass lines and brilliant guitar solos.

Overall 13 is everything one could have hoped for, more or less. The band really shines when they allow themselves room to jam and ride the blues riffs out to full length. That’s one reason why the longer songs work better than the shorter ones. 13  starts of great and finishes great, with a more forgettable and less interesting middle section. If the album had only consisted of these four songs it would have been one the finest records since the seventies for all parties involved, including all of Ozzys solo records, Heaven & Hell and everything else, but with the four songs in the middle the album, as a whole, rates somewhat lower.