Review: High on Fire – Electric Messiah

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Label: eOne

I’m not sure exactly what happened, but it barely seems that long ago that High on Fire were first unleashing their highly effective brand on sludge-laden, riff-heavy doom metal upon the world. Yet somehow, it’s twenty years since the band first formed. Not that you’d necessarily know it from listening to Electric Messiah. Album number eight from the Matt Pike-led trio is a monster of Godzilla-sized riffs, drums so crushing that could shatter buildings, and vocals as powerful and charismatic as they come; so, all is it should be, then. And yet, there’s an almost progressive edge to some of these songs that, somehow, sits comfortably alongside High on Fire’s riff-fueled fury.

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Review: Churchburn – None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery

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Label: Armageddon Shop

None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery is an album every bit as heavy as you’d hope, what with a title like that. The latest record from Churchburn is 45 minutes of aural punishment, filled with tar-drenched sludge riffs, an aura of extreme doom malevolence, and shot through with crust-inspired dirt. It’s the sound of veteran musicians who are masters of their craft, using all their experience to summon up the sounds of hurt and viciousness, with the end results being as impressive as they are crushing.

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Allfather – Inherit The Dust (single)

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Label: self-released

I wouldn’t normally write about an individual single – especially not when it clocks in just shy of five minutes – but some things are worth making an exception for. Inherit The Dust by Allfather is one of those things. Building on the riff-heavy foundation laid down on their Bless The Earth With Fire album earlier in the year, Inherit The Dust is a slightly mournful, yet still incredibly powerful, cry of protest against the self-defeating Western interventions in the Middle East. High On Fire style riffs and melodic dual-guitars combine with an almost hardcore intensity to superbly rousing effect, with vocalist Tom being in especially fine form as he leads the protest. Metal has a long history of decrying the futility of war and senseless killing, and Inherit The Dust is a strong continuation of that legacy.

What makes the single even more notable though – and especially worthy of your time and money – is that Allfather are donating all proceeds from the single to humanitarian charity Help Refugees. It’s great to see a band not only take a stand for a good cause, but directly support said cause. That the song is great doesn’t hurt, either, and should help Allfather gain some of the recognition they deserve as one of the finest purveyors of riffs in the UK metal underground today – not to mention being thoroughly decent guys.

Inherit The Dust is available to stream and download from Bandcamp.

Allfather – Bless The Earth With Fire

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Label: Self-released

Sometimes, a band will make it easy for you to know what they’re all about. It might be their artwork, an album title, or statements on their merch. The UK’s Allfather do so through the last option, with the reverse print on their Rasputin shirt summing them up pretty perfectly: “Beards. Metal. Fuck you.” Given this, absolutely no one should be surprised that Bless The Earth With Fire is a half hour of riffs upon riffs upon riffs, each one feeling heavier and more powerful than the last. Much like High On Fire, Allfather tap in to that element which sits at the heart of metal – the power of The Riff – resulting in music that is as good as impossible to resist.

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Menhir – Hiding In Light

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Label: Tartarus Records

A bit of (pre)history to start the review: a menhir is a standing stone, most commonly found in Western Europe, but also in parts of Africa and Asia. Difficult to date, they are often found near buildings or sites of religious significance from several millenia B.C. It’s kind of fitting, then, that Dutch trio Menhir conjure up a suitably weighty brand of sludge metal – the kind of doom that seems somehow separate from history, almost as if it exists one step removed from the modern world. Whereas most sludge is content to wallow in the filth and dirt, Hiding In Light instead looks to the heavens, reaching up in pursuit of something more than what the mundane offers. By turns, it is as heavy as the heavens and as glorious as the stars; a journey to the beyond conveyed in three songs.

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Sea – Sea (Self-titled demo)

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Label: Third I Rex

The problem with a lot of bands striving for heaviness is that they don’t recognise that too much of a good thing can be a problem. It’s all well and good wanting to be the heaviest and most extreme, and there are few greater pleasures in extreme music than a finely crafted super-heavy riff; but what’s needed for such music to really work is contrast. Keeping everything turned up to 11 just results in a wall of blandness, and a kind of super-heavy ambiance that lacks the desired impact. Thankfully, the self-titled debut demo/EP by Boston’s Sea does not fall victim to this problem. Instead, it is a prime example of how contrasting melodic moments can make the heaviest, most dirty sludge riffs feel even more powerful – and the more ‘clean’ parts are pretty special, too.

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