Saturday, April 13, 2013

Daylight Dies; Howl; Obelyskkh; October Tide; Swallow the Sun; Ufomammut

Six bands, six paths to doom Daylight Dies (U.S.) Howl (U.S.) Obelyskkhh (Germany) October Tide (Sweden) Swallow the Sun (Finland) Ufomammut (Italy)
Daylight Dies‘ “A Frail Becoming” is a bit of classic Opethian-style doom in the following sense: the heavy parts are really heavy, where the riff and the gruff growling are the center, and it sounds really great. In those moments there is melody, too, and that helps the songs a lot. Now then, Daylight Dies also has moments of clear singing, melody and melancholy. These segments sound like clean guitar or acoustic guitar, the clear singing is delicate—as opposed to obnoxiously loud “metal” singing—and have something in common with the clear singing in Opeth and Katatonia. In short, Daylight Dies is one the most exciting and interesting doom metal bands that I know of, currently. This album is another feather in their cap.
Howl’s album “Bloodlines,” I had believed, was going to be slow, like some sort of sludge, maybe stoner album. Instead, it sounds it’s more like High on Fire: there is a good dose of Black Sabbath and Motorhead in this music, it is uptempo and midtempo, but nowhere near the neighborhood of slow music, and certainly not superslow stuff.
It is way better than I expected and more fun. Howl is a pretty rocking experience. They pick up the speed substantially in places, which, by the way, is a genius move because Howl is a bit of roller coaster, in a good way. The growled vocals are death metal-ish in vibe. Howl can easily tour with stoner, doom, death and bands like High on Fire and Mastodon, you know, that heavier rock stuff.
I find that the guitar work, while certainly heavy, does not quite draw my attention to the max. The soloing and the melodic hooks are good, but the meat and potatoes sound of the rhythms leaves me wanting more. As a result, the songs are not as memorable as they could be. They’re heavy, so the heaviness factor is a-ok.
Obelyskkh‘s “White Lightnin’”is one heavy stoner rock release, a bit more hippy-ish than early Black Sabbath, more melodic in the vocals, with a guitar tone that rumbles along. “White Lightnin’” has three songs over 10 minutes, one about 16 minutes and three about 7 minutes. The last three are the hits for the radio (you know, the radio station that plays doom and stoner 24 hours a day, right?)
They do not do much in the way of guitar melody because it is one huge rumble, mostly. The melody takes place in the vocals, but it is dry, unmotivated, laid back melody, like singing psychedelic stoner doom with a hipster attitude. Don’t be fooled, they are motivated, but they have worked hard at sounding lazy and spaced out.
If you are a fan of Saint Vitus and Electric Wizard, you might think Obelyskkh is a worthy band to investigate. Of course, there is a garage-ish aspect to the music and vibe, so if you don’t like stoner stuff, you will need to steer clear of this band.
October Tide, Katatonia fans will be pleased to know, is the band of Fredik Norrman, guitarist in Katatonia from 1994 to 2010. I guess, one simple way to start the conversation on October Tide’s album “Tunnel of No Light” is to ask: Do you like early Katatonia, when the band was a heavy, melodic doom band? Well then, October Tide just happens to be a heavy, growl doom band that keeps the heaviness at a maximum level, while maintaining the growled vocals throughout, and bringing the melody from the guitar. On this last mentioned aspect, this means that there are no clean vocals, no keyboards, or any other instrument, to soften up the doom. This is why October Tide is interesting, it’s about the guitar and the songwriting. There is a sense that October Tide hides nothing, and also avoids making things too busy. The result on the listener is immediate. What a nice surprise, by the way: easily enjoyable, yet with plenty of riffs, vocal patterns, hooks and heavy shades to keep the listener’s attention.
Swallow the Sun is the type of doom that uses many things at its disposal for a song: death metal growling, black metal shrieking, clear singing, keyboards, tremolo guitar parts, melancholic guitar parts, heavy riffs, slow, midpace and uptempo are all found with this doom. Really, the band can give the impression of a hodgepodge of metal sounds, and all of this sounds unworkable on paper, and you would think this sounds like a crazy salad. At times, it does! They go from the symphonic black metal doom of “Hate, Lead the Way,” a headbanging tune to the slow, meditational sounds and whispered/folky singing of “Cathedral Walls” and it’s quite a change. Are they a black metal band? Are they a folk/gothic metal band?
However, all those concerns do not matter because somehow Swallow the Sun makes sense to my ears. They are good at all those things. I don’t know if all six band members write songs or why this is such an eclectic doom experience. The sound quality is excellent, it sounds like professional metal (NOT stoner sound), and the songs are very good. The one thing that you will need is patience, but if you like doom, you already know this is not instant
Ufomammut’s two albums “Oro: Opus Primum” and Oro: Opus Alter” are a test of the listener’s desire for drone-stoner trippy landscapes.
Ufomammut plays not just slow. No, not just very slow. They play way, way, way slow. They do these very long segments of nothing but trippy keyboard sounds (or whatever that is; I have no idea).
You are in Ufomammut’s house now. Take your shoes off. Sit down. Grab a beer. Relax. Grab another beer. Relax some more. How you feeling? You feeling good and ready for some super slow motion music?
No headbanging here. No rocking. Only slow, tripped out misery. Where are the songs?! Ufomammut are such a hipster postmodern band that they think writing songs is outdated. They’ll do 20 minutes of messing around with sounds, throw in some heavy stoner riffs, and some vocals here and there, but writing a song for the listener to remember? Nope. That’s not their deal. You will think this is far out or perhaps, just say, “W-T-F!” Indeed, wtf.
In terms of memorable songwriting with heaviness and melody, and metal guitar playing proper, only three bands must be considered here: Daylight Dies, October Tide and Swallow the Sun. Daylight Dies brings a melodic singing and death doom to the table, while October Tide is immediately enjoyable in their heavy bleakness.
Swallow the Sun is the most varied of the three bands, the one that requires the most listens to understand. You might not like the fact that it is quite a metal eclectic experience, but they have crafted a strong doom album, without question, as have the other two bands.

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