s Lemmy and Bowie are lain ‘neath the sod, it is worth remembering that they did at least leave impressive musical legacies and….
Actually, fuck that. Lemmy is dead and Major Tom has burned up on re-entry. Everything’s shit and Coldplay are still both alive and not being brutalised by a randy wildebeest called ‘Rectal Justice Umgawa’.
After all, metal is in many ways a most persistent and insidious weed, poking through the gaps of the paving stones and generally upsetting the squares. Lemmy knew this, clung to it, even as he moved in next door and killed your lawn. Bowie just knew that being Bowie was never enough – he had to keep reinventing himself lest the mainstream ever caught up and ate his soul.
So what better way to celebrate their undeaths than with the brand new Conan album, Revengeance? The Merseyside drone squad’s last album, 2013’s Blood Eagle, was, to put it bluntly, like being sucked off by a black hole, such was its dark, relentless glory. Revengeance therefore has quite a challenge to meet that same level of WOW!, so does it deliver the goods?
As it happens, Revengeance is subtly different from its predecessor, setting aside the monolithic blast of Blood Eagle in favour of a more sprawling and urgent sound. It’s looser and harsher, a hungry sabre toothed tiger rather than a vast, crushing mammoth. In essence, Revengeance isn’t as iconic as Blood Eagle, yet it is consistently and ruthlessly brutal and uncompromising, its core riffs still heavy enough to hang a whale on. A worthy follow up.
In its wake follows The Haruspex by Canadian dynamic duo Gomorrah. This is direct, no-frills, face punching death metal, underpinned with an eerie electronic tinge, and with the polished sheen of a mass murderer’s razor blade. As tracks like “Carcosa” demonstrate, this works very well, the end result sounding brutal and addictive in equal measure. Yet there is a nagging feeling that what you hear here has little depth and is (whisper it) a one-trick pony, albeit a pleasingly vicious one.
Next, there is the latest disc, Nucleus, by Swedish druggists Witchcraft. Their 2012 album Legend was both an interesting fusion of stoner doom and Tool’s high concept proggery – right down to one track, “Democracy”, pretty much being “Aenima’s” bellbottom clad, mushroom guzzling stunt double.
Nucleus for its part is a more doom-oriented album, its sound fusing the band’s faintly rustic original with copious chunks of Sabbath and a healthy dash of epic doom. That’s not to say there aren’t any radio-friendly tracks on here – as shown by “The Outcast” and its pan-pipe infused hooks, or “The Obsessed” with its chugging guitars. Yet the rest of the record is more complex and deep, its tracks providing plenty more material to explore and enjoy at the listener’s leisure. A thorough and accomplished album.
Finally, there is the new two-track demo by Californian doom outfit Ghost Witch. As you can probably guess, there’s not too much to report about what is after all the online, streaming equivalent of a double-sided single. But both tracks – “Lunar Hymn” and “Andromadonna” – are impressively tight, anthemic and wonderfully composed and performed. Best of all, they are distinctive and avoid regurgitating their influences, so as first steps go, this is impressive.
So in summary, listen and enjoy. But don’t forget that, sometimes, just sometimes, what you listen to are the sounds of ghosts in every sense of the word.
Alexander Hay is a writer and polemicist based online and in print.