Reviews for January 3rd, 2013

Mage – Black Sands

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Mage is a Stoner/Doom metal band from the UK and “Black Sands” is their first album.

Lately I have been cruising Bandcamp for interesting new releases from bands that I haven’t heard before. There is a nice mix of established acts along with bands that are unsigned and trying to get their material heard, so it gives me the opportunity to hear things that I might normally miss.

A few weeks ago while on one of my Bandcamp hunts I came across this band called Mage and their apparently self-released album, “Black Sands.” While there is a lot of cool music on Bandcamp, there is also a lot of shit. This particular day I was having no luck and everything sounded awful…until I came across Mage.

Mage has a fairly simple recipe that works really well: one part deep heavy guitar/bass work laden with monster riffs; one part huge monster drums; one part clean-yet-raspy vocals that are both catchy and slightly menacing. The result is an album that probably should have been on my best of 2012 list last week.

There are riffs are so monstrous I have to wonder if perhaps Tony Iommi is getting royalties on them. At the very least I expect Tony would give them a nod of approval.

The production sounds quite good as well. Oftentimes bands this heavy come across sounding very muddy. I wouldn’t say “Black Sands” is as crystal clear as I would like, but they have done a better job with their sound than many other bands in the style I have heard.

You should head over to Bandcamp, give these guys a listen and then lend them your support. Here is the track "Drowning Doom" to motivate you.

Malnàtt – Principia Discordia

Malnàtt is an Italian melodic black metal band and “Principia Discordia” is their fifth album.

A lot of classic operas are sung in Italian, and even if one doesn’t know what they are saying the music can be very beautiful. The flipside of that coin is Malnàtt, who sing in Italian and find their beauty in darkness.

I speak not a word of Italian, but “Principia Discordia” impressed me from the very first song. The songs have that huge spacious sound like a Dimmu Borgir song, but without the overly symphonic cheese that goes with it.

While I was working on my best of 2012 list last week I found myself struggling with whether this album should be included. It is a really good album, and despite not knowing the language I like the novelty of metal sung in Italian. Ultimately the album didn’t make the list but this was only because I couldn’t bear to give up anything that was already on the list.

For those, like me, that do not speak Italian, don’t let the language barrier dissuade you from giving this album a chance. Give these guys a listen. Here is “Ave Discordia.”

Aoria – The Constant

Aoria is gloomy post-rock/shoegaze/doom band from Sweden and “The Constant” is their first album.

Comprised of members of A Swarm of the Sun, October Tide and Katatonia, Aoria does not want to be known as just another side project. I’ll not debate whether they have achieved complete separation from their other projects, but my first impression was that this sounded like the bleakness of Katatonia blended with the shoegaze melancholy of Alcest, only in English.

I am not generally a fan of shoegaze type music, particularly when it isn’t in English. “The Constant”, though, is in English, and in the dreary early hours of January I find myself enjoying the quiet wistfulness of this album. This is not an album for partying with on a Friday night; no, this my-girlfriend-just-left-me-and-my-dog-just-died music for people that don’t like country music. This is music for staring off into the sunset like Luke Skywalker on Tatooine from the first Star Wars movie. Hell, I bet Bill Bixby could walk around looking forlorn in The Incredible Hulk to this album (double nerd points for working Star Wars AND the Hulk into a metal review!)

I’m pretty impressed with how Aoria manage to suck all the happiness out of the room without going even a little bit black metal on me. I just may have found a new stand-by album for those all too common black days. Check out the track “An Overwhelming Calm.”

Trepalium – H.N.P.

Trepalium is a French death/groove metal band and “H.N.P.” is their fourth album.

Aoria put me into a little bit of a trance and now Trepalium has prepared my wake-up call. The first two things I notice about Trepalium are the guitar tone and the vocals. The guitar tone sounds exactly how I wish it did on every other album I listen to: it has a nice crisp leading edge that follows up with a thick punchy blast. No frayed edges on this tone, this is smooth, clean (well, distorted actually, but clean in that does not sound dirty) and lethal. The vocals have much the same sound; they have enough bite to slice through the music but a thickness and depth that complements the guitar tone while rising above it in the mix.

The vocals are harsh but very intelligible. The music has the stench of death about it, but must also have some groove in its DNA somewhere, because these songs do not just barrel along mindlessly. Nay, there be meat on these bones and it knows how to get down while likely inspiring prodigious circle pits wherever these guys play.

The solid production (which you could probably have already guessed at by my previous comments) helps make “H.N.P.” an incredibly impressive release. I’d never heard of Trepalium before receiving this album, but you can be damn sure I will be keeping my eye out for them in the future.

Check out the video for “Heic Noenum Pax.”