Reviews for July 11th, 2013

Kröwnn – Hyborean Age

Kröwnn is an Italian doom metal band and “Hyborean Age” appears to be their first demo/album.

When I think of Italian metal, mostly I think of power metal and symphonic metal because there is a lot of great music in those styles coming out of the country. Lately though, I’m starting to think of doom metal as well when I think of Italy. The Italians seem to have a knack for making really good traditional/epic doom metal, just check out Doomsword or Abysmal Grief.

From the very first notes of “Hyborean Age” I liked what I was hearing. Not only is the album named after Robert E. Howard’s world of Conan the Barbarian, but the opening track “For the Throne of Fire” begins with the famous movie clip of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan proclaiming what is best in life: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.”

Then the monster riffs kick in, followed shortly thereafter by the clean and slightly melodic vocals. Kröwnn is only a trio, but they make a big, big sound. They also manage to give the guitar and bass a warm fuzzy sound while maintaining a very tight and clear sounding production. See, you don’t have to have a shitty production just to get a warm sound.

They seem to like to mix their mythos too, as the “Hyborean Age” ends with the track “The Melnibonean”, and as any fantasy devotee worth their 20-sided dice can tell you, this is a reference to Michael Moorcock’s Elric.

Kröwnn surprised me with how good they sounded and I am definitely going to be looking for more from them in the future. Listen below to hear “The Melnibonean.”

Lycus – Tempest

Lycus is a funeral doom band from Oakland, California and “Tempest” is their first album.

Oakland, huh? I never would have guessed that from listening to “Tempest.” I probably would have said someplace Scandinavian or even Russian. Music like this tends to come from the really cold places, not Oakland. But hey, I’m not complaining; it’s good to have some nice sounding American funeral doom. Or any funeral doom for that matter. 2013 so far hasn’t given me very much in the way of good, new funeral doom, so “Tempest” is most welcome.

“Tempest” only features three songs, but they are all pretty long (the title track is over twenty minutes) and still round out the album at a respectable 42 minutes duration. This comes as no surprise from a funeral doom band; long and slow songs are the bread and butter of the style.

Lycus are not content to simply play at a glacial pace for 42 minutes, though, as there are moments where they get downright speedy. I can’t speak as to whether that will hold up with genre purists, but for me I enjoyed the kick in the teeth to shake me from my lethargy.

I’m impressed with the sound quality of the albums production. Lycus manages to sound heavy as a mountain and ethereal as a ghost while also maintaining a tight and solid foundation. That’s all I really ask for, and they have given me just that.

I am definitely digging me some Lycus. Check out the track “Coma Burn.”

Lord Dying – Summon the Faithless

Heading north from Oakland we end up in Portland, Oregon and find ourselves listening to sludge metal band Lord Dying and their first album, “Summon the Faithless.”

Based on the album art and a song title like “In a Frightful State of Gnawed Dismemberment” I expected these guys to be a death metal band, but no, this definitely falls in the style of sludge.

This is the third time today that I find myself remarking on how good the production sounds on an album in a style that I am frequently left wanting. Doom, funeral and sludge are none of them known for having particularly quality production sound, yet I have been very impressed with everything I’ve heard today. I’d like to think this means more bands are coming around to the idea that you can keep your “sound” and have a quality recording too, rather than the idea that maybe I am just becoming more agreeable towards inferior production.

“Summon the Faithless” is sludgetastic and rather punishing and I think I will be making some repeat visits to listen to this album. Lord Dying combine all the thick and gooey heavy of sludge with the artful gymnastics of something a little more trippy (it’s gotta be the Portland thing) and the resulting songs are uber-heavy yet nimble enough to maneuver a mosh pit with grace.

Here’s the track “Summoning the Faithless.”

Moss of Moonlight – Winterwheel

I didn’t plan it this way, but now we continue even further north up to Washington State to check out Moss of Moonlight and “Winterwheel.” “Winterwheel” is only four tracks, but it clocks in at 42 minutes.

Moss of Moonlight is a two-person black/folk metal band made up of the husband and wife team of Jenn Grunigen and Cavan Wagner. The band is from the U.S. but the song titles don’t appear to be in English and a lot of the lyrics seem not to be either. Based on the geographic location of the band this leaves me at a complete loss as to what language they may be using. Jenn handles the drums, clean female vocals and percussion, while Cavan handles the harsh male vocals, guitar, bass and other instruments.

I would say there is a lot more folk about this music than black metal. It is certainly heavy at times, but there’s always some kind of folk instrument going on that takes a bit of the edge off. The production (here I go again) is really quite impressive; everything sounds very clear and bright and well mixed. I cannot complain about the sound quality.

The songs themselves are quite interesting, even when I don’t know what they are saying. Coming into this album I would not have expected something that sounded this good based on it being assembled by a husband and wife team from Washington. I am happy to find that “Winterwheel” is not only of the highest quality, but it also stands out as quite different from most of the other black/folk metal I have heard. There’s rarely anything new under the sun, so something that stands apart from the herd (and sounds good too) makes it very easy for me to get behind.

Make sure to check out this impressive duo. Here is the track “Ēole."