Category Archives: Doom Metal

Pentagram – Relentless (Song Review)

“Take you to hell and won’t say hello”

Pentagram were formed in 1971 and are renowned as early doom pioneers but nearly 15 years passed before the cult US band was able to rise from the underground and put out their first album. It was worth the wait. The 1985 self-released debut was originally just called Pentagram but in 1993 it was reissued by Peaceville Records and renamed Relentless after this awesome track. Relentless was penned by charismatic guitarist Victor Griffin and has a walloping tone and simple, strident riff that fully lives up to the promise of the song’s title. The lyrics are a bit clunky but endearingly catchy and they’re a good vehicle for the ‘Ram’s wayward frontman Bobby Liebling to strut his swaggering, streetwise stuff. But the real joy here is the riffin’ of Griffin. His electric axe is gonna knock you on your back.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

Candlemass – Dark Are The Veils Of Death: Single (Review)

Candlemass – Dark Are The Veils Of Death (2017)

The Dark Are The Veils Of Death 7″ was released in 2017 to celebrate 30 years of Peaceville Records and features two rare working versions of tracks from Candlemass’ classic 1988 album Nightfall. But although Dark Are The Veils Of Death would become one of the band’s greatest tunes, they hadn’t quite nailed it down here. Messiah Marcolin sounds great but seems to be making the lyrics up and throws the song title in at a different spot than it appears in the final version. Also, short-lived guitarist Mike Wead appears, which is historically interesting, but you can also hear why his noodly playing didn’t quite fit the bill in comparison to Lars Johansson’s molten soloing on the album. The B-Side features the funereal instrumental Codex Gigax: decent enough music but pointless as a standalone side of vinyl.

Recorded on a ghetto blaster, it’s lo-fi stuff but it has a blustery power. It’s just odd material for a single as you will rarely listen to this, if at all. And if you’re into Candlemass enough to buy this then you will have bought the later 3CD reissue of Nightfall that included these recordings (and much more). So this single was worth owning for about seven months. Dark are the travails of the music collector.

HMO Rating: 2 Out Of 5

My Dying Bride – The Long Black Land (Song Review)

“Long have I waited for this”

Congratulations to My Dying Bride as they celebrate 30 years of innovative, influential and thoroughly miserable metal. It’s an especially pleasing achievement given that the last five years have been particularly trying for the British band. When vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe’s young daughter was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, he was forced to take leave from the band. And when a further two band members decided to quit during this hiatus, the band’s future looked extremely doubtful.

Thankfully Aaron’s daughter was given the all clear and the band not only survives, but thrives. On their latest album The Ghost Of Orion they sound as vital, relevant and glum as ever. With its glacial pace, less obvious song structure and Andrew Craighan’s mournful riffs, The Long Black Land is definitely one of the album’s less instant and accessible tracks. But its also one of its most powerful: a black void right at the heart of the record. Like all the best doom, it’s laden with feeling and at the 6:25min mark, when a mellow breather bursts into a lumbering, seismic riff, it’s exquisitely powerful.

You wouldn’t know it from the music but, three decades in and at the top of their game, My Dying Bride and their fans have many reasons to be cheerful.

HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5

Black Sabbath – God Is Dead? (Song Review)

“Give me more wine, I don’t need bread”

If you’re going to trudge through a slow doomfest you need quality riffs and lyrics, depth of feeling and strong atmosphere and Black Sabbath’s God Is Dead? falls flat on all fronts. It goes on way too long, the brickwalled production has zero atmosphere, the vocals are flat and the lyrics are either boring or clumsy light/night, doom/tomb stuff. The chorus is pretty good, especially the second time round where it is extended out in a moment of rousing emotion. But the band don’t capitalise on this flash of brilliance and the song continues with a series of unremarkable riffs and an unusually uninspired solo from Tony Iommi. Not sure if God has snuffed it or not but this song is disappointingly bereft of life.

HMO Rating: 2 Out Of 5

Manowar – Defender: 1983 Version (Song Review)

“Father I look up to you”

They were an unknown band at the time but that didn’t stop Manowar from securing the services of screen legend Orson Welles who (clearly recognising that he was in the midst of fellow geniuses) agreed to record narration for their debut album: 1982’s Battle Hymns. His narration was used on that album’s Dark Avenger but in the same session Welles also recorded two more pieces: a cool stage intro (that the band has used ever since) and narration for a strange and glorious second song, Defender.

Mostly spoken word set to music, it’s the kind of thing other bands would have used to flesh out an album. But Manowar are not “other bands” so Defender was released as a non-album single in 1983. Not the kind of stuff to tear up the charts but a great introduction to Manowar’s barbarian muscle metal. Windswept Conan tones in the mellow intro, Welles’ baritone gravitas, that killer “ride like the wind” chorus and goosebumps galore when vocalist Eric Adams finally chips in.

I slightly prefer the more direct, streamlined Fighting The World version from 1987 (which used the same narration but re-recorded and rearranged the rest of the song) but the original has its own appeal. It almost sounds like a metallized take on classic Kansas with Adams’ soaring vocals and Ross The Boss’ bluesier guitar solo. And best of all it has a longer, more epic atmosphere with the “Tree Of Woe” vibe that characterized the band’s early work. It’s a must-hear and a must-have rarity for any Manowar fan. This is the music God has sent.

HMO Rating: 4.5 Out Of 5

Paradise Lost – Lost Paradise (Review)

Paradise Lost – Lost Paradise (1990)

The punishingly bleak death metal on Paradise Lost’s 1990 debut Lost Paradise makes it the odd-one-out in a discography more renowned for gothic melody. But the five teenagers had only been together about a year before being faced with the challenge of recording their first record and, despite not having found their voice yet, they make a pretty decent fist of it. A lack of songcraft means it all kind of mushes together but they already have their doleful mix of riff and lead guitar down, there’s the occasional decent hook (“where is your God now?”), and the whole thing has a entrancingly subterranean atmosphere. And Lost Paradise has proven pretty influential in its own right as one of the earliest albums to slow death metal down to a miserable crawl. The Yorkshiremen would do much better with subsequent releases but fans of meat and potatoes death/doom could do a lot worse than check this out.

HMO Rating: 3 Out Of 5

Judas Priest – Sad Wings Of Destiny (Review)

Judas Priest – Sad Wings Of Destiny (1976)

The modern idea of “heavy metal” starts here. Judas Priest’s seminal sophomore album Sad Wings Of Destiny laid down the template for countless others to follow with its evil, slashing riffs, demonic guitar duels and the screaming, theatrical vocals of the one-and-only Rob Halford. This 1976 album contains four peerless classics in the humungous Victim Of Changes, the thrashing Genocide, Tyrant and the malevolent The Ripper. And, while less innovative, the deep cuts like the orchestral Prelude, psychedelic Dreamer Deceiver and the funereal Epitaph give the album a mournful, gothic construction that makes this the Priest to hear if you’re a crucifix-necklaced, flare-wearing, doom metal type. Supposedly the album’s A and B sides were accidentally reversed on initial release so we’ve all been listening to it in the wrong order. But it doesn’t matter. Listen to this any way you like: forwards, backwards, up, down, shuffle. Either way it’s a masterpiece. Actually… maybe avoid listening to it backwards. Just in case.

HMO Rating: 5 Out 5

[Judas Priest – Genocide]

Demon Head – Hellfire Ocean Void (Review)

Demon Head – Hellfire Ocean Void (Released 22nd Feb 2019)

Remember when bands used to “get it together in the country”? Demon Head do. In the winter of 2017-18 they headed out to a remote recording studio in the Danish countryside to record their third album. But this is no bucolic, hippy, communing with nature type affair. More a “getting lost in the woods, people with strange animal masks, ‘it’s time for your appointment with The Wicker Danzig’” situation. The creepy rural seclusion approach has worked: Demon Head have definitely got it together on Hellfire Ocean Void.

The Night Is Yours and In The Hour Of The Wolf are the standout tracks: occult, old-fashioned metal that will appeal to fans of Tribulation and In Solitude. There are also lots of rustic interludes and mystical ambience which, combined with the band’s Pentagram-style proto-doom, gives the album a folk horror allure. The guitar work is much improved, some exciting NWOBHM-esque workouts and solos here, and Ferriera Larsen is finding his own voice: shaking off the Bobby Leibling/Fonzig comparisons of old.

As with previous albums, there’s a tendency to meander which means it takes a few listens to grab you. But it’s their most thoughtful, consistent and well-crafted effort yet with depth and atmosphere in abundance. It builds on the promise of their earlier work and suggests exciting ways forward. Fan of pagan, old-school metal? It’s time for your appointment with Demon Head.

HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5

Solstice – White Horse Hill (Review)

Solstice – White Horse Hill (2018)

Unless your veins run with the blood of a coward you would do well to check out White Horse Hill, the 2018 comeback album from the UK’s Solstice. And fans of early Manowar and Candlemass should consider it essential. It’s confident, bracing stuff with riffs that power like mighty oars, harmonies that sound like they’re heading out on a quest and declamatory vocals that get the pecs swelling with pride. The folky strum of For All Days & For None is a mid-album lull and a penchant for rustic interludes hampers the pacing a touch but To Sol A Thane, Under The Waves Lie Our Dead and the title-track are glorious, bearing the weight of the album like mighty pillars.

HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5

Extra points for a beautiful digipak!

Twilight Of The Gods – Fire On The Mountain (Review)

Twilight Of The Gods – Fire On The Mountain (2013)

Twilight Of The Gods were formed as an all-star Bathory tribute act featuring the likes of Mayhem’s Blasphemer, Primordial’s Alan Averill and blast legend Nick Barker. In 2013 they took the plunge and released their own album of irony-free epic metal Fire On The Mountain.

It’s a treat to hear a black metal veteran take on the chest-beating, anthemic style of Manowar, Manilla Road, Omen and the like but it’s all a bit too sincere. There’s a pervading doom-laden vibe that works well on the moodier tracks like the Primordial-like Children Of Cain and the apocalyptic Sword Of Damocles, but the more anthemic efforts like Preacher Man and Destiny Forged In Blood prove a bit too stiff for comfort.

Alan Averill’s unique voice adds much-needed charisma, his lyrics are a lot of fun (“Van Stahrenberg stands with the Holy See of the Roman Empire”) and the band does a sterling job of launching into Maiden-style instrumental jousts, most notably on the rousing title track.

Fire On The Mountain places pretty low in the pantheon when stacked up against the classic bands that inspired it but there are enough great moments here to make it disappointing that they haven’t followed it up with a second album. It’s a solid effort for fans of the main players and for anyone that likes their metal with a bit of hair on its chest.

HMO Rating: 3 Out Of 5