Rivers Of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name

This might be the strongest effort from this band. You can hear how much their composition has matured. This album is packed with dynamics and versatility, which gives it replay value. It’s definitely one of those albums that you can keep coming back to. I consider this to be a modern progressive death metal masterpiece, for that very reason.

“The Silent Life” opens with a nice chunky verse that leads into some cool “techy” riffing. There’s a lot of atmosphere in the background adding a nice ambient effect to the riffs. They even venture into some Pink Floyd territory in the bridge. I love the guitar solo on this track. Excellent phrasing.

“A Home” really pushes the point that this band is expanding their sound towards a more progressive direction, as opposed to letting themselves get trapped into the whole “tech death” label. This far in, you can already hear their growth. The vocals fit very well into the overall mix. There’s a nice clean interlude with some nice clean vocals that adds a nice new dynamic.

“Old Nothing” starts out as a heavy hitter. This one slaps you right in the face. The verse is quite badass to put it lightly. Riff after riff. It’s a little more reminiscent of their previous album.

“Subtle Change (Including The Forest Of Transition And Dissatisfaction Dance)” really showcases all kinds of dynamics. Clean vocals everywhere. Some more traditional prog elements floating around in this song. This track takes you on a journey, no question. It has excellent use of note choices and chords. I really love how much they utilize the Sax on this album. They enter into, dare I say, Dream Theater territory, as far as that traditional prog metal sound goes. They do it very tastefully I might add. This is one of the highlights for me personally. And the ending of the song… Well, just listen.

“Hollow” kind of brings things back a bit. This track has a bit more of a grounded feel. Super solid, and packed with punchy riffs. The solo is another great one. It’s really melodic, but flashy enough to get the point across.

“Death Is Real” has a pretty cool sounding intro that leads into a crushing riff. The chorus is so mean and powerful. It’s actually one of my favorite moments. It just has a nice erie feel. The interlude is pretty cool and creates a cool groove with interesting atmosphere. You get a second interlude later that’s equally as atmospheric, but more melodic.

Give this album a spin. I won’t give away the rest.

Where Owls Know My Name

Hamferð – Támsins Likam

Doom has always dealt with terms of love & loss, depression, and the struggle to endure. The devastating album Támsins likam by Faroese Sextet Hamferð is no different in that regard. However, what is different is their desolate and haunting brand of funeral doom that which also references death and black metal but is wholeheartedly genuine in its beautiful bereaved clarity.

The thing that struck me the most throughout my Initial listen was the agency to the band’s arrangements. While we are talking about funeral doom here, and many bands have exploited the dirge tempo aesthetics to death, Hamferð’s music doesn’t always move at funeral procession pace. The songs breathe and contract at a rate majority of band’ s in the same genre don’t seem to. The dynamic shifts from soft to heavy are drastic but rife with impact, each time. The arrangements of the songs, and even the order of the tracks, highlight this fact. There are clever whole band accents (mainly drums and guitars) that pull the listeners ear in a direction only to be offset by a unique vocal harmony or string section that I always was surprised and excited by. While many bands in the doom idiom (especially stoner) use repetition sometimes to their own detriment, Hamferð show that well fleshed our chord progressions with vocal dynamics and additional instrumentation (piano, strings, etc) add a depth to the overall emotional experience crafting a truly memorable listening experience.

Of note is the vocals. Vocalist Jón Aldará (also of Barren Earth fame) delivers an impeccable performance ranging from death rasps that could easily give Mikael Akerfeldt in his glory days a run for his money, Agonizing screams channeling the ghastly being in which this album references, to soaring and majestic clean vocals which are some of the best in the business. While the music of Hamferð is certainly strong enough on its own merits, Aldará elevates the performance to stunning and unforgettable levels.

The opening somber moments of “Fylgisflog” with its ethereal and solemn guitar introduction really sets the scene for this record. The slow burn adds the introduction of Aldará’s vocals giving way to the crushing heaviness of the rest of the song starting at the four-minute mark. I was left stunned at this transition as gooseflesh plagued my body. This example of dynamic building is exemplary of Hamferð’s whole songwriting approach. The latter half of “Hon Syndrast” takes things even further with a black-ish metal part complete with a slow traditional blast beat used at EXACTLY the right moment. However there is some slight respite on the record with the song “Frosthvarv” which takes things in a slower more delicate approach. With the punishing repetition of the final riffs of “Vapín í Anda”, they are making sure you don’t leave this place unscathed. After the re-Introduction of the opening them the emotional havoc inflicted by the end of the song will leave you in shambles…I mean this as the highest compliment and with respect to the atmosphere in which this work was most certainly intended. The hurt never ends.

The production on Támsins likam is superb. Modern tech death this is not. There are no overly produced sample laden drums and the mix is not compressed to all hell. The mix is full and feels gargantuan the space it fills. All the levels for the crushing Guitars, punchy bass, minimalist keys, booming drums, and vocals are perfectly balanced and complimentary to one another. It literally sounds like you are sitting down right in front of the band while listening to this record…or should I say being lowered down into your grave?

While comparisons to “Dreadful Hours” by My Dying Bride, “Brave Murder Day” era Katatonia, and Shape of Despair are certainly apt, it should only serve as reference point for the uninitiated and do nothing to diminish this work which certainly stands out in the rest of the doom pack. Devoid of any trend or adherence to the current metal scenes Támsins likam forges its own path, one of utterly majestic and transcendent doom metal for the modern age.

GWAR – The Blood Of Gods

It’s a long story but we all know that GWAR do not belong to this world yet this brave rock band, famous for the blood soaked live theatricals, continues a massive battle against all the wrong in the world, so obviously against the humans who are destroying the planet, on the new album “The Blood of Gods” which is the first without the fallen leader Oderus Urungus.

“War On GWAR” certainly has an epic mood with soulful warrior screams that introduce an irresistible doom crescendo full of thick guitar riffs that might announce an impending catastrophe or the rise of a beast, anyway GWAR is willing to channel multiple music styles to create an insanely groovy metal rhythm with a proper fancy guitar solo but never puts aside the earlier powerful doom nuances.

“Viking Death Machine” truly amplifies the strength of mighty guitar driven grooves but also super chunky bass lines play a big role in this heavy yet intensely catchy tunethat includes hints of classic metal.

On the rebellious anthem “El Presidente” loads of crunchy heavy guitars & bass lead the instrumental sections with the addition of majestic orchestrations yet the addictive quality of this track can be found in the mischievous theatrical chorus.

“I’ll Be Your Monster” will become a hit song due to a series of infectious rocking guitar riffs and the overall shock-rock infused rhythmic patterns leading to a lovable dirty rock ‘n roll solo while the edgy vocal delivery certainly enhances the high impact gritty catchiness.

“Crushed By The Cross” becomes heavier borderline furious channeling a familiar ‘90s thrash rhythmic assault that definitely matches the bold lyrical anger and guitars are constantly engaged in a frenetic groove that bears a quite somber mood amplified by solemn choirs.

Although the entire album relies on an entertaining mood the power ballad “Phantom Limb” evokes a profound sadness as the band crafts a sincere tribute to Oderus with heartfelt melodic guitar dynamics and a softer contemplative approach.

Both longtime fans and new curious listeners will be delighted to enter the crazy fun sonic realm of “The Blood Of Gods” as despite adversities GWAR fearlessly maintain an explosive creative force.