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A Storm of Light - As the Valley of Death Becomes Us Our Silver Memories Fade (IMPORT) (CD)

Guest appearances by Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), Jarobe (Swans), Kris Force (Amber Asylum), Nerissa Campbell, and members of Book of Knots, and U.S. Christmas.

By initially combining elements of sludge and doom metal, post metal, and epic ambient soundscape experimental music, with their third album, “As the Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade”, A Storm of Light have developed even further into a much more potent and cohesive unit with what ultimately is easily their strongest release to date. By embracing musical templates more associated with traditional metal (i.e. mid-era Metallica) and traditional rock (i.e. AC/DC, QOTSA), while still maintaining the band’s forward thinking progressive vibe, “As the Valley of Death Becomes Us...” presents a more song-oriented A Storm of Light while at the same time, a band that has incorporated a heavier, harder-hitting and ultimately darker and more crushing vibe to their music. Out of all of his musical and artistic endeavors Graham has been involved in the new A Storm of Light album will stand as one of his most prominent accomplishments.

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Aldebaran - Embracing the Lightless Depths (IMPORT) (CD)

Produced by Billy Anderson.

“Embracing The Lightless Depths” is the height of ALDEBARAN’s musical oeuvre, easily the heaviest and most searing work they’ve delivered. It is the most powerful monument in their repertoire that will seal ALDEBARAN’s fate as one of the mightiest and most important death/doom metal bands today. Emerging from their beginnings which leaned more towards a sludgier and more vitriolic breed of volatile doom, “Embracing The Lightless Depths” is the result of a threatening culmination that the Portland, Oregon cult have been building towards. One that has revealed itself as a monstrosity of apocalyptic proportions.

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Altar of Plagues - Mammal (IMPORT) (CD)



In what will be seen as the band’s darkest, bleakest, and most gut-wrenching release out of their illustrious repertoire, “Mammal” is a surging and absorbing musical journey that focuses on our quest to explore further our state of mortality and what lies beyond the mortal coil.

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Apostle of Solitude - Last Sunrise (IMPORT) (CD)

Features the covers of The Obsessed's "Streetside", The Misfits' "Astro Zombies" and Born Against's "Mary and Child".

It's hard to say if they topped Sincerest Misery, because they didn't try to out-do that album, they came in with a fresh approach and vision, added some new elements, and made an album that stands on its own as undoubtedly one of the finest that will be released in 2010.

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Asunder - Works Will Come Undone (IMPORT) (CD)



Just an endless sea of riffs, almost symphonic, that keeps opening up each time I listen. Asunder is now in my Holy Trinity with Unsane and High on Fire. They simply can do no wrong. Works Will Come Undone blew everything that I heard in '06 out of the fucking water.

In the seventy-two minutes of music, there are quieter welcoming vocals. There are low guttural screams that sound like misery being ripped out of someone's neck. There are Gregorian-like chanting notes shouted. The vocals are sparingly sprinkled throughout the music making the morose isolation feel that much sharper. Asunder wanders through doom metal with the type of tempo that is so slow it's at first uncomfortable.

As the brooding guitars, bass, and drums bang on, it's Jackie Perez-Gratz's cello work that really yanks on the heartstrings. And while her string sailing isn't always present, the moments when it is become that much more profound. Otherwise, expect non-stop bleakness with the occasional stoner groove. Instead of reaching for an epic crescendo, Asunder continuously drives on and emulates feelings of non-stop hopelessness. The recording/production captures the tightness of Asunder without making anything sound too "digital" and instead really heavy. It should be noted that listening to Asunder will make the creamiest/sugar cube filled coffee black. It should also be noted that with all of the great metal releases of 2006 there's a reason why Works Will Come Undone is rising to the top of many lists. That reason may have something to do with Asunder's exceptional rendition of funeral doom.

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Atavist - II - Ruined (IMPORT) (CD)

Special appearance by Justin Greaves (Crippled Black Phoenix, Electric Wizard, Iron Monkey). Includes an exclusive bonus track - a cover of Grief's "I Hate the Human Race".

II: Ruined, the epically depraved sludge doom masterwork from Manchester's Atavist. Divided into chapters, but works best as one long song (kinda akin to Corrupted's El Mundo Frio), II: Ruined is a massive plunge through crawling and pounding vibes of distorted madness, bass-heavy frequencies, methodically played drums, and utterly painful virulent vocals, all filtered through pure unbridled atmosphere and ambience. A sonic scenario where every negative emotion conceived manifests into beyond epic proportions. It is a monolithically searing opus drenched in audial torment where every negative and purely real emotion is excruciatingly delivered with utmost conviction and sincerity. Fans of Khanate, Corrupted, Grief, Iron Monkey and Eletric Wizard will worship this thing. When wrapping your ears around II: Ruined you will realize that there will be no life worth living.

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Atriarch - Ritual of Passing (IMPORT) (CD)



Atriarch’s Ritual of Passing is a bleak and foreboding journey into the very core of what defines authenticity by way of aesthetic. This is a metal record only by terminology or categorization. Sure, there’s the low growls mixed with the punk-tinged, somewhat spoken word vocalizations of Lenny Smith. There’s the obvious metal sound, but Ritual of Passing is no mere exercise in the exploring the oft-traversed pathways of doom or black metal. Rarely have albums with the imagery of Luciferianism and enlightenment combined with spiritual consciousness awareness been able to exude the authenticity that Atriarch does here. There is a desperation present not on an introspective level here, but on a level that is purely peripheral.

Ritual of Passing never unleashes. Rather, it simmers below the surface of the listener’s awareness. The word “ritual” will be thrown around to the point of exhaustion in the black or doom metal genre. It’s used as a method for schtick and a selling point for mindless drones who see the word and subconsciously associate it with the Satanism of their parents - an idealism rather than a conceptualization of what enlightenment truly is and, more importantly, what it is not. Ritual of Passing, however, is an absolute exercise in conjuring an equilibrium of light and dark - a sort of balance achieved even in the aesthetic of their sound.

The album is a task for the listener. It is as ominous as it is accessible on the lyrical and compositional levels. Ritual of Passing is a brilliant foray into the sinister pathways that come with self actualization. The difference here is that instead of letting themselves guide the lyrics and composition, it would appear that their subject matter guided them and this album as well. There’s an eerie quality to Atriarch’s Ritual of Passing - a quality that is as unsettling as it is an exercise in intellectual irritancy. Ritual of Passing is a stunning success not because it sounds utterly unlike any other metal album you’re likely to hear this year or perhaps have ever heard but because it’s a ritual of authenticity - passing the listener’s expectations through the veil of musical catharsis and into something much darker and, at the same time, wholly enlightening.

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Bell Witch - Four Phantoms (IMPORT) (2LP)

Limited edition on black vinyl. Deluxe gatefold sleeve and download code included.

The much-anticipated 'Four Phantoms', recorded and engineered by the legendary and respected BILLY ANDERSON (Agalloch, Pallbearer, Leviathan, Neurosis, Melvins, a.o.), is Bell Witch's most crushing work yet. The band takes its sound further into the realms of soul-destroying heaviness, with intricate song structures that display finely honed compositional skills. This doom metal triumph for the ages dates from 2012 and at last sees its first ever vinyl issue

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Bell Witch - Longing (IMPORT) (CD)



Bell Witch hail from Seattle and are a two-man operation, with Dylan Desmond (Samothrace, Lethe) handling bass and vocals, and Adrian Guerra (Lethe, Sod Hauler) on drums. They do play a muddy, sludgy style of doom for the most part, but there are so many other elements involved that make them stand out. First, their atmospherics scream with life, taking what would sound fine in a small room into something that would be equally as powerful in a cavernous hall. Second, they also have a bit of a freak folk element to what they do, and that’s mostly because of the vocals, both from Desmond and guest Erik Moggridge (Aerial Ruin). Yes, the bellows and shrieks are there, but the variation in the singing make Bell Witch sound downright bloodthirsty one moment, bookishly observant the next.

What Bell Witch create on “Longing” is episodic. Everything builds slowly on this record, from open to close, and it works best when you tackle the whole 67-minute document at once. It’s jam packed with peaks and valleys, and it never stays in one place for very long. The demo was an eye-opener, no doubt, but this record takes what they accomplished on that mini release and blows it open completely.

Bell Witch seemed to exude potential on their demo, and they cash in huge on “Longing.” This isn’t your run-of-the-mill doom album, and it’s chock-full of both heart and horror. Each moment drips with purpose and keeps you going through every slithering twist and turn. Bell Witch are a band you need to know right now, because they certainly seem like they’re going to be a major story going forward.

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Bloody Panda - Summon (with Bonus DVD) (IMPORT) (2CD)

Includes the bonus "Misere" DVD.

Fronted by Japanese siren and accomplished visual artist Yoshiko Ohara, whose death defying wails have at once drawn comparison to Diamanda Galas, Björk and Jarboe, Bloody Panda creates unique, affecting heavy music that combines visceral power, pained beauty and devastating emotion. Bloody Panda has skillfully combined the brutal with the entrancing. Summon is a nightmarish, cryptic trip that boosts Bloody Panda's disturbing cinematic vision of terror and frightening ferocity to altogether new spheres.

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Coffinworm - When All Became None (IMPORT) (CD)



These guys reside solidly within the Unearthly Trance school of sludge. They mix thick doomy riffs with more higher register chunks of six string noise, and a harsh, aggressive vocal style. The black metal and punk influences are clearly also there, but not as much D-beat, and they lean much more heavily on the death metal side of things, which is always welcome in my book. The tempos range from a snail's crawl to a mid-paced groove, with a few faster sections as well for good measure. There are a lot of different elements and influences going on, but what it all really boils down to is this: if it's ugly but awesome, it's in there.

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Dark Castle - Surrender to All Life Beyond Form (IMPORT) (CD)

Guest appearances by Mike Scheidt (Yob), Blake Judd (Nachmystium), Nate Hall (U.S. Christmas), and Sanford Parker.

Easily the most all-encompassing and dynamic work the duo of guitarist/vocalist Stevie Floyd and drummer Rob Shaffer have delivered, “Surrender to All Life Beyond Form” finally captures the essence of Dark Castle the way it was meant to be portrayed; through the vast energy and uncompromising heaviness of their highly praised live show. Dark Castle’s brand of doom metal is unique in a way that the songs don’t depend on long, plunging drawn out pieces to create the effect the duo harness, but instead create an overwhelming sense of heavy dark atmosphere through a series of vicious, pummeling, and progressively structured songs that bleed together seamlessly to create an opus that will unforgivingly take hold of the listener without mercy. By combining a sense of deep spirituality and a very dark bludgeoning monolithic doom metal aesthetic at this album’s core, “Surrender to All Life Beyond Form” will serve as one of the most intriguing doom metal albums of the year.

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Dawnbringer - Into the Lair of the Sun God (IMPORT) (CD)



Dawnbringer, the somewhat offbeat project band helmed by Chris Black (Pharaoh, Nachtmystium, High Spirits), is back for the attack after 2010's stellar Nucleus. This time out, it’s more in a classic metal framework, borrowing liberally from NWOBHM luminaries like Iron Maiden, Diamondhead and Saxon, while also taking tons of influence from American acts like Cirith Ungol, Hallow’s Eve, Slough Feg and Pharaoh. It has a more “epic” vibe than before and it adds a cool twist to the sound. It lacks the all-over-the-place chaotic charm of Nucleus, but has a lot going for it and a ton of wild guitar work and interesting riff/harmony ideas. It’s a freaking winner.

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Dawnbringer - Nucleus (IMPORT) (CD)



Chris Black should be a household name. The Chicago metal musician is a true defender of the faith, having been involved in many projects centered around non-ironic worship of the old metal gods. High Spirits is catchy, no-bullshit rock n' roll, Superchrist is like if Motorhead never left the pub (and they have a 7" called Fuck Like a Priest - killer!), but Black's pride and joy is Dawnbringer. Is it death metal? Is it NWOBHM? Is it progressive metal? Dawnbringer's all that and more. Dawnbringer will break their four-year silence with Nucleus. The album further proves Black's commitment to riffs, hooks and brutality.

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Dawnbringer - Nucleus (IMPORT) (LP)

Limited edition of only 400 copies on black vinyl.

Chris Black should be a household name. The Chicago metal musician is a true defender of the faith, having been involved in many projects centered around non-ironic worship of the old metal gods. High Spirits is catchy, no-bullshit rock n' roll, Superchrist is like if Motorhead never left the pub (and they have a 7" called Fuck Like a Priest - killer!), but Black's pride and joy is Dawnbringer. Is it death metal? Is it NWOBHM? Is it progressive metal? Dawnbringer's all that and more. Dawnbringer will break their four-year silence with Nucleus. The album further proves Black's commitment to riffs, hooks and brutality.

Unavailable (Archived)
Price: $15.99
Devil's Blood, The - Come, Reap (IMPORT) (CD)

Includes a cover of Roky Erickson's "White Faces".

Coupling Bible verses, occult imagery and tales of substance abuse, sex and death, The Devil’s Blood is something of a unique animal. Musically, without putting too fine a point on the whole thing, the band comes off as a blend of Jefferson Airplane and The Hellacopters (take from that what you will). Drawing heavily from 60s & 70s Psychedelic Rock N Roll, they have crafted a sound that is all at once rousing, cerebral and, at times, kind of spooky. I hesitate to call it retro, even though specific images come to mind while listening (I can see lots of strobe lights, smoke, red filters and crazy film projections). The music on offer here definitely has its roots, but the approach and execution makes it feel fresh. All 5 tracks including Roky Erickson cover “White Faces” carry a tangible air of conviction and believability. The female vocals are strong, clear and melodic and fit every nuance of the music and atmosphere perfectly.

It’s classic enough for the Rock crowds and creepy enough, I believe, to even find its way into the hands of Traditional Doom fans as well. If you’re into the Airplane, Blue Cheer, Arthur Brown, Coven etc then you should definitely give it a spin.

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Disma - Towards the Megalith (IMPORT) (CD)



Featuring death metal legend Craig Pillard (ex-Incantation/Disciples of Mockery), one of the most influential death metal vocalists of all time, and members of current U.S. death metal gods Funebrarum, Citizen's Arrest, and other Incantation alumni, DISMA’s towering debut album is a monolith of down-tuned doomy death metal terror that just seethes of old-school death metal glory. Like the ominous tomb of humanity in which it represents, “Towards The Megalith” is a crawling and lurking monster, a suffocating yet epic vision of death metal horror and doom that will solidify this as one of the most prominent death metal albums of the year.

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Evoken - Atra Mors (IMPORT) (CD)



Maybe it has something to do with apocalyptic musings given to the year, but 2012 has already seen a lions share of bellowing, doom riddled goodness. Thankfully, too, that club is joined by funeral doom masters Evoken with their long awaited Atra Mors. Being Evoken’s first album in five years, it should come as no surprise that there’s a clear progression in their sound; more fluid, though not “polished”. That said, there’s no need to fear a loss of grittiness to any given track. There’s still the newly unearthed, weighty rawness that the band evokes so well. The breadth of the sound on Mors is undeniably vast, at times caked with moss, soaked in melancholy and at others commanding and assertive in its aggression. The ebb and flow in this regard, as well as the smartly placed and arguably integral segue way tracks, keep the listener entranced from start to finish.

Evoken have helped pave the way for many in the realm of doom metal, and it’s refreshing to see them not only coming out with new music, but doing so while giving newcomers a run for their money. While there may be no shortage of funeral doom out today, it takes an articulate ensemble to stand out and do justice to the genre and in that, there are no qualms that Evoken are champions. Time and again they’ve proven that funeral doom can be just as eclectic and varied as any other metal niche; the gorgeously crafted Atra Mors is clearly an attest to that.

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Gates of Slumber, The - Conqueror (IMPORT) (CD)

Produced and recorded by Sanford Parker (Unearthly Trance, Nachtmystium, Pelican).

Conqueror is an epic album, alternating between brutal and brooding, between the muscular heft of early NWOBHM and the slow pummeling of classic doom. Nowhere is this ethos more apparent than in “The Dark Valley Suite,” the four part tribute to Conan author Robert E. Howard that closes the album. There The Gates of Slumber trudges through blood soaked doom to somber neo-classical passages (which show how far Simon has improved as a vocalist, as well as highlighting the bass playing of McCash) and builds up to a pounding metal frenzy. There's something savagely noble about the album.

I can hear Mercyful Fate, Black Sabbath, Cirith Ungol, Iron Maiden, Celtic Frost, The Obsessed and Saint Vitus often mixed into one song and it works really well. Singing is a lot like a heavy metal WINO. To me this is better then both Electric Wizard's Witchcult Today and Reverend Bizarre's So Long Suckers (and I love both of those). But I have a bias towards heavy metal riffs in my doom. I am now officially a big fan of this band. Going back to Suffer No Guilt I get more out of that album then I did before.

It has a very 80s metal vibe but without being cheesy or ironic; like a mix of Sabbath with Dio, Manowar and The Obsessed...some of it almost reminds me of Kryst the Conqueror, and the chorus to "Children of Satan" sounds like a Bad Religion song! This is hands down one of the better albums I've heard this year.

Unavailable (Archived)
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Grayceon - All We Destroy (IMPORT) (CD)



Comprised of cello (Jackie Perez Gratz), guitars (Max Doyle), drums (Zack Farwell), and vocals (Perez Gratz and Doyle), GRAYCEON are a band unlike anything that has been procured in heavy music. Known to create elongated time-stretching odes by combining progressive metal, neo-classical/chamber music, and down-tuned baroque-esque sludge doom, “All We Destroy” is already being heralded as the band’s masterpiece. Heavier, more ferocious, yet more elegant and beautiful, “All We Destroy” is the musical soundtrack to a frantic journey filled with tales of deceit, revenge, and broken hearts, all weaved through the scope of modern-day tragedy.

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