Premiere of Lost In Time music video by Borracho

Cover of Atacama by Borracho

It’s the holiday season and what’s the best gift every year? New Apple products? World peace? Of course not! The best gift is brand spankin’ new heavy metal tunes! Washington DC’s own Borracho are three wise men who are stuffing your stocking with extra helpings of stoner riffage this year. Their brand new album, Atacama, just dropped today and you can download it digitally ($8) or get it on CD ($12) from Bandcamp right here, right now! If recordings of these tunes just aren’t enough for you be sure to catch Borracho in action at their CD release show on Thursday, December 15th at Slash Run. You can get all the details on that show here.

Can’t wait until the 15th for that sweet Borracho live experience? Well then you’ve got to check out the music video for their new song “Lost In Time,” one of my favorite tracks off of Atacama. This video was recorded at the Velvet Lounge on U Street and I’m going to have to warn you, if you’ve ever been a bit buzzed watching Borracho perform live then this video may trigger some flashbacks of the face melting kind! Well what are you waiting for, click play on the video below, crank it to 11 and drift off to the land of riff.

Review of The Felon’s Claw by Ilsa

Band: Ilsa
Album: The Felon’s Claw
Release Date: 5 May 2015
Record Label: A389 Recordings
Buy digital ($5) or CD ($8.99) or 2x 12″ vinyl ($29.99) on Bandcamp: Here
Buy various bundles with merch from A389’s web store: Here

Cover of The Felon's Claw by Ilsa

Washington DC based crusty death/doom band Ilsa has a new album coming out on Baltimore based label A389. DCHM writer Buzzo Jr has written the following review of The Felon’s Claw to give you all the details about the new full length from one of my favorite area bands. As usual we’ve got a couple of songs streaming at the end of the post so give them a listen while you read!

Lets get this out of the way quick: No, you’re not the only person who is immediately reminded of Spinal Tap’s infamous and fictional Smell the Glove album when looking at the cover art for The Felon’s Claw. However, the fourth full length from DC’s Ilsa sounds nothing like everyone’s favorite fake British band, but is instead full of Ilsa’s signature crust soaked doom metal.

Ilsa is well known for mixing death/doom, with crust punk and d-beat; their previous outputs often alternating between slow doomy passages with one song and then going into frantic punk influenced tracks for the next one. On The Felon’s Claw however, the faster punk influenced tracks are more rare, with only “Oubilette,” “Buried in the Bedrock and Concrete of Our Cities,” and “Armstrong’s Mixture” venturing into full on crust punk territory. The remaining 7 songs are all sludgy doom tracks, with “Katabasis” clocking in at almost 9 minutes. The slow, sinister mood and heavy riffs in these tracks combined with the harsh, high range vocals are sometimes reminiscent of Salome; another great doom band from the DMV area that unfortunately broke up in 2011. I find that I like Ilsa’s faster tracks a bit more than the slower paced songs on this album, since they are packed with much more aggression and energy. Their death metal influences are also more prevalent on the faster tracks, blending perfectly with the punk inspired d-beat drumming. Not to say that the slower tracks aren’t any good; quite the contrary actually. What they lack in speed they greatly make up for in crushing heaviness. A favorite of mine among these slower tracks is “Pandolpho,” which is actually a reimagining of a hymn written by Robert Parsons back in 1572. On this track, the band puts their crust and doom influence into a single song; starting off at a slow steady pace and then erupting into a much faster section in the middle, and finally slowing back down to a dirge-like speed at the end.

Tim Moyer and Brendan Griffiths’ guitar work on the album is great; their mammoth tone establishing the murky atmosphere of the album and their grimy riffs chugging away, hammering the listener into submission. Large amounts of harsh feedback flows in the background, following the example of sludge bands like Eyehategod and Acid Bath. Sharad Satsangi’s basslines follow the guitars perfectly, adding even more power and filth to the mix and chugging in unison with the twin axes. Orion Peter’s vocals are as intense as they’ve ever been as well, with his tortured, painful howls penetrating through the riffs and feedback to create a sense of misanthropy and hopelessness. Orion utilizes his harsh vocals perfectly, causing a great contrast between the low end riffs and his higher range screams. Josh Brettel’s drums unfortunately don’t sound as thick and powerful as the rest of the instruments do, which is a pity seeing as they are incredibly heavy and pounding when Ilsa perform live. That being said, Josh’s drums do get the job done providing thudding beats to complement the riffs and vocals, at some points overcoming the lesser production and sounding utterly bombastic on some of the much slower tracks such as “Smoke is the Ghost of Fire.”

Ilsa’s newest offering is a filthy chunk of crusty death/doom, packed full of great riffs and screams. If you’re looking for a record to play in your dingy basement for a seedy get-together with various lowlives, you won’t find a better one than this.

Local metal studio releases in 2015

If 2014 showed me anything it’s that our area’s metal scene is very much alive and well. I’m often hearing a lot about what releases local bands have coming out so I’ve put together this post with updates on many of the DMV’s local bands and what they’re planning on releasing in 2015. I can’t say it’s all inclusive so if you know about more local releases feel free to leave info in the comment section. It’s an exciting time to be a metal head in the DMV area right now so let me tell you why…

For starters, two area bands have already released albums this year. Snakefeast and Periphery. On January 6th Baltimore based Snakefeast released The Pythoness on local label Grimoire Records. Their sound is an interesting combination of sludge metal with black metal and jazz elements and the inclusion of a cello and saxophone certainly gives them a unique sound. You can stream the album (or buy it for just $5) on Bandcamp right here.

Locals Periphery pretty much wrote the book on the djent style of prog metal. Juggernaut, released on January 27th, is the band’s most ambitious release to date. It’s a double album, one disc named Alpha and the other Omega. While it may not be the beginning and the end of metal releases in our area it does show the band returning to form after their bizarre release of Clear last year where each song was written by a different band member and unsurprisingly lacked cohesion. The band is on Sumerian Records so don’t be surprised if they turn up on some big tours Sumerian is involved with this summer like Mayhem Fest or Summer Slaughter. Check out the music video below for the song “Alpha.”

On February 3rd, that’s tomorrow to those of you reading this post when it’s fresh, Northern Virginia based Yesterday’s Saints will release their debut full length, Generation Of Vipers. The 11 track concept album is lyrically written like an opera with different acts and tells the tale of the Devil himself. You can give it a listen on Soundcloud here and you can order the album on Bandcamp here and we’ll be posting a review of it tomorrow as well.

Generation Of Vipers by Yesterday's Saints

The Vomiting Dinosaurs are a kind of goofy death/grind band from Winchester, Virginia and they’ve got a full length coming out on Grimoire Records on February 10th. The album is titled Worship The Porcelain God and you can listen to a couple tracks from it on Bandcamp here.

Worship The Porcelain God by The Vomiting Dinosaurs

Doom legends Pentagram are finishing up their next full length to be put out on Peaceville this summer, according to this Facebook post. With Victor Griffin back in the band anything is possible, and their previous album, 2011’s Last Rites, was really well put together so let’s hope they can keep the creativity going on this one.

Baltimore’s Noisem might be young, I don’t think any of them are even old enough to drink yet, but they’re really taking off. They’re a throwback to the early 90s death/thrash sound, have some fun riffs and they put on a good show. So far they haven’t released anything really groundbreaking musically but that may or may not change on their upcoming release this year, which they begin recording in February. Noisem has garnered a lot of attention since they’ve been the opening act on the last two Carcass US tours and their vocalist, Tyler Carnes, was on the cover of the April 2014 Decibel issue (along with members of Carcass and Gorguts). Noisem is signed to A389 Records in Baltimore and the band has to know everyone is wondering what they’ll put out on this next release now that everyone is watching.

Valkyrie from Harrisonburg, Virgina, has signed a deal with Relapse Records and will be putting out a full length album on the label some time this spring. The band features members of Baroness and Earthling but has a sound all their own so don’t sleep on this one.

Dave Sherman (of Spirit Caravan and Earthride fame) and his 420 friendly band Weed Is Weed will have a five song EP released later this year titled The Bong Remains The Same.

Local southern metal band King Giant had several injuries to members of the band after the release of their last album, Dismal Hollow, back in 2012. The band is looking to make a big come back this summer with the release of their third full length which was recorded and mixed by J. Robbins (who has worked with bands such as Clutch, The Sword and Wino in the past).

Northern Virginia based A Sound Of Thunder must live in a recording studio (you jealous Wintersun?) since they’ve put out at least a full length every year since 2011. 2015 will be no different and we can expect another full length of original material in late spring/summer from them. ASoT is also working on an EP release due out late this year that will consist entirely of covers of songs the members of the band love.

Sludge/doom band The Osedax has been a bit quiet since two members recently left the band however a lot has been going on behind the scenes. The band’s original drummer, Kevin Grevey, has returned to the band, which is now a three piece, and they’ve recorded a new album, titled Titan’s Lament, which will be out on Dullest Records in the spring.

Titan's Lament by The Osedax

DC based death metal band Genocide Pact (featuring two members of local grind band D.O.C.) will have a full length out in the first half of 2015 on A389 Recordings.

DC based stoner band Borracho is going to be releasing a split LP with a band outside of the DMV area in May or June. It will have three new original Borracho songs on it, which you can hear live previews of at their upcoming shows at the Velvet Lounge (2/19) and the Pinch (3/20). UPDATE: Ripple Music, the label putting out the split, has released more details (here) and announced that the other band on the split will be Atlanta’s Volume IV (not a Black Sabbath cover band, they write originals). I’ve added the cover here too.

cover of the Borrocho & Volume IV split

The crusty death/doom band Ilsa is going to put out a new full length on A389 in March, they’ve been playing some of the new material live at their recent shows and it has sounded awesome so far. This will be their second album on A389 Recordings and their first with new guitarist Tim (who was in a band with several Ilsa members years ago).

Grethor is a local death metal band whose name means Hell in the fictitious Klingon language from Star Trek. We reviewed their last EP back in 2013 (here) but now they’re looking to release a new EP titled Cloaked In Decay in the spring.

Black metal band Dispellment has finished recording their debut album (according to this post on Facebook) though there currently is no release date while they search for a label for a proper release. Apparently a three song demo of material from the album will be available sometime soon though.

Wings Denied, a proggy band in the vein of Periphery, was formed by friends attending American University. Their vocalist, Luka Kerecin, was in the US on a student visa that has now expired but they are working on getting him back over here to record another album with him some time this year.

Stoner band Caustic Casanova has signed with Retro Futurist records, a label run by members of the band Kylesa. They’ve got a not-yet-named full length in the works that should be released in the late spring or early summer.

Doom band Foehammer has their debut album, which is self titled, coming out on April 7th on Grimoire Records (vinyl via Australopithecus records). The three piece will be going on tour this summer to support the recording, and you can hear a preview track from it right here.

Foehammer s/t

Baltimore based stoner band Sixty Watt Shaman will go into the studio to record some time in the first half of 2015. This will be the band’s first recorded material since reforming, and will be their first release since 2002!

Death metal band Gloom is hitting the studio in February and they’ve got a new guitar player in the band now too. I’m not sure when the new release is expected exactly but they definitely have something in the works.

Exclusive Stream of The Nothing by Fortress

Unto The Nothing by Fortress

Fortress is a doom metal trio from Hagerstown, Maryland, and while I love their three song demo I’ve been waiting for some new material to listen to between their earth shaking live shows and now the wait is FINALLY over! Go ahead and stream the new song “The Nothing” below and be sure to crank up that volume! No seriously, more than that, this is the kind of sludgy, slow motion doom metal you’ll want to blast loud enough to feel in your bones. Fans of bands like Pallbearer, Winter and Sunn O))) are going to love this dark album.

Fortress is now signed to Unholy Anarchy Records and their debut full length, Unto The Nothing will be released on December 2nd on CD and three styles of vinyl (each limited to 100 copies) including black, grey marble and clear with black splatter. Vinyl versions will also include a digital download of the album that contains a bonus track not available on other formats. You’ll be able to buy Unto The Nothing from Unholy Anarchy’s online store here (vinyl) and here (CD) or their Bandcamp here, or from the band at an upcoming live show. And did you see that sweet album art by Aeron Alfrey up there? Well you can click on it to see the creepy, full wrap around version of the art that will be on all versions of Unto The Nothing.

“The Nothing” is some hatred drenched, depressive doom metal so I hope you weren’t already having a great day because you’re about to get bummed out, but in the best way possible!

Listen to the new Death Penalty song War

Electric God by Death Penalty

Short post today but the Northern Virginia based thrash metal band Death Penalty is having their album release show tonight at the Sidebar in Baltimore (details here). The full length, titled Electric God, will be available at the show but you can stream/download the first track off it, titled “War” below. If you can’t make the show you can message them on Facebook (here) to grab a copy as well.

Listen To Nightmonger by Midnight Eye

Local metal band Midnight Eye is releasing their EP Nightmonger and they kick off their tour supporting it with a free show this Thursday, August 8th, at The Pinch in the Columbia Heights neighborhood in Washington DC (details here). Stream the EP above, pick it up on Bandcamp here and be sure to come out Thursday to watch these guitar wizards pull this stuff off live. And while you’re listening to Nightmonger, check out the review of it below by new DCHM writer Tal (you can find more of her writing on her regular blog here).

Band: Midnight Eye
Album: Nightmonger
Release Date: 8 August 2013
Buy From Bandcamp for $4: Here

Cover of Nightmonger by Midnight Eye

Midnight Eye further develops their distinctive sound with their 3-song EP Nightmonger. The new release keeps the energetic heavy metal/thrash groundwork that they laid in their first album, Sign, but also takes a few steps further in the progressive direction, with unusual vocals as well as widely varying guitar passages. But these guys have the guitar chops to tackle all the different styles they want to pursue, and piece them together fairly cohesively.

Rocking NWOBHM riffs just on the verge of thrashy form the base of their sound, occasionally taking off into a full-out frenzy-inducing thrash whirlwind. Along with shreddy guitar solos, there’s also a lot more noodling compared to the first album and even a low-tempo acoustic passage in the second song, “Chaos.” The change of pace when the acoustic segment begins is a little jarring, but it doesn’t utterly destroy the energy of the song. The bass and drums soon come back in to give the instrumental some thrash kick, and after the lead guitars meander for a bit, they finish the song with a speeded up version of the main riff, giving it a satisfying conclusion. Missing from the EP are the doomy segments that haunted a couple songs from the first album, but the third song, “Outsider,” features some buzzsaw black metal riffs instead. The end of this song, which really picks up the black metal sound with insistent drums and sweeping tremolo riffs, is one of my favorite moments on the EP.

While the guitars have immediate appeal, the vocals take some getting used to. The tone of the mid-range clean vocals, which dominate Sign, is unusual, although it sounds sort of like a mid-range take on early King Diamond. Nightmonger showcases a lot more of Simon Callahan’s ability to generate King Diamond-like shrieks and high-pitched notes, especially in the second song, “Chaos.” I’m still not quite sure if their attempt to combine the shrieks and clean vocals works in that song, but I do prefer the high-pitched vocals to the mid-range ones overall.

I enjoyed staring at the simple and yet intricate cover design for a while. It reflects the band’s carefully executed complexity, and hints at the black metal touches in their music. The depth of their lyrics also matches the complexity of the band’s sound. I enjoy lyrics that are a bit poetic, rather than obvious and straightforward. While the chorus of the first song is pretty direct – “people cling to these very truths:/they love their nation/before other nations/they love their friends/not others” – the verses are more subtle. This song is apparently based on the Chinese philosophical text Zhuangzi, which espouses harmony with the natural way of things, so the nature images in the verses are a fitting touch. The ending of the song – “sound the alarm/tell everyone/there’s no purpose/to anything at all” – at first seems like an abrupt break with the theme of waxing and waning concern for others. Chinese philosophical anecdotes often end with a lesson, though, and looking at it that way, the lesson in the last verse is that human attachments are so changeable that there’s really no purpose in pursuing them. The other two songs, while not as cryptic, are also nicely constructed, using images and metaphors to propel their message of distrust of those in power. I particularly like the phrase, “outsiders,/from shades of grey/are made in the/gears of the world,” from the third song, “Outsider.” It reflects a penetrating awareness of how otherness is constructed and used by the majority.

I’m enjoying the EP more with each listen, and looking forward to hearing the band play it live. Midnight Eye is holding a release party this Thursday, supported by Exar Kun and Thrain, so don’t miss the chance to see these stellar guitarists live. I’ll be there pushing people around when the thrashy parts take off!

Review of Oculus by Borracho

Band: Borracho
Album: Oculus
Release Date: 18 July 2013
Label: Strange Magic Records
Buy From Bandcamp for $5: Here

Cover of Oculus by Borracho

Several weeks ago I put up a post asking if people would like to write album reviews of local metal bands on DCHM (read the post here). Please welcome Grimy Grant as the first of those submitters to get a post up on the site. You can follow him on Twitter at @jgrantd. I’m still taking submissions and for those who have inquired but haven’t heard back yet, I may still contact you. Borracho’s official release show for the album is this Friday night, the 19th of July, at the Rock & Roll Hotel and you can get all the details on that here. Now on to Grimy Grant’s review…

Slow, deep bass notes sound out in a bare, cavernous space. They are then joined by the equally slow but perfectly spacy guitar riffs. Atmospheric choir voices join in the mix and more layers are brought in – until the drums start to bring it down in a crushing blend of Southern Rock and advaitic chants. This is how the opening song “Empty” starts off Borracho’s second full-length album of their career, the ominously named Oculus. The rest of “Empty” goes on to develop a kind of overture to the story: A man is spurned by a friend/relative who “gets the girl and the glory”, loses the girl to the hero who, “Will come out better than you”. The album goes on through its brief but rocking set of five songs to describe the hero’s journey. I was impressed from the start by this kind of conceptualization – not something that I expected from a band named after the Spanish word for “Hammered” or “Lush”. Even the word oculus has layers: a reference to large openings in the domes of Pantheons where rain and sunlight could both cool, light, and heat inner places. They also represent openings into the otherworldly: the godly realm that looks down on us, and we up at “them”.

Oculus talks a lot about deep issues, starting with comparing the glory of one man with the depression of another as being similar to the distance between gods and humanity. At least that is what is conveyed through the epic sounds coming from Steve Fisher’s guitar and Tim Martin’s bass. Yet while that comes out musically the message doesn’t always sell very well for me through the album’s lyrics and vocals. Some of this may be due to the departure of their original singer and guitarist, Noah Greenberg. The vocals in “Empty” for example, felt a little too twangy for the psychedelic, sonically expanding opening of the song. There is so much musically being carried through in the opening – a kind of widening of the imagined space – a space that perhaps an actual oculus is punching a hole through. Wailing guitars bring up the rear in the grand chorus of slow, stoner noise. Then we’re greeted with a steady, regular stoner rock beat coupled with Fisher’s voice singing “This depression/Is killing me”. The words and emotions conveyed seem too cliche in comparison to the complex structures of the song.

Not to say there aren’t gems in the lyrics. Fisher sings a lot about “Family tree” and having to “cut [it] down to be free” in “Stockpile”. He goes on to talk about “Searching for lead” in order to exact his revenge on the story’s villain. We’re put in the shoes of someone who wants blood. This is where Fisher, the guitarist and vocalist for Borracho, shines for me, when he puts in the voice of a tough-as-brass, true hometown friend helping out in “Stockpile”. He sings about being “consigned to form a team” and:

“Make a stand, You know I’d like to help if you I can
Give it time, give yourself a chance, You know, Just because of circumstance,
You know I swallowed it all”

Fisher is also screaming against the person that tormented him through the album and who is now going to get the comeuppance they richly deserve. This blends perfectly with the heavy, pulsating riffs in the background that helped create a vision of the oncoming battle. We’re marching toward victory.

The last track, “I’ve Come for it All” follows a trippy riffage from the song “Eye”, a reference to the oculus looking in on us. Airy guitar noise coupled with the screams of Fisher going through what must be some kind of fight with his inner demons, or perhaps with the gods themselves. In the end, we’re presented with the conclusion in “I’ve Come for it All”, with Fisher calling out his opponent:

“Chosen path/Slippery slope … You wanted it all/Now it’s time to die”

Without shame I will say those words give me goosebumps, even though they may be a bit over-the-top. Fisher’s guitar licks carry a lot of power throughout the song as well, helping back up his intention to wreak havoc. I was really banging my head towards the middle point of the song’s breakdown.

Musically, Oculus knocks it out of the park. Far after listening to this album I found myself humming the tunes to myself. Borracho’s lineup is tight – it’s not easy to create so full a sound with a three-piece band. Still, it doesn’t really kick in until the last three songs of the album. The first two tracks feel out of place with the album as a whole. Metal Chris wrote previously about Black Sabbath’s 13 (here) and how the track listing can hurt an album and I feel that this may also be the case on Oculus. The first track, “Empty”, and the second track, “Know the Score”, do follow the overall head-banging structure of each of the other songs, but with such a small track list I wonder why they can’t flow together tightly like the other songs. “Empty” ends with a kind of hard stop. “Know the Score” starts strong with a steady beat but then quickly goes into focusing on the lyrics, which in that song are tad weak for my taste.

The third track, “Stockpile” is where things ramp up into a steady continuum and it is where Oculus seems to make a decision on the direction it is going. We’re lead through a sludgy, grim and down-tuned sonic realm into a fierce, upbeat fight in “I’ve Come for it All” – a fitting soundtrack for some serious ass-wompin’. “Stockpile” really expands musically with the album, bringing in maracas and tribal drums in the middle to add some spice to the song. I found this an interesting point in the song that made me pause and think a bit. Oculus has a lot of these interesting bits in the album – something that shows some maturity and exploration by Borracho.

There are many reasons that I love Oculus: the solid, straight-up rock that founded metal in the first place is alive and well here. However I feel that Borracho is relying a bit too much on that to carry the album. The lyrics feel like they’re slapped on to some of the songs – “Empty” in particular. This won’t stop me from playing it in the car on road trips, head-banging along I-95 – gawkers be damned. Oculus goes deep in many ways, particularly in trying to mature and change the sound of a band that’s been around for about 6 years. Experimentation is a great thing and hopefully it will bring forth a new era of drunken, crazy exploits from Borracho.