Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wolves in the Throne Room - Black Cascade


Wolves in the Throne Room
Black Cascade
Southern Lord

Black metal will always be associated with the frozen climes of Norway and other Scandinavian locales, thanks not only to the presence of so many seminal bands, but also the assorted church burnings, murders, empty corpse paint tubes, etc. scattered about the region. But there are plenty of quality U.S. black metal (or USBM – I bet the second graders have a field day with that one) bands, of which Wolves in the Throne Room is one of the best. The Wolves hail from the Pacific Northwest, home to its own desolate-but-beautiful vistas and gloomy, somehow comforting weather patterns, and Black Cascade sounds it. The fog-encrusted panorama of Ex Cathedra sits next to the deathly space travel of Ahrimanic Trance; the violence of Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog bookends with the blackened drift of Crystal Ammunition. Melancholy atmosphere entwines with harsh blast beats; melody fellates brutality. Classic black metal, in other words.

- Michael Toland

Sons of Otis - Exiled


Sons of Otis
Exiled
Small Stone

When sitting around pondering the vagaries of heavy metal history, I often wonder what Black Sabbath would’ve sounded like had Ozzy been dropping acid instead of imbibing furniture varnish. Sons of Otis makes that fantasy come true on Exiled, the Canadian power trio’s sixth album. Tunes like Lost Soul, Haters and Tales of Otis sound like Hawkwind records slowed down to 16 rpm, or the first Sabbath album if it was recorded in the Crab Nebulae instead of some Midlands castle full of surly ghosts. Spacey guitars pound, wandering bass pounds and the drums, hell, you already know. The vocals are a weak point, but there’s so few of them it hardly matters. What does count is the stoned cosmic groove, cleaning out your ear canals like lava flowing from a crack in a downed meteor. Tripped-out doom glaze for armchair cosmonauts.

- Michael Toland
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