Review Round Up #80

PlugInMusic.com's Review Round Up feature provides five quick-fire music reviews. This edition includes Iron Age's "The Sleeping Eye," Laudanum's "The Coronation," Dark Castle's "Spirited Migration," Harvestman's "In a Dark Tongue," and Vanmakt's "Ad Luciferi Regnum."

The Sleeping Eye

Iron Age
“The Sleeping Eye”
(Tee Pee Records 2009)

Yeah, here we go. Metal. No sub-genres, no unnecessary crap, just blue-collar, thrashtastic metal. Riffs: lots of them, all savage and badass. Solos: flying all over the place, with Wade Allison taking a page out of the Kirk Hammett school of shred. The vocals are all hardcore though, with Jason Tarpey barking, chewing, and growling his way through "The Sleeping Eye"'s forty-five minute whiskey-swilling, fattie-smoking, horns-throwing rip fest. Super gritty, slightly epic, visceral and catchy; Iron Age distill what makes metal awesome into one cohesive album.

Sounds Like: Killer blend of Metallica, High on Fire, and hardcore

Key Tracks: "Burden of Empire," "The Way is Narrow"

A
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The Coronation

Laudanum
“The Coronation”
(20 Buck Spin 2009)

It doesn't bode well when the first track of an album sounds like a four minute recording of an alien dentist drill. Thankfully, "The Coronation" follows that up with a worthy chunk of tar-thick sludge. But then some more atmosphere. That's the pattern for this record: alternating tracks of off-kilter spacey meandering and bowel-loosening doom. It would've been nice if the band had integrated the two contrasting styles somewhat, but as it is there are three tracks of really good, skuzzy rumbling and four of what comes across as fluff (excepting the last three minutes of eleven-minute closer "Apotheosis"). Laudanum would have been better served putting the good stuff out as an EP.

Sounds Like: Uneven pairing of unsettling atmospherics and blackened doom

Key Tracks: "Wooden Horse"

C+
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Spirited Migration

Dark Castle
“Spirited Migration”
(At A Loss Recordings 2009)

It's a rare beast that manages to distinguish itself within the doom genre, but "Spirited Migration" is just such a creation. The alchemy of duo Stevie Floyd and Rob Shaffer, the album is a cerebral approach to low-end heaviness that is weighty and forceful without a reliance on endless riff repetition or typical doom structure. Down- and mid-tempo grooves are given life by some overt but clever nods to post-metal heavy atmosphere à la Neurosis or early Isis. Difficult to encapsulate but easy to appreciate, Dark Castle's first full-length is an epic journey that fulfills the promise of its title.

Sounds Like: Sludge-soaked psychedelic doom

Key Tracks: "Awake in Sleep," "Flight Beyond"

A-
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In a Dark Tongue

Harvestman
“In a Dark Tongue”
(Neurot Recordings 2009)

Well, this is not at all what you'd expect out of a guitarist from Neurosis. The fluid atmosphere of "In a Dark Tongue" has just about nothing in common with Steve von Till's more famous musical outlet, but that's not at all a bad thing. The terms "spacey" and "trippy" could have been invented for Harvestman's second effort, which combines solemn guitar lines and layers of organic, bubbling electronics to create a cosmic soundscape that could almost be mistaken for a lost album from some obscure '70s acid enthusiasts. But this isn't a hippy-dippy head trip, as there's a dark star at the center of this swirling galaxy.

Sounds Like: Throwback-style psych with dark underpinnings

Key Tracks: "The Hawk of Achill"

B+
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Ad Luciferi Regnum

Vanmakt
“Ad Luciferi Regnum”
(Pulverised Records 2009)

If someone were to ask you what black metal is, you could do a lot worse than handing them a copy of "Ad Luciferi Regnum." Vanmakt are adept at hitting all the staples of BM - blazing speed picking, blast beats, demon-vomiting vocals - while not sounding too terribly derivative of the two decades worth of bands that came before them. The band adds in some touches like eerie, ghostly female vocals and jagged guitar solos to help keep the album from being a simple black metal template, if only just. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the production, which is nice and crisp while still being appropriately harsh, giving Vanmakt a little bit of separation from the murkiness their contemporaries wallow in.

Sounds Like: Almost-standard black metal with some minor script tweaks

Key Tracks: "Brethren of Lucifer"

B
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