I know I'm kind of lumping all these bands together, but they're all, for the most part, pretty retro sounding groups. Plus some of these are pretty old and I figure it's a good way to just send them out pretty quickly.
Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction (2012)
Country: Little Rock, Arkansas
Style: Doom Metal
Label: Profound Lore
To be perfectly honest, I wasn't all that keen on covering this album back when it was released some five months or so ago. I was well aware of the hype that their demo had received and kind of figured that this album would be hyped to death as well (to which I was only slightly wrong because it was praised from what I saw, but not every review was kissing their ass) so I kind of just pushed the band aside and figured that this would just be one of those hyped albums that I just would end up covering long after most people had forgotten about it. The reason I was against covering this album immediately was because I had heard one song off their demo and it was pretty much what I expected, old-school doom metal in the vein of Candlemass, Trouble, and Saint Vitus, it didn't really thrill me. Personally, this album didn't really excite me too much until the last two songs which I thought were actually really good doom tracks. The first three weren't bad, but was pretty much the same problem I had with listening to the demo, it was what I expected to hear and didn't do anything all that impressive sounding to me. None of it was bad, it was just slightly above average for me.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: An Offering of Grief, Given to The Grave
Castle - Blacklands (2012)
Country: San Francisco, California
Style: Heavy/Doom Metal
I don't usually check out classic metal, if that's what you want to call this, without listening to it first. Growing up listening to the classic doom and NWOBHM bands, modern bands that attempt to do the whole retro style usually don't impress me. This was the first album from this style that I've checked out without listening to anything from it first in a long while. For some reason the cover image just struck me and made me want to find out what this was. Sonically, this is actually some really solid old-school metal, there's definitely some influences coming in from groups like Trouble and Mercyful Fate which is really nice. The riffing is really well done, it's definitely from the late 70s and early 80s playbook with some really well done guitar harmonies, as well as a healthy dose of psychedelic stuff coming through as well, hear the main riff of Corpse Candles. On first listen the first two songs feature bassist Elizabeth Blackwell performing lead vocals but the band then decide to switch it up and allow guitarist Mat Davis to step up to the mic on a couple of tracks for lead vocals, and surprisingly enough, both of them are actually really solid vocalists. The album is nice and quick, delivering eight songs in under forty minutes with nary a filler track in sight.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Ever Hunter, Blacklands, Dying Breed
Jess and The Ancient Ones - Jess and The Ancient Ones (2012)
Country: Kuopio, Finland
Style: Psychedelic Rock
Of all the releases in this article(?) this is probably the album I came into with the highest expectations for. Based on the fact that I heard one song, I think it was Sulfur Giants, as like a preview track that was released, I just thought, "This is going to be awesome." All I can say is that this album is awesome, it's everything that I love about rock groups from the 60s and 70s, and even though I'm not really all that keen on groups like The Devil's Blood or Christian Mistress, these guys really pull of that psychedelic occult rock with a female singer amazingly. Jess has a hell of a voice if I ever heard one and she just knows how to maneuver over these instrumentals and bring this power to them that I just could never imagine anyone else being able to do. The rest of the band bring a variety of ideas to the table which makes this a far more diverse record than I've heard from many of the band's peers. They manage to pull off everything from straight-up blues rockers, Ghost Riders, to psyche-folk, The Devil (In G-Minor), and more anthemic rock songs, Prayer For Death and Fire, with ease. If I'm being completely honest, the only thing I don't like about this album is that I think 13th Breath of The Zodiac is weaker than the other songs on the album, which really sucks considering the rest of the album is just fantastic. But this is highly recommended, definitely track this album down.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Prayer For Death and Fire, Sulfur Giants, The Devil (In G-Minor)
Rituals of The Oak - Come Taste The Doom (2012)
Country: Sydney, Australia
Style: Doom Metal
Label: Eyes Like Snow
Of all the releases in this article, this was the one I wasn't sure would fit, but, obviously, since it's here you know how it worked out. While the sound that these guys play isn't overly retro, it's certainly more in the vein of old-school doom metal. Most of the riffs recall Sabbath, Candlemass, Pentagram and the like with licks that come straight out of the blues playbook while that very smoky kind of atmosphere you're familiar with on 70s recordings is just smothered over everything, giving it that sort of vintage and dusty kind of sound. Like the Pallbearer record above, the band don't stray too much from the well-worn sound of yonder and keep things pretty traditional, but having said that, this album is more diverse than Pallbearer turned out to be. Songs like On The Sixth Moon and All Wells Are Poisoned, while not being super original or anything, bring welcome changes from the standard slow, heavy riffs. It's not amazing or anything, but it's a well written old-school doom album that is well worth checking out if you're a fan of that sort of stuff.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Serpintine Tongues, All Wells Are Poisoned
Orcus Chylde - Orcus Chylde (2012)
Country: Aschaffenburg, Germany
Style: Psychedelic Rock/Folk
Label: World In Sound
This one was a total gamble, I had never heard of Orcus Chylde before seeing this album cover and was going to cover it solely on the fact that it was a throwback psychedelic, occult rock album. Lucky for me it actually turned out to be good. This is pretty old-school, perhaps even more so than some other albums in this article(?), with a lot of bluesy licks, Hammond organ solos, and morose singing it sounds like it literally could have been some forgotten record from the mid-70s and is just now being put out, more than likely remastered. The band are really skilled and know how to organize their songs into interesting packages while never really breaking out into a different mold than what's already been carved for them before, but I guess it's more of a subjective thing if you're okay with that. For the greater majority of the album, it's nice and whatnot, but I couldn't help but feel like something was missing from the band's sound. Now, I don't know if more instrumental interludes is indeed the answer to what's missing, but easily the best and most engaging track on the album is Over The Frozen Rivers which has a nice long solo break near its conclusion. I kind of wish that there was just a little more "oomph" and "pizzazz" in here, just to spice it up, because otherwise it's really enjoyable.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: The Day The Seventh Angel Came, Orcus Chylde, Over The Frozen Rivers
Dawnbringer - Into The Lair of The Sun God (2012)
Country: Malvern, Pennsylvania
Style: Heavy Metal
Label: Profound Lore
Ok, there was no way I wasn't going to cover this album, ever since I heard 2010's Nucleus album, I have really become enamored with this band. I don't dig into retro bands too often (hence a bigger post like this one) but when I do, it's bands like this one that keep me listening since a lot of retro-bands are just lame, to me. Maybe it's just me, but it seems sort of odd that the biggest success this band has had is when they transformed themselves into an old-school NWOBHM style band when in the past they've experimented with both melo-death and black metal, not to say I don't think their best work has resulted from said change. I mean, this just reeks of late 70s and early 80s heavy metal, and while that isn't exactly my favorite style of metal, what I love about Dawnbringer is that even through its retro, most of the clichés from that era are done away with and all that's left is a batch of well written songs that have nice, big melodies and catchy riffs, with the occasional organ solo, VI which is awesome. You name another retro band that can pull off a power-ballad, hear V, without sounding cheesy. There are tons of retro metal groups, and revival groups, that are doing this style again, but this is by far one of the best bands doing it right now and is one of the few who make me feel proud to say I can listen to this genre of metal after its heyday. It's great, you should check it out because the chances that you'll hear another old-school heavy metal album done this well this year is very slim.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: I, IV, VI
Occultation - Three & Seven (2012)
Country: New York City, New York
Style: Psychedelic Rock/Doom Metal
Label: Profound Lore
I wasn't really sure what to expect from this album mainly because there were things that were said about it that kind of gave me one impression of it while others made me think it was something different, the actual product is actually something of a middle ground between the two main things I had heard about it. A couple reviews had given me the impression that it was some sort of retro-psyche rock group, but a few others made me think it was more along the lines of doom metal, not retro at all, and I have to say that what is actually on here is far better than I expected. The mixture is an interesting combination of doom tempos and atmospheres, maybe even vocals, but the riffs really have a big psychedelic and early progressive rock vibe that just makes each song sound weird and kind of disorienting. There's also this huge reverb covering the entire album which sort of throws another weird trait at you. It can become rather engulfing at certain points, Shroud of Sorrows, where the atmosphere just feels like it's fighting against the more rowdy instrumentation and resulted in songs that just evoked an almost confusing sense of disturbance within me. Strange enough though, I didn't dislike this album at all, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit and thought that despite it's rough edges here and there, it was a well put together album.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: The One Who Sleeps, Shroud of Sorrows, Double Walker