Sunday, July 19, 2015

Blackened Swarms Of Sorrow

Orchid – Sign Of The Witch

Nuclear Blast Records – 2015

Muthas, San Francisco doomsters Orchid are back with their fifth (!) EP and, as per usual, it’s a superb mini-collection of 70s-inspired metal.  Most people think of EPs as being throwaways or stop-gaps, but Orchid’s are just as good as their LPs.  They assemble all of their recordings with great care regardless of the length which is not usually the case with other bands.  I love these shorter musical statements and I wish more bands would embrace the format, but I doubt they are very lucrative financially.   

Here’s a breakdown of the tracks:

“Helicopters” – Starts the album off with a crash and follows with a sense of impending destruction that permeates the rest of the song. Lyrically it’s about a village that’s being attacked, most likely during the Vietnam War.   It’s a very good track and reminds me a bit of “War Pigs.”

"John The Tiger" – The song is a perfect example of how Orchid truly understands one facet of Sabbath’s music that’s frequently missing from other doom bands – sometimes you just gotta swing!  This is definitely a toe-tapper and one of the highlights of the EP.  Killer!

"Under The Sign Of The Witch" – The lead single/video is a prototypical Orchid song, which means it recalls the glory of the Sabs without exactly copying any one particular song.  A massive drum sound is coupled with an excellent chorus that will get stuck in your brain for hours.  You’ve been warned!  Check out the video below:

"Strange Winds" – The last cut is a mystical, ethereal ballad that features a creepy 60s style organ sound that compliments and enhances the atmosphere of the song.  Orchid always excels at these ballads – e.g., “Falling Away” – and this one is no exception. 

One of the reasons that Orchid is one of my favorite bands is they understand the importance of cover art, fonts and layout.  They’ve got a very good sense of aesthetics and this time it’s exemplified by the 3d cover art on the EP, the cool fonts on the cover and spine, and the use of Bruegel’s The Triumph of Death for center labels and on the back cover.  Kudos fellas!


The Bottom Line:  Sign Of The Witch is another excellent EP and it’s certainly worth your bucks.  If you’ve never purchased anything by Orchid, this is a great place to start as it’s a good overview of what they have to offer.  Check it out.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Party With The Demons Down Below

Venom – From The Very Depths

Spinefarm Records – 2015

Muthas, NWOBHM stalwarts Venom released a new album back in January and it’s a rib-cracking, gut-pounding, rip-ride of Metal.  It might be the best thing they have done since their 1995 reunion, and it’s certainly the best release with the current lineup of Cronos, Rage and Dante.  Let me state right off the bat that if you are only a fan of “classic” Venom from their Neat Records days, you might not like this album.  This is modern Venom and it’s much more groove-oriented than what you may have been expecting.  If you only like Black Metal this won’t be your cup of poison, but you might want to give it a listen anyway if you like your thrash with some groove.

The band’s last album was Fallen Angels from way back in 2011, and it was a long slog through fifteen tracks of lackluster tunes.  From The Very Depths is 14 tracks and its fifteen minutes shorter than Fallen Angels and two of those tracks are brief instrumentals, so there’s only 12 tracks of real material.  The shorter length really helps tighten up the proceedings and, as a result, the album never feels long and has a great flow.  Cronos is the producer and his knob-twiddling efforts result in a superb production that is the best any Venom album has ever had.   The album is packed full of loads of mid-paced, crushing songs such as “Smoke,” “Temptation,” “Stigmata,” “Crucified,” “Mephistopheles,” and “Wings Of Valkyrie,”  Check out the video for “Smoke” below:

There are some speedier cuts sprinkled throughout the album to keep things moving along such as the title track, “The Death of Rock N Roll,” “Grinding Teeth,” and “Long Haired Punks.”  Check out the videos for “Long Haired Punks” and "Grinding Teeth" below:

One oddity is the track “Evil Law” which is a groovy mid-paced, stomper that’s apparently sung in Ancient Sumerian?!  I am not so sure I believe that one, but that’s what Conrad Lant is claiming and my Ancient Sumerian Rosetta Stone lessons were lost in the mail, so I guess we’ll just have to take old Cronos at his word. The album closes with the anthemic “Rise” which would make a great opening live track when they hit the road.  Venom is on the bill for the Maryland Deathfest XIV in 2016, so maybe they’ll play some of these new tracks then.   


The Bottom Line:  Venom has conjured up a surprisingly good album of groove-based thrash, and if that’s your thing you should definitely pick this one up.  It’s clearly superior to all the other modern Venom albums, and it’s great to see them come out with an album that’s this good so late in their career.