Candlelight is a label that I respect. In the past seven years, I don’t think they have ever sent me anything disappointing besides SJD. Here are four shades of awesome released in 1Q 2012 by the relatively-young infernal imprint.
I recently used Jørgen Munkeby’s performance on Ihsahn‘s After (a Candlelight release and my first Best of 2010 pick) as a reply to an argument that sax does not belong in Metal. To all who actually believe that nonsense, prepare to eat a dick. Or at least some crow, since I’m pretty damn sure that Dr. Mikannibal doesn’t have a penis.
This madwoman has performed with Sigh shortly after I first heard the band in 2007, with Hangman’s Hymn – Musikalische Exequien. She wasn’t on it, though. And for some reason, I didn’t spend much time with Scenes from Hell, despite its acclaim, on which she properly debuted. But now I think we have a spot claimed on my Best of 2012 list, as In Somniphobia is sickening, stunning, and… well… what more can you say about an album that has already received a 2,389,124 out of 10? They returned to Eliran Kantor to create their cover art which, like their music, is gorgeous yet subtly disturbing on first glance; but the more time you spend, the clearer its depths become.
I recall a more symphonic band in ’07; five years later, these bombastic, genre-twisting arrangements are more akin to early Estradasphere than, say, ChthoniC (my brian always connects them with Sigh). But for the eclectic, esoteric nature of everything I have collectively listed herein, In Somniphobia creates terrifying nightmare visions that inexplicably indulge my senses—ones I actually remember, ones I fucking hum. Blackened psychedelic avant-garde metal for shorthand? And there’s conga drums versus a happily clapping chorus? They got Metatron for the intro to the title track, which is keyboard-accompanied, like much of the album? We have nods to traditional metal, from King Diamond-esque falsettos to galloping guitar goodness? Can someone please explain to me why this all works somehow? Because it totally does. 9/10
You know what else totally works? Corrosion of Conformity without Pepper Keenan. I’ve got nothing against the guy, mind you. Deliverance and Wiseblood were important albums to my young Metal ears, and I saw them open for Metallica in my first major concert. I’ve dug Down since their inception, loved them live, and look forward to their forthcoming series of EPs. But back when I began my role as Metal Director for WRUV, the first album I tackled was In the Arms of God… and I was stoked. Mostly because America’s Volume Dealer was pretty fucking lame, and I knew I could offer reflective insight. ITAOG was okay, but lacking… especially in the drum department. Some five years passed, and I kinda lost track of these dudes, until news spread about the Animosity lineup touring again. But I wasn’t expecting a new album, and I’d never had guessed it to be this obscenely good.
Me and Reed cover those topics and more in our interview, but back to the music, it really is amazing how they hit all corners of the COC legacy. The first four tracks alone invoke the Southern stoner grooves, crossover thrash charge, hardcore heart and soul, and even an acoustic interlude that makes me feel like a sad goat for some reason. Speaking of animals, just listen to the pockets created—and perfectly filled—in “Leeches” and “Rat City”, both two-minutes-and-change with an old-school snarl. Incisively clever lyrics abound, delivered with enunciated glee by bassist Mike Dean. The ebb and flow in the epic “River of Stone” and lead single/album centerpiece “The Doom” are expertly commanded, channeling an energy that belies their age, as Corrosion of Conformity enters its 30th year a renewed pillar of strength in the Metal underground. 9/10
Orange Goblin has also seen something of a renaissance lately. Part of working for WRUV means reporting to CMJ, and according to my contacts, these dudes haven’t even charted before, yet hit and maintained the #1 slot for a few weeks (and this past week were still #3). This rules pretty hard for a band who’s spent the last 15 years or so waving the banner for outlaw stoner doom. These sweet snowblind supernauts released their seventh full-length on the 42nd anniversary of Black Sabbath‘s debut. But besides the band sharing a homeland and vocalist Ben Ward sharing a last name with drummer Bill Ward, the groups are pretty dissimilar. Honestly, they remind me more of that aforementioned mid-’90s COC, with less yowling drawl and more foul growl.
You’ll “get it” on first spin, easy—but it’s really addictive. And not only does Orange Goblin write solid memorable jams, but expand into grander concepts, such as the horror-inspired centerpiece “The Fog” or the sprawling title track to conclude. Where they dredge the sweetness is most mystifying, like from under the tasty bridge in “Save Me from Myself”—a lyrical cliché, ps&btw, that I was ready to write off altogether until now. It’s hard to sink songs whose thick hooks keep reeling you back up. But where do they fit? It’s easy to allude to the originators in Sabbath or modern torchbearers like Electric Wizard with whom they recorded a split back in 1997 (which happened to include a certain classic cover track), but it helps to cross the pond if you seek their sonic brethren. A little Alabama Thunderpussy, perhaps? Or any project with Wino, really. Still, their deepest roots reach to Motörhead. This is just generalization, though—hell, look at those shirts up there. We’re all the product of thousands of hours with multiple musicians, and on Eulogy for the Damned, Orange Goblin define themselves beyond the blueprint. 4/5