GHOST:HELLO / NIGHT GOAT – Split EP

For those who’ve previously enjoyed either bands’ works, this split between Ohio based metal/noise rock bands Ghost:hello and Night Goat is much more than a mere collection filler. Although in some ways, the Ghost:hello material doesn’t always live up to the promise of their 2019 full length, between one genuinely great studio track and an unmissable live recording, you really couldn’t call their contribution to the release weak in any way. In fact, despite a couple of flaws, their material is more than capable of going head to head with Night Goat’s much darker aspects. …And as for Night Goat themselves, fans will surely love most of the spacious and unsettling material that lies in wait.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Vol 4 (Redux)

In September 2020, Zakk Sabbath released their long-awaited ‘Vertigo’ album, on which legendary guitarist Zakk Wylde and friends recreated the Black Sabbath debut as faithfully as possible. Everything was well played, but with the band taking such a traditional stance, there were moments where you’d wonder why you’d ever choose to listen to it over the original recording. There were a couple of tracks of great interest, however, such as ‘Wicked World’ where the band loosened their grip on self-imposed authenticity and added more of their own flair and ‘N.I.B.’ which proved that Zakk Wylde plus and indestructible riff will often result in something great. The album was well received by fans, and despite any misgivings about long-term interest, it was important that the band got a studio recording under their collective belt after working the live circuit for so many years.

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BLACKLAB – Abyss

BlackLab’s debut album ‘Under The Strawberry Moon’ was devastatingly heavy. With an under-produced and over-driven sound, the Japanese duo truly raised the bar in terms of fuzzy stoner riffs. The album didn’t reach a wide audience upon its first release, but a restructured and remixed version (released via the UK’s New Heavy Sounds label in 2018) went some way to giving the band an audience outside of their home country and received some really enthusiastic press.

Naturally, their minimalist set up of drums, guitars, vocals and three thousand distortion pedals never really allowed for a broad musical palate, so their sophomore disc ‘Abyss’ offers much more of the same, but if Blacklab appealed to you before, more of the same is exactly what you’d hope for… If anything is a little different, you might even say BlackLab have become even heavier and more intense, as ‘Abyss’ is a genuine skull-crusher.

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STONE MACHINE ELECTRIC – Stone Machine Electric

To move forward, sometimes it’s important to take stock of the current situation and go back to the past. On this two track 7”, Texan doom duo Stone Machine Electric revisit the first songs they ever wrote together and in doing so go back as far as possible. Both tracks have been previously available, but this release marks their vinyl debut.

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WIZARD RIFLE – Wizard Rifle

Wizard Rifle are a two piece noise rock band from Portland, Oregon. They began thrilling (and terrifying) audiences in 2010. This self titled release from 2019 is their first for Svart Records (home to Witch Mountain, Harvest, Brutus and various bands with Scandinavian sounding names), but despite making the leap from DIY recordings to signing a cult metal oriented label with a keen fan-base, Wizard Rifle haven’t become any more commercial. Their self titled record features just five tracks, but within those lengthy arrangements you’ll find sections of music which seem bolted together and huge slabs of music created from mangled riffs and sludgy sounds. Always with an ear on sculptures more than songs, it’s tiring…but also brilliant. Hearing Wizard Rifle for the first time is like experiencing Buzz Osborne from Melvins jamming with the now defunct That Fucking Tank while disturbed people shout randomly. With every listen after that, something new comes through; new noises, new howls of pain…but you’ll never forget that initial experience. And it is an experience.

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