“Breathe out, breathe in…it’s time for the circus to reel you all in” exclaims King Colobus frontman Stewart MacPherson during ‘Tits & Teeth’ – very much a contender the most interesting track on the Devon-based band’s self titled EP release. Acting as part of the main hook, his unsettling request seems at odds with the old stage maxim at first, but it’s that unflinching contrast that makes the track so appealing. There’s nothing flippant about this performance; no greasepaint masking the true emotions. Nor is there anything nothing disposable about the surrounding heavy riffs or swathes of fuzz that drive the band’s sound. Here, perhaps more than ever, the band put across their musical intents with the most clarity. With a combination of stoner rock grooves, dark vocals and alt-rock leanings, these guys have solid foundations.
“Welcome to our faceless lives” implores The Foreign Resort’s frontman Mikkel Jacobsen during ‘Suburban Depression’, a neo-gothic, downbeat look at the dark side of the modern world. Set to music conjured through a remoulded sonic image of the 80s and released as a standalone track via the Danish band’s Soundcloud account, this is both the perfect introduction to The Foreign Resort for unfamiliar ears and an equally perfect homage to the sounds of some thirty years previous. The recycled sounds of a Peter Hook-esque bassline placed against the measured rhythmic pacing of The Cure’s classic ‘A Forest’ forge ahead, as the tale of “your own private hell” unfolds. With the repeated refrain and suggestion that “everybody’s empty now” being bandied around with sheer abandon, some may experience knee-jerk feelings that the track itself is depressing, but nothing could be farther from the truth. There’s a sense of knowing within this band’s gothic throwback of a sound. As the track builds, never ever shifting from the basic rhythm – pulsing, pulsing – and the guitars increase, the bass holds firm and despite the familiarity, The Foreign Resort strike musical gold.
It’s not a fluke, either.
Taking elements of gothic metal, a touch of doom and a pinch of black metal on their 2016 release ‘Awake In Dead’ Costa Rica’s Eyes of Desolation whip up a dark storm that’s powerful and unsettling, yet more accessible than many metal bands veering on the extreme side. Between them, not only can they play very well, but also understand that a strong melody – even one that’s oppressively dark – can go a very long way with regard to not only enticing people to listen, but also keeping their attention and inviting those all-important repeat listens. In terms of dark, gothic metal sounds, this EP has all you’d hope for…and more.
In terms of cinematic doom metal, there are few albums finer The Howling Void’s fifth release ‘Runa’. It’s slow and enormous sound is one that truly provides an immersive listening experience; a collection of heavy tunes which, after hearing, suggests that any follow up would lead to disappointment. The Howling Void’s mainman, “R”, did the only sensible thing: he stepped back and allowed plenty of time to pass before unleashing another album into the wild. Almost three years in the making, 2016’s ‘The Triumph of Ruin’ does not disappoint. It’s perhaps a little softer and a little more gothic in places, but the forty minutes worth of music within very much represents some fine and brooding riffery.
Stripping away the lightning speed drums and very much favouring a mid paced plod, or a funeral march, Estonia’s Vanad Varjud experiment with some of black metal’s more avant-garde elements throughout their 2016 release ‘Dismal Grandeur In Nocturnal Aura’. Although they are billed as “ambient”, fans of genuine ambient music will certainly want to give this a wide berth. Judging by the four compositions featured on this release, the band don’t always seem to understand what ambient truly means. Most of the supposed ambient moments seem to be either just slow, or hastily composed oddness with a jarring noise for accompaniment.