SHOOTING DAGGERS – Manic Pixie Dream Girl / Missandra

Describing themselves as a queercore/feminist hardcore band and taking huge cues from the 90s riot grrrl movement and classic hardcore, Shooting Daggers pull no punches. Initially, their work seems to present something of a sidestep for the New Heavy Sounds label, whose main stock has previously tended to veer towards the doomy, but it really doesn’t take long to realise why they’ve signed this act. On this two track release, their riffs are massively intense; their personal views are as direct and important as the riffs themselves and the messages cannot be – and should not be – ignored. This is a burst of pure, necessary anger; a release that ups the ante for the style, and for the UK hardcore scene as a whole.

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EMBR – 1021 EP

On their debut album ‘1823’, US metal band EMBR wasted no time in introducing their talents with a heavy riff. Across its seven songs, there were strong callbacks to doom and sludge greats like Crowbar jostling with flourishes that suggested a love of the darker side of the grunge and goth movements. Unlike so many other similar releases was a strong melodic core, helped no end by some great vocal performances from Crystal Bigelow. The band closed the year with a surprise covers EP, ‘Idolatory’, which further showcased their natural abilities for heavy sounds, as well as a love for some of Seattle’s finest exports. After that release, there was no doubt that this would be a band to watch out for in the future.

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EMBR – Idolatry EP

Alabaman riff merchants Embr have been cranking out heavy grooves since 2015, but the release of their ‘1823’ full length on the New Heavy Sounds label really helped to elevate their profile. The album’s selection of intense riffs combined with a clean-ish female vocal presented a brilliant contrast between pure doom and great melodies, suggesting talents that could not only rival the UK’s own Witch Charmer, but possibly even help fill the massive void left by the much missed Black Moth. A filler free forty minutes, ‘1823’ is the kind of metal album that deserves to be heard by everyone.

The close of 2020 brought something of a surprise when, completely out of the blue, Embr shared a covers EP via Bandcamp. ‘Idolatry’ brings together four classic tracks from four classic 90s bands – a couple of which can be heard with new ears once redressed in Embr’s heavier clothes.

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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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Check out ‘Forked Road’, a new track from Japanese fuzz/sludge/doom duo BlackLab

BlackLab’s 2018 album ‘Under Strawberry Moons’ really pushed the limits of how much noise a duo could make.  Their long-awaited follow up, ‘Abyss’ (due for release digitally on 8th April) presents the band in an even noisier frame of mind, if anything, sharing heavy riffs that are so distorted that you might even believe your speakers have blown.

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