ZHORA – Mortals

Since their arrival on the metal scene, zhOra have worked hard in forging a sound that takes sludge metal into more adventurous places than most. Armed with a relentless sound that mixes a hardcore crunch with the pure technicalities of progressive metal, the smatterings of death metal and a crushing doom element, their work isn’t for those who seek instant gratification. Their fourth album, ‘Mortals’ really reinforces any ideas that the band often values weight and heaviness over any genuine accessibility, yet at the same time, it is a truly impressive release.

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Byzanthian Neckbeard broke a five year hiatus at the beginning of summer 2019 when they re-emerged with ‘Extinxtion’, a heavy as hell three tracker that raised the bar for uncompromising sludge metal sounds. Expecting the band to go back into hibernation after wearing everyone down with a set of absolutely crushing riffs, it came as a surprise when the Guernsey based trio released a full length album just a couple of months later.

‘Minaton’ is everything ‘Extinction’ promised…and more. The band’s trademark heavy, sludgebeast of a sound is firmly in place throughout. This is an album that starts somewhere around 8/11 on the heaviness scale, but somehow manages to increase its sledgehammer-like presence as it goes. Some of the material seems a little more intensive on the death metal inflected vocals than before, but for lovers of a sludgy riff or six, it’s the kind of album that’ll tick so many of the right boxes.

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It took Byzanthian Neckbeard five years to follow up their 2014 ‘From The Clutches of Oblivion’ long player, but for fans of that record, the three tracks that make up their 2019 EP ‘Extinction’ will certainly impress. In just fifteen minutes, Guernsey’s loudest band churn, grind and chug their way through a trio of incredibly heavy numbers, drawing influence from greats like Conan and Crowbar to help them in their quest for the ultimate riff.

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PLAGUE OF CARCOSA – Ocean Is More Ancient Than The Mountains EP

Having previously released material mastered by Dennis Pleckham of Bongripper and taken musical cues from Sunn O))), Chicago’s Plague of Carcosa are no strangers to a heavy riff. Their 2018 release ‘Rats In The Walls’ required no more than just one track to make its point, but since that number was often delivered at a crawling speed and dragged out to almost fifteen minutes, the effect was like experiencing a full four song EP from most doom/sludge bands.

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FALSE GODS – The Serpent And The Ladder EP

It took New York’s sludge metal heroes False Gods a full two years to release a follow up for their ‘Reports From Oblivion’ EP. In that time, fans probably suspected the band to re-emerge, all guns blazing with a devastatingly heavy full length album…but it wasn’t to be. It may still verge upon being devastatingly heavy in a few places, but their 2019 EP ‘The Serpent & The Ladder’ presents just two new songs.

Whether this is an EP – as advertised – or a single that unleashes two lengthy workouts is something very much up for debate. The band’s commitment to a riff, on the other hand goes without question. A concept piece, of sorts, the two numbers concern both of the titular objects, but a gruff vocal and very intense sound means that the finer points of the narrative are lost behind some weighty riffs. Let’s be fair, though, if you’re drawn to a band like False Gods for anything other than those riffs, you’ve sort of missed the point.

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