A new arrival at the Frontiers Records label for 2021, Italy’s False Memories were promoted in their pre-release materials as leaning towards “a gothic, doom metal vibe”. Although the band’s darker tones are something of an interesting move for a label that predominantly deals with melodic metal and a wealth of old school AOR, massive hair and the occasionally misjudged leather trouser, it soon becomes clear that nobody at the label has a clear idea of what “doom metal” actually entails. You won’t find any eight minute epics on this band’s third release ‘The Last Night of Fall’, nor will you find anything dominated by deep, booming voices, or any riffs that could be considered oppressively slow. Occasionally, the band unleash something of an unexpected heaviness – as is the case with album highlight ‘Deep Breath’ – but, in the main, False Memories have a strong relationship with a melody and something of a “safe” feel. In short, for all of the hard sell with a focus on darkness and heaviness, the label have signed their own Nightwish. False Memories can be a little more intense and often more interesting, but they definitely sit more within that musical sphere. For the more adventurous melodic rock fan, such a familiar Euro-goth sound should be enough to warrant a purchase, but this in no way should be considered “doom metal”. Luckily, despite an over familiar sound and the possibility of finding themselves in something of an over saturated market in terms of style, False Memories come armed with some decent songs, and in Rossella Moscalletto they have a very self-assured vocalist.
At the tail end of 2020, The Inferno Doll made a long overdue return with the ‘Sacrifice’ EP. The music’s blend of gothic riffs, industrial twists and occasional black metal flourishes really showed a gift for pushing boundaries.
Chilean vocalist Laura Vargas is no stranger to the symphonic and gothic metal scenes. While she might not have reached “household name” status, she spent eight years as a member of Sacramento, eventually scoring support slots with Theatre of Tragedy and Within Temptation. After relocating to Canada, she formed her own theatrical art/music project The Inferno Doll, whose debut album (‘Dollmination’, 2015) fused gothic metal with striking imagery to tell the tale of demonic possession within a mannquin-like figure. After that somewhat dark release, all seemed to go quiet, but The Inferno Doll eventually re-emerged in 2019 and dropped various hints regarding the continuation of their haunting and twisted musical tales. An EP eventually emerged at the death of 2020 – long overdue, but certainly worth the wait.
In terms of twenty first century black metal, few bands create intense and dark atmospheres better than the UK’s Necronautical. Far more sophisticated than a pneumatic din with some casual church burning thrown in, their 2019 album ‘Apotheosis’ features seven tracks that show how – when well played – such extreme sounds can be carry a lot of weight in the progressive stakes. This album, although largely created from classic black metal roots, also takes in intensive folk metal and battle metal influences, to create something that ranks among the year’s most interesting extreme metal discs.
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.