Album: Witchsorrow, God Curse Us
Label: Metal Blade/Rise Above
Release: July 3, 2012

The UK trio that make up Witchsorrow make it a point in interviews to talk up the fact that they create doom metal in the traditional style and live the dark life they portray in their songs (summary: death to false metal). Their self-titled debut in 2010 on Rise Above definitely fit the old school vibe but frankly was just simply boring. That makes the giant leap forward on God Curse Us even that much more impressive.

Traditional doom this is, without a doubt. There’s some Sabbath everywhere in this one but also is reminiscent of early Cathedral as well. From the title track to “Masters of Nothing” right through the ridiculously somber “Megiddo,” God Curse Us is a dark and creepy record, filled with low-end and lyrics of despair. They also throw a fantastic curveball into the mix as after you want to slit your wrists listening to the latter track they bring forth five minutes of speedy traditional heavy metal with “Breaking the Lore.”

Electric Wizard may be the at the genre’s forefront creating traditional doom with a modern sound but God Curse Us belongs right up there with the best from that group as well. New doom bands should make this a mandatory listen.

Album: High On Fire, The Art of Self Defense
Label: Southern Lord
Release: July 31, 2012

As you know, I tend to avoid reissues as there’s not a whole lot of new things to say about them but sometimes they are hard to ignore. High On Fire’s debut is one of them that just begs for a re-enactment of some sort. Mike Pike formed the group back in 1998 only six months after Sleep broke up and ended up creating music that was just as heavy as them but also mixed the sludge with some faster riffs as well.

I’ve always thought Sleep was the better group, though both are legendary at this point. That said, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to say that yet had this been the year 2000 when The Art of Self Defense was originally released. I still think their debut record is their best and this reissue does nothing to disprove that theory.

It’s actually the second reissue of the record, as Tee Pee put it out with two bonus tracks in 2001 as well. One of them, the low-end heavy Celtic Frost cover, “The Usurper” is included on this release as well. The other one, titled “Steel Shoe” is not. Instead this also includes three demos of tunes on the disc (released as their initial demo back in 1999) including one of the best songs in their catalog, “10000 Years.” This, plus the demos of “Blood From Zion” and the 10+ minute “Master of Fists” really make the disc, as both the bass and the drums are heavier in the mix and all are as good if not better than the versions that ended up on the regular release. There’s no material on here that hasn’t been released before though (there is a 48-page booklet that might be worth the money in itself), so this release is probably only for those that missed it the first (or second) time around. But it’s still definitely worth your time if you haven’t heard it and are a fan of the band or Matt Pike.

Album: Coven, Worship New Gods
Label: Shadow Kingdom Records
Release: July 31, 2012

Yeah, I did say I don’t often review reissues, but here are two in one post! I doubt most people have heard this one however. There’s like 50 groups that have been named Coven over the years, with the most famous being the band from the ’60s with Jinx Dawson and Oz Osborne that people point to as being the first to hold up the metal horns. They were bizarre. This Coven is not.

This Coven were from Detroit, Michigan and released just this one LP and a demo under the name Coven 13 after Dawson herself asked them to change their name. Worship New Gods originally came out in 1987 on vinyl only. One of the reasons it didn’t do too much is most likely because they don’t really seem to have much of a direction. There’s the heavy, slow doom of “Kiss Me with Blood,” the punk-like feel of “Burial Ground” and an almost arena rock presence on “Ruler.”

Musically, the guys in the group had some chops and challenged each other with some odd-time riffs, like in “Jail House” which is anything but straight forward. The hardest part to digest are the vocals of David Landrum which don’t always seem to be in the right key. The record can be a little tough to listen to based on the vocals alone but the nostalgia of the record wins over anything else.

Shadow Kingdom is releasing Worship New Gods on CD for the first time in July and due to the renewed interest it seems the band has reformed once again with all four original members. Maybe Landrum has grown into his voice by now.

Album: Hollywood Burnouts, Excess All Areas
Label: Rock Road Records
Release: July 31, 2012

A German tour-de-force, Hollywood Burnouts are ready to bring their sleaze/glam rock to the states and infect us all with um…loads of side splitting laughter. No, they aren’t Germany’s version of Steel Panther or anything as I think these guys are a very serious band. But while Excess All Areas was released back in March in Europe (and supposedly did very well), why anyone thought it was worth releasing in the states is beyond me.

They attempt to play sleaze rock that turns out to be quite tame and try glamming it out without understanding what it’s like to be a glam band. Their sound is typical ’80s, early ’90s hair metal with not one unique riff on the disc. And tracks like “Wild Side,” “Hands of Rock” and “Kings of Sin” all have been done a hundred times before and they even begin “I Wanna Ride” with the lyrics, “She’s a mean machine. She’s drinking gasoline…” as if they couldn’t let it be more known that GnR are an influence.

The biggest issue for the American listener though is the singers heavy German accent. He speaks English well enough but the accent makes him sound like he’s reading the lyrics off a cue card, very deliberate and forced. No fault of his own of course, but it doesn’t translate well for this audience. What is their fault – the two ballads on the disc, like “A Part of My Heart” which should be this heart-wrenching love song but is cringe-worthy in every aspect.

On July 17th, the band posted on their website that two of the four members had been booted from the group but they vow to continue on as a band. Joy.

Albums currently on the potential best of 2012 list:
Baroness, Yellow & Green
Christian Mistress, Possession
Denial of God, Death and the Beyond
Goatwhore, Blood for the Master
Human Toilet, Human Toilet
Jorn, Bring Heavy Rock To the Land
Mongrels Cross, The Sins of Aquarius
OSI, Fire Make Thunder
Satanic Bloodspraying, At the Mercy of Satan
Terrorizer, Hordes of Chaos
Ufomammut, Oro: Opus Primum
Woods of Ypres, Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light