Three Album Reviews – King Woman, Sannheit, Brotherhood of the Sonic Cloth

King Woman, Doubt

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While bearing strong similarities to their more established doom metal peers, like Earth and Sunn O))), the San Francisco quartet, King Woman manages to establish some welcome distance for their unique spin on the sound. Although they ply familiar images of darkness, backboned by thunderous percussion and churning chords, theirs is not quite as murky a pool as their contemporaries.

After a single pass through Doubt, King Woman’s first EP as a full band, something becomes crystal clear: lead singer Kristina Esfandiari (late of Whirr and Miserable) is the centerpiece. Her unabashed PJ Harvey-esque siren wail, teeming with urgency, is the beating heart of their songs, like “King Of Swords” which straddles the line of conventional and experimental metal standards. Unlike other bands playing fiercely distorted, turgid guitar and bass riffs, the lyrics on Doubt carry their own significant meaning, and the mix separates instruments enough for the listener to burrow in and hear them. We discover that a series of weightier topics (abuse, metaphysics, sexuality, and specifically Esfandiari’s separation from oppressive Christian upbringing) as opposed to the usual, quasi-mythic metal lyrics, define the EP’s four songs.

This kind of bold lean toward clarity is what separates King Woman from their peers and shows promise in what comes next. The dark, stoner metal canon is hot and still forming, leaving room for a piece as oddly defined as this one. Doubt is a worthwhile risk.

To read more about Esfandiari and King Woman, check them out at their label website.

Sannhet, Revisionist

Sannhet---Revisionist-Front-Cover-Final-1500x1500Brooklyn’s Sannhet is still wet behind the ears. You’d never know it by listening to them though.

Not even two years beyond their debut release (2013’s Known Flood) and already they glimmer and slouch in the same constellation as the luminary experimenters with metal and post-rock forms.

Now the trio punches their sonic awl through the proverbial ether with Revisionist a blistering, nine track meld of stoner metal and classic shoegaze. The results are, by and large, nothing short of spectacular. Their songs fill with searing guitars and chaotic percussion, built carefully into song structures that are bold enough to sprawl around and explore some pretty far out boundaries. The longest (and by far my favorite) track “Enemy Victorian” warps and bends instrumentally, filling out spacey moments and near distant drones. It’s an exciting song. Sannhet doesn’t do longer spacey jams (six minutes being their longest track on Revisionist)  resulting in their packing a lot into a little space.

My one quibble with Sannhet (perhaps) is the occasional use of seemingly random vocal tracks. They are well produced but feel lost and tend toward excessive. A song like “Atrium”, for example, which opens with a recording of what sounds like a lecture (in what sounds like Farsi) is bold and tempting enough without the added touch of recitation. This may be me though. I’ve noticed this as a quibble on a few stoner/sludge metal releases lately. Wherever you are in your appreciation of the genre (hopefully growing…) Sannhet’s Revisionist is a good next step.

To find out more about the band, check out their Bandcamp site.

Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth, Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth

brothers1Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth’s self-titled record comes in quite strong, blasting out with dirty promise on tracks like “Lava” and “Empires Of Dust”. Then something else happens.

The band, fronted by legendary vocalist/guitarist Tad Doyle maintains a fierce mien, the most maladjusted of their bunch of songs, an 11-minute behemoth, “La Mano Poderosa” which batters with gnarly guitars and an expansive song structure. This track should be a harbinger for more. Why then does the sum end up feeling so unsatisfying?

One of my quibbles with Brothers is now inconsistently the vocals are layered into the album’s overall mix. In a few places (“Unnamed”) they come across as a seething death rattle, laid harsh and indecipherable on the instrumental mix; and others (“I Am” and “The Immutable Path”) they are awkwardly audible and worse, pointed, meaningful stuff. Often throughout the record, I felt like I was being put through the motions. The songs showed unrefined edges, transitions between sonic qualities that felt forced rather than earned.

I’m not quite sure what the Brothers are going for on the record. I’m noteworthy for my passion for ambitiously drawn, heavy songs, but this record felt a little lost between commercial metal and something genuinely dark. Rather than peel back the crusty layers, revealing diversity and nuance, it ends up indecisive and sometimes downright clumsy.

Check out Neurot Records site for more about Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth.