"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my underground lair..." When is that supposed new Austin Powers movie coming out anyway? It doesn't matter because we're all here because of stuff that is coming out!

This week, you'll find an interview with High Fighter's Mona Miluski, frontwoman of the German doombringers of all sorts (you'll see what I mean as you read on). I've also dished out a review of their new record, Scars & Crosses, as well as reviews for progressive sludge outfit Astrakhan, Ryan Waste's (Municipal Waste) side project the black thrashing Bat, Norwegian death machine Blodspor and, finally, the fancy fretwork of Vale of Pnath.

You know the deal by now, the news always comes first! Unless you're new here and now you've got no chance in Hell no excuse!


News


Hammers of Misfortune are one of the most fascinating prog bands of the modern age. If "out there" is your thing, then so are Hammers of Misfortune. The sextet has just announced Dead Revolution (out July 22 on Metal Blade), their sixth album along with the title track. It doesn't get more infectious than this!

Imperium Dekadenz will be releasing Dis Manibvs on Aug. 26 through Season of Mist. The melodic black metal outfit are best in class and have offered up the first taste of new music by way of "Only Fragments of Light." Eight and a half minutes of sublime, sprawling black metal majesty!

Monolithe are one of funeral doom's most consistent bands and have been on quite the tear since bridging a seven year gap between records in 2012. Zeta Reticuli (out July 8 on Debemur Morti Productions) will be their sixth record and a teaser can be heard here. Gorgeous, lush harmonies and steady, churning rhythms and I couldn't be happier!


Reviews


Astrakhan, 'Reward in Purpose'

War on Music / Sunmask

Astrakhan are a progressive sludge outfit who manage to straddle the line between quicksand riffs and elaborate song structures complemented by nuanced guitar playing that put this group in a category of their own.

Reward in Purpose marks the quartet's debut record and it's clear they've spent the last four years refining their sound and striking the red hot iron they worked to a glow following three EPs. Leading in with "Omajod," a 10-plus minute epic that nearly doubles the next longest song here, the song serves as a heady overture, exploring everything found in the next eight tracks of riff-centric rockers that often careen into the stratosphere only to float back down to Earth.

Listen to Astrakhan | For fans of Mastodon, Baroness, Junius


Bat, 'Wings of Chains'

Hells Headbangers

The dudes in Municipal Waste have some fun side projects, always coming across as genuinely enthused in what they're doing, even if it's nothing new and really just paying tribute to some of their favorite bands. Bat is a blackened speed metal punk project from Ryan Waste, newly instated secondary Municipal Waste guitarist Nick Poulos and former D.R.I. skinsman Felix Griffin.

Wings of Chains (what a title!!!) is their debut and let's just get this out of the way — it fawkin' rips! With song titles like "Code Rude," "Rule of the Beast" and "You Die" and the record out on Hells Headbangers, you know what to expect. If you don't use your spiked armbands to shotgun a few beers while cranking this, leave the Hall.

Listen to Bat | For fans of Nifelheim, Nuclear Assault, Midnight


Blodspor, 'Only Sheep Cry Wolf' EP

Negative Vibe Records

Norway has been ramping up its death metal output over the last few years, which is fine because Greece, France and Iceland have all been holding down the black metal fort. Blodspor formed 10 years ago and released their debut in 2011, storming back with the Only Sheep Cry Wolf EP.

In an age where albums routinely push an hour or more, four cuts across 12 minutes is refreshing and for once I'm finally left wanting more! Meat and potatoes death metal with a focus on groove dominates Blodspor's sound and this slab is like going to a fancy restaurant and ordering a prime cut of beef only to receive it on the tiniest of plates. I'll happily pay that check and take another plate to go!

Listen to Blodspor | For fans of Grave, Gorefest, Legion of the Damned


High Fighter, 'Scars & Crosses'

Svart Records

Damn, has it been a great year for doom! Now, it's time to add High Fighter's Scars & Crosses to the list with their genre-defying brand of doom incorporating a wealth of the genre's expansive styles. The group primarily sticks to the mighty riff, but veer into different directions, conjuring hazy visions on desert rock passages and draw you into the mud with sludgier moments.

Scars & Crosses has everything for the eclectic doom fan, led by frontwoman Mona Miluski's dual-threat voice, sometimes enchanting and other times intimidating. "Darkest Days" stands as one of the catchiest songs here, rounded out on the other side of the spectrum by the bludgeoning, speedy heft of "Blinders." Don't forget to check the interview at the bottom of the page for more juicy details!

Listen to High Fighter | For fans of Goatess, Kylesa, Doomriders


Vale of Pnath, 'Vale of Pnath II'

Willowtip

It's been five years since we last heard from premier Colorado tech death outfit Vale of Pnath. They're back with their sophomore effort, Vale of Pnath II, a more than fine contribution to the popular genre, fusing masturbatory guitar work with a keen sense of songwriting, something often lacking among their elite-caliber contemporaries.

What separates Vale of Pnath is their ability to ignore their technical mastery at times and churn out pummeling, more straightforward riffs among the fleet-fingered fretwork. The crystalline nature of the cleverly placed keyboards adds a further dynamic, used to perfectly accent the mood conjured by these guitar wizards.

Listen to Vale of Pnath | For fans of Necrophagist, Spawn of Possession, Decrepit Birth


High Fighter Interview

High Fighter frontwoman Mona Miluski was kind enough to answer some of my questions about the band and their new record, Scars & Crosses. She discusses how the band has honed their sound, the album's themes and artwork and doesn't concern herself with the whole "women in metal/rock" schtick, giving a no bulls--t response.

Scars and Crosses really runs the full doom gamut from bottom-heavy riffs to more extreme sludgy elements that are genuinely surprising and welcome. How did the band hone their sound over the last two years?

Back in the end of 2014, when we recorded our first demo EP, The Goat Ritual, live and on one weekend in our rehearsal room, we all just came out off different bands with different backgrounds, to that date we even did not play one single show together as High Fighter.

After we released The Goat Ritual, we were lucky enough to get the chance to tour heavily and played lots of shows over the last year. I think, playing live so much as we did, really got us together as a band in first place, and naturally also influenced our further songwriting for the album.

We started writing these album tracks for Scars & Crosses pretty soon after The Goat Ritual, and had the chance to even play them live on stage a lot before we hit the studio in March 2016. Playing live and being out on the road, it totally influenced our entire sound and where we now belong as a band while sharing a common vision of sounds and the creative spirit of High Fighter. But we also always stay open minded when it comes to combining different styles into one. We don't want to be a pure doom band, nor do we try to be a pure stoner or sludge band. You will find way more in High Fighter — that makes us very special to me.

What is the significance of the album title and how does it relate to the art on the cover?

Scars & Crosses deals about a dark past, about the wounds and scars of your soul that life may have given you. It's about your inner demons, a life between heaven and hell, this is why we also chose the cross as a symbol or metaphor as 'the roots of all evil.' But it's also about to learn to live with those scars, even people in society or in any relationships will find your scars as a bad attitude, a bad character. On this album we say 'No, it's not.' How often do we better need to change ourselves for others, until we're finally 'worth' to be loved or accepted? This album is about to also love those who have their scars — we all have them... these darkest days, moments and demons in life. Your entire history, our scars engrave us, they belong to you as much as the good sides.

For the album artwork we have worked with Dominic Sohor again — he's such a rad and talented artwork artist from the UK. Dominic has been already responsible for the stunning album cover of The Goat Ritual back in 2014, again we just shared our music, a rough vision and the album lyrics with him. None of his drafts or the final result for the upcoming album were changed from our end, he just totally gets our sound and vibe with his very special art. But what's impressing me most, Dominic is deeply reading between the lines of my lyrics, so this is very personal and special to me. His artwork perfectly fits to our sound and represents the pain and beauty of Scars & Crosses in one entire picture.

There's been a resurgence of women in rock and metal, particularly doom and retro occult rock. What in particular draws you to this genre and why do you think it is so popular among women entering the heavy music fold?

Well, I started in my first rock band more than 15 years ago, so to me it feels more than natural being a part of heavy bands. I'm listening to the sound of desert rock, doom, metal and sludge more than half of my life and it probably all began with bands such as Kyuss or Pantera.

To be honest with you, I don't think it's any necessary to highlight when there's women in rock or metal when it comes to music in general, nor do I think bands should get a woman involved just to jump on a popular train, if that would be the only reason... I'm a musician, same as every member in High Fighter, and we don't care or feel that there is in particular a woman singing. We don't want to get any attention because of that, we [don't] give a s--t about gender roles in music, or for example we also do not want to be invited to any special 'female fronted events.' As there is no need for such kind of attention or especially highlighting women in a band.

But to get back to your question, I honestly don't know why it's so popular when women enter the heavy music fold nowadays, but am glad to see they do, there's lots of great female musicians out there and our scene is luckily becoming more and more open-minded, but maybe there is still some people who will find this special. Having experienced this a lot in the past, people could not believe their ears and eyes or they gave me some extra props that I am singing plus growling and shouting as heavy as I do in a band.

We don't think this is anything special, for us it's totally normal and it wouldn't make any difference if there's a man or woman fronting the mic. But that's because we're also close friends, became a family and my bandmates don't see any difference between me or a guy. Especially when a woman is able to enjoy a life on tour and in bands same as the rest of the band does (it's especially me who never wants to go back home after a tour, haha), we're all just having a good time together and sharing the same creative spirit — then why not, it's the right place then, no matter which gender. I really hope sometime soon it won't be any big deal anymore, in music and especially our scene, we should not care about any genders, sexuality, where you come from. It's about having a good time and enjoying the music we do.

Thanks to Mona Miluski for the interview. Pick up your vinyl copy or CD of High Fighter's Scars & Crosses and keep up with all of the band's activities on their Facebook page.

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