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Music Review

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Artist: BlackLab
Label: New Heavy Sounds
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 08 May 2020

New Heavy Sounds releases Abyss, the second full album from Doom/Stoner/Slowed Hardcore Punk outfit Blacklab. The name originates from putting the two band names Black Sabbath and Stereolab together. Known as the "dark witch doom duo" hailing from Osaka in Japan, the band consists of Yuko Morino on guitar and vocals, and Chia Shiraishi on drums. Recorded in Japan and mixed and mastered in London, Abyss follows Under the Strawberry Moon which emerged in 2018, after their initial E.P. in 2017. The release is available as a Gatefold 4-Panel Digipak CD, a Limited Edition 12” 3-Colour Cosmic Swirl Vinyl, and for Digital Download...

'Insanity' is the opener. A drum and bass guitar counts in a heavy and overdriven-as-you-like, Doom-laden fest. The riff is straight out of the Black Sabbath prayer book. The tempo picks-up partway in with a complicated signature. Female vocals join the feeling-miserable party. Her tones convey confusion and disillusionment. It’s a nice surprise to have her suddenly change to growled/screamed vocals which much better fit the piece. This makes a statement for the structure of the song. If anything lets this down it’s the reluctance to end before it becomes dull. A shorter version of this would be great. 'Fade and Melt' invokes a mystic east opening, which soon blasts through with the heavy-as-hell moderate to mid-paced gloom. This is driven by the drum beat and down-tuned guitar. The clean and growled vocals are in place again. I find myself listening to the drums at this point, which hold the sound together, and whose patterns are the most inventive of what’s on offer here.

'Weed Dream' has more of a galloping riff, but the vocals remain at the same tone as before. This is an opportunity to mix things up a bit, which only partly works. The clean vocals should clearly have been left out of this one, as the growls seem more at home. This is a good music piece though, and the best of the bunch so far. 'Amusement Park of Terror' has chunky guitar that leads-in a Doom riff which is too clever by half, preventing the listener from getting a handle on the direction. Into this chaos is injected a multitude of high-pitched electronic astral noises. The whole just fades-out pretty quickly. 'Forked Road' begins like a Thrash Metal song, and pretty much stays that way except for the weird off-kilter vocals which sound like she is singing to another song completely. There is a short Doom-paced moment, before feedback and a two second break leads us back into the Thrash riff. Easily one of the best tracks from the album due to its diversity in relation to the others.

'Chained' has another Black Sabbath-like opening and verse, before chugging up a gear or two. Wow, the clean vocals actually fit perfectly for this song. The balance is very nice, with a reverb and overdriven ultra-short guitar break. This is the first track I’ve enjoyed every aspect of. It should be the opener to the album, to get the audience acclimatised to the construct. 'Sleepless Night' has what you might call a nice Red Indian drum beat opening for this one, but the song loses its way pretty quickly. It does chug along into the first proper guitar solo, but the low-key verse and out-of-place vocals don’t convince, until there’s a break and a low and heavy chord sequence which works really well. For me, it doesn’t last long enough before returning to the dull verse. 'Sun' features a nice guitar-only piece that brings in a thud of drums and the full weight of the Doom bass sound. Immediate screamed vocals are welcome, but it isn’t long before the clean vocals are back. This time they just manage to hang on to the sound. This is a good solid band sound.

Anyone whose favourite Metal sub-genre is Doom will love (if that’s the right word!) this, I’m sure. I appreciate Doom but sometimes find it a little repetitive and trapped in the same tempo. Blacklab (nice name) do break out of this mould at times. The hints of flexibility displayed are short-lived. I think this band has potential, although I did see it as a series of missed opportunities. I’d be interested to hear the next album to discover where they go from here.


Ty Power

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