RAVENS OVER GOMORRAH, Darkly Melisma (1999, demo)

The skull:
Another purloined still life, although I’m unable this time to cite its provenance. You’d be surprised, though, by what you’ll get out of a Google search for “skull still life with flute.” Evidently back in the Renaissance, skulls and flutes went together like rats and plague. Pretty much every skull came with a flute, some sheet music, and possibly a compass and the carcass of a pheasant. Probably for a time no drawing room was complete without such a scene hanging in an ornately gilded frame. Maybe they were intended as object lessons (in the form of allegory, as were all communications back then) to the spoiled children of the day, who were as little inclined to practice their recorders as today’s wayward youth are to knuckle down and spin the turntables they begged their parents for, before they learned that DJs pretty much just use Macs now. Some stern governess would point at the skull and grimly intone, “So too shall ye all perish and be forgotten if ye attendeth not to thine fipple flowtes”. Piteous half-holing ensued.

The music:
Ravens of Gomorrah are so fucking kvlt that no one dares upload their demo to YouTube. In fact I could only find a single song by the band anywhere online, and it was from the demo before Darkly Melisma so we’ll have to assume all their shit is basically the same, which is to say basically like early Emperor, but lacking the Norse grandeur. Bad keys and falling-down-the-stairs drumming figure prominently, along with a croaking growl that never quite reaches the raspy timbre you expect from this sort of thing. The guitars are badly played, of course, but they do sound marginally better than your average Grieghallen special. I’ve heard worse, but pretty much only on assignment.
— Friar Johnsen


RETRO GRAVE Again (2008, Upland)

The skull:
A quickie still life, probably done digitally but at least pretending to be an oil sketch or something, this is actually pretty classy as big dumb skulls go, but every bit as unambitious as the rest. Considering how badly this band wants to be 40 years older than they are, it’s kind of funny how little effort they put into the typography and design of this cover. The illustration might have passed retro muster, but nothing else does.

The music:
Psychedelic stoner metal, as you could probably have guessed. Total 70s style throwback music. Like Witchcraft or more recent acts like Blood Ceremony and Kadaver, Retro Grave don’t make even the slightest effort at originality, content to emulate their inspirations in every way: musically, sonically, aesthetically. Retro Grave is the work of one Jeff Olson, whose greatest claim to fame is as a footnote in Trouble’s history. Weirdly, this album was actually recorded and released twice, which makes the title sadly literal. Poor Friar Wagner also had to listen to this crap, but his review was swallowed by the cruel gods of the database, and I didn’t have the heart to make him review this stinker a second time.
— Friar Johnsen