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Music Review

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Artist: Embr
Label: New Heavy Sounds
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 17 July 2020

New Heavy Sounds (the label that also has the recently reviewed Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard LP, Yn Ol I Annwn) releases 1823, the debut album by Doom band Embr from Alabama in the USA. It is available on LP, CD and for digital download. The group consists of Mark Buchanan on guitar, Alan Light on bass, Eric Bigelow on Drums, and his wife Crystal Bigelow on vocals. After four years of waiting, Eric received a kidney transplant in 2019 right in the middle of writing the songs with Crystal. All that he was told about the donor was that it was a young woman between 18 and 23. Hence the album title. A nice tribute...

We open with 'Prurient', which is introduced with echoing screeches, before dropping a Black Sabbath-like Doom-laden thick and heavy backdrop to the reverb-soaked female vocals of Crystal Bigelow. All is kept to a moderate pace. A short respite featuring a trundling bass guitar… and suddenly we’re back into the same beat, with further-reaching and heartfelt vocals. 'Where I’ve Been' has the Doom take centre stage again, with all the features of the first song repeated to the point I’m already looking for some variation. There is even the respite three-quarters of the way through – this time with subdued vocals keeping the connection. This is better than the opener. Crystal’s voice is more compelling here and, just as the song reaches its conclusion, we get a couple of growled words, which is promising.

'Stranger' is more like it! A nice riff-driven introduction. There are shades of Lacuna Coil about this band. The vocals get more of a workout to the riff; it works very well. Fuzz guitar holds quarter in the middle and welcomes back the reverb effect vocals. The best track yet, but still bettered by 'Powder'. Thunder and lightning sees in a simple bass line, soon joined by the guitar and male growled vocals. Contrasting this is the standard clean vocals of Crystal (and the odd growl herself!). The male growled vocals lift this music. The angel and the devil-type singing has been around for quite a while now, but still seems to work quite well.

As we reach 'Eyes Like Knives', it becomes obvious this is all about different riffs, but the same format in nearly every song: heavy, dark, moderate pace, searching vocals. This one has a similar change to the song Black Sabbath, which momentarily picks up the pace. 'Your Burden' has sound effects reminiscent of a stirring beast, and we are literally slammed into the song. I long for the growled vocals which so lifted 'Powder', but no such luck. Crystal does seem to grow into this album, becoming more versatile and emotive with each track. 'Vines' is the longest track and brings the proceedings to a close. It marks the welcome return of the growled vocals (hooray!), vying for position with the clean ones. For me, it’s not prominent enough. The album is too repetitive without them. Nevertheless, the band is solid and more than competent. They just need to mix things up a little.


Ty Power

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