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Age of Taurus

Desperate Souls of Tortured Times

(Metal Blade; US: 28 May 2013; UK: 27 May 2013)

Age of Taurus are a four-piece doom metal outfit hailing from London. As you might expect, the band trades heavily in thunderous riffs, booming percussion and lyrics about… well, it’s hard to tell exactly. With song titles like “Sinking City” and “Desperate Souls of Tortured Times”, it’s clear that these aren’t lighthearted bubblegum-pop songs. No matter: the vocals are clean at least, eschewing Cookie Monster growling (yay!) and carrying some weight to them. For casual metal fans looking for some convincing riffage, the band does quite nicely, although hardcore metalheads may feel that the band brings little new to the table.


Opening track “A Rush of Power” wastes no time getting off to a roaring start. The distortion is thick, the bassline is chunky and the drummer hits the skins with nicely controlled abandon. It’s Toby Wright’s vocals, though, that make the band memorable. With a delivery similar to Alice In Chains’s Layne Staley, he foregoes over-the-top howling for a tone that might be described as faintly put out. It’s an odd combination with the fiery guitars, but an effective one, all the more so when the band launches into some six-string wankery just after the four-minute mark.


The rest of the album hews closely to this template. There are no ballads here, and few enough interludes to allow the listener to catch his or her breath. Tempos tend to be slow, as on follow-up tune “Sinking City”, but this doesn’t mean the songs are anything other than monstrously heavy. Doom metal is, after all, a genre deeply in love with downtempo sludge and murk, and there is plenty of that here.


There’s a fair amount of guitar noodling as well, although less than one might expect. Age of Taurus tend to wield great slabs of power chordage in the construction of their songs, and intervening passages are, as often as not, built around some variation of those chords. There is the occasional solo guitar line that reinforces the chord progression, but solos as such, which might be expected to be lengthy on this set of five-to-eight-minute songs, are actually fairly thin on the ground.


That said, the tunes do rock, and rock convincingly, which is what matters. The dirgelike “Walk With Me, My Queen” is a standout, with its earwormy chorus and feeling of impending (or perhaps recently arrived) doom, but all the songs here are solid and any number could be characterized as highlights. “Always in the Eye” chugs along impressively for its five-minute duration, while the epic “Embrace the Stone” shifts from drum-and-bass intro to especially thrashy guitar riffage to somnambulant vocals and back again, before culminating in a full-bore crescendo. Closer “The Bull and the Bear” is almost anticlimactic by comparison.


Doom metal isn’t a subgenre that particularly lends itself to innovation—it’s hard to imagine a lot of bassoon solos or Afropop musical influences finding their way into the mix—but there’s still satisfaction in hearing a group of musicians play music with verve that they obviously love. Clearly, that is the case here. Age of Taurus lock in on a meaty, sludgy groove from the get-go and rarely stray from it. Fans looking for a new dose of thudding, clunking rawk could do a lot worse than this record.

Rating:

DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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