Volcana, "Goddess of Flame" (2017) Album Review
Volcana: "Goddess of Flame"
Genre: Heavy/Stoner/Doom Metal
Release: Stormspell Records, 2017
The tiny-but-true label Stormspell Records is an outfit that wears its reverence for old-school '80s metal on their collective sleeves - hell, they even etch their slogan, "OLD FARTS STUCK IN THE '80s AND PROUD OF IT!" right into the backs of their CDs. I've reviewed a number of their releases over the past couple of years and 99 percent of the time, when I see the Stormspell logo I can usually count on hearing one of three classic metal sounds - European-style melodic speed metal, old-school toxic-waltzing mosh-pit thrash, or sword-swinging, poser-slaying power metal.
Therefore, Volcana's Goddess of Flame was an unexpected but nice change of pace from Stormspell's usual stock in trade. Don't get me wrong, it's still satisfyingly heavy and definitely pays tribute to the True Steele of Olde, but this down n' dirty, bearded bunch from the U.S. of A. hearkens back to the doomy, groovy sounds of the 1970s, when bands like Black Sabbath, Dust, and Pentagram were just beginning to crawl out of the primordial ooze to carve what would later be called "Heavy Metal" into the history of rock. Volcana is the brainchild of guitarist/vocalist Vic Stown of Ohio-based retro-thrashers Vindicator, who crafted the 11 tracks on this album during down time from his day gig. Goddess of Flame is the first full length Volcana recording, following up 2016's A Life Among Jackals 7-inch single. Stown handles rhythm guitars and lead vocals on the disc, backed by one-man rhythm section Glen Monturi (who also does time in Seven Witches and Mountain Kings) on bass and drums, and lead guitarist Jeff Potts (Gygax, Warbringer, Lich King). Together this trio has concocted a seriously heavy stoner/doom metal brew that should have leaf hounds and rivet heads alike banging their heads well into the night.
Volcana: "Scolopendra (Come Forward)"
"The Unwelcome" is a brief one-minute intro that sets the properly Sabbathy tone, calling headbangers to worship... and then the album slams into the first track proper, "Scolopendra Come Forward," which is five minutes of pure monolithic riffery topped by Stown's howling vocals. Stown may not be a great singer in the technical sense, but his hoarse delivery suits this style perfectly. Fun fact: I'm sure Volcana probably intended the word "Scolopendra" to conjure up images of some sort of massive world-destroying, Lovecraftian demi-god, but our pals at Wikipedia tells me that it is actually a species of unusually large centipede. (Ewww!) "Drone" is exactly what its title suggests -- another slow, chugging, bass-heavy dirge based around yet another gargantuan riff.
"Glory or Doom" and the title track will keep the air guitars goin' and the horns raised high, and "Merchant Lord" features some pretty sweet, melodic six-string noodling before it kicks into the crunchy body of the song. I detect a slight hint of Blue Oyster Cult influence on this track, and its squealing, rockin' guitar work would certainly do BOC's Buck Dharma proud. The heavy duty bottom end rises to prominence again in "Smoke and Terrors," as well as in the foreboding, awesome "The Black Mist." A razor-sharp riff lights the fuse on "We Stand," leading into the absolutely rip-snortin' "Witch Blade," whose rapid-fire drums and fast-picking guitar work will crash down on your head like a massive rock slide pouring down a mountainside. This track is the closest Volcana comes to approaching "thrash" velocity, and it's totally bad-ass! "Iniquitous Shores" closes the disc with a two minute "outro" of reverberating riff that slowly fades off into the distance, like Godzilla returning to the ocean after destroying Tokyo (again).
Summing It Up
I guess it's pretty obvious by now that I dug the heck out of Goddess of Flame. Volcana kicks out the old school doom jams so admirably and authentically that they should've released this album on 8-track tape. (Hey, Stormspell: How about a special limited edition in that format? Just a thought!) This is the kinda stuff that would sound great being played through the stereo of a '70s style conversion van with a mural of a wizard or barbarian on the side panels, preferably through a cloud of smoke.
Goddess of Flame should please fans of not only Sabbath and B.O.C., but any and all of their retro-minded spiritual children, like Trouble, The Sword, Corrosion of Conformity, High on Fire, Priestess, or Monster Magnet (to name but a few). Break out the bell bottoms and the Grim Reaper bong, Volcana is here and they're ready to party. To that I raise my devil horns triumphantly and say "Doom on, brothers, doom on!!"
A Lion Among Jackals (EP) - Austentized Records, 2016
Masters of Metal, Vol. 4 - Divebomb Records, 2017 (2 tracks on compilation album)
Goddess of Flame - Stormspell Records, 2017
© 2017 Keith Abt