audiObelisk EXCLUSIVE: Indian Premiere New Track from Guiltless

Posted in audiObelisk on March 31st, 2011 by JJ Koczan

They’re Chicago‘s forerunners of deranged doom, and with their 2011 Relapse Records debut, Guiltless, the five-piece Indian are showing no signs of letting up. The label was kind enough to grant me permission to premiere the righteously heavy song “Guilty” from the album, and it’s my pleasure to host it for streaming on the player below. Prepare for an adventure into the thoroughly fucked:

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I told you. Shit is nuts.

Guiltless was recorded by Sanford Parker (who else?) at Semaphore Recording in Chicago, boasts artwork by Scott Fricke, and is available for pre-order from Relapse at this location. The label has more info on the record and Indian‘s upcoming release show. Dig it:

Guiltless will see its North American release on April 12 (April 25 internationally) on CD, 12” vinyl, and digitally. The CD is available for pre-order now at Relapse.com and a deluxe digital edition with a bonus track and digital booklet is available now at iTunes.

Indian has announced a Chicago record release show in support of Guiltless for April 9 at Subterranean (2011 West North Avenue). This is a co-record release show with labelmates Bloodiest. The show starts at 10:00pm and tickets are available at this location.

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Pentagram, Last Rites: Griffin and Liebling Return to Walk in Blue Light

Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2011 by JJ Koczan

The Pentagram story is as long as the story of heavy metal itself. In 2011, vocalist Bobby Liebling marks 40 years since the inception of the seminal Washington D.C. (it’s the “Doom Capitol” for a reason) outfit, and with the much-anticipated release of Pentagram’s Last Rites – a title they’ve been tossing around since this latest inception of the band got going in 2009 – the start of their fifth decade could legitimately be a new beginning for them. Liebling, who has a legacy of drug abuse trumped only by his band’s influence, is reportedly clean and staying that way. Now married with a daughter (of doom), he’s also reunited once more with guitarist Victor Griffin (also of Place of Skulls and Death Row), whose mere presence goes a long way in making the difference between Last Rites being Pentagram, the band, and The Bobby Liebling Show. Together with bassist Greg Turley (also Place of Skulls and Griffin’s nephew) and Place of Skulls drummer Tim Tomaselli, Pentagram 2011 present the first new studio album under the moniker in seven years, and easily the best batch of new material they’ve had in more than a decade.

Of course, Last Rites isn’t all new material. Catchy single “Into the Ground” and hard-hitting closer “Nothing Left” date back to Liebling’s pre-Pentagram band, Stone Bunny’s 1970 album, Nothing Left, “Call the Man” dates back to demo tapes from 1971, and Last Rites highlights “Walk in Blue Light” and “Everything’s Turning to Night” were available in rougher versions on Relapse RecordsFirst Daze Here (2002) and First Daze Here Too (2006) collections of vintage ‘70s-era material. That still leaves six of the 11 total tracks unaccounted for in Liebling’s vast and sometimes murky catalog, and though a song like “Treat Me Right” has that classic Pentagram feel, it’s easy to hear the modernity on songs like “8,” “Windmills and Chimes,” “American Dream” (on which Griffin takes the lead vocal with Liebling backing during the chorus), “Horseman” and “Death in First Person,” which, while definitely still riff-based and in line with what one might expect from Pentagram, have more complexity to them – especially in Griffin’s guitar – than the older, more rudimentary material. I’ll add also that my estimation of what’s new and what’s not (apart from what can be found on prior releases) is speculative on my part and just based on what I’m hearing in the music. In a career as long and

The effect that mix of old and new has is that Last Rites comes across as a healthily varied collection of songs. “8” is perhaps the most satisfying of the new-sounding cuts, and the record as a whole isn’t without its missteps, but taken in the context of both the Pentagram history and 2004’s disappointing Show ‘em How outing, it’s hard to think of Last Rites as anything but a net victory both for the band and longtime fans. They make the right move opening with “Treat Me Right” and Griffin’s signature (and fucking excellent) guitar tone ringing out like a beacon letting you know this is, in fact, a Pentagram record you’ve just put on. The song is short, repetitive of its title line, and as I already noted, vintage Pentagram. I’d say it’s definitely older, but can’t find it on any previous release, so can’t be sure. In any case, it’s an excellent show of what this version of the band – over the years, more people have been in and out of Pentagram than almost any other of the Doom Capitol bands – can do. To be fair, they’ve had something to prove all along since Liebling got the band going again, and it’s obvious the intent behind starting Last Rites with “Treat Me Right” was in shutting up the better part of the doubters out there among both critics and the general listening public. There’s no arguing with it.

Second track “Call the Man” has, like most of the songs, an excellent solo from Griffin, but also a classic stomp in its central riff that seems to go further than the mere 3:49 it lasts. Liebling is one of the rare vocalists in metal who can give a sense of his showmanship on a studio album and not fall completely flat, and that’s clearly at play here, but when it comes right down to it, the lyrics leave me wanting and there are other cuts on Last Rites I think might have worked better to back up “Treat Me Right.” To the credit of the band as a whole, Turley doesn’t get lost in the melee of leads and crash hits, and the material across the board sounds thick and heavy. There’s something to be said for striking that balance, and even though there are some less than landmark moments throughout, the sound of Last Rites in general is perfect for what Pentagram should be doing after 40 years. They’re neither trying to ape their ‘70s sound (as many are), nor affecting some bizarre and wrongly interpreted take on “today’s metal.” The vision of Last Rites is that of an accomplished doom band claiming their due. As the album proceeds, they seem more and more likely to get it.

It’s the first of the two Stone Bunny inclusions and Pentagram played it on their most recent live shows, and sure enough, “Into the Ground” proves a high point of Last Rites as well. It’s an excellent balance of doomed atmosphere, classic heavy rock and Griffin’s added ringing notes to the chorus do well to blend it in among the newer of the songs. Liebling seems to relax a bit on the vocals as compares to “Call the Man,” and as he double-tracks the chorus, his voice seems to be in the best shape it’s been in, in a long time, and it doesn’t sound like studio trickery. Last Rites is unquestionably a modern production, and there are liberal effects put on Liebling’s voice, but the underlying performance is there to start with, as it has to be for him to be able to pull off the material. “Into the Ground” leads almost directly into “8,” which starts with Griffin playing subdued notes over Tomaselli’s tom work before launching into one of Last Rites’ most effective riffs. The verses return to that quieter feel, and Liebling plays to that, but a driving chorus ups the energy, and as the longest song on the album at 5:02, it’s also a highlight among the newer-seeming pieces. Griffin shows personality in his encompassing layers of guitar, and though it’s moodier than “Treat Me Right” or even “Into the Ground,” the lyrical chronicle of Liebling’s dark times feels heartfelt and is all the more compelling for it.

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MonstrO Sign to… Vagrant Records?

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 30th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Atlanta‘s extra-capital-letter-fied MonstrO (who were On the Radar’ed just over a year ago, if you’ll recall) have signed with Vagrant Records, the label responsible for such stoner rock gems as Senses Fail and Thrice. Yeah, I know Vagrant‘s grown up a bit in the last couple years (putting out the likes of Murder by Death and… Rammstein?), but it’s still kind of a surprise to see MonstrO — featuring Juan Montoya, ex-Floor/Torche, and former members of bloodsimple — get picked up by them.

Whatever. More importantly, MonstrO‘s new album is due out late in the summer and will be produced by William DuVall from Alice in Chains. Should be interesting. I guess you never know what the PR wire will bring on a given Wednesday afternoon:

MonstrO, the highly pedigreed atmospheric hard rock four-piece from Atlanta, Georgia, have signed with Vagrant Records to release their debut album. Formed in early 2009, MonstrO is bassist Kyle Sanders (bloodsimple), drummer Bevan Davies (bloodsimple, Danzig), guitarist Juan Montoya (Torche) and vocalist/guitarist Charlie Suarez.

MonstrO entered a studio in Atlanta earlier this week with producer (and Alice in Chains vocalist) William DuVall.

“We’ve been collectively writing and recording for two years now and thanks to Vagrant we’re finally recording our first proper full-length,” said Sanders. “We’ll be locked up for the next month recording and mixing with our good friend William DuVall at the helm. These songs have taken on a life of their own and we’re all extremely thrilled to lay them all down and begin the journey.”

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On the Radar: Wreck and Reference

Posted in On the Radar on March 30th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Sometimes it’s hard to balance “every day is an adventure” with “there’s nothing new under the sun,” and bands like Davis, California‘s Wreck and Reference don’t make it any easier. The duo, who recently self-released a six-song tape called Black Cassette, do away with the guitars that would generally drive even the more offbeat of their music, in favor of keyboards and samples. The result is a post-apocalyptic kind of aural misery, dense in atmosphere and classifiable mostly in the vaguest of vague terms: “experimental.”

I said not too long ago that I was going to stop using On the Radar as a means for covering the stuff I didn’t feel deserved a full review, and instead use it for its original intended purpose — i.e. spreading the word on bands I think are cool and/or interesting — and the work of Felix and Ignat (last names redacted; no word on which is “wreck” and which is “reference”) definitely fits in with the newfound purpose. There’s something in the lo-fi tragedy of “Evening Redness” that I really dig, and if life ever presented me with the opportunity, I’d totally be into seeing them play in some dude’s living room.

Check out Black Cassette below, courtesy of the Wreck and Reference Bandcamp page. They’re also on Facebook, if that’s your bag.

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Miss Fortune was a Henhouse Manager: Counting the Eggs

Posted in Reviews on March 30th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

It’s with a keen ear for the avant and toward representing the individuality in its native scene that Greek imprint Spinalonga Records presents the two-disc Miss Fortune was a Henhouse Manager compilation. I know I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of reviewing comps – and I hold to that, as with most various artists releases, you get neither an album flow nor much of a sense of what each band has to offer stylistically – but taken on the level of ambassadorship, Miss Fortune was a Henhouse Manager’s total 19 tracks do an excellent job highlighting the variety Greece has to offer the international heavy underground. There’s some horrific noise and drone, scathing ambient metal, booze-fueled sludge and even a bit of experimentalism from where one might not expect. And with intros and outros on each disc handled by Athens black metal outfit Yassa – sort of a SunnO)))-esque terrifying drone – there’s even some measure of continuity between them, and it’s obvious that despite the wide variety of creative avenues included, Miss Fortune was a Henhouse Manager was conceived as a whole.

That said, my usual reservations with comps apply. It’s a collection of tracks, not an album – despite the gorgeous and appropriately disturbing artwork, the total four Yassa lead-ins and –outs, and how many of these songs start with feedback – and should be read as such. The discs are labeled Side A and Side B on the packaging, though in truth each would actually two full vinyl sides, and each has its high and low points. Sun of Nothing kicks off Side A with the 13-plus-minute “Dead End Nights and Bright Mornings (and the Things Between ‘em),” which is a monstrous slab of molasses riffage topped with far away screams, and without a second thought, National Pornographik launch next into mathy prog noise with a vocalist who sounds like a self-harmonizing Julie Christmas from Made Out of Babies fronting. Clearly diversity is going to be the name of the game as Miss Fortune was a Henhouse Manager progresses, and that turns out to be precisely the case. Speaking of appropriate names, Drunk Motherfuckers give a firm mission statement on the charmingly titled “Ain’t Give No Shit about Sobers,” sounding like a mix of Eyehategod – who 1000mods cover on the second disc – and Entombed. I don’t know if I’d let them drive my car, but they sure sound good coming out of the speakers. On blanket appeal alone, that song is a highlight, but the 10-minute instrumental “Stoner City Dub” which follows from Nechayevschina isn’t without its own dreamily psychedelic appeal. A jazzy bassline underscores Last Rizla’s “Battles: Sinatra,” Korsikov sample Scarface on their way to answering what Weedeater might sound like with Matt Pike singing on “Liqweedator,” and before “B.I.I.D.” holds more horrors from Yassa, Stonenrow bust out 8:34 of solid and, relative to its surroundings, straightforward, doom on “The Harvest.” Even among the strange and furious, a heady doom groove isn’t out of place.

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audiObelisk: Stream Nether Regions’ Into the Breach in its Entirety

Posted in audiObelisk on March 29th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Go ahead and click the player below to launch into an Obelisk-exclusive stream of Into the Breach, the debut full-length from Portland, Oregon‘s Nether Regions. No, that’s not a section of the city, some trendy neighborhood in the middle of everything with an ironic name. It’s a band. The four-piece is led by bassist/vocalist Joseph Wickstrom (ex-Ditchliquor, SubArachnoid Space), and they play a righteously heavy brand of riff-thrashing doom.

The first thing you’re going to think of when you hear it is High on Fire, but keep listening, because there’s a lot of subtle technicality and dynamics to what Nether Regions does that’s not so easily traced. Into the Breach sounds both under and out of control, and the two guitars really go to work on some of the tracks. Dig the harmonies at the end of “Do You Live,” or the dueling leads in “A City Far Enough Away” and you’ll hear what I mean. It’s a record that opens more with each subsequent listen, and I’m pretty sure that you’ll find it’s worth the time.

Hope you enjoy.

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Nether RegionsInto the Breach was recorded Mike Lastra and Mark Ellsworth at Smegmatone in Portland, OR, and is available now. Click here for more information. Nether Regions is Wickstrom, guitarists Kyle Bates and Todd Pidcock and drummer Ryan Moore.

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Argus: Album Art and Release Date Revealed

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 29th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Their sound might be more appropriate for a frosty Pennsylvanian winter, but Key State merchants Argus will nonetheless be releasing their sophomore album, Boldly Stride the Doomed, in May via Cruz Del Sur. Below, the always-trusty PR wire comes through with the release date, album art, tracklisting, and a bit of biographical info on the band. Oh, PR wire. Always so courteous.

Dig it:

Italian heavy metal label Cruz Del Sur Music confirms May 3, 2011, as the official release date for the sophomore album from Pennsylvania-based Argus! Titled Boldly Stride the Doomed, this is the first release from Argus via Cruz Del Sur.

Boldly Stride The Doomed track listing:
1. Abandoning the Gates of Byzantium
2. A Curse on the World
3. Wolves of Dusk
4. The Ladder
5. Durendal
6. 42-7-29
7. Boldly Stride the Doomed
8. Fading Silver Light
9. Pieces of Your Smile
10. The Ruins of Ouroboros

Argus stormed onto the underground metal scene with their twin guitar-driven, doom-tinged, working class metal sound with a self-recorded demo in early 2007, on John Brenner’s (Revelation/Against the Nature) DIY label, Bland Hand Records. The band was roundly welcomed by the metal community at home as well as abroad and established its foundation amongst friends/fans within the scene. With this initial momentum, the band created a buzz that was only solidified by their punishing live performances. Their self-titled debut album was released on Shadow Kingdom Records in 2009 receiving praise from media outlets worldwide. The band continued to gain notoriety attracting like-minded fans who celebrate the genre and its core values of hard work, discipline and integrity.

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It’s Lunchtime at Coogan’s Bluff’s House

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 29th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

German retro rockers Coogan’s Bluff released their second full-length, Magic Bubbles, through World in Sound in January. The single from the album is the track “The Information,” and they made a friendly, down-home kind of video for it that basically involves the band playing in a house while also making lunch.

Standout moments include vocalist Thilo Streubel stealing a bike and bassist Clemens Marasus showing off his package. You’ve been warned:

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