Review & Full Album Stream: The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the atomic bitchwax force field

[Click play above to stream The Atomic Bitchwax’s Force Field in its entirety. Album is out Dec. 8 on Tee Pee Records.]

The seventh full-length from veteran New Jersey heavy rockers The Atomic Bitchwax would seem to mirror the mania of their work ethic over the last several years. That is, it’s ready to go. Released by Tee Pee Records and given the title Force Field, it continues a thread of hard-hitting, riff-bending, head-spinning vitality that one found typifying the personality of 2015’s Gravitron (review here), marked by the delivery of the band’s trademark hooks at blazing tempos and with a harder-edged production style than one found on their earlier material.

In hindsight, this thread may have begun on 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here), which, in what seemed a reactionary move at the time, was comprised of a single-track instrumental riff-fest, essentially pummeling the listener with turn after turn for 40-odd minutes. Gravitron and Force Field — if their next album title doesn’t involve the word “plasma” somehow, I’m going to be personally disappointed; perhaps even “plasma inducer?” — make fitting complements to each other because of consistency of style between them, but both seem to have emerged at a sprint from out of where The Local Fuzz had positioned the three-piece of bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella.

It seems that in a way that couldn’t be appreciated at the time, The Local Fuzz could have been a pivotal moment in terms of the Bitchwax figuring out their course as this increasingly established lineup of the band took shape following Kosnik and Ryan first bringing in Pantella (known for his work in Monster Magnet, of which Kosnik is now also a member) on 2008’s TAB4, following Ryan‘s coming on board with 2005’s 3 (discussed here) — which, perhaps coincidentally, also boasted a track titled “Force Field.” In any case, where TAB4 demonstrated a sheen in its production and delved into more mid-paced and semi-psychedelic songwriting, nearly a decade later, The Atomic Bitchwax come across post-The Local Fuzz almost as a different band — they are supercharged, unforgivingly tight, and aggressive as they burn through Force Field‘s 12 tracks and 34 minutes, offering mere seconds of letup along the way.

And even those, relatively speaking, hit pretty hard. Eight of the 12 inclusions on Force Field clock in under the three-minute mark, and none of the rest touch four — the longest is “Alaskan Thunder Fuck” at 3:48 — and though the verse of “Crazy” seems to straighten out the otherwise winding style of riff that has been a hallmark of The Atomic Bitchwax‘s work since their 1999 self-titled debut and very much is here as well, a tense line of keys and, later in the track, tambourine, assure that the energy level is consistent with surrounding pieces like the full-boar “Shocker” and the instrumental “Fried, Dyed and Layin’ to the Side,” which follows.

If the effort the band has been fatigued at all by the uptick in touring they’ve undertaken in the US and abroad over the last several years, Force Field utterly refuses to show it. From opener “Hippie Speedball” through “Earth Shaker (Which Doobie U Be)” and into the landmark chorus of “Shell of a Man” and the unbridled scorch of “Houndstooth” and ‘Tits and Bones,” The Atomic Bitchwax execute fuzzy fury with precision and sound like a band with no time to waste on anything less than that.

the atomic bitchwax

Through this barrage — one might call it an “assault” were the tones not still so welcoming and their attention to melody still so much a factor in their approach overall — there are times where it seems like a miracle the songs manage to stay as memorable as they are, but in addition to the unshakable foundation of Pantella‘s drumming, variety in the arrangements of vocals between Kosnik and Ryan helps emphasize standout moments across what might otherwise be a totally blinding span, and beneath Force Field‘s surface, the complexity and nuance brought to its progressive turns prove that while it’s in a rush, it was not itself rushed in the making, which is a huge difference in the overall outcome.

As to that outcome, what one takes away from Force Field particularly in the context of Gravitron before it is how much The Atomic Bitchwax at this stage have managed to bridge the gap between classic boogie and the inherent intensity of the US East Coast. Songs like “Shocker” and the penultimate “Super Highway” aren’t shy about their punk aspects, but the groove even of a go-go-go-run-run-run piece like “Super Highway” or the preceding “Humble Brag” remains prevalent, even if one finds it overarching the quickened pulse, rather than resulting directly from, say a nod riff or undulating progression.

In that, it’s “Hippie Speedball” at the outset that sets the tone effectively by striking a balance between thrust and memorability that the band continues to proffer in dynamic fashion. Listening to Kosnik‘s run on bass under Ryan‘s solo during the first solo in the opener, the message regarding chemistry resounds, and the call and response in “Earth Shaker (Which Doobie U Be?)” only reinforces the idea, but the truth is it’s everywhere across Force Field how unreal this band has become in crafting songs that are both fiery and likely to leave a lasting impression.

As is their wont, they shake up their approach with the closer, and in this case, “Liv a Little” with its organ, synthesized-sounding handclaps, blown-out vocals and somewhat slower pacing recalls classic glam rock more than some of the psychedelia they’ve touched on in the past or the poppier vibes they’ve elicited in pieces like “Ice Age (Hey Baby)” from Gravitron, “Wreck You” from TAB4 or even the spacey “Half as Much” from 3. Even with the semi-shift in style, “Liv a Little” over in 2:42 as if to highlight the crispness of Force Field on the whole and the sheer will with which The Atomic Bitchwax at this stage in their tenure — nearly 20 years since forming, nearly 10 with this lineup — keep their material so lean and, indeed, forceful. Their style is utterly their own, and they sound like a band having a blast while pushing themselves physically and aesthetically. Accordingly, while dizzying, Force Field makes for an absolute joy of a listening experience.

The Atomic Bitchwax, “Houndstooth” official video

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Djinn and Miskatonic Premiere “Doombringer”; Even Gods Must Die out Jan. 10

Posted in audiObelisk on December 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

djinn and miskatonic

Bangaluru-based doomers Djinn and Miskatonic will release their new full-length, Even Gods Must Die, on Jan. 10 via Transcending Obscurity Records. Their second offering behind 2013’s Forever in the Realm, the record runs six tracks and 66 minutes (666, in case you missed it), using that purposefully unmanageable runtime to conjure an unconfused mash between extreme metal impulses and stonerly fare, as demonstrated on the 15:36 longest cut and opener (immediate points) “I, Zombie,” which sets the tone for what follows throughout earlier slabs like the languid “Bones of My Brothers” and the organ-topped “Doombringer” before the speedier “Frost and Steel” brings about a sharp turn toward epic, still-plenty-doomly metal that continues its thread across the final two songs, “Harvest of Kings” and “Hangman’s Hope.” The apparent addition of second guitarist Mushaf Nazeer alongside fellow axe-wielder Sriram Kvlteswaran, bassist Jayaprakash Satyamurthy, drummer Siddharth Manoharan and vocalist Gautham Khandige only thickens the fare, and as “Frost and Steel” runs through its hook delivering the title line in the catchy refrain, “Frost and steel/Swords and ice magic/On the edge of the world,” genreless and genre-defining works by the likes of Bathory come to mind for the blend of rawness and precision at work in the craft.

That’s not a comparison to be made flippantly, and I’m not, though it’s worth pointing out that it applies almost exclusively to side B (or more likely LP two, given the hour-plus runtime), and that the march of “I, Zombie” pulls much more from the Sleep‘s Dopesmoker vein of nod-riffing. These two interpretations of heavy are united by the strength and djinn and miskatonic even gods must dieheft in Satyamurthy‘s low end work and a pervasive atmosphere of doom that stays resonant even as “Hangman’s Hope” begins to crib lines from “Gallow’s Pole” near its conclusion. The vocal style with which Khandige delivers those and the rest of the lyrics throughout Even Gods Must Die (one recalls a Nile song of a similar name, and death metal is not at all absent here as an influence) is adaptable to either side, as he moves between echoing growls and cleaner, lower-register chants that play toward a ritualized feel in “Doombringer” while seeming to underscore the notion of medieval battling on “Harvest of Kings.” I suppose context is everything, and wherever he’s tasked to do so, Khandige thrives as a frontman presence cutting through the willfully summoned morass of riffs led by Kvlteswaran and Nazeer, his growls feeding the bare cruelty of their tone even as they touch on melodies in the leads of “Harvest of Kings” and elsewhere. As the source of root influence shifts almost out from under him between the hypnotically repetitive “Doombringer” and the vest-worthy metallurgy of “Frost and Steel,” he retains a sense of poise to his execution and helps to draw the line between the two sides at work on the album’s course, keeping the proceedings from losing their way and the progression from losing its flow.

Persistently dark and calling to mind smoke rising from blood-stained fields, Even Gods Must Die turns stoner-doom, sludge, and more extreme metal into a palette from which it freely draws its brooding roll. There are questions as to whether Djinn and Miskatonic might at some point seek to further unite the houses when it comes to the differing sides of this sonic persona, but after four years and a breakup that reportedly led to a reunion at the behest of Transcending Obscurity, the band has delivered a sophomore full-length of marked character and stylistic nuance made all the more subtle by an overarching rawness in its presentation. It is violent, but not at all so simple as a mere bludgeoning.

Today I have the pleasure of hosting the official premiere of “Doombringer.” Please find it on the player below, followed by more background on the band and release, courtesy of the PR wire. One more time, Djinn and Miskatonic‘s Even Gods Must Die is out Jan. 10.

Enjoy:

Djinn and Mistkatonic, “Doombringer” official premiere

India’s premier doom metal band Djinn and Miskatonic return with a mammoth album of dire tunes and bloody tales. Following up on their massively successful debut in ‘Forever in the Realm, they’ve taken things up several notches and produced an album that will stay with you long after it’s over. “Even Gods Must Die’ contains six sordid, gloomy and memorable songs with varying objectives and melancholia. Each of them follow a storylike trajectory and spring to life at the opportune moments. Meditative and meaningful, this is a well thought and properly executed album by Djinn and Miskatonic.

Line up –
Gautham Khandige – Vocals
Sriram Kvlteswaran – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Mushaf Nazeer – Guitar
Jayaprakash Satanmurthy – Bass
Siddharth Manorahan – Drums

Cover art by Fabled and The Painter Of Oz.

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Review & Full Album Stream: Shadow Witch, Disciples of the Crow

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 5th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Shadow Witch Disciples of the Crow

[Click play above to stream Shadow Witch’s Disciples of the Crow in its entirety. Album is out Dec. 15 on Salt of the Earth Records.]

Proffering eight tracks of ominous heavy blues, Shadow Witch sneak out their sophomore full-length, Disciples of the Crow, in some of the darkest hours of 2017, which seems somehow fitting considering the somewhat apocalyptic vibes on hand. Even a faster cut like the more classically metal “Stranger Skies” has a kind of Biblically-informed fire and brimstone despite its lyrical references to red dawns and yellow kings, and certainly the earlier pair of “Reap” and “Cruel” that follow opener “Love Could be Like This” have those elements at work as well as vocalist/mellotronist Earl Walker Lundy injects the material with a preacher’s soulfulness that becomes no less a defining factor than the multi-layer progressive shred guitarist Jeremy H. Hall brings to the second half of the aforementioned “Stranger Skies.”

Peppered with samples throughout — crows on the title-track (premiered here), a thunderstorm to open the six-and-a-half-minute “The Sea,” a spoken part and tolling bell later into “Cruel,” etc. — what might otherwise be a straightforward heavy rocker is given depth of character and atmosphere (samples are also provided by Lundy), but that foundation in dead-ahead structuring is very much present in the drumming of Doug Thompson and bass work of David Pannullo, who are charged as the rhythm section with keeping Disciples of the Crow moving at the clip it does. A decidedly smooth tonality from Pannullo and Hall, perhaps with the exception of the penultimate three-minute blaster “Beneath the Veil,” adds another level of intrigue overall, making the manageable 36 minutes of the record an all the more fascinating proposition worthy of repeat visits.

In the case of the latter — the fuzz — one might liken it on “Love Could be Like This” or even the stomping title-track to the round-edged warmth of Clutch‘s Elephant Riders, though it’s important to keep in mind in doing so that Shadow Witch‘s approach on the whole draws more from metallic traditionalism amid its heavy rocking pulse. Further, if one wanted to draw a line to the Maryland stalwarts, Clutch‘s “Impetus” might be just as appropriate for the immediacy of momentum with which “Love Could be Like This” begins via Thompson‘s drums. It’s also pivotal to remember that the vision cast throughout Disciples of the Crow brims with a willful, purposeful bleakness of mindset. Consider “Cruel,” with the vaguely of-our-times comment, “Your creature comfort/Honey that don’t mean a thing to me/And your social justice/Well the bell it tolls but freedom it don’t ring.”

shadow witch

This examination of privilege, kind of a chorus led into by the first verse, comes with a grim sonic turn, and while one wonders at the perspective overall with which Shadow Witch are approaching the ever-shifting, ever-manic, ever-tragic modernity in which we somehow continuously spiral, the blue-collar perspective is as clear as the adoption of bluesman’s language to present it. This is more of a theme earlier on, though even “Beneath the Veil” drips back to reference the yellow king in the lyrics again, and Disciples of the Crow sets up a nearly bipolar personality for itself with the title-track rounding out side A and “Stranger Skies” beginning a more careening side B with shades of Iron Maiden in its gallop. The flaw in that argument is not accounting for the acoustic aspects of “The Sea” or melody-fueled angular chug of closer “Dead Heroes,” but when one considers Leviathan-era Mastodon for the former or perhaps even late-’90s Tool for the rhythmic chop of the latter — at least before it straightens itself out in the hook — it’s not too much of a stretch to think of them as a more metal manifestation either than some of the earlier pieces.

Wherever Shadow Witch are coming from on a given track or in a given verse — and yes, one is reminded of Soundgarden‘s “Rusty Cage” as Lundy intones “I’m gonna break…” twice near the end of “Dead Heroes”; hard to imagine that’s not on purpose given the song’s title — the cauldron brew they concoct from that complex recipe is very much their own. Their 2016 debut, Sun Killer (discussed here), worked with a similar potency, but Disciples of the Crow is more memorable in its progression and comes across as more efficient in how it’s been crafted. While of course there are tempo shifts, most notably between the pair of the patient “The Sea” and the ensuing thrust of “Beneath the Veil” — the longest cut running headfirst into the shortest — the work Shadow Witch are doing here never feels like it’s in more of a rush than it should be, and for that, there isn’t a single track among its eight that doesn’t end up with some standout aspect emerging, particularly after a couple times through.

United by the foreboding ambience, the quality of the riffs and by Lundy‘s accomplished melodicism as a singer able to hone a dramatic feel without ever leaving behind the idea of serving the material itself rather than the other way around, Disciples of the Crow sets its own terms for its brand of accessibility, and while Shadow Witch are without a doubt speaking to the converted, the nuanced voice in which they do so leads one to think the converted will find the message well worth receiving. As well, for the fluidity of the front-to-back listen despite the turns between the first four songs and the second, in addition to the shifts nestled into side B between “Stranger Skies” and “The Sea,” “Beneath the Veil” and “Dead Heroes” — the last one feeling almost like a bonus track by the time it’s done — Disciples of the Crow is a considerable achievement for Shadow Witch and a firm declaration of who they are aesthetically and their potential to continue to develop along these lines. A moment of arrival? Maybe, but there’s enough drive at root in their sound to make me think they won’t be staying still all that long.

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Review & Track Premiere: Purple Dino, And Now What?!

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

purple dino and now what

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Soul on Fire’ from Purple Dino’s And Now What?!. Album is out Dec. 14 on Vault Relics.]

Just by looking at its comic-style cover art, with the dude passed out after drinking (which you know because of the bottle in his hand; as opposed to if someone had hit him in the head with a shovel) on the ground in what appears to be a park, surrounded by pigeons and detritus as a decidedly un-Barney-esque mascot for the band sits on a filthy bench, one might be tempted to ask the titular question of Purple Dino‘s second album, And Now What?! The lighthearted visual impression of the Vault Relics release is something of a contrast to the darker, simpler line drawing that adorned the Xanthi, Greece, four-piece’s 2014 debut, Jurassic Bar — though that also worked on the themes of dinosaurs and drinking — and while it might set up an expectation toward classic-style skate punk, the truth of And Now What?!‘s seven-track run is more complex than a single root influence can explain away.

Punk is part of it, as the riffing in the midsection of a song like “2day” demonstrates, but sure enough, that same track draws just as much on jangly surf guitar and semi-metallic crunch in the guitar work of Doukas Kostoglou, so even there nothing is easily pegged. Fronted by vocalist Ristas Kosmas, with Stef Dimou on bass and Mitsos Angelakis on drums, Purple Dino make the most of this varied course throughout And Now What?!, and while they wind up sounding like a group functioning under multiple songwriters or at very least a purposeful will to try something different for their compositions — to wit, the earlier metaloprog chug of “Her Ride” and the later brooding groove of the penultimate “Out of Me” — the album never feels unduly disjointed or like it’s making turns it doesn’t want to make. It doesn’t bumble through, in other words. It ties together.

It would be wrong wording to call that process graceful, if only because Purple Dino never seem to be shooting for “grace” as an aesthetic focus. Instead, their rock comes across as somewhat brash amid its deceptively far reach, but as cuts like the catchy opener “Soul on Fire” and the boozy rolling centerpiece “Show Me” prove, the most pervasive unifying sense is that all of these songs are stage-ready. There isn’t one piece of And Now What?! that wouldn’t serve a decided function in a setlist, and the energy in Purple Dino‘s delivery comes across in part born in the wake perhaps of groups like Truckfighters and their Greek countrymen in 1000mods — though a sonic comparison to neither would be completely accurate — even in the more spacious comedown moments of “Out of Me” on side B.

purple dino

Likewise, the preceding “Isolated,” with its blend of airy guitar early and a later payoff in cowbell-inclusive drumming and nodding riffing, seems charged with the direct purpose of inciting a crowd to move. As goals go, it’s an admirable one, but a full-length isn’t a show, and so Purple Dino‘s And Now What?! needs to find a way to unite its disparate parts in an overarching flow that’s not just pretending to be a concert, which really the production is more crisp than to allow. It accomplishes this via a subtle underlying element serves as an origin point for much of the sound-swath and, indeed, the stylistic interpretation of the cover art as well, and that is the various styles of heavy that first emerged in the 1990s, be it grunge on “Her Ride,” closer “Unknown Destination,” the post-Alice in Chains aggression in the middle of “2day” — not to mention the dialed landline-phone sample there as well — or the last-minute scream and flushed-toilet that cap “Out of Me.” If you’re looking for the place where their metallic side comes from, that would seem to be it.

And as a loose source, that vibe works smoothly with Kosmas‘ vocal style and the tonality of Kostoglou‘s guitar and Dimou‘s bass, the punch of which begins “Soul on Fire” at the very start of the record. But just as they don’t draw just from the well of a single sound, neither do Purple Dino limit themselves to one decade of influence, and the more modern facets — the production and the ultimate heavy rock that arises from their meld — come complemented by a somewhat classic side A/side B feel that puts the first four tracks of And Now What?! in position to be broadened by the final three, with “Isolated,” “Out of Me” and “Unknown Destination” longer on average than their predecessors and seeming to push farther out as they move one into the next, the swagger of “Show Me” before dissipating somewhat amid the ensuing stretch in “Isolated,” which establishes itself early with outreach of guitar and bass topped by a vague sample to up the post-rock spirit before the main riff kicks in circa the one-minute mark.

There is no epiphanous, grand summary on And Now What?! — no single track to bring all the sides together under one hook or progression — but for all the threads that Purple Dino weave, there’s never a sense that they become entangled by them, and instead, there’s an efficiency even to “Out of Me” that puts the emphasis on the consciousness at work beneath its exterior. Purple Dino, in other words, are in control of their craft, and not the other way around. They command this material, and much to their credit, that command doesn’t stop them in the slightest from sounding like they’re having a good time even in the record’s moodier stretches. Rather, it becomes another endearing facet of the overall personality, and lets them bring their listeners along for the ride as it happens, rather than simply leaving heads spinning with an offputting series of unexpected twists. Somehow, it all works. And in answer to the album’s central question, and now — hopefully — Purple Dino continue to build on it.

Purple Dino, And Now What?! studio diary

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Stahv Premiere “Jardín Infinito”; Self-Titled Debut out in January

Posted in audiObelisk on December 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

stahv

Seattle’s Stahv has set a January release date for its self-titled but on cassette through Solid 7 Records, with an LP edition to follow later in the year. The moody and progressive heavy ambient outfit is comprised of Solomon Arye Rosenschein, and the album basks in an insular feeling driven alternately by post-JK Broadrick electronic beatmaking on a cut like “Djinn Rumi” and swells of atmospheric, buzzing distortion and minimalist dronescapes on the penultimate “Preta Realm.” All told, it’s seven tracks in a manageable 32 minutes of solo studio experimentalism writ large. Each piece feels somewhat self-contained in its purpose — to wit, “The Test” indeed sounds like Rosenschein is trying something new out — but the whole of Stahv‘s Stahv ties together through its arrangements of guitar, bass, keys, drums and programming, as well as the evocative places its instrumental progressions lead toward.

Centerpiece “Forest Dweller” draws on Isis-style contemplation, while the subsequent “Benevolus” finds a niche between guitar solo flourish, strummed noisemaking, stahv self titledretro keyboard work and synth beats. Where Stahv most succeeds as an album, however, is in bringing these varied pieces together. Rosenschein has more to do in this regard in terms of transitioning from one track to the next, but even as it stands on this first offering, Stahv sets a tone early with opener “Jardín Infinito” that leaves the contextual foundation for everything that follows wide open. Which is to say, it’s not like one goes from the organ-topped rollout and near-Earth dronemaking of “Jardín Infinito” into “The Test” with an expectation of more of the same.

Rather, by attuning himself to the fine details of the sounds he’s composing and how each element and layer affects the whole, Rosenschein allows his scope to grow broader as each track plays out. And it just so happens to do exactly that, right through the somewhat kitchen-sink freakout of closer “Grüver,” which holds together various noises electric and electronic over a core acoustic progression. It’s a strangely fitting (and just generally strange) way to end Stahv‘s Stahv, but again, context is everything, and as far out as Rosenschein has already gone at that point, he leaves himself little reason not to push that much further.

One hopes he’ll continue to do so as Stahv undertakes its sonic development from this point on. In the meantime, I’m happy today to host the premiere of “Jardín Infinito” ahead of the album’s release next month. You’ll find it on the player below, followed by a few words from Rosenschein about its making and some more PR wire background concerning the record.

Please enjoy:

Solomon Arye Rosenschein on “Jardín Infinito”:

“‘Jardín Infinito’ is the sound of time spent in the gloaming, losing the way and finding the way and losing it again. It’s two and a half decades of ears pressed against speakers—the infernal fears of a teenage wastrel talking on the phone to Anton Newcombe about jumping off mountains. It’s placing half steps against whole steps and seeing what shakes out.

STAHV is Solomon Arye Rosenschein, one human creating instrumental post-metal incorporating shoegaze, funeral doom, psychedelia, and esoterica. The name means autumn in Hebrew and winter in both Arabic and Aramaic. For twenty years Rosenschein has released records under a variety of monikers. He lives in Seattle, where he writes fiction and creative nonfiction and is half of spectral-folk duo The Royal Oui.

STAHV’s debut will be available as a limited edition cassette with unique packaging through Solid 7 Records in January 2018 and on vinyl through Forbidden Place later in year.

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Merlin Premiere “Gravelord”; The Wizard Available to Preorder

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on December 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

merlin

Dramatic Kansas City heavy rockers Merlin release their new album, The Wizard, on Jan. 26 via The Company. With it, the band’s passions for sax and storytelling are revitalized in a fashion they haven’t presented since 2014’s Christ Killer (review here), their sophomore outing.  2016’s Electric Children (review here), then, may have been something of a detour in terms of approach, but either way, the thematic take is renewed here in songs like “Sage’s Crystal Staff,” “Gravelord,” “Iron Borne” and the 11-minute finale “The Wizard Suite,” which rounds out with insistent declarations of “I am the wizard” that come across remarkably like death throes.

And maybe they are — I don’t know. The plot of Merlin‘s latest opus remains something of a mystery, but their sound intrigues as ever, and The Wizard is available to preorder merlin gravelordfrom The Company as of today. To mark the occasion, I’ve been given permission to host a premiere for “Gravelord,” which you’ll find below in all its ragged and momentum-driven tidings. On the record, its garage-fuzz assault directly follows opener “Abyss,” and in comparison to cuts like the wah-drenched “Golem” or “Sage’s Crystal Staff,” it’s one of the more straightforward cuts The Wizard presents, with a strong foundation in its hook that forms the basis of what surrounds, which as ever feels chaotic and theatrical without ever actually losing its sense of craft.

That, to-date, has been Merlin‘s specialty. They revel in these dark, oft-obscured themes and take a correspondingly bizarre and quirky approach to songwriting, but they absolutely pull it off every time. Part psychedelia, part classic doom, part heavy rock, they refute easy classification and instead bask in a series of sonic turns that keep the listener attentive and guessing all the while. Don’t expect “Gravelord” to speak for the entirety of The Wizard, but do expect it to rock.

And please enjoy:

Merlin, “Gravelord” official premiere

Chapter II: Gravelord

In the Wizards absence, the world he had once protected has fallen victim to three ancient lords: The Gravelord, The Golem and the Atronach. The Gravelord being the Lord of the Dead has begun tainting the land of the living with his army of the undead…

It’s been 4 long years since Merlin’s last conceptual album, Christ Killer was released. In that time of chaos, band members have came and gone, the cast has changed, equipment has broke, alliances were created and a whole lot of rituals have been performed from KC to Psycho Las Vegas. Merlin have finally deemed it time to bring you their next concept story, The Wizard. Featuring new members Chase Thayer on bass guitar and Stu Kersting on Saxophone and Guitar, Merlin have twisted their sound even further into the realms of the mystic unknown and unfamiliar territory…

Tracklisting:
1. Abyss
2. Gravelord
3. Sages Crystal Staff
4. Golem
5. Iron borne
6. Tarantula Hawk
7. The Wizard Suite

Merlin is:
Carter Lewis – Guitars, Synth
Stu Kersting – Guitars, Saxophones
Chase Thayer – Bass Player
Caleb Wyels – Percussions
Jordan Knorr – Vocals, Storytelling, Omnichord

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audiObelisk Transmission 063

Posted in Podcasts on November 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk podcast 63

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I don’t do podcasts that often at this point. I figure between the radio stream — which runs 24/7 — and the sundry track streams and other media, video premieres, and so on, there’s not much need. But every now and then I feel completely overwhelmed by the onslaught of music and the chance to put together a compilation of tracks is just too good to pass up. Most of the time, nobody complains. It being the internet, I generally take that as a good sign. If it sucked or was a crappy idea, for sure someone would be telling me to screw off.

So is there a running theme for this latest podcast transmission? Nope, not really. If you’re looking for something to tie it all together, it’s just stuff that I’ve been listening to lately. Some of it has already been covered — Low Orbit, T.G. Olson, 3rd Ear Experience — and some of it has coverage pending — Bong Wish, The Discussion, Arcadian Child, Zong, etc. — but basically this is all what that might be coming out of my speakers over the last however long. Couldn’t be any simpler than that, but for what it’s worth, I think it came together really well, whether it’s Telescope moving into Bong Wish or the transition into the second hour, which is ultra-tripped out, as usual.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Track details follow:

First Hour:

0:00:00 Son of the Morning, “Left Hand Path” from Son of the Morning EP
0:05:08 All Souls, “Silence” from All Souls
0:09:15 Telescope, “With Your Truth” from Telescope EP
0:13:06 Bong Wish, “My Luv” from Bong Wish EP
0:15:29 Torso, “Mirror of My Mind” from Limbs
0:20:17 The Discussion, “Surf Jesus” from European Tour EP 2017
0:24:14 Arcadian Child, “Electric Red” from Afterglow
0:27:01 Comacozer, “Nystagmus” from Kalos Eidos Scopio
0:39:23 Deadly Vipers, “Dead Summer” from Fueltronaut
0:45:20 Low Orbit, “Dead Moon” from Spacecake
0:51:31 T.G. Olson, “On a High Like a Mountain” from Searching for the Ur-Plant
0:55:28 Jesus the Snake, “Karma” from Jesus the Snake

Second Hour:

1:03:31 Zong, “Cosmic Embryo” from Zong
1:16:18 Les Lekin, “Morph” from Died with Fear
1:29:50 3rd Ear Experience, “Infinite Unmanifest (Warm-up Jam Day One)” from Stoned Gold
1:46:34 Sleeping Pandora, “Sunrizer” from Quiet Pass

Total running time: 2:02:04

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 063

 

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SubRosa Premiere “The Mirror” from SubRosa Subdued: Live at Roadburn 2017

Posted in audiObelisk on November 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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SubRosa will release SubDued: Live at Roadburn 2017 on Dec. 1 through Burning World and Roadburn Records. Today I have the extreme pleasure of hosting the official premiere of ‘The Mirror,’ and as the entire album has already been reviewed here, I thought I might just take a minute to speak about the experience of seeing the Salt Lake City outfit play in this context. Won’t take a minute.

Het Patronaat is a revamped church included as a venue for the Roadburn festival in Tilburg, the Netherlands. It has stained glass windows, a high, vaulted ceiling, and hardwood floors. subrosa-subdued-live-at-roadburn-2017When it’s empty, before a band goes on, it feels cavernous. Massive. When it’s full and you’re pressed up against the stage, it can be as intimate as the smallest of Roadburn‘s venues. You’re right there. The band’s right there. And, oh yeah, there are about 700 other people in the room with you, but if you don’t turn around and look, it’s easy enough to pretend you’re in your own world. That’s basically how I watched SubRosa play their ‘SubDued’ set at this year’s Roadburn.

They’d been on the Main Stage the prior afternoon, playing their most recent album, the brilliant For this We Fought the Battle of Ages (review here), in its entirety, but the concept behind ‘SubDued’ being that they’d strip away much of the distortion in favor of a mostly-acoustic presentation made it unmissable from my point of view. The setlist was older tracks — nothing off the latest record — and highlights like “Whippoorwill,” “The Inheritance” and “Cosey Mo” received new life through their revamped arrangements, the focus on meditative melody, raw rhythmic sway and a masterful presentation that turned deeply-weighted goth-tinged post-metal into exploratory neofolk no less complete in its realization. I don’t think any single moment emphasized this so much as when they played “The Mirror” as the second to last song in the set.

In terms of the arrangement, “The Mirror” was as minimal as SubRosa got: voice, drumsticks against microphone stands and a single floor tom for percussion, and that’s it. The violins, flutes, bass, acoustic and electric guitar, and samples/other noises that filled out other inclusions were set aside. Rebecca Vernon led Sarah Pendleton and Kim Pack in harmony as she and drummer Andy Patterson — situated behind a front-line of players that also included bassist Levi Hanna and guest flutist/vocalist Kelly Schilling — kept time together in that seemingly simple fashion. subrosa subdued (photo jj koczan)It was beautiful and affecting in kind.

The song itself tells the story of a woman who, by her own admission, “took the easy road.” She gets married and has five kids in five years because that’s what you’re supposed to do where she’s from, but when her husband leaves her, she’s alone and poor and full of regret. In the end, she blames not him for the affair she had, but herself for not seeing the error of the lifepath she chose: the line, “I just look in the mirror and I find I only have myself to blame” stands out in a verse preceding the ultimate moral lesson of, “You gotta push against the current to get somewhere.” It’s a powerful sentiment, powerfully presented.

I’ll admit I wasn’t familiar with “The Mirror” before seeing it performed at Het Patronaat this past April. It comes from SubRosa‘s 2006 demo/EP The Worm has Turned and to my knowledge hasn’t featured on any subsequent release. This would seem to make its inclusion on SubDued: Live at Roadburn 2017 all the more special, since it’s a standout and something kind of exclusive to this form, this time, and this moment for the band. It certainly felt that way when they were playing it, and as I watched and listened, I became utterly entranced in the melody and the storytelling in a way that hasn’t left my mind in the half-year since. I feel fortunate for having been there to witness it and know that, in fact, I was.

Enjoy the premiere of “The Mirror” below, followed by some more preliminaries from the PR wire:

First ever live album by Subrosa after 5 studio albums on labels as Profound Lore and I Hate Records.

Recorded at the prestigious Roadburn Festival 2017 in a packed Patronaat. Mixed and mastered by Andy Patterson of Subrosa.

Vinyl version will follow in early 2018.

TRACKLIST
1. Whippoorwill
2. Borrowed Time Borrowed Eyes
3. Sugar Creek
4. The Inheritance
5. Cosey Mo
6. The Mirror
7. No Safe Harbor

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