Review & Track Premiere: The Heavy Eyes, Love Like Machines

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 20th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The Heavy Eyes Love Like Machines

[Click play above to stream ‘Late Night’ from The Heavy Eyes’ Love Like Machines, out March 27 on Kozmik Artifactz. Preorders available here.]

It’s been quite a first decade for the ostensibly Memphis-based four-piece The Heavy Eyes, whose members actually reside at this point in different states and who careen through the riffs of their fourth long-player, Love Like Machines, with a sans-chicanery fluidity that totally undercuts that distance. By the time they got around to their last album, 2015’s He Dreams of Lions (review here), the then-trio had refined their approach to a remarkable degree, building off the methods and the successes of 2012’s Maera and 2011’s Heavy Eyes, as well as concurrent EPs and other short digital offerings, had toured to support their work and, crucially, had found an audience hungry for more.

And though they took part in Magnetic Eye Records‘ tribute to Jimi Hendrix (review here), also in 2015, and issued Live in Memphis (review here) in 2018, there’s no question that the five-year break between their third and fourth full-lengths changes the context in which Love Like Machines arrives. But fair enough. The band itself has also changed, bringing in longtime engineer Matthew Qualls — who has helmed each of their albums, including this one — on guitar and backing vocals as a fourth full-time member of the band alongside vocalist/guitarist Tripp Shumake, bassist Wally Anderson and drummer Eric Garcia, and recommitting themselves to the prospect of recording and touring as The Heavy Eyes.

Their sonic identity remains based around their songwriting, and though Qualls and Garcia both add percussion here and there, Shumake blends acoustic and electric guitar on opener “Anabasis,” and the later pair of “Bright Light” and the especially catchy fuzzer “A Cat Named Haku” dig into highlight low end and drum compression, the overarching impression Love Like Machines makes — the album’s title line delivered in side A’s “Late Night” — is one that can’t help but be considered straightforward with such a focus on structure and such tightness of their performance. The grooves swing and aren’t shy about it, and Shumake‘s vocals and Southern-tinged lyrical patterns can call to mind ClutchAll Them Witches and Valley of the Sun at any given moment — and that’s before you get to the hyper-Queens of the Stone Age vibes of the penultimate “Vera Cruz” (with guest piano by Carmen Fowlkes) — but if The Heavy Eyes are sending a message in this sharp-dressed 10-track/34-minute outing, it’s that they’re getting down to business.

I don’t know whether they’re feeling the weight of the five years it’s taken to manifest their fourth album or what, but beneath the right-on fuzz in the guitars, the good-times hooks of “Made for the Age” and “The Profession,” and the half-intro purpose “Anabasis” serves with its acoustic/electric blend, there’s a strong sense of purpose behind the songs on Love Like Machines, and an audience engagement that comes across as being as far from coincidental as you can get. These songs, written in parts exchanged digitally over state lines and recorded in more than one session with Qualls and guest guitar appearances from Justin Toland of Dirty Streets on “God Damn Wolf Man” and Justin Tracy, who also appeared on Live in Memphis, on “The Profession.”

the heavy eyes

The latter is of particular note as regards the idea of purpose in what The Heavy Eyes are doing on Love Like Machines, since the profession in question — at least somewhat contrary to where one’s mind might go in associating the title — is rock and roll itself, and that song is nothing if not an example of the band’s pro-shop presentation, crisp and assured in its delivery and interesting to the ear without a hint of indulgence on the part of its creators. Even “Hand of Bear,” which might earn a sideways glance for a verse line like, “Copper-color skin, so you’d best beware,” in recounting a story on a Native American theme, is maddeningly catchy — “Whoa, yeah yeah/Guess he earned his name as the Hand of Bear” becomes a signature hook, backing vocals and all.

It is not necessarily a revolutionary approach that The Heavy Eyes are taking, but neither are they directing themselves to the tenets of genre, instead shaping these to suit the needs of their songwriting. Craft is primary. “Made for the Age” is the longest inclusion at 4:51, and no other song on Love Like Machines even touches four minutes (“Vera Cruz” lists at 3:59), with “Late Night,” “God Damn Wolf Man” and “The Profession” under three. Yet none of these songs or the closer “Idle Hands” at 3:09 lack character or identity.

They are deceptively rich in their mix and able to shift in meter from one to the next while maintaining an overarching flow to the whole that gives the finale a due feeling of spaciousness after the departure of very-Cali departure of “Vera Cruz” and the standout choruses in “The Profession” and “A Cat Named Haku” earlier, and the deeper one digs into the proceedings, the more nuance one is likely to find even in songs that seem so straightforward in their initial purpose. Ultimately, questions of whether or not The Heavy Eyes will be able to gain back some of the momentum that the stretch since He Dreams of Lions may have taken away are secondary.

What matters here, as Love Like Machines expresses so plainly, are the songs themselves and the energy the band have put into constructing and recording them. They leave no question as to who they are as a band or what they want to be doing, and with a decade behind them, they stand mature in their approach but still hungry-seeming, still reaching out to the crowd in front of an imagined stage, still inviting everyone to take a step forward. It would be a hard invite to refuse, frankly, and if one thinks of Love Like Machines as a live set, then it’s pretty clear The Heavy Eyes put on a hell of a show. They’re doing their part here. It’s up to the listener now to get on board, but The Heavy Eyes have only made it as easy and as appealing as possible to do so. That’s all they can do. Well, that and tour like bastards.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 28 (Reed Mullin Tribute)

Posted in Radio on February 14th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

I didn’t get to say so in the episode itself, but the reason I end the latest edition of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio with two live tracks is because, although I never knew him, it was always amazing to watch Reed Mullin play, and it was always clear he relished the impact his work had on the crowd.

The entire episode is a tribute to the recently-deceased Corrosion of Conformity drummer, and it was kind of a whim of an idea I had to put it together. I was doing a regular-type playlist and it just kind of felt like I should say something about Mullin passing away — I already did a remembrance post, so I’ll spare you that here — and then I started to think of what song to play to go with that, and come on. Really? One song? I asked if anyone at Gimme had done any kind of special, and next thing I new, I was thumbing through the decades-spanning C.O.C. catalog to get tracks for a full playlist. And that’s where I wound up. Two straight hours of Corrosion of Conformity and zero regrets.

I tried to cover the different eras of the band as much and as broadly as I could. A few of the bigger hits are in there — “Albatross,” “Deliverance,” etc. — but for a band who’ve done so much, obviously there was a ton of ground to cover and no way to get it all in. The only full-length not included, of course, was 2005’s In the Arms of God, on which Mullin didn’t play. Other than that, I hope this stuff serves as a reminder of how special his playing was and how much he brought to the band.

Anyhow, thanks if you get to listen.

The Obelisk Show airs 5PM Eastern today at http://gimmeradio.com

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 02.14.20

Corrosion of Conformity Deliverance Deliverance
Corrosion of Conformity Prayer Animosity
Corrosion of Conformity Mad World Animosity
Corrosion of Conformity Rat City Corrosion of Conformity
Corrosion of Conformity Trucker IX
BREAK
Corrosion of Conformity Lord of This World Nativity in Black: A Tribute to Black Sabbath
Corrosion of Conformity Wolf Named Crow No Cross No Crown
Corrosion of Conformity Born Again for the Last Time Wiseblood
Corrosion of Conformity Eye for an Eye Eye for an Eye
Corrosion of Conformity Albatross Deliverance
Corrosion of Conformity Damned for All Time Blind
Corrosion of Conformity 13 Angels America’s Volume Dealer
Corrosion of Conformity The Snake Has No Head Wiseblood
Corrosion of Conformity The Moneychangers Corrosion of Conformity
Corrosion of Conformity A Quest to Believe (A Call to the Void) No Cross No Crown
Corrosion of Conformity Technocracy Technocracy
Corrosion of Conformity Positive Outlook Eye for an Eye
Corrosion of Conformity Kill Denmark Vesey IX
Corrosion of Conformity The Megalodon Megalodon EP
corrosion of Conformity Dance of the Dead Blind
Corrosion of Conformity Diablo Blvd. America’s Volume Dealer
Corrosion of Conformity Drowning in a Daydream Wiseblood
Corrosion of Conformity Seven Days Deliverance
BREAK
Corrosion of Conformity My Grain Live Volume
Corrosion of Conformity Clean My Wounds Live Volume

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Feb. 28. Thanks for listening if you do.

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Review & Track Premiere: Sleepwulf, Sleepwulf

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 13th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Sleepwulf Sleepwulf

[Click play above to hear the premiere of ‘Wizard Slayer’ from Sleepwulf’s self-titled debut, out digitally March 6 with LP preorders up the same day.]

Traditionalist heavy rock has itself become a generation-spanning tradition, most especially in Sweden, where more than 20 years ago, early purveyors of hyper-stylized heavy ’70s analog-worshipers began to coalesce an aesthetic that continues to resonate with bands domestic and international. Though many of the microgenre’s once-lead advocates in acts like Witchcraft and Graveyard and last-decade comers like Blues Pills and Kadavar have moved on to more modern sounds in their particular approaches, there have been plenty of others to pick up the slack in bands like Dunbarrow, Demon HeadMaidaVale or any number of Sverige boogie acts. Newcomers Sleepwulf take a doomier approach to vintage vibes on their self-titled Cursed Tongue Records debut long-player.

Having signed to the label following two well-received singles spread widely through social media word of mouth, the Kristianstad four-piece of vocalist Owen Robertson, guitarist Sebastian Ihme, bassist Viktor Sjöström and drummer Carl Lindberg present nine tracks and 36 minutes of proto-doomed songcraft, willfully familiar as it should be but marked out nonetheless by warmth of tone, catchiness of the songwriting and the band’s clear ability to affect a mindset in their listener. Sleepwulf, which includes the two singles “Lucifer’s Light” and “Misty Mountain” on sides A and B, respectively, is a beginning point of what one hopes will be a longer-term progression, but its fluidity speaks to the band’s commitment to what they’re doing in style as well as the substance of the tracks themselves.

They are not dabbling, not getting their feet wet. They’re schooled in the methods and the modes, and whether it’s the sweeping groove of closer “One Eyed Jailor” or the shuffling jive of pieces like “Beasts of Collision” and “Tumbling Towers,” Sleepwulf effectively convey the tenets of vintage heavy doom without losing sight of bringing something of themselves to the proceedings, whether that’s in Ihme‘s soloing style or the melodies of Robertson‘s vocals, Sjöström‘s bass tone or Lindberg‘s clever snare work.

These are, again, familiar elements, and the spectre that looms over much of Sleepwulf‘s Sleepwulf is that of Pentagram‘s First Days Here, their ultra-seminal collection of early and/or lost recordings which, compiled in 2004, helped ease the path to set a generation of retro heavy in motion. And the dictates of trend have perhaps left vintage doom behind over the last few years, but that suits a band like Sleepwulf just fine as they roll through the immediately nodding riff of “Wizard Slayer” at the outset or tap Witchcraft‘s “Her Sisters They Were Weak”-riffing for their own finale.

The album as a whole is not necessarily slow in terms of pace, but seems to crawl just the same, or perhaps ooze as its tones unfurl themselves in the songs, and that makes its actually-downtempo stretches all the more effective. Cuts like presumed side A capper “Standing Stones” are spacious and emblematic of the patience that might emerge in Sleepwulf‘s sound over time, and even as it picks up pace to stand next to the likes of “Beasts of Collision,” there’s a sense of the return pending that does nothing to undercut appreciation for it when it arrives.

sleepwulf

That’s a skill in itself — to telegraph a thing and then pull it off anyway — but it speaks to the quality of the turns Sleepwulf are able to make all throughout the tracks here. They didn’t give much indication of such proclivities in “Lucifer’s Light,” keeping largely to a bouncing rhythm for the abidingly-unpretentious three-minute single, but the more insistent feel that comes to a head in “Misty Mountain” offers some clue as to where they’re coming from overall, though the subsequent “Wicked Man” — the opening line, “You were born a wicked man,” immediately bringing to mind Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ “I’ll Cut You Down” — turns back to a more dead-ahead, hairy-toned style of riffing.

Rather, it’s in moments like the centerpiece interlude/side B opener “God of the Gaps” that Sleepwulf reinforce the atmosphere in which they’re working, and having done so, they’re all the more free to let loose a moment of boogie in “Tumbling Towers” as they do. You can have all the gear in the universe, record live to tape in a cave 5,000 meters below the surface of the earth with microphones made of mammoth bones or in the moldiest of decrepit low-ceiling basements, but the most necessary component to pull off a vintage approach is vibe, and that’s exactly what Sleepwulf have working most in their favor on their debut album.

Of course, the last remaining question about the band and their impressive debut is what will come next. There are a couple newer acts out there — the above-cited among them — who to one degree or another have carried across retro stylizations without losing their edge or creative progression, even if those who helped forge the path have largely let it languish. But it can be a tricky balance, and as ever, even more than the commitment to genre tenets, what’s going to help Sleepwulf most in the longer term is their songwriting, which is readily on display throughout these tracks, if in nascent form. The real trick will be to discover how Sleepwulf grow their doom over time. Will their sound expand to incorporate outside elements? What will that inherently do to the shuffle and roll that serves them so well here? Can they twist the tradition of traditionalism?

Naturally, it’s hard to even guess at this point, but even the simple curiosity should speak to the quality of the work Sleepwulf are doing and the fact that their project, whatever it ends up being, is worth pursuing, wherever it might lead. For what it’s worth, if one reads into the self-titled the idea that the prior singles were written earlier, then some of the material that surrounds, particularly in the longer side-ending tracks, does find a way to balance sonic complexity without giving up the basic sonic foundation underscoring the record as a whole. It’s another angle at which Sleepwulf‘s potential can be seen, but really, through any you might view, the picture is the same.

Sleepwulf, “Lucifer’s Light” official video

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Review & Full Album Stream: Shadow Witch, Under the Shadow of a Witch

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 12th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Shadow Witch Under the Shadow of a Witch

[Click play above to stream Under the Shadow of a Witch by Shadow Witch in its entirety. Album is out Friday on Argonauta Records.]

The two halves of Shadow Witch‘s Under the Shadow of a Witch break just about evenly into vinyl sides, each one bearing its own subtitle. The first is ‘Spearfinger and Other Cautionary Tales’ and the second is ‘Fountain and Other Love Songs.’ In this way, the Kingston, New York, four-piece of vocalist/Mellotronist/noisemaker Earl Walker Lundy, guitarist Jeremy Hall, bassist David Pannullo and drummer Doug Beans (since replaced by Justin Zipperle) introduce the two central concepts with which their third album is working, largely through metaphor, bluesy, distinctly Southern-rooted storytelling, but rife with a realization of the dark heavy rock aesthetic the band have been building toward over the course of their two prior LPs, 2017’s Disciples of the Crow (review here) and 2016’s Sun Killer (discussed here), as they’ve moved from labels like Snake Charmer Coalition, Salt of the Earth and Kozmik Artifactz to find a home on Argonauta Records.

Under the Shadow of a Witch contains nine songs and altogether runs just under 40 minutes in total, indeed opening with “Spearfinger” in immediate and intense fashion, the four-piece clearly rushing to get their audience swept up in the energy of their shortest inclusion, while on the other end, “Fountain” closes at over eight minutes as the longest cut. All between, their songs are crafted, arranged thoughtfully, and very much playing with a studio presentation toward a live energy. That is, they’re not trying to ape a live show by being overly or needlessly raw, but there is attention given in the recording by Paul Orofino at Millbrook Sound to maintaining to one degree or another the vitality with which “Spearfinger” casts such a striking initial impression. Even as the penultimate “Sour” leads into the finale, it does so on a swell of noise and layered soloing from Hall with crashing cymbals behind.

As there would be on a record with such consideration underlying its execution, there is no shortage of dynamic at play in terms of tempo and general style, whether it’s the subdued acoustic beginnings of early highlight “Demon’s Hook” or side B leadoff “Saint Magdalene” — fleeting though they may be — or the effectively-placed emergence of Mellotron in the final-minute slowdown of the former, the chorus of which lives up to its title, i.e., that hook is for sure a demon in its potential to possess. It would perhaps be the catchiest song on Under the Shadow of a Witch — the great irony of the album is that for as much as it’s meant to be taken as Side Caution and Side Love, as it were, the component tracks do so much work to stand out individually — but for the subsequent “Wolf Among the Sheep,” begun with a spoken preach and working along an anti-dogmatic theme critiquing organized religion in a manner well presented if familiar.

While we’re talking about ironies, it’s hard to imagine Shadow Witch, in terms of listeners, aren’t preaching to the converted there, but again, it’s the chorus that’s the real sway of the piece as it rounds out the launchpoint salvo with “Spearfinger” and “Demon’s Hook,” portraying Shadow Witch as a band sure in their approach and ready for consideration at another level from where they’ve been before. They have, in terms of sound, found what they’ve been looking for this whole time.

shadow witch (photo by Kristin Troost Hall)

A third album is a natural place for that to happen, but more specifically, one can’t help but be drawn to the sense of frontman presence Lundy brings to his performance here. Part of that is that his voice, presented often in layers, with harmonies and other nuances of arrangements — dude can sing, and that always helps — is forward in the mix as to stand out from Hall‘s guitar, Pannullo‘s bass and Beans‘ drums, but the storytelling elements that begin with “Spearfinger” continue throughout that lead salvo and into the lush and nodding riff of “Witches of Aendor,” which touches on metal in its later reaches as Shadow Witch are wont to do without ever giving in entirely to aggressive posturing. Through that careening, chugging finish and into the more straightforward side A finale “Shifter” — another chorus not to be discounted — Lundy‘s task is to unite the material through whatever variety surrounds, and he does so impressively while donning a host of characters and perspectives along with ample melodic command.

There are moments where the balance tips one way or the other between band and frontman, but that ends up adding to the overarching dynamic of Under the Shadow of a Witch as a whole. As “Saint Magdalene” introduces the notion of a more patient side B about to unfold, it does so with a stepped-back Lundy (relatively speaking) and a stepped-up groove, an airier guitar returning temporarily in the second half of the song amid soulful, bluesy-almost-in-spite-of-themselves vocals that lead to a rousing solo. The brashest and most aggro of the nine inclusions, “6×6” is call-and-response through the verse and crunch in the rhythm — all business — as it makes its way to the chorus and a jarring strike of guitar after the title line is delivered. If Shadow Witch are metal anywhere on their third LP, it’s in “6×6,” but that doesn’t come at the expense of songwriting, which remains top priority.

It and “Sour” make a fitting pair for a dug-in vibe ahead of the closer, keeping momentum rolling without losing the thread of complexity coinciding, even if less infectious than “Demon’s Hook” or “Wolf Among the Sheep” earlier. The eight minutes of “Fountain” that follow are time well spent, with guest slide guitar from fellow Kingstonian Pat Harrington of Geezer that’s built toward with a payoff of the bluesy aspects both in Lundy‘s singing and in the progression behind him. They cap with howling wails and intertwining solos in a fitting wash atop the solid rhythmic foundation that’s underscored the various moves made all along, and give Under the Shadow of a Witch an earned sendoff into the ether of its own making.

True to its side’s subtitle, “Fountain” is a love song ultimately, and while I’m not sure I’d say the same about “6×6” — I’m not sure I wouldn’t, mind you — Shadow Witch‘s performance across the span of the full-length as a whole, taken in sides or song-by-song, shines with the feeling of an intention fulfilled. It is the work of a band who went into the studio with a purpose, and who realized that purpose in righteous form. Preach on, Shadow Witch.

Shadow Witch, “Wolf Among the Sheep” official video

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Pale Mare Premiere “Voidgazer” from II EP out April 3; Announce Live Dates

Posted in audiObelisk on February 11th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

pale mare

The first time you put on the new single from Pale Mare, it becomes obvious why they chose to name it as they did. Not much else to call such a thing other than “Voidgazer,” which is the title they gave it. The track is shorter by two full minutes than the next shortest of its three compatriot inclusions on the Toronto-based trio’s new EP, Pale Mare II — out April 3 through Seeing Red Records (world) and Ancient Temple Recordings (Canada) — and after the initial charge of “House of War” and the gallop-over-your-head groove in “Zealot,” the intensity and focus on impact feels nothing if not earned. Intensity is the fuel that Pale Mare seem to be huffing, but their pummel isn’t just down to tonal weight and speedy riffs, though as “Zealot” winds its way through its apex, they offer plenty of both. Instead, across the 27-minute EP, Pale Mare cast forth a pummel that harnesses High on Fire-style drive without aping Matt Pike‘s style of guitar playing and calls to mind earlier-Neurosis‘ intertwining vocal patterns without being really at all post-metallic. And not for nothing, but I was listening to a track off the new Sepultura record the other day on a whim and “House of War” kind of feels like there’s a little bit of that going on as well.

But this metallic amalgam has been duly internalized by the trio of guitarist/vocalist Eytan Gordon, drummer/vocalist Kevin Richards and bassist James Tulloch to a degree of surprising individualism. The elements are familiar pale mare iienough, as one might tell from above, and “Voidgazer” has its spoken sample and nine-minute finale “Remains” has its EP-unto-itself vibe and maybe-you’re-imagining-it wisp of a keyboard line worked into its fading guitar finish, but amid the immediate onslaught and the subsequent unfolding across such a compact offering, Pale Mare find footing on ground that’s their own as much as it’s grown up from underlying roots of heavy metal and noise. It is, in its execution, neither and both of these things, and it’s sludge and not sludge, but most importantly, it’s performed with the self-assurance of a band who know that what they’re doing is what they want to be doing. I wouldn’t call it poised, if only because it’s so brash in style that the word doesn’t seem to fit, but in terms of aesthetic, there doesn’t seem to be any doubt on the part of Pale Mare that they’re able to make their songs go where they want, and thus, able to make their audience go where they want. A flash of melody in the guitar during the second half of “House of War” — shh, don’t tell anyone — speaks of more complexity to come, but Pale Mare II already brings plenty to bear, without compromising aggression to do it.

Further, the tendency is to think of a band’s early EPs as preludes to full-length albums — because usually they are — but the form suits Pale Mare remarkably well and gives Pale Mare II an almost punkish edge. I’m not sure they’d be well served by having a bunch of filler or trying to play to a sense of breadth in the way an LP might require, since part of what makes these songs work so well is the upfront manner in which they’re presented, but of course there’s no real way to tell what the three-piece would do with a longer-form record until they do it. Presumably they’ll get there in time, and if they handle that task with the same formidable sense of presence they bring to Pale Mare II, they’ll be fine either way. Anything in their destructive path, however, might not be able to say the same.

Pale Mare have newly announced a stretch of live dates alongside Mother Iron Horse. You’ll find those below, following the premiere of “Voidgazer,” which it’s my pleasure to host ahead of the EP’s April 3 arrival.

Please enjoy:

Pale Mare was born out of the desire to play music that is loud, aggressive and full of thick groovy riffs. They released their self-titled EP in November of 2017 through Medusa Crush Records which was met with high praise.

Having provided Canadian support for touring artists such as Eyehategod, Corrosion of Conformity, Windhand, Satan’s Satyrs, Mutoid Man, Weedeater, Serial Hawk, Black Wizard, King Buffalo, Set and Setting and even Perturbator – Pale Mare have established themselves in their home town of Toronto as a massive force to be reckoned with. Their sound has been likened by some in the same sonic territory as early Baroness, High On Fire, Mastodon and Black Tusk; full of fire, attitude, brimstone, tone and soul – and with a new EP (mixed by Andrew Schnieder, Mastered by Brad Boatwright) ready to be unleashed, Pale Mare prepare to take their sound to the masses full guns ablaze.

Recorded at Locust Ridge studios outside of Kitchener, Ontario.

Mixed by Andrew Schnieder (Converge, Mutoid Man, Ken Mode, Old Man Gloom)
(http://andrewschneideraudio.com/what)

Mastered by Brad Boatright (Sleep, COC, Yob)
(http://audiosiege.com/About/engineers.html)

Inspired by the track “Voidgazer” the EP is completed with jawdroppingly dark and twisted artwork by Toronto based tattoo artist Arthur Mills.

Tracklisting:
1. House of War
2. Zealot
3. Voidgazer
4. Remains

PALE MARE live (April 10-16 w/ Mother Iron Horse):
Friday April 10th: Brooklyn, NY: Gold Sounds
Saturday April 11th: Pittsburgh, PA: Gooski’s:
Monday April 13th: Wichita, KS: TBA
Tuesday April 14th: Denver, CO: Seventh Circle
Wednesday April 15th: Colorado Springs, CO: The Nickle
Thursday April 16th: Las Vegas, NV: TBA
Friday April 17th: Phoenix, AZ: YUCCA TAPROOM
Saturday April 18th: Psycho Smokeout 2020: Catch one: Los Angeles, CA
Sunday April 19th: San Fran, CA: The Knockout
Monday April 20th: Portland, IR: High Water Mark
Tuesday April 21st: SEATTLE, WA: The Funhouse

Pale Mare is:
Eytan Gordon – guitar/vocals
James Tulloch – bass
Kevin Richards – drums/vocals

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Kungens Män, Trappmusik

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Kungens Män trappmusik

[Click play above to hear the premiere of Kungens Män’s Trappmusik, out today on Adansonia Records.]

Ye weary souls in search of psychedelic serenity, look no further than the Trappmusik, the latest in a line of offerings from Swedish explorers Kungens Män. Issued through Adansonia, the seven-song/78-minute affair is a mostly-mellow blissout, well beyond the point commonly reserved for consideration as “manageable,” but who cares when the waters they wade in — or scuttle, since these kingsmen seem to have a thing for shellfish, and, one assumes, puns — are so warm? Take the 15 minutes of utter joy in “Vibbdirektivet,” a directive of vibe that’s not only easy to follow, but an utter joy in the doing, with unashamed guitar shimmer and a subtle rhythmic luster to match.

Its subdued take is enough to make even the snare and fuzz meandering of 10-minute opener “Fånge i Universum” seem active by comparison, topped with cosmic echoes of psaxophone (that’s a psychedelic sax for those who can dig it) as it is, and one supposes that cut is more active in its way, but in terms of general scale, it’s still much more about setting an atmosphere of patient, graceful flow than shoving its way into the vacuum of space. Dug in and jazzy in its spirit, Trappmusik is affecting in the manner in which it unfolds across its span, from that leadoff to the trip-hop-via-krautrock-and-more-sax progginess of the subsequent “Senvägen,” which leans harder on the bassline for more of a nighttime richness but still finds its way into the trance of the 2LP overall.

The album is a kind of semi-departure for Kungens Män, who were last heard from only months ago on Dec. 2019’s Hårt Som Ben (discussed here) — which itself followed Feb. 2019’s Chef (review here), which followed Aug. 2018’s Fuzz på Svenska, which followed July 2017’s Dag & Natt (review here), which followed 2016’s Stockholm Maraton, 2015’s Förnekaren (review here), and so on through a slew of live and studio offerings dating back to their start in 2012 — in that it tips the balance in their sound in this mellower direction, but it doesn’t seem like that should be read necessarily as a statement on the band’s part of some future direction.

Rather, Trappmusik appears to have been recorded during the same session in May 2019 as Hårt Som Ben, at Silence Studio in Värmland, Sweden. The band — a listed lineup of drummer/percussionist Mattias Indy Pettersson, synthesist/programmer Peter Erikson, guitarists Hans Hjelm, Mikael Tuominen and Gustav Nygren, with contributions as well from others — reportedly recorded 13 hours of improvised music over the course of three days with engineer Isak Sjöholm, so indeed Trappmusik as the second may not be the last LP to come from that session, but is less perhaps an indication of intent going forward in terms of the band’s growth than it is a question of how this particular release was whittled down from those expansive recordings.

Its purpose is contained, in other words, and thus the editing of the material becomes an instrument unto itself. The framing. The process of selecting and choosing to highlight moments like the shift from airy guitar adventuring into percussive chill in “Tricksen för Transen” and the folkish keyboard of “Främmande i Tillvaron” — the latter entirely appropriate in its position as the centerpiece; its sunbaked golden hue not only rests smoothly alongside “Vibbdirektivet,” which follows, but gives Trappmusik a manifestation perhaps even more fitting than its own 17:50 title-track, which closes in much jazzier and more generally uptempo fashion — plucking these pieces out from the hours of what was tracked speaks to a sense of meaning behind the sheer construction of Trappmusik itself.

Kungens Män

Inherently it is a record that seeks to tell a story or portray an idea, and that is not only rooted in the traditions of Swedish folk and progressive and psychedelic rock, but in the fleeting ambience of these moments as they’re captured — there and gone, sunlight or moonlight, in the flight of escapist fantasy from the rigors and anxieties of the day-to-day. They call it their “chill out album,” and fair enough, but that doesn’t necessarily encompass the entirety of the mission, and it’s also not as if Trappmusik is only doing one thing for all of its rather considerable span either.

“Senvägen” and “Främmande i Tillvaron” could be different bands for the sonic disparity between them, and though the five-minute bass, guitar, drum mood-setting of the penultimate “Lastkajen” is hardly more than an interlude sandwiched between “Vibbdirektivet” and the expansive “Trappmusik” itself, its purpose in setting up that turn is further evidence of a master hand at work in terms of setting the overarching, grander progression of the album in motion even if the closer is inevitably going to consume an LP side on its own. That would be, presumably, side D, and with a more active bassline, far back toms and a returning saxophone in a suitable bookend to “Fånge i Universum,” the album finishes on maybe its most movement-based note.

The bass and drums bounce, and the guitar and brass seem to engage in a conversation based on mutual far-out-ranging. They go and go and go. It’s still trance-inducing to a degree, but one gets shades more of krautrock than the spaced procession of the opener, and it’s a palpable shift between the two. There’s still some tricky echoes working on the saxophone as it dissipates just before the seven-minute mark and lets the bass take the foreground — it gradually winds its way back and out again en route to the last slow-to-a-stop — but the general impression is more earthbound and less given to float than Kungens Män earlier on.

One wonders if perhaps that’s an indication the next offering will be their jazz record? If so, they’d hardly be the first to realize the connections between improvised psych and jazz, but as they have in the past, they make those connections their own as they round off Trappmusik with that gentle letting go, emblematic as it is of the soul and intention behind the collection as a whole and the underlying consciousness at work in making it. A gorgeous celebration waiting to be celebrated.

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Saturnalia Temple Premiere “Saturnalia Temple” from Gravity LP out Feb. 21

Posted in audiObelisk on February 7th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Saturnalia Temple (Photo by Fredrik Eytzinger)

Saturnalia Temple will release their third full-length, Gravity, through Listenable Records on Feb. 21. Checking in at 48 minutes of dark psychedelic cult heavy that’s alternately stripped to the core and manifesting a melt-brain churn of grim lysergic fluidity, it’s like a check-in from the Other Side on the behalf of the Stockholm trio, who were last heard from on 2015’s To the Other (discussed here and here), donning an experimentalism of substance and style that veers into multiple chasms of the delightfully, almost gleefully strange in songs like “Bitter Taste,” chanting vocals high in the mix over dug-in fuzz and willfully simple drums.

By that point in the record — that’s side B — the trio of guitarist/vocalist Tommie Eriksson, bassist Peter Karlsson and drummer Kennet Granholm have already trod through the soul-wrenching muck of the near-silent white noise intro “Tordyvel,” the deceptively catchy declarations of the eponymous “Saturnalia Temple” — on which Eriksson speaks the truth when he says, “In this temple we go beyond” — the organ-meets-buzzing-tone-and-gurgle-vocals of “Gravity” and “Elyzian Fields,” which I can only liken to F.O.A.D.-era Darkthrone in terms of the peeling back it does of any and all frills in cult doom.

That progression across Gravity‘s first four tracks is, to an extent, staggering in the shifts it presents, not the least because the band — who made their full-length debut with 2011’s Aion of Drakon — are so purposefully entranced by what they’re doing. Think of what Ramesses could do at their most dug-in, or other acts who readily give themselves over to the atmospheres they create. Saturnalia Temple is the vehicle by which, indeed, the band goes beyond.

Saturnalia Temple GravityAccordingly, Gravity is not ha-ha-hee-hee-let’s-write-a-song-about-the-devil cult rock. It’s exploration of sound itself as a ritual. The tones fill out somewhat as “Elyzian Fields” shifts into the 9:57 “Between the Worlds,” which is arguably the most liquefied of the inclusions here, building up slowly as it does into an extreme psychedelia cast in swirling shades of black set to a popping snare that seems like the only thing tying it to the earth at all. A long fade-out is prescient for what’s to come on the penultimate “Oannes,” but “Bitter Taste” takes hold in the immediate aftermath of “Between the Worlds” with a commanding, doomed severity in its riff and initial forward march, fuzz lead emerging before the otherworldly vocals, which are a far cry from the throaty incantations of “Gravity” and “Elyzian Fields” and the sort of mourning melody in “Saturnalia Temple,” but still fit with the album’s aesthetic overall, which, frankly, would allow for Saturnalia Temple to go just about anywhere and still be trapped in the murk of their own making.

In fact, that’s basically what they do. They create a world of consuming ambience and then populate it with various monsters and threatening figures, so much punishment and viciousness bleeding into the proceedings. “Oannes” brings the organ of “Gravity” back to the fore, but holds somewhat to the chanting style of the track before it, at least at the outset, and then shifts into full-on instrumental trance as it works its way through a solo and a long-fadeout instrumental march that probably could go another eight or nine minutes and be no less effective in sapping the listener of their consciousness. The closer, “Alpha Drakonis,” is something of an answer to “Tordyvel” in that it’s essentially an outro, but perhaps more-there, if that makes any sense.

And if it doesn’t, maybe all the better, since that seems to be the context in which Saturnalia Temple most thrive on Gravity. They dirge their way out on the relatively minimal progression, and it’s as fitting an end to Gravity as anything could hope to be, the statement of their long-goneness already well made in their fuck-with-form experimentation and use of production as another tool to emphasize the amorphousness of their sound, their ability to shape it to what they want it to be, whether that’s pure aural rot or a roiling ocean of bleak tonal currents. One way or the other, Saturnalia Temple give their audience a glimpse at the “beyond” to which they’re going. Whether or not a given listener is up to making the trip there themselves, one suspects, depends on the individual.

Can you open your heart and let decay in?

Find out with the premiere of “Saturnalia Temple” below. More PR wire info, preorder link for Gravity and tour dates follow:

Tommie Eriksson on “Saturnalia Temple”:

“Saturnalia Temple is a song that sums up everything we are on all levels. It is a true keystone for all we stand for. The lyrics is an invocation of the alchemical initiation that this band expresses, and the hypnotic riffs echo this with a vengeance.”

Saturnalia Temple TO RELEASE NEW ALBUM ‘GRAVITY’ IN FEBRUARY 2020

Preorders: https://www.shop-listenable.net/fr/149_saturnalia-temple

TRACKLISTING:
1. Tordyvel
2. Saturnalia Temple
3. Gravity
4. Elyzian Fields
5. Between The Worlds
6. Bitter Taste
7. Oannes
8. Alpha Drakonis

SATURNALIA TEMPLE – European tour with WOLVENNEST and DREAD SOVEREIGN.
21/2 – Rotterdam – Baroeg – NL
22/2 – London – The Dome – UK
23/2 – Paris – Gibus – FR
24/2 – Aarburg – Musigburg – CH
25/2 – Vienna – Escape – AU
26/2 – Krakow – Zet Pe Te – PL
27/2 – Berlin – Nuke Club – GER
28/2 – Oberhausen – Helvete – GER
29/2 – Brussels – Ancienne Belgique – BE

Saturnalia Temple is:
Tommie Eriksson – Vocals, Guitar.
Peter Karlsson – Bass.
Kennet Granholm – Drums

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High Tone Son of a Bitch Premiere “Wicked Threads” from New Compilation Lifecycles

Posted in audiObelisk on February 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

high tone son of a bitch

You know the origin story of High Tone Son of a Bitch, right? It’s complicated and full of ups, downs, love and loss and all that other deeply human-type stuff. A life story, as it were. The band revitalized circa last year and spent much of the ensuing return period getting their lineup situated and getting their feet under them in terms of stage presentation, but they had a wealth of material to draw from in that regard that went even further than what actually ever saw proper release. On March 20, Tee Pee Records — which also stood behind brothers Paul and Andrew Kott for Kalas‘ lone studio album — will issue Lifecycles: EPs of HTSOB, a new compilation of songs that span the original era of the band from 2002 through about 2005, preceding Andrew Kott‘s death in 2007.

High Tone Son of a Bitch have two four-trackers currently available. Their Better You Than Me originally came out on CD through Shifty Records in 2003 and though Velocipede was recorded in 2004 it didn’t actually see proper release until 2018 when they put it up on Bandcamp. Last June brought the new single Death of a New Day / Eye in the Sky (discussed here) that was the band’s first proper offering in 16 years and preceded a stop at the opening night of thehigh tone son of a bitch lifecycles eps of htsob inaugural Desertfest NYC (review here) at Saint Vitus Bar. I don’t know how much if any of that material will be included in Lifecycles when it comes out, but there was still plenty more of stuff recorded that apparently never made it to the public, and thus we have the arrival of “Wicked Threads.”

As to what the original plan for the song might have been, I couldn’t say, but with a militaristic snare and wistful guitar and mellotron lines at the outset, the song sets an immediately brooding spirit. Gritty vocals arrive in emotive fashion and give direction to the arrangement, which remains dramatic if not theatrical in such a way as to pull back from the central regret being expressed. The title refers — no, not to your new jeans — to part of a concept that encompasses the entirety of the three-song progression from which the track comes. It’s not as immediately aggressive as they were on stage when I saw them last Spring or as noise-rocking as some of their other material is, but “Wicked Threads” gives some sense of High Tone Son of a Bitch‘s atmospheric resonance and the general breadth of what they used to do. Part of the story, much like this release itself is a part of their overarching narrative.

When it comes to what they’ll do next, however, I’ve no idea. I don’t know if they’re actually signed to Tee Pee or if there’s a new album or another EP or something else brewing, or to what or where their tour plans might take them and when, but even as they look back with Lifecycles: EPs of HTSOB, they make it clear they’re beginning that cycle anew, and moving forward.

Again, the release is March 20. Some more background follows the track below.

Please enjoy:

Paul Kott on “Wicked Threads”:

The Wicked Threads EP is a concept album that spans the past 12,000 years of human history in three songs. It examines the impact of the emergence of class systems, including believing in gods and the development of organized religions, priesthoods, rulers and ruled, and economic classes, has had. The song “Wicked Threads” is set in the modern era of late-stage capitalism, in the wake of thousands of years of these systems of control holding sway over humanity. It’s viewed through the lens of my experience growing up in a dead textile mill town called Lewiston, Maine. Many generations of the people of who live and die in these towns all across America and the world have a long history of being fucked over by wealthy elites. Many of these same people (not everyone, mind you), having been exploited, sucked dry, and ultimately abandoned, seem to fawn over and venerate those who are exploiting them, to adore them. There is almost a worship of the idea of a return to the days when the mills were running full steam and the bosses rang bells to tell them what to do and when. It’s like Stockholm Syndrome, to love your captors, love your abusers.

iTunes: https://music.apple.com/us/album/lifecycles-eps-of-htsob/1496428597?ls=1&app=itunes
Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/album/lifecycles-eps-of-htsob/1496428597?ls=1
Download: http://amazon.com/dp/B08469W2FX
Unlimited: http://music.amazon.com/albums/B08469W2FX

Originally formed by brothers Paul and Andrew Kott from the ashes of Oakland prog/doom sludge masters Cruevo, and preceding the Matt Pike-fronted Bay Area metal “supergroup” Kalas, High Tone Son of a Bitch (HTSOB) is a “supergroup” unto itself. Since its founding, HTSOB has pulled together members and collaborators from bands like Noothgrush, Kalas, Hammers of Misfortune, Men of Porn, Melvins, Hawkwind, Neurosis, High on Fire, Sleep, Necrot, The Skull, Worshipper and more. When Andrew Kott died unexpectedly in a tragic fall in 2007, HTSOB disbanded – seemingly forever.

Paul Kott revived the band – at the urging of his Latin Grammy-winning nephew Juan Herrera (Andrew’s step-son) – in 2019. Through lineup changes and regular collaborations that have included some of the most important underground musicians of the modern era, Paul has allowed his brother’s inspiration to live on, carrying the psychedelic hard rock and post-doom vision of HTSOB forward – all the while remaining uncompromisingly true to the musical roots the brothers established years ago.

High Tone Son of a Bitch transcends not only genre archetype but death itself, to weave an essential portrait of the dualistic nature of our lives. This retrospective of 4 EPs simultaneously speaks to the fragility and resilience of the human experience as it spans the years covering the formation of the band, its musical growth, the death of Andrew Kott (one of 2 co-founding brothers), and the path to a rebirth and new life in music and beyond by surviving brother Paul Kott.

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