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If you listen to these podcasts on the regular, you might notice this one is a little different than other recent editions have been. I was all set to start it off at a raging clip as per usual and then that Bison Machine track stood out to me with that warm bassline and I just decided that was the way to go, start off languid with that and My Sleeping Karma and ease into the rawer and meaner stuff from there. There are a couple jarring moments here and there, but that’s kind of the idea too, and I think overall across the board it flows well across the two hours, the second of which builds across All Them Witches’ jams and Ichabod’s sludge rock right into the atmospheric doom extremity of Bell Witch. Three songs in about 55 minutes. Awesome.
You might also notice the tracklist below has time stamps. Listed is the start time for each song, so if you get lost along the way, that should hopefully provide some point of reference. In case there was any doubt I pay attention to the stuff people say in comments to these podcast posts.
As always, hope you enjoy:
0:00:00 Bison Machine, “Gamekeeper’s Thumb” from Hoarfrost
0:07:12 My Sleeping Karma, “Prithvi” from Moksha
0:13:39 Weedeater, “Claw of the South” from Goliathan
0:19:00 Sinister Haze, “Betrayed by Time” from Betrayed by Time EP
0:24:15 Sun and Sail Club, “Dresden Fireball Freakout Flight” from The Great White Dope
0:26:11 Lasers from Atlantis, “Protectress” from Lasers from Atlantis
0:33:29 Arenna, “Drums for Sitting Bull” from Given to Emptiness
0:39:40 Mirror Queen, “Scaffolds of the Sky” from Scaffolds of the Sky
0:45:47 Les Discrets, “La Nuit Muette” from Live at Roadburn
0:51:02 Cigale, “Harvest Begun” from Cigale
0:54:49 Black Mare, “A Low Crimes” from Black Mare/Lycia Split
1:00:03 All Them Witches, “It Moved We Moved/Almost There/A Spider’s Gift” from A Sweet Release
1:24:09 Ichabod, “Squall” from Merrimack
1:33:39 Bell Witch, “Suffocation, a Burial I – Awoken (Breathing Teeth)” from Four Phantoms
Posted in audiObelisk on April 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Spanish heavy psych rockers Arenna will release their second album, Given to Emptiness, on May 7. It’s been four years since the five-piece made their debut on Nasoni Records with the full-length Beats of Olarizu (review here) and today I have the privilege of unveiling track three from Given to Emptiness, “Drums for Sitting Bull.” Duly percussive, but no less centered around its heavy groove and warm, fuzzed-out tones, the song finds the melody front and center in contemplative style somewhat similar to the debut, but understandably developed in the four-year interim between releases.
Immediately laid back and catchy, a tell early on is the vocals following the lead guitar. That will come up again later in the song, before a late break cuts short to resume the roll of the central riff, added to by Mellotron (provided by Poti, who presumably is the same Poti from Atavismo, formerly of Viaje a 800), ending out the instrumental push with a quiet sort of apex. For Arenna — guitarists R. Ruiz de Portal and Kike (which I’m not even comfortable typing, but is apparently how he wants to be known), bassist Javi, vocalist Txus Dr. Sax and drummer Guille — it’s a steady flow that reinforces something the first album did well but also shows them trying new things with their sound. Hopefully that’s indicative of what the rest of Given to Emptiness has to offer.
Recording info for Arenna‘s Given toEmptiness and the lyrics in Spanish and English follow “Drums for Sitting Bull,” which you can find on the player below. Please enjoy:
ARENNA – GIVEN TO EMPTINESS
Format: CD / LP / Digital download Genre: Rock / Psychedelic / Stoner Label: Nasoni Records Release date: May 2015
Tracklist: 1 Butes (10:20) 2 Visions Of Rex (6:29) 3 Drums For Sitting Bull (6:17) 4 Chroma (9:00) 5 Move Through Figurehead Lights (7:02) 6 The Pursuer (6:15) 7 Low Tide (1:40) total (47:04)
Recorded by Javier Ortiz at Estudio Brazil (Nov. 1-7, 2014) Mixed by José López Gil at Sound Experience Studio & Estudios K. Mastered by JJ. Golden Produced by José López Gil and Arenna Music by Arenna Artwork by Khoa Le Designed by Artidoto
Music by Arenna Javi: bass Guille: drums & percusions Txus Dr. Sax: vocals & chorus R. Ruiz del Portal: guitars; mellotron (on track 2) Kike: guitars; acoustic guitars & Tibetan bowls (on track 7)
All lyrics by Cameron Webster, Estíbaliz Urretxu, Javier Arbulu & Txus Dr.Sax with special collaboration of P. Quignard (Butes) & F. Kafka (Drums for Sitting Bull)
Additional musicians: Poti: mellotron (on all tracks), theremin (on track 5) and chorus (on tracks 3, 5 & 6), Jony Moreno: chorus (on tracks 3 & 5), and Manix S. acoustic guitar (on track 5).
3. Drums for Sitting Bull If one were only an indian, Alert, on a racing horse, Leaning against the wind, Until one shed one’s spurs, & threw away the reins. Hardly saw land before one, When horse’s neck & head Would be already gone.
3. Tambores para Toro Sentado Si uno pudiera ser un Piel Roja, alerta, cabalgando sobre un caballo veloz, apoyado contra el viento, hasta arrojar las espuelas, hasta arrojar las riendas. Apenas viera ante sí el campo, ya habrían desaparecido las crines & la cabeza del caballo.
Posted in audiObelisk on April 20th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
It would be wrong to say The Atomic Bitchwax‘s sixth album, Gravitron, is a return to the form of their early days, if only because it would somehow imply that the record — which is out tomorrow on Tee Pee — is backward-looking. The New Jersey-based outfit released their self-titled debut in 1999, and the only remaining member from that record is bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, so it’s not like The Atomic Bitchwax are trying to hearken back to some glory-days ideal from 16 years ago. Frankly, they don’t need to. The material across Gravitron‘s 10 tracks blazes in the best way possible, Kosnik, guitarist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella tearing into what’s become the band’s signature winding riffage and delivering it at a head-spinning pace on instrumental cuts like “Down with the Swirl” and “War Claw” (a tribute to Wroclaw, Poland, maybe?) and the early rager “No Way Man.” The Bitchwax‘s last outing, 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here) was more of a concept piece than an album — a single extended track of riff-barrage, almost mocking the idea of “it’s all about the riffs,” and to considerable effect. With Gravitron, they reincorporate what’s always been their truest strength: Songwriting.
And they do so with considerable intensity. The first moments of opener “Sexecutioner” tell the tale — Gravitron begins at full blast and offers precious little letup until the penultimate “Roseland” transitions to the slower groove of closer “Ice Age Hey Baby.” It’s a tumult of head-down forward drive, Kosnik, Ryan and Pantella, maybe having benefited from getting “The Local Fuzz” out of their system — a grand purging — getting immediately down to business. For those who came aboard with The Atomic Bitchwax since the release of 3 in 2005, which was Ryan‘s first in the band, Gravitron will easily be the heaviest, meanest album encountered. The trio is tight, the turns are crisp and the flow of the album is thrust along with momentum that only builds as they dig into the catchy, classic Bitchwaxian “It’s Alright,” Ryan and Kosnik putting on a Rushy technical clinic without showing off or making the fact that they can play like that the point of the song while Pantella translates their twists into an accessible, memorable groove that’s one of the high points of the album. Add to that the momentary slowdown of “Coming in Hot,” which closes out side A with another on-fire jam, this one shifting out of the chorus with a drum solo that the guitar and bass join seamlessly in a manner fitting for the chemistry The Atomic Bitchwax have developed on stage in recent years. Killing it, in short. The trend continues on side B.
Proof that we’re dealing with a more confrontational Bitchwax? How about “Fuck Face?” Punctuated by a jabbing snare and led by the guitar and bass simultaneously through an under-three-minute instrumental run soaked in wah, it’s nonetheless a fast-swinging barnburner and not the first or the last. “Porto World” follows and while it’s the first song to touch the four-minute mark — only “Ice Age Hey Baby” is longer, at 4:45 — it still rages, with Kosnik warning, “I hope you brought your battle axe” as they run at a sprint into a cowbell-inclusive groove before trading back to the next verse and hook, the cowbell returning again as a bridge before a final chorus closes out, quickly, classically-structured but still brimming with energy, which is all the more fitting for “Down with the Swirl”‘s jazzy turns and solo-topped build. They barely stop to take in the view as they reach that mountaintop in “Down with the Swirl,” but the song provides emphasis on the newfound vitality of the trio anyway, not so different ultimately from some of what “The Local Fuzz” had to offer, just in a different, more upbeat context, like a disgruntled In Rock-era Deep Purple raised on Red Bank burgers and fries. While “Porto World” and “War Claw” could easily be Euro-minded, “Roseland” is purely regionalist homage, taking its name and lyrical basis from the long-running venue in Manhattan (my grandmother danced there in the 1930s) turned into luxury condos just in case anyone needed a convenient example of how New York City has degraded itself in pursuit of profit post-9/11 and the financial collapse of 2008. The Atomic Bitchwax take a more sentimental view, bidding the big room goodbye with due sentiment and thud in what seems like a landmark hook until the handclaps start on “Ice Age Hey Baby.”
As they close out their sixth album, they seem to have learned the best lesson of their fourth, 2008’s TAB4, which caught some flack for being poppier and more slickly produced even than 3 or the 2006 Boxriff EP, but had more than a couple of gems to its credit as regards songwriting. That record finished with “Wreck You,” one of the band’s most infectious works to date, and “Ice Age Hey Baby” works in similar form, a rolling bassline and simple rhythm backing Kosnik‘s sing-along-ready chorus, displayed immediately and readily throughout the song, departing only to give Ryan some time to bust out a psychedelic lead. After the hit and run nature of most of Gravitron, the closer’s something of a breather, but well placed and well appreciated, mirroring and upping the game from “Coming in Hot” while reminding one last time that no matter how fast the Bitchwax might decide to go, and no matter how many jumps they might make here and there within a track, they’re still serving a bigger purpose. “Ice Age Hey Baby” is an outlier, and it’s positioned to leave a lasting impression when the record is over. No big surprise it succeeds at just that. While Kosnik and Pantella both play in Monster Magnet, still obviously going strong, with the likes of Solace, Halfway to Gone, Ryan‘s former band Core, and many others gone, The Atomic Bitchwax are sort of the last-band-standing from what was once a fertile Central Jersey heavy rock scene, based around Red Bank, Long Branch, etc. Their reach and their focus have gone well beyond their hometown, which is likely a major contributor to their survival, but to think of all the acts who’ve either outright broken up or transitioned into periodic gigging while Kosnik, Ryan and Pantella stand at the ready to tour Europe for another month and release a triumph of a record like Gravitron makes their having not only lasted but thrived all the more impressive. Whatever else they do from here, Gravitron will be a landmark.
They release the album tomorrow and hit the road in Europe starting at Desertfest in London on April 24. Please find the full stream of the album below, followed by the current tour dates, courtesy of Sound of Liberation. Enjoy:
New Jersey’s legendary, riff-centric power trio THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX (aka TAB) returns with gargantuan riffs and jaw-dropping psych sonics on its sixth full length LP, Gravitron. Now featuring TWO members of MONSTER MAGNET — bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik and drummer Bob Pantella — alongside shred-tastic gunslinger Finn Ryan, the band has perfected its unique style of NYC hard rock that High Times appropriately tabbed, “thunder-boogie”. On Gravitron, THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX’s Rush-like riff mazes and carpal-tunnel-inducing riffs are on full display; every note bleeds with urgency.
On Tour: 24.04.15 LONDON, UK DESERTFEST 25.04.15 BERLIN, D DESERTFEST 26.04.15 WARSAW, POL SKWER 27.04.15 DRESDEN, D OST POL 28.04.15 BREMEN, D ROEMER 29.04.15 BIELEFELD, D FORUM 30.04.15 JENA, D KULTURBAHNHOF 01.05.15 MAASTRICHT, NL TIMMERFABRIEK 02.05.15 LONGLAVILLE, FR CRYSTONER FEST 03.05.15 GEEL, BEL JH DE BOGAARD 04.05.15 DÜSSELDORF, D PITCHER 05.05.15 AACHEN, D MUSIKBUNKER 06.05.15 THESSALONIKI, GR EIGHTBALL 07.05.15 ATHENS, GR AN CLUB 08.05.15 FRANKFURT, D DAS BETT 09.05.15 SIEGEN, D VORTEX 10.05.15 LUCERNE, CH SEDEL 11.05.15 MUNICH, D FEIERWERK 12.05.15 ZURICH, CH KINSKI 13.05.15 MILANO, IT LO FI 14.05.15 NICE, FR LE VOLUME 15.05.15 BARCELONA, SP ROCKSOUND 16.05.15 BILBAO, SP KRISTONFEST 17.05.15 PORTO, POR CAVE 45
Posted in Radio on April 17th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Been a couple weeks, right? Yeah, it has. Between the Quarterly Review — you’ll notice some of those records joining the playlist here as well — and traveling, I haven’t really had the chance to do a proper round of radio adds, which is why if you hit up the Obelisk Radio Playlist and Updates Page you might notice a full 25 records went up today. I’ve been thinking about going in and thinning some stuff out, there’s some sludge in there I feel like could probably go, but on the other hand — and I’m sad to say this is actually how I feel about it — it’s an archive with a good bit of musical history to it, developed over the last decade to be something really special. I’m not sure I have the right to do anything more to than just continue to let it build and evolve. If you take the time to look at the playlists, they’ve hit a point where they’re unbelievably good. It’s frankly better than I ever could have imagined, so maybe I’d just be fixing what isn’t broken. There. I talked myself out of it. On with the show.
The Obelisk Radio adds for April 17, 2015:
Stars that Move, Demo Songs
A debut release of coherent aesthetic that brims with promise, melodic sweetness and classic fuzz boogie filtered through hazy garage modernism, Stars that Move‘s Demo Songs brings together drummer Frank Sikes and guitarist Richard Bennett of Starchild with vocalist Elisa Maria, and the presence and swing they capture on these songs is not to be discounted because it’s a demo. Opener “I Hold a Gaze” seems to ooze out with slower Uncle Acid buzz, but Maria‘s vocals change the vibe entirely, and through the irrefutably heavy nod of “The Blue Prince” and the ethereal shuffle of “She that Rules the King,” she maintains a hold on the material that is transfixing. Anyone who heard Starchild could easily tell you about that Georgian outfit’s worn-on-sleeve penchant for Sabbath, and Stars that Move isn’t without its own aspect of worship, but it comes out most of all in the “Laguna Sunrise”-style acoustic “No Evil Star,” which introduces the closer “Burning in Flames” (also the longest song at 3:48), which has an open-spaced acoustic roll of its own, topped by a soulful croon from Maria met by foreboding electric guitar ringing out to set up the central line after the verse: “We are the world, burning in flames.” It is beautiful despite or maybe even in part because of its melancholy, and it brings Demo Songs to a finish more Zeppelin than Sabbath, but still definitely in that league. I doubt there will be many demos to come in 2015 to stand up to it, and as an announcement of Stars that Move‘s arrival, it’s definitely one worthy of notice. They set themselves up with a core of quality songwriting here that could easily be expanded in experimental arrangements of psychedelic guitar layering, effects, synth, percussion, to create a lush tableau for Maria‘s voice to work with, and I hope they do just that. Either way, their core is set. Stars that Move on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Wren and Irk, Irk | Wren Split
I’m not sure who actually comes first on this split between London post-sludgers Wren, whose 2014 self-titled debut EP (review here) impressed considerably, and Leeds trio Irk. In the title, Irk | Wren, it’s Irk, and both bands have it that way on their respective Bandcamp as well. The tracklisting in the files I was given puts Wren first. Either way, each act offers a different take on noise-laced punishment. For Irk, bass leads the way on three blistering, punkish cuts of noise interspersed with a sample-laden interlude called “Life Pervert” that shifts them into the wails, rumbles and jabs of “Cibo per Gattini.” Their opener, “You Sound Like My Ex-Wife,” is their longest inclusion at 5:33, and runs a razorblade gamut across punk, sludge and noise, but the quicker “A Dead Elephant,” which follows, brings forward more of the rawness at heart in the sans-guitar trio’s sound. Wren‘s three inclusions find the four-down-from-five-piece working with vocalist Alex Wealands of Throats, whose voice is more in line with a post-metal sound than the blackened stylings of the prior EP. That has an effect on the atmosphere, but Wren remain coherent, the three-minute “Arise” building a wall of airy-guitar-topped distortion and leading directly into “Before the Great Silence,” the chug of which reminds of what life was like before Isis stopped being angry, rolling out a satisfying emotional catharsis as it drives toward a second-half slowdown and hits into “An Approach,” which starts out raging and dips in its midsection to set up a final crescendo of furious guitar undulations and call and response shouts. It is very, very heavy, and should please anyone who caught wind of Wren‘s last outing or is looking to be introduced. Wren on Thee Facebooks, Wren on Bandcamp, Irk on Thee Facebooks, Irk on Bandcamp.
Sunset in the 12th House, Mozaic
Somewhere between an alter-ego and a side-project and somewhere between post-rock and progressive metal, Sunset in the 12th House make their debut with Mozaic on Prophecy Productions. Three out of the four of the Romanian outfit’s members — guitarist/vocalist Edmond “Hupogrammos” Karban, guitarist Cristian “Sol Faur” Popescu, and drummer Sergio Ponti — double in folk-ish black metallers Dordeduh, and are former members of Negur? Bunget as well. Here, with bassist Mihai Moldoveanu, they explore six tracks of varied, mostly instrumental styles, beginning with the 14-minute “Arctic Cascades,” an immersive, well-textured summary of their sound that moves fluidly between prog-metal chug, synth grandiosity and percussive impact. Airier guitars pervade movements of “Desert’s Eschaton” and “Rejuvenation,” but with its songs arranged longest to shortest (immediate points) and with the pervasive sense of focus Sunset in the 12th House display throughout, saving vocals for the last two cuts only, Mozaic is too clear-headed to really call psychedelic. While it has an element of swirl, “Paraphernalia of Sublimation” is unmistakably progressive with its Eastern flair and forward motion, but to quibble about genre is missing the point. Whether it’s the heavier push of the midsection to “Ethereal Consonance” or the tightly-executed weaving of guitar on “Seven Insignia,” soon met by growling vocals, Sunset in the 12th House hit on a sound that’s decidedly their own and markedly well balanced between what in less capable hands would seem like opposing stylistic elements. Sunset in the 12th House on Thee Facebooks, Prophecy Productions.
Sativa Root, Dark Days
After debuting last year with a self-titled/untitled EP, Austrian trio Sativa Root update with Dark Days, a two-songer seemingly intended to give those who heard the first release a look at what the Salzburg unit have been up to since. So what have they been up to? Riffing. Sounded primed and ready for a 7″ release, five-minute cuts “Dark Days” and “La Bestia” both unfold tonally weighted rollout, the former seeming to nod vaguely at Electric Wizard‘s wisping lead-over-nodding-rhythm methodology and the latter taking some of High on Fire‘s gallop and thickening the atmosphere. Guitarist Stonerhead, drummer Isaak and bassist Fant know what they’re doing with each of these influences, but the reason Dark Days ultimately satisfies is that not the entire sonic crux of the tracks can be accounted for in this way. Between that element of individuality brought to the table and the changeup in atmosphere from one song to the second, Sativa Root‘s update is well met. It hasn’t been so long since their first EP came out — just past the one-year mark, actually — but they’ve obviously been spending their time wisely since.
Sonic Mass, All Creatures Strange: Live at the Black Heart
Recorded live at Camden Town’s famed The Black Heart in April 2014, All Creatures Strange: Live at the Black Heart is a soundboard capture of the release party for London four-piece Sonic Mass‘ late-2013 debut EP, All Creatures Strange. As one will, they played the whole thing front-to-back at the show, and it’s a performance rife with heavy rock soul, two guitars having it out in effective balance over the cymbal wash of “The Order” or the later psychedelic shifts of “Pentagon Chameleon – To the Devil, a Daughter.” The smoothness of their approach might be best showcased in “Rise of the Royal Reptile,” but longer cuts like “Widow Stone” have more room to breathe and feel stronger for it. Ending off with the ritualized chants and percussion of “All Creatures Strange (Played Once),” which is listed as “(Dead)” where all the other tracks are “(Live),” it’s a subtly adventurous release that might take a couple listens to really absorb for anyone who didn’t hear the original All Creatures Strange — which is also still available — but that proves worth the effort in the end. No doubt it was something to hear them tear into “Science of Sleep” that night. Sonic Mass on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Posted in audiObelisk on April 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
New York ambient two-piece Brave the Waters will issue their debut EP, Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days, on May 12. A digital self-release, its core this-is-a-beginning thematic as indicated by the title is somewhat less apparent in the six tracks of the offering itself. No doubt for Rick Habeeb (guitar) and Tom Anderer (acoustic guitar and bass) it’s a major stylistic jump — the two are bandmates in the grinding Buckshot Facelift and progressive death metallers Grey Skies Fallen — but the fluidity of atmosphere they enact over the course of Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days could just as easily be the fifth chapter as the first, as it benefits from Habeeb and Anderer‘s knowledge of how the other plays, even if it’s doing so in a different context from how they’ve ever played before.
Much to their credit, Brave the Waters are not trying to reinvent the soundscape their first time out. Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days is an unpretentious 22 minutes that wears its exploratory feel on its sleeve. Most of the material was at least to some degree improvised, and that spirit of immediacy, of the song happening right now feeds into the immersive effect on the listener. Instrumental for its brief duration an without percussion, Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days is hardly still. Anderer and Habeeb weave guitar lines and ambient backing swirls around and through each other so that from opener “The New King” down through the passing wisps of melody in “At the Old Stone Bridge,” the progress is so smooth as to be alluring no matter how minimal it gets. And ambience is never far. Marked out by its acoustic foundation, the penultimate “Setting up Camp” reminds of Lamp of the Universe‘s cosmic meditations and Pelican‘s rural escapism (a similar idea with a different musical translation), a particularly memorable melody in “Journey through Highwood Forest” having tapped emotional and sonic resonance just one track earlier.
“Interesting Times” carries the foreboding of the proverb in its atmosphere, but the brightness of “Voice of the Ancient Oak,” with its interplay of acoustic, electric and effects-laden guitar, is enough to counteract just about any lingering worry. Composed, according to the duo, in about half an hour, and expressed completely in three minutes, it’s emblematic of the efficiency with which Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days is able to conjure its atmospheres, and still holds firm to the human sensibility at the core of the project — two friends getting together and trying something new instrumentally that’s soaked in reverb and giving a brief look at a vast sonic horizon. Their plan is for yearly releases. With the ground they establish here as a foundation, I do not imagine they’d have any trouble hitting that mark.
Please find Brave the Waters‘ “Voice of the Ancient Oak” on the player below, and enjoy:
Producing a mesmerizing, ethereal brew of beautiful, instrumental movements, far removed from the tumultuous sounds of the extreme output of their other musical creations, BRAVE THE WATERS came together when Grey Skies Fallen and Buckshot Facelift bandmates Tom Anderer (bass guitar, acoustic guitar) and Rick Habeeb (guitar) decided to write and record some instrumentals in a stripped-down fashion. Improvisation and spontaneity were important aspects going in, and while bits and pieces of music were composed prior to entering Keith Moore’s since burned-down Audio Playground Studio, the vast majority of what appears on the band’s six-song debut EP, Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days, was written and recorded on the spot.
Containing six tracks of ambient guitar and bass that you will find very different from the duo’s main bands, BRAVE THE WATERS’ Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days sees pounding drums, intense death metal vocals, and immense guitar distortion completely abandoned, and here replaced with clean guitars, melodic bass lines, and a healthy dose of Strymon’s amazing Big Sky reverberator. Just in time for the Winter’s thaw, these winding passages inspire visions of lush nature and rebirth. Reminiscent of several styles at once, yet emerging as its own being, Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days is an immediately comforting, almost familiar release.
BRAVE THE WATERS will release Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days independently through Bandcamp on May 12th, the EP bearing cover art by Travis Smith (Death, Opeth, King Diamond).
[PLEASE: Press play above to hear the premiere of “Mythomania” from Kings Destroy’s self-titled, due out May 5 on War Crime Recordings. Thanks to the band and label and Earsplit PR for allowing me to host the song with this review.]
There is no band currently active I feel as close to as Kings Destroy, and if you’ve read this site at any point over the last five years, you’ve probably in some measure seen that relationship develop. Their first 7″, Old Yeller/Medusa (review here) introduced them in 2010 as a group of NYHC veterans — guitarists Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski of Killing Time, vocalist Steve Murphy of Uppercut, while drummer Rob Sefcik was in both Electric Frankenstein and Begotten — exploring heavy stoner doom riffing in a definitively East Coast style, an undercurrent of aggression never far off even at that formative stage. The subsequent debut LP, And the Rest Will Surely Perish, was released through this site’s in-house label, The Maple Forum (original announcement here), and that album further demonstrated the band’s doomly refinement in cuts like “The Mountie” and “Old Yeller,” which still feature in live sets on the regular. It was a record I was proud to be associated with in the small way I was, and one to which I continue to have significant sentimental attachment, even if everything the band has done since has blown it out of the water. Their second full-length, 2013’s A Time of Hunting (not reviewed, but discussed here), was released on War Crime Recordings and brought changes in the songwriting process with the departure of bassist Ed Bocchino and arrival of Aaron Bumpus, and the result was a genre-defying work that retained the heaviness of the debut, but set a context for itself that was neither doom nor not-doom, a strange and effective atmosphere pervading especially the reaches of side B (a vinyl is due any day now on Hydro-Phonic) songs like “A Time of Hunting” and closer “Turul.” Even the relatively straightforward “Casse-Tete” and “The Toe” had an off-kilter aspect to them, a weirdness to their attack that became, at least for me, the defining characteristic of the album.
I’ve seen Kings Destroy over 30 times in the last few years — that’s a literal figure, not an exaggeration — toured with them twice last year and would again in a minute, conditions permitting. I consider them friends, so when I say that their self-titled third album is their best work to-date, you can take it either one of two ways: Either I’m partial because of my relationship with the band, or I’m the guy who’d know better than just about anyone else, save perhaps the band members themselves and producer Sanford Parker, who’s worked with them on all three of their records (Mike Moebius of Moonlight Mile as well). Comprised of seven tracks totaling a vinyl-minded 34 minutes and topped off with Josh Graham artwork that captures the city-minded grit at the heart of its construction, Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy strips down the anti-genre turns of A Time of Hunting to something rawer, truer to their live presentation, and ultimately bolder in its style. When they want to, they write a fierce hook — “Mr. O,” opener “Smokey Robinson,” “Embers” — and when they want to, they delve as deep into oppressive atmospherics as they’ve yet gone — closer “Time for War.” Three albums in, their songwriting is diverse in pace and intent, but equally assured throughout, and their sound has found a place that’s unconcerned with genre even to the point of not working against it. “Mr. O,” an immediate highlight following the Beavis and Butt-Head-worthy chug of “Smokey Robinson,” is an unabashed stoner rock song and a paean to Yankees outfielder Reggie Jackson, called “Mr. October,” that’s laid out honestly enough to not care who it might alienate or how. It finds companionship in the album’s second half with the relatively upbeat “Green Diamonds,” but is nonetheless a beast unto itself within the Kings Destroy catalog. They may never do anything else like it, but even if not, it’s ground they’ve covered and covered well, with all the frenetic movement and blistering solo work one could ask. The subsequent “W2″ thuds harder — Sefcik sets the rolling groove that the guitars and bassseem to be riding — and is slower, but solidifies the concrete-and-pavement vibe of Kings Destroy‘s urban portrayal, the album depicting a city, New York, that’s both dangerous and alluring, dirty and gone, worthy of scorn and nostalgia. It’s not outlet shopping and bike lanes. It’s smoggy air and the fear of being stabbed.
This atmosphere — a classic image of New York toughness — is maintained without, for the most part, playing into to the band’s hardcore past (also present; Killing Time plays sporadic shows). A confrontational sensibility emerged on A Time for Hunting, which not only was weird as hell but punching you in the face with that weirdness, and there’s some of that on Kings Destroy as well on “Smokey Robinson” or “Time for War,” with its gang vocals and slow, seething crawl, but the album isn’t limited to one angle or direction of approach. Enter “Mythomania,” the centerpiece of the tracklist. With a creeping guitar intro, subdued, open verses and hair-raising chorus payoffs leading to an apex that provides one of Kings Destroy‘s most satisfying emotional resolutions, marked out by Murphy‘s best performance here — his voice and the listener’s back seem to break at the same time at the very end of the song — and leading the way into “Embers,” which is the longest cut at 6:25 and furthers the grandiose feel with an even catchier roll. The ability to shift into and out of these modes so smoothly is one of the clearest instances of growth since their start, and ultimately it’s the balance of patience with an underlying intensity in “Mythomania” and “Embers” that makes them such landmarks for the band. When “Green Diamonds” hits, it’s something of a return to earth, a shorter, quicker pulse placed to set the stage for “Time for War,” though its value is more than positional. An atmospheric shift, it’s also the most straightforward verse/chorus hook on Kings Destroy, emphasizing the album’s little need for frills when a concise, efficient method will do, which it does. How then to explain “Time for War?” A new expression of the experimental bent that last time led to “Turul,” maybe? A nod to the increasingly blurred line between hardcore and doom? Maybe this is a cop-out, but I think it’s just another song Kings Destroy wanted to write. Its build, slow, understated, but still mean, ready to boil over, is perhaps the most “New York” of the bunch, Murphy growling over an abrasive drone and a churning riff before the gang vocals kick in. It’s both the most atmospheric and the most crushing piece on the album, and its duality suits it well.
But Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy doesn’t end in the chaos one might expect, and “Time for War” doesn’t build to a driving climax. It has a payoff, to be sure, but ultimately, it passes quietly into a softer drum progression and quiet guitars and bass, that drone still there to lead the way out after Sefcik‘s final crash. All the more fitting that the band should cap the record by skirting the anticipated move, since that’s been their specialty all along, from their let’s-riff-and-see-what-happens beginnings through this self-titled’s assured sense of sonic personality and well-honed, individualized take. It’s true that I’m a fan of the band, and I’m more than willing to acknowledge that I’m in no way impartial as regards their work, but the fact of the matter is I’ve been listening to this record for the better part of a year in one form or another, if not over a year, and it’s quite simply the best thing they’ve done up to now. The songs are memorable and well defined, but feed into an overarching flow that’s executed confidently now matter how far out it goes, and the translation of what Kings Destroy do live is an accomplishment unto itself. Call me biased. I’ll take a lesson from the album and not give a fuck. Recommended.
Posted in audiObelisk on April 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
New York heavy rockers Mirror Queen pretty much sum up their entire story with “Strangers in Our Own Time,” the nine-minute longest track from their upcoming LP, Scaffolds of the Sky, out April 21 on Tee Pee Records. Both in terms of what works best in their sound — the double-guitar NOWBHM-isms as filtered through ’70s atmospheres, heavy psychedelia and laid back roll — and in how their aesthetic places them as outliers. The four-piece have toured in Europe and the US since the 2011 release of their debut, From Earth Below, playing alongside the likes of Greenleaf, Truckfighters, Blaak Heat Shujaa, among many 0thers, the band having grown out of guitarist/vocalist Kenny Sehgal‘s prior outfit, Aytobach Kreisor.
Joined in Mirror Queen by lead guitarist Phi Moon, bassist James Corallo and drummer Jeremy O’Brien, Sehgal leads the way through seven tracks of classically progressive heavy rock and roll. Not necessarily all-out psychedelic all the time in terms of an effects wash or unhinged echo swirl, Scaffolds of the Sky nonetheless unfolds with warm, natural tonality and a laid back atmosphere contrary to the intensity of the city in which it was crafted. The opening title-track seems to nod directly at Cream, and as they push through crunchier riffs of songs like “Quarantined” and “At the Borderline on the Edge of Time,” the latter not nearly as Hawkwindian as the title might convey, they hold true to the steady roll of “Scaffolds of the Sky,” the push of the trippier “Vagabondage” and “Strangers in Our Own Time,” the closing duo of “Dark Ships Arrived” and “Wings Wetted Down” exploring more open territory with a foundation in Corallo‘s basslines and O’Brien‘s swinging drums, Moon and Sehgal strumming and soloing into a quiet kind of space rock, wide-ranging but somehow still organically textured.
Today I have the distinct pleasure of hosting “Strangers in Our Own Time” for streaming ahead of the Scaffolds of the Sky release this month. Its extended runtime wraps up side A of the album and it provides a particularly hypnotic roll in its central riff, shifting into double-guitar jamming that takes off the chorus hook with a snare build and heady coating of wah. By the time they break it down into the creeping, stop-short retread of the central figure, the charm is writ large over the track as they drive ahead toward the final groove. I hope you’ll agree, and enjoy:
NYC volume dealers MIRROR QUEEN take guitar rock by force on the ominously titled Scaffolds of the Sky. The band’s driving music accelerates at the distinct point where NWOBHM and heavy Prog Rock intersect; a direct and definite delineation of an era when urgent metallic sound was the order of the day. MIRROR QUEEN’s twin-guitar harmonies and rhythmic gallop recall early Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, while its hook-laden, timeless riffs and instrumental fireworks reference cherished champions UFO, Blue Oyster Cult and Captain Beyond.
A mainstay in the NYC hard rock scene, MIRROR QUEEN has shared the stage with heavyweight peers such as Earthless and The Shrine in addition to European tours with legends such as UFO and Uli Jon Roth! Scaffolds of the Sky is a modern day collection of laser-focused, lights out songs that carry the listener across a myriad of musical thresholds, each at once, time-honored and top-notch.
Posted in audiObelisk on April 3rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Parisian outfit Abrahma release their second album for Small Stone, Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird, on May 12. The heavy psych rockers’ sophomore outing follows 2012’s debut, Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives (review here), and while the two records share some things in common, like a multi-part thematic piece running throughout, or a title on the longer side, the moods are remarkably distinct. Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird, a gruesome mirror, is darker than its predecessor, moodier overall, with a primary impression of slower tempos and a somewhat grungier feel. Still psychedelic in terms of the airy guitar work of Seb Bismuth (also vocals and keyboards) and Nicolas Heller, the 10-track offering might have its dreamy side, but even that often comes accompanied by downer pacing and a pervasive melancholy.
There are exceptions to this rule, of course. “Square the Circle” has the record’s shortest runtime at 3:42 and also its fastest push, and the ending of “Weary Statues” picks up effectively, but to compare that to the doomly swirl, effects and sax over churning riffs, of “Omens Pt. 2″ or even opener “Fountains of Vengeance,” which boasts one of Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird‘s strongest hooks, and the darker side is made plain. The rhythm section of bassist Guillaume Colin and drummer/engineer Benjamin Colin — the two are brothers — is well at home in making changes fluid and allowing the guitars the appropriate space, songs like “Kapal Kriya” and “An Offspring to the Wolves” proffering big riffs and echoes greatly bolstered by the rumble beneath and the thud and crash pushing them along. Guitarist Ed Mundell (The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic, ex-Monster Magnet), who also appeared on Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives, makes a return guest spot for “A Shepherd’s Grief,” and comes to the fore suitably shredding in the midsection, and even that song ultimately gives way to a kind of depressive largesse, transitioning into the quiet minimalism of closer “Conium,” which builds to an effects-laden peak in its last 90-or-so seconds and provides the album with a particularly hypnotic finish.
Another constant held over from the debut, however, is the songwriting. As far out as Abrahma went on Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives, they never lost track of the fact that they were writing a piece to contribute to the whole of the record, and the same is true of Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird. More so, even, since the material is tighter and more cohesive and the album itself is nearly 20 minutes shorter at 52:41. It’s that core of songwriting that enables Abrahma to continue to engage the listener in this brooding manner, their attention to detail evident in the effects, solos, rhythmic changes and depth of the mix, which is the kind of abyss in which it’s a pleasure to lose oneself.
Today I have the pleasure of hosting “Weary Statues” for streaming ahead of the album’s release next month. Both one of the most driving and most open-sounding cuts on Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird, it pulls together the varying sides of the record’s personality well, and speaks to the emotional and sonic intensity Abrahma bring to bear on their second offering. They’ll be on tour with Lo-Pan starting next week, and you can find those dates along with a short comment from Bismuth about “Weary Statues,” after the song on the player below.
“‘Weary Statues’ is surely the most aggressive but also emotive song we’ve ever done with ABRAHMA, as well as a good proof of the evolution we’ve made in our music.” — Seb Bismuth
ABRAHMA will be touring Europe with their labelmates Lo-Pan this spring, including a stop at Roadburn Festival in Holland.
09.04 – STRASBOURG (FR) Mudd Club 10.04 – LICHTENFELS (DE) Paucnhy Cats Inn 11.04 – MUNSTER (DE) Rare Guitar 12.04 – TILBURG (NL) ROADBURN FESTIVAL 13.04 – France TBA 14.04 – MONTPELLIER (FR) Black Sheep 15.04 – MADRID (SP) Maravillas Club 16.04 – BARCELONA (SP) Rocksound 17.04 – VITORIA (SP) Helldorado 18.04 – NICE (FR) Le Volume 19.04 – CALENZANO (IT) ASD Factory Club 20.04 – SAVIGNANO SUL RUBICONE (IT) Sidro Club 21.04 – MUNICH (DE) Feierwerk 22.04 – DRESDEN (DE) Ost-Pol
NEW ALBUM Reflections In The Bowels Of A Bird – Out May 12th on Small Stone Records
Abrahma is: Sebastien Bismuth: vocals, guitars, effects & keyboards Nicolas Heller: guitars Guillaume Colin: Bass guitar Benjamin Colin: drums
Additional Musicians: Ed Mundell: guitar solos on “A Shepherd’s Grief” Vincent Dupuy: saxophone on “Omens Pt. 2″
Recorded by Benjamin Colin at Hakesound Studios, Romainville (France). Produced by Abrahma & Thomas Bellier. Mixed by Eric Hoegemeyer at Tree Laboratory, Brooklyn, NY (USA) except Conium, mixed by Benjamin Colin at Hakesound Studio, Romainville (France)