Review & Full Album Premiere: Spacetrucker, Smooth Orbit

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

spacetrucker smooth orbit

[Click play above to stream Spacetrucker’s Smooth Orbit in its entirety. Album is out Aug. 17.]

There’s a lot about St. Louis trio Spacetrucker that points to their being a classic stoner rock band. For one, their name. Also, their sound. But it goes further than that as well and into their presentation. Looking at the cover of their self-released debut full-length, Smooth Orbit, it’s in their use of the Star Wars logo font, as well as the literal depiction of “space truckin’ round the stars,” as Deep Purple once put it, with a tricked out van riding around the rings of Saturn. Charm is a factor, certainly, but it was as well when this style of heavy, fuzz-drenched rock took hold in the late ’90s informed by grunge, punk and its own disaffection. The difference between that moment and this one, of course, is 20 years, and accordingly, guitarist/vocalist Mike Owen, bassist/vocalist Rob Wagoner and drummer Del Toro have an entire generation — two, really — to learn from when it comes to their style.

One thinks of Man’s Ruin Records acts like Tummler or Suplecs as stylistic touchstones. Bands who were obviously aware of the likes of Fu ManchuKyuss, etc., but ready to bring something of their own to what had come before. Spacetrucker, who further echo this era by making their first record the CD-style length of 10 songs and 52 minutes, are likewise looking to bring a nuance to the genre, and one can hear it surfacing in songs like “Meat Wagon,” the raw-hitting “Hotbox Airlock,” and shorter instrumental passages like the raging “Breach,” the jammed-out “Fuck Up” and “Cat March,” which has sampled marching that may or may not actually be recorded cats in a litter box. They succeed in hitting that mark, ultimately, and their debut explores a range of crunch and groove from the nodding push in the first half of “Vanishing Point/Science of Us” with its over-the-top guitar solo to the sudden turn at 5:27 into the total 7:33 to acoustic strum and percussion. On first listen, one might just think it’s a different song entirely. Nope, it’s just Spacetrucker going where they want to go.

Balancing that impulse with more familiar aesthetic elements — the fuzz, the roll, the sheer dayjob-respite vibe that pervades the chugging “Pulling Teeth” or second cut “Not as Hung” — is one of Smooth Orbit‘s greater strengths, and it is found right down to the tones of Owen and Wagoner and the grit that coincides with their engaging riffage. I think we’re early yet to call it retro and the production is modern anyway, but Spacetrucker clearly know the style they want to play — that is, they sound like fans — and are able to translate that into their own work. The bass after the siren in “Breach,” the subtle sprawl that contradicts the start-stop riff as opener “Sample of a Sample” makes it way toward its apex, or the way the bookend closer “Lost in the Sauce” eases into its slower progression, a final nod-out as the band builds to a suitably raucous finish, ending — how could they not — with an explosion that signals more than just the end of the record.

spacetrucker

By then, Spacetrucker have made their intentions plain — the sampled bonghit in “Hotbox Airlock” tells its fair share of the story — and their intentions are, in fact, pretty plain. They’re not looking to reinvent rock and roll. It isn’t about getting that gig at the art gallery. It’s straight-ahead heavy rock and roll. There are flashes of psychedelic rock and grunge is always there and the pot they’re stirring wants nothing for ingredients in general, but at their core, Owen, Wagoner and Del Toro are a heavy rock band, and they present themselves as such with zero pretense otherwise. They know you know, and you know they know you know. That does nothing to stop them from delivering a quality batch of tunes that seems to nod at The Pixies early in “Meat Wagon” as comfortable as the gravely vocals recall Nirvana in the verses that soon follow. Likewise, as they make their way through the instrumental “Fuck Up,” their ability to vary the structures in their material goes even further toward offering diversity of sound.

At the same time, that manner of breaking up one means of craft with another — this applies to the overarching impact made by “Breach” and “Cat March” as well — enhances the flow between the tracks where otherwise it might interrupt them more than anything. Spacetrucker gave an encouraging first showing on 2016’s Launch Sequence (review here), and they build on that effectively with this initial full-length. What seems to be most important in their work is the element of personality they bring to it. I don’t think “Hotbox Airlock” makes it out of ‘working title’ status if a band doesn’t have a sense of humor, and that’s important, but I’m talking even more about the stylistic blend that Spacetrucker bring to bear throughout the songs themselves. It’s not just about goofing off with riffs, but there’s still the definite impression that they’re having and good time, and well they should.

This kind of hyper-down-to-earth heavy rock and roll is the stuff on which the genre was made, and long before that hypothetical art gallery was even booking loud bands, three-pieces of this ilk were blowing out eardrums with the kind of abandon that Spacetrucker embody so fluidly today. It would be fair to call them traditional in that sense, but if I hope to have gotten any single point across here, it’s that there’s more going on than performance of genre. In their sonic persona and their presentation overall, Spacetrucker not only hearken to a bygone era of heavy rock, but they thereby find a niche for themselves not only within that, but in the modern sphere of aesthetic heft. That speaks to a drive toward individualism in terms of sound, which only bodes well for them going forward, and is another among the many encouraging aspects of this debut. It seems fair to expect some level of progression next time around as their influences get melded further together and so on, but these guys already know where they want to be on the heavy spectrum, and they’ve got their boogie van headed right for it.

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Review & Track Premiere: Mountain Tamer, Godfortune Dark Matters

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

mountain tamer godfortune dark matters

[Click play above to stream ‘Wretched’ by Mountain Tamer. Their new album, Godfortune Dark Matters, is out Aug. 24 on Magnetic Eye with Nasoni Records vinyl to follow.]

One tends to think of Californian heavy psych these days as kind of a cool-kids club of freakout-jamming skaters, ripping an endless barrage of solos in post-Earthless fashion. Los Angeles trio Mountain Tamer have their shredding aspects, to be sure, but are ultimately on a different, grimmer trip. Shades of cultish metal make their way in amid fuzz-guitar riffing, righteously-turning bass and wide-sounding drum crash as their second album, Godfortune // Dark Matters Comprised of a not-inconsiderable 11 tracks for an also-not-considerable 49-minute run, the Magnetic Eye Records and Nasoni Records release came prefaced by a two-song 2017 demo titled Living in Vain (review here) that had early versions of “Living in Vain Part 1” and “Wretched,” both of which reappear here.

That demo followed their 2016 Argonauta Records self-titled debut (review here) and 2015 Mtn Tmr demo (review here), both of which gave early showings of potential for the progression that would seem to be continuing here. As they push the LP format to its limits, they also push themselves into a more individualized sound, like a brooding take on youngest Nebula, maybe, but looser. There’s a sense in the drums of Casey Garcia that the whole thing could come apart at any time, as heard in “Primitive Control,” which leads off a side B (I think; if not, it provides a transition at the end of side A) made up of longer tracks featuring more exploration in the drums as well as from guitarist/vocalist Andrew Hall and bassist Dave Teget.

They’re not jamming, exactly. Even on 7:44 closer “Head Over Heels,” they choose to go with a slower march rather than fly off the handle on an improv sonic jaunt, but either way, there’s clearly a plan at work; a vision for the album as a whole and its method of expression. After the Sabbath-circa-’75 cacophony of opener “Faith Peddler,” there’s the chunkier riffing of “Funeral of a Dog,” which soon enough delves into tribalist percussion and flute behind echoing chants that in turn give way to a howling solo. And that’s the first two and a half minutes.

From there, they dip back into hard psych and stonerist vibes en route to the more straight-ahead approach of “People Problems,” a quick showcase of hook and instrumental dynamic, Hall layering in two solos, one more effects-drenched than the other, between choruses in the second half of the song before a quick shout and noise assault brings on the trad-metal chug of “Living in Vain Part 1.” It and the immediately following “Living in Vain Part 2” make their connection via Garcia‘s drums, but both also share a propensity for a weirdo vibe and earthy psych-rocking approach. The second part doesn’t have verses so much as repeated lines where they might otherwise be, and its thickened-garage intensity plays out with radiating energy that seems only to build on the song before.

mountain tamer

There’s some hypnotic aspect from the repetition, but Godfortune // Dark Matters is so brash-sounding in its production and delivery that it quickly snaps any trance it might induce. The dividing line between the first half of the record and the second is, suitably enough, centerpiece “Nectar,” which is a 1:43 psychedelic interlude of classic rocking form, just a quick instrumental that, in some ways similar to “Funeral of a Dog,” purposefully shifts the flow of momentum the album has thus far built in order to defy expectation. It’s emblematic of the level of thought Mountain Tamer have put into their second full-length overall, and “Primitive Control” continues the thread by picking up with a shove of cyclical riffing that is nothing short of masterful in its combination of sprawl and compressed atmospherics.

A break shortly before the three-minute mark brings in howling guitar, drum thud and steady bass — the latter is a welcome grounding force throughout — before a final solo finishes and leads to “Wretched,” which is a foreshadow to “Head Over Heels” still to come and a slower rollout altogether. That forces some of the earlier hairpin-turn-style danger elsewhere for the time being, but ultimately makes Godfortune // Dark Matters a richer listen with a wider aesthetic berth. Naturally it comes paired with the freak-assault of “Mydnyte” — two ‘y’s! it’s madnyss — the five and a half minutes of which read like a guidebook for the outer reaches of the known psychedelic cosmos. It switches between solidified riff-chugness and such spacey fare, with a wash of noise at the end that brings on the shorter “Riff Dealer.”

At 4:05, “Riff Dealer” is the only cut on the second half of Godfortune // Dark Matters that checks in at under five minutes, and while one might expect that to mean it’s a return to the relatively grounded structures presented earlier, tying disparate ideas and sonic themes together ahead of the finale, that’s a big no dice. “Riff Dealer” pushes into a slower, druggier haze and saves its swing for the back half, cutting to silence well ahead of the arrival of “Head Over Heels,” which fades in on feedback and buzzing amp fuzz. Once again, Teget‘s bass is a standout factor, but Mountain Tamer all seem aware of the occasion, and while I don’t know whether “Head Over Heels” was specifically written to close the album, it excels in that role, calling to mind some of circa-’92 Monster Magnet‘s righteous arrogance in transposing space rock to suit their own needs, even if that’s not a direct comparison of sound.

Atop a rumble and the already noted more grueling lumber, Hall‘s voice echoes as it seems to shout into an unhearing desert. They ride the central riff to a long fadeout and it’s hard to imagine a more fitting end to a record of such obvious individualist pursuits. That is to say, what’s happening throughout Godfortune // Dark Matters is that Mountain Tamer are working toward carving out a niche for themselves in and around heavy rock and psychedelia. They get there, to be sure, but the journey in no way sounds like it’s over.

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Review & Full Album Stream: Mr. Plow, Maintain Radio Silence

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

mr plow maintain radio silence

[Click play above to stream Mr. Plow’s Maintain Radio Silence in its entirety. It’s out Aug. 10 on Ripple Music.]

Can you ever really know what to expect from a band after a 12-year absence? Sure, Houston’s Mr. Plow played sporadic local shows every now and again in between, but their last album, the self-released Kurt Vonnegut tribute Asteroid 25399 (discussed here), came out in 2006. I don’t know that they were ever broken up in the sense of making a public statement to that effect, but guitarist/vocalist Justin Waggoner went on to form Sanctus Bellum a few years back and it seemed like Mr. Plow, who had issued their first two albums — Head On and Cock Fights and Pony Racin’ — in 2000 and 2003, respectively, were yet another casualty of the pre-social media age of heavy rock.

In May 2017, the band announced a return with Cory Cousins of Sanctus Bellum (also Blues Funeral) taking over on drums, Waggoner, and original bassist Greg Green and guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Stone. They subsequently signed to Ripple Music and one has been looking forward to their fourth record, Maintain Radio Silence, ever since. And they’ve obviously been eager as well. Cousins doesn’t even give a full four-count on his hi-hat before opener “Sigil” kicks in. He only gets to two. But 12 years is not a short amount of time.

I’ll cop to being a Mr. Plow fan gladly, but even so, there were a few things it seemed fair to anticipate on Maintain Radio Silence. Straightforward songwriting has always been an asset for the band, and they’ve always had a full, natural sound on their records. The latest is no exception. With eight tracks and 40 minutes, Mr. Plow hit the standard easily — there were more songs recorded than wound up on the final LP; “Paxton,” “Southbound,” “Spark Arrester” and “Million Bucks” were on an earlier version that temporarily made its way out on Bandcamp — and aren’t through the aforementioned leadoff before they’ve dropped their first signature-style hook with Waggoner‘s gravely vocal up front as backed by Stone.

Their fuzz carries a familiar grit and their tracks overall, while (at least mostly) not based on the same kind lighthearted of references as, say, “Festivus” or “The Dude” from the second record, or working around the kind of central theme they did on Asteroid 25399, flow smoothly together and Cousins brings a touch of metal with him that can be heard in the cymbal work on “Samizdat” and the hard-hitting snare of the penultimate “Hammer Smashed Face,” which, no, is not a Cannibal Corpse cover. Between those and the wash of noise in third cut “Matchstick” and the airy lead and sense of space brought to the title-track, Maintain Radio Silence not only brings a mature incarnation of Mr. Plow‘s sound — something they had over a decade ago — but a bit of an edge.

It’s absolutely true some of that might be my reading into the context of Waggoner and Cousins‘ work in Sanctus Bellum, which was more aggressive on the whole, but in listening to the screaming at the end of “Sigil,” or even the deeper-in-mix shouts toward the end of “Matchstick,” there would seem to be a chip on the band’s collective shoulder. To coincide with this is the (presumed) side A closer, “Shaolin Cowboy,” which may or may not be based on the comic of the same name. It’s the shortest inclusion on the album at 3:49 — side B’s finale, “Memento,” is likewise brief at 3:56; “Matchstick” is the longest at 6:39 — and a dead-ahead uptempo rocker that seems to nod at Helmet in some of its start-stop riffing, but is nonetheless a rousing and catchy heavy rocker in line with some of Mr. Plow‘s older work.

mr plow

Accordingly, it fits well between “Matchstick” and the subsequent “Johnny Gentle,” with a half-time drum progression under a duly large-sounding riff and a title presumably nodding to the Infinite Jest character rather than the one-time Liverpool singer who toured with what would become The Beatles. “Johnny Gentle” has a slower, doomier roll to its rhythm and is more patient especially than “Shaolin Cowboy” before it, and that helps set up the title-track as well, which starts off gradually with guitars spacing out over solid bass and drum movements before easing its way into a fuzzy groove and the initial chorus.

Maintain Radio Silence, with its mix of elements new and old, is well summarized by the song that shares its name, which has some more aggressive push but an overarching sense of restraint and keeps composition first. One might expect “Hammer Smashed Face” to operate in the opposite manner, but it stays consistent. More upbeat than either of the two before, it acts as a bridge to “Memento” at the end and offers a dead-on hook that’s ultimately one of many throughout the record but a standout all the same. Hard not to get the line “My fellow man’s an asshole” stuck in your head.

And whether or not it’s intended to callback to the 2000 film of the same name, “Memento” caps the album with another straight-ahead heavy rocking groove that also works in some of the earlier aggro tendencies in Waggoner‘s vocals atop a winding lead line and weighted low end from Green. It might be as heavy as they get on Maintain Radio Silence, but I’d have to put it on a scale next to “Johnny Gentle” to be sure, and, well, that’s just silly. What matters more is that as “Memento” rounds out with a vigilant final push, Mr. Plow make their return plain to hear and show with no question they had more to say when they seemed to fade out those many years ago.

At the same time, one of the most crucial elements at work across Maintain Radio Silence that the band maintained from their original run is an utter lack of pretense. I don’t think Mr. Plow reunited in order to go on tour and play 150 or 200 shows a year. I don’t think they got back because someone offered them a ton of money to play a fest or something like that. I think it had been a while and they enjoy creating and playing music together. I don’t know what the future holds for Mr. Plow and with 12 years between their third and fourth outings, I won’t dare to predict when/if a fifth might arrive, but if anything could be carried over from their past, it’s clearly their passion for what they do, and with that as their motivating force, there’s no telling what might be next.

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Jody Seabody & The Whirls Premiere “Grenade Green” from Hawksamillion

Posted in audiObelisk on August 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Jody Seabody and the whirls

Houston heavy thrashers Jody Seabody and the Whirls will release their third album, Hawksamillion, on Aug. 24 through Artificial Head Records. The first thing you should know is there’s no Jody Seabody. I mean, I’m sure there is somewhere, but not in this band. And I’m not sure what a Whirl is as applies to human beings, so I suppose there could be one or two among the lineup of Bryce Perkins, Dave Merriett, Clint Rater and Stuart Cooper, but there’s little on the record to indicate either way. What there is, however, is an eight-song/32-minute mostly-barrage of bruiser hardcore punk ripped through with classic thrash intensity. Remember when you couldn’t decide whether Suicidal Tendencies were punk or metal? It’s kind of like that, only way rawer in the production.

The effect that has, naturally, is to play up the punker edge along with the youngest-Metallica lights-hitting of the opening salvo in “Ultra Defiant,” the gang-shout-laden “Malignant Terror” and “Terror TV,” Jody Seabody and the whirls Hawksamillionwhich starts off with a sample and tears into a visceral riff topped with harsh shouts. That’s the course of a lot of Hawksamillion, but what that doesn’t necessarily convey is the fluidity with which Jody Seabody and the Whirls play various genre elements off each other. The frenetic energy and Slayer-inspired howl at the end of “All Gone White,” or the anti-genre turns the album makes in its second half, with the semi-ballad “Making Demons” and the tempo-shifting “Grenade Green” finding a balance between heavy rock and hard punk, working in more Slayer references in in both the riff that emerges just past the halfway point and the screams that accompany before the track turns to a slower march backed by organ and rambling guitar, shades of Texan twang arriving to make the band just a little bit harder to pin down even than the meld of “Malignant Terror” did on its own.

All the better for it, because even as the penultimate “Nightmares” kicks in and returns to ground heading into the even-more intense closer, the context has shifted such that one knows less what to expect from the band in general. And that departure in “Making Demons” and “Grenade Green” — the latter of which does well in bridging the gap between their core modus and the weirdo excursion — not only adds nuance to the proceedings overall here but brings Jody Seabody and the Whirls to a different level of execution overall while remaining consistent in the production. While so much of it hits like a blast following the Cro Mags cronk riff that launches the record in “Ultra Defiant,” the simple truth of Hawksamillion is that the truth of it isn’t so simple. And similar to, say, naming themselves after someone not in the band, they revel in the shenanigans and are all the more righteous in crossing genre lines for that.

They’re on tour starting Aug. 17 in their hometown, and you’ll find the dates for that run under the player below, on which you can hear the premiere of “Grenade Green.”

Please enjoy:

Jody Seabody and The Whirls has long been as difficult to define as its mysterious moniker — of which there is no Jody Seabody nor a group of Whirls among them. However, the Houston quartet’s forthcoming third album Hawksamillion seems an effort, at least, for the band to define itself.

Whereas the band’s 2015 sophomore album Holographic Slammer dabbled in psychedelia, garage-prog, proto-punk and neo-grunge with manic bouts of aggression, their new album is pure, refined bile and vitriol. The band had hinted at the sound to come on the last 3 tracks of their previous album, but even those hadn’t hit the extent of urgent fury evidenced throughout the 8 incendiary songs of Hawksamillion. With cover art by legendary Dead Kennedys/Alternative Tentacles collage artist Winston Smith, a sharp 180-degree turn from the work of Dutch ‘60s psychedelic artist Marijke (Cream, Apple Records, Procol Harum, The Hollies) even the album art is like a line drawn in the sand.

Just like the Bad Brains going from jazz-funk to inventing hardcore punk and onward, JS&TW have the musical chops to pull off any sound that takes their interest. Album opener “Ultra Defiant” starts off like a doom-inflected version of the aforementioned legends before jostling into a breakneck metalpunk storm with an ever-morphing riff and throat-searing vocals. “Malignant Terror” bursts out incisively decimating everyone in under 2 minutes, with the last 40 seconds dedicated to an instrumental jam. “Terror TV” shows the band’s melodic and acrobatic skills with blistering guitar work and multiple vocalists overlapping one another. Elsewhere, “Grenade Green” is the album centerpiece at nearly 7 minutes long, flitting between old fashioned punk rock and Kill ‘Em All-era thrash that may embody the fury of Hawksamillion best. Throughout, the level of intensity and anger is relentless, but not at the expense of the music.

Somewhere over the past two years, the people and society that the band members loved and trusted have betrayed them. This album is a response to that betrayal of the promise of a better life and the “good times” of rock and roll. These are ugly, bitter days, and these guys are watching, like a hawk.

Hawksamillion will be available on LP and download on August 24th, 2018 via Artificial Head Records.

JODY SEABODY & THE WHIRLS LIVE:
08/17 Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall
08/18 Norman, OK @ Red Brick Bar
08/19 Tulsa, OK @ The Soundpony
08/20 Wichita, KS @ Kirby’s
08/21 Topeka, KS @ Boobie Trap Bar
08/22 Lincoln, NE @ 1867 Bar
08/23 Lawrence, KS @ Gaslight Gardens
08/24 Columbia, MO @ Cafe Berlin
08/25 Hot Springs, AR @ Maxine’s Live
08/27 Denton, TX @ Killer’s Tacos
08/29 San Marcos, TX @ Valentino’s
08/30 Austin, TX @ Dozen Street
08/31 San Antonio, TX @ Bexar Pub
09/01 Bryan, TX @ Revolution

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Psilocibina, Psilocibina

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 31st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

psilocibina psilocibina

[Click play above to stream Psilocibina’s self-titled debut in its entirety. Album is out in August on Abraxas Records and Electric Magic Records.]

Scorching leads, a popping snare and the kind of bass that’s funky enough to make you go all bobble-head — the self-titled debut album from Brazilian three-piece Psilocibina has it all if by “all” you mean a truckload of classic psych-tinged heavy rock boogie. And of course you do, because duh.

The instrumentalist power trio of guitarist Alex Sheeny, bassist Rodrigo Toscano and drummer Lucas Loureiro gave an initial showing in the early hours of 2018 with an initial single LSD / Acid Jam, and with backing from Abraxas Records and Electric Magic Records, they’ve made a quick turnaround on an initial long-play offering of seven tracks in a crisp, manageable 36 minutes, covering classic 12″ length and asking nothing more of their audience than some companionship as they shuffle their way out of the atmosphere. From the already-going movement that begins opener and longest track (immediate points) “2069” through the outer reaches of past-asteroid belt side B in “Trópicos” and the reappearing “LSD,” which rounds out, Psilocibina hold true to right-on momentum and a sense of direction that’s heavy ’70s in brand but comes streamed through a filter of frenetic modern interpretation à la Radio Moscow. That ultra-boogie. It’s there in the seven-minutes of “2069,” and that sense of danger flows from the opener through everything that follows. It may be Psilocibina‘s debut, but the band make it clear quickly they know what they’re doing.

Tempo shifts abound and are fluid and guitar leads take the place of vocals not necessarily in “singing” out the lines of verses, but in leading the forward charge of jams that sound vibrant and energetic to their very core. From the start, Toscano‘s bass is a must-hear for anyone prone to grooving on heavy bottom end, and Loureiro is adaptable to the turns happening to the point of being no less molten than Sheeny‘s guitar. I don’t know when the album was actually recorded, but it sounds like it was a hot day in Rio, and as “2069” struts to its finish, the guitar dropping out and the bass and drums continuing to hold the progression for another measure or two until they too let it go, “Galho” picks up with a noise-laden wash that hits high and low as the drums thud out behind. At 6:07, it’s the second longest song on Psilocibina (double points? why not?) and it steps easily into a sleek groove after its introduction — still vital but not rushed. Sheeny starts into a solo and then rejoins Toscano and Loureiro on a classically progressive descent before noodling his way outward again. He’s dug in his heels by the time they’re passing the halfway point, and a change just before the four-minute mark brings not only more highlight basslines but a quicker tempo, a guitar solo that’s nigh on surf rock in its intricacy, and builds in its electricity as it plays out the rest of the song.

PSILOCIBINA

It would be almost too easy to tag Psilocibina as a guitar band and move on. And surely, Sheeny has a propensity for tearing into a lead — he’s a spontaneous player and I’ve known a few on stage who seem to step into the half-stack itself as though it’s the portal to another dimension — but that’s only part of the dynamic the band is working with, and such a designation undercuts the contributions of Loureiro and Toscano both, which are considerable throughout and on the side A closer “Supernova 3333” in particular, in which the bass and steady snare act as an anchor for the guitar to let it wander in the sky above for a while as if to say, “No sweat, we got this. You go have fun.” In in that getting-of-this, the rhythm section utterly shines. This is a showing of chemistry no less classic than the aesthetic it’s being used to harness, but of course the one feeds into the other when it comes to the style and substance of what Psilocibina is, and through the finish of “Supernova 3333,” with its bouncing course and deceptively tight ending, the vibe is set. By the time they get there, it’s easy to trust the band. They’ve done nothing to that point but deliver.

That routine continues throughout the longer side B portion of their self-titled, which also opens with its longest track (triple points?) in the 6:02 “Na Selva Densa,” a fervent gallop riding outward in the bass while blues licks lay over top and the drums punctuate with what seems to be an extra layer of percussion added for good measure. If this is to be the personality Psilocibina set about developing as they move forward, that’s only a win for those who’d take them on, as the performance aspect of “Na Selva Densa” is so crucial. The drums and percussion take the fore late in the track and solo toward a finish that that the eponymous “Psilocibina” enters from silence with its pastoral guitar intro. The first two minutes or so build on that progression, sweetly melodic and classic in structure, but soon enough the bassline comes forward to drive the turn to speedier fare. It’s back to the boogie from there, and they jam it till the wheels fall off, which is fair enough. With “Trópicos” following just behind — the shortest inclusion at just over two minutes and an absolute brain-winder — there’s just about no other way to go.

“Trópicos” digs back to the momentum of the opener, but delivers it in an even tighter way. It feeds into “LSD” as though stopping for a measure and picking back up on the beat, and Psilocibina give one last manic go at softshoe-worthy heavy, crashing and ringing out with amp noise behind to once more underscore the live feel that’s been so much of a presence throughout the album. That is essential to the success of Psilocibina and its component tracks, as the rawness of their presentation — raw, not under-produced or under-recorded — only seems to bolster the energy with which the material so readily shines. They are brash, they are forward, and they sound utterly on fire on what one has to keep reminding oneself is their first record. Can’t help but look forward to more after such a promising first round.

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Review & Lyric Video Premiere: Forming the Void, Rift

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

forming the void rift

[Click play above to stream the premiere of a lyric video for Forming the Void’s ‘Ark Debris.’ Their new album, Rift, is out Aug. 17 on Kozmik Artifactz.]

I’m sorry, but any record that starts with a song called “Extinction Event” is telegraphing its heaviness. And sure enough, Rift is the most weighted offering yet in the relatively brief but prolific tenure of Louisiana four-piece Forming the Void. In terms of tone, atmosphere and rhythm, it brings to bear a heft that feels like an arrival point — the title of the side B opener, sure enough: “Arrival” — following last year’s Relic (review here) and 2016’s Skyward (review here) with an uptick in scope, apparent lyrical narrative and sense of largesse that nothing they’ve yet done has touched. Comprised of seven tracks running a total of a still-LP-friendly 45 minutes delivered via Kozmik Artifactz, Rift is, simply, a new level for the band. Operating as the four-piece of guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Luke Baker and drummer Thomas Colley (the latter making his first appearance), they offer their most cohesive and purposeful collection to-date, with landmark hooks in “On We Sail” and the subsequent “Arcane Mystic” and themes that have been present at least since Relic — the cover art of which depicted a hooded mystic traveling through space on an asteroid — the album ultimately takes a linear path.

Following its beginning in “Extinction Event,” that time-to-go narrative launch point leads to a lyrical journey through “On We Sail,” an “Arcane Mystic” met along the way, “Transient” leading to “Arrival,” “Ark Debris” when the vessel in question presumably is broken down and turned into a “Shrine” at the end. The sense of culmination is underscored by the fact that the finale tops 10 minutes long while everything else apart from the 6:53 “Ark Debris” is under six minutes, but by then the point is made in roiling, rolling progressive riffing and Marshall‘s echoing vocals; a spaciousness clearly meant to be taken literally. As in, “it’s about space.” Perhaps most pivotal of all the story being told doesn’t detract from the songwriting in general, and though I’d bet by the time they got around to writing the words to “Transient,” the concept was locked in place, neither that centerpiece nor anything around it pulls away from the well-struck balance between craft and storytelling.

On a sheer execution level, Rift is loaded with intent and poise. At their fastest, Forming the Void are not rushed, and at their slowest, in the back half of “Transient,” say, they remain comfortable in their forward motion. “Extinction Event” introduces a variety of elements in terms of the ultra-dense tones, spacious clean vocals and brash rhythmic swing, and in so doing summarizes a fair bit of what’s to come throughout the album, but as “On We Sail” and “Arcane Mystic” lead into “Transient,” the side A finale marks a significant shift in approach. Or at very least it foreshadows one ahead. With impressive lead work from Al-Khansa, thick low end from Baker and an impressive debut from Colley in shoving them along their path, the early cuts of Rift are more straightforward in structure. The hooks have already been noted, and it’s not as though ambience isn’t a factor, as the intro to “Arcane Mystic” immediately hypnotizes and bolsters the feeling of openness, but that will become much more of a focal point on side B, and true to its name, “Transient” marks that transition. Like “Arcane Mystic” just before, it has a subdued introduction, but it goes further in making loud/quiet tradeoffs between utterly massive plodding and more serene melodic fare.

forming the void

The shifts can be sudden but don’t feel that way because the pace is gradual, and like everything that surrounds, they’re brought to bear with a grace that underscores the progressive mindset of the band as a whole. “Transient” has something of a hook, so ties well to the cuts before, but also tells of the expanses yet to be traversed on “Arrival” and beyond into side B. Sure enough, what would seem to be a conclusion is only the beginning point of something new for Forming the Void as arrival rolls out a memorable riff, echoing vocals and a steady nod of a groove en route to a slow-marching midsection and a pickup in the second half to psychedelic lead work laced over a still-tectonic groove. Shifts in tempo only continue as “Ark Debris” takes hold with a decided Middle Eastern inflection in the introduction. Patient in its unfolding, the intro becomes the bed for the verses over the first several minutes, and it’s not until about 3:10 that heavier guitars kick in over the steady drumbeat. A solo over distortion keeps the vibe of the early going alive as the halfway mark is crossed, and a subtle build happens where fuller tones are first teased and then arrive with a marked fluidity over a consistent drone that’s been there all the while.

They end with feedback there and let “Shrine” — an arrival unto itself — close out, beginning with a stretch of quiet but tense guitar and cymbal washes before the whole lumber takes hold. “Shrine” is resounding in its heavy, soaring in its melody and firm in its purpose, and lands as a significant achievement for Forming the Void on their path of sonic discovery. After thudding out the initial verses, they stop around four minutes into the total 10 and drop to quiet to let keys or effects-laden guitar answer the Mideastern vibe of “Ark Debris” for a moment before resuming the stomp. A bridge of some earlier Elder-style riffing leads to “Shrine”‘s melodic payoff and then a final solo over double-time drums pushes toward the final slowdown, huge in its sound and headphone-worthy in its engrossing rumble.

The end comes when “Shrine” cuts short at 10:13 and fades back in on a cymbal wash for more feedback before they make their way out again, ending the album with a reminder that while this story has finished, there’s much more to say. At least, that’s the hope, considering how much Forming the Void have been able to turn their first two full-lengths into lessons and learned from them in the making of this third one. They’re a band who should be touring, especially now, since it would seem they’ve found and been able to harness the sound and style they were looking for these last several years and the task before them would be to refine it. As to how that will happen or the direction they’ll work in from this point on, I’ve no idea, but everything they’ve done to get to this stage has been willful in its creative growth, and one doesn’t expect that to stop just because they’ve so thoroughly nailed it this time around. But make no mistake, they have nailed it.

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Lurk Premiere “Proteus Syndrome”; Fringe out Aug. 5

Posted in audiObelisk on July 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

lurk

Finnish sludge extremists Lurk release their new album, Fringe, Aug. 5 on Transcending Obscurity. The eight-track outing is the third from Lurk and was originally released by the Tampere-based four-piece digitally in 2016 before being picked up for a proper pressing. It follows behind 2014’s Kaldera and a 2012 self-titled from the band, who mark a decade by making their debut on the Indian imprint and whose attack has never sounded more visceral than it does on Fringe. I’ve already said about the album that they’re likely talking about the “lunatic fringe,” the way-out, or better, way-deep edges where most don’t dare to tread, since that seems to be where Fringe itself is interested in dwelling. With the harsh rasp of Kimmo Koskinen crawling out from beneath the lurch of guitarist Arttu Pulkkinen, bassist Eetu Nurmi and drummer Kalle Nurmi, the atmosphere is dark and punishing but not without an ambient breadth as opener “Ostrakismos” leads the way into an unfolding brutality made ritualistic with the use of an effects-laden alto sax.

Fringe, for all its madness in the chug of “Tale Blade” and the oozing wash of noise that is the subsequent “Reclaim” — Satyricon and Celtic Frost meeting with Neurosis and older Paradise Lost lookinglurk fringe on — is rife with these sonic details. Following the gang-shouted layers of rasp in “Reclaim,” “Elan” closes out side A with an extended building introduction and cleaner vocals — guesting on the song is Aleksi Laakso, also of Totalselfhatred and numerous others — that lead into the album’s most vicious lumbering yet before dropping to near silence and a searing throat-rip pulled directly from Finnish black metal. As side B begins with “Offshoot,” the affect is faster and more death/black than sludge, but the underlying groove is never far, and “Offshoot” seems to be making its way downward as it moves toward “Furrow,” a resumption of plod that remains willfully torturous despite not hitting the five-minute mark. A cleaner section of shouts ignites a call and response of sorts, but the tones surrounding, the crash and the lumber are a tie to the aural cruelty in the tracks surrounding.

As to that, “Nether” answers the how-does-this-not-just-melt chaos of the song before it with an almost stately metallic poise. It’s the shortest track at 3:35, but also perhaps the most straightforward in terms of its metal quotient, working against genre expectations in a way that successfully expands the palette of Fringe overall. It’s only fitting, then, that they should close with their darkest, most utterly miasmic assault. That’s “Proteus Syndrome.” At 7:05, it’s the longest inclusion on Lurk‘s third record, and between its squibbly guitars, its rhythmic nod and its vocal-cord-trashing indecipherability, it both makes for a fitting summary of what’s come before it and pushes further into the depths than anything before it has gone. A post-midpoint drum-dropout leads to a tension of low-end that moves toward resurgence of a riff that’s near-gothic in its theatricality, but repurposed and coated in filth to suit Lurk‘s purposes. They finish with no more kindness than they began, as “Proteus Syndrome” is consumed by a wash of noise that cuts short to leave nothing behind, the arrival of silence clear in its depiction of death and no less resonant or meaningful than the fetid barbarity before it.

Usually when I post a track premiere, I say something like, “enjoy.” I’m not sure that applies here, so:

Be devoured:

Lurk, “Proteus Syndrome” official premiere

Wistful and mysterious, LURK’s music is just as interesting and multi-faceted as their cover artwork. Blending elements of doom, black and death metal into their astounding sludge template, the Finnish band is taking the sound ahead in ways hitherto unheard. Haunting, soaring melodies juxtapose with abrasive low-end riffs without hampering the overall aesthetics. Watch the band take you into a slow, hallucinatory descent towards madness where multiple worlds coalesce and still make sense – that in a nutshell is the music of LURK.

Line up –
Kimmo Koskinen – Vocals
Kalle Nurmi – Drums
Arttu Pulkkinen – Guitar
Eetu Nurmi – Bass

Guest vocals by Aleksi Laakso on Elan
Alto saxophone by Aino Heikkonen on Ostrakismos

Album artwork by Adam Burke (HOODED MENACE, LOSS)
Layout and art direction by Francesco Gemelli (KATATONIA, TOWARDS ATLANTIS LIGHTS)

Lurk on Bandcamp

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Review & Full EP Premiere: Atavismo, Valdeinfierno

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Atavismo Valdeinfierno

[Click play above to stream Atavismo’s Valdeinfierno EP in full. It’s out July 23 on Adansonia Records.]

True to form, even a short release from Atavismo has a pervasive sense of atmosphere. The Algeciras, Spain, band blew any and all minds willing to follow along with last year’s Inerte (review here), and to be perfectly honest, I’m still a little up in the air as to whether Inerte was their full-length debut or a sophomore outing after their first release, which was 2014’s Desintegración (review here). As it’s comprised of four central tracks, Valdeinfierno, which is their new ostensible extended-player and debut on Adansonia Records, shares some structure in common with that first offering, but the palette has grown exponentially. It’s been four years, which can be nothing in the life of a band, and Atavismo do retain some of the heavy psychedelic underpinnings that they began to develop into a more progressive mindset with Inerte, but Valdeinfierno is no less a leap from the last outing than that was from the first.

It once more finds guitarist/vocalist/synthesist Jose “Poti” Moreno (ex-Viaje a 800Mind!), bassist/vocalist Mateo and drummer/vocalist Sandri Pow (also ex-Mind!) expanding their sound. They’ve expanded the lineup of the band as well, welcoming Koe on keys, synth and vocals. I’m not sure who contributes what to which parts of “La Palmosa,” “Quejigo,” “Valdeinfierno” and “Sapo Sagapo” but with the intro “Tropmetillas de la Muerte” and the outro “Etreum al ed Sallitemport” — yes, the outro is the intro backwards, in content as well as name — Valdeinfierno is all the more about progression and showcasing different sides of their personality, with each cut offering something different to stand it out from its surroundings, whether it’s the proggy shuffle of “La Palmosa” or the folk-tinged acoustic/electric blend of “Sago Sagapo” or the jam into which “Quejigo” so fluidly launches or the title-track’s sudden turn from drifting heavy psych into Iberian-folk-tinged percussion and jamming. More and more, Atavismo seem to be defining their own stylistic parameters outside of prescribed genre lines. This only suits them all the more.

If we’re arguing that Valdeinfierno is an EP — and since the band says it is, basically we’re not arguing at all beyond a hypothetical — a point in favor of that position is the diversity within the tracks. Even from where they were early last year, Atavismo have taken very clear steps to move forward. That would be all well and good, except for the fact that there’s still such a flow between the songs. At 28 minutes, it could go either way– the debut, for what it’s worth, was 37, and Inerte was 42 — and the way these songs work off each other and seem to add to an overarching statement of stylized progadelic intent speaks to an LP methodology. Maybe it’s a hard sell. What matters more than what one should call it is the vibe the band takes such obvious care to present and to maintain over the course of those 28 minutes. The patient drift past the midpoint in “La Palmosa.” The brightness of the fuzz guitar blast in “Sapo Sagapo.” The slow beginning of “Valdeinfierno.” The mini-freakout of “Quejigo” with its uptempo bounce. All of these things help give the respective tracks a sense of personality of their own, and yet all of them tie the material together as well. They unite as much as they distinguish.

Atavismo

After the wash of keyboard and plucked acoustic guitar notes and clarinet and mellotron of “Trompetillas de la Muerte” — which, by the way, is 39 seconds long — “La Palmosa” takes hold with an insistent strum and plays back and forth between fuzz-laden breaks and an immediate build of forward momentum. Keys in the background help tie together transitions, and Atavismo jam their way through a midsection break that’s the hypnotic beginning of a build, except that instead of paying it off in traditional fashion, they leave off to silence and let the start-stop riff at the core of “Quejigo” — no less danceable than its predecessor — keep the spirit moving. The drums are crucial to this as the guitar joins their rhythm and blown-out vocals mark the beginning of the first verse. Like “La Palmosa,” “Quejigo” builds its own tension, but at 3:22, it opens up to pay it off with an uptempo jam and the already-noted bounce en route to the presumed end of side A.

The title-track is also the longest song on Valdeinfierno at 8:26, and in its concept, it’s the most striking inclusion of them. It works in two sections and the first of them is a lull. Gently, it rises to a serene level of volume with a patience over the course of its first two-plus minutes that feels born out of classical music, never mind prog, and when the airy guitar and drums kick in a bit before 2:30, their entry isn’t even so much a “kick in” as a “oh hi do you mind if we do this thing we promise it’ll be awesome ah cool thanks” and with what sounds an awful lot like a xylophone backing — keys? — Moreno unfurls a slow, jammy lead. By the midpoint about two minutes later, the mood is set and Atavismo set to exploring the landscape they’ve drawn, but then at 5:50 a surge of volume signals to the drums, which then begin cycles of tom runs and the guitar moves into a speedy and winding lead that seems to carry a Middle Eastern influence in its scales, but drops out after seven minutes to percussion and room-mic’ed shouts that end. That switch in volume and meter is so resoundingly important to Valdeinfierno. It’s the moment where the band proves that not only are they able to pull off different stylistic turns between their songs, but within them as well. As “Sago Sagapo” comes through with its soft keys in the background, easy lead layer behind acoustic strumming, the peaceful feel of earlier in the title-track returns, but it’s hard not to think maybe Atavismo will jump ship again and start adventuring into different terrain.

They don’t, really, and “Sapo Sagapo” brings up another fuzzy solo before dropping to silence and letting “Etreum al ed Sallitemport” run backwards through the EP’s intro with all the more of a progressive feel. But the lack of predictability remains firm and it’s become one of the strongest assets Atavismo have at their disposal. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether Valdeinfierno is an EP or an album. It only matters to me because when I invariably salivate over what they do next, compulsion will lead me to wonder if it’s their second LP, third EP, second EP, etc. Of far greater importance is that this mini-album is precisely that: a condensed full-album flow executed over a shorter series of tracks. It acts as a showcase of Atavismo‘s growth and experimental sensibilities, but it also inevitably bridges any and all gaps between those experiments as they arise. This band makes some of the most beautiful music I’ve heard in underground psych. It’s time more people started taking notice.

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