Albez Duz, Wings of Tzinacan: Season’s Omens (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


[Click play above to stream Albez Duz’s Wings of Tzinacan in full. Album is out Oct. 28 via Listenable Records.]

In its use of Aztec language (actually Nahuatl) as well as its cover art and sound, Wings of Tzinacan is very much a follow-up to Albez Duz‘s 2014 sophomore outing, The Coming of Mictlan (review here). Released as their first through Listenable Records, it finds the Berlin-based cult rockers working as a trio, with founding drummer/multi-instrumentalist Eugen Herbst (ex-Dies Irae) and vocalist Alfonso Brito Lopez having brought on guitarist Julia Neuman — they’ve done live shows as a five-piece, and also currently list David Petersen as a full-time member, so the situation seems in some flux — and further codifying the gothic themes of the preceding record in a way that draws their various stylistic sides together into one cohesive statement.

That statement comes loaded with echoing spaces, weighted groove, righteously dark melodies, top-grade organ work on songs like “Our Lord the Flayed One,” and adds up to an eight-track/51-minute excursion into murk that calls to mind Type O Negative and The Butterfly Effect-era Moonspell as much as Paradise Lost while still retaining an identity of its own in its sense of atmosphere, depth of mix and arrangement flourish. More perhaps than its predecessor, Wings of Tzinacan — the word translates to “bat” — steps forward with a singular idea of what it wants to do. Where The Coming of Mictlan explored a range of ideas, and Wings of Tzinacan operates similarly, the third album moves ahead from the second by having those ideas push further toward a singular emotional and sonic expression.

All of that said, I don’t necessarily think one has to have heard The Coming of Mictlan, which was released through Iron Bonehead and Archaic Sounds, to appreciate what Albez Duz have on offer here. Lopez delivers a striking performance in classic metal frontman fashion, and the instrumental arrangements behind him — from the full-toned headbang roll of second track “Reflections” through the calling bats of “Tzinacan’s Rising” to the grueling desolation of the penultimate “Death Whistle,” in which volume ebbs and flows but the lurching sense of agony remains constant — engage with both their diversity of approach and how that approach never veers from the mission of best serving the song at hand and the album as a whole. Each half of Wings of Tzinacan begins with its longest track, and while I’m not sure exactly of the vinyl structure — that is, as a 51-minute CD/digital stretch, it’s possible one or two songs don’t appear on the LP for time constraint — the immersion both of them bring about helps set up what the ensuing portion of the record has to offer.


With opener “The Uprising,” the metallic chug prominent early in its 9:44 run builds in intensity but gives way toward the midsection to reunion-era Celtic Frost-type malevolence, slower, meaner, wider, and the arrival of keys signals a transition into a longer atmospheric break. Satisfyingly, they return to the central riff before finishing out, and in accord, “Reflections” and “Our Lord the Flayed One” both offer a blend of straightforward-ish hooks and grand-in-the-presentation downer atmospherics — the latter delving into extreme metal growls and shred late while still keeping a relatively moderate tempo; a fascinating meld rarely so fluidly executed — before the quieter, mournful organ of “Innocence Gate” begins a turn toward some of the broader-reaching material that “Sacred Flame” (the longest inclusion at 9:46) will establish as the course for Wings of Tzinacan‘s unfolding side B.

“Innocence Gate” is also a transition in a sense of how it plays out with the songs surrounding, and by that I mean how it picks up from “Our Lord the Flayed One” and leads into “Sacred Flame.” Where “The Uprising,” “Reflections” and “Our Lord the Flayed One” stand alone and certainly each cut has its personality, particularly as the album progresses and particularly on repeat listens, “Innocence Gate” begins a conversation that “Sacred Flame” continues — Lopez reminding of Amorphis‘ Tomi Joutsen in his delivery — by building momentum to lead through the bats-notwithstanding instrumental “Tzinacan’s Rising,” the growling horrors of “Death Whistle” and closer “Omen Filled Season,” which in a mirror of what “The Uprising” itself did before it was done, seems to go back toward a more straightforward (again, -ish) push to finish out. It’s this whole-album mentality that Albez Duz so successfully convey this time around and which, if one was to speculate on a direction for future evolution of the band, seems the most likely candidate.

There is, as for everyone all the time everywhere, room to go further, but Wings of Tzinacan gracefully balances diversity of approach with overarching intent and leads its listeners down a grim path without wholly losing itself in indulgences or letting its theatrical elements take away from the impact the material is clearly meant to have. In clarity and in the sureness of the hands guiding it, it is very much a third full-length, but Albez Duz haven’t stopped growing yet and I wouldn’t expect them to now either.

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Zaum, Eidolon: Magi Enlightenment (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


[Click play above to stream Zaum’s Eidolon in full. Album is out Oct. 24 on I Hate Records.]

From field recordings of rain falling and birds calling to chants, throat-singing, drones and tones that ring out like bells calling one to prayer, the prevailing sense of worship in its two extended tracks comes to define Eidolon through and through. Presented across two sides — one cut per, both listed at precisely 21 minutes long — the second full-length from Moncton, New Brunswick’s Zaum arrives via I Hate Records (tape on Superbob) and is coated in a meditative vibe.

The duo showed patience a-plenty on their 2014 debut, Oracles (review here), and on the 2015 Himalaya to Mesopotamia split with Shooting Guns (review here), and “Influence of the Magi” and “The Enlightenment” fall in line stylistically with Zaum‘s prior work in their Eastern inflection and post-Om roll, but sprawl they present in Eidolon‘s 42 minutes brings the band to a new level of headphone-ready, open-consciousness expanse. Each track works to establish its atmosphere — “Influence of the Magi” in its stone-walled drone, “The Enlightenment” in birdsong and horn-esque synth — and when bassist/vocalist/sitarist Kyle Alexander McDonald (also synth) and drummer Christopher Lewis crash in on both, it’s merely an extension of the ambience they’ve already put forth.

It’s not jarring. It doesn’t surprise. It just is. That’s the level of ritual Zaum enact throughout. It’s a hypnotic sensibility distinct in some ways from psychedelia, but benefits from some of the same effects on the listener, and it becomes hard to tell just how much McDonald and Lewis are letting go here — whether the unfolding of “Influence of the Magi” is steering them or they’re steering it. One way or the other, it makes the first four minutes or so of the opener, just before McDonald‘s central bassline kicks in, all the more exciting as a setup for what follows, which in turn, does not disappoint.

Of course, once the full breadth of “Influence of the Magi” kicks in, the direction the song will ultimately take becomes clearer. Forward, and forward slowly. The layers of bass and maybe-sitar/maybe-synth, the swirling echo around the call and response vocals, and the gradual plod of Lewis‘ drums, all come together to create the impression of a march — the pilgrimage is underway. They break for a time just before 7:30 in and let the bass and drone hold sway, but it’s not long before the next chanting chorus and verse emerge. Already their trance-state has been attained, and the roll that plays out satisfyingly maintains it in both atmosphere and consistency of rhythm.

In its makeup, I guess it would be fair to call even the heavier stretches of “Influence of the Magi” drone, at least on some levels, but at its most active it moves far, far away from minimalism, even if it’s intent on returning there sooner or later. At about 12:00, Lewis and McDonald once again break, this time to a longer span of drones and chants, and they return at 14:30 with harder-hitting impact and gruff vocals — not quite growls, but definitely in a more shouting vein. The apex. It carries through a final chanting chorus and “Influence of the Magi” caps its grand span with flute sounds, more droning and residual noise on a long fade into silence.


As “The Enlightenment” begins, one can’t help but be reminded of what Montibus Communitas have been able to bring to their interpretation of psychedelic folk through the use of field recordings, birds and running water and the like, but Zaum‘s take is more foreboding almost immediately, though the pattern that emerges is ultimately familiar to “Influence of the Magi,” even if the transition from the extended intro — also arriving shortly after four minutes in — is more fluid overall. When it gets going, side B moves somewhat quicker than did side A, or at least that’s the impression, but pace doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. Give up your expectations. Quit your job and move to the forest. Build a temple by a river and spend your days naming the gods who live in the trees around you.

It’s hard to know where one element ends and another begins in “The Enlightenment.” McDonald‘s vocals are a far-back swirl of semi-spoken reverb, and one can dig through the mystic fog of incense and find bass, and of course Lewis‘ snare cuts through as it would — punctuation no less invaluable on “The Enlightenment” as it was on “Influence of the Magi” — but in terms of some of the layers and what’s synth, what’s drone, what’s chanted, what’s sitar, it becomes a challenge. I wouldn’t want to speak to Zaum‘s intent, but it seems reasonable to think that’s the idea.

The idea isn’t that the listener sits and tries to pick apart each aspect of Eidolon, one layer, one wash at a time, but that the listener does exactly the opposite and lets the album carry him or her along with it on the journey it has undertaken. “The Enlightenment” holds more tension in part for its (relative) uptick in tempo, but trades between sections of drone and heavier push, manipulated sitar taking hold as a from-the-ground-up build sets the stage for a here-and-gone crescendo, disappearing behind low end and McDonald doing a better take on Cisneros-style singing than most.

It goes only to rise again and give way again in an ebb and flow that gives way to a reemergent swirl that acts as a capstone leading to “The Enlightenment”‘s outro of sampled thunder, flute sounds (synth, most likely), and a similarly patient end as that of “Influence of the Magi,” only with a clap of thunder, rainfall and birdsong as the last thing one hears — far, far back by then — as the album finishes out. That might be Zaum‘s way of easing the turn back to conscious reality — in which things do matter, you do have expectations, and building a temple is very, very difficult — but it’s still a considerable return to make when they’re done, which speaks to the quality of immersion they proffer throughout Eidolon.

What can be heard throughout these two pieces, in the end, is Zaum actively working to establish themselves as a unit separate from their influences. They’re exploring different textures and spirits within the music and finding out what works to represent their atmospheric expression. Given the effect Eidolon can have when one gives oneself over to it willingly, I think they succeed, but I would not be surprised to find McDonald and Lewis continuing to expand their sound going forward, and look forward to the worlds they may continue to conjure.

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Begotten Stream Two Lost Tracks Recorded in 2001

Posted in audiObelisk on October 19th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Just how far ahead of their time were New York riffers Begotten? Take a listen for yourself to these two lost cuts from 15 years ago and find out. I’ve gone on at some length over the last couple years about the effect that a changing social media landscape and generational shift has had on a period of heavy rock in the late-’90s and early-’00s, so I’ll spare (most of) that, but like NYC compatriots in Atomic Number 76, Kreisor, Puny Human, M-Squad and a host of others — The Brought Low might be considered survivors — the trio Begotten were a prime example of a band about to have their time who found it cut short. Tracked in 2000 and released in 2001, their self-titled debut was the final CD to come from the groundbreaking Man’s Ruin Records, and like many of that imprint’s acts — Suplecs, MassCavity, etc. — they were left wondering what to do next when label honcho and design artist Frank Kozik pulled the plug. The record, a quality offering of post-Sleep tonal weight with flashes of New Yorker edge and more psychedelic impulses, never got the push it deserved, and they never did another. End of story.

Yes and no. The MySpace era and many of the acts who thrived in the day may have dissipated, but in the case of Begotten, before they went their separate ways, they took part in what seems to be numerous studio and taped rehearsal sessions after the album came out, and it’s from those that “Apache” and “Nomad” come. The two songs — other versions of which you can actually still find archived on their MySpace page, linked below — are presented here in somewhat raw fashion, but give credence to what I’m talking about as regards those years in general, which is to say that if it showed up in my inbox today, the work of guitarist/vocalist Matthew Anselmo, bassist/vocalist Amanda Topaz and drummer Rob Sefcik — the latter of whom would resurface years later in Brooklyn’s Kings Destroy — would fit right in.

Insert your favorite cliche about the old being the new here, but listen to Begotten lumber their way through “Apache” in the context of what bands like Monolord are doing now and I think you’ll hear the adage is easily applied. In tone and the emergent jammed-out feel of “Apache,” as well as in the more intense initial chug that follows in “Nomad” (Sefcik‘s drum intro reminding a bit of Kings Destroy‘s “Stormbreak” from their second album) before that song nears the halfway mark and gloriously spaces itself out, ne’er to return, Begotten‘s emphasis on swing and laid back heft seems prescient in hindsight.

My understanding is that Begotten might start jamming together again at some point, but whether or not that comes to fruition, the three-piece left behind a quality curio in their self-titled, the value of which extends way beyond its tertiary trivia, and “Apache” and “Nomad” show there was clearly a progression underway in their sound that, to-date, remains unrealized. Seems to me that in another 10-15 years — maybe sooner; things move quickly these days — when this era of heavy rock gets mined for reissues the way releases from 1968-1975 have been, Begotten will be more than ready for a second look, whatever else their future as a group may hold.

Sefcik offers some comment on the tracks under the player below.

Please enjoy:

Rob Sefcik on “Apache” and “Nomad”:

So if I remember correctly we went in to record these because we felt we were really hitting our stride. I’m not sure if we had any intention of releasing them at the time but they were definitely a reflection f what we were going for — music that had weight but also an earthy spirit and a sense of freedom. Keeping things super heavy but maintaining a certain loose, jammy vibe is always easier said than done, but we felt like we were getting there with these tunes.

The consensus is that they were recorded late spring/early summer 2001, about a year or so after the record was out. There was a pretty good amount of other material, at least an album or two’s worth. They were recorded in Manhattan but in true stoner rock fashion no one can remember the name…

We definitely have some other recorded material that we have not been able to locate, but I’m sure it will rear its head. For Amanda, these songs for her personally were, ‘an expression of the sublime beauty of the gut-wrenching agony of her existence at the time.’ I was just tying to have a good time, ALL the time, ha.

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Dorre & Bethmoora Stream Split LP in Full; Out Nov. 1

Posted in audiObelisk on October 18th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster



Belgian post-metallers Dorre and Danish sludge brutalizers Bethmoora will release their split LP Nov. 1 in a limited physical pressing of 500 LPs. Divided between 300 black and 200 swirled in black and green, mixed by Chris Fielding (Conan) at Skyhammer Studio, mastered by James Plotkin (everybody, also Khanate) and topped with striking Diaz Inigo cover art, the self-released outing comprises three tracks — two on side A from Dorre, one longer one on side B from Bethmoora — and is bound to make short work of whatever quota you might have for pummel. Dorre, a trio from Leuven, follow their half-hour/single-song One Collapsed at the Altar EP with “Three Fell from the Sky” (8:31) and “Four Walked into the Ocean” (7:15), leaving one to wonder what happened to “Two,” while Copenhagen’s Bethmoora leave far less to mystery with the 17-minute “Succumb,” which, while atmospheric in a manner not wholly dissimilar from their compatriots, is more brazen in its extremity, thanks in part to screaming and growling vocals where the Dorre tracks on side A have none at all.

That in itself is a considerable divide between the two bands, but as much as they both demonstrate clear patience through their material, there are also marked aesthetic differences. Dorre begin “Three Fell from the Sky” with peaceful atmospheric guitar, while Bethmoora start “Succumb” with an immediate tension in the drums. Working bassless, Dorre use the guitars of Adriaan De Raymaeker and Erik Heyns to add psychedelic flourish and construct atmospheres in the vein of Cult of Luna or maybe dorre-bethmoora-split-lppeak-era Isis, while drummer Wolf Overloop carefully avoids patterning the rhythm after that same group, and rightly so. Not easy work, but they establish a linear build through “Three Fell from the Sky” and carry some of the momentum into “Four Walked into the Ocean,” which has its own payoff and arrives at it through tempo switches and some more rock-based push. Once Bethmoora slam into “Succumb,” on the other hand, there’s little doubt as to the doom of their intent. Their single, extended inclusion is vicious even when vocalist Anders Kofod takes a break from the layered death-growls, sounding raw and brutal over the foundation of Martin Korff‘s crash and thud.

Comprised of KofodKorff, guitarists Morten Leerhøy and Henrick Lyck, and bassist Sune Westh SvendsenBethmoora lack nothing for fullness of sound on “Succumb,” somebody or other moving into manipulated noise as the song lurches along in its second half, but they too bring a sense of ambience and spaciousness to the proceedings, however grueling that spaciousness might be. They finish with two-plus minutes of quiet guitar, not quite drone but not far off from it, in a last-minute expression of minimalism that, for those who want to bring the 12″ full circle, might find it feeds nicely back into the start of “Three Fell from the Sky” on side A. Whether that was coordinated between Bethmoora and Dorre or a happy accident, I don’t know, but it works to the advantage of emphasizing a sense of cohesion between the two acts, drawing them together despite any disparities of sound that might otherwise separate their output.

Both are relatively new bands. Dorre issued One Collapsed at the Altar about a year ago and Bethmoora put out their first demo in March, so it’s probably fair to think of the split as an early expression on both their parts, but something else that unites them is a clear sense of purpose.

All three tracks are streaming below ahead of the Nov. 1 release, followed by some comment from De Raymaeker about how it came together and more bio-type background. Please enjoy:

Adriaan De Raymaeker of Dorre on the split:

“Creating this split LP together with Bethmoora was a very easy decision. We’re both passionate bands with a drive to create, go further and invest in the quality of our music. I’ve known Morten for a couple of years now, having met at Roadburn. We’ve been wanting to do something together for a while and decided to just get started and make it happen, and here we are!”

Dorre was born at the Rock Café in Leuven when Adriaan De Raymaeker and Wolf Overloop decided to head up to the attic that Pektop (Adriaan’s former band) used to rehearse. Deep, dark, heavy riffs were made and quite possibly enjoyed by several blocks of flats and houses around the building. Deciding that the time had come to widen the scope of Dorre, a more serious approach was taken to write long pieces of music that incorporated every aspect of each musician. A cohesion of doom, noise, psychedelic rock, blues and stoner was organically formed between the two guitars and the drums.

Copenhagen based sludge/doom 5 piece Bethmoora, has existed for about a year in its current form, all members with experience from previous bands. Huge riffs, bludgeoning rhythms and disturbing vocals are key elements of the slow descent. The lyrics of Bethmoora’s tracks revolve around a common theme – a mythos that singer Anders has created. Deities, entities, occult rituals and eternal strife are all key ingredients of this vast, ever expanding, imaginary dark world.

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Lamp of the Universe, Hidden Knowledge: Experience Beyond (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 14th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


[Click play above to stream Lamp of the Universe’s Hidden Knowledge in full. Album is out Oct. 15 on Clostridium Records.]

For those of us existing on a temporal plane, it’s been 15 years since the solo-project Lamp of the Universe made its debut with The Cosmic Union in 2001. Since then, Hamilton, New Zealand’s Craig Williamson, who at the time he started working under the extended alias was fresh off the 1999 final release from his prior band, Datura — more recently he’s worked in the trio Arc of Ascent — has largely stayed true to the outfit’s original intentions of tantric, meditative psychedelic folk. As his ninth album as Lamp of the Universe, Hidden Knowledge (on Clostridium Records and Astral Projection) demonstrates, neither has the project stagnated.

Even from where Williamson was on last year’s lush The Inner Light of Revelation (review here) — which teemed with life as the follow-up to splits with Trip Hill and Krautzone (review here) in 2014 and the 2013 LP Transcendence (review here), which, at the time, was Williamson‘s return to activity after four years since 2009’s Acid Mantra (review here) hinted at the direction Arc of Ascent would soon take — the four tracks/41 minutes of Hidden Knowledge show a forward step in their use of synth and the spaciness of their vibe overall.

It’s not just about drones and/or Eastern instrumentation — hell, I don’t think Williamson breaks out the sitar here at all — but about the space-folk swirl conjured across “Space Craft” (13:17), “Mu” (6:41), “Dawn of Nebula” (7:01) and “Netherworlds” (14:25) that makes them distinct from Williamson‘s past work while still remaining decidedly his own and recognizable as such.

It may seem like a fine line to some listeners, but for anyone who’s followed Lamp of the Universe for a while, the progression should be clear. Since coming back in 2013 after releasing the two Arc of Ascent albums, 2010’s Circle of the Sun (review here) and 2012’s The Higher Key (review here), Williamson has actively worked to expand the palette for Lamp of the Universe.

That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not chanting by the time “Netherworlds” gets down to its final couple minutes, but he’s doing it over what sounds like backwards-looped e-bow electric guitar and what might be loops running through an Echoplex or otherwise synthesized droning. And, frankly, that is a difference. One can hear it mostly on the bookending opener and closer, “Space Craft” starting and “Netherworlds” ending, just how widened the path of Lamp of the Universe has become.

When Williamson‘s voice first arrives, it does so atop a dreamscape of keys and far-back percussive beats, plus some swirl and periodic washes of cymbals, and as the track develops over its first half, it winds up making its impression with a standout organ line and deeply-mixed electric guitar soloing, executed patiently — of course — as one of the many layers winding its way out at the time.

This immersive, hypnotic flow holds, backed by the same far-off beat well into the second half of the track, unfolding gracefully such that the start of “Mu,” the shortest track here, is jarring with its forward acoustic strum, which feels positively earthbound by comparison. No doubt that’s the intention of the side A finisher, but Williamson keeps the line of manipulated e-bow guitar (or whatever it is) consistent and with material so molten, it’s going to flow from one song to the next either way, so it’s not like “Mu” is out of place, it’s just a jump from one feel to another where “Space Craft” felt like it could’ve gone on perpetually.


The jump, however, is effective, and “Mu” becomes a standout moment on Hidden Knowledge in signature Lamp of the Universe form. Granted, reading that signature over time has become like drawing lines between stars to make constellation pictures, so it’s hardly a case of Williamson doing the same thing across different records, but the intimate feel conjured even in the organ and percussion-laced “Dawn of Nebula” is his own.

Keyboard swirl and other background wash fills out the track, which remains instrumental, and the sound that carries between “Dawn of Nebula” and “Netherworlds” has a classic electronics style, almost like something one might hear from Sula Bassana — if there was ever a cross-continental collaboration that needed to happen, there it is — but it nonetheless makes for an effective transition.

Vocals return for the closer, but the hypnosis is long since complete. E-bow guitar, or again, what sounds like it, works its way in and out, but “Netherworlds” is further distinguished through its use of drums, which arrive after about three minutes and keep together a march behind a wah-drenched guitar solo and the already-there-where-did-it-come-from resurgent line of e-bow.

All of this, performed and recorded by Williamson, as ever, sets up Hidden Knowledge‘s final movement, which plays out with no less grace than anything before it, moving toward the already-noted chanting that ends the album in a languid experimentalist wash that includes the sounds of running water and an underlying bassline that, subtly, turns out to have been there all along.

One might liken Hidden Knowledge to Acid Mantra, if only because like that album it seems to signal a shift in approach and arrangement that will progress from here — the inclusion of more synth and keys and space-minded atmospherics — but what form that might take, be it another band, a return from Arc of Ascent, or further exploration from Williamson as Lamp of the Universe, I wouldn’t hazard a guess.

These songs are nonetheless a logical branching out from where The Inner Light of Revelation left off in their blend of elements, and Lamp of the Universe remains as much an invitation to a ritual as a personal contemplation. The cosmos the project inhabits only continues to grow.

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Captain Crimson, Remind: Fuel for Future Reminiscence (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 12th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


[Click play above to stream Captain Crimson’s Remind in full. Album is out Friday, Oct. 14, on Small Stone Records.]

Swedish four-piece Captain Crimson make their debut on Small Stone Records with their third album, Remind. It’s a record that begs the question of just what we’re being reminded. Comprised of 10 boogie-laden, grooving, swinging, catchy tracks, it follows just two years behind 2014’s Ageless Time (on Moving Air and Nasoni) and four behind the band’s 2012 Dancing Madly Backwards debut that found them paying so strongly to their namesakes in Captain Beyond and King Crimson.

Now working with the lineup of vocalist Stefan Lillhager (ex-Blowback), guitarist Andreas Eriksson, bassist Chris David and drummer/organist Mikael Läth, the Örebro natives have come unquestionably into their own throughout these tracks, moving well beyond the ‘70s worship for which their hometown is so known in favor of a full sound, marking a less dramatic shift than that of, say, Witchcraft, but mostly because Captain Crimson were less of a directly vintage mindset to start with. In any case, what they arrive with on Remind is a 42-minute collection of tightly written, smoothly executed cuts that seem to be vying with each other to occupy space in the listener’s consciousness.

Will it be “Black Rose” or “Let Her Go” stuck in someone’s head? I don’t know, but there’s a good chance that something here will hit a nerve among the converted, as Captain Crimson favor quality songcraft over the trappings of hyper-stylization, and so have no need of the latter as they make their way through, energetically and deftly using the momentum of one track to push through the next.

In the album’s ultimate affect, it feels ahead of the curve in such a way as to recall (which is not to say “remind”) of young-gun countrymen rockers and labelmates Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, who made their debut in 2011 and have followed a similar stylistic trajectory in taking what more vintage-minded outfits have been able to accomplish over the last decade-plus and carry it forward, blending with ’90s influences, yes, but coming across with something new from that mixture.

In the case of Captain Crimson, there are elements at play in early pieces like opener “Ghost Town” or “Bells from the Underground,” which immediately follows and is the longest inclusion at 5:29, that tie them further into the long legacy of quality Swedish heavy rock; most notably in what they’re able to do with the hooks of these songs and the ease of their transitions one might liken their work here to Greenleaf‘s earlier days, or specifically for “Bells from the Underground,” from some of what Astrosoniq had on offer with their last outing, Quadrant, at least on some superficial level, but neither does Remind lack its own personality.

The 10 tracks break evenly onto two neatly-structured vinyl sides, and though each song seeks to deliver an impact, and succeeds on one level or another, they tie together fluidly as well, as one can hear in the crisp jive of “Love Street,” on which Eriksson‘s guitar leads a strut bolstered by layered vocals in the chorus and punchy bass, and the subsequent “Black Rose,” which pulls back on some of the thrust initially to lock in a sleek, classically metallic groove, easily turns into an acoustic break, and emerges with newfound vigor to lead to the side A closer “Money.”

Captain Crimson

Bluesier licks permeate, backed by serene organ flourish, and a flowing jam ensues, more patient than any of the faces Captain Crimson have yet shown, and so a decent setup for some of side B’s expansion of the album’s overall scope. Of course, before they get there, it’s only fair to match “Money” with a barnburner, and “Drifting” opens Remind‘s second half in raucous form, effectively reestablishing the momentum of “Ghost Town” as side B begins to unfold.

There’s some twang underlying the title-track, which follows, but the focus remains on the chorus, cleanly realized with push coming from Läth‘s kick drum, a prominent but not ever really out of place element across the record. Stomp suits Captain Crimson, and “Let Her Go,” with its blues-inflected harmonica (a guest performance from Timo Tilli), backs that up, finding a comfortable pace that allows them to continue to spread out their sound from its foundation of craft and structure in subtle and intriguing ways that become clearer on repeat listens. Then there’s the more drastic change brought on by the penultimate “Alone.”

Almost snuck in before closer “Senseless Mind” reaffirms the decades-spanning stylistic meld, the acoustic-led alone offers Lillhager a showcase in which to shine and he does not disappoint. With vocals and guitar, Captain Crimson depart from the rest of the album toward a different level of emotional resonance, but the presentation is still clear, and there’s never any sense of control lost.

Maybe “Senseless Mind” is meant to work as a reaction to that, or maybe it’s just the drastic contrast between the final two songs, but the ending feels especially riotous by the time it’s over. Before that, like “Black Rose” earlier, it cuts to a quieter interlude, but when the four-piece slam into the final thrust, there’s little doubt the apex has been reached. Like the record as a whole, they telegraph their intentions there, but three albums in, I don’t think there’s anything one could call to question in their intentions.

They clearly know what they’re doing, in the construction of their material, in putting together a record, and in filtering out anything that doesn’t best serve the song at hand. That makes Remind a strong depiction of a group who’ve clearly hit their stride, and leaves one to suppose that perhaps the title is referring to how much of a force such a group can be when captured at their best.

Captain Crimson on Thee Facebooks

Captain Crimson website

Remind at Small Stone Records Bandcamp

Small Stone Records website

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Melmak Stream New Album Prehistorical in Full; Out Today

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 11th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Today marks the release date for Prehistorical, the brutalizing second album from Spanish two-piece Melmak. Comprised of brothers Jonan and Igor Extebarria — on guitar/vocals and drums/vocals, respectively — the band offers a relatively brief onslaught throughout Prehistorical‘s seven-track/32-minute run, but that winds up being more than enough time for them to get their point across in cave-echo sludge extremity, fits of thrash groove and, on a song like “Primitive,” elements culled from black metal or at very least atmospheric death metal. That title, “Primitive,” appears relatively early on Prehistorical, right after opener “Pangea,” and since it’s also the longest cut on the follow-up to Melmak‘s 2014 debut, The Only Vision of all Gods, it makes sense that primitivism should be the overriding theme of both an apparent lyrical narrative and the duo’s raw approach itself. As the cover art for Prehistorical shows, they are not a band that shies away from the violent impulse, from the viciousness of instinct, and that’s easy to hear as they move past the Stephen Hawking sample and into the whispers and tense wash of noise that leads the way into the rumbling start of “Primitive” itself.

Maybe “narrative,” above, isn’t the right word, since I’m not sure Melmak are so much telling a specific story here are seeking to explore and represent ideas and impressions of prehistory, of the rudimentary facets and struggle of humans as animals in an animalistic world. They do this not through weaving a character through various obstacles only to find melmak-prehistoricalresolution — there is one resolution; we all know what it is — but through weaving themselves and the listener through the pummel of their material, here working in the mold of two-pieces like Black Cobra or Mantar, hitting into a slower pace on the noisy, feedback-drenched “The Cavern” before exploding into blastbeats and one of Prehistorical‘s most extreme stretches. What makes the album interesting, ultimately, is that while Melmak establish this sound that comes across as so focused on the nastiness of its own execution, and so harsh, the band works with more of a range than it might at first appear within that sphere. Yes, I mean they play fast and slow, and yes, I mean that Igor and Jonan swap vocal duties, and that sets up a certain level of dynamic, but even in their hardest-driving moments, the echoes on the vocals give their songs a sense of space, so that when the atmospheric centerpiece/interlude “Megalodon” comes around with its quiet piano and moody scratch, it doesn’t seem at all beyond Melmak‘s reach. Just the opposite. If anything, it bolsters the material surrounding.

And the fade-in of a somewhat militaristic snare and thicker riff on “Bonfire” speaks to Melmak having a keener ear for transitions than the sheer ferocity of some of what they do might lead one to believe. That said, “Bonfire” and the penultimate “Death Struggle” work to strip down their sound even further to some of its barest parts: the blown-out noise of the former being consumed by noise into the grueling sludge roll of the latter. Right around the 3:30 mark into “Death Struggle”‘s 4:15, they hit into a breakdown riff in classically thrashy form, and though their delivery of it is slower, the progression is unmistakable in its moving intent. The mosh part, however brief. That spirit seems to carry into closer “Aegnap” as Jonan and Igor again push into longer terrain, even daring some dual-voice vocal melody before they’re done as they lay the groundwork for the final thrust into noise that, though brief, is perhaps meant to mirror that which started the album in a similar fashion as to how the first and last titles mirror each other. In the end, Prehistorical finds Melmak striking a balance between their proposed “Primitive” sensibility and their more complex realization of it, and in part because the album is so short, it seems to entice the audience back in an attempt to better gauge where the band is actually coming from rather than run the risk of losing itself in any sort of indulgence, even that of the severity of their form.

Today I have the pleasure of hosting Melmak‘s Prehistorical for a full stream. You’ll find it on the player below, followed by more info on the release, courtesy of the band.

Please enjoy:

Recorded by Ivan Corcuera (Grabasonic Studio) on August 2016. Produced, mixed and mastered by Ivan Corcuera and Melmak. All songs written and composed by Melmak.

Artwork by Igor Mugerza.

In loving memory of Unai.

Jonan: Guitar/Vocals
Igor: Drums/Vocals

Chorus on “Aegnap” by Jony Menendez.

Formed in 2010 by the Etxebarria brothers, Melmak is a duo which combines the darkness of the doom metal with the madness of the hardcore to explain the situation of the human being and what are the possible solutions not to extinguish as we know it…

Melmak on Thee Facebooks

Melmak on Bandcamp

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Review & Full Album Stream: Varego, Epoch

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 10th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


[Stream Varego’s Epoch in full by clicking play above. Album is out today, Oct. 10, on Argonauta Records.]

It’s not always easy to find, but for each tempest that Italian atmospheric sludge rockers Varego create on the six tracks of their second full-length, Epoch, there is a calm center at the core. That is, while their material offers a veneer of chaos, they never let go of an underlying sense of control, and whether it’s the metal influence that shows up late in the guitar work on “Swarms” or the closing “Dominion,” the earlier Ufomammut-style cosmicrush of the prior-issued single “Phantasma,” or the progressive impulses that seem to be at play there and beneath the churn of “The Cosmic Dome,” the Argonauta Records release succeeds in conveying a diversity of influence on a cohesive, heavy and intriguingly opaque package.

Like Varego‘s 2012 debut, Tumultum — they were a five-piece at the time, they’re now the foursome of bassist/vocalist Davide Marcenaro guitarists Alberto Pozzo and Gero Lucisano (also the head of Argonauta) and drummer Simon Lepore — the prevailing impression on first listen is one of strange immersion. This is thanks in no small part to a heavy effects treatment on Marcenaro‘s vocals, but that semi-psychedelic, spacious echo, in combination with a range of guitar soundscapes, winds up doing a lot of the work of tying Epoch‘s manageable 36-minute run together. It is an album with a sense of presentation more than pretense, but as the sparse guitar build of opener and longest track (immediate points) “Alpha Tauri” gives way to the ensuing rush that sounds something like Mastodon beamed in across several lightyears’ of interstellar signal decay, it’s clear Varego are up for a bit of exploration as well.

As to where that exploration takes them, they seem to display some measure of self-awareness of the journey they’re on. To wit, titles like “Alpha Tauri,” “Flying King,” “The Cosmic Dome,” and even “Dominion” — not to mention the otherworldly mastery conveyed through the album’s cover art, objectification notwithstanding — speak to elements of space, of moving from one place to the next, of something grander than the human sphere, and the music within backs that up with a fervent hypnosis that carries through as “Alpha Tauri” shifts directly into “Phantasma,” which likewise bleeds into “Flying King.”


Bringing the bass forward in the mix gives Epoch an immediate strike of heft, and sets up the dynamic of the buried vocals and the far-out guitar work of Pozzo and Lucisano, but it might be Lepore holding the songs together ultimately. “Flying King” finds him cycling through fills as the guitars and vocals stretch themselves to and beyond oblivion, and though it’s the shortest cut on the album at 4:44, and among the more straightforward, particularly after the thrust of “Phantasma,” from its beginning keyboard flourish to its capping wash of noise, it seems to be the drums providing that center around which the rest of the track swirls — though in this case, that center is anything but calm.

Each of the three songs that follow, “The Cosmic Dome,” “Swarms” and “Dominion,” lead the listener further along a path of consuming bleakness. One finds tortured shouts echoing behind furious riffing on “The Cosmic Dome,” and with the somewhat extended droning intro to that song, it all the more gives the feeling of having shifted from one side to another, side A to B, even in a linear (digital/CD) format. Reinforcement arrives as “Swarms” launches with its slow-Slayer nodding lead line and ping ride and continues to unfurl more downer vibes in the ensuing post-metallic build, increasing in tempo before receding again to a calm and somewhat morose contemplation across a long fade where even the snare drum is coated in reverb.

Like much of the album before it, this is a moment of grayed-out psychedelia, and that vibe carries into the finale “Dominion.” If this is the place to which Epoch has been leading, it’s an alternate dimension of far-ranging sludge and space-metallic thrust, marked out by its build and the rousing finish to which it progresses, the vocals holding all the while to the aforementioned sense of control that has underscored Varego‘s work across this massive but still efficiently-executed span.

At the end of “Dominion,” that seems to be exactly what Varego have established over this strange, sometimes confusing sonic territory. They are fully at home in it. They make it their own. They twist it to suit their purposes on a given track, in a given expression. That they’d develop further into their own sound on a second album four years after their debut isn’t necessarily surprising, but the progressive vision of sludge they present on Epoch that’s neither lacking atmosphere nor purely derivative of post-metal only becomes more satisfyingly individualized on repeat listens, which speaks even more of the band having fully realized the impressive scope of their intentions.

Varego on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

Argonauta Records on Thee Facebooks

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