Review & Full Album Stream: Greenbeard, Lödarödböl

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

greenbeard lodarodbol

[Click play above to stream Greenbeard’s Lödarödböl in its entirety. Album is out July 1 via Sailor Records.]

One might have to stare a couple extra seconds at the title Lödarödböl before putting the proper long ‘o’ sounds where they should be, but once that’s deciphered, a good portion of Greenbeard‘s intent is revealed. The Austin, Texas-based three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Chance Parker, bassist Dan Alvarez and drummer Buddy Hachar follow-up their 2015 debut, Stoned at the Throne (discussed here), with six tracks of correspondingly weedian craftsmanship that balances straightforward hooks with jammier impulses in clear but fluid divide. That is, in listening, one looks at a song like the eight-minute “Lanesplitter” and can probably guess that Greenbeard are about to stretch out a bit, but the trio do well to tie their pieces together, whether it’s that song leading out of aptly-named opener “Swing” or into the driving “Young Concussion.”

All told, Lödarödböl comprises six tracks pulled off over a pretense-free 35 vinyl-ready minutes, and there isn’t a weak one in the batch. With subtle shifts in tone brought to bear through a production/mix job by Matt Bayles (Isis, Mastodon, so many others) — who also adds synth to “Swing,” “Lanesplitter” and 10-minute closer “Wyrm” — a few guest vocal appearances and variety of structure, Greenbeard keep a consistent groove from song to song while playing a kind of back and forth between shorter and longer-winded stretches. Momentum is built and well maintained, and ultimately, Lödarödböl succeeds in casting an amiable interpretation of modern stoner heavy: informed but not solely indebted to the likes of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age, and jammed out in all the right places.

With their road bowl loaded, Greenbeard set themselves in immediate motion with the introductory riff of “Swing,” calling to mind a fuzzier take on earlier Red Fang in their chug and straightforward, uptempo push. Even the verse is catchy, and the chorus itself is the first of several deceptively ear-worming melodies that Lödarödböl offers, but it’s also telling and somewhat foreshadowing that “Swing” moves into its second half with the aforementioned keys from Bayles and a more laid back, languid, semi-psychedelic spaciousness added on top of that initial core chug. That tension is essential to what makes Lödarödböl function, and to have it play out directly prior to the fadeout of the album opener shows consciousness on the part of the band in terms of informing their audience of their intent throughout. Was that what they had in mind when they wrote the song? Probably not, but it’s a crucial function “Swing” plays anyway, and likewise the transition into the nodding “Lanesplitter” is smooth enough that there’s no jarring moment where one track ends and the next one starts.

greenbeard

Parker‘s vocals about a minute in remind of Chris Goss in Masters of Reality in how they top the bounce, but “Lanesplitter” is headed outward, and after a little more than three minutes, the track crashes out to a just-guitar progression as the founding element of the likely-plotted jam that will carry through the rest of its eight-minute runtime, some righteous half-time drumming from Hachar and Bayles‘ organ work setting up a guitar solo while Alvarez holds the proceedings together on bass so that as they move into the more-improv-sounding next stage of the jam and build toward the crashing apex, the sense of motion remains prevalent. That turns out to be pivotal as Greenbeard shift method again into the shorter and more structured “Young Concussion,” rounding out the album’s first half with a strong hook that speaks to the Songs for the Deaf influence, stops to make room for a bit of rock-gasm, and ably returns to its chorus to finish.

Lest they be accused of not being stoned enough, ParkerAlvarez and Hachar start side B with “Battleweed.” Like “Swing” at the outset, there’s a certain amount of blending impulses in the five-minute-plus second-half leadoff, but “Battleweed” functions doubly in reinforcing not only the two different sides of Lödarödböl, but how readily Greenbeard are able to unite them into a functioning singular presentation. There may be a certain tongue-in-cheek aspect to the lyrics, but with its turn into and subsequently out of midsection boogie and casual rhythm, it’s a highlight all the same, and it comes backed by the “Love has Passed by Me,” the penultimate cut and shortest at 3:33. A sans-frills swing-and-hook masher, it thick-shuffles through its verse en route to the maybe-Kyuss referential chorus (though that was “…Passed Me By,” not “…Passed by Me” as it is here) and holds its pace for the duration, playing effectively into the bass-thickened start of “Wyrm.”

The final portion of Lödarödböl earns its extended stretch-out with a patient opening and loosely hypnotic flow, a particularly impressive vocal from Parker when the vocals arrive and a break at the halfway mark into an abbreviated crescendo. This makes for an especially welcome ending, because rather than build and jam their way out, Greenbeard actually turn back to the chorus and the central progression of “Wyrm” and ride that to the album’s end, working in defiance of expectation and easing the listener back to reality with a return from Bayles on keys and a last churning hum. In some ways, Lödarödböl is a quintessential second full-length. It clearly has learned from its predecessor, and it demonstrates mindful growth on the part of Greenbeard without giving the sense that they’ve finished the process of becoming who they’ll be as a band. That’s a convenient narrative, but they play well to it, and their preaching should have no trouble finding welcome among the ears of the already converted or those looking to be.

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Review & Full Stream: Harsh Toke, Joy & Sacri Monti, Burnout Split LP

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

harsh-toke-joy-sacri-monti-burnout

[Click play above to stream the Burnout three-way split between Harsh Toke, Joy and Sacri Monti. It’s out June 23 via Tee Pee Records.]

Not to quibble on titles, but it’s way less Burnout than it is ignition. The West Coast heavy psych boom, centered in San Diego but with offshoots up and down throughout California in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, etc., is years underway at this point, and New York’s Tee Pee Records has proven to be among its most crucial documentarians. In bringing together Harsh TokeJoy and Sacri Monti — three San Diego bands who’ve all had albums out on Tee Pee — the long-running imprint has essentially reinforced the arrival of and camaraderie between members of one of the US’ most vibrant underground scenes. If they wanted, each of these groups could have headlined their own three-band split — there’s enough clout between them and enough other acts around to make that happen, easily — but in uniting them together, Tee Pee is going for broke in representing the particular energy and classic-minded shred that typifies San Diego’s explosive sound.

It is likewise no coincidence that Burnout — a six-song 12″ topping out at 26 minutes — should feature covers from each band as well as original material from Joy and Sacri Monti, since so much of what’s happening and what’s already happened in the heavy ’10s has owed its core approach to the heavy ’70s before it, so that to have Harsh Toke take on Roky Erickson for two tracks — something they also did for a full set at Roadburn festival this past Spring in the Netherlands — as Joy tears into “Spaceship Earth” by Road and Sacri Monti into “Sleeping for Years” by Atomic Rooster not only makes sense sonically, but effectively ties together the still-very-much-exploding current movement of bands with the crucial wave that preceded it nearly half a century ago.

I admit, that’s a pretty heady view of the mission here, and to listen to Burnout, the tracks don’t come across nearly so lofty in their aims, whether that’s Harsh Toke‘s drunk-at-the-piano dive into Erickson‘s “Burn the Flames” at the outset or the scorching, organ-soaked boogie drive of Sacri Monti tackling “Sleeping for Years” at the finish. And rightfully so. If it was pretentious or overly self-aware, the whole affair would fall flat, where in the front-to-back execution, it proves to be anything but, with both Joy and Sacri Monti right in their respective elements in both their own material and their cover selections while Harsh Toke prove to be somewhat the outliers as they leadoff the release. Not so much sound-wise — Roky Erickson‘s weirdo formative and massively influential psych isn’t out of context in their swaying reinterpretation — as in the simple concept of Harsh Toke playing songs.

harsh toke joy sacri monti burnout vinyl

Harsh Toke‘s 2016 split (review here) with San Diego scene lords Earthless — who along with Radio Moscow are very much the elephant in the room when it comes to not only the three outfits appearing on Burnout but the wider San Diego sphere as a whole — and their 2014 debut, Light up and Live, were essentially jam-based releases, and their live sets find them working in likewise methods. To hear them push through the fuzzy proto-punk of “Bermuda,” I’m not sure why they so generally avoid vocals, but the fact that it’s something that doesn’t happen all the time would seem to make it all the more of an event, and they are right at home in that track and “Burn the Flames” preceding, giving a sense of Erickson‘s character in the material while presenting it with their own energetic tack. Naturally, on a three-band split there’ are bound to be some stark leaps in sound, between groups — like on any multi-group compilation — but the speedier “Bermuda” also helps make way for Joy‘s “Your Time Ain’t Long,” the longest inclusion here overall at 5:27.

Meting out similar winding riffage to what high-speed-nodded throughout their 2016 third full-length, Ride Along! (review here), “Your Time Ain’t Long” serves as the first original of Burnout and cuts short after three-and-a-half shuffling minutes to a more languid drift, keeping some progressive tension beneath as it moves with deceptive efficiency back toward its hook. The trio count into “Spaceship Earth” for a live-in-studio feel that the raw fuzz of their tonality and echoing vocals backs up that impression. In their own composition as well as the 1972 Road track, it’s the guitar leading the charge, and even as “Spaceship Earth” moves into outside-the-atmosphere noise following an extended stretch of leads, tone provides the fuel for that ascent. Sacri Monti‘s “Over the Hill” follows immediately.

Their original, like that of Joy before them, showcases a fervent-enough ’70s influence to make its transition seamless, but is distinguished through the use of organ and the interplay there between keys and shred-prone guitar as was their 2015 self-titled debut (review here), and as a next step forward from that release, “Over the Hill” bodes well for the development of their chemistry on the whole. Their selection of an Atomic Rooster track is likewise admirable — and one has to acknowledge it must’ve been tempting, when looking at 1970’s Death Walks Behind You, to take on the title-piece — and they give the UK-based post-blues stompers their due while, like Harsh Toke and Joy before them, bringing their own personality to the presentation in a live-feeling onslaught of groove that dares you to keep up with its nigh-on-frenetic turns. It’s over quickly — so is Burnout as a whole — but Sacri Monti‘s cold finish to “Sleeping for Years” makes a fitting end to the split, since as the scene that birthed these bands also seems to do, it leaves one with the feeling of standing in front of the stage yelling for one more song.

And if they had done another, or if any of these groups came back out and did an encore, you wouldn’t find me complaining. Cities like San Diego, Encinitas, Visalia, Oceanside, and so on, have become more and more crowded over the last couple years, and I expect they’ll continue to for at least the next several years as we move toward and beyond 2020, but with the quality of output from Harsh TokeJoy and Sacri Monti both here and on their own offerings, it’s hard to argue with others wanting to pick up and try to capture some of the same vibe that’s presented as being so utterly molten across this split. In playing to their strengths, each of these bands represents some of the best of West Coast heavy psych as a whole.

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Review & Full Album Stream: Abronia, Obsidian Visions / Shadowed Lands

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

abronia-obsidian-visions-shadowed-lands

[Click play above to stream Obsidian Visions / Shadowed Lands by Abronia. Album is out June 26 on Water Wing Records. Tour dates below.]

It’s telling that Abronia‘s first album, Obsidian Visions / Shadowed Lands, should open with such a strong sense of place. The leadoff track, which begins with a sparse minute-plus of atmospheric, prairie-vibed guitar before exploding into a cacophonous wash of noise, cymbal crashes, saxophone, etc., is called “The Great Divide.” Also known as the Continental Divide, its name derives from the point along the Rocky Mountains at which water flows either to the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean. In the context of the Portland six-piece’s Water Wing Records debut, it could just as easily refer to the slashed duality of the title, that moment where the calmness erupts at the beginning, or the shift into spacious, swinging heavy Americana, folkadelia and rock that emerges therefrom.

But the important thing is there is a definite place, bound to the earth, that the opener positions the listener, since the core of the five-track/34-minute offering would seem likewise to be of and about the land. One finds this rooted in the use of a 1930s marching drum as a percussive focus throughout instead of a standard bass drum, as well as in the organic, direct-to-tape production through which the material is presented, having been tracked by Jason Powers (Moon Duo) at Type Foundry, and in the patient, methodical manner in which the ambience unfolds, creating a flow from the beginning of “The Great Divide” that is at once vividly present in its groove and seeking something ethereal or transcendent. Another great divide entirely, perhaps.

The band is comprised of vocalist/saxophonist Keelin Mayer (formerly of Eternal Tapestry), guitarist Benjamin Blake (also Young Hunter), guitarist/backing vocalist Eric Crespo (also Ghost to Falco), bassist Amir Amadi, Andrew Endres of Ohioan on lap steel guitar and James Shaver on the aforementioned marching drum and other percussive elements, and the stylistic trip on which they embark beginning with “The Great Divide” is significant. The opener is also the longest track at 8:36 (immediate points), and its instrumental fluidity carries the listener smoothly into the shimmering, sunshine-on-the-river melodica-topped folk of “Shala,” on which Mayer gradually makes her presence known vocally (it is a presence worth knowing) as she locks in with the melody of the guitar.

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Here and across the following tracks, vocals will come and go with naturalist ease, adding to the earthy psychedelic impression of “The Great Divide” and giving the whole affair a front-to-back feel of willful meandering — the band seeming to head out in the woods and set themselves to ranging. They’ll do so throughout “Shala,” the centerpiece “Smoke Fingers,” the Jefferson Airplane-esque highlight “Glass Butte Retribution” and seven-minute closer “Waning Wand,” playing instrumentals off memorable, poetic verses handed down by Mayer with suitable command. Followers of Young Hunter will find some continuity with that band’s bouncing, plucked guitar notes via Blake‘s playing, but Obsidian Visions / Shadowed Lands is ultimately less gothic in its intent, and though there’s a tension to some of the craft following the blowup at the start, it’s not until the cymbal wash of “Glass Butte Retribution” and the payoff of “Waning Wand” that the album again finds itself pushing toward a noisy crescendo, and even the last is a quick one to end the finale.

Instead, for most of the duration, Abronia affect a meditative attitude, and concentrate on an exploratory feel within their tracks. That suits the space-jazz of “Smoke Fingers” well, which has a steadily nodding rhythm and some righteous interplay of sax and guitar, and the vast, open spirit of “Glass Butte Retribution,” which might be the most straightforward inclusion on Obsidian Visions / Shadowed Lands as regards the relative simplicity of its march, but still wants nothing for atmospherics despite a somewhat minimalist impression early that moves on a linear build to crashing cymbals and a surprising final scream from Mayer with an epilogue measure of guitar behind it. It doesn’t necessarily speak for the entirety of the record in terms of mood or sound, but “Glass Butte Retribution” makes a fitting ambient summary nonetheless, and with “Smoke Fingers” before and “Waning Wand” after it, side B of Obsidian Visions / Shadowed Lands proves no less a deep, headlong dive than did side A with “The Great Divide” and “Shala.”

That said, while one imagines vinyl release was a consideration in the album’s making, by the time the nuance guitar of “Waning Wand” starts as a bed for Mayer‘s first verse three minutes into the song — almost sounding like flourish of East Asian folk — it seems Abronia as much benefit from the nonstop immersion of a digital/CD structure in that once it starts, there’s no point of interruption to draw the audience away from what the band is doing. As to that, Obsidian Visions / Shadowed Lands may well serve as a formative debut release from which Abronia will commence a sonic progression — they’ve certainly set themselves up for one — but there’s no question they establish themselves here as a cohesive unit of songwriters with a definite story to tell through their work. One hopes that as their journey continues forward, they hold onto the wandering sensibility that serves them so well here and feels so crucial in the crafting of their narrative of place and being.

Abronia on tour:
S –7/01 – Raymond, WA @ Thirst for Light Festival
R –7/27 – Portland, OR @ The Know
F – 7/28 – Arcata, CA @ Miniplex
S – 7/29 – Oakland, CA @ The Hole
S – 7/30 – San Francisco, CA @ Adobe Books
M – 7/31 – Oakland, CA @ The Nightlight
T – 8/01 – Los Angeles, CA @ Zebulon
W – 8/02 – Yucca Valley (Joshua Tree ), CA @ Frontier Cafe
R – 8/03 – Fresno, CA @ Tioga Sequoia
F – 8/04 – Sacramento, CA @ Luna’s Cafe
S – 8/05 – Chico, CA @ Duffy’s

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Review & Full Album Stream: Mouth, Vortex

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

mouth vortex

[Click play above to stream Vortex by Mouth in its entirety. Album is out June 30 on Al!ve/Blunoise Records.]

Some eight years after releasing their debut, Rhizome, and 17 years after first getting together in 2000, German progressive classicists Mouth offer their second full-length in the form of Vortex. An album that winks its ’70s influences even unto its cover art, it finds the three-piece of vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Chris Koller, bassist Gerald Kirsch and drummer/keyboardist Nick Mavridis nestled easily and immediately into headphone-ready krautrock vibes that continue to spread out across the 56-minute release, which arrives bookended by two 16-minute tracks in opener “Vortex” and closer “Epilogue.”

King CrimsonPink FloydUriah Heep, BrainticketHawkwind, and so on, are of course reference points as they invariably would be, but like US-based outfit EyeMouth distinguish themselves through the fluidity of their composition — that opener arrives in four parts: “To the Centre,” “Turbulence,” “Silence” and “Vortex” itself — through creative arrangements of guitar around various key instruments and vintage-sounding synth, and through the overarching poise of their delivery.

That they’d be patient isn’t necessarily a surprise after being together so long in one form or another, but neither does Vortex lack drive, and even as “Vortex” — also the longest track at 16:36 (immediate points) — carries through the organ-soaked/lead-topped swirl of its “Silence” portion with spoken vocals behind its instrumental build, Mouth hold to a firm sense of forward direction and don’t simply meander to suit their own whims. And after all that cascading, the eponymous portion of “Vortex” caps with ambient synth, acoustic strum and far-back layers of electric guitar in what comes across very much as a final movement, so there’s a feeling of completeness to Vortex that, informed by the extended opener, continues throughout the proceedings that follow.

On the other end of the spectrum, one finds “Epilogue,” the corresponding finale that nearly matches the opener for runtime. It’s a slowly unfolding, three-stage (mostly) instrumental jam, languid and hypnotic, that gives way to silence after three and 12 minutes and finally leads to a sitar-infused hidden track of organ-laced psychedelia. Arguably the most intentionally molten stretch of Vortex, “Epilogue” is ultimately just that: the afterword from Mouth‘s long-form statement, and while when considering the launch and the landing, Vortex is already a considerable achievement in classic prog, there’s still significant stylistic expression happening in its journey through shorter tracks “March of the Cyclopes” (6:01), “Parade” (4:02), the centerpiece “Mountain” (3:43), “Into the Light” (7:07) and “Soon After…” (3:18), as the three-piece set to balancing their impulses toward willful complexity and cosmic psychedelia.

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Despite some blown-out vocals, they do so gracefully from the start of “March of the Cyclopes,” shifting from early verses into a space-rocking midsection that draws the listener into its instrumentalist push and devolves into noise to finish out and lead into the fuzzy start of “Parade.” A more grounded shuffle at the start seems to nod at straight-ahead classic heavy rock in a way that realigns the listener’s mindset effectively, and even as church organ and other key lines play off one another, Mavridis‘ drums assure that all stays in motion as it should.

Dreamy guitar effects take hold circa the halfway point, and “Parade” also drives toward an apex like “March of the Cyclopes” before it — note how both tracks are ‘going somewhere’ in their titles; we’ll soon enough find destinations in “Mountain” and “Into the Light” — but it doesn’t come apart in the same way, holding to its chorus and ending cold on its organ line as toms start the climb through “Mountain.” Zeppelin-style acoustic strum and effected vocals hit backed by Mellotron in a secondary hook as the bouncing groove assures momentum is steadfast as Vortex moves into side B.

Cosmos and mind continue to blend on “Into the Light” — a winding keyboard line emitting a certain tension but never actually out of control or dissuaded from its forward direction — and “Soon After…,” which one might be tempted to call an interlude were its jazzy drum work and melodic wash of keys and guitar not so well executed, and though Mouth have by and large set the course that defines Vortex, the process of hearing them explore within that context satisfies all the same, especially as “Into the Light” seems to answer the more structured feel of “Parade” and “Mountain” with subtle shifts in approach, making the whole affair even richer than just its constructed layers can convey.

In wrapping the voyage, both “Soon After…” and “Epilogue” have a kind of understated triumph at their core, most especially the closer, which departs from the verses and choruses that follow “Vortex” in much the same way that the opener had little time for them to start with. This kind of parabolic oddity, coupled with the utterly liquefied aspect of Mouth‘s psychedelic lysergery, successfully conveys the experience of their years together, but Vortex is fresh and engaging despite being vintage in its form, and finds its best footing in a front-to-back open-minded listen from those ready and willing to be carried along by its resonant, expressive flow.

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Review & Track Premiere: Destroyer of Light, Chamber of Horrors

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

destroyer-of-light-chamber-of-horrors

[Click play above to stream ‘Lux Crusher’ by Destroyer of Light from Chamber of Horrors, out July 14 via Heavy Friends Records.]

The last couple years have apparently done much to hone the focus of Austin, Texas’ Destroyer of Light. Chamber of Horrors is the third full-length from the four-piece and their first standalone outing since 2014’s Bizarre Tales Vol. 2, which was followed by the 2015 Endsville split/collaboration LP (video premiere here) with Godhunter, and its seven tracks mark a significant turn of approach and mood. This could well be the result of heavy touring undertaken since Bizarre Tales Vol. 2 came out, but it feels like a conscious decision one way or the other, and as guitarist/vocalist Steve Colca, guitarist Keegan Kjeldsen, bassist Jeff Klein and drummer Penny Turner elicit their most directed and longest offering yet at 44 minutes, they also find themselves holed up in a doomed swamp befitting the Adam Burke cover art, otherworldly and ruinous as it is.

Patiently and with purpose, they roll out massive grooves like that of 10-minute closer “Buried Alive” or the preceding “Prisoner of Eternity,” on which Colca‘s vocal cadence and the march in general seems to be in direct conversation with Sweden’s Goatess more than the brash heavy rock Destroyer of Light offered on their previous outings. Flourish of organ in that track, guest vocals and samples on “The Virgin” and ambient pieces like the intro “Whispers into the Threshold” and the centerpiece/presumed side B opener “Twilight Procession” add depth and complexity to the morose vibe, and a mix by Matt Meli of Austin’s Orb Recording Studios sets up a suitable abyss into which the band can feel free to plummet. And plummet they do. Gloriously.

The first grim claw is raised not long after “Whispers into the Threshold” begins with a sample of a creaky, heavy-wood door opening into an echoing room and likewise echoing guitar (also actual whispers). It’s worth noting that at the end of “Buried Alive,” there’s a corresponding shutting of that door, and one assumes that’s the band putting their audience in the titular Chamber of Horrors. So be it. That bookend is one more example of the kind of cohesion and attention to detail Destroyer of Light bring to their third album, and the songwriting holds up to a similar standard, whether it’s the mournful wail of lead guitar and earlier shouts turning to moans in the second half of “Into the Smoke” that set the stage for more of what’s to come later or the more direct horror-worship of “The Virgin,” which with its guest vocals alongside Colca and even more dramatic take is something of an outlier in the tracklist, despite the engaging flow that’s already been crafted between the first two songs and which continues throughout. It’s almost as though, after years of being called a doom band, Destroyer of Light decided to turn around and become one.

destroyer of light

It suits them. The devil himself shows up on “The Virgin,” which almost feels like it was bound to happen somewhere along the line, and amid spacious lead guitar, the band unfurl an accordingly resonant melody and percussive thud to lead into the first creeper verse of an effective linear build. As with “Into the Smoke,” they’re telling a story. I don’t know if Chamber of Horrors would or should be considered a concept record, but it’s definitely thematic, and there’s a clear intent in the way it plays out piece by piece. A somewhat minimalist weaving of two guitar lines over a subtle dirge of drumming takes hold with “Twilight Procession,” and almost before the listener realizes what’s happened, Destroyer of Light have constructed a momentum that’s carried them through side A without misstep.

It’s one thing for a group to grow into a new sound. It’s another for them to arrive at it sounding already so well schooled in the tenets of the style and so readily knowledgeable about which rules they want to abide by and which they want to break. As they touch on post-Electric Wizard riffing to start “Lux Crusher” in a way that mirrors somewhat the progression at the outset of “Into the Smoke,” it again makes clear the level of nuance to which Destroyer of Light are playing, and though, as noted, “Lux Crusher” calls to mind the righteous swaying Vitusism of Goatess especially in Colca‘s vocal approach, the band bring this influence into their own sonic context, harsher shouts emerging as they roll toward the track’s chugging, feedback-laden conclusion and into its six-minute companion-piece “Prisoner of Eternity,” which begins with rim taps from Turner and clean-sounding guitar before its full rumble kicks in, signaling the end is near. Like “The Virgin,” “Prisoner of Eternity” centers more around its hook, but the addition of organ beneath and around its guitar solo adds an even more classic feel. That’s fair game for Destroyer of Light at this point, because with the 10-minute “Buried Alive,” which follows and rounds out, they engage an entirely different level of doomly traditionalism.

With perhaps the boldest take on clean vocals out front to start, “Buried Alive” reinterprets an ambience that brings to mind The Gates of Slumber, and though they’ll move into more extreme growls and a wash of noise before they’re done, the lumbering misery of their finale never gets lost in the slow-motion cacophonous melee that ensues. Once again, they cap with feedback before that door closes, and though it’s hard to know from the context of the audio whether we’re trapped in the Chamber of Horrors or we’ve managed to escape, one way or the other, the album makes a lasting and colorful impression such that, even if we’re out, we’re not unaffected by what’s been witnessed within. It’s not the most dramatic sonic turn that’s ever taken place — that is, Destroyer of Light had elements of doom even at their most psychedelic moments, and they have elements of psych here even at their most doomed — but Chamber of Horrors nonetheless represents a brazen reset on the band’s part and whether they continue to walk along this bleak path or head elsewhere aesthetically, what they’ve accomplished in pulling off the shift in these brave and willfully dismal tracks is not to be understated.

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: High Brian, Arduini/Balich, Audion, Grey Gallows, Smoke Mountain

Posted in Radio on June 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio cavum

If you’re a regular denizen of The Obelisk Radio, you’ve probably already guessed by the massively expanded playlist that we’re back on the main server at this point. It’s been months on the backup, and while anyone is still reading, let me just say out loud how much I owe to the hard work Slevin has put into the back end of making this thing happen. From a huge file-recovery operation to yesterday turning the thing back on after I moved a bunch of files and screwed it up yet again, the dude is just unbelievable. Seriously. This site is coming up on nine years old, and Slevin has made it happen every step of the way from a technical standpoint. I am in awe of his prowess and generosity of spirit.

So now that we’re back up and running at full capacity, the only thing to do is to keep building it going forward. And here we are.

The Obelisk Radio adds for June 13, 2017:

High Brian, Hi Brain

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Though they start out with the post-Queens of the Stone Age shuffle of “Liquid Sweet,” the crux of Austrian rockers High Brian‘s playfully titled debut long-player, Hi Brain, lies in classic psychedelia, unafraid to directly make a Beatles reference or two in “Aquanautic Smoke” or name a track after Jefferson Airplane‘s Surrealistic Pillow. That song, “Surrealistic Pillow,” turns out to be one of Hi Brain‘s catchiest, but hooks about throughout the nodding “All but Certainty” and the later, Stubb-style raucousness of the pair “The Conversion” and “Blood Money” as well, while centerpiece “All the Other Faces” and the aforementioned “Aquanautic Smoke” engage effects-laden drift and poised fluidity, resulting in an overarching sense of within-genre aesthetic variety that moves easily throughout the vinyl-ready 44-minute offering. They close with the molten roll of “Time,” their longest cut at 5:52 and a bolder melodic take, as if to signal a potential direction of their growth on their way out. There are plenty of encouraging signs before they get there, certainly, but hey, one more never hurt. An impressive introduction to a project that one hopes continues to develop and expand its approach.

High Brian website

Stone Free Records website

Mountain Range Creative Factory

 

Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages

ARDUINI BALICH DAWN OF AGES

Words like “powerhouse” are invented for releases like Arduini/Balich‘s Dawn of Ages. The Cruz del Sur release brings together Fates Warning guitarist Victor Arduini (who also produced) and Argus vocalist Brian “Butch” Balich, and while I’ll confess that on first listen I went right to their cover of Sabbath‘s “After All (The Dead)” — fucking righteous; and there aren’t a lot of people I’d trust to take on that song or anything from the Dio era — extended pieces like “Beyond the Barricade” (17:27) and “The Wraith” (13:44) offer listeners a deep push into a heavy metal that’s progressive, powerful and doomed all at the same time, executed with a clarity and a purpose that shimmers with class and just the right balance of patience and aggression. Rest easy, traveler, for you are in the hands of masters. Rounded out by drummer Chris Judge, Arduini/Balich is what happens when heavy metal goes right, and from the doomly unfolding of opener “The Fallen” through the 2LP’s three concluding covers of Beau Brummels‘ “Wolf of Velvet Fortune,” Uriah Heep‘s “Sunrise” and the already noted Dehumanizer highlight, there isn’t one moment where they relinquish their hold on either their craft or their audience’s attention. It’s the kind of outing that might cause a last-minute revision to best-of-the-year-so-far list, to say the least of it. Not to be greedy, but I’ll take a follow-up as soon as possible. Thanks.

Arduini/Balich on Thee Facebooks

Cruz del Sur Music website

 

Audión, La Historia de Abraham

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If the driving Motörhead-onic thrust of the title-track to Audión‘s La Historia de Abraham rings familiar, it might be because the rhythm section of the Buenos Aires trio consists of bassist Gonzalo Villagra (also vocals) and drummer Walter Broide (also backing vocals), both formerly of Los Natas. Honestly, that pedigree would probably be enough for me to get on board with the 10-track/49-minute self-released full-length, but then you get into the roll and drift of the subsequent “Llegaron Sordos” and the fluid cascade of “Colmillo Blanco,” and guitarist Dizzy Espeche makes his presence felt tonally and vocally throughout to add a new personality to whatever familiar aspects might persist. “Lesbotrans” dives into a ’70s-style swing and the blown-out “Diablo vs. Dios” follows it with the age-old question of what might happen if The Who went garage punk, but there’s flourish of psychedelia on the interlude “Para Rosita” before “El Carancho” and “Queruzalem” round out with some of La Historia de Abraham‘s weightiest impacts. I think it’s fair to say Audión have some tinge of Los Natas‘ style to them, but their first outing shows them working toward building something new from that as well, and that makes their arrival all the more welcome.

Audion on Thee Facebooks

Audion on Bandcamp

 

Grey Gallows, Underlord

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Not that it isn’t plenty malevolent on its surface, but there’s an even more extreme threat lurking beneath “Underlord,” the nine-minute opener, titular and longest track (immediate points) on the debut full-length from Phoenix, Arizona’s Grey Gallows. It doesn’t take long for that sense of extremity to manifest in a blackened sensibility that pervades both in the riffs of a song like “Belladonna” — the middle cut of the five included — or the overarching spaciousness that finds its way into the grime-coated “West of Hell,” which follows. With a depth of guitar worthy of filling one’s lungs, “West of Hell” churns in a manner faster and somewhat sludgier than the alternately nodding and atmospheric “Priestess” showed the Opoponax Records outing to be earlier, six-stringers Joe Distic and Cat weaving noted lines and crunch riffs around each other for seven densely grooved minutes amid low-end push from bassist Lee, adaptable and creative drumming from Shane and Zue Byrd‘s vocals, which hit in form no less distorted in the back half of “Priestess” than they are punker drawled in closer “Buzzard Dust.” Nasty. Nasty, nasty, nasty. That’s basically what the math works out to on the 35-minute outing, but it’s worth noting that even on their first album, Grey Gallows demonstrate a ready willingness to balance various stylistic impulses off each other in such a way that’s only going to make their sound richer as they proceed. Richer, and even nastier. So be it.

Grey Gallows on Thee Facebooks

Opoponax Records webstore

 

Smoke Mountain, Smoke Mountain

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The first EP from this Floridian three-piece does precisely what it’s supposed to do: introduces a newcomer band with three unpretentious tracks of dirt-fuzz riffing. The immediate vibe of opener “Demon” is early Acid King as the vocals follow the riff in classic stonery fashion, but the three songs get longer as they go and “Violent Night” proves immediately more spacious en route to the eponymous march of “Smoke Mountain.” What would probably be called a demo in a prior age, Smoke Mountain‘s Smoke Mountain makes its primary impression tonally but shows potential in its songwriting as well, and as a quick sampling of what the band are getting up to in their first stages, there’s little more one could reasonably ask of it, particularly as “Smoke Mountain” hammers home its chorus in a balance of clean vocal melody and absolutely filthy guitar, bass and drum crash. That duality, should they maintain it as they move forward into whatever might come next, can only serve them well. One to keep an eye on.

Smoke Mountain on Thee Facebooks

Smoke Mountain on Bandcamp

 

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Moon Rats Stream Title-Track of Debut Album Highway Lord out June 23

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on June 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

moon rats

I wouldn’t usually make this kind of call outright, but I’ll tell you right now that come December, Moon RatsHighway Lord will be on my list of the best debut albums of 2017. A position has already been secured for the Milwaukee five-piece, who’ll release the seven-song outing on tape June 23 through Gloss Records, thanks to their memorable songwriting, perfect pacing, rich tonality, and unpretentious, laid back vibes. Songs like “Heroic Dose,” “Highway Lord,” “The Hunter” and “Motor Sword” — hell, “Become the Smoke,” “The Dark Takes Hold” and “Overdose” too — land heavy but smooth and interplay between two guitars and keyboards let the band shift fluidly between epic-sounding heavy rock and classic psychedelia in a manner that undercuts the idea of Highway Lord as a debut album at all.

Somebody will make vinyl happen. It’s just a question of when. But take a listen to the premiere of Highway Lord‘s title-track at the bottom of this post to get yourself introduced in the meantime and I think you’ll find yourself just as inclined as I am to want to chase down that tape in the interim before a CD or LP shows up. One can always acquire formats as they surface — the important thing is not to miss out. So don’t.

Art, info and audio follow:

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MOON RATS – Highway Lord

A collection of Milwaukee music-scene veterans have formed a new band, MOON RATS, and are stoked to announce the release of their debut album, HIGHWAY LORD. The band itself is an amalgamation of musicians from bands (Calliope, The Rashita Joneses, Sonic J, Myles Coyne) whose styles range wildly from folk to psych and stoner rock.

The album developed a sound which the band has dubbed ‘stoner-psych rat-metal for motorcycle enthusiasts’ as it took them through seven creeping and heavily fuzz-laden tracks, which follow the path of realization for the legendary hero, the Highway Lord.

HIGHWAY LORD will be released on a limited quantity of high-quality cassette tapes via GLOSS RECORDS on Friday, June 23rd.

Tracklisting:
1. Become the Smoke
2. The Dark Takes Hold
3. Heroic Dose
4. Highway Lord
5. Overdose
6. The Hunter
7. Motor Sword

MOON RATS will celebrate their release on Tuesday, June 27th at Cactus Club (2496 S. Wentworth ave. Milwaukee, WI) with THE WELL (Riding Easy Records) and Asatta.
Doors @ 9:00 PM // $8 // 21+

Moon Rats is:
Al Kraemer (Calliope) – vocals, rhythm guitar
Jeff Grabo – vocals, bass
Victor Buell – lead guitar
Myles Coyne – keys
Brendt Dondero – drums

https://www.facebook.com/MOONRATSmke/
https://moonratsmke.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/glossrecords/
http://www.glossrecords.us/

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Review & Full Album Stream: Petyr, Petyr

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

petyr petyr

[Click play above to stream Petyr’s Petyr in full. Album is out this Friday, June 9, via Outer Battery Records with preorders up here.]

While the band’s ties to the world of professional skateboarding are largely unignorable — nor do I think they particularly want them to be ignored — it’s even more in the conveying of the tenets of West Coast heavy psych that San Diego’s Petyr make their introductory impression. The self-titled debut from the four-piece shuffles frenetically forth via Outer Battery Records, which also has skating ties and has delivered outings from ArcticOff!Soggy and Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket, and aside from the band being led by guitarist/vocalist Riley Hawk — son of skate legend Tony — who features alongside fellow guitarist Holland Redd, bassist Luke Devigny and drummer Nick McDonnell, their sonic affinity ties them to groups like Radio MoscowJoySacri MontiHarsh Toke and of course Earthless.

It’s a sound very much centered in San Diego and one to which Petyr bring flourish of early metal and acid boogie alike to go with the heavy psychedelic crux of pieces like the rolling “Three to Five” or the earlier Captain Beyond-style proto-prog of “Stairway to Attic,” which follows eight-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Texas Igloo” and the 24-second strum of “Middle Room” in establishing a varied but ultimately molten and jam-vibing aesthetic that the album continues to build upon as it moves through its unpretentious, LP-ready eight-song/39-minute course. Whatever it might owe to modern skate culture, and however centered around that the record’s narrative might be, Petyr‘s Petyr offers just as much classic heavy infusion in highlight cuts like “Satori III,” the doomier-rolling “Kraft” and the Lucifer’s Friend-esque “Stairway to Attic” that the music stands on its own, as it invariably needs to do.

It’s not long into “Texas Igloo” before magmic, layered swirls of lead guitar take hold, and if Petyr are quick in signaling there’s a journey ahead, they’re clearly eager to get it underway, though it should be noted that it’s Devigny‘s bass that actually introduces the track, as it does the Flower Traveling Band-nodding “Satori III,” and “Old and Creepy” and “Kraft,” which follow. That’s half the tracklist and as one expects for this style, the rhythm section does significant work when it comes to holding together the structure of the songs as the guitars wander the cosmos surrounding. On “Texas Igloo,” vocals arrive amid fervent push coated in watery effects à la Witch, and they’ll play an important role in conveying the hook of “Stairway to Attic” and the creeper spirit of “Kraft,” but it’s in the instrumental thrust that the overarching impression of Petyr‘s Petyr is made, and if the record seems geared toward conveying anything about their personality at all, it’s that they are primarily a live band.

petyr petyr

That’s hard to say without ever having seen them on stage, obviously, but particularly in pairing “Texas Igloo” with “Middle Room” at the outset, Petyr seem to be telling their listeners right off the bat that they can and will go just about anywhere they want to, sound-wise, and while I don’t know how much of their lead work is improv — certainly in this form the songs have been structured, so don’t take that to mean they’re just off-the-cuff jamming on the recording — the tracks feel very much carved out of jams and Petyr come across as a band who’ve spent their time developing their chemistry on stage and in a rehearsal space with a mind toward playing out. The energy in pieces like “Stairway to Attic,” the Sabbathian midsection of “Old and Creepy” and the near-seven-minute closing bookend “Vambo/Buffalo Stampede” back that assertion, and one finds that even to the last verse of the finale, Petyr hold firm to this focus.

As a result, their self-titled succeeds in conveying this sort of B-plot narrative that coexists with their pro-skating gnarl: The band are at work developing a powerful live dynamic that even at its earlier stages as it might be here is well able to carry their audience along the rough-edged and sometimes angular path their material takes. Because the Pacific Coast and particularly Southern California have had such a glut the last several years of heavy psych bands — really, one wonders a bit how Outer Battery snapped up Petyr before Tee Pee Records could do so — it’s that much harder for Petyr to stand themselves out from the pack, but it’s important to keep in mind that what they’re delivering here is a launch for their evolution rather than the outcome of it. The start of a process, not the finish.

I won’t endeavor to speculate on where they might go, but as much as “Texas Igloo” signals a journey for the listener, so too is it one for the band, and as they dig into the meat of side B with “Kraft” and “Three to Five,” Petyr seem to find a vibe more of their own, with a tinge of cultistry alongside their Echoplexing churn and a red-hot rhythmic fluidity that, much as they showed at the beginning with the quick gone-elsewhere excursion of “Middle Room,” maintains its refusal to be anywhere it doesn’t want to be. Modern acid rock answering the call of a classic head trip — one could hardly ask more of an interpretation of current West Coast heavy psych than that, and Petyr do well in blending the new and the old in their sound throughout “Satori III,” “Old and Creepy,” “Stairway to Attic” and “Vambo/Buffalo Stampede” in such a way as to position themselves for growth going forward. Their second LP will be a test of who they are as a band and as songwriters, who they want to be and how they want to get there, but as a first offering, Petyr‘s Petyr makes a compelling argument in its shred and its drawl for the potential of the band to distinguish themselves from within their crowded scene.

Petyr on Instagram

Outer Battery Records on Thee Facebooks

Petyr at Outer Battery Records

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