Albinö Rhino, Upholder: Swirl of the North (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

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[Click play above to stream Albinö Rhino’s Upholder in full. Album is out Dec. 9 with US vinyl availability to follow in Jan. 2017.]

To look at the span of dates involved, one can’t help but wonder just as to the particulars behind the making of Finnish trio Albinö Rhino‘s third album, Upholder. By the Helsinki heavy psych rockers’ own declaration, progress would seem to have started in Sept. 2014 with drums and basic tracks. That timing makes sense in light of the fact that the band would’ve released their self-titled sophomore outing earlier in the year (their debut having been 2013’s Return of the Goddess), and the two rumbling, spacious, extended cuts that comprise Upholder, “Uphold the Light Part 2” (20:47) (premiered here) and “Uphold the Light Part 3” (15:43), are direct sequels to the closer of that self-titled, which was called — wait for it — “Uphold the Light Part 1” and itself topped 14 minutes long.

How much in progress the full trilogy (so far) may or may not have been at the time, I don’t know, but it would seem that elements continued to build on top of that basic foundation over the course of the next year-plus by guitarist/vocalist Kimmo Tyni, bassist Ville Harju and drummer Viljami Väre, with Tyni handling the recording himself between 2015 and 2016 at Audiospot in Helsinki. The final piece, apart from a mastering job by Jaakko Viitalähde in Kuhmoinen, would seem to have been a guest appearance on modular synth by Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective — who seems to show up weekly around these parts — which was tracked in Feb. 2016, though it’s entirely possible that Albinö Rhino added more to the release afterwards. In any case, that they managed to come out of what seems to have been such a convoluted process with such a cohesive and flowing album is nothing short of miraculous.

Tonally gorgeous in a way that I’ve already likened to both earliest Natas and Sungrazer — neither is a comparison I’m willing to make lightly — and adventurous in a way one might not expect with how forcefully they underscore the repetitions of the line “Uphold the light” in “Uphold the Light Part 2,” Albinö Rhino‘s 36-minute two-tracker expands its immersion from its very beginning moments. TyniHarju and Väre set off with “Uphold the Light Part 2” — both opener and longest track (immediate points) — via a relatively straightforward roll compared to much of what follows. Dream-tone guitar is introduced as well as a fuzzier lead tone over a solid rhythmic foundation, and by three minutes, they’re beginning to dig into the central riff that will back the initial burst of lyrics. By the five-minute mark, Tyni takes another solo and follows it with a wash of feedback and noise to transition back into a heavier “verse” — one might just as easily call it a “chorus” — of the repeated lines, the thicker fuzz calling to mind the riffy triumphs of Toner Low.

albino-rhino-photo-by-nooa-katajala

The next time Albinö Rhino round out that movement, the jam begins, and once they open the gate on it, the immediate impression is that there’s no way they’re coming back. That same serenity of guitar tone that led off returns past 10 minutes in and is no less hypnotic the second time around. If anything, more so, since it gets fleshed out even further with the backing of Harju‘s warm-toned bass, the play between shimmer and rumble enough to earn the Sungrazer comparison above. A thunder strike circa the 12-minute mark brings the drums to a halt temporarily and sets up a kind of droning nod, from which the bass introduces a groovier progression that, as the rest of the track plays out, will rise to prominence — oh, the glorious noodling that happens on the way! — and much to the listener’s inevitable surprise, gets topped late with another section of lyrics, effectively tying “Uphold the Light Part 2” together as having had a master plan all along even as much as that master plan seemed to be singly geared toward expansion.

With that final shift, and with the fact that as it comes to a finish beyond the 20-minute mark, it actually ends, one doesn’t quite know what to expect going into “Uphold the Light Part 3,” and that’s probably the best way to approach it. The B-side of Upholder isn’t as long as its counterpart, but still has plenty of room to flesh out in its 15-minute sprawl. Its basic progression is arguably more straightforward — they’re essentially riding riffs, one after the other, that divide the total piece into different sections — but with the guest appearance from Heller on synth and some complementary leads from Tyni, there remains plenty of swirl to be had. Nonetheless, it’s a marked shift in vibe from “Uphold the Light Part 2,” which is something of a surprise considering the lineage between the two (or three) tracks, and even at its most laid back moment between about 10 and a half and 12 minutes in, “Uphold the Light Part 3” has a more active overall feel.

Another change from its predecessor is that it stays instrumental for the duration, giving Heller a proper showcase to act as a driving force alongside the trio, and he does not disappoint in that regard, hanging in even as the final minute finds the guitar taking over with a dominant wash that acts as the apex and the last rumble and ring-out features trails of resonant cosmic dust before its sudden cutoff. In addition to UpholderAlbinö Rhino have two other new releases from late in 2016 — the 14-minute digital single Riff Religion and a vinyl split with Morbid Evils boasting the 12-minute “Human Caravan” as their contribution — so it may well be that the band is entering a deeply prolific stage, or it may be happenstance that these recordings from the past several years are all coming to bear at the same time. Either way, the glut of material should offer followers plenty to dig into and listeners who haven’t yet been introduced no shortage of opportunity to become so, and particularly as regards Upholder and what it hopefully stands for in terms of the general progression of Albinö Rhino as a unit, that’s an introduction well worth undertaking.

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Leafy, Leafy: Go Fuzz Go (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

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[Click play above to stream Leafy’s self-titled debut in full. Album is out Dec. 9 on More Fuzz Records.]

Because they’re so effective when they lock into a forward drive like that in the chorus of second cut “Can You See Them,” it’s easy to lose sight of the largesse in atmosphere and the wall of fuzz that Norwegian heavy rockers Leafy bring to their More Fuzz Records self-titled debut. But that largesse is there and is a constant in tying the six-track/33-minute offering together, the band’s post-Truckfighters momentum-minded grooves propelled through by guitarist/backing vocalist Josh “Mr. Yoshi” Bisama, whose riffing is front and center throughout with support from bassist Enyeto Kotori (since replaced by Marcus “Marco el Róbalo” Billington), drummer Per “Señor Pedro” Arne Solvik and vocalist Ryan “Mr. Leafy” Matthew Moen, whose nicknames would seem to underscore the point of the Örebroan influence but don’t wholly lose themselves in a single-mindedness of approach.

Make no mistake, they’ve got heavy rock on their minds, and that’s the core of their execution. The six songs on Leafy bring forth high order, weighted, modern desert rock thrust with efficiency, but they also reach out as much as they hammer down. Particularly with Moen‘s burly, semi-bluesy vocal style, Leafy remind of London’s Steak, whose 2014 debut, Slab City, worked in similar function to bring a Kyuss-style desert symposium to fruition while casting their own persona through the interpretation. And as their first outing, Leafy give a sense of where they’re coming from in the Orange Goblin-esque alcoholic regret of “No Gnome” and the broader progression of extended closer “Felt Like Dying.”

One might get the sense that Leafy are preaching to the converted, and they may well be. Especially with Leafy being their first album, I don’t necessarily have an issue with that. It’s how genre tropes are developed and how audience habits are reinforced; how the substance of a style takes shape. Clearly the Kristiansand rockers are in the process of figuring out where they want to be within heavy rock, and in addition to forcing one’s hand in thinking of groups like Wo Fat1000mods, and a next-gen band like the aforementioned Steak as influential in league with more established groups like Orange Goblin, these tracks brim with a density of fuzz and thrust that one hears just as soon as opener “Wild Cherokee” kicks in from its quieter intro. Right away, Moen and Bisama work fluidly together on vocals, right away the audience is acknowledged — “we hope you will enjoy the show” — and right away guitar establishes itself as the engine that makes the band go.

“Wild Cherokee” introduces many of the moves Leafy will make throughout, and certainly brings the listener into their tonal world, but if side A has a highlight, it’s “Can You See Them.” The second longest cut on Leafy at 6:20 it careens and shuffles at a faster clip and boasts a memorable dual-vocal interplay in its hook and a fullness of sound — credit to Kotori and Solvik for thickening and making it move, respectively — and is among the most striking impressions the record makes, even unto its big finish, which successfully conveys the this-is-something-you-should-watch-on-a-stage vibe that, for a group like Leafy, is probably just what they should be telling those checking out the album at this point. The subsequent “Puzzled Skin” reinforces the energy in “Can You See Them” and rounds out the intended side A with another push further distinguished by its quick solo in the back half.

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And if there was any doubt that Leafy had vinyl symmetry in mind with the album’s structure, the subdued guitar intro of “No Gnome” should answer it handily. Missing only the count-in stick clicks from Solvik that began the opener, it seems to be in direct conversation with “Wild Cherokee” — it also happens to be the exact same length at 3:54, but it’s hard to imagine that’s not a coincidence; bands rarely write songs down to the second in my experience — though it builds more fluidly from that beginning and ultimately finds its own path, entering full tonal presence after about a minute in but moving back to a bluesier and more open feel for the next verse. Lyrically, it’s a booze story, and perhaps more than any of the other cuts, it’s a showcase for Moen‘s vocals, which can be harrowing for a singer the first time out. He approaches the task with apparent confidence over the softer proceedings behind him and that makes the song’s later payoff even more satisfying as it sets up the quiet finish of “No Gnome” and transitions into the drum/bass-led beginning of “Fallen Leaf.”

Maybe it’s an expected uptick in the dudely vibrancy from the track before it that takes its time getting going — a nascent patience in development — but it still ultimately works to revives the momentum of “Puzzled Skin” effectively, playing between chugging tension in its verse and a chorus release before a righteously crashing ending, and with the eight-minute “Felt Like Dying” closing out Leafy behind it, makes sense in its place. For its added length, the four-piece’s finishing move doesn’t ask much by way of indulgence on the part of the listener, instead rewarding those who’ve stuck it out with another highlight hook and a more open-feeling plotted jam in the back half that builds into the last chorus payoff and ends cold on guitar squibblies that seem to say the “show” to which listeners were being welcomed on “Wild Cherokee” is over.

Fair enough. In the end, Leafy‘s Leafy comes across less geared toward innovation than capturing the moment at which the band get their feet under them, sonically speaking. But it does capture that moment, absolutely, and considering Leafy have only been together for a year, it’s all the more an impressively cohesive collection that only benefits from the clearheadedness of its intent. That is to say, Leafy very obviously came into their first release with ideas about who they are as a band and what kind of ruckus they want to make. The task before them now is to grow from the solid foundation they’ve laid down in these tracks and to continue to refine the identity they convey through this material, and in that, to hopefully hold fast to this self-titled’s lack of pretense.

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audiObelisk Transmission 059

Posted in Podcasts on November 23rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Click Here to Download

 

I’ve listened to it front to back and I can honestly say this is the best podcast I’ve made in the last five months. Truth be told, I know there are plenty of people who do podcasts as their primary outlet, talk on them and whatnot (hey, I tried it once and reserve the right to do it again at some point), but if it’s between crossfading feedback from one song to another and writing a review of a new record, well, crossfading falls into the same category as just about everything else: Write first.

Fortunately, a longer span of time between casts makes it that much easier to pick tracks. Existence does not hand you a 45-minute Øresund Space Collective jam every day, so I thought that was worth featuring, and I just got Megaritual’s new vinyl for review, so I thought featuring their more recent single-song EP would work well too.

I’m happy with the blend overall, and with Asteroid setting the tone. Be patient with it. Let it unfold. Even with a rocking start, it gets pretty psychedelic pretty quickly, and only continues to move further out. My advice is go with it and see where you end up.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Track details follow:

First Hour:

0:00:00 Asteroid, “Them Calling” from III
0:05:02 Stinkeye, “Orange Man” from Llantera Demos
0:08:31 Hornss, “Prince of a Thousand Enemies” from Telepath
0:11:36 Ice Dragon, “Broken Life” from Broken Life
0:16:08 Wasted Theory, “Odyssey of the Electric Warlock” from Defenders of the Riff
0:20:59 Pelander, “True Colour” from Time
0:29:41 The Freeks, “Blow Time Away” from Shattered
0:34:26 Baby Woodrose, “Freedom” from Freedom
0:37:27 Comacozer, “The Mind that Feeds the Eye” from Astra Planeta
0:45:21 Mos Generator, “Outlander” from The Firmament
0:51:13 Megaritual, “Eclipse” from Eclipse

Second Hour:

1:16:25 Øresund Space Collective, “Visions Of…” from Visions Of…

Total running time: 1:58:36

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 059

 

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Ordos Premiere Title-Track of New Album House of the Dead, Due Early 2017

Posted in audiObelisk on November 23rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

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One of the best things about these late months — aside from all those thrilling well-we-gotta-put-something-up lists — is speculating what’s coming up in the New Year. What will be the highlights, the lowlights, the creepers, sleepers, hard-hitters, and so on. Today, we’re fortunate enough to get a preview of what Uppsala, Sweden, five-piece Ordos have in store for 2017. They’ll release their second full-length, House of the Dead, via Moving Air Music, and as an early herald of the album’s arrival, you can stream a premiere of the title-track, “House of the Dead,” below.

Ordos made their long-play debut in 2013 with a self-titled that showed promise in their straightforward, near-metallic push and varied tracks driven by the dual guitars of André and Magnus and the lurch-bound propulsion of bassist Martin and drummer Max, all a foundation for the gruff, commanding vocals of Emil. “House of the Dead” works in a ordos-house-of-the-deadsimilar aesthetic, ultimately, but is entirely more atmospherically engaging, and where different tracks on the debut seemed to work individually from various influences, this new one brings those together to form something both aggressive and ambient from them, given ground through a verse/chorus structure but still giving listeners a sense of space to inhabit as its 6:44 play out.

The thing about premiering one cut without having heard the whole album, of course, is I don’t know what the rest of the offering sounds like, so can’t necessarily vouch for “House of the Dead” speaking for House of the Dead in its entirety. But they did name the record after it, so unless Ordos were playing tricks — always possible — there’s at least some part of this song they thought represented where they are as a band, and in listening I think it’s pretty easy to hear why they would. It may well be they’re on a path to a take on heavy rock that’s dark without necessarily being entirely doomed, or it may be that they’re taking heavy and doom and sludge and a few other things and mashing them together like particles trying to make a black hole.

We’ll find out next year. Till then, you can stream “House of the Dead” on the player here and check out a quote from the band and some more background below.

Please enjoy:

Ordos on “House of the Dead”:

“After the first album we’ve tried to go further down the nightmarish path. We have been experimenting with thicker riffs, more aggressive singing and subtle harmonics to give the music more flow, and a hint of psychedelic experience ‘gone wrong.'”

In the fall of ’11, yet another band from the infamous rehearsal space in Uppsala, Sweden broke up, and from the ashes, mold and dirt, a new idea and three members rose once again. Inspired by the underground stoner genre and the atmosphere all around them.

Playing some slow riffs, screaming and drinking to find a new style, the sound of one guitar just wasn’t enough, so the strings were tuned down and a second guitarist got thrown into the dark, weird project. Finally! It started to sound like it looked! Trashy stoner-doom with inspiration from black metal, bluesy psychedelic stoner and everything in between. One year later they released a self-recorded demo and plenty of gigs followed while the music developed. Ready for a new album, they visited a friend and recorded twelve new songs. Only six were good enough, and the only amount that would fit into an LP.

When winter ’13 arrived, the album “Ordos S/T” was officially released, and a half year later the physical record arrived. ‘House Of The Dead’ will be released in early 2017 through Moving Air Music. The first single and title track ‘House Of The Dead’ from their upcoming album will be out on November, 25th! Recorded at the mighty Studio Underjord in Norrköping, Sweden, which has tracked bands like Skraeckoedlan, Tombstones and Saturnalia Temple.

Ordos is:
Emil – Sång
André – Gitarr
Magnus – Gitarr
Martin – Bas
Max – Trummor

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Øresund Space Collective, Visions Of…: Synesthetic Pleasures (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

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[Click play above to stream Øresund Space Collective’s Visions Of… in full. Album is out Dec. 9 and available to preorder now.]

By their own count — and we’ll just have to take their word for it — Visions Of… is the 23rd release from Danish space-jammers Øresund Space Collective since their beginnings a decade ago. Not bad for 10 years of near-constant work. This latest studio 2LP comes from the same sessions as the amorphous outfit’s last two albums, the droning Ode to a Black Hole (review here) and last year’s 3LP Different Creatures (review here), and is reportedly the last of the material the group put together in Oct. 22-24, 2014 at Black Tornado Studio, improvising, playing and recording live, as always. What’s really remarkable about the trilogy as a whole is how Øresund Space Collective has been able to take material recorded within three days of each other and use it to sculpt three releases from it, each with a vastly different personality.

Duties might change depending on the jam in which they happen to be engrossed, but the personnel is essentially the same throughout the whole session with the lineup of keyboardist/synthesist Scott “Dr. Space” Heller in the captain’s chair alongside drummer Alex, bassist Hasse (also guitar, African drums), guitarists Mattias (also pedal steel), Jonathan (also violin, theremin and bass) and Mats (also bass, percussive acoustic), keyboardist/organist Jonas (also guitar), and keyboardist/synthesist KG, and yet Øresund Space Collective seem to don different personalities like planets orbiting the same improvisational star. Coming off the droning Ode to a Black Hole, with Visions Of…, they hone a funkier and markedly jazzier take.

Nothing’s universal (pun not intended, reconsidered, then intended), but that’s the impression Øresund Space Collective give in general across Visions Of…, beginning with the sprawl of the 42-minute opening title-track. At 42:12, “Visions Of…” is not only the longest song on the album that bears its name as well as the leadoff (immediate points), but second only to “20 Steps Toward the Invisible Door” (45:13) from Different Creatures as the longest piece from the session as a whole. That might be enough to make it a landmark on its own, but runtime is far from all the track has going for it, lurching to life around intertwining guitar and bass with an initial sense of foreboding that soon enough gives way to a varied wash of color, a bustling of smooth psychedelic exploration that builds and, like the best of Øresund Space Collective‘s output, finds its way as it goes, honestly portraying the roots of creation in the chemistry between the members at play and the textures they weave working as one.

The vibe that develops is bound to be immersive, but there’s dynamic to go with all that hypnosis, so that whether you want to chill and let it flow — I do — or sit and measure out every turn they make, the results are no less satisfying. There’s no shortage of dreamscaping across the considerable breadth of “Visions Of…,” but highlight solos pepper through and at times seem to lead the way through this liquefied plane, and though it’s not until they approach the 30-minute mark, when Jonathan‘s violin enters the serene sort of fray, it’s a special moment worthy of the emphasis it’s given here as the title and opening track. If these are the visions Øresund Space Collective are looking to cast, then they’re no less vivid than the Franz Waldhör painting that adorns the front cover, the two doubtless intended as complements. It is among the more lush proceedings the band has undertaken, and as such it takes a few minutes for them to pull it all apart at the end, the process beginning with a swell of volume and crash after 39 minutes in, and culminating in residual swirl and fading space noise that loses not one beat in being met by the snare roll that starts “Above the Corner.”

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Here’s where Visions Of… really gets down. Maybe part of it is coming out of the farflung kosmiche of the title-track, but the movement that “Above the Corner” seems to commence feels rawer, funkier than just about anything I’ve heard from Øresund Space Collective. “Above the Corner” (16:17) and closer “Around the Corner” (11:03) are two parts of the same jam — though, admittedly, two different-sounding parts — and the CD release divides them with the shorter, more percussive “Piece of Seven” (8:35), but the spirit of flow coming out of “Visions Of…” is never lost, especially with “Above the Corner” unfolding so fluidly and with such swagger in its guitar interplay. Space noise complements — jabs of theremin, maybe — but the prevalent theme is wah and guitars and bass alike are happy to partake, leaving the organ, keys and drums to ground the affair while the others go for a walk.

By the end of “Above the Corner,” Øresund Space Collective have thoroughly funked out, and the switch to the rhythm-minded “Piece of Seven” (part of the seventh jam of the session, according to the CD liner) does well to break up the two “Corner” pieces, drums and percussion leading the way as the psychedelia wraps itself around and oozes in all directions, synth, keys, prominent bass and so on following the rolls and circulations of the drums, which start in with snare in the second half seemingly as a sign of winding down, though in reality it’s a while and a whole lot of cymbal crashes before they actually get there and when they do, the last remaining, held line of keyboard is met by a swirl and wah-bass return from “Around the Corner,” reprising the funktitude of its predecessor almost immediately and continuing to build on it for an initial few minutes until a guitar solo begins to lead the way into a more definitively space rock push. It seems to be the drums that finally decide on a straightforward thrust and everyone else joins in around that, but by five minutes in they’re all on full go, and they continue to work around a swinging gallop of one kind or another until “Around the Corner” caps its final build, crashes its last crash, and rounds out in a last wash of fading synth.

To say that at that point it’s been a hell of a trip is probably understating it. Visions Of… offers not only reinforcement of the spontaneity at heart in the conceptual mission behind everything Øresund Space Collective do — the explorations they undertake — but of the vitality they’re able to bring to the actual sessions in the same room with each other, the feeling of bringing the audience into that space (not to mention actual space), and sharing the heart of their creative processes in such an unadulterated, unfiltered form. Though they won’t play live much, they’ll reportedly be hitting the studio again in 2017, and while one can never be sure who might show up for any given session with Øresund Space Collective, it seems only fair at this point to expect the perpetually outbound motion to continue, because even if they could at this point, I don’t think Øresund Space Collective would have it any other way.

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The Munsens Premiere “You’re Next” from Abbey Rose EP

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

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Denver trio The Munsens release their new EP, Abbey Rose, on Nov. 21. The sense of worship is almost immediate on the four-track/40-minute offering, which is their second behind 2014’s Weight of Night (review here), and the band manages to meter out waves of undulating riffs while giving hints of influences from modern doom without becoming beholden to them. To say it adds to what the New Jersey expats did with the prior outing is perhaps to undercut the strange vibes they conjure throughout or the atmosphere in which one finds oneself immersed while listening despite a near-garage rawness of tone. Their low end — it seems to come from the guitar of Shaun Goodwin and the drums of Graham Wesselhoff as much as the fuzz-laden bass of Michael Goodwin (also vocals and cover photography) — is palpable in the extended pieces “You’re Next” (11:25), “Abbey Rose” (8:12), “To Castile” (9:38) and the closing sequel to the finale of Weight of Night aptly dubbed “The Hunt II” (11:39), and that’s a uniting factor through some shifts in tempo, but while I might argue that something with such a front to back flow that also happens to be 40 minutes long is an album whether The Munsens want it to be or not, what they’ve specifically positioned as a second EP gives more than an ample showing of their hefty wares going into a long-player planned for release next year. If this is them laying groundwork, they’re making sure that ground is duly flattened before they build on it.

And fair enough. With the opening buzz that leads the way into “You’re Next,” I’m immediately reminded of Heavy Temple‘s plug-and-praise sensibilities, but The Munsens take their time letting the leadoff track develop on its own, bass and drums joining the guitar so that by two minutes in the plod is completely underway but you’re not quite sure the-munsens-abbey-rosehow. One could find tonal touchstones in WeedeaterBongzilla, etc., and what The Munsens bring to the mix is an overall cleaner take on sludge than one usually finds in the disaffected libertarian screams the genre usually proffers. Michael‘s vocals still arrive in cave-echoing shouts, but they do so on “You’re Next” with a post-Jus Oborn inflection, calling to mind Electric Wizard‘s earlier, rawer glories, which is a stonerism reaffirmed as they pick up the tempo and shift into a dual-layered solo late in the track, riding the riff into a final slowdown and the memorable nod of the Abbey Rose title-track. It’s the shortest of the four, but has the most prevalent hook of the four cuts, and particularly in light of the cover art seems to play toward a kind of gothic horror vibe as it slow-motion boogies its way into a quieter midsection that builds to a fervent churn across the final four minutes. “To Castile” feels even more immediate. Its quicker tempo brings Wesselhoff‘s raw drum sound to the fore, and though less theatrical than the preceding “Abbey Rose,” it pushes further into a similar kind of atmospheric dankness, breaking in the first half to a section of sparse guitar, slower drumming and far-back organ.

This turn is especially well done, and it’s not the last in “To Castile.” Over the next couple minutes, the Goodwins and Wesselhoff careen through winding prog and chunky-style sludge before landing in near-silence just past the halfway mark, from which they mount a surprisingly and engagingly semi-psychedelic build, never quite returning to what was the core of “To Castile,” but ending in slower, thicker riffing that serves as a reminder nonetheless. And much like the longer-shorter-shorter-longer arrangement of the four songs recalls a mirror, so too does the gradual unfolding of closer “The Hunt II” seem to be as much in conversation with “You’re Next” as it is clearly intended to be with “The Hunt” from Weight of Night. That release, which was far easier to argue as an EP overall than is Abbey Rose, was bigger in terms of its production, but as the organ returns in “The Hunt II”‘s mid-tempo midsection and is met with flourish of lead guitar amid all the crush of low end, and as the slower final instrumental push begins that will develop over the last several minutes of the song, topped with another impressive-if-short solo, I can’t say The Munsens aren’t well served by the organic, live feel brought to bear in this material. It gives the vitality of their delivery a fitting complement and positions them not so much trying to crush everything in their path as carving out a space for themselves in a niche-within-a-niche kind of way. As to which modus their debut album — again, debatable whether or not this is it, and they may indeed decide a couple years from now that it is — might follow when it arrives next year, I’d expect it to keep at least partially in this direction, though one never knows when a steady roll is going to present a sudden turn. It’ll be one to look forward to, either way.

The Munsens‘ Abbey Rose is out Nov. 21 on tape and digital.

Please find a premiere of “You’re Next” below, followed by more background on the band from the PR wire, and enjoy:

The Munsens have remained a bit of an enigma over the last handful of years due to the scattered whereabouts of the band’s members, surfacing intermittently for a sporadic arrangement of tours and a pair of releases. 2016 saw the most prominent establishment of the group thus far, with the entire band now residing in the same city for the first time in the band’s career, featuring a rearranged lineup. (Original drummer Shaun Goodwin moved to guitar, with Graham Wesselhoff, formerly of Denver’s Skully Mammoth, taking the helm behind the drums.)

The Munsens made a handful of appearances in Denver during the summer and fall of 2016, and on November 21, will release their first recordings in nearly two years via a 45-minute EP titled Abbey Rose, which preludes their first full-length album, due out in the summer of 2017. Abbey Rose will be available on cassette and as a digital download through the band’s Bandcamp page and will supported by two tours in early 2017, in January and in March. Dates and cities TBA.

All songs by the Munsens
Cover photography: Michael Goodwin
Recorded and mixed by Jamie Hillyer, Module Overload
Mastered by Dennis Pleckham, Comatose Studios
the Munsens is Michael Goodwin, Shaun Goodwin, Graham Wesselhoff

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Season of Arrows Premiere “Farewell to the Horseman”; Give it to the Mountain Due Spring 2017

Posted in audiObelisk on November 15th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

season-of-arrows-photo-by-diana-lee-zadlo

Nashville five-piece Season of Arrows will release their second album, Give it to the Mountain, in Spring 2017 through Static Tension Recordings. It was originally set to arrive next month via the same label, but it’s been pushed back to next year in what I can only think is a smart move from the standpoint of giving the record its due, which nothing released in December ever seems to get. Fair enough with people’s minds elsewhere, be that on year-end lists or holidays or whatnot, but with a deeply atmospheric presentation throughout its eight tracks/45 minutes of ethereal creeper doom, Give it to the Mountain shouldn’t be ignored.

The good news is that while the follow-up to Season of Arrows‘ well-received 2014 self-titled debut has been delayed, the band have opted to nonetheless unveil opener “Farewell to the Horseman” early. And while it doesn’t necessarily represent Give it to the Mountain‘s full breadth, from its ritualized acoustic/keyboard/voice intro through the intensity of chug-and-churn riffing, the underlying metallic feel to it all and the echoing vocals of Stormie Wakefield, it’s got more than a few key tells. Joining Wakefield in the lineup are guitarists Brandon Shepard and Dave Gates, bassist Shawn Van Dusen and drummer Brad Lawson, and all five work to conjure a dense fog on “Farewell to the Horseman,” coming across as partially indebted perhaps to Windhand, but as their second offering continues through the march of “Deep Graves,” the near-thrash apex of “Evening Lord” and the thudding and crashing breakdown in “Autumn Wings,” the mood might be largely unipolar — that is, nobody suddenly gets happy — but the sound is varied and with Wakefield‘s far-back, echoing vocals do much to enhance the spooky feel without veering into hyper-postured cult rock cliché. It can be a fine line sometimes.

season-of-arrows-give-it-to-the-mountainBut fine lines are made to be stomped on, and Season of Arrows do a solid job of walking all over that one and a few others on the borderline between metallic aggression and doomed lurch. Presumed side B opener “The Bridge” mirrors some of the gradual unfolding of “Farewell to the Horseman,” but remains more spacious and open-feeling, with the guitars echoing behind a forward drum progression, coming forward for the chorus only to recede again before shifting into a harmonized solo in the second half as part of a satisfying finishing movement that Wakefield meets head-on vocally. Faster and more rolling from the outset is “New Sorcery,” but it comes paired with the acoustic/organ/voice ambient piece “Bellow,” a well-timed shift in approach as the penultimate cut, and the two work fluidly together, although “Bellow” is hypnotic enough that the somewhat blackened riff that starts closer “From the Wilderness We Return” comes out of it just as easily as “New Sorcery” went in. That’s a credit to Season of Arrows, obviously, but should be all the more because the ambience of “Bellow” doesn’t just disappear once the finisher hits. The gradual move into and through a verse and chorus leads in the midsection to a minimal stretch of drums, voice and sparse guitar that would seem to acknowledge from whence it came before moving into the final thrust and capping with feedback, drum thud and one last vague whisper.

Of the eight cuts on Give it to the Mountain, four of them — “Farewell to the Horseman,” “Autumn Wings,” “The Bridge” and “From the Wilderness We Return” — are over six minutes long, and they basically open and close the two sides of the album with shorter tracks between. That structure invites the listener to go deeper into each side and experience it almost as a miniature version of the record in itself, but even in linear form, the progression across Season of Arrows‘ work flows effectively. I don’t know if “Farewell to the Horseman” can really sum that up on its own, or if any single piece could, but go ahead and put it on and see how long it takes for the band to put you in a doomly trance. I’m guessing it won’t be all that long.

Season of Arrows had some brief comment about “Farewell to the Horseman” that you’ll find under the player below. Give it to the Mountain arrives in Spring 2017.

Thanks for listening and enjoy:

Season of Arrows on “Farewell to the Horseman”:

“This song is about ultimate sacrifice. Giving to something bigger than ourselves. A bloodstained ground built on the bones of our fathers. Under stars, through the ether and within the heavens we claim our lands.”

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Borracho, Atacama: To Drift in Time (Plus Full Album Stream)

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

borracho-atacama

[Click play above to stream Borracho’s Atacama in its entirety. Album is out Dec. 2 on Kozmik Artifactz.]

When Washington D.C.’s Borracho released their second album, Oculus (review here), in 2013, it was also the first time they’d put together a record as a three-piece. After their 2011 debut, Splitting Sky (review here), guitarist Steve Fisher also took over vocal duties — they did a few shows as an instrumental act first — to fill the vacated role, and with the sophomore LP, he, drummer Mario Trubiano and bassist Tim Martin established themselves as hard-hitting riff-rollers not only capable of recreating the heft of Splitting Sky, but of moving forward with it in a progression that was still only at its starting point. In 2014 and 2015, a series of split releases alongside Boston’s Cortez (review here), Brooklyn’s Eggnogg (review here) and New York’s Geezer (review here) provided encouraging glimpses of where Borracho were headed with their signature “repetitive heavy grooves” — a sort of band slogan — but it’s with their third full-length and Kozmik Artifactz debut, Atacama, that the vision of what they can accomplish as a trio is realized.

Across eight songs and an at-times sprawling 51 minutes engineered and mixed by none other than Frank “The Punisher” Marchand (The Obsessed, many more), Borracho arrive at full thrust on “Gold from Sand,” go out with a whisper (actually the sound of dripping water) on “Last Song” and in between ignite a stylistic swath that Oculus and Splitting Sky and their various short releases could only have guessed at. Be it the sample-laden 10-minute jam “Overload,” which careens and swings and swells and recedes in a successful effort to convey a state of media/cultural/existential saturation or side B’s “Flower,” which brings in Erin Snedecor on guest cello to accompany gentle guitar in sandwiching a section of heavier riffing before rounding out with a memorial prayer, Atacama displays range and command that only prove more unflinching the further out they go.

They’ve also, in Marchand, found an understanding partner in production and mixing. On the faster stretches of “Gold from Sand” — the shortest cut on Atacama at 3:38 and an opener clearly geared toward establishing early momentum before the band digs into “Overload,” which follows immediately and is the longest at 10:44 — or third track “Lost in Time,” or the penultimate bombast of “Shot down, Banged up, Fade Away,” which seems to settle into a nod just in time to, indeed, fade out, only after a near-frenetic lesson in how to use riffs as catharsis, Borracho never lose their sense of atmosphere.

Fisher‘s vocal style — to hear him on studio material is to imagine him on stage, his head craned up at an overhead microphone à la Lemmy, his voice clean but guttural in a post-Hetfield belted-out shout — is largely unipolar, but by pushing it back and coating it in echo and bringing it forward again on “Last Song,” just as by playing it front and center on “Gold from Sand,” it becomes no less a factor in Atacama‘s overarching ambience than Snedecor‘s cello on “Flower.” That’s key evidence of Borracho‘s growth even since Oculus, and a welcome expansion of their take since it makes them a richer band, but one doesn’t even need to go that far to hear the evolution in sound the band has clearly, admirably, undertaken in these tracks.

borracho

By the time the all-out fuzz thrust of “Lost in Time” is underway, Fisher‘s guitar scorching out a multi-layer lead over the East-Coast-does-FuManchu rush from Martin and Trubiano before the first verse, they’ve already toyed with structure — “Gold from Sand” is straightforward, where after its long intro, “Overload” has a couple verse/chorus switchoffs early before departing into a more extended jam after six minutes, daring to indulge some psychedelic six-string wash perhaps in an ethic picked up from their splitmates in Geezer — and they only continue to show stylistic and sonic depth as Atacama continues to play out. “Overload” dives back into vocal-topped nod in its final movement and swirls into the buildup start of “Lost in Time,” but even the change in tempo between “Lost in Time” and the subsequent instrumental “Descent,” pulled off via a stretch of feedback and amp noise at the end of the earlier track, is more fluid than it possibly could’ve been three years ago, and it’s still only one sliver of the total flow conjured throughout.

And that’s to say nothing of elements like the flourish bell sounds that come with “Descent”‘s slower roll, the samples in “Overload” and “Flower” — clearly a remembrance — the cello or the tripped-out vibe they hone in the 8:37 “Drifted away from the Sun,” which feeds immediately from “Descent” but might also be where the vinyl side B starts. No less than “Flower” or “Last Song,” though it’s outwardly heavier, “Drifted away from the Sun” presents a bolder, broader Borracho. They’ve never lacked for patience or a willingness to ride a riff, but it’s how they execute that across “Drifted away from the Sun,” with Fisher trading between spoken verses and shouted hooks en route from the initial languid feel toward later, throttled payoff that underscores the point once again, let alone the sudden turn to birdsong that signals the shift into “Flower.” It would be short-selling it to say the range suits them or that they wield it ably. Rather, Atacama — soaking wet despite being named for the driest of deserts — becomes the manifestation of the potential Borracho have shown for the last five years.

The back and forth in “Drifted away from the Sun,” “Flower,” “Shot down, Banged up, Fade Away” and “Last Song” — and indeed within those songs as well at times — brings vibrancy and dynamic to their sound, and they never lose control of it, whether they’re digging into the return-to-earth groove of “Shot down, Banged up, Fade Away” or tossing in Alice in ChainsSap-style percussion and acoustics on “Last Song.” There isn’t a moment on Atacama on which Borracho haven’t moved forward from where they were three years ago, and the sense of completion that comes with “Last Song” — their evident mindfulness of the album’s construction and execution — is as fitting an end as one could ask. It was fair to expect Borracho‘s third to land with an impact, especially after the formidable achievements of Oculus, but the varied form of that impact on Atacama is more than it would’ve been reasonable to see coming.

They may be beginning to move past the “repetitive heavy grooves” ethic, but in that, they’re also placing themselves in an entirely different league of bands, and while I’d feel even less comfortable predicting where they might go next, I know damn well that it’s worth looking forward to finding out. Their best yet, and one of 2016’s finest in heavy rock and roll.

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