Posted in audiObelisk on December 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Every year at Roadburn, there are a couple bands — guaranteed, without fail — whose sets you want to watch but don’t get to. Maybe you’re somewhere else seeing a once-in-a-lifetime show or reunion or one-time-only thing or maybe you just get the schedule wrong and miss it. This batch of Roadburn 2014 audio streams has the three bands I most regret not seeing at this year’s fest: Freedom Hawk, Inter Arma (pictured above), and Aqua Nebula Oscillator. I wouldn’t have minded catching Anciients, Hark, Glitter Wizard or The Old Wind either, but those three stung particularly hard.
In the case of Inter Arma, their single-song 2014 full-length, The Cavern, has made a considerable splash on the Readers Poll so far, and like their fellow Virginians, Freedom Hawk, they were a band whose schedule just didn’t match my own. At least I can hear what I missed out on, thanks to Marcel van de Vondervoort and his crew, who’ve returned again with another diligently gathered round of primo live recordings. As we move closer to 2015 and the next incarnation of the festival — Roadburn 2015 has a few lineup announcements left, but it seems to be by and large set — all the better to cap off the year that was by tying up such loose ends.
Check out the streams on the players below, snagged from the Dutch website Vpro 3voor12:
Anciients – Roadburn 2014
Aqua Nebula Oscillator – Roadburn 2014
Freedom Hawk – Roadburn 2014
Glitter Wizard – Roadburn 2014
Graves at Sea – Roadburn 2014
Hark – Roadburn 2014
Inter Arma – Roadburn 2014
The Old Wind – Roadburn 2014
Thanks as always to Walter and the Roadburn crew for permission to host the streams. For the other batches of audio from Roadburn 2014 — there’s some stuff worth digging for — click here, here, here and/or here, and to read the coverage from this year’s fest, click here.
Posted in audiObelisk on December 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
“Überall” is the centerpiece of Colour Haze‘s To the Highest Gods We Know, placed third among the five tracks on the hugely influential German trio’s 10th full-length. The album is due for CD release on Monday, Dec. 15, through guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek‘s Elektrohasch Schallplatten imprint, and vinyl is slated to follow on Feb. 23, 2015, just a couple days before the Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Mandred Merwald begin a European tour with Radio Moscow and Cherry Choke.
Two weeks ago, none of this was known. With a persistent aversion to social media, it’s not like Colour Haze were Instagramming every step of the analog recording process from their own Colour Haze Studio in München. There wasn’t an album and then there was. No complaints.
To the Highest Gods We Know follows She Said (review here), a two-disc wonder that was the high point of 2012. Where that album was plagued with technical difficulties and took four years to put together, the new one seems to have resulted from a somewhat less dramatic circumstance, and as they’re settled into a space that’s their own and taking yet another autonomous step beyond self-recording and self-releasing, one can hear pieces of experimental flourish beginning to shine through. A band 10 records deep that’s still progressing is a rarity, but Colour Haze readily push their boundaries, whether it’s the flute accompaniment on opener “Circles” or the proggy jumps that Koglek‘s guitar and a string quartet make on the closing title-track.
In the case of “Überall,” Koglek, Rasthofer and Merwald are joined by Christian Hawellek, who contributes Doepfer modular synth to the apex of the song’s satisfying instrumental linear build. The contribution is subtle — it’s not like all of a sudden Colour Haze are looking to be abrasive; even when there’s feedback, it seems gentle — but it’s in there amidst the warm guitar and bass tones and Merwald‘s swinging groove. “Überall” builds from the ground up to get there, starting quiet and exploratory, barely there at first as Koglek eases the track to life on guitar. A classic shuffle takes hold as they smoothly jam their way forward, as engrossing as one could ask and as accomplished as their well-earned reputation demands.
With thanks to the band, I have the extreme pleasure today of streaming “Überall” as the first audio to be made public from To the Highest Gods We Know. Please find it on the player below, followed by the upcoming tour dates, and enjoy.
Up in Smoke Roadfestival Volume 5
With Colour Haze, Radio Moscow and Cherry Choke 27.02.2015 (GER) Stuttgart – Universum (w/ The Sun & The Wolf) 28.02.2015 (GER) Cologne – Live Music Hall (w/ The Sun & The Wolf) 01.03.2015 (UK) London – The Garage 02.03.2015 (FR) Paris – Le Divan du Monde 03.03.2015 (BEL) Brussels – Magasin 4 04.03.2015 (GER) Hamburg – Markthalle 05.03.2015 (GER) Berlin – SO36 06.03.2015 (A) Vienna – Arena 07.03.2015 (A) Salzburg – Rockhouse 08.03.2015 (GER) Leipzig – Taubchenthal (w/ Kalamahara) 09.03.2015 (GER) Munich – Feierwerk (w/ Mars Red Sky) 10.03.2015 (IT) Milano – Lofi 11.03.2015 (GER) Frankfurt – Das Bett (w/ The Midnight Ghost Train) 12.03.2015 tba 13.03.2015 (GER) Würzburg – Posthalle 14.03.2015 (GER) Hannover – Faust * Cherry Choke from March 1 to 7 only
Posted in audiObelisk on December 9th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Originally put out by the band on CD and tape late last year, Bloodmoon‘s debut full-length Voidbound is available now to preorder on vinyl through Black Voodoo Records ahead of a Dec. 20 release date. The three-song LP from the genre-bending San Luis Obispo trio — who’ve dubbed their progressive, metallic, blackened and sludgy style “grey metal,” which is at very least more efficient — has been remastered by James Plotkin for its 12″ platter edition, but honestly, even if it hadn’t, and even if it was still streaming on their Bandcamp page (no doubt it will be again soon), I’d still want to stream a track from it for the simple reason of how willfully individualized it is and how effectively Bloodmoon blend elements of different styles into what sounds like the beginning of a progression all their own. Particularly for being a first album — they also released an EP, Orenda, in 2012 — Voidbound is admirably ambitious and sets a high standard of accomplishment from which guitarist/vocalist Peter Tomis, bassist Pat Mullholland and drummer/vocalist Jason Goldie can work going forward.
Of the three included pieces, “The Singing Flame” is the shortest at 7:17. The closer, it’s also the biggest riff on offer, though Bloodmoon never stay in one place too long. Like its longer predecessors, “Voidbound” (17:56) and “Back World” (13:25), “The Singing Flame” works in movements, each part flowing into the next, fading in on an initial tension of rumble and snare work from Goldie before the full plod of the progression takes hold, topped with harsh, echoing vocals somewhere between the post-hardcore rawness of sludge and blackened theatrics. It does not waste time. Playing off the atmosphere crafted over the course of “Voidbound” and “Back World,” it feels like a specially crafted apex shift, but there’s still room for a shift into ambience before the chugging, shouts and double-kick resurfaces, vicious and running along a memorable line of thickened riffing. And if there was any doubt Bloodmoon have more to say, let the fact that “The Singing Flame” fades out while essentially still in progress stand as assurance that it won’t be long before this richly creative trio make a return.
On that note, whether you’ve heard it before or not, I hope you’ll take the time to dig into “The Singing Flame” on the player below. For me, I consider it correcting an oversight for a record that deserved way more coverage than I gave it when it first landed, and I appreciate the opportunity to do so. PR wire info follows underneath.
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San Luis Obispo, California’s blackened sludge act BLOODMOON is set to reissue their transformative 2013 album, Voidbound, on limited edition vinyl. The new version has been completely remastered for vinyl by James Plotkin (Sunn 0))), ISIS, Conan, Slomatics).
Gazing into the void with combined effort since 2010, BLOODMOON have been exploring the musical elements of sludge, doom, stoner, black and death Metal with heavy doses of psychedelia to give themselves a highly distinctive sound of their own. Over the past two years, the band has released two albums, embarked upon several tours, and played countless shows all over the west coast at any given point in between. Between shows, they are continually writing with the self-imparted directive of releasing new music every year while always experimenting with different ways to bring the heavy in their own way.
As if traveling an entire, bitter lifetime, Voidbound takes you for a ride through curiosity and emptiness in three movements. And once it ends, feels as though it has taken part of you back into the depths it calls home.
Posted in Radio on December 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I try to do these every week. I’d like to, ideally, but it seems to be more like when folders and zip files clog up my desktop enough to really get on my nerves. Fair enough. A full 20 records joined the playlist today, including a couple wintry classics from Anathema that either were overlooked by me or wrongly left out, plus the new Witch Mountain album, and some other recently-reviewed and otherwise-written-about stuff. It’s actually a pretty killer list. If you’re into it, or if you want to see what else has been added lately or what was played today, check out the Playlist and Updates Page. I spend an embarrassing amount of time there. Here are a few more reasons why.
The Obelisk Radio Adds for Dec. 5, 2014:
Burning Saviours, Unholy Tales from the North
The unheralded heroes of Sweden’s retro heavy movement return with their first full-length since 2007. Their fifth outing overall, Burning Saviours‘ Unholy Tales from the North follows a series of four singles released between 2012 and 2013 (recently compiled by I Hate Records and released under the title Boken Om Förbannelsen) and finds the Örebro four-piece reveling in ’70s-style doom once more, albeit with a rawer and less directly ’70s-style production. That is, it’s not as directly fuzzed as their self-titled debut was nine years ago, when it was pretty much them and Witchcraft digging on classic Pentagram alone, but still presented in the same spirit, a strong opening trio of “They Will Rise Tonight,” “And the Wolves Cried Out” and “Your Love Hurts Like Fire” creating a lasting impression somewhere between early metal (think Rocka Rolla-era Priest) and the heavy rock that preceded it. Two Swedish-language tracks, “Ondskan” and “Lyktgubben,” end each side, and at 28 minutes, it’s a quick runthrough, but shows easily that Burning Saviours – since 2010 the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Mikael Monks, lead guitarist Jonas Hartikainen, bassist Fredrik Evertsson and drummer Martin Wijkström — remain vital in their approach, cuts like “Inside My Mind” and “The Sons of the North” exploring metal’s roots effectively and organically while crafting something new, if familiar, from them. Burning Saviours on Thee Facebooks, at Transubstans Records.
Soldat Hans, Dress Rehearsal
Swiss newcomers Soldat Hans seem to be embarking on an admirably ambitious journey with their self-released debut, Dress Rehearsal, the title of which hints at their thinking of it as a demo, but for which the extended four tracks included serve to craft a sense of ambience that marks it unmistakably as a full-length. Engrossing in its atmosphere, patient in its construction and impeccably conceived, Dress Rehearsal plays out lengthy builds fluidly and takes listeners from minimalist drone and slow unfolding to massive, feedback-caked sludge, and then back again, sounding natural in the process and brilliant for both its pummel and restraint. None of the four cuts — “Meine Liebste; Sie zerbricht sich” (15:21), “Esthère (im bronzefarbenen Licht)” (13:34), “Zikueth! Zikueth!” (18:25) and “Liefdesgrot” (15:08) — really departs from a bleak, moody feel, but there are shifts throughout, as “Esthère (im bronzefarbenen Licht)” moves from the linearity of the opener to brooding post-rock and jazzy exploration before hitting its own wash of viciousness. To have a band take such control of their sound on their first outing is remarkable, and the longest and farthest ranging of the tracks, “Zikueth! Zikueth!” provides Soldat Hans their shining moment, theatrical but not overdone, melodic early and raging late, hypnotic in the middle, as classic as it is avant garde. They close out with another maddening payoff in “Liefdesgrot,” and while in the future I’d be interested to hear them take on structures as wide-ranging as what they bring sonically to Dress Rehearsal, if this is just practice, I can’t wait for the show to start. Soldat Hans on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
If you were to go by their sound alone, I don’t think there’s any way you could come out of hearing burly five-piece Olde‘s Hypaethral Records debut long-player, I, and not imagine they were from Virginia. In fact, they come from Toronto, but the aggro Southern metal they purvey on the album’s eight bruising tracks would be right at home in the heart of sludgeland, full as it is of steady rolls — Sons of Otis drummer Ryan Aubin provides trailmarking thud — the from-the-chest growling from Doug McLarty and lumbering riffs, songs like “Heart Attack” and “Changelings” in the tracklist’s midsection readily crossing the line between sludge and doom, all mudhole stomp, metallic affiliation and violent groove. There’s atmosphere at work, but it comes out through the aggression portrayed, and ultimately, I has about as all the ambience of having your teeth kicked in. And yes, that counts the variation on the theme in the closing “Perimeter Walk,” the more echoing guitar, farther back vocals, and so on. With a crisp production behind it, Olde‘s debut knows precisely the kind of beatdown it wants to deliver and sets about its task with brutal efficiency. Olde on Thee Facebooks, Hypaethral Records on Bandcamp.
Holy Grove, Live at Jooniors
Recorded at some point between then and now at Joonior Studios in Seattle, Washington — I’m guessing more toward “then” — the 2014 outing Live at Jooniors from Portland four-piece Holy Grove is only two songs, but even one would be enough to serve notice of their warm tonality and the bluesy vocals of Andrea Vidal, who pushes her voice to its reaches on “Holy Grove” and still manages to nail the emotional crux. Honestly, that would probably be enough to carry “Holy Grove” and the following “Nix” on its own — sold; I’m on board — but I won’t discount the fuzz in Trent Jacobs‘ guitar or bassist Gregg Emley‘s fills in “Nix,” or the seamless shift drummer Craig Bradford leads between subdued verses and the tense chorus of “Holy Grove.” As far as serving notice goes, Live at Jooniors does so and then some, and without sacrificing sound quality as so many underground live recordings do. Seems to me a 7″ release wouldn’t be out of order, but Holy Grove seem more intent on getting together their full-length debut, which if they can bring to the studio the vibe they create in just 13 minutes on stage, is going to be something to look out for indeed. Learn the name, because you’ll hear it again. Holy Grove on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Buenos Aires instrumental four-piece Persona formed in 2004/2005, but their newly-released self-titled appears to be their first LP, preceded by a 2012 EP. If the better part of the intermittent decade was spent jamming, it doesn’t seem to have hurt the band, who present nine plotted but flowing tracks that keep some loose sensibility to them while following a course of classic heavy and fuzz rock. The lineup of guitarist/bassists Lucas Podestá and Santiago Adano, guitarist Gustavo Hernández and drummer Esteban Podestá touch here and there on more metal tendencies, as on “Los Perros” and the brief “Cortina,” but that’s no more out of place than the proggy exploration of “Cuna de Fantasmas,” a King Crimson-style noodling underscored by subtly engaging snare work and giving way to a heavier push. The lead guitar on “Cazador” provides a particularly engaging moment of payoff for the album’s first half, but there’s enough variety throughout that Persona‘s Persona offers a range of satisfying moments. Still room for the band to develop their style, but they obviously have the will and chemistry to do so. Persona on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Dungaree, Climb out of the River
I’ll give it to Hungarian four-piece Dungaree based on their moniker alone. It’s simple, fun to say, and it evokes the rebelliousness of a bygone time. Their debut release, a three-song EP dubbed Climb out of the River, is likewise sharp-dressed, with a grunge-style production that pushes the dudely vocals of László Gergely to the fore ahead of Horváth T. Zoltán‘s guitar, Balogh Attila‘s bass and Dencs Dominik‘s drums to result in a sound that comes across to my American ears more akin to commercial hard rock than underground heavy, though in my experience the line in Europe and particularly Eastern Europe is both less distinct and less relevant. The tracks are short, straightforward, hard-hitting and catchy, with “Climb out of the River” a strong opening hook, “Dream Again” pushing into metallic guitar chugging in its breakneck chorus, and “Right Words” toying with a lounge boogie — snapping fingers and all — that assures the listener that although Dungaree have their sharp corners, they’re not about to take themselves too seriously either. Might not be for everyone, but shows a strong foundation of songwriting, and I wouldn’t ask any more of a first outing than that. Dungaree on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Six releases, and a pretty varied bunch at that. It’s still really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what went up to the server. I always like putting stuff on there — it’s like casting a fishing lure, except maybe without killing? I don’t know. More like tossing a fish in the ocean maybe and not knowing when it will swim by the boat again. Or maybe I just (re)watched Jaws recently and have aquatics on the brain.
Either way, we’ve passed the two-year mark since the stream went online and I’m very happy with how The Obelisk Radio has turned out. Special thanks to Slevin for all the work he’s put in over that time in helping me with hosting and making it go, and thank you as always for reading and listening.
Posted in audiObelisk on December 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There’s a definite good-time vibe running throughout Last Giant‘s Heavy Habitat in songs like “Captain My Captain,” “Jef Leppard” and the swing-happy “Ginger Baker,” and of course there’s bound to be some comparison since the band — a solo-project of RFK Heise (ex-System and Station) in the studio, a trio live — worked with engineer Adam Pike, who also helmed the last Red Fang album, but the truth is there’s much more lurking under the surface of Heavy Habitat than skate-rock grooves and cheap-beer worship. Opener “2’s & 3’s” starts the 10-track release on a melancholy and progressive note closer to Porcupine Tree, and cuts like “Mountain Size” and “Emperor in Reverse” delve into mature-sounding melodies more contemplative than brash.
Ditto that the vocal exploration “Harmony” near the album’s midpoint and the airy, drumless finale “Swim Till We’re Sober… Then We Start Over,” with its pervasive sense of wistfulness and Beatlesian multi-track backing vocals (think “Because”). There are punk roots, and a loyalty to the form and structures of classic rock, but Last Giant doesn’t seem content to settle for one or the other. All the better for Heise, who’s joined in the band on stage by bassist Adam Shultz and drummer Matt Wiles, and who played every instrument on Heavy Habitat. In “Big Dumb Words,” he recalls a ’90s-style openness somewhere between Jane’s Addiction and Blind Melon, and “Night Swimming” (not an R.E.M. cover) swells in its middle third from a quiet beginning into one of the album’s most memorable thrusts, but Heise is no more allied ultimately to one side or another. For an actual band to construct a varied debut full-length is impressive enough. For a solo outing to do the same while sounding like a full band is even more so, and Heise fluidly arranges the songs so that just as “Night Swimming” finishes out all thoughtful and quiet, the more raucous “Ginger Baker” steps in to pick up the momentum.
Pike‘s production gives Heavy Habitat an overarching smoothness that serves to unite the material further, and Heise seems to relish the chance to center the proceedings around songwriting. All told, Last Giant‘s debut is a vinyl-ready 38 minutes that will see release in Feb. 2015 through Little One Ate the Big One Records, and as early notice, I’m fortunate enough to be able to host “Captain My Captain” for streaming. I don’t think any one track could completely sum up everything the record has to offer, but as one of its most upbeat movers and strongest hooks, it makes a fitting introduction anyhow, and the layers of vocals in the chorus and the stylized bass fills give some hint as to the progressive sensibilities underlying what Heise has put together.
Please find “Captain My Captain” — I keep feeling like there’s an “O” missing in that title — on the player below, followed by some background on Last Giant courtesy of the PR wire, and enjoy:
Last Giant (ex-System and Station) Announce Debut Album “Heavy Habitat” Out February 2015 on Little One Ate The Big One Records
Blood, sweat and tears used to mean something, more than just clichéd words. They represented the core attributes of what makes rock special. RFK Heise, a rock veteran, has been crafting music by that standard since long before reality television became a dominant star-making machine. As front man for Portland, Ore. stalwarts SYSTEM AND STATION, he’s built a devoted audience through strong songwriting and an honest attention to craft. In 2014 though, Heise decided to make a daring move: to take on the recording process alone. What resulted was a hard rocking opus titled Heavy Habitat under the moniker LAST GIANT. The album is slated for an early 2015 release with live support from Adam Shultz (bass) and Matt Wiles (drums).
Heise worked on Heavy Habitat while touring in support of the latest SYSTEM AND STATION record, and spent more than seven months honing and demoing the new material. “It’s easy for me to wear two hats,” he says. Although the process of going it alone was scary at times, the upshot was a measure of creative control he felt he needed for his artistic expression. “This record was more personal,” Heise says. “I could just hear every song in full.” Heise’s decision to record solo came from a desire for artistic clarity. Collaborating with SYSTEM AND STATION allowed the members to develop material together, to the overall improvement of the original concept. Not these songs though, he is quick to say. While some of the LAST GIANT songs came from dreams and others were spawned from real life experiences, each is, as Heise describes, “my own soundtrack. A statement of my life at the moment.”
Heise characterizes the recording of Heavy Habitat, in which he played every instrument, as an emotional and energizing process. Even though there was pressure to realize his ambitious vision, he relished his opportunity to bring this record to life. While in the studio, Adam Pike of Toadhouse Recordings (who also worked on Red Fang’s critically acclaimed “Whales & Leeches”) served as engineer, tasked with helping craft its hard rocking sound. The impetus of Heavy Habitat was to craft something hard, straightforward and ultimately satisfying, the germ of which came under the influence of a great deal of ‘70s heavy metal. As Heise puts it, “it’s a serious party record. A hard hitting party record.” The constant in Heise’s projects is the need to create real, honest albums, filled with songs that you like and are willing to stand behind. “The record,” he says, “That sets the standard.”
Posted in audiObelisk on December 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Available now to preorder from Tofu Carnage Records in a 200-gram, translucent red-and-purple-with-blue-splatter pressing, A Holy Land Beneath a Godless Sky is the first full-length from Austin, Texas, viola-laden five-piece Sans Soleil, but rather than a stumbling debut from a group looking to find their footing, the four-track collection is as rich conceptually and in its execution as its physical manifestation. It’s also no less complex in its arrangement, pushing through a thick-toned 35 minutes of smoothly woven tapestry, heavily weighted but not at the cost of a sense of movement. Instrumental for the duration, “A Holy Land,” “An Umbral Plain,” “Across Brilliant Sands” and the concluding “Beneath a Godless Sky” evoke the journey they’re meant to convey, as guitarist Lee Frejyalune and violist Eva Vonne illuminate in what’s easily the most comprehensive track-by-track I’ve been fortunate enough to feature here.
Vonne, Frejyalune, guitarist Dustin Anderson, bassist Theron Rhoten and drummer Zach Hoop work quickly to create a rhythmic current around which their melodies and tempo shifts move. The production of A Holy Land Beneath a Godless Sky is geared toward an open, spacious feel, and that comes across both in the emergent roll of “A Holy Land” and in the slow, tilt-your-head-back-and-close-your-eyes beginning of “An Umbral Plain,” the textural feel of which makes it both a highlight and standard representation for what Sans Soleil have to offer. With patience and string-fueled grace, Sans Soleil enact builds throughout “An Umbral Plain,” the tidal-swaying post-rocker “Across Brilliant Sands” and bookending “Beneath a Godless Sky” that each craft their own context, each piece — this goes for “A Holy Land” as well — teaching you along the way how best to read it, so that by the time the crash-heavy “Beneath a Godless Sky” begins its conversation with the opener, the album’s consuming moodiness has become the world in which the songs take place.
And as we learn below, it’s a desolate landscape. I don’t know if I see it quite as empty as Vonne and Frejyalune – empty spaces in my mind always seem to come out in lone echoing guitar, whereas a lot of what Sans Soleil has going on is less minimal — but neither am I inclined to argue against a band’s interpretation of their own work. For insight into how Sans Soleil put together A Holy Land Beneath a Godless Sky, I’ll turn it over to them with appreciation for their thoughtfulness in the discussion of what the album is working to portray.
You can find the entirety of A Holy Land Beneath a Godless Sky on the player below, followed by the track-by-track. Please enjoy:
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Track-by-Track from Eva Vonne and Lee Frejyalune:
When we titled these songs, we wanted “A Holy Land (Part One)” and “Beneath a Godless Sky (Part Two)” to frame the album. We wrote them as one long piece divided into two interpretations of a theme. Eva wanted the names to work together as a sentence, and when Lee suggested “A Holy Land Beneath a Godless Sky,” we found the name of our album. “An Umbral Plane” and “Across Brilliant Sands” complete a short lyric, the titles working as a verse narrating a journey through a fallen and forgotten place, its ruins bearing the scars of vicious struggle, soaring triumph and tragic collapse, worn away by the unrelenting march of time.
Eva: A piece of music I have continually drawn inspiration from is Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” where Mussorgsky depicts an imaginary tour of an art collection. This album especially was crafted in a similar manner – of an outsider looking in. I have long been fascinated by the history and culture of Europe following the collapse of the Roman Empire and I think that is where I personally draw inspiration from, but of course our narrative is not rooted in any specific time or place. Rather it is the idea of a lone antihero traversing alone across an abandoned and ruined place and imagining where the relics of this grand past civilization might have originated.
Lee: The band’s name was taken from the 1983 Chris Marker film, which is a loose, cinematic essay of sorts that drifts through various ideas and images with a sort of meandering narrative. I feel that this album (and most of our music, generally speaking) works in a similar way. Each member brought to the arrangements their own take on some similar ideas: a long journey; struggle, triumph, and loss; things melancholic and void. Our “wanderer” makes what meaning they can from the ruins and artifacts encountered through a combination of the sparse context given and projection of their own narratives and experiences. The band has a similar process, in that we build our songs from fragments of riffs, melodies, and ideas, and when the whole is pieced together we look at it from the outside and find what meaning lies in what we’ve written.
A HOLY LAND
Our working title for this song was “Part One” and we wrote it with “Beneath a Godless Sky” together as one long piece.
Eva: We imagine this track as introduction to the solitary journey. It begins as a mournful dirge, but towards the end there is a reclamation and so begins the imagining.
Lee: Our wanderer finds themselves in unfamiliar surroundings, awake with a start to begin looking for direction, meaning, a way home. The scope of their surroundings is vast, overwhelming and the task seemingly impossible. Overcoming these, the first steps are taken.
AN UMBRAL PLANE
Our working title for this song was “Steeple.”
Eva: This track we see narrating the darkest part of the journey, of our wanderer encountering the most macabre and distressing artifacts of human persecution and suffering.
Lee: Artifacts and remnants the wanderer finds suggest war, collapse, ruin. Something great once was here, but came apart in a tragic and violent end. There have been no lives lived here for centuries, not even bare subsistence. The wanderer keeps hope in their heart, a meager guiding light shielded against a torrent of despair.
ACROSS BRILLIANT SANDS
Our working title for this song was “Presence.”
Eva: In this track our wanderer is traversing though once grand and monumental structures now in ruin.
Lee: In my mind, this song describes a blistering desert, the last enduring shards of broken cities, ruined temples, defiled obelisks jutting defiantly from the sand which has worked relentlessly to erode and bury them. Our wanderer considers whether these structures were human triumph over the hostile wilds, or if whatever brought them to ruin blighted this land as well. Waves of sand and heat tear at the wanderer’s body as they trudge determinedly towards a distant and massive ruin that lies at what they hope to be the end of this wasteland.
BENEATH A GODLESS SKY
Our working title for this song was “Part Two,” the conclusion to “Part One.”
Eva: In this track we see our wanderer piecing together all they have encountered.
Lee: The end of the journey, a moribund arrival at a non-destination. Is there meaning to be made from the things encountered and experienced? Have they spent this journey drifting through nothing to find nothing? Does the wanderer press on, or abandon hope and wait to join those who came before, forgotten to time? They know this land held lives holy and verdant, but they have long left, and when those who knew their names perished, the gods perished also.
Posted in audiObelisk on December 1st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Rhode Island traditional doom firebands Balam are gearing up to release their full-length debut, Days of Old, early in 2015. In fact, they’ve been “gearing up” for a decent portion of this year. The first signs of Days of Old surfaced via their Bandcamp over the summer in the form of the track “With the Lost,” and as we push into cold, dark winter, their fuzzed-out, classic-styled doom seems all the more vital.
You ever want to frustrate the hell out of a band, put them in the time between recording and releasing an album. I don’t envy Balam this contingency-sorting stretch — though they’ve continued to play shows through it — but with a 2015 issue on the horizon, the double-guitar five-piece are ready to unveil another slab of Days of Old, and I’m only too happy to comply. The title-track, “Days of Old,” can be heard on the player below.
Balam recorded Days of Old with Trevor Vaughn, and mixed and mastered with him as well between March and April of this year. The seven-song outing is a vicious 45 minutes of full-breadth riffing and stripped-down, light-on-frills doom. Led by the guitars of Zach Wilding and JonnySage,the vocals of Alexander Blackhound take early command of the material as the first half of the album pushes toward the title cut, while bassist Nicholas Arruda plays off Wilding and Sage in Candlemassian form (his shining moment arriving in his leading the band through the 15-minute closer) and drummer Zigmond Coffey adds plod to the nod of their bleak but still engaging groove. Days of Old lacks nothing for atmosphere — each side is given an instrumental introduction of substance, and themes play out in the songs as well — but ultimately, it’s the directness of Balam‘s attack that makes their debut so impressive, as well as the thrust of their tonality and how smoothly they are able to find a niche within the dreary scope of their doom.
There’s much still to take shape before Balam release Days of Old in terms of things like the cover art, what label, and so on, but consider this glimpse at “Days of Old” — and at 11 minutes, it’s a considerable glimpse indeed — an early warning of what the band have in store for the New Year. Here’s hoping the details get sorted soon.
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Balam will look to release Days of Old in 2015 through a yet-to-be-determined label. You can keep up with the band’s doings and latest news at the links.
Posted in audiObelisk on November 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
However European (much of) their influential base might be, The Flight of Sleipnir‘s will to bend genre and combine different sounds marks them out as a distinctly American band. The two-piece of David Csicsely (drums, vocals, guitar) and Clayton Cushman (vocals, guitar, bass, keys) hail from a town called Arvada, Colorado, less than 10 miles outside the capitol of Denver, but nestled enough into the sharp-tipped Rocky Mountains that their cascading, blackened fuzz could feasibly be born of its landscape. The duo have maintained an exploratory feel throughout their time together, and their fifth and latest outing, V., continues that run. Their first for Napalm Records after two full-lengths — 2013’s Saga and 2011’s Essence of Nine (review here) — on Eyes Like Snow, it’s as mature and steady in its composition as one might expect, but maintains a fierce creative drive as well, its seven tracks/59 minutes pushing forward in aesthetic and atmosphere.
With their commitment to psychedelia and black metal, it’s tempting to think of The Flight of Sleipnir as the stylistic movement that should’ve happened and never did with Nachtmystium, but the truth is Csicsely and Cushman traffic in more complex fare. Extended cuts like “Sidereal Course” and “Gullveig” have their blackened aspects — I’d still call The Flight of Sleipnir a black metal band before anything else — but their forays into psychedelia also bring an awareness of doom, of heavy rock tendencies toward repetition, and give a post-metal feel to some of the shifts between ambient and dense sections. In addition, the balance struck between screams and clean singing from one track to the next, as on opener “Headwinds” and “Sidereal Course,” only furthers the complexity of V., since where a lot of modern metal has fallen into the formula of screamy verse/clean chorus, The Flight of Sleipnir seem more interested in what best suits the mood of the song at that time. To call the record immersive would be underselling it. The forest-style screams of “The Casting” and the lumbering, doom-laden centerpiece “Nothing Stands Obscured” arrive fairly deep in the mix, and the overarching theme throughout is a three-dimensional tonality in the guitar and bass that, in headphones, takes the rawness of lo-fi black metal and gives it a surprisingly rich incarnation, so that the march at the end of “Nothing Stands Obscured” is as lush as it is searing.
This multifaceted, impeccably layered approach comes to a head with “Gullveig,” on which a light wah lead tops some foreboding underpinnings and becomes a theme played off of for full-toned riffs and screams, paced perfectly for V.‘s most satisfying nod. Cushman and Csicsely build up past the halfway point and then work in acoustics to begin an instrumental exploration that will consume the rest of the runtime, clean singing and screams interweaving for an apex effect that leads fluidly into the closing duo of “Archaic Rites” (9:07) and “Beacon in Black Horizon” (11:26), both of which continue to further the album’s atmospheric impact, the former through shifting the form of “Gullveig” to an even more serene, natural spirit, and the latter stripping back down early to blacksludge roll-riffing before escaping into trippy effects and never seeming to settle as compounds payoff with payoff to cap V. with an appropriately noisy stomp, the undercurrent of low end carrying them smoothly through quick-breath breaks and fuller onslaught to the drone, chanting and long silence that follows the closer’s finish, their sonic adventurousness never having relented once along the way.
V. came out earlier this week through Napalm Records and today I have the pleasure of streaming the album in its entirety. Please check it out on the player below, and enjoy:
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Tomorrow here in the US it is Thanksgiving, which has some questionable origins but in practice is actually one of our less-abominable holidays, with a focus on togetherness, good food, and enjoying the company of loved ones. Today, the day before, is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year while people get to wherever they’re going. Even if you don’t manage to find it until after the holiday is over, it seemed only fitting to make a new podcast so that anyone who might want to take it along for the ride would be able to do so.
My head has started to get into year-end wrap-up mode, so don’t be surprised if one or two or three of these bands show up in subsequent “Best Of” coverage. Maybe even four, looking at the list. It’s been a crazy good year, and as it starts to wind its way down and we make our way into the next one, I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to these podcasts and hopefully discovered something you wouldn’t have heard otherwise. That’s really the whole idea.
If you’re traveling by road, rail, or air, I wish you a pleasant journey, and even if you’re staying put, the same applies.
Stubb, “Heavy Blue Sky” from Cry of the Ocean
Murcielago, “Way too Far” from Murcielago
Dune, “Of Blade and Carapace” from Aurora Majesty
The Skull, “Send Judas Down” from For Those Which are Asleep
Elephant Tree, “Attack of the Altaica” from Theia
Renate/Cordate, “Laudanum” from Growth
Mothership, “Serpents Throne” from Mothership II
Space Guerrilla, “Event Horizon” from Boundless
Monster Magnet, “End of Time (B-3)” from Milking the Stars
Memnon Sa, “Megalith” from Citadel
Soldat Hans, “Meine Liebste; Sie Zerbricht Sich” from Dress Rehearsal
Atavismo, “Meeh” from Desintegración
Øresund Space Collective, “Remnants of the Barbonaeum” from Music for Pogonologists
Finnish four-piece Renate/Cordate (also stylized lowercase as renate/cordate) were last heard from with their early 2013 self-titled debut full-length (review here), which was a solidly constructed and smooth sounding execution of heavy psychedelia. Reminiscent at times of My Sleeping Karma‘s ultra-fluid push, it showed the then-instrumental outfit had room to grow but already a decent idea of what they were going for tonally and in terms of process. A good start, in other words. Twenty-one months later, they return with Growth, which the respected purveyor Breathe Plastic Records will release on tape in December, their sophomore outing comprised of four mostly extended tracks that come from a different enough stylistic base that I had to double-check and make sure I was listening to the same band the first time I put it on. With only one of the four cuts under 10 minutes long, Renate/Cordate have blown out their expansion to a cosmic degree, churning opener “Evolve, Submit” around Ufomammut-style repetition and following a psychedelic doom path of deep-echoing vocals around what seems a chaos swirl of massive tonality, hypnotic and deep. Working with Niko Lehdontie of countrymen psychedelonauts and Svart Records inductees Domovoyd to add extra effects to the wash, Renate/Cordate – the same lineup as last time of guitarists Ville and Samuli (the latter also vocals), bassist Aki and drummer Antti-Pekka — present such a stylistic turn that I’m tempted to think of Growth as a debut and of the self-titled as a demo for how much more solidified and clear-headed in their purpose the band seems to be. At very least, you could say the album is aptly-named.
And if the shift in sound is jarring, it’s bound to be less so for anyone who didn’t hear Renate/Cordate‘s debut and for whom Growth marks their first exposure to their work. It is an expansive 43 minutes, still perhaps vinyl-ready, though they’d more likely get rid of third track “Laudanum” and dedicate the whole of side B to the 17-minute closer “Mother” for ease of time. Side A, then, would be the back-to-back 10-minute post-doom wallops of “Evolve, Submit” and “Humankind (Not My Kind),” which quickly announce the band’s new direction in their sprawl and atmospheric take. The record is a big jump from where they were last year, and clearly a purposeful one, but not all of the elements from Renate/Cordate, the album, are gone. One can still hear the airy ringing of Russian Circles-style post-rock guitar presiding over the mix as the opener rolls past its third minute and into the first of Growth‘s encompassing space-doom nods. Heavy crashing leads to a quiet break of minimalist guitar — one of their most Ufomammut moments — and “Evolve, Submit” explodes again into cascades of echoing riffs that set a lot of the atmospheric course for what follows, rounding out with a long fade of feedback into dreamy synth that pushes forward into the quiet guitar opening of “Humankind (Not My Kind),” which is more about the tradeoffs than was “Evolve, Submit,” but no less ably conceived. An extended subdued intro builds for the first three and a half minutes before pushing into its first heavier section. The lull has the effect of drawing a listener further in, and should Renate/Cordate continue in this direction — after the difference between their first two albums, I wouldn’t speculate as to where they might go on a third — I wouldn’t be surprised to find them toying more with that feeling of stillness and the juxtaposition against pummeling riffs, but even here, they’re able to transition easily from light to heavy and heavy to light, as they do on “Humankind (Not My Kind),” taking the song all the way down to silence before rebuilding their way to the tone-wash apex that ends out.
The shorter “Laudanum” follows and is more immediate in its riffing though ultimately just as spacious as the rest of what surrounds, even finding room in its six minutes for a jammy midsection break that boasts some especially satisfying guitar work holding the tension until the heavier tones reemerge and thrust into a louder and louder burst of noise. If there are vocals — and there might well be — they are buried deep enough in the mix that they’re indistinguishable from a sample. All you get is a vague human presence, and it works to the song’s advantage, cutting out right before the thrust of the final echoing solo, deconstructed along with everything else to bring about the 16:53 concluding statement, “Mother.” Begun on a foundation of bass and drums backed by swirl and ambient noise, “Mother” unfurls essentially as a combination of everything else Renate/Cordate do on the album structurally, bridging the gap between a loud/quiet interplay and an extended linear build by simply doing both. Before its first four minutes are through, it has built up and peaked and moved to an ethereal, almost jazzy peacefulness, but the crushing reignites several minutes later, only to once again fall back past seven minutes in. This is the key transition, since the band uses this stillness as the starting point for the trip to to Growth‘s last crescendo. The turn happens right around the 12:30 mark, but by then, it’s less about payoff than just going where the band takes you, and that winds up being Renate/Cordate‘s greatest success with their second album. They’ve accomplished this change in style, which is all well and good, but they’ve managed to hold onto the immersive nature of what they did on their self-titled as well, and that only makes the ending of “Mother” more consuming and thus more satisfying. Yes, it’s wildly heavy, and yes, it’s a suitable ending, but what leaves an even more resonant impression is the ability of the band to retain their control over their sound even at its most unbridled. If they do wind up staying on this path, or if they don’t, that can only serve them well as they continue to progress.
[PLEASE NOTE: I’ve been given permission by Renate/Cordate to host a full stream of Growth for your listening pleasure. I hope you’ll give it a shot on the player below and enjoy.]
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Posted in audiObelisk on November 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There’s a reason I asked Atavismo if I could stream their debut full-length, Desintegración, instead of just reviewing it, and it’s because I think hearing the songs themselves does the record the most justice. Released by the band in cooperation with Odio Sonoro and a host of others, Desintegración is comprised of just four tracks, but holds a world of lush and spacious heavy psychedelia within them, alternately folkish and expansive, minimal and encompassing. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve heard any of the trio’s past work in bands like the spaced-out Mind! or Viaje a 800 — who, sadly defunct, remain among heavy rock’s most criminally overlooked acts — so much as it matters that you’re willing to loan a piece of your psyche to “Blazava,” “Kraken,” “Oceanica” and “Meeh,” and engage the 37 minutes of Atavismo‘s debut on their own level. Among first releases I’ve heard this year, Desintegración is an immediate standout for its complexity, sense of arrangement and for Atavismo‘s ability to hold the material together and create an overarching flow between songs that each boast their own personality.
Witness the Yawning Man-style guitar tone that emerges from the initial synth sprawl of opener “Blazava.” Desintegración takes a minute to unfold, but it’s worth it. Over the course of the 11:31 opening and longest cut on the album (immediate points), guitarist/synthworker Poti, drummer Sandra and bassist Matt loose a ranging instrumental build of dreamy but earthbound heavy psych jamming, making their way across hypnotic tones and masterful breadth as they go, driving as much as they’re meandering toward a lead-topped culmination the underlying rhythmic layer of which is no less a highlight, gracefully executed and in no way giving into the temptation to blast out in terms of pace and upset the careful balance they’ve been able to set. One could trace the acoustic/electric strums to The Who or a host of others from the classic rock pantheon, but immediately, the song and the album belong to Atavismo, and the swirl that ensues on “Kraken” only affirms the hold they have on their approach.
Though the fact that it’s named for a seabeast might lead one to think “Kraken,” the shortest piece here at 6:47, is that explosive moment, and its second half gets fairly raucous, but with a careful Floydian blissout of Mellotron-style keys and acoustics, the beginning half is actually the most soothing moment on Desintegración, and remains so even after the arrival of the album’s first vocals. Classic psychedelic pop, backed by swirl and airy tones, plays out over “Kraken”‘s course, until just before four minutes in, more foreboding, weighted guitar begins a quicker progression that builds into fuzzy lead and the instrumental jam that serves as the track’s still wildly psychedelic apex. Heavier riffing from Poti and a wash of crash from Sandra push “Kraken” to its peak, leading to the similarly minded but more subtle execution of “Oceanica,” which starts out on an even more reserved, otherworldly plane and executes its linearity so smoothly that, unless one were to jump from an early moment to a later one, it would be easy to be entirely lost within the track’s unfurling. Dual vocals come across gorgeously melodic atop light effects and keys and guitar strumming, Matt entering easily on bass and Sandra periodically donating a cymbal wash to the atmospheric cause.
It’s not until after five minutes in that the build really shows itself, the progressive interlude and following verse leading to an uptick around 4:30 that continues to a glorious takeoff almost exactly at the five-minute mark that still doesn’t separate itself from the peaceful vibe preceding but pushes forward into heavier riffing and near-stomp only to recede and end “Oceanica” with a return to the softer psychedelics of its beginning, in turn shifting into “Meeh,” a longer track bookending the album with “Blazava” that is based around the most singularly memorable guitar line on Desintegración. Again, Yawning Man is a point of reference, but there’s a tension even in first, wide open verse — the drums more forward, the bass tighter — that lets you know the payoff will be considerable. And so it is. A mostly instrumental course is led by the guitar into still-patient tradeoffs that ultimately round out “Meeh” with the record’s heaviest stretch, feedback passing the 7:30 mark to dip back into a couple lines before the final thrust begins. Atavismo cross 10 minutes with some vague sense of ritual in the guitar, but it’s still a relatively quick, efficient cap put on Desintegración, leading one to wonder how far the three-piece will push out the next time out.
I’m thrilled to be able to host the stream of Desintegración with permission from Atavismo. I hope you’ll take the time to listen and get to know the album. It’s one I have the feeling I’m going to be talking about here for a while.
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Atavismo‘s Desintegración is available now. More info at the links.
Posted in audiObelisk on November 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you’ve got just a minute of your time to give, It’s Casual would like to punch you in the face. The L.A.-based one-man outfit helmed by vocalist/guitarist/bassist/drummer Eddie Solis will release their new album, The New Los Angeles II, on Dec. 16 through Stoked Records. As the title hints, it’s a sequel to 2007’s The New Los Angeles, and even opens with a couple seconds fading out the drum progression of that record’s closer, “EZ Pass.” From there, however, The New Los Angeles II is a different beast, likewise pointed in its social commentary — Solis is vehement in his support for public transit — but turning his attention on real budget issues in Los Angeles. He’s the kind of guy who will run for mayor one day who will make more sense than everyone else and get the least airtime.
To wit, songs like “Less Violence, More Violins,” “Keep the Children Occupied,” “Sharing is Not Caring” and “Their Own Cash” point out the madness of not funding public education — the latter’s only lyrics, “Teachers use their own cash to buy stuff for their class,” are repeated in the Black Flag tradition of emphasizing absurdity through insistence — where “TAP Card,” “WIC” and “California is Not an ATM Machine” take on economic issues via real-world concerns, all the while pummeling a blend of heavy punk and thrash, Solis‘ growl pushing out minimalist lines that leave a maximum impression. The album as a whole is 27 minutes long, and about nine of those are devoted to the instrumental noise rocker “The Gap is Widening,” which leads the way into closer “Kids Having Kids,” so It’s Casual never take too long in making a point, every other track (including the closer, though that also makes room for a hidden bonus cut) under two minutes. The word of the day is “immediacy,” and It’s Casual are well familiar with it.
The New Los Angeles II is It’s Casual‘s fourth full-length, behind a 2009 split 7″ with Bullet Treatment, the first installment, 2004’s Stop Listening to Bad Music and 2002’s Buicregl, and it finds Solis — who also hosts the Los Angeles Nista talk show on AM radio — in his element musically and in terms of the commentary at hand. “Their Own Cash,” likewise true and infuriating, serves as a prime example of the record’s attitude and call to arms, and I’m happy to be able to host the streaming premiere today of it, as well as the Q&A with Solis that follows the player below.
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Q&A with Eddie Solis of It’s Casual
On “Their Own Cash”:
It’s really a POSITIVE track. I am trying to bring to light that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and other school districts are suffering from lack of resources. And that causes a trickle-down effect, for instance the music and art programs are cut and that leads to a challenge to keep the kids occupied. However what about the teachers’ perspective? What about their challenges? I have lots of friends and family that are teachers. They are already challenged with a modest salary but what about the ones that use “THEIR OWN CASH” for supplies? The song is a cry for help. It’s a testimony to the teachers who care and it’s also a cry for help. A topic that should be brought to light and should also be targeted and remedied. The lyrics: “Teachers use their own cash, to buy stuff for their class.”
Why The New Los Angeles II seven years after the original?
Seven years later because our album cycle didn’t really start till 2012. The record wasn’t properly distributed worldwide, toured and written about in the press till 2012.
Is the album a statement on sequel culture?
Yes, it is a statement on sequel culture. The New Los Angeles I was about being car-free, and celebrating the rich Los Angeles history through the eyes of a bus rider. However, The New Los Angeles II goes deeper. The New Los Angeles I was about history, culture, geography. Also a car-free lifestyle in a car culture. This The New Los Angeles II is about reporting on what I’m seeing on the buses and subway system. The people that are sitting right next to me. I’m talking about challenges people are facing. The positivity and the negativity, the yin and yang.
Any chance we could get a prequel at some point, something like The Old Los Angeles?
Yes, very possible. It’s realistic because there is a type of person that has been spawned from Los Angeles that is destructive and stunted and I want shed light on the sociology aspect of where this all comes from. Pre-MTA public transportation, L.A. life.
At what point did you know it would be The New Los Angeles II instead of some other title?
I was conscious. The New Los Angeles I inspired me. It was due to the fact that I was so inspired by all the press, shows and the music video that Rick Kosick of Jackass did for “The Redline.” It spawned my radio show Los Angeles Nista which started on internet-only but is now on AM talk radio as well in three major markets: Orange County (1510AM), Inland Empire (1510AM) and San Diego (1450AM). So when I wrote part two, it was about the same thread of commonality but going deeper into the neighborhoods and connecting with people.
Why the long break between albums?
The album cycle to the previous record started in 2012 so it was necessary.
When did the songs start to come together?
June 2012 was the pre-production date. And we tracked mixed and mastered in Aug. 2012, but the tracks started coming together during early 2012. The inspiration and juice came from The New Los Angeles I album cycle in 2012.
What was the recording like in comparison to the original The New Los Angeles?
Very similar. In fact the beginning of The New Los Angeles II starts out the way part one ends. The comparison and common thread is that it is completely is all about Los Angeles and is inspired by being car-free and green.
Posted in Radio on November 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Managing to do rounds of adds to The Obelisk Radio two weeks in a row? Why, that’s almost too much on-it to bear. I’ll try really hard to contain my self-satisfaction. Okay no I won’t.
A pretty diverse bunch of records joining the playlist today. There are 11 total that went up, and in addition to correcting the oversight of not having put up YOB‘s Clearing the Path to Ascend yet (infinite apologies), there are also new ones from Lord Dying and Primordial, It’s Casual and the recently-reviewed Elephant Tree. Also the Atavismo that I put up the info for the other day and which will be reviewed at some point soon, and five records I thought it would be worth highlighting out of the bunch. Some of these artists I’m sure you know, one or two maybe not, but again, it’s a fairly wide stylistic berth and that’s just the way I like it best.
The Obelisk Radio adds for Nov. 14, 2014:
Jakob Skøtt, Taurus Rising
His third solo album, Taurus Rising is also the second of the year for Copenhagen-based Causa Sui drummer Jakob Skøtt. Released through El Paraiso Records, it continues in the vein of earlier 2014’s Amor Fati in pursuing more of a full-band vibe, but strips that down somewhat to incorporate just synth and live drums. The result across Taurus Rising‘s five tracks is an unremitting progressivism, showcasing Skøtt‘s allegiance to krautrock in songs like opener “Escape from the Keep” while the centerpiece “Pleiades” has a little more of a psychedelic swirl. Keyboards arrive in multiple layers throughout, filling out the mix, and Taurus Rising becomes all the more impressive when one considers that Skøtt is essentially jamming with himself. He does so with a strong sense of evoking varied atmosphere from the tracks, the closing duo of “Bucket Brigades” (10:13) and “Taurus Ascendant” (7:59) pushing deep into spaced-out dynamics and, in the case of the latter, providing the album with its fullest wash and most satisfying linear build. Whether or not Skøtt intends to keep up this pace of releases, I don’t know — no reason not to so long as he’s inspired; it’s his playing, recording and label — but the prog-jazz sensibility of Taurus Rising seems ripe for further development. Jakob Skøtt on Thee Facebooks, El Paraiso Records.
Sleeping Pulse, Under the Same Sky
Sleeping Pulse are not yet fully through “Parasite,” the opening track on their Prophecy Productions debut, Under the Same Sky, before Mick Moss lets loose the full emotional juggernaut of his vocal delivery. The duo is a collaboration between Moss, best known as the frontman and founder of Antimatter, and Portugal-based guitarist Luís Fazendeiro of Painted Black, who wrote the music. At 10 songs and 55 minutes, Under the Same Sky is tied together both through Moss‘ voice and a persistent airiness that, were it not so cleanly presented, I’d almost be tempted to call post-rock. It is darkly progressive, and the lyrics match, weaving tales of manipulation in the subtly building “The Puppeteer” (also watch out for the sampled applause about a minute in) and betrayal throughout moody cuts like the later “Noose” and “War.” For those who know Antimatter – whose latest full-length, Fear of a Unique Identity (review here), was released in 2012 — Sleeping Pulse finds Moss well in his element across the board, but Fazendeiro varies the style such that the piano-led “The Blind Lead the Blind” and emergent distortion chug of “Painted Rust” fit well alongside each other, and Under the Same Sky flows smoothly to its concluding title-track, a minimal piano piece backed by ebow-style tones and once more showcasing the resonance in Moss‘ blend of fragility and defiance. A sleeper not to be slept on, particularly with winter ahead. Sleeping Pulse on Thee Facebooks, Prophecy Productions.
Palm Desert, Pearls from the Muddy Hollow
Perhaps unsurprising when one considers they take their name from the hometown of California’s ’90s desert rock movement, but Poland’s Palm Desert owe a large sonic debt to Kyuss. In the Wroc?aw four-piece’s style of riffing, tonality and propensity for the occasional stoner jam on their third album, Pearls from the Muddy Hollow (Krauted Mind Records), they show their allegiance to the desert style and its blend of fuzzed-up punk and laid back psychedelia. Vocalist Wojciech Ga?uszka helps change things up, however, with some elements of Soundgarden-era Chris Cornell to go with periodic John Garcia gruffness, so that Pearls from the Muddy Hollow‘s nine tracks make a suitable companion piece to Steak‘s 2014 full-length debut, Slab City, which basks in a similar mindset. That’s not to say Palm Desert bring nothing of their own to the style — both the quick “Rise Above” (not a Black Flag cover) and extended closer “Forward in the Sun” (8:19) branch beyond idolatry to an individualized moment — just that the resounding impression throughout Pearls from the Muddy Hollow is Kyuss loyalism. Within the style, they do well in portraying a warm-toned feel and shift smoothly between movements both inside of and between their songs. They’re not revolutionary, but Palm Desert do justice to a familiar sound and sometimes that’s plenty to make for a quality record. Another decent bit of output from Poland’s fertile scene. Palm Desert on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
High Fighter, The Goat Ritual EP
Formed earlier this year as an amalgam of members from A Million Miles and Buffalo Hump, Hamburg, Germany’s High Fighter storm out of the gate with the five-song The Goat Ritual EP, a 21-minute thrust of modern metal and heavy rock ideals. Vocalist Mona Miluski shifts readily between a bluesy clean delivery and searing screams over the nod-ready riffing of guitarists Christian “Shi” Pappas and Ingwer Boysen, bassist Constantin Wüst and drummer Thomas Wildelau trading off between riding the grooves on “2Steps Blueskill” and energizing the bounce on “Fire in the Sun.” Second cut “Breaking Goat Mountains” seems to be particularly geared toward Kyuss‘ “Green Machine” in its riff, but bleaker, screamier centerpiece “Black Waters” shifts between the EP’s heaviest assault and a guitar-only peaceful moment that rounds out with a bit of fading feedback that leads to the wakeup punch of “Fire in the Sun,” in turn given over to the mosh fodder of “In Veins”‘s early going, which somehow transitions into more laid-back heaviness in its second half, of course building back to the initial riff to round out. In its production and much of its execution, it’s metal, but High Fighter keep command of heavy rock elements in such a way as to showcase the nascent moments of what has the potential to be a fascinating progression. The ritual, it would seem, is only beginning. High Fighter on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Sans Soleil, A Holy Land beneath a Godless Sky
Calling a string-infused, instrumental post-metal release “atmospheric” seems completely superfluous, but Austin fivesome Sans Soleil put enough of a focus on ambience throughout their four-track Tofu Carnage Records debut long-player, A Holy Land beneath a Godless Sky, that to not say so would be worse. Eva Vonne‘s viola plays a major role in the band’s sound on “A Holy Land” and is complemented there and thereafter by guitarists Dustin Anderson and Lee Frejyalune and bassist Theron Rhoten, but it doesn’t come across as trying to fill a gap where vocals might otherwise be, instead just a weaving current between the distortion and sub-doom plod of drummer Zach Hoop, whose crash distinguishes itself on “An Umbral Plain” in keeping a slow march together early and moving fluidly to double-time in the middle third. Dense but not claustrophobic, the subsequent “Across Brilliant Sands” opens direct interplay between Vonne and a line of lead guitar before moving into Grayceon-style sparseness and explosion, or at least a more doomed interpretation thereof, and building to what feels like an apex for the album until the 11-minute closer “Beneath a Godless Sky” busts into a gallop as it passes the halfway point and relents from there only to resume again with greater force, closing out A Holy Land beneath a Godless Sky with a fitting push to coincide with the tonal weight preceding. An exciting and engaging debut from a group who arrive with a firm sense of what they want to convey sonically and emotionally. Sans Soleil on Thee Facebooks, Tofu Carnage Records.
Like I said at the outset, a little all over the place this week, but hopefully you find something to dig one way or another. To check out the full list of adds for this week and every week back to late 2012, and to see what’s been played on The Obelisk Radio today (some good stuff there), check out The Obelisk Radio Updates and Playlist page. It’s where the cool kids hang out, or something.
Posted in audiObelisk on November 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Mothership II, the aptly-titled second full-length and Ripple Music debut from Dallas heavy rocking trio Mothership, is available today. You can hear the complete thing on Ripple‘s Bandcamp if you’re so inclined, but given the opportunity to do so, I also wanted to feature a track from the record since it demonstrates so clearly how guitarist/vocalist Kelley Juett, bassist/vocalist Kyle Juett and drummer Judge Smith have progressed since their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), which Ripple also released last year.
If the power trio have moved forward from their first record — and I’ll point to the Floydisms of opener “Celestial Prophet” and later instrumental “Tami Massif” and the masterful use of tempo shifts on “Priestess of the Moon,” the progressive edge of “Holy Massacre” and the grand stoner epic closer “Serpents Throne” (not to be confused with Philadelphia-based instrumental outfit Serpent Throne) as evidence that they have — then it’s evolution hard won. The Juetts and Smith have spent a goodly portion of the last two years road-dogging back and forth across the country, even venturing to Europe for the first time this past summer to play the Freak Valley festival and elsewhere. Their time on tour has fed into their confidence in their performance and their command of songwriting, so that “Astromancer” seems to offer payoff where The Sword never quite did and “Centauromachy” touches on classic metal chugging with the smoothness of tone and atmosphere — Wo Fat guitarist/vocalist KentStump, who also helmed the debut,recorded Mothership II at his band’s Crystal Clear Studios in Dallas — that only heavy rock swagger can provide. And Mothership II is not short on swagger. Whether it’s the swing in Smith‘s crash or the interplay of Kelley‘s shred-ready guitar and Kyle‘s bass, Mothership are locked in and they sound like they know it.
The album is also two-sided both in the vinyl A/B sense and in terms of the songwriting. While “Priestess of the Moon,” “Astromancer” and “Centauromachy” tell stonerly tales of monsters and outer space, Mothership also get down with a fair bit of classic rock sleaze to break things up. Side A’s “Shanghai Surprise” and side B’s “Hot Smoke and Heavy Blues” — not to mention the borderline-creepy CD bonus track “Good Morning Little School Girl” — feed into a dudely heavy rock trope of long-standing. Though “Holy Massacre” doesn’t necessarily represent this lyrical aspect of Mothership II – something I’ll argue works in its favor — the song’s fluidity, natural tonality, live feel and high-octane delivery speak to many of the strengths at work across the album, and that’s not to mention the strength of the hook at play in its chorus. A bluesy chug emerges as it builds to its stomping apex, and Mothership shift tempo so smoothly that before you know it, you’re being carried off to the next movement.
If you haven’t heard it yet, take a listen to “Holy Massacre” below to get a taste for some of Mothership II‘s finest heavy. Hope you enjoy:
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Mothership‘s Mothership II is out now on Ripple Music in Europe and North America. They’ll play their official release show Nov. 21 at Lola‘s Saloon in Ft. Worth, TX. More info at the links.
Posted in Radio on November 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
My measure these days for how quickly time goes is how annoyingly long it gets to be between bunches of albums being added to the playlist for The Obelisk Radio. Maybe that’s not true — I still use a clock — but you get the idea. This week, a healthy dose of 15 records have joined the stream, and the only reason it’s not more is because there are others I want to write about next time, whenever that might be. If you get the chance, the full list is up now on the The Obelisk Radio Playlist and Updates Page.
If you listened over the course of the last two weeks, you might’ve noticed the running playlist was down. Well, Slevin fixed it the other day so we’re back up and running. I know you were worried. I was worried too. The important thing is nobody panicked and we all got through it. Let’s talk about some records. Please note, I was all set to include the new Old Man Gloom in this list but then I heard some nonsense about their new album actually being two albums with the same name and their having sent a fake version of the thing to the press with the explanation, “We will always trick you.” Whatever. Pass. I’d just as soon not spend my time getting fucked with in a weird, smug, high-school-level douchery “watch us pull the rug that we made out from under you” kind of way that makes me like the band a whole lot less. Way to take the media that’s spent the last decade sucking you off down a peg. Utterly necessary. I’m sure they’ll be really hurt by the lack of coverage.
The Obelisk Radio adds for Nov. 7, 2014:
The Golden Grass, Realisations
A digital-only release (at least for now) put out in order to help fund their inaugural European tour this month, Realisations is a considerably rawer affair than was The Golden Grass‘ earlier-2014 self-titled debut full-length (review here), but the good-vibe Brooklynlite heavy psych rock trio still manage to get pretty lush on “The Robin Song,” which leads off the four-track collection of home recordings. Trippy ’70s prog and bright melodies ensue, a demo version of “Wheels” from the album moving into a tom-led jam much like its final counterpart, drummer Adam Kriney sharing vocal duties with guitarist Michael Rafalowich while bassist Joe Noval provides groovy foundation. “A Curious Case” is a track they’re using for a tour-exclusive 7″, and it appears here in a demo from this past Spring offering the sage advice to “Let it ride and take it easy.” Closer “Down the Line” is a more psyched-out vibe, jammy with Rafalowich‘s perfectly airy tone and the room-mic sound of the recording, loose but aware of where it’s headed in a blissfully exploratory kind of way. Feels redundant at this point to keep singing The Golden Grass‘ praises, but what the hell. These guys are legit and deserve more attention than they’ve gotten. Dig in and dig. The Golden Grass on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Leeches of Lore, Live on KUNM 89.9
Last month, New Mexican weirdo rockers/charm specialists Leeches of Lore hit the airwaves on 89.9 KUNM to play a live set. The purpose, aside from its own excuse for being, seemed to be to plug a Halloween gig at which they covered the entirety of Alice Cooper‘s 1971 Love it to Death album, and indeed, they round out this set with “Second Coming/The Ballad of Dwight Fry,” after running through a set of originals including “White Debbie/Don’t Open Till Doomsday,” “The Sixth Finger” and “The Sleeping God,” a gleeful, complicated track cut through black metal, heavy rock, Western stylizations and periodic bouts of Melvins rush. Part of the joy of listening to Leeches of Lore is having them speed past you like a cartoon bird and leave you in a cloud of their multi-genre dust, grasping for air as you try to catch up. After being fortunate enough to see them live earlier this year on their home turf, Live at KUNM 89.9 is like a clear-recorded testament of what the phenomenon was live. Like non-blurred footage of some elusive desert bigfoot gone out to buy eggs, milk and other breakfast essentials. These guys are about due for a new full-length, but I’ll happily take this in the meantime. Leeches of Lore on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Olson/Shively/Barry, Tierra del Fuego Blues
Spaciousness abounds on Tierra del Fuego Blues, the independently-released collaboration between Tanner Olson of Across Tundras, Matt “Big Jim” Shively and Walter Barry, each of whom handle a variety of instruments from acoustic guitar to zhonghu and drones. There’s a sense of root tracks being fleshed out, but the whole across the five included instrumentals is lush and engrossing. They tell you up front that “Patience yields best results,” and that’s fair, but don’t take it to mean there’s nothing happening on a song like “The Needles,” or that the layers throughout don’t provide plenty of evocative fodder to parse through, calling to mind everything from coyote yips on that song to howling winds on the 12-minute “Jagged Cliffs,” a sun-down guitar drama that would make Morricone proud. Experimentalism pervades, as one would have to imagine, but Olson/Shively/Barry keep the sonics tied to the land somehow, whether it’s the Dylan Carlson-style guitar of “No Blood” or the percussion underneath “Shaky Steps on Solid Ground,” and that goes a long way toward approachability for what might otherwise be too far out for many listeners, though frankly I doubt mass appeal is high on the list of goals here anyway. Hopefully it’s not the last time these three get together, since even in piled on parts there’s obvious chemistry at work that’s worth developing. Big Jim Shively on Thee Facebooks, Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Slow Order, Hidden Voices
Don’t expect to be overwhelmed by the originality of Slow Order‘s Hidden Voices, since what they do it pretty straightforward instrumental heavy, but the Italian trio manage to find a niche somewhere between Karma to Burn-style rock and a more metallic impulse, some of the basslines calling to mind a much-less-mathematically-complex Meshuggah in their punch. The entirety of the record is instrumental, but in bits and pieces the layering of lead and rhythm guitar on “Drunk” or the pacing shifts in “Pazuzu Master” make for a decent listen. There are light touches of classic heavy throughout and samples in “Garage Anthem” and elsewhere to provide a human touch, but by and large the focus is on forward-moving rhythmic drive and riff-led heavy rock grooving. Their second release behind 2011’s Pyramid Toward Oblivion, Hidden Voices doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t, and the fuzz and ambience at the end of “In the Centre of the Sun” speak to a budding interest in atmosphere that can only make their sound richer as they go forward. Slow Order on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Lotus Ash, The Word of God
Post-metal’s tricky these days. As a subgenre, it seems to be waiting for someone to come along and add elements to the mix outside of the sphere of Neurosis/Isis crush/drone tradeoffs, tribal drums and Godfleshy atmospheric foreboding. Milwaukee’s Lotus Ash, with members in tow from Northless, Ellis and Maidens, have a better grasp of melody than most in the style, and put it to good use in cuts like “Soul of Man,” creating a contrast between weighted tones and clean vocals that sounds progressive and creates a lasting impression as the song continues to build to its noise-soaked apex. Standalone vocalist Brandon Bocian, guitarist Nick Willkomm, synth-specialist Nick Elert, bassist Kyle O’Donnell and drummer Brian Brown are a relatively new act, having gotten together last year, but their debut showcases a firm grasp on churning riffs and tidal sway — the centerpiece title-track is a highlight — and sounds full in a way that speaks to a confidence of approach and patience in composition, the molten flow from track to track serving as evidence of both. It’s early to call them the group that will reinvigorate the style, but much like Brooklyn’s Hull or Belgium’s Amenra, Lotus Ash seem primed to find their place within post-metal and develop an individualized approach from there. As first impressions go, that’s not a bad one to get from a debut recording. Lotus Ash on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Also added to the Radio playlist today were new ones from Stubb, No Way, Werwulf, Geezer, Rhin, Sky Children and more. If you get the chance, the full list is up on the Playlist and Updates page. Your continued support of this silly project is appreciated.