Review & Full Album Premiere: Altar of Oblivion, The Seven Spirits

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 23rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

altar of oblivion the seven spirits

[Click play above to stream Altar of Oblivion’s The Seven Spirits in full. Album is out April 26 on Shadow Kingdom Records.]

There is a special place in the halls of metal for those who partake of epic doom. It shares with power metal a sense of grandiosity and an absolute need to be all-in, irony-free in order to be properly pulled off, and Danish five-piece Altar of Oblivion nail it. The Seven Spirits, on Shadow Kingdom, is their third album, following behind 2012’s Grand Gesture of Defiance (review here) and their 2009 debut, Sinews of Anguish (review here). They had an EP out in 2016 called Barren Grounds, but The Seven Spirits is the Aalborg-based doomers’ first full-length in seven years. Consistent with that and its title, there are seven tracks on the outing, and no lack of spirit in the delivery, as the band taps ’80s classic metal and early doom metal in order to hone their sound, distinguished by the varied delivery of frontman Mik Mentor, whose low-register approach is deceptively malleable to the melodies called forth by the guitars of band-founder Martin Meyer Sparvath (also backing vocals and keys) and Jeppe Campradt (also keys).

Tasked with thickening the proceedings and making them move are bassist Cristian Nørgaard and drummer Danny Woe, and they only add to the sense of precision throughout the LP’s 40-minute run, whether it’s the thudding start and careening groove of opener “Created in the Fires of Holiness” or the suitably mournful plod in the second half of highlight “Gathering at the Wake” before the big finish takes hold. Regardless of tempo or mood in a given track, the band remains firm in their take on the metal of eld, and there’s never a moment where their sincerity is in doubt. As keyboard lines weave between the two guitars and fill out the arrangements and atmospheres, the sense of drama is palpable, but there’s no questioning Altar of Oblivion‘s commitment to what they do. This is epic, doom, metal. If you can’t handle it, turn in your denim at the door.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Altar of Oblivion are quick to show their doomly credentials in “Created in the Fires of Holiness.” The song thuds the record to life quickly and crashes into its dual-guitar opening lead, very much the over-the-top intro before digging into its first verse, with Nørgaard‘s bassline righteously prominent — counter to a mistake so, so, so many in classic doom and metal make — as the guitars ring out and Mentor establishes his command over the turn to the chorus. By the time the opener is halfway through, the course is set in terms of style, and though its songs are varied, it ultimately does not waver from the mood that “Created in the Fires of Holiness” sets forth, coming apart gradually at the end and allowing for a moment of silence before Mentor starts “No One Left,” imagining a world where doomsday prophecy is fulfilled and nobody is there to see it.

altar of oblivion

Speedier and shorter, “No One Left” is a standout in the tracklisting, but well positioned near the start of the album in order to build on what the opener has set forth in tone and general vibe. It makes a hook of repeating its title line, and has a distinctly ’80s metal infusion of keys starting in its midsection, which the subsequent “Gathering at the Wake’ will depart in favor of raw chug initially, only to see it return later as the track embarks on a, well, epic break in its second half, worthy of comparison to earliest Candlemass and building in speed and energy until its gallop again collapses in tempo to a slowdown at the finish, leaving the vocals to end the track alone, and transitioning to the sparse guitar that opens the centerpiece title-track, also the finale of side A. Backing vocals recall Blind Guardian for a brief second in the first verse, but it’s a tease — why not go all out? — and the song unfolds in brooding, keyboard-laced fashion, its chorus resonant in the theatricality of its delivery and its guitars leading the path through a more subdued feel than anything yet presented.

It would be even more hypnotic for that if the title-track weren’t also so brief, being the shortest inclusion at 4:18. Still, it’s a relatively melancholy finish to side A, and it leaves “Language of the Dead” to pick up on side B with a resiliency that mirrors “Created in the Fires of Holiness” at the album’s outset in its general modus, finding new footing in its chorus and revitalizing the approach ahead of the closing duo “Solemn Messiah” and “Grand Gesture of Defiance.” The former of the two, “Solemn Messiah,” is a pinnacle of The Seven Spirits‘ fulsome aspects, with a patience in its execution that holds despite the grandeur of the surrounding arrangement and the layers of guitar, vocals, and keys at play over the still-solid rhythm section. It is arguably the most memorable of the cuts, though there’s plenty of competition there and it’s a question for the longer term in the end, but it serves in its penultimate position as the crescendo of Altar of Oblivion‘s third full-length, and they cap it with a quick stretch of quiet guitar that leads into the fading-in chug of “Grand Gesture of Defiance.”

Curious that they’d end this record with a title-track for the 2012 outing, but the keyboard-centric feel marks a turn in balance with the guitar — at least until the solo — that piques interest just the same. The chorus doesn’t quite land with the same effect as in “Solemn Messiah,” Mentor pushing his voice down to really emphasize that titular solemnity, but the speedier section that gives way to keys and softer guitar at the finish is a fitting enough way to go out given the focus on melody throughout the entire offering prior. Make no mistake, Altar of Oblivion are doom metal for the converted. This is get-a-vinyl-and-a-patch-at-the-merch-table fare, and while its songcraft is ambitious, part of that ambition is homage to what’s come before. Still, The Seven Spirits lacks nothing for its own personality, and after such a long stretch from the band without an LP, it’s a welcome and doomly return.

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Los Mundos, Calor Central

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Los Mundos Calor Central

[Click play above to stream Los Mundos’ Calor Central in its entirety. Album is out April 26 through Cardinal Fuzz, Avandadoom and Little Cloud Records.]

Depending on how one counts, Calor Central is upwards of the sixth full-length from Monterrey, Mexico, two-piece Los Mundos, and it follows on a quick turnaround from their 2018 offering, Ciudades Flotantes. Issued through Avandadoom in Mexico, Cardinal Fuzz in Europe and Little Cloud Records in the US, comprises six tracks and 28 minutes of earthy heavy psych rock, here and there peppering in garage buzz tonality in the guitars of Luis Angel Martínez (also vocals, synth) and/or Alejandro Elizondo (also drums, bass, synth), as on “Sin Vértigo,” but making more of an impression with the subtle layering in cuts like “Olas de Lava” and the overarching spaciousness to be found across the songs. Part of that might stem from the fact that the duo reportedly recorded the drums and percussion for Calor Central in an abandoned mine outside of Monterrey, but it extends to the guitar and bass and even vocals as well, which are just as likely to be coated in cavernous echoes on the nine-minute penultimate groover “Subterráneo Mar Jurásico” as are the drums that begin the opening title-track.

Indeed, for a sound that holds so much grit, space plays a large part in what Los Mundos do, the band creating and populating a context for their songs to inhabit across the relatively short LP, holding to an experimentalist feel while staying true to a foundation in heavy rock and psychedelia. They’ve had time to develop this approach — their self-titled debut was released in 2011 — but even that release and the subsequent 2012 EP, Mi Propia Banda Quiero Ver, have a clear forward-thinking intention at their root. A heavier overall result suits them throughout Calor Central, such that even shorter tracks like the fuzz-blasting second cut “Apertura” or the strut-right-out-of-here closer “La Salida” land with considerable impact and are able to play off the open sense of creativity both within themselves and in the pieces surrounding. If this is their journey to the center of the earth, then the core is indeed molten.

Though, again, Calor Central is relatively brief, it sets an immersive pattern from the outset. Vibe is primary. Ringing bell begins “Calor Central” like a call to prayer and echoing drum thud follows soon after, joined by guitar that only adds to the breadth of sound. More than two minutes have passed before the vocals enter in chanting layers and semi-spoken forward lines that shift between half-singing and all-out narration, guitar strums accompanying in a mood of defiance. It’s the drums at the bottom of the mix holding everything together as keys and backing voices and guitar ooze out overhead, and the title-cut feels its way forward until essentially the drums stop, and it’s as gentle as it could possibly be — that shift to silence — but still somewhat jarring. “Apertura” plays off that gracefully with the suckerpunch of its own percussive start, a churning progression more immediately greeted by airy guitar arriving in waves and seemingly intent on blowing every tube in whatever amp is being so cruelly tested.

los mundos (Photo by Victoria Orozco)

The shift to “Sin Vértigo” is direct and smoothly done, but the impact of “Apertura” goes beyond its own two minutes to the album as a whole. Its departing from even the loosest of verse/chorus structure, which “Calor Central” had, gives Martínez and Elizondo free reign to go where their whims take them, and they do precisely that with the command of a band on their sixth record. Foreboding guitar lines open to full-on fuzz roll in “Sin Vértigo” with a return of the spoken word of the opener to come and a guitar line that seems to answer back and beckon the song forward into its tonal bliss and semi-hook, a solo in the second half giving way to a last verse before the devolution to rumbling amplified noise takes hold and fades out slowly to end side A, only to let the immediately dreamy “Olas de Lava” lead off Calor Central‘s back half in surprising fashion.

Perhaps the most outwardly psychedelic inclusion on the record, “Olas de Lava” gives its guitar line a sitar treatment and an according backwards layer during its initial verses, the title line serving as the chorus in the midsection as forward momentum is built and maintained. From there, there’s no return to the verse or hook as “Olas de Lava” spaces out and a synth drone rises from out of the mix to consume the guitar even as the whole affair fades out slowly to let a troubling wash of distortion act as precursor to “Subterráneo Mar Jurásico,” which as it takes up almost a third of the album’s runtime on its own is an obvious focal point. The rhythm is relatively straightforward early on — though that might just be Los Mundos doing well in adjusting the listener’s frame of mind/expectations for “normality” — with a tinge of grunge in the verse riff, but after the second chorus, the switch flips and the guitar freaks out with a noisy lead that shifts into surf-rocking echo only to itself be consumed by the next verse, with effects swirl, drums and percussion coming forward to meet the guitar buzz head on, and a outbound progression that sure enough shows no interest in making its way back.

A noisy jam ensues to provide a satisfying apex to Calor Central as a whole in terms of the band doing whatever the hell they want and making it work, and along with some residual percussive tension and guitar ring-out, there’s a kind of vocal echo test at the end that seems to be there just for extra weirdness. Right on. On their way out, they tap garage-doomgaze with “La Salida,” swinging all the way and seeming to build to a grand finale but cutting off before they get there because, once more, they’re by no means beholden to the traditional tenets of genre. That’s not to say they don’t put them to use when they so please — there’s no shortage of fuzz or nod-ready groove throughout — just that their intention is broader than general stylistic confines can generally hold. Of course, that only makes Calor Central all the more righteous in its position.

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Review & Track Premiere: Papir, VI

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

papir vi

[Click play above to stream “VI.I” from Papir’s new album, VI. It’s out May 10 on Stickman Records.]

The trio of trio of guitarist Nicklas Sørensen, drummer Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen and bassist Christian Becher Clausen would seem to reach a new level of maturity in their presentation on their sixth album, suitably titled VI. Issued through Stickman Records as the follow-up to their debut on the label, 2017’s V (review here), it continues the Danish instrumentalists’ progressive streak that began with their 2010 self-titled and saw them align to El Paraiso for the subsequent three studio offerings, the last of which was 2014’s IIII (review here), as well as a live album. However, it’s also a marked departure from its predecessor in terms of basic intent, and where V was a 2LP with a staggering 94-minute runtime, VI pulls back on that impulse and instead offers four tracks in an entirely more manageable 39 minutes, feeling less like a splurge and more like a quick excursion to someplace peaceful and other.

Its songs are extended enough and lush with warm crash and mellotron filling out the mix, never mind the dream-toned guitar and effects, to be genuinely immersive, but the mood for the bulk of VI is bright and creative, as though the band were looking to open a conversation or at very least elicit one among those who’d engage with their work. To call it a headphone album is basically to ask someone if they like peaceful summer afternoons, and as the band evoke Yawning Man with some slide guitar and Colour Haze in the apex of “VI.III,” even this is brought into the broader context of their own characterization. That is, Papir have their influences, but rather than work toward them, they’re using them to the band’s own ends. They’re not trying to sound like anything other than themselves, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it suits them.

That shortened runtime is crucial to the experience of the album. It was no hardship to put V on and bliss out for the duration, but part of that experience was getting lost in the flow of Papir‘s material. VI is best given a more conscious approach to shifts like the percussiveness of “VI.IV” or the linear build in “VI.II” or the interplay of drift and wash that opens with “VI.I.” And they make that easy. There is some sense of structure as “VI.I” and “VI.IV” bookend the record at 10:07 and 11:04, respectively, while both “VI.II” and “VI.III” hover on either end of the nine-minute mark, ending side A and beginning side B with a fluidity that seems to extend to the conceptual. Yes, it’s still easy to get lost in what they’re doing if that’s the way you want to go, but doing so misses out on moments like the cascading river of tone in “VI.I” as it moves toward its conclusion, or the gradual opening of “VI.II,” with a bouncing, almost playful guitar leading the way accompanied by quiet but nuanced drums.

papir

I’m not going to try to dissuade anyone from listening to VI however they want, but to just float off on Clausen‘s “VI.III” bassline misses some of the exceptional details surrounding and obvious care the band have put into crafting their work. I guess what’s most called for, then, are multiple listens. So be it. The chemistry between Sørensen, Clausen and Christensen makes that a pleasurable undertaking, to be sure, and hey, if every now and again one might return to VI for a bit of escapism, I’m nobody to call it wrong. The point is that what Papir have created something that’s worth conscious interaction. Once you’ve done that, however you want to spend your time is up to you. Perhaps most crucial, they invite multiple listens in no small part through the accessibility of these tracks and the quicker runtime of the entire affair. You could put it on twice in less than the time it would take to listen to V once. That’s a considerable change, but it shows that growth doesn’t always have to mean just doing things bigger.

Indeed, I’ll gladly argue that VI is Papir‘s most progressive work to-date in no small part because they’ve taken such a conscious step to allow for easier audience engagement. Their material is still plenty far out, of course. The jazz drumming in “VI.IV” and the consuming effects that surround it demonstrate that plainly enough. But they make it so easy to listen. And to listen again, and to listen again. It’s not just about being shorter. That’s a piece of it, but even the songs themselves seem to flesh out in a way that signals Papir reaching a new sphere of expression. They are memorable even without verse or chorus hooks, and the atmosphere they set rests easily atop the entire LP as a welcome presence. Their style has always been exploratory, and that holds true here as well, but VI is as much about being in a place as it is about finding somewhere new to go. One can hear a certain restlessness in “VI.IV” as it rounds out the album with a last, well-earned payoff and crashes out quickly to end, and that’s consistent with what Papir have done in the past, but the difference is in the context through which that moment arises.

If by the end of VI the band are ready to head elsewhere, well, they should be, but that doesn’t diminish the ground they’ve covered in the songs preceding. Rather, across “VI.I,” “VI.II,” “VI.III” and “VI.IV,” they poetically ask their listeners to join them in this space they’ve created. That they don’t ultimately stay there shouldn’t be a surprise — they’ve done nothing to this point in their career that one would call static — but there is a sense throughout of having arrived on the part of the band, and if that’s part of how their maturity comes through in the material, then it finds Papir with an individualized take born of an organic development in their sound that’s played out over their records to this point, getting them to where they are. As to where they might go, the only guess I’d hazard is “forward,” since that’s where they’ve always gone. More important for the moment is what they’ve accomplished here in terms of positioning themselves among upper echelon of European heavy psychedelia.

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High Priest Stream Sanctum EP in Full; Out Tomorrow on Magnetic Eye

Posted in audiObelisk on April 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

high priest

Rife with melody and a brooding post-grunge atmosphere, High Priest‘s new EP, Sanctum, sees release mere hours from now through Magnetic Eye Records. The April 19 offering is the band’s first for the label and follows a limited 2016 7″ — they added a few more tracks to the download — and is what might be legitimately called their debut EP. If one considers that, the grip the band has on their aesthetic is downright terrifying, balancing as it does classic doom riffing with a harder rock edge in the melodies, all the while without flogging itself into hyper-emotionalism as so many do in these after-Pallbearer times. The band’s pedigree in deathcore mongerers Like Rats isn’t really relevant sonically to what High Priest do throughout the four-track/20-minute Sanctum, but no question there’s a definite comfort level at play. That some of these guys have known each other since they were kids, as the PR wire explains below, isn’t really much of a surprise when one listens to Sanctum. They don’t at all sound like strangers who just wound up in the same band.

All the better then that bassist Justin Pence would so righteously high priest sanctumtap into his inner Cornell on opener “Descent” — and, more impressively, pull it off — or that guitarists Pete Grossmann and John Regan would so fluidly wrap their tone around the subsequent “Creature” while drummer Dan Polak thuds away behind as though his toms spent a week telling yo-mamma jokes and he’s finally getting payback. The final track of the four, “Offering,” is longer at seven minutes flat, and ties together a lot of what High Priest — who of course are not to be confused with L.A.-based High Priestess, on Ripple; though they should tour together — are doing throughout the EP, but even the NWOBHM twist in the guitars of “Paradigm” just before seem to add something new to the proceedings when the four-piece have otherwise established their modus. “Paradigm” also boasts a significant hook, but is ultimately less of an outlier for that among “Descent” and “Creature,” both of which evoke burl without getting lost in chestbeating cliche and seem to reside easily in a place where metal meets rock, rock meets doom and kick meets ass.

But not to harp on it, but the really striking factor here is the newness. Sure, that prior single came out three years ago, so High Priest have been at it for a bit, but Sanctum is still ostensibly their first EP, and while I might want to hear them get a little weirder with melody across a full-length release and change up arrangements as they hint toward between “Descent” and “Creature” here — with the guitars giving up lead position instrumentally to the bass and drums going from one song to the next — there’s no question in listening through that High Priest sound ready to give it a shot. If taking their time was what let them come up with these songs, then keep doing that, but otherwise, the sooner the better works fine for me, thanks. Oh, and make that High Priest/High Priestess tour happen too. How could you not?

Stream Sanctum in its entirety on the player below. Beneath that, you’ll find some quick comment from the band and more background off the PR wire. You know how we do.

Enjoy:

High Priest on Sanctum EP:

“This band started as an excuse to do something fun. What would all our weird influences sound like if we mashed them together? I think this record is a perfect amalgamation of that. Our only goal is for people to hear it and hopefully have as much fun listening as we have playing it. We also hope people are moved to go out and buy deep cut Thin Lizzy records and headbang to Mercyful Fate. If this record inspires one person to make something, or gets someone excited the way those records make me feel, that’s the biggest compliment we could ever get. We’re so excited for ‘Sanctum’ to see the world!”

Order Link: https://highpriestchicago.bandcamp.com/album/sanctum-ep

Although they formed in 2016, the members of Chicago’s HIGH PRIEST have known each other for a good portion of their lives. Guitarists Pete Grossmann and John Regan, singer/bassist Justin Pence and drummer Dan Polak have been playing together in various bands for over 15 years, with Grossman and Polak’s friendship going back to actual childhood (Pete remembers Dan getting the training wheels off his first bike).

Dan and John were already playing together in Southern Lord death/hardcore fusion outfit Like Rats when, during a night out seeing Electric Wizard, John yelled to Dan, “we should do a band like this!”

High Priest Sanctum was produced, engineered and mixed by guitarist Pete Grossmann at his Bricktop Recording studio in Chicago. The 4-song EP contrasts dark, soulful doom with massive riffs and delicate undertones, bringing to mind the juxtaposition of despair, hope and resignation across a foundation of churning heaviness that bands like Alice in Chains and Trouble make so appealing.

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Dune Sea Premiere “Dune Sea” from Self-Titled Debut LP out May 3

Posted in audiObelisk on April 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

dune sea

Dune Sea release their self-titled debut album May 3 through All Good Clean Records. The Norwegian band began as the project of guitarist, vocalist, keyboardist and noisemaker Ole Nogva, who gradually was joined by drummer Erik Bråten and bassist Petter Solvik Dahle, and though their moniker might conjure all sorts of images of retread desert rock riffing, the truth of what they do throughout the nine-track/31-minute Dune Sea is much more complex, drawing from the synth-laced space thrust of closer “Cosmic Playground” and the jangle-into-drift-into-futuristic-push of “Morphine,” which isn’t the first track on the record to be named after a controlled substance, following as it does a few songs behind opener “Pentobarbital and Ethanol.” All around the album, cuts like the eponymous “Dune Sea” and the subsequent brief fuzz wash and stomping rhythm of “Future,” the brief keyboard infusion in “Bounty Hunter” — like a heavy version of proto-New Wave space vibing — and the cosmic command in “Astrodelic Breakdown” lead the listener on a charted but varied course into the greater reaches of the far out, engines burning at warp factor whatever as the stars turn to streaks outside the window.

If it’s desert rock, then, it’s a desert on some distant undiscovered world waiting for the most intrepid of explorers.

But let’s leave the moniker behind much as the penultimate “Awake” leaves the ground. Dune Sea play dune sea cosmic playgroundfully-activated cosmic heavy rock. It’s an amalgam ultimately of space, psych and progressive styles, but their debut full-length — and when you listen through and think about that, that’s really the scary part; this is their first record — careens between them with such a fluid playout that it’s nearly impossible to pin down where one element ends and the next begins. Tones and grooves are hypnotic, melody is pervasive, and the spirit and energy with which Dune Sea handle the turns from one piece to another, as on the absolutely-drenched-in-acid classic psych rocking centerpiece “Green,” are infectious to the point of entering the bloodstream. That starts right from the ultra-swing at the apex of “Pentobarbital and Ethanol,” with a full album’s worth of swagger packed into about 35 seconds that lead the way into the rest of Dune Sea with an assured push that sets up the rest of the madness to follow. Dudes are right off the wall. I mean really. We’re talking about the snozzberries tasting like snozzberries, here. It’s a trip that should come with a warning label: “This machine alienates squares.”

And it’s 31 minutes. Short for an LP, but that too becomes a strength on the part of the band, because they manage to pack so much into that time. It’s condensed, but somehow when you listen, it feels like the songs unfold over a much more spacious scale than they do. That’s credit to the mix, which is packed with layers of lysergic detailing, but there’s a constant melodic presence as well through even the various vocal effects that helps the listener along this purposefully bumpy path, and that only makes the record all the more of a joyful undertaking. I’m saying that if you think you can get down, you should.

To that end, I’m thrilled to host Dune Sea‘s “Dune Sea” from Dune Sea as a premiere for your streaming pleasure below. Second of the nine inclusions, the eponymous song on any band’s record can serve as a crucial statement of intent and who they are, and as Dune Sea cry out for freedom in the track, they would seem to be making precisely that statement. Crack open your skull and pour this one in. Somehow I doubt you’ll regret it.

Enjoy:

Dune Sea is a power trio from Norway playing a stoner rock mixed with shoegaze and space rock. The Trondheim based group are often compared with bands like Hawkwind and Queens of the Stone Age.

The Dune Sea album features nine tracks that range from stretched out psychedelic sci-fi soundscapes to synth based monolithic riffs. The sound unfolds within a cinematic universe, which is both retro and futuristic.

The band started out as Ole Nogva’s solo project back in 2012. Drummer Erik Bråten joined Ole in the spring of 2017 to record drums for the EP “All Quiet Under The Suns”.

In early 2018 bassplayer Petter Solvik Dahle became a permanent member of Dune Sea and the recording process of their self-titled debut album began. The album is recorded and produced by the band themselves in various locations in Trondheim and will be released through All Good Clean Records on May 3rd 2019. The mastering is done by Rhys Marsh at Autumnsongs Recording Studio.

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Fatal Curse Stream Debut Album Breaking the Trance in Full

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

fatal curse

New York-based classic metal trio Fatal Curse release their debut full-length on April 19 through the venerable Shadow Kingdom Records. By and large, it is a ripper. Sure, they cut the pace a bit on “Priestess of Fire,” which is also the longest inclusion on the record at 5:39 and appears right ahead of closer “Eyes of the Demon,” but for the greater majority of its seven tracks and 28 minutes, Breaking the Trance is more about the three-piece tearing through their material with righteous velocity and headbanging intent. It is not an overly complex aim, but a noble one particularly when it comes to homage to the metal of yore. One could rattle off a list of reference points of varying obscurity, but at this point, the style of classic metal, whether it’s infused with retro thrash or NWOBHM pomp or as in the case of Fatal Curse some combination thereof, has become its own aesthetic. Fatal Curse seem less outwardly committed to the style than some — at least going by their press shot, you wouldn’t look at them and say they’re “in costume” as others might be — but their bleed-for-metal ideology is writ large all throughout the brief, intense and well stated long-player.

So maybe cuts like the opening title-track and subsequent “Blade in the Dark” are about fist-pumping, neck-breaking metal for metal’s sake, but the production on Breaking the Trance — and indeed the cassette-ready thrash-rasp of vocalist Mike Bowen when he’s not soaring over the razor-edged riffs of guitarist Dave Gruver and the rush of Chris Bowen‘s drums — gives a sense Fatal Curse Breaking the Tranceof rawness that doesn’t tip over to retroism in terms of trying to sound like it’s 1984, but neither comes across as overblown in such a way that would detract from the naturalism at heart in the material. It’s not quite garage thrash, but if you’ve got a garage, and they could play there every now and again, that’d be really cool, man. “Gang Life” follows the opening salvo and continues the energy with a catchy chorus and a oh-hello solo in its second half that works in stages and works its way toward blisters one way or another before bass gallop reignites the charge for the full band, soon enough joined by a blazing motor-riff. I’m just going to go ahead and give heavy metal bonus points — for those of you keeping score at home — to the band for calling the centerpiece of their debut album “Can’t Stop the Thunder.” Somewhat shockingly, they don’t have any songs specifically about “the night” — “Blade in the Dark” might count; I’d have to see a lyric sheet — but at an all-go 2:49, “Can’t Stop the Thunder” is as charged as Fatal Curse get on Breaking the Trance, and the method suits them, to put it mildly.

The sense of precision there underscores how crucial it’s always been for a band like this to be tight. In some respects, heavy metal has always been a test — can you play this fast? can your ears take this? do you get it? — and those who’ve passed have been all the more loyal for it, but there’s no pretense on Breaking the Trance, and while Fatal Curse have their chops, at least on their first record there’s no condescension in their songwriting or grandiosity in their approach. The vibe throughout is that these are dudes who love metal and just want to manifest that. It’s not about picking out which riff sounds like which one from which year — though that’s fun too, and I’m sure there’s plenty of fodder for it throughout — but about celebrating the release that metal was in its adolescence. Fatal Curse careen and chug their way through “Chains of Eternity” before “Priestess of Fire” and the mosh-shove of “Eyes of the Demon” cap off, and even then, their style remains brash but not conceited. They very clearly take what they do seriously, but that never had to come at the expense of a good time, and it doesn’t here either.

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating that Shadow Kingdom has an ear for classic metal and doom that is simply unmatched in its reliability. Fatal Curse aren’t reinventing metal or classic metal their first time out, but Breaking the Trance is all-heart, front-to-back, and even more than how well the songs come together or the band’s performance, it’s the heart behind it that makes it so prime for repeat listens.

To that end, I’m thrilled today to host the full stream of Breaking the Trance ahead of the release on Friday. Please find it below, followed by more from the PR wire.

Enjoy:

SHADOW KINGDOM RECORDS is proud to present FATAL CURSE’s striking debut album, Breaking the Trance, on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats.

Hailing from New York, FATAL CURSE are a veritable throwback to earlier, simpler times. Theirs is a roots-oriented sound squarely focusing on early speed metal on both sides of the Atlantic and America’s contemporaneous power metal movement. No thrashing like a maniac here: FATAL CURSE create classy ‘n’ cruising anthems of ageless heavy metal might on Breaking the Trance!

Indeed, much of FATAL CURSE’s flash ‘n’ finesse stems from their power-trio lineup, with each member locked in to the other and pumping out seamless, gleaming-chrome odes to such timeless topics as “Blade in the Dark,” “Priestess of Fire,” “Chains of Eternity,” and “Eyes of the Demon,” among others. Nope, you “Can’t Stop the Thunder” here, especially those lightning-explosive yet narrative leads at the hands of guitarist Dave Gruver.

From later Thin Lizzy to Tokyo Blade in the prime, early Virgin Steele to early Jag Panzer, Borrowed Time-era Diamond Head to Witch Cross’ Fit for Fight, Liege Lord to Omen to Helstar and beyond: step onto the wayback machine with FATAL CURSE and start Breaking the Trance!

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 14

Posted in Radio on April 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

gimme radio logo

No real running theme here other than it’s stuff that’s had my ears for the last couple weeks. I put the playlist together with a few tracks that were premiered here from The Dry Mouths and Cities of Mars, the new single from Astral Hand and a Bible of the Devil track to lead off because their amount of kickassery should most definitely put them up front. Some stuff here I haven’t covered as well. On the social medias I put out a question looking for album of the year suggestions and Elizabeth Colour Wheel were one of the top names that came back, so I included them for sure, and Magic Circle too. And I’ll listen to Lamp of the Universe any chance I get anyway, so having them was a no-brainer. Oh, and new Nebula, because duh.

I ended up cutting the voice tracks at Boston Logan Airport before my flight to Roadburn, so maybe there’s a little bit of muzak in the background. It was a little weird sitting there at the gate in Logan talking into my phone about how badass Dozer are, but you know, there’s a kind of anonymity in being in public like that too, and I wasn’t exactly projecting my voice. Bottom line is there’s a bunch of cool stuff though, so whatever I needed to to get it done was worth it. Similarly, I’m writing this from the office of the 013 before the show has even aired, so I don’t actually know yet how it’s all turned out [ed. – it sounds like crap]. If I sound like a jackass, we’ll call it par for the course.

Good fun.

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 04.14.19

Bible of the Devil Idle Time Feel It*
Astral Hand Universe Machine Universe Machine*
Cities of Mars Trenches of Bahb-elon The Horologist*
BREAK
Nebula Witching Hour Holy Shit*
The Druids Cruising Astral Skies The Druids*
Pharlee Warning Pharlee*
Magic Circle Valley of the Lepers Departed Souls*
Elizabeth Colour Wheel Life of a Flower Nocebo*
BREAK
Dozer Octanoid Madre de Dios
The Dry Mouths Impromental VII: Moustachette Memories from Pines Bridge*
Lamp of the Universe The Leaving Align in the Fourth Dimension*
Temple of the Fuzz Witch Infidel Temple of the Fuzz Witch*
BREAK
Picaporters M.I. XXIII*
Electric Moon Transmitter Hugodelia*

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Sunday night at 7PM Eastern, with replays the following Thursday at 9AM. Next show is April 28. Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

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The Dry Mouths Stream Memories from Pines Bridge in Full; Album out Tomorrow

Posted in audiObelisk on April 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the dry mouths

The Dry Mouths release their sixth full-length, Memories from Pines Bridge, tomorrow, April 5. For those familiar with the Almeria-based trio’s past work, it will no doubt seem like something of a departure from their generally straightforward desert-rocking songcraft, which may or may not be rooted in jams, but ultimately pushes much farther out here in songs like “Impromental VII – Moustachette,” a nine-minute off-the-cuff exploration of canyon echoes and cymbal wash, or the earlier “Low Savvia,” which brings a bit of thicker distortion to the dream-toned modus of Yawning Man. The instrumental outing is a departure even just for its lack of vocals, but the resonant tonality and the adventurous spirit of the sonic interaction between the three-piece of guitarist/thereminist Christ O. Rodrigues, bassist Andrés Reyes and drummer Josh Morales makes it a joyful undertaking despite the tragic circumstances of its arrival following the death of Reyes in February.

Memories from Pines Bridge is one of two albums The Dry Mouths will reportedly release in 2019 in that most unfortunate of contexts, and while there hasn’t been any information given on whether it will follow the band’s more established methodology or the the dry mouths memories from pines bridgepattern set forth by these tracks, there’s no denying that what they’re doing here works. With Rodrigues‘ guitar drifting outward in pieces like “Promenade” or “Mangai Maroke” or conjuring desert visions in opener “La Chasseure,” or delving into minimalist ambience on “Bootha,” there’s a sense of patterning behind most of what the band are doing here. With the exception of the aforementioned “Impromental VII – Moustachette” and “El Cairo ’78” right before it, most of the tracks are under five minutes long, and the theremin-laced “L’Enfer” is 63 seconds, so while they range far in the nine songs, it’s still just a 40-minute outing, and that too feels purposeful. Songs ease their way in and gently fade out, like the penultimate “Bootha” or “El Cairo ’78” after “L’Enfer,” and even when The Dry Mouths build a wash, they do so with patience and melodic emphasis. It sounds like it was a joy to make, and that carries into the execution of the songs themselves, as well as the listening experience.

Immersion is the key. Hypnosis is the key. The Dry Mouths are issuing an invitation to get lost with them. Closer “La Siesta (Sleep Paralysis)” has a little bit of a darker foundation, but the vast, vast majority of Memories from Pines Bridge is dedicated to sweetly melodic instrumentalist passages of these fleeting musical ideas that weave their way in and out fluidly as the album progresses. It’s the kind of record that is exceedingly easy to put on and lose time with. “What just happened?” and on it goes again. Its blend of plotted material and improv keeps things moving in a way that adds a subtle sense of variety, and no matter where the band seems to head, they’re able to bring the listener along with them for the ride. And their scope is pretty broad while being tethered to its desert rock foundation, so while you might get lost in listening to it, the band are never really any more lost than they want to be in their playing.

With the release tomorrow, I’m thrilled today to be able to host the full stream of Memories from Pines Bridge. And whether their next outing is a return to their prior form or another willful excursion into the unknown along these lines, the fact remains that they’ve brought something special to light in these tracks — and no, I don’t just mean the theremin, though that’s always fun — and that despite the loss of Reyes following the sessions for this and the impending follow-up, the work will always remain a moment worthy of celebration.

Please enjoy:

‘Memories From Pines Bridge’ is the sixth album by the Almerians The Dry Mouths. It is a 40-minute LP composed of 9 tracks performed live as “jam sessions” and instrumental passages of psycho-hypnotic character.

“Our intention is to create a sound sensation with which to delve into the mind towards memories of a past that we long for, whose memory is far away in a sensation that vanishes, that sometimes surfaces, and makes us relive experiences that still remain in our unconscious , that make us who we are, that represent the harshness of our lives…” — The Dry Mouths

‘Memories From Pines Bridge’ is the first of two albums that the band will release in 2019, after the tragic death of bassist Andrés Reyes earlier this year. Both works had previously been recorded and mixed by Chris O. Rodrigues, Josh Morales and Andy Reyes himself.

The artwork of the album is a work by Iván Carreño (who already worked with the band in 2018 in ‘When The Water Smells Of Sweat’). This new work will be published in CD format and in a careful edition on transparent vinyl by co-editing between the labels Spinda Records, Aneurisma Records, Surnia Records, Zona Rock Productions, Monasterio de Cultura and Odio Sonoro.

TRACK-LIST
1. La Chaussure
2. Low Savvia
3. MangaiMakore
4. L’Enfer
5. ElCairo78
6. Impromental VII – Moustachette
7. Promenade
8. Bootha
9. La Siesta (Sleep Paralysis)

The Dry Mouths are: Andy Reyes (bajos), Christ O. Rodrigues (guitarras and theremin) and Josh Morales (batería).
Recorded at Sonobalance Studio by Víctor Ortíz, Alberto Chamorro and Daniel Ruíz.
Mixed at Desert City Studio by Christ O. Rodrigues, Andy Reyes and Josh Morales.
Mastered at Kadifornia Mastering by Mario G. Alberni.

The Dry Mouths website

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The Dry Mouths on YouTube

The Dry Mouths on Bandcamp

Spinda Records website

Aneurisma Records website

Surnia Records website

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Monasterio de Cultura website

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