New York City heavy rockers Mirror Queen have a new single out ahead of a full-length currently being finalized for an October release on Tee Pee Records. Ever true to their city-dwelling roots, the band tracked the Starliner b/w Career of Evil 7″ in the midst of Times Square chaos, at Terminus Studios. It’s hard to imagine a more frenetic or overwhelming environment, but if that’s the setting in which “Starliner” takes place, one would hardly know it in listening to the track itself. As did their last album, 2015’s Scaffolds of the Sky (review here), the new track finds peace in a cohesive blend of progressive and classic heavy inspirations, filtering them through a modern production style — and yeah, just an edge of Manhattan crunch — to take full ownership of its sound. With a Blue Öyster Cult cover as the B-side that features formidable guest spots from Per Wiberg (Spiritual Beggars, Candlemass, Opeth, etc.) and Harald Fossberg, formerly of Turbonegro, they’d hardly be accused of not owning up to their influences, but neither are they beholden to them, the band emerging with an independent streak that is as much a conceptual part of who they are as it is crucial to their aesthetic.
Very New York, in other words. And not necessarily the new New York either. Mirror Queen are a bit grittier than that. Tracing their lineage back to guitarist/vocalist Kenny Sehgal‘s former outfit, Kreisor, and further beyond that to that band’s predecessor, Aytobach Kreisor, the lineup of Mirror Queen may be regularly subject to some flux — “Starliner” marks the studio debut of former The Golden Grass bassist Morgan McDaniel on guitar alongside Sehgal, bassist James Corallo and drummer Jeremy O’Brien — the band’s purpose has remained steady even as their approach has progressed. Scaffolds of the Sky did not shy away from its proggier aspects, and the new outing being finished at Flux in the East Village will reportedly follow suit (including an extended take on “Starliner”), but Mirror Queen never seem to forget the necessity of an underlying structure to their songwriting, and as they eye up the prospects of East Coast and European tours for this summer and fall, respectively, that should only continue to serve them well on every stage they hit.
Sehgal credits Robin Trower and Swervedriver specifically when it comes to “Starliner,” and you can take a listen below and hear that come to fruition for yourself. With a limited edition mirror cover and an included patch, the Starliner b/w Career of Evil 7″ can be ordered direct from Tee Pee at the link at the bottom of this post.
Hope you enjoy:
Trower inspired A-side, Starliner, features new Mirror Queen guitarist Morgan McDaniel (ex-Golden Grass). The B-side, Blue Öyster Cult’s “Career of Evil”, also has musical contributions from keyboardist Per Wiberg (Spiritual Beggars, Opeth) and Harald Fossberg (ex-Turbonegro). Premium mirror sleeve and pressed on black vinyl. Comes with embroidered sew-on Mirror Queen patch.
[Click play above to stream ‘The Heart of a Hero’ from Lord’s new album, Blacklisted,out May 26 via Heavy Hound Records.]
A year is easily the fastest turnaround Lord have ever had between albums, so their latest, Blacklisted, arrives with immediate intrigue. Not only that, but I’m fairly certain it also marks the first time the band has had two full-length releases with the same lineup playing — the other in this instance being 2016’s Awake (review here), which was five years after 2011’s Chief (review here), which was four after 2007’s Built Lord Tough debut. They’ve had other offerings along the way like the 2014 EP, Alive in Golgotha (review here), issued as is Blacklisted through the band-affiliated Heavy Hound Records, and earlier demos and splits, but yes, that Blacklisted exists and finds Lord working with the returning lineup of founding guitarist Will Rivera along with vocalist Stephen Kerchner, guitarist Todd Wuehrmann, bassist Chris Dugay and drummer Kevin Marimow is something of a surprise.
And that extends likewise to the execution of the six-track/28-minute full-length as well. The Fredericksburg, Virginia-based outfit, who recorded this time at Adept Audio Lab with Sean Sanford, have always basked and reveled and wallowed in chaos. From their songcraft to their lineup to the fact that for many points between records one has often been left wondering if they’re still a band — not so much between Awake and Blacklisted, obviously, but in the past — Lord have been as nebulous and difficult to chart as their aesthetic has been destructive, proffering a blend of hardcore punk, grind, sludge, Southern metal and thrash as it seemingly followed whatever whims of extremity happened to occur for any given riff. That unhinged feel has been a part of their drive since their inception, and should rightly be considered a defining element of the band.
All of this is leading, of course, to the fact that Blacklisted is the most cohesive and arguably the least chaotic release they’ve ever put out, and somehow, that becomes its strength as it bull-charges through songs like opener “Mile After Mile,” the furious “They Lied” and the mournful penultimate cut “The Heart of a Hero.” That’s not to say Lord don’t still proffer riffs in torrential onslaught — they’re not 30 seconds into “Mile After Mile” before that reassurance is granted — just that their sense of control in doing so has never come through so plainly. With Kerchner backed by Wuehrmann (and maybe Rivera) on vocals, Lord flesh out arrangements of screams, growls and effects-laden shouts to go with the Southern metal lead style of the guitars and the forward-shoving rhythm.
“Mile After Mile” is the shortest piece on Blacklisted at 3:52 — closer “Not Your Problem?” is the longest, at 6:25 — and it feels tight to the point of being almost spare, casting off frills in favor of a raw thrust that continues in “They Lied,” which makes a hook of its title line, and “The Bandage,” which starts out as the most tumultuous grinder on the record before departing, just past the 1:40 mark, into an open groove and a build back toward full heft that features not only the best solo work here, but also at its end the most fluid transition, leading back to the song’s maddening, blasting sprint. Momentum feels all the more on Lord‘s side because the album is short, and they seem to be through the first three tracks before the listener has had time to process, so indeed, still plenty of attack in their approach, but it’s the precision and the sense of intention behind what they’re doing that makes Blacklisted the most accomplished and realized Lord outing to-date.
The thrashing title-track picks up where “The Bandage” left off and mounts an assault of its own, playing between chugging groove and windmill-worthy squibbly riffing, growls and shouts emanating from beneath the guitars and bass as Marimow plows ahead. Seems fitting enough that the last half-minute or so of “Blacklisted” would be dedicated solely to feedback, because noise has always been an essential part of Lord‘s take, and because it seems to draw the first-four-cuts section of the record to a close ahead of the marked tempo shift that “The Heart of a Hero” brings, slowing down and riding a weighted but less outwardly brutal progression. There’s an emotional core behind the verse and chorus, somewhat obscured by what remains a vicious sonic core, but after a longer solo bridge, Kerchner‘s vocals return to underscore the expressive point and round out with a sense of structure before a last-measure slowdown brings the song to a no-less-resonant close.
Well placed, that departure is key to the album after “Mile After Mile,” “They Lied,” “The Bandage” and “Blacklisted,” but Lord return to more scathing ground with “Not Your Problem?,” beginning the finale with something of a cultural indictment in the lyrics — the most clearly audible on the release — over the drums before the guitars and bass join in. While less of a hurricane than, say, “The Bandage,” “Not Your Problem?” seems to find a middle-ground between that song and “The Heart of a Hero” and in so doing summarizes much of what’s working across Blacklisted while issuing a directive in what’s probably as much a “Lord riff” as can be heard here, the sharp-but-winding thrashiness of Rivera‘s style shining through as they make their way toward the last, cold finish as if to tell their audience that there’s no way they’re actually done.
That may in fact be the case, and Lord could turn around and have another full-length out in 2018 with the same players returning. Maybe, after more than a decade, they’ve found a way to sustain a balance between their aural and existential uproar. As someone who’s been a fan of the band since their early demo work, I hope all the more that’s the case given the direction Blacklisted shows them as taking, since while it expands their dynamic and brings them to levels of clarity never before heard from them, it also maintains the spirit of the work they’ve done before it, drawing strength from the experience of all that bludgeoning of days gone by.
Chicago extremists Drug Honkey will release their fifth album, Cloak of Skies, May 5 via Transcending Obscurity Records. For those unfamiliar with the industrially-tinged sludge dystopias the band conjures, the opening roar of “Pool of Failure” will likely catch you off guard. Hell, even if you caught wind of their last outing, 2013’s Ghost in the Fire (review here), it’s entirely likely that Cloak of Skies will offer more than a few shocking moments in its play toward unremitting darkness, the breadth over which that darkness seems to stretch, the crushing nature of their churn and the somehow punkish undertones at work beneath cuts like “Sickening Wastoid” and “Outlet of Hatred,” which together with “Pool of Failure” form an opening salvo reimagining early C.O.C. or at times even Napalm Death through the lens of a terrible future that, one might argue, has actually come to pass.
As one might figure, Godflesh are a key influence. Enough so that the four-piece of vocalist/synthesist Paul Gillis, guitarist Gabe Grosso, bassist Ian Brown and drummer Adam Smith sought out Justin K. Broadrick to remix “Pool of Failure” as a bonus track. Vast, Jesu-style drone plays a role as well, as “(It’s Not) The Way” demonstrates, and certainly the more extended finale duo of the 10-minute “The Oblivion of an Opiate Nod” and the eight-minute title-track have their elements of soundscaping as well, but as textured as they are, they’re full of horrors, which is Drug Honkey‘s specialty to be sure. Their roots are in noise and Chicago’s extreme metal underground, but the actual sonics the band emits are twisted beyond whatever their inspirations might be, and through layered growls and spoken lines and a steady wash of synth and effects over the grueling roll of “The Oblivion of an Opiate Nod,” Gillis feels just as much like the one calling down the storm as the one being consumed by it. A deathly expanse at its most ranging, Cloak of Skies is defined by its tortured sensibility and passes its cruelty onto the listener in hyperbole-ready fashion. However one might feel about it listening to “Pool of Failure,” chances are ambivalence won’t be a factor.
But gruesome art is still art, and the band — now also veterans of Denmark’s prestigious Roskilde Festival — are frank in the purposefulness of what they’re doing on Cloak of Skies. These songs, from “Pool of Failure” through the title-cut, are built around the intent to convey a truly misanthropic feel, and accordingly, their churn is simply going to come across as overwhelming to some listeners. That’s been the case with their work for a long time, and while if we’re going by the level of what’s happening in terms of the superficial audio it certainly doesn’t sound like anyone is coming out on top, it’s the source of Drug Honkey‘s success on the record. They revel in these miseries, and by the time “Cloak of Skies” rounds out with its looped vocals — not even words, just syllables at that point — samples, guest saxophone from Corrections House/Yakuza‘s Bruce Lamont and droning abrasion, they’ve turned them into a potent ritual that’s as immersive as it is off-putting. Imagine swirling psychedelia but every color is black. Across seven songs and 50 minutes (including the remix), Drug Honkey bask in tragedy and come out on the other side having covered themselves in filth as if to show us our own complicity in its creation. If there were any justice in the universe, they’d be playing in art galleries.
Cloak of Skies will be out May 5 on Transcending Obscurity. I’m not sure “enjoy” is the right word, but you can hear the premiere of “Pool of Failure” below, followed by more info off the PR wire.
And yes, I hope you enjoy:
US band DRUG HONKEY have always been a step ahead of their peers, if there were any in the first place. There’s a form of tenacity in their music of the same kind that will have you crawl ahead in life despite all its inherent ugliness pinning you down. They are taking things to a different level, with guest contributions from the legend himself, Justin K. Broadrick (GODFLESH, JESU) and Bruce Lamont (YAKUZA, CORRECTIONS HOUSE) with his saxophone eeriness, and having the hand-painted artwork of Paolo Girardi (INQUISITION, CHTHE’ILIST) represent the pulsating sickness of this ambitious and unconventional release.
Album lineup – Paul Gillis (Honkey Head) – Vocals, Synths, Samples, FX Adam Smith (BH Honkey) – Drums Gabe Grosso (Hobbs) – Guitar Ian Brown (Brown Honkey) – Bass
As they returned home to Germany this past week from a South American tour and made ready to head out over the next month on a slew of European dates including festival stops at Under the Black Moon, Riff Ritual, and Desertfest in London and their native Berlin, Samsara Blues Experiment came one step closer to the release of their fourth full-length, One with the Universe. The album — confirmed for a May 12 release through Electric Magic Records with cover art by Michel Bassot newly unveiled below — arrives four years after the third Samsara Blues Experiment outing, Waiting for the Flood (review here), and finds the band pared down to a trio for the first time on a studio offering, returning to activity after several years away following a prolific run between 2009 and 2013, and embarking on some of their boldest and most progressive arrangements to date.
I haven’t heard One with the Universe in its entirety yet — as of this weekend, the master was still being finalized — but today I have the extreme pleasure of hosting the premiere of the 10-minute opening track, “Vipassana,” for your (and my) streaming enjoyment. Obviously, its my basis for the assessment above about the arrangements, and as the song plays through its jam-based course, one can hear that coming through in the synth provided by guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, joined in the three-piece by drummer Thomas Vedder and bassist Hans Eiselt. At the same time, to go along with the core warmth of low end and natural push of the toms at the start and the airy guitar and echoing vocals that accompany, there also emerges some weightier tonality in the chorus that hits with a more aggressive underlying vibe. Dare I say “doomly?” I won’t guess how it plays out across the span of One with the Universe, which runs just under 47 minutes, but along with the synth sprawl that starts at about the halfway point, it’s something that turned my head listening to “Vipassana.”
I’ll hope to have a review up sometime between now and the May 12 release date, so I’ll save some of the rambling for that, but the name of the song, if you’re wondering, refers to the Buddhist notion of insight into the true nature of reality. Not exactly a toss-off scale on which to begin an album. Such purposes are welcome from Samsara Blues Experiment, who recorded the likewise ambitiously-titled One with the Universe with former bassist Richard Behrens (also of Heat), who also helmed the last outing. One looks forward to hearing how this spiritual searching resolves itself, or if it does at all, throughout the rest of the tracks.
Peters was kind enough to give some background on the making of “Vipassana,” and you’ll find his words, the complete album tracklisting, upcoming tour dates and more info under the player below.
Christian Peters on “Vipassana”:
‘Vipassana’ is the first song we did after Richard had left the band. It came out from a series of jam sessions. Pretty much this is all we did in the first rehearsals after Richard left: jamming, jamming and even more jamming. The song topic seems to be about growing up, or maybe growing up responsibly. Kind of a coming of age thing wrapped in heavy riffs and Pink Floydish-psychedelia, plus some kind of Indian raga theme. It’s pretty much what one can consider as ‘classic SBE’-material already, I think.
It may be interesting to know that Richard, who did not play any instruments, but again recorded the album, also contributed some nice ideas in the process, like having me play the backward solo or putting in some vintage tape-effects. we are all very happy with the outcome of this song in particular and hope you will enjoy. there is much more on the album.
SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT’s fourth ‘full piece of wax’ “One with the Universe“ is a culmination of all their works and truly a hard hitting cosmic invitation for floating into their universe of spiritual progression. The most evolutionary development compared to previous albums is the cosmic usage of analog synthesizers, keyboards and effects, while not losing focus on catchiness and well-rendered songwriting.
These five new epics subtly integrate flashes from Jimi Hendrix´ “Electric Ladyland“, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath, with Canterbury Prog elements à la Caravan and the fuzzed-out riffs of Kyuss. “One with the Universe“ can not be put just into one genre: it is a multifaceted heavy rock album with tons of soul, courage and originality!
The album will be released on May 12th through Electric Magic Records.
TRACK LISTING: 1. Vipassana (10:43) 2. Sad Guru Returns (7:55) 3. Glorious Daze (6:01) 4. One with the Universe (15:03) 5. Eastern Sun & Western Moon (7:09)
– ARTWORK FROM MICHEL BASSOT –
EUROPEAN SHOWS: 25.03. Roma (IT), Defrag 31.03. Osnabrück, Westwerk 01.04. München, Under The Black Moon Festival 02.04. Leipzig, Werk 2 22.04. Barcelona, Riff Ritual Festival 29.04. Berlin, Desertfest 30.04. London (UK), Desertfest 12.05. Berlin, Zukunft am Ostkreuz (Stummfilm-Special) 13.05. Berlin, Zukunft am Ostkreuz (Albumrelease Parteeey) 14.05. Hamburg, Hafenklang 15.05. Wiesbaden, Schlachthof 16.05. Bielefeld, Forum 17.05. Nijmegen (NL), Doornroosje 18.05. Nantes (FR), Le Ferrailleur 19.05. Paris (FR), Backstage 20.05. Köln, Underground 11.08. Finkenbach, Finki Festival
[Click play above to stream Attalla’s Glacial Rule in its entirety. Album is out March 24 with preorders up now.]
If you want to get a sense for what Oshkosh, Wisconsin, four-piece Attalla are up to on their second full-length, Glacial Rule, you don’t have to go far. The opening cut of the album is “Butte des Morts,” and it lands with a swing and a stomp at six and a half minutes of the band digging their heels into what reveals itself as the first of many amply-proportioned, riff-led grooves. Their prior offering, a 2014 self-titled (review here), carried with it an abidingly raw sensibility, and while the six tracks of Glacial Rule follow suit to a degree, guitarists Cody Stieg (also vocals) and Brian Hinckley, bassist Bryan Kunde and drummer James Slater are likewise blunt in conveying the progression they’ve undertaken in the three years since. On a production level, Glacial Rule— recorded last Spring by Shane Hochstetler at Howl Street Recordings in Milwaukee — is crisper and cleaner, but Attalla still have some dirt under their sonic fingernails, giving their material from the launch of “Butte des Morts” onward character and a sense of intent standing behind it.
Working on themes as shown in the Adam Burke cover art of cold and cruel nature throughout pieces like “Ice Harvest,” “Black Wolf Rituals” and the closing title-track, Attalla — who are not to be confused with California post-desert rockers Atala — come across as more confident on the whole in their presentation, surer in their footing rhythmically and clearer in their thinking of who they are and what they want to be as a band. To say they took important lessons from their debut would perhaps be an understatement, and more importantly, it’s how they’re putting those to use in the songwriting on the 40-minute sophomore outing that really conveys the growth at hand.
There doesn’t seem to be a narrative arc tying the songs together, but the already noted themes — freezing, naturalist, and vicious as they are — begin with “Butte des Morts,” which takes its name from a lake near Oshkosh named for a Native American burial ground discovered by French settlers. As it should, the opener sets the tone as well in its upbeat, noise rock-infused groove, which would border on the hypnotic were it not so active in its bounce. I’ll allow the alphabetical coincidence might have something to do with it, but in their treatment of the theme, all-in-the-room-together-style recording, fluidity between tempos, noise influence and far-back but still raw vocals, songs like “Ice Harvest” and the rolling “Valderan,” which follow, remind somewhat of Jersey Shores, the 2008 swansong from Seattle’s Akimbo.
Of course, that album had its own story to tell and Glacial Rule is clearly happening in a different time and place, but some of the brashness and roots in hardcore come through Attalla‘s material in similar fashion, even as “Ice Harvest,” which is the longest track on Glacial Rule at 8:44, digs into the righteous nastiness of its lumbering midsection ahead of a long instrumental/solo exploration that follows and leads the way out of the song. Nothing on Attalla touched that kind of length or adventurousness, but the band’s development can be heard in the restraint of the tempo on “Valderan” as well; in an emerging patience within their sound that seems to be struggling against the impulse to burst out, creating a tension that accompanies the palpable build as the side A finale marches forward. I don’t know which came first, the riffs or the notion that would tie them together, but they were right to settle on the word “glacial.” It’s not the slowest thing in the world, but the theme fits for sure, and as it proceeds into its second half Glacial Rule, feels all the more consistent for working around this central idea.
And perhaps what’s not as immediately apparent to an outsider is just how directly tied to Wisconsin that central idea is. “Valderan” would seem to take its name from Valders, a town surrounded by hills that were once a mountain range eroded by glaciers, and the state’s Amish population actually do harvest lake ice in order to preserve food without the use of electricity. Likewise, side B’s “Black Wolf Rituals” comes from the town of Black Wolf, in Winnebago County, and “Devil’s Lake” — a misinterpreted Native American translation — is in Sauk County, so even as the former might appear on the surface like mountain-man-rock cultism, it’s actually speaking to a very specific location as it unfurls its mid-paced push and more open-feeling verse, moving in its back end like “Ice Harvest” into an ending instrumental section from which the core structure opts not to return.
“Devil’s Lake” brings more stomp just when it seems to be most needed — by this point, Attalla have dug themselves pretty deep into a moraine of frozen sludge riffing — but ultimately nestles into its own solo section led by Stieg before a thunderous chugging finish. As Slater‘s drums calmly start the closing title-track, it’s hard not to feel like Glacial Rule has hit its moment of arrival. The guitars soon take hold with resonant heft backed by the bass and drive into a quick verse near the two-minute mark. There are two such verses and an accompanying chorus for the second of them, but by the time Attalla hit the third minute of “Glacial Rule”‘s total 7:32, they seem itching to launch into the solo section that will finish track and album alike, breaking after a subtle hat-tip in the riff to Sabbath‘s “Snowblind” into a more subdued progression in order to enact a last build not quite from the ground up, but close enough to make the point.
That nod to the masters — emphasis on “nod” — comes back around in the last minute of the track just before it ends, and provides a crucial moment not just of creating an analog of influence, paying homage, etc., but of demonstrating the continuing process by which Attalla are maturing as a band, since by bringing that part back on “Glacial Rule,” they’re doing what “Devil’s Lake,” “Ice Harvest” and “Black Wolf Rituals” refused to in reinforcing a sense of structure and craft at work in the songwriting. Taken in kind with the thematic cohesion so prevalent throughout Glacial Rule, that characterization becomes even more important, since it gives Stieg, Hinckley, Kunde and Slater something to work from their next time out, and as Glacial Rule shows in relation to the self-titled before it, that’s work Attalla are clearly interested in doing. How all of this intent might find balance with the rawer aspects of their style, it’s hard to guess, but they capture an intriguing moment of revelry in the interaction between impulses in these tracks, and one looks forward to finding out where they’re headed.
[Click play above to stream ‘Mountain of the Devil’s Witch’ from Devil’s Witches’ debut album, Velvet Magic, out March 20 on Cursed Tongue Records.]
“Standing on the top of a mountain/I bet you feel totally far out now.” These quick opening lines begin to give the setting in which Velvet Magic, the Cursed Tongue Records debut LP from garage cult rockers Devil’s Witches, plays out the course of its 41 minutes. We are in Vietnam — or we end up there, ultimately — and it is the late ’60s. People are dying. The horrors of war, murder, sexual exploitation, drug culture and various other brain-addling traumas are taking place all around, and Devil’s Witches are on hand to tell a story that incorporates all of them. The band who, in the tradition of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats are noteworthy for the amount of information withheld from the public — no lineup, no photos, no place of origin, no details on how they got together, etc.; just music and softcore retro pornography for a social media presence — are hardly the first to bathe in these troubled and troubling waters.
From Dracula to Apocalypse Now to Game of Thrones, lines have been crossed between sex and violence and murder for as long as humans have known what lines are, and honestly, probably longer. Doesn’t make it politically correct — and looking at the Branca Studio cover art for Velvet Magic, it should be pretty apparent that we’re a ways off from that — but doesn’t mean the narrative can’t be art, either. And much to their credit, whoever they are, Devil’s Witches are embarking on a narrative with these nine songs, adding a core of ambition and intent to the record by drawing the listener deeper into an increasingly dark, heroin chaos in terms of story while establishing a sound that draws on classic psychedelia and modern doom and offers quality songcraft and lyrical intrigue in kind.
Lyrics, obviously, are a point of focus, since they’re what draws Velvet Magic together — the title-line finally delivered in the penultimate title-track, and then again, in French, in closer “Requiem pour un Vampire” — but while it’s probably fair to call it nascent, Devil’s Witches have a depth to their approach that goes beyond storytelling as well. Opener “Apache Snow” announces its arrival with a thickly-fuzzed riff set to a slow-rolling progression of drums (or drum machine) and even-thicker bassline, and while these elements are generally more doom than rock, Devil’s Witches bring them to a psychedelic vibe with languid, drawling vocals that become as consistent a theme as Vietnam itself throughout subsequent tracks, whether that’s the shorter and straightforward hook “Motorpsycho” or side B’s “Mountain of the Devil’s Witch,” which offsets its more grueling motion with a classic organ solo in a retro/current blend that comes through clearly thanks in part to amastering job by Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed.
The early cuts — “Apache Snow,” “Motorpsycho,” “Black Cauldron” and the entrancing instrumental “Pornodelic Opium Dreams” (which serves as a better description for Velvet Magic on an aesthetic level than anything I’m likely to come up with) — set up this duality of approach, and while I don’t know how many people are actually in the band and it could be anywhere from one to five given the fullness of sound in the album’s layers of guitar, bass, drums, keys and vocals, Devil’s Witches underscore the narrative movement of the tracks with a corresponding instrumental push into even darker, more threatening fare, beginning a sinister turn after “Pornodelic Opium Dreams” with the centerpiece “Voodoo Woman.”
Not that any point prior has been lacking in low end, but the organ-led five-minute hypnodrift of “Pornodelic Opium Dreams” seems especially well placed in making “Voodoo Woman” come across as all the more sinister in its darker turn. Guitar leads the way with rumble underscoring, and with flourish of toy piano, Devil’s Witches push into more driven riffing and a winding rhythm that’s faster and effective in conveying the decaying mental state of our unnamed protagonist. There’s still a hook, naturally, and a corresponding structure to support it, but “Voodoo Woman” represents a shift for Velvet Magic, and that continues on “Mountain of the Devil’s Witch,” which is the longest inclusion at seven minutes flat and arguably the outing’s bleakest moment. It finds its way into a doomly nod and, like “Voodoo Woman,” offsets it with a tinge of thickened metal, but picks up in its chorus all the same with the first of several sharp tempo changes that drops back for the next verse only to thrust forward again, and so on.
After its halfway point, “Mountain of the Devil’s Witch” finds itself in an instrumental stretch with more swing to its groove, and that serves as a fitting transition into the interlude “Jupiter Kush,” a wah-drenched brief two-and-a-half-minutes that devolves into noise before the title-cut kicks in, immediately mad with chugging but headed somewhere sweeter if still out-of-mind in its chorus — “My love my dove gold is your favorite color/My heart is black so we are perfect together” — as we seem to have hit the point where the character is disintegrating into a psychotropic ether of sex and the cosmic. A telling moment is the section of lead guitar in the second half, which toys with pop-psychedelia in a way that much of Velvet Magic has avoided, but where “Mountain of the Devil’s Witch” drifted out with no return, Devil’s Witches draw “Velvet Magic” back for a final verse and chorus, highlighting the sense of craft at work beneath the story all along.
At a little over three minutes, “Requiem pour un Vampire” feels as much an epilogue as a distinct inclusion, answering some of the atmosphere of “Pornodelic Opium Dreams” and “Jupiter Kush” in its subdued and almost playful spirit of organ and guitar bounce amid its delivered-in-French lyrics. The title comes from a 1971 Jean Rollin exploitation horror flick, as if the vibe wasn’t thick enough throughout, and how it relates directly to the story being told on Velvet Magic, I don’t know, but at very least it’s not musically out of place, and it may be intended as a bonus or hidden track for the LP. Either way, it’s one last bit of nuance from Devil’s Witches‘ whose debut full-length successfully lives up to its narrative intentions without losing sight of the need to still make its individual songs stand out on their own as well as serve the entire, overarching flow.
That’s a rare enough feat for more experienced acts, let alone a first album, and it will be interesting to see how much storytelling remains a part of the band’s approach. Almost invariably, the mystique around bands of their ilk fades away — names are included over time, origins unveiled, etc. — but in their thoughtful execution of these tracks, Devil’s Witch demonstrate the backbone of aesthetic to stand up even after the world finds out who they are.
Granted, we’re still running on the backup server, but it’s been a couple weeks at this point anyway, so it’s time for a new round of adds to The Obelisk Radio. Some of this stuff is brand new, some isn’t out yet, and some is older, so it’s a pretty decent mix on that front, and between REZN, The Fërtility Cült and Cosmic Fall, I certainly think we’ve got heavy psychedelia covered. Fortunately there’s the longform doom extremity of Oceanwake and the kraut-worship electronics of Jenzeits (also longform, as it happens) to offer some balance, lest we go drifting off into the universe never to be heard from again. Can’t have that happening.
Before we dig in, thanks to Slevin as ever for his diligent work in keeping the Radio afloat. He’s got a drive recovery running now that will hopefully bring back everything that was there before. It’s been a whole thing, but progress is being made and I appreciate him tossing this stuff in with the backup material in the interim. Thanks to you as well for reading and listening.
The Obelisk Radio Adds for March 14, 2017:
REZN, Let it Burn
All-caps Chicago-based newcomers REZN make their deceptively ambitious debut with Let it Burn, a self-released 10-songer checking in at a willfully sprawling 59 minutes that blends psychedelic drift, grunge fuckall and neo-stoner fuzz consumption to welcome effect. One gets shades of Mars Red Sky from opener “Relax,” but later doomer cuts like the blown-out cosmic smash of “Harvest the Void” or the rolling “Fall into the Sky” ensures the three-piece of bassist/vocalist Phil Cangelosi, drummer Patrick Dunn and guitarist/vocalist Rob McWilliams are working on their own wavelength, and flourish of sitar from McWilliams and Dunn on the dynamic raga-infused “Rezurrection,” as well as Dunn‘s percussion and Spencer Ouellette‘s modular synth in the two-minute interlude “Pipe Dream” that leads into the initial spoken sample of the Dead Meadow-style fuzzer “The Creature” only add further checked-out-of-life charm to the offering as a whole. “Relax” and “Wake” at the outset speak to some impulse on the part of the band to tie their material together, but that comes through even more as “The Creature” transitions into “Fall into the Sky” and the suitably-spacewalking “Orbit” leads to the noisy start of rumble-laden closer “Astral Sage” later on. REZN leave themselves room to grow into their approach in moments like these, and pieces like “Harvest the Void,” “The Creature” and “Wake” certainly speak to a memorable songwriting process in development, but Let it Burn already shows them a potent brew of weighted lysergics.
Nestled into the heavy hotbed of Tampere, Finland, The Fërtility Cült continue their progressive push into reverb-laden heft with late-2016’s A Forest of Kings, their third long-player behind 2013’s Heavenly Bodies and their 2011 debut, Eschatology (review here). In an admirably crowded scene, the five-piece are distinguished for their tonal breadth, use-not-overuse of echo-laden saxophone and organ and general willingness to meander without giving up an underlying principal of craft or direction. All of this is on display in the A Forest of Kings opener “Blood of Kings,” but the highlight of the album has to be the centerpiece “The City on the Edge of Forever” (taking its name from the highlight episode of the original Star Trek, written by Harlan Ellison), which successfully fuses jazzy rhythm with a patient, psychedelic execution to the sacrifice of neither. Also the longest inclusion at 10:58, it’s the umlaut-happy troupe’s most resonant melody and most singularly progressive stretch, but neither will I take away from the nod of “God of Rain,” which follows, or the manner in which the apex shuffle of closer “Cycles of Time” unfurls itself from the song’s initial subdued verses. Heady vibe throughout the total 46 minutes, as one might expect, but The Fërtility Cült‘s third is less self-indulgent than it might superficially seem, and their varied arrangements never fail to service what really matters to them, which of course is the material itself rather than the exercise of playing it. Rich and graceful when it wants to be, A Forest of Kings hones an endearing landscape without getting lost in it.
Mostly-instrumentalist trio Cosmic Fall — based in Berlin and comprised of guitarist/vocalist Mathias, bassist Klaus and drummer Daniel — formed in 2016 and worked quickly to turn around First Fall (discussed here), their first full-length of improv-based works. Kick out the Jams arrives with a fittingly quick turnaround and brings forth seven new pieces in its digital form, topping 93 minutes in its total space-bound push. More impressive than the quantity of the work — though I won’t take away from the sprawling appeal (or the delightful, influence-on-our-sleeve pun in the title) of the 21-minute “Earthfull” or 19-minute opener “Saturn Highway” — is the chemistry that seems to have immediately found root in Cosmic Fall‘s sound. They take a forward step in these tracks, to be sure, and there are more steps to be taken — a band like this, in the best case scenario, does not stop progressing, their material only comes to unfold more as a musical conversation between old friends; see Electric Moon — but as Kick out the Jams plays through its extended, immersive runtime, cuts like “Interstellar Junction” and “Stairway Jam” feel especially bold in how open they are in allowing the listener to hear that process happening. Songs are varyingly active — only “White Stone” (4:42) is under 11 minutes long — and allow for Mathias to lead the way into the spaciousness of “Purple Weed” while Daniel‘s toms propel “Cosmic Conclusion” at the album’s finish, but the core message behind Cosmic Fall less than a year into their tenure is one of ambition and the band’s deep motivation to develop the already palpable dynamic they have going. One can only look forward to hearing where their adventures take them and, indeed, where they take their audience.
With Earthen on ViciSolum Records, Finnish progressive death-doomers Oceanwake complete a trilogy that began on their 2013 debut Kingdom and had its second installment with 2015’s Sunless (review here). I’m not entirely sure what the overarching theme tying the releases together is — perhaps hearing the debut would help, but it’s not easily tracked down — but Earthen expounds on the blend of extremity, poise and emotional resonance the Luvia five-piece proffered their last time out, arriving as two massive tracks, opener “A Storm Sermon” (21:09) and closer “In Amidst the Silent Thrones” (24:04), both of which work in movements that shift between crushing, grueling doom and gorgeous, airy melodies. A depth of emotionalism isn’t necessarily anything new in the style — countrymen from Skepticism to Swallow the Sun have been morose for a long time — but what Oceanwake bring is a fluidity in their transitions and a sense of purpose to their songwriting beyond the usual miseries. Thus, like Sunless before it, Earthen emerges to bring significant character to familiar elements, drifting at times and explosive at others, but always under complete control, never wandering without a reason, and basking in low end that has to be heard to be believed. Earthen might fly under a lot of radars, but it shouldn’t be missed by those with an affinity for the extreme ends of doom. One hopes the now-completed trilogy project won’t be the sum total Oceanwake‘s output together.
Jenzeits may be a new incarnation, but the project stems from a familiar source. Relocated from North Carolina to San Francisco — also, apparently, to the cosmos itself — multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis (Hour of 13, Set, Anu, The Sabbathian, etc.) offers up two massive synthesized soundscapes on Jenzeits Cosmic Universe, as both “Alpha” (25:00) and “Omega” (21:53) channel krautrock exploration and progressive indulgence. A due amount of the release is given to hypnotics, as one might expect — that is, it’s an easy one to put on and zone out — but Davis isn’t without some sense of motion either as he makes his way through “Alpha” and the rightfully more foreboding “Omega,” the latter delving into a movement of key runs backed by wind swirl calling to mind any number of horror and/or retro-horror soundtracks, and even minor shifts in the elements at work at any given moment become more pronounced in the grand context of the whole work. Davis usually has his hands in a number of outfits (and a number of genres) at any given time — an Hour of 13 resurgence is pending, for example — but Jenzeits‘ debut is engaging in its textures and feels like a journey just beginning.
More to come as we get The Obelisk Radio back up and running at full capacity. I’ve purchased a new hard drive toward that end, so we’ll have even more room to work with as well. Will update when there’s an update.
Till then, thanks again for reading and listening.
[Click play above to hear ‘Mirrored Parabola Theory’ from Green Meteor’s Consumed by a Dying Sun. Album out April 21 on Argonauta Records.]
From the abiding buzzsaw fuzz that permeates the five included tracks to the samples at the beginning of “Acute Emerald Elevation” and “Sleepless Lunar Dawn” to the comic book cover art that adorns the front cover to the density of groove as they roll out reefer riff after reefer riff, the intention behind Green Meteor‘s Consumed by a Dying Sun seems to be to tap into the raw roots of ’90s-style stoner rock. Fortunately, the Philadelphia four-piece bring a few crucial lessons of modernity with them along this trip through neo-retroism. I don’t recall even early Acid King being this blown-out, for example, and the tonal devouring here from first-names-only guitarists Amy and Leta (the latter also vocals) and the bass of Algar that’s shoved forward by Tony‘s drums does not forget to chew. It has teeth. And bite.
That proved to be the case last year when the band unveiled “Acute Emerald Elevation” (posted here) as a lead-in teaser prior to signing with Argonauta Records for the actual album release, and the same song does well on Consumed by a Dying Sun to let the listener know that while indeed they might be blasting off into space, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride getting there. The key to understanding the record’s utterly-manageable 32-minute run is realizing that Green Meteor are using the roughness of sound to their advantage, giving their aesthetic a garage-derived feel so that the Hawkwind-via-Monster Magnet thrust of the intro to the closing title-track seems as well to be playing off an Uncle Acid mindset in a manner that almost foreshadows the noise-soaked roller apex before the punkier last push of the record as a whole.
All of this happens quickly, but with immersion, and because Green Meteor are so tonally-centered — even Leta‘s voice seems to have been swallowed by the instruments surrounding — Consumed by a Dying Sun is able to work through its material while deceptively changing pace and the intentions of a given song. It is Green Meteor‘s first album, and it sounds like a first album in how the band seems to be working through the process of figuring out where they want to take their material and where they want their material to take them, but as that unfolds, they demonstrate a clear penchant for melding hooks and an underlying focus on songwriting that, while buried like the vocals, remains a present, consistent theme from “Acute Emerald Elevation” onward. Another manner in which Green Meteor prove loyal to the ’90s roots of stoner rock? It’s three minutes into the six-minute opener before the first verse starts.
It would seem to be as close to an eponymous cut as the band is willing to come, rounding out with repetitions of “green meteor” from Leta, who pushes her voice in a manner reminiscent of Stars that Move, and leading to “Sleepless Lunar Dawn” which is the longest track at 9:37 and a mid-paced swing that roughs up and blisses out Sleep-style grooving en route to a snare-mania from Tony that chills for its middle third before resuming in a kind of back-and-forth between languid flow and energetic uptick — intermittent thrusters; it happens — as it aligns planets for the more massively-riffed arrival of centerpiece “In the Shadow of Saturn.” It’s shorter at just over seven minutes, but “In the Shadow of Saturn” brims with addled purpose, and where “Sleepless Lunar Dawn” seems to grow impatient in its back half, here the foursome largely stick to the slow-oozing molasses from whence they begin. There’s a bit of kick here and there, but the primary focus is nod and that suits Green Meteor well at the beginning of what would likely be an LP’s side B.
“In the Shadow of Saturn” caps with radar ping that leads, on rhythm, into the uptempo start of “Mirrored Parabola Theory.” It’s the shortest inclusion at 3:34, and some of that might be due to pace alone, but as Leta finds her way into a memorable stretch ranting about a tilting hourglass — strange things are afoot, but science is happening — toward the end of the track, it’s also the most direct emphasis Green Meteor put on songwriting throughout Consumed by a Dying Sun, and it proves essential between the hypnotic gravitational field of “In the Shadow of Saturn” and the finale’s more blistering cosmic pulsations. Like a radar signal from space to let you know someone’s out there? Maybe. Might be a stretch. There’s telemetry from the probe that needs more analysis, but it’s important to consider that with “Mirrored Parabola Theory,” Green Meteor give clear notice to their listener that their purview includes more traditional structures as well as the kind of all-go explosiveness with which they choose to end “Consumed by a Dying Sun.”
In hindsight, they let you know it’s coming at the start of the track, but by the time it comes around again just past four minutes in, the molten midsection of the closer — a touch of Electric Wizard, more Acid King, more Sleep, lots of noise; no complaints — has melted consciousness away to the point where it’s legitimately an unexpected turn. That’s to the band’s advantage, certainly. They end on a final verse at full speed and an almost surprising amount of human presence amidst the onslaught, and wind up underscoring the primary are-my-speakers-blown wash of Consumed by a Dying Sun with the feeling that our species and the untamed vacuum can in fact coexist in their work. I won’t speculate on how Green Meteor might develop from here or the shifts they could make in aesthetic or which impulses will ultimately win out as they move forward, but Consumed by a Dying Sun deftly asserts honesty in its rawness and is all the more refreshing for that. As far as launch points go, theirs provides a suitable blast.