La Chinga Premiere “Right On” from New Album Freewheelin’

Posted in audiObelisk on February 12th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

la chinga

Though the vinyl is very nearly sold out on preorders alone, we’re still more than a month out from the actual March 25 release date for La Chinga‘s second album. You might recall that Freewheelin’ was reviewed and streamed here just after the New Year hit as a special preview, but the closer we get to the record’s arrival, it seems only fair to highlight some of what’s working so well throughout.

In some ways, the cover says it all. Contributed by Jason Cruz, the artwork for Freewheelin’ is as rife with classic ideas as the album itself. You get the trio — bassist/vocalist Carl Spackler, guitarist/backing vocalist Ben Yardley (also theremin, mandolin and lead vocals la chinga freewheelinon “Faded Angel”) and drummer/engineer Jason Solyom — rocking out in a muscle car in space. I’ll be damned if that’s not exactly what these songs sound like. Written with a strong sense of structure, the tracks leave pretense to the earthlings and take off for boozy good times and unshakably resolve to kick ass. And so they do. Like many who’ve swaggered through the hallowed halls of Small Stone Records, La Chinga don’t couch their appreciation for ’70s heavy in retro production or hyperstylized vintage-isms. They remind across the span of Freewheelin’ that rock’s glory days aren’t some bygone nostalgia fodder, but they’re happening right now, probably in some bar, probably at unreasonable volumes. If that doesn’t scream “muscle car in outer space,” I don’t know what does.

La Chinga head to Europe next month to support the impending issue of Freewheelin’. It’s not their first trip over — they toured supporting their 2013 self-titled (discussed here) as well — but it’s worth noting they go on an especially vital collection of songs this time around. To that end, you can stream the premiere of the track “Right On” below.

The penultimate cut on the album, it follows a zig-zag through the righteous sections of rock and roll history — AC/DC hooks and brazen swing abound — and is every bit the soundtrack to the age in which one might wish one lived. Good luck getting the chorus out of your head before the album shows up in March.

Tour dates under the player. Enjoy:

la chinga tour

La Chinga Freewheelin’ across Europe March Tour, 2016
11 March – Barcelona (Rocksound)
12 March – Azkoitia (Matadero)
13 March – Gorliz (Xurrut)
14 March – Donostia (Dabadaba)
15 March – Madrid (Fun House)
16 March – Gijón (Casino Acapulco)
17 March – Cangas de Morrazo (Sala Son)
18 March – Lugo (Club Clavicémbalo)
19 March – Santiago de Compostela (Sala Moon)
20 March – Porto (Porto Rio)
21 March – Estepona (King Creole)
22 March – Orihuela (La Gramola)
23 March – Zaragoza (La Ley Seca)
24 March – Bordeaux (Le Void, ex L’Héretic)
25 March – Montpellier (Black Sheep)

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Talmud Beach, Chief: Forest Blues

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 10th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

talmud-beach-chief

[Note: Click play above to hear the premiere of “Mountain Man” by Talmud Beach. Chief is out March 18 on Svart.]

There are several different kinds of blues that pop up throughout Chief, the second full-length and Svart Records debut from Finnish trio Talmud Beach. “Pharmacy Blues” is first, followed later by the somewhat less politically correct “Chinaman Blues” and “Born with the Blues,” but whatever the context, the band’s blues are delivered in ultra-mellow, laid back form. Talmud Beach find pastoral serenity the way most bands find their overdrive pedal. It is a humble nine-track/37-minute listen that is deceptively rich in its overall affect without coming close to overwhelming even in its moments of greatest arrangement depth, as on “Mountain Man” or the extended closing title-track.

Elements of Finnish folk pop up in the sweet acoustic guitar strummed throughout and particularly on centerpiece “Kekkonen,” but even on the more electrified “Forest,” birdsong maintains a connection to the natural world, and that’s an atmosphere that is established on the brief boogie-blues opener “Ain’t So Young” and maintained as the album progresses from front to back, guitarist Aleksi Lukander leading a subdued shuffle as bassist/vocalist Mikko Siltanen unfolds a simple hook that needs nothing more than it presents, drummer Petri Alanko moving the proceedings along at what will become one of the record’s faster clips by the time it’s done. The mood is humble, but not still, and while Talmud Beach — whose name derives from members of the band having been accosted on an Eastern European beach by local anti-Semites — maintain that mood, they also set up a dynamic range sound-wise in which it plays out.

To wit, “Pharmacy Blues” is likewise upbeat, with a classic snare shuffle rhythm and an especially catchy chorus, but “Mountain Man” takes a turn toward a more folkish-style, interweaving layers of guitar as it fluidly moves through a verse and chorus, some light but still quick percussion underlying this peaceful, serene setting. A vocal highlight with Alanko taking the lead role, it’s one of the album’s most memorable impressions, building along a linear course after its second chorus with harmonized singing and an arrangement of increasing complexity until finally, it’s a chorus fading out as birdsong takes over as an interlude before the big chill-out of “Forest.”

talmud-beach

Quieter and based around a creeping blues bassline, “Forest” nonetheless basks in psychedelia in its background guitar work and trippy lyric about journeying into woods and finding — wait for it — mushrooms, leading to a host of visions in nature. Subtle fuzz emerges as “Forest” moves past its midsection, but Talmud Beach hold firm to the spirit of the record they’ve established, ending with a stretch of silence before “Kekkonen” kicks in with arguably Chief‘s most active arrangement, a sax (or sax sounds, if it’s keys) added to play up a humppa feel for the track about former Finnish President Urho Kekkonen, presented in the band’s native language and with a clap-along bounce. Still, if it’s a party, that means the drums are harder hit, the guitar is louder and the hook is vital in whatever language, and Talmud Beach do as well in the environment of “Kekkonen” as they did among the birds in “Forest,” the one-two punch of the tracks demonstrating a decent portion — not all — of the band’s range while keeping the album’s flow duly liquefied.

“Snow Snow Snow” manages to be individual despite a chorus that features the line “let it snow,” which is no minor feat, and plays harmonies off a bluesy verse in a kind of classic call and response, but its most resonant impression is in the layers of acoustic and electric guitar weaving through and the soft, wish-it-was-longer interlude in the track’s midsection before the last verse, chorus and acoustic leadout. It’s just 2:45, but “Snow Snow Snow” makes a fitting companion both for “Forest” and “Mountain Man” and captures a lot of Chief‘s overall mindset. The subsequent “Chinaman Blues” is another turn, the speaker in the song longing for an escape from everyday Finnish life and imagining being Chinese, apparently, as the farthest thing from it. Again, not exactly politically correct in its nomenclature, and almost unfortunately catchy, but its psych-blues blend finds a middle space between “Ain’t So Young” and “Pharmacy Blues” and songs like “Mountain Man,” and it finishes with a heavier push of fuzz guitar, keys and harmonized vocals that seems to payoff much of the album’s momentum while also leading smoothly into “Born with the Blues,” the lyrics of which trade off Finnish and English lines in the verses and choruses while keeping a steady bounce throughout.

That sets up nine-minute closer “Chief,” which uses its extended runtime for a spacious psychedelic sprawl after the ’70s folk chorus, “If you are the chief/Wear the rainbow hat,” keeping an exploratory feel to what’s probably a nonetheless plotted progression, incorporating more sunshine-soaked sounds to bookend with “Forest” and allowing Talmud Beach to play their way off the record on a proggy but still cohesive note, a melodic swirl of vocals and some still-earthbound guitar leading peacefully to silence. Even if the songwriting wasn’t so effective throughout, Chief would likely offer substance based on its atmosphere alone, but the memorable core of these tracks and the calmness with which they’re delivered makes the record belong equally to the ethereal and the terrestrial. Talmud Beach walk that balance throughout with confidence and an approach that doesn’t need to be loud to make itself heard.

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Svart Records

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Mountain Tamer, Mountain Tamer: The Burning Mind (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 4th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

mountain tamer mountain tamer

[Click play above to stream Mountain Tamer’s self-titled debut in full. Album is out Feb. 12 on Argonauta Records.]

Tripped out trio Mountain Tamer made a lasting impression in 2015 with their vowel-less Mtn Tmr demo (review here), and they follow and expand on that initial offering with a self-titled debut on Argonauta Records. The three tracks that featured on the demo — “Dunes of the Mind,” “Satan’s Waitin'” and “Sum People” — return on Mountain Tamer, but the shift in context is striking as the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Andru, bassist/vocalist Dave Teget and drummer/vocalist Casey Garcia carve out their niche somewhere between the lurching grunge of “Sum People” and “Knew” and the heavy psych freakouts of “Mind Burner” and “Pharosite” that bookend.

Based in Santa Cruz, California, their style is more intense overall than a lot of the chilled-to-the-max guitar-heroics of the post-Earthless set, but not necessarily born of wildly different influences in classic heavy rock, punk and desert jams. The result across the eight-track/40-minute span of the album is a work that’s as gritty as it is lysergic, elements of noise rock in the catchy “Knew” resting fluidly with the garage rock strut of “Wolf” as the fuzzier “Vixen” blends the two with hairy lead tones and molten percussive build. Still, a psychedelic haze settles in almost immediately on “Mind Burner” at the record’s laid back opening, and that seems to inform everything that comes after one way or another, and as driving as Mountain Tamer get, their overarching atmosphere is headier than it is aggressive.

In that way, they’re very much of their coast, but the multi-vocalist approach, their penchant for departing from structure into jammy flights on cuts like “Dunes of the Mind,” “Vixen” and “Satan’s Waitin'” and the swing they present in their underlying groove is markedly their own. Following the steady fuzz layering of “Mind Burner,” “Knew” picks up with the catchiest chorus of Mountain Tamer, delivered more in a shout backed by melodic vocals in a way that reminds of Nick Oliveri-fronted Queens of the Stone Age but never tips over into directly doing the same thing.

mountain tamer

“Knew” gets maddest in its second half, but it’s never actually out of control, and AndruTeget and Garcia bring it around to a last run through the hook that makes it all the more a highlight en route to the longer, farther-ranging “Dunes of the Mind,” which airs out the guitar tone in initial thickened boogie and stretches into psychedelic atmospherics later on, a slowdown setting up the all-thrust finale, cut short at the end of the track. Variety continues to be a running theme as “Vixen” picks up with a shoegaze-gone punk pulsation, guitars shooting from one channel to the next as the band leaves the verse behind, jamming out, coming back, jamming out, coming back again for a final bluesy push that rounds out side A with a reinforcement of the acid rock traditionalism on which a lot of Mountain Tamer‘s extrapolations are based. All those dudes were running blues riffs through wah. Nearly half a century later, so it goes again.

As one would hope, side B weirds out a little but more. “Wolf in the Streets” goes cowbell and howlin’ at first, but finds its crux in a heavy psych build that features some of the album’s best guitar/bass interplay in its instrumental payoff before the final chorus, and the familiar strains of “Sum People” (also listed as “Sum Peeps”) pick up with a drawn-down version of the intensity that came forward on “Knew,” that before-grunge-had-a-name disaffection presented through slogging toms and resonant vocal fuckall as a thesis with which it’s hard to argue. Even here, Mountain Tamer find room to jam, and the ending of “Sum People” leads particularly effectively into “Satan’s Waitin’,” which launches with a foundation of bass and shifts through a spacey verse into jazzier drum-led rhythmic fare topped with stoned guitar on its way back to wherever the hell it came from, ending with a drawl on the hook and that bassline.

Remember when I mentioned weirding out? There it is. Then comes “Pharosite” to play the one side directly off the other — somehow the tones are warmer as they do — on a mostly instrumental capstone topped with shaker, a few rock-as-tribal shouts and a riotous noise and cymbal finish that, frankly, the album well earned. It wraps on a quick fade as if the band ran out of the room, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was actually the case, since the energy they put into the presentation of these tracks seems to come with corresponding wandering of attention. That’s not to say the songwriting isn’t focused, just that it’s multi-directional. That invariably will be a plus as Mountain Tamer move forward, but it’s also essential in making their debut as raucous and switched on as it is. And it is.

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Argonauta Records

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R.I.P. Premiere “Tremble” from Debut Album In the Wind

Posted in audiObelisk on February 3rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

rip

In a flooded Portland bandscape, R.I.P. stand out from the crowd pretty easily. The four-piece release their debut album, In the Wind, on March 14 via Totem Cat Records with cover art by Adam Burke, and unlike much of what’s coming out of the Pacific Northwest, R.I.P. are way more interested in having their party breaking bottles on gravestones at night rather than downing pints in the brewpub.

In the Wind offers up a 10-track/54-minute 2LP’s worth of of classic metal churn delivered with modern heavy buzz in the guitars of Angel Martinez, whose riffs lead the fist-pumping charge alongside vocalist Fuzz, bassist Jon Mullett and drummer Willie D, hell-bent on sourcing purposefully-regressive doom from the metal of yore, whether that’s the Saint Vitus-style riffing of “Bereaved” and “Brave in the Grave,” Fuzz nodding at Eric Wagner in “Smoke and Lightning” and closer “In the Wind Part 3” or the scorching leads Martinez brings to cuts like “Tremble” and “In the Wind Part 2.”

rip in the windWorth acknowledging that for heavy rockers to be mining the tropes of ’80s metal is nothing new. Early Man released their first demo circa 2004 — and they weren’t the first — and while not nearly as indebted to thrash, R.I.P. share some stylistic tendencies on In the Wind, which outwardly proselytizes the righteousness of its aesthetic in the lyrics to “Black Leather” and “Smoke and Lightning,” a self-awareness that, while clearly enjoying itself, avoids an ironic sneer.

With sonic methods drawn from PentagramSabbathVitusTrouble, and so on, R.I.P. are playing to the familiar, but they’re not doing so in a mocking manner so much as in celebration, ready to surprise the crap out of some mostly-empty bar that didn’t know it was about to have its ass kicked like it’s 32 years ago. The element of surprise isn’t necessarily a factor by the time intro “The Scythe” and “In the Wind Part 1” give way to “Brave in the Grave” and “In the Wind Part 3,” but by then the doom has hit the bloodstream and In the Wind‘s headbanger’s ball has either drawn you in or cast you out.

It’s the kind of metal that shows up in grainy big-but-not-glam-hair photos and the kind of metal that you could probably get away with playing in Manowar‘s proverbial hall after a few adult beverages. Across its span, In the Wind isn’t exactly raw and it isn’t exactly retro, but it’s definitely taking the bulk of its influence from a bygone age of demo-tape trading and wearing band t-shirts as a social statement.

Blending those elements with a decidedly heavy rock shuffle in the second half of “Tremble” and slide guitar in the interlude “The Tombstone” (which may or may not be an intro for the second LP) adds complexity to the experience overall, but by no means are R.I.P. aiming for pick-it-apart nuance. They call it “West Coast street doom,” and that’s about as fair as anything I could come up with. Whatever niche genre one might one to invent for R.I.P., like their moniker, their first full-length gets right to the point and leaves little question as to its deathly intent.

Below, you can hear the premiere of “Tremble” ahead of the album’s release on March 14. Please enjoy:

After several years of hammering the west coast with the blunt scythe of street-doom, R.I.P. finally committed to tape an introductory will and testament for the rest of the world to tremble to. “In the Wind” closes the casket on the trends and exhumes the notion that doom isn’t about how slow and de-tuned you can play, but about fear, death, leather and playing as heavy as possible.

A full US tour in the spring follows this Totem Cat Records release, where the band plans to drag the rest of the country down with them. Doom is dead: R.I.P. doom.

ARTWORK: Adam Burke

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Making Fuck Premiere “Rats Get Fat” from Debut Album A Harrowing End

Posted in audiObelisk on February 2nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

making fuck

You know the scene in Clerks, right? Maybe it’s just because I grew up in New Jersey and was a teenager in the ’90s, but there was no getting away from it. Silent Bob’s Russian cousin, Olaf. Jay egging him on, “Come on, Olaf. Girl think sexy,” and then Olaf singing the lines of his band’s song, “Berserker” to some stranger outside a convenience store: “My love for you is like a truck, berserker/Would you like some making fuck, berserker.”

Perhaps that scene isn’t burned into the consciousness of those whose rearing took place outside my beloved Garden State, but one way or another, it clearly made an impression on Salt Lake City outfit Making Fuck, whose debut album, A Harrowing End, is set for a March 11 arrival via Gypsy Blood Records and Exigent Records. And the vulgarity in their moniker — referential though it is — is not without purpose. Salt Lake City’s strong affiliations with the Mormon church play heavily into the thematic of A Harrowing End, the eight songs of which are defined as much by their militant atheism and social critique as by the atmospheric noise rock through which those are delivered.

To wit, “Jesus Christ Inc.,” which starts with the lines, “Jesus Christ is the most lucrative marketing scheme sinceMaking Fuck A Harrowing End conception,” atop a dense churn that reminds of an angrier, earlier Isis, or “Mormon Guilt,” which offers a sample from the 1998 movie SLC Punk! as its central thesis before unfolding one of A Harrowing End‘s most aggressive thrusts. These and others like “Memento Mori,” “Rats Get Fat,” and the scathing closer “Rich Man’s Son” assure there’s no doubt as to the band’s perspective or the drive behind their intensity.

Recorded by Andy Patterson — who also plays drums in the band, as well as in SubRosa and Dwellers — the album features guitarist/vocalist Kory Quist in a forward position alongside drummer Anson Bishoff and cellist/vocalist Jessica Bundy. The 10-minute title-track also boasts a guest appearance from Kim Pack of SubRosa on violin, and the additional strings only help to bolster the atmosphere of that song and the album as a whole. Presented as two LPs, each half of the outing arrives with a heavy and atmospheric intro — “Scenes of Blood” and “Scenes of Sorrow,” respectively — and the other six cuts trade between brooding aggro-doom and spitting rage. If you’re wondering who might be coming to “A Harrowing End,” it’s the human race.

After the relatively brief bite of “Jesus Christ Inc.,” which is the shortest non-intro inclusion on A Harrowing End at an angular 4:32 that hits its peak with the imploring “Don’t go to church!” line repeated, Making Fuck careen into the closing duo of “Memento Mori” and “Rich Man’s Son,” both over nine minutes and one feeding into the next as a final onslaught and slog through the rhythmic oppression that’s held sway since “Mormon Guilt.” With Levi Hanna now on bass and Scott Wasilewski on cello, it doesn’t necessarily seem safe to say that whatever Making Fuck do next, it’ll sound exactly the same as this debut, but the clarity of the band’s purpose and the vehemence in their execution of these tracks doesn’t seem like a whim waiting to be abandoned. Some anger fades. Some, clearly, does not.

On the player below, you’ll find the track premiere for Making Fuck‘s “Rats Get Fat” from A Harrowing End. The band is on tour starting on release day, March 11, and those dates follow as well. Enjoy:

Kory Quist ponders on all things lost in translation, mostly his writing. His response to a cultural dichotomy continues through expressive music. In 2005, he moves to Salt Lake City. He plays in Nine worlds in 2008 and starts Making Fuck as a side project with original drummer, Jeff Wells. In 2012, Jessica Bundy joins with her cello, pushing the band into unique territory. Her eerie string droned melodies create a soothing dark tension. The demand for more writing and appearances grows.

With an encouraging response to their music, they record and self release a 7” EP in 2013 and play regional tours to support it. Eventually, rhythmic perpetrator Anson Bischoff joins as drummer and they complete their debut full length. Kim Pack, violinist of SubRosa, guests on “A Harrowing End.” This album, entitled “A Harrowing End,” will be co-released by Gypsy Blood Records and Exigent Records in the Spring of 2016. Joined by other impassioned friends, they project their vehement attack on conformity and religious dogma with plans to tour actively in 2016. Look forward to seeing Utah’s Making Fuck in a city near you.

Making Fuck on tour:
March 11th Salt Lake City, Ut @ Diablocial Records Record Release show
March 12th Denver, Co 7th Circel Music Collective
March 13th Vernal, Ut Horseshoe Tattoo Co
March 15th Boise, Id The Shredder
March 17th Eugene, Or Wandering Goat
March 18th Seattle, Wa Darrell’s Tavern
March 19th Portland, Or Panic Room

Kory Quist -Guitar/Vocals
Levi Hanna -Bass
Andy Patterson -Drums
Scott Wasilewski -Cello

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Making Fuck on Bandcamp

Gypsyblood Records

Exigent Records

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Albinö Rhino Premiere 20-Minute Single “Uphold the Light Part 2”

Posted in audiObelisk on February 1st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

albino-rhino-(Photo-by-Nooa-Katajala)

As the title would seem to hint, the new single from Helsinki-based trio Albinö Rhino is a sequel of sorts. The original “Uphold the Light” was the 14-minute closer of their 2014 self-titled sophomore outing, a four-song full-length that set up shop between heavy rock and doom, its stylistic spread made even wider by the obviously jam-based finale. Comprised of bassist/vocalist Ville Harju, guitarist/vocalist Kimmi Tyni and drummer Viljami Väre, the band will make their third album something of a turn in aesthetic with just the two tracks, “Uphold the Light Part 2” and “Uphold the Light Part 3,” each taking up a side on a single LP.

Sure enough, to listen to “Uphold the Light Part 2,” it follows the same rhythmic progression as its predecessor in the series, Harju‘s basslines and Väre‘s drums acting as the albino rhino uphold the light part 2foundation for sections of exploratory guitar from Tyni as the song makes its way past the halfway point. It’s an extended piece anyway, but Albinö Rhino take full advantage of the opportunity to psych out, and in direct comparison, one can hear growth not only in the patience of the guitar and the progress of the piece overall — there are verses early on, or at least lines, but the feel overall is less rushed — but in the production overall, which is natural and clear as the dense low-end fuzz takes hold around 13 minutes in and rolls forward to be met by the no-less dreamy guitar.

Shades of earliest Los Natas (thinking “Alberto Migré” specifically), shades of Sungrazer, shades of Colour Haze, but in a context that still has some of the doomier straightforwardness in its impulses — Albinö Rhino move smoothly from the song to the jam and eventually can’t quite let it end without bringing back some semblance of earthiness as vocals in the track’s latest stretches follow the guitar lines, ending out on a particularly thick note. I’m not sure if “Uphold the Light Part 3” picks up right from where “Uphold the Light Part 2” finishes — that is, if they’re one jam — but in the places Albinö Rhino take it, “Uphold the Light Part 2” has a personality of its own both distinct and built onto the accomplishments of the original.

They’ll release the single on Feb. 9 digitally, and vinyl is to follow afterwards, with the title Upholder for the two parts put together. More info follows the player below, on which you can hear “Upholder of the Light Part 2” in its entirety.

Please enjoy:

The self-titled Albinö Rhino debut album that was released 2014, included a 14 minute theme song “Uphold the Light Part 1” as it’s final track. A track that differed from the record’s blues riff-based doom, with it’s progressive and mild psychedelic touch. The song is set to continue now, as the band is ready to introduce parts 2 & 3 during 2016.

The 9th of February is now set as the digital release date for “Uphold the Light Part 2”, as something to chew on while we wait for the complete “upholder” vinyl, which is to be released later during 2016, with Part 2 on the A-side and Part 3 on the B-side. The “single”, clocking at approx. 20 minutes, is a dynamic journey based on bass and drum cycles topped with progressing guitar melodies. Not forgetting the importance of gut pounding riffs conjured at right times.

As from the band’s initiation in 2010, Albinö Rhino has been driven by the freedom of improvisation, and Part 2 has formed step by step by jamming in the practice room and on gigs since the release party of the debut album. The studio sessions were conducted under the surveillance of the great Spirit of Sound. The new album will be packed once again in the beautiful pictures of Minna Kulmala Photography, with layout and additional graphics from Tuomas Valtanen / Dark Side of Zen.

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Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree: The Weight of Now

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

elephant-tree-elephant-tree

[Please note: Click play above to hear the premiere of “Dawn” from Elephant Tree’s self-titled debut. Album is out April 22 on Magnetic Eye Records.]

London four-piece Elephant Tree got off to an encouraging start in 2014 with their first EP, Theia (review here). Also their first outing for Magnetic Eye Records, it successfully blended psychedelia and sludge, here exploring the sitar provided by Riley MacIntyre that added space and classically mystical presence to the guitar of Jack Townley, Peter Holland‘s bass and Sam Hart‘s drums, there showing a screamier, harsher side that in many contexts would be far enough from the other side to be out of place. Their self-titled LP, also on Magnetic Eye, abandons the screaming and replaces it with a resonant heavy psychedelic roll boasting rich arrangements both of tone and vocals, contributed by Townley, Holland and MacIntyre, establishing a niche within a model of thickened, dense fuzz cut through by melodic and harmonized singing.

I dug the EP, but the album leaves no question at all that the shift in approach — however permanent it may or may not be — was the right move for this material. Running 38 minutes and comprised of seven tracks and the preparing-for-immersion intro “Spore,” Elephant Tree‘s Elephant Tree offers molten heaviness, memorable songwriting and a sense of overarching cohesion that I have no doubt will make it one of this still-new year’s most satisfying debut full-lengths. That sounds like hyperbole, but the songs live up to that level of promise from the initial snare hit and fuzz-roll of “Wither” to the piano that finishes closer “Surma.” Really, there isn’t a weak moment front to back.

Most of the titles are single words, and that gives a sense of simplicity to what’s a more complex progression than it initially lets on, a sense of humility to go with familiar shades throughout, “Wither” reminding of Quest for Fire‘s “Confusion’s Home” in its central riff, or “Aphotic Blues” bringing to mind Mars Red Sky‘s signature blend of melodic fragility and elephantine tone. But the album is Elephant Tree‘s own, ultimately, and that proves to be among its great strengths. Its songwriting is no less distinctive than its vocal flourishes, “Wither” enacting quick hypnosis in its first half and breaking to a long march and airy guitar squibblies in its second as if to maximize the element of space in the world that “Spore” seems to be entering at the start.

There’s a hook in there, make no mistake, and it’s the first of several landmarks in that regard, the nodding “Dawn” picking up the psychedelic cue and running with it via a scorcher solo placed as if to remind the band took part in Magnetic Eye‘s Hendrix tribute (review here) last year as the central groove continues to unfold underneath, each verse ending with a far-back shout that sticks through not with aggression, but a message of positivity. Quickly enough they’re on to the acoustic-centered “Circles,” which brings perhaps the album’s catchiest chorus, “As I fly I can name all the places/And time is a ghost/The sky just the same as the ocean/A space between me and my home,” delivered with emotional presence to match its sonic resonance and poetic imagery. Unplugged layers and overlaid tones, as well as the echoing voices, further the atmosphere of the prior tracks while greatly broadening Elephant Tree‘s reach, adding further depth to the whole even as it stands out to leave a singular impression.

elephant tree

Speaking of, “Circles” gives way to “Aphotic Blues,” and the latter is without a doubt the highlight of Elephant Tree. Not the longest track — that’s closer “Surma” at 7:20 — but with not only a maddeningly catchy chorus, but a purposeful, gorgeous use of call and response harmonies, a choice riff and as righteous a groove as the band have on offer throughout that leads to a droned-out break and a crashing apex and finish that I can only wish was another four minutes long. Hard for anything not to seem like a comedown after that ending, but “Echoes” meets its task head on with bluesy, laid back and swinging low end at the start and a megachorus of its own, not to mention the watery psychedelics of its midsection and the urgency of its capstone lyrics, ending quiet to shift into the relatively straightforward take of “Fracture,” which pushes the vocals back behind the guitar and blows them out a bit in the early going, giving a rawer vibe at first that remains melodic and only gets more so as the song progresses.

A big slowdown near the end is given due setup, Hart‘s cymbal roll making a lot from a relatively simple, slow crash in terms of maximizing nod, and when it comes on “Surya” finds Hart‘s drums and Holland‘s bass in the lead before the guitars kick in at the first verse. The closer is given the weighty task of summarizing Elephant Tree‘s preceding songs while also finding room for something new, and it succeeds in that, but as with the best of go-ahead-and-get-lost-in-it songcraft, it lives up to its intent without being too showy about it. Another solid riff, another catchy hook, another memorable harmony, another twisted lead, but positioned differently and set to engage with one last show of the fluidity that led the way into the album and leads the way out with the aforementioned piano stretch.

As with any promising debut, Elephant Tree‘s Elephant Tree showcases vast potential for future growth, where they might go sound-wise and the strong foundation of songwriting they might use to get there, but that shouldn’t distract from the immediate satisfaction this self-titled offers. While it’s exciting to imagine future contributions and what direction the band will head, their work stuns even at what might prove to be its outset.

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Deathkings Premiere “The Storm” from All that is Beautiful

Posted in audiObelisk on January 28th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

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Los Angeles downer metal four-piece Deathkings release their second album, All that is Beautiful, March 18 via Midnite Collective.

I guess after their 2015 split with Rozamov (review here) it isn’t necessarily a shocker to find All that is Beautiful working in extremes. Even the title is an absolute — one that, in conversation with the overarching atmosphere of the record itself, seems to refer directly to notions of beauty in darkness — and as Deathkings lumber through the included four tracks/64 minutes offers no shortage of harsh stretches. What was a surprise was just how much of that sense of extremity is born of mood and emotionality. Recorded in 2014, which is the same year the band’s debut, Destroyer, was released, All that is Beautiful is as much a work of ambience as it is of sheer aural weight — if not most so — and most of its depressive aspect comes from the resignation of its subdued, downtrodden meditations.

That’s not to say everything’s hunky-dory when 18-minute opener “Sol Invictus” explodes into its growl-topped slow-motion plod from its quieter introduction, just that the integration of the former, particularly at the very start of the record, sets a tone for something more complex than a full album of just the latter would provide on its own. As Deathkings‘ extended tracks continue, whether it’s “Sol Invictus,” “The Storm,” “The Road to Awe” or “Dakhma,” the band leans to one side or another of their sound, and the effect is a multifaceted listen that remains cohesive in its atmosphere and overall mood. It is heavy, conceptually and sonically, and its sky-darkening roll will defy most common conceptions of beauty, but of course, that’s the idea to start with. Building tension in its quiet moments and paying it off either in massive volume or faster, thrashing movements, “Sol Invictus” offers breadth enough to justify its extended runtime, but even this is just a part of the larger work, feeding deathkings-all-that-is-beautifuldirectly into “The Storm” as though the two were one even grander piece.

“The Storm” and “The Road to Awe” are the two shortest cuts of the four at 13:24 and 12:25, respectively, but they retain the dual-tiered brutality of “Sol Invictus,” guitarists Daryl Hernandez and Mark Lüntzel fluidly shifting between weighted and lighter tones, as Nicolas Rocha provides depth to the mix with his bass and the layers of his vocals, which shift between growls, shouts and cleaner moments, reminding in the early, airier verses in “The Storm” of Rwake while shifting in the song’s final stretch to an interplay of shouts and chants, both seemingly buried beneath the guitars and bass and the hi-hat/snare march of drummer Sean Spindler. After its first couple minutes, “The Road to Awe” lurches to life somewhat awkwardly behind its guitar, but retains a Neurosis-style interplay between Hernandez and Lüntzel as it moves forward, Spindler enacting a chorus before a harsher section and a few quiet measures lead to a build seemingly cut short as the 19-minute “Dakhma” takes hold to finish out.

By then, it’s not really a case of Deathkings needing to expand on what they do, or even reinforce what’s come before — their point has gotten across — so much as to bring the sonic themes presented throughout to their natural conclusion. “Dakhma” does this via particularly tumultuous tradeoffs in volume, quiet feeding into loud into quiet into loud in more of a direct back and forth than All that is Beautiful has proffered before. After a driving, blackened apex past the 13-minute mark, they click off an even out somewhat shortly before 15:30, providing their own epilogue and letting the record end somewhere in a middle-ground that they seem to have been working so hard to find all along. Maybe that catharsis, and the catharsis of the entire outing preceding, is the beauty Deathkings are conveying, but neither will I take away from how skillfully the band balances ambient, contemplative evocations and sheer sonic heft. From the two, All that is Beautiful derives a consistency of purpose that makes it feel all the more like a work of passion.

Today I’m thrilled to host the premiere of “The Storm” ahead of the album’s release. Find it below, followed by some more info, and please enjoy:

In the wake of their debut album, Destroyer, as well as the recent vinyl 7? split with ROZAMOV through Midnite Collective, DEATHKINGS descended upon listeners with their bleak, yet enlightening look at the world around them. This state of unrest was developed and channeled into aural and material form with the help of Derek Donley (Bereft, deathkings tour posterGravitron, National Sunday Law, You Big Ox, Pigeonwing, Intronaut) at his Ox Cave Studios in Los Angeles. With Donley at the helm, the band steers the listener through the blending of drowning, desperate rage blended with tranquil undertones.

All That Is Beautiful was finished in early 2014 at Donley’s Ox Cave Studios. Uniting with the Midnite Collective for the third time, both entities have grouped to carefully craft a visually stunning package, deserving of the music contained therein. The band will unleash aural and visual ruin via digital. CD. cassette tape and vinyl (later in the year) releases starting this Spring Harvest, 2016.

Deathkings on tour:
March 30 Que Sera, Long Beach, CA
April 1 The Merrow, San Diego, CA
April 2 Starlite Lounge, Sacramento, CA
April 3 High Water Mark, Portland, OR
April 4 Blacklodge, Seattle, WA
April 5 The Golden Bull, Oakland, CA
April 6 Complex, Glendale, CA

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