Review & Full Album Premiere: The Age of Truth, Threshold

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the age of truth threshold

[Click play above to stream The Age of Truth’s Threshold in its entirety. Album is out Nov. 1 via Kozmik Artifactz.]

Philadelphia heavy rockers The Age of Truth make their full-length debut via Kozmik Artifactz with the eight-track Threshold. They are a four-piece comprised of guitarist Michael DiDonato, standalone vocalist Kevin McNamara, bassist/vocalist William Miller and drummer Adam LauverEric Fisher played on the album, which was recorded and mixed by Joseph Boldizar at Retro City Studios in Philly — and all of these details become crucially important to the record itself when one actually digs in for a listen. This is because The Age of Truth so quickly establish a range of influence that veers well outside the City of Brotherly Love. Songs like “Supernatural Salesman,” the verses of eight-minute side B opener “Caroline” and “Oceanbones” find the singer very much out front on vocal duties as the backing progressions bring to mind Clutch, but Maryland isn’t so far from Eastern Pennsylvania if we’re thinking of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and the bulk of Threshold gives a far more European impression.

Enough so particularly in the performance and production around the vocals that one might be tempted to look at their lineup and wonder if there’s any way McNamara could be interpreted as a Swedish name. From the moment the frontman begins to top the semi-prog chug of DiDonato‘s thick, layered guitar in opener “Host (Demon in Me),” and certainly in subsequent cuts like “Come back a God,” “Holding Hands Like Thieves” the soaring chorus of “Caroline” and the winding closer of a title-track, McNamara‘s performance has enough gut-tightened lung push push to recall the likes of Janne “JB” Christoffersson during his time in Spiritual Beggars, John Hermansen‘s work on The Awesome Machine‘s underrated Soul of a Thousand Years, or even the classic presence that Magnus Ekwall brings to The Quill.

These comparisons are compliments not made lightly when it comes to what McNamara adds to the 44-minute album, which tops 50 minutes when the bonus track “Honeypot” is factored in, but the band is by no means only about this one element. Rather, the varied impressions of the songs are bolstered through a clearly diverse writing process — one suspects but has no confirmation of multiple contributors — and given further depth still by being drawn together through the fullness of the production and an edge of noise rock that seems to infiltrate the sound no matter where The Age of Truth are ultimately headed. It’s not just about intensity of delivery, either. True, “Come Back a God” wants nothing for energy behind its densely-packed fuzz tones and blown-out hook — one of several landmarks throughout Threshold — but even in the more laid back “Holding Hands Like Thieves,” the blues-driven “Caroline” or the rolling burl of “Honeypot,” where DiDonato‘s tone seems to singularly shout out toward The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote-era Scott “Wino” Weinrich, there’s an almost intangible aspect to The Age of Truth that draws from punk-based roots.

the age of truth photo useless rebel

The production around Miller‘s low end and the crispness of Lauver‘s drumming are big factors as well. One can hear it in “Supernatural Salesman” as much as the initial thrust of “Host (Demon in Me),” which launches Threshold in medias res and ties together with the finale title-track in underscoring a further complementary enrichment of the band’s sound: the previously-alluded-to progressive underpinning. They’re not engaging anything technically showy or anything like that but neither are their arrangements or progressions unthinking, and that’s shown in the two longer tracks — “Host (Demon in Me)” is 7:42, second only to “Caroline” at 8:11 — as the opener breaks into an open midsection before delivering its parenthetical title line as it builds toward its second-half apex and ends in feedback, and likewise, as “Caroline” moves from its blues to boogie shuffle, there’s an echoing space set in motion by DiDonato‘s dual-layer solo that, as it leads into the final slowdown, brims with enough complexity and purpose to resonate as progressive fare.

A further degree of nuance shows itself as “Threshold” seems to directly answer the spirit of “Host (Demon in Me)” in unfolding its own guitar-led movement, more patient and less aggressive in its charge than the opener, but still rich in its presentation and how it ties together sundry pieces of the record that bears its name. McNamara seems to underscore the representative point by referencing the band’s moniker in the chorus even as he draws upon another previously unheard influence, topping the last bit of shove with a series of repeated “Come on!”s that one half expects to be followed by an invitation to go “Space Trucking.” Sadly (maybe), that invite doesn’t come, but “Honeypot” as a bonus cut does offer a more classic feel to its roll that stands it out somewhat from the bulk of Threshold, though in its comfortable mid-paced fluidity, one finds again an impression drawn from European fare in terms of the vocals.

This may be a source of novelty or intrigue when it comes to early listens of Threshold, but between the record’s art drawing from the theme of the alleged C.I.A. murder of Frank Olson (a scientist experimenting with biological agents who was also dosed with LSD without his knowledge as part of the MK-Ultra project) and the fact that the band’s range is nonetheless presented as a cohesive and well-developed sonic persona of their own rather than simply a series of pieces sourced elsewhere, their debut hits with a marked impact that more than earns multiple revisits. Indeed, “Holding Hands Like Thieves” and “Oceanbones,” which might seem easily digested or overshadowed by compatriot tracks in some way, stand themselves out further on going back through Threshold again, and ultimately do much to tie together the flow that emerges throughout this impressive and thoughtful-but-not-overcooked debut. That The Age of Truth would strike such a rare balance their first time out of course speaks to the forward potential for what they might go on to accomplish craft-wise, but that shouldn’t be considered in place of the achievements they’ve already made in this material, which are significant.

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Review & Full Album Premiere: The Spacelords, Water Planet

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the spacelords water planet

[Click play above to stream The Spacelords’ Water Planet in full. Album is out Oct. 20 via Tonzonen and available to preorder on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.]

As one might expect for a record comprised of three sprawling heavy psychedelic instrumentals, atmosphere plays a large role in The Spacelords‘ fifth studio outing and second for Tonzonen Records, Water Planet. But it’s not the whole story. And from the underlying progressive melodies in Hazi Wettstein‘s layers of guitar on 11-minute opener “Plasma Thruster,” it’s clear there’s a plotline being followed at least to some degree. No doubt that Wettstein, bassist Akee Kazmaier and drummer Marcus Schnitzler (the latter also Electric Moon) are following naturalist cues throughout “Plasma Thunder” and the subsequent “Metamorphosis” (11:52) and “Nag Kanya” (19:35) that round out the 42-minute offering, but Water Planet has none of the willful clumsiness that often found in spaced-out records based on pure improvisation.

There’s songcraft at work here, however little it might have to do with traditional verse chorus structures. The record, which follows the band’s similarly-minded 2016 three-track long-player, Liquid Sun, and 2014’s Sulatron Records-released Synapse (review here), greatly benefits from that directed sensibility, whether it’s the initial engagement of the opener or the manner in which “Nag Kanya” seems to solidify around its funky wah to push toward the album’s apex and then recede back into fluid drift to send the audience off into space one last time. Rest assured, there’s plenty of exploration still being done in this material — I’m not sure there would be much point, otherwise — but the overarching vibe is expressive as well. These aren’t just indulgent jams.

Perhaps to an unschooled ear, that doesn’t serve for much of a difference as the sampled launch countdown ignites the swirling effects and core bassline of “Plasma Thruster.” At a certain conceptual point, jams are jams, and fair enough, but while The Spacelords still have a sound molten enough as to draw readily on the chemistry between WettsteinKazmaier and Schnitzler, the fact that it also gives them someplace to go sonically seems huge in comparison to other space rock LPs playing to the other side of that equation. This distinction is perhaps evident nowhere so much as in “Metamorphosis,” which is the centerpiece of the three inclusions and presumably the side A finale of the vinyl.

the spacelords

Almost set to pure drift, its 12-minute stretch is hypnotic in the extreme, and yet, after about four minutes in, there’s a subtle turn from Schnitzler on drums, and as Kazmaier‘s bassline holds steady and the effects wash continues to unfold, Wettstein‘s guitar shifts into the next movement of the track. It’s such a small change, and it may indeed have been recorded live, but it comes across like The Spacelords knew they were going to make that pivot, as well as the one after that brings the song into even airier, post-rocking territory, and their knowing what’s following any given moment makes it that much easier to go with them along this path that, once again, still allows for much trance-inducing, purposeful wandering and spacious vibration.

Whatever commonality of theme may persist between Water Planet and its predecessor, the three inclusions of which were similarly broken down with two extended cuts on side A and one even longer one consuming the entirety of side B, there is a notable uptick in production value on the newer record, which makes the effects churn from Wettstein and Kazmaier and Schnitzler added synth all the more immersive. This is especially true throughout “Nag Kanya,” the rhythmic march of which is topped by a sustained drone that does much to fill out the sound, and to go back further and hear early work from The Spacelords on their 2010 self-titled debut or its 2011 follow-up, Dimension 7, it is plain that their progression has involved not only the move toward clearer intention in their craftsmanship, but also a fuller manner of presenting their material on the whole.

This, in combination with a lineup that feels further coalesced than it did on Liquid Sun, which marked Kazmaier‘s introduction to the band, stands Water Planet apart as The Spacelords‘ most realized full-length to-date. One can’t help but wonder if having this solidified base (bass?) beneath them, the band won’t feel freer their next time out to indulge a bit more improvisational wanderlust, but even if they continue to refine their methods with another liquid-theme three-songer, the obvious drive toward growth that shows itself on Water Planet will no doubt yield further forward progress. That is, there’s invariably more ground for The Spacelords to cover — a consequence in part of having a sound so vast — but between “Plasma Thruster,” “Metamorphosis” and “Nag Kanya,” nothing to argue against their being ready or willing to keep heading outward into the uncharted and, in the process of incorporating new elements and touches amid their already established modus, making that ground all the more their own just as they do here.

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Opium Warlords Premiere “Year of 584 Days”; Droner out Nov. 3

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

opium warlords

Finnish experimentalist entity Opium Warlords releases its fourth album, Droner, on Nov. 3 via Svart Records. On and off for the last 13-plus years, Sami “Albert Witchfinder” Hynninen has used the one-man project as a vehicle for reveling in the sonically weird, producing and playing the vast majority of the instruments on records like 2009’s Live at Colonia Dignidad (not actually live; discussed here), 2012’s We Meditate Under the Pussy in the Sky, and 2014’s Taste My Sword of Understanding. Indeed, Droner follows suit in this regard, though where one might’ve found that compared to the rest of the Opium Warlords discography, Taste My Sword of Understanding was relatively straightforward, delving into structured material if doing so with a still exploratory bent, Droner steps well outside just about any and all stylistic confines with the three pieces included on Droner, and just when Hynninen seems to be making some kind of play toward the listenable, as on 19-minute closer “‘Closure,'” he immediately deep-dives into a wash of abrasive static noise that goes on to consume the track as a whole before a quiet ending caps the album like nothing ever happened. For those who might know him only through his work in Reverend Bizarre or Spiritus Mortis, it’s a considerable sonic leap off a considerable sonic cliff.

That said, the atmosphere is thoroughly one of doom, whatever salt burial Hynninen might be applying to that definition. Droner is comprised of three tracks — “Year of 584 Days” (20:33), “Samael Lilith” (20:27) and the aforementioned “‘Closure'” (18:54) — and each one of them is an album unto itself. Yes, drone is a huge part of it, perhaps nowhere more so than on “Year of 584 Days,” which sets the pattern in rumbling low end, initially sans percussive backing, and strange declarations from Hynninen on a post-opium warlords dronerWorld War II theme. The lyrics for that “song” — such as it is — and its two counterparts, are drawn from outside sources, and into the minimalist-feeling emptiness that permeates “Year of 584 Days,” Hynninen casts words from Finnish cultural historian Jouko Turkka. A suitably militaristic march of chains and stomping begins at about seven minutes in, and the declarations continue on the theme of Germans with flamethrowers, Hynninen drawing out pictures made all the more horrific because of the reality behind them. The minimalism has by then abated and it will continue to do so as the rumble moves into later progressions of guitar, key and bass droning, but right at about the 15-minute mark, the final movement of “Year of 584 Days” begins with a quiet guitar line and some subtle backing scrapes, and though volume will swell again, there’s a singularity to that moment that is no less vicious than the scathing to come in “‘Closure.'”

Between those two points is the curio “Samael Lilith,” which finds Hynninen reciting a ritual from the Congolese Ndembu culture designed around sexual intercourse and procreation. Its frank intonations of the vulva and the penis are no doubt intended as a shock piece for Western ears, and I guess they may or may not be, depending on one sensibilities as regards these things, but arrangement-wise, the SunnO)))-worthy drone that persists beneath and around Hynninen‘s spoken words is enough to add an otherworldly horror to the proceedings, making them all the more strange as notes are sustained into string-vibrating oblivion. Harsher noise takes hold late in the piece, skronking out in avant-jazz fashion until, at last, a straightforward ritualistic progression, different from the percussion and chants that started the track but still somehow tied to them, closes out. This brings the relatively folkish strum and vocals that begin “‘Closure,'” the lyrics for which come from midcentury artist/cultist Marjorie Cameron, whose ethereal invocations still come through as grandiose despite the relatively simple arrangement surrounding, which turns itself backward after eight minutes in to set the stage for the tearing apart that follows. The wash of noise — harsh, cruel — gives way to sparse bells of various kinds, percussive bowls and so on, and that’s how Droner finishes, finding peace at last.

The journey it has made by that point is significant both in runtime and in the substance of how that runtime is spent, but Hynninen proves himself able to act as the master of the chaos he’s bringing to bear throughout, and his central presence at the heart of Droner is what ultimately ties it to a feeling of craft. It is a deeply expressive performance piece, culled together in its various elements and layers, and very much in keeping with the nature of Opium Warlords as a whole, completely unto itself in sound, style and execution. You will not hear anything else like it.

Please enjoy “Year of 584 Days” premiering below, followed by more info from the PR wire:

Sami Hynninen on “Year of 584 Days”:

“What could I say about this song… it is about hydrogen bomb, and the total war. It is the clear world of devastation and torture. All senses are awake when you face the presence of pain and death. You are reborn to the battlefield and flames and terror. Everything you had before has been wiped away. You are alone and lost to a nightmare that has no end. The sun won’t rise again. Your home, and the pictures of your loved ones are now ashes, but you have to force yourself to go on. You just have to go on.”

After three wilderness years with doom gods Spiritus Mortis and Lord Vicar, electronic warriors Tähtiportti, and black metal sorcerers Azrael Rising, Sami Albert “Witchfinder” Hynninen is back in business with Opium Warlords. On November 3rd, Opium Warlords shall release Droner through Svart Records.

Droner is the fourth Opium Warlords album, and it brings Hynninen’s uncompromising musical vision to its most sparse form. It is noisy lo-fi riff music consisting only of particles unquestionably necessary, but at the same time with a musical spectrum that is very wide and open. It is experimental and avant-garde, still with roots deep in the very heart of heavy rock music. It is concrete blues, diving to the existence and the smallest molecular spheres of minimal riffs, and what seems to be an endless repetition of them. From these rather skeletal elements, it occasionally reaches neo-classical, even medieval spheres and death-romantic chambers of apocalyptic folk. Onto all of this, disturbing lyrics are chanted by unnamed, hostile protagonists.

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Hound Premiere “Suitable for Framing”; Born Under 76 out Oct. 20

Posted in audiObelisk on October 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

hound

Philly-based heavy rockers Hound have an Oct. 20 release show booked for their new album, Born Under 76, which is due out accordingly via SRA Records on CD and Let’s Pretend Records on vinyl. On whichever format one might choose to engage it, it’s the third Hound full-length behind 2015’s sleeper hit Out of Space (review here), and while hearing the crisp three-minute delivery of the hook and subtle organ inclusion in “Aqualamb,” one might be tempted to relate Hound to some vision of Monster Magnet channeled through Mos Generator‘s penchant for straightforwardness of craft, the greater impression of Born Under 76 overall stems from cuts like opener “Born Under a Blacklight,” “Death Lends a Hand,” “Best Wishes,” “Two Horns,” “Bad One” and closer “Any Day Now,” which strip down the presentation overall from the debut in favor of a more charging, punkish tack. These influences were certainly present on Out of Space as well, but in tone and rhythm, the balance brings them forward even more so that even as second track “Eyes in the Dark” nestles into a comfortable tempo, it does so tonally informed by punk rock traditionalism, and the returning three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Perry Shall, bassist Pat Hickey and drummer Chris Wilson (also Ted Leo and the Pharmacists), make the most of that just as much in the swagger of the Thin Lizzy-esque “Suitable for Framing” as in the later fuzz rollout of “That’s a Famous Feeling.”

An underscore of noise rock or heavier tone balanced against punker intent and some measure of classic heavy rock influence? Sounds like the wheelhouse of producer J. Robbins (ClutchJawbreakerMurder by DeathColiseum, etc.), hound born under 76who would seem to have been the perfect choice to helm Born Under 76 if the transition between “Two Horns” and “Bad One” and the momentum the record builds in general is anything to go by. The balance of sonic naturalism and impact across Hound‘s 12-track/40-minute run — whether it’s the lumbering swing of the penultimate “Welcome to the Land of Bad Magic” or the midtempo chorus-leaning of “Demon Eyes” setting up the thrust and channel-panning lead of “Best Wishes” in the album’s midsection — serves as one of the LP’s most effective assets, and it’s what allows that momentum to be maintained despite some rather striking shifts in approach on a per-track basis, as when the ultra-catchy “Aqualamb” and “Suitable for Framing” boogie and big-rock-finish their way into the oncoming train that is “Death Lends a Hand,” or when the later charge of “Welcome to the Land of Bad Magic” winds its way to a sudden stop before the piano-inclusive blues intro of “Any Day Now” sets up its own spring-loaded-snake-in-the-can-of-peanuts with the song’s final push. This, like what precedes, is a transition as fluid as it wants to be, and indeed it ends up being some of these contrasts that makes Born Under 76 such a fun listen. As the material is drawn together by the quality of its songwriting, Hound are free to explore a greater divide of influences and still maintain their hold on their audience’s attention.

That sense of command is fitting for a band on their third album, Hound having made their debut with 2014’s Out of Time, but as Born Under 76 steps away from the apparent thematic modus of record titles — out of the Out of…, if you will — so too does it seem to present the strongest case for the three-piece as being somewhat underrated as well. As Philadelphia has taken shape in recent years as a hotbed of heavy rock and psychedelia on the East Coast — bands like Ruby the HatchetEcstatic Vision, etc. — one can only wonder what it might take to bring Hound more to light in that emergent set, since they seem so much to be earning their place in these tracks.

Once again, Born Under 76 is out Oct. 20. Today I have the pleasure of hosting “Suitable for Framing” as a track premiere. You’ll find it below, followed by some words from Shall about the track and more background from the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Perry Shall on “Suitable for Framing”:

“We recorded this record with J. Robbins at the Magpie Cage in Baltimore. It was such an honor to work with someone who we consider a legend and now a good friend. He knew how to find the perfect balance between the punk aspect of our music along with a big rock sound and somehow make it work in perfect harmony.”

When a thunderclap met a tornado, Hound was born in the Philly dark, bred off primal energy, and unleashed without warning. If 2015’s Out of Space orbited around murky prog textures and metal snarls, its forthcoming follow-up Born Under 76 gets soaked in the swamp between punk and hard rock. Whether that winning concoction is the sum of Hound’s ragtag parts – featuring Chris Wilson (Ted Leo and the Pharmacists) on drums, Perry Shall on guitar/vocals, and Pat Hickey on bass – or the LP’s dances with the devil, it’s obvious something burbles under the streets of Philadelphia. It’s sinister yet familiar, and bites with its own maniacal energy. But don’t worry – it’s delivered with a smile. Hound is back, and they’re armed with a dozen reasons to answer their howl. Maybe they’ll bring one out of you, too.

Hound release show:
10/20 – Philadelphia, PA – Space 1026 (Album release show w/ “Financial Guru” Greg Gethard, Dialer, Mary Houlihan, Alicia Camden, Michael Sneeringer)

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Review & Full Stream: Nick Oliveri, N.O. Hits at All, Vol. 3

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

nick-oliveri-no-hits-at-all-vol-3

[Click play above to stream Nick Oliveri’s N.O. Hits at All, Vol. 3 in its entirety. CD/LP out Oct. 20 via Heavy Psych Sounds.]

As he informs in screaming fashion on the penultimate “Country as Fuck,” Nick Oliveri is here to drink, fuck, and fight. Would anyone expect less? That song is by a group called Plan B fronted by Oliveri and featuring guitarist Steve Soto, drummer and Joey Castillo, and guitarist Troy van Leeuwen — the latter two former Oliveri bandmates in Queens of the Stone Age — and it’s one of six cuts, each by a different group featuring Oliveri, included on N.O. Hits at All, Vol. 3, the third installment of a Heavy Psych Sounds-backed series of “lost,” previously unreleased or otherwise hard to chase down tracks from the former Kyuss bassist.

Of course, Oliveri‘s alias identities include being the frontman of Mondo Generator, his own Nick Oliveri’s Uncontrollable solo band, his Death Acoustic solo work, performing with Dwarves, a stint in Kyuss Lives!/Vista Chino, bassist in BloodclotBl’astSvetlanas, on and on. His reputation for drug-fueled riotousness precedes him — 2011 police standoff, rifle, prison, amphetamines; easy to recall — and sure enough, N.O. Hits at All, Vol. 3 tears un-P.C. ass through its 17-minute stretch, blasting off punker violence as it goes with Oliveri‘s recognizable throat-searing shouts and unmatched attitude serving as the factors to tie it all together. He may or may not actually be country as fuck, but he certainly makes the above-noted mission statement sound like a genuine expression of intent.

Cohorts and accomplices are a big part of the appeal on N.O. Hits at All, Vol. 3 as well. Oliveri joins Melissa Auf der Maur (Hole, Smashing Pumpkins) in her Hand of Doom solo Black Sabbath covers project for a take on “The Mob Rules” that seems to revel in how far from the Dio-fronted original version it is, while also reminding of how propulsive that original actually was. Dwarves and a side-project for Dwarves guitarist He Who Cannot Be Named both show up, the former with second cut “Luv is Fiction,” which finds Oliveri on vocals under his own name while also playing bass under the guise of Rex Everything. The esteemed Josh Freese (Suicidal Tendencies, Ween, A Perfect Circle, Guns ‘n’ Roses, indeed Dwarves, among many others) may or may not be playing drums on “Luv is Fiction,” which together with He Who Cannot Be Named‘s “Medication,” comprise just about the most outwardly accessible inclusions on the record.

When Dwarves is as close as you get to “audience friendly,” you know some shit is going down. And fair enough. So much of Oliveri‘s sonic personality is based around being unhinged, the wild man, etc., it only seems fair that even as “Luv is Fiction” moves into semi-spoken verses, it should still serve as a reminder of the edge and sense of danger that Queens of the Stone Age have arguably been missing for the last 12-plus years, and by the time they come around, “Country as Fuck” and “The Mob Rules” at the end only underscore the point of the kind of torrent Oliveri can bring to a piece of material and still hold it together to the degree he does, which, naturally, varies.

nick oliveri

And now that the lead has been thoroughly buried, N.O. Hits at All, Vol. 3 features two seeming exclusives of particular note. The first is opener “Rock ‘n’ Roll Outlaw,” a cover of Rose Tattoo‘s 1978 single by the Oliveri-fronted Royale Daemons, a project idea kicked around a few years back that featured Joey Castillo on drums and Scott “Wino” Weinrich (The ObsessedSaint VitusSpirit Caravan, The Hidden Hand, and so on) on guitar. The notion of an Oliveri/Wino collaboration was enough to turn heads in that trio’s direction with the sheer announcement of its existence, but apart from a show or two, this recording and one featured on the previous installment of this series earlier this year, so far as I know nothing else has come of it, and as “Rock ‘n’ Roll Outlaw” has never been previously released, it’s definitely something special for N.O. Hits at All, Vol. 3.

Same could be said of side B leadoff “Kyuss Dies,” by a trio incarnation of Kyuss Lives! without vocalist John Garcia that consists just of Oliveri, drummer Brant Bjork and guitarist Bruno Fevery, on which Oliveri essentially tells the tale in punker fashion of the lawsuit that brought that project to an end and saw the birth of Vista Chino, which of course also led to the departure of Oliveri from the group. Over a raw and fuzzy recording, Oliveri intones “Here come the suits and ties/Kyuss dies,” while brazenly declaring, “So long my friends/I’m gone.” So he would be, but it’s worth noting that “Kyuss Dies” is the only studio recording ever made public under the moniker of Kyuss Lives! — it’s also the longest track here at 3:42 — so is something of a historical footnote in the timeline of that group as well, which would seem to have been shortlived and more or less doomed from the outset.

As with any such interplay of characterization and persona, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to seeing Oliveri as the one-man wrecking crew he’s reputed to be, but along with his screams, his scathing vision of what punk rock should do, he’s also someone who can craft a landmark hook, and even “Kyuss Dies,” which sounds like a studio tossoff jam, is maddeningly catchy, to say nothing of “Luv is Fiction” or “Country as Fuck.” These things he seems to take with him wherever he goes, and if N.O. Hits at All, Vol. 3 continues to prove anything, it’s that the dude gets around.

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Twingiant Premiere “Kaishakunin”; Blood Feud out on Friday

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

twingiant photo nick wilson

Twingiant issue their new album, Blood Feud, this coming Friday, Oct. 13. It is the band’s third outing since getting together in 2010 and their debut for Argonauta Records, following behind the spirited riff-and-tumble of 2014’s Devil Down, 2013’s Sin Nombre EP (review here), and their self-released 2012 debut, Mass Driver, as well as an earlier-2017 split with Into the Storm that featured the tracks “Poison Control Party Line” and “Formerly Known As…,” both of which are also represented on the record proper. Through all these releases, the consistent thread from the Phoenix, Arizona-based outfit has been one of burl-driven dudecraft, and Blood Feud follows across its eight tracks, beginning a fervent opening salvo with the crisp four-minute get-off-your-ass shove of “Throttled” and pushing into the aforementioned “Poison Control Party Line” with quick-built momentum that holds firm as backing screams join bassist Jarrod LeBlanc‘s largely unipolar but effective growls on “Ride the Gun” and the subsequent “Re-Fossilized” presents a marked change in structure.

Today I have the pleasure of hosting Blood Feud‘s closing track, “Kaishakunin” as a premiere ahead of the release, and as guitarist/backing vocalist Nikos Mixas — joined in the band by LeBlanc on vocals/bass, fellow guitarist/backing vocalist Tony Gallegos and drummer Jeff Ramon — hints in the quote included after the song stream below, one might be tempted to cast Twingiant as a doom band. The truth of that is somewhat more complicated. MixasGallegos and LeBlanc definitely have heft to their tonality and that’s a likely source of much of their “file under” woes (if they’re woes), but as part of their delivery across Blood Feud — even in a song like “Re-Fossilized,” which holds back its verses compared to the three songs before it and side B leadoff “Shadow of South Mountain” after — there’s an aggressive core and an intensity of purpose that could only come from a root influence in heavy metal.

As “Shadow of South Mountain” plays out its runs of guitar and fierce growls, twingiant blood feudone can’t help but be reminded of The Mighty Nimbus or or a less distinctly Southern take on Beaten Back to Pure or Alabama Thunderpussy at their meanest. Twingiant have heavy rock elements working in their favor as regards tone, but just as their Floridian labelmates in Hollow Leg put their emphasis on the ‘metal’ in ‘sludge metal,’ so too do Twingiant bring that pissed-off mood to the chug and swing of “Formerly Known As,” which, like “Re-Fossilized,” finds them in a more instrumental modus, even going so far as to indulge a bit of swirl in the guitar solo past the halfway point before giving ground to the 6:25 longest and penultimate cut, “Last Man Standing,” which starts airy and quiet before moving into clean-sung early verse lines and hitting its full impact around two and a half minutes in before receding again. That back and forth plays out once more and stays louder the second time, coming to an apex that feeds directly into “Kaishakunin,” which unfolds atop feedback with faded in drums, vague whispers, rumbling low end and an overarching sense of violence to come.

Fitting enough. The title of the song is derived from the individual who, in the ritual suicide of seppuku, stands behind the person who has just gutted themselves and acts quickly to behead them — also presumably what’s being given devilish representation on the cover art. So be it. The song “Kaishakunin” unfolds with the most crawling pace of anything on Blood Feud, which gives its growls an especially massive feel, but picks up somewhat after its halfway mark and makes its way into an instrumental finish topped first by a drifting lead and then by another, more earthbound solo to make the trail through the crescendo. It’s not overdone by any stretch — indeed, given some of the bull-in-china-shop drive preceding, it might be understated — but it gets the job done, and the feeling that things aren’t quite done after the 41-minute record has concluded I take as a sign of the band leaving their audience wanting more. Hard to argue.

After seven years and three long-players spent honing their craft, Twingiant cast a genuine sense of arrival and give a duly sure-headed performance throughout Blood Feud; both mature in the sense of knowing who they are as a band and still vital in their execution.

Speaking of executions, you can hear the premiere of “Kaishakunin” on the player below, followed by more info from the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Twingiant, “Kaishakunin” track premiere

Nikos Mixas on “Kaishakunin”:

“We’re so excited to be on the verge of releasing our 3rd full-length album via Argonauta Records. We’ve put a lot of work and thought into the material, the production in addition to the artwork concept and we couldn’t be happier with the results! Sometimes Twingiant gets labeled as being a doom band, and we’ve never gone out of our way to create a doom song until now with ‘Kaishakunin.'”

Critically acclaimed loud and heavy metal band TWINGIANT are pleased to announce that they will release their new album Blood Feud via Argonauta Records on October 13th 2017.

Pre-order Blood Feud digitally here: https://twingiant.bandcamp.com/album/blood-feud

Twingiant is:
Jarrod LeBlanc – Bass/Vocals
Nikos Mixas – Lead/Rhythm Guitar/Backup Vocals
Tony Gallegos – Lead/Rhythm Guitar/Backup Vocals
Jeff Ramon – Drums

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Firebreather, Firebreather

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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[Click play above to stream Firebreather’s self-titled debut in its entirety. Album is out Friday, Oct. 13, via Suicide Records. Tour dates posted here.]

During their decade together, Sweden’s Galvano grew increasingly progressive in their delivery of semi-sludged metal, such that the chugging of their 2015 swansong, Trail of the Serpent, found them more in line with bands like The Ocean than the Black Cobra-style thrust proffered by their prior 2012 debut, Two Titans. Aligned to Candlelight, that two-piece was led by guitarist/vocalist Mattias Nööjd and would seem to have come to an end sometime after touring with Snailking and Zaum in Autumn 2015.

Nööjd resurfaces in Firebreather alongside bassist Kyle Pitcher and drummer Tommy Hanning, and in terms of relating to his past songwriting, it would seem he’s made clear efforts to get back to basics: pummel, tone, and push. Firebreather‘s self-titled debut runs a bone-crunching but totally manageable 33 minutes. Its four songs — “Fire Foretold” (7:09), “Emerald Eyes” (7:42), “The Ice Lord” (6:13) and “Release the Lava” (11:34) — split neatly into two vinyl sides, and the whole affair is somewhat unassuming on the surface. But just as the deep-toned Adam Burke cover art carries such a sense of illumination in darkness — just what fire has been lit in that cave? — so too does Firebreather‘s material soon unveil the breadth of its threat in the push and gallop that takes hold after the wind-swirl and nodding intro to “Fire Foretold,” Pitcher‘s bass leading a charge that, particularly when Hanning‘s steady snare joins and Nööjd adds his guttural vocals to start the first verse, feels almost singularly derived from High on Fire.

But not just any High on Fire, and not just any derivation. Early High on Fire. High on Fire at their most marauding, when the notion of taking filthy sludge tones and making them do things that only Celtic Frost and Slayer might otherwise dare was a novelty. This era — begun with their 1999 self-titled demo and continued onto 2000’s The Art of Self-Defense and 2002’s Surrounded by Thieves — is recognizable in the speedy immediacy of “Fire Foretold” as well as the lurching buildup that begins around the midpoint of “The Ice Lord,” and Nööjd‘s vocals are a big part of it, recalling pre-melody Matt Pike telling tales of monsters and conquests through material material that seems so violent one almost doesn’t notice how catchy it is; hello, “Emerald Eyes.” It’s more than just Nööjd‘s approach to singing though.

firebreather

In the structure of the lyrics and the rhythm of their delivery, one can hear it, and in the guitar and bass tones as well. These latter could be likened to a dull battle axe. That sounds like it’s not a compliment — wouldn’t one want to be sharp? — but if we keep with Firebreather in terms of representing a take on the aesthetic of formative High on Fire, the idea of the blade being dulled is crucial. A sharp blade cuts cleanly. It slices through: one swing. Swoop, done. It’s fresh, crisp. Maybe unused. A dull battle axe, on the other hand, maybe has a chip in one side of its blade from the neckbone of an enemy. It does not cut cleanly. When it cuts, it has to tear into chunks of raw meat its chosen target. The process is bloody, messy, full of gore. And the difference is one could argue High on Fire have become more and more sharpened over time, but in interpreting their influence on this self-titled, Firebreather dig back to the nastier, rounded edges that once so brutally cleaved the skulls of the unsuspecting.

Whether that’s done in the thud-and-churn in which “Emerald Eyes” is resolved or the broader epic-style storytelling that takes place across the fluid tempo shifts of “Release the Lava,” it’s a spirit Firebreather bring to life with marked purpose and a suitably righteous insistence, and despite the clear focus as regards their chief point of inspiration, their songs are not without an identity of their own. Particularly with the closer’s more patient delivery, rolling through its first two and a half minutes before the drums drop out to let the central riff be introduced and the first verse built toward, Nööjd, Pitcher and Hanning begin the process of carving out their niche, which includes some subtle, perhaps nascent use of melody in the still-from-the-gut shouted vocals that on “Fire Foretold” or “Emerald Eyes” hardly seemed to be a consideration despite layering in the hooks.

How Firebreather might continue to develop and distinguish themselves from their chief influence and from Nööjd‘s past efforts in Galvano, their debut presents a clear stylistic vision and intent — which is to say that the material doesn’t at all feel like it just stumbled into this sound. Rather, like a hilltop declaration of war, Firebreather‘s Firebreather sets forth with bludgeonry in mind and benefits from the knowledge of how to make it happen. It is the underlying memorability that comes through in the band’s songwriting, however, that will most let them flourish in the years and releases to come, and one hopes that as they storm the countryside on horseback spattering brain matter in their wake they remember that craft is the handle of the axe they so capably wield here.

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Turn Me on Dead Man, Heavymetal Mothership

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Turn-Me-on-Dead-Man-Heavymetal-Mothership

[Click play above to stream Turn Me on Dead Man’s Heavymetal Mothership in its entirety. Album is out Oct. 13 via Heavy Psych Sounds.]

Long associates of Jello Biafra‘s Alternative Tentacles imprint, space rocking outfit Turn Me on Dead Man make their debut on Heavy Psych Sounds with Heavymetal Mothership, their fifth overall full-length. Their moniker of course is a reference to the backmasked Beatles message said to be in “Revolution No. 9” as a hidden clue to the alleged death of Paul McCartney, and sure enough there’s plenty of classically psychedelic elements to their sound, but for anyone who’s never encountered them before — one recalls their colorful debut, God Bless the Electric Freak, and is surprised to see it came out 12 years ago in 2005 — the title of the album actually does much more work in conveying the identity of its own sound, because while the San Francisco-based troupe have plenty of slippery trippery happening from launchpoint “Vimana” down through the 11-track/37-minute cosmic offering, there’s an underlying crunch to their fuzz and to their rhythms as well, and they never truly seem to let go of the notion of structure.

That’s hardly a drawback. Rather, “Vimana” sets a catchy tone on which cuts like the subsequent “Asteroid 9,” “Maharishi,” “Master Planet + Mother Star + Secret Moon” and the languid-drawling-into-thrash-galloping “White Slave/Black Master” only build, and elsewhere, it’s pieces like “Diamond Endless,” the effects-coated thrust of “Mind of Oz,” the watery and synth-laden centerpiece “Monolith 1971” and the purely space-driven closer “Room 237” that provide the corresponding freakout sensibility; a willingness to get weird, get weirder, and finally, get weirdest, that pits Turn Me on Dead Man in line for stellar alignment that finds their Heavymetal Mothership running at full warp speed, bearing four mark 20.

And while we’re keeping to vaguely Star Trek-derived starship references (frankly, one is amazed no one has captained a U.S.S. Lennon, registration #NCC-1967, but that’s besides the point), it’s worth noting that Turn Me on Dead Man are fully crewed and then some. Around the core tableau of guitarist, vocalist, bassist, synthesist and noisemaker Mykill Ziggy Minucci, guitarist Nick Doom, drummer/percussionist/vocalist Christopher Melville Lyman and bassist Attis Ngo — the latter also credited with keys on ninth cut “Hologram Universe”; and who seems to be out of the band since Heavymetal Mothership was recorded in 2015, perhaps replaced by Jeff Vengeance — a range of guests are employed on vocals, percussion, keys, bouzouki, and so on. Perhaps it’s best just to cut and paste the full list, as it is extensive:

Chris “Dr.” Fantasy: synthesizers on “Room 237” and “White Slave Black Master”
Scott Reategui Richards: bass on “Master Planet”
Kati Williams: violin on “Forest Damask”
Aaron John Gregory: bouzouki on “Cosmo Nymph”
Steve “Robot Speak” Taormina: chaos and noise on “Room 237”
Jonsey Daysleeper: keys on “Floating In Zen,” “Diamond Endless,” and “Maharishi”
Lith Amenti: vocals on “Floating in Zen”
Mike Thompson: percussion on “Hologram Universe”
Kiyoko Stella: vocals on “Cosmo Nymph” and “Maharishi”

So in terms of personnel, it’s more than twice as many guest spots as actual full-time band members appearing throughout the album. Can only hope the Mothership has a nice lounge area with a vending machine. Perhaps even more crucially, what results from all this flux across the still-manageable span of the record’s two sides is a rife-with-spaciousness feeling of variety that makes almost each track have its own underlying persona. Songs like “Asteroid 9,” “White Slave Black Master” and “Forest Damask” tie into the central notion of sonic dualism hinted at in the title — more often than not, heavy metal and space rock or funk (with which a mothership might also be associated) are thought of as separate aesthetic entities — but even within these, there’s a diversity of approach that becomes utterly crucial to the overarching impression of the material. And whether it’s the taut, lead-topped thrust of bliss in the middle of “Maharishi” or the toms beneath the outward, semi-post-rocking reach of “Diamond Endless,” Turn Me on Dead Man successfully execute this sonic breadth while balancing experimentalism and accessibility such that they never seem to be lost in the wash they’re creating. At times — looking at you, “Hologram Universe” — this is a genuine accomplishment.

Something that Turn Me on Dead Man seem to turn to their advantage in this, however, is the fact that individual songs are short. “Hologram Universe?” Yeah, it’s got keys, effects-soaked guitar strum, slow-freakout vibes and all that. It’s also about 75 seconds long. “Mind of Oz” cuts itself open and bleeds catchy acid, but it’s done in 2:22, and though “Forest Damask” has a somewhat farther-gone spirit to it, and is a little darker in its atmosphere as the longest inclusion, its listener immersion is enacted and gone in 4:42. The early work of Nebula comes to mind as a touchstone when thinking of a group so skillfully balancing songwriting and lysergics, and Turn Me on Dead Man are willful in their intention to push deeper into uncharted sectors. Needless to say, stellar cartographers will be thrilled, but moreover — and this is the real point at which Heavymetal Mothership finds its ultimate triumph — there’s a flow between the songs such that, as they bounce from one idea and fade it into the next, bring in different players to build out the songs and find themselves in these unknown positions in the galaxy, they come across as no more disjointed than they mean to be.

Diversity of approach, rather, is one of Heavymetal Mothership‘s great strengths, and the songs the album contains become like psychedelic snippets showing the places one can travel at the speed of thought. Like their underrated labelmates in Farflung, or like some of what White Hills and younger-days Monster Magnet were able to conjure in their own halls of space-worship, Turn Me on Dead Man provide sure guidance the whole way through Heavymetal Mothership, and if one thinks of recently-floated post-Roddenberryan notions of astrophysics and biology as one, travel by spores, etc., then it’s all the more fitting that Heavymetal Mothership sounds shroomy as fuck. If you can get on board, you’re in for a hell of a ride.

Turn Me on Dead Man, “Forest Damask” official video

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