Review & Track Premiere: Holy Serpent, Endless

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

holy serpent

[Click play above to stream ‘Hourglass’ from Holy Serpent’s Endless. Album is out Oct. 18 on RidingEasy Records. They’re on tour in Europe now (dates here).]

With their third full-length for RidingEasy Records, Melbourne, Australia’s Holy Serpent would seem to realize the vision of heavy they’ve been chasing for the last half-decade. The four-piece bring forth six tracks across the 40 minutes of Endless, which continues a theme of single-word titles from its predecessor, 2016’s Temples (review here) — their 2015 debut was self-titled (review here) — and with them, set out into an expanse of tone, and lush, patiently-delivered roll, shuffle and melody. It’s the latter that proves most crucial, as guitarist Scott Penberthy‘s vocals come across with more distinction and confidence throughout and work to make songs like “Daughter of the Light” all the more consuming. Joined by guitarist Nick Donoughue, bassist Dave Bartlett and drummer Lance LeembrugenPenberthy crafts lush and psychedelic vocals in the tradition of Mars Red Sky even as he and Donoughue dig into riffs that remind alternately of newer Windhand‘s take on grunge — particularly on the penultimate “For No One,” also the longest track at 7:44 — or of a hybridized Uncle Acid buzz and Electric Wizard lumber on opener “Lord Deceptor” and side A finale “Daughter of the Light.”

To this context, however, Holy Serpent add a marked personality of their own, with howling guitars intertwining on “Daughter of the Light” and an uptick of doom metal in second track “Into the Fire,” even as the layers of vocals drawl out over the midsection of the song. The light/dark blend of melody, crunch and sprawl gives Endless a psychedelic earthiness; something that, in the past, the band has referred to as “shroom doom,” but never quite captured as completely as they do here. That’s fitting enough for the narrative of the “third album,” but cliché or no, the work they do in these tracks is a manifestation not to be discounted simply because it makes a convenient story. The simple fact is Holy Serpent have written a collection of songs that brings their approach to a new echelon of presence and execution, and Endless deserves to be in the conversation of the best heavy psych offerings of 2019.

In terms of setting a mood, Holy Serpent do so with a natural flair, their riffs providing a foundation from which the song is expanded, “Hourglass” adding either keys or effects or else I’m just hearing things during the verse for further melodic flourish. This leads the way into a three-song side B that answers back the complete control over the proceedings the foursome display through the first three tracks: “Lord Deceptor,” “Into the Fire” and “Daughter of the Light.” The opener is especially important for the lead-in it gives not just with its own post-Witchcult Today riff, but with how it uses that in order to make its own statement about who Holy Serpent are and have become. Its depth of mix is essential, and it unfolds in a way that’s either hypnotic or enthralling depending on how one wants to listen to it, and easy as it is to get lost in the spirit of the piece by the end of its 6:47, which meets head on with the snap-back-to-consciousness of the more uptempo intro to “Into the Fire.”

holy serpent endless

Rest assured there’s plenty of plod and tonal heft there as well, but a more swinging take after the opener does well in furthering the scope of Endless overall. Again, it’s not that Holy Serpent are the first ones ever to establish this kind of dynamic, but it’s how they do it and the fluidity with which they conjure in the process that makes Endless such an engaging listen. “Daughter of the Light” seems to meet “Into the Fire” and “Lord Deceptor” halfway and so is a fitting summary of where the band have taken the album to this point, but it’s still not the final word as regards the story of the growth that the band have undertaken over the last five years, as “Hourglass,” “For No One” and the closer “Marijuana Trench” (as opposed, one assumes, to Marianas) are still to come, each one bringing something to add to the strength of Endless as a whole.

The midtempo push of “Hourglass” is met by a deceptively catchy lyric and guitar line, and the slower-faster interplay between “Lord Deceptor” and “Into the Fire” that started the record seems to meet its mirror image in the faster-slower transition from “Hourglass” into “For No One.” A plodding, crashing, deep-running vision of stoned grunge is met by vocal harmonies and creative layering in the verse hook, and while Windhand has already been noted as a touchstone for the style, Holy Serpent effectively make the case that there’s more in weaving heavy psych fuzz and flannel-and-Doc-Martins stylizations to be explored. I don’t know what it might lead to, but “For No One” sounds like a definitive forward step, and that’s always welcome as far as I’m concerned. A noisy finish seems like it might be the apex of Endless as “Marijuana Trench”‘s standout goofball title makes it seem somewhat of a drawdown from the prior cuts and its acoustic-based intro is a departure as well, but the wash into which the band launch as the song plays out is not at all to be discounted because they made a weed pun, and if anything, it builds on the considerable accomplishments before it in crafting a humming universe of noise.

That is the course of Endless, and perhaps some of the reason it feels like such a moment of arrival for Holy Serpent is because the songs do so well in setting their atmosphere and dwelling in it. Australia has a well-populated underground scene, Melbourne specifically so, but I have a hard time thinking of another band from the region who’ve been able to take influences from the sphere of modern heavy and turn them into something so complete and individualized. I don’t necessarily think Holy Serpent are done refining their processes — which is only good news, frankly — but it does seem like they’ve come to a new understanding of who they are and who they want to be as a band, and that has resulted in an LP that is refreshing and engrossing at the same time. Mine it for sonic details or put it on and let your brain melt; there’s really no wrong way to go.

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Alltar Stream Hallowed LP in Full; Album out This Week

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

alltar

Portland, Oregon, post-metallers Alltar — also stylized as A//TAR, as on their logo/cover art — will release their debut album, Hallowed, through Monochord Records this Friday, Sept. 6. The initial offering from the band that also comprises three-fifths of recently-discussed noisemakers Hound the Wolves — those being vocalist, Moog-ist Juan Carlos Caceres, guitarist/sampler Tim Burke and drummer Nate WrightColin Hill plays guitar and Sean Frederick plays bass on the recording and has since been replaced by Casey Braunger — is made up of four songs that run a very vinyl-friendly 35 minutes and brings forth Isis-style hypnotic march and atmospheric spread, dug into with volume trades that remind of Rwake‘s later work with a sense of volatility that seems to revel in never quite letting the listener know when the tension is going to pay off. With everything but vocals recorded and mixed by Fester at Caravan Studios, Haywire Studios, and the Hypercube and vocals helmed by Jeanot Lewis-Rolland at JLR Audio Productions and mastering by Ryan Foster at Foster Mastering, it is straightforward in its arrangements to be positioning itself as a root form of post-metal, bringing the aesthetic full circle and back to its cerebral roots in churning rhythms and shifts between deeply-weighted contemplation and voluminous sway and crash.

The album breaks cleanly into two vinyl sides with two songs apiece, the second longer than the first by about five minutes, but all the more immersive for that. The relative brevity of what Alltar do here — as a style that essentially began with Neurosis in the late ’90s and early ’00s, a pattern of CD-era album lengths for post-metal has been set as a tenet of the subgenre — makes Hallowed effective at creating the impression of playing to essential elements. That’s not to say the record is simple in arrangement or execution, with Moog and samples here and there, spoken word on the 11-minute side A closer “War Altar” and side B opener “Induction” and loud/quiet trades across the span, but that neither is it an effects wash, and the guitars of Hill and Burke are plainly more interested in crunch than sprawl. There’s no post-rock float, and even in the windy intro to opener “Horology,” the quiet stretch is more about creating tension ahead of the punch to come, and the same goes for the Moog-laced beginning of closer “Spoils,” though alltar hallowedthe latter might be as close as they come, even if it’s offset by the slowest and hardest-bashing crash to be found on the record.

It’s interesting to note the idea of worship in what Alltar are doing. Their moniker, for example. “All,” and “altar,” together. And calling their first record Hallowed would seem to be underscoring the point. Their music itself, while of a lineage with the aforementioned Isis and of course that band’s forebears in Neurosis and their many acolytes, is made all the more distinct through this notion, but the prevailing vibe of the tracks themselves is more mournful than celebratory. That’s true as Caceres shifts between clean singing and shouts throughout and even as “Spoils” churn-chugs to its ultimate conclusion, following up on the charged design of “War Altar” in a way that feels conceptual. Alltar, then, seem to be calling more into question in terms of who we are and what we choose to worship. This is a decidedly American ideal: the crafting of identity through reconciliation with history either personal or cultural, and if Alltar‘s scope is set to encompass, well, everything, then it seems only fair to call that ambitious as an understatement and remain impressed at the sense of focus they nonetheless conjure throughout their well-plotted material, delivered with what sounds like a burgeoning sense of patience.

And normally, this is the part where I’d say I expect that sense of patience to come more to the fore their next time out, but frankly, I don’t. Alltar‘s Hallowed has been sitting on the proverbial shelf for nearly two years since it was recorded as the band dealt with label issues — Monochord Records is their own and also put out Hound the Wolves, so technically this is a self-release — and I would think that the pent up frustration, one way or another, would manifest in their next batch of songs, or at least in parts should they keep up the loud/quiet trades one finds throughout these four tracks. All the same, it will be interesting to hear as they move forward just in what fashion they do, how their arrangements grow and flourish and in what manner they build on the solid foundation they’ve given themselves to work from here in theme and style. I’ll reserve any further speculation so as to prevent feeling like a jackass later when I’m so very wrong, but take the intrigue as a sign that whatever Alltar do as a sequel will be worth chasing down to find out where they end up.

They’re on tour later in September out west, and you’ll find those dates under the full stream of Hallowed below, as well as some more background from the PR wire.

I hope you enjoy:

alltar tour

Founded by guitarist Tim Burke (also of Hound The Wolves) in 2016, the band has developed through a careful, deliberate evolution to reach its perfect lineup with Juan Carlos Caceres (vocals, Moog), Nate Wright (drums), Colin Hill (guitar, samples) and Casey Braunger (bass.) With the same deliberation, the band spent the latter half of 2017 recording their 4-song debut album at 3 different studios in Portland, then mixing and mastering in Spring 2018. A record label came into the picture soon thereafter, though the album release was held up as the label’s funds were scarce. Eventually, the label folded and the band wrestled back their masters, choosing to self-release, now well into 2019.

“Upon the A//TAR we place our past,” the band declares. “Through the triumphs and tribulations of human-kind. From the technical and artistic birth of society’s achievements in art and technology, as well as the rise of power, war, destruction, and the control of humanity. Through the inevitable dark decay and cold loss, our music is inspired.”

Tracked by Jeanot Lewis-Rolland at the Magic Closet and JLR Audio Productions. Mixed by Fester. Mastered by Ryan Foster at Foster Mastering. Hallowed will be available on CD and download on September 6th, 2019. Pre-orders are available HERE.

A//TAR LIVE 2019:
09/04 Portland, OR @ Dante’s
09/20 Eugene, OR @ Sessions’ Lounge
09/21 Boise, ID @ The Shredder
09/22 Reno, NV @ TBA
09/23 Sacramento, CA @ On The Y
09/24 San Jose, CA @ The Ritz
09/25 Santa Cruz, CA @ The Blue Lagoon
09/26 Oakland, CA @ The Golden Bull
09/28 Seattle, WA @ The Highline
10/05 Portland, OR @ Twilight Bar

A//TAR is:
Tim Burke – Guitar, Samples
Juan Carlos Caceres – Vocals, Moog, Spoken Word
Casey Braunger – Bass
Nate Wright – Drums
Colin Hill – Guitar

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Streaming: Lo-Pan Interview with Jesse Bartz

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on September 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

lo-pan jesse bartz (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Lo-Pan just wrapped a month on the road alongside Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar and Quaker City Night Hawks. All told, between shows on that run (review here and review here) and an appearance back in June at Maryland Doom Fest 2019 (review here), I’ve seen the Columbus, Ohio, heavy rockers three times in the last two-plus months. That’s how Lo-Pan do when they have a new album out. It’s how they’ve done for at least the last decade and probably longer if you actually put the math to it. They go.

The occasion this summer is Subtle (review here), their awaited fourth LP, released in May through Aqualamb. It follows a 2017 EP, In Tensions (review here), and several years of lineup change tumult in terms of the guitarist position now occupied by Chris Thompson, who at both the beginning and the end of the most-recent tour only seemed to fit excellently alongside bassist Scott Thompson (no relation), vocalist Jeff Martin, and drummer Jesse Bartz, who’ve pushed their earlier fuzz rock in more aggressive and pointed directions over their last few offerings, with Subtle being their sharpest execution yet. No doubt Thompson on guitar had a hand in that as well.

I’ve interviewed Bartz on a number of occasions over the last 10-plus years, but I don’t think ever in-person before. Their tour van was lined up next to the bus and equipment truck presumably shared by Crowbar and C.O.C. and Quaker City Night Hawks‘ own van around back of Starland Ballroom, and I sat in the van with the door open while he stood, seeming relieved to do so after a seven-hour ride from the prior night’s stop. It was the penultimate night of the tour — they’d wrap in Rhode Island the next night — and I wanted to get his take not just on how it all went down, but touring in general, the grind of it, the personalities at work in Lo-Pan and how one balances life on the road with life off it. I’m fortunate that, tired though he was, Bartz was kind enough to indulge me.

After playing The Blackout Cookout X in Youngstown, OH, this weekend, Lo-Pan will head to Europe at the end of this month to join Steak and Elephant Tree for a tour presented by this site and Sound of Liberation. You’ll find the dates included under the player below, on which you can hear the chat from out back of Starland.

Please enjoy:

Interview with Jesse Bartz of Lo-Pan

 

Lo-Pan, Steak & Elephant Tree tour dates:
30.09.19 London | The Garage (UK)** w/ Fireball Ministry
01.10.19 Bristol | The Old England (UK)** w/ Sigiriya
02.10.19 Swansea | The Bunkhouse (UK)**
04.10.19 Paris | Gibus (FR)
05.10.19 Pratteln | Up In Smoke Festival (CH)
06.10.19 Salzburg | Rockhouse (AT)
08.10.19 Linz | Stadtwerkstatt (AT)
09.10.19 Freiburg | Slow Club (DE)
10.10.19 Leipzig | Werk2 (DE)
11.10.19 Berlin | Setalight Festival (DE)
12.10.19 Munich | Keep it Low Festival (DE)
14.10.19 Wiesbaden | Schlachthof (DE)
15.10.19 Cologne | Helios 37 (DE)
16.10.19 Hamburg | Hafenklang (DE)
17.10.19 Bremen | Zollkantine (DE)
18.10.19 Leuwaarden | Into the Void Festival (NL)**
19.10.19 TBA | TBA
** Lo-Pan only

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Review & Full Album Stream: Vokonis, Grasping Time

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

vokonis grasping time

[Click play above to stream Vokonis’ Grasping Time in full. Album is out Sept. 6 on The Sign Records.]

Swedish trio Vokonis continue to show the kind of band they’ll become even as they become it. Grasping Time is their third long-player in the last four years, following 2017’s The Sunken Djinn (review here) and 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here), and serves as their first offering through The Sign Records after releasing through Ripple and Ozium Records, respectively — even the 2015 demo tape Temple (review here) that they released under their old moniker had label backing, from BTNKcllctv in Malaysia. Recorded in 2018, the eight-track/44-minute Grasping Time also marks the final release to feature drummer Emil Larsson, who has since been replaced by Peter Ottoson in the Borås-based lineup with guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson and bassist/vocalist Jonte Johansson. That change feels significant, but as Larsson still features in these songs, it’s hard to know how it will ultimately affect the band’s dynamic.

It is that dynamic, incidentally, that is the story of Grasping Time. Not literally, of course, as the lyrics tell their own tale, but in terms of the sound of the record — captured like its predecessor at Studio Underjord in Norrköping by Joona Hassinen — from the head-down drive that launches opener “Antler Queen” through the post-Elder sway and chug in the finale of the capper “Fading Lights” and the brief guitar contemplation thereafter, the three-piece demonstrate their evolving approach in its latest incarnation as a more progressive and continually growing outfit. Ohlsson and Johansson share vocals effectively throughout the tracks, patient in the melodic delivery in the verses at the outset of “Sunless Hymnal” and gruff as that build kicks into its payoff shortly before the halfway point of the 9:57 longest track. I won’t take away from the breadth Vokonis bring to Grasping Time in “Embers” or even the shorter title-track, which serves as the penultimate inclusion ahead of “Fading Lights,” but “Sunless Hymnal” is an effective summary unto itself of who Vokonis are at this stage in their growth, and reveals the conscious execution with which they’re working.

If Olde One Ascending was where the direction was charted and The Sunken Djinn brought new levels of intensity to the proceedings, then Grasping Time is where Vokonis unveil a new level of ambition. It’s not that they didn’t have progressive aspects to their sound all along, and certainly putting “Antler Queen” first emphasizes the fact that they’re still plenty aggressive when they want to be. What’s shifted is the balance of elements. A greater interplay between Johansson and Ohlsson on vocals brings fresh persona to Vokonis‘ delivery, as even “Antler Queen” demonstrates, moving from its extended quiet break into a low-end-heavy doom roll topped with screams and, yes, a finish of post-rock-style airy guitar. In addition, the songs themselves mirror the duality of their sonic take, complementing each other as the brashness of “Antler Queen” leads into the sweeter beginning of “Sunless Hymnal” and the High on Fire bruiser riffing of the open and close of “I Hear the Siren” bookends a melodic dreamscape all the more resonant with the percussive force and solo shred of the two-minute instrumental “Exiled,” which follows to close out side A.

vokonis

And in case you’re not of the camp who believes format matters, the midsection of Grasping Time provides a suitable counterargument. Taken in halves, “Exiled” finishes side A as noted, and the also-just-about-two-minute, also-instrumental “Ashes” launches side B, dropping a few choice basslines beneath some proggy guitar noodling as it does. Fair enough. But in a linear format like CD/DL, the difference is striking. Essentially what happens is Vokonis shift into an instrumental hypnosis mode, with the charged end of “I Hear the Siren” — that last minute or so — gives way to the solo-topped shove of “Exiled,” which culminates with a crash but picks up fluidly in “Ashes” with a brief quiet intro before the full brunt kicks in, and then leads directly into the beginning of “Embers,” the two songs obviously meant to be taken as a pair given their respective titles. Varied and engaging as it is, the intro for “Embers” is another two minutes without vocals, so essentially what happens is Grasping Time has a stretch of about seven of its total 44 minutes, across four different tracks, without a word either from Johansson or Ohlsson.

What that shows is not only their ability to entrance the listener — which that stretch does — but their willingness to follow whatever impulse is going to lead to the best flow for the album as a whole. And the payoff for that is the smack in the face when Ohlsson and Johansson return on “Embers” for the most direct duet-ing they’ve yet done. “Embers” patiently drifts into a lumbering finish and feels something like an apex for Grasping Time, but the title-track continues to broaden the reach of the LP overall, and, again, manifest the progression of Vokonis even as it hints toward future direction for their meld between bruising and soothing impulses, not so much creating a conflict between them, banging them together and seeing what happens, but utilizing both to a singular expressive purpose.

Further proving the whole-album case for Grasping Time is the mirror that “Fading Lights” gives to “Antler Queen” with the return of the harsher screaming later in the track as it finishes its careening run. It underscores the consciousness and intent in the band’s craft, in terms of songwriting as well as structuring the LP, and across the album’s not insignificant span, the control behind Vokonis execution only makes it more impressive how far their reach has expanded in what’s still a relatively short amount of time. Their work has hit the point where one might not feel comfortable predicting where a fourth album might go in terms of sound, other perhaps than to say Vokonis continue to come across with more of an individualized take, whatever influences they may be taking from the modern sphere of heavy around them. With the lineup change bringing in Ottoson, there’s bound to be some shift in approach as a result, intentional or not, but as they prove with Grasping Time, there’s an entire stylistic spectrum they’re able to take and use as a frame for their songwriting. I’d only hope to see that frame’s borders continue to expand as they have thus far.

Vokonis, “I Hear the Siren” official video

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Review & Full Album Stream: Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember, Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember

[Click play above to stream the self-titled debut from Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember. It’s out Sept. 6 on Cardinal Fuzz.]

Sweet psychedelic salvation like that on offer throughout Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember‘s self-titled debut is rare. It’s rare, period. Never mind rare for a first album. Or rare for a first album as a 2LP. Rare. Picture yourself in a boat on a river, except the boat is a dragon and the river is lava and you’re not so much you as some kind of mix between Dennis Hopper and Gimli from Lord of the Rings. The Cardiff-based six-piece — listed as Luke, Gaz, Grant, Ropey, Tim, and Owen, and that’s fine — have some semblance of consciousness at work throughout the fully-blazed 66-minute offering, but it is the stuff of expanded minds. The low-end fuzz of “Walk with the King” and motorik thrust accompanying, the mood-setting drift in LP1 intro “Strange Flotsam on the Rising Tide” and the manner in which each platter’s second side — that’s B and D for those playing along at home — is consumed by a massive sprawl, be it the just-under-17-minute glory of “Great Vibrating Seasons” or the multi-movement build into cacophony that precedes the quiet finish of “Sun God Grave Goods,” the 14:31 capper for Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember as a whole.

These cuts represent a pinnacle — and one from which “Walk with the King” (12:38) and post-intro opener “Sub-Sonic Dreamer” (9:31) aren’t far off, by the way — but anywhere the band goes, freakitude follows like some kind of mushroom-added cultist, be it the blowout of “Sub-Sonic Dreamer,” the relatively straightforward “Surely They Know?” with its maddening and catchy hook, or the we’re-just-gonna-take-four-and-a-half-minutes-and-commune-with-the-universe drone of the penultimate “From the One Comes the Many,” which is missing only a warning that too much listening will expose the lizard people. All of these come together to make a killer set of charge-up, melt-down and burn-baby-burn, the band easing and oozing their way through subdued float and full-on warp drive push with an ease that belies it being their debut and every bit earns the yellow and black starkness of the cover that adorns it.

And just in case the point hasn’t been made, it’s gorgeous. Gorgeous and raw and expansive, sun-baked in gazing style but never trying to be anywhere or anything it’s not. Cohesion doesn’t just happen in the moments of solidified verses, either. One can hear it in the age-of-Aquarius chants of “Strange Flotsam on the Rising Tide” and subsequent post-The Heads blower guitar in the early going and latter reaches of “Sub-Sonic Dreamer,” the interplay of harmonica and dreamy jazz guitar in the midsection of “Sun God Grave Goods” and the various washes of synth between them. To be sure, Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember are functioning with a third-eye-open creative sensibility, but it’s worth emphasizing that these tracks aren’t just jams and that there’s a plan at work. “Sub-Sonic Dreamer” and “Surely They Know?” emphasize this with priority on side A, but even the when-Hawkwind-met-Floyd triumphalism of “Great Vibrating Seasons” works with motion in mind beyond barebones exploration.

infinity forms of yellow remember far out

Nothing against that, you understand, but the direction Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember bring to the proceedings make them feel all the more like kosmiche gatekeepers, holding open fuzz-covered doors of perception so that all might pass through into the ocean of effects beyond. Vocals in harmony or at least melodic unison are no less of an instrument than anything else that beeps, boops, beats or strums, and the feeling of fullness in the mix does nothing to undercut the spaciousness of the entirety in which that fullness resides. The volume dynamic in “Great Vibrating Seasons” alone is worth the price both of your soul and international shipping, never mind the manner in which the song rips itself apart at the end to let an acoustic guitar and residual effects subtlety take the helm for the inevitable fadeout. You gotta be kidding me with this stuff. Who the hell are these guys and why the hell haven’t they put out a second record yet? Yeah, I know the first one isn’t out, but no way you can listen to “Walk with the King” or “From the One Comes the Many” and make the argument that linear time matters.

Tell a friend, space-children. Tell two friends. Make new friends and tell them too. Tell your cousin Chuck. There’s beauty in the universe and coffee in that nebula and neither will go un-harvested in the meditations and rush of Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember‘s Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember, and while the rest of the world such as it is debates who’s-who’s cool enough to be neo-this or that, you’ll know that the more important thing is that feeling of your existential being leaking out of your eyeballs in rainbow teardrops of joy as “Walk with the King” pushes over the line between oblivi-off and oblivi-on, propelled from one to the other by a snare that pops like neurons firing, flourish of keys and bass, bass, bass that holds filthy sway while at least seven or eight guitars shred themselves and whatever else happens in an engrossing swell that’s even kind enough to arrive with its own comedown leading into “From the One Comes the Many” and “Sun Gods Grave Goods,” which even with a side flip between them feel no less born for each other.

This is where it’s at. Make no mistake. I’m not saying it’s a one-band revolution, because it’s not trying to be, but for a band to come around on an initial release with such utter and unflinching mastery of these uncontrollable-seeming sounds is not something to be taken lightly. It’s to be taken heavily because it is thusly administered, with patience for patients and intensity when it needs it most to create that feeling of hitting escape velocity, these sweeping builds that every bit demand not just the second platter but the listener attention throughout it. I don’t know much about this band’s circumstances, if they’ll tour, if they’ll put out five records a year or never do anything else, but they’re beginning to dig into something special here. What I said at the outset was true. It’s rare. And if Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember in any way pay off the promise that this debut shows, then all who encounter them can only consider themselves lucky. Double LP? Shit. Make the next one a triple.

Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember, “Surely They Know?” official video

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 22 (Kyuss Family Tree Special)

Posted in Radio on August 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

As of this writing, I just finished cutting the voice tracks for this episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio, which is centered around the Kyuss family tree. No, it’s not the entire thing — how could it possibly be the entire thing? — but it’s definitely a decent portion of it. You’ve got your John Garcia bands in UnidaSlo Burn and Hermano. You’ve got Nick Oliveri‘s acoustic stuff and Scott Reeder sitting in on the Yawning Sons record. You’ve got Ché and two solo tracks from Brant Bjork, along with Desert Sessions and Queens of the Stone Age and even Them Crooked Vultures just because I thought it was ridiculous coming out of The Obsessed. I was right about that, incidentally.

I guess if there’s an overarching lesson to taking a look at the Kyuss family tree, it’s the sheer insane amount of music these people have produced in the last 25-plus years. From Brant Bjork joining Fu Manchu to Josh Homme hosting the Desert Sessions and Alfredo Hernandez playing drums for Yawning Man, it’s unreal how far the branches go, and once you get into the fact that Scott Reeder was in The Obsessed with Wino, there’s an entire other tree right there. Forest of Riffs. I’m not complaining — the more the merrier — but if you sit and think about it for too long, it’s little short of overwhelming.

If you get to listen to the show, I hope you dig it. If not, thanks for reading anyhow.

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 08.30.19

Kyuss Whitewater Welcome to Sky Valley (S/T; 1994)
Kyuss Green Machine Blues for the Red Sun (1992)
BREAK
Desert Sessions Avon Desert Sessions Vol. 3 & 4 (1998)
Slo Burn Pilot the Dune Amusing the Amazing (1996)
Ché Blue Demon Sounds of Liberation (2000)
Queens of the Stone Age The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret Rated R (2000)
Scott Reeder As I’m Dreamin’ TunnelVision Brilliance (2006)
Brant Bjork Automatic Fantastic Jalamanta (1999)
BREAK
Brant Bjork Somebody Mankind Woman (2018)
Hermano Exam Room …Into the Exam Room (2007)
House of Broken Promises Tornado Twisted (2017)
Nick Oliveri I’m Gonna Leave You Death Acoustic (2009)
Yawning Sons Garden Sessions III Ceremony to the Sunset (2009)
Fu Manchu Saturn III The Action is Go (1997)
Unida You Wish Coping with the Urban Coyote (1999)
BREAK
The Obsessed Brother Blue Steel Lunar Womb (1991)
Them Crooked Vultures Mind Eraser, No Chaser Them Crooked Vultures (2009)
Yawning Man Camel Tow Nomadic Pursuits (2010)
Vista Chino Acidize… The Gambling Moose Peace (2013)
Kyuss El Rodeo …And the Circus Leaves Town (1995)
Kyuss Allen’s Wrench Blues for the Red Sun (1992)

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Friday at 1PM Eastern, with replays every Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next show is Sept. 13. Thanks for listening if you do.

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Esogenesi Premiere “Decadimento Astrale” from Self-Titled Debut out Oct. 4

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ESOGENESI

Milano death-doomers Esogenesi will release their self-titled debut album on Oct. 4 through Transcending Obscurity Records. The four-piece are a relatively new band, having formed in 2016, but as the five-track/39-minute full-length plays out, it becomes increasingly clear they’re doing more with the collection than just getting their feet wet in the style. They’re doing that too, to be sure, but if we’re sticking with the liquid idiom, they’re much more “up to neck” than “wet feet” when it comes to the particular grueling atmosphere that typifies the death-doom aesthetic — that ultra-dark churn marked out by a severe emotional conveyance, a mournfulness that gives the death metal aspects of the sound a that-much-truer resonance. Esogenesi‘s background as players varies, between black metal, hardcore, classical and, presumably, some doom as well, but even as album-closer “Incarnazione Della Conoscenza” hits its crescendo with blastbeating insistence, the commitment to the whole-album ambience remains firm. In other words, though they haven’t done it before, they know what they’re doing.

There’s comfort in that for the present and promise for the future, of course. Esogenesi show quickly what the crux of their first offering will be in the brooding guitar and bass intro of opener “Abominio,” one of three cuts to top nine minutes on the vinyl-ready outing. ESOGENESI ESOGENESISoon double-kick enters, but the tone of patience is already set, and that will prove crucial to both band and listener as “Abominio” unfolds into its morose riff and speedier chug en route to the subsequent “Decadimento Astrale,” which essentially flips the structure to fast-slow instead of slow-fast in terms of its buildup, establishing a fluidity that carries into the standalone guitar of “…Oltregenesi…” — which in another context I’d directly liken to Dylan Carlson — which is joined in its second half by understated drums before it kind of disintegrates into the start of “Esilio Nell’Extramondo,” the penultimate and longest inclusion on Esogenesi at 9:51 and perhaps also the darkest of processions the band here unfurls. A quiet beginning is mirrored in the ambient midsection, but on either side of that is a dirge procession that finds the band — guitarist Davide Roccato bassist Carlo Campanelli, vocalist Jacopo Marinelli and drummer Michele Adami — pushing toward a new level of extremity in aural gruel that, yes, will pick up some speed by the end, but still remains pummeling in its finish in a manner consistent with how they started out. It’s a gorgeous execution of style.

And taken in kind with “Incarnazione Della Conoscenza” as it would be on side B of a vinyl release, it further demonstrates where Esogenesi are coming from in their initial approach to death-doom, which is straightforward at least in the microgenre’s own terms. I wouldn’t be surprised to find them adding keyboard, or strings, or even just more guitar effects to flesh out arrangements as they move forward, but as a flag-planting endeavor, Esogenesi‘s self-titled lays claim to a chunk of space in death-doom and proceeds to make that space its own. The band’s trades between loud and quiet stretches, fast and slow stretches, the interlude vibe in “…Oltregenesi…” and the sharper-edged riffing that caps the pre-apex burst of “Incarnazione Della Conoscenza” — they end on their most extreme push, as noted — all feed together to make an overarching impression of bleakness that is consuming, but still not overwhelming or redundant simply because at under 40 minutes, it doesn’t stick around long enough to be. A certain amount of repetition is fair game, one might argue essential, to what they’re doing, but one of the things Esogenesi get right on their first LP is realizing that it doesn’t need to be 65 minutes long to get its point across, and whether that’s a conscious decision on their part or an instinct and how it worked out with the timing of recording or whatever else, it’s another impulse that will only serve the band well as they seek to follow-up this impressive debut.

Happy today to host the premiere of “Decadimento Astrale” below, which you’ll find followed by more info from the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Esogenesi, “Decadimento Astrale” official track premiere

Death/doom metal band Esogenesi have concocted a sublime blend that harnesses the power of death metal with the poignancy of doom metal, backed with an able, organic yet powerful sound that the band can call it their own. Even though this is only their debut, the quartet have outdone themselves in creating music with unfathomable depth and emotional poise. The five songs plod along with subtle but effective changes in mood, tempo and groove, and it often becomes imperative to revisit them to catch the brilliant nuances ensconced in the rumbling death metal-spiked parts. This is as good a debut as any to come out in the genre and it only solidifies the band’s place in the increasing death/doom roster of Transcending Obscurity.

Tracklisting –
1. Abominio
2. Decadimento Astrale
3. …Oltregenesi…
4. Esilio Nell’Extramondo
5. Incarnazione Della Conoscenza

Lineup –
Jacopo Marinelli – Vocals
Davide Roccato – Guitars
Carlo Campanelli – Bass
Michele Adami – Drums

Cover art by Korvo
Internal layout and graphics by Luca Brusa

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Review & Track Premiere: PH, Osiris Hayden

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 29th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ph osiris hayden

[Click play above to stream ‘Justified’ from PH’s new album, Osiris Hayden. It’s out Nov. 1 on Svart Records.]

Say hello to sonic infinity. Experimentalist-prone Finnish outfit PH bring expanse to bear throughout their new album, Osiris Hayden, with a cohesion of purpose that borders on the frightening. Their second release for Svart Records behind 2017’s Eternal Hayden (review here), the album comprises a nine-song/47-minute run that uses drone soundscaping and massive industrial churn, electronic beats and synthesized sprawl, in order create an atmosphere all its own. Each of PH‘s records has played off the one before it, going back to before they re-branded themselves PH after their stage-light logo and were Mr. Peter Hayden across their initial trilogy of full-lengths, 2010’s Faster than Speed (review here), 2012’s Born a Trip (review here) and 2014’s Archdimension Now (review here). It may well be that Osiris Hayden is the second installment of a new trilogy that began two years ago and will conclude with their next album — and if so, watch out — but whether or not whatever story PH are telling is self-contained or too big to be told front-to-back in one batch of material, this collection remains no less blinding.

And I do mean that in the sense of light. Although the artwork digs into deep purple hues and a series of interconnected circles — a use of color that feels all the more conscious after the yellow and blue of the last outing — much of the album’s sound is a flash of brightness surged directly in the face of the listener. There are plenty of ambient experiments like in “Justified” or the subsequent “Uhrilahja,” and a progressive culmination that turns into an evil disco on the nine-minute “Origo,” but as Osiris Hayden essentially functions as one linear entirety, indeed these pieces intertwine and play out one into the next with a marked fluidity and, again, distinctive sense of purpose behind them. Not to harp on it, but the wash PH create here is absolutely stunning, whether it’s the synthesized drone of “Sun Sets for One” or the rhythmic consumption of “Tachophonia,” with the album’s title repeated in effects-coated vocoder as yet another inhuman aspect at play, vague spoken whispers somewhere in back of the mix — is that a sample? does it matter? — as an apex that feels as much philosophical as aural. What was once the band known as Mr. Peter Hayden has, as the four-piece PH, emerged as a stirring cosmic entity unto itself. Get your headphones, get your mind blown.

The scope begins in earnest on opener “Thr33 of Wands,” with a six-and-a-half minute unfolding that will no doubt remind some listeners of Jesu in its melodic/electronic blend, but quickly sets out on its own path. A similarly-titled complement arrives in the penultimate “M47eria Prima,” the numbers obviously intended to appear as letters. Their use of those particular numbers is somewhat opaque — 33 is the sum of three cubes and 47 is prime — but whatever the case, to call what unfolds across Osiris Hayden cinematic feels lazy and apt in kind, since it’s true but it’s kind of like calling the globe a circle in its leaving entire dimensions unaccounted for. “Thr33 of Wands” works toward a linear progression of its own, as does the later “Ad Coronam,” while the shorter stretches of “Emergence” and “Uhrilahja” or even “M47eria Prima” operate on their own wavelength, but what matters more is that everything PH do on Osiris Hayden is intended and is successful in feeding the overarching impression of the whole. The arrival of the title-line in “Justified” is a standout moment, as is the post-psychedelic explosion of sound that ensues, and as PH make their way deeper into the proceedings en route to “Origo,” the sense of pushing further into some vast interstellar reach is palpable in their use of elements organic and electronic.

ph

As to what might be happening to the universe as “Origo” resolves itself in dance beats and swirling chaos, I don’t know, but if it’s alternate-reality space rock or alien tribalism, it’s no less righteous for its blend of influences and impulses. Ultimately, it’s one more manner in which Osiris Hayden engages in an act of world-creation, the album essentially casting its own setting through its atmosphere, bringing the listener into its breadth and shimmer at a full submersion, not to induce a claustrophobia, but to in some ways demolish the expectation not just of what they might do as a band, but of what the effect of music on the person interacting with it should be. If that sounds like hyperbole, fair enough. The whole album sounds like hyperbole — an idea taken to its extreme, simply the most of the most of its own thing, the drama coming to a head in “Tachophonia” as the band wind their way toward the finish leaving a trail of light-years behind them.

Whether or not Osiris Hayden is meant to be a part of a longer cycle of offerings from PH, one is definitely left after “Tachophonia” with the question of what happens next. Where have they gone, what have they found there? Are we inside or outside, up or down? Does it matter? Are we matter? One could go on, but consider the questions as evidence of the effectiveness of Osiris Hayden in removing one from the ground and putting their audience in this position of dimensional disorientation. That, too, is purposeful as they push themselves outward along this unknown trajectory through sonic territory that is yet unclaimed by genre. One can listen to Osiris Hayden and hear krautrock, prog, post-metal, drone, doom, EDM and whatever else one wants to hear, but the potency with which PH combine these and whatever else they seem to have found along their path is what makes the album so rich and fulfilling on a galaxial scale. They have become a band unto themselves, and likewise, Osiris Hayden feels like a landmark of the sonic growth to which they remain committed. That is to say, whatever they do next — and I wouldn’t be so silly as to attempt a prediction — the only expectation is that PH will continue to move forward. Across five full-lengths to-date, they’ve never done it any other way.

Now, which way was forward again?

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