Lonely Kamel Premiere “Fascist Bastard” from New Album Death’s-Head Hawkmoth

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

lonely kamel

We live in an age of hyperspecialization. If a band isn’t playing vintage-style proto-progresssive boogie, they’re delving into semi-psychedelic heavy space doom with traditionalist metal elements. Microgenres emerge and disappear as quickly as hashtags and Bandcamp trends will allow, and while in many ways this signals a greater creative flux and that’s not something I’m about to disparage, every now and then it’s nice to be reminded that there was already a single sound that could be all of these things and more besides. It’s called rock and roll, and that’s kind of been the point of the thing all along.

Oslo’s Lonely Kamel play rock and roll, and in the decade since they released their self-titled debut, they’ve played plenty of it. With their fifth long-player, Death’s-Head Hawkmoth, the Oslo fivesome make their debut on Stickman Records after two records on Napalm, and from the opening gong and thickened fuzz sing-along hook of “Fascist Bastard” to the stomping forward thrust of “Inside,” the bouncing verses and later drift in “Psychedelic Warfare” and the start-stop blues of “The Day I’m Gone” that hits after the album’s mega-hook in “Inebriated,” they recall the best of turn of the century European heavy rock and roll: one foot in the heavy ’70s in terms of their influences,Lonely Kamel Deaths Head Hawkmoth and the other firmly engaged in the business of kicking their audience’s collective ass.

It’s been four years since Lonely Kamel released their last album, Shit City, and as one might guess from the title, all was not well with the band. They’ve swapped out lead guitarists for Death’s-Head Hawkmoth, and if there are any residual doubts about Vegard Strand Holthe‘s contributions to the record, one need only listen to the extended instrumental build and solo-topped payoff off of “The Day I’m Gone” to get it. It ain’t hard to see where they’re coming from. Nor should it be. The prevailing lack of pretense is one of Death’s-Head Hawkmoth‘s great strengths, and it goes hand in hand with the classic-style frontman presence of vocalist/guitarist Thomas Brenna, the guiding riffs of guitarist Jøran Normann and the rhythm section of bassist Stian Helle and drummer Espen Nesset, which proves unshakable unless we’re talking about dancing.

And if we are talking about dancing, well, there’s the jangle early in the rolling verse of “Fascist Bastard,” or the almost-a-freakout space rock push of “Inside” that follows the positive-self-talk interlude of “Move On,” or the post-Queens of the Stone Age stutter-shuffle in the second half of “More Weed Less Hate,” Death’s-Head Hawkmoth isn’t exactly short on opportunities for it. Whatever statements Lonely Kamel may or may not be making about aesthetic specificity in the digital age — something in “Inebriated” tells me they have better things to think about — their bluesy core becomes just one of the means by which they pull the listener along with them on a journey varied and distinct enough to earn at least a couple of its own hashtags but which would seem to have little use for them in comparison to a solid, primary and overarching groove. The very sound of doing it right.

Lonely Kamel release Death’s-Head Hawkmoth March 23 via Stickman Records. Below, you can hear the premiere of “Fascist Bastard” and check out some background courtesy of Helle on how the album came together.

Please enjoy:

Stian Helle on Death’s-Head Hawkmoth:

Death’s-Head Hawkmoth was written over a relatively long period, due to various reasons. I remember Thomas brought a six-song demo tape back in April-May 2015, and four of these ideas were initially recorded during the Hawkmoth sessions, while only three of them ended up on the record. We were in a different place back then, so maybe that’s why it took a long time to finish them. Our previous record, Shit City, kind of summed it all up at the time.

One of these demo tunes was actually from way back in the days. The opening riff and chorus on “Psychedelic Warfare” was used as a middle part of a song we called “All Star Veteran.” We have a few rehearsal takes from 2007 with this riff in a totally different setting. The song was never released though.

Most of the new songs were potentially good ideas but we struggled to nail them… Our new single, “Fascist Bastard,” was the first one to come alive. We toured Europe for 10 days in June 2016, and played this live on that tour. When our former lead guitarist quit we started playing with a friend of ours, Vegard Strand Holthe. This was just three or four weeks before we would go on tour again in October 2016. We didn’t play much of these new songs on that tour but continued to do “Fascist Bastard” live, and were ‘shaping’ it each night. So it’s a fresh version of the song that finally ended up on the new album.

Vegard continued to play with us after the tour and we started working more focused on the other new songs as well. And he was a big influence on a lot of the songs and how they ended up on the record. All songs were and written and arranged by Lonely Kamel and Vegard, who eventually became a part of the band. Another addition to the Kamel family is Jøran Normann who recorded parts of the album. He played some guitar on the record and toured with us in 2017, stepping in, doing the lead guitar live while Vegard was occupied with other projects. From January 2018, Lonely Kamel is officially a five-piece.

We recorded totally nine songs for Death’s-Head Hawkmoth, or 10, depending on how you see it. Songs three and four on the new record, “Move On” and “Inside” — are actually one song, we just divided it into two during the mix. “Inebriated,” “More Weed Less Hate” and “The Day I’m Gone” are new songs, written the last couple of months before recording. Even though it’s written over a period of time the album feels like an entity. Thomas did the all lyrics so I leave that it to him.

Death’s-Head Hawkmoth was recorded at Schumann Lydbureau in oSlo, February 2017, by Jo Schumann and Jørann Normann. Mixed by Ruben Willem in June & mastered by Brian Gardner in November same year.

Thomas Brenna – vocals & guitar
Espen Nesset – drums & backing vox
Stian Helle – bass & backing vox
Vegard Strand Holthe – guitar & backing vox
Jøran Normann – guitar & backing vox

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Review & Track Premiere: River Cult, Halcyon Daze

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

river cult halcyon daze

[Click play above to stream the title-track of River Cult’s Halcyon Daze. The album is out Feb. 9 with a release show March 15 via Blackseed Records and Nasoni Records.]

Getting and having one’s house inorder are two very different things, but River Cult seem to manage both on their Blackseed Records and Nasoni Records debut album, Halcyon Daze. The five-track long-player, on which not one song is under seven minutes long, follow a promising 2016 demo that was among the year’s best short releases, and takes a tack of exploring a variety of different styles and moods, all of them heay in one way or another and drawn together by an overarching sense of tonal heft that permeates whether it’s the tense build-up-leading-to-rolling-fuzz-wall of centerpiece “Seething” or the dreamy, drifting end of 11-minute second cut and highlight “The Sophist” just prior.

Either way, River Cult — the Brooklyn-based trio of Sean Forlenza, Anthony Mendolia, and Tav Palumbo — sound like they’ve definitely been to school when it comes to their influences, and whether it’s the Acrimony-style grit, roll, drift and nod of “The Sophist” or the West Coast boogie into spacious slowdown in opener “Likelihood of Confusion,” which only minutes prior to hitting the cosmos proffered softshoe-worthy wah swirl and swing and the first of the album’s many jammed-out-feeling leads. At various points throughout they ask aesthetic questions about what might’ve happened if Thrasher magazine had taken over the world circa 1997 and, particularly on the title-track, what might’ve happened had Chris Hakius taken on a role drumming for Acid King. These issues, along with shades of Dead Meadow-style shoegazing on closer “Point of Failure,” are met with workaday lyrics and a loose-swinging vibe that, at less than a moment’s notice, is prone to kick into explorations of full-on Man’s Ruin-style fuzz overdrive.

The key word there might be “explorations,” and that’s because although Halcyon Daze sets itself purposefully to the work of proffering earthy tonality and a classic stoner fuckall in its looseness of structure and willingness to depart from verses and choruses into more open jamming, River Cult by no means sound set in their ways, and the 41-minute album carries the spirit of a band in the process of discovering who they are together as players and where they want to go in terms of their sound. Having first gotten together in 2015, it’s not entirely surprising they’d be at this stage on their first full-length, and it’s much to their credit that they capture the moment with the obvious commitment to sonic organics they show here.

To wit, after unfurling a groove of such deeply-weighted fuzz, the title-track moves easily into a soundscape of vast, drifting post-rock guitar drones that work on a long fade into the garage-via-Stooges riff that starts closer “Point of Failure.” That they’d cover such a swath of ground on their first long-player is impressive enough, but to do so with the kind of fluidity they bring out of the patient opening minutes of “Seething,” for example, or the confidence on display as “Likelihood of Confusion” begins its pivot almost exactly at its midpoint before, at 4:30, crashing through the door of its next sonic dimension. They’re an East Coast band, to be sure, and “The Sophist,” “Halcyon Daze” and the crunchier, grunge-minded sections of “Point of Failure” show that edge, but there’s little here one might consider confrontational, and rather, River Cult invite their listeners along with them on their journey of discovery as they feel their way ahead into what one hopes is the just the beginning stages of a longer-term sonic development.

river cult

And to its credit and to the band’s credit, where that development might ultimately bring River Cult feels like a secondary consideration in comparison to the groove here, which at points recalls earliest Fu Manchu and other such before-stoner-rock-had-a-name rawness. Taking advantage of the room in each track to flesh out their parts and ride the riffs to hypnotic and repetitive effect, as on the title-track’s outward trajectory or what seems to be a switch from otherworldliness to personal criticism on “The Sophist,” the first chorus of which brings the standout lines, “Sophistry/Yeah, you talk too much.” This perspective, somewhat disaffected but not necessarily raging, is writ large throughout Halcyon Daze, and it helps River Cult find their balance between more weighted, riffier fare and more atmospheric psychedelia.

It’s also worth noting that, while I have little doubt that Halcyon Daze was put together with a vinyl release in mind — “Likelihood of Confusion” and “The Sophist” on one side, “Seething,” “Halcyon Daze” and “Point of Failure” on the other — the album works perhaps even better in linear form, taken as one whole work unfolding in different stages in ups and downs of energy, pace, volume and emotion, weaving its way into and out of jams whole always keeping its ultimate trajectory forward, as shown when the feedback and noise wash of “Seething” gives way into “Halcyon Daze” or the effects loops of “Likelihood of Confusion” seem to dive into the airy tones that spread themselves over the initial going in “The Sophist.”

The bottom line is there’s a lot happening on Halcyon Daze when it’s taken front-to-back — which is how it feels like it was meant to be taken — and while one might imagine or expect River Cult to continue solidifying their approach in style and structure, what they’ve crafted in the meantime stands among the most promising Brooklynite heavy psychedelic debuts since Naam‘s Kingdom EP and should be commended for its level of craft, naturalism of execution, and unbridled flow. It’s a good one to get lost in, so go ahead and get lost in it.

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Review & Full Album Stream: All Souls, All Souls

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

all souls all souls

[Click play above to stream All Souls’ All Souls in its entirety. Album is out Feb. 9 on Sunyata Records.]

Momentum is quickly on the side of the self-titled debut from Los Angeles heavy rockers All Souls, as the result of a resounding opening salvo of uptempo hooks released like years of pent-up tension. And they just might be. The four-piece trace their roots back to a brutally underappreciated outfit called Totimoshi, from whence guitarist/vocalist Tony Aguilar and bassist/vocalist Meg Castellanos both come, and here joined with guitarist/backing vocalist Erik Trammell of Black Elk and drummer Tony Tornay of Fatso Jetson, the couple/core duo in some ways pick up where their prior band left off — that is to say, driving riffs with roots in punk, grunge and heavy rock, emotive melodies and memorable songcraft brought to bear with a boldness of naturalism through a Toshi Kasai production that would scare most groups away even in concept.

Issued through Sunyata Records, which is owned by Barrett Martin of Screaming Trees and Mad Season (speaking of emotive melody), All SoulsAll Souls comprises nine tracks and runs an efficient but not bare 46 minutes, and whether it’s the blend of howling electrics and acoustic strum of “Sadist/Servant” later in the record — on which, by the way, Tool‘s Danny Carey puts in a guest appearance on drums — or the earlier circular chorus bludgeon of “Never Know,” it is a record varied of approach but unflinching in its expressive purposes. It builds unrepentantly on the past experience of the band’s members but finds them unwilling to give up exploring new ground in favor of simply retreading old paths, and particularly as side A moves into side B around centerpiece “Rename the Room,” grows into a listening experience that only becomes richer in repetition.

But those hooks. Those hooks — a one-two-three punch of upbeat rush that carries through opener “Party Night,” the aforementioned “Never Know” and the start-stop verse into stomping chorus launch of “Money Man” — set the course for All Souls, and it’s a 14-minute push that speaks to the high level of craft all throughout. Aguilar and Trammell weave complementary guitar lines fluidly from the outset — as in, immediately on “Party Night” — as Castellanos adds low-end tension to the Songs for the Deaf-style careen of the opener and Tornay finds his builds and crashing payoffs handed down alongside handclaps during the bridge. Leads, rhythms, acoustics, vocal harmonies, percussive presence and a residual tonal crunch permeate, but All Souls are firmly in control of “Party Night,” and they’ll remain so as “Never Know” — one of three inclusions here over six minutes long; the others being “Rename the Room” and closer “Time Bomb” — spins heads with its manically repeated title lyric.

Because Aguilar has such a distinct vocal delivery, because he’s often on his own during the verses, and because of the balance in the mix the inclusion of backing vocals from Castellanos and Trammell comes across as subtle, but it’s another aspect that, be it in “Never Know” or “Money Man” or the no-less-sing-along-ready “Silence,” which follows, adds a sense of cohesion to the tracks. And as to why “Silence” isn’t included in that opening salvo — because really there’s no dip in quality there or anywhere after — it’s a matter of vibe and tempo. “Silence” pulls back some on the accelerator from “Money Man” and introduces a more spacious sensibility especially in its echo-laden second half that “Rename the Room” continues to build upon, thereby serving as a transitional moment in the overarching flow rather than a furthering of the record’s initial argument in its own favor. That argument, in other words, is simply entering its next phase.

all souls photo Memo Villasenor

“Rename the Room” might be the emotional crux of All Souls‘ All Souls. Atop flourish of reverb guitar, Aguilar blends indie and grunge-style melodic sweetness in a serene, contemplative and still of-the-desert vibe as Tornay punctuates, and a break to minimalist quiet leads excitingly to a choice and unabashedly rocking groove in the second half, “cool” in the classic sense of sunglasses at night and a backdrop for a wailing solo, cyclical toms and an ambient feel that remains steady despite the uptick in activity, drawing the two sides of the track together, and really, doing the same for the album as a whole. It ends quiet and “The Ghost is Flying Home” stomps in quickly with a more foreboding mood before turning from the earlier-established structures to break into thirds with verses and choruses bookending an exploratory midsection that in addition to some highlight vocal interplay from Castellanos and Aguilar works to build to a driving thrust of a fuzz and payoff, leading to the quiet start of the emergently-percussive “Sadist/Servant.” I’m not sure if Tornay plays alongside Carey, but if you told me there were two drummers on the track, I’d believe it. Nonetheless, its primary impression comes through the woven guitars and melodies and the balance of rhythm and melody, rather than a showy or overly progressive spirit shoehorned into a record otherwise so brimming with humanity.

A galloping, squealing finish comes to a head and cuts out cold to set the stage for the mid-paced tension of the penultimate “Reveille,” which takes a more winding approach and winds up somewhat hypnotic for it despite a thud of toms two minutes in and resonant crescendo marked by thicker tones at the cymbal-wash finish. The varied course of “The Ghost is Flying Home,” “Sadist/Servant” and “Reveille,” in comparison to “Party Night,” “Never Know” and “Money Man” at the outset, does much to flesh out All Souls‘ aesthetic reach overall, and the finale/summary in the 6:51 of “Time Bomb” only underscores the achievement made in terms of dynamic and chemistry between players. Around yet another memorable chorus, All Souls swirl and churn and keep a forward trajectory even as they seem to willfully meander, pursuing sandy expanses one more time before pulling together and heading toward a last push, Tornay saving highlight snare work to cut through the echoing guitars before the whole thing seems to break apart amid residual tones and the album’s final notes.

It’s been seven years since Totimoshi released their last album, Avenger (review here), and nearly two decades since they made their self-titled debut in 1999. If All Souls, who’ve been together since 2015/2016, is to be a redirection of the work that Aguilar and Castellanos did in that outfit, then it’s a relief much of what made that band so underrated in terms of craft and performance and personality remains intact in this material. At the same time, it’s exciting to hear desert rock so readily engaged on the group’s own terms rather than those of the style itself, and used as part of a broad pastiche that one hopes continues to expand as they move forward. While it’s almost unfair to consider it a debut, for the excitement factor in the actual hearing, the songwriting on display and the potential in the already-so-prevalent chemistry among all four players, there’s no doubt All Souls‘ All Souls will stand among 2018’s best.

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Review & Full Album Stream: Cataclysmic Events, Cataclysmic Events (AKA Demo 1)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Cataclysmic Events Demo 1-700

[Click play above to stream Cataclysmic Events’ Cataclysmic Events (AKA Demo 1) in full. Album is out Feb. 9 on Caligari Records.]

Can it really be a coincidence that willfully anonymous Swedish newcomers Cataclysmic Events refer to themselves in terms of their lineup only as The Nameless Fools? Well yes, of course it can — universe of infinite possibilities and all that — but thinking in terms of Swedish countrymen Ghost and their lineup of Nameless Ghouls, the rhyme would seem to be a happenstance choice. The question then becomes whether it’s a relation, a nod to that outfit or pure mockery. I’ll admit that of those three, the latter or some combination of the first and the third seem the most likely, and I say that in no small part because Cataclysmic EventsCataclysmic Events (AKA Demo 1) is so rife with pervasive, down-to-the-bones fuckall that reverence of any kind seems out of character.

Certainly the aesthetic between the two acts is disparate enough, and rather than the pseudo-evil melodic pop heavy of their countrymen, on their Caligari Records-released seven-song/25-minute debut, the Uddevalla-based three-piece — we know there are three of them, even if they don’t have names — pull more influence from rawest Entombed, Samhain and Celtic Frost much more than Blue Öyster Cult, though both “Anti-Masonic Girl” and “So Sick, So Sick of Them All” (about a muscle car, suitably enough) seem to pull a surprising flash of melody from the likes of Queens of the Stone Age and both the marching “Apocalyptic Rebels” and the penultimate “Shake the Doom” show some militaristic punk-metal flourish à la Germany’s Mantar, though even this aggressive underpinning is met head-on by Cataclysmic Events‘ very active lack of shit-giving.

Giving that impression is no less an aesthetic choice, of course, than the trio’s buzzsaw bass and guitar tones, garage-punkish buried drums, or the inclusion of the apparent surf-punk what-the-fuckery that is closer “Fu-Fu-Fu-Fu Blues (AKA Bonus Crap),” or the advertised fact that Cataclysmic Events (AKA Demo 1) was recorded in a matter of hours, all live, over the course of a single evening. “Recorded and mixed in 2-3 hours so don’t expect anything fancy or well-polished,” is how they put it, and fair enough. From the eponymous opener and longest track (immediate points) — which ranges as far as a sprawling 4:32 — harsh tones, grim and gritty rock impulses and a proto-goth The Birthday Party-esque declarative vocal delivery permeate the raw-structured cuts, and while Sweden has a long history of garage rock, Cataclysmic Events effectively turn this on its head in the name of crafting something darker and more punishing from it.

cataclysmic events

Because they call their self-titled, even parenthetically, a demo, one wonders how the motor-rocking impulses of “So Sick, So Sick of Them All” or the New Wave/proto-industrial boogie charge of centerpiece “Apocalyptic Rebels” — a title which seems tailor-made for a t-shirt if ever there was one, and either to be or not to be confused with Hellhammer‘s “Apocalyptic Raids” — will pan out or gel in terms of the band’s sound overall, or if they will, or if in making an actual EP or full-length album they might take a more developed approach, but too crisp a delivery would detract from the sense of onslaught in this material and The Nameless Fools seem to know it. As regards this being their first release, even that basic realization bodes ridiculously well and speaks to prior experience crafting stylized material.

The only thing missing from Cataclysmic Events (AKA Demo 1), near as I can tell, is a good “blegh!” — though there is a Tom G. Warrior-style “ough!” in “Cataclysmic Events” — but maybe that’s a stone the band are purposefully leaving unturned for next time or it seemed too obvious. Either way, the meld they conjure here between black and roll, death and roll, heavy rock and roll, and assault and roll should find any number of niche-within-niche appeals among genre heads, and while one hesitates to predict the future, particularly for an outfit so clearly given to an outward showing of a distinctive sonic nihilism, there is an undercurrent of songwriting even in “So Sick, So Sick of Them All” that speaks to a notion of control at work somewhere along the line.

As it stands in terms of presentation, however, from the tonal filth proffered in the low end of “Hand Heart Death” to the almost mocking chugger-nod that starts out “Shake the Doom” before it makes its way into its more careening hook, the most prevalent impression made by Cataclysmic Events is one of grinding rawness, and one can only hope that whatever they do next they continue to carry that forward. I’m not sure this band — whatever The Nameless Fools end up calling themselves or whoever turns out to be involved in the project — would ever need more than a full day to track a record, and clearly the several hours they took to conjure this demo/album/collection/whatever-it-is was time well and destructively spent.

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Review & EP Stream: Lowburn, Sleeping Giant

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

lowburn sleeping giant

[Click play above to stream Lowburn’s Sleeping Giant EP in full. It’s out Feb. 2 on Argonauta Records.]

With four tracks and four distinct takes between them, Lowburn‘s Sleeping Giant is an EP in the truest sense of the form. It is a formidable sampling of range within the sphere of heavy rock — especially for an outing half the duration of its predecessor — and even for those who experienced the Finnish four-piece’s 2015 full-length debut, Doomsayer, or any of their prior, shorter releases, it should make an impression with its efficiency and level of songcraft alike.

Delivering once again through Argonauta Records, the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Tomi Mykkänen (also Battlelore), guitarist Tommi Lintunen, bassist Miika Kokkola and drummer Henkka Vahvanen find their niche right on either side of the dividing line between heavy rock and more aggressive metal, and where a song like “Do Mi Ti” from the long-player had its element of grunge-style melody, even the melancholy closer here “Lost Control,” seems to have grown outward melodically from this impulse.

That’s an encouraging sign on a performance level, but what really distinguishes Sleeping Giant from Doomsayer or Lowburn‘s previous 2014 split with Church of Void or 2013 debut EP, Soaring High, is in the efficiency of the band’s work in executing the material. Whether it’s the forward charge of opener “All Life Long” or the more rolling groove of the subsequent “The Power it Holds” and “Sleeping Giant” itself — which, rest assured, awakes before it’s done — Lowburn do not spare a moment on Sleeping Giant, and they sound all the more assured coming off their debut of the kind of band they want to be and how they want to get where they’re going in terms of sound.

Interestingly, in doing so on Sleeping Giant, they start at more or less at the beginning. While there’s no question “All Life Long” gives Sleeping Giant a somewhat ironic launch with its full-boar energetic take, all-out from the drum lead-in through the sped-up Kyuss-style riffing that propels it through its four minutes to the burly delivery of Mykkänen, slowing only to catch its breath in the midsection before resuming its rush at the ending payoff. I’m not sure it’s the same recorded version — it’s close if not — but the song originates in 2013 and was initially released as a digital single around the time of Soaring High. Whether redone or not, the form is essentially the same, and it makes a somewhat sneakily appropriate lead-in for the three tracks that follow and expand the dynamic of the release overall.

lowburn

Lead guitar shines throughout “The Power it Holds,” which has plenty of room for soloing as it nears a seven-minute runtime, but it’s the slower, rolling groove that most stands the song out, and a better balance in the mix between the vocals and surrounding instruments that makes the tones sound larger and adds depth on the whole. Give the origin story of “All Life Long,” I’ll note that I don’t know when “The Power it Holds,” “Sleeping Giant” or closer “Lost Control” were recorded — they could well be from the same session; universe of infinite possibilities and all that — but in context they sound newer, more developed stylistically, and speak to that level of assuredness one can sense in Lowburn post-Doomsayer.

“Sleeping Giant” pushes this notion even further with a more immersive nod and a willingness to ride its groove that departs even further from “All Life Long” at the outset. Patience? Yeah, patience. It wasn’t entirely absent from Lowburn on Doomsayer by any means, but it serves the title-track particularly well and shifts smoothly into the low-key harmonies of “Lost Control” in a way that gives even this sampling-of-wares-style short release a sense of full-album flow.

Likewise, the closer’s subdued beginning feels very much like a mirror held up to the initial push of “All Life Long,” and in that draws attention once more to the growth undertaken on the part of Lowburn — not just to where they can write effective trades between verses and choruses without unneeded flourish or structural variance, but to where their material has evolved in range while holding onto that sense of purpose and drive regardless of the actual tempo in which they’re working. What their plans might be after this relatively quick offering, I don’t know, but the message comes through clearly in these tracks that while on the surface Lowburn‘s attack can seem at times to be more about boozy burl and dudely riffing that willful creative progression, there’s obviously plenty of both at play in their sound.

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Review & Track Premiere: Beneath Oblivion, The Wayward and the Lost

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 29th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

beneath-oblivion-the-wayward-and-the-lost

[Click play above to stream ‘Satyr’ from Beneath Oblivion’s The Wayward and the Lost. Album is out March 27 on Weird Truth Productions.]

The sludge that Beneath Oblivion elicit is nothing less than a destructive force. While the Midwest and particularly Ohio is known for the unhinged, pill-added fuckall proffered by the likes of Fistula and their many offshoots and related outfits, 2018 marks a decade and a half of the Cincinnati-based troupe’s onslaught, and they celebrate with the issue through Japanese imprint Weird Truth Productions of their first full-length in seven years. Last heard from with 2011’s From Man to Dust, the woeful foursome return to apply roughly that same ethic to the five-track/64-minute churn of The Wayward and the Lost. It lurches. It crushes. It creates a sonic and emotional miasma from which it feels like there’s no escape.

Its depression runs deep through extended tracks like opener “The City (My Mausoleum)” (15:12) and “The Liar’s Cross” (13:47), and is immersive in its atmospheric punishment as founding guitarist/vocalist Scott Simpson leads the way through the molasses trudge. Granted, it’s been over half a decade, so one shouldn’t necessarily be surprised at some measure of stylistic shift, but Beneath Oblivion‘s approach on the whole throughout The Wayward and the Lost is more atmospheric than either of its two predecessors, From Man to Dust or 2006’s Existence Without Purpose, both of which were released through The Mylene Sheath and had more of a post-hardcore spirit than shown in the droning extremity of The Wayward and the Lost even in its shortest track, the penultimate “Savior-Nemesis-Redeemer” (7:21), which precedes ultra-lurching closer “Satyr” itself an all-consuming 16:20 of aural quicksand. Revelry in brutality; brutality in excess.

Taken in the context of the recent triumph of darkness that was Bell Witch‘s 2017 offering, Mirror Reaper, it’s perhaps not surprising to learn that The Wayward and the Lost was also helmed by Billy Anderson (Acid KingNeurosis, etc.), as its blend of claustrophobic tonality from Simpson and Allen Scott — who also adds to the liberal amount of drones and noise included throughout these tracks — though the bulk of the basic material seems to have been put to tape in 2015 by SimpsonScott, bassist Keith Messerle and drummer Nate Bidwell with further grim flourish added after the fact.

beneath oblivion and billy anderson

One can hear the effects of that as drones and echoes fill out the reaches of the otherwise minimalist, extreme and excruciating “Satyr” at the album’s finish, but from “The City (My Mausoleum),” which opens with a deceptive innocent melancholy of guitar and eerie cymbal wash, the threat of violence is never completely absent. Unlike most of The Wayward and the Lost, “The City (My Mausoleum)” in its early going feels specifically indebted to Neurosis via YOB, but by the time Beneath Oblivion build into their first slow-motion rollout and engulfing, nod-topping screams, their course through sludge-laden cruelty seems set, and while their approach is by no means unipolar — that is, the screams and growls and lumber and pummel dissipate in favor of trades into sparse lines of guitar, swells of volume emerging in a dynamic back and forth interplay — they’ve already somewhat subtly begun the work that will continue throughout the subsequent tracks.

Now, it’s important to keep in mind that, as regards subtlety and Beneath Oblivion, it’s probably not the first word that’s going to come to mind, what with the unmanageable 64 minutes of punishment that The Wayward and the Lost carries across with such ferocity and patience, but as grueling and intense as these songs can be, there’s a sense of exploration within them as well. That comes through in the pre-midsection of “The Liar’s Cross” and in the rolling “Savior-Nemesis-Redeemer,” which might be the most straightforward inclusion here from Beneath Oblivion by whatever standard one might want to apply. Again, all things are relative. The impulse with a band like Beneath Oblivion is to cast them as misanthropes, as a kind of four-man counterculture working against the norms of songcraft and accessibility.

Well, I’m perfectly willing to grant that The Wayward and the Lost is about as audience-friendly as a carpenter’s nail through the skull when taken front to back, but to separate the group from what it is to be human and especially what it is to be human in the varied age of wonders and horrors in which we live cheats the band of perhaps one of the most crucial elements of their expression. A group doesn’t just come back after seven years and put out a record if they don’t have something do say, and with the stated theme of addiction, The Wayward and the Lost explores a pivotal aspect of this moment, but even if one wants to take it on a less analytical, more impressionistic level, it shows us the depths to which our minds can go that more often than not we’re more afraid to plunder. The growth the band has undertaken that has allowed them to do so is no less evident than the volume of their delivery, and in Beneath Oblivion‘s maturity there is a focus of intent that belies the album’s title. We may be wayward, lost, but the band has every idea of how they want to represent that, and in their success, they cast depths and spaces the harshness of which reflects our own cruelties and apathy back at us.

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Friendship Premiere New Single “Gypsy”; Ain’t No Shame LP Coming Soon

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

friendship-Photo-by-olav-areklett-vikingstad

Today, Jan. 26, marks the release of Friendship‘s new single ‘Gypsy’ ahead of the impending Kozmik Artifactz issue of their sophomore full-length, Ain’t No Shame. On an almost song-by-song basis, from the arena-rock lead-in of opener “Are You Ready?” to the Stevie Wonder-style soul and funk of the penultimate “Live Peacefully,” the record showcases a multifaceted personality on the part of the Oslo-based trio. There are some commonalities, of course — the earlier “Harmony Turns to Sound” is plenty funky as well — but mostly what ties together Friendship‘s work is the underlying songwriting prowess, and whether it’s the boogie shuffle and build of “Gypsy,” or the eight-track ready sunshiny brightness of “Got Me Feeling So Good,” the Hammond-laced post-Graveyard melancholy of “Moments,” or the ultra-vibrant mega-fuzz start-stop of “Fire,” which follows, that sense of craft holds firm even through the blowout blues of “Alaska Night” in headphone-worthy sonic nuance, mindful performances and an earthy production that allows the band to maximize their scope while remaining consistent in overarching sound and tone.

Friendship made their debut in 2012 with the Alpha Male EP and followed with a 2014 self-titled long-player that Kozmik Artifactz picked up in 2016. For Ain’t No Shame, the lineup of drummer/vocalist Fredrik Skalstad, guitarist FRIENDSHIP GYPSYSander Eriksen Nordahl and bassist Martin Morland returned to work in conjunction with engineer Christian Engfelt (also Elephant9 and many others across a wide swath of genres), and the fruit of that labor can be heard in the confidence with which the 10-track/41-minute LP pulls off its various sonic turns. I wouldn’t call the album linear exactly — it does seem more interested in jumping from place to place in terms of style rather than digging into a single overarching groove and riding it out for the duration; nothing against either approach when it works — but it does find common groun through its sense of structure and while brimming with variety nonetheless retains a human core of performance beneath that plays up not only a classic feel but cohesion behind even that of hook-making or choice-level chorus execution.

What does that mean? It means the chops are in place, but as you dig into the track premiere for “Gypsy” below which I’m thrilled to be hosting today, don’t necessarily expect the track to speak for the entirety of what Ain’t No Shame brings to bear on an aesthetic level. Do, however, expect a damn good time.

Please find “Gypsy” on the player here, followed by some discussion from the band about the track and the long-player from whence it comes, which again is out soon on Kozmik Artifactz:

Friendship, “Gypsy” official track premiere

Friendship on “Gypsy” and Ain’t No Shame:

Gypsy is a rock tune with a riff that gave associations to a dude who rides alongside railroad tracks, and the lyrics pretty much came after that. The song is about a guy who lives his life on the road looking for love. The band worked a bit to get the riff to sound tight and we are happy with the way it turned out on tape. We included bongo drums in the main riff to recreate the association the riff gave when it first was made on an acoustic guitar in Fredrik’s living room. Sander came up with the riff for the chorus and the rest of the song came together through a collaboration in the rehearsal room. Gypsy is the first taste of a new album from Friendship that sounds like rock and good vibes!

‘Ain’t No Shame’ is an album consisting of ten songs with various feels, grooves and stories. Hence the name, Ain’t No Shame. There are songs inspired by country tunes from bands like The Band and Dylan from his Nashville Skyline period to hard, heavy and slow Sabbath-feel songs. Where we wanted the song to sound like a soul song we went all out; four horns, a Hammond organ, crazy percussion and an extremely talented female singer. The album sounds like Friendship in 2018. Many of the groovy riffs and energetic rhythms from the debut album are present, only performed better. The sound is also more defined and has a higher level of quality. We used a great studio with an amazing technician, Christian Engfelt, who also mixed the record.

We are extremely excited to show the record to everyone. It sounds surprising, sexy and superb!

Friendship is:
Fredrik Skalstad – drums and vocals
Martin Morland – bass
Sander Eriksen Nordahl – guitar

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Review & Full Stream: Garden of Worm & The Wandering Midget, Split 7″

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Issued late last year, the untitled split seven-inch between Garden of Worm and The Wandering Midget finds the two outfits with plenty in common between them. Some preliminaries: Both hail from Finland. Both are trios. Both got together in the mid-aughts and have released two full-lengths to-date, and both work in an intricate and sometimes subtle vein of progressive, classic-sounding doom. In addition, though they’ve stayed productive in the meantime, both are several years removed from their most recent full-lengths, though they’ve shares shorter offerings in between. In other words? Yeah, getting The Wandering Midget and Garden of Worm together for a split release makes sense, even if in so doing there’s an emphasis placed on the differences between their methods.

Each three-piece offers one track. Garden of Worm bring “Whirls” and The Wandering Midget “Man with Black Hole Eyes.” “Whirls” hits the six-minute mark and “Man with Black Hole Eyes” pushes that mark, so it’s fair to say they’re pushing the limits of what a 7″ platter — even one with the backing of three different imprints in Rämekuukkeli, Acidmen and Pariah Child Records — can hold. They treat stylistic boundaries much the same way, with Garden of Worm on side A measuring out light-grey-toned heavy psychedelic vibe in “Whirls,” which builds on the classic progressivism of 2015’s sophomore outing, Idle Stones (review here) while pushing even further away from a strict adherence to what’s commonly thought of as doom.

Understated, almost laid back vocals give “Whirls” a pastoral vibe in its rolling second half, but this emerges only after the song’s first three minutes embark on a patient, Doors-worthy psychedelic meander, building gradually to the first verse that seems to arrive just a little late on purpose — Garden of Worm making their audience wait, even after the crashing drums of J.M. Suvanto have clearly brought the first of the two movements to its head, S.J. Harju‘s bass and E.J. Taipale‘s guitar living up to the titular “Whirl” all the garden of worm the wandering midget splitwhile. That loose psychedelic feel is maintained, but “Whirls” is unmistakably doom as well, though effectively filtered through classic progressive heavy rock in a way few bands can pull off so well. In six minutes’ time, Garden of Worm reemphasize the individualism of style that’s made their work to-date so satisfying to follow while reminding of the forward potential still so evident in what they do.

A percussive dirge from The Wandering Midget on side B’s “Man with Black Hole Eyes” has a folkish tinge, despite resonant sonic heft particularly stemming from the low end of bassist Thomas Grenier. It’s been over a decade now since the Lappeenranta trio arrived in 2007 via Eyes Like Snow with their I am the Gate compilation — I still remember getting a slimline CD promo copy in the mail, and yes, I still have it — and though part of what they do in paying homage to doomly gods is inherently regressive in form, there’s a freshness to the melancholy of “Man with Black Hole Eyes” that, as the song rounds out with a few lines of vocal harmonies from Grenier backing guitarist Samiel Wormius — the trio completed by drummer Jonathan Sprenger — there is an unmistakable sense of sonic persona running in measure to the post-Reverend Bizarre rolling rhythm at the center of the song. A strong and emotive vocal performance from Wormius gives “Man with Black Hole Eyes” an underlying human presence, but really, it’s the slogging rhythm brought to bear without going over-the-top in terms of tonal weight that gives the track its roots in downerism, gracefully executed and still somehow raw and minimal-seeming.

The Wandering Midget, who had a split out last year as well with Swedish-via-Roman outfit Hands of Orlac are nonetheless creeping up on being six years removed from their second LP, 2012’s From the Meadows of Opium Dreams, and especially listening to the poise with which they deliver “Man with Black Hole Eyes,” that seems like plenty long enough. They’ve always been an outlier — in part I think because of their non-preferred-nomenclature moniker and in part just because they’re bizarre — but “Man with Black Hole Eyes” is a reminder that since the days of I am the Gate there’s always been something intangible and strange about their modus and it’s a due relief to know that hasn’t changed in the time that has passed. Without knowing any plans in that regard or if any batch of new material might be in the works, I can at least say that “Man with Black Hole Eyes” is enough to leave me wanting more from The Wandering Midget, and presumably that’s part of the impetus behind the split in the first place.

Though it’s been out for a while, the split hasn’t actually been streamed anywhere as yet, and I consider myself very fortunate to be able to host the digital premiere of it today. Find it below,followed by more background on the project, and please enjoy:

December 2017

The first plans about this split were made already ten years ago. After that these Finnish bands have played a lot together so it is only natural that they finally share a vinyl too. Luckily the songs are not as old as the original idea.

Garden of Worm started its career with plain doom metal. During the years the band has developed towards more innovative and original sound but all the time maintaining very down-to-earth attitude and warm atmosphere. Whirls is once again a fine example of these qualities.

On the other side of the single The Wandering Midget delivers a heavy punch with an intensive doom metal song. Man with Black Hole Eyes includes a large scale of emotions and heaviness, which suits the genre’s finest traditions.

Besides the unforgettable musical moments the record offers beautiful artwork by Tommi Musturi and skillful calligraphy by Jusso Pilhjerld.

Garden of Worm:
S.J. Harju – bass, vocals
E.J. Taipale – guitar, vocals
J.M. Suvanto – drums

The Wandering Midget:
Samuel Wormius – vocals, guitar
Thomas Grenier – bass, backing vocals
Jonathan Sprenger – drums

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