Yeah, it’s only been a week since the last round of radio adds went up, and yeah, it usually takes me way longer than that to get a batch together — more for my own inability to organize than the lack of stuff coming in — but this time I managed it and in the interim there were 16 releases that happened along that it seemed only fair to toss into the fray. And so here we are. The bunch is suitably eclectic, as I think the highlight selections below showcase, but if you want to go down the list for yourself, hit up the Obelisk Radio Playlist and Updates page and have at it. Of the 37 list-based posts you’ll likely read on the internet today, this… should be one of them, I guess? Sorry, I’ve always sucked at promotions. I hope you find something you dig either here or there.
The Obelisk Radio adds for June 5, 2015:
Paradise Lost, The Plague Within
Their 14th album overall, The Plague Within is iconic UK doomers Paradise Lost‘s fourth for Century Media and third since the stylistic renaissance that seemed to begin in 2009 with Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us (review here) got rolling. 2012’s Tragic Idol was a respectable follow-up working in a similar vein, and The Plague Within is likewise, veering into thrashier tempo for “Flesh from Bone” but generally reveling in an emotionally wrought vision of melancholia bridging the gap between the pioneering death-doom of their early days and the goth theatrics that followed. The turn they made six years ago was not an accident, and they have very clearly been working from a pattern since — many interesting things can happen to a band 14 albums in, but few will be accidents — but that doesn’t necessarily make a record like The Plague Within ineffective. Rather, cuts like “Terminal” and the plodding “Beneath Broken Earth” foster a bleak and encompassing sense of mood, and with strings, guest vocals and piano added to the arrangement, “An Eternity of Lies” still manages to keep its sense of focus held firm, the band’s well-honed experience serving them well. They have a loyal legion of fans who’ll follow them wherever they head, but even if The Plague Within is Paradise Lost playing to their latter-day strengths, I’m not inclined to argue against that. There’s a reason they are who they are. Paradise Lost on Thee Facebooks, Century Media.
T.G. Olson, The Wandering Protagonist
A collection of at-least-semi-improvised recordings by Across Tundras guitarist/vocalist Tanner Olson, operating under his solo moniker of T.G., The Wandering Protagonist is the follow-up to 2014’s The Rough Embrace (review here), and is perhaps less plotted out but with no diminishing of its folkish spirit. Olson plays electric, acoustic and slide guitar, organ, flute, harmonica (the latter is a focal point early in closer “Down in the Valley Below”), percussion drones and piano, and enters into easy instrumental conversation with himself, though there are some vocals as well on opener “Great Rock Falls.” For Across Tundras fans, the highlight might be nine-minute “Small Triumph,” with its heavier progression, but focusing on that without paying attention to the swelling drone, harmonica and acoustic guitar interplay of “For the Torn” before it is missing the point. The Wandering Protagonist is true to its title in that Olson does wind up in a variety of places — sonically, that is; the songs were recorded at his Ramble Hill Farm, outside Nashville in Tennessee — and a song like “Slow Susanna,” at 1:12, carries through like the experiment it is (a take on “Oh Susanna”), but these tracks also brim with open creativity and bring a rare sense of adventure to Americana so often boxed in by tradition. Few are better suited to push the limits of the form. Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Abrams, Lust. Love. Loss.
Denver trio Abrams make their full-length debut with the triply-punctuated Lust. Love. Loss., a self-released 10-track collection with an obvious focus on flow, complexity of songwriting, crisp execution, tight performances and an overarching sense of heft that is more than ably wielded. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Zach Amster, bassist/vocalist Taylor Iversen and drummer Mike Amster (also Blaak Heat Shujaa), the three-piece seem to take their cues from the post-Baroness school of progressive heavy rock, bringing the occasional flourish of post-rock as in the airy tones of “Sunshine” or post-hardcore in “Mr. Pink Always Wins” but keeping the “post-” pretty consistent amid a nonetheless thrusting rhythmic charge. Amster and Iversen combine forces readily on vocals, to charming effect on “Sweaty and Self Conscious,” and a later turn like the slower, sludgier push of “Useless” arrives at just the right moment before the title-track and closer “The Light” mount the album’s final argument in its own favor, the latter offsetting odd-timed chugging with intermittent builds and payoffs leading toward a last movement not overdone, but classy in a manner befitting the cuts before it. The fuzz of “Sea Salt Lines” hints toward Truckfighters and the semi-bombast of “Far from Home” calls to mind Sandrider, but Abrams appear most interested in developing their own sound from these elements rather than aping the sounds of others, and I hear nothing in their debut to tell me they can’t get there. Abrams on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
We are Oceans, Woodsmoke
Following up on their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), Massachusetts instrumenalists We are Oceans return with their second four-track full-length, Woodsmoke, which starts our directly referencing Earth in “Stonewall,” the opener and longest track here at 13:44 (immediate points), but soon enough move toward a more individualized and fleshed-out heavy post-rock, airy guitar not replacing verses nor trying to, but adding texture and a dreamy vibe to progressions that feel steady and patient in like measure, no change either rushed or needless, but fitting with what the song needs, whether it’s the immersive shifts of “Stonewall” or the down-to-silence break in the second half of “Dead Winds,” which builds back up to one of Woodsmoke‘s most satisfying payoffs. While “Stonewall,” “Dead Winds” and 12:12 closer “Solstice” are all north of the 10-minute mark, third cut “Pressed Flowers” (4:10) assures that the four-piece have more to them than one kind of development, a serene, peaceful line playing out not quite at a drone’s repetitiveness, but with a subtle evolution of the central theme, from which “Solstice” picks up started by the guitar but ultimately propelled in its early going by the drums, a fluid jazz taking hold as We are Oceans move to the inevitable crescendo that caps Woodsmoke in its last moments. Their debut was an encouraging start, but it’s in these songs that We are Oceans really showcase the aesthetic potential at the heart of their project. May they continue to grow. We are Oceans on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Skunk, Heavy Rock from Elder Times
I guess the “elder times” that Oakland, California, five-piece Skunk — vocalist John McKelvy, guitarists Dmitri Mavra and Erik Pearson, bassist Matt Knoth and drummer Jordan Ruyle — are talking about on their 2015 Heavy Rock from Elder Times debut demo is some combination of the ’90s and the ’70s, since as opener “Forest Nymph” telegraphs, they seem intent on answering the question of what might happen if Fu Manchu and AC/DC ever joined forces. It’s a noble mission, to be sure, and their fuzz and classic swagger is sold well over the course of the demo’s six tracks, which are as unabashedly stoner in their riffs as they are in titles like “Black Hash,” “Devil Weed” and “Wizard Bong.” Heavy Rock from Elder Times being their first collection of songs, I don’t feel like I’m giving away state secrets by saying there’s room for them to grow, but cuts are catchy in their turns and hooks, and the command that McKelvy shows alone in riding these riffs bodes well for where they might go next — their approach is cohesive even in its self-recorded, initial form. That’s never a bad place to start from, and if they have growing to do, at least they’ve given those who might check them out something worth their time in this welcome opening salvo. Skunk on Thee Facebooks, on Twitter, on Bandcamp
Tried to get a decent amount of variety, at least within the sphere of heavy, and hopefully managed to do that, with some doom, rolling country experimentalist, neo-prog, post-rock and all out riffing. Again, on the chance nothing here tickled your fancy — because rest assured, the aim here is to tickle fancies — I think that might be the creepiest thing I’ve ever typed — be sure to hit up the Obelisk Radio Playlist and Updates page, to see not only the other 11 records that were added to the server today, but, you know, everything else from the last two-plus years. There’s bound to be something in there you dig.
Thanks for reading and listening.