A Tale of Three Tapes: Heavydeath, The Unquiet Grave and Jupiterian

Posted in Duuude, Tapes!, Reviews on December 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


To those who’d peruse cassettes or who believe the format has something to offer distinct from vinyl, CD or digital, the name Caligari Records shouldn’t be a strange one. The imprint has spent the last couple years committing itself fiercely to tapes and, more specifically, to bringing a level of professionalism to a medium often characterized (and not always incorrectly) as being the most amateurish among the traditional physical formats of the last half-century. Caligari‘s tapes are professionally printed as are the j-card liners — every time. As few have done, the label has adopted the cassette format not as a limitation, but as a means of enhancing aesthetic.

Caligari keeps busy with new releases on the regular — I count three since the most recent of the ones I’ll be writing about here, at least on the label’s Bandcamp — and delves into a variety of styles generally on the darker and more extreme end of the doom or metallic spectrum. Showing a significant variety between them are offerings from Swedish outfits Heavydeath and The Unquiet Grave and Brazil’s Jupiterian, about which more follows:

Heavydeath, Dark Phoenix Rising


Dark Phoenix Rising is the latest in a long string of outings issued in the last year-plus from Ljungskile-based trio Heavydeath. To wit, their Demo I – Post Mortem in Aeternum Tenebrarum arrived in a series of 100 tapes (on Caligari) in April 2014 and their discography is already past this EP with Demo XII – The Storm. Fair enough. Here working as the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Nicklas Rudolfsson, bassist Johan Bäckman and session drummer Oldfor Suns (the band has since been joined by Daniel Moilanen, also recently added to Katatonia), they lumber and gruel through five tracks of grim-hued sludge, two on side one, three on side two, and while there are flourishes of melody here and there and side two opener “The Ember of the End” finds Rudolfsson basking in some particularly effective epic-metal vocals, the prevailing impression is still of the rawness throughout. Tonally, the guitars set a blackened atmosphere, but Heavydeath aren’t as loyal sonically to any particular substyle as they are to an overarching sense of doom and mournfulness and a general extremity of presentation. To call them death-doom isn’t necessarily wrong, but it hardly tells the whole story. Closing with the title-track, they lock in a formidable riff-led groove and nod boldly at Celtic Frost in the process, but it just so happens that groove is buried six feet deep and covered in moss.

Heavydeath on Thee Facebooks

Dark Phoenix Rising at Caligari Records’ Bandcamp

The Unquiet Grave, Cosmic Dawn

Essentially a demo, but billed as an EP, The Unquiet Grave‘s Cosmic Dawn is the first release from the clean-singing raw trad doom solo-project, though its title-track traces its roots back more than a decade. The outfit is comprised of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Micael Zetterberg, whose CV boasts a wide variety of Norrköping outfits, from the black metal Aggressive Mutilator to thrashier Terrorama, among a slew of others. The Unquiet Grave is unrepentently stripped down across the three included tracks — “Cosmic Dawn,” “Mother’s Trial” and “Whispers in the Dark,” as well as the included intro and outro — but not at all void of ambience. Even as “Mother’s Trial” rolls out a highlight riff in its midsection, the lead guitar layer works to play up a sense of atmosphere. Zetterberg does well in the full-band role, and while Cosmic Dawn has an already-noted rawness to it, particularly with the compression of the tape as opposed to the digital version, that fits with the naturalism at root in the sound, something that seems counterintuitive for a solo-project invariably working in layers — I sincerely doubt Zetterberg is playing bass, guitar and drums at the same time — but across the three tracks here makes an eerie kind of sense. It seems unlikely he’ll get much more expansive with arrangements than he is here, but particularly as a first outing, Cosmic Dawn impresses with its fullness of presentation despite being the work of a solo source.

The Unquiet Grave on Thee Facebooks

Cosmic Dawn at Caligari’s Bandcamp

Jupiterian, Aphotic

The 42-minute first full-length from Sao Paolo, Brazil, four-piece Jupiterian, the five-song Aphotic isn’t quite entirely true to its name, but certainly dense and opaque enough in its execution that light has trouble getting through. A deathly lurch takes hold on opener “Permanent Grey” and doesn’t let go, the band trudging through death-doom excruciations and offering precious little hope across the tape’s span, even as “Daylight” seems to hint in that direction with its early guitar melody. Vocalist/guitarist V — the entire band is one-initial only; R on bass, A on guitar, G on drums — has a growl worthy of Swallow the Sun or any number of Scandinavian practitioners, and a raspy scream that’s well at home in the dirge of centerpiece “Proclamation,” which rounds out with some of Aphotic‘s heaviest hitting, followed by a noise barrage to start the subsequent title-track (hard to know where one ends and the other begins on the tape, but the digital version makes it clear). Rounding out in a swirl of guitar and spoken word, “Aphotic” has an almost manic feel compared to some of the album’s other fare, but its ending is also the most brazenly melodic section of the tape, leading to the shorter, closing “Drag Me to My Grave,” which was previously released as a standalone single. The bonus track would be something of a comedown after the title-cut, but it proves a surprisingly catchy finale to this cohesive, engrossingly weighted debut.

Jupiterian on Thee Facebooks

Aphotic on Caligari’s Bandcamp

Thanks for reading. For more from Caligari Records, check the links below.

Caligari Records website

Caligari Records store

Caligari Records on Thee Facebooks

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Duuude, Tapes! Demon Head, Ride the Wilderness

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on June 3rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

demon head ride the wilderness tape cover

Pressed to golden cassette with an eight-panel j-card in an edition of 150 copies by Caligari Records, the eight-track debut long-player from ’70s-styled Copenhagen five-piece Demon Head, titled Ride the Wilderness, seems way more concerned with going back to the source material than taking inspiration from modern practitioners. By which I mean it’s more Pentagram than Witchcraft. That distinction would probably seem minute to some ears, but it makes a difference in the listening experience on Ride the Wilderness — which in addition to the Caligari tape has been released on tape in the EU by Smokedd Productions, on CD via This Charming Man and Wolfbiker Records and on vinyl through This Charming Man —  as it did on Demon Head‘s two 2014 releases, Demo 2014 (review here) and the Demon Head b/w Winterland (review here). Three songs from that demo are repurposed here, one of them being “Demon Head,” and “Winterland” appears on the album as well, so those who’ve caught onto the band’s energetic take on classic-style proto-metal will no doubt find some of the material familiar, catchy as those songs are, but all seem to have been re-recorded, and for what it’s worth, one of the 46-minute offering’s greatest strengths is its front to back flow, which even split into two sides with a pause between side one and two, as on the tape, rests easy on a bed of rolling grooves, ’70s swing, natural tonality and resonant hooks.

“Undertaker,” “Winterland” and “Ride the Wilderness” all appear on side one, with the newcomer “Revelations of April” before the title-track. As it opened the demo, “Undertaker” is no less an introduction here to the point of view conjured by the band — vocalist Marcus Ferreira Larsen, lead/slide guitarist Thor Nielsen, rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Birk Nielsen, bassist Mikkel Fuglsang and drummer Jeppe Wittus — with a proclamation-prone Larsen donning the titular role and informing the listener, “I’ve been waiting for you and I’ve been dying to meet you,” in the first of several landmark hooks the record provides. His presence is considerable as a frontman even on the recording, but he’s well met throughout Ride the Wilderness by the swinging groove of Wittus‘ drumming and the alternating between more uptempo boogie and morose, semi-theatrical doom. Much to their credit, at no point to Demon Head sound like they’re not having a good time, and that only adds to the vital spirit of their delivery. Part of that could be youth, but whatever it is, it makes “Winterland” all the more infectious and pushes the roll of “Revelations of April” outward with a sense of something spontaneous en route to the tempo shifts, righteous delivery of the title line and later layered solos of “Ride the Wilderness” that are on their way to calling Graveyard to mind but seem consistently to be on a darker stylistic trip.


That holds true for side two of the tape as well, which is perhaps less immediate than the bash-you-over-the-head choruses of “Undertaker” or “Winterland,” but ultimately the more satisfying of Ride the Wilderness‘ two halves, with three newer cuts where side one had three older ones. “Book of Changes” leads off, followed by the reappearing “Demon Head,” “The Greatest Lie” and the closer and longest cut at 7:20, “Worthless.” No question “Demon Head” is an anchor for the 24-minute side two, but it’s far from the only highlight, with a shuffle emerging on “Book of Changes” from a kind of drawling progression to build to the inevitable slowdown, Larsen calling out the wickedness of man over a quick wash of noise before a return to the winding central figure, and “The Greatest Lie” being the most impressive accomplishment Demon Head present on their debut, an under-five-minute roll that plays to cult cliché brazenly without it mattering and outdoes even the chorus of “Demon Head” before it — no easy feat — with a two-layer hook that comes coupled with Ride the Wilderness‘ best nod and shifts into quirked-up horror thematics in its last minute-plus before making way for the more spacious, slow-crawling “Worthelss,” which keeps to its lumbering pace until there are about two minutes left, then kicks into higher gear to give Ride the Wilderness the raucous finish it deserves, Nielsen topping off with yet another impressive solo as the track fades out to the eventual click back to side one.

It should say something that no fewer than four labels picked up Ride the Wilderness for a release — if nothing else, they come well endorsed — but the strength of the album isn’t in who’s standing behind the songs so much as in the songs themselves. Demon Head make a formidable opening statement with Ride the Wilderness, and with the development they already show between redone cuts like “Undertaker” and “Ride the Wilderness” and newer ones like “Worthless” and “The Greatest Lie,” it will be even more intriguing to find out where they end up their next time out. Planet earth is not short on ’70s stylization whether it’s from Europe or the States, but when Demon Head tell you to Ride the Wilderness, it’s an easy invitation to accept.

Demon Head, Ride the Wilderness (2015)

Demon Head on Thee Facebooks

Demon Head on Bandcamp

Caligari Records on Thee Facebooks

Caligari Records on Bandcamp

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Sun Voyager, Lazy Daze: In the Here and Now

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on April 14th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

sun voyager lazy daze

In the time since releasing their 2013 demo/EP, Mecca (review here), Orange County, New York, heavy psych rockers Sun Voyager have been more or less engaged in the business of growing their band. They’ve played local shows, done some time on the road, found a label to help push their stuff in the form of King Pizza Records, appeared on a compilation or two, and done a split release, with Greasy Hearts. Along the way, they’ve also released singles in drips and drabs, one song at a time every so often, capturing different moods and vibes still within the warm sphere of what they did so well on Mecca, but showing progress anyhow in fuzzy cuts like “Gypsy Hill” and “God is Dead.” Their new cassette, called Lazy Daze after its closing track and released by King Pizza in limited numbers (250 copies, white tape, pro case and j-card), brings together these singles and turns them into Sun Voyager‘s most established release to-date. It’s five songs from the earthy heavygaze rockers and only about 20 minutes between the two sides, but big on vibe and a right-on showing of increased complexity in their craft.

Definitely an EP for its runtime, Lazy Daze nonetheless houses an album-style flow, and while its title and some of Sun Voyager‘s shoegaze aesthetic hint toward an element of ’90s apathy — of “fuckit” made flesh — the weight of their tones and swing counteract with movement that’s exciting even in the overarching languid atmosphere of the tracks themselves. “God is Dead” is a landmark for the band. A familiar refrain, perhaps, but the four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Carlos Francisco, guitarist Steve Friedman, bassist Stefan Mersch and drummer Kyle Beach make it their own, turning “My god is dead but your god’s dead too” into a killer hook for the upbeat first half of the song and an echoing space-out over the fluid, slower jamming of the second. The song lurches to a drawling finish like a universe stretching itself into oblivion, and “Black Angel” picks up quickly with a garage-style rush that Francisco tops with reverb-soaked melody and a molten vibe that is quickly becoming a trademark of their approach. Unlike the opener, “Black Angel” holds its space-rocking motor for its entirety, so it seems only fair that “Gypsy Hill” would slow things down, and it does, but more than that, it opens wide a horizon soundscape, sunny and rural as were the best moments of Mecca — its central progression reminds a bit of “Space Queen” from that release; not a complaint — but more coherent in the songwriting and assured in its course. They weave into and out of jammy grooves, but its the nodding chorus that makes “Gypsy Hill” the highlight that it is as it rounds out side one.


Launching side two, “Be Here Now” would seem to signal a change in vibe, but it’s really just a progression from where “Gypsy Hill” was headed, that song a transitional centerpiece between the two sides of the EP. A sleepy flow and peaceful atmosphere can make it easy to look past how heavy “Be Here Now” actually is when it picks up, but Sun Voyager shift so easily between louder and quieter parts that by the time the four minutes are up, you’re just absolutely lost in it. All the better leading into “Lazy Daze” itself, which earns the title-track spot with its more accomplished melody and memorable roll. Backing “ooh” vocals behind Francisco add flourish to the verse and choruses, and what works best about Lazy Daze overall is once more underlined, and that’s that even when Sun Voyager are using straightforward structures — all of these songs are shorter and have fewer actual jams than the tracks on Mecca — they’re able to maintain hypnotic listener engagement even as they weave through different songwriting ideas. I won’t at all say I hope they never kick out a full-on jam again, if only because I don’t think they’re at a point where any element of their approach should be written off entirely, but the balance they strike on Lazy Daze of approach-tightness and sonic-looseness makes the 20 minutes of the EP’s span seem much, much wider, and really makes me look forward to hearing what kinds of shifts Sun Voyager might be able to pull off over the course of a debut full-length. I think they could give it a shot at this point, and I hope they find room to branch out a bit in terms of arrangements, maybe put an organ in there somewhere for one or two songs, some acoustics or additional percussion. Because if Lazy Daze proves anything, it’s that Sun Voyager have their sound as it is down pat and are ready to move forward from here.

Sun Voyager, Lazy Daze (2015)

Sun Voyager on Thee Facebooks

Sun Voyager on Bandcamp

King Pizza Records

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Duude, Tapes! Skunk Hawk, Skunk Hawk

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on February 24th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


While Philadelphia-based Randall Coon has a few prior digital releases under his belt for the solo-project Skunk Hawk, as I understand it, the six-song self-titled/self-released tape is the first to receive a physical pressing. The cassette is limited to 100 copies with a pro-printed tape and two-panel j-card, and finds the multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Coon — who appeared with King Buffalo on their 2013 demo (review here) and was in Velvet Elvis at the time of their 2012 release, In Deep Time (review here); both obviously based in Upstate NY — employing a variety of gleefully strange pop textures in a meld of psychedelic folk and bedroom stoner fuzz. Interestingly, the tracklist on the j-card lists the song “Frigidaire,” which closes side two, twice. The download version (not included with the tape, but available on Bandcamp) has it listed with side one comprised of skunk hawk“Water Born Devil,” “High School Ball” and “All My Heart,” and side two “There Will be Another Day, Love” (listed on the tape as “Another Day”), “Lovers of Pompeii” and “Frigidaire,” though in the download version, “Lovers of Pompeii” and “Frigidaire” are the same song. The tape also lists “Stone Embrace” on side two, so maybe there are still some kinks to work out.

My working theory is that “Stone Embrace” and “Lovers of Pompeii” are the same track with a changed title, and that that song is the middle one on side two of the tape, also the most intense of the collection, and that the actual closer of the tape is “Frigidaire,” which has a pulsing bassline and howled hook, which is accidentally listed twice on the tape but doesn’t come in the download. Nonetheless, it’s kind of hard to know what’s where, but however one chooses to listen, there’s plenty to dig into. A rawer form of “There Will be Another Day, Love” appeared on Skunk Hawk‘s 2011 EP, I Fell into the Sea and into the Earth, but other than that, the material here is new, and from the Angelo Badalamenti-style pop drama of “High School Ball” to the church organ-laced rhythmic drive of “Stone Embrace/Lovers of Pompeii,” Coon never relinquishes the experimental edge in the sound. “There Will be Another Day, Love” winds up a highlight for its insistent play of fuzz guitar and keys and Neil Young-via-Arbouretum vocal performance, but the jangly oddity and blown-out singing of “All My Heart” and the subtly-drummed vulnerability of “Water Born Devil” offer likewise satisfying results even if they take different routes to get there. If it’s confusing in a practical skunk hawk skunk hawkway, Skunk Hawk is as proportionally an engaging listen, toying with the balance between fuzzy rock and off-kilter less-frenetic Man Man-style indie songwriting in a manner that few would attempt, and pulling it off while crafting a personality of its own.

One can see easily why after several other releases, Coon might see fit to make Skunk Hawk‘s Skunk Hawk the first physical pressing from the project. I hope it’s not the last. It may be tough to figure out where one is at any given moment, but somehow that makes the listener more receptive to turns like the sneering apex of “Another Day,” “High School Ball”‘s abrasive midsection feedback or the low-mixed currents of effects noise, drones and other flourish sounds that crop up throughout. It’s not a release looking to be fully understood, and that’s one of the most exciting aspects of it.

Skunk Hawk, Skunk Hawk

Skunk Hawk on Bandcamp

Randall Coon on Soundcloud

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Duuude, Tapes! Spindrift, Exotic Detonation

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on February 12th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


Way out west there’s a band called Spindrift, and they’ve been a-ramblin’ for the better part of 20 years now. Back in 2012, guitarist/vocalist Kirkpatrick Thomas — who’s seen ’em come and seen ’em go as regards bandmates — took his troupe of Ennio Morricone-inspired bandoliers out on a five-week run of ghost towns, because, uh, clinical depression? Nah, I don’t know that. Point is, Spindrift ventured out and brought a film crew along and made a movie basically to go with the sounds they make that are — wait for it — inspired by movies. Got it? If it’s a question of the chicken or the egg as to which came first, the movie or the soundtrack, the answer is yes.

spindrift-exotic-detonation-tapeSince then, Ghost of the West has been shown here and there at festivals and special premieres and whatnot, and the soundtrack — also Spindrift‘s eighth and latest long-player — came out in 2013 on Tee Pee Records. It closed with a punked up take on “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” Very cool, lots of fun. Apparently there was some music left over, which is believable both because these cats jam and because some pieces are pretty short, and so the Exotic Detonation EP came to be. It’s a quick one, just three songs and about 11 minutes long, released on a two-sided, clear-blue cassette by Burger Records, but if you’ve ever or never heard Spindrift before, it makes a solid argument for what they do in their particular brand of cinematic desert-hued spaghetti Western psychedelia.

Side one of the tape is comprised of the title-track and “Ghosts Go West,” two shorter more livelier slices that are complemented on side two by the five-minute “High Plains Spindrifter,” which the tape notes also appeared in the film The Legend of the Widower Colby Wallace, to which Spindrift also supplied the score. That cut is something of a departure from the other two, a more minimal, foreboding atmospheric work marked out by Native American flute, sparse, descending guitar and a tense underlying drone — it has a threat of open spaces at night. To contrast, back on side one, opener “Exotic Detonation” starts with a direct port of the theme song to The Twilight Zone and moves into a gallop that, were it not for the punkishness of its drums, would just about make you dig at the grave of Arch Stanton.

spindrift-exotic-detonation-j-card“Ghosts Go West” as a more prominent low end and is in less of a rush generally, but the guitars open wider, echo further. Both it and “Exotic Detonation” are sort of thematic slices, but each is distinguished from the other, and by the time the tape clicks off at the end of “High Plains Spindrifter,” it’s a surprise because it’s so otherworldly and hypnotic. I haven’t seen Ghost of the West, but I’d be interested to know what visuals it accompanies. In my head it’s someplace where things like light pollution don’t exist.

Spindrift are about due for a follow-up to Ghost of the West, whether that’s a studio album with the current or at-least-current-last-time-I-looked-which-was-right-now lineup of Kirkpatrick Thomas, guitarist Thomas Bellier (also Blaak Heat Shujaa and who mixed the first two songs on Exotic Detonation and mastered the release), bassist Henry Evans and drummer James Acton, another soundtrack, or something else entirely. Whatever they wind up doing, they remain a band unto themselves soundwise and as a sampling of that, Exotic Detonation satisfies atmospherically and in its Western loyalist soundscapes.

Spindrift, “High Plains Spindrifter”

Spindrift on Thee Facebooks

Spindrift’s website

Burger Records

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Duuude, Tapes! Lightsabres, Spitting Blood

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on January 7th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster



Like Lightsabres‘ late-2013 debut, Demons (review here), the second full-length, Spitting Blood, is a deceptively complex outing. Released as a limited tape in an edition of 50 copies by HeviSike Records — 25 translucent red cassettes, 25 opaque red, with a foldout j-card and included patch — and already through its second vinyl pressing since releasing in Sept. 2014, it pulls together ranging impulses from garage rock, goth drama, heavy riffing, raw punk and more across its 13-track span, all songs clocking in at around or under two minutes long. A quick listen, multi-instrumentalist/vocalist John Strömshed (who also recorded and doubles in Tunga Moln) takes listeners through an otherworldly passage not quite as dark or extreme as the cover of the tape might indicate, but certainly fitting enough with the notion of cutting to the bone. The buzzsaw guitar tone that pervades “I Can’t Feel It,” which sounds like a hypothetical garage-recordedlightsabres-spitting-blood-inside-j-card Queens of the Stone Age demo circa 1991, and the later post-punk boogie of “Like Shit” slices and dices through the raw mix with little concern, for skin or otherwise.

That is, ultimately, what Strömshed uses to cloak the sonic diversity of Lightsabres. In another dimension, he’d be exploring ever deeper arrangements in limitless budgets of instrumentation and production style, but on Spitting Blood, it’s the mood and stylistic range that’s being explored, pushed outside of the comfort zone of genre. His take on the Misfits‘ “Hybrid Moments” (a personal favorite) is authentic to the original, and somehow, it fits smoothly between the would-be-nihilistic-if-it-wasn’t-such-a-hook of “Fuck Tomorrow” and the head-down low-end punk of “Sonic Death” near the end of side 1. To further the delightfully confounding nature of the tape, each half ends with a sweet, ambient moment of guitar melody, “Dark Matter” wistful and folkish, and album-closer “I Dream of Space” an experimental-feeling brush with psychedelic minimalism at least in part presented backwards. Coming off a song like “No Cash,” which is the longest inclusion on Spitting Blood at 2:36 and toys with drumless pop drama in a near-abrasive blown-out wash of fuzz, it is particularly effective in highlighting just how deep Strömshed goes in his lightsabres-spitting-blood-side-1pursuit of… whatever the hell it might be that he’s after.

But it’s the rawness that makes it all consistent. Like earliest Six Organs of Admittance — and at the same time, not at all like it — Lightsabres‘ consuming rough edge gives even an angrier punker like “Pigs” an underlying intimacy, almost a personalized feel, that works greatly toward lending further individuality to what would in many other contexts be a loosely familiar or at very least more straightforward offering. Coupled with a core of songwriting that will be apparent even on the most superficial of listens as the catchiness of these songs reaches up from the dense tonal swamp in which they reside to bash the listener over the head, that still-developing individualism makes Spitting Blood both a worthy successor to Demons and an enjoyable reveling in proto-grunge that, in a world of cult themes that it eschews, proves legitimately cult worthy. A project of which people will no doubt continue to take notice, and rightfully so.

Lightsabres, Spitting Blood (2014)

Lightsabres on Bandcamp

Lightsabres on Thee Facebooks

HeviSike Records

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Duuude, Tapes! The Hyle, Demo

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on December 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster


It doesn’t take too long into “Lucifero,” the opening track of Danish doomers The Hyle‘s four-song Demo, to figure out where they’re coming from. Pressed in a limited edition of 150 tapes by Caligari Records — pro-printed thick-stock four-panel j-card, black and clear case, purple cassette with the print directly on it (rather than a label) — the release finds the somewhat mysterious three-piece nestled into the post-Electric Wizard frame of doom, starting out with quiet, spacious, foreboding guitar and opening quickly into a rolling groove topped with a winding smoke-trail of a lead. Echoing clean vocals provide further basis for the comparison throughout “Lucifero” and its side one companion, “Serpent King,” as well as side two’s “Spiritual Sacrifice” and “Children of the Divine,” but if it’sthe hyle (Photo by Rasmus Leo) a sonic likeness noted, let that also stand as testament to The Hyle‘s ability to craft a hook, since “Lucifero” likewise serves significant notice in that regard.

They keep lineup information minimal, but Demo was recorded, mixed and mastered by Jens Dandanell and Caligari has seen fit to keep true to its overarching atmosphere with the tape, the inside liner of which is dedicated to a murky, almost black metal-style photo by Rasmus Leo that complements the All is Visual cover of the release itself. The music is similarly cohesive. It may or may not be The Hyle‘s first release, but Demo sounds like the work of a band who knows what they want out of their sound, “Serpent King” branching out further vocally than “Lucifero” and helping distinguish the band from their central point of influence even as they continue to weave a torrent of low end punctuated by classically swinging drums with an otherworldly psychedelic vibe. “Serpent King” fades out long on a guitar solo to close out side one of the tape, a moment’s respite consumed by droning before “Spiritual Sacrifice” and “Children of the Divine” take hold.

A more fervent stomp provides the resounding impression of “Spiritual Sacrifice,” at least initially until the slow unfolding hypnosis takes hold, pushing farther out into darkened psychedelics and an obscure morass the hyle demo coverof deep tonality. By then, The Hyle‘s nod is locked in, and they do nothing to interrupt it as side two plays out, though they clearly save their nastiest riffing for last. “Children of the Divine” is meaner in tone than its predecessors, if consistent in its overall approach, its abyssal drear and spaciousness marked by a particularly memorable riff and groove-riding vocals, laid back in their delivery, but showing a burgeoning personality that could easily develop over time, layers arriving in a languid call-and-response chorus that coincide with some later guitar harmonics to speak to a stronger sense of arrangement and performance to come as The Hyle move past Demo. As a first release, though, these four songs are confident in their presentation of aesthetic and likewise assured in their craftsmanship. For many listeners, elements will ring familiar, but it’s in the flashes of individuality throughout Demo that The Hyle‘s real potential is unveiled.

The Hyle, Demo (2014)

The Hyle on Thee Facebooks

The Hyle on Bandcamp

Demo at Caligari Records

Caligari Records on Bandcamp

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Duuude, Tapes! Witchstone, Tales of the Riff Riders

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on December 9th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster


Calgary stoner four-piece Witchstone make no attempt to steer listeners away from their riffy mindset. Their self-released debut full-length, Tales of the Riff Riders, is a four-song cassette that offers front-to-back groove and fuzz, diving headfirst into the Sabbath-and-Sleep school of stoner rock for extended cuts like “Riff Riders Part 1,” “Riff Riders Part 2,” which together make up the 22 minutes of the album’s first half. It’s charming stuff, if familiar. The compressed distortion suits the tape format as well as the translucent purple of the cassette itself suits the band’s aesthetic, and though their approach is straightforward in its way, Witchstone — guitarist/vocalist Sean Edwards, bassist/vocalist Andrew Sanderson, guitarist Ian Lemke and drummer Marcello Castronuovo — have plenty of room in their jams for establishing a sense of personality. That comes through as well on side two’s “Boson Raiders,” an instrumental that’s also the only song here under 10 minutes long, and the concluding “DeepSpace PathFinder,” which uses all of its 16:31 to unfold Witchstone‘s grandest included jam.

witchstone-tales-of-the-riff-riders-caseToss in some caveman howls and cleaner vocal tradeoffs between Edwards and Sanderson, some tempo shifts, quiet-to-loud changes and you probably get a decent idea of where Witchstone are coming from, but nothing about Tales of the Riff Riders comes across as shooting for innovation. They’re preaching to the converted, in a sense, and going for a quality nod — which they get almost immediately — rather than something that’s going to reinvent the genre around them. I have no problem with that whatsoever. “Riff Riders Part 1” (11:06) moves at a languid but steady roll and sets a forward momentum of lurching groove that lives up to the track’s title. Let there be no doubt they’re riding that riff. Castronuovo gives hints of technical prowess in tight snare fills as “Riff Riders Part 1” marches toward its midsection break, which leads to an instrumental jam that previews more Wurlitzer inclusion on the finale and leads not quite directly into the no-less-weedian intro of “Riff Riders Part 2” (10:21). That they’d go to silence between one and the other is curious, since it’s a two-parter, but on tape it feeds directly anyway, and if Witchstone haven’t made their point by the time “Riff Riders Part 1” is done, then it’s not going to matter.

Tales of the Riff Riders follows Witchstone‘s 2012 self-titled debut EP, and as it’s their first long-player, I’d probably be inclined to give them leeway anyhow, but their kind of repetitive jam-out really doesn’t require it. They’re doing what they’re doing. It’s a stoner band jamming out stoner grooves for stoner heads — none of which actually requires drug use, if you were wondering — and as “Riff Riders Part 2” unfolds, cleaner vocals into a faster instrumental movement, the first half setting up the run in the second, a slowdown and some echoing shouts leading to the big finish, it’s so much more satisfying to just go with it than to try and analyze the band’s moves that I feel like I’m cheapening the experience even talking about it. I doubt that, if it’s the first stoner rock record you’ve ever heard, you’re going to put on Tales of the Riff Riders and go, “Oh wow, now I get it!” but if you’re in the genre and know where Witchstone are coming from, then these songs are like a comfortable t-shirt you can put witchstoneon and immediately feel at home. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

By the time they get around to the noisy beginnings of “Boson Raiders” after a quick side flip, some vocal effects and added percussion add further character to the proceedings without deviating in mood from the spirit of the two-parter back on side A, and the rolling instrumental groove that emerges is well in league with what’s still to come on “DeepSpace PathFinder” as well, the closer crashing in on a bassline from Sanderson that, along with Castronuovo‘s drums, is the foundation for Tales of the Riff Riders‘ best linear build. The Wurlitzer returns to add atmosphere along with Lemke and Edwards‘ guitars, and vocals arrive shortly before three and a half minutes in, rawer and jarringly forward in the mix, either dual shouts or just dually layered, breaking eventually into a heavy psych-style lead (actually, that might be a cordless drill run through effects pedals), another verse and the solo-topped apex. To Witchstone‘s credit, they probably could’ve ended “DeepSpace PathFinder” on the feedback that takes hold 11 minutes in and had another groove in their pocket like “Riff Riders” one and two, but instead they push forward with a smooth, almost sleazy Sabbath-bred jam, giving one last immersive moment before a sustained rumble and hum leads the way out.

There’s a lot about Tales of the Riff Riders that’s familiar, but between the swing in Castronuovo‘s drums, the righteousness from the guitars and tonal warmth in Sanderson‘s bass, there’s also a lot to dig into. They’re not asking a lot from their audience, and in return, they’re delivering a solid showing of genre with a weird-enough sensibility to pieces here and there to give some hint as to how Witchstone could stand out from the pack down the line. No complaints.

Witchstone, Tales of the Riff Riders (2014)

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Witchstone on Bandcamp

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