Causa Sui, Pewt’r Sessions 3: A Beginning in Progress

Posted in Reviews on July 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I want one. I hope I get one.

The Pewt’r Sessions collaboration between Danish heavy psych explorers Causa Sui and Ron “Pewt’r” Schneiderman, known for his work with Massachusetts’ improvisers Sunburned Hand of the Man and his label, Spirit of Orr, traces back to live shows performed in 2006. In 2009, the two entities got together for a couple days’ worth of recording, and that resulted in the first two installments, and the new Pewt’r Sessions 3 was put to tape by Causa Sui guitarist Jonas Monk during Summer 2013, just as they were issuing the stellar Euporie Tide full-length on their own El Paraiso Records imprint. With the lineup of SchneidermanMonk, bassist Jess Kahr, drummer Jakob Skøtt and keyboardist Rasmus Rasmussen, Pewt’r Sessions 3 fills out two vinyl sides with just three tracks, and stands in the spirit of Sessions 1 and 2 by being completely improvised. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of all is that four years had passed from when the other two releases were tracked and when this one came to be, considering the smoothness of the pieces — “Abyssal Plain” (8:29), “Eutopia” (5:03) and “Incipiency Suite” (26:34) — and the flow that Causa Sui and Schneiderman are able to elicit over the course of the release. It’s not quite a full-length album feel, and being the third installment of what’s so far a trilogy, there’s a bit of a work-in-progress spirit behind the music, but they leave little to question why they’d want to document the renewed collaboration, and Pewt’r Sessions 3 engages gorgeous washes of psych/Krautrock wanderings delivered with a rare spirit of spontaneity.

Its circumstances don’t do justice to the listening experience. Seems simple enough that Causa Sui and Schneiderman got together for a day or two and jammed out and kept what they wanted to keep, but it’s the open, creative atmosphere in which Pewt’r Sessions 3 was crafted that the recording most conveys. “Abyssal Plain” winds its way to life with some faded-in feedback and cymbal and tom hits, ambient, swirling guitars, and it liquefied before it’s even really underway, one movement flowing from the next as the jam begins to take shape. Distortion hums behind, but if there’s a threat, it’s vague and far off, and Causa Sui and Schneiderman gradually make their way into a build, languid and tripped out as it is, but with the guitars weaving lines around each other, that initial feeling of spaciousness is never lost, even as Skøtt starts to move to more solid drum progressions, keeping a beat, jazzy and loose as it is. A free-jazz feel is a good starting point, since while a definite riff emerges for a time in “Abyssal Plain,” the vibe persists, and carries into both “Eutopia” and especially “Incipiency Suite” as well. But immediately the feeling is smooth, comfortable, the chemistry familiar. I’m sure there was more to it, but if you told me these guys just flipped a switch, hit it and this is what came out, I’d believe you. The central guitar line of “Eutopia” seems more plotted, but the dreamy atmospherics built up around it in guitar and keys carry the experimentalism forward, the drums stay calm, and a course of-the-moment is worked through before a fade brings it to a close for a moment of serenity before the go-anywhere-do-anything trip-out of Pewt’r Sessions 3‘s second side.

I did not get the vinyl, but this is what it might look like if I had.

“Eutopia” is distinct enough from what Causa Sui do on their own — so is “Abyssal Plain,” for that matter — but “Incipiency Suite” is a different beast altogether, and it’s fitting it starts out with some funky-style wah since the mix plays such a large role in it. At over 26 minutes, it was pieced together by Monk after the recording was complete from various parts recorded throughout the day. One might expect this to lead to a jumpy feel, but “Incipiency Suite” flows well enough to be its own album. I don’t know how involved Monk was in arranging which movement went where, or if he just transitioned between parts as they happened, but the end result is utterly hypnotic — a dead-on jam of molten psychedelia that on its own is worth the price of admission. As for the switches between one part to the next, they’re subtle and they create an overarching progression that’s as organic as the improvisations themselves. It’s here that Causa Sui and Schneiderman come across with their jazziest influence, the guitars spacing out with echoing twirls of notes while Skøtt drives the freakout on drums. It gets noisy and it gets to be a wash, and it moves into empty minimalist space and sun-baked pastoralia in a gorgeous summary of what it is to be psychedelic, and by the time it’s over, they’ve all gone so far out that the song seems to just float away into its own gorgeousness. Both Causa Sui and Ron Schneiderman have plenty of experience with improvisational music, and to hear that play out over these 40 minutes feels like a glimpse into a raw creative process at work. Pewt’r Sessions 3 covers a lot of ground, especially in “Incipiency Suite,” but if there’s more from these recordings or if they have to get together again to make it happen, one just hopes it’s not long before Pewt’r Sessions 4 comes to fruition, because Causa Sui and Schneiderman sound ready to keep exploring.

Causa Sui and Ron Schneiderman, “Incipiency Suite”

Causa Sui on Thee Facebooks

El Paraiso Records website

 

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Duuude, Tapes! Dozer, Universe 75 Demo

Posted in Buried Treasure, Duuude, Tapes! on July 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Look at this frickin' thing.

A band’s early days are often a mishmash of releases, songs cobbled together from rehearsal recordings and put out as demos with live tracks from shows or different sessions. A few songs are copied for friends one week, and the next a demo is professionally pressed under the same title. That’s just part of promoting a new band. You try and get as much out there as possible. As such, when I opened the mail and found this surprise copy of Dozer‘s 1998 demo, Universe 75 – the tape gifted to me unexpectedly by Lansing, MI’s Postman Dan, who’s come up around these parts a few times over the years and will again before the next week is out — it wasn’t a shock to discover that its tracklisting differed from what’s Duuuuuuuuuuude.largely been settled on as being Universe 75.

I know the story behind this tape, know that Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa sent it to Dan when Dozer were putting out their early material, that it came with an orange flyer that had Han Solo on it firing a blaster the laser of which was the Dozer logo, and if you can’t trust Postman Dan, you can’t trust nobody, so its authenticity is without question as far as I’m concerned. I damn near wept when I opened the package and found it.
What’s commonly regarded as Universe 75 has six tracks, and this tape — dubbed onto a Maxell 100-minute blank cassette, though of course it reaches nowhere near that mark time-wise — has four. “Supersoul,” which opens, is the only song shared between the two. It and “Captain Spaceheart” Awesome.– written in the liner here as “Captain Space Heart” — also appeared on Dozer‘s 2000 full-length debut, In the Tail of a Comet, while “Centerline” and “Tanglefoot” showed up later in 1998 on the first of the two Dozer vs. Demon Cleaner split releases.

At this point, Dozer was Holappa, guitarist/vocalist Fredrik Nordin, bassist Johan Rockner and drummer Erik Bäckwall, and these songs were recorded at the end of Jan. 1998 by Bengt Bäcke — here given the nickname “Action.” Of course, he’d come a long way by the time he was continuing to work with Holappa in Greenleaf and tracking that band’s albums, but even in ’98, Bäcke knew what he was doing. The sound of the tape is raw, and the bass is way, way high in the mix, but overall it’s clear enough to get a sense of the songs and where Dozer were coming from stylistically in some of their earliest days, Nordin sounding more directly indebted to Kyuss‘ John Garcia than he even would by the time In the Tail of a Comet was released, and the band seeming to work at full stonerly jamble on “Captain Space Heart” only to up the swing as “Tanglefoot” closes out.

As a longtime nerd for Dozer (obviously not as long as the Postman), I felt incredibly This.fortunate to hear these songs at all, let alone to be able to sit with them and think of them in context of the Borlänge four-piece’s pre-debut-LP progression. They were prolific as they solidified their sound, and over singles, EPs and splits with Demon Cleaner and Unida, they honed a reinvented — maybe “relocated” is the word? — take on what was then desert rock that of course would turn them into something different entirely over their years together, which hopefully aren’t done as they continue to play shows periodically. A snapshot of one of Sweden’s greatest contributions to heavy rock as a young band is something genuinely special, and I know I’ll cherish it in a cool, dry place for years to come and use it as fodder while I continue to campaign for a compilation of their pre-album material.

Dozer, “Centerline”

Dozer on Thee Facebooks

Dozer’s website

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Rodeo Drive, Morbid Beauty: Setting the Balance

Posted in Reviews on July 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Stoner rock.

According to the liner panel of the digipak, Morbid Beauty, the debut full-length from Berlin-based DIY heavy rockers Rodeo Drive, was recorded in “October 2014.” Certainly anything’s possible, and if the album does indeed hail from the near-future, it’s got a modern take on fuzz and flourishes of heavy psychedelia to match what one might expect. Featuring Samsara Blues Experiment‘s Hans Eiselt on bass and vocals and recorded by Richard Behrens, formerly of the same outfit and currently handling low end in Heat, Rodeo Drive hit on classic power trio methods and present them with a newcomer act’s intensity of purpose. Joined in the band by guitarist Friedrich Stemmer and René Schulze on drums/synth, Eiselt takes some cues in patterning vocals from his main outfit — one might recognize throaty, echoing shouts from Samsara Blues Experiment‘s earlier days — but on the whole is more stylistically geared toward straightforward, traditional stonerisms. Stemmer leads the charge throughout most of Morbid Beauty‘s eight tracks/41 minutes, but moments of adventurousness shine through and Rodeo Drive show a bit of boldness in their choices throughout, like opening with “Stoner of Mass Destruction,” a six-minute instrumental that, until closer “Snuff Eater,” also proves to be their jammiest stretch. Even there, however, what Rodeo Drive most specialize in their first time out is establishing a riff, working around it, and then returning to it in bigger, sometimes slower form. “Stoner of Mass Destruction” does this effectively, as do “All in Vain,” “Poultry Bro,” “Vlansch” and “Snuff Eater,” though the moods of these tracks vary around a consistent, jazzy chemistry between Eiselt and Schulze and the varyingly psychedelic and dense tonality in Stemmer‘s guitar.

Particularly with Eiselt‘s vocal delivery, the recording captures a live feel, and that proves all the better for the deft rhythmic changes that begin to show up on “Stoner of Mass Destruction” and continue into the shorter “All in Vein” (tied with “Poultry Bro” for the briefest here at 2:38) and well beyond. The second cut has less space for jamming out, but serves to demonstrate early the diversity in Rodeo Drive‘s approach, which continues to shift as Morbid Beauty progresses, whether it’s to the extended drum solo intro to “The Void,” which unfolds with a Songs for the Deaf-style thrust, or “Poultry Bro,” with its circular vibe and intricate boogie feel, Schulze running back and forth on toms to build a tension that opens to a wide-strummed chorus. If one was to divide Morbid Beauty into sides, “Vlansch” would likely end the first (the back cover of the CD supports this), and it does so playing slow psychedelic blues off bigger-riffed nod, keeping the tempo down, especially in relation to “Poultry Bro,” out of which it emerges, and the mood wistful even as Stemmer‘s winding lead opens to jammier wah-shuffle. It’s not long before they’re back to the turned-on downer vibe, Eiselt‘s voice raw without sounding like a put-on, and the lumbering riff from whence they came, building it to a finish that fades its rumble out before the grunge guitar opening of “Earth Dark Diseases” begins the album’s second half, which isn’t necessarily more stylistically adventurous than the first, but differently arranged, with three tracks instead of five, “Earth Dark Diseases” (7:35) and “Snuff Eater” (7:55) being the longest songs with the instrumental “Aggrestic” (4:37) between.

I took this screen cap when I posted the video and they wound up using it as a press shot. Fair enough.  A little dark, maybe, but otherwise alright.

As noted, “Snuff Eater” is where Rodeo Drive are at their jammiest, and though it reaches similar lengths, “Earth Dark Diseases” has a different personality. Eiselt‘s vocals are almost a growl over Stemmer‘s plus-sized riff, and while it opens up in the middle, there’s a moody sensibility maintained even during the instrumental build, coming to a head just before the five-minute mark when the guitar and drums drop out and the bass leads back into the progression that will serve as the foundation for the next two minutes’ groove. The bass also starts “Aggrestic,” though Eiselt‘s soon joined by Stemmer and Schulze, and what seems like another jangly sort of rush is offset temporarily by noodling and subsequent forward motion. It ultimately adds little the album hasn’t already put in Rodeo Drive‘s wheelhouse, but as a precedent and a break between the two longer cuts, an entirely instrumental track isn’t a bad thing to have. And though it reaches nearly eight minutes long, “Snuff Eater” doesn’t lose track of where it’s headed, and the immersive jam pulls back to the verse/chorus structure before the song is over, as if to remind listeners that Rodeo Drive haven’t forgotten. As the first public offering of their songwriting, that’s good to know, and like the bulk of Morbid Beauty, “Snuff Eater” sets the trio on a path from which to progress from here on out. They’ve reportedly been a band for eight years, so I don’t know what kind of pace they’re working with in terms of releases, but Morbid Beauty establishes a chemistry worth a follow-up and provides a strong front-to-back level of quality in the meantime. I’ll take it on its own if that’s how it’s coming, but I’d much rather see Morbid Beauty as a sign of things to come when Rodeo Drive get to the actual near future.

Rodeo Drive, Morbid Beauty (2014)

Rodeo Drive on Thee Facebooks

Rodeo Drive on Bandcamp

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Duuude, Tapes! Methra, IV: Ronkonkoma EP

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on July 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Thee tape.

As the title hints, IV: Ronkonkoma is the fourth short release from Tucson, Arizona, duo Methra. After bustling their lineup over the course of the last few years and putting out material on 7″ and 10″, a split with Godhunter, and digital, they’ve arrived at the duo of guitarist/vocalist Nick Genitals and drummer Andy Kratzenburg and the latest five-track outing, which clocks in at just over 21 minutes, finds them exploring the line between deathly sludge and more traditionally riffed doom, Nick switching his vocals between low-register guttural growling, raw-throated screams and Sabbathian cleaner singing following opener “Breatharian (Supreme Master Ascending),” which unfolds the start of side one with a thickened lumber stood out all the more by the use of a sample talking about breatharianism, which has its roots in Hindu Thee liner.philosophy but is essentially the practice of staring at the sun for nourishment.

The subsequent “Blessings” showcases more of the variety in Nick‘s vocals, with a chorus that’s made almost sneaky in how catchy it is by the viscous tones surrounding. Particularly for a duo, the sound throughout IV: Ronkonkoma is full and demented more in the manner of Midwestern sludge — think Fistula and the many deeply troubled branches on their family tree, though I acknowledge the “meth” part of the duo’s moniker might be a factor there — than Methra‘s more metallized Tucson countrymen and drummer-sharers Godhunter, but particularly on tape a sense of rawness is maintained in “Honest Men” and perhaps most of all on side one finisher “Slumscraper,” which builds to a punkish noisy fuckall sudden stop leading to another sample, this one talking about slicing heads off with a cutlass. It’s a long way from charmingly dopey New Age spiritualism, but by then, Methra have indeed made it a journey.

Most curious about the tape is that “SBS” occupies side two all by itself. Listening first to the digital version, I wondered if maybe the one on the tape was extended somehow, if Nick and Kratzenburg just rode that chugging riff for 20 minutes to even it up, or if there was a long sample to make up for that time, or something to draw side two out to match side one, but nope, the cassette of IV: Ronkonkoma is the same as the mp3, and though “SBS” fakes its ending on both before crashing back in for a few more measures, the tape has a long silence following. If it was Methra‘s intent to single the song out — it’s not like you actually have to sit there and listen to all that nothing, what with this modern age of fast-forwarding and whatnot — they did it, In all its glory.and “SBS,” with its anti-having-a-job lyrics and air-pushing groove, earns its place well with a modus consistent with “Blessings” and “Honest Men,” only pushed further with a longer runtime and a sense of build added to by Kratzenburg‘s frantic snare work and Nick‘s vocal tradeoffs.

If the way they want to go is to keep belting out shorter offerings, then IV: Ronkonkoma seems to set them up well. Methra weren’t far off from putting the pieces together on 2012′s self-titled digital release, but the latest installment builds on that in a way that makes them sound even more solidified, and if Nick and Kratzenburg choose to continue as a duo, they’ve given themselves ground on which to progress while also establishing a style that smoothly bridges subgenre gaps and comes across as inherently their own. The edges are rough, but that’s the idea. Don’t be fooled. Methra know what they’re doing. And if they want to take on the task of a debut full-length, they’re ready for that too.

Methra, IV: Ronkonkoma EP (2014)

Methra on Thee Facebooks

Methra on Bandcamp

Acid Reflux Records

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Novembers Doom, Bled White: Elongating a Grand Circle

Posted in Reviews on July 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Sad face. (Art by Travis Smith)

Chicago death-doom outfit Novembers Doom released their first album in 1995, nearly 20 years ago now. They weren’t the first American death-doom act, and there were others who solidified around the same time, but Novembers Doom were easily among the earliest adopters of a dramatic melancholy most common then in the European doom scene pre-Reverend Bizarre, bands like Katatonia, Paradise Lost, earliest Anathema and My Dying Bride serving as an influences to be melded with Novembers Doom‘s own Chicago death metal style. Their progression in the years since Amid its Hallowed Mirth has been a steady line in terms of quality but has presented several distinct shifts in sound, into full-on death-doom on records like 2002′s To Welcome the Fade and 2005′s The Pale Haunt Departure, and more recently, leaning back stylistically more to death metal. The Pale Haunt Departure presented a discernible starting point, but the movement has been gradual, and over 2007′s The Novella Reservoir, 2009′s Into Night’s Requiem Infernal (review here) and 2011′s Aphotic, they’ve continued to pursue that direction. Their latest outing, Bled White (released on The End Records, their label of the last nine years), furthers the progression to the point that Novembers Doom have very little of what would commonly be considered doom left in their sound. Instead, they offer 11 tracks/68 minutes of depressive death metal, marked by the growl/clean-vocal tradeoffs and capital ‘r’ lyrical Romanticism of frontman Paul Kuhr and the persistent double-kick of Garry Naples. In its production and execution, Bled White is a metal album, and it retains that status even at its most subdued or melodic points, as on “Clear” or the morose “Just Breathe.”

There seems to be a certain nihilism — or at least fuckall — in how the full-length is put together. Not in the songs themselves, which are rigidly structured, but in how they’re arranged and the overall mentality of Bled White‘s construction. With a strong opening duo of driving, catchy and pummeling metal in the title-track and subsequent “Heartfelt” before the softer “Just Breathe” and acoustic interlude “Scorpius,” it seems reasonable to call it front-loaded. After “Scorpius,” “Unrest” kicks back into Novembers Doom‘s blend of death and melodic theatricality — guitarists Larry Roberts and Vito Marchese and bassist Mike Feldman carefully winding between beauty and brutality as Naples tosses in blastbeats and breakdown grooves and Kuhr self-harmonizes — and from there they set about toying with the balance in their sound over the course of the brighter-toned “The Memory Room,” the blistering “The Brave Pawn,” and “Clear,” which has a feel like what Opeth might’ve turned into had they kept their more inventive rhythm section and dialed back on the prog fetish. But no question the opening salvo is Bled White‘s most memorable. This seems somewhat incongruous with the fact that Bled White is also the longest record in Novembers Doom‘s 19-year tenure. At nearly 70 minutes, it’s as though when they were piecing it together, they said, “Fuck it, we’ll put this stuff up front for the people who are only going to listen to three or four songs anyway, and the rest will be there for anyone who wants it.” That’s not to say the back end of Bled White doesn’t have its high points — the solo in “The Grand Circle” is the best here, and “Animus” digs into satisfying bludgeonry before the nine-and-a-half-minute “The Silent Dark” closes out with a suitable payoff beginning with some standalone raw harmonies from Kuhr – just that by the time they get there, Novembers Doom have already pushed the stylistic bounds they’re going to push this time out. The nihilism aspect comes into play, then, because nine records in, they didn’t decide to hold that material back. It’s there if the listener wants it.

Going up?

Obviously I don’t know this. The case could just as easily be that Novembers Doom loved each of these tracks so much they couldn’t live with the thought of not including them. Frankly, I don’t think the cases are mutually exclusive. Novembers Doom, however, are a viciously underrated band. For all their early pursuit of death-doom, they’re left out of nearly every conversation of pioneering metal, and while they’ve always been too in-between stylistically for an American metal audience — which, admittedly, is probably the most open-minded it’s ever been right now — for a long time they were likewise too American for Europe. They’ve enjoyed success, played fests, found a loyal following, but they’ve never been the kind of influential touchstone they easily could’ve been. The reasons for this are undoubtedly complex –it’s not the kind of question one asks in an interview: “How come you guys aren’t huge?” — but if the result is that on Bled WhiteNovembers Doom have cast aside genre considerations and made their longest outing to date because it pleases them to have done it and they believe (rightly so) in the strength of their songwriting, that only makes Bled White a more honest and admirably sincere album. It can be a challenge if you’re not already a fan of the band in terms of the consistency of mood and structure, but they’ve thought of that and accommodated. For those who have traced their progression, they’ll find Bled White fits along the directional line, and that nine albums on, Novembers Doom continue to push their sound into new places in their subtle way and at their own pace. To look back on the vast stylistic terrain they’ve covered all these years is to be reminded of just how far they’ve come and to catchy a glimpse of where they might go.

Novembers Doom, “Bled White” from Bled White (2014)

Novembers Doom on Thee Facebooks

The End Records

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On Wax: Dune, Progenitor EP

Posted in On Wax on July 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I said I pilot I pilot...

On their debut EP, Progenitor, Scottish four-piece Dune successfully meld the varying impulses of metal and desert rock, creating a sound both vast and ambient that shifts smoothly into movements of big-toned crunching aggression. The resulting tracks are not quite stoner metal, which would seem to imply a Sleep influence — there isn’t one here — but a kind of desert metal which finds its variety furthered through the liberal implementation of interludes, particularly on side A of the transparent red, limited-to-300-copies Wasted State Records 12″ vinyl. Out digitally in December 2013 before this June 2014 pressing, it is a short release, topping out at just over 29 minutes, but in that time Dune showcase not only stylistic nuance, but a commitment to standing out in the vinyl form as well, both through the packaging, thick stock and including aI said I pilot the dune... liner the aesthetic of which matches the band’s sci-fi thematic, and through the curious division of the interlude “Pillars of Eternity” between the end of side A and the start of side B.

“Pillars of Eternity” is one of three included instrumentals on Progenitor, the other two being the intro, “Gravity Signal,” a building cosmic pulse and noise wash that leads directly into the Kyuss-meets-swirl opening riff of “Protostar,” and the closing linear build of “Orbital Remains,” which caps side B on an engagingly spaced-out note. Maybe because so much of the platter is dedicated to atmospherics it seems surprising when Dune give so much attention to vocal arrangements throughout. The band is made up of guitarists Victor Vicart and Dan Barter, bassist Simon Anger and drummer Dudley Tait, and everyone adds vocals in one form or another, though Anger is credited with backing vocals and Tait with “voice,” so there’s likely some distinction there. In any case, for “Protostar” and “Oscillations of Color,” Dune‘s riffy largesse is met with early-Mastodon growls, giving the EP a feel that would stand in line with sludge if the songs weren’t also so crisply produced or varied in themselves, “Protostar” breaking before its midpoint to a guitar-led ambient section and building back up to full-boar and an impressive solo from there as it rolls on past six and a half minutes. It feeds directly into “Oscillations of Color,” which uses guitar triplet gallop as a central riff aroundI said I pilot I pi-lot.... which a memorable chorus and proggy-feeling midsection (topped with distorted outer space spoken word, likely by Tait) circle.

The second vocalized track might be the most accomplished on Progenitor, but side B’s “When Planets Die” and “Red Giant” stand up to it — as did “Protostar,” for that matter — the subdued echoes of “Pillars of Eternity” leading the way out of side A and then, for just a few seconds, building into the drums and sparse guitar at the start of “When Planets Die.” A faster rush and churningly insistent, “When Planets Die” still holds to Dune‘s depth of arrangement and sense of overall control, also proving more straightforward without a break in the middle like the pair comprising the meat of side A, though a few last minute turns are head-spinning before the song ends cold and “Red Giant” picks up with a swell of feedback. I don’t want to spoil, because the arrival makes for Progenitor‘s most glorious payoff, but when the music slows and all the vocals come together on “Red Giant,” it’s reminiscent of the swaying that makes Hull‘s material so triumphant, and Dune might be the only other band I’ve heard do it so well. A driving chaos ensues, and they cap stomping before feedback rings out and fades, letting effects noise give way to “Orbital Remains,” the quiet guitars of which move into a satisfyingly desert-hued progression that gets an apex not overblown — there’d be no point in competing with “Red Giant” anyway — but still enough to make the finale more than an afterthought amidst all the pummel before it.

I SAID I PILOT THAT FUCK-ING DUUUUUUUUUNE.Dune have such a firm grip on their presentation, it’s easy to forget Progenitor is their debut EP, but there’s still room for them to grow as well. The peaceful vibing of “Orbital Remains” and the subtlety of its linear progression in particular speak to the potential for Dune to do more in their songwriting than offset clobbering riffs with guitar-effects interludes, and indeed, taken as a whole, Progenitor shows that evolution is already underway. It’s a righteously heavy two sides that the Edinburgh foursome have conjured to announce their arrival, and should be welcome for anyone who longs for a few meaner stretches than most heavy rock is willing to provide. Topped off by the Ross McKendrick cover art, whether you’ve read Frank Herbert or not, Dune‘s first vinyl has plenty to offer those who’d set needle to wax.

Dune, Progenitor (2014)

Dune on Thee Facebooks

Dune on Twitter

Dune on Bandcamp

Wasted State Records

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Dunst, Archimedes Waffen: Daily Mantras

Posted in Reviews on July 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Archimedes' bowl.

Originally recorded in 2011 and digitally released in 2013, the second and final full-length, Archimedes Waffen, from German progressive heavy psych instrumentalists Dunst sees a revived presence in the physical realm thanks to a new vinyl issue on Electric Magic Records, the imprint helmed by Samsara Blues Experiment guitarist/vocalist Christian PetersDunst‘s relationship with that band goes even deeper than the label association as well, since Archimedes Waffen was recorded by SBE bassist Richard Behrens at Big Snuff Studio in Berlin, about 90 minutes south of Dunst‘s former hometown of Templin. There are some shared sonic elements too, but it rings more like a commonality of mindset than direct influence. Dunst – which prior to disbanding was comprised of guitarist Daniel Rexhausen, bassist Johannes Schulz, drummer Philip Marschall and effects noisemaker/vocalist Sebastian Adolph (there are way more effects noises on the album than there are vocals) — released their self-titled debut in 2011, and here on the follow-up, they come across well established within a heavy psychedelic approach to jamming. Over the course of six extended tracks, they explore the spaces between such heavyweights as Colour HazeMy Sleeping KarmaCausa Sui, and indeed Samsara Blues Experiment, while working in the pursuit of their own musical identity. Already pushing the bounds of vinyl at 53 minutes, the Electric Magic version of Archimedes Waffen cuts down the original album length from over an hour, pulling out an intro, outro and the 10-minute “Vincent Raven,” which can still be heard on the digital edition, and jumbles the original tracklisting to take better advantage of an LP’s two-sided structure. Nonetheless, Archimedes Waffen remains an immersive slice of heavy jamming, familiar in some aspects but portraying a building character in progress.

Adolph‘s synth swirl and other effects go a long way in adding to that personality early on, giving the mix more depth than it might otherwise have. In comparison to Dunst‘s first outing — putting aside a somewhat rawer production as well – Archimedes Waffen presents a much broader range, the relaxed stretches of opener “Kincha King” immediately engaging the listener with a patient, hypnotic roll, where parts of Dunst‘s Dunst feel a little more jagged with just RexhausenSchulz, and Marschall present. It’s a smoother sound on the second album, in other words, and as the 10-minute launch point gives way to the title-track — which, with “We Can Try to Play Like or We Can Try…” and “Hammerhigh,” is one of three cuts that hovers just on the other side of seven and a half minutes long; as brief as Dunst get – that fluidity is maintained, and Adolph adds to the roll and chemistry found well intact from the other three players. Rexhausen takes a lead prior to the midsection of “Archimedes Waffen” that’s almost as impressive for how Schulz and Marschall meet it head-on for the guitarist’s own playing, and they continue to move endearingly through peaks and valleys, taking a ground-up linear build in the second half of the track to its natural, voluminous conclusion. The subsequent “We Can Try to Play Like or We Can Try…” is similarly structured with two distinct payoffs, but presents a different take with a more prominent bass from Schulz (not a complaint) and airier noodling in the guitars contrasted by active jazz drumming. There’s less of Adolph as side A rounds out with a peaceful fade, but by then Dunst have established an open feel that would seem to allow the effects wash to come and go as it pleases without interrupting the overarching flow.

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Duuude, Tapes! Sphagnum, Lodge 318

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on July 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

My fellow Earthicans.

Manitoba instrumental bass/drum duo Sphagnum take their name from a slow-growing underwater moss, so despite their pornogrind logo, one doesn’t necessarily come into their debut Lodge 318 tape expecting blastbeats. The four-track self-release toes the line between an EP and a demo by being the first outing from the band — bassist Doreen Girard and drummer Cameron Johnson – and keeping to an under-25-minute runtime, but the fact they believe in their material enough to do a professional physical pressing at all (imagine such a thing!) makes me inclined to lean more toward EP, and ultimately it matters little either way. Girard and Johnson keep a minimal, vibe through parts alternately Thee J-card.sparse or overwhelmed by distortion, depending which pedal is kicked on, and Lodge 318 has a live, in-the-room feel while still coming across clearer than a simple rehearsal recording.

There are a lot of bands out there calling themselves “doom jazz,” and to their credit, Sphagnum don’t take it that far — they call it the more charming “dad rock,” among other things — but their open, feel-it-out-along-the-way approach winds up with a jazzy feel anyway during parts of “Winter Clover” as the time signatures seem to go out the window in favor of lurching spasms of low end and crash. Johnson brings some order via a steady kick later in the track, but both he and Girard seem to revel in the freakout side of things. The shorter “How Can the Wind with its Arms,” which opens side one, gets on a bit more of a steady roll, though with just the bass and drums for the duration, a strange or absurdist sensibility remains in the near distance, the two players managing well a rare feat in being a heavy bass/drum two-piece in this day and age without immediately sounding like Om.

Part of that has to be tone. You can hear a bit of Cisneros on side two’s “Summerfallow” if you force your ears to do it, but Girard‘s tone seems less bent toward peaceful aims, and if Sphagnum are looking for enlightenment, they’ve got a funny way of showing it. Johnson winds his way along the toms and “Summerfallow” kicks into full-tone assault before dipping back down to the open atmospheres and slow crawl from whence it came, and a silence precedes the foreboding cymbal hits and rumble of 7:49 “Remain in Light.” If there’s anywhere on Lodge 318 where one can imagine vocals topping the proceedings, it’s on the relatively straightforward first Not in the tape, but still cool. (Photo by Candice MH)couple minutes of the closer, though by the time they’re halfway through, Johnson and Girard are bounding along angular tom runs and bass punctuation which in turn lands them in a quiet couple seconds before the final distorted explosion — a tone dripping in mud met by steady cymbal work to create a tension that’s nigh on excruciating.

And that’s how they leave it. Even Lodge 318‘s payoff retains its course feel, and rather than bring the song to quiet, as on the preceding “Summerfallow,” they end “Remain in Light” cold on the march. Flipping the tape back over, it’s easy to get the feeling that, in the longer run, Sphagnum will branch their sound out more, experiment with different instrumentation, arrangements, and that various elements and influences will show up alongside what they present here. In that sense, Lodge 318 comes across like the beginning point of a progression about to be undertaken and all the more warrants the physical presence. If these songs are any indication, Girard and Johnson have the potential to get plenty weird, and that suits me just fine.

Sphagnum, Lodge 318 (2014)

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Wasted Theory, Death and Taxes: Sure Things

Posted in Reviews on July 9th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Memento mori.

If Wasted Theory‘s intent in naming their self-released debut full-length Death and Taxes was to call to mind “sure things,” then they’ve chosen wisely. Accordingly, the eight-track, 34-minute stomper from the Southern-minded Delaware double-guitar foursome unpretentiously plays off any number of them, be it crunching heavy riffs, “whiskey-soaked” throaty vocals, lyrics about booze and cars, or classic stoner metal grooves. As Wasted Theory‘s first long-player, it builds on the steady momentum the band — comprised of guitarist/vocalist Larry Jackson, Jr., guitarist Dave McMahon, bassist Jonathan Charles and drummer/lyricist Brendan Burns (also the organizer of the Eye of the Stoned Goat festival series) — built over the course of the last couple years and two EPs, 2012′s Cinco Dechado de Cancion and 2013′s GodSpeed (discussed here), as well as a split with Jaw Horse to result in a cohesive outing based around familiar ideals. There are selections and sections where it feels like they’re playing more to expectation, particularly late on the album with the closing duo of “Tire Iron (The Stone Giant)” and “Black Widow Liquor Run,” but they never fail to engage with strongly constructed hooks and a clear-cut love of The Riff. I refuse to rag on a self-releasing band’s debut for delving into the cliché. That’s what debuts are for, and it’s to the credit of Wasted Theory that the professionalism of their production – Death and Taxes was engineered by Paul Janocha at Ken-Del Studios in Wilmington, DE — might draw out the expectation of a more established individual sensibility. Ultimately, there are parts of their game Wasted Theory are still figuring out and parts they very much have nailed down. The “be very heavy” is taken care of.

As is the songwriting. Front to back, Death and Taxes delivers on what the live-recorded GodSpeed promised, which was that Wasted Theory were well on their way toward crafting lasting heavy hooks that stayed with the listener after playback stopped. Across the board the album seems to work in pairs, and cuts like opener “Dead is Dead” and the ensuing shuffle of “Boogie on Pony Boy” immediately establish the band’s methodology without giving away the total stylistic range, nestling into the particularly American dudely burl that has emerged over the course of the last several years in the wake of DownC.O.C., Clutch, and particularly in Wasted Theory‘s case, Alabama Thunderpussy, whose earlier days seem to find a modern reinterpretation in Jackson‘s vocals. Retaining their penchant for nod-ready pacing, “Hellfire Ritual” and “Hexes” — which also appeared in that order on the Jaw Horse split — add in a less jammy take on some of Wo Fat‘s swampadelia, the latter standing out as a particularly strong ending to what would no doubt be the end of a vinyl side A before the vibe gets pushed even further on the feedback-intro’ed “Celestial Voodoo Lounge,” the only track on Death and Taxes to saunter past the five-minute mark. As side B should, “Celestial Voodoo Lounge” expands the sonic palette, with a more subdued verse and play of open parts off denser stretches, riffs at the fore either way. “Celestial Voodoo Lounge” is paired next to “Absinthe Queen,” the shortest of the bunch at 3:18, which strips the approach down to its barest parts and gives a no-frills showcase of the structures Wasted Theory are working with, verses and choruses intertwining smoothly before a guitar solo leads the way to the finish. It is both well executed and, by then, well expected.

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John Garcia, John Garcia: The Time was Right

Posted in Reviews on July 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Still not sure why the ram, but okay.

Over the last two-plus decades, John Garcia‘s voice has set the standard for the sound of the California desert. His work in genre-progenitors Kyuss speaks for itself — loudly, and with much fuzz — and subsequent outfits UnidaSlo BurnHermano and more guest appearances than one can count have kept his presence steady in the international underground he played an essential role in forging, and his first solo outing, John Garcia, arrives via Napalm Records following a run with the semi-Kyuss reunion outfit Vista Chino, which ultimately brought together Garcia and drummer Brant Bjork with guitarist Bruno Fevery and Corrosion of Conformity bassist Mike Dean to tour the world in support of their 2013 outing, Peace (review here), after a couple years prior on the road as Kyuss Lives!, that project born out of Garcia‘s own Garcia Plays Kyuss, which launched at the 2010 Roadburn festival. In some ways, the album John Garcia is an extension of Vista Chino, particularly in terms of Garcia‘s performance and in terms of the production. An 11-track/45-minute full-length, material was culled from years of Garcia‘s own tapes, freshly arranged by the singer with some input by Hermano guitarist Dave Angstrom, and brought to bear by producer Harper Hug at Thunder Underground, the same studio where Peace was recorded. However, since some of the source material for these songs is older, and because there are a variety of players appearing throughout, from The DoorsRobbie Krieger on acoustic-led closer “Her Bullets Energy” to Danko JonesAngstrom himself, Nick Oliveri and The Dwarves‘ Mark Diamond and Tom Brayton, there’s also no shortage of diversity in the sound.

That being the case, John Garcia ran a pretty hefty risk in the making of coming across disjointed, but the consistency in the production and of course the focus element of Garcia‘s voice tie tracks together neatly, the album opening with its biggest chorus in “My Mind,” a track that immediately casts the wide-open spaces in which the rest of the songs will take place. Those familiar with his work will hear shades of various Garcia-fronted bands throughout the album, from the Slo Burn-style rush of later cut “Saddleback” to the Vista Chino-esque bounce of “Rolling Stoned,” a cover of Canadian trio Black Mastiff which undercuts some of its laid-back vibe with the opening lyrical threat, “If you leave me, I will kill you.” Nonetheless, “Rolling Stoned” follows “My Mind” as part of a strong opening salvo that continues through “Flower” and “The Blvd” and “5,000 Miles” to proffer memorable hooks, compressed but warm tones and an engaging presence from Garcia, who departs from the post-lawsuit bitterness that comprised much of the thematic of the Vista Chino offering to tell more of a story, as on “The Blvd” or the following “5,000 Miles,” which resounds as a classic coming-home song set to a particularly effective riff, somewhat more open than the first four cuts, but still largely consistent in pace and quality. Truth be told, though the mood changes somewhat along the way, there really isn’t a point where John Garcia falls into clunker-ism. And neither should there be. This project was years in the making and even more years in the discussing, and with Garcia‘s experience in the studio and on stage, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that if something wasn’t working toward the benefit of the album, it would be discarded. Over repeat listens, John Garcia begins to give that impression — not of being a confessional, exactly, in the way that some “solo albums” are, but of being carefully constructed selections chosen to represent this singer and his songwriting process.

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Mr. Peter Hayden, Archdimension Now: The Cosmos Unraveled

Posted in Reviews on July 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

This.

The word “epic” gets tossed around these days for everything from Homeric poetry to late-night burritos, so one hesitates to use it for fear it might be taken with a watered-down meaning. I’m at a loss, however, for how else to describe the monumental, otherworldly reality presented in the third installment in a trio of albums from Finnish five-piece Mr. Peter Hayden, Archdimension Now. Comprised of two hyper-extended cosmic drone-doom masterpieces and released as its predecessors were through Kauriala SocietyArchdimension Now is simply in a class of its own in terms of its scope. A 2CD, limited-numbers release housed in a sort of gatefold digi-box, its bright orange cover glaring, it is a staggering work and one that lives up to its theme. The Satakunta outfit’s debut, 2010′s Faster than Speed (review here), dealt with the idea of time travel as a transcendent moment, casting off the constraints of the dimension. Their 2012 follow-up, Born a Trip (review here), was a portrayal of leaving form behind, a sort of transitional stretch laid out as a single 68-minute track. With Archdimension Now, we arrive. The title seems to be as much a notation of where as when, and yet, when one makes their way through the 67-minute first disc or the 57-minute second disc of the album, the experience is bound to be one of lost time entirely, so hypnotic and engrossing is the material the band concocts. On the most basic level, Archdimension Now makes Faster than Speed sound like the product of a simpler age, and where Born a Trip still held to some of the structure the first album worked with — wide open as it was — these two parts go beyond it altogether. They’re what’s left after the dimensions are stripped away.

It is a very, very cool concept.

Sound-wise, what Mr. Peter Hayden do is take the claustrophobic elements of post-metal and cosmic doom and turn them on their head. Archdimension Now has stretches of lumbering, noisy weight, to be sure — by about 10 minutes in, the first disc has risen to its first crest — but with the context of the drones and ambience surrounding and within these parts, they’re not oppressive nearly as much as they are life-affirming. And more than these movements of tectonic heft and psychedelic wash, what stands out in listening to Archdimension Now is the sheer impossibility of the audio. That is to say, if Mr. Peter Hayden were to attempt to recreate these pieces — either of them — in a live setting, the sheer nature of the effects barrage, the waves of drone, the crashing drums and the wah-drenched guitars makes it inevitable that they would come across differently. As much as Archdimension Now is intended to be the space outside of time, then, it is also invariably a moment captured within it. I do not know how much if any of it was improvised or built on layers in the studio, but the broad-ranging, volcanic nature of the audio feels like a painting one could never recreate. A long stretch of 40-plus minutes’ atmospherics follows that first push proves to be the heart of the work. They’re not building tension — at least not yet — but exploring an aural space even as they make it. By 35 minutes in, they’ve broken it down to guitar-minimalism backed by progressive keys, and it’s from there that the second-half build of the track begins, so patient and fluid as to be almost undetectable on a minute-by-minute scale, but definitely there when you pull back to look at the larger picture. If the record was less than two hours long, one might almost call it subtle. The final thrust of the first disc has a foundation in a slow drum progression, so there’s something binding it to the earth, but atop that is space rock liquefied into its molten prog elements. Noise, feedback, guitar effects, keys — all come together to provide a fullness of sound, and when the song begins to fade after its 65th minute, and elements start to dissipate, one gets the impression that Mr. Peter Hayden could just as easily have kept going.

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Old Major, …With Love: Picking Lightning Flowers

Posted in Reviews on July 1st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Beached.

Depending on how you want to look at it, Old Major‘s …With Love is either their first album or their third release. It’s the Toronto trio’s debut on respected Russian imprint R.A.I.G., and it’s definitely a full-length at 54 minutes long, but it’s also compiled from two prior outings, 2013′s In Dog Years, from which the first seven (in order) of …With Love‘s total 12 tracks and the closer come, and a preceding 2011 self-titled, from which another four songs and the unlisted presumed bonus cut “Fanning Flames” are taken. Recordings span from 2009 to 2013, and the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mark Zerenyl, bassist/vocalist Mike Kennedy (since replaced by Alex) and drummer Joey Pavone show palpable growth in that time. The earlier material on …With Love, particularly in the context of knowing the songs are culled from past releases, sounds more developed and cohesive, Old Major having apparently mastered the post-Queens of the Stone Age start-stop bounce, where earlier cuts — which here are later in the tracklisting; stay with me — vary wider in feel but are less assured overall of their direction. It’s a tradeoff that makes Old Major come across as more mature for the first seven (and the 12th) tracks, their personality more prevalent, while what would be the bulk of a “side B” in a magical land where you could fit 54 minutes onto a vinyl platter serves to expand the scope of the release overall. So, with …With Love, you do get a release that functions as a full-length album, it just takes a quirky route to get there.

All the more suitable to the material on the disc itself, then, since Old Major demonstrate no shortage of quirky sensibilities in the music. It’s a noteworthy endorsement for In Dog Years that its first seven songs are presented in the same order here and that its closer remains the closer (pre-bonus cut) on …With Love. Doesn’t say much for the songs they left off, but it indicates that the trio believe they’re on the right track to where they want to be. The four songs from their self-titled are more jumbled, beginning with the “You Let Us,” which was the penultimate cut on Old Major before moving into the first three tracks, “Spel Chek,” “Wagoneers” and “Elbows Out,” the latter of which seems to have been a blueprint for much of the In Dog Years songwriting, with its particularly QOTSA jangle and smooth, dry vocal approach. Opener “Heels and Hooves” shows a drive toward complexity immediately, with intricate shifts to mesh with a penchant for hooks that becomes a staple of Old Major‘s style, along with an assortment of ’90s influences from Primus on the self-titled’s “Spel Chek” — the splash cymbal at the apex is telltale — to Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ quieter side on “Lightning Flowers,” which is the last of the In Dog Years inclusions and departs from the fuzzy drive of “In Dog Years” (a highlight and the longest at 6:38) and the more forceful “Rhino” to a subdued feel that still keeps some of its funk, particularly in Kennedy‘s bass. The earlier momentum of “Snake Charmer,” “Lint Giver” and “Epsom Salts” — the last of which finds the guitar just a little higher than it needs to be in the mix in leading a softer start-stop progression — carries through the rest of …With Love, however, and once Old Major get going, they don’t stop.

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Duuude, Tapes! Lightsabres, Demons

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on June 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Thee tape.

It is deceptively hard to get a handle on where Luleå, Sweden, rockers Lightsabres are coming from. Their debut tape, pressed and then re-pressed in limited edition by 808 New York (mine is #50 of 80), is called Demons, and while it’s quick at about 17 minutes long, and blown out in the lo-fi sense, it’s not to be mistaken for a demo. Eight tracks are presented four on each side, both sides start with an intro piece — “Fangs” and “Teeth,” respectively — and there’s cohesion and flow enough in what Lightsabres do that even if they weren’t working with a label to release it (there’s also vinyl out on Hink Inc.), to call it a demo would be selling it short. From the psychedelic ambience they pull off in the intros and side two’s closing “Demons,”Thee front(e) of thee case. the distorted stonery of side one opener “Black Hash,” and the stripped down punkish sneer of its side two counterpart “Born to Die,” Lightsabres tie together disparate elements with natural-sounding ease and come out of the release with a highly individualized garage-grunge that makes the memorable songwriting of “Fly Like a Bird” seem like fortunate happenstance.

Maybe it is, I don’t know. Maybe the members of Lightsabres – evidently content to remain nameless – showed up, pressed record, and that’s what came out. Either way, the heavy-pop bounce of that track is something most bands would have to work at. It’s as accessible as they go and well placed at the end of side one, following the rawer push of “Eyez,” on which the vocals come across even rougher than “Black Hash.” An unexpected turn, but one they pull off with apparent ease, and side two’s more psychedelic vibing affirms that Lightsabres have a broad creative range to go along with the effectiveness of their presentation. Post-rock guitar wisps begin “Teeth” only to be joined by air-moving bass fuzz, and while “Born to Die” strips away some of the prettier, melodic aspects, its half-time drums and noisy lead wash later on can’t cover up a basic heavy rock feel. Perhaps the most punkish moment of Demons is the first half of the Ty Segall cover “Caesar,” which breaks just Thee back of thee case.before the first of its two minutes into manipulated, floating notes moving backwards and forwards in hypnotic motion toward the closing title-track, which takes a more minimal, spacious approach and finds dual vocal layers coming together for a moment of crooning before flipping the whole thing backwards to maximize an experimental, anything’s-possible sense of uncertainty.

The edit on the tape of “Demons” is different than that on the digital version, and the download also has an extra track, “Red Light,” that serves as a centerpiece between the two sides, so if cassettes aren’t your thing, Lightsabres still have something to offer for your pay-what-you-will. There’s also reportedly a follow-up to Demons called Spitting Blood due out shortly, and the band seems to have some shared membership with psych rockers Tunga Moln, so expect to hear more from this promising outfit one way or another.

Lightsabres, Demons 

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1000mods, Vultures: To the Heart of the Matter

Posted in Reviews on June 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Eyeball.

Among desert rock “outsiders” — that is, those not actually living in the Californian desert from which the genre takes its name — Greek four-piece 1000mods have to be somewhere near the top in terms of accurately conveying the swing, the tonal weight and the focus on vibe that typify the style. Their 2011 full-length debut, Super Van Vacation (review here), announced their arrival as professionals in terms of their grip on the aesthetic, having refined the approach to that point over two EPs — 2006′s Blank Reality and 2009′s Liquid Sleep (review here) — as well as a 2010 split tape with similarly-intentioned German outfit Wight, and the follow-up long-player, Vultures, which also comes after late 2012′s Valley of Sand EP (discussed here), they continue to proffer classic stoner rock riffing. You could take the eight-track/39-minute The Lab Records outing as further evidence that fuzz knows no geographic boundaries, or you can simply approach Vultures as a killer heavy rock record. The latter makes for a more satisfying listening experience, I’ll admit, and for those who approach songs like “She” and “Horses’ Green” with the expectation of their traditionalist spirit, 1000mods will answer back with high-grade rolling grooves that cut to the same root influences Lowrider once embroiled themselves in to craft Ode to Io. One hears more than a little Kyuss throughout, but 1000mods make the sound their own both through the energetic charge of their swing and the memorable hooks around which their songs are based, pieces like “Big Beautiful” and “Modesty” running at full-speed while “Low” and the closing “Reverb of the New World” have a more spacious take.

They skirt the line here and there, particularly on the finale, the title of which derives from a Carl Sagan sample that also appears in the song, but 1000mods never quite tip over into heavy psychedelic jamming, holding instead to the structures around which their songs are based and keeping a sense of movement even in their most languid stretches. If they’re exploring, they’re exploring the impact of the riffs, rather than the riffs themselves. That’s not to say they never have an open feel — even before “Low” starts its laid back push, “She” caps off with an instrumental build that’s as wide a berth as anyone could ask — but there’s always a conscious purpose at work, and as the vibe is so loose of the album overall, it’s doubly impressive, the four-piece of guitarists Gianni and George, bassist/vocalist Dani and drummer Labros never lacking for direction even when they want to and succeed in sounding lost. Opener “Claws” probably could’ve closed Vultures just as easily as it leads off, but the in medias res feel of the guitar line that starts it makes the momentum all the more immediate, and with the speedier boogie of “Big Beautiful” — a lyrical reference to Queen‘s “Fat Bottomed Girls” in the line, “Big bottom woman, you can make a big boy out of me,” is a nice touch — following, 1000mods are almost into the thick of Vultures before the listener knows it, the Sky Valley-style opening of “She” giving way to one of the album’s biggest riffs, Dani‘s voice echoing and gruff over top. Groove is paramount on “She” as throughout, but the riffs, the crash, the groove all comes in service to the song, and even as “She” enters its reaches in guitar solo tradeoffs to make for as big a finish as possible — the ending of “Claws” seemed to come in movements, “She” is more linear – 1000mods waste nothing in conveying the intended atmosphere.

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Coltsblood, Into the Unfathomable Abyss: The Whisperer in Darkness

Posted in Reviews on June 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Heavy heavy heavy.

Northern England trio Coltsblood launched last summer with the Beyond the Lake of Madness demo tape (review here) and immediately demanded attention via their crushingly slow, excruciatingly heavy, thoroughly doomed approach. That two track release, as though eaten by a larger undersea monster, has been subsumed into the three-piece’s Candlelight Records debut full-length, Into the Unfathomable Abyss, which furthers the brutal largesse of the demo, stretching out to nearly an hour’s runtime and finding some variety — in sound if not overall mood — by incorporating a few faster parts here and there. The album, which was recorded at Skyhammer Studios with Chris Fielding (Electric WizardConanPrimordial, etc.) and features nightmarishly detailed cover art by former Grief bassist/vocalist Eric Harrison, pits longer pieces like “Beneath Black Skies” (14:09) and “Abyss of Aching Insanity” (12:29) from the demo against shorter ones, those two together with the penultimate “Ulfeonar” (a paltry 11:31) forming an unholy trio of slow-cooking heft that provides atmosphere the way one thinks of water filling lungs. Shorter cuts are interspersed around them, though by the end of the record, the timing works out that even the “shorter cuts” have topped eight minutes, as the closer “Return to the Lake of Madness” (8:31) rounds out no less grueling than “Ulfeonar” before it. Still, earlier on, the noisy intro “Valhalla Awaits” (2:17) the faster “Blood” (2:20) and the building instrumental “Grievous Molestation” (6:52) are well placed to give a breath of air before the next dive back into the heart of the titular abyss, which at its grimmest could rival anything put forth by Ahab, but seems bent toward more sonic diversity. Comprised at the time of bassist/vocalist John McNulty (ex-Conan, ex-Black Magician), guitarist Jemma McNulty and drummer Steve Primeau – the latter since replaced by Jay Plested, also of Black Magician – Coltsblood affirm the potential of their demo while distinguishing themselves among the more extreme end of doom’s practitioners.

Play slow enough and things just start to sound like they’re falling apart. Nothing against that, but Coltsblood never quite get there, even as John‘s throaty shouts echo over the crawling earlier stretches of “Ulfeonar.” The intent is vicious, tectonic heaviness, but Into the Unfathomable Abyss still has a groove to it. One can hear shades of Conan‘s tonal dominance in the quicker parts of that song or “Blood” earlier on, but as the blackened scream about halfway through “Beneath Black Skies” and the bulk of Coltsblood‘s lumbering rollout shows, they’re on a different trip, even if they do manage to sneak a shuffle riff in there every now and again. The McNultys make a devastating pair, tonally, and when Jemma‘s guitar takes an airy solo over the steady rumble, the effect is more mournful than psychedelic, a noisy chaos emerging in the last two minutes of “Beneath Black Skies” to set up the blastbeaten charge of “Blood,” which is in and out in nearly one-seventh of the time but no less wretched-sounding — and yes, I mean that as a compliment. Even here, Coltsblood aren’t void of melody, but even that seems to have been twisted into something dark, a drawn out, plotted lead reminding of some of Nile‘s grandiose soloing. As a centerpiece, “Abyss of Aching Insanity” provides the album’s least compromised lurch, feedback and crash working in tandem to seer the consciousness before the next measure cycles through, Primeau more or less taking the opposite approach from “Blood” and playing as slow and open as possible. About halfway through, everything drops out but the bass, and for a moment, the album leaves you alone in the desolation, presumably to ponder how on earth you ever went so deep to start with. Jemma takes a layered solo when the guitars and drums return, but there isn’t really meant to be any release of the tension, and there isn’t.

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