Then and Now: Lowrider, Ode to Io & Ode to Io Deluxe Edition (Plus Exclusive Mix Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

lowrider ode to io deluxe edition

LOWRIDER ODE TO IO

[Click play above to stream an exclusive A / B mix of Lowrider’s ‘Shivaree’ illustrating the differences between the original version and the remaster. Ode to Io Deluxe Edition‘s limited second pressing is available now to preorder.]

Let’s get all the clichés out of the way. Lowrider‘s Ode to Io is an absolute landmark. It is essential. Quite possibly the best desert-style rock record not to come from the actual Californian desert. There’s a lot of competition out there, granted — it’s a big planet — but almost nobody bought into post-Kyuss riffing with the depth, clarity of purpose, energy and songwriting that the Stockholm four-piece of bassist/vocalist Peder Bergstrand, guitarists Ola Hellqvist (lead and also vocals) and Niclas Stålfors and drummer Andreas Eriksson brought to their 2000 full-length debut. And while it arrived years after the likes of DozerNatas and Abramis Brama released their own first outings, at very least, Ode to Io (also discussed here) stands among the most essential heavy rock albums of the pre-social-media era, its 10 tracks originally issued by MeteorCity and at a time when what has become a worldwide heavy underground fanbase was still just taking its basic shape.

German imprint I Used to Fuck People Like You in Prison Records did an original vinyl pressing of Ode to Io to coincide with the MeteorCity CD, and if one is willing to pay secondary market prices, it’s still available, but in celebration of the band’s 20th anniversary, Lowrider has compiled a 2LP Ode to Io Deluxe Edition with additional tracks culled from their prior 1998 Double EP split with Nebula (discussed here), “Lameneshma” from 1997’s shared 7″ with countrymen rockers Sparzanza (discussed here), and the curio “David Williams Hughes” from MeteorCity‘s soundtrack to the independent film I am Vengeance. There are other demos and alternate versions floating around out there of some of their material, but it’s about as close to a complete-discography offering as Lowrider are going to get, and with the original mix by Eriksson and remaster by Thomas Eberger, they’ve never sounded fuller or more vibrant than they do on this vinyl. Deluxe Edition indeed.

Ode to Io original LP:

The original People Like You LP is honored in the fact that both platters on the new version have a similar transparent haze pattern, but the difference between the two is represented on multiple levels by the shift in tone of the artwork from silver (or grey, as it were) to gold. Ode to Io Deluxe Edition is a more-than-deserved revisit that doesn’t simply make the songs louder, but actually pays attention to the nuances in the mix of cuts like “Saguaro” — the pattern of starts and stops there is preserved with a breadth that only adds to the impact of both — and from the very launch of opener “Caravan,” the labor-of-love aspect in its construction is clear. Lowrider, who to-date have never issued a sophomore album to back Ode to Io, very obviously know they created something special 17 years ago, and while I refuse to take away from the appeal of the original LP’s rawness in conveying the youthful vigor of their performance — they were basically kids when the album was made; the youngest of them 17 and the oldest 26 — their efforts in updating the total 16 included tracks feel most of all like a thank-you to the audience that has kept Ode to Io relevant as more than a decade and a half has gone by.

Yes, songs like “Flat Earth” and “Anchor” hit harder, and the lower end of Bergstrand‘s bass and the guitars of Stålfors and Hellqvist is more forward than it was on 2000’s Ode to Io, but the attention to detail from Eriksson goes further. The spaciousness of “Texas Pt. 1 & 2” and the closing title-track is given righteous emphasis, and without making any single element overwhelming in relation to the others, Eriksson has bolstered the overarching impression of cuts like “Convoy V,” the ultra-fuzzed “Riding Shotgun” and “Dust Settlin’,” so that even his own snare hits feel warmer and clearer, giving up none of the attitude or the laid back vibes that punctuate even the heaviest, most active moments of the album. Plain and simple (and cliché): he nailed it. One doesn’t imagine Lowrider would put out Ode to Io Deluxe Edition if the situation were otherwise — they’re marking 20 years as a band but it’s not like they’re under contractual obligation; it’s a self-release — but still, as a fan, it’s especially satisfying to put the original Ode to Io and this new one side-by-side and see and hear on every level a rare instance of a heavy rock classic getting its long-overdue due.

It’s worth noting that while the running order is the same through Ode to Io itself, the split in sides has changed, and where the acoustic interlude “Sun Devil” led into “Anchor” to round out the LP’s first half, leaving “Texas Pt. 1 & 2,” “Riding Shotgun,” “Saguaro” and “Ode to Io” to close, Ode to Io Deluxe Edition shifts “Saguaro” and “Ode to Io” to side C, pairing them with “The Gnome, the Serpent, the Sun” and “David William Hughes.” Aside from the sound of the songs themselves (which is significant, make no mistake), it’s the biggest difference between the 2000 and the 2017 Ode to Ios, though the cowbell-laden fuzz nod and last crashes of “Riding Shotgun” hold their own as a finisher for side B without any trouble. The seeming intention would be to tie the album-proper directly with the bonus material, creating one entirety across the drifting end of “Ode to Io” into the opening riff of “The Gnome, the Serpent, the Sun” despite different recording sounds and an earlier overall take as was featured on the Nebula split.

Ode to Io Deluxe Edition:

Groove is groove, however, and in light of that, “The Gnome, the Serpent, the Sun” flows easily from the preceding cut and into “David William Hughes,” which tops a rhythmic push with spoken vocals before a long fadeout, leaving “Lameneshma,” “Shivaree,” “Ol’ Mule Pepe” and “Upon the Dune” as a particularly resonant side D. True, the material is formative compared to what would arrive a couple years later on Ode to Io, but from the hook proffered by “Lameneshma” to the improvised-sounding desert meandering of “Upon the Dune,” Lowrider efficiently showcase the breadth that was in even the earliest of their works and reinforce the to-be-treasured nature of the release as a whole. Deluxe Edition could have just as easily been called “collectors edition” given its compilation-type feel, but in being comprehensive in bringing Lowrider‘s songs together in one outing, the 2LP underscores the value and as-yet-timeless quality of what the band were able to accomplish in the studio.

Nearly half a decade has passed since they first reunited to play Desertfest London 2013 (review here) and they’ve threatened a new release basically ever since as they’ve continued to make appearances at HellfestDesertfest Berlin, Lake on FireUp in Smoke, Stoned from the Underground, etc., and they’ve stated that the proceeds from this vinyl will go toward future recordings, but whether Lowrider will actually issue a follow-up to Ode to Io remains to be seen. Serving perhaps as a preview of the tonal breadth and clarity of approach they might manifest across a new batch of songs, however, Ode to Io Deluxe Edition provides yet another level of encouragement. If the one is a step along the path to the other, it’s a step an entire new generation of listeners seems ready to take. Recommended.

Lowrider, Ode to Io Deluxe Edition (2017)

Lowrider on Bandcamp

Lowrider on Thee Facebooks

Lowrider webstore

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Quarterly Review: Harvestman, Beastmaker, Endless Boogie, Troubled Horse, Come to Grief, Holy Rivals, Mountain God, Dr. Space, Dirty Grave, Summoned by Giants

Posted in Reviews on July 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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Bonus round! I don’t know if you’re stoked on having a sixth Quarterly Review day, but I sure am. Basically this is me doing myself favors. In terms of what’s being covered and how I’m covering it, today might be the high point for me personally of the entire Summer 2017 Quarterly Review. Some of this stuff I’m more behind on than others, but it’s all releases that I’ve wanted desperately to write about that I haven’t been able to make happen so far and I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be able to do so at last. It’s a load off my mind in the best way possible, and as this is the final day of the Quarterly Review, before I dig in I’ll just say one more time thank you for reading and I hope you found something in the past week that really speaks to you, because that’s what makes it all worthwhile in the first place. One more go.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Harvestman, Music for Megaliths

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A new Harvestman album, like a harvest itself, is an occasion. Distinct entirely from the solo output released by Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till under his own name, Harvestman’s guitar-led experimentalism and ritualized psychedelia don’t happen every day – the last album was 2009’s In a Dark Tongue (review here) – and with the resonance of “Oak Drone” and the layered, drummed and vocalized textures of “Levitation,” the new collection, Music for Megaliths (on Neurot, of course), lives up to the project’s high standards of the unexpected. Pulsations beneath opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Forest is Our Temple” offer some initial threat, but the electronic beat behind the howling notes of “Ring of Sentinels” and the Vangelis-esque centerpiece “Cromlech” find more soothing ground, and though “Sundown” seems to be speaking to Neurosis “Bleeding the Pigs” from 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) in its atmosphere, the spoken word that tops closer “White Horse” provides a last-minute human connection before all is brought to a quick fadeout. If you told me Music for Megaliths was assembled over a period of years, I’d believe you given its breadth, but whether it was or not, Harvestman’s latest should provide a worthy feast for a long time to come.

Harvestman on Thee Facebooks

Neurot Recordings webstore

 

Beastmaker, Inside the Skull

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Los Angeles three-piece Beastmaker continue their ascent with their second album for Rise Above Records, the unflinchingly cohesive Inside the Skull. Like its predecessor, 2016’s Lusus Naturae (review here), the quick-turnaround sophomore outing executes a modern garage doom aesthetic and unfuckwithably tight songwriting, this time bringing 10 new tracks that reimagine classic vibes – witness the Witchcraft “No Angel or Demon”-style riff of opener “Evil One” (video posted here) – and touch on some of the same ground pioneered by Uncle Acid without actually sounding like that UK band or sounding like anyone for that matter so much as themselves. They make darkened highlights of “Now Howls the Beast,” “Of Gods Creation,” the crashing “Psychic Visions,” closer “Sick Sick Demon” and the preceding “Night Bird,” which offers some welcome departure into drift prior to the solo in its final minute – all impeccably crisp in structure despite a dirt-caked production – but resonant, memorable hooks abound, and the trio affirm the potential their debut showed and offer a quick step forward that one can only imagine will find them turning more heads toward their growing cult following. They’re still growing, but Inside the Skull is confirmation Beastmaker on a path to becoming something really special.

Beastmaker on Thee Facebooks

Beastmaker at Rise Above Records

 

Endless Boogie, Vibe Killer

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One can’t help but think there’s a bit of tongue-in-cheekery at play in the inaccuracy of Endless Boogie titling their latest album Vibe Killer. The seven-track/51-minute No Quarter release follows 2013’s Long Island (review here) and is, of course, doing everything but killing the vibe, as the New York-based outfit proffer their nestled-in raw songs crafted out of and on top of improvised jams, the semi-spoken gutturalisms of guitarist Paul “Top Dollar” Major a defining element from the laid back opening title-track onward. Moody rock classicism persists through “High Drag, Hard Doin’” and the more active “Back in ’74,” but the true peak of Vibe Killer comes in the 11-minute “Jefferson Country,” which unfolds hypnotic drone experimentation that’s as willfully ungraceful as it winds up being flowing. Bottom line: dudes know what’s up. Endless Boogie’s languid roll is second to nobody and Vibe Killer is a vision of cool jazz reinvented to feel as much at home in rock clubs of the basement and of the chic see-and-be-seen variety. Very New York, in that, but not at all given to elitism. Everyone’s invited to dig, and dig they should.

Endless Boogie on Thee Facebooks

No Quarter Records webstore

 

Troubled Horse, Revolution on Repeat

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There were a few minutes there where one probably wouldn’t have been wrong to wonder if Örebro, Sweden’s Troubled Horse would have a follow-up at all to back 2012’s Step Inside (review here), but with Revolution on Repeat (out via Rise Above), the four-piece led by dynamic vocalist Martin Heppich prove among the most vital of the many heavy rock acts to emerge from their hometown, known for the likes of Witchcraft, Graveyard, Truckfighters and countless others. Heppich, lead guitarist Mikael Linder (also bass on the recording), guitarist Tom and drummer Jonas start with the boogie-fied opening salvo “Hurricane” (video premiere here) and “The Filthy Ones,” and run madcap through the memorable hooks of “Which Way to the Mob” and “Peasants” en route to the mid-paced “The Haunted” and into a second half marked by the semi-balladry of “Desperation” and “My Shit’s Fucked Up.” Soon, the standout chorus of “Track 7” (yup, that’s the title) and the penultimate funk of “Let Bastards Know” lead to a nine-minute epic finish in “Bleeding” – and all the while Troubled Horse hold firm to groove, momentum, poise, crisp production and songwriting as they tie varied landmarks together with an overarching sense of motion, Heppich’s charismatic soulfulness and deceptively subtle flourishes of arrangement to make an absolutely welcome return.

Troubled Horse on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records website

 

Come to Grief, The Worst of Times

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Sometimes you just have to toss up your hands and say, “Well, that’s some of the nastiest shit I’ve ever heard.” To step back and consider them at some distance, Come to Grief aren’t near the most abrasive band on the planet, but when you’re actually listening to their debut EP, The Worst of Times, that’s much harder to believe. Launching with “Killed by Life,” the four-tracker finds the Boston outfit led by former Grief guitarist Terry Savastano – here joined by drummer Chuck Conlon, bassist Justin Christian and vocalist/guitarist Jonathan Hebert – plodding out scream-topped filth that’s actually fuller-sounding than anything Grief did back in their day and all the more devastating for its thickness. The seven-minute “No Savior” is excruciating, and though shorter, “Futility of Humanity” and even the slightly-faster closer “Junklove” bring no letup whatsoever from the onslaught. Think accessible, then go the complete other way, then bludgeon yourself. It’s kind of like that. Absolute brutality delivered by expert and unkind hands.

Come to Grief on Thee Facebooks

Come to Grief on Bandcamp

 

Holy Rivals, Holy Rivals

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The question of whether noise rock and sludge can coexist is largely one of tempo and tone, and recently-signed-to-BlackseedRecords Pittsburgh trio Holy Rivals’ self-titled debut answers in forceful fashion. Amid more aggro punch of opener “Locked Inn” comes the crust-laden grunge of “Voices,” and whether they’re rolling out the more spacious “Sleep” or sprinting through the post-Bleach raw punkery of “Dead Ender” on their way to the more ambient and patient seven-minute finale “Into Dust,” guitarist/vocalist Jason Orr (also T-Tops), bassist Aaron Orr (whose tone features well on the closer) and drummer Matt Langille – whose adaptability is essential to the Helmet-style starts and stops of “Loathe” that emerge from the preceding roll of “Sleep” – Holy Rivals put a superficial harshness to use as a cover for what’s actually a diverse songwriting process. They’ll reportedly have a new record out in Fall 2017, so this 2016 self-release may soon be in hindsight, but in setting the foundation for growth, it offers exciting prospects caked in an abidingly raw presentation.

Holy Rivals on Thee Facebooks

Holy Rivals on Bandcamp

 

Mountain God, Bread Solstice

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Around what would seem to be the core duo of guitarist/vocalist Ben Ianuzzi and bassist/keyboardist Nikhil Kamineni, Brooklyn psychedelic post-sludgers Mountain God have undergone numerous lineup shifts en route to and through the release of their debut album, Bread Solstice (on Artificial Head Records). To wit, drummer/vocalist Ryan Smith (also Thera Roya), who appears on the dark, unrelenting and abyss-crafting 40-minute six-tracker, has already been replaced by Gabriel Cruz, and there have been other changes in vocalist, keyboardist and drummer positions even since they offered their 2015 EP, Forest of the Lost (review here) to set the stage for this deeply-atmospheric, it’s-acid-rock-but-with-sulfuric-acid first long-player. In light of that tumult and the overarching commitment to abrasive noise Mountain God make in pieces like the 11-minute “Nazca Lines,” “Junglenaut” or even the brooding tension of airy instrumental “Unknown Ascent,” it’s all the more impressive that Bread Solstice is as cohesive in its cerebral horror as it is, constructing a harsh and churning vision of doom as something worthy of post-apocalyptic revelry. Far from easy listening, but of marked purpose. They should play exclusively in art galleries, no matter who winds up in the band.

Mountain God on Thee Facebooks

Artificial Head Records on Bandcamp

 

Dr. Space, Dr. Space’s Alien Planet Trip Vol. 1

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Perhaps best known for his work in spearheading the improvisational Denmark-based Øresund Space Collective, modular synth wizard Scott “Dr. Space” Heller weirds out across four cuts on the solo release Dr. Space’s Alien Planet Trip Vol. 1, which both underscores in its scope how essential he is to the aforementioned outfit and oozes beyond that group’s parameters into electronic beatmaking and waves of synthesizer drone. Pulling influence from classic progadelia, Heller unfurls longform tripping on 24-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “5 Dimensions of the Universe” and veers into and out of somewhat abrasive swirl on “Rising Sun on Mars” before landing in the more steady atmosphere of “In Search of Life on Io” and launching once more outward with the five-minute finale “Alien Improv 2.” Just how many alien planet trips the good doctor will be undertaking remains as yet a mystery, but the breadth of this first one makes it plain to the listener that Heller’s sonic universe is wide open and, seemingly, ever-expanding.

Øresund Space Collective on Thee Facebooks

Space Rock Productions website

 

Dirty Grave, So Fall and Crawl Away

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Brazilian doomers Dirty Grave issue the three-song single/EP So Fall and Crawl Away (bonus points for the Alice in Chains reference) ahead of making their full-length debut reportedly any minute now with an album called Evil Desire. Comprised of two studio tracks in the eight-minute “The Black Cloud Comes” and the four-minute Howlin’ Wolf cover “Evil (Is Going On)” and with the live cut “Unholy Son – Live” as a kind of bonus track, it’s a sampling behind two similar short releases, 2014’s Vol. II and 2013’s Dirty Grave (which featured a studio version of “Unholy Son”), that sleeks through eerie doom loosely tinged with psychedelia and smoked-out vibing. “Evil (Is Going On)” is more uptempo, perhaps unsurprisingly, but is giving a likewise treatment all the same, its final solo shredding into oblivion with stoned abandon. “Unholy Son – Live” is rawer but still carries through its melody in the vocals amid a prevalent crash, and if it’s a portend of things to come on Evil Desire, then So Fall and Crawl Away serves as a warning worth heeding.

Dirty Grave on Thee Facebooks

Dirty Grave on Bandcamp

 

Summoned by Giants, Stone Wind

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If you have a convenient narrative for what West Coast heavy rock has become over the last decade, Summoned by Giants’ debut album, Stone Wind, is probably too aggressive on the whole to fit it neatly. Their cleaner parts, the rolling second cut “Diamond Head” and samples throughout have aspects of that post-Red Fang party vibe, but to listen to the rawness of the bass tone that starts “Return” or closer “I Hate it When You Breathe,” or even the slurring “come at me, bro”-style rant sampled at the seven-track/27-minute album’s launch, a will toward violence is never far off. Couple that with the thickened noise punk of “Saturn” and the Weedeater sludge of the penultimate “Dying Wish,” and Summoned by Giants – guitarist/vocalist Sean Delaney, guitarist Jordan Sattelmair, bassist/vocalist Patrick Moening and drummer Mel Burris – seem more interested in doling out punishment than kicking back, making a silly video and having a good time. Well, maybe they’re having a good time, but they’re doing so while kicking your ass.

Summoned by Giants on Thee Facebooks

Summoned by Giants on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Ecstatic Vision, Norska, Bison, Valborg, Obelyskkh, Earth Electric, Olde, Deaf Radio, Saturndust, Birnam Wood

Posted in Reviews on July 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

It turns out that, yes indeed, I will be able to add another day to the Quarterly Review this coming Monday. Stoked on that. Means I’ll be trying to cram another 10 reviews into this coming weekend, but that’s not exactly a hardship as I see it, and the stuff I have picked out for it is, frankly, as much of a bonus for me as it could possibly be for anyone else, so yeah, look out for that. In the meantime, we wrap the Monday-to-Friday span of 50 records today with another swath of what’s basically me doing favors for my ears, and I hope as always for yours as well. Let’s dig in.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury

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Hard touring and a blistering debut in 2015’s Sonic Praise (review here) quickly positioned Ecstatic Vision at the forefront of a Philadelphia-based mini-boom in heavy psych (see also: Ruby the Hatchet, Meddlesome Meddlesome Meddlsome Bells, and so on), and their Relapse-issued follow-up, Raw Rock Fury, only delves further into unmitigated cosmic swirl and space-rocking crotchal thrust. The now-foursome keep a steady ground in percussion and low end even as guitar, sax, synth and echoing vocals seem to push ever more far-out, and across the record’s four tracks – variously broken up across two sides – the band continue to stake out their claim on the righteously psychedelic, be it in the all-go momentum building of “You Got it (Or You Don’t)” or the more drifting opening movement of closer “Twinkling Eye.” Shit is trippy, son. With the echoing-from-the-depths shouts of Doug Sabolik cutting through, there’s still an edge of Eastern Seaboard intensity to Ecstatic Vision, but that only seems to make Raw Rock Fury live up to its title all the more. Still lots of potential here, but it’ll be their third record that tells the tale of whether they can truly conquer space itself.

Ecstatic Vision on Thee Facebooks

Ecstatic Vision at Relapse Records website

 

Norska, Too Many Winters

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Issued through Brutal Panda, Too Many Winters is the second full-length from Portland five-piece Norska, and its six tracks/48 minutes would seem to pick up where Rwake left off in presenting a progressive vision of what might be called post-sludge. Following an engaging 2011 self-titled debut, songs like the title-track and “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” churn and careen through Sourvein-style abrasion, vaguely Neurosis-style nod and, in the case of the latter or closer “Fire Patience Backbone,” soundscaping minimalism that, in the finale, is bookended by some of the record’s most intense push following opener “Samhain” and the subsequent “Eostre.” That salvo starts Too Many Winters with a deceptive amount of thrust, but even there atmosphere is central as it is to the outing as a whole, and a penultimate interlude in the 2:22 “Wave of Regrets” does well to underscore the point before the fading-in initial onslaught of “Fire Patience Backbone.” Having Aaron Rieseberg of YOB in the lineup with Jim Lowder, Dustin Rieseberg, Rob Shaffer and Jason Oswald no doubt draws eyes their way, but Norska’s sonic persona is distinct, immersive and individualized enough to stand on its own well beyond that pedigree.

Norska on Thee Facebooks

Norska at Brutal Panda Records website

 

Bison, You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient

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Think about the two choices. You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient. Isn’t it the difference between something acting – i.e., an object – and something acted upon – i.e., a subject? As British Columbian heavy rockers Bison return after half a decade via Pelagic Records, their fourth album seems to find them trying to push beyond genre lines into a broader scope. “Until the Earth is Empty,” “Drunkard,” “Anti War” and “Raiigin” still have plenty of thrust, but the mood here is darker even than 2012’s Lovelessness found the four-piece, and “Tantrum” and closer “The Water Becomes Fire” bring out a more methodical take. It’s been 10 years since Bison issued their debut Earthbound EP and signed to Metal Blade for 2008’s Quiet Earth, and the pre-Red Fang party-ready heavy rock of those early works is long gone – one smiles to remember “These are My Dress Clothes” in the context of noise-rocking centerpiece “Kenopsia” here, the title of which refers to the emptiness of a formerly occupied space – but if the choice Bison are making is to place themselves on one side or the other of the subject/object divide, they prove to be way more ocean than patient in these songs.

Bison on Thee Facebooks

Bison at Pelagic Records website

 

Valborg, Endstrand

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With its churning, swirling waves of cosmic death, one almost expects Valborg’s Endstrand (on Lupus Lounge/Prophecy Productions) to be more self-indulgent than it is, but one of the German trio’s greatest assets across the 13-track/44-minute span of their sixth album is its immediacy. The longest song, “Stossfront,” doesn’t touch five minutes, and from the 2:14 opener “Jagen” onward, Valborg reenvision punk rock as a monstrous, consuming beast on songs like “Blut am Eisen,” “Beerdigungsmaschine,” “Alter,” “Atompetze” and closer “Exodus,” all the while meting put punishment after punishment of memorable post-industrial riffing on “Orbitalwaffe,” the crashing “Ave Maria” and the noise-soaked penultimate “Strahlung,” foreboding creeper atmospherics on “Bunkerluft” and “Geisterwürde,” and landmark, perfectly-paced chug on “Plasmabrand.” Extreme in its intent and impact, Endstrand brings rare clarity to an anti-genre vision of brutality as an art form, and at any given moment, its militaristic threat feels real, sincere and like an appropriate and righteous comment on the terrors of our age. Fucking a.

Valborg on Thee Facebooks

Valborg at Prophecy Productions website

 

Obelyskkh, The Providence

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Probably fair to call the current status of German post-doomers Obelyskkh in flux following the departure of guitarist Stuart West, but the band has said they’ll keep going and their fourth album, The Providence (on Exile on Mainstream) finds them capping one stage of their tenure with a decidedly forward-looking perspective. Its six-song/56-minute run borders on unmanageable, but that’s clearly the intent, and an air of proggy weirdness infects The Providence from the midsection of its opening title-track onward as the band – West, guitarist/vocalist Woitek Broslowski, bassist Seb Fischer and drummer Steve Paradise – tackle King Crimson rhythmic nuance en route to an effects-swirling vision of Lovecraftian doomadelia and massive roll. Cuts like “Raving Ones” and 13-minute side B leadoff “NYX” play out with a similarly deceptive multifaceted vibe, and by the time the penultimate “Aeons of Iconoclasm” bursts outward from its first half’s spacious minimalism into all-out High on Fire thrust ahead of the distortion-soaked churn of closer “Marzanna” – which ends, appropriately, with laughter topping residual effects noise – Obelyskkh make it abundantly clear anything goes. The most impressive aspect of The Providence is that Obelyskkh manage to control all this crunching chaos, and one hopes that as they continue forward, they’ll hold firm to that underlying consciousness.

Obelyskkh on Thee Facebooks

Exile on Mainstream Records website

 

Earth Electric, Vol. 1: Solar

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Former Mayhem/Aura Noir guitarist Rune “Blasphemer” Ericksen leads breadth-minded Portuguese four-piece Earth Electric, and their devil-in-the-details Season of Mist debut, Vol. 1: Solar, runs a prog-metal gamut across a tightly-woven nine tracks and 35 minutes, Ericksen’s vocals and those of Carmen Susana Simões (Moonspell, ex-Ava Inferi) intertwine fluidly at the forefront of sharply angular riffing and rhythmic turns from bassist Alexandre Ribeiro and drummer Ricardo Martins. The organ-laced push of “Meditate Meditate” and “Solar” and the keyboard flourish of “Earthrise” (contributed by Dan Knight) draw as much from classic rock as metal, but the brew Earth Electric crafts from them is potent and very much the band’s own. “The Great Vast” and the shorter “Set Sail (Towards the Sun)” set up a direct flow into the title cut, and as one returns to Earth Electric for repeat listens, the actual scope of the album and the potential for how the band might continue to develop are likewise expansive, despite its many pulls into torrents of head-down riffing. Almost intimidating in its refusal to bow to genre.

Earth Electric on Thee Facebooks

Earth Electric at Season of Mist website

 

Olde, Temple

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After debuting in 2014 with I (review here), Toronto’s Olde return via STB Records with Temple, proffering sludge-via-doom vibes and a center of weighted tonality around which the rest of their aesthetic would seem to be built, vocalist Doug McLarty’s throaty growls alternately cutting through and buried by the riffs of guitarists Greg Dawson (also production) and Chris “Hippy” Hughes, the bass of Cory McCallum and the rolling crashes of drummer Ryan Aubin (also of Sons of Otis) on tightly constructed pieces like “Now I See You” and the tempo-shifting “Centrifugal Disaster,” which reminds by its finish that sometimes all you need is nod. Olde have more to offer than just that, of course, as the plodding spaciousness of “The Ghost Narrative” and the lumbering “Maelstrom” demonstrate, but even in the turns between crush and more open spaces of the centerpiece title-track and the drifting post-heavy rock of closer “Castaway,” the underlying focus is on capital-‘h’ Heavy, and Olde wield it as only experts can.

Olde on Thee Facebooks

STB Records webstore

 

Deaf Radio, Alarm

deaf radio alarm

Based in Athens and self-releasing their debut album, Alarm, in multiple vinyl editions, the four-piece of Panos Gklinos, Dimitris Sakellariou, Antonis Mantakas and George Diathesopoulos – collectively known as Deaf Radio – make no bones about operating in the post-Queens of the Stone Age/Them Crooked Vultures sphere of heavy rock. To their credit, the songwriting throughout “Aggravation,” “Vultures and Killers” and the careening “Revolving Doors” lives up to that standard, and though even the later “Oceanic Feeling” seems to be informed by the methods of Josh Homme, there’s a melodic identity there that belongs more to Deaf Radio as well, and keeping Alarm in mind as their first long-player, it’s that identity that one hopes the band will continue to develop. Rounding out side B with the howling guitar and Rated R fuzz of the six-minute “…And We Just Pressed the Alarm Button,” Deaf Radio build to a suitable payoff for the nine-track outing and affirm the aesthetic foundation they’ve laid for themselves.

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Deaf Radio on Bandcamp

 

Saturndust, RLC

saturndust rlc

The further you go into Saturndust’s 58-minute second LP RLC, the more there is to find. At any given moment, the São Paulo, Brazil-based outfit can be playing to impulses ranging from proggy space rock, righteously doomed tonal heft, aggressive blackened thrust or spacious post-sludge – in one song. Over longform cuts like “Negative-Parallel Dimensional,” “RLC,” “Time Lapse of Existence” and closer “Saturn 12.C,” the trio cast a wide-enough swath to be not quite genreless but genuinely multi-tiered and not necessarily as disjointed as one might expect in their feel, and though when they want to, they roll out massive, lumbering riffs, that’s only one tool in a full arsenal at their apparent disposal. What tie RLC together are the sure hands of guitarist/vocalist Felipe Dalam, bassist Guilherme Cabral and drummer Douglas Oliveira guiding it, so that when the galloping-triplet chug of “Time Lapse of Existence” hits, it works as much in contrast to the synth-loaded “Titan” preceding as in conjunction with it. Rather than summarize, “Saturn 12.C” pushes far out on a wash of Dalam’s keyboards before a wide-stomping apex, seeming to take Saturndust to their farthest point beyond the stratosphere yet. Safe travels and many happy returns.

Saturndust on Thee Facebooks

Saturndust on Bandcamp

 

Birnam Wood, Triumph of Death

birnam wood triumph of death

Massachusetts doomers Birnam Wood have two prior EPs under their collective belt in 2015’s Warlord and a 2014 self-titled, but the two-songer single Triumph of Death (kudos on the Hellhammer reference) is my first exposure to their blend of modern progressive metal melody and traditional doom. They roll out both in able fashion on the single’s uptempo opening title-track and follow with the BlackSabbath-“Black-Sabbath” sparse notemaking early in their own “Birnam Wood.” All told, Triumph of Death is only a little over nine minutes long, but it makes for an encouraging sampling of Birnam Wood’s wares all the same, and as Dylan Edwards, Adam McGrath, Shaun Anzalone and Matt Wagner shift into faster swing circa the eponymous tune’s solo-topped midpoint, they do so with a genuine sense of homage that does little to take away from the sense of individuality they’ve brought to the style even in this brief context. They call it stoner metal, and there’s something to that, but if we’re going on relative balance, Triumph of Death is more doom-stoner than stoner-doom, and it revels within that niche-within-a-niche-within-a-niche sensibility.

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Birnam Wood on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Novembers Doom, Abrams, The Grand Astoria, Hosoi Bros, Codeia, Ealdor Bealu, Stone Lotus, Green Yeti, Seer, Bretus

Posted in Reviews on July 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

So, after kvetching and hemming and hawing and all that other stuff that basically means ‘fretting and trying to shuffle a schedule around’ for the last several days, I think I’ve now found a way to add a sixth day to this Quarterly Review. Looking at all the records that still need to be covered even after doing 50, I don’t really see any other way to go. I could try to do more The Obelisk Radio adds to fit things in, but I don’t want to over-tax that new server, so yeah, I’m waiting at the moment to hear back on whether or not I can move a premiere from Monday to Tuesday to make room. Fingers crossed. I’ve already got the albums picked out that would be covered and should know by tomorrow if it’s going to happen.

Plenty to do in the meantime, so let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Novembers Doom, Hamartia

novembers-doom-hamartia

Look. Let’s be honest here. More than 20 years and 10 records in, one knows at least on a superficial level what to expect from Chicago’s Novembers Doom. Since their first album arrived in 1995, they’ve played to one side or the other between the spectrum of death-doom, and their work legitimately broke ground in the style for a US band and in general. After a push over their last couple albums including 2014’s Bled White (review here) into more deathly fare, Hamartia (on The End Records) brings 10 tracks and 58 minutes of the melancholy dramas – special hello to the piano/acoustic-led title-track – and gut-wrenching, crushingly emotive miseries – special hello to “Waves in the Red Cloth” and “Ghost” – that have defined them. One doesn’t expect a radical departure from them at this point and they don’t deliver one even as they turn to another side of their overarching aesthetic, but whether it’s the still-propulsive death gallop of “Apostasy” or the lush nine-minute finale “Borderline,” Novembers Doom reinforce their position as absolute masters of the style and give their longtime fans another collection of vital woes in which to revel.

Novembers Doom on Thee Facebooks

The End Records website

 

Abrams, Morning

abrams morning

Not a hair out of place in the execution of Morning, the Sailor Records second long-player from Denver three-piece Abrams (interview here). That has its ups and downs, naturally, but is suited to the band’s take on modern progressive heavy rock à la newer Mastodon and Baroness, and with production from Andy Patterson (of SubRosa) and Dave Otero (Khemmis, Cephalic Carnage, etc.), the crisp feel is both purposeful and well earned. Their 2015 debut, Lust. Love. Loss. (review here), dealt with a similar emotional landscape, but bassist/vocalist Taylor Iversen, guitarist/vocalist Zachary Amster and drummer Geoffrey Cotton are tighter and more aggressive here on songs like opener “Worlds Away” (video posted here), “At the End,” “Rivers,” “Can’t Sleep” and “Burned” (video posted here), and “Mourning,” “In this Mask” and closer “Morning” balance in terms of tempo and overall atmosphere, making Morning more than just a collection of master-blasters and giving it a full album’s flow and depth. Like I said, not a hair out of place. Structure, performance, delivery, theme. Abrams have it all precisely where they want it.

Abrams on Thee Facebooks

Abrams on Bandcamp

 

The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny

the-grand-astoria-the-fuzz-of-destiny

Dubbed an EP but running 29 minutes and boasting eight tracks, The Grand Astoria’s The Fuzz of Destiny is something of a conceptual release, with the St. Petersburg, Russia-based outfit paying homage to the effect itself. Each song uses a different kind of fuzz pedal, and as the ever-nuanced, progressive outfit make their way through the blown-out pastoralism of opener “Sunflower Queen” and into the nod of “Pocket Guru,” the organ-inclusive bursting fury of “Glass Walls” and the slower and more consuming title-track itself, which directly precedes closer “Eight Years Anniversary Riff” – yup, it’s a riff alright – they’re able to evoke a surprising amount of variety in terms of mood. That’s a credit to The Grand Astoria as songwriters perhaps even more than the differences in tone from song to song here – they’ve certainly shown over their tenure a will to embrace a diverse approach – but in giving tribute to fuzz, The Fuzz of Destiny successfully conveys some of the range a single idea can be used to conjure.

The Grand Astoria on Thee Facebooks

The Grand Astoria on Bandcamp

 

Hosoi Bros., Abuse Your Allusion III

hosoi-bros-abuse-your-allusion-iii

Oh, they’re up to it again, those Hosoi Bros. Their 2016 full-length, Abuse Your Allusion III, from its Guns ‘n’ Roses title reference through the Motörhead riffing of “Saint Tightus” through the stoner punk of “Topless Gnome” and the chugging scorch of the penultimate “Bitches are Nigh” offer primo charm and high-order shenanigans amid the most professional-sounding release of their career. Across a quick 10 tracks and 36 minutes, Hosoi Bros. readily place themselves across the metal/punk divide, and while there’s plenty of nonsense to be had from opener “Mortician” onward through “Lights Out” (video premiere here) and the later swagger of “Unholy Hand Grenade,” the band have never sounded more cohesive in their approach than they do on Abuse Your Allusion III, and the clean production only seems to highlight the songwriting at work underneath all the zany happenings across the record’s span, thereby doing them and the band alike a service as they make a convincing argument to their audience: Have fun. Live a little. It won’t hurt that much.

Hosoi Bros on Thee Facebooks

Hosoi Bros. on Bandcamp

 

Codeia, “Don’t be Afraid,” She Whispered and Disappeared

codeia-dont-be-afraid-she-whispered-and-disappeared

There’s actually very little that gets “Lost in Translation” in the thusly-titled 22-minute opener and longest cut (immediate points) of German post-metallers Codeia’s cumbersomely-named Backbite Records debut album, “Don’t be Afraid,” She Whispered and Disappeared. With heavy post-rock textures and an overarching sense of cerebral progressivism to its wash underscored by swells of low-end distortion, the three-piece of guitarist/backing vocalist Markus L., bassist/vocalist Denis S. and drummer Timo L. bring to bear patience out of the peak-era Isis or Cult of Luna sphere, sudden volume shifts, pervasive ambience, flourish of extremity and all. Nine-minute centerpiece “Shaping Stone” has its flash of aggression early before shifting into hypnotic and repetitive groove and subsequent blastbeaten furies, and 16-minute closer “Facing Extinction” caps the three-song/48-minute offering with nodding Russian Circles-style chug topped with growls that mask the layer of melodic drone filling out the mix beneath. They’re on familiar stylistic ground, but the breadth, depth and complexity Codeia bring to their extended structures are immersive all the same.

Codeia on Thee Facebooks

Backbite Records website

Mountain Range Creative Factory website

 

Ealdor Bealu, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain

ealdor-bealu-dark-water-at-the-foot-of-the-mountain

“Water Cycle,” the 13-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) of Ealdor Bealu’s debut full-length, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain, introduces a meditative feel and a breadth of sound that helps to define everything that follows. The ostensible side B leadoff of the self-release, “This too Shall Endure” (11:04), offers no less depth of atmosphere, and the graceful psychedelic expanses of the penultimate “Behind the Veil” continue to add to the overall scope with interplay of tempo variety and acoustic and electric guitar, but even earlier, shorter cuts like the wistful indie rocker “Deep Dark Below” and the linear-building “Behold the Sunrise” have an underlying progressivism that ties them to the longer form material, and likewise the particularly exploratory feeling “Ebb and Flow,” which though it’s the shortest cut at just over five minutes resonates as a standout jam ahead of “Behind the Veil” and subtly proggy seven-minute closer “Time Traveler.” The Boise-based four-piece of guitarist/vocalist/spearhead Carson Russell, guitarist Travis Abbott (also The Western Mystics), bassist/vocalist Rylie Collingwood and drummer/percussionist/saxophonist Alex Wargo bring the 56-minute offering to bear with marked patience and impress in the complexity of their arrangements and the identifiable human core that lies beneath them.

Ealdor Bealu on Thee Facebooks

Ealdor Bealu on Bandcamp

 

Stone Lotus, Comastone

I can take spicier foods than I ever could before.

One might consider the title of “Mountain of Filth,” the second cut on Stone Lotus’ debut album, Comastone, a mission statement for the Southwestern Australian trio’s vicious ‘n’ viscous brand of rolling, tonal-molasses sludge. Yeah, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Dave Baker, bassist Samuel Noire and drummer Reece Fleming bring ambience to the interlude “Aum,” the slower loud/quiet shifts in “Anthropocene” and the subsequent “Umbra” that leads into the creepy launch of the title-track – in fact, quiet starts are something of a theme throughout Comastone; even the thudding toms that begin opener “Swamp Coven” pale in comparison to the volume swell of massive distortion that follows closely behind – but it’s the rhythmic lumber and the harsh vocals from Baker that define their course through the darker recesses of sludged-out misanthropy. No complaints there, especially on a first long-player, but Stone Lotus are right to keep in mind the flourish of atmosphere their material offers, and one hopes that develops parallel to all the crushing weight of their mountainous approach.

Stone Lotus on Thee Facebooks

Stone Lotus on Bandcamp

 

Green Yeti, Desert Show

I'm not sure if that's an effect of dropping carbs or how it would be, but it's strange.

Even before it announces its heft, Green Yeti’s Desert Show casts forth its spaciousness. The second offering from the Athens-based trio in as many years dogwhistles heavy riffing intent even unto its David Paul Seymour album cover, but the five track rollout from guitarist/vocalist Michael Andresakis, bassist/producer Danis Avramidis and drummer Giannis Koutroumpis, as it shifts from the opening salvo of “Black Planets (Part 1)” and “Black Planets (Part 2)” into the Spanish-language centerpiece “Rojo” (direct homage perhaps to Los Natas? if so, effectively done) and into the broader-ranging “Bad Sleep (Part 1)” and 15-minute closer “Bad Sleep (Part 2)” builds just as much on its atmosphere as on its newer-school stoner rock groove and fuzz riffing. It is a 41-minute span that, without question, speaks to the heavy rock converted and plays to genre, but even taken next to the band’s 2016 debut, The Yeti has Landed, Desert Show demonstrates clear growth in writing and style, and stands as further proof of the emergence of Greece as a major contributor to the sphere of Europe’s heavy underground. Something special is happening in and outside of Athens. Green Yeti arrive at the perfect time to be a part of it.

Green Yeti on Thee Facebooks

Green Yeti on Bandcamp

 

Seer, Victims

seer victims

Let’s just assume that Seer won’t be asked to play at Dorney Park anytime soon. The Allentown, Pennsylvania, three-piece dig into largesse-minded instrumental riffing someplace between doom and sludge and do so on raw, formative fashion on the two-song Victims EP, which features the tracks “Victims… Aren’t We All?” and “Swollen Pit,” which is a redux from their 2015 debut short release, Vaped Remains. Some touch of Electric Wizard-style wah in Rybo’s guitar stands out in the second half of the opener, and the closer effectively moves from its initial crawl into post-Sleep stonerized idolatry, but the point of Victims isn’t nearly as much about scope as it is about Rybo, bassist Kelsi and drummer Yvonne setting forth on a stomping path of groove and riff worship, rumbling sans pretense loud enough to crack the I-78 corridor and offering the clever equalizer recommendation to put the bass, treble and mids all at six. Think about it for a second. Not too long though.

Seer on Thee Facebooks

Seer on Bandcamp

 

Bretus, From the Twilight Zone

bretus-from-the-twilight-zone

Doom! Horror! Riffs! Though it starts out with quiet acoustics and unfolds in echoing weirdness, Bretus’ new album, …From the Twilight Zone, more or less shouts these things from the proverbial cathedral rafters throughout its seven tracks. The Catanzaro, Italy, foursome weren’t shy about bringing an air of screamy sludge to their 2015 sophomore outing, The Shadow over Innsmouth (discussed here), but …From the Twilight Zone shifts more toward a Reverend Bizarre trad doom loyalism that suits the Endless Winter release remarkably well. Those acoustics pop up again in expanded-breadth centerpiece/highlight “Danza Macabra” and closer “Lizard Woman,” and thereby provide something of a narrative thread to the offering as a whole, but on the level of doom-for-doomers, there’s very little about the aesthetic that Bretus leave wanting throughout, whether it’s the faster-chug into drifting fluidity of “The Murder” or the nodding stomp of “In the Vault” (demo posted here) and crypto-NWOBHM flourish of “Old Dark House” (video posted here). Not trying to remake doom in their own image, but conjuring an eerie and engaging take in conversation with the masters of the form.

Bretus on Thee Facebooks

Endless Winter Records

 

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Quarterly Review: Enslaved, Hour of 13, Operators, MaidaVale, Audion, Bone Man, Riff Fist, Helén, Savanah, Puta Volcano

Posted in Reviews on July 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

I don’t know about you, but I could do this all day. Listening to records, writing reviews, getting things done that I’ve been trying to get done in some cases for actual months of my life — suffice it to say I’m way into this process. Wednesday is always a special day for the Quarterly Review because we pass the halfway point, and as much as I wish this edition went to 60 or even 70 releases, because rest assured even with 50 total there’s way more I could be covering if I had space/time, the good news is there’s still much more awesomeness to come. Today gets into some different vibes once again, so let’s get started.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Enslaved, Roadburn Live

enslaved-roadburn-live

In their storied and groundbreaking career, Norwegian progressive black metallers Enslaved have never put out a live record, and it kind of makes sense as to why. The nuance of what they’ve come to do in their studio material doesn’t really lend itself to the rawness of a live album. Accordingly, Roadburn Live (on ByNorse and Burning World Records) feels almost as much of an homage to the event itself as to the performance. Captured in 2015 as Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson co-curated and the band headlined playing a special set of their more prog-focused songs – here more recent material like “In Times,” “Building with Fire,” “Daylight” from 2015’s In Times (review here) and “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” from 2012’s RIITIIR (review here) shines along with “Convoys to Nothingness” from 2001’s Monumension, “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” from 2003’s Below the Lights and the requisite “Isa” from the 2004 landmark of the same name, and a special highlight comes at the finale when they cover Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and bring guitarist Menno Gootjes of Dutch proggers Focus out for a guest spot. Roadburn Live might be a step away from the band’s usual modus, but Enslaved have made their career on pushing themselves beyond their comfort zone, so why stop now?

Enslaved on Thee Facebooks

Burning World Records website

ByNorse Music website

 

Hour of 13, Salt the Dead: The Rare and Unreleased

hour of 13 salt the dead

An overdue compilation from a band making an overdue return, Hour of 13’s Salt the Earth: The Rare and Unreleased reunites the doomers led by multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis with Shadow Kingdom Records and brings together early demos from 2007 – on which the collaboration between Davis and vocalist Phil Swanson was arguably at its most vibrant as they headed into their self-titled debut full-length later that year – with other previously unissued cuts like three songs with Davis on vocals including the Jason McCash tribute piece “Upon Black Wings We Die” (premiered here) and the original rehearsal demos that introduced Beaten Back to Pure singer Ben Hogg as Swanson’s replacement in the band in 2011 (premiered here). If you want a direct feel for the breadth of the band, look no further than the three versions of “Call to Satan” that appear on Salt the Earth. Widely varied between them in sound and overall feel, they underscore the tumult that has existed since the outset at the core of Hour of 13 even as they provide hope that the band previously laid to rest can revitalize enough to put out a fourth studio offering.

Hour of 13 on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records website

 

Operators, Revelers

operators revelers

Nearly four years in the making, Revelers is the third full-length from Berlin’s Operators behind 2013’s Contact High (review here) and 2012’s Operators (review here), and it starts off by smashing Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats swing headfirst into Goatsnake riffing on “Leveled Reveler,” the first of its six component tracks. Their arrangements, as ever, are marked by the featured position of organ along with guitar, bass and drums, and whether it’s a more extended jam like that opener, “Messina” or the closing “Rolling Hitch” – which boasts a guest vocal/guitar spot from Wight’s René Hofmann, who also recorded and mixed (Tony Reed of Mos Generator mastered) – or the shorter momentum-building winding course through “Pusher,” “Walkin’ on Air” (I’m not sure what’s happening at the end there, but I’m not about to spoil it) and the winning-at-song-titles “Fuzz Muncher,” Operators function with a maturity of approach that seems to have been earned during the longer stretch between releases. To wit, all the turns and pivots even out in the last movement of “Rolling Hitch” and Revelers caps with a classic heavy rock groove that’s neither in a hurry nor staid – Operators finding crucial balance amidst all their revelry, and much to their credit.

Operators on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzmatazz Records on Bandcamp

 

MaidaVale, Tales of the Wicked West

maidavale tales of the wicked west

Blues Pills. There. I said it. Now that the blues-rocking elephant in the room has been acknowledged, perhaps we can get on with Swedish four-piece MaidaVale’s debut full-length, Tales of the Wicked West (on The Sign Records). Yes, the Fårösund-based band owe a bit of their soulfulness to the aforementioned, but the nine-track/44-minute long-player thrives most of all as Linn Johannesson, Sofia Ström, Matilda Roth and Johanna Hansson purposefully meander into psychedelic flashes, as in opener “(If You Want the Smoke) Be the Fire,” the midsection of “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” the penultimate Zep-vibing/Bukowski-referencing “Find What You Love and Let it Kill You” and the 11-minute post-“Maggot Brain” closer “Heaven and Earth.” It’s in these moments and the manner in which they blend with the driving rock of “Dirty War,” the bluesy swagger of “Restless Wanderer” and the deft turns of “Colour Blind” early on that MaidaVale’s individualism is beginning to take shape, and if that’s the story that Tales of the Wicked West is telling, then it’s one well worth following through subsequent chapters.

MaidaVale on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Audion, La Historia de Abraham

audion-la-histora-de-abraham

Audion’s debut, La Historia de Abraham, is immediately noteworthy in no small part because it brings the rhythm section of Los Natas back together for the first time since that band’s breakup following 2009’s excellent Nuevo Orden de la Libertad (review here). Drummer Walter Broide and bassist Gonzalo Villagra join forces in the new outfit with guitarist Dizzy Espeche, and all three contribute vocals throughout at least in backup capacity, adding variety to go with the instrumental breadth that runs from the serene end of “Llegaron Sordos” right into the rush of “La Maquina del Tiempo” and well beyond later as the interlude “Para Rosita” introduces an earthy acoustidelic feel and “El Carancho” explores ‘70s anthemic rock before the fuzz- and horn-laden finisher “Queruzalem” closes out with a surprising progressive wash. Cuts like opener “Clarence,” the title-track and “Colmillo Blanco” can call to mind Villagra and Broide’s previous work, but Audion make a fresh impression on La Historia de Abraham in the variety throughout, and as they make their way through “Lesbotrans” and “Diablo vs. Dios” and into the second half of the album, it becomes increasingly clear how distinct this first offering actually is.

Audion on Thee Facebooks

Audion on Bandcamp

 

Bone Man, III

bone man iii

To go along with the propulsive rhythm of “False Ambition” and the wash in the payoff of the earlier “These Days are Gone,” there’s a sense of gothic drama to vocalist Marian’s delivery that adds further atmosphere to Bone Man’s III (on Pink Tank Records), and in kind with the cohesive foundation of Arne’s bass, Ötzi’s drumming and his own scorch-prone guitar, that gives cuts like “Cold Echo” and the alternately brooding and explosive centerpiece – layered acoustic and electric guitar filling out the sound further – even more stylistic depth. That moodiness comes perhaps most into focus on the more subdued “Incognito,” but it’s there from the boogie-laced opener “Pollyanna” onward, and in the jagged push of “Years of Sorrow” and the more spacious finale “Amnesia” (still a tightly structured four minutes in length), it lends III a persona stretching beyond what one might think of as the standard genre fare and gives the Kiel, Germany, outfit a presence decidedly their own. It’s their third record, so maybe that’s not a surprise for a band who made their first offering eight years ago, but it serves as a major source of resonance in the material nonetheless.

Bone Man on Thee Facebooks

Pink Tank Records website

 

Riff Fist, King Tide

riff fist king iii

Going back to 2013, Melbourne, Australia, trio Riff Fist have basically summed up their approach in the eight letters of their name: a tight-knit approach to guitar-led heavy rock, as straightforward as a fist in your face. King Tide is their debut album after three EPs named for the Clint Eastwood Dollars trilogy of westerns – 2015’s The Good, the Loud and the Riff, 2014’s For a Few Riffs More and 2013’s Fistful of Riffs (review here) – and it significantly expands their breadth. Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in the 11-minute title cut (video premiered here), King Tide covers new, more patient and encompassing ground from bassist/vocalist Cozza, guitarist Casey and drummer Joel than anything they’ve touched on before, and while the subsequent “D.T.U.B.,” fuzz-laden “Fist Bier (Noch Eins)” and even the first half of eight-minute centerpiece “Chugg” bring that all-ahead sensibility back into focus, King Tide remains effectively and engagingly informed by its leadoff impression through its total 33-minute run, which is rounded out as “Beer and a Cigarette” melds the more spacious and atmospheric take with a still-swinging post-Clutch groove. There’s more work to do in tying the various sides together, but King Tide is a rousing introduction to the process through which the band can make that happen.

Riff Fist on Thee Facebooks

Riff Fist on Bandcamp

 

Helén, Helén

helen helen

Hexvessel multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Kimmo Helén makes a willfully peculiar and experimentalist self-titled debut with the solo-project Helén via Svart Records, setting a course through melodic indie wash in “Uusi Olento” even as “Jumalan Hullu” threatens in its bounce and the later “Lystia” moves into yet-darker expanses. Keys, electric and acoustic guitar, sax, and of course Helén’s own Finnish-language vocals, there’s very little that feels like it might be outside his comfort zone in terms of craft, and Helén, the album, is just as effective in the plus-cello-acoustic-minimalism of the penultimate “Lopussa” as in the earlier atmospheric breadth of “Puolen Metrin Syvyydessä.” Closing out with the alternately melancholy and dreamy “Kaikki Isä,” the record brings out a full-band feel despite Helén having handled the vast majority of the instrumentation on his own and impresses in that as well as in its range of moods and overarching sense of purpose. May it be a first exploration in a series of many.

Helén on Thee Facebooks

Helén at Svart Records webstore

 

Savanah, The Healer

savanah the healer

I won’t take away from a wah-drenched rocker like “The Healer,” which still jams out plenty before digging into doomier lumbering, but where Austrian trio Savanah’s Stone Free Records debut album, The Healer, really gets its point across is in the fluidity of its longer-form material, whether that’s post-“Intro” opener “Mind,” the ebbing and flowing heavy psych instrumental “Pillars of Creation” or the over-10-minutes-apiece closing pair of the doom rocking “Black Widow” and “Panoramic View of Stormy Weather,” which effectively draws together the multiple aesthetic faces the three-piece demonstrate throughout the record preceding, culling rock, psych and doom into a single riff-driven entity and, most importantly, making it theirs. Guitar leads the way with big, natural fuzz, but the rhythm section is crucial here, and as Benny, Felix and Jakob follow-up their 2015 EP, Deep Shades, they seem to establish a path along which they can flourish and hopefully continue to capture the listener’s attention as they do here.

Savanah on Thee Facebooks

StoneFree Records website

 

Puta Volcano, Harmony of Spheres

puta volcano harmony of spheres

The kind of release where by the end of the first song you want to own everything the band has ever put out. Don’t let Athens’ Puta Volcano get lost in the wash of bands coming out of Greece these days, because there are many, but if you miss out on the blend of desert-style tones and graceful melodies of “Bird,” it’s to your general detriment. I’m serious. In craft and performance, Puta Volcano’s third album, Harmony of Spheres, takes on unpretentious progressivism in songwriting and blends it with a post-Slo Burn/Hermano sense of freedom from genre. Witness the funky “Zeroth Law” or the later, more subtle post-grunge linearity of “Moebius,” the odd chanting repetitions in closer “Infinity” or the nigh-on-maddening hook of “Jovian Winds.” Really, do it. With the lineup of vocalist Luna Stoner, guitarist Alex Pi, bassist Bookies and drummer Steven Stefanidis, Puta Volcano are onto something special in aesthetic and delivery, and if Harmony of Spheres might be your first experience with the band as it’s mine, it’s one that will no doubt warrant multiple revisits. Consider it sleeper fodder for your year-end list – I know I will.

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Quarterly Review: Loss, BardSpec, Sinner Sinners, Cavra, Black Tremor & Sea Witch, Supersonic Blues, Masterhand, Green Lung, Benthic Realm, Lâmina

Posted in Reviews on July 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

Day two of the Quarterly Review and all is chugging along. I was on the road for part of the day yesterday and will be again today, so there’s some chaos underlying what I’m sure on the surface seems like an outwardly smooth process — ha. — but yeah, things are moving forward. Today is a good mix of stuff, which makes getting through it somewhat easier on my end, as opposed to trying to find 50 different ways to say “riffy,” so I hope you take the time to sample some audio as you make your way through, to get a feel for where these bands are coming from. A couple highlights of the week in here, as always. We go.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Loss, Horizonless

loss horizonless

Horizonless (on Profound Lore) marks a welcome if excruciating return from Nashville death-doomers Loss, who debuted six years ago with 2011’s Despond (review here) and who, much to their credit, waste no time in making up for their absence with 64 soul-crushing minutes across nine slabs of hyperbole-ready atmospheric misery. The longer, rumble-caked, slow-motion lumbering of “The Joy of all Who Sorrow,” “All Grows on Tears,” “Naught,” the title-track and closer “When Death is All” (which boasts guests spots from Leviathan’s Wrest, Dark Castle’s Stevie Floyd and producer Billy Anderson) are companioned by shorter ambient works like the creepy horror soundtrack “I.O.” and the hum of “Moved Beyond Murder,” but the deeper it goes, the more Horizonless lives up to its name in creating a sense of unremitting, skyline-engulfing darkness. That doesn’t mean it’s without an emotional center. As Loss demonstrate throughout, there’s nothing that escapes their consumptive scope, and as they shift through the organ-laced “The End Steps Forth,” “Horizonless,” “Banishment” and the long-fading wash of the finale, the album seems as much about eating its own heart as yours. A process both gorgeous and brutal.

Loss on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore Records website

 

BardSpec, Hydrogen

bardspec hydrogen

It’s only fair to call Hydrogen an experimentalist work, but don’t necessarily take that to mean that Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson doesn’t have an overarching vision for what his BardSpec project is. With contributions along the way from Today is the Day’s Steve Austin and former Trinacria compatriot Iver Sandøy (also Manngard), Bjørnson crafts extended pieces of ambient guitar and electronica-infused beats on works like “Fire Tongue” and the thumping “Salt,” resulting in two kinds of interwoven progressive otherworldlinesses not so much battling it out as exploring the spaces around each other. Hydrogen veers toward the hypnotic even through the more manic-churning bonus track “Teeth,” but from the psych-dance transience of “Bone” (video posted here) to the unfolding wash of “Gamma,” BardSpec is engaged in creating its own aesthetic that’s not only apart from what Bjørnson is most known for in Enslaved, but apart even from its influences in modern atmospherics and classic, electronics-infused prog.

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ByNorse Music website

 

Sinner Sinners, Optimism Disorder

There’s a current of rawer punk running beneath Sinner Sinners’ songwriting – or on the surface of it if you happen to be listening to “California” or “Outsider” or “Hate Yourself” or “Preachers,” etc. – but especially when the L.A. outfit draw back on the push a bit, their Last Hurrah Records and Cadavra Records full-length Optimism Disorder bears the hallmarks of Rancho de la Luna, the studio where it was recorded. To wit, the core duo of Steve and Sam Thill lead the way through the Queens of the Stone Age-style drive of opener “Last Drop” (video posted here), “Desperation Saved Me (Out of Desperation)” and though finale “Celexa Blues” is more aggressive, its tones and overall hue, particularly in the context of the bounce of “Together We Stand” and “Too Much to Dream” earlier, still have that desert-heavy aspect working for them. It’s a line that Sinner Sinners don’t so much straddle as crash through and stomp all over, but I’m not sure Optimism Disorder would work any other way.

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Sinner Sinners on Bandcamp

Last Hurrah Records website

 

Cavra, Cavra

cavra cavra

The five-song/52-minute self-titled debut from Argentina trio Cavra was first offered digitally name-your-price-style late in 2016 and picked up subsequently by South American Sludge. There’s little reason to wonder why. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Cristian Kocak, bassist/vocalist Fernando Caminal and drummer Matias Gallipoli, the Buenos Aires three-piece place themselves squarely in the sphere of their home country’s rich heritage in heavy rock and psychedelic fluidity, with earthy tones, a resounding spaciousness in longer cuts like the all-15-minutes-plus “2010,” “Montaña” and “Torquemada.” My mind went immediately to early and mid-period Los Natas as a reference point for how the vocals cut through the density of “Montaña,” but even as Cavra show punkier and more straightforward thrust on the shorter “Dos Soles” (4:10) and “Librianna” (2:45) – the latter also carrying a marked grunge feel – they seem to keep one foot in lysergism. Perhaps less settled than it wants to be in its quiet parts, Cavra’s Cavra nonetheless reaches out with a tonal warmth and organic approach that mark a welcome arrival.

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South American Sludge Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Black Tremor & Sea Witch, Split

black-tremor-sea-witch-split

One has to wonder if whichever of the involved parties – be it the two acts or either of the labels, Sunmask Records or Hypnotic Dirge – had in mind a land-and-sea kind of pairing in putting together Saskatoon’s Black Tremor or Nova Scotia’s Sea Witch for this split release, because that’s basically where they wound up. Black Tremor, who issued their debut EP in 2016’s Impending (review here), answer the post-Earth vibes with more bass/drums/cello instrumental exploration on the two-part “Hexus,” while the massive tonality of duo Sea Witch answers back – though not literally; they’re also instrumental – with three cuts, “Green Tide,” “As the Crow Flies Part One” and “As the Crow Flies Part Two.” The two outfits have plenty in common atmospherically, but where Black Tremor seem to seek open spaces in their sound, Sea Witch prefer lung-crushing heft, and, well, there isn’t really a wrong answer to that question. Two distinct intentions complementing each other in fluidity and a mood that goes from grim and contemplative to deathly and bleak.

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Sea Witch on Thee Facebooks

Hypnotic Dirge Records webstore

Sunmask Records webstore

 

Supersonic Blues, Supersonic Blues Theme b/w Curses on My Soul

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It takes Den Haag trio Supersonic Blues no more than eight minutes to bust out one of 2017’s best short releases in their Who Can You Trust? Records debut single, Supersonic Blues Theme b/w Curses on My Soul. Yes, I mean it. The young three-piece of guitarist Timothy, bassist Gianni and drummer Lennart absolutely nail a classic boogie-rock vibe on the two-tracker, and from the gotta-hear low end that starts “Curses on My Soul,” the unabashed hook of “Supersonic Blues Theme” and the blown-out garage vocals that top both, the two-tracker demonstrates clearly not only that there’s still life to be had in heavy ‘70s loyalism when brought to bear with the right kind of energy, but that Supersonic Blues are on it like fuzz on tone. Killer feel all the way and shows an exceeding amount of potential for a full-length that one can only hope won’t follow too far behind. Bonus points for recording with Guy Tavares at Motorwolf. Hopefully they do the same when it comes time for the LP.

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Who Can You Trust? Records webstore

 

Masterhand, Mind Drifter

masterhand-mind-drifter

A neo-psych trio from Oklahoma City, Masterhand seem like the kind of group who might at a moment’s notice pack their gear and go join the legions of freaks tripping out on the West Coast. Can’t imagine they wouldn’t find welcome among that I-see-colors-everywhere underground set – at least if their debut long-player, Mind Drifter, is anything to go by. Fuzz like Fuzz, acid like Uncle, and a quick, raw energy that underlies and propels the proceedings through quick tracks like “Fear Monger” and “Lucifer’s Dream” – tense bass and drums behind more languid wah and surf guitar before a return to full-on fuzz – yeah, they make a solid grab for upstart imprint King Volume Records, which has gotten behind Mind Drifter for a cassette issue. There’s some growing to do, but the psych-garage feel of “Chocolate Cake” is right on, “Heavy Feels” is a party, and when they want, they make even quick cuts like “Paranoia Destroyer” feel expansive. That, along with the rest of the release, bodes remarkably well.

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King Volume Records webstore

 

Green Lung, Green Man Rising

green-lung-green-man-rising

Groove-rolling four-piece Green Lung boast former members of Oak and Tomb King, among others, and Green Man Rising, their first digital single, is the means by which they make their entry into London’s crowded underground sphere. Aside from the apparent nod to Type O Negative in the title – and the plenty of more-than-apparent nod in guitarist Scott Masson’s riffing – “Green Man Rising” and “Freak on a Peak” bask in post-Church of Misery blown-out cymbals from drummer Matt Wiseman, corresponding tones, while also engaging a sense of space via rich low end from bassist Andrew Cave and the echoing vocals of Tom Killingbeck. There’s an aesthetic identity taking shape in part around nature worship, and a burgeoning melodicism that one imagines will do likewise more over time, but they’ve got stonerly hooks in the spirit of Acrimony working in their favor and in a million years that’s never going to be a bad place to start. Cool vibe; makes it easy to look forward to more from them.

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Green Lung on Bandcamp

 

Benthic Realm, Benthic Realm

benthic-realm-benthic-realm

In 2016, Massachusetts-based doom metallers Second Grave issued one of the best debut albums of the year in their long-awaited Blacken the Sky (review here)… and then, quite literally days later, unexpectedly called it quits. It was like a cruel joke, teasing their potential and then cutting it short of full realization. The self-titled debut EP from Benthic Realm, which features Second Grave guitarist/vocalist Krista van Guilder (also ex-Warhorse) and bassist Maureen Murphy alongside drummer Brian Banfield (The Scimitar), would seem to continue the mission of that prior outfit if perhaps in an even more metallic direction, drawing back on some of Second Grave’s lumber in favor of a mid-paced thrust while holding firm to the melodic sensibility that worked so well across Blacken the Sky’s span. For those familiar with Second Grave, Benthic Realm is faster, not as dark, and perhaps somewhat less given to outward sonic extremity, but it’s worth remembering that “Awakening,” “Don’t Fall in Line” and “Where Serpents Dwell” are just an introduction and that van Guilder and Murphy might go on a completely different direction over the longer term after going back to square one as they do here.

Benthic Realm website

Benthic Realm on Bandcamp

 

Lâmina, Lilith

lamina-lilith

Smack dab in the middle of Lilith, the debut album from Lisbon-based doom/heavy rockers Lâmina, sits the 20-minute aberration “Maze.” It’s a curious track in a curious place on the record, surrounded by the chugging “Evil Rising” and bass-led rocker bounce of “Psychodevil,” but though it’s almost a full-length unto itself (at least an EP), Lâmina make the most of its extended and largely linear course, building on the tonal weight already shown in the earlier “Cold Blood” and “Big Black Angel” and setting up the tension of “Education for Death” and the nine-minute semi-title-track finale “In the Warmth of Lilith,” which feels a world away from the modern stonerism of “Psychodevil” in its slower and thoroughly doomed rollout. There’s a subtle play of scope happening across Lilith, drawn together by post-grunge tonal clarity and vocal melodies, and Lâmina establish themselves as potentially able to pursue any number of paths going forward from here. If they can correspondingly develop the penchant for songwriting they already show in these cuts as well, all the better.

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Lâmina on Bandcamp

 

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Review & Track Premiere: Demon Eye, Prophecies and Lies

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

demon eye prophecies and lies

[Click play above to stream ‘The Redeemer’ from Demon Eye’s new album, Prophecies and Lies, out Aug. 11 on Soulseller Records.]

North Carolinian double-guitar doom-rocking four-piece Demon Eye have been up front all along. Really. Since the band made their debut on Soulseller Records with 2014’s Leave the Light (review here), they’ve made no effort to mask where they’re coming from in terms of blending the ways of modern garage doom and classic ’70s heavy rock, bridging a gap between Uncle Acid and Pentagram, with KISS hooks and early Rush shuffle and Judas Priest metallurgy thrown in for good measure. Prophecies and Lies is their third outing for Soulseller behind 2015’s Tempora Infernalia (review here) and it pairs the band with founding Corrosion of Conformity bassist/vocalist Mike Dean as producer, resulting in the tightest incarnation of their sound to-date.

Songwriting has always been a feature of their work, but to hear them groove their way through “Dying for It” or the swaggering “The Redeemer,” their path of development seems to have taken another forward step in efficiency even from where it was two years ago, and as the returning lineup of guitarist/vocalist Erik Sugg, lead guitarist Larry Burlison, bassist/vocalist Paul Walz and drummer/vocalist Bill Eagen dig into the cowbell and dual leads of “Vagabond,” the motor-riffing of “In the Spider’s Eye” or the crisp ’70s proto-metallic starts and stops in the verses of “The Redeemer,” it’s their penchant for memorable choruses that unites Prophecies and Lies across its 11 tracks/42 minutes, so that the record flows consistently despite its primary impression being as a showcase for its individual pieces.

It is in that that Demon Eye are perhaps at their most loyal to classic notions of what an album is, and again, they’ve yet to bring it to such realized fruition as they do here, having their cake and eating it too as they tie the standout hooks of the Wino-style-riffed “Politic Divine” together with “The Waters and the Wild” through a consistency of approach and tone. The latter cut opens Prophecies and Lies with a forceful introductory wash of cymbals and thuds behind its first riff — a subtle introduction to the course of what’s to follow — and soon enough is galloping through its first verse. Already — less than a minute in — Demon Eye have given crucial signals to their audience of their intentions and the methods they’ll use to convey them throughout the album that follows. “The Waters and the Wild” trades between its gallop and a more rolling chorus, stepping aside for a nodding bridge in its second half leading to a solo section and final run through the hook. Clean, crisp, refreshing. Nothing spare to it. And that’s how they’ll continue to operate as “In the Spider’s Eye,” “The Redeemer,” “Kismet,” “Infinite Regress” and “Dying for It” complete a Side A evenly split in 21-minute increments with the second half still to come.

demon eye

Some groups just have an innate sense of structure. Demon Eye would seem to be such a band, but as listen back to Leave the Light or Tempora Infernalia shows, they also work at it, and that work is paying off here, whether it’s in their ability to pull off the sudden doomly slowdown in “In the Spider’s Eye” or in the way “Kismet,” with no major change in its overall sound or feel, seems to become anthemic simply by matching Sugg‘s and Burlison‘s guitars in quick lead sections. Every flourish, every nuance on Prophecies and Lies, from the turn into a calming presence for “Infinite Regress” to the all-out double-time hi-hat from Eagen on “Dying for It,” serves a purpose, and that willfulness of execution underscores both the clear effort Demon Eye have made to advance themselves stylistically and the organic place from which their impulse toward structure comes.

One guitar, Walz‘s bass, the other guitar and the drums as the final component lead the way into “Politic Divine” at the start of side B, a lyrical reference to a thunder god soon to follow as Sugg‘s layered vocals tie terrestrial concerns to spooked-out themes in classic metal fashion. I don’t know how thematic Prophecies and Lies is meant to be as a whole, but this too is an example of how Demon Eye have grown over the last couple years, since as “Politic Divine” finishes and “Power of One” immediately picks up on the next beat — the two obviously meant to be taken as a pair — the examining of social themes, even couched in metaphor, comes across as a newer or at least more-focused-on idea for the band. That is to say, while they may have been offering similar commentary in the past, the way they’re doing so in these tracks is clearer about what it wants to say and the judgment it’s making. A clue to the album’s title, which also blends the ethereal and the worldly? Maybe.

In either case, Demon Eye remain as clear-headed as ever throughout those two, the Maiden-esque “Vagabond,” the spoken-word-over-quieter-fare title-track — consider it a mirror in purpose to side A’s penultimate cut in “Infinite Regress,” but more fleshed out — and seven-minute closer and longest inclusion “Morning’s Son,” which uses its extra space to compel the band into a well-earned grandiose finish, marked by keyboard flourish and a cymbal wash to bookend that which started “The Waters and the Wild.”

The more one digs into the details of Prophecies and Lies, the more there is to find that reinforces the idea of how sure their foundation and delivery has become, and the final crashes from Eagen are a last-minute reminder from Demon Eye that while they may be writing individual songs that work very much on that level — that is, you could pull just about any of them from its surroundings, even “Infinite Regress” and “Prophecies and Lies,” and make it a single — there is a larger purpose at work in making them function together as a single, fluid entity. This level of construction might be the greatest achievement on Prophecies and Lies, but make no mistake, whatever else is accomplished, the album rocks and at no point fails to fully engage its audience on whatever level they might want to meet it.

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Demon Eye on Bandcamp

Demon Eye website

Soulseller Records website

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Quarterly Review: Les Discrets, Test Meat, Matus, Farflung, Carpet, Tricky Lobsters, Ten Foot Wizard & Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, The Acid Guide Service, Skunk, The Raynbow

Posted in Reviews on July 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

My friends, the time has come. Well, actually the time came about two weeks ago at the end of June, but I won’t tell if you don’t. Better late than never as regards all things, but most especially The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review, which this time around features releases recent, upcoming and a bit older, a mix of known and lesser known acts, and as always, hopefully enough of a stylistic swath to allow everyone whose eyes the series of posts catches to find something they dig between now and Friday. As always, it’ll be 50 records from now until then, 10 per day, and I see no reason not to jump right in, so let’s do that.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Les Discrets, Prédateurs

les discrets Prédateurs

After offering a preview of their marked stylistic turn in last year’s Virée Nocturne EP (review here), Lyon, France’s Les Discrets return with the suitably nighttime-urbane vibing of their Prédateurs full-length via Prophecy Productions. Five years after Ariettes Oubliées (review here), Fursy Teyssier and company reinvent their approach to the sonic lushness of their earlier work, departing the sphere of post-black metal they previously shared with sister band Alcest in favor of an anything-goes heavy experimentalism more akin to Ulver on cuts like “Le Reproche” or the deeply atmospheric “Fleur des Murailles.” Drones pepper “Rue Octavio Mey” and closer “Lyon – Paris 7h34” effectively conveys the sense of journey its train-schedule title would hint toward, and indeed Les Discrets as a whole seem to be in flux throughout Prédateurs despite an overarching cohesion within each track. It’s a fine line between multifaceted and disjointed, but fortunately, Teyssier’s grip on melodicism is unflinching and enough to tie otherwise disparate ideas together here.

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Les Discrets at Prophecy Productions

 

Test Meat, Demo

test meat demo

Considering the pedigree involved in guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard (ex-Milligram, Blackwolfgoat, Kind, etc.), bassist Aarne Victorine (UXO, Whitey) and drummer Michael Nashawaty (Planetoid, Bird Language), it’s little surprise that Test Meat’s Demo would have a pretty good idea of where it wants to come from. The five-track first showing from the Boston trio blends raw-edge grunge and noise rock on “He Don’t Know” after opening with its longest inclusion (immediate points) in the 3:50 “Cuffing Season,” and though centerpiece “Done” nods at the starts-and-stops of Helmet, the subsequent 2:35 push of “If You Wanna” is strikingly post-Nirvana, and closer “Permanent Festival” rounds out by bridging that gap via a still-straightforward heavy rock groove. Formative, yeah, but that’s the whole point. Test Meat revel in their barebones style and clearly aren’t looking to get overly lush, but one can’t help but be curious how or if they’ll develop a more melodic sensibility to go with the consuming, full buzzsaw tones they elicit here.

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Test Meat on Bandcamp

 

Matus, Intronauta

matus intronauta

Worth noting that while the opening cut here, “Claroscuro,” shares its title with Matus’ 2015 full-length (review here), that song didn’t actually appear on that album. Does that mean that the Lima, Peru, classic progressive rockers are offering leftovers from the same sessions on their new EP and perhaps final release, Intronauta? I don’t know, but the four tracks of the digital outing are a welcome arrival anyway, from the laid back easy vibes of the aforementioned opener through the riffier “Intronauta (Including Hasta Que El Sol Descanse en Paz),” the Theremin-soaked finish of the harder-driving “Catalina” and the acoustic-led four-part closer “Arboleda Bohemia,” which unfolds with lushness that remains consistent with the naturalism that has always been underlying in the band’s work. They’ve said their last few times out that the end is near, and if it’s true, they go out with a fully-cast sonic identity of their own and a take on ‘70s prog that remains an underrated secret of the South American underground.

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Matus on Bandcamp

 

Farflung, Unwound Celluloid Frown

farflung unwound celluloud frown

The jury, at least when it comes to the internet, still seems to be somewhat divided on whether the name of Farflung’s five-track/34-minute EP is Unwound Celluloid Frown or Unwound Cellular Frown. I’d say another argument is whether it’s an EP or an LP, but either way, let the follow-up to the more clearly-titled 2016 album (review here) demonstrate how nebulous the long-running Los Angeles space rockers can be when it suits them. Hugely and continually underrated, the troupe once again aligns to Heavy Psych Sounds for this release, which is rife with their desert-hued Hawkwindian thrust and weirdo vibes, permeating the rocket-fuel chug of the title-track and the noise-of-the-cosmos 13-minute headphone-fest that is “Axis Mundi,” which seems to end with someone coming home and putting down their car keys before a slowly ticking clock fades out and into the backwards swirling intro of lazily drifting closer “Silver Ghost with Crystal Spoons.” Yeah, it’s like that. Whatever you call it, the collection proves once again that Farflung are a secret kept too well.

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Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Carpet, Secret Box

carpet secret box

Immersive and progressive psychedelia unfolds from the very opening moments of Carpet’s third album, Secret Box (on Elektrohasch Schallplatten), as the Augsberg, Germany-based five-piece explore lush arrangements of Moog, Rhodes, trumpet, vibraphone, etc. around central compositions of fluid guitar-led melodies and engaging rhythms. Their 2015 Riot Kiss 7” (review here) and 2013 sophomore long-player, Elysian Pleasures (review here), came from a similar place in intent, but from the funk wah and percussion underscoring the pre-fuzz-explosion portion of “Best of Hard Times” and the okay-this-one’s-about-the-riff “Shouting Florence” to the serene ambience of “For Tilda” and ethereal fluidity of “Pale Limbs” later on, the secret of Secret Box seems to be that it’s actually a treasure chest in disguise. Opening with its longest track in “Temper” (immediate points), the album hooks its audience right away along a graceful, rich-sounding melodic flow and does not relinquish its hold until the last piano notes of the closing title-track offer a wistful goodbye. In between, Carpet execute with a poise and nuance all the more enjoyable for how much their own it seems to be.

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Carpet on Bandcamp

 

Tricky Lobsters, Worlds Collide

tricky lobsters worlds collide

Full, natural production, crisp and diverse songwriting, right-on performances and a name you’re not about to forget – there’s nothing about Tricky Lobsters not to like. Worlds Collide is their sixth album and first on Exile on Mainstream, and the overall quality of their approach reminds of the kind of sonic freedom proffered by Astrosoniq, but the German trio of guitarist/vocalist Sarge, bassist/vocalist Doc and drummer/vocalist Captain Peters have their own statements to make as well in the stomping “Battlefields,” the mega-hook of “Big Book,” the dreamy midsection stretch of “Father and Son” and the progressive melody-making of “Tarred Albino” (video premiere here). The emphasis across the nine-song/42-minute outing is on craft, but whether it’s the patient unfolding of “Dreamdiver Pt. I & II” or the harp-and-fuzz blues spirit of closer “Needs Must,” Tricky Lobsters’ sonic variety comes paired with a level of execution that’s not to be overlooked. Will probably fly under more radars than it should, but if you can catch it, do.

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Tricky Lobsters at Exile on Mainstream Records

 

Ten Foot Wizard & Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Special

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Dubbed Special for reasons that should be fairly obvious from looking at the cover art, this meeting of minds, riffs and cats between Manchester’s Ten Foot Wizard and London’s Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters brings four tracks – two per band – and goes so far as to find the groups collaborating on the former’s “Get Fucked,” which opens, and the latter’s “Dunkerque,” which begins their side of the 7”, as vocalists The Wailing Goblin (of Chubby Thunderous) and Gary Harkin (of Ten Foot Wizard) each sit in for a guest spot on the other band’s cuts. Both bands also offer a standalone piece, with Ten Foot Wizard digging into heavy rock burl on “Night Witches” and Chubby Thunderous blowing out gritty party sludge in “Nutbar,” which rounds out the offering, and between them they showcase well the sphere of the UK’s crowded but diverse heavy rock underground. Kind of a niche release in the spirit of Gurt and Trippy Wicked’s 2016 Guppy split/collab, but it works no less well in making its impact felt.

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Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters on Thee Facebooks

 

The Acid Guide Service, Vol. 11

the acid guide service vol 11

It turns out that Vol. 11 is actually Vol. 1 for Garden City, Idaho, three-piece The Acid Guide Service, who dig into extended fuzz-overdose riffing on the 52-minute nine-tracker, proffering blown-out largesse even on shorter cuts like the five-minute “Into the Sky” while longer pieces like opener “Raptured” (7:16), “EOD” (9:38) and closer “Black Leather Jesus” (10:04) skirt lines between structure and jams as much as between heavy rock and psychedelia. Proffered by the trio of guitarist/vocalist Russ Walker, bassist/vocalist Tyler Walker and drummer Nick McGarvey, one can hear shades of Wo Fat in the guitar-led expanse of “Rock ‘n’ Roll (Is the Drug I’m On),” but on the whole, Vol. 11 speaks more to the late-‘90s/early-‘00s post-Kyuss stoner rock heyday, with flourish of Monster Magnet and Fu Manchu for good measure in the hard-swinging “Dude Rockin’” and its chugging companion piece, “Marauder King.” Big tones, big riffs, big groove. The Acid Guide Service are preaching to the converted, but clearly coming from a converted place themselves in so doing. Right on.

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The Acid Guide Service on Bandcamp

 

Skunk, Doubleblind

skunk doubleblind

Professing a self-aware love for the earliest days of heavy metal in idea and sound, Oakland’s Skunk offer their full-length debut with the self-released Doubleblind, following up on their 2015 demo, Heavy Rock from Elder Times (review here). That outing featured four tracks that also appear on Doubleblind – “Forest Nymph,” “Wizard Bong,” “Black Hash” and “Devil Weed.” Working on a theme? The theme is “stoned?” Yeah, maybe, but the cowbell-infused slider groove and standout hook of “Mountain Child” are just as much about portraying that ‘70s vibe as Skunk may or may not be about the reefer whose name they bear. Presumably more recent material like that song, “Doubleblind,” closer “Waitin’ Round on You” and leadoff cut “Forest Nymph” coherently blend impulses drawn from AC/DC, Sabbath and Zeppelin. John McKelvy’s vocals fit that spirit perfectly, and with the grit brought forth from guitarists Dmitri Mavra and Erik Pearson, bassist Matt Knoth and drummer Jordan Ruyle, Skunk dig into catchy, excellently-paced roller riffing and cast their debut in the mold of landmark forebears. Mothers, teach your children to nod.

Skunk on Thee Facebooks

Skunk on Bandcamp

 

The Raynbow, The Cosmic Adventure

the raynbow the cosmic adventure

As they make their way through a temporal drift of three tracks that play between krautrocking jazz fusion, psychecosmic expansion and Floydian lushness, Kiev-based explorers The Raynbow keep immersion central to their liquefied purposes. The Cosmic Adventure (on Garden of Dreams Records) is an aptly-titled debut full-length, and the band who constructed it is comprised of upwards of eight parties who begin with the 16-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Changes,” which builds toward and through a metallic chug apex, sandwiching it on either side with ultra-patient molten tone and soundscaping that continues to flourish through the subsequent “Cosmic Fool” (5:17) and “Blue Deep Sea Eyes” (8:18), the whole totaling a still-manageable outward trip into reaches of slow-moving space rock that whether loud or quiet at any individual moment more than earns a volume-up concentrated headphone listen. The kind of outfit one could easily imagine churning out multiple albums in a single year, The Raynbow nonetheless deliver a dream on The Cosmic Adventure that stands among the best first offerings I’ve heard in 2017.

The Raynbow on Thee Facebooks

Garden of Dreams Records on Bandcamp

 

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