Quarterly Review: A Storm of Light, Z/28, Forrest, 1476, Owl, Brass Hearse, Craneium & Black Willows, Magmakammer, Falun Gong, Max Tovstyi

Posted in Reviews on December 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Day Two of the Quarterly-Review-Mega-Super-Ultra-Year-End-Wrap-Up-Spectacular-Gnarly-Edition — name in progress — begins now. First day? Smooth. Wrote it over the weekend to get a jump on the week, cruised through a morning and into baby-naps, finished with time left over to still go and read the Star Trek novel I’m currently making my way through. Easy. Also peasy.

Today? Well, apparently I turned off my alarm in my sleep because I rolled over 40 minutes later and certainly didn’t remember it going off. Whoops. Not a great start, but there is a lot of cool stuff in this batch, so we’ll get through it, even if it’s awfully early in the week to be sleeping in. Ha.

Have a great day everybody. Here are 10 more records for the QRMSUYEWUSGE. Rolls right off the tongue.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

A Storm of Light, Anthroscene

A Storm of Light Anthroscene

“America the sick and crumbling/Liberty she’s weeping/The tired and poor are huddled and dying/As the wretched ones are touched aside.” The lines, from A Storm of Light‘s “Blackout” — the second cut from their fifth LP, Anthroscene (on Translation Loss) — lead to the inevitable question: “What the fuck is wrong with us?,” and thereby summarize the central sociopolitical framework of the record. A dystopian thematic suits the band’s aesthetic, and there’s certainly no shortage of material to work from between current events and future outlook. Guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist/graphic artist Josh Graham, bassist Domenic Seita and guitarist/keyboardist Dan Hawkins are five years removed from the band’s last outing, however, so their post-apocalyptic post-metal is welcome either way, and Anthroscene taps a Killing Joke influence and turns it to its dark and churning purposes over the course of its eight tracks/51 minutes, delving into harsh shouts on “Short Term Feedback” and capping with the resistance-filled “Rosebud,” which surges forth from ambience like the anti-facist/anti-capitalist critique that it is, ending with the lyric, “When you die, we will spit on your grave,” which could hardly be more appropriate.

A Storm of Light on Thee Facebooks

Translation Loss Records on Bandcamp

 

Z28, Nobody Rides for Free

Z28 Nobody Rides for Free

Massachusetts’ Z28 — also stylized as Z/28 and Z-28; I don’t think they care so long as you get the point they’re named after the Camaro — make their full-length debut with Nobody Rides for Free on Fuzzdoom Records, and with the occasional bit of organ on songs like “Touch of Evil” and “Angst III (I Don’t Want to Die),” they nonetheless give a raw take on heavy rock laced with that particularly Northeastern aggression. Guitarist Jeff Hayward (also organ), bassist/acoustic guitarist/engineer Jason Negro and drummer Breaux Silcio all contribute vocals to the outing, and yet the minute-long instrumental intro tells much of the story of what it’s about in terms of the chemistry between them. Impressive guitar solos are rampant throughout, and the rhythm section carries over a weighted groove through cuts like “Wandering” that’s fluid in tempo but still able to create an overarching flow between the tracks. I’ll give bonus points for the Black Sabbath nods in the multi-layered lead work toward the end of “Spirit Elk (Lord of the Hunt)” as well as the title “Keep on Rockin’ (In the Invisible World),” and Z28 have something to build on here in terms of songwriting and that chemistry. It’s raw-sounding, but that doesn’t necessarily hurt it.

Z28 on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzdoom Records on Bandcamp

 

Forrest, Kickball with Russians

forrest kickball with russians

Granted, Forrest telegraph some measure of quirk by naming their debut EP Kickball with Russians, but the four-piece from Lexington, Kentucky, still seem to be rolling along in a straightforward-enough manner on six-minute instrumental opener and longest track (immediate points) “(I Dream of) Kickball with Russians,” until the keyboards start in. That turn gives their EP an edge of the unexpected that continues to inform “DAN,” “Deew” and the closing “My Son Looks Just Like Me,” and “DAN” continues the thread with gang shouts popping up over its chugging progression and receding again after about two words to let the track get quiet and build back up. And is that a velociraptor at the start of “Deew?” Either way, that song’s Mr. Bungle-style angularity, a return of the keys and intermittent heavy nod work to underscore the willful weirdness that’s very much at play in the four-piece’s work, and the closer adds Ween-style effects work into the mix while still keeping a heavy presence in tone and lumber. They’ll get weirder with time, but this is a good start toward that goal.

Forrest on Thee Facebooks

Forrest on Bandcamp

 

1476, Our Season Draws Near

1476 our season draws near

Coastal melancholy and a pervasive sense of atmosphere seem to unite the varied tracks on 1476‘s 2017 Prophecy release, Our Season Draws Near, which otherwise draw across their span from goth rock, punk, doom and extreme metal, able to blur the line especially between punk and black metal on songs like “Ettins” while acoustics pervade “Solitude (Exterior)” en route to the Anathema-gone-char rasps of “Solitude (Interior)” a short time later. I know I’m late to the party on the Salem, MA, duo, and likewise late on this record, but from opener “Our Silver Age” to closer “Our Ice Age” to the “Solitude” pairing to “Winter of Winds” — finally: David Bowie fronts Joy Division — and “Winter of Wolves,” there’s so much of Our Season Draws Near that has a bigger-picture thought process behind its construction that its impact is multi-tiered. And it’s not just that they pit genres against each other in their sound, it’s that their sound brings them together toward something new and malleable to the purposes of their songwriting. Not to be missed, so this is me, not missing it. Even though I kind of missed it.

1476 on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions on Bandcamp

 

Owl, Nights in Distortion

owl nights in distortion

Joined on Nights in Distortion by bassist René Marquis as well as longtime drummer Patrick Schroeder, guitarist/vocalist/synthesist Christian Kolf (also Valborg) greatly expands his former solo-ish-project Owl with their second release of 2018 behind March’s Orion Fenix EP (review here), bringing together elements of post-metal churn with deeply atmospheric sensibilities, cuts like “Transparent Moment” churning as much as they are surprising with their underlying melody. A Type O Negative influence continues to be worked into their sometimes grueling context, but it’s hard to listen to the keyboard-laced “Inanna in Isolation” and hear Owl being anything other than who they’ve become, and their third album is the most distinct statement of that yet, airy lead guitars floating over a still-fervent, industrial-style chug amid vocals veering from barking shouts to quiet, low-register semi-spoken fare and cleaner singing. Nights in Distortion is the evolving work of a mastermind, captured in progress.

Owl on Thee Facebooks

Temple of Torturous website

 

Brass Hearse, Hollow on the Surface

Brass Hearse Hollow on the Surface

Synth-laden heavy horror garage dance rock could probably use a more succinct genre name, but while those in charge of such things sit and scratch their butts, Boston’s Brass Hearse carve out a niche unto themselves with their second EP, Hollow on the Surface. The five-track offering is in and out in 14 minutes but wants nothing for either a show of craft or arrangement, tapping into psych-folk in the strummy interlude “Dwellers in the Static Valley” after the hook-led “Death by Candlelight” and before the John Carpenter-style pulsations that underscore “The Thing from Another World.” Opener “Fading” is the only song to top four minutes and has a distinctly progressive take, but while it and the organ-ic closer “Headaches & Heartbreaks” has a theatricality to it, Brass Hearse are too cohesive to charge with being weird for weirdness’ sake, and their experimentation is presented in complete, engaging songs, rather than self-indulgent collections of parts mashed together. Would love to hear what they do over the course of a full-length.

Brass Hearse on Thee Facebooks

Playing Records on Bandcamp

 

Craneium & Black Willows, Split

Different missions from Finland’s Craneium and Switzerland’s Black Willows on their BloodRock Records split. Craneium nod through “Your Law” and mark their second inclusion, “Try, Fail, Repeat,” with a Sabbathian swing that only kicks up in tempo as it moves through its five minutes. Black Willows, on the other hand, present a single track in the 19-minute, noise-soaked post-everything “Bliss,” which trades back and forth between minimalism and crushing riffs en route to a consuming wash and long, long, long fadeout. Released in March, the outing showcases both bands well, but one is left wondering where the connection is between the two of them that they’d come together for a joint vinyl release. Either way, I won’t detract from what they do individually, whether it’s the catchiness of “Your Law” and the jam in its second half or “Bliss” with its frost-covered expanse of tonality, it’s just a marked leap from side A to side B. Maybe that was the idea all along, and if that’s the case, then one can only say they succeeded.

Craneium on Thee Facebooks

Black Willows on Thee Facebooks

BloodRock Records on Bandcamp

 

Magmakammer, Mind Tripper

magmakammer mindtripper

Following a 2015 self-titled debut EP, Oslo trio Magmakammer align with Kozmik Artifactz for their first long-player, Mindtripper, and so effect a garage doom sound that’s quickly relatable to Uncle Acid on songs like “Fat Saturn” and the chug-shuffling “Along the Crooked Roads.” Where they distinguish themselves from this core influence, though, is in the density of their tones, as opener “Druggernaut” and the rolling “Acid Times” prove thicker in their charge. Still, there’s no mistaking that swing and the blown-out sound of the vocals. Closer “Cosmic Dancers,” which is one of two tracks over seven minutes long, shows more dynamic in its loud/quiet tradeoffs, and resolves itself in a righteous nodder of a riff. It’s essentially in the same vein, but still displaying some emerging personality of Magmakammer‘s own that one hopes they continue to develop. And in the meantime, the foundation of craft and stylistic awareness they hone is still welcome, familiar or not.

Magmakammer on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz webstore

 

Falun Gong, Figure 2

Falun Gong Figure 2

Mystique isn’t easy to come by in this Age of Access, but the anonymous London-dwelling duo Falun Gong have succeeded in piquing interest with their two-to-date singles, “Figure 1” (review here), and the eight-minute “Figure 2,” which like its predecessor is raw in the recording, sounds like it was performed live, and follows a trance-inducing course of riffing. The central groove is a slow march that makes its way through obscure voices delivered in buried fashion — the whole thing may or may not be mastered; somehow I’m thinking not, but I’ve been wrong before — through a self-aware drift that rounds out following a soulful culmination fitting the song’s lyrical theme, which would seem to be tied to the cover art about baptism in a river’s waters. There’s just something off-kilter about Falun Gong to this point, and while it’s still early going for them, they bring an eerie persona to their work that feels less performative than it so often does.

Falun Gong on Bandcamp

 

Max Tovstyi, Mesmerize

Max Tovstyi Mesmerize

Though he’s had a slew of live outings out with the Max Tovstyi Blues Band and the Max Tovstyi Blues Association, Mesmerize (LP on Nasoni) is the Ukrainian heavy blues rocker’s first solo studio outing since 2014. He’s credited with all the instruments on the 10- or 12-track offering save for a couple arrangement-flourish guest appearances, and he pulls in a classic spirit and full-band sound without any trouble on a moody piece like “World of Sin” or the bonus track “Show Me the Way,” which isn’t a Peter Frampton cover so far as I can tell but still has plenty of guitar scorch to go around. “From the Blues to the Funk” jams its way along its stated trajectory, and “Feel Like Dying Now” brings together organ and keys in a fashion far less dramatized than one might initially think. With a clean production, Tovstyi — also known for his work in The Heavy Crawls, Lucifer Rising, and others — carries through his sentimentality for blues rock’s past and finds himself well at home leading the pack of guest vocalists on “Make Up Your Mind,” which closes the album proper with a semi-country twang and sweet melody.

Max Tovstyi on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Quarterly Review: Trippy Wicked, Dunbarrow, The Vintage Caravan, Zatokrev & Minsk, Owl Maker, Orbital Junction, Bourbon, Birnam Wood, Wytch Hazel, The Soulbreaker Company

Posted in Reviews on December 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

You know how this goes by now, right? Well, okay, except that because I skipped the Quarterly Review that I otherwise would’ve done in September (or, more likely, October), I’m doubling-up this time. 100 reviews instead of 50. Two full weeks of 10 albums per day. Will I survive? Yeah, probably. Will it be completely overwhelming? Already is. Thanks for asking.

I’ll save the summaries of the year that was for list-time, which is fast approaching, but consider the fact that there are well more than 100 albums I could include in this roundup emblematic of just how vibrant heavy rock and doom are in the US, EU, UK, Australia and elsewhere. It’s a universal thing, and accordingly, there’s a whole universe of it to explore. This is just a sampling.

But yeah, time’s a wastin’, so let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Stakes n Scale

trippy wicked stakes n scale

An acoustic EP from Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight — who, let’s face it, were way ahead of the curve when it comes to the UK scene’s thing for long and ridiculous band names — is a considerable departure from where they were two years ago on their split/collaboration with GurT (review here), but those familiar with the band might recall their past penchant for the occasional unplugged cover recorded for YouTube. Chris West (also Crawling for Carrion, Glanville, etc.), who engineered the recording and plays guitar, and vocalist Peter Holland (also Elephant Tree) revamp Trippy Wicked‘s “Up the Stakes” from 2012’s Going Home (review here), and cover “Scale the Mountain” by Stubb, of which both were members when the song was written. Together, they make for a nine-minute showcase for the character in Holland‘s voice and the melodies and craft at root in both tracks, and while its arrival feels like kind of a one-off, it’s certainly no less welcome for that.

Trippy Wicked on Thee Facebooks

Trippy Wicked on Bandcamp

 

Dunbarrow, II

dunbarrow ii

The novelty of new bands playing through vintage gear in order to capture a heavy ’70s sound may have faded, but like all subgenres, as time goes on, the retro-ist style continues to shift and change as bands like Dunbarrow bring new character to established tenets. Their second LP for RidingEasy is aptly-titled II and sways between honoring the likes of Pentagram and acts like Witchcraft who’ve helped craft that band’s hindsight-founded legacy. Dunbarrow‘s noodly style, restrained rhythmic shove and ride-the-riff melody on “Weary Lady” and the foresty creep of “The Demon Within” capture the vibe well, the latter occurring in a second half of II populated with “The Wolf” and “Witches of the Woods Pt. II,” a sequel to the closer of their 2016 self-titled debut (review here) that here leads to the more severe roll of the finale, “On this Night,” emblematic of the changing character of the band even as it reaffirms in its tense midsection the roots from which they sprung.

Dunbarrow on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records on Bandcamp

 

The Vintage Caravan, Gateways

the vintage caravan gateways

With their third record and second for Nuclear Blast, Icelandic trio The Vintage Caravan affirm not only their passion for the boogie of old on cuts like “The Way” and the strutting “Hidden Streams,” but secure a place as being worthy of the consideration they’ve been given to a degree by the wider Continental European heavy underground. They are strikingly mature in their approach for still being a relatively young band, and their albums have worked quickly to develop a character that is becoming more and more their own. They do the fests and they tour, and so on, but they seem to be engaged in building their listenership one pair of ears at a time. Having a metal-major label behind them hasn’t hurt their promotional cause, but frankly, they’re not as big as they should be for the level of work they’re doing, and even with songs like “Reset” and “Reflections” and the composed-strictly-for-vinyl-sounding closer “Tune Out” to their credit, they’re still largely a word of mouth band, especially in the US. Well, consider this your word of mouth. If you haven’t heard Gateways yet, you should get on that.

The Vintage Caravan on Thee Facebooks

The Vintage Caravan at Nuclear Blast

 

Minsk & Zatokrev, Bigod

zatokrev minsk bigod

Post-metallic powerhouses Minsk and Zatokrev — both of whom hit their 15th anniversary last year — teamed up for a European tour this Fall. To mark the occasion, Consouling Sounds and Czar of Crickets celebrated with Bigod, a split with two tracks from each band arranged in alternating order — Minsk, then Zatokrev, etc. — intended to highlight the symmetry between them not just of circumstance and root influence in the Neurosis school of atmospheric sludge, but the fact that they share these commonalities despite their origins in Illinois and Switzerland, respectively. Each band opens with a longer track (double points) in Minsk‘s “Invoke/Revive” and Zatokrev‘s “Silent Gods,” each of which push past 13 minutes as likely at any moment to be pummeling as ambient, and follows with two shorter cuts, Minsk‘s “Salvatore” swelling theatrically from its minimalist beginnings while Zatokrev‘s “The Chalice and the Dagger” seems to explode from the foundation the prior band laid out. It must have been a hell of a tour, but whether you saw it or not, the split is a welcome conglomeration from two of post-metal’s strongest acts.

Minsk on Thee Facebooks

Zatokrev on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds website

Czar of Crickets Productions website

 

Owl Maker, Sky Road

owl maker sky road

Self-recording guitarist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli (Vestal Claret, ex-Guerra, etc.) leads Connecticut-based three-piece Owl Maker through a complex thematic of Native American folklore and heavy metal classicism. The NWOBHM plays a strong role in his riffing style, but one of the two tracks included on the two-songer single Sky Road, “Owl City,” also veers into more extreme territory with a departure from clean vocals to harsher screaming. All told, it’s about eight minutes of music, but Sky Road nonetheless follows Owl Maker‘s earlier-2018 EP, Paths of the Slain (review here), with an uptick in melodic presence in the vocals of Tuozzoli and bassist Jessie May and progression in the chemistry between the two of them and drummer Chris Anderson, and with the fluidity of their transitions between various styles of heavy, their scope seems only to be growing. To wit, “Sky Road” itself is only 3:42, but still demonstrates a clear-headed compositional method based around storytelling and a subtly encompassing range. Whether it’s early warning for what they do next or a conceptual one-off, its quick run seems just to be begging for a 7″ pressing.

Owl Maker on Thee Facebooks

Owl Maker on Bandcamp

 

Orbital Junction, Orbital Junction

Orbital Junction orbital junction

The Londonderground continues to produce acts ready and willing to worship at the altar of riffs. Orbital Junction‘s self-release debut EP makes an impression not only because of the markedly pro-shop production by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studios and the cover art by SoloMacello, but the hooks to live up to those high standards. “6 ft. 2” follows opener “Space Highway” with a bit of dudely chestbeating — note: I don’t know how tall any of them actually are — but the swing of EP centerpiece “Devil’s Double” and the bounce of “Gypsy Queen” speak for the four-piece’s roots and appreciation of straightforward heavy, void of pretense and tapping into an easy mid-paced fluidity that slows up somewhat on closer “Pagan” without really losing the central groove of the offering overall. They’ll have their work cut out for them in distinguishing themselves over the longer term amongst London’s burl-fueled hordes, but their first outing shows their instincts headed in the right direction in terms of songwriting, performance and presentation.

Orbital Junction on Thee Facebooks

Orbital Junction on Bandcamp

 

Bourbon, Fuente Vieja

Bourbon Fuente Vieja

Crisp but warm in its tone and presentation, rife with melody and carrying a laid back spirit despite a fervent underlying groove — the bass on “El Sendero” rests well within gotta-hear-it territory — Spanish purveyors Bourbon emobody some of the best of post-Viaje a 800 Andalusian heavy rock and roll on their third LP, Fuente Vieja (on Spinda). Their fuzz makes its presence known early on “Si Véis La Luz, Corred” and continues as a running theme as tracks like “A Punto de Arder” and the side-A-capping title-cut grow increasingly progressive. There’s room for some shuffle, of course, as side B begins with “La Triste Realidad,” and the slower “Hacia el Sol” gracefully blends electrified wah and acoustic guitars beneath a well-timed standout vocal performance, but the highlight might be eight-minute closer “Destierro,” which seems to bring everything else under one roof while tapping into a poppier structure early — acoustics and electrics aligning effectively circa two minutes in — while providing the album with a graceful and fittingly organic-sounding finale.

Bourbon on Thee Facebooks

Spinda Records webstore

 

Birnam Wood, Wicked Worlds

birnam wood wicked worlds

Birnam Wood don’t have time for bullshit, but they do have time for a bit of shenanigans. Thus the 1:44 surge of opener “Time of Purification” leads into the sample-laden roller groove of “Richard Dreyfuss” on their as-of-now-self-released Wicked Worlds, and the “Hole in the Sky”-style “Dunsinane” shifts into the more blown-out “Early Warning,” which, by the time its tectonic low end kicks in, is indeed something of a clarion. At seven-tracks/34-minutes, Wicked Worlds is somewhere between an EP and an LP, but I’d argue it as the latter with the flow from “Greenseer” into the massive “A Song for Jorklum” and the seven-minute finale “Return to Samarkand” making for a righteous side B, but either way, it’s a Boston-crafted assault of grit-tone and aggro doom that finds the band not overwhelmed by the heft of their own tones but able to move and manipulate them to serve the purposes of their songs. Those purposes, incidentally, are mostly about kicking ass. Which they do. Copiously.

Birnam Wood on Thee Facebooks

Birnam Wood on Bandcamp

 

Wytch Hazel, II: Sojourn

Wytch Hazel II Soujorn

It would not seem to be a coincidence that UK self-aware four-piece Wytch Hazel — guitarists Conlin Hendra (also vocals) and Alex Haslam, bassist Matt Gatley and drummer Jack Spencer nod to Wishbone Ash‘s Argus with the cover of their second LP, II: Sojourn (on Bad Omen). They do a lot of that kind of nodding, with a sound culled from a valiant blend of classic progressive and early NWOBHM styles that makes the point of how closely related the two have always been. “The Devil is Here” starts out at a fervent gallop with just an underpinning of Thin Lizzy, while the later “See My Demons” shifts from its steady roll and rousing hook into an acoustic/electric break that seems to pull from Jethro Tull as much as Scorpions. At 10 tracks/45 minutes, they have plenty of time to flesh out their ideas, and they do precisely that, whether it’s the careful unfolding around the keys and acoustics of closer “Angel Take Me” or the over-the-top instrumental push of “Chorale” or the moodier “Wait on the Wind,” the wah solo of which is a highlight on its own. There are some burgeoning harmonies in Hendra‘s vocals, which is an impulse he should follow as it would only enhance the material, but after making their debut with 2016’s Prelude, II: Sojourn finds Wytch Hazel sounding comfortable and well established in their niche.

Wytch Hazel on Thee Facebooks

Bad Omen Records on Bandcamp

 

The Soulbreaker Company, Sewed with Light

the soulbreaker company sewed with light

Progressive, expansive and engaging, the sixth album from Spanish sextet The Soulbreaker Company, Sewed with Light (on Underground Legends), taps into classically Floydian influences on songs like “The Word, the Blade” while still keeping a foot in heavy rock on the prior “Together,” and setting a quick course into a varied sonic persona via the seven-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Inner Dark.” Hypnotizing not necessarily with drift but with sheer willful exploration, The Soulbreaker Company work with a variety of key sounds and craft-minded ranging guitar in order to effect an atmosphere of thoughtful songwriting even in their most outwardly trippy moments. The sneering semi-psychedelic rock of “Avoid the Crash” and the more stripped-down roll of “Arrhythmia” (video premiere here) lead the way into closer “In the Beginning,” which marks yet another departure with its grandeur of string sounds and electronic beats leading to a chugging big finale. As with the bulk of The Soulbreaker Company‘s work, it requires an active ear, but Sewed with Light both encourages and well earns consideration as more than background noise.

The Soulbreaker Company on Thee Facebooks

Underground Legends on Bandcamp

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review & Full Album Stream: Lucifer’s Fall, Tales from the Crypt

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 30th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

lucifer's fall tales from the crypt

[Click play above to stream Lucifer’s Fall’s Tales from the Crypt in its entirety. It’s out Dec. 17 through Sun and Moon Records.]

If you want to get a sense of where Lucifer’s Fall are coming from, you don’t have to look far. They have a song called “(Fuck You) We’re Lucifer’s Fall,” and that basically sums it up. The Adelaide, Australia, five-piece of vocalist Philip “Deceiver” Howlett, guitarists Kieran “The Invocator” Provis and Blake “Heretic” Stephens, bassist Jessica “Cursed Priestess” Erceg and drummer Ben “Unknown and Unnamed” Dodunski, more than live up to that basic ethos, and their sound seems to put it in constant emphasis along with their raw take on traditionalist doom. Their roots lie in acts like Puritan and Rote Mare, and in their five years, they’ve issued two long-players in a 2014 self-titled and 2016’s II: Cursed and Damned (review here), but the impetus for their new Sun and Moon Records collection, Tales from the Crypt, lies in the smattering of singles, demos, one-offs and Bandcamp tracks they’ve issued aside from those records.

There is some overlap, as there would be with demos and live tracks included — “(Fuck You) We’re Lucifer’s Fall” also appeared on the second LP and I’m not sure how they’ll ever be able to release an album without it included; it’s their slogan and calling card — but with rehearsal tracks, studio songs and live cuts, there’s no want of variety between cuts like opener “Trapped in Satan’s Chains” or “Die Witch Die” as the compilation moves from raw to rawer, stripping doom down to its essential components and adding a lethal dose of fuckall in the spirit of the finest black ‘n’ roller primitivists. Doom worship. Metal worship. Tag on partial, “barely rehearsed” and/or live covers of Reverend BizarreExciter and Angel Witch, and you get over an hour of doomly scathe that’s drenched in attitude and unrelenting in its drive, songs like “Dirty Shits Dirty Music” and the rehearsal tape “Damnation” offering little by way of letup in a barebones sensibility that’s as punk as it is metal.

Are there tapes? There should be. Are there patches? Oh yes.

Some of the included material has been previously released — the already-noted salvo of covers that closes out Tales from the Crypt, for example, was on the limited CD-R Cursed Visions – Dungeon Demos III in 2016, which indeed was the third in a series of demos going back to the beginnings of the band in 2013 (though the “Angel Witch” here comes from 2017’s digital offering Live & Raw at Three?-?D Radio’s Sound Lounge). But I think even if you managed to snag one of the 30 CDs or 20 tapes that were pressed up at the time — long gone, of course — you might be fan enough to appreciate their appearance here as well. And if they’re new to you, or if the band is new to you, it’s hard to argue they do anything but shine in these tracks. Since so much of the point in what they do is to strip away what they might consider the excess from traditional doom and metal, their sound is remarkably well suited to the rehearsal-room feel of “Cursed Priestess,” which ends with a “yeah” from Deceiver that’s only appropriate, “Damnation,” “The Mountains of Madness” and this version of “(Fuck You) We’re Lucifer’s Fall.”

lucifer's fall

By extension, the bootleg-style recordings of “Deceiver,” “Die Witch Die” and “Death of the Mother” capture the band at their outwardly nastiest and thus most righteous. Having heard their proper studio output and the three “cleaner” inclusions here at the outset in “Trapped in Satan’s Chains,” “Dirty Shits” and “Unknown Unnamed,” I wouldn’t necessarily advocate for Lucifer’s Fall to abandon all production in the spirit of ever-more-rudimentary black metal-style tape-hiss cavernousness, but in combination with their actual albums, Tales from the Crypt helps to present a fuller picture of who they are to listeners. And granted, we know who they are — they’re Lucifer’s Fall, and you know the rest — but by culling these varied sources together, not only is more of the band’s personality put on display, which is not a minor consideration when it comes to Lucifer’s Fall, but also they get the chance to feature their work in a kind of anti-greatest-hits portrayal. This too is only fitting the band’s aesthetic. Couldn’t afford the leather, stuck with the denim.

So I guess this is the part where I sat that maybe the 13-track/61-minute assault of drunken doombashing isn’t for everybody. Fine. There’s your disclaimer. And it might be true in terms of the general brashness of the thing, but on another level, Tales from the Crypt embodies some of the best aspects not just of doom, but of being a band. It brims with fist-pumping, headbanging vitality. It taps into the spirit of collaborative creation — five individuals coming together to work toward a singular purpose and expression — and while it’s not by any means a quick listen, the band works quickly in both tempo and craft to bring the listener into their framework, so that as “Unknown Unnamed” gives way to “Deceiver” or “Death of the Mother” leads into the crawling “Cursed Priestess,” the jump in sound is easy enough to make because the whole thing isn’t necessarily about a a full album flow as much as it is about letting the audience into the rehearsal space — one imagines a basement-smelling dungeon, or crypt, or, you know, basement — or into the barroom with the shitty P.A., or just simply into their creative process.

There isn’t much ground being broken here — again, this is mostly material that’s surfaced elsewhere, and even if it wasn’t, that’s not really the point of what Lucifer’s Fall‘s approach. This is a celebration of the most basic tenets of doom and the deviant subculture around it. Call them born too late. Call them consumed with the wickedness of man. Say they’re hurling themselves face-first into the void. However you want to put it, Tales from the Crypt succeeds in bringing to light an essential facet of who Lucifer’s Fall are as a band, and with their penchant for putting out live sets, singles and demos and other sundry whatnot, it’s easy to think that the first such collection won’t by any means be the last. So be it.

Lucifer’s Fall on Thee Facebooks

Lucifer’s Fall on Bandcamp

Sun and Moon Records website

Sun and Moon Records on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,

Green Dragon, Green Dragon: Strange Tales

Posted in Reviews on November 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

green dragon green dragon

You enter a fog-covered forest in Maplewood, New Jersey. You see something at your feet. Do you pick it up? You found a broadsword. Do you continue forward? You come to a clearing. An object is in the trees ahead. Do you cast a spell of seeing? Your spell reveals stairs to a basement. You walk down the stairs and hear scuzzball riffing and righteous grooves from a four-piece making their self-titled debut. You’ve encountered a Green Dragon. They’re selling cassette tapes. What do you do?

Released in an edition of 50 — five-zero — copies, the first long-player from Green Dragon arrives after six years of the band exploring their sound. Led by guitarist/vocalist Zack Kurland (Sweet Diesel) and featuring fellow founders Jennifer Klein on bass and Nathan Wilson on drums, the band started out in ultra-rough fashion culling together one-off tracks before putting out a split with Purple Knights (review here) and a proper demo (review here) in 2013. That demo, also self-titled, was followed by another self-titled 7″ (discussed here) in 2016, and each intermittent short release seemed to bring their approach to a new level of cohesion. Much the same applies to the self-titled full-length, which runs a quick 27 minutes through six songs, and finds the trio expanded to a four-piece with the addition of guitarist Ryan Lipynsky, known for his work in Unearthly Trance, The Howling Wind, Serpentine Path, among a host of others.

Notable as well when it comes to the band’s sound is the apparent inclusion of organ alongside the fuzzy blowout of Kurland and Lipynsky‘s guitars, which makes an impression particularly on the last two tracks, “Dark Rider” and “Dead Space,” both of which find room in their sub-five-minute runtimes to affect a jammy feel coinciding with strong hooks and an atmosphere of garage — or basement — doom and psych. That vibe starts early though, as opener “Eternal Pyre” unfurls an early Electric Wizard grit and raw plod, Kurland‘s vocals distorted in kind with the guitars and Klein‘s bass. But there again, the flourish of organ helps add a sense of melody to the proceedings, unless that’s a guitar effect; I’ve been fooled a couple times lately. It’s not as prevalent as it will be later, but during the bridges between verses, it punctuates the nod while lending all the more of a classically doomed sentiment and acting as a tie to the psychedelia that pervades to a greater degree elsewhere on the album.

The tape — presented in a well-earned green plastic — breaks down evenly with three songs per side, and as “Eternal Pyre” gives way to “Full Moon” and “Poison Finger” on side one, the pretense-free spirit of the songs finds Green Dragon hitting into an atmosphere that’s grim but still ultimately uptempo. A Sabbathian shuffle in the midsection of “Full Moon” leads to a Paranoid-esque slowdown as the drums thud out transitions between riff cycles and the keys seem to float overtop in the process of doing so. A suitably mournful lead sears for just a moment before the last lines come and go quickly and the semi-psych churn finishes out to let Klein‘s bass introduce “Poison Finger” as feedback swells behind. They roll their way into the first verse with a swing that calls to mind Uncle Acid‘s Mind Control as the vocals bury themselves (alive) in the mix to put the riff forward along with the bass, drums and keys.

green dragon

Again, a well-placed guitar solo arrives in the second half of the song, but the feel is jammier and the sense of balance Green Dragon strike between instrumental stretch and the fact that only one of the five songs on Green Dragon tops five minutes in length — fair enough that it would be side-two opener “IV,” at 5:25 — and that those stretches still reside within mostly straightforward structures isn’t to be understated. That is, they’re able to flesh out an idea or follow a sonic path in a way that satisfies the tenets of doomly repetition and psych jamming without sounding overly self-indulgent. That can be a difficult line to walk, and even for a debut that’s been a while in the making, is no small accomplishment. Call it hard psych, psych doom, garage doom, whatever. Any name you want to give it, Green Dragon‘s Green Dragon sees the band find their niche between styles and distinguish themselves through songwriting and the execution of a nuanced overarching aesthetic.

Rumbling synth launches side two, with a stark riff beginning “IV” with a bit more patience than the band has heretofore shown (or necessarily needed to show), and a mid-tempo roller groove emerges as they press forward into the instrumental cut, tapping Hendrix-via-AliceCooper swagger in a progression that picks up shortly before three minutes in and riding that central rhythm to the song’s finish, that line of synth drone present all the while as guitars, bass and keys intertwine over the steady foundation of the drums. Of course that same drone is the last piece to go, and “Dark Rider” starts at a creep with its first verse en route to the chorus with the song’s title-line, a standout for the record as a whole that seems to be the basis of the song and emphasizes the subtle shifts in approach Green Dragon have been making all the while.

Bass announces the run that caps “Dark Rider” and “Dead Space” finishes by essentially reversing the modus, with a speedier movement up front and a roll-credits slower tempo in the back half. One more opportunity for Green Dragon to make the point they’ve been making all along, which is in how formidable the depth of their approach has come to be over the course of the last six years. At 27 minutes, Green Dragon might just as well be considered an EP in some contexts, but in light of what they play, the seeming sans-frills nature of their craft — in fact, frills abound, they’re just not overblown — it only speaks further to the garage elements of their style that they’d keep it brief. It’s been more than half a decade in the making, but it’s hard to listen to the tape and say Green Dragon have in any way wasted their time. The material they present is tight and memorable while capturing a space in which they can continue to grow.

So what do you do in that basement? You get a tape. Obviously. Then when you go back outside a space-wizard turns you into a platypus. So it goes.

Green Dragon on Thee Facebooks

Green Dragon on Instagram

Green Dragon on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , ,

Belzebong, Light the Dankness: Eternal Stench

Posted in Reviews on November 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Belzebong_light_the_dankness_cover

Nobel laureate Bob Dylan once told us that everybody must get stoned. Poland’s Belzebong would seem to proceed from the assumption that they already have. The instrumentalist four-piece of guitarists Alky Dude and Cheesy Dude, bassist Sheepy Dude and drummer Hexy Dude present four lumbering tracks of stoner sludge on their third album, Light the Dankness — released by the band as well as Emetic Records and Abraxas Records — and if one is a sucker for weedian themes and puns, the record’s titles are sure to please, from the name of the thing itself through component cuts “The Bong of Eternal Stench,” “Pot Fiend” (okay, not so much wordplay there), “Doperganger” and “Roached Earth.” Riffs lead the plodding charge through a 35-minute, two-sided LP that could hardly be more smoked out if it covered itself in hash oil and self-immolated.

It is a crust of tone and vibe that one can trace back to bands like Bongzilla and Dopethrone, but the fact of the matter is Belzebong have been at this for a decade now and over the course of their 2009 demo (discussed here), 2011’s Sonic Scapes and Weedy Groves (discussed here), 2015’s Greenferno and this album, they’ve made the style their own and brought a sense of character to the familiar addled-ism of the overarching aesthetic. Light the Dankness, which is vocalized only with periodic samples, is nonetheless able to convey its sensibilities not only through its titles, but through the bare riffs and grooves themselves.

That is, even without knowing the name of the band, record, or any of the songs, one would hear “Doperganger” and realize the Dudes who made it were bombed out of their collective gourd. And they may or may not have been at the time of recording — they may or may not be right now; infinite universes of infinite possibilities, folks — but the point is they want to sound that way and they do, so by the time the ur-lurch of “Roached Earth” takes hold, all rumble and searing fuzz leads and crash cymbal-washout, their victory in meeting that goal is complete.

Belzebong are not strangers to this way of life, and they don’t come off like it. Over the course of their decade together, they’ve toured steadily with SheepyAlky and Cheesy as founding members and Hexy coming aboard in 2014, and that has helped fuel the reputation that at this point precedes their work, but regardless, Light the Dankness has no trouble making an impression on its own. The album begins with a homemade sample introducing “The Bong of Eternal Stench” as a disgusted woman’s voice pleads, “Oh god, what is it?” only to be answered by the creature itself, “It’s the bong of eternal stench!” And so it is. The mood and tone for the record is quickly set in the opening track, which is also the shortest of the four at 6:07, and while Belzebong‘s material has always seemed to leave room for verses — as though they wanted the listener to bring their own supply — the crashing, lumbering, downward riff seems to speak out the song’s title as it thuds away into the murky cannabinoid abyss.

belzebong

Searing leads crop up and dissipate like the smoke they are, and the underlying rhythm makes the most of the band’s penchant for repetition without redundancy, seeming to change not necessarily predictably but just when a part has worn itself into the consciousness fully. The bass tone is must-hear and well present in the Skyhammer Studios mix, and “The Bong of Eternal Stench” gives over to “Pot Fiend” with a sample announcing the change, but otherwise is immersive enough that one might get lost in the vibe after just the first six minutes. That’s obviously the idea, and it’s worth keeping in mind just how conscious these decisions are for a band who otherwise so successfully sound like fuckall incarnate. The placement of the samples. The shifts from one part to the next. The push to and through solo parts. All of these things come together to form the resin-caked nod that is Light the Dankness, and as on-message as Belzebong are, they never lose sight of actual song construction as they go.

And man, they go.

“Pot Fiend” rounds out side A with nine and a half minutes of filthy swing, pitting slow-motion shuffle and massive riffing against each other and seeing who wins en route to its final crash and fading feedback, and another sample begins “Doperganger” on side B. The second half of Light the Dankness is longer than the first, with “Doperganger” at 7:50 and “Roached Earth” at 12 minutes flat, but the method is largely the same: Riff unto oblivion. “Doperganger” picks up the tempo somewhat from “Pot Fiend” in a kind of winding central progression born of a dirtied-up Sleep influence, but they tool around with it effectively throughout and seem to explore the reaches where the song might go, a solo arriving after five minutes in just as the song seems to start tearing itself apart. A longer sample emerges as they pull it back together and trash their way into a stretch of silence preceding “Roached Earth.”

The sample at the start of the closer comes from 1957’s Curse of the Demon, if you’re wondering how steadily obscure Belzebong‘s horror-aficionado status runs, and following its narrator warning of supernatural creatures and demons and whathaveyou, the track unfolds into a particularly bleak, almost mournful gruel, a solo as it approaches its midsection weaving in and out of the mix on long-held notes that border on melodic but seem overwhelmed as much by the surrounding mountainous riffage as by the depressiveness drove their creation. Resolution, such as it is, comes in the crashing final section as “Roached Earth” rings out its final distorted gurgle, feedback once again serving as the last remaining element to go.

I would not speculate on what tales of terror may yet be forthcoming from Belzebong as they push ever deeper into the plunge that is their hydroponic-grown methodology, but their craft has only grown more virulent with time and for all of Light the Dankness‘ weedery, the album is actually a pretty efficient execution. It’s clear Belzebong‘s decade hasn’t been misspent in developing their style, and while they may be playing to the tenets of crusty stoner sludge, it’s easy enough to argue they’re adding to them as well.

Belzebong, Light the Dankness (2018)

Belzebong on Thee Facebooks

Belzebong on Instagram

Belzebong on Bandcamp

Emetic Records website

Abraxas Records website

Tags: , , , , , ,

Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers: Sweet is the Sound

Posted in Reviews on November 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

greenleaf hear the rivers

The transformation Sweden’s Greenleaf have undergone within the last five-to-six years is not to be understated. After years as a side-project for founding guitarist Tommi Holappa from his main outfit, Dozer, and a modus operandi that involved recording with guests, the idea of a stable Greenleaf lineup began to surface really with 2012’s Nest of Vipers (review here), which was their first release after Dozer went to ground following their own 2008 LP. At that point, Holappa had two fellow Dozer bandmates along with him in first-guitarist-then-bassist Johan Rockner and drummer Olle Mårthans, and it was Greenleaf‘s second album to be fronted by Oskar Cedermalm following 2007’s Agents of Ahriman (vinyl reissue review here).

It would also be the last, as Cedermalm left to concentrate on his own main outfit, the now-defunct Truckfighters. Instead of going into hibernation, however, Holappa revamped Greenleaf with the idea of becoming a full touring act, and in just two years’ time, the band released 2014’s Trails and Passes (review here) as Holappa‘s first collaboration with vocalist Arvid Hällagård. It was a transitional record in its sound, very much settling into the chemistry between the founding member and central songwriter and the charismatic newcomer frontman. Greenleaf hit the road hard, signed to Napalm Records, and further established themselves as one of the European heavy underground’s most essential acts.

Their sound continued to evolve to a more modern execution than was found on their classic-style earlier offerings: 2007’s Agents of Ahriman (vinyl reissue review here), 2003’s Secret Alphabets (discussed here), 2001’s Revolution Rock (discussed here) and their 2000 self-titled EP (someday it will be mine), and by the time they got to 2016’s Rise Above the Meadow (review here), they were at last the crucial band they always had the potential to be. After 18 years of existence and five years-plus of working a heavy touring circuit, Hear the Rivers is the first Greenleaf album with what might be considered the stable lineup.

Of course, one uses those words cautiously for a group who’ve been through so many changes and so many different players in the past, but bassist Hans Fröhlich came aboard after the recording of Rise Above the Meadow, and as with Hällagård, this is drummer Sebastian Olsson‘s third album with Greenleaf, having also joined for Trails and Passes. This is Greenleaf, so really anything can change at any time save a departure from Holappa himself, but the idea of Hear the Rivers finally being Greenleaf presenting the outfit that Holappa started to build on Trails and Passes resonates further in the 10 songs included on this album.

This can be heard in barn-burners like “Oh My Bones” or the stomp of “Good Ol’ Goat” or the subdued blues of sneaky highlight “We are the Pawns” and the drift in eight-minute closer “The Rivers Lullaby,” just how far Greenleaf have come in their ongoing evolution, and the fact that the 46-minute, vinyl-ready collection was engineered by Karl Daniel Lidén, who was not only the band’s first drummer but has an enviable pedigree as a producer for Terra TenebrosaDozerSwitchbladeKatatonia and many others, only ties its sound to the history of Greenleaf‘s varied discography. His drum sounds are immediately recognizable and something of a trademark, but as well the spaciousness in a cut like “In the Caverns Below” and how purposefully it seems to slam into the sprint of the penultimate “High Fever,” which follows, seems to bear the mark of a careful recording as well as a careful placement.

greenleaf photo by edko fuzz

Also, as principal songwriter, Holappa seems to be marking something of a special occasion in this material, and he builds on the chemistry already so prevalent last time out with Hällagård and Olsson, while welcoming Fröhlich into the mix with due showcase of the fleet low end winding beneath so much gleeful, rampant fuzz guitar. To call Holappa anything less than a master of the form is to undersell his accomplishments herein, and to call Hear the Rivers anything less than Greenleaf‘s most realized work to-date would be a misstatement of its context and a devaluation of whats’s actually taking place on throughout.

Because as much as Holappa is the central figure in Greenleaf, especially here, he’s met head on by the rest of the band. Consider tailor-made set-launcher and opening track “Let it Out!,” which every bit earns the exclamation point in its title. Hällagård puts his stamp on Hear the Rivers from the very beginning — Fröhlich makes an early impression as well, while we’re talking about it — and continues to be both distinct of voice and a standout presence in the band, but his time on tour has made him all the more confident as a singer, and “Let it Out!” and the subsequent “Sweet it the Sound” find him dipping into bluesman’s soul to welcome and natural effect, with “Good Ol’ Goat” perhaps being the culmination here of that side of his identity in performance.

Likewise, on the straightforward rocker “A Point of a Secret,” he carries the melody while Olsson pops away on a rich-sounding snare behind, and on the side A closer “The Rumble and the Weight,” the entire band sets up symmetry with “The Rivers Lullaby” in digging into a more expansive atmosphere and mid-paced tempo while Hällagård cleverly arranges vocal layers in the chorus and Holappa and Fröhlich match wits for a brief solo section before the midpoint, leading to an even more spacious second-half.

In capping the album, “The Rivers Lullaby” works with a not-dissimilar purpose, demonstrating instrumental vibrancy and a vocal dynamic that builds to the last hook with genuine emotion as well as the sheer technical control to self-harmonize. That finale moves into a wash of noise to round out before swirling effects fade away as the last element to go — a distant cry from the thudding drums from Olsson that opened “Let it Out!,” but that would seem to be the point.

Speaking as a fan of the band — which I am — the achievements here aren’t to be understated, and they go well beyond merely hammering out a recording from the actual current Greenleaf touring lineup. That in itself isn’t nothing, since it contributes to the vitality so rampant all throughout the recording, but if the songs weren’t there in the first place, the band wouldn’t have a leg to stand on, and songwriting has always been at the core of Greenleaf no matter who’s involved. And as far as they have come even in just the past half-decade of a tenure about to hit 20 years, that central factor has never wavered. Hear the Rivers stands among its, and their, finest hours.

Greenleaf, “Good Ol’ Goat” official video

Greenleaf, “The Rivers Lullaby” lyric video

Greenleaf on Thee Facebooks

Greenleaf on Instagram

Greenleaf at Napalm Records

Napalm Records website

Napalm Records on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,

Review & Track Premiere: Orango, Evergreens

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

orango evergreens

[Click play above to stream ‘Evergreen’ from Evergreens by Orango. Album is out Nov. 30 on Stickman Records.]

The tale of a band stripping down their approach is familiar enough. A group push in one direction, decide to go in another. There are degrees to which it’s perceptible to the listener and degrees to which it happens in an artist’s head or in how a recording is actually made in a studio, but it’s not a wild, unheard-of concept by any means. As it applies to Oslo’s Orango and their seventh full-length, Evergreens (released by Stickman Records), the trio effectively pull back on some of the more lush aspects they presented in the early hours of 2017 on The Mules of Nana (review here) in order to affect a more straightforward and driving approach. For the first six songs. Yes, Orango — comprised of guitarist Helge Bredeli Kanck, bassist Hallvard Gaardløs and drummer Trond Slåke, all of whom contribute to the oft-harmonized vocal pastiche — cut back on some of the more progressive leanings and dig into classic boogie and heavy rock. For the first six songs. It’s a hook-fest that taps into essential groove and memorable stretches like that in the particularly Southern-tinged “Hillside Man.” For the first six songs.

But when Evergreens flips over to side B after the tight three and a half minutes of “Sunny Bay,” it unfurls the 16:18 sprawl of the semi-title-track “Evergreen” and that seventh and final song completely changes the narrative of the record. Yeah, they execute taut and controlled songcraft even in the shuffling 2:40 of “Blue Heart,” the first minute of which is an intro to the forthcoming organ-and-fuzz-drenched boogie, but when the soft guitar introduces “Evergreen,” everything changes. It’s not just that it’s a shift in mindset. It’s that, on their seventh LP, Orango have willfully chosen to distinguish between two sides of their style that were closer together on a prior outing. Usually one thinks of a band melding disparate elements over time. Orango here perform a chemical separation, and the results are both fascinating as an experiment and in the material resulting.

Orango are by no means the first band to sit a much-longer piece at the end of an album of shorter and more straightforward tracks, but what stands out about their doing so on Evergreens is just how stark and purposeful they’ve made that separation. Not just in that it’s two different vinyl sides; it’s two different missions. But for the consistency of tone and the harmonies that seem to tie everything together no matter where the band might go in an individual track, it’s almost as though Evergreens was made as two separate mini-albums put together. From the Mountainous riff that starts “Glow Out of Time” and through the KISS-style urbanity of the subsequent “Loco,” also the catchiest of the bunch here, Orango set a path that even casts off some of the Southern rock vibe that their earlier work brought to bear on albums like 2004’s Villa Exile or 2011’s Confessions, and none of that feels like an accident.

orango

Seven records and a career that spans more than a decade, plus being a band who put so much time and clear thought into their arrangements, vocal and otherwise, it’s easy to give Orango the benefit of the doubt on knowing what they want to do in the studio and to have a fair conception of how an album will turn out when it’s done. Even if their songwriting process just naturally led to the disparity between one side of Evergreens and the other, they still would’ve been likely to understand how that would manifest when it was all pressed to the same platter. One can only assume, then, that the creation of that disparity was a part of the project, if not initially, then certainly by the end. So be it. “Evergreen” has its stretch of verses and choruses following its gradual intro and preceding a turn just after the six-and-a-half-minute mark to a quieter, organ-led section of meandering guitar and classic prog atmospherics.

Earlier, “Old Shores” carried wistful nostalgia through in a hooky verse and the aforementioned “Sunny Bay” gracefully mellowed out following the all-go “Blue Heart,” moving into subdued wah guitar and a bluesier feel. So “Evergreen” isn’t without context. One of the most successful aspects of Orango‘s construction of the album as a whole is how well it flows, and that includes all seven of its tracks and the full 37 minutes they run. But still, in its intro and in the section after the already-noted break, “Evergreen” is inherently distinct from everything else on the record that pluralizes its name. They bring the flow almost to silence, and having gone all the way down, bring it all the way back up. Vocals are sparse but not absent, a flute shows up, and the guitar, bass, organ and drums surge forward after 11:45 into a secondary chorus that carries them further toward the apex of the track. After a last held-out note at 14 minutes in, they’re ready to take off, and they launch into a long, solo-topped instrumental finish that becomes increasingly noisy as it moves to its inevitable conclusion but cuts hard at 15:45 in order to make a sharp turn to a quiet blues lick that actually finishes out.

That sudden last turn is crucial to understanding Evergreens as a whole, because it’s so representative of the band’s overarching mindset of making their songs do exactly what they want them to do. It’s analogous to the release in how it puts two seemingly opposing ideas together and makes them function toward the same end — in this case, the end of the album. As noted, Orango are by no means the first band to strip down their approach, but the fact that they seem to have done so while transposing all the prog textures and structure that might’ve been in the other six tracks into the seventh makes Evergreens all the more an intriguing listen. And not to be lost in the discussion of the structure and mission at work throughout is the fact that Orango completely pull it off. Not only do they make “Evergreen” fit alongside its shorter companion pieces, but they remind throughout that in songwriting and performance they’re one of the most strikingly underrated acts in the European heavy underground. All this and a little bit of flute, too, saved for when its appearance is most effective. One would expect nothing less.

Orango on Thee Facebooks

Orango on Bandcamp

Orango website

Stickman Records website

Stickman Records on Bandcamp

Stickman Records on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,

Review & Full Album Stream: Huata, Lux Initiatrix Terrae

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

huata lux initiatrux terrae cover

[Click play above to stream Huata’s Lux Initiatrix Terrae in full. Album is out Nov. 23 on Sludgelord Records, Seeing Red Records and Musicfearsatan.]

Songs become grandiose riff ceremonies and the album as a whole becomes a ritual rooted in harmonized meditations and weighted progressive instrumentalism. Atmosphere is paramount. Texture is everywhere. And if it’s a ritual, then despite their penchant for donning a robe or two, France’s Huata bring a feeling of celebration to their second album, Lux Initiatrix Terrae, and that pushes beyond horror-minded cultish tropes. Those themes may be somewhere in 15-minute opener “Mythical Beast of Revelations,” to be sure, but they’re buried so deep beneath organ and the vocal work of Ronan Grall, who also handles drums and is joined in the band by guitarist/bassist Benjamin Moreau, that they’re harder to discern in the first place. The Brittany duo work primarily in longform stretches across the willfully unmanageable 68-minute runtime, with five tracks over 10 minutes long and two interludes under three, and Moreau and Grall bring in a host of outside players — presumably to contribute vocals and keys, etc. — to help them flesh out the ensuing complexity of the material. Five other names are credited: Gurvan Coulon, David Barbe, Alexis Degrenier, Laetitia Jehano, Marion Le Sollier, but as to who does what, it’s unclear.

In any case, the resulting contributions of all parties are wildly immersive, as between the bookends of “Mythical Beast of Revelations” and 16-minute closer “Third Eyed Nation,” the band unfolds a perpetually widening cascade of moods and sounds, such that the eerie organ and synth in the closer are consistent in approach with what’s preceded even as they seem to reach further into a kind of colorful abyss — Huata‘s sound too rich and too vibrant to simply conjure images of light-absent emptiness. Theirs is the proverbial shining void, and their material finds them churning this multi-hued, potent cauldron of sound with witchy glee, even as their overarching direction seems to be intent on taking them downward into it.

There’s a dichotomy there, and it’s brought to life in the recording and mix of Cyrille Gachet (Year of No Light, Chaos Echoes, The Great Old Ones), which allows for a broad reach between the Electric Wizard-gone-interstellar start of “Child of the Cosmic Mind,” samples and organ and low riffs all circling around each other in slowly building wash, but it’s elements like the tone of the guitar and bass, the compression effects on the oft-harmonized vocals and the inclusion of various keys — church organ among them and feeling particularly appropriate, given the overall aesthetic — that tie everything together and make Lux Initiatrix Terrae so fluid. The distorted heft comes and goes, but so do nearly all the other elements at work throughout, as nothing seems to be permanent or beyond the band’s reach. A slow march in “The Solar Work” picks up where “Child of the Cosmic Mind” leaves off, and might be the closest thing to a title-track present on the album, the first and last word of which are Latin for “light” and “world” and the middle which puts together ideas of beginnings and so that it’s something like light begetting the world — “The Solar Work” doesn’t seem so far off from that.

huata lux initiatrux terrae

Either way, in the second half of the 10:35 piece, the vocals give way to melodic shouts in a kind of relative apex, but by then the idea is made plain that repetition is a key part of this ritual. Huata‘s songs — reminiscent of more recent Ancestors in their vocal approach and progressive lean — are mantras. It’s not going to be about hooks or about roping the listener in with a catchy solo or sharp rhythmic turn. The three-song salvo tops 36 minutes and is an album unto itself, let alone the second LP that follows it as the 2:50 “Part I – Gathering in Sin Wur” makes its way via organ and soft guitar toward the lung-crushing weight — worthy of whatever comparisons to Slomatics or Conan or Ufomammut one might want to draw — and ranging scale-work melody of “The Golden Hordes of Kailash,” which furthers the thread of a purposeful delve into hypnotics, a post-midsection break meshing together different layers of keys in order to set the stage for a return to the nodding, lumbering push that draws the listener back into the multi-tiered wash of distortion and melody before what even after 10-plus minutes feels like a sudden stop.

The second interlude, “Part II – The IXth Arch Assembly” follows the diversionary modus of its predecessor, drifting with soft guitars and underlying keys that resolve in wistful notes ahead of the arrival of “Third Eyed Nation,” which makes its way in gradually — of course — with complementary ambience before the vocals start less than a minute in. Those expecting a grand finale after what’s already been an hour-long listen should be sated by “Third Eyed Nation,” which even in its first half seems to signal its spot as culmination of the proceedings, though after seven minutes, the drums cut out and a stretch of spoken samples and almost siren-esque synth sounds in a high frequency and others in a lower frequency take hold before guitar sneaks back in to signal the return of the tonal onslaught and the beginning of the real apex.

They get there, in other words, and frankly, if one is making the journey through Lux Initiatrix Terrae and gets as far as “Third Eyed Nation,” the expectation that Huata are going to take their time getting to where they want to go should be well ingrained. It’s hard to imagine making it across the songs otherwise, since that head-down, prog-tinged dirge vibe is so writ large and so consistent throughout the material. That’s not to say Moreau and Grall don’t make efforts to change their approach in terms of surroundings, personnel and mood, but the aspects of their sound that they carry with are what enable them to create the world that one seems to inhabit while listening. And one of Lux Initiatrix Terrae‘s greatest strengths stems from the band’s ability to put the listener in the mindset they intend, the place they intend. That world may be created by light, I don’t know, and it may certainly be chaotic, but Huata guide their audience through it with a sure hand that’s well evocative of the dogma they’ve envisioned.

Huata on Thee Facebooks

Huata on Bandcamp

Musicfearsatan on Thee Facebooks

Musicfearsatan webstore

Sludgelord Records on Thee Facebooks

Sludgelord Records on Bandcamp

Seeing Red Records on Thee Facebooks

Seeing Red Records on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , , , ,