Quarterly Review: Earth, Heilung, Thronehammer, Smear, Deadbird, Grass, Prana Crafter, Vago Sagrado, Gin Lady, Oven

Posted in Reviews on July 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Deep breath. And… here we go.

Welcome to The Obelisk’s Summer 2019 Quarterly Review. You probably know the drill by now, but just in case, here’s what’s up: starting today and through next Monday, I’ll be reviewing 10 records per day for a total of 60. I’ve done this every three months (or so) for the better part of the last five years, each one with at least 50 releases included. Some are big bands, some are new bands, some are releases are new, some older. It’s a mix of styles and notoriety, and that’s exactly the intent. It’s a ton of stuff, but that’s also the intent, and the corresponding hope is that somewhere in all of it there’s something for everyone.

I’ll check in each day at the top with what usually turns out to be a “hot damn I’m exhausted, but this is worth it”-kind of update, but otherwise, if we’re all on board, let’s just get to it. First batch below, more to come.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Earth, Full Upon Her Burning Lips

earth

Finding post-Southern Lord refuge with Sargent House in similar fashion to Boris, Earth seem to act in direct response to 2014’s Primitive and Deadly (review here) with the 10-track/62-minute Full Upon Her Burning Lips, stripping their approach down to its two essential components: Dylan Carlson‘s guitar and Adrienne Davies‘ drums. The former adds bass as well, and the latter some off-kit percussion, but that’s about as far as they go in the extended meditation on their core modus — even the straightforward photo on the cover tells the story — psychedelic and brooding and still-spacious as the music is. Gone are folk strings or vocals, and so on, and instead, they foster immersion through not-quite minimalist nod and roll, Carlson‘s guitar soundscaping atop Davies‘ slow, steady pulse. It’s not nearly so novel as the last time out, but timed to the 30th anniversary of the band, it’s a reminder that if you like Earth, this dynamic is ultimately why.

Earth on Thee Facebooks

Sargent House website

 

Heilung, Futha

heilung futha

It might seem like an incongruity that something so based in traditionalism conceptually would also turn into experimentalist Viking jazz, but I defy you to hear “Galgadr,” the 10-minute opener of Heilung‘s third full-length, Futha (on Season of Mist), and call it something else. Cuts like the memorable and melodic “Norupo” and the would-be-techno-but-I-think-they’re-actually-just-beating-on-wood “Svanrand,” which, like “Vapnatak” before it, is rife with the sounds of battle, but it’s in the longer pieces, “Othan,” 14-minute closer “Hamrer Hippyer,” and even the eight-plus-minute “Elivgar” and “Elddansurin” that precede it, that Heilung‘s dramas really unfold. Led by the essential presence of vocalist Maria Franz — who could hardly be more suited to the stated theme of calling to feminine power — Heilung careen through folk and narrative and full cultural immersion across 73 minutes, and craft something willfully forward thinking from the history it embellishes.

Heilung on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website

 

Thronehammer, Usurper of the Oaken Throne

thronehammer usurper of the oaken throne

The reliable taste of Church Within Records strikes again in picking up Thronehammer‘s first full-length, Usurper of the Oaken Throne. The project is a dark and warmaking epic mega-doom working mostly in longform material — it’s six tracks/78 minutes, so yeah — conjured in collaboration by the trio of vocalist Kat Shevil Gillham (Lucifer’s Chalice, etc.), guitarist/keyboardist Stuart Bootsy West (ex-Obelyskkh, ex-The Walruz) and drummer/bassist Tim Schmidt (Seamount), that hits with a massive impact from 17-minute opener “Behind the Wall of Frost” into “Conquered and Erased” (11:24) and “Warhorn” (19:12), making for an opening salvo that’s a full-length unto itself and a beast of doomed grandeur that balances extremity with clearheaded presentation. They simplify the proceedings a bit for “Svarte Skyer” and the eponymous “Thronehammmer,” but are clearly in their element for the 15-minute closing title-track, which rounds out one of the best doom debuts I’ve heard so far this year with due heft and ceremony.

Thronehammer on Thee Facebooks

Church Within Records on Bandcamp

 

Smear, A Band Called Shmear

Smear A Band Called Shmear

Smear‘s live-recorded A Band Called Shmear EP is basically the equivalent of that dude getting dragged out of the outdoor concert for being at the bottom of the puffing clouds of smoke going, “Come on man, I’m not hurting anybody!” And by that I mean it’s awesome. The Eugene, Oregon, four-piece get down on some psychedelic reefer madness tapped into weirdo anti-genre tendencies that come to fruition in the verses of “Guns of Brixton” after the drifting freaker “Old Town.” The whole thing runs an extra-manageable 21 minutes, and six of that are dedicated to the fuzzed jam “Zombie” — tinged in its early going with a reggae groove — so Smear make it easy to follow their outward path, whether it’s the surf-with-no-water “Weigh” at the outset or “Quicksand,” which hints at more complex melodic tendencies almost in spite of itself. You like vibe, right? These cats have plenty to go around, and they deliver it with an absolute lack of pretense. Whatever they do next, I hope they also record it live, because it clearly works.

Smear on Thee Facebooks

Smear on Bandcamp

 

Deadbird, III: The Forest Within the Tree

deadbird iii the forest within the tree

One hesitates to speculate on the future of a band who’ve just taken 10 years to put out an album, but Deadbird sound vital on their awaited third full-length: III: The Forest Within the Tree (arrived late 2018 through 20 Buck Spin), and with a revamped lineup that includes Rwake vocalist Chris Terry and Rwake/The Obsessed bassist Reid Raley as well as bassist Jeff Morgan, guitarist Jay Minish and founders Phillip (drums) and Chuck (guitar) Schaaf and Alan Short — all of whom contribute vocals — Deadbird emerge from the ether with a stunningly cohesive and varied outing of post-sludge, tinged Southern in its humid tonality but still very much geared toward heft and, certainly more than I recall of their past work, melody. In just 38 minutes they push the listener into this dank world of their creation, and seem to find just as much release in experiments “11:34” and “Ending” as in the crashes of “Brought Low” or “Heyday.” Are they really back? Hell if I know, but these songs are enough to make me hope so.

Deadbird on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin on Bandcamp

 

Grass, Fresh Grass

grass fresh grass

Brooklyn four-piece Grass released a live recording in 2017, but the late-2018 EP Fresh Grass marks their studio debut, and it comprises five tracks digging into the traditions of heavy rock with edges derived from the likes of Clutch, Orange Goblin, maybe a bit of Kyuss and modern bluesier practitioners as well in cuts like “Black Clouds” — the lone holdover from one release to the next — and the swaggering “Runaway,” which veers into vocal layering in its second half in a way that seems to portend things to come, while the centerpiece “Fire” and closer “Easy Rider” roll out in post=’70s fashion a kind of rawer modern take. Their sound is nascent, but there’s potential in their swing and the hook of opener “My Wall.” Fresh Grass is the band searching for their place within a heavy rock style. I hear nothing on it to make me think they won’t find it, and if they were opening the show, you’d probably want to show up early.

Grass on Thee Facebooks

Grass on Bandcamp

 

Prana Crafter, MindStreamBlessing

Prana Crafter MindStreamBlessing

Reissued on vinyl through Cardinal Fuzz with two bonus tracks, Prana Crafter‘s 2017 offering, MindStreamBlessing, originally saw release through Eidolon Records and finds the Washington-based solo artist Will Sol oozing through acid folk and psychedelic traditions, instrumentally constructing a shimmer that seems ready for the platter edition it’s been granted. Songs like “As the Weather Commands” and “Bardo Nectar” are experiments in their waves of meandering guitar, effects and keys, while “Mycellial Morphohum” adapts cosmic ecology to minimal spaciousness and vague spoken word. Some part of me misses vocals in the earthy “FingersFlowThroughOldSkolRiver,” but that might just also be the part of me that’s hearing Lamp of the Universe or Six Organs of Admittance influences. The interwoven layers of “Prajna Pines,” on the other hand, seem fine without; bluesy as the lead guitar line is, there’s no doubting the song’s expressive delivery, though one could easily say the same of the krautrock loops and keys and reverb-drenched solo of “Luminous Clouds.”

Prana Crafter on Thee Facebooks

Cardinal Fuzz webstore

 

Vago Sagrado, Vol. III

vago sagrado vol iii

Heavy post-rockers Vago Sagrado set a peaceful atmosphere with “K is Kool,” the opening track of their third album, Vol. III, that is hard to resist. They’ll soon enough pump in contrast via the foreboding low end of “La Pieza Oscura,” but the feeling of purposeful drift in the guitar remains resonant, even as the drums and vocals take on a kind of punkish feel. The mix is one that the Chilean three-piece seem to delight in, reveling in tonal adventurousness in the quiet/loud tradeoff of “Fire (In Your Head)” and the New Wave shuffle of “Sundown” before “Centinela” kicks off side B with the kind of groove that Queens of the Stone Age fans have been missing for the last 15 years. Things get far out in “Listen & Obey,” but Vago Sagrado never completely lose their sense of direction, and that only makes the proceedings more engaging as the hypnotic “One More Time with Feeling” leads into the nine-minute closer “Mekong,” wherein the wash teased all along comes to fruition.

Vago Sagrado on Thee Facebooks

Vago Sagrado on Bandcamp

 

Gin Lady, Tall Sun Crooked Moon

gin lady tall sun crooked moon

I’m more than happy to credit Sweden’s Gin Lady for the gorgeous ’70s country rock harmonies that emanate from their fourth album, Tall Sun Crooked Moon (on Kozmik Artifactz), from the mission-statement opener “Everyone is Love” onward, but I think it’s also worth highlighting that the 10-track outing also features the warmest snare drum sound I’ve heard maybe since the self-titled Kadavar LP. The Swedish four-piece have nailed their sound down to that level of detail, and as they touch on twang boogie in “Always Gold” or find bluesy Abbey Roadian deliverance in the more riff-led chorus of “Gentle Bird,” their aesthetic is palpable but does not trump the straight-ahead appeal of their songwriting. The closing duo of “The Rock We All Push” and the piano-soother “Tell it Like it Is” are the only two tracks to push past five minutes long, but by then the mood is well set and if they wanted to keep going, I have a hard time imagining they’d meet with complaints. Serenity abounds.

Gin Lady on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Oven, Couch Lock

oven couch lock

For an EP called Couch Lock — i.e., when you’re too stoned to even stand up — there’s an awful lot of movement on Oven‘s debut release, from the punk thrust of “Get It” to the arrogant sleaze of “Go James” and even the drums in “This Time.” And the nine-minute “Dark Matter” is basically space rock, so yeah, hardly locked to the couch there, but okay. The five-tracker is raw in its production as would seem to suit the Pennsylvania trio, but they still get their point across in terms of attitude, and a closing cover of Nebula‘s “To the Center” seems only to reinforce the notion. One imagines that any basement where they unleash that and the nod that culminates “Dark Matter” just before it would have to be professionally dehumidified afterward to get the dankness out, and an overarching sense of stoner shenanigans only adds to the good times that so much of East Coast-ish psych misses the point on. They’re having fun. You should too.

Oven on Bandcamp

Oven on Thee Facebooks

 

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Magic Circle, Departed Souls: A Way to Die

Posted in Reviews on April 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

magic circle departed souls

There’s an awful lot of year left, so it’s probably best to avoid “best of”-type hyperbole, but it’s safe to say that whoever else puts out a traditional doom album in 2019 is going to have a hell of a time topping Magic Circle‘s Departed Souls. The Massachusetts five-piece’s third album and second through 20 Buck Spin behind 2015’s sophomore outing Journey Blind (review here) — they released the Scream Live! tape in 2016 as well — and their 2013 self-titled debut (review here). The intervening years between Journey Blind and Departed Souls would seem to have been crucial particularly for vocalist Brendan Radigan, who stepped in to act as live frontman for Pagan Altar. Singing for one of doom’s formative acts would seem to have had an effect on Radigan‘s approach, and where Journey Blind introduced a NWOBHM-style aspect to Magic Circle‘s sound, Departed Souls absolutely refuses to compromise between that and the doom that was so pervasive at their start.

I have said on more occasions than I care to count that classic metal belongs to doom, and Departed Souls proves it. Hell, “I’ve Found My Way to Die” alone might prove it, let alone anything else on the eight-song/45-minute LP. In terms of doom, they dig right to the root. The opening title-track begins with a synthesized-sounding sweep like that in Black Sabbath‘s “After Forever,” and from there, guitarists Chris Corry and Renato Montenegro begin a master class in tone and riff. Backed by the swing in Michael “Q” Quartulli‘s drums and the utterly crucial bass work of Justin DeTore, the two guitars fluidly drive tempo changes like that 3:33 into “Departed Souls,” where they kick into speedier shuffling after setting a middling pace prior — a classic Sabbathian move, and far from the last one on the album.

Particularly in terms of tone and the production of Will Killingsworth at Dead Air Studios Corry mixed and Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham mastered — it’s not just Black Sabbath, but particularly post-Master of Reality-era Sabbath, moving into the crunching riffs of Vol. 4Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage circa 1973-’75, that seem to define album highlights like “Valley of the Lepers” and the closing “Hypnotized,” even as the melding of lead and rhythm tracks give the band an opportunity they most certainly take to make that style their own. One might say the same of the layers of background harmonies periodically surrounding Radigan in the otherwise relatively straightforward arrangements, as introduced in “Valley of the Lepers” and brought to bear in the acoustic-led “A Day Will Dawn Without Nightmares,” which follows, as well as on and off again throughout “Nightland,” “Gone Again” and the slower-marching “Hypnotized.” It’s not the first time he’s had backing vocals, but their use here shows not only his increased command of melody in his already-powerful voice, but the ability to use that command to a defined purpose. “A Day Will Dawn Without Nightmares” is a song that simply doesn’t happen either on Magic Circle or Journey Blind, but on Departed Souls, the band seems well at home in its making, Mellotron-style keys and all.

Magic Circle (Photo by Dakota Gordon)

Acoustic guitar returns on the side B interlude “Bird City Blues” placed right ahead of “Hypnotized,” but it’s an 80-second instrumental piece that seems intended to enhance the titular effect of the closer — i.e., hypnosis — and keyboards make even more of an impression in the subsequent “Nightland” and “Gone Again,” but it’s how it all comes together in “A Day Will Dawn Without Nightmares” that makes the difference, as well as the showcase the song provides for Radigan, though admittedly, that’s more a question of context than quality of performance. There isn’t a point on Departed Souls in which he or the band around him doesn’t shine, whether it’s repurposing the rhythm of the bridge riff to “Sabbra Cadabra” in “Gone Again” or building the hook to “I’ve Found My Way to Die” as an understated anthem of anti-conformity — the lines, “I will never die with the herd/I gotta make my stand/Right!,” efficiently capturing the middle-finger ideology that the earliest of heavy metal raised to the mainstream popular culture that left it on the margins and that has come in the years since to be one of metal’s most defining aspects. Who needs you when I’ve got this?

They make every crash of Q‘s drums in the finale count, every subtle interaction between the lead and rhythm guitars, as in the first half of “Nightland,” the uptempo side B leadoff that breaks to a stretch of harmonies and mellotron that borders on the progressive but never loses its rawer, essential edge before it builds back up into the solo apex that finishes. With the swaggering title-track at the outset and the morose dirge of “Hypnotized” capping, Departed Souls is every bit a work of the classic metal that inspired it. Magic Circle are obviously versed in the style in which they’re working, but Departed Souls pushes further and internalizes that in a way that showcases the growth on the part of the band over the last six years. It’s as though they’ve taken the best of the first two outings and moved them both another step forward. On the most basic level, their songwriting has never sounded stronger, and their performances have never seemed so assured.

Add to that the atmosphere brought forth from the tones of DeToreCorry and Montenegro — hell, even the snare has a classic pop — and Magic Circle have tapped into something genuinely special within their sound. Subtleties like the guitar layering in “Gone Again” or the, yes, cowbell in “Departed Souls,” or even just the way they delay the entry of the vocal harmonies, letting that opener and “I’ve Found My Way to Die” act as a salvo before expanding the palette in “Valley of the Lepers” speak to an overarching fruition to their approach that, even those who’ve stood behind them since the first record would’ve been unlikely to predict. It is a triumph of style and substance that without question deserves consideration among the best albums of 2019.

Magic Circle, Departed Souls (2019)

Magic Circle website

Magic Circle on Bandcamp

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Magic Circle to Release Departed Souls March 29

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

magic circle 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Well, the new Magic Circle track sounds fucking killer. With an overarching proto-metallic spirit brought to bear in no small part through the Sabbath-meets-earliest-AC/DC vocals of Brendan Radigan, “Departed Souls” shares its name with the album it foreshadows, and what will serve as the third full-length for the social media-averse Boston doom/classic metal outfit will see release through 20 Buck Spin on March 29. Their last record, 2015’s Journey Blind (review here) saw them way up the NWOBHM quotient in their sound, but “Departed Souls” seems to speak to an even deeper, earthier and earlier glimpse at the foundations of modern heavy. I dig it. More than I thought I would dig it, and I thought I’d dig it plenty.

They’ll hit Germany for Hell Over Hammaburg on March 1 and play other select dates through the year, as the PR wire informs:

magic circle departed souls

MAGIC CIRCLE: Boston Heavy Metal Outfit To Release Third LP, Departed Souls, Via 20 Buck Spin In March; Video For Title Track Now Playing

Boston’s MAGIC CIRCLE returns with their triumphant third LP, Departed Souls. Ending a four-year gap since the band’s acclaimed Journey Blind LP, Departed Souls will see release through 20 Buck Spin. Ahead of its March 29th street date, the label has released a video created for advance single, the album’s opening song and title track, “Departed Souls.”

MAGIC CIRCLE’s self-titled debut hit the true doom scene like a revelation in 2013. Without hype or hyperbole, the band effortlessly invoked fundamental rock and roll truths putting their own stamp on early heavy metal darkness. Joining 20 Buck Spin for follow-up Journey Blind, the bandagain offered that unmistakable classic sound with natural unforced evolution. On their third LP, Departed Souls, MAGIC CIRCLE presents an expansive hard rock vision, adorning their signature doom with seamless psych and prog ornamentation.

Departed Souls finds MAGIC CIRCLE delving more deeply into ’70s sounds, expanding farther outward from the primordial Iommic matter of their birth. Heavy Sabbathian riffs abound, but MAGIC CIRCLE opens up, stretches out, exposing different shades that recall the moody peaks and valleys of the classic hard rock LPs of that era. Acoustic twelve-string, tablas, and Fender Rhodes appear in lush moments of kaleidoscopic decadence woven into the fabric of the pounding elemental thunder. All the while, vocalist Brendan Radigan seals the deal as one of the premier heavy metal singers of the 21st century, delivering that Wagnerian dynamism and vigor that screams from the heavens and becomes thoroughly controlled in moments of quiet solemnity. The album was recorded and engineered by Will Killingsworth at Dead Air Studios, mixed by the band’s Chris Corry, and mastered by Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham (Black Sabbath, Angel Witch, Saxon, Rory Gallagher).

Though all members are busy with other projects including Innumerable Forms, Sumerlands, Devil’s Dare, Stone Dagger, Lifeless Dark, Missionary Work, Pagan Altar live, and more, when these five men come together in the MAGIC CIRCLE, the chemistry and palpable rock exhilaration reminds us that this band isn’t one destined to die with the herd.

MAGIC CIRCLE has created a video for the LP’s opening song and title track “Departed Souls,” compiling live footage of the band with ritualistic, religious, and spiritual practices.

See MAGIC CIRCLE’s “Departed Souls” video RIGHT HERE and stream the track at all major digital providers including Bandcamp HERE.

20 Buck Spin will issue Departed Souls on LP, CD, cassette, and all digital platforms March 29th. Watch for preorders to be posted in the days ahead. If you regularly spin Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Trouble, Led Zeppelin, Rainbow, Pagan Altar, Witchfinder General, early-Soundgarden, Judas Priest, Witchcraft, and Saint Vitus, become a part of the MAGIC CIRCLE.

The band will play select festivals and shows throughout 2019, with a performance at Hell Over Hammaburg in Germany on March 1st confirmed. Watch for more information to be released in the weeks ahead.

MAGIC CIRCLE Live:
3/01/2019 Hell Over Hammaburg – Hamburg, DE

Departed Souls Track Listing:
1. Departed Souls
2. I’ve Found My Way To Die
3. Valley Of The Lepers
4. A Day Will Dawn Without Nightmares
5. Nightland
6. Gone Again
7. Bird City Blues
8. Hypnotized

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Magic Circle, “Departed Souls” official video

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Deadbird Stream “Alexandria”; III: The Forest Within the Trees Album Preorders Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Yes. Yes. Yes. New Deadbird. Yes. This. Heavy. Yes. Okay. Good.

Preorders. Shows. New song. PR wire:

Deadbird (photo by Adam Peterson)

DEADBIRD: Arkansas Doom Harbingers Premiere “Alexandria”; Preorders For First Album In Ten Years, III: The Forest Within The Tree, Posted At 20 Buck Spin

Arkansas-based DEADBIRD – containing current and former members of Rwake, Iron Tongue, Pallbearer, and more – is preparing to release their first album in ten years with III: The Forest Within The Tree, through 20 Buck Spin in October. The album’s magmatic new single “Alexandria” has been issued as the label posts preorders for the album.

Recorded in “the ZZ Top Room” at Ardent Studios and at AB Recording, both in Memphis, Tennessee, engineered, co-Produced, and mixed by Alan Burcham, and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege, III: The Forest Within The Tree features vibrant artwork by John Santos (Kylesa, Mutoid Man, Torche, Noothgrush, Catheter).

III: The Forest Within The Tree will see release on LP, CD, and digital formats via 20 Buck Spin on October 12th. Find preorders at the label webshop HERE and via Bandcamp where “Luciferous Heart” is also streaming HERE.

Following their set at Migration Festival in Pittsburgh in July DEADBIRD is booking new live actions in support of III: The Forest Within The Tree, including two record release shows for the album. The band will play two Arkansas shows the week of the album’s release, performing n Little Rock on October 12th and Fayetteville on October 13th. Watch for more tour dates to be announced.

DEADBIRD Record Release Shows:
10/12/2018 White Water Tavern – Little Rock, AR w/ Terminal Nation, Tranquilo.
10/13/2018 Backspace – Fayetteville, AR w/ Bones Of The Earth, Groaners

DEADBIRD:
Alan Short – guitar/vocals
Jeff Morgan – bass / vocals
Phillip Schaaf – drums
Reid Raley – bass / vocals
Chris Terry – synth/samples/vocals
Chuck Schaaf – guitar/vocals

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Deadbird, “Alexandria”

Deadbird, “Luciferous Heart”

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Deadbird to Release III: The Forest Within the Tree Oct. 12 on 20 Buck Spin

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

About a decade ago, when shows still happened in Manhattan, there was a venue called Lit Lounge. I’m pretty sure it’s closed at this point. Upstairs in back there was an art gallery, in front there was a bar, and downstairs in the basement there was another bar and a few alcoves where you could sit your drunk ass down and get your head together. I saw some incredible shows there. Thing was, Lit Lounge was one of those places that would do a dance club after rock shows in order to actually make some money on a weekend night.

One time, Deadbird were on a bill with I don’t know how many bands, and they were up from Arkansas and playing late, and their set either got cut off or they didn’t get to play. I don’t remember which it was, but it was a fucking scandal, let me tell you. People were pissed. Righteous anger. To the best of my knowledge, that was the last time Deadbird were in New York.

They were supporting 2008’s Twilight Ritual at the time. I interviewed them for that record for Metal Maniacs and asked them if the name of the album meant they were breaking up. When a follow-up didn’t surface, I always felt a little bad about asking that question. Glad they have a new one coming, and they’ll be in good hands on 20 Buck Spin. And while they haven’t announced a tour and certainly not one that will take them back to NYC as of now, they’re playing Migration Fest in Pittsburgh this weekend, and that’s a start.

From the PR wire:

deadbird iii the forest within the tree

DEADBIRD To Release First Album In Ten Years, III: The Forest Within The Tree, In October Via 20 Buck Spin; Track Streaming + Band To Play Migration Fest This Week

Arkansas-based doom harbingers DEADBIRD return in 2018 with their first new album in over a decade, announcing III: The Forest Within The Tree for October release through 20 Buck Spin. The news strikes with an early debut of the track “Luciferous Heart” as the band makes their way to Pittsburgh to perform at Migration Fest this weekend.

A decade has now passed since the release of Twilight Ritual, the second LP from Little Rock’s DEADBIRD, which features current and former members of Rwake, Iron Tongue, Pallbearer, and more. Though much has changed in the metal world since then DEADBIRD remains steadfast in their ability to sculpt heart-wrenching and gutsy songs from the deepest, darkest places within. Years of toil and scorched southern soil went into the band’s third album III: The Forest Within The Tree resulting in forty haunting minutes of emotive turbulence and resolute grit.

An intense listen from the outset, after “The Singularity” intro the one-two punch of “Luciferous Heart” and “Heyday” carry the weight of the grandiose and the grave, burning with furor and primordial light. At times dipping into quietly morose acoustics and at others crushing with a Neurosis-like magnitude, DEADBIRD offers the scope of the world weary and of sentiment laid bare on compositions like “Brought Low” and “Bone & Ash.”

Ten years is not a short time between albums, but the passing of years have solidified DEADBIRD into an entity well versed in the art of vigilance. The eight tracks comprising III: The Forest Within The Tree are their best to date and signal the awakening of new day for the band. The album is a must-hear release for fans of Rwake, Samothrace, Neurosis, Alice In Chains, Kylesa, Pallbearer, Spirit Adrift, His Hero Is Gone, and El Dopa.

III: The Forest Within The Tree features vibrant artwork by John Santos (Kylesa, Mutoid Man, Torche, Noothgrush, Catheter) and will see release on LP, CD, and digital formats via 20 Buck Spin on October 12th; watch for preorders and additional audio samples to be issued shortly.

III: The Forest Within The Tree Track Listing:
1. The Singularity
2. Luciferous Heart
3. Heyday
4. Alexandria
5. 11:34
6. Brought Low
7. Bone & Ash
8. Ending

DEADBIRD will travel north this week to perform at Migration Festival in Pittsburgh this Friday, July 27th through Sunday the 29th. The band joins the likes of Khemmis, Krallice, Pelican, Panopticon, Mournful Congregation, Bongripper, Zombi, The Cancer Conspiracy, The Ominous Circle, Spirit Adrift, Thou, Yellow Eyes, and more. Watch for additional upcoming tour dates from the band to be announced in support of the new album.

DEADBIRD Live:
7/28/2018 Mr. Small’s Theatre – Pittsburgh, PA @ Migration Fest

DEADBIRD:
Alan Short – guitar/vocals
Jeff Morgan – bass / vocals
Phillip Schaaf – drums
Reid Raley – bass / vocals
Chris Terry – synth/samples/vocals
Chuck Schaaf – guitar/vocals

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Deadbird, “Luciferous Heart”

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Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Morag Tong, Holy Mushroom, Naisian, Haunted, Pabst, L.M.I., Fuzz Forward, Onségen Ensemble, The Heavy Eyes

Posted in Reviews on July 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

I always say the same thing on the Wednesday of the Quarterly Review. Day 3. The halfway point. I say it every time. The fact is, doing these things kind of takes it out of me. All of it. It’s not that I don’t enjoy listening to all these records — well, I don’t enjoy all of them, but I’m talking more about the process — just that it’s a lot to take in and by the time I’m done each day, let alone at the end of the week, I’m fairly exhausted. So every time we hit the halfway point of a Quarterly Review, I feel somewhat compelled to note it. Cresting the hill, as it were. It’s satisfying to get to this point without my head falling off.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Khemmis, Desolation

khemmis desolation

Continuing their proclivity for one-word titles, Denver doom forerunners Khemmis take a decisive turn toward the metallic with their third album for 20 Buck Spin, the six-track/41-minute Desolation. Songs like opener “Bloodletting” and its side B counterpart “The Seer” are still tinged with doom, but the NWOBHM gallop in “Isolation” and “Maw of Time” – as well as the sheer force of the latter – is an unexpected twist. Khemmis showed classic metal elements on 2016’s was-a-very-big-deal Hunted (review here) and 2015’s debut, Absolution (review here), but it’s a question of balance, and as they’ve once again worked with producer Dave Otero, one can only read the shift as a conscious decision. The harder edge suits them – certainly suits the screams in “Maw of Time” and side A finale/album highlight “Flesh to Nothing” – and as Khemmis further refine their sound, they craft its most individualized manifestation to-date. There’s no hearing Desolation and mistaking Khemmis for another band. They’ve come into their own.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin website

 

Morag Tong, Last Knell of Om

morag tong last knell of om

A rumbling entry into London’s Heavy Generation, the four-piece Morag Tong unfold voluminous ritual on their debut full-length, Last Knell of Om. Largely slow and largely toned, the work of guitarists Alex Clarke and Lewis Crane brings the low end to the forefront along with the bass of James Atha while drummer Adam Asquith pushes the lurch forward on cuts like “New Growth” and “To Soil,” the band seemingly most comfortable when engaged in crawling tempos and weighted pummel. Asquith also adds semi-shouted vocals to the mire, which, surrounded by distortion as they are, only make the proceedings sound even more massive. There’s an ambience to “We Answer” and near-13-minute closer “Ephemera: Stare Through the Deep,” which gives the record a suitably noisy finish, but much of what Morag Tong are going for in sound depends on the effectiveness of their tonality, and they’ve got that part down on their debut. Coupled with the meditative feel in some of this material, that shows marked potential on the band’s part for future growth.

Morag Tong on Thee Facebooks

Morag Tong on Bandcamp

 

Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul

holy mushroom blood and soul

Working quickly to follow-up their earlier-2018 sophomore long-player, Moon (review here), Spain’s Holy Mushroom present Blood and Soul, an EP comprised of two songs recorded live in the studio. I’m not entirely sure why it’s split up at all, as the two-minute “Introito” – sure enough, a little introduction – feeds so smoothly into the 19-minute “Blood and Soul” itself, but fair enough either way as the trio shift between different instrumentation, incorporating sax, piano and organ among the guitar, bass, drums and vocals, and unfold a longform heavy psychedelic trip that not only builds on what they were doing with Moon but is every bit worthy of being released on its own. I don’t know if it was recorded at the same time as the record or later – both were done at Asturcon Studios – but it’s easy to see why the band would want to highlight “Blood and Moon.” Between the deep-running mix, the easy rhythmic flow into and out from drifting spaciousness, and the turn in the middle third toward more expansive arrangement elements, it’s an engaging motion that makes subtly difficult shifts seem utterly natural along the way. And even if you didn’t hear the latest full-length, Blood and Soul makes for a fitting introduction to who Holy Mushroom are as a band and what they can do.

Holy Mushroom on Thee Facebooks

Clostridium Records website

 

Naisian, Rejoinder

naisian rejoinder

Sludge-infused noise rock serves as the backdrop for lyrical shenanigans on the three-song Rejoinder EP from Sheffield, UK, trio Naisian. Running just 12 minutes, it’s a quick and thickened pummel enacted by the band, who work in shades of post-metal for “90 ft. Stone,” “Mantis Rising” and “Lefole,” most especially in the middle cut, but even there, the focus in on harsh vocals and lumbering sonic heft. It’s now been seven years since the band sort-of issued their debut album, Mammalian, and six since they followed with the Monocle EP, and the time seems to have stripped down their sound to a degree. “Lefole” is the longest track on Rejoinder at 5:18 and it’s still shorter than every other song Naisian have put out to-date. Their crunch lacks nothing for impact, however, and to go with the swing of “Lefole,” everybody seems to contribute to a vocal assault that only adds to the punishing but thoughtful vibe.

Naisian on Thee Facebooks

Naisian on Bandcamp

 

Haunted, Dayburner

haunted dayburner

The effects-laden vocal swirl at the outset of Haunted’s “Mourning Sun” and moments in the Italian act’s longer-form material, “Waterdawn” or “Orphic,” for example, will invariably lead some listeners to point to a Windhand influence, but the character of the band’s second album, Dayburner (on Twin Earth, DHU and Graven Earth all), follows their 2016 self-titled (review here) by holding steady to a developing identity of its own. To be sure, vocalist Christina Chimirri, guitarists Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando, bassist Frank Tudisco and drummer Dario Casabona make their way into a deep, murky swamp of modern doom in “Dayburner” (video posted here), but in the crush of their tones amid all that trance-inducing riffing, they cast themselves as an outfit seeking to express individuality within the set parameters of style. Their execution, then, is what it comes down to, and with “Orphic” (12:46) and “Vespertine” (13:19) back to back, there’s plenty of doom on the 66-minute 2LP to roll that out. And they do so in patient and successful form, with marked tonal vibrancy and a sense of controlling the storm they’re creating as they go.

Haunted on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records website

DHU Records webstore

Graven Earth Records webstore

 

Pabst, Chlorine

pabst chlorine

So, the aesthetic is different. Pabst play a blend of noise, post-punk, heavy rock and grunge, but with the ready pop influence — to wit, the outright danceability of “Shits,” reminiscent in its bounce of later Queens of the Stone Age – and persistent melodicism, there’s just a twinge of what Mars Red Sky did for heavy rolling riffs happening on Chlorine, their Crazysane Records debut. It’s in that blend of dense low-end fuzz and brighter vocal melodies, but again, Pabst, hailing from Berlin, are on their own trip. Weird but almost more enjoyable than it seems to want to be, the 12-track/35-minute outing indulges little and offers singalong-ready vibes in “Catching Feelings” and “Waterslide” while “Waiting Loop” chills out before the push of “Accelerate” and the angularity of “Cheapskate” take hold. Chrlorine careens and (blue) ribbons its way to the drive-fast-windows-open stylization of “Summer Never Came” and the finale “Under Water,” a vocal effect on the latter doing nothing to take away from its ultra-catchy hook. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a record someone with just the right kind of open mind can come to love.

Pabst on Thee Facebooks

Crazysane Records webstore

 

L.M.I., IV

lmi iv

If you’ve got a dank basement full of skinny college kids, chances are Lansdale, Pennsylvania’s L.M.I. are ready to tear their faces off. The sludge-thickened riff punkers run abut 11 minutes with their five-song release, L.M.I. IV, and that’s well enough time to get their message across. Actually, by the end of “Neck of Tension” and “Weaning Youth,” roughly four and half minutes in, the statement of intent is pretty clear. L.M.I. present furious but grooving hardcore punk more given to scathe than pummel, and their inclusions on L.M.I. IV bring that to life with due sense of controlled chaos. Centerpiece “Lurking Breath” gives way to “First to Dark” – the longest cut at a sprawling 2:55 – and they save a bit of grunge guitar scorch and lower-register growling for closer “June was a Test,” there isn’t really time in general for any redundancy to take hold. That suits the feeling of assault well, as L.M.I. get in and get out on the quick and once they’re gone, all that’s left to do is clean the blood off the walls.

L.M.I. on Thee Facebooks

L.M.I. on Bandcamp

 

Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere

fuzz forward out of nowhere

Released one way or another through Discos Macarras, Odio Sonoro, Spinda Records and Red Sun Records, the eight-song/43-minute debut album from Barcelona’s Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere, has earned acclaim from multiple corners for its interpretation of grunge-era melodies through a varied heavy rock filter. Indeed, the vocals of Juan Gil – joined in the band by guitarist Edko Fuzz, bassist Jordi Vaquero and drummer Marc Rockenberg – pull the mind directly to a young Layne Staley, and forces one to realize it’s been a while since that low-in-the-mouth approach was so ubiquitous. It works well for Gil in the laid back “Summertime Somersaults” as well as the swinging, cowbell-infused later cut “Drained,” and as the band seems to foreshadow richer atmospheric exploration on “Thorns in Tongue” and “Torches,” they nonetheless maintain a focus on songwriting that grounds the proceedings and will hopefully continue to serve as their foundation as they move forward. No argument with the plaudits they’ve thus far received. Seems doubtful they’ll be the last.

Fuzz Forward on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Forward on Bandcamp

 

Onségen Ensemble, Duel

Onsegen ensemble duel

The kind of record you’re doing yourself a favor by hearing – a visionary cast of progressive psychedelia that teems with creative energy and is an inspiration even in the listening. Frankly, the only thing I’m not sure about when it comes to Oulu, Finland, outfit Onségen Enseble’s second album, Duel, is why it isn’t being released through Svart Records. It seems like such a natural fit, with the adventurous woodwinds on opener “Think Neither Good Nor Evil,” the meditative sprawl of the title-track (video posted here), the jazz-jam in the middle of “Dogma MMXVII,” the tribalist percussion anchoring the 12-minute “Three Calls of the Emperor’s Teacher,” which surely would otherwise float away under its own antigravity power, and the free-psych build of closer “Zodiacal Lights of Onségen,” which shimmers in otherworldly fashion and improvised-sounding spark. On Svart or not, Duel is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, and one the creativity of which puts it in a class of its own, even in the vast reaches of psychedelic rock. Whether it means to or not, it tells a story with sound, and that story should be heard.

Onségen Ensemble on Thee Facebooks

Onsegen Ensemble on Bandcamp

 

The Heavy Eyes, Live in Memphis

the heavy eyes live in memphis

Since so much of The Heavy Eyes’ studio presentation has consistently been about crispness of sound and structured songwriting, it’s kind of a relief to hear them knock into some feedback at the start of “Mannish Boy” at the outset of Live in Memphis (on Kozmik Artifactz). The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Tripp Shumake, bassist Wally Anderson and drummer Eric Garcia are still tight as hell, of course, and their material – drawn here from the band’s LPs, 2015’s He Dreams of Lions (review here), 2012’s Maera, 2011’s self-titled, as well as sundry shorter offerings – is likewise. They’ve never been an overly dangerous band, nor have they wanted to be, but the stage performance does add a bit of edge to “Iron Giants” from the debut, which is followed by singing “Happy Birthday” to a friend in the crowd. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Live in Memphis is hearing The Heavy Eyes loosen up a bit on stage, and hearing them sound like they’re having as good a time playing as the crowd is watching and hearing them do so. That sense of fun suits them well.

The Heavy Eyes on Thee Facebooks

The Heavy Eyes at Kozmik Artifactz

 

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Spirit Adrift Set Oct. 6 Release for Curse of Conception; Title-Track Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Spirit-Adrift-photo-Alvino-Salcedo

Due out Oct. 6, Curse of Conception is even more of a quick turnaround behind Spirit Adrift‘s 2016 debut, Chained to Oblivion (review here), when one considers that in the interim the Arizona-based doom outfit has swapped labels and put together a full touring lineup of personnel. That plus new album? Not bad for a year’s time. Founding guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Nate Garrett is joined in Spirit Adrift now by guitarist Jeff Owens and drummer Marcus Bryant, both also of Goya, and Gatecreeper‘s Chase Mason on bass, making for a formidable lineup indeed. Oh yeah, and the new record? Engineered by Sanford Parker. Clearly Garrett isn’t fucking around on any level.

A stream of the title-track, which you can hear under the artwork and copious PR wire information below, confirms this thesis as well as preorder availability:

spirit-adrift-curse-of-conception

SPIRIT ADRIFT: Psychedelic Desert Doom Act To Release Curse Of Conception LP Via 20 Buck Spin; Title Track And Preorders Issued

20 Buck Spin welcomes Arizona’s psychedelic desert doom unit, SPIRIT ADRIFT – featuring members of Gatecreeper, Goya, and others – signing the act for the October release of their second LP, Curse Of Conception.

Curse Of Conception was engineered and mixed by Sanford Parker (Yob, Pelican, Eyehategod) and features artwork by Joe Petagno (Motörhead, Magic Circle, Autopsy). In conjunction with the public announcement of the album details, the album’s title track has also been issued early.

Curse Of Conception will see release through 20 Buck Spin worldwide on CD, LP, and digital formats on October 6th; find physical preorder options HERE, Bandcamp preorders HERE, and iTunes HERE.

While Spirit Adrift made many take notice with their debut album “Chained To Oblivion”, it is on “Curse Of Conception” their stellar second album, and first with new label 20 Buck Spin, that the band has taken a giant leap forward in songwriting prowess, production and confidence. From the Metallica / Priest like opening moments of ‘Earthbound’ to the epic closing of “Onward, Inward”, Spirit Adrift are aiming sky high with burning focus and peak vigor.

The aforementioned ‘Earthbound’ is a standard bearer for album-opening songcraft, leading into the colossal title track, a grungy and twisting radio-ready crawler. ‘To Fly On Broken Wings’ & ‘Graveside Invocation’ continue to show that any of the eight tracks on ‘Curse Of Conception’ could stand as featured singles. Throughout the duration brick heavy riff assembly, somber southern atmospherics and grand melodies entwine flawlessly into perfect metallic majesty, exemplified succinctly and totally in the instrumental ‘Wakien’ for example.

With a host of fantastic albums released by their contemporaries lately, Spirit Adrift has taken their craft to an ascendent new level on ‘Curse Of Conception’ earning their rightful place among the top tier of modern metal bands clawing their way above and beyond the underground scene. Now more than at any time metal has become the lifeblood of rock music and Spirit Adrift offer ‘Curse Of Conception’ as an embodiment of that perseverant vitality.

With widespread touring in support of Curse Of Conception impending, SPIRIT ADRIFT has already booked two release shows for the LP. The first takes place on their home turf in Tempe, Arizona on October 7th alongside Atriarch, Take Over And Destroy, and Divine Hammer. The second release show invades Denver, Colorado a week later, playing October 14th with now-labelmates Khemmis as well as Abrams. Stand by for additional live updates.

SPIRIT ADRIFT Curse Of Conception release shows:
10/07/2017 Yucca Tap Room – Tempe, AZ w/ Atriarch, Take Over And Destroy, Divine Hammer
10/14/2017 The Hi-Dive – Denver, CO w/ Khemmis, Abrams

Curse Of Conception Track Listing:
1. Earthbound
2. Curse Of Conception
3. To Fly On Broken Wings
4. Starless Age (Enshrined)
5. Graveside Invocation
6. Spectral Savior
7. Wakien
8. Onward, Inward

SPIRIT ADRIFT:
Nate Garrett – Vocals, Guitar
Jeff Owens – Guitar
Chase Mason – Bass
Marcus Bryant – Drums

https://spiritadrift.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/SpiritAdrift
http://spiritadrift.bigcartel.com
http://www.20buckspin.com
http://www.facebook.com/20buckspin
http://www.twitter.com/20buckspinlabel

Spirit Adrift, “Curse of Conception”

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Samothrace Announce US Tour Dates with He Whose Ox is Gored

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

samothrace

Hard to believe that by the time they finish this upcoming US tour, complete with stops at Maryland Deathfest as well as the 71Grind in Colorado and Northwest Terrorfest in their native Seattle, it will have been almost exactly half a decade since Samothrace released their last album, Reverence to Stone (review here). I’m not trying to tell anyone how to live their life or anything, but I think it might be time for a follow-up. Of course, the megadoomers have toured regularly since that offering landed like a giant-sized concrete slab carrying other concrete slabs — also it landed on a slab of concrete, and from a considerable height — but still, a third album would be welcome, even after they did the Live at Roadburn outing capturing their set from 2014 at the Netherlands-based fest, at which they, naturally, killed (review here).

They go in the good company of prog-sludge rockers He Whose Ox is Gored, and will be joined on select shows by Void Omnia as well. Their announcement went an awful lot like this:

samothrace us tour

It’s been a while since we have done a run in the States. Time to change that!! Headlining dates with appearances at Maryland Death Fest, 71Grind Fest and Northwest Terror Fest

This time being joined by our friends in Hewhoseoxisgored and select dates with our friends in Void Omina!!

See you soon!!

Wed 5/17/17 Great Falls, MT Back Alley Pub
Fri 5/19/17 Fargo, ND The Aqurarium
Sat 5/20/17 Minneapolis, MN The Reverie
Sun 5/21/17 Chicago, IL Reggies Joint
Mon 5/22/17 Cleveland, OH Now Thats Class
Tue 5/23/17 Brooklyn, NY Saint Vitus
Thur 5/25/17 Baltimore, MD Maryland Death Festival
Fri 5/26/17 Atlanta, GA Club 529
Sat 5/27/17 New Orleans, LA Siberia
Sun 5/28/17 Houston, TX Rudyards
Tue 5/30/17 Austin, TX The Lost Well
Wed 5/31/17 Dallas, TX Three Kings
Thur 6/1/17 Oklahoma City, OK 89th St.
Fri 6/2/17 Colorado Springs, CO 71 Grind Festival
Sat 6/3/17 Salt Lake City, UT Loading Dock
Sun 6/4/17 Las Vegas, NV Beauty Bar
Tue 6/6/17 Tempe, AZ Yucca Tap Room
Wed 6/7/17 Tucson, AZ Hotel Congress
Thur 6/8/17 Los Angeles, CA Complex
Fri 6/9/17 San Diego, CA Soda Bar
Sat 6/10/17 Oakland, CA Golden Bull
Thurs 6/15/16 Seattle, WA Northwest Terror Fest

https://www.facebook.com/samothracedoom/
www.samothrace.bandcamp.com
www.20buckspin.com

Samothrace, Reverence to Stone (2012)

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