Quarterly Review: Pelican, Swan Valley Heights, Mark Deutrom, Greenbeard, Mount Soma, Nibiru, Cable, Reino Ermitaño, Cardinals Folly & Lucifer’s Fall, Temple of the Fuzz Witch

Posted in Reviews on July 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

More computer bullshit this morning. I lost about 45 minutes because my graphics driver and Windows 10 apparently hate each other and before I could disable the former, the machine decided the best it could do for me was to load a blank screen. Hard to find the Pelican record on my desktop when I can’t see my desktop. The Patient Mrs. woke up while I was trying to fix it and suggested HDMIing it to the tv. When I did that, it didn’t project as was hoped, but the display came on — because go figure — and I was able to shut off the driver, the only real advantage of which is it lets me use the night light feature so it’s easier on my eyes. That’s nice, but I’d rather have the laptop function. Not really working on a level of “give me soft red light or give me death!” at this point. I may yet get there in my life.

Today’s the last day of this beast, wrapping up the last of the 60 reviews, and I’m already in the hole for the better part of an hour thanks to this technical issue, the second of the week. Been an adventure, this one. Let’s close it out.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Pelican, Nighttime Stories

pelican nighttime stories

Split into two LPs each with its own three-minute mood-setter — those being “WST” and “It Stared at Me,” respectively — Pelican‘s Nighttime Stories (on Southern Lord) carries the foreboding sensibility of its title into an aggressive push throughout the album, which deals from the outset with the pain of loss. The lead single “Midnight and Mescaline” represents this well in directly following “WST,” with shades of more extreme sounds in the sharp-turning guitar interplay and tense drums, but it carries through the blastbeats of “Abyssal Plain” and the bombastic crashes of presumed side B closer “Cold Hope” as well, which flow via a last tonal wash toward the melancholy “It Stared at Me” and the even-more-aggro title-track, the consuming “Arteries of Blacktop” and the eight-minute “Full Moon, Black Water,” which offers a build of maddening chug — a Pelican hallmark — before resolving in melodic serenity, moving, perhaps, forward with and through its grief. It’s been six years since Pelican‘s last LP, Forever Becoming (review here), and they’ve responded to that time differential with the hardest-hitting record they’ve ever done.

Pelican on Thee Facebooks

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Swan Valley Heights, The Heavy Seed

swan valley heights the heavy seed

Though the peaceful beginning of 13-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Heavy Seed,” for which the five-song album is named, reminds of Swan Valley Heights‘ Munich compatriots in Colour Haze, the ultimate impression the band make on their Fuzzorama Records debut and second album overall behind a 2016 self-titled (review here) is more varied in its execution, with cuts like “Vaporizer Woman” and the centerpiece “Take a Swim in God’s Washing Machine” manifesting ebbs and flows and rolling out a fuzzy largesse to lead into dream-toned ethereality and layered vocals that immediately call to mind Elephant Tree. There’s a propensity for jamming, but they’re not a jam band, and seem always to have a direction in mind. That’s true even on the three-minute instrumental “My First Knife Fight,” which unfurls around a nod riff and simple drum progression to bridge into closer “Teeth and Waves,” a bookend to The Heavy Seed‘s title-track that revives that initial grace and uses it as a stepping stone for the crunch to come. It’s a balance that works and should be well received.

Swan Valley Heights on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzorama Records on Bandcamp

 

Mark Deutrom, The Blue Bird

Mark Deutrom The Blue Bird

Released in the wee hours of 2019, Mark Deutrom‘s The Blue Bird marks the first new solo release from the prolific Austin-based songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist through Season of Mist, and it’s a 50-minute run of genre-spanning outsider art, bringing ’70s folk vibes to the weepy guitar echoes of “Radiant Gravity” right before “O Ye of Little Faith” dooms out for six of its seven minutes and “Our Revels Now Are Ended” basks in 77 seconds of experimentalist winding guitar. It goes like that. Vocals are intermittent enough to not necessarily be expected, but not entirely absent through the midsection of “Hell is a City,” “Somnambulist” and “Maximum Hemingway,” and if there’s traditionalism at play anywhere, it might be in “They Have Won” and “The Happiness Machine,” which, toward the back end of the album, bring a sax-laden melancholy vibe and a straightforward heavy rock feel, respectively, ahead of the closer “Nothing out There,” which ties them together, somehow accounting for the 1:34 “On Fathers Day” as well in its sweetness. Don’t go into The Blue Bird asking it to make sense on any level other than its own and you should be fine. It’s not a minor undertaking at 50 minutes, and not without its indulgences, but even the briefest of pieces helps develop the character of the whole, which of course is essential to any good story.

Mark Deutrom website

Season of Mist website

 

Greenbeard, Onward, Pillager

greenbeard onward pillager

Austin bringers of hard-boogie Greenbeard reportedly issued the three-song Onward, Pillager as a precursor to their next full-length — even the name hints toward it being something of a stopgap — but its tracks stand well on their own, whether it’s the keyboard-laced “Contact High II,” which is presumably a sequel to another track on the forthcoming record, or the chunkier roll of “WCCQ” and the catchy finisher “Kill to Love Yourself,” with its overlaid guitar solo adding to a dramatic ending. It hasn’t been that long since 2017’s Lödarödböl (review here), but clearly these guys are committed to moving forward in neo-stoner rock fashion, and their emergence as songwriters is highlighted particularly throughout “WCCQ” and “Kill to Love Yourself,” while “Contact High II” is more of an intro or a would-be interlude on the full-length. It may only be pieces of a larger, to-be-revealed picture, but Onward, Pillager shows three different sides of what Greenbeard have on offer, and the promise of more to come is one that will hopefully be kept sooner rather than later.

Greenbeard on Thee Facebooks

Sailor Records on Bandcamp

 

Mount Soma, Nirodha

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Each of the three songs on Mount Soma‘s densely-weighted, live-recorded self-released Nirodha EP makes some mention of suffering in its lyrics, and indeed, that seems to be the theme drawing together “Dark Sun Destroyer” (7:40), “Emerge the Wolf” (5:50) and “Resurfacing” (9:14): a quest for transcendence perhaps in part due to the volume of the music and the act itself of creating it. Whatever gets them there, the trajectory of Nirodha is such that by the time they hit into the YOB-style galloping toward the end of “Resurfacing,” the gruff shouts of “rebirth!” feel more celebratory than ambitious. Based in Dublin, the four-piece bring a fair sense of space to their otherwise crush-minded approach, and though the EP is rough — it is their second short release following 2016’s Origins — they seem to have found a way to tie together outer and inner cosmos with an earthbound sense of gravity and heft, and with the more intense shove of “Emerge the Wolf” between the two longer tracks, they prove themselves capable of bringing a noisy charge amid all that roar and crash. They did the first EP live as well. I wonder if they’d do the same for a full-length.

Mount Soma on Thee Facebooks

Mount Soma on Bandcamp

 

Nibiru, Salbrox

nibiru salbrox

One might get lost in the unmanageable 64-minute wash of Nibiru‘s fifth full-length (first for Ritual Productions), Salbrox, but the opaque nature of the proceedings is part of the point. The Italian ritualists bring forth a chaotic depth of noise and harsh semi-spoken rasps of vocals reportedly in the Enochian language, and from 14-minute opener “EHNB” — also the longest track (immediate points) — through the morass that follows in “Exarp,” “Hcoma,” “Nanta” and so on, the album is a willful slog that challenges the listener on nearly every level. This is par for the course for Nibiru, whose last outing was 2017’s Qaal Babalon (review here), and they seem to revel in the slow-churning gruel of their distortion, turning from it only to break to minimalism in the second half of the album with “Abalpt” and “Bitom” before 13-minute closer “Rziorn” storms in like a tsunami of spiritually desolate plunge. It is vicious and difficult to hear, and again, that is exactly what it’s intended to be.

Nibiru on Thee Facebooks

Ritual Productions website

 

Cable, Take the Stairs to Hell

Cable Take the Stairs to Hell

The gift of Cable was to take typically raw Northeastern disaffection and channel it into a noise rock that wasn’t quite as post-this-or-that as Isis, but still had a cerebral edge that more primitive fare lacked. They were methodical, and 10 years after their last record, the Hartford, Connecticut, outfit return with the nine-song/30-minute Take the Stairs to Hell (on Translation Loss), which brings them back into the modern sphere with a sound that is no less relevant than it was bouncing between This Dark Reign, Hydra Head and Translation Loss between 2001 and 2004. They were underrated then and may continue to be now, but the combination of melody and bite in “Black Medicine” and the gutty crunch of “Eyes Rolled Back,” the post-Southern heavy of the title-track and the lumbering pummel of “Rivers of Old” before it remind of how much of a standout Cable was in the past, reinforcing that not only were they ahead of their time then, but that they still have plenty to offer going forward. They may continue to be underrated as they always were, but their return is significant and welcome.

Cable on Instagram

Translation Loss Records webstore

 

Reino Ermitaño, Reino Ermitaño

Reino Ermitano Reino Ermitano

Originally released in 2003, the self-titled debut from Lima, Peru’s Reino Ermitaño was a beacon and landmark in Latin American doom, with a sound derived from the genre’s traditions — Sabbath, Trouble, etc. — and melded with not only Spanish-language lyrics, but elements of South American folk and stylizations. Reissued on vinyl some 16 years later, it maintains its power through the outside-time level of its craft, sliding into that unplaceable realm of doom that could be from any point from about 1985 onward, while the melodies in the guitar of Henry Guevara and the vocals of Tania Duarte hold sway over the central groove of bassist Marcos Coifman and drummer Julio “Ñaka” Almeida. Those who were turned onto the band at the time will likely know they’ve released five LPs to-date, with the latest one from 2014, but the Necio Records version marks the first time the debut has been pressed to vinyl, and so is of extra interest apart from the standard putting-it-out-there-again reissue. Collectors and a new generation of doomers alike would be well advised on an educational level, and of course the appeal of the album itself far exceeds that.

Reino Ermitaño on Thee Facebooks

Necio Records on Bandcamp

 

Cardinals Folly & Lucifer’s Fall, Split

cardinals folly lucifers fall split

Though one hails from Helsinki, Finland, and the other from Adelaide, Australia, Cardinals Folly and Lucifer’s Fall could hardly be better suited to share the six-song Cruz Del Sur split LP that they do, which checks in at 35 minutes of trad doom riffing and dirtier fare. The former is provided by Cardinals Folly, who bring a Reverend Bizarre-style stateliness to “Spiritual North” and “Walvater Proclaimed!” before betraying their extreme metal roots on “Sworn Through Odin’s and Satan’s Blood,” while the Oz contingent throw down Saint Vitus-esque punk-born fuckall through “Die Witch Die,” the crawling “Call of the Wild” and the particularly brash and speedier “The Gates of Hell.” The uniting thread of course is homage to doom itself, but each band brings enough of their own take to complement each other without either contradicting or making one or the other of them feel redundant, and rather, the split works out to be a rampaging, deeply-drunk, pagan-feeling celebration of what doom is and how it has been internalized by each of these groups. Doom over the world? Yeah, something like that.

Cardinals Folly on Thee Facebooks

Lucifer’s Fall on Thee Facebooks

Cruz Del Sur Music website

 

Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Temple of the Fuzz Witch

Temple of the Fuzz Witch Temple of the Fuzz Witch

A strong current of Electric Wizard runs through the self-titled debut full-length from Detroit’s Temple of the Fuzz Witch (on Seeing Red Records), but even to that, the outfit led by guitarist/vocalist Noah Bruner bring a nascent measure of individuality, droning into and through “Death Hails” after opening with “Bathsheba” and ahead of unveiling a harmonized vocal on “The Glowing of Satan” that suits the low end distortion surprisingly well. They continue to offer surprises throughout, whether it’s the spaciousness of centerpiece “329” and “Infidel,” which follows, or the offsetting of minimalism and crush on “The Fuzz Witch” and the creeper noise in the ending of “Servants of the Sun,” and though there are certainly familiar elements at play, Temple of the Fuzz Witch come across with an intent to take what’s been done before and make it theirs. In that regard, they would seem to be on the right track, and in their 41 minutes, they find footing in a murky aesthetic and are able to convey a sense of songwriting without sounding heavy-handed. There’s nothing else I’d ask of their first album.

Temple of the Fuzz Witch on Thee Facebooks

Seeing Red Records on Bandcamp

 

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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

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The Dunes Sign to Oak Island Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Cheers to hazy psych-gazers The Dunes on inking a deal to release their debut album through Oak Island Records. The Kozmik Artifactz-distributed imprint will handle putting out the Adelaide, Australia, sextet’s long-player sometime later this year, but if you’re clever and make it all the way to the bottom of this post, you can get a load of The Dunes‘ new single, “(Just Because You’re Not Being Followed Doesn’t Mean You’re Not) Paranoid,” which basks in depth of mix and repetitions of the word “paranoid” while guitars space out and hum their way through three and a half minutes of groovy-man-groovy fuzzernalia. Worth your time, and you know I value your time.

The PR wire brought word of the signing:

the dunes

Oak Island Records Announce New Signing – “The Dunes”

We are super stoked to be working with The Dunes on the release of their debut album, which will be release later this year on stunning vinyl.

The Dunes have quickly gained a reputation in Adelaide, Australia, as the town’s leading drone-fuzz-psych band, incorporating haunting guitar lines with reverb-drenched vocals, fuzzed out bass and 60s inspired keys and synth. With their debut full length album about to be released, it builds on their previous work and captures the bands true live sound; extended jams and repetitive noise that opens the mind and expands the consciousness.

Recorded and Engineered in Adelaide SA by Jon McNicol at Twin Earth Studios (Asteroid Belt, Hydromedusa), and Produced, Mixed and Mastered in Austin, TX by Brett Orrison at Spaceflight Records / The Austin Recording Service (The Black Angels, Widespread Panic, Think No Think, Christian Bland & The Revelators, MIEN), the new album is set for AUS release on garage rock label Off The Hip and US/UK release on Oak Island Records.

Speaking about the signing, The Dunes said:

“The Dunes are very excited to be working with Oak Island Records for our first full length album. We have tried to capture our sound as best as possible on this record, working closely with Jon McNicol at Twin Earth to record to tape and then bounce the tracks over to Brett Orrison in Austin, TX where he has done an amazing mix – its a dream to work with people who understand our musical vision. We have wanted to get our music out into the wide world – and thanks to Oak Island this is now possible. Long live the fuzz. Long live the drone.”

The Dunes are:
Stacie Reeves (vocals/ percussion)
Matt Reiner (guitar)
Adam Vanderwerf (bass)
Jess Honeychurch (keys)
Brett Walter (synth)
Clair O’Boyle (drums)

https://www.facebook.com/thedunesband/
https://soundcloud.com/thedunesband
https://www.facebook.com/oakislandrecords/
http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/index.php?k=1072&lang=eng

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Kitchen Witch to Release Self-Titled Debut April 14

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 5th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

kitchen witch

Fuzz-coated Australian heavy blues rockers Kitchen Witch will release their self-titled debut LP via Kozmik Artifactz on April 14. That’s pretty soon. Like less that two weeks from now. Sorry for the lack of heads up on this one, but we’re still technically in the preorder phase, so it’s not like you missed out if you want to grab a copy. The 12″, which will be pressed in a total edition of 316, is made up of songs from the Adelaide four-piece’s two prior EPs, 2016’s Back to the Mud, which you can hear in the Bandcamp player below, and 2015’s Trouble, from which the last couple tracks were left off. Hey, sometimes you run out of room. It happens.

Australia’s heavy boom continues unabated.

Details from the PR wire:

kitchen witch self titled

Kitchen Witch set to release self-titled debut album this spring via Kozmik Artifactz

Australian stoner-blues rockers, Kitchen Witch, are set to release their debut full length this spring via Kozmik Artifactz. Comprised of tracks from the bands original self-released EPs, “Kitchen Witch” is a fuzzy, droning, soulful record that perfectly captures what Kitchen Witch are all about.

With their EPs having amassed over 10k plays on YouTube, Kitchen Witch are set to make waves this year. Fans of Royal Thunder, Blues Pills and Kyuss will be at home here as Kitchen Witch deliver a confident full length debut.

‘Kitchen Witch’ will be available on high quality 180g vinyl through Kozmik Artifactz on April 14th, 2017.

VINYL FACTZ
– Plated & pressed on high performance vinyl at Pallas/Germany
– limited & coloured 180g vinyl
– 166x green/white marbled (Exclusive mailorder edition, handnumbered)
– 150x black
– 300gsm gatefold cover
– special vinyl mastering

TRACKS
1. Slipstream
2. Third Eye
3. Delusion
4. Like Blood
5. Smoking
6. Trouble
7. Don’t Waste Your Time
8. O’Lord

KITCHEN WITCH are:
Vocals – Georgie Cosson
Bass – Simon Elliott
Guitar – Conor Kinsella
Drums – John Russo

https://www.facebook.com/kitchenwitchband/
https://kitchenwitch.bandcamp.com/
http://kozmik-artifactz.com/
https://www.facebook.com/kozmikartifactz
http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/

Kitchen Witch, Back to the Mud (2016)

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Quarterly Review: Unearthly Trance, Heavy Traffic, Saturn, Lucifer’s Fall, Trevor Shelley de Brauw, Scuzzy Yeti, Urn., Nebula Drag, Contra, IAH

Posted in Reviews on March 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

cropped-Charles-Meryon-Labside-Notre-Dame-1854

From harsh doom to urban pastoralism to heavy blues rock to rolling doom nonetheless metallic in its defiance, Day Four of the Quarterly Review spins around a swath of styles and hopefully, hopefully, finds something you dig in the doing. It’s been a long week already. You know it. I know it. But it’s also been really good to dig into this stuff and I know I’ve found a few records that have made their way onto the already-ongoing 2017 lists — best short releases, debuts, albums, etc. — so to say it’s been worth it is, as ever, an understatement. Today likewise has gems to offer, so I won’t delay.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Unearthly Trance, Stalking the Ghost

unearthly-trance-stalking-the-ghost

Brooklyn’s Unearthly Trance make a somewhat unexpected reentry with Stalking the Ghost (on Relapse), their sixth album. In the years since 2010’s V (review here), guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lipynsky has delved into a wide variety of extreme genres, from the blackened fare of The Howling Wind to the deathly-doom of Serpentine Path, in which Unearthly Trance bassist Jay Newman and drummer Darren Verni also shared tenure, but reuniting as Unearthly Trance feels like a significant step for the three-piece, and on tracks like “Dream State Arsenal” and the darkly post-metallic “Lion Strength,” they remind of what it was that made them such a standout in the first place while demonstrating that their years away have done nothing to dull the surehandedness of their approach. At eight tracks/52 minutes, Stalking the Ghost is a significant dirge to undertake, but Unearthly Trance bring pent-up anguish to bear across this varied swath of punishing tracks, and reassert their dominance over an aesthetic sphere that, even after all this time, is thoroughly their own.

Unearthly Trance on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website

 

Heavy Traffic, Plastic Surgery

heavy-traffic-plastic-surgery

Probably a smart move on the part of Heavy Traffic spearhead guitarist Ian Caddick and drummer/vocalist Tav Palumbo to swap coasts from Santa Cruz to Brooklyn ahead of putting together their sixth (!) full-length in three years and Twin Earth Records debut, Plastic Surgery. Cali is awash in heavy psych anyway and Brooklyn’s been at a deficit (as much as it’s at a deficit of anything) since space forerunners Naam became one with the cosmos, so even apart from the acquisition of bassist David Grzedzinki and drummer Dan Bradica, it’s a solid call, and one finds the fruits yielded on Plastic Surgery’s dream-fuzzed blend of heft and roll, heady jams like “See Right Through,” the oh-you-like-feedback-well-here’s-all-the-feedback “Broth Drain” and winding “Medicated Bed” finding a place where shoegaze and psychedelia meet ahead of the low-end-weighted closing title-cut and the bonus track “White and Green,” which finishes with suitable push and swirl to mark a welcome and vibe-soaked arrival for the band. Hope you enjoy the Eastern Seabord. It could use you.

Heavy Traffic on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records on Bandcamp

 

Saturn, Beyond Spectra

saturn beyond spectra

In the second Saturn album, Beyond Spectra, one can hear one of retro rock’s crucial next movements taking place. The Swedish four-piece, who debuted on Rise Above with 2014’s Ascending and return with a periodically explosive 10-track/45-minute outing here, find a niche for themselves in adding dual-guitar NWOBHM elements to ‘70s-style (also ‘10s-style) boogie, as on the scorching “Still Young” or opener “Orbital Command.” They’re not the only ones doing it – Rise Above alums Horisont come to mind readily – but they’re doing it well, and the last three years have clearly found them refining their approach to arrive at the tightness in the shuffle of “Wolfsson” and the creeping Priestism of “Helmet Man” later on. I’ll give bonus points for their embracing the idea of going completely over the top in naming a song “Electrosaurus Sex,” but by the time they get down to closing duo “Silfvertape” and “Sensor Data,” I’m left thinking of the subdued intro to “Orbital Command” and the interlude “Linkans Delight” and wondering if there isn’t a way to bring more of that dynamic volume and tempo breadth into the songwriting as a whole. That would really be far out. Maybe they’ll get there, maybe they won’t. Either way, Beyond Spectra, like its predecessor, makes a largely inarguable case for Saturn’s potential.

Saturn on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records website

 

Lucifer’s Fall, II: Cursed and Damned

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Measuring its impact between doomly traditionalism and attitudinal fuckall, Lucifer’s Fall’s II: Cursed and Damned (on Nine Records) is a doom-for-doomers affair that tops 55 minutes with its nine tracks, recalling Dio-era Sabbathian gallop on opener “Mother Superior” and landing a significant blow with the slow-rolling nine-minute push of “The Necromancer.” Shades of Candlemass, Reverend Bizarre, and the most loyal of the loyalists show themselves throughout, but whether it’s the crawl in the first half of “Cursed Priestess” or the blistering rush of the clarion centerpiece “(Fuck  You) We’re Lucifer’s Fall,” there’s an undercurrent of punk in the five-piece’s take that lends an abiding rawness to even the album’s most grueling moments. One looks to find a middle ground in songs like “The Mountains of Madness” and closer “Homunculus,” but Lucifer’s Fall instead offer NWOBHM-style guitar harmonics and soaring vocals, respectively, only pushing their stylistic breadth wider, playing by and breaking rules they’re clearly setting for themselves rather than working toward outside expectation. As a result, II: Cursed and Damned keeps its fist in the air for the duration, middle finger up.

Lucifer’s Fall on Bandcamp

Nine Records website

 

Trevor Shelley de Brauw, Uptown

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Over the course of six-minute opener “A New Architecture,” guitarist Trevor Shelley de Brauw gradually moves the listener from abrasive noise to sweet, folkish acoustic guitar backed by amplified wavelengths. It’s a slowly unfolding change, patiently done, and it works in part to define Uptown (on The Flenser), the Pelican guitarist’s six-song solo debut long-player. Noise and drone make themselves regulars, and there’s a steady experimentalism at root in pieces like “Distinct Frequency,” the low-end hum and strum of “You Were Sure,” and the should’ve-been-on-the-soundtrack-to-Arrival “Turn up for What,” which unfurls a linear progression from minimalism to consuming swell in eight minutes ahead of the more actively droning 11-minute sendoff “From the Black Soil Poetry and Song Sprang,” but de Brauw manages to keep a human core beneath via both the occasional acoustic layer and through moments where a piece is being palpably manipulated, à la the spacious distorted churn of “They Keep Bowing.” I’m not sure how Uptown didn’t wind up on Neurot, but either way, it’s an engaging exploration of textures, and one hopes it won’t be de Brauw’s last work in this form.

Trevor Shelley de Brauw on Thee Facebooks

The Flenser website

 

Scuzzy Yeti, Scuzzy Yeti

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Someone in Scuzzy Yeti has roots in metal, and the good money’s on it being vocalist Chris Wells. Joined in the Troy, New Hampshire, five-piece by guitarists Brad Decatur and Jason Lawrence (ex-Skrogg), bassist Wayne Munson and drummer Josh Turnbull, Wells casts a sizable frontman presence across the five-tracks of Scuzzy Yeti’s self-titled debut EP, belting out “Westward” and “BTK” as the band behind him hones a blend of classic heavy rock and doom. The sound is more reminiscent of Janne Christoffersson-era Spiritual Beggars than what one might expect out of New England, and the band amass some considerable momentum as centerpiece “Conqueror” and the shorter shuffle “Knees in the Breeze” push toward slower, lead-soaked closer “Flare,” which finds the lead guitar stepping up to meet Wells head-on. They might have some work to do in finding a balance between the stylistic elements at play, but for a first outing, Scuzzy Yeti shows all the pieces are there and are being put into their rightful place, and the result is significant, marked potential.

Scuzzy Yeti on Thee Facebooks

Scuzzy Yeti on Bandcamp

 

Urn., Urn.

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The insistent push from punctuated Denver trio Urn.’s self-titled debut demo/EP is enough to remind one of the days when the primary impression of Mastodon wasn’t their complexity, but the raw savagery with which that complexity was delivered. Urn. – the three-piece of Scott Schulman, Graham Wesselhoff and Jacob Archuleta – work in some elements of more extreme metal to “Rat King” after opener “Breeder,” both songs under three minutes and successfully conveying an intense thrust. The subsequent “Stomach” ranges further and is the longest cut at 4:45, but loses none of its focus as it winds its way toward closer “To the Grave,” which in addition to maintaining the nigh-on-constant kick drum that has pervaded the three tracks prior, offers some hints of lumbering stomp to come. As a first sampling, Urn.’s Urn. is a cohesive aesthetic blast setting in motion a progression that will be worth following as it develops. Call it rager metal and try not to spill your beverage while you windmill, you wild headbanger.

Urn. on Thee Facebooks

Urn. on Bandcamp

 

Nebula Drag, Always Dying

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2016 found San Diego aggressors Nebula Drag making their self-titled, self-released debut (review here) with a record that seemed to work in willful defiance of their hometown’s psychedelic underground while at the same time occasionally nodding to it. The forebodingly-titled Always Dying three-song EP does likewise, launching with a vengeance on “Crosses” before burying the vocals and spacing out behind the crashes of the more languid-rolling title-track and giving a bit of both sides with the four-minute closer “Flying Fuckers.” It’s almost as if the three-piece of Corey Quintana, bassist Mike Finneran and drummer Stephen Varns, having thus completed their first album, decided to boil it down to its essential stylistic components and the result of that was this 14-minute outing. An intriguing prospect, but it could also be these were leftovers from the prior session with Jordan Andreen at Audio Design Recording and putting them up for a free download was an easy way to give them some purpose. In any case, if you haven’t yet been introduced to the band, Always Dying is an efficient telling of their story thus far.

Nebula Drag on Thee Facebooks

Nebula Drag on Bandcamp

 

Contra, Deny Everything

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If their moniker doesn’t have you immediately running through the most legendary of cheat codes, congratulations on being born after 1990. Cleveland burl-sludge metallers Contra make their full-length debut on respected purveyor Robustfellow with the 10-track/41-minute Deny Everything, and if it sounds like they have their shit together – at least sound-wise – it should make sense given the pedigree of drummer Aaron Brittain (ex-Rue), bassist/guitarist Adam Horwatt (So Long Albatross), guitarist Chris Chiera (ex-Sofa King Killer) and vocalist Larry Bent (ex-Don Austin). Be it established that songs like “Snake Goat” and “Son of Beast” are nobody’s first time at the sludge rodeo. Fair enough. Doesn’t mean Contra don’t establish their own personality in the overarching fuckall and total lack of pretense throughout Deny Everything – hell, seven-minute closer “Shrimp Cocktail” proves that on its own – just that that personality has roots. What Contra wants to do with them still kind of seems up in the air, but something about these tracks makes me think the band likes it that way. See the aforementioned “fuckall.”

Contra on Bandcamp

Robustfellow Productions on Bandcamp

 

IAH, IAH

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Comprised of four songs tracked live in the trio’s native Córdoba at 440 Estudio, the self-titled debut EP from Argentine trio IAH – guitarist Mauricio Condon, bassist Juan Pablo Lucco and drummer José Landín – would seem destined to catch the attention of South American Sludge Records if it already hasn’t. In the interim, the three-piece have made the instrumental EP available as a free download and its unpretentious heavy psychedelics and edge of rock-minded thrust on opener “Cabalgan los Cielos” and the early going of closer “Eclipsum” more than justify their intention to spread the word as much as possible. Set to a balance of post-rock guitar, the bassline of “Stolas” carries a progressive inflection, and the fuzz that emerges halfway into second track “Ouroboros” shows a desert rock influence that blends well into its surroundings as a part of a richer sonic entity. A nascent but palpable chemistry at work across its 26 minutes, IAH’s IAH could portend expansive ideas to come, and one hopes it does precisely that.

IAH on Thee Facebooks

IAH on Bandcamp

 

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Rote Mare, Serpents of the Church: Words for the Converted

Posted in Reviews on May 10th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

It’s easy to tell right off the bat that Australian traditional doom outfit Rote Mare are well versed in the ways of their forebears. What began as a one-man project for guitarist/vocalist Phil Howlett, the band released seven CDR demos between 2005 and 2009, and after evolving into a full four-piece, wasted no time in issuing the Sorrows Path EP and the subsequent Serpents of the Church long-player via Altsphere Productions. The album, which came out toward the end of last year, consciously offers grand paeans to Black Sabbath and Celtic Frost, and winds up in the process having plenty in common with bands like Reverend Bizarre and Apostle of Solitude, who took and take a similar guitar-led, sans-frills approach, letting riffs and melodies carry across the ideas and moods they want to convey. In the case of Rote Mare, the mood is pretty singular: Doomed. Five of the total seven tracks on Serpents of the Church are over 10 minutes long – centerpiece “Funeral Song” hits 14:36 – and though the pace varies somewhat, it’s mostly from crawling to lumbering to creepy. With a total runtime of 76:20, Rote Mare’s first full-length as a complete band is a cumbersome affair. Howlett is joined in the band by guitarist Sean Wiskin, bassist Jess Erceg and drummer Ben Dodunski, and together they plod through the songs, mostly led by the guitar (the aforementioned centerpiece is an exception in this regard), and though it doesn’t lack personality, it’s a long trip to make and a long time to be drenched in Rote Mare’s woes. Serpents of the Church (as opposed to, one assumes, its “servants”) probably could have been two full-lengths and no one would’ve batted an eye. Though that kind of glut of material generally speaks of some self-indulgence on the part of the band involved, none of these tracks feel overwritten, so it may just be a case of Rote Mare, and Howlett as the one who’s probably still the guiding force despite having brought in the other three members, continuing an already established prolific nature in this form. So be it.

“Funeral Song” and “The Martyr,” which between them account for a full 27 minutes of listening time, provide a fitting summation of what Serpents of the Church is all about. Touches of Trouble show up in Howlett’s riffing, and his tradeoffs between sorrowful melodic singing and gruffer shouts, especially in “The Martyr,” remind of Chuck Brown of Apostle of Solitude, but Rote Mare seem less concerned with carving out a highly individualized niche in doom than with paying homage to their favorite bands via riffs and crashes. I’ve heard far worse done with less noble intentions, and if Serpents of the Church has anything at all, it has its heart in the right place. The first thing you hear on the record, for example, is the slow riff that becomes the central figure of the opening title-track, and as much as the already-noted later two tracks summarize the scope of the album as a whole, that initial riff tells a lot of the tale. It comes through a rough but relatively flat production and sounds downtrodden in the doomed tradition. It’s not long before Howlett’s vocals kick in – the second guitar seems to be the final element to arrive – and the slow rolling groove continues as he switches to a throatier approach during the chorus. The riffs are relatively simple, and if you’re familiar with the genre of traditional doom or have ever seen the inside of the Bizarre Reverend’s rectory, then a lot of what Rote Mare are doing here won’t be shocking. “Crossroads,” which follows the titular opener, follows a similar course, marking its territory early on a grooving doom riff and building around it, picking up its pace and filling out the sound somewhat later on, but keeping more or less the same progression throughout that process. Hey, if you can’t take slow, agonizing plod, you might as well pack it in as regards doom.

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Van Cleef Put Their Labcoats to Good Use

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 31st, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Here I was, wondering when someone would make a song that included — nay, featured — the line “Cryogenics won’t mend a broken heart,” when along comes weirdo Aussie four-piece Van Cleef with the song “Dalek Gulch” to impart that very knowledge. Ask and ye shall rock.

The track comes off the Adelaide outfit’s self-released (I think) full-length debut, Where the River Meets the Rock, which was issued in December and is available now and for a limited time on Van Cleef‘s Bandcamp page as a pay-what-you-want-including-nothing download. The video — which rules, as you’ll see if you haven’t yet pressed play — was made completely by the band with no outside directors or anything like that. Good on them and their video editing skills. As vocalist Lord GordNords (yup, really) says in the song, “Science: It can be your friend.”

So yeah, bring on the Devo comparisons. I think this stuff is fun.

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