Review & Track Premiere: Pyramidal, Pyramidal

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Pyramidal Pyramidal

[Click play above to stream ‘Digital Madness’ from Pyramidal’s self-titled LP. It’s out April 15 on Lay Bare Recordings and Surnia Records.]

There are a few seconds of silence before the opening track of Pyramidal‘s self-titled third album, “Visions of an Astral Journey,” begins and the choice to leave them there tells you much of what you need to know about the level of detail and meticulousness the Alicante, Spain, progressive heavy psychedelic rockers have put into the record as a whole. Pyramidal‘s Pyramidal, released by Lay Bare Recordings and Surnia Records as the follow-up to 2013’s Frozen Galaxies and their 2011 debut, Dawn in Space (review here), would seem to have been a while in the making were it not for the steady stream of short releases between. Still, as they arrive at the decade-mark since they first got together, the five songs/46 minutes they present with Pyramidal feels all the more like an event for the fact that it’s been six years since the last LP.

They do not fail to live up to the occasion, and 10 years on finds Pyramidal utterly in command of their sound and the listener’s experience, able to carry their audience through the sax-infused King Crimson-style chase and angular nuance of the aforementioned opener and into the mellower climes of “Creatures of the Ancient World,” which starts out likewise dramatic, but after about a minute, drops to a soothing and vaguely Eastern-inflected atmosphere, still intricate, that smooths the way forward into the next build, allowing for the proggy-but-heavy riff that takes hold at 4:45 to immediately mark the change to something else (actually, there’s a bass note before the guitar starts, but still). What follows is an active payoff to the first half of the song and a fluid but no less considered run than that which appeared in “Visions of an Astral Journey.” They resolve in a heavy space-rocking jam that also doesn’t last before dropping to a bass and drum-led section of psychedelic dance, which becomes consumed by guitar noise as it makes its way back to the central progression of the just-departed push.

It is a head-spinner, to be sure. Vocals are relatively spare but not entirely absent, and even the three-minute “Unconscious Oscillations,” which sounds like a sliver of a jam that could’ve been recorded when either of the first two tracks was being put to tape, has some whispers throughout its shorter than everything else run. “Unconscious Oscillations,” with the return of the sax, a ready push of drums and a still-directed drift in the guitar, feels almost like the closing credits for side A of Pyramidal, and serves as a quick summary of the rather considerable depth the band has thus far employed. Not necessarily depth in terms of the actual mix, though it wants nothing for spaciousness throughout “Visions of an Astral Journey,” “Creatures of the Ancient World” and “Unconscious Oscillations,” but in terms of the positioning within the mix of the elements being put to use and the care with which the material is executed. While still sounding natural in the end, Pyramidal‘s work is exacting and full of purpose.

pyramidal (Photo by Sergio Albert)

Though they’ve obviously allowed room for “happy accidents” in the studio, this is not a band who went into making their third record without an idea of what they wanted. Their style, while indebted to classic prog and space rock, has its eyes forward and never loses track of where it wants to go. This remains true as the quiet ambience of “Digital Madness” mirrors the quiet at the start of “Visions of an Astral Journey,” keyboard setting a foundation for airy guitar to come to the fore and build in tension until after a minute in the full brunt of the song is unveiled. Again, it’s a showing of the patience and intent that Pyramidal signaled at the outset. A verse sees vocals matching rhythmic pattern to the guitar with a tinge of Spanish folk offset by the outward-push of the bridge sets up the next verse, the tonal thickness there a standout soon offset by a sprawling solo. They are not yet four minutes into the total 9:42. That’s the kind of record this is.

They continue to build the solo before cutting back to the acoustic/electric blend and a wash of crash cymbal at the midpoint before the lead guitar steps up with a winding run to introduce the next movement. Toms sound like footsteps trying to keep up. A harmony line kicks in, and then they’re riffing again like nothing happened. Did I mention “head-spinner?” A quick few lines of spoken word precede the next solo, then interrupt it, and Pyramidal are at full force with a vision of progressive heavy that would make peak-era Steven Wilson blush. The last build begins with dreamy guitar and a turn to creeping notes, the entry of drums and a surge of volume, and they mute chords before a last measure brings “Digital Madness” to a close to the madness of closer “Alussa Infinity” can arrive, which it does with scale-work to match that of the opener that unfurls into a fuzzier stretch of psych-jazz that in turn gives way to malevolent spoken word and a darker overall vibe.

Pyramidal are not out of surprises yet, and as they toy with tropes from heavy metal, they are no less in control of the proceedings than they’ve been all along. “Alussa Infinity” continues to grow aggressive through a shouty midsection before changing after seven minutes into its total 14:21 to a stretch of ethereal guitar spaciousness that moves into a grander, string-infused progression that’s every bit the grand finale Pyramidal deserves. Then they do it again, and afterward cap the album with a soothing last few minutes of astro-rock and leave it there, having quietly matched side A’s structure in the two tracks on side B but still gone further in the overarching aesthetic mission. That mission may be ongoing, but Pyramidal‘s declaration of who they are in this self-titled collection is not to be overlooked. Their material is expansive and handled with a graceful collective hand, such that they’re neither out of control nor overly in it. That balance is part of what makes these tracks flow so well, and what makes each change presented herein a pleasure to follow.

Pyramidal on Thee Facebooks

Pyramidal on Instagram

Pyramidal on Bandcamp

Pyramidal website

Surnia Records website

Lay Bare Recordings website

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Pyramidal Set April 15 Release for Self-Titled LP

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

pyramidal (Photo by Sergio Albert)

Don’t tell anybody — or better yet, tell everybody! — but on March 25 I’ll be hosting a track premiere from Pyramidal‘s upcoming self-titled long-player. The album is set to release April 15 through Lay Bare Recordings and Surnia Records and will be their third album and first since 2013’s Frozen Galaxies, though they’ve certainly kept themselves busy in the years between with EPs and splits and playing live shows. And before you ask, yes, a pyramid is included. I’m not sure what it’s for, but it’s there, so be aware of it. Preorders start April 1.

And — shh! — check back in about a week and a half for that audio and more on the record.

From the PR wire:

pyramidal cover

PYRAMIDAL – PYRAMIDAL – LAY BARE RECORDINGS

Release date : April 15th , pre-order opens April 1st, 2019

In 2011, Pyramidal burst on the scene with Dawn in Space. The logo attached to this record was “Space is deep & music is Endless”. These words were a prediction that the band fulfilled in the years after this initial release. It earned them a place among the greats of the contemporary Space Rock La Liga. It landed them also invitations for shows on Europe’s biggest festivals like Roadburn, Yellowstock, Freak Valley & Psychedelic Network festival, whereas their latest release was recorded “Live from the 7th Psychedelic Network Festival 2014”.

Fast forward to 2019, we are set to release their third proper full length self-titled record, carrying number LBR22 in our discography. It is the first Lay Bare release for 2019 and this year shaping up our busiest year in existence.

The collaboration with Lay Bare Recordings started in 2014 with Live from Freak Valley 2013, followed by a split 12” with Domo in 2015 called James from the Sun. The new records contain five new songs filled with their blend of Hawkwindish Sabbath Floydian ancestral Space Rock. Release date is set for the 15th of April, with pre-order opening the 1st of April. And no this is not a bad joke: April 1st is the day you can acquire this must have Space Rock album.

The first vinyl press counts 250 pieces on 180grams vinyl, pressed on milky clear with swamp green, sea blue & bone colored vinyl. The cd edition is done by our partner Surnia records from Spain. As a special treat, a magic Pyramid is printed on the insert, one that can be cut out, pasted into a pyramid and used while playing the record.

https://www.facebook.com/pyramidalband/
https://www.instagram.com/pyramidalmusic/
https://pyramidalmusic.bandcamp.com/
http://pyramidalmusic.com/
http://surniarecords.com/
https://laybarerecordings.com/releases

Pyramidal, From Other Spheres (2016)

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Quarterly Review: Monolord, Teacher, Rosy Finch, Holy Mountain Top Removers, Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band, Swan Valley Heights, Cambrian Explosion, Haunted, Gods & Punks, Gaia

Posted in Reviews on October 4th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

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Day Two starts now. I don’t know if you’re ready for it. I don’t know if I’m ready for it. Ah hell, who am I kidding? I love this stuff. No place I’d rather be right now than pounding out these reviews, batch by batch, all week. This one gets heavy, it goes far out, it rocks hard and relentless and it gets atmospheric. And more. But don’t let me try to sell you on reading it. Even if you skim through and click on players, I hope you find something you dig. If not today, then yesterday, or tomorrow or the next day. Or hell, maybe the day after. It’s 50 records. There’s bound to be one in there. Here we go.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Monolord, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze

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A relatively quick two-songer issued via RidingEasy to mark the occasion of the Swedish trio’s first US headlining tour this summer, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze offers a more stripped-down feel than did Monolord’s second full-length, Vænir (review here), which came out last year. The roll elicited by guitarist/vocalist Thomas V. Jäger, drummer Esben Willems and bassist Mika Häkki, however, remains unspeakably thick and the band’s intent toward largesse and nod continues to ring true. They’re in and out in 11 minutes, but the ethereal, watery vocal style of Jäger and the more earthbound pummel of the three-piece as a whole on “Lord of Suffering” and the grueling spaciousness of “Die in Haze” – not to mention the bass tone – show that Monolord are only continuing to come into their own sound-wise, and that as they do, their approach grows more and more dominant. They make it hard not to be greedy and ask for a new album.

Monolord on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records website

 

Teacher, Teacher

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Seattle two-piece Teacher served notice early this year of their then-forthcoming self-titled, self-recorded debut LP, and it was easy to tell the Tony Reed-mastered full-length would be one to watch out for as it followed-up their prior EP1812, released in 2015. Arriving via Devil’s Child Records, the 10-track Teacher does indeed dole out a few crucial lessons from drummer/guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Ethan Mercer and guitarist/vocalist Solomon Arye Rosenschein. Whether it’s “Heavy Metal Parking Lot 1979” or the swinging “Peripatetic Blues” or the gone-backwards psych interlude “Wildcard Jambalaya” that immediately follows, the record basks in an organic diversity of approach drawn together by the clear chemistry already present between Mercer and Rosenschein. A harder edge of tone keeps a modern feel prevalent, but even the forward punker charge of “Mean as Hell” has classic roots, and as they finish with “Home for the Summer” as the last of three out of the four EP tracks included in a row to round out the LP, they seem to have entered the conversation of 2016’s most cohesive debuts in heavy rock. Their arrival is welcome.

Teacher on Thee Facebooks

Devil’s Child Records webstore

 

Rosy Finch, Witchboro

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There’s an element of danger to Rosy Finch’s debut long-player, Witchboro (on Lay Bare Recordings). Actually two. One: it sounds like it could come apart at any given moment – it never does. Two: any given one among its nine component tracks could wind up just about anywhere. Though the Spanish trio of bassist/vocalist Elena García, guitarist/vocalist Mireia Porto and drummer Lluís Mas keep individual songs relatively raw sounding – or at very least not overproduced as something so progressive could just as easily have wound up – but even the soothing “Ligeia” holds to a driving sense of foreboding. Punk in its undercurrent with more than a touch of grunge, Witchboro is as much at home in the atmospheric crush of “Polvo Zombi” as the quick-turning finale thrust of “Daphne vs. Apollo,” and its overarching impression is striking in just how readily it manipulates the elements that comprise it. Ambitious, but more defined by succeeding in its ambitions than by the ambitions themselves.

Rosy Finch on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings website

 

Holy Mountain Top Removers, The Ones Disappearing You

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Psychedelic surf? Wah-soaked, bass rumbling foreboding? Euro-inflected lounge? All of the above and much more get a big check mark from Nashville instrumentalists Holy Mountain Top Removers, whose The Ones Disappearing You LP covers an enviable amount of stylistic ground and still leaves room near the end for bassist/keyboardist Mikey Allred to lead a blues dirge on trombone. He’s joined by drummer/percussionist Edmond Villa and guitarist Anthony Ford, as well as guest trumpeter Court Reese and violinist Allan Van Cleave, and as they careen through this vast terrain, Holy Mountain Top Removers only seem to revel in the oddness of their own creation. To wit, the early jangle of “Monsieur Espionnage” is delivered with gleeful starts and stops, and the later “Serenade for Sexual Absence” given a mournful snare march and what sounds like tarantella to go with Van Cleave’s violin lead. Playful in the extreme, The Ones Disappearing You nonetheless offers rich arrangements and a drive toward individuality that stands among its core appeals, but by no means stands there alone.

Holy Mountain Top Removers on Thee Facebooks

Holy Mountain Top Removers on Bandcamp

 

Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, The Rarity of Experience I

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Philadelphia four-piece Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band must have worked quickly to turn around so soon a follow-up to last year’s debut album, Intensity Ghost (review here), but their second offering, The Rarity of Experience lacks nothing for growth. A two-disc, 72-minute 10-tracker also released through No Quarter, The Rarity of Experience hops genres the way rocks skip on water, from the exploratory psychedelic vibing of “Anthem II” to the Talking Heads-style jangle of “The Rarity of Experience II” and into horn-infused free-jazz fusion on “The First 10 Minutes of Cocksucker Blues” – which, by the way, is 12 minutes long. A big change is the inclusion of vocals, but the penultimate “Old Phase” still holds to some of the pastoral atmospherics Forsyth and company brought together on the first record, but principally, what The Rarity of Experience most clearly shows is that one doesn’t necessarily know what’s coming from Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, and as much as they offer across this massive stretch, I wouldn’t be surprised if they continue to expand their sound.

Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band on Thee Facebooks

No Quarter

 

Swan Valley Heights, Swan Valley Heights

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Initially released by the band in January, the self-titled debut from Munich heavy rockers Swan Valley Heights sees wider issue through Oak Island Records in an edition of 200 LPs. After rolling out the largesse of welcome-riff in opener “Slow Planet,” the three-piece dig into longform groove on “Alaska” (9:09), “Mammoth” (11:02) and “Let Your Hair Down” (9:35), finding a balance between hypnotic flow and deeply weighted tones. Riffs lead the way throughout, and while there aren’t a ton of surprises, once they make their way through “Caligula Overdrive,” the shimmer at the start of “Mountain” and some of the more patient unfolding of closer “River” called Sungrazer to mind and I couldn’t help but wonder if Swan Valley Heights would make their way toward more lush fare over time. Whether they do or not, their debut engages in its warmth and cohesion of purpose, and offers plenty of depth for those looking to dive in headfirst.

Swan Valley Heights on Thee Facebooks

Oak Island Records at Kozmik Artifactz

 

Cambrian Explosion, The Moon EP

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I can’t help but feel like Portland, Oregon’s Cambrian Explosion are selling themselves a little short by calling The Moon an EP. At five songs and 35 minutes, the follow-up to their 2013 The Sun outing boasts a richly progressive front-to-back flow, deep sense of psychedelic melodicism and enough crunch to wholly satisfy each of the payoffs its hypnotic wanderings demand. Sure sounds like a full-length album to my ears, but either way, I’ll take it. The four-piece set an open context in the intro noise wash of “Selene,” and while “Looming Eye” and “Mugen = Mugen” push further into ritual heavy psych, it’s in the longer “Innocuous Creatures” (9:24) and closer “Crust of Theia” (8:23) – the two perfectly suited to appear together on the B-side from whatever label is lucky enough to snap them up for a release – that The Moon makes its immersion complete and resonant, blowing out in glorious noise on the former and basking in off-world sentiment as they round out. Gorgeous and forward-thinking in kind. Would be an excellent debut album.

Cambrian Explosion on Thee Facebooks

Cambrian Explosion on Bandcamp

 

Haunted, Haunted

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Not sure if there’s any way to avoid drawing a comparison between Italian five-piece Haunted’s self-titled debut (on Twin Earth Records) and Virginian doomers Windhand, but I’m also not sure that matters anymore. With the two guitars of Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando meting out post-Electric Wizard churn and Cristina Chimirri’s vocals oozing out bluesy incantations on top as Frank Tudisco’s low end and Valerio Cimino’s drums push the lumber forward, it’s all doom one way or another. “Watchtower” has a meaner chug than opener “Nightbreed,” and the centerpiece “Silvercomb” delves into feedback-laden horror atmospherics, but it’s in the closing duo of “Slowthorn” and “Haunted” that Haunted most assuredly affirm their rolling intention. They’ll have some work to do in distinguishing themselves, but there’s flourish in the wash of guitar late and some vocal layering from Chimirri that speaks to nuance emerging in their sound that will only serve them well as they move forward from this immersive first offering.

Twin Earth Records on Thee Facebooks

Haunted on Bandcamp

 

Gods and Punks, The Sounds of the Earth

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Taking their name from a track off Monster Magnet’s 2010 outing, Mastermind, Brazilian heavy rockers Gods and Punks mark their debut release with The Sounds of the Earth, a self-released five-track EP awash in classic influences and bolstered through a double-guitar dynamic, maybe-too-forward-in-the-mix vocals and a rock solid rhythm section. These are familiar ingredients, granted, but the Rio de Janeiro five-piece present them well particularly in the mid-paced “The Tusk” and the catchy, more extended closer “Gravity,” and are able to put a modern spin on ‘70s vibing without becoming singularly indebted to any particular band or era, be it ‘70s, ‘90s or the bizarre combination of the two that defines the ‘10s. Gods and Punks are setting themselves up to progress here, and how that progression might play out – more space rock to go with the theme of their excellent artwork, maybe? – will be worth keeping an eye on given what they already show in their songwriting.

Gods and Punks on Thee Facebooks

Gods and Punks on Bandcamp

 

Gaia, A Cure for Time

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Mostly instrumental, deeply atmospheric and clearly intended to divide into the two sides of a vinyl for which it seems more than primed, A Cure for Time is the second album from Copenhagen post-metallers Gaia. Each half of the four-track/39-minute outing pairs a shorter piece with a longer one, and the flow the trio set up particularly on the closing title cut calls to mind some of YOB’s cosmic impulses but with a spaciousness, roll and context that becomes their own. Shades of Jesu in the vocals and the balance of rumble and echo on the earlier “Nowhere” make A Cure for Time all the more ambient, but when they want to, Gaia produce a marked density that borders on the claustrophobic, and the manner in which they execute the album front to back emphasizes this spectrum with a progressive but still organic flourish. I wouldn’t call A Cure for Time directly psychedelic, but it’s still easy to get lost within its reaches.sh

Gaia on Thee Facebooks

Virkelighedsfjern on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: My Dying Bride, Glowsun, Caustic Casanova, Dead Sea Apes, Bantoriak, Ahab, Zark, Pyramidal & Domo, Mammoth Salmon, Molior Superum

Posted in Reviews on October 2nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

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One thing I’ve noticed over the now-several times I’ve done this is that people have a tendency to apply some value to the ordering. It’s true that I try to lead off with a bigger release sometimes (as with today), but beyond that, there’s really no statement being made in how the albums appear. It usually has way more to do with time, when something came in and when it was added to the list, than with the quality or profile of a given outing. Just that final note that probably should’ve been said on Monday. Whoops.

Before we wrap up, I just wanted to say thank you again for checking any of it out if you did this week. It’s not a minor undertaking to do these, but it’s been completely worth it and I very much appreciate your being a part of it. Thank you. As always.

Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #41-50:

My Dying Bride, Feel the Misery

my dying bride feel the misery

Led by founding guitarist Andrew Craighan and vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe, UK doom magnates My Dying Bride mark their 25th year with Feel the Misery, their 13th full-length and one that finds them right in their element practicing the melancholic death-doom style they helped forge on pivotal early works like As the Flower Withers (1992) and Turn Loose the Swans (1993). “And My Father Left Forever” starts Feel the Misery on a particularly deathly note, but it’s not too long before the 10-minute “To Shiver in Empty Halls” and the subsequent “A Cold New Curse” are mired in the grueling, poetic, beauty-in-darkness emotionality that is My Dying Bride’s hallmark. The album’s title-track is a chugging bit of extremity, but the record’s strongest impact winds up being made by the penultimate “I Almost Loved You,” a piano, string and e-bow (sounding) ballad that pushes further than “A Thorn of Wisdom” by daring not to get heavy and rests well between the lumbering “I Celebrate Your Skin” and the 11-minute closer, “Within a Sleeping Forest,” which fits well, but more reinforces the point than offers something new on its own. A quarter-century later, they remain an institution. One wonders how they’ve managed to stay so depressed for so long.

My Dying Bride’s website

Peaceville Records store

Glowsun, Beyond the Wall of Time

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If French mostly-instrumentalists Glowsun are feeling pressed for time these days – and with the theme of Beyond the Wall of Time (out via Napalm Records) that shows itself in the ticking clocks that launch opener “Arrow of Time” and the like-minded titles “Last Watchmaker’s Grave,” “Against the Clock” and “Endless Caravan” – the material itself doesn’t show it. Opening with two nine-minute cuts, Glowsun’s third outing and the follow-up to 2012’s Eternal Season (discussed here) unrolls itself patiently across its seven-track span, leading one to wonder if maybe Beyond the Wall of Time isn’t intended as another means of expressing something outside of it, the expanse of tones and grooves created by guitarist/vocalist Johan Jaccob (also graphic art), bassist Ronan Chiron and drummer Fabrice Cornille on “Shadow of Dreams” and the centerpiece “Flower of Mist” intended to last after some eternal now has passed. I wouldn’t want to guess, but it’s noteworthy that the trio’s output is evocative enough to lead toward such speculations.

Glowsun on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records store

Caustic Casanova, Breaks

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As with their 2012 debut, Someday You Will be Proven Correct, Washington D.C.-based trio Caustic Casanova recorded their sophomore long-player, Breaks, with J. Robbins at The Magpie Cage in Baltimore. They’re also releasing the album through Kylesa’s Retro Futurist Records imprint, so they come nothing if not well-endorsed. With bassist Francis Beringer and drummer Stefanie Zaenker sharing vocal duties throughout – the trio is completed by Andrew Yonki on guitar – they run and bounce through a gamut of upbeat post-hardcore noise rock, thick in tone but not so much as to get up and move around, tempo-wise. Yonki brings some post-rock airiness to the early going of the nine-minute “Elect My Best Friend for a Better World,” but the album on the whole feels more about impact than atmosphere, and Caustic Casanova work up considerable momentum by the time they get around to paying off the 12-minute finale, “The Painted Desert.” Its melodies open up more on repeat listens, but not at the expense of the push so well enacted throughout.

Caustic Casanova on Thee Facebooks

Retro Futurist Records

Dead Sea Apes, Spectral Domain

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An outwardly familiar conceptual framework – instrumental space/psychedelic rock – does little to convey how much of themselves Manchester, UK, trio Dead Sea Apes put into their new full-length, Spectral Domain. Released by Cardinal Fuzz in conjunction with Sunrise Ocean Bender, it’s the band’s sixth or seventh LP, depending on what counts as such, and bookends two north-of-10-minute explorations around three shorter pieces (though not much shorter in the case of the 9:50 “True Believers”) varied in color but uniformly galaxial in intent. “Brought to Light” rings out with a wash of drumless echo and swirl, seemingly in response to the tension of centerpiece “The Unclosing Eye,” and the whole album seems to take a theme from things seen and unseen, between “Universal Interrogator” and closer “Sixth Side of the Pentagon,” a vibe persisting in some conspiracy theory exposed as blissful and immersive truth with something darker lurking just underneath. Thick but not pretentious, Spectral Domain seems to run as deep as the listener wants to go.

Dead Sea Apes on Thee Facebooks

Sunrise Ocean Bender

Cardinal Fuzz Records

Bantoriak, Weedooism

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A ritualistic spirit arrives early on Italian heavy psych rockers Bantoriak’s debut LP, Weedooism, and does not depart for the duration of the Argonauta Records release’s six tracks, which prove spacious, psychedelic and heavy in kind, playing out with alternating flourishes of melody and noise. “Try to Sleep” seems to be talking more about the band than the act, but from “Entering the Temple” through the rumbling closer “Chant of the Stone,” Bantoriak leave an individualized stamp on their heavy vibes, and that song is no exception. If Weedooism is the dogma they’re championing on the smooth-rolling “Smoke the Magma,” they’re doing so convincingly and immersively, and while they seem to have undergone a lineup shift (?) at some point since the record was done, hopefully that means Weedooism will have a follow-up to its liquefied grooves and weedian heft before too long. In an increasingly crowded Italian heavy psych/stoner scene, Bantoriak stand out already with their first album.

Bantoriak on Bandcamp

Bantoriak at Argonauta Records

Ahab, The Boats of the Glen Carrig

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Though somewhat counterintuitive for a band playing their style of doom to start with, Ahab have only been met with a rising profile over their decade-plus together, and their fourth album for Napalm Records, The Boats of the Glen Carrig, answers three years of anticipation with an expanded sonic palette over its five tracks that is afraid neither of melodic sweetness nor the seafaring tonal heft and creature-from-the-deep growling that has become their hallmark. Their extremity is intact, in other words, but they’re also clearly growing as a band. I don’t know if The Boats of the Glen Carrig is quite as colorful musically as its Sebastian Jerke cover art – inevitably one of the best covers I’ve seen this year – but whether it’s the 15-minute sprawl of “The Weedmen,” which at its crescendo sounds like peak-era Mastodon at quarter-speed or the (relatively) speedy centerpiece “Red Foam (The Great Storm),” Ahab are as expansive in atmosphere as they are relentlessly heavy, and they’re certainly plenty of that.

Ahab on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records

Zark, Tales of the Expected

zark tales of the unexpected

One would hardly know it from the discouraging title, but all-caps UK progressive metallers ZARK do manage to catch one off-guard on their debut full-length, Tales of the Expected. Duly melodic and duly complex, the eight tracks rely on straightforward components to set deceptively lush vibes, the guitar work of Sean “Bindy” Phillips and Josh Tedd leading the way through tight rhythmic turns alongside bassist Andy “Bready” Kelley and drummer Simon Spiers’ crisp grooves. Vocalist Stuart Lister carries across the aggression of “LV-426” and hopefulness of “The Robber” with equal class, and while ZARK’s first outing carries a pretty ambitious spirit, the Evesham five-piece reach the high marks they set for themselves, and in so doing set new goals for their next outing, reportedly already in progress. A strong debut from a band who sound like they’re only going to get more assured as they move forward. More “pleasant surprise” than “expected.”

Zark on Thee Facebooks

Zark on Bandcamp

Pyramidal & Domo, Jams from the Sun Split

pyramidal and domo jams from the sun

Paired up by style almost as much as by geography, Alicante, Spain, acts Pyramidal and Domo picked the right title for their Jams from the Sun split – a bright, go-ahead-and-get-hypnotized psychedelic space vibe taking hold early on the Lay Bare Recordings release and not letting go as one side gives way to the other or as the noisy post-Hawkwindery of “Uróboros” closes out. Pyramidal, who made their debut in 2012 (review here), offer “Motormind” and “Hypnotic Psychotic,” two 10-minute mostly-instrumental jams that progress with liquid flow toward and through apexes in constant search for the farther-out that presumably they find at the end and that’s why they bother stopping at all, and Domo, who made their debut in 2011 (review here), counter with three cuts of their own, “Viajero del Cosmos,” “Mantra Astral” and the aforementioned “Uróboros,” switching up the mood a little between them but not so much as to interrupt the trance overarching the release as whole. I remain a sucker for a quality space jam, and Jams from the Sun has 45 minutes’ worth.

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Domo on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings

Mammoth Salmon, Last Vestige of Humanity

mammoth salmon last vestige of humanity

After releasing a couple internet EPs (review here) and 2013’s Call of the Mammoth EP as the duo of guitarist/vocalist/bassist Paul Dudziak and drummer Mitch Meidinger, Portland, Oregon’s Mammoth Salmon enlist bassist Alex Bateman and drummer Steve Lyons for their first full-length, the Adam Pike-produced Last Vestige of Humanity, which rolls out plus-sized Melvinsery across six amp-blowing tracks of sludgy riffing and nodding, lumbering weight. The title-track, which ends what would and probably will at some point be side A of the vinyl version, picks up the tempo in its second half, and “Memoriam” teases the same in Lyons’ drums at the start, but of course goes on to unfold the slowest progression here ahead of “Shattered Existence”’s toying with playing barely-there minimalism off full-on crush and the 10-minute “Believe Nothing” rounding out with appropriately elephantine march. Sustainable in their approach and viciously heavy, Mammoth Salmon seem to have hit reset and given themselves a new start with this lineup, and it works to their advantage on this promising debut.

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Mammoth Salmon on Bandcamp

Molior Superum, Electric Escapism

molior superum electric escapism

“Karma is a bitch that will definitely hunt you down for what you have done,” would seem to be the standout message of “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife,” the third and longest (at 6:34) of the four inclusions on Molior Superum’s new EP, Electric Escapism. The non-retro Swedish heavy rockers fire up righteous heft to put them in league with countrymen Skånska Mord, but ultimately have more in common with Stubb out of the UK in the loose-sounding swing of “Försummad,” despite the different language. I had the same opinion about their full-length debut, Into the Sun (review here), and last year’s The Inconclusive Portrait 7” (review here) as well. Can’t seem to shake it, but Molior Superum’s ability to switch it up linguistics – they open and close in Swedish, with the two middle cuts in English – is an immediately distinguishing factor, and whichever they choose for a given song, they kill it here.

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Molior Superum on Bandcamp

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Pyramidal, Dawn in Space: The Big Bang

Posted in Reviews on April 30th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Dawn in Space is the debut release from Spanish double-guitar heavy jam foursome Pyramidal. Issued on CD by Radix Records and limited gatefold 2LP with bonus tracks through Krauted Mind, the full-length mostly follows the guitars of Miguel Angel Sanz and Óscar Soler (the former also contributes synth and the latter the album’s sparse vocals) and like the architecture of the band’s native Alicante, there’s a vague Middle Eastern influence in the psychedelic ranging that works coincidingly with the modern heavy jam mindset. Tonally, even a minor-key cut like “Kosmik Blizzard” isn’t so viscous that it can’t move, and Pyramidal do well throughout to vary the pace and level of activity so as to hold attention for Dawn in Space’s 62-minute duration, or at very least not lull to sleep when it doesn’t mean to be hypnotic. The “chill” effect that a lot of European heavy psych has had to offer over the last year or two – thinking of bands like Samsara Blues Experiment, Electric Moon and their ilk of post-Colour Haze improvisers – comes across quite clearly through some of this material, and at over an hour long, it’s hard to believe that’s not on purpose, but there’s a space rocking musical influence as well to go along with the titles and artwork that comes through Lluís Mas’ drumming and Miguel Rodes’ bass; a sense of forward and outward push. For that, Pyramidal earn their requisite-for-space-rock Hawkwind comparison, but again, Dawn in Space has more going on stylistically than just following Dave Brocke’s chemtrails. To put a point on it, the hidden track that comes on about a minute after closer “Mars Lagoon” ends has more in common in terms of its ethic and execution with Yawning Man.

And though that’s true – maybe it seems like a finer line than some, but it’s also more breadth than one finds in many acts – what’s really going to make any release like Dawn in Space is going to be the chemistry between the players involved. Sanz, Soler, Rodes and Mas give an ample showing in this regard, the patience of the build in the 10-minute “Pastikleuten (Part I & II)” being a prime instance, but it’s pretty clear from the whole of the album that it’s a case of development getting under way and what’s playing out across these seven-plus songs is the beginning stages of what will undoubtedly be a more protracted arc. Still, wah-drenched solos and transitional injections of synth from Sanz have their own appeal, and Pyramidal’s dedication to and strong sense of aesthetic carry them through much of this material, and whether it’s the verses that suddenly appear on the later “Tempel Iaru” or “Black Land,” which follows the brief and swirling opener “Intronauts,” or the longer instrumentals that make up the crux of Dawn in Space, one could hardly listen to the record and not come out of it thinking the band has no idea what they’re doing. Like doom for doomers, it’s heavy psych for heavy psychers, mixed so that Rodes’ bass stands out punctuating “Kosmik Blizzard” as much as the riff it’s feeding into, and so that Mas’ drums never quite leave the ground but never sound like they’re purposefully staying attached to it either, far-miked cymbals coming across naturally. Perhaps predictably, Pyramidal recorded the entirety of Dawn in Space live, and that warmth and vibrancy is there both in tone and performance. The guitars never quite shred, but the leads suit the mood well, and though the midsection of the title-track feels a bit like it’s lost its footing, there’s something about that sensibility that works well with Pyramidal’s overall approach.

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Domo, Domo: The Cycle of All Things

Posted in Reviews on August 19th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Proffering heady mostly-instrumental psychedelic jams in what I’m quickly coming to think of as the neo-European tradition, Spanish trio Domo set out on a wandering journey across the seven tracks of their self-titled Radix Records debut. In that the song are mostly named for concepts out of Hindu/Buddhist theology – the one exception is “Eta Carinae,” named for a nebulous star system – one might draw an immediate comparison to My Sleeping Karma, although Domo’s arrangements are simpler and less pointed in terms of structure. The three-piece of guitarist Samuel Riviere, bassist/vocalist Óscar Soler and drummer Paco García inject some vaguely “Eastern” elements into their sound, as the scales of “Asura” show, but mostly staving of a generic feel throughout Domo’s 64 minutes is the interplay between the members of the band. The music feels natural in the recording and spontaneous where it goes, but Domo seem nonetheless aware that they’re making an album and not just jamming out or playing a live show. The shorter, acoustic-led “Pretas,” which comes after the first three extended cuts, speaks to that, as does the 1:59 synth interlude “Eta Carinae” that sets up sprawling closer “Samsara.” These tracks offer a respite from the depths to which Domo plummet (or, alternately, the heights in the atmosphere they ascend) on the more sprawling voyages

“Yamantaka,” which rests between the two breaks (“Pretas” and “Eta Carinae”) affects a more spacious bluesiness. Riviere is in the lead on guitar and until about five and a half minutes in, it seems like he’s just going where his fingers take him until Soler and García pick up the rhythm and lead into a section that alternates between Hendrix and Hawkwind on its way to interstellar oblivion. When the guitar cuts out momentarily, one finds one can breathe and better appreciate Soler’s bass tone, which is subtly fuzzed and warm enough to engage. Earlier on the album, it opened the first track, “Nadi,” but with so much between then and “Yamantaka,” it was easy to lose it in the mix – plus, Riviere is almost an entity unto himself within the band, soloing atop the rhythm section and only occasionally meeting with it – that one tends to follow him and wonder where that groove is coming from. Soler and García both prove worth the extra attention throughout Domo, although the latter does more to keep the pace and keep the material grounded than he does to add flash to the songs or show off with fills or complex beats. The task set upon him is difficult enough, but he does as able a job as anyone could, and when Domo let go and really take off – “Samsara,” for example – it’s because they want to, not because they’re out of control. “Samsara” and “Prana,” the second offering, are the only cuts on Domo to feature Soler’s vocals, which aren’t out of place in the music but aren’t really present enough to anchor it anyway. “Prana” in particular begins with such a morass of noise before García kicks in on drums that even if Domo went full verse/chorus/verse on it after that, it would still be more exploratory than not.

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Third Annual Psych Frog Festival Set for July 29-31

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 1st, 2010 by JJ Koczan

There are still a bunch of bands to be announced, but the lineup for the Psych Frog III festival in El Castell de Guadalest is shaping up quite nicely, with the likes of Electric Wizard, Comus, Naam (they’re everywhere these days) and Magnus Pelander of Witchcraft on the bill. If, like me, you know nothing about the Spanish town of El Castell de Guadalest (Guadalest, for short) check out its Wikipedia page and consider your travel plans for the summer. Meantime, here’s the lineup so far for Psych Frog III:

Psych Frog III Festival de rock & psicodelia de El Castell de Guadalest
July 29th, 30th, 31st, 2010

The Groundhogs
Orthodox
Graveyard
Naam
Magnus Pelander
The Wounded Kings
Diagonal
Comus
Electric Wizard

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