Soldati Announce New Single “El Nudo en la Soga” Coming Soon

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

sergio ch soldati in studio

Soldati check in from the studio to inform that they’ve been working on a new single to be titled El Nudo en la Soga that’s set to be released as a seven-incher via South American Sludge Records hopefully by the end of this year. Based in Buenos Aires, the trio is led by guitarist/vocalist Sergio Chotsourian, who of course is the head of South American Sludge and known for his work over the years in outfits like Los Natas, Ararat and more recently his own Sergio Ch. solo-project, which released its second album, Aurora (review here), late last year.

With Soldati, Chotsourian steps back into more of a rock frontman role, as the three-piece showed on their self-titled debut EP (discussed here), also issued in 2016. That four-track outing varied its approach almost on a per-song basis, but in so doing set up an aesthetic scope that one expects will continue to expand with El Nudo en la Soga when it arrives. Comprised of its title-track and a redux of Chotsourian‘s solo piece “El Latigo y las Riendas,” the new offering was recorded and mixed analog at El Attic Studio and helmed by Patricio Claypole.

Below you’ll find a couple pics of from the studio and confirmation of the above. More to come, including audio, as we get closer to the release, but if you missed it, you can check out Soldati‘s recent video for prior-EP-opener “La Electricidad del Arbol Caido” (originally premiered here) at the bottom of this post.

Dig it:

SOLDATI – New 7″ Coming Soon

Songs are “El Nudo en la Soga” and electric version of my piano intimate “El Latigo y las Riendas.” Recorded and mixed all analog tape 2 inch for a future single release on 7 inch vinyl thru South American Sludge Records.

Studio name is El Attic and the tracks were produced by Patricio Claypole, former Los Natas crew.

Soldati represents an intense and solid ride; a concept of heavy rock taken to the extreme, with strong lyrics, dark and visceral sound; continuing anew what Natas has bequeathed. A new journey and a new experience for lovers of Argentine stoner.

SOLDATI LINEUP:
Sergio Ch. – guitar/vocals
Lukas Hospital – bass
Ranz – drums

https://www.facebook.com/SOLDATIDOOMNACIONAL
https://sasrecords.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/SASRECORDSARGENTINA

Soldati, “La Electricidad del Arbol Caido” official video

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: High Brian, Arduini/Balich, Audion, Grey Gallows, Smoke Mountain

Posted in Radio on June 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio cavum

If you’re a regular denizen of The Obelisk Radio, you’ve probably already guessed by the massively expanded playlist that we’re back on the main server at this point. It’s been months on the backup, and while anyone is still reading, let me just say out loud how much I owe to the hard work Slevin has put into the back end of making this thing happen. From a huge file-recovery operation to yesterday turning the thing back on after I moved a bunch of files and screwed it up yet again, the dude is just unbelievable. Seriously. This site is coming up on nine years old, and Slevin has made it happen every step of the way from a technical standpoint. I am in awe of his prowess and generosity of spirit.

So now that we’re back up and running at full capacity, the only thing to do is to keep building it going forward. And here we are.

The Obelisk Radio adds for June 13, 2017:

High Brian, Hi Brain

high-brian-hi-brain

Though they start out with the post-Queens of the Stone Age shuffle of “Liquid Sweet,” the crux of Austrian rockers High Brian‘s playfully titled debut long-player, Hi Brain, lies in classic psychedelia, unafraid to directly make a Beatles reference or two in “Aquanautic Smoke” or name a track after Jefferson Airplane‘s Surrealistic Pillow. That song, “Surrealistic Pillow,” turns out to be one of Hi Brain‘s catchiest, but hooks about throughout the nodding “All but Certainty” and the later, Stubb-style raucousness of the pair “The Conversion” and “Blood Money” as well, while centerpiece “All the Other Faces” and the aforementioned “Aquanautic Smoke” engage effects-laden drift and poised fluidity, resulting in an overarching sense of within-genre aesthetic variety that moves easily throughout the vinyl-ready 44-minute offering. They close with the molten roll of “Time,” their longest cut at 5:52 and a bolder melodic take, as if to signal a potential direction of their growth on their way out. There are plenty of encouraging signs before they get there, certainly, but hey, one more never hurt. An impressive introduction to a project that one hopes continues to develop and expand its approach.

High Brian website

Stone Free Records website

Mountain Range Creative Factory

 

Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages

ARDUINI BALICH DAWN OF AGES

Words like “powerhouse” are invented for releases like Arduini/Balich‘s Dawn of Ages. The Cruz del Sur release brings together Fates Warning guitarist Victor Arduini (who also produced) and Argus vocalist Brian “Butch” Balich, and while I’ll confess that on first listen I went right to their cover of Sabbath‘s “After All (The Dead)” — fucking righteous; and there aren’t a lot of people I’d trust to take on that song or anything from the Dio era — extended pieces like “Beyond the Barricade” (17:27) and “The Wraith” (13:44) offer listeners a deep push into a heavy metal that’s progressive, powerful and doomed all at the same time, executed with a clarity and a purpose that shimmers with class and just the right balance of patience and aggression. Rest easy, traveler, for you are in the hands of masters. Rounded out by drummer Chris Judge, Arduini/Balich is what happens when heavy metal goes right, and from the doomly unfolding of opener “The Fallen” through the 2LP’s three concluding covers of Beau Brummels‘ “Wolf of Velvet Fortune,” Uriah Heep‘s “Sunrise” and the already noted Dehumanizer highlight, there isn’t one moment where they relinquish their hold on either their craft or their audience’s attention. It’s the kind of outing that might cause a last-minute revision to best-of-the-year-so-far list, to say the least of it. Not to be greedy, but I’ll take a follow-up as soon as possible. Thanks.

Arduini/Balich on Thee Facebooks

Cruz del Sur Music website

 

Audión, La Historia de Abraham

audion-la-historia-de-abraham

If the driving Motörhead-onic thrust of the title-track to Audión‘s La Historia de Abraham rings familiar, it might be because the rhythm section of the Buenos Aires trio consists of bassist Gonzalo Villagra (also vocals) and drummer Walter Broide (also backing vocals), both formerly of Los Natas. Honestly, that pedigree would probably be enough for me to get on board with the 10-track/49-minute self-released full-length, but then you get into the roll and drift of the subsequent “Llegaron Sordos” and the fluid cascade of “Colmillo Blanco,” and guitarist Dizzy Espeche makes his presence felt tonally and vocally throughout to add a new personality to whatever familiar aspects might persist. “Lesbotrans” dives into a ’70s-style swing and the blown-out “Diablo vs. Dios” follows it with the age-old question of what might happen if The Who went garage punk, but there’s flourish of psychedelia on the interlude “Para Rosita” before “El Carancho” and “Queruzalem” round out with some of La Historia de Abraham‘s weightiest impacts. I think it’s fair to say Audión have some tinge of Los Natas‘ style to them, but their first outing shows them working toward building something new from that as well, and that makes their arrival all the more welcome.

Audion on Thee Facebooks

Audion on Bandcamp

 

Grey Gallows, Underlord

grey-gallows-underlord

Not that it isn’t plenty malevolent on its surface, but there’s an even more extreme threat lurking beneath “Underlord,” the nine-minute opener, titular and longest track (immediate points) on the debut full-length from Phoenix, Arizona’s Grey Gallows. It doesn’t take long for that sense of extremity to manifest in a blackened sensibility that pervades both in the riffs of a song like “Belladonna” — the middle cut of the five included — or the overarching spaciousness that finds its way into the grime-coated “West of Hell,” which follows. With a depth of guitar worthy of filling one’s lungs, “West of Hell” churns in a manner faster and somewhat sludgier than the alternately nodding and atmospheric “Priestess” showed the Opoponax Records outing to be earlier, six-stringers Joe Distic and Cat weaving noted lines and crunch riffs around each other for seven densely grooved minutes amid low-end push from bassist Lee, adaptable and creative drumming from Shane and Zue Byrd‘s vocals, which hit in form no less distorted in the back half of “Priestess” than they are punker drawled in closer “Buzzard Dust.” Nasty. Nasty, nasty, nasty. That’s basically what the math works out to on the 35-minute outing, but it’s worth noting that even on their first album, Grey Gallows demonstrate a ready willingness to balance various stylistic impulses off each other in such a way that’s only going to make their sound richer as they proceed. Richer, and even nastier. So be it.

Grey Gallows on Thee Facebooks

Opoponax Records webstore

 

Smoke Mountain, Smoke Mountain

smoke-mountain-smoke-mountain

The first EP from this Floridian three-piece does precisely what it’s supposed to do: introduces a newcomer band with three unpretentious tracks of dirt-fuzz riffing. The immediate vibe of opener “Demon” is early Acid King as the vocals follow the riff in classic stonery fashion, but the three songs get longer as they go and “Violent Night” proves immediately more spacious en route to the eponymous march of “Smoke Mountain.” What would probably be called a demo in a prior age, Smoke Mountain‘s Smoke Mountain makes its primary impression tonally but shows potential in its songwriting as well, and as a quick sampling of what the band are getting up to in their first stages, there’s little more one could reasonably ask of it, particularly as “Smoke Mountain” hammers home its chorus in a balance of clean vocal melody and absolutely filthy guitar, bass and drum crash. That duality, should they maintain it as they move forward into whatever might come next, can only serve them well. One to keep an eye on.

Smoke Mountain on Thee Facebooks

Smoke Mountain on Bandcamp

 

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Soldati Premiere Video for “La Electricidad del Arbol Caido”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

soldati la electricidad del arbol caido video

There was a lot to dig about the 2016 self-titled debut EP (discussed here) from Buenos Aires trio Soldati. Enough that I considered it high among last year’s best short releases. Somewhere between a demo and a short-album-style flow, it marked the first recording (no prior singles or anything like that) from the newcomer Argentina three-piece, which is fronted by Sergio Chotsourian — best known as the guitarist/vocalist for Los Natas, but now a label head for South American Sludge Records, bassist/vocalist in Ararat and solo artist as well, operating under his long-adopted Sergio Ch. moniker — and found them dug into low-end dense heavy rock from the very start of opening track “La Electricidad del Arbol Caido.”

Perhaps building in part — at least in terms of Chotsourian‘s own contributions; Soldati is rounded out by bassist Lukas Hospital and drummer Ranz — on the direction of the most recent Ararat full-length, 2014’s Cabalgata Hacia la Luz (review here), the four-tracker proffered rawer fare. Still some sense of atmosphere, particularly in the more spacious closer “El Pastor de las Hormigas,” which followed the galloping “Los Secretos de Shiva,” but the abiding impression was something closer to a Chotsourian-minted vision of heavy garage rock. Both neatly topping eight minutes in length, “La Electricidad del Arbol Caido” and “Whiskey Negro” (video posted here) set this vibe in motion, the former with a fervent nod and push that, by the time the song is halfway through, is as much punk as it is heavy rock. Brash. Raucous. Topped late with some abrasive whistling lead. Purely badass.

The whole release is available digitally on the South American Sludge Bandcamp — physical media may or may not be in the works or may already exist, or they may simply just move onto the next offering, whatever form that will ultimately take — but with footage from the 1977 animated film Wizards (aka Los Hechiceros de la Guerra), Soldati are giving listeners another chance to get introduced to the EP. Whether you’re a longtime follower of Chotsourian‘s output or someone for whom Soldati‘s Soldati would be a first exposure, I can only recommend you take advantage of the opportunity.

Thanks to Sergio Ch. for letting me host the video premiere below.

I hope you enjoy:

Soldati, “La Electricidad del Arbol Caido” official video

OFFICIAL VIDEO OF THE DISC OF SOLDATI – “SOLDATI”
PRODUCED BY SERGIO CH.
VIDEO PERFORMED BY LUCAS MARTINEZ WITH IMAGES OF THE FILM “LOS HECHICEROS DE LA GUERRA”

SOUTH AMERICAN SLUDGE RECORDS

SERGIO CH. – Guitar & Vocals
LUKAS HOSPITAL – Bass
RANZ – Drums

Soldati on Thee Facebooks

Soldati on Bandcamp

South American Sludge Records on Thee Facebooks

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Sergio Ch. Posts Video for New Song “El Latigo y las Riendas”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

sergio ch

Should we be surprised that Sergio Chotsourian has new material in the works? Yeah, probably not. At all. We’re barely a month removed from his last video, an animated clip for the song “La Historia de Hanuman” (posted here) from his 2015 debut solo album, 1974 (review here), and certainly less than a year out from his issuing the 2016 follow-up, Aurora (review here), but that’s just kind of how it goes with the former Los Natas and current Soldati and Ararat frontman. Multiple projects, multiple releases in the works. Always something happening. Dude is prolific. From where I sit, that only adds to the appeal of his work.

“El Latigo y las Riendas” is the first glimpse of material post-Aurora that Chotsourian has given, and among the things it tells us is that it seems like he’ll continue to keep his focus on solo work for the time being while still playing out with Soldati. That puts Ararat on the back burner as they have been for the last couple years as the Sergio Ch. solo-project has really started to take shape around Chotsourian and various collaborators, from Miagros Arrom, who played on Aurora, to his daughter, Isabel Chotsourian, who sat in on a re-recording of the 1974 the track “La Sal y Arroz” (posted here) last Spring.

I would doubt that the version of “El Latigo y las Riendas” featured in the video below — which if the curtain in the background is anything to go by seems to have been recorded in a living room (presumably Chotsourian‘s own) before being run through a line-drawing filter — is the final one, and kind of assume that by the time the track makes it onto whatever release it does, it will be fleshed out some, though one never really knows, and Sergio Ch. has never exactly been shy about giving his listeners a raw glimpse at his songwriting process. Or, you know, could be both, since it’s not like songs haven’t shown up in different forms across different releases, sometimes even different bands. One can never really be too sure. That’s part of the appeal too.

Please enjoy “El Latigo y las Riendas” below, followed by a translated version of the announcement that was posted when the track was shared on the social medias:

Sergio Ch., “El Latigo y las Riendas” official video

happiness is only real when shared… is a phrase that I stay in some movie. For those who are and for those who left us a message. New video premiere of Sergio Ch. “El Latigo y las Riendas.” Enjoy!

South American Sludge Records on Thee Facebooks

South American Sludge website

South American Sludge Records on Bandcamp

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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

lucifers-fall-cursed-and-damned

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

trevor-shelley-de-brauw-uptown

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

scuzzy yeti scuzzy yeti

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.

urn urn

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

nebula drag always dying

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

contra deny everything

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

iah iah

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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Los Natas, Death Sessions: Reflexiones

Posted in Reviews on March 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

los-natas-death-sessions

Pressed in an edition of 750 green translucent LPs, Death Sessions begins with a faded-in wash of cymbals, a warm bassline, and soon unfolds a special stage in the life cycle of one of Argentina’s most pivotal heavy rock acts — definitely of their generation and perhaps of all time. Buenos Aires trio Los Natas released five proper studio full-lengths in their decade and a half together, as well numerous jam collections, shorter offerings, EPs, splits, compilations and so on, and their work ranged from the pivotal desert fuzz of their 1996/1998 debut, Delmar (discussed here), on Man’s Ruin Records, to the socially conscious motor-thrust of 2009’s Nuevo Orden de la Libertad (review here), on Small Stone, never failing to offer something different and distinct along the way.

The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Sergio Chotsourian — see also: AraratSoldati, his Sergio Ch. solo work, etc. — bassist Gonzalo Villagra and drummer Walter Broide called it a day circa 2012 after the 2011 release of the compilation Rutation (review here), but their influence has continued to thrive particularly in South America, where Chotsourian has spent the last several years building his label, South American Sludge Records, as a go-to outlet for underground heavy rock from the across the continent. Death Sessions comes stamped with a South American Sludge logo on it, arrives simultaneously with a reissue of the 2002 third album from Los NatasCorsario Negro — also limited in its number — and again, finds Los Natas at a very particular point in their career. Tracked live in its eight-track entirety, mixed and mastered by Patricio Claypole at Estudio El Attic, it captures the last time they were in the recording studio together.

As to what they were doing in the studio that day in 2010, I’m not entirely sure. Four out of the eight inclusions on Death Sessions come from Nuevo Orden de la Libertad — that’s “Las Campanadas” and “Nuevo Orden de la Libertad” on side A and “Ganar-Perder” and “10.000” on side B — and the rest of the material derives, one song each, from the rest of their full-length catalog, so the clearest impression from the platter is that what we’re hearing is a live set being rehearsed. Why this particular rehearsal wound up being recorded, I couldn’t say. Maybe Los Natas were a band who always tracked their practices, as some do. If so, there should be countless such tapes out there, but Death Sessions of course feels special for both its context as well as for the immediacy of the three-piece’s delivery. Hearing songs like “Soma” from Delmar at the outset of side A feeding into “Las Campanadas” or hearing the track “Rutation,” which originally appeared on their second album, 1999’s Ciudad de Brahman (discussed here), close out after “10.000” not only shows the stylistic swath that Los Natas covered during their years together, but underscores how much their sound was their own across that time.

los natas

A live set ideally would function much the same. But live sets come and go. The difference with Death Sessions is in the clarity of the presentation. True, they grew tonally rawer over their records, moving away from the sandy warmth of their early work to incorporate influences from punk rock, Motörhead, and so on, but Death Sessions gives them an opportunity to draw the various sides of their personality together. “Humo Negro del Vaticano” from 2006’s El Hombre Montaña seems to find middle ground between the quieter opening of “Soma” and “10.000” still to come as it rounds out side A, and this is preserved it in a way that even a concert film — which would certainly be welcome but inherently about more than just the audio progression of the band — couldn’t do.

From the tiny stops in the winding riff of “Nuevo Orden de la Libertad” to the soothing patience in “Ganar-Perder” and the psychedelic mini-jam at the end, leading to the crashes at the start of the rolling, jazzy tempo-play of “El Cono del Encono” from Corsario Negro with Broide joining Chotsourian on vocals, Death Sessions ends up summarizing Los Natas‘ career in a way more fitting than even a greatest-hits-type compilation couldn’t, because it unites the songs in tone and performance, rather than simply drawing from various studio sources or other recordings.

Chotsourian leads a trail-off jam at the end of “El Cono del Encono” as well, which brings “10.000” around to reground the proceedings with a more straightforward push ahead of the finale, following that uptick in energy with another punkish drive, building in speed as it gets going, headed for a chaotic crash. This very obviously isn’t the first time Los Natas have finished a set with “Rutation,” and they seem to have a good time with it, adding some swing to the delivery, Chotsourian and Broide shouting out lines together. It’s a last bit of fun that, again, in the context of this being the final time Los Natas would record, puts emphasis on their chemistry, which if there’s an underlying message to Death Sessions at all, it’s that that’s where the emphasis belongs.

I’ll be blunt and say I continue to hope for a Los Natas reunion. As a fan of the band across the sundry points of their development, I think they broke up when they still had more to offer sonically, and to me, they seem all the more relevant now in the half-decade that’s passed since they stopped. A new album, whatever form it ultimately would take, feels like a prospect that would only build on their legacy. Whether or not that will happen, I don’t know and won’t speculate, but especially as a piece for fans, Death Sessions reinforces much of what made Los Natas so special in the first place. Though it may have been recorded in happenstance — that is, the band may or may not have known their time together was coming to a close — as a document of who they were and what they did, it is fortunate these songs and this moment can be so righteously preserved.

Los Natas, “El Cono del Encono” official video

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Sergio Ch. Posts “La Historia de Hanuman” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

sergio-ch-la-historia-de-hanuman

True, it might seem kind of curious that former Los Natas and current Soldati frontman Sergio Chotsourian would dip back to his 2015 debut solo album, 1974 (review here) and bring together a video for the track “La Historia de Hanuman” when in 2016 — working under his adopted Sergio Ch. moniker and releasing through his own South American Sludge Records imprint and Pirámide Records — he put out a follow-up, Aurora (review here). Generally one promotes the most recent release. My suspicion, however, is that the “La Historia de Hanuman” clip has been in the works for a while. Hand animation takes time, and it doesn’t seen unreasonable to think the second Sergio Ch. record happened while the process was ongoing.

As is my usual position when it comes to Chotsourian‘s work, I’ll take it as it comes. And frankly, I’m happy for the excuse to revisit 1974, which was an album filled with heartfelt personal emotionalism and grief expressed in raw acoustic fashion as well as an experimentalism and sonic range that Aurora only continued to broaden. Sharing some of its tracks — including “La Historia de Hanuman” — with Cabalgata Hacia la Luz (review here), the third full-length from the Chotsourian-led trio Ararat1974 found its maker coping with the loss of a parent and telling stories from his own life in a way that no one else could. I don’t speak the language, but those songs — once again, including “La Historia de Hanuman” — remain poignant and memorable. I expect they will be a part of Chotsourian‘s repertoire going forward no matter where his progression as a songwriter might lead him. Rightly so.

You’ll pardon me if I leave the credits for the video in their original Spanish. I think even if you don’t really speak the language you can probably figure out what they say, and somehow it seems more appropriate than translating this time around.

Enjoy:

Sergio Ch. “La Historia de Hanuman” official video

VIDEO OFICIAL DEL DISCO DE SERGIO CH. – “1974”
PRODUCIDO POR SERGIO CH.
VIDEO REALIZADO POR JOAQUIN ZELAYA

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Sergio Ch., Aurora: Impressions of Light

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

sergio-ch-aurora

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to not think of Sergio Chotsourian as a kind of figurehead representative of South American heavy. From his work over the course of two decades in Los Natas and Ararat to the just-getting-started Soldati, as well as his Sergio Ch. solo offerings, other offshoot projects and collaborations, and the continuing impact he’s had on artists around him with his label, South American Sludge Records, the Buenos Aires native has positioned himself at the fore of a crucial and vibrant underground through both his own creative output and his commitment to helping promote others in Argentina and the surrounding nations. As the label has come into focus over the last several years and stood behind an increasing number of releases, Chotsourian‘s craft seems to have become all the more prolific for having the reliable outlet.

In 2015, he made his Sergio Ch. solo debut with 1974 (review here), and Aurora follows that album and Soldati‘s first demo (discussed here) as a late-2016-issue sophomore outing on South American Sludge and Pirámide Records. Like its predecessor, Aurora finds a basis in demos that were posted online circa 2013 — for the title-track, which opens, and “El Herrero,” which immediately follows — but these have been rerecorded and mixed by Chotsourian (who also did the cover art) at his own Death Studios, built upon within themselves and added to other pieces to result in a six-song/53-minute full-length that’s still in no small part defined by its opener, which is presented this time around in two component pieces, each one starting a half of the album.

Granted, some of that defining aspect of “Aurora” and “Aurora II” might be due the fact that they are 19 and 15 minutes long, respectively. One is reminded of Ararat‘s 2012 album II (review here), which made use of the extended “Caballos” and “La Ira del Dragon (Uno)” to make such an impression with shorter inclusions surrounding. But the vision on Aurora is clearer in its structural intent and the aesthetic different, with Chotsourian joined only by Milagros Arrom on guitar and metallophone throughout, instead of playing as part of a full trio band. And the experimental vibe with which “Aurora” (18:55) and “Aurora II” (15:17) play out isn’t to be understated. 1974 had some undertones of drone but made its primary impact with more traditional folk-style songwriting; guitar, piano, vocals at its core.

“El Herrero” and “El Laud” work in a similar vein — the former punctuated by Arrom‘s metallophone — and each half of the record finds a more plugged-in, fuzzy and psychedelic finish in “La Heroina” and the instrumental “El Llano,” but even these feel far removed from Chotsourian‘s last LP. Really, it doesn’t even take getting as far as two minutes into “Aurora” for the shift in approach to be made clear, the title-track starting with a drone-march of a guitar line backed by deep-mixed organ, a fuzzier guitar tone emerging amid a threat of drums before a turn into the verse riff after four minutes in brings the first lyrics. It leaves little room for middle-ground impressions, by which I mean the listener will either be hypnotized or not. “Aurora” celebrates its nod and does not depart from it until about 17 minutes in, as the central guitar figure is overwhelmed by swirling noise and feedback (and actually that guitar part is still there, just buried). Chotsourian has toyed with drone before, but “Aurora” marks the first time he’s brought Earth-esque drone rock to such account. To his credit, he makes it his own.

sergio ch

Likewise “Aurora II,” the arrival of which serves to emphasize the mirrored structure of Aurora‘s two halves, each of which begins with a longer experimental piece (the two “Aurora” tracks) and follows first with an acoustic-based cut (“El Herrero” and “El Laud”) and then a more electrified one to finish (“El Laud” and “El Llano”). Vinyl would seem to be the intent, at very least what’s meant to be conveyed, but I’m not sure the album would fit on a single platter in its current incarnation, i.e., without some form of editing for a shorter runtime. Nonetheless, “Aurora II” complements the preceding opener as the pinnacle of Chotsourian‘s experimentalism, moving from a wistful initial guitar line and metallophone flourish — one is reminded of Hexvessel‘s “Sacred Marriage,” though that’s likely sonic coincidence — through forwards and backwards psychedelic noodling into a wash of consuming and ritualized drone.

Instrumental in its entirety, its chimes, surrounding keyboard lines and opaque but still worship-prone soundscaping spread out as they go, moving further and further away from the earlier “Aurora,” the guitar line that started “Aurora II” and really just about any form of physical reality. What “Aurora II” shares in common with “Aurora” is trance and structure. Just as the opener held to its central guitar figure, “Aurora II” — while definitely departing from it in its extended midsection — bookends with that same wistful line, which returns following a stop at around 12 and a half minutes in to carry to the finish. At that point it’s hard not to think of “El Laud” as a return to ground, and that might indeed be Chotsourian‘s purpose, but wherever they were placed in the tracklisting, there could be little doubt Aurora would be defined by its titular pieces. That said, both “El Laud” and the fuzzy reaches of “El Llano” offer plenty of spaciousness in their own right, the latter finding a place within a drone more cosmic than that of “Aurora II” but not completely separate from it in its layering.

As the guitar on “El Llano” clicks off for the last time, kind of suddenly, the core message of Aurora is underlined in a stylistic expansion for Chotsourian‘s solo material. That is to say, if one was expecting a straight-ahead follow-up to 1974, this sophomore effort will no doubt come as something of a surprise. Taken in context within his discography — particularly some of the breadth attained on the aforementioned second Ararat disc — it’s not wholly out of place, but there’s a purposeful distance that Aurora puts between itself and just about everything else Chotsourian has done to-date. That makes it much more difficult to predict where he might go next, but also allows this collection to satisfy on another level, both on its own and in terms of the Sergio Ch. catalog, which it would seem has only begun to establish the broadness of its scope.

Sergio Ch., Aurora (2016)

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