I still count the last Shabda record, Pharmakon / Pharmakos (review here), as one of the most pleasant surprises that hit my ears in 2015, so the news that the Italian ritual drone outfit are working on a follow-up is definitely well received. Whenever it lands, Vishnu Sahasranama – 10 STUDI — they’ve apparently got a real thing for complex names — might not have the same surprise factor this time from the Torino-based group, but if the difference is I can look forward to hearing what they’ve come up with this time, that seems like a fair trade for not being blindsided. And who knows? They’re weird enough that I might just end up blindsided anyway.
The new Shabda, like Pharmakon / Pharmakos, will be issued through Argonauta Records when it’s ready. The band and the label both posted the following on the subject, listing it as an early autumn release:
Shabda working on new album!
After the 2 tracks long celebration of Pharmakon / Pharmakos, released a year and half ago by Argonauta Records, Shabda are back in the studio recording their fourth album which will see the light in early autumn 2017. “Vishnu Sahasranama – 10 STUDI” – this is the title – is inspired by the traditional Indian Vaishnava text commented by Sankara and representing the model of the garland of a thousand names, the practice of meditation on the metaphysical qualities of god Visnu conceived as the absolute principle.
A group of exceptional musicians and friends plays the ten compositions written by Anna Airoldi and Marco Castagnetto, painting a fresco that encompasses Western classical music and kosmische musik, Eastern tradition and psychedelia, pursuing and cultivating the exploration of the link between East and West, between continuity and innovation.
An album living of contrasts among contemplation and instinct, composition and improvisation, between electronic and acoustic music, leaving it open to interpretation and diversity of listening experience. Traveling from Europe to Varanasi and back, with an ear to the legacy of Popol Vuh, Dead Can Dance and Nils Frahm.
Deep listening and repetition are the keys around which the identity of the project is built, and the channel to direct the search for timeless and spaceless dimension of being. Ideally channeling Marco Castagnetto and Anna Airoldi spiritual research, supported by a bunch of talented musicians and friends, Shabda explores the fil rouge that holds the Tradition in its Western and Eastern currents, primarily referring to Hermeticism, Vedanta, Taoism and Sufism.
Like the song from which it takes its name, Nudist‘s fourth album, Bury My Innocence, is a short burst of an offering that sets its core balance between aggression and atmosphere. Its five component tracks draw lines across post-hardcore and sludgy territories, but as a song like “Dead Leaves” shows, the undercurrent is noise rock all the way, and indeed that’s where the Firenze three-piece have their roots. Starting out as instrumental, they’ve been doling out punishment since their self-titled showed up in 2010, and Bury My Innocence marks their debut on Argonauta Records.
They’re a group you want to be as specific as possible when Googling — I did “nudist band italy” with my fingers crossed it wouldn’t cause my laptop to explode and came out of it okay — but if you make your way over to their Bandcamp, all of their releases, including the new one, are available as name-your-price downloads. The CD was issued last month through Argonauta, though, and as it moves through the pummel of “Strengthless” and “Bury My Innocence” into the more ambient finish of “Drift,” the offsetting of punishment with atmospheric immersion would seem to justify the physical presence. That is to say, it makes sense they got picked up for the release.
Call it an EP or an LP if you want, but at 25 minutes, Bury My Innocence brings no shortage of fury to its assault. And I don’t know where the band found the female lead they cast in the video for “Bury My Innocence” below, but yeah, she’s pretty creepy as well.
You can check out the premiere of the new clip followed by more info from the label.
Nudist, “Bury My Innocence” official video
The project Nudist born in 2008 as a Noise Instrumental Power Trio and two self-produced albums: “Nudist” and “Appetizer for Monsters”. After formation changes, Gabo and France have found in Lore a worthy travel companion. From there they started an evolution, still in place, of style and sound. With the inclusion of vocals, their third album “See The Light Beyond The Spiral” (2015) have resulted in sounds ranging from post-metal, sludge and post-hardcore.
NUDIST are used to have intense live activity, opening in Italy for acts as Red Fang, Jucifer, ZU, Conan and more, and touring in Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic and Poland. In August 2016 they recorded their new album “Bury my Innocence”. The songs were recorded live in a small theater in Prato, edited by Niccolò Gallio and later mixed and mastered by the expert hands of Eraldo Bernocchi.
Floridian sludge metallers Hollow Leg will make a return to the Maryland Doom Fest in June at Cafe 611 in Frederick, Maryland. If you weren’t there to see it, they pretty much slaughtered the place last year (review here), playing in support of their recently-issued third long-player and debut for Argonauta Records, Crown (review here). This year, they’ll be heralding the two-songer Murder EP (review here), on which they continue to make the difficult sound easy with their blend of catchy hooks and abrasive sludge overtones. They also have a new video for “Raven” that I think makes that point pretty well.
They’re not the first to write a hook and make it hit hard, but what Hollow Leg do so fluidly is sound completely unhinged while still relying on what are basically straightforward verse/chorus traditions. That’s not at all a small accomplishment, but if you listen to “Raven,” you’ll hear that along with the rasp of vocalist Scott Angelacos, the dense tonality of guitarist/vocalist Brent Lynch and bassist Tom Crowther, and the fluid roll from newly-acquired drummer John Stewart, there’s a firm structural foundation underlying what they’re doing, so that by the time you’re listening to the song twice through, it’s already familiar, already stuck in your head in a way that a lot of sludge simply becomes a wash of screamy disaffection and nod. In a word: they’re songwriters.
And as the video shows, they’re not short on charm either. What they call an “in-studio footage video” for “Raven” has a bit of that, but it also features plenty of shots of them doing other stuff, including what looks like shopping for lawn ornaments at some outdoor market and/or swap meet? Legitimately something I’ve never seen in a rock video before, in any case. At one point they find some pretty rad looking carved-wood furniture (that shit is expensive) and have a seat, but yeah, on the whole it’s one more way in which Hollow Leg manage to surprise while still conveying a sense of madness with their approach on the whole.
You can find the “Raven” video below, followed by the East Coast tour dates surrounding Maryland Doom Fest for June. Also of note, of course, is the slot in August they’ve got booked at Psycho Las Vegas. To my knowledge, that’s probably the biggest show they’ve ever played, and good on them for landing it.
Hollow Leg, “Raven” official video
HOLLOW LEG Northeast Migration tour: 06/17 Jacksonville FL Nighthawks 06/19 Atlanta GA 529 06/20 Raleigh NC Slim’s 06/21 Richmond VA 25 Watt 06/22 Boston MA O’Brien’s 06/23 New London CT 33 Golden Street 06/24 Frederick MD Maryland Doom Fest Cafe 611 06/25 Winston-Salem NC The Test Pattern 08/18 Las Vegas NV Psycho Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
We’re at less than a month’s remove from the release date of Forming the Void‘s second album, Relic (review here), and already it’s apparent that the Louisiana four-piece are turning heads in their direction. The follow-up to 2015’s Skyward (review here) is also the first outing for the band to be issued through Italy’s Argonauta Records, and it further solidifies the progressive charge of its predecessor with a crisp delivery and a marked sense of scope across its span. It toys with but is by no means subject to heavy rock genre restrictions, and one finds it no less at home in the aggro-catchiness of “Biolazar” and the post-Torche lumber of “Plumes” than it is in the more tripped-out roll of “Unto the Smoke” or the take on Led Zeppelin‘s “Kashmir” that rounds out.
United by a clean and clearheaded production, Relic freely careens between a swath of influences from the modern sphere: here touching on Baroness-style melody, there on Eastern-scale guitar leads like that in “Endless Road.” And though they don’t shy away from acknowledging the complexity of what they’re doing, neither do the album’s eight tracks come across as inflated. If anything, as asserted below by guitarist/vocalist James Marshall — joined in the band by guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Luke Baker and drummer Jordan Boyd — they’ve become stronger in terms of their editorial voice, so that the resulting output is all the more efficient and communicative in its purposes. That’s an ongoing process, of course, but so is creativity as a whole, and Relic sees Forming the Void take pivotal forward steps on a number of levels, establishing them as an act consciously dedicated to their sonic progression.
Below, Marshall talks about the origins of the band, what they learned from Skyward going into Relic, the mysterious figure on the front cover of both their albums to-date, working with Argonauta and more.
Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:
Six Dumb Questions with Forming the Void
Tell me about getting Forming the Void together. Did you have a sound in mind first, or did you start playing and then the band’s style began to take shape?
When I first started looking for people to play in the band, I was just looking to play rock music. When we all got together in a room, each of our strengths just naturally came through in the music. As we’ve grown, we’ve steadily tried to play on those strengths more. The most drastic change is we’ve been steadily getting heavier.
Talk about your writing process, in general and for Relic particularly. What lessons did you learn from Skyward and how were you able to bring them into the new album?
With Relic the ideas were a lot more deliberate rather than the spontaneous jam room ideas that led to Skyward. I think each approach has its merits, but it was nice to be able to sit down and A-B parts to get a better idea of how we wanted something to flow. One lesson I think we took from Skyward was editing and trimming parts down if they didn’t serve a purpose. We have less long music breaks in Relic but I think it’s more well-packaged that way.
How long were you in the studio this time? How did the recording experience compare to when you put together Skyward? It seems like a really quick span between the two records.
We started tracking Relic in mid-July and finished reamping stuff mid-October. It was a very different experience than Skyward, which we tracked in a few days. We recorded drums at my buddy (and mastering engineer) Jai‘s house and tracked the rest at my house. It was a good and a bad thing to have that much time to obsess over it.
Both album covers feature hooded figures and the classic comic style of David Paul Seymour. Does that hooded character on the front of Relic have some special significance to the band? Does he have a name? Is there a story being told about him either through the album or the art?
There’s something nice about having a figure defined by his ambiguity. I think it’s a lot like our music; kind of hard to put a finger on it. There’s definitely a sense of mystery surrounding the artwork, especially the hooded figure, which is intentional. In that vein, I’ve never thought of giving him a name or a backstory. He’s just omnipresent; a veiled servant to a greater purpose.
How did signing to Argonauta Records come about and how has it been releasing the album with them?
Our friend Jason Ogle from Electric Age actually got me in touch Argonauta. It’s been really cool. [Label head] Gero has been incredibly helpful throughout the whole process and Argonauta has been really nice to work with. I couldn’t have asked for anything better from our first signing experience.
Any plans or closing words you want to mention?
We recently signed a deal with Lonestar Records from Germany to release Relic on vinyl. We’re pretty excited to have that coming. It should be released sometime between June 2nd and 9th. Vinyl has been a goal of mine for a while so we’re pretty stoked to finally have that come to fruition.
First announced late last year, the double-disc sophomore outing, Ether / Return to Earth, from North Carolinian post-rockers From Oceans to Autumn has been given a firm May 5 release through Argonauta Records. To give a sampling of the kind of sprawl on offer, the band have made opening track “Quintessence / Core” — clearly somebody has a thing for multifaceted titles — available to stream in its 13-minute entirety. One of four cuts on the first of Ether / Return to Earth‘s two discs, it enacts a suitably immersive wash over the course of its stretch, and showcases considerable patience in the execution thereof.
Among the big questions I have as regards it is how representative it will be of the record as a whole, or if the band, whose last full-length arrived four years ago — though they also posted Pareto Analysis : Volumes I?-?III Endings in December as the first installment of a “concept series”; rest assured I have no idea what that means — will head in different directions across the subsequent 11 pieces. As ever, we’ll find out when the album arrives.
If you’re the preorderin’ type, those are up now from Argonauta. Art, links, info and audio follow, as per the social medias:
North Carolina Post Rockers From Oceans To Autumn release cover artwork and new single from their highly anticipated new album, the first in four years.
The song “Quintessence/Core” can be heard here.
The album is a colossal “2 disks” work, where ethereal and dreamlike atmospheres collide at best with psychedelic and dramatic interludes made of vast landscapes and sidereal distances.
“Ether/Return to Earth” will be released in Double CD and Digital Download by Argonauta Records and available from May 5th, 2017. Preorders run here: http://bit.ly/2oytmX8
Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Arrival. Welcome to the final day of The Obelisk’s Spring 2017 Quarterly Review. After today, I clean off my desktop and start over with a mind toward the next round, which in my head I’ve already scheduled for late June. You know, at the end of the next quarter. I do try to make these things make sense on some level. Anyway, before we get to the last 10 albums, let me please reiterate my thanks to you for reading and say once again that I hope you’ve found something this week that really speaks to you, as I know I have and continue to today. We finish the Quarterly Review out strong to be sure, so even if you’re thinking you’re done and you’ve had enough, you might be surprised by the time you’re through the below.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
Grails, Chalice Hymnal
Even if one counts the 2013 collection culled from Grails’ Black Tar Prophecies ongoing series of short releases that showed up via Temporary Residence, it’s been a long while since their last proper outing. Deep Politics (review here) was issued in 2011, but it seems the intervening time and members’ participation in other projects – among them Om and Holy Sons in the case of Emil Amos – disappear for Grails on Chalice Hymnal, which speaks directly to its predecessor in sequel pieces like “Deeper Politics,” “Deep Snow II” and “Thorns II,” taking the prog-via-Tangerine–Dream cinematics of Deep Politics to vibrant and continually experimental places on the surprisingly vocalized “Empty Chamber,” the soundscaping “Rebecca” and the imaginative, evocative jazz homage “After the Funeral,” the album’s 10-minute closer. Hearing the John Carpenter keyboard line underpinning “Pelham,” I’m not sure I’d call Chalice Hymnal limitless in its aesthetic – Grails have definitive intentions here, as they always have – but they continue to reside in a space of their own making, and one that has yet to stop expanding its reach.
Yes. Yes. This. With extended two tracks – “First Movement” (22:17) and “Second Movement” (27:04) – unfolding one massive longform immersion that drones pastoral, delves into hypnotic bliss and fills the soul in that way that only raw exploration can, the America Here and Now Sessions from Kansas City (by way of the moon) outfit Expo Seventy is an utter joy to experience. Purposeful and patient in its execution, graceful in the instrumental chemistry – even with a second drummer sitting in amid the core trio led by guitarist Justin Wright – the album well fits the deep matte tones and nostalgic feel of its accompanying artwork, and is fluid in its movement from drone to push especially on “Second Movement,” which sandwiches a resonant cacophony around soundscapes that spread as far as the mind of the listener is willing to let them. Whether you want to sit and parse the execution over every its every subtle motion and waveform or put it on and go into full-brain-shutdown, America Here and Now Sessions delivers. Flat out. It delivers.
After surviving the acquisition of Candlelight Records by Spinefarm, UK doom extremists Coltsblood return with their second album, Ascending into Shimmering Darkness, and follow-up 2014’s Into the Unfathomable Abyss (review here) with 54 minutes of concrete-thick atmospheric bleakness spread across five tracks. The headfuckery isn’t quite as unremitting as it was on the debut – a blend of airy and thick guitar in the intro of the opening title-cut (also the longest inclusion; immediate points) reminds of Pallbearer – but the three-piece thrive in this more-cohesive-overall context, and their lumbering miseries remain dark and triumphant in kind. A closing duo of “Ever Decreasing Circles” and “The Final Winter” also both top 12 and 13 minutes, respectively, but the shorter second track “Mortal Wound” brings blackened tendencies to the fore and centerpiece “The Legend of Abhartach” effectively leads the way from one side to the other. Still, the most complete victory here for bassist/vocalist John McNulty, guitarist Jemma McNulty and drummer Jay Plested might be “The Final Winter,” which melds its grueling, excruciatingly slow crash to overarching keyboard drama and becomes a work of cinematic depth as well as skull-crushing wretchedness. Such ambient growth fascinates and shows marked progression from their first offering, and even if the primary impression remains one from which no light escapes, don’t be fooled: Coltsblood are growing and are all the more dangerous for that.
Once they get past the aptly-titled minute-long “Intro,” Rhino keep their foot heavy on the gas for the vast majority of The Law of Purity, their Argonauta Records debut album. The 10 included tracks veer into and out of pure desert rock loyalism – “Eat My Dust” comes across as particularly post-Kyuss, perhaps melded with some of the burl of C.O.C.’s “Shake Like You” – and the throttle of “Nuclear Space,” “Nine Months,” “A. & B. Brown” and “Cock of Dog” later on come to define the impression of straightforward push that puts the riffs forward even more than earlier inclusions like the post-“Intro” title-track or the more mid-paced “Bursting Out,” which hints at psychedelia without really ever fully diving into it. Capping with the roll of “I See the Monsters,” The Law of Purity reminds at times of earlier Astrosoniq – particularly in the vocals – but finds the Sicilian five-piece crafting solid heavy rock tunes that seem more concerned with having a couple beers and a good time than changing the world or remaking the genre. Nothing wrong with that.
As it happens, I wrote the bio and release announcement for Cruthu’s debut album, The Angle of Eternity (posted here), and I count guitarist “Postman Dan” McCormick as a personal friend, so if you’re looking for impartiality as regards the self-released six-tracker, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for primo trad doom and classic metal vibes, the Michigan-based four-piece offer touches of progressive flourish amid the shuffle of opener “Bog of Kildare,” a grueling post-“Crystal Ball” nod in “From the Sea” and a bit of ‘70s proto-metallurgy in the closing title-track, which finds vocalist Ryan Evans at his most commanding while McCormick, bassist Erik Hemingsen (Scott Lehman appears as well) and drummer Matt Fry hold together the fluid and patient groove of weighted downer metal. The sense of Cruthu as an outfit schooled in the style is palpable through the creep of “Lady in the Lake” and the post-Trouble chug of “Séance,” but they’re beginning to cast their own identity from their influences – even the penultimate interlude “Separated from the Herd” is part of it – and the dividends of that process are immediate in these tracks.
From the Kozik-style artwork of their cover to the blown-out vocals on opener “New Pubes” of guitarist Matt Owen, St. Louis three-piece Spacetrucker – how was there not already a band with this name? – make no bones about their intentions on their late-2016, 26-minute Launch Sequence seven-track EP. Owen, bassist Patrick Mulvaney and drummer Del Toro push into a realm of noise-infused stoner grunge loyal to the ‘90s execution of “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop” in the stops of the instrumental “Giza” even as they thicken and dirty up their tonality beyond what Kyuss laid forth. The cowbell-inclusive “Science of Us” rests easily on Mulvaney’s tone and nods toward burl without going over the top, and cuts like “Old Flower,” the penultimate roller “Trenchfoot” and the closing post-Nirvana punker blast of “Ain’t Gonna be Me” reimagine a past in which the language of heavy rock was there to explain where grunge was coming from all along. Not looking to reinvent stylistic parameters in their image at this point, Spacetrucker is nonetheless the kind of band one might’ve run into at SXSW a decade and a half ago and been made a fan for life. As it stands, the charm is not at all lost.
Clocking in at half an hour, the self-titled debut release from viola-infused Arizona two-piece Black Habit could probably qualify as an EP or an LP. I’m inclined to consider it the latter considering the depths vocalist/guitarist/bassist Trey Edwin and violist/drummer Emily Jean plunge in the five included tracks, starting with the longest of the bunch (immediate points) in the slow-moving “Escape into Infinity” before shifting the tempo upward for “Suffer and Succumb” and digging into deep-toned sludge marked out by consistently harsh vocals. I wouldn’t be surprised if Black Habit became more melodic or at least moved into cleaner shots over time, as the doomly centerpiece “South Beach” and more fuzz-rocking “Travel Across the Ocean” seem to want to head in that direction, but it’s hard to argue with the echoing rasp that accompanies the rumble and hairy tones of finale “Lust in the Dust,” as Black Habit’s Black Habit rounds out with an especially righteous nod. An intriguing, disaffected, and raw but potential-loaded opening salvo from a two-piece discovering where their sound might take them.
Massive. Patterns in the Ashes is a malevolent, tectonic three-song EP following up on New Zealand trio Stone Angels’ 2011 debut, Within the Witch, as well as a few shorter live/demo offerings between, and it’s an absolute beast. Launching with the seven-minute instrumental “White Light, White Noise II” – indeed the sequel to a cut from the first album – it conjures a vicious nod and bleeds one song into the next to let “Signed in Blood” further unfold the grim atmospherics underscoring and enriching all that tonal heft. Sludge is the core style, but the Christchurch three-piece’s broader intentions come through with due volume on the grueling “Signed in Blood” and when “For the Glory of None” kicks in after its sample intro, the blasts and growls that it brings push the release to new levels of extremity entirely. As a bonus, the digital edition includes all three tracks put together as one longer, 21-minute piece, so the consuming flow between them can be experienced without any interruption, as it was seemingly meant to be.
If Switzerland-based resonance rockers Black Willows had only released the final two tracks, “Jewel in the Lotus” and “Morning Star,” of their late-2016 second full-length, Samsara, one would still have to call it a complete album – and not just because those songs run 15 and 25 minutes long, respectively. Throughout those extended pieces and the four shorter cuts that appear before them, a palpable meditative sensibility emerges, and Black Willows follow-up the promise of 2013’s Haze (review here) by casting an even more immersive, deeper-toned vibe in the post-Om nod of “Sin” (8:08) and the more percussive complement, “Rise” (9:28), keeping a ritualized feel prevailing but not defining. From the lead-in title-track and the spacious psych trip-out of “Mountain” that gives way to the aforementioned extended closing duo, Black Willows find their key purpose in encompassing tonality and languid grooving. Nothing is overdone, nothing loses its patience, and when they get to the linear trajectory of “Morning Star,” the sense is they’re pushing as far out as far out will go. It’s a joy to follow them on that path.
Anytime you’re at all ready to quit your job and explore the recesses of your mind via the ingestion of psychedelics, rituals and meditation, Sweden’s Lamagaia would seem to stand prepared to accompany. The Gothenburg four-piece offer two extended tracks of encouragement in that direction on their self-titled 12” (released through Cardinal Fuzz and Sunrise Ocean Bender), and both “Aurora” and “Paronama Vju” carry a heady spirit of kosmiche improvisation and classically progressive willfulness. They go, go, go. Far, far, far. Vocals echo out obscure but definitely there in post-The Heads fashion, but there’s Hawkwindian thrust in the fuzzed bass and drums driving the rhythm behind the howling guitar in “Aurora,” and that only sets up the peaceful stretch that the drones and expansive spaciousness of “Paronama Vju” finds across its 18:55 as all the more of an arrival. Immersive, hypnotic, all that stuff that means gloriously psychedelic, Lamagaia’s Lamagaia offers instrumental chemistry and range for anyone willing to follow along its resonant and ultra-flowing path. Count me in. I never liked working anyway.
Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Feeling groovy heading into Day Two of the Spring 2017 Quarterly Review, and I hope you are as well. Today we dig into a pretty wide variety of whatnots, so make sure you’ve got your head with you as we go, because there are some twists and turns along the way. I mean it. Of all five days in this round, this one might be the most wild, so keep your wits intact. I’m doing my best to do the same, of course, but make no promises in that regard.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
Ulver, The Assassination of Julius Caesar
Norwegian post-everything specialists Ulver have reportedly called The Assassination of Julius Caesar (on House of Mythology) “their pop album,” and while the Nik Turner-inclusive freakout in second cut “Rolling Stone” (that may or may not be him on closer “Comign Home” as well) doesn’t quite fit that mold, the beats underscoring the earlier portion of that track, opener “Nemoralia” and the melodrama of “Southern Gothic” certainly qualify. Frontman/conceptual mastermind Kristoffer Rygg’s voice is oddly suited to this form – he carries emotionally weighted hooks like a melancholy George Michael on the electronically pulsating “Transverberation” and, like most works of pop, shows an obsession with the ephemeral in a slew of cultural references in “1969,” which in no way is likely to be mistaken for the Stooges song of the same name. While “So Falls the World” proves ridiculously catchy, “Coming Home” is about as close as Ulver actually come here to modern pop progression, and the Badalamenti-style low-end and key flourish in “1969” is a smooth touch, much of what’s happening in these eight tracks is still probably too complex to qualify as pop, but The Assassination of Julius Caesar is further proof that Ulver’s scope only grows more boundless as the years pass. The only limits they ever seem to know are the ones they leave behind.
Last year, Louisiana four-piece Forming the Void had the element of surprise working to their advantage when it came to the surprising progressive edge of their debut album, Skyward (review here). Now signed to Argonauta, the eight-song/55-minute follow-up, Relic, doesn’t need it. It finds Forming the Void once again working proggy nuance into big-riffed, spaciously vocalized fare on early cuts “After Earth” and “Endless Road,” but as the massive hook of “Biolazar” demonstrates, the process by which guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Luke Baker and drummer Jordan Boyd meld their influences has become more cohesive and more their own. Accordingly, I’m not sure they need the 11-minute closing take on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” since by then the point is made in the lumber/plunder of “Plumes” and in the more tripped-out “Unto the Smoke” just before, but as indulgences go, it’s a relatively easy one to make. They’re still growing, but doing so quickly, and already they’ve begun to find a niche for themselves between styles that one hopes they’ll continue to explore.
Though it keeps a wash of melodic keys in the background and its approach is resolutely laid back on the whole, “Beautiful Void” is nonetheless a major factor in the overall impression of Hidden Trails’ self-titled debut (on Elektrohasch), as its indie vibe and departure from the psychedelic prog of the first two cuts, “Lancelot” and “Mutations,” marks a major distinguishing factor between this outfit and Hypnos 69, in which the rhythm section of the Belgian trio played previously. “Ricky” goes on to meld acoustic singer-songwriterism and drones together, and “Hands Unfold” has a kind of jazzy bounce, the bassline of Dave Houtmeyers and drumming of Tom Vanlaer providing upbeat groove under Jo Neyskens’ bright guitar lead, but the anticipation of heavy psych/prog never quite leaves after the opening, and that doesn’t seem to be what the band wants to deliver. The sweetly harmonized acid folk of “Leaving Like That” is on a different wavelength, and likewise the alt-rock vibes of “Space Shuffle” and “Come and Play” and the grunge-chilled-out closer “Denser Diamond.” If there’s an issue with Hidden Trails, it’s one of the expectations I’m bringing to it as a listener and a fan of Houtmeyers’ and Vanlaer’s past work, but clearly it’s going to take me a little longer to get over the loss of their prior outfit. Maybe I’m just not ready to move on.
Naturalist vibes pervade immediately from this late-2016 self-titled Svvamp debut (on RidingEasy Records) in the bassline to “Serpent in the Sky,” and in some of the post-Blue Cheer heavy blues sensibility, the Swedish trio bring to mind some of what made early Dirty Streets so glorious. Part of the appeal of Svvamp’s Svvamp, however, is that among the lessons it’s learned from heavy ‘70s rock and from Kadavar‘s own self-titled is to keep it simple. “Fresh Cream” is a resonant blues jam… that lasts two and a half minutes. The bouncing, turning “Oh Girl?” Three. Even the longest of its cuts, the slide-infused “Time,” the subdued roller “Big Rest” and the Marshall Tucker-esque finale “Down by the River,” are under five. This allows the three-piece of Adam Johansson, Henrik Bjorklund and Erik Stahlgren to build significant momentum over the course of their 35-minute run, casting aside pretense in favor of aesthetic cohesion and an organic sensibility all the more impressive for it being their first record. Sweden has not lacked for boogie rock, but even the most relatively raucous moments here, as in the winding “Blue in the Face,” don’t seem overly concerned with what anyone else is up to, and that bodes remarkably well for Svvamp’s future output.
There are few songs ever written that require whoever’s playing them to “bring it” more than MC5’s “Kick out the Jams.” True, it’s been covered many, many times over, but few have done it well. Belgium’s Black Mirrors signal riotous intent by including it as one of the four tracks of their Napalm Records debut EP, Funky Queen, along with the originals “Funky Queen,” “The Mess” and “Canard Vengeur Masqué,” and amid the post-Blues Pills stomp of “The Mess,” the mega-hook of the opening title-track and the more spacious five-plus-minute closer, which works elements of heavy psych into its bluesy push late to welcome effect, “Kick out the Jams” indeed brings a moment of relative cacophony, even if there’s no actual threat of the band losing control behind the powerful vocals of Marcella di Troia. As a first showing, Funky Queen would seem to be a harbinger, but it’s also a purposeful and somewhat calculated sampling of Black Mirrors’ wares, and I wouldn’t expect it to be long before an album follows behind expanding on the ideas presented in these tracks.
No doubt that for some who’d take it on, any words beyond “members of Monarch!” will be superfluous, but Bordeaux three-piece Endless Floods, who do indeed feature bassist/vocalist Stéphane Miollan and drummer Benjamin Sablon from that band, as well as guitarist Simon Bedy, have more to offer than pedigree on their three-song sophomore full-length, II (on Dry Cough vinyl and Breathe Plastic cassette). To wit, 24-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Impasse” rumbles out raw but spacious sludge that, though without keys or a glut of effects, and marked by the buried-deep screaming of Miollan, holds a potent sense of atmosphere so that the two-minute interlude “Passage” doesn’t seem out of place leading into the 19-minute lumber of “Procession,” which breaks shortly before its halfway point to bass-led minimalism in setting up the final build of the record. Slow churning intensity and longform sludge working coherently alongside ambient sensibilities and some genuinely disturbing noise? Yeah, that’ll do nicely. Thanks.
Boasting four eight-plus-minute instrumentals, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam finds New Jersey trio Tarpit Boogie rife with classic style heavy rock chemistry, bassist John Eager running fills around the dense-toned riffing from guitarist George Pierro as drummer Chris Hawkins propels a surprising thrust on opener “FFF Heavy Jam.” I’ve been a fan of Pierro and Eager’s since we were bandmates a decade ago, so to hear them unfold “Chewbacca Jacket” from its tense opening to its righteously crashing finale is definitely welcome, but the 37-minute offering finds its true reasoning in the swing and shuffle of the eponymous “Tarpit Boogie,” which digs into the very challenge posed by the title – whether or not anyone taking on the album can handle its balance of sonic impact and exploratory feel – inclusive, in this case, of a drum solo that sets a foundation for a moment of Cactus-style rush ahead of a return to the song’s central progression to conclude. They round out with “1992 (Thank You Very Little),” Chevy Chase sample and all, bringing more crashing nod to a massive slowdown that makes it feel like the entire back half of the cut is one big rock finish. And so it is. A well-kept secret of Garden State heavy.
The self-released Dead Seeds, Barren Soil is Horseburner’s second full-length, and it arrived in 2016 from the four-piece some seven years after their 2009 debut, Dirt City. They’ve had a few shorter outings in between, demos and 2013’s Strange Giant EP, but the West Virginia four-piece of Adam Nohe, Chad Ridgway, Jack Thomas and Zach Kaufman seem to be shooting for a definitive statement of intent in the blend of heavy rock and modern, Baroness-style prog that emerges on opener “David” and finds its way into the galloping “Into Black Resolution,” the multi-tiered vocals of “A Newfound Purity” and even the more straight-ahead thrust of “The Soil’s Prayer.” Marked out by the quality of its guitar work and its clearly-plotted course, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil caps with “Eleleth,” which at just under eight minutes draws the heft and the complexity together for a gargantuan finish that does justice to the ground Horseburner just flattened as they left it behind.
Lafayette, Louisiana, five-piece Vermilion Whiskey telegraph participation in the New Wave of Dude Rock to the point of addressing their audience as “boy” in second cut “The Past is Dead,” and from the cartoon cleavage on the cover to the lack of irony between naming the record Spirit of Tradition and putting a song called “The Past is Dead” on it, they sell that well. The Kent Stump-mixed/Tony Reed-mastered six-tracker is the band’s second behind 2013’s 10 South, and basks in dudely, dudely dudeliness; Southern metal born more out of the Nola style than what, say, Wasted Theory are getting up to these days, but that would still fit on a bill with that Delaware outfit. If you think you’re dude enough for a song like “One Night,” hell, maybe you are. Saddle up. Listening to that and the chunky-style riff of closer “Loaded Up,” I feel like I might need hormone therapy to hit that level of may-yun, but yeah. Coherent, well written, tightly performed and heavy. Vermilion Whiskey might as well be hand-issuing dudes invitations to come drink with them, but they make a solid case for doing so.
If the cover art and a song title like “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts” weren’t enough of a tip-off, there’s a strong undercurrent of the unsettled to Hex Inverter’s second long-player, Revision. The Pennsylvania-based experimentalists utilize a heaping dose of drones to fill out arrangements of keys, guitar and noise that would otherwise be pretty minimal, and vocals come and go in pro- and depressive fashion. Texture proves the key as they embark on the linear centerpiece “Something Else,” with a first verse arriving over a sweetened bassline after four minutes into the total 9:58, and the wash of noise in “Daphne” obscures an avant neo-jazz groove late, so while opener “Cannibal Eyes” basks in foreboding ambience prior to an emotionally-driven and explosive crunch-beat payoff, one never quite knows what to expect next on Revision. That, of course, is essential to the appeal. They find an edge of rock in the aforementioned “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts,” but as the loops and synth angularity of closer “Fled (Deadverse Mix)” make plain, their intentions speak to something wider than even an umbrella genre.
MotherSloth‘s new album, Moon Omen, is a weird one. Issued through Argonauta Records at the beginning of the month, it brings forth a cultish vision of doom that dips into influences from Alice in Chains to Danzig as it traverses a dark path of six deceptively memorable tracks — the sort of earworms that don’t beat you over the head with hooks, but wind up replaying themselves on the mental jukebox anyway in a “what just happened?” kind of retread. From the title-line howls in the opening cut “Shadow Witch” to the ambient unfolding of nine-minute closer “Moon Omen” and across the melodically resonant “Doomsday Cyborg” and mournful Cantrell-style churn of “Once Human” between, it’s a record that brings a deeply individualized context to a style of doom that draws from both modern and classic spheres. Also from who knows where else.
One would expect for any visual representation of Moon Omen to be accordingly bizarre, and the dark-hued video for “Shadow Witch” most certainly is that. I’m pretty sure the band is in there somewhere, but the whole affair is pretty obscure and willfully vague, and where later in the album, the Madrid three-piece dip into progressive melodies underscored by melancholy lead guitar on “The Firemill,” with “Shadow Witch,” it’s more about the dirge and the ritual, even unto the quiet, whispering break in the song’s second half that leads to the surprising, if brief, apex of all-out cacophony. I’m telling you, and I’m not lying, they do it strange and they do strange well. Moon Omen finds MotherSloth as much centered around atmosphere as basic songwriting, but both work together to serve an overarching purpose of bizarre evocation that’s almost bound to stay with you after the record is done, which of course is the whole idea.
If you haven’t heard Moon Omen in its entirety as yet, it’s available now through Argonauta and streaming in full on MotherSloth‘s Bandcamp page — both of which are linked at the bottom of this post. More background on the band and the video credits follow the clip itself, which you’ll find immediately below.
Hope you enjoy:
MotherSloth, “Shadow Witch” official video
Directed by: Hugo “Brutal Panacota” Martín Production/ Film making/ Post production: Iván “Lobo” Moreno Camera , Edition and VFX : Iván ”Lobo” Moreno Production assistant: Malina Gancarz Make up: Andrea Mena / Iris “Assa” Erza Actors: Druid: Juan Carlos Zar Punk guy: Jimmy Jazz Witch: Leila Díaz Witch Follower 1: MOnica Garcia . Witch Follower 2: Iris ”Assa” Erza Special thanks to Gloria Crespo and Mayte Moraleda for their support
MotherSloth is a Madrid-based band formed in 2008. In the band’s style, you can find several influences – ’70s inspired sounds combined with heavy guitar riffs and open chords, blended with spirally progressive melodies. After various formations, the band records demos under the title “Death Flowers” (2009), and plays live throughout Madrid with other avant-garde stoner bands. In 2012, with a more defined musical path, MotherSloth recorded their debut EP “Hazy Blur Of Life“, edited in 2013 by Peruvian underground label Dooom Records.
In late 2013, MotherSloth decided to focus on the instrumental songs they had been writing throughout the years, recording their new LP “Moribund Star” (2014), edited in 2015 with Germany’s Voodoo Chamber Records. In 2016 the band entered the studio to record their next album, consisting of 6 brand new songs, released by ARGONAUTA Records in CD/DD during Spring 2017.
MotherSloth is: Dani – guitars and vocals Moline – bass guitar and vocals Oscar – drums