Posted in audiObelisk on September 23rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Tomorrow, Sept. 24, is the 25th anniversary of the release of Nirvana‘s generation-defining second album, Nevermind. Of course, the truth behind the narrative that that record single-handedly reshaped the rock and roll of its time is actually more complicated — even Nirvana were taking influence from Earth and the Melvins — but the level of impact is ultimately impossible to overstate because it’s still ringing out a quarter-century later. To wit, Phoenix, Arizona, trio Goya, in bringing in their new bassist Sonny DeCarlo, bonded over their collective experience with the music of the one-time Seattle forerunners, and the result was the recording of this new single, Drain You / D-7, which will be used as part of a split vinyl with Aneurysm, from Boston, later this year or early in 2017. For now, Goya — DeCarlo, guitarist/vocalist Jeff Owens and drummer Nick Lose — will release the songs digitally tomorrow via their own Opoponax Records imprint, to coincide with the aforementioned anniversary.
No doubt that if it’s not already the internet will be flooded with thinkpieces this weekend and for probably the next month waxing various levels of nostalgic about Nevermind, but let me just say that as someone just beginning to come of age at the time, it was legitimately a transformative moment. For me it wasn’t ever just about Nirvana — Alice in Chains, Primus, Metallica, C.O.C. played early roles — but they were certainly a factor, and the death of Kurt Cobain just three years later in 1994 was a moment at which a generation pulled together to mourn as a collective in a way that one hadn’t probably since John Lennon and wouldn’t again until David Bowie or Prince passed away — these huge figures of their times. Goya give due respect to the catchy punk of “Drain You” and the rawer “D-7” — itself a Wipers cover taken on by Nirvana as the B-side to the “Lithium” single — while remaining set with their own thicker tones as shown last year on their second full-length, Obelisk (review here) and earlier-2016’s The Enemy EP (review here).
In addition to the coming Goya/Aneurysm split that will contain these tracks, The Enemy will be released on vinyl Oct. 8 through STB Records. Both “Drain You” and “D-7” can be streamed on the player below, and under that, you’ll find a quote from the band about the making of the single and more info on the EP vinyl.
Goya will have a new album out in 2017.
Jeff Owens on Drain You / D-7:
Nirvana are a heavy influence on all three of us from our youth. There was a recent article calling Nirvana the most coverable band of all time, due to the simplicity and catchiness of their songs, and there’s certainly something to that. It’s easy to get bogged down with trying to do something “different”, or worrying that the notes you’re playing are too “predictable”, but we feel it’s important to listen to that inner voice telling you that the next note is obvious. Despite what some would have you believe, there’s nothing wrong with standard chord progressions, and that is one of the greatest strengths of Nirvana. Sometimes, a song writes itself, and there’s no reason to fight it or twist it. We all still consider ourselves fans of Nirvana, and we are all fans of basic chord progressions and a more punk approach to writing music, so it’s been a lot of fun for us putting this release together and playing these songs live, and we hope that that comes through in listening to them. And who knows? Maybe it will even have some sort of influence on our writing process as a three-piece in the future.
2016 marks Phoenix, Arizona-based stoner doom trio GOYA‘s fifth year as a band. After singer/vocalist Jeff Owens and drummer Nick Lose recently recruited Sonny DeCarlo on bass, they wanted to get into the studio as quickly as possible to celebrate what they could bring together. Knowing that it takes time and care to craft original material, they decided to record a couple of covers for the time being. All three members grew up in the ‘90s, so the logical choice of band for them to cover was Nirvana, particularly with the twenty-fifth anniversary of Nirvana’s seminal album Nevermind full-length on the horizon.
After only a few rehearsals together, they entered Switchblade Sound in Tempe, Arizona to track “Drain You” and “D-7? with long-time friend and ex-GOYA bassist, Joe Asselin, who recorded their last album, Obelisk. Though “D-7? is originally by ‘70s Portland punk band, Wipers, and was later covered by Nirvana, GOYA plays it in the true spirit of Nirvana. The tracks are mastered by Brad Boatright (Obituary, Sleep, Magrudergrind, Gatecreeper et al).
Their last EP, The Enemy, is being released through STB Records, who released their 2015 full length, “Obelisk”. Goya will be hitting the studio in the fall to record their follow-up to “Obelisk”, due in Spring 2017.
Goya have shared the stage with countless bands (Sleep, Windhand, Dead Meadow, Valkyrie, etc.), and have performed at Psycho Las Vegas, Southwest Terror Fest, and Day of the Shred. Having no plans to stop here, Goya are poised to extend their reach in 2017. The songs they are hitting the studio with in the fall show them to be pushing their sound further than ever before.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 15th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I was fortunate enough to attend the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta in Tucson this year (reviews here and here), and it was an awesome weekend of heavy in the desert. A getaway from winter, yeah, but also a killer rock show with a laid back atmosphere that was perfect to suit the bands that were playing, among them Yawning Man and Dead Meadow. Made some new friends, met some others I’d only spoken to via the interwebs, and it was just a blast the whole way through. Today, brothers, organizers and bandmates in Fuzz Evil — who release their debut album Sept. 30 (info here) — Wayne and Joey Rudell announce the third installment, Borderland Fuzz Fiesta III, will take place Feb. 17 and 18, 2017.
No word on bands yet, but it’s early. I’d expect announcements in that regard over the next couple months as we move into the last throes of 2016, but the Rudells are dropping some hints about what to expect as they relocate for Borderland Fuzz Fiesta III from Tucson to their hometown of Bisbee, AZ, and the way they make it sound — kind of out of the way, but a cool vibe — seems like it could turn into something even more special. Plus, Mad Alchemy is going to be there, and Lance and his crew are incredible.
Will keep you posted when I hear more. For now, mark the calendar:
The third installment of Borderland Fuzz Fiesta (BFF) will take place on Friday and Saturday, February 17th-18th in Bisbee, Arizona. This party will be spread among multiple unique venues in the popular border town, all within walking distance of each other. “We wanted to restructure the fest and bring it closer to our hometown, near the border. Joey and I felt Bisbee, with its blues and diverse culture, would be a perfect spot for the bands we have lined up for this year. Bisbee, a resurrected old mining town built in the valley of the mule mountains, is a beautiful city which is rich in arts, music, and food. We feel it be a great getaway for music lovers making their way to the fest.”
The 2017 lineup includes some of our favorite mind-blowing acts returning from previous years along with some impressive new additions. In addition to the great acts we have planned, we are proud to announce that Mad Alchemy will also be returning with his incredible liquid light show.
This year we also planning to showcase more local AZ music on the bill. We are really pushing for this festival to include more of the wonderful local AZ community behind it. Stay tuned as we plan to release who will playing throughout the coming months.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 14th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
A PR wire update from Southwest Terror Fest V is most certainly welcome, but really the poster says it all. The fest is set for Oct. 20-23, and I’ll just assume that five years on from the first incarnation, the chamber of commerce for the city of Tucson, Arizona, has a plan in place to handle the influx of weirdos for the weekend. Perhaps involving taco trucks? I don’t know. They’re the professionals, they can deal with it.
Point is, look at that list of names. There are so many, and the shows are spread over different venues so that even to hand out the crucial info barely leaves room for art on the poster. The lineup has been updated somewhat since the last time I posted about it — Nails dropped off because apparently they’re not a band anymore or whatever; see you at the reunion, or not — and there’s a new video trailer to go with the proceedings as well. Not everything on the bill is a fit with this site really, but screw it, if including Agoraphobic Nosebleed in a post is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.
SOUTHWEST TERROR FEST V Announces Event Updates
The promoters of Tucson, Arizona-based SOUTHWEST TERROR FEST have issued several lineup and venue updates for the incoming fifth installment of the annual event approaching this October.
SOUTHWEST TERROR FEST V: Houses Of The Unholy will take over Tucson October 20th through 23rd, with nearly four-dozen artists from across the US and Canada converging on five stages at multiple venues. Since recent announcements, Nails has been replaced with powerviolence all-stars Despise You, and a second set by Arizona punk legends Malignus Youth has been added. Additionally, one of the venues has closed its doors in recent days, but the promoters immediately shifted those shows to a new venue. There will be two private screenings of the Malignus Youth documentary being made by Rick Klu at The Screening Room during the event.
Passes for the entire festival are available HERE.
SOUTHWEST TERROR FEST V: Houses Of The Unholy
Thursday Early Show @ 191 Toole: Main: 10:30 – end – Sumac 9:10 – 9:55 – The Body/Full Of Hell 8:00 – 8:40 – Kowloon Walled City 7:00 – 7:30 – Generation Of Vipers 6:00 – 6:30 – North
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 26th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Arizona trio Goya aren’t at all far removed from the June release of their latest EP, Forever Dead, Forever Stoned, but they’ve already got a new offering in the works, this time taking on two tracks in homage to grunge gods Nirvana. Apparently something of a bonding point for the members of the band — children of the ’90s, arise! — the two cuts “Drain You” and “D-7” (the latter originally by Wipers) will be issued via Opoponax Records as Goya‘s half of a split vinyl with Boston’s Aneurysm later this year or early next. For now, Goya have “Drain You” streaming as a lead-in for their performance this weekend among the riffy throng at Psycho Las Vegas, and you can check it out below.
From the PR wire:
GOYA: Arizona-Based Stoner Doom Trio To Release Limited Edition, Two-Song Nirvana Tribute; Band To Play Psycho Las Vegas This Weekend
2016 marks Phoenix, Arizona-based stoner doom trio GOYA’s fifth year as a band. After singer/vocalist Jeff Owens and drummer Nick Lose recently recruited Sonny DeCarlo on bass, they wanted to get into the studio as quickly as possible to celebrate what they could bring together. Knowing that it takes time and care to craft original material, they decided to record a couple of covers for the time being. All three members grew up in the ’90s, so the logical choice of band for them to cover was Nirvana, particularly with the twenty-fifth anniversary of Nirvana’s seminal album Nevermind full-length on the horizon.
After only a few rehearsals together, they entered Switchblade Sound in Tempe, Arizona to track “Drain You” and “D-7” with long-time friend and ex-GOYA bassist, Joe Asselin, who recorded their last album, Obelisk. Though “D-7” is originally by ’70s Portland punk band, Wipers, and was later covered by Nirvana, GOYA plays it in the true spirit of Nirvana. The tracks are mastered by Brad Boatright (Obituary, Sleep, Magrudergrind, Gatecreeper et al).
These songs will be released through Owens’ label Opoponax Records on a limited-to-100 lathe cut seven-inch on Saturday, September 24th. The band will have a very limited amount for sale at their appearance at Psycho Las Vegas THIS WEEKEND. “Drain You” will also appear in late 2016 or early 2017 as GOYA’s half of a split 7″ with Boston punk unit, Aneurysm, also to be released by Opoponax Records.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 12th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’m an easy sell on the prospect of Fuzz Evil‘s debut album. Having been lucky enough to see the trio in their native Arizona this past February, I’ll say they left zero doubt they were up to the task of their first full-length, and the newly-streaming “Killing the Sun” from their upcoming self-titled would seem to back that opinion thoroughly. They’ve got a couple choice guests involved as well — anytime Arthur Seay shows up, it’s a party — and Fuzz Evil‘s Fuzz Evil will be out via respected purveyor Battleground Records on Sept. 30.
If you’ve been paying attention or have seen the new release calendar on the forum, you already know that Sept. 30 is arguably the most crowded release date of the year. No coincidence as it’s when print mags will be starting to get their year-end lists in for consideration. Nonetheless, Fuzz Evil boldly throw their hat in the ring with Brant Bjork, Truckfighters, Alcest, Holy Serpent and Langfinger, as well as probably six or seven others still to come. I look forward to hearing what they’ve come up with for the album as a whole.
West Coast tour dates and the album announcement, from the PR wire:
FUZZ EVIL to release debut album on Battleground Records | Embark on US West Coast Tour this October
Fuzz Evil is released on 30th September 2016
Formed in Arizona’s Sierra Vista in 2014, Fuzz Evil is a riff propelled power trio founded by brothers Wayne and Joseph Rudell of heavy desert stoners Powered Wig Machine.
With two singles currently to their name – last year’s ‘Born Of Iron’ and 2014’s 7” split with fellow Arizonans, Chiefs – this September sees the official release of their self-titled debut on the Washington-based label Battleground Records.
Joined by newest member and fellow Powered Wig Machinist Daniel Graves on drums, Fuzz Evil serves up a thunderous blast of rock ‘n’ roll reverie indebted to the likes of MC5, The Stooges, Clutch and Black Sabbath. Recorded, mixed and mastered at Primrose Studio by Brian Gold, from the opening crunch of ‘Good Medicine’ (featuring Unida/House Of Broken Promises’ Arthur Seay) to the progressively harbingered ‘Black Dread’, the album flows like the diaries of a cosmic nomad. Swirling and psychedelically enhanced with storylines spun from the mind’s eye of vocalist Wayne Rudell and his obsession with comic books, science fiction and cult cinema.
Fuzz Evil also embark on US West Coast Tour this October in support of the new album, which will receive an official release on 30th September via Battleground Records. For the full list of dates take a look below.
Fuzz Evil: Wayne Rudell – Vocals/Guitar Joseph Rudell – Bass Guitar Daniel Graves – Drums
Arthur Seay (House Of Broken Promises/Unida) – Lead Guitar on ‘Good Medicine’ Marlin Tuttle – Drums Brian Gold – Keys
Fuzz Evil Live: 1/10 – Silver Dollar Saloon – El Monte, CA 2/10 – Golden Bull – Oakland, CA 3/10 – TBC – San Jose, CA 4/10 – Starlite Lounge – Sacremento, CA 6/10 – Kenton Club – Portland, OR 7/10 – Valley’s – Tacoma, WA 8/10 – Tim’s – Seattle, WA 9/10 – Sam Bonds – Eugene, OR
Artist: Fuzz Evil Title: Fuzz Evil Release Date: 30th September 2016 Label: Battleground Records Formats: Vinyl/CD/Digital All songs written by Fuzz Evil Recorded/Mixed/Mastered by Brian Gold at Primrose Studio, Sierra Vista, Arizona
As they continue to support their new album, Acolyte (review here), Tucson duo Methra have unveiled a new video for the track “Dead Ram.” The clip is apparently a prequel to their last video, which was for the song “Hartley’s Cult,” the title derived from their purported obsession with Peavey amps — something you can see manifest in the wall of them that appears to be in the band’s practice space. It’s a tale of heartbreak, murder, wandering and death-sludge, and front to back it looks like it was an absolute blast to make. Which is as it should be.
That is the prevailing impression I get from Methra at this point, and it was true of the record as well: They sound like they’re having fun. The music lacks nothing for grit — it’s raw, nasty all over the place, even when they touch on a cleaner vocal here or a melodic part there, as indeed they do in “Dead Ram” — but it’s a very specific kind of fun that guitarist Nick Genitals and drummer Andy Kratzenberg are having throughout, like every time the cameras are shut off or the recording equipment is paused, everyone starts laughing. In a realm of music that sometimes seems so averse to enjoying itself on any level, it’s refreshing to see a band doing so with such brazen abandon.
You can check out the video below, followed by some comment from the band. Acolyte is out now on Battleground Records.
Methra, “Dead Ram” official video
METRHA informs viewers, “Upon completion of our ‘Hartley’s Cult’ music video, we realized the story was not complete. We asked ourselves, ‘WWGLD’ (what would George Lucas do)? The answer was simple; a prequel, with even better(worse) effects. Who was the Acolyte? What drives Him?”
METHRA’s new lo-fi visual production is the unsettling tale of one man’s descent into madness, and rebirth into The Acolyte. In the “Dead Ram” video, a crazed drifter can somehow hear METHRA practice on the other side of town….and he hates it. He’ll take an absurd trek through Tucson’s lesser known architectural wonders on a deadly mission to silence the grating sounds of disgusting music inside his head. This prequel to the “Hartley’s Cult” will horrify you. All stunts were performed with actual landmarks and operational firearms. You have been warned.
[Methra release Acolyte July 4 via Battleground Records. Click play above to stream the album in full.]
For all the fuckall Methra proffer in the 10 songs on their Acolyte debut full-length, it’s not like they haven’t put in any thought to their presentation. The Tucson-based duo of guitarist Nick Genitals and drummer Andy Kratzenberg (the latter also of Godhunter) reportedly recorded an overwhelming, and in my limited understanding of modern recording methods completely unnecessary, 69 guitar tracks, likely just so they could say they did it, and from their Peavey-style logo and art and the self-aware, tongue-in-cheek nature of many of the songs, from the falsetto chanting at the end of “Hartley’s Cult” — another Peavey reference — to the way opening duo “Silverbar” and “If Everything is Terrible, then Nothing Is” take on Electric Wizard, “Creeper” Pentagram and “Pike Warship” High on Fire, the Battleground Records release ends up as much about personality and quirk as its sonic impact, though that’s not to be understated either.
What they do best of all, however, is change up their approach. The longest of the tracks, the aforementioned “Hartley’s Cult,” is just over five minutes long and most others are two-to-three, so the record’s done in a half-hour, but during that time, the two-piece run through a gamut of different sounds and feel no reservation about blending elements of doom, stoner metal or grind riffing and vocals, as on the penultimate “Heshlaw” or “Pike Warship” or “S.P.S.,” which may or may not be a sequel to the similarly-named “S.B.S.” from Methra‘s 2014 EP, IV – Ronkonkoma (review here). Their doing so seemingly by whim’s dictate gives Acolyte a punkish spirit, but its tones are thick and while it moves periodically, the focus throughout is more about exploring these different styles and expressing appreciation for varied forms.
Or, more likely, the focus is having a good time. That’s the prevailing impression Acolyte leaves as the drum-led shuffle of closer “Organ Trail” — based on visual assessment of Nick and Andy‘s ages, I’m going to guess that’s a reference to the PC game Oregon Trail — boogies quietly into its fadeout. That doesn’t say much about the music, but the work as a whole is a demented, at times extreme kind of fun, and for all its jumps in sound, swapping out clean vocals for harsh ones and so on, there is a flow to it that starts with the roll of “Silverbar,” the band doing their best Jus Osborn and pulling it off en route to following up with a Vincent Price nod in “If Everything is Terrible, then Nothing Is,” which riffs through two verses and a chugging instrumental chorus and then rides that groove through a long fade into the more manic “Hartley’s Cult.”
Hard to say any one track on Acolyte sums up what Methra are doing across the whole album, because that changes almost song by song, but the slow start of “Hartley’s Cult,” the way it incorporates out-of-nowhere blown-out screams and growls before its cleaner chorus, the pickup in pace toward the end and the already-noted chanting at the finish go a pretty long way in conveying both the attitude and the versatility Methra are working with across the album’s span. So of course the next track, the 1:45 “Creeper,” is a complete left turn, delving into parody Pentagram-style doom rock that’s sincere in its reverence as much as satire of the current cult rock movement that band has in large part inspired. It’s also catchy, with a satisfying rhythmic bounce and horror-minded feel.
One might expect “Dead Ram” to follow suit à la the stylistic complement between “Silverbar” and “If Everything is Terrible, then Nothing Is,” but no dice. Rather, “Dead Ram” starts off a four-track run of growling sludge rock, finding out what happens when the likes of Repulsion or Napalm Death is thrown into the pot with some of the previously noted doom. A clean chorus emerges late in “Dead Ram,” but the bulk of the song is grunted forth, and “Pike Warship” follows suit after its opening scream, “Bow to Pike!” Of course, the riff is in the style of Matt Pike‘s work in High on Fire, but with the low growl vocals, the vibe is more grinding than High on Fire ever have been and pushes through to “S.P.S.,” which splits itself into two parts with a first half that mostly holds the form of “Pike Warship” and “Dead Ram” and a second more spacious, sort of raw, moldy basement psychedelia, like if you had a swirl but all the colors were shades of brown. The riff is what holds the two pieces together, and I guess you could probably say the same for much of Acolyte.
A sample about buying machetes ends “S.P.S.” and then it’s time for Methra to lay down the “Heshlaw,” a song for which the lyrics — I’m sure unfortunately — are just about indecipherable as they’re growled out over a steady roll that serves in some ways as a closer before “Organ Trail,” rounding out the album’s most extreme portion with a solidified approach. I don’t know if it’s keys or guitar on “Organ Trail,” but the volume and impact of tone is way pulled back and the drums march Acolyte to its finish with one more context-expanding stretch that seems to come from nowhere but somehow still work. What Methra basically accomplish on their first LP is to set themselves up to go anywhere they want stylistically. The previous EP had some of these elements at play, but the will that Andy and Nick show in swapping one approach out for another and the humor with which they execute those turns only highlights the consciousness of what they’re doing. I’d expect, and hope, they only get weirder from here.
Posted in Reviews on June 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Day Two of The Obelisk’s Summer 2016 Quarterly Review — that’s an awful lot of capital letters. I’m not sure if it’s quite such a formal occasion, but perhaps that’s just an effect of staring at some of the names in this particular batch, who from classic heavy rock to post-black metal to stoner riffs, drone, doom and beyond offer a pretty vast range and more than a small measure of profile throughout. It’s a substantial swath, is what I’m saying. If you can’t find something here to dig on, well, I’d say look again, but of course there’ll also be another 10 reviews tomorrow, Thursday and Friday, and there were 10 yesterday as well, so I’m sure something will turn up if it hasn’t yet. Here we go.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
Spiritual Beggars, Sunrise to Sundown
More than 20 years on from their self-titled debut, Sweden’s Spiritual Beggars release their ninth LP, Sunrise to Sundown (on Inside Out Music). They seem to have set themselves to the sole task of making the records that one wishes Deep Purple were making, full of righteous organ-laced classic heavy thrust, driven by top tier songwriting and performance on every level. Founding guitarist Michael Amott (also Carcass) has assembled a lineup of masters, and since 2010’s Return to Zero (review here), frontman Apollo Papathanasio (also Firewind) has provided the soaring voice to add to the keyboard majesty of Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth, Candlemass) on songs like “I Turn to Stone.” The album’s 11 cuts are catchy, universally structured, and varied in their feel enough to carry the listener through fluidly, bassist Sharlee D’Angelo (Mercyful Fate) and drummer Ludwig Witt (ex-Firebird) locking in weighted grooves and underscoring the flow of what comes across like an increasingly collaborative songwriting process. Sunrise to Sundown is the sound of a band knowing what they want to do and how they want to do it and then doing precisely that.
How many records does Ode to a Black Hole make it for Danish improve spacelords Øresund Space Collective? I honestly don’t know. Their Bandcamp lists 52 releases. Granted, not all of them are full-length studio LPs, but they jam whether they’re live or in the studio, so after a point it’s kind of moot. However many in the ultimate tally, Ode to a Black Hole is somewhat unique among them, exploring the darker side of the cosmic reaches in a bleaker, droning psychedelia spread across two instrumental tracks put to tape at the same time as 2015’s triple-LP Different Creatures (review here). Of course, it’s Øresund Space Collective, so there is still plenty of synth and effects swirl to be had, but it’s a slower galaxial movement as “Ode to a Black Hole Part 1” feeds directly into “Ode to a Black Hole Part 2.” Whatever their method of getting there, Øresund Space Collective prove once again how apparently boundless their scope has become with nuance of guitar and key flourish beneath the surface of the mix to let the listener know there’s life out in the expanse.
Phoenix, Arizona’s Goya continue their forward march with The Enemy EP (on STB Records). Still fair to say Electric Wizard are a primary influence, but as shown on their last full-length, 2015’s charmingly-titled Obelisk (review here), the trio are increasingly able to put more of themselves into their sound. In “The Enemy,” “Last” and “Light Years,” that shows in tighter songwriting, some vocal harmonies on “Light Years,” and a harder overall tonal impact than the tenets of post-Witchcult Today doomery might lead one to expect, reminding in parts of the raw in-room feel that Egypt have come to proffer, burly but more about groove than attitude. The EP closes with a nine-minute take on “The Enemy” itself, adding more harmonies, some screams at the end, and a lengthy midsection jam to flesh out its extra four minutes. Goya have been and still are a bright spot (existentially, if not in mood) in up-and-coming US doom, and The Enemy might be a stopgap coming off of Obelisk, but it reminds listeners of their growth very much still in progress.
In a universe full of pretenders to the throne of Eyehategod, German six-piece Black Shape of Nexus prove there’s room for genuine creativity in sludge. Their fourth offering, Carrier (on Exile on Mainstream), finds them past the 10-year mark and lumbering their way through five varied originals, from the cavernous opener “I Can’t Play It” through the droning “Lift Yourself” and the utter spacecrush that ensues in “Facepunch Transport Layer” before the villainous laughter at the end of “Sachsenheim” leads to a 12-minute take on Hellhammer’s “Triumph of Death,” which closes. It feels like no coincidence that of the Black Shape of Nexus-penned inclusions “Sand Mountain” is the centerpiece; the tortured screaming, claustrophobic riff and blend of rawness and lush depth speak to the originality at the core of their approach. There’s a firm sense of fuckall here, and my understanding is making Carrier was something of a trial, but the results are perhaps only more vicious for that, and thus stronger.
Six years and the ascent of an entire movement of similarly-minded acts later, Cough ooze back to activity with Still They Pray (on Relapse), their dirt-caked third full-length. That movement, by the way, includes fellow Richmonders Windhand, with whom Cough now share bassist Parker Chandler and whose Garrett Morris recorded here along with Jus Oborn of Electric Wizard, who remain a major influence in Cough’s grueling, nodding filth, brought to bear over eight tracks and a purposefully unmanageable 67-minute runtime. Stylistically it’s not so far from where Cough were on 2010’s Ritual Abuse (review here), the bleak anarchistic lurch and tonal immersion still very much at the fore of “Possession,” “Dead Among the Roses” and the organ-inclusive “The Wounding Hours,” but though they can play slow enough to make “Masters of Torture” seem positively thrashy by comparison, they never lose their sense of atmosphere, as the acoustic-led closing title-track makes plain in fashion no less heavy than the punishment meted out before it.
It feels factually inaccurate to call something so wilfully charred “vibrant,” but Oranssi Pazuzu’s fourth long-player, Värähtelijä (on Svart and 20 Buck Spin), not only finds light in its overarching darkness, but makes it a pivotal aspect of the album’s 69-minute course. Open structures, an enviable depth of mix between far-off guitar, keys, organ, various layers of screams, etc., songs like 12-minute opener “Saturaatio” and the later 17-minute chaoswirl of “Vasemann Käden Hierarkia” offer stylistic breadth as much prog as they are psychedelia or black metal, perhaps the next phase of the latter’s cosmic wing come to fruition. Relatively speaking, the more straightforward “Havuluu” offers listeners a moment to catch their breadth, but the organ-led experimentalism of 10-minute closer “Valveavaruus” gurgles in an exploration of ambient downward plunge. One of the most adventurous black metal releases of 2016, if you can still even tag a genre to it, which I’m not sure you can. A band doing pivotal and forward-thinking work.
Though they just got off a lengthy US run, the fact that Karma to Burn’s webstore offers their new Mountain Czar EP in euro instead of dollars could easily be taken as a sign of where the band’s general priorities lie. I don’t know if founding guitarist Will Mecum is actually living abroad or remains in West Virginia, but their label, Rodeostar Records, is European, they maintain a close relationship with German artist Alexander Von Wieding, and their tour schedule keeps a definite continental focus. So be it. Mountain Czar brings five new cuts, three by-the-numbers Karma to Burn instrumentals, the highlight of which is patient, jangly-guitar closer “63,” and “Uccidendo un Sogno,” an Italian-language cover of Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ down a Dream” sung by guest vocalist Stefanie Savy and featuring Manuel Bissig of Switzerland’s Sons of Morpheus on guitar. Karma to Burn very much remain Karma to Burn throughout, Mecum joined by drummer Evan Devine and bassist Eric Clutter, but they’re changing what that means in interesting ways.
Comprised solely of guitarist/vocalist Sleaze and drummer Izz, German Southern metallers Black Mood begin their seven-song sophomore outing, Squalid Garden (on Daredevil Records) with a sample of Cornelius from Planet of the Apes quoting the Lawgiver to “shun the beast man,” and so on. By the time they get around to the chugging and warbling “Ohh, save my soul” in second cut “IWNAR,” the Down/Crowbar vibe has been laid on so thick that it’s unmistakable. It’s been seven years since Black Mood made their self-titled debut in 2009 – they had an EP, Toxic Hippies, out in 2012 – but their chestbeating, dudely vibes are easily sourced, even in faster, more Pantera-style moments in “Reflected,” “100 Squalid Garden” or closer “Side,” making the album ultimately a matter of taste for anyone who’d take it on. For me, some aspects ring derivative, others show flashes of individualism, but it’s a very specific vision of Southern metal at work here, and it’s not going to be for everyone.
Newcomers Nebula Drag join the ranks of a crowded heavy psych scene in their native San Diego via their self-titled, self-released debut, but the trio distinguish themselves immediately with a solidified underpinning of punkish intent, so that the airy vocals of “Sano” float over an insistent, noisy crunch. That blend is toyed with in one direction or another throughout the release, the five-minute “So Low” finding some middle-ground in grunge push, but as the subsequent “Up and Down”’s Melvins-style roll and the hardcore-style drive of “Lost Time” play out, Nebula Drag seem far less tied to any single approach. It’s a dynamic that serves them well throughout the album’s 10-track/37-minute run, and they maintain a sense of rawness in the almost thrashy breakdown of “I Can Not Explain” that speaks to a lack of pretense to go along with their potential for development. Will be curious to hear if one side or the other wins out in their sound over the long-term, but in a town where so many bands are geared on being the most laid back, it’s refreshing to hear a group with a more forceful tack.
After a series of numbered full-lengths, Glasgow consciousness-stompers Ommadon offer their self-titled sixth album through Dry Cough Records, Burning World Records and Medusa Crush Recordings. Doubtless the three labels were needed in order simply lift the 41-minute, single-song release, which is so unspeakably and ridiculously heavy as to warrant comparison to Buried at Sea’s Migration. Its retching lumber is superlative, and in giving it their name, Ommadon signal (and say outright) that it’s the work they’ve been driving toward all along. Fair enough. There is no moment of relenting from the abysmal intentions of “Ommadon” itself, and if this is to be the piece that ultimately defines the band, it’s one worthy of consideration for the outright extremity it brings to doom, sludge and drone, as well as the methodical nature in which it unfolds. Whatever its ultimate impact, Ommadon have pushed themselves forward and crafted an excruciating contribution that feels like a monolith bent to their will.