Quarterly Review: Jess and the Ancient Ones, Iguana, Seamount, Gentlemans Pistols, Wired Mind, Automaton, Sideburn, Year of the Cobra, Drive by Wire, Akris

Posted in Reviews on January 4th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk quarterly review winter

And so it begins again. It had been my original intention to launch this latest Quarterly Review last week, but as that would’ve had me basically walking out on the holidays with my family, it seemed somehow prickish to be like, “Uh, sorry dudes, riffs call” and split, particularly when there are hours of driving involved. Still, though it’s already running late by the arbitrary calendar in my mind, I’m glad to be able to tackle a batch of releases that both looks back on the last part of 2015 and to the New Year we’ve just entered. As ever, there is a lot, a lot, a lot of ground to cover, so I won’t delay except to remind of what the Quarterly Review actually is:

Between now and this Friday, I will post 10 reviews a day in a single batch grouped like this one. The order is pretty much random, though something higher profile is usually first. It is my intention that each post covers a range of styles, and hopefully within that, you’re able to find something that speaks to you. Many of these releases were sent to me as physical product, and before I start, I want to extend thanks to those groups for undertaking the time and expense of giving me the full representation of their work to hopefully better do mine.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Jess and the Ancient Ones, Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes

jess and the ancient ones the second psychedelic coming

Finnish six-piece Jess and the Ancient Ones pay homage to psych cultistry on their sophomore full-length, Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes (on Svart), and while one might argue with the band marking this out as the “second coming” of psych – I’d say the third, generationally-speaking – the paean to late-‘60s sonic spaciousness in “In Levitating Secret Dreams” is unmistakable, the songwriting of guitarist Thomas Corpse conjuring fervent swirl behind the soulful Grace Slick-isms of vocalist Jess. At 65 minutes, it’s a classic double-LP, but Second Psychedelic Coming seems most engaged in its longer pieces, the eight-minute “Crossroad Lightning,” which pulls back from the urgency of earlier cuts “”The Flying Man” or the opening “Samhain,” and the 22-minute closer “Goodbye to Virgin Grounds Forever,” which has an arrangement to match its scope that unfolds no less gracefully. Some of the more frenetic parts seem to be arguing with themselves, but the overarching vibe remains satisfyingly tripped out and that closer is their to-date masterpiece.

Jess and the Ancient Ones on Thee Facebooks

Jess and the Ancient Ones at Svart Records

Iguana, Cult of Helios

iguana cult of helios

No big surprise that a record called Cult of Helios would seem to so unabashedly bask in sunshine. The four-track/32-minute sophomore full-length from German heavy psych four-piece Iguana has its driving moments, some in opener “Josiah” but more in the subsequent melodic thriller “Albedo,” but the prevailing sensibility is toward tonal warmth and steady groove. The band – vocalist/guitarist Alexander Lörinczy, guitarist Thomas May, bassist Alexander May and drummer Robert Meier – debuted in 2012 with Get the City Love You (review here), but Cult of Helios is a more cohesive, individualized release, whether it’s the hook of “Albedo,” the Beatles-gone-fuzz of “A Deadlock Situation” or the lush, flowing 15-minute jam of the closing title-track. Iguana’s propensity for blending underlying structure with a wide-open, welcoming atmosphere is writ large over Cult of Helios, and the album shines in a manner befitting its inspiration. A sleeper that begs waking.

Iguana on Thee Facebooks

Iguana website

Seamount, V: Nitro Jesus

seamount v nitro jesus

Most long-distance projects fizzle out after a record or two. With a lineup split between Bavaria and Connecticut, doom rockers Seamount have managed to sustain a remote collaboration, the German band of bassist Markus Ströhlein, guitarist Tim Schmidt and drummer Jens Hofmann working with New England-based vocalist Phil Swanson (ex-Earthlord, ex-Hour of 13, Vestal Claret, etc.). The excellently-titled Nitro Jesus (on The Church Within) is their fifth full-length since 2007, and boasts a refined blend of doom, NWOBHM and dark thematics common to Swanson’s lyrics. Tonally crisp but immersive, slow crawlers like “Can’t Escape the Pain” are offset by the ‘80s metal swing of “Beautiful Sadness,” and each side caps with a longer track, whether that’s the seven-minute “Scars of the Emotional Stuntman,” the most singularly sweeping movement here, or the closer “No One Knows,” which has a moodier feel, the guitar recalling Don Henley accompanied by piano as the finale hits its apex. For those who like their metal of tried and true spirit and individual presentation, Nitro Jesus delivers in more than just its name.

Seamount on Thee Facebooks

The Church Within Records

Gentlemans Pistols, Hustler’s Row

gentlemans pistols hustler's row

Every now and then you hear a record that reminds you what you love about rock and roll in the first place. It doesn’t need to be the most complicated thing in the world, or the most expressive, or the heaviest or the most whatever of anything else, but like Gentlemans Pistols’ third LP, Hustler’s Row (on Nuclear Blast), if it locks in a special chemistry between its players, that’s more than enough to carry it through. That the UK four-piece are ace songwriters and bolstered by the lead guitar chops of Bill Steer (Firebird, Carcass) for the Thin Lizzy dual-solos – vocalist/guitarist James Atkinson on the other end – helps plenty as well, but with the tight, classic-style grooves brought to across Hustler’s Row by bassist Robert Threapleton and drummer Stuart Dobbins, Gentlemans Pistols give essential heavy rock a non-retro modern interpretation that might leave one wondering why so many people try to ape a ‘70s production to start with.

Gentlemans Pistols on Thee Facebooks

Gentlemans Pistols at Nuclear Blast

Wired Mind, Mindstate: Dreamscape

wired mind mindstate dreamscape

Each side of Wired Mind’s Mindstate: Dreamscape LP (on HeviSike Records) gracefully unfolds a lushly-toned, warm, engaging heavy psychedelic sprawl. The chief influence for the Hannover two-piece of guitarist/vocalist Mikey and drummer Chris is their countrymen godfathers Colour Haze, but the duo make their presence felt early on “Road,” the opener and longest-track at 11:01, which balances serene and spaced exploration with post-Kyuss “Thumb” shuffle, all the more enticing for having been recorded live, conjuring Echoplex spaciousness around the repeated line, “All we gotta do is love.” Both sides work on the same structure of a longer track feeding into a shorter one, “Road”’s considerable amassed thickness giving way to the winding groove of “Jennifer’s Dream of a Switchblade” while the Duna Jam-ready vibes permeating from “Wired Dream” finding a moving complement in closer “Woman,” which effectively captures desert rock rhythmic propulsion. As their debut, Mindstate: Dreamscape feels conceptually and stylistically cohesive, and sets Wired Mind up with a sonic breadth on which to continue to build.

Wired Mind on Thee Facebooks

Wired Mind at HeviSike Records

Automaton, Echoes of Mount Ida

automaton echoes of mount ida

Greek heavy rollers Automaton revisit their 2013 debut full-length, Echoes of Mount Ida, for a limited vinyl release. The four-track offering initially surfaced coated in burl and massive riffing, but a remix adds psychedelic edge to the lumbering fervor of “Fear,” on which the Athenian five-piece are joined by Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective for added synth and swirl. He delivers, and the opener also adds guest vocals from Nancy Simeonidou, but the remix keeps things consistent as Automaton transition into the chugging “Beast of War,” a complex near-djent rhythm (which will find complement in the end of “Echoes of Mount Ida” itself) smoothly met by drummer Lykourgos to finish side A of the LP while the locked-in nod of “Breathe in Stone” bleeds into the closing title-track as Automaton offer riffy largesse set in a spacious backdrop like mountains in the distance. Interesting to see if the semi-reboot of their debut is indicative of some overall shift in direction, but at least on the vinyl offering, it makes their sound that much broader.

Automaton on Thee Facebooks

Sound Effect Records

Sideburn, Evil or Divine

sideburn evil or divine

Between Martin Karlsson’s keys (also bass) and vocalist Dimitri Keiski’s propensity to soar, the mood turns epic pretty quick on Sideburn’s fifth album, Evil or Divine (on Metalville Records). The Swedish foursome’s latest shares more than just its titular reference in common with Dio — who, in addition to the lyric from “The Last in Line” had a live record with the same title – but keep a foot in doom territory throughout, drummer Fredrik Haake playing with metallic precision and an edge of swing as Morgan Zocek pulls out leads over “Sea of Sins.” The later “The Day the Sun Died” is particularly post-Ozzy Iommic, but Evil or Divine benefits from the kick in the ass that the penultimate “Evil Ways” seems only too happy to provide before “Presence” finishes on a hopeful note. Definitely more fist-pump than nod, Evil or Divine cries out to legions of the brave who want a thicker groove than modern metal is willing to provide without giving up the occasional cause to headbang.

Sideburn on Thee Facebooks

Metalville Records

Year of the Cobra, The Black Sun

year of the cobra the black sun

Seattle-based bass/drum duo Year of the Cobra had two labels pick up their debut EP, The Black Sun, between Devil’s Child Records and DHU Records, and they’ve signed to STB Records for the follow-up, so it seems safe to say their three-track outing has gotten a solid response. The songs make a compelling argument for why. With vocals that recall Soph Day from Alunah on opener “White Wizard” before delving into faster, more punkish fare on “The Black Sun” itself, Year of the Cobra serve immediate notice of a breadth in their sound, and the seven-minute wah-bass finale “Wasteland” enacts a low-end swirl that pushes even further out while keeping hold of itself via steady, tense drumming. That finisher is a particular high point, with bassist/vocalist Amy Tung Barrysmith self-harmonizing in layers over the steady build and drummer Johanes Barrysmith making sure the considerable tone keeps moving forward. Easy to hear why they’ve found such support in such a short time.

Year of the Cobra on Thee Facebooks

Dark Hedonistic Union Records

Devil’s Child Records

STB Records

Drive by Wire, The Whole Shebang

drive by wire the whole shebang

The third long-player from Dutch four-maybe-five-piece Drive by Wire, The Whole Shebang gets more complex as it goes. Its first couple tracks, “Kerosine Dreams” [sic], “Woodlands,” “The Whole Shebang” and “Five Ft. High” are deeply indebted to desert rock circa Songs for the Deaf, tonally and even in some of Simone Holsbeek’s sing/talk call and responses on “Woodlands.” From there, “Rituals,” “In This Moment” and the moody “River Run” and “Promised the Night” push into more individual ground, and even though they tie it back together in the album’s third and final movement with “Rotor Motor,” “All Around” and “Voodoo You Do,” the context has changed, and by the time guitarist Alwin Wubben swells lead lines behind the verse of the closer, the fuzz of “Kerosine Dreams” is a distant memory. Completed by bassist Marcel Zerb and drummer Jerome Miedendorp de Bie, Drive by Wire wind up on a considerable journey, and while the title at first seems off-the-cuff, it works out to be a whole shebang indeed.

Drive by Wire on Thee Facebooks

Drive by Wire webstore

Akris, Fall EP

akris fall ep

Relaunched as a trio in the first half of 2015, Virginia trio Akris made a studio return with the four-song/32-minute Fall EP, which probably should’ve been called a full-length and probably should’ve been pressed to vinyl (paging Tony Reed to master and STB Records to release…), but the digital-only offering finds Akris and particularly founding bassist/vocalist Helena Goldberg anything but apprehensive as she, guitarist/vocalist Paul Cogle (Nagato, Black Blizzard) and drummer Tim Otis (Admiral Browning) follow-up the band’s raucous sans-guitar 2013 self-titled full-length debut (review here), balancing plodding grooves, melody and abrasion deftly atop rumble and riffs in “Forgiven” as Goldberg swaps between screams and grunge-styled croons. The subsequent “People in the Sky” is less patient, and caps its nine-minute run with a barrage of noise rock synth that continues at the start of closer “Alley Doorway” but ultimately recedes (momentarily) to let that song establish its own course of loud/quiet tradeoffs and resonant exploration. Unless Akris are planning a series of seasonal short releases, I see no reason why Fall EP shouldn’t be characterized as a second long-player and heralded for the bold expansion of the band’s approach it represents.

Akris on Thee Facebooks

Akris on Bandcamp

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Godsleep Release Thousand Sons of Sleep Vinyl on Rock Freaks Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 29th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

godsleep

Greek heavy rockers Godsleep have released their debut LP, Thousand Sons of Sleep (review here), on vinyl through Rock Freaks Records. The album was initially offered up by the band earlier in 2015 digitally and on CD, and the pickup by Rock Freaks, which is the record label associated with Freak Valley festival, has some pretty obvious implications as to how the Athens foursome might be spending at least part of their summer. Maybe that’s jumping the gun, as, admittedly, I’m prone to do in this kind of case, but whether they wind up on that fest or not, Godsleep‘s debut showed considerable promise, and right down to its artwork, earned a vinyl release all the way. Kudos to the band and label on joining forces.

Rock Freaks had the news and release particulars like this:

godsleep thousand sons of sleep

Rock Freaks Records proudly presents the 2nd label release: Godsleep – THOUSAND SONS OF SLEEP!

With their debut these guys from Athens, Greece, created a mixture of powerful throaty vocals colliding with thick-sounded, fuzz fuelled heavy rock, accompanied by extended solos.

Poaching in the deep covert of sludge, stoner and psychedelic rock this foursome leads you from the muddy woods of Lousiana to the dusty sands of Arizona. This sounds crazy. And it is crazy. Available now on heavy 180gr vinyl and inside-out print you can choose between three colors: traditional black (limited and handnumbered to 150 pieces), silver (130) and gold (110).

Get your special „die-hard-edition“ next saturday at the FREAK-VALLEY-X-MAS showcase including the golden vinyl plus a ROCK FREAKS RECORDS patch. The black edition is available at GODSLEEPS show on saturday 19th in Athens.

All colours available next week in our shop and on the forthcoming GODSLEEP-tour. There are still dates for april 2016 available, so if you want them to stop by or if you know a cool place that they should fill with some heavy tunes, please contact Stef : stef@totalvolumeagency.com.

www.rockfreaks.de
https://www.facebook.com/freakvalley/
https://www.facebook.com/Godsleepband
http://godsleep.bandcamp.com/releases

Godsleep, Thousand Sons of Sleep (2015)

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Planet of Zeus European Tour on Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

planet of zeus

Athens-based burl-bringers Planet of Zeus issued their third full-length, Vigilante (review here), last Spring, and this past weekend, they headed out on another in a series of European tours to support the record. This time around, they’ll swing through Desertfest Belgium and the Keep it Low fests, as well as a ton of other spots, while next month, they meet up with Clutch to stand in the main support slot for the first eight gigs on that band’s headlining Euro stint. Not a bad gig, especially as Planet of Zeus have shown a pretty solid affinity for Maryland’s finest over the course of their tenure thus far. It’s the part they were born to play.

Dates and links follow:

planet of zeus tour poster

Planet of Zeus European Fall Tour 2015 + main support in Clutch’s Psychic Warfare UK/EU tour

Planet of Zeus European Fall Tour 2015:
03.10 Patra, GR, Aithousa Aigli
05.10 Rome, IT Sinister Noise Club
06.10 Milan, IT Lo-fi
08.10 Dresden, DE SABOTAGE
09.10 Antwerp, Deserfest Belgium, BE, TRIX
10.10 Koln, DE, Underground
11.10 Utrecht, NL, DB’s
13.10 London, UK, Nambucca
14.10 Nantes, FR La Scene Michelet
15.10 Geneva, CH, Kalvingrad
16.10 Bolzano , IT Point Egna Neumarkt
17.10 Munich, Keep It Low, DE,Freierwerk
19.10 Vienna, AT, Viper Room
20.10 Salzburg, AT, Shakespear
21.10 Innsbruck, AT, PMK
22.10 Olten, CH, C’oq D’or
23.10 Frankfurt, Sky High Festival, DE, Das BETT
24.10 Berlin, Dustown Festival, DE, Cassiopeia
25.10 Poznan, PL, Club Minoga
26.10 Katowice, PL Katofonia
27.10 Bratislava, SK, Uocka
28.10 Zagreb, HR Vintage Industrial Bar
30.10 Novi Sad, RS, Fabrika
31.10 Belgrade, RS Bozidarac
01.11 Sofia , BL, Club Terminal 1
2.11 Drama, GR, Cafe Noir
6.11 Larissa, GR, Stage Club
7.11 Volos, GR, Lab Art

Second Leg as main support for the first 8 dates in Clutch ‘s upcoming UK/EU tour for their new album “Psychic Warfare”.
November 20 Olympia Theater- Dublin, Ireland
November 21 Limelight- Belfast , Ireland (SOLD OUT)
November 23 O2 Academy- Glasgow, Scotland
November 24 Rock City- Nottingham, England
November 25 Academy- Bristol, England
November 27 Le Trabendo- Paris, France (SOLD OUT)
November 28 Essig Fabrik-Cologne, Germany
November 29 Markthalle- Hamburg, Germany

https://www.facebook.com/events/636390799797755/
http://www.planetofzeus.gr
https://www.facebook.com/planetofzeus
http://ihaveadrum.bandcamp.com/
http://planetofzeus.bandcamp.com/

Planet of Zeus, Live at Iera Odos, Athens, GR, 2015

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Quarterly Review: We Lost the Sea, Dark Buddha Rising, Red Mountains, Black Space Riders, Lamprey, Godsleep, Slow Joe Crow & the Berserker Blues Band, Monobrow, Denizen, Witchsorrow

Posted in Reviews on October 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the-obelisk-quarterly-review-fall-2015

We’re in the thick of it now. It’s hard sometimes putting these things together to remember that each band has worked incredibly hard to put out an album. I’ve been through that process (once), and so I know it can be harrowing at times between acts going back and forth about recording, what’s included, how to release, when, and so on. There’s a lot to cover this week — and we’re not out of the woods yet — but I hope that, just because each review is short, you don’t take that as a sign I don’t have the utmost respect for the effort that has gone into making each of these releases. It can be a tremendous pain in the ass, but of course it’s worth it when you get to the end product. We continue.

Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #31-40:

We Lost the Sea, Departure Songs

we lost the sea departure songs

To be blunt, We Lost the Sea’s Departure Songs is the kind of album that immediately makes me want to own everything the band has done, in hard copy, for posterity. The Sydney outfit’s third full-length finds its crux in its two-part closing duo of “Challenger Part 1 – Flight” and “Challenger Part 2 – A Swan Song,” enacting a lush instrumental interpretation of the Space Shuttle Challenger flight and disaster that took place nearly 30 years ago in Jan. 1986. In its progression, patience, flow and discernable narrative thread it is nothing short of brilliant, a lush and sad beauty that serves as a genuinely affecting reminder of the hope for a better future that died with that shuttle’s civilian crew and the era of aspiration that tragedy brought to a close. I think the closing sample is the only time I’ve ever heard Ronald Reagan speak in my adult life and felt something other than anger, and that’s a testament to the ground Departure Songs covers – on the preceding three cuts as well as the final two – and the masterful execution on the part of We Lost the Sea.

We Lost the Sea on Thee Facebooks

We Lost the Sea on Bandcamp

Dark Buddha Rising, Inversum

dark buddha rising inversum

There does not yet exist a name for what Finland’s Dark Buddha Rising bring to bear on the two side-consuming tracks of their Neurot Recordings debut and sixth album overall, Inversum. Self-recorded and presented following some shifts in lineup, the album swells to a massive head of bleak, noise-infused psychedelia, fully ritualized and self-aware but still vibrant as it makes its way further and further down into itself. It is bright black, based so much around contrasting ideas of form and tonality that to listen to it, one almost doesn’t believe that the band are accomplishing what they are on an aesthetic level, but the weight, chants, screams, cavernous feel and nod that “Eso” (24:05) and “Exo” (23:52) enact is ultimately real no matter how nightmarish and otherworldly the impression might be. A work that sounds as likely to digest as be digested, it constructs a temple of its own sound and then burns that temple and everything around it in a glorious final push into charred chaos.

Dark Buddha Rising on Thee Facebooks

Dark Buddha Rising at Neurot Recordings

Red Mountains, Down with the Sun

red mountains down with the sun

Few endorsements carry as much weight for me as that of Germany’s Nasoni Records, so when I see that venerable imprint is on board for the release of Red Mountains’ first album, Down with the Sun, expectations immediately rise. The Norwegian four-piece don’t disappoint, calling forth a heavy psychedelia weighted enough to be immersive without really falling into the trap of sounding too post-Colour Haze or Causa Sui, finding a balance right away on opener “Six Hands” between open-vibe and structured songcraft. They toy with one side or the other, getting crunchy on “Rodents” and tripping out into ambient echoing on the penultimate “Silver Grey Sky,” but that only makes the debut seem all the more promising. Particularly satisfying is the scope between “Sun” and “Sleepy Desert Blues,” which is enough to make the listener think that grunge and desert rock happened in the same place. An engaging and already-on-the-right-track start from a band who sound like they’re only going to continue to grow.

Red Mountains on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records

Black Space Riders, Refugeeum

black space riders refugeeum

It’s improper to think of Germany’s Black Space Riders as entirely psychedelic if only because that somehow implies a lack of clearheaded consciousness in their work, which as their fourth album, Refugeeum, demonstrates, is the very core tying all the expanses they cover together. As Europe comes to grip with its most dire refugee crisis since World War II, Black Space Riders take their thematic movement from such terrestrial issues (a first for them) and it makes a song like 11-minute centerpiece “Run to the Plains” all the more resonant. Of course, the big-chug groove of “Born a Lion (Homeless)” and the cosmic thrust of the penultimate “Walking Shades” still have a psychedelic resonance, but the balance between the earthly and the otherworldly do well to highlight the progressivism that’s been at work in the band’s sound all along. A considerable undertaking at 61 minutes, Refugeeum is an important step in an ongoing development that has just made another unexpected and welcome turn.

Black Space Riders on Thee Facebooks

Black Space Riders website

Lamprey, III

lamprey iii

And so, with their third and final outing, III, Portland, Oregon, trio Lamprey reserve their strongest point for their closing argument. The two-bass trio of bassist/vocalist Blaine Burnham (now drumming in Mane of the Cur), bassist Justin Brown (now bass-ing in Witch Mountain) and drummer Spencer Norman recorded the conclusive six-tracker with Adam Pike at Toadhouse (Red Fang, Mammoth Salmon, etc.) and even the slower shifts of “Harpies” and the decidedly Conan-esque “Lament of the Deathworm” breeze right by. Like their two prior releases, 2012’S The Burden of Beasts (review here) and 2011’s Ancient Secrets (review here), III is a showcase of songcraft as much as tone, and it seems to presage its own vinyl reissue, each of the two halves starting with a shorter piece, the opener “Iron Awake” a notably vicious stomp that sets a destructive vibe that the rumble and weirdo keys and leads that finish out “Gaea” seem to be answering, a quick fade bringing an end to an underrated act. They’ll be missed.

Lamprey on Thee Facebooks

Lamprey on Bandcamp

Godsleep, Thousand Sons of Sleep

godsleep thousand sons of sleep

If newcomer bruisers Godsleep seem to share some commonality of method with fellow Athenians 1000mods, it’s worth noting that on their debut, Thousand Sons of Sleep, they also share a recording engineer in George Leodis. Fair enough. The big-toned riffing and shouty burl on which Godsleep cast their foundation makes its identity felt in the post-Kyussism of “Thirteen” and stonerly grit of centerpiece “This is Mine,” which follows the extended opening salvo of “The Call,” “Thirteen” and “Wrong Turn,” the latter of which is the longest cut at 9:09 and among its most satisfyingly fuzzed nods. They’re playing to style perhaps, but doing so well, and if you’ve gotta start somewhere, recording live and coming out with a heavy-as-hell groove like what emerges in the second half of “Home” is a good place to start. Godsleep are already a year past from when they recorded Thousand Sons of Sleep in Summer 2014, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a follow-up happened sooner than later.

Godsleep on Thee Facebooks

Rock Freaks Records

Slow Joe Crow & the Berserker Blues Band, We are Blues People

slow joe crow and the berserker blues band we are blues people

Kentucky-based, cumbersomely-named Slow Joe Crow and the Berserker Blues Band may indeed live up to the We are Blues People title of their debut EP, but they’re definitely riff people as well. As such, the four-track sampling of their wares draws from both sides on a cut like opener “No One Else,” the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Austin P. Lunn, bassist Patrick Flanary and drummer Thom Hammerheart in the process of figuring out how much they want to lean to one or the other. They round out with a fuzzy take on the traditional “John the Revelator,” but the earlier “Muddy Water Rising” strikes a more effective and more authentic-feeling balance, leading to the slow jam of “Before I Go,” which adds a ‘70s rock vibe to push the bluesy feel even further and expand the palette in a manner one hopes they continue to pursue as they move forward.

Slow Joe Crow and the Berserker Blues Band on Thee Facebooks

Slow Joe Crow and the Berserker Blues Band on Bandcamp

Monobrow, A Handwritten Letter from the Moon

monobrow a handwritten letter from the moon

Canadian trio Monobrow follow their 2014 LP, Big Sky, Black Horse (review here) with what’s essentially a new single that finds them continuing to step forward in their approach. Dubbed A Handwritten Letter from the Moon and taking its name from the 8:33 title-track, the Ottawa group’s latest offering finds the instrumental outfit smoothing out the tones a bit, still hitting into raucous grooves, but closer to Truckfighters than their prior brashness. I don’t know if it’s a method they’ll stick to going into their fourth LP next year, but the result is dynamic and suits them well. “A Handwritten Letter from the Moon” comes coupled with “Dyatlov Station 3,” a seven-minute rehearsal-space jam from 2011 that fascinatingly (and I’m sure by no coincidence) showcases some similar classic heavy rock influence. The only real shame of the release is that both these tracks are probably too long to fit on a 7”, since a small platter of vinyl would be a perfect way to hold over listeners until the next album arrives. As it stands, the digital version is hardly roughing it.

Monobrow on Thee Facebooks

Monobrow on Bandcamp

Denizen, Troubled Waters

denizen troubled waters

French heavy rocking four-piece Denizen issued their decidedly Clutchian debut, Whispering Wild Stories (review here), in 2011, and follow it through Argonauta Records with Troubled Waters, a more individualized 10-track outing that alternates between punkish rawness and classic upbeat grooves. Four years after their first album, their progression hasn’t come at the cost of songwriting, and while they still have work to do in distinguishing themselves in a crowded, varied European market, they deliver the material with an energy and vitality that makes even its familiar parts easy enough to get down with, be it the Southern heavy solo of “Jocelyne” or the meaner bite of “Enter Truckman.” I’ll take the pair of “King of Horses” and “Heavy Rider” as highlights, and remain interested to find out where Denizen head from here, as well as how long it might take them to get there. Four years between records gives Troubled Waters the feel of a second debut as much as a sophomore effort.

Denizen on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records

Witchsorrow, No Light, Only Fire

witchsorrow no light only fire

Releasing through Candlelight in their native UK, doom metal trio Witchsorrow mark a decade with their third album, No Light, Only Fire. Opener “There is No Light There is Only Fire” seems to nod immediately at Cathedral, with a speedier, chuggier take, and the record proceeds to alternate between shorter and longer tracks en route to the 14-minute closer “De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas,” cuts like “Negative Utopia” and “Disaster Reality” sailing a black ship past the 10-minute mark on a rumbling sea of riffs and slow motion nod. They break for a minute with the acoustic interlude “Four Candles” before embarking on the finale, and the respite is appreciated once the agonizing undulations of “De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas” are underway, using nearly every second of their 14:25 to affirm Witchsorrow’s trad doom mastery and bleak, darkened heft. No light? Maybe a little light, but it’s still pretty damn dark, and indeed, it smells like smoke.

Witchsorrow on Thee Facebooks

Candlelight Records

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Buried Treasure: Sound Effect Records in Athens, Greece

Posted in Buried Treasure on July 31st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

A couple weeks ago, when The Patient Mrs. was in Athens, Greece, on one of her I’m-brilliant-so-I-get-to-do-awesome-things field trips, she mentioned over Skype that she has passed by a record store. If there’s one thing I like, it’s record shopping on foreign soil, even vicariously, so I got the name from her — Sound Effect Records — and proceeded to look them up. The second I saw that owner Yiannis Andriopoulos had the nickname “Kaleidosmoker” I knew she had stumbled onto the right place.

Turns out Andriopoulos was a former ‘zine head with a long history in Greece’s heavy rock scene. Sound Effect also runs a label out of the store and has distributed cool stuff from Montibus Communitas and others, so I immersed myself in the thousands of selections on the Discogs page and started putting together a wishlist. I kept it to CDs — traveling with vinyl yourself is bad enough, let alone asking your wife to do it — and passed it on to her, with links, and told her when she went to the shop to ask for Yiannis, figuring that he’d be able to help her out with the stuff if she couldn’t find it.

Had to get a few Greek acts in there, and Planet of Zeus were on my mind for having recently checked out their Vigilante album (review here), so their first album, 2008’s Eleven the Hard Way, made the cut, as did Brotherhood of Sleep‘s 2009 self-titled debut. Both bands are native to Athens, and since I already had a copy of the new 1000mods, I was glad to dip back to some older, less available releases. There was also a ready stock of Nasoni Records stuff — not the first Weltramstaunen, unfortunately — but I asked her to grab Baby Woodrose‘s Dropout! collection of covers and a reissue of The Rising Sun‘s 1969 LP, Born to be Wild, as well as the 2CD Entering into the Space Country/Phaze Your Fears collection from Øresund Space Collective.

When she got home this weekend, she surprised me by bringing not only those, but the 2LP version of Los Natas‘ El Universo Perdido de Los Natas, filling both the Nasoni and the vinyl quotas in one fell I’m-the-luckiest-dude-ever swoop. I have the corresponding CD version that Oui Oui/MeteorCity released in 2007, but both the thought and the gatefold were beautiful, and if it’s another excuse to spend some time listening to Los Natas, I’m not going to lose. Apparently at some point in her trip to Sound EffectThe Patient Mrs. also let it slip that she was buying for her husband, explained who I was, and Andriopoulos gave her a copy of one of Sound Effect Records‘ releases, a joint issue with Nowhere Street Music from the band Drug Free Youth called A Message from Now.

And I’m glad he did, because apart from the Los Natas vinyl, the Drug Free Youth CD might be the find of the trip. A modded-out late-’60s-style psych rocker, it’s got plenty of garage organ and guitar jangle. It’s actually a message from eight years ago, having been released in 2006, but the sound and production date back way further than that. It’s got 15 tracks in about 45 minutes, and they keep things pretty simple structurally, otherwise, but the 7:47 closer “Visions of a Gypsy Queen” — Eastern European influence in the organ and all — the buzzsaw leads in “Time is Iced in an Instant,” and the steady wash of effects and echo overall provide plenty of nuance for those who’d dig below the raw retro veneer. It’s a cool vibe and I’m glad I got to hear it.

I probably won’t get to Athens anytime soon, but I hugely appreciated The Patient Mrs. keeping an eye out for some records on my behalf, and thanks to Yiannis from Sound Effect for steering her in the right direction on the stuff I’d checked out on his Discogs. There’s a ton of vinyl as well, and between that and the store’s website itself, plenty of fodder for perusal. Obviously no complaints from my end.

Drug Free Youth, Selections from A Message from Now (2006)

Sound Effect Records website

Sound Effect Records on Discogs

Sound Effect Records on Thee Facebooks

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The Dive Release Second Album Zo’e on Spinalonga Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 28th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

There hasn’t been much word out of the camp of Athens rockers The Dive since they released their impressive self-titled debut in 2011 (review here), but it seems the band, which formed all the way back in 2000, have been active all the same. This weekend, they sent over notice of a limited vinyl issue of their first album through The Lab Records and nonprofit Greek collective Spinalonga Records and a mini-tour supporting the concurrent release of their sophomore outing, Zo’e, on the latter label. I guess sometimes a band can be busier than they appear.

News came down the PR wire, and you can find it and their current dates below, as well as the self-titled in full, in case anyone needs a refresher:

THE DIVE – ZO’E (new album out now!! + mini tour!!)

Primal, organic, instinctive playing. The Dive release their second full length album named Zo’e. Detecting the flow rather than defining it. Roaming rather than wandering.
Out now on spinalonga records!

At the end of May the band is hitting the road for a mini tour including stops in Germany, Netherlands Turkey and Greece.

Dates booked so far:
1/6 @ Rotormania Fest, Germany
6/6 @ Mukkes, Leeuwarden, Netherlands.
8/6 @ Kastanienkeller, Berlin, Germany
14/6 @ Peyote, Istanbul, Turkey
18/6 @ K44, Athens, Greece
..more info soon..

* Also, The Dive’s debut s/t album out now on limited edition of 275 copies in 180gr black vinyl. By The Lab records and Spinalonga records.

http://thedive.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/thediveband
http://www.soundcloud.com/thedive
http://www.twitter.com/thediveband
http://www.spinalonga.net

The Dive, The Dive (2011)

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Nightstalker Get Abducted in New Video for “Dead Rock Commandos”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

The only thing I don’t get about the new video for the title-track of Dead Rock Commandos — the 2012 Small Stone debut from long-running Greek rockers Nightstalker — is the kidnapping. Okay, so Nightstalker are getting chased through the woods by mysterious gasmasked paramilitary forces. I got that. But then they get kidnapped, the hoods over their heads and the whole bit, and marched single-file to an also-mysterious white room with instruments… and they start rocking out.

So the part I don’t get is, weren’t Nightstalker going to rock out anyway? Why would these commandos need to bring them into this room? And what is the room? Could it be that the volume from their heavy riffing output is being harvested to power some kind of sinister death ray? Or worse, that Nightstalker are being set up as some kind of exhibit in a terrible post-apocalyptic rock and roll zoo? Truly, there are many questions still to be answered.

What’s way clearer in watching “Dead Rock Commandos” is that Nightstalker have the stoner thing on lockdown. The video premiered today, and Nightstalker will bring the rock directly to the people starting May 31 with Ape Machine supporting. Dates follow the clip below:

Nightstalker, “Dead Rock Commandos” official video

Including an appearance at the 2013 Freak Valley Festival, Nightstalker will be heading out on a European tour in support of 2012’s Dead Rock Commandos. The ultra-catchy riff-fest was released by Small Stone last year and found the long-running Athens outfit right at home in classic heavy fuzz ‘n’ roll.

Nightstalker tour dates:
May 31 Munster, DE Rare Guitar
Jun 1 Netphen, DE Freak Valley Festival
Jun 2 Antwerpen, BE Antwerpen Music City
Jun 4 Paris, FR Les Combustibles
Jun 5 Leuven, BE Rockbar
Jun 6 Wild Rover Aachen, DE
Jun 7 Hasselt, BE Carpe Diem
Jun 8 Wurzburg, DE Immerhin
Jun 9 Salzburg, AT Rockhouse
Jun 11 St. Gallen, CH Rumpeltum
Jun 12 Feldkirch, AT Graf Hugo
Jun 13 Erfurt, DE Stadtgarten
Jun 14 Berlin, DE White Trash

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Bazooka Self-Titled Album Due out May 21

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Ah, crusty youth. Like the riff itself, the crusty youth are everywhere you could look. Bazooka hail from Athens as part of Greece’s fertile heavy underground and will release their full-length debut on Slovenly Recordings next week. If you find yourself so inclined, the album is available for streaming courtesy of the label’s Bandcamp, and you can hear it below, following the info, taken fresh off the PR wire.

If it says anything, I’d never heard Bazooka before, but checked out the album on a whim and dug the ultra-fuzzy looseness enough to post about them, so there you go. Here’s the news:

GREEK PSYCHEDELIC GRUNGE PUNK BAND BAZOOKA SELF-TITLED ALBUM OUT MAY 21ST THROUGH SLOVENLY RECORDINGS!

DARK, HEAVY AND TWISTED ANTHEMIC SHAKERS FROM A GOD-LIKE MEDITERRANEAN ROCK ‘N’ ROLL SCENE!

It is with the filthiest of pleasures that Slovenly Recordings discharges the much anticipated full-length, self-titled LP from Greece’s BAZOOKA. A severely crusty unit from Volos, and now relocated to Athens, Bazooka, who is perhaps the most savage crew of an incredibly corrosive rock ‘n’ roll scene that includes Acid Baby Jesus and Gay Anniversary, has concocted an evil, grungy stomper of an album that Slovenly deems worthy of the grossly overused title of “epic”.

With just enough pop sensibility to keep it from being heavier than a death in the family, this surly, riff-heavy opus has been formulated for maximum distorto-crumble factor from a twin-guitar / double-drum onslaught with searing vocals as righteously delivered on their now classic “I Want To Fuck All The Girls In My School” single. But let it be known that the humor is null this time around – being the victims of a massive Greek financial crisis, there is no room for it.

From the fully pissed off screamer “Mr. George” to the smashing ‘”Koritsi Stin Akti” (sung entirely in Greek), “Bazooka” also resurrects the out-of-print and sought after single on France’s Inch Allah label, including the mentally tortured anthem “Shame Take My Brain”. Saturated with fuzzed out rumblers from a dark place we dare not glance at, this record somehow yields perfect melodies trying to claw their way out of Bazooka’s decimated destinies!

Bazooka, Bazooka (2013)

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