Quarterly Review: Swans, Virus, The Re-Stoned, Castle, Spirit Adrift, Robb & Pott, Family, Les Discrets, Liquido di Morte, Witchskull

Posted in Reviews on October 7th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Last day. As ever, I am mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted by this process, but as ever, it’s been worth it. Today I do myself a couple favors in packing out with more familiar acts, but whatever, it’s all stuff I should be covering anyway, so if the order bothers you, go write your own 50 reviews in a week and we can talk about it. Yeah, that’s right. That’s what I said. Today we start with Swans. Everything’s a confrontation.

Once again, I hope you’ve found something somewhere along this bizarre, careening path of music that has resonated with you, something that will stick with you. That’s why we’re here. You and me. If you have, I’d love to know about it. Until then, one more time here we go.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Swans, The Glowing Man


Oh fucking please. You want me to try to summarize The Glowing Man – the culmination and finale of an era of Swans that Michael Gira began now more than half a decade ago – in a single review? Even putting aside the fact that the record two hours long, the notion is ridiculous. If there ever was a chart, the scope here is well off it. The material unfolds and churns and is primal and lush at once on “Cloud of Forgetting,” genuinely chaotic on the 28-minute title-track, and it ends with a drone lullaby, but seriously, what the fuck? Some shit is just beyond, and if you don’t know that applies to Swans by now, it’s your own fault. You want a review? Fine. I listened to the whole thing. It ate my fucking soul, chewed it with all-canine teeth and then spit it out saying “thanks for the clarity” and left me dazed, bloodied and humbled. There’s your fucking review. Thanks for reading.

Swans on Thee Facebooks

Young God Records website


Virus, Memento Collider


Oslo trio Virus have long since established that they’re a band working on their own wavelength. Memento Collider (on Karisma Records) is the jazzy post-black metallers’ first album in five years and brings together adventurous rhythms, poetic declarations, dissonant basslines and – in the case of “Rogue Fossil,” the occasional hook – in ways that are unique unto Virus. Look at this site and see how often I use the word “unique.” It doesn’t happen. Virus, however, are one of a kind. Memento Collider makes for a challenging listen front to back on its six-track/45-minute run, but it refuses to dumb itself down or dull its progressive edge, bookending its longest (that’s opener “Afield” at 10:41; immediate points) two tracks around jagged explorations of sound like “Steamer” and “Gravity Seeker,” which engage and intrigue in kind after the melodic push of “Dripping into Orbit” and leading into “Phantom Oil Slick,” a righteous affirmation of the angular thrust at the core of Virus’ approach.

Virus on Thee Facebooks

Karisma Records webstore


The Re-Stoned, Reptiles Return


In 2010, Moscow troupe The Re-Stoned issued their first EP, Return to the Reptiles, and being obviously concerned with evolution, they’ve now gone back and revisited that debut release with Reptiles Return, a reworking of the four studio tracks that made up the initial version – “Return,” “Run,” “The Mountain Giant” and “Sleeping World.” The opener is a straight re-recording, as is one other, where another is remixed and the other two remastered, and Reptiles Return – which is presented on limited vinyl through Clostridium Records and a CD box set with bonus tracks via Rushus Records – pairs them with more psychedelic-minded soundscape pieces like “Winter Witchcraft,” “Walnut Talks,” the proggy “Flying Clouds” and sweetly acoustic “Roots Patter,” that showcase where founding multi-instrumentalist Ilya Lipkin is taking the band going forward. The result is a satisfying side A/B split on the vinyl that delights in heavy riffing for its own sake in the first half and expands the scope in the second, which should delight newcomers as well as those who’ve followed The Re-Stoned along this evolutionary process.

The Re-Stoned on Thee Facebooks

Clostridium Records website


Castle, Welcome to the Graveyard


It may well be the fate of San Francisco’s hard-touring, ass-kicking, genre-refusing duo Castle to be terminally underappreciated, but that has yet to stop them from proliferating their righteous blend of thrash, doom and classic, fistpump-worthy metal. Their latest outing, Welcome to the Graveyard, arrives via respected purveyor Ván Records, and entices in atmosphere and execution, cohesively built tracks like “Hammer and the Cross” and the penultimate “Down in the Cauldron Bog” finding a balance of personality and delivery that the band has long since honed on stage. The Dio-esque barnburner riff of “Flash of the Pentagram” makes that cut a highlight, but as they roll out the cultish vibes of “Natural Parallel” to close, there doesn’t seem to be much on the spectrum of heavy metal that doesn’t fit into Castle’s wheelhouse. For some bands, there’s just no justice. Four records deep, Castle have yet to get their due, and Welcome to the Graveyard is further proof of why they deserve it.

Castle website

Ván Records


Spirit Adrift, Chained to Oblivion


One can hear a new wave of modern doom taking shape in Chained to Oblivion, the Prosthetic Records debut from Arizona one-man outfit Spirit Adrift. The work of Nate Garrett alone in the studio, the full-length offers five mostly-extended tracks as a 48-minute 2LP of soaring, emotional and psychedelic doom à la Pallbearer, but given even further breadth through progressively atmospheric passages and a marked flow in its transitions. To call it personal seems superfluous – it’s a one-man band, of course it’s personal – but Garrett (also formerly of metallers Take Over and Destroy) brings a palpable sense of performance to the songwriting, and by the time he gets to the 11-minutes-apiece finale duo of the title-track and “Hum of Our Existence,” it’s easy to forget you’re not actually listening to a full band, not the least because of the vocal harmonies. Calling Chained to Oblivion a promising first outing would be underselling it – this is a project with serious potential.

Spirit Adrift on Thee Facebooks

Prosthetic Records website


Robb & Pott, Once upon the Wings


Unpredictable from the start of opener “Flesh ‘n’ Steel,” Once upon the Wings is a first-time multinational collaborative effort from Robbi Robb of California’s 3rd Ear Experience and Paul Pott of Germany’s The Space Invaders. Its five tracks/42 minutes arrive through no less than Nasoni Records, and provide a curious and exploratory blend of the organic and the inorganic in sound, as one finds the 11-minute “Grass” no less defined by its percussion solo, guitar line and ‘60s-style vocal than the electronic drums that underscore the layered wash of noise in its midsection. Further definition hits with the 16-minute centerpiece “Prophecy #1,” which works in a space-rocking vein, but the shorter closing duo of the catchy “Looney Toon” and darkly progressive “Space Ear” show a creative bent that clearly refuses to be tamed. Robb & Pott, as a project, demonstrates remarkable potential throughout this debut, as they seem to have set no limits for where they want their sound to go and they seem to have the command to take it there.

Robb & Pott on Bandcamp

Nasoni Records website


Family, Future History


Most of the tracks on Brooklyn progressive noise rockers Family’s second album and Prosthetic Records debut, Future History, come paired with interludes. That cuts some of the growling intensity of winding pieces like “Funtime for Bigboy” and “Floodgates,” and emphasizes the generally experimental spirit of the record as a whole, broadening the scope in sound and theme. I’m somewhat torn as to how much this actually works to the 51:50 outing’s benefit, as shorter pieces like “Prison Hymn” and “Transmission,” while adding dynamic to the sound and narrative drama, also cut the immediacy in impact of “The Trial” or closer “Bone on Bone,” but it’s entirely possible that without them Future History would be an overwhelming tumult of raw prog metal. And while the play back and forth can feel cumbersome when one considers how effectively “Night Vision” bridges the gap between sides, I’m not sure that’s not what Family were going for in the first place. It’s not supposed to be an easy record, and it isn’t one.

Family on Thee Facebooks

Family website


Les Discrets, Virée Nocturne


France’s Les Discrets haven’t had a studio offering since 2012’s Ariettes Oubliées (review here), and while they released Live at Roadburn (review here) last year documenting their 2013 set at that festival, there’s little there that might presage the stylistic turn the Fursy Teyssier-led outfit takes on their new EP, Virée Nocturne (on Prophecy Productions). With four tracks – two new, complete recordings, one demo and the last a remix of the opener by Dälek and DeadverseLes Discrets attempt to find a stylistic middle ground between post-rock and trip-hop, and for the most part, they get there. “Virée Nocturne” itself leads off and can be jarring on first listen, but successfully blends the lush melodicism for which the band is known with electronic-driven beats, and both “Capricorni. Virginis. Corvi” and even the demo “Le Reproche” continue to build on this bold shift. The finale remix adds over two minutes to “Virée Nocturne,” but uses that time to make it even more spacious and all the more immersive. For anyone who thought they might’ve had Les Discrets figured out, the surprise factor here should be palpable.

Les Discrets on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions website


Liquido di Morte, II


Presented across four tracks beginning with the 12-minute and longest-of-the-bunch (immediate points) “The Corpse of Dr. Funkenstein” (double points for the reference), II, the aptly-titled second album from Liquido di Morte expands the progressive atmospherics of the Italian four-piece’s 2014 self-titled debut (review here) without losing sight of the performance and spirit of exploration that helped bring it to life. Isaak’s Giacomo H. Boeddu guests on brooding vocals and whispers for “The Saddest of Songs I’ll Sing for You,” which swells in seething intensity as it moves forward, while “Rodents on the Uphill” casts a vision of post-space rock and closer “Schwartz Pit” rounds out with crash and wash that seems only to draw out how different the two halves of II actually are. Not a complaint. Liquido di Morte make their way across this vast span with marked fluidity, and if they prove anything throughout, it’s that they’re able to keep their command wherever they feel like using it to go.

Liquido di Morte on Thee Facebooks

Sstars BigCartel store


Witchskull, The Vast Electric Dark


Canberra, Australia, trio Witchskull initially released their debut full-length, The Vast Electric Dark, last year, and caught the attention of the cross-coastal US partnership between Ripple Music and STB Records, who now align for a reissue of the eight-tracker. Why is quickly apparent. In addition to having earned a fervent response, The Vast Electric Dark basks in quality songcraft and doomly, heavy vibes, keeping a consistent pace while rolling through the semi-metallic push of “Raise the Dead” or the later rumble/shred of “Cassandra’s Curse.” All the while, guitarist/vocalist Marcus De Pasquale provides a steady presence at the fore alongside bassist Tony McMahon and drummer Joel Green, and what’s ultimately still a straightforward rocker of an album finds a niche for itself between varies underground styles of heavy. Between the balance they strike across their 37 minutes and the energy that courses through their songs, Witchskull’s The Vast Electric Dark proves easily worth the look it’s getting.

Witchskull on Thee Facebooks

STB Records webstore

Ripple Music website


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Quarterly Review: Russian Circles, Salem’s Pot, Bridesmaid, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Landing, Reign of Zaius, Transcendent Sea, Red Teeth, Sea of Bones & Ramlord, Holy Smoke

Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


I’ll admit I’m a little surprised at the shape this Quarterly Review has taken. As I begin to look back on the year in terms of what records have been talked about over the span, I find it’s been particularly geared toward debut albums, both in and out of wrap-ups like this one. There’s less of that this time around, but what’s happened is some stuff that doesn’t fall into that category — releases like the first two here, for example — are getting covered here to allow space for the others. Let’s face it, nobody gives a shit what I have to say about Russian Circles anyhow, so whatever, but I’m happy to have this as a vehicle for discussing records I still think are worth discussing — the first two releases here, again for example — rather than letting them fall through the cracks with the glut of new bands coming along. Of course things evolve as you go on, but I wish I’d figured it out sooner. Let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Russian Circles, Guidance


From the warm wash of guitar that begins “Asa” onward, and no matter how weighted, percussive and/or chug-fueled Russian Circles get from there, the Chicago trio seem to be offering solace on their latest outing, Guidance. Recorded by Kurt Ballou and released through Sargent House, the seven-track offering crosses heavy post-rock soundscapes given marked thickness and distinct intensity on “Vorel,” but the record as a whole never quite loses the serenity in “Asa” or the later “Overboard,” crushing as the subsequent “Calla” gets, and though the spaces they cast in closer “Lisboa” are wide and intimidating, their control of them is utterly complete. Six albums in, Russian Circles are simply masters of what they do. There’s really no other way to put it. They remain forward thinking in terms of investigating new ideas in their sound, but their core approach is set in the fluidity of these songs and they revise their aesthetic with a similar, natural patience to that with which they execute their material.

Russian Circles on Thee Facebooks

Sargent House website


Salem’s Pot, Pronounce This!


Following their 2014 RidingEasy Records debut, …Lurar ut dig på prärien (discussed here) – which, presumably met with some pronunciation trouble outside the band’s native Sweden – Salem’s Pot return with Pronounce This!, further refining their blend of psychedelic swirl, odd vibes and garage doom riffing. They remain heavily indoctrinated into the post-Uncle Acid school of buzz and groove, and aren’t afraid to scum it up on “Tranny Takes a Trip” or the slower-shifting first half of “Coal Mind,” but the second portion of that song and “So Gone, so Dead” take a more classically progressive bent that is both refreshing and a significant expansion on what Salem’s Pot have accomplished thus far into their tenure. Still weird, and one doubts that’ll change anytime soon – nor does it need to – but as Pronounce This! plays out, Salem’s Pot demonstrate an open-mindedness that seems to have been underlying their work all along and bring it forward in engaging fashion.

Salem’s Pot BigCartel store

RidingEasy Records website


Bridesmaid, International House of Mancakes


International House of Mancakes – yup – is the follow-up to Bridesmaid’s 2013 long-player, Breakfast at Riffany’s, and like that album, it finds the Columbus, Ohio, instrumentalists with a penchant for inserting dudes’ names into well-known titles – see “Hungry Like Nick Wolf” and “Ronnin’ with the Devil” – but it also expands the lineup to the two-bass/two-drum four-piece of Scott Hyatt and Bob Brinkman (both bass) and Cory Barnt and Boehm (both drums). Topped off with KISS-meets-Village People art from W. Ralph Walters, there are shortages neither of snark nor low end, but buried underneath is a progressive songwriting sensibility that doesn’t come across as overly metal on cuts like “Ricky Thump” and doesn’t sacrifice impact or heft for the sake of self-indulgence. Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in “It’s Alectric (Boogie Woogie Woogie),” International House of Mancakes unfolds a heavy rock push that, while obviously driven in part by its sense of humor, earns serious consideration in these tracks for those willing to actually listen.

Bridesmaid on Thee Facebooks

Bridesmaid on Bandcamp


Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Keep it Greasy!


Too thick in its tones to be a completely vintage-style work, the sleazy vibes of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell’s Keep it Greasy! (on Rise Above) are otherwise loyal to circa-1971 boogie and attitude, and whether it’s the rewind moment on opener “U Got Wot I Need” or proto-metallic bass thrust of the “Hawkline Monster” or the brash post-Lemmy push of “Tired ‘n’ Wired,” the album is a celebration of a moment when rock isn’t about being any of those things or anything else, but about having a good time, letting off some steam from a shit job or whatever it is, and trying your damnedest to get laid. Radio samples throughout tie the songs together, but even that carries an analog feel – because radio – and the good Admiral are clearly well versed in the fine art of kicking ass. Familiar in all the right ways with more than enough personality to make that just another part of the charm.

The Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records website


Landing, Third Sight


The invitation to completely immerse comes quickly on the 13-minute “Delusion Sound,” which opens Landing’s Third Sight (on El Paraiso), and from there, the Connecticut four-piece sway along a beautiful and melodic drift, easing their way along a full-sounding progression filled out with airy guitar and backing drones, moved forward patiently by its drum march and topped with echoed half-whispers. It’s a flat-out gorgeous initial impression to make, and the instrumental “Third Site” and “Facing South” follow it with a tinge of the experimentalism for which Landing are more known, the former led by guitar and the latter led by cinematic keyboard. To bookend, the 14-minute “Morning Sun” builds as it progresses and draws the various sides together while creating a rising soundscape of its own, every bit earning its name as the vocals emerge in the second half, part of a created wash that is nothing short of beautiful. One could say the same of Third Sight as a whole.

Landing on Thee Facebooks

El Paraiso Records website


Reign of Zaius, Planet Of…


While they’ve spent the last few years kicking around the deeper recesses of Brooklyn’s heavy underground, Reign of Zaius mark their debut release with the 26-minute Planet Of… EP, bringing together seven tracks that show what their time and buildup of material has wrought. Opener “Hate Parade” reminds of earliest Kings Destroy, but on the whole, Reign of Zaius are rawer and more metal at their core, the five-piece delving into shuffle on “Out of Get Mine” and showing an affinity for classic horror in both “They Live” – which starts with a sample of Roddy Piper being all out of bubblegum – and “Farewell to Arms,” previously issued as a single in homage to Evil Dead. The charm of a “Dueling Banjos” reference at the start of “Deliver Me” leads to one of the catchier hooks on Planet Of…, and the shorter “Power Hitter” closes with a bass-heavy paean to smoking out that digs into punkish summation of where Reign of Zaius are coming from generally as they continue to be a band up for having a good time without taking themselves too seriously.

Reign of Zaius on Thee Facebooks

Reign of Zaius on Bandcamp


Transcendent Sea, Ballads of Drowning Men


Kind of a mystery just where the time goes on Sydney rockers Transcendent Sea’s self-released 50-minute first album, Ballads of Drowning Men. Sure, straightforward cuts like “Over Easy” and “Mind Queen” are easily enough accounted for with their post-Orange Goblin burl and boozy, guttural delivery from vocalist Sean Bowden, but as the four-piece of Bowden, guitarist Mathew J. Allen, bassist Andrew Auglys and drummer Mark Mills get into the more extended “Throw Me a Line,” “Blood of a Lion” and closer “Way of the Wolf” – all over 10 minutes each – their moves become harder to track. They keep the hooks and the verses, but it’s not like they’re just tacking jams onto otherwise structured tracks, and even when “Way of the Wolf” goes wandering, Bowden keeps it grounded, and that effect is prevalent throughout in balancing Ballads of Drowning Men as a whole. It takes a few listens to get a handle on where Transcendent Sea are coming from in that regard, but their debut proves worth at least that minimal effort.

Transcendent Sea on Thee Facebooks

Transcendent Sea on Bandcamp


Red Teeth, Light Bender


Brothers Rael and Ryan Andrews, both formerly of Lansing, Michigan, art rockers BerT, revive their heavy punk duo Red Teeth with the four-song Light Bender 7” on GTG Records. Both contribute vocals, and Ryan handles guitar and bass, while Rael is on drums and synth through the quick run of “Light Bender, Sound Bender,” “Tas Pappas,” “134mps” and “Elephant Graveyard,” the longest of which is the opener (immediate points) at 4:49. By the time they get down to “Elephant Graveyard,” one can hear some of the Melvinsian twist and crunch that often surfaced in BerT, but whether it’s the ‘90s-alt-vibes-meet-drum-madness of “134mps” or the almost rockabilly riffing of “Tas Pappas,” Red Teeth – whose last release was eight years ago – have no trouble establishing personality in these songs. Approach with an open mind and the weirdness that persists will be more satisfying, as each track seems to have a context entirely of its own.

Red Teeth on Bandcamp

GTG Records website


Sea of Bones & Ramlord, Split


One can hear the kind of spacious darkness and through-the-skin cold of New England winters in this new split EP from Connecticut crushers Sea of Bones and grinding New Hampshire compatriots Ramlord from Broken Limbs Recordings. What the two share most of all is an atmosphere of existential destitution, but there’s an underlying sense of the extreme that also ties together Sea of Bones’ “Hopelessness and Decay” (10:36) and Ramlord’s “Incarceration of Clairvoyance (Part III)” (10:10), the latter of which continues a series Ramlord started back in 2012 on a split with Cara Neir. Both acts are very much in their element in their brutality. For Sea of Bones, this is the second release they’ve had out this year behind the improvised and digital-only “Silent Transmissions” 27-minute single, which of course was anything but, and for Ramlord, it’s their first split in two years, but finds their gritty, filthy sound well intact from where they last left it. Nothing to complain about here, unless peace of mind is your thing, because you certainly won’t find any of that.

Broken Limbs Recordings on Bandcamp

Sea of Bones on Thee Facebooks

Ramlord on Thee Facebooks


Holy Smoke, Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo!


Philadelphia-based five-piece Holy Smoke formed in the early hours of 2015, and the exclamatory Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo! three-track EP is their debut release. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points) in “Rinse and Repeat,” it finds them blending psychedelic and heavy rock elements and conjuring marked fluidity between them. As the title indicates, it’s a demo, and what one hears throughout is the first material Holy Smoke thought enough of to put to tape, but on “Rinse and Repeat” and the subsequent “Blue Dreams” and “The Firm,” they bring the two sides together well in a way it’s easy to hope they continue to do as they move onto whatever comes next, pulling off “The Firm” particularly with marked swing and a sense of confidence that undercuts the notion of their being their first time out. They have growing to do, and by no means would I consider them established in style, but there’s a spark in the songs that could absolutely catch fire.

Holy Smoke on Thee Facebooks

Holy Smoke on Bandcamp


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Mammoth Mammoth Premiere “Sick (of Being Sick)” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Everyone’s favorite Australian fuel-injected suicide machine — aka Melbourne’s Mammoth Mammoth — are back, and after riffing on The Decline of Western Civilzation Part II: The Metal Years in one video (premiered here) and heading out to the middle of nowhere for a bit of drunken wallowing in another (premiered here), they’re ready to unveil the next one in their series of videos taken from their 2015 album, IV: Hammered Again, released by Napalm Records. Enter “Sick (of Being Sick).”

Following the other two, each of which has its own distinct vibe (if you don’t believe me, click the links above and check them out; Soundcloud streams fade, but YouTube clips are forever), “Sick (of Being Sick)” affirms two crucial things about Mammoth Mammoth that we learned once more on IV: Hammered Again. First, they can make a hook out of just about anything. Second, they’re an absolute riot on stage. The footage for “Sick (of Being Sick)” comes from shows on their latest trip to Europe and the UK earlier this year, and from tearing it up on stage to dancing in the crowd, Mammoth Mammoth make it perfectly clear that a choice rock show is being delivered front to back. Hard to argue, so I won’t try.

Happy as always to host a premiere from these cats, who break their collective ass on the road and are happy to kick everyone else’s in so doing. More info on the gigs and album follows the clip below, courtesy of the PR wire.


Mammoth Mammoth, “Sick (of Being Sick)” official video

Filmed at shows in Paris, Leipzig and London on MAMMOTH MAMMOTH’s Mammoth Bloody Mammoth tour in February 2016. Sick of Being Sick is from the album “Volume 4 – Hammered Again” and is available at https://shop.napalmrecords.com/mammothmammoth.

Dirty Heavy Rock from Down Under!

A naked, pot-smoking beauty on the cover and song titles like ‘Hammered again’ or ‘High as a kite’ – Mammoth Mammoth definitely won`t turn a good party down! The scruffy Australians deliver the soundtrack mixing dirty hard rock with a healthy dose of stoner: Volume IV – Hammered Again comes roaring down the highway with lotsa fuzz, a raw production and pure force! That`s why this four-piece is called Mammoth Mammoth – one mammoth ain’t enough for this massive orgy…

Mammoth Mammoth on Thee Facebooks

Mammoth Mammoth website

Mammoth Mammoth on Twitter

Mammoth Mammoth at Napalm Records

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Arrowhead to Release Desert Cult Ritual Nov. 4

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Aussie heavy rockers Arrowhead will issue their second LP, Desert Cult Ritual, via Ripple Music on Nov. 4. They made their debut in 2013 with Atomsmasher (review here) and offered up Desert Cult Ritual early last year. They join a string of others in similar reissue circumstances in working with Ripple, who continue to have their collective ear to the ground in terms of picking up acts who’ve met with a decent digital response in order to translate that into physical sales. As far as sustainable business models go for the modern music industry, one could do way worse. Like trying money on Pandora. That would be worse.

So yeah, it’s kind of a reissue, but to my knowledge it’s actually also the first physical pressing. If you didn’t hear Desert Cult Ritual when it first came out, you can get a listen via the Bandcamp player below.

From the PR wire:


ARROWHEAD: Oz trio summon spirits with the release of Desert Cult Ritual

Desert Cult Ritual is released worldwide on vinyl/digital on 21st October and on CD on 4th November

Rising from the underground of Sydney’s stoner rock scene, the brotherhood of Arrowhead fire an explosive, all killer/no filler triptych of volume, attitude and down-tuned grooves.

Having paid their dues as a band since late 2009, the iniquitously titled Desert Cult Ritual is the latest addition to the power trio’s quiver and first for the Californian label Ripple Music, following the release of their self-titled EP in 2010 and Atomsmasher, their storming full-length debut from 2013.

Hitting you harder than a Frank Frazetta-airbrushed panel van travelling at 100mph, Arrowhead is very much a band defined by the riffs that raised them. Fronted by guitar player, vocalist and chief songwriter Brett Pearl – the son of a self-confessed “hippy-dippy mom” with a record collection to die for – Brett was brought up on a staple diet of classic rock with Hendrix, Zeppelin, Floyd and Sabbath rarely leaving the turntable. Joined by fellow purveyor of low-end grind in bass player/Viking Dave Lopez and steel backbone, Matt Cramp on drums, all three feed into the Arrowhead-approved vision of hard rock reverie via Hollywood monsters and science fiction cinema.

Arrowhead’s Desert Cult Ritual is released on vinyl/digital on 21st October and worldwide on CD on 4th November through Ripple Music.

Brett Pearl – Guitar/Vocals
Matt Cramp – Drums
Arron Fletcher – Bass Guitar

Track Listing:
1. Desert Cult Ritual
2. Hypnotiser
3. Hell Fire
4. Bone Mountain
5. Maneater Blues
6. Weed Lord
7. Rogue Asteroid
8. Dragon Whips Its Tail


Arrowhead, Desert Cult Ritual (2015/2016)

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The Ruiner Self-Titled Debut Due Sept. 26

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Preorders are up now for the self-titled debut from Melbourne sludge rockers The Ruiner, which comes out Sept. 26 on Desert Highways. The band have a couple tracks streaming on their Bandcamp from prior digital singles, and as it seems like both those cuts will be featured on the album as well with their aggressive take underscoring the band’s more extreme origins and early-Crowbar-style push, I’m not sure if they’re re-recorded or from the original sessions in 2013, but either way, there’s a whole bunch of others that have never with them because, you know, that’s how it works with albums and whatnot.

The PR wire had this to say about it:



Established in 2013, The Ruiner were originally brought together to play a one-off show as a tribute to legendary death / grind / stoner band Christbait (1989-1996). They appeared under the moniker Dirtypunkmutha, the name of Christbait’s 1996 release. Somehow, amid much arm-twisting and promises of fame and fortune, two of Christbait’s original members decided to get the project off the ground as a proper band.

Featuring Craig Westwood (guitar – Christbait, Dern Rutlidge, Budd), Jason Vassallo (vocals – Christbait, Dread), Jason PC (bass – Blood Duster, Dern Rutlidge, Birdcage) and brothers Adam Stokes (guitar – Legends Of Motorsport, Pillow) and Ben Stokes (drums – Pillow, Tailbone, Piggy). The Ruiner blends heavy and dark doom riffs with hard stoner grooves; they’re a cross between Isis, Goatsnake and the band you always wanted to join, super heavy while not being afraid of a song.

The Ruiner’s intensity and strength live didn’t take long for them to impress. Having all played together in their numerous projects, The Ruiner boys know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and fit together well. They’ve released two digital singles to date with their debut album set for release Monday 26 Sept 2016 through Desert Highways, with tracks being recorded between Goatsound by Jason PC (Witchskull, Watchtower, Broozer, I Exist) and Toyland by Adam Calaitzis (Blood Duster, Damaged, Dern Rutlidge), with mixing duties between Jason PC and Billy Anderson (Melvins, Sick Of It All, High On Fire, Cathedral, Sleep).

The Ruiner:
Jason V- Vocals
Craig Westwood- Guitar
Jason PC- Bass
Adam Stokes- Guitar
Ben Stokes- Drums


The Ruiner, The Ruiner sample tracks

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Ahkmed, The Inland Sea: Bliss and Water

Posted in Reviews on September 16th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Marked out by their tonal warmth and immersive progressions, the long-form fluidity of Melbourne trio Ahkmed makes a welcome return with The Inland Sea, the band’s first full-length since 2009’s Distance (review here). That outing was also released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten — which, if you know the label run by Stefan Koglek of Colour Haze, should be about as far as you need to read in this review to let you know you should get on board.

After seven years, there have been some notable shifts in Ahkmed‘s sound, veering away from post-rock more pure heavy psych jamming, here presented in raw, mostly-instrumental form across five extended tracks — “Kaleidoscope” (10:44), “The Inland Sea” (12:53), “Last Hour of Light” (20:09), “Pattern of Atolls” (11:54) and “The Empty Quarter” (15:31) — totaling a satisfyingly symmetrical 1:11:11 runtime.

Not a minor investment in terms of the front-to-back listen, but the dreamtones and spaciousness of the title-track, the graceful manner in which the songs unfold and the varied atmospheres between them assure that the journey remains engaging for the duration, drummer John-Paul Caligiuri adding vocals over the slow wash of “The Inland Sea” (though that might be a sample; it’s kind of obscure in the mix) and the subsequent centerpiece after the hypnotic opening of “Kaleidoscope” to bring a definitively human presence to the material just when it seems to be pushing out further and further.

Also the introduction of new bassist Finn Rockwell, who comes aboard to replace Dan McNamara, alongside Caligiuri and guitarist Carlo IacovinoThe Inland Sea casts out cosmic with a natural chemistry and patient execution, indulging itself as a release like this invariably must, but not doing so in an offputting or pretentious fashion.

That can be a hard line to walk, but Ahkmed make it work in the best way possible — by simply doing it. From the fuzzy guitar line that starts “Kaleidoscope” onward, the three-piece ease their way into progressive spacedelia with an underlying command that speaks to the years they’ve been at it, Caligiuri and Iacovino having started the band circa 1998.

As they approach 20 years in and mark their resurgence from a dormant period, The Inland Sea lacks nothing for vitality, though admittedly they’re not exactly shooting for uptempo party rock. That’s not to say their delivery isn’t energetic or they don’t sound like they’re making the music they want to be making — quite the opposite, actually — just that the trance that takes hold about halfway through “Kaleidoscope” and continues into “The Inland Sea” would seem to be closer to the endgame goal the album is pushing toward.


It’s about the texture and spirit that emerges from the material; something to get lost in. They build “Kaleidoscope” to a formidable apex and end it with a fading wash to let the title cut take hold with two builds of its own, patiently marched forward by cymbal washes as the guitar spaces out, the song almost dividing in half for when one part ends and the next one starts.

By its finish, it too gets to significant proportion, but the difference in ambience is noteworthy, and another balance Ahkmed strike subtly throughout The Inland Sea as “Last Hour of Light” — an obvious focal point, for even more than its sheer length — arrives with about two minutes of introduction from the guitar before the vocals and quiet drums join in. At this point, the ethereal mood is fully constructed, but Caligiuri does have a grounding effect when he starts with the first verse, something to give a sense of place to what can seem to be so willfully formless.

At first, it seems like “Pattern of Atolls” might be trying to bridge the the two sides between Ahkmed‘s post-rock and more heavy psych liquefaction, but it winds up pushing further, thickening its tones in the second half and pushing into territory more outwardly heavy than anything The Inland Sea has yet offered. Caligiuri returns on vocals earlier in the track but recedes into the molten flow that seems to rise up after his lines are done, and it’s Rockwell whose low end seems to signify the heft to come, fuzzed-out as it is.

They start to dive into a payoff but hold back, saving it for the end of the song, which feels about right once they hit the nine-minute mark and crash into a blown-out final three minutes that cap with bass-noise swirling directly into the guitar intro of “The Empty Quarter” — the most purposeful transition they’ve yet made and one that ties the final two tracks together in a way that brings to mind a linearity that The Inland Sea invariably wouldn’t have as a 2LP, on which “The Empty Quarter” and “Pattern of Atolls” would each likely occupy a side.

Maybe that’s Ahkmed acknowledging the digital/vinyl companionship, the sort of symbiotic the most and least physical formats have developed over the years since Distance, or maybe it’s just the way the songs flowed the best. I wouldn’t hazard a guess. Either way, the closer follows a similar pattern of a guitar intro leading to a verse that shifts into a jam quiet, louder, quiet again, noisy for a bit, then at last arriving at the groove that will carry it out.

To listen to The Inland Sea by this time and look for intricacies almost feels like missing the point, which is clearly to let the album wash over you and move you from one end of its span to the other. Nonetheless, “The Empty Quarter” and the four cuts before it do offer a depth of experience for those willing to dig in — headphones recommended — and the spaces they evoke seem vast enough to hold a presence until next time. Hopefully that’s not another seven years.

Ahkmed, The Inland Sea (2016)

Ahkmed on Thee Facebooks

Ahkmed on Bandcamp

Elektrohasch Schallplatten

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Bunny Racket Launch Kickstarter; Post “A Chicken is Not a Fruit” Video

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

I love this. I love every second of it. I’m so on board with Bunny Racket that I might actually donate to the Kickstarter launched to continue the project and make more videos, and I almost never do that kind of thing (because I’m a bad person). It’s brilliant, it’s ostensibly for kids and it’s called “A Chicken is Not a Fruit.” The project, spearheaded by Australia’s Andy Walker, also involves Brant Bjork — who previously discussed it here — and Robby Krieger of The Doors, so I’m just going to assume Thunder Underground Studios was involved in some way, shape or fashion, since that’s usually how it goes, but wow, it’s so brilliantly and charmingly weird in a way that the best kids’ entertainment should be.

Lots of info follows, but I encourage you to watch the video as well to really get a sense of what the project is about, then go give it all your money at the crowdfunding link. You’ll probably want to do that anyway. Behold Bunny Racket:

bunny racket

Introducing.. BUNNY RACKET

Created by Andy Walker feat. Brant Bjork (Kyuss) and Robby Krieger (The Doors)

There’s a new rabbit bringing some rock’n’roll to the kid’s entertainment patch. His name is King Bunny and his band is BUNNY RACKET.

Today Bunny Racket officially releases its first single, a bass heavy thumper called ‘A Chicken is not a Fruit’. Check it out…

‘A Chicken is not a Fruit’ is a taste of things to come, including an album and an online music video series that follows the adventures of King Bunny – a guitar wielding, skateboard riding, nature loving rabbit with a passion for playing rock’n’roll… LOUD!

The creation of Australian musician Andy Walker, Bunny Racket’s forthcoming debut album ‘Rock’n’Roll Animals’ features the work of some pedigree rock rabbits with Walker’s mate Brant Bjork (Kyuss, Fumanchu) taking on drums and backing vocals, Robby Krieger of The Doors joining the studio line-up as lead guitarist and Sam Cutler, legendary tour manager for The Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead, adding spoken word.

And it doesn’t stop there. Hopping on stage with King Bunny is an all-star, revolving live line-up including members of The Vines, Wolfmother, Skunkhour and Grinspoon. They ruled Little Splendour at this year’s Splendour in the Grass and will soon hit the stage at Aussie kid’s festival Dress Up Attack.

The sound… Imagine the Ramones, KISS and AC/DC joining forces with The Cat in The Hat and you get an idea of where Bunny Racket sits on the musical spectrum.

“Rock’n’roll struck me like lightening when I was 12 and went to my first gig, the Ramones. I was struggling to see the band when some older guys, punks, saw me and put me up on their shoulders. The feeling of that experience has stayed with me. Music brings people and generations together.” said Walker.

It’s this idea of shared experience that brought Bunny Racket to life, driven by Walker’s fierce love for rock music and a yearning for kid friendly tunes that are relevant, positive, educational and inspiring. There are lessons to be learned in spelling, counting, colours, geography and of course music.

With ‘A Chicken is not a Fruit’ set to prick up the ears of both young and old, it’s time to bring Bunny Racket to life. Backed by a great crew and an epic soundtrack, Andy Walker and the team are ready to get filming, but they need help to make it happen.

Coinciding with the release of ‘A Chicken is not a Fruit’, a Bunny Racket Kickstarter Campaign launches today and will help fund the production and post-production phases of the first 4 episodes. Each episode will be released free to air via YouTube, and feature two music videos within each story. Please spread the word!


Bunny Racket, “A Chicken is Not a Fruit”

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Witchskull to Release The Vast Electric Dark CD Sept. 23

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 9th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

After issuing their debut album, The Vast Electric Dark, on deluxe vinyl through STB Records, Australian trio Witchskull will release the same offering on CD/DL through Ripple Music. The impending disc furthers the bicoastal alliance between NJ’s STB and CA’s Ripple, two of the strongest up and coming American heavy rock labels, and will be out on Sept. 23. Witchskull will head to US shores this fall for The Rage for Armageddon Fest at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, which is no small trip to make from their native Canberra, and if I hear of other gigs around that appearance — doesn’t seem unlikely, given the distance — I’ll let you know.

For now, Ripple Music speaks through the PR wire:


Proto-metal trio WITCHSKULL to release The Vast Electric Dark this September

The Vast Electric Dark is released worldwide on 23rd September via Ripple Music

Ripple Music is psyched to announce the official worldwide release of The Vast Electric Dark, the crushing debut album from Australian blues-based doom trio, Witchskull.

Formed in Canberra in early 2014 by drummer and former member of acclaimed Australian thrash legends Armoured Angel, Joel Green, along with old school friends Marcus De Pasquale (guitar) and bass player Tony McMahon; Witchskull is less a band and more a brotherhood.

Borne out of a love for Dio, Black Sabbath, Motörhead and the NWOBHM movement the trio locked into an almost hermetic groove from the very beginning. So much so by the Summer of that same year Witchskull were road testing freshly demoed songs at countless shows across Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney. Capable of unleashing raw, balls-to-the-wall doom indebted in no small part to the influence of heavy blues-rock and proto-metal, their unmistakably primal sound marks them out as a stunning live spectacle… a force of nature awakening again and again, night after night.

Decamping to Mebourne’s Goatsound Studios with producer/engineer Jason Fuller (Blood Duster) in January last year, the trio emerged with what quickly became one of 2015’s finest underground releases. A mélange of gnarled vocal tones, pummeling drums and outright guitar majesty that provided the perfect tomb for the dark lyrics contained within, the self-released The Vast Electric Dark struck an instant chord with purveyors of heavy rock.

Following the exclusive STB vinyl-only version of the album which sold out in record time, Ripple Music will give everyone the chance to find out what makes Witchskull so special when The Vast Electric Dark is given an official worldwide release on CD and digital download on 23rd September 2016.

30th October 2016 – The Rage for Armageddon Fest – St Vitus Bar, New York


Witchskull, The Vast Electric Dark (2015/2016)

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