Quarterly Review: Sunn O))), Crypt Sermon, The Neptune Power Federation, Chron Goblin, Ethereal Riffian, Parasol Caravan, Golden Core, Black Smoke Omega, Liquid Orbit, Sun Below

Posted in Reviews on January 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Hey all, we made it to the final day of the Winter 2020 Quarterly Review, so congrats to ‘us’ and by us I mean myself and anyone still reading, which is probably about two or three people. On my end today is completely manic in terms of real-life, offline logistics — much to do — but no way I’m letting one last batch of 10 reviews fall by the wayside, so rest assured, by the time this goes live, it’ll be complete, even though I’ve had to swap things out as some stuff has been locked into other coverage since I first slated it. Plenty around waiting to be written up. Perpetually, it would seem.

But before we dive in, thank you for reading if you’ve caught any part of this QR. I hope your 2020 is off to an excellent start and that finding new music to love is as much a part of your next 12 months as it can possibly be.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Sunn O))), Pyroclasts

sunn o pyroclasts

The narrative — because of course there’s a narrative; blessings and peace upon it — is that drone-metal progenitors Sunn O))), while in the studio recording earlier-2019’s Life Metal (review here) with Steve Albini, began each day doing a 12-minute improvised modal drone working in a different scale. They used a stopwatch to keep time. Thus the four tracks of Pyroclasts were born. They all hover around 11 minutes after editing, which settles neatly onto two vinyl sides, and it’s the rawer vision of Sunn O))), with just Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley‘s guitars, rather than some of the more elaborate arrangements which they’ve been known to undertake. That they’d put out two studio records in the same year is striking considering it had been four years since 2015’s Kannon (review here), but I think the truth of the matter is they had these tapes and decided they were worth preserving with a popular release. I wouldn’t say they were wrong, and the immersion here is a good reminder of the core appeal of Sunn O)))‘s conjured depths.

Sunn O))) on Bandcamp

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Crypt Sermon, The Ruins of Fading Light

Crypt Sermon The Ruins of Fading Light

Traditional doom rarely sounds as vital as it does in the hands of Crypt Sermon. The Philly five-piece return with The Ruins of Fading Light on Dark Descent Records as an awaited follow-up to 2015’s Out of the Garden (review here) and thereby bring forth classic metal with all the urgency of thrash and the poise of the NWOBHM. Frontman Brooks Wilson — also responsible for the album art — is in command here and with the firm backing of bassist Frank Chin and drummer Enrique Sagarnaga, guitarists Steve Jannson and James Lipczynski offer sharpened-axe riffs and solo scorch offset by passages of keyboard for an all the more epic vibe. The rolling “Christ is Dead” is pure Candlemass, but the galloping “The Snake Handler” might be the highlight of the 10-track/55-minute run, though that’s not to take away either from the Dehumanizer chug of “Key of Solomon” or the melodic reach of the closing title-track either. Take your pick, really. It’s all metal as fuck and glorious for that. If they don’t sell denim jackets, they should.

Crypt Sermon on Thee Facebooks

Dark Descent Records on Bandcamp

 

The Neptune Power Federation, Memoirs of a Rat Queen

the neptune power federation memoirs of a rat queen

“Can you dig what the Imperial Priestess is laying down?” is the central question of Memoirs of a Rat Queen, the first album from Sydney, Australia’s The Neptune Power Federation to be released through Cruz Del Sur Music, and it arrives over an ELO “Don’t Bring Me Down”-style arena rock beat on leadoff “Can You Dig?” as an intro to the rest of the LP. Strange, epic, progressive, traditional, heavy and cascading rock and roll follows, as intricate as it is immediately catchy, and whether it’s “Watch Our Masters Bleed” or “I’ll Make a Man out of You,” the Imperial Priestess Screaming Loz Sutch and company make it easy to answer in the affirmative. Arrangements are willfully over the top as “Bound for Hell” and “The Reaper Comes for Thee” engage a heavy rocker take on heavy metal’s legacy, maddened laughter and all in the latter track, which closes, and the affect on the listener is nothing less than an absolute blast — a reminder of the empowering sound of early metal on a disaffected generation in the late ’70s and early ’80s and how that same fist-pump-against-the-world has become timeless. No doubt the costumes and all that make The Neptune Power Federation striking live, but as Memoirs of a Rat Queen readily steps forward to prove, the songs are there as well.

The Neptune Power Federation on Thee Facebooks

Cruz Del Sur Music on Bandcamp

 

Chron Goblin, Here Before

chron goblin here before

Have Chron Goblin been here before? The title of their album speaks to a kind of creepy deja vu feeling, and that’s emblematic of the Canadian band’s move away from the party rock of their past offerings, their last LP having been Backwater (review here) 2015. Fortunately, while they seek out some new aesthetic ground, the 11 tracks of Here Before do maintain Chron Goblin‘s penchant for straight-ahead songcraft and unpretentious execution — and frankly, that wasn’t at all broken. Neither, perhaps was the let’s-get-drunk-and-bounce-around spirit of their prior work, but they sound more mature in a song like the six-minute “Ghost” and “Slipping Under” (premiered here) successfully melds the shift in presentation with the energy of their prior output. Maybe it’s still a party but we watch horror movies? I don’t know. They’ve still got “Giving in to Fun” early in the tracklisting — worth noting it follows the swaying “Oblivion” — so maybe I’m misreading the whole thing, or maybe it’s more complex than being entirely one thing or the other might allow for. Perish the thought. Either way, can’t mess with the songs.

Chron Goblin on Thee Facebooks

Chron Goblin on Bandcamp

 

Ethereal Riffian, Legends

ethereal riffian legends

Ukrainian heavy rockers Ethereal Riffian make a pointed sonic shift with their Legends album (on Robustfellow), keeping some of the grunge spirit in their melodies as the eight-minute “Moonflower” and closer “Ethereal Path” show, but in songs like “Unconquerable” and the early salvo of “Born Again,” “Dreamgazer” and “Legends” and even the second half of “Kosmic” and “Pain to Wisdom,” they let loose from some of the more meditative aspects of their past work with a fiery drive and a theme of enlightenment through political and social change. A kind of great awakening of the self. There’s still plenty of “ethereal” to go with all that “riffian” in the intro “Sage’s Alchemy,” or the first half of “Kosmic” or the CD bonus “Yeti’s Hide,” but no question the balance has tipped toward the straightforward, and the idea seems to be that the electrified feel is as much a part of the message as the message itself. The only trouble is that since putting Legends out, Ethereal Riffian called it quits to refocus their energies elsewhere in the universe. Are they really done? I’m skeptical, but if so, then at least they went out trying new things, which always seemed to be a specialty, and on a note of directly positive attitude.

Ethereal Riffian on Thee Facebooks

Robustfellow Productions on Bandcamp

 

Parasol Caravan, Nemesis

parasol caravan nemesis

A second long-player behind 2015’s Para Solem, the eight-song/35-minute Nemesis is not only made for vinyl, but it’s made for rockers. Specifically, heavy rockers. And it’s heavy rock, for heavy rockers. Based in Linz, Austria, the double-guitar four-piece Parasol Caravan have their sound and style on lockdown, and their work, while not really keeping any secrets in terms of where it’s coming from in its ’70s-via-’90s modern take, is brought to bear with a clarity that seems particularly derived from the European heavy rock tradition. Para Solem was longer and somewhat fuzzier in tone, but the stripped down approach of the title-track at the outset and its side B counterpart, “Serpent of Time” still unfold to a swath of ground covered, whether it’s in the subdued instrumental “Acceptance” or “Transition,” which follows the driving “Blackstar” and closes the LP with a bit of a progressive metal edge. Even that has its hook, though, and that’s ultimately the point.

Parasol Caravan on Thee Facebooks

Parasol Caravan on Bandcamp

 

Golden Core, Fimbultýr

golden core fimbultyr

The title Fimbultýr translates to “mighty god” and is listed among the alternative names of Odin, which would seem to be who Oslo’s Golden Core have in mind in the leadoff title-track of their second album. Issued through Fysisk Format, it is not necessarily what one thinks of as “Viking metal” in the post-Amon Amarth or post-Enslaved context, but instead, the eight-song collection unfolds a biting modern sludge taking an edge of the earlier Mastodon lumber and bringing it to harshly-vocalized rollout. The 11-minute “Runatal” and only-seconds-shorter “Buslubben” are respective vocal points around which sides A and B of the release center, and each finds a way to give like emphasis to atmosphere and extremity, to stretch as well as pummel, and much to Golden Core‘s credit, they seem not only aware of the changes they’re presenting in their material, but in control of how and when they’re executed. The resulting linear flow of Fimbultýr, given the shifts within, isn’t to be understated as a victory on the part of the band.

Golden Core on Thee Facebooks

Fysisk Format on Bandcamp

 

Black Smoke Omega, Harbinger

Black Smoke Omega Harbinger

Harbinger may well be just that — a sign of things to come. The debut offering from Black Smoke Omega wraps progressive death-doom and gothic piano-led atmospherics around a thematic drawing from science-fiction, and while I’m not certain of the narrative being told by the Dortmund, Germany-based band, their method for telling it is fascinating. It’s not entirely seamless in its shifts, and it doesn’t seem like the band — seemingly spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Jack Nier, though Ashley James (The Antiquity) plays guitar on “A Man without a Heart” and Michael Tjanaka brings synth/piano to “Kainé” — want it to be, but there’s no denying that by the time “Falling Awake” seems to provide some melodic resolution to the often-slow-motion tumult prior, it’s doing so by bringing the different sides together. It’s a significant journey from the raw, barking shouts on “The Black Scrawl” and the lurching-into-chug-into-lurch of “The Man without a Heart” to get there, however. But this, too, seems to be on purpose. How it all might shake out feels like a question for the next release, but Black Smoke Omega seem poised here to leave heads spinning.

Black Smoke Omega on Thee Facebooks

Black Smoke Omega on Bandcamp

 

Liquid Orbit, Game of Promises

Liquid Orbit Game of Promises

While on the surface, Liquid Orbit might be on familiar enough ground with Game of Promises for anyone who has encountered the swath of up-and-comers working in the wake of Blues Pills, the Bremen, Germany, five-piece distinguish themselves through not just the keyboard work of Anders alongside Andree‘s guitar, Ralf‘s bass, Steve‘s drums and Sylvia‘s vocals, but also the shifts between funk, boogie, and edges of doom that play out in songs like “Shared Pain” and “Please Let Her Go,” as well as the title-track, which starts side B of the Nasoni Records-issued vinyl with a highlight guitar solo and an insistent snare tap beneath that works to bring movement to what’s still one of Game of Promises‘ shorter tracks at six and a half minutes, as opposed to the earlier eight-minute-toppers on side A or the psych-prog finale “Verlorene Karawane,” which translates in English to “lost caravan” and indeed basks in some Mideastern vibe and backward-effects vocal swirl. Bottom line, if you go into it thinking you know everything you’re getting, you’re probably selling it short.

Liquid Orbit on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

Sun Below, Black Volume III

Sun Below Black Volume III

As the title hints, the name-your-price Black Volume III is the third EP release from Toronto’s Sun Below. All three have been issued over roughly a year’s span, and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jason Craig, drummer/backing vocalist Will Adams, bassist/backing vocalist Garrison Thordarson — who as far as I’m concerned wins this entire Quarterly Review when it comes to names; that’s an awesome name — and two have featured covers. On their debut, they took on “Dragonaut” by Sleep, and on Black Volume III, in following up the 12-minute nod-roller “Solar Burnout,” they thicken and further stonerize the catchy jaunt that is “Wires” by Red Fang. They’ve got, in other words, good taste. Black Volume III opens with “Green Visions” and thereby takes some righteous fart-fuzz for a walk both that and “Solar Burnout” show plenty of resi(n)dual Sleep influence, but honestly, it’s a self-releasing band with three dudes who sound like they’re having a really good time figuring out where they want to be in terms of sound after about a year from their first release, and if you ask anything else of Black Volume III than what it gives, you’re obviously lacking in context. Which is to say you’re fucking up. Don’t fuck up. Dig riffs instead.

Sun Below on Thee Facebooks

Sun Below on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: We Lost the Sea, Nebula Drag, Nothing is Real, Lotus Thief, Uncle Woe, Cybernetic Witch Cult, Your Highness, Deep Valley Blues, Sky Shadow Obelisk, Minus Green

Posted in Reviews on January 9th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Yesterday was marked by a decisive lack of productivity. I got there, don’t get me wrong, but it took friggin’ forever to make it happen. I’m obviously hoping for a different result today and tomorrow. You would think 10 records is 10 records, but some days it’s easy flowing, bounce from one to the next without any trouble, and some days you’re me sitting there wondering how many times you can get away with using the word “style” in the same post. Punishing. The saving factor was that the music was good. Amazing how often that serves as the saving factor.

Just today and tomorrow left, so let’s dive in. Lots of different kinds of releases today, so keep your ears and mind open.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

We Lost the Sea, Triumph and Disaster

we lost the sea triumph and disaster

There is plenty of heavy post-rock floating — and I do mean floating — around these days, spreading ethereal and contemplative vibes hither and yon, but none have the emotional weight brought to bear instrumentally by Sydney, Australia’s We Lost the Sea. Across their 65-minute 2LP, Triumph and Disaster (on Translation Loss), the six-piece band recount a wordless narrative of the aftermath of the end of the world through the eyes of a mother and child on their last day. It is a touching and beautiful flow of sentiment, regret and weight that comes through the wash of three guitars and synth, bass and drums, and though 2015’s Departure Songs (review here, discussed here) worked in a similar vein in terms of style if not story, these seven tracks and 65 minutes are wholly distinguished by a willful-seeming progression on the part of the band and a patience and poise of execution as they alternate between longer and shorter pieces that only underscores how special their work truly is. At least the apocalypse is gorgeous.

We Lost the Sea on Thee Facebooks

Translation Loss store

 

Nebula Drag, Blud

nebula drag blud

Nothing against the progenitors of the form, but Nebula Drag seem with Blud to pull off the feat that Helmet never really could, bringing together a noise-rock derived dissonance of riff with a current of melody in the vocals and even moments of patience in the guitar to go along with the crunch of its more aggressive points. This inherently makes the Desert Records offering from the San Diego outfit a less outwardly intense affair than it might otherwise be, but songs like “Always Dying,” “Numb” and the closer “Mental” — as well as the album as a whole — are ultimately richer for it, and there’s still plenty of drive in opener “Dos Lados” and the shorter “Faces” and “What Went Wrong,” which arrive back to back on side B and lend the momentum that carries Nebula Drag through the remainder of the proceedings. It’s easy to hear to Blud superficially and pass it off as noise or heavy rock or this or that, but Nebula Drag earn and reward deeper listens in kind.

Nebula Drag on Thee Facebooks

Desert Records on Bandcamp

 

Nothing is Real, Pain is Joy

nothing is real pain is joy

Los Angeles oppressive and misanthropic noise project Nothing is Real manifested some of the harshest sounds I heard in 2019 on Only the Wicked are Pure (review here), and the just-months-later follow-up, Pain is Joy, reminds of the constant sensory assault under which we all seem to live. Across five extended tracks of increased production value — still raw, just not as raw — the band seems to be forming a coherent philosophical perspective in “Existence is Pain,” the guest-vocalized “Realms of Madness,” “Life is but a Dream,” “Pain is Joy,” and “We Must Break Free,” but if there’s a will to explain the punishment that is living, there’s not much by way of answer forthcoming in the sludgy riffing, grinding onslaught and surprising solo soar of “We Must Break Free,” instrumental as it is. Still, the fact that Pain is Joy allows for the possibility of joy to exist at all, in any form, ever, distinguishes it from its predecessor, and likewise the clearer sound and cogent expressive purpose. A focused attack suits Nothing is Real. I have the feeling it won’t be long before we find out where it takes the band next.

Nothing is Real on Thee Facebooks

Nothing is Real on Bandcamp

 

Lotus Thief, Oresteia

lotus thief Oresteia

If the name Oresteia isn’t immediately familiar, maybe “Agamemnon” will give some hint. San Francisco’s Lotus Thief, with their third full-length and second for Prophecy Productions, not only bring together progressive black metal, post-rock and drama-laced doom, but do so across eight-tracks and 38 minutes summarizing a 5th century Greek tragedy written in three parts. Ambitious? Yes. Successful? I’ll claim zero familiarity with the text itself, but for the eight-minute “Libation Bearers” alone — never mind any of the other immersive, beautiful wash the band emits throughout — I’m sure glad they’re engaging with it. Ambient stretches like “Banishment” and “Woe” and the barely-there “Reverence” add further character to the proceedings, but neither are “The Furies,” “Agamemnon,” “Sister in Silence” or subdued-but-tense closer “The Kindly Ones” lacking for atmosphere. Oresteia is grim, theatrical, stylistically forward-thinking and gorgeous. A perfect, perfect, perfect winter record.

Lotus Thief website

Prophecy Productions on Bandcamp

 

Uncle Woe, Our Unworn Limbs

Uncle Woe Our Unworn Limbs

Chugging, sprawling, and most of all reaching, the late-2019 debut LP, Our Unworn Limbs, from Ontario as-yet-solo-outfit Uncle Woe — composed, performed and recorded by Rain Fice — is one of marked promise, taking elements of modern progressive and cosmic doom from the likes of YOB‘s subtly angular riffing style and unfolding them across an emotionally resonant but still manageable 43-minute span. The stomp in “That’s How They Get You” is duly oppressive in following the opener “Son of the Queen,” but with the one-minute experiment “When the Night Fell Pt. 2” and jagged but harmonized “Mania for Breaking” ahead of 15-minute closer “Push the Blood Back In,” the record’s tumult and triumphs are presented with character and a welcome feeling of exploration. I would expect over time that the melodic basis and vocal presence Fice demonstrates in “Mania for Breaking” will continue to grow, but both are already significant factors in the success of that song and the album surrounding it, the first 20-plus minutes of which is spent mired in “Son of the Queen” and “That’s How They Get You,” as early proof of the sure controlling hand at the helm of the project. May it continue to be so.

Uncle Woe on Thee Facebooks

Uncle Woe on Bandcamp

 

Cybernetic Witch Cult, Absurdum ad Nauseam

cybernetic witch cult absurdam ad nauseam

Guitarist/vocalist Alex Wyld, bassist Doug MacKinnon and drummer Lewis May have processed the world around them and translated it into a riffy course of sci-fi and weirdo semi-prog thematics across Absurdum ad Nauseam. What else to call such a thing? At eight songs and 52 minutes, it stands astride the lines between heavy rock and doom and sludge in lengthier pieces like “The Cetacean,” “The Ivory Tower” and the finale “Hypercomputer Part 2,” yet when it comes to picking out discernible influences, one has to result to generalizations like Black Sabbath and Acrimony, the latter in the rolling largesse of “Spice” and “The Myth of Sisyphus” later on in the outing and the vocal effects there particularly, but neither is enough to give a sense of what Cybernetic Witch Cult are actually about in terms of the modernity of their approach and the it’s-okay-we-know-what-we’re-doing-just-trust-us vibe they bring as they rush through “Cromagnonaut” after the intro and “Hypercomputer Part 1.” I’m inclined to just go with it, which should tell you something in itself about the band’s ability to carry their listener through. They earn that trust.

Cybernetic Witch Cult on Thee Facebooks

Cybernetic Witch Cult on Bandcamp

 

Your Highness, Your Highness

Your Highness Your Highness

Heavy blues meets heavy metal on Your Highness‘ self-titled and self-released third album, collecting eight tracks that divide evenly across two sides of an LP, each half ending with a longer piece, whether it’s “Black Fever” (9:00) on side A or “Kin’s Blood” (14:14) on side B. Through these, in full-throttle movements like opener “Devil’s Delight” and “Rope as a Gift” and in nestled-in groovers like “The Flood” and “To Wood and Stone,” Your Highness don’t shy away from bringing a sense of atmosphere to their material, but maintain a focus on burl, gruffness and tonal weight, an aggressive undercurrent in a song like “Born Anew” — the riff to which is nonetheless particularly bluesy — being emblematic of the perspective on display throughout. It moves too fleetly to ever be considered entirely sludge, but Your Highness‘ 51-minute span is prone to confrontation just the same, and its ferocious aspects come to a head in satisfying fashion as the wash of crash pays off “Kin’s Blood,” shouts cutting through en route to a finish of acoustic guitar that lands as a reminder to release the breath you’ve been holding the whole time. Heavy stuff? Why yes, it is.

Your Highness on Thee Facebooks

Your Highness on Bandcamp

 

Deep Valley Blues, Demonic Sunset

Deep Valley Blues Demonic Sunset

Italy’s fervor for stoner rock is alive and well as represented in Demonic Sunset, the eight-song/34-minute debut full-length from Catanzaro’s Deep Valley Blues. Their sound works out to be more heavy rock than the desert one might imagine given the album cover, but that influence is still there, if beefed up tonally by guitarists Alessandro Morrone and Umberto Arena (the latter also backing vocals), bassist/vocalist Giando Sestito and drummer Giorgio Faini, whose fluid turns between propulsion and swing enable a song like “Dana Skully” to come together in its verse/chorus transitions. The penultimate nine-minute “Tired to Beg For” is an outlier among more straight-ahead songwriting, but they use the time well and close with the acoustic-led “Empire,” an encouraging showcase of sonic breadth to follow up on the start of “Lust Vegas” and a widening of the melodic range that one hopes Deep Valley Blues push further on subsequent releases. Centered around issues of mental health in terms of its lyrics, if somewhat vaguely, Demonic Sunset is a first LP that extends its focus to multiple levels while still keeping its feet on the ground in a way that will be familiar to experienced genre heads.

Deep Valley Blues on Thee Facebooks

Deep Valley Blues on Bandcamp

 

Sky Shadow Obelisk, The Satyr’s Path

sky shadow obelisk the satyrs path

You can toss a coin as to whether Sky Shadow Obelisk are death-doom or doom-death, but as you do, just keep an eye on the bludgeoning doled out by the solo-project of Rhode Island-based composer Peter Scartabello on his latest EP, The Satyr’s Path, because it is equal parts thorough and ferocious. Flourish of keys and melody adds a progressive edge to the proceedings across the five-track release, particularly in its two instrumentals, the centerpiece “Ouroboros” and the first half of closer “Shadow of Spring,” but amid the harnessed madness of “Chain of Hephaestus” — which from its lyrics I can only think of as a work song — and the one-two of “The Serpent’s Egg” and the title-track early on, those moments of letup carry a tension of mood that even the grand finish in “Shadow of Spring” seems to acknowledge. It’s been since 2015 that Scartabello last offered up a Sky Shadow Obelisk full-length. He shows enough scope here to cover an album’s worth of ground, but on the most basic level, I’d take more if it was on offer.

Sky Shadow Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

Yuggoth Records on Bandcamp

 

Minus Green, Equals Zero

Minus Green Equals Zero

Following up on a 2015 self-titled the material on Minus Green‘s sophomore album, Equals Zero, would seem to have at least in part been kicking around for a couple years, as the closer here, “Durial” (11:22) was released in a single version in 2016. Fair enough. If the other three cuts, opener “Primal” (9:58), “00” (11:51) and the penultimate “Kames” (10:08), have also been developed over that span, the extra rumination wouldn’t seem to have harmed them at all — they neither feel overthought to a point of staleness nor lack anything in terms of the natural vibe that their style of progressive instrumentalist heavy psychedelia warrants. The procession unfolds as a cleanly-structured LP with two songs per side arranged shorter-into-longer, and their sound is duly immersive to give an impression of exploration underway without being entirely jam-based in their structure. That is, listening to “00,” one gets the feeling it’s headed somewhere, which, fortunately it is. Where it and the record surrounding go ultimately isn’t revolutionary in aesthetic terms, but it is well performed and more than suitable for repeat visits. Contrary to the impression they might seek to give, it amounts to more than nothing.

Minus Green on Thee Facebooks

Kerberos Records website

 

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Quarterly Review: Mos Generator, Psychic Lemon, Planet of Zeus, Brass Hearse, Mother Turtle, The Legendary Flower Punk, Slow, OKO, Vug, Ultracombo

Posted in Reviews on January 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’d like to hope y’all know the drill by now. It’s the Quarterly Review. We do it (roughly) every quarter. The idea is 10 reviews per day for a Monday to Friday span, running 50 total. I sometimes do more. Sometimes not. Kind of depends on the barrage and how poorly I’ve been doing in general with keeping up on stuff. This time is ‘just’ 50, so there you go. You’ll see some bigger names this week and some stuff that’s come my way of late that I’ve been digging and wanting to check out. It’s a lot of rock, which I like, and a few things I’m writing about basically as a favor to myself because, you know, self-care and all that.

But staring down the barrel of 50 reviews over the next few days has me as apprehensive and how-the-hell-is-this-gonna-happen as ever, so I think I’ll just get to it and jump in. No time to waste.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Mos Generator, Exiles

mos generator exiles

Worth it just for the Sabbath cover? Most definitely. As Mos Generator take on “Air Dance” from Never Say Die as part of the Glory or Death Records LP compilation release, Exiles, they blend the proggy swagger of later-’70s Iommi leads with the baseline acoustic guitar fluidity that makes those final Ozzy-era records so appealing in hindsight. It’s just one of the six reasons to take on Exiles however. The A side comprises three outtakes from 2018’s Shadowlands (review here), and guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed‘s Big Scenic Nowhere bandmate Bob Balch sits in on “Battah,” while a duly manic reworking of Van Halen‘s “Light up the Sky,” the Black Sabbath track and a live version of Rush‘s “Anthem” from 2016 make up side B. It’s a quick listen and it’s Mos Generator. It may be a stopgap on the way to whatever they’re doing next, but if you think about it, so is everything, and that’s no reason not to jump in either for the covers or the originals, both of which are up to the band’s own high standard of output.

Mos Generator on Thee Facebooks

Glory or Death Records on Bandcamp

 

Psychic Lemon, Freak Mammal

psychic lemon freak mammal

The distorted wails of Andy Briston‘s guitar echo out of Freak Mammal — the five-track/46-minute third LP from London’s Psychic Lemon — like a clarion to the lysergic converted. A call to prayer for those worshiping the nebulous void, not so much kept to earth by Andy Hibberd‘s bass and Martin Law‘s drums as given a solidified course toward the infinite far out. Of course centerpiece “Afrotropic Bomb” digs into some Ethiopian groove — that particular shuffling mania — and I won’t take away from the lower buzz of “Free Electron Collective” or the tense hi-hat cutting through all that tonal wash or the ultra-spaced blowout that caps six-minute finale “White Light,” but give me the self-aware mellower jaunt that is the 13-minute second track “Seeds of Tranquility” any day, following opener “Dark Matter” as it does with what would be a blissful drift but for the exciting rhythmic work taking place beneath the peaceful guitar, and the later synthesized voices providing a choral melody that seems all the more playfully grandiose, befitting the notion of Freak Mammal as a ceremony or at very least some kind of lost ritual. Someday they’ll dig up the right pyramid and call the aliens back. Until then, Psychic Lemon let us imagine what might happen after they return.

Psychic Lemon on Thee Facebooks

Drone Rock Records website

 

Planet of Zeus, Faith in Physics

PLANET OF ZEUS FAITH IN PHYSICS

There’s a context of social commentary to Planet of ZeusFaith in Physics that makes one wonder if perhaps the title doesn’t refer to gravity in terms of what-goes-up-must-come-down as it might apply to class hierarchy. The mighty, ready to fall, and so on. Songs like the post-Clutch fuzz roller “Man vs. God” and “Revolution Cookbook” (video premiere here) would seem to support that idea, but one way or the other, as the later “Let Them Burn” digs into a hook that reminds of Killing Joke and the dense bass of eight-minute closer “King of the Circus” provides due atmospheric madness for our times, there’s a sense of grander statement happening across the album. The Athens-based outfit make a centerpiece of the starts and stops in “All These Happy People” and remind that whatever the message, the medium remains top quality heavy rock and roll songcraft, which is something they’ve become all the more reliable to deliver. The more pointed perspective than they showed on 2016’s Loyal to the Pack suits them, but it’s the nuance of electronics and arrangements of vocals and guitar on cuts like “The Great Liar” that carry them through here. If you believe in gravity, Planet of Zeus have plenty on offer.

Planet of Zeus on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Brass Hearse, Oneiric Afterlife

brass hearse oneiric afterlife

Experimentalist keyboard-laced psychedelic goth your thing? Well, of course it is. You’re in luck then as Brass Hearse — an offshoot of once madly prolific Boston outfit Ice Dragon — unveil three new songs (plus an intro) with the Oneiric Afterlife and in 10 minutes work to unravel about 30 years of genre convention while still tying their material to memorable hooks. “Bleed Neon,” “Indigo Dust” and “Only Forever” seem simple on the surface, and none of them touch four minutes long, let alone “A Gesture to Make a Stop,” the 26-second introduction, but their refusal of stylistic constraint is as palpable as it is admirable, with a blend of folk guitar and dark-dance-party keys and percussive insistence on “Bleed Neon” and a ’60s Halloweeny rock organ line in “Only Forever” that’s complemented by low-end fuzz and a chorus that would rightly embarrass Ghost if they heard it. In comparison, “Indigo Dust” is serene in its presentation, but even there is a depth of arrangement of keys, guitar, bass and drums, and the skill tying it all together as a cohesive sound is not to be understated. A quick listen with a lot to unpack, it’s not going to be everyone’s thing, but those who get it will be hit hard and rightly so.

Brass Hearse on Thee Facebooks

Brass Hearse on Bandcamp

 

Mother Turtle, Three Sides to Every Story

mother turtle three sides to every story

The first of three tracks on Greek progwinders Mother Turtle‘s fourth LP, Three Sides to Every Story, “Zigu Zigu,” would seem to cap with a message of congratulations: “You’ve listened to three musicians indulging themselves with some kind of weird instrumental music.” It then goes on to question its own instrumentalism, because it has the words presently being spoken, continuing in this manner until a long fadeout of guitar leads to the funky start of the 15-minute-long “Notwatch.” Good fun, in other words. Mother Turtle maybe aren’t so weird as they think they are, but they are duly adventurous and obviously joyful in their undertaking, bringing chants in over drifting guitar and synth swirl in “Notwatch” before building to a crescendo of rock guitar and organ, ultimately dominated by a solo as it would almost have to be, before intertwining piano lines in 16:46 closer “A Christmas Postcard from Kim” lead to further shenanigans, vocal experimentation, plays on metal, holiday shimmer, and a fade into the close. At 38 minutes, Three Sides to Every Story doesn’t at all overstay its welcome, but neither is it an exercise looking for audience engagement in the traditional sense. Rather, it resonates its glee through its offbeat sensibility and thus works on its own level to craft a hook. One can’t help but smile while listening to the fun being had.

Mother Turtle on Thee Facebooks

Sound Effect Records website

 

The Legendary Flower Punk, Wabi Wu

The Legendary Flower Punk Wabi Wu

It is something to consider, perhaps as you dive into the nine-minute “Prince Mojito” on The Legendary Flower Punk‘s Wabi Wu, that the band started as a psych-folk solo-project. Currently working as a core trio plus a range of guests, the Russian troupe make their debut on Tonzonen with the brazenly prog seven-tracker, totaling just a 44-minute run but with a range that would seem to be much broader. Alternately jazzy and synth-laden, technically intricate but never overly showy, pieces like the bass-led “Azulejo” and the penultimate “Trance Fusion På Ryska” present a meeting of the minds with founding guitarist Kamille Sharapodinov at the center of most compositions, he and bassist Mike Lopakov and drummer Nick Kunavin digging into nothing’s-off-limits textures from fusion onward through New Wave and dub. The abiding rule followed seems to be whatever moves the band about a given track is what they roll with, and though The Legendary Flower Punk has evolved well beyond its origins, there’s still a bit of flower and still a bit of punk amid all the legends being made. Good luck keeping up with it.

The Legendary Flower Punk on Bandcamp

Tonzonen Records website

 

Slow, VI – Dantalion

Slow VI Dantalion

With the follow-up to 2018’s V – Oceans (review here), Belgian duo Slow rattle off another 78 minutes of utterly consuming, crushing, atmospheric and melancholic funeral doom like it’s absolutely nothing. Well, not like it’s nothing — more like it’s a weight on their very soul — but even so. Issued through Aural Music, VI – Dantlion brings the two-piece of guitarist/vocalist/drummer Déhà and bassist/lyricist Lore B. once again into the grueling, megalithic churn of self-inflicted riff-punishment that’s so encompassing, so dark, so deep and so dramatic it almost can’t help but also be beautiful. To wit, second track “Lueur” is a 17-minute downward journey into ambient brutalism, yet as it moves toward the midsection one can still hear melodic elements of keyboard and orchestral sounds peaking through. There is letup in the lush finale “Elégie,” but to get there, you have to make your way through “Incendiaire,” which is possibly the most extreme movement of the seven inclusions. Though frankly, after a while, you’re buried so far down by Slow‘s glorious miseries that it’s hard to tell. The world needs this band. They are what humanity would sound like if it was ever honest with itself.

Slow on Thee Facebooks

Aural Music on Bandcamp

 

OKO, Haze

oko haze

Adelaide, Australia, newcomers OKO present their debut EP in the form of Haze, a 14:44 single-song outing that sees the instrumental three-piece of guitarist Nick Nancarrow, bassist Tyson Ruch and drummer Ash Matthews tap into organic heavy psych vibes while working cross-planet with Justin Pizzoferrato (known for his work with Elder, among others) on the mix and master. The resulting one-tracker has a clarity in its drum sound and clean feel that one suspects might speak of more progressive intentions on the part of OKO in the longer term, but as they are here they have a sense of tonal warmth that serves them well across the unpretentious span of “Haze” itself, the winding riff inevitably bringing to mind some of Colour Haze‘s jammier work but still managing to find its own direction. I hear no reason OKO can’t do the same, regardless of the influences they’re working under in terms of sound. Further, the longform modus suits them, and while future work will inherently develop some variety in general approach, the natural exploration they undertake on this first outing easily holds attention for its span and is fluid enough that, had they wanted, they could have pushed it further.

OKO on Thee Facebooks

OKO website

 

Vug, Onyx

vug onyx

Vug are not the first European heavy rock band to blend vintage methods with modern production. They’re not the first band to take classic swagger and drum urgency and meld it with a pervasive sense of vocal soul. I’m not sure I’d tell them that though, because frankly, they’re doing pretty well with it. At its strongest, their Tonzonen-released sophomore outing, Onyx, recalls Thin Lizzy via, yes, Graveyard, but there’s enough clarity of intention behind the work to make it plain they know where they’re coming from. Such was the case as well with their 2018 self-titled debut (review here), and though they’ve had some lineup turnover since that first offering, the self-produced four-piece bring a character to their material on songs like “Tired Of” and the penultimate boogier “Inferno” before closing with the acoustic “Todbringer” — a mirror of side A’s “On My Own” — that they carry the classic-style 39-minute long-player off without a hitch, seeming to prep the heavy ’10s for a journey into a new decade.

Vug on Thee Facebooks

Noisolution webstore

 

Ultracombo, Season 1

Ultracombo Season 1

As the title hints, the Season 1 EP is the debut from Italy’s Ultracombo, and with it, the five-piece of vocalist Alessio Guarda, guitarists Alberto Biasin and Giordano Tasson, bassist Giordano Pajarin and drummer Flavio Gola work quickly to build the forward momentum that brings them front-to-back through the 23-minute five-track release. “Flusso” and opener “The King” feel particularly drawn from an earlier Truckfighters influence, but Guarda‘s vocals are a distinguishing factor amidst all that ensuing fuzz and straight-ahead drive, and in “Sparatutto” and the closer “Il Momento in Cui Non Penso,” they seem to strip their approach to its most basic aspects and bring together the tonal thickness and melodicism that’s been at root in their sound overall. The subtlety, such as it is, is to be found in their songwriting, which results in tracks that transcend language barriers through sheer catchiness. That bodes better for them on subsequent outings better than a wall o’ fuzz ever could, though of course that doesn’t hurt them either, especially their first time out.

Ultracombo on Thee Facebooks

Ultracombo on Bandcamp

 

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We Lost the Sea Discuss Triumph & Disaster Artwork in New Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

we lost the sea

Given that what seems to be depicted in the artwork is a post-climate-apocalypse empty landscape unsuitable to human life, I’m going to guess the children’s book that accompanies We Lost the Sea‘s Triumph & Disaster ain’t exactly Green Eggs & Ham when it comes to playtime reading. Not like Pete the Cat is going to come jumping out of the burned out general store and be like, “Who wants to go on a bug safari?” As it happens, I do a fair bit of reading books for little kids these days, from Dr. Seuss and Gossie & Gertie to Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy and from A is for Activist to I Love You Because You’re You. I don’t have one about the end of the world, but, you know, my kid’s two now, so I’m kind of starting to feel like maybe it’s time I tell him just how screwed over he’s been by every generation before his own, including mine. Sorry about that, duder.

Not sorry enough to stop burning oil, but, you know, sorry in theory.

Anyhoozle, guitarist Matt Harvey‘s art for the We Lost the Sea album and the accompanying story is downright beautiful. I haven’t seen the real-deal, hold-it-in-your-hands finished product, but even the digital images that accompany give further richness to the melodic and wistful atmospheres they conjure with sound. Their style is so much suited to creating a feeling of longing for something lost, and it’s deeply emotive, so yeah, a mother and son spending their last day on earth together feels like fair enough territory for the band to cover, mourning for a lost future that their characters — or the rest of us, because let’s be honest: we’re all boned — will never know. Seems all the more poignant as Australia, like California, burns with wildfires intensified due to climate change and the country’s conservative wing says it’s cool because the people who died voted left.

Somewhere in the vast universe of possibility, Slim Pickens rides a bomb and whips his hat around yelling, “Wahoo!” en route to mutually-assured destruction.

Enjoy the video:

We Lost the Sea, ‘The Art of Triumph and Disaster’

Sydney cinematic instrumental band We Lost The Sea have just released their long-awaited new album Triumph & Disaster on October 4 via Bird’s Robe Records (Australia) and October 25 via Translation Loss (US), Holy Roar (UK) and Dunk!Records (EU). The fourth album in their collection, Triumph & Disaster, is a post-apocalyptic view on the collapse of the world told like a children’s story and illustrated through the eyes of a mother and her son as they spend one last day on Earth. The music is the narrative for the destruction and tragedy. The words tell the story of love, loss and letting go.

In a new documentary the band breaks down their most recent album artwork and the children’s book that arrived alongside it, telling these themes of a post-apocalyptic world and climate ignorance through means other than the music they make.

Also, for an in-depth look at the complete artworks from the album check out the folio page on Behance: https://www.behance.net/gallery/86859775/We-Lost-The-Sea-Triumph-Disaster-Complete-Artworks

Artwork concept, illustration, design and layout by Matt Harvey
Story by Matt Harvey and Mark Owen
Story edited by Robert Dean

We Lost The Sea is:
Matt Harvey – Guitars
Mark Owen – Guitars
Carl Whitbread – Guitars
Kieran Elliott – Bass
Mathew Kelly – Piano and Synths
Nathaniel D’Ugo – Drums

We Lost the Sea, Triumph & Disaster (2019)

We Lost the Sea on Thee Facebooks

We Lost the Sea on Bandcamp

Translation Loss store

Translation Loss on Thee Facebooks

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Sleeping Giant Sign to Copper Feast Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Always like good news, and a previously-independently-issued album getting picked up for a vinyl release is almost always that. Certainly so in the case of Aussie three-piece Sleeping Giant, who put out their self-titled full-length (review here) this summer have have been snagged by Copper Feast Records for an LP edition. Actually, to be more specific, a couple LP editions, as there will apparently be different regional variants. The label, founded last year with releases from HorsehunterSchool Disco, Pseudo Mind Hive and LowFlyingHawks under its belt, has also apparently relocated to Australia, so getting a band like Sleeping Giant on board may be a sign of a burgeoning regional focus. Certainly plenty of Oz heavy to go around. It’s like they grow on trees down there.

Preorders start at the end of the month for Sleeping Giant‘s Sleeping Giant, and I’m not sure when the release will actually be or what the band’s plans are for after, but in the interim, like I said at the outset, a vinyl version is good news for platterhounds of all stripes.

Of course, the record’s also streaming at the bottom of this post, because it’s the future and we can do that here:

sleeping giant

Copper Feast Records – Sleeping Giant

Sound the alarm…it’s announcement time!

I’m beyond excited to welcome the brilliant Sleeping Giant to the Copper Feast family. At the end of the month, we will be opening up pre-orders for the first and only vinyl pressings of the self-titled debut LP from these Melbourne/Bendigo based stoner metal riffheads.

‘Sleeping Giant’ will be our first release since my relocation to Australia, which means that this fantastic album will be available in both Australia and the UK/EU in two region exclusive variants (details to follow later).

Having been around for nearly 6 years now, formerly under the name Lowpoint, ‘Sleeping Giant’ is an absolutely, absolutely killer intro to the band and well worth the wait! Some of the most crushing moments in stoner rock this year alongside some gorgeously mellow soundscapes…Melbourne’s done it again.

Sleeping Giant is:
Steven Hammer – Guitars/Vocals
James Wright – Bass
Pali Emond-Glenn – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/sleepinggiantband/
https://www.instagram.com/sleepinggiantband/
https://sleepinggiantband.bandcamp.com/
https://copperfeastrecords.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CopperFeastRecords/

Sleeping Giant, Sleeping Giant (2019)

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Mammoth Mammoth Announce Kreuzung out Nov. 8; New Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 23rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

So Mammoth Mammoth toured Europe I think twice for their last record, they recorded their new album in Germany, it has a German title, is being put out by an Austrian label, and I’m pretty sure half their lineup at this point is European. Safe to say they’ve maybe been adopted from their native Australia? As they go into their fifth LP, the ever-ready-for-festival-season four-piece seem to know where their heart lies more than ever as they look down the barrel of another string of tour dates booked for Germany. That’s right. It’s 11 shows, and they’re all in Germany. They’re even playing Rockpalast, where I have no doubt their high-energy drive will be captured on a video soon to feature in my YouTube recommends. You keep an eye out for it and I’ll do the same.

Kreuzung is the new album, and it was recorded by former Samsara Blues Experiment member Richard Behrens — also known for Heat and his work with Kadavar — and there’s a video streaming now for the title-track that you can check out at the bottom of this post if you’re up for it.

From the PR wire:

mammoth mammoth

Australian High Voltage Rockers MAMMOTH MAMMOTH Reveal Album Details + Release Brand New Music Video!

Kreuzung coming November 8th on Napalm Records!

Australia’s high voltage outfit, MAMMOTH MAMMOTH, are proud to announce their, highly anticipated 5th studio album titled, Kreuzung, which is set for a release on November 8th with leading rock and metal label Napalm Records.

Recorded and produced by Richard Behrens in the winter of 2018/19 at Big Snuff Studio, Berlin, it is the first album with the new line-up consisting of original members, Mikey Tucker (vocalist) and Frank Trobbiani (drums) and introducing new members, Marco Gennaro (guitarist) and Kris Fiore (bass). The Rock`n`Roll juggernaut seized the opportunity to refine their hard-rock formula since the release of Mount The Mountain two years ago. The result is an electrifying sledgehammer that cements their name MAMMOTH MAMMOTH. Kreuzung’s (German for crossroads) hypnotic title track could crush a beer can with it’s sheer soundwave force, try it out and watch their brand new video for the album title track HERE!

In January 2017, the band found themselves at a crossroads. Already committed to two European tours, including their first visit to Spain and Portugal plus a large number of shows on the summer festival circuit, original guitarist Ben Couzens and bassist Pete Bell were unable to perform those ongoing commitments. In order for MAMMOTH MAMMOTH to honour those shows, Tucker and Trobbiani needed to find replacement musicians to continue to bring the high-energy, beer- soaked, dirty-rock shows to their loyal fan base.

Inspired by new surroundings, Tucker, Trobbiani, Gennaro and Fiore holed themselves up in Rock Haus, Berlin in 2018 and crafted the new album together whilst searching for a new producer. Someone who would both challenge and nurture their new line-up. Tucker says on working with Richard, “I wanted to introduce a new sound, something a little more vintage sounding. I was tired of listening to rock albums that were so overly produced they’d lost all their soul. I stumbled upon Big Snuff Studio and really liked the work they were doing with Kadavar.” Trobbiani adds, “Writing and recording ‘Kreuzung’ in Berlin has been a refreshing change, the collaborative process made the whole experience killer and we can’t wait to play it live to everyone.” Kreuzung, signifies where the band had found themselves in 2017, somewhere between the past, the present and the future. This album proves that the gritty Rock`n`Roll manifesto of MAMMOTH MAMMOTH has truly evolved and they know exactly where they’re heading next.

Kreuzung Tracklisting:
1. I’m Ready
2. Wanted Man
3. Motherf@cker
4. Screamin´
5. Kreuzung
6. Tear it Down
7. Tonight
8. Mad World
9. Let Go
10. Lead Boots
11. God´s Gonna Hate Me

Kreuzung will be available on LP, CD and in Digital formats, the pre-sale has just started at THIS LOCATION!

Known for their intense high-energy and beer-soaked Rock`n`Roll live shows, MAMMOTH MAMMOTH will be hitting the road again this Fall, with a heavy touring schedule to follow:
14.11.2019 DE Köln – MTC
15.11.2019 DE Frankfurt – Das Bett
17.11.2019 DE Weinheim- Café Central
18.11.2019 DE Nürnberg – Hirsch
19.11.2019 DE Bochum – Rockpalast
20.11.2019 DE Hamburg – HeadCrash
21.11.2019 DE Berlin – Musik & Frieden
22.11.2019 DE Erfurt – Museumskeller
23.11.2019 DE Leipzig – Bandhaus
26.11.2019 DE München – Backstage Club
27.11.2019 DE Stuttgart – Goldmarks

MAMMOTH MAMMOTH is:
Mikey Tucker – Vocals
Frank Trobbiani – Drums
Marco Gennaro – Guitar
Kris Sinister – Bass

www.facebook.com/mammothmammothband
www.mammothmammoth.com
www.napalmrecords.com
www.facebook.com/napalmrecords

Mammoth Mammoth, “Kreuzung” official video

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Comacozer, Mydriasis: Your Outer Limits Tourism Guide

Posted in Reviews on September 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

comacozer mydriasis

Already in 2019, Sydney’s Comacozer have shared stages across Australia and/or toured with Wo Fat, 1000mods, Naxatras and Oz’s own Mt. Mountain, among others, so while they haven’t necessarily traveled far and wide, their reach is nothing if not considerable. Last year, the instrumentalist psych three-piece of guitarist Rick Burke, bassist Rich Elliott and drummer Andrew Panagopoulos added a fourth in synthesist/keyboardist James “Jabs” Heyligers, and the three-song limit-stretched that is Mydriasis is their first offering since. Their fourth record overall, it follows the vinyl-minded outfit’s impressively expansive 2017 LP, Kalos Eidos Skopeo (review here), 2016’s Astra Planeta (review here) and their 2015 EP compilation, Deloun Sessions, as well as various other odds and ends, and pushes further into cosmic depths, self-recorded with Dan Frizza as a co-mixer and engineer and issued through HeadSpin Records (LP) and Sound Effect Records (CD).

It is comprised of only three tracks and runs 45 minutes, and works in longform explorations of sonic psychedelic ideology. Resonant tones and weighted groove play out in patient fashion across “Mydriasis” (13:11), “Tryptamine” (11:30) and “Kykeneon Journey” (20:51), and Comacozer balance a will to hypnotize their listener against progressions that are immersive but still forward enough to justify active attention. Setting up an overarching flow has never been a problem going back to 2014’s Sessions demo, but the ethereal vibe of Mydriasis is a thing to behold, and it’s easy to argue it stands as Comacozer‘s broadest stretch of space-infused soundscapes to-date.

No doubt the inclusion of Heyligers in the proceedings is a factor in that — how could it not be? — but the change goes beyond simply what’s being played as well and plays a role in the larger conversation happening between BurkeElliott and Panagopoulos as well. It can be heard in the patience with which the songs are brought to bear across Mydriasis, the way Comacozer allows parts to breathe and seemingly find their own way, not necessarily on improvisational terms, but with a natural path that’s never any further out in its wanderings than the band wants it to be. From the initial kick of the drums in the opening title-track, there’s a sense of movement maintained across the album, but a spacious sensibility that’s always been there in Comacozer‘s sound is all the more enhanced by the breadth that Heyligers brings to it.

Rest assured, there’s heft, nod and effects galore, but more than ever, their work seems to be about the journey into and through the fuzz that swallows “Mydriasis” at its midpoint rather than simply being in that place. That is, such outwardly heavy stretches are part of the story rather than the story itself. The guitar rings out with a gloriously triumphant lead over steady-rolling drums and bass and drones, and a molten heavy psych vibe meets with a classic blues jam feel, neither side compromising what it does — or needing to — in order to fit alongside the other. Again, this is as exciting as it is hypnotic, and while it’s easy and enjoyable to lost oneself in the spaces Comacozer craft on their fourth LP, conscious engagement pays further dividends in satisfying slow-motion freakery and dizzying stretch. You dig? You could.

comacozer

It’s “Mydriasis” and “Tryiptamine” on side A, and the opener finishes with a long fade of resonant drone and synth swirl as “Tryptamine” soon answers back with a gradual, sample-topped entry and further use of synth at the outset for a beginning that reminds a bit of earlier YOB in its cosmic spread, but is ultimately directed someplace jammier, charting a gorgeously executed linear path into a payoff that happens late but is brought to bear with marked grace and, again, not at all contrived sounding, despite being a familiar structure at play. Echoplex-style noise backs the increasingly intense drums as bass fills out behind the guitar, and it’s not until shortly before nine minutes in that the full brunt of the tonality is brought to bear.

One has visions of time travel, of things that move fast but on such a scale that they seem to be slow, of selves looking at other selves in real space. I’d say it’s not for the faint of heart were it not so god damned gentle about it, Captain. Comacozer‘s finest hour is and should inherently be “Kykeneon Journey,” with its unmatched sprawl and righteous use of effects, etc., but even the shortest cut on Mydriasis leaves a significant impression as well as an impression of significance. Noise brings that track to its end as well and transitions easily into the start of “Kykeneon Journey.”

There’s a side flip in between, of course, but let’s for a moment pretend we’re not all sitting in smoking jackets listening to vinyl on vintage players and instead listening to music as part of real lives that involve things like headphones and laptops. In that more linear regard, “Kykeneon Journey” is a powerful moment of arrival for Mydriasis as well as for Comacozer more generally. The song seems to work in at least three stages and the last of them, as it would be, is the crescendo of song and album alike. It kicks in at 14:24 and carries through languidly and with airy soloing overtop, growing more intense as it moves past the 19-minute mark and crashing out just before 20:10 to dedicate the remaining 40 seconds or so to a residual wash of noise and drone that finishes on a more gentle fade.

It is encompassing in a way that Comacozer have been moving toward being throughout the last half-decade and, if they were indeed headed in that direction, would be a fair predecessor for a single-song album. That is, if the Sydney foursome continued to expand in ideas and runtimes, I wouldn’t be surprised. As it stands, their first release with this lineup seems to remove conceptual restraints and let them feel their way forward in a manner that’s exciting for the listener as well, no doubt, as it is for them. Wherever they may end up over the longer term of course will remain to be seen, but it’s becoming increasingly clear they’re onto something special.

Comacozer on Thee Facebooks

Comacozer on Instagram

Comacozer on Bandcamp

HeadSpin Records website

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Sound Effect Records website

Sound Effect Records on Thee Facebooks

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Review & Track Premiere: Holy Serpent, Endless

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

holy serpent

[Click play above to stream ‘Hourglass’ from Holy Serpent’s Endless. Album is out Oct. 18 on RidingEasy Records. They’re on tour in Europe now (dates here).]

With their third full-length for RidingEasy Records, Melbourne, Australia’s Holy Serpent would seem to realize the vision of heavy they’ve been chasing for the last half-decade. The four-piece bring forth six tracks across the 40 minutes of Endless, which continues a theme of single-word titles from its predecessor, 2016’s Temples (review here) — their 2015 debut was self-titled (review here) — and with them, set out into an expanse of tone, and lush, patiently-delivered roll, shuffle and melody. It’s the latter that proves most crucial, as guitarist Scott Penberthy‘s vocals come across with more distinction and confidence throughout and work to make songs like “Daughter of the Light” all the more consuming. Joined by guitarist Nick Donoughue, bassist Dave Bartlett and drummer Lance LeembrugenPenberthy crafts lush and psychedelic vocals in the tradition of Mars Red Sky even as he and Donoughue dig into riffs that remind alternately of newer Windhand‘s take on grunge — particularly on the penultimate “For No One,” also the longest track at 7:44 — or of a hybridized Uncle Acid buzz and Electric Wizard lumber on opener “Lord Deceptor” and side A finale “Daughter of the Light.”

To this context, however, Holy Serpent add a marked personality of their own, with howling guitars intertwining on “Daughter of the Light” and an uptick of doom metal in second track “Into the Fire,” even as the layers of vocals drawl out over the midsection of the song. The light/dark blend of melody, crunch and sprawl gives Endless a psychedelic earthiness; something that, in the past, the band has referred to as “shroom doom,” but never quite captured as completely as they do here. That’s fitting enough for the narrative of the “third album,” but cliché or no, the work they do in these tracks is a manifestation not to be discounted simply because it makes a convenient story. The simple fact is Holy Serpent have written a collection of songs that brings their approach to a new echelon of presence and execution, and Endless deserves to be in the conversation of the best heavy psych offerings of 2019.

In terms of setting a mood, Holy Serpent do so with a natural flair, their riffs providing a foundation from which the song is expanded, “Hourglass” adding either keys or effects or else I’m just hearing things during the verse for further melodic flourish. This leads the way into a three-song side B that answers back the complete control over the proceedings the foursome display through the first three tracks: “Lord Deceptor,” “Into the Fire” and “Daughter of the Light.” The opener is especially important for the lead-in it gives not just with its own post-Witchcult Today riff, but with how it uses that in order to make its own statement about who Holy Serpent are and have become. Its depth of mix is essential, and it unfolds in a way that’s either hypnotic or enthralling depending on how one wants to listen to it, and easy as it is to get lost in the spirit of the piece by the end of its 6:47, which meets head on with the snap-back-to-consciousness of the more uptempo intro to “Into the Fire.”

holy serpent endless

Rest assured there’s plenty of plod and tonal heft there as well, but a more swinging take after the opener does well in furthering the scope of Endless overall. Again, it’s not that Holy Serpent are the first ones ever to establish this kind of dynamic, but it’s how they do it and the fluidity with which they conjure in the process that makes Endless such an engaging listen. “Daughter of the Light” seems to meet “Into the Fire” and “Lord Deceptor” halfway and so is a fitting summary of where the band have taken the album to this point, but it’s still not the final word as regards the story of the growth that the band have undertaken over the last five years, as “Hourglass,” “For No One” and the closer “Marijuana Trench” (as opposed, one assumes, to Marianas) are still to come, each one bringing something to add to the strength of Endless as a whole.

The midtempo push of “Hourglass” is met by a deceptively catchy lyric and guitar line, and the slower-faster interplay between “Lord Deceptor” and “Into the Fire” that started the record seems to meet its mirror image in the faster-slower transition from “Hourglass” into “For No One.” A plodding, crashing, deep-running vision of stoned grunge is met by vocal harmonies and creative layering in the verse hook, and while Windhand has already been noted as a touchstone for the style, Holy Serpent effectively make the case that there’s more in weaving heavy psych fuzz and flannel-and-Doc-Martins stylizations to be explored. I don’t know what it might lead to, but “For No One” sounds like a definitive forward step, and that’s always welcome as far as I’m concerned. A noisy finish seems like it might be the apex of Endless as “Marijuana Trench”‘s standout goofball title makes it seem somewhat of a drawdown from the prior cuts and its acoustic-based intro is a departure as well, but the wash into which the band launch as the song plays out is not at all to be discounted because they made a weed pun, and if anything, it builds on the considerable accomplishments before it in crafting a humming universe of noise.

That is the course of Endless, and perhaps some of the reason it feels like such a moment of arrival for Holy Serpent is because the songs do so well in setting their atmosphere and dwelling in it. Australia has a well-populated underground scene, Melbourne specifically so, but I have a hard time thinking of another band from the region who’ve been able to take influences from the sphere of modern heavy and turn them into something so complete and individualized. I don’t necessarily think Holy Serpent are done refining their processes — which is only good news, frankly — but it does seem like they’ve come to a new understanding of who they are and who they want to be as a band, and that has resulted in an LP that is refreshing and engrossing at the same time. Mine it for sonic details or put it on and let your brain melt; there’s really no wrong way to go.

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