Fuzz Forward Post “Despairs” Video; Announce Spanish Tour Dates

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

fuzz forward

Let’s face it: just about anyone can make a music video these days. If you’ve got a phone and an Instagram filter, you’re in. Worked for Kadavar, if you’ll recall. But even taking into account the (relative) democratization of media, it’s one thing to make a music video and quite something else to make a music video and hang out with your dogs in the process. Interspersed with performance footage of Barcelona four-piece Fuzz Forward rocking out the song “Despairs” from their debut album, Out of Nowhere (review here), are clips of their dogs hanging out with them on stage, chewing on drumsticks, etc. Charm goes a long way in my book, always.

Charm, however, is hardly the only strength working in Fuzz Forwards favor on Out of Nowhere. The album was released earlier this year with the formidable backing of Red Sun Records, Discos MacarrasOdio Sonoro, and Spinda Records, and its penchant for melody and crisply-produced heavy rock came coupled with a grunge-style melody specifically attributable in the vocals of Juan to an Alice in Chains influence. My old man ears recall a time when it seemed like every rock singer was copping Layne Staley‘s bottom-of-the-mouth approach — some made good careers off doing so — but in this context and in this age where old flannels are new again, Fuzz Forward sound fresh and “Despairs” captures the fluidity of rhythm and the solidity of craft that they brought to the entirety of the record.

Also noteworthy is that the video was made in the Rocksound venue in Barcelona, a respected space the banner for which appears in any number of excellent live photos of groups touring through. The Iberian heavy rock scene has never had the kind of boom one finds in Germany or Sweden, but has always had its own spin on underground methods, and to see Fuzz Forward emerge as a next-generation take on that is all the more exciting. And it’s nice to have friends with venues that let you film videos there and bring your dogs. An all-around win.

Fuzz Forward put it in drive this Fall on a succession of shows keeping in good company all the while. Tour dates follow the clip here, as sent along the PR wire:

Fuzz Forward, “Despairs” official video

Barcelona’s grunge infected four piece FUZZ FORWARD are keeping themselves busy. They now present us their first video. Despairs is the opening track from their debut album “Out Of Nowhere” and also the first single. The band seems to like to keep all things under control. In other words, DIY philosophy. They shot, edited and directed the video, just like they did producing and mixing their record.

After the release of “Out Of Nowhere” cd (Red Sun Records) and vinyl (Discos Macarras, Odio Sonoro, Spinda Records, Red Sun Records), now the band is eager to spread some fuzz around the peninsula for the first time. So far cities confirmed are Barcelona, Madrid, Bilbao, Santander, Alicante, Terrassa … more to be added soon.

– DESPAIRS VIDEO –

Upcoming shows:

14 sept – Terrassa @ The Cavern (+ Tears In Rain play Mad Season’s “Above”)
28 sept – Bilbao @ tbc
29 sept – Santander @ Rock Beer The New (+ Wet Cactus)
5 octubre – Reus @ tbc
6 octubre – Alicante @ Surnia Fest ( + Rosy Finch +…)
7 octubre – Barcelona @ Rocksound (+ Sasquatch)
3 noviembre – Barcelona @ Auditori Can Batlló de Sants (+ Matote)
30 noviembre – Barcelona @ Freedonia (+ Keloidrop + Golíat)
22 diciembre – Madrid @ Wurlitzer Ballroom (+ Electric Valley + Krazark)

… more to be announced soon!

Fuzz Forward is:
Juan – Vocals
Jordi Vaquero – Bass
Marc Rockenberg – Drums
Edko Fuzz – Guitar

Fuzz Forward on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Forward on Twitter

Fuzz Forward on Instagram

Fuzz Forward on Bandcamp

Red Sun Records website

Red Sun Records on Thee Facebooks

Red Sun Records on Twitter

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Black Lotus Post New Single; Sons of Saturn Due Oct. 19

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

black lotus

Barcelona doomers Black Lotus are set to make their full-length debut Oct. 19 through Inverse Records with Sons of Saturn, an eight-track outing for which a video of the title-track is now streaming. Their sound preaches to the converted in doom pretty well and shouldn’t take experienced heads long to get on board. It’s a lyric video, and the song is upwards of eight minutes long, so if you’re getting introduced to the four-piece, as I am, it’s a significant way to accomplish that means.

The PR wire brings info about the band and the record below, and it’s pretty much business as usual — artwork, release date, band background, tracklisting, etc. — until you get to the lineup of the band itself and the unveiling of the stage name Charlie Goatskull. I’ve been at this a while and I’ve run into a lot of dudes who call themselves a lot of things, but I feel like Charlie Goatskull has to be up there. Like someone reads the social register and sees Charlie and it’s like, “Of the Barcelona Goatskulls? Very good then.” I love it.

Check it out:

black-lotus-sons-of-saturn

Heavy Doom Metal Band BLACK LOTUS to release album in October, first single out now!

Barcelona-based Heavy & Epic Doom Metal band BLACK LOTUS released a first single from the upcoming album ‘Sons of Saturn’. The album is released in October 19th 2018 by Inverse Records.

Black Lotus is founded by Hug Ballesta in 2015. After finding a proper line-up they headed into the Moontower Studio at the end of 2017. The album is recorded and mixed by Javi Félez and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege, Portland, Oregon.

Hug Ballesta comments:

“We have chosen Sons of Saturn as the first single because it represents by itself the key sounds we search for as a band. We are lovers of both the classic bands and the new sounds and styles in metal: rawness, heavy-doomy-slow tempos, but at the same time catchy melodies that can equally transport the listener to apparently opposed moods. We are delighted that Inverse Records helps us spread our music… can’t wait for the feedback!”

Black Lotus’ sound is grounded in the diverse influences of the band members. Traditional Heavy Metal is the common factor and driving force of the band, but alternative sounds of the 90s, Stoner Rock, Doom Metal and post metal genres are also colours in their palette. Their compositions are embracing all those influences without limitations or dogmas. Likewise, lyrics are eminently symbolic, expressing a dystopic vision of society and their view of the world. Classic mythology, occultism, and personal experiences and visions are the sources for their compositions.

Track list:
01. Kings
02. The Sandstorm
03. The Pyre – intro.
04. Protective Fire
05. Taurobolium
06. Sons of Saturn
07. The Swamp
08. Return to Erebus – closing.

Album cover by Luca Solo Macello.

Line-up:
Charlie Gotaskull – Rhythm & Lead guitars
Cristian Vil – Bass Guitar, Vocals
Hug Ballesta – Drums, Vocals
Caio Pastore – lead & rhythm guitars (live)

https://www.facebook.com/orderoftheblacklotus
https://orderoftheblacklotus.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.instagram.com/blacklotuscultband
https://twitter.com/BandBlackLotus
https://www.facebook.com/inverserecords
https://twitter.com/inverserecords
https://www.instagram.com/inverserecords/

Black Lotus, “Sons of Saturn” official video

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Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Morag Tong, Holy Mushroom, Naisian, Haunted, Pabst, L.M.I., Fuzz Forward, Onségen Ensemble, The Heavy Eyes

Posted in Reviews on July 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

I always say the same thing on the Wednesday of the Quarterly Review. Day 3. The halfway point. I say it every time. The fact is, doing these things kind of takes it out of me. All of it. It’s not that I don’t enjoy listening to all these records — well, I don’t enjoy all of them, but I’m talking more about the process — just that it’s a lot to take in and by the time I’m done each day, let alone at the end of the week, I’m fairly exhausted. So every time we hit the halfway point of a Quarterly Review, I feel somewhat compelled to note it. Cresting the hill, as it were. It’s satisfying to get to this point without my head falling off.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Khemmis, Desolation

khemmis desolation

Continuing their proclivity for one-word titles, Denver doom forerunners Khemmis take a decisive turn toward the metallic with their third album for 20 Buck Spin, the six-track/41-minute Desolation. Songs like opener “Bloodletting” and its side B counterpart “The Seer” are still tinged with doom, but the NWOBHM gallop in “Isolation” and “Maw of Time” – as well as the sheer force of the latter – is an unexpected twist. Khemmis showed classic metal elements on 2016’s was-a-very-big-deal Hunted (review here) and 2015’s debut, Absolution (review here), but it’s a question of balance, and as they’ve once again worked with producer Dave Otero, one can only read the shift as a conscious decision. The harder edge suits them – certainly suits the screams in “Maw of Time” and side A finale/album highlight “Flesh to Nothing” – and as Khemmis further refine their sound, they craft its most individualized manifestation to-date. There’s no hearing Desolation and mistaking Khemmis for another band. They’ve come into their own.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin website

 

Morag Tong, Last Knell of Om

morag tong last knell of om

A rumbling entry into London’s Heavy Generation, the four-piece Morag Tong unfold voluminous ritual on their debut full-length, Last Knell of Om. Largely slow and largely toned, the work of guitarists Alex Clarke and Lewis Crane brings the low end to the forefront along with the bass of James Atha while drummer Adam Asquith pushes the lurch forward on cuts like “New Growth” and “To Soil,” the band seemingly most comfortable when engaged in crawling tempos and weighted pummel. Asquith also adds semi-shouted vocals to the mire, which, surrounded by distortion as they are, only make the proceedings sound even more massive. There’s an ambience to “We Answer” and near-13-minute closer “Ephemera: Stare Through the Deep,” which gives the record a suitably noisy finish, but much of what Morag Tong are going for in sound depends on the effectiveness of their tonality, and they’ve got that part down on their debut. Coupled with the meditative feel in some of this material, that shows marked potential on the band’s part for future growth.

Morag Tong on Thee Facebooks

Morag Tong on Bandcamp

 

Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul

holy mushroom blood and soul

Working quickly to follow-up their earlier-2018 sophomore long-player, Moon (review here), Spain’s Holy Mushroom present Blood and Soul, an EP comprised of two songs recorded live in the studio. I’m not entirely sure why it’s split up at all, as the two-minute “Introito” – sure enough, a little introduction – feeds so smoothly into the 19-minute “Blood and Soul” itself, but fair enough either way as the trio shift between different instrumentation, incorporating sax, piano and organ among the guitar, bass, drums and vocals, and unfold a longform heavy psychedelic trip that not only builds on what they were doing with Moon but is every bit worthy of being released on its own. I don’t know if it was recorded at the same time as the record or later – both were done at Asturcon Studios – but it’s easy to see why the band would want to highlight “Blood and Moon.” Between the deep-running mix, the easy rhythmic flow into and out from drifting spaciousness, and the turn in the middle third toward more expansive arrangement elements, it’s an engaging motion that makes subtly difficult shifts seem utterly natural along the way. And even if you didn’t hear the latest full-length, Blood and Soul makes for a fitting introduction to who Holy Mushroom are as a band and what they can do.

Holy Mushroom on Thee Facebooks

Clostridium Records website

 

Naisian, Rejoinder

naisian rejoinder

Sludge-infused noise rock serves as the backdrop for lyrical shenanigans on the three-song Rejoinder EP from Sheffield, UK, trio Naisian. Running just 12 minutes, it’s a quick and thickened pummel enacted by the band, who work in shades of post-metal for “90 ft. Stone,” “Mantis Rising” and “Lefole,” most especially in the middle cut, but even there, the focus in on harsh vocals and lumbering sonic heft. It’s now been seven years since the band sort-of issued their debut album, Mammalian, and six since they followed with the Monocle EP, and the time seems to have stripped down their sound to a degree. “Lefole” is the longest track on Rejoinder at 5:18 and it’s still shorter than every other song Naisian have put out to-date. Their crunch lacks nothing for impact, however, and to go with the swing of “Lefole,” everybody seems to contribute to a vocal assault that only adds to the punishing but thoughtful vibe.

Naisian on Thee Facebooks

Naisian on Bandcamp

 

Haunted, Dayburner

haunted dayburner

The effects-laden vocal swirl at the outset of Haunted’s “Mourning Sun” and moments in the Italian act’s longer-form material, “Waterdawn” or “Orphic,” for example, will invariably lead some listeners to point to a Windhand influence, but the character of the band’s second album, Dayburner (on Twin Earth, DHU and Graven Earth all), follows their 2016 self-titled (review here) by holding steady to a developing identity of its own. To be sure, vocalist Christina Chimirri, guitarists Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando, bassist Frank Tudisco and drummer Dario Casabona make their way into a deep, murky swamp of modern doom in “Dayburner” (video posted here), but in the crush of their tones amid all that trance-inducing riffing, they cast themselves as an outfit seeking to express individuality within the set parameters of style. Their execution, then, is what it comes down to, and with “Orphic” (12:46) and “Vespertine” (13:19) back to back, there’s plenty of doom on the 66-minute 2LP to roll that out. And they do so in patient and successful form, with marked tonal vibrancy and a sense of controlling the storm they’re creating as they go.

Haunted on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records website

DHU Records webstore

Graven Earth Records webstore

 

Pabst, Chlorine

pabst chlorine

So, the aesthetic is different. Pabst play a blend of noise, post-punk, heavy rock and grunge, but with the ready pop influence — to wit, the outright danceability of “Shits,” reminiscent in its bounce of later Queens of the Stone Age – and persistent melodicism, there’s just a twinge of what Mars Red Sky did for heavy rolling riffs happening on Chlorine, their Crazysane Records debut. It’s in that blend of dense low-end fuzz and brighter vocal melodies, but again, Pabst, hailing from Berlin, are on their own trip. Weird but almost more enjoyable than it seems to want to be, the 12-track/35-minute outing indulges little and offers singalong-ready vibes in “Catching Feelings” and “Waterslide” while “Waiting Loop” chills out before the push of “Accelerate” and the angularity of “Cheapskate” take hold. Chrlorine careens and (blue) ribbons its way to the drive-fast-windows-open stylization of “Summer Never Came” and the finale “Under Water,” a vocal effect on the latter doing nothing to take away from its ultra-catchy hook. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a record someone with just the right kind of open mind can come to love.

Pabst on Thee Facebooks

Crazysane Records webstore

 

L.M.I., IV

lmi iv

If you’ve got a dank basement full of skinny college kids, chances are Lansdale, Pennsylvania’s L.M.I. are ready to tear their faces off. The sludge-thickened riff punkers run abut 11 minutes with their five-song release, L.M.I. IV, and that’s well enough time to get their message across. Actually, by the end of “Neck of Tension” and “Weaning Youth,” roughly four and half minutes in, the statement of intent is pretty clear. L.M.I. present furious but grooving hardcore punk more given to scathe than pummel, and their inclusions on L.M.I. IV bring that to life with due sense of controlled chaos. Centerpiece “Lurking Breath” gives way to “First to Dark” – the longest cut at a sprawling 2:55 – and they save a bit of grunge guitar scorch and lower-register growling for closer “June was a Test,” there isn’t really time in general for any redundancy to take hold. That suits the feeling of assault well, as L.M.I. get in and get out on the quick and once they’re gone, all that’s left to do is clean the blood off the walls.

L.M.I. on Thee Facebooks

L.M.I. on Bandcamp

 

Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere

fuzz forward out of nowhere

Released one way or another through Discos Macarras, Odio Sonoro, Spinda Records and Red Sun Records, the eight-song/43-minute debut album from Barcelona’s Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere, has earned acclaim from multiple corners for its interpretation of grunge-era melodies through a varied heavy rock filter. Indeed, the vocals of Juan Gil – joined in the band by guitarist Edko Fuzz, bassist Jordi Vaquero and drummer Marc Rockenberg – pull the mind directly to a young Layne Staley, and forces one to realize it’s been a while since that low-in-the-mouth approach was so ubiquitous. It works well for Gil in the laid back “Summertime Somersaults” as well as the swinging, cowbell-infused later cut “Drained,” and as the band seems to foreshadow richer atmospheric exploration on “Thorns in Tongue” and “Torches,” they nonetheless maintain a focus on songwriting that grounds the proceedings and will hopefully continue to serve as their foundation as they move forward. No argument with the plaudits they’ve thus far received. Seems doubtful they’ll be the last.

Fuzz Forward on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Forward on Bandcamp

 

Onségen Ensemble, Duel

Onsegen ensemble duel

The kind of record you’re doing yourself a favor by hearing – a visionary cast of progressive psychedelia that teems with creative energy and is an inspiration even in the listening. Frankly, the only thing I’m not sure about when it comes to Oulu, Finland, outfit Onségen Enseble’s second album, Duel, is why it isn’t being released through Svart Records. It seems like such a natural fit, with the adventurous woodwinds on opener “Think Neither Good Nor Evil,” the meditative sprawl of the title-track (video posted here), the jazz-jam in the middle of “Dogma MMXVII,” the tribalist percussion anchoring the 12-minute “Three Calls of the Emperor’s Teacher,” which surely would otherwise float away under its own antigravity power, and the free-psych build of closer “Zodiacal Lights of Onségen,” which shimmers in otherworldly fashion and improvised-sounding spark. On Svart or not, Duel is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, and one the creativity of which puts it in a class of its own, even in the vast reaches of psychedelic rock. Whether it means to or not, it tells a story with sound, and that story should be heard.

Onségen Ensemble on Thee Facebooks

Onsegen Ensemble on Bandcamp

 

The Heavy Eyes, Live in Memphis

the heavy eyes live in memphis

Since so much of The Heavy Eyes’ studio presentation has consistently been about crispness of sound and structured songwriting, it’s kind of a relief to hear them knock into some feedback at the start of “Mannish Boy” at the outset of Live in Memphis (on Kozmik Artifactz). The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Tripp Shumake, bassist Wally Anderson and drummer Eric Garcia are still tight as hell, of course, and their material – drawn here from the band’s LPs, 2015’s He Dreams of Lions (review here), 2012’s Maera, 2011’s self-titled, as well as sundry shorter offerings – is likewise. They’ve never been an overly dangerous band, nor have they wanted to be, but the stage performance does add a bit of edge to “Iron Giants” from the debut, which is followed by singing “Happy Birthday” to a friend in the crowd. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Live in Memphis is hearing The Heavy Eyes loosen up a bit on stage, and hearing them sound like they’re having as good a time playing as the crowd is watching and hearing them do so. That sense of fun suits them well.

The Heavy Eyes on Thee Facebooks

The Heavy Eyes at Kozmik Artifactz

 

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Fuzz Forward to Release Out of Nowhere in March; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

fuzz forward

To herald the arrival of their debut album, Out of Nowhere, Barcelona-based heavy rockers Fuzz Forward are streaming the new track ‘Despairs’ as the first audio to come from the four-piece. Sure enough, it’s pretty fuzzy, but the name-your-price single has more going on than the guitar tone of Edko Fuzz in Juan Gil‘s post-Alice in Chains vocal melodies and an overarching grunge-style feel to the groove from bassist Jordi Vaquero and drummer Marc Rockenberg. Whether or not or to what degree “Despairs” might represent Out of Nowhere as a whole, I don’t really know, but the track has its house in order to be sure, and if the remainder of the LP is nearly as cohesive in its approach, it’ll be one to watch for as we move out of winter.

The PR wire brings background and streaming audio:

fuzz forward out of nowhere

FUZZ FORWARD new song Despairs!

Fuzz Forward was born as a trio in Barcelona by mid-2016 with Jordi (Boveda del Sol, Mindust) on bass and brothers Edko (El Yeti, Rags to Riches) on guitar and Marc (El Yeti, Valiumbitch) on drums. After a few months trying out singers, the band found in Juan the singer to seal a stable line-up by early 2017. Writing songs took the front seat in the band’s schedule and it was during 2017, that the eight songs that will be part of their debut album, “Out of Nowhere” (due for release next March of 2018), came to their final shape. During that stint, the band also started playing live with bands like Sasquatch, Mammoth Mammoth and Electric Monolith.

The music of Fuzz Forward has its roots in 70s hard rock, the alternative sounds of the 90s and the stoner rock of the last decades. These are the ingredients for a strange and exquisite mix with crushing riffs, dark melodies and a touch of space psychedelia.

Produced & Recorded by Fuzz Forward
Mixed & Mastered by Jordi Vaquero

Fuzz Forward is:
Juan Gil – Vocals
Jordi Vaquero – Bass
Marc Rockenberg – Drums
Edko Fuzz – Guitar

https://www.facebook.com/fuzzforward/
https://fuzzforward.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.facebook.com/RedSunBarcelona/

Fuzz Forward, “Despairs” from Out of Nowhere (2018)

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Quarterly Review: Godflesh, Serpents of Secrecy, Vymaanika, Zong, Vitriol, Pillars, Lamp of the Universe & Kanoi, Azonic, Thousand Vision Mist, Arcadian Child

Posted in Reviews on January 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Lodewijk de Vadder (1605-1655) - 17th Century Etching, Landscape with Two Farms

Today is the last day of The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review, and it’s kind of hard to believe it’s gone so fast. Before I put the Big Boot to the proceedings like Hulk Hogan getting ready to call it a day with an elbow drop at Wrestlemania — yup, just like that — I have to take a special moment to thank The Patient Mrs. for allowing me the time this week to bang out all of these reviews and get everything sorted on the back end, etc., for these posts. She, of course, as always, perpetually, has been unbelievable, and especially with The Pecan to manage, she’s earned her title more than ever. It is thoroughly, deeply, appreciated. Much love, baby. Thank you.

Okay, Big Boot time. Let’s do this thing.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Godflesh, Post Self

godflesh post self

Guitarist/vocalist/programmer Justin K. Broadrick and bassist BC Green return with Post Self, their second post-reunion full-length behind 2014’s A World Lit Only by Fire (review here) and a collection of churning electro-noise hymnals that work in a sphere that should by now be well familiar to their multi-generational fanbase. The groundbreaking industrial pioneers sound decidedly led by the guitar on the chugging “Parasite” and the airy, almost Jesu-style wash of “The Cyclic End,” but the intensity of the beat behind “No Body,” bass and noise onslaught of “Be God” and synth-driven soundscaping of “Mortality Sorrow” recall the sonic diversity that’s always been as much a part of Godflesh’s approach as their signature cyclical rhythmic style. More perhaps than ever, Broadrick and Green seem to be aware of what defines Godflesh as a band in terms of sound, and as they make the crucial move from a “reunion” band to a working one, they seem as glad as ever to push those boundaries once more.

Justin K. Broadrick on Thee Facebooks

Avalanche Recordings on Bandcamp

 

Serpents of Secrecy, Uncoiled: The Singles

serpents-of-secrecy-uncoiled-the-singles

This two-song single may end up bring the only offering Serpents of Secrecy ever make public, and it was years in coming together. In December, the Chesapeake region group with members of Foghound, Borracho and King Giant suffered the loss of bassist Jim Forrester, who was murdered in Baltimore, and while a debut long-player was in discussion, to-date the five-piece have only issued “Warbird’s Song” and “The Cheat” as Uncoiled – The Singles, and obviously now any kind of follow-up is in question. Whether it’s the raucous burl of “Warbird’s Song” or the bluesy, organ-topped fluidity of “The Cheat,” the J. Robbins-produced tracks demonstrate the potential at heart from the lineup of vocalist Mark Lorenzo – who wound up in the role after members of Alabama Thunderpussy and Mister Bones vacated – guitarists Steve Fisher and Todd Ingram, Forrester and his former Sixty Watt Shaman bandmate Chuck Dukehart III. The only question at this point is whether that potential will ever see further realization. Right on as these songs are, I’m torn on the idea, to be honest.

Serpents of Secrecy on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records website

 

Vymaanika, Spectroscope

vymaanika-spectroscope

Multinational space rockers Vymaanika debut with the 20-minute two-songer Spectroscope EP, comprised of its 10-minute opening title-track and the subsequent “Golden Void,” which may or may not be named in honor of the side-project of Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell. I’d believe it either way. The band comprises members from Catalan – guitarist/vocalist/synthesis Carles Esteban and bassist Andrés Paniagua, Chile in drummer/synthesist Jose Jünemann, and the US in guitarist/vocalist/synthesis Benjamin Mahoney, but they all seem to have come together to record in Barcelona, and the breadth of “Spectroscope” and serene psychedelic mantra-making of “Golden Void” benefit from that band-in-the-room vibe. Especially so the latter, which touches early on vocal harmonies over drifting guitar strum, steady synth drone and percussive pulsations before building to a more active apex in its second half. After the cacophony taking hold in the back end of “Spectroscope,” it’s a clear demarcation of a varied sonic persona, and while I don’t know how often Vymaanika will be able to get everyone together with the geographic spread, it’s easy to be glad they did it for this first EP.

Vymaanika on Thee Facebooks

Vymaanika on Bandcamp

 

Zong, Zong

zong zong

Flowing arrangements abound on Zong’s self-titled four-track debut full-length. The Brisbane, Australia-based heavy psych three-piece are well within their genre sphere, but from opener and longest track (immediate points) “Cosmic Embryo” (13:00) through “Arcane Sand” (8:10), the perhaps-Zardoz-referential “Giant Floating Head” (11:48) and closer “Return of the Alien King” (10:32), they demonstrate a natural chemistry, patience and warmth of tone that is no less comfortable in the march and lurch of its penultimate cut than in dug-in repetition-born hypnosis of the leadoff. Deceptively weighted from almost its beginning point with the low end of Michael Grinstead’s bass and the rolling drums of Henry Bennett, there’s also a balance of airiness from guitarist Adam Anderson that adds nuance when called upon to do so, though there are plenty of moments where Zong’s Zong seems perfectly content to cave-jam its far-out atmospheric fluidity. Not an ethic and not a result you’re going to hear me complain about.

Zong on Thee Facebooks

Cardinal Fuzz Records webstore

Praying Mantis Records on Bandcamp

 

Vitriol, Pain Will Define Their Death

vitriol-pain-will-define-their-death

Brutal tech-death pervades Vitriol’s first EP, Pain Will Define Their Death – a three-song onslaught the violence of which is writ large over every minute of its total 12. Sharing a penchant for opening to bigger-sounding choruses like that of its opening title-cut with peak-era Hate Eternal, the pummel factor, ultra-tense push and unmitigated viciousness eschews some of the more machine-like aspects of such technically-minded fare, and while Vitriol’s overarching groove, gutturalist execution and hammer-swing breakdowns are casting out their own assault on the aforementioned opener as well as the subsequent blast-laden “Victim” and “Violence, a Worthy Truth,” they’re working in service to songcraft much more than to an indulgent showcase of prowess, and that makes all the difference in terms of the material’s ultimate impact. That impact? When was the last time you were actually kicked in the face? Nothing if not aptly named, Vitriol’s death metal seethes and rages in kind and bodes remarkably well for future manifest devastation.

Vitriol on Thee Facebooks

Vitriol on Bandcamp

 

Pillars, Pyres and Gallows

pillars-pyres-and-gallows

Hailing classic doom and darker atmospheres, French four-piece Pillars debut on Seeing Red Records via the Pyres and Gallows EP. Its four songs run a gamut of traditional grooves, but lumber with a balance between their rawness and a spirit of underlying riffy nuance that adds texture beneath the gruff, dudely vocals of frontman Klem, the tones of guitarist Djé and bassist Disaster well suited to the plodding companionship of drummer JJ on a song like the problematically-titled second cut “Dirty Whoreshippers” or the 10-minute title-track that rounds out. At 33 minutes, I’m not sure what’s stopping Pyres and Gallows from being a full-length, but if that’s a hint that Pillars have more to say going forward, then fair enough. They may be preaching to the converted in these tracks, but they’re doing so in righteous fashion and with a sense of their own identity under development. Doom on? Yeah, totally doom on. By all means. Please do.

Pillars on Thee Facebooks

Seeing Red Records on Bandcamp

 

Lamp of the Universe & Kanoi, Split

lamp-of-the-universe-kanoi-split

Among the fascinating factors at work on this cross-continental Clostridium Records split release between long-running New Zealand acid folk outfit Lamp of the Universe and Austrian psychedelic fuzz purveyor Kanoi is the fact that both parties involved are solo-projects. For Lamp of the Universe’s Craig Williamson (also Arc of Ascent), he brings three tracks of his signature drenched-wet lysergism in “In the Beginning,” “The Cosmic Body Track,” “Father” and “Space Chant,” while Kanoi’s Benjamin Kantschieder revisits two cuts from 2016’s Mountains of the Sun full-length in the extended “I’m Gone (I’m Gone)” and “Mountains of the Sun” itself. The novelty of having two single parties match wits on such fluid arrangements – my head always begs for collaboration in these instances – is offset by the quality of their work itself. Neither is new to their sphere, but both seem keen to continue to experiment and explore, and it’s from that commonality that the split most benefits.

Lamp of the Universe on Bandcamp

Kanoi on Bandcamp

Clostridium Records website

 

Azonic, Prospect of the Deep Volume One

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The first Azonic offering since the mid-‘90s finds Brooklyn-based experimentalist Andy Hawkins reviving the project alongside his Blind Idiot God bandmate Tim Wyskida as a melding of drone/noise and percussive ideas. Released through Hawkins’ own Indivisible Music, Prospect of the Deep Volume One – pretty ambitious to put a “volume one” in the title of your first record in 20-plus years – presents two expansive works in “Oblivion of the Deep” (18:53) and “The Argonauts Reckoning” (18:42) as well as the CD bonus track “Voices of the Drowned” (10:12) that brim with atmospheric intent and have an underlying sense of control on the part of Hawkins that speaks to some measure of steering what might in other hands simply feel like sonic chaos. You can hear it early into “The Argonauts Reckoning,” as the layered wash seems to want to fly off the rails and swell and Hawkins’ guitar simply doesn’t let it go, but it’s true elsewhere on Prospect of the Deep Volume One as well, and in listening, it’s the difference between the album being a joy in the immersion, which it is, and a self-indulgent misfire, which it very much is not.

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Indivisible Music website

 

Thousand Vision Mist, Journey to Ascension and the Loss of Tomorrow

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Named for the lone 2002 full-length from Maryland doomers Life Beyond, in which guitarist/vocalist Danny Kenyon also featured, newcomer trio Thousand Vision Mist debut with the progressive-leaning edge of Journey to Ascension and the Loss of Tomorrow, a 52-minute 10-tracker. Yes, Rush are a factor in terms of influence. However, propelled by the drumming of Chris Sebastian, whose frenetic snare adds a Mastodonic feel to “Headstones Throw,” the otherwise classic-vibing “Final Flight of Fall” and the later “Darklight,” among others, the cumbersomely-titled offering sets its balance between modern prog metal, doom and classic heavy rock, with bassist Tony Comulada adding vocal harmonies alongside Kenyon and providing a needed anchor to keep songs like the penultimate “Skybound and Beyond” from actually taking off and leaving their audience behind. Reportedly long in the works, Journey to Ascension and the Loss of Tomorrow isn’t a minor digestion process at its busy and extended runtime, but while the recording is raw, there’s no shortage of fodder for engagement throughout its swath of choruses and head-spinning turns.

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Thousand Vision Mist on Bandcamp

 

Arcadian Child, Afterglow

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Though not at all without its more driving aspects, some of the most satisfying moments on Arcadian Child’s debut album, Afterglow, come from a soothing hook like that of “Rabbit Hole,” which finds the Cypriot four-piece more fully embodying a laid back desert rock atmosphere that underpins the Fatso Jetson-esque opener “She’s on My Mind” and subsequent “Little Late for Love.” As the feels-short-at-29-minutes record unfolds, “Electric Red” blends fuzz and Mediterranean rhythmic push, “Irresistible” toys with layered swirl beneath a solidly-weighted verse and chorus, “Run” makes itself a highlight around a post-Lullabies to Paralyze atmospheric lead and start-stop riff, and the title-track casts momentum in melody and groove into closer “Used,” which pays one more welcome visit to the more serene side of their personality before they’re done. It might be a sleeper, but I’d be surprised if someone didn’t pick Afterglow up for a vinyl release sooner or later; the songwriting, performance, presentation and potential for future growth are all there waiting to be found by the right ears.

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Arcadian Child on Bandcamp

 

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Telescope, Telescope: Truth and Revision

Posted in Reviews on December 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

telescope telescope

It’s a question of timing. We hear a lot about what’s commonly considered the Psychedelic Era, which ran roughly from 1966 to 1970 and could be considered the ground out of which the first movement of heavy rock was subsequently born. The succession isn’t so clean, of course. It wasn’t one right into the next. But trends came and went and different sounds were picked up at different times enough for a narrative to emerge, so that’s what it is. The Psychedelic Era.

Newcomer Barcelona duo Telescope offer a reminder with their three-song debut short release that the story is never quite that plain, and that each detail has the potential to be hiding its own devil. Comprised of multi-instrumentalists Esteban Garós and Luis Pomés — the latter also of Lewis and the Strange Magics — the two-piece have an immediately deceptive modus, rife with aesthetic specificity that seems geared toward capturing the very moment when the British Invasion and the subsequent movement of pop-rock first began to take on psychedelic overtones.

In other words: when The Beatles started smoking pot. There’s proto-lysergic elements at work in Telescope‘s three initial tracks — “With Your Truth,” “Adrift” and “Not Your Game” — but no hint of anything like a bad trip taking place and Garós and Pomés, who also self-recorded while Pomés handled mixing and mastering, never lose the sunshiny pop flair that lies beneath the resonant fuzz of their tones.

The result of this effort may only be 11 minutes long, and it may ultimately lie somewhere between a demo and an EP when it comes to the actual reality of how it will relate to their work going forward — that is, one doesn’t want to read too much into it with the project being so new — but it’s a significant stylistic achievement that nestles itself warmly into a sonic place few bands inhabit or would dare to try inhabit. Telescope do this without snark, without irony, and with a sense of character in their songcraft strikingly developed for it being their first offering.

One might give partial credit as regards that songcraft to Pomés‘ prior experience in Lewis and the Strange Magics, whose twisted take on classic garage rock isn’t entirely divorced from the semi-retroist vibes Telescope bring to proto-psych in these three cuts, but in comparing approaches, the new duo is far less theatrical, and by focusing sonically on the years closer to ’64-’66 rather than ’67-’70, they also position themselves in a fascinating niche as regards how rock and roll began to use the studio itself as an instrument.

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The drums on the straight-off-Help! bouncing closer “Not Your Game” are particularly Ringo-esque and sound recorded live, but along with that and the running bass, there’s a later flourish of synth and the vocal harmonies over top there and the Mellotron that pops up in the swinging “Adrift” speak to what were the very beginnings of studio experimentation that, in just a few years’ time, would produce records like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Are You Experienced? and The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. That sensibility begins on “With Your Truth,” which opens and is also the longest track (immediate points) at 3:55.

A gentle guitar line swirls in backed by bright-tone fuzz and sets itself to easy-dreaming a quick verse that seems to hop into the volume swell of the hook, with a strut of low end that continues the smooth and crisp groove into the next verse and chorus, after which a short solo takes hold, leading back to the chorus and toward the couple quick instrumental measures that close. It is so forward, so traditionalist in its structure and so sincere and gimmick-free in its execution that one can’t help being swept up by it, and as “Adrift” cleanly takes hold with its opening bassline and the aforementioned Mellotron, the more blown-out vocals over the laid back instrumental progression give a feeling of variety to the EP that is no less subtle than the nuance of their style, Garós and Pomés showing an early chemistry between them in terms of performance as much as writing.

And I don’t know that I ever thought I’d find myself using a phrase like “the tambourine makes it,” but as regards “Not Your Game,” it also happens to be true. It is precisely the kind of touch that lets the listener know just how schooled in what they’re doing Telescope are, which seems all the more crucial their first time out, and it’s one more nod to the pre-psych age that also allows the band to sneak in more modern elements and weirdo touches, giving them, in essence, a familiar foundation on which to build a sound of their own. That they do so with yet another hook of such quality is all the more to their credit, but in line with the cheerful and sunshiny mood of the release overall and the temporal thematic, that quality is an additional aspect tying the EP’s tracks together.

In thinking of how a debut long-player might take shape, it’s important to keep in mind just how tight records from this (that) era were. As “Not Your Game” fades out, one is reminded of strong-handed producers keeping things radio-friendly with editorial tape-cutting and so on. A question Telescope will have to answer for themselves as they move forward from this debut EP is just where they want to put themselves in that balance, and how they can still manage to bring diversity of songwriting to a release while keeping individual pieces to such brevity.

Certainly it’s been done before — that’s the whole point. I’d love to hear Garós and Pomés take on a sentimental ballad, or an unabashed love song, or even the stuff of a mega-catchy toss-off single. There’s so much potential in their debut EP that it’s difficult to imagine the various directions in which they might grow, but they’ve set the task in front of them and they push through this introductory statement in such a manner as to make one think that wherever they end up, it will be a joy to follow along. Here’s looking forward to looking back.

Telescope, Telescope (2017)

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Telescope on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Hallatar, Alastor, The Dead-End Alley Band, Hair of the Dog, Soup, Kungens Män, Smoke Wizzzard, Highburnator, The Curf, Ulls

Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

Here we are, gathered for round four of the Fall 2017 Quarterly Review. After the technical issues with the site for the last couple days, I’m glad to have everything back up and running, and one more time I thank Slevin and Behrang Alavi for making that happen. Though I have no idea what it might actually entail, I don’t imagine switching hosts on the fly for a site with as much content as this one has is easy, but they of course killed it and it is thoroughly appreciated. We move forward, as ever, with 10 more records. So let’s go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Hallatar, No Stars Upon the Bridge

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Finland’s Hallatar was formed after the passing of Trees of Eternity vocalist Aleah Starbridge, life partner of guitarist and songwriter Juha Ravio (also Swallow the Sun). In the new outfit, Ravio pays homage to Starbridge with the debut long-player No Stars Upon the Bridge (on Svart) by using her poems as lyrics, samples of her voice reading on “Raven’s Song,” “Spiral Gate” and the piano-backed centerpiece “Pieces,” and by bringing in Amorphis vocalist Tomi Joutsen and ex-HIM drummer Gas Lipstick to complete a trio playing nine tracks/40 minutes of deeply mournful/beautiful death-doom. The extremity of lurch in “The Maze” late in the record is matched by the gorgeousness of the chants and shimmering guitar on closer “Dreams Burn Down,” and from the opening strains of “Mirrors,” the emotion driving No Stars Upon the Bridge is sincere and affecting. Cuts like “Melt” and the mostly-whispered-until-it-explodes “My Mistake” have a sense of the theatrical in their delivery, but that makes them no less genuine, and though one wouldn’t wish the circumstances leading to the band’s formation on anybody, there’s no question that with Hallatar, Ravio turns tragedy into a lush, resonant catharsis.

Hallatar on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records website

 

Alastor, Black Magic

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Cultish echoes pervade Black Magic, the debut album from Swedish doom-rolling four-piece Alastor, and it’s not so much that the initials-only four-piece of guitarists H and J, bassist/vocalist R and drummer S take influence from Electric Wizard and Black Sabbath, it’s what they do with that influence that’s most striking. Black Magic is made up of three extended tracks – “Enemy” (11:51), “Nothing to Fear” (7:42) and “Black Magic” (14:27) – and with a deep tonal engagement, each one embarks on a huge-sounding sprawl of doom. Yes, the guitars owe the swirl in “Nothing to Fear” to Jus Oborn, but the echoes behind R’s voice there and the melody have an almost New Wave-style feel despite the “all right now!” drawn right from the Ozzy playbook. In other words, Alastor are preaching to the converted, and that holds true in the snowblinded Luciferian spaciousness of the title-track’s early going as well, but the converted should have no problem finding the gospel in what they’re hearing, and as “Black Magic” rounds out with its chanted feel, Alastor affirm the potential to progress within this sound and to continue to develop it into something even more their own than it is now. Familiar superficially, but sneaky in the details, so watch out.

Alastor on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records webstore

 

The Dead-End Alley Band, Storms

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Lima-based four-piece The Dead-End Alley Band aren’t far into opener “Red Woman” before the dark-psych vibe and languid groove have properly emphasized just how much the guitar of Leonardo Alva and the organ of Sebastian Sanchez-Botta (also vocals) complement each other. Propelled by the rhythm section of bassist/vocalist Javier Kou and drummer Jafer Diaz, Storms is the third album from them behind 2015’s Odd Stories (discussed here) and 2013’s debut, Whispers of the Night (review here), and it continues to blend fuzz and classic garage doom impulses on songs like “Headstone Fortress” and the shuffling “Thunderbolts and Lace,” the latter of which wah-trips to the max around a stirring boogie before “The Clock has Stopped” weirds out on extra vocal echoes and nine-minute closer “Waiting for the Void” brings in the progressive touches of pan flute and percussion. Even in the earlier, shortest track “Need You (It’s Enough),” The Dead-End Alley Band bring no shortage of personality to the proceedings, and confirm that the rough edges of their early outings have matured into essential aspects of who they have become as a band, completely in control of their craft and able to conjure an atmosphere both classic and individual.

The Dead-End Alley Band on Thee Facebooks

The Dead-End Alley Band on Bandcamp

Forbidden Place Records website

 

Hair of the Dog, This World Turns

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Making their debut on Kozmik Artifactz, Scottish trio Hair of the Dog give their guitar-led compositions plenty of time to flesh out on This World Turns, their third album, as they demonstrate quickly on the nine-plus minute titular opener and longest track (immediate points), but one would hardly call their songwriting indulgent there or anywhere else as “This World Turns” flows easily into the following seven-minute push of “Keeping Watch over the Night” in a resolute one-two punch that soon gives way to the shorter and more driving “Ctrl-Alt-Del,” touching on influences from Thin Lizzy and Scorpions en route as well as modern practitioners like Kadavar, whose stamp can also be heard on side B launch “The Colours in Her Skin.” That’s not to say Hair of the Dog — guitarist/vocalist Adam Holt (interview here), bassist Iain Thomson and drummer Jon Holt – don’t leave their own mark as well, just that their blend stems from multiple sources. A bit of Lynottism surfaces in the penultimate “In Death’s Hands” as well, which has a more subdued feel despite fervent rhythmic movement underlying, and closer “4AM” soars with enough vigor and soul – and a little falsetto – to give This World Turns a suitably smooth and vibrant finish.

Hair of the Dog on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Soup, Remedies

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With ties to Motorpsycho through guitarist Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan, Soup issue their sixth long-player in the five-track lush melodicism of Remedies, which feels particularly aptly named for the immersion the wash that opener “Going Somewhere” is able to elicit. That is, of course, just the first of the spacious, semi-folk-infused progressions, and it’s with the longer-form “The Boy and the Snow” (11:33) and the psychedelic purposeful meandering of “Sleepers” (13:35) that Remedies truly unveils its considerable breadth, but the Crispin Glover Records release holds a sense of poise even in the two-minute centerpiece church organ interlude “Audion,” and the harmonies of “Nothing Like Home” bring to mind peak-era Porcupine Tree patience and fluidity while holding fast to the bright, orange-sunshiny warmth of the atmosphere as a whole, instruments dropping out just before three minutes in to showcase the vocals before returning to embark on the march to the final crescendo, not at all overblown but with just a touch of extra volume to let listeners dive deeper into the moment. Remedies feels quick at 42 minutes, but turns out to be just what the doctor ordered.

Soup on Thee Facebooks

Crispin Glover Records website

 

Kungens Män, Dag & Natt

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Prolific psych-progging Stockholmers Kungens Män return with Dag & Natt, a 2CD/2LP issued through Kungens Ljud & Bild (CD) and Adansonia Records (LP) that overflows with jazzy fluidity and gorgeous immersion. The band’s last studio outing was late-2015’s Förnekaren (review here), and whether it’s 13-minute pieces like opener “Morgonrodnad” and the even-more-krautrocking “Aftonstjärnan” or the seemingly complementary inclusions of the kosmiche-minded “Dag” and wonderfully drifting “Natt,” the album as a whole is a joy and a boon to anyone looking for an extended psychedelic meander. The saxophone of Gustav Nygren on the aforementioned leadoff and “Natt” makes a particularly striking impression, but with a steady, languid wash of guitar, synth and warm bass throughout, Dag & Natt wants nothing for flow, and the gentle, classy spirit is maintained even as the penultimate “Vargtimmen” ups the sense of thrust leading into the finisher payoff of “Cirkeln är Slut.” As of now, Kungens Män should be considered a too-well-kept secret of Scandinavia’s psych underground, though listening to Dag & Natt, one wonders just how long they’ll stay that way.

Kungens Män on Thee Facebooks

Adansonia Records website

 

Smoke Wizzzard, Run with the Wolf

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Whether it’s through the striking and gruesome cover art or through the lumbering post-Sabbath, post-Cathedral stoner-doom nod contained within, Smoke Wizzzard’s five-song self-titled debut LP thoroughly earns its third ‘z’ – and, for that matter, its second one – with played-to-form thickness and a tonal push that starts with 10-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “Astro Lord” and continues to swagger and swing with due viscosity through “Reptiles” after the minute-long punker curveball “Soul Train.” The highlight of the Pittsburgh trio’s first outing might be “The Pass,” which has a hazy patience and some rightly-featured bass tone, but as “Run with the Wolf” moves from its early Electric Wizard muckraking to cap with piano and included howls for a doomier feel, it becomes clear Smoke Wizzzard have yet to play their full stylistic hand and the real highlights may still be yet to come. Fair enough. Something tells me getting stranger is only going to be a boon to Smoke Wizzzard’s approach on the whole, so bring it on.

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Smoke Wizzzard on Bandcamp

 

Highburnator, Keystoned State

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If you hit up Highburnator’s Bandcamp and download their name-your-price Keystoned State EP, you might note the fifth and final inclusion is the entire live-recorded, 28-minute release presented as a single track. No doubt the Pennsylvania three-piece intend the four-song outing to be taken just that way. They begin with the “mad as hell” speech sampled from the 1976 film Network and from there unfold a potent riffly brew met head on with harsh East Coast hardcore-style vocals and more metallic growls. That’s nine-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Brass Rail,” and it sets the tone for what follows on the eponymous “Highburnator” before “Desert Funeral” and the Sleep-style nod of “Peaking at the Coffin” push into even more stonerly vibes. This melding of pissed-off disaffection and mid-paced heavy rock groove is particular to the sludge of the Eastern Seaboard – think of it as regional fare – but Highburnator find space for themselves in the rawness of their riffs and the charm of their puns, and by the time they’re through the four songs, it makes sense why they might want to present the full onslaught as a single entity, essentially giving it to their listeners on one overflowing platter. Got the munchies? It’s right there waiting.

Highburnator on Thee Facebooks

Highburnator on Bandcamp

 

The Curf, Death and Love

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Greek psych-doomers The Curf made their debut in 2007 with I and then went radio silent until last year’s Royal Water EP. Their sophomore full-length, Death and Love, then, arrives via Fuzz Ink Records with some amount of intrigue behind it, but either way, the sans-pretense heavy roll the band unfurls on “Dark Hado,” and the more uptempo “Smoke Ring,” the dig-in low end of “Lunar Lair” and the scream-topped start-stoppery of “California” present a varied take brought together through heft as well as the crispness of production and delivery, such that when it wants to, Death and Love can bite down hard, but as on the closing title-track or the earlier “Order ‘n’ Sin,” it can rumble out spaciousness as well. Whatever might’ve taken The Curf so long to put together a second album beats the hell out of me, but if they were looking to make an argument for a third one, they do so convincingly across these nine songs, which hold firmly to their overarching flow despite the emergent stylistic range.

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Fuzz Ink Records webstore

 

Ulls, I

ULLS I

For now, Ulls is the solo-project of Barcelona-based David Trillo, formerly guitarist/vocalist for the heavy progressive trio Lord Summerisle, but the hope seems to be to build a full band at some point in the future. The I EP might rightly be called a demo, then, but for the professionalism and cohesiveness of sound with which its three songs are presented and the clarity of intent behind them. With Trillo rumbling away on bass beneath, six-minute opener “Inhumat” fleshes out its arrangement with organ alongside guitar swirl and sets up the classically swinging strut of “Llot Convuls,” on which the drums post-midsection lead the way through starts and stops à la a restless King Crimson and the guitar joins with no less angularity. Eight-minute closer “L’Emersió de l’Executor” brings about a thicker overall tone, but holds to a similar mood through its first half, Trillo finding room after about the four-and-a-half-minute mark for a standout solo executed with the bass running fluidly alongside that carries the song to its fading finish just before seven minutes in, at which point a residual drone takes hold to lead the way out. That ending is telling when it comes to various impulses that might show themselves in Ulls going forward, but as an initial demonstration, suffice it to say that I makes it plain Trillo shouldn’t have much trouble finding other players to come aboard the band with him.

Ulls on Instagram

Ulls on Bandcamp

 

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Review & Track Premiere: Lewis and the Strange Magics, Evade Your Soul

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

lewis-and-the-strange-magics-evade-your-soul

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Out of My Home’ from Lewis and the Strange Magics’ Evade Your Soul. Album is out Oct. 20 via Soulseller Records.]

Somewhere in the vast multiverse of alternate timelines and fluid realities, there’s a late ’60s death disco stage that’s just perfect for Lewis and the Strange Magics. The three-piece — who in this reality are based in Barcelona, Spain — stand on that stage in orange and purple paisley-patterned shirts that seem to be moving even when the band is standing still and run through songs like “Ugly Face” and “Lisa Melts the Wax” and “RMS” from their second album, Evade Your Soul, with twisted smiles on their faces that hint at the cultish spirits lurking beneath the pop bounce and easy, fun-loving melodies. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Lewis P., guitarist/vocalist Javi Bono and drummer Ivan Miguel, Lewis and the Strange Magics marked their arrival with the aptly-titled Demo (review here) in 2014 and were picked up by Soulseller Records for the debut full-length, Velvet Skin (review here), which came out in 2015.

The current of quirk and pop classicism has been a running theme throughout their work all along, and in searching for modern comparison points, one might turn to the garage rock aspects of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and the production and songwriting clarity of Ghost, the latter of whom would also seem to be an influence on vocal arrangements for cuts like “You’ll be Free Forever” (video posted here) and album centerpiece “Out of My Home,” the guitars of which play clean and fuzzy tones off each other directly in strummed chords and riffs and leads before turning to the sanctuary of yet another of Evade Your Soul‘s landmark hooks. Those, too, are a running theme for Lewis and the Strange Magics, and as a keystone of their output to-date, they’ve never been so prevalent as they are across this nine-track/38-minute vinyl-ready span.

And as familiar as some elements with which Lewis and the Strange Magics are working might be — the Beatlesian jive of “RMS” is instantly recognizable in the post-McCartney sphere, for example — the band effectively craft an identity of their own from the entire swath, such that while the organ-topped proto-prog of opener/longest track  “Leaving Myself” (immediate points) purposefully leans into early ’70s vibes, the rolling groove that emerges, the flowing rhythm, the patience of tempo with which it’s played, and the subtle Satano-sleaze of the lyrics belong to Lewis and company more than they ever have. That’s one sign of the band having grown since Velvet Skin as songwriters, but it’s by no means the only one. An overarching aesthetic awareness pervades Evade Your Soul that can be heard in the vocal balance of “Ugly Face,” which is a highlight not only for its memorable chorus and dueling keyboard/organ solos, but for the arrangement of Bono and Lewis‘ singing and the bounce over which that arrangement appears.

lewis and the strange magics

Though they were raw when they started out, Lewis and the Strange Magics have always had a plan as regards style. With Evade Your Soul, they seem to have hit the point of bringing that plan to fruition, and in so doing, carved a niche for themselves that’s as much at home introducing a Mellotron in third cut “TV Monsters” as they are riding that texture along a languid proggy drift in the later instrumental “Escape,” where it cuts in and out among xylophone (or a synthesized approximation thereof), a steady low end tumble and a post-midpoint turn of guitar jangle that brings about a build to a final wash of fuzzy noise that leads the way into closer “Another Lonely Soul (on the Road).” Their songwriting proves varied in mood but is unafraid to have what sounds like genuine fun on “Lisa Melts the Wax,” with its falsetto vampire vocals — another Ghost connection there — and uptempo strum before shifting into a dreamy lead that maintains an underlying oddness worthy of Ween, but once again, decidedly Lewis and the Strange Magics‘ own.

Oh yeah, and then they go ahead and gallop their way into a fuzzed-out ending to lead the way into “Out of My Home,” because obviously by that point — right in the middle of the record — they’ve established they’re free to go wherever the hell they want and make it work. That confidence of execution is a boon to Evade Your Soul front-to-back, no question, and though moments like the verses of “Out of My Home” and the second-half push in “You’ll be Free Forever” are heavier than it might seem on first listen, there are points throughout these songs in which Lewis and the Strange Magics might lose control of their direction or performance in terms of meter or arrangement, where they might get caught up in their own riffing to the detriment of the song, or forget the structure in favor of drifting out more than they want to, etc. — but the truth is they simply don’t.

It still feels appropriate to think of them as a young band, if only because they formed three years ago, but whether it’s the swing that leads into the record in such right-on-let’s-go fashion throughout “Leaving Myself” or the Revolver-style melodicism brought forth for “RMS,” Evade Your Soul shows a burgeoning maturity in Lewis and the Strange Magics in the level of command they show throughout and the completeness and the complexity of their ideas. This is, in other words, the sound of a band beginning to pay off their potential. As they wrap with the tambourine-inclusive boogie of “Another Lonely Soul (on the Road),” Lewis and the Strange Magics reinforce the somewhat unspoken tightness at root in these songs, and as Lewis delivers the last line “nevermore” at the end of the song, he does so over a quick, cold finish that leaves one feeling the trio has much more to say.

That may well be the case, and one can only hope they keep moving forward along the delightfully bizarre path that Evade Your Soul sees them as having chosen, but whatever road they might ultimately take to get them to that late-’60s death-disco somewhere in the vast multiverse, they’re sure to continue to make an impression on their journey. Open up your skull and dance.

Lewis and the Strange Magics, “You’ll be Free Forever” official video

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Soulseller Records on Thee Facebooks

Soulseller Records website

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