Desertfest Belgium 2018 Announces Amenra to Headline; Naxatras, Whores., Timestone and Swedish Death Candy Added to Lineup

Posted in Uncategorized on June 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Five new lineup additions for Desertfest Belgium 2018 this time around, and with countrymen headliners Amenra as part of it, the festival immediately expands its overall context like the other Desertfests before it. And while Amenra will top the bill — they won’t be the only ones — also joining the roster for the weekend are Greek jam-psych forerunners Naxatras, woefully-monikered noise rockers Whores., as well as Timestone and Swedish Death Candy. It’s a bit all over the place this time around, but with a lineup that already includes the likes of Crowbar and Elder alongside not only each other, but YOB, John Garcia, Acid King and others, the Antwerp-based fest seems to be in the process of putting together its most varied edition yet. I’m not sure how much more they’ll add to what’s already been announced, but even if they called it quits here, it’d still be well worth the trip.

Info came down the PR wire as follows:

desertfest belgium 2018 amenra

DESERTFEST ANTWERP 2018: Amenra, Whores & more confirmed

Although you have all given us much love for the line-up so far, we know that a lot of you have been waiting with bated breath for the announcement of our first headliner…

…and here it is. At Desertfest Belgium, we’ve always taken pride in the best of the heaviest our country has to offer. And so it is with the greatest of pleasures that we finally have the absolute heaviest of heaviest in the land to ravish our stage: AMENRA will headline DF Antwerp 2018.

A band that has pummeled crowds all over Europe and The States, and released on the Neurot label of kindred spirits Neurosis. A band that transcends the genre as none other, a band fit to rule Desertfest!

But let it be known that our other new arrivals broaden the spectrum of sounds at the Fest even further. Naxatras is a Greek band that has grown increasingly more ambitious with each release, now incorporating prog, funk and jazz in their psychedelic jam-based stew. In contrast, Whores is as monolithic as they come, providing the perfect soundtrack to a blunt object repeatedly hitting you hard in the face.

Let’s also not forget the name of our festival, and where it comes from. Timestone may hail from Austria, but their pure brand of desert stoner will transport you to the desert for sure! And finally, we’d like to make a prediction here: sometime very soon, Swedish Death Candy will be a name to be reckoned with. They have it all: insanely fuzzy riffs, smart songwriting, catchy vocal harmonies, and just the right amount of unhinged feedback. Consider this a band to discover at the Fest!

Now about those Reduced Combi Tickets. You know we still have hem on offer at €95 right? We just don’t know how long they will last… so don’t be that guy or gal crying over lost opportunities, get yours today!

http://www.desertfest.be/tickets
https://www.facebook.com/desertfestbelgium/
https://www.facebook.com/events/364607267372737/
https://twitter.com/DesertfestBE

Amenra, Mass VI (2017)

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Review & Album Premiere: King Heavy, Guardian Demons

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

king heavy guardian demons

[Click play above to stream King Heavy’s Guardian Demons in full. Album is out June 22 on Cruz Del Sur Music.]

From the first strains of opener ‘Guardian Demon,’ King Heavy make plain their intentions for their second album, Guardian Demons. The Cruz Del Sur-delivered six-tracker runs 43 minutes and follows the model of classic, traditionalist doom metal. More to the point, not just doom, but doom for doomers, by doomers, and of doomers. With bassist Daniel Pérez Saa, guitarist Matias Aguirre and drummer Miguel Canessa based in Chile and vocalist Luther Veldmark making his home in Belgium, they may not be a band who gets together every week for rehearsal in the practice space — or they may be, at least instrumentally — but they’re certainly schooled in the ways of the genre.

Candlemass are arguably the biggest single influence on cuts like “Guardian Demon” and “(Death is But an Extreme Form of) Narcosis,” which follows, but it’s not the only one. Saint Vitus, Black Sabbath, Reverend Bizarre and probably dozens of their acolytes all have a role to play in King Heavy‘s sound, which makes no attempt to hide or mask its base of inspiration. Still, it seems to be a Leif Edling-esque style of riffing that holds the day, given encouraging sweeps of double kick in the drums and lumbering marches alike. They never crawl, exactly, but there’s plenty of stomp throughout anyhow, and the communication from band to audience is clear and without pretense. They’re a doom band. That’s where their heart lies. They present their sound without pretense otherwise, and as such, feel particularly sincere in their sonic homage and will to carry forward the mission of their forebears.

So just how doomed is it? Quite doomed. Doomed enough that its third track, “Doom Shall Rise,” is written in apparent tribute to the festival in Germany that ran between 2003 and 2013 — which also happens to reportedly be where Veldmark and Saa first met in 2005 and they decided to form a band. Sadly, they’d never get to play there. That track contains references to Mirror of Deception, The Well of Souls — presumably the band, but it’s also a Candlemass song — Procession, Shepherd, etc., and if you ever needed a clear line of a group communicating on the same level as their listener, that’s it. It’s not only King Heavy sharing their own work, but sharing their love of the stylistic terrain in which it resides. After the opening provided by “Guardian Demon” and “(Death is But an Extreme Form of) Narcosis,” it’s as though the band finally comes out and says what they’ve been insinuating all along in terms of their passion for doom and their sense of belonging in and to it.

As ever for the genre, there’s a bit of an us-vs.-the-world sensibility to it, but that’s as traditional as the Veldmark‘s Chritus Linderson-esque vocal on “(Death is But an Extreme Form of) Narcosis,” switching between gruffer shouts and smoother, mournful crooning, even as the riff and rhythmic push signal a triumph in progress. Likewise, lines like “Doom shall rise, and rise again,” and “Tonight, doom shall rise,” make the point firmly and without question, and the band leave little to mystery as Veldmark moves into Cathedral-esque layering in the second half of that song, which rounds out side A with a burst of energy that only continues on the especially catchy “Cult of the Cloven Hoof,” which the shortest inclusion at 5:19, but which underscores the point of the tightness and self-awareness in the band’s approach. That is to say, even with just one record behind them in their 2015 self-titled debut (also on Cruz Del Sur), they present themselves as having a clear idea of the doom they want to make and the knowledge of just the right shifts in tempo, melody and groove to make it a reality.

king heavy

A grim reality at that. After tracking on separate continents last time around, King Heavy brought Veldmark to Chile to record his vocals this time around, and the difference would seem to be palpable in the chemistry of the band. One would expect an uptick there going from a debut to a sophomore effort no matter the circumstance, but their feeling more like a band rather than a project is evident in the cohesion here, and with the context of the studio circumstances in consideration, it makes sense as to why. “Cult of the Cloven Hoof” is a fitting example of their execution. It’s tight, grueling in its slower stretches, righteous in its quicker parts, and it unfolds a sound that’s as timeless as one could ask. It leads to the more unhinged, 10-minute-topping “Come My Disciples,” which one might expect to be an Electric Wizard reference, but goes elsewhere sonically essentially by not departing the place it already is, but slowing it down.

“Come My Disciples” feels more open than much of Guardian Demons, with a drawn out solo in its second half that’s glorious in its miseries, particularly with the rumbling low end beneath holding down the central riff. Dead-on doom. Their closer, “As in a Nightmare,” brings them back to ground with a shorter runtime, resumed trod and Veldmark‘s command of his voice. As they have all along, they offset slower and quicker stretches in “As in a Nightmare,” and do so with a sharpness of attack that leads them to the big rock finish that closes out, a wash of cymbals and guitar and bass noise fading into oblivion at the close.

Guardian Demons isn’t a record made for everybody, and King Heavy isn’t a band for everybody. Their doom is like a scratch test to see who will get it and who won’t, and for sure, some won’t. But more likely than not, they couldn’t care less, since the audience they’re speaking to is bound to embrace them all the more for the feeling of exclusion of the outside. True doom? One hesitates to believe in any kind of authenticity enough to call something “true,” but there’s no doubting the sincerity behind the murky havoc King Heavy wreak on their second album.

King Heavy on Thee Facebooks

King Heavy on Bandcamp

King Heavy at Cruz Del Sur webstore

Cruz Del Sur Music on Thee Facebooks

Cruz Del Sur Music on Bandcamp

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Desertfest Belgium 2018: Crowbar, The Skull, Castle, Yuri Gargarin, and Sofy Major Join Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Who’s going to argue with this? Sludge, doom, psych, noise, and metal? It’s like Desertfest Belgium 2018 decided its third announcement was when it would encompass the scope of underground heavy in one go. It’s got oldschool and newschool vibes, American and European bands next to each other, and fucking Castle, who just never stop touring ever. Never ever. I’m pretty sure they made their new record in the back of their van.

Maybe not, but still.

Seriously, the list of bands says it all, and the roster of acts they join only makes Desertfest Belgium all the more significant in Europe’s massively-crowded Fall festival scene. I’m not going to tell you to buy tickets or travel if you’re not in a financially secure situation or something, but if you have to sell your car and become a curiously aged European street urchin, complete with backpack and dog, this one might be worth it.

Behold:

desertfest belgium 2018 crowbar

Since you all liked our last announcement so much, we’re already back with another one!

And oh boy… Another quintuple hit of doom, rock, metal, psychedelics and whatever strikes your fancy, here we go…

First up, the absolute heavyweights of Southern sludge will grace our stage for the first time. Yes, Crowbar will be charged up fresh from their upcoming Eastern Europe tour in the summer, so expect them to be sharp as a razor and hard as nails at Desertfest Antwerp 2018!

Another scene stalwart, this time in the traditional doom vein, we welcome former Trouble makers The Skull, who reportedly will come loaded with a fresh sophomore album, out on Tee Pee Records in the fall.

For some more traditional doom vibes with a nice dose of occult rock, San Fransiscan trio Castle – Metal Band will be back at our festival after their killer set in 2016. We are also most pleased that the Swedish spacerock shuttle Yuri Gagarin will land at DF Antwerp from whatever outer space voyage they’ve embarked on. They’ve got an interstellar live reputation, so expect this to be a highlight for sure! And finally, we close off this batch of goodness with something French and sleazy. SOFY MAJOR is a noiserock outfit that will hit you in the face like a solid steel beercan.

So rest assured, your precious Reduced Combi Tickets will be well worth… what’s that? You STILL haven’t bought your tickets you say? Even though they’re still a steal at €95 for three days? This will not stand! We’ll give you just a little more time to go get them, but next time we see each other, don’t give us any excuses you hear!

http://www.desertfest.be/tickets
https://www.facebook.com/desertfestbelgium/
https://www.facebook.com/events/364607267372737/
https://twitter.com/DesertfestBE

Crowbar, Live in Flint, Michigan, March 2018

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Desertfest Belgium 2018 Adds Elder, Dopethrone, Sasquatch, Eagle Twin & Black Moth

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Desertfest Belgium 2018 has made its second round of lineup announcements, including a couple North American heavy hitters like Elder, Dopethrone, Sasquatch and Eagle Twin. These, along with UK outfit Black Moth make up the five bands who join the previously announced Acid King, YOB, John Garcia and Wo Fat, making it a thus-far American-leaning lineup to be sure, though I have little doubt that will even out over the coming months. Don’t forget, this fest isn’t until October, and that’s not exactly this weekend or anything like that.

Whatever the geography, anyplace that has YOB, Acid King, Elder and Sasquatch hanging around — let alone playing — is someplace you should want to be. Tickets are on sale, and on sale, now, as the PR wire affirms:

desertfest belgium 2018 elder

DESERTFEST ANTWERP 2018: Elder, Dopethrone & more confirmed

Are you ready for another lethal dose of Desertfestian awesomeness?

Good, ’cause that’s exactly what we’re here to deliver! Here’s five (count’em!) more bands that will absolutely slay come October, with no filler in sight.

We’re delighted to welcome back Elder to the DF stage after their blistering show in 2016. Next up, Dopethrone wants to show you why exactly their upcoming new album is called ‘Transcanadian Anger’. Rocking, pissed off and dope as fuck – exactly how we prefer our sludge.

In a more traditional stoner vein, we have Black Moth from Leeds (UK) and Sasquatch from LA. Both are known to deliver the grooves and riffs as well as the songs and melody, and both have more than a decade of solid live reputation behind them. Two quality picks for the real connoisseurs out there. Finally, from the depths of Salt Lake City comes Eagle Twin, whose new album ‘The Thundering Heard’ reaches new heights of shamanic delirium. A power duo if there ever was one!

All of this, and still no shortage of Reduced Combi Tickets at the price of €95. Are we crazy? Well, yes. So make sure you grab your ticket before we come to our senses – this high won’t last forever, but it’ll last you until the next announcement in a few weeks.

http://www.desertfest.be/tickets
https://www.facebook.com/desertfestbelgium/
https://www.facebook.com/events/364607267372737/
https://twitter.com/DesertfestBE

Elder, Reflections of a Floating World (2017)

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Fire Down Below Release Hymn of the Cosmic Man June 8

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Belgian heavy rockers Fire Down Below have set a June 8 release for their new album, Hymn of the Cosmic Man. Their new video for the track “Saviour of Man” finds them basking in influences from the likes of Kyuss and 1000mods in following-up 2017’s Viper Vixen Goddess Saint, and even if their theme takes them to outer space as the PR wire notes below and the video reaffirms, their riffs and grooves still sound awfully sandy to my ears.

The Ghent four-piece have a couple dates booked around the LP release and some other shows in the months coming up, and you’ll find that info below, once again, courtesy of the PR wire, which also sent the cover art for Hymn of the Cosmic Man, which I’m not posting because cartoon tits depress the shit out of me.

Info follows; video at the bottom:

fire down below

FIRE DOWN BELOW: Belgian fuzz rock quartet to release Hymn of the Cosmic Man | New video for ‘Saviour Of Man’ premiered

Hymn of the Cosmic Man by Fire Down Below is released worldwide on 8th June via Ripple Music

This June will see the official worldwide release of Hymn of the Cosmic Man, the brand-new studio album from Belgian progressive rock quartet, Fire Down Below.

Following on from last year’s hugely successful rerelease of Viper Vixen Goddess Saint, the Ghent-based foursome are back with yet another exceptional melee of fuzzed-out stoner rock, heavy psych and grunge on Ripple Music, home to some of the finest acts in recent years to emerge from the underground.

On Hymn of the Cosmic Man, Fire Down Below trade the hot desert winds of their debut for the cold desolation of outer space. With a storyline that pitches a single soul against an unnamed threat to mankind, the band express fear, hope, defeat, surrender and courage across seven tracks, making for one truly compelling journey.

“We had this background story that guided us in the songwriting process,” explains bassist Bert Wynsberghe. “Yet we left it somewhat vague so that it wouldn’t limit us and we could still pursue ideas that were more ‘out there’. That really worked for us, we got to explore new sonic territories and we’re excited to see what reactions we might get.”

As a glowing endorsement and belief in their sheer quality, Fire Down Below’s second full-length not only plants a flag into the earth’s crust, it endeavours to propel the band into orbit. Never ones to mess with a winning combination, after the critical acclaim of their debut, Fire Down Below teamed up again with Tim De Gieter at Much Luv Studio in Belgium for recording and mixing, with Brad Boatright at Audiosiege in Portland on mastering duties.

“We were happy to be able to work with Tim again. We’d raised the bar for ourselves for the new album and we were thrilled to see that he had done the same thing for his studio work. And then of course we’re super excited that Ripple Music is releasing this album. To be part of a family with bands such as Wo Fat and Mothership is just beyond anything we had ever considered possible.”

Already, the band has garnered some truly remarkable comparisons with bands like Truckfighters, Red Fang and Soundgarden, and now with Hymn of the Cosmic Man, from the swelling, space swallowing opening of ‘Red Giant’ and ‘Ignition/Space Cruiser’, to the spectacularly progressive closer ‘Adrift In A Sea Of Stars’, we will at last see them step up, take flight and traverse the universe powered by hard rock, stellar riffs and their own, breathtaking volition.

Hymn of the Cosmic Man by Fire Down Below is released worldwide on 8th June via Ripple Music

Pre-order now at www.ripple-music.com

FIRE DOWN BELOW:
Bert Wynsberghe – Bass
Jeroen Van Troyen – Guitar and Vocals
Kevin Gernaey – Guitar
Sam Nuytens – Drums

LIVE DATES:
15 June – Album Release Show (Venue TBC) – Ghent, Belgium
16 June – Album Release Show (Venue TBC) – Bruges, Belgium
6 July – JH ‘t Slot – Wortel, Belgium
1 September – Café Gonzo – Ninove, Belgium

TRACKLISTING:
1. Red Giant
2. Ignition / Space Cruiser
3. Saviour of Man
4. The Cosmic Pilgrim
5. Nebula
6. Ascension
7. Adrift In A Sea Of Stars

https://www.facebook.com/firedownbelow/
https://firedownbelow.bandcamp.com/
https://www.instagram.com/firedownbelowband/
https://twitter.com/Fire_Down_Below
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://twitter.com/RippleMusic
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Fire Down Below, “Saviour of Man” official video

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Desertfest Belgium 2018 First Announcement: Acid King, YOB, John Garcia & Wo Fat Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

desertfest belgium 2018 banner

This past weekend the Desertfests in Berlin and London took place. The Spring Desertfests. The timing, then makes perfect sense for Desertfest Belgium 2018 to make its first lineup announcement for this October. One imagines Desertfest Athens 2018 won’t be far behind if it hasn’t already put word out. Either way, the Antwerp lineup is already a doozy, with four acts added any of whom coul serve as a headliner if the fest so desired: YOBAcid KingJohn Garcia and Wo Fat.

Garcia is of particular note here since it seems he’s got a new — or at least re-branded — band backing him. That seems to make it likely he’ll take on tracks from a variety of his projects over the last two-plus decades — HermanoSlo BurnKyussUnida, etc. — but I’m more curious to know if there will be original material as well, if John Garcia an the Band of Gold have been writing. Call me greedy. I like information.

Here’s some from the fest:

Last week we had a resounding start of this year’s event, with the Early Bird tickets selling out in less than 24 hours, and not a single name announced. We hear you loud and clear, people of Desertfest! And this is why we are excited to announce the FIRST NAMES confirmed for this year’s edition.

Few bands embody the spirit of Desertfest more than the mighty Yob: intense and heavy, yet full of love. It is only fitting that we invite them back after the release of their eighth studio album. Another scene legend that surprisingly has never played our fest before is John Garcia – so we decided to fix that. He’ll be playing the fest with his new outfit The Band of Gold.

One more name that needs no introduction is Acid King – who may or may not have new material ready by the time they reach our shores. And finally, we are glad to have Wo Fat returning to the festival, as their last passage was charged with emotion and passion.

So there we are – four names that just ooze awesomeness. And with that, we also start selling the REDUCED COMBI TICKETS, 3 days at the price of €95 which is an absolute steal. If you missed out on the Early Birds, don’t make the same mistake twice! This edition is gonna be red hot. In fact, we’d say it already is!

http://www.desertfest.be/tickets
https://www.facebook.com/desertfestbelgium/
https://www.facebook.com/events/364607267372737/
https://twitter.com/DesertfestBE

YOB, “The Screen”

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Quarterly Review: All Them Witches, Anthroprophh, Orphan Gears, The Watchers, Grajo, Mythic Sunship, Empress, Monads, Nest, Redneck Spaceship

Posted in Reviews on April 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

Well, we’ve reached the end of the week if not the end of the Quarterly Review itself. That’s right: after hemming and hawing all week and going back and forth in my silly little brain, I’ve decided to extend this edition to a sixth day, which will be Monday. That means 60 reviews in six days, not 50 in five. Honestly, I could probably keep going for three or four more beyond that if I had the time or inclination, and I may get there someday, but I’m definitely not there now.

But hey, there have been a couple comments left along the way, so thanks for that. I appreciate you taking the time to read if you have. Here’s the last for the week and we’ll pick back up on Monday.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

All Them Witches, Lost and Found EP

all them witches lost and found ep

If Nashville four-piece All Them Witches put together the free-download Lost and Found EP simply as a means of getting their take on the folk song “Hares on the Mountain” out there, it was worth it. In the hands of vocalist/bassist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Rhodes specialist/violinist Allan Van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler, the traditional tune becomes a wide open dronescape, bristling and vague like memory itself. It’s beautiful and a little confusing in just the right way, and it comes accompanied on the short release by the Fleetwood Mac cover “Before the Beginning,” an even-more-subdued take on “Call Me Star” from 2015’s New West Records debut, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here), and a dub redux of “Open Passageways” – called, of course, “Dub Passageways” – from the same album. Might be a stopgap between full-lengths, but still, at 18 minutes, it’d make a more than worthy 10” release if they were looking for something new for the merch table.

All Them Witches on Thee Facebooks

All Them Witches on Bandcamp

 

Anthroprophh, Omegaville

anthroprophh omegaville

Next time you feel like, “Hey man, I’m so freaked out and weird and wow man whatever blah blah,” just take a second to remember you live in a dimension where dudes from The Heads have side-projects. Paul Allen and Anthroprophh – his trio with Gareth Turner and Jesse Webb, otherwise known as the duo Big Naturals – are a freaked out freakout’s freakout. The stuff of psychedelic mania. And that’s only on the first disc of the 2CD Omegavlle (Rocket Recordings). By the time they get around to the three-song second disc and dig into extended trips like “Omegaille/THOTHB” (14:48) and the subsequent finale, “Journey out of Omegaville and into the…” (20:57), they’re so far gone into noise and captured, manipulated audio that who the hell knows where we’ve ended up? At 88 minutes, the limits of manageability are long left behind, but to get some of the Velvet Underground-in-space vibes of “Maschine” in trade for undertaking the undertaking it’s well worth letting go of the rigidity of things like time, place, etc.

Anthroprophh on Thee Facebooks

Rocket Recordings on Bandcamp

 

Orphan Gears, Rat Race

orphan gears rat race

I’m pretty sure Orphan Gears used the Super Mario Bros. font for their logo on the cover of their latest EP, Rat Race, and for that, they should be saluted. The gritty-riffing semi-punker London four-piece offer five tracks and 20 minutes of workaday, boozy grooves, blowing off steam after putting in a shift at this or that crappy job. They are null as regards pretense, and ask little more of their audience than perhaps a beer from the stage or whatever else might be on the menu that night. They share initials, but unlike much of the London underground, they share little ultimately with Orange Goblin in terms of style, despite the shuffle of “Tough Luck, BJ” or the harmonica at the end of “Bitch-Slapped Blues,” and by the time they get to the classic strut of the title-track, they seem to be dug into AC/DC-style groove in the verse while blending in modern heavy rock impulses around it. They clearly save their best for last.

Orphan Gears on Thee Facebooks

Orphan Gears on Bandcamp

 

The Watchers, Black Abyss

the watchers black abyss

An immediately cogent, professional debut full-length is about what you’d expect from The Watchers, the San Francisco four-piece with members of SpiralArms, Orchid and Black Gates in their ranks, particularly after their prior EP, Sabbath Highway (review here), but that doesn’t stop the songwriting from impressing across the eight-song long-player, Black Abyss (on Ripple Music). The band’s presentation is crisp and pro-shop all the way through, from the soloing on “Oklahoma Black Magic” to the keyboard-laced TonyMartin-era-Sabbathism-meets-tambourine of “Suffer Fool” later on, and with the opening salvo of the title-track and “Alien Lust” right behind it, The Watchers set a quick expectation for hooks and a high standard of delivery that, thankfully, they show no hesitation in living up to for the duration, the chug-and-roll finale “Seven Tenets” satisfies in mood and efficiency, departing into airy guitar meditation and making its way back for a suitably rocking sendoff. Dudes know what they’re doing, where they’re headed and how they want to get there. All the listener needs to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

The Watchers on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Grajo, Slowgod II

grajo slowgod ii

A sequel to their 2015 full-length, Slowgod II (on Underground Legends Records, Spinda Records and DHU Records), sees Córdoba-based four-piece Grajo dug into a deep-toned psychedelic doom. There are flashes of Eastern influence on “Malmuerta,” with frontwoman Liz crooning over the minor-key guitar noodling of Josef, the forward motion in Félix’s drums and the heft of Pistolo’s bass. That dynamic works across Slowgod II, from opener and longest track (immediate points) “Altares” through its closing eight-minute counterpart “Malstrom,” which moves from early crunch through spacious volume swells in its middle only to regain composure and offer a heavy post-rock payoff that, somehow, still isn’t that atmospherically removed from the swinging “Horror and Pleasure” right before it or the similarly speedier “Queen Cobra” that follows “Altares” at the outset. Definitely one for the converted, Grajo deliver tones thick enough to stand on and engaging melodicism without falling into any real traps of sonic redundancy, varying their pace effectively and conjuring consuming plod on “ER” while still holding to that notion of breadth that seems to unite all their material here.

Grajo on Thee Facebooks

DHU Records webstore

 

Mythic Sunship, Upheaval

mythic sunship upheaval

It just so happens this is exactly what the fuck I’m talking about. After releasing their Land Between Rivers (review here) LP through El Paraiso Records last year, the Copenhagen four-piece of Emil Thorenfeldt, Frederik Denning, Kasper Andersen and Rasmus “Cleaver” Christensen, collectively known as Mythic Sunship, return with four more slabs of exploratory bliss on Upheaval. Either completely or partially improvised, “Tectonic Beach” (12:42), “Aether Flux” (10:55), “Cosmic Rupture” (6:44) and “Into Oblivion” (13:56) flow together like the work of masters, and with shades of patient space rock at their core, the tracks are infused with life even beyond the spontaneity of their creation. Heavy jams. Heavy, spacy jams. Molten. Swirling. Badass. Even the shorter and more forward “Cosmic Rupture” is headed out of the atmosphere, and when they come around to the noisy payoff deep in “Into Oblivion,” it’s abundantly clear they’re not joking around when it comes to the title. You can get onboard with Mythic Sunship, or you can miss out. Bands like this separate the hip from the squares.

Mythic Sunship on Thee Facebooks

El Paraiso Records webstore

 

Empress, Reminiscence

Empress reminiscence

Those who miss the days when Mastodon or Baroness howled their shouts into a landscape of crunching tonal largesse might do well to dig into what Vancouver, British Columbia’s Empress have to offer on their late-2017 debut EP, Reminiscence. The 27-minute five-tracker isn’t without its sense of melody – there’s plenty of room in eight-minute second cut “Immer” – but guitarist/vocalist Peter Sacco, bassist Brenden Gunn and drummer Chris Doyle make their primary impression via the impact of their material, and as they swap back and forth between shorter tracks and longer ones, a sense of structural playfulness results that moves through the bass openings of “Baptizer” (2:50) and “They Speak Like Trees” (9:27) into the ambient guitar finisher “Dawn,” and the feeling is that, like their stylistic forebears in at the time what was thought of as a new take on sludge metal, Empress will only grow more progressive as they move forward from this first outing. One hopes they hold firm to the tectonic weight they present here that so many others seem to have given up along the way.

Empress on Thee Facebooks

Empress on Bandcamp

 

Monads, IVIIV

monads iviiv

Released some six years after Monads’ 2011 debut, Intellectus Iudicat Veritatem, the Aesthetic Death Records-issued IVIIV was, according to the Belgian five-piece’s own accounting, in the works for most of that time in one way or another. One might say, therefore, that its creation does justice to the glacial pace of some of its slowest moments, the crawling death-doom extremity of pieces like “To a Bloodstained Shore,” or the lurch before the gallop takes hold in “Your Wounds Were My Temple.” At four songs and 50 minutes, IVIIV is indicative enough of the style, but Monads legitimately showcase a persona of their own in and out of those genre confines, the melancholic atmosphere and expanded arrangement elements (piano, etc.) of 15-minute closer “The Despair of an Aeon” creatively used if familiar, and the smoothness of the transitions in opener “Leviathan as My Lament” setting a tone of scope as well as downward emotional trajectory. Not sure I’d count on a quick turnaround for a follow-up, but if half a decade from now a new Monads record surfaces, it’ll be worth keeping an eye out for.

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Nest, Metempsychosis

nest metempsychosis

Rolling from its untitled intro through its untitled outro through a barrage of charred-black, bludgeoning sludge extremity, the debut album from Lexington, Kentucky’s Nest, Metempsychosis (on Sludgelord Records), refers in its title to a transmigration of the soul, an inheritance almost as much as reincarnation. The band may be talking about themselves or they may be working on a theme throughout the record’s seven proper tracks, I don’t know, but if the idea is destruction and rebirth, they certainly sound more interested in the former. Songs like “Heretic” seethe and scour, while the lumbering and spacious closer “Life’s Grief,” capping with abrasive noise, would seem to be a mission statement in itself. Individual pieces like “Jewel of Iniquity” and the preceding atmosphere-into-mega-crush “Diving into the Entrails of Sheep” – of course the centerpiece of the tracklisting – are shorter unto themselves, but like everything else that surrounds, they feed into an overarching ambience of disgust and chaos.

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Redneck Spaceship, Grand Marshal Ape

redneck spaceship grand marshall ape

There are some issues as regards the balance of the mix pushing the vocals forward ahead of the guitar to work out, but Moscow’s Redneck Spaceship impress all the same with the intent and execution of their late-2017 self-released debut, Grand Marshal Ape. In riffs and songcraft, their influences stem from the classic days of stoner rock, but from opener “The Sands of Dakar” and the later “That Sounds Nuts,” one gets a vibe of underlying punk influence, while the twang in harmonized highlight “On the Roadside” and slide guitar of “Maverick” lends a Southern, bluesy swing that the penultimate “Enchained” answers back later ahead of the sample-laden psychedelic jam-out closer, “Antariksh,” which strikes as a far cry from the ultra-straightforward presentation earlier on “Empty Pockets,” but speaks to an immediate scope in Redneck Spaceship’s sound. One hopes they continue to meld elements as they progress beyond Grand Marshal Ape and bridge the gap between one side of their moniker and the other.

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Slow, V – Oceans: Drawn by the Ebb

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

slow v oceans

Belgium’s Slow isn’t the first one-man outfit to wade into the aural cess of funeral doom metal by any means, but it goes in particularly resonant fashion. Helmed by multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and recording engineer Déhá Amsg — whose lengthy pedigree of projects includes Clouds, El Camino, Yhdarl and We all Die (Laughing), among a slew of others — the band’s name is properly written as the all-caps acronym SLOW, standing for ‘Silence Lives Out/Over Whirlpool,’ which was also the subtitle of the first full-length I from the project in 2009. The five-track/57-minute V – Oceans is the latest release, issued by GS Productions earlier in 2017 and picked up by Italian imprint Code666 for wider distribution, and it is a gloriously grueling affair.

Funeral doom has never been and will never be for everyone. By its very nature, it is an extreme form of music. With Slow, the pieces on V – Oceans each top 10 minutes, and the only time there’s much of an escape from the ultra-lumbering, churning tempo is in the 14-minute centerpiece “Déluge,” which veers eventually from its piano/keyboard intro into blastbeats. Otherwise, songs like “Ténèbres” and opener “Aurore” carry forth a wrought emotionalism through largely indecipherable echoing growls and dramatic but not necessarily theatrical arrangements, placed in such a way next to each other as to evoke an overarching linearity to which a lyrical narrative is also set — the theme, of course, drawing on the image of the ocean.

This also isn’t exactly new ground for the style — Germany’s Ahab and defunct UK practitioners Undersmile spring readily to mind, but there are many other examples of groups donning watery themes in funeral doom — but the manner in which Slow takes up this charge is emblematic of what distinguishes Déhà‘s work on the whole throughout the album. In the case of the lyrics, it is the specificity of the imagery put to the songs, the thread of plot that gets woven across “Aurore,” “Ténèbres,” “Déluge,” “Néant” and closer “Mort” that helps make it so immersive, just as it is the nuanced depths of the mix and the intricately balanced arrangements of guitar, keys, bass, drums, vocals, etc. that take place therein that so effectively complement the aquatic mindset.

slow

For the first time with the band, Déhà brought in an outside party — Lore Boeykens, with whom he also founded the Ter Ziele blackened doom duo in 2016 — to work with him on lyrics, and the results are stunning and evocative. The first line of “Aurore” is “Moving into deep waters,” and in a way, that’s the story right there. That’s what’s happening in that song and all that follow, whether it’s the hypnotic undulations that cap “Déluge” or the flourish of spoken work in that song and “Ténèbres” before it or the patient unfolding and foreboding piano that starts the dirge march of “Néant” after. It is no coincidence that the tracklisting moves from “Aurore,” translating from French to ‘dawn,’ to “Néant” (‘nothingness’) and “Mort” (‘death’), as that is precisely where the story of V – Oceans winds up. It is a drowning told through poetry.

As beautiful, serene and resolved as it is sonically brutal and punishing, V – Oceans lets Déhà and Boeykens explore this resounding bleakness of spirit with a conceptual splendor, and as “Néant” resigns itself with the lines, “These dark seas now feel almost comfortable/I give in/May this darkness absorb me,” there’s a swell of keyboard melody that has an almost choral effect (just past the 10-minute mark), as if reaffirming the decision that’s been made. This is a crucial moment for Slow thematically, and perhaps the apex of the album, but to call it that is an oversimplification of the work, which is clearly meant to be taken in its entirety and experienced for the fullness of the headphone-worthy wash it presents. “Mort” caps with a post-death vision of one’s body in the water — “Here my remains drift for everyone to see/This wreck/My failure/Begone with the ebb” — following a description of the undersea voices that lured the protagonist/speaker into the sea in the first place set to chugging guitar, and another choral swell to answer that of “Néant” prior arises at about four minutes in to mark the shift into the final phase of V – Oceans, which stands out for its multi-tiered sense of weight and for the sense of conclusion it brings to the proceedings in their entirety.

I do not know how V – Oceans was composed, i.e., whether it was written as a single song or as individual cuts that Déhà and Boeykens subsequently worked to tie together in both the plot and instrumental presentation, but among the album’s most prevalent features is an overwhelming feeling of completeness, of a front-to-back arc — beginning, middle, end — that concludes in heartrending fashion in its final chapter. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise coming from an project that’s been around for a decade and released a full-length on every odd year like clockwork since 2009, but it is as realized in concept as in execution, and while it may not be groundbreaking in the grander scheme of the genre, it nonetheless brings forward the elements that can make funeral doom at its best so affecting.

Slow, V – Oceans (2017)

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