Quarterly Review: The Cult of Dom Keller, Grandpa Jack, Woven Man, Charivari, Human Impact, Dryland, Brass Owl, Battle City, Astral Bodies, Satyrus

Posted in Reviews on March 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Ah, the Wednesday of a Quarterly Review. Always a special day in my mind. We hit and pass the halfway point today, and I like the fact that the marker is right in the middle of things, like that sign you pass in Pennsylvania on Rt. 80 that says, “this is the highest point east of the Mississippi,” or whatever it is. Just a kind of, “oh, by the way, in case you didn’t know, there’s this but you’re on your way somewhere else.” And so we are, en route to 50 reviews by Friday. Will we get there? Yeah, of course. I’ve done this like 100 times now, it’s not really in doubt. Sleeping, eating, living: these things are expendable. The Quarterly Review will get done. So let’s do it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

The Cult of Dom Keller, Ascend!

the cult of dom keller ascend

They’re not going quietly, that’s for sure. Except for when they are, at least. The Cult of Dom Keller send their listeners — and, it would seem, themselves — into the howling ether on the exclamatory-titular Ascend!, their fifth LP. Issued through Cardinal Fuzz and Little Cloud records it brings a bevvy of freakouts in psych-o-slabs like “I Hear the Messiah” and the early-arriving “Hello Hanging Rope” and the building-in-thickness “The Blood Donor Wants His Blood Back,” and the foreboding buzz of “We’re All Fucked (Up),” peppering in effective ambient interludes ahead of what might be some resolution in the closing “Jam for the Sun.” Or maybe that’s just narrative I’m putting to it. Does it matter? Does anything matter? And what is matter? And what is energy? And is there a line between the two or are we all just playing pretend at existence like I-think-therefore-I-am might actually hold water in a universe bigger than our own pea-sized brains. Where do we go from here? Or maybe it’s just the going and not the where? Okay.

The Cult of Dom Keller on Thee Facebooks

Cardinal Fuzz on Bandcamp

Little Cloud Records on Bandcamp

 

Grandpa Jack, Trash Can Boogie

Grandpa Jack Trash Can Boogie

Brooklynite trio Grandpa Jack are working toward mastery of the thickened midtempo groove on their second EP, Trash Can Boogie. Led by guitarist/vocalist Johnny Strom with backing shouts from drummer Matt C. White and a suitable flow provided by bassist Jared Schapker, the band present a classic-tinged four tracks, showing some jammier psych range in the 7:47 second cut “Untold” but never straying too far from the next hook, as opener “Ride On, Right On” and the almost-proto-metal “Imitation” show. Finishing with “Curmudgeon,” Grandpa Jack ride a fine line between modern fuzz, ’90s melody and ’70s groove idolatry, and part of the fun is trying to figure out which side they’re on at any given point and which side they’ll want to ultimately end up on, or if they’ll decide at all. They have one LP under their collective belt already. I’d be surprised if their next one didn’t garner them more significant attention, let alone label backing, should they want it.

Grandpa Jack on Thee Facebooks

Grandpa Jack on Bandcamp

 

Woven Man, Revelry (In Our Arms)

woven man revelry in our arms

There’s metal in the foundation of what Woven Man are doing on their 2019 debut, Revelry (In Our Arms). And there’s paganism. But they’re by no means “pagan metal” at least in the understood genre terms. The Welsh outfit — featuring guitarist Lee Roy Davies, formerly of Acrimony — cast out soundscapes in their vocal melodies and have no lack of tonal crunch at their disposal when they want it, but as eight-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) shows, they’re not going to be rigidly defined as one thing or another. One can hear C.O.C. in the riffs during their moments of sneer on “I am Mountain” or the centerpiece highlight “With Willow,” but they never quite embrace the shimmer outright Though they come right to the cusp of doing so on the subsequent “Makers Mark,” but closer “Of Land and Sky” revives a more aggressive push and sets them toward worshiping different idols. Psychedelic metal is a tough, nearly impossible, balance to pull off. I’m not entirely convinced it’s what Woven Man are going for on this first outing, but it’s where they might end up.

Woven Man on Thee Facebooks

Woven Man on Bandcamp

 

Charivari, Descent

charivari descent

Whether drifting mildly through the likes of drone-laden pieces “Down by the Water,” the CD-only title-track or “Alexandria” as they make their way toward the harsh bite at the end of the 11-minute closer “Scavengers of the Wind,” Bath, UK, heavy post-rockers Charivari hold a firm sense of presence and tonal fullness. They’re prone to a wash from leadoff “When Leviathan Dreams” onward, but it’s satisfying to course along with the four-piece for the duration of their journey. Rough spots? Oh, to be sure. “Aphotic” seethes with noisy force, and certainly the aforementioned ending is intended to jar, but that only makes a work like “Lotus Eater,” which ably balances Cure-esque initial lead lines with emergent distortion-crush, that much richer to behold. The moves they make are natural, unforced, and whether they’re trading back and forth in volume or fluidly, willfully losing themselves in a trance of effects, the organic and ethereal aspects of their sound never fail to come through in terms of melody even as a human presence is maintained on vocals. When “Down by the Water” hits its mark, it is positively encompassing. Headphones were built for this.

Charivari on Thee Facebooks

Worst Bassist Records on Bandcamp

 

Human Impact, Human Impact

human impact human impact

Bit of a supergroup here, at least in the underrated-New-York-art-noise sphere of things. Vocals and riffy crunch provided by the masterful Chris Spencer (formerly of Unsane), while Cop Shoot Cop‘s Jim Coleman adds much-welcome electronic flourish, Swans/Xiu Xiu bassist Chris Pravdica provides low end and the well-if-he-can-handle-drumming-for-Swans-he-can-handle-anything Phil Puleo (also Cop Shoot Cop) grounds the rhythm. Presented through Ipecac, the four-piece’s declarative self-titled debut arrives through Ipecac very much as a combination of the elements of which it is comprised, but the atmosphere brought to the proceedings by Coleman set against Spencer‘s guitar isn’t to be understated. The two challenge each other in “E605” and the off-to-drone “Consequences” and the results are to everyone’s benefit, despite the underlying theme of planetary desolation. Whoops on that one, but at least we get the roiling chaos and artful noise of “This Dead Sea” out of it, and that’s not nothing. Predictable? In parts, but so was climate change if anyone would’ve fucking listened.

Human Impact on Thee Facebooks

Ipecac Recordings store

 

Dryland, Dances with Waves

dryland dances with waves

The nautically-themed follow-up to Bellingham, Washington, progressive heavy/noise/post-hardcore rockers Dryland‘s 2017 self-titled debut album, the four-song Dances with Waves EP finds the thoughtful and melodic riffers working alongside producer/engineer Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, etc.) on a recording that loses none of its edge for its deft changes of rhythm and shifts in vocals. There’s some influence from Elder maybe in terms of the guitar on “No Celestial Hope” and the finale “Between the Testaments,” but by the time the seven-minute capper is done, it’s full-on Pacific Northwest noise crunch, crashing its waves of riffs and stomp against the shore of your eardrums in demand of as much volume as you’ll give it. Between those two, “Exalted Mystics” moves unsuspectingly through its first half and seems to delve into semi-emo-if-emo-was-about-sailing-and-death theatrics in its second, while “The Sound a Sword Adores” distills the alternating drive and sway down to its barest form, a slowdown later setting up the madness soon to arrive in “Between the Testaments.”

Dryland on Thee Facebooks

Dryland on Bandcamp

 

Brass Owl, State of Mind

brass owl state of mind

Brass Owl foster on their self-released debut full-length, State of Mind, a brand of heavy rock that maintains a decidedly straightforward face while veering at the same time into influences from grunge, ’70s rock, the better end of ’80s metal and probably one or two current hard or heavy rock bands. You might catch a tinge of Five Horse Johnson-style blues on “No Filter – Stay Trendy” or the particularly barroom-ready “Jive Turkey,” which itself follows the funkier unfolding jam-into-shredfest of “The Legend of FUJIMO,” and the earlier “Hook, Line & Sinker” has trucker-rock all over it, but through it all, the defining aspect of the work is its absolute lack of pretense. These guys — there would seem to have been three when they recorded, there are two now; so it goes — aren’t trying to convince you of their intelligence, or their deep-running stylistic nuance. They’re not picking out riffs from obscure ’80s indie records or even ’70s private press LPs. They’re having a good time putting traditionalist-style rock songs together, messing around stylistically a bit, and they’ve got nine songs across 43 minutes ready to roll for anyone looking for that particular kind of company. If that’s you, great. If it ain’t, off you go to the next one.

Brass Owl website

Brass Owl on Bandcamp

 

Battle City, Press Start

Battle City Press Start

From even before you press play on Press Start, the 22-minute debut release from South Africa’s Battle City, the instrumental duo make their love of gaming readily apparent. Given that they went so far as to call one song “Ram Man” and that it seems just as likely as not that “Ignition” and “Ghost Dimension” are video game references as well, it’s notable that guitarist/bassist Stian “Lightning Fingers Van Tonder” Maritz and drummer Wayne “Thunder Flakes” Hendrikz didn’t succumb to the temptation of bringing any electronic sounds to the six-song offering. Even in “Ghost Dimension,” which is the closer and longest track by about three minutes, they keep it decidedly straightforward in terms of arrangements and resist any sort of chiptune elements, sticking purely to guitar, bass and drums. There’s a touch of the progressive to the leadoff title-track and to the soaring lead “Ignotion,” but Press Start does likewise in setting the band’s foundation in a steady course of heavy rock and metal, to the point that if you didn’t know they were gaming-inspired by looking at the cover art or the titles, there’d be little to indicate that’s where they were coming from. I wouldn’t count myself among them, but those clamoring for beeps and boops and other 8-bit nonsense will be surprised. For me, the riffs’ll do just fine, thanks.

Battle City on Thee Facebooks

Battle City on Bandcamp

 

Astral Bodies, Escape Death

Astral Bodies Escape Death

Spacious, varied and progressive without losing their heft either of tone or presence, Manchester, UK, trio Astral Bodies debut on Surviving Sounds with Escape Death, working mostly instrumentally — they do sneak some vocals into the penultimate “Pale Horse” — to affect an atmosphere of cosmic heavy that’s neither indebted to nor entirely separate from post-metal. Droning pieces like the introductory “Neptune,” or the joyous key-laced wash of the centerpiece “Orchidaeae,” or even “Pale Horse,” act as spacers between longer cuts, and they’re purposefully placed not to overdo symmetry so as to make Escape Death‘s deceptively-efficient 36-minute runtime predictable. It’s one more thing the three-piece do right, added to the sense of rawness that comes through in the guitar tone even as effects and synth seem to surround and provide a context that would be lush if it still weren’t essentially noise rock. Cosmic noise? The push of “Oumuamua” sure is, if anything might be. Classify it however you want — it’s fun when it’s difficult! — but it’s a striking record either way, and engages all the more as a first long-player.

Astral Bodies on Thee Facebooks

Surviving Sounds on Thee Facebooks

 

Satyrus, Rites

satyrus rites

Following its three-minute chanting intro, Satyrus let opener and longest track (immediate points) “Black Satyrus” unfold its cultish nod across an eight minutes that leads the way into the rest of their debut album, Rites, perhaps more suitably than the intro ever could. The building blocks that the Italian unit are working from are familiar enough — Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Electric Wizard, maybe even some Slayer in the faster soloing of second cut “Shovel” — but that doesn’t make the graveyard-dirt-covered fuzz of “Swirl” or the noisefest that ensues in “Stigma” or subsequent “Electric Funeral”-ist swing any less satisfying, or the dug-in chug of bookending nine-minute closer “Trailblazer.” Hell, if it’s a retread, at least they’re leaving footprints, and it’s not like Satyrus are trying to tell anyone they invented Tony Iommi‘s riff. It’s a mass by the converted for the converted. I’d ask nothing more of it than that and neither should you.

Satyrus on Thee Facebooks

Satyrus on Bandcamp

 

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Six Dumb Questions with Mount Saturn

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on May 28th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

MOUNT SATURN

In the bleary-eyed early hours of 2019, when most heads were still clearing from the panicked revelry celebrating the march into an unknown and horrifying future, there came Kiss the Ring (discussed here), the debut EP/demo from Bellingham, Washington’s Mount Saturn. Then a four-piece and currently a trio seeking a drummer, the upstart outfit follows in the Pacific Northwestern tradition of putting the focus on riffs and melody, with guitarist Ray Blum and vocalist Violet Vasquez working in partnership to set a solid foundation of both throughout Kiss the Ring‘s four tracks, with bassist Cody Barton and then-drummer Tanner Scinocco locking down a duly weighted groove to counterbalance the spaciousness of the vocals and guitar.

The EP, preceded only by a single-version of its opening track “Dwell,” holds to a central method, but is varied in mood and approach around that enough to give its songs an organic sense of character, and as statements of intent go, it shows both a will toward progression and an ingrained penchant for songcraft, and it makes it clear that the band know where they want to reside on the spectrum of heavy and, most importantly for the longer term, they’re willing to adjust that balance as called for by their material and progressive intent.

I know you heard the thing, so I won’t prattle on, but just in case, there’s a full stream below from Bandcamp and tapes are newly available from Ice Fall Records. I wanted to get the basic background on the band and how they worked together to make the EP, and Vasquez and Blum were both kind enough to offer insight.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions.

Mount Saturn Kiss the Ring

Six Dumb Questions with Mount Saturn

How did Mount Saturn get together? Give me the origin story for the band.

Violet Vasquez: So myself and my partner Ray knew we wanted to start making “doom” or something that strayed a bit from conventional metal together, and starting by jamming together in an old storage unit. I had never sung before in a band, but really wanted to give it a shot, and Ray had been playing guitar for a while but had no projects. It started as something to do. We tried out a couple of drummers, and then decided to just write together for a bit and see what we had to say as writers. We were discovering so much new music together at this time and weren’t sure what we wanted to sound like. We took our time, for sure. Ray ended up starting the band Crystal Myth with Tanner, who he had jammed with in another band briefly, and then Cody came along by suggestion of our good friend Autumn. Essentially, the members of Crystal Myth were coerced into backing the songs that we been working on, and lending their talents to the development of new ones. They both just wanted to play music, so it wasn’t too hard to convince them. We were eager to contribute to a heavy scene that seemed to be experiencing a sort of resurrection in Bellingham and it’s been really fun to do that.

Tell me about writing Kiss the Ring. How did the songs take shape? You’d done a version of “Dwell” earlier. Was that the first song you wrote together?

VV: The first song we wrote together was a song we don’t have recorded, called “Down” about a witch who employs a wizard to fight a dragon. Perhaps a little heavy handed on the DOOM elements in retrospect, and it was a bit too long admittedly at seven minutes, but I recall it fondly! As far as writing Kiss the Ring goes, we would bring the skeletons of ideas to practice and work it out. We jammed a lot, and some of the things we expected to go one way went another based off the input and style of our rhythm section. I think songs like “Dwell” became keepers because of this. Generally, though, we had really good chemistry in jamming and got a few ideas that way. Once I found a melody that I liked to sing, that jam became a song in progress and would take shape from there.

How long were you in the studio making the EP, and what was the recording process like? Is there anything different you’d like to do next time around? Anything you’d like to keep just the same?

Ray Blum: We took a weekend in July 2018 to go to a studio in Anacortes, WA, called The Unknown with hopes of nailing down a drum and vocal sound that we liked. Erik Wallace, our engineer, suggested the space because it’s an old church with great acoustics. To this point in the band’s life, every studio experience has been successively better than the last, as we gather knowledge and an increased understanding of what we think the project should sound like. It was probably a faster process than we would have liked it to have been, but we had drums essentially done on the first day, guitar and bass done the second and vocals on the third. As far as things I would change, I would have liked to have spent a little more time trying to vary tones from song to song, but I think that’s what every guitar player thinks about studio time. Working with our friend Erik Wallace of Shibusa Sounds (who recorded, mixed and mastered the whole thing) was a blast and definitely something I would like to keep the same. He pulled not only a good sound out of us; but good performances, which at the youthful stage the band was at, was integral to the positive response that the EP received. Next time, we’d like to really take our time and try to record more things live.

Of course, the Pacific Northwest is a huge hotbed for bands and all that. What influence do you take from your surroundings, whether it’s nature, other bands, whatever? What does being from the PNW mean to you?

VV: Mount Saturn would probably not be the band we are without the doom, the gloom, and Holy Grove. We love that band, they’ve inspired our inception in a way, truly. We love our often-gloomy surroundings, too, and there’s no doubt that fuels our moods and keeps us inside jamming or writing. Being from the PNW, we are also living in a pretty socially-conscious area, and I’d say I tend to definitely focus on those kinds of issues thematically. Half our songs are about issue of feminism and the fight for equality across genders, but issues of racism and classism are also on our minds, and on the minds of people we play with or those who come to our shows. Those themes, they’re not just fueling our lyrics, but our passionate performances, too. It’s a way to heal that pain and I think it’s why we’ve gotten a good response locally; people want to be healed and empowered by music.

You seem to have a good idea of what you’re looking for in terms of your sound and style. How do you see the band growing as you move forward?

RB: It’s tough to say how we think the band will grow musically moving forward at the moment. We’re in the process of replacing our drummer (Tanner left shortly after Kiss the Ring was recorded), and we can’t make any assumptions about future sounds until we have an understanding of what that new person may bring to the table. I would say that our influences have certainly shifted slightly away from purely doom metal and more towards psych rock but I would hesitate to guess how that will be reflected in the writing at such an early stage.

Will you tour? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

VV: You know, we would love to. We’re in the process of looking for the right drummer to join us so we can start writing a full-length and at least go down the coast a bit before the end of 2020. Wish us luck! Also, keep your eye out for our pals in Dryland who are about to release their first full-length. They’re Bellinghamsters, too, and we can’t get enough of them.

Mount Saturn, Kiss the Ring (2019)

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Mount Saturn on Instagram

Mount Saturn on Bandcamp

Ice Fall Records webstore

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Mount Saturn Premiere “Salt”; Debut EP Kiss the Ring out Jan. 4

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on December 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

mount saturn (Photo by Tommy Calderon)

Bellingham, Washington, heavy rockers Mount Saturn will release their debut EP, Kiss the Ring, on Jan. 4. The 25-minute four-tracker comes preceded only by the digital single “Dwell,” which also shows up as the leadoff cut on the forthcoming release and makes for a right-on seven-minute leadoff, the echoing vocals of Violet Vasquez following the riffs of Ray Blum on an outwardly-directed astral plane of reverb and grooving heft. Got that bass punch tho from Cody Barton and the drums of Tanner Scinocco, whose snare cuts through the tonal density surrounding in order to give ground to what otherwise would surely take flight, some double-kick coinciding with second-half squibblies in “Dwell” that, in another context and from another WA -state band, would be black metal. Mount Saturn are up to a different kind of business.

The nod is pervasive throughout Kiss the Ring, as the 4:12 shortest cut “Idol Hands” demonstrates despite a somewhat faster tempo and more rocking swing ahead of the brash Mount Saturn Kiss the Ringgarage intro to the penultimate “Salt.” The overarching feel of the release is very much in the debut EP vein, as Mount Saturn began their exploration just last year, but a drive toward aesthetic can be heard in the tracks all the same, whether it’s the already-noted cavernousness of Vasquez‘s voice throughout or the depth of Blum‘s guitar tone, which lends immediate character to the songs and is suited to the feeling of space as well as that of the earthier groove supported by Barton and Scinocco. “Salt” echoes through a slowdown to cut out before the closing title-track, which again leads off with Blum‘s guitar as the focal point — a task to which it stands up well. Barton‘s bass kicks in at around 40 seconds and is a thick, distinct presence, while Scinocco holds town a straightforward beat still portentous of change to come. They drop back to a more spacious progression to give Vasquez room in the mix and find a new balance between molten and solidified impulses. An all-out psychedelic finish would be a decent enough fit, but Mount Saturn don’t quite get there, opting instead to stick to the hook in “Kiss the Ring” and trade back and forth from that to a solo, capping with both.

It’s the band’s first outing, so take “Salt” with the appropriate grain if you need to in order to dive into the premiere below — which I’m thrilled to host — but if you can’t hear the potential in its run, then you’re missing out. Tracks were recorded by Erik Wallace. Again, it’s out Jan. 4.

Please enjoy:

Mount Saturn rises from the damp soil of the Pacific Northwest to forge a heavy sound that worships riffs, dabbles in psychedelia and takes no shit. Formed in 2017, the heavy quartet has had the pleasure of sharing a stage with some of the West Coast’s best, including Holy Grove, Castle, and Mos Generator.

‘Kiss the Ring’ is their debut EP, recorded at The Unknown in Anacortes, and engineered and mastered by Erik Wallace of Shibusa Sounds, which the band will self-release on January 4th, 2019.

Mount Saturn is:
Cody Barton on Bass
Ray Blum on Guitar
Violet Vasquez on Vox; and on this recording,
Tanner Scinocco on Drums

Mount Saturn on Thee Facebooks

Mount Saturn on Instagram

Mount Saturn on Bandcamp

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