Quarterly Review: Sumac, Cortez & Wasted Theory, Thunder Horse, The Howling Eye, Grime, URSA, Earthling Society, Bismarck, Grand Reunion, Pledge

Posted in Reviews on December 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

As we land on what would otherwise be the end of a Quarterly Review — day 5, hitting the standard 50 records across the span of a week that this time we’re doubling with another 50 next week — it occurs to me not how much 100 albums is, but how much it isn’t. I mean, it’s a lot, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been sitting and writing about 10 records every day this week. I know how much that is. But it’s astounding to me just how much more there is. With the emails I get from people looking for reviews, discs sent in the mail, the messages on Facebook and everything else, I could do another 100, easy.

Well, maybe not ‘easy,’ but it would be full.

Is it a new golden age of heavy? 45 years from now are rockers going to look back and say, “Hell yeah, from like 2012-2019 was where it’s at,” all wistful like they do now for the ’70s? Will the Heavy ’10s be a retro style? I don’t know. But if it was going to happen, there would certainly be enough of an archive to fuel it. I do my best to cover as much as I can, but sometimes I feel like we barely crack the surface. With 100 records.

That said, time’s a-wasting.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Sumac, Love in Shadow

sumac love in shadow

What are Sumac if not the most vital and highest profile atmospheric metal act out there today? With Aaron Turner (Isis, etc.) on guitar/vocals, Brian Cook (Russian Circles) on bass and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) on drums, they qualify easily as a supergroup, and yet their third album, Love in Shadow (on Thrill Jockey), is still more about creative growth and the exploration of sound than anything else. Certainly more than ego — and if it was a self-indulgent exercise, it’d probably still be pretty good, frankly. As it stands, the four massive tracks through which Sumac follow-up 2016’s What One Becomes (review here) and their 2015 debut, The Deal (review here), refine the sound Sumac has developed over the past three years-plus into a sprawling and passion-driven sprawl that’s encompassing in scope, challenging in its noise quotient, and in utter refusal to not progress in its approach. And when Sumac move forward, as they do here, they seem to bring the entire aesthetic with them.

Sumac on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records on Bandcamp

 

Cortez & Wasted Theory, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter Nine

cortez wasted theory second coming of heavy ch 9

Ripple Music‘s split series The Second Coming of Heavy hits its ninth chapter in bringing together Boston’s Cortez and Delaware’s Wasted Theory, and neither band fails to live up to the occasion. Cortez‘s range only seems to grow each time they hit the studio — vocalist Matt Harrington makes easy highlights of the opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Firmament” and the echo-laden “Close” — and Wasted Theory‘s “Ditchpig,” “Abominatrix,” “Baptized in Gasoline” and “Heresy Dealer” are so saturated with whiskey it might as well be coming out of their pores. It’s a decidedly North/South release, with Cortez rolling straightforward New England heavy rock through “Fog of Whores” and the Deep Purple cover “Stormbringer” while Wasted Theory dig with all good speed into a grit that’s more and more become their own with time, but there’s a shared penchant for hooks and groove between the two acts that draws them together, and whatever aspects they may or may not share are ultimately trumped by that. As Ripple starts to wind down the series, they continue to highlight some of the finest in heavy that the underground has to offer. One would expect no less.

Cortez on Thee Facebooks

Wasted Theory on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Thunder Horse, Thunder Horse

thunder horse thunder horse

There’s an unmistakable sense of presence throughout Thunder Horse‘s six-song/43-minute self-titled debut that undercuts the notion of it as being the San Antonio four-piece’s first album. With professionalism and a firm sense of what they want to be as a band, the Texans liberally sprinkle samples throughout their material and hone a professional sound built around massive riffs and even-more-massive lumbering grooves. Indeed, they’re not strangers to each other, as three-fourths of the group — guitarist/vocalists Stephen Bishop, guitarist/sampler T.C. Connally and drummer Jason West — double in the more industrial-minded Pitbull Daycare, whose debut LP came out in 1997. Completed by bassist/vocalist Dave Crow, Thunder Horse successfully cross the genre threshold and are well comfortable in longer cuts like “Liber ad Christ Milites Templi” and “This is the End,” both of which top nine minutes, and shorter pieces like the rocking “Demons Speak” and the shimmering finale “Pray for Rain.” With “Coming Home” and the sneering “Blood Ritual” at the outset, Thunder Horse pulls listener quickly toward dark atmospheres and flourishes amid the weighted tones therein.

Thunder Horse on Thee Facebooks

Thunder Horse on Bandcamp

 

The Howling Eye, Sonorous

the howling eye sonorous

Poland’s The Howling Eye make a lengthy long-player debut with Sonorous, but more important than the reach of their runtimes — closer “Weedblazer” tops 16 minutes, the earlier “Reflections” hits 12, etc. — the reach of the actual material. The common pattern has been that psychedelic jamming and doom are two distinct things, but The Howling Eye tap into a cosmic interpretation of rolling riffs and push it with an open spirit far into the ether of spontaneous creation. It’s a blend that a group would seem to need to be cautious to wield, lest the whole notion fall flat, but with the assurance of marked chemistry behind them, the Bydgoszcz-based trio of drummer/sometimes vocalist Hubert “Cebula” Lewandowski (also harmonica where applicable), guitarist Jan Chojnowski and bassist Mi?osz Wojciechowski boldly shift from the more structured beginnings of the funky “Kairos” and the aggro beginning “Stranded” into an outward push that’s ambient, psychedelic and naturalistic all at once, with room left over for more funk and even some rockabilly on “The Potion.” It is not a minor conglomeration, but it works.

The Howling Eye on Thee Facebooks

The Howling Eye on Bandcamp

 

Grime, What Have We Become

grime what have we become

Their roots in metal, North Dakota trio Grime — not to be confused with the Italian sludge outfit of the same name — unleash their first full-length in the form of What Have We Become, an ambitious 51-minute offering of progressive heavy rock marked by thoughtful lyrics and fluid songwriting made all the more so by the shared vocals of bassist Andrew Wickenheiser and guitarist Nick Jensen, who together with drummer Tim Gray (who would seem to have been replaced by Cale Mogard) effect a classic feel through “Alone in the Dark” while chugging and winding through the not-a-cover “Hand of Doom” with some harsher vocals peppered in for good measure. Seven-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Through the Eye” sets a broad tone that the rest of the record seems to build on, with the penultimate “Sunshine” delivering the title line ahead of the grittier closer “The Constant Grind,” which seems to payoff everything before it with a final explosion before a big rock finish. They’ll need to decide whether their sound will ultimately tighten up or loosen over time, but for now, what they’ve become is a band with a solid foundation to grow from.

Grime on Thee Facebooks

Grime on Bandcamp

 

URSA, Abyss Between the Stars

ursa abyss between the stars

Modern doom meets a swath of metallic influences on URSA‘s full-length debut, Abyss Between the Stars (on Blood Music), as members of Petaluma, California’s Cormorant take on such classic themes as wizards, dragons, yetis, witches, a spider king, mountains, and… actually, yeah, that covers the six included tracks on the 46-minute LP, which shifts gracefully between epic fantasy doom and darker, soemtimes more extreme fare. It’s easy enough to put URSA in the narrative of a band started — circa 2016 — around a central idea, rather than just dudes picking up instruments and seeing what happened next. Not just because bassist/vocalist Matt Solis, guitarist/keyboardist Nick Cohon and drummer Brennan Kunkel were already three-quarters of another band, but because of the purposefulness with which they approach their subject matter and the cohesion in all facets of their approach. They may be exploring new ground here, but they’re doing so on sure footing, and that comes not only from their experience playing together, but from knowing exactly where they want to be in terms of sound. I would not be surprised if that sound adopted more post-Candlemass grandeur with time — one can hear that burgeoning in “Serengeti Yeti” — but whatever direction they want to go, their debut will only help them on that path.

URSA on Thee Facebooks

Blood Music website

 

Earthling Society, MO – The Demon

earthling society mo the demon

Look, if you can’t get down with a bunch of freaks like Earthling Society tapping into the lysergic fabric of the cosmos to come up with an unsolicited soundtrack to a Hong Kong martial arts movie, I just don’t know what to tell you. Issued by Riot Season, the seven-track MO – The Demon is reportedly the end of the band’s technicolor daydream, and as they crash their plane into the side of “Mountains of Bliss” and hone space rock obliteration throughout “Super Holy Monk Defeats the Black Magic Mothafucker,” their particular experimentalist charm and go-anywhere-anytime sensibility demonstrates plainly exactly why it will be missed. There’s a sharp high-pitched tone at the start of opener “Theme from MO – The Demon” that’s actually pretty abrasive, but by the time they’re through the kosmiche laser assault in “Spring Snow” and the let’s-be-flower-children-until-it’s-time-to-freak-the-fuck-out throb of closer “Jetina Grove,” that is but a distant memory. So is consciousness. Fare thee well, Earthling Society. You were a band who only sought to make sense to yourselves, and for that, were all the more commendable.

Earthling Society on Thee Facebooks

Riot Season Records on Bandcamp

 

Bismarck, Urkraft

bismarck urkraft

Norwegian five-piece Bismarck bring spaciousness to doom riffing on their debut album, Urkraft, which is constructed of five molten tracks for a 34-minute totality that seems much broader than the time it takes to listen. Vocals are growls and shouts across a cosmic stretch of tone, giving a somewhat aggressive pulse to heavier psychedelic soundscaping, but a bouncing rhythm behind “A Golden Throne” assures the song is accessible one way or the other. The 10-minute “Vril-Ya” is naturally where they range the farthest, but the Bergen outfit even there seem to be playing by a set of aesthetic principles that includes maintaining a grounded groove no matter how spaced they might otherwise get. Rolling riffs bookend in opener “Harbinger” and closer “The Usher,” as “A Golden Throne,” playing-to-both-sides centerpiece “Iron Kingdom” and the subsequent “Vril-Ya” explore atmospheres that remain resonant despite the low end weight that seems to chug out beneath them. The mix by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer (who also co-engineered) doesn’t hurt in crafting their largesse, but something tells me Urkraft was going to sound big no matter what.

Bismarck on Thee Facebooks

Apollon Records website

 

Grand Reunion, In the Station

grand reunion in the station

In the Station doesn’t seem like anything too fancy at first. It’s produced cleanly, but not in any kind of overblown fashion, and Grand Reunion‘s songwriting is so solid that, especially the first time through their eight-track debut LP, it’s easy to say, “Okay, that’s another cool hook,” and not notice subtleties like when the organs turn to keyboard synth between opener “Eres Tan Serpiente” and second cut “Gordon Shumway,” or to miss the Latin percussion that Javier Tapia adds to Manuel Yañez‘s drumming, or the ways that guitarist Christian Spencer, keyboardist Pablo Saveedra, bassist Mario Rodríguez and Tapia work to complement guitarist Cristóbal Pacheco on vocals. But all of that is happening, and as they make their way toward and through the eight-minute fuzzer “Band Band the Headbang,” through the soaring “Weedow” and into the acoustic-led closer “It’s Alright,” the character and maturity in Grand Reunion‘s songwriting shows itself more and more, inviting multiple listens in the most natural fashion possible: by making you want to hear it again.

Grand Reunion on Thee Facebooks

Grand Reunion on Bandcamp

 

Pledge, Resilience

pledge resilience

16 minutes of scathing post-hardcore/sludge from Portuguese four-piece Pledge, who are in and out of their Resilience EP with a clean break and a windmill kick to the face. The newcomers lack nothing for ferocity, and with the throat-searing screams of Sofia M.L. out in front of the mix, violent intentions are unmistakable. “Profer Lumen Caecis,” “The Great Inbetweeness,” “Doom and Redemption” and “The Peter, the Wolf” nonetheless have groove built on varying degrees of extremity and angularity, with Vítor Vaz‘s bass maintaining a steady presence alongside the guitar of Hugo Martins and Filipe Romariz‘s drumming, frenetic as it sometimes is. I wouldn’t say things calm down in “The Peter, the Wolf” so much as the boiling seems to take place beneath the surface, waiting for a time to burst out, which it eventually does, but either way, for all its harsher aspects, Pledge‘s material isn’t at all void of engagement. It does, however, state the requirement right there on the front cover.

Pledge on Thee Facebooks

Pledge on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Wolves in the Throne Room, Gravy Jones, Marmora, Mouth, Les Lekin, Leather Lung, Torso, Jim Healey, Daxma, The Re-Stoned

Posted in Reviews on January 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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

The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review continues today with day two of five. I don’t mind telling you — in fact I’m pretty happy to tell you — that this one’s all over the place. Black metal, post-metal, singer-songwriter stuff, psych jams, heavy rock. I feel like I’ve had to go to great pains not to use the word “weird” like 17 times. But I guess that’s what’s doing it for me these days. The universe has plenty of riffs. All the better when they start doing something different or new or even just a little strange. I think, anyhow. Alright, enough lollygagging. Time to dive in.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Wolves in the Throne Room, Thrice Woven

wolves in the throne room thrice woven

True, it’s something of a cliché when it comes to Wolves in the Throne Room to think of their work as “an awaited return,” and perhaps that speaks to the level of anticipation with which their outings are greeted generally. Nonetheless, Thrice Woven arrives via the band’s own Artemisia Records six years after Celestial Lineage, their last proper full-length, and three after its companion, Celestite (review here), so the five-track/42-minute offering from the USBM innovators is legitimately due. The Washington-based troupe’s black-metal-of-the-land remains heavily focused on atmosphere, with a sharp, experimental-feeling turn to ambience and melody in opener “Born from the Serpent’s Eye” and the later drone interlude “Mother Owl, Father Ocean” that precedes the rampaging closer “Fires Roar in the Palace of the Moon,” which caps Thrice Woven with a long fade into the sound of rolling waves. Between them, “The Old Ones are with Us” casts a vision of blackened folk-doom that seems to pull off what Agalloch was always aiming for, and centerpiece “Angrboda” blasts through an early wash before splitting near the midsection to minimalism and rebuilding itself on a slow march. 15 years on from their beginning, Wolves in the Throne Room still sound like no one else, and continue to push themselves forward creatively.

Wolves in the Throne Room on Thee Facebooks

Artemisia Records on Bandcamp

 

Gravy Jones, Funeral Pyre

gravy jones funeral pyre

It’s a crazy world into which Gravy Jones invite their listeners on their self-issued debut full-length, Funeral Pyre, and the fire they bring is born of a molten classic psychedelic rock underpinned by low end weight and further distinguished by its use of organ and proto-metallic vocal proclamations. Opener and longest track (immediate points) “Heavens Bliss” tops 10 minutes in its weirdo roll, and subsequent cuts “The Burning of the Witch” and “It Came from the Sea” do little to dispel the off-center vibe, the former dug into rawer NWOBHM-ism and the latter, the centerpiece of the five-tracker, beaming in from some kind of alt-universe Deep Purple idolatry to lead into the particularly doomed “Gilgamesh” and the shuffle-into-noisefest onslaught of the closing title-track. All told it’s 41 minutes of bizarre excursion that’s deceptively cohesive and feels like the start of a longer-term sonic exploration. Whether or not Gravy Jones even out sound-wise or hold to such an unhinged vibe, they definitely pique interest here.

Gravy Jones on Thee Facebooks

Gravy Jones on Bandcamp

 

Marmora, Criterion

marmora criterion

Criterion – yes, like the collection – is the debut EP from Chicago four-piece Marmora, who released a single in 2013 before the core brotherly trio of Zaid (guitar), Alejandro (bass) and Ulysses (drums) Salazar hooked up with vocalist/guitarist/synthesist Allan Cardenas in 2015. The three-tracker that has resulted begins with its title-cut, which thrusts forth a wash of heavy post-rock that makes an impression in weight as much as space before turning to the more grounded, propulsive, aggressive and punkishly noise-caked “Apathy” and closer “Flowers in Your Garden,” which turns traditional heavy rock riffery on its head with frenetic drum work and rhythmic turns that feel born of modern progressive metal. Significant as the crunch factor and aggro pulsations are, Criterion isn’t at all without a corresponding sense of atmosphere, and though there isn’t much tying these three tracks together, for a first EP, there doesn’t need to be. Let that come later. For now, the boot to the ass is enough.

Marmora on Thee Facebooks

Marmora on Bandcamp

 

Mouth, Live ’71

mouth live 71

Perhaps in part as a holdover between their 2017 second album, Vortex (review here), and the impending Floating to be issued in 2018, German progressive retroists Mouth offer Live ’71. No, it was not actually recorded in 1971. Nor, to my knowledge, was it recorded in 2071 and sent back in time in a slingshot maneuver around the sun. It’s just a play on the raw, captured-from-the-stage sound of the 55-minute set, which opens at a 19-minute sprawl with “Vortex” itself and only deep-dives further from there, whether it’s into the keyboard throb of “Parade,” the nuanced twists of “Into the Light” or the more straightforward riffing of “On the Boat.” There’s room for all this scope and the stomp of “Master Volume Voice” in a Mouth set, it would seem, and if Live ’71 is indeed a stopgap, it’s one that shows off the individualized personality of the long-running band who seem to still be exploring even as they approach the 20-year mark.

Mouth on Thee Facebooks

Mouth on Bandcamp

 

Les Lekin, Died with Fear

les lekin died with fear

A second full-length from Austrian heavy psych trio Les Lekin, Died with Fear is perhaps more threatening in its title than in its overall aesthetic. The four inclusions on the 43-minute follow-up to 2014’s All Black Rainbow Moon (review here) set their mission not necessarily in conveying terror or some overarching sense of darkness – though low end is a major factor throughout – as in cosmic hypnosis born of repetition and chemistry-fueled heavy psychedelic progressivism. Well at home in the extended and atmospheric “Orca” (10:41), “Inert” (10:21), “Vast” (8:59) and “Morph” (13:34), the three-piece of guitarist Peter G., bassist Beat B. and drummer Kerstin W. recorded live and in so doing held fast to what feels very much like a natural and developing dynamic between them, their material all the more fluid for it but carrying more of a sense of craft than most might expect from a release that, ostensibly, is based around jams. Sweeping and switched-on in kind, Died with Fear turns out to be remarkably vibrant for something under a banner so grim.

Les Lekin on Thee Facebooks

Tonzonen Records webstore

 

Leather Lung, Lost in Temptation

leather lung lost in temptation

Oh, they’re mad about it, to be sure. I’m not sure what ‘it’ ultimately is, but whatever, it’s got Leather Lung good and pissed off. Still, the Boston-based onslaught specialists’ debut full-length, Lost in Temptation, has more to its cacophony than sheer violence, and though that intelligence is somewhat undercut by the hey-check-it-out-it’s-cartoon-tits-and-also-because-snakes-are-like-wieners cover art, the marriage between fuckall noise intensity on “Gin and Chronic” and trades between growl-topped thrust and more open and melodic plod on “Shadow of the Scythe” and upbeat rock on “Momentum of Misfortune.” Put it in your “go figure” file that the closer “Destination: Void,” which is marked as an outro, is the longest inclusion on the 28-minute offering, but by then due pummel has been served throughout pieces like “Deaf Adder” and “Freak Flag” amid the willful stoner idolatry of “The Spice Melange,” so there’s texture in the assault as well. Yeah though, that cover. Woof.

Leather Lung on Thee Facebooks

Leather Lung on Bandcamp

 

Torso, Limbs

torso limbs

I won’t deny the strength of approach Austria’s Torso demonstrate across Limbs, their StoneFree Records debut LP, in the straightforward structures of songs like “Meaning Existence” or “Mirror of My Mind” or “Skinny and Bony” and the semi-acoustic penultimate grown-up-grunge alternarocker “Down the Highway,” but it’s hard to listen to the nine-minute spread of “Red Moon” in the midsection of the album and not come away from its patient psychedelic execution thinking of it as a highlight. Shades of post-rock and moodier fare make themselves known in “Come Closer” and the righteously melodic “Ride Up,” and closer “Voices” delivers a resounding payoff, but it’s “Red Moon” that summarizes the atmospheric and emotional scope with which Torso are working and most draws together the various elements at play into a cohesive singularity. One hopes it’s a model they’ll follow going forward, but neither should doing so necessarily draw away from the songwriting prowess they show here. It’s a balance that, having been struck, feels ready to be manipulated.

Torso on Thee Facebooks

StoneFree Records website

 

Jim Healey, Just a Minute More

jim healey just a minute more

Companioned immediately by a digital release of the demos on which it’s based, including four other songs that didn’t make the cut of the final, studio-recorded EP, Jim Healey’s Just a Minute More conveys its sense of longing in the title and moves quickly to stake its place in a long-running canon of singer-songwriterisms. Healey, known for fronting metal and heavy rock acts like We’re all Gonna Die, Black Thai, Set Fire, etc., could easily come across as a case of dual personality in the sweetly, unabashedly sentimental, acoustic-based opener “The Road” or the more-plugged-in “You and I” at the outset, but in the fuzzed-out centerpiece “Swamp Thing,” the emotionally weighted memorable hook of “Faced,” and the piano-topped payoff of closer “Burn Up,” the 18-minute EP unfurls a sense of variety and a full-band sound that sets the project Jim Healey on its own course even apart from the man himself. Some of those other demos aren’t too bad either. Just saying.

Jim Healey on Thee Facebooks

Jim Healey on Bandcamp

 

Daxma, The Head Which Becomes the Skull

daxma-the-head-which-becomes-the-skull

Signed to Magnetic Eye for the release, Oakland post-metal five-piece Daxma answer the ambition of their half-hour single-song 2016 debut EP, The Nowhere of Shangri-La, with the even-fuller-length The Head Which Becomes the Skull, demonstrating a clear intent toward sonic patience and ambient reach that balances subtle builds and crashes with engaging immersiveness and nod. Three of the six total inclusions top 10 minutes, and within opener “Birth” (10:53), “Abandoning All Hope” (11:34) and the penultimate “Our Lives Will be Erased by the Shifting Sands of the Desert” (13:42), one finds significant breadth, but not to be discounted either are the roll of “Wanderings/Beneath the Sky,” the avant feel of the closing title-track or even the 80-second drone interlude “Aufheben,” which like all that surrounds it, feeds into a consuming ambience that undercuts the notion of The Head Which Becomes the Skull as a debut album for its purposefulness and evocative soundscaping.

Daxma on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

 

The Re-Stoned, Chronoclasm

the re-stoned chronoclasm

For their first new outing since they revisited their debut EP in 2016 with Reptiles Return (review here), Moscow instrumentalists The Re-Stoned cast forth Chronoclasm, a six-track long-player of new material recorded over 2015 and 2016 that ties together its near-hour-long runtime with a consistency of guitarist Ilya Lipkin’s lead tone and a steady interweaving of acoustic elements. “Human Without Body,” “Save Me Under the Emerald Glass,” “Psychedelic Soya Barbecue” and the title-track seem to have some nuance of countrified swing to their groove, but it’s lysergic swirl that ultimately rules the day throughout Chronoclasm, Yaroslav Shevchenko’s drums keeping the material grounded around Lipkin’s guitar and Vladimir Kislyakov’s bass. The trio are joined on percussion by Evgeniy Tkachev on percussion for the CD bonus track “Quartz Crystals,” which picks up from the quiet end of “Chronoclasm” itself and feels like a nine-minute improve extension of its serene mood, adding further progressive sensibility to an already wide scope.

The Re-Stoned on Thee Facebooks

Oak Island Records on Thee Facebooks

 

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Enslaved Post “The River’s Mouth” Video; E out this Week

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

enslaved

On Friday, Norway’s Enslaved release their 14th long-player, E (review here), and if that doesn’t sound like an event to you worth marking, you’re going to want to take the five minutes out of your busy day to check out the band’s new video below. Directed as was the prior visualization for album opener “Storm Son” (posted here) that introduced the first public audio from the record by Josh Graham (A Storm of LightBattle of MiceRed SparowesIIVII, art for NeurosisSoundgarden, etc.), the video highlights a dark sense of ritual that fits well alongside the unabashed extremity of “The River’s Mouth” itself, which in directly following the progressively-minded 10-minute “Storm Son” in the tracklisting provides arguably the most fervent straight-ahead drive of the entire release.

I’d hardly call it stripped down, and I think if you listen/watch, you’ll agree with that assessment, but it has fewer twists than a lot of E, and so “The River’s Mouth” seems all the more direct in the delivery of its ideas, sonic as well as thematic. I just reviewed the album — link is in the first sentence if you missed it — and so I’ll spare you going through the whole thing again, but suffice it to say that one of the things that most makes me a fan of this band is their refusal to stop growing as artists. 14 records in, a lot of groups would have long since settled into a standard operating procedure, probably since their third or fourth full-length, and like very few others, that’s never been the case with Enslaved. Each time out, they have something new to say, some natural progression to undertake. It’s not always leaps and bounds, but it’s whatever shifts have manifested themselves naturally and find themselves with a role to play in their sound.

For this I consider Enslaved one of the most respectable bands on the planet, and E is in my eyes and ears a candidate for album of the year. There. I said it.

Note once more the contributions of new keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje in “The River’s Mouth” alongside bassist Grutle Kjellson‘s verses. Dude makes himself right at home.

Much PR wire whatnot and tour dates follow the video.

Enjoy:

Enslaved, “The River’s Mouth” official video

ENSLAVED will finally unleash their new album E and prove that for a band with more than 25 years of history, they are still reinventing themselves. While the 10-minute-long opening track “Storm Son” gave fans a taster of what to expect from the new album, the single “The River’s Mouth” reveals a heavier and more harsh side of the 14th full-length release. Watch the official video for “The River’s Mouth”, which was once again created by Josh Graham (SOUNDGARDEN, NEUROSIS), here: https://youtu.be/Y8HX_vGPCz8

Songwriter and guitarist Ivar explains: “‘The River’s Mouth’ is a quite heavy track, drawing both on our rock roots and of course the foundation of everything awesome: mid-80s, mid-paced Bathory. It also includes some odd space-rock in the choruses and the end part – finally BATHORY and HAWKWIND met. I like the energy of this song a lot – both Cato and new-kid-on-the-chopping-block Håkon is doing such a great job with the psychedelic parts, the chorus and the ending. What a drive! The end sounds like travelling at insane speed through wormholes. The theme here is your relationship with the “future”, as we describe it: The sensation of time moving along is a construction of our brains – physics claims all time to already have been “rolled out”; try wrapping our brains around that one! So the future would be, speaking in tabloid; a piece of land we just haven’t arrived at yet. But it is already here. The song is about acting in tandem with your future self which already arrived at this “future island” – do not sit and wait, make sure you lay the ground for what is to happen in the future, now!”

E will be available in the following formats;

CD digipak
Red Cassette – limited to 300 worldwide
Red with Bone and Grey Splatter – limited to 900 worldwide
BUNDLE: T-shirt + CD Digi + 5 metal pin set + wooden coaster + 11×17 poster

CD Digipak:
1. Storm Son
2. The River’s Mouth
3. Sacred Horse
4. Axis Of The Worlds
5. Feathers Of Eolh
6. Hiindsiight
Bonus Tracks
7. Djupet
8. What Else Is There (Röyksopp Cover)

 

You can now pre-order the physical editions of the album here: http://nuclearblast.com/enslaved-e

Or get the digital version and stream new track “Storm Son” via this link: http://nblast.de/EnslavedDigital

ENSLAVED are set to embark on a headline tour through Europe, with special support acts hand-selected by the band. Be sure to catch them on one of the following dates:

10.11. D Hamburg – Logo (w/ IMPERIUM DEKADENZ & HERETOIR)
11.11. D Berlin – Nuke (w/ IMPERIUM DEKADENZ & HERETOIR)
12.11. D Cologne – Underground (w/ IMPERIUM DEKADENZ & HERETOIR)
13.11. NL Utrecht – Tivoli de Helling
15.11 UK Manchester – o2 Ritz (supporting OPETH)
16.11 UK Glasgow – Barrowlands (supporting OPETH)
17.11. UK Belfast – The Limelight 1 (supporting OPETH)
18.11. IRL Dublin – The Academy (supporting OPETH) *sold out*
19.11. UK Nottingham – Rock City (supporting OPETH)
21.11 UK Bristol – o2 Academy (supporting OPETH)
22.11 UK Birmingham – o2 Institute (supporting OPETH)
24.11. UK London – Islington Assembly Hall (w/ DARKHER & SVALBARD)
25.11. F Paris – Trabendo (w/ LOST IN KIEV & WOLVE)
26.11. B Vosselaar – Biebob
28.11. F Rezé – Barakason (w/ LOST IN KIEV & WOLVE)
29.11. F Lyon – CCO Villeurbanne (w/ LOST IN KIEV & WOLVE)
30.11. I Brescia – Circolo Colony
01.12. CH Pratteln – Z7
02.12. D Frankfurt – Das Bett (w/ ZATOKREV)
03.12. CZ Prague – Chelmnice (w/ ZATOKREV)
16.12. RU Moscow – Volta
17.12. RU St. Petersburg – Club Zal

Get tickets for the German shows here in our shop:
http://www.nuclearblast.de/de/produkte/tickets/indoor/ticket/enslaved-european-tour-2017.html

But before touring Europe, ENSLAVED play two special release shows in their home country Norway, where you can hear the new songs live for the very first time, meet the band at the merch stand and get two unique gig posters for free:

AISA & Time Out Agency presents:
w/ SIBIIR
12.10 N Oslo – Blå
13.10 N Bergen – Garage

26.10. S Stockholm – Close-Up Baten 21
1.-5.02. USA Miami – 70.000 Tons Of Metal

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Enslaved, E: Horses and Water

Posted in Reviews on October 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

enslaved e

First of all, no, Enslaved didn’t just title their 14th studio album, E, after the first letter of their name. The letter is a translation/reference to the rune ‘ehwaz’ that appears on the Truls Espedal cover art — looks more like an ‘M,’ but there it is — and among the meanings it holds are ‘partnership,’ ‘collaboration’ and ‘horse.’ It’s a one-letter title and a complete concept thematic on which to base the record. And as it happens, E is the most progressive outing the Bergen, Norway, extreme metallers have yet composed in their 26-year career, offering an expanse of sound and intensity that continues to push ahead of their last full-length, 2015’s In Times (review here), while clarifying production ideas, answering the varied intentions of their first live album, earlier-2017’s Roadburn Live (review here), and — in unquestionably the most major change the band has undergone in at least the last decade — introducing new keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje to the lineup. Vinje worked with Enslaved founding guitarist Ivar Bjørnson and bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson (among many others) in the broad-reaching and historically-minded Skuggsjá project, and in joining Enslaved with Bjørnson, Kjellson, guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal and drummer Cato Bekkevold, he fills the role formerly held by Herbrand Larsen, whose contributions to the band’s overall sound in atmospherics and melodic vocals had only increased in scope since he made his debut on 2004’s landmark Isa LP.

That was six records ago, and in the 13 subsequent years, Enslaved only grew more dynamic as they progressed through 2006’s Ruun, 2008’s Vertebrae, 2010’s Axioma Ethica Odini (review here), 2012’s Riitiir (review here) and the aforementioned In Times, though the latter drew back toward a rawer production feel that E once again pulls outward into a larger sphere, and the soaring, soothing melodies of Vinje‘s vocals from opener “Storm Son” through cuts like “Axis of the Worlds” and closer “Hiindsiight” greatly enhance that impression. That Enslaved would introduce someone new in such a pivotal role feels like a bold enough step to make on a new album — one could hardly hold being tentative on some level against them, given how much Larsen brought to their sound — but they brazenly continue their apparently ceaseless and willful growth as songwriters and performers, and Vinje absolutely shines in the role into which he’s stepped, carrying the penultimate “Feathers of Eolh” (8:06) through ambience the thrust alike as Enslaved gallop with the fury that’s become one of their trademarks and step back to allow vocal harmonies to carry more subdued verses. It is a stunning late-album moment.

And by then, not the first time Enslaved have made the spine shiver. E launches with its longest track (immediate points) in the adventurous 10:54 “Storm Son,” which begins with captured outdoor sounds — birds, a shout, a Viking horn, a whinnying horse — leading to an unfolding of shimmering guitar and emergent push. It is a patient opening and when the verse kicks in, Vinje backs Kjellson‘s telltale rasp to set the stage for an exploration of proggy guitar-led turns and chug past the midpoint, heading toward a forward surge that carries them toward a repeated chorus that doubles as crescendo. The chant-style vocals in back of that hook are a foreshadow of what will become a major element throughout E, and one can’t help but wonder if perhaps Bjørnson is carrying a bit of influence from working with Wardruna‘s Einar Selvik (who also makes a guest appearance here) on Skuggsjá into these tracks, since even second cut “The River’s Mouth” — which is the shortest at 5:12 and an immediate contrast to “Storm Son” as it brings Kjellson to the fore in the verse and instead lets Vinje handle the chorus — seems to have some aspects therefrom at play.

Of course, creative arrangements of vocals, guitars, keys, and other instrumentation, are nothing new for Enslaved, but as “The River’s Mouth” swirls to its apex and the acoustic opening of “Sacred Horse” — a definitive moment of arrival, if brief — there’s a prevalence factor for resonance of mood that’s impossible to ignore. “Sacred Horse” (8:12) kicks into a vicious pummel with some of Bjørnson‘s roaring growls complementing Kjellson in the verse before a spacious-but-classy guitar lead takes hold before the next push, building a tension that continues as Vinje takes an organ solo after the three-minute mark and brings a melodic verse shortly before a break at 4:25 introduces the guitar part that will serve as the rhythmic bed for a thudding march that proves to be a standout moment of E as a whole, Bekkevold introducing the progression on toms before crashing cymbals to get officially underway. Guitars make a neighing sound to recall the ‘ehwaz’ theme, and choral vocals top the nodding groove in one of the record’s most singularly affecting moments. Amid laughter, they bring it back around to a few last measures of furious push to close out, and let “Axis of the Worlds” (7:49) take hold with more immediacy and a rocking feel at the start of side B.

enslaved

As their titles would seem to acknowledge, “Sacred Horse” and “Axis of the Worlds” feel very much like the heart of E in their presentation. I won’t take anything away from the impact of “Storm Son” or “Hiindsiight” at the start or the conclusion, and the direct contrast between “The River’s Mouth” as the second cut and “Feathers of Eolh” as the second-to-last seems nothing if not a purposeful display of range, but with the one-two of “Sacred Horse” and “Axis of the Worlds,” Enslaved provide some of their proggiest stretches and show how they’ve made these elements cohesive with the context of their own, ever-shifting approach. To wit, the organ lines of “Axis of the Worlds,” the chorus hook “Chase the serpent/Step on his tail” delivered in clean and echoing screams, the movement into returning chants amid a section that’s as much black metal as it is still somehow drawing from psychedelic and classic progressive rock, and the way the song seems to resolve itself in making its way back to the chorus at the end, the band clear enough in knowing what they want to do to not even in this moment lose sight of the underlying foundation of structure amid all the raging complexity. Especially after the thundering “Sacred Horse” — and, for that matter, before “Feathers of Eolh” — it gets to the core of what Enslaved accomplish with E, manifesting ideas of duality, complement, collaboration, whether that’s between band members or between the band itself and their craft or the instruments they’re playing.

Begun at a rhythmic rush, “Feathers of Eolh” is peppered with nuance of play and topped by piano sounds and guitar flourish for its proggy intro, kicking at about the minute mark into chant-backed drive and bringing in the aforementioned highlight performance from Vinje on vocals. His voice — clear, confident, powerful, layered — recalls some of what Larsen did melodically, but he brings his own edge to the changes in key as well and one expects he’ll only continue to make the role more his own as Enslaved move forward. “Feathers of Eolh” touches on what might be considered Viking post-rock (stick that in your genre search engine) in a brief interlude before springing forth again for the next verse and turns circa six minutes deep into a head-spinning reinterpretation of the intro that meets with further chanting, double-kick from Bekkevold and piano skronk that builds to a sudden finish, bringing the melodic first-minute intro of “Hiindsiight,” which wraps up E fluidly while still holding a surprise or two of its own.

Namely: saxophone. At 9:36, “Hiindsiight” is the second longest inclusion and thereby bookends E with “Storm Son,” but its structure is decidedly working on another wavelength. Cutting from the intro to about as close to a doomed roll as Enslaved have ever come, before the track is into its third minute, it has turned once again to lush melodies from the guitar and keys, trading back again before introducing what sounds like a tenor sax for an echoing solo prior to the halfway point from which Kjellson‘s vocals pick up like throaty searing and jazz instrumentation just go together all the time and there’s nothing at all unusual about it — it’s brilliantly pulled off — and with airy noodling guitar holding the melody beneath, “Hiindsiight” welcomes Vinje back to the arrangement briefly, but gurgles out at around 5:45 to let the guitar set the stage for the E‘s final stretch: a patiently delivered build of melody, chants, the sax, and a wash that’s unlike anything Enslaved have done before and yet so definitively theirs that it couldn’t possibly have come from anyone else.

It is a suitably glorious ending to an album that does nothing less than begin a new era for the band. I’m writing as a fan, but the bravery with which Enslaved take to the formidable task before them in E only underscores how special this group truly is, and in thinking of the stated them of collaboration, one would be remiss to ignore how pivotal the core founding duo of Bjørnson and Kjellson are, and how much their work together has changed over the years while still holding fast to the creative drive that has been so easy as a listener to take for granted all along. It’s only one letter, but E spreads itself across the consciousness with worldbuilding mastery, and is a work of true vision simply not to be missed. One of 2017’s best and then some. Recommended.

Enslaved, “Storm Son” official video

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Quarterly Review: The Necromancers, The Asound & Intercourse, Bohr, Strobe, Astrosaur, Sun Q, Holy Mount, Sum of R, IIVII, Faces of the Bog

Posted in Reviews on September 25th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

The season is changing here in the Northeastern part of the US. Leaves have just barely started to change, and the summertime haze that settles over the region for for the better parts of June, July and August has largely dissipated. It’s getting to be hoodie weather after the sun goes down. This past weekend was the equinox. All of this can only mean it’s time for another Quarterly Review — this one spanning a full Monday-to-Monday week’s worth of writeups. That’s right. 60 albums between now and a week from today. It’s going to be a genuine challenge to get through it all, but I’m (reasonably) confident we’ll get there and that when we’re on the other side, it will have been completely worth the lengthy trip to get there. Hell, you know the drill by now. Let’s not waste any time and get to it, shall we?

Quarterly Review #1-10:

The Necromancers, Servants of the Salem Girl

the-necromancers-servants-of-the-salem-girl

A noteworthy debut from the Poitier, France-based four-piece The Necromancers, whose coming has been much heralded owing in no small part to a release through Ripple Music, the six-track/41-minute Servants of the Salem Girl lumbers through doom and cultish heavy rock with likewise ease, shifting itself fluidly between the two sides on extended early cuts like opener “Salem Girl Part I” and the nine-minute “Lucifer’s Kin,” which gets especially Sabbathian in its roll later on. The album’s midsection, with the shorter cuts “Black Marble House” (video premiere here) and “Necromancers,” continues the flow with a general uptick of pace and ties together with the opening salvo via the burly vocals of guitarist Tom, the solo work of Rob on lead guitar, and the adaptable groove from bassist Simon and drummer Ben, and as the penultimate “Grand Orbiter” engages moody spaciousness, it does so with a refusal to commit to one side or the other that makes it a highlight of the album as a whole. The Necromancers finish contrasting rhythmic tension and payoff nod on “Salem Girl Part II,” having long since thoroughly earned their hype through songwriting and immediately distinct sonic persona. There’s growth to do in melodicism, but for being “servants,” The Necromancers show an awful lot of command in structure and style.

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The Asound & Intercourse, Split 7″

the asound intercourse split

Noise is the order of things on the Tsuguri Records split 7” between New Haven, Connecticut’s good-luck-Googling aggressives Intercourse and North Carolinian sludge rockers The Asound. Each band offers a two-song showcase of their wares, with Intercourse blasting short jabs of post-hardcore/noise rock angularity on “Too Fucked to Yiff” and “Corricidin is a Helluva Drug” and The Asound bringing a more melodic heavy rock swing to “Slave to the Saints” while saving a more galloping charge for “Human for Human.” It’s a quick sampling, of course, and “Slave to the Saints” is the relative epic inclusion as the only one over three minutes long – it goes to 4:20, naturally – but boasts a surprisingly professional production from The Asound and an unhinged vibe from Intercourse that meets them head on in a way both competitive and complementary to the aggression of “Human for Human.” Fodder for the bands’ merch tables in its limited-to-300, one-time-only pressing, but there’s hardly anything wrong with that. All the more worth grabbing it if you can, while you can.

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Bohr, Bohr

bohr bohr

Officially called Self-Title, this two-song outing released by Tandang Records and BTNKcllctv serves as the first release from Malaysia’s Bohr, and with shouts and growls duking it out over massive plodding tones on opener “Voyager,” they seem to take position right away in the post-Conan verve of megadoom. Peppered-in lead work showcases some welcome nuance of personality, but it’s the second track “Suria” that trips into more surprising terrain, with a faster tempo and something of a letup in thickness, allowing for a more rocking feel, still met with shouted vocals but hinting at more of a melodic reach nonetheless. The shift might be awkward in the context of a full-length, but on a debut single/EP, it works just fine to demonstrate what may or may not be a nascent breadth in Bohr’s approach. They finish “Suria” with hints of more to come in a plotted guitar lead and are done in about 10 minutes, having piqued interest with two disparate tracks that leave one to wonder what other tricks might be up their collective sleeve.

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Strobe, Bunker Sessions

strobe bunker sessions

It’s worth noting outright that Strobe’s Bunker Sessions was recorded in 1994. Not because it sounds dated, but just the opposite. The Sulatron Records release from the under-exposed UK psychedelic rockers finds them jamming out in live-in-studio fashion, and if you’d told me with no other context that the resultant six-track/40-minute long-player was put to tape two months ago, I’d absolutely have believed it. This would’ve been the era of their 1994 third album, The Circle Never Ends, and while some can hear some relation between that and Bunker Sessions in the shimmering lead and warm underscoring basslines of 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Sun Birth,” the drift in “Chameleon Earth,” synth-laden space rock meandering of “Opium Dreams” and cymbal-wash-into-distortion-wash of closer “Sun Death” are on a wavelength of their own. It’s something of a curio release – a “lost album” – but it’s also bound to turn some heads onto how ahead of their time Stobe were in the ‘90s, and maybe we’ll get lucky and Sulatron will use it to kick off a full series of convenient LP reissues.

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Astrosaur, Fade In / Space Out

astrosaur-fade-in-space-out

While their moniker brings to mind pure stoner idolatry, Oslo instrumentalists Astrosaur acquit themselves toward more progressive fare with Fade In // Space Out, their Bad Vibes Records debut album, finding open spaces in bookending extended opener “Necronauts” and the dramatic shift between droning experimentalism and weighted lumber of the closing title-track even as middle cuts “Space Mountain,” “Yugen” and “Fishing for Kraken” balance with fits of driving progressive metallurgy. Comprised of Eirik Kråkenes, Steinar Glas and Jonatan Eikum, Astrosaur do get fuzzy for a bit on “Yugen,” but by the time they’re there, they’ve already space-doom-jazzed their way through such a vast aesthetic swath that it becomes one more stylistic element in fair-enough play. Open in its structure and building to an affecting cacophony in its ending, Fade In // Space Out is defined in no small part by its stylistic ambition, but whether it’s in the head-spinning initial turns of “Fishing for Kraken” or the stretch of peaceful, wistful guitar after the seven-minute mark in “Necronauts,” that ambition is admirable multifaceted and wide-reaching.

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Sun Q, Charms

sun q charms

There’s an encouraging and decidedly pro-shop fullness of sound being proffered on Sun Q’s debut full-length, Charms, to match an immediate sense of songcraft and stylization that puts them somewhere between heavy psych and more driving fuzz rock. Vocalist Elena Tiron takes a forward position in opener “Petals and Thorns” over the briskly-captured tones from guitarist Ivan Shalimov and bassist Denis Baranov while drummer Pavel Poseluev pushes the proceedings along, and whether they’re bringing in Seva Timofeev’s Hammond for the subsequent bluesy vibing of “After This,” toying with pop playfulness on “Plankton,” giving Andrey Tanzu percussive room on “Dancing Souls” or going full-expanse on keyboard-laden centerpiece and aptly-titled longest cut “Space,” there’s purpose behind the variety on offer and Sun Q never seem to lose their sense of poise throughout. There are moments where the bite of the production hits a little deep – looking at you, “Plankton” – but especially as their debut, Charms lives up to the name it’s been given and establishes these Moscow natives as a presence with which to be reckoned as they move forward.

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Holy Mount, The Drought

holy mount the drought

White Dwarf Records picked up what by my count is Holy Mount’s fourth full-length, The Drought, for a vinyl issue following the Toronto foursome’s self-release last year, and with the immersive, dense heavy psych nod of “Division,” it’s little wonder why. The seven-cut LP is the second to feature the lineup of Danijel Losic, Brandon McKenzie, Troy Legree and Clayton Churcher behind 2014’s VOL, and its moments of nuance like the synth at the outset of “Blackened Log” or the blend of tense riffing and post-The Heads shoegaze-style vocal chants on the markedly insistent highlight cut “Basalt” only further the reasoning. The penultimate “Blood Cove” returns some to of the ritual sense of “Division,” and The Drought’s titular finale pierces its own wash with a lead that makes its apex all the more resonant and dynamic. Not nearly as frenetic as its cover art would have you believe, the already-sold-out vinyl brims with a vibe of creative expansiveness, and Holy Mount feel right at home in its depths.

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Sum of R, Orga

sum of r orga

Over the course of its near-hour runtime, Orga, the Czar of Crickets-issued third full-length from Bern, Switzerland, ambient outfit Sum of R deep-dives into droning atmospheric wash while effectively producing headphone-worthy depths and avoiding the trap of redundant minimalism. Chimes in a song like “Desmonema Annasethe” and ringing bells in “We Have to Mark this Entrance” give a feeling of lushness instead that serves the release well overall, and these details, nuances, take the place of what otherwise might be human voices coursing through the bleak mire of Orga’s progression. One might look to closing duo “Let us Begin with What We Do Not Want to Be” and “One After the Other” for some sense of hopefulness, and whether or not it’s actually there, it’s possible to read it into the overarching drone of the former and the percussive movement of the latter, but by then Sum of R have well set the mood in an abiding darkness, and that remains the prevailing vibe. Not quite dramatic or brooding in a human/emotional sense, Orga casts its drear in soundscapes of distant nighttime horizon.

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IIVII, Invasion

iivii invasion

Noted graphic artist and post-metal songwriter Josh Graham – formerly visuals for Neurosis, but also art for Soundgarden and many others, as well as being known for his work with A Storm of Light and the woefully, vastly underrated Battle of Mice – makes his second ambient solo release in the form of IIVII’s Invasion on Belgian imprint Consouling Sounds. A soundtrack-ready feel pervades the nine tracks/44 minutes almost instantly and holds sway with opener “We Came Here from a Dying World (I)” finding complement in the centerpiece “Tomorrow You’ll be One of Us (II)” and a thematic capstone in closer “Sanctuary,” only furthering the sense of a narrative unfolding throughout. There are elements drawn in “Unclouded by Conscience” from the atmospheric and score work of Trent Reznor and/or Junkie XL, but Graham doesn’t necessarily part with the post-metallic sense of brooding that has defined much of his work even as the pairing of “We Live” and “You Die” late in the record loops its way to and through its dramatic apex. Obviously not going to be for everyone, but it does make a solid argument for Graham as a composer whose breadth is still revealing itself even after a career filled with landmarks across multiple media.

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Faces of the Bog, Ego Death

faces-of-the-bog-ego-death

In some of their shifts between atmospheric patience and churning intensity – not to mention in the production of Sanford ParkerFaces of the Bog remind a bit of fellow Windy City residents Minsk on their DHU Records debut album, Ego Death, but prove ultimately more aggressive in the thrust of “Drifter in the Abyss” and the later stretch of “The Serpent and the Dagger,” on which the guitars of Mark Stephen Gizewski and Trey Wedgeworth (both also vocals) delve into Mastodonic leads near the finish to set up the transition into the 10:33 title-track, which begins with a wash of static noise before Paul Bradfield’s bass sets up the slow nod that holds sway and only grows bigger as it presses forward. That cut is one of two over the 10-minute mark, and the other, closer “Blue Lotus,” unfolds even more gradually and ventures into cleaner vocals presaged on “The Weaver” and elsewhere as it makes its way toward an album-payoff crescendo marked by drummer Danny Garcia’s thudding toms and a low end rumble that’s as much a presence unto itself as a harbinger of progression to come.

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Himmellegeme Release Myth of Earth Oct. 6; New Track Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

himmellegeme-photo-vegard-ekberg

If you’re anything like me, you might dig into ‘Hjertedød’ by Norwegian atmospheric/progressive heavy rockers Himmellegeme at the bottom of this post and have some real trouble not wanting to go further. The Bergen-based five-piece will release their debut album, Myth of Earth, on Oct. 6 via Karisma Records, so you don’t necessarily have to wait long to find out more about the record, but suffice it to say that the vibe of “Hjertedød” persists pretty fluidly throughout the 37-minute offering as a whole, which blends melancholy emotionalism and proggy poise to an effect that’s neither overly cold nor hyper-dramatic — the band clearly working to find a balance somewhere between ambience and human sensibility and, it would seem, succeeding. Plus they rock out a bit on “Kyss Mine Blodige Hender,” and that’s cool too.

This announcement actually came in a little while ago and kind of slipped under my radar, but the track and the release are right on, so yeah. See if it hits the same kind of chord with you as it did with me:

himmellegeme-myth-of-earth

Himmellegeme – Myth of Earth

Himmellegeme release their new track “Hjertedød” from upcoming debut album Myth Of Earth!

It’s been lifted from the Norwegian outfit’s upcoming debut album Myth Of Earth which is set to arrive on October 6 via Karisma Records.

From the dark psychedelic shadows of Bergen, Norway, Himmellegeme emerge with their unique bittersweet debut album Myth of Earth.

Himmellegeme’s music is influenced by both psych rock and atmospheric prog rock, which together combine to create an otherworldly and timeless sound. With their heavy-hitting riffs, chilling melodies and melancholic lyrics, written both in Norwegian and English, Himmellegeme creates music that depicts past events in their own lives, as well as in the lives of others.

Himmelegeme’s lineup consists of Aleksander Vormestrand on guitars and vocals, Hein Alexander Olson on lead guitar, Lauritz Isaksen on keyboards, Erik Alfredsen on bass and Thord Nordli on drums. Together, they have spent the past year exploring different sounds, and putting the finishing touches on their extraordinary new material. The album was recorded at one of Bergen’s top studios, Broen Studios, and was produced by Anders Bjelland (Electric Eye / Hypertext) who also worked his sonic wizardry on the album.

1. Natteravn
2. Hjertedød
3. Myth of Earth
4. Breath in the air like fire
5. Kyss mine blodige hender
6. Fish
7. Fallvind

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Enslaved Post Video for “Storm Son” from New Album E

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

enslaved e storm son

A few crucial learnings from the new Enslaved track, and you know I love crucial learnings. The mainstay Norwegian progressive black metallers announced last week they’ll issue their new album, E, on Oct. 13 via Nuclear Blast, and in a week that was full of good news of releases to come, that might’ve been the most welcome date to mark on the calendar. In accordance with unveiling the cover runic origins, cover art, tracklisting and preorders for E, they said they’d be posting the first single “Storm Son” on Friday, and sure enough, they lived up to their word.

The 10-minute track makes a substantial sampling of what famed producer Jens Bogren is bringing to themix and master E in terms of clarity of vision and precise instrument separation — the track is immediately clean, very much in the style of Bogren‘s work on Enslaved‘s last four albums and countless others — and the video is by Josh Graham. You might recognize his crow-flying-in-profile motif from Neurosis‘ “Stones from the Sky” video, though there’s plenty going on here besides.

Before we get to the clip, let’s run through what we find out in it:

1. New dude can sing.

Granted, we may or may not be getting a guest appearance in the second half of “Storm Son” from Einar Selvik of Wardruna as well, and as the subsequent gallop takes off, bassist Grutle Kjellson‘s rasp is front and center (his own clean vocals are there too, somewhat buried in the layering), but early in the track, we get to hear new keyboardist Håkon Vinje‘s voice for the first time, and yeah, he pretty much nails it. What Vinje would bring to the band in filling the void left by Herbrand Larsen, who stepped away earlier in 2017 after a 13-year tenure, was to my mind the biggest question going into E, and if “Storm Son” is any indicator, things are gonna be alright. Larsen‘s progression as a vocalist over the last decade was a hallmark of Enslaved‘s stylistic progression, and obviously the band didn’t want to take any backward steps in losing him.

2. The style hasn’t changed that much.

A start-stop riff from guitarists Ivar Bjørnson and Arve Isdal carries the spirit of 2015’s In Times (review here) forward, and as one would expect, drummer/famed fisherman Cato Bekkevold is malleable to whatever changes the song might present. Much as it marks a new beginning for Enslaved in terms of their lineup, “Storm Son” doesn’t come across as a radical shift from where they were two years ago in terms of sound so much as the next step in their ongoing evolution. I’m not sure I’d count on one song to speak for E as a whole — yes, that’s me hedging my bets — but even with some notable post-rock flourish, I don’t feel blindsided by what the band is doing here.

3. Metallic patience abounds.

That said, one can hear a certain meditativeness in the repetitions early; Enslaved seeming to take that extra measure or two before switching to the next part of the track. That’s what I mean by “metallic patience.” It’s not like they’re jamming out — one would never really expect them to suddenly go improv — but while Enslaved resolve “Storm Son” with significant rhythmic charge, they also allow the textures of the track to flesh out a bit without growing fed up with waiting, losing their grip, and blasting out before it feels right to do so. There’s still a build in “Storm Son” along a linear course, but pay attention to how Enslaved handle it on their way through and I think you’ll notice as well that they hold their sense of poise even as that fury mounts, and that control is emblematic both of their experience and of the place that has brought them as players and songwriters.

Enjoy the video:

Enslaved, “Storm Son” official video

True avant-garde Norwegians ENSLAVED will release their epic new studio album E on October 13th, 2017 and with this 14th full-length record, the virtuoso herald a new chapter in the band’s history. To provide a first taste of what’s to come, the band now unveils their debut music video for the 10 minute long single “Storm Son” that blends mesmerizing prog with jarring extreme metal and a folky atmosphere. The music video was designed by Josh Graham, who previously worked with SOUNDGARDEN and NEUROSIS among others, and delivered a truly spectacular piece of animated art.

“‘Storm Son’ deals with the duality of man and nature, how important and basic that relationship is,” explains songwriter and guitarist Ivar. “Everything we do and create are imitations of nature; as we evolved from nature, that is how it must be – yet modern man thinks he and she is independent of nature, that we somehow are so superior that we do not have to take nature into consideration other than as a backdrop for shitty movies. Or festivals. Losing touch with nature is basically to lose touch with being human.”

You can now pre-order the physical editions of the album here: nuclearblast.com/enslaved-e

Or get the digital version and stream the new track “Storm Son” via this link: nblast.de/EnslavedDigital

The track list contains these majestic anthems:
01. Storm Son (10:54)
02. The River’s Mouth (5:12)
03. Sacred Horse (8:12)
04. Axis Of The Worlds (7:49)
05. Feathers Of Eolh (8:06)
06. Hiindsiight (9:32)
Bonus tracks available on the digipak:
07. Djupet (7:39)
08. What Else Is There? (Röyksopp cover) (4:44)

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Enslaved Announce Preorders for New Album E out Oct. 13

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

enslaved

If you’re like me and you’re wondering exactly what the new Enslaved album, E, is going to sound like, then you’re probably also like me and you know gosh darn well the answer isn’t likely to be provided in its entirety by the unveiling this Friday of the first single “Storm Son.” Nonetheless, when it comes to the long-running Bergen, Norway, progressive black metal innovators, I’ll take what I can get. Nuclear Blast has set an Oct. 13 release date for E and begun taking preorders for physical and digital editions, and that’s nifty, but at this point all we’ve got to go on is the art — looks like Enslaved art; Truls Espedal strikes again — and with the news that Herbrand Larsen has stepped away from the keys/clean vocal role, there’s the potential for a big sonic shift in E‘s tracks. Larsen was not a minor factor in the evolution of their sound.

Friday will begin to tell that tale; Oct. 13 will continue it. More when I hear, but for now, this from the PR wire:

enslaved e

ENSLAVED Announce Album Details And Release Date Of E

Launch Album Pre-Order Here: nuclearblast.com/enslaved-e

True avant-garde Norwegians ENSLAVED have announced the release of their epic new studio album for October 13th, 2017. This 14th full-length masterpiece sets the musical mind-twisters free from genre boundaries and offers a unprecedented mix of prog, extreme metal and shoegaze on 8 tracks with a play time of more than an hour. Elegantly titled E, the album was once again written by the unholy alliance of guitarist Ivar Bjørnson (music, lyrics) and singer/bassist Grutle Kjellson (lyrics) and marks the introduction of their new keyboard master and clean vocalist Håkon Vinje. Mixed and mastered at the Fascination Street Studios by the renowed Jens Bogren, E heralds a new era for ENSLAVED. Its cover artwork was once again hand-painted by the Norwegian artist Truls Espedal. As support for their brave sound journey, the quintet brought several guest musicians on board for the songs “Hiindsiigh”‘ and ‘”Feathers Of Eolh”, including WARDRUNA’s Einar Kvitrafn Selvik, flutist Daniel Mage and jazz saxophonist Kjetil Møster.

Mastermind Ivar explains about the title E:
“The concept of the album lies in both it’s meaning as a letter in the latin alphabet, and it’s runic reference: the rune “Ehwaz”, that is depicted as an “M” when drawn as rune (just to make sure it gets really confusing) – the runes are drawn to look like what they literally mean. Ehwaz (pronounced and used as what’s known as E, but drawn as an “M”) looks like and means ‘horse’. Which is closely linked to its esoteric meaning; which is ‘trust’ and ‘co-operation’. One of mankind’s oldest and deepest pairings/collaborations with any “outside” entities is with the horse. When they were first tamed and utilised there must have arisen the notion of some esoteric link between the two; now we could move swiftly, escape faster and even eat and drink from the animal (both horse milk and horse blood), and of course show off and brag before our enemies and peers with the most spectacular horses.

So, no, it is not about horses! It is about the symbioses that surrounds us; which are vital to our existence, to our development – on all scales: man and vessel (for instance horse, yes), a person and its significant other, child and parent, musician and instrument, chaos and order, subconscious and conscious, Oden and Sleipnir – wisdom and communication. There are many levels and variations of this concept on the album; the duality of man and nature, present and past personalities within one self, the conscious fear and the subconscious drive. And other symbiosis.”

The pre-order starts today and you can now get your hands on the physical editions of the album here: nuclearblast.com/enslaved-e

Or the digital version here: nblast.de/EnslavedDigital

The track list contains these majestic anthems:
01. Storm Son (10:54)
02. The River’s Mouth (5:12)
03. Sacred Horse (8:12)
04. Axis Of The Worlds (7:49)
05. Feathers Of Eolh (8:06)
06. Hiindsiight (9:32)
Bonus tracks available on the digipak:
07. Djupet (7:39)
08. What Else Is There? (Röyksopp cover) (4:44)

Stay tuned for the first single “Storm Son” to be unveiled this Friday!

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Enslaved, “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” official video from Roadburn Live

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