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

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

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

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Khemmis, Desolation

khemmis desolation

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

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin website

 

Morag Tong, Last Knell of Om

morag tong last knell of om

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

Morag Tong on Thee Facebooks

Morag Tong on Bandcamp

 

Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul

holy mushroom blood and soul

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

Holy Mushroom on Thee Facebooks

Clostridium Records website

 

Naisian, Rejoinder

naisian rejoinder

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

Naisian on Thee Facebooks

Naisian on Bandcamp

 

Haunted, Dayburner

haunted dayburner

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

Haunted on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records website

DHU Records webstore

Graven Earth Records webstore

 

Pabst, Chlorine

pabst chlorine

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

Pabst on Thee Facebooks

Crazysane Records webstore

 

L.M.I., IV

lmi iv

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

L.M.I. on Thee Facebooks

L.M.I. on Bandcamp

 

Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere

fuzz forward out of nowhere

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

Fuzz Forward on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Forward on Bandcamp

 

Onségen Ensemble, Duel

Onsegen ensemble duel

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

Onségen Ensemble on Thee Facebooks

Onsegen Ensemble on Bandcamp

 

The Heavy Eyes, Live in Memphis

the heavy eyes live in memphis

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

The Heavy Eyes on Thee Facebooks

The Heavy Eyes at Kozmik Artifactz

 

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Friday Full-Length: Electric Moon, Inferno

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 29th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Pardon me if you’ve heard this one before, but the discography of German psychedelojammers Electric Moon isn’t exactly the most transparent of undertakings. In addition to their studio full-lengths, they have self-pressed CD-Rs and a slew and then some of live albums to dig into, and more on the regular. Last year they issued the Stardust Rituals LP through longtime imprint Sulatron Records, founded and run by guitarist/synthesist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, and it was a welcome return after some six years of live outings, 2016’s Live 2015 – Zeiss Planetarium Bochum (review here), 2015’s Theory of Mind (review here), 2014’s Mind Explosion (review here), 2013’s Live 2012 1 & 2 (review here), and so on. With a sound so based on improvisation, sonic wandering and exploring the chemistry between the players involved — Schmidt, bassist/sometimes-vocalist/graphic artist “Komet Lulu” Neudeck and several drummers; Marcus Schnitzler played on the latest record but seems to have since been replaced by returning founder Pablo Carneval — just about any show properly recorded can turn into a live release. Because live releases are kind of the point. There wouldn’t be a band if they couldn’t do it on stage.

And since on stage is where Electric Moon are inherently most in their element, a studio outing from them is something of an event. They first released Inferno in 2011 on a CD-R and then followed up with an official Sulatron pressing in 2012. It has been through several editions since then on CD and vinyl, and got a proper reissue in 2015. It is comprised of just two tracks:

1. Mental Record (14:24)
2. Inferno (51:54)

Obviously between them, the latter cut is going to get the vast majority of the focus. It’s a one-song album, essentially, with a bonus track put first. And I won’t take away from what SulaLulu and then-drummer Alex do on “Mental Record,” but the unmitigated swirl of “Inferno” is simply in a league of its own when it comes to tapping into the heart of heavy psychedelia. Electric Moon aren’t the only band in the underground to take an improv-rooted approach to heavy psychedelia, but theirs is one of particular, enduring and evolving character. They have their methods, to be sure, with Schmidt‘s synth running alongside the guitar or the cyclical turns of drums in “Inferno” past the 10-minute mark, but the key seems to be always working to find something new in the sound or the style of play. An experimental tweak here, a little extra howl in the guitar there. And every now and again, vocals. As with few others, Electric Moon seem wholly comfortable in allowing their material to become what it needs to be, the band acting more as vessels for what flows from all of them together rather than individual players following their own agendas. They’re in there, to be sure, but channeling something through themselves in a way that most bands simply don’t or can’t do. It’s not about ego or about virtuosity, but about the spirit and the worship of creativity itself, about capturing the heart of the moment when that new idea happens. About putting that to tape and pressing it up to share with a dedicated fanbase that’s only grown more dedicated over time.

Electric Moon are not a trifling band. They’re not just plugging in their instruments, arranging a bunch of cymbals and making noise. They follow a course that takes them to the inner workings of psychedelia. The long, jammed-out pieces that many others would carve into songs, split into verses and choruses, etc., Electric Moon serves up raw in what always seems to be their original form. Some of the songs on Stardust Rituals had a discernible structure, but that’s more the exception than the rule. Builds come and go, loud parts, quiet parts, guitar scorch and funky rhythms as on “Mental Record,” driven space-rock triumph as in the middle of “Inferno,” but Electric Moon seem to try never to be in the same place twice, and so very often they’ll end up someplace completely separate from where they started, and this is where the chemistry particularly between Sula and Lulu saves them, since there doesn’t seem to be a place where one leads that the other can’t or won’t follow. Or if there is, it certainly doesn’t make it onto the record.

And it may well be that Electric Moon sit down and plan out when their changes will arrive, when part G goes into part H on “Inferno” — somewhere around 35 minutes in, maybe? — but that wouldn’t make their project any less impressive in its scope. What they do brims with such a sense of the real that its spacious sound is still often resoundingly human, as it ends up being while “Inferno” makes its way through is slower back half, fuzzy lead guitar taking hold at around 43 minutes and serving as the bed for the apex wash that gives way at 50 minutes on the dot to the languid meandering that caps the last couple minutes. Inferno is an especially vital example of the spark that exists in what they do, but that spark is just about everywhere in their — again — somewhat opaque catalog. And while it may sometimes be difficult to keep straight which release came before which other release, what was when and which is a reissue — let alone which reissue — the basic fact is that wherever one chooses to dive in, that lunar pool runs singularly deep.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

I woke up Monday at 5:30AM to start working on the review of the last day of Maryland Doom Fest 2018. I’d gone to bed I guess around 1AM? I don’t even know. Anyway, that would turn out to be the latest I slept this week. After driving about six hours from Maryland to Connecticut, The Patient Mrs. and I have been staying here all week with The Pecan and her sister’s two kids, who are lovely, and their dog, as well as our dog and her mother’s dog. It hasn’t been a little, and I’ve kept my alarm set for 3:30AM all week so I could wake up and do Obelisk stuff before the baby gets up, which lately he’s been doing at five or so. Today it was closer to six, but he was also up at 4:45AM for a feed/diaper-change session. I’d call it brutal, but whatever.

Accordingly, you might’ve noticed it’s been four-post days most of this week except for today, which was five. So much going on all week is why, but it’s also the fact that since I was at the fest all weekend I didn’t get the chance to get my usual day-ahead jump on the week. Generally, what’s written over the weekend gets posted on Monday, what’s written on Monday posted Tuesday, Tuesday on Wednesday, and so on. Barring stuff like Brant Bjork announcing a new record that I feel like needs to get up as soon as it comes in — I’m waiting for Uncle Acid to announce their new album’s release date any minute now, any day, any week — I don’t usually have a problem working that way. It’s nice to have reviews done ahead of time. This week I couldn’t do that, so it’s been a little more manic.

And speaking of manic, this all coincided with me putting a kybosh on taking my meds as of late last week. I was cruising for a few days, did pretty well at Doom Fest — at least for me — but then I had like three days in a row of welling up in tears for no reason and, well, I guess we’re just not quite there yet. Back on the pills. To quote a government official: “womp womp.” Was worth a shot, anyhow. I cut out the anti-anxiety meds and that seems to have gone alright, so I’ll take my wins where I can get them.

Next week is busy. This weekend is busy. Life is busy. Here’s what’s in the notes, all subject to change as ever:

Mon.: Yawning Man review/stream; Dunbarrow track premiere; Entierro announcement.
Tue.: Brant Bjork review/premiere; Boss Keloid video.
Wed.: Seedy Jeezus review.
Thu.: Planet of Doom: First Contact EP review.
Fri.: Open at the moment, maybe Bong Six Dumb Questions.

That’s it. I’m punching out and going to spend as much of the rest of the day watching baseball as possible. Or maybe I’ll just watch that fucking Heilung video for the 80th time. Because it’s summer, and hot out, and whatever, I’m tired and want to be on the couch. Tomorrow, more writing. Monday, more posting. Maybe if I’m lucky some more sleeping. Probably not the last of those.

Oh and I need to empty the dishwasher. Fuck.

Alright. Have a great and safe weekend. If you’re celebrating the Fourth of July next week in the US — first of all, fucking why?, but second, be safe and not stupid about it. Have a great time if you’re the type to let yourself do so, and if not, back on your pills you go. Ha.

Thanks again for reading. Forum and Radio.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Quarterly Review: Primordial, Dead Meadow, Taarna, MaidaVale, Black Willows, Craang, Fuzz Lord, Marijannah, Cosmic Fall, Owl

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

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

Okay, so this is it. The Quarterly Review definitely ends today. I’m not sneaking in a seventh day tomorrow or anything like that. This is it. The last batch of 10, bringing us to a grand total of 60 records reviewed between last Monday and now. That’s not too bad, if you think about it. Me, I’m a little done thinking about it, and if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to enjoy the time between now and late June/early July, in which for the most part I’ll be writing about one record at a time. The thought feels like a luxury after this week.

But hey, we made it. Thanks for reading along the way.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Primordial, Exile Amongst the Ruins

primordial exile amongst the ruins

Primordial’s flair for the epic has not at all abated over the years. The Irish post-black-metal forerunners follow-up 2014’s Where Greater Men Have Fallen with Exile Amongst the Ruins (on Metal Blade), and though there’s plenty of charge in “To Hell or the Hangman,” “Sunken Lungs” or “Upon Our Spiritual Deathbed,” with frontman Alan Averill proselytizing declarations as grandly as ever, one might read a certain amount of fatigue into the lyrics of songs like “Stolen Years” and the 10-minute closer “Last Call.” Granted, Exile Amongst the Ruins is 65 minutes long, so I don’t think the band has run out of things to say, but could it be that the cycle of writing, recording and touring is starting to wear on them some 25 years after their founding? I wouldn’t know or speculate, and like I said, Exile Amongst the Ruins retains plenty of its sonic force, the layering of the title-track and the preceding “Where Lie the Gods” offering a depth of sound to complement the complexity of their themes.

Primordial on Thee Facebooks

Primordial at Metal Blade website

 

Dead Meadow, The Nothing They Need

dead meadow The Nothing They Need

Utter masters of their domain, Los Angeles’ Dead Meadow – comprised of guitarist/vocalist Jason Simon, bassist Steve Kille and drummer Juan Londono – mark 20 years of the band with the eight songs of The Nothing They Need (on Xemu Records), bringing in former members for guest spots mostly on drums but also guitar across a rich tapestry of moods, all of which happen to be distinctly Dead Meadow’s own. The ramble in opener “Keep Your Head” or “I’m So Glad” is unmistakable, and the fuzz of the six-minute “Nobody Home” bounces with a heavy psychedelic groove that should be nothing less than a joy to the converted. Recorded in their rehearsal space, released on their own label and presented with their own particularly blend of indie pulse, psych dreamscaping and more weighted tone, a song like the swaying eight-minute “The Light” is a reminder of everything righteous Dead Meadow have accomplished in their two decades, and of the vast spread their influence has taken on in that time. Perhaps the greatest lesson of all is that no matter who’s involved, Dead Meadow sound like Dead Meadow, which is about the highest compliment I can think of to pay them.

Dead Meadow on Thee Facebooks

Xemu Records website

 

Taarna, Sanguine Ash

taarna sanguine ash

It’s not entirely clear what’s happening at the start of Taarna’s 29-minute single-song EP, Sanguine Ash, but the samples are vague and violent sounding and the noise behind them is abrasive. A strum and build takes hold as the Portland, Oregon, black metallers, who feature former members of Godhunter in their ranks, continue in the first couple minutes to develop a suicidal thematic, and six minutes in, a wash of static takes hold with drums behind it only to give way, in turn, to lush-sounding keys or guitar (could go either way) that patiently leads to a rumbling, roiling lurch of blacksludge. Cavern-vocals echo and cut through molasses tones and Taarna ride that malicious groove for the next several minutes until, at around 18:30, samples start again. This leads to more quiet guitar, resonant blackened thrust, noise, noise, more noise and a final emergent wash of caustic anti-metal that couldn’t possibly be clearer in its mission to challenge, repel and come across as completely fucked as it can. Done and done, you scathing bastards.

Taarna on Thee Facebooks

Taarna on Bandcamp

 

MaidaVale, Madness is Too Pure

maidavale madness is too pure

I already discussed a lot of what is working so well on MaidaVale’s second album, Madness is Too Pure (The Sign Records), when I put up the video for “Oh Hysteria!” (posted here), but it’s worth reemphasizing the sonic leap the Swedish four-piece have made between their 2016 debut, the bluesy and well-crafted Tales of the Wicked West (review here) and this nine-song offering, which stretches far outside the realm of blues rock and encompasses psychedelic jamming, spontaneous-sounding explorations, brazen but not at all caustic vibes, and an overarching energy of delivery that reminds both of a live presentation and, on a song like “Gold Mine,” of what Death Alley have been able to revitalize in space-punk. Memorable progressions like that of “Walk in Silence” and the freaked out “Dark Clouds” offer standout moments, but really, it’s the whole album itself that’s the standout, and if the debut showed MaidaVale’s potential, Madness is Too Pure ups that factor significantly.

MaidaVale on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Black Willows, Bliss

black willows bliss

About a year and a half after releasing their 2016 sophomore outing, Samsara (review here), Swiss post-doomers Black Willows return with a 19-minute single-song EP they’ve dubbed Bliss. It is utterly hypnotic. The sonic equivalent of watching a bonfire take hold of dry wood. It consumes with its dense heft of riff and then lulls the listener with stretches of minimalism and ambience, the first of which provides the intro to the piece itself. Black Willows are no strangers to working with longform material, and as Bliss also appears as the band’s half of a Bloodrock Records split with Craneium, it’s understandable they’d want to bring their best, but the weight of their groove feels unexpected even in terms of having heard their past work. So they’ve gotten heavier? Yeah, maybe. What really matters is how they wield that weight, and on Bliss, they put it to use as much as an atmospheric table-setter as in a display of sheer force. Beware the noise wash at the end. That’s all I’ll say.

Black Willows on Thee Facebooks

Black Willows on Bandcamp

 

Craang, Shine

craang shine

Greek heavy psych rockers Craang set up a dynamic quickly on their new two-song full-length, Shine (also stylized as S H IN E) that both encourages and rewards patience and trust on the part of the listener. They begin 24:52 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Horizon – Tempest” quietly and commence to unfold through ebbs and flows, clean vocals and shouts, open spaces and dense(r) riffing. There is a break near and at the halfway point that presumably is the shift between one part of “Horizon – Tempest” and the other, and the second half follows that lead with a more active presentation. The accompanying “Ocean – Cellular” (19:41) launches with a bed of synth that fades as the bass, drums and guitar enter and begin a linear build that retains a progressive edge, dropping off at about eight minutes in perhaps as another transition into “Cellular,” which indeed follows a more winding, intricate path. One can only say Craang are clear in their representation of what they want to convey, and because of that, Shine is all the more of an engaging experience, the listener essentially following the band on this journey from place to place, idea to idea.

Craang on Thee Facebooks

Craang on Bandcamp

 

Fuzz Lord, Fuzz Lord

Fuzz Lord fuzz lord

We start at “The Gates of Hell” and end up in “Infamous Evil,” so one might say Ohio trio Fuzz Lord – guitarist Steven “Fuzz Lord” joined by bassist/vocalist “Stoner” Dan Riley and drummer/vocalist Lawrence “Lord Buzz” – have their thematic well set on their eight-track self-titled debut (on Fuzzdoom Records). Likewise, their tones and the sense of space in the echoing vocals of “Kronos Visions Arise” and the later, extra-Sabbathian “World Collide” seem to know precisely where they’re headed. Riley recorded the 39-minute outing, while Justin Pizzoferrato (Elder, Dinosaur Jr., many others) mixed, and the resulting conjuration is earthbound in its low end while allowing the guitar to either roll out riffy largesse or take an airier approach. The uptempo “The Lord of the Underground” speaks to a punker underpinning, while the preceding “The Warriors Who Reign” seems to have a more classic metal take, and “Infamous Evil,” also the longest track at 7:51, peppers in layered guitar leads amid a doomier, Luciferian vibe and fervent hook.

Fuzz Lord on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzdoom Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Marijannah, Till Marijannah

Marijannah till marijannah

Comprised of members of Wormrot and The Caulfield Cult, Singapore-based newcomers Marijannah execute four tracks of blown-out tones and psychedelic cavernousness with their Pink Tank Records debut release, Till Marijannah. Touches of garage swing make their way into opener “1974,” and second cut “Snakecharmer” blazes and scorches with wah-drenched solos around crunching rhythms and melodic vocalizations. A march emerges on the nine-minute “Bride of Mine” and only gets more fervent as the track makes its way forward, and driving finale “All Hollow’s Eve” presents a cacophonous but controlled take from Marijannah that reinforces the notion of nothing on their first outing happening by accident. Impressive and just a bit frenetic, it leaves one wondering what further ground the band might look to explore from here, whether they’ve set their sonic course and will look to refine their processes along these lines or whether this is just the beginning of a wider stylistic melding, and their next offering might sound completely different than Till Marijannah. The one seems as likely as the other, and that’s incredibly refreshing.

Marijannah on Thee Facebooks

Pink Tank Records website

 

Cosmic Fall, In Search of Outer Space

cosmic fall in search of outer space

Immediate points to Berlin jammers Cosmic Fall for opening their six-song/43-minute third album, In Search of Outer Space, with the 11-minute longest track “Jabberwocky.” The three-piece introduced new guitarist Marcin Marowski last year on Jams for Free (review here), and as bassist Klaus Friedrich steps up to take the vocalist role and drummer Daniel Sax continues to hold together impossible spaciousness with a fluidity of groove, Marowski seems right at home wah-noodling in the open reaches of “Jabberwocky” and soldering shred and swirl together on the later “Lumberjam.” Some of In Search of Outer Space’s most effective moments are its quietest, as on “Purification” or second cut “Narcotic Vortex,” but neither will I decry the bass fuzz that takes hold near the finish there or the molten churn that bookends closer “Icarus,” but as “Spacejam” hits into the vastness, it seems Cosmic Fall as just as apt to float as to rocket their way out of the atmosphere. In either case, they most certainly get there.

Cosmic Fall on Thee Facebooks

Cosmic Fall on Bandcamp

 

Owl, Orion Fenix

owl orion fenix

The solo-project of Christian Kolf of avant death-crunchers Valborg, Owl issues the 22-minute single-song EP Orion Fenix – with its chanting repetitions of “reborn in fire” – as a precursor to the upcoming LP, Nights in Distortion. Like Owl’s last EP, 2015’s wondrously dark Aeon Cult (review here), Orion Fenix is both intense churn and slow-rolling melancholy, bridging a gap between classic doom (that lead 15 minutes in) and post-doom rhythms and atmosphere. If the project’s purpose is to find beauty in darkness, Orion Fenix accomplishes this quickly enough, but the track’s runtime and lush layering allow Kolf to lend a sense of exploration to what is no doubt a meticulous creative process, since he’s handling all the instruments and vocals himself. Either way, Orion Fenix, as a herald, bodes remarkably well for forward progress on Nights in Distortion to come, and is a remarkable accomplishment on its own in both heft and spaciousness.

Owl on Thee Facebooks

Owl on Bandcamp

 

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VUG Premiere “Prophecy” from Self-Titled Debut out April 13

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 30th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

VUG

Berlin-based rock classicists VUG will make their self-titled debut via Noisolution April 13. The band — who take their name from the second cut on Atomic Rooster‘s Death Walks Behind You — haven been in operation for the better part of three years and bask in the kind of modernized boogie one finds in the likes of Heat or even some of Samsara Blues Experiment’s more straightforward moments, though the sway of centerpiece “Awaken” is all early-Witchraft-via-Hendrix, guitarist Felix Scholl easily donning the cadence of the latter where earlier on in the record, on, say, the 7:07 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Lose,” his style took on a gruffer blues affect as he, guitarist Max Raine, bassist Philip Hennermann and drummer Nick DiSalvo (also guitar/vocals in Elder), careen through Graveyard-esque melancholy and energy swells, very much led by the two guitars.

This is the central methodology behind VUG‘s VUG: to craft spirited, energetic, dynamic and flowing heavy blues boogie. Rich in tone but not quite vintage in production, songs like “Garden” and the closing “VUG” offer rhythmic sway while keeping a proto-metallic feel to the riffing — the latter also has background singers, so there’s that — and the stomping forward push that emerges from the quiet opening of “Poseidon” isn’t to be discounted. Could very well be a burgeoning sense of stylistic range, but VUG do wellvug vug to make the sound their own, Hennermann and DiSalvo holding together turns from NWOBHM-style strut in “Poseidon” to more open heavy rock groove to a quiet cymbal wash finish. The penultimate, three-minute, not-a-cover “White Room” is something of a curio, tapping into Stubb-style nod and smashing it head-on into dual-guitar gallop and wah-covered swirl by the time the shortest cut crashes to its end.

Compare that to the patient fluidity of “Lose” or “Prophecy,” which also just barely tops seven minutes, and a genuine sense of dynamics and creative range begins to emerge, though of course when it comes to “Prophecy,” the track is something of a summary of the self-titled’s multiple sides in itself, between the deft turns in tempo and rhythm, build toward an apex and multifaceted thrust. On the first couple listens, it can seem like VUG simply have two different methods of working — one for longer songs, one for shorter — but digging deeper reveals variety between “Awaken” and the mellower linearity of “Garden,” between the motor-readiness of “Poseidon” and the jazzy intricacy of the quiet stretches in “VUG.” Thus the 34 minutes of VUG are executed with deceptive nuance, but whether one wants to dissect or bop along, the record seems to welcome whatever level of engagement its audience might want to bring to it. That is, it works either way you want to go.

They’re not genreless, but their pursuits are clearly geared toward individuality, and in company with the more familiar aspects of their blues rock, the instrumental nuance they bring to the table speaks of future progression and overarching potential as songwriters. Where they’ll end up? Hell if I know, but their debut is striking in its clarity of mission and cohesive, vibrant execution. I’d ask nothing more of it than it delivers.

With my thanks to Noisolution and VUG, I’ve been given permission to host the premiere of “Prophecy” for your streaming pleasure. You’ll find it on the player below, followed by more info from the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Gathering in Neukölln, Berlin in 2015, VUG quickly developed a heavy yet melodic rock sound that would feel just as at home in the Scandinavian rock capital of Gothenburg. Formed by longtime friends Max Raine (guitar), Philip Hennermann (bass) and Felix Scholl (guitar, vocals) and eventually finalized by Nick DiSalvo (drums) the band already had a diverse history of DIY punk, stoner rock and doom in the members’ collective past. However, the goal here was always simple and timeless: making loud music, having a good time and not giving a shit about labels.

In the last weeks of 2016 VUG entered Mesanic Music studio in Kreuzberg to record their eponymous debut album. Tracking entirely live in two days in winter, the band finished a record that sounded raw and energetic, a snapshot of a live show. The self-titled record was mixed by Max Körich in Berlin and mastered by Carl Saff in Chicago.

VUG will be released on vinyl, CD and digitally by Noisolution on April 13th, 2018.

VUG website

VUG on Thee Facebooks

VUG on Instagram

Noisolution website

Noisolution on Thee Facebooks

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Samavayo & Sons of Morpheus to Release The Fuzz Charger Split May 18

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 30th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Next time you’re looking at a pair of cartoon tits on an album cover with a cowskull instead of a woman’s face or some shit, remember the artwork for Samavayo and Sons of MorpheusThe Fuzz Charger Split, because that is how a stoner rock album cover is fucking done. I’m not saying every record needs to have a muscle car out front, but you want to speak directly to your audience? This does it better than all that pointless pseudo-ritualistic misogyny anyday. Looks like something straight out of 2002. Kudos to the bands and to Sixteentimes Music for putting it together.

Even better? The rest of the car is on back. I fucking love this genre.

Six tracks kicked off by the immediate momentum build of Samavayo‘s “Rollin'” and running through the dug-in desert fuzz and anchoring bassline of Sons of Morpheus‘ “Slave,” you don’t lose. You only win. Whole thing is 31 minutes well spent.

PR wire background follows, including the preorder link. You’ll want that:

samavayo sons of morpheus cover

Samavayo and Sons of Morpheus – The Fuzz Charger Split

Date: 18th of May 2018
Via: Digital and 12” Vinyl
Label: Sixteentimes Music
KatNo.: SIXT020

Preorder here: https://bit.ly/2ITQb2t

All three band members of Samayo grew up in East-Berlin, in the neighbourhoods Lichtenberg and Friedrichshain. As a 10 year old kid, singer Behrang Alavi fled as a political refugee from his home country of Iran to Berlin, Germany. The brothers Andreas and Stephan Voland grew up in the GDR (East-Germany) in East-Berlin.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the city was open, letting in cultural influences from any foreign country.

The capital city became a multi-cultural melting pot where a singer from Teheran and two brothers from Berlin started making music. More than 500 live shows in Europe and overseas followed, including gigs in Brazil, Albania, Greece, Croatia and France. They also played at one of the most well-known European Stoner Rock festivals “Stoned from the Underground.”

Before Sons of Morpheus were able to tour across Europe (f.e. with Karma to Burn and Kamchatka) and playing shows in 17 countries including USA, a simple feeling gave birth to everything: The need to crank up an amplifier and doing some good-shit rock music. Fuck the world! And that’s exactly what made singer/guitarist Manuel Bissig start conquering stages in Switzerland by the name of “Rozbub” (Swiss-German for “brat”). Everything followed the call, it was loud, nasty and raw – and immediately everyone could see, hear and feel: This “brat” knows exactly what he’s doing.

No surprise that 2013 released debut “S’esch ziit” climbed the Swiss iTunes-charts right away. In no time Sons of Morpheus played shows in the rock-republic of California and recorded for two weeks in Tucson AZ with Producer Jim Waters. That thriving spring in 2014 gave birth to new material and as a result a debut-album simply called “Sons of Morpheus” was about to be released. The band’s call for the following year 2016 was clear: To go back to rehearsal, write new material and get it recorded. Listening to “Nemesis,” Sons of Morpheus appear gloomier yet explosive.

Tracklist:
A01 Rollin – Samavayo
A02 Chopper – Samavayo
A03 Justify – Samavayo
B01 Dark Shadows – Sons of Morpheus
B02 Money – Sons of Morpheus
B03 Slave – Sons of Morpheus

https://www.facebook.com/sonsofmorpheus/
https://www.sonsofmorpheus.com/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFgOFTihCGzzmoDo24e3TQA
https://twitter.com/SonsofMorpheus
https://www.facebook.com/samavayo/
https://www.samavayo.com/
https://www.youtube.com/user/samavayo
https://twitter.com/samavayo

Samavayo, “Cross the Line” official video

Sons of Morpheus, “Monotone” official video

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Desertfest Berlin 2018 Adds High Reeper to Lineup

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

Philadelphia-based heavy rock upstarts High Reeper released their self-titled debut album (review here), just a couple weeks back on Heavy Psych Sounds, and as they were previously announced for Tube Cult Fest 2018 before this announcement for Desertfest Berlin 2018, it seems pretty likely to me that any day now we’re going to get a full list of European tour dates for the five-piece. Hell, maybe we already have and I missed it. It’s been quite a few weeks on this end.

Okay, so I just went back and checked my email for a press release about a full High Reeper European tour and there’s nothing there, so it hasn’t happened yet. That means keep an eye out, because it’s coming soon. Think May is far off? Not a chance. It’ll be here before you know it and then we’ll be into the summer season and all the rest of that overwhelming nonsense. Speaking of overwhelming nonsense, I need to go see if I can get a baby to take a nap.

From the PR wire:

desertfest berlin 2018 high reeper

Desert rockers! We are almost ready to go with the final band line-up for DesertFest Berlin 2018 soon, but before we do and still keeping some surprises for you in the pipeline, we are happy to announce that up and coming HIGH REEPER have been added to our upcoming festival edition!

Formed in 2016 and deeply rooted in modern stoner rock, with their sound and smell of leather, weed & booze HIGH REEPER deliver an unapologetic punch into the face for fans of the early 70’s proto-metal. The band’s self-titled debut album is out now on Heavy Psych Sounds Records, please give these guys a very warm welcome live at DesertFest Berlin 2018!

Stay tuned for many more festival & band news coming up soon, and make sure to grab your tickets before they’re running out: www.desertfest-tickets.de!

www.desertfest.de
www.facebook.com/DesertfestBerlin
www.facebook.com/DesertfestBerlin/events

High Reeper, High Reeper (2018)

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Desertfest Berlin 2018 Adds Horisont and Dead Lord

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I don’t believe in bucket lists — mostly these days I believe in peanut butter — but if I had one, Desertfest Berlin would be on it. You now how solid this lineup is? Look at the poster. This lineup is so solid that ElderMonolordRadio Moscow and the Nebula reunion appear on the fourth line of it! The fourth line! With headliners Monster Magnet — who’ll be in Europe pushing their new record Mindfucker — Graveyard — who last I heard were recording — and High on Fire — who are celebrating their 20th anniversary– it’s something special top to bottom, where one finds acts like King BuffaloThe Necromancers and Pretty Lightning proliferating the future of heavy psych and blues rock. Oh yeah, and Church of the Cosmic SkullDeath Alley and Freedom Hawk are playing. Jeebus.

Maybe I do believe in bucket lists.

The latest adds to this brainbusting milieu are Horisont and Dead Lord. Announcement from the fest follows here, as courtesy of the PR wire:

desertfest berlin 2018 poster

HORISONT + DEAD LORD ANNOUNCED FOR DESERTFEST BERLIN 2018!

Time to unveil the next couple of bands for Desertfest Berlin’s already stunning festival line-up!
Desert rockers, please welcome the Swedish brigades HORISONT and DEAD LORD to Desertfest Berlin 2018!

Formed in 2006, space hard rockers Horisont have spent more than a decade kicking ass, taking names and establishing themselves at the forefront of the Scandinavian retro rock revival. The quintet’s rock trip might be retro but their songwriting is timeless: a good melody lives forever and Horisont have songs in abundance we are very much looking forward to witness live on stage at the Arena Berlin this year!

Hailing from the Swedish scene as well, Dead Lord deliver a blend mix of Classic Hard Rock and early Heavy Metal. Inspired by bands such as Thin Lizzy, UFO or Iron Maiden, Dead Lord are not only conquering the world with their heavy rock energy but will do so at Desertfest Berlin 2018!

Desertfest Berlin is getting near to close the final line-up for 2018 soon and the crew is working hard to create the most special & best festival edition desert rock fans have ever experienced before! Stay tuned for many more updates to follow soon!

DESERTFEST BERLIN // MAY 4th – 6th 2018 // ARENA BERLIN

Tickets are available at: www.desertfest-tickets.de

www.desertfest.de
www.facebook.com/DesertfestBerlin
www.facebook.com/DesertfestBerlin/events

Horisont, “About Time” official video

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Cosmic Fall to Release In Search of Outer Space March 30; Stream “Lumberjam”

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on February 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Berlin-based heavy psych jammers Cosmic Fall will issue their new album, In Search of Outer Space, on March 30 with preorders beginning Feb. 23. I’m sure you’ve already checked out their stuff, because you’re hip to what’s happening and on your stuff and always ahead of the game and other-cliches-meaning-aware-of-the-world-around-you, but if not, you should know up front: these freaks can J-A-M.

And they do. Case in point the new track “Lumberjam” premiering at the bottom of this post. In Search of Outer Space is their third full-length and follows the 2017 stopgap Jams for Free (review here), which introduced new guitarist Martin Morawski. Well, Morawski continues to make himself at home on his first proper studio offering with the band, whether it’s the drifting wisps of tone early in “Spacejam” or the nodding crunch that appears at the end of “Narcotic Votex.”

The band promises a vinyl release and In Search of Outer Space being a little over 40 minutes makes that a much more plausible reality. No plans have been revealed yet, but that’ll come, so keep an ee out. In the meantime, here’s the record announcement from the PR wire and the “Lumberjam” debut:

cosmic fall in search of outer space

We’re more than happy to announce our third album! It is called “In Search Of Outer Space” and will be released on March 30, digitally and on CD. There will be a vinyl version too, but we don’t have all the details, yet.

Presale starts on Friday, February 23 via bandcamp. We will also release two songs of the album then. It’s the first album with our new guitar player Martin, with whom we play since last august.

We recorded it in fall last year in our rehearsal room and it was mixed by our guitar player, mastered by Eroc (http://www.eroc.de/erocs_mastering_ranch_english/eroc_s_mastering_ranch_english.php).

Stay tuned for more information.

Tracklist:
1. Jabberwocky 11:36
2. Narcotic Vortex 08:00
3. Purification 04:12
4. Lumberjam 06:56
5. Spacejam 07:44
6. Icarus 04:50″

lineup:
Drums – Daniel Sax
Bass – Klaus Friedrich
Guitar – Marcin Morawski

https://www.facebook.com/cosmicfallband/
https://cosmicfallband.tumblr.com/
https://cosmicfall.bandcamp.com/

Cosmic Fall, “Lumberjam”

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