Live Review: Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, The Obsessed & Mothership in Boston, 02.16.19

Posted in Reviews on February 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Corrosion of Conformity (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Not every venue in the Boston metro area has been turned into yuppie-fuckbox condos as yet, and so it was with what felt like due urgency I crawled out of my hole in the frozen New England ground and headed to town to catch Corrosion of Conformity headlining on a four-band bill shared with Crowbar, The Obsessed and Mothership. That urgency would smash face-first into a hurry-up-and-wait half-hour of driving around the block of the Brighton Music Hall looking for a place to park, but I still made it in time to be there moments after doors opened. It was going to be a good night. The show was sold out, and rightly so.

The C.O.C. crowd is always an interesting mix. Metallers, rockers, stoners, boozers: mostly but not entirely dudes. As I leaned on the barrier waiting for the show to start, a father was telling his son about the bands playing. So one way or another, there were multiple demographics at play. The lineup would serve that well.

I was back and forth while the night played out, but even when I was standing off to the side of the stage in the kind of hallway to back bar, the sound was full and the production, lights, etc., were dead on. The short version is it was a joy to witness and I felt stupid lucky to be there, but of course there was more to it than that. Here’s how it went:

Mothership

Mothership (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Before Dallas trio Mothership went on at 7:30PM to launch the night, I overheard a guy telling his friend he knew nothing about the band. I didn’t look back after the band started to see, but no doubt he like the rest of the place had his ass blown out of the room by the classic rocking three-piece. Kelley Juett is a ’70s-style madman shredder on guitar, and his energy quickly became a catalyst for the crowd. With Kyle Juett holding down primary vocal duties and bass and Judge Smith behind on drums, Mothership were way less an “opening” band and way less of a “support” act than they were a warmup for the rest of the show to come. There was not a head in the room that was not into it by the time they were wrapping up “Angel of Death” from their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), and as it was their second time touring with C.O.C., they were pro-shop all the way through. Though this was my first experience seeing them live — something for which I’ve long been overdue — the impression I’ve gotten from all their work to-date has been they’re a live band, and they brought that to to the stage at the Brighton Music Hall. They’ve put in significant road time over the last half-decade-plus, and it showed. With Kelley and Kyle headbanging away and Smith twirling a drum stick every now and again, they were a reminder that rock and roll doesn’t have to be a joke to be a good time. Short set, but killer set. Killer band. Will see again as they headline the first night of this year’s Maryland Doom Fest.

The Obsessed

The Obsessed (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Theoretically, The Obsessed are touring behind their 2017 return album, Sacred (review here), which was their first record in more than two decades, but really, it feels like anytime you get to see The Obsessed, it’s less about any single album than the sheer groove that holds sway for however long their set might be. With the inimitable — not for others’ lack of trying — Scott “Wino” Weinrich as the founding principal on vocals and guitar, Brian Constantino on drums and Reid Raley (also Rwake) slow-headbanging on bass, The Obsessed came across way less as a reunion band than a working one. This was their first night of the tour — I’d thought they’d joined earlier, but nope — but if there was rust being shook off or anything like that, it didn’t show. Theirs was a different kind of presence from Mothership to coincide with the doom-infused sound, but songs like “Streetside” and “Neatz Brigade” are nothing short of landmarks and a significant chunk of the foundation of what one generally thinks of as “traditional doom,” so yes, I was glad to be there to bear witness. Standing by Raley‘s side of the stage, the floor shook from the low end, and each pulse of Constantino‘s kickdrum was easy to feel in the chest. Topped off with Wino‘s signature tone and blues-drenched solo style, it was less of an assault of volume than a celebration of it, and The Obsessed‘s legacy — coming up on 40 years since their first demo — remains utterly vital to the landscape of modern doom.

Crowbar

Crowbar (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Right down to business with “All I Had I Gave” opening the set, which was enough to get a heartfelt “fucking a” out of me. Founding guitarist/vocalist Kirk Windstein, as ever, introduced them by saying they were Crowbar from New Orleans, Louisiana, and as far as the room was concerned, there was no more explanation necessary. There was barely space to stand but somehow the crowd parted for a mosh, and the four-piece sludge progenitors ate it up, drummer Tommy Buckley making a bid for being the hardest-hitting of the evening through “To Build a Mountain” and “The Cemetery Angels,” which found him, Windstein, guitarist Matt Buckley and bassist Shane Wesley all locked into a massive, build-up-into-slowdown chug that had heads nodding front to back. They played nothing from 2016’s The Serpent Only Lies (review here), going only so far as “Walk with Knowledge Wisely” from 2014’s Symmetry in Black, but with “Planets Collide” and “Like Broken Glass” tucked together as a grand finale, I’m not sure there was anything more I’d have asked of them anyhow. As Crowbar celebrate 30 years, their history remains someplace between metal, sludge and even hardcore, but whatever genre elements one might want to tag, they are an act unto themselves, and with Windstein as the central figure, they pummeled and pounded Boston to a pulp of local sports logos, blown eardrums and sticky dried beer. This was the best I’d seen them in a while, and for being so perennially downtrodden, their spirits seemed awfully high.

Corrosion of Conformity

Corrosion of Conformity (Photo by JJ Koczan)

There wasn’t one act on this bill I wouldn’t call veteran, even if the degree to which that applies might vary. Still, there’s an unmistakable presence when C.O.C. takes the stage. It’s not just Pepper Keenan, either. From Woody Weatherman on one side of the stage to Mike Dean on the other, Corrosion of Conformity were unquestionably the headliners of what had already been a great night. They came on with “Stonebreaker” from 2005’s In the Arms of God and with Eric Hernandez on drums in place of Reed Mullin, they stomped and stormed through “Wiseblood” and the newer “Wolf Named Crow” from last year’s No Cross No Crown (review here) before making highlights of “Diablo Blvd.” from 2000’s undervalued America’s Volume Dealer and “Seven Days” from 1994’s ultra-landmark, Deliverance (discussed here), the 25th anniversary of which they’ll be celebrating later this year at least in Europe and probably also the US — they’ve already been announced for Freak Valley in Germany and one suspects more will come. “Vote with a Bullet,” even for being the first song Keenan fronted the band, seemed a little past its date in light of a culture of mass shootings, but it’s still catchy, and “Seven Days” reined in some of that vibe, while “Paranoid Opioid” reminded of the band’s punk roots and of course the final salvo of “Albatross” and “Clean My Wounds” served as reinforcement of the heavy Southern groove that’s helped make C.O.C. an institution for the last however many decades. After all the righteousness that preceded them, it was their show without question, and they delivered on any level of expectation and then some.

Special thanks to Liz Ciavarella-Brenner for hooking this one up, and thanks to you for reading. Many more pics after the jump.

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Magic Circle to Release Departed Souls March 29

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

magic circle 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Well, the new Magic Circle track sounds fucking killer. With an overarching proto-metallic spirit brought to bear in no small part through the Sabbath-meets-earliest-AC/DC vocals of Brendan Radigan, “Departed Souls” shares its name with the album it foreshadows, and what will serve as the third full-length for the social media-averse Boston doom/classic metal outfit will see release through 20 Buck Spin on March 29. Their last record, 2015’s Journey Blind (review here) saw them way up the NWOBHM quotient in their sound, but “Departed Souls” seems to speak to an even deeper, earthier and earlier glimpse at the foundations of modern heavy. I dig it. More than I thought I would dig it, and I thought I’d dig it plenty.

They’ll hit Germany for Hell Over Hammaburg on March 1 and play other select dates through the year, as the PR wire informs:

magic circle departed souls

MAGIC CIRCLE: Boston Heavy Metal Outfit To Release Third LP, Departed Souls, Via 20 Buck Spin In March; Video For Title Track Now Playing

Boston’s MAGIC CIRCLE returns with their triumphant third LP, Departed Souls. Ending a four-year gap since the band’s acclaimed Journey Blind LP, Departed Souls will see release through 20 Buck Spin. Ahead of its March 29th street date, the label has released a video created for advance single, the album’s opening song and title track, “Departed Souls.”

MAGIC CIRCLE’s self-titled debut hit the true doom scene like a revelation in 2013. Without hype or hyperbole, the band effortlessly invoked fundamental rock and roll truths putting their own stamp on early heavy metal darkness. Joining 20 Buck Spin for follow-up Journey Blind, the bandagain offered that unmistakable classic sound with natural unforced evolution. On their third LP, Departed Souls, MAGIC CIRCLE presents an expansive hard rock vision, adorning their signature doom with seamless psych and prog ornamentation.

Departed Souls finds MAGIC CIRCLE delving more deeply into ’70s sounds, expanding farther outward from the primordial Iommic matter of their birth. Heavy Sabbathian riffs abound, but MAGIC CIRCLE opens up, stretches out, exposing different shades that recall the moody peaks and valleys of the classic hard rock LPs of that era. Acoustic twelve-string, tablas, and Fender Rhodes appear in lush moments of kaleidoscopic decadence woven into the fabric of the pounding elemental thunder. All the while, vocalist Brendan Radigan seals the deal as one of the premier heavy metal singers of the 21st century, delivering that Wagnerian dynamism and vigor that screams from the heavens and becomes thoroughly controlled in moments of quiet solemnity. The album was recorded and engineered by Will Killingsworth at Dead Air Studios, mixed by the band’s Chris Corry, and mastered by Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham (Black Sabbath, Angel Witch, Saxon, Rory Gallagher).

Though all members are busy with other projects including Innumerable Forms, Sumerlands, Devil’s Dare, Stone Dagger, Lifeless Dark, Missionary Work, Pagan Altar live, and more, when these five men come together in the MAGIC CIRCLE, the chemistry and palpable rock exhilaration reminds us that this band isn’t one destined to die with the herd.

MAGIC CIRCLE has created a video for the LP’s opening song and title track “Departed Souls,” compiling live footage of the band with ritualistic, religious, and spiritual practices.

See MAGIC CIRCLE’s “Departed Souls” video RIGHT HERE and stream the track at all major digital providers including Bandcamp HERE.

20 Buck Spin will issue Departed Souls on LP, CD, cassette, and all digital platforms March 29th. Watch for preorders to be posted in the days ahead. If you regularly spin Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Trouble, Led Zeppelin, Rainbow, Pagan Altar, Witchfinder General, early-Soundgarden, Judas Priest, Witchcraft, and Saint Vitus, become a part of the MAGIC CIRCLE.

The band will play select festivals and shows throughout 2019, with a performance at Hell Over Hammaburg in Germany on March 1st confirmed. Watch for more information to be released in the weeks ahead.

MAGIC CIRCLE Live:
3/01/2019 Hell Over Hammaburg – Hamburg, DE

Departed Souls Track Listing:
1. Departed Souls
2. I’ve Found My Way To Die
3. Valley Of The Lepers
4. A Day Will Dawn Without Nightmares
5. Nightland
6. Gone Again
7. Bird City Blues
8. Hypnotized

https://magiccircle.bandcamp.com/releases
http://www.20buckspin.com
http://www.facebook.com/20buckspin
http://twitter.com/20buckspinlabel
https://www.instagram.com/20buckspinlabel

Magic Circle, “Departed Souls” official video

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Hey Zeus, X

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Hey Zeus X

[Click play above to stream Hey Zeus’ debut album, X, in its entirety. It’s out this week on Argonauta Records.]

Hey Zeus have been kicking around Boston’s heavy rock underground for last six years to some degree or other, following in a tradition of straightforward, catchy, well-composed heavy rock that’s no less a cultural institution for the city than local-sports worship, yelling shit at pedestrians from moving vehicles and drinking. Signed early last year to Argonauta Records, their debut full-length, X, follows a 2014 split with White Dynomite (review here), and other tracks posted as singles such as “Caveman” (premiered here) and “Richard the Elder” (posted here) in 2016. A penchant for covering Deep Purple — legit — that manifests on X as a duly head-spinning take on “Bloodsucker” also goes back to the band’s earlier days playing live, so it seems safe enough to argue that X is the realization of multiple years of putting the material together and refining it, and as the resulting nine-song/29-minute offering arrives nearly six years to the day from the band’s first show, one can hear those efforts in the tightness of composition throughout.

Songs like “Richard the Elder,” opener “These Eyes,” “Save Your” (as opposed to “saviour”) and careening speedsters like “I Don’t Want It,” “X Marks the Rocks” and closer “Queens” realize a hooky, engaging energy that vocalist Bice Nathan gleefully puts over the top, though in the company of guitarist Pete Knipfing, bassist Ken Cmar and drummer Todd Bowman, he’s hardly the only one catching that charge. And as much as a comparison to erstwhile Beantown kingpins Roadsaw feels inevitable, perhaps even more relevant is the connection Knipfing and Bowman share from their prior outfit Lamont, whose dedicated sans-frills urgency seems as well to inform some of the writing in X. It should be to the surprise of no one that Hey Zeus can get the job done — the job, by the way, is kicking ass — given the time they’ve spent honing their approach, but that hardly makes the record a less impressive debut. Quite the opposite.

And though one might look at X and find it short at 29 minutes, it’s not so much that there’s anything lacking in terms of what the band wants to convey, but just that they’ve packed it all into that time. That’s not just a question of speed. Even “Gilded,” or “Caveman,” which is the longest inclusion at 3:53, varies its tempo in order to find the right niche of groove that suits the song. They’re not forcing that feeling of electricity to what they do — it’s just there. No coincidence that the Deep Purple song they take on was from In Rock, which was arguably that band’s most lethal of outings, but there’s more to X than just rushing through a collection of songs. Nathan brings a subtle sense of arrangement to the vocals and finds melodies between the distorted lines of Knipfing‘s riffs. Cmar‘s rumbling bass proves essential early on to the drive of “I Don’t Want It,” and is unrelenting, and though Nathan adds percussion later in a break within “Save Your,” Bowman‘s drumming is intermittently furious enough to cover that ground anyway, shifting fluidly from the swinging finish of “Richard the Elder” to the classic riff rock strut of “Caveman” and the starts and stops that permeate “Queens.”

hey zeus

So what do we have? Rock album. Heavy. Rock and roll. Sharp songs. Crisp performances. Clear, full production value. Boot-meet-butt energy. Cool. What separates Hey Zeus from multitudes working from essentially the same elements, however, is the level of their craft and the way they use it throughout X. While I don’t think it’s anyone involved’s first record, it’s still the first record from the band, and their dynamic is not to be understated as a pivotal factor in their approach. The interplay between Knipfing and Cmar on guitar and bass during the former’s solos alone stands as testament to the work they’ve done in terms of developing a conversation between players, and with Bowman as the grounding force, they’re able to smoothly shift tempos and moods at a measure’s notice, making their songs less predictable even as they’re en route to an immediately familiar chorus. Throw in a healthy dose of attitude from Nathan and the chops to back it up, and not only carries forward the legacy of Boston’s heavy rock history, but seeks to find its own place and build upon it.

Or maybe they’re just looking to down some beers and have a good time, blow off steam from hating their jobs and whatever else. That’s no less valid a take. What’s important are the results they get across this collection of songs, and one of the great strengths of X is the momentum Hey Zeus amass as they wind their way through the progression of tracks. Even the Deep Purple cover, which though lacking organ is otherwise pretty loyal to the spirit of the original, feeds into the thrust of the material surrounding, picking up from the breather ending of “Caveman” and leading the way into “Queens” at the finish. It’s part of an overarching push that begins with “These Eyes” and continues through everything that follows; the classic “set the tone” spirit of the opener indicative of the proceedings on the whole, and though it’s easy enough to tag the whole thing as straight-ahead, all-go, etc., Knipfing does find room to slide some Southern edge into his guitar on “Save Your,” and the gang shouts behind Nathan on “X Marks the Rocks” is no less an important sonic detail.

What those convey, once again, is the work that’s gone into this material. While not staid at all — shit, it barely stands still long enough to be heard — X has a foundation it’s building from. As much as they might try to convince you otherwise, Hey Zeus didn’t just throw these songs together and — whoops! — come out with an air-tight collection of tracks that just happen to throw a punch in the gut as they run past. But at the same time, they do successfully balance that level of songmaking with the vitality that’s so central to making it all function. That might be the record’s great accomplishment — it feels true to a live experience without losing hold of itself as a studio outing. And it may have taken Hey Zeus more than half a decade to get to this point, but it’s hard to take X as a whole and not consider it worth the effort on their part.

Hey Zeus on Bandcamp

Hey Zeus on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

Argonauta Records on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records on Twitter

Argonauta Records on Instagram

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Sundrifter Post “Sons of Belial” Video; Playing SXSW and More

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 28th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

sundrifter

For those who think desert rock has to come from a desert, let alone any specific desert, Boston’s Sundrifter would stand in ready contradiction to such geographic prejudice. The trio issued Visitations (review here), through Small Stone Records last year as their label debut and second album overall, and its atmosphere, combination of laid-back roll, weighted tones and melodies — read: fuzz, fuzz, fuzz — situate it well within the parameters of a desert style. Shit, they’ve got desert rock in Finland. You can’t tell me it can’t come from the East Coast.

That said, one of the most fascinating aspects of Sundrifter‘s Visitations, which earns a revisit with the band’s new video for opening track “Sons of Belial,” is the band’s defiance of their climate. I’m not just talking about miserable Boston weather — though people in the area do, at length, as though they’re continually surprised by it — but also the greater Northeastern tendency toward an intensity of delivery. Visitations has its moments of push, as in “Lightworker” or parts of “Targeted,” which follows on side A, but even these are carried out with a sense of melody and serenity behind them, and at their most forward-directed, Sundrifter owe far more to Queens of the Stone Age than even to their Beantown forebears in Roadsaw. Coupled with the sense of atmosphere manifest from guitarist/vocalist Craig Peura, bassist Paul Gaughran and drummer Patrick Queenan, that mellow-ish overarching vibe does much to enrich the listening experience overall. It’s not that they’re lacking energy, they’re just not using that energy to shout shit at you from a moving vehicle.

They’ve reportedly started writing new material, which is plenty nifty, but Sundrifter will head out of New England as well as 2019 gets underway, hitting up SXSW in Austin, Texas, this March to play Small Stone‘s return showcase, dubbed ‘The Finest in Fuzz,’ alongside Tia CarreraDwellersIrataLa Chinga and The Cold Stares. I have no doubt they’ll be made to feel duly welcome in that environment, even as they convey one so seemingly disparate from that which they left behind. More shows are reportedly to be added this Spring, so stay tuned.

And of course you can enjoy “Sons of Belial” on the player below, followed by more info from the PR wire.

Dig:

Sundrifter, “Sons of Belial” official video

“Sons Of Belial” [is] the latest video from New England-based desert rock trio SUNDRIFTER. The track comes by way of the band’s Visitations full-length released via Small Stone last fall.

Notes the band of the fittingly trippy performance clip, “The video for ‘Sons Of Belial’ was filmed at Futura Productions in Roslindale, Massachusetts. The space used to be an old Masonic Temple later converted into an orchestral recording studio. We have been fortunate enough to be able to use the space for tracking both our albums Visitations and Not Coming Back. The space has a certain feel and most importantly an incredible live sound for drums/ For the video, we wanted to glow the entire room red, similar to our live shows. The red glow can put us in a certain state of mind, and it creates an atmosphere which allows a complete experience for the audience. We strive to create imagery through song writing and set certain vibes for the listener and this video for ‘Sons Of Belial’ tries to capture that experience.”

In related news, SUNDRIFTER will play Small Stone’s special SXSW showcase this March alongside Tia Carrera, Irata, La Chinga, Dwellers, and The Cold Stares with additional live performances to be announced in the coming weeks.

SUNDRIFTER:
3/13/2019 Small Stone SXSW Showcase @ Lamberts – Austin, TX

Sundrifter, Visitations (2018)

Sundrifter on Thee Facebooks

Sundrifter on Bandcamp

Small Stone Records website

Small Stone Records on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

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Ice Dragon Post New Single “Mors Ontologica”

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Members of Ice Dragon have spent the past couple years exploring different musical ideas in outfits like The Cupboards, Brass Hearse, Panel, etc., and output from the mothership has slowed accordingly. The same band who put out 10 full-lengths and other short releases besides during 2010-2015 issued a two-songer EP called Broken Life (review here) in 2016, a single called “Into the Wasteland (Of Self)” in Jan. 2017, and on this past New Year’s Eve, the single “Mors Ontologica” as their latest work. It is under three minutes in length and takes even less time to bury its morose hook in the frontal cortex of the listener. With a deceptively complex arrangement of vocals atop a nodding instrumental progression, it blends the band’s roots in doom and some of their more experimentalist and psychedelic tendencies to an effective pulse of atmospheric melancholy.

The chorus, “Mors ontologica/Not all who sleep are dead,” could easily be taken as a statement about the band itself, but I wouldn’t speculate, and to expect Ice Dragon at this point to return to the frenetic pace of offerings they had a few years ago seems unrealistic. Stranger things have happened, but that doesn’t make it likely. Whether “Mors Ontologica” is a signal of a return to activity on any level from Ice Dragon will remain to be seen, but in the meantime, its balance between nuanced aesthetic and basic structure show just how much the band still has to say if they want to say it. Enjoy it for what it is and let the rest work itself out how it will.

They posted the lyrics with it on Bandcamp, so here they are:

Ice Dragon Mors Ontologica

Ice Dragon – Mors Ontologica

Written, Recorded and Mastered at Ron’s Wrecker Service.

Remember warmth
Remember time
Like fading colors
Passing by

Mors ontologica
Not all who sleep are dead

Smoke forms
From all that burns
Lean into nothing
Our hearts still yearn

Mors ontologica
Not all who sleep are dead

Ice Dragon is:
Ron – Vocals, Bass
Joe – Guitar
Brad – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/icedragonofficial
https://www.instagram.com/playingrecords/
https://icedragon.bandcamp.com/
https://www.youtube.com/user/hotronscorcher

Ice Dragon, “Mors Ontologica”

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Quarterly Review: Surya Kris Peters, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Lair of the Minotaur, Sonic Wolves, Spacelord, Nauticus, Yuxa, Forktie, Ohhms, Blue Dream

Posted in Reviews on December 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

I had a terrible thought yesterday: What if this one… went to 11? That is, what if, after 10 days of Quarterly Review ending today with a grand total of 100 records reviewed since last Monday, I did another batch of 10? Like a bonus round? Like I said, terrible thought.

Pretty sure it won’t happen. I’ve already got a review and a video premiere booked for next Monday, but I definitely had the thought. It was easy, of course, to fill out another 10 slots, and who knows, maybe this weekend for the first time ever I wind up with some extra time and energy on my hands? Could happen, right?

Again, I’m fairly certain it won’t. Let’s proceed with the assumption today’s the last day. Thank you for reading. I hope you have found something cool in all of this that has really hit home. I certainly have. We cap very much in last-but-not-least fashion, and if nothing’s resonated with you yet, don’t count yourself completely out. You might just get there after all. Thanks again.

Quarterly Review #91-100:

Surya Kris Peters, Ego Therapy

Surya Kris Peters Ego Therapy

Those feeling technical will note the full title of the album is Surya Kris Peters’ Ego Therapy, but the point gets across either way. And even as Christian Peters — also guitarist/vocalist for Samsara Blues Experiment — acknowledges the inherent self-indulgence of the proverbial “solo-project” that his exploration of synth and classically progressive textures under the moniker of Surya Kris Peters has become, with Ego Therapy as his second full-length of 2018, he branches out in including drums from former Terraplane bandmate Jens Vogel. The 10-song/53-minute outing opens with its longest cut (immediate points) in the 15-minute “Angels in Bad Places,” a spaced-out and vibrant atmosphere more cohesive than psychedelia but still trippy as all hell, and moves through a bluesy key/guitar interplay in “Wizard’s Dream” following the dancey thriller soundtrack “Beyond the Sun” and into the Blade Runner-style grandeur of “Sleeping Willow” and the video game-esque “A Fading Spark” before bookending with the sci-fi “Atomic Clock” at the close. I don’t know how ultimately therapeutic Peters‘ solo offerings might be, but he only seems to grow bolder each time out, and that certainly applies here.

Surya Kris Peters on Thee Facebooks

Electric Magic Records on Bandcamp

 

Lewis and the Strange Magics, The Ginger Sessions

lewis and the strange magics the ginger sessions

How are you not gonna love a release that starts with a song called “Sexadelic Galactic Voyage?” Barcelona vamp rockers Lewis and the Strange Magics embrace their inner funk on the 23-minute self-released EP, The Ginger Sessions, finding the place where their uptempo ’70s fusion meets oldschool The Meters-style rhythm, digging into the repetitions of “Candied Ginger” after the aforementioned instrumental opening burst and then holding the momentum through “Her Vintage Earrings.” Some departure happens on what might be side B of the 10″, with “The Shadow of Your Smile” turning toward pastoral psychedelia, still rhythmic thanks to some prominent wood block and xylophone sounds, but much calmer despite a consistency of wah and keys. “Suzy’s Room II” follows in fuzzy fashion, bridging the earlier cologne-soaked, chest-hair-out vibes with garage buzz and a heavier low end beneath the synthesized experimentation. Mellotron shows up and continues to hold sway in closer “Witch’s Brew,” playing the band outward along with layers of drifting guitar for about two and a half minutes of bluesy serenity that feel cut short, as does the release on the whole. One hopes they don’t lose that funky edge going into their next album.

Lewis and the Strange Magics on Thee Facebooks

Lewis and the Strange Magics on Bandcamp

 

Lair of the Minotaur, Dragon Eagle of Chaos

Lair of the Minotaur Dragon Eagle of Chaos

Once upon the mid-aughts, Chicago’s Lair of the Minotaur roamed the land as the long-prophesied American answer to Entombed, as much classic, dirt-covered death metal as they were laden with heavy groove. Their tones filthy, their assault brutal all the while, war metal, ultimate destroyers. The whole nine. They released their last album, Evil Power (review here), in 2010. The two-songer Dragon Eagle of Chaos follows a 2013 single, and was released to mark the occasion of perhaps a return to some measure of greater activity. I don’t know if that’ll happen, but as both “Dragon Eagle of Chaos” and “Kunsult the Bones” affirm in about seven minutes between them, Lair of the Minotaur remain a wrecking ball made of raw meat when it comes to their sound. The madness that seemed to always underline their material at its most effective is present and accounted for in “Dragon Eagle of Chaos,” and the stripped-down production of the single actually helps its violent cause. Will they do another record? Could go either way, but if they decide to go that route, they clearly still have the evil power within.

Lair of the Minotaur website

Lair of the Minotaur on Bandcamp

 

Sonic Wolves, Sonic Wolves

sonic wolves sonic wolves

Eight tracks/34 minutes of smoothly-arranged and well-executed doom rock brought to bear with an abiding lack of pretense and a developing sense of songcraft and dynamic — there’s very little not to dig about Sonic Wolves‘ self-titled LP (on Future Noise and DHU), from the Sabbathian stretch of “Ascension” down through the bouncing low-key-psych-turns-to-full-on-wah-overdose-swirl in the penultimate “Heavy Light.” Along the way, bassist/vocalist Kayt Vigil (ex-Pentagram, etc.) — joined by guitarists Jason Nealy and Enrico “Ico” Aniasi and drummer Gianni “Vita” Vitarelli (also Ufomammut) — gallop through the traditional metal of “Red Temple” and ride a fuzzy roll in “Tide of Chaos,” leaving the uptempo shuffle of “You’ll Climb the Walls” to close out by tapping into a “Wicked World”-style vision of heavy blues that casts off many of the tropes of what’s become the subgenre in favor of a darker approach. If their self-titled is Sonic Wolves declaring who they are as a band after making their debut in 2016, the results are only encouraging.

Sonic Wolves on Thee Facebooks

DHU Records webstore

Future Noise Recordings webstore

 

Spacelord, Indecipher

Spacelord Indecipher

There is an immediate sensibility drawn from classic heavy rock to the vocals on Spacelord‘s second record, Indecipher, like Shannon Hoon fronting Led Zeppelin, maybe? Something like that, definitely drawn from a ’70s/’90s blend. Produced, mixed and mastered by guitarist Rich Root, with Chris Cappiello on bass, Kevin Flynn on drums and Ed Grabianowski on vocals, the four-piece’s sophomore LP is comprised of a neatly-constructed eight songs working around sci-fi themes on bruiser cuts like “Super Starship Adventure” and the particularly righteous “Zero Hour,” as opener and longest track (immediate points) “For the Unloved Ones” sets forth the classic vibe amid the first of the record’s impressive solos and resonant hooks. Something about it makes me want them to go completely over the top in terms of production their next time out — layers on layers on layers, etc. — but the kind of false start Grabianowski brings to the ultra-Zepped “New Machine” has a charm that I’m not sure it would be worth sacrificing.

Spacelord on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Nauticus, Disappear in Blue

Nauticus Disappear in Blue

Six years after the release of their second album, The Wait (review here), Finnish atmospheric progressive metallers Nauticus effect a return with the 78-minute Disappear in Blue, which following the relatively straightforward opening with “Magma” casts out a vast sprawl in accordance with its oceanic theme. Longer tracks like “Claimed by the Sea,” “Strange Sequences/Lost Frequencies,” “Arrival” and “Hieronymus” are complex and varied but united through a deep instrumental dynamic that’s brought to light even in the three-minute ambient post-rocker “Desolation,” which is something of an interlude between “Strange Sequences/Lost Frequencies” and the tense build of “Singularity.” Other ambient spaces “Jesus of Lübeck” and the later “Whale Bones” complement and add reach to the longer-form works, but it’s hardly as though Nauticus‘ material lacks character one way or the other. Overwhelming in its length, Disappear in Blue might take some time to wade through, but what a way to go.

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Nauticus on Bandcamp

 

Yuxa, Yuxa

yuxa yuxa

As the greater part of anything related to post-metal invariably does, UK outfit Yuxa have their “Stones from the Sky” moment in “Founder in Light,” the opening cut from their self-titled debut EP, that most formative of progressions making itself known in modified form to suit the double-guitar four-piece’s intent with dramatic screams and shouts cutting through an ably-conjured surge of noisy adrenaline resolving in winding chug and crash en route to “Exiled Hand,” the seven-minute cut that follows and serves as centerpiece of the three-tracker. “Founder in Light,” “Exiled Hand” and nine-minute closer “Peer” are arranged shortest to longest, and the effect is to draw the listener in such that by the time the angular, purposeful lurch of the finale begins to unfold, Yuxa‘s rhythmic hypnosis is already well complete. Still, the straightforward arrangements of guitar, bass, drums and vocals give them a rawer edge than many synth- or sample-laden post-metallic cohorts, and that suits the atmospheric sludge with which they close out, harnessing chaos without giving themselves over to it. A quick sample of a creative development getting underway, though it’s telling as well that Yuxa ends with a sudden buzz of amp noise.

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Yuxa on Bandcamp

 

Forktie, EP

forktie forktie

The first EP release from Forktie — who stylize their moniker and titles all-lowercase: forktie — is untitled, but contains five tracks that tap into proto-emo post-hardcore and ’90s alt rock sensibilities, finding a place between heavy rock and grunge that allows for Aarone Victorine‘s bass to lead toward the hook of centerpiece “Decomposition Book” with a smooth presence that’s well complementary the vocals from guitarist Dom Mariano, their presence low in the mix only adding to the wistful feel of “Anywhere but Here” and “September Morning,” before the shorter “Spores” lets loose some more push from drummer Corey LeBlanc and closer “Ph.D. in Nothing” reinforces the underlying melancholy beneath the thicker exterior tones. It’s a new project, but Forktie have worked their way into a niche that suits their songwriting well, and given themselves a space to grow within their sound. Members experience in bands like UXO, Test Meat and textbookcopilot will serve them in that effort.

Forktie on Thee Facebooks

Forktie on Bandcamp

 

Ohhms, Exist

ohhms exist

As a fan generally of bands opening albums with the longest song included, I can get on board with UK heavy progressive metallers Ohhms opening Exist with the 22-minute “Subjects.” Immediate points and all that. Far more consequential, however, is the substance of that launch for the four-song/43-minute Holy Roar LP, which is the band’s fourth in four years. It’s a vast, broad and complex offering unto itself, consuming side A as vocalist Paul Waller embodies various entities, “I am wolf” (preceding a Duran Duran reference, perhaps inadvertent), “I am child,” and so on. Those proclamations are just the culmination of a progression that, frankly, is an album unto itself, let alone a side, and maybe should’ve been released as such, though the absolute post-metallic crush of “Shambles,” the seething of “Calves” and the heavy post-rock reach of “Lay Down Your Firearms” need no further justification than a simple listen provides, the last of them pummeling side B to a then-sudden stop. Ohhms are no strangers to longform work, and it suits them well enough to make one wonder if they couldn’t be headed toward a single-song LP in the near future.

Ohhms on Thee Facebooks

Holy Roar Records on Bandcamp

 

Blue Dream, Volume Blue

Blue Dream Volume Blue

Chicago four-piece Blue Dream issued their first LP, Volume Won, early in 2018 and follow with Volume Blue — as opposed to “two”; could ‘Volume Tree’ be in the works? ‘Volume Free?’ — which collects nine neo-psych-mit-der-funky-grooves cuts chic enough to be urbane but fuzzed out enough to make the freakouts more than just a come on. They open peaceful enough with “Delta,” before the hook of “9,000 lb. Machine” defines the course and cuts like “Thank You for Smoking” and the almost woefully catchy “She’s Hot” expand the parameters. I’ll take the dream-tone shimmer of “Kingsbury Goldmine” any day in a kind of self-aware reflection of British folk and/or the garage rock of “Shake the Shake,” but the dense roll of “Viper Venom” that immediately follows reimagines grunge as more than just an influence from three popular bands and something that could genuinely move forward from the perspective of a new generation. Hearing Blue Dream close out with the boogie of “The Glide,” one hopes they do precisely that, though I’d by no means limit them to one avenue of expression. They’re clearly able to harness multiple vibes here.

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Blue Dream on Bandcamp

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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: A Storm of Light, Z/28, Forrest, 1476, Owl, Brass Hearse, Craneium & Black Willows, Magmakammer, Falun Gong, Max Tovstyi

Posted in Reviews on December 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Day Two of the Quarterly-Review-Mega-Super-Ultra-Year-End-Wrap-Up-Spectacular-Gnarly-Edition — name in progress — begins now. First day? Smooth. Wrote it over the weekend to get a jump on the week, cruised through a morning and into baby-naps, finished with time left over to still go and read the Star Trek novel I’m currently making my way through. Easy. Also peasy.

Today? Well, apparently I turned off my alarm in my sleep because I rolled over 40 minutes later and certainly didn’t remember it going off. Whoops. Not a great start, but there is a lot of cool stuff in this batch, so we’ll get through it, even if it’s awfully early in the week to be sleeping in. Ha.

Have a great day everybody. Here are 10 more records for the QRMSUYEWUSGE. Rolls right off the tongue.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

A Storm of Light, Anthroscene

A Storm of Light Anthroscene

“America the sick and crumbling/Liberty she’s weeping/The tired and poor are huddled and dying/As the wretched ones are touched aside.” The lines, from A Storm of Light‘s “Blackout” — the second cut from their fifth LP, Anthroscene (on Translation Loss) — lead to the inevitable question: “What the fuck is wrong with us?,” and thereby summarize the central sociopolitical framework of the record. A dystopian thematic suits the band’s aesthetic, and there’s certainly no shortage of material to work from between current events and future outlook. Guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist/graphic artist Josh Graham, bassist Domenic Seita and guitarist/keyboardist Dan Hawkins are five years removed from the band’s last outing, however, so their post-apocalyptic post-metal is welcome either way, and Anthroscene taps a Killing Joke influence and turns it to its dark and churning purposes over the course of its eight tracks/51 minutes, delving into harsh shouts on “Short Term Feedback” and capping with the resistance-filled “Rosebud,” which surges forth from ambience like the anti-facist/anti-capitalist critique that it is, ending with the lyric, “When you die, we will spit on your grave,” which could hardly be more appropriate.

A Storm of Light on Thee Facebooks

Translation Loss Records on Bandcamp

 

Z28, Nobody Rides for Free

Z28 Nobody Rides for Free

Massachusetts’ Z28 — also stylized as Z/28 and Z-28; I don’t think they care so long as you get the point they’re named after the Camaro — make their full-length debut with Nobody Rides for Free on Fuzzdoom Records, and with the occasional bit of organ on songs like “Touch of Evil” and “Angst III (I Don’t Want to Die),” they nonetheless give a raw take on heavy rock laced with that particularly Northeastern aggression. Guitarist Jeff Hayward (also organ), bassist/acoustic guitarist/engineer Jason Negro and drummer Breaux Silcio all contribute vocals to the outing, and yet the minute-long instrumental intro tells much of the story of what it’s about in terms of the chemistry between them. Impressive guitar solos are rampant throughout, and the rhythm section carries over a weighted groove through cuts like “Wandering” that’s fluid in tempo but still able to create an overarching flow between the tracks. I’ll give bonus points for the Black Sabbath nods in the multi-layered lead work toward the end of “Spirit Elk (Lord of the Hunt)” as well as the title “Keep on Rockin’ (In the Invisible World),” and Z28 have something to build on here in terms of songwriting and that chemistry. It’s raw-sounding, but that doesn’t necessarily hurt it.

Z28 on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzdoom Records on Bandcamp

 

Forrest, Kickball with Russians

forrest kickball with russians

Granted, Forrest telegraph some measure of quirk by naming their debut EP Kickball with Russians, but the four-piece from Lexington, Kentucky, still seem to be rolling along in a straightforward-enough manner on six-minute instrumental opener and longest track (immediate points) “(I Dream of) Kickball with Russians,” until the keyboards start in. That turn gives their EP an edge of the unexpected that continues to inform “DAN,” “Deew” and the closing “My Son Looks Just Like Me,” and “DAN” continues the thread with gang shouts popping up over its chugging progression and receding again after about two words to let the track get quiet and build back up. And is that a velociraptor at the start of “Deew?” Either way, that song’s Mr. Bungle-style angularity, a return of the keys and intermittent heavy nod work to underscore the willful weirdness that’s very much at play in the four-piece’s work, and the closer adds Ween-style effects work into the mix while still keeping a heavy presence in tone and lumber. They’ll get weirder with time, but this is a good start toward that goal.

Forrest on Thee Facebooks

Forrest on Bandcamp

 

1476, Our Season Draws Near

1476 our season draws near

Coastal melancholy and a pervasive sense of atmosphere seem to unite the varied tracks on 1476‘s 2017 Prophecy release, Our Season Draws Near, which otherwise draw across their span from goth rock, punk, doom and extreme metal, able to blur the line especially between punk and black metal on songs like “Ettins” while acoustics pervade “Solitude (Exterior)” en route to the Anathema-gone-char rasps of “Solitude (Interior)” a short time later. I know I’m late to the party on the Salem, MA, duo, and likewise late on this record, but from opener “Our Silver Age” to closer “Our Ice Age” to the “Solitude” pairing to “Winter of Winds” — finally: David Bowie fronts Joy Division — and “Winter of Wolves,” there’s so much of Our Season Draws Near that has a bigger-picture thought process behind its construction that its impact is multi-tiered. And it’s not just that they pit genres against each other in their sound, it’s that their sound brings them together toward something new and malleable to the purposes of their songwriting. Not to be missed, so this is me, not missing it. Even though I kind of missed it.

1476 on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions on Bandcamp

 

Owl, Nights in Distortion

owl nights in distortion

Joined on Nights in Distortion by bassist René Marquis as well as longtime drummer Patrick Schroeder, guitarist/vocalist/synthesist Christian Kolf (also Valborg) greatly expands his former solo-ish-project Owl with their second release of 2018 behind March’s Orion Fenix EP (review here), bringing together elements of post-metal churn with deeply atmospheric sensibilities, cuts like “Transparent Moment” churning as much as they are surprising with their underlying melody. A Type O Negative influence continues to be worked into their sometimes grueling context, but it’s hard to listen to the keyboard-laced “Inanna in Isolation” and hear Owl being anything other than who they’ve become, and their third album is the most distinct statement of that yet, airy lead guitars floating over a still-fervent, industrial-style chug amid vocals veering from barking shouts to quiet, low-register semi-spoken fare and cleaner singing. Nights in Distortion is the evolving work of a mastermind, captured in progress.

Owl on Thee Facebooks

Temple of Torturous website

 

Brass Hearse, Hollow on the Surface

Brass Hearse Hollow on the Surface

Synth-laden heavy horror garage dance rock could probably use a more succinct genre name, but while those in charge of such things sit and scratch their butts, Boston’s Brass Hearse carve out a niche unto themselves with their second EP, Hollow on the Surface. The five-track offering is in and out in 14 minutes but wants nothing for either a show of craft or arrangement, tapping into psych-folk in the strummy interlude “Dwellers in the Static Valley” after the hook-led “Death by Candlelight” and before the John Carpenter-style pulsations that underscore “The Thing from Another World.” Opener “Fading” is the only song to top four minutes and has a distinctly progressive take, but while it and the organ-ic closer “Headaches & Heartbreaks” has a theatricality to it, Brass Hearse are too cohesive to charge with being weird for weirdness’ sake, and their experimentation is presented in complete, engaging songs, rather than self-indulgent collections of parts mashed together. Would love to hear what they do over the course of a full-length.

Brass Hearse on Thee Facebooks

Playing Records on Bandcamp

 

Craneium & Black Willows, Split

Different missions from Finland’s Craneium and Switzerland’s Black Willows on their BloodRock Records split. Craneium nod through “Your Law” and mark their second inclusion, “Try, Fail, Repeat,” with a Sabbathian swing that only kicks up in tempo as it moves through its five minutes. Black Willows, on the other hand, present a single track in the 19-minute, noise-soaked post-everything “Bliss,” which trades back and forth between minimalism and crushing riffs en route to a consuming wash and long, long, long fadeout. Released in March, the outing showcases both bands well, but one is left wondering where the connection is between the two of them that they’d come together for a joint vinyl release. Either way, I won’t detract from what they do individually, whether it’s the catchiness of “Your Law” and the jam in its second half or “Bliss” with its frost-covered expanse of tonality, it’s just a marked leap from side A to side B. Maybe that was the idea all along, and if that’s the case, then one can only say they succeeded.

Craneium on Thee Facebooks

Black Willows on Thee Facebooks

BloodRock Records on Bandcamp

 

Magmakammer, Mind Tripper

magmakammer mindtripper

Following a 2015 self-titled debut EP, Oslo trio Magmakammer align with Kozmik Artifactz for their first long-player, Mindtripper, and so effect a garage doom sound that’s quickly relatable to Uncle Acid on songs like “Fat Saturn” and the chug-shuffling “Along the Crooked Roads.” Where they distinguish themselves from this core influence, though, is in the density of their tones, as opener “Druggernaut” and the rolling “Acid Times” prove thicker in their charge. Still, there’s no mistaking that swing and the blown-out sound of the vocals. Closer “Cosmic Dancers,” which is one of two tracks over seven minutes long, shows more dynamic in its loud/quiet tradeoffs, and resolves itself in a righteous nodder of a riff. It’s essentially in the same vein, but still displaying some emerging personality of Magmakammer‘s own that one hopes they continue to develop. And in the meantime, the foundation of craft and stylistic awareness they hone is still welcome, familiar or not.

Magmakammer on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz webstore

 

Falun Gong, Figure 2

Falun Gong Figure 2

Mystique isn’t easy to come by in this Age of Access, but the anonymous London-dwelling duo Falun Gong have succeeded in piquing interest with their two-to-date singles, “Figure 1” (review here), and the eight-minute “Figure 2,” which like its predecessor is raw in the recording, sounds like it was performed live, and follows a trance-inducing course of riffing. The central groove is a slow march that makes its way through obscure voices delivered in buried fashion — the whole thing may or may not be mastered; somehow I’m thinking not, but I’ve been wrong before — through a self-aware drift that rounds out following a soulful culmination fitting the song’s lyrical theme, which would seem to be tied to the cover art about baptism in a river’s waters. There’s just something off-kilter about Falun Gong to this point, and while it’s still early going for them, they bring an eerie persona to their work that feels less performative than it so often does.

Falun Gong on Bandcamp

 

Max Tovstyi, Mesmerize

Max Tovstyi Mesmerize

Though he’s had a slew of live outings out with the Max Tovstyi Blues Band and the Max Tovstyi Blues Association, Mesmerize (LP on Nasoni) is the Ukrainian heavy blues rocker’s first solo studio outing since 2014. He’s credited with all the instruments on the 10- or 12-track offering save for a couple arrangement-flourish guest appearances, and he pulls in a classic spirit and full-band sound without any trouble on a moody piece like “World of Sin” or the bonus track “Show Me the Way,” which isn’t a Peter Frampton cover so far as I can tell but still has plenty of guitar scorch to go around. “From the Blues to the Funk” jams its way along its stated trajectory, and “Feel Like Dying Now” brings together organ and keys in a fashion far less dramatized than one might initially think. With a clean production, Tovstyi — also known for his work in The Heavy Crawls, Lucifer Rising, and others — carries through his sentimentality for blues rock’s past and finds himself well at home leading the pack of guest vocalists on “Make Up Your Mind,” which closes the album proper with a semi-country twang and sweet melody.

Max Tovstyi on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

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