Quarterly Review: Foehammer, Holy Serpent, Wicked Inquisition, AVER, Galley Beggar, Demon Lung, Spirit Division, Space Mushroom Fuzz, Mountain Tamer, Ohhms

Posted in Reviews on June 29th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk summer quarterly review

I said back in March that I was going to try to make the Quarterly Review a regular feature around here, and once it was put out there, the only thing to do was to live up to it. Over the last several — like, five — weeks, I’ve been compiling lists of albums to be included, and throughout the next five days, we’re going to make our way through that list. From bigger names to first demos and across a wide swath of heavy styles, there’s a lot of stuff to come, and I hope within all of it you’re able to find something that hits home or speaks to you in a special way.

No sense in delaying. Hold nose, dive in.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Foehammer, Foehammer

foehammer foehammer

Relatively newcomer trio Foehammer specialize in grueling, slow-motion punishment. Their self-titled debut EP follows a well-received 2014 demo and is three tracks/34 minutes released by Grimoire and Australopithecus Records of doomed extremity, the Virginian three-piece of guitarist Joe Cox (ex-Gradius), bassist/vocalist Jay Cardinell (ex-Gradius, ex-Durga Temple) and drummer Ben “Vang” Blanton (ex-Vog, also of The Oracle) not new to the Doom Capitol-area underground by any stretch and seeming to pool all their experience to maximize the impact of this extended material. Neither “Final Grail,” “Stormcrow” nor 14-minute closer “Jotnar” is without a sense of looming atmosphere, but Foehammer at this point are light only on drama, and the lower, sludgier and more crushing they go, the more righteous the EP is for it. Stunningly heavy and landing with a suitable shockwave, it is hopefully the beginning of a long, feedback-drenched tenure in death-doom, and if the EP is over half an hour, the prospect of a follow-up debut full-length seems overwhelming. Easily one of the year’s best short releases.

Foehammer on Thee Facebooks

Grimoire Records on Bandcamp

Australopithecus Records

Holy Serpent, Holy Serpent

holy serpent holy serpent

It’s not like they were lying when they decided to call a song “Shroom Doom.” Melbourne double-guitar four-piece made their self-titled debut as Holy Serpent last year, and the five-track full-length was picked up for release on RidingEasy Records no doubt for its two-front worship of Uncle Acid’s slither and jangle – especially prevalent on the eponymous opener and closer “The Wind” – and the now-classic stonerism of Sleep. That blend comes together best of all on the aforementioned finale, but neither will I take away from the north-of-10-minute righteousness of “The Plague” preceding, with its slow roll and malevolent vibe that, somehow, still sounds like a party. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Scott Penberthy, guitarist Nick Donoughue, bassist Michael Macfie and drummer Keith Ratnan, the real test for Holy Serpent will be their second or third album – i.e., how they develop the psychedelic nodes of centerpiece “Fools Gold” along with the rest of their sound – but listening to these tracks, it’s easy to let the future worry about itself.

Holy Serpent on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records

Wicked Inquisition, Wicked Inquisition

wicked inquisition wicked inquisition

There are a variety of influences at work across Wicked Inquisition’s self-titled debut long-player, from the Sabbath references of its eponymous closer to the earlier thrashery of “In Shackles” and “Sun Flight,” but the core of the Minneapolis four-piece resides in a guitar-led brand of metal, whatever else they decide to build around it. Guitarist/vocalist Nate Towle, guitarist Ben Stevens, bassist Jordan Anderson and drummer Jack McKoskey align tightly around the riffs of “M.A.D.” in all-business fashion. Shades of Candlemass show up in some of the slower material, “M.A.D.” included as well as with “Crimson Odyssey,” but the start-stops of “Tomorrow Always Knows” ensure the audience is clued in that there’s more going on than just classic doom, though a Trouble influence seems to hover over the proceedings as well, waiting to be more fully explored as the band moves forward.

Wicked Inquisition on Thee Facebooks

Wicked Inquisition on Bandcamp

AVER, Nadir

aver nadir

Clocking in at an hour flat, Sydney all-caps riffers AVER construct their second album, Nadir, largely out of familiar elements, but wind up with a blend of their own. Fuzz is prevalent in the extended nod of opener “The Devil’s Medicine” (9:46) which bookends with the longest track, finisher “Waves” (9:48), though it’s not exactly like the four-piece are shy about writing longer songs in between. The production, while clear enough, lends its focus more toward the low end, which could be pulling in another direction from the impact of some of Nadir’s psychedelia on “Rising Sun” second half solo, but neither will I take anything away from Jed’s bass tone, which could carry this hour of material were it asked. The vocals of guitarist Burdt have a distinct Acid Bathian feel, post-grunge, and that contrasts a more laid back vibe even on the acoustic-centered “Promised Lands,” but neither he, Jed, guitarist Luke or drummer Chris feel out of place here, and I’m not inclined to complain.

AVER on Thee Facebooks

AVER on Bandcamp

Galley Beggar, Silence and Tears


Sweet, classic and very, very British folk pervades the gorgeously melodic and meticulously arranged Silence and Tears by London six-piece Galley Beggar, released on Rise Above. The eight-track/40-minute album packs neatly onto a vinyl release and has near-immediate psychedelic underpinnings in the wah of opener “Adam and Eve,” and side B’s “Geordie” has some heavier-derived groove, but it’s the beauty and lushness of the harmonies throughout (finding satisfying culmination in closer “Deliver Him”) that stand Galley Beggar’s third offering out from worshipers of a ‘60s and ‘70s era aesthetic. The highlight of Silence and Tears arrives early in nine-minute second cut “Pay My Body,” a wonderfully swaying, patient excursion that gives equal time to instrumental exploration and vocal accomplishment, but to a select few who let themselves be truly hypnotized and carried along its winding course, the album’s entire span will prove a treasure to be revisited for years to come and whose sunshiny imprint will remain vivid.

Galley Beggar on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records

Demon Lung, A Dracula


With inspiration reportedly from the 1977 demon-possession horror flick Alucarda, Las Vegas doomers Demon Lung return with A Dracula, their second offering via Candlelight Records after 2013’s The Hundredth Name, and as the movie begins with a birth, so too do we get “Behold, the Daughter” following the intro “Rursumque Alucarda,” later mirrored by a penultimate interlude of the same name. Billy Anderson produced, so it’s not exactly a surprise that the slow, undulating riffs and the periodic bouts of more upbeat chug, as on “Gypsy Curse,” come through nice and viscous, but vocalist Shanda brings an ethereal melodic sensibility, not quite cult rock, but on “Mark of Jubilee” presenting momentarily some similarly bleak atmospherics to those of the UK’s Undersmile, her voice seeming to command the guitars to solidify from their initial airiness and churn out an eerie apex, which closer “Raped by the Serpent” pushes further for a raging finale.

Demon Lung on Thee Facebooks

Candlelight USA’s Bandcamp

Spirit Division, Spirit Division

spirit division spirit division

Spirit Division’s self-titled debut full-length follows a 2014 demo that also hosted three of the tracks – opener “Spirit Division,” “Through the Rounds” and “Mountain of Lies” – but is fuller-sounding in its post-grunge tonality and doomly chug than the earlier offering, guitarist/vocalist Stephen Hoffman, bassist/vocalist Chris Latta and drummer/vocalist David Glass finding a straightforward route through moody metallurgy and weighted riffage. Some Wino-style swing shows up on “Bloodletting,” and “Cloud of Souls” has a decidedly militaristic march to its progression, while the later “Red Sky” revels in classic doom that seems to want to be just a touch slower than it is, but what ultimately unites the material is the strong sense of purpose across the album’s span and Spirit Division’s care in the vocal arrangements. The production is somewhat dry, but Spirit Division walk the line between sludge rock and doom and seem comfortable in that sphere while also sparking a creative progression that seems well worth further pursuit.

Spirit Division on Thee Facebooks

Spirit Division on Bandcamp

Space Mushroom Fuzz, Until Next Time

space mushroom fuzz until next time

I was all set to include a different Space Mushroom Fuzz album in this roundup, but then I saw that the project was coming to an end and Until Next Time was issued as the band’s final release. The deal all along with the band headed by guitarist/vocalist Adam Abrams (also Blue Aside) has been that you never really know what he’s going to do next. Fair enough. Abrams brings it down in suitably bizarre fashion, a keyboard and guitar line backing “Class Onion” in direct mockery of Beatlesian bounce, where “The DeLorean Takes Off!” before compiles five-plus minutes of experimental noise and “Follow that DeLorean” answers with another round after. Elsewhere, opener and longest cut (immediate points) “Here Comes Trouble” resonates with its central guitar line and unfolds to further oddity with a quiet but gruff vocal, while “The Rescue” vibes like something Ween would’ve conjured after huffing roach spray (or whatever was handy) and closer “Back in ‘55” moves from progressive soloing to froggy singing and weirdo jangle. All in all a strange and fitting end to the band.

Space Mushroom Fuzz on Thee Facebooks

Space Mushroom Fuzz on Bandcamp

Mountain Tamer, MTN TMR DEMO

mountain tamer mtn tmr demo

Santa Cruz trio Mountain Tamer have been kicking around the West Coast for the last several years, and since they released a full-length, Liquid Metal, in 2013, and a prior EP in 2012’s The Glad, it’s tempting to try to read some larger shift sonically into their MTN TMR Demo, as though having completely revamped their sound, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Andru, bassist/vocalist Dave Teget and drummer/vocalist Casey Garcia trying out new ideas as they redirect their approach. That may well be the case, with “Satan’s Waitin’,” “Sum People” and “Dunes of the Mind” each standing at over five-minutes of neo-stoner roll, more psychedelic than some in the growing fuck-it-let’s-skate oeuvre, but still plainly born after, or at least during, grunge. The finisher comes to a thrilling, noisy head as it rounds out the short release, and if Mountain Tamer are taking on a new path, it’s one well set to meander and I hope they continue to follow those impulses.

Mountain Tamer on Thee Facebooks

Mountain Tamer on Bandcamp


ohhms cold

Like their late-2014 debut, Bloom, OHHMS’ sophomore outing, Cold, is comprised of two extended tracks. Here the Canterbury five-piece bring “The Anchor” (18:30) and “Dawn of the Swarm” (14:27), blending modern prog, sludge and post-metallic vibes to suit a melodic, ambitious purpose. Atmosphere is central from the quiet drone starting “The Anchor” and remains so as they lumber through a linear build and into an apex at about 13 minutes in, dropping out to quiet only to build back up to a striking melodic push that ends on a long fade. Side B, “Dawn of the Swarm” is more immediately post-rock in the guitar, the lineup of vocalist Paul Waller, guitarists Daniel Sargent and Marc George, bassist Chainy Chainy and drummer Max Newton moving through hypnotic sprawl into angular Isis-ism before finding their own way, the second cut pushing structurally against the first with loud/quiet tradeoffs in a well-timed back half. Clearly a band who arrived knowing their purpose, but not so cerebral as to detract from the heavy landing of the material itself.

OHHMS on Thee Facebooks

OHHMS on Bandcamp


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Live Review: Clutch, Mastodon and Graveyard in Boston, 05.17.15

Posted in Reviews on May 18th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Clutch (Photo by JJ Koczan)

A mixed bag of a crowd at House of Blues in Boston, and between Mastodon, Clutch and Graveyard on the three-band bill, it’s not much of a surprise. One can draw a thread easily enough from one to the other to the other, but the reality of watching them on stage makes plain the differences between them, emphasizing Graveyard‘s ’70s boogie, Clutch‘s bluesy groove and the noodly progressive overload of Mastodon, who were the evening’s headliners. Accordingly, there were those who were there to see one or the other. Kids for Mastodon, dudes who look like me for Clutch and/or Graveyard, metal heads, rockers, whatever. I wouldn’t call it diverse exactly, but not everybody had a beard.

Graveyard (Photo by JJ Koczan)“The Missing Link Tour,” as it’s been dubbed, started just over a month earlier, mid-April in Minnesota, and it will end in Columbus, Ohio, on May 24. With a week to go, maybe the three bands were thinking “home stretch” or “last throes,” but if so, it wasn’t evident from the crowd. Big Business did the initial couple weeks, but Graveyard stepped in on April 29 for the rest of the run, and they were a major draw for me. I hadn’t seen them since the beginning of 2013 and knew they had a new album in the works, so was hoping for some yet-unreleased material in the set from Swedish retroist forerunners, and got what I came for in a driving, one-int0-the-next mix with tracks culled from 2012’s Lights Out (review here), their landmark 2011 sophomore outing, Hisingen Blues (review here) and even their 2007 self-titled debut.

It was “As the Years Pass by, the Hours Bend” as the sole inclusion from the latter, and while Lights Out cuts “Seven Seven,” “Hard Times Lovin'” and “The Suits, the Law and the Uniforms” represented the latest outing, and “Hisingen Blues,” “The Siren,” “Buying Truth” and finale “Uncomfortably Numb” the second album. A full set, maybe, an opening one nonetheless, and as much of an impact as the Gothenburg four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Joakim Nilsson guitarist Jonathan Ramm bassist Truls Mörck (who played guitar on the self-titled and is returned to the band handling low end) and drummer Axel Sjöberg have had on the course of European heavy rock — Sweden aboundsGraveyard (Photo by JJ Koczan) in ’70s riffing and much of it is Graveyard‘s fault — they stood almost in a horizontal line on stage with Clutch and Mastodon‘s gear behind them. For what it’s worth, from that opener’s position, they also put on the best show I’ve seen play and I’ve seen them four or five times now.

Their new album, yet untitled, is due in the fall, and the new song they played from it was called “Shunken.” A big question as regards their sound is whether they’ll stick to the tonal warmth of their output thus far or, à la their Nuclear Blast labelmates and countrymen in Witchcraft — whose roots also trace back to the mid-’90s nexus outfit Norrsken, whose demos and compilation tracks beg immediate reissue — if they’ll attempt to modernize their style, sacrificing aesthetic to center on songwriting. Hard to tell live, but “Shunken” had an evening’s worth of shuffle packed into its relatively brief course, so I’d say Graveyard‘s Graveyardery is alive and well at least as far as that song goes. Lights Out was a moodier offering, and “Hard Times Lovin'” brought that to bear on stage between “Buying Truth” and “The Suits, the Law and the Uniforms,” but Nilsson‘s growth as a vocalist was evident in how thoroughly and soulfully the material was nailed, and their set provided a reminder that one of the joys of watching them play is how much it seems at any moment like the songs are going to come flying apart and how tight the band shows itself to be when they never actuallyClutch (Photo by JJ Koczan) do and everyone comes back together on the next measure.

As I’m sure they have all along their time on tour, Graveyard won over the crowd at House of BluesClutch, on the other hand, had the room from the word go. They’ve also got a new record coming this fall, in September, specifically, and they’ve been brandying around new songs either from it or not for a while now, titles on YouTube clips like “ZZ,” “Energy Weapons,” “Motörhead,” “Sucker for the Witch,” and so on, popping up whether or not that’s how they’ll actually be titled when the recording hits. Their last outing, Earth Rocker (review here), was hands-down the best release of 2013, and the rock-solid, semper-professional four-piece of frontman Neil Fallon (interview here), guitarist Tim Sult (interview here), bassist Dan Maines (interview here) and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster (interview here) have obviously taken steps to ensure the follow-up arrives sooner than the four years it took for Earth Rocker to answer 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West.

Knowing a different member picks the setlist each night, I never see Clutch play that I don’t wonder whose choices they’re running through. I wouldn’t hazard a guess this time, but I’d like to send them a thank-you card for including “The Regulator,” a perennial favorite, and “Cypress Grove” from 2004’s Blast Tyrant, from which “The Clutch (Photo by JJ Koczan)Mob Goes Wild” and “Profits of Doom” were also aired, the latter coming late in the set prior to “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…” from Earth Rocker and a finale of “Electric Worry/One Eye Dollar” from 2007’s From Beale Street to Oblivion. New cut “Son of Virginia” seemed directly in bluesy conversation with both “Electric Worry” and even more so “The Regulator,” but emerged into a heavier push from its subdued, twang-laden bounce, Fallon less the preacher than he is at times but no less imperative in telling the crowd, “You gotta know your history/Son of Virginia,” in the chorus. A faster new song, titled “Monsters” according to the setlist, boasted Earth Rocker-style thrust and shout-outs to the Cyclops and other creatures out of mythology, very much in Clutch‘s wheelhouse.

Something of a surprise to think it had been more than a year since I last saw them play, that show in New Hampshire Fall 2013 following Fallon‘s back surgery — gotta know your history — but they were, as ever, engaged in the delivery of a sound quintessentially their own and seemingly unbreakable. They are among the finest and most enduring live acts of their generation, and I didn’t envy Mastodon having to follow them. That said, there was a point at which I couldn’t go more than two weeks without having to put on Clutch, and after not seeing them for so long, I wondered if the spell had been broken. Nope. Still very much a Clutch fan, as it turns out, and can’t wait to hear the new record, from which “Our Lady of Electric Light” was the third and final song to be aired, quieter and moodier even than “Son of Virginia,” but easing well into “D.C. Sound Mastodon (Photo by JJ Koczan)Attack” and its extended jam driven by Gaster‘s well-established percussive brilliance and unflinching funk.

There’s been footage kicked around online of Fallon joining Mastodon during their set for “Blood and Thunder” as he did on the latter’s 2004 sophomore breakthrough, Leviathan, but it wasn’t to be. My evening was pretty much over when Clutch finished, but I’ll say that while I’ve seen Mastodon hit and miss live — back-to-back nights in Brooklyn with Neurosis in 2008 come to mind as examples for both — they were absolutely on fire at House of Blues, and while they lost me years ago as they traded in the visceral rhythmic push of 2002’s Remission and the subsequent Leviathan — what was, at the time, a genuinely new take on sonic heft — for the progged-out technical showcasing of Blood Mountain and Crack the Skye, I did my time as a Mastodon fan, had a nostalgic moment when I saw a dude walking through the crowd in the same Leviathan t-shirt I wore to my wedding reception, and it was fun to watch them kick ass across material new and old, be it “High Road” from last year’s Once More ‘Round the Sun or “Megalodon” from Leviathan.

And while I don’t really follow them at this point — obviously hasn’t hurt the band any, if their draw is something to go by — they put on a more than solid show, laser beams emanating from the stage and all as Bill Kelliher held his guitar aloft, Mastodon (Photo by JJ Koczan)drummer Brann Dailor held down the cleaner choruses of new songs, guitarist Brent Hinds tore into those or that solo and bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders skirted a line between cartoonish metal frontman and genius conceptualist in the middle of the stage. They didn’t become the band they were expected to, but they obviously became the band they wanted to be, which is more admirable in its way. When their sprawling encore of “The Czar” from Crack the Skye was done, Dailor got on mic and took a moment to profusely and sincerely thank the crowd before handing out his drumsticks and a drum head that had apparently been busted during the course of the set. One imagines he goes through them on the regular.

After that, there was nothing to do but shuffle slowly out of the venue and into the warm Sunday night and listen to the familiar chorus of drunken wildlings shouting epithets at passing cars; as much a cultural staple of Boston as anything that happens across the street from House of Blues at Fenway Park, I should think. Nothing quite like a town that loves its traditions.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Deathkings & Rozamov, Split: A Shared Tendency Toward the Extreme

Posted in Reviews on May 15th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


How exactly Deathkings and Rozamov might’ve gotten hooked up for a split release is something of a mystery. Geographically, it seems an unlikely pairing, with Deathkings based in Los Angeles and Rozamov in Boston, but I seem to recall the latter have been out west before, so they could have run into each other then. Or Midnite Collective, which is releasing the limited 7″ pressing of their combined effort could have been the catalyst just as easily. Both are on the lineup for Psycho California 2015, so that could have done it. Or one band could’ve heard the other on this new thing called the internet and sent a message over. The possibilities, roughly, are endless, but however it happened, they complement each other well. The 14-minute Deathkings and Rozamov split arrives in an edition of 150 black vinyl copies with one song from each outfit, both delighting in an extreme take on sludge and doom, but each group with a nuance of its own to offer something just slightly different from the other. They are a fitting combination, Deathkings offering the 7:54 “Solomon” to push the limits of how much a 7″ can hold and Rozamov answering back with the 6:44 “Ghost Divine,” pummel a uniting factor between the two as they offer up a slaying sampler of their wares to those on either coast who’ve already gotten or might get on board with their darkened visions.

For Deathkings, the split marks the four-piece’s first physically-pressed outing since their 2012 debut full-length, Destroyer, though they also had a single out at the end of 2014 digitally, and Midnite Collective reissued Destroyer on vinyl last year as well. They’re not strangers to extended forms, and use their space effectively, an undercurrent of post-metallic ambience and repurposed Neurosis influence in their vocal arrangements adding to the density of some of the open spaces of “Solomon,” which launches the 7″ at a tense but quiet rush, tom hits from drummer Sean Spindler setting the pace soon joined by gravely vocals before the full tonal breadth of guitarists Daryl Hernandez and Mark Lüntzel and bassist Nicolas Rocha kicks in. Interplay between them becomes prevalent in a quieter break after the halfway point, but before they get there, Deathkings course through a doom inflicted with some blackened elements and a linear structure pushing forward into weighted plod and seeming to relent only to give the vocals appropriate room to urge the listener to “die now” on top of some suitably ritualistic background chants. Resurgence hits after the 5:30 mark and drives through frenetic turns toward an overarching lurch of a groove, Spindler‘s snare cutting through the mix to punctuate all the while a stomp that Rozamov will soon enough echo in “Ghost Divine.” That stomp serves as Deathkings‘ apex, however, and “Solomon” caps with just a short rumble that fades out quickly no doubt for spatial consideration of the medium. They’ve had a lineup change since recording the LP, though I’m not sure that accounts for the three years between releases, but the stylistic breadth and ambition in their songwriting makes Deathkingssound like a band actively seeking an open creative form, and “Solomon” reaps the benefits of that search.

deathkings rozamov

While shorter, Rozamov‘s “Ghost Divine” is perhaps even more given to extremity. Like Deathkings, the Boston trio have undergone a lineup shift since their last recorded output, their 2013 Of Gods and Flesh EP having included guitarist Liz Walshak, who can currently be found in newcomers Sea. As the trio of guitarist/vocalist Matt Iocovelli, bassist/backing vocalist Tom Corino (also of Kind) and drummer Will Hendrix, Rozamov are rawer on “Ghost Divine” than they were on the EP, but that rawness feels intentional. A feedback swell fades in to an immmediate thrust of blastbeaten grinding and fast-paced sludge churn, their sound having long since grown out of most of its initial High on Fire influence but retained a penchant for thrash. Iacovelli and Corino answer each other vocally over the central riff with an affect more in line with a hardcore punk cover of Vital Remains than anything particularly doomed, but the ambience remains heavy all the same, and only adds weight as it slows into a solo section, fluidly pushing toward its halfway point with grand, echoing lead notes over slamming hits that seem (in context) in direct conversation with those Deathkings brought to bear, the vocals returning to command the tumult ably before dropping off to a quieter stretch of atmospheric noodling, layered-in piano from Iacovelli and persistent drumming to hold the tension. They build back up, and as one might hope, churn their way back to the rush that typified the first half of the track, ending strong with sustained, layered screams/growls and amplified crackle, the confidence with which they present “Ghost Divine” doing as much to convey the extremity as the actual riffs themselves. They sound like a band ready to put together their debut full-length, and so they are.

No doubt it will be too extreme in its base of influence for some, but Deathkings and Rozamov‘s split is nonetheless efficient in conveying where each band is at, and its curated feel in how well one contribution feeds into the next is not to go unnoticed. As far apart as they might be on a map, the two groups draw a quick line between them of shared viciousness, and revel in their variations on the theme.

Deathkings & Rozamov, Split (2015)

Deathkings on Thee Facebooks

Deathkings on Bandcamp

Rozamov on Thee Facebooks

Rozamov on Bandcamp

Midnite Collective’s webstore

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Rozamov Opening for Slayer, Playing this Weekend in Brooklyn and Baltimore

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 20th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


Boston trio Rozamov are keeping busy in a number of righteous ways as they make ready to release a new split 7″ with Deathkings on Midnite Collective. This weekend they’ll head south to Brooklyn and Baltimore to play alongside the noisy/sludgy likes of Godmaker and Wizard Eye, respectively, and next week, they open for Slayer and Doomriders, which isn’t a line that’s going to hurt their CV in the slightest, at a Converse Rubber Tracks show at The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA, that will no doubt vibrate the walls of Harvard dorms down the way. Oh yeah, and then next month they head west to go play Psycho California alongside Pentagram, Sleep and about a million others. Clearly not a bad month to be Rozamov.

The band sent a rundown of their killer doings via the PR wire, including a preorder link for that Deathkings split:

rozamov shows

Rozamov Playing Pre-Psycho Fest Shows Including Converse Rubber Tracks w/ Slayer

Rozamov will be performing select dates ahead of their performance at Psycho California, beginning this weekend in Brooklyn and Maryland. Included in this string of shows is an appearance at The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA for Converse Rubber Tracks Live with Slayer and Doomriders. Rubber Tracks Live is a free event but fans must enter to win tickets beginning this Monday, April 20th.

Rozamov recently announced plans to unleash a split 7-inch vinyl with Deathkings via Midnite Collective on May 12th. Rozamov’s track “Ghost Divine” will debut later this month, Deathking’s track “Solomon” is being streamed at CVLT-Nation now.

Rozamov Live Dates:

April 24 – Brooklyn, NY – The Acheron w/ Livver, Godmaker, Dead Empires
April 25 – Baltimore, MD – The Circuit w/ Fortress, Wizard Eye
April 29 – Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair – Converse Rubber Tracks Live w/ Slayer, Doomriders
May 8 – Northampton, MA – 13th Floor Music Lounge
May 16 – Santa Ana, CA – The Observatory – Psycho California

Rubber Tracks Live Ticket Link: http://www.converse-music.com/boston
Pre-Order Rozamov/Deathkings Split 7-inch Vinyl: http://midniteclv.storenvy.com/products/12489843-deathkings-rozamov-split-7


Rozamov, “Ghost Divine” teaser

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Roadburn 2015 Trip Pt. 1: Walkin’ on the Sidewalks

Posted in Features on April 7th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

at the gate

04.07.15 — 6:29PM Eastern — Tuesday evening — Logan Airport Terminal E, Boston

I have never enjoyed air travel. Nor, I think, would any sane person who gave even the remotest conscious thought to the processes involved. If ever you doubt the void that exists where a just and loving god should be, use a commercial airline. That said, both traffic en route to the airport and traffic within it were minimal given the rush hour. The Patient Mrs. dropped me off freshly returned from a day of work and she stopped short of saying “have fun with the weirdos and get your head on straight,” but the point lingered in the air anyway. She knows I need this more than I do. Poor thing has to live with me.

Terminal E is the ass-end of Boston Logan International Airport. The “International” part. Lufthansa, SwissAir, IcelandAir, Aer Lingus (which is the dirtiest sounding airline and also the one I happen to be on — flight 138 which I remembered because of the Misfits), and a handful of others operate out of here. A year ago I sat on the other side of this giant rectangle of a room and waited to board a flight. I was absurdly early then too. They tell you an hour and a half, two hours. I got here at six and my flight is at nine. I’d rather sit, listen to music, watch people going here and there, boarding silly out-of-date airplanes with fresh paintjobs and tighter seats. Imagine an industry where the central technology around which it’s based remains basically unchanged for the last half-century. What’s that you say? Auto, banking, oil, airlines? Amazing coincidence that these people make a ton of money and run our lives. There’s no need for conspiracy, the shit’s right out there in the open. flight screenThe chemtrails people are looking in the wrong direction. They should be throwing molotov cocktails for cross-ocean high-speed railways and MTA teleporter transit systems, or at very least more legroom.

At the airport, even the CNN is geared toward selling you shit. Not that it’s not anyway, but there’s something to be said for a level of subtlety. Here’s a Christiane Amanpour news story about the perfect app for traveling, and it’s on at the airport! That’s incredible. Keep it light. Nothing about bombs dropping, drones flying, fucking Rand Paul or anything else that might hint at imminent destruction. A helicopter plunks into the marshland outside, a fireball seen for miles. I’d rather look at duty-free candy or the self-help paperbacks at the Hudson News. Could use some of that shit anyway. A fire alarm was going off when I was walking up to get here. It’s stopped now.

I am about to embark on an adventure the familiarity of which only heightens my sense of awe at the thought. My seventh Roadburn. In a couple hours, I’ll get on that Aer Lingus flight and “scoot” over to Dublin, connect there and then on to Amsterdam, from which a car — all of this pre-arranged; I hear I may or may not be sharing transport with a couple of the dudes from Bongripper — will cart my no-doubt sleepless ass to Tilburg in time, one hopes, to crash for a few hours before the Hard Rock Hideout. That will be Wednesday night, a day from now, but somehow it will still bleed into today. I’m so fucking lucky. I’m so fucking lucky. To be here, to be going there. The next few days, priority will be given to updates from the Roadburn fest, reviews, photos and the like, and other whatnot that happens along the way. I may have some other updates, but this is time out of time for me, and I intend to make the most of it. Less sleep, more rock.

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Live Review: Electric Wizard and Satan’s Satyrs in Boston, 04.03.15

Posted in Reviews on April 7th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Electric Wizard (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Knowing that on a Friday night the Royale would have its dance club going by 10PM, I made sure I was at the venue early. Doors were slated for six for Electric Wizard and Satan’s Satyrs, and the venue would be cleared out before the dance party began. I neither begrudge Royale its double-booking — gotta make money, and the more the merrier as long as you can get away with it — nor mind an early night. While I’ve shown up late for shows in the past elsewhere and been pissed off missing this or that band, so long as the clientele are aware of the situation, an early end to the show isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One might go out to the bar with a group of friends and talk about how much the show kicked ass, feeling good and energetic after watching someone kill it. In my case, I went home and sat with the dog afterwards, but you know, you could go out and do something. If you’re in your 20s, maybe.

Satan's Satyrs (Photo by JJ Koczan)Two bands on the bill: Satan’s Satyrs and Electric Wizard. I was maybe fifth on line, which was enough to get me in and allow me to get a spot up front when the doors actually opened, closer to 6:30 than not. Satan’s Satyrs were slated to start at that point, but they didn’t actually go for another half an hour, the Virginia three-piece sharing bassist Clayton Burgess with the headliner. Satan’s Satyrs have been kicking around for the last six years, proffering ’70s boogie and doomly atmospherics — disciples conceptually, if not exactly sonically, of Electric Wizard — and they have two records out in 2012’s Wild Beyond Belief! and last year’s Die Screaming, as well as a handful of other EPs and live releases. Their third record is in the can, having been tracked in February, but the impression they give on stage, other than guitarist Jarrett Nettnin and drummer Stephen Fairfield winning any contest for big hair that might be going on, is of a young band.

The energy in their delivery, their presence on stage, the underlying vigor with which they present their material — it’s something they’ve managed to hold onto despite having a decent amount of experience under their collective belt at this point. They toured Europe last year, played Roadburn twice, and I don’t think that was their first time Satan's Satyrs (Photo by JJ Koczan)on the road. The kicker is that in addition to being young, they’re also ridiculously tight. So you’ve got Burgess spinning around on stage, Fairfield bounding around his teased-out coiffure, and Nettnin hitting Iommi poses for the leads, but they’re nailing it. All of it, really. Cuts like “Instruments of Hellfire” and “Lucifer Lives” from Die Screaming were boogie doom ragers, and they played a new song that, had it not been announced as such, it would’ve been easy to imagine they’d been kicking around for a couple years. It was my first time seeing them and they tore it up. Yeah, people were there to see Electric Wizard and it was Electric Wizard‘s show, but I didn’t hear one complaint while Satan’s Satyrs were on stage.

It felt like a long changeover, though I’ll allow that could’ve just been anticipation. I’ve seen Electric Wizard before, when guitarist/vocalist Jus Oborn curated a day at Roadburn 2013 (review here), but in the two years since, he and guitarist Liz Buckingham (ex-13, for New York types) Electric Wizard (Photo by JJ Koczan)have totally swapped out the rhythm section, bringing in Burgess on bass and drummer Simon Poole, and well, this was their first US tour since reactivating in 2007 — and several years before that — so it felt a bit like an event even before they took the stage. They did so preceded by burning enough incense to give me raised-Catholic flashbacks, which were perfect for Good Friday, and by bringing the lights all the way down for the intro “Crypt of Drugula.” A one-two punch of “Witchcult Today” from the 2007 landmark of the same name and “Black Mass” from 2010’s Black Masses (review here) followed and reaffirmed why we were all there: to worship. The riff, the nod, the horror. A crowd of scumbags and normal heads, hipsters, hippies and crust kids, headbangers and stoners, all of us drawn in by the eerie power and undeniable hooks of Electric Wizard, as beautiful as it is deranged. Altered movie clips playing behind them, the foursome wasted little time that could’ve otherwise been dedicated to Heavy, and they had plenty of that to go around.

Sound at the Royale can vary pretty widely depending on where you stand. It’s a club, remember. Electric Wizard (Photo by JJ Koczan)After “Satanic Rites of Drugula” came “Dopethrone” and I started make my way back from up front by the stage, found I could hear Oborn‘s vocals better and more of a balance between the guitars and bass. Earplugs pulled halfway out, the wash of noise was near-physical, a push that seemed to have presence. “Dopethrone,” taken from the 2000 album of the same name — 15 years later, its influence continues to spread — got a huge response, and while I’ll never understand people moshing to doom riffs, sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders. Nothing to be done about it anyway. In back the audio was clear and I could see the screen behind them better, the cover of Dopethrone projected interlaced with ’60s/’70s horror boobage and other sundry whatnots, motorcycles and the like. Come My Fanatics (1997) opener “Return Trip” followed “Dopethrone” and only after that, more than halfway through the set, did they touch on the new album, 2014’s Time to Die (review here), with “Incense for the Damned” and “Time to Die” one into the next. Easy to get lost in that murk of riffage, but that’s the point. A quick second to catch breath later, and “The Chosen Few” from Witchcult Today once more had the room in a trance, the line “legalize drugs and murder” — also the name of an EP the band put out with a track on it based around the line copped from “The Chosen Few” — getting an extra-loud chant from the crowd.

Electric Wizard (Photo by JJ Koczan)That just left “Funeralopolis” to close out, and when the undulating Dopethrone track hit, there was little doubt that it was the culmination of Electric Wizard‘s set. The insistent riffs of the song’s early going were the night’s most engrossing nod, and the later tempo burst was met with a suitable audience response as it thrust forward into its own destruction into shouts, and noise, the whole set seeming to come off the rails with Oborn shouting out misanthropics as Buckingham and Burgess added to the mound of feedback and Poole attacked his drums to further the sense of chaos. One couldn’t ask a more fitting end to an Electric Wizard show than to have the whole thing dissolve right there on stage. No encore, nothing left to say, they took off. About a minute’s tease later, the lights came up and the early goers at the Royale shuffled their way downstairs and out of the building. I was home before 10:30.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Quarterly Review: Leather Nun America, Corsair, Sea, The Munsens, Gondola, Space Mushroom Fuzz, Deep Aeon, Teepee Creeper, Hellrad, Venus Sleeps

Posted in Reviews on April 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk quarterly review

Day four. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling it, but you know, that’s what caffeine is there for. If I push past the day’s quota of mental energy, fine. Hasn’t stopped me yet, and there are only 20 reviews of the total 50 left. Not quite the home stretch, but it’s up there on the horizon. Some cool stuff today, and that always helps as well.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Leather Nun America, Buddha Knievel

leather nun america buddha knievel

Though they’re mostly indebted to a Wino-style Maryland doom sound, San Diego three-piece Leather Nun America touch on more dramatic fare late into their fifth album, the awesomely-titled Buddha Knievel (on Nine Records). Pairing the acoustic-led instrumental “Gloom” and 7:51 “Winter Kill,” which swirls its way to an apex of lead guitar from John Sarnie with some subtle touches of extreme metal from drummer Sergio Carlos, they expand beyond a riff-and-groove ethic – though of course they do that well too. Sarnie and bassist Francis Charles Roberts (also of Old Man Wizard) offer familiar structures but satisfying tones, cuts like “Into Abyss” taking a darker turn on some of Spirit Caravan’s road-ready groove. An intro (“Prologue”) and subsequent interludes offer further depth, but the heart of “Burning Village” and Buddha Knievel as a whole is in the three-piece’s take on doom rock, and some of the record’s most satisfying moments come from precisely that, even unto the surprisingly boogieing closer “Irish Steel.”

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Nine Records on Bandcamp

Corsair, One Eyed Horse

corsair one eyed horse

Seems longer than three years since Virginia’s Corsair made their self-titled full-length debut (review here), but with the fervent support of Shadow Kingdom Records, they return with One Eyed Horse, an album much sweeter than its somewhat disturbing cover art might indicate, the four-piece of guitarist/vocalists Marie Landragin and Paul Sebring, bassist/vocalist Jordan Brunk and drummer Michael Taylor gracefully delving further into progressive heavy rock textures in cuts like “Shadows from Breath,” which though it winds up in blastbeats, never loses its sense of pose. That’s emblematic of the masterfully-handed twists and turns One Eyed Horse presents throughout its 45 minutes, highlights like “Sparrows Cragg” soaring and immersive while elsewhere “Brothers” reminds that sometimes it’s important to just get down to business and rock out. Corsair remain a well-kept secret, and one wonders while listening to the harmonies and post-rock bliss of “Royal Stride” just how long they can stay that way. Gorgeous, heavy and definitively their own, there’s nothing one could ask of One Eyed Horse that it doesn’t deliver. And yes, I mean that.

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Shadow Kingdom Records

Sea, Demo

sea demo

“Seer,” “Moros” and “Chronos” are the first three tracks to be released by Boston newcomer post-metallers Sea, but already their Demo showcases an impressive atmospheric breadth. Churning riffs from guitarists Liz Walshak (who also drew the cover; ex-Rozamov) and Mike Blasi (Rhino King) are given added depth from bassist/vocalist Stephen LoVerme (Olde Growth), and propelled ahead by drummer/engineer Andrew Muro, though there’s room left in each cut for ambience as well, “Seer” trading off, “Moros” beginning a linear build, and “Chronos” finding a middle-ground in switching between harsh and clean vocals before a slowdown brings about the chugging, memorable finale. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points), Demo proves an ambitious first release, but there’s nothing Sea set out to do on it that they don’t accomplish, and I take it as a particularly encouraging sign that in three cuts, there’s just about no structural repetition to be found. That bodes well in the classic demo sense, but more than what’s to come, these songs are already worth hearing.

Sea on Thee Facebooks

Sea on Bandcamp

The Munsens, Weight of Night

the munsens weight of night

Aggressive Sabbath-style doom with East Coast roots – The Munsens recorded at Moonlight Mile with Mike Moebius (Pilgrim, Kings Destroy) in NJ – Weight of Night finds the trio amidst the legal flora of Denver, Colorado, which is a fitting enough setting for the three riff-led cuts they offer on the tape. Of them, side one’s “Slave” is the most decidedly Iommic, a layered solo rounding out after “Under the Sun”-style descent — it also opens with a sample of Julie Newmar as the devil from The Twilight Zone — but both “Weight of Night” and side two’s 11-minute “The Hunt” boast the root influence as well, though the latter is invariably a standout for its crawling progression, almost Pallbearer-esque, that pushes up the tempo in its second half, arriving at a driving pace that’s even farther from where it started than the runtime would have you believe. The opening title-track works somewhat similarly, but ends with a piano interlude, and the shouting, metallic vocals hold back later on “The Hunt,” making its lumbering all the more hypnotic.

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The Munsens on Bandcamp

Gondola, Get Bent

gondola get bent

Philly trio Gondola waste just about no time showing off primo guitar antics on their Budro Records-released Get Bent LP, a penchant for jamming underscoring a lot of the wah-drenched movement on opener “Brain Ghost” and its side A compatriots “Psychic Knife,” “Poison Path” and “The Hornet.” There’s a decidedly stoner influence, vocals gaze-out Dead Meadow-style on “Psychic Knife,” but a Naam jam in “Brain Ghost” and the Fu Manchu drive of side B highlight “Electric Werewolf” offer plenty of variety within that sphere, guitarist/vocalist Rocky Rinaldi, bassist/vocalist Jordan Blumling and drummer Tim Plunkett finding space to make their own thanks in no small part to a palpable chemistry between them. Heavy rock and roll, and a damn good time, Get Bent comes across more as a suggestion than an imperative by the time the arm’s returned after “Life Cult” but either way, Gondola’s jam-laden push and brainmelter leads make this one a howler not to be missed, and just because it vibes hard doesn’t meant the songs don’t move.

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Gondola on Soundcloud

Space Mushroom Fuzz, Future Family

space mushroom fuzz future family

Consistently unpredictable and reliably prolific, Boston outfit Space Mushroom Fuzz – spearheaded by Adam Abrams of Blue Aside – isn’t through opener “Let’s Give Them Something to Hate About” before a sampled bong and sickly-sweet solo interwine with a progressive psychedelic jam. One never really knows what’s coming from Space Mushroom Fuzz, and on Future Family, it seems to be a blend of traditional songwriting with the project’s long-established weirdo sensibilities. “A Day in the Strife” is particularly Floydian, but even that has a structure, and “Saving all My Love for U2” has just about the heaviest, most straightforward push I’ve heard from Abrams in this context, even though there’s plenty of freakout to be had as well. What holds the release together is the persistent anything-goes vibe, which is maintained even unto the acoustic-led swirl of closer “L’Americana,” not quite fully departing an underlying cynicism, but escaping sonically the irony in some of the album’s titles in a manner that’s sincere whether or not it wants to be.

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Space Mushroom Fuzz on Bandcamp

Deep Aeon, Temple of Time

deep aeon temple of time

The key to Deep Aeon’s Temple of Time (released on H42 Records) is in the momentum the German four-piece commence to build on opener “Element 24” and how utterly unwilling they are to relinquish it at any point over the release’s 29-minute span. Even six-minute closer “River” has a shuffle – and handclaps. Vocalist Marcel Röche keeps a gruff edge to his voice throughout, but that could just as easily be from keeping up with guitarist Alexander Weber, bassist Axel Meyer and drummer Nikolaj Marfels. Songs like “Floating” and side-B launch “With that Priest on the Back Seat” offer straightforward fuzzy heavy rock, but rhythmically, Temple of Time swings and swings and swings and there’s just no getting away from it. If the record was 50 minutes long, I’m not sure it would be sustainable – someone’s bound to need to catch their breath, band or listener – but for being in and out in under half an hour, Deep Aeon make a clean, efficient run with little use for letup. Bonus points for the Alexander von Wieding artwork.

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H42 Records

Teepee Creeper, Ashes of the Northwest

teepee creeper ashes of the northwest

“Come with me, let’s go get high,” urges Teepee Creeper guitarist/vocalist Jon Unruh on “Rainbow Sex Glow” from his band’s seven-track/33-minute Ashes of the Northwest full-length, recorded by Mos Generator’s Tony Reed, who also drums and whose band released a split 7” with Teepee Creeper last year (review here). I won’t say “let’s go get high” sums it all up, but a lot of it. Riffs rule the day, and deservedly so, on tracks like “Far Far Away,” the live-tracked “Crushing the Gods of Men” and “The Raven’s Eye,” which caps with a particularly righteous roll. Rounded out by bassist Jeremy Deede – no slight presence in the mix – and now featuring drummer Ian Hall, Teepee Creeper seem to get better the higher the volume goes, the impressive and open-sounding tones surrounding the listener on the aforementioned “Rainbow Sex Glow” like a meaner version of Texas’ Wo Fat, and yes, that is a compliment. The album may or may not reduce their native region to ashes, but it’s bound to turn some heads in their direction.

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Teepee Creeper on Soundcloud

Hellräd, Things Never Change

hellrad things never change

How right the umlaut-happy Hellräd are when the Philly sludge slammers posit that Things Never Change. Their destructive, blown-out grime makes its nihilism plain in songs like “Homegrown Terrorist,” “My Jihad Against My Own Mind,” “Dopefiend Jesus,” and of course “Smoke More Crack,” weighted, lumbering grooves switching off at a clip with full-speed punker fuckall. Guitarist Mike Hook, noisemaker/vocalist Dirty Dave (not the same Dirty Dave from The Glasspack), bassist Herb Jowett and drummer Robert Lepor get down to all-out bludgeonry from the start of “Street Zombies,” the opener and longest track (immediate points) at 6:55, but there’s just something about the rolling groove of “Fuck Up (All I’ll Ever Be)” that hits home. Probably not as primal in its making as the energy with which it’s conveyed might lead one to believe, the ultra-nasty 38-minute debut full-length is nonetheless likely to leave a dent in your skull. Or have your skull leave a dent in something else. A wall, maybe. Or another skull.

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Hellrad on Bandcamp

Venus Sleeps, Dead Sun Worship

venus sleeps dead sun worship

Working in longer form on the four original tracks included on Dead Sun Worship, their full-length debut, Dublin four-piece Venus Sleeps make an atmospheric centerpiece out of the Syd Barrett cover “Golden Hair,” which in the context of what surrounds it is almost an interlude. Shades of Electric Wizard show themselves on the howling “I am the Night,” but the opening duo of “Ether Sleeper” and “Dawn of Nova” is more progressive, the guitarist/vocalist Sie Carroll, guitarist/backing vocalist Steven Anderson, bassist Seán O’Connor and drummer Fergal Malone exploring a psychedelic blend of doom and heavy rock riffing that comes to the fore again on 11-minute closer “Age of Nothing,” despite that song’s healthy dose of wah. The range they show in the original material seems only bolstered by the cover, and especially as their debut, the ambition and scope Venus Sleeps showcase is admirable. There are moments when the production seems to contract when a given part wants it to expand, to sound bigger, but Dead Sun Worship lacks nothing for clarity in purpose or execution.

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Venus Sleeps on Bandcamp


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Quarterly Review: Motherslug, Worshipper, Ape Machine, Churchburn, OMSQ, Unhold, The Heave-Ho, Crypt, Oceanwake, Lunar Electric

Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

quarterly review

When I finished yesterday’s reviews, I felt suitably beat, but as ever, there was a bit of catharsis to it too. Today’s pile takes us all the way to the other end of the world and back again to my (relative) back yard, and then loops around one more time for good measure with a few stops in between. While I’m coherent enough to form sentences, you’ll pardon me if I get right to it.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Motherslug, Motherslug

motherslug motherslug

If the name Motherslug or the cover art look familiar, it’s because the Melbourne double-guitar five-piece initially released their self-titled EP late in 2012 (review here). This NoSlip Records release, however, takes the tracks from that, couples them with cuts from Motherslug’s subsequent outing, a 2014 two-tracker called Three Kings in Darkness, and remasters both for vinyl as one 39-minute full-length. There’s a bit of progression evident in the newer cuts, “Trippin’ on Evil” and “Three Kings in Darkness,” but the LP smartly arranges them so that each ends its respective side, led into by two songs from the self-titled, so the impression is more that Motherslug are expanding their riffy, Southern-style sludge rock sound – which is still true, it just initially happened over two releases – rather than they’re mixing and matching different recordings. By the time you get to either, however, Motherslug will have already bowled over you with rolling, thick sludge riffs that could just as easily have come from Maryland or Virginia as Australia.

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NoSlip Records

Worshipper, Black Corridor/High Above the Clouds

worshipper black corridor high above the clouds

Allston(e) newcomers Worshipper make an accomplished-sounding debut with Black Corridor/High above the Clouds, two self-released tracks that mark their first release as a band. The two-guitar four-piece balance classic metal riffs and doom tendencies with soaring-style clean vocals and fast-moving grooves, as much Candlemass as High on Fire. “Black Corridor” wows with its solo but more with its hook, guitarist John Brookhouse and bassist Bob Maloney sharing vocals while Alejandro Necochea adds guitar and Dave Jarvis draws it all together on drums, and “High above the Clouds” adds some choice early-Dio “Egypt”-ology to the mix. It’s a sense of grandeur that’s neither overblown nor mishandled by the winding track, which coupled with its predecessor demonstrates Worshipper’s firm grip on a style melding heavy rock and metal into a take of their own, and a progression beginning that seems to have a definite idea of where it wants to end up. One can’t help but look forward to finding out.

Worshipper on Thee Facebooks

Worshipper on Bandcamp

Ape Machine, Live at Freak Valley

ape machine live at freak valley

Hard to think of a band from Portland, Oregon, these days as being underrated, but Ape Machine fit the bill all the same. The four-piece of vocalist Caleb Heinze, guitarist Ian Watts, bassist Brian True and drummer Damon de la Paz played Germany’s Freak Valley festival as part of a 2013 European tour in support of the then-recently-released Mangled by the Machine (review here), their third album and Ripple Music debut, and accordingly, most of what shows up on the 48-minute Live at Freak Valley comes from that record, later album cuts like the swaying “Strange are the People” and stomp-slide-fueled “Ruling with Intent” leading to a run through Mangled by the Machine’s first five tracks, in order, to close the set. With a cover of Deep Purple’s “Black Night” (something they also did on their second record) in tow with others from their first two records, Live at Freak Valley makes a solid intro to a group more people should know.

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Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Churchburn, The Awaiting Coffins

churchburn the awaiting coffins

A compilation that draws from Churchburn’s 2013 self-titled and two tracks recorded late in 2013/early in 2014 – opener “Embers of Human Ash” and the subsequent “V” – The Awaiting Coffins revels in its extremity of doom and no-light-shall-pass atmospherics. The duo of vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Dave Suzuki (ex-Vital Remains, among others) and Ray McCaffrey (ex-Sin of Angels) issue the CD/LP via Armageddon Shop, and while there are plenty of droning moments, acoustic interludes and stretches of depressive noise, the Rhode Island outfit is primarily brutal. Suzuki, joined on vocals for the first two cuts by guitarist Kevin Curley and bassist Mike Cardoso, leads a pummeling charge in “V” that’s more death than death-doom, but far be it from me to quibble. For “Come Forth the Swarm,” the Sin of Angels cover “Crown of Fallen Kings” and “Kneel upon Charred Remnants,” it’s just McCaffrey and Suzuki, and the dynamic is different and the recording rawer, but the bleak territory being explored has a similar root. Add on an unlisted cover of Celtic Frost’s “Return to the Eve,” and The Awaiting Coffins is even more of a sure thing.

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Armageddon Shop

OMSQ, Thrust/Parry

omsq thrust parry

Instrumental save for some samples, spoken proclamations and field recordings, Thrust/Parry was released by Belgian outfit OMSQ in limited numbers via Navalorama Records on CD to mark the occasion of a late-2014 UK tour, and it showcases an outfit of rare sonic adventurousness. Progressive, heavy structures unfold across three overarching movements in the 68-minute whole of the album, which at any moment makes shifts between dense riffs and crashing drums and exploratory washes of noise sound not only smooth but fitting, culminations like “North Sea” and 16-minute closer “4:48” as much about finishing a story as providing a sonic payoff, each cut serving not only the movement of which it’s component, but also the overarching flow of the record as whole. Stylistically wide open an unhindered by genre constraints, Thrust/Parry is a challenging listen that satisfies in proportion to how much one is willing to shift along with its changes in mood and style. Evocative throughout, it proves more than worth the effort.

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Navalorama Records

Unhold, Towering

unhold towering

Swiss five-piece Unhold trace their lineage back to an early-‘90s demo, but Towering (on Czar of Crickets) is their fourth album since their 2001 full-length debut, Walking Blackwards, and their first offering in seven years since Gold Cut in 2008. Something of an unexpected return from the Bern troupe, then, but not unwelcome, their Neurosis-influenced post-hardcore/post-metal finding renewed expression in the moody unfolding of “I Belong” or the tense bellow of the later, keyboard-infused “Hydra,” moments of triumph in ambient/crushing tradeoffs of “Voice Within” as guitarists Thomas Tschuor and Philipp Thöni step back and pianist Miriam Wolf takes lead vocals for a movement almost Alcest-like in its melodic course. Drummer Daniel Fischer and bassist Leo Matkovic are less a foundation than part of Towering’s nodding, modern-proggy whole, and it probably works better that way in smoothing out the various turns in extended pieces like the title-track or “Dawn,” which provides the apex of the album with the calmer “Ascending” and “Death Dying” as an epilogue.

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Czar of Crickets

The Heave-Ho, Dead Reckoning

the heave-ho dead reckoning

Three words: Rock and roll. With Boston four-piece The Heave-Ho, it’s less about subgenre and more about paying homage to a classic ideal of straightforward expression. Dead Reckoning, the debut full-length from the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Pete Valle (ex-Quintaine Americana), bassist Keith “Barry” Schleicher (ex-Infernal Overdrive), drummer Dylan Wilson and lead guitarist Lawrence O’Toole, is eight songs (plus a closing radio edit, presumably for WEMF) of unpretentious rendition, steady in its delivery of grown-up-punker hooks and barroom rock such that, when Valle calls for “guitar!” prior to the solo in “Buffalo,” it’s entirely without irony or cynicism. Would be hard for “Thirsty Jesus” not to be a highlight on its title alone, but the lyrics also hold up. With a clean production style, centerpiece moment of clarity in “Afraid to Die,” and particularly riotous finish in “The Line,” Dead Reckoning has little use for stylistic nuance and a confident delivery across the board. Drunk as it is, it does not stumble.

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The Heave-Ho at CDBaby

Crypt, Kvlt MMXIV

crypt kvlt mmxiv

Though Adelaide three-guitar six-piece Crypt title their debut release Kvlt MMXIV, it’s actually a Jan. 2015 release, a half-hour’s worth of stoner chicanery pressed up in a recycled-material digipak with a fold-out liner poster – the lyrics, yes, are written in a rune font – and the disc held in place by a piece of cork. The presentation of the songs themselves is no less off the wall, the lumbering “Green Butter” taking hold from the crust-raw opener “Siberian Exile” with unhinged low-end, drum stomp and some deceptively subtle airy guitar, and the weirdo blues howl of the following “These Last Days” only broadens the scope. Seems fair to say “expect the unexpected” since so much effort has been put into throwing off the frame of reference, but as the fuzz of “Idle Minds” and ambience into righteous groove of closer “Dead River” show, Crypt have more working in their favor than variety for its own sake, namely a fire in their delivery that burns away any slim chance this material had of sounding stale.

Crypt on Thee Facebooks

Crypt on Bandcamp

Oceanwake, Sunless

oceanwake sunless

Ferocious death-doom meets with melodic atmospheres on Oceanwake’s second album, Sunless – a title that’s not quite a full summary of what the Finnish five-piece have on offer throughout the four tracks/44 minutes. Opener “The Lay of an Oncoming Storm,” also the longest cut at 15:35 (immediate points), shifts back and forth between lumbering brutality and sparse guitar atmospherics, and while one waits for the inevitable clean vocals that would put Oceanwake in league with countrymen Swallow the Sun, they don’t come yet. Instead, the track explodes into crashes and screams. Ten-minute closer “Ephemeral” holds the most satisfying build, but between the two, “Parhelion” (9:09) and “Avanturine” (8:03) manage to remind of the particular melancholic beauty of death-doom – including some of those melodic vocals – and how resonant its contrast of light and dark can be when held together by an emotional core as resonant as that of Oceanwake. Sunless is gorgeous and devastating, and not necessarily alternating between the two.

Oceanwake on Thee Facebooks

ViciSolum Productions on Bandcamp

Lunar Electric, Lunar Electric


While one struggles not to be skeptical of any release in this day and age that opens with a “Radio Edit,” I won’t discount the quality of songwriting L.A.-based Lunar Electric display throughout their self-titled EP. Now a duo driven by guitarist/vocalist Dre DiMura, the band is highly-stylized but brims with a classic heavy rock swagger in “Bread and Circuses” (the aforementioned radio edit) and the subsequent “Moonlight,” a steady swing emerging in layers of heavy riffing and DiMura’s own croon, pushed ahead by the straightforward drumming of Kaleen Reading and the low-end heft of bassist Geena Spigarelli. They make a solid trio across “Moonlight” and “Sleepwaker,” which follows with its chugging break foreshadowing closer “Crossfire Child” (video premiere here) while building a tension of its own, though it seems unlikely that whatever Lunar Electric do next will have the same lineup because of geographic spread. Too bad. While young, and somewhat brooding, Lunar Electric nonetheless offer up a work of marked potential in their EP’s quick 17-minute span.

Dre DiMura’s website

Dre DiMura on Instagram

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