The Golden Grass, Coming Back Again: Shine a Little Light

Posted in Reviews on April 26th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the-golden-grass-coming-back-again

It’s much to The Golden Grass‘ credit that their second album, Coming Back Again, retains the ‘g’ at the end of the word “coming.” The Brooklynite trio seem to have a sense of just where the line is that would put them over-the-top, beyond belief, and they walk that line carefully throughout their sophomore long-player and Listenable Records debut as they did on their 2014 self-titled first outing (review here), released on Svart. That record’s primary contribution came via its overarching positivity — its material dared to be sweet, melodic, graceful, friendly and warm in a climate that reads authenticity mostly via the miserable, even as regards underground heavy music. The Golden Grass‘ boogie worked in direct opposition to that, and much to their credit at their beginning, they had the songwriting to back up their stylization. Fortunately, that remains true on Coming Back Again.

The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Michael Rafalowich, drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney and newcomer bassist/vocalist Frank Caira present six tracks/38 minutes conveniently split across two sides, tracked by Jeff Berner at Galuminum Foil Productions, and geared to be as friendly, welcoming and accessible as possible, while also retaining a sense of heft to the tones and rhythmic push — if you want people to dance, give them a shove — and exploring a newfound progressive flourish in the instrumental chemistry that marks a clear, mindful step forward from the debut two years ago. That answers a big question coming into the album, since it was plain from the effort the band put into their presentation that they had no intention of standing still creatively, but it was up in the air how that progression would manifest. It’s manifested as progress. Go figure.

Crucially, as Coming Back Again moves The Golden Grass‘ sound ahead from where it was, that doesn’t come at the expense of the feelgood atmosphere or the melodic richness overall. If anything, even as the emotional context broadens with some more wistful lyrics, it deepens both the atmosphere and level of performance, as opener “Get it Together” (video premiere here) launches with an immediate rhythmic movement leading to a call and response verse from Rafalowich and Kriney, whose harmonies have only become more engaging. Psychedelic lead guitar in a quick break prefaces jams to come, but the band is looking to start out with earthier fare, and the boogie is as strong as the hook in “Get it Together.” It’s not until the break after about four minutes in that the guitar and drums begin to signal some of the sonic shift Coming Back Again will really present, building to a psych-prog swirl atop Caira‘s rock-solid bassline before Rafalowich‘s dream-tone lead takes hold, shifting back to ground in a tambourine-inclusive gallop that finishes the song. That’s a lot of ground to cover in about two minutes’ time, but The Golden Grass masterfully guide “Get it Together” to a sunshiny melodic finish and the tones fade just in time to let the jazzier “Reflections in the Glass” take hold with a smooth entrance.

the golden grass

Caira shines in the transition between verses, along with some keys and interwoven layers of acoustic and electric guitar — the band once again making complex ideas sound simple — and Rafalowich and Kriney execute a thoughtful vocal arrangement to add to the lushness, both easing back for a more gentle delivery than the harder rocking “Get it Together,” but still finding resolution in the last moments of “Reflections in the Glass,” guitar, bass and drums rounding out deceptively complex turns that meet head on with the launch of side A finale, “Shadow Traveler,” more immediately psychedelic. As one of two cuts on Coming Back Again over eight minutes, one might expect full-on prog exploration, but at least in its early going, “Shadow Traveler” is some of the rawest boogie here on offer, Rafalowich calling out both himself and Kriney in the lyrics — “Hey now here comes Adzo/He gonna show you how to swing” — and so he does, in one of the album’s most resonant choruses and subsequent grooves.

Much of the second half of the song is given to an extended psych jam, Rafalowich and Kriney trading lines back and forth referencing other songs on the album — “Get it Together,” “Reflections in the Glass,” the forthcoming “Down the Line” and closer “See it Through” — in a manner classic and brilliant in how it positions the first-time listener with an immediate familiarity with what they’ve just heard. After a finishing wash and crash, side B begins with the interlude “Hazy Daybreak”; two and a half-minutes interplay between far-back airy electric and progressive acoustic guitar, quiet drums, finger snaps, shaker, etc., that, sadly, doesn’t meet with any vocal harmonies on its brief path. I would not be surprised if next time, i.e., on the next album, the case turns out to be different, but if The Golden Grass are telegraphing future experimentation, they’re no less clearheaded about it than they are with their more established movements on Coming Back Again, such as the building tension of the opening to “Down the Line,” which becomes a defining piece for the album in more than just its 9:45 runtime, an early chug and vocal harmonies giving due sense of motion to the chorus “Going down the line.”

After the initial Kriney-led verses, Rafalowich takes the fore through a section past three and a half minutes in that is the departure point for an extended jam careening through psychedelic lead work and rumbling into quiet bass, drums and sparse guitar noise as it moves into the song’s midsection — the foundation of a subdued dream-prog sequence that moves back to reality via Kriney‘s toms and eventually, skillfully, brings back the verse and chorus to close out with emphasis on the control that was never lost. That makes closer “See it Through” something of a victory lap, though a subtly moodier take in the lyrics — plus another noteworthy performance from Caira — also serve as distinguishing factors. And they find room for a boogie jam as well, pushing toward the last hook with handclaps, interspliced layers of fuzz and bass, cowbell, snare and so on as they execute one final round of deceptively tight rhythmic turns while sounding like they’re smiling all the while. The push ends with a “woo!” and that’s about all that needs to be said.

As much as it affirms what The Golden Grass accomplished their first time out, Coming Back Again also leaves that record behind in terms of its ambition and the chemistry in development between RafalowichKriney and Caira, who by no means sounds as new to the band in these tracks as he was when they were recorded. With a grander scope that still sounds definitively natural, The Golden Grass strike a rare balance between accessibility and progressive drive in cuts like “Shadow Traveler,” “Reflections in the Glass” and “See it Through” that, along with “Hazy Daybreak,” set a context for future growth while giving their audience songs that, in the present, are worth returning to the way one enjoys visiting good friends. They’re working toward forward movement sonically, but The Golden Grass remain a band with a deeply individual take on heavy rock, and there’s nothing else out there quite like them.

The Golden Grass, Coming Back Again (2016)

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The Golden Grass on Bandcamp

The Golden Grass at Listenable Records

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EYE Confirmed for The Obelisk All-Dayer, Aug. 20 at Saint Vitus Bar

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on April 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk all-dayer

Buy Tickets Here

Today I’m ridiculously pleased to announce that lush progressive heavy psych rockers EYE will play the first-ever The Obelisk All-Dayer on Aug. 20 at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, NY.

By the time Aug. 20 gets here, EYE will have very likely issued Vision and the Ageless Light, their third full-length and first for The Laser’s Edge. The album arrives following a grueling three-year wait since EYE‘s last release, 2013’s Second Sight (review here), and features new guitarist Jon Finley and new bassist Michael Sliclen alongside founders Lisa Bella Donna (synth) and Brandon Smith (drums), embarking on an expansion of the melodically resonant poise they showed last time out and on their 2011 debut, Center of the Sun (review here).

I’ve been fortunate enough to see EYE live, and their flowing, patient, heavy and thoughtful material is a perfect fit for The Obelisk All-Dayer. If you haven’t been introduced, their latest outing was 2014’s Live at Relay (review here), which brought together two eyemassive, 19-minute cosmic explorations captured, as the title indicates, completely on the move. The textures they’re able to create on those songs push through atmospheric boundaries to create something as spaced-out as it is plotted, and EYE steer their ship with a rare grace as they move further and further away from terra firma.

Bella Donna had this to say about playing: “We are equally excited to rip some music as well as listen during the festival. We are very big fans of The Obelisk and our full intention is to celebrate that energy and the momentum that JJ has already elevated. We have a lot of new sounds and vibes flowing in our music, so we’re excited to bring them to the already great host of music we’ll get the opportunity to listen and party to.”

EYE join the previously announced Mars Red SkySnailKing Buffalo and Funeral Horse on the bill for The Obelisk All-Dayer. Tickets are available now. Three more bands still TBA.

The Obelisk All-Dayer is Aug. 20, 2016, at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, New York, and will feature full sets, after-show DJs, food truck on-hand, live recordings, limited edition merch and much more. Stay tuned for announcements to follow.

The Obelisk All-Dayer tickets

The Obelisk All-Dayer event page

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EYE on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Chron Goblin, Slabdragger, Jupiter, Izo, Cultist, Haoma, Spaceslug, Slush, Menimals, The Linus Pauling Quartet

Posted in Reviews on April 1st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk quarterly review spring 2016

Thus ends another successful Quarterly Review. And by successful I mean I survived. There were a few minutes there when I actually thought about spreading this out to six days, doing another batch of 10 on Monday, but then what happens? Then it’s seven days, then eight, then nine, and before I know it I’m just doing 10 reviews every day and it’s more of a daily review than a quarterly one. Next week we’ll get back to whatever passes for normality around this place, and at the end of June, I’ll have another batch to roll with. Maybe the beginning of July, depending on time. In any case, thank you for reading this week. I hope you’ve found something in all this that you’ve dug, and that this final round offers something else that resonates.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Chron Goblin, Backwater

chron goblin backwater

Calgary party rockers Chron Goblin pay homage to Seattle with a song named after the city on their third album, Backwater (on Ripple Music), but they continue to have way more in common with Portland, Oregon. The follow-up to 2013’s Life for the Living (review here) pushes into psychedelic groove early in its title-track and gets bluesy for most of the subsequent “The Wailing Sound,” but it seems even that song can’t resist the urge to throw down and have a good time by the end, and cuts like “Give Way,” the galloping opener “Fuller” and the requisite “Hard Living” reaffirm the band’s commitment to heavy riffs and positive vibes. The stylistic elephant in the room continues to be Red Fang, but as they’ve done all along, Chron Goblin work in shades of other influences in heavy rock – if they were from the Eastern Seaboard, I’d call it Roadsaw – and put a stamp of their own on the style.

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Ripple Music

 

Slabdragger, Rise of the Dawncrusher

slabdragger rise of the dawncrusher

“Mercenary Blues” is near-immediate in telegraphing the level of heft Slabdragger will emit across their second album, Rise of the Dawncrusher, which tops an hour in five tracks (one of them four minutes long) and shifts between clean vocals, screams and growls from bassist/vocalist Yusuf Tary and guitarist/vocalist Sam Thredder as drummer Jack Newham holds together tempo shifts no less drastic. The shorter cut, “Evacuate!,” is an extreme take on heavy rock, but as Slabdragger move through the extended “Shrine of Debauchery” (12:23), “Dawncrusher Rising” (15:16) and “Implosion Rites” (17:20), their methods prove varied enough so that their material is more than just an onslaught of thickened distortion. I wouldn’t call it progressive exactly, but neither is it lunkheaded in its intention or execution, as the chanted melodies buried deep in “Shrine of Debauchery”’s lumber, derived perhaps in part from Conan and Sleep but beholden to neither so much as its own righteous purposes.

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Holy Roar Records

 

Jupiter, Interstellar Chronodive

jupiter interstellar chronodive

Finnish heavy psychedelic rockers Jupiter take a decidedly naturalist position when it comes to their style. Yeah, there are some effects on the guitars throughout Interstellar Chronidive, the trio’s second album behind 2014’s Your Eccentric State of Mind, but it’s more about what the three players can accomplish with dynamic tempo and mood changes than it is creating a wash, and that gives songs like “Stonetrooper” and “Dispersed Matter/Astral Portal” a classic feel despite a decidedly modern production. “Premonitions” provides raucous fuzz worthy of any next-gen stoners you want to name, and the 14-minute “In Flux” answers its own initial thrust with and expansive, liquefied jam that’s all the more emblematic of the organic core to their approach, Hendrix-derived but not Hendrix-emulating. Bright guitar tone, rich bass and swinging drums aren’t necessarily unfamiliar elements, but the touches of space rock narration on “Dispersed Matter/Astral Portal” and the consuming nod of closer “Vantage Point” assure there’s no shortage of personality to go around.

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Jupiter on Bandcamp

 

Izo, Izo

izo izo

Also stylized as IZ? with a long accent over the ‘o,’ Izo is the self-titled debut from Italian double-guitar instrumental four-piece Izo, who bookend four flowing and densely weighted progressions with an intro and outro to add to the atmospheric breadth. Rather than choose between heaviness or ambience, Izo – guitarists Paolo Barone and Maurizio Calò, bassist Francesco de Pascali and drummer Luca Greco – play both into each other so that a song like “Hikkomori” is as engaging in its heft as it is hypnotic. That might be easier to do without vocals, but it’s essential to Izo’s approach, and something that, for their debut, sets up future expansion of post-metal and psychedelic elements. I’m not sure if there’s a theme or narrative for the album, but consistent use of Japanese language and imagery ties the material together all the same, and Izo emerge from their first album having shown a clearheadedness of purpose that can only continue to serve them well.

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Acid Cosmonaut Records

 

Cultist, Three Candles

cultist three candles

Cultist made their introductory statement in the early hours of 2016 with Three Candles, a five-song EP from the social media-averse Cleveland, Ohio, trio featuring members of Skeletonwitch, Mockingbird and Howl. In the wall of fuzz they construct, the swing injected into their rhythms and the use of multiple vocalists, there’s a strong undercurrent of Uncle Acid to “Path of the Old One,” but “Consuming Damnation” distinguishes itself with a more aggressive take, rawer in its melodies, and the creeping closer “Eternal Dark” is up to something entirely more doomed. How this balance will play out with the more familiar riff-patterning in “Follow Me” is the central question, but for their first tracks to be made public, Cultist’s Three Candles offers fullness of sound and the realization of an aesthetic purpose. Yes, there’s room to grow, but they already have a better handle on what they want to do than a lot of bands, so it should be interesting to keep up.

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Cultist on Bandcamp

 

Haoma, Eternal Stash

haoma eternal stash

Ultra-thick, ultra-dank, Haoma is the work of Swedish duo R (bass/vocals) and S (drums), and the three-tracker Eternal Stash is their second self-released EP. The offering takes its title from the opener and longest track (immediate points), and wastes no time with subtlety in getting down on molten Cisneros-style stoner-doom grooves. Sleep meets Om isn’t a huge divide to cross, but there’s a blown-out sensibility to the vocals as well that speaks to some element of Electric Wizard at play, and the overarching roughness suits Haoma’s tonal crunch well. Even when they break to wah bass in the second half of “Eternal Stash” to set up the ensuing jam, this underlying harshness remains, and “Unearthly Creatures” and “Orbital Flight” build on that, the latter with a march that feels more decidedly individual even if constructed on familiar ground. Heavy, raw, unpretentious celebration of groove is almost always welcome by me, and so Haoma’s Eternal Stash is likewise.

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Haoma on Bandcamp

 

Spaceslug, Lemanis

spaceslug lemanis

Another boon to Poland’s emerging heavy rock scene, Wroclaw’s Spaceslug slime their way out of the ground with their debut long-player, Lemanis, a seven-cut paean to weighted tone and laid back roll. Vocally, the trio seem to take a cue from the Netherlands’ Sungrazer, but their riffs are far more dense and while the penultimate interlude “Quintessence” and the earlier “Galectelion” demonstrate a sense of spaciousness, the context in which that arrives is much more weighted and, particularly in the second half of “Supermassive,” feels culled from the Sleep school of Iommic idolatry. No complaints. The record clocks in at 43 minutes all told and in no way overstays its welcome, rounding out with the nine-minute title-track, an instrumental that’s probably not improvised but comes across as exploratory all the same. The CD version is out through BSFD Records, but don’t be surprised when someone picks it up for a vinyl issue, as both the front-to-back flow and the artwork seem to be made for it.

Spaceslug on Thee Facebooks

Spaceslug on Bandcamp

 

Slush, American Demons

slushies american demons

An element of twang that seems present even in the most uproarious moments of SlushAmerican Demons tape comes to the fore with the brief “Leshy,” a quick, fleetly-strummed bit of slide guitar the follows highlight cut “Bathysphere” and precedes “Death Valley,” both of which bask full-on in the garage shake, proto-punk vibe and anything goes swagger the Brooklynite trio have on offer throughout their third EP. That countrified twist plays well alongside the drawling skate rock of “In the Flesh,” which seems to take on some of The Shrine’s West Coast skate vibes with a twist of New York fuckall, and the quick crotchal thrust off “Silk Road,” which serves as Slush’ most purely punkish moment. “Death Valley” closes out with a tale of drugs and the desert, the vocals somewhere between Misfits and early Nick Cave, drenched in attitude and accompanied by fuzz that seems to be likewise. Bonus points for the silver tape and copious included art and info.

Slushies on Bandcamp

Lean on Bandcamp

 

Menimals, Menimals

menimals menimals

Strange spirits are afoot throughout MenimalsMenimals, the maybe-debut from the Italian troupe who engage wantonly in the proliferation of post-Mike Patton creepy darkjazz across five cuts of sparse, spacious weirdness. Issued through Phonosphera/Riot Season, it’s a work of high atmospheric density but ultimately more about mood than sonic impact, evoking complex shapes – dodecahedrons, tetrahedrons, octahedrons – as a mirror for its own quizzical mission. The kind of record that those who don’t spend time trying to figure it out are going to have more fun with, it makes its most effective impression on “Transitioning from a Cube to the Octahedron” on side B, evoking minimalist drone rock atmospheres as whispered vocals tie it to the rest of Menimals’ bizarre vibe. That’s not to take away from the noisy finish of closer “Bird on the Wind as a Hinge,” which follows, just to note that Menimals manage to somehow find balance in all the subdued seething and resonant experimentalism.

Menimals on Thee Facebooks

Riot Season Records

Phonosphera Records

 

The Linus Pauling Quartet, Ampalanche

the-linus-pauling-quartet-ampalanche

By way of a confession, I wanted to end this batch of 50 reviews with something I knew I dug, and that distinction goes to Houston rockers Linus Pauling Quartet, whose latest full-length, Ampalanche, is released via the label wing of Italian ‘zine Vincebus Eruptum. An album that offers some of the most pretense-free rock flute I’ve ever heard on “Slave to the Die,” it’s a down-home weirdo rocker that might, at a moment’s notice, plunge full-on into psychedelia in “Sometimes” or, say, include a 49-minute echoing space-drone “Vi, de Druknede (We, the Drowned)” as a download-only bonus track, and the fact that Linus Pauling Quartet can always be relied on for something different but consistent in charm and the quality of songwriting is not to be taken for granted, whether it’s the Midwestern noise rock of “Brisket” or the fuzzy roll of dreamy album-closer “Alive.” Yeah, I was doing myself a favor by finishing with Ampalanche. I have absolutely zero regrets. Linus Pauling Quartet continue to be woefully underappreciated.

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Vincebus Eruptum webstore

 

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Quarterly Review: Eight Bells, Öken, Brimstone Coven, Pants Exploder, Shallows, Monumentum, Famyne, Ethereal Riffian, Wet Cactus, Forming the Void

Posted in Reviews on March 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk quarterly review spring 2016

I thought yesterday went pretty well, by which I mean I didn’t receive any complaints that somebody’s name was spelled wrong (yet), so I feel alright going into the second batch of releases for the Quarterly Review. Today mixes it up a bit, which is something I always enjoy doing with these, and while I’ll take pains to emphasize that the list of releases today, as with every day, isn’t in order, there was no way I wasn’t going to start with the first record below. Some albums just demand top placement.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Eight Bells, Landless

eight bells landless

However you define the word “heavy” as it relates to music, Eight Bells are it. The Portland, Oregon, trio release their second album and first for Battleground Records in the form of the five-track Landless, and from the opening sprawl and lumber of “Hating” through the crawling-plus-blasting chaos of “Touch Me,” a strong progressive current underscores the material – most notably the 13-minute title-track, but really the rest as well, which flows gracefully even in its harshest moments, the blackened rush in the second half of “Landless,” for example, which follows psychedelic drones and harmonies just minutes before, or the similar thrust of centerpiece “Hold My Breath,” which works in tighter quarters but manages to span genres all the same. “The Mortal’s Suite” provides some respite in airy guitar and airier vocals, giving new drummer Rae Amitay a break while showcasing the harmonies of guitarist Melynda Jackson (ex-SubArachnoid Space) and bassist Haley Westeiner. As open atmospherically as the band is in their creative scope, there just isn’t a level on which Landless isn’t superb.

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Battleground Records

 

Öken, Öken

oken oken

Swedish four-piece Öken do themselves huge favors by refusing to be easily categorized on their 2015 self-titled Ozium Records debut full-length, which runs an immersive 62 minutes and blends doom, classic heavy/desert rock and forest psych with subtle grace throughout its eight tracks, each of which is fleshed out in an overarching naturalist atmosphere. “Väktaren” dives headfirst into boogie only after initial minimalist teasing, and “Crimson Moon” bursts to life after a hypnotic psychedelic opening to find its crux in later runs of dueling guitars. The two closing cuts, “Under Vår Sol” and “Cuauhtémoc” are an album unto themselves, the former nodding initially at Sungrazer’s serene vibes before pushing into even more open psychedelic territory, and the latter proffering riffy largesse en route to a striking classic prog finish. That Öken make these elements work side-by-side and transition from one to the other fluidly is emblematic of the confidence at work in the band, and they carry their scope with organic-sounding ease.

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Ozium Records

 

Brimstone Coven, Black Magic

brimstone coven black magic

West Virginian roots doomers Brimstone Coven made their debut on Metal Blade in 2015 with a self-titled EP compilation (track stream here), and Black Magic is their first full-length. Its 10 tracks/54 minutes take cues varyingly from classic heavy rock, doom and the less majestic side of the NWOBHM, but Brimstone Coven’s approach is marked out by the extensive use of vocal harmonies on cuts like the prog-tinged “Beyond the Astral,” the later moments of raw-roller “Upon the Mountain” and “The Plague.” Black Magic’s production is barebones enough that this singing – credited solely to “Big John” Williams, while Corey Roth handles guitar, Andrew D’Cagna bass and Justin Wood drums – doesn’t really soar so much as nestle in and enhance the begging-for-vinyl analog-worship of the instruments surrounding, a proliferation of cultish themes distinguishing Brimstone Coven even as a song like “The Seers” finds them inheriting a trad-doom soulfulness from The Gates of Slumber.

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Metal Blade Records

 

Pants Exploder, Pants Exploder

pants exploder pants exploder

Between its vicious aggression, inhumane chug and have-fun-enduring-this stomp, the self-titled, self-released debut LP from Pants Exploder could just as easily be definitive New York noise, but the low-end heft of their assault right from opener “It’s Ok, I’m Wiccan.” (punctuation included in title) has an element of early-Mastodonic lumber, and that’s a thread that continues throughout “End of the World” and “You Don’t Strike Me as a Reader,” which offsets its slab-of-concrete-on-your-chest push with moments of respite, but remains driving in its intensity. As in, driving your head into the ground. Also the ground is pavement. It’s fucking heavy, is the point. To wit, the mega-plod of “Um, I Curated an Art Show in College, So…” and thrust of “God Has a Plan for Me.” Capping with the seven-minute “You Smug Bastard,” Pants Exploder pays off the tension they build in a noise-wash fury that is as impressive as it is scathing.

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Pants Exploder on Bandcamp

 

Shallows, The Moon Rises

shallows the moon rises

The rather ominous The Moon Rises EP is the first non-demo offering from Asheville, North Carolina, four-piece Shallows, who blend heavy psychedelic and grunge influences across its five tracks, opener “Shimmering” and closer “Distance” mirroring each other’s spacious push while between, “Zero,” “A Mile Beneath” and the Earth-influenced “The Barn Burning” enact gorgeous vocal harmonies between Cameron Zarrabzadeh and HannahLynn Cruey atop atmospheric heavy rock, hitting into Alice in Chains-meets-Kylesa territory on the centerpiece, “A Mile Beneath,” which is a fair bit of ground to cover. That cut is the high point in showcasing Shallows’ potential, but the Western take with “The Barn Burning” and meandering post-rock echoes and organ of “Distance” only add to the breadth of this impressive, too-short collection. With a focus consistently kept on ambience throughout, The Moon Rises flows like a full-length album, and so bodes that much better for what Shallows will be able to accomplish when they get there. I’ll look forward to it.

Shallows on Thee Facebooks

Shallows on Bandcamp

 

Monumentum, The Killer is Me

monumentum the killer is me

Even before they get to the all the aggro fuzz riffing, there’s a distinct threat of violence in Monumentum’s The Killer is Me. Its four songs, “Noose,” “Whore,” “Fiend and Foe” and “Killer Me,” each seem to find the Norwegian band doling out noise-influenced heavy rock, driven by some underlying dissatisfaction on this, their first EP. Released on vinyl through Blues for the Red Sun Records, it offsets being so outwardly pissed off through groove, the starts and stops of “Killer Me” and the rolling seven minutes of opener and longest track “Noose” (immediate points) both marked out for both their tonal weight and the force with which Monumentum push their material forward – not speedy, though “Whore” is by no means slow, but dense and emitting a residual tension all the same. Somewhat unipolar in its mood, The Killer is Me still manages to give an initial impression of what Monumentum are about sound-wise, and provides them with a solid start to work from.

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Blues for the Red Sun Records

 

Famyne, Famyne

famyne famyne

While the UK isn’t at all short on doom or sludge at this point, Canterbury five-piece Famyne distinguish themselves on their self-titled first EP with a traditional take and the at-times theatric harmonies of vocalist Tom Vane. Along with guitarists Alex Tolson and Alex Williams, bassist Chris Travers and drummer Jake Cook, Vane nods at Alice in Chains on lumbering opener “Enter the Sloth” without going full-on “hey whoa momma yeah” and provides a considerable frontman presence, particularly for a debut recording. Comprising three songs with the speedier bonus track “Long Lost Winter” as an add-on download with the CD version, Famyne’s Famyne EP finds its crux in the nod and push of the 10-minute “The Forgotten,” which takes a cue atmospherically from The Wounded Kings but finds its own, less-cultish niche in bringing new energy to classic doom and setting in motion a progression that already puts an individual stamp on established tenets.

Famyne on Thee Facebooks

Famyne on Bandcamp

 

Ethereal Riffian, Youniversal Voice

ethereal riffian youniversal voice

There’s patient, and then there’s Ethereal Riffian, whose riffy ritualizing and exploration nonetheless brims with some intangible energetic sensibility on their new live outing, Youniversal Voice. Heavy psychedelic wash, thick riffs, theatric vocals and guitar effects, stoner roll and the occasional fit of shredding, one might hear any of it at a given point in over-12-minute cuts like “Wakan Tanka” and “Anatman,” the latter which arrives as the penultimate of the eight-song/56-minute set. The clarity, for being a live album, is remarkable, and Ethereal Riffian add to the experience with a CD version that includes a candle, elaborate packaging and artwork, and tea, so the multi-sensory impression is obviously important, and where many live outings are throwaways or a means of bowing to contractual obligation, Youniversal Voice adds to Ethereal Riffian’s studio work a substantial ambassasorial feel, conveying an onstage vibe with a fullness of sound and clarity of mind not often heard.

Ethereal Riffian on Thee Facebooks

Ethereal Riffian on Bandcamp

 

Wet Cactus, Wet Cactus

wet cactus wet cactus

Desert rock trio Wet Cactus don’t make any bones about where they’re getting their influence from on their late-2015 self-titled second EP. By the time they get around to the penultimate “The Road” on the five-track/24-minute outing, they’ve dug themselves in deep into the worship of crunchy Kyuss-style riffing, and you can throw in looks for Unida, Queens of the Stone Age, Slo Burn and whoever else of that milieu, but Kyuss is at the root of it all anyway. Less grand in their production than UK outfit Steak, who operated in similar territory on their 2014 debut LP, Slab City, Wet Cactus keep it natural in the tradition of their forebears, and while there’s room for them to grow into a more individual approach, the hazy fuckall in closer “World’s Law” has a stoner charm before and after it kicks into a punkish push to close out. Cool vibe either way, and the tone is dead on. If these cats go jammier, watch out.

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Odio Sonoro

 

Forming the Void, Skyward

forming the void skyward

I won’t say a bad word about the artwork of David Paul Seymour in the context of this review or any other, but ultimately, Louisiana doomers Forming the Void are coming from someplace much more in line with progressive metal than the three-eyed goat and robed figures on the cover of their second album, Skyward, might represent. Again, that’s not a knock on Seymour, or for that matter, the band, just that the look of the record is deceptive, dogwhistling stonerisms even as moody cuts like the opening title-track and “Three Eyed Gazelle” – while thoroughly doomed in their vibe – prove more lucidly constructed. That holds true through the chugging centerpiece “Saber” as well, marked out by vocal harmonizing, and “Return Again,” which rolls through atmospheric metal and an ambient interlude to enact the record’s most memorable payoff and set up the linear course of the more patient closer “Sleepwalker.” Cohesive in mood and clearly plotted, Skyward is ultimately darker and more driven than it might at first appear.

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Forming the Void on Bandcamp

 

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SNAIL Confirmed for The Obelisk All-Dayer, Aug. 20 at Saint Vitus Bar

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on March 17th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk all-dayer

Buy Tickets Here

I’m happy to report the first-ever The Obelisk All-Dayer, Aug. 20 at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, NY, will also mark the first-ever East Coast appearance of Snail.

The band, who released their finest outing to-date in last year’s Feral (review here), go back some 23 years, having gotten their start with an underrated self-titled album that was followed the next year by an EP and then 16 full years of silence before 2009’s Blood (review here) brought them back. That record, 2012’s Terminus (review here), and Feral established them as masters of heavy psych grooves, rolling maximum-density riffs with a laid back vibe that few dare to be chill enough to match, full in sound and soothing even in its most chaotic moments.

I was fortunate enough to see Snail play a few years back in San Francisco (review here), and snailthey were killer then. Now, back to their original trio incarnation with guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson, bassist Matt Lynch and drummer Marty DodsonSnail will hit the Eastern Seaboard for the first time to play a full-hour set and join the bill with France’s Mars Red Sky (also their first East Coast appearance), Texas trio Funeral Horse, Rochester, NY’s King Buffalo, and more TBA at The Obelisk All-Dayer. It wouldn’t be a party without them.

Comments Mark Johnson on making the trip from the West Coast to play: “People have been asking us to play on the East Coast for years. Honestly, personally, this is one of the most exciting things in my life. I’ve been to Manhattan once and completely fell in love — so super-happy to be going back to NY… this time Brooklyn!!! And it feels like going home in some way since we’re all friends and you are putting this on.”

That’s precisely the vibe I’m going for with this whole idea. We’re all friends, it’s gonna be a good time, and we’re all hopefully going to feel at home in some big ol’ heavy hippie kind of way. I’m dead serious. The closer we get to this thing happening, the more excited I am. I hope you feel the same, and I hope to see you there.

The Obelisk All-Dayer is Aug. 20, 2016, at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, New York, and will feature full sets, after-show DJs, food truck on-hand, live recordings, limited edition merch and much more. Stay tuned for announcements to follow.

More to come!

The Obelisk All-Dayer tickets

The Obelisk All-Dayer event page

Snail on Thee Facebooks

Feral on Bandcamp

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Black Black Black, Altered States of Death and Grace: Stealing Lloyd’s Meds

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 11th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

black black black altered states of death and grace

[Click play above to hear the premiere of “Let’s Scare Death to Death” from Black Black Black’s Altered States of Death and Grace. Album is out March 25 and they play Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn on March 12 with STATS and Craw for the latter’s reunion show.]

Its title does a lot of work. More than you might think at first. Brooklynite four-piece Black Black Black made their self-titled debut (review here) in 2013 via Aqualamb Records, and their second full-length, Altered States of Death and Grace follows suit in a jagged aesthetic somewhere between noise, sludge and heavy rock, but is a more richly thematic work across its span, and, again, a lot of the considerable ground it covers can be glimpsed in the title. To parse it out: “Altered states” refers to a running lyrical theme of medication, which starts with opener “Zoloft Manual” and continues in “Lloyd Needs Meds,” “Let’s Scare Death to Death” and “Jessup Jessup Jessup,” while “death” shows up in many of the tracks as well.

The “grace” portion of the album’s name would seem to be more of an aspirational perspective — what all this emotional struggle and wrangling is pushing toward — but there is a certain amount of bliss that arrives in the wash of Jacob Cox‘s guitar that rounds out closer “When Dying’s Done,” also the longest track of the included 10 at over eight minutes. Most of the rest of Altered States of Death and Grace happens in fits and starts, purposefully disjointed for effect between cuts like “Lloyd Needs Meds” and “Let’s Bloodlet” — which boasts one of two guest appearances by Unsane‘s Dave Curran alongside Black Black Black‘s vocalist, Jason Alexander Byers, who, like Cox, is a former member of underrated late-’90s/early-aughts post-hardcore outfit Disengage — but often pushing beyond noise rock in a way that unites the material instrumentally much as the lyrical thematic draws out an overarching point of view, a single mindset, as though all the songs were written in a sole, deeply manic afternoon.

Whether or not they were, of course, I don’t know. I’d guess not, if only for the breadth that Byers, Cox, bassist Johnathan Swafford and drummer Jeff Ottenbacher — who one might be tempted to call a “secret weapon” were his snare not punching you in the face — cover across Altered States of Death and Grace, between the spacious post-punk swagger of “Zoloft Manual,” which also marks an appearance from Curran in its open, handclap-inclusive chorus, the subsequent “I Got Scabies,” maddeningly catchy and loaded with crunch, and “Lloyd Needs Meds,” which picks up a semi-psychedelic thread from the first record and explores it efficiently, keeping an underlying sense of threat thanks to the rhythmic sharpening of knives that, indeed, runs through the whole track. These three make an opening salvo that’s relatively short — the whole album is done in 33 minutes and eight of that goes to “When Dying’s Done” — but covers a deceptively wide range with little to no fanfare or allowance for digestion.

black black black (Photo by Evan Sung)

A result, then, is that multiple listens lead to better appreciation, and that’s true of the record in its entirety, as the all-thrust “Let’s Bloodlet” counts in on Ottenbacher‘s snare and enacts a first minute of very, very New York aggression before its second half establishes its hook, “Bloodlet, until you’re blue/Bloodlet, you’re turning blue,” and builds en route to an increasingly noisy finale. What I suspect is the side A closer — also the longest track other than the finale, though only about half as long at 4:13 — “Exorcist Everything” signals its malevolence with an intro of plus-sized drums before a brooding couple lines from Byers explodes into an assault worthy of fellow Brooklyn dwellers Kings Destroy or, from the other side of the planet, New Zealand’s Beastwars, lurching and sludged-out, but coherent as well in its purpose. The drums turn out to be the foundation for loud/quiet tradeoffs and they carry the feedback-topped progression through to its finish, always keeping the threat that the song might burst to life again, even as it fades out we hear some conversation in the studio.

Reviving the forward push, “Let’s Scare Death to Death” would also seem to offer a hint toward “grace” as applies to the album’s title. Its lyric a somewhat sardonic view of touring life — “Moron on medication/Microphone in hand/How many souls can we cram into a passenger van?” — it’s a quick two-minute run that feeds complementary into the opening of “Jessup Jessup Jessup” and sets up the fluid back half of the album, shorter on the whole en route to “When Dying’s Done,” but offering a different take in each song as it goes, whether that’s the catchy repetitions of the title in the hook of “Jessup Jessup Jessup” or the minute-plus thrust of “Every Dentist Does,” a shorter, punkier companion piece for “Let’s Bloodlet,” or “Slowly Severed,” which starts with gasping breaths into a shout, but unfolds the most satisfying melody of Altered States of Death and Grace. Byers moves into and out of harmony and time with guest vocalist Jesse Quattro such that in combination with the nod and chug of the riff in its verses, the song makes for a singularly resonant impression, asking “What are we still doing in the dark?” as it closes out.

There’s something of a surprising shuffle to the beginning stretch of “When Dying’s Done,” a turn that Black Black Black seem to have saved for last, and a deeper-feeling mix gives them plenty of work to set up the already-noted wash of guitar to come. A couple relatively subdued verses play out smoothly over the chug and a section of swirling squibblies signals the shift into the instrumental finale, the drums sprinting back and forth before locking in a swinging progression that pulls itself apart measure by measure until about four and a half minutes in, the remaining time given to waves of drone and noise that cascade and end Altered States of Death and Grace with one last charge into the unknown. That territory suits Black Black Black as well as do their noisier, more furious stretches, and it’s ultimately in how well they play the one off the other, as well as in the thematic development, that the album finds its identity and its growth from the debut, its cerebral engagement working with a correspondingly primal underpinning. I’m not sure if Black Black Black ever find the grace they’re reaching for, but their journey through death and altered states finds them unflinching in their resolve to get there.

Black Black Black on Thee Facebooks

Black Black Black with Craw and STATS at Saint Vitus Bar March 12 event page

Black Black Black website

Aqualamb website

Aqualamb on Bandcamp

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The Golden Grass Premiere Video for “Get it Together”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 9th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the golden grass (Photo by Andrea Zavareei)

It’s not long into The Golden Grass‘ forthcoming second album, Coming Back Again — out April 15 on Listenable Records — that the Brooklynite trio revive the sunshiny spirit of their 2014 self-titled debut (review here), and likewise, it’s not much longer after that that they begin to showcase the progression of their sound they’ve enacted over the two years since that record came out. “Get it Together” opens Coming Back Again and couches a relatively simple, friendly lyrical message in a complex vocal arrangement with the refined harmonies of guitarist Michael “Professor Plum Brandy” Rafalowich and drummer Adam “Adzo” Kriney and newcomer bassist/vocalist Frank “The Fireball” Caira topping the first of the outing’s easy-flowing grooves. Tonally, structurally and conceptually engaging, “Get it Together” is about a minute in before Rafalowich dives into an airy psychedelic lead, and with a particularly choice hook, the opener sets a warm tone to which the rest of Coming Back Again seems only too glad to live up.

the-golden-grass-coming-back-againThe video trips out some DIY performance footage, and proves even more how far The Golden Grass have gone to develop their sound. Before they introduce the key progressive stylization in the back half of “Get it Together” that will be fleshed out across the LP, we can see in the video that Caira joins Rafalowich and Kriney on vocals. Of the three (that we know of) bassists who’ve played with The Golden Grass since their first record, he’s the only one to contribute as a singer as well. I’d imagine a good portion of the material for Coming Back Again was written or at least in progress before he was announced as joining back in December, after the band had already been confirmed for Freak Valley 2016 this May in Germany, but he was there when it was recorded, so I’d be interested to find out where his voice appears between the recognizable styles of Kriney and Rafalowich, who’s where in the harmonies and how that will continue to develop from here. If you think that sounds like an interview question, you’re probably right.

April 15 is the North American release, April 22 is the European release for Coming Back Again by The Golden Grass, who have European tour dates to be announced and more to come all around. You can see and hear “Get it Together” on the player below, followed by more particulars on the album, courtesy of the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

The Golden Grass, “Get it Together” official video

Listenable Records is proud to release the stunning new sophomore full-length, Coming Back Again, from Brooklyn, New York-based psychedelic rock trio THE GOLDEN GRASS this April.

A truly serpentine journey where the epic glory and might of ’70s psychedelia, the sun-drenched warmth of Laurel Canyon’s golden country/folk era and sheer blues-based Southern rock boogie give way to exploratory landscapes, lysergic prog arrangements and a swinging jazz touch, the six-track follow-up to the band’s 2014 self-titled Svart Records debut, was tracked by Jeff Berner at Galuminum Foil Productions.

In support of their forthcoming new album, THE GOLDEN GRASS will embark on their third European tour this coming May which already includes an appearance at the legendary Freak Valley Festival.

Coming Back Again will be available on CD, limited edition colored vinyl and digitally on April 15th in North America and April 22nd in Europe with preorders, track teasers and tour dates to be unveiled in the weeks to come.

Coming Back Again Preorder

The Golden Grass on Thee Facebooks

The Golden Grass on Bandcamp

Listenable Records

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The Golden Grass Unveil Album Art and Info; Coming Back Again Due in Spring

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 19th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the golden grass

Really, what else were Brooklyn feelgood heavy rockers The Golden Grass going to call their second record but Coming Back Again? There was about zero chance any other title would cut the mustard. The trio will release the album, which is the follow-up to their 2014 self-titled debut (review here), as their first outing for Listenable Records, and to support it they’ll head back to Europe to play Freak Valley 2016 and more besides.

That’s not much of a surprise, but what is is the sound of the album itself, which has a decidedly more progressive stance than did its predecessor. These guys have had a keen eye on their style and approach the whole time, so it makes sense that they’d purposefully push themselves forward creatively, but the real kicker is they manage to pull off classically proggy turns without losing at air of optimism that made the debut such a joy. More to come.

Til then, art and info from the PR wire:

the golden grass coming back again

THE GOLDEN GRASS: Brooklyn, New York-Based Psychedelic Rock Trio To Release Coming Back Again Full-Length This Spring Via Listenable Records; Artwork + Track Listing Revealed

Listenable Records is proud to release the stunning new sophomore full-length, Coming Back Again, from Brooklyn, New York-based psychedelic rock trio THE GOLDEN GRASS this April. A truly serpentine journey where the epic glory and might of ’70s psychedelia, the sun-drenched warmth of Laurel Canyon’s golden country/folk era and sheer blues-based Southern rock boogie give way to exploratory landscapes, lysergic prog arrangements and a swinging jazz touch, the six-track follow-up to the band’s 2014 self-titled Svart Records debut, was tracked by Jeff Berner at Galuminum Foil Productions.

“Our new album is definitely the most adventurous and sonically exploratory music we’ve ever made,” comments the band of Coming Back Again. “At the same time, it is our most melodic and vocally/lyrically focused as well. The overall feel is like an upbeat psychedelic heavy rock ‘n’ roll journey, with dense progressive arrangements that really transport the listener through all of the sonic dimensions of THE GOLDEN GRASS universe. It’s quite a fun record; it really swings. We’re super proud of how it was produced and the flow of the album is a real trip. Most importantly, the energy within the group really explodes from the speakers. As far as the progression of the group since we formed, this record is the perfect statement of where we are right now, and we couldn’t be happier to share that joy with our listeners! Keep on grassin’…”

Coming Back Again Track Listing:
1. Get It Together
2. Reflections In The Glass
3. Shadow Traveler
4. Hazy Daybreak
5. Down The Line
6. See It Through

Influenced by the likes of such American rock legends as The James Gang, The Allman Brothers and Grand Funk Rainroad, the soulful British psych/mod of The Move, The Pretty Things and The Action, and the heavy umph of Budgie, Blue Cheer and Blackfoot, THE GOLDEN GRASS synthesizes their influences into a seamless, memorable, and high-energy performance that screams from the past but is a welcome and much needed presence in the now.

In support of their forthcoming new album, THE GOLDEN GRASS will embark on their third European tour this coming May which already includes an appearance at the legendary Freak Valley Festival.

Coming Back Again will be available on CD, limited edition colored vinyl and digitally on April 15th in North America and April 22nd in Europe with preorders, track teasers and tour dates to be unveiled in the weeks to come.

http://www.facebook.com/thegoldengrass
http://www.thegoldengrass.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/listenablerecs
http://www.listenable.net

The Golden Grass, Live at Capitol Theatre, NY, July 25, 2015

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