Quarterly Review: Iron Monkey, Deadsmoke, Somnuri, Daira, Kavrila, Ivan, Clara Engel, Alastor, Deadly Vipers, Storm of Void

Posted in Reviews on January 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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

Day Four of the Quarterly Review! Welcome to the downswing. We’re past the halfway point and feeling continually groovy. Thus far it’s been a week of coffee and a vast musical swath that today only reaches even further out from the core notion of what may or may not make a release or a band “heavy.” Is it sound? Is it emotion? Is it concept? Fact is there’s no reason it can’t be all of those things and a ton more, so keep an open mind as you make your way through today’s batch and we’ll all come out of it better people on the other end. Alright? Alright. Here we go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Iron Monkey, 9-13

iron monkey 9-13

I’ll admit to some level of skepticism at the prospect of an Iron Monkey reunion without frontman Johnny Morrow, who died in 2002, but as founding guitarist Jim Rushby (now also vocals), bassist Steve Watson (who originally played guitar) and new drummer Brigga revive the influential UK sludge outfit with the nine songs of 9-13 on Relapse, it somehow makes sense that the band’s fuckall and irreverence would extend inward as well. That is, why should Iron Monkey find Iron Monkey an any more sacred and untouchable property than they find anything else? Ultimately, the decision will be up to the listener as to acceptance, but the furies of “OmegaMangler,” “Mortarhex,” “Doomsday Impulse Multiplier” and the nine-minute lumber-into-torrent closer “Moreland St. Hammervortex” make a pretty resounding argument that if you can’t get down with Iron Monkey as they are today, it’s going to be your loss and that, as ever, they couldn’t care less to see you stick around or see you go. So welcome back.

Iron Monkey on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records on Bandcamp

 

Deadsmoke, Mountain Legacy

deadsmoke mountain legacy

Mountain Legacy, which is the second Deadsmoke album for Heavy Psych Sounds, might be the heaviest release the label has put out to-date. For the band, it marks the arrival of keyboardist Claudio Rocchetti to the former trio, and from the lumbering space of aptly-titled post-intro opener “Endless Cave” to the later creeping lurch of “Wolfcurse,” it’s an outing worthy of comparison to the earlier work of Italian countrymen Ufomammut, but still rooted in the gritty, post-Sleep plod the band elicited on their 2016 self-titled debut (review here). The central difference seems to be an increase in atmospheric focus, which does well to enrich the listening experience overall, be it in the creepy penultimate interlude “Forest of the Damned” or side A finale “Emperor of Shame.” Whether this progression was driven by Rocchetti’s inclusion in the band or the other way around, it’s a marked showing of growth on a quick turnaround from Deadsmoke and shows them as having a much broader creative reach than expected. All the better because it’s still so devastatingly weighted.

Deadsmoke on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Somnuri, Somnuri

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To call Somnuri a formidable trio is underselling it. The Brooklynite three-piece is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Justin Sherrell (Blackout, ex-Bezoar, etc.), bassist Drew Mack (ex-Hull) and drummer Phil SanGiacomo (Family), and the noise they make on their Magnetic Eye-released self-titled debut is as progressive as it is intense. Recorded by Jeff Berner and mixed my SanGiacomo, cuts like “Kaizen” and “Same Skies” land with a doomed heft but move with the singular fury of the Northeastern US, and even as eight-minute closer “Through the Dead” balances more rock-minded impulses and seems to touch on a Soundgarden influence, it answers for the ultra-aggro tumult of “Pulling Teeth” just before. A flash of ambience in the drone interlude “Opaque” follows the plodding highlight “Slow Burn,” which speaks to yet another side of Somnuri’s potential – to create spaces as much as to crush them. With an interplay of cleaner vocals, screams, growls and shouts, there’s enough variety to throw off expectation, and where so much of New York’s noise-metal history is about angry single-mindedness, Somnuri’s Somnuri shows even in a vicious moment like “Inhabitant” that there’s more ground to cover than just being really, really, really pissed off.

Somnuri on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye Records website

 

Daira, Vipreet Buddhi

daira vipreet buddhi

Time to get weird. No. Really weird. In the end, I’m not sure Mumbai semi-improvisationalist troupe Daira did themselves any favors by making their sophomore LP, Vipreet Buddhi, a single 93-minute/16-track outing instead of breaking it into the two halves over which its course is presented – the first being eight distinct songs, the second a flowing single jam broken up over multiple parts – but one way or another, it’s an album that genuinely presents a vibe of its own, taking cues from heavy psych, jazz, funk, classic prog, folk and more as it plays through its bizarre and ambient flow, toying with jarring stretches along the way like the eerie “Apna Ullu Seedha” but so dug in by the time it’s jammed its way into “Dekho Laal Gaya” that it seems like there’s no getting out. It’s an overwhelming and unmanageable offering, but whoever said the avant garde wasn’t supposed to be a challenge? Certainly not Daira, and they clearly have plenty to say. Whatever else you listen to today, I can safely guarantee it won’t sound like this. And that’s probably true of every day.

Daira on Thee Facebooks

Daira on Bandcamp

 

Kavrila, Blight

kavrila blight

Chest-compressing groove and drive will no doubt earn Hamburg four-piece Kavrila’s second album, Blight (on Backbite Records), some comparisons to Mantar, but to dig into tracks like “Gold” and “Each (Part Two)” is to find a surprising measure of atmospheric focus, and even a rage-roller like “Abandon” has a depth to its mix. Though it’s just 24 minutes long, I’d still consider Blight a full-length for the two-sided flow it sets up leading to the aforementioned “Gold” and “Each (Part Two),” both being the longest cut on their respective half of the record in addition to splitting the tracklisting, as well as for the grinding aspects of songs like “Apocalypse,” “Demolish” and “Golem” on side B, the latter of which takes the rhythmic churn of Godflesh to a point of extremity that even the earlier thrust of “Lungs” did little to foretell. There’s a balance of sludge and hardcore elements, to be sure, but it’s the anger that ultimately defines Blight, however coherent it might be (and is) in its violent intent.

Kavrila on Thee Facebooks

Backbite Records webstore

 

Ivan, Strewn Across Stars

ivan strewn across stars

Employing the session violin services of Jess Randall, the Melbourne-based two-piece of Brodric Wellington (drums/vocals) and Joseph Pap (guitar, bass, keys) – collectively known as Ivan – would seem to be drawing a specific line in the direction of My Dying Bride with their take on death-doom, but the emotionalist influence goes deeper than that on Strewn Across Stars, their second LP. Shades of Skepticism show themselves in opener and longest track (immediate points) “Cosmic Fear,” which demonstrates a raw production ready for the limited-cassette obscurism the band conjured for their 2016 debut, Aeons Collapse, but nonetheless fleshed out melodically in the guitar and already-noted, deeply prevalent string arrangement. The subsequent “Ethereal” (12:41), “Hidden Dimensions” (12:25) and “Outro” (8:18) dig even further into plodding shattered-self woefulness, with “Hidden Dimensions” providing a brief moment of tempo release before the violin and keys take complete hold in “Outro” to give listeners one last chance to bask in resonant melancholia. A genre-piece, to be sure, but able to stand on its own in terms of personality and patience alike.

Ivan on Thee Facebooks

Ivan on Bandcamp

 

Clara Engel, Songs for Leonora Carrington

clara-engel-songs-for-leona-carrington

Toronto singer-songwriter Clara Engel pays ambient folk homage to the Mexican surrealist painter/author with the five-tracks of Songs for Leonara Carrington, fleshing out creative and depth-filled arrangements that nonetheless hold fast to the intimate human core beneath. Engel’s voice is of singular character in its melding of gruff fragility, and whether it’s the psychedelic hypnosis of opener and longest track (immediate points) “Birdheaded Queen” or the seemingly minimalist drift of the penultimate “The Ancestor,” her confident melodies float atop gorgeous and sad instrumental progressions that cast an atmosphere of vast reaches. Even the more percussively active centerpiece “Microgods of all the Subatomic Worlds” feels informed by the gradual wash of guitar melody that takes hold on the prior “Sanctuary for Furies,” and as Engel brings in guest contributors for drums, bass, guitar, theremin and choir vocals alongside her own guitar, pump organ, flute and singing, there seems to be little out of her reach or scope. It is a joy to get lost within it.

Clara Engel on Thee Facebooks

Wist Records website

 

Alastor, Blood on Satan’s Claw

alastor-blood-on-satans-claw

I don’t know whether the title-cut of Blood on Satan’s Claw, the new two-songer EP from dirge-doomers Alastor, is leftover from the same sessions that bore their 2017 debut album for Twin Earth Records, Black Magic (review here), but as it’s keeping company with a near-11-minute take on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,” the four-piece’s return is welcome either way. Unsurprisingly, not much has changed in their approach in the mere months since the full-length was issued, but that doesn’t mean the swing of “Blood on Satan’s Claw,” the central riff of which owes as much to Windhand as to Sleep as to C.O.C.‘s “Albatross” as to Sabbath, isn’t worth digging into all the same, and with psychedelic vocals reminiscent of newer Monolord and flourish of creeper-style organ, its doom resounds on multiple levels leading into the aforementioned cover, which drawls out the classic original arrangement with a wilfully wretched tack that well earns a nod and raised claw. Alastor remain backpatch-ready, seemingly just waiting for listeners to catch on. If these tracks are any indication, they’ll get there.

Alastor on Thee Facebooks

Alastor on Bandcamp

 

Deadly Vipers, Fueltronaut

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Give it a couple minutes to get going and Fueltronaut, the debut full-length from French four-piece Deadly Vipers, is more than happy to serve up energetic post-Kyuss desert rock loyalism that’s true to form in both spirit and production. Shades of earliest Dozer and the wider pre-social media older-school Euro heavy underground show themselves quickly in “Universe,” but in the later mid-paced reach of “Stalker,” there’s more modern bluesy vibing and as the mega-fuzzed “Meteor Valley,” the driving jam of “Supernova,” and the let’s-push-the-vocals-really-high-in-the-mix-for-some-reason “Dead Summer” shove the listener onward with righteous momentum toward pre-outro closer “River of Souls,” each track getting longer as it goes, the melody that emerges there indeed feels like a moment of arrival. My only real complaint? The intro “Fuel Prophecy” and (hidden) outro, “Watch the Road End.” Especially with the immediacy that strikes when “Universe” kicks in and the resonant finish of “River of Souls” at its six-minute mark, having anything before the one and after the other seems superfluous. A minor quibble on an impressive debut (one could also ramble about cartoon tits on the cover, but what’s the point?) and showcase of potential from an exciting newcomer outfit clearly assured of the style for which they’re aiming.

Deadly Vipers on Thee Facebooks

Deadly Vipers on Bandcamp

 

Storm of Void, War Inside You

storm-of-void-war-inside-you

Tokyo duo Storm of Void make their full-length debut with the nine-track/48-minute War Inside You, a full-length that might first snag attention owing to guest vocal spots from Napalm Death’s Mark “Barney” Greenway and Jawbox’s J. Robbins, but has no trouble holding that same attention with its progressive instrumental turns and taut execution. Released by Hostess Entertainment, it’s instrumental in bulk, with eight-string guitarist George Bodman (Bluebeard) and drummer Dairoku Seki (envy) coming together to deliver brisk and aggressive prog metal centered around chugging riffs and a tension that seems to take hold in “Into the Circle” and let up only for the momentary “Interlude” in the midsection before closer “Ghosts of Mt. Sleepwalker” finally allows for some exhalation. As for the guest spots, they’re nothing to complain about, and they break up the proceedings nicely placed as they are, but if Storm of Void are going to hook you, it’s going to be on their own merits, which are plentiful.

Storm of Void on Thee Facebooks

Hostess Entertainment website

 

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Quarterly Review: Gruntruck, The Dead Ends, Albatross Overdrive, High Priestess, Monolith Cult, Kayleth & Favequaid, Black Wail, Psychic Lemon, Ixion, Rattlesnake

Posted in Reviews on January 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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

Day Three of the Quarterly Review! I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling great. Plowing through, hearing a ton of good stuff. The week is rolling and though it’s most definitely caused me to be a neglectful husband and father for the last 72 hours (so far!), at very least the music is killer. That’s something, right? I didn’t really have a theme in picking today’s batch, but there are some commonalities between some of the inclusions all the same. See if you can find them, like one of those old puzzles in a Highlights magazine in your orthodontist’s wood-paneled office. Ready? Okay, let’s go.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Gruntruck, Gruntruck

gruntruck-gruntruck

Held back due to legal issues with their original label, Roadrunner, the self-titled third album from Seattle groove-grungers Gruntruck hits like an open time-capsule nearly two decades after the fact of its recording: a little dusty but full of vitality and potential for what could’ve been. With a tad more crunch than the likes of Soundgarden and a crunch less TAD than TAD, Gruntruck found a middle-space between the melodies of their age and scene and heavier impulses, and if songs like “Trip,” the post-Nirvana “Build a Hole,” and the later “Spy” sound dated, well, they should. They are dated. It’s an album that was recorded over 20 years ago. That does nothing to take away from the quality of the songwriting, however, as closer “Flang” shows by demonstrating how thin the line between grunge and heavy rock has always been in the first place, let alone how fluidly Gruntruck were able to cross from one side to the other.

Gruntruck on Thee Facebooks

Found Recordings website

 

The Dead Ends, Deeper the Dark the Brighter We Shine

the-dead-ends-deeper-the-dark-the-brighter-we-shine

This warm and psychedelically charmed debut from Kavala, Greece’s The Dead Ends works quickly to deliver its cumbersome title-line in opener “Memory Ship (Sails at Dawn)” amid a build of organ-laced Doors-style drama, but the overarching spirit of the Sound Effect Records release is nonetheless patient and fluid. The keyboard work of vocalist Giorgos Sechlidis proves to be a major standout factor on the playful “Narri-E Narri-O” as rhythms and melodic elements out of Greek folk rear their head, and as guitarist Serios Savvaidis and drummer Dimitris Apostolidis provide vocal support throughout, the nine tracks of Deeper the Dark, the Brighter We Shine envelop with a depth that corresponds to their outward reach, still based around pop structures practically and conceptually, but feeling open and resolved to remain that way all the same. The jangly “Peter 2:18” closes out by building into a melodic wash, as if to underscore the potential within this exciting outfit’s budding stylistic nuance.

The Dead Ends on Thee Facebooks

Sound Effect Records website

 

Albatross Overdrive, Keep it Running

albatross-overdrive-keep-it-running

Issued in 2016, Albatross Overdrive’s second full-length pulls together a sans-pretense 31 minutes of barroom-style heavy rock born of the California desert but not necessarily indebted solely to its aesthetic so much as to boozy swing and chug and meaner, engine-revving impulses. “Fire Dancer” and “Higher” make impressions early with catchy choruses and hard-delivered riffs, a touch of metal to the latter particularly, and the later “Preaching Love Not War” boasts a highlight performance from bassist Mark Abshire, formerly of Fu Manchu, while gritty vocalist Art Campos leads the five-piece – completed by guitarists Andrew Luddy and Derek Phillips and drummer Rodney Peralta – through the grunge-chug of “Earth Mother,” recalling Alice in Chains’ “Again” in its cadence momentarily, though ultimately driven along its own course, headed into closer “Neva,” which finishes the album in top form just as it might cap a raucous live set on any given and much-improved Friday evening.

Albatross Overdrive on Thee Facebooks

Albatross Overdrive website

 

High Priestess, Demo

high-priestess-demo

Los Angeles trio High Priestess were recently snagged by Ripple Music for the release of their impending debut album this year, and on the strength of this five-track demo, one could hardly argue. Tonally rich, perfectly paced in its rollout, melodically centered and meditative with surprising flashes of metallic noise, cuts like 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Firefly” offer psychedelic immersion and a sense of worldmaking rare in a band’s first long-player, let alone their initial demo. Weighted low end gives Demo an earthy sensibility, and there’s definitely a desert-style aspect to “Take the Blame” and “Mother Forgive Me,” but the intertwining vocal melodies of guitarist/organist Katie Gilchrest and bassist Mariana Fiel atop Megan Mullins’ drums provide a spaciousness well across the line of transcendent into ethereal psychedelia. Likewise, after the salvo of “Firefly” and its nine-minute companion “Despise,” the peaceful, organ-laced closer “Earth Dive” draws emphasis on sonic diversity with its patient build and underlying command. Especially as demos go, High Priestess’ is dangerously coherent.

High Priestess on Thee Facebooks

High Priestess on Instagram

 

Monolith Cult, Gospel of Despair

monolith-cult-gospel-of-despair

From the first listen onward, the hardest thing about putting on Monolith Cult’s second full-length, Gospel of Despair, is actually letting the seven tracks play without constantly interrupting them by saying “hell yes.” Whether it’s the hook of opener “Disconnection Syndrome,” the subsequent plod of the title-track that follows, the massive slowdown that hits about a minute into “Sympathy for the Living” as it moves into its chorus, or the Candlemassian finale chug and stomp of “Death Means Nothing,” the Bradford, UK, five-piece’s follow-up to their 2013 debut, Run from the Light (review here), dwells in similar terrain between righteous classic metal and doom as Cruz del Sur denizens Argus, and the band are likewise firm in their purposes and assured in their delivery. “King of all that’s Lost” feels exceptionally weighted in its impact, but set next to the faster motion in the first half of the penultimate “Complicit in Your Abuse,” it feeds into an overarching flow and sense of leather-on-fistpump-or-headbang-take-your-pick-ready audience response. Hell yes? Oh, hell yes.

Monolith Cult on Thee Facebooks

Transcending Records

 

Kayleth & Favequaid, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Six

kayleth-favequaid-second-coming-of-heavy-chapter-six

In bringing together Verona’s Kayleth and Palermo’s Favequaid, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Six works more on a direct theme than some of the other installments in the impressive and impactful series from Ripple Music. But if there’s a particularly nation’s scene worth highlighting in the heavy rock underground, the emergent riffy movement in Italy makes a riotous case for itself as Favequaid bull-in-a-china-shop their way through the nine-minute “Hypochondria” on side B or Kayleth unfold the highlight nod and melody of “The Survivor” earlier, hitting a mark of spatial weight that’s as much about its crash as reach. Starting with the atmospheric pulse of “Desert Caravan” and following up “The Survivor” with the melodic push of “Magnetar,” Kayleth come across as the more progressive of the two outfits, but with the brash finale of “First” rounding out, Favequaid help put emphasis on the underrated diversity within Italian heavy rock on the whole, and maybe that was the idea in the first place.

Kayleth on Thee Facebooks

Favequaid on Thee Facebooks

 

Black Wail, Chromium Homes

black-wail-chromium-homes

Though it gradually comes to life around an intro of Hendrixian noodling at the start of “They,” its opener and longest track (immediate points), the third EP from New Jersey’s Black Wail, Chromium Homes, isn’t through that same song before a decidedly Dio-esque “lookout!” is tossed into the pot. Abrasive, sludgy screaming follows. So yeah, it gets weird pretty quick, but that turns out to be the fun of the 27-minute six-tracker, since it just as easily digs back into languid wah-led groove or lets its keyboards flesh out classic heavy rocking melodies. “Thee Ghost” chugs metallic before stepping back to a harmonized a capella midsection and swinging to its finish, and the title-track basks in heavy blues rock like nothing ever happened – the perfect setup for the nastier “The Dead Man’s Hand,” and weirdo bounce-into-punk-thrust of “Radioactive Mutation” that follow. And because why the hell not: a closing doomed-out cover of “Norwegian Wood.” Somehow that was the only thing missing. Black Wail are getting strange and daring you to do the same. If you think you’re up for it, maybe you are.

Black Wail on Bandcamp

Rhyme and Reason Records

 

Psychic Lemon, Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay

Psychic-Lemon-Frequency-Rhythm-Distortion-Delay

Prepare for spacedelic immersion. Somewhere there’s a countdown happening and waiting on the other end of it is Psychic Lemon’s sophomore LP, Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay, the title of which reads like the recipe from which its five tracks have been constructed. The 41-minute sprawler from the London-based trio sets itself to the task of atmospheric breakout with 8:31 opener “Exit to the Death Lane,” and while it’s hard not to be drawn immediately to a track called “International Fuzz Star” – let alone one that’s almost 10 minutes long – one skips the cosmic-grunge shuffle of “Hey Droog!” and the sped-up Sonic Youthism of centerpiece “You’re No Good” at one’s own peril. They tease tension in the kick drum but ultimately end up soothing in meandering closer “Satori Disko,” but the progressive threat has been laid all the same, and it says something about their accomplishment overall that even in the final moments of Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay, one can’t be certain where Psychic Lemon might be headed next.

Psychic Lemon on Thee Facebooks

Tonzonen Records webstore

 

Ixion, Return

ixion return

Brittany, France-based Ixion is a project spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist/growler/recording engineer/cover artist Julien Prat, and Return (on Finisterian Dead End) is the band’s third full-length. With clean vocals contributed by Yannick Dilly (who also mixed), it captures a contemplative and majestic balance of hope and sorrow, woeful in its extremity but bright-toned in its sprawling lead guitar figures in pieces like “Into Her Light” and the later “Stranger.” This meld fascinates throughout the nine-song/47-minute run, but it’s the poise of execution of all these ideas that make cuts like “Back Home” and the electronics-infused “Contact” stand out and recall some of the best moments of mid-period Katatonia, and from opener/longest track (immediate points) “Out of the Dark” onward, Return makes plain its self-awareness and resilience in capturing its formidable stylistic intention in the reality of the recording. It is a true work of beauty-in-darkness and affecting in both its scope and raw emotionalism.

Ixion on Thee Facebooks

Finisterian Dead End website

 

Rattlesnake, Outlaw Boogie

rattlesnake outlaw boogie

It’s just three songs, but Rattlesnake’s debut demo, Outlaw Boogie (also discussed here), was enough of an aesthetic mission statement all the same to wind up on my list of 2017’s best short releases, and with the swing and swagger provided by drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney of The Golden Grass, the classic-style riffing of guitarists Blake Charlton (Ramming Speed) and JP Gilbert (also vocals) and the wah bass Don Berger brings to “The Reason Why,” well, the reason why is frickin’ obvious. The New York-based newcomers capture a bright ‘70s vibe not dissimilar from The Golden Grass’ self-titled debut, but less serene and more urgent, more charged in its purposes on the whole, and dudelier in that okay-now-it’s-time-to-grow-a-mustache kind of way. Unsurprisingly, Outlaw Boogie is almost maddeningly catchy and cohesive and clear in its direction and intent, and the band seem to arrive in their conceptual foundation ready to move forward onto the next stage of their development. The only reason I call the three-tracker a demo at all and not an EP is because the band does. Otherwise there’s very little about it that doesn’t already denote it as a professional-grade work.

Rattlesnake on Thee Facebooks

In for the Kill Records webstore

 

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Megalophobe Issues Self-Titled Debut EP

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

megalophobe

Brooklyn-based noise experimentalist solo outfit Megalophobe has issued its self-titled debut EP via Bandcamp in the form of four tracks of fleshed-out atmospherics and titles that may or may not be sci-fi references. Given the blue whales, the ship docking, the support cables to be installed, I’m thinking maybe Star Trek IV, but hell, I’m always thinking Star Trek IV, so if I’m wrong about that, double-dumbass on me. I don’t know if there were wind turbines in any foreground shots in that movie, but if you told me there were, I’d believe it. Maybe in one of those futuristic shots of Starfleet HQ at the start?

“Hello, computer.”

Man, I love Star Trek IV. Okay, seriously though. Whatever the basis for the titles, the EP is an immersive and at times curious bit of exploration that sets a grim ambient mood via some righteously efficient and minimalist means. Headphones? Yeah, headphones. Get that going.

You can stream it at the bottom of this post:

megalophobe megalophobe

MEGALOPHOBE: Brooklyn Experimentalist Releases Self-Titled Debut EP

New York City-based experimental soloist MEGALOPHOBE has self-released its proper debut EP, megalophobe, which is now streaming via Bandcamp.

On the self-titled debut, MEGALOPHOBE’s Benjamin Levitt weaves a minimalist-yet-expansive spectrum of ambient soundscapes. Otherworldly tranquility is intermittently met with curious instability, with layers of transformational effects swirling through the mix of accordion, effects, bass, percussion, and more, and more. Levitt delivers nearly twenty-five minutes of intriguing, ambient bliss through four extensive tracks ranging from just over four minutes to nearly nine-and-a-half minutes in length, some of which was captured live on the porch of a remote Catskills cabin, while the rest was created at Levitt’s home base of Forked Audio in Brooklyn. The EP’s lead track, “A Field Of Wind Turbines In The Foreground,” sees Levitt joined by Gridfailuire’s David Brenner who supplies effects-laden synth, percussion, and theremin to the song.

Tracklisting:
1. A Field of Wind Turbines in the Foreground 05:21
2. Half of the Support Cables are Yet to Be Installed 04:12
3. Not While the Ship is Docked 05:42
4. Some Positive Aspects of the Eradication of Balaenoptera 09:28

Benjamin Levitt officially created MEGALOPHOBE in 2016 while constructing the Dendritic collaborative album with Gridfailure, which was released on Arbor Day 2017 as the artists planted trees across the New York City region. While several new fully collaborative recordings together are already heavily under construction, Levitt spent the latter half of 2017 focusing on the megalophobe EP, which was just self-released digitally on the cusp of the New Year.

https://megalophobe.bandcamp.com/
https://twitter.com/megalophobe

Megalophobe, Megalophobe (2017)

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River Cult Debut Album Halcyon Daze to be Released in March on Blackseed and Nasoni Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

river cult

I didn’t wind up writing nearly enough about it, but the 2016 Demo from Brooklyn trio River Cult was one of my favorite short releases of 2016, and one to which I’ve continued to go back periodically since. It’s only ever good for general international relations when a US band attracts the attention of Nasoni Records, as River Cult have apparently done, but to find them releasing their debut album, Halcyon Daze, through Pittsburgh’s Blackseed Records as well speaks to a multi-pronged approach that one hopes is a portent of how they’ll support the offering on tour.

Oh, and not that I’ve heard it yet or anything like that, but the record smokes. It’s out March 15 and I’m happy to be able to premiere a teaser video for it below. Fingers crossed I’ll have more to come about it before the release date as well.

To the PR wire, chief:

river cult halcyon daze

RIVER CULT 2018 WITH BLACKSEED AND NASONI RECORDS

Bursting on to the scene with a highly acclaimed self-titled EP in 2016, Brooklyn NY’s River Cult are amassing a loyal following with their unique style. Pulling inspiration from Sleep, Neurosis, and Pentagram, River Cult’s songs are modern, yet authentic hunks of Heavy Psych, Doom/Stoner rock.

Fusing atmospheric jams, gritty vocals, and garage rock eminence, River Cult are poised to keep riding the wave of their heavy jams to further praise in 2018, with a recording reminiscent of the Led Zeppelin, Hawkwind oeuvre. In collaboration with Blackseed Records, the independent heavy underground label based in Pittsburgh, River Cult will unleash their debut full-length, “Halcyon Daze”, on March 15th, 2018.

Blackseed Records will release “Halcyon Daze” on both CD and limited-edition cassette. A harmonic release to coincide with a vinyl issuance on Nasoni Records (Berlin), these limited black-matte cassettes are capped at 50 hand-numbered copies.

https://www.facebook.com/rivercult/
https://www.instagram.com/rivercultband/
https://www.twitter.com/river_cult
https://rivercult.bandcamp.com/
blackseedrecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/blackseedrecords/
https://blackseedrecords.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/nasonirecords/
http://www.nasoni-records.com/

River Cult, Halcyon Daze teaser trailer

River Cult, Live at WFMU on Imaginary Radio (2016)

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 short releases

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

This is the hardest list to put together, no question. Don’t get me wrong, I put way too much thought into all of them, but this one is damn near impossible to keep up with. Every digital single, every demo, every EP, every 7″, 10″ one-sided 12″, whatever it is. There’s just too much. I’m not going to claim to have heard everything. Hell, that’s what the comments are for. Let me know what I missed. Invariably, something.

So while the headers might look similar, assuming I can ever remember which fonts I use from one to the next, this list has a much different personality than, say, the one that went up earlier this week with the top 20 debuts of 2017. Not that I heard everyone’s first record either, but we’re talking relative ratios here. The bottom line is please just understand I’ve done my best to hear as much as possible. I’m only one person, and there are only so many hours in the day. Eventually your brain turns into riffy mush.

With that caveat out of the way, I’m happy to present the following roundup of some of what I thought were 2017’s best short releases. That’s EPs, singles, demos, splits — pretty much anything that wasn’t a full-length album, and maybe one or two things that were right on the border of being one. As between genres, the lines are blurry these days. That’s part of what makes it fun.

Okay, enough dawdling. Here we go:

lo-pan-in-tensions

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

1. Lo-Pan, In Tensions
2. Godhunter, Codex Narco
3. Year of the Cobra, Burn Your Dead
4. Shroud Eater, Three Curses
5. Stubb, Burning Moon
6. Canyon, Canyon
7. Solace, Bird of Ill Omen
8. Kings Destroy, None More
9. Tarpit Boogie, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam
10. Supersonic Blues, Supersonic Blues Theme
11. Come to Grief, The Worst of Times EP
12. Rope Trick, Red Tape
13. Eternal Black, Live at WFMU
14. IAH, IAH
15. Bong Wish, Bong Wish EP
16. Rattlesnake, Outlaw Boogie Demo
17. Hollow Leg, Murder
18. Mars Red Sky, Myramyd
19. Avon, Six Wheeled Action Man Tank 7″
20. Wretch, Bastards Born

Honorable Mention

Across Tundras, Blood for the Sun / Hearts for the Rain
The Discussion, Tour EP
Fungus Hill, Creatures
Switchblade Jesus & Fuzz Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven
The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny
Test Meat, Demo
Blood Mist, Blood Mist
Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell
Dautha, Den Foerste
Scuzzy Yeti, Scuzzy Yeti
Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard Part 2
Decasia, The Lord is Gone
Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore, Split 7″

I can’t imagine I won’t add a name or two or five to this section over the next few days as I think of other things and people remind me of stuff and so on, so keep an eye out, but the point is there’s way more than just what made the top 20. That Across Tundras single would probably be on the list proper just on principle, but I heard it like a week ago and it doesn’t seem fair. Speaking of unfair, The Discussion, Howling Giant, The Grand Astoria and the Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore split all deserve numbered placement easily. I might have to make this a top 30 in 2018, just to assuage my own guilt at not being able to include everything I want to include. For now though, yeah, this is just the tip of the doomberg.

Notes

To be totally honest with you, that Lo-Pan EP came out Jan. 13 and pretty much had the year wrapped up in my head from that point on. It was going to be hard for anything to top In Tensions, and the Godhunter swansong EP came close for the sense of stylistic adventurousness it wrought alone, and ditto that for Year of the Cobra’s bold aesthetic expansions on Burn Your Dead and Shroud Eater’s droning Three Cvrses, but every time I heard Jeff Martin singing “Pathfinder,” I knew it was Lo-Pan’s year and all doubt left my mind. Of course, for the Ohio four-piece, In Tensions is something of a one-off with the departure already of guitarist Adrian Zambrano, but I still have high hopes for their next record. It would be hard not to.

The top five is rounded out by Stubb’s extended jam/single “Burning Moon,” which was a spacey delight and new ground for them to cover. The self-titled debut EP from Philly psych rockers Canyon, which they’ve already followed up, is next. I haven’t had the chance to hear the new one yet, but Canyon hit a sweet spot of psychedelia and heavy garage that made me look forward to how they might develop, so I’ll get there sooner or later. Solace’s return was nothing to balk at with their cassingle “Bird of Ill Omen” and the Sabbath cover with which they paired it, and though Kings Destroy weirded out suitably on the 14-minute single-song EP None More, I hear even greater departures are in store with their impending fourth LP, currently in progress.

A couple former bandmates of mine feature in Tarpit Boogie in guitarist George Pierro and bassist John Eager, and both are top dudes to be sure, but even if we didn’t have that history, it would be hard to ignore the tonal statement they made on their Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam EP. If you didn’t hear it, go chase it down on Bandcamp. Speaking of statements, Supersonic Blues’ Supersonic Blues Theme 7″ was a hell of an opening salvo of classic boogie that I considered to be one of the most potential-laden offerings of the year. Really. Such warmth to their sound, but still brimming with energy in the most encouraging of ways. Another one that has to be heard to be believed.

The dudes are hardly newcomers, but Grief offshoot Come to Grief sounded pretty fresh — and raw — on their The Worst of Times EP, and the Massachusetts extremists check in right ahead of fellow New Englangers Rope Trick, who are an offshoot themselves of drone experimentalists Queen Elephantine. Red Tape was a demo in the demo tradition, and pretty formative sounding, but seemed to give them plenty of ground on which to develop their aesthetic going forward, and I wouldn’t ask more of it than that.

Eternal Black gave a much-appreciated preview of their Bleed the Days debut long-player with Live at WFMU and earned bonus points for recording it at my favorite radio station, while Argentine trio IAH probably went under a lot of people’s radar with their self-titled EP but sent a fervent reminder that that country’s heavy scene is as vibrant as ever. Boston-based psych/indie folk outfit Bong Wish were just the right combination of strange, melodic and acid-washed to keep me coming back to their self-titled EP on Beyond Beyond is Beyond, and as Adam Kriney of The Golden Grass debuted his new project Rattlesnake with the Outlaw Boogie demo, the consistency of his songcraft continued to deliver a classic feel. Another one to watch out for going into the New Year.

I wasn’t sure if it was fair to include Hollow Leg’s Murder or not since it wound up getting paired with a special release of their latest album, but figured screw it, dudes do good work and no one’s likely to yell about their inclusion here. If you want to quibble, shoot me a comment and quibble away. Mars Red Sky only released Myramyd on vinyl — no CD, no digital — and I never got one, but heard a private stream at one point and dug that enough to include them here anyway. They remain perennial favorites.

Avon, who have a new record out early in 2018 on Heavy Psych Sounds, delivered one of the year’s catchiest tracks with the “Six Wheeled Action Man Tank” single. I feel like I’ve had that song stuck in my head for the last two months, mostly because I have. And Wretch may or may not be defunct at this point — I saw word that drummer Chris Gordon was leaving the band but post that seems to have disappeared now, so the situation may be in flux — but their three-songer Bastards Born EP was a welcome arrival either way. They round out the top 20 because, well, doom. Would be awesome to get another LP out of them, but we’ll see I guess.

One hopes that nothing too egregious was left off, but one again, if there’s something you feel like should be here that isn’t, please consider the invitation to leave a comment open and let me know about it. Hell, you know what? Give me your favorites either way, whether you agree with this list or not. It’s list season, do it up. I know there’s the Year-End Poll going, and you should definitely contribute to that if you haven’t, but what was your favorite EP of the year? The top five? Top 10? I’m genuinely curious. Let’s talk about it.

Whether you have a pick or not (and I hope you do), thanks as always for reading. May the assault of short releases continue unabated in 2018 and beyond.

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2017

Posted in Features on December 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top-20-debut-albums

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

Every successive year brings an absolute inundation of underground productivity. Every year, someone new is inspired to pick up a guitar, bass, drums, mic, keyboard, theremin, cello — whatever it might be — and set themselves to the task of manifesting the sounds they hear in their head.

This is unspeakably beautiful in my mind, and as we’ve done in years past, it seems only fair to celebrate the special moment of realization that comes with a band’s first album. The debut full-length. Sometimes it’s a tossed-off thing, constructed from prior EPs or thrown together haphazardly from demo tracks, and sometimes it’s a meticulously picked-over expression of aesthetic — a band coming out of the gate brimming with purpose and desperate to communicate it, whatever it might actually happen to be.

We are deeply fortunate to live in an age (for now) of somewhat democratized access to information. That is, if you want to hear a thing — or if someone wants you to hear a thing — it’s as simple as sharing and/or clicking a link. The strong word of mouth via ubiquitous social media, intuitive recording software, and an ever-burgeoning swath of indie labels and other promotional vehicles means bands can engage an audience immediately if they’re willing to do so, and where once the music industry’s power resided in the hands of a few major record companies, the divide between “listener” and “active participant” has never been more blurred.

Therefore, it is a good — if crowded — time for an act to be making their debut, even if it’s something that happens basically every day, and all the more worth celebrating the accomplishments of these first-albums both on their current merits and on the potential they may represent going forward. Some percent of a best-debuts list is always speculation. That’s part of what makes it so much fun.

As always, I invite you to let me know your favorite picks in the comments (please keep it civil). Here are mine:

telekinetic-yeti-abominable

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2017

1. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable
2. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
3. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream
4. Dool, Here Now There Then
5. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days
6. Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages
7. Vinnum Sabbathi, Gravity Works
8. Tuna de Tierra, Tuna de Tierra
9. Brume, Rooster
10. Moon Rats, Highway Lord
11. Thera Roya, Stone and Skin
12. OutsideInside, Sniff a Hot Rock
13. Hymn, Perish
14. Riff Fist, King Tide
15. Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, Medicine
16. Abronia, Obsidian Visions/Shadowed Lands
17. Book of Wyrms, Sci-Fi Fantasy
18. Firebreather, Firebreather
19. REZN, Let it Burn
20. Ealdor Bealu, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain

Honorable Mention

Alastor, Black Magic
Devil’s Witches, Velvet Magic
Elbrus, Elbrus
Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
Grigax, Life Eater
High Plains, Cinderland
Kingnomad, Mapping the Inner Void
Lord Loud, Passé Paranoia
Masterhand, Mind Drifter
The Necromancers, Servants of the Salem Girl
Owlcrusher, Owlcrusher
Petyr, Petyr
The Raynbow, The Cosmic Adventure
Savanah, The Healer
War Cloud, War Cloud
WhiteNails, First Trip

I could keep going with honorable mentions, and no doubt will add a few as people remind me of other things on which I brainfarted or whathaveyou, preferably without calling me an idiot, though I recognize that sometimes that’s a lot to ask. Either way, the point remains that the heavy underground remains flush with fresh infusions of creativity and that as another generation comes to maturity, still another is behind it, pushing boundaries forward or looking back and reinventing what came before them.

Notes

Will try and likely fail to keep this brief, but the thing I find most striking about this list is the variety of it. That was not at all something I planned, but even if you just look at the top five, you’ve got Telekinetic Yeti at the forefront. Abominable is something of a speculative pick on my part for the potential it shows on the part of the Midwestern duo in their songcraft and tonality, but then you follow them with four other wildly different groups in Rozamov, Mindkult, Dool and Eternal Black. There you’ve got extreme sludge from Boston, a Virginian one-man cult garage project, Netherlands-based dark heavy rock with neo-goth flourishes, and crunching traditionalist doom from New York in the vein of The Obsessed.

What I’m trying to say here is that it’s not just about one thing, one scene, one sound, or one idea. It’s a spectrum, and at least from where I sit, the quality of work being done across that spectrum is undeniable. Think of the prog-doom majesty Arduini/Balich brought to their collaborative debut, or the long-awaited groove rollout from Vinnum Sabbathi, or how Italy’s Tuna de Tierra snuck out what I thought was the year’s best desert rock debut seemingly under everybody’s radar. Stylistically and geographically these bands come from different places, and as with Brume and Moon Rats, even when a base of influence is similar, the interpretation thereof can vary widely and often does.

That Moon Rats album wasn’t covered nearly enough. I’m going to put it in the Quarterly Review coming up just to give another look at the songwriting on display, which was maddening in its catchiness. Maddening in its cacophony of noise was Stone and Skin from Brooklyn’s Thera Roya, which found itself right on the cusp of the top 10 with backing from the ’70s heavy rock vibes of the post-Carousel Pittsburgh outfit OutsideInside. Norway’s Hymn thrilled with their bleak atmospheres, while Australia’s Riff Fist showed off a scope they’d barely hinted at previously, and Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree offered surprises of their own in their warm heavy psych tonality and mostly-instrumental immersion. That record caught me almost completely off-guard. I was not at all prepared to dig it as much as I did.

Thrills continue to abound and resound as the Young Hunter-related outfit Abronia made their first offering of progressive, Americana-infused naturalist heavy, while Book of Wyrms dug themselves into an oozing riffy largesse on the other side of the country and Sweden’s Firebreather emerged from the defunct Galvano to gallop forth and claim victory a la early High on Fire. REZN’s Let it Burn got extra points in my book for the unabashed stonerism of it, while it was the ambience of Ealdor Bealu’s Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain that kept me going back to it. An album that was genuinely able to project a sense of mood without being theatrical about it was all the more impressive for it being their first. But that’s how it goes, especially on this list.

There you have it. Those are my picks. I recognize I’m only one person and a decent portion of my year was taken up by personal matters — having, losing a job; pregnancy, childbirth and parenting, etc. — but I did my best to hear as much music as I could in 2017 and I did my best to make as much of it as new as I could.

Still, if there’s something egregious I left out or just an album you’d like to champion, hell yes, count me in. What were some of your favorites? Comments are right down there. Let’s get a discussion going and maybe we can all find even more music to dig into.

Thanks for reading and here’s to 2018 to come and the constant renewal of inspiration and the creative spirit.

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Insect Ark Announce Marrow Hymns LP out Feb. 23; Stream New Track

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

insect ark

Go ahead and sign me up for Insect Ark‘s Marrow Hymns right now and save us both the time. I dug the hell out of Dana Schechter‘s work on the band’s 2015 debut, Portal/Well (review here), and was fortunate enough to see the former member of Bee and Flower perform live as well, and going by what I’m hearing in the Earth-y vibes of the new track “In the Nest,” the drone has only gotten richer since Schechter teamed up with TaurusAshley Spungin to make what was a solo-project a duo. So yeah, go ahead. Sign me up. I’m on board. Let’s do this thing.

Oh what? I have to wait until February for the album to come out? So you mean to say I don’t get to have my brain eaten outright by Marrow Hymns immediately? Hell’s bells that’s going to be a challenge.

But so is the record. In the best way possible.

From the PR wire. Check out this fucking cover art:

insect ark marrow hymns

INSECT ARK: Atmospheric Noise/Doom Duo To Release Marrow Hymns Via Profound Lore This February; New Track Streaming

Combining elements of horror-?lm soundtracks, psychedelic doom, and atmospheric noise, New York City/Portland-based instrumental duo INSECT ARK presents their newest record, Marrow Hymns, to be released on Profound Lore Records, February 23rd, 2018.

Comprised of Dana Schechter (M. Gira’s Angels Of Light, Wrekmeister Harmonies, Zeal & Ardor, Gnaw) and Ashley Spungin (Taurus, Purple Rhinestone Eagle, Negative Queen), INSECT ARK’s intensely visual music weaves interludes of fragile beauty with crushing passages of swirling doom, spinning like a backwards fever dream. Marrow Hymns is a wordless song, a hypnotic voice that screams and whispers from a place deep in the furrows, from the bones, from the blood. Defying easy categorization, INSECT ARK’s uncommon sound is in part the amalgamation of these two women’s passions: Schechter’s sinister bass lines and unconventional use of lap steel guitar (and her complete omission of electric guitar), and Spungin’s lucid, exacting drumming and synth work with her own hand-built analog noise pedals (Ormus Electronics).

Schechter describes INSECT ARK as being a voice when words fail to articulate emotions or experiences, a visceral form of communication through sonic submersion. The cathartic nature of the music INSECT ARK creates is a document of life’s many complex facets – perseverance and presence, chaos and meditation, birth and decay, brutality and delicacy, and of hope in the unknown.

Marrow Hymns was recorded and mixed with engineer Ethan Donaldson at Mozart Street Studios in Brooklyn, New York over the course of eighteen months. With the two halves of INSECT ARK residing on opposite coasts, the album was largely skeletal in form upon commencement of recording. Overdubs and further writing/arrangements were done after Spungin’s return to Portland in the isolation of Schechter’s home studio. The sense of distance and vast emptiness remained intact in the songs, built out over many long nights. Marrow Hymns’ song themes of displacement, loss, and isolation are personal journals of that time period, as both members found themselves simultaneously experiencing existential crises. However, the album also tells a story of strength and determination, made from the marrow of these two women, a song for all things that struggle to survive.

Marrow Hymns will be available on CD, vinyl, and digital formats. Preorders to be unveiled in the coming weeks. 

Marrow Hymns Track Listing:
1. Thelema
2. Arp 9
3. In the Nest
4. Skin Walker
5. Slow Ray
6. Sea Harps
7. Tarnish
8. Windless
9. Daath

INSECT ARK Is:
Dana Schechter – bass, lap steel guitar, synthesizers
Ashley Spungin – drums, synthesizers

http://www.insectark.com
http://www.facebook.com/InsectArk
http://www.insectark.bandcamp.com
http://www.profoundlorerecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/profoundlorerecords
http://www.profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com

Insect Ark, “In the Nest”

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Six Dumb Questions with Eggnogg (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on November 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

EGGNOGG CHARACTERS PROMO

I’ll admit that part of interviewing Eggnogg about their new record, Rituals in Transfigured Time stems from an attempt to increase my own limited understanding of what’s happening with the project. It’s been six years since the Brooklyn three-piece issued their last full-length, Moments in Vacuum (review here), and though they followed it with the Louis EP (review here) in 2012, their “next album” has been in the works pretty much since, given the title You’re all Invited and teased across a variety of graphic-arts images and vague story pieces from guitarist Justin Karol.

Karol, joined in the band by guitarist/vocalist Bill O’Sullivan and drummer Jason Prushko, finally manifests what was You’re all Invited as Rituals in Transfigured Time, a massive conceptual/narrative work based as much around visual art as aural sprawl and storytelling. It is being unveiled one piece at a time — you can hear the latest installment at the bottom of this post, and there’s more to come — as the band weaves through a complex sci-fi plotline toward a yet-unknown resolution, following the tale of a character named Gunther Kilgore, green of skin and forced into a journey both physical and existential (maybe?) by a tophat-wearing skeleton robot. Yeah, the details get a bit fuzzy. So do the guitars though, so it’s all good.

Rituals in Transfigured Time, now in its Entr’acte following the Prologue — a single, 14-minute track called “Overture / Wild Goose Chase” (posted here) — and Acts I & II — comprised of the 22-minute “Death Cap” and the 20-minute “Meshes of the Aftetnoon” (sic) — will go on for I don’t know how long, but is set to serve as the final Eggnogg outing. It’s also, unquestionably, the most ambitious, blending heavy psychedelia, the band’s trademark quirky post-grunge riffmaking and a progressive sprawl marked by a sense of groove that is wholly their own. If indeed Rituals in Transfigured Time is to serve as Eggnogg‘s closing chapter when it comes to new music — one never wants to say never — then they go having made a definitive statement of what their potential could have brought to bear in a multi-sensory engagement with their audience and a sense of individuality that goes beyond their lumbering tones and weirdo cartoons to the very heart of who they are as players and artists.

And even if it does bring about the end of the band, I look forward to seeing how and where Rituals in Transfigured Time ultimately concludes, especially now that Karol has been kind enough to take some time to explain the project, its arc, origins and where it might lead the members of Eggnogg from here.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

Six Dumb Questions with Eggnogg

What’s happening in the story of Rituals in Transfigured Time? Who are the characters? Where are we in the plot? Where is it all leading?

What began as only moments in vacuum turned into six long years adrift in a soundless black void. Our green-skinned protagonist, Gunther Kilgore, had been imprisoned there by mysterious forces in attempt to conceal the secrets of the existence of which Kilgore had been made aware.

Rituals in Transfigured Time is about memories, nostalgia, coincidence, fate, and whether these instances can be manipulated. It centers around a concept I call “Doom Theory,” a quasi-scientific theoretical relationship between heavy or loud sounds or music and unconscious thoughts.

This is the backdrop for Rituals in Transfigured Time, where it is represented by invisible wires or strings that connect all people and things. Kind of like a telephone network, only here the wires connect people’s thoughts and feelings. Each string resonates in waves and can be altered by different sounds or vibrations. They can lay slacked or be wound taut, plucked or strummed to send different moods. But who is pulling the strings?

In the opening Acts, we find the world is ignorant of this, and in bursts of rage and violence, people divide up into cults following the loudest leaders, all connected by a hive-like mentality. Words begin to spread like a disease leading to the final gasp of humanity. If the truth were revealed, the tangled threads could begin to unravel.

Kilgore knows this truth but he is stuck and silenced. He exists neither here nor there, meeting these sort of divine beings who work backstage, revealing how the show is run. His journey seems to take his entire life but he finds that there is no beginning or end to the thread, and the vibrations travel in a loop. He sees that time is cyclical. When he steps out from behind the curtain, he is sent into a time warp.

The next album is called Entr’acte, which means “between acts,” and this ties in musically, visually, and thematically. The time warp leaves us in a far futuristic dystopian city that is inhabited by machines and dictated by pigs. Human population has dropped 99 percent, only the wealthy elite are still around. Pollution has altered the world’s climate so drastically that certain species of animals were forced to speed up their evolution in order to be involved politically and claim their land and resources.

Kilgore arrives here and has to piece together his memory and adjust to the perceived insanity of this new time period. Much of the intentional mystery of the story will be a bit more pronounced this time, with more formal character introductions, such as the divine priestess named Tetra and the skeletal robot with a top hat named Montgomery. Entr’acte will have more of a pulp feel, with parts of the album playing out like a 1930s science fiction radio drama.

How did the idea for such an expansive project come about? What’s the relationship for you between handling the visual art for something like this and writing the songs? Tell me about the songwriting process.

This type of idea had always been in my head, even as early as the formative years of the band when I was around 14, and perhaps even before that. I’ve been drawing and making my own little comic books ever since I was a baby, but I have a distinct memory of when I was around four years old, and my dad showed me the song “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath for the first time. I remember him doing these exaggerated stomps during the opening bass drums and explaining that it was the sound of iron man walking, and when it picks up pace in the second half, that he was running and chasing everyone. The song itself has this story to it, which is a bit different from other popular songs that mostly reflect on feelings.

I started to make this relationship between music and visualizing the scenes from then on with any song I heard. Movies ended up being my true passion because it combines sound and visual so perfectly. So I had been making my own little movies with my friends and timing a lot of scenes to music. Then one weekend I cast a mutual friend in the role of a frightened scientist, and that was Bill O’Sullivan, vocalist and guitarist for Eggnogg. So when we started writing original music, my mind started to go crazy with what kind of stories I could create. Up until then, I had only used other people’s music to accompany the visuals, but creating brand new music opened up many more possibilities.

So even from the earliest days, I was drawing out the potential scenes that went with our songs. Scenes and characters would also influence tones and lyrics. As we went on, certain characters developed and backstories came about, and so this sort of universe began to unfold. Bill and I, and our close friends, talk about the characters and stories often, but no one else has really been made aware of it yet. I was always looking for the right time to start telling this story but never quite knew how to release it and have people try to follow it. Characters and scenes ended up on some album art before, but I felt now was a good time to just go for it. It ties into the idea of the album being the revelation, the truth, the finale, the end all be all.

The material is so expansive. How have these songs come together? Is the complete work recorded and being released piecemeal, or is it still in progress? How much is left to come out and do you have a general timeline for when it will be complete and released?

With Moments in Vacuum, I had sequenced the songs so there was, to me, a clear beginning, middle, and ending. I extended a few pieces in particular to have more musical introductions and interludes so they would sort of flow like scenes. It was a more direct attempt at making a “cinematic” record, as I broke up the songs into a three-act structure. However, it backfired a bit when some friends told me they found the track lengths “too long” or they skipped around and didn’t hear crucial moments that happened further into a track, or listened to the songs out of sequence. Rather than compromise the writing, I wanted to exacerbate the concept even further.

From its conception, the intention was to make a record that consisted of long unbroken takes. This way, you had to follow along from beginning to end. It’s my understanding that this is what an album should be and the song sequencing is a key role. I look at them like scenes in a movie or chapters in a book, and if they are told out of order, you lose the essence of the entire work.

Rituals in Transfigured Time began under the working title of “You’re all Invited,” or my initial pitch, “Mass Suicide: You’re All Invited.” Much of it was recorded six years ago and then scrapped. It was designed as two 20 minute songs, so it would fit exactly on one vinyl record. We tried so frustratingly long to get this version of the album made on vinyl, but just could not secure the funds to do so.

After our fundraiser utterly failed, we tried rereleasing our EPs on physical disc to see what we could generate towards the vinyl but it never added up. By then, our drummer had left the band to go off and star on NBC’s The Voice, and we hunted down Jason Prushko of Mean Little Blanket fame. Jason brought a much meaner style of drumming and so the songs were reworked and expanded upon, hashing out new material as we tested it out live. We took this new version of the album to the studio and laid down the groundwork.

These recordings, however, reflected more of our live set and so the material has been in fine tuning to make it more cohesive. I am tweaking things right up until the release.

Talk about the recording itself. Where and how is Rituals in Transfigured Time coming together as a studio project? How much time has it all taken to make happen and how do you feel about how the results have come out so far?

Right after Moments in Vacuum in 2011, we headed back to our recording space to track demos of the next album, as we had always done every summer since around 2006. Some material would be new, some would be revitalized versions of songs that didn’t make the previous record.

The original version of the album was actually recorded to analog tape. It was an experiment for us but we had heard so many good things. Oh boy, it was a disaster. We could only mic so many drums on this type of machine so we ended up with a very strange and thin sound. The tracks on our Louis EP suffered from a similar fate, as they were recorded right after those sessions.

I was forced to use a digital workflow to help save the drum sound, something on previous records I was against. Moments in Vacuum was done with all full takes and no digital editing of any kind with all of the equalizing and mixing done on a board. So having to go to a computer did not sit well with me at first. I eventually got something workable, but I was never satisfied with it.

Thankfully, we rerecorded everything and more a few years later more professionally, thanks to Steve Schalk of Jupiter 4 Studio, who got us a great clear drum sound. I remember we had it all sort of wrapped up rather quickly and handed it off to other people to mix, which was also new since I usually did the mixing. After many mixes from many sources, something was just not sitting right with me when I listened to it and so I backed away from the project to work on other things.

After about a year of working on films, I returned to the project with a fresh perspective. I really wanted to tie up this loose end and make this thing finally complete. I took the basic recordings we did have and started over conceptually. I outlined the entire thing like I would a film and started building the imagery and tones from there.

So far, the reaction has been positive and so I am quite pleased. There was a lot of worries before release, because I had turned it into this lengthy operatic thing with a story that listeners would not know what to do with it. That may still be partly true, but I am hoping those few fans out there will embrace this different type of album and maybe it will catch on.

I’ve heard rumors this is the final release for Eggnogg. Are you really going to put the band to rest after this? What would you do next? Another band? Focus on graphic art?

For me, this is the final Eggnogg album. Jason Prushko has his own project off in California where he just released an EP titled Sylmar Ave. Bill O’Sullivan is over in Philadelphia working on his acoustic spooky country-western music. He has a whole slew of great material I hope is released soon. And I’m here in New York City twiddling my thumbs. I actually have a lot planned musically but it won’t be released as a band.

Although this will be the final Eggnogg album, there is still a potential of older material being remixed and remastered, and maybe even given the same treatment as Rituals by adding more illustrations. This depends heavily on the fans.

The Rituals project is a blueprint for how I am going to continue post release. I have other stories and scripts that will have a musical accompaniment along with the visual. After the release of Rituals in Transfigured Time, I will be preparing to make a feature-length film. The film happens to be about a struggling doom metal band in Brooklyn and will feature a fairly in-depth original score that those few loyal Eggnogg fans will surely appreciate.

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Rituals in Transfigured Time is set of albums that follow a narrative, starting with the Prologue, into Acts I & II, and next up the Entr’acte. Following this will be Acts III & IIII. It’s being released as installments because, well, it’s a lot of material! I encourage those who care to listen to also view the illustrations and lyrics to get the full experience. There are many hidden meanings within the story. It is my hope that at least one person out there will pick up on it and feel illuminated and inspired.

There is something unique to this type of music, in that it gets everyone, the players and the audience, all moving in unison. Simple melodies and primal rhythms, it’s as if we are all connecting through some type of ancient language that the soul remembers even if we don’t. Slowly nodding along as if our minds were all connected by some kind of invisible thread.

Thank you to anyone who stumbled across our music!

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