Friday Full-Length: Burning Saviours, Burning Saviours

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Burning Saviours, Burning Saviours (2005)

It wouldn’t be right to call the band or the album lost, since they’re still active and it’s not like the record is inaccessible or anything — it’s streaming right there, two lines up — but I do think Burning Saviours are relatively under-appreciated when it comes to the sphere of Swedish heavy, and specifically the retroism that was born in the town of Örebro. They’re of the same vintage-minded scene that birthed the likes of Witchcraft and Graveyard, and while unlike those two monolithic exports, Burning Saviours don’t have a tie to the actually-lost group Norrsken — from whence, according to the narrative, the whole scene more or less sprang — they did share an allegiance to early Pentagram with Witchcraft and a decidedly ’70s tonality with both of their contemporaries. Formed in 2003, they issued their self-titled debut via the tastemaking imprint I Hate Records, and though Witchcraft‘s debut had arrived a year earlier and set the tone for the retro boom that would take place over the course of the next decade, Burning Saviours still had a pivotal role to play in establishing that sound and educating the general listenership.

I’ve said as much before, but I’m not sure if this scene or subgenre happens without the widespread release of Pentagram‘s First Daze Here via Relapse in 2001. True, Norrsken had a ’70s vibe a couple years earlier in ’99, but First Daze Here would become such an aesthetic blueprint, and one can hear its impact on Burning Saviours tracks like “Thoughtless Fools,” “Seeing is Believing,” the earlier “Pytho,” or closer “What’s the Point?,” a heavy rock swing brought to back the steadily lumbering doom riffs. At the time, Burning Saviours were comprised of guitarist/vocalist Andrei Amartinesei, guitarist Mikael Marjanen, bassist Fredrik Evertsson and drummer Martin Wijkström, and the doom they wrought was the key defining factor separating them from the other early post-turn-of-the-century Swedish retroists. Graveyard wouldn’t make their debut until later. Likewise, Witchcraft almost immediately adopted a more progressive stance coming off of their first record. Burning Saviours, meanwhile, certainly dug into some classic progressive rock, as Erica Enback‘s flute work demonstrates on “Spread Your Wings” and “Trees & Stone,” but the thicker-toned roll of “Shadow” is prescient of the direction which the band would head in terms not only of sticking to the very roots of proto-metal, but driving specifically to maintain an allegiance to classic doom.

And that’s pretty much the story here. “Shadow” picks up its pace in the second half, “Thoughtless Fools” offers particularly classy lead work, “Trees & Stone” bounces a rhythm as natural as its title, and “What’s the Point?” finishes with a suitable apex. Sometimes with these posts it’s tempting to regard albums as unheralded classics or something like that. Burning Saviours‘ Burning Saviours is an aesthetically cohesive debut that put the band in position as early adopters of a vintage style of doom before it became the still-evolving subgenre it is today. And where other acts who were putting together their first releases and tours at the time would reach a more mass audience, Burning Saviours stuck to doom on their subsequent 2006 sophomore outing, Hundus, and on through their 2007 third album, Nymphs & Weavers, which would end their initial run and lead to a couple years’ hiatus. One might consider that an influence culled from Finland’s Reverend Bizarre, who would claim Europe’s doom revivalist crown despite a more modern production feel, but whatever the case, it kept Burning Saviours in more of a niche, preaching to the converted in a church of warm tones, brooding atmospheres and laid back nod.

Steady lineup changes pre- and post-hiatus revamped the band almost entirely over time. When they came back, Burning Saviours issued a series of singles called Förbannelsen that were eventually collected on 2014’s Boken om förbannelsen. They’ve been reasonably productive since, releasing two full-lengths in 2015’s Unholy Tales from the North and the simply-titled Death, which came out this past March via Transubstans. At this point, Marjanen is the sole remaining founder in the now-five-piece incarnation of the band, and having cast off the ’70s vision of their earlier work, Burning Saviours have embraced a rawer, darker vision of doom, still very much in line with the genre’s traditions but unquestionably more modern in its presentation. They remain thoroughly, unquestionably, doomed.

Hard for me to pick a favorite between this debut and Hundus, which was a little more sure of itself, maybe, and had more rock at its foundation. Either way, in light of the development of heavy ’70s style doom and boogie as a style all its own, it seems like Burning Saviours‘ earliest output is worth another look for both its quality and the fact that the band were so much on the ground floor of the wave that would soon enough become a tsunami the ripples of which are still feeling felt today.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Woke up this morning at 12:45. On the dot. I was just getting up to go to the bathroom, because I’m an old man and old men get up to go to the bathroom in the “middle of the night” when others are just getting home from whatever they did with their evening — I watched Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and ate slow-cooker chicken with The Patient Mrs.; zero regrets — and I noticed the dog wasn’t in her bed. Uh oh.

I knew immediately what it meant, and it meant I wasn’t getting back to sleep anytime soon. Sure enough, I came downstairs to find her in the basement, having just taken a huge and mostly liquid shit. The Little Dog Dio doesn’t go in the house unless she’s sick, and if she’s sick, she has her spots. Corners. Someplace out of the way. It’s a shar pei thing — they’re very neat and orderly dogs. So when she can’t get outside, she goes in the basement. Last time it was on the carpet down there. This time, the painted particlebaord floor. Much easier cleanup, but still worried-I’d-run-out-of-paper-towels significant. By the time I was finished wiping down the floor and giving the dog a Pepto Bismol, it was well after 1AM, and yeah, no way I’m going to sleep after that.

Instead, I fired up The Patient Mrs.’ laptop and started this post. I shudder to think of the typos in the section above, especially as I got sleepier and sleepier as the post continued and 1AM became 2AM and so on. By three, I was back upstairs asleep, and by four up again. No dogshit this time, just awake. There was about a cup’s worth of coffee left in the pot and some iced tea, so there you go. It’s 20 to six at the moment and I’m making my way through the Burning Saviours album again for the hell of it.

At some point, The Patient Mrs. and The Pecan will come downstairs and the day will start in earnest. I’ll change his diaper while she gets ready for the day, brushes teeth, finds not-pajamas to put on, etc., then maybe breakfast and on from there. Yesterday during that process I ordered a new laptop, which I hope will be here next week. I’m very excited for that and also for buying a new camera. Think I’m going to upgrade there. I’ve had my eye on one on Craigslist that hopefully is still there when the transfer of funds goes through sometime this coming week. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, the story is here.

I was going to put up a list of some of the things I lost on that laptop — writings, interviews, the playlist for when my son was born, and so on — but I think it’d just make me sad, so I’ll refrain. Especially when the response was so heartening there’s no need for that kind of thing.

That UK trip was an interesting time. Ups and downs, but definitely more of the former. Seeing Colour Haze on the last night in town, especially with The Patient Mrs., even though she was stressing out the whole time about leaving the baby with a stranger. I was like, “She’s from Cherry Hill, New Jersey! We’re practically paisan!” I’ve never been much for comforting the worried.

Still, well worth it for a glorious two-hour Colour Haze set that, again, was too short. And I was glad to see Elephant Tree earlier in the week as well, even though The Black Heart later on wouldn’t let the baby in the bar downstairs. Who doesn’t love a baby at the bar? That’s the stuff of life, man.

We’re back home now in buggy summertime Massachusetts, where I think pretty much we’re staying for today before packing up and heading south to CT for the long weekend. There’s stuff to take care of here, but then it’s back to CT, on to NJ, back up here again and back south, hopefully this time for a longer stay in NJ starting the second week of June. I mean like serious relocation, kind of testing the waters for what it would be like to move back to our ancestral homeland, my beloved Garden State. There’s a lot that needs to happen between point A and point B on that one, but I plan on having a few good family dinners over the summer, and that alone is worth looking forward to. I miss the shit out of my family.

But that’s getting ahead of myself and as we push toward 6AM, I can hear the baby crying upstairs, so I’m going to go check in on that and maybe give The Patient Mrs. a spell where she can go back to sleep unhindered by The Pecan. He’s seven months old today, has cut two teeth and is crawling up on his hands and knees as of this morning. Couldn’t do that yesterday. Can do it today.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Thanks for reading. If you’re doing anything for Memorial Day, please be safe and don’t cop a DUI or anything. No casualties.

I’ll be posting on Monday, because that’s how I do, so if you get a second and want to check in, I’ll be here, as usual. Until then, please dig on the forum and radio stream.

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Burning Saviours, Soldat Hans, Olde, Holy Grove, Persona and Dungaree

Posted in Radio on December 5th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio

I try to do these every week. I’d like to, ideally, but it seems to be more like when folders and zip files clog up my desktop enough to really get on my nerves. Fair enough. A full 20 records joined the playlist today, including a couple wintry classics from Anathema that either were overlooked by me or wrongly left out, plus the new Witch Mountain album, and some other recently-reviewed and otherwise-written-about stuff. It’s actually a pretty killer list. If you’re into it, or if you want to see what else has been added lately or what was played today, check out the Playlist and Updates Page. I spend an embarrassing amount of time there. Here are a few more reasons why.

The Obelisk Radio Adds for Dec. 5, 2014:

Burning Saviours, Unholy Tales from the North

Burning Saviours Unholy Tales from the North

The unheralded heroes of Sweden’s retro heavy movement return with their first full-length since 2007. Their fifth outing overall, Burning Saviours‘ Unholy Tales from the North follows a series of four singles released between 2012 and 2013 (recently compiled by I Hate Records and released under the title Boken Om Förbannelsen) and finds the Örebro four-piece reveling in ’70s-style doom once more, albeit with a rawer and less directly ’70s-style production. That is, it’s not as directly fuzzed as their self-titled debut was nine years ago, when it was pretty much them and Witchcraft digging on classic Pentagram alone, but still presented in the same spirit, a strong opening trio of “They Will Rise Tonight,” “And the Wolves Cried Out” and “Your Love Hurts Like Fire” creating a lasting impression somewhere between early metal (think Rocka Rolla-era Priest) and the heavy rock that preceded it. Two Swedish-language tracks, “Ondskan” and “Lyktgubben,” end each side, and at 28 minutes, it’s a quick runthrough, but shows easily that Burning Saviours — since 2010 the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Mikael Monks, lead guitarist Jonas Hartikainen, bassist Fredrik Evertsson and drummer Martin Wijkström — remain vital in their approach, cuts like “Inside My Mind” and “The Sons of the North” exploring metal’s roots effectively and organically while crafting something new, if familiar, from them. Burning Saviours on Thee Facebooks, at Transubstans Records.

Soldat Hans, Dress Rehearsal

Soldat Hans Dress Rehearsal

Swiss newcomers Soldat Hans seem to be embarking on an admirably ambitious journey with their self-released debut, Dress Rehearsal, the title of which hints at their thinking of it as a demo, but for which the extended four tracks included serve to craft a sense of ambience that marks it unmistakably as a full-length. Engrossing in its atmosphere, patient in its construction and impeccably conceived, Dress Rehearsal plays out lengthy builds fluidly and takes listeners from minimalist drone and slow unfolding to massive, feedback-caked sludge, and then back again, sounding natural in the process and brilliant for both its pummel and restraint. None of the four cuts — “Meine Liebste; Sie zerbricht sich” (15:21), “Esthère (im bronzefarbenen Licht)” (13:34), “Zikueth! Zikueth!” (18:25) and “Liefdesgrot” (15:08) — really departs from a bleak, moody feel, but there are shifts throughout, as “Esthère (im bronzefarbenen Licht)” moves from the linearity of the opener to brooding post-rock and jazzy exploration before hitting its own wash of viciousness. To have a band take such control of their sound on their first outing is remarkable, and the longest and farthest ranging of the tracks, “Zikueth! Zikueth!” provides Soldat Hans their shining moment, theatrical but not overdone, melodic early and raging late, hypnotic in the middle, as classic as it is avant garde. They close out with another maddening payoff in “Liefdesgrot,” and while in the future I’d be interested to hear them take on structures as wide-ranging as what they bring sonically to Dress Rehearsal, if this is just practice, I can’t wait for the show to start. Soldat Hans on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Olde, I

SAMO_12Jacket_Standard_RJC

If you were to go by their sound alone, I don’t think there’s any way you could come out of hearing burly five-piece Olde‘s Hypaethral Records debut long-player, I, and not imagine they were from Virginia. In fact, they come from Toronto, but the aggro Southern metal they purvey on the album’s eight bruising tracks would be right at home in the heart of sludgeland, full as it is of steady rolls — Sons of Otis drummer Ryan Aubin provides trailmarking thud — the from-the-chest growling from Doug McLarty and lumbering riffs, songs like “Heart Attack” and “Changelings” in the tracklist’s midsection readily crossing the line between sludge and doom, all mudhole stomp, metallic affiliation and violent groove. There’s atmosphere at work, but it comes out through the aggression portrayed, and ultimately, has about as all the ambience of having your teeth kicked in. And yes, that counts the variation on the theme in the closing “Perimeter Walk,” the more echoing guitar, farther back vocals, and so on. With a crisp production behind it, Olde‘s debut knows precisely the kind of beatdown it wants to deliver and sets about its task with brutal efficiency. Olde on Thee Facebooks, Hypaethral Records on Bandcamp.

Holy Grove, Live at Jooniors

Holy Grove Live at Jooniors

Recorded at some point between then and now at Joonior Studios in Seattle, Washington — I’m guessing more toward “then” — the 2014 outing Live at Jooniors from Portland four-piece Holy Grove is only two songs, but even one would be enough to serve notice of their warm tonality and the bluesy vocals of Andrea Vidal, who pushes her voice to its reaches on “Holy Grove” and still manages to nail the emotional crux. Honestly, that would probably be enough to carry “Holy Grove” and the following “Nix” on its own — sold; I’m on board — but I won’t discount the fuzz in Trent Jacobs‘ guitar or bassist Gregg Emley‘s fills in “Nix,” or the seamless shift drummer Craig Bradford leads between subdued verses and the tense chorus of “Holy Grove.” As far as serving notice goes, Live at Jooniors does so and then some, and without sacrificing sound quality as so many underground live recordings do. Seems to me a 7″ release wouldn’t be out of order, but Holy Grove seem more intent on getting together their full-length debut, which if they can bring to the studio the vibe they create in just 13 minutes on stage, is going to be something to look out for indeed. Learn the name, because you’ll hear it again. Holy Grove on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Persona, Persona

Persona Persona

Buenos Aires instrumental four-piece Persona formed in 2004/2005, but their newly-released self-titled appears to be their first LP, preceded by a 2012 EP. If the better part of the intermittent decade was spent jamming, it doesn’t seem to have hurt the band, who present nine plotted but flowing tracks that keep some loose sensibility to them while following a course of classic heavy and fuzz rock. The lineup of guitarist/bassists Lucas Podestá and Santiago Adano, guitarist Gustavo Hernández and drummer Esteban Podestá touch here and there on more metal tendencies, as on “Los Perros” and the brief “Cortina,” but that’s no more out of place than the proggy exploration of “Cuna de Fantasmas,” a King Crimson-style noodling underscored by subtly engaging snare work and giving way to a heavier push. The lead guitar on “Cazador” provides a particularly engaging moment of payoff for the album’s first half, but there’s enough variety throughout that Persona‘s Persona offers a range of satisfying moments. Still room for the band to develop their style, but they obviously have the will and chemistry to do so. Persona on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Dungaree, Climb out of the River

Dungaree Climb out of the River EP

I’ll give it to Hungarian four-piece Dungaree based on their moniker alone. It’s simple, fun to say, and it evokes the rebelliousness of a bygone time. Their debut release, a three-song EP dubbed Climb out of the River, is likewise sharp-dressed, with a grunge-style production that pushes the dudely vocals of László Gergely to the fore ahead of Horváth T. Zoltán‘s guitar, Balogh Attila‘s bass and Dencs Dominik‘s drums to result in a sound that comes across to my American ears more akin to commercial hard rock than underground heavy, though in my experience the line in Europe and particularly Eastern Europe is both less distinct and less relevant. The tracks are short, straightforward, hard-hitting and catchy, with “Climb out of the River” a strong opening hook, “Dream Again” pushing into metallic guitar chugging in its breakneck chorus, and “Right Words” toying with a lounge boogie — snapping fingers and all — that assures the listener that although Dungaree have their sharp corners, they’re not about to take themselves too seriously either. Might not be for everyone, but shows a strong foundation of songwriting, and I wouldn’t ask any more of a first outing than that. Dungaree on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Six releases, and a pretty varied bunch at that. It’s still really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what went up to the server. I always like putting stuff on there — it’s like casting a fishing lure, except maybe without killing? I don’t know. More like tossing a fish in the ocean maybe and not knowing when it will swim by the boat again. Or maybe I just (re)watched Jaws recently and have aquatics on the brain.

Either way, we’ve passed the two-year mark since the stream went online and I’m very happy with how The Obelisk Radio has turned out. Special thanks to Slevin for all the work he’s put in over that time in helping me with hosting and making it go, and thank you as always for reading and listening.

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