Quarterly Review: Pelican, Swan Valley Heights, Mark Deutrom, Greenbeard, Mount Soma, Nibiru, Cable, Reino Ermitaño, Cardinals Folly & Lucifer’s Fall, Temple of the Fuzz Witch

Posted in Reviews on July 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

More computer bullshit this morning. I lost about 45 minutes because my graphics driver and Windows 10 apparently hate each other and before I could disable the former, the machine decided the best it could do for me was to load a blank screen. Hard to find the Pelican record on my desktop when I can’t see my desktop. The Patient Mrs. woke up while I was trying to fix it and suggested HDMIing it to the tv. When I did that, it didn’t project as was hoped, but the display came on — because go figure — and I was able to shut off the driver, the only real advantage of which is it lets me use the night light feature so it’s easier on my eyes. That’s nice, but I’d rather have the laptop function. Not really working on a level of “give me soft red light or give me death!” at this point. I may yet get there in my life.

Today’s the last day of this beast, wrapping up the last of the 60 reviews, and I’m already in the hole for the better part of an hour thanks to this technical issue, the second of the week. Been an adventure, this one. Let’s close it out.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Pelican, Nighttime Stories

pelican nighttime stories

Split into two LPs each with its own three-minute mood-setter — those being “WST” and “It Stared at Me,” respectively — Pelican‘s Nighttime Stories (on Southern Lord) carries the foreboding sensibility of its title into an aggressive push throughout the album, which deals from the outset with the pain of loss. The lead single “Midnight and Mescaline” represents this well in directly following “WST,” with shades of more extreme sounds in the sharp-turning guitar interplay and tense drums, but it carries through the blastbeats of “Abyssal Plain” and the bombastic crashes of presumed side B closer “Cold Hope” as well, which flow via a last tonal wash toward the melancholy “It Stared at Me” and the even-more-aggro title-track, the consuming “Arteries of Blacktop” and the eight-minute “Full Moon, Black Water,” which offers a build of maddening chug — a Pelican hallmark — before resolving in melodic serenity, moving, perhaps, forward with and through its grief. It’s been six years since Pelican‘s last LP, Forever Becoming (review here), and they’ve responded to that time differential with the hardest-hitting record they’ve ever done.

Pelican on Thee Facebooks

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Swan Valley Heights, The Heavy Seed

swan valley heights the heavy seed

Though the peaceful beginning of 13-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Heavy Seed,” for which the five-song album is named, reminds of Swan Valley Heights‘ Munich compatriots in Colour Haze, the ultimate impression the band make on their Fuzzorama Records debut and second album overall behind a 2016 self-titled (review here) is more varied in its execution, with cuts like “Vaporizer Woman” and the centerpiece “Take a Swim in God’s Washing Machine” manifesting ebbs and flows and rolling out a fuzzy largesse to lead into dream-toned ethereality and layered vocals that immediately call to mind Elephant Tree. There’s a propensity for jamming, but they’re not a jam band, and seem always to have a direction in mind. That’s true even on the three-minute instrumental “My First Knife Fight,” which unfurls around a nod riff and simple drum progression to bridge into closer “Teeth and Waves,” a bookend to The Heavy Seed‘s title-track that revives that initial grace and uses it as a stepping stone for the crunch to come. It’s a balance that works and should be well received.

Swan Valley Heights on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzorama Records on Bandcamp

 

Mark Deutrom, The Blue Bird

Mark Deutrom The Blue Bird

Released in the wee hours of 2019, Mark Deutrom‘s The Blue Bird marks the first new solo release from the prolific Austin-based songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist through Season of Mist, and it’s a 50-minute run of genre-spanning outsider art, bringing ’70s folk vibes to the weepy guitar echoes of “Radiant Gravity” right before “O Ye of Little Faith” dooms out for six of its seven minutes and “Our Revels Now Are Ended” basks in 77 seconds of experimentalist winding guitar. It goes like that. Vocals are intermittent enough to not necessarily be expected, but not entirely absent through the midsection of “Hell is a City,” “Somnambulist” and “Maximum Hemingway,” and if there’s traditionalism at play anywhere, it might be in “They Have Won” and “The Happiness Machine,” which, toward the back end of the album, bring a sax-laden melancholy vibe and a straightforward heavy rock feel, respectively, ahead of the closer “Nothing out There,” which ties them together, somehow accounting for the 1:34 “On Fathers Day” as well in its sweetness. Don’t go into The Blue Bird asking it to make sense on any level other than its own and you should be fine. It’s not a minor undertaking at 50 minutes, and not without its indulgences, but even the briefest of pieces helps develop the character of the whole, which of course is essential to any good story.

Mark Deutrom website

Season of Mist website

 

Greenbeard, Onward, Pillager

greenbeard onward pillager

Austin bringers of hard-boogie Greenbeard reportedly issued the three-song Onward, Pillager as a precursor to their next full-length — even the name hints toward it being something of a stopgap — but its tracks stand well on their own, whether it’s the keyboard-laced “Contact High II,” which is presumably a sequel to another track on the forthcoming record, or the chunkier roll of “WCCQ” and the catchy finisher “Kill to Love Yourself,” with its overlaid guitar solo adding to a dramatic ending. It hasn’t been that long since 2017’s Lödarödböl (review here), but clearly these guys are committed to moving forward in neo-stoner rock fashion, and their emergence as songwriters is highlighted particularly throughout “WCCQ” and “Kill to Love Yourself,” while “Contact High II” is more of an intro or a would-be interlude on the full-length. It may only be pieces of a larger, to-be-revealed picture, but Onward, Pillager shows three different sides of what Greenbeard have on offer, and the promise of more to come is one that will hopefully be kept sooner rather than later.

Greenbeard on Thee Facebooks

Sailor Records on Bandcamp

 

Mount Soma, Nirodha

mount_soma_nirodha

Each of the three songs on Mount Soma‘s densely-weighted, live-recorded self-released Nirodha EP makes some mention of suffering in its lyrics, and indeed, that seems to be the theme drawing together “Dark Sun Destroyer” (7:40), “Emerge the Wolf” (5:50) and “Resurfacing” (9:14): a quest for transcendence perhaps in part due to the volume of the music and the act itself of creating it. Whatever gets them there, the trajectory of Nirodha is such that by the time they hit into the YOB-style galloping toward the end of “Resurfacing,” the gruff shouts of “rebirth!” feel more celebratory than ambitious. Based in Dublin, the four-piece bring a fair sense of space to their otherwise crush-minded approach, and though the EP is rough — it is their second short release following 2016’s Origins — they seem to have found a way to tie together outer and inner cosmos with an earthbound sense of gravity and heft, and with the more intense shove of “Emerge the Wolf” between the two longer tracks, they prove themselves capable of bringing a noisy charge amid all that roar and crash. They did the first EP live as well. I wonder if they’d do the same for a full-length.

Mount Soma on Thee Facebooks

Mount Soma on Bandcamp

 

Nibiru, Salbrox

nibiru salbrox

One might get lost in the unmanageable 64-minute wash of Nibiru‘s fifth full-length (first for Ritual Productions), Salbrox, but the opaque nature of the proceedings is part of the point. The Italian ritualists bring forth a chaotic depth of noise and harsh semi-spoken rasps of vocals reportedly in the Enochian language, and from 14-minute opener “EHNB” — also the longest track (immediate points) — through the morass that follows in “Exarp,” “Hcoma,” “Nanta” and so on, the album is a willful slog that challenges the listener on nearly every level. This is par for the course for Nibiru, whose last outing was 2017’s Qaal Babalon (review here), and they seem to revel in the slow-churning gruel of their distortion, turning from it only to break to minimalism in the second half of the album with “Abalpt” and “Bitom” before 13-minute closer “Rziorn” storms in like a tsunami of spiritually desolate plunge. It is vicious and difficult to hear, and again, that is exactly what it’s intended to be.

Nibiru on Thee Facebooks

Ritual Productions website

 

Cable, Take the Stairs to Hell

Cable Take the Stairs to Hell

The gift of Cable was to take typically raw Northeastern disaffection and channel it into a noise rock that wasn’t quite as post-this-or-that as Isis, but still had a cerebral edge that more primitive fare lacked. They were methodical, and 10 years after their last record, the Hartford, Connecticut, outfit return with the nine-song/30-minute Take the Stairs to Hell (on Translation Loss), which brings them back into the modern sphere with a sound that is no less relevant than it was bouncing between This Dark Reign, Hydra Head and Translation Loss between 2001 and 2004. They were underrated then and may continue to be now, but the combination of melody and bite in “Black Medicine” and the gutty crunch of “Eyes Rolled Back,” the post-Southern heavy of the title-track and the lumbering pummel of “Rivers of Old” before it remind of how much of a standout Cable was in the past, reinforcing that not only were they ahead of their time then, but that they still have plenty to offer going forward. They may continue to be underrated as they always were, but their return is significant and welcome.

Cable on Instagram

Translation Loss Records webstore

 

Reino Ermitaño, Reino Ermitaño

Reino Ermitano Reino Ermitano

Originally released in 2003, the self-titled debut from Lima, Peru’s Reino Ermitaño was a beacon and landmark in Latin American doom, with a sound derived from the genre’s traditions — Sabbath, Trouble, etc. — and melded with not only Spanish-language lyrics, but elements of South American folk and stylizations. Reissued on vinyl some 16 years later, it maintains its power through the outside-time level of its craft, sliding into that unplaceable realm of doom that could be from any point from about 1985 onward, while the melodies in the guitar of Henry Guevara and the vocals of Tania Duarte hold sway over the central groove of bassist Marcos Coifman and drummer Julio “Ñaka” Almeida. Those who were turned onto the band at the time will likely know they’ve released five LPs to-date, with the latest one from 2014, but the Necio Records version marks the first time the debut has been pressed to vinyl, and so is of extra interest apart from the standard putting-it-out-there-again reissue. Collectors and a new generation of doomers alike would be well advised on an educational level, and of course the appeal of the album itself far exceeds that.

Reino Ermitaño on Thee Facebooks

Necio Records on Bandcamp

 

Cardinals Folly & Lucifer’s Fall, Split

cardinals folly lucifers fall split

Though one hails from Helsinki, Finland, and the other from Adelaide, Australia, Cardinals Folly and Lucifer’s Fall could hardly be better suited to share the six-song Cruz Del Sur split LP that they do, which checks in at 35 minutes of trad doom riffing and dirtier fare. The former is provided by Cardinals Folly, who bring a Reverend Bizarre-style stateliness to “Spiritual North” and “Walvater Proclaimed!” before betraying their extreme metal roots on “Sworn Through Odin’s and Satan’s Blood,” while the Oz contingent throw down Saint Vitus-esque punk-born fuckall through “Die Witch Die,” the crawling “Call of the Wild” and the particularly brash and speedier “The Gates of Hell.” The uniting thread of course is homage to doom itself, but each band brings enough of their own take to complement each other without either contradicting or making one or the other of them feel redundant, and rather, the split works out to be a rampaging, deeply-drunk, pagan-feeling celebration of what doom is and how it has been internalized by each of these groups. Doom over the world? Yeah, something like that.

Cardinals Folly on Thee Facebooks

Lucifer’s Fall on Thee Facebooks

Cruz Del Sur Music website

 

Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Temple of the Fuzz Witch

Temple of the Fuzz Witch Temple of the Fuzz Witch

A strong current of Electric Wizard runs through the self-titled debut full-length from Detroit’s Temple of the Fuzz Witch (on Seeing Red Records), but even to that, the outfit led by guitarist/vocalist Noah Bruner bring a nascent measure of individuality, droning into and through “Death Hails” after opening with “Bathsheba” and ahead of unveiling a harmonized vocal on “The Glowing of Satan” that suits the low end distortion surprisingly well. They continue to offer surprises throughout, whether it’s the spaciousness of centerpiece “329” and “Infidel,” which follows, or the offsetting of minimalism and crush on “The Fuzz Witch” and the creeper noise in the ending of “Servants of the Sun,” and though there are certainly familiar elements at play, Temple of the Fuzz Witch come across with an intent to take what’s been done before and make it theirs. In that regard, they would seem to be on the right track, and in their 41 minutes, they find footing in a murky aesthetic and are able to convey a sense of songwriting without sounding heavy-handed. There’s nothing else I’d ask of their first album.

Temple of the Fuzz Witch on Thee Facebooks

Seeing Red Records on Bandcamp

 

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Cable Announce New Album Take the Stairs to Hell out July 26

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

cable

By the time they get around to releasing Take the Stairs to Hell on July 26, Cable will be a month shy of a full decade since they last issued an album. The new record marks the return of one of New England’s most furious bands, who always managed to temper their aggression with a methodical kind of approach that only made their groove deadlier. They’d almost have to give a sample of audio to, you know, prove the album actually exists, and to that end, they’re streaming “Rivers of Old” even as preorders are live through Translation Loss Records, which previously worked with the band for 2004’s Pigs Never Fly, their fifth LP. It was five years between that and 2009’s The Failed Convict, and I recall that seemed like a long time back then. Honestly, I didn’t imagine they’d ever have another record out. Shows what I know.

The announcement came through the PR wire as follows:

Cable Take the Stairs to Hell

Connecticut heavyweights CABLE release new song + announce new full-length

It’s been almost a decade since Connecticut heavyweights CABLE released new material. Today, they announce “Take The Stairs To Hell”, due for release on July 26th via Translation Loss Records.

Angrier than ever, CABLE are back to show you the hell they’ve been through and that it was worth the wait. CABLE have unleashed a brand new song titled, “Rivers Of Old”, the first single from “Take The Stairs To Hell.” About the announcement, bassist/vocalist Randy Larsen commented, “Take The Stairs To Hell” is about anger, hatred, depression, and negativity. It was born out of songs I wrote as far back as 2014 and as recent as 2018. The album its a slow decent into my own personal hell. Larsen continues, “We put our blood, sweat and tears into this one. Enjoy the venom. It’s time to set the river straight.”

Pre-order is available now via Translation Loss Records. Album artwork, track listing, and info is below.

CABLE
“Take The Stairs To Hell”
Official Release Date: July 26, 2019

Album credits:
Recorded, mixed at Mystic Valley by Alex Garcia-Rivera
Mastered by Brad Boatright at AudioSiege
Album artwork by Mark Rudolph

Track Listing:
1. Forest Dream (Intro)
2. It Cost Me Everything
3. Black Medicine
4. Low Man
5. Rats On Fire
6. Eyes Rolled Back
7. Rivers Of Old
8. Take The Stairs To Hell
9. Come Home (Outro)

Cable is:
Randy Larsen – Bass,Vocals
Bernie Romanowski – Guitar
Chris “Fish” Harding – Guitar
Peter Farris – Vocals
Alex Garcia-Rivera – Drums

Promo photos by Jason Hellmann

http://www.instagram.com/cabletheband
https://translationlossrecords.bandcamp.com/
http://translationlossrecords.bigcartel.com/

Cable, “Rivers of Old”

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Buried Treasure: Redscroll Records on Black Friday

Posted in Buried Treasure on November 26th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

When I worked at KB Toys store #1051 in Morris Plains, New Jersey, they used to call it “Green Friday,” and as I started there when I was just turned 16, that was how I came to know Black Friday, which is what most people in the US call the day after Thanksgiving — the busiest shopping day of the year and the “official” kickoff of the holiday retail season.

Black Friday takes its name not from the shadow that consumerism at large casts on American culture, but from the simple fact that it’s the day that moves most stores from the red into the black for the year. It’s when they start turning a profit. Seeing an opportunity to continue their mission of promoting independent music culture, the fine folks behind Record Store Day got involved this year, bolstering the event with special releases and other initiatives. I’d expect more of that kind of thing next year.

Late last month, when I was at Redscroll Records in Wallingford, Connecticut, on my apparently annual autumn pilgrimage, I was given a flyer for their Black Friday specials, and knowing that I was going to be in the state for the Thanksgiving holiday, kindly suggested to The Patient Mrs. that I might like to wake up early and hit up the sale, which was 25 percent off everything in stock except for turntables.

So it was. My alarm went off yesterday at 5:35AM, and when I walked into Redscroll at 6:02 or thereabouts, the place was already full. Outside, the sun was just starting to think about rising. As I suspected I might, I had the CD racks mostly to myself (at least as compares to vinyl — LPs are by far the priority for the shop), but it was easily the most crowded I’d ever seen it. People were friendly, though, making way for each other and handing off releases to other potential buyers. I used the 25 percent discount as an excuse to pick up a few odds and ends, most of which I’d already heard, but hadn’t gotten full copies of, and other discs I’d wanted to grab this year that I hadn’t gotten the chance.

For example, I long since own Sovereign by Neurosis, but a quarter off the price was enough for me to grab the 2011 reissue, and stuff like CandlemassAshes to Ashes live record and Place of SkullsAs a Dog Returns had just kind of slipped through the cracks in terms of getting a physical copy. I bought The Body & Braveyoung‘s Nothing Passes to include in the next podcast (no big surprise: it sounds totally fucked), and was hoping to nab The Atlas Moth‘s An Ache for the End for the same reason, but they were out of it, and I drowned my sorrows in some cheap George Carlin, Goblin and Free instead.

Now that I’ve heard the low-end centric mega-grooves of Saturnalia Temple‘s Aion of Drakon, I’m officially stoked to check them out at Roadburn next year. And because I haven’t been able to leave there without doing so the last couple times I’ve been, I picked up a Cable CD, this time the 2008 reissue of their first album, Variable Speed Drive, the original version of which I’ve been hunting on eBay for a bit with no real success.

It was just over $100 for 10 discs, which wasn’t bad and was enough to earn me a free Redscroll t-shirt that I’ll wear proudly. I went back to the motel and crashed out for a couple more hours before getting up and heading south back to Jersey to go to work, and after that, on the way further south to Maryland, I requested yet another stop from The Patient Mrs., this one to Vintage Vinyl, to pick up that Atlas Moth record and settle the matter once and for all. I also got a full copy of Invisible White by Ancestors. Both at full price, and neither with any regret.

Vintage Vinyl in the evening was empty compared to Redscroll in the morning, which was troubling, since that’s pretty much the only shop in New Jersey where I can do something like stop in and pick up an Atlas Moth or an Ancestors CD and be confident that they’ll actually have such a thing. I know they had stocked some of the Record Store Day Black Friday special releases, but hopefully they come around to the sale stuff too, because god damn, I’d hate to lose that place as a resource.

In the meantime, a package showed up in the mail yesterday from All That is Heavy with a copy of Master Sleeps by Hills, which is jammier than I thought it would be, and the Rise Above reissue of NecromandusOrexis of Death, which Tony “I Have Excellent Fucking Taste and Stone Axe is My Band to Prove It” Reed recommended a while back I make mine. Altogether, this probably represents the bulk of the music I’ll buy through the end of 2011, so it was good to send the year out with a bang. I should have plenty to keep me busy until January comes.

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Buried Treasure and Redscroll in Autumn, Pt. 2

Posted in Buried Treasure on October 28th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Moments ago, as I was trying to think of a headline for this post, I recalled that I’d visited Redscroll Records in Wallingford, Connecticut, last year around this time. Creature of habit that I am, the date on that post is Oct. 25, 2010. Here we are, a year and three days later and I’m chronicling pretty much the same trip. Surprisingly, there was no band overlap. Small favors, I guess.

It had been or at least felt like a while since I did a good round of caution-and-common-sense-to-the-wind record shopping, which I find is good for the soul, and especially since my prior visit to the store had come up empty, I was stoked to make out pretty good this time. You can probably see the stack in the picture above, but in case you don’t feel like clicking to enlarge it, here’s the rundown:

Aldebaran, Buried Beneath Aeons
Cable, Cable
Desert Sessions, Vol. I/Vol. II
Desert Sessions, Vol. III/Vol. IV
Dove, Dove
Grayceon, All We Destroy
Orange Goblin, Time Travelling Blues
Patton Oswalt, Finest Hour
Reverend Bizarre, Death is Glory… Now!
Sunride, Magnetizer
VA, Judge Not…
Wooden Shjips, Dos
Wolves in the Throne Room, Celestial Lineage

Of those, I already own the Desert Sessions, Dove and Orange Goblin records — but I still have my reasons for buying each. The Orange Goblin was used, and as I looked at it on the shelf, I discovered it was the Japanese version of the record, with their cover of Trouble‘s “Black Shapes of Doom” for a bonus track. That cover originally appeared on the Bastards Will Pay tribute, and since I’ve never had any luck tracking down a copy of that (it’s in my canon of daily eBay searches), I figured all the more excuse to get the import on the cheap.

The Dove, on the other hand, is probably the least reasonable of the repeat offenses. Where the Desert Sessions stuff was priced new, it was also like $12 a pop, and screw it, if I’m already spending money, I’ll hit that up. I looked so hard for those CDs the first time around, I don’t mind having doubles. For the Dove disc, though, there really is no argument. It was there, it was used, and I bought it. It’s out of print, and I might use it in a trade or something at some point — hey, if anyone wants to switch it for that Trouble tribute, drop a line — but beyond that, it was an impulse and an excuse to revisit the album from the Floor offshoot, which I hadn’t heard in years.

Grayceon was one of two discs I knew I wanted to pick up going into the trip — the other was Rwake, which Redscroll was out of — and since I’ve had those songs stuck in my head for the last month, I was glad to have the full version of the album to sate that. That wasn’t used, but it is now. The Wolves in the Throne Room is also their latest record, which I had every intent of reviewing but never got around to, but only had a disc and top liner for. There’s always one or two tracks on their albums that justifies a purchase, and now I can take my time finding out which ones those are on Celestial Lineage. I don’t feel as bad for not reviewing it if I go out and buy the record.

I bought Sunride‘s Magnetizer (1998, Boundless Records) because of a discussion on the forum of the worst stoner rock albums ever. Not that it’s mentioned in there, but Sea of Green is, and I got the names mixed up in my head. I had wanted to buy it just to hear what the worst stoner rock ever sounded like. As Magnetizer isn’t even close to the worst stoner rock I’ve ever heard, I can’t help but feel like I inadvertently won out.

The Wooden Shjips I got because I need to review their new album, West, for work and wanted something to compare it to. It was used, as was the Underdogma Records compilation, Judge Not…, which proved yet again that I don’t like comps until they’re out of print and desirable for their obscurity. I don’t remember the last time I heard Ironboss (guns don’t kill people, they do), so I’ll take it, and with Gammera, Pale Divine, early The Quill and Puny Human on there, all the better. Two discs of heavy rock I didn’t own prior. Six bucks.

Buying Cable in Connecticut had some oddball novelty to me, and the 1997 comp of their early tracks was used and is raw as hell, so that was a yes, and I didn’t even know Patton Oswalt had a new record, but there it was. Since on his last special, he was talking all about his wife being pregnant, I figured this would be his “I have a kid now” material (every comic has it), and sure enough, it is. Still good. The Reverend Bizarre and Aldebaran discs were impulse buys — I grabbed the Aldebaran with all the forethought of snatching a pack of Reese’s on the way out of the grocery store — but reckless abandon is no fun if it’s not actually reckless, so there you go.

The Patient Mrs. — bless her heart — had come in a few moments prior to collect me so we could make our way back south to Jersey, but as we were leaving, the dudes behind the counter informed that they’ll be doing a special Black Friday sale post-Thanksgiving, opening at 6AM with markdowns on new and used CDs and vinyl — which, at this point, takes up a good deal of the room they have. Turns out I’ll be up that way for the holiday, so if I’m not all drowned out in vino and tryptophan, I may just make that happen for myself. Seems like it could be fun, anyway.

More info on that and the store is here, if you’re interested. I’ll spare you the lecture on preserving independent record-buying culture, because I think you probably know it by now, but anyway, they do good work.

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