Review & Track Premiere: Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

mindkult-lucifers-dream

[Click play above to listen to the premiere of ‘Behold the Wraith’ from Mindkult’s Lucifer’s Dream, out Sept. 20 through Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.]

Virginian one-man outfit Mindkult quickly affirms the potential of 2016’s debut EP on the full-length follow-up, Lucifer’s Dream. Released through Transcending Obscurity and Caligari Records, the album arrives with some measure of fanfare as compares to last year’s Witch’s Oath (review here), but that’s a considerable testament to the niche that multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and producer Fowst immediately carved out for himself between doom, shoegaze, dreary psychedelia and garage cultistry. At six tracks and 42 minutes, Lucifer’s Dream gracefully, patiently fleshes out these textures and weaves them together to form not a mesh of disparate or semi-disparate approaches, but a coherent and individualized aesthetic that, were the word “kult” not already in such wide use, one might call “kult doom” in the project’s honor.

That is, though one can recognize flashes of Uncle Acid in an uptempo shuffle like second cut “Nightmares,” even that track pursues its own path via resonant lead guitar, Fowst sounds most of all like himself, and by placing more extended cuts “Drink My Blood” (8:06), “Behold the Wraith” (9:20) and “Lucifer’s Dream” (9:24) at the beginning, middle (-ish) and end positions of the tracklisting, Mindkult ensures a dirge-style vibe is maintained throughout. A rough production becomes an essential facet of the presentation in the blown-out guitar and bass tones, and whether they’re real drums or programmed, the march they elicit in “Infernals” on side B and the slow-swing of “Drink My Blood” at the outset help to ground and punctuate the downer trajectory. Mindkult, as a vehicle for Fowst in the tradition of black metal’s adopted monikers — see Wrest in Leviathan, Malefic in Xasthur, etc. — is going to bum you out and smile malevolently as it does. Accordingly, Lucifer’s Dream is one of 2017’s best debut albums, and in building out the potential of the EP before it, it also sets Fowst up for a longer term progression of songwriting and sonic persona.

The future of Mindkult will be whatever it will be, but what’s more important for the moment is the level of accomplishment that Fowst brings to cuts like “Behold the Wraith,” third of the six and the finale of side A, which fluidly shifts pace as it nears its midpoint from an initial slog to which the drawn-out, shoegazing vocals are perfectly suited, toward a relatively speedier chug. Layering in solo guitar over the rhythm adds to the sense of forward motion, and though the stretch is short-lived ultimately, it shows the deft hand with which Fowst already controls the proceedings within Mindkult. Lucifer’s Dream is rife with these moments of detail and nuance, and though from its artwork, overarching mournful spirit, loosely horror-derived thematics and sundry don’t-worry-about-all-of-us-being-doomed-because-it’s-already-happened miseries one gets a distinctly misanthropic impression, the songs themselves remain accessible, melodic and engaging. As much as “Drink My Blood” repels outwardly, it does so in a manner that engages the listener.

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Fowst‘s obscure moans and howls in “Drink My Blood” and “Nightmares” set the tone for the significant and headphone-worthy presence that “Behold the Wraith” and the five-minutes-apiece pair of “Infernals” and “Howling Witch” flesh out ahead of the title-track, a full-album flow enacted that bridges one side to the next even as it stays vinyl-ready with “Infernals” opening side B with a psycho-Satanic lyric to follow the the distinct movements within “Behold the Wraith.” Dark immersion is at the root of Mindkult‘s style, and while Fowst‘s vocals are at times buried (alive) beneath the guitars and bass — the drums are a steady but never really forefront presence so much as the strings — the intent doesn’t seem so much to create a spaciousness as to demonstrate the feeling of being lost within the whole muck that is the end product of Lucifer’s Dream as a whole.

Of course, the record succeeds in no small part because it never actually gets lost. As “Behold the Wraith” slows itself back down and heads into the mid-paced “Infernals” and the sample from the 1976 horror flick Satan’s Black Wedding (“He is pleased with you, Nina…”) that starts the speedier, hookier “Howling Witch,” Fowst smartly hones a palpable momentum to carry into the finale, which starts out at a stomp and makes its way toward wah-drenched psychedelic garage doom in its middle third. Hypnotic, it’s the kind of passage one might miss on an initial listen, but in terms of furthering Mindkult‘s potential, it opens another avenue for future exploration on the part of Fowst, and one hopes he’ll pursue it, especially since he’s able to transition so smoothly into its reaches and back toward a more grounded solo section as he delivers the title line after the five-minute mark.

A crunching slowdown provides a bridge to the return of the snare-punctuated stomp that began the closer and “Lucifer’s Dream” rounds out the album that shares its name with a marked showcase of the symmetry that’s been at the foundation of the material all along. It’s not chaos, though it might sound like it at times with the rough-hewn recording, persistent tonal buzz and so on. The truth of the matter is Fowst is more mastermind or perhaps mad scientist when it comes to Mindkult than he is conjurer, but the results of his work on Lucifer’s Dream are otherworldly just the same. Listening in the context of these tracks serving as Mindkult‘s debut, their cohesion becomes all the more striking, and once again, as much work as Fowst does here to realize the potential shown on Witch’s Oath, the affect of Lucifer’s Dream is just as much in accomplishing that as it is beating its path toward new depressive reaches still to be discovered.

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Six Dumb Questions with Demon Head

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on July 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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With the seven tracks/40 minutes of their second full-length, Thunder on the Fields (review here), Copenhagen-based five-piece Demon Head explored textures between cult rock, vintage heavy, the formative era of doom and its modern interpretations, tying these various elements together via memorable songcraft and a resonant sense of live performance in cuts like “We are Burning,” “Thunder on the Fields” and “Gallows Omen,” among others. Their efforts resulted in one of the best albums of 2017 so far, and with issue through The Sign Records and Caligari Records, the follow-up to the band’s 2015 debut, Ride the Wilderness (review here), took a decided forward step in aesthetic and overarching presentation.

The solidification of an approach is one thing, and Thunder on the Fields most definitely represents that for Demon Head — appropriately so for a sophomore outing after a potential-filled debut — but in the garage-esque jangle of centerpiece “Older Now,” one can hear the lineup of vocalist Marcus Ferreira Larsen, lead/slide guitarist Thor Nielsen, rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Birk Nielsen, bassist Mikkel Fuglsang and drummer Jeppe Wittus actively working toward a more individualized style. And while the pieces they’re using for construction may be familiar, to listen to Thunder on the Fields either in its more straight-ahead early cuts like opener “Menneskeæderen” or the later reaches of the proto-metallic “Hic Svnt Dracones” and the seemingly jammed-out finale “Untune the Sky,” Demon Head‘s success in their efforts to make them their own can only be called a success throughout.

In the interview that follows, Larson talks about making the new record in terms of writing and recording, but also the band’s recent experience getting robbed on tour, brewing their own beer, and future plans to hit the road. It’s a relatively quick check-in with a group who seem poised to continue to grow in positive and increasingly nuanced ways, and if you haven’t yet had the chance to dig into Thunder on the Fields, the full stream from Bandcamp is at the bottom of this post. Have at it.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

demon head thunder on the fields

Six Dumb Questions with Demon Head

Tell me about writing Thunder on the Fields. Was there anything in particular you wanted to bring out in the material after Ride the Wilderness? How do you feel your sound has evolved from the first album to the second?

The songs on Thunder on the Fields came quickly after recording R.T.W. — and actually a good time before its release — so they’ve been underway for some years now. As writing, recording, and producing is mostly something we do ourselves, I guess we wanted to push ourselves further and take no easy ways out. The songs themselves have more sinister vibes to them, less boogie rock-feeling, and we gradually came to work more collectively on every riff and melody. Maybe that’s the natural way a band evolves, but I think the communal aspect has grown stronger and even if it makes it harder to finish something quick, the wicked demon baby that results from it is stronger. In terms of sound, we’ve learned a lot and become more picky this time around.

What was your time in the studio like? Set the scene for the place you recorded. What was the atmosphere there and how long were you in the studio? Did you record live? What kind of equipment was used and how much time went into capturing the tones in the guitar and bass?

When we felt that Thunder on the Fields was becoming a whole thing rather than individual parts, we planned for a long time how to record it. After an initial, very intense trip of three days and nights where we recorded demos of everything in my father’s studio, we took our time to listen and feel what was missing. Then in the middle of winter last year we went back to a cabin in the countryside of Northern Sealand, and had two weeks to record drums, guitar, and bass – the basic, live tracks that we always begin with. We bought an old mixing console and got it fixed for way more than we could afford, it seemed like a coincidence too good to be true that we had it offered some weeks before recording, and with the help of some friends we transported and mounted all our Chaos Island recording in the wooden house.

Everything went into a 16-track tape recorder, and we’d studied pretty obscure recording techniques from interviews, pictures and videos of sounds we ourselves like a lot. The sound of the instruments themselves we’ve spent a long time moulding, but how to reproduce these on a recorded media is every technician’s headache – not too noisy, but not artificially clear… Thinking back now, we always have very high expectations and put an enormous effort into following our ideals of sound, feeling, and expression. We didn’t sleep very much, worked from the morning all through the night and at times way beyond what’s healthy. But what can you do when you have a burning love?

Tell me about writing “Gallow’s Omen.” So much of the record has a tighter feel to its songwriting, but that song seems to jam a bit more. How did it come about? It was the first video you made for the album. What made you want to introduce people to the record with that track particularly?

Well, actually that is very carefully planned dynamics and tones… But I’m happy if it sounds loose in a way. It’s hard to plan how to lose control or let dreams and nightmares flow; that is part of what we wanted especially in the final part of the song. We felt it represented some general themes of the new record: a sinister feeling, a blend of faster and slow parts, loads of atmosphere, and it tends to get stuck in your head. At least that’s what I think it was now, looking back.

Has there been any word on recovering the gear stolen at the Northern Discomfort Festival? What happened there?

Unfortunately not! We don’t really know what happened. Our gear was in a room behind the stage, and although it is not locked, I usually recommend touring bands stashing their gear there when the sound room itself is full – nothing has been taken from there in years, at least to my knowledge. So either someone accidentally brought the things with them, or some shady entrepreneur visited the festival sometime in the early hours of after-party and saw their chance to score some neatly packed, expensive gear. Ungdomshuset is not normally a place where people go to steal, so it’s a shame that people are exploiting good DIY policy of open doors and anarchic trust…

You’ve now got your own Demon Head Thunder on the Fields IPA beer. How did that come about? Did someone in the band brew it or is it an outside collaboration? How does it taste? Are you guys big beer drinkers generally?

That’s right! At least we had some for the release shows. Now they’re mostly gone. That’s the work of Birk, Thor and their father, who’ve recently taken up brewing. So a family business, one might say. It’s awfully good, bitter and fresh – shame they’re through… A good portion were sold, the others we’ve given away to friends who’ve helped us on the road or bringing this album come to life. We appreciate good beer since it’s one of our few vices in terms of drugs.

You had dates in Finland and May and by the time this goes up, you’ll have played Muskelrock as well. Will you tour more for Thunder on the Fields before you start writing the next album? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Yes, this spring has been excellent in Sweden, Finland and now Muskelrock this last weekend. We are once again humbled by the efforts and generosity of friends and strangers…

In August, we will travel Northern Europe for two weeks, invited to a couple of festivals and joined some of the road by the incredible musical entity that is Ill Wicker from Gothenburg. Keep an eye out if you’re somewhere around the Swedish desert and a forest on the German-Czech border!

Some plans for crossing waters to the UK, Ireland, and even across the Pacific are being hatched. Get in touch if you have some ideas, or let your local booking collective know…

Songs for what will be the next album are slowly coming. We’ve been so busy these months that it has been hard to find time to be really creative. Nonetheless, we do our best to prioritise it, and we can’t wait to disappear to a cabin somewhere again.

Finally there’s not much more to say than we appreciate you, the reader, taking your time to spell through these words. Oh, and there is one more piece of vinyl with some songs coming this year on The Sign Records. Keep your ears to the ground for more rumours on that.

Love and Thunder,

Marcus & D.H.

Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields (2017)

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Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields: Ventum Procellarum

Posted in Reviews on May 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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A central question posed by Demon Head‘s second full-length, Thunder on the Fields, is whether or not a band can still capture sonic lethargy while coming across as energetic and excited at the prospect of doing so. The Copenhagen-based five-piece — comprised of the all-initials lineup of vocalist M.F.L., guitarists B.G.N. and T.G.N., bassist M.S.F. and drummer J.W. — of course answer in the affirmative, and on the seven-track/40-minute follow-up to their 2015 debut, Ride the Wilderness (review here), they set themselves to the task of proving this hypothesis in briskly executed, semi-vintage-style heavy doom rock that’s proto-metallic in its central influence but by no means trying to pretend the last five decades of genre development never happened.

Released through Caligari Records on tape and The Sign Records on CD/LP, Thunder on the Fields also reaffirms a key proposition laid forth by its predecessor — namely that Demon Head know precisely where they want to be in terms of aesthetics. The Danish-lyric opener “Menneskeæderen” (translates to “cannibal”) and the later, push-minded “Hic Svnt Dracones” (video posted here) pair up as leadoffs for a classically-constructed side A/B LP or tape, and in their propensity for rolling grooves, for moody, low-register vocal melodies and for interplay between swing and rhythmic bounce, Demon Head make a convincing argument for vibrancy in languid execution. If Thunder on the Fields wasn’t actually recorded live — and I don’t know that it was or wasn’t, though they apparently locked themselves in a cabin and went direct to tape — it comes close enough to capturing that feel, and if the question is can a band sound like a downer without actually being one, Demon Head confirm a resounding yes.

Those who took on the debut — and if you didn’t, I suspect after digging into Thunder on the Fields, you might be tempted to go back and do so — will be relieved to note the persistence of that natural vibe, and with the opening thrust of “Menneskeæderen,” which winds its leads over crashing rhythm tracks between its chorus and verses, and into the lumbering start of “We are Burning” that leads to a tense interplay of guitar noodling and jagged, angular percussive stomp, Demon Head are doing little to hide it. Thunder on the Fields, ultimately, is less about fixing what isn’t broken than taking what the band was able to accomplish their last time out and moving ahead with its development. A pretty common narrative, but justified in the progression they show in their songwriting and in the momentum they manage to conjure, regardless of pace.

demon head photo lalla oledal

The title-track, which follows “We are Burning,” is a highlight both in terms of its own hook and the flow already set up by the cuts surrounding, and no doubt youth is still a part of the equation when it comes to Demon Head — there’s a certain burgeoning maturity of approach, but they’re still a young band and that’s how they come across — but on the basic level of their construction and willingness to shift themselves from nodding doom to the jangly strum of “We are Burning” within the span of a measure, they demonstrate the ability to hold the reins on a sense of chaos in their execution that can only be the result of a band actively working to become stronger in their presentation. Sorry, but it just wouldn’t work otherwise. And likewise, the slower title-cut, which is still just four minutes long, drives knowingly toward a righteous apex and tracklist centerpiece “Older Now” revives a grim boogie that seems by the end of its own four-minute run to have made efforts to tear itself apart, only to find a firm, steady foundation in the layer beneath.

A tolling bell, acoustic plucking and some longer runtimes signal a clear difference in intent for Thunder on the Fields‘ side B, but the overarching atmosphere remains largely consistent between the record’s two halves, and as “Hic Svnt Dracones” gets underway, it further notes how far Demon Head have come in the three short years since their Demo 2014 (review here) and the Demon Head b/w Winterland (review here) found them worshiping at the altar of Pentagram and how much they’ve been able to craft their own sonic footprint in that time. “Hic Svnt Dracones” is full of motion once it kicks in from that intro, but winds up in a patient place behind its soulful post-midpoint solo, and in picking up tempo again just before its end, it reinforces its own structure and sets up the drawn-out standalone riff that starts “Gallow’s Omen” (video posted here) as all the more of a focal point. There’s still the nine-minute closer “Untune the Sky” behind it, so I wouldn’t necessarily call “Gallow’s Omen” the most sprawling inclusion, but being jammier on the whole makes it all the more distinct in its surroundings, as Demon Head seem to find a balance between the more taut execution of cuts like “Older Now” and more open-feeling methods.

One might expect “Untune the Sky” to further let loose in this regard, but the finale is defined by its plotted course, sleeking through early verses toward an acoustic-inclusive midsection en route to a classic-rocking shuffle of a crescendo and comedown that remains vibrant thanks in large part to the memorable guitar work, lead and rhythm. The guitars have been a major component of the album’s success all along, so it’s only fitting the final statement should underscore the point. They do so fluidly, and Demon Head cap their second outing with one more affirmation of the vitality that has become one of their core appeals along with their depth of tone and varied songcraft, as well as the impression that their growth is in progress and the steps they’ve taken with Thunder on the Fields will continue to lead them forward into whatever they might do next.

Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields (2017)

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Demon Head Post “Hic Svnt Dracones” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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Last time Copenhagen doom rockers Demon Head posted a video, back at the end of January, there was apparently some measure of confusion on my part as to the release date of their impending second album, Thunder on the Fields. Actually, scratch that “apparently some measure” part. I was confused. The full-length, originally slated for an April 7 release through The Sign Records and Caligari Records when it was first announced in December, appeared to have been bumped up to Feb. 24.

As Demon Head unveil a second video from the follow-up to their 2015 debut, Ride the Wilderness (review here), it seems that we’ve gone back to April 7. Fair enough, since at very least that means I’m not already behind in not having reviewed it yet — or, for that matter, heard it in its entirety — but it does mean we’re still more than a month away from the actual release date. Was it ever Feb. 24? Was it a dream? Was it for one format and not another? Was the plan scrapped altogether? Where did I get Feb. 24 from to start with? These questions may never be answered — mostly because I don’t have the time to go find out. Mark your calendar for April 7 and leave it at that, folks. Some mysteries just have to be accepted.

Oh wait, the PR wire info said it.

Okay.

I guess we solved that one after all.

Way to go, I guess.

As you check out Demon Head‘s new clip for “Hic Svnt Dracones” below, please find included a healthy slew of live dates for the band, including two release shows in Sweden in Denmark and noted tour intentions still TBA for the UK, Finland and the wider European sphere that ensure the band will be plenty busy leading up to and through the summer. They’ve also got a couple festival shows and I would be surprised if they didn’t end up with a few more before the year is out, so stay tuned.

And yeah, I’m hoping to review the album at some point. Will it be before April 7? Another mystery for the ages. Or at least the next couple weeks.

Enjoy:

Demon Head, “Hic Svnt Dracones” official video

HIC SVNT DRACONES is the second single from Demon Head’s album ‘Thunder On The Fields’ released by The Sign Records 7th of April 2017.

HIC SVNT DRACONES is a heavy anthem with a burning drive. The song is about throwing off the shackles that wear us down, daring to go were the maps have white spots. Follow the sinister leads and groove to a place between borderland and underworld…

Live Dates:
4/3 Copenhagen, DK. Ungdomshuset 10 years
31/3 Gothenburg, SWE
1/4 Linköping, SWE – The Sign Fest
7/4 Malmö, SWE – Release show
8/4 Copenhagen, DK – Release show
13/4 – 17/4 England Tour – Tour Dates TBA
28/4 Copenhagen – Nothern discomfort festival
11/5 – 14/5 Finland Tour – Tour Dates TBA
26/5 Aarhus, TBA – Denmark
27/5 Aalborg, 1000fryd – Denmark
16/8 – 22/8 European Tour – Tour Dates TBA

Album preorder:

Spotify: http://spoti.fi/2iVXqJM
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Demon Head Post Official Video for “Gallow’s Omen”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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Last time I heard, April 7 was the appointed release date of the second full-length by Copenhagen cultish doom rockers Demon Head, but The Sign Records seems to have bumped Thunder on the Fields up to Feb. 24. Here I was thinking the band had decided to be generous and give an extra-early preview of the album ahead of its arrival, but the timing actually works out about right. I’ll take it either way, frankly.

The first audio to be made public from Thunder on the Fields, “Gallow’s Omen” hits as a new video suitably rife with creeper imagery and footage that looks both originally captured and culled from the vast public domain, varied in level of grit and origin as it seems to be. It all comes together around the swinging, rolling groove of “Gallow’s Omen,” the track itself, which basks in the ways of classic doom without getting lost in retro redundancies. Demon Head‘s first record, 2015’s Ride the Wilderness (review here), was a sonic blowout of similar cohesion, but I’m looking forward to hearing how Thunder on the Fields builds on what they accomplished their last go. One doesn’t want to speculate not having heard the full release, but I think they’re giving a few hints here.

And the good news — you know, apart from the video, the preorders, etc. — seems to be that we’ll get to find out more about Thunder on the Fields sooner than anticipated. Mark that a win for sure. Just by way of a warning, this one might be NSFW depending on how stuffy your situation is, so use your best judgment.

Please enjoy:

Demon Head, “Gallow’s Omen” official video

We now have the pleasure of giving you Gallow’s Omen, the first song and video from our coming album Thunder on the Fields. Listen, watch and pre-order the album below:

Spotify: http://spoti.fi/2iVXqJM
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Preorder CD/LP: http://freighttrain.se/en/

‘Gallow’s Omen’ is the first single from Demon Head’s second album ‘Thunder On The Fields’ that will be relesed 24th of February on the Sign Records. The song concern situations when fear becomes generalized. Suspicion grows and society searches for enemies within, in an attempt to keep power or rid itself of a certain kind of people: witches, terrorists, heretics, illegals….

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Demon Head to Release Thunder on the Fields in April

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 22nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Pleasant surprise out of Copenhagen in the news of a second full-length from boogie-doomers Demon Head. The Danish five-piece made an encouraging debut in 2015 with Ride the Wilderness (review here) as the follow-up to two shorter offerings from the year before,Demo 2014 (review here) and the Demon Head b/w Winterland (review here) single, and though it seems like a quick turnaround now toward the next LP, part of that no doubt stems from the fact that we’re still nearly five months off from the actual release date for what’s been titled Thunder on the Fields, which is out April 7.

That means we’re early yet for things like audio premieres or tracklisting info — though the album seems to have been completed for some time — but we know it’ll be released through The Sign Records and Caligari Records and we’ve got the cover art to go on and a solid date, so that’s enough for me at least to get behind giving a heads up. So yeah, heads up.

From the PR wire:

demon head thunder on the fields

DEMON HEAD – THUNDER ON THE FIELDS

CD/LP/DIGITAL Out 7th of April 2017

Lightning on the horizon…

On the 7th of April 2017, Demon Head’s new album THUNDER ON THE FIELDS will be released through The Sign Records. The songs were recorded by the Copenhagen band onto 16-track tape, in an isolated cabin where they locked themselves in for weeks in the winter of 2016.

Like its well-received predecessor Ride The Wilderness, the fruit of their communal work is powerfully crafted from start to finish. While the sound stays true to the sinister atmosphere of the debut album, the music has evolved to the next logical step: darker, more tight-knitted, and more diverse. Demon Head is not about trends or imitation. It is about the burning love for music. While in part an homage to the first heavy music, the songs have their own voice. The attitude is of originality and urgency rather than pretense.

Since the beginning, the band has relentlessly travelled on the road and off the beaten path, playing loud, wild concerts with bands from many genres and scenes. In the same way, the influences on THUNDER ON THE FIELDS are hard to pinpoint; many have experienced that nothing sounds quite like the doom-tinged heavy rock of Demon Head, while it retains a strange familiarity of haunting melodies that don’t seem to want to escape the listeners cranium. Comparison is always difficult and limiting, but you might get an idea of the direction if you imagine if the tour bus of Judas Priest had crashed into a whiskey bar where The Doors and Neil Young throw dice with the devil, while The Stooges cover Big Mama Thornton on the decrepit corner stage.

Vinyl, CD, and digital versions will be available worldwide, courtesy of The Sign Records. Cassette tapes will be released through Caligari Records.

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Demon Head, “Miles Ahead” from Split with Alucarda (2015)

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Mindkult, Witch’s Oath: Bone and Root (Plus Full EP Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 20th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

mindkult witchs oath

[Click play above to stream Mindkult’s Witch’s Oath EP in full. Out soon on Caligari Records.]

Enter Mindkult. So far as I can tell, Witch’s Oath is the debut offering from the Virginia-based outfit, a 25-minute four-songer with a heart geared toward analog-grain horrors and distorted riffs to accompany. The reason I say “so far as I can tell” is because there isn’t a lot to go on when it comes to Mindkult. In the tradition of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ beginnings — and the songs on Witch’s Oath work in that tradition as well — Mindkult‘s sole inhabitant, who goes by Fowst, has kept much a secret going into this first release, presumably to add a sense of mystique.

A search on Monticello Studios, where the EP was reportedly recorded, likewise yields little result, but I’d be surprised if by the time Fowst gets around to following up Witch’s Oath — which is being pressed to CD and tape by Caligari Records — there isn’t more public info available, since the one-man band tap into modern cultish swing and sound natural and full doing so, like a complete band. Which I suppose it is if it sounds that way. Whether or not Fowst recorded “King and Priest,” “Witch’s Oath,” “Serpent’s Nest” and the crawling closer “Chief of Devils” himself is my most pressing question, since being so utterly self-contained could play heavily into the trajectory of the project, but I take it as a sign of the positive impression these cuts leave that one might be tempted to think about the future in the first place. Mindkult, though I won’t say much for the moniker, could most definitely have a future.

To call the project insular seems fair, and while I obviously don’t know Fowst‘s background musically, the signs showed here of having such a clear aesthetic foundation for Mindkult would seem to hint toward past experience in one kind of band or another, though confirmation on that is nil. Could be that dude is 19, has never put anything out before and just happened to nail it — one scenario is as likely as the other. The important thing is he did nail it. Opting to actively depart from the blueprint of the aforementioned Uncle Acid in the vocals becomes a major factor in Witch’s Oath‘s success.

mindkult witchs oath tape

Whether it’s on the rolling opener and longest track (immediate points) “King and Priest” or the more uptempo and swinging title-track that follows, Fowst keeps a calm, morose pout, almost shoegazing, in his voice, which is forward in the chorus of the leadoff, but almost buried in “Witch’s Oath,” which seems to run in an attempt to catch up with its winding guitar line during the chorus, setting up a depth in the mix that doesn’t undercut the rawer garage doom vibe in the sound but makes the EP a richer listening experience overall. As side one of a tape, there’s little more one could ask of “King and Priest” or “Witch’s Oath” in establishing the groove and the palette with which Fowst will work on the complementary two tracks, and the leads at the end of “King and Priest” follow a bluesy but plotted course that speak to an underlying consciousness at work, buzzing into the shuffle of “Witch’s Oath” with fluidity bolstered by the haziness of the guitar and bass tones, though as ever, it’s the drums — or drum programming; could go either way — that ties everything here together.

Side two essentially reinforces what Mindkult had on offer in the first two songs, but builds on it as well, as “Serpent’s Nest” finds middle ground between “King and Priest” and “Witch’s Oath” in terms of tempo while blowing out the EP’s best riff and hitting on a balance of obscure vocals and bright-toned lead guitar that one can only hope will become a building block for Fowst going forward. “Serpent’s Nest” saunters to its finish and “Chief of Devils” chugs in soon after, not quite on the beat but not far off it. It’s a quick start to a slow march. Like the opener, the closer tops seven minutes and much of the time difference between it and the 4:44 “Serpent’s Nest” could likely be attributed to pacing. Not a complaint.

Fowst peppers in layers of leads amid the central forward rhythm and his downer vocals, taking a particularly engaging solo toward the end of the first half of the track before the guitar rings out in the second’s verses as the starting point of the EP’s last push. The tempo picks up a bit at the end — a change to ping ride is the marker — and cuts out suddenly like they ran out of tape, which of course may or may not be exactly what happened depending on the circumstances of the recording, though it sounds more purposeful than not. Whatever Fowst‘s real name, whoever produced the album, whatever bands he or they’ve worked with before, it’s the songwriting coming through most of all on Witch’s Oath and the sense of stylistic accomplishment that songwriting showcases. It’s early in Mindkult‘s tenure to make a guess as to directions the band might go, but this initial EP makes a compelling argument in favor of finding out.

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A Tale of Three Tapes: Heavydeath, The Unquiet Grave and Jupiterian

Posted in Duuude, Tapes!, Reviews on December 30th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

heavydeath-the-unquiet-grave-jupiterian-tapes

To those who’d peruse cassettes or who believe the format has something to offer distinct from vinyl, CD or digital, the name Caligari Records shouldn’t be a strange one. The imprint has spent the last couple years committing itself fiercely to tapes and, more specifically, to bringing a level of professionalism to a medium often characterized (and not always incorrectly) as being the most amateurish among the traditional physical formats of the last half-century. Caligari‘s tapes are professionally printed as are the j-card liners — every time. As few have done, the label has adopted the cassette format not as a limitation, but as a means of enhancing aesthetic.

Caligari keeps busy with new releases on the regular — I count three since the most recent of the ones I’ll be writing about here, at least on the label’s Bandcamp — and delves into a variety of styles generally on the darker and more extreme end of the doom or metallic spectrum. Showing a significant variety between them are offerings from Swedish outfits Heavydeath and The Unquiet Grave and Brazil’s Jupiterian, about which more follows:

Heavydeath, Dark Phoenix Rising

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Dark Phoenix Rising is the latest in a long string of outings issued in the last year-plus from Ljungskile-based trio Heavydeath. To wit, their Demo I – Post Mortem in Aeternum Tenebrarum arrived in a series of 100 tapes (on Caligari) in April 2014 and their discography is already past this EP with Demo XII – The Storm. Fair enough. Here working as the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Nicklas Rudolfsson, bassist Johan Bäckman and session drummer Oldfor Suns (the band has since been joined by Daniel Moilanen, also recently added to Katatonia), they lumber and gruel through five tracks of grim-hued sludge, two on side one, three on side two, and while there are flourishes of melody here and there and side two opener “The Ember of the End” finds Rudolfsson basking in some particularly effective epic-metal vocals, the prevailing impression is still of the rawness throughout. Tonally, the guitars set a blackened atmosphere, but Heavydeath aren’t as loyal sonically to any particular substyle as they are to an overarching sense of doom and mournfulness and a general extremity of presentation. To call them death-doom isn’t necessarily wrong, but it hardly tells the whole story. Closing with the title-track, they lock in a formidable riff-led groove and nod boldly at Celtic Frost in the process, but it just so happens that groove is buried six feet deep and covered in moss.

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Dark Phoenix Rising at Caligari Records’ Bandcamp

The Unquiet Grave, Cosmic Dawn

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Essentially a demo, but billed as an EP, The Unquiet Grave‘s Cosmic Dawn is the first release from the clean-singing raw trad doom solo-project, though its title-track traces its roots back more than a decade. The outfit is comprised of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Micael Zetterberg, whose CV boasts a wide variety of Norrköping outfits, from the black metal Aggressive Mutilator to thrashier Terrorama, among a slew of others. The Unquiet Grave is unrepentently stripped down across the three included tracks — “Cosmic Dawn,” “Mother’s Trial” and “Whispers in the Dark,” as well as the included intro and outro — but not at all void of ambience. Even as “Mother’s Trial” rolls out a highlight riff in its midsection, the lead guitar layer works to play up a sense of atmosphere. Zetterberg does well in the full-band role, and while Cosmic Dawn has an already-noted rawness to it, particularly with the compression of the tape as opposed to the digital version, that fits with the naturalism at root in the sound, something that seems counterintuitive for a solo-project invariably working in layers — I sincerely doubt Zetterberg is playing bass, guitar and drums at the same time — but across the three tracks here makes an eerie kind of sense. It seems unlikely he’ll get much more expansive with arrangements than he is here, but particularly as a first outing, Cosmic Dawn impresses with its fullness of presentation despite being the work of a solo source.

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Cosmic Dawn at Caligari’s Bandcamp

Jupiterian, Aphotic

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The 42-minute first full-length from Sao Paolo, Brazil, four-piece Jupiterian, the five-song Aphotic isn’t quite entirely true to its name, but certainly dense and opaque enough in its execution that light has trouble getting through. A deathly lurch takes hold on opener “Permanent Grey” and doesn’t let go, the band trudging through death-doom excruciations and offering precious little hope across the tape’s span, even as “Daylight” seems to hint in that direction with its early guitar melody. Vocalist/guitarist V — the entire band is one-initial only; R on bass, A on guitar, G on drums — has a growl worthy of Swallow the Sun or any number of Scandinavian practitioners, and a raspy scream that’s well at home in the dirge of centerpiece “Proclamation,” which rounds out with some of Aphotic‘s heaviest hitting, followed by a noise barrage to start the subsequent title-track (hard to know where one ends and the other begins on the tape, but the digital version makes it clear). Rounding out in a swirl of guitar and spoken word, “Aphotic” has an almost manic feel compared to some of the album’s other fare, but its ending is also the most brazenly melodic section of the tape, leading to the shorter, closing “Drag Me to My Grave,” which was previously released as a standalone single. The bonus track would be something of a comedown after the title-cut, but it proves a surprisingly catchy finale to this cohesive, engrossingly weighted debut.

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Aphotic on Caligari’s Bandcamp

Thanks for reading. For more from Caligari Records, check the links below.

Caligari Records website

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