Quarterly Review: The Cult of Dom Keller, Grandpa Jack, Woven Man, Charivari, Human Impact, Dryland, Brass Owl, Battle City, Astral Bodies, Satyrus

Posted in Reviews on March 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Ah, the Wednesday of a Quarterly Review. Always a special day in my mind. We hit and pass the halfway point today, and I like the fact that the marker is right in the middle of things, like that sign you pass in Pennsylvania on Rt. 80 that says, “this is the highest point east of the Mississippi,” or whatever it is. Just a kind of, “oh, by the way, in case you didn’t know, there’s this but you’re on your way somewhere else.” And so we are, en route to 50 reviews by Friday. Will we get there? Yeah, of course. I’ve done this like 100 times now, it’s not really in doubt. Sleeping, eating, living: these things are expendable. The Quarterly Review will get done. So let’s do it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

The Cult of Dom Keller, Ascend!

the cult of dom keller ascend

They’re not going quietly, that’s for sure. Except for when they are, at least. The Cult of Dom Keller send their listeners — and, it would seem, themselves — into the howling ether on the exclamatory-titular Ascend!, their fifth LP. Issued through Cardinal Fuzz and Little Cloud records it brings a bevvy of freakouts in psych-o-slabs like “I Hear the Messiah” and the early-arriving “Hello Hanging Rope” and the building-in-thickness “The Blood Donor Wants His Blood Back,” and the foreboding buzz of “We’re All Fucked (Up),” peppering in effective ambient interludes ahead of what might be some resolution in the closing “Jam for the Sun.” Or maybe that’s just narrative I’m putting to it. Does it matter? Does anything matter? And what is matter? And what is energy? And is there a line between the two or are we all just playing pretend at existence like I-think-therefore-I-am might actually hold water in a universe bigger than our own pea-sized brains. Where do we go from here? Or maybe it’s just the going and not the where? Okay.

The Cult of Dom Keller on Thee Facebooks

Cardinal Fuzz on Bandcamp

Little Cloud Records on Bandcamp

 

Grandpa Jack, Trash Can Boogie

Grandpa Jack Trash Can Boogie

Brooklynite trio Grandpa Jack are working toward mastery of the thickened midtempo groove on their second EP, Trash Can Boogie. Led by guitarist/vocalist Johnny Strom with backing shouts from drummer Matt C. White and a suitable flow provided by bassist Jared Schapker, the band present a classic-tinged four tracks, showing some jammier psych range in the 7:47 second cut “Untold” but never straying too far from the next hook, as opener “Ride On, Right On” and the almost-proto-metal “Imitation” show. Finishing with “Curmudgeon,” Grandpa Jack ride a fine line between modern fuzz, ’90s melody and ’70s groove idolatry, and part of the fun is trying to figure out which side they’re on at any given point and which side they’ll want to ultimately end up on, or if they’ll decide at all. They have one LP under their collective belt already. I’d be surprised if their next one didn’t garner them more significant attention, let alone label backing, should they want it.

Grandpa Jack on Thee Facebooks

Grandpa Jack on Bandcamp

 

Woven Man, Revelry (In Our Arms)

woven man revelry in our arms

There’s metal in the foundation of what Woven Man are doing on their 2019 debut, Revelry (In Our Arms). And there’s paganism. But they’re by no means “pagan metal” at least in the understood genre terms. The Welsh outfit — featuring guitarist Lee Roy Davies, formerly of Acrimony — cast out soundscapes in their vocal melodies and have no lack of tonal crunch at their disposal when they want it, but as eight-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) shows, they’re not going to be rigidly defined as one thing or another. One can hear C.O.C. in the riffs during their moments of sneer on “I am Mountain” or the centerpiece highlight “With Willow,” but they never quite embrace the shimmer outright Though they come right to the cusp of doing so on the subsequent “Makers Mark,” but closer “Of Land and Sky” revives a more aggressive push and sets them toward worshiping different idols. Psychedelic metal is a tough, nearly impossible, balance to pull off. I’m not entirely convinced it’s what Woven Man are going for on this first outing, but it’s where they might end up.

Woven Man on Thee Facebooks

Woven Man on Bandcamp

 

Charivari, Descent

charivari descent

Whether drifting mildly through the likes of drone-laden pieces “Down by the Water,” the CD-only title-track or “Alexandria” as they make their way toward the harsh bite at the end of the 11-minute closer “Scavengers of the Wind,” Bath, UK, heavy post-rockers Charivari hold a firm sense of presence and tonal fullness. They’re prone to a wash from leadoff “When Leviathan Dreams” onward, but it’s satisfying to course along with the four-piece for the duration of their journey. Rough spots? Oh, to be sure. “Aphotic” seethes with noisy force, and certainly the aforementioned ending is intended to jar, but that only makes a work like “Lotus Eater,” which ably balances Cure-esque initial lead lines with emergent distortion-crush, that much richer to behold. The moves they make are natural, unforced, and whether they’re trading back and forth in volume or fluidly, willfully losing themselves in a trance of effects, the organic and ethereal aspects of their sound never fail to come through in terms of melody even as a human presence is maintained on vocals. When “Down by the Water” hits its mark, it is positively encompassing. Headphones were built for this.

Charivari on Thee Facebooks

Worst Bassist Records on Bandcamp

 

Human Impact, Human Impact

human impact human impact

Bit of a supergroup here, at least in the underrated-New-York-art-noise sphere of things. Vocals and riffy crunch provided by the masterful Chris Spencer (formerly of Unsane), while Cop Shoot Cop‘s Jim Coleman adds much-welcome electronic flourish, Swans/Xiu Xiu bassist Chris Pravdica provides low end and the well-if-he-can-handle-drumming-for-Swans-he-can-handle-anything Phil Puleo (also Cop Shoot Cop) grounds the rhythm. Presented through Ipecac, the four-piece’s declarative self-titled debut arrives through Ipecac very much as a combination of the elements of which it is comprised, but the atmosphere brought to the proceedings by Coleman set against Spencer‘s guitar isn’t to be understated. The two challenge each other in “E605” and the off-to-drone “Consequences” and the results are to everyone’s benefit, despite the underlying theme of planetary desolation. Whoops on that one, but at least we get the roiling chaos and artful noise of “This Dead Sea” out of it, and that’s not nothing. Predictable? In parts, but so was climate change if anyone would’ve fucking listened.

Human Impact on Thee Facebooks

Ipecac Recordings store

 

Dryland, Dances with Waves

dryland dances with waves

The nautically-themed follow-up to Bellingham, Washington, progressive heavy/noise/post-hardcore rockers Dryland‘s 2017 self-titled debut album, the four-song Dances with Waves EP finds the thoughtful and melodic riffers working alongside producer/engineer Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, etc.) on a recording that loses none of its edge for its deft changes of rhythm and shifts in vocals. There’s some influence from Elder maybe in terms of the guitar on “No Celestial Hope” and the finale “Between the Testaments,” but by the time the seven-minute capper is done, it’s full-on Pacific Northwest noise crunch, crashing its waves of riffs and stomp against the shore of your eardrums in demand of as much volume as you’ll give it. Between those two, “Exalted Mystics” moves unsuspectingly through its first half and seems to delve into semi-emo-if-emo-was-about-sailing-and-death theatrics in its second, while “The Sound a Sword Adores” distills the alternating drive and sway down to its barest form, a slowdown later setting up the madness soon to arrive in “Between the Testaments.”

Dryland on Thee Facebooks

Dryland on Bandcamp

 

Brass Owl, State of Mind

brass owl state of mind

Brass Owl foster on their self-released debut full-length, State of Mind, a brand of heavy rock that maintains a decidedly straightforward face while veering at the same time into influences from grunge, ’70s rock, the better end of ’80s metal and probably one or two current hard or heavy rock bands. You might catch a tinge of Five Horse Johnson-style blues on “No Filter – Stay Trendy” or the particularly barroom-ready “Jive Turkey,” which itself follows the funkier unfolding jam-into-shredfest of “The Legend of FUJIMO,” and the earlier “Hook, Line & Sinker” has trucker-rock all over it, but through it all, the defining aspect of the work is its absolute lack of pretense. These guys — there would seem to have been three when they recorded, there are two now; so it goes — aren’t trying to convince you of their intelligence, or their deep-running stylistic nuance. They’re not picking out riffs from obscure ’80s indie records or even ’70s private press LPs. They’re having a good time putting traditionalist-style rock songs together, messing around stylistically a bit, and they’ve got nine songs across 43 minutes ready to roll for anyone looking for that particular kind of company. If that’s you, great. If it ain’t, off you go to the next one.

Brass Owl website

Brass Owl on Bandcamp

 

Battle City, Press Start

Battle City Press Start

From even before you press play on Press Start, the 22-minute debut release from South Africa’s Battle City, the instrumental duo make their love of gaming readily apparent. Given that they went so far as to call one song “Ram Man” and that it seems just as likely as not that “Ignition” and “Ghost Dimension” are video game references as well, it’s notable that guitarist/bassist Stian “Lightning Fingers Van Tonder” Maritz and drummer Wayne “Thunder Flakes” Hendrikz didn’t succumb to the temptation of bringing any electronic sounds to the six-song offering. Even in “Ghost Dimension,” which is the closer and longest track by about three minutes, they keep it decidedly straightforward in terms of arrangements and resist any sort of chiptune elements, sticking purely to guitar, bass and drums. There’s a touch of the progressive to the leadoff title-track and to the soaring lead “Ignotion,” but Press Start does likewise in setting the band’s foundation in a steady course of heavy rock and metal, to the point that if you didn’t know they were gaming-inspired by looking at the cover art or the titles, there’d be little to indicate that’s where they were coming from. I wouldn’t count myself among them, but those clamoring for beeps and boops and other 8-bit nonsense will be surprised. For me, the riffs’ll do just fine, thanks.

Battle City on Thee Facebooks

Battle City on Bandcamp

 

Astral Bodies, Escape Death

Astral Bodies Escape Death

Spacious, varied and progressive without losing their heft either of tone or presence, Manchester, UK, trio Astral Bodies debut on Surviving Sounds with Escape Death, working mostly instrumentally — they do sneak some vocals into the penultimate “Pale Horse” — to affect an atmosphere of cosmic heavy that’s neither indebted to nor entirely separate from post-metal. Droning pieces like the introductory “Neptune,” or the joyous key-laced wash of the centerpiece “Orchidaeae,” or even “Pale Horse,” act as spacers between longer cuts, and they’re purposefully placed not to overdo symmetry so as to make Escape Death‘s deceptively-efficient 36-minute runtime predictable. It’s one more thing the three-piece do right, added to the sense of rawness that comes through in the guitar tone even as effects and synth seem to surround and provide a context that would be lush if it still weren’t essentially noise rock. Cosmic noise? The push of “Oumuamua” sure is, if anything might be. Classify it however you want — it’s fun when it’s difficult! — but it’s a striking record either way, and engages all the more as a first long-player.

Astral Bodies on Thee Facebooks

Surviving Sounds on Thee Facebooks

 

Satyrus, Rites

satyrus rites

Following its three-minute chanting intro, Satyrus let opener and longest track (immediate points) “Black Satyrus” unfold its cultish nod across an eight minutes that leads the way into the rest of their debut album, Rites, perhaps more suitably than the intro ever could. The building blocks that the Italian unit are working from are familiar enough — Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Electric Wizard, maybe even some Slayer in the faster soloing of second cut “Shovel” — but that doesn’t make the graveyard-dirt-covered fuzz of “Swirl” or the noisefest that ensues in “Stigma” or subsequent “Electric Funeral”-ist swing any less satisfying, or the dug-in chug of bookending nine-minute closer “Trailblazer.” Hell, if it’s a retread, at least they’re leaving footprints, and it’s not like Satyrus are trying to tell anyone they invented Tony Iommi‘s riff. It’s a mass by the converted for the converted. I’d ask nothing more of it than that and neither should you.

Satyrus on Thee Facebooks

Satyrus on Bandcamp

 

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MØNSTRØID Premiere “Lost in the Haze” Video; New Album in the Works

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

monstroid

There is a date-stamp on the top right corner of the VHS/camcorder-looking video for the new single from South African four-piece MØNSTRØID, and I can’t help but wonder to what it might be alluding. Their first album, Set 1, was self-released in 2017, so obviously that wouldn’t have much to do with 1994, and though that indeed is the year Kyuss released Sky Valley, that record came out in June 25 years ago, not December. Fu Manchu‘s first record was earlier in ’94 as well. So what’s Dec. 8? Maybe someone’s birthday?

I’m sure there’s a perfectly rational explanation for the choice — or at least an explanation, rational or not — but I don’t know what it is. Fun to speculate though, and the hooky, driving desert-style heavy rock of “Lost in the Haze” makes for easy company while pondering. The song is the opening track of Set 1 and speaks to MØNSTRØID‘s general songwriting modus operandi, their focus on straightforward, ’90s-style desert idolatry, guided by riffs toward the inevitable chorus impression of cuts like “Shake Down” and “Navigator,” the latter of which turns its defining Kyuss influence into more of a Roadsaw vibe, though “Life Lost” adds more atmosphere and chug in kind and “My Mind” slows things down — my mind would — ahead of the tempo revival in “Cruiser” and the instrumental closer “’80s TV Show,” which is one of two sans-vocal inclusions along with the earlier “Rocket.”

The band readily acknowledge their influences as you can see in the quote below, and indeed, as the clip for “Lost in the Haze” finds them out in the desert, magically rocking without amps as one might have in a mid-’90s era video, they would seem to pay homage on multiple levels. Kind of curious that the clip would come out some two years after the album it’s promoting, but hell, I missed the record the first time it came out, so I’ll take it however it comes, and they’ve got a new one in the works, so all the better.

Do you think they’ll call it Set 2?

Enjoy:

MØNSTRØID, “Lost in the Haze” official video premiere

Cape Town based stoner/desert rock band MØNSTRØID have released the video for their track Lost In the Haze, taken from their 2017 debut album Set 1.

Shot in both South Africa and the Namibian desert the band comments on the video, “We love where we live, and we wanted to position the Western regions of Southern Africa as the African counterpart to California’s desert rock scene, from where we draw so much inspiration. The video puts the band driving through it. From the dried-up desert pans, to the water flowing out of rocks sustaining life when all around it is dry, to the semi desert where the water flows freely. All the vast desert beauty we should celebrate.”

MØNSTRØID is the love child of 4 dudes from Cape Town, born out of a deeply shared appreciation for writing, making and sharing tectonic plate-shifting music. From the rumbling depths emerges a melodic molten soundscape. From the skies a flaming fireball of fuzz. MØNSTRØID resides where these forces collide. For lovers of growling guitars, distorted groove laden bass, melodic vocals and exploding drums of thunder.

The band are in studio at the moment working on their new album which is set to release early 2020.

MØNSTRØID, Set 1 (2017)

MØNSTRØID on Thee Facebooks

MØNSTRØID on Instagram

MØNSTRØID on Bandcamp

MØNSTRØID website

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Durge Premiere Lyric Video for “Round and Round” from Dirge EP

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

durge

A couple things to get straight before we dig in here: The band is Durge. The EP is Dirge. And no, “Round and Round” is not a Ratt cover. Okay? Everybody on board?

Based in Cape Town, South Africa, the not-quite-shoegaze four-piece made their debut in August with the five-song Dirge, proffering heavied up ’90s alt vibes with a pervasive current of downerism. Think the grunge that made you sad, with an edge of psychedelia tossed in. “Round and Round,” for which the band has a new lyric video posted basically as a way of saying, “hey, we exist,” captures the melodic and depressive aspects of their approach well, with the vocals of guitarist Mark Ellis backed harmonically by bassist Francois Taljaardt and a sense of reach and scope between Ellis‘ and Heinrich Wesson‘s guitars given over to a massive crunch propelled by the drums of James Lombard. It’s heavy stuff, and unlike many songs written about monotony, it isn’t monotonous.

Elsewhere on the EP — which is streaming in full at the bottom of this post courtesy of Durge‘s Soundcloud page — they smash together laid back angularity and forward thrust with “On Call for Death” and adventure into minor-key leads and vocal interplay on “The Man Who Has Never Seen Snow.” Their two longest cuts round out in “Faithless” (6:24) and “Restless Nights” (8:14), making for a potent side B that drives a desert-hued patience in “Faithless” toward a momentary swell of melancholic progressivism. Drums lead the way into “Restless Nights,” but there’s plenty of time to explore reaches that on more straight-ahead cuts like “Round and Round” and “On Call for Death” sought not to tread. And they do, demonstrating a willingness to develop the track at its own pace, letting parts breathe before moving into their next stage and ultimately leaving an impression balanced between emotionalist intensity and sonic engagement.

Dig into “Round and Round” — again, an original — on the player immediately following, and the EP beneath some more background from the PR wire, which follows. You know how it goes.

Enjoy:

Durge, “Round and Round” lyric video premiere

DURGE was formed in Cape Town, South Africa in 2016 by Mark Ellis, Francois Taljaardt, James Lombard, and Heinrich Wesson. Over the past two years the band has been forging their unique sound that they call “Melandelic Rock”, a fusion of melancholy and psychedelic sounds. They’ve recently released their debut EP titled Dirge.

Vocalist/guitarist Mark Ellis comments on the EP, “Being very much a DIY project and the band’s first official release (with the help of some close friends), this EP is something close to the hearts of all four members. It also marks the start of an exploration into our sound which still has many dimensions to uncover. Dealing mostly with individualism and social issues, Dirge is a short statement to life.”

Durge is:
Mark Ellis – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Francois Taljaardt – Backing Vocals, Bass
James Lombard – Drums
Heinrich Wesson – Guitar

Durge on Instagram

Durge on Thee Facebooks

Durge on Soundcloud

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