Quarterly Review: Sumac, Cortez & Wasted Theory, Thunder Horse, The Howling Eye, Grime, URSA, Earthling Society, Bismarck, Grand Reunion, Pledge

Posted in Reviews on December 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

As we land on what would otherwise be the end of a Quarterly Review — day 5, hitting the standard 50 records across the span of a week that this time we’re doubling with another 50 next week — it occurs to me not how much 100 albums is, but how much it isn’t. I mean, it’s a lot, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been sitting and writing about 10 records every day this week. I know how much that is. But it’s astounding to me just how much more there is. With the emails I get from people looking for reviews, discs sent in the mail, the messages on Facebook and everything else, I could do another 100, easy.

Well, maybe not ‘easy,’ but it would be full.

Is it a new golden age of heavy? 45 years from now are rockers going to look back and say, “Hell yeah, from like 2012-2019 was where it’s at,” all wistful like they do now for the ’70s? Will the Heavy ’10s be a retro style? I don’t know. But if it was going to happen, there would certainly be enough of an archive to fuel it. I do my best to cover as much as I can, but sometimes I feel like we barely crack the surface. With 100 records.

That said, time’s a-wasting.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Sumac, Love in Shadow

sumac love in shadow

What are Sumac if not the most vital and highest profile atmospheric metal act out there today? With Aaron Turner (Isis, etc.) on guitar/vocals, Brian Cook (Russian Circles) on bass and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) on drums, they qualify easily as a supergroup, and yet their third album, Love in Shadow (on Thrill Jockey), is still more about creative growth and the exploration of sound than anything else. Certainly more than ego — and if it was a self-indulgent exercise, it’d probably still be pretty good, frankly. As it stands, the four massive tracks through which Sumac follow-up 2016’s What One Becomes (review here) and their 2015 debut, The Deal (review here), refine the sound Sumac has developed over the past three years-plus into a sprawling and passion-driven sprawl that’s encompassing in scope, challenging in its noise quotient, and in utter refusal to not progress in its approach. And when Sumac move forward, as they do here, they seem to bring the entire aesthetic with them.

Sumac on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records on Bandcamp

 

Cortez & Wasted Theory, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter Nine

cortez wasted theory second coming of heavy ch 9

Ripple Music‘s split series The Second Coming of Heavy hits its ninth chapter in bringing together Boston’s Cortez and Delaware’s Wasted Theory, and neither band fails to live up to the occasion. Cortez‘s range only seems to grow each time they hit the studio — vocalist Matt Harrington makes easy highlights of the opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Firmament” and the echo-laden “Close” — and Wasted Theory‘s “Ditchpig,” “Abominatrix,” “Baptized in Gasoline” and “Heresy Dealer” are so saturated with whiskey it might as well be coming out of their pores. It’s a decidedly North/South release, with Cortez rolling straightforward New England heavy rock through “Fog of Whores” and the Deep Purple cover “Stormbringer” while Wasted Theory dig with all good speed into a grit that’s more and more become their own with time, but there’s a shared penchant for hooks and groove between the two acts that draws them together, and whatever aspects they may or may not share are ultimately trumped by that. As Ripple starts to wind down the series, they continue to highlight some of the finest in heavy that the underground has to offer. One would expect no less.

Cortez on Thee Facebooks

Wasted Theory on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Thunder Horse, Thunder Horse

thunder horse thunder horse

There’s an unmistakable sense of presence throughout Thunder Horse‘s six-song/43-minute self-titled debut that undercuts the notion of it as being the San Antonio four-piece’s first album. With professionalism and a firm sense of what they want to be as a band, the Texans liberally sprinkle samples throughout their material and hone a professional sound built around massive riffs and even-more-massive lumbering grooves. Indeed, they’re not strangers to each other, as three-fourths of the group — guitarist/vocalists Stephen Bishop, guitarist/sampler T.C. Connally and drummer Jason West — double in the more industrial-minded Pitbull Daycare, whose debut LP came out in 1997. Completed by bassist/vocalist Dave Crow, Thunder Horse successfully cross the genre threshold and are well comfortable in longer cuts like “Liber ad Christ Milites Templi” and “This is the End,” both of which top nine minutes, and shorter pieces like the rocking “Demons Speak” and the shimmering finale “Pray for Rain.” With “Coming Home” and the sneering “Blood Ritual” at the outset, Thunder Horse pulls listener quickly toward dark atmospheres and flourishes amid the weighted tones therein.

Thunder Horse on Thee Facebooks

Thunder Horse on Bandcamp

 

The Howling Eye, Sonorous

the howling eye sonorous

Poland’s The Howling Eye make a lengthy long-player debut with Sonorous, but more important than the reach of their runtimes — closer “Weedblazer” tops 16 minutes, the earlier “Reflections” hits 12, etc. — the reach of the actual material. The common pattern has been that psychedelic jamming and doom are two distinct things, but The Howling Eye tap into a cosmic interpretation of rolling riffs and push it with an open spirit far into the ether of spontaneous creation. It’s a blend that a group would seem to need to be cautious to wield, lest the whole notion fall flat, but with the assurance of marked chemistry behind them, the Bydgoszcz-based trio of drummer/sometimes vocalist Hubert “Cebula” Lewandowski (also harmonica where applicable), guitarist Jan Chojnowski and bassist Mi?osz Wojciechowski boldly shift from the more structured beginnings of the funky “Kairos” and the aggro beginning “Stranded” into an outward push that’s ambient, psychedelic and naturalistic all at once, with room left over for more funk and even some rockabilly on “The Potion.” It is not a minor conglomeration, but it works.

The Howling Eye on Thee Facebooks

The Howling Eye on Bandcamp

 

Grime, What Have We Become

grime what have we become

Their roots in metal, North Dakota trio Grime — not to be confused with the Italian sludge outfit of the same name — unleash their first full-length in the form of What Have We Become, an ambitious 51-minute offering of progressive heavy rock marked by thoughtful lyrics and fluid songwriting made all the more so by the shared vocals of bassist Andrew Wickenheiser and guitarist Nick Jensen, who together with drummer Tim Gray (who would seem to have been replaced by Cale Mogard) effect a classic feel through “Alone in the Dark” while chugging and winding through the not-a-cover “Hand of Doom” with some harsher vocals peppered in for good measure. Seven-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Through the Eye” sets a broad tone that the rest of the record seems to build on, with the penultimate “Sunshine” delivering the title line ahead of the grittier closer “The Constant Grind,” which seems to payoff everything before it with a final explosion before a big rock finish. They’ll need to decide whether their sound will ultimately tighten up or loosen over time, but for now, what they’ve become is a band with a solid foundation to grow from.

Grime on Thee Facebooks

Grime on Bandcamp

 

URSA, Abyss Between the Stars

ursa abyss between the stars

Modern doom meets a swath of metallic influences on URSA‘s full-length debut, Abyss Between the Stars (on Blood Music), as members of Petaluma, California’s Cormorant take on such classic themes as wizards, dragons, yetis, witches, a spider king, mountains, and… actually, yeah, that covers the six included tracks on the 46-minute LP, which shifts gracefully between epic fantasy doom and darker, soemtimes more extreme fare. It’s easy enough to put URSA in the narrative of a band started — circa 2016 — around a central idea, rather than just dudes picking up instruments and seeing what happened next. Not just because bassist/vocalist Matt Solis, guitarist/keyboardist Nick Cohon and drummer Brennan Kunkel were already three-quarters of another band, but because of the purposefulness with which they approach their subject matter and the cohesion in all facets of their approach. They may be exploring new ground here, but they’re doing so on sure footing, and that comes not only from their experience playing together, but from knowing exactly where they want to be in terms of sound. I would not be surprised if that sound adopted more post-Candlemass grandeur with time — one can hear that burgeoning in “Serengeti Yeti” — but whatever direction they want to go, their debut will only help them on that path.

URSA on Thee Facebooks

Blood Music website

 

Earthling Society, MO – The Demon

earthling society mo the demon

Look, if you can’t get down with a bunch of freaks like Earthling Society tapping into the lysergic fabric of the cosmos to come up with an unsolicited soundtrack to a Hong Kong martial arts movie, I just don’t know what to tell you. Issued by Riot Season, the seven-track MO – The Demon is reportedly the end of the band’s technicolor daydream, and as they crash their plane into the side of “Mountains of Bliss” and hone space rock obliteration throughout “Super Holy Monk Defeats the Black Magic Mothafucker,” their particular experimentalist charm and go-anywhere-anytime sensibility demonstrates plainly exactly why it will be missed. There’s a sharp high-pitched tone at the start of opener “Theme from MO – The Demon” that’s actually pretty abrasive, but by the time they’re through the kosmiche laser assault in “Spring Snow” and the let’s-be-flower-children-until-it’s-time-to-freak-the-fuck-out throb of closer “Jetina Grove,” that is but a distant memory. So is consciousness. Fare thee well, Earthling Society. You were a band who only sought to make sense to yourselves, and for that, were all the more commendable.

Earthling Society on Thee Facebooks

Riot Season Records on Bandcamp

 

Bismarck, Urkraft

bismarck urkraft

Norwegian five-piece Bismarck bring spaciousness to doom riffing on their debut album, Urkraft, which is constructed of five molten tracks for a 34-minute totality that seems much broader than the time it takes to listen. Vocals are growls and shouts across a cosmic stretch of tone, giving a somewhat aggressive pulse to heavier psychedelic soundscaping, but a bouncing rhythm behind “A Golden Throne” assures the song is accessible one way or the other. The 10-minute “Vril-Ya” is naturally where they range the farthest, but the Bergen outfit even there seem to be playing by a set of aesthetic principles that includes maintaining a grounded groove no matter how spaced they might otherwise get. Rolling riffs bookend in opener “Harbinger” and closer “The Usher,” as “A Golden Throne,” playing-to-both-sides centerpiece “Iron Kingdom” and the subsequent “Vril-Ya” explore atmospheres that remain resonant despite the low end weight that seems to chug out beneath them. The mix by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer (who also co-engineered) doesn’t hurt in crafting their largesse, but something tells me Urkraft was going to sound big no matter what.

Bismarck on Thee Facebooks

Apollon Records website

 

Grand Reunion, In the Station

grand reunion in the station

In the Station doesn’t seem like anything too fancy at first. It’s produced cleanly, but not in any kind of overblown fashion, and Grand Reunion‘s songwriting is so solid that, especially the first time through their eight-track debut LP, it’s easy to say, “Okay, that’s another cool hook,” and not notice subtleties like when the organs turn to keyboard synth between opener “Eres Tan Serpiente” and second cut “Gordon Shumway,” or to miss the Latin percussion that Javier Tapia adds to Manuel Yañez‘s drumming, or the ways that guitarist Christian Spencer, keyboardist Pablo Saveedra, bassist Mario Rodríguez and Tapia work to complement guitarist Cristóbal Pacheco on vocals. But all of that is happening, and as they make their way toward and through the eight-minute fuzzer “Band Band the Headbang,” through the soaring “Weedow” and into the acoustic-led closer “It’s Alright,” the character and maturity in Grand Reunion‘s songwriting shows itself more and more, inviting multiple listens in the most natural fashion possible: by making you want to hear it again.

Grand Reunion on Thee Facebooks

Grand Reunion on Bandcamp

 

Pledge, Resilience

pledge resilience

16 minutes of scathing post-hardcore/sludge from Portuguese four-piece Pledge, who are in and out of their Resilience EP with a clean break and a windmill kick to the face. The newcomers lack nothing for ferocity, and with the throat-searing screams of Sofia M.L. out in front of the mix, violent intentions are unmistakable. “Profer Lumen Caecis,” “The Great Inbetweeness,” “Doom and Redemption” and “The Peter, the Wolf” nonetheless have groove built on varying degrees of extremity and angularity, with Vítor Vaz‘s bass maintaining a steady presence alongside the guitar of Hugo Martins and Filipe Romariz‘s drumming, frenetic as it sometimes is. I wouldn’t say things calm down in “The Peter, the Wolf” so much as the boiling seems to take place beneath the surface, waiting for a time to burst out, which it eventually does, but either way, for all its harsher aspects, Pledge‘s material isn’t at all void of engagement. It does, however, state the requirement right there on the front cover.

Pledge on Thee Facebooks

Pledge on Bandcamp

 

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Grand Reunion Release Debut Album In the Station

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

grand reunion

Chilean heavy rockers Grand Reunion embrace a variety of vibes across the span of their debut long-player, In the Station, which undercuts the fact that it’s self-recorded in their rehearsal space with a surprisingly professional-sounding production, but South American rhythms for sure play a role in cuts like “Gordon Shumway” while the subsequent title-track takes on a more psychedelic feel early before diving into garage-minded, organ-laced fare. They very obviously have a sense of what they want to do and the ability to bring that to the proceedings, but it’s the songwriting that most immediately makes an impression throughout. I’ve put the Bandcamp player at the bottom of this post in case you’d like to dig in. I think it’s worth the time and hope you agree.

PR wire info follows:

grand reunion in the station

GRAND REUNION – IN THE STATION (LP 2018):

Experience and friendship gives shape to “In the Station”, debut LP of 8 tracks on Spanish and English spoken to travel between the most distant situations, eras and feelings expressed, of these six musicians who meet in Grand Reunion, all of them with formation in different genres of rock but where they converge in a unique and broad sound, full of energy, to mystic background and very noisy and fuzzy rock ‘n roll.

Among a wide amalgam of influences; are the psychedelic landscapes, the spirit of the 60-70 classics and even the 80s, the body and weight of garage rock and above all, the Afro-Latin rhythms from South America that differentiate them, all incorporated into a contemporary sound.

Produced and recorded by the Grand Reunion in their rehearsal room “The Station”, this album is about all of that, the origin of their music and that special place of where it is given to birth; the rehearsal room. In this album, these 6 chilean musicians let their ideas and imaginations flow for over 3 years to finally give life to this full lenght, later mixed by Sebastian Venegas in Artisan Studio SCL, and mastered by Paul Logus (Anthrax, Clutch, Lionize, etc.) in PLX Studio NY.

So, very strange female characters, close encounters of the third kind, wild feelings and beliefs, ritual sacrifices, songs for pass-away friends and even a grass goddess anthems! All that and more in the stories that Grand Reunion has to tell you on this LP just launched and available on CD and Digital.

Grand Reunion’s new album ‘In The Station’ 2018 out now!
Order CD (Limited DLX) or Digital Album: http://www.GrandReunion.cl

Grand Reunion is:
Cristóbal Pacheco : Lead Vocals & Rhythm Guitars.
Christian Spencer : Lead Guitars & Some Vocals.
Pablo Saveedra : Keyboards & Back Vocals.
Manuel Yañez : Drums & Percussions.
Mario Rodríguez : Bass Guitars & Chorus Vocals.
Javier Tapia : Latin Percussions & Harmony Vocals.

https://www.facebook.com/GrandReunionLA
https://www.instagram.com/GrandReunionLA
https://goo.gl/FW8xku
http://www.GrandReunion.cl
https://grandreunion.bandcamp.com/

Grand Reunion, In the Station (2018)

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Quarterly Review: Worshipper, Dopethrone, The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices, Omen Stones, Capra, Universo Rojo, Sergeant Thunderhoof, Fire Down Below, Stone Deaf, Cracked Machine

Posted in Reviews on July 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

Well, we made it to the end of another Quarterly Review. One more batch and then it’s off to planning the next one for late September/early October. I hope you have found something this week that you’ve really dug. I have. A few, to be honest. Not everything is going to stick with every listener, of course, and that includes me, but for as much as putting this one together has been, there’s been some really good, year-end-list-type stuff included. At least as far as my own list goes. I sincerely hope you agree.

So let’s do this last one, then go sleep for a couple hours. Alright? Here we go:

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Worshipper, Mirage Daze

worshipper mirage daze

I don’t know if Worshipper knew they’d be embarking on their first West Coast tour in Summer 2018 when they hit Mad Oak Studios in Oct. 2016 to record the four cover tracks for their Mirage Daze EP on Tee Pee Records, but it certainly worked out in the Boston four-piece’s favor. Following-up their 2016 debut, Shadow Hymns (review here), Worshipper present four cover tracks in Uriah Heep’s “Easy Livin’,” The Oath’s “Night Child,” Pink Floyd’s “Julia Dream” and The Who’s “Heaven and Hell,” and while I’m a little sad that “Heaven and Hell” isn’t the Black Sabbath song, which I think they’d nail if they tried it, and I’m glad to have a studio version of their take on Floyd’s “Julia Dream,” which from the first time I saw them live was always a pleasure to watch live, I think the highlight of Mirage Daze might be “Night Child.” I never bought that The Oath record, and Worshipper’s take on its lead single is about the best argument I’ve seen for doing so. It may or may not be a stopgap issued to coincide with the tour, but Mirage Daze is a welcome arrival anyway. It’s a fan piece? Well, I’m a fan, so right on.

Worshipper on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records website

 

Dopethrone, Transcanadian Anger

dopethrone transcanadian anger

Montreal scumsludgers Dopethrone return with Transcanadian Anger, an eight-track blister-fest of crunch riffing and misanthropic vibes. Delivered through Totem Cat Records, the 36-minute Weedeater-gone-bad-drugs sludge assault seems to invite superlatives front to back, even in the slamming instrumental “Killdozer” – a tribute to the band? – and the swinging penultimate cut “Kingbilly Kush.” Elsewhere, opener “Planet Meth,” “Snort Dagger,” “Tweak Jabber” and “Scuzzgasm” celebrate addiction and violence unto oneself and others, making a spectacle of decay set to voluminous sludge riffs and abrasive vocals. This is Dopethrone’s aesthetic territory, and they’ve done well over the last decade to make it their own. As they answer 2015’s full-length, Hochelaga (review here), and the next year’s 1312 EP with yet another filth-caked collection, they seem all the more in their own league of aural and narcotic self-punishment. They could be straightedge vegans for all I know, but they sure sound high as fuck, and I guess that’s the point. So, well done.

Dopethrone on Thee Facebooks

Totem Cat Records webstore

 

The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices, BooCheeMish

the mystery of the bulgarian voices boocheemish

Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance would seem to be trying to solve The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices, a choral group from Bulgaria who, seemingly until teaming with Gerrard for the Prophecy Productions release BooCheeMish was known by the French name Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares. Whatever you call them, their history dates back nearly seven decades and their harmonies are utterly timeless. BooCheeMish is comprised of gorgeous folk renditions for 45 minutes of world-building perfection. Percussion of various sorts provides backing and on pieces like “Rano Ranila” they speed through at a pace and arrangement that’s head-spinning, while the later “Zableyalo Agne” finds them joined by flute for a nigh-religious experience and the subsequent “Tropanitsa” has a bounce worthy of any good times one might to envision from its evocative pulse. One can’t help but feel a bit of the cultural voyeur in taking it on – as well as feeling totally outclassed in reviewing it – but these songs were clearly meant to be enjoyed, and as their ambassadors, The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices genuinely serve a public best interest.

The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions website

 

Omen Stones, Omen Stones

omen stones omen stones

Virginia duo Omen Stones have no online presence as yet. No songs streaming. No cheeky logos-on-photos social media posts that new bands do when they’re sitting on their hands waiting to get material out there. What they – and by “they,” I mean guitarist/vocalist Tommy Hamilton of Druglord and drummer Erik Larson of Backwoods Payback, The Might Could, Alabama Thunderpussy, etc. – have is a four-song self-titled EP collecting about 13 minutes of material in demo fashion, bringing forth the Southern-shuffle-gets-weird-then-explodes opener “Secrete” as a first impression of a deceptive approach. You think it’s all good and then you get punched. Go figure. “Secrete” is also the longest track (immediate points) at 4:06, and the forward charge and harsher vocal of “Fertile Blight” follows, catchy as it is mean, and more indicative of what’s to follow in the maddening tension of “Sympathy Scars” and the fuckall sludgepunk of “Purity Tones.” Immediately against-trend, Omen StonesOmen Stones is a bird of prey unto itself. Hopefully at some point soon they make it publicly available.

Druglord on Bandcamp

Erik Larson on Bandcamp

 

Capra, Unholy Gallows

Capra Unholy Gallows

Taking influence from hardcore punk, post-hardcore and sludge, Lafayette, Louisiana’s Capra seem to fit in a Midwestern style of semi-metallic aggression that has flourished in the wake of the likes of The National Acrobat and Coliseum. The foursome’s Unholy Gallows single follows their also-two-song self-titled 2016 EP, and finds Tyler Harper (also of the recently-defunct The Midnight Ghost Train), Jeremy Randazzo, Ben Paramore and Lee Hooper aligned in their purposes of riff-led bludgeoning. Unholy Gallows is two songs/six minutes long – not by any means an afternoon commitment in terms of listening – but its furies are unveiled in far less time than that, and both “Red Guillotine” and “Hot Lips” waste no time in doling out their beatings. A sense of heft stems from tonal thickness, but they make it move to a propulsive degree, and aside from a quick feedback intro to “Red Guillotine,” there’s no letup; even as “Hot Lips” slows the pace some initially, it maintains geared toward foreshadowing the next fist to fly.

Capra on Thee Facebooks

Capra on Bandcamp

 

Universo Rojo, Impermanencia

Universo Rojo Impermanencia

Sprawl, sprawl, sprawl. Into space. Universo Rojo’s excellent four-track debut album, Impermanencia, makes you want to speak slowly enough to feel the words vibrate out of your mouth. The Chilean four-piece offer lengthy, jam-based excursions that echo out their feel across vast reaches of effects, progressive rhythm and melody-making unfurling all the while beneath an overarching swirl of effects, guitars and synth running atop the mix like competing currents of water. Opener “¿A Dónde Ir?” (8:13) gives way to the flute-laden krautrockism of “Visión Planetaria de los Tiempos” (8:40) as vocalist/guitarist/clarinetist Ferro Vargas-Larraguibel, drummer Naim Chamás, bassist Cristóbal Montenegro and synthesis Francisco Arellano conjure such molten possibilities. Though it’s just 34 minutes, Impermanencia is nonetheless expansive, with the 9:36 “Cinco (La Quinta Dimensión)” finding a place between drift and psych-jazz undulations while closer “Inmaterialización del Sentimiento Cósmico” (7:32) lets out a full-impulse burst of energy that’s blinding if you know just where to look. Not to be missed.

Universo Rojo on Thee Facebooks

Universo Rojo on Bandcamp

 

Sergeant Thunderhoof, Terra Solus

sergeant thunderhoof terra solus

Kudos to Bath, UK, four-piece Sergeant Thunderhoof on starting off their sophomore long-player, Terra Solus, with the album’s longest track in “Another Plane.” And likewise for the blend of psychedelia and burl that unfolds. In taking on the follow-up to their 2015 debut, Ride of the Hoof, they offer eight cuts and 51 minutes of spacious riffing charged with just an undercurrent of English boozer burl, Elephant Tree and Steak meeting head on for a raucous session of who knows what. “B Oscillation” taps nod and particularly satisfying fuzzy warmth in its lead section, while even a would-be bruiser like the subsequent “Diesel Breath” has a trip-out included. There is time for such things as every track but the penultimate and relatively minimalist soundscaper “Half a Man” tops six minutes, but Sergeant Thunderhoof make a much richer impression overall than their moniker might lead one to believe, and close out in particularly resonant fashion with “Om Shaantih,” emphasizing the breadth and post-rock elements that help make Terra Solus so engaging from the outset.

Sergeant Thunderhoof on Thee Facebooks

Sergeant Thunderhoof on Bandcamp

 

Fire Down Below, Hymn of the Cosmic Man

fire down below hymn of the cosmic man

The adaptation of Kyuss’ “Thumb” riff for Fire Down Below’s “Ignition/Space Cruiser” after the “Red Giant” intro on their second album, Hymn of the Cosmic Man (on Ripple), is nothing short of a clarion to the converted. The Belgian unit’s mission would seem to be to find that place on the horizon where the desert ground and space itself seem to meet and become one, and as side A closer “The Cosmic Pilgrim” turns from its initial crunch into more patient and drifting psych, they’d seem to get there. Atsmophere is certainly central to the record, as the aforementioned “Red Giant” and its side B counterpart “Nebula” demonstrate, never mind the other five tracks, and even as “Saviour of Man” runs through its janga-janga stoner-riffed hook there’s a flourish of effects to create a balance between the earthbound and the interstellar. Side B’s “Ascension” and especially 11-minute album-closer/highlight “Adrift in a Sea of Stars” seem to find the balance the four-piece is shooting for all along, and just before the nine-minute mark when the thick, fuzzed-out riff emerges from the jammy lead, the entire impetus for their journey seems to be laid bare. Well done.

Fire Down Below on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Stone Deaf, Royal Burnout

stone deaf royal burnout

Denver, Colorado’s Stone Deaf present a sans-frills desert rock vibe across the eight tightly structured tracks of their sophomore album, Royal Burnout (on Black Bow Records). Specifically, the compressed crunch in the guitar tone and some of the start-stop bounce riffing in cuts like “Room #240” and “Monochrome” seem to be drawn from the Songs for the Deaf methodology, and some of the vocals on opener “Spitshine” (video premiere here) remind of Queens of the Stone Age as well, but Stone Deaf – whose moniker, then, would be well sourced – have a deeper root in punk rock that underscores the “Go with the Flow” thrust of “Deathwish 62” as well as the chugging verses of “Boozy Spool” immediately preceding. It’s a sound that benefits greatly from the sharpness of its delivery and the craft Stone Deaf bring to it, and even when they seem to loosen up a bit on the midpaced pre-finale “That Lefty Request,” there’s a fervent sense of a plan unfolding. That plan would seem to be a success.

Stone Deaf on Thee Facebooks

Black Bow Records webstore

 

Cracked Machine, I, Cosmonaut

cracked machine i cosmonaut

Originally released last year, Cracked Machine’s debut, I, Cosmonaut, finds vinyl issue through PsyKA Records and earns it well with six tracks/45 minutes of mostly-instrumentalist and progressive space-psych. One assumes there’s a narrative thread at work across the span, as guitarist Bill Denton, bassist Chris Sutton, keyboardist/vocalist Clive Noyes and drummer Blazej Gradziel weave their way through “Twin Sons Rising” and “New Vostok” at the outset into the easy flow of “Baikonur Cosmodrome,” the harder-hitting title-track, the fuzzy declaration of “Svetlana” and the patiently executed 10-minute closer “Transorbital,” Denton’s guitar singing all the while. These places and, maybe, characters would seem to weave together to tell the story in impressions largely open to interpretation and correspondingly open in terms of their creativity, sounding spontaneous and maybe live-recorded if not entirely improvised, instead working to a plan for where each inclusion should go or end up. As Cracked Machine’s first album, it’s an ambitious work that does far more than get the band’s feet wet. It takes them out of the atmosphere and embarks on a journey beyond that one hopes is just beginning.

Cracked Machine on Thee Facebooks

Cracked Machine at PsyKA Records webstore

 

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Review & Album Premiere: King Heavy, Guardian Demons

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

king heavy guardian demons

[Click play above to stream King Heavy’s Guardian Demons in full. Album is out June 22 on Cruz Del Sur Music.]

From the first strains of opener ‘Guardian Demon,’ King Heavy make plain their intentions for their second album, Guardian Demons. The Cruz Del Sur-delivered six-tracker runs 43 minutes and follows the model of classic, traditionalist doom metal. More to the point, not just doom, but doom for doomers, by doomers, and of doomers. With bassist Daniel Pérez Saa, guitarist Matias Aguirre and drummer Miguel Canessa based in Chile and vocalist Luther Veldmark making his home in Belgium, they may not be a band who gets together every week for rehearsal in the practice space — or they may be, at least instrumentally — but they’re certainly schooled in the ways of the genre.

Candlemass are arguably the biggest single influence on cuts like “Guardian Demon” and “(Death is But an Extreme Form of) Narcosis,” which follows, but it’s not the only one. Saint Vitus, Black Sabbath, Reverend Bizarre and probably dozens of their acolytes all have a role to play in King Heavy‘s sound, which makes no attempt to hide or mask its base of inspiration. Still, it seems to be a Leif Edling-esque style of riffing that holds the day, given encouraging sweeps of double kick in the drums and lumbering marches alike. They never crawl, exactly, but there’s plenty of stomp throughout anyhow, and the communication from band to audience is clear and without pretense. They’re a doom band. That’s where their heart lies. They present their sound without pretense otherwise, and as such, feel particularly sincere in their sonic homage and will to carry forward the mission of their forebears.

So just how doomed is it? Quite doomed. Doomed enough that its third track, “Doom Shall Rise,” is written in apparent tribute to the festival in Germany that ran between 2003 and 2013 — which also happens to reportedly be where Veldmark and Saa first met in 2005 and they decided to form a band. Sadly, they’d never get to play there. That track contains references to Mirror of Deception, The Well of Souls — presumably the band, but it’s also a Candlemass song — Procession, Shepherd, etc., and if you ever needed a clear line of a group communicating on the same level as their listener, that’s it. It’s not only King Heavy sharing their own work, but sharing their love of the stylistic terrain in which it resides. After the opening provided by “Guardian Demon” and “(Death is But an Extreme Form of) Narcosis,” it’s as though the band finally comes out and says what they’ve been insinuating all along in terms of their passion for doom and their sense of belonging in and to it.

As ever for the genre, there’s a bit of an us-vs.-the-world sensibility to it, but that’s as traditional as the Veldmark‘s Chritus Linderson-esque vocal on “(Death is But an Extreme Form of) Narcosis,” switching between gruffer shouts and smoother, mournful crooning, even as the riff and rhythmic push signal a triumph in progress. Likewise, lines like “Doom shall rise, and rise again,” and “Tonight, doom shall rise,” make the point firmly and without question, and the band leave little to mystery as Veldmark moves into Cathedral-esque layering in the second half of that song, which rounds out side A with a burst of energy that only continues on the especially catchy “Cult of the Cloven Hoof,” which the shortest inclusion at 5:19, but which underscores the point of the tightness and self-awareness in the band’s approach. That is to say, even with just one record behind them in their 2015 self-titled debut (also on Cruz Del Sur), they present themselves as having a clear idea of the doom they want to make and the knowledge of just the right shifts in tempo, melody and groove to make it a reality.

king heavy

A grim reality at that. After tracking on separate continents last time around, King Heavy brought Veldmark to Chile to record his vocals this time around, and the difference would seem to be palpable in the chemistry of the band. One would expect an uptick there going from a debut to a sophomore effort no matter the circumstance, but their feeling more like a band rather than a project is evident in the cohesion here, and with the context of the studio circumstances in consideration, it makes sense as to why. “Cult of the Cloven Hoof” is a fitting example of their execution. It’s tight, grueling in its slower stretches, righteous in its quicker parts, and it unfolds a sound that’s as timeless as one could ask. It leads to the more unhinged, 10-minute-topping “Come My Disciples,” which one might expect to be an Electric Wizard reference, but goes elsewhere sonically essentially by not departing the place it already is, but slowing it down.

“Come My Disciples” feels more open than much of Guardian Demons, with a drawn out solo in its second half that’s glorious in its miseries, particularly with the rumbling low end beneath holding down the central riff. Dead-on doom. Their closer, “As in a Nightmare,” brings them back to ground with a shorter runtime, resumed trod and Veldmark‘s command of his voice. As they have all along, they offset slower and quicker stretches in “As in a Nightmare,” and do so with a sharpness of attack that leads them to the big rock finish that closes out, a wash of cymbals and guitar and bass noise fading into oblivion at the close.

Guardian Demons isn’t a record made for everybody, and King Heavy isn’t a band for everybody. Their doom is like a scratch test to see who will get it and who won’t, and for sure, some won’t. But more likely than not, they couldn’t care less, since the audience they’re speaking to is bound to embrace them all the more for the feeling of exclusion of the outside. True doom? One hesitates to believe in any kind of authenticity enough to call something “true,” but there’s no doubting the sincerity behind the murky havoc King Heavy wreak on their second album.

King Heavy on Thee Facebooks

King Heavy on Bandcamp

King Heavy at Cruz Del Sur webstore

Cruz Del Sur Music on Thee Facebooks

Cruz Del Sur Music on Bandcamp

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Föllakzoid Team with J. Spaceman for London Sessions LP out April 20

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

follakzoid-j-spaceman

In May, Chilean psychedelic adventurers Föllakzoid will head to Europe for an extensive month-long tour that includes stops at Eindhoven Psych Lab and Freak Valley 2017, among other fests. Before they go, the trio will issue London Sessions, a collaborative work with J. Spaceman of Spiritualized and Spacemen 3 that reimagines two tracks from their 2015 outing, III.

That album was in itself a collaboration, the band working with German synth specialist Atom TM to foster a minimal but spaced-out sound on tracks like “Electric” and “Earth,” the opening duo that reappear on London Sessions. As to how these versions might be different than the ones released on III, you’ll have to pardon me if I pass on guessing. They were recorded live, so it seems fair to expect some measure of difference, but yeah, just not gonna even speculate.

The PR wire teases possibilities:

follakzoid j spaceman london sessions

Föllakzoid and J. Spaceman (Spacemen 3, Spiritualized) Join Forces on London Sessions

Available April 20 via Sacred Bones

Föllakzoid feat. J. Spaceman
London Sessions
Pre-order: Sacred Bones | Bandcamp

1. Electric
2. Earth

It should come as no surprise to fans of the Chilean trio Föllakzoid that upon meeting the legendary Jason Pierce a.k.a. J. Spaceman (Spacemen 3, Spiritualized), they discovered they were kindred spirits. Föllakzoid and Spaceman’s projects share a restless drive to explore the outer limits of music, as well as an uncanny ability to lock into a groove until it infiltrates the deepest recesses of the listener’s psyche. When Föllakzoid met Spaceman backstage at a Wooden Shjips gig at London’s Electric Ballroom several years ago, they instantly became friends.

For London Sessions, the Chileans and Spaceman joined forces for new, live-to-tape renditions of “Electric” and “Earth,” two highlights from Föllakzoid’s III. The recordings were made in a private studio in London while Föllakzoid was on tour in Europe in June 2016, and Spaceman’s contributions breathe new life into the songs.

“Jason added a very different harmonic atmosphere to the songs,” guitarist Domingo Garcia-Huidobro explained. “It somehow re-articulated the space and metric that already existed in a way the band never could. These new versions have a different edge.”

Föllakzoid Live Dates:
May 18: Manchester, UK @ Soup Kitchen
May 19: London, UK @ London Fields Brewhouse
May 22: Haifa, Israel @ wunderbar
May 23: Tel Aviv, Israel @ Levontin 7
May 24: Ghent, Belgium @ Charlatan
May 25: Brussels, Belgium @ AB
May 26: Eindhoven, The Netherlands @ Eindhoven Psych Lab
May 27: Amsterdam, The Netherlands @ London Calling
May 28: Groningen, The Netherlands @ Vera
May 29: Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland @ L’Amalgame
May 30: Winterhur, Switzerland @ Albani
May 31: Leipzig, Germany @ Ilses Erika
June 2: Malmo, Sweden @ Plan B
June 3: Gothenburg, Sweden @ Pustervik
June 4: Copenhagen, Denmark @ Loppen
June 5: Berlin, Germany @ Lido
June 6: Warsaw, Poland @ Hydrozagadka Club
June 7: Poznan, Poland @ LAS
June 8: Prague, Czech Republic @ Theremin
June 9: Zagreb, Croatia @ KSET
June 10: Milano, Italy @ Santeria
June 11: Guastalla, Italy @ HandMade Festival
June 13: Marina di Ravenna, Italy @ Hana-Bi
June 14: Rome, Italy @ Monk
June 15: Torino, Italy @ Magazzino sul Po´
June 17: Siegen, Germany @ FreakValley Festival
June 18: Bern, Swiss @ Reitschule

https://www.facebook.com/FOLLAKZOID/
https://follakzoid.bandcamp.com/album/london-sessions
https://soundcloud.com/follakzoid
https://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/collections/frontpage/products/sbr176-follakzoid-feat-j-spaceman-london-sessions

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Condenados to Release The Tree of Death in Jan.

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 26th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

condenados-700

One can definitely hear where the PR wire is coming from with the Bathory reference below when it comes to Chilean doomers Condenados. Their new streaming track, “Sea of Fire” has plenty of that grand, fist-pumping roll and howling-into-Viking-oblivion vibe going on, let alone the tom rolls and chants, but there’s a more rock-based side to it as well that comes across in bass fills and classic heavy-style guitar leads. I’m reminded of the early work of another post-Bathory aficionado act, Ereb Altor, as well as the masters themselves, and Candlemass for sure — traditional doom with an edge of underlying power thrust. No complaints here.

Dig it:

condenados-the-tree-of-death

CONDENADOS set release date for new SHADOW KINGDOM album, reveal first track

It’s been five long years since Condenados’ cult debut album for Shadow Kingdom Records, A Painful Journey Into Nihil, but at long last, the wait is over: on January 13th, 2017, the Chilean doom-lords return with their highly anticipated second album, The Tree of Death! For over a decade now, Condenados have been expertly crafting ancient, ’80s-style European DOOM METAL that’s proud and pure, poignant and provocative, and everything that made A Painful Journey Into Nihil a scene classic is amplified here on The Tree of Death.

The lumbering grooves, the transcendent lead work, the emotive vocals, even a newfound swagger, and just the consistently bursting energy across their forlorn stomp…Condenados are reverential of the form, but masters all the same. As such, The Tree of Death is very likely to appeal to fans of classic Candlemass, old Cathedral, the UK’s Solstice, compatriots Procession, and even those who worship Bathory’s Viking era. And at six songs in a swift 35 minutes, Condenados succinctly make their point and compel repeat spins of The Tree of Death.

Musically and aesthetically, The Tree of Death has strong symbolic art that manifests the most basic instincts of human beings, lyrically channeled through Goetia’s demonology. The cover art was crafted by esteemed Italian artist Paolo Girardi, who has worked with such bands as Manilla Road, Inquisition, Cauchemar, and Blasphemophager among others. The artwork for The Tree of Death is already being acclaimed across social media networks as one of the most incredible works done by Girardi.

The Tree of Death features special appearances of well-known metalheads like Olof Wikstrand, vocalist of Sweden’s Enforcer, who was in charge of the mixing and mastering process. Also, the recording of the album took place in Equinox Studios in Rancagua, Chile, assisted by the guitarist and vocalist of Wrathprayer and Oraculum.

Simultaneously with the album’s release, Condenados will soon reveal a video for “Demon’s Head,” whose theme will address the adverse effects of playing with black magic without having the knowledge of the art. In the meantime, hear “Sea of Fire,” the first track to be revealed from The Tree of Death, exclusively at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp HERE, where the album can also be preordered. Tracklisting is as follows:

Tracklisting for Condenados’ The Tree of Death
1. Star of Punishment
2. The Lamb
3. Burn
4. Demon’s Head
5. Sea of Fire
6. Marchosias Oath

www.facebook.com/condenadosdoom
www.shadowkingdomrecords.com
www.facebook.com/shadowkingdomrecords

Condenados, “Sea of Fire”

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At Devil Dirt Release Plan B: Sin Revolución no hay Evolución on Vinyl

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 6th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Truth be told, I’m happy to get the below news about the vinyl release of At Devil Dirt‘s 2013 full-length, Plan B: Sin Revolución no hay Evolución (review here), if only because it gives me an excuse to break out the record and listen to it again. I dug the hell out of Plan B: Sin Revolución no hay Evolución when it was released initially on CD and download, and it seems to me that the big low-end tone of the Chilean guitar/drum two-piece is perfectly suited to a substantial platter like that on which Bilocation Records is serving it, so yeah, call it a good match and call me glad to dig into the Bandcamp stream again. Everybody wins.

Only 100 copies are available in clear/purple and 200 more in solid purple. You know the drill with limited vinyl. It goes. You might note the 13-minute track “40 Years Ago” and the Beatles cover “Across the Universe” are left off the LP tracklisting, no doubt for spacial concerns. Here’s the rundown courtesy of the PR wire:

AT DEVIL DIRT “Plan B: Sin Revolución no hay Evolución” officially out on vinyl

This dynamic duo (just vocals, guitar and drums) hails from Chile and delivers ultimate heaviness excellently combined with great melodies. Some call it Beatles doom, some call it a mixture of Kyuss and Pink Floyd, some say fans of bands like Torche will love their music … well, to get a real idea you’ll have no other choice than browsing their full album below and listen for yourself. And always remember this sounds even more awesome on high quality 180g vinyl!

VINYL FACTZ
– 100x clear with purple haze (EXCLUSIVE MAILORDER version)
– 200x solid purple
– all high-quality heavy 180g vinyl pressed in Germany
– matt laquered 300gsm gatefold cover
– handnumbered

TRACKS
A1. Don’t see you Around 5:31
A2. Conscience 4:16
A3. People Raise Again 4:32
A4. Mommy 4:54
A5. Sin Revolución no hay Evolución 3:20

B1. There’s not a God or a Devil 4:52
B2. The Caravan of Death 3:26
B3. The Marching Crowd 3:57
B4. I lost my Guide 5:40
B5. Time to flee 3:12
Total: 43:40

Available at: 180g Vinyl AT DEVIL DIRT

http://atdevildirt.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/atdevildirt
http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/

At Devil Dirt, Plan B: Sin Revolución no hay Evolución

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Wolves in the Throne Room’s Celestite, Milligram, A Sad Bada, Phant, Damo Suzuki Meets Øresund Space Collective

Posted in Radio on June 6th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Running a pretty wide gamut this week, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. This week is a pretty good example of one where there’s way more added than just what’s listed here, so make sure you check the updates page to see the full list of everything that went on the server. Next thing I knew, I turned around and there was a ton of awesome stuff waiting to go up. Tough times.

It’s been a few weeks doing the adds this way and I’m digging it so far, so I’m going to keep it up, at least until I think of something else or it gets to be a pain or whatever. Thanks for reading and checking out the radio stream.

Adds for June 6, 2014:

Wolves in the Throne Room, Celestite

The much-awaited follow-up to 2011’s Celestial Lineage finds Washington US black metal forerunners Wolves in the Throne Room not quite ready to let go of that album yet. Celestite is intended as a complement to its predecessor, and as the first release on the band’s own Artemesia Records imprint, it comes as a particularly bold move for a band clearly looking to shirk expectation. Its five included tracks are cinematic, ambient set-pieces — instrumental works that, when played at the same time as Celestial Lineage, enhance the atmospheres of those already dense songs. Of course, cuts like the 11-minute opener “Turning Ever Towards the Sun” and the centerpiece “Bridge of Leaves” have value on their own as well, but there’s little denying that the apex of Celestial Lineage in “Prayer of Transformation” is pushed further by Celestite closer “Sleeping Golden Storm” and vice versa. Anyone expecting forest screams or raging blastbeats is in for a surprise, but those who approach with an open mind will be rewarded, which has always been the case with Wolves in the Throne Room‘s work. On Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Milligram, Live on Pipeline (WMBR)


A band with a reach that has lasted much longer than their actual six-year run, Milligram retain a presence in heavy rock consciousness despite having really only gotten together to open for Kyuss Lives! in 2011 since calling it quits in 2002, prior to Small Stone‘s issue of their This is Class War full-length. Accordingly, the version of “Not Okay” included on this collection of live recordings from the radio station WMBR sounds like a blueprint for some of the soulful heavy vibes Lo-Pan would conjure in their early going. Also included are covers of the Misfits (“We are 138”) and Black Flag (“Jealous Again”), so in addition to hearing Milligram — which in 2000 when Live on Pipeline was recorded was comprised of vocalist Jonah Jenkins (see also Raw Radar War), guitarist Darryl Shepard (see also Hackman, Black Pyramid, Blackwolfgoat, The Scimitar, etc.), bassist Bob Maloney and drummer Zephan Courtney — tear into some of their own material, there’s also a look at their punkier roots. Shepard has begun a series of digital releases of his bands with this, so look out for more. All are available for name-your-price download through his Bandcamp. On Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Damo Suzuki Møder Øresund Space Collective, Damo Suzuki Møder Øresund Space Collective

Captured live and largely improvised on Valentine’s Day 2013, the 3LP Damo Suzuki Møder Øresund Space Collective indeed proves a match meant to be. The Danish/Swedish space jammers and the krautrock legend — Damo Suzuki has released decades’ worth of solo output and collaborations, but is still best known for his contributions to Can — offer no single piece under 14 minutes long, so I guess as jams go, these worked out. The six inclusions are immediately exploratory, and while at just over two hours, the meeting of these expanded-mind entities can feel a bit like traveling through a wormhole where you snap back to consciousness on the other side and wonder how you got there, each piece also takes on a life and movement of its own, propelled by ceaselessly creative guitar work, engaging rhythmic nod and, naturally, a near-constant swirl of effects. Suzuki‘s voice echoes through “Dit Glimtende Øje” as though beamed in from another galaxy, and his first contact with Øresund Space Collective results in vibrant, cosmic jams that push through the psychedelosphere. On Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

A Sad Bada, White Rivers and Coldest Chains


Chilean four-piece A Sad Bada specialize in post-sludge that is lurching and atmospheric in kind. White Rivers and Coldest Chains is their first full-length, with it they offer five extended tracks of crushing density and grueling nod. They skirt the post-metal line — guitarists Gastón Cariola and Fernando Figueroa, who founded the band in 2008, keep a steady supply of airy echoes on hand throughout — but as a cut like the 11-minute “Hide and Grieve” shows, they’re never quite looking to get away from the sludgy churn of their slower-than-thou progressions, bassist Roberto Toledo and drummer Alejandro Ossandon expertly holding together the songs as Figueroa offers vicious, throaty growls over top. White Rivers and Coldest Chains (out on Australis Records) is intended as a slog, and it is one, but the soundscape that A Sad Bada enact over the course of the album has more appeal than just its tonal weight or extremity. There’s a darkness at its heart that comes from more than just the music itself, and that bleeds from the speakers with every oozing riff. On Thee Facebooks, Australis Records.

Phant, The Octophant Pt. II


Newcomer Swedish trio Phant return with their second self-released, digital-only EP in less than a year’s time, bringing their eight-armed elephant mascot deeper into a heavy-riff melee over two more extended tracks and an outro with The Octophant Pt. II. Like their predecessors on The Octophant Pt. I (review here), “Nativitas/Hakaisha” (13:53) and “Magna Cael” (9:31) blend cosmic doom and heavy rock tendencies, finding a cohesive balance of aggression and groove along the way, subtly adding effects amid echoing vocal interplay from bassist Jesper Sundström and guitarist Anton Berglind while drummer Elias Sundberg taps into reaches no less spacious via a constant-seeming wash of cymbals. Found sounds, samples and other sundry weirdness caps The Octophant Pt. II in “Outro Pt. II,” with tales of UFOs and government coverups. How long Phant might continue this series of EPs, I don’t know — they can at least get a trilogy out of it if they want; I’d take another 26 minutes of this no problem — but the heft the three-piece bring to bear across “Nativitas/Hakaisha” and “Magna Cael” also shows they’re more than ready to tackle their debut full-length, should they decide to go that route next. On Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Other adds to The Obelisk Radio this week include Novembers Doom, the four-way split between Naam, White Hills, Black Rainbows and The Flying Eyes, as well as Recitation, Sunwolf, Godflesh, Dylan Carlson of Earth‘s solo-project, Drcarlsonalbion. For the full list, check the updates page.

Thanks for reading and listening.

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