Brujas del Sol Sign to Kozmik Artifactz; New Album II out Oct. 19

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 29th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Columbus, Ohio-based atmospheric heavy rockers Brujas del Sol — who might be more progressive than they are psychedelic but are still a pretty good bit of both and why quibble anyway? — have signed to Kozmik Artifactz. They’ll release their second album, titled simply II, through the storied imprint on Oct. 19 with the full vinyl treatment. The four-piece was last heard from with late-2015’s single, Starquake (review here), and II will follow some five years behind their 2013 debut, Moonliner. That outing was released through Devouter Records.

Brujas del Sol mark the latest in an impressive and geographically varied string of pickups for Kozmik Artifactz, which in addition to the label comprises one of the leading European distros, and one wonders if perhaps in aligning with them, Brujas del Sol might have eyes on a European tour sometime in 2019. Or maybe they just wanted to put the record out on wax. That’d be fair enough, and Kozmik Artifactz certainly seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to such things. I guess the point is kudos all around. I’ll hope to get to hear the album.

The label’s announcement follows here:

brujas del sol

***NEW SIGNING – BRUJAS DEL SOL***

Today we officially welcome Brujas del Sol to the Kozmik fold. We’ll be releasing their new album “II” on the 19th of October, on heavy weight gatefold vinyl.

“We are very thrilled to be a part of the Kozmik Artifactz family. It is an honour to be among such an incredible line-up of bands.

Our new album, II, comes on the tail end of big changes among the members in the band. Both musically and personally. With influences within the prog, psych and post-rock communities, we feel we will be a nice addition the Kozmik Krew.

Those who enjoy hypnotic rhythms, fuzzy and modulated guitars, pulsating analogue synthesis and songs that blend progressive, space rock and heavy influences will appreciate II.”

Brujas del Sol is:
Adrian – High end/Vocals
Derrick – Low end
Josh – Percussion
Phillip Reed – Keyboards

https://www.facebook.com/BrujasdelSol/
https://brujasdelsol.bandcamp.com/
http://kozmik-artifactz.com/
https://www.facebook.com/kozmikartifactz

Brujas del Sol, Starquake (2015)

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Weed Demon Post “Sigil of the Black Moon” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

weed demon

With their debut album, Astrological Passages (review here), Columbus, Ohio, four-piece Weed Demon step into one of the country’s most vicious sludge legacies. There are few phrases that strike fear into the heart of pharmaceuticals like “Ohio sludge,” and with good reason. From Fistula and Rue to Rebreather and Sofa King Killer, the Buckeye State has produced landmarks for the genre to rival anything that’s come out of New Orleans or any of the other US hotbeds on the West or East Coasts. Issued by the band in 2017 and pressed to vinyl by Electric Valley Records, Weed Demon‘s four-tracker LP bring in shades of modern riff tectonics à la groups like Monolord and rumbles with a tonal heft that seems to extended even to the high end of their guitar solos. Vocals have a tendency to roar accordingly.

“Sigil of the Black Moon,” for which the band has a new video out, is the second-longest song on Astrological Passages at 10:46 — only closer “Jettisoned” tops it, at 12:37 — and is a fervent, lumbering beast of a track. Shades of Goya‘s ultra-stonerism pervade, but with the harsher edge, there’s little question where Weed Demon‘s collective corrupt heart lies in terms of style. You’d call it brutal and not be wrong. The band appear in the video, playing through the song in front of what looks like a really nice rock wall in someone’s living room maybe. They’ve got some candles set up around them and it’s all well and good. Then there’s another part of the video, where it cuts to this guy and his lady and they’re like covered in dirt makeup and chocolate sauce or whatever it is and making out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to sit here and judge anyone’s kink, it’s just not the kind of thing you usually see in a sludge clip.

All the better, I guess. It’s pretty hilarious though to watch the guy in the mirror putting on his makeup and think of the Primordial video earlier this year that was basically their frontman doing the same thing. Context goes a long way.

The clip follows here, along with some PR wire background on its making and live dates.

Enjoy:

Weed Demon, “Sigil of the Black Moon” official video

WEED DEMON are pleased to reveal their new video for “Sigil Of The Black Moon”. The song is taken from the album Astrological Passages which is getting a fresh release on vinyl July 27th.

The band commented “We started working on the video for “Sigil” in August of last year. A handful of setbacks and numerous bowl packs later we finally got around to wrapping everything up. Seeing the final product was like a huge collective exhale for us. It’s no easy task to put together an almost 11 minute video. A huge thanks to Josh Richter for helping to keep the project moving forward. Keep it heavy. Keep it hazy.”

Weed Demon live:
Aug 10 The Green Lantern Lexington, KY
Aug 11 Urban Artifact Cincinnati, OH
Sep 13 The Spacebar Columbus, OH

Weed Demon is:
Jordan Holland – Bass, Vocals
Andy Center – Guitars, Vocals (backing)
Brian Buckley – Guitars, Vocals (backing)
Chris Windle – Drums

Weed Demon, Astrological Passages (2018)

Weed Demon on Thee Facebooks

Weed Demon on Instagram

Weed Demon on Bandcamp

Electric Valley Records on Thee Facebooks

Electric Valley Records website

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Quarterly Review: Glanville, Destroyer of Light, The Re-Stoned, Ruff Majik, Soldat Hans, High Priestess, Weed Demon, Desert Storm, Ancient Altar, Black Box Warning

Posted in Reviews on July 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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

So Day 1’s done and it’s time to move on to Day 2. Feeling stressed and totally overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff still to be done? Why yes, I am. Thanks for asking. In the past, I used to handle the Quarterly Review well ahead of time. It’s always a lot to get through, but the week before, I’d be setting up back ends, chasing down links and Bandcamp players, starting reviews, etc., so that when it came time, all I had to do was the writing and plug it all into a post and I was set.

There was some prep-work done this past weekend, but especially this time, with my old laptop having been stolen in May, it’s all been way more jazz-improv. I was still adding releases as of last Friday, and writing beforehand? Shit. With the baby having just figured out how to climb? Not bloody likely. Accordingly, here we are, with much to do.

It’ll get done. I haven’t flubbed a Quarterly Review yet, and if I took an extra day to get there, I’m under no delusion that anyone else would care. So there you go. Let’s hit it for Day 2:

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Glanville, First Blood

glanville first blood

First Blood is the aptly-titled five-song debut EP from Glanville, a newcomer dual-guitar outfit with established players Philip Michel (The Earwix) on lead and Christopher West (Named by the Sun, ex-Stubb, etc.) on rhythm, Wight’s Peter-Philipp Schierhorn on bass and René Hofmann on vocals, and Thomas Hoffman (ex-Bushfire) on drums. Based in Germany and the UK, the group present 23 minutes of material on their first outing, drawing from the guitar-led likes of Thin Lizzy and Judas Priest to capture early metal and present it with a heavy rocking soulfulness and modern production. The most raucous of the cuts might be centerpiece “Durga the Great,” but neither “God is Dead” nor “Dancing on Fire” before nor “Demons” and “Time to Go” after want for action, and especially the latter builds to a furious head to close out the release. Hofmann as a standalone singer wants for nothing in range or approach, and the band behind him obviously build on their collective experience to dig into a stylistic nuance rarely executed with such confidence. They’ve found a place willfully between and are working to make it theirs. Can’t ask for more than that.

Glanville on Thee Facebooks

Glanville on Bandcamp

 

Destroyer of Light, Hopeless

destroyer of light hopeless

Having just recently signed to Argonauta Records for a new album in 2019, Austin doomers Destroyer of Light follow their 2017 long-player, Chamber of Horrors (review here), with a further auditory assault in the lumbering Hopeless. Psychedelic and yet still somehow traditional doom lingers in the brain after “Nyx” and “Drowned” have finished – the latter with an Alan Watts sample discussing alcoholism – and the band moves into demos for Chamber of Horrors cuts “Into the Smoke,” “Lux Crusher” and “Buried Alive.” Between the two previously unreleased songs and those three demos, Hopeless pushes to 39 minutes, but it’s probably still fair to call it an EP because of the makeup. Either way, from the miserable plod of “Nyx,” in which each chug in the riff cycle seems to count another woe, to the rolling nod early and surprising melody late in “Drowned,” Hopeless is anything but. Anticipation was already pretty high for Destroyer of Light’s next record after the last one, but all Hopeless does is show further depth of approach and more cleverly-wielded atmospheric murk. And the more it sounds like there’s no escape, the more Destroyer of Light seem to be in their element.

Destroyer of Light on Thee Facebooks

Destroyer of Light on Bandcamp

 

The Re-Stoned, Stories of the Astral Lizard

the re-stonEd stories of the astral lizard

The inevitable question is “Why a lizard?” and if you make it four minutes into 11-minute opener “Fractal Panorama” and don’t have your answer, go back ad start over. Moscow heavy psych instrumentalists The Re-Stoned intend the reptile as a spirit guide for their new outing Stories of the Astral Lizard (on Oak Island Records), which follows quickly behind their late-2017 offering, Chronoclasm (review here), and given the ultra-patient desert vibes in the opener, the acoustic-laced folk-prog of “Mental Print for Free,” the languid meander of “A Companion from the Outside,” the swirling sprawl of the 16-minute “Two Astral Projections” and the final cowpoke drift of “The Heather Carnival,” one might indeed just find a lizard sunning its belly amid all the atmospheric evocations and hallucinatory vibes. I’ll take “Two Astral Projections” as the highlight, but mostly because the extra length allows the band to really dig in, but really the whole album feeds together gorgeously and is a new level of achievement when it comes to atmosphere for The Re-Stoned, who were already underappreciated and find themselves only more so now.

The Re-Stoned on Thee Facebooks

Oak Island Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Ruff Majik, Seasons

Ruff Majik Seasons

Right on fuzz, right on groove, right on vibe – there isn’t much else one might say about Ruff Majik’s Seasons (on Rock Freaks Records and Forbidden Place Records) beyond “right on.” Heavy rock with twists of psychedelia, the Pretoria, South Africa, three-piece of Johni Holliday, Jimi Glass and Benni Manchino make their home on the lines of various subgenres, but wherever they go, the proceedings remain decisively heavy. To wit, a cut like “Breathing Ghosts” or the later “Birds Stole My Eyes” might dig into shuffle boogie or extreme-metal-derived thrust, but there’s a chemistry between the members and a resonant looseness that ties the material together, and as the last 14 of the total 66 minutes are dedicated to “Asleep in the Leaves,” there’s plenty of progressive weirdness in which to bask, one song moving through the next such that neither “Hanami Sakura (And the Ritual Suicide” nor the semi-doom-plodding “The Deep Blue” nor the funky twists of “Tar Black Blood” come across as predictable. Seasons might take a few listens to sink in, but it’s easily worth that effort.

Ruff Majik on Thee Facebooks

Ruff Majik at Rock Freaks Records webstore

Forbidden Place Records on Bandcamp

 

Soldat Hans, Es Taut

SOLDAT HANS ES TAUT-750

Hyperbole-worthy post-ism from Switzerland’s Soldat Hans makes their sophomore outing, Es Taut – on Wolves and Vibrancy Records as a 2LP – a forward thinking highlight. As rich in atmosphere as Crippled Black Phoenix and as lethal as Converge or Neurosis or anyone else you might dare to put next to them, the six-piece made their debut with 2014’s Dress Rehearsal (review here) and served notice of their cross-genre ambitiousness. Es Taut finds them four years later outclassing themselves and most of the rest of the planet across three extended tracks – “Story of the Flood” (26:15), “Schoner Zerbirst, Part I” (8:03) and “Schoner Zerbirst, Part II” (18:56) – that sprawl out with a confidence, poise and abrasion that is nothing short of masterful. Es Taut may be a case of a band outdoing their forebears, but whatever their legacy becomes and however many people take notice, Soldat Hans singlehandedly breathe life into the form of post-metal and prove utterly vital in so doing, not only making it their own, but pushing forward into something new in ambience and heft. This is what a band sounds like while making themselves indispensable.

Soldat Hans on Thee Facebooks

Wolves and Vibrancy Records website

 

High Priestess, High Priestess

high priestess high priestess

Calling to order a nod that’s immersive from the opening strains of leadoff/longest-track “Firefly” (still immediate points), Los Angeles trio High Priestess build out the psych-doom ritualizing of their 2017 demo (review here) to make their self-titled full-length debut through Ripple Music. The difference between the demo and the album in terms of what’s included comes down to artwork and the track “Take the Blame,” which adds its bell-of-the-ride swing between the atmosphere and melodic focus of “Banshee” and the spacious roller “Mother Forgive Me.” Potential is writ large throughout from guitarist/vocalist Katie Gilchrest, bassist/vocalist Mariana Fiel and drummer Megan Mullins, as it was on their demo, and even the harsh growls/screams on “Despise” seem to have found their place within the proceedings. As they wrap with the guitar-led jam of “Earth Dive,” High Priestess put the finishing touch on what’s hands-down one of 2018’s best debut albums and offer a reminder that as much potential as there is in their sound for future development, the accomplishments here are considerable unto themselves.

High Priestess on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Weed Demon, Astrological Passages

weed demon astrological passages

Four tracks of gurgling riffy plunder pervade Astrological Passages, the 41-minute – longer if you get the digital version or the tape/CD, which includes the 7:24 “Dominion of Oblivion” – debut album from Columbus, Ohio’s Weed Demon. Delivered on vinyl through Electric Valley Records, the nodder/plodder carves out a cave for itself within a mountain of tonally thick stoner metal riffing, infusing a sense of sludge with shouted and growled vocals from guitarists Andy and Brian and bassist Jordan – only drummer Chris doesn’t get a mic – and an overarching sense of bludgeoning that’s Sleep-derived if not Sleep-adjacent in terms of its actual sound. Nasty? Why, yes it is, but as “Sigil of the Black Moon” heads toward the midpoint of its 10-minute run, the repetitive groove assault makes the band’s intention plain: worship weed, worship riff. They get faster on “Primordial Genocide” and even sneak a bit of speed in amidst the crawl before the banjo takes hold in the second half of 12-minute closer “Jettisoned” – more Americana sludge please; thank you – but they never lose sight of their mission, and it’s the uniting factor that makes their debut hit like the brick to the head that it is.

Weed Demon on Thee Facebooks

Electric Valley Records website

 

Desert Storm, Sentinels

desert storm sentinels

With Sentinels, Oxford, UK, five-piece Desert Storm pass a decade since making their self-titled debut in 2008. They followed that with 2010’s Forked Tongues (review here), 2013’s Horizontal Life and 2014’s Omniscient (review here), and though they had a single out in 2014 on H42 Records as a split with Suns of Thunder (review here) in 2016, Sentinels is their first outing on APF Records and their first long-player in four years. Burl has always been an important factor in what they do, and the High on Fire-meets-Orange Goblin slamming of “The Brawl” backs that up, but Desert Storm have left much of the hyper-dudeliness behind in favor of a more complex approach, and while Sentinels isn’t a minor undertaking at 10 songs and 51 minutes, longer cuts like “Kingdom of Horns” and “Convulsion” demonstrate the maturity they’ve brought to bear, even as the one-two punch of “Drifter”  and “The Extrovert” offer swinging-fist hooks and beard-worthy chug that assures any and all testosterone quotas are met.

Desert Storm on Thee Facebooks

APF Records on Bandcamp

 

Ancient Altar, Cosmic Purge/Foie Gras

ancient altar cosmic purge foie gras

Based in Los Angeles, Ancient AltarScott Carlson (bass/vocals), Barry Kavener (guitar/vocals), Jesse Boldt (guitar) and Etay Levy (drums) – were last heard from on 2015’s dug-in atmosludger Dead Earth (review here), and they return lo these several years later with the two-tracker Cosmic Purge/Foie Gras, pushing into more extreme crush-of-riff with an abandon that’s anything but reckless. On the contrary, there’s some clear development in the 10-minute “Cosmic Purge” and 13-minute “Foie Gras,” rolling out oppressive grooves with blended screams/shouts and cleaner vocals. As with the last album, a drive toward individuality is central here, and Ancient Altar get there in tone while bringing forth a sense of scope to a sound so regularly thought of as closed off or off-putting in general. In its early going, “Foie Gras” hypnotizes with echoing melody and spaciousness only to resolve itself in a deeply weighted dirge march, furthering the pummel of “Cosmic Purge” itself. I don’t know if the EP – on vinyl through Black Voodoo Records, CD on Transcendental Void Records – will lead toward another album or not, but the sense of progression in Ancient Altar’s style is right there waiting to be heard, so here’s hoping.

Ancient Altar on Thee Facebooks

Black Voodoo Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Black Box Warning, Attendre la Mort

black box warning attendre la mort

Listen to it on headphones and the kickdrum on Black Box Warning’s Attendre la Mort is downright painful. Next-level blown-out aggro pulsations. Brutal in a physical sense. The rest of the band doesn’t follow far behind in that regard. Riffs are viscous and violent in noise rock tradition, but denser in their tone despite some underlying punkishness, and the vocals are likewise distorted and abrasive. The five-song/23-minute EP’s title translates to “Waiting for Death,” and each of the tracks is a dose: Opener “5 mg” is followed by “4 mg,” “1 mg,” “2 mg” and “3 mg.” Unsurprisingly, pills are a theme, particularly on “4 mg,” and the sense of violent threat is clear in “2 mg” and 3 mg,” which boast lines like, “Watch them all scream/Watch your enemy bleeded,” and “You are the pig/I am the butcher,” respectively. Between the lyrical and the general aural cruelty, the dis-ease is consuming and unmitigated, sludge becoming a slow-motion grindcore, and that’s clearly the point. Not stabbing, but gouging.

Black Box Warning on Thee Facebooks

Black Box Warning on Bandcamp

 

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Six Dumb Questions with Akula

Posted in audiObelisk, Six Dumb Questions on March 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

akula

Those familiar with the vocal work of Columbus, Ohio-based vocalist Jeff Martin will find his presence recognizable in everything but context when it comes to the newcomer five-piece Akula. Known of course for his work fronting (from behind the drums) the fuzz-laced heavy rocking Lo-Pan, Martin brings his soulful melodicism to Akula as part of a lineup that includes bassist Scott Hyatt, guitarists Sergei Parfenov and Chris Thompson (the latter now also of Lo-Pan) and drummer Ronnie Miller, and the group’s self-titled first full-length incorporates a swath of atmospheric textures derived from progressive metal as ’90s alternative, post-rock and more beyond.

The album, Akula was given a digital self-release by the band in January in somewhat quiet fashion almost testing the ground to gauge an initial reception that, sure enough, came back in a positive response to the sharp chugging turns of 12-minute closer “Predators,” the open-spaced rolling groove of “Force Me Open” (10:07) the weighted ambient pulsations of opener “A Pound of Flesh” (9:19) and the post-doomer crash of “Born of Fire”‘s (9:27) blend of sonic reach and earthen nod. These four extended tracks would be all Akula needed to make that strong first impression, and in terms of both memorable songwriting and a stylistic ambitiousness, the self-titled indeed sounds like only the beginning of where the band might go in terms of ground they explore and just the first demonstration of a nuance of craft set to grow even more across subsequent outings.

Whether Martin‘s voice is the draw or you happen upon Akula through some other means — frankly, the pop in Miller‘s snare, Hyatt‘s tone on the low end and the fluidity with which Thompson and Parfenov lead transitions between claustrophobic riffing and broad-spaced soundscapes all make valid arguments in the 41-minute LP’s favor — the clearly-intended-to-be-two-vinyl-sides offering is immersive from the outset and rich in both sprawl and impact. I would not at all be surprised to find a physical pressing or two in the works for later this year, but in the meantime, Martin was kind enough to take some time to discuss the origins of the band and how the record came together in writing and recording, and whether or not Akula should be considered a side-project. Some of those responses might surprise you.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

akula akula

Six Dumb Questions with Akula

Tell me about Akula getting together. What was the impetus behind starting the band, and how much did you guys know going into the project what you wanted it to sound like?

Akula started when Lo-Pan had some downtime. I was feeling an overabundance of creative energy and I thought jamming with some different people and different styles might be a good way to channel some of that. This was before Chris [Thompson, guitar] joined Lo-Pan. I knew who he was and had seen a few of his previous bands play. I had been listening to a lot of heavier psychedelic stuff in the vein of Yob, Neurosis, and even some Mastodon. I knew Chris could do pretty much anything from seeing him play. I contacted him and asked if he would be interested in getting some people together for a purely fun project. He was all for it. I told him what I was thinking in terms of style and he said he actually already had some part ideas he had been messing around with that might be a fit.

We talked about bass players and drummers and rhythm guitarists and invited some guys to meet up and discuss. It all went pretty smoothly. And stylistically, everyone seemed to understand what we were looking for. A darker, heavier psychedelic sound with melodic vocals. Longer format and prog shifts seemed like a natural thing for everyone. So we got to work.

Talk about that sound for a bit. The album has such a sense of space to it, everything sounds very open and atmospheric, but still heavy. Was there something in particular you were looking to capture in terms of mood on the album?

I think there was a nebulous direction we were all going, but it’s always a mystery how it will actually shake out when you start playing. We all come from various genres of heavy music but also a mix of other types of music as well. Atmospheric was definitely where I wanted it to go. Chris brings that off-time heavy lead mentality to the songs and that was new for me. It was a challenge for me to add vocals to that. I am used to having very standard time signatures which allows me to weave in and out as much as I want to. In that feel, I can really add to the swing of a song. I really love heavy music that swings. But with Akula it took me a bit of effort to learn where the swing was. It’s definitely there. But with the off-time parts, I wanted to make sure that my swing wasn’t too hindered by the guitar parts. It’s not always easy. But I do enjoy the challenge of incorporating my vocal and lyrical style into a heavier format.

How does Akula’s songwriting process work? How does a track like “Force Me Open” come together, and what does each member of the band bring to it? When did you begin writing for the record?

Usually it all starts with a part idea from either Chris or Sergei. Those two will get together and work out a sort of skeleton format for a song. Then Scott and Ronnie will jam with them to build the rest. Adding parts. Changing parts. Removing parts. This will all happen over the course of a few weeks. Maybe even a month or two. “Force Me Open” probably took five months or more to reach a record-ready state.  And some of that is just time delays. Chris joined Lo-Pan about a year after we started Akula. Before we even had a name for Akula, actually. So Lo-Pan’s schedule definitely has an effect on the Akula writing process when it comes to time allocation for myself and for Chris.

Also everyone else in the band has quite a bit going on as well. Scott, our bassist is in a few different bands, mainly Bridesmaid, but also occasionally Horseburner and Siouxplex. He also has a career and a wife. Ronnie, our drummer is in another band (Artillery Breath) and travels quite a bit. Sergei, our rhythm guitarist has a family and runs a business. It all just takes time. We began writing the first record from the very first jam sessions. But I think it took around a year before we had our first two songs completed. All before we even discussed a name for the band.

We didn’t even play a show until around the 18-month mark. That was important for us when we started out. We wanted everything to happen in its own good time. No shows until we felt it was all ready to be played out. No recording until we have an album worth of material we all liked. No rushing whatsoever. It’s done when it’s done. And in the meantime we just have fun playing music and hanging out together. That was the first thing I said to everyone when we first got together. Those were the marching orders. No stress. Just fun.

No hassles. It’s done when it’s done. And we have really seen that through. It really is like that. We don’t fight. We all get along and we have a blast together. We play the shows we want to play. We go the direction we all decide is best.

Tell me about recording. It’s just four tracks, but they’re four pretty significant tracks. Where was the album done, how long were you in the studio and as your first release, how do you feel the outcome represents the band at this stage?

Recording could not have been a better process for us. We recorded this record at Sonic Lounge here in Columbus, Ohio. It’s a really killer studio with some outstanding equipment and it’s all run by Joe Viers. Chris had worked with Joe multiple times in other projects like Sleepers Awake. I worked with Joe on the last Lo-Pan release (In Tensions), and Scott had worked with him in his band Bridesmaid. Joe was our first choice and for me our only choice really. He just gets music and he’s a fantastic collaborator. He becomes like another member of the band. He makes strong suggestions and will hold you accountable when he knows you can play a part better or if you’re out of tune. And even vocally, I have found Joe to be an invaluable resource for ideas on harmonies and execution. I can’t say enough good things about the guy.

We did the entire album and mixing over the course of two weekends at Sonic Lounge. It was a real blast to make this album. I think as a first effort it reflects the entire timeline of the band to this point. You can hear the maturation of the songs. Or at least I can. “Born of Fire” was our first completed song. “Force Me Open” was the second completed song. Even between those two songs, I think you can hear a quantum shift. It’s pretty rewarding to see that growth as a group.

Of course, you’ve done plenty of touring over the years in Lo-Pan, but how much will Akula play out? Will you guys tour to support the album? How much is the band a side-project for you or anyone else involved?

As far as playing out goes, I think Akula takes a very methodical approach to things. We love to play live but we want live shows to be an addition to our experience, and not just a maintaining of status quo. So we are selective about frequency and overall makeup of shows. We are discussing a summer run to support this release.

I would say when we first started out this was definitely a side-project for all of us. And as it’s progressed it has really become an important project for everyone. I don’t know that I would still classify Akula as my side-project. It’s just a different project with a different sound and its own process.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

Akula is currently in talks to sign with an indie label to release our self-titled in physical format including vinyl. More to follow on that. We are also continuing to write new material which we will start road testing soon. Our next show is April 6 at Spacebar in Columbus with Royal Thunder and Pinkish Black.

Akula, Akula (2018)

Akula on Thee Facebooks

Akula on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 short releases

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

This is the hardest list to put together, no question. Don’t get me wrong, I put way too much thought into all of them, but this one is damn near impossible to keep up with. Every digital single, every demo, every EP, every 7″, 10″ one-sided 12″, whatever it is. There’s just too much. I’m not going to claim to have heard everything. Hell, that’s what the comments are for. Let me know what I missed. Invariably, something.

So while the headers might look similar, assuming I can ever remember which fonts I use from one to the next, this list has a much different personality than, say, the one that went up earlier this week with the top 20 debuts of 2017. Not that I heard everyone’s first record either, but we’re talking relative ratios here. The bottom line is please just understand I’ve done my best to hear as much as possible. I’m only one person, and there are only so many hours in the day. Eventually your brain turns into riffy mush.

With that caveat out of the way, I’m happy to present the following roundup of some of what I thought were 2017’s best short releases. That’s EPs, singles, demos, splits — pretty much anything that wasn’t a full-length album, and maybe one or two things that were right on the border of being one. As between genres, the lines are blurry these days. That’s part of what makes it fun.

Okay, enough dawdling. Here we go:

lo-pan-in-tensions

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

1. Lo-Pan, In Tensions
2. Godhunter, Codex Narco
3. Year of the Cobra, Burn Your Dead
4. Shroud Eater, Three Curses
5. Stubb, Burning Moon
6. Canyon, Canyon
7. Solace, Bird of Ill Omen
8. Kings Destroy, None More
9. Tarpit Boogie, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam
10. Supersonic Blues, Supersonic Blues Theme
11. Come to Grief, The Worst of Times EP
12. Rope Trick, Red Tape
13. Eternal Black, Live at WFMU
14. IAH, IAH
15. Bong Wish, Bong Wish EP
16. Rattlesnake, Outlaw Boogie Demo
17. Hollow Leg, Murder
18. Mars Red Sky, Myramyd
19. Avon, Six Wheeled Action Man Tank 7″
20. Wretch, Bastards Born

Honorable Mention

Across Tundras, Blood for the Sun / Hearts for the Rain
The Discussion, Tour EP
Fungus Hill, Creatures
Switchblade Jesus & Fuzz Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven
The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny
Test Meat, Demo
Blood Mist, Blood Mist
Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell
Dautha, Den Foerste
Scuzzy Yeti, Scuzzy Yeti
Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard Part 2
Decasia, The Lord is Gone
Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore, Split 7″

I can’t imagine I won’t add a name or two or five to this section over the next few days as I think of other things and people remind me of stuff and so on, so keep an eye out, but the point is there’s way more than just what made the top 20. That Across Tundras single would probably be on the list proper just on principle, but I heard it like a week ago and it doesn’t seem fair. Speaking of unfair, The Discussion, Howling Giant, The Grand Astoria and the Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore split all deserve numbered placement easily. I might have to make this a top 30 in 2018, just to assuage my own guilt at not being able to include everything I want to include. For now though, yeah, this is just the tip of the doomberg.

Notes

To be totally honest with you, that Lo-Pan EP came out Jan. 13 and pretty much had the year wrapped up in my head from that point on. It was going to be hard for anything to top In Tensions, and the Godhunter swansong EP came close for the sense of stylistic adventurousness it wrought alone, and ditto that for Year of the Cobra’s bold aesthetic expansions on Burn Your Dead and Shroud Eater’s droning Three Cvrses, but every time I heard Jeff Martin singing “Pathfinder,” I knew it was Lo-Pan’s year and all doubt left my mind. Of course, for the Ohio four-piece, In Tensions is something of a one-off with the departure already of guitarist Adrian Zambrano, but I still have high hopes for their next record. It would be hard not to.

The top five is rounded out by Stubb’s extended jam/single “Burning Moon,” which was a spacey delight and new ground for them to cover. The self-titled debut EP from Philly psych rockers Canyon, which they’ve already followed up, is next. I haven’t had the chance to hear the new one yet, but Canyon hit a sweet spot of psychedelia and heavy garage that made me look forward to how they might develop, so I’ll get there sooner or later. Solace’s return was nothing to balk at with their cassingle “Bird of Ill Omen” and the Sabbath cover with which they paired it, and though Kings Destroy weirded out suitably on the 14-minute single-song EP None More, I hear even greater departures are in store with their impending fourth LP, currently in progress.

A couple former bandmates of mine feature in Tarpit Boogie in guitarist George Pierro and bassist John Eager, and both are top dudes to be sure, but even if we didn’t have that history, it would be hard to ignore the tonal statement they made on their Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam EP. If you didn’t hear it, go chase it down on Bandcamp. Speaking of statements, Supersonic Blues’ Supersonic Blues Theme 7″ was a hell of an opening salvo of classic boogie that I considered to be one of the most potential-laden offerings of the year. Really. Such warmth to their sound, but still brimming with energy in the most encouraging of ways. Another one that has to be heard to be believed.

The dudes are hardly newcomers, but Grief offshoot Come to Grief sounded pretty fresh — and raw — on their The Worst of Times EP, and the Massachusetts extremists check in right ahead of fellow New Englangers Rope Trick, who are an offshoot themselves of drone experimentalists Queen Elephantine. Red Tape was a demo in the demo tradition, and pretty formative sounding, but seemed to give them plenty of ground on which to develop their aesthetic going forward, and I wouldn’t ask more of it than that.

Eternal Black gave a much-appreciated preview of their Bleed the Days debut long-player with Live at WFMU and earned bonus points for recording it at my favorite radio station, while Argentine trio IAH probably went under a lot of people’s radar with their self-titled EP but sent a fervent reminder that that country’s heavy scene is as vibrant as ever. Boston-based psych/indie folk outfit Bong Wish were just the right combination of strange, melodic and acid-washed to keep me coming back to their self-titled EP on Beyond Beyond is Beyond, and as Adam Kriney of The Golden Grass debuted his new project Rattlesnake with the Outlaw Boogie demo, the consistency of his songcraft continued to deliver a classic feel. Another one to watch out for going into the New Year.

I wasn’t sure if it was fair to include Hollow Leg’s Murder or not since it wound up getting paired with a special release of their latest album, but figured screw it, dudes do good work and no one’s likely to yell about their inclusion here. If you want to quibble, shoot me a comment and quibble away. Mars Red Sky only released Myramyd on vinyl — no CD, no digital — and I never got one, but heard a private stream at one point and dug that enough to include them here anyway. They remain perennial favorites.

Avon, who have a new record out early in 2018 on Heavy Psych Sounds, delivered one of the year’s catchiest tracks with the “Six Wheeled Action Man Tank” single. I feel like I’ve had that song stuck in my head for the last two months, mostly because I have. And Wretch may or may not be defunct at this point — I saw word that drummer Chris Gordon was leaving the band but post that seems to have disappeared now, so the situation may be in flux — but their three-songer Bastards Born EP was a welcome arrival either way. They round out the top 20 because, well, doom. Would be awesome to get another LP out of them, but we’ll see I guess.

One hopes that nothing too egregious was left off, but one again, if there’s something you feel like should be here that isn’t, please consider the invitation to leave a comment open and let me know about it. Hell, you know what? Give me your favorites either way, whether you agree with this list or not. It’s list season, do it up. I know there’s the Year-End Poll going, and you should definitely contribute to that if you haven’t, but what was your favorite EP of the year? The top five? Top 10? I’m genuinely curious. Let’s talk about it.

Whether you have a pick or not (and I hope you do), thanks as always for reading. May the assault of short releases continue unabated in 2018 and beyond.

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THAL Sign to Argonauta Records; Reach for the Dragon’s Eye Due in 2018

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Ohio heavy rockers THAL, whose name is an acronym for The Heathens are Loose, are the latest pickup by Argonauta Records, which has been on an absolute international tear in the process of establishing its release schedule for 2018. Look for THAL‘s next long-player, Reach for the Dragon’s Eye to hit as a part of that swath alongside outings from ZOM, Supernaughty, Clamfight and Greyfell, among others.

For THAL, Reach for the Dragon’s Eye follows 2016’s Glitter, which you can stream at the bottom of this post, and will be their second full-length overall. The band also has a handful of digital singles and a name-your-price split with Hashishian that came out this past February, if you’re up for digging in.

Word came through the PR wire:

THAL

THAL sign to ARGONAUTA RECORDS

We’re excited to welcome to Argonauta Records family U.S. Heavy Rockers THAL.

THAL (The Heathens Are Loose) is a collaboration between John “Vince Green” Walker and Kevin Hartnell. THAL was originally Green’s solo effort, but while recording wytCHord’s 2016 debut album “Death Will Flee” (another band in which Vince and Kevin play with guitarist David Jones) he quickly realized that Kevin’s barbaric drumming and multi-instrumental abilities would make the next THAL album something special.

“Kevin is a very busy musician and in high demand, but I couldn’t not ask him to collaborate. I was really excited when he said yes.” says Green. Although they live two hours apart, they passed song ideas and sound files back and forth online for a year; almost daily as “Reach For The Dragon’s Eye” quickly took shape. The album is a true collaboration. “This album was inspired by a life changing event last fall and the subsequent personal journey as the world continued devolving around us. In other words, the heaviest material THAL has put to tape.”

THAL confronts the ugliness of daily life with a dose of pessimism processed through an esoteric filter. Stories of despair put to one hell of a riff.

About the label deal: “Argonauta is one of the finest providers of heavy music in the industry today. Every release is consistently great. We are honored to be given the opportunity to contribute to that legacy.”

THAL “Reach for the Dragon’s Eye” will be released in CD/DD during 2018, a huge album briefly described as the perfect blend between CLUTCH, DANZIG and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE.

http://www.facebook.com/thalheavyband
https://thal.bandcamp.com/
www.facebook.com/argonautarecords

THAL, Glitter (2016)

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Pale Grey Lore Self-Titled LP Due Dec. 1

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

pale grey lore

I was a big fan of the self-titled first full-length from Ohio heavy rockers Pale Grey Lore (review here) when it was released last year by the band on their own. Enough so that I considered it one of 2016’s best debut albums, and I’ll happily stand by that a year after the fact. Right out of the gate, the Columbus natives showcased an ability to craft memorable songs that were about more than just their hooks, but still delivered those with righteous efficiency. Their material was tight, mature in a way that undercut the fact that it was their first album, and wholly unpretentious. There was, in short, a lot to like.

On Dec. 1, Kozmik Artifactz offshoot Oak Island Records will release Pale Grey Lore‘s Pale Grey Lore as a limited LP. The band has a release show booked in their hometown at The Spacebar and preorders are set to start soon. If you didn’t dig into the album when it came out last year, no time like the present to get caught up. You’ll find it streaming in full at the bottom of this post.

Dig:

pale-grey-lore-pale-grey-lore-lp

Originally released on CD and digital download in June of 2016, Pale Grey Lore’s self-titled debut album is slated for vinyl release on December 1st 2017 via German label Kozmik Artifactz’s imprint Oak Island Records. Featuring cover art by Joel Chastain, the album was recorded and engineered by Andy Sartain and mastered by Harold LaRue.

Melodic vocals and tasteful harmonies echo alongside thunderous drums, while fuzz-drenched reverberating guitars push demon-haunted vintage amplifiers to the brink. Spanning the genres of psych rock, doom metal, post-punk and drone pop, the album’s nine tracks are refreshingly diverse, yet part of a remarkably coherent whole that adds up to much more than the sum of its parts.
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The vinyl release party will take place on Friday December 1st at The Spacebar in Columbus Ohio and will feature special guests Matter of Planets (from Columbus) and Pillärs (from Cleveland).

https://www.facebook.com/palegreylore/
https://twitter.com/palegreylore
http://palegreylore.bigcartel.com/
http://palegreylore.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/oakislandrecords/
http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/index.php?k=1072&lang=eng

Pale Grey Lore, Pale Grey Lore (2016)

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Lo-Pan, In Tensions: A Moment

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

lo-pan in tensions

[Click play above to stream ‘Pathfinder’ from Lo-Pan’s In Tensions EP, out Jan. 13 on Aqualamb Records.]

One might consider In Tensions and the band who made it both as limited edition. Ohio’s Lo-Pan — who, by my estimation, remain among the best currently active purveyors of heavy rock in the US — enlisted guitarist Adrian Lee Zambrano (also Brujas del Sol) after parting company with Brian Fristoe following the release of what’s still their latest full-length, 2014’s Colossus (review here). That album, their fourth and third for Small Stone, marked a sharpening of sound for the hard-touring four-piece and left a tighter, faster, and overall more aggressive impression than 2011’s Salvador (review here), while still maintaining the groove and thrust that have been central to Lo-Pan since 2007’s Sasquanaut (reissue review here) and their formative 2006 self-titled debut.

Clearly they were a band in the midst of changes or at very least a stylistic refinement, but the lineup shift seemed significant. Zambrano, however, quickly proved himself. With him alongside bassist Scott Thompson, drummer Jesse Bartz and vocalist Jeff MartinLo-Pan toured Europe for the first time in 2015, as well as the States, and worked with Joe Viers at Sonic Lounge to record the five tracks of In Tensions. “In tensions,” as in both “tense” and “intensions,” and “intensions” as in “the best of…,” which speaks to the idea that things don’t always work out the way we think they’re going to. And so, In Tensions, which is released by Brooklyn’s Aqualamb Records as a limited CD/LP with a 100-page artbook containing tour diaries, might have been the moment when Lo-Pan established themselves with Zambrano on a studio recording.

Instead, following Zambrano‘s departure and subsequent replacement by Chris Thompson (also Sleepers Awakethis past July, the blazing, air-tight 22-minute collection is a look at what might’ve been had Lo-Pan been able to continue writing in that incarnation for a fifth full-length. One hesitates to call it their best work to-date, if only because as a fan of what they do it doesn’t seem fair, but the simple truth of the matter is they’ve yet to put something out that wasn’t a decisive step forward from the preceding release, and that applies to In Tensions as regards Colossus as well, despite the EP, obviously, being shorter.

But it does showcase some of Zambrano‘s progressive flourish on guitar — he’s a different personality of player than was Fristoe during his time in the band — starting from the tense chug of opener “Go West,” which Bartz meets head-on with toms, and it does boast the most accomplished vocal performance of Martin‘s career thus far, taking his soulful, gonna-belt-this-out approach and adding methodical, layered harmonizing for emphasis in the hooks of “Go West,” the subsequent “Sink or Swim,” the centerpiece “Long Live the King” and the six-minute closer “Pathfinder,” which quite simply is the best song Lo-Pan have ever written.

lo pan in tensions release show

Actually, there’s really nothing simple about it, from the sleek and fuzzy bassline from Thompson that opens to the backing volume swells of guitar (is that ebow?) that provide ambience as Martin and Bartz kick in for the verse to the linear build that moves toward an apex as affecting as it is memorable, shifting after an airy solo circa the four-minute mark to a concluding movement that takes the energetic shove of “Long Live the King” and the crashing gracefulness (yes, both) of “Alexis” — which actually might be Martin‘s boldest performance here — and adds the laser focus that typified Colossus to finish out with maximum force while still remaining in complete control of the torrent they’re making.

If there’s a drawback to it, it’s that that single payoff, with its carefully arranged vocal layers, choice riff, and all-go rhythm, runs the risk of overwhelming the rest of In Tensions. But repeat listens, which aren’t hard to do when the offering is 22 minutes long, show that’s not at all the case, and while “Pathfinder” lands a bigger impact than a short release requires — that is, it could easily have served as the payoff for a full-length — it’s not out of place among the no-nonsense, headbang-worthy drive of “Go West” and the careening chorus of “Sink or Swim” or the thicker impression of low end that Thompson brings to “Long Live the King” and the wistfulness of “Alexis.” Rather, it ties these elements together and highlights further what could’ve been had In Tensions turned into Lo-Pan‘s next album, and it’s for that reason that the EP is a little sad in addition to being such a triumph for the band.

Hearing Zambrano‘s scorcher solo on “Alexis,” it’s difficult not to think of In Tensions as a showcase for the potential in this lineup of Lo-Pan. The title would seem to acknowledge this idea as well, but while they may not have lasted with Zambrano on board, another way to think about In Tensions is how fortunate it is that the band got to record when they did to capture this material which otherwise might’ve been lost to the personnel change. When one considers the artbook format (the cover is by Chris Smith) and numbered pressings from Aqualamb, the emphasis on the fleeting nature of the band that wrote and recorded these songs is all the more prevalent — thus “limited edition” at the outset — and while it’s a quick listen, In Tensions earns every bit of the intricacy with which it arrives. It is a welcome document of a moment already gone. That’s not, however, to say Lo-Pan have necessarily peaked and it’s all downhill from here as they move forward with Chris Thompson on guitar. After all, In Tensions demonstrates that they pulled off one difficult lineup change in the face of daunting odds. There’s nothing to say they can’t do so again. If anything, they seem to be a band who thrive on the challenge.

Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks

Lo-Pan on Bandcamp

Aqualamb Records on Bandcamp

Aqualamb on Thee Facebooks

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