Demon Head, Hellfire Ocean Void: Own the Hour

Posted in Reviews on February 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

demon head hellfire ocean void

There are those who’ll argue against there being any room for growth in a retro aesthetic. That the style is inherently stagnant. It sounds old, therefore it sounds redundant. It’s an argument as simple as it is ridiculous and Copenhagen’s Demon Head give a compelling glimpse at why by means of Hellfire Ocean Void. It is their third full-length and first through respected purveyor Svart Records, and it manifests a theatricality and progressive sense of drama all its own while staying loyal to an underlying classicism. As songs like “The Night is Yours” and “In the Hour of the Wolf” dynamically blend aspects of gothic post-punk, dark psychedelia, doom and proto-metallic tonality, the five-piece — a returning lineup of vocalist Marcus Ferreira Larsen, lead guitarist Thor Gjerlufsen Nielsen, rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Birk Gjerlufsen Nielsen, bassist Mikkel Sander Fuglsang and drummer Jeppe “No You Can’t Know My Middle Name” Wittus — bring individualism to established styles by crafting a blend that is theirs alone.

To be sure, this has been their trajectory all the while. Their second album, 2017’s Thunder on the Fields (review here), built fluidly on the prior 2015 debut, Ride the Wilderness (review here), and in that context, Hellfire Ocean Void is another forward step in the series — but it’s a big step. That can be heard as “In the Hour of the Wolf” picks up from the jangly “A Flaming Sea,” in which Larsen delivers the title line, and shifts in its second half to hypnotic progressive guitar lines as it moves toward its final, sweeping solo. It can be heard in the folkish vocal harmonies that begin side B with the acoustic-led intro “Labyrinth,” the way in which scorching leads of the subsequent “Strange Eggs” draw down the tempo ahead of the final dirge march, or how closer “Mercury and Sulphur” seems to pull the various sides together into one cohesive entirety for its eight and a half minutes. Simply put, this is the record that those who’ve caught on to Demon Head have been hearing the potential for up till now. It is the realization of their promise as a band.

Much of the noted drama involved can be traced to the vocals, and again, that’s been a steady factor in Demon Head since their beginnings five years ago with Demo 2014 (review here) and the single Demon Head b/w Winterland (review here), but neither should the work of the Nielsens on guitar be understated in its contribution. Even Wittus‘ crash cymbal seems to have a grand purpose in crafting the wash by the time “Mercury and Sulphur” is hitting its payoff, and sure enough the last piece to go from that track is Fuglsang‘s bass, so indeed, it’s everybody. And it’s a question of confidence, definitely. Demon Head are fast veterans at the half-decade mark, and while they haven’t spent six months out of each year touring and playing festivals, they’ve done a fair share of road time, so they should be as sure of themselves and what they’re doing as they are. They sound throughout the eight songs/40 minutes of Hellfire Ocean Void like a band experienced in the studio, who know how to balance live energy of performance with the opportunities for sonic expansion that recording allows.

demon head

Their scope, their sheer sonic reach, has never been so broad, and as the album opens with the quiet piano introduction “Rumours,” the intent of grandeur is clearly stated. And yet Hellfire Ocean Void isn’t overblown. It isn’t consumed by its own progression at the expense of the songs. Demon Head‘s naturalist tonality keeps them grounded, and their level of songcraft assures that even as “The Night is Yours” and “The Flaming Sea” provide an initial showcase of the band’s intent in conveying the maturity of their approach and how far they’ve come, their work is still catchy and engaging on a basic structural level. That remains true even in the wider soundscaping of “In the Hour of the Wolf,” with its goth disco animalia, the delightfully and willfully bizarre “Strange Eggs” and the patiently expansive and doomed “Mercury and Sulphur,” which comprise a movement unto themselves of nuance and character, but have their hooks nonetheless.

Further, Demon Head evince a whole-album approach not only within the songs, but in the patterning of the album itself. From “Rumours” into “The Night is Yours,” “A Flaming Sea” into “In the Hour of the Wolf,” “Labyrinth” into “Strange Eggs” and the penultimate “Death’s Solitude” into “Mercury and Sulphur,” Hellfire Ocean Void shifts from shorter-track/longer-track in such a way as to directly portray the dynamism of the band and a feeling of stylistic diversity. In particular, “Death’s Solitude,” with its xylophone (I’m pretty sure I hear that elsewhere too, unless I’m imagining things) and tension-building tom runs, acts as a direct line into the finale in such a way as to make one believe it was written precisely for that purpose. It’s longer than “Rumours” or “Labyrinth,” and the quiet guitar of its first half seems to foreshadow the breakout that comes circa 1:20 in, but after that, it’s the vocals in a showcase over an instrumental tempest that ultimately holds sway and moves into the closer after a quick fade to set up the stark strum of guitar at the start of “Mercury and Sulphur.”

It’s one more moment in which Demon Head so carefully but so naturally prove themselves to be masters of their sound. Hellfire Ocean Void is not necessarily immediate — it may take a few listens to completely unveil its scope — but when it does, it’s all the more satisfying a listening experience. And it’s worth noting that even as they reach this new echelon of craft, Demon Head maintain an abiding lack of pretense. As far out as they go, they don’t lose themselves in the work, and they don’t lose sight of the songs. The difference that makes across the LP’s two-sided span is massive when it comes time for “Mercury and Sulphur” to make its final outward plod; a stretch that is neither over-the-top emotionally nor failing to connect in terms of affecting a mood. With Hellfire Ocean VoidDemon Head serve notice that they’ve been underrated up to this point in their tenure, and not only reaffirm and manifest their own forward potential, but that of their genre as a whole, even as they grow beyond its confines.

Demon Head, Hellfire Ocean Void (2019)

Demon Head on Thee Facebooks

Demon Head on Bandcamp

Demon Head webstore

Svart Records website

Svart Records on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records on Twitter

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Øresund Space Collective, Kybalion: Augmenting Reality

Posted in Reviews on December 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

oresund space collective kybalion

It makes sense somehow that after 12 years and countless studio and live releases, Øresund Space Collective would at last go transdimensional. The vehicle for the beginning of their evolution into a noncorporeal cybernetic form is called Kybalion, and actually the title refers to the book of Hermetic philosophy teaching, among others, the principle of mentalism that puts thought as the basis for, well, everything, but either way, they sound thrilled to make the trip. Featuring eight songs and an 80-minute 2LP run, it was recorded in Nov. 2016, at either the same session or concurrent gathering to when the somewhat amorphous improv jam unit put down what became late 2017’s Hallucinations Inside the Oracle (review here). That’s by no means the first time Øresund Space Collective have gotten more than one record out of a session — 2016’s Visions Of… (review here), Different Creatures (review here) and Ode to a Black Hole (review here) were all recorded over a period of three days in Oct. 2014 — so there may yet be more to come from the Nov. 2016 session.

Either way, they certainly give plenty to chew on in extended jams like 21-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Open the Door and Ride,” and as alluded to at the outset, they’re working in multiple dimensions. The Space Rock Productions vinyl and a special edition of the CD come with cover art and extra artwork that works with an augmented reality app to give a 3D art experience, the cover coming to life as Øresund Space Collective synth wizard and bandleader Scott “Dr. Space” Heller speaks in echo about the mentalism and the power of thought in the universe and so on. Even the labels of the LP itself see the artwork of Batuhan Bintas (CyberRabbit) come to life. It looks to be remarkably well done, and as the cover is filled with various iconography, there’s plenty to dig into, from blue Venus to a rocking future Stephen Hawking and acid guru Owsley Stanley on what seems to be a cosmic bicycle.

As to the songs themselves, on the whole they’re shorter snippets than Øresund Space Collective sometimes manifest, but whether it’s the funky guitar and violin in the 17-minute “Take a Trip” or the classic rock flair to the extended guitar lead in “Open the Door and Ride,” there is a sense of personality to each jam that stands it out among its peers, whether it’s the running water sounds and later psychedelic thrust of “Pixie Dust,” the more forward synth of and motorik beat of “Down the Tube” or the sci-fi wash of “Sequencing the Human Brain,” synth and keyboard intertwining along with pulled bluesy guitar notes and an ultra-psychedelic crux that pushes the drums deep into the mix to let the ambience hold sway. Two sort-of-interludes appear as the second and second-to-last tracks, with “Drop It – Tropical Flavour of the Month” and “New Tropical Flavor” that indeed are named for the surf sound of the guitar, and they’re quick at under three minutes apiece and do well to tie together some of the disparate sides of Kybalion.

The band must have a million of these “usable moments” hanging around from their periodic get-in-the-studio-and-hit-record sessions, but the “Tropical” duo are put to effective use here. The last cut and the just the third out of the eight to touch the 10-minute mark is “Smooth Future,” and while, again, it’s relatively short at 10:10, it’s a gorgeous and serene note to end on, with synth gently cascading in and out in a slow-motion swirl as violin and guitar accent each other and the drums and bass hold together a steady and laid back space rocking outward progression. It comes to a pretty fervent push in its final minutes, but by the time they get there, the sense of drift is so palpable that there’s really nothing overstated about it, and they end, as the title indicates, smooth, with drums, synth and effects-laced guitars gently letting the listener go back to reality.

But who the hell wants to be in reality? Obviously not Øresund Space Collective, or they wouldn’t proffer such resonant sparefaring jams in the first place. As always for them, the music is improvised, and that exploratory sensibility has come to define their work. I have no doubt that they have their bumps in the creative road, and when I called pieces “snippets” above, that wasn’t an accident Even as “Pixie Dust,” “Down the Tube” and “Sequencing of the Human Brain” reach over nine minutes long, they feel like glimpses of longer jams, fluid moments captured on tape. Behind September’s Live in Berlin 2018 (review here) and May’s Chatoyant Breath (review here), Kybalion is the third Øresund Space Collective offering of 2018 — though Dr. Space also had a second solo album out — and it may or may not be the final collection culled from that Nov. 2016 session, but either way, for its multi-phase presentation and its as-ever glimpse at the big-bang moment of the creative process, the very beginnings of the spark that for many becomes the foundation of verses or choruses, the collective’s latest astrojazz/krautronaut excursion should well please fans looking to bask in the grand kosmiche chill that unites the various strings of galaxies and mind, thought and form.

Recent past outings have seen them partnered with former Siena Root/Indian classicist multi-instrumentalist KG Westman (Hallucinations Inside the Oracle) and guitarist Gary Arce of Yawning Man (Chatoyant Breath), but Kybalion reminds that so much of the appeal of Øresund Space Collective in the first place comes from the chemistry happening in the moment the jams are taking place, in that marriage between the ephemeral and the ethereal, their music seeming to speak to something so timeless while also being fleeting and gone the moment it’s put down, since, inevitably, the same improvisation can’t happen twice. Their megajams continue to stand them out in the sphere of heavy psychedelia and space rock, and while I don’t know the next time Øresund Space Collective will get together for a few days in Copenhagen or elsewhere, they only ever seem to push themselves further into the greater reaches of Far Out, and I can hear nothing in Kybalion to indicate their expansion will stop anytime soon.

Øresund Space Collective, Kybalion AR demonstration

Øresund Space Collective, Kybalion (2018)

Øresund Space Collective on The Facebooks

Øresund Space Collective on Bandcamp

Øresund Space Collective website

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Papir Enter Studio for New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I can’t help but wonder what the next studio album from Papir will bring. The Copenhagen-based progressive instrumentalists kind of blew the doors open with 2017’s V (review here) as regards the spaces their sound explores, and they’ve always been a forward-thinking band, so as they’re aligned to the progressive-minded Stickman Records and with Nicklas Sørensen also venturing into a string of solo releases, it seems fair to expect a new Papir outing to have a broad reach. The last one certainly did. Also the one before that. And the one before that. Etc.

So while I go ahead and get my hopes up, we’ll see as more solid release dates come around when the album is done and all that. But it’s in progress, and I have little doubt that “progress” is the right word for what’s happening. Here’s looking forward as one so often does at the beginning of a year.

Stickman sent word down the PR wire. Dig it:

papir

Papir in studio

We’ve received word that Papir is already back in the studio recording what will become their 6th studio record! Last year, the band released their first album with us (their fifth – V) and in 2018 we reissued their first. Undoubtedly one of the most unique bands in psychedelic rock – if one can even call it that, with their recent tendencies towards atmospheric soundscapes – we’re looking forward to seeing what the band has been working on!

Papir has gradually developed their unique vision of instrumental rock over the course of four studio albums, culminating in their first full-length for Stickman Records, the aptly titled “V”. The amazing thing about Papir is how they transform psychedelic music into something new and relevant, something truly unique. Sure, they know their kraut- and prog-rock history, but unlike the majority of bands in the present day psych-rock scene they venture far beyond mere pastiche. Mounting the stage, the trio surprise from the get-go: no fully-tattooed longhairs with ostentatious battle vests or getups in sight – just three clean-cut young men, cheery, authentic. Pretense and image are rendered unnecessary – these guys can play and let their music do the talking. 

Papir is:
Nicklas Sørensen
Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen
Christian Becher Clausen

https://www.facebook.com/papirband
https://papir.bandcamp.com/
https://www.stickman-records.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Stickman-Records-1522369868033940

Papir, V (2017)

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Redwolves Release Future Becomes Past March 15

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

redwolves

Argonauta Records just don’t quit. The Italian label, for at least the last two years, probably longer at this point, has had a steady stream of pickups every couple of weeks and they just don’t stop. How many bands are even on this label now? It’s gotta be north of 50. The latest — although I say that and there’s probably another announcement waiting in my inbox from the PR wire — are Danish heavy rockers Redwolves, who’ll release their debut album through the label in March. That record, Future Becomes Past, would seem to be somewhat self-aware in its title, as there’s definitely a classic edge to their sound, or at least their was as of the four-piece’s 2016 outing, the Walking Roads EP. Of course, they could be talking about any number of things with the name of the album, up to and including the rise of populism in Northern Europe, but either way, the title fits.

And as always, the trusty PR wire brings the release announcement and details:

redwolves future becomes past

Heavy Psych Rockers REDWOLVES Reveal Album Details!

Debut Coming Out March 2019 With Argonauta Records!

Copenhagen based Heavy Psych Rockers REDWOLVES, who just recently announced the signing with powerhouse label Argonauta Records, have revealed the first details about their upcoming debut album! Titled ‘Future Becomes Past’, the band’s first full-length will be seeing the light of day on March 15th 2019.

After the release of their 2016-EP ‘Walking Roads’, a feisty show of REDWOLVES’ particular approach to modern sounding hard hitting Rock n’ Roll – fittingly rounded off by frontman Rasmus Cundell’s intelligent lyrics and distinctive vocals – the Danish quartet already left a first stamp in nowadays rock scene. “This is Rock’n’Roll the way it has to be!” Argonauta’s CEO Gero Lucisano confirms. “While I have listened to the songs of this awesome band the first time, I immediately thought of a modern attitude that sounds so fresh and with no compromise. What you will get here? An exciting group with their roots in Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy sonorities, paying homage to the always killer Scandinavian scene such as the Hellacopters. You have been warned!”

REDWOLVES formed in 2012 and found a musical community in their common affinity for the classic heavy rock and the 00’s new wave of Scandinavian rock. The band’s upcoming album will be a noticeable further development of REDWOLVES’ expression which through the records’ eight songs unfolds itself in a songwriting carrying catchy melodies, energetic and virtuoso musicianship and a modern and analogue attentive production by Jacob Bredahl (Riverhead, LLNN, Rising a.o.).

The band describes their music as “modern classic heavy rock” or at other times “future rock”. Both terms appropriately describes how heavy Rock n’ Roll effortlessly can remain relevant, as long as the classic virtues and a good dose of edge and innovation keep being present. REDWOLVES’ first full-length is a complex record, that shows several aspects of REDWOLVES’ talent for writing songs with both directness, catchy hooklines, dynamics and experimentation. This record will be party, light and joy, but equally despair, darkness and depression – and with good reason….

When REDWOLVES had started off the songwriting for their debut, a brutal incident occurred which was to be determining for the album. On New Years Eve 16/17, singer Rasmus Cundell was the subject of a violent attack which carved its deep traces, both personally and within the band. The event caused a delay of the creative process but at the same time, the band became an important catalyst for pulling through. The lyrics were written after the attack which therefore naturally constitutes the thematic subject matter of the album. On a personal level, the violence spawned a spiral of depressive and fearful thoughts but also on a more general level, the incident initiated a contemplation in regards to the possibilities of agency in a world that appears hostile and destructive.

Even though many of the songs origin from this depressive state, one still senses a path towards the light in the music, and it is this adamant hope that the record will remind you of. As the good sides of life can put depression, hopelessness and contingency into perspective, the negation of life can also put perspective on joy and light: “Especially because we all will perish soon, we must insist on living, partying, loving and not to be conquered by darkness, hate and destruction.” The band explains. “And thus, we must necessarily seek to journey out of the dark again.”

Today REDWOLVES have unveiled the album cover art and tracklist for their ‘Future Becomes Past’:

The tracklist reads as follows:
1. Plutocracy
2. Rigid Generation
3. The Abyss
4. Fenris
5. The Pioneer
6. Voyagers
7. Farthest From Heaven
8. Temple Of Dreams

Coming as CD and Digital Download on March 15th 2019, the album pre-sale will soon start on Argonauta Records, with many more news and first album tunes to follow!

www.facebook.com/Redwolvesband
https://redwolvesmusic.bandcamp.com
www.redwolves.dk
www.argonautarecords.com
www.facebook.com/ArgonautaRecords

Redwolves, Walking Roads (2016)

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Quarterly Review: BongCauldron, Black Helium, Earthbong, Sir Collapse, Alms, Haaze, The Sledge, Red Lama, Full Tone Generator, Mountain Dust

Posted in Reviews on December 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Not to get off topic here, but it’s December, and god damn, I hate the fucking holidays. Christmas, even if you believe in the religious significance of the day, is pure garbage. I like giving presents well enough, don’t particularly enjoy receiving them, but even if you put aside the whole “oh it’s so commercial ‘now'” thing, like there was a time anyone now living ever saw when it wasn’t, it isn’t fun. The meal sucks. It’s dark. It’s cold. The songs are fucking endless and terrible — yes, all of them — and the whole experience is just a bummer the whole way through. If there was actually a war on it, I wish they’d drop the bomb and incinerate the entire thing.

Take Thanksgiving, make it start in November and end in December. A month-long festival for the season. You can even give gifts at the end, if you want. It could be like Ramadan, or, probably more likely and much on the opposite end of the spectrum, Oktoberfest.

There. Problem solved. Have a great day, everyone. Let’s do some reviews.

Quarterly Review #71-80:

BongCauldron, Tyke

BongCauldron Tyke

Biscuit, Corky and Jay of BongCauldron return less than 12 months out from their Binge LP (review here) with Tyke (on APF), three more cuts of weed-eating, dirt-worshiping, weed-worshiping, dirt-eating sludge, fueled as ever by fuckall and booze and banger riffs — and yes, I mean “banger” as in “bangers and mash.” There’s a lead that shows up in closer “Jezus Throat Horns” and some vocal melody that follows behind the throaty barks, but for the bulk of the three-tracker, it’s down to the business of conveying dense-toned disaffection and rolling nod. “Pisshead on the Moon” opens with a sample about alcohol killing you and works from its lumber into a bit of a shuffle for its midsection before hitting a wall in the last minute or so in order to make room for the punker blast of “Back up Bog Roll,” which tears ass and is gone as soon as it’s there, dropping some gang vocals on the way, because really, when you think about it, screw everything. Right? “Jezus Throat Horns” might be offering a bit of creative progression in closing out, but the heart of BongCauldron remains stained of finger and stank of breath — just the way it should be.

BongCauldron on Thee Facebooks

APF Records webstore

 

Black Helium, Primitive Fuck

black helium primitive fuck

Oh yes. Most definitely. From the Sabbath swing behind the chugging “Love the Drugs” and the march of “Wicked Witch” through the what-would-happen-if-Danzig-was-interesting “Summer Spells” and fuzzed-out post-punk shouts of “Videodrone” en route to the nine-minute “Curtains at the Mausoleum,” London four-piece Black Helium make heavy psychedelic songcraft into something as malleable as it should be on their Riot Season debut, Primitive Fuck, holding to underlying structures when it suits them and touching on drone bliss without ever really completely letting go. Opener “Drowsy Shores” is hypnotic. The aforementioned “Curtains at the Mausoleum” is hypnotic. Even the chug-meets-effects-blowout closing title-track is hypnotic, but on the handclap-laced “Do You Wanna Come Out Tonight?” or “Videodrone,” or even “Summer Spells,” there are hooks for the listener to latch onto, life-rafts floating in the swirling tonal abyss. The truth? There isn’t a primitive thing about it. They’re not so much lizard-brained as astral-planed, and if you want a summation of their sound, look no further than their name. It’ll make even more sense when you listen. Which you should do.

Black Helium on Thee Facebooks

Riot Season Records website

 

Earthbong, Demo 2018

earthbong demo 2018

The immediate association in terms of riff is going to be Sleep. “Drop Dead,” the 10-minute first of two songs on Earthbong‘s debut Demo 2018, rolls out with pure Dopesmoker-ism and follows the model of gradual unfolding of its weedian sludge riffery. No complaints. The Kiel, Germany, trio are obviously just getting their start, and since it’s a demo and not the “debut EP” that so many otherwise demos try to position themselves as, I’ll take it. And to boot, “Drop Dead” ultimately departs its Sleepy environs for altogether more abrasive fare, with Bongzilla-style screams and an increasingly aggressive shove, the drums crashing like the cymbals did something wrong, and feedback capping into the start of “Wanderer,” which is shorter at seven minutes and opens its assault earlier, the vocals no less distorted than the guitar or bass. There’s some space in a solo in the second half, but Earthbong again twist into harsh, crusty doom before letting feedback carry them out to the demo’s finish. Growing to do, but already their violence seethes.

Earthbong on Thee Facebooks

Earthbong on Bandcamp

 

Sir Collapse, Walk to the Moon

sir collapse walk to the moon

Grunge, noise rock and Queens of the Stone Age-style melody-making collide on Walk to the Moon, the debut full-length from German four-piece Sir Collapse, sometimes on disparate cuts, like the noisy intro given to the album by “Lower Principles,” and sometimes within the same song, as in the later “Like Me.” A jangly swing in “Mono Mantra” and the Nirvana-esque hook there soon gives way to the desert-hued thrust of “One Man Show” and the early ’90s fuzz of “Happy Planet Celebration,” while “The Great Escape” leads the way into some measure of evening out the approach in “Like Me,” “Too Late,” “Hey Ben” and “The Family,” unless that’s just the band acclimating the listener to their style. Fair enough either way. Sir Collapse round out with a return to the uptempo push shown earlier, giving their first LP an impressive sense of symmetry and whole-work presentation as layers of vocals intertwine with melody alternately lush and raw, sounding very much like a band who know the parameters in which they want to work going forward. So be it.

Sir Collapse on Thee Facebooks

Sir Collapse on Bandcamp

 

Alms, Act One

alms act one

Organ-soaked Baltimorean garage doomers Alms enter the conversation of 2018’s best debut albums with Act One on Shadow Kingdom, a collection rife with choice riffing, dynamic vocals and a nuanced blend of heft and drama. That a song like “The Toll” could be both as traditional sounding as it is and still modern enough to be called forward-thinking is nothing short of a triumph, and in the stomping “The Offering,” Alms cast forth a signature chorus that stands out from the tracks surrounding without departing the atmosphere so prevalent in their work. “Dead Water” at the outset and “For Shame” build a momentum through side A that the five-piece of keyboardist/vocalist Jess Kamen guitarists Bob Sweeney (also vocals) and Derrick Hans, bassist Andrew Harris and drummer Derrick Hans expand in the second half of the record, winding up in the early gruel of “Hollowed” only to resolve the album with speedier swing and as sure a hand as they’ve guided it all along. At six songs and 33 minutes, Act One unmistakably leaves the audience wanting more, and indeed, the plot may just be starting to unfold.

Alms on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records on Bandcamp

 

Haaze, Swamp Mama

Haaze Swamp Mama

It is a sharp, biting 27-minute run, but Swamp Mama isn’t just thrown together haphazardly. Alberta-based sludge metallers Haaze build a song like “35 Indians” to a head over the course of a deceptively efficient 4:44, following opening track “Beast of the Bog” with a developed sense of craft underlying the outward negativity of their sound. I’ll give the band bonus points for finishing side A with a song called “Stereotypically Doomed,” but more for the crash cymbal that seems to devour the mix. There’s a trashy undercurrent to the subsequent title-track, and as it finishes its pummel, it relinquishes ground to the acoustic interlude, “The Mechanic,” which I’m just going to assume is named for the Charles Bronson movie. That of course sets up the most extreme cut included in closer “AL,” which layers fierce growls and screams atop a rhythm clearly designed for maximum assault factor. A little more metal than sludge, it nonetheless remains tonally consistent with what comes before it, giving Swamp Mama a vicious ending and a feel that’s all the more lethal for it.

Haaze on Thee Facebooks

Haaze on Bandcamp

 

The Sledge, On the Verge of Nothing

the sledge on the verge of nothing

Copenhagen four-piece The Sledge boasts the three former members of heavy rockers Hjortene in guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Palle, drummer/vocalist Kim and bassist Claus, so while they’ve revamped their identity and gone on to add vocalist Magnus Risby — who appears here on “179 Liars” and “Yet Untitled” — perhaps its somewhat disingenuous to consider their first album under the new moniker, On the Verge of Nothing, a debut. Issued through Kozmik Artifactz, the record collects eight tracks produced by Anders Hansen (who also worked with Hjortene) and mixed by Matt Bayles, and in listening to the cuts with Risby in the lead spot, the vibe taps into a thicker take on late-era Dozer with no less righteous melodicism. That, however, is just a fraction of the total story of On the Verge of Nothing, which taps earlier desert idolatry on “Death Drome Doline” and brings in none other than Lorenzo Woodrose himself for guest spots elsewhere. People in and out of the lineup through different tracks should make the LP disjointed, but as ever, it’s the songwriting that holds it together, and one can’t discount the core band’s experience playing together as a part of that either. Debut or not, it’s an impressive offering.

The Sledge on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Red Lama, Dogma

red lama dogma

One tends to think of serenity and peaceful drift when it comes to Danish heavy psych rockers Red Lama, but as the seven-piece band quickly turn around follow-up to their 2018 sophomore LP, Motions (discussed here), cuts like opener “Time” and “RLP” unfold with a particular sense of urgency, the former seeming to showcase an acknowledgement of sociopolitical circumstances in Europe and beyond in a way that seems to readjust their focus. That’s a tidy narrative, but if it’s a case of priorities being rebalanced, it’s striking nonetheless. To coincide, “RLP” has a heavier roll in its second half, and while second cut “State of the Art” and closer “Tearing up the Snow” both make their way past the five-minute mark with post-rocking pastoralia and dreamy melodies, there remains a feeling of a tighter focus in the tracks that could portend a new stage of the band’s development or could simply be a circumstance of what’s included here. The next album will tell the tale.

Red Lama on Thee Facebooks

Red Lama on Bandcamp

 

Full Tone Generator, Valley of the Universe

full tone generator valley of the universe

Fronted by Andy Fernando of Don Fernando, Full Tone Generator‘s debut long-player, Valley of the Universe, nonetheless bears the unmistakable hallmark of the Californian desert — in no small part because that’s where it was recorded. Fernando and guitarist/bassist/backing vocalist Brad Young traveled to that famed landscape to record with Bubba DuPree and Brant Bjork at Zainaland Studios, only to have the latter end up playing drums and contributing backing vocals as well to the eight-tracker. Not a bad deal, frankly. The key reference sound-wise throughout Valley of the Universe is Kyuss, particularly because of Bjork‘s involvement and Fernando‘s vocal style, but the slow-rolling “I Only Love You When I’m Loaded,” 59-second blaster “No Future” and the ending jam duo of “Preacher Man” and “Never to Return” make the ground their own, the latter with some surprise screams before it bounces its way into oblivion as though nothing ever happened. They’ve got the vibe down pat, but Full Tone Generator do more as well than simply retread desert rock’s founding principles.

Full Tone Generator on Thee Facebooks

Hurricane Music on Bandcamp

 

Mountain Dust, Seven Storms

mountain dust seven storms

Keys give Montreal four-piece Mountain Dust a tie to classic heavy blues and they use that element well to cast their identity in the spirit of a post-retro modern feel, details like the backing vocals of “White Bluffs” and the waltzing rhythm held by the snare on “Witness Marks” doing much to add complexity to the persona of the band. “You Could” goes over the top in its boozy regrets, but the dramas of “Old Chills” are full in sound and satisfyingly wistful, while closer “Stop Screaming” offers a bit of twang and slide guitar to go along with its sense of threat and consuming seven-minute finish. Tight songwriting and clean production do a lot to give Seven Storms a professional presentation, but ultimately it’s the band itself that shines through in terms of performance and as Mountain Dust follow-up their well-received 2016 debut, Nine Years, they sound confident in their approach and ready to flesh out in multiple directions while maintaining a central character to their sound that will be familiar to the converted enough to be a work of genre while setting the stage to become all the more their own as well.

Mountain Dust on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

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Quarterly Review: Earthless, Satan’s Satyrs, Mantar, Child, T.G. Olson, Canyon, Circle of the Sun, Mythic Sunship, Svarta Stugan, Bast

Posted in Reviews on December 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

There isn’t enough coffee in the universe, but I’ve got mine and I’m ready to burn the living crap out of my tongue if that’s what it takes to get through. We’ve arrived at Day 4 of the Quarterly Review, and though we’re less than halfway to the 100-album goal set by some maniac sitting at his kitchen table with a now-burnt tongue, there’s been an awful lot of good stuff so far. More even than I thought going into it, and I slate this stuff.

That said, today’s list is pretty killer. A lot of these bands will be more familiar than maybe has been the case or will be on some of the other days of this Quarterly Review. It just kind of worked out that way as I was putting it together. But hey, a few bigger bands here, a few “debut EP” demos there. It’s all good fun.

So let’s go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Earthless, From the West

earthless from the west

Bonus points to whatever clever cat correctly decided that Earthless‘ 2018 studio album, Black Heaven (review here), needed a companion live record. With artwork mimicking a Led Zeppelin bootleg of the same name, From the West arrives through Silver Current and Nuclear Blast capturing the most powerful of power trios earlier this year in San Francisco, and it’s like the fire emoji came to life. With Mike Eginton‘s bass as the anchor and Mario Rubalcaba‘s drums as the driving force, guitarist Isaiah Mitchell starts ripping holes in the fabric of spacetime with “Black Heaven” and doesn’t stop until 64 minutes later as “Acid Crusher” dissolves into noise. Of course “Gifted by the Wind” from the latest LP is a highlight, and suitably enough, they cover Zeppelin‘s “Communication Breakdown,” but I’m not sure anything tops the extended take on “Uluru Rock” from 2013’s From the Ages (review here) — and yes, I mean that. Of course they pair it with the 1:48 surge of “Volt Rush,” because they’re Earthless, and brilliant is what they do. Every set they play should be recorded for posterity.

Earthless website

Silver Current Records on Bandcamp

Earthless at Nuclear Blast webstore

 

Satan’s Satyrs, The Lucky Ones

satans satyrs the lucky ones

Encased in cover art that begs the Spinal Tap question, “what’s wrong with being sexy?” and the response that Fran Drescher gave it, Virginia classic heavy rockers Satan’s Satyrs return with their fourth full-length, The Lucky Ones (on RidingEasy and Bad Omen), which also marks their first record as a four-piece with guitarist Nate Towle (Wicked Inquisition) joining the returning lineup of bassist/vocalist Clayton Burgess, guitarist Jared Nettnin and drummer Stephen Fairfield, who, between the fact that Burgess founded the band and played in Electric Wizard, and all the lead guitar antics from Nettnin and Towle, might be the unsung hero of the band. His performance is not lost in the recording by Windhand‘s Garrett Morris or Burgess‘ own hefty mix, and as one would expect, Satan’s Satyrs continue to deliver deceptively refined ’70s-heavy vibes caked in cult biker horror aesthetics. Some songs hit more than others, but Satan’s Satyrs‘ dust-kicking approach continues to win converts.

Satan’s Satyrs on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records on Bandcamp

Bad Omen Records on Bandcamp

 

Mantar, The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze

mantar the modern art of setting ablaze

One generally thinks of Hamburg duo Mantar as having all the subtlety of a bone saw caught on video, and yet, in listening to “Seek + Forget” from their third album, The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze (on Nuclear Blast), there are some elements that seem to be reaching out on the part of the band. Guitarist Hanno‘s vocals are more enunciated and discernible, there is a short break from the all-out blackened-sludge-punk assault that’s been their trade since their start in 2012, and “Obey the Obscene” even has an organ. Still, the bulk of the 12-track/48-minute follow-up to 2016’s Ode to the Flame (review here) is given to extremity of purpose and execution, and in pieces like the churning “Anti Eternia” and the particularly-punked “Teeth of the Sea,” they work to refine their always-present threat of violence. Closer “The Funeral” brings back some of the quiet moodiness of intro “The Knowing” and underscores the point of sonic expansion. I hope next time they use a string section.

Mantar on Thee Facebooks

Nuclear Blast website

 

Child, I

child i

It took me a few minutes to get to the heart of what my problem with Child‘s I EP is. Really, I was sitting and listening to “Age Has Left Me Behind” — the first of the three included tracks on the 20-ish-minute 12″ — and I had to ask myself, “Why is this annoying me?” The answer? Because it’s not an album. That’s it. It’s not enough. Kudos to the Melbourne, Australia, heavy blues trio on having that be the biggest concern with their latest release — it follows 2016’s righteously-grooved Blueside (review here) — and kudos to them as well for their cover of Spirit‘s “The Other Song,” but of course it’s the 10-minute jam “Going Down Swinging” on side B that’s the immersive highlight of I, as Child‘s balance of softshoe-boogie and expansive mellow-psych is second to none in their subgenre. It’s not an album, and that’s kind of sad, but as a tide-ya-over until the next long-player arrives, I still does the trick nice and easy. And not to get greedy, but I’d take a II (or would it be You?) whenever they get around to it.

Child on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

T.G. Olson, Wasatch Valley Lady & The Man from Table Mountain

tg olson wasatch valley lady and the man from table mountain

Across Tundras frontman T.G. Olson, who by now has well lapped that band’s output with his solo catalog, would seem to have sat down with his guitar sometime in the last week and put two songs to tape. The resulting 10-minute offering is Wasatch Valley Lady & The Man from Table Mountain, its component title-tracks stripping down some of the more elaborate arrangements he’s explored of late — his latest full-length, Riding Roughshod (review pending; it’s hard to keep up), came out in October — to expose the barebones construction at root in his Rocky Mountain country folk style. “Wasatch Valley Lady” and “The Man from Table Mountain” make an engaging couple, and while Olson has a host of videos on YouTube that are similarly just him and his acoustic, something about the audio-only recordings feel like a voice out of time reaching for human connection. The first seems to have a natural fade, and the second a more prominent rhythm showcased in harder strum, but both are sweet melodies evocative as ever of open landscapes and wistful experience.

Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks

T.G. Olson/Across Tundras on Bandcamp

 

Canyon, Mk II

canyon mk ii

The Deep Purple-referential Mk II title of Canyon‘s second EP, also the follow-up to their 2017 debut LP, Radiant Light, refers to the lineup change that’s seen Dean Welsh move to drums so that he and guitarist Peter Stanko can welcome bassist/vocalist Fred Frederick to the fold. The three included songs, the hooky “Mine Your Heart,” expansively fuzzed “Morphine Dreams” and bouncing “Roam” make a hell of a first offering from the reconstituted trio, who capture classic heavy naturalism in a chemistry between players that’s mirrored in the songwriting itself. Canyon‘s 2016 self-titled debut EP (review here) held marked promise, and even after the full-length, that promise would seem to be coming to fruition here. Their tones and craft are both right on, and there’s still some gelling to do between the three of them, but they leave no doubt with Mk II that this incarnation of Canyon can get there. And, if they keep up like this, get there quickly.

Canyon on Thee Facebooks

Canyon on Bandcamp

 

Circle of the Sun, Jams of Inner Perception

Circle of the Sun Jams of Inner Perception

One man jams! Psych-jam seekers will recognize Daniel Sax as the drummer for Berlin-based trio Cosmic Fall. Circle of the Sun is a solo-project from Sax and Jams of Inner Perception collects six tracks for 39 minutes of adventuring on his own. Sax sets his own backbeat and layers bass and “effectsbass” for a full-lineup feel amid the instrumental creations, and those looking to be hypnotized by the space-rocking jams will be. Flat out. Sax is no stranger to jamming, and as one soaks in “Jamming in Paradise” or its nine-minute predecessor “Liquid Sand,” there’s little mistaking his intention. Curious timing that Circle of the Sun would take shape following a lineup change in Cosmic Fall — perhaps it was put together in the interim? — but whether Jams of Inner Perception is a one-off of the beginning of a new avenue for Sax, its turn to blues noodling on “Desert Sun,” thick-toned “Moongroove” and fuzzy roll on “Acid Dream” demonstrate there are plenty of outer realms still to explore.

Circle of the Sun on Thee Facebooks

Circle of the Sun on Bandcamp

 

Mythic Sunship, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music

Mythic Sunship Another Shape of Psychedelic Music

The simplest way to put it is that Mythic Sunship‘s Another Shape of Psychedelic Music lives up to the lofty ambitions of its title. The Danish band is comprised of guitarists Kasper Stougaard Andersen and Emil Thorenfeldt, bassist Rasmus ‘Cleaver’ Christensen, drummer Frederik Denning and saxophonist Søren Skov, and with Causa Sui‘s Jonas Munk — who also produced the album — sitting in on the extended “Backyard Voodoo” (17:41) and “Out There” (13:53) as well as overseeing the release through El Paraiso, the band indeed makes there way into the far out reaches where jazz and psychedelia meet. It’s not about pretentiously saying they’re doing something that’s never been done. You’ll note it’s “another shape” and not a “new shape” or the “shape to come.” But immersion happens quickly on opener “Resolution” (14:23), and even quicker cuts like “Last Exit,” “Way Ahead” and “Elevation” carry the compelling spirit of forward-thinking creativity through their dynamic course, and if Mythic Sunship aren’t the shape of psychedelic music to come, it’s in no small part because there are so few out there who could hope to match what they do.

Mythic Sunship on Thee Facebooks

El Paraiso Records website

 

Svarta Stugan, Islands / Öar

svarta stugan islands oar

Islands / Öar — the second word being the Swedish translation of the first — is the 40-minute debut full-length from Gothenburg atmospheric heavy post-rock instrumentalists Svarta Stugan, who demonstrate in influence from Hex-era Earth on the opener “Islands III” but go on in subsequent tracks to pull together a sound distinct in its cinematic feel and moody execution. Five out of the seven component tracks are “Islands” pieces, which are presented out of order with “Islands IV” missing and “Islands Unknown” perhaps in its place, and the respective side A/B finales “Inner Space” and “Prospects Quatsi” standing apart. Both bring to bear a style ultimately consistent with the melancholy so rife throughout Islands / Öar as a whole, but they’re obviously intended as outliers, and so they seem to be. The LP release follows a couple shorter outings, issued over the past six-plus years, and it’s clear from the depths and range on display here in the build-to-crescendo of “Inner Space” alone that Svarta Stugan haven’t misspent their time in their progression to this point.

Svarta Stugan on Thee Facebooks

Svarta Stugan on Bandcamp

 

Bast, Nanoångström

bast nanoangstrom

Largesse of scope and largesse of tone work in tandem on Bast‘s Nanoångström full-length on Black Bow, as they bring together aspects of post-metallic churn and more extreme metal methods to hone a style highly individualized, highly weighted and as much cosmic as it is crushing. Through six tracks and 57 minutes, the London trio (plus two guest spots from Chris Naughton of Winterfylleth) careen and crash and set an atmosphere of chaos without actually being chaotic, their progressive craft working to tie the songs together into a larger impression of the work as a consuming entirety. It’s the kind of record you pick up and still hear new things in by the time they put out their next one. Production from Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studio only helps creates the heights and depths of their dynamic, and whether they’re rolling out the severity of closer “The Ghosts Which Haunt the Space Between the Stars” or laying out the soundscape of “The Beckoning Void,” Bast shape the tenets of genre to suit their needs rather than try to work within the barriers of any particular style. Nanoångström is all the more complex and satisfying for their efforts in that regard.

Bast on Thee Facebooks

Black Bow Records webstore

 

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Red Lama Post “State of the Art” Video; Dogma EP out Dec. 7

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

red lama

Quick turnaround from Danish heavy psych rockers Red Lama, who issued their second album, Motions, earlier this year. Their new EP, recorded in an apparent burst of creativity, is titled Dogma, and the drift-prone seven-piece are giving a glimpse at some of the float its four tracks might hone in a new video for “State of the Art” recorded live at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. Nice digs. They seem to have recorded the EP live as well, so whether or not the video is from the same session that resulted in the studio version of the song, I don’t know, but what matters more than that is of course the live feel of the music itself, which comes through as no less a priority than the gorgeous melodicism that always seems to typify Red Lama‘s work, pastoral and serene as they are.

The video is at the bottom of this post and the EP cover and info follow here, courtesy of the PR wire:

red lama dogma

RED LAMA – ’DOGMA’ – NEW EP OUT DECEMBER 7th

Red Lama will release a new EP called ’Dogma’ on December 7th which has been written and recorded during a single month in the fall of 2018. The first track to be released is ’State the Art’. Accompanying the track is a video that shows the band recording the track in a session at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. ’Dogma’ is the band’s second release in 2018 and it follows the acclaimed album ’Motions’.

’Dogma’ is the result of an intensive writing and recording period which stretched over a single month in the fall of 2018. The release is conceptual in the sense that its basic dogma is immediacy. The music and its creation shall remain immediate and thereby avoid being too planned out and overly produced. Vocalist, Johannes Linnet, says about the process:

”I look back at the time we spent making ’Dogma’ as a very free and pleasant journey for the band as a whole. Working with immediacy and being able to let go of natural satisfaction has given the writing process much more depth and concentration than earlier. Small ideas became raw pieces over a weekend in late September and was then polished and recorded as live sessions in the Royal Danish Academy of Music’s Studio 3 in order to preserve the energy that we bring to live shows.”

The EP has been made in cooperation with the British producer Graham Sowerby (AK/DK). Red Lama has worked with Tommy Kamp Vestergaard (60 minutes of Mew) in mixing ’Dogma’, and the award-winning producer, Rune Rask, has mastered it. The four
songs that make up ’Dogma’ unite the beautiful and grandiose with the raw and powerful – and at the same time show that Red Lama once again explores new musical territories.

The first single ’State the Art’ and its video which is shot and produced by Jonas Møller (Playground Productions) will be out prior to the release of ’Dogma’. It shows the band during the recording of the track as a one-take in Studio 3 at the Royal Danish Academy of Music.

Tracklist – ’Dogma’
1. Time
2. State the Art
3. RLP
4. Tearing up the Snow

Red Lama live 2018
17th of November HeadQuarters Aarhus (DK)
24th of November Kulturmaskinen Odense (DK)

Red Lama:
Johannes Linnet: Vocal
Oliver Fick: Guitar
Jonas Rahbek: Guitar
Frederik Randrup: Bass
Morten Kaas: Organ
Niklas Sjøbeck: Percussion
Marius Linnet: Drums

www.facebook.com/redlamadk
www.instagram.com/red_lama_band
www.soundcloud.com/red-lama
www.redlamaband.bandcamp.com

Red Lama, “State of the Art” official video

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Demon Head Sign to Svart Records; Hellfire Ocean Void out Feb. 22

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

demon head

Danish doom rockers Demon Head have signed to Svart Records and will release their third long-player, Hellfire Ocean Void, through the venerable imprint on Feb. 22. The new album follows behind 2017’s Thunder on the Fields (review here), which found the five-piece pressing further into their traditionalist roots while crafting the boogie into a shape of their own. Since their outset, they’ve had aesthetic, songwriting and performance working steadily in their favor, plus they’ve toured, so an alliance with a label like Svart seems a natural next step in their forward progression. Kudos to the band and another killer pickup for the label. It’s good news all the way around.

And not the least because it means 2019 will bring a new one from Demon Head. There’s no audio from Hellfire Ocean Void out yet, but the band issued the two-songer single The Resistance (review here) earlier this year if you find yourself looking for a fix.

The PR wire brings word:

demon head hellfire ocean void

DEMON HEAD set release date for new SVART album – reveal cover, tracklisting

Svart Records sets February 22nd, 2019 as the international release date for Demon Head’s highly anticipated third album, Hellfire Ocean Void, on CD and vinyl LP formats.

Hellfire Ocean Void is composed by eight songs that unfold themselves effortlessly perfect in the tension between a delicate sense of composition and the uncompromising urgency with which the five musicians deliver the performance of each song. Mournful melodies of unearthly dimensions are played on piano and orchestrated with the use of classic rock instrumentation – electric guitars, bass, and drums. Dark and mystical chord progressions, sporadic guitar solos, chaotic arpeggio synthesizers, and the prophetic words of M.F.L are held together by the solid drum beats of J.W. Ambient recordings of acoustic instruments are accompanied by tape manipulation, which slowly develops into a haunting soundspace, showing B.G.N’s skills as an avant-garde composer. Guitar leads morph into the breathtaking improvisations of T.G.N as the band’s energetic center of bassist M.F leaves nothing to be questioned.

The writing, recording, mixing, and production was all done during the winter 2017-2018 by Demon Head in their own analog studio. Isolating themselves in the frozen countryside by the coast of Denmark and having no studio time limitations made it possible to encounter the recording studio as a sixth member, enabling them to produce the album with sincere curiosity and perfection. The only other person involved was the legendary producer Flemming Rasmussen (Metallica, Morbid Angel, Mercyful fate, etc.) who mastered the album in Sweet Silence Studios.

With Hellfire Ocean Void, Demon Head have created a masterpiece in contemporary rock music. As any other truly original music, it is difficult to draw any similarities, since the music seems to hint at nothing but its own integrity: an integrity that is based upon the insight that Demon Head gains from loving and accepting the many clichés and traditions that follow from playing rock music – and from that foundation moves far into the unknown, into the darkness and into our hearts.

First track and preorder info to be revealed shortly.

Tracklisting for Demon Head’s Hellfire Ocean Void
1. Rumours
2. The Night Is Yours
3. A Flaming Sea
4. In The Hour Of The Wolf
5. Labyrinth
6. Strange Eggs
7. Death’s Solitude
8. Mercury & Sulphour

Demon Head is:
J.W. – Drums
M.S.F. – Bass
B.G.N. – Guitar
T.G.N. – Guitar
M.F.L. – Vocals

https://www.facebook.com/Demoncoven/
http://demonhead.bandcamp.com/
https://demonhead.bigcartel.com/
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords
www.twitter.com/svartrecords

Demon Head, “The Resistance” live at Muskelrock 2018

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