Quarterly Review: Blood of the Sun, Evoken, IAH, Asylum, Merlin, The Hazytones, Daily Thompson, Old Man Lizard, Tuskar, Space Coke

Posted in Reviews on December 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

I had to think long and hard just now about what day it is. It’s Tuesday. — See how confident I was in saying that? A mask for insecurity, as always.

Anyway, the QR continues today with 10 more records and a pretty solid mix of whatnot. Some of this I’ve written about before here, but basically want to have another shot at the records themselves, so as we wind down 2018, it seems like the time to do that is now. As always, I hope you find something you dig. Seems pretty likely, frankly. If you go the entire 100 records with nothing but a “meh” to show for it, the problem isn’t likely to be the records. Not trying to insinuate anything, I’m just saying. 100 records is a lot. 10 records is a lot. And that’s what we’re doing today, so let’s get going.

Quarterly Review #61-70:

Blood of the Sun, Blood’s Thicker than Love

blood of the sun bloods thicker than love

Drummer Henry Vasquez (also Saint Vitus) returns to his ultra-Texan heavy rock roots with Blood of the Sun‘s first album in six years, Blood’s Thicker than Love (on Listenable). Driven by his own fervent rhythmic push, the six-song collection is given further classic heavy vibe through the prominent organ/keyboard work of Dave Gryder. Oh, and also the riffs from newcomer guitarists Wyatt Burton and Alex Johnson. Oh, and also bassist Roger “Kip” Yma‘s quick turns on bass. Oh, and also Sean Vargas‘ vocals. So yeah, pretty much the whole damn thing is classic uptempo heavy boogie, produced modern but making no mistake about where its heart lies. Vargas‘ voice has a pre-metal swagger that helps define tracks like “Livin’ for the Night” and the capper “Blood of the Road,” and while the follow-up to 2012’s Burning on the Wings of Desire (review here) is enough to make one wistful for the days when their contemporaries in Dixie Witch once also roamed the land, Blood of the Sun make classic rock their own and give it a vibrancy that’s nothing if not a show of love, regardless of how thick that may be.

Blood of the Sun on Thee Facebooks

Listenable Records on Bandcamp

 

Evoken, Hypnagogia

evoken hypnogogia

Unremitting. Unrelenting. Unforgiving. Whatever else one might say about New Jersey death/doombringers Evoken, it better start with the prefix “un-.” The negativity runs through the 60 minutes of their latest work, Hypnagogia (on Profound Lore), and one would expect no less than the ultra-mournful crush of “To Feign Ebullience” or the buzzing, resonant disdain of “Valorous Consternation,” the string sounds playing such a large role in crafting both the melodies and the relentless nature of their lung-deflating atmosphere. They may only break into speedier sections on rare occasion, but there’s no way to listen to Hypnagogia and call it anything other than extreme metal. It’s so cast down and so grinding that it not only conveys mood but affects it. Evoken are masters of the form, of course, and while Hypnagogia is their first full-length since 2012’s Atra Mors (review here), their history spans more than a quarter-century and time seems only to have made their miseries plunge even deeper.

Evoken on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore Records website

 

IAH, II

iah ii

In part, the gift that Argentinian trio IAH give with their aptly-titled second outing, II — following their 2017 self-titled debut EP (review here) — is to allow their parts to flesh out naturally across the six-song/38-minute span, so that even as second cut “HH” turns to more weighted chug, that in turn evolves into something no less spacious than the drift brought to bear in the second half of the later “La Niña del Rayo,” which makes its way ultimately through similar interplay. This back and forth is exceptionally smooth throughout II, as the instrumental outfit blend heavy psychedelia and progressive metal with an unflinching cohesion of their songwriting. The longest inclusion is the penultimate “Pri” at 7:35, which caps with massive start-stops en route to closer “Sheut,” which serves as one last showcase of the cosmic doom dynamic burgeoning in the band’s sound, as much ready to depart the earth as leave impact craters on it.

IAH on Thee Facebooks

IAH on Bandcamp

 

Asylum, 3-3-88

asylum 3-3-88

The band who a short time later would evolve into Unorthodox, Asylum have long stood as a testament to the enduring power of Maryland doom. 3-3-88 is the second official issue of their material Shadow Kingdom has stood behind, following 2008’s reissue of 1985’s The Earth is the Insane Asylum of the Universe (review here), and it’s no less a document of the classic metal that’s still very much the foundation of what Maryland doom is. From the Sabbathian opening of “World in Trouble” and the later “Psyche World” to the kind of feeling-out-the-riff happening in “Funk 69” and the concluding instrumental “Unorthodox,” there’s a rawness to the sound that suits it well in the spirit of Pentagram‘s First Daze Here, but even in barebones form, Asylum‘s doomly vibes brook no bullshit and weed out the feint of heart. Straightforward working-class doom grit stripped to its essentials. Hard to ask for anything more when you actually hear it.

Unorthodox on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records website

 

Merlin, Dank Souls and Dark Weed: A Live Experience

merlin dank souls and dark weed

Kansas City doom rockers Merlin expanded to a six-piece early in 2018, and Dank Souls and Dark Weed: A Live Experience, as the title hints, captures this form of the band on stage. They’re playing a hometown gig at the Riot Room, and from the nodding groove that opens with “Abyss” from this year’s The Wizard (review here) to the extended reaches of a 19-minute take on “Tales of the Wasteland” that’s actually shorter than the studio version from 2016’s Electric Children (review here), the band explore reaches that are vast with a patience befitting their quickly-earned veteran status. The recording is remarkably clear and allows for the wash of “The Wizard Suite” to be discernible in its progressive rollout, and as they close with “Night Creep” from the 2016 LP, their energy comes through no less prevalent than the distortion driving it forward. The crowd are right to holler.

Merlin on Thee Facebooks

Merlin on Bandcamp

 

The Hazytones, II: Monarchs of Oblivion

the hazytones ii monarchs of oblivion

Touching on garage-doom influences, Montreal three-piece The Hazytones effectively sleek into the groove of “The Great Illusion” on their second Ripple LP, II: Monarchs of Oblivion, finding a balance between swing, melody and heft that pushes beyond the seemingly-requisite Uncle Acid influence to a place that isn’t shy about working in crisp tones or unabashed vocal harmonies. The title-track is a two-parter, and touches on theatrics-sans-pretense in the first piece while dedicating the second to following a central riff well worthy of the attention they give it toward a galloping solo finish. Opener “Empty Space” sets a creper vibe, and by the time they’re down to finishing out with the “Hole in the Sky”-style riff of “The Hand that Feeds,” that sensibility is reaffirmed as an essential component of The Hazytones‘ aesthetic. Whether it’s the chugging “Hell” or the way-blown-out “The Beast,” they hold firm to that central purpose and work with it to effect a sound that one can hear becoming their own all the more.

The Hazytones on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Daily Thompson, Thirsty

daily thompson thirsty

Three albums in, Dortmund’s Daily Thompson indeed sound Thirsty — or maybe it’s hungry, but either way, the Dortmund trio’s MIG Music offering captures a tight presentation based around nonetheless natural energy born of their time on tour, as the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Danny Zaremba, bassist Mercedes, and drummer Stefan Mengel touch on Spidergawd-style classic heavy rock strut with “Brown Mountain Lights” and make their way through the semi-acoustic drift of “Stone Rose” and toward the later roll of “River Haze” with a trail of hooks behind them. Songwriting is central to what they do, but while Thirsty isn’t a minor undertaking at a CD-era reminiscent 10 songs/53 minutes, the band offer a chemistry between them and a fullness of sound that allows them to play to different sides of their approach, be it the fuzz-blues of “Gone Child” or the final summation “Spit out the Crap” that seems to shove all the more to its cymbal-wash finish. The title Thirsty brings to mind connotations of need, but Daily Thompson sound like they’ve got it all taken care of.

Daily Thompson on Thee Facebooks

MIG Music website

 

Old Man Lizard, True Misery

old man lizard true misery

A strong enough current of noise rock runs beneath Old Man Lizard‘s True Misery (on Wasted State) that leadoff track “Shark Attack” is enough to remind of Akimbo‘s Jersey Shores, and in under two minutes, the subsequent “Snakes” ties that into crawling-paced doom riffery such that the lumbering “Tree of Te?ne?re?” opens like the gaping jaws of some deep-sea trench. From there it unfolds a bit more uptempo than one might initially think, but it shows how fluidly Old Man Lizard shift from one impulse to the other. Accordingly, True Misery plays out with familiar-enough tones put to deceptively subtle and unpredictable purposes, making one-two highlights of the eight-minute back-to-backers “Cursed Ocean, Relentless Sea” and “Misery is Miserable” — which says it all, really — ahead of the finale, well titled “Return to Earth.” A better band than people know, Old Man Lizard bring a progressive touch to what from many others would just be sludge riffing — a bit of Elder on that closer — and manage to do so without losing touch with the righteousness of their groove. True Misery takes a couple listens to sink in, but well earns those and more besides.

Old Man Lizard on Thee Facebooks

Wasted State Records website

 

Tuskar, The Tide, Beneath, The Wall

tuskar the tide beneath the wall

Tuskar‘s second offering through Riff Rock Records arrives titled for its three songs, “The Tide,” “Beneath” and “The Wall,” and comprises three tracks of largesse-minded sludge, burying its shouted vocals beneath mountainous low end. The Tide, Beneath, The Wall sets itself up through noisy churn and a roll that’s somehow misanthropic at the same time it seems well geared to have an entire bar headbanging. Either way, the feedback-worship in “The Wall” — sure enough a massive thing to slam into — makes a fitting end to the 20-minute release that seems to run so much longer, as “The Tide” and “Beneath” each set forth a grueling sprawl of malevolence that touches on the chaos to come without ever fully giving away what’s in store for the finale. At the same time this assault is cast, there’s an atmosphere to the proceedings as well such that Tuskar aren’t simply bludgeoning for the sake of bludgeonry, but finding a place for themselves within that in order to develop their attack. They do that successfully here and sound well up to the inevitable task before them of a debut full-length.

Tuskar on Thee Facebooks

Riff Rock Records website

 

Space Coke, L’Appel du Vide

space coke lappel du vide

I just about never do this, but I’m gonna go ahead and make the call: Space Coke‘s L’Appel du Vide is going to get picked up for a vinyl release in 2019. I don’t know who, how or when, but it’s basically a lock. The Columbia, South Carolina, organ-laced four-piece play classic-as-now heavy rock with right-on songcraft and a hard-hitting presentation that’s begging for some label with ears to hear it and press it to the platter it deserves. Be it the molten unfolding of the title-track or the fuzz-swirl of “Thelemic Ritual” or the cosmic stretch of “Kali Ma,” they’re locked in to a degree that utterly defies the notion that this is their first record, and from the vocal-effects smash in “Lucid Dream” and the samples laid over-top of “Interlude,” there’s never really a sense of where Space Coke — extra kudos for the Cheech & Chong reference — might go next, and yet their sound is cohesive, directed, and well aware of exactly what it’s doing and what it wants to do. Never a guarantee of anything in this world, but with Space Coke‘s take on modern stoner sprawl, I’d be amazed if someone didn’t grab this in the New Year, if not before. Eyes peeled on the PR wire for the announcement.

Space Coke on Thee Facebooks

Space Coke on Bandcamp

 

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New IAH Album II Now Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 30th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

iah (Photo by Romi Sundberg)

Executed with a lush psychedelic fluidity offset by periods of more weighted thrust, IAH‘s simply-titled album, II follows behind their early 2017 self-titled debut EP (review here), and might just qualify as their first full-length. The self-titled was picked up for a bonus-track-inclusive release through Kozmik Artifactz that fleshed it out to an LP either way, so however you slice it, II is their sophomore release, and it very much sounds like it. Recorded live, it finds the Argentinian three-piece engaging a raw sonic chemistry between them that has developed quickly even from where it was a year and a half ago. Songs like “HH” and “Pri,” both of which top seven minutes long, cast themselves between chugging progressive metal and fluid psychedelic heavy, and refuse to commit between the two or really acknowledge any disparity that might exist there. Weaving in and out of more aggressive riffage with ease, they also wander into post-rock musings with the guitar on “Nihil Novum,” only to issue a slap in the face via full-boar distortion in a louder section.

It’s a record that finds IAH developing their sound and going wherever the hell they want with it, essentially. They answer the potential of their debut with a flow and a confidence that allow them to direct the songs rather than being led by them, and by the time they get around to the prog/jazzy drums and keyboards in the second half of closer “Sheut,” it’s apparent just how wide open they’ve thrown the doors with this record. Another one that seems likely to wind up on vinyl sooner or later with a proper release, but if available digitally for the time being and streaming at the bottom of this post.

Dig it:

iah ii

IAH – II

Tracklisting:
1. El silencio del agua 06:56
2. hh 07:15
3. Nihil novum 04:41
4. La niña del rayo 06:37
5. Pri 07:34
6. Sheut 05:44

Recorded live, mixed and mastered at 440 Estudio. Engineered and mixed by Mario Carnerero. Mastered by Mariano “Nano” Dinella.

Drum Doctor: Facundo Rodríguez
Guitar Doctor: Mario Carnerero
Assistant: José Bazán
Artwork: Guillermo Scarpa

Produced by Mario Carnerero and IAH.

IAH is:
Juan Pablo Lucco Borlera: Bass
Mauricio Condon: Guitar
José Landín: Drums

https://www.facebook.com/IAHBanda/
https://iahbanda.bandcamp.com/

IAH, II (2018)

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IAH to Release Self-Titled Debut March 23 on Kozmik Artifactz

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

The self-titled debut EP (review here) from Argentinian heavy psych rockers IAH left enough of an impression on my first runthrough with it that I included it as one of the top short releases of 2017. And so it was. The jammy newcomers put forth an offering of marked character and sonic personality, and their chemistry was apparent from the very start. It was an easy record to dig into and get lost in, and held considerable promise for things to come from them. Immersive and hypnotic but as engaging so as not to let the listener get anymore lost than they necessarily wanted to be, it was a thrill and something of a surprise of a first release.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one taken by it, as Kozmik Artifactz will have it out on vinyl later this month. Details on the release follow here, but you pretty much know the drill by now: Limited numbers, vinyl mastering, Euro pressing, quality gatefold. Kozmik Artifactz doesn’t screw around when it comes to this kind of thing, and if you’ll note that the release is six tracks instead of the original four, it’s because the band issued two bonus cuts last June as a follow-up, and the LP version compiles them all together. Makes perfect sense.

From the PR wire:

iah

IAH – IAH – Kozmik Artifactz

Introducing IAH and our first Kozmik release of 2018! We’ve been waiting patiently to be able to release this stunning debut. Hailing from Argentina, IAH are a cosmic force of interstellar proportions. From the opening of “Cabalgan los Cielos” to the epic climatic implossion of “Nuboj”, IAH is a voyage through sound that will leave you mesmerised.

Available as limited edition vinyl

Release Date: 23rd March 2018

VINYL FACTZ
– Plated & pressed on high performance vinyl at Pallas/Germany
– limited & coloured vinyl
– 300gsm gatefold cover
– special vinyl mastering

TRACKS
1. Cabalgan los cielos
2. Ouroboros
3. Stolas
4. Eclipsum
5. La piedra que sujeta el sol
6. Luboj

IAH are:
Mauricio Condon – Guitar
Juan Pablo Lucco Borlera – Bass
José Landin – Drums
Guillermo Scarpa – Visuals

https://www.facebook.com/IAHBanda/
https://iahbanda.bandcamp.com/
http://kozmik-artifactz.com/
https://www.facebook.com/kozmikartifactz

IAH, IAH Bonus Tracks (2017)

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Grajo to Release Slowgod II on DHU Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

grajo

Certainly Spanish doom rockers Grajo have their classic-style elements in play, as they showed on their 2016 self-titled debut, but there’s a touch of nuance there as well, and as we’re still in the first week of 2018, they’re the second pickup confirmed by DHU Records, which has sent along the info for the vinyl release of the second Grajo album, Slowgod II. No set issue date as yet — put it in the “coming soon” file — but along with Son of the Morning, Grajo join a building roster of acts for the emergent imprint, which already seems to be looking to make a mark on the New Year.

Art and info follow:

grajo slowgod ii

Grajo ~ SLOWGOD II (DHU025)

Sophomore album released through DHU Records in 2018!

DHU Records is proud to announce to once again collaborate with the mighty GRAJO from Cordoba, Spain to release their second album SLOWGOD II on limited edition vinyl!

As with their first Self Titled album GRAJO is known to experiment with more sounds than just the mighty riff pounding you relentlesly, by using the Theremin, for instance, to create more atmosphere yet retaining a massive wall of Doom to pull the listener in and captivate mesmerically. So it is no wonder that they continue to dive off the deep end and rough up the ordinary to pull you into their brand of Heavy Psych Doom Metal.

The artwork will once again be provided by Antonio Ramírez Mentes de Ácido who did the artwork for the first Self Titled record.

GRAJO ~ SLOWGOD II (DHU025)
Tracklist:
A1. Altares 8:38
A2. Queen Cobra 4:37
A3. Malmuerta 4:53
B1. Er 7:12
B2. Horror And Pleasure 4:53
B3. Malstrøm 8:05

As with all DHU Records releases SLOWGOD II will be released on limited edition vinyl:

SLOWGOD Edition
DHU Exclusive
Limited to 90 copies
Gatefold jacket
Black poly-lined innersleeves
Hand numbered DHU Exclusive card
Comes on Clear/White Half/Half w/ Purple Splatter 12″ vinyl

Queen Cobra Edition
Limited to 150 copies
Gatefold jacket
Black poly-lined innersleeves
Comes on Milky Clear w/ Orange, Blue and Purple Splatter 12″ vinyl

SLOWGOD II will also be released on CD through Underground Legends Records

GRAJO
Liz: Voices
Pistolo: Bass
Félix: Drums
Josef: Guitars/Theremin

https://www.facebook.com/grajorockband/
https://grajo.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DHURecords/
https://www.instagram.com/dhu_records/
https://twitter.com/dhu_records
https://darkhedonisticunionrecords.bandcamp.com/
darkhedonisticunionrecords.bigcartel.com/

Grajo, Grajo (2016)

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Hijo de la Tormenta Announce El Manto de la Especie Vinyl out Dec. 20

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

hijo de la tormenta (Photo Pelado Jerez)

Who doesn’t like a last-minute release before the holidays? Sure, Argentinian heavy psych naturalists Hijo de la Tormenta could probably wait until sometime early in 2018 to give the official vinyl version of their 2016 outing, El Manto de la Especie (review here), its public unveiling via Necio Records, but screw that. Everyone’s broke after the holidays anyhow. You might as well take advantage while the money’s already being spent. Plus there’s always way more coming out in January than December, because of everyone who decided to wait till the New Year.

And in most cases, if we’re being serious, that’s probably the way to go, but El Manto de la Especie came out last February, so while awesome that it’s getting a vinyl run of 300 copies and all that, it’s hardly the first time it’s being released. Still an occasion worth marking, and all the more if you’re into preorders, which are available now from the band’s Bandcamp page, linked below.

Also note the good news that they’re touring and will be recording their third long-player sometime in 2018. One to keep an ear open for, to be sure:

hijo de la tormenta el manto de la especie

Hijo de la Tormenta – El Manto de la Especie – Vinyl

Hijo de la Tormenta announces the release date for the vinyl edition of their latest album, El Manto de la Especie (2016). Fruit of the collaboration between the band’s independent work and Peruvian label Necio Records, the 180 gr vinyl edition will be available starting on December 20th. International shipments can be arranged via the band’s Facebook, Bandcamp or E-mail: hijodelatormenta.rock@gmail.com.

Hijo de la Tormenta will finish their year with a release party at their hometown of Córdoba in Argentina, and will then tour Chile in January of 2018. The band will then proceed to hit the studios for their forthcoming third album sometime during the next year.

El Manto de la Especie tracklisting:
1. Rock para huir de una ciudad 04:57
2. 53 cosechas 03:40
3. El Abuelo 06:06
4. Manifiesto al Sol 08:36
5. Un mañana aún más glorioso nos espera 12:31
6. Recibimiento 02:04

Hijo de la Tormenta is:
Juan Cruz Ledesma: Guitarra y voces
Santiago Ludueña: Batería
Guido Di Carlo: Bajo
Fabricio Morás: Teclas

https://www.facebook.com/hijodelatormenta/
https://hijodelatormenta.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/neciorecords/
https://neciorecords.bandcamp.com/

Hijo de la Tormenta, El Manto de la Especie (2016)

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Quarterly Review: Unearthly Trance, Heavy Traffic, Saturn, Lucifer’s Fall, Trevor Shelley de Brauw, Scuzzy Yeti, Urn., Nebula Drag, Contra, IAH

Posted in Reviews on March 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

cropped-Charles-Meryon-Labside-Notre-Dame-1854

From harsh doom to urban pastoralism to heavy blues rock to rolling doom nonetheless metallic in its defiance, Day Four of the Quarterly Review spins around a swath of styles and hopefully, hopefully, finds something you dig in the doing. It’s been a long week already. You know it. I know it. But it’s also been really good to dig into this stuff and I know I’ve found a few records that have made their way onto the already-ongoing 2017 lists — best short releases, debuts, albums, etc. — so to say it’s been worth it is, as ever, an understatement. Today likewise has gems to offer, so I won’t delay.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Unearthly Trance, Stalking the Ghost

unearthly-trance-stalking-the-ghost

Brooklyn’s Unearthly Trance make a somewhat unexpected reentry with Stalking the Ghost (on Relapse), their sixth album. In the years since 2010’s V (review here), guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lipynsky has delved into a wide variety of extreme genres, from the blackened fare of The Howling Wind to the deathly-doom of Serpentine Path, in which Unearthly Trance bassist Jay Newman and drummer Darren Verni also shared tenure, but reuniting as Unearthly Trance feels like a significant step for the three-piece, and on tracks like “Dream State Arsenal” and the darkly post-metallic “Lion Strength,” they remind of what it was that made them such a standout in the first place while demonstrating that their years away have done nothing to dull the surehandedness of their approach. At eight tracks/52 minutes, Stalking the Ghost is a significant dirge to undertake, but Unearthly Trance bring pent-up anguish to bear across this varied swath of punishing tracks, and reassert their dominance over an aesthetic sphere that, even after all this time, is thoroughly their own.

Unearthly Trance on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website

 

Heavy Traffic, Plastic Surgery

heavy-traffic-plastic-surgery

Probably a smart move on the part of Heavy Traffic spearhead guitarist Ian Caddick and drummer/vocalist Tav Palumbo to swap coasts from Santa Cruz to Brooklyn ahead of putting together their sixth (!) full-length in three years and Twin Earth Records debut, Plastic Surgery. Cali is awash in heavy psych anyway and Brooklyn’s been at a deficit (as much as it’s at a deficit of anything) since space forerunners Naam became one with the cosmos, so even apart from the acquisition of bassist David Grzedzinki and drummer Dan Bradica, it’s a solid call, and one finds the fruits yielded on Plastic Surgery’s dream-fuzzed blend of heft and roll, heady jams like “See Right Through,” the oh-you-like-feedback-well-here’s-all-the-feedback “Broth Drain” and winding “Medicated Bed” finding a place where shoegaze and psychedelia meet ahead of the low-end-weighted closing title-cut and the bonus track “White and Green,” which finishes with suitable push and swirl to mark a welcome and vibe-soaked arrival for the band. Hope you enjoy the Eastern Seabord. It could use you.

Heavy Traffic on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records on Bandcamp

 

Saturn, Beyond Spectra

saturn beyond spectra

In the second Saturn album, Beyond Spectra, one can hear one of retro rock’s crucial next movements taking place. The Swedish four-piece, who debuted on Rise Above with 2014’s Ascending and return with a periodically explosive 10-track/45-minute outing here, find a niche for themselves in adding dual-guitar NWOBHM elements to ‘70s-style (also ‘10s-style) boogie, as on the scorching “Still Young” or opener “Orbital Command.” They’re not the only ones doing it – Rise Above alums Horisont come to mind readily – but they’re doing it well, and the last three years have clearly found them refining their approach to arrive at the tightness in the shuffle of “Wolfsson” and the creeping Priestism of “Helmet Man” later on. I’ll give bonus points for their embracing the idea of going completely over the top in naming a song “Electrosaurus Sex,” but by the time they get down to closing duo “Silfvertape” and “Sensor Data,” I’m left thinking of the subdued intro to “Orbital Command” and the interlude “Linkans Delight” and wondering if there isn’t a way to bring more of that dynamic volume and tempo breadth into the songwriting as a whole. That would really be far out. Maybe they’ll get there, maybe they won’t. Either way, Beyond Spectra, like its predecessor, makes a largely inarguable case for Saturn’s potential.

Saturn on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records website

 

Lucifer’s Fall, II: Cursed and Damned

lucifers-fall-cursed-and-damned

Measuring its impact between doomly traditionalism and attitudinal fuckall, Lucifer’s Fall’s II: Cursed and Damned (on Nine Records) is a doom-for-doomers affair that tops 55 minutes with its nine tracks, recalling Dio-era Sabbathian gallop on opener “Mother Superior” and landing a significant blow with the slow-rolling nine-minute push of “The Necromancer.” Shades of Candlemass, Reverend Bizarre, and the most loyal of the loyalists show themselves throughout, but whether it’s the crawl in the first half of “Cursed Priestess” or the blistering rush of the clarion centerpiece “(Fuck  You) We’re Lucifer’s Fall,” there’s an undercurrent of punk in the five-piece’s take that lends an abiding rawness to even the album’s most grueling moments. One looks to find a middle ground in songs like “The Mountains of Madness” and closer “Homunculus,” but Lucifer’s Fall instead offer NWOBHM-style guitar harmonics and soaring vocals, respectively, only pushing their stylistic breadth wider, playing by and breaking rules they’re clearly setting for themselves rather than working toward outside expectation. As a result, II: Cursed and Damned keeps its fist in the air for the duration, middle finger up.

Lucifer’s Fall on Bandcamp

Nine Records website

 

Trevor Shelley de Brauw, Uptown

trevor-shelley-de-brauw-uptown

Over the course of six-minute opener “A New Architecture,” guitarist Trevor Shelley de Brauw gradually moves the listener from abrasive noise to sweet, folkish acoustic guitar backed by amplified wavelengths. It’s a slowly unfolding change, patiently done, and it works in part to define Uptown (on The Flenser), the Pelican guitarist’s six-song solo debut long-player. Noise and drone make themselves regulars, and there’s a steady experimentalism at root in pieces like “Distinct Frequency,” the low-end hum and strum of “You Were Sure,” and the should’ve-been-on-the-soundtrack-to-Arrival “Turn up for What,” which unfurls a linear progression from minimalism to consuming swell in eight minutes ahead of the more actively droning 11-minute sendoff “From the Black Soil Poetry and Song Sprang,” but de Brauw manages to keep a human core beneath via both the occasional acoustic layer and through moments where a piece is being palpably manipulated, à la the spacious distorted churn of “They Keep Bowing.” I’m not sure how Uptown didn’t wind up on Neurot, but either way, it’s an engaging exploration of textures, and one hopes it won’t be de Brauw’s last work in this form.

Trevor Shelley de Brauw on Thee Facebooks

The Flenser website

 

Scuzzy Yeti, Scuzzy Yeti

scuzzy yeti scuzzy yeti

Someone in Scuzzy Yeti has roots in metal, and the good money’s on it being vocalist Chris Wells. Joined in the Troy, New Hampshire, five-piece by guitarists Brad Decatur and Jason Lawrence (ex-Skrogg), bassist Wayne Munson and drummer Josh Turnbull, Wells casts a sizable frontman presence across the five-tracks of Scuzzy Yeti’s self-titled debut EP, belting out “Westward” and “BTK” as the band behind him hones a blend of classic heavy rock and doom. The sound is more reminiscent of Janne Christoffersson-era Spiritual Beggars than what one might expect out of New England, and the band amass some considerable momentum as centerpiece “Conqueror” and the shorter shuffle “Knees in the Breeze” push toward slower, lead-soaked closer “Flare,” which finds the lead guitar stepping up to meet Wells head-on. They might have some work to do in finding a balance between the stylistic elements at play, but for a first outing, Scuzzy Yeti shows all the pieces are there and are being put into their rightful place, and the result is significant, marked potential.

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Scuzzy Yeti on Bandcamp

 

Urn., Urn.

urn urn

The insistent push from punctuated Denver trio Urn.’s self-titled debut demo/EP is enough to remind one of the days when the primary impression of Mastodon wasn’t their complexity, but the raw savagery with which that complexity was delivered. Urn. – the three-piece of Scott Schulman, Graham Wesselhoff and Jacob Archuleta – work in some elements of more extreme metal to “Rat King” after opener “Breeder,” both songs under three minutes and successfully conveying an intense thrust. The subsequent “Stomach” ranges further and is the longest cut at 4:45, but loses none of its focus as it winds its way toward closer “To the Grave,” which in addition to maintaining the nigh-on-constant kick drum that has pervaded the three tracks prior, offers some hints of lumbering stomp to come. As a first sampling, Urn.’s Urn. is a cohesive aesthetic blast setting in motion a progression that will be worth following as it develops. Call it rager metal and try not to spill your beverage while you windmill, you wild headbanger.

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Urn. on Bandcamp

 

Nebula Drag, Always Dying

nebula drag always dying

2016 found San Diego aggressors Nebula Drag making their self-titled, self-released debut (review here) with a record that seemed to work in willful defiance of their hometown’s psychedelic underground while at the same time occasionally nodding to it. The forebodingly-titled Always Dying three-song EP does likewise, launching with a vengeance on “Crosses” before burying the vocals and spacing out behind the crashes of the more languid-rolling title-track and giving a bit of both sides with the four-minute closer “Flying Fuckers.” It’s almost as if the three-piece of Corey Quintana, bassist Mike Finneran and drummer Stephen Varns, having thus completed their first album, decided to boil it down to its essential stylistic components and the result of that was this 14-minute outing. An intriguing prospect, but it could also be these were leftovers from the prior session with Jordan Andreen at Audio Design Recording and putting them up for a free download was an easy way to give them some purpose. In any case, if you haven’t yet been introduced to the band, Always Dying is an efficient telling of their story thus far.

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Contra, Deny Everything

contra deny everything

If their moniker doesn’t have you immediately running through the most legendary of cheat codes, congratulations on being born after 1990. Cleveland burl-sludge metallers Contra make their full-length debut on respected purveyor Robustfellow with the 10-track/41-minute Deny Everything, and if it sounds like they have their shit together – at least sound-wise – it should make sense given the pedigree of drummer Aaron Brittain (ex-Rue), bassist/guitarist Adam Horwatt (So Long Albatross), guitarist Chris Chiera (ex-Sofa King Killer) and vocalist Larry Bent (ex-Don Austin). Be it established that songs like “Snake Goat” and “Son of Beast” are nobody’s first time at the sludge rodeo. Fair enough. Doesn’t mean Contra don’t establish their own personality in the overarching fuckall and total lack of pretense throughout Deny Everything – hell, seven-minute closer “Shrimp Cocktail” proves that on its own – just that that personality has roots. What Contra wants to do with them still kind of seems up in the air, but something about these tracks makes me think the band likes it that way. See the aforementioned “fuckall.”

Contra on Bandcamp

Robustfellow Productions on Bandcamp

 

IAH, IAH

iah iah

Comprised of four songs tracked live in the trio’s native Córdoba at 440 Estudio, the self-titled debut EP from Argentine trio IAH – guitarist Mauricio Condon, bassist Juan Pablo Lucco and drummer José Landín – would seem destined to catch the attention of South American Sludge Records if it already hasn’t. In the interim, the three-piece have made the instrumental EP available as a free download and its unpretentious heavy psychedelics and edge of rock-minded thrust on opener “Cabalgan los Cielos” and the early going of closer “Eclipsum” more than justify their intention to spread the word as much as possible. Set to a balance of post-rock guitar, the bassline of “Stolas” carries a progressive inflection, and the fuzz that emerges halfway into second track “Ouroboros” shows a desert rock influence that blends well into its surroundings as a part of a richer sonic entity. A nascent but palpable chemistry at work across its 26 minutes, IAH’s IAH could portend expansive ideas to come, and one hopes it does precisely that.

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Hijo de la Tormenta, El Manto de la Especie: Finding Ground

Posted in Reviews on May 30th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

hijo de la tormenta el manto de la especie

I don’t imagine I need to run down the history of Argentina’s heavy rock scene for you — from Pappo’s Blues through Los Natas and into modern fuzz and sludge like Demonauta — but suffice it to say the country’s contributions to the international sphere of underground rock and roll have been manifold, varied and forward-looking. They have been a part of the conversation for as long as the conversation has been happening. All this is as a preface to note that with their second album, El Manto de la Especie, Cordoba-based trio Hijo de la Tormenta are stepping forward to claim their piece of this storied real estate. They do so with six tracks and just under 38 minutes of laid back, tonally resonant, subtly jazzy heavy, earthy psychedelia, confident in its execution, organic in its presentation and warm in its effect on the listener.

When so inclined, as on “Manifiesto al Sol” or “El Abuelo,” the lyrics for which are based on a Walt Whitman poem, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Juan Cruz Ledesma, bassist Guido Di Carlo and drummer Santiago Ludueña — plus Fabricio Morás on keys for “Rock Para Huir de una Ciudad,” “53 Cosechas” and “Manifiesto al Sol” — are able to enact a formidable heavy roll, and they do so bringing Di Carlo‘s bass forward on “El Abuelo” to enact El Manto de la Especie‘s most engaging nods. The context in which it arrives is no less pivotal to the overall impression of the album, however, and spacious, airy keyboards and swinging cymbal work in the aforementioned “Rock Para Huir de una Ciudad,” which opens, help set an exploratory tone guided by sure hands.

Hijo de la Tormenta made their self-titled debut (review here) in 2014 and tagged it as “mountain psychedelia.” Their second album offers some similar vibe — you’ll note I called it “earthy” above — but feels less limited in its landscape, which is a sign of the growth in chemistry the trio have undertaken in the last two years. The scope of El Manto de la Especie is broader, in other words, but the flow is no less consuming, as “Rock Para Huir de una Ciudad” opens quietly and shifts into heavier push to make way for the start-stop fuzz of “53 Cosechas” and the jam-into-low-end-bliss of “El Abuelo,” which hypnotizes in its first half of its six minutes only to offer a knockout blow of bass in its second, all in quick succession.

Part of that the first three tracks are legitimately shorter than what follows — apart from closer “Recibimiento,” which is two minutes long — as both “Manifiesto al Sol” (8:37) and “Un Mañana Aún Más Glorioso Nos Espera” (12:31) range farther, but the feeling of continuity between the first three songs is essential to how the album overall leads the listener through its course, and the fluidity of groove that persists isn’t to be understated. Hijo de la Tormenta are in no rush, and their songwriting is patient, encompassing and varied in structure, but they’re not simply wandering for the sake of wandering either. That motion that pushes through one song into the next gives a linear feel, and the sense of design in the record’s structure, drawing the listener in early and establishing such a rich atmosphere of natural tonality, only speaks to the level of conscious intent at play on the part of the band. They make it sound effortless, and maybe it is since nothing here sounds forced in the slightest, but it’s an admirable outcome either way and it makes El Manto de la Especie a joy front to back.

hijo-de-la-tormenta

And when they do make their way to “Manifiesto al Sol” and “Un Mañana Aún Más Glorioso Nos Espera,” the signal is pretty clear that they’ve arrived at the heart of the album. Aside from the fact that, together, the two tracks account for more than half the total runtime, the feeling as the lightly progressive beginning of “Manifiesto al Sol” gets underway is that the trio have been working toward this build. The rhythm calms somewhat before Ledesma‘s vocals come in with a melody that reminds of Been Obscene, and by then they’re more than halfway through. Keyboards again play a large role as they push into more weighted low end and a fuzzed-out guitar solo, bringing a chorus back late to finish, and quiet guitar noodling opens “Un Mañana Aún Más Glorioso Nos Espera,” going past two minutes before the first cymbal crash accompanies.

There are some trades between quiet and loud parts, but the core of El Manto de la Especie‘s longest track remains the instrumental chemistry between LedesmaDi Carlo and Ludueña, vocals arriving after the band has shifted seamlessly through heavier thrust and atmospheric desert jazz, which quiets down at the midpoint only to pick up again, led by fuzz guitar, backed by fuzz bass, propelled by the drums as they hit the peak that serves as the payoff for the album as a whole. They end “Un Mañana Aún Más Glorioso Nos Espera” quiet and offer a pastoral epilogue in the acoustic-meets-e-bow “Recibimiento,” some late “oohs” providing the closer’s only vocals for a harmonized, folkish feel. Hopefully that’s something Hijo de la Tormenta are teasing perhaps as a signal of future progression, i.e., where they might be headed, but it also adds another element to El Manto de la Especie while retaining the ambience of the material preceding.

The clear maturity Hijo de la Tormenta showcase on what’s still just their second full-length is likewise encouraging as regards future prospects for staking their stylistic claim, but that shouldn’t undercut the value of what they’ve accomplished here either. With these songs, they both signal what they have to offer going forward and begin making that offering.

Hijo de la Tormenta, El Manto de la Especie (2016)

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Atavismo and Grajo Release Split 7″

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 19th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

The tracks have been online at Nooirax Productions and La Choza de Doe since December, but the vinyl just reportedly came in this week for the new split release between Spanish outfits Atavismo and Grajo. One song from each is featured along with some decidedly manic artwork, and as you can hear below, it’s a decidedly different take from each group that still resides under the umbrella of heavy.

For Atavismo, whose Desintegración (review here) debut continues to haunt in the best way possible, they give a spacier push on their “Haribo,” repeating the title line in Hawkwindian style and calling to mind a richly cosmic vibe. Grajo, who will reportedly unveil their own debut later this year through DHU Records, present a decidedly doomier take, with dense low end and fuzz guitars topped by ethereal and echoing vocals, the six-minute “Feeding Our Demons” building to a thick head of riffy wash.

Both cuts have something to offer, and since at this point I’ll take whatever Atavismo are willing to give, I’ll take this as a glimpse of where they might at least in part be headed after their first record. Dig it:

atavismo grajo split

Finally in our hands the coveted split 7 ” Atavismo / Grajo… By this time, we only have it available for direct sale at concerts or in hand, but if you want to be with him, you can purchase it through Nooirax Producciones and / or La Choza de Doe.

In Short, more news… Stay tuned!!

1. Atavismo – Haribo 05:44
2. Grajo – Feeding Our Demons 06:13

Atavismo.
Pot: Guitars, Vocals and synthesizers.
Pow: Drums and Vocals.
Pat: Bass and Vocals.

“Haribo” was recorded and mixed in November 2015 by José Ortega at Estudios Tagarmina.

Grajo.
Javier: Bass
Liz: Vocals
Jose: Guitars
Felix: Drums

“Feeding Our Demons” was recorded and mixed in September 2015 by Raúl Pérez at La Mina.
Mastered by Mario G. Alberni at Kadifornia.

Artwork by Antonio Ramírez.

Edited by:

Nooirax Producciones
La Choza de Doe
Fuzz t-shirts
Aladeriva Records

LCDD 008

https://www.facebook.com/Atavismo-233096556878903/
https://www.facebook.com/grajorockband/
https://nooirax.bandcamp.com/album/atavismo-grajo-split
https://lachozadedoe.bandcamp.com/album/split-7-atavismo-grajo

Atavismo & Grajo, Split 7″

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