Review & Full Album Stream: Ogre, Thrice as Strong

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Ogre Thrice as Strong

[Ogre release Thrice is Strong on Oct. 25 through Cruz Del Sur Music. Stream the album in full on the player above.]

Though their tenure has been interrupted by periods of inactivity and on-again-off-again hiatus, 2019 marks 20 years of Ogre, who celebrate their doom-meets-classic-heavy-rock with the new LP Thrice as Strong. It is their first offering since 2014’s The Last Neanderthal (review here), and as the Maine-based trio of bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, guitarist Ross Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent dig into the seven-track/43-minute push-pull of early Sabbathian bluesy purity, they’re likewise unafraid to add touches of ’80s proto-NWOBHM to songs like the centerpiece “Judgement Day” or to find their way along a Motörhead-style swing-and-thrust in the early cuts “Hive Mind” and “Big Man” while saving broader-reaching fare for side B’s longer tracks “Blood of Winter” and the closer “Cyber-Czar,” both over eight minutes.

Thrice as Strong, the full title on the cover of which — with art by Will Broadbent; spoiler alert: their heads are on pikes — is listed as In a Doomed World They Must Remain Thrice as Strong, is the three-piece’s first release through Cruz del Sur Music and though their work has always been concerned with a kind of primitivism across releases like their 2003 debut, Dawn of the Proto-Man (reissue review here), 2006’s Seven Hells (reissue review here) and 2008’s Plague of the Planet (review here), their latest collection finds them no less engaged with the present we’re living in. Certainly there’s plenty of fodder there for doom, and Ogre duly revel in it, with cuts like “The Future,” “Hive Mind,” and even “Cyber-Czar” taking on the modern age and its many futuristic and technological horrors/wonders — the latter with a particular Dehumanizer bent in its later moments closing out the album — even as “Blood of Winter” and the penultimate “King of the Wood” tap into Ogre‘s more classic fare of pulp-style epic comic books and so on. In other words, on Thrice as StrongOgre delve into both kinds of lyrics: sci-fi and fantasy. They are no less at home in the one than the other.

That leaves “Big Man” as an outlier, thematically, and maybe it is. I haven’t had the benefit of a full lyric sheet, those familiar with Ogre‘s past albums might consider “Big Man” something of a spiritual successor to “Nine Princes in Amber” from The Last Neanderthal. It is the shortest track on Thrice as Strong at just under four minutes, and the purest of the boogies on offer as well. “The Future” opens melodic and catchy in trad-metallic grandeur — at least relatively — touching on some Iron Maiden influence in Cunningham‘s bassline beneath Markonish‘s solo, and Broadbent adds to the momentum early by double-timing on the hi-hat during the verse, and “Hive Mind” has its shove in the first half before hitting the brakes in the second and picking back up to round out. “Big Man,” by contrast, holds its speedier pace for the duration and is a standout from the surrounding cuts, much as the aforementioned piece from the prior album was in its own context. I don’t think the one song is a direct answer to the other — different themes, different sound — but perhaps on some level manifesting a similar impulse in songwriting toward self-contradiction and flying in the face of “doom needs to be slow” or other such ultimately unnecessary genre tenets.

ogre

One way or the other, Ogre sound like they’re having a blast there and elsewhere. Cunningham is a vocalist for all or at least most seasons, singing clean, shouting, screaming occasionally, all with personality, a touch of echo and a classic feel, but at the same time he comes across as natural even in layers on “The Future,” and never sounds like he’s taking the proceedings too seriously, which would only imperil the album as a whole in terms of atmosphere. Recording-wise, part of Ogre‘s traditionalism has always been a relatively barebones production style. They’ve never veered too far from presenting themselves with something close to their live sound, and for what they’re playing that’s always worked. It does on Thrice as Strong too. That would seem to put extra pressure on Cunningham as a singer in fronting the band not only to carry that energy forward to the audience hearing the record, but simply in pulling off changes like those of “Judgement Day” where he goes from growling out one line to soaring in the next, and it seems to be no challenge whatsoever for him. That is only fortunate for all parties involved.

The shift into “Blood of Winter” represents something of a sea change in Thrice as Strong — it’s very likely the start of side B — with a broader and more doomly scope, but Ogre excel at this kind of storytelling, and together with the swing-and-nodder “King of the Wood,” “Blood of Winter” very much plays to their strengths and reminds of how underrated they’ve always been. A languid groove in “King of the Wood” turns to shuffle late and fades to silence ahead of “Cyber-Czar,” signaling a marked turn as Broadbent‘s drums lead the way on a fade-in that’s particularly militaristic. The closer itself is seven-plus minutes long, but there’s a robot-voice spoken part at the end and a howling sirens and other sounds of conflict over the fading final hits, wind and distant explosions, etc., to round out the atmosphere following the track itself, which is a fitting if deceptively speedy summation of the crux of the record.

Of course, no matter where they go, the underlying message of Thrice is Strong is the same, and caveman battles or futuristic warfare, that’s ultimately what the album is about. It’s about them — the band — together. It’s about Ogre looking back on two decades as a group and not just knowing who they are as a band, as one would expect to be a largely settled issue by anyone’s fifth record — at least as much as any band ever settles that issue — but also appreciating the special aspects of the whole that each member brings. The theme of Thrice as Strong may be struggle in terms of the lyrical narrative, but the album is little short of a commemoration of their methods and their accomplishments as songwriters. The arrival of a new Ogre album, any Ogre album, is noteworthy — it’s just not something that happens every day — but with Thrice as Strong, the acknowledgement of a special occasion seems to extend to all levels. CunninghamMarkonishBroadbentOgre. That’s the story here.

Ogre on Thee Facebooks

Ogre on Bandcamp

Cruz del Sur Music website

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Cruz del Sur Music on Bandcamp

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Review & Track Premiere: Orodruin, Ruins of Eternity

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

orodruin ruins of eternity new cover

[Click play above to stream ‘Forsaken’ from Orodruin’s  Ruins of Eternity. Album is out Oct. 25 on Cruz Del Sur Music. Preorders available now for CD and LP.]

A 16-year differential from one album to the next is significant. Bands have formed, flourished, and broken up in that time. A generational shift in listenership has taken place. Production styles have changed. The list goes on. Fortunately, good doom is timeless, and so it is that Orodruin return from Mordor with Ruins of Eternity, their sophomore LP behind 2003’s rightly vaunted Epicurean Mass (review here). It’s true that the Rochester, New York, three-piece haven’t been totally absent in that time, having put out the Claw Tower… And Other Tales of Terror compilation in 2004 as well as a self-released demo in 2011 and an EP in 2012 — both around performances as the Days of the Doomed in Wisconsin — and guitarist John Gallo released two full-lengths with his other outfit Blizaro, 2010’s City of the Living Nightmare and 2016’s Cornucopia Della Morte (review here), as well as a comp drawing other other work, and also a 2014 solo album under the extra-letter moniker John Gallow called Violet Dreams that dug into his root influence in the work of Paul Chain.

But even with these and the inevitabilities of real life on the part of Gallo, vocalist/bassist Mike Puleo and guitarist Nick Tydelski, to go more than a decade and a half without a proper album release is a long time. And yet Orodruin have been missed all along. They always seemed to maintain there would be another record, and their absence was conspicuous as bands like The Gates of Slumber and Apostle of Solitude moved to the forefront of American doom, let alone relative newcomers like Magic Circle. The nine tracks/47 minutes of Ruins of Eternity serve as a compelling reminder why. Absent longtime drummer Mike Waske, who left the band in 2018, Puleo takes on those duties admirably, and the dynamic between his bass, soaring vocals and the NWOBHM and epic doom-inspired guitars of Gallo and Tydelski stands up to anything in the style you’d want to put it next to, including titans of the form like The Skull or Candlemass, albeit more raw in production than the latter.

If that sounds like hyperbole, consider the guitar heroics in the second half of “Into the Light of the Sun,” the mournful plod and standout melody of “Letter of Life’s Regret” — which appeared on their 2011 demo as well — and the opening gift that is “Forsaken,” which turns after three minutes in and repurposes the speedier riff from Black Sabbath‘s “Falling off the Edge of the World” to its own righteous ends. It would be cliché to say that after 16 years, Orodruin sound on Ruins of Eternity like they haven’t missed a beat, but, well, it’s also true. Granted, it helps that the style of doom they’re playing is loyal to a particular sonic ideal and has its roots in a lost era of ’80s underground metal — even if they came across as dated, that would only work to their advantage — but Ruins of Eternity, even with “Letter of Life’s Regret” and presumably other tracks being of older origin, feels vital. As the chugging march of “Man of Peace” takes hold from “Forsaken,” the Iommic character in the guitar takes on further nuance and deceptive pacing in the verse en route to a more open chorus, the song trading back and forth this way until the lyrics have told their story and a stop brings about the guitar solo section and the return to the central nod at the finish.

orodruin

This is doom songcraft at its most essential, and a message toward the front of Ruins of Eternity to the converted that time has not dulled Orodruin‘s affinity for the style or its substance. As “Grave Illusion” adds more complexity of mood en route to “Letter of Life’s Regret” and the galloping “War on the World,” the experience of the album grows richer, but keeps to the central vibe at its heart. True doom is about bringing character to homage, adding personal perspective to what’s come before. Orodruin do this across Ruins of Eternity with enough grace as to emphasize just how much has been missed by their not putting out an album every two, three or even four years. Is it a chance to affect the scope of doom that’s gone forever? Ruins of Eternity provides a compelling argument otherwise.

As the album moves into its second half, with “Into the Light of the Sun” balancing tempo shifts and dug-in moodiness en route to its aforementioned standout shred and “Voice in the Dark” toying with structure amid a particularly resonant vocal from Puleo, there is some sense of pushing deeper into stylistic reach, but the core mission remains firm. Likewise, “Hell Frozen Over” starts out at a slow burn, picking up to emphasize tone rather than the riff itself, solos panning from one channel to the other ahead of a last tempo kick and some layered harmonies and a last crash-out at the apex that brings about the closing title-track. Somewhat amazingly, “Ruins of Eternity” is the only song over six minutes long on the record that shares its name, and it launches with a commanding stomp ahead of solo-laced swing and a quiet midsection stretch that explodes into faster push, in turn bringing about a slowdown into pure gruel that is as fitting a way to cap Ruins of Eternity as one could possibly ask.

All the while, Orodruin never lose their sense of poise, never lose sight of what they want to do as a band, and never forget that even more than the misery, it’s the song that matters most. It’s hard to listen to the album and not think what might’ve been if this was their fifth or sixth album instead of their second, but that it exists at all is a victory, and that it finds them in such exceptional form all the more so. They’ve rewritten the story of who they are as a band here, and while one wouldn’t predict what the future might hold for them — particularly as they’re short a drummer for playing live — Ruins of Eternity brings into focus just how special Orodruin are and just how much it’s been worth waiting for this one to show up. That’s no easy task, considering, but they nail it.

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Cruz Del Sur website

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Cruz Del Sur on Bandcamp

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Orodruin Sign to Cruz Del Sur Music; Ruins of Eternity Due in October

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 16th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

orodruin

Technically speaking, Ruins of Eternity is the follow-up to Orodruin‘s debut long-player, Epicurean Mass (discussed here). Only kicker there is that Epicurean Mass came out in 2003, so the sophomore effort is arriving some 16 years after the fact. Hey, good doom takes time. The Rochester, New York, outfit are the latest in the classic-doom vein to sign with Cruz Del Sur Music behind the recent acquisition of Ogre and others from the last few years like Apostle of Solitude and Argus, and Ruins of Eternity has been given an October release date, which given guitarist John Gallo‘s penchant for the drama of classic horror, does not make Halloween seem unreasonable. It’ll be out right around the same time as Ogre‘s new record either way, which certainly puts them in good company.

It’s been a long time coming, but Orodruin have a real chance here to make that wait pay off. Here’s hoping they take advantage.

From the PR wire:

orodruin ruins of eternity new cover

ORODRUIN to release “Ruins of Eternity” in October

Veteran Rochester, New York doomsters Orodruin have signed with Cruz Del Sur Music for the release of their second full-length album, “Ruins Of Eternity”. The album — the band’s first in 16 years — will see the light of day this October.

Originally formed in 1998 by John Gallo (guitar), Mike Puleo (bass/vocals), Nick Tydelski (guitar) and Mike Waske (drums), ORODRUIN broke onto the American metal scene with 2003’s “Epicurean Mass”, which remains their lone full-length album to date.
From the vintage school of BLACK SABBATH and SAINT VITUS doom with a European twist, ORODRUIN’s penchant for churning riffs and atmospheric passages instantly put them on the global doom metal map. The band issued a split, compilation, demo and EP in ensuing years, all building up to the eventual release of their sophomore album.

According to Gallo, ORODRUIN wrote nine new songs from 2016 to 2018, with a tenth song, “Letter Of Life’s Regret” coming from 2005. The album was tracked throughout 2018 at Wicked Squid Studio and is currently being mixed with the mastering process right around the corner.

“Stylistically, the songs are in the epic doom realm like the master titans of the 1970s, SABBATH and JUDAS PRIEST,” says Gallo. “The songs are a long-awaiting evolution in our writing and chemistry among brothers on a treacherous journey that will finally be unleashed to the masses. We hope it translates well to the hearts and souls of our fans worldwide.”

In preparation for the band’s triumphant return to European shores for this fall’s Hammer Of Doom Festival festival, ORODRUIN have enlisted drummer Kevin Latchaw of labelmates Argus, who is temporarily manning the drum spot while the band searches for a replacement for Waske, who left ORODRUIN in April of 2018.

Gallo: “We are extremely honored to be playing the same night as Uli Jon Roth and TROUBLE alongside our classic doom brothers MIRROR OF DECEPTION, SKALD and ATLANTEAN KODEX on the next day, to mention only a few! We can’t express how amazing it will be to be playing a substantial doom metal festival in Germany again. We hope people enjoy the new material as much as we do playing it.”

ORODRUIN’s addition to Cruz Del Sur adds to an ever-growing stable of excellent doom metal bands. Not only will the partnership expose ORODRUIN to new audiences, it will put them in close company with many bands who they consider contemporaries. “We have been aware of Cruz Del Sur for a while and it seemed like the perfect home for us as we have a more European audience that appreciates our style of doom metal. Plus, it will be great to be alongside our fellow doom friends in WHILE HEAVEN WEPT, SLOUGH FEG and ARGUS.”

Orodruin is:
Nick Tydelski : Guitar
Michael Puleo : Bass, Vocals, Drums
John Gallo : Other Guitar

https://www.facebook.com/orodruinofficialband
cruzdelsurmusic.com
facebook.com/cruzdelsurmusic
cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com

Orodruin, Epicurean Mass (2003)

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Quarterly Review: Pelican, Swan Valley Heights, Mark Deutrom, Greenbeard, Mount Soma, Nibiru, Cable, Reino Ermitaño, Cardinals Folly & Lucifer’s Fall, Temple of the Fuzz Witch

Posted in Reviews on July 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

More computer bullshit this morning. I lost about 45 minutes because my graphics driver and Windows 10 apparently hate each other and before I could disable the former, the machine decided the best it could do for me was to load a blank screen. Hard to find the Pelican record on my desktop when I can’t see my desktop. The Patient Mrs. woke up while I was trying to fix it and suggested HDMIing it to the tv. When I did that, it didn’t project as was hoped, but the display came on — because go figure — and I was able to shut off the driver, the only real advantage of which is it lets me use the night light feature so it’s easier on my eyes. That’s nice, but I’d rather have the laptop function. Not really working on a level of “give me soft red light or give me death!” at this point. I may yet get there in my life.

Today’s the last day of this beast, wrapping up the last of the 60 reviews, and I’m already in the hole for the better part of an hour thanks to this technical issue, the second of the week. Been an adventure, this one. Let’s close it out.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Pelican, Nighttime Stories

pelican nighttime stories

Split into two LPs each with its own three-minute mood-setter — those being “WST” and “It Stared at Me,” respectively — Pelican‘s Nighttime Stories (on Southern Lord) carries the foreboding sensibility of its title into an aggressive push throughout the album, which deals from the outset with the pain of loss. The lead single “Midnight and Mescaline” represents this well in directly following “WST,” with shades of more extreme sounds in the sharp-turning guitar interplay and tense drums, but it carries through the blastbeats of “Abyssal Plain” and the bombastic crashes of presumed side B closer “Cold Hope” as well, which flow via a last tonal wash toward the melancholy “It Stared at Me” and the even-more-aggro title-track, the consuming “Arteries of Blacktop” and the eight-minute “Full Moon, Black Water,” which offers a build of maddening chug — a Pelican hallmark — before resolving in melodic serenity, moving, perhaps, forward with and through its grief. It’s been six years since Pelican‘s last LP, Forever Becoming (review here), and they’ve responded to that time differential with the hardest-hitting record they’ve ever done.

Pelican on Thee Facebooks

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Swan Valley Heights, The Heavy Seed

swan valley heights the heavy seed

Though the peaceful beginning of 13-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Heavy Seed,” for which the five-song album is named, reminds of Swan Valley Heights‘ Munich compatriots in Colour Haze, the ultimate impression the band make on their Fuzzorama Records debut and second album overall behind a 2016 self-titled (review here) is more varied in its execution, with cuts like “Vaporizer Woman” and the centerpiece “Take a Swim in God’s Washing Machine” manifesting ebbs and flows and rolling out a fuzzy largesse to lead into dream-toned ethereality and layered vocals that immediately call to mind Elephant Tree. There’s a propensity for jamming, but they’re not a jam band, and seem always to have a direction in mind. That’s true even on the three-minute instrumental “My First Knife Fight,” which unfurls around a nod riff and simple drum progression to bridge into closer “Teeth and Waves,” a bookend to The Heavy Seed‘s title-track that revives that initial grace and uses it as a stepping stone for the crunch to come. It’s a balance that works and should be well received.

Swan Valley Heights on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzorama Records on Bandcamp

 

Mark Deutrom, The Blue Bird

Mark Deutrom The Blue Bird

Released in the wee hours of 2019, Mark Deutrom‘s The Blue Bird marks the first new solo release from the prolific Austin-based songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist through Season of Mist, and it’s a 50-minute run of genre-spanning outsider art, bringing ’70s folk vibes to the weepy guitar echoes of “Radiant Gravity” right before “O Ye of Little Faith” dooms out for six of its seven minutes and “Our Revels Now Are Ended” basks in 77 seconds of experimentalist winding guitar. It goes like that. Vocals are intermittent enough to not necessarily be expected, but not entirely absent through the midsection of “Hell is a City,” “Somnambulist” and “Maximum Hemingway,” and if there’s traditionalism at play anywhere, it might be in “They Have Won” and “The Happiness Machine,” which, toward the back end of the album, bring a sax-laden melancholy vibe and a straightforward heavy rock feel, respectively, ahead of the closer “Nothing out There,” which ties them together, somehow accounting for the 1:34 “On Fathers Day” as well in its sweetness. Don’t go into The Blue Bird asking it to make sense on any level other than its own and you should be fine. It’s not a minor undertaking at 50 minutes, and not without its indulgences, but even the briefest of pieces helps develop the character of the whole, which of course is essential to any good story.

Mark Deutrom website

Season of Mist website

 

Greenbeard, Onward, Pillager

greenbeard onward pillager

Austin bringers of hard-boogie Greenbeard reportedly issued the three-song Onward, Pillager as a precursor to their next full-length — even the name hints toward it being something of a stopgap — but its tracks stand well on their own, whether it’s the keyboard-laced “Contact High II,” which is presumably a sequel to another track on the forthcoming record, or the chunkier roll of “WCCQ” and the catchy finisher “Kill to Love Yourself,” with its overlaid guitar solo adding to a dramatic ending. It hasn’t been that long since 2017’s Lödarödböl (review here), but clearly these guys are committed to moving forward in neo-stoner rock fashion, and their emergence as songwriters is highlighted particularly throughout “WCCQ” and “Kill to Love Yourself,” while “Contact High II” is more of an intro or a would-be interlude on the full-length. It may only be pieces of a larger, to-be-revealed picture, but Onward, Pillager shows three different sides of what Greenbeard have on offer, and the promise of more to come is one that will hopefully be kept sooner rather than later.

Greenbeard on Thee Facebooks

Sailor Records on Bandcamp

 

Mount Soma, Nirodha

mount_soma_nirodha

Each of the three songs on Mount Soma‘s densely-weighted, live-recorded self-released Nirodha EP makes some mention of suffering in its lyrics, and indeed, that seems to be the theme drawing together “Dark Sun Destroyer” (7:40), “Emerge the Wolf” (5:50) and “Resurfacing” (9:14): a quest for transcendence perhaps in part due to the volume of the music and the act itself of creating it. Whatever gets them there, the trajectory of Nirodha is such that by the time they hit into the YOB-style galloping toward the end of “Resurfacing,” the gruff shouts of “rebirth!” feel more celebratory than ambitious. Based in Dublin, the four-piece bring a fair sense of space to their otherwise crush-minded approach, and though the EP is rough — it is their second short release following 2016’s Origins — they seem to have found a way to tie together outer and inner cosmos with an earthbound sense of gravity and heft, and with the more intense shove of “Emerge the Wolf” between the two longer tracks, they prove themselves capable of bringing a noisy charge amid all that roar and crash. They did the first EP live as well. I wonder if they’d do the same for a full-length.

Mount Soma on Thee Facebooks

Mount Soma on Bandcamp

 

Nibiru, Salbrox

nibiru salbrox

One might get lost in the unmanageable 64-minute wash of Nibiru‘s fifth full-length (first for Ritual Productions), Salbrox, but the opaque nature of the proceedings is part of the point. The Italian ritualists bring forth a chaotic depth of noise and harsh semi-spoken rasps of vocals reportedly in the Enochian language, and from 14-minute opener “EHNB” — also the longest track (immediate points) — through the morass that follows in “Exarp,” “Hcoma,” “Nanta” and so on, the album is a willful slog that challenges the listener on nearly every level. This is par for the course for Nibiru, whose last outing was 2017’s Qaal Babalon (review here), and they seem to revel in the slow-churning gruel of their distortion, turning from it only to break to minimalism in the second half of the album with “Abalpt” and “Bitom” before 13-minute closer “Rziorn” storms in like a tsunami of spiritually desolate plunge. It is vicious and difficult to hear, and again, that is exactly what it’s intended to be.

Nibiru on Thee Facebooks

Ritual Productions website

 

Cable, Take the Stairs to Hell

Cable Take the Stairs to Hell

The gift of Cable was to take typically raw Northeastern disaffection and channel it into a noise rock that wasn’t quite as post-this-or-that as Isis, but still had a cerebral edge that more primitive fare lacked. They were methodical, and 10 years after their last record, the Hartford, Connecticut, outfit return with the nine-song/30-minute Take the Stairs to Hell (on Translation Loss), which brings them back into the modern sphere with a sound that is no less relevant than it was bouncing between This Dark Reign, Hydra Head and Translation Loss between 2001 and 2004. They were underrated then and may continue to be now, but the combination of melody and bite in “Black Medicine” and the gutty crunch of “Eyes Rolled Back,” the post-Southern heavy of the title-track and the lumbering pummel of “Rivers of Old” before it remind of how much of a standout Cable was in the past, reinforcing that not only were they ahead of their time then, but that they still have plenty to offer going forward. They may continue to be underrated as they always were, but their return is significant and welcome.

Cable on Instagram

Translation Loss Records webstore

 

Reino Ermitaño, Reino Ermitaño

Reino Ermitano Reino Ermitano

Originally released in 2003, the self-titled debut from Lima, Peru’s Reino Ermitaño was a beacon and landmark in Latin American doom, with a sound derived from the genre’s traditions — Sabbath, Trouble, etc. — and melded with not only Spanish-language lyrics, but elements of South American folk and stylizations. Reissued on vinyl some 16 years later, it maintains its power through the outside-time level of its craft, sliding into that unplaceable realm of doom that could be from any point from about 1985 onward, while the melodies in the guitar of Henry Guevara and the vocals of Tania Duarte hold sway over the central groove of bassist Marcos Coifman and drummer Julio “Ñaka” Almeida. Those who were turned onto the band at the time will likely know they’ve released five LPs to-date, with the latest one from 2014, but the Necio Records version marks the first time the debut has been pressed to vinyl, and so is of extra interest apart from the standard putting-it-out-there-again reissue. Collectors and a new generation of doomers alike would be well advised on an educational level, and of course the appeal of the album itself far exceeds that.

Reino Ermitaño on Thee Facebooks

Necio Records on Bandcamp

 

Cardinals Folly & Lucifer’s Fall, Split

cardinals folly lucifers fall split

Though one hails from Helsinki, Finland, and the other from Adelaide, Australia, Cardinals Folly and Lucifer’s Fall could hardly be better suited to share the six-song Cruz Del Sur split LP that they do, which checks in at 35 minutes of trad doom riffing and dirtier fare. The former is provided by Cardinals Folly, who bring a Reverend Bizarre-style stateliness to “Spiritual North” and “Walvater Proclaimed!” before betraying their extreme metal roots on “Sworn Through Odin’s and Satan’s Blood,” while the Oz contingent throw down Saint Vitus-esque punk-born fuckall through “Die Witch Die,” the crawling “Call of the Wild” and the particularly brash and speedier “The Gates of Hell.” The uniting thread of course is homage to doom itself, but each band brings enough of their own take to complement each other without either contradicting or making one or the other of them feel redundant, and rather, the split works out to be a rampaging, deeply-drunk, pagan-feeling celebration of what doom is and how it has been internalized by each of these groups. Doom over the world? Yeah, something like that.

Cardinals Folly on Thee Facebooks

Lucifer’s Fall on Thee Facebooks

Cruz Del Sur Music website

 

Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Temple of the Fuzz Witch

Temple of the Fuzz Witch Temple of the Fuzz Witch

A strong current of Electric Wizard runs through the self-titled debut full-length from Detroit’s Temple of the Fuzz Witch (on Seeing Red Records), but even to that, the outfit led by guitarist/vocalist Noah Bruner bring a nascent measure of individuality, droning into and through “Death Hails” after opening with “Bathsheba” and ahead of unveiling a harmonized vocal on “The Glowing of Satan” that suits the low end distortion surprisingly well. They continue to offer surprises throughout, whether it’s the spaciousness of centerpiece “329” and “Infidel,” which follows, or the offsetting of minimalism and crush on “The Fuzz Witch” and the creeper noise in the ending of “Servants of the Sun,” and though there are certainly familiar elements at play, Temple of the Fuzz Witch come across with an intent to take what’s been done before and make it theirs. In that regard, they would seem to be on the right track, and in their 41 minutes, they find footing in a murky aesthetic and are able to convey a sense of songwriting without sounding heavy-handed. There’s nothing else I’d ask of their first album.

Temple of the Fuzz Witch on Thee Facebooks

Seeing Red Records on Bandcamp

 

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Ogre Sign to Cruz Del Sur Music; New Album Thrice as Strong out This October

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Long-running doomers Ogre, whose cult following remains loyal, will issue their first album in five years, Thrice as Strong, through Cruz Del Sur Music this October. That’s a fair fit, the band and the label, and as Ogre‘s last album came out, 2014’s The Last Neanderthal (review here) through Minotauro Records, the new home aligns them to a host of classic metal and doom and can only go further into getting them a foothold listenership in Europe. That puts Ogre on the same label as Apostle of Solitude and Slough Feg and King Heavy, so, you know, good company and all that. I hear there are more to come in joining those ranks as well.

Ogre don’t really tour — every now and again you can them to leave New England, but don’t count on it — but they went to Russia in 2018 and they’ve made periodic voyages hither and yon. One only hopes that continues as they gear up for Thrice as Strong.

Info came down the PR wire:

ogre

Portland, Maine Doomsters OGRE Join Cruz Del Sur Music; ‘Thrice As Strong’ Studio Album Due This Fall

Long-running Portland, Maine doom trio OGRE has signed with Cruz Del Sur Music for the October release of their forthcoming fifth studio album, “Thrice As Strong”. The album was tracked with Rowan Bishop at Garage Mahal Recording in Westbrook, Maine.

Practitioners of traditional doom with a mix of ’70s rock and proto metal, OGRE was formed in 1999 by Ed Cunningham (bass/vocals), Ross Markonish (guitar) and Will Broadbent (drums). To date, the band has released four studio albums, with 2014’s “The Last Neanderthal” their most recent. OGRE came to the attention of Cruz Del Sur through classic word of mouth — a handful of Cruz Del Sur bands put in the good word for OGRE to label owner Enrico Leccese.

“Once we started working on this album, we posted a few messages on social media, reaching out to any potential labels that might be interested in working with us this time around,” says Markonish. “Will started up a correspondence with Butch Balich from Argus who then put us in touch with Tom Phillips of While Heaven Wept, who works closely with Enrico. We played with WHILE HEAVEN WEPT years ago at a doom festival in Rochester, New York and we’ve also shared the stage with other Cruz artists, including ARGUS and Apostle of Solitude, so we couldn’t be happier to share a label with all those great bands, not to mention SLOUGH FEG, another favorite!”

Since the release of “The Last Neanderthal”, OGRE has kept themselves busy with shows in Portland, while working on the material that would eventually become “Thrice As Strong”. The band even found time to make their impact abroad: “One particularly cool thing that we did recently was travel to Arkhangelsk, Russia in October of last year to play the Belomor-Boogie Festival, a Russian rock festival that currently is in its 25th year of existence,” notes Markonish. “Arkhangelsk is the sister city of our hometown of Portland, Maine, so it was an amazing experience to travel across the globe and represent the Portland scene for the people of Russia. We made a ton of new friends and fans out there!”

According to Markonish, the “Thrice As Strong” album title plays off OGRE’s power-trio formation and is taken from their namesake song, “Ogre”, which is the first track on their first album, “Dawn Of The Proto-Man”, which is also where “The Last Neanderthal” title came from. “As our fans know, we really like all of these self-referential details, as it sort of builds up the concept of an ‘OGRE Universe’. Not surprisingly, we are all fans of comic books, sci-fi and horror novels/movies, and bands like RUSH, who specialize in those sorts of geeky things.”

OGRE is recording with Bishop because of his “good set of ears” and the stripped-down feel of Garage Mahal Studios. Markonish says the new songs are not a departure from the band’s vintage sound, but fans can expect a few different influences this time around.

“When we first started working on this album, our original plan was to try to keep song lengths down a bit,” he says. “Reason being, our prior albums all featured at least one song in the 10-15-minute range, never mind our concept album, ‘Plague Of The Planet’, which consists of a single, 37-minute song! While that proved difficult (a couple songs on this album stretch into the 8-minute range), it still did inform our general approach to songwriting this time around.

“I would also say that there is a bit more of an ‘80s metal influence on these tracks — some MAIDEN, a little DIO perhaps, and also some of the more underground bands of the time, like CIRITH UNGOL and MANILLA ROAD. Rowan even said he heard a little MERCYFUL FATE on some of the songs! The way I put it to someone, while our prior albums were majorly influenced by ’70s-era PENTAGRAM, this one shares some of its sound and ethos with the Victor Griffin ’80s line-up that produced the ‘Relentless’ and ‘Day Of Reckoning’ albums.”

Tracklisting:
1. The Future
2. Hive Mind
3. Big Man
4. Judgment Day
5. Blood of Winter
6. King of the Wood
7. Cyber-Czar

Ogre is:
Vocals/Bass: Ed Cunningham
Guitars: Ross Markonish
Drums: Will Broadbent

https://www.facebook.com/Rockogre/
https://ogrereal.bandcamp.com/
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Ogre, The Last Neanderthal (2014)

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Review & Track Premiere: The Lord Weird Slough Feg, New Organon

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the lord weird slough feg new organon

[Click play above to stream ‘Headhunter’ from The Lord Weird Slough Feg’s New Organon. Album is out June 14 on Cruz Del Sur Music.]

For nigh on 30 years, The Lord Weird Slough Feg have served the greater good as classic metal’s gift to heavy rock. Or are they classic rock’s gift to heavy metal? Or metal’s gift to heavy? Plus Celtic influences? Whatever. The point is, across 10 full-lengths and a swath of other singles and splits, etc., the band have become one-of-a-kind practitioners of the metallic arts. New Organon is the San Francisco-based outfit’s first long-player in the five years since 2014’s Digital Resistance (review here) came out on Metal Blade, and it finds them reunited with Cruz del Sur Music for the first since 2009’s Ape Uprising! and 2007’s Hardworlder. It’s a solid fit, considering Slough Feg‘s traditionalist approach, and New Organon feels like a purposeful stripping down of tones and general vibe. Perhaps unsurprisingly to those familiar with Slough Feg‘s work, that suits the material well.

Across 10 tracks and a LP-prime 37 minutes, the four-piece of founding guitarist/vocalist Mike Scalzi, fellow guitarist Angelo Tringali, bassist Adrian Maestas — who takes a lead vocal on side B’s “Uncanny” — and relatively-new drummer Jeff Griffin (John Dust also plays on the album), set about renewing the faith of the denim-clad faithful while at the same time mining the lecture notes of Scalzi, a philosophy professor, for lyrical themes. From the Rousseau through Sartre, Plato through Francis Bacon, from whose work the title derives, Scalzi turns cerebral and existential query into the stuff of fist-pumping proto-thrash and heavy rock and roll. It does not seem like a coincidence that they should re-don their full moniker for the effort, having gone simply by Slough Feg since 2005’s Atavism instead of the full The Lord Weird Slough Feg, since the atmosphere in the clear but sans-frills production and the basic structure of the songs is no less directed to the band’s own roots than those of heavy metal itself. They are among the most woefully underappreciated acts in metal, too bizarre it would seem even for the most brazen of self-declared nonconformists, but all the more righteous for standing alone.

“Headhunter,” which opens, is also the longest track at just over five minutes (immediate points), and the band waste no time whatsoever in letting the listener know the order of things. Guitars intertwine in tense riffing for an early verse over tom runs and the chorus bounds through not quite paying off that tension, but driving it forward nonetheless. A post-midsection movement of starts and stops offset by NWOBHM-style lead work — not the last of it to come — leads to a more ripping-style solo and back to the verse telling tales of piles of shrunken heads and so on. It’s a rousing start to New Organon, and it leads to the brooding and likewise tense “Discourse on Equality,” on which the drums time quick stop-start thuds behind matching guitar/bass chug with a lead line sprawled over with the vocals.

slough feg

It is stomach-tightening, and when they finally let go a little bit and blowout consecutive solos in the back half of the track, it’s a palpable relief as, the go-where-they-want mood set, Slough Feg move into “The Apology,” with a creeping verse and a more standout hook, which perhaps is rivaled only by the title-track still to come as the strongest of the record. “Being and Nothingness” follows, and as every Slough Feg review must at some point include a Thin Lizzy reference, there’s mine, but even more striking is the initial thrust of the song’s intro, which emphasizes how well the band ties together thrash and classic heavy rock. New Organon is a dirtier-sounding album than anything Slough Feg have done in some time, and it’s meant to be. They’re digging in and inviting those who can get on board to do the same, but “Being and Nothingness” isn’t about accessibility. Cut short in its solo and giving way directly to the start of the title-track, it’s a moment meant to dangerously careen near the edge of oblivion, and it does that successfully without losing itself in the process, perhaps finding its completion in “New Organon,” with Scalzi donning Bacon’s perspective for the chorus, “The sum of my knowledge will conquer the earth/And the sons of my college will rise/And give birth.” Take that, scientific method of old!

The title-cut rounds out side A with more fervent chug and ripping soloing, squeezing in a last verse effectively amongst the fray, and turns over the proceedings to “Sword of Machiavelli” and an immediate shift in vibe. Slower and more fluid in its groove, it finds Scalzi‘s vocals more laid back and an almost garage-style feel to the drums and tape-worthy guitar. The shortest inclusion at 2:17, it soon gives way to the sharp, early-metal-style “Uncanny,” which brings Maestas into the vocalist role, which is a change that further builds on the signal sent by “Sword of Machiavelli” that the second half of the album represents a shift from the first. That holds true for the swaying strangeness of “Coming of Age in the Milky Way,” taking its title from Timothy Ferris’ 1988 book of the same name.

Near as I can tell, that’s as modern as the philosophy gets on New Organon, which is fair enough, and the more laid back sensibility that accompanies feels like a massive change from the tightened-fist of “Discourse on Equality” and “Headhunter,” turning back to the Thin Lizzyism on “Exegesis/Tragic Hooligan” with acoustic and electric guitars woven together effectively in the chorus, ahead of the fitting summary that is closer “The Cynic,” with one last megadose of soloing amid a roll-credits melody and something of a return to where Slough Feg came from on the first half of the record. Of course they end on a fading guitar ringout — how could they not? — but as ever with the band’s material, there’s more at play throughout New Organon than riffs and leads, and it’s in the less-tangible nature of what they do that one finds their personality. The sound of struggle in Scalzi‘s vocals. The quick turns of bass and drums. The willful way in which they set their own rules and then play at breaking them. The Lord Weird Slough Feg are unique even among classic metal loyalists. I don’t know if they’ll ever get their due for the quality of the work they’ve done over their time, but they’re clearly engaged in a broader conversation.

The Lord Weird Slough Feg website

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Cruz del Sur Music website

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The Neptune Power Federation to Release Memoirs of a Rat Queen on Cruz del Sur Music

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I read a fair amount of band quotes in my day-to-day waking existence, so I come across a good one, I feel like it’s worth pointing it out. Not just, “We’re excited about the new album,” or something like that — of course you’re excited about the new album; if you weren’t, you probably wouldn’t have made it — but something that really tells a story. Accordingly, when guitarist Inverted CruciFox of Sydney, Australia’s The Neptune Power Federation says of their signing to Cruz del Sur, “Perhaps we will become like Scientology only with more guitars, battle jackets and drinking,” I feel like that really tells a story about who the band are and where they’re coming from. Their new album, Memoirs of a Rat Queen, will be released through Cruz del Sur this Fall, and yeah. Shit would seem to be pretty weird, and in pretty much the best way.

Check it out:

the neptune power federation

THE NEPTUNE POWER FEDERATION Joins CRUZ DEL SUR MUSIC

Cruz Del Sur Music is proud to announce the signing of Australian psychedelic rock and roll occultists THE NEPTUNE POWER FEDERATION. The label will release the band’s next full-length, Memoirs Of A Rat Queen, this coming September.

THE NEPTUNE POWER FEDERATION and Cruz Del Sur Music decided to join forces after the band’s triumphant appearance at the 2018 installment of the Hell Over Hammaburg festival in Hamburg, Germany. Cruz Del Sur owner Enrico met the band backstage and subsequently offered them a deal. “It’s a pretty cool way of getting signed,” says guitarist Inverted CruciFox. “I didn’t think things like that happened nowadays, but it keeps with our retro aesthetic.”

Enrico adds: “I was first introduced to NPF over a year ago and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see them live at Hell Over Hammaburg last March. I must say that their show was way beyond my best expectations, their energy and vibes were something I hadn’t witnessed live for a long time. Something significant happened: I went in the backstage to give my support to Sanhedrin before their show and NPF were getting off stage. When the doors opened and they stepped into the backstage a spontaneous applause rose in the small room. For me that was a sign that the band really gave everything on stage and was able to touch the audience really deeply. Seeing NPF live was an intense, overwhelming experience that I will always carry in my heart.”

While the band is already prolific in the studio, it is their live presentation that sets THE NEPTUNE POWER FEDERATION apart, harkening back to a time when theatrics were just as important as the music. “We attempt to connect with as many senses as possible, with the exclusion of smell,” says Inverted CruciFox. “The Imperial Priestess wears the traditional dress of a time travelling space witch and because these beings are uncommon in our dimension, her appearance can often come as a shock. The rest of us wear a simple uniform to recognize we are her backing band — and also because MOTORHEAD did it that way.”

On Memoirs Of A Rat Queen, the band plans to further convey the narrative which has woven their previous albums together — an intergalactic tale of time travel. “Currently we are attempting to convey the story of the Imperial Priestess’s time travelling existence on earth and the various lives she has lived through human history. Occasionally we touch on her mortal enemy, the Wizzard King and his never-ending attempts to defeat her.”

Memoirs Of A Rat Queen is currently being mixed, after which, the band will be playing several Australian festivals. Once the album is out, it will be accompanied with a handful of new music videos.

“We are very excited about increasing the reach of THE NEPTUNE POWER FEDERATION church internationally – like rock and roll missionaries,” closes Inverted CruciFox. “Perhaps we will become like Scientology only with more guitars, battle jackets and drinking.”

THE NEPTUNE POWER FEDERATION is:
Screaming Loz Sutch: Vocals
Inverted CruciFox: Guitar
Search & DesTroy: Guitar
Jaytanic Ritual: Bass
Mr Styx: Drums

facebook.com/theneptunepowerfederation
theneptunepowerfederation.bandcamp.com
cruzdelsurmusic.com
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The Neptune Power Federation, Neath a Shin Ei Sun (2017)

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The Lord Weird Slough Feg to Release New Organon in June

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

American traditional metal/heavy rock treasures The Lord Weird Slough Feg will issue their first LP in five years, New Organon, in June through Cruz Del Sur Music. As regards metallic righteousness, there are few of their caliber, and as they re-don their full moniker, having issued 2014’s Digital Resistance (review here) and several other outings before it as the truncated Slough Feb, one can’t help but wonder what that might mean in terms of the sound of the album itself. Certainly the fact that founding guitarist/vocalist Mike Scalzi is embracing his background in philosophy to greater degree than he has before is an interesting turn, though they’ve never exactly wanted for intellectual appeal. The life of the mind, plus riffs.

I’ll always remember what Bible of the Devil told me about Scalzi when I interviewed them in 2012. They had done some touring together, and because Slough Feg is a band with such character and because I’d never spoken to Scalzi, I asked what he was like. The answer I got was, “he suffers no fools gladly.” To sure, I’ve never had it in me to interview Scalzi since, because if I’ve ever been anything, it’s a fool. Especially on the phone.

Here’s PR wire info for the album. I already put in a request to host a track premiere, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that comes together:

the lord weird slough feg new organon

THE LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG Returns With First Album In Five Years, ‘New Organon’

“I didn’t want to just ‘put out another album,’” begins SLOUGH FEG vocalist/guitarist Mike Scalzi. “I remember telling people that I didn’t want to do another album just to do another album, like so often happens. So, we wrote a lot of songs and only picked the best ones.”

Such was the approach for SLOUGH FEG’s long-awaited tenth studio album, New Organon, which will see the light of day via Cruz Del Sur Music on June 14 in European territories and June 21 in North America. New Organon also marks the recording debut of drummer Jeff Griffin (who split studio duties with John Dust) and joins Scalzi and longtime members Angelo Tringali (guitar) and Adrian Maestas (bass).

New Organon is another definitive statement from one of America’s most enduring and unique true metal bands, whose penchant for THIN LIZZY-inspired guitar harmonies and Scalzi’s timeless storytelling has turned albums such as 2005’s Atavism, 2007’s Hardworlder and 2010’s The Animal Spirits into proto-metal bedrocks.

Since the release of 2014’s Digital Resistance, SLOUGH FEG did three touring jaunts through Europe in addition to some shorter American runs, not to mention the release of the New Organon seven-inch, which was issued last year. Scalzi freely admits that real life has gotten in the way of SLOUGH FEG making a new LP. That, and his desire to make sure the band still sounds fresh after nine studio albums. “A lot of stuff ended up on the cutting room floor,” he says. “There were some songs we tried to work out for months but ended up dropping because they bored us. We have to be excited about new songs or there’s no point in recording them. We dropped several songs I came up with and some that the other guys came up with, too. It’s tough, but sometimes you have to be honest with yourself and the people in your band and move on when an idea is not working. So, we came up with a lot of song ideas and only kept the ones that sounded exciting for months.”

In true SLOUGH FEG tradition, there is a strong theme running throughout New Organon, which was inspired by the 1620 book published by Francis Bacon of the same name. “It presents a new version of the scientific method, as originally presented by Aristotle 2,000 years earlier,” notes Scalzi, who is also a philosophy professor at a college in California. “According to Bacon and others, the science method had remained stagnant for this long period, through the middle ages and renaissance, and needed a refresher. ‘Organon’ refers to a scientific ‘instrument’ or more literally, ‘organ.’ So, it represents a new method for scientific revolution. The songs are all basically about philosophy—from my lecture notes! It starts out talking about primitive tribal society like shamanism as the first philosophers and then proceeds though the pre-Socratics era and then Plato, Aristotle, medieval catholic theology, enlightenment and then existentialist philosophy — mostly in chronological order.”

Fans of the band’s early output when they went under the extended name of THE LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG will no doubt be enthused for what’s in store on New Organon. The album has a more natural, if not “rustic” feel to it, recalling the band’s halcyon Twilight Of The Idols and Down Among The Deadmen era. “Very simply, the songs are more heavy, rough and produced rawer than the last album or two,” says Scalzi. “The themes are not about technology, but about ancient philosophy and science. It’s just more metal, but in a very primitive way — but that’s sort of our specialty anyway.”

Around the release date of New Organon, SLOUGH FEG will be trekking across the United States with labelmates SANHEDRIN. “We’ll be doing ten shows on the east coast in late May/early June, right about the time when the album comes out, including New York, Boston, Baltimore and Pittsburgh,” says Scalzi. “In early August, SANHEDRIN is going to come out we’ll do another run with them up and down the west coast.”

Track Listing:
1 Headhunter
2 Discourse on Equality
3 The Apology
4 Being and Nothingness
5 New Organon
6 Sword of Machiavelli
7 Uncanny
8 Coming of Age in the Milky Way
9 Exegesis/Tragic Hooligan
10 The Cynic

SLOUGH FEG/SANHEDRIN Tour Dates:
May 30 – Baltimore, MD, Metro Gallery
May 31- Brooklyn, NY, Saint Vitus
June 1- Montreal, QC, Bar LeRitz
June 2 – Ottawa, ON, Mavericks
June 3 – Toronto, ON, Velvet Underground
June 4 – Pittsburgh, PA, Spirit
June 5 – Detroit, MI, Sanctuary
June 6 – Cleveland, OH, Now That’s Class
June 7 – Philadelphia, PA, Kung Fu Necktie
June 8 – Boston, MA, Middle East

http://www.sloughfeg.com/
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Slough Feg, Digital Resistance (2014)

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