Review & Track Premiere: Uffe Lorenzen, Triprapport

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 7th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Uffe Lorenzen Triprapport

[Click play above to stream the premiere of Uffe Lorenzen’s ‘Psykonauten’ from the album Triprapport, out May 10 on Bad Afro Records.]

Is it really any surprise that Uffe Lorenzen would produce headphone-ready acid folk of the highest caliber? It probably shouldn’t be. The Baby Woodrose frontman, also known as Lorenzo Woodrose, has been proffering psychedelic garage and heavy rock with that outfit for the last 18 years, and his 2017 solo debut, Galmandsværk (review here), was a likewise-directed lysergic journey. Triprapport, recorded and mixed analog, is a more than worthy follow-up to that also-released-by-BadAfro first offering, with its eight songs written in a short period of time during a mushroom binge off in a cabin someplace in Lorenzen‘s native Denmark. The album’s title, Triprapport, might indeed be taken as a report about that trip, and of course, “trip” is the operative word. Across 36 occasionally-sitar-laced minutes Lorenzen builds layers of acoustic and electric guitar, percussion, and echoing vocals to a sensibility that is at once reminiscent of the debut and steadier in its approach.

The mellotron dream of “Angakkoq” and the subtly percussive, semi-spoken “Alting Er Eet” are both likewise assured, and even on the extra spacious “Aldrig Mere Ned,” in which Lorenzen‘s strumming seems to ring out like the Milky Way cutting the night sky in half amid a mounting wall of electrified fuzz, there’s a willfulness to the proceedings that speaks to the consciousness behind all that mind expansion. The narrative of the album’s construction — guy goes into the woods, eats mushrooms, writes songs — does precious little to convey the level of craft or detail that Lorenzen brings to his work, but perhaps it’s best left to the songs to explain themselves, as with the closing Hans Vinding (Furekåben) cover “Hallo Hallo Frøken,” taking the ’70s folk vibe and peppering it with drifting notes of effects-laced lap steel (provided by Peter Knudsen), or even the countdown-to-launch that happens about halfway into opener “Psykonauten” atop a engine ignition of low-end buzz. Lorenzen may not be a stranger to the forms in which he works, but his mastery thereof is what makes Triprapport a voyage worth undertaking.

The launch that ensues there in a scorching, multi-layered electric lead is about as appropriate a beginning point as Lorenzen could give Triprapport, and what follows is due otherworldliness both in that song and “Alting Er Eet,” which follows in linear fashion seemingly headed on a direct course toward “far out,” synth and delay guitar intertwining in dramatic fashion in the midpoint break before Lorenzen starts a call and response to his own melody and the synth swells again. The title-track is indicative of some of the more garage-feeling rhythms Triprapport has on offer. “Alting Er Eet” and “Psykonauten” both certainly have movement — the opener punctuated by tambourine, the second track by a bass drum/snare and the aforementioned shaker — but the tablas and tambourine of “Triprapport” as well as the pinging sitar notes that accompany (courtesy of Vicki Singh) add a sense of boogie that the later “Floden,” indeed with more sitar, answers later.

Uffe Lorenzen Triprapport

“Floden” is the shortest track on Triprapport at 3:17, but Lorenzen only hits the five-minute mark twice and one of those is for the finale cover. Still, “Floden”‘s relative surge of push is well-placed in side B as it follows the drift of “Angakkoq” and “Lille Fugl” with “Aldrig Mere Ned” and “Hallo Hallo Frøken” still to go. It’s a moment whereby Lorenzen directly engages the listener, especially in a linear format (CD, digital), allowing for some grounding factor following the acoustic-and-organ-and-flute (the latter contributed by Adam Dreisler) interplay of “Lille Fugl.” Both that track and “Angakkoq” before it have some percussive aspect, whether it’s the triangle of “Angakkoq” or what might be a bass drum so far back in the mix of “Lille Fugl” that it sounds like water droplets, but “Floden” is a well-placed cosmic burst of energy, that, without losing the melodic focus that proves so resonant throughout Triprapport, responds to the title-track’s classic psychedelia with more of the same as heard in its running measures between verse lines.

As the last original track, “Aldrig Er Eet” feels like a significant moment for Lorenzen as a songwriter, and it might be, with a somewhat moodier pulse, subtle backing line of synth or effects lower register and lower in the mix, as well as a march in acoustic guitar and percussion, but it’s not at all out of place with what comes before it or even what comes after, as “Hallo Hallo Frøken” is brought well into the character of the rest of Triprapport, the lap steel taking the place of the strings in the original and Lorenzen replacing the Dylan-gone-krautrock of the original with his own approach. Across the entire span of Triprapport — its manageable 36-minute run just about ideal for a traditional two-sided LP — the songs are a reminder of just how much character Lorenzen puts into his songwriting. It is, in the end, his work, and however traditional the form in which he’s working might be intended to be, there’s no doubting the progressive aspects of Triprapport even as relates to Galmandsværk.

That is perhaps something the gone-to-a-cabin storyline in which the album occurs takes as a given, but it’s worth highlighting all the same that Lorenzen is nothing short of a master when it comes to psychedelic composition. His work in Baby Woodrose speaks for itself, but can be somewhat opaque for a new listener to take on — in the age-old question of where to start, I’d say the self-titled, but there’s really no wrong answer — but even the fact that the lyrics are in Danish lends his solo material a more personal atmosphere, though I’ll readily admit to my ignorance of the language. Nonetheless, while Lorenzen may be exploring this more personal mode of songwriting, he doesn’t at all lose the writing part of that equation. The material on Triprapport is as deceptive in its efficiency as it is fluid in its front-to-back flow. Ultimately, this is what makes the album his own. Is it surprising? Probably not. But it’s gorgeous.

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Altar of Oblivion, The Seven Spirits

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 23rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

altar of oblivion the seven spirits

[Click play above to stream Altar of Oblivion’s The Seven Spirits in full. Album is out April 26 on Shadow Kingdom Records.]

There is a special place in the halls of metal for those who partake of epic doom. It shares with power metal a sense of grandiosity and an absolute need to be all-in, irony-free in order to be properly pulled off, and Danish five-piece Altar of Oblivion nail it. The Seven Spirits, on Shadow Kingdom, is their third album, following behind 2012’s Grand Gesture of Defiance (review here) and their 2009 debut, Sinews of Anguish (review here). They had an EP out in 2016 called Barren Grounds, but The Seven Spirits is the Aalborg-based doomers’ first full-length in seven years. Consistent with that and its title, there are seven tracks on the outing, and no lack of spirit in the delivery, as the band taps ’80s classic metal and early doom metal in order to hone their sound, distinguished by the varied delivery of frontman Mik Mentor, whose low-register approach is deceptively malleable to the melodies called forth by the guitars of band-founder Martin Meyer Sparvath (also backing vocals and keys) and Jeppe Campradt (also keys).

Tasked with thickening the proceedings and making them move are bassist Cristian Nørgaard and drummer Danny Woe, and they only add to the sense of precision throughout the LP’s 40-minute run, whether it’s the thudding start and careening groove of opener “Created in the Fires of Holiness” or the suitably mournful plod in the second half of highlight “Gathering at the Wake” before the big finish takes hold. Regardless of tempo or mood in a given track, the band remains firm in their take on the metal of eld, and there’s never a moment where their sincerity is in doubt. As keyboard lines weave between the two guitars and fill out the arrangements and atmospheres, the sense of drama is palpable, but there’s no questioning Altar of Oblivion‘s commitment to what they do. This is epic, doom, metal. If you can’t handle it, turn in your denim at the door.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Altar of Oblivion are quick to show their doomly credentials in “Created in the Fires of Holiness.” The song thuds the record to life quickly and crashes into its dual-guitar opening lead, very much the over-the-top intro before digging into its first verse, with Nørgaard‘s bassline righteously prominent — counter to a mistake so, so, so many in classic doom and metal make — as the guitars ring out and Mentor establishes his command over the turn to the chorus. By the time the opener is halfway through, the course is set in terms of style, and though its songs are varied, it ultimately does not waver from the mood that “Created in the Fires of Holiness” sets forth, coming apart gradually at the end and allowing for a moment of silence before Mentor starts “No One Left,” imagining a world where doomsday prophecy is fulfilled and nobody is there to see it.

altar of oblivion

Speedier and shorter, “No One Left” is a standout in the tracklisting, but well positioned near the start of the album in order to build on what the opener has set forth in tone and general vibe. It makes a hook of repeating its title line, and has a distinctly ’80s metal infusion of keys starting in its midsection, which the subsequent “Gathering at the Wake’ will depart in favor of raw chug initially, only to see it return later as the track embarks on a, well, epic break in its second half, worthy of comparison to earliest Candlemass and building in speed and energy until its gallop again collapses in tempo to a slowdown at the finish, leaving the vocals to end the track alone, and transitioning to the sparse guitar that opens the centerpiece title-track, also the finale of side A. Backing vocals recall Blind Guardian for a brief second in the first verse, but it’s a tease — why not go all out? — and the song unfolds in brooding, keyboard-laced fashion, its chorus resonant in the theatricality of its delivery and its guitars leading the path through a more subdued feel than anything yet presented.

It would be even more hypnotic for that if the title-track weren’t also so brief, being the shortest inclusion at 4:18. Still, it’s a relatively melancholy finish to side A, and it leaves “Language of the Dead” to pick up on side B with a resiliency that mirrors “Created in the Fires of Holiness” at the album’s outset in its general modus, finding new footing in its chorus and revitalizing the approach ahead of the closing duo “Solemn Messiah” and “Grand Gesture of Defiance.” The former of the two, “Solemn Messiah,” is a pinnacle of The Seven Spirits‘ fulsome aspects, with a patience in its execution that holds despite the grandeur of the surrounding arrangement and the layers of guitar, vocals, and keys at play over the still-solid rhythm section. It is arguably the most memorable of the cuts, though there’s plenty of competition there and it’s a question for the longer term in the end, but it serves in its penultimate position as the crescendo of Altar of Oblivion‘s third full-length, and they cap it with a quick stretch of quiet guitar that leads into the fading-in chug of “Grand Gesture of Defiance.”

Curious that they’d end this record with a title-track for the 2012 outing, but the keyboard-centric feel marks a turn in balance with the guitar — at least until the solo — that piques interest just the same. The chorus doesn’t quite land with the same effect as in “Solemn Messiah,” Mentor pushing his voice down to really emphasize that titular solemnity, but the speedier section that gives way to keys and softer guitar at the finish is a fitting enough way to go out given the focus on melody throughout the entire offering prior. Make no mistake, Altar of Oblivion are doom metal for the converted. This is get-a-vinyl-and-a-patch-at-the-merch-table fare, and while its songcraft is ambitious, part of that ambition is homage to what’s come before. Still, The Seven Spirits lacks nothing for its own personality, and after such a long stretch from the band without an LP, it’s a welcome and doomly return.

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Altar of Oblivion website

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Review & Track Premiere: Papir, VI

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

papir vi

[Click play above to stream “VI.I” from Papir’s new album, VI. It’s out May 10 on Stickman Records.]

The trio of trio of guitarist Nicklas Sørensen, drummer Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen and bassist Christian Becher Clausen would seem to reach a new level of maturity in their presentation on their sixth album, suitably titled VI. Issued through Stickman Records as the follow-up to their debut on the label, 2017’s V (review here), it continues the Danish instrumentalists’ progressive streak that began with their 2010 self-titled and saw them align to El Paraiso for the subsequent three studio offerings, the last of which was 2014’s IIII (review here), as well as a live album. However, it’s also a marked departure from its predecessor in terms of basic intent, and where V was a 2LP with a staggering 94-minute runtime, VI pulls back on that impulse and instead offers four tracks in an entirely more manageable 39 minutes, feeling less like a splurge and more like a quick excursion to someplace peaceful and other.

Its songs are extended enough and lush with warm crash and mellotron filling out the mix, never mind the dream-toned guitar and effects, to be genuinely immersive, but the mood for the bulk of VI is bright and creative, as though the band were looking to open a conversation or at very least elicit one among those who’d engage with their work. To call it a headphone album is basically to ask someone if they like peaceful summer afternoons, and as the band evoke Yawning Man with some slide guitar and Colour Haze in the apex of “VI.III,” even this is brought into the broader context of their own characterization. That is, Papir have their influences, but rather than work toward them, they’re using them to the band’s own ends. They’re not trying to sound like anything other than themselves, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it suits them.

That shortened runtime is crucial to the experience of the album. It was no hardship to put V on and bliss out for the duration, but part of that experience was getting lost in the flow of Papir‘s material. VI is best given a more conscious approach to shifts like the percussiveness of “VI.IV” or the linear build in “VI.II” or the interplay of drift and wash that opens with “VI.I.” And they make that easy. There is some sense of structure as “VI.I” and “VI.IV” bookend the record at 10:07 and 11:04, respectively, while both “VI.II” and “VI.III” hover on either end of the nine-minute mark, ending side A and beginning side B with a fluidity that seems to extend to the conceptual. Yes, it’s still easy to get lost in what they’re doing if that’s the way you want to go, but doing so misses out on moments like the cascading river of tone in “VI.I” as it moves toward its conclusion, or the gradual opening of “VI.II,” with a bouncing, almost playful guitar leading the way accompanied by quiet but nuanced drums.

papir

I’m not going to try to dissuade anyone from listening to VI however they want, but to just float off on Clausen‘s “VI.III” bassline misses some of the exceptional details surrounding and obvious care the band have put into crafting their work. I guess what’s most called for, then, are multiple listens. So be it. The chemistry between Sørensen, Clausen and Christensen makes that a pleasurable undertaking, to be sure, and hey, if every now and again one might return to VI for a bit of escapism, I’m nobody to call it wrong. The point is that what Papir have created something that’s worth conscious interaction. Once you’ve done that, however you want to spend your time is up to you. Perhaps most crucial, they invite multiple listens in no small part through the accessibility of these tracks and the quicker runtime of the entire affair. You could put it on twice in less than the time it would take to listen to V once. That’s a considerable change, but it shows that growth doesn’t always have to mean just doing things bigger.

Indeed, I’ll gladly argue that VI is Papir‘s most progressive work to-date in no small part because they’ve taken such a conscious step to allow for easier audience engagement. Their material is still plenty far out, of course. The jazz drumming in “VI.IV” and the consuming effects that surround it demonstrate that plainly enough. But they make it so easy to listen. And to listen again, and to listen again. It’s not just about being shorter. That’s a piece of it, but even the songs themselves seem to flesh out in a way that signals Papir reaching a new sphere of expression. They are memorable even without verse or chorus hooks, and the atmosphere they set rests easily atop the entire LP as a welcome presence. Their style has always been exploratory, and that holds true here as well, but VI is as much about being in a place as it is about finding somewhere new to go. One can hear a certain restlessness in “VI.IV” as it rounds out the album with a last, well-earned payoff and crashes out quickly to end, and that’s consistent with what Papir have done in the past, but the difference is in the context through which that moment arises.

If by the end of VI the band are ready to head elsewhere, well, they should be, but that doesn’t diminish the ground they’ve covered in the songs preceding. Rather, across “VI.I,” “VI.II,” “VI.III” and “VI.IV,” they poetically ask their listeners to join them in this space they’ve created. That they don’t ultimately stay there shouldn’t be a surprise — they’ve done nothing to this point in their career that one would call static — but there is a sense throughout of having arrived on the part of the band, and if that’s part of how their maturity comes through in the material, then it finds Papir with an individualized take born of an organic development in their sound that’s played out over their records to this point, getting them to where they are. As to where they might go, the only guess I’d hazard is “forward,” since that’s where they’ve always gone. More important for the moment is what they’ve accomplished here in terms of positioning themselves among upper echelon of European heavy psychedelia.

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Papir Blogspot

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Papir Set May 10 Release for VI; Preorders up Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

papir

If life ever puts you in the position of being in the same place where Papir are playing, you should make every effort to watch them play. Fortunately for everyone else, they do a fair amount of recording. VI, sure enough, is their sixth album since they got their start in 2010, and its four-track LP self follows behind 2017’s mega-expansive stunner, V (review here). That, of course, was a 2LP — no single platter could contain it. Does the shift back to a single-vinyl release indicate perhaps that the Danish trio have likewise reined in their sound to some degree or other? And what effect might that have on the overall result of the record? I said as much when they hit the studio in December, but god damn I’m curious to hear this album. The only thing I was willing to predict about it was the title, and as there’s no audio public from it yet, that remains the case.

Art and info follow from the PR wire:

papir vi

New Papir album VI on presale

release date: May 10th, 2019

Papir, a trio from Copenhagen, might be the ultimate expression of the Danish creative soul: distinctively modern, deceptively minimalistic, and stylish yet understated. A band of virtuoso musicians who move between psychedelic rock, jazz and krautrock seamlessly with the ability to hypnotize audiences, Papir could easily be the showboats of the scene. However, since the appearance of their self-titled record in 2010, Papir have continued to follow their own road map, creating music with little interest in playing to the masses or catering to a specific genre.

On VI, Papir show a mastery of all their faces, combining the guitar heroics of their first few records with the more lush sound of 2017’s V. From epic psychedelic guitar meltdowns à la Earthless to sweeping, reverb-drenched soundscapes, it’s all here and held together by a core of dense rhythm and melody. In a mere 4 songs, Papir once again refresh tired ears with their unmistakable approach to rock music, leaving the listener blissed rather than bludgeoned.

Available on 180gr clear vinyl + download code and on CD.

Tracklist
VI.I
VI.II
VI.III
VI.IV

Preorder here: https://www.stickman-records.com/shop/papir-vi/

Papir is:
Nicklas Sørensen
Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen
Christian Becher Clausen

https://www.facebook.com/papirband
https://papir.bandcamp.com/
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Papir, V (2017)

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Heilung to Release Futha June 28; Teaser Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 28th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

So, I know it’s not exactly fitting with the atmosphere of the release or anything, but yesterday when the email came in with the teaser clip for Heilung‘s forthcoming second album, Futha, I was sitting at the kitchen table — as I will with the laptop — post-lunch with The Pecan and The Patient Mrs., and I put the teaser on, and the demon-voice came on, and the baby started impersonating it. I almost died. We’ve done “death metal growls” and stuff before, but he just picked up on what Heilung were doing in the minute-long clip and kind of ran with it. Needless to say, I worry about how he’ll do at pre-school.

But at least he’ll have good taste.

Heilung are way up high on my gotta-see-at-Roadburn list, and they’ve got a bunch of other dates booked as well. All info follows, courtesy of the PR wire. Teaser is at the bottom:

heilung

HEILUNG Tease Forthcoming Album, ‘Futha’

HEILUNG will be releasing their next studio album, ‘Futha,’ on June 28 via Season of Mist. The band have released a poetic album teaser in advance of the release.

The band comments, “‘Futha’ was three years in the making and was finished in the dark, Danish midwinter. But after darkness comes light, after winter comes spring, after suffering comes relief, after ‘Ofnir’ comes ‘Futha.’ Here’s what the spirits has to say about it!”

On the meaning of the album title, HEILUNG explains: “The majority of full rune set inscriptions start with ‘Futha,’ and is known to us as the first four letters in all runic alphabets. It is considered that our forefathers saw magic potential in engraving the full rune line, but there is also great significance in the beginnings. Science has no key for the meaning of only engraving the first couple of letters yet, but there is, of course, a surplus of theories. One of the theories we found inspiration in, is that ‘Futha’ holds the meaning of fertility and female gender. As ‘Ofnir’ focused on war and masculine notions, the great healing power of female wild strength is evoked in Futha. Those who have been present at a birth or have seen lionesses hunting know the spirit, and we welcome and embrace it in the sounds that were born during the creation of ‘Futha.'”

More album details will be revealed soon. In the meantime, you can purchase merch and their last album, ‘Ofnir,’ HERE.

HEILUNG have previously announced a European tour in October and November this year. The tour will kick off on October 22nd in Warsaw (PL) and will end about a month later in Paris (FR). Find the full list of tour dates below.

HEILUNG Festival Performances 2019:
04/11: Tilburg (NL) @ Roadburn Festival
04/17: St. Petersburg (RU) @ Aurora
04/19: Moscow (RU) @ Arbat Hall
06/20: Copenhagen (DK) @ Copenhell Festival 2019 (Exact date TBA)
06/29: Helsinki (FI) @ Tuska 2019 (Exact date TBA)
08/18: Borre (NO) @ Midgardsblot 2019 (Exact date TBA)
09/07: Selb (DE) @ Mediaval Festival 2019 (Exact date TBA)
10/19: Hameln (DE) @ Autumn Moon Festival 2019 (Exact date TBA)

HEILUNG European tour:
10/22: Palladium (PL) @ Warschau
10/24: Berlin (DE) @ Admiralspalast
10/26: Essen (DE) @ Colosseum Theater
10/28: Munich (DE) @ Circus Krone
10/30: Prague (CZ) @ Hybernia
11/01: Halle (DE) @ Händelhalle
11/03: Vienna (AT) @ Der Globe
11/05: Zurich (CH) @ Volkshaus
11/07: Kiel (DE) @ Kieler Schloss
11/10: London (UK) @ Roundhouse
11/17: Brussels (BE) @ AB
11/20: Paris (FR) @ Elysée Montmartre

Line-up
Kai Uwe Faust
Christopher Juul
Maria Franz

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Heilung, Futha album teaser

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Demon Head, Hellfire Ocean Void: Own the Hour

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

demon head hellfire ocean void

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

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

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

demon head

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

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

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

Demon Head, Hellfire Ocean Void (2019)

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Altar of Oblivion Set April 26 Release for The Seven Spirits; New Song Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

altar of oblivion

It’s been seven years since Altar of Oblivion released their second album, Grand Gesture of Defiance (review here), and apparently the Danish outfit decided that’s long enough. The Seven Spirits will be issued backed by the ever-reliable taste of Shadow Kingdom Records this coming Spring, and they’re advancing its arrival and marking the opening of preorders by streaming the title-track now. You can take a listen at the bottom of this post, because that’s how it goes, and dig into the very metal cover art and album info below.

Of course, it all comes courtesy of the PR wire:

altar of oblivion the seven spirits

ALTAR OF OBLIVION set release date for long-awaited new SHADOW KINGDOM album, reveal first track

Shadow Kingdom Records sets April 26th as the international release date for Altar of Oblivion’s massively anticipated third album, The Seven Spirits, on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats.

Altar of Oblivion are simply one of the best pure METAL bands around right now. The Danish kings proved it with 2012’s classic Grand Gesture of Defiance album, they proved it with the teasingly short Barren Grounds EP in 2016, and they prove it more than ever with The Seven Spirits. Arguably more so than any of their no-less-considerable and widely celebrated records, here Altar of Oblivion skillfully glide from morose ‘n’ mournful DOOM to absolutely EPIC and daresay regal traditional metal, safely evading any cliches or easy classification whilst reverently adding to the rich and enduring lexicon of heavy metal. If anything, this is as close to total ’80s metal as the band have gotten – but as always, done in that special Altar of Oblivion way.

In many ways, each of the seven tracks comprising The Seven Spirits is a tale in its own right, rife with both bloodlust and tragedy, redemption and remorse. They wind along many roads, some darker than others, with a robust ‘n’ rumbling heft that’s simply Altar of Oblivion’s heaviest production to date. And yet, for all this fleet-footed thunder, those seven songs remain as passionate and emotional as anything around. Just hearing Mik Mentor’s pipes is believing, and on The Seven Spirits, the frontman delivers a performance like no other. These songs could bring you to tears – or galvanize you to conquer any foe before you. The choice is yours across these 41 unforgettable minutes!

Seven years is an interminable length of time between albums, but when the standards are as high as they are with Altar of Oblivion, there’s just no arguing against perfection. Behold The Seven Spirits and bow before their majesty! Begin bowing with the new title track “The Seven Spirits” HERE at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp, where the album can be preordered. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Altar of Oblivion’s The Seven Spirits
1. Created in the Fires of Holiness
2. No One Left
3. Gathering at the Wake
4. The Seven Spirits
5. Language of the Dead
6. Solemn Messiah
7. Grand Gesture of Defiance

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Altar of Oblivion, The Seven Spirits (2019)

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Øresund Space Collective, Kybalion: Augmenting Reality

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

oresund space collective kybalion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Øresund Space Collective, Kybalion AR demonstration

Øresund Space Collective, Kybalion (2018)

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