Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Mutant Flesh, War Cloud, Void of Sleep, Pretty Lightning, Rosy Finch, Ghost Spawn, Agrabatti, Dead Sacraments, Smokemaster

Posted in Reviews on March 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Alarm went off this morning at 3:45. Got up, flicked on the coffee pot, turned the heat on in the house, hit the bathroom and was back in bed in four minutes with an alarm set for 4:15. Didn’t really get back to sleep, but the half-hour of being still was a kind of pre-waking meditation that I appreciated just the same. Was dozing when the alarm went off the second time, but it’s day two of the Quarterly Review, so no time to doze. No time for anything, as is the nature of these blocks of writeups. They tend to be all-consuming while they’re going on. Could be worse. Let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Khemmis, Doomed Heavy Metal

khemmis doomed heavy metal

Denver four-piece Khemmis have made themselves one of the most distinctive acts in metal, to say nothing of doom. With strong vocal harmonies out front backed by similarly-minded guitars, the band bring a sense of poise to doom that’s rare in the modern sphere, somewhat European in influence, but less outwardly adherent to the genre tenets of melancholy. They refuse to be Paradise Lost, in other words, and are all the more themselves for that. Their Doomed Heavy Metal EP (on 20 Buck Spin and Nuclear Blast) is a stopgap after 2018’s Desolation (review here) full-length, but at 38 minutes and six songs, it’s substantial nonetheless, headlined by the Dio cover “Rainbow in the Dark” — capably done with just a flair of Slough Feg — with a take on Lloyd Chandler‘s “A Conversation with Death” and “Empty Throne,” both rare-enough studio cuts, for backing, as well as three live cuts that cover their three-to-date albums. The growls on “Three Gates” are fun, but I’ll still take the Dio cover as the highlight. For a cobbled-together release, it feels at least like a bit of thoughtful fan-service, and really, a band could do worse than to serve their fans thoughtfully.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin store

Nuclear Blast Records store

 

Mutant Flesh, Evil Eye

mutant flesh evil eye

There are shades of doom metal’s origins underlying Mutant Flesh‘s first release, the eight-song/33-minute Evil Eye, but the Philly troupe are too gleeful in their weirdness ultimately to be paying full homage to the likes of Witchfinder General, and especially in a faster song like second cut “Meteoric” and the subsequent lead-guitar-flipout-and-vocal-soar title-track, they tap into the defiantly doomed vibe of earliest Saint Vitus. That’s true of the crawling “Euthanasia” as well, which crashes and nods as it approaches the six-minute mark as the longest inclusion here, but even the penultimate “Blight” brings that twisted-BlackFlag-noise-slowed-down spirit that lets you know there’s consciousness behind the chaos, and that while Mutant Flesh might seem to be all-the-way-gone, they’re really just getting started. Maybe their sound will even out over time, maybe it won’t, but for what it’s worth, they do ragged doom well from the opening “Leviathan (Lord of the Labyrinth)” onward, and feel right at home in the unhinged.

Mutant Flesh on Thee Facebooks

Mutant Flesh on Bandcamp

 

War Cloud, Earhammer Sessions

war cloud earhammer sessions

Having just shredded their way across Europe, War Cloud took their set into the Earhammer Studio with Greg Wilkinson at the helm in an attempt to capture the band in top form on their home turf. Did it work? The results on Earhammer Sessions (Ripple Music) don’t wait around for you to decide. They’re too busy kicking ass to take names, and if the resulting 29-minute burst is even half of what they brought to the stage on that tour, those must’ve been some goddamn shows. Songs like “White Lightning” and the snare-counted-in “Speed Demon” and “Striker” feel like they’re being given their due in the max-speed-NWOBHM-but-still-too-classy-to-be-thrash presentation, and honestly, this feels like War Cloud have found their method. If they don’t tour their next album and then hit the studio after and lay it down live, or at least as live as Earhammer Sessions is — one never knows as regards overdubs and isolation booths and all that — they’re doing themselves a disservice. War Cloud play metal. So what? So this.

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Void of Sleep, Metaphora

Void of Sleep Metaphora

Void of Sleep return after half a decade with the prog-doom stylings of their third album, Metaphora (Aural Music), which stretches dramatically through songs like “Iron Mouth” (11:00), preceded by the intro “The Famine Years” and the shorter “Unfair Judgements,” preceded by the intro “Waves of Discomfort,” and still somehow manage not to sound out of place tapping into their inner Soilwork in the growled verses/clean choruses of “Master Abuser.” They get harsh a bit as well on “Tides of the Mourning,” which uses its 10:30 to summarize the bulk of the proceedings and close out the record after “Modern Man,” but that song has more of a scope and feels looser structurally for that. Still, that shift is only one of several throughout Metaphora, which follows the Italian five-piece’s 2015 LP, New World Order (discussed here), and wherever Void of Sleep are headed at any given moment, they head there with a duly controlled presence. Clearly their last five years have not been wasted.

Void of Sleep on Thee Facebooks

Aural Music store

 

Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls

pretty lightning jangle bowls

As yet, Germany’s Pretty Lightning remain a well kept secret of fuzz-psych-blues nuance, digging out their own niche-in-a-niche-in-a-niche microgenre with a natural and inadvertent-feeling sense of just writing the songs they want to write. Jangle Bowls, which puts its catchy, semi-garage title-track early in the proceedings, is the duo’s second offering through Fuzz Club Records behind 2017’s The Rhythm of Ooze (review here), and seem to present a mission statement in opener “Swamp Ritual” before bringing a due sense of excursion to “Boogie at the Shrine” — damn that’s a smooth groove — and reviving the movement in “RaRaRa,” which follows. Closer “Shovel Blues” is a highlight for how it drifts into oblivion, but the underlying tightness of craft in “123 Eternity” and “Hum” is an appeal as well, so it’s a tradeoff. But it’s one I’ll be glad to make across multiple repeat visits to Jangle Bowls while wondering how long this particular secret can actually be kept.

Pretty Lightning on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Club Records store

 

Rosy Finch, Scarlet

rosy finch scarlet

The painted-blood-red cover of Rosy Finch‘s second album, Scarlet (on Lay Bare Recordings), and horror-cinema-esque design isn’t a coincidence in terms of atmosphere, but the Spanish trio bring a more aggressive feel to the nine-track outing overall than they did to their 2016 debut, Witchboro (review here), with additional crunch in the guitar of Mireia Porto (also vocals and bass) and bassist Elena Garcia, and a forward kick drum from Lluís Mas that hammers home the impact of a cruncher like “Ruby” and even seems to ground the more melodic “Alizarina,” which follows, let alone the crushing opener/longest track (immediate points) “Oxblood” or its headspinning closing companion “Dark Cherry,” after which follows the particularly intense hidden cut “Lady Bug,” also not to be missed. Anger suits Rosy Finch, it seems, and the band bring a physicality to the songs on Scarlet that only reinforces the sonic push.

Rosy Finch on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings store

 

Ghost Spawn, The Haunting Continuum

Ghost Spawn The Haunting Continuum

Brutal, gurgling doom-of-death pervades The Haunting Continuum from Denver one-man-unit Ghost Spawn, and while the guitar late in “Escaping the Mortal Flesh” seems momentarily to offer some hope of salvation, rest assured, it doesn’t last, and the squibbly central riff returns with its extremity to prove once more that only death is real. Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Kevin Berstler is the lone culprit behind the project’s first full-length and second release overall (also second this year, so he would seem to work quickly), and across 43 minutes that only grow more grueling as they proceed through the centerpiece title-track and into “The Terrors that Plague Nightly” and the desolate incantations of “Exiled to the Realm of Eternal Rot,” there are some hints of cleaner grunts that have made their way through — a kind of repeated “hup” vocalization — but this too is swallowed in the miasma of cave-echo guitar, drums-from-out-of-the-abyss, and raw-as-peeled-flesh production. Can’t get behind that? Probably you and 99.9 percent of the rest of humanity. For us slugs, though, it’s just about right.

Ghost Spawn on Thee Facebooks

Ghost Spawn on Bandcamp

 

Agrabatti, Beyond the Sun

agrabatti beyond the sun

It’s kosmiche thrust and watery vibes when Agrabatti go Beyond the Sun. What’s there upon arrival? Nothing less than a boogie down with Hawkwind at the helm of a spacey spaced-out space rocking chopper that you shouldn’t even be able to hear the revving engine of in space and yet somehow you can. Also synth, pulsating riffs and psych-as-all-golly-gosh awakenings. Formed in 2009 by Chad Davis — then just out of U.S. Christmas, already at that point known for his work in Hour of 13 and a swath of other projects across multiple genres — and with songs begun to come together at that time only to be shelved ahead of recording this year, Beyond the Sun sat seemingly in some unreachable strata of anomalous subspace, for 11 years before being rediscovered from its time-loop like Kelsey Grammer in that one episode of TNG, and gorgeously spread across the quadrant in its five-cut run, with its cover of the aforementioned Hawkwind‘s “Born to Go” so much at home among its companions it feels like, baby, it’s already gone. Do you need sunglasses in the void? Shit yeah you do.

Agrabatti on Thee Facebooks

Agrabatti on Bandcamp

 

Dead Sacraments, Celestial Throne

Dead Sacraments Celestial Throne

Four sprawling doom epics comprise the 2019 debut album — and apparently debut release — from Illinois four-piece Dead Sacraments, who themselves are comprised from three former members of atmospheric sludgers Angel Eyes, who finished their run in 2011 but released the posthumous Things Have Learnt to Walk That Ought to Crawl (review here). Those are guitarist Brendan Burchell, bassist Nader Cheboub and drummer Ryan Croson, and together with apparently-self-harmonizing vocalist/guitarist Mark Mazurek, they cast a doom built on largesse in tone and scope alike, given an air of classic-metal grandiosity but filtered through a psych-doom modernity that feels aware of what the likes of Pallbearer and Khemmis have done for the genre. Nonetheless, as a first record, Celestial Throne shines its darkness brightly across its no-song-under-nine-minutes-long lumber, and affirms the righteousness of doom with a genuine sense of reach at its disposal.

Dead Sacraments on Thee Facebooks

Dead Sacraments on Bandcamp

 

Smokemaster, Smokemaster

smokemaster smokemaster

The languid and trippy spirit in opener “Solar Flares” is something of a misdirect on the part of organ-laced, Cologne-based heavy rockers Smokemaster, who go on to boogie down through songs like “Trippin’ Blues” before jamming out classic heavy blues-style on “Ear of the Universe.” I’m not saying they don’t have their psychedelic aspects, but there’s plenty of movement behind what they do as well, and the setup they give with the first two cuts is effective in throwing off the first-time listener’s expectation. A pastoral instrumental “Sunrise in the Canyon” leads off side B after, and comes backed by “Astronaut of Love” (yup, a lovestronaut) and “Astral Traveller,” which find an engaging midpoint between the ground and the great beyond, synth and keys pushing outward in the finale even as the bass and drums keep it tethered to a central groove. It’s a formula that’s worked many times over the last half-century, but it works here too, and Smokemaster‘s Smokemaster makes a right-on introduction to the German newcomers.

Smokemaster on Thee Facebooks

Tonzonen Records store

 

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Khemmis to Release Doomed Heavy Metal EP April 17; Post Live Dio Cover

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 16th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

khemmis

Bold move for any band to take on Dio, but Denver’s Khemmis aren’t really strangers to bold moves, so fair enough. And “Rainbow in the Dark,” no less. One salutes the chutzpah factor alone, never mind the actual outcome of the track. The hard-touring four-piece are allegedly getting ready to hit the road in Europe — as much as there will be a road in Europe to hit, pending government lockdowns owing to COVID-19, tour cancellations and so on — and will play both Monolith on the Mesa and Psycho Las Vegas later this Spring and Summer, and the doomed heavy metallers’ new EP, uh, well, Doomed Heavy Metal, is set to arrive April 17 through Nuclear Blast and 20 Buck Spin.

The EP brings together a studio version of the Dio cover with a couple other odds and ends and a live song from each of their records. Preorders and pre-saves — which I suspect will soon be a common-enough thing that I’ll eventually drop that hyphen: “presaves” — are available, with Nuclear Blast handling the digi end and 20 Buck Spin doing physical manifestation.

Doomed Heavy Metal. Kind of says it all, right?

To the PR wire:

khemmis doomed heavy metal

KHEMMIS Unveil New Mini-Album Entitled, Doomed Heavy Metal + Release New Live Video For Their DIO Cover Of “Rainbow In The Dark”

Pre-Order Your Digital Copy Here: https://geni.us/KhemmisDHM

Denver, Colorado based doomed heavy metal quartet KHEMMIS unveil their new mini-album, Doomed Heavy Metal, which will be released digitally on April 17th via Nuclear Blast.

The band comments: “As lifelong fans of ZZ TOP, ‘Fandango’ has been a consistent source of inspiration for the four of us. The combination of high-octane live cuts and rare studio recordings make the release stand out in the band’s discography. In that tradition, we are thrilled to announce Doomed Heavy Metal. This mini-album is similarly unique, combining sought-after singles and live cuts together on one record. We’ve topped it all off with a newly recorded version of DIO’s immortal ‘Rainbow in the Dark.’ For those who have clamored for the rerelease of the long out of print Empty Throne and Conversation with Death, your calls have been answered. We hope new and old fans alike will pick up the album, pour a tall glass of their favorite beverage, and party with us!”

Doomed Heavy Metal, is a unique collection of songs from the quartet. Side A includes a brand new cover of “Rainbow in the Dark” as well as a pair of rare singles–“A Conversation with Death” from the band’s 7″ split with SPIRIT ADRIFT and “Empty Throne” from the Decibel Magazine Flexi Series. Side B highlights the power and emotional intensity the group wields onstage with a selection of live recordings from 2018’s Two Nights of Doomed Heavy Metal showcasing one song from each of KHEMMIS’ albums.

Below is the Doomed Heavy Metal track list:

1. Rainbow In The Dark (DIO Cover)
2. A Conversation With Death
3. Empty Throne
4. Bloodletting (Live)
5. Three Gates (Live)
6. The Bereaved (Live)

Pre-order your digital copy of Doomed Heavy Metal album here: https://geni.us/KhemmisDHM
Pre-save the album on Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer: https://nblast.de/KhemmisPreSave

The band will also have LP’s / CD’s available for pre-sale at https://www.20buckspin.com/khemmis.

Catch KHEMMIS on THE DESOLATE ROAD TO DESERTFEST TOUR MMXX. confirmed dates are below:
04/23 Kassel (ger) – Goldgrube
04/24 Berlin (ger) – Wild At Heart
04/25 Copenhagen (dk) – Stengade
04/26 Kiel (ger) – Schaubude
04/28 Aalborg (dk) – 1000Fryd
04/29 Hamburg (ger) – Hafenklang
04/30 Dortmund (ger) – Musiktheater
05/01 Lüttich (b) – La Zone
05/02 London (uk) – Underworld (Desertfest)

Other dates:
5/30 Taos, NM – Monolith on the Mesa
6/20 Denver, CO – TRVE Brewing Anniversary Bacchanal
8/14-8/16 – Las Vegas, NV – Psycho Las Vegas

http://www.facebook.com/khemmisdoom
http://khemmis.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/nuclearblastusa
http://instagram.com/nuclearblastusa
https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/index.html
https://www.nuclearblast.de/en/

Khemmis, “Rainbow in the Dark” official live video

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Desert Records Announces Legends of the Desert Splits; Lord Buffalo & Palehorse/Palerider Due Jun 12

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Albuquerque-based imprint Desert Records would seem to be working on the Ripple Music model in terms of embarking on a new series of splits, which it has opted to call Legends of the Desert, and you might note that the first installment of the series — which isn’t to be confused with that of the same name run by H42 Records to coincide with Desertfest London and Berlin — comes with a definitive end date in mind as well. Given production schedules and the fact that this isn’t all Desert Records is planning to put out in that time, seven vinyl releases of any sort over two years is an ambitious undertaking, as I think PostWax could probably confirm if Ripple can’t, but they’ve got their modus in the right place with the first pairing, which brings together Austin’s Lord Buffalo and Denver’s Palehorse/Palerider and is due out June 12.

You ever have one of those bands you avoided listening to because you knew you’d dig it and you kind of felt like maybe you didn’t have the energy to spare for the emotional commitment of actually undertaken a considered listen of their work? That’s me and Palehorse/Palerider. I knew I’d be into it, but I hadn’t actually listened to them for the first time until putting this post together. And you know what? I dig it. Not a surprise.

Desert Records sent the announcement down the PR wire. For what it’s worth, I heart-emoji Sister Bar, should you happen to be in the neighborhood:

lord buffalo

palehorse palerider

“Legends of the Desert” new album series by Desert Records

Desert Records is excited to announce a new compilation series called “Legends of the Desert”. The series kicks off on June 12th with the release featuring the split with Lord Buffalo (Austin, TX) and Palehorse/Palerider (Denver, CO).
Spanning seven albums total over the course of two years, the series will include legendary Desert Rock bands (to be announced) mixed in with new and upcoming bands.

“Legends of the Desert” meaning is a double entendre, with the most obvious referring to the legendary Desert Rock bands that will be featured throughout the series. The second meaning is “musical tales or legends of the desert”, reflected in the songs from all the bands.

The artist for the series will Joshua Mathus (Phoenix, AZ) , the creator of the comic Sherbet Lock and stunning album covers for bands over the years.

The albums will be released on limited edition 12″ Vinyl LP, deluxe CD, and on all digital platforms worldwide via Desert Records.

Each album release will be accompanied by the “Legends of the Desert release shows in each of the band’s cities.

Lord Buffalo / Palehorse/Palerider “Legends of the Desert” upcoming shows
June 26th – Albuquerque, NM – Sister Bar
June 27th – Denver, CO – High Dive

https://www.facebook.com/desertrecordslabel/
https://desertrecords.bandcamp.com/
https://desertrecords.bigcartel.com/

Lord Buffalo, Tohu Wa Bohu (2020)

Palehorse/Palerider, Fire Gone Out/Haxan (2019)

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Abrams Announce New LP Modern Ways & Stream Title-Track

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 4th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

abrams

If you don’t give them anything else, you have to give it to Denver’s Abrams on their producer choices. Both 2017’s Morning (review here) and 2015’s Lust. Love. Loss. (review here) were tracked with Andy Patterson, and their upcoming long-player, Modern Ways — out May 1 on Sailor Records — was helmed by Dave Otero, whom I’ll always remember as he who recorded Cephalic Carnage‘s Anomalies but is probably better known at this point for working with Khemmis and the like.

Fair enough for the band wanting to change things up as they approach their third full-length — at least in some regards; Morning also had cover art by the brilliant Samantha Muljat — and the first single, also the title-track, from Modern Ways finds them pushing their affinity for creating heavy-toned-and-pop-informed rock to the forefront of their sound. Expect quality songs, and a quality production. This band has set a standard for itself at this point.

Details from the PR wire:

abrams modern ways

Abrams share lead track from forthcoming third album Modern Ways

Abrams has upped the ante with their latest recording, Modern Ways. With a focus on songwriting, lyrical narrative, and addictive hooks and refrains, Abrams presents a highly focused, intensely polished sonic narrative. Written over the course of two and a half years, the album reflects the passions, pains, successes and nightmares of the members of Abrams lives.

Modern Ways will be available on vinyl and streaming services via Sailor Records on May 1st, 2020. Pre-orders are available HERE. Mixed, Mastered and Produced by Dave Otero at Flatline Audio in Westminster, CO.

Based out of Denver, Abrams was founded in 2013 as a trio. Abrams debut EP, February was released in May 2014 on No List Records. The supporting tour for this release saw the band hit the West Coast, before heading immediately into the studio to record their first full length. Lust. Love. Loss was released independently in June 2015. The remainder of the year saw Abrams tour West, East, and West again. Their follow up, Morning, came out on Sailor Records in June of 2017, which was supported by three nationwide tours for much of the remaining year.

Abrams is:
Patrick Alberts: Guitar
Zachary Amster: Guitar & Vox
Ryan Dewitt: Drums
Taylor Iversen: Bass & Vox

ABRAMS LIVE 2020:
01/29/20 Denver, CO @ Ophelia’s – Private Snowboard Industry event w/ ASG
05/02/20 Denver, CO @ Hi Dive – w/ Native Daughters and Palehorse/Palerider

Artist: Abrams
Album: Modern Ways
Record Label: Sailor Records
Release Date: May 1st, 2020
01. Modern Ways
02. Poison Bullets
03. Joshua Tree
04. That Part of Me
05.. Find a Way
06. My War
07. Silver Lake
08. Silence
09. Pale Moonlight
10. Marionette

http://www.abramsrocks.com
http://instagram.com/abramstheband
https://www.facebook.com/abramsrock
https://abramsrock.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.sailorrecords.com/
https://sailor-records.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/sailorrecords/
https://www.facebook.com/AtypeekMusic/
https://atypeek.bandcamp.com/
atypeekmusic.com/

Abrams, Modern Ways (2020)

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Quarterly Review: Dommengang, Ice Dragon, Saint Karloff, Witch Trail, Love Gang, Firebreather, Karkara, Circle of Sighs, Floral Fauna, Vvlva

Posted in Reviews on January 7th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

We begin Day Two of the Winter 2020 Quarterly Review. Snow on the ground fell overnight and the day ahead looks as busy as ever. There’s barely time to stop for sips of coffee between records, but some allowances must be made. It’s Tuesday after all. There’s still a lot of week left. And if we can’t be kind to ourselves in the post-holiday comedown of wintry gray, when can we?

So yes, pause, sip — glug, more likely — then proceed.

I don’t usually play favorites with these things, but I think today’s might have worked out to be my favorite batch of the bunch. As always, I hope you find something that speaks to you.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Dommengang, No Keys

dommengang no keys

Driving heavy psych and rock meet with spacious Americana and a suburbanite dreaminess in Dommengang‘s No Keys, the now-L.A. trio’s follow-up to 2018’s Love Jail (review here). It is a melting pot of sound, with emphasis on melting, but vocal harmonies and consistently righteous basslines like that in “Stir the Sea” act to tie the nine component tracks together, making Dommengang‘s various washes of tone ultimately the creation of a welcoming space. Early cut “Earth Blues” follows opener “Sunny Day Flooding” with a mindful far-outbound resonance, and the later “Arcularius – Burke” finds itself in a linear building pattern ahead of “Jerusalem Cricket,” which reimagines ’70s country rock as something less about nostalgia than forward possibility. Having come far on their apparently keyboard-less journey, from the breadth-casting verses of “Stir the Sea” to the doomy interlude “Blues Rot,” they end with “Happy Death (Her Blues II)” which sure as hell sounds like it has some organ on it. Either way, whether they live up to the standard of the title or not is secondary to the album’s actual achievements, which are significant, and distinguish Dommengang from would-be peers in atmosphere, craft and melody.

Dommengang on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records on Bandcamp

 

Ice Dragon, Passage of Mind

ice dragon passage of mind

Though they don’t do it nearly as often as they did between 2012 and 2015, every now and then Boston’s Ice Dragon manage to sneak out a new release. Over the last few years, that’s been a succession of singles, but Passage of Mind is their first LP since 2015’s A Beacon on the Barrow (review here), and though they’ll always in some part be thought of as a doom band, the unassuming organic psychedelia of “Don’t Know Much but the Road” reminds more of Chris Goss‘ work with Masters of Reality in its acoustic/fuzz blend and melody. The experimentalism-prone outfit have been down this avenue before as well, and it suits them, even as members have moved on to other projects (Brass Hearse among them), with the seven-minute “One of These Days” basing itself around willfully simplistic-sounding intertwining lines of higher and lower fuzz. There are moments of serenity, like closer “Dream About You” and “Sun in My Eyes,” but “The Sound the Rain Makes” is more of a blowout, and even the darker vibe of “Delirium’s Tears” holds hits melody as top priority. Hey guess what? Here’s an Ice Dragon album that deserves more attention than it’s gotten. I think it’s the 12th one.

Ice Dragon on Thee Facebooks

Ice Dragon on Bandcamp

 

Saint Karloff, Interstellar Voodoo

Saint Karloff Interstellar Voodoo

Oslo’s Saint Karloff squash the high standard they set for themselves on their 2018 debut, All Heed the Black God (review here), with the 41-minute single-song long-player Interstellar Voodoo, basking in bluesy Sabbathian grandeur and keeping a spirit of progressive adventuring beneath without giving over entirely to self-indulgent impulses any more than one could as they careen from one movement to the next in the multi-stage work. With vinyl through Majestic Mountain Records, tape on Stoner Witch Records and CD through Ozium Records, they’re nothing if not well represented, and rightly so, as they veer in and out of psychedelic terrain in exciting and periodically elephantine fashion, still making room for classic Scandi-folk boogie on side A before the second half of the track stomps all over everything that’s come before it en route to its own organ-laced jammy meandering, Iommi shuffle and circa-’74 howl. As a new generation of doom rock begins to take shape, Saint Karloff position themselves well as earlier pursuers of an individualist spirit while still drawing of course on classic sources of inspiration. The first record was encouraging. The second is more so. The third will be the real tell of who they are as a band.

Saint Karloff on Thee Facebooks

Majestic Mountain Records webstore

 

Witch Trail, The Sun Has Left the Hill

witch trail the sun has left the hill

The jangling guitar strum in centerpiece “Lucid” on Witch Trail‘s The Sun Has Left the Hill (Consouling Sounds) has the indelible mark of classic rock and roll freedom to it. One wonders if Pete Townshend would recognize it, or if it’s too far blasted into oblivion by the Belgian trio’s aesthetic treatment across The Sun Has Left the Hill‘s convention-challenging 29-minute span, comprising seven tracks that bring together a heavy alternative rock and post-black metal vision marked by spacious echoes and cavern screams that are likewise tortured and self-assured. That is to say, there’s no mistaking the intent here. In the early intensity of “Watcher” or the shimmering and more patiently unfolding “Silent Running,” the Ghent three-piece mark out their stylistic terrain between bursts of noisy chaotic wash and clearheaded execution. The six-minute “Afloat” hisses like a lost demo that would’ve rewritten genre history some 25 years ago, and even in closer “Residue,” one can’t help but feel like Witch Trail are indeed looking to leave some lasting effect behind them with such forward-thinking craft. Sure to be a shock for those who take it on with no idea of what to expect.

Witch Trail on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds website

 

Love Gang, Dead Man’s Game

love gang dead mans game

Shortly before Love Gang are halfway through the opening title-track of their debut album, Dead Man’s Game, just when you think you might have their blend of organ-laced Radio Moscow and Motörhead figured out, that’s when Leo Muñoz breaks out the flute and the whole thing takes a turn for the unexpected. Surprises abound from the Denver foursome of Muñoz (who also handles organ and sax), guitarist/vocalist Kam Wentworth, bassist Grady O’Donnell and drummer Shaun Goodwin, who find room for psychedelic airiness amidst the gallop of “Addiction,” which doesn’t seem coincidentally paired with “Break Free,” though the two don’t run together. Love Gang‘s 2016 self-titled EP (review here) had a cleaner production and less aggro throb, and there’s some of that on Dead Man’s Game in the peaceful melody of “Interlude,” but even seven-minute closer “Endless Road” makes a point of finishing at a rush, and that’s ultimately what defines the album. No complaints. Love Gang wield momentum as another element of inventive arrangement on this encouraging first long-player.

Love Gang on Thee Facebooks

Love Gang on Thee Facebooks

 

Firebreather, Under a Blood Moon

firebreather under a blood moon

‘Tis the stuff of battle axes and severed limbs, but it’s worth noting that three of the six inclusions on Firebreather‘s second LP and first for RidingEasy Records, Under a Blood Moon, have some reference to fire in their title. The follow-up to their brazen 2017 self-titled debut (review here) starts with its longest track (immediate points) in the nine-minute “Dancing Flames,” then follows immediately with “Our Souls, They Burn” and launches side B with the eponymous “Firebreather,” as the Gothenburg trio of Mattias Nööjd, Kyle Pitcher and Axel Wittbeck launch their riffy, destructive assault with urgency that earns all that scarred land left in its wake. The High on Fire comparison remains inevitable, perhaps most of all on “Firebreather” itself, but Firebreather have grown thicker in tone, meaner in approach and do nothing to shy away from the largesse that such a sound might let them convey, as “Our Souls, They Burn” and in the volume surges of closer “The Siren.” Under a Blood Moon is a definite forward step from the first LP, showing an evolving sound and burgeoning individuality that one hopes Firebreather continue to hunt down with such vigilance.

Firebreather on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records on Bandcamp

 

Karkara, Crystal Gazer

karkara crystal gazer

Presented through Stolen Body Records, the debut long-player from French trio Karkara purports to be “Oriental psych rock,” which accounts for an Eastern influence in the overall sound of its seven-track/41-minute run, but there are perhaps some geographical questions to be undertaken there, as “Camel Rider” and others show a distinctive Mideastern flair. Whatever works, I guess. At its core, Crystal Gazer is a work of psychedelic space rock, brought to bear with a duly open sensibility by guitarist/vocalist Karim Rihani (also didgeridoo), bassist Hugo Olive and drummer/vocalist Maxime Marouani as seemingly the beginning stages of a broader sonic adventure. That is to say, the stylistic aspects at play here — and they are very much “at play” — feel purposefully used, but like the foundation of what will be future growth on the part of Karkara as a unit. Will they progress along a more patient and meditative path, as “The Way” hints in some of its early roll, or will the frenetic winding of closer “Jedid” set their course for subsequent freakouts? I don’t know, but Karkara strike as a band who won’t see any point to standing still creatively any more than they do to doing so rhythmically.

Karkara on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records website

 

Circle of Sighs, Desolate

circle of sighs desolate

Information is limited on Circle of Sighs, and by that I primarily mean I don’t have any. They list their point of origin as Los Angeles, so there’s that, but as to the whos and whats, wheres and so on, it’s a mystery. Something tells me that suits the band, whose four-track debut EP, Desolate, gracefully executes a blend of melodic downerism with more extreme elements at play, melodic vocal arrangements offset by screams in the closing title-track after the prior rolling groove of “Burden of the Flesh” offered a progressive and synth-laden take on Pallbearer-style emotive doom. Acoustics, keyboard, and a clear use of multiple singers give Circle of Sighs‘ first outing a kitchen-sink feel, but one can only admire them for trying something new at their (presumed) outset, and the catchy chug of “Hold Me, Lucifer” speaks to more complex aesthetic origins than the simplistic subject matter might lead one to believe. The outlier is the penultimate nine-minute cut “Kukeri,” which broods across its first three minutes in a manner that would make Patrick Walker proud before unfolding the breadth of its lumber and arrangement, harmonies and screams and the first real showcase of more extreme impulses taking hold in its second half — plus strings, maybe — which “Desolate” itself will build upon after a bookending acoustic close. There’s some sorting out to do in terms of sound, but already they show a readiness to push in their own direction, and that’s more than it would seem reasonable to ask.

Circle of Sighs on Thee Facebooks

Circle of Sighs on Bandcamp

 

Floral Fauna, Pink and Blue

floral fauna pink and blue

Way out west, Chris Allison of the band Lord Loud is taking on psychedelic shimmer under the ostensible solo moniker of Floral Fauna, but the situation of the project’s 11-tracker debut LP, Pink and Blue is more complicated in personnel and style than that, melding fuzzy presence, classic ’60s surf-tone, rampant hooky melody and ready-to-go-anywhere-as-long-as-it-works pop experimentalism together in a steaming lysergic cauldron of neo-yourface-ism that’s ether blissed enough to tie funk and ancient R&B to cosmic flow together in a manner that feels like an utter tossoff, like, hey, yeah man, this kind of thing just happens all the time here. You know, no big deal on this wavelength. Mellow dreams in “Great White Silence,” a spacey ramble in “Velvet and Jade” and the echoing leadwork of “Red Anxiety” continue the color theme from the opening title-track, and the record caps with “Herds of Jellyfish,” which at last brings forward the vocal harmony that the whole album seems to have been begging for. Cool debut? Shit, man. It’s 36 minutes of straight-up psych joy just waiting to bring you on board. Legal psilocybin now.

Floral Fauna on Thee Facebooks

King Volume Records on Bandcamp

 

Vvlva, Silhouettes

vvlva silhouettes

There are a couple things you can figure on in this wacky universe, and one of them is that German imprint World in Sound knows what it’s doing when it picks up a classic heavy rock band. Silhouettes is the second long-player the label has released from woefully-monikered Aschaffenburg-based four-piece Vvlva, and indeed in the upfront boogie of “Cosmic Pilgrim” or the more progressive unfolding of pieces like “Tales Told by a Gray Man,” the centerpiece “Gomorrah,” or the longer “Night by Night/The Choir” and “Dance of the Heathens,” which seem to bring the two sides together, there’s enough vintage influence to make the case once again. Like the more forward thinking of their contemporaries, Vvlva have brought this modus into the present when it comes to production value and clarity, and rather than sound like it’s 1973, they would seem to be making 1973 sound like them. Whether one dives in for the early hooks in “Cosmic Pilgrim” or “What Do I Stand For?” or the fuzzy interplay between the solo and organ in the maddeningly bouncing “Hobos,” there’s plenty in Silhouettes to demonstrate the vitality and continued evolution of the style.

Vvlva on Thee Facebooks

World in Sound website

 

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Love Gang Release Debut LP Dead Man’s Game Today

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

love gang

Working with such classic themes as getting wasted and playing metal, Love Gang‘s first album, Dead Man’s Game, is out today through the band’s own Colfax Records imprint. and it’s a banger in the classic tradition thereof. Actually, it’s kind of a lot of things in the classic tradition. The flute shows up — whew — early and often, and does so amid killer riffs, gravel-throat vocals and an abiding sense that these dudes recorded in between getting off one stage and getting on another, which is just how it should be. Comprised of nine tracks with names like “Addiction” and “Heavy Metal Thunder” and “The Nightwalker,” it’s next-generation metallic rock that wants to be the kind of album you tell your friends about. So friends, I’m telling you. It’s out today.

They’re touring out west next month, including dates with Mothership, which I think once you listen to the record you’ll agree is a sick-ass pairing.

Have at you:

love gang dead mans game

Love Gang debut LP release

Love Gang self-release our debut LP ‘Dead Man’s Game’ Friday 9/13 via Colfax Records on all streaming platforms, and there will be 300 caramel vinyl. Vinyl sales start 9/13 and all order will ship by early October. Recorded by Ben Thompson, mastered by Dennis Pleckham (Comatose Studios, Bongripper).

Formed in 2015, Love Gang is a high-energy rock ‘n roll band based out of Denver, Colorado. Influenced by the obscure and underground rock of the 70s, Love Gang is a throwback to the golden days of rock when amps were loud, hair was long, and the drugs were cheap.

Focusing on concise songwriting and an energetic live show, Love Gang is a rock ‘n roll band at its’ core with bits of psychedelia thrown in for good measure. Propelled by wailing guitars and overdriven organ, Love Gang holds nothing back, each song going full-speed ahead full of blues boogie and hard-hitting rock ‘n roll.

Love Gang toured with Wolfmother as direct support on their most recent US dates last fall and have an upcoming tour, half of which will be supporting Mothership:

Love Gang tour dates:
10/09 Albany, CA @ Ivy Room
10/10 Santa Cruz, CA @ Poet and Patriot Irish Pub
10/11 Oceanside, CA @ Black Plague Brewery
10/12 Los Angeles, CA @ The Monty
10/13 Las Vegas, NV @ Bunkhouse Saloon*
10/14 Mesa, AZ @ Club Red*
10/16 Colorado Springs, CO @ Black Sheep*
10/17 Denver, CO @ Streets of London*
*w/ Mothership

Love Gang is:
Kameron Wentworth: guitar, vox
Leo Muñoz: organ, flute, saxophone
Grady O’Donnell: bass guitar
Shaun Goodwin: drums

http://www.facebook.com/lovegangco
https://www.instagram.com/lovegangco/
https://lovegangco.bandcamp.com/

Love Gang, Dead Man’s Game (2019)

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Khemmis Announce December West Coast Dates with Un

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

khemmis

The mighty force of metallic melancholy known as Khemmis will finish out 2019 with a nine-day run down the West Coast, the band taking unto themselves the potentially arduous task of driving through the Rockies in wintertime in order to get from their home in Denver through Utah and Idaho before hitting the more temperate coastline and circling south, ending up where they began with a hometown show at Bluebird Theater on Dec. 14. They’re joined in the endeavor by Un from Seattle, and I can’t help but wonder if this might tie into news of a new album coming next year, either in February, when the music industry returns to life after its winter hibernation, or sometime in Spring. Depends on when they record, duh, but as I haven’t seen news one way or the other about that — doesn’t mean it hasn’t been out there, just that it’s a thing I don’t know — I obviously can’t speak to it. One way or the other, I’d categorize a new LP from them in 2020 as “likely.”

But if “definite” is more your thing, they’re definitely touring. Here are the dates:

khemmis un poster

KHEMMIS Announce West Coast Desolation Tour 2019!

Denver, Colorado based doomed heavy metal quartet KHEMMIS are proud to announce their West Coast Desolation Tour 2019. The 9-date tour will kick-off on December 16th in Salt Lake City and conclude in Denver, Colorado on December 14th. Joining the band on the tour is Seattle funeral doom warlocks UN.

KHEMMIS comments, “After the success of the first leg of the North American Desolation Tour we are thrilled to announce the West Coast Desolation Tour a nine-date headlining trek with support from Seattle funeral doom warlocks UN. We will conclude the outing with a very special hometown show–our only one this year–featuring a rare local appearance by black metal hellions WAYFARER. Tickets for all shows will go on sale this Friday, we’ll see all of you on the road this winter!”

Tickets will be available for purchase on Friday, August 23 at 10AM PST. For more information visit: www.khemmisdoom.com

Confirmed dates for the KHEMMIS West Coast Desolation Tour 2019 with special guests UN are:
12/06/2019 Salt Lake City UT • Soundwell
12/07/2019 Boise ID • Neurolux
12/08/2019 Seattle WA • The Highline
12/09/2019 Portland OR • Doug Fir Lounge
12/10/2019. Oakland CA • Starline Social Club
12/11/2019 Los Angeles CA • The Echo
12/12/2019 San Diego CA • Brick By Brick
12/13/2019 Phoenix AZ • Club Red
12/14/2019 Denver CO • Bluebird Theater (w/ Wayfarer)

Khemmis are:
Phil Pendergast // guitar, vocals
Ben Hutcherson // guitar, vocals
Daniel Beiers // bass
Zach Coleman // drums

http://www.facebook.com/khemmisdoom
http://khemmis.bandcamp.com
www.nuclearblast.de/
https://www.facebook.com/nuclearblastusa

Khemmis, “Isolation” official video

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Friday Full-Length: 16 Horsepower, Folklore

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

16 Horsepower, Folklore (2002)

I suppose the first question when it comes to 16 Horsepower‘s fourth and final long-player, Folklore, is whether it’s an album, since less than half of it is original material from the band. Based in Denver, Colorado, the band got their start in 1992 and would release Folklore a decade later through Glitterhouse and Jetset Records, even as frontman/principal songwriter David Eugene Edwards had already begun his next project, Wovenhand. With Folklore, Edwards and the original trio lineup of the band — drummer Jean-Yves Tola and bassist Pascal Humbert — came together to work seemingly in direct defiance to their preceding full-length, 2000’s Secret South, which had adopted a more modern style to what’s been lazily dubbed “alt country” but is really a much richer sonic pastiche, drawing from Americana, goth, folk, indeed country, rock and gospel. One might see Folklore as 16 Horsepower reclaiming their central influences in taking on traditional songs as well as Hank Williams‘ “Alone and Forsaken” and The Carter Family‘s rousing “Single Girl,” but they never fail to make any of this starting material their own, and their sound is one of such character and depth of arrangement that their take still remains original, whether it’s the accusatory “Sinnerman” late in the record or the stirring narrative of “Outlaw Song” earlier.

Of the 10 tracks, opener “Hutterite Mile,” “Blessed Persistence,” “Beyond the Pale” and the penultimate “Flutter” are 16 Horsepower compositions, credited to the band and Edwards specifically. “Outlaw Song,” “Sinnerman” and the French-language closer “La Robe a Parasol” are folk songs, and the other two inclusions are as noted above. What keeps Folklore from being an EP packed with covers, basically, is that the originals are spread across the two sides, with “Hutterite Mile” beginning the album with a deep sense of foreboding and downtrodden heart, while “Blessed Persistence” uses snare drum for tension amid strings later while its early moment jabs in jazzy fashion behind Edwards‘ vocals, keys, harmonies and so on fleshing out an arrangement that sounds minimal and isn’t at all. Elements come and go throughout — the organ on “Hutterite Mile,” the telltale banjo of “Outlaw Song,” the consuming cello in the chorus of “Alone and Forsaken,” and the chorus of voices on “Single Girl” on side A, piano and backward cymbals on “Beyond the Pale,” string drones on “Horse Head Fiddle,” acoustic guitar in “Sinnerman,” piano and strings on “Flutter” and accordion on “La Robe a Parasol” on side B — but the entire spirit of Folklore is about nothing so much as the songs themselves. That is, though Edwards is a significant presence on guitar, banjo, vocals, and so on, even he seems to approach this material with a sense of reverence. And fair 16 horsepower folkloreenough, since that goes back to 16 Horsepower returning to their roots, but the care and craft put into making these tracks still can’t be called anything other than progressive in the final result, whatever other genre tags with which one might want to saddle them. There are many that would apply, if incompletely.

Each half of Folklore ends in joy. “Single Girl” arrives after the gorgeous and sad “Alone and Forsaken” and takes the country strum of the Carter Family original and layers Edwards‘ vocals on top for a loyalist chorus effect that begs singing along. Likewise, “La Robe a Parasol” appears after arguably the darkest stretch of material 16 Horsepower ever produced in “Beyond the Pale,” “Horse Head Fiddle,” “Sinnerman” and “Flutter.” Certainly there’s a groove underlying “Horse Head Fiddle” and “Flutter,” but the emotional and atmospheric weight with which they’re executed is crushing, and “La Robe a Parasol” offers 2:15 of escapist snare-brush shuffle and accordion, drunkard’s French and backing woops and hollers to underscore the at-the-fair feel. Side A undergoes a similar shift, to be sure, as it heads toward “Single Girl,” but “Hutterite Mile” — the lines, “It’s only misery/It’s only ankle-deep,” some of the most efficient lyric-writing I’ve ever heard — and “Outlaw Song” and “Blessed Persistence” and even “Alone and Forsaken” aren’t as dark as what the second half of Folklore has on offer. It’s a question of ambience in some respect, but side B simply pushes further into whatever unseen reaches of the American plains the band are traveling. “Horse Head Fiddle” is perhaps the most experimentalist moment on Folklore, with flute, string drones, layers of noise and vocals all too obscure to be readily discernible, and by comparison, “Sinnerman”‘s interwoven dual-track verses are resoundingly straightforward. The underlying structure of Folklore, though, is a tapestry. Of originals and choice covers and folk songs all brought into a singular context the likes of which 16 Horsepower had never built before and never would again. My understanding is that when it came out, response was mixed, but of all the work 16 Horsepower did during their time together, Folklore has arguably held up best — though I won’t take away from Secret South or 1997’s Low Estate or ’95’s Sackcloth ‘n’ Ashes either, frankly — perhaps as a result of seeming so out of its own time in the first place.

As mentioned, it’s the band’s final studio outing. They would follow it with a compilation titled Olden the next year, but by then, Edwards already had two Wovenhand releases out in the 2002 self-titled debut (discussed here) and 2003’s Blush Music, and that band would ultimately take priority, going on to issue 10 albums moving in an increasingly heavy direction from their neo-folk beginnings. The latest of those albums, 2016’s Star Treatment (review here), is the most outwardly heavy work they’ve done, but it still retains a tie both to their earlier material and to 16 Horsepower‘s roots as shown on Folklore, with Edwards‘ inimitable style as a driving force. 16 Horsepower have had periodic releases out post-breakup, with two DVDs in the mid-aughts, as well as the excellent Live March 2001 collection in 2008 and a 2CD comp of greatest hits and rare tracks, respectively, titled Yours Truly in 2011. That latter would seem to be a true signoff on the part of the band, which is fair enough, but especially listening to Folklore, it’s clear that there was still so much exploring of these ideas to do when they called it quits, even if that creative growth was taken in different directions in the years since.

I love this record.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

It’s about five-thirty in the morning. I’ve already put up two posts of the six slated for today — yesterday wound up being seven, which is a lot — and I’m still getting caught up on stuff post-Roadburn. Man, what a trip that was. So good. Every year. So good.

It happens once or twice a year that in the span of a day or two you wind up getting what you immediately know will be some of the year’s best records. For my own future reference, I’d like to note that this week albums from Slough Feg, Sun Blood Stories, Kandodo3, Slomatics, Beastwars, Zaum and Yawning Man came in for future coverage. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a week where I’ve ended up so happy to check my email.

Ah, the baby’s getting up.

Okay, I’ll keep it short then. Notes for next week, cut and paste right from the document. Next week rules:

MON 04/22 LOS MUNDOS ALBUM STREAM/GETAWAY VAN VIDEO PREMIERE

TUE 04/23 ALTAR OF OBLIVION ALBUM STREAM

WED 04/24 WORSHIPPER TRACK PREMIERE

THU 04/25 STONE MACHINE ELECTRIC REVIEW/FULL STREAM

FRI 04/26 THE WELL VIDEO PREMIERE/REVIEW

As you can see, I have no set format for these things. I just put them in all caps and hope to remember them when the time comes. Being a one-man operation has its ups and downs. Doing the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch daily fanzine at Roadburn always brings those into relief, though I will note that this year particularly made me miss having a writing staff. I don’t think I could take one on here, but yeah. That’s a good bunch of people over there and I’m fortunate to work with them.

Looks like a permanent move back to New Jersey may be in the cards for this summer. I’ll keep you posted.

More on that later, I’m sure, but for now let me go grab this poor kid and start the day. I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please don’t forget there’s merch at Dropout, and please don’t forget the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk shirts & hoodies

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