Friday Full-Length: Wovenhand, Woven Hand

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I love this album. There are certain bands where I can be relatively assured that, when I write about them, there will be just about no response whatsoever. Wovenhand is one of them. I don’t know if people just aren’t into it or if it’s not a fit stylistically or what, but I already know going into this post that I’m basically doing it for myself. Fine. Still worth it. Like I said, I love this album. As I love very few others.

Led by then-16 Horsepower frontman David Eugene Edwards, Colorado’s Wovenhand released this self-titled debut in 2002. It was a departure from the alternative roots Americana that formed the foundation of 16 Horsepower, into a vibrant and varied take on folk, heavy in presence and melody and diverse in arrangement and mood in a way that would become a signature of Wovenhand‘s approach as Edwards took on the central role of auteur and began to explore influences and instrumentation from around the world. In that regard, the 10-track/40-minute Woven Hand is relatively straightforward, with most of its songs working from a base of acoustic guitar or piano, but even in the backing drones, the plucked notes (mandolin, maybe? bouzouki?) and the percussion of “Wooden Brother,” Wovenhand‘s fascination with elements outside the standard guitar, bass and drums was well on display — though of course this was the case in 16 Horsepower as well.

The difference is one of aesthetic and craft. In the brooding “My Russia” or the lonely-banjo cover of Bill Withers‘ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Wovenhand taps into a dark, full-sounding reach that finds contrast not only in the shimmer in the guitar of “Arrowhead” or the hoedown-gone-boogie “Glass Eye,” but also in the relative minimalism of closer “Last Fist” — turn the volume way up to hear the counting cymbal crashes in the otherwise muted-sounding parts — and the echoing vocal showcase “Story and Pictures,” with its soft standout piano line and deceptive depth of acoustic guitar, keyboard and drum. Edwards‘ Christian faith is a prevalent lyrical factor from opener “The Good Hand” onward, framing perspective and phrasing alike — for example, the first line of “Blue Pail Fever”: “Thy will be done here on this highway” — but there’s still plenty of room for earthly concerns as well, as in the corresponding lyric in “Wooden Brother”: “We hit the floor just like a blue silk slip.”

This balance too forms an essential part of what makes Wovenhand‘s Woven Hand such a rich album, but I will gladly argue for the insistent push of “My Russia,” the tension in its masterpiece later-album-answerback “Your Russia,” and the sheer moodiness of “Ain’t No Sunshine” as heavy works prescient of the full-band Wovenhand would become, and that fluidity, toying with different musical traditions and ideas, heft among wovenhand woven handthem, is part of what ties the material together, though one shouldn’t discount Edwards‘ voice in that either. He is the central figure across the entire span of the record, with his compressed voice in the verses of “Glass Eye” — on stage he uses two mics — and self-harmonizing on the joyous “Arrowhead.” That track begins with a sample of a grandmotherly-sounding woman talking about going to grade school for an immediate tap into nostalgia, so Edwards isn’t necessarily the only presence throughout the entire album, but for plenty of it he remains the focal point, whether it’s the gospel resounding of “Story and Pictures” or the interwoven layering in “My Russia” earlier on. Working with Daniel McMahon and Stephen Taylor on the recording, he’s nonetheless more than up to the task of carrying the songs.

And the songs are the focus. Whatever Wovenhand conjures in terms of arrangements and melodies, it is consistently in service to the song in question. The sustained backing melody that fills out beneath “The Good Hand,” the brush snare of “Glass Eye,” the far-back echoing bells resonant in “Story and Pictures,” and the empty spaces without them, all work to making the material more dynamic, open and, ultimately, effective in conveying thought and emotion as well as a broad instrumental sensibility. In kind with this, Woven Hand — or, you know, Wovenhand, depending whom you ask and on what day — functions with two primary salvos: one at the beginning of the album and one toward the end.

Starting out with “The Good Hand” and the turn into “My Russia” helps set the course of breadth in and beyond Americana, an entire musical world at the project’s disposal, and after the meditative “Story and Pictures,” to have the bright strum of “Arrowhead” and its so-alive uptempo kick isn’t just a surge forward later in the tracklisting, but also a lead-in for “Your Russia,” which serves as the apex of the album, driving from a tense buildup of verses into a push of vocals that seems to be the moment of release to which the entire record has been leading. It’s not the end — I’d count the quiet aftermath in “Last Fist” as a worthy epilogue — but neither is its placement accidental both in speaking to “My Russia” before and in providing a landmark for the band that, 16 years later, is still capable of running a chill down the spine.

Wovenhand‘s discography of course would continue to build. Several of Woven Hand‘s cuts were reworked on 2003’s Blush Music, and as 16 Horsepower entered hiatus, Edwards diverted his full attention to his new outfit, digging into an increasing range of composition on 2004’s Consider the Birds and 2006’s Mosaic before beginning to build a complete band around himself with 2008’s Ten Stones, and getting outwardly heavier while remaining sonically adventurous on 2010’s The Threshingfloor (discussed here), 2012’s The Laughing Stalk (review here), and 2014’s Refractory Obdurate (review here). The band’s latest outing, 2016’s Star Treatment (review here), pushed their farthest yet into weighted tones and styles, and as it seems that barring a surprise announcement for a November release 2018 will pass without a new album from them — you’ll note the even-years pace of releases — one can’t help but wonder if some turn in their approach isn’t in the works for their next offering. Though they’ve toured a lot as well, so the timing could just as easily be affected by that.

I don’t know if Woven Hand will hit home for you as it does for me. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. If you’ve never heard it and give it a shot, or if it’s already familiar and you’re coming home to it, as always, I hope you enjoy.

Thanks for reading.

It’s just after four in the morning. Alarm went off at 2:30AM, as it has been for I don’t know how long at this point. Last night I sat on the couch with The Patient Mrs. around 8PM — The Pecan put to bed at 6:30 upstairs — and was falling asleep reading a Star Trek novel while she answered email and worked on whatnot. I went up to bed and called it a night, maybe 8:15PM. Big Thursday. At least it’s dark now when I go to bed. It kind of felt silly over the summer to hit the sack when it’s still daylight out.

A bumpy start to the week, but we got there by the end of it. Before I went to Norway for the Høstsabbat fest last weekend, my prescription ran out, so I was off my depression meds for a few days. Thursday through Monday, and by Monday, I was curled up in the shower wishing my life would end. That sucks. I’ve been on meds at different periods in my life, and I always thought of them as a crutch kind of help you get through it. Not a longterm thing. It’s been 10 months now that I’ve been taking them, and I still can’t really go without for any length of time. What a shitter. My wife and my baby both deserve better.

Norway was incredible though, my subsequent inner collapse aside (there wasn’t really time for such things at the fest itself). Seeing Elephant Tree again, and Asteroid, and SÂVER, who, yeah, I know it’s the dude who runs the fest’s band, but were really one of the highlights of the weekend for me. I was into Tombstones as well going back before Høstsabbat was a thing, so if you think I’m blowing smoke because of the good work being done with the festival, I’m not. Pelagic Records would seem to agree, what with having signed them and all.

Anyway, we had a couple nice days this week in Massachusetts while Hurricane Michael was devastating Florida and the greater Southeast, so I got to spend some time outside with The Pecan before the big winter lockdown comes. I don’t know when the clocks change — nor do I know how that’s still a thing — but we’re losing light each day and soon enough it’ll be dark at like 3PM and cold and rainy all the time for what probably 30 years ago would’ve been December snowfall but now that doesn’t really start until January.

He went down a slide on his own for the first time, and he claps hands now. These little things become a big deal. He’s a pain in the ass, but fun too. I feel ways about stuff.

I should do the notes. Ostensibly next week is the Quarterly Review, but between the fest last week and I’m still fucked up in terms of timing from being robbed in May, I’m not sure it’s going to work out. Tomorrow I’ll know for sure. I’m thinking I could skip it and do a plus-sized one to close out the year in December, though that inevitably comes up against list season as well. Maybe earlier in the month? I don’t know. I’m thinking of these things as I type them. That would allow me to get back on track, rather than be half a month late on the QR as I seem to have been throughout 2018. Will debate, and pending that I’ll actually hold off on notes. Be surprised.

I’m waiting on a date for when it will air and waiting to record my voice tracks for it, but I’ve turned in a second playlist for “The Obelisk Show” on Gimme Radio. Hopefully sometime next week I’ll find out when it’ll air and I’ll let you know. They’ve also launched an archive so you can sign up and hear past shows. It’s five bucks a month or something, which sounds like a lot until I think of the bullshit I blow five bucks on like every single day. Bags of ice and chewing gum. Protein bars. I’d count coffee in there, but that’s more of a life-support issue than bullshit expenditure.

So I kind of talked about it on the social medias while I was at the fest, but I’m going to do merch again. This site’s coming up on a special occasion, and in addition to my own way of celebrating, I thought setting something up tshirt-wise would be a good way to go. Yeah, I said I’d never do it again, and I’m not doing it the same way, but we can talk about that when the announcement goes out.

Alright. 4:30 now. I’m gonna go prepare the ground for when the baby gets up, hopefully not for another hour at least. Or maybe just crash on the couch for a bit.

Hope you have a great and safe weekend. Thanks for reading and have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Love Gang Announce Tour Dates with Wolfmother

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

love gang

I don’t know about you — I mean, really; how are you? is everything okay? you can tell me if not — but I’m pretty intrigued at the prospect of what the debut full-length from Love Gang is going to bring. The Denver, Colorado, four-piece, which shares Shaun Goodwin with The Munsens, made an encouraging first showing in their 2016 Love Gang EP (review here), and just at the end of July, they posted the new single “Break Free” (review here), which was a demo cut the final version of which will reportedly appear on said album. If you didn’t hear it, it’s at the bottom of this post. Dig in.

For all I know, which is nothing, Love Gang‘s LP could already be in the can, mixed, mastered, waiting on somebody’s badass cover art to put it over the top. Maybe yes, maybe no. Either way, the band will head out for two quick strings of dates alongside Wolfmother, first this month and then again in November. Maybe they’ll record in between! Ah hell, I don’t know. The point is I’m looking forward to hearing the new one from Love Gang whenever it might show up, presumably sometime early-ish in 2019, unless they get into the whole looking-for-a-label thing, then could be basically anytime between now and anybody’s guess. I bet they’ll have a new song or two in the live sets though. At least probably “Break Free,” if nothing else.

Here are the dates:

love gang tour

Hitting the road this month and November with Wolfmother on these select dates. Check out their page for the full tour. Love Gang coming to a Theatre near you! #lovegangbang

Love Gang live:
09.18 Gothic Theatre Denver CO
09.20 Rialto Theatre Tucson AZ
09.21 The Marquee Tempe AZ
11.05 Paper Tiger San Antonio TX
11.06 Emo’s Austin TX
11.07 Granada Theater Dallas TX

Love Gang is:
Kam Wentworth
Leo Muñoz
Grady O’Donnell
Shaun Goodwin

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

Love Gang, “Break Free”

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The Munsens Post New Single “Dirge (For Those to Come)”; Playing Psycho Las Vegas This Friday

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the munsens (photo by Underground Chuck)

If you go back to 2014’s Weight of Night EP (review here), the trio The Munsens, then based in New Jersey, recorded with Mike Moebius (PilgrimKings Destroy) at Moonlight Mile in Hoboken. The band has roots in my beloved Garden State, but made their way out to Denver, Colorado, in time to track 2016’s follow-up EP, Abbey Rose (review here), out that way with Jamie Hillyer at Module Overload. Fair enough. I don’t know what brought them back to the Eastern Seaboard — tour, family, etc. — to record their debut album, but the forthcoming Unhanded finds The Munsens back with Moebius, and the leadoff single “Dirge (For Those to Come)” shows some significant stylistic shift from the prior outing. It’s an oozing, charred sludgy rollout, not about the heft of tone so much as that of the atmosphere, and there’s a consistent threat lurking just beneath the surface of it. It’s down there at the bottom of this post if you want to check it out.

The Munsens will be at Psycho Las Vegas later this week — hey, me too! — as the PR wire details:

the munsens dirge for those to come

THE MUNSENS: Denver Trio Releases Single From Impending LP As Band Prepares For Psycho Las Vegas Performance

Denver, Colorado-based THE MUNSENS will hit the road to perform at Psycho Las Vegas in the coming days. In conjunction with the festivities, the band has issued a single, “Dirge (For Those to Come),” which is pulled from their recently-completed new LP, Unhanded, which will see release this Fall.

THE MUNSENS make noise from a Colfax Avenue dungeon. Having carved out a place of their own in the much-lauded Denver metal scene, the band’s debut full-length comes on the heels of a productive summer that included appearances at 71Grind IV, Austin Terror Fest, and Electric Funeral.

The band’s impending Unhanded comprises five new tracks, running approximately forty minutes in length. It is the band’s most caustic and critical release to date. “Though it’s roughly the same running length as our last release, the Abbey Rose EP, we were able to put more time into the writing and recording of this one,” issues the band. “For a number a reasons, this release feels like a much more comprehensive effort from us” says the band. Call it what you will.”

Recorded at Hoboken Recorders with Mike Moebius of Moonlight Mile Recording, who recorded the band’s Weight of Night EP, and mastered by Dennis Pleckham (Comatose Studio), Unhanded is being finalized for release in the months ahead, with a release date and outlet to be announced.

The band plays Friday, August 17th alongside the likes of Witchcraft, High On Fire, Boris, Church Of Misery, Integrity, Rocket From The Crypt, and many others. A more extensive US tour will follow later this year; stand by for additional tour and album updates shortly.

THE MUNSENS Tour Dates:
8/17/2018 Hard Rock Hotel & Casino – Las Vegas, NV @ Psycho Las Vegas

THE MUNSENS:
Michael Goodwin – bass/vocals
Shaun Goodwin – guitars/vocals
Graham Wesselhoff – drums

https://themunsensnj.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/themunsens
https://www.instagram.com/themunsens

The Munsens, “Dirge (For Those to Come)” official video

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Love Gang Enter Studio to Record Full-Length; New Demo Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 31st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

love gang in studio

I don’t know much about the impending debut album from Denver, Colorado, rock traditionalists Love Gang beyond the generalities. It’s their first record. They hit a friend’s home studio to begin the recording process this past weekend and got the basic tracks done. As to particulars in terms of what the album’s called, when it will be out, who’s doing the releasing — i.e. the band themselves or a label — I don’t know. So if you’re wondering why I’d post about something with such an utter lack of news to go on, it’s because there’s a song up. And music is always more important.

The track is called “Break Free” and it’s a five-minute classically-styled riffer recorded presumably live at the four-piece’s practice space. More so than on their 2016 self-titled EP (review here), one can hear metallic roots in the riffing and the gruff vocals, kind of tapping into that moment circa 1975-1977 when heavy rock started to become heavy metal and the NWOBHM began to bubble under the surface. It’s raw — it’s a practice space recording, so duh — but has an appeal through that as well, so seemed well worth sharing, not the least for the shredding solo.

I’ll keep you posted when I hopefully hear more about Love Gang‘s full-length debut coming out. Could be a while, could be next week, but I’m at least glad to know it’s happening and progress is being made. Whenever they arrive, the results will be welcome.

Info and track follow:

love gang break free

Surprise! We’ve got a new track up on Bandcamp from our forthcoming album! Hitting the studio tomorrow, go giv’r a listen!
https://lovegangco.bandcamp.com/track/break-free-demo

Recorded and mixed by LOVE GANG at rehearsal space on Colfax Ave. Mastered by Dennis Pleckham.

Love Gang live:
Aug 06 Hi-Dive Denver, CO
Sep 01 Lost Lake Lounge Denver, CO

Love Gang is:
Kam Wentworth
Leo Muñoz
Grady O’Donnell
Shaun Goodwin

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

Love Gang, “Break Free”

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Quarterly Review: Worshipper, Dopethrone, The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices, Omen Stones, Capra, Universo Rojo, Sergeant Thunderhoof, Fire Down Below, Stone Deaf, Cracked Machine

Posted in Reviews on July 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

Well, we made it to the end of another Quarterly Review. One more batch and then it’s off to planning the next one for late September/early October. I hope you have found something this week that you’ve really dug. I have. A few, to be honest. Not everything is going to stick with every listener, of course, and that includes me, but for as much as putting this one together has been, there’s been some really good, year-end-list-type stuff included. At least as far as my own list goes. I sincerely hope you agree.

So let’s do this last one, then go sleep for a couple hours. Alright? Here we go:

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Worshipper, Mirage Daze

worshipper mirage daze

I don’t know if Worshipper knew they’d be embarking on their first West Coast tour in Summer 2018 when they hit Mad Oak Studios in Oct. 2016 to record the four cover tracks for their Mirage Daze EP on Tee Pee Records, but it certainly worked out in the Boston four-piece’s favor. Following-up their 2016 debut, Shadow Hymns (review here), Worshipper present four cover tracks in Uriah Heep’s “Easy Livin’,” The Oath’s “Night Child,” Pink Floyd’s “Julia Dream” and The Who’s “Heaven and Hell,” and while I’m a little sad that “Heaven and Hell” isn’t the Black Sabbath song, which I think they’d nail if they tried it, and I’m glad to have a studio version of their take on Floyd’s “Julia Dream,” which from the first time I saw them live was always a pleasure to watch live, I think the highlight of Mirage Daze might be “Night Child.” I never bought that The Oath record, and Worshipper’s take on its lead single is about the best argument I’ve seen for doing so. It may or may not be a stopgap issued to coincide with the tour, but Mirage Daze is a welcome arrival anyway. It’s a fan piece? Well, I’m a fan, so right on.

Worshipper on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records website

 

Dopethrone, Transcanadian Anger

dopethrone transcanadian anger

Montreal scumsludgers Dopethrone return with Transcanadian Anger, an eight-track blister-fest of crunch riffing and misanthropic vibes. Delivered through Totem Cat Records, the 36-minute Weedeater-gone-bad-drugs sludge assault seems to invite superlatives front to back, even in the slamming instrumental “Killdozer” – a tribute to the band? – and the swinging penultimate cut “Kingbilly Kush.” Elsewhere, opener “Planet Meth,” “Snort Dagger,” “Tweak Jabber” and “Scuzzgasm” celebrate addiction and violence unto oneself and others, making a spectacle of decay set to voluminous sludge riffs and abrasive vocals. This is Dopethrone’s aesthetic territory, and they’ve done well over the last decade to make it their own. As they answer 2015’s full-length, Hochelaga (review here), and the next year’s 1312 EP with yet another filth-caked collection, they seem all the more in their own league of aural and narcotic self-punishment. They could be straightedge vegans for all I know, but they sure sound high as fuck, and I guess that’s the point. So, well done.

Dopethrone on Thee Facebooks

Totem Cat Records webstore

 

The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices, BooCheeMish

the mystery of the bulgarian voices boocheemish

Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance would seem to be trying to solve The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices, a choral group from Bulgaria who, seemingly until teaming with Gerrard for the Prophecy Productions release BooCheeMish was known by the French name Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares. Whatever you call them, their history dates back nearly seven decades and their harmonies are utterly timeless. BooCheeMish is comprised of gorgeous folk renditions for 45 minutes of world-building perfection. Percussion of various sorts provides backing and on pieces like “Rano Ranila” they speed through at a pace and arrangement that’s head-spinning, while the later “Zableyalo Agne” finds them joined by flute for a nigh-religious experience and the subsequent “Tropanitsa” has a bounce worthy of any good times one might to envision from its evocative pulse. One can’t help but feel a bit of the cultural voyeur in taking it on – as well as feeling totally outclassed in reviewing it – but these songs were clearly meant to be enjoyed, and as their ambassadors, The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices genuinely serve a public best interest.

The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions website

 

Omen Stones, Omen Stones

omen stones omen stones

Virginia duo Omen Stones have no online presence as yet. No songs streaming. No cheeky logos-on-photos social media posts that new bands do when they’re sitting on their hands waiting to get material out there. What they – and by “they,” I mean guitarist/vocalist Tommy Hamilton of Druglord and drummer Erik Larson of Backwoods Payback, The Might Could, Alabama Thunderpussy, etc. – have is a four-song self-titled EP collecting about 13 minutes of material in demo fashion, bringing forth the Southern-shuffle-gets-weird-then-explodes opener “Secrete” as a first impression of a deceptive approach. You think it’s all good and then you get punched. Go figure. “Secrete” is also the longest track (immediate points) at 4:06, and the forward charge and harsher vocal of “Fertile Blight” follows, catchy as it is mean, and more indicative of what’s to follow in the maddening tension of “Sympathy Scars” and the fuckall sludgepunk of “Purity Tones.” Immediately against-trend, Omen StonesOmen Stones is a bird of prey unto itself. Hopefully at some point soon they make it publicly available.

Druglord on Bandcamp

Erik Larson on Bandcamp

 

Capra, Unholy Gallows

Capra Unholy Gallows

Taking influence from hardcore punk, post-hardcore and sludge, Lafayette, Louisiana’s Capra seem to fit in a Midwestern style of semi-metallic aggression that has flourished in the wake of the likes of The National Acrobat and Coliseum. The foursome’s Unholy Gallows single follows their also-two-song self-titled 2016 EP, and finds Tyler Harper (also of the recently-defunct The Midnight Ghost Train), Jeremy Randazzo, Ben Paramore and Lee Hooper aligned in their purposes of riff-led bludgeoning. Unholy Gallows is two songs/six minutes long – not by any means an afternoon commitment in terms of listening – but its furies are unveiled in far less time than that, and both “Red Guillotine” and “Hot Lips” waste no time in doling out their beatings. A sense of heft stems from tonal thickness, but they make it move to a propulsive degree, and aside from a quick feedback intro to “Red Guillotine,” there’s no letup; even as “Hot Lips” slows the pace some initially, it maintains geared toward foreshadowing the next fist to fly.

Capra on Thee Facebooks

Capra on Bandcamp

 

Universo Rojo, Impermanencia

Universo Rojo Impermanencia

Sprawl, sprawl, sprawl. Into space. Universo Rojo’s excellent four-track debut album, Impermanencia, makes you want to speak slowly enough to feel the words vibrate out of your mouth. The Chilean four-piece offer lengthy, jam-based excursions that echo out their feel across vast reaches of effects, progressive rhythm and melody-making unfurling all the while beneath an overarching swirl of effects, guitars and synth running atop the mix like competing currents of water. Opener “¿A Dónde Ir?” (8:13) gives way to the flute-laden krautrockism of “Visión Planetaria de los Tiempos” (8:40) as vocalist/guitarist/clarinetist Ferro Vargas-Larraguibel, drummer Naim Chamás, bassist Cristóbal Montenegro and synthesis Francisco Arellano conjure such molten possibilities. Though it’s just 34 minutes, Impermanencia is nonetheless expansive, with the 9:36 “Cinco (La Quinta Dimensión)” finding a place between drift and psych-jazz undulations while closer “Inmaterialización del Sentimiento Cósmico” (7:32) lets out a full-impulse burst of energy that’s blinding if you know just where to look. Not to be missed.

Universo Rojo on Thee Facebooks

Universo Rojo on Bandcamp

 

Sergeant Thunderhoof, Terra Solus

sergeant thunderhoof terra solus

Kudos to Bath, UK, four-piece Sergeant Thunderhoof on starting off their sophomore long-player, Terra Solus, with the album’s longest track in “Another Plane.” And likewise for the blend of psychedelia and burl that unfolds. In taking on the follow-up to their 2015 debut, Ride of the Hoof, they offer eight cuts and 51 minutes of spacious riffing charged with just an undercurrent of English boozer burl, Elephant Tree and Steak meeting head on for a raucous session of who knows what. “B Oscillation” taps nod and particularly satisfying fuzzy warmth in its lead section, while even a would-be bruiser like the subsequent “Diesel Breath” has a trip-out included. There is time for such things as every track but the penultimate and relatively minimalist soundscaper “Half a Man” tops six minutes, but Sergeant Thunderhoof make a much richer impression overall than their moniker might lead one to believe, and close out in particularly resonant fashion with “Om Shaantih,” emphasizing the breadth and post-rock elements that help make Terra Solus so engaging from the outset.

Sergeant Thunderhoof on Thee Facebooks

Sergeant Thunderhoof on Bandcamp

 

Fire Down Below, Hymn of the Cosmic Man

fire down below hymn of the cosmic man

The adaptation of Kyuss’ “Thumb” riff for Fire Down Below’s “Ignition/Space Cruiser” after the “Red Giant” intro on their second album, Hymn of the Cosmic Man (on Ripple), is nothing short of a clarion to the converted. The Belgian unit’s mission would seem to be to find that place on the horizon where the desert ground and space itself seem to meet and become one, and as side A closer “The Cosmic Pilgrim” turns from its initial crunch into more patient and drifting psych, they’d seem to get there. Atsmophere is certainly central to the record, as the aforementioned “Red Giant” and its side B counterpart “Nebula” demonstrate, never mind the other five tracks, and even as “Saviour of Man” runs through its janga-janga stoner-riffed hook there’s a flourish of effects to create a balance between the earthbound and the interstellar. Side B’s “Ascension” and especially 11-minute album-closer/highlight “Adrift in a Sea of Stars” seem to find the balance the four-piece is shooting for all along, and just before the nine-minute mark when the thick, fuzzed-out riff emerges from the jammy lead, the entire impetus for their journey seems to be laid bare. Well done.

Fire Down Below on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Stone Deaf, Royal Burnout

stone deaf royal burnout

Denver, Colorado’s Stone Deaf present a sans-frills desert rock vibe across the eight tightly structured tracks of their sophomore album, Royal Burnout (on Black Bow Records). Specifically, the compressed crunch in the guitar tone and some of the start-stop bounce riffing in cuts like “Room #240” and “Monochrome” seem to be drawn from the Songs for the Deaf methodology, and some of the vocals on opener “Spitshine” (video premiere here) remind of Queens of the Stone Age as well, but Stone Deaf – whose moniker, then, would be well sourced – have a deeper root in punk rock that underscores the “Go with the Flow” thrust of “Deathwish 62” as well as the chugging verses of “Boozy Spool” immediately preceding. It’s a sound that benefits greatly from the sharpness of its delivery and the craft Stone Deaf bring to it, and even when they seem to loosen up a bit on the midpaced pre-finale “That Lefty Request,” there’s a fervent sense of a plan unfolding. That plan would seem to be a success.

Stone Deaf on Thee Facebooks

Black Bow Records webstore

 

Cracked Machine, I, Cosmonaut

cracked machine i cosmonaut

Originally released last year, Cracked Machine’s debut, I, Cosmonaut, finds vinyl issue through PsyKA Records and earns it well with six tracks/45 minutes of mostly-instrumentalist and progressive space-psych. One assumes there’s a narrative thread at work across the span, as guitarist Bill Denton, bassist Chris Sutton, keyboardist/vocalist Clive Noyes and drummer Blazej Gradziel weave their way through “Twin Sons Rising” and “New Vostok” at the outset into the easy flow of “Baikonur Cosmodrome,” the harder-hitting title-track, the fuzzy declaration of “Svetlana” and the patiently executed 10-minute closer “Transorbital,” Denton’s guitar singing all the while. These places and, maybe, characters would seem to weave together to tell the story in impressions largely open to interpretation and correspondingly open in terms of their creativity, sounding spontaneous and maybe live-recorded if not entirely improvised, instead working to a plan for where each inclusion should go or end up. As Cracked Machine’s first album, it’s an ambitious work that does far more than get the band’s feet wet. It takes them out of the atmosphere and embarks on a journey beyond that one hopes is just beginning.

Cracked Machine on Thee Facebooks

Cracked Machine at PsyKA Records webstore

 

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Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Morag Tong, Holy Mushroom, Naisian, Haunted, Pabst, L.M.I., Fuzz Forward, Onségen Ensemble, The Heavy Eyes

Posted in Reviews on July 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

I always say the same thing on the Wednesday of the Quarterly Review. Day 3. The halfway point. I say it every time. The fact is, doing these things kind of takes it out of me. All of it. It’s not that I don’t enjoy listening to all these records — well, I don’t enjoy all of them, but I’m talking more about the process — just that it’s a lot to take in and by the time I’m done each day, let alone at the end of the week, I’m fairly exhausted. So every time we hit the halfway point of a Quarterly Review, I feel somewhat compelled to note it. Cresting the hill, as it were. It’s satisfying to get to this point without my head falling off.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Khemmis, Desolation

khemmis desolation

Continuing their proclivity for one-word titles, Denver doom forerunners Khemmis take a decisive turn toward the metallic with their third album for 20 Buck Spin, the six-track/41-minute Desolation. Songs like opener “Bloodletting” and its side B counterpart “The Seer” are still tinged with doom, but the NWOBHM gallop in “Isolation” and “Maw of Time” – as well as the sheer force of the latter – is an unexpected twist. Khemmis showed classic metal elements on 2016’s was-a-very-big-deal Hunted (review here) and 2015’s debut, Absolution (review here), but it’s a question of balance, and as they’ve once again worked with producer Dave Otero, one can only read the shift as a conscious decision. The harder edge suits them – certainly suits the screams in “Maw of Time” and side A finale/album highlight “Flesh to Nothing” – and as Khemmis further refine their sound, they craft its most individualized manifestation to-date. There’s no hearing Desolation and mistaking Khemmis for another band. They’ve come into their own.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin website

 

Morag Tong, Last Knell of Om

morag tong last knell of om

A rumbling entry into London’s Heavy Generation, the four-piece Morag Tong unfold voluminous ritual on their debut full-length, Last Knell of Om. Largely slow and largely toned, the work of guitarists Alex Clarke and Lewis Crane brings the low end to the forefront along with the bass of James Atha while drummer Adam Asquith pushes the lurch forward on cuts like “New Growth” and “To Soil,” the band seemingly most comfortable when engaged in crawling tempos and weighted pummel. Asquith also adds semi-shouted vocals to the mire, which, surrounded by distortion as they are, only make the proceedings sound even more massive. There’s an ambience to “We Answer” and near-13-minute closer “Ephemera: Stare Through the Deep,” which gives the record a suitably noisy finish, but much of what Morag Tong are going for in sound depends on the effectiveness of their tonality, and they’ve got that part down on their debut. Coupled with the meditative feel in some of this material, that shows marked potential on the band’s part for future growth.

Morag Tong on Thee Facebooks

Morag Tong on Bandcamp

 

Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul

holy mushroom blood and soul

Working quickly to follow-up their earlier-2018 sophomore long-player, Moon (review here), Spain’s Holy Mushroom present Blood and Soul, an EP comprised of two songs recorded live in the studio. I’m not entirely sure why it’s split up at all, as the two-minute “Introito” – sure enough, a little introduction – feeds so smoothly into the 19-minute “Blood and Soul” itself, but fair enough either way as the trio shift between different instrumentation, incorporating sax, piano and organ among the guitar, bass, drums and vocals, and unfold a longform heavy psychedelic trip that not only builds on what they were doing with Moon but is every bit worthy of being released on its own. I don’t know if it was recorded at the same time as the record or later – both were done at Asturcon Studios – but it’s easy to see why the band would want to highlight “Blood and Moon.” Between the deep-running mix, the easy rhythmic flow into and out from drifting spaciousness, and the turn in the middle third toward more expansive arrangement elements, it’s an engaging motion that makes subtly difficult shifts seem utterly natural along the way. And even if you didn’t hear the latest full-length, Blood and Soul makes for a fitting introduction to who Holy Mushroom are as a band and what they can do.

Holy Mushroom on Thee Facebooks

Clostridium Records website

 

Naisian, Rejoinder

naisian rejoinder

Sludge-infused noise rock serves as the backdrop for lyrical shenanigans on the three-song Rejoinder EP from Sheffield, UK, trio Naisian. Running just 12 minutes, it’s a quick and thickened pummel enacted by the band, who work in shades of post-metal for “90 ft. Stone,” “Mantis Rising” and “Lefole,” most especially in the middle cut, but even there, the focus in on harsh vocals and lumbering sonic heft. It’s now been seven years since the band sort-of issued their debut album, Mammalian, and six since they followed with the Monocle EP, and the time seems to have stripped down their sound to a degree. “Lefole” is the longest track on Rejoinder at 5:18 and it’s still shorter than every other song Naisian have put out to-date. Their crunch lacks nothing for impact, however, and to go with the swing of “Lefole,” everybody seems to contribute to a vocal assault that only adds to the punishing but thoughtful vibe.

Naisian on Thee Facebooks

Naisian on Bandcamp

 

Haunted, Dayburner

haunted dayburner

The effects-laden vocal swirl at the outset of Haunted’s “Mourning Sun” and moments in the Italian act’s longer-form material, “Waterdawn” or “Orphic,” for example, will invariably lead some listeners to point to a Windhand influence, but the character of the band’s second album, Dayburner (on Twin Earth, DHU and Graven Earth all), follows their 2016 self-titled (review here) by holding steady to a developing identity of its own. To be sure, vocalist Christina Chimirri, guitarists Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando, bassist Frank Tudisco and drummer Dario Casabona make their way into a deep, murky swamp of modern doom in “Dayburner” (video posted here), but in the crush of their tones amid all that trance-inducing riffing, they cast themselves as an outfit seeking to express individuality within the set parameters of style. Their execution, then, is what it comes down to, and with “Orphic” (12:46) and “Vespertine” (13:19) back to back, there’s plenty of doom on the 66-minute 2LP to roll that out. And they do so in patient and successful form, with marked tonal vibrancy and a sense of controlling the storm they’re creating as they go.

Haunted on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records website

DHU Records webstore

Graven Earth Records webstore

 

Pabst, Chlorine

pabst chlorine

So, the aesthetic is different. Pabst play a blend of noise, post-punk, heavy rock and grunge, but with the ready pop influence — to wit, the outright danceability of “Shits,” reminiscent in its bounce of later Queens of the Stone Age – and persistent melodicism, there’s just a twinge of what Mars Red Sky did for heavy rolling riffs happening on Chlorine, their Crazysane Records debut. It’s in that blend of dense low-end fuzz and brighter vocal melodies, but again, Pabst, hailing from Berlin, are on their own trip. Weird but almost more enjoyable than it seems to want to be, the 12-track/35-minute outing indulges little and offers singalong-ready vibes in “Catching Feelings” and “Waterslide” while “Waiting Loop” chills out before the push of “Accelerate” and the angularity of “Cheapskate” take hold. Chrlorine careens and (blue) ribbons its way to the drive-fast-windows-open stylization of “Summer Never Came” and the finale “Under Water,” a vocal effect on the latter doing nothing to take away from its ultra-catchy hook. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a record someone with just the right kind of open mind can come to love.

Pabst on Thee Facebooks

Crazysane Records webstore

 

L.M.I., IV

lmi iv

If you’ve got a dank basement full of skinny college kids, chances are Lansdale, Pennsylvania’s L.M.I. are ready to tear their faces off. The sludge-thickened riff punkers run abut 11 minutes with their five-song release, L.M.I. IV, and that’s well enough time to get their message across. Actually, by the end of “Neck of Tension” and “Weaning Youth,” roughly four and half minutes in, the statement of intent is pretty clear. L.M.I. present furious but grooving hardcore punk more given to scathe than pummel, and their inclusions on L.M.I. IV bring that to life with due sense of controlled chaos. Centerpiece “Lurking Breath” gives way to “First to Dark” – the longest cut at a sprawling 2:55 – and they save a bit of grunge guitar scorch and lower-register growling for closer “June was a Test,” there isn’t really time in general for any redundancy to take hold. That suits the feeling of assault well, as L.M.I. get in and get out on the quick and once they’re gone, all that’s left to do is clean the blood off the walls.

L.M.I. on Thee Facebooks

L.M.I. on Bandcamp

 

Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere

fuzz forward out of nowhere

Released one way or another through Discos Macarras, Odio Sonoro, Spinda Records and Red Sun Records, the eight-song/43-minute debut album from Barcelona’s Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere, has earned acclaim from multiple corners for its interpretation of grunge-era melodies through a varied heavy rock filter. Indeed, the vocals of Juan Gil – joined in the band by guitarist Edko Fuzz, bassist Jordi Vaquero and drummer Marc Rockenberg – pull the mind directly to a young Layne Staley, and forces one to realize it’s been a while since that low-in-the-mouth approach was so ubiquitous. It works well for Gil in the laid back “Summertime Somersaults” as well as the swinging, cowbell-infused later cut “Drained,” and as the band seems to foreshadow richer atmospheric exploration on “Thorns in Tongue” and “Torches,” they nonetheless maintain a focus on songwriting that grounds the proceedings and will hopefully continue to serve as their foundation as they move forward. No argument with the plaudits they’ve thus far received. Seems doubtful they’ll be the last.

Fuzz Forward on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Forward on Bandcamp

 

Onségen Ensemble, Duel

Onsegen ensemble duel

The kind of record you’re doing yourself a favor by hearing – a visionary cast of progressive psychedelia that teems with creative energy and is an inspiration even in the listening. Frankly, the only thing I’m not sure about when it comes to Oulu, Finland, outfit Onségen Enseble’s second album, Duel, is why it isn’t being released through Svart Records. It seems like such a natural fit, with the adventurous woodwinds on opener “Think Neither Good Nor Evil,” the meditative sprawl of the title-track (video posted here), the jazz-jam in the middle of “Dogma MMXVII,” the tribalist percussion anchoring the 12-minute “Three Calls of the Emperor’s Teacher,” which surely would otherwise float away under its own antigravity power, and the free-psych build of closer “Zodiacal Lights of Onségen,” which shimmers in otherworldly fashion and improvised-sounding spark. On Svart or not, Duel is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, and one the creativity of which puts it in a class of its own, even in the vast reaches of psychedelic rock. Whether it means to or not, it tells a story with sound, and that story should be heard.

Onségen Ensemble on Thee Facebooks

Onsegen Ensemble on Bandcamp

 

The Heavy Eyes, Live in Memphis

the heavy eyes live in memphis

Since so much of The Heavy Eyes’ studio presentation has consistently been about crispness of sound and structured songwriting, it’s kind of a relief to hear them knock into some feedback at the start of “Mannish Boy” at the outset of Live in Memphis (on Kozmik Artifactz). The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Tripp Shumake, bassist Wally Anderson and drummer Eric Garcia are still tight as hell, of course, and their material – drawn here from the band’s LPs, 2015’s He Dreams of Lions (review here), 2012’s Maera, 2011’s self-titled, as well as sundry shorter offerings – is likewise. They’ve never been an overly dangerous band, nor have they wanted to be, but the stage performance does add a bit of edge to “Iron Giants” from the debut, which is followed by singing “Happy Birthday” to a friend in the crowd. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Live in Memphis is hearing The Heavy Eyes loosen up a bit on stage, and hearing them sound like they’re having as good a time playing as the crowd is watching and hearing them do so. That sense of fun suits them well.

The Heavy Eyes on Thee Facebooks

The Heavy Eyes at Kozmik Artifactz

 

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Primitive Man and Unearthly Trance Split LP Due Aug. 17

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

Every now and then, two bands being labelmates works out well for everyone. And by everyone, I don’t just mean the bands. To wit, uniting Brooklyn’s reignited post-doomers Unearthly Trance with Denver everything-crushers Primitive Man? Yeah, that’s just a win all around. I hope whoever made that pairing happen got a promotion, or at least a bonus, or maybe one of those awesome Relapse Records hoodies that you always see the staff wearing around Philly and get mad jealous. Also, in that scenario, you is me. I mean, we’re all one anyway, but specifically there I’m talking about myself.

Anyway, the point here is that Primitive Man and Unearthly Trance getting together for a split seems like it would be far less likely to happen were it not for the fact that they’re both on Relapse Records, and if that’s what it takes, to manifest that kind of devastation, then all the better. If you missed them, both bands released records last year — Primitive Man assaulted the senses with Caustic (review here) while Unearthly Trance marked a return from a long hiatus with Stalking the Ghost (review here) — and if the ultra-quick teaser for the joint intro to the split is anything to go by, the new outing is going to be noisy as hell.

Primitive Man and Unearthly Trance both will play Psycho Las Vegas next month, and Primitive Man have further touring in Europe set for Aug./Sept. alongside also-labelmates -(16)-. Nothing like keeping good company.

From the PR wire:

primitive man unearthly trance split

PRIMITIVE MAN & UNEARTHLY TRANCE Announce Split LP Coming August 17th Via Relapse Records; Trailer Posted

One year after each releasing two of 2017’s heaviest albums, Denver’s PRIMITIVE MAN and New York City’s UNEARTHLY TRANCE unite for an exercise in complete and total suffering, coming this August via Relapse Records. Across seven apocalyptic tracks,both bands tap into some of the most uncomfortable, vile realms of blackened doom and dissonant, harsh noise put to tape in the new millennium.

Watch the official split album trailer featuring opening track “Merging,” recorded by both bands, HERE. New music from each band will be available in the near future.

PRIMITIVE MAN & UNEARTHLY TRANCE’s split LP is due out August 17th on CD, LP and digital formats through Relapse.com. Physical packages, digital downloads, and streaming services are available HERE.

Additionally, PRIMITIVE MAN has recently announced a European headlining tour with labelmates -(16)-. The tour begins August 29th in Dortmund, Germany and ends September 15th at Bloodshed Festival in Eindhoven, Netherlands. PRIMITIVE MAN will perform at various Summer festival appearances such as Psycho Las Vegas, Electric Funeral Fest, and Temple Of Ascension Vol. 1. All confirmed tour dates are available below.

PRIMITIVE MAN & UNEARTHLY TRANCE Split LP Track Listing:
1. PRIMITIVE MAN & UNEARTHLY TRANCE – Merging (Intro)
2. PRIMITIVE MAN – Naked
3. PRIMITIVE MAN – Love Under Will
4. UNEARTHLY TRANCE – Mechanism Error
5. UNEARTHLY TRANCE – Triumph
6. UNEARTHLY TRANCE – Reverse The Day
7. UNEARTHLY TRANCE – 418

PRIMITIVE MAN:
7/12/2018 Bluebird Theater – Denver, CO w/ Yob, Bell Witch
8/17/2018 Temple Of Ascension Vol. 1 – Edmonton, AB
8/18/2018 Psycho Las Vegas @ Hard rock Hotel And Casino – Las Vegas, NV
w/ -(16)- :
8/29/2018 Junkyard – Dortmund, DE
8/30/2018 IFZ- Leipzig, DE
8/31/2018 KB18 – Copenhagen, DK
9/01/2018 1000fryd – Aalborg, DK
9/02/2018 Hafenklang – Hamburg, DE
9/03/2018 Magasin4Brussels, BE
9/04/2018 Tiefgrund – Berlin, DE
9/05/2018 Poglos – Warsaw, PL
9/06/2018 Fuga – Bratislava, SK
9/07/2018 Desszert Feszt Budapest Opening Party – Budapest, HU
9/08/2018 Reflektor Venue – Timisoara, RO
9/09/2018 Something For The Core VII – Bucharest, RO
9/10/2018 Mocvara – Zagreb, HR
9/11/2018 Circolo Magnolia – Milano, IT
9/12/2018 Sunset Bar – Martigny, CH
9/13/2018 Gaswerk – Winterthur, CH
9/14/2018 Jubez – Karlsruhe, DE
9/15/2018 Bloodshed Fest 2018 – Eindhoven, NL

http://www.primitivemandoom.com
http://www.facebook.com/primitivemandoom
http://www.instagram.com/primitivemandoom
http://twitter.com/PRIMITIVEMANE
http://www.facebook.com/UnearthlyTrance
http://www.instagram.com/unearthlytrance
http://www.relapse.com
http://www.relapserecords.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords
http://www.twitter.com/RelapseRecords

Primitive Man & Unearthly Trance, Split LP trailer

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Cloud Catcher & Crypt Trip Announce ‘Wheels of Fire 2018’ Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I’m just going to assume ‘Wheels of Fire’ is like ‘Chariots of Fire’ but with a much, much, much better soundtrack. The tour will unite Denver headspinners Cloud Catcher with Texas heavy rockers Crypt Trip, whose debut on Heavy Psych Sounds, Rootstock, is out next week. Presented by Hi-Wattage Booking, it looks like a healthy run, covering a goodly portion of California from north to south before swinging back to Texas and letting Cloud Catcher — still supporting last year’s righteous Trails of Kozmic Dust (review here) on Totem Cat play a gig in Oklahoma City on their way back to Colorado.

A little surprising they’re not hitting up the Pacific Northwest — Seattle, Portland, etc. — this trip, but Cloud Catcher were there last Fall, so it’s not exactly like the ground hasn’t been covered. Still, this seems like it’ll be a good time and I can’t help but wonder at this point if Cloud Catcher don’t have some new material they might be trying out on the road. If you get to see them, let me know.

Here’s the poster and dates:

cloud catcher crypt trip tour

CLOUD CATCHER & CRYPT TRIP
WHEELS OF FIRE 2018 TOUR

May 19 Denver, CO Hi-Dive
May 21 Salt Lake City, UT Urban Lounge
May 23 Las Vegas, NV Bunkhouse
May 24 Reno, NV Jub Jubs
May 25 Nevada City, CA Coopers Ale House
May 26 San Francisco, CA Thee Parkside
May 27 Sacramento, CA Blue Lamp
May 28 Los Angeles, CA The Griffin
May 29 Long Beach, CA Que Sera
May 30 San Diego, CA Brick By Brick
June 1 San Antonio, TX The Mix
June 2 Austin, TX Hotel Vegas
June 3 Ft. Worth, TX Tin Panther
June 4 Oklahoma City, OK Blue Note (CC ONLY)

Presented by Hi-Wattage Booking

Poster by Christina Hunt http://www.heavymetaltalisman.com

CLOUD CATCHER is:
Rory Rummings – Guitar and Vocals
Kam Wentworth – Bass and Vocals
Jared Soloman Handman – Drums

CRYPT TRIP is
Ryan Lee: Guitar, Vocals, Elec. Piano
Cameron Martin: Drums, Vocals, Perc.
Sam Bryant: Bass

https://cloud-catcher.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/cloudcatcherco

https://www.facebook.com/CryptTrip/
https://crypttrip.bandcamp.com/

Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust (2017)

Crypt Trip, Rootsock (2018)

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