Quarterly Review: The Sword, Mountain Tamer, Demon Head, Bushfire, Motherslug, Dove, Treedeon, Falun Gong, Spider Kitten, Greynbownes

Posted in Reviews on April 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

Okay then. We got past the first day and I thought it went reasonably well. No casualties. Nobody’s brain melted from trying to find another word for “riffs” for the 19th time, so yeah, mark it a win. There’s a good spread of stuff in today’s batch — a little of this, a little of that — so hopefully somewhere in the mix you’re able to run into something you dig. Hell, I’ll say the same for myself as well. Come on, let’s go.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

The Sword, Used Future

the sword used future

Now-veteran Austin heavy rockers The Sword have gotten a mixed response to the more progressive approach their recent work has taken, and I doubt Used Future (on Razor & Tie) is going to be any less polarizing, but its crisp 13 tracks/43 minutes are pulled off with professionalism. Yes, it has its self-indulgent aspects in “Sea of Green” or the earlier instrumental “The Wild Sky,” but The Sword have never done anything other than deliver accessible heavy rock and tour like hell, so while I get the mixed response, at this point I think the band has at very least earned a measure of respect for what they’ve accomplished as ambassadors of underground heavy. They wanna throw a little John Carpenter influence into “Nocturne?” Fine. They’re not hurting anybody. The unfortunate truth about The Sword is that neither polarized side is right. They’re not the end of heavy metal as we know it; some crude ironic take on what metal should be. And they’re not the greatest band of their generation. They have a good record deal. They write decent songs. Where’s the problem with that? I don’t hear it on Used Future.

The Sword on Thee Facebooks

Razor & Tie website

 

Mountain Tamer, Living in Vain Demo

mountain tamer Demo 2017

If it was Mountain Tamer’s intention to get listeners excited about the prospect of a second full-length from the Santa Cruz, CA three-piece, then the Living in Vain demo serves this purpose well. Their 2016 Argonauta Records self-titled debut (review here) expounded on the potential they originally showed with 2015’s Mtn Tmr demo (review here), and though it’s only two songs, Living in Vain would seem to do the same in building on the accomplishments of the album before it. The opening title-track is labeled “Living in Vain Pt. 1” and nestles easily into a mid-paced shuffle before shifting into psychedelic lead layering and a more jammed-out spirit, from which it returns in the last 30 seconds to hit into a more solidified ending riff, leading to the immediately slower “Wretched.” More spacious, more of a march, it plays into an instrumental hook and holds to its structure for its entire 5:40, ending with guitar on a quick fade. Obviously the intention with a release like this is to entice the listener with the prospect of the band’s next album. Living in Vain does that and more.

Mountain Tamer on Thee Facebooks

Mountain Tamer on Bandcamp

 

Demon Head, The Resistance

demon head the resistance

Returning just about a year after issuing their second album, Thunder on the Fields (review here), Copenhagen-based proto-metallers Demon Head offer a new two-songer single titled The Resistance that at least to my ears speaks to the current political moment of populism opposing liberalism – as much at play in Europe as in the US, if not more so – and the fight for an open society. They present it as a six-plus-minute languid groove with flashes of militaristic snare; something of a turn from the cult rock of their two-to-date long-players. One could say the same of the sci-fi themed “Rivers of Mars,” though like its predecessor, it remains sonically on-point with the band’s vintage aesthetic, fostered through naturalist guitar and bass tones, bluesy, commanding vocals and classy, creative drumming. Actually, apply that “classy” all around. As Demon Head continue to come into their own sound, they do so with poise that’s all the more striking for how raw their presentation remains.

Demon Head on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records

 

Bushfire, When Darkness Comes

bushfire when darkness comes

When Darkness Comes is German heavy rocking five-piece Bushfire’s follow-up to late-2013’s Heal Thy Self (review here), and it retains the Darmstadt-based outfit’s penchant for quality riffcraft and a showcase for the vocals of frontman Bill Brown, which hit in bottom-of-the-mouth melodies and gruff shouts fitting to cuts like “The Conflict” and the swinging “Shelter.” Bushfire are no strangers to a semi-Southern element in their sound, and that remains true on When Darkness Comes from the opening title-track through the later “Another Man Down” and closer “Liberation.” Somewhat curiously, that closer is instrumental, and where the vocals play such a role in the overarching impression the record makes, it’s an interesting twist to have them absent from the final statement, leaving guitarists Marcus Bischoff and Miguel Pereira, bassist Vince and drummer Sascha to finish out on their own. If groove is the measure, they’re certainly up to the task, but then, that was never really in doubt.

Bushfire on Thee Facebooks

Bushfire on Bandcamp

 

Motherslug, The Electric Dunes of Titan

motherslug the electric dunes of titan

I’m sorry. I don’t see how you could dig anything calling itself “stoner” and not be down with what Motherslug are doing with their second long-player, The Electric Dunes of Titan. Plus-sized riffing all over the place, languid rollouts, excursions into psychedelic splendor (see “Followers of the Sun,” etc.), explosions into massive groove (see “Staring at the Sun”), a nod to High on Fire in “Tied to the Mast” and a Sleep-style march on closer “Cave of the Last God” that’s probably the best I’ve heard since the Creedsmen Arise demo in 2015. Really, if Motherslug doesn’t do it for you, nothing will. Five years after they initially released their self-titled EP (review here), which was later expanded into their debut album for NoSlip Records (review here), the Melbourne outfit charge back with what should be a litmus test for riff-heads. In all seriousness, from tone to structure to songwriting to production to the cover art, there’s just nothing here that doesn’t deliver the message. Should’ve been on my best of 2017 list.

Motherslug on Thee Facebooks

Motherslug on Bandcamp

 

Dove, Dove Discography

dove discography

In the wake of Floor’s disbanding, drummer Henry Wilson formed Dove. They were around for about five years, did some touring (one remembers picking up their self-titled in a Manhattan basement with $2 Rolling Rocks calling itself The Pyramid), and disbanded to a cult status not so different from that which Floor enjoyed prior to their own reunion, if to something of a lesser degree. As the title indicates, Dove Discography compiles “every listenable track” the band ever put out, including their self-titled, Wilson’s original demo for the project, compilation and 7” material. All told, it’s 20 tracks and just under an hour of documentation for who Dove were and the kind of punk metal they were about, never quite stoner, but heavy rock to be sure, and definitely of the Floridian ilk that produced both Floor and Cavity and a style Wilson has progressed with House of Lightning. Dove could be blazingly intense or they could plod out a huge riff, holding a deceptively wide purview that was only part of the reason they were so underrated at the time.

Dove on Bandcamp

House of Lightning on Thee Facebooks

 

Treedeon, Under the Manchineel

treedeon under the manchineel

To anyone who might complain that all sludge sounds the same, I humbly submit Treedeon, whose second album for Exile on Mainstream, Under the Manchineel, is a work both noise-laden and righteously avant garde. Perhaps even more ferocious than its 2015 predecessor, Lowest Level Reincarnation (review here), the seven-track/44-minute outing offers a touch of melody in “Breathing a Vein” and buried deep in the midsection of 16-minute closer “Wasicu,” and arguably in guitarist Arne Heesch’s delivery in opener “Cheetoh” as well, but he and bassist Yvonne Ducksworth mostly keep to harsh shouts as they create consuming washes of noise over the madcap drumwork of newcomer Andy Schuenemann, who punctuates every punch of Ducksworth’s gotta-hear-it bass tone on album centerpiece “No Hell” as Heesch goes lands the chorus with the line “No hell can hold me” as its standout line. Bringing a sense of themselves to an established style to a degree that’s rare, rarer, rarest, Treedeon are no less aggressively weird than they are aggressive, period.

Treedeon on Thee Facebooks

Exile on Mainstream website

 

Falun Gong, Figure 1

Falun Gong Figure 1

There are some post-Electric Wizard shades that emerge in the debut single from London’s Falun Gong by the time it reaches its feedback-soaked finale, but really, “Figure 1” is much more about digging into its own cultistry than that of the Obornian sort. Still, the overarching impression is somewhat familiar, and will be particularly to those who were fans of The Wounded Kings, but the duo who remain anonymous present themselves with a clearheaded intent toward maximum sonic murk, and with the lumbering misery they trod out in “Figure 1,” they seem to achieve what they’re going for. I don’t know who they are, but I’d guess this isn’t their first band, and as crowded as London’s heavy underground has become over the course of this decade, acts like Falun Gong are fewer and farther between than some others, and during these 10 minutes, they make a striking first impression. One hopes for “Figure 2” sooner rather than later.

Falun Gong on Bandcamp

 

Spider Kitten, Concise and Sinister

http://theobelisk.net/obelisk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/spider-kitten-concise-and-sinister.jpg

Intended as a thematic continuation to some degree of 2016’s Ark of Oktofelis, the four-song Concise and Sinister finds long-running multi-genre UK outfit Spider Kitten bookending two extended crushers around two shorter pieces, one of which is a cover of Hank Williams’ “Alone and Forsaken” (also memorably done by 16 Horsepower) and the other of which is a noise-punk assault that lasts 46 seconds and is called “I’m Feeling So Much Better.” Whether fast or slow, loud or quiet, the intention of Spider Kitten doesn’t seem even at its most abrasive to be to punish so much as to challenge, and whether it’s the cinematic elements dug into the march of opener and longest track (immediate points) “A Glorious Retreat” (11:33) or the harmonies that accompany especially-doomed 10-minute closer “Martyr’s Breath,” Spider Kitten and founder Chi Lameo demonstrate a creativity acknowledging that bounds exist and then simply refusing to accept them, making even the familiar seem unfamiliar in the process.

Spider Kitten on Thee Facebooks

Spider Kitten on Bandcamp

 

Greynbownes, Grey Rainbow from Bones

greynbownes grey rainbow from bones

Comprised of guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Lukas, bassist Martin and drummer Jakub, Greynbownes hail from Moravia in the Czech Republic and the moniker-explaining Grey Rainbow from Bones is their self-issued debut full-length. It is comprised of nine tracks of inventive heavy rock, pulling elements from grunge and ‘90s-era stoner noise on cuts like “Across the Bones” while veering into fare more aggressive, or psychedelic or jammy in the trio of six-minute tracks “Seasons,” “Death of Autumn Leaves” and “B 612” that precedes the closing duo of the funky “Sitting at the Top” and the mellow-but-still-heavy finisher “Weight of Sky,” which feels far removed from the opening salvo of “Boat of Fools,” the fuzz-punker “Madness” and the fuckall-chug of “What is at Stake.” Yes, it’s all over the place, and one might expect Greynbownes’ sound to solidify over time, but to the trio’s credit, Grey Rainbow from Bones never flies apart in the way that it seems at multiple points it might, and that’s an encouraging sign.

Greynbownes on Thee Facebooks

Greynbownes on Bandcamp

 

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Buried Treasure and Redscroll in Autumn, Pt. 2

Posted in Buried Treasure on October 28th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Moments ago, as I was trying to think of a headline for this post, I recalled that I’d visited Redscroll Records in Wallingford, Connecticut, last year around this time. Creature of habit that I am, the date on that post is Oct. 25, 2010. Here we are, a year and three days later and I’m chronicling pretty much the same trip. Surprisingly, there was no band overlap. Small favors, I guess.

It had been or at least felt like a while since I did a good round of caution-and-common-sense-to-the-wind record shopping, which I find is good for the soul, and especially since my prior visit to the store had come up empty, I was stoked to make out pretty good this time. You can probably see the stack in the picture above, but in case you don’t feel like clicking to enlarge it, here’s the rundown:

Aldebaran, Buried Beneath Aeons
Cable, Cable
Desert Sessions, Vol. I/Vol. II
Desert Sessions, Vol. III/Vol. IV
Dove, Dove
Grayceon, All We Destroy
Orange Goblin, Time Travelling Blues
Patton Oswalt, Finest Hour
Reverend Bizarre, Death is Glory… Now!
Sunride, Magnetizer
VA, Judge Not…
Wooden Shjips, Dos
Wolves in the Throne Room, Celestial Lineage

Of those, I already own the Desert Sessions, Dove and Orange Goblin records — but I still have my reasons for buying each. The Orange Goblin was used, and as I looked at it on the shelf, I discovered it was the Japanese version of the record, with their cover of Trouble‘s “Black Shapes of Doom” for a bonus track. That cover originally appeared on the Bastards Will Pay tribute, and since I’ve never had any luck tracking down a copy of that (it’s in my canon of daily eBay searches), I figured all the more excuse to get the import on the cheap.

The Dove, on the other hand, is probably the least reasonable of the repeat offenses. Where the Desert Sessions stuff was priced new, it was also like $12 a pop, and screw it, if I’m already spending money, I’ll hit that up. I looked so hard for those CDs the first time around, I don’t mind having doubles. For the Dove disc, though, there really is no argument. It was there, it was used, and I bought it. It’s out of print, and I might use it in a trade or something at some point — hey, if anyone wants to switch it for that Trouble tribute, drop a line — but beyond that, it was an impulse and an excuse to revisit the album from the Floor offshoot, which I hadn’t heard in years.

Grayceon was one of two discs I knew I wanted to pick up going into the trip — the other was Rwake, which Redscroll was out of — and since I’ve had those songs stuck in my head for the last month, I was glad to have the full version of the album to sate that. That wasn’t used, but it is now. The Wolves in the Throne Room is also their latest record, which I had every intent of reviewing but never got around to, but only had a disc and top liner for. There’s always one or two tracks on their albums that justifies a purchase, and now I can take my time finding out which ones those are on Celestial Lineage. I don’t feel as bad for not reviewing it if I go out and buy the record.

I bought Sunride‘s Magnetizer (1998, Boundless Records) because of a discussion on the forum of the worst stoner rock albums ever. Not that it’s mentioned in there, but Sea of Green is, and I got the names mixed up in my head. I had wanted to buy it just to hear what the worst stoner rock ever sounded like. As Magnetizer isn’t even close to the worst stoner rock I’ve ever heard, I can’t help but feel like I inadvertently won out.

The Wooden Shjips I got because I need to review their new album, West, for work and wanted something to compare it to. It was used, as was the Underdogma Records compilation, Judge Not…, which proved yet again that I don’t like comps until they’re out of print and desirable for their obscurity. I don’t remember the last time I heard Ironboss (guns don’t kill people, they do), so I’ll take it, and with Gammera, Pale Divine, early The Quill and Puny Human on there, all the better. Two discs of heavy rock I didn’t own prior. Six bucks.

Buying Cable in Connecticut had some oddball novelty to me, and the 1997 comp of their early tracks was used and is raw as hell, so that was a yes, and I didn’t even know Patton Oswalt had a new record, but there it was. Since on his last special, he was talking all about his wife being pregnant, I figured this would be his “I have a kid now” material (every comic has it), and sure enough, it is. Still good. The Reverend Bizarre and Aldebaran discs were impulse buys — I grabbed the Aldebaran with all the forethought of snatching a pack of Reese’s on the way out of the grocery store — but reckless abandon is no fun if it’s not actually reckless, so there you go.

The Patient Mrs. — bless her heart — had come in a few moments prior to collect me so we could make our way back south to Jersey, but as we were leaving, the dudes behind the counter informed that they’ll be doing a special Black Friday sale post-Thanksgiving, opening at 6AM with markdowns on new and used CDs and vinyl — which, at this point, takes up a good deal of the room they have. Turns out I’ll be up that way for the holiday, so if I’m not all drowned out in vino and tryptophan, I may just make that happen for myself. Seems like it could be fun, anyway.

More info on that and the store is here, if you’re interested. I’ll spare you the lecture on preserving independent record-buying culture, because I think you probably know it by now, but anyway, they do good work.

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