Quarterly Review: King Hitter, Desert Storm, Sendelica, Drifter, Sula Bassana, Strange Here, Once-Ler, Waingro, Motorgoat, The SeductionPosted in Reviews on March 30th, 2015 by JJ Koczan
I must be out of my damned mind. After wrapping up last year with a special feature comprising 50 reviews spread over five days, I’ve somehow decided that it’s not a bad way to do things. So here we are. It’s been three months, that’s a quarter of a year, so it seems only fair to have a Quarterly Review to catch up on some things that might otherwise have gone missed.
And that’s precisely what we’ll do. Between now and Friday, it’ll be 10 reviews per day, rounding up releases from the last couple months. Some are out now, some aren’t out yet, but it’s all recent one way or another. Like with the Last Licks 2014, I’ll be checking in each day as well. Should be fun to see how my mental status deteriorates over the course of the next few days, until my brains are little more than a stinky jelly dripping from out my ears on Friday. At least that’s how I remember it going last time.
So let’s go:
King Hitter, King Hitter
A North Carolina five-piece fronted by vocalist Karl Agell, best known as the frontman of Corrosion of Conformity for their 1991 Blind album – he’s also currently reviving that album live on stage with drummer Reed Mullin in C.O.C. Blind – the new outfit King Hitter reunites the singer with his former Leadfoot bandmate, guitarist Scott Little, and they test the waters with a five-track self-titled EP delivered via Candlelight Records. Crisply-produced, songs like “King Hitter” and “Feel No Pain” hit hard and gruff with just a touch of Southern heavy rock flair. The power of Agell’s voice is undiminished, but production is maybe too evident at times, and when they get down to the chugging “Suicide (Is the Retirement Plan,” politics meet personal perspective in a way that strikes deeper than might’ve been intended. Little and fellow guitarist Mike Brown, bassist Chuck Manning and drummer Jon Chambliss turn in worthy performances, but Agell’s command captures a good deal of the attention on this satisfying showcase of a songwriting process getting underway.
Desert Storm, Omniscient
Because one invariably measures British anything in “waves,” we’ll put Oxford double-guitar five-some at the crest of the New Wave of British Burl. Omniscient is their third full-length behind 2013’s Horizontal Life and their 2010 debut, Forked Tongues (review here), and it arrives through Blindsight Records with all the brash Southern metal riffing and dudely bellow one might expect. Orange Goblin are an immediate name to drop in comparison to opener “Outlander,” but “Queen Reefer”’s quiet solo section adds breadth and the acoustic “Home,” the Clutchy “Night Bus Blues” and the stomping, subtle djentery of closer “Collapse of the Bison Lung” continue to reveal an extended palette. A richer listen than it might appear the first time through, Omniscient still revels in its heaviness on “Blue Snake Moan” and “Sway of the Tides,” etc., but changes like the tempo downshift in “Horizon” give fodder for repeat visits to Desert Storm’s howling third offering.
Sendelica, Anima Mundi
Welsh space rockers Sendelica feel out some pretty peaceful vibes on songs like “The Pillar of Delhi,” “Azoic” or the sweet-washing closer “The Hedge Witch” from their self-released cosmos-tripper Anima Mundi, but there’s no shortage of spaced-out push either in songs like the 12-minute jam “Master Benjamin Warned Young Albert Not to Step on the Uninsulated Air” and electronic-pulsing “Baalbek Stones.” An experimental spirit underlies each of the eight included instrumental cuts, elements like sax, synth, keyboards, theremin, flute and various effects intertwining throughout Anima Muni’s 54-minute sprawl. Quiet moments like “Azoic” work well, but I won’t take away from the buzzsaw tone or swing behind “The Breyr, the Taeogion and the Caethion” either. The truly fortunate aspect of Sendelica’s latest is that it flows between its individual pieces, putting the listener in a position of open-minded experience while working around and through various psychedelic impulses, carefully woven and balanced in the mix, but vibrant and exciting and loose-feeling just the same.
Drifter, Violent at Altitude
Of the 13 songs on Melbourne trio Drifter’s Desert Highways debut LP, Violent at Altitude, only four reach past the three-minute mark, and even most of those play off a fuzz-punk intensity, shades of Melvins weirdness and Nick Oliveri heavy punker charge showing up in cuts like “Cool Breeze” or the raw, open “Another Life.” Closer “So Long” is given another look from Drifter’s 2013 debut EP, Head (review here), which it also capped, but the feel across Violent at Altitude is that guitarist/vocalist Dan King, bassist/vocalist Troy Dawson and drummer/vocalist Dave Payne is exploring the place where grunge and punk met on pieces like “Bi Polar,” the relatively spacey “Devil Digger” and quick-blasting 1:45 rush of “Russian Roulette,” their tones mean and their attack primal in its overall affect in a way that belies the stylistic nuance at work throughout. You can listen on an analytical level or you can be steamrolled by “Drugs.” Your call. Either way, Drifter are gonna tear it up in accordance with the altitude they’ve apparently hit.
Sula Bassana, Live at Roadburn 2014
Sula Bassana’s performance at Roadburn 2014 was their first as a full band. The experimental psychedelic project of guitarist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt (see also Electric Moon, Krautzone, Zone Six, Weltraumstaunen, etc.) came to life with his Electric Moon bandmates Komet Lulu on bass and Marcus Schnitzler on drums, as well as Zone Six’s Rainer Neeff on guitar, and the four jams of the live recording Live at Roadburn 2014 tell the tale brilliantly. Schmidt, who is quite simply among the foremost heavy psych jammers in the world, leads the four-piece through cascading movements, immersive and clear on record as they were in person, rich with a sense of improvised creation even if based on prior parts. Anything went, as the 18-minute “Dark Days” showcases here, with synth and guitar and heavy bass intertwining to a brilliant cosmic whole, Schnitzler’s drums holding the proceedings together wonderfully. Short at 50 minutes, it’s every bit as switched on as one might expect in a studio album from these players, blurring yet another line as they expand psych-rock consciousness.
Strange Here, II
To listen to opener “Still Alone” from Strange Here’s Minotauro Records raw second LP, II, one might expect that Alexander Scardavian (ex-Paul Chain) and Domenico “Dom” Lotito (ex-Hand of God) are presenting some loosely-swung classic doom, shades of Candlemass and Death SS filtered through heavy riffing and Scardavian’s gruff vocals, but that’s barely half the story. More is told by putting eight-minute tracks “Born to Lose” and “Black, Grey and White” next to each other, as they appear here. Following the opening duo of “Still Alone” and the echoing “Kiss of Worms,” the two longer cuts unveil a sound alternately diving into morose doomed march and spacious psychedelic flourish. That blend continues as the marching “Acid Rain” gives way to the acoustic/drone interplay of “Only If…”and comes to a head on closer “Shiftless,” a contrast of back-and-forth impulses played off each other throughout the 47-minute offering. There’s work to do bringing the sides together should Strange Here choose to go that route, though the lines drawn between make it that much easier to catch the listener off guard, which II just might.
Marked out by the jazzy noodling of “The Douche Bag Guru” and the funky bassline on “Drift,” the new self-titled EP from Dayton, Ohio, four-piece Once-Ler dates back a decade in some of its material, the track “Law Dog” having appeared on the band’s 2005 full-length, Entropy. It’s an unassuming rumble, sort of humbly produced for a garage-heavy feel, but the clarity of purpose in centerpiece “Swing the Leg”’s crashing progression is plain enough to hear, and opener “The Victim” is the longest cut at 6:43, earning immediate points. A prog-metal undertone in that track sets up some expectation that the EP veers quickly away from with “Drift,” but guitarist Burns, bassist Deininger, vocalist Reif and drummer Minarcek make a solid case despite the rough sonic edges in the recording. At 25 minutes, Once-Ler’s Once-Ler is enough to give an impression of where the band is headed and a demo-style look at what their progressive heavy rock has to offer.
Pummel, pummel, pummel. Vancouver trio Waingro debut at full-sprint with their 11-track/31-minute self-titled, which wastes little time shaking hands and goes immediately for the jugular on “Firebird.” About 10 seconds in, and the ride is underway with little letup to come as Waingro shove heavy tones along at breakneck speed on cuts like “Tailwind,” “Force Fed” and “Bathed in Tongues.” A remarkable sense of control lies beneath, the trio blending hardcore punk, heavy tones and modern metal twists fluidly as interludes like “Matador,” “St. Regis” and “Arboria” add complexity of method and “Rekall,” “Ride” and most especially side B cappers “Black Dawn” and “True North” brazenly craft something of Waingro’s own from familiar components. This album is self-released, but particularly if Waingro are able to tour at any length, it’s hard to imagine some imprint wouldn’t want to stand behind their brash but engaging thrust, professional already in its assured sensibility and rhythmic impact. The real question is whether they’ll wait around for anyone to notice or push ahead with the momentum they build here.
Motorgoat, The Iron Hoof of Oppression
There’s little room left for frills amid the sludge-punk sneer of Motorgoat’s The Iron Hoof of Oppression, which makes no bones about its affinity for booze, metal and fuckall on songs like “Satanic Slacker,” which boasts the lines, “Trippin’ balls is total bliss/He don’t know what day it is,” and so on. Obviously there’s a humor element to “Revenge of the Towndrunk” and “No Pants – No Problems,” but the German four-piece have a sincere vibe as well as they recount loser tales in a viciously-toned punk-metal spirit, less tune-in-drop-out than tune-out-drop-tune, but it turns out heavy either way. Cohesive in spite of its stated penchant for chaos, The Iron Hoof of Oppression offers partytime disaffection that’s so prevalent it might as well be post-modern. After the world has ended, there’s nothing left to do but dance, and Motorgoat seem (mal)content to let their own hooves stomp the floor. An album that gets better when you read the lyrics. Don’t be fooled by how dumb they seem to be calling themselves.
The Seduction, You Catch Fire
The tell? The tell is the scream just before North Carolina foursome The Seduction move into the bouncing bridge on “Volga,” which launches their Mechanical Pig Records debut, You Catch Fire. From there, it’s pretty easy to hear the metallic vibe beneath their stoner-punk aesthetic. It comes up again in the breakdown for the later “Hell on Two Wheels,” but it’s there anyway, adding an aggressive edge to the record, which at 53 minutes has plenty of room for the breadth of the rocking highlight centerpiece “Flavor of the Weak” or the depth-charge of the penultimate “Starmageddon” – a few more screams there amid spit-out hardcore shouts – but it’s the meld of these with the party-pit vibe of “Daughter of a Holy Man” and “Irish Flu” that makes You Catch Fire effective in taking cues from some of the West Coast’s heavy methods – some Red Fang, some Queens of the Stone Age — and presenting them with a definitively East Coast punch.