Quarterly Review: Bellrope, Cracked Machine, The Sky Giants, Sacred Monster, High ‘n’ Heavy, Warlung, Rogue Conjurer, Monovine, Un & Coltsblood, La Grande Armée

Posted in Reviews on March 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Day Six. Not that there wasn’t a bit of a crunch along the way, but I definitely think this Quarterly Review was aided by the fact that I dug so much of what I was writing about on a personal-taste level. You get through it one way or the other, but it just makes it more fun. Today is the last day and then it’s back to something approaching normal tomorrow, but of course before this thing is rounded out I want to thank you as always for taking the time and for reading if you did. It means a tremendous amount to me to put words out and have people see them, so thank you for your part in that.

This could’ve easily gone seven or eight or 10 days if scheduling had permitted, but here’s as good a place to leave it. The next one will probably be the first week of July or thereabouts, so keep an eye out.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Bellrope, You Must Relax

bellrope you must relax

How much noise can your brain take? I don’t mean noise like start-stop riffs and dudes shouting. I mean actual, abrasive, amelodic noise. Bellrope, with ex-members of the underrated Black Shape of Nexus start their Exile on Mainstream-delivered debut album, You Must Relax, with three minutes of chaff-separation they’re calling “Hollywood 2001/Rollrost.” It’s downright caustic. Fortunately, what follows on the four subsequent extended tracks devotes itself to lumbering post-sludge that’s at least accessible by comparison. “Old Overholt” is the only other inclusion under 10 minutes as the tracks are arranged shortest to longest with the 17:57 “CBD/Hereinunder” concluding. The thickened tones brought to bear throughout “Old Overholt” and the blend of screams and growls that accompany are more indicative of what follows on the centerpiece title-track and the penultimate “TD2000,” but the German four-piece still manage to sound plenty fucked throughout. Just not painfully so. There’s something threatening about the use of the word “must” in the album’s title. The songs realize that threat.

Bellrope on Thee Facebooks

Exile on Mainstream Records website

 

Cracked Machine, The Call of the Void

Cracked Machine The Call of the Void

Here be dragons. Though its core tonality is still within the bounds of heavy rock, Wiltshire, UK, four-piece bring a far more atmospheric and progressive style to fruition on their second album, The Call of the Void, than it might at first appear. With post-rock float to the guitar of Bill Denton, keyboard textures from Clive Noyes, and fluid rhythms carried through changes in volume and ambience from bassist Christ Sutton and drummer Blazej Gradziel, the PsyKA Records outfit present a cerebral seven tracks/47 minutes of immersive and seemingly conceptual work, with opener “Jormungandr” establishing the context in which each song that follows is named for a different culture’s dragon, whether it’s the Hittite “Illuyanka,” Japan’s “Yamata No Orochi” or the Persian “Azi Dahakar.” Cracked Machine use this theme to tie pieces together, and they push farther out as the record unfolds late with “Typhon” and “Vritra” a closing pair of marked scope. The shortest cut, the earlier 5:14 “Kirimu,” has probably the most straightforward push, but Cracked Machine demonstrate an ability to adapt to the needs of whatever idea they’re working to convey.

Cracked Machine on Thee Facebooks

PsyKA Records webstore

 

The Sky Giants, The Shifting of Phaseworld

the sky giants the shifting of phaseworld

Taking cues from psychedelia almost as much as jangly West Coast noise and punk, Tacoma, Washington’s The Sky Giants offer the 10-track sophomore outing The Shifting of Phaseworld, which finds a balance in songs like “Dream Receiver” between progressive heavy rock and its rawer foundations. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Jake Frye, bassist Jessie Avery and drummer/vocalist/engineer/graphic artist Peter Tietjen are comfortable tipping from one side to the other between and within songs, starting off with the shove of “Technicolor Kaleidoscope” and getting mathy on the later “Half Machine” ahead of the chunkier-riffed “Rhyme and the Flame,” which somehow touches on classic punk even as it hones a wash of distortion that that has to cut through. Closing each side with a longer track in the rolling, airy “Solid State” (6:53) and the frenetic ending of “Simian” (7:38), The Sky Giants stake out a sonic terrain very much their own throughout The Shifting of Phaseworld and only seem to expand their territory as they go.

The Sky Giants on Thee Facebooks

The Sky Giants on Bandcamp

 

Sacred Monster, Worship the Weird

sacred monster worship the weird

Topped off by the ace screams of vocalist Adam Szczygiel, who taps his inner Devin Townsend circa Strapping Young Lad on “High Confessor” and “Re-Animator,” Sacred Monster‘s debut album, Worship the Weird would seem to cull together elements of Orange Goblin and Bongzilla for a kind of classic-metal-aware sludge rock, the riffs of Robert Nubel not at all shy about digging into aggressive vibes to go with the layers of growls and throatrippers and the occasional King Diamond-esque falsetto, as on “Waverly Hills,” as bassist Guillermo Moreno and drummer Ted Nubel bolster that feel with tight turns and duly driven bottom end. I’ll take “Face of My Father” as a highlight, if only for the excruciating sound of Szczygiel‘s screech, but the swing in closer “Maze of Dreams” has an appeal of its own, and as a Twilight Zone and a Shatner fan, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” offers its own charm.

Sacred Monster on Thee Facebooks

Sacred Monster on Bandcamp

 

High n’ Heavy, Warrior Queen

high n heavy warrior queen

Shades of grunge and skate-fuzz fuckall pervade the Sabbathian grooves of High n’ Heavy‘s second album, Warrior Queen, as guitarist John Steele works some doomly keys into second cut “Shield Maiden” and vocalist Kris Fortin moves in and out of throaty shouts on side B’s “Lydia.” They thrash out in the noisy “Catapult” and Nick Perrone‘s drums seem to bounce even in the longer-winded “Lands Afar” and closer “Smell of Decay / Wings and Claw,” on which Mike Dudley‘s rumble backs classically metallic shred in the lead guitar after offering likewise support to the piano in the early going of “Join the Day.” Released through Electric Valley Records, the eight-song/36-minute LP comes across as raw but not without purpose in that, and its blend of tonal thickness and the blend of thrust and nod does well to ensure High n’ Heavy remain unpredictable while also living up to the standard of their moniker. There’s potential here that’s worth further exploration on the part of the band.

High n’ Heavy on Thee Facebooks

Electric Valley Records website

 

Warlung, Immortal Portal

Warlung Immortal Portal

Houston, Texas, four-piece make a quick case for the attention of Ripple Music on their sophomore outing, Immortal Portal, which is slickly-but-not-too-slickly produced and sharply-but-not-too-sharply executed, a professional sensibility in “Black Horse Pike” and the subsequent “The Palm Reader” — which manages to be influenced melodically by Uncle Acid without sounding just like them — ahead of the ’80s metallurgy of “Heart of a Sinner” and the reference-packed “1970.” “We All Die in the End” gives an uptempo swing to the opening salvo ahead of the more brooding “Between the Dark and the Light,” but Warlung hold firm to clearly-presented melodies and riff-led rhythms no matter where they seem to go in mood or otherwise. That ties the drift of the later “Heavy Echoes” to the earlier material and makes the harmony-laced “No Son of Mine” and the organ-ic proggy sprawling finale “Coal Minors” all the more effective in reaching beyond where the album started, so that the listener winds up in a different landscape than they started, still grounded, but changed nonetheless.

Warlung on Thee Facebooks

Warlung on Bandcamp

 

Rogue Conjurer, Of the Goddess / Crystal Mountain Lives

rogue conjurer of the goddess

Originally released digitally by the Baltimore-based unit in 2017, the two-songer Of the Goddess / Crystal Mountain Lives sees pressing as an ultra-limited tape via Damien Records and finds the three-piece of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Tonie Joy, drummer Colin Seven and organist Donny Van Zandt — since replaced by Trevor Shipley — honing a psychedelic take on doomly riffs and groove. “Crystal Mountain Lives” has a more distinct nod to its central progression, with a wah-drenched break and greater overall largesse of fuzz, but “Of the Goddess” brings an effective almost shoegazing sense to its downer spirit. The first track is also longer, so it has more time to move from that initial impression to its own payoff, but either way you go, Rogue Conjurer bring out their dead ably on the tape, showing influences from heavy psych and beyond as “Of the Goddess” winds its way to its close and “Crystal Mountain Lives” begins its fade-in all over again. No pretense, but a broad range that would allow for some if they wanted.

Rogue Conjurer on Instagram

Damien Records on Bandcamp

 

Monovine, D.Y.E

monovine dye

Athens heavy rockers Monovine wear their grunge influence proudly on their third full-length, D.Y.E, issued late in 2018 digitally with an early 2019 vinyl release. It’s writ large in the Nirvana-ism of the slurring “Mellow” at the outset and remains a factor through the melodies of “Void” and the later punkery of “Messed Up” or “Ring a Bell,” as well as the toying-with-pop “Me (Raphe Nuclei)” and “Your Figure Smells,” but where Monovine succeed in making that influence their own is by filtering it through a fuzzier presentation. The guitar and bass tones keep a modern heavy feel, and as the drums roll and crash through songs like “For a Sun” and “Why Don’t You Shoot Me in the Head,” that makes a difference in the overall impression the album leaves. Still, there’s little question as to their central point of inspiration, and they bring it out in homage and as a fairly honed mode of expression on closer “Haunt,” which teases an explosion in its melancholy strum and then… well, don’t let me spoil it.

Monovine on Thee Facebooks

Monovine on Bandcamp

 

Un & Coltsblood, Split

un coltsblood split

A festering 42 minutes of lurching agonies, Un and Coltsblood‘s split taps the best of modern death-doom’s emotionalism and bent toward extremity. Billed as a “tribute to grief: the final act of love,” it brings just two tracks, one per band, as Coltsblood open with “Snows of the Winter Realm” and Un follow with “Every Fear Illuminated.” Both bands proffer a terrifyingly weighted plod and offset it with a spacious ambience, whether it’s Un departing their grueling nod after about six and a half minutes only to build back up over the next six and grow more ferocious until devolving into noise and slamming crashes ahead of an outro of echoing, needs-a-tune-sounding piano, or Coltsblood fostering their own tonal brutalism and casting their lot with death and black metal while a current of airy guitar seems to mourn the song even as it plays out. Each cut is a monument built to loss, and their purpose in conveying that theme is both what unites them and what makes their work so ultimately consuming, as grief is.

Un on Thee Facebooks

Coltsblood on Thee Facebooks

 

La Grande Armée, La Grande Armée

La Grande Armée La Grande Armée

The blend of drifting guitar and psychedelic wash on opener “El Canto de las Ballenas” earns La Grande Armée‘s self-titled debut three-song EP immediate favor, and the patient execution they bring to the subsequent “Tripa Intergaláctica” and “Normandía,” particularly the latter, only furthers that appeal. The Chilean trio keep a decidedly natural feel to the exploratory-seeming work, and if this is them finding their sound, they seem happy to do it by losing themselves in their jams. All the better someone thought to press record, since although there’s clearly some trajectory behind the progression of songs — i.e., they know at least to a degree where they want to end up — the process of getting there comes across as spontaneous. Guitar pans channels as bass and drums hold down languid flow, and even in the more active midsection of “Tripa Intergaláctica,” La Grande Armée there’s a sense that it’s more about the space being created than the construction under way. In any case, wherever they want to head next, they would seem to have the means of travel at their disposal.

La Grande Armée on Thee Facebooks

La Grande Armée on Bandcamp

 

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Mother Iron Horse Sign to Electric Valley Records; Begin Work on First Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 23rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Massachusetts newcomers Mother Iron Horse have been a band for about seven months, give or take, but they’ve already got an initial two-songer out in the form of Fall 2018’s The Curse, and they’ve already announced work has begun on their debut full-length, which will be released through Electric Valley Records. One might call that a productive start and perhaps leave the understatement to speak for itself, but either way, the four-piece don’t have a set arrival date for the record or anything — “work has begun” could mean six months of writing followed by another six of recording, however contrary that would be to their initial intensity — but it’s in progress. In the meantime, the two tracks of The Curse are at the bottom of this post if you’d care to dig in, and we’ll file the rest neatly away under “more to come.”

The announcement from Electric Valley follows, courtesy of the PR wire:

mother iron horse

Electric Valley Records – Mother Iron Horse

Electric Valley Records is proud to announce the signing of the american Stoner/Doom Band *** MOTHER IRON HORSE ***

Formed in 2018 in Salem, Ma, Mother Iron Horse is Adam Luca, Marco Medina, Chris Kobialka and Devin Fields.

Blending esoteric lyrics with roaring guitar riffs in a way that packs Doom Metal and Rock n Roll into one red eyed, beer soaked suitcase and kicks it down the stairs.

The band came to fruition over a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon and the shared background of Boston’s heavy music scene. The band officially started in July 2018, but, due to set backs, didn’t get going until October 2018. The Salem band released a two-track EP on Halloween 2018 which garnered them some national exposure. In January of 2019 Mother Iron Horse signed to Electric Valley Records and began recording their debut full length album.

https://www.facebook.com/MotherIronHorse/
www.instagram.com/mother_iron_horse
motherironhorse.bandcamp.com
www.electricvalleyrecords.com
www.facebook.com/electricvalleyrecords
www.instagram.com/electricvalleyrecords
evrecords.bandcamp.com

Mother Iron Horse, The Curse EP

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High n’ Heavy Sign to Electric Valley Records; New Album in 2019

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I think we’ve hit the stage of the year when most of the new album announcements will either be for the tail end of November or for next year. Massachusetts’ moniker-as-aesthetic heavy rockers High n’ Heavy have their fourth album in post-production now — presumably that means mixing/mastering, not CGI — and they’ve signed to Electric Valley Records for the release, but I’d be really surprised if it showed up before the end of the year. Nobody wants to do releases in December — traditionally, the music industry goes home for the holidays — and if the record’s not pressed yet because it’s not completely finished, then yeah, let’s say 2019. Pretty impressive however that even so, it’ll be the band’s fourth album in five years when it comes out. The other three, including the latest, which is 2017’s From the Flames, are all name-your-price on Bandcamp.

The label sent the following down the PR wire:

high n heavy

Electric Valley Records is proud to announce the signing of the Stoner Doom band *** HIGH N’ HEAVY ***

High n’ Heavy are a four piece instrument of destruction out of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Formed in late 2014 with The Stooges, Black Sabbath, and Motörhead in mind; their sound has evolved to perfectly embody all of their influences. Mostly playing shows in their native New England, High n’ Heavy has been gathering a following with their electrifying musicianship and high energy live sets.

From the depths of space they came. One by one. From out of the skies they fell. Now, with the magic they possess, they melt the faces of earths people. With thunderous drums, booming bass, screaming guitar solos, and mystical vocals they are… HIGH N’ HEAVY!!!

Their first 3 albums have shown the band to be at home playing everything from the most brutal of doom to the dirtiest of rock n’ roll. With their fourth already in post production, High n’ Heavy are guaranteed to melt faces and break hearts.

https://www.facebook.com/HighnHeavy
http://instagram.com/Highnheavy
https://highnheavy.bandcamp.com/
www.facebook.com/electricvalleyrecords
http://instagram.com/Electricvalleyrecords
www.electricvalleyrecords.com

High n’ Heavy, From the Flames (2017)

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Elepharmers Sign to Electric Valley Records; New Album out in 2019

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

There’s a running gag around my house — there are a few, actually — wherein, as the husband and patriarch of our family, I am the spiritual head of the household for myself, The Patient Mrs., The Pecan and The Little Dog Dio, and as such, I’ve chosen the religion for the family to be “ancient astronaut theory.” I’ll admit, lately I’ve also been flirting with crystals — which I’m not even sure how you’d make that a religion, but you know, can’t you kind of say the same for any dogma? — so my position is evolving as the spiritual head of the household, but for now, yeah, aliens. Accordingly it’s with particular interest that I look forward to the release of the third album from Italian three-piece Elepharmers, which will also be their debut on Electric Valley Records, and will cavort with ancient astronaut theory as well as other doodads out of the sci-fi landscape.

Not that ancient astronaut theory isn’t real, mind you. This is the spiritual foundation of my home we’re talking about.

And so on.

From the PR wire:

elepharmers

Electric Valley Records is proud to announce the signing of the Stoner Doom Psych band ELEPHARMERS

Elepharmers are a trio that plays a mix of hard 70’s blues, psychedelic space-rock, 90’s stoner: they come from Sardinia (Italy), an island in the West Mediterranean Sea.The band’s members are strongly influenced by their native land: sunny and unspoiled plains, wild coasts, mysterious megalithic sites, ancient forests. Elepharmers’ sound is made by impressive riffs & psychedelic guitar solos, powerful drums’ grooves, bluesy vocals and some synth incursions. The band released 2 full-lenght albums: “Weird Tales From the Third Planet” (Go Down Records, 2013) and “Erebus” (Go Down Records, 2016).

Elepharmers toured Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Netherlands; they played at important international festivals like Duna Jam, Elav Stoner Open Air, Maximum Festival, Monolithix Fest and they shared the stage with bands like Karma to Burn, Yawning Man, Red Fang, Mars Red Sky, Toner Low, Monkey 3, Electric Moon and many others. In 2018 the band is working on a new album: a concept inspired by Isaac Asimov’ sci-fi novels and Zecharia Sitchin’s theories about “ancient astronauts”. The new album will be released in February 2019 by Electric Valley Records.

Elepharmers is:
El Chino – vocals; rhythm guitar; bass; harmonica
Andrea “Fex” Cadeddu – lead & rhythm guitars –
Maurizio Mura – drums

www.facebook.com/elepharmers
www.instagram.com/elepharmers
https://twitter.com/Elepharmers
https://elepharmers.bandcamp.com/
www.facebook.com/electricvalleyrecords
www.instagram.com/electricvalleyrecords
www.electricvalleyrecords.com

Elepharmers, Erebus (2016)

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Weed Demon Post “Sigil of the Black Moon” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

weed demon

With their debut album, Astrological Passages (review here), Columbus, Ohio, four-piece Weed Demon step into one of the country’s most vicious sludge legacies. There are few phrases that strike fear into the heart of pharmaceuticals like “Ohio sludge,” and with good reason. From Fistula and Rue to Rebreather and Sofa King Killer, the Buckeye State has produced landmarks for the genre to rival anything that’s come out of New Orleans or any of the other US hotbeds on the West or East Coasts. Issued by the band in 2017 and pressed to vinyl by Electric Valley Records, Weed Demon‘s four-tracker LP bring in shades of modern riff tectonics à la groups like Monolord and rumbles with a tonal heft that seems to extended even to the high end of their guitar solos. Vocals have a tendency to roar accordingly.

“Sigil of the Black Moon,” for which the band has a new video out, is the second-longest song on Astrological Passages at 10:46 — only closer “Jettisoned” tops it, at 12:37 — and is a fervent, lumbering beast of a track. Shades of Goya‘s ultra-stonerism pervade, but with the harsher edge, there’s little question where Weed Demon‘s collective corrupt heart lies in terms of style. You’d call it brutal and not be wrong. The band appear in the video, playing through the song in front of what looks like a really nice rock wall in someone’s living room maybe. They’ve got some candles set up around them and it’s all well and good. Then there’s another part of the video, where it cuts to this guy and his lady and they’re like covered in dirt makeup and chocolate sauce or whatever it is and making out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to sit here and judge anyone’s kink, it’s just not the kind of thing you usually see in a sludge clip.

All the better, I guess. It’s pretty hilarious though to watch the guy in the mirror putting on his makeup and think of the Primordial video earlier this year that was basically their frontman doing the same thing. Context goes a long way.

The clip follows here, along with some PR wire background on its making and live dates.

Enjoy:

Weed Demon, “Sigil of the Black Moon” official video

WEED DEMON are pleased to reveal their new video for “Sigil Of The Black Moon”. The song is taken from the album Astrological Passages which is getting a fresh release on vinyl July 27th.

The band commented “We started working on the video for “Sigil” in August of last year. A handful of setbacks and numerous bowl packs later we finally got around to wrapping everything up. Seeing the final product was like a huge collective exhale for us. It’s no easy task to put together an almost 11 minute video. A huge thanks to Josh Richter for helping to keep the project moving forward. Keep it heavy. Keep it hazy.”

Weed Demon live:
Aug 10 The Green Lantern Lexington, KY
Aug 11 Urban Artifact Cincinnati, OH
Sep 13 The Spacebar Columbus, OH

Weed Demon is:
Jordan Holland – Bass, Vocals
Andy Center – Guitars, Vocals (backing)
Brian Buckley – Guitars, Vocals (backing)
Chris Windle – Drums

Weed Demon, Astrological Passages (2018)

Weed Demon on Thee Facebooks

Weed Demon on Instagram

Weed Demon on Bandcamp

Electric Valley Records on Thee Facebooks

Electric Valley Records website

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Quarterly Review: Glanville, Destroyer of Light, The Re-Stoned, Ruff Majik, Soldat Hans, High Priestess, Weed Demon, Desert Storm, Ancient Altar, Black Box Warning

Posted in Reviews on July 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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

So Day 1’s done and it’s time to move on to Day 2. Feeling stressed and totally overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff still to be done? Why yes, I am. Thanks for asking. In the past, I used to handle the Quarterly Review well ahead of time. It’s always a lot to get through, but the week before, I’d be setting up back ends, chasing down links and Bandcamp players, starting reviews, etc., so that when it came time, all I had to do was the writing and plug it all into a post and I was set.

There was some prep-work done this past weekend, but especially this time, with my old laptop having been stolen in May, it’s all been way more jazz-improv. I was still adding releases as of last Friday, and writing beforehand? Shit. With the baby having just figured out how to climb? Not bloody likely. Accordingly, here we are, with much to do.

It’ll get done. I haven’t flubbed a Quarterly Review yet, and if I took an extra day to get there, I’m under no delusion that anyone else would care. So there you go. Let’s hit it for Day 2:

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Glanville, First Blood

glanville first blood

First Blood is the aptly-titled five-song debut EP from Glanville, a newcomer dual-guitar outfit with established players Philip Michel (The Earwix) on lead and Christopher West (Named by the Sun, ex-Stubb, etc.) on rhythm, Wight’s Peter-Philipp Schierhorn on bass and René Hofmann on vocals, and Thomas Hoffman (ex-Bushfire) on drums. Based in Germany and the UK, the group present 23 minutes of material on their first outing, drawing from the guitar-led likes of Thin Lizzy and Judas Priest to capture early metal and present it with a heavy rocking soulfulness and modern production. The most raucous of the cuts might be centerpiece “Durga the Great,” but neither “God is Dead” nor “Dancing on Fire” before nor “Demons” and “Time to Go” after want for action, and especially the latter builds to a furious head to close out the release. Hofmann as a standalone singer wants for nothing in range or approach, and the band behind him obviously build on their collective experience to dig into a stylistic nuance rarely executed with such confidence. They’ve found a place willfully between and are working to make it theirs. Can’t ask for more than that.

Glanville on Thee Facebooks

Glanville on Bandcamp

 

Destroyer of Light, Hopeless

destroyer of light hopeless

Having just recently signed to Argonauta Records for a new album in 2019, Austin doomers Destroyer of Light follow their 2017 long-player, Chamber of Horrors (review here), with a further auditory assault in the lumbering Hopeless. Psychedelic and yet still somehow traditional doom lingers in the brain after “Nyx” and “Drowned” have finished – the latter with an Alan Watts sample discussing alcoholism – and the band moves into demos for Chamber of Horrors cuts “Into the Smoke,” “Lux Crusher” and “Buried Alive.” Between the two previously unreleased songs and those three demos, Hopeless pushes to 39 minutes, but it’s probably still fair to call it an EP because of the makeup. Either way, from the miserable plod of “Nyx,” in which each chug in the riff cycle seems to count another woe, to the rolling nod early and surprising melody late in “Drowned,” Hopeless is anything but. Anticipation was already pretty high for Destroyer of Light’s next record after the last one, but all Hopeless does is show further depth of approach and more cleverly-wielded atmospheric murk. And the more it sounds like there’s no escape, the more Destroyer of Light seem to be in their element.

Destroyer of Light on Thee Facebooks

Destroyer of Light on Bandcamp

 

The Re-Stoned, Stories of the Astral Lizard

the re-stonEd stories of the astral lizard

The inevitable question is “Why a lizard?” and if you make it four minutes into 11-minute opener “Fractal Panorama” and don’t have your answer, go back ad start over. Moscow heavy psych instrumentalists The Re-Stoned intend the reptile as a spirit guide for their new outing Stories of the Astral Lizard (on Oak Island Records), which follows quickly behind their late-2017 offering, Chronoclasm (review here), and given the ultra-patient desert vibes in the opener, the acoustic-laced folk-prog of “Mental Print for Free,” the languid meander of “A Companion from the Outside,” the swirling sprawl of the 16-minute “Two Astral Projections” and the final cowpoke drift of “The Heather Carnival,” one might indeed just find a lizard sunning its belly amid all the atmospheric evocations and hallucinatory vibes. I’ll take “Two Astral Projections” as the highlight, but mostly because the extra length allows the band to really dig in, but really the whole album feeds together gorgeously and is a new level of achievement when it comes to atmosphere for The Re-Stoned, who were already underappreciated and find themselves only more so now.

The Re-Stoned on Thee Facebooks

Oak Island Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Ruff Majik, Seasons

Ruff Majik Seasons

Right on fuzz, right on groove, right on vibe – there isn’t much else one might say about Ruff Majik’s Seasons (on Rock Freaks Records and Forbidden Place Records) beyond “right on.” Heavy rock with twists of psychedelia, the Pretoria, South Africa, three-piece of Johni Holliday, Jimi Glass and Benni Manchino make their home on the lines of various subgenres, but wherever they go, the proceedings remain decisively heavy. To wit, a cut like “Breathing Ghosts” or the later “Birds Stole My Eyes” might dig into shuffle boogie or extreme-metal-derived thrust, but there’s a chemistry between the members and a resonant looseness that ties the material together, and as the last 14 of the total 66 minutes are dedicated to “Asleep in the Leaves,” there’s plenty of progressive weirdness in which to bask, one song moving through the next such that neither “Hanami Sakura (And the Ritual Suicide” nor the semi-doom-plodding “The Deep Blue” nor the funky twists of “Tar Black Blood” come across as predictable. Seasons might take a few listens to sink in, but it’s easily worth that effort.

Ruff Majik on Thee Facebooks

Ruff Majik at Rock Freaks Records webstore

Forbidden Place Records on Bandcamp

 

Soldat Hans, Es Taut

SOLDAT HANS ES TAUT-750

Hyperbole-worthy post-ism from Switzerland’s Soldat Hans makes their sophomore outing, Es Taut – on Wolves and Vibrancy Records as a 2LP – a forward thinking highlight. As rich in atmosphere as Crippled Black Phoenix and as lethal as Converge or Neurosis or anyone else you might dare to put next to them, the six-piece made their debut with 2014’s Dress Rehearsal (review here) and served notice of their cross-genre ambitiousness. Es Taut finds them four years later outclassing themselves and most of the rest of the planet across three extended tracks – “Story of the Flood” (26:15), “Schoner Zerbirst, Part I” (8:03) and “Schoner Zerbirst, Part II” (18:56) – that sprawl out with a confidence, poise and abrasion that is nothing short of masterful. Es Taut may be a case of a band outdoing their forebears, but whatever their legacy becomes and however many people take notice, Soldat Hans singlehandedly breathe life into the form of post-metal and prove utterly vital in so doing, not only making it their own, but pushing forward into something new in ambience and heft. This is what a band sounds like while making themselves indispensable.

Soldat Hans on Thee Facebooks

Wolves and Vibrancy Records website

 

High Priestess, High Priestess

high priestess high priestess

Calling to order a nod that’s immersive from the opening strains of leadoff/longest-track “Firefly” (still immediate points), Los Angeles trio High Priestess build out the psych-doom ritualizing of their 2017 demo (review here) to make their self-titled full-length debut through Ripple Music. The difference between the demo and the album in terms of what’s included comes down to artwork and the track “Take the Blame,” which adds its bell-of-the-ride swing between the atmosphere and melodic focus of “Banshee” and the spacious roller “Mother Forgive Me.” Potential is writ large throughout from guitarist/vocalist Katie Gilchrest, bassist/vocalist Mariana Fiel and drummer Megan Mullins, as it was on their demo, and even the harsh growls/screams on “Despise” seem to have found their place within the proceedings. As they wrap with the guitar-led jam of “Earth Dive,” High Priestess put the finishing touch on what’s hands-down one of 2018’s best debut albums and offer a reminder that as much potential as there is in their sound for future development, the accomplishments here are considerable unto themselves.

High Priestess on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Weed Demon, Astrological Passages

weed demon astrological passages

Four tracks of gurgling riffy plunder pervade Astrological Passages, the 41-minute – longer if you get the digital version or the tape/CD, which includes the 7:24 “Dominion of Oblivion” – debut album from Columbus, Ohio’s Weed Demon. Delivered on vinyl through Electric Valley Records, the nodder/plodder carves out a cave for itself within a mountain of tonally thick stoner metal riffing, infusing a sense of sludge with shouted and growled vocals from guitarists Andy and Brian and bassist Jordan – only drummer Chris doesn’t get a mic – and an overarching sense of bludgeoning that’s Sleep-derived if not Sleep-adjacent in terms of its actual sound. Nasty? Why, yes it is, but as “Sigil of the Black Moon” heads toward the midpoint of its 10-minute run, the repetitive groove assault makes the band’s intention plain: worship weed, worship riff. They get faster on “Primordial Genocide” and even sneak a bit of speed in amidst the crawl before the banjo takes hold in the second half of 12-minute closer “Jettisoned” – more Americana sludge please; thank you – but they never lose sight of their mission, and it’s the uniting factor that makes their debut hit like the brick to the head that it is.

Weed Demon on Thee Facebooks

Electric Valley Records website

 

Desert Storm, Sentinels

desert storm sentinels

With Sentinels, Oxford, UK, five-piece Desert Storm pass a decade since making their self-titled debut in 2008. They followed that with 2010’s Forked Tongues (review here), 2013’s Horizontal Life and 2014’s Omniscient (review here), and though they had a single out in 2014 on H42 Records as a split with Suns of Thunder (review here) in 2016, Sentinels is their first outing on APF Records and their first long-player in four years. Burl has always been an important factor in what they do, and the High on Fire-meets-Orange Goblin slamming of “The Brawl” backs that up, but Desert Storm have left much of the hyper-dudeliness behind in favor of a more complex approach, and while Sentinels isn’t a minor undertaking at 10 songs and 51 minutes, longer cuts like “Kingdom of Horns” and “Convulsion” demonstrate the maturity they’ve brought to bear, even as the one-two punch of “Drifter”  and “The Extrovert” offer swinging-fist hooks and beard-worthy chug that assures any and all testosterone quotas are met.

Desert Storm on Thee Facebooks

APF Records on Bandcamp

 

Ancient Altar, Cosmic Purge/Foie Gras

ancient altar cosmic purge foie gras

Based in Los Angeles, Ancient AltarScott Carlson (bass/vocals), Barry Kavener (guitar/vocals), Jesse Boldt (guitar) and Etay Levy (drums) – were last heard from on 2015’s dug-in atmosludger Dead Earth (review here), and they return lo these several years later with the two-tracker Cosmic Purge/Foie Gras, pushing into more extreme crush-of-riff with an abandon that’s anything but reckless. On the contrary, there’s some clear development in the 10-minute “Cosmic Purge” and 13-minute “Foie Gras,” rolling out oppressive grooves with blended screams/shouts and cleaner vocals. As with the last album, a drive toward individuality is central here, and Ancient Altar get there in tone while bringing forth a sense of scope to a sound so regularly thought of as closed off or off-putting in general. In its early going, “Foie Gras” hypnotizes with echoing melody and spaciousness only to resolve itself in a deeply weighted dirge march, furthering the pummel of “Cosmic Purge” itself. I don’t know if the EP – on vinyl through Black Voodoo Records, CD on Transcendental Void Records – will lead toward another album or not, but the sense of progression in Ancient Altar’s style is right there waiting to be heard, so here’s hoping.

Ancient Altar on Thee Facebooks

Black Voodoo Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Black Box Warning, Attendre la Mort

black box warning attendre la mort

Listen to it on headphones and the kickdrum on Black Box Warning’s Attendre la Mort is downright painful. Next-level blown-out aggro pulsations. Brutal in a physical sense. The rest of the band doesn’t follow far behind in that regard. Riffs are viscous and violent in noise rock tradition, but denser in their tone despite some underlying punkishness, and the vocals are likewise distorted and abrasive. The five-song/23-minute EP’s title translates to “Waiting for Death,” and each of the tracks is a dose: Opener “5 mg” is followed by “4 mg,” “1 mg,” “2 mg” and “3 mg.” Unsurprisingly, pills are a theme, particularly on “4 mg,” and the sense of violent threat is clear in “2 mg” and 3 mg,” which boast lines like, “Watch them all scream/Watch your enemy bleeded,” and “You are the pig/I am the butcher,” respectively. Between the lyrical and the general aural cruelty, the dis-ease is consuming and unmitigated, sludge becoming a slow-motion grindcore, and that’s clearly the point. Not stabbing, but gouging.

Black Box Warning on Thee Facebooks

Black Box Warning on Bandcamp

 

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Electric Mountain Sign to Electric Valley Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Last year, Mexico City heavy rock trio Electric Mountain released their self-titled debut album through Loud, Slow, Distorted Riffs Records, and it’s newly announced that the three-piece of GibMax and JB will make their follow-up through Electric Valley Records. Well, actually, that’s a surmise, because all the word that’s really been put out at this point is that the band has signed to the label. There’s nothing said about what will actually come out — maybe a reissue of the record they did for LSDR, or maybe something new. Maybe both? Neither? The mystery is killing me.

What matters is the fuzz, and Electric Mountain pretty much live inside of it. Their self-titled starts out with the classic stoner powerhouse push of “Free Woman” and whether it’s the ’70s-style stomp of “Dune,” the acoustic interlude “Into the Maelstrom” or the Goatsnaked riffing of “Green Mountain Side” that follows to lead into the softshoe-worthy boogie of “Down on the Road,” the THC-soaked vibe remains prevalent and there isn’t anywhere that Electric Mountain go that isn’t natural sounding and seemingly in the wheelhouse for good-time-seeking riff heads. As to what their next record might bring whenever it arrives, I’ve no idea, but if they can keep the organic production of their debut intact, they should be well on their way to carving their own niche in terms of sound and aesthetic within the genre.

The self-titled is streaming at the bottom of this post. Cool shit is happening in Mexico. Dig it:

electric mountain

Electric Valley Records is proud to announce the signing of the Mexican Stoner Rock band *** ELECTRIC MOUNTAIN ***

Electric Mountain is a Stoner Rock band born in Mexico City in 2013.

Formed by Gib (guitar – voice), Max (drums) and JB (Bass), the band gives life to a series of rock influences from the Rock of the 70’s and Stoner’s 90’s, which shake walls and floors.

His powerful riffs and heavy drums are the perfect hook to stay focused on the message of his music and receive all the energy that emanates. ?

https://www.facebook.com/TheElecMountain/
https://www.instagram.com/electricmountainband/
https://www.facebook.com/electricvalleyrecords/
https://www.instagram.com/electricvalleyrecords/
www.electricvalleyrecords.com

Electric Mountain, Electric Mountain (2017)

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Stone House on Fire to Release Neverending Cycle in December

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 12th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

stone-house-on-fire

Brazilian desert-style rockers Stone House on Fire will offer up a a physical pressing of their second album, Neverending Cycle, in December. Released digitally back in June by the band — at least if the dates on Bandcamp are anything to go by — the vinyl edition will arrive courtesy of no fewer than six different imprints between Brazil and Europe, and aside from the shame of not having one Stateside one in the bunch, it’s hard not to be impressed at the amount of people who’ve gotten behind the band. Then you listen to the tracks and, yeah, yeah, you start to get it. The band, who reportedly recorded Neverending Cycle live to tape in its entirety, play to a post-Queens of the Stone Age ideology, but have plenty of psychedelic and boogie vibing going on as well. I can see wanting to get on board, even if my home nation is apparently dropping the ball here as it does with so many others when it comes to distribution. So it goes.

Info comes from H42 Records via the PR wire:

stone-house-on-fire-neverending-cycle

STONE HOUSE ON FIRE ‘NEVERENDING CYCLE’ Longplayer out December 2016

*Limited up to 300 copies*
150 on red & 150 on black vinyl
OUT: December 2016

STONE HOUSE ON FIRE are back with a new album called ‘Neverending Cycle’!

Stone House on Fire is influenced by the desert sounds and the 60’s lysergic vibe, combining heavy tones, powerful riffs that go from fast to psychedelic, lots of octaved fuzz, creating an unique sound, ready to blow some ears. Also, the energetic and daring live performances create unpredictable, explosive and mind blowing experiences.

“Neverending Cycle” is an album that leans heavily towards the psychedelic side of the stoner genre, taking it’s cues from the more lysergic orientated late 60’s than the usual mid 70’s era that is the de rigueur of many of todays stoner/psych and doom bands. Songs like “Wrath of the Sun” and “Steam Boat” channel the beads and peace sign vibes of Randy California’s Spirit and the 13th Floor Elevators and mix them with elements of the harder edged, fuzz pedal stamping, downtuned psych of today, sprinkling them with a large dose of old fashioned groove along the way…”

Release by:
Electric Valley Records (Italy)
H42 Records (Gemany)
Abraxas (Brasil)
Dinamite Records (Brasil)
Tropical FUZZ Fever Records (Brasil)
Lovely Noise Records (Brasil)

https://stonehouseonfire.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/stonehouseonfire/
https://www.facebook.com/electricvalleyrecords/
https://www.facebook.com/H42Records/
https://www.facebook.com/abraxasevents/
https://www.facebook.com/dinamiterecs/
https://www.facebook.com/Tropical-FUZZ-Fever-Records-1768713486676256/
https://www.facebook.com/lovelynoiserecords/

Stone House on Fire, Neverending Cycle (2016)

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