Posted in Reviews on May 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s been a decade since Swedish rockers Sgt. Sunshine released their self-titled debut, an album that 10 years later still rings in the ears of those who were fortunate enough to hear it. In 2007, the follow-up, Black Hole, came out on Elektrohasch, and with a crunchier sound didn’t have quite the same spark as its predecessor, despite also being well received at the time. The band’s third album, aptly titled III (also released by Elektrohasch), immediate carves out a potent blend of desert groove and heavy psych jamming, the Malmö three-piece tapping into an earlier-Queens of the Stone Age via Colour Haze sound as natural as it is fuzzy, the guitars of Eduardo Fernandez leading the way for the rhythm section of bassist Pär Hallgren and drummer Christian “Kricke” Lundberg to flesh out and fill out the sound as cuts like “When I Was a Dog” nestles into funky vibing and the later “Holy Mother” digs deep into a warm, open jamming midsection. Fernandez and Hallgren share vocal duties, but it’s the songs themselves that are at the forefront of Sgt. Sunshine’s approach, with memorable hooks spread throughout and a fluid, unpretentious sensibility that leads one track into the next without any sense of progressive posturing or showiness. Opener “Zoetrope” starts with a drum beat from Lundberg strongly reminiscent of “You Think I ain’t Worth a Dollar but I Feel Like a Millionaire” from QOTSA’s Songs for the Deaf, but the “ooh”ing chorus soon unveils a more distinctly European take on the desert ideal, reminding of some of what Austrian rockers Been Obscene have been able to bring to the table melody-wise, without being fully adherent to their take either. It’s a solid opener and for Sgt. Sunshine’s first album in six years, they make their intent clear in the thick, warm tones of Fernandez’s guitar and Hallgren’s bass and the on-a-dime changes that play out smoothly across the 3:39, setting a tone for what’s to come throughout the album that follows in a natural feel and engaging sense of craft, “Zoetrope” returning to its verse/chorus interplay after a midsection jam.
From there, III embarks on a variety of riffy progressions but stays consistent in terms of atmosphere and desert rockery. Lundberg’s snare punctuates each cycle on “Caress the Tense Blue” as the guitar and bass work in tandem to threaten to swallow the vocals whole – they don’t, but Fernandez takes an effective transitional solo between verses to echo the melody – and though it’s the longest song on the album at 6:59, its structure prevents it from becoming overly repetitive. A split almost exactly in the middle introduces the fuzz line that will serve as the central figure for the second half, vocals soon topping double-time hi-hat drums that open to a slower section of psychedelic moodiness, a sluggish groove that carries the song to its finish and is soon counteracted by “Golden Dawn”’s immediate, no-frills rush. The effect putting the relatively straightforward “Zoetrope” and “Caress the Tense Blue” next to each other has is one of giving the listener a sense of not knowing what to expect – throwing the audience off without losing their attention – so that as “Golden Dawn” returns to a more basic verse and chorus-based mindset with an instrumental break similar to that of “Zoetrope,” the feeling isn’t that Sgt. Sunshine are repeating themselves, but rather that they’ve shown they can go wherever they like and where they’d like to go for the moment is there. It doesn’t last, of course, as the mostly-instrumental “Marrow Soup” lands with a dense thud of jam-based heavy psych riffing. The parts have been worked out – it doesn’t sound like the trio are making it up on the spot, that is – but there’s a sense of spontaneity about “Marrow Soup” anyway, even as Fernandez, Hallgren and Lundberg bring the build up, put it down again, bring it up again and ride the part to its end, giving way to “When I Was a Dog” and its funk-directed course. So far, III has started with a shorter track and then answered with a longer one, but that doesn’t continue through the second half of the tracklist, as the lasting hook of “When I Was a Dog” leads to a stretch of longer material that fills most of side B save for the epilogue closer, “Levin.”
Posted in Reviews on April 30th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
The Machine and Sungrazer have a lot in common. Both are three-piece bands. Both hail from the Netherlands. Both are signed to Elekrohasch, and both specialize in a densely-fuzzed kind of heavy psych, born out of a healthy affection for Fu Manchu-via-Colour Haze tube-bursting idolatry. They share parts but not the whole of an aesthetic in this, and both represent a jam-minded outgrowth of the European underground, even as they continue to craft memorable songs in balance with an open feel. For The Machine, who come from Rotterdam, their 2012 full-length, Calmer than You Are(review here), unveiled a distinct progression in their sound, taking the vibes of their three prior offerings and solidifying them into something more completely the band’s own, moving past some of the Colour Haze-ing and into a guitar-led groovefest, varying in its drive but never without movement. Released a few months earlier, Sungrazer‘s 2011 sophomore outing, Mirador(review here), was as brilliant as it was dreamy. A follow-up to their also-stellar self-titled debut, it build on the ultra-warm tonality of the first album and pushed further into a sunny, jammed laconic semi-consciousness, keeping a sense of exploration in songs that even through that remained catchy and engaging, not at all indulgent sounding where they shouldn’t have been. It’s not necessarily surprising that the two acts would team up for a tour, which they did earlier this year, calling it “Strikes and Gutters” in keeping with The Machine‘s fetish for The Big Lebowski, but that the up-and-comers would unite for a split release to mark the occasion was something of a bonus. Issued by Elektrohasch, The Machine and Sungrazer‘s The Machine & Sungrazersplit arrives both as vinyl and CD with three tracks from each act that showcase both what they share in terms of approach and some of the key differences between, totaling a comfortable 47-minute long-player rife with some of the best next-gen heavy psych Europe has to offer.
Guitarist/vocalist David Eering of The Machine recorded both bands at his Studio De Zolder, so there’s a consistency of sound between the two that most splits don’t have, allowing for a complete flow across the tracks even as the CD changes between The Machine and Sungrazer at the halfway point. Both bands open big, with The Machine taking the kind of riff that High on Fire seemed to use to construct the entirety of The Art of Self Defense and riding it for more than 10 minutes of chugging splendor. Following a sample of the moon landing (“The Eagle has landed”), Eering begins the track on guitar to announce said riff and is soon joined by a booming bass glissando from Hans van Heemst and drum crash from Davy Boogaard – the course is immediately set. Some riffs are enough to carry a song, and presented as hugely as this one is, it pretty much does, Eering topping with some echoing vocals and a numerical chorus line “10-56-69” reminiscent of “5 & 4” from Calmer than You Are without being redundant of it. An extended fuzzy solo break provides some change as Boogaard’s steady snare holds the piece together, and when they return to the central riff, it sounds even bigger than before, devolving into noise and feedback to close out the last minute-plus. This leads to the surprising rush of the 2:31 “Not Only,” which showcases a punkish side that does most of the work in distinguishing The Machine from their psychedelic peers. A strong hook pokes through on the quick as the song races past in two verses and choruses, a solo and a heads-down pummeling outro, and the trio find some contextual middle ground between the two atmospheres on the ensuing “Slipface,” dialing back on the pace but keeping the extended form of the opener and the chorus-minded vibe of the second cut. A solid stoner rocker, it reinforces the analog-type warmth in Eering’s recording and opens to a jammier feel as feedback is underscored by van Heemst’s bass and Boogaard’s drums, setting up a wah-heavy solo that moves into an instrumental jam that persists for the duration of the song, abandoning the structure in favor of psychedelic exploration, but hinting at it enough instrumentally to give a sense that The Machine haven’t lost sight of their departure point. They end quietly with a sweet drone and some effects noise, making way for the big drum crash that opens Sungrazer’s “Dopo.”
Posted in Reviews on February 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
All Them Witches earn immediate distinction for being the first American band signed to German heavy psych purveyors Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Endorsement from the label of Colour Haze guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, which has released albums from My Sleeping Karma, Sungrazer, Rotor, Been Obscene and The Machine – essentially casting the blueprint by which a goodly portion of the up and coming European scene is built – goes a long way in my book, and the feat is even more impressive when one considers that the Nashville four-piece’s debut full-length, Our Mother Electricity (produced by the band with Andy Putnam), sounds so distinctly American. They’re not the first to use the wordplay, but in calling their approach “psychedelta rock,” neither are All Them Witches inaccurate. Swampy blues is definitely a major element in what they do, but along with that and the heavy psych aspect to their sound, there’s also a dynamic sense of Americana in the songwriting, taking hold either in the twang of centerpiece “Elk Blood Heart” or the countrified moaning and Skynyrd solo bursting out of closer “Right Hand.” Our Mother Electricity was originally released by the band last summer, and along with the bonus cut, the Elektrohasch version also boasts new artwork courtesy of Mat Bethancourt (Cherry Choke, ex-Josiah) and a new mastering job. Among the album’s central appeals is the fact that it never actually seems at rest, and through the 45-minute duration, All Them Witches show little interest in telegraphing their next move. To wit, the shift from eight-and-a-half-minute jam “Until it Unwinds” – the title perhaps referencing the tape on which the song was recorded – moving into the quiet, desert-hued soul of “Easy.” It’s just one of several complicated transitions All Them Witches pull off with what can only be called swagger, guitarist Ben McLeod and bassist Michael Parks trading vocal lines and frequently layering one voice on the other. On the album, the band is completed by drummer Robby Staebler and keyboardist Allan Van Cleave (Jason Staebler has since joined, presumably on second guitar), and in the natural, unfolding process of these tracks, no single contribution to the whole is inconsiderable. Vocals start opener “Heavy Like a Witch” sounding almost like a harmonica, and with a fuzzy guitar, the song is gradually introduced as a fitting opener for Our Mother Electricity in balancing heaviness and a rural sensibility.
As for comparison points, one can find pieces from Our Mother Electricity in the work of bands like Pennsylvania’s Pearls and Brass, who also proffer a sonic allegiance to blues rock, or in the heavy Southern prog builds that North Carolina’s Caltrop sometimes enact, but All Them Witches aren’t directly relatable to either of those acts, offsetting these with backwoods stomp and concurrent noisy crunch. Following an organ solo over chugging riffage, “Heavy Like a Witch” gives way to the more memorable “The Urn,” a standout of the album that stops around the line in its chorus, “I’ll put your ashes in an urn.” This and the following “Bloodhounds” are the shortest tracks on the album at around 3:30, but both still have time to develop a progression of their own, the former delving into slide guitar grooving à la Clutch’s blues fetishizing – the lyrics more assuring that threatening as the line noted above might suggest – and the latter driven forward by Staebler’s snare and a funky guitar wail quick to solo and answer its own leads with start-stop verse grooving. The riff is simple and effective, and Parks fills out the low end excellently, foreshadowing the distorted shouts that arise to announce the fuller apex of the track, also topped by a guitar solo. In the last 15 or so seconds of the song, they bring back the start-stop groove of the verse and it’s as swift and righteous as turn as I’ve heard yet this year – more so as it leads to the moodier “Guns,” which is pushed along at a deceptively quick pace by a quieter low end line and subdued initial vocal. For the second verse, whispers join the central line reminding of some of Queens of the Stone Age’s vocal arrangements, but there’s a build at work too as the lead guitar line feeds back over the blues jamming midpoint and the vocals take a more active approach. The established rolling groove ends and “Guns” caps with a faster stoner riff from McLeod that the drums make individual, and “Elk Blood Heart” takes hold to begin its own build – the best of the album – from the boldest of starting points: bare silence.
Dutch heavy psych outfits The Machine and Sungrazer just a couple minutes ago unveiled the cover art for their upcoming split release to coincide with their “Strikes and Gutters” tour. Of course, it’s a little late to include it in the Albums to Watch for in 2013 list, but I’m still really looking forward to this one. Art is by Maarten Donders and it’s pretty manic. Check it out:
Of all the ways to possibly start off this week, somehow a full set makes the most sense, and the way this this pro-shot 49-minute Ararat gig from earlier this year lurches to life only reminds me of the slow ascent into consciousness I made not so terribly long ago, pulled ahead as I tried to resist by the digitized chime of the alarm clock. They do four songs in their allotted time: “Caballos,” “Lobos de Guerra y Cazadores de Elefantes,” “La Ira del Dragon (Parte 1),” and the new cut “Nicotina y Destruccion” that will presumably be out on their third album next year.
Actually, if you want to dig into that song further — and why not? — there’s a demo the band posted on Sergio Chotsourian‘s often and quietly updated Soundcloud page:
One more thing to look forward to in 2013. At some point I’ll get a list of those up before the New Year. I’ve got my notes in progress right here on my desk next to my Top 20 of 2012 list, which currently has 26 acts on it. I’ll work on whittling that down and hope to post it sometime before this week is out. I’m thinking tomorrow, but don’t want to lock myself into anything since time’s short these days however quiet things are supposed to be in the music industry around the holidays. Doom never sleeps.
In the meantime, I’ve got a new column from Chris “Woody” MacDermott that will be posted shortly, and a review of the Serpent Throne, EYE and Randall of Nazareth gig I saw Friday night in Philly. If you’ve sent me an email in the last week or so, I apologize for the delay in getting back. And that’s not just “hey here’s my Bandcamp it took me 30 seconds to write this email now go spend seven hours reviewing it”-type emails either. It’s friends. I hope to catch up on that today as well and spend some time preparing for an interview tomorrow with guitarist Arthur Seay of Unida/House of Broken Promises about what’s going on with his bands, Unida headlining both Desertfests, and so on. Dude seems to pretty much have life figured out. Maybe I’ll ask him what that feels like.
Oh, the drama.
If you’ve been keeping up with The Obelisk Radio, then you probably already saw that in the last week or so, another 200-plus albums have gone up. There’s some genuine classics in there, from C.O.C. to Earthride to Neurosis, and I’ve tried to mix in some new bands and obscure stuff as well to keep in the original K666 spirit. I hope you’ve had the chance to listen and if you have, hope you’ve dug it. Like everything else around here, that’s a work in progress, but it’s getting there.
Time to buckle down and start the week. Whatever you’ve got on your to-do list, I hope you complete it quickly and can move about as you will for the remainder of the day, and while doing so, I hope you’ll keep things in mind like the forum and the radio station as effective and enjoyable ways to pass the time. For the time being, I’m gonna finish out watching this Ararat set, grab a second cup of coffee and see if I can’t trick my brain into starting up. Here we go.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 23rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
As was announced here way back in September, up and coming Dutch fuzzers Sungrazer and The Machine have teamed up for a split recorded by The Machine guitarist/vocalist David Eering. That’ll be out on Elektrohasch early next year, and to coincide, the two bands have announced a round of tour dates that starts in Tilburg on Valentine’s Day.
Continuing The Machine‘s apparent love for all things Lebowski — the trio released their fourth album, Calmer than You Are(review here) earlier this year — they’ll be calling the tour “Strikes and Gutters.” Let’s hope they can find an In & Out Burger somewhere along the way.
Here’s the info:
Sungrazer & The Machine will release a split album and go on tour in early 2013! Here are the first dates of the Strikes & Gutters Tour. Expect more info and dates asap.
The Machine & Sungrazer will at least play the following dates:
14.02.13 TILBURG,NL O13 15.02.13 BRUSSELS, B MAGASIN 4 16.02.13 LONDON, UK BORDERLINE 17.02.13 PARIS, F LES COMBUSTIBLES 19.02.13 MADRID, SP LA BOITE 20.02.13 LEON,SP EL GRAN CAFE 21.02.13 OPORTO,POR ARMAZEM DO CHA 22.02.13 OURENSE,SP SALA BERLIN 23.02.13 SAN SEBASTIAN,SP BUKOWSKI 28.02.13 SALZBURG,A ROCKHOUSE 01.03.13 LINZ, A KAPU
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 14th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Colour Haze guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek sends over the latest word on the 2LP release of the band’s latest album, She Said(review here). Also noting upcoming releases on his label, Elektrohasch, from All Them Witches, Sgt. Sunshine and the previously reported Sungrazer and The Machine split, Koglek details the process of getting the vinyl together and plugs the tour dates for Elektrohasch upstarts, Been Obscene, whose tour trailer can be found below.
The CD version of She Saidis available now, and the vinyl… well, it’s coming:
Just a short note: due to the apparently great vinyl-revival, producing an LP seems to take endless time at the moment. We finished a new special-vinyl-master in the beginning of November. While usually it took only a couple of days to receive the testpressing from a master, at the moment this takes 3 weeks. The testpressings are scheduled to leave the factory by the end of next week (of course I`m getting on everybody’s nerves to hurry up). As soon as I heard them I`ll send out a new newsletter. In case of approval I`ll finally have a fixed delivery date for the DLPs and it will be possible then to (pre)order them atwww.elektrohasch.de. Please do not send any preorder-requests via email. I can`t make it to take care of that. The issue is high enough and the unlimited version as well is already ordered at the pressing factory.
We are working on new releases by All Them Witches, Sgt. Sunshine, Sungrazer and The Machine – more about in the newsletter.
Been Obscene are on tour at the moment – go and see and hear them! Nov 15 | San Sebastian (SPA) | Le Bukowski Nov 16 | Clermont-Ferrand (FRA) | Le Baraka Nov 17 | Mulhouse (FRA) | TBA Nov 18 | Paris (FRA) – Les Combustibles Nov 24 | Fürstenfeldbruck (GER) – Schlachthof Dec 07 | Wien (AUT) – Arena
Here’s a phrase you won’t hear me use often: “Kyuss-worthy fuzz.” It’s that level of tonal gorgeousness that bleeds through in the work of Leicester, UK, outfit The Kings of Frog Island. Their second album, 2008′s aptly-titled II, is for my money one of the best desert rock albums ever to come from a place with no sand (though perhaps there is sand on Frog Island — I really should finish that geological survey), and though they veered more toward the garage rock end of things with the 2010 follow-up, III (review here), their latest work finds them at their most spaced-out yet, at least as far as the new video below for the song “Long Live the King” goes.
The reason I say that is because no single track ever really represents the whole album when it comes to The Kings of Frog Island — there’s something to be said for switching it up — but since the band was awesome enough to post on the forum the news of their forthcoming new album, Volume IV, and the departure of guitarist Mat Bethancourt, also of Cherry Choke and possibly still Dexter Jones Circus Orchestra, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bask in the warmth of “Long Live the King”‘s fuzzy sprawl.
And yeah, a lot of it’s about that tone, but the vocals here also rule (reminding me of Lamp of the Universe) and this band does more with a single cymbal wash than most do with an Orange full stack, so dig the tune and their words below:
After Mat Bethancourt left to concentrate on Cherry Choke, the rest of the band retreated back into their natural habitat: the studio.
After 2 years locked in Amphibia, the new album is now in the can. No release details as yet, expect a digital release first with a vinyl issue to follow.
Posted in Features on October 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s not the longest an album has ever taken to come out. She Said — the 10th studio album by Munich-based heavy psych progenitors Colour Haze — closes the four-year gap since the previous record, All, was released. But isn’t Chinese Democracy, or Smile, by The Beach Boys, which finally came to light 37 years after it was first conceived. But it’s the longest stretch Colour Haze have ever had, and as guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek recounts in astounding detail below, the trio hit delay after delay in every step of the process, from the beginning stages of setting up a studio in their rehearsal space to record in to the mastering for the vinyl even now that the CD has been released.
Fortunate that they stuck it out, however. She Said(review here) is easily one of the best albums of the year, the double-CD accounting for Colour Haze‘s past even as it boldly pushes their sound to new places with the inclusion of elements like horns, strings, sampled beaches, etc. The chemistry between Koglek — who also runs the label Elektrohasch Schallplatten and so is in charge of not just making the record, but also releasing it — bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald has never been so potent or prevalent in their songs, as tracks like “Breath” and even the shorter “Slowdown” and “This” demonstrate. As Colour Haze‘s sound has developed to become focused on improvisation, the band itself has risen to the task of becoming ever more cohesive as a unit. She Saidstands in a string of releases successful in this regard — you could go back to 2003′s Los Sounds de Krauts, but certainly the 2004 self-titled, 2006′s Tempeland 2008′s Allcaptured the live dynamic between the players — but it stands alone in its creative drive and level of performance.
Further, the album proves Colour Haze‘s dedication to their form (not that it was necessarily in doubt — as I said, this is their 10th full-length, and one doesn’t get to that point without some purposefulness — but still). Koglek‘s tale of the troubles the band hit is long and complex — like a Colour Haze song, it also grooves — but what comes through at the end is that he and the rest of the band weren’t willing to compromise their vision of what they wanted the album to be. Four years and about 200,000 Euros later, She Saidis the end result of a one-of-a-kind stubbornness. They could easily have gone to a studio, put the tracks to tape, mixed it down and been done. But they didn’t, and She Said is the fruit of those efforts. Constructed in the truest sense of the word.
I could go on, but the review was long enough — though I should mention that even in listening to She Said this morning while editing this interview, I heard sounds I hadn’t picked up on before; early humming at the start of the opening title-track — and while I could continue to ramble at length about the breadth She Said makes its own, you’re better off just hearing the story from Koglek himself (yes, he knows just how beautiful “Grace” is). This is easily the longest interview I’ve ever posted on this site, and I want to personally thank Koglek for his dedication not just to his music, but to telling his story as well. It is much appreciated.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 26th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Of all the bands in the world, I think I’d probably have a really easy time sitting through three hours of a Colour Haze set. This weekend, the band will kick off their XXL tour in support of their much-anticipated new album, She Said (review here), bringing Elektrohasch labelmates Saturnia along for the ride.
Because I’ve seen people asking, I’ll mention as well that She Said has been released on CD. You currently order a copy on the label’s website now, and as I said in the review, I’d definitely recommend doing so.
Here are the dates:
COLOUR HAZE LIVE
27.09.2012 GER Rüsselsheim, Das Rind 28.09.2012 UK London, The Garage 29.09.2012 F Paris, Nouveau Casino 30.09.2012 BEL Antwerp, Trix 01.10.2012 GER Köln, Live Music Hall 02.10.2012 GER Karlsruhe, Substage * without Saturnia * 03.10.2012 CH Bern, ISC * without Saturnia * 04.10.2012 CH Genf , L´ Usine 05.10.2012 A Salzburg, Rockhouse 06.10.2012 A Linz, Stadtwekstatt 07.10.2012 A Vienna, Arena 08.10.2012 GER Jena, F Haus 09.10.2012 GER Bremen, Schlachthof 10.10.2012 GER Berlin, Lido 11.10.2012 POL Warsaw, Progresja 12.10.2012 GER Dresden, Scheune 13.10.2012 GER München, Feierwerk http://www.colourhaze.de
Posted in Reviews on September 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
For a few minutes, let’s try and remove Colour Haze’s 10th studio outing, She Said, from the context in which it was created. Those who’ve followed the groundbreaking German heavy psych trio’s progress over the time since their last album, 2008’s All, was released know She Said is a long time coming, the Munich trio having hit technical snags enough for three records, let alone one. They built and rebuilt a studio in the process, but as the sounds of the finished versions of She Said’s eight component tracks are sweet enough to make one forget nearly anything, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to pull the record out of the tumult and examine it on its own level. Colour Haze in 2012 is a different band than was Colour Haze in 2008. Not in the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald, which has remained consistent since 1998, but in plenty else. Of course, they’ve played shows all along the four-year span between records – European touring, stints at Duna Jam and Roadburn, etc. – but even outside the band, the context in which She Said arrives is different than that which met All when it came out through Koglek’s Elektrohasch Schallplatten imprint, itself a driving force in European heavy psych. The climate was different. Colour Haze had been on a hot streak of genre-defining records that included 2003’s Los Sounds de Krauts, 2004’s Colour Haze and 2006’s Tempel, but even All couldn’t anticipate the explosion of bands who have emerged in the subsequent years who’ve taken influence from Colour Haze’s tonally warm, jam-ready aesthetic. With She Said, they emerge as leaders of a scene they helped create. Whether it’s younger acts like Sungrazer, The Machine and Wight or their peers as much as they have any, Colour Haze have had a pervasive effect on their surrounding European scene – one can hear elements of theirs in American bands like Elder as well – and She Said is their first album to be released since that scene around them solidified as a group of bands touring and issuing works of their own. So even in the timing, much-hindered though it has been, She Said captures Colour Haze at a special moment in their career.
For reference, here is the full tracklisting:
1. She Said (18:42)
2. This (2:12)
3. Transformation (16:53)
But though the album arrives with twice the longest stretch between records since this lineup came together, it’s important to remember that these songs have likely been in the works for two years already. Pieces may have been added and expanded along the way, but stylistically, She Said shouldn’t be expected to be any more of a leap from All than All was from Tempel, or Tempel from the self-titled, and so forth. However, Colour Haze have always shown a distinct drive toward progression, have never failed to evolve from one collection to the next, and that applies as well to She Said, which though it seems to work in a lot of the same moods and atmospheres as All, is relentless in its pursuit of taking those ideas further. This is true in the very manner of the album’s construction. She Said is the first 2CD Colour Haze outing since Los Sounds de Krauts, and as it clocks in at just under 82 minutes, it barely crosses that line of fitting onto one disc. The mere fact that a song like “This” was included demonstrates the purposefulness of the choice. By splitting the album onto two CDs, Colour Haze have not only made an already difficult production process that much more complicated, but they’ve effectively mirrored the necessary disc-swap of a double-vinyl release (which of course She Said is also getting). Where many other 2LPs can fit onto one CD, She Said forces you to – if you’re going to listen to it on tangible media – take an active physical role in the process one way or another if you want to hear the full thing, which you doubtless do, otherwise you wouldn’t be listening in the first place. To that end, I’ll add that as someone who’s generally not a supporter of the idea of double-albums – they’re a given in the world of post-CD-era vinyl, but in terms of non-concert CDs, I’m not a fan but for a rare few exceptions; rarely in my view does a release of any kind call for more than an hour’s runtime – She Said justifies the indulgence sonically, and if one needs a reason Colour Haze might want to include as much material on the album as possible, one need only reread the first sentence of this paragraph to find it.
Not only that, but the two component discs of She Said also set up individual progressions, starting off slowly with the opening title-track and more immediately with “Breath” on the second disc, but each winding up in a grand and progressive exploration of a more evolved Colour Haze scope, “Transformation” closing disc one with the inclusion of a horn section and “Grace” culminating the second disc and She Said as a whole with a string arrangement playing off Koglek’s guitars, which themselves are layered acoustics and electrics over backwards swirls similar to those that showed up on the All title-track. Though it brims with this mastery of the heavy psychedelic form and clearly knows its place in the current European milieu, She Said is no less laid back and unpretentious than Colour Haze has ever been, whatever the depths of the arrangements or the complexities of the structure.
The album commences humbly, so quietly you’re not sure it’s there, with windchimes and rustling leaves, setting up a slow, patient arrival indicative of none of the frustration of the process by which She Said came together. Each member arrives in a slow fade, Koglek, Rasthofer and Merwald, and in its first minute, “She Said” has gracefully swept off. Soft humming tops the still-quiet progression beginning at 1:23, but there’s still a long way to go in the near-19-minute track before it reaches its full burst. The foremost guitar line drops momentarily as piano is introduced – time doesn’t matter anymore – and the build continues amid engrossing swirls of melody, gradually getting louder to smother everything around it. Past four minutes, Merwald hits his snare, and the progression changes and just a couple seconds later, Koglek opens into a fuzzy sweep of a lead (is that a whistling theremin underneath?) that shows there’s been no diminishing of his stunning tone, either in the lead or the crunchier riff that follows. It’s still instrumental, but there’s a quick shift into a more uptempo section underscored by fantastic fills from Rasthofer and Merwald alike, the verse riff is introduced, and as “She Said” crosses the eight-minute line, Koglek delivers the opening titular line of the album: “She said your reality is not determined by what you see, but by what you look out for.”
Koglek answers back, and the band cycles through another verse and break, leading to an instrumental chorus with effective breaks from Rastofer and Merwald over which the guitar continues, and then the second of the song’s extended instrumental jams takes hold, first with a pair of solos cutting through the fully-formed and fully-thick fuzz surrounding and then smoothly into a percussion-led jam that begins shortly before 11 minutes in, Merwald leading the way on his kit with a host of other instruments following and playing off the central rhythm. Guitar and bass persist, spacing out, holding the rhythm, riffing all the while, but that added percussion doesn’t go away however swallowed up it might get in the other instrumentation. Koglek takes a bluesy solo given a near-salsa feel by the constant rhythmic throb, and they break to a jazzier progression, the whistle eventually returning, that once more comes to a righteous head, and then suddenly, they break back into the verse and tie the entire song together in the span of four lines in the last two minutes, the instrumental chorus now serving as the starting point of the outro progression. If it seems a grandiose opening, it is. “She Said” is the longest song on the album that shares its name (immediate points), but also one of the most immersive, and it’s fitting that after it, they should move directly into the 2:12 “This,” which begins with – of all things – a false start.
Whatever richness they might craft tonally or however vivid might be the mood their songs create, there’s no substitute for a little humor, and “This” has that, Koglek introducing a funky riff that Merwald and Rasthofer join before the whole thing cuts off. A few words are said in German and they start again, the same way, done right, with keys joining in. It’s a brief, lighthearted jam, but not at all without its own sense of movement, getting heavier and allowing the keyboard to take a solo between thickly-riffed sections. It grooves for just long enough to make me wonder why some songs get to be 19 minutes long and others are cut short, but is stopped at the 2:12 mark and “Transformation” begins with the sounds of ambient conversation and waves. If it’s not Duna Jam, it might as well be. “Transformation” swirls its way to life with backwards guitar between these sounds, sort of smoothly shouldering its way through the ambient noise while not so much competing with the waves as creating some of its own. Even backwards, the melodies are beautiful, Hendrixian, and when Rasthofer introduces the bassline at 2:15, it’s the foundation on which the track begins its build. The guitar continues its run of loops, though a riff is also layered in, and a lead line emerges to focus the rhythm, all three members of the band seeming to weave together for a time before Koglek takes off with another solo and Rasthofer and Merwald skillfully maintain the groove, each giving no less a show of their personality in the process.
Already here, five minutes into the 16:53 song, the short breather that “This” offered makes sense, giving some notion of simplicity to contrast the breadth of what’s happening on either side of it. “Transformation” settles into a driving rhythm that’ll be not unfamiliar to Colour Haze fans – something else in shares in common with the album finale in “Grace” – and continues to add to its instrumental push, the waves seeming to reemerge after eight minutes in, until a solo signals the culmination and they step down into a quiet moment of ambient guitar that seems a direct nod to the song “Alberto Migré,” which closed Argentinian trio Los Natas’ first album, Delmar, in 1996. Koglek played on Los Natas’ 2004 München Sessions and released it through Elektrohasch, so it’s not unreasonable to think he’d want to pay homage to such an endearing and memorable moment in their work, but even if the subtle, sandy echo in his guitar for this later section of “Transformation” is a coincidence, the sweet, wistful effect is largely the same, and it makes an excellent basis for the triumph that ensues, Colour Haze once more sweeping to life in a sudden turn, this time accompanied by chimes, and launching on the build that will bring the first disc of the album to its end over the course of the next five minutes. In this process, as ever, they are dynamic – there are ebbs and flows – but when Koglek hints at the line that will soon be adopted by horns at 13:22, it’s hard not to get a chill up the spine, even if you don’t know what’s coming. All momentum forward, they break into a part that seems at first to be derived from the traditional wedding march (“Here comes the bride,” and so on), Merwald engaged in what seems like a ceaseless battle against his already bloodied kit, and give new life to the last couple minutes of “Transformation,” joining their purposes at 14:37 to embark on a riff that’s downright poppy. Cue the horns at 15:01 and suddenly the song can’t get loud enough. How something can come so utterly out of nowhere in the last two minutes and still work in context of the song as a whole is beyond me.
Perhaps that’s the effect of Koglek having previously introduced the line – the cleverness of doing so emerging in the fact that by the times the horns come in, you already have some sense of where they’re going and are thus more apt to follow – but as the guitar and the brass play off each other in a brilliant revival of classic prog rock methodology repurposed into earthy psychedelic bliss, I don’t even want to let go of the moment to think about it. Merwald gives some sense of this being the final stretch by cutting to half-time on the drums, but for a time the horns and guitar keep going, and there’s a few seconds yet where it seems like they might pick it back up, but they don’t and the “Transformation” meets its end in a ring out that’s interrupted by bumped-into guitar strings, sticks being put down and a few words in German. The impression is that it was all done live in the studio, and maybe it was, I don’t know, but the mere fact that at this point Colour Haze have moved from a windchimed porch to a bathroom stall to a beach to their own recording outpost should say something about the reach of She Said’s first 38 minutes. The ending of “Transformation” provides an apex for the song itself, but also for the first disc as a whole, and stands as one of Colour Haze’s most impressive instrumental works to date. On first listen, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think they won’t be able to top it with the second part of the album.
The short version – because at this point, you’re entitled to it – is they do.
Interesting to note that though She Said is broken into two discs, the break is not clean and the discs do not each represent a half of the whole. This is all the more reason to think of it as individual progressions serving one larger one rather than only one large one playing out over an extended field, and with disc one at 38 minutes and disc two at 43, it’s yet another display of the consciousness behind Colour Haze’s album structure. If the four-minute “Slowdown” had been moved from the second disc to the first, they’d be closer to even time-wise and even in number of tracks, but as that song serves a similar purpose to “This” in offering contrast to the grander movement in 12:05 disc-two opener “Breath,” it’s rightfully positioned as it is. Still, with more songs and a longer runtime, when taken on its own, disc two also has a more open feel to it, perhaps more directly in answer to All than was She Said’s first installment, though as “Breath” is so quick to introduce Koglek’s vocals – they haven’t been heard since he was singing in the can at the end of “This” – I’m more inclined to see it as part of the linear flow of She Said as a whole than anything else. Colour Haze’s jammed-out vibes are still there, but Koglek sets a rhythm on the muted strings of his guitar similar to how “Moon” from All began – fittingly, the beat is more complex – and Rasthofer soon joins on bass. Merwald comes in with a long perfectly-timed fill, and barely a minute has passed before the first crooning verse begins. Soft desert rock lines are plucked in a quick bridge and it’s not until the second verse that it’s really apparent that Koglek’s not the only one singing. “Breath” winds up a duet, the companion vocals starting off soft but eventually coming to the fore even more than those of the guitarist after an instrumental break that develops a riff, rides it out for a while, and then transitions into one of She Said’s most pastoral stretches. The two vocals bring about a sense of peace, and it’s not the first time Colour Haze have had a guest appearance, but it works remarkably well in “Breath,” the song careening into and out of verses and instrumental passages with fluidity that would be eerie were it not so lovely.
Just before six minutes in, right around its halfway point, the guitars kick in and a heavier riff is introduced that brings up a thicker bed for the vocals, which in turn are by necessity more forward. For the most part, Colour Haze (and Koglek particularly, as he’s the one singing) have been content to let the instruments carry these kinds of passages on their own – something they’ve proven well up to the task of doing – but as the singing joins the build, the affect is even more engrossing. There is a long, guitar-led instrumental passage that accounts for most of the last five minutes of “Breath,” introduced by the same riff that signaled the heavier change in the first place, which comes on somewhat changed with a solo layered over it, and the trio moves with confidence into a winding, jazzy groove with Rasthofer keeping pace with Koglek every step of the way. Merwald doesn’t falter either, and if you’ve ever had any question as the appeal of a power trio, Colour Haze provide clear response, deftly, smoothly shifting into a build topped with Sabbath-style psychedelic lead work before hitting the reset button at 10:43 and chugging into a massive, simple, slowed-down stoner riff that gives the entire song preceding a groovy culmination. Rasthofer’s bass is as thick as I’ve ever heard it, and there’s a short break to signal the end coming, but other than that, the flourishes are gone, the layered in leads, the extra instrumentation, any of it. Not that they had to say so, but the ending of “Breath” confirms that the band still knows the power a straightforward riffy groove can have when put to its best use.
And its sense of immediacy carries into “Slowdown” as well, which in terms of its pacing and groove is anything but. Merwald keeps an undercurrent of 32nd notes on his hi-hat that adds to the frenetic energy in Rasthofer’s bassline, and as Koglek belts out a boogie verse while holding back on the guitar until the jagged, almost garage rock-type chorus, the song sounds like an absolute blast. Guest vocals return for the thicker second chorus, and Colour Haze move to a lead-led (ha!) jam that’s no less natural for its course seeming scripted. The transition back to the hi-hat, to the verse, is seamless and by the time the chorus comes back on, its hook is both telegraphed and welcome, “Slowdown” giving a show of classic rock songwriting the likes of which the band rarely concerns itself these days. The pattern repeats as they shift back into a jammy break and slowly fade the track out, making way for the more singular, linear build of the 8:54 “Stand In…,” which serves as the centerpiece of disc two. As with “Breath,” they begin “Stand In…” more immediately than either “She Said” or “Transformation,” and that lends the song a straightforward feel even if what ensues is plenty ethereal. Koglek tops quiet bass and soft but moving drums with a soothing lead groove that steps its way upward over the course of the next two minutes and as Merwald sets up a build on his toms, it’s clear something big is coming, but they delay impact some, transitioning into synth-accompanied soloing and a quieter stretch of jamming. There may be more than one guitar at work, or it may be Koglek layering, but they pull together for a heavier low end thrust at 3:51, the fuzz rising like a wave crashing on the shore during the beginning of “Transformation.” The overall rhythm is familiar in the context of Colour Haze’s past work, but they let “Stand In…” become its own expedition, ranging for a while and then pulling back to the riff from which they came, then adding more guitar, more bass to it.
One almost expects vocals on “Stand In…” if for no other reason than “Slowdown” and “Breath” both had them, but Colour Haze instead let the keys – it’s either a mellotron or something aping a mellotron sound – carry across a drawn-out melody starting at 6:31 that pays off the prior build. The melody and the strength of the rhythm beneath it will bring “Stand In…” to its finish, but they’re patient with it over the next couple minutes, Koglek jamming out leads underneath while Rasthofer and Merwald keep the rhythm going, the guitar, bass and drums eventually meeting up for a faster, more straightforward push – Merwald moves to the hi-hat – before going back to the solo-caked apex and eventually stopping the whole song on what sounds like a sudden decision to do so. It’s a little bit less clear where the listener is supposed to be at that point than it was, say, with the serenity of “She Said” starting off the record, but the birdsong subtly included to the beginning of “Rite” is all the answer necessary. Acoustics and double-bass are introduced in an otherwise straightforward verse, and though the song doesn’t move especially fast, neither does it really allow one to keep up with it – there’s just enough to have to get a handle on at any one of its earliest moments so as to make doing so a challenge. It’s a contrast to the patience they’ve shown elsewhere, but on the other hand, we’re also more than an hour into She Said, and if Colour Haze are going to start offering surprises – which they are – “Rite” throwing the listener off guard only makes that more effective.
An insistent, punctuated groove meets with fuzz guitar and a mounting sense of tension, and at 2:55, Koglek layers “doo-doo doo-do-doo” vocals for a chorus that are both rhythmically memorable and just weird enough to highlight the song’s progressive nature. Colour Haze can pull this off – they’ve done it before – and Merwald’s freakout drums behind the intertwining acoustic and electric guitars and Rasthofer’s bass only make the vibe more quizzical. Acoustics come to the fore, heavy guitars come to the fore, the chorus returns, they stop, they start again — the guitar sounds an awful lot like a didgeridoo — and once more, when it’s done, they give a couple seconds’ silence prior to the first chords of “Grace,” a song the task of which is undeniably huge in having to not only sum up the second of the two discs on which it plays out, but the entirety of She Said before it. To be fitting for its role as the last track on the first Colour Haze record in four years, it has to at once affirm the band’s sprawl of influence and expand it, bringing together familiar ideas with elements used as they never have been before. It has to be new and old while also fitting with the rest of She Said’s already expansive atmosphere. I’ve yet to give “Grace” a listen on headphones and not have tears come to my eyes when the strings kick in.
If I had another word for it besides beautiful, I’d use that, but I don’t. Where “Transformation” teased its “outside” aspects – i.e. the horns – but kept the actual reveal a surprise for toward the very end, “Grace” makes no such efforts to obscure its scope. Rather, true to its name, the song unfolds itself almost immediately, acoustic guitar strum setting a bed for layers of violin and cello, which are introduced at 50 seconds in amid a harder guitar strum and immediately set about an arrangement that’s both signature Colour Haze in its patterning and wholly new, plucking strings and playing off Koglek’s guitar, rising and falling and beautiful and natural all the while. It’s so fucking perfect. At 2:48, a quicker strum signals the next movement and shortly thereafter a backwards electric lead is layered over the acoustics – the strings gone for the moment – and Merwald comes in on the drums with Rasthofer and a heavier riff emerges not entirely dissimilar from the ultimate triumph of “Fire” from Tempel, but like if that riff was a statue and you stuck that statue in a museum also made of marble and itself just a bigger work of art. The track is floating at this point, a Beatlesian march that seems to be running a parallel line from an imaginary “here” to a very real “somewhere else,” and through all the swirling layers of guitar, forwards and back, the original acoustic line remains. Koglek, Rasthofer and Merwald prove an orchestra on their own, and the feeling isn’t so much sad as the progression gradually gets deconstructed as joyful for what might follow, Koglek’s leads showing no intention of letting the jam end even as the toms drop out amid a cymbal crash and the bass is gone and the acoustic line is gone and it’s hard to know anymore what’s moving in which direction and only the solo line stays. At 7:55, the acoustic line is brought in again, different, more like the strings, and Merwald thuds out a straight build on his drums though it took a minute to get there, Colour Haze are back riding the “Fire”-esque riff one more time, less surrounded by swirling and the rest of it, but still.
At this point, the acoustics are gone and there’s an overarching sway behind in Merwald’s cymbals, they’re still building toward something as much as they’re locked into the groove. There’s less than two minutes to the whole album left when at 9:55, the strings return. No less huge than the guitar, bass or drums at that point, they answer back the riff in the guitar much as the horns did in “Transformation,” but it’s even more masterful on “Grace” – more graceful – and at 10:18, some of the strings throw in a lead flourish that it’s so easy to imagine Koglek playing on guitar I had to go back and make sure he wasn’t. They mirror the trio’s groove, but dance around it, and with a crash at 10:40, they end it too soon. Seems strange to want a record that’s already more than 80 minutes long to be longer, but at that point, what’s another two or three riding out that payoff? It’s already one of the most satisfying moments of the band’s career. Hardly would be out of line for them to milk it for a while more. Chalk it up to persistent humility, or class, or whatever you want, but they don’t, and for a band 10 albums in and nearly 15 years together with the same lineup, they’re obviously aware that they could’ve kept “Grace” going. To the last, whatever spirit of spontaneity and organic, live-sounding performance runs throughout the course of She Said, Colour Haze are in total control of everything they do. Even when they let go, they mean to let go.
Back at the beginning of this review, I said to put aside for a moment the context of the manifold technical difficulties Colour Haze endured to make the album. Well, let’s factor that back in. To the best of my understanding, Colour Haze were finished with the tracking when they had to scrap it all and start again, and from every circuit in their board, it seemed for a while like whatever could break would break. Release dates were set, made tentative, then passed. But through all of that, and through expectations and doubts and anticipation and through a scene they had to stand by the sidelines and watch boom all around them, the trio did not relent in their stubborn pursuit of this album, either to their end or its end. And now She Said arrives not just as a creative victory, but a practical one as well over stumbling blocks large and small and Colour Haze take their rightful place as one of the fostering acts of modern European heavy psychedelia. I don’t know if it’s their best album, nor do I know what that question means in the context of a band like this – people will have years of personal association behind their various catalog picks – but it’s their most accomplished, hands down, and the poise with which they step out of themselves and into the larger scale of what they can do with their sound is unlike anything I’ve ever heard from them. If that makes it the best, so be it. It’s definitely the Colour Haze record I’m the gladdest to see materialize, whatever else it might be, since it shows that if this band can survive making this album, then there’s nothing foreseeable that can stop them until they decide to stop themselves, which – if the progress in their sound they’ve made here is anything to go by – is still a long way off. Glorious. Highly recommended.
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will stay these couriers from delivering their trademark and boomingly influential heavy psychedelia. Make no mistake — She Saidexists, and it’s on its way. The CD version is due from the plant before the end of this week and my understanding is it will be available any day now for purchase at long, long last. It’s been four years since Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald released All — double their longest prior stretch between studio albums — and it should say something about the quality of their output that the clamor for new material has only grown in that time.
The good news is that She Saidis of a scale to stand up to the delay. An 81-minute 2CD, it’s the first Colour Haze studiooffering to comprise more than one disc since 2003′s Los Sounds de Krauts, and the tones are no less warm for the frustration that must have been so present in their creation. As you’ll hear when Rasthofer‘s bass starts the 12-minute disc-two opener, “Breath,” Colour Haze‘s sound is more expansive than ever, bringing in guest vocals alongside Koglek‘s and embarking on an inimitable psychedelic pastoral. As “Breath” also captures the band’s jamming sensibilities and the all-important dynamic between Koglek, Rasthofer and Merwald, it seemed too perfect a summation of She Saidto not highlight.
Thanks to Koglek and Elektrohasch for the permission to host the song for streaming. Colour Haze will embark on the European “XXL Tour” following the CD release, playing three-hour sets with guest musicians, special lighting and more.
Info and dates for that follow “Breath,” which you’ll find on the player below. Please enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Colour Haze XXL Tour with Saturnia supporting:
27.09 Rüsselsheim Das Rind GER
28.09 London Garage UK
29.09 Paris Nouveau Casino FR
30.09 Antwerp Trix BEL
01.10 Köln Live Music Hall GER
02.10 Karlsruhe Substage GER
03.10 Bern ISC CH
04.10 Geneva L’usine CH
05.10 Salzburg Rockhouse A
06.10 Linz Stadtwerkstatt A
07.10 Wien Arena A
08.10 Jena F Haus GER
09.10 Bremen Schlachthof GER
10.10 Berlin Lido GER
11.10 Warsaw Progresja POL
12.10 Dresden Scheune GER
13.10 München Feierwerk GER
To be fair, they’re a pretty obvious pick. If there’s any reason I held off for so long in choosing them, it’s because I kept arguing back and forth about which album to choose. Just about everything they’ve done since 2001 has something working in its favor, whether it’s the two-disc extendedness of 2003′s Los Sounds de Krautsmaking it perfect for languishing on a long afternoon sitting in the backyard, or the peaceful warmth of 2006′s Tempel, or the wide-open jammy flow of 2008′s All. In the end though, I went with Colour Haze‘s 2004 self-titled, because it seems to encapsulate all these things about the others.
It’s probably not the trio’s best album — that’s a designation that seems to change with whatever I’ve got on at the time — but Colour Haze‘s Colour Hazehas classic prog interplay in “Did êl It,” plenty of subtle Hendrixian build in “Love” and a tonal warmth that no matter how many bands in the European scene try to match, no one seems quite able to do it. You could teach a semester on Stefan Koglek‘s guitar tone, but Colour Haze is just as much about drummer Manfred Merwald and bassist Philipp Rasthofer, and the self-titled was the moment when the three of them really nailed down the chemistry that they’ve been working so diligently to perfect ever since.
And as to the atmosphere of the album itself, even if it’s winter when you put on the beginning of “Peace, Brothers & Sisters!” it’ll be summer by the time you’re through the track’s 22 minutes. The real magic comes from the fact that you could say the same thing about the track before it, the 3:45 acoustic cut “Solitude.” Right on.
We’ll have just one more Album of the Summer of the Week to get it in before Labor Day, but in the meantime, here’s the aforementioned “Peace, Brothers & Sisters!” to get you dancing and get your yayas out before Colour Haze‘s three-hour gig next month in London, should you be fortunate enough to go. Please enjoy:
We’re more than halfway through 2012, and we’ve already seen great releases from the likes of Orange Goblin, Pallbearer, Conan, C.O.C., Saint Vitus and many others, but there’s still a long way to go. The forecast for the next five months? Busy.
In my eternal and inevitably doomed quest to keep up, I’ve compiled a list of 13 still-to-come releases not to miss before the year ends. Some of this information is confirmed — as confirmed as these things ever are, anyway — either by label or band announcements, and some of it is a little bit vaguer in terms of the actual dates, but all this stuff is slated to be out before 2013 hits. That was basically my only criteria for inclusion.
And of course before I start the list, you should know two things: The ordering is dubious, since it’s not like I can judge the quality of an album before I’ve heard it, just my anticipation, and that this is barely the beginning of everything that will be released before the end of 2012. The tip of the fastly-melting iceberg, as it were. If past is prologue, there’s a ton of shit I don’t even know about that (hopefully) you’ll clue me into in the comments.
Nonetheless, let’s have some fun:
1. Colour Haze, She Said(Sept./Oct.)
I know, I know, this one’s been a really, really long time coming. Like two years. Like so long that Colour Haze had to go back and remake the album because of some terrible technical thing that I don’t even know what happened but it doesn’t matter anymore. Notice came down yesterday from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek that the recording is done and the long-awaited She Saidis on the way to be pressed on vinyl and CD. Got my fingers crossed for no more snags.
2. Enslaved, RIITIIR (Sept. 28)
The progressive Norwegian black metallers have put out 10 albums before it, and would you believe RIITIIRis the first Enslaved album that’s a palindrome? Kind of cheating to include it on this list, because I’ve heard it, but I’ve been through the record 10-plus times and I still feel like I just barely have a grasp on where they’re headed with it, so I think it’ll be really interesting to see what kind of response it gets upon release. Herbrand Larsen kills it all over these songs though, I will say that.
3. Mos Generator, Nomads(Oct. 23)
Hard for me not to be stoked on the prospect of the first new Mos Generator album since 2007, especially looking at that cover, which RippleMusic unveiled on Tuesday when it announced the Oct. 23 release date. It’s pretty grim looking, and even though Mos once put out a record called The Late Great Planet Earth, I’ve never thought of them as being particularly dark or doomed. I look forward to hearing what Tony Reed (Stone Axe, HeavyPink) has up his sleeve for this collection, and if he’s looking to slow down and doom out a bit here, that’s cool too. I’ll take it either way.
4. Ufomammut, Oro – Opus Alter(Sept.)
No, that’s not the cover of Oro – Opus Alter, the second half of Italian space doom grand masters Ufomammut‘s Oro collection — the first being Opus Primum (review here), which served as their Neurot Recordings debut earlier this year. That cover hasn’t been released yet, so I grabbed a promo pic to stand in. I’m really looking forward to this album, though I hope they don’t go the Earth, Angels of Darkness Demons of Lightroute and wind up with two records that, while really good, essentially serve the same purpose. I’ve got my hopes high they can outdo themselves once again.
5. Witchcraft, Legend(Sept. 21)
I guess after their success with Graveyard, Nuclear Blast decided to binge a bit on ’70s loyalist doom, signing Witchcraft and even more recently, Orchid. Can’t fault them that. It’s been half a decade since Witchcraft released The Alchemist and in their absence, doom has caught on in a big way to their methods. With a new lineup around him, will Magnus Pelander continue his divergence into classic progressive rock, or return to the Pentagram-style roots of Witchcraft‘s earliest work? Should be exciting to find out.
6. Wo Fat, The Black Code(Nov.)
After having the chance to hear some rough mixes of Texas fuzzers Wo Fat‘s Small Stone debut, The Black Code, I’m all the more stoked to encounter the finished product, and glad to see the band join the ranks of Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk and Gozu in heralding the next wave of American fuzz. Wo Fat‘s 2011 third outing, Noche del Chupacabra (review here), greatly expanded the jammed feel in their approach, and I get the sense they’re just beginning to find where they want to end up within that balance.
7. Blood of the Sun, Burning on the Wings of Desire(Late 2012)
As if the glittering logo and booby-lady cover art weren’t enough to grab attention, Blood of the Sun‘s first album for Listenable Records (fourth overall) is sure to garner some extra notice because the band is led by drummer/vocalist Henry Vasquez, better known over the past couple years as the basher for Saint Vitus. Whatever pedigree the band has assumed through that, though, their modern take on classic ’70s heavy has a charm all its own and I can’t wait to hear how Burning on the Wings of Desire pushes that forward. Or backward. Whatever. Rock and roll.
8. Swans, The Seer(Aug. 28)
This one came in the mail last week and I’ve had the chance to make my way through it only once. It’s two discs — and not by a little — and as was the case with Swans‘ 2010 comebacker, My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky(review here), the far less cumbersomely titled The Seeris loaded with guest contributions. Even Jarboe shows up this time around, doing that breathy panting thing she does. Unnerving and challenging as ever, Swans continue to be a litmus for how far experimentalism can go. 3o years on, that’s pretty impressive in itself.
9. Swallow the Sun, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird(Sept. 4)
Apparently the Finnish melo-doom collective’s fifth album, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, came out earlier this year in Europe, but it’s finally getting an American release in September, and as I’ve always dug the band’s blend of death metal and mournful melodicism, I thought I’d include it here. Like Swans, I’ve heard the Swallow the Sun once through, and it seems to play up more of the quiet, weepy side of their sound, but I look forward to getting to know it better over the coming months.
10. My Sleeping Karma, Soma (Oct. 9)
Just signed to Napalm Records and tapped to open for labelmates Monster Magnet as they tour Europe performing Spine of Godin its entirety this fall, the German four-piece are set to follow-up 2010′s Tri(review here) with Soma. Details were sketchy, of course, until about five minutes after this post initially went up, then the worldwide release dates, cover art and tracklist were revealed, so I updated. Find all that info on the forum.
11.Eagle Twin, The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale(Aug. 28)
Way back in 2009 when I interviewed Eagle Twin guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley about the band’s Southern Lord debut, he said the band’s next outing would relate to snakes, and if the cover is anything to go by, that seems to have come to fruition on The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale, which is set to release at the end of next month. As the first album was kind of a mash of influences turned into cohesive and contemplative heavy drone, I can’t help but wonder what’s in store this time around.
12. Hooded Menace, Effigies of Evil(Sept. 11)
You know how sometimes you listen to a band and that band turns you on in their liner notes to a ton of other cool bands? I had that experience with Finnish extreme doomers Hooded Menace‘s 2010 second album, Never Cross the Dead (review here), except instead of bands it was hotties of ’70s horror cinema. Needless to say, I anxiously await the arrival of their third record and Relapse debut, Effigies of Evil. Someone needs to start a label and call it Hammer Productions just to sign this band.
13. Yawning Man, New Album (Soon)
Make no mistake. The prospect of a new Yawning Man album would arrive much higher on this list if I was more convinced it was going to come together in time for a 2012 release. As it is, Scrit on the forum has had a steady stream of updates since May about the record — the latest news being that it’s going to be a double album — and Scrit‘s in the know, so I’ll take his word. One thing we do know for sure is that the band in the picture above is not the current Yawning Man lineup. Alfredo Hernandez and Mario Lalli out, Greg Saenz and Billy Cordell in. Bummer about the tumult, but as long as it’s Gary Arce‘s ethereal guitar noodling, I’m hooked one way or another.
Since we closed with rampant speculation, let me not forget that somewhere out there is the looming specter of a new Neurosis album, which the sooner it gets here, the better. Perhaps also a new Clutch full-length, though I doubt that’ll materialize before 2013. And that’s a different list entirely.
Thanks for reading. Anything I forgot or anything you’d like to add to the list, leave a comment.
Posted in Features on July 16th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Miradoris an easy candidate for a summer album. Sungrazer‘s fuzz is so warm, and the vibe of their second album (released on Elektrohasch last year; review here) is so mellow even in its heaviest parts, that the overall affect is languid almost to the point of sunshiny sleepiness. A song like the 13-minute “Behind” is as fitting for a July day as an ice water. Like I say, this one’s an easy candidate, and I guess you could say the same for a lot of post-Colour Haze (their time will come in this feature) European heavy psych — thinking of groups like The Machine or maybe even My Sleeping Karma — but Mirador‘s balance between nodding riffs and exploratory jams is my pick for the best yet to come out of that scene.
And in terms of placing the album, I’ve found that it not only works so well in the summer, sitting outside in the yard, enjoying the good company of The Patient Mrs. and a few delectable fermented beverages, etc., but in addition to that, Miradoris an especially good listen in the morning. I’ve constructed a long theory as to why this is so, including placement of the sun and the alignment of Earth along its axis — sometime I’ll show you the Powerpoint presentation I made; it’s got 36 cards! — but basically what it comes down to is Rutger Smeets‘ guitar tone and the ping in the ride cymbal of Hans Mulders sounds like the start of the day, and Sander Haagmans‘ Rickenbacker (previously lauded here) is the afternoon to come.
Sungrazer reportedly have a new album in the works, and they’ve been playing new material live for the last couple months at least, so it’ll be interesting to hear how they follow up and expand on Mirador‘s encompassing psychedelia when the time comes for the next release. One to look forward to. That said, though it’s only been out for a year, I’ve no doubt the trio’s sophomore outing will be a staple of many summers to come. It’s an album worth waking up for.
Here’s “Behind” to get your day started, whatever time it might be where you are:
Bless their industrious hearts, Sungrazer are currently on tour in Europe. Keep up with them and their many doings at their official website.