Reviewsplosion II: The Return of 10 Records in One Post

Posted in Reviews on October 16th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

I am constantly working at a deficit. Financially, yes, because like many of my countrymen I’m am tens of thousands of dollars in debt — but also in terms of reviews. I’malwaysbehind on reviews. Hell, it was into July of this year before I finally put the kybosh on writing up anything from 2011, and I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t put my foot down on it, I’d still have year-old albums going up or older. My to-do list grows like a witchcult.

It’s not something to complain about and I’m not complaining. I’m stoked people give enough of a shit to send their CDs in to be reviewed — especially those who actually send CDs — and it’s for that reason that I do this second reviewsplosion (first one here).

Yeah, as ever, I’m behind on reviews, but I’m also working on being more concise — I swear I am; check out the At a Glance reviews if you don’t believe me — and one of the things I liked so much about the last reviewsplosion was it forced me to get to the fucking point. As direct a line as possible to a review. Boiling the idea down to its essential core.

With that in mind, here’s my attempt to both balance my review budget and be as clear as humanly possible. Hope you dig:

 

Altar of Oblivion, Grand Gesture of Defiance

The subject of some spirited debate on the forum, the second record from Danish five-piece Altar of Oblivion revels in traditional doom methods. There’s an air of pomp in some of the songs — “Graveyard of Broken Dreams” lays it on a little thick — but by and large, Grand Gesture of Defiance (Shadow Kingdom) is a more than solid showing of genre. Classic underground metal flourishes abound, and while it’s not a record to change your life, at six tracks/34 minutes, neither does it hang around long enough to be overly repetitive. You could do way worse. Altar of Oblivion on Thee Facebooks.

 

Blooming Látigo, Esfínteres y Faquires

Primarily? Weird. The Spanish outfiit Blooming Látigo make their debut on Féretro Records (CD) and Trips und Träume (LP) with the all-the-fuck-over-the-place Esfínteres y Faquires, alternately grinding out post-hardcore and reciting Birthday Party-style poetry. They reach pretty hard to get to “experimental,” maybe harder than they need to, but the on-a-dime stops and high-pitched screams on tracks like “Onania” and “Prisciliano” are well beyond fascinating, and the blown-out ending of “La Destrucción del Aura” is fittingly apocalyptic. Who gave the art-school kids tube amps? Blooming Látigo on Bandcamp.

 

El-Thule, Zenit

Five years since their second offering, Green Magic, left such a strong impression, Italian stoner rock trio El-Thule return with Zenit (Go Down Records), which makes up for lost time with 50 minutes of heavy riffs, fuzzy desert grooves and sharp, progressive rhythms. The band — El Comandante (bass), Mr. Action (guitar/vocals) and Gweedo Weedo (drums/vocals) — may have taken their time in getting it together, but there’s little about Zenit that lags, be it the faster, thrashier “Nemesis” or thicker, Torche-esque melodic push of the highlight “Quaoar.” It’s raw, production-wise, but I hope it’s not another half-decade before El-Thule follow it up. El-Thule on Thee Facebooks.

 

Botanist, III: Doom in Bloom

It’s a nature-worshiping post-black metal exploration of what the History Channel has given the catchy title “life after people.” If you’ve ever wondered what blastbeats might sound like on a dulcimer, Botanist‘s third album, III: Doom in Bloom has the answers you seek, caking its purported hatred of human kind in such creative instrumentation and lyrics reverent of the natural world rather than explicitly misanthropic. The CD (on Total Rust) comes packaged with a second disc called Allies, featuring the likes of Lotus Thief and Matrushka and giving the whole release a manifesto-type feel, which suits it well. Vehemently creative, it inadvertently taps into some of the best aspects of our species. Botanist’s website.

 

GravelRoad, Psychedelta

Say what you will about whiteboys and the blues, the bass tone that starts “Nobody Get Me Down” is unfuckwithable. And Seattle trio GravelRoad come by it pretty honestly, having served for years as the backing back for bluesman T-Model Ford. The album Psychedelta (on Knick Knack Records) jams out on its start-stop fuzz in a way that reminds not so much of Clutch but of the soul and funk records that inspired Clutch in the first place, and though it never gets quite as frenetic in its energy as Radio Moscow, there’s some of that same vibe persisting through “Keep on Movin'” or their Junior Kimbrough cover “Leave Her Alone.” Throaty vocals sound like a put-on, but if they can nail down that balance, GravelRoad‘s psychedelic blues has some real potential in its open spaces. GravelRoad on Thee Facebooks.

 

The Linus Pauling Quartet, Bag of Hammers

Texas toast. The Linus Pauling Quartet offer crisp sunbursts of psychedelic heavy rock, and after nearly 20 years and eight full-lengths, that shouldn’t exactly be as much of a surprise as it is. Nonetheless, Bag of Hammers (Homeskool Records) proffers a 41-minute collection of heady ’90s-loving-the-’70s tones while venturing into classic space rock on “Victory Gin” and ballsy riffing on “Saving Throw.” Being my first experience with the band, the album is a refreshing listen and unpretentious to its very core. Eight-minute culminating jam “Stonebringer” is as engaging a display of American stoner rock as I’ve heard this year, and I have to wonder why it took eight records before I finally heard this five-man quartet? Hits like its title. LP4’s website.

 

Odyssey, Abysmal Despair


It’s the damnedest thing, but listening to Abysmal Despair, the Transubstans Records debut from Swedish prog sludge/noise rockers Odyssey, I can’t help but think of Long Island’s own John Wilkes Booth. It’s the vocals, and I know that’s a really specific association most people aren’t going to have, but I do, and I can’t quite get past it. The album is varied, progressive, and working in a variety of modern underground heavy contexts nowhere near as foreboding as the album’s title might imply, like Truckfighters meets Entombed, but I just keep hearing JWB‘sKerry Merkle through his megaphone. Note: that’s not a bad thing, just oddly indicative of the greater sphere of worldwide sonic coincidence in which we all exist. If anything, that just makes me like Abysmal Despair more. Odyssey on Soundcloud.

 

Palkoski, 2012 Demo

Conceptual Virginian free-formers Palkoski released the three-track/67-minute 2012 demo earlier this year through Heavy Hound. Most of it sounds improvised, but for verses here and there that emerge from the various stretches, and the band’s alternately grinding and sparse soundscapery results in an unsettling mash of psychotic extremity. It is, at times, painful to listen, but like some lost tribal recording, it’s also utterly free. Limited to 100 CDs with a second track called “The Shittiest  EP Ever” and a third that’s a sampling of Palkoski‘s ultra-abrasive noise experimentation live, this one is easily not for the faint of heart. Still, there’s something alluring in the challenge it poses. Palkoski at Heavy Hound.

 

Radar Men from the Moon, Echo Forever

Following their charming 2011 EP, Intergalactic Dada and Space Trombones, the Eindhoven instrumental trio Radar Men from the Moon (On the Radar’ed here) return on the relative quick with a 51-minute full-length, Echo Forever. More progressive in its jams, the album’s psychedelic sprawl shows the band developing — I hesitate to compare them to 35007 just because they happen to be Dutch, but the running bassline that underscores “Atomic Mother” is a tempter — but there’s still an immediacy behind their changes that keeps them from really belonging to the laid-back sphere of European jam-minded heavy psychedelia. They’re getting warmer though, stylistically and tonally, and I like that. Interesting to hear a song like “Heading for the Void” and think Sungrazer might be burgeoning as an influence. Cool jams for the converted. Radar Men from the Moon on Bandcamp.

 

Sound of Ground, Sky Colored Green

There are elements of of Yawning Man, or Unida or other acts in the Californian desert milieu, but basically, Moscow’s Sound of Ground sound like Kyuss. They know it. Their R.A.I.G. debut full-length, Sky Colored Green, makes no attempt to hide it, whether it’s the “Green Machine” riffing of “Lips of the Ocean” or the speedier Slo-Burnery of “El Caco,” though the metallic screaming on “R.H.S.” is a dead giveaway for the band’s youth, coming off more like early Down than anything Josh Homme ever plugged in to play. While not necessarily original, the trio are firm in their convictions, and Sound of Ground tear through these 11 tracks with engaging abandon. The Russian scene continues to intrigue. Sound of Ground on Thee Facebooks.

Thanks for reading.

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Monkeypriest, The Psalm: Nature Worship for the Damned

Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

There’s no telling where the sludge is going to come from next. Andalusian three-piece Monkeypriest got together in 2006 and are now releasing their debut full-length, The Psalm, on heavy Spanish imprint Féretro Records. The album is seven songs, four of which are 6:45-7:00 minutes long, and though that might make it seem like Monkeypriest are working well within a formula, the other tracks – an instrumental opener called “Hanuman’s Dance,” a cover of Cerebral Fix’s “Feast of the Fools” and 10-minute closer “Our Kingdom (Involution Pt. II)” – are enough to break up the proceedings, and combined with the elements of metallic extremity the trio incorporate, The Psalm comes across more varied than one might think. It’s probably not going to blow any minds when it comes to sludge – shades of Eyehategod and Crowbar underscore much of the riffing from guitarist Marco Álvarez – but they have enough different about them to keep the tracks interesting.

Part of that includes a militant kind of nature-based spiritualism and activist sense. Lyrics like “Listen to the sound of nature/I have to follow your work/My protector, my Lord/I need your powerful words” from the title-track sound more like they should be coming from some swoopy-haired Christian deathcore, but Monkeypriest elevate environmentalism to a religious level and use it as the central theme of The Psalm. One might have a hard time figuring that out through the growls and screams of bassist Pedro Román, backed periodically by Álvarez, but the words are right in the liner notes for anyone who wants to explore the album on that level. Even through song titles like “The Word of the Priest” and “Involution,” though, it should be clear from the outset that Monkeypriest have a message they’re trying to deliver. For lack of a better word, call it preaching. It’s also worth noting that each member of the trio uses a numerical stage name. Álvarez is Monkeypriest #1, Román is Monkeypriest #2, and drummer Julio Moreno (who replaced Rafael García sometime before the album was recorded) is Monkeypriest #4. I thought for the purposes of this review that real names would make it easier to distinguish who was doing what.

“The Word of the Priest,” which follows “Hanuman’s Dance,” is more or less a mission statement for The Psalm lyrically and musically. The pacing is on the slower end of middle, and that seems to be where Monkeypriest are most comfortable. Moreno begins the track with heavy thuds and keeps that ethic moving well into “The Psalm,” which follows, enacting builds and subtle tempo changes skillfully. It being sludge, the riffs are central, but the dry-throated rasp of the vocals to “The Psalm” will also make it a standout to those who appreciate screams over their doom. The groove the band follows the riff into proves worthy of naming the album after, but the real surprise follows a Román-led bass break, when the band launch into black metal-style blastbeats and a guitar line that could have come off any of the last several Satyricon records. It’s a unique moment on The Psalm, but hardly Monkeypriest’s only foray into the more extreme end of metal. There’s still that Cerebral Fix cover to come. They do well blending those elements into their sound, though, and it gives The Psalm a sense of being more than just another screamy sludge outing.

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Megaton Leviathan, Water Wealth Hell on Earth: Delivering the Drone

Posted in Reviews on March 23rd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Released by Spanish imprint Féretro Records in a limited edition CD run of 500, the full-length debut by psyched-out Portland, Oregon (where else?), doomly droners Megaton Leviathan doesn’t so much walk the fine line between hypnotic ambience and crushing aural plod as much as it demolishes it. Three songs spread over four tracks – the opening title cut is split into two parts – Water Wealth Hell on Earth takes an American shoegaze-style post-rock approach to heavy riffing and spaces it out with multiple running effects on vocals, guitar and drums, underlying psychedelic noise and drone excursions that seem to lead nowhere until you actually arrive. It’s a skillfully crafted aesthetic – surprisingly so for the trio’s first album following just a demo (they formed in 2007) – and what becomes abundantly clear in listening to Water Wealth Hell on Earth is that Megaton Leviathan know exactly what they’re doing. Even if some of the noises captured on “Water Wealth Hell on Earth” parts one and two, “Guns and LSD” and the sprawling 33-minute closer “A Slow Death in D Minor” just happened in the studio spontaneously, no doubt core duo Andrew James Costa (guitar, vocals, synth, noise) and Chris Beug (bass, violin, viola, cello; ex-Wolves in the Throne Room) had some idea of what they wanted to come out with when they went into the recording process.

For the first run of Water Wealth Hell on Earth (the band have threatened re-recordings), Costa and Beug are joined by drummer Kathryn Joy, and though they could probably just as easily have done without percussion altogether, they definitely made the right move in anchoring the material. Immediately on “Water Wealth Hell on Earth Pt. I” – arguably the most straightforward of the songs – it’s Joy tasked with keeping the ultra-heavy, ultra-spaced guitar from simply floating away. Her snare sound is caked in reverb as well, only adding to the otherworldly feel, and while that might turn some off, I think it works for what Megaton Leviathan are doing – i.e. trippring musical balls. Joy, already out of the band and replaced by Jason of No You Yes Me for the purposes at least of touring, isn’t making or breaking Water Wealth Hell on Earth as regards her drumming, but she’s adaptable to the songs and able to keep a hold on Beug and Costa’s explorations no matter how far out they get. “Water Wealth Hell on Earth Pt. II” is led into with feedback and noise and stretches out over a droning 12 minutes. I’m relatively certain that some of the drones are hyper-effected vocals from Costa, but I’d still call the track instrumental since that’s the purpose said vocals are being put to and the song has a more or less completely open structure, tempered only by periodic tom hits from Joy.

With “Water Wealth Hell on Earth Pt. II,” Megaton Leviathan – who take their name from a Judas Priest lyric – are more or less testing your endurance as a listener. The closing two minutes are inflicted with a high pitch frequency that’s literally painful at high volumes, and piercing to the point where, once I’m snapped out of the trance the prior 10 minutes put me into, I just skip ahead to “Guns and LSD,” the shortest track on Water Wealth Hell on Earth at 5:21 and a return to more direct riffing from Costa and Beug. There’s still no shortage of background noise (maybe some of those extra string elements from Beug as well, buried under the guitar), but it’s nonetheless a clear shift in modus operandi on the part of the band. Costa’s vocals still sound like Dead Meadow played at half-speed, but there are words buried in there somewhere. I’m almost sure of it. For all Megaton Leviathan’s shirking accessibility and/or willing adoption of abrasiveness, the tone of “Guns and LSD” is remarkably warm and enjoyable for its repetitive aspect and uncompromising spaciousness. In headphones, it is all the more engulfing.

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