Trees to Release Self-Titled Debut Dec. 7 on Svart

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

trees

The ’60s-styled cover art for Trees‘ self-titled debut is no less a coincidence than the Lennon-esque pair of glasses that show up in the promo photo above. The Savonlinna, Finland-based semi-acid folk rock outfit take a decidedly classic approach to melody and harmony, retaining a presence in their songwriting that seems to ask, “Would it kill you to get some sun?” No, it wouldn’t. Likewise, the songcraft of Santeri Vänttinen goes down with surprising ease, his vocals in conjunction with those of Joose Keskitalo on the lead-single “Out in the Open” reaching toward “Two of Us” with more instrumental movement behind. It’s peaceful stuff to ease troubled souls, and it arrives with an unpretentious run of 10 tracks with the considerable backing and endorsement of Svart Records. And if you’re looking for precedent on the label handling folk rock, I’ll casually remind you of the Talmud Beach record they issued in 2016, among others.

Get freaked:

trees self titled

Finland’s TREES set release date for SVART debut, reveal new video

Today, Svart Records sets December 7th as the international release date for the self-titled debut album of Finland’s Trees. The album will be released on CD, vinyl LP, and digital formats.

Fresh out of the woods of eastern Finland, the Savonian quartet Trees have grown out of the fertile cultural milieu of Savonlinna, Finland, from the same circle of friends and artists as Paavoharju, whose mastermind Lauri Ainala has shot and directed the band’s first music video “Out In The Open,” which basks in autumnal Van Goghian colors that suit the melancholy music perfectly.

In addition to singer/songwriter Santeri Vänttinen, Trees are built of Joose Keskitalo (guitar and backing vocals – a prominent solo artist, as well), Teemu Muikku (bass), and Jani Lamberg (drums). The music the quartet makes draws inspiration from classic US folk rock of the ’60s in the vein of The Byrds, The Band, and Neil Young, but handles things with a vaguely apocalyptic eastern Finnish approach.

“I met our drummer Jani by accident after not seeing him in years, and we had a beer and decided to form a band,” says Vänttinen. Jani Lamberg brought with him Joose Keskitalo, on whose early records he had played. Joose first promised to record and mix the band’s album, but soon he found himself playing guitar and singing harmony vocals in the group.

Trees’ eponymous debut album, consisting of Vänttinen’s compositions, has been recorded live in the studio, which fits the band’s organic music perfectly. In the meantime, check out the aforementioned video “Out in the Open” HERE at Svart’s official YouTube channel.

Tracklisting for Trees’ Trees
1. Lovers
2. Tomorrow Decides
3. Scarlet Letters
4. Like a Tombstone
5. Wherever You May Be
6. Indian Summer
7. Waltz
8. Out In The Open
9. Forest
10. A New Day

https://www.facebook.com/abandcalledtrees/
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords
www.twitter.com/svartrecords

Trees, “Out in the Open” official video

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Mansion Premiere “Wretched Hope”; Debut Album First Death of the Lutheran Due Nov. 16

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

mansion

Like the dogmatic end-time apocalypse from whence it takes its central theme, Mansion‘s first long-player has seen many delays. It’s been half a decade since their We Shall Live EP (review here) established the Finnish outfit as high-grade practitioners of cultistry and darkly atmospheric heavy rock, lurching at a creep or seething with righteous fury at a moment’s notice amid memorable songcraft given presence through the lurking melodies of vocalist Alma; her stage moniker taken from cult leader Alma Kartano around whose congregation the band is based. They’ve had other offerings along the way, whether it’s 2014’s Uncreation EP (review here) or 2015’s Altar Sermon (review here), or their split last year with Cardinal Wyrm, but are well due a full-length, and Nov. 16 (vinyl later), I Hate Records will issue First Death of the Lutheran, their awaited debut album.

I haven’t heard the record yet, but for those of us who are unworthy — which is everyone — Mansion are giving an enticing first taste with a mansion first death of the lutherannew video for opening track “Wretched Hope.” It has the band’s signature all over it in terms of ambience, the progressive complexity of its arrangement and its grounded hook: “Hear my warning/The Lord is calling/Do you see the signs/It’s the end of times.” This arrives amid vocals shared between Alma and fellow-singer Osmo, a plodding rhythm and a vivid conveyance of the ceremony at hand. Like the best of Mansion‘s work to-date, it surpasses in concept and realization those who watch horror movies and call it cult rock to instead don a prophecy-minded belief system that comes through the song at hand. It’s theatrical, as they have been all along, but there’s no denying the effectiveness of the display. Indeed, it is an execution ready for worship.

Those sensitive to flashing lights will find harsh penance in the clip itself, but as you listen, take special note of the interweaving layers of guitar, the organ that fills out the melody and adds to the song-as-mass feel of the track itself, the buzzsaw-tone solo in the second half and the arrangement of vocals in call and response and in the chaos that ends. I won’t claim to know how the rest of First Death of the Lutheran plays out subsequent to “Wretched Hope,” but there is a feeling of mood being set throughout “Wretched Hope,” and these are dark times indeed. You can repent if you want. Won’t do you any good.

First Death of the Lutheran is out Nov. 16. I’ll hope to have more to come on it before then. In the meantime, video and comment follow.

Enjoy:

Mansion, “Wretched Hope” official video premiere

OUR FAITHFUL CONGREGATION,

”First Death of the Lutheran” represents the end of the insidious sinners’ earthly serpentine path as their life ends and they pass on to face the Final Judgement of the Lord Almighty. No doubt in our minds that they will end up horrified by their fate.

The Lutheran hypocrites have wasted their lives following their deceitful priests, blinded by their drivel. And these perverted wretches of the cloth have diluted the Word to serve their own greedy and lustful needs. May these priests be impaled by
the claws of their true master, the accuser, Satan. And may the Lutheran churches fall in the name of the Lord Almighty, for they do not honour Him, but organised human evil. For His is the Glory now and eternally.

”You think you are on your way to heaven
as the reverend promised you.
Sheep to the slaughter in the name of satan.”
– Alma Kartano

Mikael (lyricist) on First Death of the Lutheran:

I Hate Records is trying to reconcile in the eyes of the Lord Almighty after releasing despicable titles, which promote devil worship and sinful ways of life, by publishing the debut full lenght First Death of the Lutheran by the righteous Finnish musical talent Mansion. Good luck to them for He may not be that forgiving.

Video directed and edited by Tommi Hoffrén. On set director and camera by Anssi Ikonen.

Tracklisting:
1. WRETCHED HOPE
2. LUTHERAN
3. THE ETERNAL
4. 1933
5. FIRST DEATH

Lineup:
ALMA – VOCALS
OSMO – VOCALS
ATAMI – DRUMS
VEIKKO-TAPIO – GUITAR
JAAKOB – GUITAR
IMMANUEL – BASS
MATTI-JUHANI – ORGAN
MIKAEL – LYRICS

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I Hate Records website

I Hate Records on Bandcamp

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Review & Full Album Stream: The Exploding Eyes Orchestra, II

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the exploding eyes orchestra ii

[Click play above to stream II by The Exploding Eyes Orchestra in its entirety. Album is out Oct. 5 on Svart Records.]

Sometimes plans change. When Finland’s The Exploding Eyes Orchestra released their first album, I (discussed here), through Svart Records in 2015, guitarist and project spearhead Thomas Corpse noted that the follow-up would be out the next year. By that time, the songs were already at least two years old, having been recorded during downtime from Corpse‘s main outfit, Jess and the Ancient Ones. Other members of that band, including vocalist Jasmin “Jess” Saarela herself, took part in the recording, which produced 14 songs total, seven of which were used on I and seven of which were held back for II. 2016 passed without the album’s arrival and 2017 did likewise, as in the meantime, Jess and the Ancient Ones returned to activity in 2015 with Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes and followed that last year with The Horse and Other Weird Tales.

Now, three years after its predecessor from the same sessions and upwards of a half-decade after the tracks were recorded, II sees issue via Svart, and while Corpse had initially said there would be more material recorded under the moniker, the band wound up with the same lineup as Jess and the Ancient Ones, and so what would’ve been a third set of tracks for The Exploding Eyes Orchestra simply became the next Jess and the Ancient Ones release — presumably timing-wise at least some of that material would’ve wound up on The Horse and Other Weird Tales, but don’t quote me on that. Either way, the 43-minute run of II reportedly brings The Exploding Eyes Orchestra to a close, never to be heard from again. Cast into an ether of gothic moodmaking, ne’er to return. So yeah, they’ll probably have a third album out in 2019. I’m not saying watch for it, but I’m not saying don’t either. Sometimes plans change.

The universe of endless possibilities aside, The Exploding Eyes Orchestra make a resonant closing statement not only to answer their debut, but to expand on it in ambience and depth. In the shuffling psycho-cabaret of centerpiece “The Things You Do” — also the shortest track at 3:46 — with its bouncing piano line and eerie echoes, standout hook and interwoven organ in the chorus, and the bass rumbling in the heart of second cut “Belladonna,” another memorable stretch, but more winding and encompassing in a progressive heavy rock kind of way, metal in its root but purposefully not metal, The Exploding Eyes Orchestra dig into an atmosphere less about color than about mood. Certainly the arrangements from the start of opener “Those of Us Left” — which begins at a peaceful fade-in leading to a hopeful line of guitar and an understated initial push emerging with backing string sounds and a deeper, breathy vocal from Saarela, steady and low-mixed drums, and flourish of sax — are not a minor consideration, but the overall affect of II isn’t about creating a psychedelic soundscape so much as working toward a lyrical melancholy, not without its sense of playfulness or drama, but less ritual than execution of an idea filmed in grayscale and edited by hand.

the exploding eyes orchestra

“Those of Us Left,” at 7:24, bookends with closer 10-minute “Love Eternal” as the two longest inclusions, and though the album itself is only half the story of the sessions from whence it comes, there’s nothing about hearing it on its own that feels incomplete or like it’s lacking either for expression or purposefulness. Rather, with the surge of keyboard (or guitar) in “Belladonna” and the swaying and spacious of the sung-in-Finnish “Harmain” backing “Belladonna” en route to “The Things You Do” with nuance of weirdo lead guitar and Mellotron, there’s as much depth as one might ask in the proceedings across side A, and with the slower unfolding of “The Birch and the Sparrow” leading off the final three tracks, a graceful presence rises up in the band’s sound, further expanding the palette in patient and engrossing fashion.

A pickup in tempo and volume in the final movement of “The Birch and the Sparrow” fades into the classic rocking “Go Go Johnny Do,” full in its arrangement with rhythm and lead guitar layers, bass, keys and drums at its foundation, but never overstated, it’s a hook not quite as earwormish as “Belladonna,” but not exactly trying to be the same thing either. Even-keeled for its early going, it works on a subtle build to a louder shove in its second half, kicking in right at the four-minute mark with the chorus and receding again before the ending crafts one of the album’s most effective washes. Cymbals cap, and a moment of silence precedes the arrival of “Love Eternal,” which is only fair given both the lofty subject matter and the execution of the closer itself, which takes shape gradually around a central piano rhythm rather than drums, as guitar and keys back Saarela in almost a hymnal fashion — the keys aping choral sounds for a religious vibe ahead of some church organ — before violin makes its presence known in the second half.

After eight minutes in, the finale ends somewhat abruptly and drops out to a windy drone that comes and goes to carry through the final two minutes, and when II ends, it’s with a letting go so gentle one almost has to check and make sure the song has actually stopped. If in fact that is the last we’ll hear from The Exploding Eyes Orchestra — unless, of course, one counts the material that was used for Jess and the Ancient Ones — then it’s a fair enough cap on an under-noticed two-album cycle, the impression of departure no less resonant at the end than one might ask it to be for the undoing of a project. Still, with the promise of nothing else to come and three years after the fact of the first half of this session being released, II more than earns its fruition, and it would be a genuine loss had it not ultimately been realized. And maybe somewhere down the line The Exploding Eyes Orchestra will splinter off again — since, hey, plans change — but if this is it, no one can say the job was left half done.

The Exploding Eyes Orchestra, “Harmain” official video

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The Exploding Eyes Orchestra at Svart Records

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Lowburn Announce New Album Due Early Next Year

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Finnish heavy rockers Lowburn are in the midst of preparing their second album — the title of which hasn’t yet been made public — for an early 2019 release through Argonauta Records. The same label handled the issue of their 2018 EP, Sleeping Giant (review here), as well as their 2015 debut, Doomsayer. As the EP saw an uptick in the quality of songwriting and the overall development in the band’s sound, and as they’ve already reportedly taken much of the new stuff to the stage, one has no reason to expect a backwards step from the Lappeenranta four-piece, who were pretty on point to start with, frankly.

Seems like we’ve got a little bit before it’s out — going by the below I don’t think it’s actually done yet — but it’ll be worth keeping an eye out and when I see something, I’ll say something, like the posters in the train stations say.

Argonauta posted the following:

lowburn

After 2 singles, 2 EPs and the debut album “Doomsayer”, Finnish Stoner Rockers Lowburn have been working on their anticipated full-length album number 2. The 8 new songs of fuzzy heaviness is forming up nicely. These new songs show more of the heavier side of the band but of course there will be some psychedelia included!

Almost all of the new songs have already been gig-proved as well in couple of selected gigs around Finland. The cover-art and the album name are already decided and all the info will be revealed drop by drop before the album release early 2019!

After a short hiatus from music Tomi Mykkänen and Henkka Vahvanen from Battlelore started jamming again together. Miika Kokkola (founding member and original bass player from Battlelore) was contacted and asked if he wants to jam with the guys. He did. Miika said that he had already talked with Tommi Havo (another original Battlelore member) about the project and that he was very interested. So, enter Tommi and on the first rehearsal together the first real song was made. On the second rehearsal the second song was made and then it was realized that the band had been born.

Listen to their killer stuff here:
DOOMSAYER https://spoti.fi/2wtYkHV
SLEEPING GIANT https://spoti.fi/2nBqBVS

Lowburn is:
Henkka Vahvanen – drums
Miika Kokkola – bass
Tomi Mykkänen – guitar and vocals
Tommi Lintunen – guitar

https://www.facebook.com/lowburnband
http://www.lowburn.net/
http://lowburn.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ArgonautaRecords
https://www.instagram.com/argonautarecords/
https://twitter.com/argonautarex
http://www.argonautarecords.com/

Lowburn, Sleeping Giant EP (2018)

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Review & Track Premiere: Superfjord, All Will be Golden

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Superfjord all will be golden

[Click play above to stream ‘Master Architect’ from Superfjord’s All Will be Golden. Album is out Sept. 21 on Svart Records.]

A given listener will finds their own sonic touchpoints in the colorful melange that is Superfjord‘s second album and Svart Records debut, All Will be Golden. My ears turned immediately to the line from opener “Cut and Paste” that asks, “Don’t you know happiness is a gun?” in a winking nod to The Beatles, but certainly there’s plenty of Pink FloydHawkwind, and many others in there as well, including the Helsinki outfit’s likewise shimmer-minded labelmates in Death Hawks. Still, in their harmonies, in their blend of classic progressive rock and modern psychedelia, in the subcontinental Asian delve of “Parvati Valley” and the sax-laced fuzzy astrojazz of closer “Rainha da Floresta,” Superfjord‘s six-track/48-minute offering lacks nothing for personality of its own. Rather, it is a wash of sprawling coherence, engaging in its concept and execution alike and not so much blissed beyond consciousness as resolute in its joy.

As its future-looking title hints, it’s a hopeful sound conjured by guitarist/vocalists Jussi Ristikaarto and Mikko Kapanen (the former also electronics, the latter also percussion), bassist Teemu Soininen, drummer/percussionists Jussi Peevo and Ilari Kivelä and keyboardist Juho Ojala, sweet in its melodies and of consuming swirl. In what are so often seen and portrayed as dark times, it is brightly hued and hiding nothing in that. With a deep mix that finds enough space for all six players and the variety of elements they bring, songs like the 10-minute “Master Architect” are headphone-ready if not headphone-demanding, and make for the kind of listens in which one might continue to hear something new upon repeat visits.

They’re not blind. “Cut and Paste” seems in no small way to be a comment on the age in which we live, but both “Master Architect” and “Rainbow,” which follow in succession, underscore the notion of powers beyond our control, and in that, encourage not fearfulness or resignation, but taking the opportunity to rejoice at what might be, now and tomorrow. It’s no coincidence that as “Master Architect” winds down, the line “A dream” is repeated on a loop.

Come to think of it, “no coincidence” can basically apply to the whole record. All Will be Golden is meticulous. The harmonized repetitions of lines in “Rainbow” — “Bow down to the rainbow/Enter now the temple,” etc. — arrive with an easy flow in their rhythm preceded by the percussion in both “Cut and Paste” and “Master Architect” and the melodic range there as well, vocally and instrumentally. A fervent prog-boogie emerges near the midway point of the opener, with guitars scorching out a solo backed by basslines so fluid they’ll induce an eye roll and drums and percussion, and at just over five minutes long (the shortest inclusion here), “Rainbow” echoes some of that rhythmic urgency, but its push is more space-chorus than in-room-jam, and the voices of Ristikaarto and Kapenen — and potentially a host of others or other layers, going by the sound of it — give a decidedly celebratory vibe leading into more impressive lead guitar trading off with classically prog keyboard, also arriving in multiple layers.

The affect there, as with so much of All Will be Golden, is gorgeous and lush, but not void of humanity thanks again to the vocals, which return to the initial lines noted above to close out a side A that’s already shown Superfjord — who made their debut in 2014 with the also-gorgeous It is Dark, but I Have This Jewel, boasting a cover of John Coltrane‘s “A Love Supreme” in the process, and also covered Frank Zappa on a split with Sendelica last year — to be mindful of songwriting and atmosphere alike, and while there are certainly exploratory aspects to the briefest of cuts, that underlying consciousness gives their approach even more scope.

superfjord (Photo by Tero Vuorinen)

Again, it is no coincidence. I’d be willing to believe in “happy accidents” in the studio as happen in the process of making most records, but it’s so clear Superfjord know where they want their songs to go, and their sure-handed guidance only makes following along even more of a pleasure.

There’s a telling moment about 35 seconds into aptly-titled side B launcher “No Rest for the Wicked.” The band is grooving smoothly on a jazzy rhythm with the keys out front in a kind of jabbing semi-staccato vibe. They just seem to be settling into the song’s course, percussion is on fire and it looks like the verse is about to start, when all of a sudden there’s this quick entry of a dream-toned lead guitar that takes hold for a few measures before the first whispered lyrics of the title line. It’s a quick thing, but it’s the kind of subtlety that abounds throughout All Will be Golden; exactly what the song needed, exactly when it needed it.

To some it might sound like an indulgence, but I’d argue that in craft and aesthetic alike, Superfjord aren’t so much serving their own whims as the overarching purposes of their creation. “No Rest for the Wicked” dances into a harmonized, tom-backed, sax-inclusive fadeout, leading to the aforementioned closing pair of “Parvati Valley” and “Rainha da Floresta,” the Portuguese title of which translates to “Queen of the Forest.” “Parvati Valley” digs itself into a classically Western psychedelic fascination with Indian traditions, the lyrics becoming a mantra repeated for the first few minutes as instruments build up behind and an acoustic-centered midsection leads to the sharper keys and the introduction of the next movement’s chanting, more outward-directed and festive. Before a long fadeout, Superfjord seem to take “Parvati Valley” to a new echelon of psychedelia, which is fair enough leading into “Rainha da Floresta,” with its sampled birdsong and engrossing melodic peacefulness.

More choice bass work from Soininen anchors a winding progression of keys, cymbal taps and the rounding-up of guitars, and as it moves toward the 2:30 mark into its total 7:57, the finale enters its next stage, setting a bed of keys and bass for sax and heavier-weighted groove in the guitars and bass. They don’t paint any darker of a picture there than on anything preceding — miraculously — but there’s a feeling of reprise to “Rainha da Floresta” that lets the listener know it’s the ending. Shortly before five minutes in, they turn again to tense percussion, keys, chanting and, finally, a burst of spacious guitar and keyboard and drums and percussion and everything else that serves as a fitting apex for everything that’s come before it, and they close with waves as though they and their audience alike have come out of the forest and arrived at the ocean.

So be it. The journey from front to back of All Will be Golden is masterfully navigated, and whatever one’s feelings on the general state of the world in which we live — that is, however much hope you may or may not have — Superfjord portray a bright vision of things to come. As regards their sound, style, breadth and the focus they manage to keep where so many others would simply get lost, the future may indeed shine like gold. The present does as well.

Superfjord, “Rainbow”

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Superfjord Soundcloud

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Lurk Premiere “Proteus Syndrome”; Fringe out Aug. 5

Posted in audiObelisk on July 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

lurk

Finnish sludge extremists Lurk release their new album, Fringe, Aug. 5 on Transcending Obscurity. The eight-track outing is the third from Lurk and was originally released by the Tampere-based four-piece digitally in 2016 before being picked up for a proper pressing. It follows behind 2014’s Kaldera and a 2012 self-titled from the band, who mark a decade by making their debut on the Indian imprint and whose attack has never sounded more visceral than it does on Fringe. I’ve already said about the album that they’re likely talking about the “lunatic fringe,” the way-out, or better, way-deep edges where most don’t dare to tread, since that seems to be where Fringe itself is interested in dwelling. With the harsh rasp of Kimmo Koskinen crawling out from beneath the lurch of guitarist Arttu Pulkkinen, bassist Eetu Nurmi and drummer Kalle Nurmi, the atmosphere is dark and punishing but not without an ambient breadth as opener “Ostrakismos” leads the way into an unfolding brutality made ritualistic with the use of an effects-laden alto sax.

Fringe, for all its madness in the chug of “Tale Blade” and the oozing wash of noise that is the subsequent “Reclaim” — Satyricon and Celtic Frost meeting with Neurosis and older Paradise Lost lookinglurk fringe on — is rife with these sonic details. Following the gang-shouted layers of rasp in “Reclaim,” “Elan” closes out side A with an extended building introduction and cleaner vocals — guesting on the song is Aleksi Laakso, also of Totalselfhatred and numerous others — that lead into the album’s most vicious lumbering yet before dropping to near silence and a searing throat-rip pulled directly from Finnish black metal. As side B begins with “Offshoot,” the affect is faster and more death/black than sludge, but the underlying groove is never far, and “Offshoot” seems to be making its way downward as it moves toward “Furrow,” a resumption of plod that remains willfully torturous despite not hitting the five-minute mark. A cleaner section of shouts ignites a call and response of sorts, but the tones surrounding, the crash and the lumber are a tie to the aural cruelty in the tracks surrounding.

As to that, “Nether” answers the how-does-this-not-just-melt chaos of the song before it with an almost stately metallic poise. It’s the shortest track at 3:35, but also perhaps the most straightforward in terms of its metal quotient, working against genre expectations in a way that successfully expands the palette of Fringe overall. It’s only fitting, then, that they should close with their darkest, most utterly miasmic assault. That’s “Proteus Syndrome.” At 7:05, it’s the longest inclusion on Lurk‘s third record, and between its squibbly guitars, its rhythmic nod and its vocal-cord-trashing indecipherability, it both makes for a fitting summary of what’s come before it and pushes further into the depths than anything before it has gone. A post-midpoint drum-dropout leads to a tension of low-end that moves toward resurgence of a riff that’s near-gothic in its theatricality, but repurposed and coated in filth to suit Lurk‘s purposes. They finish with no more kindness than they began, as “Proteus Syndrome” is consumed by a wash of noise that cuts short to leave nothing behind, the arrival of silence clear in its depiction of death and no less resonant or meaningful than the fetid barbarity before it.

Usually when I post a track premiere, I say something like, “enjoy.” I’m not sure that applies here, so:

Be devoured:

Lurk, “Proteus Syndrome” official premiere

Wistful and mysterious, LURK’s music is just as interesting and multi-faceted as their cover artwork. Blending elements of doom, black and death metal into their astounding sludge template, the Finnish band is taking the sound ahead in ways hitherto unheard. Haunting, soaring melodies juxtapose with abrasive low-end riffs without hampering the overall aesthetics. Watch the band take you into a slow, hallucinatory descent towards madness where multiple worlds coalesce and still make sense – that in a nutshell is the music of LURK.

Line up –
Kimmo Koskinen – Vocals
Kalle Nurmi – Drums
Arttu Pulkkinen – Guitar
Eetu Nurmi – Bass

Guest vocals by Aleksi Laakso on Elan
Alto saxophone by Aino Heikkonen on Ostrakismos

Album artwork by Adam Burke (HOODED MENACE, LOSS)
Layout and art direction by Francesco Gemelli (KATATONIA, TOWARDS ATLANTIS LIGHTS)

Lurk on Bandcamp

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Transcending Obscurity website

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Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Morag Tong, Holy Mushroom, Naisian, Haunted, Pabst, L.M.I., Fuzz Forward, Onségen Ensemble, The Heavy Eyes

Posted in Reviews on July 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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

I always say the same thing on the Wednesday of the Quarterly Review. Day 3. The halfway point. I say it every time. The fact is, doing these things kind of takes it out of me. All of it. It’s not that I don’t enjoy listening to all these records — well, I don’t enjoy all of them, but I’m talking more about the process — just that it’s a lot to take in and by the time I’m done each day, let alone at the end of the week, I’m fairly exhausted. So every time we hit the halfway point of a Quarterly Review, I feel somewhat compelled to note it. Cresting the hill, as it were. It’s satisfying to get to this point without my head falling off.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Khemmis, Desolation

khemmis desolation

Continuing their proclivity for one-word titles, Denver doom forerunners Khemmis take a decisive turn toward the metallic with their third album for 20 Buck Spin, the six-track/41-minute Desolation. Songs like opener “Bloodletting” and its side B counterpart “The Seer” are still tinged with doom, but the NWOBHM gallop in “Isolation” and “Maw of Time” – as well as the sheer force of the latter – is an unexpected twist. Khemmis showed classic metal elements on 2016’s was-a-very-big-deal Hunted (review here) and 2015’s debut, Absolution (review here), but it’s a question of balance, and as they’ve once again worked with producer Dave Otero, one can only read the shift as a conscious decision. The harder edge suits them – certainly suits the screams in “Maw of Time” and side A finale/album highlight “Flesh to Nothing” – and as Khemmis further refine their sound, they craft its most individualized manifestation to-date. There’s no hearing Desolation and mistaking Khemmis for another band. They’ve come into their own.

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20 Buck Spin website

 

Morag Tong, Last Knell of Om

morag tong last knell of om

A rumbling entry into London’s Heavy Generation, the four-piece Morag Tong unfold voluminous ritual on their debut full-length, Last Knell of Om. Largely slow and largely toned, the work of guitarists Alex Clarke and Lewis Crane brings the low end to the forefront along with the bass of James Atha while drummer Adam Asquith pushes the lurch forward on cuts like “New Growth” and “To Soil,” the band seemingly most comfortable when engaged in crawling tempos and weighted pummel. Asquith also adds semi-shouted vocals to the mire, which, surrounded by distortion as they are, only make the proceedings sound even more massive. There’s an ambience to “We Answer” and near-13-minute closer “Ephemera: Stare Through the Deep,” which gives the record a suitably noisy finish, but much of what Morag Tong are going for in sound depends on the effectiveness of their tonality, and they’ve got that part down on their debut. Coupled with the meditative feel in some of this material, that shows marked potential on the band’s part for future growth.

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Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul

holy mushroom blood and soul

Working quickly to follow-up their earlier-2018 sophomore long-player, Moon (review here), Spain’s Holy Mushroom present Blood and Soul, an EP comprised of two songs recorded live in the studio. I’m not entirely sure why it’s split up at all, as the two-minute “Introito” – sure enough, a little introduction – feeds so smoothly into the 19-minute “Blood and Soul” itself, but fair enough either way as the trio shift between different instrumentation, incorporating sax, piano and organ among the guitar, bass, drums and vocals, and unfold a longform heavy psychedelic trip that not only builds on what they were doing with Moon but is every bit worthy of being released on its own. I don’t know if it was recorded at the same time as the record or later – both were done at Asturcon Studios – but it’s easy to see why the band would want to highlight “Blood and Moon.” Between the deep-running mix, the easy rhythmic flow into and out from drifting spaciousness, and the turn in the middle third toward more expansive arrangement elements, it’s an engaging motion that makes subtly difficult shifts seem utterly natural along the way. And even if you didn’t hear the latest full-length, Blood and Soul makes for a fitting introduction to who Holy Mushroom are as a band and what they can do.

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Clostridium Records website

 

Naisian, Rejoinder

naisian rejoinder

Sludge-infused noise rock serves as the backdrop for lyrical shenanigans on the three-song Rejoinder EP from Sheffield, UK, trio Naisian. Running just 12 minutes, it’s a quick and thickened pummel enacted by the band, who work in shades of post-metal for “90 ft. Stone,” “Mantis Rising” and “Lefole,” most especially in the middle cut, but even there, the focus in on harsh vocals and lumbering sonic heft. It’s now been seven years since the band sort-of issued their debut album, Mammalian, and six since they followed with the Monocle EP, and the time seems to have stripped down their sound to a degree. “Lefole” is the longest track on Rejoinder at 5:18 and it’s still shorter than every other song Naisian have put out to-date. Their crunch lacks nothing for impact, however, and to go with the swing of “Lefole,” everybody seems to contribute to a vocal assault that only adds to the punishing but thoughtful vibe.

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Haunted, Dayburner

haunted dayburner

The effects-laden vocal swirl at the outset of Haunted’s “Mourning Sun” and moments in the Italian act’s longer-form material, “Waterdawn” or “Orphic,” for example, will invariably lead some listeners to point to a Windhand influence, but the character of the band’s second album, Dayburner (on Twin Earth, DHU and Graven Earth all), follows their 2016 self-titled (review here) by holding steady to a developing identity of its own. To be sure, vocalist Christina Chimirri, guitarists Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando, bassist Frank Tudisco and drummer Dario Casabona make their way into a deep, murky swamp of modern doom in “Dayburner” (video posted here), but in the crush of their tones amid all that trance-inducing riffing, they cast themselves as an outfit seeking to express individuality within the set parameters of style. Their execution, then, is what it comes down to, and with “Orphic” (12:46) and “Vespertine” (13:19) back to back, there’s plenty of doom on the 66-minute 2LP to roll that out. And they do so in patient and successful form, with marked tonal vibrancy and a sense of controlling the storm they’re creating as they go.

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Twin Earth Records website

DHU Records webstore

Graven Earth Records webstore

 

Pabst, Chlorine

pabst chlorine

So, the aesthetic is different. Pabst play a blend of noise, post-punk, heavy rock and grunge, but with the ready pop influence — to wit, the outright danceability of “Shits,” reminiscent in its bounce of later Queens of the Stone Age – and persistent melodicism, there’s just a twinge of what Mars Red Sky did for heavy rolling riffs happening on Chlorine, their Crazysane Records debut. It’s in that blend of dense low-end fuzz and brighter vocal melodies, but again, Pabst, hailing from Berlin, are on their own trip. Weird but almost more enjoyable than it seems to want to be, the 12-track/35-minute outing indulges little and offers singalong-ready vibes in “Catching Feelings” and “Waterslide” while “Waiting Loop” chills out before the push of “Accelerate” and the angularity of “Cheapskate” take hold. Chrlorine careens and (blue) ribbons its way to the drive-fast-windows-open stylization of “Summer Never Came” and the finale “Under Water,” a vocal effect on the latter doing nothing to take away from its ultra-catchy hook. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a record someone with just the right kind of open mind can come to love.

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Crazysane Records webstore

 

L.M.I., IV

lmi iv

If you’ve got a dank basement full of skinny college kids, chances are Lansdale, Pennsylvania’s L.M.I. are ready to tear their faces off. The sludge-thickened riff punkers run abut 11 minutes with their five-song release, L.M.I. IV, and that’s well enough time to get their message across. Actually, by the end of “Neck of Tension” and “Weaning Youth,” roughly four and half minutes in, the statement of intent is pretty clear. L.M.I. present furious but grooving hardcore punk more given to scathe than pummel, and their inclusions on L.M.I. IV bring that to life with due sense of controlled chaos. Centerpiece “Lurking Breath” gives way to “First to Dark” – the longest cut at a sprawling 2:55 – and they save a bit of grunge guitar scorch and lower-register growling for closer “June was a Test,” there isn’t really time in general for any redundancy to take hold. That suits the feeling of assault well, as L.M.I. get in and get out on the quick and once they’re gone, all that’s left to do is clean the blood off the walls.

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Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere

fuzz forward out of nowhere

Released one way or another through Discos Macarras, Odio Sonoro, Spinda Records and Red Sun Records, the eight-song/43-minute debut album from Barcelona’s Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere, has earned acclaim from multiple corners for its interpretation of grunge-era melodies through a varied heavy rock filter. Indeed, the vocals of Juan Gil – joined in the band by guitarist Edko Fuzz, bassist Jordi Vaquero and drummer Marc Rockenberg – pull the mind directly to a young Layne Staley, and forces one to realize it’s been a while since that low-in-the-mouth approach was so ubiquitous. It works well for Gil in the laid back “Summertime Somersaults” as well as the swinging, cowbell-infused later cut “Drained,” and as the band seems to foreshadow richer atmospheric exploration on “Thorns in Tongue” and “Torches,” they nonetheless maintain a focus on songwriting that grounds the proceedings and will hopefully continue to serve as their foundation as they move forward. No argument with the plaudits they’ve thus far received. Seems doubtful they’ll be the last.

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Onségen Ensemble, Duel

Onsegen ensemble duel

The kind of record you’re doing yourself a favor by hearing – a visionary cast of progressive psychedelia that teems with creative energy and is an inspiration even in the listening. Frankly, the only thing I’m not sure about when it comes to Oulu, Finland, outfit Onségen Enseble’s second album, Duel, is why it isn’t being released through Svart Records. It seems like such a natural fit, with the adventurous woodwinds on opener “Think Neither Good Nor Evil,” the meditative sprawl of the title-track (video posted here), the jazz-jam in the middle of “Dogma MMXVII,” the tribalist percussion anchoring the 12-minute “Three Calls of the Emperor’s Teacher,” which surely would otherwise float away under its own antigravity power, and the free-psych build of closer “Zodiacal Lights of Onségen,” which shimmers in otherworldly fashion and improvised-sounding spark. On Svart or not, Duel is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, and one the creativity of which puts it in a class of its own, even in the vast reaches of psychedelic rock. Whether it means to or not, it tells a story with sound, and that story should be heard.

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The Heavy Eyes, Live in Memphis

the heavy eyes live in memphis

Since so much of The Heavy Eyes’ studio presentation has consistently been about crispness of sound and structured songwriting, it’s kind of a relief to hear them knock into some feedback at the start of “Mannish Boy” at the outset of Live in Memphis (on Kozmik Artifactz). The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Tripp Shumake, bassist Wally Anderson and drummer Eric Garcia are still tight as hell, of course, and their material – drawn here from the band’s LPs, 2015’s He Dreams of Lions (review here), 2012’s Maera, 2011’s self-titled, as well as sundry shorter offerings – is likewise. They’ve never been an overly dangerous band, nor have they wanted to be, but the stage performance does add a bit of edge to “Iron Giants” from the debut, which is followed by singing “Happy Birthday” to a friend in the crowd. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Live in Memphis is hearing The Heavy Eyes loosen up a bit on stage, and hearing them sound like they’re having as good a time playing as the crowd is watching and hearing them do so. That sense of fun suits them well.

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The Heavy Eyes at Kozmik Artifactz

 

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Superfjord Announce New LP All Will Be Golden on Svart; New Single Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

superfjord

The hypnotic insistence of the new Superfjord single pretty much guarantees its imprint on the frontal lobe of your brain, and when you’re walking around singing ‘Bow down to the rainbow’ to yourself, there will be little wonder as to why. All Will Be Golden, which is the long-player from whence the aptly-titled “Rainbow” stems, has been confirmed for a Sept. 21 release through ultra-respected purveyor Svart Records. It’s their second album overall and the herald it receives bodes well for what’s to come, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the spaciness that shows up in “Rainbow” is more fleshed out elsewhere. We’ve got time before September hits — though apparently less than I think, as the calendar tells me it’s currently late June (the mind explodes) — so there will probably be more info to come in stuff like the cover art, tracklisting and so on, but you can stream “Rainbow” at the bottom of this post and there’s some preliminary data as regards the Svart signing that came down the PR wire:

It looked an awful lot like this:

superfjord rainbow

SUPERFJORD sign with SVART – release digital single, prepare new album for autumn

Svart Records announces the signing of Finnish prog-psych giants Superfjord. The band will be releasing a digital single titled “Rainbow” through the label, on all major digital platforms, in anticipation of their sophomore album (and first for Svart), All Will Be Golden, which is set for international release on September 21st. These will be Superfjord’s first brand-new releases since a limited 7″ single cover of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” released by cult psych label Fruits De Mer in the UK.

We shall all be redeemed, one way or another. Shall we pass through the golden gates towards the light, up to which myriad mysterious paths lead? Is the journey more important than the destination? Are we dreaming? Regardless of the questions asked, eventually All Will Be Golden.

Superfjord’s sophomore album is about it all: the journey, the destination, and the vehicles. All Will Be Golden is an ambitious musical trip formed of long arcs, mesmerizing mandalas, harmony vocals, and a multitude of aural colors. Have you heard the ayahuasca-inspired collaboration album from Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead, and Spiritualized? Neither have we, but All Will Be Golden could possibly exist in such a parallel dimension. Whether you’re looking for a cure, a way of escape, a catalyst for spiritual expeditions, something to groove to, or just some chakra-opening psychedelic rock ’n’ roll with a 21st century cosmic twist, this might just be it.

“Rainbow,” the first single off the album, is a message from the end of the rainbow: surrender to the force, human. Superfjord’s psychedelic temple contains the whole cosmic color palette. Can you fit The Who, Frank Zappa, and, well, William Orbit into the same congregation? Well, apparently you can – with love.

Superfjord are:
Jussi Ristikaarto: guitars, electronics, vocals
Mikko Kapanen: guitar, vocals, percussion
Ilari Kivelä: drums, percussion
Teemu Soininen: bass
Juho Ojala: keyboards
Jussi Peevo: drums, percussion

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Superfjord, “Rainbow”

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