Mansion, Uncreation: Testimony of the Converted

Posted in On Wax on February 24th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

mansion uncreation

The 12″ vinyl packaging of Mansion‘s second EP, Uncreation, is elaborate but not ostentatious. Ever-conscious of their pursed-lip, upright-postured aesthetic, the Turku, Finland, outfit present Uncreation in a screenprinted cardboard sleeve on black vinyl, but when one digs into the thing itself, there’s much more to the release. An application is included for those who would join Mansion‘s cult — based on the Kartanoist movement in Finland founded by Alma Kartano, after whom Alma Mansion, the band’s vocalist, takes her name — as well as a foldout liner that includes lineup info and the lyrics for the title-track, presented as a sort of missal. These seem like relatively small things, and indeed, it’s not like Mansion are doing blue swirl vinyl or green translucent platters or whatever, but if they were, it wouldn’t work. They might get away with red, but even that would pull away from the black-and-white of what they do, the high contrast of the front cover and how the visual side complements the audio of Uncreation‘s four songs, which aren’t lacking anything stylistically and aren’t minimal save perhaps for a brief stretch in “Uncreation” and the beginning of closer “Divining Rod,” but of which aesthetic and atmosphere is a huge part of the point. Mansion followed the devil and deviated from this form somewhat on last year’s psych-rocking The Mansion Congregation Hymns Vol. 1 7″, but Uncreation follows suit more with their 2013 breakout debut EP, We Shall Live (review here), and works along similar lines to cast out harsh judgments amid fire-and-brimstone progressions alternating between slow doom and classic metal, the latter showing itself particularly in the apex of opener “Child Preacher” and its side B counterpart, “I am the Mansion.”

Both Uncreation and We Shall Live are comprised of four songs, but it’s noteworthy that the newer release, at 36:42, is more than 10 minutes longer than its predecessor. The material, however, is by and large older. Listening to the slow churn of “Child Preacher” and the grand crashes of its chorus, the difference does not feel like happenstance. While just four tracks, Uncreation feels and flows more like an album, and like We Shall Live, it is strikingly cohesive and developed for a first full-length. Alma is joined by backing vocalist Aleksanteri in the chorus and verses of “Child Preacher,” and the keyboard work of the latter serves as an especially pivotal element in the opener and in the subsequent tracks as well, organ sounds and otherworldly keys greatly bolstering the ambience given life by guitarists Jaakob and Veikko-Tapio, bassist Immanuel, and drummer Mikael, who also contributes lyrics throughout, which also play a major role in the effectiveness of Mansion‘s aesthetic, the A/B scheme of “Uncreation” in lines like, “We have been rewarded/Unlike the foul and sordid,” reminding that part of what makes hymns so memorable is that in another context many are nursery rhymes. Church organ opens “Uncreation,” the longest inclusion at 12:51, and builds to a head before cutting short to music-box sounds and volume swell over which Alma soon begins the first verse. Drums and distorted guitar kick in after three minutes and a roll gets underway that continues as layers become more complex in the midsection, and around 6:40, a purely Sabbathian riff takes hold to lead into some spoken word over open-spaced atmosphere that sets up the echoing croon, “Come inside the mansion/Witness uncreation/Be among the righteous/Bathing in the brightness,” etc., which gets repeated over heavier guitar as choral layering mounts and organ steps back in to finish out side A.

Not every cult act has an actual cult on which to base their philosophies — it would be like a band in Texas in 30 years adopting the tenets of the Branch Davidians; honestly, I’ll be surprised if it takes that long — but Mansion have already proven their dedication to this mesh of sound and style, and Uncreation finds them engaged in a likewise satisfying sonic development. “I am the Mansion” leads side B with Alma at the fore, playing off charisma in the resonant hook in the chorus and the slow, subtly doomed progression behind, keys once again setting the tone, until in the second half the tempo picks up and the band moves toward the apex, marked out by the lines, “I am the mansion/Who are you?” not so much questioning as challenging. Punishment has proven a regular and fitting theme for Mansion to date, and “Divining Rod,” while still Iommic in its righteous plod, follows in the spirit of “We Shall Live”‘s proclaiming, “We hall live, you will die,” the cut and dry, black and white divide set up between the saved and damned. The lead guitar toward the halfway point is a standout, but even more than that, the closer seems to flog itself into deconstruction, the second half building to a head and then falling apart amid backwards guitar, vocal effects, keys, and the steady-but-slowing forward motion of the rhythm section, ending in echoes less either of rapture or devastation or maybe both. What that might mean for Mansion‘s cult, I don’t know — I didn’t even get time to get my application in — but somehow I doubt they’ve yet met their end and their apocalyptic preaching and endtimes doom will persist, distinct not only for its specificity, but for the restraint it shows musically and how well that translates to the mindset of asceticism that is such a huge part of what they do. Except for when they give in to temptation, of course.

Mansion, Uncreation (Dec. 2014)

Mansion on Thee Facebooks

Mansion on Bandcamp

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Garden of Worm Stream “Summer’s Isle Including Caravan” from New Album Idle Stones

Posted in audiObelisk on February 11th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

garden-of-worm

Tampere, Finland, trio Garden of Worm will release their second album, Idle Stones (review here), via Svart Records on March 6. It is a much different sort of outing than their 2010 self-titled Shadow Kingdom debut (review here), which was gruffer in its tone and more traditional overall, and is comprised of four tracks split easily into two vinyl sides, each comprised of a shorter and a longer piece, totaling about 42 minutes. The focus this time around seems to be more geared toward space than distorted riffing, and while Idle Stones bears considerable weight tonally and emotionally, it’s the latter that gives opener “Fleeting are the Days of Man” (5:35), “Summer’s Isle” (10:13), “Desertshore” (7:01) and “The Sleeper Including Being is More than Life” (19:49) their full breadth. Five years after an impressive debut, Garden of Worm breathe life into a staid sound and embark on engaging explorations of form that feel not hindered by genre constraints but enhanced by them. You can’t know which lines to cross without first knowing where they are.

Today I have the extreme pleasure of hosting “Summer’s Isle Including Caravan” for streaming ahead of the LP’s release. As the title-hints, it’s a two-parter, and what impresses most about it is the flow from one segment to the next. Garden of Worm – guitarist/vocalist EJ Taipale, bassist/vocalist SJ Harju and drummer JM Suvanto — set up a strong sense of atmosphere throughout Idle Stones‘ first three songs, and the last one which follows makes the most of the spaciousness provided. Following a morose, understated opening that’s deceptively heavy, TaipaleHarju and Suvanto move into a wash of noise that unfolds gradually, gracefully, into a pulsating space rock jam, a psychedelic freakout emerging like a multicolored mushroom from a forest floor. The sound swells and consumes, but it’s not the end.

Over on side B, the dual-vocal thrust of “Desertshore” sets the table for 20-minute closer “The Sleeper Including Being is More than Living” which expands the ideas of “Summer’s Isle Including Caravan” even further, moving from doomly vibing into a psych jam that, just before the 17-minute mark, drops out and Suvanto‘s ride cymbal eases the way back into a kind of epilogue reprise of the song’s earlier melancholy, this time using it as the launch point for what becomes a kind of summary of the piece in its entirety — another mini-freakout building to a head and is brought to a minimalist, contemplative conclusion. It makes a worthy focal point for Idle Stones, but I won’t take away from the achievement of the album as a whole either, whether it’s the cohesive introduction the album is given on “Fleeting are the Days of Man” or the subtle ritualism in “Summer’s Isle Including Caravan” that, as a preface to the closer, boldly rips itself to shreds in a more concise fit of improv-sounding noise. There are those who see doom and heavy rock like church and state, as though they couldn’t or shouldn’t occupy the same ideals. Garden of Worm cut to the root influence and create something of their own from it that is neither and both at the same time, and their command and poise as Idle Stones plays out its progressive sprawl is not to be discounted.

Please find “Summer’s Isle Including Caravan” on the player below, followed by some PR wire background, and enjoy:

GARDEN OF WORM is a trio operating in Tampere, Finland. Having played progressive rock in various groups, in 2003 the group decided it was time to play simple & basic doom metal. Thus the WORM was born. After several releases on several metal labels, the latest being the successful album for Shadow Kingdom Records (2010), the band went into hibernation.

The new album Idle Stones is a product of this long period of quiet life. After the ambitious debut full length the band were unsure for a time regarding the direction their art would take next. Slowly the doomier, grimmer material allowed improvisation to creep in, and the entire work has a newfound sense of spontaneity.

In 2014 GOW is a different beast than the creature of the early days. The band sounds more inspired and relaxed than ever. The doom metal base is still present, but there’s also psychedelic warmness to the sound as well as freedom, like witnessed in the work of improvising rock units such as AMON DÜÜL (II) and TRÄD GRÄS & STENAR.
The freedom also adds to the intensity of the live performances – even though there are always composed songs in the set, the improvisational passages keep the band focused on the moment. Anything can happen.

Garden of Worm on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records

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Abbot, Between Our Past and Future Lives: Running Moonsnake Children

Posted in Reviews on February 10th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

abbot between our past and future lives

There is an almost singular groove running through Between Our Past and Future Lives, the BloodRock Records debut full-length from Finnish four-piece Abbot. Not in the sense of songs sounding the same — though tones are at least consistent — but just that the material feels united across the manageable eight tracks/33 minutes in the mission of conveying a simplistic form of heavy nod. There are variations in tempo and mood, as cuts like “Grave Encounters” and “Mr. Prowler Man” pull back from the garage rocking push of “Diamond Heart” or the ultra-catchy “Moonsnake Child” from what seems to be even on the CD an intended side A to the short, unpretentious release, but even these are brought into the fold by a uniting factor. Near as I can tell, it’s swing. The whole record just swings. Front to back. Abbot‘s debut 7″, 2012’s Into the Light (review here), and the follow-up single, 2014’s Holy Mountain/Black Book, had that working for them as well, but it’s much different over the context of a full-length album, and in listening to Between Our Past and Future Lives, the entirety of the work feels propelled by drummer Antti Kuusinen‘s classic heavy rock swing, which underscores the fuzz guitar of Jussi Jokinen, Tapio Lepistö‘s bass and JP Jakonen‘s vocals, lower-toned and riding the laid back groove the band behind him has concocted, adding effects-laden harmonica to the opener “Child of Light,” which bookends with closer “Keep on Moving,” the two tracks being the only ones here over five minutes long while the rest keep firmly in the three-to-four-minute range.

“Keep on Moving” is essentially the defining ethic of Between Our Past and Future Lives. Lines from its chorus, “Keep on moving because you’re free,” appear reprinted in the liner of the CD digipak, and if there’s a more succinct way of conveying what the album is trying to do, I’m not sure what it might be. Psychedelic touches make themselves felt here and there — that harmonica at the end of “Child of Light” is one of them — but for the most part, Abbot stay more grounded in an earthy Sabbathian loyalism that roots itself even to the first lines of the album, the opening lyrics being, “Going home, late one night” à la “Faeries Wear Boots” from Paranoid. That Abbot would push the Sabbath factor so much to the front makes their approach seem all the more sincere, and Jakonen‘s vocals start out more in that vein as well before settling into the low-register delivery of the subsequent “Diamond Heart” and much of what follows, Jokinen providing backup at unspecified points. The second track has more of a rush to it, and sets up a back-and-forth play of pacing that continues through “Mr. Prowler Man” and “Keep on Moving,” the former a near-minimal, loose garage heavy rocker and the latter Abbot‘s most varied inclusion here and starting off slow, but picking up to a faster groove in which the chorus is delivered and the record is given its apex. In between, the likes of “Grave Encounters” and “Moonsnake Child” and “Supermind” — which starts side B if you’re thinking vinyl — dance back and forth with a playful kind of morbidity, some element of heavy ’70s threat running through “Moonsnake Child” that never quite veers into the murderous cultistry of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, but winds up not far from it by the time “Mr. Prowler Man” swings into the picture.

abbot

Even mentioning that name risks putting Abbot in a category to which they really don’t belong of modern ’70s-minded cult rockers. In truth, Abbot owe way more to Pentagram than to anyone playing at devil worship, and that spirit begins with “Child of Light” and continues through side B’s title-track and closing duo, a flow quicker at times but never fully abating that carries the listener from one riff-based groover to the next, Kuusinen‘s swing and the analog vibe of the tones serving as the constants tying it all together. Interesting to note that the title-track is the shortest one here at 3:05 (not by much necessarily, but still), and while it feeds into the humble feel, it seems more likely happenstance than something Abbot considered when choosing the name of the record. Either way, that song gives way gracefully to “Mr. Prowler Man” and the languid, bluesy opening of “Keep on Moving,” which does, unfolding over six minutes a push worthy of the material preceding it and a hook to answer “Moonsnake Child” that finds itself aligned to Between Our Past and Future Lives‘ easy-rolling spirit. What stands the closer out most is how smoothly Abbot shift between the slower intro and the more uptempo verses and chorus that follow. Having established such counterbalances across their debut’s span, the final track sets them up for the natural next step, which is to further integrate those dynamics into their songwriting. Nothing I hear on Between Our Past and Future Lives gives indication they can’t or won’t get there, it’s just a matter of being able to “keep on moving” and making the most of the creative freedom they have. If a band has to have a motto, Abbot have chosen theirs well.

Abbot, Between Our Past and Future Lives (2014)

Abbot on Thee Facebooks

Abbot’s website

BloodRock Records

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Sumac, Garden of Worm, Carpet, Sporecaster, The Devil and the Almighty Blues

Posted in Radio on January 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

The Obelisk Radio server, which I’ve taken to calling the “main computer core,” was down most of last week after some kind of unknown surge in the EPS conduits, so with the data stream running on auxiliary power (yes, I’m using Star Trek science lingo; I’ll stop) it didn’t make much sense to do a round of adds. No one would hear the stuff anyway amid all the Sabbath, Kyuss, Goatsnake, Electric Wizard, etc. Sometimes I really like that backup server, but after a few days of listening, a change is welcome. I was pretty happy when we got the primary box back online.

And by “we,” I mostly mean Slevin, to whose technical expertise I am perpetually indebted. While I wouldn’t dare go much farther than doing so, I’m fortunate enough to be able to add files to the server on my own — I’m sure if you gave him five minutes he’d come up with a more efficient method — so we’ll give that a shot, and if the whole thing doesn’t come crashing down, we can consider it a win. Here goes.

The Obelisk Radio adds for Jan. 30, 2015:

Sumac, The Deal

sumac-the-deal

Sumac start out high-profile thanks to the lineup of guitarist Aaron Turner of Isis and Old Man Gloom and drummer Nick Yacyshyn of Baptists and the fact that Russian Circles bassist Brian Cook recorded the low end for their Profound Lore debut, The Deal, but I think even if they were a trio of out-of-nowhere unknown entities, this record would turn some heads. Coated in feedback, blisteringly heavy — in the tradition of older Isis but more assured in its purpose — its six tracks breathe dense tonal life into the pallid post-metal vibe, songs like “Hollow King” (12:21) and “The Deal” (13:41) sounding as complex as they do crushing, wanting nothing in impact or atmosphere. “Spectral Gold” (3:18) and “Thorn in the Lion’s Paw” (8:55) begin The Deal on an ambient note, and the sprawl-drone of “The Radiance of Being” ends it likewise with five minutes of solo guitar from Turner, but in between “Hollow King,” “Blight’s End Angel” (10:17) and “The Deal” work quickly to win over even skeptical ears. Yacyshyn‘s performance is of particular note. Where it would’ve been all too easy to fall into Isis-style patterning to complement Turner‘s riffs, he holds firm to his own personality and The Deal is that much stronger for it. It is a startling and potential-laden debut. Almost enough to make up for the needless dickery Old Man Gloom pulled last year sending a fake record to the press, assuming what I’ve heard from Sumac is actually the real thing. Sumac on Thee Facebooks, at Profound Lore.

Garden of Worm, Idle Stones

garden-of-worm-idle-stones

Tampere, Finland, trio Garden of Worm make their debut on Svart Records via Idle Stones, their second album following 2010’s Garden of Worm (review here) on Shadow Kingdom. Comprised of four songs alternating between shorter and longer before arriving at 19:49 closer “The Sleeper Including Being is More than Life,” the sophomore outing is a richer, more progressive affair, with bassist SJ Harju and guitarist EJ Taipale combining their vocals effectively at the fore of the mix on “Summer’s Isle” (10:13), which follows the rolling opener “Fleeting are the Days of Man” (5:35). With a style that ultimately owes more to Witchcraft‘s tonal understatement than Reverend Bizarre‘s genre-defining traditionalism, they nonetheless shirk the trap of retroism and make an individual showing with a feel both loose and purposeful throughout. The brighter guitar work of “Desertshore” (7:01) makes it a highlight, along with the persistent crash of drummer JM Suvanto, and the freakout that emerges in “The Sleeper Including Being is More than Life” gracefully and boldly flows across the rarely-bridged gap between doom and heavy psychedelia with a naturalness that very much makes me hope it’s not another half-decade before we hear from Garden of Worm again. Garden of Worm on Thee Facebooks, at Svart Records.

Carpet, Riot Kiss 7″

carpet riot kiss

Story goes that German progressive heavy rockers Carpet started writing for their third album, to follow-up on 2013’s Elysian Pleasures (review here), which was released by Elektrohasch, and wound up with some material that didn’t quite fit the concept they were going for. Since they dug it and didn’t want to just toss it, the Riot Kiss b/w Song of Heartship 7″ was born. Two songs, both a little over four minutes long, reaffirm the Augsburg four-piece’s commitment to forward-thinking textures, with “Riot Kiss” as the space-prog A-side and the quieter, atmospheric-but-still-clearheaded “Song of Heartship” emphasizing Carpet‘s range on side B, the cuts having more dynamic between them than many bands show in their career. I don’t know what Carpet – the lineup of Sigmund Perner, Jakob Mader, Hubert Steiner and Maximilian Stephan — are shooting for with their third record that these songs didn’t jibe with, and I guess we won’t know until that album arrives, but Riot Kiss is a stopgap of considerable substance that showcases Carpet‘s ability to present progressive ideas in ways not only palatable but deeply engaging. Carpet on Thee Facebooks, Elektrohasch Schallplatten.

Sporecaster, See Through Machine

sporecaster-see-through-medicine

An experimental drone/psych duo comprised in half by Ron Rochondo of Boston’s Ice DragonSporecaster‘s debut release, See Through Machine, is four tracks/26 minutes of exploratory drone given natural breadth through use of didgeridoo and percussion. The outing was tracked at Ron’s Wrecker Service and has a lo-fi feel despite its spaciousness, and chants out its hypnotism early, opener “Invocation or Incantation” (4:20, by astounding coincidence) wrapping itself around consciousness like some kind of psychedelic serpent, only to have the whistle-blowing “Things are Not What they See” (3:21) and tribal-ish drummed “The False Light” (5:46) push deeper into the moody ambience laid out at the beginning. Closer “You are Transparent” (12:45) makes me wonder what Sporecaster might do working in even longer forms, its drone-out having room for both a jammy drum progression and a continuation of the earlier experimental and improvisational feel. As an early showing of their intent, though, See Through Machine makes it clear that Sporecaster‘s creative process is wide open. Sporecaster on Thee Facebooks, Ron’s Wrecker Service.

The Devil and the Almighty Blues, The Devil and the Almighty Blues

the devil and the almighty blues the devil and the almighty blues

The slow-rolling “The Ghosts of Charlie Barracuda” (7:46) begins the self-titled debut from Oslo-based five-piece The Devil and the Almighty Blues, released on the upstart Blues for the Red Sun Records. That song picks up gradually in the first of several of the six-song full-length’s satisfying builds, but atmospherically sets a laid back tone that tracks like the subsequent “Distance” (4:11) and more active “Storm Coming Down” (10:17) play off of, the band proving equally comfortable in long- or short-form material, nestling into a neo-heavy semi-retro blues rock more in line with Graveyard‘s overarching moodiness than Witchcraft‘s early-days dooming. Well-balanced lead guitars and crooning vocals serve as a uniting theme, but in a classic dynamic, it’s the rhythm section that makes the swing of side B’s particularly thick “Root to Root” (9:48) and “Never Darken My Door” — the singing especially blown-out on the latter — so irresistibly grooved. Wrapping with the classy fuzz of “Tired Old Dog” (6:28), The Devil and the Almighty Blues will come from a familiar place sonically, but as their debut, The Devil and the Almighty Blues boasts a cohesion worthy of its weighty title. The Devil and the Almighty Blues on Thee Facebooks, Blues for the Red Sun Records.

Some of this stuff — Sumac, The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Carpet — was also included in the podcast that went up yesterday, so if you’d like another avenue for getting a sample, that might not be a bad way to go. However you choose to dig in, I hope that you will and hope that you find something that you feel is worth the time and effort.

As always, thanks for reading and listening.

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Garden of Worm Announce March 6 Release for Idle Stones

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 23rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

garden of worm ice

Five years after making their full-length debut on Shadow Kingdom with their self-titled (review here), Finnish doomers Garden of Worm are set to issue Idle Stones, their second album. The four-song/42-minute long-player promises some shifts in style from the debut, and after half a decade, I believe it. Svart will have the new record out on March 6.

On a side note, the press release below mentions Träd, Gräs, och Stenar. I recently got a copy of their self-titled on CD and it’s awesome. If you have the chance to chase it down, it’s well worth the effort. The name being dropped makes me look forward even more to finding out what Garden of Worm have going for their sophomore outing. When the titles of songs start “including” other songs, you know it’s progressive.

To the PR wire:

garden of worm idle stones

GARDEN OF WORM set release date for new SVART album?

Today, Svart Records sets March 6th as the international release date for Garden of Worm’s second album, Idle Stones. Garden of Worm is a trio operating in Tampere, Finland. Having played progressive rock in various groups, in 2003, the group decided it was time to play simple & basic doom metal. Thus, the Worm was born. After several releases on several metal labels, the latest being the successful self-titled debut album for Shadow Kingdom Records in 2010, the band went into hibernation.

Garden of Worm’s debut for Svart, Idle Stones is a product of this long period of quiet life. After the ambitious debut full-length, the band were unsure for a time regarding the direction their art would take next. Slowly, the doomier, grimmer material allowed improvisation to creep in, and the entire work has a newfound sense of spontaneity.

In 2015, Garden of Worm is a different beast than the creature of the early days. The band sounds more inspired and relaxed than ever. The doom metal base is still present, but there’s also psychedelic warmness to the sound as well as freedom, like witnessed in the work of improvising rock units such as Amon Düül II, Träd Gräs, and Stenar. The freedom also adds to the intensity of the live performances: even though there are always composed songs in the set, the improvisational passages keep the band focused on the moment. Anything can happen. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Garden of Worm’s Idle Stones
1. Fleeting are the Days of Man
2. Summer’s Isle
3. Desertshore
4. The Sleeper including Being Is More Than Life

GARDEN OF WORM is:
SJ.Harju – Vocals, bass
JM.Suvanto – Drums
EJ.Taipale – Guitars, vocals

MORE INFO:
www.facebook.com/gardenofworm
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords
www.youtube.com/svartrecords
www.twitter.com/svartrecords

Garden of Worm, “Hollow”

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Throat Premiere “Clean Cleaner” from Eolian Empire’s (We’ve Got) Fiends in Low Places: Heavy Vibes Internationale Compilation

Posted in audiObelisk on January 12th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

throat (Photo by Heikki Tuomas)

The first various artists release from Eolian Empire was 2013’s (We’ve Gotta) Keep Our Heads, a 26-track look at the unrealistically fertile creative ground in the label’s hometown of Portland, Oregon. Having covered Portland, all that’s left is the rest of the world, so with the promise and delivery of “Heavy Vibes Internationale,” Eolian is planning on Feb. 3 to issue (We’ve Got) Fiends in Low Places, which brings together bands from the US and Europe, Japan, Australia, Canada and elsewhere, 15 decimation-prone cuts of noise and doom that more than make for a fitting answer to Keep Our Heads thanks to inclusions from the likes of ArabrotMeadowsThe Great SabatiniThroat and others.

It’s the 30th release for Eolian, and they don’t seem to have made it easy for themselves. (We’ve Got) Fiends in Low Places, aside from the nightmarish task of drawing together an international cast of bands toward a singular purpose, pounds and seethes with various forms of extremity and heavy, a punkish undercurrent and spirit pervading in attitude if not always in sound.we've-got-friends-in-low-places There is, it probably doesn’t need to be said, no shortage of sludge, but when it comes to Turku, Finland, four-piece Throat, their “Clean Cleaner” sounds more geared toward boiling sludge down to its component punk, heavy rock and tonally-weighted doom than simply plugging in, playing slow and screaming.

What comes across initially somewhere between Rollins-era Black Flag and squibbly grunge shifts into increasingly malevolent purposes as the five minutes plays out, finally arriving — via feedback — at a thrillingly excruciating, tube-melting crawl that makes up most of the song’s second half before closing out. Most impressive is the fluidity of the tempo shift, and how Throat don’t stop, don’t play it up. How they just slow the fuck down, riff out and work hard to make it sound as vicious as possible. It’s one of more than several admirable examples of genre transmigration on (We’ve Got) Fiends in Low Places, but as a general example of what the powers behind Eolian are into, I think it works well to show there’s more to do with noise than simply beating listeners over the head with it.

(We’ve Got) Fiends in Low Places: Heavy Vibes Internationale is out Feb. 3 on Eolian Empire. More at the links and in the PR wire info that follow Throat‘s “Clean Cleaner,” which you can find on the player below:

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This special collection marks a new low for the Eolian horde, since the entire roster to date has yielded only Portland-centric audio carnage, while FIENDS IN LOW PLACES features a glut of output from the Eolian clan’s caustic cronies from around the globe; a gnarled calling card, with more than fifty minutes of champions of the international heavy underground in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Japan. Fifteen bands bash away on fifteen stark, aggressive, noise-laden tunes worked over with smarts and wicked humor on this compilation of exclusive tracks, an eclectic and electric collection of heavy, noisy, weird, outsider, and underground music from around the world. THROAT (Finland), ARABROT (Norway), HEALTH PROBLEMS (USA), MoE (Finland), THE GREAT SABATINI (Canada), DEAD (Australia), BASTARD OF THE SKIES (England), HOMBRE MALO (Norway), SAME-SEX DICTATOR(USA), TEEPH (USA), CYBERNE (Japan), TIMEKILLER (Japan), ELEPHANT RIFLE (USA), BATPISS (Australia), and MEADOWS (England) take you on a wild trip through twisted noise rock, bludgeoning sludge, psychotic metal, blackened hardcore, and damaged punk, each act’s warped worldview in full effect. Taken together, FIENDS paint an ugly, multidimensional portrait of the darkness lurking wherever you may go.

FIENDS IN LOW PLACES is the sequel and companion compilation to Eolian’s (We’ve Gotta) KEEP OUR HEADS: Heavy Vibes from Portland, Oregon, which featured twenty-six heavy Portland bands. Like on KEEP OUR HEADS, the “fiends” on FIENDS IN LOW PLACES were drawn from friends playing off-the-wall heavy music in overlapping scenes, scenes this time spread throughout the world. Interrelated through shows, tours, and friends, these bands have passed each other in the night for years, slowly worming their way through the underground via interconnected tunnels deep below the mainstream, an independent global network of heaviness beholden to no one. Comforting or discomforting, FIENDS IN LOW PLACES at least affirms that the Eolian heads are not the only ones this fucked up, and in an age when many are looking back with nostalgia for the lost and forgotten weirdo bands of yesteryear, it’s good to know we can find pigfucking goodness all around the world right now and no doubt for years to come. So find your “fiends” and support the lost underground of tomorrow, today.

FIENDS IN LOW PLACES is available for will see cassette and digital release on February 3rd, 2015.

FIENDS IN LOW PLACES: Heavy Vibes Internationale Track Listing:
1. MEADOWS “Gobshite”
2. SAME-SEX DICTATOR “Mass Krusader”
3. ARABROT “The Libertine”
4. THROAT “Clean Cleaner”
5. CYBERNE “Pozes”
6. HEALTH PROBLEMS “A Stuck Horse”
7. BASTARD OF THE SKIES “Brass Cattle”
8. THE GREAT SABATINI “Slow Jam”
9. BATPISS “Heavy Smoke (Stoned to Death)”
10. TEEPH “Church Vape Sesh”
11. HOMBRE MALO “The Fall”
12. TIMEKILLER “Sick of Myself”
13. MOE “Where’s the DJ”
14. ELEPHANT RIFLE “Frat Poison”
15. DEAD “Rabbits”

Throat on Thee Facebooks

Throat’s website

Eolian Empire’s website

Eolian Empire on Bandcamp

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Last Licks 2014: Sigiriya, Handsome Jack, Octopus Syng, Serpent Venom, Purple Hill Witch, Sandveiss, Sun Shepherd, Giant Sleep, Owl Glitters and Acid Elephant

Posted in Reviews on December 29th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

This is it. New Year’s is this week and by Friday we’ll be into 2015. A new year always brings new hopes, concerns, records and so on, but to be completely honest, I’m just not quite done with 2014 yet. So here we are. I’ve had stacks of CDs on my desk and folders on my computer from the last couple months of stuff I have been trying to fit in, and it doesn’t seem right to me to let the year go without cramming in as much music as I possibly can.

Gotta call it something, so I went with “Last Licks,” since that’s basically what it will be. The plan is that between today and Friday, each day I’ll have another batch of 10 reviews. I’m not going to promise they’ll be the most comprehensive ever, but the idea is to do as much as I can and this seems to me the best way to turn my brains into goo. When that ball drops in Times Square, there’s a good chance I’ll be typing.

No sense in delaying. You get the idea, so let’s jump in:

Sigiriya, Darkness Died Today

sigiriya darkness died today

Recorded live as their debut on Candlelight Records and the follow-up to 2011’s debut, Return to Earth (review here), the sophomore outing from Welsh heavy rockers SigiriyaDarkness Died Today, is distinguished by a vocalist swap bringing in Matt Williams of Suns of ThunderWilliams has a tough job in replacing Dorian Walters, who like guitarist Stuart O’Hara, bassist Paul Bidmead and drummer Darren Ivey, is a former member of Acrimony. There are times when it works and times when it doesn’t. Along with a more barebones tonality in the guitar than appeared on the debut, Williams brings a more straightforward style in his voice, and it changes the personality of the band on songs like “Freedom Engines” and the first-album-title-track “Return to Earth.” “Tribe of the Old Oak” is a catchy highlight and I’ll almost never argue with a song called “Obelisk,” but it seems like they’re still searching for the footing here that seemed so firmly planted their last time out.

Sigiriya on Thee Facebooks

Candlelight Records

Handsome Jack, Do What Comes Naturally

handsome jack do what comes naturally

Upstate New York blues rockers Handsome Jack waste little time living up to the title Do What Comes Naturally. The name of their third album, released by Alive Naturalsound, is both mission-statement aand suggestion, and on songs like the soul-inflected “Creepin’” and the rolling “You and Me,” they make it sound like a good idea. Blues and classic soul meet garage rock across cuts like the relatively brief “Leave it all Behind,” but the tones are warm throughout the record, and guest spots on harmonica and Hammond help keep a sense of variety in the material, well-constructed but still loose in its vibe. The twang might recall The Brought Low for heavy rock heads, but one doubts Handsome Jack groove on much that came out after Psychedelic Mud. Even the CD splits into sides, and as easy as it would be for something like this to sound like a put-on, Handsome Jack prevail with closer “Wasted Time” in making an outing that’s anything but.

Handsome Jack on Thee Facebooks

Alive Naturalsound

Serpent Venom, Of Things Seen and Unseen

serpent venom of things seen and unseen

London doomers Serpent Venom sound like experts in the form on Of Things Seen and Unseen, their second album for The Church Within following 2011’s Carnal Altar and their initial 2010 demo (review here), a righteous 48-minute lumbering slab of heavy riffs, downerism and nod. It’s not every band who could put “Death Throes at Dawn” and “Lord of Life” next to each other, but the four-piece of vocalist Garry Ricketts, guitarist Roland Scriver, bassist Nick Davies and drummer Paul Sutherland keep their focus so utterly doomed that even the quiet, minimalist acoustic interlude “I Awake” – ostensibly a breather — comes across as trodden as the earlier “Sorrow’s Bastard,” or the Reverend Bizarre-worthy “Let Them Starve,” which follows. For those who long for trad doom that has an identity outside its Vitus and Sabbath influences, Serpent Venom prove more than ready to enter that conversation on the wah-soaked soloing in the second half of “Pilgrims of the Sun.” Right fucking on.

Serpent Venom on Thee Facebooks

The Church Within Records

Owl Glitters, Alchemical Tones

owl glitters alchemical tones

The artwork tells the story. Owl GlittersAlchemical Tones (on Heart and Crossbone Records) is a wash of color. Taking tribal rhythms and repetitions and pairing them with organic low-end, chanted vocals and periodic excursions of psych rock guitar, Arkia Jahani (who seems to be the lone creative force behind the project, though Mell Dettmer mastered) brings a ritualistic sensibility to the eight included pieces, and the flow is molten from the start of “Dervishes.” Less purposefully weird than Master Musicians of Bukkake, but farther into the cosmos than Om, there’s a folkish identity at the heart of Alchemical Tones that keeps the proceedings human even on the near-throat-singing of “Hakim Sanai” or “Poets of Shiras” and “Khalifa’s Visions” an immersive pair preceding the droning closer “By the Candlelight Our Eyes Welcome Glimmers of Eternity.” Beautifully experimental – and in the case of “Mindful of Gems,” fuzzed to the gills – Owl Glitters’ second outing engages sonic spiritualism with dogmatic command and stares back at you from the space within yourself.

Owl Glitters on Thee Facebooks

Heart and Crossbone Records

Sandveiss, Scream Queen

sandveiss scream queen

Sandveiss released Scream Queen, their first full-length, late in 2013, reveling in a modern sound crisply produced and more than ably executed to feature the vocals of guitarist Luc Bourgeois, who provides frontman presence even on disc alongside guitarist Shawn Rice, bassist Daniel Girard and drummer Dzemal Trtak. Cohesiveness isn’t in question as opener and longest cut (immediate points) “Blindsided” rounds out its 6:26, leading the way into “Do You Really Know” and setting the tone for big-riffed Euro-style heavy from the Quebecois foursome, who slow down on “Bottomless Lies,” on which Trtak backs Bourgeois in you-guys-should-do-this-more fashion, and ultimately hold firm to the focus on songwriting that establishes itself early. They fuzz out on closer “Green or Gold,” but by then it’s another element of variety among the organ, guest vocals on “Scar” and tempo shifts on Sandveiss’ ambitious debut, distinguished even unto the six-panel gatefold digi-sleeve in which it arrives, the art and design by Alexandre Goulet one more standout factor on an album demanding attention.

Sandveiss on Thee Facebooks

Sandveiss on Bandcamp

Octopus Syng, Reverberating Garden Number 7

octopus syng reverberating garden number 7

Probably the most clearly Beatlesian moment on Octopus Syng’s Reverberating Garden Number 7 is a slight “Hey Bulldog”-style cadence on side A’s “Very Strange Trip,” and that in itself is an accomplishment (one I’m apparently not the first to observe). The Helsinki four-piece in their 15th year are led by guitarist/vocalist Jaire Pätäri and emit an oozing, serene psychedelia, peaceful and lysergic in late ‘60s exploratory fashion. Reverberating Garden Number 7 (on Mega Dodo Records) echoes out vibe to spare and is deceptively lush while keeping a humble vibe thanks in no small part to Pätäri’s restrained vocal approach and curios like “Cuckoo Clock Mystery,” which boasts an actual cuckoo clock to add bounce to its arrangement. Nine-minute closer “Listen to the Moths” is the single biggest surprise, and an album unto itself, but its unfolding is only the capstone on a collection of psychedelic wonder sincere in its stylistic intent and execution. It fills the ears like warm air in the lungs.

Octopus Syng on Thee Facebooks

Mega Dodo Records

Sun Shepherd, Procession of Trampling Hoof

sun shepherd procession of trampling hoof

Destructive Australian trio Sun Shepherd put the bulk of Procession of Trampling Hoof to tape in 2011. Closing bonus track “Exploding Sun” is a demo from 2006, but it fits with their extended tracks and big riffs piled onto each other in densely-weighted fashion, if rougher in presentation. More Ramesses than High on Fire, who prove otherwise to be a key influence tonally for guitarist/vocalist Anson Antriasian, must-hear bassist Leigh Fischer and drummer Michael Barson, though their approach is decidedly less thrash-based. The first five of the six songs find Sun Shepherd’s first full-length a pummel-minded blend of sludge and doom. Antriasian’s vocals are semi-spoken, but fitting theatrically on “Goat-Head Awakening” with the grueling riff-led nod, the tension released as they pass the halfway point of the 10-minute run, a raw atmosphere bolstering the chaos of their slower-motion marauding. With the welcome flourish of stonerly soloing on “Engulfed by Ocean of Time,” one can’t help but wonder what the Melbourne natives are up to three years later.

Sun Shepherd on Thee Facebooks

Sun Shepherd on Bandcamp

Purple Hill Witch, Purple Hill Witch

purple hill witch purple hill witch

Fuzz-toned elements of Sleep and Sabbath pervade the stoner-doomy self-titled The Church Within debut from Oslo three-piece Purple Hill Witch, who carry the bounce well in immediately familiar riffs and groove. Swinging drums from Øyvind and the inventive basslines of Andreas underscore Kristian’s purely Iommic riffage and blown-out vocals, somewhere between Witchcraft’s earliest going and Witch’s self-titled. If that gives Purple Hill Witch an even witchier feel, “Final Procession” sounds just fine with that, as do shorter tracks like the later “Aldebaranian Voyage (Into the Sun)” and centerpiece “Karmanjaka” on which the stoner side comes out in force. They finish by using all 11 minutes of the eponymous “Purple Hill Witch”’s runtime, breaking in the midsection for a murky exploration that’s creepily atmospheric without veering into cult rock cliché. They bounce resumes and slows to a crawl to close out, but the jam serves Purple Hill Witch well in expanding the band’s sonic reach and the album’s weedian sensibility. Not that they were keeping it a secret.

Purple Hill Witch on Thee Facebooks

The Church Within Records

Giant Sleep, Giant Sleep

giant sleep giant sleep

A burly dual-guitar five-piece with roots in Germany and Switzerland, Giant Sleep start out their self-titled, self-released first LP with a brief intro titled “Argos” before getting to the question, “Why am I angry all the time?” as the central, recurring line of “Angry Man.” That song, like “Henu” and “Reproduce,” gets its point across quick in heavy rock fashion and develops its argument from there, a progressive metal vibe pervading especially the latter, which is penultimate in the 10-song/52-minute effort, and underscores the high-grade craftsmanship accomplished throughout. “Dreamless Sleep” is probably my pick of the bunch for its airier tone and resonant minor-key hook in the guitars of Markus Ruf and Patrick Hagmann, vocalist Thomas Rosenmerkel belting out the chorus before making way for plotted solos atop Radek Stecki’s bass and Manuel Spänhauer’s drums, but it’s not so far removed from its surroundings. As a whole, the album could be more efficient, but it wants nothing for songwriting, and especially as a debut, Giant Sleep hits its marks readily.

Giant Sleep on Thee Facebooks

Giant Sleep on Bandcamp

Acid Elephant, Star Collider

acid elephant star collider

Opener “Las Noches del Desierto” is the only one of Star Collider’s five tracks under 10 minutes. Flux seems to be the norm for Finnish post-stoners Acid Elephant, who recently brought in vocalist Martin Ahlö but here revolve around the core of bassist/guitarist/vocalist Miksa Väliverho, guitarist/vocalist Ilpo Kauppinen and drummer Roope Vähä-Aho, employing a host of others on obscure vocals, percussion and djembe throughout the 64-minute sophomore outing, recorded in 2012 and released late in 2013. Whoever they are now, Acid Elephant on Star Collider call out heavy psych, drone/jam and riff-based impulses in their extended cuts, gradually getting longer from “Red Carpet Lane” (10:46) until closer “Bog” hits 18:29. To their credit, their songs leave impressions to match their length, and even as it’s finishing its instrumental run, “Godmason” (15:58) is highlighting its resonant central riff, having emerged from a wash of feedback and amp noise at its beginning, preceded by the droning centerpiece “7th Stone.” Satisfying and unpredictable, Star Collider balances experimentation and engagement smoothly without losing its focus on individualism.

Acid Elephant on Thee Facebooks

Acid Elephant on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Mugstar & The Cosmic Dead, Goya, Gangrened, Attalla and TarLung

Posted in Radio on December 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk radio

I’ve been listening to The Obelisk Radio a lot this week, particularly while starting to put together my top albums of 2014 list, so it seemed only appropriate to get a new round of adds up to the server. As we come to the end of the year, there’s always a slowdown in terms of releases, but if I had to put a number to it, I’d call it a 10, maybe 20 percent drop at most. If it was running water and you were looking at it, you’d notice no difference. A flood is still a flood.

As such, 14 records joined the server today. Some are recently reviewed, some aren’t out yet, some have been out for a little bit. It’s a solid batch of stuff, and if you haven’t yet had enough of lists — more to come, believe me — it’s worth a look at the Playlist and Updates Page. The amount of stuff on there is staggering. It’s a wonder the radio stream manages to fit in so much Clutch at all.

Let’s get to it.

The Obelisk Radio Adds for Dec. 19, 2014:

Mugstar & The Cosmic Dead, Split LP

Mugstar & Cosmic Dead Split LP

Two sides, one song from each band, each a massive slab of a jam. Glasgow’s The Cosmic Dead and Liverpool’s Mugstar make a solid pairing, and by solid I definitely mean liquid, and by liquid I mean that’s what your brains will be by the time Mugstar‘s “Breathing Mirror” (18:42) and The Cosmic Dead‘s “Fukahyoocastulah” (25:51) are done. Instrumental in their entirety and jammed out on a subspace frequency that I only imagine they can already hear in the Delta Quadrant — and no doubt they’re wondering what the title of The Cosmic Dead‘s contribution means exactly — both cuts share an affinity for progressive heavy psych exploration, kosmiche and krautrock alike, but with a fresh take on the classic idea of we’re-gonna-get-in-a-room-and-this-is-what-happens that runs through, whether it’s in the drone midsection of “Breathing Mirror” after the jam has died down and before its resurgence, or the later reaches of “Fukayoocastulah,” which rest on the nigh-eternal bassline that’s steady enough to hold the course despite the various effects freakouts, slow swirls and experiments happening around it. About 45 minutes solid of primo heavy jamming? Sign me up. Mugstar’s website, on Bandcamp, The Cosmic Dead on Thee Faceboks, on Bandcamp.

Goya, Satan’s Fire

Goya Satan's Fire

Eleven-minute opener “Malediction and Death” makes its primary impression in its consuming tonality — a harsh but encompassing low end that emerges out of the initial cavalcade of feedback starting the song. The first three minutes of “Malediction and Death” are noise before Phoenix’s Goya kick in their riff, drums and vocals, sounding as huge on the Satan’s Fire EP as on their preceding split with Wounded Giant (review here) but perhaps even more malevolent as they continue to find their place within wizard doom, marked out by the two-at-once solo shredding of guitarist/vocalist Jeff Owens, the lurching rhythm behind him and the swing of drummer Nick Lose, whose snare punctuates “Malediction and Death” like a life-preserver tossed into the abyss. Unsurprisingly, they end noisy. “Symbols” picks up with two minutes of sparse, atmospheric drumming, and the title-track (5:58) finishes with a tale of antichristianity, dropping out of life, and watching the world fall apart. Doom? Yes. Perhaps not as patient as “Malediction and Death,” “Satan’s Fire” itself offers suitable heat, and delivered through amps that likewise sound about ready to melt, provides a memorable impression even beyond its Oborn-style hook. Goya on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Attalla, Attalla

Attalla Attalla

Somewhere between classic doom and more aggressive, hardcore punk-derived noise, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, four-piece Attalla are the kind of band who could probably release nothing but 7″ singles for the next five years and still make a go of it. As it stands, their self-titled debut offers a stirring rawness in the dual guitars that reminds there’s more ways to make an impact tonally than just with volume or fuzz. Their roots are in punk, and that’s plain enough to hear in lead guitarist Cody Stieg‘s vocals on songs like “Light” and “Lust,” but “Haze” nestles into a stoner groove late that suits Attalla well, and the later “Veil” offers charged propulsion in the drums of Aaron Kunde, whose snare sound is tinny but fitting with the sans-frills stylings of Stieg, rhythm guitarist Brian Hinckley and bassist Bryan Kunde. Some variation in tempo throughout changes things up, but a particularly triumphant moment comes with the raw Slayer-esque foreboding (think slow Slayer) that begins “Doom,” a fitting closer to Attalla‘s Attalla with its subtly complex stylistic blend and relatively barebones presentation. I’m not sure where Attalla go from here in terms of developing their sound, but the debut offers reason enough to want to find out. Attalla on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

TarLung, TarLung

TarLung TarLung

If you played me TarLung‘s TarLung debut full-length and told me the trio were from North Carolina, I’d undoubtedly believe you. In fact, they hail from Vienna, Austria, but just so happen to have the Southern sludge ideology nailed down on their first offering. Roots in Crowbar and Eyehategod and Sourvein can be heard throughout, big nod, harsh vocals, weighted plod. The guitars of Rotten and Phillipp “Five“ Seiler (the latter also vocals) brings in some of that Pepper Keenan-style Southern riffing, on “Last Breath” particularly, but the bulk of what they and drummer Marian Waibl get up to on these seven tracks is rawer and nastier, the album’s last three cuts — “Apeplanet,” “Black Forest” and “Space Caravan” — providing the best glimpse at TarLung‘s effective aesthetic interpretation. Tonally and methodologically sound, what remains for them to do is hone a more individualized approach, but particularly for a self-released first album, the crisp harshness they convey on the centerpiece “C2″ — a kind of maddening high pitch running throughout — satisfies when taken on its own level, and among the three-piece’s assets, their lack of pretense will no doubt serve them well moving forward. TarLung on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Gangrened, We are Nothing

Gangrened We are Nothing

Proffering lurching, aggressive sludge over three tracks arranged longest to shortest, Finnish trio Gangrened conjure sweeping chaos on We are Nothing, blatantly contradicting the title of the release despite whatever riff-laden nihilism might be at work philosophically. Among the most telling moments on the release — which follows a split tape from the four piece of  vocalist Ollijuhani Kujansivu, guitarist/bassist Andreas Österlund, guitarist Jon Imbernon and drummer Owe Inborr, who’ve since traded out their rhythm section — is the opening sample of “Them” in which a man in a Southern US accent rants in paranoid rage about helicopters flying over his property, indicative of some conspiracy or other. In both their influence and their execution, that fits Gangrened‘s overall portrayal well, but both the 12-minute opener “Lung Remover” and closing semi-Black Flag cover “Kontti” (translated “24 Pack” and a feedback-soaked, sludged-up play on “Six Pack”) are pissed off enough to warrant the attention they seem to be demanding in their noisy charge, snail-paced and malevolent as it is. Gangrened on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

As always, this is just a fraction of what was added to The Obelisk Radio today. If you get the chance to check any of this stuff out, I hope you dig it, and if you decide to launch the player, I hope whatever’s playing is awesome.

Thanks for reading and listening.

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