Posted in Whathaveyou on August 27th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was announced earlier this year that Finnish death-doom malevolents Hooded Menace were recording their next album at Skyhammer Studio, and it seems that the rotten fruit of that effort will be released on Oct. 30. Out as close as possible to Halloween on Relapse Records, the offering is called Darkness Drips Forth, and it’s available to preorder now with a video trailer revealed. I doubt they’ll be long into the thing before it lives up to its name, but of course we’ll have to wait until we get there to find out for sure.
The PR wire gets drippy:
HOODED MENACE: Finnish Masters of Deathly Horror Announce Imminent Release of ‘Darkness Drips Forth’ via Relapse Records
Finland’s HOODED MENACE have returned with Darkness Drips Forth, their fourth full-length and most gruesome work to date. Recorded and mixed by Chris Fielding (Electric Wizard, Primordial) and the band´s usual sound engineer Mikko Saastamoinen, and graced by decrepit artwork from Justin Bartlett, the band employ a new approach on their latest effort, expanding their writing across four cataclysmically dense tracks, nearly all of which exceed ten minutes apiece. Cavernous vocals preside over mastermind Lasse Pyykko’s rumbling riffs, while the rest of the band’s unshakable rhythmic core provides a grim backbone for the record.
The hint of melody HOODED MENACE sought back in their earliest days has fully blossomed into an essential element of the band’s music; Darkness Drips Forth is as melodic as it is devastating and as emotionally disquieting as it is thematically stirring. Funereal, deliberate, and methodical, Darkness Drips Forth is sure to be an essential acquisition for fans of Winter’s crushing doom, the old-school death metal of Bolt Thrower and Asphyx, and the cruel, apocalyptic atmospheres of Dead Congregation and Coffins alike. Just in time for Halloween, Hooded Menace delivers a gruesome treat to chill your bones and crack open your coffin.
The record is slated for an October 30, 2015 release via Relapse Records, and will be available on digital, CD, and vinyl formats. Preorder the album on CD or special edition vinyl here, or preorder the digital version from Bandcamp here.
Tracklisting: 1. Blood For The Burning Oath / Dungeons of The Disembodied 2. Elysium of Dripping Death 3. Ashen With Solemn Decay 4. Beyond Deserted Flesh
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 25th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
I have to admit, folks, I’m kind of scratching my head on this one. Don’t get me wrong, Hexvessel are a very cool band. I’ve dug the stuff they put out on Svart and I went out of my way to catch them when the opportunity presented itself a couple years back at Roadburn. But they’re not exactly what I’d consider a commercial property, and if you look at the bulk of the roster for Century Media, that does seem to be where the heart of their interest lies these days. Finnish psychedelic folk rock? Will that sell? Is Kerrang gonna cover that?
Also, is Kerrang still in print?
Hexvessel mark the second time in 2015 that Century Media have gotten their hands dirty to pluck a band up from the underground. You might recall they picked up skate rockers The Shrine a bit ago. Could be the label’s had a change of approach, or could be a freak thing. I guess we’ll find out over the next few months if the trend continues.
For now, here’s the Hexvessel announcement off the PR wire:
HEXVESSEL announce signing with Century Media Records and release Tiamat “Gaia” cover version
HEXVESSEL and Century Media Records are proud to announce a worldwide deal for the upcoming releases of the Finnish psychedelic folk rock band.
Vocalist and guitarist Mat McNerney (also singer in Grave Pleasures) comments: “In many ways the new Hexvessel songs are a new beginning for the band. The time we have invested in this next album has been very carefully spent. So we have become very focused in what we want to do and want to deliver something really special for our fans when it comes to releasing the next record. It’s very important music for us, close to the bone and nestled right up next to our hearts. We were looking for a relationship with our record label to be the same as our bond with each other in the band. It has to be real and it has to be a shared experience! The way we met Jens and the wonderful people at Century Media was at a very special time for us and them, and we felt a unique connection that has grown ever since. That they totally understand and truly feel for what we’re doing is really important. After all this is magic art we are creating and is from a personal place. We believe that with Century Media we will have the support and encouragement to take our music further than ever before. Deepest thanks to all our fans and friends without whom we are nothing, our publisher and friend Andy Farrow at AMF for his good faith, the guys at Svart Records for bringing us up and holding our hands from our inception, and hails to the good folks at Century Media for believing in Hexvessel and heralding a new dawn for us. It’ll be a bright a blessed future. Shine on!”
Jens Prueter, Head of A&R Century Media Records Europe: “I was already a fan of the previous Hexvessel albums but I got truly addicted to the band after seeing them live in early 2014 supporting Alcest. It was an ill-fated day as we had just received the bad news about the passing of Oliver Withöft, co-owner of Century Media. We found solace in music and that’s probably the greatest thing music can achieve – to quote the US free-jazz legend Albert Ayler: “Music is the healing force of the universe”. Afterwards, I met Mat a couple of times and we discovered being kindred spirits in our taste of music. There are not too many people I know who like Ultimate Spinach as much as Albert Ayler and Tiamat. Hexvessel’s cover version of “Gaia” was originally intended to be released on a 20th anniversary edition of Tiamat’s “Wildhoney” but unfortunately the project never came into being. Since “Wildhoney” is still one of the most successful Century Media releases, it’s a perfect opportunity to release the cover now and celebrate a new chapter in Hexvessel’s career that hopefully will be as successful. It certainly will include some amazing music.”
Hexvessel Live: 11.27.2015 Leafmeal Festival, Dortmund, Germany (w/ Crippled Black Phoenix, Long Distance Calling, Dead Lord, ’77 and more) www.facebook.com/leafmealfestival
Hexvessel Line-up: Mat McNerney – Vocals & guitar Jukka Rämänen – Drums Simo Kuosmanen – Lead guitar Niini Rossi – Bass guitar Kimmo Helén – Keys, trumpet & violin. Marja Konttinen – backing vocals & additional percussion
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve posted about Finnish death-doomers Swallow the Sun a few times over the years, and apart from a track stream I did for their last record, 2012’s Emerald Forest and Black Bird (posted here), the response is usually pretty quiet. Well, I’m gonna keep posting about them because I think they’re a cool fucking band and they’re prone to doing wacky stuff like putting out a triple-album, which they’ll do in Nov. in the form of Songs from the North I, II and III. Kudos to Century Media for what I can only assume was a toss-the-hands-up-and-say-what-the-hell decision to get behind such a massive undertaking, and to the band itself, because if you’re gonna go low and slow, you might as well also go completely overwhelming.
The PR wire has release details:
SWALLOW THE SUN finishes massive recording session; new triple album to be released in November
Melancholy death-doom metal masters SWALLOW THE SUN have completed their massive recording session! The Finnish sextet’s last album, Emerald Forest And The Blackbird, was released in winter 2012; come November 2015, the long wait between recordings will finally be over.
The new SWALLOW THE SUN release will be a triple album entitled Songs From The North I, II & III.
Main songwriter and guitarist Juha Raivio comments on the triple album concept: “Making a triple album in this godforsaken digital and modern day and age…Many will say it’s madness. I say it is to bring worth, heart and respect back into the music and to the album format where it belongs. This should never turn into a shallow fast food industry where music is only downloaded one song at a time.
These albums hold life, death, gloom, beauty and despair in their deepest levels and forms. The three chapters are different but connected, one long journey through these songs written up here in the North.
Music is holy, albums are holy. See you on the other side friends.”
Stay tuned for more news about Songs From The North I, II & III coming soon!
SWALLOW THE SUN is: Juha Raivio – guitar Markus Jämsen – guitar Mikko Kotamäki – vocals Matti Honkonen -bass Aleksi Munter – keys Juuso Raatikainen – drums
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 7th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you listen to the tracks on the Bandcamp stream below and find yourself wondering why Oulu, Finland-based trio Deep Space Destructors might have gone with Spring Break from Space (review here) as the title of their latest two-track EP, I agree, it’s a little misleading. After all, if you listen to those songs, it becomes clear rather quickly that the three-piece are not at all on a break from space and that, rather, they’re way deep in it. “Spring Break from Space” was the name of the tour they went on this past Spring, so the idea is they’re normally in space, but they took a break to come to earth and do some shows. Make sense?
Now that I’ve done my good deed for the day in explaining that, I’ll turn it over to the announcement that Spring Break from Space is available now on vinyl through Sapphire Records and Space Rock Productions, pressed up in limited numbers. Behold:
Deep Space Destructors “Spring Break From Space”
The first vinyl release of the finnish Space Rock Trios …
Deep Space Destructors are a space rock trio fro Oulu, Finland. The band has previously released two excellent albums on CD.
This music was originally released as limited edition of 30 cassettes by Deep Space Destructors for Spring Break From Space Tour 2015.
With the release DSD dives towards innerspace, shamanistic rhythms and to the mystic realms of consciousness. What is the space mountain and will you discover it? Spring Break
From Space includes two songs recorded live at DSD’s Rehearsal Vortex, with vocals, percussions and analog synths added afterwards. — Space Rock Productions / Scott Heller
Limited Edition 270 copies total: 110x black – 160x yellow/red This is the black 10″-vinyl edition – hand numbered
Side Space: Journey To The Space Mountain (7:52) Side Void: Where Space Ends Time Begins (11:10)
Jani Pitkänen – vocals, bass Petri Lassila – guitar, backing vocals Markus Pitkänen – drums
Spring Break From Space EP now available as 10″ vinyl through Space Rock Productions and Sapphire Records!
Posted in audiObelisk on July 22nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Because their transitions are so fluid, it’s almost easy to miss the parts on the self-titled Pink Tank Records debut (out Aug. 14) from Helsinki trio Kaleidobolt where the band shifts from weighted stoner nod into a kind of classic shuffling prog-jazz fusion, Sampo, Marco and Valtteri careening as they make their way through album opener “Rocket to the Moon,” which, if we’re to judge by the noisy finish they give the song, does not result in an according-to-plan landing. For an outfit who got their start in 2014, Kaleidobolt‘s first offering bypasses the “getting our feet wet” vibe of many acts’ early work and while three albums from now they might go on to make it sound primitive, as it stands, songs like the aforementioned opener, the subsequent “Momentum” and “Liskodisko” impress not only with how smoothly their make turns between them, but within them as well, the three-piece showcasing jammers’ chemistry and a progressive sense of drive as “Momentum” moves from its initial insistent rhythm to a more open, airy section of guitar that lets the bass and drums hold the tension. Not a new method, but presented freshly and devoid of pretense in a manner that makes Kaleidobolt an even more engaging listen.
The fluidity becomes the defining theme, musically. “Into the Crevice” starts off at a quiet run and winds its way around echoing vocal lines and trades back and forth with more full-on fuzz until an unexpected slowdown in the second half brings a doomier vibe that, gracefully, gets quick again toward the finish. This eases the transition to “Liskodisko,” which opens side B with call-and-response noodling between the lead guitar and drums, verses emerging and receding behind instrumental passages that, to call them a jam would be to rob them of their complexity. Kaleidobolt obviously thrive on catching listeners off guard, which is something a band can usually do once on a record, maybe twice, but the chops they showcase between them as “Liskodisko” moves toward its prog-grunge head hold much potential for further songwriting adventurousness. A band who can play the way these guys play sound like they’re going to be conscious of not getting bored or bogged down in a songwriting routine. Their debut certainly doesn’t, as the quiet, fading closing passage of “Liskodisko” gives way to the headswimming low-end fuzz of “Mountain Man.”
It’s the shortest track on Kaleidobolt‘s Kaleidobolt at 4:54, and perhaps also the most straightforward — or at least as close as they get. A riffy nod is met by fervent shouting as Kaleidobolt leave the proggy aspirations to the side for the time being and instead concentrate on tension and tonal push, the track making its way toward a fast but still weighted finish that hints at some underlying punker mischief and blinds with its leadwork and bizarro swirl in the meantime, the three-piece emerging at the end unscathed to shift into 9:52 closer, which has as many psychedelic underpinnings as it does those of heavy blues boogie rock, and in refusing to commit to either, it winds up distinguished from both while also hearkening back to the earlier progressive edge in its central bassline. As they have at several points, Kaleidobolt round out the instrumental finale with a touch of speedy chaos, but by the time you get there listening, it’s apparent just how in-control of their approach these cats are. Their debut might take a couple passes to sink in, but it’s a deceptively rich stylistic base from which Kaleidobolt operate, and they only seem interested in becoming more forward-thinking. Consider notice served.
Today I have the pleasure of hosting “Mountain Man” for streaming ahead of the Aug. 14 Pink Tank Records release. Please find it on the player below, followed by more about the band, album and accompanying tour, and enjoy:
Kaleidobolt is a power trio that came together in early 2014 in Helsinki. In the short time they’ve been together, they’ve gained the reputation of being one of the most exciting live bands in Finland. Their music is a dizzying maelstrom of progressive song structures, crushing riffs and loose psychedelic soundscapes, delivered with joy and ferociousness. Their first album was recorded in 2014 with an effort on delivering a production as truthful as possible to the live experience and it’s scheduled for release in summer 2015 by Pink Tank Records.
VINYL FACTZ: – 300 copies total – 100 copies opaque purple incl. poster and download code (exclusive Pink Tank edition) – 100 copies black incl. poster and download code (exclusive band edition) – 100 copies white standard edition (wholesale) – all on high quality vinyl made in Germany
CD FACTZ: – CD comes in a jewel case – first 50 go out with an extra Kaleidobolt sticker
TRACKS: 1. ROCKET TO THE MOON 06:38 2. MOMENTUM 07:34 3. INTO THE CREVASSE 05:23 4. LISKODISKO 07:41 5. MOUNTAIN MAN 04:54 6. SHOWDOWN 09:51
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Finland’s Dark Buddha Rising are kind of like what their Neurot labelmates in Ufomammut would be if every color in their palette of swirl was black. Got a red door? No you don’t, because Dark Buddha Rising took the fucking thing, stripped the finish off and burnt the bare wood out in the forest as part of some weirdo ritual. The ultra-bleak psych-doomers — who are cosmic in the same way as antimatter — will release their new album, Inversum, on Sept. 25 as the follow-up to the two-disc Dakhmandal, which was issued on Svart in 2013.
Me? I think it bodes remarkably well that there are only two songs on the thing. The PR wire had this to say about it:
DARK BUDDHA RISING To Release New Album In September Artwork + Track Listing Revealed
Psychedelic doom purveyors, DARK BUDDHA RISING, will be releasing their fifth studio album, Inversum, this Fall. Their first release on Neurot Recordings, Inversum will be unveiled on September 25, 2015.
The album follows DARK BUDDHA RISING’s 2014 European tour with Mr. Peter Hayden, with the Finnish black psychedelic doom six-piece deservedly garnering further recognition as masters of the art of the hypnotic and dark sonics, which they’ve been honing for the past eight years since their inception.
Inversum swallows the listener into an introspective realm of dark psychedelia, menacing mysticism and weighty, trudging riffs and includes the stunning artwork, borne out of a collaboration between V. A. and Karmazid. Elaborates the the band: “Inversum is the opening of the Third Cycle Of DARK BUDDHA RISING. It acts as an initiation for the new members V. Vatanen (guitar, vocals), J. Saarivuori (keyboards) and M. Neuman (vocals). Also it is the first release through Neurot Recordings. Most of all, Inversum is the first album that is recorded, produced and mixed by ourselves in the depths of the Wastement, the asylum of eternal feedback. The process that led to the manifestation of the Inversum, was heavily guided by both intuition and determination, in order to take the music even further down the path we have chosen. Inversum is a monument built upon the foundation of our work and sculpted with the initial principles of DARK BUDDHA RISING, to celebrate the Black Arts of Psychedelia.”
Inversum Track Listing: 1. E S O 2. E X O
Since 2008’s Ritual IX, “the group has mastered their craft album by album, show by show. Ominous riffing, colossal doom, swirling psychedelia, repetition, repetition, repetition. The recipe is carved in stone, yet it leads to different endings – or bottomless shafts. Tension, tension, tension, lunacy. I only have one advice to give: Hold tight. The winds are gathering.” – words by Jukka Hätinen
Posted in Reviews on July 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
We’re on the downhill swing of this edition of the Quarterly Review, so it’s time to get into some extremes, I think. Today, between death-doom lurch, drone-as-fuck exploring, gritty aggression and a whole lot more, we pretty much get there. I’m not saying it’s one end of the universe to another, but definitely a little all-over-the-place, which is just what one might need when staring down the fourth round of 10 reviews in a row in a week’s time. Feeling good though, so let’s do it.
Quarterly Review #31-40:
Kamchatka, Long Road Made of Gold
It would really be something if Swedish blues rockers Kamchatka released six albums over the course of the last decade and didn’t know what they were doing by now. Fortunately, that’s not the case with Long Road Made of Gold (Despotz Records), their sixth, as the Verberg three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Thomas Juneor Andersson, bassist Per Wiberg (see also: Spiritual Beggars, Candlemass, Opeth, etc.) and drummer Tobias Strandvik modernize classic heavy rock with equal comfort in including a banjo on “Take Me Back Home” and progressive-style harmonies on “Rain.” They seem to get bluesier as they go, with later cuts “Mirror,” “Slowly Drifting Away,” “Long Road” and “To You” rounding out the album with Clutch-style bounce, but the prevailing impact of Long Road Made of Gold is one of unflinching class, the chemistry of its players – not to mention Wiberg’s bass tone – ringing through loud and clear from the material as Kamchatka make their way down that long road to their inevitable next outing.
I said as much when the Tokyo duo released their 2013 debut EP (review here) as well, but their first long-player Iron Scorn (on At War with False Noise) only confirms it: Legion of Andromeda are fucked. Theirs is a doomed-out death metal given further inhumanity by programmed drums and the blown-out growls of vocalist -R-, while guitarist/programmer –M- holds down grime-encrusted chug and dirge riffing. Perhaps most fucked of all is the fact that Iron Scorn uses essentially the same drum progression across its seven tracks/44 minutes, varying in tempo but holding firm to the double-kick and bell-hit timekeeping for the duration. The effect this has not only ties the material together – as it would have to – but also makes the listener feel like they’ve entered into some no-light-can-escape alternate universe in which all there is is that thud, the distortion and the growls. Not a headphone record, unless you were looking to start psychotherapy anyhow, its extremity is prevalent enough to feel like a physical force holding you down.
Relentlessly creative and geographically amorphous drone warriors Queen Elephantine compile eight tracks from eight years of their perpetual exploration for Omen on Atypeek Music, which launches with its titular cut, the oldest of the bunch, from 2007. It’s a gritty rolling groove that, even as nascent and riff-noddy as it is, still has underpinnings that might clue the listener in to what’s to come (especially in hindsight) and comes accompanied by the sludgy “The Sea Goat,” a rawer take recorded the same year in Hong Kong. Newest on Omen is the blissfully percussed “Morning Three” and an 18-minute live version of “Search for the Deathless State” from 2010’s Kailash full-length. Lineups, intent and breadth of sound vary widely, but even into the reaches of “1,000 Years” (2012, Providence, RI) and “Shamanic Procession” (2009, New York), Queen Elephantine remain unflinching in their experimentalism and the results here are likewise immersive. Vastly underrated, their work remains a world waiting to be explored.
Consuming undulations of tectonic riffing. Two of them, actually. Watchtower’s Radiant Moon EP serves as their debut on Magnetic Eye, and like their fellow-Melbourne-resident labelmates in Horsehunter, the four-piece Watchtower slam heavy-est riffs into the listener’s cerebral cortex with little concern for lasting aftereffects, all in worship of nod and volume itself. Where the two acts differ is in Watchtower’s overarching sense of grit, harsh vocals pervading both “Radiant Moon” (9:03) itself and the accompanying “Living Heads” (7:09), standalone vocalist Nico Guijt growing through the tonal fray wrought by guitarist Robbie Ingram and bassist Ben Robertson, Joel McGann’s drums pushing the emergent roll forward on “Living Heads,” a High on Fire-style startoff hitting the brakes on tempo to plod over any and all in its path. I’m trying to tell you it’s fucking heavy. Is that getting through? Watchtower had a live single out before Radiant Moon, but I’d be eager to hear what they come up with for a full-length, whether they might shift elsewhere at some point or revel in pure onslaught. Now taking bets.
The use of multiple vocalists gives Roman trio Ape Skull’s ‘70s fetishism a particularly proggy air. Fly Camel Fly is their second full-length for Heavy Psych Sounds behind a 2013 self-titled, and the boogie of “My Way” and “Early Morning,” the solo-topped groove of “Fly Camel Fly,” and the raw Hendrixology of “A is for Ape” position it as a classic rocker through and through. Vocalist/drummer Giuliano Padroni, bassist/vocalist Pierpaolo Pastorelli and guitarist/vocalist Fulvio Cartacci get down to shuffling business quick and stay that way for the 39-minute duration, the Mountainous “Heavy Santa Ana Wind” missing only the complement of a sappy, over-the-top ballad to complete its vintage believability. Even without, the triumvirate stand tall, fuzzy and swinging on Fly Camel Fly, the cowbell of “Tree Stomp” calling to mind the earthy chaos of Blue Cheer without direct mimicry. A quick listen that builds and holds its momentum, but one that holds up too on subsequent visits.
Mad-as-hell trio Hordes have had a slew of releases out over the last eight years or so – EPs, splits, full-lengths with extended tracks – but their experimental take on noise rock topped with Godfleshy shouts arrives satisfyingly stripped down on their latest self-titled five-track EP, recorded in 2013 and pressed newly to tape and CD (also digital). “Eyes Dulled Blind” dials back some of the pummeling after the bruises left by “Cold War Echo,” guitarist/vocalist Alex Hudson at the fore in the JK Broadrick tradition. Centerpiece “Summer” starts with a slow and peaceful ruse before shifting into brash and blown-out punk – Chris Martinez’s hi-hat forward in the mix to further the abrasion – and finally settles into a middle-ground between the two (mind you, the song is four minutes long), and bassist Jon Howard opens “Life Crusher,” which unfolds quickly into the most oppressive push here, while a churning atmosphere pervades the more echo-laden closer “Fall” to reinforce Hordes’ experimentalist claims and steady balance between tonal weight and noise-caked aggression.
There’s a theatrical element underlying Welsh rockers Dead Shed Jokers’ second, self-titled full-length (on Pity My Brain Records). That’s not to say its eight songs are in some way insincere, just that the five-piece of vocalist Hywel Davies, guitarists Nicky Bryant and Kristian Evans, bassist Luke Cook and drummer Ashley Jones know there’s a show going on. Davies is in the lead throughout and proves a consummate frontman presence across opener “Dafydd’s Song,” the stomping “Memoirs of Mr. Bryant” and the swinging “Rapture Riddles,” Dead Shed Jokers’ penultimate cut before the cabaret closer “Exit Stage Left (Applause),” but the instrumental backing is up to its own task, and a clear-headed production gives the entire affair a professional sensibility. They veer into and out of heavy rock tropes fluidly, but maintain a tonal fullness wherever they might be headed, and Cook’s bass late in “Made in Vietnam” seems to carry a record’s worth of weight in just its few measures at the forefront before Davies returns for the next round of proclamations.
Berlin’s These Hands Conspire aren’t through the two-minute instrumental “Intro” before they’re showing off the heft of tone that pervades their metallized debut album, Sword of Korhan, but as they demonstrate throughout the following seven tracks and the total 45-minute runtime, there’s plenty to go around. Vocalist Felix delivers an especially noteworthy performance over the dual-guitars of Tom and Stefan, the bass of Paul and Sascha’s drums, but heavy metal storytelling – the sci-fi narrative seems to be a battle in space – is just as much a part of the record’s progressive flow, longer cuts like “Praise to Nova Rider,” “The Beast Cometh,” which directly follows, and “Ambush at Antarox IV” feeding one into the next sonically and thematically. The penultimate title-track brings swinging apex to an ambitious first outing, but the foreboding, winding guitar echoes of “Outro” hint at more of the tale to be told. Could be that Sword of Korhan is just the beginning of a much longer engagement.
Maybe it doesn’t need to be said, since if it weren’t the case, they wouldn’t have paired at all, but Enos and Mangoo pair well. The UK chimp-obsessed space metallers – that’s Enos, on side A – and the Finnish modernized classic heavy rock outfit – that’s Mangoo, on side B – don’t ask much of the listener across their Son of a Gun/The Grey Belly split (on H42 Records) beyond a little over 10 minutes of time and a willingness to follow a groove. “Son of a Gun” finds Enos blending particularly well with Mangoo’s methodology via the inclusion of organ in their swinging but still forward-directed movement, and after that, it’s an easy mesh to flip the platter and find Mangoo’s “The Grey Belly” waiting, its own keys playing a huge role in carrying across the ‘70s-via-‘90s vibe the band projects so well. Flourishes of percussion in the former seem to complement the progressive guitar work in the latter, and whichever side happens to be spinning, it all works out just fine.
Born in 2007 as Spice and the RJ Band and rechristened Band of Spice in 2010 prior to their third album, Feel Like Coming Home, the Swedish unit boasting vocalist Christian “Spice” Sjöstrand (founding vocalist of Spiritual Beggars, also Mushroom River Band, currently also in Kayser) release their fourth full-length half a decade later in the form of Economic Dancers on Scarlet Records. It’s a straightforward heavy rocker in the organ-laced European tradition that Spice helped create, with some shades of quirk in the intro to “The Joe” and the arena-ready backing vocals of “In My Blood,” but mostly cutting its teeth on modernized ‘70s jams like “On the Run,” “Down by the Liquor Store” and “True Will,” though the six-minute centerpiece “You Will Call” touches on more psychedelic fare and is backed immediately by two metallers in “You Can’t Stop” and “Fly Away,” so it’s not by any means one-sided, even if at times the mix makes it feel like the 11 tracks are a showcase for the singer whose name is on the marquee.
On June 12, Finnish outfit The Exploding Eyes Orchestra will make their Svart Records debut with I, their aptly-titled first offering. Written as part of a two-album set by guitarist Thomas Corpse and featuring four other members besides himself from Jess and the Ancient Ones, the record and band are an offshoot in the truest sense of the word, but one justified both by the differences in lineup and in sonic personality that are showcased throughout I‘s seven songs and vinyl-ready 41 minutes. Whereas Jess and the Ancient Ones operates with cultish aural intent, having explored psychedelic ritualizing for the last half-decade, The Exploding Eyes Orchestra was birthed as an outlet for the side of Corpse‘s songwriting that specifically didn’t fit that band.
As it turned out, there was plenty of that around. Enough so that along with I, more songs were tracked that will make up II, which is to see release on Svart in 2016. That means that, in a way, we’re only seeing half of a picture with these tracks that will be completed when the second album is issued, but with memorable cuts like “Two-Zero 13,” “The Smoke” and the oddly poppy “My Father the Wolf,” The Exploding Eyes Orchestra have crafted a full-length that stands on its own just as well. It shares some commonalities with Corpse‘s writing for Jess and the Ancient Ones, and having Jess on vocals is bound to draw a few parallels, but even through that, these songs establish an open and varied spirit not at all hindered by the boundaries of aesthetic, embracing sultry blues on “Drawing down the West,” pushing into horror-flick goth-style piano swing on “Black Hound” and unabashedly proffering a love of classic progressive rock on “Crazy Heart,” all while keeping a core of craftsmanship and structure that ties it all together.
Where The Exploding Eyes Orchestra might go on their second outing, I couldn’t say, but the soul and breadth infused into these recordings makes one eager to find out. Jess and the Ancient Ones are getting ready to hit the studio as well, but Corpse took some time out to answer questions about the making of I — and, by extension, II — and you can find the Q&A under a full stream of the album, which it’s my pleasure to bring to you on the player below.
Interview with Thomas Corpse: Easing Burdens
How much material had amassed before you realized The Exploding Eyes Orchestra was a project separate from Jess and the Ancient Ones? What is it about the songs that you thought didn’t fit that concept?
I noticed it while writing them. We were having a creative break with the Ancient Ones, and I had nothing else to do than just play acoustic guitar on my couch. Oh, I also drank like a million liters of coffee, and smoked a thousand smokes. It was really refreshing to jam endlessly, so I just kept writing and writing. In the end, I did not wish to add so many layers on them, so a smaller group was formed to perform them.
What is the timeline on songs coming together? How long has this stuff been around?
They came along pretty fast. Maybe six months from zero to 100, when it comes to writing and arranging the music. We recorded 14 songs in the same sessions… whuh, it was fun! Recordings took place in 2013-2014, so the material has been laying around for a while. The wheels of Sawonia move forth slowly I guess, hahah!
How was it being in the studio for The Exploding Eyes Orchestra as opposed to Jess and the Ancient Ones?
Well there’s a few less musicians playing, so there’s much more space to move around within the songs. Also, in a way these sessions were more “free-spirited.” I think we learned some valuable things, and of course the Ancient Ones will also benefit from this fact. That being said, the Ancient Ones are just about to hit the studio!
What was the time in the studio like? How were the songs put together and how much input did the whole band have in the process?
Long hours, and many late nights. We worked really hard, as we had so little time to record all of those songs. At some point, the mood was really gloomy, as the lack of sleep gets to you… but we pulled through with smiles on our faces.
The band has a major influence what comes to song arrangements, as I always leave room for interpretation. In this way, you get all the levels.
Tell me about splitting up the tracks into two albums. At what point did you know you had enough that you wanted to use that you had to approach it that way?
It was supposed to be a double album, but when listening to it as a whole, it felt too heavy to take in at once. Thus we split the material in two, to ease the listener’s burden, hahah!
Is there something different expressed between I and II, or are they meant as complements for each other, coming from the same sessions?
The II album has more subtle stuff in it, and there is even one song that is sung in Finnish. At the end of the day, the albums feel like Ying and Yang, so I guess you could say that they complement each other. My personal favourites are on the second album, as the songs in question are really personal to me.
Will you continue to write for The Exploding Eyes Orchestra on the side from Jess and the Ancient Ones? Are there other pieces that have yet to be recorded?
I sure will, and there are already seven new songs readied back here at home. Maybe the next studio session will take place during the winter of 2015? But first things first, as the Radio Aquarius will soon start the transmission from the planes of the Ancient Ones. Feed your minds!