Swallow the Sun, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light: Of Love and Death

Posted in Reviews on January 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Swallow the Sun When a Shadow is Forced into the Light

The immediate question, of course, is what happens? What happens when you force a shadow into the light? As per the memorable, layered screams of the title-track to Finnish melodic death-doomers Swallow the Sun‘s seventh full-length, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, “It rips through your chest and burns like a fire.” Fair enough. That chorus sweeps in from an acoustic-led verse and thanks in part to backing from string sounds — that is, whether it’s strings or keyboard — gives a sense of grandeur that very much works to define what follows across the 52-minute/eight-track Century Media release. A largesse of production value helps as well, and that’s nothing new for Swallow the Sun, who since their 2003 debut, The Morning Never Came, have melded emotional resonance, elements of extreme metal — Mikko Kotamäki has made a trademark of switching fluidly between screams, growls and clean singing, and stands among the finest metal vocalists currently active — and clarity of sound into a melancholic vision of death-doom that has only become more their own with time.

Cumbersome as it is, the album’s title derives from the lyrics to “Broken Mirror” from founding guitarist Juha Raivio‘s Trees of Eternity project, and much of the material here deals with the personal loss of Aleah Stanbridge, who was that outfit’s vocalist as well as Raivio‘s partner, and who passed away from cancer prior to the release of their 2016 debut, Hour of the NightingaleRaivio would subsequently form Hallatar and release 2017’s No Stars Upon the Bridge (review here) using her poetry as lyrics. There is an according sense of longing and mournfulness to When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, which follows the late-2015 triple-album, Songs from the North I, II & III (review here), that can be heard in songs like “Firelights,” “Upon the Water” and even the guttural apex of the penultimate “Here on Black Earth.” Swallow the Sun are no strangers to working in an upfront emotional context, and one of their great assets as a band has always been their ability to balance aspects of extremity with a very human heart.

When a Shadow is Forced into the Light cannot and should not ultimately be separated from the circumstances surrounding its making any more than it should be from the rest of Swallow the Sun‘s catalog. In both it and its companion EP, Lumina Aurea (review here), there isn’t so much a feeling of catharsis — that comes later — as a palpable grief. Summarized best perhaps in the direct address in the lyrics to closer “Never Left,” there is little mistaking the in-the-thick-of-it feel of genuine mourning, but as the band — Raivio (who also handles keys and jouhikko, a bowed instrument used in Finnish traditional music), Kotamäki, guitarist Juho Räihä, bassist Matti Honkonen, drummer Juuso Raatikainen and keyboardist Jaani Peuhu, as well as guests here and there — move through “When a Shadow is Forced into the Light” and into “The Crimson Crown” and “Firelights,” neither do they let go of their craft. A complex style of songwriting is fitting for the richness of their sound, and they bask in it, but as noted, the title-track has a hook, and so do “The Crimson Crown,” “Firelights,” “Upon the Water,” “Clouds on Your Side” and “Never Left.”

swallow the sun

“Stone Wings” and “Here on Black Earth” are directed otherwise structurally, but even they have standout moments, whether it’s the throat-ripping screams backed by melodic lines in the latter or the sudden volume swells of the former. And you know, I take it back, “Stone Wings” does have a hook, as well as Raivio‘s jouhikko while it makes its way to its engrossing, double-kick-bolstered crescendo. The point is that although there’s an obvious emotional consumption happening throughout When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, that’s brought into what Swallow the Sun do. They’ve always had a wistful sensibility to them. They’ve always dealt with loss as a working theme, and in some ways, the work they’re doing here is very much consistent with where they’ve been in the past, but the foundation they’re working from is different, and it’s real. The grief is real. The sadness is real. The loss is real. It’s performative by its very nature — as in, it’s an album and people are performing on it — but there’s no sense throughout that Swallow the Sun are doing anything other than seeing Raivio work through this pain.

The tagline for the record has been “love is stronger than death,” as posted by the band in discussions leading up to the release. If that’s their summary of the theme, fair enough — “Never Left” would seem to be the point at which that idea most comes to the fore — and it’s easy to argue that their ability to find balance between this point of view and an already established songwriting modus speaks to the experience and skill of the band as a group. When a Shadow is Forced into the Light is never more mired than it wants to be, never held back. The title-track and “The Crimson Crown” — both over seven minutes long and the only songs to hit that mark aside from “Never Left” as the corresponding bookend — form an initial salvo that characterize so much of the rest of the material.

In its immersive blend of acoustics, string sounds, differing vocal approaches and the smoothness of its overall craft, the song “When a Shadow is Forced into the Light” seems to accomplish everything Swallow the Sun brought to Songs from the North I, II & III in a single track. It is a cinematic arrangement and poised execution that nonetheless has its basis in an emotionalism that’s still raw. But what the song and indeed the rest of the album that shares its name do so well is to take that rawness and shape it into something encompassing and beautiful. If that’s what it means for love to be stronger than death, if that expression is what comes out of the brutality of the loss that’s behind its making, then When a Shadow is Forced into the Light is its own best argument for the maxim’s truth.

Swallow the Sun, “Firelights” official video

Swallow the Sun website

Swallow the Sun on Thee Facebooks

Swallow the Sun on Twitter

Century Media website

Century Media on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,

Swallow the Sun Post “Lumina Aurea” Video; EP out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

swallow the sun

There’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, while Finland’s Swallow the Sun have always ranged far and wide throughout their career — their last album, 2015’s Songs from the North I, II and III (review here), was a purposefully-overwhelming triple album comprised of acoustic, extreme and a-little-bit-of-both installments — their new EP, Lumina Aurea, which arrives through Century Media just ahead of the full-length, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, is still a departure. Its vocals arrive in Latin-language spoken word plus some backing black metal-style screams and a chorus — Marco I. Benevento of The Foreshadowing provides the spoken parts — and the song itself is a 13-minute stretch of atmospheric intensity that’s different from anything the Jyväskylä outfit have done in the past. Wardruna‘s Einar Selvik guests on bukkelhorn, adding particularly Scandinavian flair, and the whole affair sounds way more Roadburn than Wacken, if you know what I mean.

It’s a fascinating turn for Swallow the Sun to make as they stand on the cusp of 20 years as a band. If I could sing and scream like Mikko Kotamäki, I’m not sure I’d ever let anyone else singswallow the sun lumina aurea on a record, ever, even background vocals, but he relinquishes the forward position to Benevento and recedes into the mix in best service to “Lumina Aurea” itself, and the ambience that unfolds is every bit as cinematic as the accompanying video shows it to be. I’ve heard the upcoming LP, and as always, it has its sense of atmosphere, but if you’re wondering why Swallow the Sun would release it on its own concurrent to the album, all you really have to do for an answer is listen to the two side-by-side. “Lumina Aurea” is distinct enough to earn its place as an EP separate from the album, and the album’s tracks flow well without 13-minutes of Viking ambience tacked onto the end of them (or the beginning!) because there’d really be no place else to put it. As much defiance of expectation as Swallow the Sun have done over their time, they’ve always kept to a consistency of mood in their releases — generally dark — and Lumina Aurea holds to that as well, but is clearly doing so on its own terms.

The EP is comprised of the full and instrumental versions of the track and is out now. When a Shadow is Forced into the Light is due Jan. 25. The video for “Lumina Aurea” was directed by Aapo Lahtela and Vesa Ranta at Kaira Films, and you can see the full credits as well as other info from the PR wire under the clip below.

Please enjoy:

Swallow the Sun, “Lumina Aurea” official video

SWALLOW THE SUN – Lumina Aurea (OFFICIAL VIDEO). Taken from the EP “Lumina Aurea”, out December 21st, 2018. Order now: https://swallowthesun.lnk.to/LuminaAureaID

Finnish melancholy death-doom metal masters Swallow The Sun have released their epic standalone 14 minute track called “Lumina Aurea”. The song features Wardruna’s Einar Selvik and The Forshadowing’s Marco I. Benevento and marks the band’s darkest and most sinister piece of music they have ever released. Watch the music video for “Lumina Aurea”, which was created by Aapo Lahtela and Vesa Ranta at Kaira Films, HERE.

“‘Lumina Aurea’ is a song I would never want to write in my life,” Juha Raivio states about the track. “It is an open, bleeding black wound from the last two and half years of my life. But I had to write it out. I could not back down from it. The way I wrote and recorded ‘Lumina Aurea’ was so rough emotionally and physically that I think I will never talk about it public. I know this road will go on forever as a part of me, but I have also made a peace with it-that I will never have peace with it. And that the life and the journey here must still go on for a while for those of us remaining. I knew that if I would go any deeper on that road with the album as I did with ‘Lumina Aurea,’ the path would not end well. So, I quickly realized that instead I will write an album that will manifest loud and clear that after all, ‘Love is always stronger than death.’ I wanted to find that angle for ‘When A Shadow Is Forced into the Light’. This album is like a weapon for myself. A burning light, a burning torch. Victorious and proud.”

Directed and produced by Aapo Lahtela & Vesa Ranta.

Swallow the Sun:
Mikko Kotamäki: vox
Matti Honkonen: bass
Juuso Raatikainen: drums
Juho Räihä: gtr
Juha Raivio: gtr/keys/jouhikko
Jaani Peuhu: keys

Music & Lyrics: Juha Raivio
Mixed by: Linus Corneliusson / Fascination Street Studios Mastered by: Tony Lindgren / Fascination Street Studios Screams and Growls recorded at Black Chandelier, Helsinki Guitars and bass recorded at SoundSpiral Audio by Juho Räihä

Latin translation by Claudia Greco

Guest Musicians:
Bukkehorn by Einar Selvik
Latin spoken parts by: Marco I. Benevento
Latin choir by: Marco I. Benevento & The Foreshadowing

“Mors fortior quam vita est, amor fortior quam mors est”

Swallow The Sun Upcoming Tour Dates:
February 7 – Helsinki, Finland – Nosturi
February 8 – Turku, Finland – Apollo
February 9 – Jyvaskyla, Finland – Lutakko*
February 14 – Tampere, Finland – Klubi*
February 15 – Oulu, Finland – Teatria*
February 16 – Kuopio, Finland – Henry’s Pub*
*w/THE MAN-EATING TREE

More dates to be announced soon!

Swallow the Sun website

Swallow the Sun on Thee Facebooks

Swallow the Sun on Twitter

Century Media website

Century Media on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Mansion, First Death of the Lutheran: Sinners’ Fate

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

mansion first death of the lutheran

What one didn’t necessarily expect from Mansion’s debut album was how much it would convey its rigidity in tone as well as in its theme. First Death of the Lutheran has been a long time in the making, as the Turku, Finland, outfit started in 2013 by self-releasing their We Shall Live EP (review here), which was soon picked up by Nine Records, and certainly they’ve covered a swath of styles since then with the subsequent The Mansion Congregation Hymns Vol. 1 single (discussed here) and the Uncreation EP (review here) in 2014, 2015’s Altar Sermon (review here) or their comporting-with-sinners 2017 split with Cardinal Wyrm, but still, the five-track/42-minute offering through I Hate Records is a surprise in its general sound. Where their earlier work had more of a retro feel, not quite boogie rock but not shy in its shuffle either, First Death of the Lutheran seeks to and succeeds in conveying the severity of its lyrical basis by sharpening its guitar tones and the production overall.

In defiance of what has become the standard for cult rock in Europe and elsewhere, it is not a warm-sounding album, with sing-songy lyrics about worshiping the devil or whatever else. Mansion‘s perspective has always been on another level. Now their sound matches that idea. They are, as of now, inseparable from their conceptual foundation, born out of the idea of not just singing about a thing, but becoming the thing itself. And specificity. I don’t know how much of general Finnish history covers the endtime-obsessed Kartanoist sect and their strict belief in the Christian Bible, celibacy, and the notion that after World War I in Europe, Jesus was returning to punish sinners, but the band and appointed lyricist Mikael have certainly dug into the history.

Mansion vocalist Alma takes her name from Alma Kartano, who led the group, and sure enough is joined by a congregation, with fellow vocalist Osmo, guitarists Jaakob and Veikko-Tapio, bassist Immanuel, drummer Atami, organist Matti-Juhani, as well as a range of guests appearing on First Death of the Lutheran, including Sami Albert Hynninen (ex-Reverend Bizarre) on “The Eternal,” as well as saxophonist Toivo on closer “First Death,” Antti-Mikael on percussion, Kimmo on violin and trumpet, Ivan on hurdy-gurdy, and so on. All of these arrangement elements are put to work toward the singular if varied purpose of embodying the harshness of dedicated dogmatic idolatry. The snare in opener “Wretched Hope” (premiered here) evokes flagellation. The effects-laden condemnations of “Lutheran” — of which even the single-word title seems accusatory — lumbering low end and far-back piano line and emergent mournful violin add an air of authoritarianism to Alma‘s highlighted vocals, Hynninen-led testimony of “The Eternal,” choral apex of “1933” and darkly psychedelic cacophony that closes in the 12-minute stretch of “First Death”: it all feeds into the centrality of the point of view.

promo_mansion5 pic by ulla kudjoi-1000

They do not waver. There is no relenting, and particularly in the call and response between Alma and Osmo on “First Death” or in the chorus of “Wretched Hope,” or even as Alma relinquishes the forward position on the centerpiece, there is an underlying sexual tension that speaks to the corrupt nature of religious fanaticism. Tempt and condemn. This trait has always been in Mansion‘s approach, but on First Death of the Lutheran, especially in the vocal trades and amid the increased experimentalism of the instrumental side and production, it’s all the more resonant, and it adds to the sinister nature of the material itself. Certainly the summary hook in “Wretched Hope” of “Hear my warning/The lord is calling/Do you see the signs?/It’s the end of times,” and the doomly march to which they set it is made all the stronger for it, and likewise the bleak swirl that follows in “Lutheran.” And as the album unfolds, it only grows bolder and broader in its encompassing stylization, such that by the time “First Death” starts with its combination of earthbound rhythm and airier guitars in the initial, trumpet-inclusive forward progression and steps into alignment around the riff that holds sway for its first half, the sense is that Mansion have set themselves up to go anywhere.

There’s less of an expectation as the record plays through, then, for songs to sound the same or to carry a similar approach to their making, because already the band have worked diligently — and again, successfully — to undermine any. At the same time they do this, though, it’s the theme that unites the album on the whole, so that as far as Mansion range considering where they started from half a decade ago, they never lose sight of what it is bringing their songs together, the underlying purpose of expression. So the theme not only proves strong enough to maintain itself lyrically throughout the five tracks, but to help present First Death of the Lutheran as a singular work, however varied its sound might ultimately be. The production has a role in this as well, of course, but as noted, even that ties into the band’s adoption of the tenets of Kartanoism. As “First Death” makes its way into its second half around the winding vocal lines that resolve themselves with the final assessment, “You’re a sinner,” it’s a culmination on every level through which that song and those before it have functioned.

And yet the crescendo is still to come. That takes hold as the back end of “First Death” builds into its final wash, Alma cutting through all the while in last moments of preach, with a long-held sax note — excruciatingly tense by the time it lets go — as the final element sacrificed. The level of achievement here isn’t to be understated. Not only have Mansion stretched their conceptual designs out over the course of a full-length, which is something that, frankly, they’ve been ready to do for a while, but with that full-length, they’ve actively worked against what was expected from them, while moving forward in craft overall, greatly increasing their scope and carving out a sonic niche beyond microgenre that is immediately their own and, more importantly, immediately under their command. It is a powerful, awaited debut that moves beyond what one could have even hoped for it, and it not only puts Mansion on their own echelon of cultistry, but realizes their righteousness in a new form that feels like a grim future made flesh.

Mansion, First Death of the Lutheran (2018)

Mansion on Thee Facebooks

Mansion on Bandcamp

I Hate Records website

I Hate Records on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , ,

Blowup Vol. 5 Adds Cirith Ungol, Morne, Arktau Eos & Kælan Mikla to Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

blowup 5 banner

I post a lot of festival lineups around here, and a lot of European festival lineups besides. I can’t even pretend to keep it all straight in my head, but looking forward to next Fall’s season, consider that among everything else that will be taking place around this time — and there’s plenty; I’m already behind on announcements — Blowup Vol. 5 in Helsinki has revealed five bands for its three-day lineup and already exposed a genre-spanning mission that’s admirably progressive in its intent. Be it the bleak doom of Morne or the classic metal of Cirith UngolArktau Eos‘ ritualized drone or the convention-defiance of Iceland’s Kælan Mikla, this is the kind of assemblage that is intended to send an immediate message of what the fest is all about, and over its years, Blowup has very much been an event that has sought to move forward with each edition.

And while they keep that thread going, they’re also continuing to support visual artists as well with a gallery show included and Timo Ketola announced as the first artist featured.

Of course three-day tickets are already sold out after going on sale a week ago. Two-day tickets remain. Here’s the info:

blowup 5

Blowup is a front runner of Finnish festivals that showcases international and Finnish artists surpassing genres focusing on psychedelic, avant-garde, noise & doom metal.

One of the themes of the Blowup festival is to support emerging visual artists. Several Finnish artists will bring out their own vision of the artists performing at Blowup festival. All the works will be displayed at Korjaamo Aulagalleria 10th-14th October 2019.

Blowup Vol. 5 visual artists:
Timo Ketola (Helsinki 1975)
http://www.tentacula.org/

Confirmed artists:
Cirith Ungol (US)
Morne (US)
Arktau Eos (FIN)
Kælan Mikla (ISL)

3-day tickets available at Tiketti Monday, December 10th.
89€ plus Tiketti commission. https://www.tiketti.fi/blowup-vol-5-kulttuuritehdas-korjaamo-helsinki-tickets/58769 (SOLD OUT!)

2-day tickets available at Tiketti January 2019.

Blowup Vol. 5 will run for three days from Thursday, October 10 to Saturday, October 12 at the Korjaamo venue in Helsinki, Finland.

https://www.facebook.com/events/900757203645119/
https://www.facebook.com/blowupthatgramophone/
https://www.instagram.com/blowupthatgramophone/
https://twitter.com/blowupfi
https://blowupfestival.fi

Morne, To the Night Unknown (2018)

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Deep Space Destructors, Visions from the Void: Far Outward

Posted in Reviews on December 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

deep space destructors Visions from the Void inside gatefold

deep space destructors Visions from the Void gatefold outside

Deep into the album comes the hook that says it all. “Abandon space and time/Freedom lose your mind.” It’s what Deep Space Destructors have been saying all along, but it’s not until the fourth of the five total tracks, on the aptly-titled “Floating,” which leads off side B ahead of closer “From the Void,” that they actually come out and say it. Their advocacy of that position, however, is writ large across Visions from the Void, which follows less than two years from early 2017’s Psychedelogy (review here) and pushes into new cosmic reaches for the band, expanding their sound and reach along an interstellar plane of surspace, dimensions intertwining as the core trio of bassist/vocalist Jani Pitkänen (also percussion), guitarist/backing vocalist Petri Lassila and drummer Markus Pitkänen welcome a host of guest performers. Perhaps chief among them is Scott “Dr. Space” Heller, who also helms Space Rock Productions, which is the label behind this and the last release.

Heller, who also captains the USS Øresund Space Collective, contributes analog synth to all five cuts on the 43-minute LP, but he’s hardly alone here, with Antti “Yskä” Ylijääskö adding sax to side A finale “Tyhjyyden Mantra,” Joonatan Elokuu donating synth, mellotron and vocals to the aforementioned “Floating,” and Tyhjä Pää giving further drone and ambience to “From the Void.” The latter two are return appearances, but even so, their coming back is emblematic of the growth Deep Space Destructors have undertaken since their 2012 debut, (review here), and indeed, as their evolution has unfolded across 2013’s II (review here), 2014’s III (review here), 2015’s Spring Break from Space EP (review here) and Psychedelogy, they have only proceeded outward, and Visions from the Void is their most resonant work yet, unfurling with motorik beats and drifting atmospherics along a directed swirl that holds an underpinning of consciousness even as it seems to “lose its mind” along the lysergic meditation. From opener “Psyche Remade” onward, the band only affirms their maturity and their mastery of the spaced-out forms, calling to familiar genre tropes while putting their own stamp on them in craft and manifestation.

There’s little by way of fanfare at the outset. A quick introduction of a winding guitar line starts “Psyche Remade” and within the first 10 seconds of the album, Deep Space Destructors set themselves to the work of melting brains. Their style has never been to completely jam for jamming’s sake, and not that there’s anything wrong with that approach, but the trio’s process has only come to work more for them over time, resulting in hooks that act as beacons along their charted course into the titular void. They’ve done this in the past as well, but Visions from the Void finds Jani a more confident vocalist, higher in the mix and more of a presence even as his voice is coated in a range of effects. “Psyche Remade” has standout lines urging sonic enlightenment, and that frames much of the perspective from which the rest of the record draws, a kind of expand-your-mind-blow-your-mind advocacy the second cut “Astral Traveller” soon affirms in its last line, “Free your mind/Only love can remain,” after six minutes or so of primordial space rock groove and molten synth.

Deep Space Destructors

Tense, progressive and classic, its genre elements are nonetheless presented with a sonic heft that classic space rock could never have claimed as its own, pushing into a realm of heavy psychedelia in its low end that only seems to emphasize the throb at heart in the rhythm and the faroutification of what might otherwise be a straightforward structure. Heller has a marked effect on the atmosphere, but as “Tyhjyyden Mantra” crashes in its nine-minute grandeur to take hold and introduce not only the end of side A, but really the crux of what will follow in the final two tracks, there’s a darkening of mood that even the surrounding swirl can’t contradict. As the centerpiece, “Tyhjyyden Mantra” swaps out English lyrics for the band’s native Finnish, and along with the arrival of Ylijääskö‘s saxophone, it provides a pivotal turning point in the narrative of the record, marking the place where one is given over to the cosmos itself in that embrace of enlightenment, becoming one with dark matter as a necessary step in that. There’s a quiet moment that starts just before the five-minute mark and is soon topped by chants and leaves on a build that I wish was longer, but it accomplishes the purpose the band has for it as is, and soon departs for an effective sax-laced semi-wash that holds out to a graceful finish.

“Floating” starts with the lyrics noted earlier, and makes itself a standout not only through its lyrical quest for freedom of mind and spirit, but through its near-orchestral progressive arrangement. The additional synth and mellotron give further breadth to that which the band has already established — and among those elements, the midsection a stretch of gotta-hear bass and guitar interplay well worth noting — particularly the mellotron arriving shortly before seven minutes in to lend a dramatic feel to “Floating”‘s apex before the return of the vocals ultimately bring it full circle. As the only inclusion to pass the 10-minute mark, “From the Void” is immediately distinct as well, but it’s more the hypnotic initial rhythm that makes it so, and the sense of arrival is multi-tiered. As listeners, we’ve arrived at that moment of freedom so fervently championed throughout the four songs prior, and as a band, Deep Space Destructors have arrived at a new level of presentation and storytelling in their work, creating a thematic arc to convey their ideas across the album’s entirety. That’s an achievement not to be understated, but their execution of the semi-title-track is in no way bludgeoning listeners with what’s happening.

Rather, it rolls out fluidly atop a steady push of drums as bass, guitar and synth craft a nod that’s both psychedelic and a fitting bed for the lyrics, a kind of watery chant that keeps aligned with space rock traditionalism even as the music behind seems to tap into mantra-ism in a different and exciting way. They cap in motorik but still smooth fashion with a guitar solo leading the way out toward what comes after the void. And one supposes that’s really the question that remains. Deep Space Destructors have found this avenue of expression and made it their own. Over the past six years, a steady growth has led them to this point, where the aspects of genre they’ve absorbed have been remade at their will. So what happens now? It does not seem to me that they’re at any kind of end point in their progression. Nothing on Visions from the Void indicates a feeling of being staid. So what comes after sonic enlightenment? Where in the cosmos do we go next? It’s a story that ends and begs further elaboration, and I for one can’t wait to find out in the next chapter from Deep Space Destructors.

Deep Space Destructors, Visions from the Void (2018)

Deep Space Destructors, “Floating” official video

Deep Space Destructors on Thee Facebooks

Deep Space Destructors on Bandcamp

Deep Space Destructors website

Space Rock Productions website

Tags: , , , , ,

Quarterly Review: Surya Kris Peters, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Lair of the Minotaur, Sonic Wolves, Spacelord, Nauticus, Yuxa, Forktie, Ohhms, Blue Dream

Posted in Reviews on December 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

I had a terrible thought yesterday: What if this one… went to 11? That is, what if, after 10 days of Quarterly Review ending today with a grand total of 100 records reviewed since last Monday, I did another batch of 10? Like a bonus round? Like I said, terrible thought.

Pretty sure it won’t happen. I’ve already got a review and a video premiere booked for next Monday, but I definitely had the thought. It was easy, of course, to fill out another 10 slots, and who knows, maybe this weekend for the first time ever I wind up with some extra time and energy on my hands? Could happen, right?

Again, I’m fairly certain it won’t. Let’s proceed with the assumption today’s the last day. Thank you for reading. I hope you have found something cool in all of this that has really hit home. I certainly have. We cap very much in last-but-not-least fashion, and if nothing’s resonated with you yet, don’t count yourself completely out. You might just get there after all. Thanks again.

Quarterly Review #91-100:

Surya Kris Peters, Ego Therapy

Surya Kris Peters Ego Therapy

Those feeling technical will note the full title of the album is Surya Kris Peters’ Ego Therapy, but the point gets across either way. And even as Christian Peters — also guitarist/vocalist for Samsara Blues Experiment — acknowledges the inherent self-indulgence of the proverbial “solo-project” that his exploration of synth and classically progressive textures under the moniker of Surya Kris Peters has become, with Ego Therapy as his second full-length of 2018, he branches out in including drums from former Terraplane bandmate Jens Vogel. The 10-song/53-minute outing opens with its longest cut (immediate points) in the 15-minute “Angels in Bad Places,” a spaced-out and vibrant atmosphere more cohesive than psychedelia but still trippy as all hell, and moves through a bluesy key/guitar interplay in “Wizard’s Dream” following the dancey thriller soundtrack “Beyond the Sun” and into the Blade Runner-style grandeur of “Sleeping Willow” and the video game-esque “A Fading Spark” before bookending with the sci-fi “Atomic Clock” at the close. I don’t know how ultimately therapeutic Peters‘ solo offerings might be, but he only seems to grow bolder each time out, and that certainly applies here.

Surya Kris Peters on Thee Facebooks

Electric Magic Records on Bandcamp

 

Lewis and the Strange Magics, The Ginger Sessions

lewis and the strange magics the ginger sessions

How are you not gonna love a release that starts with a song called “Sexadelic Galactic Voyage?” Barcelona vamp rockers Lewis and the Strange Magics embrace their inner funk on the 23-minute self-released EP, The Ginger Sessions, finding the place where their uptempo ’70s fusion meets oldschool The Meters-style rhythm, digging into the repetitions of “Candied Ginger” after the aforementioned instrumental opening burst and then holding the momentum through “Her Vintage Earrings.” Some departure happens on what might be side B of the 10″, with “The Shadow of Your Smile” turning toward pastoral psychedelia, still rhythmic thanks to some prominent wood block and xylophone sounds, but much calmer despite a consistency of wah and keys. “Suzy’s Room II” follows in fuzzy fashion, bridging the earlier cologne-soaked, chest-hair-out vibes with garage buzz and a heavier low end beneath the synthesized experimentation. Mellotron shows up and continues to hold sway in closer “Witch’s Brew,” playing the band outward along with layers of drifting guitar for about two and a half minutes of bluesy serenity that feel cut short, as does the release on the whole. One hopes they don’t lose that funky edge going into their next album.

Lewis and the Strange Magics on Thee Facebooks

Lewis and the Strange Magics on Bandcamp

 

Lair of the Minotaur, Dragon Eagle of Chaos

Lair of the Minotaur Dragon Eagle of Chaos

Once upon the mid-aughts, Chicago’s Lair of the Minotaur roamed the land as the long-prophesied American answer to Entombed, as much classic, dirt-covered death metal as they were laden with heavy groove. Their tones filthy, their assault brutal all the while, war metal, ultimate destroyers. The whole nine. They released their last album, Evil Power (review here), in 2010. The two-songer Dragon Eagle of Chaos follows a 2013 single, and was released to mark the occasion of perhaps a return to some measure of greater activity. I don’t know if that’ll happen, but as both “Dragon Eagle of Chaos” and “Kunsult the Bones” affirm in about seven minutes between them, Lair of the Minotaur remain a wrecking ball made of raw meat when it comes to their sound. The madness that seemed to always underline their material at its most effective is present and accounted for in “Dragon Eagle of Chaos,” and the stripped-down production of the single actually helps its violent cause. Will they do another record? Could go either way, but if they decide to go that route, they clearly still have the evil power within.

Lair of the Minotaur website

Lair of the Minotaur on Bandcamp

 

Sonic Wolves, Sonic Wolves

sonic wolves sonic wolves

Eight tracks/34 minutes of smoothly-arranged and well-executed doom rock brought to bear with an abiding lack of pretense and a developing sense of songcraft and dynamic — there’s very little not to dig about Sonic Wolves‘ self-titled LP (on Future Noise and DHU), from the Sabbathian stretch of “Ascension” down through the bouncing low-key-psych-turns-to-full-on-wah-overdose-swirl in the penultimate “Heavy Light.” Along the way, bassist/vocalist Kayt Vigil (ex-Pentagram, etc.) — joined by guitarists Jason Nealy and Enrico “Ico” Aniasi and drummer Gianni “Vita” Vitarelli (also Ufomammut) — gallop through the traditional metal of “Red Temple” and ride a fuzzy roll in “Tide of Chaos,” leaving the uptempo shuffle of “You’ll Climb the Walls” to close out by tapping into a “Wicked World”-style vision of heavy blues that casts off many of the tropes of what’s become the subgenre in favor of a darker approach. If their self-titled is Sonic Wolves declaring who they are as a band after making their debut in 2016, the results are only encouraging.

Sonic Wolves on Thee Facebooks

DHU Records webstore

Future Noise Recordings webstore

 

Spacelord, Indecipher

Spacelord Indecipher

There is an immediate sensibility drawn from classic heavy rock to the vocals on Spacelord‘s second record, Indecipher, like Shannon Hoon fronting Led Zeppelin, maybe? Something like that, definitely drawn from a ’70s/’90s blend. Produced, mixed and mastered by guitarist Rich Root, with Chris Cappiello on bass, Kevin Flynn on drums and Ed Grabianowski on vocals, the four-piece’s sophomore LP is comprised of a neatly-constructed eight songs working around sci-fi themes on bruiser cuts like “Super Starship Adventure” and the particularly righteous “Zero Hour,” as opener and longest track (immediate points) “For the Unloved Ones” sets forth the classic vibe amid the first of the record’s impressive solos and resonant hooks. Something about it makes me want them to go completely over the top in terms of production their next time out — layers on layers on layers, etc. — but the kind of false start Grabianowski brings to the ultra-Zepped “New Machine” has a charm that I’m not sure it would be worth sacrificing.

Spacelord on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Nauticus, Disappear in Blue

Nauticus Disappear in Blue

Six years after the release of their second album, The Wait (review here), Finnish atmospheric progressive metallers Nauticus effect a return with the 78-minute Disappear in Blue, which following the relatively straightforward opening with “Magma” casts out a vast sprawl in accordance with its oceanic theme. Longer tracks like “Claimed by the Sea,” “Strange Sequences/Lost Frequencies,” “Arrival” and “Hieronymus” are complex and varied but united through a deep instrumental dynamic that’s brought to light even in the three-minute ambient post-rocker “Desolation,” which is something of an interlude between “Strange Sequences/Lost Frequencies” and the tense build of “Singularity.” Other ambient spaces “Jesus of Lübeck” and the later “Whale Bones” complement and add reach to the longer-form works, but it’s hardly as though Nauticus‘ material lacks character one way or the other. Overwhelming in its length, Disappear in Blue might take some time to wade through, but what a way to go.

Nauticus on Thee Facebooks

Nauticus on Bandcamp

 

Yuxa, Yuxa

yuxa yuxa

As the greater part of anything related to post-metal invariably does, UK outfit Yuxa have their “Stones from the Sky” moment in “Founder in Light,” the opening cut from their self-titled debut EP, that most formative of progressions making itself known in modified form to suit the double-guitar four-piece’s intent with dramatic screams and shouts cutting through an ably-conjured surge of noisy adrenaline resolving in winding chug and crash en route to “Exiled Hand,” the seven-minute cut that follows and serves as centerpiece of the three-tracker. “Founder in Light,” “Exiled Hand” and nine-minute closer “Peer” are arranged shortest to longest, and the effect is to draw the listener in such that by the time the angular, purposeful lurch of the finale begins to unfold, Yuxa‘s rhythmic hypnosis is already well complete. Still, the straightforward arrangements of guitar, bass, drums and vocals give them a rawer edge than many synth- or sample-laden post-metallic cohorts, and that suits the atmospheric sludge with which they close out, harnessing chaos without giving themselves over to it. A quick sample of a creative development getting underway, though it’s telling as well that Yuxa ends with a sudden buzz of amp noise.

Yuxa on Thee Facebooks

Yuxa on Bandcamp

 

Forktie, EP

forktie forktie

The first EP release from Forktie — who stylize their moniker and titles all-lowercase: forktie — is untitled, but contains five tracks that tap into proto-emo post-hardcore and ’90s alt rock sensibilities, finding a place between heavy rock and grunge that allows for Aarone Victorine‘s bass to lead toward the hook of centerpiece “Decomposition Book” with a smooth presence that’s well complementary the vocals from guitarist Dom Mariano, their presence low in the mix only adding to the wistful feel of “Anywhere but Here” and “September Morning,” before the shorter “Spores” lets loose some more push from drummer Corey LeBlanc and closer “Ph.D. in Nothing” reinforces the underlying melancholy beneath the thicker exterior tones. It’s a new project, but Forktie have worked their way into a niche that suits their songwriting well, and given themselves a space to grow within their sound. Members experience in bands like UXO, Test Meat and textbookcopilot will serve them in that effort.

Forktie on Thee Facebooks

Forktie on Bandcamp

 

Ohhms, Exist

ohhms exist

As a fan generally of bands opening albums with the longest song included, I can get on board with UK heavy progressive metallers Ohhms opening Exist with the 22-minute “Subjects.” Immediate points and all that. Far more consequential, however, is the substance of that launch for the four-song/43-minute Holy Roar LP, which is the band’s fourth in four years. It’s a vast, broad and complex offering unto itself, consuming side A as vocalist Paul Waller embodies various entities, “I am wolf” (preceding a Duran Duran reference, perhaps inadvertent), “I am child,” and so on. Those proclamations are just the culmination of a progression that, frankly, is an album unto itself, let alone a side, and maybe should’ve been released as such, though the absolute post-metallic crush of “Shambles,” the seething of “Calves” and the heavy post-rock reach of “Lay Down Your Firearms” need no further justification than a simple listen provides, the last of them pummeling side B to a then-sudden stop. Ohhms are no strangers to longform work, and it suits them well enough to make one wonder if they couldn’t be headed toward a single-song LP in the near future.

Ohhms on Thee Facebooks

Holy Roar Records on Bandcamp

 

Blue Dream, Volume Blue

Blue Dream Volume Blue

Chicago four-piece Blue Dream issued their first LP, Volume Won, early in 2018 and follow with Volume Blue — as opposed to “two”; could ‘Volume Tree’ be in the works? ‘Volume Free?’ — which collects nine neo-psych-mit-der-funky-grooves cuts chic enough to be urbane but fuzzed out enough to make the freakouts more than just a come on. They open peaceful enough with “Delta,” before the hook of “9,000 lb. Machine” defines the course and cuts like “Thank You for Smoking” and the almost woefully catchy “She’s Hot” expand the parameters. I’ll take the dream-tone shimmer of “Kingsbury Goldmine” any day in a kind of self-aware reflection of British folk and/or the garage rock of “Shake the Shake,” but the dense roll of “Viper Venom” that immediately follows reimagines grunge as more than just an influence from three popular bands and something that could genuinely move forward from the perspective of a new generation. Hearing Blue Dream close out with the boogie of “The Glide,” one hopes they do precisely that, though I’d by no means limit them to one avenue of expression. They’re clearly able to harness multiple vibes here.

Blue Dream on Thee Facebooks

Blue Dream on Bandcamp

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hexvessel Release All Tree Feb. 15; “Old Tree” Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

hexvessel

How many clever-as-hell reviewers do you think are going to talk about how forest folkers Hexvessel are getting ‘back to their roots’ (nudge nudge) on their new album? All of them? All of them twice? If it’s anything less than an 80 percent number, I’ll be disappointed in the modern press.

Hexvessel‘s nonetheless brilliant 2016 outing, When We are Death (review here), was indeed a departure for the band into go-anywhere-do-anything-even-pop songcraft that showcased a host of influences, some less derived from the natural world than others. They still danced like mad pagans, though, and it seems that All Tree will bring back some of the nature worship of the collective’s earlier work. Preorders are up for the album now for those in Europe, and they’ve posted a video for “Old Tree” that you can see at the bottom of this post. It’s serene and sad and gorgeous, and if you’d expect less, you have some homework to do.

From the social medias:

hexvessel all tree

The first single and video “Old Tree” from our new album is out now!

From the ghostly notes of the dead tree branch, played with a violin bow by Antti Haapapuro, to Andrew McIvor’s haunting guitars, violin by Daniel Pioro and found forest sounds, our new song “Old Tree” sings of personal loss with a pagan heartbeat.

Mat McNerney says: “I wrote this song at a time of what should have been deep sadness, but as a way of finding solace in nature. We tend to think of life from such a short term perspective. Nature takes millions of years to develop some of the intricate life support systems we depend on to survive. I found my answers in the trees and what they tell me. As Hesse said, when we listen to trees, we learn the ‘ancient law of life’. This song ‘Old Tree’ is very much like the first song I ever wrote as HEXVESSEL and goes to the core of what our music is about. To quote Lord Byron, ‘I love not Man the less, but Nature more’.”

With visuals beautifully captured in the old growth rainforests of Vancouver Island by British Columbian filmmaker Mark Wyatt, our video is a reverential paean to the intrinsic and eternal divinity of nature.

https://Hexvessel.lnk.to/AllTreeID for digital and European preorders. This track is also available on Spotify etc. from today.

“We are happy to announce that our fourth album “All Tree” will be released on CD, LP and digitally on February 15th, 2019 worldwide. The album will be made available via our own label Secret Trees, in exclusive partnership with Century Media Records.

“All Tree is not just about going back to the heart of Hexvessel, with a slight return to our forest folk roots, it’s about drawing fresh inspiration from my own heritage too. The English pastoral folk influences are infused with Celtic mythology from my Anglo-Irish blood, with Finnish nature as our backdrop.

“From the Canterbury folk scene and early prog bands that soundtracked my youth in England, to the ghost stories I was told as a child on my uncles farm in Ireland, this album is a spiritual journey where the old myths are doorways to enlightenment. The dawn light across boggy fields, the wind blowing through the keyhole, the branches dragging their breath inwards as the seasons ignite a magic sense of mystery about the wilderness. That’s what we tried to bring out into the songs on this album. By bowing old dead tree branches with violin bows, by summoning the sounds of the fire and the birds in the field outside, we gave the music a life which, like the liminal spirits of Samhain drifts in and out of this world. That’s what folk means. It’s the countryside singing out from within me. It’s their story we sing. And no matter where I go or where I end up staying, it’s that folk countryside which is the seed from which I sprang. All Tree.” – Mat McNerney

Cover art photography by Bastian Kalous (who created the cover for No Holier Temple).

https://www.facebook.com/hexvessel
https://twitter.com/Hexvessel
http://instagram.com/hexvesselband
https://hexvessel.bandcamp.com/
https://www.hexvessel.com/
www.centurymedia.com

Hexvessel, “Old Tree” official video

Tags: , , , , , ,

Six Dumb Questions & Full Album Stream: Mansion

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on December 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Mansion (Photo by Ulla Kudjoi)

You’ll see Turku, Finland’s Mansion referred to as ‘cult rock’ a lot. It’s kind of true the way abbreviations stand in for words. The truth of what Mansion do and have done since their 2014 premiere EP, We Shall Live EP (review here), and its soon-after follow-up, Uncreation  (review here), is much more complex. Their awaited debut album, First Death of the Lutheran, is out this week on I Hate Records, and it pushes to new ground in both the conceptual framework and actual songwriting approach on the part of the band. As 12-minute summary/closer “First Death” starts out with psychedelic flourish and effects en route to a sax-inclusive tumult of experimentalist noise, it is as affecting in atmosphere as in impact, and though I’ll have a review of the album in the coming weeks, I was given the opportunity to ask the band some questions, and it wasn’t one I was going to pass up.

For those who didn’t hear Uncreation, 2015’s Altar Sermon (review here), or any of the other short releases they’ve had out along the way, Mansion follow a theme not just of vague, generalized occultmansion first death of the lutheran thematics, but actually take on Kartanoism as their working foundation. The doomsday-obsessed post-WWI breakaway Protestant group followed leader Alma Kartano and her strict interpretations of the Bible and rules for everyday life. That kind of severity shows up in every whip-crack of the snare drum on opener “Wretched Hope” (premiered here) and in the grueling forward march and unremitting low-light claustrophobia of “Lutheran” and “The Eternal,” which follow. With mysterious “1933” ahead of the finale, First Death of the Lutheran is an appropriate endgame for the style of cult heavy as a whole, but at the same time, it works against genre convention in its sound and the overarching harshness of its production. Not raw — it’s clear-sounding — but sharp.

I’ll have a proper review of the album up in the coming weeks, but on the occasion of the release, I’m flat-out honored to host the premiere of its entirety below. It’s one I’ve been waiting a while for, and its reach only exceeds what I imagined they’d come up with for it.

Please enjoy the stream and the following Six Dumb Questions:

Six Dumb Questions with Mansion

It’s been five years since We Shall Live was released and First Death of the Lutheran is the band’s debut album. How do you see Mansion as having grown in that time? Were there specific goals you wanted to accomplish with the LP?

Our musical expression has progressed from a traditional retro approach to a more experimental direction. With time the congregation has grown both spiritually and in number. The album was released as a reminder for the sorrowless that the endgame has begun. For the most of them salvation is out of reach.

Tell me about writing First Death of the Lutheran. Over how long a period were the songs put together? Was it a different frame of mind writing for an album instead of an EP or a single? Beyond their theme, how do the songs fit together for the band? How much of the song placement and the progression of the record was mapped out before you went into the studio?

The first song on the album, “Wretched Hope,” was written right after We Shall Live EP was released, while the last song, First Death was written during the recordings of the debut album. The songs on the album might span over several years but it doesn’t mean that those were the only ones we have written so far. We have songs ready or half-ready for at least three albums. The songs you hear on First Death of the Lutheran are picked from our vault based on how they fit together. We recorded seven songs but decided to cut two as they didn’t fit in with the others.

The Uncreation EP was supposed to be our debut album. Due to some technical issues we had to cut two tracks off the album. Those were re-recorded later and released as the Altar Sermon EP.

The whole album seems to lead to “First Death.” Did you know in writing that song that it would be the finale? What is happening there to summarize the album?

As soon as the song was starting to find its form we knew that it would be the finale. In ”First Death” we simply state that there is a difference between us and you. We will be saved and you will burn in the everlasting fires of hell while we bathe in glory in the Kingdom of Heaven by His side. Pretty much what we want to say with the whole album.

What were the circumstances of the recording? There’s so much a blend of harsh noise and melody throughout, and it seems real attention was paid to the details of tone and effects. How long were you in the studio?

We recorded most of the album at our secret cottage in Huittinen. That only took a week. The mixing, though, was a different story. We had to change the mixing engineer after the first version of the album was done. There were too many details that got buried in the mix and so we had to start all over again to get it right.

How would you explain the central philosophy of Kartanoism? What’s the significance specifically of the year 1933?

We believe that most of the sorrowless wretches roaming the earth haven’t got a clue how mighty God is and how powerful his wrath is. Judgement Day will be a merciless slaughter of man and only the chosen few will be saved for eternal agony in the afterlife. We believe sex is a mortal sin and that there should not be an organisation between man and God.

Blasphemous churches will fall, mark our words. We in Finland are surrounded by Lutherans, whose way of life is hypocritical and untrue. They have lost their connection to the Lord Almighty tempted by greed and their vain egos. They will be surprised when their days are done. 1933 is the year when these losers released a sacrilegious translation of the Holy Bible.

Will Mansion tour in 2019 to support the release? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

We have live sermons and festivals booked for 2019. Book us. Today!

Merry Christmas!

Mansion on Thee Facebooks

Mansion on Bandcamp

I Hate Records website

I Hate Records on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , ,