Quarterly Review: Spotlights, War Cloud, Rubble Road, Monte Luna, High Reeper, Frozen Planet….1969, Zaius, Process of Guilt, Sundus Abdulghani & Trunk, Owlcrusher

Posted in Reviews on September 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

Day two of the Quarterly Review and feeling groovy so far. Managed to survive yesterday thanks in no small part to good music and good coffee, and looking at what’s coming up in today’s batch, I don’t expect the situation will be much different — though the styles will. I try to keep in mind as I put these weeks together to change up what’s in each round, so it’s not just all psych records, or all doom, or heavy rock or whatever else. This way I’m not burning myself out on anything particular and I hopefully don’t wind up saying the same things about albums that maybe only share vague genre aspects in common — riffs, etc. — in the same way. Essentially trying to trick my brain into being creative. Sometimes it even works. Let’s see how it fares today.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Spotlights, Seismic

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After touring hard with the likes of Melvins, Deftones and Refused, heavy post-rockers Spotlights mark their first release on Ipecac Recordings with their second album, Seismic, which finds the core duo of Mario and Sarah Quintero working with producer Aaron Harris (Isis) to follow-up 2016’s Tidals with 65 minutes/11 tracks of weighted atmospherics and far-spanning melodic textures as shown on emotive heft-bringers like “Ghost of a Glowing Forest.” Heavygaze, I suppose, is the genre tag that’s emerged, but with the opening title-track, the chugging “Learn to Breathe” and the later percussive turns of “A Southern Death,” there’s as much focus on crush as on ambience, though as Seismic makes its way through the pair of eight-minute tracks “Hollow Bones” (wonder if they know the 30 Rock reference they’re making) and “Hang us All” before the minimal subdued drones and melodic effects swirls of closer “The Hope of a Storm,” Spotlights succeed in finding a middle ground that offers plenty of both. In its moments of intensity and its range, Seismic builds cohesion from ether and immediately benefits from the purposeful growth the Quinteros have clearly undertaken over the past year by hitting the road with the dedication they have.

Spotlights on Thee Facebooks

Ipecac Recordings website

 

War Cloud, War Cloud

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Bay Area rockers War Cloud don’t get too fancy on their self-titled debut, which they make via Ripple Music as the follow-up to their 2016 single Vulture City (discussed here), but as they prove quickly in the dual-guitar Thin Lizzyisms of opener “Give’r” and the later post-Motörhead/Peter Pan Speedrock careening of “Speed Demon,” neither do they necessarily need to. Comprised of guitarists Alex Wein (also vocals) and Tony Campos, bassist Sean Nishi and drummer Joaquin Ridgell, War Cloud offer 31 minutes of brisk, unpretentious asskickery, riffs trading channels at the outset of “Hurricane” as it makes ready to settle into its proto-thrashing rocker groove, and the mood of the release as a whole engaging as much through its reimagining 20-year-old Metallica as a heavy rock band there as on the more grandly riff-led “Divide and Conquer.” Structures are straightforward, and not one of the eight tracks tops five minutes, but they’re more than enough for War Cloud find their place between metal form and heavy rock tone, and cuts like “Chopper Wired” and brazenly charged closer “Vulture City” nail the core message of the band’s arrival.

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Rubble Road, The Clowns Have Spoken

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Rubble Road ain’t hurtin’ nobody. The Orlando-based double-guitar four-piece take two prior singles and put them together with four new tracks as their 29-minute/six-song debut EP, The Clowns Have Spoken, and thereby bring forth straightforward heavy rock that seems to be finding its personality in tone but nonetheless has a strong structural foundation underlying that holds up the material and “The Judge” tosses in a bit of metallic gallop to go with the forward-directed heavy rock proffered on the prior “Galactic Fugitives” and “Gospel (Get it Together).” I won’t say much for the politics of “Truck Stop Hooker,” which caps with the line, “Your mother gives great helmet, baby,” but “Wizard Staff” and “Do it Yourself” broaden the dynamic of the release overall. They’ve got some growing to do, but again, there’s an efficiency in their songwriting that comes through these songs, and as an initial showcase/demo, The Clowns Have Spoken shows Rubble Road with the potential to continue to grow.

Rubble Road on Thee Facebooks

Rubble Road on Bandcamp

 

Monte Luna, Monte Luna

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You might check out the self-titled debut from Austin, Texas, duo Monte Luna. You might even pick up the digipak or tape version. You might listen to extended tracks like “Nameless City” (12:53) and “6,000 Year March” (17:42) and be like, “Yeah, cool riffs dudes.” You might even then chase down the The Hound EP that guitarist/vocalist/bassist James Clarke and drummer/synthesist Phil Hook put out last year. At some point though, you’re going to put Monte Luna’s Monte Luna on your shelf and leave it there. Fair enough. However – and I’m not going to say when; could be sooner, could be later — then you’re going to find yourself remembering its massive, 71-minute sprawl of riffs, its doomed-out grooves, shouts, screams, growls and the way its builds become so utterly immersive, and you’re going to put Monte Luna on again. And that’s the moment when it will really hit you. It might take some time, and part of that is no doubt that there’s simply a lot of record to wade through, but whether it’s the rumbling start of “Nightmare Frontier” (14:26), the cacophonous stomp of “Inverted Mountain” (12:04) or the righteous crash of “The End of Beginning” (9:42), Monte Luna will have earned that deeper look, and if you allow them to make that deeper impression with their self-titled, they almost certainly will.

Monte Luna on Thee Facebooks

Monte Luna on Bandcamp

 

High Reeper, High Reeper

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Newcomer five-piece High Reeper telegraph Sabbathian heavy rocker intent with their self-released, self-titled debut album. The Delaware-based lineup of Zach Thomas, Napz Mosley, Andrew Price, Pat Daly and Shane Trimble make no bones about their roots in opener “Die Slow,” and as the stoner-swinging “High Reeper,” the doom-swaggering “Reeper Deadly Reeper” and the yo-check-out-this-bassline nodder “Weed and Speed” play out in the record’s midsection, it seems increasingly likely that, sooner or later, some imprint or other will pick up High Reeper for a wider release. As the band demonstrates through the stomping “Soul Taker” and the seeming mission statement “Black Leather (Chose Us)” ahead of closer “Friend of Death,” which breaks its six minutes in half between Judas Priest thrust and an instrumental finish that calls to mind “Heaven and Hell,” they’ve got a keen ear for updating classic elements, and though formative, their first outing is cleverly memorable and an immediately resonant display of songcraft. Now we know High Reeper can engage these stylistic components — the test will be how they develop them into something individualized going forward.

High Reeper on Thee Facebooks

High Reeper on YouTube

 

Frozen Planet….1969, From the Centre of a Parallel Universe

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From the Centre of a Parallel Universe is the second long-player of 2017 from Sydney/Canberra’s Frozen Planet….1969. It arrives on CD through Pepper Shaker and LP via Headspin with five tracks/43 minutes of improv-style psych jams following suit from the prior Electric Smokehouse (review here) and helps to bring the band’s funk-infused, spacious dynamic all the more into focus. Also out of focus. Like, blurry vision-style. They range far and wide and keep the proceedings delightfully weird in the three extended pieces “Celestial Gambler,” “Through Hell’s Kaleidoscope, Parts I & II” and “Ancient Wings Taking Flight” – all north of 11 minutes – and with “Signals (Channelling…)” and “The Lady and the Archer” leading the way into each LP side, Frozen Planet….1969 take the time to assure they’re bringing their listeners along with them on their potent journey into the cosmically far out. The must-hear bass tone in “Ancient Wings Taking Flight” is but one of many reasons to dig in, but whatever it takes, From the Centre of a Parallel Universe’s invitation to get lost is not one to be missed.

Frozen Planet….1969 on Thee Facebooks

Pepper Shaker Records on Bandcamp

 

Zaius, Of Adoration

zaius of adoration

Chicago’s history with instrumentalist post-metal goes back as far as the notion of the subgenre itself with acts like Pelican and Russian Circles providing aesthetic-defining landmarks over the last 15-plus years even as a group like Bongripper embraces darker, more lumbering fare. The four-piece Zaius, who make their full-length debut with Of Adoration on Prosthetic Records after two self-released EPs in 2013 and 2011, position themselves more toward the shimmering airiness of the former rather than the latter’s raw lumber, but there’s heft to be found in the expanses of “Sheepdog” and “Seirenes” all the same, and the second half of “Echelon” and closer “Colin” tighten up some of the ethereality of pieces like opener “Phaneron” and the driftingly progressive “Reformer” or the penultimate, patient rollout of “Anicca” to hone a sense of balance that feels as emotionally driven as it is cerebral in its construction. Hard for a band like Zaius to stand themselves out at this point given the swath of acts working in a similar style in and out of the Windy City, but in its textural approach and held-steady flow, Of Adoration satisfies.

Zaius on Thee Facebooks

Prosthetic Records webstore

 

Process of Guilt, Black Earth

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Portuguese post-doomers Process of Guilt hit the 15-year mark with the release of their fourth album, Black Earth (on Division/Bleak Recordings), and with a mix by Brooklyn noise-rock specialist Andrew Schneider, a mastering job by Collin Jordan in Chicago and striking cover art by growler/guitarist Hugo Santos with images by Pedro Almeida, the sense of atmosphere is thick and the mood is aggressive throughout. Santos, along with guitarist Nuno David, bassist Custódio Rato and drummer Gonçalo Correia chug and flow through a linear 42 minutes and five tracks on the suitably darkened offering, touching on progressive nuance but not letting cerebral underpinnings take away from the onslaught feel of “Feral Ground” or the tension mounted early in the 11-minute penultimate title-track, which uses feedback as a weapon throughout no less capably than the subsequent closer “Hoax” affects immediately with its nodding tonal wash. Taken as a whole, Black Earth finds Process of Guilt exploring depths of their sound as much as with it, and the directions they go feel as much inward as out.

Process of Guilt on Thee Facebooks

Division Records website

Bleak Recordings website

 

Sundus Abdulghani & Trunk, Sundus Abdulghani & Trunk

Sundus-Abdulghani-Trunk-self-titled

The challenge for an outfit like Stockholm’s Sundus Abdulghani & Trunk, whose self-titled debut arrives via respected purveyor Kozmik Artifactz, lies separating themselves from the shadow of fellow Swedes Blues Pills, whose semi-psych heavy-blues-rocking first album has cast a wide influence that can be heard here as well as in any number of other bands currently kicking around the Euro underground proffering as balance of soul and heavy rock as songs like “It Ain’t Love (But Close Enough)” and “Like Water” do here. Where Sundus Abdulghani & Trunk most succeed in doing this is in the harmonies of “Black Magic Man,” which brings to mind classic acid folk while holding to a heavy blues vibe, but there are other moments throughout when individuality flourishes as well. The attitude is laid on a bit thick in “Them Dames,” but the hooks of “Sister Sorrow,” “She Knows,” “The Devil’s Got a Hold on You” and “Stay” and the burgeoning sense of arrangements complementing Abdulghani’s vocals do well in helping cast an identity one hopes will continue to develop.

Sundus Abdulghani & Trunk on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Owlcrusher, Owlcrusher

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Conceived by guitarist/vocalist Andrew Spiers, bassist/vocalist Steve Hobson and drummer Damien McKeown, Banbridge trio Owlcrusher conjure three extended, slicing slabs of black-singed sludge extremity on their self-titled Seeing Red Records debut, and it’s enough to make one wonder just what the fuck is going on in Northern Ireland to inspire such outright bleakness. Beginning with the 16-minute “Feeble Preacher” (also the longest inclusion here; immediate points), Owlcrusher’s Owlcrusher lumbers excruciatingly forth with screams and growls cutting through a tonality geared for max-volume consumption, though it remains to be seen who is consuming whom as “Feeble Preacher” gives way to the likewise scorched eponymous “Owlcrusher” (11:30) and 15-minute closer “Spoiler,” the last of which brings the only real moment of letup on the album after about nine minutes in, and even that takes the form of an interlude of Khanate-style minimalist ambience before the rolling megacrush resumes and plods to a somehow-even-heavier finish. Clearly a band pushing themselves toward the superlative, Owlcrusher get there much faster than their crawling tones would have you believe. Madness.

Owlcrusher on Thee Facebooks

Seeing Red Records on Bandcamp

 

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Live Review: Shroud Eater, Eternal Black and Begotten in Brooklyn, 09.05.17

Posted in Reviews on September 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

shroud eater photo jj koczan

You ever have one of those bands you just can’t seem to see? I’ll try not to bore you with the barrage of internal links, but I’ve been writing about Miami’s Shroud Eater for eight years since their demo (review here) arrived on my doorstep in 2009, and yet, at every opportunity when I’d otherwise see them, something has come up, the show has been canceled, I’ve moved out of the state, whatever it might be — point is it’s always been something. Well not this time, god damn it. This time I was going to finally see Shroud Eater.

The good news is it worked out. The Floridian three-piece hit Brooklyn’s venerated Saint Vitus Bar with support from reformed riffers Begotten and the doomly Eternal Black for a Tuesday night lineup that had no dip front to back. The bad news? Pretty much the only reason I was able to be there was because I was on my way to New Jersey for my grandmother’s funeral later in the week. Further bad news? Shroud Eater canceled the rest of their tour and were turning back south after this show in order to prepare for Hurricane Irma, which had already been called the strongest storm ever seen in the Atlantic Ocean, begotten-Photo-JJ-Koczanto make landfall in their peninsular homeland.

Even with these things hanging overhead, though, the most was made of the night and I can’t speak for anyone else, but from where I stood the show was killer. Begotten were onstage when I walked in, guitarist/vocalist Matthew Anselmo immediately placing himself in the running for the title of “most New York dude ever” as he led the band through a soundcheck and asked afterward if that wasn’t the start of the set. Bassist/vocalist Amanda Topaz and drummer Rob Sefcik (the latter also of Kings Destroy) confirmed that, indeed, the show wasn’t yet starting, the sound guy told everyone to hit the bar for a couple minutes, and all seemed more than happy to oblige.

When they did get started with the show proper, Begotten‘s post-Sleep lumbering came through with due thickness, Topaz‘s Sunn amp sitting precariously atop her bass cabinet while Anselmo‘s Marshall JCM 2000 stood like a totem at the head of a full stack. This was only the second show Begotten have played since reuniting, begotten-2-Photo-JJ-Koczanand they did four songs in the set, among them “Apache,” which was among the lost tracks that premiered here last October to mark their getting back together, and “Judges,” which was the opener of their 2002 self-titled debut, released by Man’s Ruin Records. They actually had that disc for sale, as well as an original Frank Kozik poster for the release in metallic ink that was nothing short of stunning to behold, but the highlight was that they also played a new song, giving a clear signal that they’ll move ahead toward the creation hopefully of a second long-player.

After 15 years since the debut, I don’t think anyone will be in a rush to put a timeline on that, but it was welcome news all the same. When they were done, Eternal Black took the stage quickly, sharing drum gear — guitarist/vocalist Ken Wohlrob noted the Kings Destroy kickdrum head on the kit through which drummer/best-guy-ever Joe Wood was playing, eliciting a chuckle from all, including bassist Hal Miller — and set about rolling forth their likewise dense-toned doomer grooves. Their self-released debut, Bleed the Days (review here), came out Aug. 8 and was still pretty fresh in mind, and their straightforward and roughed-upeternal-black-photo-jj-koczan take on classic, traditionalist riff-led doom was no less welcome from the stage than from that disc. If anything, more so for the voluminous onslaught through which the persistent roll seemed to emanate.

I dug that record — I dig that record. A lot. And granted, I’m biased as regards the band because of my overarching love of Joe Wood (who really is the best guy ever; it’s like his thing) and because I find the gritty edge they bring to Maryland-esque doomery speaks to a particularly Northeastern, particularly New York intensity that always seems to remind me of home. Music like Eternal Black‘s has to come from someplace crowded. Population density is a factor, and I don’t think you could produce a song like the downtrodden “Sea of Graves” without it. One way or another, Bleed the Days is easily among the best doom offerings I’ve heard in 2017, first album or not, and the three-piece made it clear at the Vitus Bar as they had when I saw them at Maryland Doom Fest last year (review here) that the process of their coming together as a band is still veryeternal-black-photo-jj-koczan much at its beginning stages. That is to say, they killed and they sound like they’re only going to keep getting better.

And then my brain finally got to process Shroud Eater live. I’ve had bands-I-should’ve-already-seen out the wazoo over the years, but few have had the kind of consistent stretch of Shroud Eater. Yet, as I stood in front of the Saint Vitus Bar stage and tried my best to snap photos of them in the drawn-down lighting, I couldn’t help but feel like it was somehow serendipitous to catch the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jean Saiz, bassist/vocalist Janette Valentine and drummer Davin Sosa in support of 2017’s Strike the Sun (review here). Released through STB Records — whose honcho, Steve, was also on-hand for the show and someone else I was long overdue to meet in-person — the second Shroud Eater full-length is hands down the band’s best work yet, and though it was shroud-eater-photo-jj-koczanobvious in talking to them that concerns of family back in Florida and the impending potential for storm destruction were weighing heavily on them, let alone the general bummer of having to cancel shows in the first place, they were nonetheless devastating onstage.

A performance that galloped and slammed and crashed and careened and lumbered and did all that stuff that means it basically kicked the living shit out of the room, Shroud Eater‘s set came through with density to match either of the acts that preceded them and a sense of motion that was all their own. Songs like “Awaken Assassin” from the new record and the furious 2015 single “Face the Master” (video premiere here) brought forth groove and pummel in kind, and with samples between various tracks, traded vocal parts from SaizValentine and Sosa, and an overarching intensity that came through even the most atmospheric of stretches, Shroud Eater made me so fucking happy I was finally getting to see them that I’m not sure I can shroud-eater-photo-jj-koczanhonestly say I’d trade having done so at any point in the last eight years for the experience of watching them play this set. That’s as sincere as I can be about it.

So — clearly not a night for critical impartiality. From feeling lucky to see Begotten on their second show back to having Eternal Black in the middle as the icing on an evening the cake of which just happened to be a long, long, long-awaited Shroud Eater set bludgeoning my consciousness, what the proceedings might’ve lacked in my emotional distance from them, they more than made up for in my raw enjoyment — which, if it’s going to be one or the other, I’ll take. When Shroud Eater were done, I’m fucking proud to say I was the first person to shout for one more song and even prouder to say they played it, and as I stood among friends in the crowd like Kings Destroy vocalist Steve Murphy and guitarist Carl PorcaroClamfight drummer/shroud-eater-photo-jj-koczanvocalist Andy MartinDave from Made in Brooklyn SilkscreenersSteve from STB Records and others, I was reminded of how special some nights can become when the planets finally align just so in order to make them happen.

The rest of the week? We’ll see how it goes for things like familial grief and category five storms — I wished Shroud Eater safe home and safe afterwards; spent the last eight dollars I had to my name on a copy of their Three Curses and Strike the Sun tapes (wanted the CD but didn’t have the requisite $10 and wasn’t about to be like, “Hey you need to buy bottled water for survival this week, can I get a free disc?”) — but this one was restorative on just about every level possible and a show I hope not to forget anytime soon.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Shroud Eater Announce East Coast Tour Dates; Strike the Sun out Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

shroud eater

Beginning on Sept. 2, Miami trio Shroud Eater will head out on an East Coast tour supporting their new album, Strike the Sun (review here). Booked by Midnite Collective, it’s a week-long stint to herald the arrival of the STB Records release back in July, and if you’ve yet to check out the record, you can hear in the stream at the bottom of this post that it’s a cause well worth supporting. Some six years-plus after the atmospheric sludge three-piece offered up their debut, ThunderNoise (review here), Strike the Sun benefits from all of the experimentation they’ve taken on since in a bevvy of shorter releases, singles, EPs, splits and so on.

It shames me to say that I’ve been writing about this band since their 2009 demo and I’ve still never seen them live. They’re not coming north of the Wall this time around (the Wall, if you’re wondering, is just on the other side of Providence, Rhode Island on I-95 North; everything above that is officially wildling territory), but given how right on Strike the Sun is, I feel pretty comfortable recommending you check them out anyway should you be able to do so.

Dates follow as culled from the social medias:

shroud eater tour

Shroud Eater Pilgrimage Nor’East

First stop of our northeastern pilgrimage is at The Jinx 912 in Savannah for Statts Pre-Game and Punk Rock Garage Sale, where we’ll be joining ROYAL THUNDER, Black Tusk, The Gumps, Reconsiler and more!

Thanks to the Wizards at @midniteclv for their incredible effort booking this tour for us… we are hitting the eastern coast in support of STRIKE THE SUN – hope to see y’all out there.

Saturday September 2
The Jinx, Savannah, GA

Sunday September 3
Test Pattern, Winston-Salem, NC

Monday September 4
Ottobar, Baltimore, MD

Tuesday September 5
St Vitus, Brooklyn, NY

Wednesday September 6
KungFu Necktie, Philadelphia, PA

Thursday September 7
McCormacks Irish Pub, Richmond, VA

Friday September 8
Harbor Tavern, Jacksonville, FL

Saturday September 9
The Brass Mug, Tampa, FL

Shroud Eater is:
Jean Saiz – guitar/vocals
Janette Valentine – bass/vocals
Davin Sosa – drums/vocals

https://www.facebook.com/shroudeater/
http://www.shroudeater.bandcamp.com/
http://stbrecords.bigcartel.com
http://www.facebook.com/STB-Records-471228012921184
https://stbrecords.bandcamp.com

Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun (2017)

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Review & Track Premiere: Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

shroud-eater-strike-the-sun

[Click play above to stream ‘Awaken Assassin’ from Shroud Eater’s Strike the Sun. Album is out July 7 via STB Records.]

Check your calendar. It’s been a whopping six years — actually more like six and a half — since Miami sludge machine Shroud Eater released their debut full-length, ThunderNoise (review here). They’ve hardly been idle in the half-decade-plus since then; the three-piece have churned out a slew of shorter releases, from the 2013 Dead Ends EP (review here) that began to give some context to the band’s stylistic expansion from the raw foundation of their initial demo (review here) in 2009 that took place on ThunderNoise and would continue through 2015’s Face the Master single (video premiere here), 2016’s split EP with post-metallers Dead Hands (review here) or earlier 2017’s :th:ree: :cvrses: digital single, which found the trio of guitarist/vocalist Jean Saiz, bassist/vocalist Janette Valentine and drummer/vocalist/engineer Davin Sosa at their most experimental to-date, adding synth to a deeply atmospheric, cinematic but still noise-laden and extremely dark approach.

The stylistic reach Shroud Eater claimed as theirs across these offerings — some just one song long — and from their time spent touring and playing events like Psycho Las Vegas has made it increasingly difficult to predict where their awaited second full-length and STB Records debut, Strike the Sun, might lead them, and across 42 minutes/eight tracks, the band accordingly showcase six busy years’ worth of sonic lesson-learning. They still occasionally veer into the post-High on Fire gallop that typified their early work on a song like the penultimate “Unseen Hand” or parts of finale “Futile Exile,” but on the whole, they offer something much broader, more varied in tempo and mood, and more satisfying than anything they’ve done before.

As each of their outings to this point has brought something new to their approach, Strike the Sun does so as well, and in addition, offers an engaging summary of their evolution over the last eight years. Also worth noting, it is spell-out-the-letters h-e-a-v-y. One might find a tonal comparison point in Conan‘s more recent output for the kind of rumble Shroud Eater bring to “Iron Mountain” early on Strike the Sun or side B’s rolling “It Walks Among,” but even this is only a fraction of the whole when it comes to the complete, dark-hued narrative they’re conveying. The album breaks neatly in half for a two-sided feel, and each begins with an atmospheric intro — the washing drone of “Smokeless Fire” leads off, while “Dream Flesh” starts side B; both are infused with vague, melodic vocals — before digging into three tracks of pummel, drive, roll and nod. Whether it’s the landmark hook that “Awaken Assassin” provides in following “Iron Mountain” or the turn from wah-bass-infused stomp into ambient melodicism on “It Walks Among” — which of course is a setup for that track’s lumbering finale — Shroud Eater‘s dynamic has never sounded more alive.

Creative variety and arrangements of vocals between SaizValentine and Sosa give “Futile Exile” a growing aggression and “Iron Mountain” or the earlier stretch of “It Walks Among” a spacious, shouting echo, but the harmonies in “Awaken Assassin” are not at all out of place in either theory or execution. And neither are they less effective in conveying a mood than some of Strike the Sun‘s more destructive moments in the midsection of “Iron Mountain,” the apex of “Futile Exile” or the whole of “Unseen Hand” are in eliciting a physical listener response, be it fist pumping, headbanging, or some other signal of the righteousness on display. The bottom line is that Shroud Eater bring forth a multi-tiered triumph across the span of Strike the Sun, marked by an impeccable sense of craft, strength through diversity of approach and a cohesive vision of what they want to accomplish as a group. Any concerns of a six-year-later sophomore slump should be duly allayed.

shroud eater

That is, I’ll allow, a fan’s perspective on what Shroud Eater have done here, and there will invariably be those for whom Strike the Sun is their first exposure to the band. On that level, flourish like the subdued tension in “Smokeless Fire” and “Dream Flesh,” or the samples that top the noisy instrumental side A closer “Another Skin” seems all the more to bolster the impression of the record as a singular entirety. As SaizValentine and Sosa careen and crash through “Iron Mountain” and “Awaken Assassin,” the subsequent pairing of “Another Skin” and “Dream Flesh” — when listening in a linear format; digital or CD — emphasizes a between-songs flow with which full-lengths so outwardly heavy rarely concern themselves.

Likewise, as “It Walks Among” revives the full tectonic doom of their assault, it remains informed by the ambient stretch before it, and the material as a whole plays off itself in this way, giving Strike the Sun all the more a sense of consciousness behind its motivations that winds up summarized in “Futile Exile,” which in addition to being the finale is also the longest track at 7:20. Starting with a swell of volume and thundering crashes, it turns to nod and thrust early before finding a tension of toms as it heads to a more angular midsection, eventually dropping out to quiet in the second half and introducing melodic singing over thudding drums in setting up the crescendo that starts around 6:30 and will finish the record with a cold stop. A little bit of everything and a last warning from the band in that sudden end that they haven’t necessarily had their final word. So be it.

Up to this point, everything Shroud Eater has done has felt loaded with potential. All along, they’ve been a group headed somewhere on the level of individual aesthetic. More than anything before it, Strike the Sun comes across as the destination to which their progression has been leading. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re done growing as artists — I don’t think they are, and nothing in these tracks indicates a readiness to stagnate — but there’s pivotal work being done here to establish what Shroud Eater‘s sound is, both to the band itself and to their audience, and in conveying that, Strike the Sun succeeds in a way that more than justifies the years in its arrival. Feeling greedy, one hopes it’s not so long before a third long-player surfaces, but if it is, at least we know their commitment to developing as artists is unflinching.

Shroud Eater on Thee Facebooks

Shroud Eater on Bandcamp

Shroud Eater’s website

STB Records webstore

STB Records on Thee Facebooks

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: High Brian, Arduini/Balich, Audion, Grey Gallows, Smoke Mountain

Posted in Radio on June 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio cavum

If you’re a regular denizen of The Obelisk Radio, you’ve probably already guessed by the massively expanded playlist that we’re back on the main server at this point. It’s been months on the backup, and while anyone is still reading, let me just say out loud how much I owe to the hard work Slevin has put into the back end of making this thing happen. From a huge file-recovery operation to yesterday turning the thing back on after I moved a bunch of files and screwed it up yet again, the dude is just unbelievable. Seriously. This site is coming up on nine years old, and Slevin has made it happen every step of the way from a technical standpoint. I am in awe of his prowess and generosity of spirit.

So now that we’re back up and running at full capacity, the only thing to do is to keep building it going forward. And here we are.

The Obelisk Radio adds for June 13, 2017:

High Brian, Hi Brain

high-brian-hi-brain

Though they start out with the post-Queens of the Stone Age shuffle of “Liquid Sweet,” the crux of Austrian rockers High Brian‘s playfully titled debut long-player, Hi Brain, lies in classic psychedelia, unafraid to directly make a Beatles reference or two in “Aquanautic Smoke” or name a track after Jefferson Airplane‘s Surrealistic Pillow. That song, “Surrealistic Pillow,” turns out to be one of Hi Brain‘s catchiest, but hooks about throughout the nodding “All but Certainty” and the later, Stubb-style raucousness of the pair “The Conversion” and “Blood Money” as well, while centerpiece “All the Other Faces” and the aforementioned “Aquanautic Smoke” engage effects-laden drift and poised fluidity, resulting in an overarching sense of within-genre aesthetic variety that moves easily throughout the vinyl-ready 44-minute offering. They close with the molten roll of “Time,” their longest cut at 5:52 and a bolder melodic take, as if to signal a potential direction of their growth on their way out. There are plenty of encouraging signs before they get there, certainly, but hey, one more never hurt. An impressive introduction to a project that one hopes continues to develop and expand its approach.

High Brian website

Stone Free Records website

Mountain Range Creative Factory

 

Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages

ARDUINI BALICH DAWN OF AGES

Words like “powerhouse” are invented for releases like Arduini/Balich‘s Dawn of Ages. The Cruz del Sur release brings together Fates Warning guitarist Victor Arduini (who also produced) and Argus vocalist Brian “Butch” Balich, and while I’ll confess that on first listen I went right to their cover of Sabbath‘s “After All (The Dead)” — fucking righteous; and there aren’t a lot of people I’d trust to take on that song or anything from the Dio era — extended pieces like “Beyond the Barricade” (17:27) and “The Wraith” (13:44) offer listeners a deep push into a heavy metal that’s progressive, powerful and doomed all at the same time, executed with a clarity and a purpose that shimmers with class and just the right balance of patience and aggression. Rest easy, traveler, for you are in the hands of masters. Rounded out by drummer Chris Judge, Arduini/Balich is what happens when heavy metal goes right, and from the doomly unfolding of opener “The Fallen” through the 2LP’s three concluding covers of Beau Brummels‘ “Wolf of Velvet Fortune,” Uriah Heep‘s “Sunrise” and the already noted Dehumanizer highlight, there isn’t one moment where they relinquish their hold on either their craft or their audience’s attention. It’s the kind of outing that might cause a last-minute revision to best-of-the-year-so-far list, to say the least of it. Not to be greedy, but I’ll take a follow-up as soon as possible. Thanks.

Arduini/Balich on Thee Facebooks

Cruz del Sur Music website

 

Audión, La Historia de Abraham

audion-la-historia-de-abraham

If the driving Motörhead-onic thrust of the title-track to Audión‘s La Historia de Abraham rings familiar, it might be because the rhythm section of the Buenos Aires trio consists of bassist Gonzalo Villagra (also vocals) and drummer Walter Broide (also backing vocals), both formerly of Los Natas. Honestly, that pedigree would probably be enough for me to get on board with the 10-track/49-minute self-released full-length, but then you get into the roll and drift of the subsequent “Llegaron Sordos” and the fluid cascade of “Colmillo Blanco,” and guitarist Dizzy Espeche makes his presence felt tonally and vocally throughout to add a new personality to whatever familiar aspects might persist. “Lesbotrans” dives into a ’70s-style swing and the blown-out “Diablo vs. Dios” follows it with the age-old question of what might happen if The Who went garage punk, but there’s flourish of psychedelia on the interlude “Para Rosita” before “El Carancho” and “Queruzalem” round out with some of La Historia de Abraham‘s weightiest impacts. I think it’s fair to say Audión have some tinge of Los Natas‘ style to them, but their first outing shows them working toward building something new from that as well, and that makes their arrival all the more welcome.

Audion on Thee Facebooks

Audion on Bandcamp

 

Grey Gallows, Underlord

grey-gallows-underlord

Not that it isn’t plenty malevolent on its surface, but there’s an even more extreme threat lurking beneath “Underlord,” the nine-minute opener, titular and longest track (immediate points) on the debut full-length from Phoenix, Arizona’s Grey Gallows. It doesn’t take long for that sense of extremity to manifest in a blackened sensibility that pervades both in the riffs of a song like “Belladonna” — the middle cut of the five included — or the overarching spaciousness that finds its way into the grime-coated “West of Hell,” which follows. With a depth of guitar worthy of filling one’s lungs, “West of Hell” churns in a manner faster and somewhat sludgier than the alternately nodding and atmospheric “Priestess” showed the Opoponax Records outing to be earlier, six-stringers Joe Distic and Cat weaving noted lines and crunch riffs around each other for seven densely grooved minutes amid low-end push from bassist Lee, adaptable and creative drumming from Shane and Zue Byrd‘s vocals, which hit in form no less distorted in the back half of “Priestess” than they are punker drawled in closer “Buzzard Dust.” Nasty. Nasty, nasty, nasty. That’s basically what the math works out to on the 35-minute outing, but it’s worth noting that even on their first album, Grey Gallows demonstrate a ready willingness to balance various stylistic impulses off each other in such a way that’s only going to make their sound richer as they proceed. Richer, and even nastier. So be it.

Grey Gallows on Thee Facebooks

Opoponax Records webstore

 

Smoke Mountain, Smoke Mountain

smoke-mountain-smoke-mountain

The first EP from this Floridian three-piece does precisely what it’s supposed to do: introduces a newcomer band with three unpretentious tracks of dirt-fuzz riffing. The immediate vibe of opener “Demon” is early Acid King as the vocals follow the riff in classic stonery fashion, but the three songs get longer as they go and “Violent Night” proves immediately more spacious en route to the eponymous march of “Smoke Mountain.” What would probably be called a demo in a prior age, Smoke Mountain‘s Smoke Mountain makes its primary impression tonally but shows potential in its songwriting as well, and as a quick sampling of what the band are getting up to in their first stages, there’s little more one could reasonably ask of it, particularly as “Smoke Mountain” hammers home its chorus in a balance of clean vocal melody and absolutely filthy guitar, bass and drum crash. That duality, should they maintain it as they move forward into whatever might come next, can only serve them well. One to keep an eye on.

Smoke Mountain on Thee Facebooks

Smoke Mountain on Bandcamp

 

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Hollow Leg to Release Crown: Murder Edition for June Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

hollow-leg-Photo-Pamela-Bendezu

What’s that you say? You’re pretty sure I’ve already posted these Hollow Leg tour dates for their June run up the East Coast that includes a stop at Maryland Doom Fest at Cafe 611 in Frederick on June 24, where they’ll share the stage with BangWo FatEarthrideSerpents of SecrecyThe WatchersHeavy TempleKing BisonThe WellWitches of GodBlack Tap Prophet and Conclave? Oh, most definitely.

Why do so again? Because Hollow Leg are frickin’ awesome live and they it’s not like they spend seven months out of the year on the road, so if you get the chance to see them, you should do so. They’ll be bringing a new Argonauta Records reissue of their 2016 album, Crown (review here), with them that includes the 2017 Murder EP (review here) as bonus material — as well as tapes of the EP pressed by Southern Druid Records and some snazzy-looking new shirts for the merch table — and even if you’re not in their path this time around, you can preorder that release now from Argonauta ahead of its official arrival on June 30.

Info (and dates!) follow here, as culled from the wilds of social media:

hollow leg june tour

Hollow Leg – Crown: Murder Edition & June Tour

In addition to CD reissue of CROWN with Murder EP as bonus tracks, our friends at Southern Druid have been so good to release the Murder EP in cassette format…purple tinted tapes look super cool! And we will have these in addition to the “Murder edition” Crown CDs next month on our run up and down the coast and return stop at Maryland Doom fest.

3 weeks til we pack up for our first piece of touring in the last year, 4 weeks til we breach Winston-Salem for the first time, can’t wait to get back out, see all your beautiful faces, and consequently melt them.

HOLLOW LEG Northeast Migration tour:
06/17 Jacksonville FL Nighthawks
06/19 Atlanta GA 529
06/20 Raleigh NC Slim’s
06/21 Richmond VA 25 Watt
06/22 Boston MA O’Brien’s
06/23 New London CT 33 Golden Street
06/24 Frederick MD Maryland Doom Fest Cafe 611
06/25 Winston-Salem NC The Test Pattern
08/18 Las Vegas NV Psycho Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

https://www.facebook.com/events/257151751359592
https://www.facebook.com/hollowlegfl/
https://twitter.com/hollowlegfl
http://hollowleg666.bandcamp.com/
http://www.argonautarecords.com/shop/music-/209-hollow-leg-crown-murder-edition-cd.html
http://southerndruidrecords.storenvy.com/products/20174882-hollow-leg-murder-ep

Hollow Leg, “Raven” official video

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Holly Hunt to Release The Wait / Bowling Green May 18; East Coast Tour this Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

holly-hunt-Photo-Credit-Walter-Wlodarczyk

I can only think of one kind of person who wouldn’t be excited at the prospect of new material forthcoming from Miami two-piece Holly Hunt, and that kind of person is a straight-up jive turkey. For the rest of us, word of a new single pressed to a 12″ platter is nothing but good news, to be sure. The instrumentalist duo had a glut of releases a couple years back and it was easy to get spoiled, but it’s been a while as we move deeper into 2017, so the arrival of preorders for The Wait / Bowling Green — even at just about seven minutes between them — is fine by me. It’s not an album, but, you know, it’s not nothing either. And it’s been nothing for a while now, so don’t be a jive turkey about it.

Jive turkey.

The May 18 release of The Wait / Bowling Green coincides with the May 20 start of a run up the Eastern Seaboard that Holly Hunt will undertake alongside Crud as the latter make their way to and through Maryland Deathfest 2017 at the end of this month. Dates follow the release info below:

holly hunt the wait bowling green

Holly Hunt – S/T 12”

May 18, 2017, Holly Hunt return with a new two-song, self-titled 12” single released by Sonic Titan. Both songs were recorded, mixed and mastered by Rat Bastard at Dan Hosker Studio in Miami Beach. A side, “The Wait” (4:00) is a melodic, melancholic song, and the B side is a heavy rager called “Bowling Green” (3:09). The record will be available through the band’s Bandcamp page, select record stores, as well as on their upcoming tour with Crud May 20th – May 31st.

Drummer Beatriz Monteavaro and guitarist Gavin Perry capture the meditative power of repetition; the ecstatic joy of tempered variation; infinitely undulating riffage; psychedelic drone paired with rock n’ roll rhythm in full splendor. Though stripped down to the most bare essentials, Holly Hunt produces a sound and style far beyond rudimentary tags like “heavy,” “hard,” or “brutal.”

Preorder now at hollyhunt.bandcamp.com
Photo credit: Walter Wlodarczyk.
Front cover illustration by Beatriz Monteavaro.

CRUD and Holly Hunt will be greasing through the East Coast in May. Catch the filth in your city.

5/20 Savannah, GA at The Jinx w/ Gaul
5/21 Raleigh, NC at Slims w/ Gaul*
5/22 Richmond, VA at McCormacks Irish Pub
5/23 Brooklyn, NY at Lucky 13
5/24 Philadelphia, PA at Century Bar
5/25 Baltimore, MD at Maryland Deathfest*
5/26 Columbus, OH at The Summit
5/27 Lexington, KY at The Green Lantern Bar
5/28 Murfreesboro, TN at Autograph Studios
5/29 Asheville, NC at Static Age Records
5/30 Atlanta, GA at The Earl w/ Junior Bruce
5/31 Gainesville, FL The Atlantic w/ Junior Bruce
*CRUD only

https://www.facebook.com/HOLLYHUNT.LTD/
https://www.facebook.com/events/1245418958872759/
https://twitter.com/HollyHunt666
hollyhunt.bandcamp.com

Holly Hunt, “Bill Ward”

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Hollow Leg Post “Raven” Video; East Coast Tour in June

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

hollow leg

Floridian sludge metallers Hollow Leg will make a return to the Maryland Doom Fest in June at Cafe 611 in Frederick, Maryland. If you weren’t there to see it, they pretty much slaughtered the place last year (review here), playing in support of their recently-issued third long-player and debut for Argonauta RecordsCrown (review here). This year, they’ll be heralding the two-songer Murder EP (review here), on which they continue to make the difficult sound easy with their blend of catchy hooks and abrasive sludge overtones. They also have a new video for “Raven” that I think makes that point pretty well.

They’re not the first to write a hook and make it hit hard, but what Hollow Leg do so fluidly is sound completely unhinged while still relying on what are basically straightforward verse/chorus traditions. That’s not at all a small accomplishment, but if you listen to “Raven,” you’ll hear that along with the rasp of vocalist Scott Angelacos, the dense tonality of guitarist/vocalist Brent Lynch and bassist Tom Crowther, and the fluid roll from newly-acquired drummer John Stewart, there’s a firm structural foundation underlying what they’re doing, so that by the time you’re listening to the song twice through, it’s already familiar, already stuck in your head in a way that a lot of sludge simply becomes a wash of screamy disaffection and nod. In a word: they’re songwriters.

And as the video shows, they’re not short on charm either. What they call an “in-studio footage video” for “Raven” has a bit of that, but it also features plenty of shots of them doing other stuff, including what looks like shopping for lawn ornaments at some outdoor market and/or swap meet? Legitimately something I’ve never seen in a rock video before, in any case. At one point they find some pretty rad looking carved-wood furniture (that shit is expensive) and have a seat, but yeah, on the whole it’s one more way in which Hollow Leg manage to surprise while still conveying a sense of madness with their approach on the whole.

You can find the “Raven” video below, followed by the East Coast tour dates surrounding Maryland Doom Fest for June. Also of note, of course, is the slot in August they’ve got booked at Psycho Las Vegas. To my knowledge, that’s probably the biggest show they’ve ever played, and good on them for landing it.

Enjoy:

Hollow Leg, “Raven” official video

HOLLOW LEG Northeast Migration tour:
06/17 Jacksonville FL Nighthawks
06/19 Atlanta GA 529
06/20 Raleigh NC Slim’s
06/21 Richmond VA 25 Watt
06/22 Boston MA O’Brien’s
06/23 New London CT 33 Golden Street
06/24 Frederick MD Maryland Doom Fest Cafe 611
06/25 Winston-Salem NC The Test Pattern
08/18 Las Vegas NV Psycho Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

Hollow Leg on Thee Facebooks

Hollow Leg on Bandcamp

Argonauta Records website

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