Sunder, Sunder: Lucid Dreams (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 29th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

sunder sunder

[Note: Press play above to hear Sunder’s Sunder in full. It’s out tomorrow, Oct. 30, on Tee Pee and Crusher Records. Preorders are available from Tee Pee, at iTunes or on Amazon.]

Don’t call it a reboot. More like a do-over, maybe. The story goes like this: Early in 2014, a band from Lyon, France, called The Socks released their self-titled debut (review here) on Small Stone Records. Good album. Very much in the post-Kadavar/Graveyard retro-boogie vein, but ably executed, particularly for a young band on their first LP. About a year and a half later, that same band — identical lineup: guitarist/vocalist Julien Méret, drummer Jessy Ensenat, bassist Vincent Melay and organist/backing vocalist Nicolas Baud — reemerge as Sunder, and take a second shot at a self-titled debut, this time through Tee Pee and Crusher Records.

Near as I can tell, the major jump is in Baud swapping out a guitar for keys, but one of the most striking aspects of Sunder‘s first album is that it really is far enough away from what these guys were doing as The Socks to justify being a different band. Songs like the fortified opening salvo of “Deadly Flower,” “Daughter of the Snows” and “Cursed Wolf” — which were also included on Sunder‘s demo (review here) earlier this year — give the listener an immediately fuller sense of breadth, incorporating elements culled from earlier psychedelic and garage rock, less directly indebted to one band or another than to an aesthetic itself that, while undeniably drawn from these decades-old tenets, sounds refreshing for the nuance and melody with which Sunder carry it. If this is a do-over, they’re doing it right.

As with their prior incarnation, Sunder‘s debut arrives with remarkably little pretense. Its nine tracks comprise a thoroughly manageable 33:43, and from the beginning organ line and fuzz of “Deadly Flower” (video premiere here), the foursome maintain an efficient balance of resonant hooks, open vibe and pervasive groove. Nothing’s overcooked, but the material feels thought through and vocal arrangements tap Beatles-style harmonies without falling into a post-Uncle Acid trap, and while “Daughter of the Snows” has some of that Graveyardian swing, Sunder bring more than enough of their own personality to make the shuffle fit with the surrounding material, “Cursed Wolf” playing back and forth on the throttle early before shifting into a sun-caked midsection fuzz jam that seems like it’s going to be a departure point for a build but winds up trailing back to the verse and chorus to close — just a little break from reality, then. A welcome one at that.


“Wings of the Sun” is complementary in its trippy spirit and vocal harmonies, natural sounding but still leaving space for Ensenat‘s drums to thud out an easily-followed beat or for Baud‘s organ to bolster the overarching lysergic nostalgia, which presents a mood much more 1966 than 1971, leaning well over the cusp of the psychedelic era as though — not to harp on it — trying to capture a moment between Rubber Soul and Revolver, plus the organ and minus the cynicism that would later inform what became heavy rock. Sunder‘s Sunder has several legitimately gorgeous stretches, and “Wings of the Sun” is one of them.

Centerpiece “Bleeding Trees” follows and is perhaps even more of an accomplishment, since not only does it bask in the same warmth as the song before it, but it pushes that warmth to a weightier purpose. A darker turn in the verse, shoutier in its bridge, more direct in its choral fullness, “Bleeding Trees” brings out Mellotron backing for a high-point guitar solo and is still done in under four minutes, setting a quick return to the sun with “Eye Catcher,” an A-side in the making that freaks out on fuzz in its first half and goes buzzsaw in its second, all while keeping a fast pace and holding firm to the energy Sunder have shown throughout.

Méret presides over the subsequent “Thunder and Storm” with crisp frontman presence, though the backing he receives from the layered keys and Ensenat‘s what-did-the-drum-do-to-deserve-such-a-beating snare is not to be understated. These quick bursts in “Eye Catcher” and “Thunder and Storm” help propel Sunder‘s second half, but also add to the complexity of the first, expanding the album’s opening progression by showing the band aren’t necessarily beholden to one tack or another. The dynamic is emphasized in the slowdown of  the love-lorn “Don’t Leave it Behind,” an open crash, choice key line and balance in the high and low end showing just how deep in the mix Sunder can do while Méret — if I’m not mistaken — turns the vocals backwards from within the swirl. Closing out, the swaggering roll of “Lucid Dreams” is as close as they come to the five-minute mark at 4:51 and a legitimately earned victory lap through another memorable chorus.

It’s no small thing for a band to stop what they’re doing, look around them, decide they want to be somewhere else sonically, and then actually make that change happen. Not only to do it, but to do it without changing a lineup. Sunder‘s first LP is a standout release for the context in which it arrives, but it’s the songwriting and the potential the band shows in their arrangements that make it one of 2015’s strongest debuts, as brazen as it is completely realized. One hopes in listening to it that MéretBaudMelay and Ensenat have found the place they’ll call home in terms of style, because what they’re doing across these tracks suits them well and seems to be ripe for any number of avenues for future progression.

Sunder on Thee Facebooks

Sunder at Tee Pee Records

Sunder at Crusher Records

Preorder at Amazon

Preorder on iTunes

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Mars Red Sky Announce Providence EP

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

mars red sky

Okay, so Mars Red Sky are running a contest through their Thee Facebooks page whereby if you guess the vinyl color and configuration — platter size, 10″ or 12″ — of their upcoming Providence EP, you can win a copy. Fine. So what’s the thing? The thing is this contest is also how they’ve announced the EP to start with, as well as their third album, second for Listenable Records, to which the short release will act as a lead-in. They’ve unveiled the front and back vinyl cover for Providence, which also contains the tracklisting, and let loose the information that, like 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here), the upcoming LP was recorded by Gabriel Zander at Estúdio Superfuzz in Brazil, presumably back in May when they toured South America for the second (maybe third?) time.

Whether or not they did the EP in the same session, I can’t be sure, but that return-to-Brazil tidbit should be particularly encouraging to anyone who heard the last album, which though it wound up being recorded as it was because the Bordeaux trio were denied US visas — their original plan having been to record in the California desert — was a stretch of pure heavy bliss that not only made the most of its situation, but was a significant step forward from the warm riffy bounce and resounding melodies of their 2011 self-titled debut (review here). Providence will also precede the next long-player in a similar fashion that 2013’s Be My Guide EP (review here) showed where Mars Red Sky were heading after the first record, so it’s even more worth keeping an eye out for it.

Cover art (in progress) by Carlos Olmo that ties into their video for “The Light Beyond” from Stranded in Arcadia, and the rather informative contest rules follow below. For what it’s worth, I’m going with a blue-green-black splatter (like the ray on the cover) 10″ record. We’ll see if I’m right or wrong.

More to come, hopefully sooner than later:

READY TO PLAY ? this is a preview of next artwork (work in progress) by Carlos Olmo. Before the next album (out in march on Listenable records & recorded by Gabriel Zander), we’ll release a EP limited / 500 copies vinyls early february 2016! We hope you guys like the cover below! The one (or 2) who will find the color we already chose for the wax and the size of the vinyl will get that plate for free 1 month before the release (mid of january!). Maybe the people get close to the answer will get something too (goodies?) or not! Be careful, this game is stupid, no strict real rules but we hope we’ll have a winner!!!

Answer in 3 or 4 days!

Providence EP tracklisting:
A1. Shot in Providence
B1. The Homesick Deaf
B2. Sapphire Vessel

Mars Red Sky, “The Light Beyond” official video

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Quarterly Review: My Dying Bride, Glowsun, Caustic Casanova, Dead Sea Apes, Bantoriak, Ahab, Zark, Pyramidal & Domo, Mammoth Salmon, Molior Superum

Posted in Reviews on October 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


One thing I’ve noticed over the now-several times I’ve done this is that people have a tendency to apply some value to the ordering. It’s true that I try to lead off with a bigger release sometimes (as with today), but beyond that, there’s really no statement being made in how the albums appear. It usually has way more to do with time, when something came in and when it was added to the list, than with the quality or profile of a given outing. Just that final note that probably should’ve been said on Monday. Whoops.

Before we wrap up, I just wanted to say thank you again for checking any of it out if you did this week. It’s not a minor undertaking to do these, but it’s been completely worth it and I very much appreciate your being a part of it. Thank you. As always.

Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #41-50:

My Dying Bride, Feel the Misery

my dying bride feel the misery

Led by founding guitarist Andrew Craighan and vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe, UK doom magnates My Dying Bride mark their 25th year with Feel the Misery, their 13th full-length and one that finds them right in their element practicing the melancholic death-doom style they helped forge on pivotal early works like As the Flower Withers (1992) and Turn Loose the Swans (1993). “And My Father Left Forever” starts Feel the Misery on a particularly deathly note, but it’s not too long before the 10-minute “To Shiver in Empty Halls” and the subsequent “A Cold New Curse” are mired in the grueling, poetic, beauty-in-darkness emotionality that is My Dying Bride’s hallmark. The album’s title-track is a chugging bit of extremity, but the record’s strongest impact winds up being made by the penultimate “I Almost Loved You,” a piano, string and e-bow (sounding) ballad that pushes further than “A Thorn of Wisdom” by daring not to get heavy and rests well between the lumbering “I Celebrate Your Skin” and the 11-minute closer, “Within a Sleeping Forest,” which fits well, but more reinforces the point than offers something new on its own. A quarter-century later, they remain an institution. One wonders how they’ve managed to stay so depressed for so long.

My Dying Bride’s website

Peaceville Records store

Glowsun, Beyond the Wall of Time


If French mostly-instrumentalists Glowsun are feeling pressed for time these days – and with the theme of Beyond the Wall of Time (out via Napalm Records) that shows itself in the ticking clocks that launch opener “Arrow of Time” and the like-minded titles “Last Watchmaker’s Grave,” “Against the Clock” and “Endless Caravan” – the material itself doesn’t show it. Opening with two nine-minute cuts, Glowsun’s third outing and the follow-up to 2012’s Eternal Season (discussed here) unrolls itself patiently across its seven-track span, leading one to wonder if maybe Beyond the Wall of Time isn’t intended as another means of expressing something outside of it, the expanse of tones and grooves created by guitarist/vocalist Johan Jaccob (also graphic art), bassist Ronan Chiron and drummer Fabrice Cornille on “Shadow of Dreams” and the centerpiece “Flower of Mist” intended to last after some eternal now has passed. I wouldn’t want to guess, but it’s noteworthy that the trio’s output is evocative enough to lead toward such speculations.

Glowsun on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records store

Caustic Casanova, Breaks

caustic casanova breaks

As with their 2012 debut, Someday You Will be Proven Correct, Washington D.C.-based trio Caustic Casanova recorded their sophomore long-player, Breaks, with J. Robbins at The Magpie Cage in Baltimore. They’re also releasing the album through Kylesa’s Retro Futurist Records imprint, so they come nothing if not well-endorsed. With bassist Francis Beringer and drummer Stefanie Zaenker sharing vocal duties throughout – the trio is completed by Andrew Yonki on guitar – they run and bounce through a gamut of upbeat post-hardcore noise rock, thick in tone but not so much as to get up and move around, tempo-wise. Yonki brings some post-rock airiness to the early going of the nine-minute “Elect My Best Friend for a Better World,” but the album on the whole feels more about impact than atmosphere, and Caustic Casanova work up considerable momentum by the time they get around to paying off the 12-minute finale, “The Painted Desert.” Its melodies open up more on repeat listens, but not at the expense of the push so well enacted throughout.

Caustic Casanova on Thee Facebooks

Retro Futurist Records

Dead Sea Apes, Spectral Domain

dead sea apes spectral domain

An outwardly familiar conceptual framework – instrumental space/psychedelic rock – does little to convey how much of themselves Manchester, UK, trio Dead Sea Apes put into their new full-length, Spectral Domain. Released by Cardinal Fuzz in conjunction with Sunrise Ocean Bender, it’s the band’s sixth or seventh LP, depending on what counts as such, and bookends two north-of-10-minute explorations around three shorter pieces (though not much shorter in the case of the 9:50 “True Believers”) varied in color but uniformly galaxial in intent. “Brought to Light” rings out with a wash of drumless echo and swirl, seemingly in response to the tension of centerpiece “The Unclosing Eye,” and the whole album seems to take a theme from things seen and unseen, between “Universal Interrogator” and closer “Sixth Side of the Pentagon,” a vibe persisting in some conspiracy theory exposed as blissful and immersive truth with something darker lurking just underneath. Thick but not pretentious, Spectral Domain seems to run as deep as the listener wants to go.

Dead Sea Apes on Thee Facebooks

Sunrise Ocean Bender

Cardinal Fuzz Records

Bantoriak, Weedooism

bantoriak weedooism

A ritualistic spirit arrives early on Italian heavy psych rockers Bantoriak’s debut LP, Weedooism, and does not depart for the duration of the Argonauta Records release’s six tracks, which prove spacious, psychedelic and heavy in kind, playing out with alternating flourishes of melody and noise. “Try to Sleep” seems to be talking more about the band than the act, but from “Entering the Temple” through the rumbling closer “Chant of the Stone,” Bantoriak leave an individualized stamp on their heavy vibes, and that song is no exception. If Weedooism is the dogma they’re championing on the smooth-rolling “Smoke the Magma,” they’re doing so convincingly and immersively, and while they seem to have undergone a lineup shift (?) at some point since the record was done, hopefully that means Weedooism will have a follow-up to its liquefied grooves and weedian heft before too long. In an increasingly crowded Italian heavy psych/stoner scene, Bantoriak stand out already with their first album.

Bantoriak on Bandcamp

Bantoriak at Argonauta Records

Ahab, The Boats of the Glen Carrig


Though somewhat counterintuitive for a band playing their style of doom to start with, Ahab have only been met with a rising profile over their decade-plus together, and their fourth album for Napalm Records, The Boats of the Glen Carrig, answers three years of anticipation with an expanded sonic palette over its five tracks that is afraid neither of melodic sweetness nor the seafaring tonal heft and creature-from-the-deep growling that has become their hallmark. Their extremity is intact, in other words, but they’re also clearly growing as a band. I don’t know if The Boats of the Glen Carrig is quite as colorful musically as its Sebastian Jerke cover art – inevitably one of the best covers I’ve seen this year – but whether it’s the 15-minute sprawl of “The Weedmen,” which at its crescendo sounds like peak-era Mastodon at quarter-speed or the (relatively) speedy centerpiece “Red Foam (The Great Storm),” Ahab are as expansive in atmosphere as they are relentlessly heavy, and they’re certainly plenty of that.

Ahab on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records

Zark, Tales of the Expected

zark tales of the unexpected

One would hardly know it from the discouraging title, but all-caps UK progressive metallers ZARK do manage to catch one off-guard on their debut full-length, Tales of the Expected. Duly melodic and duly complex, the eight tracks rely on straightforward components to set deceptively lush vibes, the guitar work of Sean “Bindy” Phillips and Josh Tedd leading the way through tight rhythmic turns alongside bassist Andy “Bready” Kelley and drummer Simon Spiers’ crisp grooves. Vocalist Stuart Lister carries across the aggression of “LV-426” and hopefulness of “The Robber” with equal class, and while ZARK’s first outing carries a pretty ambitious spirit, the Evesham five-piece reach the high marks they set for themselves, and in so doing set new goals for their next outing, reportedly already in progress. A strong debut from a band who sound like they’re only going to get more assured as they move forward. More “pleasant surprise” than “expected.”

Zark on Thee Facebooks

Zark on Bandcamp

Pyramidal & Domo, Jams from the Sun Split

pyramidal and domo jams from the sun

Paired up by style almost as much as by geography, Alicante, Spain, acts Pyramidal and Domo picked the right title for their Jams from the Sun split – a bright, go-ahead-and-get-hypnotized psychedelic space vibe taking hold early on the Lay Bare Recordings release and not letting go as one side gives way to the other or as the noisy post-Hawkwindery of “Uróboros” closes out. Pyramidal, who made their debut in 2012 (review here), offer “Motormind” and “Hypnotic Psychotic,” two 10-minute mostly-instrumental jams that progress with liquid flow toward and through apexes in constant search for the farther-out that presumably they find at the end and that’s why they bother stopping at all, and Domo, who made their debut in 2011 (review here), counter with three cuts of their own, “Viajero del Cosmos,” “Mantra Astral” and the aforementioned “Uróboros,” switching up the mood a little between them but not so much as to interrupt the trance overarching the release as whole. I remain a sucker for a quality space jam, and Jams from the Sun has 45 minutes’ worth.

Pyramidal on Thee Facebooks

Domo on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings

Mammoth Salmon, Last Vestige of Humanity

mammoth salmon last vestige of humanity

After releasing a couple internet EPs (review here) and 2013’s Call of the Mammoth EP as the duo of guitarist/vocalist/bassist Paul Dudziak and drummer Mitch Meidinger, Portland, Oregon’s Mammoth Salmon enlist bassist Alex Bateman and drummer Steve Lyons for their first full-length, the Adam Pike-produced Last Vestige of Humanity, which rolls out plus-sized Melvinsery across six amp-blowing tracks of sludgy riffing and nodding, lumbering weight. The title-track, which ends what would and probably will at some point be side A of the vinyl version, picks up the tempo in its second half, and “Memoriam” teases the same in Lyons’ drums at the start, but of course goes on to unfold the slowest progression here ahead of “Shattered Existence”’s toying with playing barely-there minimalism off full-on crush and the 10-minute “Believe Nothing” rounding out with appropriately elephantine march. Sustainable in their approach and viciously heavy, Mammoth Salmon seem to have hit reset and given themselves a new start with this lineup, and it works to their advantage on this promising debut.

Mammoth Salmon on Thee Facebooks

Mammoth Salmon on Bandcamp

Molior Superum, Electric Escapism

molior superum electric escapism

“Karma is a bitch that will definitely hunt you down for what you have done,” would seem to be the standout message of “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife,” the third and longest (at 6:34) of the four inclusions on Molior Superum’s new EP, Electric Escapism. The non-retro Swedish heavy rockers fire up righteous heft to put them in league with countrymen Skånska Mord, but ultimately have more in common with Stubb out of the UK in the loose-sounding swing of “Försummad,” despite the different language. I had the same opinion about their full-length debut, Into the Sun (review here), and last year’s The Inconclusive Portrait 7” (review here) as well. Can’t seem to shake it, but Molior Superum’s ability to switch it up linguistics – they open and close in Swedish, with the two middle cuts in English – is an immediately distinguishing factor, and whichever they choose for a given song, they kill it here.

Molior Superum on Thee Facebooks

Molior Superum on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: We Lost the Sea, Dark Buddha Rising, Red Mountains, Black Space Riders, Lamprey, Godsleep, Slow Joe Crow & the Berserker Blues Band, Monobrow, Denizen, Witchsorrow

Posted in Reviews on October 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


We’re in the thick of it now. It’s hard sometimes putting these things together to remember that each band has worked incredibly hard to put out an album. I’ve been through that process (once), and so I know it can be harrowing at times between acts going back and forth about recording, what’s included, how to release, when, and so on. There’s a lot to cover this week — and we’re not out of the woods yet — but I hope that, just because each review is short, you don’t take that as a sign I don’t have the utmost respect for the effort that has gone into making each of these releases. It can be a tremendous pain in the ass, but of course it’s worth it when you get to the end product. We continue.

Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #31-40:

We Lost the Sea, Departure Songs

we lost the sea departure songs

To be blunt, We Lost the Sea’s Departure Songs is the kind of album that immediately makes me want to own everything the band has done, in hard copy, for posterity. The Sydney outfit’s third full-length finds its crux in its two-part closing duo of “Challenger Part 1 – Flight” and “Challenger Part 2 – A Swan Song,” enacting a lush instrumental interpretation of the Space Shuttle Challenger flight and disaster that took place nearly 30 years ago in Jan. 1986. In its progression, patience, flow and discernable narrative thread it is nothing short of brilliant, a lush and sad beauty that serves as a genuinely affecting reminder of the hope for a better future that died with that shuttle’s civilian crew and the era of aspiration that tragedy brought to a close. I think the closing sample is the only time I’ve ever heard Ronald Reagan speak in my adult life and felt something other than anger, and that’s a testament to the ground Departure Songs covers – on the preceding three cuts as well as the final two – and the masterful execution on the part of We Lost the Sea.

We Lost the Sea on Thee Facebooks

We Lost the Sea on Bandcamp

Dark Buddha Rising, Inversum

dark buddha rising inversum

There does not yet exist a name for what Finland’s Dark Buddha Rising bring to bear on the two side-consuming tracks of their Neurot Recordings debut and sixth album overall, Inversum. Self-recorded and presented following some shifts in lineup, the album swells to a massive head of bleak, noise-infused psychedelia, fully ritualized and self-aware but still vibrant as it makes its way further and further down into itself. It is bright black, based so much around contrasting ideas of form and tonality that to listen to it, one almost doesn’t believe that the band are accomplishing what they are on an aesthetic level, but the weight, chants, screams, cavernous feel and nod that “Eso” (24:05) and “Exo” (23:52) enact is ultimately real no matter how nightmarish and otherworldly the impression might be. A work that sounds as likely to digest as be digested, it constructs a temple of its own sound and then burns that temple and everything around it in a glorious final push into charred chaos.

Dark Buddha Rising on Thee Facebooks

Dark Buddha Rising at Neurot Recordings

Red Mountains, Down with the Sun

red mountains down with the sun

Few endorsements carry as much weight for me as that of Germany’s Nasoni Records, so when I see that venerable imprint is on board for the release of Red Mountains’ first album, Down with the Sun, expectations immediately rise. The Norwegian four-piece don’t disappoint, calling forth a heavy psychedelia weighted enough to be immersive without really falling into the trap of sounding too post-Colour Haze or Causa Sui, finding a balance right away on opener “Six Hands” between open-vibe and structured songcraft. They toy with one side or the other, getting crunchy on “Rodents” and tripping out into ambient echoing on the penultimate “Silver Grey Sky,” but that only makes the debut seem all the more promising. Particularly satisfying is the scope between “Sun” and “Sleepy Desert Blues,” which is enough to make the listener think that grunge and desert rock happened in the same place. An engaging and already-on-the-right-track start from a band who sound like they’re only going to continue to grow.

Red Mountains on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records

Black Space Riders, Refugeeum

black space riders refugeeum

It’s improper to think of Germany’s Black Space Riders as entirely psychedelic if only because that somehow implies a lack of clearheaded consciousness in their work, which as their fourth album, Refugeeum, demonstrates, is the very core tying all the expanses they cover together. As Europe comes to grip with its most dire refugee crisis since World War II, Black Space Riders take their thematic movement from such terrestrial issues (a first for them) and it makes a song like 11-minute centerpiece “Run to the Plains” all the more resonant. Of course, the big-chug groove of “Born a Lion (Homeless)” and the cosmic thrust of the penultimate “Walking Shades” still have a psychedelic resonance, but the balance between the earthly and the otherworldly do well to highlight the progressivism that’s been at work in the band’s sound all along. A considerable undertaking at 61 minutes, Refugeeum is an important step in an ongoing development that has just made another unexpected and welcome turn.

Black Space Riders on Thee Facebooks

Black Space Riders website

Lamprey, III

lamprey iii

And so, with their third and final outing, III, Portland, Oregon, trio Lamprey reserve their strongest point for their closing argument. The two-bass trio of bassist/vocalist Blaine Burnham (now drumming in Mane of the Cur), bassist Justin Brown (now bass-ing in Witch Mountain) and drummer Spencer Norman recorded the conclusive six-tracker with Adam Pike at Toadhouse (Red Fang, Mammoth Salmon, etc.) and even the slower shifts of “Harpies” and the decidedly Conan-esque “Lament of the Deathworm” breeze right by. Like their two prior releases, 2012’S The Burden of Beasts (review here) and 2011’s Ancient Secrets (review here), III is a showcase of songcraft as much as tone, and it seems to presage its own vinyl reissue, each of the two halves starting with a shorter piece, the opener “Iron Awake” a notably vicious stomp that sets a destructive vibe that the rumble and weirdo keys and leads that finish out “Gaea” seem to be answering, a quick fade bringing an end to an underrated act. They’ll be missed.

Lamprey on Thee Facebooks

Lamprey on Bandcamp

Godsleep, Thousand Sons of Sleep

godsleep thousand sons of sleep

If newcomer bruisers Godsleep seem to share some commonality of method with fellow Athenians 1000mods, it’s worth noting that on their debut, Thousand Sons of Sleep, they also share a recording engineer in George Leodis. Fair enough. The big-toned riffing and shouty burl on which Godsleep cast their foundation makes its identity felt in the post-Kyussism of “Thirteen” and stonerly grit of centerpiece “This is Mine,” which follows the extended opening salvo of “The Call,” “Thirteen” and “Wrong Turn,” the latter of which is the longest cut at 9:09 and among its most satisfyingly fuzzed nods. They’re playing to style perhaps, but doing so well, and if you’ve gotta start somewhere, recording live and coming out with a heavy-as-hell groove like what emerges in the second half of “Home” is a good place to start. Godsleep are already a year past from when they recorded Thousand Sons of Sleep in Summer 2014, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a follow-up happened sooner than later.

Godsleep on Thee Facebooks

Rock Freaks Records

Slow Joe Crow & the Berserker Blues Band, We are Blues People

slow joe crow and the berserker blues band we are blues people

Kentucky-based, cumbersomely-named Slow Joe Crow and the Berserker Blues Band may indeed live up to the We are Blues People title of their debut EP, but they’re definitely riff people as well. As such, the four-track sampling of their wares draws from both sides on a cut like opener “No One Else,” the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Austin P. Lunn, bassist Patrick Flanary and drummer Thom Hammerheart in the process of figuring out how much they want to lean to one or the other. They round out with a fuzzy take on the traditional “John the Revelator,” but the earlier “Muddy Water Rising” strikes a more effective and more authentic-feeling balance, leading to the slow jam of “Before I Go,” which adds a ‘70s rock vibe to push the bluesy feel even further and expand the palette in a manner one hopes they continue to pursue as they move forward.

Slow Joe Crow and the Berserker Blues Band on Thee Facebooks

Slow Joe Crow and the Berserker Blues Band on Bandcamp

Monobrow, A Handwritten Letter from the Moon

monobrow a handwritten letter from the moon

Canadian trio Monobrow follow their 2014 LP, Big Sky, Black Horse (review here) with what’s essentially a new single that finds them continuing to step forward in their approach. Dubbed A Handwritten Letter from the Moon and taking its name from the 8:33 title-track, the Ottawa group’s latest offering finds the instrumental outfit smoothing out the tones a bit, still hitting into raucous grooves, but closer to Truckfighters than their prior brashness. I don’t know if it’s a method they’ll stick to going into their fourth LP next year, but the result is dynamic and suits them well. “A Handwritten Letter from the Moon” comes coupled with “Dyatlov Station 3,” a seven-minute rehearsal-space jam from 2011 that fascinatingly (and I’m sure by no coincidence) showcases some similar classic heavy rock influence. The only real shame of the release is that both these tracks are probably too long to fit on a 7”, since a small platter of vinyl would be a perfect way to hold over listeners until the next album arrives. As it stands, the digital version is hardly roughing it.

Monobrow on Thee Facebooks

Monobrow on Bandcamp

Denizen, Troubled Waters

denizen troubled waters

French heavy rocking four-piece Denizen issued their decidedly Clutchian debut, Whispering Wild Stories (review here), in 2011, and follow it through Argonauta Records with Troubled Waters, a more individualized 10-track outing that alternates between punkish rawness and classic upbeat grooves. Four years after their first album, their progression hasn’t come at the cost of songwriting, and while they still have work to do in distinguishing themselves in a crowded, varied European market, they deliver the material with an energy and vitality that makes even its familiar parts easy enough to get down with, be it the Southern heavy solo of “Jocelyne” or the meaner bite of “Enter Truckman.” I’ll take the pair of “King of Horses” and “Heavy Rider” as highlights, and remain interested to find out where Denizen head from here, as well as how long it might take them to get there. Four years between records gives Troubled Waters the feel of a second debut as much as a sophomore effort.

Denizen on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records

Witchsorrow, No Light, Only Fire

witchsorrow no light only fire

Releasing through Candlelight in their native UK, doom metal trio Witchsorrow mark a decade with their third album, No Light, Only Fire. Opener “There is No Light There is Only Fire” seems to nod immediately at Cathedral, with a speedier, chuggier take, and the record proceeds to alternate between shorter and longer tracks en route to the 14-minute closer “De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas,” cuts like “Negative Utopia” and “Disaster Reality” sailing a black ship past the 10-minute mark on a rumbling sea of riffs and slow motion nod. They break for a minute with the acoustic interlude “Four Candles” before embarking on the finale, and the respite is appreciated once the agonizing undulations of “De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas” are underway, using nearly every second of their 14:25 to affirm Witchsorrow’s trad doom mastery and bleak, darkened heft. No light? Maybe a little light, but it’s still pretty damn dark, and indeed, it smells like smoke.

Witchsorrow on Thee Facebooks

Candlelight Records

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Sunder Announce Oct. 30 Release Date for Self-Titled Debut

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


French heavy psych rockers Sunder will make an anticipated debut on Oct. 30 with their self-titled on Tee Pee Records. The four-piece, formerly known as The Socks and having released a self-titled (review here) under that moniker on Small Stone last year, seem to be departing from the straight-ahead boogie of their old band in favor of more ethereal vibes. The album’s release will follow a run through Europe alongside Harsh Toke that includes a stop at Desertfest Belgium 2015, as well as a flexi-single issued for the track “Cursed Wolf” that came out on Sept. 11.

Album details and those tour dates follow, as seen on the PR wire:

sunder sunder

SUNDER to Release Self-Titled Debut Album October 30

Heavy Psych Four-Piece Premieres New Single “Cursed Wolf”

French heavy psychedelic rock band SUNDER will release its self-titled debut album on October 30 via Tee Pee Records (and in Europe / Japan via Crusher Records). Formerly known as The Socks, the group is known for its edgy, electric sound that draws from the heavier side of 1960’s / 70’s rock and swings with acid grooves. SUNDER, who has performed live with like-minded bands such as Earthless, Danava and Radio Moscow, will tour Europe this October with new Tee Pee label mates Harsh Toke.

In advance of the album’s release, SUNDER has issued the new single “Cursed Wolf” as a special silver foil stamped 7” flexi disc.

“It’s with great pleasure and pride to be part of two of the most amazing heavy/psych labels in the world,” said the band in a statement. “The Socks were of Lyon, France. Sunder is of the world and it is with the sounds of Sunder that the shores of the world will be plundered.”

Track listing:

1.) Deadly Flower
2.) Cursed Wolf
3.) Daughter of the Snows
4.) Wings of the Sun
5.) Bleeding Trees
6.) Eye Catcher
7.) Thunder and Storm
8.) Don’t Leave it Behind
9.) Lucid Dreams

SUNDER features Julien Méret (guitar / vocals) Jessy Ensenat (drums), Vincent Melay (bass) and Nicolas Baud (Farfisa, Mellotron, backing vocals).

Oct. 01 – Holland, Landgraaf – Oefenbunker
Oct. 02 – Germany, Siegen – Vortex
Oct. 03 – Germany, Mannheim – mohawk club
Oct. 04 – Germany, Kassel – Goldgrube
Oct. 05 – France, Paris – La Mecanique Ondulatoire
Oct. 06 – France, Lyon – Ayers Rock Boat
Oct. 07 – France, Strasbourg – Mudd Club
Oct. 08 – Germany, Köln – Limes
Oct. 09 – Germany, wurzburg -Immerhin
Oct. 10 – Belgium, Antwerp – Desertfest
Oct. 11 – Germany, Berlin – Bassy
Oct. 12 – Austria, Vienna – Arena
Oct. 13 – Germany, Munich – Backstage
Oct. 14- Germany, Lichtenfels – Paunchy Cats
Oct. 15 – Swiss, Horstklub – Kreuzlingen
Oct. 16 – Swiss, Olten – Le Coq D´Or

Sunder, “Cursed Wolf”

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Harsh Toke and Sunder Announce European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 19th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Rules. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been quietly hoping for news of Harsh Toke putting together a follow-up to their 2013 Tee Pee Records debut Light up and Live, but if that’s not forthcoming, word that the San Diego jammers are headed back to Europe for a run alongside their newcomer labelmates Sunder is a more than decent consolation prize. Still wouldn’t mind some album news, but I’ll take what I can get.

Sunder‘s first release for Tee Pee is set to be a flexi 7″ that’s due out Sept. 11. They’ll reportedly have more to follow. They had two records out under their former moniker, The Socks, so they’re not exactly a brand new band, but it should be interesting to hear when the time comes what aesthetic shifts surface to go along with the name change. Their demo (review here) was right on.

Tour info culled from the information superhighway:

harsh toke sunder euro tour

HARSH TOKE & SUNDER // european tour // October 2015

Swamp Booking, Vivarium Music Group, Crusher Records and Tee Pee Records proudly present:

Oct. 01 – Holland, Landgraaf – Oefenbunker
Oct. 02 – Germany, Siegen – Vortex
Oct. 03 – Germany, Mannheim – mohawk club
Oct. 04 – Germany, Kassel – Goldgrube
Oct. 05 – France, Paris – La Mecanique Ondulatoire
Oct. 06 – France, Lyon – Ayers Rock Boat
Oct. 07 – France, Strasbourg – Mudd Club
Oct. 08 – Germany, Köln – Limes
Oct. 09 – Germany, wurzburg -Immerhin
Oct. 10 – Belgium, Antwerp – Desertfest
Oct. 11 – Germany, Berlin – Bassy
Oct. 12 – Austria, Vienna – Arena
Oct. 13 – Germany, Munich – Backstage
Oct. 14- Germany, Lichtenfels – Paunchy Cats
Oct. 15 – Swiss, Horstklub – Kreuzlingen
Oct. 16 – Swiss, Olten – Le Coq D´Or


Psychedelic rockers HARSH TOKE explore sound and space through music. On the San Diego Acid Rock band’s debut album Light Up and Live, loud, heavy guitars, swimming bass lines and smashing drums warp to full throttle, working together to launch the group’s “Haze Maze” of unapologetic psychedelic-blues into interstellar overdrive. Recorded by Brian Ellis (also of the prog-rock band ASTRA) and mastered by Carl Saff (Earthless, OFF!, Unsane)

HARSH TOKE are equal parts atmospheric and anarchic, merging raging, blind fury musicianship with unprecedented white-knuckle volume abuse. Tense and surreal, HARSHTOKES’ songs slowly build from hallucinatory haze into grand overtures of noise and feedback; a cosmic buffet of pounding, pummeling and punishing planes of sound. Heavy. Cosmic. Kinetic.

HARSH TOKE lay down sizzling grooves with every needle on the soundboard pinned to the red. If Blue Cheer could be called “Louder than God” in 1968, forty five years later, HARSH TOKE can easily be pegged as “Louder than Satan.” Run for your lives – into the din.


The Gods of Rock have seen fit to bestow upon the masses a reincarnation of the psychedelic force previously known as The Socks.

Comprising the same lineup, this incarnation of reverberation that goes by the name ofSunder is destined to sell out stadiums throughout the world, splitting heads through the ears with their brand of thunderous, heavy rock.

Signed to Crusher Records in Europe and Tee Pee Records in the States, Sunder is poised to leave their mark the world over.

Harsh Toke, “Light up and Live”

Sunder, “Deadly Flower” (Demo)

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Friday Full-Length: Mars Red Sky, Mars Red Sky

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 17th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Mars Red Sky, Mars Red Sky (2011)

[Please note: For consistency’s sake, I’ve used a YouTube embed above. The album is also available on Bandcamp here.]

The 2011 self-titled debut from French heavy psych rockers Mars Red Sky has remained special to me for the last four years since it was released. Easily one of my top five albums of the last half-decade, its arrival with well-hewn tonal warmth, gorgeous melodies, easy-rolling grooves and memorable songwriting made it a perfect summer offering, and I’ve spent many nights since with it on during the warm weather, the hooks of “Strong Reflection” and “Curse” giving way to the spacious jam in “Falls,” guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist Jimmy Kinast (also vocals on “Marble Sky”) and then-drummer Benoit Busser crafting a presence that would send ripples through the heavy rock underground. It’s also a particular standout for me, because it coincided so much with Hurricane Irene in 2011. In fact, the day I reviewed it — Aug. 29, 2011 — was the day after the storm hit the northeastern part of the US.

New Jersey had been slammed, the power and water was out, and The Patient Mrs. and I wound up at a packed-out Panera Bread to work for the afternoon. I brought the CD with me, its thick-stock digipak and silver lettering no less lush than the sonics contained within, and reviewed it there, post-storm chaos all around me in downed trees, a crowded mall parking lot, people shoving past each other to get lousy sandwiches and/or halfway decent coffee. “Way to Rome,” “Strong Reflection,” “Saddle Point,” the swinging “Marble Sky,” and the quiet closer “Up the Stairs” were my escape from that, and they’ve remained an escape ever since.

I have no problem saying that Mars Red Sky — now Pras, Kinast and drummer Matgaz — outdid their self-titled with their second album, 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here), which was also their debut on Listenable Records, but that doesn’t make the debut any less of a landmark on its own level. I’ve heard rumblings about a new LP in the works for 2016 and that’s one I’ll very much look forward to, but in the meantime the trio continue to support the second offering, this very weekend playing festivals in Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as a gig in their native France that, with the time difference between the US and Europe, is probably already winding down.

So be it. I could’ve dipped back and found something from the heavy ’70s to close out the week, or another older offering of one sort or another, but that Best Songs of the Last Five Years post had me thinking about Mars Red Sky‘s Mars Red Sky again, and with the beautiful weather around, it seemed high time for a revisit. I very much hope you enjoy.

Well, I made it. I’m back on the East Coast. I left the conference I was at in San Francisco for work yesterday afternoon and went to SFO airport, pretty much to sit around for a few hours, get most of today’s writing done (everything except this post) and essentially have a chance to be quiet and not have to socialize for a while, which, after the last couple days, was about as good as “sitting at the airport” gets. SFO, though, is very much in need of the revamping that is apparently in progress. Still, they had coffee, which was what I wanted. My flight was 10:50PM Pacific time, and I got in at 7:30AM Eastern. Bumpy ride. I did not sleep on the plane at all.

That was kind of a bummer in itself, but really I was too busy counting down the minutes until I landed and waiting for the aircraft to jolt and drop out of the sky, plunging us all to our fiery death, to get any substantial shuteye. I nodded off here and there, but snapped back to consciousness quickly each time.

The Patient Mrs. picked me up at Boston Logan — we came in swooping around Boston and its harbor in the morning sunlight, which was not unpleasant — and drove us both down to Connecticut, where we are for the weekend. I would’ve done a post to close out the trip, but it wasn’t really a music thing in the first place, and it seemed like if I wasn’t record shopping, it didn’t really matter what state I was in. Yesterday, I was in Cali. Today I’m in CT. I slept for about two hours this afternoon but I expect I will crash pretty hard tonight when the time comes.

On Monday, look out for a full-album stream of Sacri Monti‘s self-titled debut. It’s out next Friday, July 24, on Tee Pee and it’s killer, so that will be a blast. Then on Tuesday, another full-album stream, this one for Goya‘s new record, which just so happens to be called Obelisk and is coming out on STB Records Aug. 1. Wednesday will bring a track premiere from Kaleidobolt and Thursday one from Sweat Lodge, so there’s a lot of really cool stuff in the works. I’ll have reviews with those and one somewhere in there for T.G. Olson‘s vinyl of The Rough Embrace as well. I think I’ll try and get some Radio Adds done too, as it’s been a while, and somewhere in there I’ll have a ticket giveaway for Portland’s North West Hesh Fest, which I’m thrilled to be involved in sponsoring. But of course we’ll see how it all comes together. I’m already behind on news too, so that’s always a constant.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Alcest Announce North American Headlining Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


If like me you’ve been lamenting the fact that you didn’t get to see Alcest when they toured in the US with Anathema since pretty much the day after the show happened, you’ll be glad to note you’ve got another chance to catch them supporting their 2014 fourth album, Shelter (review here), which departed the post-black metal melancholia of their first three outings for altogether brighter fare — they made a good pairing for Anathema in that way; both acts boldly foraying into positivity in the face of an expectation of the morose. They’ll be out this time headlining with support from Emma Ruth Rundle and the tour begins in Mexico City on Sept. 19, picks up in Boston on Sept. 21 and rolls on from there coast to coast with dates in Canada as well, making it a true North American run.

The PR wire has details:

alcest north american tour

ALCEST Announces North American Headlining Tour

Celebrated French Shoegaze Exemplars to Perform in the U.S., Canada and Mexico this Autumn

Parisian Post-metal duo ALCEST has announced a fall North American headlining tour. The critically-lauded group, will launch the month-long trek on September 19 in Mexico City. The scheduled 23-city, major market jaunt will run through October 17 in Philadelphia, PA. Support on the ALCEST tour will come from singer-songwriter and visual artist Emma Ruth Rundle. ALCEST continues to perform globally in support of its most recent album, Shelter.

“We are very happy to announce that Alcest will tour in Mexico and North America in September and October of 2015,” comments Neige. “It’s been three years since we played in North America as headliners, so we are very excited to be back. Our support guest on this tour will be the talented Emma Ruth Rundle (Marriages, Red Sparrowes). Be sure to catch us on one of these dates!”

ALCEST tour dates:
September 19 Mexico City Billar Billy’s
September 21 Boston, MA Brighton Music Hall
September 22 New York, NY Highline Ballroom
September 23 Montreal, QC L’Alize
September 24 Ottawa, ON Mavericks
September 25 Toronto, ON Hard Luck Bar
September 26 Chicago, IL Subterranean
September 28 Denver, CO Bluebird Theater
September 30 Boise, ID Neurolux
October 1 Vancouver, BC Venue
October 2 Seattle, WA Crocodile
October 3 Portland, OR Dante’s
October 6 San Francisco, CA Slim’s
October 7 Los Angeles, CA The Regent
October 8 Mesa, AZ Club Red
October 9 Albuquerque, NM Launchpad
October 10 Dallas, TX Sons Of Hermann Hall
October 11 Austin, TX Red 7
October 13 Atlanta, GA The Masquerade
October 14 Tampa, FL The Orpheum
October 15 Raleigh, NC King’s Baracde
October 16 Baltimore, MD Metro Gallery
October 17 Philadelphia, PA Johnny Brenda’s

Alcest, Shelter (2014)

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