Review & Full Album Premiere: The Spacelords, Water Planet

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the spacelords water planet

[Click play above to stream The Spacelords’ Water Planet in full. Album is out Oct. 20 via Tonzonen and available to preorder on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.]

As one might expect for a record comprised of three sprawling heavy psychedelic instrumentals, atmosphere plays a large role in The Spacelords‘ fifth studio outing and second for Tonzonen Records, Water Planet. But it’s not the whole story. And from the underlying progressive melodies in Hazi Wettstein‘s layers of guitar on 11-minute opener “Plasma Thruster,” it’s clear there’s a plotline being followed at least to some degree. No doubt that Wettstein, bassist Akee Kazmaier and drummer Marcus Schnitzler (the latter also Electric Moon) are following naturalist cues throughout “Plasma Thunder” and the subsequent “Metamorphosis” (11:52) and “Nag Kanya” (19:35) that round out the 42-minute offering, but Water Planet has none of the willful clumsiness that often found in spaced-out records based on pure improvisation.

There’s songcraft at work here, however little it might have to do with traditional verse chorus structures. The record, which follows the band’s similarly-minded 2016 three-track long-player, Liquid Sun, and 2014’s Sulatron Records-released Synapse (review here), greatly benefits from that directed sensibility, whether it’s the initial engagement of the opener or the manner in which “Nag Kanya” seems to solidify around its funky wah to push toward the album’s apex and then recede back into fluid drift to send the audience off into space one last time. Rest assured, there’s plenty of exploration still being done in this material — I’m not sure there would be much point, otherwise — but the overarching vibe is expressive as well. These aren’t just indulgent jams.

Perhaps to an unschooled ear, that doesn’t serve for much of a difference as the sampled launch countdown ignites the swirling effects and core bassline of “Plasma Thruster.” At a certain conceptual point, jams are jams, and fair enough, but while The Spacelords still have a sound molten enough as to draw readily on the chemistry between WettsteinKazmaier and Schnitzler, the fact that it also gives them someplace to go sonically seems huge in comparison to other space rock LPs playing to the other side of that equation. This distinction is perhaps evident nowhere so much as in “Metamorphosis,” which is the centerpiece of the three inclusions and presumably the side A finale of the vinyl.

the spacelords

Almost set to pure drift, its 12-minute stretch is hypnotic in the extreme, and yet, after about four minutes in, there’s a subtle turn from Schnitzler on drums, and as Kazmaier‘s bassline holds steady and the effects wash continues to unfold, Wettstein‘s guitar shifts into the next movement of the track. It’s such a small change, and it may indeed have been recorded live, but it comes across like The Spacelords knew they were going to make that pivot, as well as the one after that brings the song into even airier, post-rocking territory, and their knowing what’s following any given moment makes it that much easier to go with them along this path that, once again, still allows for much trance-inducing, purposeful wandering and spacious vibration.

Whatever commonality of theme may persist between Water Planet and its predecessor, the three inclusions of which were similarly broken down with two extended cuts on side A and one even longer one consuming the entirety of side B, there is a notable uptick in production value on the newer record, which makes the effects churn from Wettstein and Kazmaier and Schnitzler added synth all the more immersive. This is especially true throughout “Nag Kanya,” the rhythmic march of which is topped by a sustained drone that does much to fill out the sound, and to go back further and hear early work from The Spacelords on their 2010 self-titled debut or its 2011 follow-up, Dimension 7, it is plain that their progression has involved not only the move toward clearer intention in their craftsmanship, but also a fuller manner of presenting their material on the whole.

This, in combination with a lineup that feels further coalesced than it did on Liquid Sun, which marked Kazmaier‘s introduction to the band, stands Water Planet apart as The Spacelords‘ most realized full-length to-date. One can’t help but wonder if having this solidified base (bass?) beneath them, the band won’t feel freer their next time out to indulge a bit more improvisational wanderlust, but even if they continue to refine their methods with another liquid-theme three-songer, the obvious drive toward growth that shows itself on Water Planet will no doubt yield further forward progress. That is, there’s invariably more ground for The Spacelords to cover — a consequence in part of having a sound so vast — but between “Plasma Thruster,” “Metamorphosis” and “Nag Kanya,” nothing to argue against their being ready or willing to keep heading outward into the uncharted and, in the process of incorporating new elements and touches amid their already established modus, making that ground all the more their own just as they do here.

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The Spacelords on Bandcamp

The Spacelords on Spotify (available Oct. 20)

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Kadavar Post “Tribulation Nation” Video; Tour with Mantar & Death Alley Starts Tomorrow

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

kadavar

I admit I’m a little behind in posting the latest video from Berlin-based heavy rock magnates Kadavar. Do you think anyone noticed? Nah. The band’s been too busy reaping rightful praise for their just-issued stunner of a fourth album, Rough Times (review here), which follows the modernization of vibe that took place on 2015’s Berlin (review here) with a darker-overall sense of mood driven, no doubt at least in part, by the woes engendered across the sphere of current events. At least that’s the impression a track like “Tribulation Nation” gives, anyhow.

Ever mindful of their audience, Kadavar don’t necessarily pass outward judgment in the song, however, and the spirit of the track is more one of coming to terms with, attempting to understand the world than trying to critique or correct something so very screwed up about it. I try to keep it out of posts on this site — because, well, why make yourself mad if you don’t have to? — but I’m a pretty politically-minded guy and I think if you hang around here long enough you can get a sense of where my sensibilities lie in that realm if you want one, and I can’t help but wonder if part of the reason Kadavar don’t push their level of criticism farther is because of the generalized feeling of hopelessness of the progression of the world’s situation. What’s to be done? If there was going to be an answer, is it so unreasonable to think someone would’ve stumbled on it by now?

The three-piece hit the road tomorrow to start the touring cycle proper for Rough Times, which if past is prologue will likely keep them on the road through the end of 2018 and then some — they kind of go, go, go perpetually — and they go in the company of Mantar and the revamped lineup of Death Alley. Maybe that’s the answer. You just keep going. Because that’s all you can do is move forward. Hit the road. Take care of yours and try not to be a dick to everyone else. I don’t know if that’s the message here or not, but as takeaways go, at least it’s not “make riffs great again.”

Video and tour dates follow, as well as more info from the PR wire.

Enjoy:

Kadavar, “Tribulation Nation” official video

kadavar tour dates

Arguably the hardest working band in the current European rock scene, Kadavar made their entrance in 2010 with a vintage, retro style of heavy rock ‘n’ roll that called for comparisons to greats like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. The band quickly stood out amongst their peers with straightforward, no frills approach to their signature brand of rock that features classic song structure with a gritty contemporary edge.

Kadavar’s previous record, Berlin, set the scene ablaze, charting in both Germany and the U.S., and made them a household name among rock fans around the world. Now armed with their follow-up, Rough Times, the band seeks to reclaim their title as one of the best rock has to offer.

Guitarist/singer Lupus comments: “The album is finally out and we’re really happy. Last week, we quickly recorded a video for ‘Tribulation Nation’ in the studio. I think this song underlines how complex our new record is. Thanks to everyone for the support.”

KADAVAR w/ MANTAR, DEATH ALLEY
12.10. D Essen – Zeche Carl
13.10. D Hamburg – Markthalle*
14.10. D Leipzig – Conne Island
15.10. B Antwerp – Desert Fest
17.10. F Strasbourg – La Laiterie Club
18.10. F Paris – Le Trabendo
19.10. F Rennes – L’Ubu
20.10. F Bordeaux – La Krakatoa
21.10. E Madrid – But
22.10. E Barcelona – Bikini
24.10. F Lyon – Feyzin
25.10. CH Monthey – Pont Rouge
26.10. CH Aarau – Kiff
27.10. D Munich – Backstage
28.10. A Vienna – Flex
29.10. A Graz – PPC
30.10. HR Zagreb – Mocvara
01.11. H Budapest – A38
02.11. PL Warsaw – Progresja
03.11. PL Krakow – Kwadrat
04.11. CZ Prague – Nová Chmelnice
05.11. D Nuremberg – Hirsch
07.11. NL Amsterdam – Paradiso Noord
08.11. D Hanover – Capitol
09.11. DK Copenhagen – Pumpehuset
10.11. S Stockholm – Debaser
11.11. N Oslo – Bla
12.11. S Gothenburg – Pustervik
13.11. NL Deventer – Burgerweeshuis
15.11. D Cologne – Bürgerhaus Stollwerck
16.11. D Wiesbaden – Schlachthof
17.11. D Stuttgart – LKA Longhorn
18.11. D Berlin – Columbiahalle
*no MANTAR

KADAVAR live:
20.12. D Bremen – Tower
21.12. D Mannheim – Alte Feuerwache
22.12. D Münster – Sputnikhalle
28.12. D Chemnitz – AJZ Talschock
29.12. D Siegen – Vortex

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Mouth Sign to Tonzonen Records; New Album out in 2018

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The announcement below has been run through a major internet corporation’s translation matrix, so keep in mind that it’s basically a robot’s idea of what the words should be, but the bottom line is that German imprint Tonzonen Records has picked up Cologne heavy proggers Mouth for the release of their next album in March 2018. I’m happy today to be able to tell you that the title of said full-length is Floating. According to my conversation with the band, it was tracked at the same time as earlier 2017’s Vortex, which was reviewed and streamed here around the time of its release in June, but has a lighter feel suited to the name they’ve given it.

I believe them. Particularly after hearing Vortex, I’ve no doubt Mouth can conjure a feeling of weightlessness in their material and use that as a central theme for a long-player. I’m looking forward to hearing how that sounds when it’s all put together. Hmm — I wonder if they’d want to do a stream?

Circle of life, and so forth.

Dig it:

mouth

Mouth – Tonzonen Records

A small statement by Tonzonen Records: after the premature death of Indie icon Guido Lucas the situation for the BluNoise label and their bands is not easy. The third album by Mouth is already finished and the band would like to take the next step towards the new album. Tonzonen Records has agreed with the band on a future-oriented cooperation.

I’m looking forward to hearing the Cologne band MOUTH at Tonzonen Records.

With ‘Vortex’ (BluNoise Records), the trio has released a highly acclaimed and highly praised album. The extremely cool vintage sound, driven by hypnotic rhythms, goes directly into the blood. Freak Prog Psychrock without high gloss polish directly into the brain bends, that makes immensely fun and is the right soundtrack to the next Roadtrip.

A release of the LP / CD / Digital Release album is planned for March 2018.

MOUTH Bio:

MOUTH were formed in Cologne in 2000 as a trio, comprised of Christian Koller (vocals, guitars, occasional keyboards), Gerald Kirsch (bass) and Nick Mavridis (drums, backing vocals, keyboards). Their style is often cited as a mixture of ‘retro prog’, Krautrock, hard rock, psyche and glam rock – all together it fuses into a unique spleen often underlined with dystopian themes.

https://www.facebook.com/mouthsound/
https://mouthprog.bandcamp.com/
http://www.soundcloud.com/mouthprog
https://www.facebook.com/Tonzonen/
https://www.instagram.com/tonzonenrecords/
https://www.tonzonen.de

Mouth, Vortex (2017)

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Aux Premiere “Deadly Rage” from New Album Troubadour out in December

Posted in audiObelisk on October 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

aux

German heavy progressive rockers Aux will release their second album, Troubadour, in December via Pink Tank Records. Following up their 2012 debut, Pursuit of Progress, the Kiel-based five-piece explore a stylistically varied corresponding five tracks, ranging in impression from the post-grunge hookmaking of “Fives” through bluesy classicism of “Deadly Rage” and into the garage foreboding moodiness of centerpiece “Filter” before the pair of 10-minute cuts, “Geocentric” and “Phantom,” comprise a second half for Troubadour that finds itself equally comfortable nodding toward King Crimson and Radiohead. Fed by a constant stream of jazzy basslines and fluid guitar work, the 40-minute long-player avoids pretense while remaining thoughtful in its construction, and as the lineup of vocalist Paul, guitarists Richi (rhythm) and Micha (lead), bassist Jannis and drummer Ole make their way through, they follow a clearly-set linear path that gracefully executes an overarching master plan.

In other words, even as they dig into the grit that builds over the alternately airy and earthbound guitar work in the choruses of “Fives” — and again, the bass that holds it all together — they’re aware of the moves they’re making, and Troubadour at no point aux troubadourfeels like a record of happenstance. Parts may well have been born in jams or fleshed out that way among all members — it’s hard to imagine such creative and adaptable rhythms coming forth in any other manner from Ole, though I suppose it’s possible with an exchange of files or some such other method — but as “Deadly Rage” pushes into its gracefully flowing apex, the balance of rustic feel and sonic fluidity it creates isn’t to be understated. Aux enact a kind of humble hypnosis through their songwriting, and that continues into “Filter” and, perhaps unsurprisingly, into “Geocentric” and “Phantom” as well, but on repeat listens, it’s the melding of different styles and the creation of an organic chemistry from them that makes Troubadour so effective in the first place. Like the idea of the traveling player from which the record takes its name, so too does the album itself go wherever it wants, freely and by its own discretion.

If there’s a downside to an outing of such varied persona, it’s perhaps that it makes it harder to find one single track to represent it as a complete entity — and I fear in my description I haven’t properly emphasized the patience at work in “Geocentric” or the insistence that takes hold in the second half push of “Fives,” so rest assured, there’s a lot going on with Troubadour even though it results in a pretty steady, consistent vibe — but as a basic introduction to the spirit of the release and the natural feel of the production, “Deadly Rage” works well particularly in emphasizing the interplay between the guitars and the rhythm section, drawing out a meandering sensibility that doesn’t necessarily hit as being self-indulgent even when if it came from a band with a more overblown recording, it otherwise might.

That’s a victory in itself, and it comes through on “Deadly Rage,” so as you make your way through the track, it’s something to keep in mind. Troubadour is listed for a Dec. 1 release via Pink Tank, with preorders coming soon.

A quote from the band about “Deadly Rage” and more background from the PR wire follows the song below. Please enjoy:

Aux on “Deadly Rage”:

The song has quite a history to us as it went through several transformations. We wanted to reflect the shifting moods that a person’s mind is undergoing which is shown by the different instrumental vibes. It’s probably the most catchy song on the album and tells what would happen if an ancient deity was expelled to present age, viewing humankind as puppets and playing tricks and games on them.

AUX is a quintet from Kiel, Germany, that has shown its versatility ever since it has been founded back in 2008. Their first album ‘Pursuit of Progress‘ (2012) marks the cornerstone of their sound which is influenced by progressive, art and psychedelic rock.

If there is one constant that can be found within AUX’s music, it is contrasts: While they are nothing else but their musics blueprint, they unleash a swirling maelstrom that swallows the audience into the tension between harmony and disruption.There is a good case to believe that their upcoming second album ‘Troubadour‘ will again reveal another facet of the band. You don‘t want to miss December 2017 as the record will be issued on vinyl, CD and digital via Pink Tank Records!

About Troubadour:

limited to 300 copies
100 copies harmony orange wax / hand numbered (exclusive Pink Tank Records Edition)
100 copies hope green wax / hand numbered (exclusive Band Edition)
100 copies standard black wax (wholesale Edition)
all on 180g heavyweight vinyl
300g heavyweight gatefold cover
poly lined inner sleeve
incl. download code

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Pink Tank Records website

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Quarterly Review: Primitive Man, Black Lung & Nap, Zone Six, Spectral Haze, Cosmic Fall, Epitaph, Disastroid, Mastiff, Demons from the Dungeon Dimension, Liblikas

Posted in Reviews on October 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

The final round of the Fall 2017 Quarterly Review starts now. 60 reviews done. I think if this particular QR session proves anything it’s that come hell or high water, once it’s set, there’s no stopping this train. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but the site was down for half of last week and we’re still getting to 60 reviews from Monday to Monday. That’s not not impressive from where I sit, especially since I spent that downtime going out of my mind trying to get things up and running again while also trying to write posts that I didn’t even know if they were going to happen. But they happened — thanks again, Slevin and Behrang — and here we are. All is well and we can get back to normal hopefully for the rest of this week. Thanks for reading any of this if you did. Let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Primitive Man, Caustic

primitive-man-caustic

Primitive Man’s Caustic is the concept of “heavy” taken to the superlative. It is a 12-track/77-minute onslaught for which no less than absolute hyperbole will suffice. In following-up their 2013 Relapse Records debut, Scorn (review here), a series of splits and 2015’s Home is Where the Hatred Is EP (review here), the Denver trio reign in terror as they make Caustic live up to its name in the crushing tones, feedback of and slow churn of “My Will,” “Commerce” “Tepid,” and “Sugar Hole,” the consuming wave of “Victim,” the blastbeating death assault of “Sterility,” and the biting atmospherics of harsh interludes “Caustic,” “Ash” and “The Weight,” which preface the nine minutes of vague noise that close on “Absolutes,” following the grueling slaughter of “Disfigured” and the rightfully-named 12-minute “Inevitable,” which seems even slower and more weighted somehow than everything before it. On the sheer level of heft for that song alone, it’s time to start thinking about Primitive Man among the heaviest bands in the world. I’m serious. Caustic is an overwhelming masterwork of unbridled extremity, and with it, Primitive Man set a new standard both for themselves and for anyone else who’d dare to try to live up to it in their wake.

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Relapse Records webstore

 

Black Lung & Nap, Split

black-lung-nap-split

A heavy blues trio from Baltimore and a progressive boogie outfit from Oldenburg, Germany, might seem like an odd pairing, but by the time the 25 minutes of Black Lung and Nap’s split 12” platter (on Noisolution) are up, the release has come to make its own peculiar kind of sense. In following 2016’s See the Enemy (review here), Black Lung present two new songs in “Strange Seeds” and “Use this Stone” as well we the prior-issued Marvin Gaye cover “Inner City Blues” done in collaboration with rapper Eze Jackson, where Nap answer their debut album, Villa (review here), with the shuffle-into-psychedelia of “Djinn,” the spacious, patient rollout of the airy guitars in “Vorlaut” and the final thrust of “Teer.” Each of the two acts establishes a context for itself quickly – Black Lung brazenly defying theirs in the shift from “Use this Stone” to “Inner City Blues”; Nap expanding between “Djinn” and “Vorlaut” – and though one wouldn’t be likely to mistake one group for the other, their disparate sounds don’t at all hinder the ability of either group to make an impression during their brief time.

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Noisolution webstore

 

Zone Six, Zone Six

zone-six-zone-six

Originally issued in 1998 via Early Birds Records with the lineup of bassist/synthesis/Mellotronist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, guitarist Hans-Peter Ringholz, drummer/keyboardist Claus Bühler and vocalist Jodi Barry, the self-titled debut from German space/krautrock explorationists Zone Six sees something of a redux via Sulatron Records to mark the 20th anniversary of the band’s founding. Eight minutes shorter than the original edition at 51 minutes, the new version whittles down the original 13-track presentation to two vinyl sides – titles: “Side A” (27:04) and “Side B” (24:39) – and drops the vocal tracks entirely to make it a completely instrumental release. That’s a not-insignificant change, of course, but let there be no doubt that it works in terms of highlighting the flow, which as it transitions between what used to be one song and another loses not one step and instead simply becomes an engrossing and multifaceted jam. This is truer perhaps to the band Zone Six have become – if you missed their 2015 full-length Love Monster (review here), it was glorious and it’s not too late to catch up – than the band they started out as, but Zone Six have found a way to make an old release new again, and new Zone Six is never anything to complain about, whatever the occasion.

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Sulatron Records? webstore

 

Spectral Haze, Turning Electric

spectral-haze-turning-electric

Space rock warriors Spectral Haze return after three years in the Gamma Quadrant with Turning Electric via Totem Cat Records, a six-song sophomore outing behind 2014’s I.E.V.: Transmutated Nebula Remains (review here) that quickly enters a wormhole of Hawkwindian thrust on opener “The Dawn of the Falcon” – perhaps that’s what’s represented on the glorious Adam Burke cover art – and takes a winding but directed course deeper and deeper into interstellar realms for its duration of what on earth is only six songs and 33 minutes. Each of the intended two vinyl sides boasts a longer track, be it “Cathexis/Mask of Transformation” on side A or “They Live” on side B, but whether it’s in those or shorter rocket boosters like the title-track, “Ajaghandi” or the aforementioned leadoff, the Oslo-based four-piece keep it dreamy and kosmiche even unto the doomlier roll of closer “Master Sorcerer,” a collection of final psychedelic proclamations that cuts off quickly at the end as though breaking a transmission from the heart of the galaxy itself. Heck of a destination, and getting there’s a blast, too.

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Totem Cat Records webstore

 

Cosmic Fall, Jams for Free

cosmic-fall-jams-for-free

Kind of a bummer how Jams for Free came about, but for the reassurance that Berlin heavy psych improvisationalists Cosmic Fall will keep going after what seems to have been an unceremonious split with now-ex-guitarist/vocalist Mathias, I’ll take it. With two new explorations, bassist Klaus and drummer Daniel introduce new guitarist Martin, and those worried they might lose the funk of their original incarnation should have their fears duly allayed by “A Calmer Sphere” (12:19) and “The Great Comet” (8:10), which begin a new era of Cosmic Fall after the remaining founders were forced to stop selling their prior works. If there’s anger or catharsis being channeled in Jams for Free, though, it comes through as fluidity and serene heavy psych, and with the resonant live-in-studio vibe, Cosmic Fall essentially seem to be picking up where they left off. With Martin making a distinguishing impression in the soloing of “A Calmer Sphere”’s second half particularly, the future continues to look bright for the German asteroid riders. Right on, guys. Keep jamming.

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Epitaph, Claws

Epitaph-Claws

Doomers of Verona Epitaph trace their origins back some 30 years, but Claws (on High Roller Records) is just their second long-player behind 2014’s Crawling out of the Crypt. Matters not. Theirs is the doom of ages one way or the other, presented in this collection of five songs in traditional fashion with an edge of the Italian bizarrist movement (think early Death SS) and, from the “Neon Knights”-style riff of “Gossamer Claws” to the “After All (The Dead)”/”Falling off the Edge of the World”-style dramaturge of “Wicked Lady,” the nods to ‘80s and early-‘90s Black Sabbath are manifold and executed with what sounds like a genuine love for that era of the band and classic metal in general. Hard to fault Epitaph that influence, particularly as they bring it to bear in the guttural riffly chug of centerpiece “Sizigia,” tonally as much as in the form of what’s actually being played. As a mission, the homage is perhaps a bit single-minded, but as they continue to build their own legacy in these classic sounds, it’s impossible to say Epitaph’s collective heart isn’t in the right place.

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High Roller Records webstore

 

Disastroid, Screen

disastroid-screen

The nine songs of Disastroid’s fourth self-released LP, Screen, are drawn together by a songwriting prowess that’s better heard than described and by a heft of tone that, especially on stompers like “Dinosaur” early and “Coyote” later on, proves likewise. Is the point of this review, then, that you should listen to the album? Yuppers. At a crisp 35 minutes, Screen finds the Bay Area trio willfully nestled someplace between heavy rock riffing, noise crunch, punk and metal, and they fly this refusal to commit to one style over another no less proudly than they do the hook of “Getting in the Way” or “I Didn’t Kill Myself,” which along with the push of “Choke the Falcon” and the Melvinsian “Clinical Perfection” make up a series of short burst impressions contrasted by the longer “Screen” and “New Day” at the outset and the six-minute finale “Gunslinger,” though wherever Disastroid seem to go, they bring a current of memorable craft with them, making an otherwise purposefully bumpy ride smooth and a chaos-fueled joy to undertake.

Disastroid website

Disastroid on Bandcamp

 

Mastiff, Bork

mastiff-bork

Ultimately, bludgeon-ready UK five-piece Mastiff might owe as much to grind as they do to doom or sludge – at least if “Nil by Mouth” has anything to say about it – but more than loyalty to any subgenre or other, the Hull unit’s 25-minute Bork full-length (released on CD by APF Records) is interested in presenting an extreme vision of sonic heft. Brutal pummel infects the rolling chorus of “Everything Equals Death” and the initial chug of “Tumour” alike, and where opener “Agony” was content to blast out its cacophony in fury of tempo as much as weight, as they settle in for the mosh-ready six minutes of closer “Eternal Regret,” Mastiff seem to have dug out a position between lumbering doom and early ‘00s deathcore, a telltale breakdown capping Bork in grooving and familiar fashion. Their intensity might prove a distinguishing factor over the longer term, though, and they certainly have plenty enough of it to go around.

Mastiff on Thee Facebooks

APF Records website

 

Demons from the Dungeon Dimension, An Organic Mythology

demons-from-the-dungeon-dimension-an-organic-mythology

The righteously-monikered Demons from the Dungeon Dimension made a striking and individualized – and bizarre – impression in 2016 with the There was Ogres EP (discussed here), a follow-up to the debut full-length, As the Crow Flies, released just weeks earlier. With the new single An Organic Mythology and the five-minute, raw-recorded track of the same name, the Durban, South Africa-based project is laid to rest. A burly opening and thickened distortion lead to a pushing verse with dry vocals over top – sounding very much like a home-recorded demo outright and not trying to be anything else – and soon enough the track shifts into a spoken-word-dissertation over an instrumental build that carries it into its final minute, at which point the verse kicks back in to end. As with the prior EP, which topped 25 minutes, the vibe is willfully strange throughout “An Organic Mythology,” and if this is indeed the last we’ll hear from Demons from the Dungeon Dimension (doesn’t it just sound like something TOR Books would put out?), somehow it seems right we live in an age where the material can reside in the digital ether, waiting to be stumbled on by curious parties soon to be blindsided by what they hear.

Demons from the Dungeon Dimension on Bandcamp

Demons from the Dungeon Dimension on YouTube

 

Liblikas, Unholy Moly

liblikas-unholy-moly

From the initial semi-gothic vibes from vocalist Oliver Aunver to the progressive fuzz rock that ensues on opener “Holy Underground,” Estonian five-piece Liblikas seem to specialize in the unexpected on their second full-length, Unholy Moly. Aunver, guitarists Temo Saarna (also vocals) and Henrik Harak, bassist Joosep Käsper and drummer/backing vocalist Mihkel Rebane, oversee a brisk 45-minute run across eight tracks of genre-spanning grooves, from the chugging almost-doom of “Highest Hound” to the semi-folk experimentalist interlude “Fugue Yeah! (Diary Pt. II),” which follows “Dear Diary, Yeah!” a track that starts out with what might be a Japanese-language sample and psychedelic unfolding to more cohesive, harmony-topped prog rock bounce before the fuzz emerges and meets with forward vocals and effective interplay of acoustics in the chorus. Why yes, there is a six-minute song called “Pornolord” – funny you should ask. It appears before the oud-laced “Ol’ Slime” and nine-minute closer “Keezo,” which embraces the difficult task of summing up the weirdo intensity that’s been on display throughout Liblikas’ songwriting all along, and with wispy guitar leading to a big, noisy finish, succeeds outright in doing so.

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Liblikas on Bandcamp

 

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Freak Valley 2018 First Announcement: Om to Headline

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Freak Valley 2018 takes place between May 30 and June 2 in Netphen, Germany, and the venerable festival announces today that no less than Om will serve as the first of its headliners. There’s been no solid word of a new Om album for next year — though a return trip abroad in Spring is bound to fuel speculation — and 2018 will make it a full six since the 2012 release of Advaitic Songs (review here), though when you issue what continues to resonate and thrive as one of the best records of the decade, you more than earn the right to take your time on a follow-up. Yes, I mean that. If it’s not Advaitic Songs and YOB‘s Clearing the Path to Ascend duking it out in your mind for the top spot right now, you’re fucking up as regards taste.

Om have two shows currently booked in Europe for 2018. Freak Valley and a date in Greece put together by Smoke the Fuzz Gigs. Details on that are below.

I’m proud to say I wrote the following announcement and it’s looking like I may finally get to attend Freak Valley next year. Stay tuned for more lineup updates to come, since as you can see, this is just the beginning:

Om-Freak-Valley-2018

Call to Prayer: OM to Headline Freak Valley Festival 2018

Freaks rejoice!

Every year, Om are one of the most requested bands to join the Freak Valley lineup, and as the first band to be revealed for Freak Valley 2018, we couldn’t be more thrilled to finally welcome Om as a headliner!

Led by bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros, Om are the band who turned “heavy” into a spiritual movement. They began in 2003 after the dissolution of Cisneros’ prior outfit – a little band called Sleep; maybe you’ve heard of them – and their earliest works, 2005’s Variations on a Theme and 2006’s Conference of the Birds, are nothing short of modern classics. It was with their fifth and latest album, 2012’s Advaitic Songs, however, that Om most fully embraced their own breadth and the mystical visions their sound could conjure.

Cisneros, together with drummer Emil Amos (also Grails, Holy Sons) and keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (also Lichens) cast forth five lush, beautiful and meditative soundscapes, spiritual without being dogmatic, groundbreaking without being pretentious, and more adventurous in their arrangements of piano, table, strings, keys, flute and vocals than Om had ever been.

While it’s true we’re still waiting for a follow-up, we’d be lying if we said Advaitic Songs still didn’t offer something new every time we listened to it. Seriously. If you haven’t already, you should put on “Gethsemane” immediately. You know we’re right.

Om’s headlining appearance at Freak Valley 2018 will be an exclusive and one of only two shows so far announced that the band will play in Europe next year. The other will be June 2 at the Piraeus 117 Academy in Athens, Greece, presented by Smoke the Fuzz Gigs.

This is just the start for Freak Valley 2018! Stay tuned for more bands, ticket presales and much more info to come!

www.freakvalley.de
https://www.facebook.com/freakvalley
https://www.facebook.com/events/738782742996668/
https://twitter.com/FreakValley

Om, Advaitic Songs (2012)

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Quarterly Review: Wucan, Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, Thera Roya, Ojos Rojos, Ett Rop På Hjälp, BongCauldron, Nomadic Rituals, Mental Tremors, Gin Lady, Swanmay

Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

Round five of the Fall 2017 Quarterly Review begins now. After dealing with the technical issues this week and changing hosts and having the site down for – well, as I write this, it’s still down, so I don’t really have a finished count yet, though obviously by the time you’re reading it it’ll be back up – yeah, it’s made putting together a batch of 10 reviews a day seem like a breeze. “Oh, you mean you’re only writing 10 reviews today? Well now this is happening.” That kind of thing. Didn’t I say something earlier this week about a piano falling on my head? Prescient.

Plan is to finish the QR on Monday and then get back to what passes for normalcy around here. Still plenty of good stuff to come between now and then though, so let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Wucan, Reap the Storm

wucan reap the storm

Bilingual heavy blues rockers Wucan offer their second full-length, Reap the Storm, through MIG Music, and with it showcase a stunning range of songwriting. The album is set up as a 2LP and runs eight songs/73 minutes from the Dresden, Germany, four-piece of vocalist Francis Tobolsky (also flute, guitar, theremin, sitar and percussion), guitarist/keyboardist Tim George, bassist Patrik Dröge and drummer Philip Knöfel, and from the expansive jamming of 10-minute opener “Wie Die Welt Sich Dreht,” it solidifies into the classic-prog-meets-heavy-boogie of “Ebb and Flute/The Eternal Groove” and nestles into driving semi-psychedelic rock on “Out of Sight out of Mind” to lead the charge on a side B marked out by the organ in “I’m Gonna Leave You,” the interplay of trippy/soulful vocals and flute on “The Rat Catcher” and the quiet, German-language post-Zeppelin acoustic folk of “Falkenlied.” Okay. Already your head’s spinning. Then Wucan dive into “Aging Ten Years in Two Seconds” and “Cosmic Guilt,” which together comprise the second of the two LPs, the former running 21:05 and the latter 18:04, and basically between them represent another album entirely, tying all of the elements previously listed together into one richly complex, progressive-but-still-warm delivery. Their breadth is met by an overarching organic feel – the flute and Tobolsky’s vocals help greatly in this – and though the results are somewhat unmanageable, Wucan remain impressively cohesive throughout the many twists and turns.

Wucan on Thee Facebooks

MIG Music website

 

Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, Silent Echo

Lucifer-in-the-Sky-with-Diamonds-Silent-Echo

The new single “Silent Echo” is an awaited return from Moscow progressive heavy rockers Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, who showed up with an encouraging debut, The Shining One (review here), in 2014. In the rhythmic push and balance of melody and hook, “Silent Echo” reaffirms the appeal of that album and presses it forward, and the band – now comprised of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Oleg Sakharov, guitarist Sergey Starykh, drummer Ramis Cervantes and backing vocalist Alexey Fedotov – hold fast to the underlying proggy sensibilities that fall so well in line with the crispness of their production and the clarity of intent in their songcraft. If they were German or Swedish, they’d already be signed. After three years, a new album would be welcome, but perhaps “Silent Echo” is a harbinger of things to come, and if indeed the six-minute track is all we’re getting for now, it’s got resonance enough behind it to last at least for a while. Hard to hear it though and not want more from these guys.

Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds on Thee Facebooks

Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds on Bandcamp

 

Thera Roya, Masterful Universe

thera-roya-masterful-universe

Tracked a year ago in North Carolina, Thera Roya’s Masterful Universe two-songer follows behind their earlier-2017 debut long-player, Stone and Skin (review here), and continues their headfirst dive into noise-laden riotousness across the seven-minute “Static Transmission” (I’m sorry, but are those monkey sounds around the three-minute mark?) and five-minute “Confused Population,” which starts out with a sample of the bomb-riding end sequence of Dr. Strangelove, because I guess the Brooklyn/NJ trio of drummer/vocalist Ryan Smith, guitarist Christopher Eustaquio and bassist Jonny Cohn are feeling topical. Fair enough. That song pushes into cleaner vocals, almost drone-chants, for a particularly experimental feel, and keeps samples as a running theme (at least until the blackened cave-echo screams at the end), where “Static Transmission” is more scathingly aggressive at its core, but in both tracks, the message of Thera Roya getting weirder and weirder comes through clearly, and that only works to their benefit on this short but consuming offering. Run with it, dudes.

Thera Roya on Thee Facebooks

Thera Roya on Bandcamp

 

Ojos Rojos, Sons of Love and Death

Ojos-Rojos-Sons-of-Love-and-Death

It’s been seven years since California-based heavy psych rockers Ojos Rojos made their debut with the full-length Disappear (review here), but you’d hardly know it from the vibrancy of their new five-song/26-minute Sons of Love and Death EP, which from its opening title-track – also the longest here (immediate points) – through the rightly spacious “Atmosphere” and smoothly rolling centerpiece “Say Goodbye” affects desert-hued shoegaze engagement that asks little of the listener more than to drift along with its easy path. “A Hole Inside” (pun sense tingling) brings especially satisfying fuzz in the guitar and a swirling couple leads to complement like stars overhead, and closer “So Free” doesn’t at all let the fact that it’s so darn laid back let it stop it from strutting its start-stop groove with such swagger. All told, Sons of Love and Death is a work of drippingly lysergic vibe, reminiscent of Dead Meadow at their most languid, but it comes across neither as staid nor redundant. Be it in the rhythmic push of “Atmosphere” or the final crashes of “So Free,” Ojos Rojos find the means to portray an active ecosystem in something that, from the surface, seems still and peaceful.

Ojos Rojos on Thee Facebooks

Ojos Rojos on Bandcamp

 

Ett Rop På Hjälp, Sans och Balans

ett-rop-pa-hjalp-sans-och-balans

Ett Rop På Hjälp, quite simply, deserve a higher profile than they’ve got for their second album, Sans och Balans. The Gothenburg natives are a half-decade removed from their 2012 debut, Hur Svårt Kan Det Vara? (review here), on Transubstans, and the new collection is a more than worthy follow-up, offering classic-style boogie rollout on cuts like “En Djavuls Falla” and the later solo work on “Blanka Eftermiddagen,” while “Defenestration” (the only English title present, though it’s still sung in Swedish), highlights organ/keys alongside its low end depth and catchy movement, shifting at its midpoint to an instrumental jam that carries it into the bluesy build and harmonies of “Snomannen.” The penultimate “Leker Med Karlek” is particularly heavy ‘70s, but skirts the trap of sounding like Graveyard, Witchcraft or most others of that vintage ilk, and the finish in “Slutat Tro” prefaces its payoff with a subtle heft that comes to the fore late, manifesting a proto-doom working well to contrast the sweetness of the earlier vocal melody. It may be harder for those who don’t speak Swedish to grasp the verses and howling chorus of “Folkhemsdesperado” and the other inclusions here, but Sans och Balans is nothing if not worth that effort and clearly a record that earns more attention than it’s getting.

Ett Rop På Hjälp on Thee Facebooks

Sans och Balans on Spotify

 

BongCauldron, Binge

bongcauldron-binge

Leeds trio BongCauldron have been kicking around the UK’s fertile heavy underground for the last five-plus years since their self-titled EP, issuing a series of shorter releases and splits and gradually readying themselves for a larger attack. That arrives as their eight-song/40-minute debut full-length, Binge, which sludge-bludgeons (yes, it sludgeons) its listener into submission with thickened nod, growls and an attitude that’s best represented perhaps in the title of second cut “Bury Your Axe in the Crania of Lesser Men.” Yeah, it’s like that. “68” and closer “Yorkshire Born” offer a Motörhead/High on Fire-style gallop, but the larger impression Binge makes comes from the pairing of the title-track and “Bigfoot Reigns” in the middle of the album. These two longest tracks, back to back, pummel their viscous onslaught, and even when the latter swaps out its faster first half for the massive slowdown of its second, its shift is purely from one extreme to the other. Feels like it’s been a while in the making, and maybe it has, but BongCauldron’s first long-player has nastiness a-plenty to make up for any and all lost time.

BongCauldron on Thee Facebooks

APF Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Nomadic Rituals, Marking the Day

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Marking the Day builds from minimalist drone over the first couple minutes of “From Nothing” into a maddeningly heavy, grueling, hour-long slog of noise-soaked and extremist post-sludge. It is the second album from Belfast, Northern Ireland, three-piece Nomadic Rituals, and its cosmically-themed lumber is utterly vicious as it plays out across six tracks, the shortest of which, “Expansion,” is just under eight minutes long. Over the course of this creation-to-destruction journey, guitarist/vocalist Peter Hunter, bassist/vocalist Craig Carson and drummer Mark Smyth (all three also contribute noise and/or synth) take listeners “From Nothing” and leave them “Face Down in the Sea of Oblivion,” and it’s that 14-minute finale and specifically the tumultuous, pushed-even-further apex thereof, that is intended to capture the grand undoing of everything. One imagines when the end comes it won’t actually sound quite so glorious, but an interpretive representation, Nomadic Rituals give brutal portrayal that seems to fit the onslaught of chaos, and the final amp hum reminds that every ending is likewise a new beginning, even one so mammoth and consuming as this.

Nomadic Rituals on Thee Facebooks

Nomadic Rituals on Bandcamp

 

Mental Tremors, Mental Tremors

mental-tremors-mental-tremors

A duo who manage to sound like a full band on a studio album is nothing new at this point, between layering and tonal heft and whatever else might be at play in a given act’s aesthetic. Fortunately, Melbourne two-piece Mental Tremors don’t need to rely on novelty. In the fuzz of songs like “Bastard Son” and “Violently” – that’s a riff you should hear – their self-titled debut long-player offers legit chops in craft and performance, yes, sounding full, but still natural as it makes its way through the weirdo-psych nod of the six-minute “Patient Man,” solidifying as it goes, and seeming to turn the classic LP dynamic of straightforward A and more expansive B sides on its head as it rounds out with “Hunters” and “The Fevering,” individualizing catchy, post-Queens of the Stone Age impulses and hairy riff-led raucousness. Initially self-released earlier this year, Mental Tremors was picked up for a vinyl pressing by Cursed Tongue Records, and whether it’s the clarion groove of opener “Like a Broken Town” or the nods and echoes that pervade “The Cascade,” there’s no question it earns that preservation that only physical media can provide.

Mental Tremors on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Tongue Records webstore

 

Gin Lady, Electric Earth

gin-lady-electric-earth

Modern enough in its production, Gin Lady’s fourth album, Electric Earth (on Kozmik Artifactz) is nonetheless in pretty direct conversation with the ‘60s, whether it’s “I’m Your Friend” chatting it up with Paul McCartney circa Rubber Soul or the acoustic/piano stomp of “Mercy” in a back and forth with The Rolling Stones, even going so far as to reference “Satisfaction” in the lyrics. These pop-minded textures are met with some heavier rock vibes, but at its loudest, Electric Earth still sticks to a pretty serene feel, starting off at a dancey clip with “Flower People” and capping with the quick Lennonism of “Running No More,” while in between, the four-piece of vocalist Magnus Kamebro, guitarist/vocalist Joakim Karlsson, bassist/vocalist Anthon Johansson and drummer Fredrik Normark gracefully capture bygone vibes on the wistful “The Things You Used to Do,” the jammy “Brothers of the Canyon” and the crisp, clear “Water and Sunshine,” the hook of which could’ve easily come from a lost single from 1965. It’s a niche not everyone’s playing toward at this point, but still instantly familiar and engagingly, efficiently done.

Gin Lady on Thee Facebooks

Electric Earth at Kozmik Artifactz

 

Swanmay, Stoner Circus

swanmay-stoner-circus

Unabashed stoner rock riff-led ideology persists throughout Stoner Circus, the hard-driving debut full-length from Linz, Austria, three-piece Swanmay. Working from a center of dense but not overblown fuzz, the rockers cast forth a clear-in-its-purposes nine tracks highlighted by “Lake on Fire,” which one can only wonder if whether or not was written in homage to the Austrian annual festival of the same name. In any case, that hook is one of several that feel particularly engaging throughout Stoner Circus, and the depth of tone on the instrumental “Dopechild” is enough to make that song memorable despite a lack of lyrics. Far from revolutionary, ultimately, but clearly not trying to be either, Swanmay’s first LP preaches its post-Kyussism on “Dharma” and in the Lowrider-style roll of “Sylvan” earlier on, but there’s an aggressive edge to it as well that comes to the fore on “Padawan” ahead of closer “Shiva,” which rounds out with a satisfying-if-telegraphed slowdown to make the point one more time about putting the groove first. So be it. As a debut, Stoner Circus gives Swanmay something to build on and already shows promise in songwriting and its well-honed execution of genre tenets.

Swanmay on Thee Facebooks

Swanmay on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Nibiru, The Ditch and the Delta, Cyanna Mercury, Surya Kris Peters, Golden Bats, Blind Hen, The Black Wizards, Low Flying Hawks, Brother Sister Hex, Cold Insight

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

the obelisk quarterly review

Ready for round three of the Fall 2017 Quarterly Review? I hope so, because it’s a doozy. Things get pretty weird and pretty rockin’ in this batch, and at the risk of being completely honest, I much prefer it that way. It’s a varied group — maybe the most diverse in terms of sound throughout the entire week, though there’s stiff competition still to come — and as we hit the 30th review, that brings us to the halfway point of the Quarterly Review itself, which if all keeps proceeding according to plan will wrap up on Monday with a grand total of 60 done. Let’s hope no pianos fall on my head between now and then, literally or figuratively. Onward.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Nibiru, Qaal Babalon

nibiru qaal babalon

The fourth full-length from Italian sludge ritualists Nibiru, Qaal Babalon (on Argonauta) is an encompassing, 57-minute grind comprised of four extended tracks, the longest of which is opener (immediate points) “Oroch” at 19:07 – a song whose depths run dark and cruel and which, even when the tempo pushes upward from its initial slow crawl, still feels massively slow. Still, the spirit behind “Oroch” as well as the following and much faster “Faboan” (10:51), the buzzsaw noise cutting avant insanity of “Bahal Gah” (16:40) and full-drone rite of “Oxex” (11:05) is less directly about the punishment itself than about the exploration enacted thereby. That is, Nibiru aren’t just heavy for heaviness’ own sake and they’re not just assaulting their listenership without reason. Though I won’t take away from its raw sonic impact, Qaal Babalon’s greatest asset is its atmospheric impression and the experimentalism it brings to bear, which moves Nibiru into a terrifying place sound-wise that they seem to have all to themselves.

Nibiru on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

The Ditch and the Delta, Hives in Decline

the-ditch-and-the-delta-hives-in-decline

Hailing from the unlikely heavy hotbed of Salt Lake City, Utah – though where better for a counterculture to emerge? – sludge rocking trio The Ditch and the Delta made their debut earlier in 2017 with the seven-song Hives in Decline via Battleground Records before being picked up by Prosthetic for this reissue. Comprised of bassist/vocalist Kory Quist (see also: Making Fuck), guitarist/vocalist Elliot Secrist and drummer Charles Bogus, the three-piece pummel handily throughout early cuts like opener and longest track (immediate points) “Hives in Decline” “Fuck on Asphalt” and the nodding “Sleeping Dogs,” but with the instrumental interlude “Dry Land,” they tap into post-Across Tundras heavy Americana and in that brief two-minute stretch deeply affect the mood of the release overall. They’re back to angular noise rock turns soon enough on “Till Body Quits” and the Remission-era-Mastodon-style “Mud” before alternating between lurching crush and airier prog/post-rock on closer “Dread Spectacle,” but by then the secret’s out of their underlying complexity, and rather than offset the sense of drive in the prior cuts, one finds them only enhanced by the later unfolding. Intense, and very much in the process of sorting through these impulses, but loaded with potential.

The Ditch and the Delta on Thee Facebooks

The Ditch and the Delta at Prosthetic Records

 

Cyanna Mercury, Archetypes

Cyanna-Mercury-Archetypes

From Greek dialogue in “Hermes” to the Nick Cave-style piano balladry of “Apollo” to the organ-and-handclaps Mediterranean pop underscoring “Lilith”’s boogie and the spoken verses and explosive hook of “Snake” ahead of moody closer “There will be a Time,” Cyanna Mercury’s debut long-player, Archetypes, seems to leave no sonic stone unturned. The Athens-based five-piece hone a thoroughly progressive approach across the 10-track/40-minute (plus a CD bonus track) outing, touching on heavy psych in opener “Horse Dark as Night” and injecting a darker theatricality into centerpiece “Ode to the Absent Father” and the later “Nothing We Can Do,” but refusing to relegate themselves ultimately to one sound or another. Elements of folk, heavy rock, psychedelia, classic prog, pop and more besides show themselves across what’s a legitimate head-trip of a record, and though it’s hard to get a grip on where Cyanna Mercury are ultimately headed with this sonic brew already so potent and already so much their own, they seem to be completely in control of how it all plays out in arrangement and songwriting, and they work quickly to earn the listener’s trust via a resonant overarching flow that renders Archetypes truly immersive. Will fly under most radar, but a stunningly creative debut.

Cyanna Mercury on Thee Facebooks

Cyanna Mercury on Bandcamp

 

Surya Kris Peters, 2nd Chances

surya-kris-peters-second-chances

Numerically-titled three-song EP 2nd Chances is – since we’re going by the numbers – the third release of 2017 from Surya Kris Peters, behind the synth-driven Dream Exit EP digitally-issued this past summer and January’s Holy Holy Holy (review here) full-length. With it, Samsara Blues Experiment frontman Christian Peters further expands the contextual breadth of his solo work, revisiting songs from his prior outfit Terraplane in the Mellotron-infused melancholy of “Smalltown Blues” and the quick, folkish rambling instrumental “Dark Euphoria” while also covering Jefferson Airplane’s “Come up the Years” between. All told, it’s only 10 minutes long, but Peters brings a particularly progressive psychedelic folk vibe to the tracks, and from the shimmering guitar lead that takes hold in “Come up the Years” and the intimate feel of “Smalltown Blues” despite an arrangement of keys, vocals, multiple layers of guitar and effects, an emotional and sonic resonance is still very much achieved. One never wants to guess what Peters will do next, but if he had a full-length of this kind of thing out at some point, you wouldn’t be likely to find me complaining.

Surya Kris Peters on Soundcloud

Electric Magic Records on Bandcamp

 

Golden Bats, Residual Dread

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An underlying mournfulness pervades Golden BatsResidual Dread, or maybe that’s just the Brisbane-based solo-project of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/engineer Geordie Stafford living up to the title chosen for the album on “Nothing.” Elsewhere, Residual Dread takes on guitar-as-keyboard plotted soloing in 11-minute closer “The Crows Build a Fire” and find a place between black metal and doomly roll, and add piano to tapped Godflesh-style programming on opener “Trouble in the Sewers” and bring organ to the relative bounce of “Eye Juices” as far-back echoing shouts provide the vocal presence. Setting elements against each other would seem to be a core aspect of Stafford’s intent, and the feel on Residual Dread is more about the smashing them together and seeing what happens than trying to gently meld one idea from two or three. That lends a raw, experimentalist sensibility to the lumber of “Outer Body” and “Into the Silver Valley” that serves them well, like a Large Hadron Collider driven by riffs and thickness of tone.

Golden Bats on Thee Facebooks

Haemorrhage Records webstore

 

Blind Hen, Life

blind-hen-life

In its first two minutes, Blind Hen’s “As a Monster” moves from electronica-style Euro dance rock to heavy-riffed progressive metal. Then it turns back. This is just the start of the Finnish four-piece’s four-track/21-minute Life EP, and “Titanic” follows stylistic suit with an even more intense thrust early before moving into psychedelia in its second half with an underlying tension in its beat to contrast the melodic wash overtop. The chugging “The Maze” is more guitar-led and straightforward, but even there, Blind Hen find room for nuance in their vocal arrangement, also bringing in acoustics amid the multiple layers of singing, and with a sample at the outset, closer “Catch” moves once again toward the danceability of the earlier fare, if in a via-Mr.Bungle rhythmic restlessness rather than the fusion beatmaking. Weird, weird, weird. What draws Life together is the fact that Blind Hen cross this aesthetic swath with stuck-in-your-head choruses as a constant, essentially giving the audience something to grasp onto while they go wherever they want in terms of sound. It is appreciated to say the least, and shows the band to be all the more attuned to their craft, even when they seem at their most unhinged.

Blind Hen on Thee Facebooks

Blind Hen on Bandcamp

 

The Black Wizards, What the Fuzz!

the-black-wizards-what-the-fuzz

If you’ve got 68 minutes, Portuguese four-piece The Black Wizards are ready to have a heavy blues shindig on their second 2LP full-length, What the Fuzz!, and I do believe we’re all invited. The nine-song outing emphasizes the vocals of guitarist Joana Brito, who emerges on post-intro opener “Freaks and Geeks” with a prominent kind of trilling in her voice of the sort Parker Griggs brings to Radio Moscow that holds for the duration as a steady presence. Joined by guitarist Paulo Ferreira, bassist/acoustic guitarist B and drummer/backing vocalist Helena Peixoto, Brito leads the way through the fuzzy rollout of the nine-minute “The Story of an Hopeless Drummer” (sic), stepping back to let the guitar/bass have a righteously nodding moment late in the track, but holds firm in a forward position on the short, twanging “Just Not Today” as well as the early going of the prior subdued-blues-smoker highlight “Floating Blues.” “Build Your Home,” “I Don’t Wanna Die” and the particularly-classic-sounding “Fire” revive the classic heavy rock spirit of “Freaks and Geeks,” and 16-minute finale “Everything is Good Until Trouble Comes” uses its extra runtime for a satisfying and patient execution with an expanded arrangement including choral vocals, organ and additional guitar effects. You might be boogied out by the time they’re done, but as The Black Wizards crash through their big finish, they sound like their party’s just getting started.

The Black Wizards on Thee Facebooks

The Black Wizards on Bandcamp

 

Low Flying Hawks, Genkaku

low-flying-hawks-genkaku

One might expect that with all the Melvins affiliation going on in the second Magnetic Eye Records full-length from L.A. duo Low Flying Hawks, Genkaku would sound, you know, more like the Melvins, but despite working with bassist Trevor Dunn, drummer Dale Crover and producer Toshi Kasai, and despite bringing in Buzz Osbourne for guest vocal spots on eight-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “Smile” and side B leadoff “Space Wizard,” initials-only multi-instrumentalists EHA and AAL follow their 2016 debut, Kofuku (review here), with a sound even more their own, balancing between thick riffy rollout and post-rock atmospherics. Of course, they weird out a bit on “Smile” and the lumberingly spacious “Uncool” and “Virgin Witch,” but whether it’s the later mournfulness of “Hallucination” or “Twilight” toying with noisy fuckall while seeming to mock heavy rocker burl ahead of the melodic payoff in closer “Sinister Waves,” there’s more EHA and AAL in Low Flying Hawks than the prominent pedigree of their collaborators might lead you to believe. All the better for what becomes a richly satisfying 43-minute listen rife with depth, patience, and yes, personality.

Low Flying Hawks on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

 

Brother Sister Hex, End Times

brother-sister-hex-end-times

Coherent songwriting rests at the core of what Denver’s Brother Sister Hex bring to their five-song third EP, End Times, which darkens up Queens of the Stone Age-circa-Songs for the Deaf vibing on its title-track (also a bit of Kyuss’ “El Rodeo” in there for good measure) before delving into more ambient fare on the centerpiece “Confessions.” Vocalist/guitarist Colfax Mingo demonstrates SubRosa-style vocal command there, but the context is more rock-based, uptempo and straightforward as she, guitarist Patrick Huddleson, bassist Drew Hicks and guest-drummer Jordan Palmer (Plastic Daggers) meld traditionalist structures with atmospheric moodiness. Opener “Hey” offers a suitable greeting through hook and groove, and the shuffle of “Sweet and Sleazy” and the rumbling fuzz (Hicks makes it a highlight) of closer “News Feed” wraps with another grunge-style QOTSA melody efficiently drawn, shouting the question “what have we done?” as it thuds into its second half. Uh, you’ve made a professional-sounding, excellently-constructed EP that shows you’re more than ready to embark on a debut full-length, permanent drummer or no. So yeah, get on that.

Brother Sister Hex on Thee Facebooks

Brother Sister Hex on Bandcamp

 

Cold Insight, Further Nowhere

cold-insight-further-nowhere

As progressive as it is brutal, Further Nowhere is ostensibly the debut release from Paris’ Cold Insight. The material seems to date back at least to 2013, if not earlier than that, when band-spearhead Sébastien Pierre (also of Enshine, Fractal Gates, and others) first issued what’s now tagged as a “pre-production album” version, but it’s hardly as though the lush, growling, melodeathly doom sounds dated. With sonic likenesses throughout to bands like Amorphis, Dark Tranquility and Paradise Lost, Cold Insight – on which Pierre, who also did the artwork, is joined by drummer Christian Netzell while Jari Lindholm adds lead guitar – hit on a very particular, very European style, and not an unfamiliar one as displayed in the righteously driving “Distance,” but the find-the-beauty-in-darkness spirit behind “Close Your Eyes” and songs like “Even Dies a Sun” and the more uptempo later piece “I Will Rise” help ensure that the formidable 12-song/66-minute run of Further Nowhere never gets too bogged down in its melancholy. It may have been a while in the making, and one hopes a follow-up won’t take as long to arrive, but the precise execution Pierre hones in these songs and the depths to which he can bring a willing audience are a fitting payoff for the years of work that went into their construction.

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