Posted in Features on November 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
It has been an exceedingly busy year for Monolord. The Gothenburg trio released their second album, Vænir (review here), through RidingEasy Records as the follow-up to 2014’s incredibly well-received Empress Rising debut, and from there, they haven’t really stopped. A tour in Europe led up to the album’s release and also found them following it with an appearance at Roadburn in the Netherlands, and they did sundry other dates this past summer before making a stop at Desertfest Belgium en route to the US for their first tour in North America, supporting Windhand and Danava on an ambitious cross-country run of the major markets that included a slot at Night of the Shred in Southern California.
Really, since Empress Rising was plonked down on riff-hungry skulls like so much edible concrete, Monolord have worked quickly and fiercely to make a name for themselves. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Thomas Jäger, bassist Mika Häkki and drummer/recording engineer Esben Willems, they clearly knew what they wanted to start from sound-wise on the first record and had ideas they wanted to develop working off that for the second, but also, in practical as well as creative terms, they seem to be very much on the same page in terms of what kind of work they’re going to put in and what that’s going to look like in terms of their overall plans. Monolord‘s ascent is not an accident. True, it wouldn’t be possible if the albums didn’t resonate, but they have not sat around and let acclaim come to them. They have gone out and hand-delivered their pummel door to door.
With performances already confirmed for 2016 at Desertfest in London and Berlin, Freak Valley in Germany and Hellfest in France, as well as other tours in the theoretical stages, it looks like that will very much continue to be the case as they move beyond Vænir and toward a crucial third full-length. As they move toward wrapping the dates with Windhand and Danava, it seemed only fair to check in with the band and get an update on how the shows have been, their impressions from life on the road in North America as opposed to Europe, and what 2016 might hold for them past what’s been confirmed publicly. Willems — whose patience in waiting for me to have three minutes to put together a list of questions for an email Q&A was very much appreciated — was kind enough to take time out to fill us in.
Please find the full interview after the jump, and thanks for reading.
“Gaze of Leviathan” was one of two new songs that Sweden’s Cities of Mars played at the recent Wizard of Fuzz festival in Kvibergs Kaserner. The other was called “Beneath a Burning Sun,” and both tracks come off the trio’s yet-untitled second EP, which will be released through Suicide Records in March 2016. Like their debut two-tracker (streamed here), the upcoming three-song release was recorded by Esben Willems of Monolord, and a new live video for the aforementioned “Gaze of Leviathan” can be found below.
The roll in the track speaks for itself, but the echoing shouts give off hints of melody that one can only imagine will continue to develop in the Gothenburg-based band’s sound and be brought out even more in the studio version of the track. We’re still a ways out from that release, but the band has started to tease the info and the material with the live clip, and everything we know to this point can be found for your perusal below. Note the art that follows is not the cover for the EP, just Cities of Mars‘ logo design:
Cities of Mars – deal for EP and live video coming up
Swedish sci-fi doom trio Cities of Mars released their first two-track EP in August 2015 and gathered lots of positive reactions for their vocally intense psychedelic doom, telling the tale of a Soviet cosmonaut landing on Mars in the early 70’s and discovering an ancient civilization and conspiracy from the dawn of time.
Now the band has joined creative forces with Swedish label Suicide Records (Age of Woe, 100 Years, Dia Psalma, Peter Dolving etc.) for an upcoming digital EP. Cities of Mars will yet again rely on the talents of Esben Willems, drummer and producer in Swedish doom titans Monolord for recording and producing duties.
The EP will be a 3-track affair, with release scheduled for early March 2016.
For those eager to get new music from Cities of Mars – now the previously unreleased song Gaze of Leviathan is available on a live video from the Wizard of Fuzz Festival in Gothenburg, Sweden.
There’s a lot to like about Gothenburg heavy rockers Honeymoon Disease‘s new video for “Higher,” which is taken from their upcoming full-length debut, The Transcendence. Me? I like the wrestlers at the end. All of a sudden some dude is getting bodyslammed through a table. You’re watching the clip and you’re like, “Wait a minute, a verse ago we were at an awesome-looking parking lot barbecue — how did we get there?,” and then somebody’s getting punched in the head with the eight ball. Between that, the aforementioned cookout, the dude doing a radio show in a studio that looks positively palatial compared to just about every broadcast booth I’ve ever been in, the motorcycle gang, hot rod and the band’s apparent affection for the color yellow, yeah, as I said, there’s a lot to like.
The Transcendence is out Nov. 20 on Napalm Records, and “Higher” finds Honeymoon Disease nestled into a sweet spot betwixt the boogie of Graveyard and Horisont‘s affinity for classic metal. Guitarist/vocalist Jenna Disease, guitarist Acid Disease and drummer Jimi Disease (formerly of Mamont) recently welcomed bassist Nicklas Hellqvist tot he fold, and while I think he’s too new to have played on the record or to appear in the video, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Honeymoon Disease were looking to hit the road in a big way to support their debut. Already they have dates booked around to the release that include a stop Nov. 21 at Speedfest in the Netherlands, where they’re on a lineup with High on Fire, Mondo Generator, Voivod, Refused and many more.
Plenty to like about that as well, and one doubts very much that will be Honeymoon Disease‘s last run to herald the album’s — and thus their own — arrival. Oh, one last thing about the video. At the end of it, the band gets all their friends to lineup for a photo op in the parking lot where the party was held. Looks like a good time, and cool to see they’ve got their priorities in the right place.
Video, comment from Honeymoon Disease, album and tour info follow. Enjoy:
Honeymoon Disease, “Higher” official video
Says Honeymoon Disease:
HIGHER is our way to describe the feeling you get when someone wants to tear everything you’ve got apart. And finally, when your fuel tank is filled-up with shit, you strike back, like a flash of lightning.
The music video is directed by our good friend Max Ljungberg who has captured all the elements that builds up Honeymoon Disease. It also reflects the rage of Higher.
Honeymoon Disease’s single “Fast Love” (2014) was quite possibly the surprise of the year: The Quartet from Gothenburg Sweden didn’t just release an acceptable debut single, but delivered a heavy-speed-rocking masterpiece which could easily hold a candle comparable to classic outfits like DEEP PURPLE, THIN LIZZY or RAINBOW. The “Bellevue Groove” single B-side also pays tribute to THE DAMNED with a fantastic cover of “Neat, Neat, Neat”.
With such a heavy hitting debut single, the weighted question remains as to whether the band can deliver the same quality on a full length debut. “The Transcendence” delivers, answering this question with an album full of future classics steeped in timeless charm, blessed with massive grooves, spirited with cocky howls, and seasoned with classic style riffs. Honeymoon Disease are proof that the Modern Retro Rock movement is not a male dominated genre, with two women, Jenna and Acid, jointly responsible for their unique sound, HONEYMOON DISEASE are making their mark with testosterone fueled rhythm on anthems like “Gotta Move!” so follow, or get out of their way!
To get the full live experience check out their upcoming tour dates with Avatarium and The Vintage Caravan.
Listening to “The Takeoff” from Lord of Cyclopes‘ debut EP of the same name, it’s not that surprising to learn that the Gothenburg-based band has a connection to Generous Maria, whose 2001 outing, Command of the New Rock, remains a well-guarded secret of pre-social media European stoner rock. Lord of Cyclopes, whose EP is newly released on Daredevil Records, work in a similar post-Kyuss mentality, way more indebted to the earliest work of their countrymen in Dozer and Lowrider than to the current retro ’70s movement spearheaded by Graveyard, and in a less outwardly commercial (in a European radio sense) fashion than Mother Misery, who have similar ties.
Still, if “The Takeoff” finds in them in the tail of a comet, that seems to suit Lord of Cyclopes just fine. What probably remains a few years off from being called “classic stoner rock” sounds almost refreshing for its lack of further subgenre delineation, and the four-piece build a considerable head of steam, rhythmically-speaking, across an efficient, sub-four-minute runtime while also keeping a mind toward a catchy hook. The Takeoff has four tracks total and can be heard at the band’s Soundcloud and purchased (on the cheap, I’ll add) from Daredevil‘s webstore, both of which are linked under the video below.
Lord of Cyclopes, “The Takeoff” official video
Official PR-video of the song “The Takeoff” from the EP “The Takeoff” released 2015 by LORD OF CYCLOPES!
Was originally founded in 2011 by drummer Cyclope Joe. With him he got his former friends Cyclope Pontiac on bass and Cyclope Pelé on vocals. Cyclope Pontiac Went to Stockholm in early 2015 and the bass is now operated by former heavy metal bass guitar virtuoso Cyclope Jorge. Different guitar players came and went until the band settled for Cyclope George. All members have different experiences and from former bands. This quartet has definitely found matching preferences! It will rock your socks off!
Cyclope Pelé – Vocals Cyclope Joe – Drums Cyclope Jorge – Bass Cyclope George – Guitars
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 3rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Swedish twofer Galvano will hit the road next month across Western Europe in support of their earlier-2015 release, Trail of the Serpent, which is also their debut on Candlelight Records. They’re joined for the trek by their countrymen in Snailking and Canada’s Zaum, who I hear will have a new record out in 2016, which is surely good news for anyone who likes their heavy with a bit of ritual behind it. Which I think is just about everybody at this point. Or, at very least, me. Ha.
It’s a more than solid bill, though, with the three bands, and they’ll meet up with the likes of Pentagram and Graveyard along the way as well, so all the better. Dates and background on Trail of the Serpent follow, as well as the stream of the album, all courtesy of the PR wire:
We are hitting Europe again in November, this time with our friends in Snailking and ZAUM. Excited to return to France, this time sharing stage with the mighty Pentagram! Hope to see you out there! Go like these killer bands and share this poster. Thank you.
Galvano on Tour with Snailking and Zaum 11.13 Stengade Copenhagen DK 11.14 Astrastube Hamburg DE 11.15 TBC Rouen FR 11.17 Ferrailleur Nantes FR* 11.18 Little Devil Tilburg NL 11.19 De Onderbroek Nijmegen NL 11.20 Music City Antwerp BE 11.21 Brixton Windmill London UK 11.23 TBC Leipzig DE 11.24 Chemiefabrik Dresden DE 11.25 Alte Meierei Kiel DE 11.26 Schokoladen Berlin DE 11.27 1000Fryd Aalborg DK 11.28 Vulkan Arena Oslo NO** *with Pentagram **with Graveyard
From the deepest, nastiest recesses of Gothenburg comes crushing Swedish sludge duo Galvano. Now comprising Mattias Noojd (guitars/vocals) and Fredrik Kall (drums), Galvano originally started out as a three-piece in 2005.
Galvano embarked on their first mini tour in 2010 visiting Denmark and a set of German cities. That same year the band were asked to feature on a split so they went into the studio and recorded the epic single The Librarian which was mixed and mastered by the legendary Billy Anderson (Orange Goblin, Cathedral, Eyehategod).
This was released as a 10 in 2011 on SM Musik from Leipzig, Germany. The release was then followed up by a full European tour. After this tour the band said goodbye to their fourth bass player and decided to move on as a duo. Early in 2012 they teamed up with UK based label Devouter Records for the release of their debut full-length album Two Titans. The album was released on December 5th and was very well received by both fans and media.
Since then the band has played over 35 shows during several European tours including UK and Ireland. In January 2015, Galvano signed with Candlelight Records.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 13th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Swedish trio Cities of Mars have released their debut single, Cyclopean Ritual / The Third Eye, as a name-your-price download. The three-piece of bassist/vocalist Danne Palm, guitarist/vocalist Christoffer Norén (also Benevolent) and drummer Johan Küchler first got together last year, and the new single marks their first time in the studio. They recorded with Esben Willems of Monolord, of which Palm is also a former member. One can hear some similar tendencies in the riffery that ensues across “Cyclopean Ritual” and “The Third Eye,” the stoner idolatry taken to a cosmic end, but Cities of Mars distinguish themselves with some of the most satisfying roll in this style that I’ve heard since the first Sigiriya record in 2011, not looking to overwhelm with tone or impress with nuance, but just riffing out and hitting the mark dead on.
Cities of Mars play the Wizard of Fuzz festival in Oct. in their native Gothenburg, and more info on that and the stream of both tracks follow here, courtesy of the PR wire:
The spacetime transmission is out there.
A tiny fragment of a signal, from another time and another place. Perhaps it tells the truth, some version of the truth or perhaps it’s just distorted white noise, a blip in a broken old radio somewhere.
But all three of us felt it, heard it and we were captivated. The blips and swirls became sound, broken syllables became words, and a story from another world started to unfold. We learned that the Soviet Union’s Mars landers in the early seventies did indeed not crash, but landed a secret agent upon the red planet’s surface. Her journey into the unknown and the discovery of an ancient civilisation from beyond time are for us to decipher and put into this world. We hope you’ll come along for the journey.
Cities of Mars will unleash the premiere of the grim spacetime tales at the Wizard of Fuzz festival in Gothenburg, Sweden on October 9/10th along with a super-sweet line-up of heavy bands: Black Rainbows (IT), Tombstones (NO), Rosy Finch (ESP), Stone from the sky (FR), Zatokrev (CH), Skraeckoedlan, Serpent Omega, Crowlegion, Maida Vale, Mamon, Colossus, Galvano, Besvärjelsen, Orkan, Reverend Jim Jones ATD, Wolves in Haze and Serpent.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Preceded by the 2014 single “Break the Limit,” the video for which you can see below, the fourth full-length from Swedish trad heavy rockers Horisont is titled Odyssey and it will be out on Sept. 18 via Rise Above Records. That single will also be on the album, the details and righteous artwork for which have just been unveiled. It’s their first record with guitarist Tom Sutton (The Order of Israfel, ex-Church of Misery) in the lineup, so there’s an added level of intrigue there, but at this point the band are pretty reliable for an exciting meld of classic rock and metal, so if Odyssey is business as usual for them, that’s just fine.
One thing I found particularly interesting in the PR wire info below is when drummer Pontus Jordan mentions that the artwork tells the story of the album. I’d be very interested to know what that story is, given the following:
HORISONT to Release Odyssey September 18th on Rise Above Records
Artwork and Track Listing Revealed
Big of moustache and tight of trouser, HORISONT drink from the bottomless wellspring of inspiration that’s been bubbling up through the layers of time since the birth of the blues – or Blue Oyster Cult at the very least. Theirs is a sound that harks back to the dawn of the 70s, when a new clutch of heads decided it was time to harsh the 60s hippies’ mellow and paint it black; those years when the twin spirit of hard rock and prog rose to redefine sound.
This quintet’s rock trip might be retro but their songwriting is timeless; a good melody lives forever and HORISONT have songs in abundance. New album Odyssey is exactly as its title suggests: an epic journey into the known. A sonic trip. A mighty voyage of sound. You could even call their fourth full release a concept album – although they themselves prefer “space saga”. Either way it’s a brave band who open their album with a ten minute-long track, yet on the album’s title track HORISONT dive straight into the deep end, delivering space-rock with all the dexterity and deftness of the very best prog rock’s finest, such as early Yes or Kansas.
Odyssey was recorded in Studio Kust in Gothenburg with producer by Henrik Magnusson. It was, the band explain their most harmonious creative period ever.”No HORISONT recording session has ever been this good,” admits Delborg. “We had worked with Henrik on our ‘Break The Limit’ single and knew that he was our guy. All the basics where recorded live in just a couple of days. Then we spent a lot of time on the intricate details.”
The artwork for Odyssey harks back to both classic sci-fi paperbacks and prime prog rock albums of the 70s. “We wanted a slightly disturbed, Asimov-esque science fiction cover that told the story of Odyssey,” says drummer Pontus Jordan. “Tom knew this guy who was really in to old science fiction stuff and he had done the cover for The Order Of Israfel. So we meet the guy and it was the one and only Henrik Jacobsen. And he really nailed it.”
Formed in 2006, HORISONT have spent close to a decade kicking ass, taking names and establishing themselves at the forefront of the Scandinavian retro rock revival (see also Witchcraft, Graveyard etc), injecting their sound with early-Status Quo-styled boogie blues, prog complexities, NWOBHM swagger and fire-spitting choruses set to scorch the eyebrows of the first ten rows. This is music made without irony, unafraid to acknowledge an allegiance to past greats such as Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Cactus, Thin Lizzy, the aforementioned Yes andJudas Priest.
Their first two albums Tva Sidor Av Horisonten(2009) and Second Assault (2012) earned HORISONT a special place in the rock underground, while Time Warriors (2013) was a no-holds barred demonstration of classic rock and metal combined with a fearlessly inventive streak, and took them to a wider international audience. And now comes Odyssey, a bold leap into more expansive and ethereal musical territory. It’s the band’s first to feature native Australian and former Church Of Misery guitarist Tom Sutton.
The new line-up change sees a definite gear-shift too. Here HORISONT play as if their lives depend upon it: duelling guitars do battle in a endlessly thrilling interplay over a rhythm section that gallops like wild horses across the frozen tundra. And cutting through the middle, Axel Söderberg’s howling heartfelt vocals delivered with a space-age sense of soulfulness.
Strap in, sit back and let the Odyssey begin….
Odyssey Track Listing: 1. Odyssey 2. Break The Limit 3. Blind Leder Blind 4. Bad News 5. Light My Way 6. The Night Stalker 7. Flying 8. Back On The Streets 9. Beyond The Sun 10. Red Light 11. StÑder Brinner 12. Timmarna
HORISONT Lineup: Axel Söderberg – vocals Charlie Van Loo – guitar Tom Sutton – guitar Magnus Delborg – bass Pontus Jordan – drums
Posted in Reviews on April 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Morale is good as I stare down day three of this Quarterly Review. I’m encouraged by the good response the two-so-far posts have gotten and hope if you’ve had the chance to check out any of this stuff you’ve been able to find something you’re into. Or if not, I hope the next three days can rectify that situation. There are 30 records still to go. Bound to be something in there for everyone, myself included.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Royal Thunder, Crooked Doors
Royal Thunder’s second full-length for Relapse, Crooked Doors, is bound to surprise some listeners. A three-piece when they issued CVI through the label in 2012, the Savannah, Georgia, outfit arrives at Crooked Doors as a foursome with the addition of guitarist Will Fiore of Zoroaster, and embarks on a considerable shift in approach. Slickly, almost commercially produced, the album brisks past some riffy elements in songs like opener “Time Machine,” also the longest cut at 7:20 (immediate points), and “The Line” toward an aesthetic reinterpreting ‘80s pop-metal melodramas through a vaguely heavy rock filter. Between Fiore and might-spit-beer-on-you guitarist Josh Weaver, one might expect more tonal heft than Crooked Doors offers overall, but the album instead leans heavily on bassist/vocalist Mlny Parsonz to carry the emotional crux of the material (though Evan Diprima’s drums still hit with some impact as well). Parsonz’s voice proves up to the task — in pop-singer form, she carries the record — and is bolstered through layering, but by the time Crooked Doors’ hour runtime ends up at the lounge-blues and piano stylizations of “The Bear I” and “The Bear II,” it feels cumbersome and like the point has already been made.
A sophomore EP from this London five-piece following their impressive 2013 self-titled (review here), Luia doesn’t top half an hour, but its five included tracks show marked progression in pushing Strauss away from the Kyuss-isms that in large part defined their prior work. Opener “Mud at You” is immediately more aggressive, and though “Humanphobic (to Mary Shelley)” (note: anthropophobia), slows the pace and opens wide in its middle third, vocalist Stef shouts to remind of the core intensity in the songwriting. That takes a back seat as centerpiece “For all the Wrong Reasons” moves toward an apex of a cleaner-sung chorus, but the riffs of guitarists Charles and Bano, and the groove from bassist Bill and drummer Doc, remain heavy enough that the point isn’t lost. The eight-minute “Eclipse” has it all – doomed chug, screams, singing, crash, tempo changes, nod and so on – but the funky jam that starts closer “2015” shows Strauss are willing to have some fun with their heaviness as well. All the better. Time for a full-length.
Comparisons to Witch Mountain are inevitable for Minneapolis four-piece Kult of the Wizard, whose vocalist, Mahle Roth, carries a bluesy inflection not dissimilar from Uta Plotkin on the five-song EP, The White Wizard. Self-released, it’s the band’s first work with Roth as frontwoman, guitarist Aaron Hodgson, bassist Ryan Janssen and drummer Travis Nordahl having released two prior outings – The Red Wizard (2013) and The Blue Wizard (2014) – instrumentally, and the difference is palpable. Roth adds a commanding presence to the rolling leadoff track “Tusk of the Mammoth,” showcases a noteworthy range on “Black Moon” and steps back only for an eerie wash of noise and samples on centerpiece “Plasma Pool,” but the finest performance on all fronts is closer “Devil Delight,” which meters out stomp and echo at its peak to concoct an otherworldly churn of psychedelic cult doom, Roth once again steering the progression with a sure hand. One does not expect The White Wizard to be the last we hear from Kult of the Wizard. Hell, they haven’t even done all the primary colors yet.
With 350 copies pressed by H42 Records in no fewer than five different color variations and at least that many versions of the cover art, Ein Herz Voller Soul, the latest 7” single from horn-laden German rockers Coogans Bluff hits with a fair amount of circumstance. It is, nonetheless, two songs and a quick listen. Its A-side is “Ein Herz Voller Soul,” a German-language retelling of “Heart Full of Soul” from the band’s 2014 full-length, Gettin’ Dizzy, and the B-side is “She Gave Her Life for a Man,” a classic rocker given middle-era Beatlesian flair by Stefan Meinking’s trombone, which feels fitting after the garage style of “Ein Herz Voller Soul,” though both cuts retain an element of the progressive in their approach, the band – Meinking, guitarist Willi Paschen, bassist/vocalist Clemens Marasus, drummer Charlie Paschen and saxophonist Max Thum – not afraid to branch wherever the song might take them, to a call and response hook or harder drum stomp. A stopgap, maybe, but Coogans Bluff have a tendency to engage and here they do so in hardly any time at all.
Papir Meets Electric Moon, The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014
Members of German psych-jam godsends Electric Moon and Copenhagen progressive explorers Papir took the stage at Roadburn 2014 in the Netherlands as a follow-up to their 2013 outing, The Papermoon Sessions (review here). I don’t think they’d played live together before and I’m pretty sure they haven’t since (though don’t quote me on that), but in any case, the billing Papir Meets Electric Moon isn’t something that happens every day, and the two north-of-20-minutes pieces conjured up for inclusion on The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014 only emphasize how special the collaboration actually is, washes of synth and effects layered over gloriously krautrocking rhythms, swiftly turning one minute and peaceful the next, but never disjointed, never losing the sense of flow. Each track — the second one is shorter at 22:15 — has its own movement, but the thing to do is put on The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014 and just let it go and go along with it. For a group that came together in the wake of a tragedy — the untimely passing of Danish promoter Ralph Rjeily — Papermoon proves yet again that beauty can spring even in dark times. I hope they do another record.
Seems unlikely a band is going to dive into songs like “Hippies are Dead,” “Whore Island (Jim Loves His Wife” or “King Mullet Destroyer” and not have a sense of humor, let alone call themselves We are Warwick Davis – please note: the actor is nowhere to be seen – so yeah, the Illinois double-guitar five-piece get up to some chicanery on their Storming the Castle full-length. Lots of chicanery, as it happens. Vocalist Joe Duffy is blown out over the punkish progressions of “Audio Visual” but reminds more of Jello Biafra on “Mind Enemy Mine,” which launches the album following a voicemail intro about blowing people off the stage. Former Monster Magnet guitarist John McBain mastered the album, and it was apparently a couple years in the self-recording process. It’s accordingly raw, and at 57 minutes, I doubt the band could be accused of understating their argument. Out of balance here and there to the point of abrasion, but ultimately harmless.
Rongeur, The Catastrophist and As the Blind Strive Demos
With members of folk metallers Trollfest, off-kilter hardcore punkers Ampmandens Døtre and atmospheric post-metallers Sju in tow, it may or may not be fair to call Rongeur a side-project, but they sure as hell are varied in their influences. The Oslo trio of drummer/vocalist Jostein, guitarist/vocalist Ken-Robert and bassist/vocalist Dag Ole (who belong respectively to the bands above) arrange their two-to-date demos with the newer tracks first on The Catastrophist and As the Blind Strive Demos, on Disiplin Media, so that the listener encountering them for the first time hears where the trio are as of 2014, then goes back to their first explorations, from 2013. Raw noise ensues, a post-hardcore vibe delivered with shouts and sludgy heft, but the older tracks offer a fuller distortion that they seem to have stripped down before getting around to songs like “Traitors” or the barebones-aggro “Jon Hogg.” One wonders where they might go from here, which is probably the whole point of the release.
Heavy rock and death metal rarely tread the same ground without being immediately cast to one side or another. Gothenburg’s Crowlegion seem determined to stake a claim to both sides, and the 24-minute The First Offering EP, issued on CD by Grave Goods Productions, makes good on that attempt. The seven tracks are short – only two top four minutes – but stylistically ambitious, guitarist/vocalist Linus Pilebrand seeming to be the driving force behind the project’s blend of rolling riffs and guttural growls. He’s since replaced the rhythm section, having played bass on this recording in addition to guitar, with Jonas Jörgensen also on guitar and Sarah Tefke drumming, and four of the seven cuts also feature guest vocals, most of them working in extreme styles as well. I’m not sure if The First Offering is the release that finally crosses that long bridge between aesthetics, but Crowlegion position themselves well with these tracks to continue to make the journey. Nod or headbang. Your choice.
Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, Intensity Ghost
Less about the sonic heft of any given moment than the overarching freedom of exploration throughout its five instrumental tracks, Intensity Ghost is the first studio offering from Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band (released on No Quarter), and it’s fucking brilliant. The Philly-based five-piece got together in 2013 but play like they’ve been sharing stages for a decade, whether it’s the smoothness with which they ride the bassline and current of synth in “Yellow Square” or closer “Paris Song”’s subtle move from minimalism into contemplative psychedelia. Dreamy centerpiece “I Ain’t Waiting” is the shortest of the bunch at 5:16, and opener “The Ballad of Freer Hollow” the longest and jammiest at 11:25 (immediate points), but wherever these guys – Forsyth on guitar, plus guitarist Paul Sukeena, bassist Peter Kerlin, drummer Steven Urgo and synth/organist Shawn Edward Hansen – seem to go, they get there with an engrossing fluidity that’s nothing short of masterful. A joy, front to back.
Eldorado’s Babylonia Haze, at 10 tracks and 55 minutes, is not an insignificant undertaking. The Spanish four-piece brazenly take on classic rock hooks topped with organ-and-guitar fluidity and the soar-ready singing of Jesus Trujillo, joined in the band by guitarist Andres Duende, bassist Cesar Sanchez and drummer Christian Giardino (since replaced by Javier Planelles). A progressive clarity marks out acoustic-led cuts like “Breathe the Night” and the later “Resurrection Song,” the arrangements natural and purposeful in kind, and longer inclusions like “Flowers of Envy” (8:02) and “Karma Generator” (11:35) have breadth enough to sustain their runtimes while keeping a structured feel, the latter providing plotted movements toward the apex of the album before “Moon Girl” offers a lesser build of its own as afterthought, reimagining prog-fueled heavy rock as the fodder of a pop wistfulness. Accomplished and precise, it’ll be too clean for some ears, while others will no doubt wonder how its brilliance can be ignored.