Because so much of the story around Swedish trio Monolord has, since they made their debut with 2014’s Empress Rising, been about the largesse of riff they proffer, the massive nod and so on, I feel like the underlying narrative of their progression has been somewhat lost.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re asking the question, “What do Monolord sound like?” the answer is no doubt going to be, “They sound frickin’ huge,” but across their 2015 second LP, Vænir (review here), and last year’s Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze EP (review here), guitarist/vocalist Thomas V. Jäger, bassist Mika Häkki and drummer Esben Willems have enacted a chartable sonic growth that’s been as much about expanse as volume. They still crush — or “crosh,” if you prefer the emphatic pronunciation — but both tracks on the latest EP offer atmospheric density as well as tonal.
Does that mean Monolord are moving past their foundation? Probably not, but it does mean Jäger is becoming more comfortable as a singer and as a whole they’re becoming less tied to unipolar heft. The watery effects that one hears on “Lord of Suffering” add a psychedelic flavor to what’s otherwise a pretty straightforward fuzz roll, and one gets the sense in listening that it captures the three-piece at a transitional moment, which makes the prospect of a third album — which has been hinted at for 2017 — all the more enticing.
If/when Monolord do hit the studio this year, they’ll do so as part of what will no doubt remain a busy schedule of live dates. Already they’ve been confirmed for Germany’s Stoned from the Underground (info here) in July and for SonicBlast Moledo (info here) in Portugal this August, and no doubt more announcements are to come. I haven’t heard anything to this effect, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were on the road for the entire month between those two. That’s kind of how Monolord do.
Fittingly, the video below for “Lord of Suffering” was filmed on tour. One way or another, expect more from Monolord as we move through 2017.
Monolord, “Lord of Suffering” official video
Swedish trio Monolord premiere the first video from their new 10″ EP. The seven-minute video is culled from footage shot throughout the band’s extensive US and EU touring last summer.
Monolord’s full discography is available on RidingEasy Records.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Långfinger and Captain Crimson both put out records this past autumn in a one-two punch of high-grade next-gen Swedish heavy rock. Next month, the Small Stone labelmates — from Gothenburg and Örebro, respectively — are pairing up for a round of mostly-German tour dates put together by Total Volume Booking that will find them supporting those new albums and continuing to bring their long-simmering underground reputations to turning more heads on the road. I would not expect this to be either band’s final announcement for 2017 in terms of shows and/or festivals — that’s just speculation, not insider info or anything — because it seems to me that the longer time goes on, it’s just more opportunity for Crossyears (review here) and Remind (review here) to catch on.
Dates come courtesy of Långfinger‘s social medias, other info from Small Stone. One likes to properly source these things:
We’ve teamed up with fellow swedes Captain Crimson for February’s central European tour. The earthquake starts on Feb 15. Prepare yourselves for swedish rock n roll deluxe, multiplied by two!
Feb 15 – Kiel (DE) @ Die Kieler Schaubude Feb 16 – Berlin (DE) @ Jägerklause Berlin Feb 17 – Den Helder (NL) @ Rockcafé de Engel Feb 18 – Siegen (DE) @ Vortex Surfer Musikclub Feb 19 – Antwerp (BE) @ AMC (Antwerp Music City) Feb 21 – Cologne (DE) @ Limes Köln Feb 23 – Mannheim (DE) @ Kurzbar Feb 24 – Luzern (CH) @ The Bruch Brothers
Långfinger, from the fertile rock ‘n’ roll city of Gothenburg, are masters of the art. They’ve been playing together since they were in their early teens, and their third album, called ‘Crossyears’, is both the thrilling culmination of their collective endeavour, and a rumination on it – on how Time has shaped them and brought them to this point. Within its hard-hitting grooves, the interlocking of Långfinger’s three disparate characters – Kalle, the unflappable, precision axeman; Jesper, the athletic sticksman battering out physical revenge on his kit; and Victor, the intense, exploratory spirit, bridging thundering bass and howling exorcism – is a magical proposition.
Formed in 2010 by vocalist Stefan Lillhager, formerly of Blowback, Captain Crimson draws inspiration from the classic sounds of The Groundhogs, Blue Cheer, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Jethro Tull and Cactus, meeting heavy boogie head-on with a modern swagger that has carried over to their latest and third album, Remind – their first for Small Stone Records. Make no mistake: Captain Crimson’s latest is nothing less than a testament to the timeless power of groove, of memorable choruses that take you back to when you felt such things deep in your soul, and indeed offer a reminder that you still can and that you still do.
Swedish power trio Långfinger released their third album, Crossyears, on Sept. 30. Their first for Small Stone Records, the record — which was first announced here — comes jammed with premium boogie and classic songcraft delivered with a new generation’s energy. One need look no further than the track “Fox Confessor” for clear demonstration of all of the above. The side A cut finds itself a comfortable pace and builds tension in its verse only to let loose in a righteous hooked backed up by spacious lead guitar. Then they turn around and do it all again. Another round for everybody.
That, incidentally, could also be said to be the theme of the video, though Långfinger push deeper into narrative than just playing a show and selling their amps (and dog) for alcohol after being stiffed by the club owner, actually going so far as to take revenge on the club owner themselves. Street justice! They wind up living the high life on a rooftop, praising high art and chipping golf balls into the urban setting below. You know, as one does. It’s about a four-minute clip to tell this story, and about a three-minute song underneath, so efficiency is a major factor here to be sure, but Långfinger don’t need any more time than they take in order to make an impression. Crossyears benefits across its span from their clarity of purpose as much as it does from their choice riffing and rhythmic fluidity.
Plus it’s a bass tone you just gotta hear.
The band was kind enough to offer some comment on the making of the video and the song, which you’ll find below. Crossyears is also streaming in full at Small Stone‘s Bandcamp, linked at the bottom of this post.
Långfinger, “Fox Confessor” official video
Långfinger on “Fox Confessor”:
“Fox Confessor” is the first collaboration between Långfinger and cinematographer Anders Bryngel. We were exploring the idea of working together for some years and with the new album looming, it was more appropriate than ever.
One day we devised a syndicate. We then determined that the effort should be focused on a narrative and as the storyline progressed we let it evolve naturally with the group’s dynamic. A spontaneous process driven by our collective efforts.
As for the actual song, which like many of our songs, established itself as an instrumental; was inspired by our favorite Krautrock bands from the late sixties. That was up until I spent some time in rural Argentina. The lyrics began as rough scribbles, and in the attempt to characterize the broad landscape, which seemed to encompass most of my days spent there, a sort of comic relief broke out into lyric.
Långfinger: Kalle Lilja – Guitars & backing vocals Victor Crusner – Bass, keys & lead vocals Jesper Pihl – Drums & backing vocals
Posted in Reviews on October 4th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Day Two starts now. I don’t know if you’re ready for it. I don’t know if I’m ready for it. Ah hell, who am I kidding? I love this stuff. No place I’d rather be right now than pounding out these reviews, batch by batch, all week. This one gets heavy, it goes far out, it rocks hard and relentless and it gets atmospheric. And more. But don’t let me try to sell you on reading it. Even if you skim through and click on players, I hope you find something you dig. If not today, then yesterday, or tomorrow or the next day. Or hell, maybe the day after. It’s 50 records. There’s bound to be one in there. Here we go.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
Monolord, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze
A relatively quick two-songer issued via RidingEasy to mark the occasion of the Swedish trio’s first US headlining tour this summer, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze offers a more stripped-down feel than did Monolord’s second full-length, Vænir (review here), which came out last year. The roll elicited by guitarist/vocalist Thomas V. Jäger, drummer Esben Willems and bassist Mika Häkki, however, remains unspeakably thick and the band’s intent toward largesse and nod continues to ring true. They’re in and out in 11 minutes, but the ethereal, watery vocal style of Jäger and the more earthbound pummel of the three-piece as a whole on “Lord of Suffering” and the grueling spaciousness of “Die in Haze” – not to mention the bass tone – show that Monolord are only continuing to come into their own sound-wise, and that as they do, their approach grows more and more dominant. They make it hard not to be greedy and ask for a new album.
Seattle two-piece Teacher served notice early this year of their then-forthcoming self-titled, self-recorded debut LP, and it was easy to tell the Tony Reed-mastered full-length would be one to watch out for as it followed-up their prior EP1812, released in 2015. Arriving via Devil’s Child Records, the 10-track Teacher does indeed dole out a few crucial lessons from drummer/guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Ethan Mercer and guitarist/vocalist Solomon Arye Rosenschein. Whether it’s “Heavy Metal Parking Lot 1979” or the swinging “Peripatetic Blues” or the gone-backwards psych interlude “Wildcard Jambalaya” that immediately follows, the record basks in an organic diversity of approach drawn together by the clear chemistry already present between Mercer and Rosenschein. A harder edge of tone keeps a modern feel prevalent, but even the forward punker charge of “Mean as Hell” has classic roots, and as they finish with “Home for the Summer” as the last of three out of the four EP tracks included in a row to round out the LP, they seem to have entered the conversation of 2016’s most cohesive debuts in heavy rock. Their arrival is welcome.
There’s an element of danger to Rosy Finch’s debut long-player, Witchboro (on Lay Bare Recordings). Actually two. One: it sounds like it could come apart at any given moment – it never does. Two: any given one among its nine component tracks could wind up just about anywhere. Though the Spanish trio of bassist/vocalist ElenaGarcía, guitarist/vocalist Mireia Porto and drummer Lluís Mas keep individual songs relatively raw sounding – or at very least not overproduced as something so progressive could just as easily have wound up – but even the soothing “Ligeia” holds to a driving sense of foreboding. Punk in its undercurrent with more than a touch of grunge, Witchboro is as much at home in the atmospheric crush of “Polvo Zombi” as the quick-turning finale thrust of “Daphne vs. Apollo,” and its overarching impression is striking in just how readily it manipulates the elements that comprise it. Ambitious, but more defined by succeeding in its ambitions than by the ambitions themselves.
Holy Mountain Top Removers, The Ones Disappearing You
Psychedelic surf? Wah-soaked, bass rumbling foreboding? Euro-inflected lounge? All of the above and much more get a big check mark from Nashville instrumentalists Holy Mountain Top Removers, whose The Ones Disappearing You LP covers an enviable amount of stylistic ground and still leaves room near the end for bassist/keyboardist Mikey Allred to lead a blues dirge on trombone. He’s joined by drummer/percussionist Edmond Villa and guitarist Anthony Ford, as well as guest trumpeter Court Reese and violinist Allan Van Cleave, and as they careen through this vast terrain, Holy Mountain Top Removers only seem to revel in the oddness of their own creation. To wit, the early jangle of “Monsieur Espionnage” is delivered with gleeful starts and stops, and the later “Serenade for Sexual Absence” given a mournful snare march and what sounds like tarantella to go with Van Cleave’s violin lead. Playful in the extreme, The Ones Disappearing You nonetheless offers rich arrangements and a drive toward individuality that stands among its core appeals, but by no means stands there alone.
Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, The Rarity of Experience I
Philadelphia four-piece Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band must have worked quickly to turn around so soon a follow-up to last year’s debut album, Intensity Ghost (review here), but their second offering, The Rarity of Experience lacks nothing for growth. A two-disc, 72-minute 10-tracker also released through No Quarter, The Rarity of Experience hops genres the way rocks skip on water, from the exploratory psychedelic vibing of “Anthem II” to the Talking Heads-style jangle of “The Rarity of Experience II” and into horn-infused free-jazz fusion on “The First 10 Minutes of Cocksucker Blues” – which, by the way, is 12 minutes long. A big change is the inclusion of vocals, but the penultimate “Old Phase” still holds to some of the pastoral atmospherics Forsyth and company brought together on the first record, but principally, what The Rarity of Experience most clearly shows is that one doesn’t necessarily know what’s coming from Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, and as much as they offer across this massive stretch, I wouldn’t be surprised if they continue to expand their sound.
Initially released by the band in January, the self-titled debut from Munich heavy rockers Swan Valley Heights sees wider issue through Oak Island Records in an edition of 200 LPs. After rolling out the largesse of welcome-riff in opener “Slow Planet,” the three-piece dig into longform groove on “Alaska” (9:09), “Mammoth” (11:02) and “Let Your Hair Down” (9:35), finding a balance between hypnotic flow and deeply weighted tones. Riffs lead the way throughout, and while there aren’t a ton of surprises, once they make their way through “Caligula Overdrive,” the shimmer at the start of “Mountain” and some of the more patient unfolding of closer “River” called Sungrazer to mind and I couldn’t help but wonder if Swan Valley Heights would make their way toward more lush fare over time. Whether they do or not, their debut engages in its warmth and cohesion of purpose, and offers plenty of depth for those looking to dive in headfirst.
I can’t help but feel like Portland, Oregon’s Cambrian Explosion are selling themselves a little short by calling The Moon an EP. At five songs and 35 minutes, the follow-up to their 2013 The Sun outing boasts a richly progressive front-to-back flow, deep sense of psychedelic melodicism and enough crunch to wholly satisfy each of the payoffs its hypnotic wanderings demand. Sure sounds like a full-length album to my ears, but either way, I’ll take it. The four-piece set an open context in the intro noise wash of “Selene,” and while “Looming Eye” and “Mugen = Mugen” push further into ritual heavy psych, it’s in the longer “Innocuous Creatures” (9:24) and closer “Crust of Theia” (8:23) – the two perfectly suited to appear together on the B-side from whatever label is lucky enough to snap them up for a release – that The Moon makes its immersion complete and resonant, blowing out in glorious noise on the former and basking in off-world sentiment as they round out. Gorgeous and forward-thinking in kind. Would be an excellent debut album.
Not sure if there’s any way to avoid drawing a comparison between Italian five-piece Haunted’s self-titled debut (on Twin Earth Records) and Virginian doomers Windhand, but I’m also not sure that matters anymore. With the two guitars of Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando meting out post-Electric Wizard churn and Cristina Chimirri’s vocals oozing out bluesy incantations on top as Frank Tudisco’s low end and Valerio Cimino’s drums push the lumber forward, it’s all doom one way or another. “Watchtower” has a meaner chug than opener “Nightbreed,” and the centerpiece “Silvercomb” delves into feedback-laden horror atmospherics, but it’s in the closing duo of “Slowthorn” and “Haunted” that Haunted most assuredly affirm their rolling intention. They’ll have some work to do in distinguishing themselves, but there’s flourish in the wash of guitar late and some vocal layering from Chimirri that speaks to nuance emerging in their sound that will only serve them well as they move forward from this immersive first offering.
Taking their name from a track off Monster Magnet’s 2010 outing, Mastermind, Brazilian heavy rockers Gods and Punks mark their debut release with The Sounds of the Earth, a self-released five-track EP awash in classic influences and bolstered through a double-guitar dynamic, maybe-too-forward-in-the-mix vocals and a rock solid rhythm section. These are familiar ingredients, granted, but the Rio de Janeiro five-piece present them well particularly in the mid-paced “The Tusk” and the catchy, more extended closer “Gravity,” and are able to put a modern spin on ‘70s vibing without becoming singularly indebted to any particular band or era, be it ‘70s, ‘90s or the bizarre combination of the two that defines the ‘10s. Gods and Punks are setting themselves up to progress here, and how that progression might play out – more space rock to go with the theme of their excellent artwork, maybe? – will be worth keeping an eye on given what they already show in their songwriting.
Mostly instrumental, deeply atmospheric and clearly intended to divide into the two sides of a vinyl for which it seems more than primed, A Cure for Time is the second album from Copenhagen post-metallers Gaia. Each half of the four-track/39-minute outing pairs a shorter piece with a longer one, and the flow the trio set up particularly on the closing title cut calls to mind some of YOB’s cosmic impulses but with a spaciousness, roll and context that becomes their own. Shades of Jesu in the vocals and the balance of rumble and echo on the earlier “Nowhere” make A Cure for Time all the more ambient, but when they want to, Gaia produce a marked density that borders on the claustrophobic, and the manner in which they execute the album front to back emphasizes this spectrum with a progressive but still organic flourish. I wouldn’t call A Cure for Time directly psychedelic, but it’s still easy to get lost within its reaches.sh
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 12th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Swedish riff merchants Cities of Mars are making ready to hit the road this fall. They’ll head out on a tour spanning two weeks mostly in Northern Europe as the three-piece support their second EP, Celestial Mistress (reviewed and streamed here), a three-tracker that followed-up their 2015 debut single, Cyclopean Ritual / The Third Eye (streamed here), and make ready to record their debut full-length, which will reportedly feature six new songs continuing the narrative thread of their work to-date.
They’ll be joined by Basel, Switzerland’s Echolot for the run, which includes dates in not only that country and Sweden, but Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Denmark, as well as a couple dates still TBA that, you know, if you can help out with, you should, because good bands need good shows and so on and so forth.
Here are all the confirmed dates so far as well as other odds and ends and background culled from the internets, as well as a live video from earlier this year of “Beneath a Burning Sun.” Dig:
In 1971, The Soviet Union landed a secret agent on the planet Mars. She discovered an ancient civilisation and a conspiracy from the dawn of time.
A vicious encounter, an undying Lord brought to life. Ancient feuds brooding in the shadows.
Puny humans playing guitar, bass, drums while chanting incoherently.
Time until the November tour will be spent writing songs for the upcoming album. Six new tales of the wicked planet are being crafted as we speak.
CITIES OF MARS Nov. tour w/ Echolot: 04.11 Jonkoping SE Sofiehof with Snailking 05.11 Stockholm SE Copperfields 06.11 TBA 08.11 Potsdam DE Archive 09.11 Amsterdam NL The Cave 10.11 Gorinchem NL PoGo 11.11 Naaldwijk NL Flatertheek 12.11 Antwerp BE Music City 13.11 Freiburg DE White Rabbit 14.11 Basel CH Schwarze Erle 15.11 TBA* 16.11 Le Mans FR Le Lezard with Stone from the Sky* 17.11 TBA* 18.11 Helsingør dk Elvaerket with Emortuo* *no Echolot
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 10th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Swedish heavy psych-noise rockers Domkraft have inked a deal to release their debut album on Magnetic Eye Records. The Stockholm-based trio have titled the record The End of Electricity, and while a plan to have it out before the end of the year seems ambitious unless it’s already in production — which it might well be — that’s what’s been set and I’m no one to argue. Their self-titled EP came out last year and can be streamed in full via the Bandcamp player below. One finds commonality immediately with other Magnetic Eye fare in the sense of space in the songs and the heft of groove Domkraft elicit. Interested to hear how the album plays out.
If you think maybe you can dig it, the PR wire offers the following:
MAGNETIC EYE SIGNS SWEDEN’S DOMKRAFT
We are indescribably stoked and honored to announce the newest addition to the MER stable: Sweden’s DOMKRAFT. A bit of background on them:
The seeds for monolithic Stockholm band DOMKRAFT were planted in Gothenburg, where bassist/singer Martin Wegeland and guitarist Martin Widholm met while studying film. They bonded over the likes of Spacemen 3, Monster Magnet, Sleep and Hawkwind, not to mention a fascination with 10-minute/three chord songs). Playing in various musical constellations, together and apart, each eventually moved to Stockholm.
Independently, drummer Anders Dahlgren, who had established his chops playing a form of slow-burning proto-post metal that was perhaps too far ahead of its time, had also moved to Stockholm from Gothenburg. Having once actually shared a rehearsal space in their former home, the three finally came together in Stockholm, and drew from the heaviest of their combined influences to cultivate a spacious yet crushing approach based on cyclical, pounding grooves.
After years spent shaping and crafting their sound, DOMKRAFT at long last released its debut EP in late 2015. Check it out here for a sampling of their unique vibe.
DOMKRAFT, whose name combines the Swedish “DOM” for judgement and “KRAFT” for power, blasts forth towering dirges of annihilating doom, mindbending psychedelia, and hypnotic minimalism.
From Loop to Sleep, Sabbath to Neu!, Hawkwind to Neurosis and Swans to Spacemen 3, the DOMKRAFT sound is an unsettling mix of grinding riffs, blistering power, and inexorable motion. Their forthcoming Magnetic Eye full-length, The End of Electricity, promises to decimate in a way that their debut EP only hinted at. Says Martin Wegeland:
“Our songs build from the same stem; one riff, played LOUD, and then we just try to add and lose parts to mold it all into something powerful. We also focus on the dramaturgy of the song, rather than classic song structures, and have clear images in mind when writing. Inspiration was taken from films like Jake Paltrow’s Young Ones, Stephen Fingleton’s The Survivalist and The Road Warrior. Of course, everyone takes inspiration from films, but we’d never allow that to be at the expense of groove and energy. The results of our songwriting approach may differ in shape from one song to the next, but the foundation is always the same – repetition and volume! You’ll eventually get sick of every melody, but grooves are forever.”
Couldn’t be happier to have DOMKRAFT as part of the Magnetic Eye family. Stay tuned for more on the late 2016 release date for The End of Electricity!
Martin Widholm – Guitar Martin Wegeland – Bass & Vocals Anders Dahlgren – Drums
If you’re feeling like you might be ready to boogie, then Långfinger are ready for you. Today, the Gothenburg trio announce that their third LP, Crossyears, will be released by none less than Small Stone Records on Sept. 30. From the swing and stomp of its title-track to the organ-laced grandeur of “Atlas,” the record brims with classic spirit, but casts off the stylistic restrictiveness of vintage production in favor of a full, vibrant sound, resulting in a mix that brings out the strengths of both without sacrificing the obvious chemistry the band has built over their time together. Also it rocks. Confidently.
The PR wire brings background and a first streaming track. Check it out:
Långfinger – Crossyears
A kick-ass power trio is quite probably the perfect rock formation. If there aren’t that many trios around, that’s because it’s a hard thing to pull off: with just three people having to nail the rhythmic fusion of bass and drums, the wild colours of guitar and the soul-grabbing focus of the human voice, there can be no passengers aboard. Extraordinary chemistry is essential. Everyone has to be right on it, and locked in. Which is why lots of trios fail, or cop out and recruit extras.
Långfinger, from the fertile rock ‘n’ roll city of Gothenburg, are masters of the art. They’ve been playing together since they were in their early teens, and their imminent third album, called ‘Crossyears’, is both the thrilling culmination of their collective endeavour, and a rumination on it – on how Time has shaped them and brought them to this point.
Within its hard-hitting grooves, the interlocking of Långfinger’s three disparate characters – Kalle, the unflappable, precision axeman; Jesper, the athletic sticksman battering out physical revenge on his kit; and Victor, the intense, exploratory spirit, bridging thundering bass and howling exorcism – is a magical proposition.
Tracklisting: 1) Feather Beader 2) Say Jupiter 3) Fox Confessor 4) Crossyears 5) Atlas 6) Silver Blaze 7) Buffalo 8) Caesar’s Blues 9) Last Morning Light 10) Window in the Sky
Långfinger: Kalle Lilja – Guitars & backing vocals Victor Crusner – Bass, keys & lead vocals Jesper Pihl – Drums & backing vocals
This one’s for all the marbles. Or at very least tiddlywinks. The last day of The Obelisk’s Summer 2016 Quarterly Review begins. I’ll admit that when I was planning this out — started soon after the last Quarterly Review was finished in early April; that one ran late, this one has run early — I decided to take it easy on myself the last day. Still 10 reviews, so not that easy, but in terms of what’s included today, a lot of is stuff I feel pretty comfortable talking about, whether it’s bands I’ve covered before (which a lot of it is, now that I look at the list) or whatever. If you’ve been keeping up this week, thanks. I hope you found some cool music.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
From the Finnish hotbed of Tampere, Atomikylä made a striking impression with their 2014 Svart Records debut, Erkale (review here), giving a take on psychedelic black metal that was immediately and truly their own in its balance of elements. The band, featuring members of Dark Buddha Rising and Oranssi Pazuzu, return with doom-jazz fervor on sophomore full-length, Keräily, with three songs covering yet-unnamed stylistic reaches and offering a get-to-the-studio-and-see-what-happens experimentalism to go with their plotted course on 18-minute opener and longest track (bonus points) “Katkos,” which is followed by the building horn freakout “Risteily” (9:15), from which a space rock push takes hold on drums, resulting in maddening guitar swirl – because of course – and closer “Pakoputki” (6:55), which consumes with a darker thrust and more up-front blackened vibe that still holds onto some of the psychedelia in its layers of guitar. Keräily progresses effectively from Atomikylä’s debut and highlights just how individualized they are as a group. They continue to have the potential to do really special work, and the argument is easy to make they’re already doing it.
As opener and longest track (bonus points) “Beasts of Prey” careens toward its apex finish near the 12-minute mark and the title-track begins is crashing, harmonized intro before moving into an Alice in Chains-via-stoner verse, the distance Poland’s Sunnata cover on their second full-length, Zorya, begins to really unveil itself. There doesn’t seem to be a genre within the heavy sphere that’s off limits. They never get into death metal, but heavy rock, doom, psychedelia, prog, sludge – it’s all in play at one point or another in Zorya’s five-track/50-minute run. The reason the album works and isn’t just a haphazard mash of styles is because Sunnata, who’ve been active in Warsaw since the last decade, make each one their own and thus bend genre to suit their purposes and not the other way around. They continue to impress through the rush of “Long Gone,” the airy expanse of “New Horizon” and the more brooding closer “Again and Against,” conjuring effective flow from what in less capable hands would be disparate components.
I have kind of a hard time with White Dynomite. Not musically – the Boston five-piece’s new EP, Action O’Clock (on Ripple) typifies their accessible punk rock; a reminder of a time when the style used guitars – but conceptually. Their lineup features bassist Tim Catz and vocalist Craig Riggs (on drums) of Roadsaw, as well as guitarist Pete Knipfing (also Hey Zeus, Lamont), vocalist Dave Unger and guitarist John Darga, and while I can’t argue with the charm of a track like “Werewolf Underwear” or “Evil Ballerina” — the lyric “Tutu woman, too too much for me” alone makes Action O’Clock worth the price of admission, let alone “I got fangs in my pants” from “Werewolf Underwear” – but I haven’t yet been able to listen to the band in the context of it having been six years since the last time Roadsaw released an album, and thinking about years passing, priorities and whatnot. They sound they’re having a blast all the way through, and I won’t begrudge them exploring other influences, I guess I just miss that band.
Pittsburgh newcomers Horehound formed just last year, so one might go into their self-titled debut full-length thinking it’s an early arrival, but in an unpretentious seven-track/33-minute collection of straightforward but engaging doom rockers, the five-piece demonstrate a clear idea of what they want to do sonically. While it may not represent where they’ll ultimately end up as a band, its songs sound fleshed out in terms of direction and the resultant feel on the release is much more album than demo. So be it. A particular highlight is “The Waters of Lethe,” on which a sweeter melody emerges in the guitar and vocals, but neither will I discount the low-end crunch and vocal call-and-response in closer “Waking Time” or the more uptempo thrust of second cut “Sangreal.” Not that Horehound don’t have room to grow, but their initial offering preaches well to the converted and should give them a solid foundation to work from in that process.
Beyond the Hollow Mountain is the first full-length from Portuguese mostly-instrumentalists Sulfur Giant, who bring together influences from classic progressive rock, psychedelia and heavy rock so that when they dip into Iommic riffing on “Vertigo,” it’s no stranger than the peaceful jamming of “Whisper at Dawn,” which follows. Friendly if not exactly innovative, Sulfur Giant’s debut makes its chief impression with the four-piece’s instrumental chemistry, which brings about an easy flow within and between the eight tracks, which having already been issued digitally will see vinyl release later this year on Pink Tank Records. It’s hard to ignore what organ adds to “Evermore,” but “Sea of Stone” sneaks in some vocals amid its thicker-riffing and Sungrazer-style exploration, and “Magnolia” and the galloping “Unleash Fears” follow suit, so Sulfur Giant have a few tricks up their collective sleeve they hold back from the initial roll and gallop of the opening title-track. All the better.
New Planet Trampoline, Dark Rides and Grim Visions
Never say never in rock and roll. From Cleveland, Ohio, the psych-rocking four-piece New Planet Trampoline called it quits in 2008, leaving behind an unfinished album. After coming back together for 2014’s The Wisconsin Witch House EP, the ‘60s-stylized outfit set themselves to the task of finishing what became Dark Rides and Grim Visions, basking in the glow of early Floyd, Beatles and others of the ilk while keeping a harder edge to songs like “Grim Visions” and a healthy cynicism to “We’ll Get What We Deserve” and the tongue-in-cheek keyboard-laced closer “Haunted as Fuck.” Of the several more extended tracks, the nine-minute “Acts of Mania” is the longest, and provides suitable patience and atmospherics to stand up to its scope. All told, Dark Rides and Grim Visions is a formidable journey at 13 songs/68 minutes, but after more than half a decade away, it’s hard to hold New Planet Trampoline having their say against them, particularly when that say is as lush and dreamy as “This is the Morning.”
With their second LP, Cold Winds (on Crusher Records), Gothenburg’s Hypnos seem to be betting that the next step in the retro game is NWOBHM. They make a convincing argument; it’s kind of how it went the first time around, and their songwriting offers a top-notch look at the moment where Thin Lizzy bounce became Iron Maiden gallop, as on second cut “I’m on the Run,” just minutes after opener “Start the Hunt” featured a flute solo. Broken into two sides, each one works its way toward a longer finale – “Det Kommer en Dag” (7:23) on side A and “1800” (8:32) on side B – but sonic diversity and changes in song structure throughout do much to keep Cold Winds from feeling overly plotted, and like their countrymen in Horisont, Hypnos offer a seamless melding of classic heavy rock and metal, soaring and scorching on “Descending Sun (Unrootables White)” and swinging and swaggering immediately thereafter on “Cold September,” both accomplished with unwavering command.
Texas boogie rockers Honky were last heard from with 2012’s 421 – which I’ll assume is the “going to 11” equivalent for getting high – and their eighth outing, Corduroy, finds bassist JD Pinkus (Butthole Surfers, Melvins) and guitarist Bobby Ed Landgraf (Down) hooked up with drummer Trinidad Leal of Dixie Witch and Housecore Records for the release. To call is business as usual for the underrated outfit in the classic swing and grit they hone would only be a compliment, songs like “Baby Don’t Slow Down,” “Bad Stones” and the harmonized “Double Fine” offering soul as much as push, ‘70s influences given a modern kick in the ass throughout as a swath of guests, including Melvins drummer Dale Crover, come and go, perhaps none making their presence felt as much as Rae Comeau, whose work on “Bad Stones” makes that song a highlight – not to take away from the a capella cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick,” here retitled as “Mopey Dick,” that closes. Chicanery ensues, booze flows, good times are had for those who’ll have them.
Distinguished as on centerpiece “The Rambler” by their use of organ amid a semi-retro heavy boogie style, French five-piece Cheap Wine recorded Sad Queen – as the cover art says – live for Celebration Days Records. It’s somewhere between an EP and album, and strips away some of the individual track length of their 2013 debut, Mystic Crow, in favor of maximizing the energy put into each piece, the subdued “Intro” and “Opening” that start sides A and B, respectively, aside, though as “Opening” feeds cleanly into the quiet, airy and soulful beginning of the title-track, even that seems to have a tension that builds toward its eventual release, different from the shuffling raucousness of the post-“Intro” opener “Cyclothymic” maybe, but palpable nonetheless. They close somewhat melancholy on “Yesterday’s Dream,” but the complementary guitar of Valentin Constestin and keys of Ahn Tuan aren’t to be missed, nor how well work in concert with vocalist Mathieu Devillers, bassist Valentin Lallart and drummer Louis Morati.
Gurt & Trippy Wicked and teh Cosmic Children of the Knight, Guppy
The UK heavy scene excels at not taking itself too seriously. To wit, Gurt and Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight get together for a split (on When Planets Collide for CD and HeviSike cassette) and, they call it Guppy and the first two songs are “Owlmegeddon” and “Super Fun Happy Slide.” It kind of goes from there. Recorded together, sharing a drummer and collaborating on the centerpiece, “Revolting Child,” it’s basically two outfits who are close friends coming together to have a good time, but that doesn’t take away from Gurt’s sludgy intensity on “I Regret Nothing” or the nodding heavy rock Trippy Wicked hold forth on closer “Reign.” Taking its title from the two band names put together, one can only wonder if this will be the last conjoined offering Gurt and Trippy Wicked will make, or if there might be a whole school of guppies in the future. Frankly, this sounds like too good a party to only throw it once.