Posted in Whathaveyou on July 11th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
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
Posted in Reviews on June 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
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.
Posted in Reviews on June 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Well here we are. Standing on the precipice of a week of 50 reviews, looking out together at the geographic and sonic expanses that will be covered. I never know entirely what a given Quarterly Review is going to bring. Some have been smooth, some not. This one is being put together very little pre-production in terms of chasing down band links and that sort of thing, so I expect it’s going to be an adventure one way or another. I’ll keep you updated as we go as to my mental state and the deterioration thereof.
If you don’t know the drill, The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review is a week every three months in which I review 10 albums per day, Monday through Friday. Some of it was released in the prior three months, some of it is brand new, some of it probably isn’t out yet, some of it is probably older. It’s all relevant one way or another. I hope you find something you enjoy.
Quarterly Review #1-10:
Sourvein, Aquatic Occult
Looking at the makeup of Sourvein’s much-awaited fourth album, Aquatic Occult (on Metal Blade), it’s understandable why it might’ve taken five years to put together. Yes, they had splits out in between, as they do, but the band’s last full-length was 2011’s Black Fangs (review here), and though the 14-song/42-minute Aquatic Occult is manageable, with a host of interludes to carry the listener along its thick-toned, undulating waves, a swath of guest appearances no doubt played havoc with logistics. Fortunately, Sourvein’s figurehead, vocalist T-Roy Medlin, seems to thrive on chaos. Working with producer Mike Dean (C.O.C.), and a revolving-door lineup that here features Lou Gorra of Halfway to Gone, Medlin brazenly explores a more melodic dynamic than he ever has. It’s a rare band looking to experiment after 20 years, a rarer band still that pulls it off so well. There’s still some sludgy rasp and guest growling, but Sabbathian roll is the order of the day ultimately and Medlin’s homage to his home in Cape Fear, North Carolina, establishes a breadth unheard before from Sourvein that’s worthy of the years and obvious effort that went into its making.
Hamburg duo Mantar’s blend of thrash, sludge and blackened doom is brash, righteously punkish and thus far uncompromised in its malevolent intent. On their second album and Nuclear Blast debut, Ode to the Flame, songs like “Era Borealis” swagger as much as they sneer, the middle-finger-up arrogance becoming part of the appeal. “The Hint” offers some tinge of melody and “I Omen” some organ-laced atmospherics, but Mantar, who debuted in 2015 with the also fire-minded Death by Burning (review here) on Svart, carry their extremity forward like the next logical step of the same impulses that High on Fire once brought forth. Their tempo shifts, from blazing squibblies to outright lumbering, are pulled off with due fuckall, and the shouts from guitarist/vocalist Hanno and drummer/vocalist Erinc are spit forth in a manner near-indecipherable but still have no trouble getting their point across. Mantar are positioning themselves to be the kick in the ass that the underground needs. The next few years (and albums) will see how that pans out, but for now they have two scorchers under their collective belt.
There is a stylistic restlessness to stretches of Elevators to the Grateful Sky’s second record, Cape Yawn (on HeviSike), that becomes the uniting factor between the adrenaline-amped opening with “Ground” and “Bullet Words” and the later dream-surf Yawning Man-meets-sax unfurling of the title-track. The Palermo, Italy, outfit have stated their intention as capturing a blend of ‘90s alternative and modern heavy. Fair enough, but hearing that play out on the penultimate “Mountain Ship” in a mix of weighted riffing and laid back vocals giving way to shouts, it seems that to me that next time out, Elevators to the Grateful Sky should probably just start saying they sound like themselves, because they do. Granted, they’re pulling elements from familiar sources – Soundgarden, Kyuss, etc. – but in giving them new context, the four-piece are defining their sound as moving fluidly between the various styles, and that’s to be commended. The more you put into listening, the more you’ll get out of it.
Representing a 50 percent reunion of Burning Witch, the droning contemplations and hellish atmospherics of The Poisoned Glass’ Ritual Productions debut, 10 Swords, pique immediate interest. And bassist/percussionist/etc.-ist G. Stuart Dahlquist and vocalist/keyboardist Edgy 59 do not disappoint. With unspeakable patience, they execute six grueling and cinematic pieces that seem to find comfort in tortured expression and that feel claustrophobic even as they continue to expand outward and downward through “Plume Veil” and “Toil and Trouble” into the extended closing duo “Silent Vigil” – spoiler alert: not actually silent – and “Low Spirits,” which moves from minimalist stillness through far-back screams and into a wash of synth before its seven minutes are up, covering more ground in one track than some bands do in their entire career. Fair to say on the whole 10 Swords is an immersive listen, but the prevailing vibe is much less “diving in” than “being swallowed whole by some obscure medieval terror.” So, you know, watch out for that.
Los Angeles newcomers Spirit Collector make their debut with the self-released, three-song Owls to Athens EP, clear in its intent and brimming with airy, post-rock-derived guitar atmospherics. A particularly telling moment arrives with the Terence McKenna sample in centerpiece “Reclaim Your Mind,” which speaks of casting off the culture of celebrity worship for a richer human experience, but it’s in the extended closer “Theosophy” (7:57) that Spirit Collector find their footing someplace between a doomed plod and thoughtful psychedelia, picking up a chugging momentum as they push through toward the almost blackened finish, having come a surprising distance since their eponymous opener set the tone for expanse. An encouraging first offering if somewhat familiar superficially as instrumental heavy post-rock (think Explosions in the Sky, Russian Circles, Red Sparowes, etc.), and there’s nothing in Owls to Athens to make one think Spirit Collector can’t move forward and develop the experimental drive they begin to show here.
Vieh, the debut full-length from Colonge-based desert rocking foursome Phiasco, takes its name from the German word for “cattle.” The band owe some of their fuzz to Truckfighters and some of their psychedelic wash to Sungrazer, but the attitude in songs like “Ultimate Warrior” – comprised largely of riffs topped with an extended sample from the titular professional wrestler – and “Sunndown” is their own, as is the we’re-still-having-a-really-good-time-while-we-make-this-15-minute-song closer “Phisco” (sic), a highlight of the live-recorded full-length, which across its span is light on pretense and heavy on bounce. Cuts like “Old Town” and opener “Back to the Future” – hey, that’s a movie! – bring catchy hooks, and the uptempo “Erasing Rabbits with My Phaserlight” winds up as harmonized as goofed out, and thus is all the more engaging. There’s a certain amount of getting by on charm here, but Phiasco have a capable, varied songwriting process that’s given due fullness and clarity in these eight tracks.
Man, who gives a shit about anything else when Glaswegian five-piece The Cosmic Dead are enacting their hypnotic swirl? Their latest instrumental invitation to watch existence melt is called Rainbowhead and it arrives through Paradigms Recordings (CD) and Blackest Rainbow Records (LP) with four tracks that serve as the band’s first full-length since 2014’s EasterFaust, though they’ve had splits in between to keep a prolific rate of offerings fitting for their explorational heavy psych/space rock. The bulk of Rainbowhead is engagingly upbeat as side A plays out across “Human Sausage,” “Skye Burial” and the 13-minute “Inner C,” and side B’s 18-minute title-track follows suit as The Cosmic Dead seem to have found a similar niche between progressive rock and psych to that which Mammatus proffered on their most recent outing. It suits The Cosmic Dead, and they keep an improv vibe prevalent as ever, grasping the subconscious with trip-on-it lysergic pulsations.
Deeply textured and lush in its construction around guitar arrangements, percussive and keyboard-laden melodic flourish, Postures’ second full-length, Halucinda (on World in Sound), plays back and forth between prog and heavy rock impulses. The Gothenburg, Sweden, five-piece seem most at home in extended tracks like “Myriad Man,” “Every Room” and the jazzy 10-minute “Wavemaker,” but even the acoustic-led centerpiece interlude “A Million Sequences” invites the audience to turn up the volume for maximum wash effect. Paulina Nyström delivers a powerful, commanding and fluid vocal performance, and while the rhythm section of bassist Per Pettersson and drummer Isak Björhag are the foundation on which these complex structures play out – Viktor Andersson and Benjamin Watts handle guitar; Madeleine Sjögren is credited with backing vocals/keys and Margit Gyllspång percussion/backing vocals – there’s no angle from which Postures don’t come across rich and vital in their winding but well-plotted course, one song feeding fluidly to the next until the dreamy “In the Dark” rounds out with the emotional apex of the record.
What else to call a stoner band from Estonia? Estoner’s appeal, however, goes well beyond their moniker. The Tallinn-based outfit’s second album, Lennud Saatana Dimensioonis, arrives in a handmade hexagonal CD package, heat sealed, as well as with complete visual accompaniment on limited VHS and cassette via Golem Records. The music is no less relentlessly creative, running a gamut between prog, black metal, heavy rock, psychedelia, space rock and probably a few others in its seven-track course. A song like “Teleporteerumine” conjures darkened swirl and “Reptiloid” follows through with foreboding threat, but Estoner plunge even deeper as they go, proferring aesthetic reach that makes seemingly disparate elements work together fluidly on “Hüvasti, Kosmiline Monoliit” and the 10-minute closing title-track. Perhaps the highest compliment one can pay to Lennud Saatana Dimensioonis is to call it Svart-worthy, as its diverse means of engulfing the listener speak to a forward-thinking approach that one can only hope Estoner continue to develop.
Extra points to Swedish troupe The Black Explosion for opening their third album, the space-fuzzed out Atomic Zod War (on Metalville Records), with its longest track, the 13-minute “Paralyzed.” That song offers a languid voyage through uncharted jammy reaches, and that sets an open, laid back expectation that the rest of the album seems only too glad to build on, from the Nebula-via-Monster Magnet blown out vibes of “Ain’t Coming Home” to the semi-garage buzz of “Going Down,” a highlight groove that emphasizes the natural, raw tones at play leading into “Get My Mind Together” and the finisher “Devil Inside,” which brings the guitar of Chris Winter (also Dollhouse) forward with backing from bassist Simon Haraldsson and drummer Andreas Lindquist that feels born of the new West Coast tradition but is likely playing off of older impulses. But for its hey-look-it’s-tits cover art, the grit Atomic Zod War offers comes through organically and draws the listener in with its live feel and underlying boogie.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Swedish megaplodders Monolord will return to US shores in August/September on a coast-to-coast tour supported by Beastmaker and Sweat Lodge. The rather significant round of tour dates will come complemented by a new two-song 10″ EP that will be the prolific Gothenburg trio’s first studio work since 2015’s second LP, Vænir (review here), which like its predecessor, was released by RidingEasy Records to formidable acclaim. This isn’t Monolord‘s first US run — they came through last year with Windhand — but it’s their first time headlining, and it’s an extensive way to arrive at that pivotal threshold.
This just in, or out, or whatever. You know what I mean:
Monolord announce U.S. headlining tour and forthcoming 10″ EP on RidingEasy Records
Swedish trio Monolord announce their first North American headlining tour and a new 2-song 10″ EP today, both coming in August. The band won many new fans last fall supporting Windhand and RidingEasy Records labelmates Danava, and now return to headline with support from Beastmaker (Rise Above Records) and Sweat Lodge (Brutal Panda). Tickets for all markets go on sale May 27th. Please see complete dates below.
Monolord’s forthcoming EP will be available August 5th on 10″ vinyl and download via RidingEasy Records.
8/5 Seattle, WA Barboza 8/6 Bellingham, WA The Shakedown 8/8 SF, CA The Chapel 8/9 LA, CA The Viper Room 8/11 SD, CA Soda Bar 8/12 Scottsdale, AZ The Rogue Bar 8/13 Albuquerque, NM Launchpad 8/15 Dallas, TX The Rail Club 8/16 Austin, TX The Sidewinder 8/17 Houston, TX White Oak Music Hall 8/18 San Antonio, TX The Korova 8/19 NOLA Siberia 8/20 Tampa, FL The Orpheum 8/21 Ft. Lauderdale, FL Kreepy Tiki Bar & Lounge 8/22 Orlando, FL Will’s Pub 8/23 Atlanta, GA The Masquerade 8/24 Richmond, VA The Broadberry 8/26 Baltimore, MD The Windup Space 8/27 Brooklyn, NY Saint Vitus Bar 8/28 Philly, PA Voltage Lounge 8/30 Boston, MA Great Scott 9/1 Toronto, ON Coalition: T.O 9/2 Cleveland, OH Grog Shop 9/3 Chicago, IL The Empty Bottle 9/4 Minneapolis, MN The Cabooze 9/5 Omaha, NE Lookout Lounge 9/6 Denver, CO Lost Lake 9/7 Salt Lake City, UT Metro Bar 9/8 Sacramento, CA Starlite Lounge 9/9 Portland, OR Ash Street Saloon 9/10 Vancouver, BC Astoria Hastings
[Click play above to stream Cities of Mars’ Celestial Mistress EP in full. It’s out Friday, April 8, via Suicide Records.]
Swedish trio Cities of Mars impressed last year with their debut two-songer, Cyclopean Ritual / The Third Eye (streamed here). That release found them not only basking in plus-sized riffing and thick, rolling grooves, but also introduced the lead character, Nadia, whose story continues on the follow-up three-track EP, Celestial Mistress, issued via Suicide Records with intentions toward a 10″ pressing later in 2016. Together, the two offerings seem geared toward establishing a foundation for a first Cities of Mars full-length still to come, but it’s important to note that while the story picking up with Celestial Mistress opener “Gaze of Leviathan” and continuing through “Beneath a Burning Sun” and the sprawl of the 11-minute closing title-track is in progress already at the start of this release, it doesn’t necessarily require one to have heard the prior single to understand what Cities of Mars are going for in terms of sound or overall theme.
We enter with Nadia on Mars. Or, more accurately, beneath it. As the start-stop nod of “Gaze of Leviathan” takes hold, a current of bass rumble from Danne Palm underlying the guitar of Christoffer Norén and the forward cymbal crash of drummer Johan Küchler, the lyrics set the stage for the sci-fi saga playing out. The inclusion of drones or keys in the second verse gives more of a feel that strange things are playing out, and the story follows through there as well, with Nadia making her way underground toward the ancient lost Martian city Bahb-Elon, where she’ll eventually meet the EP’s titular mistress.
Of course, you can engage these songs on that level or not. Out of context, “Gaze of Leviathan” (8:50) offers massive riffs and an infectious, shouted hook that demonstrates clear progression from Cities of Mars‘ initial single while feeling built outward along similar lines, and the subsequent “Beneath a Burning Sun” follows suit structurally and in its push through to its chorus, repeating the title-line as a distinct moment of arrival within it. These songs and “Celestial Mistress” all work just fine on their own, but the narrative deepens the listening experience. “Beneath a Burning Sun” introduces a secondary character — not sure on the name — who was an ancient Martian fighter pilot shot down, and backs up the fluid motion of “Gaze of Leviathan”‘s verses, chorus, solo, ending with an efficient, relatively straightforward take of its own that still opens wide during its initial verse and builds toward its harmonized-shout hook.
As a centerpiece — only three tracks, but still 27 minutes — it provides a landmark that, especially when positioned next to “Celestial Mistress” bodes well for Cities of Mars‘ full-length debut, since it shows not only an ability to vary songwriting around common ideas, but a sense of relating one track to those around it to create an overarching flow, which is something that even a two-song single can’t really accomplish. In its second half, “Beneath a Burning Sun” kicks into faster riffing without losing its central density of swing, and when they turn it back around for a return to the chorus, the effect is unrepentantly righteous. Doesn’t matter if you relate it to Sabbath, or Sleep, or whoever. Done so well, it still sounds heavy as anything.
And as “Beneath a Burning Sun” — presumably that pilot’s aircraft crashed in a Martian desert — winds down its finish in amp noise, the course of Celestial Mistress feels set. The expectation for the title-track is another big hook, more rolling riffs and big tones. Well, it’s still pretty large, all told, but as Nadia confronts the leader of Martian civilization underground, the vibe shifts significantly, and “Celestial Mistress” is much more about spaciousness than impact. Guitars spread wide over an initial movement as rich basslines and ride cymbal provide a sense of motion, and the full-boar riff that takes hold does so after three minutes of build. Dual-vocals from Palm and Norén round out the first verse — all the more spacious — and a moodier sensibility emerges as a more melodic, almost neo-prog metal break arrives at the halfway point, but the course of “Celestial Mistress” is deceptive in that a build is underway already.
Cities of Mars make their way through a few subdued lines before the consuming wall of fuzz kicks back in before the nine-minute mark, Norén topping it with a final lead that, much to the band’s credit, isn’t layered over a line of rhythm guitar, and then rounding out with a last chorus and instrumental roll to end the track cold in a way that suggests “to be continued…” without actually saying it. Whatever it does for the plotline that has run throughout their two releases to-date, Celestial Mistress broadens the scope of Cities of Mars‘ work overall, and finds them as able to conjure an atmosphere as they are to slam their audience with tonal heft. To be blunt, they use both to excellent effect, and as like the single before it, Celestial Mistress was recorded by Esben Willems (also of Monolord), there’s even more a continuity of sound tying their work together. Writing songs that tell a story over multiple releases can be tricky as a band progresses in their style, but like Nadia deep in an underground Martian tunnel, Cities of Mars seem to have no trouble with navigation.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’m going to assume that the listed May 27 release date for The Order of Israfel‘s second album, Red Robes, through Napalm Records is the release date for Europe. Napalm usually staggers releases by region, but not by much, so if you’re in the US or elsewhere and it’s not May 27, it’ll likely be somewhere around there. Whenever it shows, it will be the follow-up to the band’s 2014 debut, Wisdom, which found the Gothenburg-based outfit firmly entrenched in classic doom and metal while beginning to stake out their own territory in that space. If you don’t already have enough records to look forward to — and I humbly submit that you don’t — here’s another one for you.
No audio has yet been made public, but the art is pretty sweet, and in all its formats, the album will come with a bonus DVD of the band’s set at Sweden Rock last year, so if you dug the first record, you’ll still new versions of some of those tracks as well. Info follows, as seen on the social medias:
Ladies and Gentlemen of The Order!
We are very happy to announce that our second album, ‘Red Robes’, will be released via Napalm Records on May 27th. Check out the artwork below, again done by our brilliant friend Henrik Jacobson. It will be available as a double LP and digipack CD. Both versions will include a bonus live DVD of our performance at Sweden Rock 2015.
The track listing reads as follows:
1. Staff In The Sand 2. The Red Robes 3. In Thrall To The Sorceress 4. Swords To The Sky 5. Von Sturmer 6. Fallen Children 7. A Shadow In The Hills 8. The Thirst
Bonus DVD: Live At Sweden Rock Festival 2015
1. The Noctuus 2. The Earth Will Deliver What Heaven Desires 3. On Black Wings, A Demon 4. Promises Made To The Earth 5. Wisdom/Morning Sun (Satanas)
According to the latest stats from the UN, there is absolutely no shortage of boogie rock in Sweden. Their cup shuffleth over. And yet a band like Hypnos can come out of Gothenburg, tear ass along a song like “I’m on the Run” and make their presence felt through what continues to be an increasingly crowded field of acts. Fortunately Europe has 150 festivals every summer to house all of this creativity — Hypnos will play Stoned from the Underground, likely among others — but while Sweden’s mustache economy may be at its highest level in decades, there’s no question that Hypnos, who formed in 2013 and will offer up their second full-length, Cold Winds, on April 29 via Crusher Records, are out to leave a mark.
The immediate temptation is to cue up the Graveyard comparison, which is kind of the low-hanging fruit for anything vaguely Swedish and New Millennium Analog, and I guess that’s fair game, but the alternate-universe-radio friendliness of earlier Kadavar seem closer to the kind of bounce in “I’m on the Run,” to which Hypnos bring an added element of their own via Thin Lizzy-style guitar work in the chorus. Just earlier this month, the five-piece said goodbye to guitarist Fredrik Bäckström, so it remains to be seen what the future of those twin antics might be, but the course for Cold Winds, which will arrive preceded by a single for “I’m on the Run” which is available now through a range of digital outlets, seems set in the track’s hook, vintage vibe and tight swing. Plus momentum, because you know, it would be kind of a waste to call the song “I’m on the Run” if it was standing still the entire time.
I wish I knew the origin of the screen at the start of the clip, which just feels like an inside joke from late night Swedish television probably of the late ’70s/early ’80s, but even without that wisdom, if you’d like to dig into the video, it’s below, followed by more background on the band from the PR wire.
Hypnos, “I’m on the Run” official video
The single “I’m On The Run” is taken from the upcoming album “Cold Winds”. Single out February 19th and album out April 29th, 2016. Single available from iTunes, Spotify, Amazon:https://crusherrecords.lnk.to/imontherunID
Hypnos was formed in late autumn 2013 and it only took a handful of shows of intense energy backed by a solid repertoire to get Crusher Records immediate attention. Shortly a deal was struck! Hypnos wasted no time and in February 2014 the band entered Kungsten Studios to start recording their debut album.
NEW ALBUM COLD WINDS, set to be released April 29th via Crusher Records!!
MEMBERS Philip Lindgren – vocals Oskar Karlsson – guitar Fredrik Bäckström – guitar Anton Frick Kallmin – bass Lasse Ekelöf – drums
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 3rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Swedish trio Cities of Mars update on their forthcoming second EP, Celestial Mistress, and answer a couple key questions about the release. Most pivotal, whether or not it will continue the narrative thread begun on their 2015 two-tracker, Cyclopean Ritual (streamed here). Yes, yes it will. The band gives some background below on where the story’s heroine is headed this time around, while also noting that the EP introduces a second main character in an ancient fallen fighter pilot. Can’t help but wonder if through some space-time flux these two won’t meet up at some point, perhaps on a debut full-length down the line?
For now, it’s a story told through riffs that continues to intrigue. The following info on the short release came in thusly:
A quick update on the upcoming EP:
It’s called Celestial Mistress and will contain the title track as well as Beneath a burning sun and Gaze of Leviathan. All three songs are chapters in the unfolding saga of the ancient civilization on Mars, adding more pieces to the puzzle that began with the two songs released in April. The title track is set in 1971 (and onward) where our heroine Nadia meets an undying Lord of the ancient city of Bahb-Elon and discovers her part in a prophecy from millennia ago. Gaze of Leviathan is also set in 1971 where Nadia ventures far beneath the surface of Mars and discovers that all is not silent and abandoned on the red planet.
Beneath the burning sun tells the tale of a shot-down fighter pilot in a war thousands or years ago, during the high point of the martian civilization.
The artwork will be within the theme of course, working once again with our graphic artist Axel Widén that has done all our stuff so far.
All the three songs are recorded with live basics, drums, bass and lead guitar in full takes with the whole band. Esben of Monolord has pressed us even further than we expected with the vocals, so we are confident that the lyrical content will be presented as awesome as the music itself. The production will be bigger, heavier and more diverse. Release date is not set, since there is practical and legal stuff to be negotiated with a few biz partners, but March should be realistic. At first it will be a pure digital music release, with the artwork available as a poster. However, we hope to offer the EP as a 10-inch gatefold physical release later this year.