Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Morag Tong, Holy Mushroom, Naisian, Haunted, Pabst, L.M.I., Fuzz Forward, Onségen Ensemble, The Heavy Eyes

Posted in Reviews on July 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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I always say the same thing on the Wednesday of the Quarterly Review. Day 3. The halfway point. I say it every time. The fact is, doing these things kind of takes it out of me. All of it. It’s not that I don’t enjoy listening to all these records — well, I don’t enjoy all of them, but I’m talking more about the process — just that it’s a lot to take in and by the time I’m done each day, let alone at the end of the week, I’m fairly exhausted. So every time we hit the halfway point of a Quarterly Review, I feel somewhat compelled to note it. Cresting the hill, as it were. It’s satisfying to get to this point without my head falling off.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Khemmis, Desolation

khemmis desolation

Continuing their proclivity for one-word titles, Denver doom forerunners Khemmis take a decisive turn toward the metallic with their third album for 20 Buck Spin, the six-track/41-minute Desolation. Songs like opener “Bloodletting” and its side B counterpart “The Seer” are still tinged with doom, but the NWOBHM gallop in “Isolation” and “Maw of Time” – as well as the sheer force of the latter – is an unexpected twist. Khemmis showed classic metal elements on 2016’s was-a-very-big-deal Hunted (review here) and 2015’s debut, Absolution (review here), but it’s a question of balance, and as they’ve once again worked with producer Dave Otero, one can only read the shift as a conscious decision. The harder edge suits them – certainly suits the screams in “Maw of Time” and side A finale/album highlight “Flesh to Nothing” – and as Khemmis further refine their sound, they craft its most individualized manifestation to-date. There’s no hearing Desolation and mistaking Khemmis for another band. They’ve come into their own.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin website

 

Morag Tong, Last Knell of Om

morag tong last knell of om

A rumbling entry into London’s Heavy Generation, the four-piece Morag Tong unfold voluminous ritual on their debut full-length, Last Knell of Om. Largely slow and largely toned, the work of guitarists Alex Clarke and Lewis Crane brings the low end to the forefront along with the bass of James Atha while drummer Adam Asquith pushes the lurch forward on cuts like “New Growth” and “To Soil,” the band seemingly most comfortable when engaged in crawling tempos and weighted pummel. Asquith also adds semi-shouted vocals to the mire, which, surrounded by distortion as they are, only make the proceedings sound even more massive. There’s an ambience to “We Answer” and near-13-minute closer “Ephemera: Stare Through the Deep,” which gives the record a suitably noisy finish, but much of what Morag Tong are going for in sound depends on the effectiveness of their tonality, and they’ve got that part down on their debut. Coupled with the meditative feel in some of this material, that shows marked potential on the band’s part for future growth.

Morag Tong on Thee Facebooks

Morag Tong on Bandcamp

 

Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul

holy mushroom blood and soul

Working quickly to follow-up their earlier-2018 sophomore long-player, Moon (review here), Spain’s Holy Mushroom present Blood and Soul, an EP comprised of two songs recorded live in the studio. I’m not entirely sure why it’s split up at all, as the two-minute “Introito” – sure enough, a little introduction – feeds so smoothly into the 19-minute “Blood and Soul” itself, but fair enough either way as the trio shift between different instrumentation, incorporating sax, piano and organ among the guitar, bass, drums and vocals, and unfold a longform heavy psychedelic trip that not only builds on what they were doing with Moon but is every bit worthy of being released on its own. I don’t know if it was recorded at the same time as the record or later – both were done at Asturcon Studios – but it’s easy to see why the band would want to highlight “Blood and Moon.” Between the deep-running mix, the easy rhythmic flow into and out from drifting spaciousness, and the turn in the middle third toward more expansive arrangement elements, it’s an engaging motion that makes subtly difficult shifts seem utterly natural along the way. And even if you didn’t hear the latest full-length, Blood and Soul makes for a fitting introduction to who Holy Mushroom are as a band and what they can do.

Holy Mushroom on Thee Facebooks

Clostridium Records website

 

Naisian, Rejoinder

naisian rejoinder

Sludge-infused noise rock serves as the backdrop for lyrical shenanigans on the three-song Rejoinder EP from Sheffield, UK, trio Naisian. Running just 12 minutes, it’s a quick and thickened pummel enacted by the band, who work in shades of post-metal for “90 ft. Stone,” “Mantis Rising” and “Lefole,” most especially in the middle cut, but even there, the focus in on harsh vocals and lumbering sonic heft. It’s now been seven years since the band sort-of issued their debut album, Mammalian, and six since they followed with the Monocle EP, and the time seems to have stripped down their sound to a degree. “Lefole” is the longest track on Rejoinder at 5:18 and it’s still shorter than every other song Naisian have put out to-date. Their crunch lacks nothing for impact, however, and to go with the swing of “Lefole,” everybody seems to contribute to a vocal assault that only adds to the punishing but thoughtful vibe.

Naisian on Thee Facebooks

Naisian on Bandcamp

 

Haunted, Dayburner

haunted dayburner

The effects-laden vocal swirl at the outset of Haunted’s “Mourning Sun” and moments in the Italian act’s longer-form material, “Waterdawn” or “Orphic,” for example, will invariably lead some listeners to point to a Windhand influence, but the character of the band’s second album, Dayburner (on Twin Earth, DHU and Graven Earth all), follows their 2016 self-titled (review here) by holding steady to a developing identity of its own. To be sure, vocalist Christina Chimirri, guitarists Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando, bassist Frank Tudisco and drummer Dario Casabona make their way into a deep, murky swamp of modern doom in “Dayburner” (video posted here), but in the crush of their tones amid all that trance-inducing riffing, they cast themselves as an outfit seeking to express individuality within the set parameters of style. Their execution, then, is what it comes down to, and with “Orphic” (12:46) and “Vespertine” (13:19) back to back, there’s plenty of doom on the 66-minute 2LP to roll that out. And they do so in patient and successful form, with marked tonal vibrancy and a sense of controlling the storm they’re creating as they go.

Haunted on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records website

DHU Records webstore

Graven Earth Records webstore

 

Pabst, Chlorine

pabst chlorine

So, the aesthetic is different. Pabst play a blend of noise, post-punk, heavy rock and grunge, but with the ready pop influence — to wit, the outright danceability of “Shits,” reminiscent in its bounce of later Queens of the Stone Age – and persistent melodicism, there’s just a twinge of what Mars Red Sky did for heavy rolling riffs happening on Chlorine, their Crazysane Records debut. It’s in that blend of dense low-end fuzz and brighter vocal melodies, but again, Pabst, hailing from Berlin, are on their own trip. Weird but almost more enjoyable than it seems to want to be, the 12-track/35-minute outing indulges little and offers singalong-ready vibes in “Catching Feelings” and “Waterslide” while “Waiting Loop” chills out before the push of “Accelerate” and the angularity of “Cheapskate” take hold. Chrlorine careens and (blue) ribbons its way to the drive-fast-windows-open stylization of “Summer Never Came” and the finale “Under Water,” a vocal effect on the latter doing nothing to take away from its ultra-catchy hook. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a record someone with just the right kind of open mind can come to love.

Pabst on Thee Facebooks

Crazysane Records webstore

 

L.M.I., IV

lmi iv

If you’ve got a dank basement full of skinny college kids, chances are Lansdale, Pennsylvania’s L.M.I. are ready to tear their faces off. The sludge-thickened riff punkers run abut 11 minutes with their five-song release, L.M.I. IV, and that’s well enough time to get their message across. Actually, by the end of “Neck of Tension” and “Weaning Youth,” roughly four and half minutes in, the statement of intent is pretty clear. L.M.I. present furious but grooving hardcore punk more given to scathe than pummel, and their inclusions on L.M.I. IV bring that to life with due sense of controlled chaos. Centerpiece “Lurking Breath” gives way to “First to Dark” – the longest cut at a sprawling 2:55 – and they save a bit of grunge guitar scorch and lower-register growling for closer “June was a Test,” there isn’t really time in general for any redundancy to take hold. That suits the feeling of assault well, as L.M.I. get in and get out on the quick and once they’re gone, all that’s left to do is clean the blood off the walls.

L.M.I. on Thee Facebooks

L.M.I. on Bandcamp

 

Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere

fuzz forward out of nowhere

Released one way or another through Discos Macarras, Odio Sonoro, Spinda Records and Red Sun Records, the eight-song/43-minute debut album from Barcelona’s Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere, has earned acclaim from multiple corners for its interpretation of grunge-era melodies through a varied heavy rock filter. Indeed, the vocals of Juan Gil – joined in the band by guitarist Edko Fuzz, bassist Jordi Vaquero and drummer Marc Rockenberg – pull the mind directly to a young Layne Staley, and forces one to realize it’s been a while since that low-in-the-mouth approach was so ubiquitous. It works well for Gil in the laid back “Summertime Somersaults” as well as the swinging, cowbell-infused later cut “Drained,” and as the band seems to foreshadow richer atmospheric exploration on “Thorns in Tongue” and “Torches,” they nonetheless maintain a focus on songwriting that grounds the proceedings and will hopefully continue to serve as their foundation as they move forward. No argument with the plaudits they’ve thus far received. Seems doubtful they’ll be the last.

Fuzz Forward on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Forward on Bandcamp

 

Onségen Ensemble, Duel

Onsegen ensemble duel

The kind of record you’re doing yourself a favor by hearing – a visionary cast of progressive psychedelia that teems with creative energy and is an inspiration even in the listening. Frankly, the only thing I’m not sure about when it comes to Oulu, Finland, outfit Onségen Enseble’s second album, Duel, is why it isn’t being released through Svart Records. It seems like such a natural fit, with the adventurous woodwinds on opener “Think Neither Good Nor Evil,” the meditative sprawl of the title-track (video posted here), the jazz-jam in the middle of “Dogma MMXVII,” the tribalist percussion anchoring the 12-minute “Three Calls of the Emperor’s Teacher,” which surely would otherwise float away under its own antigravity power, and the free-psych build of closer “Zodiacal Lights of Onségen,” which shimmers in otherworldly fashion and improvised-sounding spark. On Svart or not, Duel is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, and one the creativity of which puts it in a class of its own, even in the vast reaches of psychedelic rock. Whether it means to or not, it tells a story with sound, and that story should be heard.

Onségen Ensemble on Thee Facebooks

Onsegen Ensemble on Bandcamp

 

The Heavy Eyes, Live in Memphis

the heavy eyes live in memphis

Since so much of The Heavy Eyes’ studio presentation has consistently been about crispness of sound and structured songwriting, it’s kind of a relief to hear them knock into some feedback at the start of “Mannish Boy” at the outset of Live in Memphis (on Kozmik Artifactz). The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Tripp Shumake, bassist Wally Anderson and drummer Eric Garcia are still tight as hell, of course, and their material – drawn here from the band’s LPs, 2015’s He Dreams of Lions (review here), 2012’s Maera, 2011’s self-titled, as well as sundry shorter offerings – is likewise. They’ve never been an overly dangerous band, nor have they wanted to be, but the stage performance does add a bit of edge to “Iron Giants” from the debut, which is followed by singing “Happy Birthday” to a friend in the crowd. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Live in Memphis is hearing The Heavy Eyes loosen up a bit on stage, and hearing them sound like they’re having as good a time playing as the crowd is watching and hearing them do so. That sense of fun suits them well.

The Heavy Eyes on Thee Facebooks

The Heavy Eyes at Kozmik Artifactz

 

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Haunted Post “Dayburner” Video; New Album out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

haunted

The trippy visuals in Haunted‘s new video are almost as much a representation of the title-track of their new album, Dayburner, as the song itself. Amid deep-hued skylines, manipulated film footage, the cover art and sundry other elements, the Italian doomers give the nine-minute “Dayburner” over to the capable hands of Gryphus Visual for the proceedings, which are every bit full-screen-worthy and likewise suitable for maximum volume. The album “Dayburner” represents tops 66 minutes with its eight tracks, and is released with backing from Twin Earth Records (CD), DHU Records (LP, presumably) and Graven Earth Records (tape) as the follow-up to the band’s likewise immersive 2016 self-titled debut (review here).

Dayburner saw release June 8 and arrived even as it was announced Haunted would be included in the four-label split showcase Skull Mountain, which featured highlights from the rosters of Twin Earth, Ripple Music, DHU and Kozmik Artifactz, pushing even further the notion of Haunted catching the attention of some of the underground’s foremost tastemakers. Reasonably so. The outlander approach to rolling out stoner-doom groove fits into the post-Windhand cultistry, and yet there’s a sharper edge to Haunted‘s soulfulness. With Christina Chimirri at the fore vocally, the two guitars of Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando — that’s right, dueling Francescos — leading the charge with riffs and solos, and bassist Frank Tudisco (could he be Francesco number three?) and drummer Dario Casabona holding down the nodding grooves, Haunted hit just a little harder rather than get completely lost in the mire, and that difference proves crucial in the listening experience of Dayburner as a whole. It’s not just about hypnotic riffing, but about impact as well.

You can check out the clip for “Dayburner” below, followed by more info from the PR wire. I hope to have a review of the album in the next week or so, so please keep an eye out for that as well.

Dig:

Haunted, “Dayburner” official video

The international doom promises HAUNTED recently unleashed their new studio album, “Dayburner” via Twin Earth Records.

The band revealed the video of the new single ‘Dayburner’.

Francesco Bauso, guitar player, states:
“Basically, it’s one of the most spontaneous songs we have composed so far. We started from a verse and then built the rest around the main riff. The idea of the acoustic guitars came to our mind directly in studio, to add emphasis to the song’s intro. It’s actually the most catchy track on the record, boasting a Sabbathian riffing. On the finale we had the chance to experiment a bit with some overdubs, such as floor-toms for example; whose rhythm evokes a sort of witches dance.”

The video has been created by Gryphus Visual, who works with different labels (Twin Earth, Argonauta, Ripple Music) and made background visuals for Lucifer at Roadburn 2015, besides being the visual master of Addicthead and Echolot.

Purchase ‘Dayburner’ digitally here: https://hauntedband.bandcamp.com/track/dayburner

Haunted as:
Francesco Bauso: Guitars
Dario Casabona: Drums
Cristina Chimirri: Vocals
Francesco Orlando: Guitars
Frank Tudisco: Bass

Haunted on Thee Facebooks

Haunted on Bandcamp

Haunted on Instagram

Twin Earth Records website

DHU Records webstore

Graven Earth Records webstore

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Sinister Haze European Tour with Cough Starts Tonight; New EP Emperor of Dreams Released

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

sinister haze

For anyone who heard Virginia’s Sinister Haze make their full-length debut with last year’s filth-caked Laid Low in the Dust of Death (review here), the just-released, limited-to-100-copies follow-up Emperor of Dreams EP is going to hit as a marked surprise. Reveling in dreary psychedelic atmospheres, it’s not a complete departure from the preceding LP in terms of atmosphere, but as one can hear on the melancholy post-punk centerpiece “Astral Procession” and in the inclusion of ambient interludes surrounding its tracks, the four-piece are clearly looking to engage a different wavelength. If not several different wavelengths.

It works for them, as showcased in “Astral Procession,” the preceding title-track and the eight-minute “Divine” — which is the high point achievement-wise of the release and perhaps of Sinister Haze‘s output to-date — as well as the aforementioned interludes, which carry an air of experimentation the would seem to have extended to the songwriting as well. In short: fucking a. Does this mean Sinister Haze won’t turn back to the graveyard-dirt-under-the-fingernails approach they had on the record? Not a clue, but I’m digging the vibe of the new outing, and today, that’s enough for me.

They’re on the road in Europe starting tonight in the Netherlands with fellow Virginians Cough. Dates, more info and audio follow, courtesy of the band:

Sinister Haze – Emperor of Dreams

Out August 2nd via Graven Earth Records
Limited to 100 copies

Production for this has been all DIY, recording/mastering/artwork has been handled by us and were excited to show it off in due time. It’s easily the most psychedelic thing we’ve achieved thus far.

02/08 NL Haarlem – Patronaat
03/08 DE Stuttgart – Jugendhaus West
04/08 AT – Innsbruck PMK
05/08 IT Giavera del Montello – Disintegrate your Ignorance Festival
06/08 AT Wien – The Viper Room
07/08 HU Budapest – A38
08/08 PL Krakow – WARSZTAT
09/08 CZ Pevnost Josefov – Bastion Brutal Assault Festival
10/08 DE Berlin – Cassiopeia
11/08 NL Eindhoven – Stroomhuis
12/08 BE Ieper – Ieper Festival
13/08 PT Vagos – Vagos Metal Fest
14/08 UK London – Electrowerkz
15/08 UK Leeds – Brudenellsocialclub
16/08 FR Paris – Gibus

Sinister Haze is:
Brandon Marcey
Sam Marsh
Eli Pizzuto
JK

http://www.facebook.com/sinisterhazeband
http://sinisterhaze.bigcartel.com/
https://sinisterhaze.bandcamp.com/

Sinister Haze, Emperor of Dreams (2017)

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