Review & Track Premiere: Naxatras, III

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

naxatras iii

[Click play above to stream the premiere of Naxatras’ ‘Machine.’ Their new album, III is out Feb. 16.]

Over the last two years, Greek trio Naxatras have worked quickly to establish themselves at the forefront of their home country’s fertile and widely varied scene. If 1000mods helped put this generation of Greek bands on the map in the wider European underground sphere, then it’s Naxatras brazenly showing that the country has more to offer than straightforward riff-led fare. Naxatras songs — their third album, III, has seven of them and tops out accordingly at 64 minutes long — wind their way around and through the consciousness in display of a penchant for sonic naturalism that goes even beyond the band’s no-compromise approach to recording analog at Magnetic Fidelity with Jesus I. Agnew, who helmed III, the preceding 2017 single All the Stars Collide into a Single Ray (discussed here), its 2016 predecessors, II (review here) and EP (discussed here), as well as their 2015 self-titled debut (discussed here).

Rather, that naturalism extends to the play itself, as the trio of bassist/vocalist John Vagenas, guitaist John Delias and drummer Kostas Harizanis embrace their inner chillout and bring to bear tracks of marked patience, fluidity and soothing. Yeah, III has its heavy moments — more than enough of them throughout extended jams like “On the Silver Line” (9:56), 11-minute opener “You Won’t be Left Alone” and even a later piece like “Prophet,” on which Vagenas‘ bassline sets a foreboding tone while the cymbals crash around and the guitar howls. Raucous as they get, however, it’s the drift of cuts like “White Morning,” the subtle reggae nods of “Land of Infinite Time” and the soothing pastoralia of the acid-folkish closer “Spring Song” that most typify the album’s impression, earthy and resonant as it is.

The only real question when it comes to listening to III is whether to blast it and be consumed by the tonal warmth, to let it wrap around you like a blanket of fuzz, or to put in headphones, get lost in the easy, patient rhythms of the thing and find that even a song like centerpiece “Machine,” which works in multiple, almost disjointed stages of building jamming, tense low end, and a bit of reggae guitar before giving away near the halfway point to whalesong volume swells and a turn to a moodier drone that’s so drastic it might just as easily have been a different song before making its way back to the initial progression with trance-inducing fluidity, ending just before the 11-minute mark. Like all of Naxatras‘ work, III blends instrumental and vocalized material to a place of marked flow, lending an even more exploratory sensibility to songs like “Prophet” and “You Won’t be Left Alone,” the latter opening with an introductory hypnosis before giving way to the warm fuzz of the song itself, its main riff popping in and out to allow for vocal lines.

These, again, are sparse and become part of the background context in which the record takes place rather than a direct frontman-style delivery. “You Won’t be Left Alone” might be the most direct in this regard, though “Pophet” has its moments as well and “Spring Song” is clearly meant to be working in a tradition of soothing hippie soulfulness. Nonetheless, it’s the instrumental portion of III that serves as the band’s clear focus — that’s nothing new for them in terms of overall aesthetic balance — and with their having spent significant time on the road around the first two records, the results can be heard in the ease of their transitions say, near the end of “Prophet” or as they dig into the 12-minute “Land of Infinite Time” with the bass leading the way through each measure traveled.

naxatras (Photo by Marko Devcic)

If you ultimately choose the hi-fi route, and let’s say, relax with a highball in your it’s-been-a-long-day burgundy housecoat and put III on your vintage turntable to ease your worried mind, no doubt you’ll find it does just that. It is a work of such patience as to be legitimately soothing in a way few records that can still justifiably be called heavy are, and yet that presence of tone and weight of rhythm is still very much a factor in what Naxatras do, even at their funkiest or quietest. If you go the headphone route, the listening experience is somewhat lonelier, but the spirit of III continues to resonate that calming, wholesome sensibility that seems to derive purely from the collective performance of HarizanisDelias and Vagenas, and if one is listening to Naxatras and perhaps looking to understand what it is that has allowed the band to have such an impact and to find such a considerable audience in a relatively short amount of time, the answer is right there in their interaction as a trio.

They may decide their next time out to just up and down and take a more active approach overall, or they may continue down this path of turning heavy psych jams into a statement of counterculture folksomeness to represent a movement of heavy hippies that, if it exists, could hardly ask for better PR than it gets in “Prophet” and the penultimate “White Morning.” Whatever they do and wherever they go from here, Naxatras have put all questions to rest about how well earned their place is at Greece’s heavy psych forefront, if there were any to start with. Their jams have an individualized character that speaks to the honest chemistry shared between them as players, and each of their successive full-lengths has furthered the seemingly ongoing process of their cohesion.

III, in that regard, is no different. But it also finds Naxatras reaching further stylistically than they have up to this point outward from that core of psychedelic jamming, and doing so successfully as demonstrated in the proggy “On the Silver Line,” the bouncing “Land of Infinite Time” and the lullaby dreamscape that finishes in “Spring Song.” One doubts these excursions of stylistic nuance represent the sum total breadth the three-piece have and will have to offer, and so it’s easy to argue coming out of III‘s immersive hour-plus that Naxatras‘ potential as a unit has never been so writ large even as their sound itself has never been so realized.

Naxatras, III (2018)

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Naxatras on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Godflesh, Serpents of Secrecy, Vymaanika, Zong, Vitriol, Pillars, Lamp of the Universe & Kanoi, Azonic, Thousand Vision Mist, Arcadian Child

Posted in Reviews on January 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Lodewijk de Vadder (1605-1655) - 17th Century Etching, Landscape with Two Farms

Today is the last day of The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review, and it’s kind of hard to believe it’s gone so fast. Before I put the Big Boot to the proceedings like Hulk Hogan getting ready to call it a day with an elbow drop at Wrestlemania — yup, just like that — I have to take a special moment to thank The Patient Mrs. for allowing me the time this week to bang out all of these reviews and get everything sorted on the back end, etc., for these posts. She, of course, as always, perpetually, has been unbelievable, and especially with The Pecan to manage, she’s earned her title more than ever. It is thoroughly, deeply, appreciated. Much love, baby. Thank you.

Okay, Big Boot time. Let’s do this thing.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Godflesh, Post Self

godflesh post self

Guitarist/vocalist/programmer Justin K. Broadrick and bassist BC Green return with Post Self, their second post-reunion full-length behind 2014’s A World Lit Only by Fire (review here) and a collection of churning electro-noise hymnals that work in a sphere that should by now be well familiar to their multi-generational fanbase. The groundbreaking industrial pioneers sound decidedly led by the guitar on the chugging “Parasite” and the airy, almost Jesu-style wash of “The Cyclic End,” but the intensity of the beat behind “No Body,” bass and noise onslaught of “Be God” and synth-driven soundscaping of “Mortality Sorrow” recall the sonic diversity that’s always been as much a part of Godflesh’s approach as their signature cyclical rhythmic style. More perhaps than ever, Broadrick and Green seem to be aware of what defines Godflesh as a band in terms of sound, and as they make the crucial move from a “reunion” band to a working one, they seem as glad as ever to push those boundaries once more.

Justin K. Broadrick on Thee Facebooks

Avalanche Recordings on Bandcamp


Serpents of Secrecy, Uncoiled: The Singles


This two-song single may end up bring the only offering Serpents of Secrecy ever make public, and it was years in coming together. In December, the Chesapeake region group with members of Foghound, Borracho and King Giant suffered the loss of bassist Jim Forrester, who was murdered in Baltimore, and while a debut long-player was in discussion, to-date the five-piece have only issued “Warbird’s Song” and “The Cheat” as Uncoiled – The Singles, and obviously now any kind of follow-up is in question. Whether it’s the raucous burl of “Warbird’s Song” or the bluesy, organ-topped fluidity of “The Cheat,” the J. Robbins-produced tracks demonstrate the potential at heart from the lineup of vocalist Mark Lorenzo – who wound up in the role after members of Alabama Thunderpussy and Mister Bones vacated – guitarists Steve Fisher and Todd Ingram, Forrester and his former Sixty Watt Shaman bandmate Chuck Dukehart III. The only question at this point is whether that potential will ever see further realization. Right on as these songs are, I’m torn on the idea, to be honest.

Serpents of Secrecy on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records website


Vymaanika, Spectroscope


Multinational space rockers Vymaanika debut with the 20-minute two-songer Spectroscope EP, comprised of its 10-minute opening title-track and the subsequent “Golden Void,” which may or may not be named in honor of the side-project of Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell. I’d believe it either way. The band comprises members from Catalan – guitarist/vocalist/synthesis Carles Esteban and bassist Andrés Paniagua, Chile in drummer/synthesist Jose Jünemann, and the US in guitarist/vocalist/synthesis Benjamin Mahoney, but they all seem to have come together to record in Barcelona, and the breadth of “Spectroscope” and serene psychedelic mantra-making of “Golden Void” benefit from that band-in-the-room vibe. Especially so the latter, which touches early on vocal harmonies over drifting guitar strum, steady synth drone and percussive pulsations before building to a more active apex in its second half. After the cacophony taking hold in the back end of “Spectroscope,” it’s a clear demarcation of a varied sonic persona, and while I don’t know how often Vymaanika will be able to get everyone together with the geographic spread, it’s easy to be glad they did it for this first EP.

Vymaanika on Thee Facebooks

Vymaanika on Bandcamp


Zong, Zong

zong zong

Flowing arrangements abound on Zong’s self-titled four-track debut full-length. The Brisbane, Australia-based heavy psych three-piece are well within their genre sphere, but from opener and longest track (immediate points) “Cosmic Embryo” (13:00) through “Arcane Sand” (8:10), the perhaps-Zardoz-referential “Giant Floating Head” (11:48) and closer “Return of the Alien King” (10:32), they demonstrate a natural chemistry, patience and warmth of tone that is no less comfortable in the march and lurch of its penultimate cut than in dug-in repetition-born hypnosis of the leadoff. Deceptively weighted from almost its beginning point with the low end of Michael Grinstead’s bass and the rolling drums of Henry Bennett, there’s also a balance of airiness from guitarist Adam Anderson that adds nuance when called upon to do so, though there are plenty of moments where Zong’s Zong seems perfectly content to cave-jam its far-out atmospheric fluidity. Not an ethic and not a result you’re going to hear me complain about.

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Cardinal Fuzz Records webstore

Praying Mantis Records on Bandcamp


Vitriol, Pain Will Define Their Death


Brutal tech-death pervades Vitriol’s first EP, Pain Will Define Their Death – a three-song onslaught the violence of which is writ large over every minute of its total 12. Sharing a penchant for opening to bigger-sounding choruses like that of its opening title-cut with peak-era Hate Eternal, the pummel factor, ultra-tense push and unmitigated viciousness eschews some of the more machine-like aspects of such technically-minded fare, and while Vitriol’s overarching groove, gutturalist execution and hammer-swing breakdowns are casting out their own assault on the aforementioned opener as well as the subsequent blast-laden “Victim” and “Violence, a Worthy Truth,” they’re working in service to songcraft much more than to an indulgent showcase of prowess, and that makes all the difference in terms of the material’s ultimate impact. That impact? When was the last time you were actually kicked in the face? Nothing if not aptly named, Vitriol’s death metal seethes and rages in kind and bodes remarkably well for future manifest devastation.

Vitriol on Thee Facebooks

Vitriol on Bandcamp


Pillars, Pyres and Gallows


Hailing classic doom and darker atmospheres, French four-piece Pillars debut on Seeing Red Records via the Pyres and Gallows EP. Its four songs run a gamut of traditional grooves, but lumber with a balance between their rawness and a spirit of underlying riffy nuance that adds texture beneath the gruff, dudely vocals of frontman Klem, the tones of guitarist Djé and bassist Disaster well suited to the plodding companionship of drummer JJ on a song like the problematically-titled second cut “Dirty Whoreshippers” or the 10-minute title-track that rounds out. At 33 minutes, I’m not sure what’s stopping Pyres and Gallows from being a full-length, but if that’s a hint that Pillars have more to say going forward, then fair enough. They may be preaching to the converted in these tracks, but they’re doing so in righteous fashion and with a sense of their own identity under development. Doom on? Yeah, totally doom on. By all means. Please do.

Pillars on Thee Facebooks

Seeing Red Records on Bandcamp


Lamp of the Universe & Kanoi, Split


Among the fascinating factors at work on this cross-continental Clostridium Records split release between long-running New Zealand acid folk outfit Lamp of the Universe and Austrian psychedelic fuzz purveyor Kanoi is the fact that both parties involved are solo-projects. For Lamp of the Universe’s Craig Williamson (also Arc of Ascent), he brings three tracks of his signature drenched-wet lysergism in “In the Beginning,” “The Cosmic Body Track,” “Father” and “Space Chant,” while Kanoi’s Benjamin Kantschieder revisits two cuts from 2016’s Mountains of the Sun full-length in the extended “I’m Gone (I’m Gone)” and “Mountains of the Sun” itself. The novelty of having two single parties match wits on such fluid arrangements – my head always begs for collaboration in these instances – is offset by the quality of their work itself. Neither is new to their sphere, but both seem keen to continue to experiment and explore, and it’s from that commonality that the split most benefits.

Lamp of the Universe on Bandcamp

Kanoi on Bandcamp

Clostridium Records website


Azonic, Prospect of the Deep Volume One


The first Azonic offering since the mid-‘90s finds Brooklyn-based experimentalist Andy Hawkins reviving the project alongside his Blind Idiot God bandmate Tim Wyskida as a melding of drone/noise and percussive ideas. Released through Hawkins’ own Indivisible Music, Prospect of the Deep Volume One – pretty ambitious to put a “volume one” in the title of your first record in 20-plus years – presents two expansive works in “Oblivion of the Deep” (18:53) and “The Argonauts Reckoning” (18:42) as well as the CD bonus track “Voices of the Drowned” (10:12) that brim with atmospheric intent and have an underlying sense of control on the part of Hawkins that speaks to some measure of steering what might in other hands simply feel like sonic chaos. You can hear it early into “The Argonauts Reckoning,” as the layered wash seems to want to fly off the rails and swell and Hawkins’ guitar simply doesn’t let it go, but it’s true elsewhere on Prospect of the Deep Volume One as well, and in listening, it’s the difference between the album being a joy in the immersion, which it is, and a self-indulgent misfire, which it very much is not.

Azonic on Thee Facebooks

Indivisible Music website


Thousand Vision Mist, Ascension and the Loss of Tomorrow


Named for the lone 2002 full-length from Maryland doomers Life Beyond, in which guitarist/vocalist Danny Kenyon also featured, newcomer trio Thousand Vision Mist debut with the progressive-leaning edge of Journey to Ascension and the Loss of Tomorrow, a 52-minute 10-tracker. Yes, Rush are a factor in terms of influence. However, propelled by the drumming of Chris Sebastian, whose frenetic snare adds a Mastodonic feel to “Headstones Throw,” the otherwise classic-vibing “Final Flight of Fall” and the later “Darklight,” among others, the cumbersomely-titled offering sets its balance between modern prog metal, doom and classic heavy rock, with bassist Tony Comulada adding vocal harmonies alongside Kenyon and providing a needed anchor to keep songs like the penultimate “Skybound and Beyond” from actually taking off and leaving their audience behind. Reportedly long in the works, Journey to Ascension and the Loss of Tomorrow isn’t a minor digestion process at its busy and extended runtime, but while the recording is raw, there’s no shortage of fodder for engagement throughout its swath of choruses and head-spinning turns.

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Thousand Vision Mist on Bandcamp


Arcadian Child, Afterglow


Though not at all without its more driving aspects, some of the most satisfying moments on Arcadian Child’s debut album, Afterglow, come from a soothing hook like that of “Rabbit Hole,” which finds the Cypriot four-piece more fully embodying a laid back desert rock atmosphere that underpins the Fatso Jetson-esque opener “She’s on My Mind” and subsequent “Little Late for Love.” As the feels-short-at-29-minutes record unfolds, “Electric Red” blends fuzz and Mediterranean rhythmic push, “Irresistible” toys with layered swirl beneath a solidly-weighted verse and chorus, “Run” makes itself a highlight around a post-Lullabies to Paralyze atmospheric lead and start-stop riff, and the title-track casts momentum in melody and groove into closer “Used,” which pays one more welcome visit to the more serene side of their personality before they’re done. It might be a sleeper, but I’d be surprised if someone didn’t pick Afterglow up for a vinyl release sooner or later; the songwriting, performance, presentation and potential for future growth are all there waiting to be found by the right ears.

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Arcadian Child on Bandcamp


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Quarterly Review: Gruntruck, The Dead Ends, Albatross Overdrive, High Priestess, Monolith Cult, Kayleth & Favequaid, Black Wail, Psychic Lemon, Ixion, Rattlesnake

Posted in Reviews on January 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Lodewijk de Vadder (1605-1655) - 17th Century Etching, Landscape with Two Farms

Day Three of the Quarterly Review! I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling great. Plowing through, hearing a ton of good stuff. The week is rolling and though it’s most definitely caused me to be a neglectful husband and father for the last 72 hours (so far!), at very least the music is killer. That’s something, right? I didn’t really have a theme in picking today’s batch, but there are some commonalities between some of the inclusions all the same. See if you can find them, like one of those old puzzles in a Highlights magazine in your orthodontist’s wood-paneled office. Ready? Okay, let’s go.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Gruntruck, Gruntruck


Held back due to legal issues with their original label, Roadrunner, the self-titled third album from Seattle groove-grungers Gruntruck hits like an open time-capsule nearly two decades after the fact of its recording: a little dusty but full of vitality and potential for what could’ve been. With a tad more crunch than the likes of Soundgarden and a crunch less TAD than TAD, Gruntruck found a middle-space between the melodies of their age and scene and heavier impulses, and if songs like “Trip,” the post-Nirvana “Build a Hole,” and the later “Spy” sound dated, well, they should. They are dated. It’s an album that was recorded over 20 years ago. That does nothing to take away from the quality of the songwriting, however, as closer “Flang” shows by demonstrating how thin the line between grunge and heavy rock has always been in the first place, let alone how fluidly Gruntruck were able to cross from one side to the other.

Gruntruck on Thee Facebooks

Found Recordings website


The Dead Ends, Deeper the Dark the Brighter We Shine


This warm and psychedelically charmed debut from Kavala, Greece’s The Dead Ends works quickly to deliver its cumbersome title-line in opener “Memory Ship (Sails at Dawn)” amid a build of organ-laced Doors-style drama, but the overarching spirit of the Sound Effect Records release is nonetheless patient and fluid. The keyboard work of vocalist Giorgos Sechlidis proves to be a major standout factor on the playful “Narri-E Narri-O” as rhythms and melodic elements out of Greek folk rear their head, and as guitarist Serios Savvaidis and drummer Dimitris Apostolidis provide vocal support throughout, the nine tracks of Deeper the Dark, the Brighter We Shine envelop with a depth that corresponds to their outward reach, still based around pop structures practically and conceptually, but feeling open and resolved to remain that way all the same. The jangly “Peter 2:18” closes out by building into a melodic wash, as if to underscore the potential within this exciting outfit’s budding stylistic nuance.

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Sound Effect Records website


Albatross Overdrive, Keep it Running


Issued in 2016, Albatross Overdrive’s second full-length pulls together a sans-pretense 31 minutes of barroom-style heavy rock born of the California desert but not necessarily indebted solely to its aesthetic so much as to boozy swing and chug and meaner, engine-revving impulses. “Fire Dancer” and “Higher” make impressions early with catchy choruses and hard-delivered riffs, a touch of metal to the latter particularly, and the later “Preaching Love Not War” boasts a highlight performance from bassist Mark Abshire, formerly of Fu Manchu, while gritty vocalist Art Campos leads the five-piece – completed by guitarists Andrew Luddy and Derek Phillips and drummer Rodney Peralta – through the grunge-chug of “Earth Mother,” recalling Alice in Chains’ “Again” in its cadence momentarily, though ultimately driven along its own course, headed into closer “Neva,” which finishes the album in top form just as it might cap a raucous live set on any given and much-improved Friday evening.

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Albatross Overdrive website


High Priestess, Demo


Los Angeles trio High Priestess were recently snagged by Ripple Music for the release of their impending debut album this year, and on the strength of this five-track demo, one could hardly argue. Tonally rich, perfectly paced in its rollout, melodically centered and meditative with surprising flashes of metallic noise, cuts like 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Firefly” offer psychedelic immersion and a sense of worldmaking rare in a band’s first long-player, let alone their initial demo. Weighted low end gives Demo an earthy sensibility, and there’s definitely a desert-style aspect to “Take the Blame” and “Mother Forgive Me,” but the intertwining vocal melodies of guitarist/organist Katie Gilchrest and bassist Mariana Fiel atop Megan Mullins’ drums provide a spaciousness well across the line of transcendent into ethereal psychedelia. Likewise, after the salvo of “Firefly” and its nine-minute companion “Despise,” the peaceful, organ-laced closer “Earth Dive” draws emphasis on sonic diversity with its patient build and underlying command. Especially as demos go, High Priestess’ is dangerously coherent.

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High Priestess on Instagram


Monolith Cult, Gospel of Despair


From the first listen onward, the hardest thing about putting on Monolith Cult’s second full-length, Gospel of Despair, is actually letting the seven tracks play without constantly interrupting them by saying “hell yes.” Whether it’s the hook of opener “Disconnection Syndrome,” the subsequent plod of the title-track that follows, the massive slowdown that hits about a minute into “Sympathy for the Living” as it moves into its chorus, or the Candlemassian finale chug and stomp of “Death Means Nothing,” the Bradford, UK, five-piece’s follow-up to their 2013 debut, Run from the Light (review here), dwells in similar terrain between righteous classic metal and doom as Cruz del Sur denizens Argus, and the band are likewise firm in their purposes and assured in their delivery. “King of all that’s Lost” feels exceptionally weighted in its impact, but set next to the faster motion in the first half of the penultimate “Complicit in Your Abuse,” it feeds into an overarching flow and sense of leather-on-fistpump-or-headbang-take-your-pick-ready audience response. Hell yes? Oh, hell yes.

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Transcending Records


Kayleth & Favequaid, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Six


In bringing together Verona’s Kayleth and Palermo’s Favequaid, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Six works more on a direct theme than some of the other installments in the impressive and impactful series from Ripple Music. But if there’s a particularly nation’s scene worth highlighting in the heavy rock underground, the emergent riffy movement in Italy makes a riotous case for itself as Favequaid bull-in-a-china-shop their way through the nine-minute “Hypochondria” on side B or Kayleth unfold the highlight nod and melody of “The Survivor” earlier, hitting a mark of spatial weight that’s as much about its crash as reach. Starting with the atmospheric pulse of “Desert Caravan” and following up “The Survivor” with the melodic push of “Magnetar,” Kayleth come across as the more progressive of the two outfits, but with the brash finale of “First” rounding out, Favequaid help put emphasis on the underrated diversity within Italian heavy rock on the whole, and maybe that was the idea in the first place.

Kayleth on Thee Facebooks

Favequaid on Thee Facebooks


Black Wail, Chromium Homes


Though it gradually comes to life around an intro of Hendrixian noodling at the start of “They,” its opener and longest track (immediate points), the third EP from New Jersey’s Black Wail, Chromium Homes, isn’t through that same song before a decidedly Dio-esque “lookout!” is tossed into the pot. Abrasive, sludgy screaming follows. So yeah, it gets weird pretty quick, but that turns out to be the fun of the 27-minute six-tracker, since it just as easily digs back into languid wah-led groove or lets its keyboards flesh out classic heavy rocking melodies. “Thee Ghost” chugs metallic before stepping back to a harmonized a capella midsection and swinging to its finish, and the title-track basks in heavy blues rock like nothing ever happened – the perfect setup for the nastier “The Dead Man’s Hand,” and weirdo bounce-into-punk-thrust of “Radioactive Mutation” that follow. And because why the hell not: a closing doomed-out cover of “Norwegian Wood.” Somehow that was the only thing missing. Black Wail are getting strange and daring you to do the same. If you think you’re up for it, maybe you are.

Black Wail on Bandcamp

Rhyme and Reason Records


Psychic Lemon, Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay


Prepare for spacedelic immersion. Somewhere there’s a countdown happening and waiting on the other end of it is Psychic Lemon’s sophomore LP, Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay, the title of which reads like the recipe from which its five tracks have been constructed. The 41-minute sprawler from the London-based trio sets itself to the task of atmospheric breakout with 8:31 opener “Exit to the Death Lane,” and while it’s hard not to be drawn immediately to a track called “International Fuzz Star” – let alone one that’s almost 10 minutes long – one skips the cosmic-grunge shuffle of “Hey Droog!” and the sped-up Sonic Youthism of centerpiece “You’re No Good” at one’s own peril. They tease tension in the kick drum but ultimately end up soothing in meandering closer “Satori Disko,” but the progressive threat has been laid all the same, and it says something about their accomplishment overall that even in the final moments of Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay, one can’t be certain where Psychic Lemon might be headed next.

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Tonzonen Records webstore


Ixion, Return

ixion return

Brittany, France-based Ixion is a project spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist/growler/recording engineer/cover artist Julien Prat, and Return (on Finisterian Dead End) is the band’s third full-length. With clean vocals contributed by Yannick Dilly (who also mixed), it captures a contemplative and majestic balance of hope and sorrow, woeful in its extremity but bright-toned in its sprawling lead guitar figures in pieces like “Into Her Light” and the later “Stranger.” This meld fascinates throughout the nine-song/47-minute run, but it’s the poise of execution of all these ideas that make cuts like “Back Home” and the electronics-infused “Contact” stand out and recall some of the best moments of mid-period Katatonia, and from opener/longest track (immediate points) “Out of the Dark” onward, Return makes plain its self-awareness and resilience in capturing its formidable stylistic intention in the reality of the recording. It is a true work of beauty-in-darkness and affecting in both its scope and raw emotionalism.

Ixion on Thee Facebooks

Finisterian Dead End website


Rattlesnake, Outlaw Boogie

rattlesnake outlaw boogie

It’s just three songs, but Rattlesnake’s debut demo, Outlaw Boogie (also discussed here), was enough of an aesthetic mission statement all the same to wind up on my list of 2017’s best short releases, and with the swing and swagger provided by drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney of The Golden Grass, the classic-style riffing of guitarists Blake Charlton (Ramming Speed) and JP Gilbert (also vocals) and the wah bass Don Berger brings to “The Reason Why,” well, the reason why is frickin’ obvious. The New York-based newcomers capture a bright ‘70s vibe not dissimilar from The Golden Grass’ self-titled debut, but less serene and more urgent, more charged in its purposes on the whole, and dudelier in that okay-now-it’s-time-to-grow-a-mustache kind of way. Unsurprisingly, Outlaw Boogie is almost maddeningly catchy and cohesive and clear in its direction and intent, and the band seem to arrive in their conceptual foundation ready to move forward onto the next stage of their development. The only reason I call the three-tracker a demo at all and not an EP is because the band does. Otherwise there’s very little about it that doesn’t already denote it as a professional-grade work.

Rattlesnake on Thee Facebooks

In for the Kill Records webstore


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On Thorns I Lay Post Lyric Video for “Aegean Sorrow”; New Album out March 12

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

on thorns i lay

Following an absence of some 12 years, Athens-based outfit On Thorns I Lay returned in 2015 with their seventh album, Eternal Silence. Following behind 2003’s Egocentric, it marked a significant change in style — essentially a goth-death/doom revamp of what had become more of a hard rock approach over time born out of the band’s initial extremity of form in the 1990s. Think of the progressions of groups like Paradise LostAnathema and Katatonia and you’ll probably have some idea, but with On Thorns I LayEgocentric was more straightforward hard rock, even if cuts like “When I’m Gone” retained some darker edge.

Well, Eternal Silence had no shortage of ‘dark edge’ to it either, but turned the execution on its head with a theatrical blend of melodic and growled vocals. The six-piece’s new offering, Aegean Sorrow, would seem on the impression given by its title-track to be pushing further in that direction as well. I have been and I suspect will always remain a sucker for really well done death metal growls, and those of frontman Stefanos Kintzoglou are particularly choice, and it’s worth noting that the cleaner-toned voice of Eternal Silence seems at least to be sitting this track out. I haven’t heard the entirety of Aegean Sorrow, so can’t comment on whether or not that’s the case for the whole record, but the choice puts On Thorns I Lay squarely in death/doom territory and at least going by these nine minutes — which still feature a piano-led break near the middle — they seem just fine with that.

In any case, it’s some pretty wrenching stuff. Probably won’t be for everyone, but especially in the darkness of January at the outset of a New Year, it hits a downer sweet spot. Aegean Sorrow is out March 12 via Alone Records and The Vinyl Division. Check out the track below, followed by more info from the PR wire.


On Thorns I Lay, “Aegean Sorrow” lyric video

Greek doom/death classic outfit On Thorns I Lay have just unveiled the first lyric video from their upcoming Aegean Sorrow, out next March 12th, 2018 on cd by Alone Records and limited vinyl version by The Vinyl Division.

“Aegean Sorrow” is the track opening the album, showing in almost nine minutes the band still have much to offer to the metal scene. The video concept was created and edited by Manthos Stergiou for Manster Design.

On Thorns I Lay is:
Stefanos Kintzoglou – VOX
Chris Dragamestianos – GUITARS
Fotis Hondroudakis – DRUMS
Akis Pastras – GUITARS
Jim Ramses – BASS

On Thorns I Lay on Thee Facebooks

On Thorns I Lay on Instagram

Alone Records on Thee Facebooks

The Vinyl Division on Thee Facebooks

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Naxatras Set Feb. 16 Release for III; Teaser Clip Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Naxatras have announced a Feb. 16 release date for their new album, III, and I could be wrong — it’s certainly happened once or twice before — but I get the feeling I’m not the only one who’s going to be particularly interested to hear from Greek heavy psych trio have come up with for it. The Thessaloniki-based three-piece would seem to have put themselves in a perfect position to make a splash across the greater European underground even more than they already have, and this could well be the outing that takes them from “upstarts” to “forerunners” in terms of their impact.

To wit, their 2015 self-titled debut (discussed here) won ears, hearts and minds with its ultra-organic approach, lightly-funked approach to what might be space rock were it not so wonderfully earthy, and subsequent outings in 2016, the shorter EP (discussed here) and the full-length II (review here) affirmed not only a commitment to and expertise with analog recording methods, but also that the character and chemistry that seemed so resonant in their first outing was no fluke.

They’ve toured pretty hard since putting out that second long-player, so as we prepare for the third, I can’t help but wonder in what ways the band will step forward with III. Any huge changes in arrangement flourish seem like a lot to ask from a group who keeps their focus so attuned to recording and playing live as a guitar, bass and drums trio, but one never knows. The minute-long teaser clip they posted via the social medias does pretty well in piquing my interest in the sound of the record overall, so I guess mission accomplished there, and hopefully there will be more to come to let us know where Naxatras are at before the album actually arrives. Until then, anticipation and whatnot.

Their post about it was short and sweet:

naxatras photo marko devcic

X-Mas Special!
Naxatras “III” will be released the 16th of February (mark the day)!
Recorded on reel-to-reel tape at Magnetic Fidelity!
This will be a 7-track album guaranteed to blow your mind…
Get ready space cadets! ^^

Naxatras is:
John Delias – Guitar
Kostas Harizanis – Drums
John Vagenas – Bass & Vocals

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The Obelisk Presents: 1000mods Announce First-Ever US Tour Dates

Posted in The Obelisk Presents, Whathaveyou on December 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan


I think it’s fair to consider the first US tour from Greek heavy rock forerunners 1000mods the most significant arrival on North American shores of a European underground band since Truckfighters‘ first tour in 2011. I could not possibly be more thrilled to have The Obelisk have a hand in presenting this run with Tone Deaf Touring and Action PR. “Stoked” simply does not begin to describe it.

Why? Because, simply put, 1000mods are ready. It’s going to be a big change for them from what they’re used to from being on the road in Europe, the level they’re at and so on, but I honestly don’t think they’d hit the States at all if they weren’t looking to make a habit of it. Anything’s possible and this could be a one-time thing, but either way, as they support their strongest work yet on 2016’s Repeated Exposure To… (review here), they seem primed for the embrace of a new audience. Also just announced for Hellfest Open Air in France next June, they’re already veterans multiple times over of the Desertfests and have crisscrossed Europe in admirable fashion for years now. It’s great to imagine them doing the same thing in America and once again building their audience from the ground up as organically as they have elsewhere.

Kudos to the band for taking on the task, and thanks to them as well as to Tone Deaf and Action for letting this site be involved in any way at all. Support on the run comes alternately from Sierra and Telekinetic Yeti. The official announcement for the tour follows here, as seen on the PR wire, with ticket links (more to go on sale this Monday):

1000mods tour

Grecian Stoner Rock Heroes 1000mods Announce North American Headlining Tour

Celebrated Heavy Psych Group to Bring Electric Live Set to Western Hemisphere for First Time in Decade-Plus Career

Esteemed Greek heavy rockers 1000mods have announced their first-ever North American tour dates in the form of a winter, 2018 headlining tour. Set to launch on February 2 in Mexico City, the 29 city major market trek will run through March 5 in Brooklyn, NY, showcasing a group with a worldwide fan base that is hailed for its astute professionalism, resounding hooks and highly energetic live performances. 1000mods will visit North America as part of its current world tour and in support of its most recent album, ‘Repeated Exposure To…’ Support on the 1000mods tour will be provided by Canada’s Sierra and Iowa’s Telekinetic Yeti.

“We feel more than excited to visit America for first time in our career. We have been looking for this for many years and after having amazing connection with our american fans through social media and music platforms, now it’s time to catch us live – the best way to enjoy our music,” says drummer Labros G. We feel also really glad having two amazing up-coming bands with us in order to spread the fuzz!”

1000mods tour dates:
Presented by
2/2/2018 Mexico City ME Foro Indie Rocks
2/3/2018 Toluca ME Foro Lando
2/6/2018 Montreal QC Bar Le Ritz^
2/7/2018 Ottawa ON Mavericks^
2/8/2018 Toronto ON Hard Luck^
2/9/2018 Cleveland OH Grog Shop^
2/10/2018 Chicago IL Reggies Rock Club*
2/11/2018 Des Moines IA Vaudeville Mews*
2/12/2018 Minneapolis MN 7th St Entry*
2/13/2018 Kansas City MO Record Bar*
2/14/2018 Denver CO Globe Hall*
2/15/2018 Salt Lake City UT Metro Music Hall*
2/16/2018 Boise ID Shredder*
2/17/2018 Seattle WA El Corazon*
2/18/2018 Vancouver BC Astoria*
2/19/2018 Portland OR Tonic Lounge*
2/20/2018 San Francisco CA Brick and Mortar Music Hall*
2/21/2018 Los Angeles CA Resident DTLA*
2/22/2018 San Diego CA Space*
2/23/2018 Phoenix AZ The Rogue*
2/25/2018 Ft Worth TX Ridglea Theater*
2/26/2018 Austin TX Come And Take It Live*
2/27/2018 New Orleans LA Santos Bar*
2/28/2018 Orlando FL Will’s Pub*
3/1/2018 Atlanta GA 529*
3/2/2018 Charlottesville VA Champion Brewing* FREE SHOW
3/3/2018 Washington DC Black Cat*
3/4/2018 Philadelphia PA Kung Fu Necktie*
3/5/2018 Brooklyn NY Saint Vitus*
^ = w/ Sierra
* = w/ Telekinetic Yeti

100mods is:
Dani G. / Bass & Vox
Giannis S. / Guitars
George T. / Guitars
Labros G. / Drums

1000mods, Repeated Exposure To… (2016)

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Review & Track Premiere: Purple Dino, And Now What?!

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

purple dino and now what

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Soul on Fire’ from Purple Dino’s And Now What?!. Album is out Dec. 14 on Vault Relics.]

Just by looking at its comic-style cover art, with the dude passed out after drinking (which you know because of the bottle in his hand; as opposed to if someone had hit him in the head with a shovel) on the ground in what appears to be a park, surrounded by pigeons and detritus as a decidedly un-Barney-esque mascot for the band sits on a filthy bench, one might be tempted to ask the titular question of Purple Dino‘s second album, And Now What?! The lighthearted visual impression of the Vault Relics release is something of a contrast to the darker, simpler line drawing that adorned the Xanthi, Greece, four-piece’s 2014 debut, Jurassic Bar — though that also worked on the themes of dinosaurs and drinking — and while it might set up an expectation toward classic-style skate punk, the truth of And Now What?!‘s seven-track run is more complex than a single root influence can explain away.

Punk is part of it, as the riffing in the midsection of a song like “2day” demonstrates, but sure enough, that same track draws just as much on jangly surf guitar and semi-metallic crunch in the guitar work of Doukas Kostoglou, so even there nothing is easily pegged. Fronted by vocalist Ristas Kosmas, with Stef Dimou on bass and Mitsos Angelakis on drums, Purple Dino make the most of this varied course throughout And Now What?!, and while they wind up sounding like a group functioning under multiple songwriters or at very least a purposeful will to try something different for their compositions — to wit, the earlier metaloprog chug of “Her Ride” and the later brooding groove of the penultimate “Out of Me” — the album never feels unduly disjointed or like it’s making turns it doesn’t want to make. It doesn’t bumble through, in other words. It ties together.

It would be wrong wording to call that process graceful, if only because Purple Dino never seem to be shooting for “grace” as an aesthetic focus. Instead, their rock comes across as somewhat brash amid its deceptively far reach, but as cuts like the catchy opener “Soul on Fire” and the boozy rolling centerpiece “Show Me” prove, the most pervasive unifying sense is that all of these songs are stage-ready. There isn’t one piece of And Now What?! that wouldn’t serve a decided function in a setlist, and the energy in Purple Dino‘s delivery comes across in part born in the wake perhaps of groups like Truckfighters and their Greek countrymen in 1000mods — though a sonic comparison to neither would be completely accurate — even in the more spacious comedown moments of “Out of Me” on side B.

purple dino

Likewise, the preceding “Isolated,” with its blend of airy guitar early and a later payoff in cowbell-inclusive drumming and nodding riffing, seems charged with the direct purpose of inciting a crowd to move. As goals go, it’s an admirable one, but a full-length isn’t a show, and so Purple Dino‘s And Now What?! needs to find a way to unite its disparate parts in an overarching flow that’s not just pretending to be a concert, which really the production is more crisp than to allow. It accomplishes this via a subtle underlying element serves as an origin point for much of the sound-swath and, indeed, the stylistic interpretation of the cover art as well, and that is the various styles of heavy that first emerged in the 1990s, be it grunge on “Her Ride,” closer “Unknown Destination,” the post-Alice in Chains aggression in the middle of “2day” — not to mention the dialed landline-phone sample there as well — or the last-minute scream and flushed-toilet that cap “Out of Me.” If you’re looking for the place where their metallic side comes from, that would seem to be it.

And as a loose source, that vibe works smoothly with Kosmas‘ vocal style and the tonality of Kostoglou‘s guitar and Dimou‘s bass, the punch of which begins “Soul on Fire” at the very start of the record. But just as they don’t draw just from the well of a single sound, neither do Purple Dino limit themselves to one decade of influence, and the more modern facets — the production and the ultimate heavy rock that arises from their meld — come complemented by a somewhat classic side A/side B feel that puts the first four tracks of And Now What?! in position to be broadened by the final three, with “Isolated,” “Out of Me” and “Unknown Destination” longer on average than their predecessors and seeming to push farther out as they move one into the next, the swagger of “Show Me” before dissipating somewhat amid the ensuing stretch in “Isolated,” which establishes itself early with outreach of guitar and bass topped by a vague sample to up the post-rock spirit before the main riff kicks in circa the one-minute mark.

There is no epiphanous, grand summary on And Now What?! — no single track to bring all the sides together under one hook or progression — but for all the threads that Purple Dino weave, there’s never a sense that they become entangled by them, and instead, there’s an efficiency even to “Out of Me” that puts the emphasis on the consciousness at work beneath its exterior. Purple Dino, in other words, are in control of their craft, and not the other way around. They command this material, and much to their credit, that command doesn’t stop them in the slightest from sounding like they’re having a good time even in the record’s moodier stretches. Rather, it becomes another endearing facet of the overall personality, and lets them bring their listeners along for the ride as it happens, rather than simply leaving heads spinning with an offputting series of unexpected twists. Somehow, it all works. And in answer to the album’s central question, and now — hopefully — Purple Dino continue to build on it.

Purple Dino, And Now What?! studio diary

Purple Dino on Thee Facebooks

Purple Dino on Instagram

Purple Dino on Bandcamp


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Cyanna Mercury Post “Apollo” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

cyanna mercury

Might at first seem like a curious choice on the part of Athens-based five-piece Cyanna Mercury in picking a track for a video to represent their debut album, Archetypes (review here). After all, they could’ve gone with the heavy blues vibes of opener “Horse Dark as Night” or the organ and folk-ish percussion of the later, soulful “If We Were Blind,” the handclap-laden “Lilith” or even the moody “Ode to Absent Father,” but instead they went with the 90-second “Apollo,” a piano-and-voice piece that, while fair enough in capturing the brooding sensibility of Archetypes on the whole, hardly speaks for the scope of the band’s arrangements throughout. Well, it turns out they already did videos for all the other songs, and “Apollo” is the last one left, so there you go.

Even so, given the sonic variety between the tracks above and the rest that make up Archetypes, Cyanna Mercury don’t really have just one that speaks for the entirety of the album, the 47 minutes record of which fluidly blend Greek folk elements with heavy, psychedelic and classically progressive rock into a sound that’s patient and expressive without veering into being overblown or more theatrical than it wants to be. It’s a balance that would be hard for a more experienced group to strike, but Cyanna Mercury not only make it flow on their debut, but do so without sounding rushed or like they’re fuddling their way through finding their sound. They come across, in other words, like they know what they’re doing.

And hell, maybe they do. In that case, even without knowing all the other clips exist, one might be more inclined to give Cyanna Mercury the benefit of the doubt on a curious choice like giving “Apollo” visuals over some of the other tracks on Archetypes, since clearly there’s a master plan at work. As to how their plan might play out, I don’t know, but one of the hallmarks of Greece’s emergent heavy underground is that its bands have a genuine sense of stylistic adventurousness and that, for the most part, they’re not content to simply carbon-copy the work of others from outside their geographic sphere without putting something of their own into it. “Apollo,” in the span of about a minute and a half, proves Cyanna Mercury are immediately engaged in this as well, and so maybe it was the way to go after all.

Video and credits follow here. Please enjoy:

Cyanna Mercury, “Apollo” official video

Produced by Dimitris Lilis & Cyanna Mercury
Co-produced, Mixed, Engineered by Alex Bolpasis
Recorded at Artracks studios
Mastered by James Plotkin

Video created by Iam Nothe

Music by Diamond Pr & Spyreas Sid
Lyrics by Spyreas Sid

Cyanna Mercury is:
Spyreas Sid – vocals & percussion
Nick Sid – keyboard
Diamond Pr – guitars
Dennis Panagiotidis – drums
Dimitri Georgopoulos – bass

Cyanna Mercury website

Cyanna Mercury on Thee Facebooks

Cyanna Mercury on Bandcamp

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