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

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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
https://www.facebook.com/IamNotheDesign

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

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Cyanna Mercury on Bandcamp

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Tuber, Out of the Blue: Beyond the Desert

Posted in Reviews on October 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

tuber out of the blue

As part of a countrywide surge in heavy productivity in Greece taking place over, say, the last five years, instrumentalist four-piece Tuber issued their debut full-length, Desert Overcrowded, late in 2013 as the follow-up to their 2012 self-titled EP (discussed here), and with the longer release, seemed to be making a statement of individualized intent, positioning themselves outside the genre of heavy rock while at the same time being very much of the style and its influence. It was a lot to say for a band without lyrics, but as the Serres-based outfit, comprised of Nickos Gerostathos, Paris Fragkos, Yannis Gerostathos and Yannis Artzoglou, offer their second long-player, Out of the Blue, through NEDA Records, they would seem all the more to manifest the ethic that drove its predecessor while also taking a significant step forward in sound.

There is still a root within heavy rock, to be sure, but to listen to a track like “Cat Class,” which its darker guitar chug and running keyboard line, Tuber appear to have shifted into a much more progressive take on the style. Psychedelic elements remain and can be heard elsewhere in the guitar of the penultimate “Moon Rabbit,” but Out of the Blue even takes these more to a place of post-Russian Circles heavy post-rock in terms of their balance between airiness of tonal drift and underlying crunch, and thereby only provides a richer feel for the prog edge overall. It’s not an easy transition to make, and it’s not every band who could make it and still come across as fluidly as Tuber do in these six songs, but they successfully manipulate established styles to their own ends throughout, and so are able to provide an emotional crux as well as aesthetic intrigue to a piece the eight-minute “Norman.”

Crucial factors throughout Out of the Blue are tension and the keyboards. Tuber issued the album at the end of May very much in the manner of its title — it wasn’t on Bandcamp and then it was; blamo — and I’ll admit that part of my months-long delay in giving it a proper review has been down to processing their methods. I won’t claim to have a total grasp on what they’re doing — I’d just about never claim that about anyone — but there’s no question that from the opening title-track onward, the keyboards play a huge role in setting the mood and establishing the range with which the band is working overall. Synthesized beats are the first thing one hears as “Out of the Blue” begins, and though by the first minute drums and guitar have joined in and the song is soon to take off on a bit of deceptively angular riffing, it’s still the keys that have charted the course ahead.

tuber

The shortest inclusion, “Russian” (5:40), follows and is more guitar led, but retains a complex structure of its own. It doesn’t move as patiently into a drifting midsection (again, filled out by keyboards, bass and guitar in balance) like the opener before it, or hit into the same kind of payoff wash, but with a focus more on the heads-down business of riffing, Tuber offer a charge late in the song born of progressive metal à la Tool or the aforementioned Russian Circles leading into the drum start of “Cat Class” and thereby emphasizing the dynamic manner in which they’re able to play to one side or another within their sound even as they expand the parameters of where that sound can go. After “Russian,” the underlying chug of “Cat Class” seems to have a different context as opposed to being taken on its own — one rarely expects to have their mind drawn to mid-period Rammstein by a heavy rock record — but here the key element of tension emerges in the note-to-note bounce and the upbeat drumming, and once more the keyboards are essential to conveying that vibe as they complement the guitar, flesh out the arrangement, and starting at about three minutes in, make their own statement of melodicism rightly featured at the fore of the mix before the next push of thicker riffing takes hold.

“Cat Class” is a standout for bringing to mind a new wave-meets-heavy prog sensibility that’s almost definitively Tuber‘s own, but it’s still just a fraction of what they offer on Out of the Blue as “Norman” answers back with an oddly-timed start of drums and keys, letting the guitar ease its way in more gradual fashion on the album’s most subtle linear build taking place over first two-plus minutes. It’s not until about 2:45 that “Norman” takes flight, and by then the listener is duly hypnotized; an old trick as far as instrumentalist heavy is concerned, but a level of engagement on which Tuber haven’t relied before and so feeling fresh within the sphere of these cuts, and they recede no less smoothly only to mount an even more tense apex the second time around before finally crashing out and letting “Moon Rabbit” come in as an answer to “Russian” back on side A that once again puts the focus more on guitar than keys — drums and bass, as ever, the foundation on which all of this interaction is taking place, it’s worth emphasizing — but nonetheless retains a heavy post-rocking texture and patience, for which the second track ultimately had little time.

This varied and gracefully executed depth has to find resolution somewhere, and one looks immediately to closer “Luckily Dead” to provide that very thing. In following “Moon Rabbit,” which efficiently capped with what feels by the end of the song like its chorus in the sense of an instrumental hook, the finale starts with a darker, lower keyboard line and a slower drum beat, the guitar entering like a tinted mirror of “Norman” but marked out by the immediate shift in mood. “Luckily Dead” indeed sets itself to the task of paying off the tension mounted all across the record before it — whether it was written specifically for that purpose or just well placed, I couldn’t say — but the flow of the seven-plus-minute piece casts itself as yet another significant factor in what makes Out of the Blue so successful on the whole, since while Tuber clearly aren’t shooting for the same kind of raw, live feel in their recording style as many psychedelic bands, instead leaning more toward a crisp, prog-style production with Fragkos at the helm as engineer/mixer, they still retain and demonstrate a level of chemistry among themselves as players that simply can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.

It’s what allows them to foster such a multifaceted take while holding firm to their underlying sonic persona, and it’s what has allowed them to develop that sonic persona in the first place. One can only hope as they continue to move forward — which it’s safe to bet that barring disaster they will; there’s little here that shows any interest in stagnation on any level — they are able to maintain that aspect as well as to press ahead with their approach, because with Out of the Blue it has resulted in a work as distinct as it is distinguished. If Tuber found the desert too crowded for their liking, they’ve definitely moved into a space more completely to themselves.

Tuber, Out of the Blue (2017)

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The Road Miles Premiere Video for “The Third Man”; Ballads from the Wasteland out Oct. 23

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the road miles

Athens-based rockers The Road Miles are preparing to release their new full-length, Ballads for the Wasteland, later this month. Their second long-player, it’s also the second offering from new imprint Archaeopia Records, which just last month introduced itself with the limited compilation The Sun, The Moon, The Mountain: A Passage Through Greek Psychedelia (review here). You might recall The Road Miles were featured on that release as well and made an immediate impression with their track “600 Miles.” That song shows up among the seven inclusions on Ballads for the Wasteland too, and proves to be part of an overarching narrative drawing from Western storytelling traditions and specifically the otherworldly thematic of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.

That focus makes the role of frontwoman Afroditi Tavoulari all the more central to the band’s aesthetic. Atop creative arrangements of guitar from Epameinondas 

the-road-miles-ballads-for-the-wasteland

Koutsoumpas and Michael Chrysos, Yannis Efthymiou‘s bass, Alex Darmis‘ keys and Anargiros Pantazis‘ drums, it’s Tavoulari who takes on the task of narrating the storyline progression that crosses through tracks like “Where I was Born, There I Will End,” “The Last Western Myth” and “Filthy Air,” serving as a steady presence in a vast soundscape of organ-laced classic heavy Western-style psych blues. Blink and you’re out in the desert amid some lost nighttime ritualism. The immersion happens quick with “Where I was Born, There I Will End” as the leadoff and longest track (immediate points), but it only builds from there across the record’s flat, sandy span, and under imagined stars, The Road Miles conjure demons a-wanderin’ and put spurs to the listener to charge deeper into the moodiness of the semi-title-track “Ballad for the Wasteland’ ahead of “The Third Man,” which provides the apex of the storyline ahead of instrumental epilogue closer “Wolves.”

A tense drum progression, sustained organ notes and jazzy guitar and bass give Tavoulari her backdrop, but come and go and come again effectively through repeated verses as the four-minute cut unfolds, not hurried but a definite pickup from “Ballad for the Wasteland” before it. The rise of a fuzzy guitar at the midpoint signals a move toward the apex to come, and sure enough, just before the three-minute mark, “The Third Man” bursts to life like a snake springing out from its coil and caps Ballads for the Wasteland with a brief but effective crescendo that would seem to deliver its poison well enough to let the audience know why exactly the “Wolves” are showing up at the end and just whose bones it is being picked.

Today I have the pleasure of hosting the premiere of The Road Miles‘ new video for “The Third Man,” which you can see below, followed by more info from Archaeopia Records via the PR wire about Ballads for the Wasteland, which again, should be out by the end of this month.

Please enjoy:

The Road Miles, “The Third Man” official video premiere

“The Third Man” is the sixth track in order from The Road Miles sophomore album “Ballads from the Wasteland”.

Composed//Arranged//Lyrics by: The Road Miles
Produced by: Alex Bolpasis
Engineered//Mixed by: Alex Bolpasis @Artracks Studios
Mastered by: Yiannis Christodoulatos @ Sweetpot Studios
Video written and directed by : Danai Simou

Here lies The Road Miles’ sophomore album. The roots of its narrative can be found somewhere between the deathly Mid-World of The Dark Tower, the mystifying Thebes of Oedipus Rex and the cursed Clarksdale Crossroads where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil.

Ballads for the Wasteland tracklisting:
1. Where I was Born, There I Will End
2. The Last Western Myth
3. 600 Miles
4. Filthy Air
5. Ballad for the Wasteland
6. The Third Man
7. Wolves

In their sophomore album, The Road Miles adopt an almost cinematic approach to their sound, transferring the auditor straight to the heart of that very desert. Here, every twist and turn of a desert travelogue can be experienced through music: the wearing route, the mortal hazards, the otherworldly delusions. Skillfully maneuvering from electrifying blues to nostalgic Americana and explosive heavy psych to wistful spoken word, the band perfectly captures the feeling of being adrift in such vast wastelands, in a psychedelic loop of fantasy and death.

With Ballads for the Wasteland, The Road Miles unveil their own distinctive narrative. A thrilling narrative, developed through seven heartfelt, esoteric mantras. A narrative of hollow outbursts and deafening silences. A narrative built with the same raw materials as every western myth: a gun, the dust and the open horizon.

The Road Miles is:
Afroditi Tavoulari / Vocals
Alex Darmis / Keys
Anargiros Pantazis / Drums
Epameinondas Koutsoumpas / Guitar
Michael Chrysos / Guitar
Yannis Efthymiou / Bass

Produced, engineered and mixed by Alex Bolpasis at Artracks Studios
Mastering by Yannis Christodoulatos at Sweetspot Studios
Artwork/Layout by George Gkousetis www.goographix.com/semitonelabs
Recorded during the summer of 2016 at Artracks Recording Studios in Athens, Greece

The Road Miles on Thee Facebooks

The Road Miles on Instagram

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The Road Miles website

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Archaeopia Records on Twitter

Archaeopia Records on Bandcamp

Archaeopia Records website

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The Dead Ends to Release Deeper the Dark, the Brighter We Shine Oct. 20

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the dead ends

Greek heavy psych rockers The Dead Ends are streaming two new tracks from their upcoming debut album now. Deeper the Dark, the Brighter We Shine releases on Oct. 20 through Sound Effect Records, and in “Narri-E Narri-O” and “Peter 2:18,” one can hear a classic pop sensibility amid the prominent keys and heavy percussive underpinning. The latter track is more shoegazing and buzzier in its tone, but still, we’re talking late-’60s style psych with a focus on songcraft, and that kind of vibe is almost always welcome by me, all the more so as it comes shaded with melodic elements out of Greek folk.

I haven’t heard the full record yet but hope to sometime prior to the release (the countdown’s on!). From what I’m hearing in “Narri-E Narri-O” and “Peter 2:18” there could be a cool trip in store. I’ve embedded the tracks below. The PR wire brings art, background, vinyl info and other details:

the-dead-ends-deeper-the-dark-the-brighter-we-shine

The Dead Ends – Deeper the Dark the Brighter We Shine

Sound Effect Records
RELEASE DATE: 27/10/2017

SER 041B / Vinyl LP Black, Ltd to 200 copies / 18, 00
SER 041C / Vinyl LP Green, Ltd to 100 copies / 22, 00

Sound Effect Records proudly present The Dead Ends! Fresh from their opening slot with The Black Angels, Greece’s newest psych-rock demi-gods release their debut album on October 20th.

Filled with lysergic keys, open-space grooves and addictive, folk-tinged melodies, “Deeper the Dark the Brighter We Shine” is among the year’s most pleasant surprises and a must for any psych aficionado.

The Dead Ends are a psychedelic rock trio from Kavala, Greece. The band was formed in 2015. They have expanded their live performance experience having toured extensively around north Greece as well as sharing a stage with bands like The Black Angels, The Last Drive, Headquake, Re-Stoned and many more. In spring 2017 they recorded their debut album entitled “Deeper the dark, the brighter we shine”, which will be released on vinyl by Sound Effect Records.

Influenced by Aphrodites Child, The Doors, Velvet Underground and Pink Floyd and equally inspired by early shoegaze and traditional Greek music, their sound is a sonic amalgamation of expanding melodies and powerful rhythmic motifs, paired with lyrical allegories, resulting in their own neo-psychedelic soundscape.

The Dead Ends are:
Giorgos Sechlidis – keys, vocals
Serios Savvaidis – guitars, vocals
Dimitris Apostolidis – drums, vocals.

https://www.facebook.com/thedeadendskav/
https://thedeadends3.bandcamp.com/releases
www.soundeffect-records.gr
http://www.facebook.com/SoundEffectRecords
https://soundeffectrecords.bandcamp.com/music

The Dead Ends, Deeper the Dark, the Brighter We Shine (2017)

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Quarterly Review: Hallatar, Alastor, The Dead-End Alley Band, Hair of the Dog, Soup, Kungens Män, Smoke Wizzzard, Highburnator, The Curf, Ulls

Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

Here we are, gathered for round four of the Fall 2017 Quarterly Review. After the technical issues with the site for the last couple days, I’m glad to have everything back up and running, and one more time I thank Slevin and Behrang Alavi for making that happen. Though I have no idea what it might actually entail, I don’t imagine switching hosts on the fly for a site with as much content as this one has is easy, but they of course killed it and it is thoroughly appreciated. We move forward, as ever, with 10 more records. So let’s go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Hallatar, No Stars Upon the Bridge

hallatar-no-stars-upon-the-bridge

Finland’s Hallatar was formed after the passing of Trees of Eternity vocalist Aleah Starbridge, life partner of guitarist and songwriter Juha Ravio (also Swallow the Sun). In the new outfit, Ravio pays homage to Starbridge with the debut long-player No Stars Upon the Bridge (on Svart) by using her poems as lyrics, samples of her voice reading on “Raven’s Song,” “Spiral Gate” and the piano-backed centerpiece “Pieces,” and by bringing in Amorphis vocalist Tomi Joutsen and ex-HIM drummer Gas Lipstick to complete a trio playing nine tracks/40 minutes of deeply mournful/beautiful death-doom. The extremity of lurch in “The Maze” late in the record is matched by the gorgeousness of the chants and shimmering guitar on closer “Dreams Burn Down,” and from the opening strains of “Mirrors,” the emotion driving No Stars Upon the Bridge is sincere and affecting. Cuts like “Melt” and the mostly-whispered-until-it-explodes “My Mistake” have a sense of the theatrical in their delivery, but that makes them no less genuine, and though one wouldn’t wish the circumstances leading to the band’s formation on anybody, there’s no question that with Hallatar, Ravio turns tragedy into a lush, resonant catharsis.

Hallatar on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records website

 

Alastor, Black Magic

alastor black magic

Cultish echoes pervade Black Magic, the debut album from Swedish doom-rolling four-piece Alastor, and it’s not so much that the initials-only four-piece of guitarists H and J, bassist/vocalist R and drummer S take influence from Electric Wizard and Black Sabbath, it’s what they do with that influence that’s most striking. Black Magic is made up of three extended tracks – “Enemy” (11:51), “Nothing to Fear” (7:42) and “Black Magic” (14:27) – and with a deep tonal engagement, each one embarks on a huge-sounding sprawl of doom. Yes, the guitars owe the swirl in “Nothing to Fear” to Jus Oborn, but the echoes behind R’s voice there and the melody have an almost New Wave-style feel despite the “all right now!” drawn right from the Ozzy playbook. In other words, Alastor are preaching to the converted, and that holds true in the snowblinded Luciferian spaciousness of the title-track’s early going as well, but the converted should have no problem finding the gospel in what they’re hearing, and as “Black Magic” rounds out with its chanted feel, Alastor affirm the potential to progress within this sound and to continue to develop it into something even more their own than it is now. Familiar superficially, but sneaky in the details, so watch out.

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Twin Earth Records webstore

 

The Dead-End Alley Band, Storms

the dead-end-alley-band-storms

Lima-based four-piece The Dead-End Alley Band aren’t far into opener “Red Woman” before the dark-psych vibe and languid groove have properly emphasized just how much the guitar of Leonardo Alva and the organ of Sebastian Sanchez-Botta (also vocals) complement each other. Propelled by the rhythm section of bassist/vocalist Javier Kou and drummer Jafer Diaz, Storms is the third album from them behind 2015’s Odd Stories (discussed here) and 2013’s debut, Whispers of the Night (review here), and it continues to blend fuzz and classic garage doom impulses on songs like “Headstone Fortress” and the shuffling “Thunderbolts and Lace,” the latter of which wah-trips to the max around a stirring boogie before “The Clock has Stopped” weirds out on extra vocal echoes and nine-minute closer “Waiting for the Void” brings in the progressive touches of pan flute and percussion. Even in the earlier, shortest track “Need You (It’s Enough),” The Dead-End Alley Band bring no shortage of personality to the proceedings, and confirm that the rough edges of their early outings have matured into essential aspects of who they have become as a band, completely in control of their craft and able to conjure an atmosphere both classic and individual.

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The Dead-End Alley Band on Bandcamp

Forbidden Place Records website

 

Hair of the Dog, This World Turns

hair-of-the-dog-this-world-turns

Making their debut on Kozmik Artifactz, Scottish trio Hair of the Dog give their guitar-led compositions plenty of time to flesh out on This World Turns, their third album, as they demonstrate quickly on the nine-plus minute titular opener and longest track (immediate points), but one would hardly call their songwriting indulgent there or anywhere else as “This World Turns” flows easily into the following seven-minute push of “Keeping Watch over the Night” in a resolute one-two punch that soon gives way to the shorter and more driving “Ctrl-Alt-Del,” touching on influences from Thin Lizzy and Scorpions en route as well as modern practitioners like Kadavar, whose stamp can also be heard on side B launch “The Colours in Her Skin.” That’s not to say Hair of the Dog — guitarist/vocalist Adam Holt (interview here), bassist Iain Thomson and drummer Jon Holt – don’t leave their own mark as well, just that their blend stems from multiple sources. A bit of Lynottism surfaces in the penultimate “In Death’s Hands” as well, which has a more subdued feel despite fervent rhythmic movement underlying, and closer “4AM” soars with enough vigor and soul – and a little falsetto – to give This World Turns a suitably smooth and vibrant finish.

Hair of the Dog on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Soup, Remedies

soup remedies

With ties to Motorpsycho through guitarist Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan, Soup issue their sixth long-player in the five-track lush melodicism of Remedies, which feels particularly aptly named for the immersion the wash that opener “Going Somewhere” is able to elicit. That is, of course, just the first of the spacious, semi-folk-infused progressions, and it’s with the longer-form “The Boy and the Snow” (11:33) and the psychedelic purposeful meandering of “Sleepers” (13:35) that Remedies truly unveils its considerable breadth, but the Crispin Glover Records release holds a sense of poise even in the two-minute centerpiece church organ interlude “Audion,” and the harmonies of “Nothing Like Home” bring to mind peak-era Porcupine Tree patience and fluidity while holding fast to the bright, orange-sunshiny warmth of the atmosphere as a whole, instruments dropping out just before three minutes in to showcase the vocals before returning to embark on the march to the final crescendo, not at all overblown but with just a touch of extra volume to let listeners dive deeper into the moment. Remedies feels quick at 42 minutes, but turns out to be just what the doctor ordered.

Soup on Thee Facebooks

Crispin Glover Records website

 

Kungens Män, Dag & Natt

kungens-man-dag-natt

Prolific psych-progging Stockholmers Kungens Män return with Dag & Natt, a 2CD/2LP issued through Kungens Ljud & Bild (CD) and Adansonia Records (LP) that overflows with jazzy fluidity and gorgeous immersion. The band’s last studio outing was late-2015’s Förnekaren (review here), and whether it’s 13-minute pieces like opener “Morgonrodnad” and the even-more-krautrocking “Aftonstjärnan” or the seemingly complementary inclusions of the kosmiche-minded “Dag” and wonderfully drifting “Natt,” the album as a whole is a joy and a boon to anyone looking for an extended psychedelic meander. The saxophone of Gustav Nygren on the aforementioned leadoff and “Natt” makes a particularly striking impression, but with a steady, languid wash of guitar, synth and warm bass throughout, Dag & Natt wants nothing for flow, and the gentle, classy spirit is maintained even as the penultimate “Vargtimmen” ups the sense of thrust leading into the finisher payoff of “Cirkeln är Slut.” As of now, Kungens Män should be considered a too-well-kept secret of Scandinavia’s psych underground, though listening to Dag & Natt, one wonders just how long they’ll stay that way.

Kungens Män on Thee Facebooks

Adansonia Records website

 

Smoke Wizzzard, Run with the Wolf

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Whether it’s through the striking and gruesome cover art or through the lumbering post-Sabbath, post-Cathedral stoner-doom nod contained within, Smoke Wizzzard’s five-song self-titled debut LP thoroughly earns its third ‘z’ – and, for that matter, its second one – with played-to-form thickness and a tonal push that starts with 10-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “Astro Lord” and continues to swagger and swing with due viscosity through “Reptiles” after the minute-long punker curveball “Soul Train.” The highlight of the Pittsburgh trio’s first outing might be “The Pass,” which has a hazy patience and some rightly-featured bass tone, but as “Run with the Wolf” moves from its early Electric Wizard muckraking to cap with piano and included howls for a doomier feel, it becomes clear Smoke Wizzzard have yet to play their full stylistic hand and the real highlights may still be yet to come. Fair enough. Something tells me getting stranger is only going to be a boon to Smoke Wizzzard’s approach on the whole, so bring it on.

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Smoke Wizzzard on Bandcamp

 

Highburnator, Keystoned State

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If you hit up Highburnator’s Bandcamp and download their name-your-price Keystoned State EP, you might note the fifth and final inclusion is the entire live-recorded, 28-minute release presented as a single track. No doubt the Pennsylvania three-piece intend the four-song outing to be taken just that way. They begin with the “mad as hell” speech sampled from the 1976 film Network and from there unfold a potent riffly brew met head on with harsh East Coast hardcore-style vocals and more metallic growls. That’s nine-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Brass Rail,” and it sets the tone for what follows on the eponymous “Highburnator” before “Desert Funeral” and the Sleep-style nod of “Peaking at the Coffin” push into even more stonerly vibes. This melding of pissed-off disaffection and mid-paced heavy rock groove is particular to the sludge of the Eastern Seaboard – think of it as regional fare – but Highburnator find space for themselves in the rawness of their riffs and the charm of their puns, and by the time they’re through the four songs, it makes sense why they might want to present the full onslaught as a single entity, essentially giving it to their listeners on one overflowing platter. Got the munchies? It’s right there waiting.

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Highburnator on Bandcamp

 

The Curf, Death and Love

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Greek psych-doomers The Curf made their debut in 2007 with I and then went radio silent until last year’s Royal Water EP. Their sophomore full-length, Death and Love, then, arrives via Fuzz Ink Records with some amount of intrigue behind it, but either way, the sans-pretense heavy roll the band unfurls on “Dark Hado,” and the more uptempo “Smoke Ring,” the dig-in low end of “Lunar Lair” and the scream-topped start-stoppery of “California” present a varied take brought together through heft as well as the crispness of production and delivery, such that when it wants to, Death and Love can bite down hard, but as on the closing title-track or the earlier “Order ‘n’ Sin,” it can rumble out spaciousness as well. Whatever might’ve taken The Curf so long to put together a second album beats the hell out of me, but if they were looking to make an argument for a third one, they do so convincingly across these nine songs, which hold firmly to their overarching flow despite the emergent stylistic range.

The Curf on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Ink Records webstore

 

Ulls, I

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For now, Ulls is the solo-project of Barcelona-based David Trillo, formerly guitarist/vocalist for the heavy progressive trio Lord Summerisle, but the hope seems to be to build a full band at some point in the future. The I EP might rightly be called a demo, then, but for the professionalism and cohesiveness of sound with which its three songs are presented and the clarity of intent behind them. With Trillo rumbling away on bass beneath, six-minute opener “Inhumat” fleshes out its arrangement with organ alongside guitar swirl and sets up the classically swinging strut of “Llot Convuls,” on which the drums post-midsection lead the way through starts and stops à la a restless King Crimson and the guitar joins with no less angularity. Eight-minute closer “L’Emersió de l’Executor” brings about a thicker overall tone, but holds to a similar mood through its first half, Trillo finding room after about the four-and-a-half-minute mark for a standout solo executed with the bass running fluidly alongside that carries the song to its fading finish just before seven minutes in, at which point a residual drone takes hold to lead the way out. That ending is telling when it comes to various impulses that might show themselves in Ulls going forward, but as an initial demonstration, suffice it to say that I makes it plain Trillo shouldn’t have much trouble finding other players to come aboard the band with him.

Ulls on Instagram

Ulls on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Nibiru, The Ditch and the Delta, Cyanna Mercury, Surya Kris Peters, Golden Bats, Blind Hen, The Black Wizards, Low Flying Hawks, Brother Sister Hex, Cold Insight

Posted in Reviews on September 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

Ready for round three of the Fall 2017 Quarterly Review? I hope so, because it’s a doozy. Things get pretty weird and pretty rockin’ in this batch, and at the risk of being completely honest, I much prefer it that way. It’s a varied group — maybe the most diverse in terms of sound throughout the entire week, though there’s stiff competition still to come — and as we hit the 30th review, that brings us to the halfway point of the Quarterly Review itself, which if all keeps proceeding according to plan will wrap up on Monday with a grand total of 60 done. Let’s hope no pianos fall on my head between now and then, literally or figuratively. Onward.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Nibiru, Qaal Babalon

nibiru qaal babalon

The fourth full-length from Italian sludge ritualists Nibiru, Qaal Babalon (on Argonauta) is an encompassing, 57-minute grind comprised of four extended tracks, the longest of which is opener (immediate points) “Oroch” at 19:07 – a song whose depths run dark and cruel and which, even when the tempo pushes upward from its initial slow crawl, still feels massively slow. Still, the spirit behind “Oroch” as well as the following and much faster “Faboan” (10:51), the buzzsaw noise cutting avant insanity of “Bahal Gah” (16:40) and full-drone rite of “Oxex” (11:05) is less directly about the punishment itself than about the exploration enacted thereby. That is, Nibiru aren’t just heavy for heaviness’ own sake and they’re not just assaulting their listenership without reason. Though I won’t take away from its raw sonic impact, Qaal Babalon’s greatest asset is its atmospheric impression and the experimentalism it brings to bear, which moves Nibiru into a terrifying place sound-wise that they seem to have all to themselves.

Nibiru on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

The Ditch and the Delta, Hives in Decline

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Hailing from the unlikely heavy hotbed of Salt Lake City, Utah – though where better for a counterculture to emerge? – sludge rocking trio The Ditch and the Delta made their debut earlier in 2017 with the seven-song Hives in Decline via Battleground Records before being picked up by Prosthetic for this reissue. Comprised of bassist/vocalist Kory Quist (see also: Making Fuck), guitarist/vocalist Elliot Secrist and drummer Charles Bogus, the three-piece pummel handily throughout early cuts like opener and longest track (immediate points) “Hives in Decline” “Fuck on Asphalt” and the nodding “Sleeping Dogs,” but with the instrumental interlude “Dry Land,” they tap into post-Across Tundras heavy Americana and in that brief two-minute stretch deeply affect the mood of the release overall. They’re back to angular noise rock turns soon enough on “Till Body Quits” and the Remission-era-Mastodon-style “Mud” before alternating between lurching crush and airier prog/post-rock on closer “Dread Spectacle,” but by then the secret’s out of their underlying complexity, and rather than offset the sense of drive in the prior cuts, one finds them only enhanced by the later unfolding. Intense, and very much in the process of sorting through these impulses, but loaded with potential.

The Ditch and the Delta on Thee Facebooks

The Ditch and the Delta at Prosthetic Records

 

Cyanna Mercury, Archetypes

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From Greek dialogue in “Hermes” to the Nick Cave-style piano balladry of “Apollo” to the organ-and-handclaps Mediterranean pop underscoring “Lilith”’s boogie and the spoken verses and explosive hook of “Snake” ahead of moody closer “There will be a Time,” Cyanna Mercury’s debut long-player, Archetypes, seems to leave no sonic stone unturned. The Athens-based five-piece hone a thoroughly progressive approach across the 10-track/40-minute (plus a CD bonus track) outing, touching on heavy psych in opener “Horse Dark as Night” and injecting a darker theatricality into centerpiece “Ode to the Absent Father” and the later “Nothing We Can Do,” but refusing to relegate themselves ultimately to one sound or another. Elements of folk, heavy rock, psychedelia, classic prog, pop and more besides show themselves across what’s a legitimate head-trip of a record, and though it’s hard to get a grip on where Cyanna Mercury are ultimately headed with this sonic brew already so potent and already so much their own, they seem to be completely in control of how it all plays out in arrangement and songwriting, and they work quickly to earn the listener’s trust via a resonant overarching flow that renders Archetypes truly immersive. Will fly under most radar, but a stunningly creative debut.

Cyanna Mercury on Thee Facebooks

Cyanna Mercury on Bandcamp

 

Surya Kris Peters, 2nd Chances

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Numerically-titled three-song EP 2nd Chances is – since we’re going by the numbers – the third release of 2017 from Surya Kris Peters, behind the synth-driven Dream Exit EP digitally-issued this past summer and January’s Holy Holy Holy (review here) full-length. With it, Samsara Blues Experiment frontman Christian Peters further expands the contextual breadth of his solo work, revisiting songs from his prior outfit Terraplane in the Mellotron-infused melancholy of “Smalltown Blues” and the quick, folkish rambling instrumental “Dark Euphoria” while also covering Jefferson Airplane’s “Come up the Years” between. All told, it’s only 10 minutes long, but Peters brings a particularly progressive psychedelic folk vibe to the tracks, and from the shimmering guitar lead that takes hold in “Come up the Years” and the intimate feel of “Smalltown Blues” despite an arrangement of keys, vocals, multiple layers of guitar and effects, an emotional and sonic resonance is still very much achieved. One never wants to guess what Peters will do next, but if he had a full-length of this kind of thing out at some point, you wouldn’t be likely to find me complaining.

Surya Kris Peters on Soundcloud

Electric Magic Records on Bandcamp

 

Golden Bats, Residual Dread

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An underlying mournfulness pervades Golden BatsResidual Dread, or maybe that’s just the Brisbane-based solo-project of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/engineer Geordie Stafford living up to the title chosen for the album on “Nothing.” Elsewhere, Residual Dread takes on guitar-as-keyboard plotted soloing in 11-minute closer “The Crows Build a Fire” and find a place between black metal and doomly roll, and add piano to tapped Godflesh-style programming on opener “Trouble in the Sewers” and bring organ to the relative bounce of “Eye Juices” as far-back echoing shouts provide the vocal presence. Setting elements against each other would seem to be a core aspect of Stafford’s intent, and the feel on Residual Dread is more about the smashing them together and seeing what happens than trying to gently meld one idea from two or three. That lends a raw, experimentalist sensibility to the lumber of “Outer Body” and “Into the Silver Valley” that serves them well, like a Large Hadron Collider driven by riffs and thickness of tone.

Golden Bats on Thee Facebooks

Haemorrhage Records webstore

 

Blind Hen, Life

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In its first two minutes, Blind Hen’s “As a Monster” moves from electronica-style Euro dance rock to heavy-riffed progressive metal. Then it turns back. This is just the start of the Finnish four-piece’s four-track/21-minute Life EP, and “Titanic” follows stylistic suit with an even more intense thrust early before moving into psychedelia in its second half with an underlying tension in its beat to contrast the melodic wash overtop. The chugging “The Maze” is more guitar-led and straightforward, but even there, Blind Hen find room for nuance in their vocal arrangement, also bringing in acoustics amid the multiple layers of singing, and with a sample at the outset, closer “Catch” moves once again toward the danceability of the earlier fare, if in a via-Mr.Bungle rhythmic restlessness rather than the fusion beatmaking. Weird, weird, weird. What draws Life together is the fact that Blind Hen cross this aesthetic swath with stuck-in-your-head choruses as a constant, essentially giving the audience something to grasp onto while they go wherever they want in terms of sound. It is appreciated to say the least, and shows the band to be all the more attuned to their craft, even when they seem at their most unhinged.

Blind Hen on Thee Facebooks

Blind Hen on Bandcamp

 

The Black Wizards, What the Fuzz!

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If you’ve got 68 minutes, Portuguese four-piece The Black Wizards are ready to have a heavy blues shindig on their second 2LP full-length, What the Fuzz!, and I do believe we’re all invited. The nine-song outing emphasizes the vocals of guitarist Joana Brito, who emerges on post-intro opener “Freaks and Geeks” with a prominent kind of trilling in her voice of the sort Parker Griggs brings to Radio Moscow that holds for the duration as a steady presence. Joined by guitarist Paulo Ferreira, bassist/acoustic guitarist B and drummer/backing vocalist Helena Peixoto, Brito leads the way through the fuzzy rollout of the nine-minute “The Story of an Hopeless Drummer” (sic), stepping back to let the guitar/bass have a righteously nodding moment late in the track, but holds firm in a forward position on the short, twanging “Just Not Today” as well as the early going of the prior subdued-blues-smoker highlight “Floating Blues.” “Build Your Home,” “I Don’t Wanna Die” and the particularly-classic-sounding “Fire” revive the classic heavy rock spirit of “Freaks and Geeks,” and 16-minute finale “Everything is Good Until Trouble Comes” uses its extra runtime for a satisfying and patient execution with an expanded arrangement including choral vocals, organ and additional guitar effects. You might be boogied out by the time they’re done, but as The Black Wizards crash through their big finish, they sound like their party’s just getting started.

The Black Wizards on Thee Facebooks

The Black Wizards on Bandcamp

 

Low Flying Hawks, Genkaku

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One might expect that with all the Melvins affiliation going on in the second Magnetic Eye Records full-length from L.A. duo Low Flying Hawks, Genkaku would sound, you know, more like the Melvins, but despite working with bassist Trevor Dunn, drummer Dale Crover and producer Toshi Kasai, and despite bringing in Buzz Osbourne for guest vocal spots on eight-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “Smile” and side B leadoff “Space Wizard,” initials-only multi-instrumentalists EHA and AAL follow their 2016 debut, Kofuku (review here), with a sound even more their own, balancing between thick riffy rollout and post-rock atmospherics. Of course, they weird out a bit on “Smile” and the lumberingly spacious “Uncool” and “Virgin Witch,” but whether it’s the later mournfulness of “Hallucination” or “Twilight” toying with noisy fuckall while seeming to mock heavy rocker burl ahead of the melodic payoff in closer “Sinister Waves,” there’s more EHA and AAL in Low Flying Hawks than the prominent pedigree of their collaborators might lead you to believe. All the better for what becomes a richly satisfying 43-minute listen rife with depth, patience, and yes, personality.

Low Flying Hawks on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

 

Brother Sister Hex, End Times

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Coherent songwriting rests at the core of what Denver’s Brother Sister Hex bring to their five-song third EP, End Times, which darkens up Queens of the Stone Age-circa-Songs for the Deaf vibing on its title-track (also a bit of Kyuss’ “El Rodeo” in there for good measure) before delving into more ambient fare on the centerpiece “Confessions.” Vocalist/guitarist Colfax Mingo demonstrates SubRosa-style vocal command there, but the context is more rock-based, uptempo and straightforward as she, guitarist Patrick Huddleson, bassist Drew Hicks and guest-drummer Jordan Palmer (Plastic Daggers) meld traditionalist structures with atmospheric moodiness. Opener “Hey” offers a suitable greeting through hook and groove, and the shuffle of “Sweet and Sleazy” and the rumbling fuzz (Hicks makes it a highlight) of closer “News Feed” wraps with another grunge-style QOTSA melody efficiently drawn, shouting the question “what have we done?” as it thuds into its second half. Uh, you’ve made a professional-sounding, excellently-constructed EP that shows you’re more than ready to embark on a debut full-length, permanent drummer or no. So yeah, get on that.

Brother Sister Hex on Thee Facebooks

Brother Sister Hex on Bandcamp

 

Cold Insight, Further Nowhere

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As progressive as it is brutal, Further Nowhere is ostensibly the debut release from Paris’ Cold Insight. The material seems to date back at least to 2013, if not earlier than that, when band-spearhead Sébastien Pierre (also of Enshine, Fractal Gates, and others) first issued what’s now tagged as a “pre-production album” version, but it’s hardly as though the lush, growling, melodeathly doom sounds dated. With sonic likenesses throughout to bands like Amorphis, Dark Tranquility and Paradise Lost, Cold Insight – on which Pierre, who also did the artwork, is joined by drummer Christian Netzell while Jari Lindholm adds lead guitar – hit on a very particular, very European style, and not an unfamiliar one as displayed in the righteously driving “Distance,” but the find-the-beauty-in-darkness spirit behind “Close Your Eyes” and songs like “Even Dies a Sun” and the more uptempo later piece “I Will Rise” help ensure that the formidable 12-song/66-minute run of Further Nowhere never gets too bogged down in its melancholy. It may have been a while in the making, and one hopes a follow-up won’t take as long to arrive, but the precise execution Pierre hones in these songs and the depths to which he can bring a willing audience are a fitting payoff for the years of work that went into their construction.

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Cold Insight on Bandcamp

 

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Tuber Announce November Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

tuber-orleff-photography

Greek progressive heavy rock four-piece Tuber are getting ready to hit the road this Fall. They go on the strength of their massively well received 2017 full-length, Out of the Blue (discussed here), which has only helped put emphasis on the booming scene in Greece generally. You might recall Tuber was out in Europe earlier this year, playing Desertfest Berlin 2017, following up on a wider bit of touring they did in 2016 — those shows, like these, presented by Total Volume Agency — so yeah they seem due to hit the road again, and no doubt with Out of the Blue behind them, no doubt it’ll be a killer vibe at the gigs.

Dates follow here, as posted by the band in the poster below and dutifully transcribed by yours truly:

tuber euro tour

Tuber – Out of the Blue Tour

This fall we embark on a European tour supporting our new record “Out Of The Blue”. See you on the road!

Tour planning by Total Volume, stef@totalvolumeagency.com. Graphics by Original Replica.

Get “Out Of The Blue” on Vinyl, CD or Digital Download: http://tuber.bandcamp.com

Tuber live:
03.11.17 Robot Budapest
04.11.17 Rockhouse Salzburg
07.11.17 White Rabbit Freiburg
09.11.17 Jagerklause Berlin
10.11.17 Cadillac Oldenburg
11.11.17 Vortex Siegen
12.11.17 Walhalla Karlsruhe
15.11.17 Viper Room Vienna
16.11.17 SKC Fabrika Novi Sad
17.11.17 Daos Club Timisoara
18.11.17 Flying Circus Cluj
01.12.17 8Ball Club Thessaoniki
02.12.17 AN Club Athens
04.01.18 Downtown Nicosia Nicosia

Tuber grew up in a sunny place, south of Greece, in an island called Crete. They were hiding from the sun, jamming in dark studios and playing their music in rock caves. As they moved north, sounds became lighter, since they started miss hot ground. Balance came as a result of smash, dark embraced light and improvisation turned into an effortless and instinctive process. Tuber moved their interest into new forms, founding themselves experimenting with compositions that combine mixed styles and sounds from different ground. Focus is now on rock aesthetic flirting with psychedelic atmosphere and a touch of romantic mood. At this time Tuber live in Serres, forming their feelings and thoughts into music and words, still learning how to leave with reality and reinventing it with love.

Tuber is:
Yannis Gerostathos
Yannis Artzoglou
Nickos Gerostathos
Paris Fragkos

https://www.facebook.com/tuberband/
https://tuber.bandcamp.com/album/out-of-the-blue

Tuber, Out of the Blue (2017)

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