Quarterly Review: Thou, Liquid Visions, Benthic Realm, Ape Machine, Under, Evil Triplet, Vestjysk Ørken, Dawn of Winter, Pale Heart, Slowbro

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

quarterly-review

We meet again! The second week of this amply-proportioned Quarterly Review begins today as we move ever closer toward the inevitable 100-album finish line on Friday. There is an incredible amount of music to get through this week, so I don’t want to delay for too long, but as we look out across the vast stretch of distortion to come, I need to say thank you for reading, and I hope that you’ve been able to find something that’s kicking your ass a little bit in all the right ways so far. If not, well, there are 50 more records on the way for you to give it another shot.

Here goes.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Thou, Magus

thou magus

How can something be so raw and forward thinking at the same time? Baton Rouge’s Thou might be the band of their generation who’ve added the most to sludge in terms of pushing the style in new directions and shaping genre to their purposes. Magus (on Sacred Bones), their fourth or fifth full-length depending on whom you ask, is an overwhelming 75-minute 2LP of inward and outward destructive force, as heavy in its ambience as in its weight and throat-ripping sonic extremity, and yet somehow is restrained. To listen to the march of “Transcending Dualities,” there’s such a sense of seething happening beneath the surface of that chugging, marching riff, and after its creeping introduction, “In the Kingdom of Meaning” seems intent on beating its own rhythm, as in, with fists, and even a stop-by from frequent guest vocalist Emily McWilliams does little to detract from that impression. Along with Magus, which rightly finishes with the lurching threat of “Supremacy,” Thou have released three EPs and a split this year, so their pace runs in something of a contrast to their tempos, but whether you can keep up or not, Thou continue to press forward in crafting pivotal, essential brutalizations.

Thou website

Sacred Bones Records website

 

Liquid Visions, Hypnotized

Liquid Visions Hypnotized

Sulatron Records‘ pressing of Liquid Visions‘ 2002 debut, Hypnotized, is, of course, a reissue, but also the first time the album has been on vinyl, and it’s not long into opener “State of Mind” or the grunge-gone-classic-psych “Waste” before they earn the platter. Members of the band would go on to participate in acts like Zone Six, Wedge, Electric Moon and Johnson Noise, so it’s easy enough to understand how the band ties into the family tree of underground heavy psych in Berlin, but listening to the glorious mellow-unfolding-into-noise-wash-freakout of 15-minute closer “Paralyzed,” the appeal is less about academics than what the five-piece of vocalists/guitarists H.P. Ringholz (also e-sitar) and Kiryk Drewinski (also organ), bassist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt (also Fender Rhodes and Mellotron), drummer Chris Schwartzkinsky and thereminist Katja Wolff were able to conjure in terms of being both ahead of their time and behind it. As the album moves from its opening shorter tracks to the longer and more expansive later material, it shows its original CD-era linearity, but if an LP reissue is what it takes to get Hypnotized out there again, so be it. I doubt many who hear it will complain.

Liquid Visions on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records webstore

 

Benthic Realm, We Will Not Bow

Benthic Realm We Will Not Bow

The second short release from Benthic Realm behind a 2017 self-titled EP (review here) finds the Massachusetts-based trio of guitarist/vocalist Krista van Guilder (ex-Second Grave, ex-Warhorse), bassist Maureen Murphy (ex-Second Grave) and drummer Dan Blomquist (also Conclave) working toward a refined approach bridging the divide between doom and darker, harder hitting metal. They do this with marked fluidity, van Guilder shifting smoothly between melodic clean singing and harsher screams as Murphy and Blomquist demonstrate like-minded ease in turns of pace and aggression. The penultimate semi-title-track “I Will Not Bow” is an instrumental, but “Save us All,” “Thousand Day Rain” and closer “Untethered” — the latter with some Slayer ping ride and ensuing double-kick gallop — demonstrate the riff-based songwriting that carries Benthic Realm through their stylistic swath and ultimately ties their ideas together. If they think they might be ready for a debut full-length, they certainly sound that way.

Benthic Realm on Thee Facebooks

Benthic Realm website

 

Ape Machine, Darker Seas

ape machine darker seas

Maybe Ape Machine need to make a video with cats playing their instruments or something, but five albums deep, the Portland outfit seem to be viciously underrated. Releasing Darker Seas on Ripple, they take on a more progressive approach with songs like “Piper’s Rats” donning harmonized vocals and more complex interplay with guitar. It’s a more atmospheric take overall — consider the acoustic/electric beginning of “Watch What You Say” and it’s semi-nod to seafaring Mastodon, the likewise-unplugged and self-awarely medieval “Nocturne in D Flat (The Jester)” and the rocking presentation of what’s otherwise fist-pumping NWOBHM on “Bend Your Knee” — but Ape Machine have always been a band with songwriting at their center, and even as they move into the best performances of their career, hitting a point of quality that even producer Steve Hanford (Poison Idea) decided to join them after the recording as their new drummer, there’s no dip in the quality of their work. I don’t know what it might take to get them the attention they deserve — though a cat video would no doubt help — but if Darker Seas underscores anything, it’s that they deserve it.

Ape Machine on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Under, Stop Being Naive

under stop being naive

Stockport, UK, three-piece Under bring a progressive edge to their pummel with their second album, Stop Being Naive (on APF), beginning with the deceptively thoughtful arrangement of crushing opener and longest track (immediate points) “Malcontent,” which unfurls a barrage of riffs and varied vocals contributed by guitarist Simon Mayo, bassist Matt Franklin and drummer/keyboardist Andy Preece. Later cuts like “Soup” and “Grave Diggers” tap into amorphous layers of extremity, and “Happy” punks out with such tones as to remind of the filth that became grindcore in the UK nearly 40 years ago, but while “Big Joke” rolls out with a sneer and closer “Circadian Driftwood” has a more angular foundation, there’s an overarching personality that comes through Under‘s material that feels misanthropic and critical in a way perhaps best summarized by the record’s title. Stop Being Naive is sound enough advice, and it comes presented with a fervent argument in its own favor.

Under on Thee Facebooks

APF Records webstore

 

Evil Triplet, Have a Nice Trip

evil triplet have a nice trip

Trimming the runtime of their 2017 debut, Otherworld (review here) nearly in half, Austin weirdo rockers Evil Triplet present the six-song/38-minute single LP Have a Nice Trip on Super Secret with classic garage buzz tone on “A Day Like Any Other,” a cosmic impulse meeting indie sneer on opener “Space Kitten” and a suitably righteous stretch-out on “Aren’t You Experienced?” — which is just side A of the thing. The pulsating “Open Heart” might be the highlight for its Hawkwindian drive and momentary drift, but “Pyramid Eye”‘s blown-out freakery isn’t to be devalued, and the eight-minute capper “Apparition” is dead on from the start of its slower march through the end of its hook-topped jam, reminding of the purpose behind all the sprawl and on-their-own-wavelength vibes. A tighter presentation suits Evil Triplet and lets their songs shine through while still highlighting the breadth of their style and its unabashed adventurousness. May they continue to grow strange and terrify any and all squares they might encounter.

Evil Triplet on Thee Facebooks

Super Secret Records website

 

Vestjysk Ørken, Cosmic Desert Fuzz

Vestjysk orken Cosmic Desert Fuzz

To a certain extent, what you see is what you get on Vestjysk Ørken‘s debut EP, Cosmic Desert Fuzz. At very least, the Danish trio’s three-tracker first outing is aptly-named, and guitarist/vocalist Bo Sejer, bassist Søren Middelkoop Nielsen and drummer Thomas Bonde Sørensen indeed tap into space, sand and tone on the release, but each song also has a definite theme derived from cinema. To wit, “Dune” (11:41) samples Dune, “…Of the Dead” (9:13) taps into the landmark George Romero horror franchise, and “Solaris” (14:15) draws from the 1972 film of the same name. The spaciousness and hypnotic reach of the latter has an appeal all its own in its extended and subtle build, but all three songs not only pay homage to these movies but seem to work at capturing some aspect of their atmosphere. Vestjysk Ørken aren’t quite rewriting soundtracks, but they’re definitely in conversation with the works cited, and with an entire universe of cinema to explore, there are accordingly no limits as to where they might go. Something tells me it won’t be long before we find out how deep their obsession runs.

Vestjysk Ørken on Instagram

Vestjysk Ørken on Bandcamp

 

Dawn of Winter, Pray for Doom

Dawn of Winter Pray for Doom

I have no interest in playing arbiter to what’s “true” in doom metal or anything else, and neither am I qualified to do so. Instead, I’ll just note that Germany’s Dawn of Winter, who trace their roots back nearly 30 years and have released full-lengths on a one-per-decade basis in 1998, 2008 and now 2018 with Pray for Doom, have their house well in order when it comes to conveying the classic tenets of the genre. Issued through I Hate, the eight-track/51-minute offering finds drummer Dennis Schediwy punctuating huge nodder grooves led by Jörg M. Knittel‘s riffs, while bassist Joachim Schmalzried adds low end accentuation and frontman Gerrit P. Mutz furthers the spirit of traditionalism on vocals. Songs like “The Thirteenth of November” and the stomping “The Sweet Taste of Ruin” are timeless for being born too late, and in the spirit of Europe’s finest trad doom, Dawn of Winter evoke familiar aspects without directly worshiping Black Sabbath or any of their other aesthetic forebears. Pray for Doom is doom, because doom, by doomers, for doomers. The converted will be accordingly thrilled to hear them preach.

Dawn of Winter on Thee Facebooks

I Hate Records website

 

Pale Heart, Jungeland

pale heart jungleland

Semi-retroist Southern heavy blues boogie, some tight flourish of psychedelia, and the occasional foray into broader territory, Stuttgart three-piece Pale Heart‘s StoneFree debut long-player, Junegleland is striking in its professionalism and, where some bands might sacrifice audio fidelity at the altar of touching on a heavy ’70s aesthetic, guitarist/vocalist Marc Bauer, key-specialist Nico Bauer and drummer Sebastian Neumeier (since replaced by Marvin Schaber) present their work in crisp fashion, letting the construction of the songs instead define the classicism of their influence. Low end is filled out by Moog where bass might otherwise be, and in combination with Hammond and Fender Rhodes and other synth, there’s nothing as regard missing frequencies coming from Jungleland, the nine songs of which vary in their character but are universally directed toward honing a modern take on classic heavy, informed as it is by Southern rock, hard blues and the tonal warmth of yore. A 50-minute debut is no minor ask of one’s audience in an age of fickle Bandcamp attentions, but cuts like the 12-minute “Transcendence” have a patience and character that’s entrancing without trickery of effects.

Pale Heart on Thee Facebooks

StoneFree Records website

 

Slowbro, Nothings

Slowbro Nothings

UK instrumentalist three-piece Slowbro‘s full-length debut, Nothings, brings forth eight tracks and 51 minutes of heavy-ended sludge rock notable for the band’s use of dueling eight-string guitars instead of the standard guitar/bass setup. How on earth does something like that happen? I don’t know. Maybe Sam Poole turned to James Phythian one day and was like, “Hey, I got two eight-string guitars. So, band?” and then a band happened. Zeke Martin — and kudos to him on not being intimidated by all those strings — rounds out on drums and together the trio embark on cuts like “Sexlexia” (a very sexy learning disability, indeed) and “Broslower,” which indeed chugs out at a considerably glacial pace, and “Fire, Fire & Fire,” which moves from noise rock to stonerly swing with the kind of aplomb that can only be conjured by those who don’t give a shit about style barriers. It’s got its ups and downs, but as Nothings — the title-track of which quickly cuts to silence and stays there until a final crash — rounds out with “Pisscat” and the eight-strings go ever so slightly post-rock, it’s hard not to appreciate the willful display of fuckall as it happens. It’s a peculiar kind of charm that makes it both charming and peculiar.

Slowbro on Thee Facebooks

Creature Lab Records website

 

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Six Dumb Questions & Full Album Stream: Mansion

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on December 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Mansion (Photo by Ulla Kudjoi)

You’ll see Turku, Finland’s Mansion referred to as ‘cult rock’ a lot. It’s kind of true the way abbreviations stand in for words. The truth of what Mansion do and have done since their 2014 premiere EP, Uncreation  (review here), is much more complex. Their awaited debut album, First Death of the Lutheran, is out this week on I Hate Records, and it pushes to new ground in both the conceptual framework and actual songwriting approach on the part of the band. As 12-minute summary/closer “First Death” starts out with psychedelic flourish and effects en route to a sax-inclusive tumult of experimentalist noise, it is as affecting in atmosphere as in impact, and though I’ll have a review of the album in the coming weeks, I was given the opportunity to ask the band some questions, and it wasn’t one I was going to pass up.

For those who didn’t hear Uncreation, 2015’s Altar Sermon (review here), or any of the other short releases they’ve had out along the way, Mansion follow a theme not just of vague, generalized occultmansion first death of the lutheran thematics, but actually take on Kartanoism as their working foundation. The doomsday-obsessed post-WWI breakaway Protestant group followed leader Alma Kartano and her strict interpretations of the Bible and rules for everyday life. That kind of severity shows up in every whip-crack of the snare drum on opener “Wretched Hope” (premiered here) and in the grueling forward march and unremitting low-light claustrophobia of “Lutheran” and “The Eternal,” which follow. With mysterious “1933” ahead of the finale, First Death of the Lutheran is an appropriate endgame for the style of cult heavy as a whole, but at the same time, it works against genre convention in its sound and the overarching harshness of its production. Not raw — it’s clear-sounding — but sharp.

I’ll have a proper review of the album up in the coming weeks, but on the occasion of the release, I’m flat-out honored to host the premiere of its entirety below. It’s one I’ve been waiting a while for, and its reach only exceeds what I imagined they’d come up with for it.

Please enjoy the stream and the following Six Dumb Questions:

Six Dumb Questions with Mansion

It’s been five years since We Shall Live was released and First Death of the Lutheran is the band’s debut album. How do you see Mansion as having grown in that time? Were there specific goals you wanted to accomplish with the LP?

Our musical expression has progressed from a traditional retro approach to a more experimental direction. With time the congregation has grown both spiritually and in number. The album was released as a reminder for the sorrowless that the endgame has begun. For the most of them salvation is out of reach.

Tell me about writing First Death of the Lutheran. Over how long a period were the songs put together? Was it a different frame of mind writing for an album instead of an EP or a single? Beyond their theme, how do the songs fit together for the band? How much of the song placement and the progression of the record was mapped out before you went into the studio?

The first song on the album, “Wretched Hope,” was written right after We Shall Live EP was released, while the last song, First Death was written during the recordings of the debut album. The songs on the album might span over several years but it doesn’t mean that those were the only ones we have written so far. We have songs ready or half-ready for at least three albums. The songs you hear on First Death of the Lutheran are picked from our vault based on how they fit together. We recorded seven songs but decided to cut two as they didn’t fit in with the others.

The Uncreation EP was supposed to be our debut album. Due to some technical issues we had to cut two tracks off the album. Those were re-recorded later and released as the Altar Sermon EP.

The whole album seems to lead to “First Death.” Did you know in writing that song that it would be the finale? What is happening there to summarize the album?

As soon as the song was starting to find its form we knew that it would be the finale. In ”First Death” we simply state that there is a difference between us and you. We will be saved and you will burn in the everlasting fires of hell while we bathe in glory in the Kingdom of Heaven by His side. Pretty much what we want to say with the whole album.

What were the circumstances of the recording? There’s so much a blend of harsh noise and melody throughout, and it seems real attention was paid to the details of tone and effects. How long were you in the studio?

We recorded most of the album at our secret cottage in Huittinen. That only took a week. The mixing, though, was a different story. We had to change the mixing engineer after the first version of the album was done. There were too many details that got buried in the mix and so we had to start all over again to get it right.

How would you explain the central philosophy of Kartanoism? What’s the significance specifically of the year 1933?

We believe that most of the sorrowless wretches roaming the earth haven’t got a clue how mighty God is and how powerful his wrath is. Judgement Day will be a merciless slaughter of man and only the chosen few will be saved for eternal agony in the afterlife. We believe sex is a mortal sin and that there should not be an organisation between man and God.

Blasphemous churches will fall, mark our words. We in Finland are surrounded by Lutherans, whose way of life is hypocritical and untrue. They have lost their connection to the Lord Almighty tempted by greed and their vain egos. They will be surprised when their days are done. 1933 is the year when these losers released a sacrilegious translation of the Holy Bible.

Will Mansion tour in 2019 to support the release? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

We have live sermons and festivals booked for 2019. Book us. Today!

Merry Christmas!

Mansion on Thee Facebooks

Mansion on Bandcamp

I Hate Records website

I Hate Records on Bandcamp

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Mansion Premiere “Wretched Hope”; Debut Album First Death of the Lutheran Due Nov. 16

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

mansion

Like the dogmatic end-time apocalypse from whence it takes its central theme, Mansion‘s first long-player has seen many delays. It’s been half a decade since their We Shall Live EP (review here) established the Finnish outfit as high-grade practitioners of cultistry and darkly atmospheric heavy rock, lurching at a creep or seething with righteous fury at a moment’s notice amid memorable songcraft given presence through the lurking melodies of vocalist Alma; her stage moniker taken from cult leader Alma Kartano around whose congregation the band is based. They’ve had other offerings along the way, whether it’s 2014’s Uncreation EP (review here) or 2015’s Altar Sermon (review here), or their split last year with Cardinal Wyrm, but are well due a full-length, and Nov. 16 (vinyl later), I Hate Records will issue First Death of the Lutheran, their awaited debut album.

I haven’t heard the record yet, but for those of us who are unworthy — which is everyone — Mansion are giving an enticing first taste with a mansion first death of the lutherannew video for opening track “Wretched Hope.” It has the band’s signature all over it in terms of ambience, the progressive complexity of its arrangement and its grounded hook: “Hear my warning/The Lord is calling/Do you see the signs/It’s the end of times.” This arrives amid vocals shared between Alma and fellow-singer Osmo, a plodding rhythm and a vivid conveyance of the ceremony at hand. Like the best of Mansion‘s work to-date, it surpasses in concept and realization those who watch horror movies and call it cult rock to instead don a prophecy-minded belief system that comes through the song at hand. It’s theatrical, as they have been all along, but there’s no denying the effectiveness of the display. Indeed, it is an execution ready for worship.

Those sensitive to flashing lights will find harsh penance in the clip itself, but as you listen, take special note of the interweaving layers of guitar, the organ that fills out the melody and adds to the song-as-mass feel of the track itself, the buzzsaw-tone solo in the second half and the arrangement of vocals in call and response and in the chaos that ends. I won’t claim to know how the rest of First Death of the Lutheran plays out subsequent to “Wretched Hope,” but there is a feeling of mood being set throughout “Wretched Hope,” and these are dark times indeed. You can repent if you want. Won’t do you any good.

First Death of the Lutheran is out Nov. 16. I’ll hope to have more to come on it before then. In the meantime, video and comment follow.

Enjoy:

Mansion, “Wretched Hope” official video premiere

OUR FAITHFUL CONGREGATION,

”First Death of the Lutheran” represents the end of the insidious sinners’ earthly serpentine path as their life ends and they pass on to face the Final Judgement of the Lord Almighty. No doubt in our minds that they will end up horrified by their fate.

The Lutheran hypocrites have wasted their lives following their deceitful priests, blinded by their drivel. And these perverted wretches of the cloth have diluted the Word to serve their own greedy and lustful needs. May these priests be impaled by
the claws of their true master, the accuser, Satan. And may the Lutheran churches fall in the name of the Lord Almighty, for they do not honour Him, but organised human evil. For His is the Glory now and eternally.

”You think you are on your way to heaven
as the reverend promised you.
Sheep to the slaughter in the name of satan.”
– Alma Kartano

Mikael (lyricist) on First Death of the Lutheran:

I Hate Records is trying to reconcile in the eyes of the Lord Almighty after releasing despicable titles, which promote devil worship and sinful ways of life, by publishing the debut full lenght First Death of the Lutheran by the righteous Finnish musical talent Mansion. Good luck to them for He may not be that forgiving.

Video directed and edited by Tommi Hoffrén. On set director and camera by Anssi Ikonen.

Tracklisting:
1. WRETCHED HOPE
2. LUTHERAN
3. THE ETERNAL
4. 1933
5. FIRST DEATH

Lineup:
ALMA – VOCALS
OSMO – VOCALS
ATAMI – DRUMS
VEIKKO-TAPIO – GUITAR
JAAKOB – GUITAR
IMMANUEL – BASS
MATTI-JUHANI – ORGAN
MIKAEL – LYRICS

Mansion on Thee Facebooks

Mansion on Bandcamp

I Hate Records website

I Hate Records on Bandcamp

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Zaum Post “The Enlightenment Pt. 1” Video; Touring Canada Next Month

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

zaum

I like the idea of a band saying goodbye to one release on the way to their next. I also like the idea of bands swapping tours — a little of the ol’ you-come-here-we’ll-come-there happening. Accordingly, as New Brunswick two-piece Zaum have a video posted for “The Enlightenment Pt. 1” from their 2016 album, Eidolon (review here), and seem to be using that as a means to bid farewell to the record as the make ready to have one out in 2019, and as they’re hitting the road in their native Canada alongside Gothenburg, Sweden, three-piece Firebreather, with whom they toured Europe in 2017, it seems like nothing but good news all the way around.

And fair enough on the timing of moving forward. Eidolon has sold through multiple vinyl pressings as well as a tape release and the band have a whopping five copies left of the CD as listed on their Bandcamp page at the time of this post. One imagines if they’re not gone before, they will be by the time the next tour is over. “The Enlightenment Pt. 1” of course comes from the album, but is an edit of the full side B track, the complete version of which runs a drone-filled 21 minutes and can be heard with its side A compatriot, “Influence of the Magi,” which also runs an even 21 minutes, in the player at the bottom of this post.

It doesn’t at all take Zaum that long to immerse the listener in their tones and rhythm, though. The bass/synth/drum/noise combination is hypnotic from the outset even in its shortened video form, and the narrative of the clip itself is likewise intriguing. Enough so that I can’t help but wonder if the band might at some point do a video for “The Enlightenment (Pt. II)” before next year gets here and they record and release their third album. Seems by the end of the video that the story is just heating up.

That’s a dad joke. I can make those now.

More info and tour dates follow the video below.

Please enjoy:

Zaum, “The Enlightenment Pt. 1” official video

New Brunswick’s ECMA and Music NB award winning mantra doom duo ZAUM are sharing with fans their new music video for “The Enlightenment.” The track is off ZAUM’s second full length “Eidolon” released in 2016 via I HATE Records with distribution via Plastic Head/Sony Music throughout Europe and Century Media in North America to follow their 2014 debut album “Oracles”.

ZAUM’s Kyle Alexander McDonald (Bass/Vocals/Synth/Textures) comments:

“Being that I’m a giant fan of the work of Seth Smith and Nancy Urich (of CUT/OFF/TAIL) due to their unique and unconventional approach to filmmaking – I felt Seth’s David Lynch-esque perspective could be a bizarre yet intriguing take on “The Enlightenment” for people to consider. Their work (like our music) inspires and encourages thought rather than providing literal answers. I’m thrilled with the result and hope people open their minds to the layers of potential reality.”

In their three years as an active touring band ZAUM have amassed 200+ shows (mainly international) under their belts including support stints for Voivod, Pentagram, and Cauldron. The duo recently announced they will be embarking on Canadian dates in Ontario and Quebec (dates listed below) with support from Sweden’s FIREBREATHER whom the band toured Europe with last year.

ZAUM: Canadian Tour w/ FIREBREATHER
08/24/18 – Saint John, NB @ Secondspin *
09/13/18 – Ottawa, ON @ Orange Art Gallery **
09/14/18 – Montreal, QC @ Casa Del Popolo **
09/15/18 – Sudbury, ON @ Townehouse
09/16/18 – Hamilton, ON @ Doors
09/17/18 – Barrie, ON @ Foxx Lounge
09/18/18 – TBC @ TBC
09/19/18 – Kitchener, ON @ Hellcat
09/20/18 – Windsor, ON @ Windsor Beer Exchange
09/21/18 – Toronto, ON @ Coalition T.O.
09/22/18 – Quebec City, QC @ Scanner (venue change from Vietnam)
* denotes ZAUM only!
** denotes tribal dance artist Nawal Doucette performing in ZAUM

Zaum is:
Kyle Alexander McDonald (Bass/Vocals/Synth/Textures)
Christopher Lewis (Drums/Percussion)

Zaum, Eidolon (2016)

Zaum on Thee Facebooks

Zaum on Twitter

Zaum on Bandcamp

I Hate Records website

I Hate Records on Bandcamp

Superbob Records website

Superbob Records on Bandcamp

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Zaum Announce Tour Dates with Firebreather

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

zaum

Hey, look. Whenever Zaum want to get back in the studio and work on their third full-length, that’s cool by me. They want to jump right in and have at it? Great. They want to take a little time and hit the road with obvious-buds Firebreather and hammer out the stuff on tour first? Super. After their 2016 album, Eidolon (review here), I have every faith that the Moncton, New Brunswick, duo know what’s best. However they want to go, that’s cool by me.

Not that “being cool by me” is here or there, you understand. But still. Go get ’em, dudes.

Zaum and Firebreather toured Europe together in Sept. 2017, so their hooking up again for this Canadian run a year later only seems fair. The two bands go way back, as Zaum also toured with Galvano, the prior outfit of Firebreather guitarist Mattias Nööjd and drummer Fredrik Käll. Sometimes you get along with somebody. I’m kind of surprised the two bands haven’t put out a split at this point. Zaum — vocalist/bassist/synthesist/sitarist Kyle Alexander and singly-named drummer Lewis — are also reportedly looking to tour the US in 2019, and presumably the new album will be out by then too. Good news all around.

Poster and tour dates follow, courtesy of the social medias:

zaum firebreather tour

One last tour before we head into the studio for album #3. We’ll have our brothers FIREBREATHER from Sweden in tow! Poster by Josiah Barnett.

08/24/18 – Saint John, NB @ Secondspin **
09/13/18 – Ottawa, ON @ Orange Art Gallery
09/14/18 – Montreal, QC @ Casa Del Popolo
09/15/18 – Sudbury, ON @ Townehouse
09/16/18 – Hamilton, ON @ Doors
09/17/18 – Barrie, ON @ Foxx Lounge
09/18/18 – TBC @ TBC
09/19/18 – Kitchener, ON @ Hellcat
09/20/18 – Windsor, ON @ Windsor Beer Exchange
09/21/18 – Toronto, ON @ Coalition T.O.
09/22/18 – Quebec City, QC @ Vietnam
** denotes ZAUM only!

ZAUM is:
Kyle Alexander : Vocals, Basses, Sitar, Synth.
Lewis : Drums, Lights

ZAUM recognize the support of Music / Musique NB and the Government of New Brunswick

https://www.facebook.com/zaumn/
https://twitter.com/zaumdoom
https://www.instagram.com/zaumdoom/
https://zaum.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ihaterecords/
https://ihate.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ihate.se/

Zaum, Eidolon (2016)

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Friday Full-Length: Burning Saviours, Burning Saviours

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Burning Saviours, Burning Saviours (2005)

It wouldn’t be right to call the band or the album lost, since they’re still active and it’s not like the record is inaccessible or anything — it’s streaming right there, two lines up — but I do think Burning Saviours are relatively under-appreciated when it comes to the sphere of Swedish heavy, and specifically the retroism that was born in the town of Örebro. They’re of the same vintage-minded scene that birthed the likes of Witchcraft and Graveyard, and while unlike those two monolithic exports, Burning Saviours don’t have a tie to the actually-lost group Norrsken — from whence, according to the narrative, the whole scene more or less sprang — they did share an allegiance to early Pentagram with Witchcraft and a decidedly ’70s tonality with both of their contemporaries. Formed in 2003, they issued their self-titled debut via the tastemaking imprint I Hate Records, and though Witchcraft‘s debut had arrived a year earlier and set the tone for the retro boom that would take place over the course of the next decade, Burning Saviours still had a pivotal role to play in establishing that sound and educating the general listenership.

I’ve said as much before, but I’m not sure if this scene or subgenre happens without the widespread release of Pentagram‘s First Daze Here via Relapse in 2001. True, Norrsken had a ’70s vibe a couple years earlier in ’99, but First Daze Here would become such an aesthetic blueprint, and one can hear its impact on Burning Saviours tracks like “Thoughtless Fools,” “Seeing is Believing,” the earlier “Pytho,” or closer “What’s the Point?,” a heavy rock swing brought to back the steadily lumbering doom riffs. At the time, Burning Saviours were comprised of guitarist/vocalist Andrei Amartinesei, guitarist Mikael Marjanen, bassist Fredrik Evertsson and drummer Martin Wijkström, and the doom they wrought was the key defining factor separating them from the other early post-turn-of-the-century Swedish retroists. Graveyard wouldn’t make their debut until later. Likewise, Witchcraft almost immediately adopted a more progressive stance coming off of their first record. Burning Saviours, meanwhile, certainly dug into some classic progressive rock, as Erica Enback‘s flute work demonstrates on “Spread Your Wings” and “Trees & Stone,” but the thicker-toned roll of “Shadow” is prescient of the direction which the band would head in terms not only of sticking to the very roots of proto-metal, but driving specifically to maintain an allegiance to classic doom.

And that’s pretty much the story here. “Shadow” picks up its pace in the second half, “Thoughtless Fools” offers particularly classy lead work, “Trees & Stone” bounces a rhythm as natural as its title, and “What’s the Point?” finishes with a suitable apex. Sometimes with these posts it’s tempting to regard albums as unheralded classics or something like that. Burning Saviours‘ Burning Saviours is an aesthetically cohesive debut that put the band in position as early adopters of a vintage style of doom before it became the still-evolving subgenre it is today. And where other acts who were putting together their first releases and tours at the time would reach a more mass audience, Burning Saviours stuck to doom on their subsequent 2006 sophomore outing, Hundus, and on through their 2007 third album, Nymphs & Weavers, which would end their initial run and lead to a couple years’ hiatus. One might consider that an influence culled from Finland’s Reverend Bizarre, who would claim Europe’s doom revivalist crown despite a more modern production feel, but whatever the case, it kept Burning Saviours in more of a niche, preaching to the converted in a church of warm tones, brooding atmospheres and laid back nod.

Steady lineup changes pre- and post-hiatus revamped the band almost entirely over time. When they came back, Burning Saviours issued a series of singles called Förbannelsen that were eventually collected on 2014’s Boken om förbannelsen. They’ve been reasonably productive since, releasing two full-lengths in 2015’s Unholy Tales from the North and the simply-titled Death, which came out this past March via Transubstans. At this point, Marjanen is the sole remaining founder in the now-five-piece incarnation of the band, and having cast off the ’70s vision of their earlier work, Burning Saviours have embraced a rawer, darker vision of doom, still very much in line with the genre’s traditions but unquestionably more modern in its presentation. They remain thoroughly, unquestionably, doomed.

Hard for me to pick a favorite between this debut and Hundus, which was a little more sure of itself, maybe, and had more rock at its foundation. Either way, in light of the development of heavy ’70s style doom and boogie as a style all its own, it seems like Burning Saviours‘ earliest output is worth another look for both its quality and the fact that the band were so much on the ground floor of the wave that would soon enough become a tsunami the ripples of which are still feeling felt today.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Woke up this morning at 12:45. On the dot. I was just getting up to go to the bathroom, because I’m an old man and old men get up to go to the bathroom in the “middle of the night” when others are just getting home from whatever they did with their evening — I watched Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and ate slow-cooker chicken with The Patient Mrs.; zero regrets — and I noticed the dog wasn’t in her bed. Uh oh.

I knew immediately what it meant, and it meant I wasn’t getting back to sleep anytime soon. Sure enough, I came downstairs to find her in the basement, having just taken a huge and mostly liquid shit. The Little Dog Dio doesn’t go in the house unless she’s sick, and if she’s sick, she has her spots. Corners. Someplace out of the way. It’s a shar pei thing — they’re very neat and orderly dogs. So when she can’t get outside, she goes in the basement. Last time it was on the carpet down there. This time, the painted particlebaord floor. Much easier cleanup, but still worried-I’d-run-out-of-paper-towels significant. By the time I was finished wiping down the floor and giving the dog a Pepto Bismol, it was well after 1AM, and yeah, no way I’m going to sleep after that.

Instead, I fired up The Patient Mrs.’ laptop and started this post. I shudder to think of the typos in the section above, especially as I got sleepier and sleepier as the post continued and 1AM became 2AM and so on. By three, I was back upstairs asleep, and by four up again. No dogshit this time, just awake. There was about a cup’s worth of coffee left in the pot and some iced tea, so there you go. It’s 20 to six at the moment and I’m making my way through the Burning Saviours album again for the hell of it.

At some point, The Patient Mrs. and The Pecan will come downstairs and the day will start in earnest. I’ll change his diaper while she gets ready for the day, brushes teeth, finds not-pajamas to put on, etc., then maybe breakfast and on from there. Yesterday during that process I ordered a new laptop, which I hope will be here next week. I’m very excited for that and also for buying a new camera. Think I’m going to upgrade there. I’ve had my eye on one on Craigslist that hopefully is still there when the transfer of funds goes through sometime this coming week. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, the story is here.

I was going to put up a list of some of the things I lost on that laptop — writings, interviews, the playlist for when my son was born, and so on — but I think it’d just make me sad, so I’ll refrain. Especially when the response was so heartening there’s no need for that kind of thing.

That UK trip was an interesting time. Ups and downs, but definitely more of the former. Seeing Colour Haze on the last night in town, especially with The Patient Mrs., even though she was stressing out the whole time about leaving the baby with a stranger. I was like, “She’s from Cherry Hill, New Jersey! We’re practically paisan!” I’ve never been much for comforting the worried.

Still, well worth it for a glorious two-hour Colour Haze set that, again, was too short. And I was glad to see Elephant Tree earlier in the week as well, even though The Black Heart later on wouldn’t let the baby in the bar downstairs. Who doesn’t love a baby at the bar? That’s the stuff of life, man.

We’re back home now in buggy summertime Massachusetts, where I think pretty much we’re staying for today before packing up and heading south to CT for the long weekend. There’s stuff to take care of here, but then it’s back to CT, on to NJ, back up here again and back south, hopefully this time for a longer stay in NJ starting the second week of June. I mean like serious relocation, kind of testing the waters for what it would be like to move back to our ancestral homeland, my beloved Garden State. There’s a lot that needs to happen between point A and point B on that one, but I plan on having a few good family dinners over the summer, and that alone is worth looking forward to. I miss the shit out of my family.

But that’s getting ahead of myself and as we push toward 6AM, I can hear the baby crying upstairs, so I’m going to go check in on that and maybe give The Patient Mrs. a spell where she can go back to sleep unhindered by The Pecan. He’s seven months old today, has cut two teeth and is crawling up on his hands and knees as of this morning. Couldn’t do that yesterday. Can do it today.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Thanks for reading. If you’re doing anything for Memorial Day, please be safe and don’t cop a DUI or anything. No casualties.

I’ll be posting on Monday, because that’s how I do, so if you get a second and want to check in, I’ll be here, as usual. Until then, please dig on the forum and radio stream.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2016

Posted in Features on December 20th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 30

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2016 to that, please do.

I say this every year: These are my picks. If you’re unfamiliar with this site, or you don’t come here that often, or if you do and just normally don’t give a crap — all of which is cool — you should know it’s all run by one person. One human being. Me. My name is JJ, and this is a list of what I think are the best albums that were released in 2016.

Since before 2016 began, I’ve kept a running list of releases. My criteria for what gets included in this list is largely unchanged — it’s a balance between what I feel are important records on the level of what they achieve, what I listened to most, what held some other personal appeal, and what I think did the best job of meeting the goals it set for itself. Pretty vague, right? That’s the idea.

The nature of worldwide heavy has become so broad that to encompass it all under some universal standard is laughable. Judging psychedelia, garage rock, heavy psych, doom, sludge and so on by the same measure makes no sense, and as genres continue to splinter and remake themselves as we’ve seen them doing all year and over the last several years, one must be malleable in one’s own taste. We’ve seen a new generation of heavy rock bands emerge in the last three-plus years. It’s been amazing, and there are a few pivotal second and third records that came out in 2016 to affirm that movement underway. Look for it to continue into 2017 and beyond.

This year more than any other seemed to want to bring the different sides together. A laudable goal. Thick riffing marked with flourish of psychedelia. Spacious doom bred against folk impulses. There’s been experimentation around melds that have led to considerable triumphs, and it just doesn’t seem to me that rigid standards can apply. It’s why I don’t grade reviews and never did.

Sound is evolving now as it always has been and as it will keep doing, but like any year, 2016 had a full share of landmarks to offer as a part of that process. As universal development hopefully remains ongoing, it’s only right that we celebrate the accomplishments helping to push it along its winding and sometimes divergent-seeming paths.

I have no doubt you know what I mean. Let’s get to the list:

30. Talmud Beach, Chief

talmud beach chief

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

Seems only fair to start with a record I couldn’t put down. Finnish trio Talmud Beach‘s second album and Svart debut, Chief, hit on just the right blend of laid back, semi-acoustic groove-blues, psychedelia and classic progressive folk rock, but with the exception of its sprawling dreamscape title-track (a welcome arrival at the finale), it also kept the songwriting simple, resulting in a natural, pastoral feel that only highlighted their melodic range in songs like “Mountain Man” and “Snow Snow Snow.” I think it flew under a lot of people’s radar, but I’ve kept going back to it over the course of the year and I see no reason to stop.

29. Comet Control, Center of the Maze

comet control center of the maze

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 22.

Space is still the place. I’ve already highlighted closer “Artificial Light” from Comet Control‘s sophomore LP, Center of the Maze as my favorite song of 2016, so I’ll spare you the longwinded treatise on its languid cosmic glories — this time — but consider this a reminder that that song was by no means the limit of what the eight-track release had to offer in terms of breadth. From the opening push of “Dig out Your Head” to the dream-drift of “Sick in Space,” it unfolded tonal presence and a melodic depth that engaged a gorgeous, multifaceted sonic wash as it moved onward toward that landmark conclusion.

28. Droids Attack, Sci-Fi or Die

droids attack sci-fi or die

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 17.

There was not a level on which Madison, Wisconsin’s Droids Attack didn’t make it clear they were going all-out, all-in on Sci-Fi or Die. Even the title speaks to the stakes involved. And sure enough, the trio executed their fourth album with a sense of urgency and professionalism in songcraft, production, artwork (discussed here) and nuance of presentation that managed to make even a song called “Clawhammer Suicide” a classy affair. As guitarist/vocalist Brad Van said on the hidden title-track, “Death to false stoner thrash.” Droids Attack brought that ethic and more to life across the entire record.

27. Beelzefuzz, The Righteous Bloom

beelzefuzz the righteous bloom

Released by Restricted Release and The Church Within. Reviewed Aug. 2.

A winding road brought Beelzefuzz around to following up their 2013 self-titled debut (review here), and as The Righteous Bloom brought guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt and drummer Darin McCloskey together with bassist Bert Hall and lead guitarist Greg Diener, it found their songwriting more expansive, more progressive and dug further into their own particular oddball sense of grandeur. I’ve said on multiple occasions that no one out there is doing what Beelzefuzz are doing and that continues to be true. Even as a first offering from a new lineup of the band, The Righteous Bloom took bold and exciting forward steps.

26. Foghound, The World Unseen

foghound the world unseen

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed July 6.

Down to business. Immediately. Not a moment to spare. Taking part in what can only be considered a landmark year for Ripple Music, Baltimore’s Foghound issued The World Unseen as an answer to their 2013 debut, Quick, Dirty and High (review here), and upped their game across the board. From the intensity in the hooks of “Message in the Sky” and Rockin’ and Rollin'” to the quiet interlude of “Bridge of Stonebows” and the mid-paced heavy rock nod of “Never Return,” they made a strong case for themselves among their label’s foremost acts and found individualism in the growth of their songwriting. It was a kick in the ass you weren’t going to forget.

25a. Egypt, Endless Flight

egypt endless flight

Released by Doomentia Records. Reviewed Dec. 11, 2015.

Put out by the band digitally in Dec. 2015 and issued on vinyl in 2016, Egypt‘s second LP, Endless Flight may be somewhat debatable in terms of when it actually landed (hence “25a.,” above), but the quality of the six-tracker more than warrants inclusion anyway. Rolling dense, massively-fuzzed groove, its nine-minute opening title-track set the course for the Fargo, North Dakota, three-piece, and they only grew the heavy revelry from there, as heard on the penultimate “Black Words,” which seemed to be chewing on rocks even as it played back and forth in tempo, build and push. The converted never had it so good.

25. 1000mods, Repeated Exposure To…

1000mods repeated exposure to

Released by Ouga Booga and the Mighty Oug Recordings. Reviewed Sept. 20.

There seems to be no stopping the Chiliomodi-based 1000mods, who with their third album have stepped to the forefront of Greece’s populous and vibrant heavy rock underground. Progressed well beyond where even 2014’s impressive Vultures (review here) found them, they seemed to hit a stride with Repeated Exposure To… thanks in part to road time and the ability to bring that energy directly into songs like the eight-minute roller “Loose” and the sizable crashes of “Groundhog Day.” Momentum working in their favor could be heard front-to-back from “Above 179” to “Into the Spell,” moving them toward something ever-more crucial and marking a considerable achievement along that path. 2017 might be a good time for them to test the waters with initial US shows.

24. Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy

black rainbows stellar prophecy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 11.

Quick turnaround from Roman heavy psych magnate Gabriele Fiori (guitar/vocals) and company, but though it hit just about 13 months after their fourth full-length, Hawkdope (review here), Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy wholly succeeded in making an impact of its own, cuts like the oozing, organ-laced “Woman” and 11-minute jam-out triumph “Golden Widow” showcasing an approach in a continuous state of refinement that seems to get rawer as it goes, shifting like a rogue planetoid toward some maddening cosmic realization. How something can seem both so frenetic and so blissful is still a mystery, and perhaps that’s part of what makes Stellar Prophecy resonate as it does, but either way, Black Rainbows brought together some of the year’s most efficient psychedelic immersion.

23. Borracho, Atacama

borracho atacama

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Nov. 14.

Borracho don’t seem to release an album until they have something to say. That was to their credit on Atacama, their third LP and label debut for Kozmik Artifactz debut. Also their second collection issued as a trio behind 2013’s Oculus (review here), it distinguished itself from its predecessor in its sense of overarching flow, shifting between the ahead-thrust of “Gold from Sand” into the 10-minute sample-laden jam “Overload” to start out with such ease that the listener had little choice but to follow along. With an expanded scope on “Drifted away from the Sun” and the lightly-strummed memento mori “Flower,” Borracho found new avenues of expression to complement their well established dense, heavy riffing, and took obvious care in crafting their most realized LP yet.

22. The Golden Grass, Coming Back Again

the golden grass coming back again

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed April 26.

Nothing Brooklyn’s The Golden Grass does feels like happenstance, and though their classic-styled boogie is imbued with a vibrant, friendly positive energy, there’s an underlying meticulousness in their arrangements and in their songwriting that came further into focus on Coming Back Again, their sophomore release 2014’s self-titled debut (review here). A more progressive take showed itself in “Reflections” and “Down the Line,” and taken in combination with the bookends “Get it Together” and “See it Through,” the three-piece stood on ground that was even more their own than on the first record, striking a careful balance between the willful exploration of new elements and the outright need for tracks to directly engage their listeners with catchy hooks and upbeat vibes. They did it. Expect continued growth.

21. Curse the Son, Isolator

curse the son isolator

Released by Snake Charmer Coalition and The Company Records. Reviewed March 1.

For something so awash in fuzz, so nodding in its rhythms, so let’s-push-the-vocals-back-under-this-huge-awesome-fucking-riff, Curse the Son‘s Isolator was also remarkably clearheaded in its purposes. With the added vocal harmonies of “Callous Unemotional Traits,” the far-off spaces of “Hull Crush Depth” and the stoner metal despair of “Aislamiento,” the Connecticut three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore, capital-‘d’ Drummer Michael Petrucci and newcomer bassist Brendan Keefe drew a direct, intentional line to sometimes-grueling (hello, “Sleepwalker Wakes”) weighted tonality and found justification for their largesse in its own being. Like 2012’s Psychache (review here), I expect to be returning to Isolator over a longer term than this single year of release.

20. Neurosis, Fires Within Fires

neurosis fires within fires

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed Sept. 21.

I feel like I need to explain myself here. Make no mistake, NeurosisFires Within Fires is among the year’s most accomplished offerings. There’s just about no way it wouldn’t be. So why not top 10? Top five? It’s a question of timing. With the long-running post-metal progenitors, it’s always a longer digestion period. It was about two years before 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) really sunk in, and I expect Fires Within Fires will work similarly over the greater term. Maybe a little guilt on my part for the disparity between its quality and its placement, but rest assured, Neurosis remain among the most imperative bands walking the earth, and as they took on the full brunt of 30 years of unmitigated progression through Fires Within Fires, they were no less brazen in pushing themselves creatively than they’ve ever been.

19. Conan, Revengeance

conan revengeance

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Jan. 19.

Though the narrative of Conan has remained largely unchanged since their inception — hack, slash, kill, riff — and they still bask in nigh-on-unmatched tonal slaughter, their third full-length brings a few key developments. Perhaps most notable from opener “Throne of Fire” onward is the vocal interplay between guitarist/founder Jon Davis and bassist/longtime-engineer Chris Fielding, who joined after 2014’s Blood Eagle (review here). Adding Fielding‘s deeper growls allowed Davis to subtly move into a cleaner shout, and the emergent dynamic between them made Revengeance a decidedly expanded affair compared to Conan‘s past work. Adding drummer Rich Lewis to the mix was no minor shift either, and as much as Conan had already established their sheer dominance, they also sounded refreshed and set themselves up to keep growing.

18. Baby Woodrose, Freedom

baby woodrose freedom

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Aug. 18.

Some records just feel like gifts, and though many of its lyrical positions were cynical — “Reality,” “21st Century Slave,” “Mind Control Machine,” “Red the Sign Post,” etc. — Freedom marked the 15th anniversary of Danish garage-psych rockers Baby Woodrose with dripping lysergic aplomb, reminding some four years after their last LP, 2012’s Third Eye Surgery (review here), that bandleader Lorenzo Woodrose is unparalleled when it comes to manifesting his take on the psychedelic victories of 13th Floor Elevators and classic-era Hawkwind — firmly at home levitating on the edge of time. Its swirl and underlying foundation of songwriting, its Richie Havens cover title-track, and its sprawling interstellar “Termination” were like a welcome check-in from another dimension, and I only hope it’s not four years before Woodrose sends the next signal. Earth needs this band.

17. Geezer, Geezer

geezer geezer

Released by Ripple Music and STB Records. Reviewed Nov. 10.

I’m not going to discount the shuffle of “Sunday Speed Demon” or sleeze of “Sunday Speed Demon,” but where Geezer‘s self-titled third full-length really showed how far the New York heavy blues-psych trio have come was in its extended midsection jams, “Sun Gods,” “Bi-Polar Vortex” and “Dust,” each of which showed a distinct approach while feeding into an engaging flow between them, offering a blend of trailmarker hooks as they drifted into realms of organic chemistry previously uncharted by the band. The slow-motion swing of “Hangnail Crisis,” raucous push of “Superjam Maximus” and concluding bounce of “Stoney Pony” brought them back down to earth to finish out with a symmetry to the album’s opening, but Geezer kept a collective hand on the controls the whole voyage and when they landed, it was an arrival indeed, and very much what their two previous records were building toward.

16. EYE, Vision and the Ageless Light

eye vision and the ageless light

Released by The Laser’s Edge. Reviewed Nov. 17.

Beautifully experimental with its 27-minute finisher “As Sure as the Sun,” EYE‘s Vision and the Ageless Light seemed throughout its whole 46-minute run to be executing a cohesive vision in its synth-soaked progressive textures. Between the intro “Book of the Dead” and the subsequent “Kill the Slavemaster,” “Searching,” “Dweller of the Twilight Void” and the already-noted closer, each piece had something different to offer that added to the full impact of the whole, and with guitarist Jon Finely and bassist Michael Sliclen joining founding drummer/vocalist Brandon Smith and synth/Mellotron/Moog-ist Lisa Bella Donna (also vocals and acoustic guitar), EYE added to the scope of 2013’s Second Sight (review here) and found a place for themselves where prog complexity didn’t need to come at the expense of memorable songwriting and spaced-out vibes. An absolute joy, front to back.

15. Fatso Jetson, Idle Hands

fatso jetson idle hands

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Oct. 3.

Even Fatso Jetson themselves would probably have to admit that six years — even a six years that saw several splits, singles, etc. — was too long between albums. Fortunately, Idle Hands saw the desert rock forebears in top form as regards their quirk-fueled songwriting, angular approach to punk and inimitable groove. Following 2010’s Archaic Volumes (review here) was no easy task, but with additional depth to the material from the contributions of guitarist Dino von Lalli — son of founding guitarist/vocalist Mario Lalli and nephew of founding bassist Larry Lalli — guest spots from his sister Olive Lalli as well as Sean Wheeler (the latter moves second cut “Portuguese Dream” into high-echelon strangeness) and the ever-propulsive drumming of Tony Tornay, Fatso Jetson were both all over the place and right at the core of where they most ought to be sonically. At 56 minutes, it hardly seemed long enough.

14. Hexvessel, When We are Death

hexvessel when we are death

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Feb. 5.

Each song was like a different persona the band adopted momentarily, whether it was the Bowie-goes-proto-goth-prog of organ-ic opener “Transparent Eyeball” or the grim pastoralia of “Mirror Boy” and the condemnations/proclamations of “Drugged up on the Universe,” but wherever Hexvessel went on their third full-length and Century Media debut, When We are Death, that unifying theme went with them. Death. It was everywhere in the Finland-based genre-benders’ deeply varied approach, though its presence made their material in no way off-putting, and in the case of cuts like “Cosmic Truth” or the later “Mushroom Spirit Doors,” not even dark, and as it drew the tracks together despite working in different sounds and style, it became apparent that When We are Death worked because of a universal quality in songwriting and presentation allowing for such drastic shifts without any risk of losing the audience.

13. Zun, Burial Sunrise

zun burial sunrise

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Feb. 16.

Yawning Man guitarist Gary Arce — a key figure in the development of desert rock and a player of unmatched tone, period — had quite a year, between Zun‘s Burial Sunrise, his main outfit and his collaboration with Fatso Jetson vs. HifiKlub, but it was the dreamscape drift of songs like “Come Through the Water” and “All that You Say I Am” as well as the subtle hooks of “Into the Wasteland” and “All for Nothing” that, for me, made this the highlight. Sure, bringing in vocalists Sera Timms (Ides of Gemini, Black Mare) and John Garcia (ex-Kyuss, Slo Burn, Vista Chino, etc.) and having them swap back and forth between the tracks didn’t hurt either, but the wash of ethereal presence in Arce‘s guitar was an excellent showcase for his patience and improvisational sensibilities, and the spaces Burial Sunrise covered seemed to have an infinite horizon all their own. Will hope for a follow-up, will hope Garcia and Timms return, and will hope for a duet.

12. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree

elephant tree elephant tree

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Reviewed Jan. 29.

One had reasonably high expectations for the debut full-length from London’s Elephant Tree after their 2014 EP Theia (review here) so deftly blended spacious, sitar-laced heavy psychedelic rock with more visceral sludge impulses — a difficult mix to pull off — but I think it would’ve been impossible to see the quality of this self-titled outing coming in any substantive way. Gone were the screams, in was a depth of tone and nigh-on-perfect tempo — see “Dawn” and “Aphotic Blues,” as well as the acoustic “Circles” between them — and where some first albums have a kind of tentative, feeling-it-out vibe, guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley (interview here), bassist/vocalist Peter Holland, drummer Sam Hart and sitarist/vocalist/engineer Riley MacIntyre took utter command of the proceedings. They won’t have the element of surprise working for them next time, but as Elephant Tree made perfectly clear in its biggest surprise of all, neither do they need it.

11. Mos Generator, Abyssinia

mos generator abyssinia

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed July 12.

If you were to ask me to summarize in one word the last four-plus years of Mos Generator‘s tenure, since their reactivation with 2012’s Nomads (review here) and the subsequent lineup changes and hard-touring that followed 2014’s Electric Mountain Majesty (review here), I’d say “go.” I might say it three times: Go-go-go. One of three LP-ish offerings out this year, the studio album Abyssinia embodied this ethic as it started with immediate momentum on “Strangest Times” and “You’ve Got a Right” and seemed to push itself into new ground as it went. Guitarist/vocalist/founder Tony Reed brought heavy boogie to bear at a frenetic clip, but Abyssinia offset its early mania with later progressive stylization on “There’s No Return from Nowhere,” “Time and Other Thieves” and harmonized closer “Outlander,” so that in addition to representing their furious creativity, it also brought them to places they’ve never been before in sound.

10. Slomatics, Future Echo Returns

slomatics future echo returns

Released by Black Bow Records. Reviewed June 29.

In some ways, Future Echo Returns was simply picking up where Belfast’s Slomatics left off with 2014’s Estron (review here), as heard on the riff of lead-in track “Estronomicon,” but as the third in a purported trilogy following that record and 2012’s A Hocht, it also brought the tonecrushing three-piece to Skyhammer Studio to work with producer Chris Fielding (Conan) and presented a linear storyline that, while rife with standout moments in cuts like “Electric Breath,” the ambient “Ritual Beginnings” and ultra-catchy “Supernothing,” found a genuine sense of resolution in the finale “Into the Eternal” that spoke to the scope the entire work was meant to represent — not just itself, but an entirety spanning three albums. Not a minor feat, but what also made Future Echo Returns so resonant was how well the material stood on its own, so that even without the narrative context, it was immersive, hypnotic and unbridled in its heft.

9. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh

wo fat midnight cometh

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 21.

After two landmarks issued by Small Stone in 2014’s The Conjuring (review here) and 2012’s The Black Code (reviews here and here), Texas forerunners of riff Wo Fat gave a concise rundown of their appeal in the six-track Ripple debut and sixth LP overall, Midnight Cometh. Their ongoing development as found them bringing together a two-sided personality of memorable songs and open, fluid jams, and cuts like “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind,” “Of Smoke and Fog,” “Three Minutes to Midnight” and “Nightcomer” emphasized the next stage of this process, while the shuffling “Riffborn” and swaggering blues rock of “La Dilleme de Detenu” gave listeners a chance to touch ground every now and again. Over the last two-plus years, Wo Fat have become a point of influence for other, particularly American, acts — see labelmates Geezer — and Midnight Cometh assured that will be the case going forward too; a status well-earned.

8. King Buffalo, Orion

king buffalo orion

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed July 29.

Offered up this summer as a limited self-release and picked up by no less than Stickman Records (Motorpsycho, Elder), Orion might be the most molten inclusion on this list. It’s also my pick for 2016 Debut of the Year, and to hear cuts like “She Sleeps on a Vine,” “Kerosene,” the sprawling closer “Drinking from the River Rising,” or even just to take the whole record front-to-back, which was clearly how the band intended it be experienced, there’s just about no competition in that regard that stands up. The Rochester, NY, three-piece showed marked promise on their 2013 demo (review here) and 2015 split with Lé Betre (review here), but the listenability of Orion — which earned every single one of its repeat visits — made it a triumph on a different level entirely, and distinguished King Buffalo as a formidable presence in the sphere of US heavy psychedelia, fostering a sound no less soulful for its outward cosmic reach and to-be-measured-in-lightyears scale of potential.

7. Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know

wight love is not only what you know

Released by Fat and Holy Records, Kozmik Artifactz, Import Export Music and SPV. Reviewed Sept. 7.

German outfit Wight answered significant anticipation on their third album, Love is Not Only What You Know, some four years after 2012’s Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here) and undertook a significant evolution in sound. A transition from a trio to a four-piece and adding a strong current of funk to their heavy psych groove and boogie resulted in cuts like “The Muse and the Mule,” the jammed-out “Kelele” and “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation,” which were as danceable as they were nod-ready, and when complemented by shorter classic rockers like “Helicopter Mama” and “I Wanna Know What You Feel” (still plenty funky) and the Eastern-tinged interlude “Three Quarters,” gave Love is Not Only What You Know scope to match its ass-shaking encouragement. It was a spirit unto itself among 2016 releases, but ultimately, the key to understanding the record was right there in the title: It was all about love, and wherever Wight went in a given track, they never lost sight of that.

6. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow

greenleaf rise above the meadow

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 18.

A decade and a half after 2001’s Revolution Rock (discussed here), Sweden’s Greenleaf most embodied that ethic with Rise Above the Meadow, their sixth long-player and Napalm Records debut. 2014’s Trails and Passes (review here) represented the key step of founding guitarist Tommi Holappa (interview here) bringing vocalist Arvid Johnsson into the lineup, but Rise Above the Meadow built exponentially on what that album achieved, bolstered by work as a touring band and a revitalized songwriting process heard in “Howl,” “A Million Fireflies,” “You’re Gonna be My Ruin,” the stomping “Golden Throne” and “Tyrants Tongue,” among others. I refuse to discount the quality of Trails and Passes, 2012’s Nest of Vipers (review here) or 2007’s landmark Agents of Ahriman (review here), but as Greenleaf shifted toward a style more reminiscent of Holappa‘s later output with Dozer, they also seemed to stake their claim on the forefront of European heavy rock and roll, which was just waiting for them to do so.

5. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil

brant bjork tao of the devil

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 15.

Perhaps the most believable lyric of 2016 was the opening line of leadoff cut “The Gree Heen” from Brant Bjork‘s Tao of the Devil: “I got all that I need. I got the gree-heen.” From the prominent pot leaf on the cover to that single clause — which set the tone for that song’s mega-nod as much as everything that followed in the boogie of “Humble Pie” and “Stackt,” the so-laid-back-it’s-almost-unconscious title-track and the longer-form explorations of “Dave’s War” and the wah’ed-out “Evening Jam” — the inimitable Bjork seems to have embraced the role of stoner guru and the Godfather of Desert Rock. Tao of the Devil was his second release through Napalm behind 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here), which introduced the Low Desert Punk Band, and far from hanging its hat on the man’s historical accomplishments from his days in KyussFu ManchuCheVista Chino, etc., the 50-minute eight-tracker came fueled by the soul most typified in Bjork‘s solo catalog, which it’s increasingly easy to argue is his greatest contribution to the desert aesthetic. Definitely in his wheelhouse, but what a wheelhouse.

4. Asteroid, III

asteroid iii

Released by Fuzzorama Records. Reviewed Oct. 21.

What a relief it was to have Asteroid back, and what a relief it was to have III arrive some six years after II (review here) and find the Örebro, Sweden, trio’s certified-organic chemistry undulled by that long stretch. The songs — “Pale Moon,” “Last Days,” “Til Dawn,” “Wolf and Snake,” “Silver and Gold,” “Them Calling,” “Mr. Strange” — there wasn’t a miss in the bunch, and in addition to the reignited craftsmanship, III made clear a progression as players and the intent to move forward from guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse, bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson and drummer Elvis Campbell (since replaced by Jimmi Kolscheen), so that the material didn’t just let listeners know Asteroid was a band again after having unceremoniously faded out for a half-decade, but gave a signal that perhaps they were just getting started. One can only hope that turns out to be the case, but either way, III felt like a reward dolled out to their fanbase after a long absent stretch, and one that, like II and their 2007 self-titled debut (discussed here) before it, will reverberate its echoes for years to come. Hands down 2016’s most welcome return.

3. Gozu, Revival

gozu revival

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 19.

Though it would carry the context of its scorching opener “Nature Boy” with it for the duration and, accordingly, hit with a more intense feel than its 2013 predecessor, The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), Gozu‘s fourth album overall and Ripple label debut was a kick in the ass on more than just that one level. It found the Boston foursome with the finally-solidified lineup of vocalist/guitarist Marc Gaffney, guitarist Doug Sherman, bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike Hubbard, and while one could argue they still wound up under the banner of a heavy rock band, that became happenstance to the songs themselves. That is, even more than The Fury of a Patient Man or 2010’s Locust Season (review here), Gozu came across as writing not to style, but to their own impulses, as demonstrated in “Big Casino,” the echoing soul of “Tin Chicken” and shuffle-thrust of “Oldie,” and as they moved beyond their initial swath of influence into this individualized sonic persona, they reaped the benefits of the locked-in lineup and a process of craft that never sounded so purposeful. Revival was indeed typified by its vitality, but it was also the sound of a band maturing as a unit, becoming who they were meant to be, and there is almost nothing more exciting than that for a single album to represent. Plus, it had a song called “By Mennen,” and, you know, references.

2. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul)

mars red sky apex iii praise for the burning soul

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed Feb. 24.

It was unreasonable to expect the third full-length from Bordeaux, France, trio Mars Red Sky to surpass 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here) and the progressive crux that album brought to the warm tones and sweet melodicism of their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) reinforced the elements that worked so well on previous outings while pushing inarguably onto what the band seemed to know was “Alien Ground” if the title of their intro was anything to go by. More over, it did so with a natural fluidity and poise that were as striking as they were encompassing in sound. Tying to earlier 2016’s Providence EP (review here) in concept and execution through that intro and the title-track following it, Apex III presented the to-date pinnacle of Mars Red Sky‘s growth in songs like “The Whinery,” “Mindreader,” the tear-inducing “Under the Hood,” the swing-happy “Friendly Fire,” the willful atmospheric crash of closer “Prodigal Sun” — each one a crucial advancing step from the trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Mathieu “Matgaz” Gazeau — and brilliantly fed them one into the other, so that in addition to the standout impressions of each, there developed a personality to the whole span of the album; a world of Mars Red Sky‘s own creation, where they dwelt for what seemed too short a time before returning to earth and on from here to who knows where next.

1. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages

subrosa for this we fought the battle of ages

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Aug. 26.

Most of all, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages was fearless. For their fourth album, Salt Lake City’s SubRosa adapted themes from 1924’s We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, which laid out a futuristic dystopia wherein all identity is subsumed to the state and even love is outlawed when not properly sanctioned. This framework, obscure if influential, gave guitarist/vocalist Rebecca Vernon, violinist/vocalist Sarah Pendleton, violinist/backing vocalist Kim Pack, bassist/vocalist Levi Hanna, drummer/engineer Andy Patterson (formerly of Iota, among others), and a range of other contributors, a space in which to explore gender and LGBT issues across the six included tracks, and from the opening build and crush of the chorus to “Despair is a Siren” through the depiction of privilege in “Wound of the Warden,” the 97-second Italian-language ballad “Il Cappio” (translated: “the noose”) and into the gut-wrenching finale of “Troubled Cells,” their musical accomplishment was no less stunning than lyrics like, “Isn’t it good to be acquainted with darkness?/To caress it gently/To slit its throat,” from “Black Majesty.” Tense in its quiet stretches, harmonized vocally, given orchestral presence through its use of strings, flute, French horn, and so on, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages worked fluidly in what for most acts would be a contradictory modus of careful, meticulous arrangements and raw, emotional realism. No matter how deep it dove — and by the time identity was being erased and the state was taking control of the body on “Killing Rapture,” it was diving pretty deep — SubRosa never lost their sense of poise, so that the defiance in the last movement of “Troubled Cells” in which Heaven itself is rejected with the clearest of justifications, “Paradise is a lie if you’re not by my side,” the band seemed to stand as straight and tall as their multi-tiered righteousness would warrant. But even if one took For this We Fought the Battle of Ages with politics aside, its achievement in marrying post-metallic structures, gothic texture and progressive atmospherics was on a plane of its own making, operating under its own rules and in its own definitive space. Albums like it do not happen every year, and forward motion for genre as a whole is rarely so visible as it was in this special offering, which seems only fair to regard as a landmark for the band and anyone whose ears and hearts it touched.

The Next 20

Like any good Top 30, mine goes to 50. Here is the next batch:

31. Blaak Heat, Shifting Mirrors
32. Truckfighters, V
33. West, Space & Love, Vol. II
34. Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell, Tranquonauts
35. Yawning Man, Historical Graffiti
36. Causa Sui, Return to Sky
37. Vokonis, Olde One Ascending
38. Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Phantomonium
39. The Wounded Kings, Visions in Bone
40. It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Our Birth is but a Sleep and a Forgetting
41. Beastwars, The Death of all Things
42. Naxatras, II
43. Holy Grove, Holy Grove
44. Worshipper, Shadow Hymns
45. Wretch, Wretch
46. Colour Haze, Live Vol. I: Europa Tournee 2015
47. Zaum, Eidolon
48. Bellringer, Jettison
49. Young Hunter, Young Hunter
50. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Y Proffwyd Dwyll

From the kinetic desert artistry of Blaak Heat to Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s ethereal synth-laden doom, there are more than a few essentials here. I’ve never before done a year-end list that had so many releases on it, but my motivation in doing so this time around couldn’t have been simpler: They were simply too good and had too much to offer to leave out. It would’ve been an oversight to do so.

Honorable Mentions

Even a Top 50 fails to grasp the full scope of what 2016 brought about musically, so here are even more, alphabetically:

Ancient Warlocks, II
Black Moon Circle, Sea of Clouds
Sergio Ch., Aurora
Lamp of the Universe, Hidden Knowledge
Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light
Øresund Space Collective, Visions Of…
-(16)-, Lifespan of a Moth
Spidergawd, III
The Well, Pagan Science
Wovenhand, Star Treatment

And if that’s still not enough, here are 60-plus more names who shouldn’t be left out of the discussion, also alphabetically:

Akris, Atala, Atomikylä, Backwoods Payback, Beastmaker, BigPig, Black Cobra, Black Lung, Blood Ceremony, Blues Pills, Bright Curse, Bus, Dee Calhoun, Captain Crimson, Child, La Chinga, Church of Misery, Conclave, Cough, Devil to Pay, Domkraft, Dot Legacy, Electric Citizen, Estoner, Eternal Elysium, Fatso Jetson & Gary Arce vs. Hifiklub, Fox 45, Goatess, Goblin Cock, Graves at Sea, Heavy Temple (they’ll be back on next year’s list), High Fighter, Holy Serpent, Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Inter Arma, Joy, Kaleidobolt, Khemmis, King Dead, Lord, Lord Vicar, Merchant, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Helen Money, Monkey3, Moon Coven, Mother Mooch, Necro, New Keepers of the Water Towers, T.G. Olson, Oranssi Pazuzu, Pooty Owldom, Russian Circles, Salem’s Pot, Samavayo, Seremonia, Skuggsjá, Sourvein, Spirit Adrift, Stone Machine Electric, Suma, Surya Kris Peters, Swans, Throttlerod, Virus, Wasted Theory, Wretch, and Zaum.

Thank You

In case none of the above has made it clear, I’ll just say flat out that 2016 has been an amazing year for music, and that every time I feel like maybe underground heavy has hit a wall and there’s nowhere left for it to go, sure enough about three minutes later another record shows up that slaps me in the face with a reminder of just how wrong that notion is.

If you’re still reading — how could you be? — thank you so much for your incredible support throughout 2016 and all the years The Obelisk has been in progress. I already know that 2017 is going to bring some incredible music as well, but that’s another list for another time, so I’ll just say again how much I appreciate your being a part of this ongoing project, how much it means to me to have you here. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

And please, if there’s anything I forgot, got wrong, misspelled, or if you just think I used the word “breadth” too many times, please let me know about it in the comments.

One more time: Thank you.

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Zaum, Eidolon: Magi Enlightenment (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 20th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

zaum-eidolon

[Click play above to stream Zaum’s Eidolon in full. Album is out Oct. 24 on I Hate Records.]

From field recordings of rain falling and birds calling to chants, throat-singing, drones and tones that ring out like bells calling one to prayer, the prevailing sense of worship in its two extended tracks comes to define Eidolon through and through. Presented across two sides — one cut per, both listed at precisely 21 minutes long — the second full-length from Moncton, New Brunswick’s Zaum arrives via I Hate Records (tape on Superbob) and is coated in a meditative vibe.

The duo showed patience a-plenty on their 2014 debut, Oracles (review here), and on the 2015 Himalaya to Mesopotamia split with Shooting Guns (review here), and “Influence of the Magi” and “The Enlightenment” fall in line stylistically with Zaum‘s prior work in their Eastern inflection and post-Om roll, but sprawl they present in Eidolon‘s 42 minutes brings the band to a new level of headphone-ready, open-consciousness expanse. Each track works to establish its atmosphere — “Influence of the Magi” in its stone-walled drone, “The Enlightenment” in birdsong and horn-esque synth — and when bassist/vocalist/sitarist Kyle Alexander McDonald (also synth) and drummer Christopher Lewis crash in on both, it’s merely an extension of the ambience they’ve already put forth.

It’s not jarring. It doesn’t surprise. It just is. That’s the level of ritual Zaum enact throughout. It’s a hypnotic sensibility distinct in some ways from psychedelia, but benefits from some of the same effects on the listener, and it becomes hard to tell just how much McDonald and Lewis are letting go here — whether the unfolding of “Influence of the Magi” is steering them or they’re steering it. One way or the other, it makes the first four minutes or so of the opener, just before McDonald‘s central bassline kicks in, all the more exciting as a setup for what follows, which in turn, does not disappoint.

Of course, once the full breadth of “Influence of the Magi” kicks in, the direction the song will ultimately take becomes clearer. Forward, and forward slowly. The layers of bass and maybe-sitar/maybe-synth, the swirling echo around the call and response vocals, and the gradual plod of Lewis‘ drums, all come together to create the impression of a march — the pilgrimage is underway. They break for a time just before 7:30 in and let the bass and drone hold sway, but it’s not long before the next chanting chorus and verse emerge. Already their trance-state has been attained, and the roll that plays out satisfyingly maintains it in both atmosphere and consistency of rhythm.

In its makeup, I guess it would be fair to call even the heavier stretches of “Influence of the Magi” drone, at least on some levels, but at its most active it moves far, far away from minimalism, even if it’s intent on returning there sooner or later. At about 12:00, Lewis and McDonald once again break, this time to a longer span of drones and chants, and they return at 14:30 with harder-hitting impact and gruff vocals — not quite growls, but definitely in a more shouting vein. The apex. It carries through a final chanting chorus and “Influence of the Magi” caps its grand span with flute sounds, more droning and residual noise on a long fade into silence.

zaum

As “The Enlightenment” begins, one can’t help but be reminded of what Montibus Communitas have been able to bring to their interpretation of psychedelic folk through the use of field recordings, birds and running water and the like, but Zaum‘s take is more foreboding almost immediately, though the pattern that emerges is ultimately familiar to “Influence of the Magi,” even if the transition from the extended intro — also arriving shortly after four minutes in — is more fluid overall. When it gets going, side B moves somewhat quicker than did side A, or at least that’s the impression, but pace doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. Give up your expectations. Quit your job and move to the forest. Build a temple by a river and spend your days naming the gods who live in the trees around you.

It’s hard to know where one element ends and another begins in “The Enlightenment.” McDonald‘s vocals are a far-back swirl of semi-spoken reverb, and one can dig through the mystic fog of incense and find bass, and of course Lewis‘ snare cuts through as it would — punctuation no less invaluable on “The Enlightenment” as it was on “Influence of the Magi” — but in terms of some of the layers and what’s synth, what’s drone, what’s chanted, what’s sitar, it becomes a challenge. I wouldn’t want to speak to Zaum‘s intent, but it seems reasonable to think that’s the idea.

The idea isn’t that the listener sits and tries to pick apart each aspect of Eidolon, one layer, one wash at a time, but that the listener does exactly the opposite and lets the album carry him or her along with it on the journey it has undertaken. “The Enlightenment” holds more tension in part for its (relative) uptick in tempo, but trades between sections of drone and heavier push, manipulated sitar taking hold as a from-the-ground-up build sets the stage for a here-and-gone crescendo, disappearing behind low end and McDonald doing a better take on Cisneros-style singing than most.

It goes only to rise again and give way again in an ebb and flow that gives way to a reemergent swirl that acts as a capstone leading to “The Enlightenment”‘s outro of sampled thunder, flute sounds (synth, most likely), and a similarly patient end as that of “Influence of the Magi,” only with a clap of thunder, rainfall and birdsong as the last thing one hears — far, far back by then — as the album finishes out. That might be Zaum‘s way of easing the turn back to conscious reality — in which things do matter, you do have expectations, and building a temple is very, very difficult — but it’s still a considerable return to make when they’re done, which speaks to the quality of immersion they proffer throughout Eidolon.

What can be heard throughout these two pieces, in the end, is Zaum actively working to establish themselves as a unit separate from their influences. They’re exploring different textures and spirits within the music and finding out what works to represent their atmospheric expression. Given the effect Eidolon can have when one gives oneself over to it willingly, I think they succeed, but I would not be surprised to find McDonald and Lewis continuing to expand their sound going forward, and look forward to the worlds they may continue to conjure.

Zaum on Thee Facebooks

Zaum on Twitter

Zaum on Bandcamp

I Hate Records website

I Hate Records on Bandcamp

Superbob Records website

Superbob Records on Bandcamp

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