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.

Alastor on Thee Facebooks

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.

The Dead-End Alley Band on Thee Facebooks

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

smoke-wizzzard-run-with-the-wolf

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.

Smoke Wizzzard on Thee Facebooks

Smoke Wizzzard on Bandcamp

 

Highburnator, Keystoned State

highburnator-keystoned-state

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.

Highburnator on Thee Facebooks

Highburnator on Bandcamp

 

The Curf, Death and Love

the-curf-death-and-love

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

ULLS I

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: Lucifer, Rosetta, Mantar, King Giant, Si Ombrellone, Grand Massive, Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space, Shiggajon, Mount Hush, Labasheeda

Posted in Reviews on July 3rd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk summer quarterly review

The final day of the Quarterly Review is upon us. It has been one hell of a week, I don’t mind saying, but good and productive overall, if in a kind of cruel way. I hope that you’ve been able to find something in sifting through all these releases that you really dig. I have, for whatever that’s worth. Before we dig into the last batch, I just want to thank you for checking in and reading this week. If you’ve seen all five of these or if this is the first bunch you’ve come across, that you’re here at all is appreciated immensely.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Lucifer, Lucifer I

lucifer lucifer i

Vocalist Johanna Sadonis, who burst into the international underground consciousness last year with The Oath, resurfaces following that band’s quick dissolution alongside former Cathedral guitarist and riffer-of-legend Gary “Gaz” Jennings in Lucifer, whose Lucifer I eight-song debut LP is released on Rise Above Records. Joined by bassist Dino Gollnick and drummer Andrew Prestidge, Sadonis and Jennings wind through varied but thoroughly doomed atmospheres across songs like opener “Abracadabra” – the outright silliness of the “magic word” kind of undercutting the cultish impression for which Lucifer are shooting – or early highlights “Purple Pyramid” and “Izrael.” A strong side A rounding out with “Sabbath,” Lucifer I can feel somewhat frontloaded, but on repeat listens, the layered chorus of “White Mountain,” “Morning Star”’s late-arriving chug, the classically echoing “Total Eclipse” and the atmospheric finish of “A Grave for Each One of Us” hold their own. After a strong showing from Lucifer’s debut single, the album doesn’t seem like it will do anything to stop the band’s already-in-progress ascent. Their real test will be in the live arena, but they sustain a thematic ambience across Lucifer I’s 44 minutes, and stand ready to follow Rise Above labelmates Ghost and Uncle Acid toward the forefront of modern doom.

Lucifer on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records

Rosetta, Quintessential Ephemera

rosetta quintessential ephemera

Drone-prone Philadelphia post-metallers Rosetta return with Quintessential Ephemera, the follow-up to 2013’s The Anaesthete and their fifth LP overall, which resounds in its ambience as a reinforcement of how little the band – now a five-piece with the inclusion of guitarist Eric Jernigan – need any hype or genre-push to sustain them. Through a titled intro, “After the Funeral,” through seven untitled tracks of varying oppressiveness and rounding out with the unabashedly pretty instrumental “Nothing in the Guise of Something,” they continue to plug away at their heady approach, relentless in their progression and answering the darker turns of their prior outing with a shift toward a more colorful atmosphere. At 52 minutes, Quintessential Ephemera isn’t a slight undertaking, but if you were expecting one you probably haven’t been paying attention to the last decade of Rosetta’s output. As ever, they are cerebral and contemplative while staying loyal to the need for an emotional crux behind what they do, and the album is both dutiful and forward-looking.

Rosetta on Thee Facebooks

Rosetta on Bandcamp

Golden Antenna Records

War Crime Recordings

Mantar, Death by Burning

mantar death by burning

Pressed up by Brutal Panda Records for Stateside issue following a 2014 release in Europe on Svart, Death by Burning is the debut full-length from sans-bass Hamburg duo Mantar – vocalist/guitarist Hanno, drummer/vocalist Erinc – and as much as it pummels and writhes across its thrash-prone 10 tracks, opener “Spit” setting a tone for the delivery throughout, there are flourishes of both character and groove to go with all the bludgeoning throughout standout cuts like “Cult Witness,” “The Huntsmen,” the explosive “White Nights,” “The Stoning” and the more lumbering instrumental closer “March of the Crows,” the two-piece seamlessly drawing together elements of doom, thrash and blackened rock and roll into a seething, tense concoction that’s tonally weighted enough to make one’s ears think they’re hearing bass strings alongside the guitar, but still overarchingly raw in a manner denoting some punk influence. Bonus points for the Tom G. Warrior-style “ough!” grunts that make their way into “The Stoning” and the rolling nod of “Astral Kannibal.” Nasty as hell, but more subtle than one might expect.

Mantar on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records

Brutal Panda Records

King Giant, Black Ocean Waves

king giant black ocean waves

Though it seems King Giant’s fate to be persistently underrated, the Virginian dual-guitar five-piece offer their most stylistically complex material to date on their third full-length, Black Ocean Waves (released on The Path Less Traveled Records and Graveyard Hill), recorded by J. Robbins (Clutch, Murder by Death, etc.) as the follow-up to 2012’s Dismal Hollow (streamed here). Still commanded by the vocal presence of frontman Dave Hammerly, the album also finds moments of flourish in the guitars of David Kowalski and Todd “T.I.” Ingram on opener “Mal de Mer,” the leads on “Requiem for a Drunkard” or the intro to extended finishing move “There Were Bells,” bassist Floyd Lee Walters III and drummer Keith Brooks holding down solid rhythms beneath the steady chug of “The One that God Forgot to Save” and “Blood of the Lamb.” Side A closer “Red Skies” might be where it all ties together most, but the full course of Black Ocean Waves’ eight tracks provides a satisfying reminder of the strength in King Giant’s craftsmanship.

King Giant on Thee Facebooks

The Path Less Traveled Records on Thee Facebooks

Si Ombrellone, Horns on the Same Goat

si ombrellone horns on the same goat

The 14 single-word-title tracks of Si Ombrellone’s Horns on the Same Goat were originally recorded in 2006, but for a 2015 release, Connecticut-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli (Vestal Claret, King of Salem) took them back into his own UP Recording Studio for touch-ups and remastering. The endeavor is a solo outing for Tuozzoli, styled in a kind of post-grunge rock with Frank Picarazzi playing drums to give a full-band feel, and finds catchy, poppy songwriting coming forward in the layered vocals of “Innocence,” while later, “Forgiveness” and “Darkness” offset each other more in theme than sound, as “Love” and “Hate” had done earlier, the album sticking to its straightforward structures through to six-minute closer “Undone,” which boasts a more atmospheric take. It’s an ambitious project to collect 14 sometimes disparate emotional themes onto a single outing, never mind to do it (mostly) alone – one might write an entire record about “Trust,” say, or “Rage,” which opens – but Tuozzoli matches his craftsmanship with a sincerity that carries through each of these tracks.

Si Ombrellone on Thee Facebooks

Si Ombrellone album downloads

Grand Massive, 2

grand massive 2

Boasting a close relationship to Duster69 and Mother Misery and featuring in their ranks Daredevil Records owner Jochen Böllath, who plays guitar, German heavy rockers Grand Massive revel in commercial-grade Euro-style tonal heft bordering on metallic aggression. 2 is their aptly-titled second EP (on Daredevil) and it finds Böllath, lead guitarist Peter Wisenbacher, vocalist Alex Andronikos, bassist Toby Brandl and drummer Holger Stich running through six crisply-executed tracks of catchy, fist-pumping riffy drive, slowing a bit for the creepy ambience of the interlude “Woods” or the more lurching tension of “I am Atlas,” but most at home in the push of “Backseat Devil” and closer “My Own Sickness,” a mid-paced groove adding to the festival-ready weight Grand Massive conjure. Word is they’re already at work on a follow-up. Fair enough, but 2 has plenty to offer in the meantime in its tight presentation and darker vibes, Grand Massive having been through a wringer of lineup changes and emerged with their songwriting well intact.

Grand Massive on Thee Facebooks

Daredevil Records

Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space, Live from Roadburn 2014

carlton-melton-meets-dr.-space-live-from-roadburn-festival-2014

If you guessed “spacey as hell” as regards this meeting between NorCal psych explorers Carlton Melton and Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Danish jammers Øresund Space Collective, go ahead and give yourself the prize. Limited to 300 copies worldwide courtesy of Lay Bare Recordings and Space Rock Productions, Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space’s Live from Roadburn 2014 is a consuming, near-100-minute unfolding, Heller joining Carlton Melton on stage for four of the total seven inclusions, adding his synthesized swirl to the swirling wash, already by then 26 minutes deep after the opening “Country Ways > Spiderwebs” establishes a heady sprawl that only continues to spread farther and farther as pieces unfold, making “Out to Sea” seem an even more appropriate title. It will simply be too much for some, but as somebody who stood and heard the sounds oozing from the stage at Cul de Sac in Tilburg, the Netherlands, as part of the Roadburn 2014 Afterburner event, I can say it was a special trip to behold. It remains so here.

Carlton Melton’s website

Øresund Space Collective on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings

Shiggajon, Sela

shiggajon sela

According to El Paraiso Records, Sela was held up as so many releases have been owing to plant production having been overwhelmed by Record Store Day and will be out circa August. Fair enough. Consider this advance warning of Danish improve collective Shiggajon’s first outing for the Causa Sui-helmed imprint, then, and don’t be intimidated as we get closer to the release and people start talking about things like “free jazz” and dropping references to this or that Coltrane. The real deal with Shiggajon – central figures Mikkel Reher-Lanberg (percussion, drums, clarinet) and Nikolai Brix Vartenberg (sax) here joined by Emil Rothenborg (violin, double bass), Martin Aagaard Jensen (drums), Mikkel Elzer (drums, percussion, guitar), Sarah Lorraine Hepburn (vocals, flute, electronics, tingshaws) – is immersive and tipped over into music as the ritual itself. One might take on the two 18-minute halves of Sela with a similarly open mind as when approaching Montibus Communitas and be thrilled at the places the album carries you. I hope to have more to come, but again, heads up – this one is something special.

Shiggajon’s Blogspot

El Paraiso Records

Mount Hush, Low and Behold!

mount hush low and behold

“The Spell” proves right away that Alps-based heavy rockers Mount Hush (I love that they don’t specify a country) have the post-Queens of the Stone Age fuzz-thrust down pat on their debut EP Low and Behold, but the band also bring an element of heavy psychedelia to their guitar work and the vocals – forward in the mix – have a bluesier but not caricature-dudely edge, so even as they bounce through the “Come on pretty baby” hook of “The Spell,” they’re crafting their own sound. The subsequent “King Beyond” showcases how to have a Graveyard influence without simply pretending to sound like Graveyard, even going so far as to repurpose a classic rock reference – “Strange Days” by The Doors – in its pursuit, and the seven-minute “The Day She Stole the Sun” stretches out for a more psychedelic build. Most exciting of all on a conceptual level is closer “Levitations.” Drumless, it sets ethereal vocals and samples over a tonal swirl and airy, quieter strumming. Hardly adrenaline-soaked and not intended to be, but it shows Mount Hush have a genuine will to experiment, and it’s one I hope they continue to develop.

Mount Hush on Thee Facebooks

Mount Hush on Bandcamp

Labasheeda, Changing Lights

labasheeda changing lights

Joined for the first time by drummer Bas Snabilie (apparently since replaced by Aletta Verwoerd) Amsterdam heavy art rockers Labasheeda mark four full-length releases with Changing Lights on Presto Chango, the violin/viola of vocalist/guitarist Saskia van der Giessen and guitar/bass/keyboard of Arne Wolfswinkel carrying across an open but humble atmosphere, touching here on Sonic Youth’s dare-to-have-a-verse moments in “My Instincts” and pushing into more blown-out jarring with the slide-happy “Tightrope.” They bring indie edge to a cover of The Who’s “Circles,” and round out with a closing duo of the album’s only two tracks over five minutes, “Cold Water” and “Into the Wide,” van der Giessen’s croon carrying a sweetness into the second half of the former as the latter finishes Changing Lights with a rolling contrast of distortion and strings as engrossing as it is strange. Labasheeda will go right over a lot of heads, but approached with an open mind it can just as easily prove a treasure for its blatant refusal to be pinned to one style or another.

Labasheeda on Thee Facebooks

Labasheeda on Bandcamp

 

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The Exploding Eyes Orchestra Stream I in Full; Q&A with Thomas Corpse

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on June 9th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

the exploding eyes orchestra 2

On June 12, Finnish outfit The Exploding Eyes Orchestra will make their Svart Records debut with I, their aptly-titled first offering. Written as part of a two-album set by guitarist Thomas Corpse and featuring four other members besides himself from Jess and the Ancient Ones, the record and band are an offshoot in the truest sense of the word, but one justified both by the differences in lineup and in sonic personality that are showcased throughout I‘s seven songs and vinyl-ready 41 minutes. Whereas Jess and the Ancient Ones operates with cultish aural intent, having explored psychedelic ritualizing for the last half-decade, The Exploding Eyes Orchestra was birthed as an outlet for the side of Corpse‘s songwriting that specifically didn’t fit that band.

As it turned out, there was plenty of that around. Enough so that along with I, more songs were tracked that will make up II, which is to see release on Svart in 2016. That means that, in a way, we’re only seeing half of a picture with these tracks that will be completed when the second album is issued, but with memorable cuts like “Two-Zero 13,” “The Smoke” and the oddly poppy “My Father the Wolf,” The Exploding Eyes Orchestra have crafted a full-length that stands on its own just as well. It shares some commonalities with Corpse‘s writing for Jess and the Ancient Ones, and having Jess on vocals is bound to draw a few parallels, but even through that, these songs establish an open and varied spirit not at all hindered by the boundaries of aesthetic, embracing sultry blues on “Drawing down the West,” pushing into horror-flick goth-style piano swing on “Black Hound” and unabashedly proffering a love of classic progressive rock on “Crazy Heart,” all while keeping a core of craftsmanship and structure that ties it all together.

Where The Exploding Eyes Orchestra might go on their second outing, I couldn’t say, but the soul and breadth infused into these recordings makes one eager to find out. Jess and the Ancient Ones are getting ready to hit the studio as well, but Corpse took some time out to answer questions about the making of — and, by extension, II — and you can find the Q&A under a full stream of the album, which it’s my pleasure to bring to you on the player below.

Please enjoy:

the exploding eyes orchestra

Interview with Thomas Corpse: Easing Burdens

How much material had amassed before you realized The Exploding Eyes Orchestra was a project separate from Jess and the Ancient Ones? What is it about the songs that you thought didn’t fit that concept?

I noticed it while writing them. We were having a creative break with the Ancient Ones, and I had nothing else to do than just play acoustic guitar on my couch. Oh, I also drank like a million liters of coffee, and smoked a thousand smokes. It was really refreshing to jam endlessly, so I just kept writing and writing. In the end, I did not wish to add so many layers on them, so a smaller group was formed to perform them.

What is the timeline on songs coming together? How long has this stuff been around?

They came along pretty fast. Maybe six months from zero to 100, when it comes to writing and arranging the music. We recorded 14 songs in the same sessions… whuh, it was fun! Recordings took place in 2013-2014, so the material has been laying around for a while. The wheels of Sawonia move forth slowly I guess, hahah!

How was it being in the studio for The Exploding Eyes Orchestra as opposed to Jess and the Ancient Ones?

Well there’s a few less musicians playing, so there’s much more space to move around within the songs. Also, in a way these sessions were more “free-spirited.” I think we learned some valuable things, and of course the Ancient Ones will also benefit from this fact. That being said, the Ancient Ones are just about to hit the studio!

What was the time in the studio like? How were the songs put together and how much input did the whole band have in the process?

Long hours, and many late nights. We worked really hard, as we had so little time to record all of those songs. At some point, the mood was really gloomy, as the lack of sleep gets to you… but we pulled through with smiles on our faces.

The band has a major influence what comes to song arrangements, as I always leave room for interpretation. In this way, you get all the levels.

Tell me about splitting up the tracks into two albums. At what point did you know you had enough that you wanted to use that you had to approach it that way?

It was supposed to be a double album, but when listening to it as a whole, it felt too heavy to take in at once. Thus we split the material in two, to ease the listener’s burden, hahah!

Is there something different expressed between I and II, or are they meant as complements for each other, coming from the same sessions?

The II album has more subtle stuff in it, and there is even one song that is sung in Finnish. At the end of the day, the albums feel like Ying and Yang, so I guess you could say that they complement each other. My personal favourites are on the second album, as the songs in question are really personal to me.

Will you continue to write for The Exploding Eyes Orchestra on the side from Jess and the Ancient Ones? Are there other pieces that have yet to be recorded?

I sure will, and there are already seven new songs readied back here at home. Maybe the next studio session will take place during the winter of 2015? But first things first, as the Radio Aquarius will soon start the transmission from the planes of the Ancient Ones. Feed your minds!

The Exploding Eyes Orchestra on Thee Facebooks

The Exploding Eyes Orchestra at Svart Records

Svart Records on Thee Facebooks

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Curse of the North Post New Video “Sleep While You Can”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 5th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

curse of the north

Seattle heavy rock trio Curse of the North are gearing up to released their debut full-length, I, later this month. The self-produced, self-released, Kurt Ballou-mixed long-player will follow 2011’s Revelations EP, which was recorded by Matt Bayles, and to herald its arrival, the three-piece have put together a video for the track “Sleep While You Can” that features an impressive array of Marshall stacks, headbanging, up and downlighting and the band themselves rocking out right in the middle there. Can’t miss ’em.

I haven’t heard the record yet, but “Sleep While You Can” has some touches of metal and hard rock in with its heavy riffing, giving the song a kind of clean feel, but kicks up some dirt in its midsection, so it’s worth the time to dig in. If it hits you right and you’d like to make it yours, Curse of the North have made “Sleep While You Can” available name-your-price-style on their Bandcamp page, the link to which follows the info that follows the video below. You know how this goes.

It goes like this:

Curse of the North, “Sleep While You Can” official video

“Sleep While You Can” is the first release off Seattle, WA band Curse of the North’s self produced LP “Curse of the North: I” mixed by Kurt Ballou(High on Fire, Skeletonwitch, Black Breath) at God City Studios.

Curse of the North is a no frills heavy band from Seattle, WA featuring members Christiaan Morris (Guitar/Vocals) Nick Cates (Bass, 3 inches of blood) and Burke Thomas (Drums, Duff McKagan’s Loaded). COTN will be releasing their first full length LP “Curse of the North: I” Spring 2015. The band self produced the album and it was mixed by Kurt Ballou (High on Fire, Black Breath, SkeletonWitch). Curse of the North released their first EP “Revelations” in summer 2011 which was produced by Matt Bayles (Mastodon, The Sword, Botch). COTN will be touring in support of “Curse of the North: I” throughout 2015.

Curse of the North on Thee Facebooks

“Sleep While You Can” Bandcamp download

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Burning Saviours, Soldat Hans, Olde, Holy Grove, Persona and Dungaree

Posted in Radio on December 5th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio

I try to do these every week. I’d like to, ideally, but it seems to be more like when folders and zip files clog up my desktop enough to really get on my nerves. Fair enough. A full 20 records joined the playlist today, including a couple wintry classics from Anathema that either were overlooked by me or wrongly left out, plus the new Witch Mountain album, and some other recently-reviewed and otherwise-written-about stuff. It’s actually a pretty killer list. If you’re into it, or if you want to see what else has been added lately or what was played today, check out the Playlist and Updates Page. I spend an embarrassing amount of time there. Here are a few more reasons why.

The Obelisk Radio Adds for Dec. 5, 2014:

Burning Saviours, Unholy Tales from the North

Burning Saviours Unholy Tales from the North

The unheralded heroes of Sweden’s retro heavy movement return with their first full-length since 2007. Their fifth outing overall, Burning Saviours‘ Unholy Tales from the North follows a series of four singles released between 2012 and 2013 (recently compiled by I Hate Records and released under the title Boken Om Förbannelsen) and finds the Örebro four-piece reveling in ’70s-style doom once more, albeit with a rawer and less directly ’70s-style production. That is, it’s not as directly fuzzed as their self-titled debut was nine years ago, when it was pretty much them and Witchcraft digging on classic Pentagram alone, but still presented in the same spirit, a strong opening trio of “They Will Rise Tonight,” “And the Wolves Cried Out” and “Your Love Hurts Like Fire” creating a lasting impression somewhere between early metal (think Rocka Rolla-era Priest) and the heavy rock that preceded it. Two Swedish-language tracks, “Ondskan” and “Lyktgubben,” end each side, and at 28 minutes, it’s a quick runthrough, but shows easily that Burning Saviours — since 2010 the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Mikael Monks, lead guitarist Jonas Hartikainen, bassist Fredrik Evertsson and drummer Martin Wijkström — remain vital in their approach, cuts like “Inside My Mind” and “The Sons of the North” exploring metal’s roots effectively and organically while crafting something new, if familiar, from them. Burning Saviours on Thee Facebooks, at Transubstans Records.

Soldat Hans, Dress Rehearsal

Soldat Hans Dress Rehearsal

Swiss newcomers Soldat Hans seem to be embarking on an admirably ambitious journey with their self-released debut, Dress Rehearsal, the title of which hints at their thinking of it as a demo, but for which the extended four tracks included serve to craft a sense of ambience that marks it unmistakably as a full-length. Engrossing in its atmosphere, patient in its construction and impeccably conceived, Dress Rehearsal plays out lengthy builds fluidly and takes listeners from minimalist drone and slow unfolding to massive, feedback-caked sludge, and then back again, sounding natural in the process and brilliant for both its pummel and restraint. None of the four cuts — “Meine Liebste; Sie zerbricht sich” (15:21), “Esthère (im bronzefarbenen Licht)” (13:34), “Zikueth! Zikueth!” (18:25) and “Liefdesgrot” (15:08) — really departs from a bleak, moody feel, but there are shifts throughout, as “Esthère (im bronzefarbenen Licht)” moves from the linearity of the opener to brooding post-rock and jazzy exploration before hitting its own wash of viciousness. To have a band take such control of their sound on their first outing is remarkable, and the longest and farthest ranging of the tracks, “Zikueth! Zikueth!” provides Soldat Hans their shining moment, theatrical but not overdone, melodic early and raging late, hypnotic in the middle, as classic as it is avant garde. They close out with another maddening payoff in “Liefdesgrot,” and while in the future I’d be interested to hear them take on structures as wide-ranging as what they bring sonically to Dress Rehearsal, if this is just practice, I can’t wait for the show to start. Soldat Hans on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Olde, I

SAMO_12Jacket_Standard_RJC

If you were to go by their sound alone, I don’t think there’s any way you could come out of hearing burly five-piece Olde‘s Hypaethral Records debut long-player, I, and not imagine they were from Virginia. In fact, they come from Toronto, but the aggro Southern metal they purvey on the album’s eight bruising tracks would be right at home in the heart of sludgeland, full as it is of steady rolls — Sons of Otis drummer Ryan Aubin provides trailmarking thud — the from-the-chest growling from Doug McLarty and lumbering riffs, songs like “Heart Attack” and “Changelings” in the tracklist’s midsection readily crossing the line between sludge and doom, all mudhole stomp, metallic affiliation and violent groove. There’s atmosphere at work, but it comes out through the aggression portrayed, and ultimately, has about as all the ambience of having your teeth kicked in. And yes, that counts the variation on the theme in the closing “Perimeter Walk,” the more echoing guitar, farther back vocals, and so on. With a crisp production behind it, Olde‘s debut knows precisely the kind of beatdown it wants to deliver and sets about its task with brutal efficiency. Olde on Thee Facebooks, Hypaethral Records on Bandcamp.

Holy Grove, Live at Jooniors

Holy Grove Live at Jooniors

Recorded at some point between then and now at Joonior Studios in Seattle, Washington — I’m guessing more toward “then” — the 2014 outing Live at Jooniors from Portland four-piece Holy Grove is only two songs, but even one would be enough to serve notice of their warm tonality and the bluesy vocals of Andrea Vidal, who pushes her voice to its reaches on “Holy Grove” and still manages to nail the emotional crux. Honestly, that would probably be enough to carry “Holy Grove” and the following “Nix” on its own — sold; I’m on board — but I won’t discount the fuzz in Trent Jacobs‘ guitar or bassist Gregg Emley‘s fills in “Nix,” or the seamless shift drummer Craig Bradford leads between subdued verses and the tense chorus of “Holy Grove.” As far as serving notice goes, Live at Jooniors does so and then some, and without sacrificing sound quality as so many underground live recordings do. Seems to me a 7″ release wouldn’t be out of order, but Holy Grove seem more intent on getting together their full-length debut, which if they can bring to the studio the vibe they create in just 13 minutes on stage, is going to be something to look out for indeed. Learn the name, because you’ll hear it again. Holy Grove on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Persona, Persona

Persona Persona

Buenos Aires instrumental four-piece Persona formed in 2004/2005, but their newly-released self-titled appears to be their first LP, preceded by a 2012 EP. If the better part of the intermittent decade was spent jamming, it doesn’t seem to have hurt the band, who present nine plotted but flowing tracks that keep some loose sensibility to them while following a course of classic heavy and fuzz rock. The lineup of guitarist/bassists Lucas Podestá and Santiago Adano, guitarist Gustavo Hernández and drummer Esteban Podestá touch here and there on more metal tendencies, as on “Los Perros” and the brief “Cortina,” but that’s no more out of place than the proggy exploration of “Cuna de Fantasmas,” a King Crimson-style noodling underscored by subtly engaging snare work and giving way to a heavier push. The lead guitar on “Cazador” provides a particularly engaging moment of payoff for the album’s first half, but there’s enough variety throughout that Persona‘s Persona offers a range of satisfying moments. Still room for the band to develop their style, but they obviously have the will and chemistry to do so. Persona on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Dungaree, Climb out of the River

Dungaree Climb out of the River EP

I’ll give it to Hungarian four-piece Dungaree based on their moniker alone. It’s simple, fun to say, and it evokes the rebelliousness of a bygone time. Their debut release, a three-song EP dubbed Climb out of the River, is likewise sharp-dressed, with a grunge-style production that pushes the dudely vocals of László Gergely to the fore ahead of Horváth T. Zoltán‘s guitar, Balogh Attila‘s bass and Dencs Dominik‘s drums to result in a sound that comes across to my American ears more akin to commercial hard rock than underground heavy, though in my experience the line in Europe and particularly Eastern Europe is both less distinct and less relevant. The tracks are short, straightforward, hard-hitting and catchy, with “Climb out of the River” a strong opening hook, “Dream Again” pushing into metallic guitar chugging in its breakneck chorus, and “Right Words” toying with a lounge boogie — snapping fingers and all — that assures the listener that although Dungaree have their sharp corners, they’re not about to take themselves too seriously either. Might not be for everyone, but shows a strong foundation of songwriting, and I wouldn’t ask any more of a first outing than that. Dungaree on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Six releases, and a pretty varied bunch at that. It’s still really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what went up to the server. I always like putting stuff on there — it’s like casting a fishing lure, except maybe without killing? I don’t know. More like tossing a fish in the ocean maybe and not knowing when it will swim by the boat again. Or maybe I just (re)watched Jaws recently and have aquatics on the brain.

Either way, we’ve passed the two-year mark since the stream went online and I’m very happy with how The Obelisk Radio has turned out. Special thanks to Slevin for all the work he’s put in over that time in helping me with hosting and making it go, and thank you as always for reading and listening.

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Friday Full-Length: Goatsnake, I

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 18th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Goatsnake, I (1999)

Essential heavy. Also known as Goatsnake Vol. 1, Vol. 1Goatsnake I and probably two or three other titles by now, the 1999 debut from Goatsnake, I, remains a classic within heavy rock and roll. The smooth, attitude-laden crooning of Pete Stahl, the Sunn-toned riffs of Greg Anderson, thick roll from Guy Pinhas and wide, huge-sounding cymbals from Greg Rogers all aligned just perfectly to make the album not only one of the best records Man’s Ruin ever put out, but one of the finest releases in the genre, period. From its nonsensical cover art — something Southern Lord‘s reissue would change when pairing I with the subsequent 2000 EP, Dog Days in ’04 — to the hooks of “Slippin’ the Stealth” and “What Love Remains,” it’s an album the influence of which continues to resonate and one that only grows in status with the passing of time.

Goatsnake have been on my mind, with the rumor of new material in the works — pictures posted of the band writing — and their confirmation for the 2015 Maryland Deathfest, the Southwest Terror Fest in October, etc., so paying I a visit doesn’t seem out of line. At the very least, it’s a perfect hot weather album. The band haven’t posted any sort of schedule on a release or anything that I know of, and whatever they put out next will be their first offering since the 2004 EP, Trampled under Hoof, which followed 2000’s second album, Flower of Disease, but I know I’ll be interested to hear what they come up with and how on earth they might sound, given all the years that’ve passed between then and now, Anderson‘s progression with SunnO))), and so on. Time and riffs will tell.

Though they’ve played at this point a handful of shows since first getting semi-reunited in 2010, I’ve yet to see Goatsnake live (I did interview Greg Anderson about the reunion at the time). When it finally happens, they’ll be a big name to cross off the list, and an enduring affection for I is a huge part of why. Hope you enjoy it.

When I finish this, I’m going to go back upstairs, grab my pillow and a couple packs of gum which I forgot to bring down, and head south to New Jersey for the weekend to see family. I was looking around for a show to hit tomorrow night in New York and didn’t see anything. Would be good to get out. I think I’ve just had residual exhaustion from the move, and really before that, but it’s been a long time. I broke my rule about staying in the house for two days straight this week, which was a bummer, but I figured four hours’ highway time this evening would balance things out — especially if by “balance things out” I mean continue to drain my energy and prevent me from feeling like I’m getting settled into the area that I’ve called home for a year and still have no idea to get around in. Feeling groovy.

Whatever, at least baseball’s back on.

So yeah, Jersey this weekend, then back on Sunday. I thought about hanging out a little longer while I basically kill time waiting for The Patient Mrs. to return from her month-long trip to Greece — she gets back next Saturday — but better to come home. I spend less money here than I do in New Jersey. Or at least it feels that way. If you count buying this townhouse, those statistics probably go right out the window. Would take a hell of a lot of alfredo dinners to catch up to a 30-year mortgage, though I’m sure I’ll try.

Thanks to everybody who shared the Sleep single this afternoon or took the time to read the post with it. I’m not sure I would’ve, so if you didn’t, no worries, but yeah. That was some cool news to get out of the blue, though it effectively ended my day. I was all set to post another review and then it was like, “Why on earth would I ever attempt to follow a new Sleep song with anything and expect anyone to read it?” I had no answer, so I made lunch instead. Win win, really.

On Monday, I’ve got a video premiere from Grifter coming, so look out for that. They picked what I think is one of the most interesting songs on their new album, The Return of the Bearded Brethren (review forthcoming), and made a clip for it that sort of inadvertently emphasizes a lot of what I like about the band. There’s a bit to talk about with it, which will be cool. I’ll also have reviews of Rodeo Drive and Methra, whose tape got the shaft this afternoon when that Sleep track hit, and since it felt so good to hook up my stereo this week, probably some more vinyl as well. I’ve got a few records stacked up waiting for words. It just wouldn’t feel like a week if I wasn’t lagging behind on basically everything.

I hope you have an excellent weekend and that all is well and full of joy and loud, heavy riffs where you are. If you see some longhair jerk in a Volvo on I-95 bobbing his head like a fool and singing along to Parliament records this weekend, yeah, that’s probably me. Feel free to pass on the right or run me off the road or whatever.

Please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Grey Widow, I

Posted in Radio on January 23rd, 2014 by JJ Koczan

It’s entirely possible that UK four-piece Grey Widow‘s fucked-up barrage of monstrous tones and vicious screams will make you feel right at home. Seems like every time I post about a band who make a point of being abusively heavy, someone has to step up and say, “Well I don’t think they’re that abusively heavy.” If that’s you, then congratulations ahead of time on working on a different standard than the rest of the universe, because the way I see it, Grey Widow are maddeningly extreme in their approach, and whether it’s the slow oozing riffs of “I” — which I’d call the title-track of their self-released full-length debut, I, but for the fact that all the other songs follow suit in Roman numeral fashion — or unbridled snare-count-in black metal pummel of “IV,” they’re bound to be a test of sonic endurance which many listeners won’t pass. No doubt that’s the point. Weed ’em out quick and then kick the living shit out of the rest. Grey Widow seem to have a pretty solid idea of what they’re doing on these eight songs.

But for a few cleaner shouts on “II” or in the punkish second half of “VII,” vocals stick to growls and screams. Those aware that Grey Widow boasts former Dopefight guitarist Owen Carty (also members of The Ergon CarouselThread and Parole) won’t have to strain to hear some of that band’s sludgy take, but Grey Widow are a different entity almost entirely, darker in there atmospheres and more metallic in their brutality. There’s plenty of groove in “III,” in the chaos-build of “V,” and in the consuming end section that begins with “VI” and runs through “VIII” — comprising about 25 of the album’s total 56 minutes — but nothing so stoner on display here, nor does I want for it, its tidal tonality captured by Slabdragger guitarist Sam Thredder late in 2013 at The Cro’s Nest Studio. Rather, Grey Widow commence and carry through an assault of their own, easing the listener into their sundry terrors the way one imagines being tossed off a cliff as “easing.” The Roman numeral titles only make the album more obscure and hard to get a bearing on, but this also seems to be on purpose, the band’s focus not at all on meeting halfway or making overtures toward accessibility.

In the fertile UK heavy underground, Grey Widow‘s debut positions them well on the more extreme end of the scene, and while that will invariably alienate some who might attempt to take on I‘s violent cycle, no doubt just as many other heads will turn in their direction precisely because they’re so unyielding. Particularly as I approaches its finish in the last three tracks, coming to a grisly, excruciating culmination on “VIII,” Grey Widow‘s approach feels terrifyingly solid for being the band’s first time out, and they’ve set themselves up to affect any number of atrocities they might choose in the wake of the genre-spanning cruelties unleashed here. You wanna have the heaviest, most extreme taste in the room? Okay. Meet Grey Widow and prepare to be outclassed.

Listen to I now as part of the 24/7 streaming rotation on The Obelisk Radio and grab a sample of Grey Widow‘s disturbing wares via the player below, snagged from their Bandcamp page.

Grey Widow, I (2014)

Grey Widow on Thee Facebooks

Grey Widow on Bandcamp

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On Wax: The Ravenna Arsenal, I

Posted in On Wax on January 15th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

With the acknowledgement that not everyone who reads this post is going to immediately hit up The Ravenna Arsenal‘s Bandcamp page and plunk down $14 for a copy of I — which they present in limited-to-300 transparent red 180g vinyl with art by Chris Smith — let me kindly suggest that if you’re at all interested in getting a feel for what the Ohio four-piece do on their 2013 debut full-length, the thing to do is start by tossing them a couple bucks, grabbing one of the downloads of the album, and arranging the tracklisting in the order which they have it on the LP version. That’s not to discount the value of “Ammunation,” “Knights,” “The Pregnant Void” or “The Sun,” but it’s a completely different record with or without them, and that’s true both in the substance of its runtime (57 minutes with, 31 without) and in the flow from song to song. On wax, The Ravenna Arsenal‘s I is a crisp execution of progressive heavy rock that leaves the listener wanting more. In its nine-track digital entirety, it’s more complex and working with a broader sonic range, but also less efficient in establishing its emotional and sonic course.

From there, if you hear the neo-stoner metal crush of “Ultra Heavy” and how well “The Water that Covers the Sky” beefs up its Rush influence en route to the album’s apex and decide you want to hear more from the band, well, the other tracks are right there waiting for you. Seems unlikely that a single LP was The Ravenna Arsenal‘s preferred method of releasing — production costs can be a killer — but if they’d presented I with all nine cuts, it’s entirely likely that a double 12″ would’ve had trouble building a flow, because basically you’d be changing a side or record after every second song. The compromise pays dividends on the I vinyl as it is. Side A gives you a sense of the dynamic in the lineup of Ken Royer, Aaron Shay, Mike Shea, and Bill Govan and a breadth that runs from post-Mastodon lumber to a more modern alt-rock vocal style, combining them to a chugging degree in the rolling groove of “Fire Moth.” An album highlight arrives at the start of side B with the 10-minute “The Desert Shows No Mercy,” which actually arrives third in the digital version but is more effectively placed fourth on the vinyl, letting the listener more directly focus on not only I‘s longest inclusion, but also its greatest sonic achievement and most engaging sprawl, growls and slow, sludgy crush giving way to post-rock psychedelics that in turn move fluidly through a proggy build as patient as it is hypnotic.

And granted, when they get heavy again, there’s no doubt what’s coming, but the destination satisfies as much as the journey. The awaited, albeit temporary, return of vocals marks arrival at I‘s summit, and gradually The Ravenna Arsenal push downward from it, noisy, feeding back, but clearly in the finishing throes, afterthought guitar reminding of some of the heft of what preceded and what closer “The Water that Covers the Sky” must then emerge from. Placed last on the digital version as on the vinyl — though there are five tracks between “The Desert Shows No Mercy” and it digitally — “The Water that Covers the Sky” is less interested in reviving the crushing tonality of the song before than broadening the emotional range, which ultimately serves not only I as it appears on record, but the other songs as well, giving them a wider context in which to fit among the five appearing on the platter. Its subdued course is deceptively quick at over seven minutes, and ultimately manifests as a different vision of the patience The Ravenna Arsenal display on “The Desert Shows No Mercy,” their ethic allowing them to take the time to make their point properly without overdoing it on the indulgent end.

On vinyl, the limits of the production come out somewhat. The band sounds full and clear and loud, but there’s a tinny flourish on the snare in “Fire Moth” that, while I’ll take it over whatever digital sample might have replaced it, cuts through the surrounding tones perhaps more than was intended in the mixing. Minor issue in the grand scheme of the album — and the album indeed is a grand scheme — and far more prevalent is the sense that The Ravenna Arsenal will take the lessons of crafting their first outing and be able to progress with their next. A band who starts with this kind of scope rarely has any interest in repeating themselves, so I’d expect a subsequent offering to come with a personality and context of its own whatever elements present here might remain and be refined, but I makes a resounding introduction and a record I have the feeling I’m going to be even gladder to have down the line.

The Ravenna Arsenal, I (2013)

The Ravenna Arsenal on Bandcamp

The Ravenna Arsenal on Thee Facebooks

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