Quarterly Review: Ocean Chief, Barnabus, Helen Money, Elder Druid, Mindcrawler, Temple of Void, Lunar Swamp, Huge Molasses Tank Explodes, Emile, Saturno Grooves

Posted in Reviews on March 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’m not saying I backloaded the Quarterly Review or anything — because I didn’t — but maybe subconsciously I wanted to throw in a few releases here I had a pretty good idea I was gonna dig beforehand. Pretty much all of them, as it turned out. Not a thing I regret happening, though, again, neither was it something I did purposefully. Anyone see A Serious Man? In this instance, I’m happy to “accept the mystery” and move on.

Before we dive into the last day, of course I want to say thank you for reading if you have been. If you’ve followed along all week or this is the only post you’ve seen or you’re just here because I tagged your band in the post on Thee Facebooks, whatever it is, it is appreciated. Thank you. Especially given the global pandemic, your time and attention is highly valued.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Ocean Chief, Den Tredje Dagen

ocean chief den tredje dagen

The first Ocean Chief record in six years is nothing if not weighted enough to make up for anything like lost time. Also the long-running Swedish outfit’s debut on Argonauta Records, Den Tredje Dagen on CD/DL runs five songs and 59 minutes, and though it’s not without a sense of melody either instrumentally or vocally — certainly its guitars have plenty enough to evoke a sense of mournfulness at least — its primary impact still stems from the sheer heft of its tonality, and its tracks are of the sort that a given reviewer might be tempted to call “slabs.” They land accordingly, the longest of them positioned as the centerpiece “Dömd” seething with slower-Celtic Frost anxiety and the utter nastiness of its intent spread across 15-plus minutes of let-me-just-go-ahead-and-crush-that-for-you where “that” is everything and “no” isn’t taken for an answer. There’s respite in closer “Den Sista Resan” and the CD-bonus “Dimension 5,” but even these maintain an atmospheric severity consistent with what precedes them. One way or another, it is all fucking destroyed.

Ocean Chief on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records store

 

Barnabus, Beginning to Unwind

barnabus beginning to unwind

Come ye historians and classic heavy rockers. Come, reap what Rise Above Relics has sown. Though it’s hard sometimes not to think of the Rise Above Records imprint as label-honcho Lee Dorrian (ex-Cathedral, current With the Dead) picking out highlights from his own record collection — which is the stuff of legend — neither is that in any way a problem. Barnabus, who hailed and apparently on occasion still hail from the West Midlands in the UK, issued the Beginning to Unwind in 1972 as part of an original run that ended the next year. So it goes. Past its 10-minute jammy opener/longest track (immediate points) “America,” the new issue of Beginning to Unwind includes the LP, demos, live tracks, and no doubt assorted other odds and ends as well from Barnabus‘ brief time together. Songs like “The War Drags On” and “Resolute” are the stuff of ’70s-riff daydreams, while “Don’t Cry for Me My Lady” digs into proto-prog without losing its psych-folk inflection. I’m told the CD comes with a 44-page booklet, which only furthers the true archival standard of the release.

Barnabus on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Relics store

 

Helen Money, Atomic

helen money atomic

To those for whom Helen Money is a familiar entity, the arrival of a new full-length release will no doubt only be greeted with joy. The ongoing project of experimental cellist Alison Chesley, though the work itself — issued through Thrill Jockey as a welcome follow-up to 2016’s Become Zero (review here) — is hardly joyful. Coping with the universality of grief and notions of grieving-together with family, Chesley brings forth minimalism and electronics-inclusive stylstic reach in kind across the pulsating “Nemesis,” the periodic distortion of her core instrument jarring when it hits. She takes on a harp for “Coppe” and the effect is cinematic in a way that seems to find answer on the later “One Year One Ring,” after which follows the has-drums “Marrow,” but wherever Chesley goes on Atomic‘s 47 minutes, the overlay of mourning is never far off.

Helen Money on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records store

 

Elder Druid, Golgotha

elder druid golgotha

Belfast dual-guitar sludge five-piece Elder Druid return with seven tracks/39 minutes of ready punishment on their second album, Golgotha, answering the anger of 2017’s Carmina Satanae with densely-packed tones and grooves topped with near-universal harsh vocals (closer “Archmage” is the exception). What they’re playing doesn’t require an overdose of invention, with their focus is so much on hammering their riffs home, and certainly the interwoven leads of the title-track present some vision of intricacy for those who might demand it while also being punched in the face, and the transitional “Sentinel,” which follows,” brings some more doomly vibes ahead of “Vincere Vel Mori,” which revives the nod, “Dreadnought” has keys as well as a drum solo, and the penultimate “Paegan Dawn of Anubis” brings in an arrangement of backing vocals, so neither are they void of variety. At the feedback-soaked end of “Archmage,” Golgotha comes across genuine in its aggression and more sure of their approach than they were even just a couple years ago.

Elder Druid on Thee Facebooks

Elder Druid on Bandcamp

 

Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter

mindcrawler lost orbiter

I know the whole world seems like it’s in chaos right now — mostly because it is — but go ahead and quote me on this: a band does not come along in 2020 and put out a record like Lost Orbiter and not get picked up by some label if they choose to be. Among 2020’s most promising debuts, it is progressive without pretense, tonally rich and melodically engaging, marked out by a poise of songcraft that speaks to forward potential whether it’s in the coursing leads of “Drake’s Equation” or the final slowdown/speedup of “Trappist-1” that smoothly shifts into the sample at the start of closer “Dead Space.” Mindcrawler‘s first album — self-recorded, no less — is modern cosmic-heavy brought to bear in a way that strikes such a balance between the grounded and the psychedelic that it should not be ignored, even in the massively crowded international underground from which they’re emerging. And the key point there is they are emerging, and that as thoughtfully composed as the six tracks/29 minutes of Lost Orbiter are, they only represent the beginning stages of what Mindcrawler might accomplish. If there is justice left, someone will release it on vinyl.

Mindcrawler on Thee Facebook

Mindcrawler on Bandcamp

 

Temple of Void, The World That Was

Temple of Void The World that Was

Michigan doom-death five-piece Temple of Void have pushed steadily toward the latter end of that equation over their now-three full-lengths, and though The World That Was (their second offering through Shadow Kingdom) is still prone to its slower tempos and is includes the classical-guitar interlude “A Single Obulus,” that stands right before “Leave the Light Behind,” which is most certainly death metal. Not arguing with it, as to do so would surely only invite punishment. The extremity only adds to the character of Temple of Void‘s work overall, and as “Casket of Shame” seems to be at war with itself, so too is it seemingly at war with whatever manner of flesh its working so diligently to separate from the bone. Across a still-brief 37 minutes, The World That Was — which caps with its most-excellently-decayed nine-minute title-track — harnesses and realizes this grim vision, and Temple of Void declare in no uncertain terms that no matter how they might choose to tip the scale on the balance of their sound, they are its master.

Temple of Void on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records store

 

Lunar Swamp, Shamanic Owl

Lunar Swamp Shamanic Owl

Lunar Swamp have spawned as a blusier-directed offshoot of Italian doomers Bretus of which vocalist Mark Wolf, guitarist/bassist Machen and drummer S.M. Ghoul are members, and sure enough, their debut single “Shamanic Owl,” fosters this approach. As the band aren’t strangers to each other, it isn’t such a surprise that they’d be able to decide on a sound and make it happen their first time out but the seven-minute roller — also the leadoff their first EP, UnderMudBlues, which is due on CD in June — also finds time to work in a nod to the central riff of Sleep‘s “Dragonaut” along with its pointed worship of Black Sabbath, so neither do they seems strictly adherent to a blues foundation, despite the slide guitar that works its way in at the finish. How the rest of the EP might play out need not be a mystery — it’s out digitally now — but as far as an introduction goes, “Shamanic Owl” will find welcome among those seeking comfort in the genre-familiar.

Lunar Swamp on Thee Facebooks

Lunar Swamp on Bandcamp

 

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes, II

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes II

The nine-track/42-minute second LP, II, from Milano post-this-or-that five-piece Huge Molasses Tank Explodes certainly finds the band earning bonus points based on their moniker alone, but more than that, it is a work of reach and intricacy alike, finding the moment where New Wave emerged from out of krautrock’s fascination with synthesizer music and bring to that a psychedelic shimmer that is too vintage-feeling to be anything other than modern. It is laid back enough in its overarching affect that “The Run” feels dreamy, most especially in its guitar lines, but never is it entirely at rest, and both the centerpiece “No One” and the later “So Much to Lose” help continue the momentum that “The Run” manages so fluidly to build in a manner one might liken to space rock were the implication of strict adherence to stylistic guidelines so implicit in that categorization. They present this nuance with a natural-seeming sense of craft and in “High or Low,” a fuzzy tone that feels like only a welcome windfall. Those who can get their head around it should seek to do so, and kudos to Huge Molasses Tank Explodes for being more than just a clever name.

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes on Thee Facebooks

Retro Vox Records on Bandcamp

 

Emile, The Black Spider/Det Kollektive Selvmord

Emile The Black Spider Det Kollektive Selvmord

Set to release through Heavy Psych Sounds on the same day as the new album from his main outfit The Sonic Dawn, The Black Spider/Det Kollective Selvmord is the debut solo album from Copenhagen-based singer-songwriter and guitarist Emile Bureau, who has adopted his first name as his moniker of choice. Fair enough for the naturalism and intended intimacy of the 11-track/39-minute outing, which indeed splits itself between portions in English and in Danish, sounding likewise able to bring together sweet melodies in both. Edges of distortion in “Bundlos” and some percussion in the second half’s title-track give a semblance of arrangement to the LP, but at the core is Emile himself, his vocals and guitar, and that’s clearly the purpose behind it. Where The Sonic Dawn often boast a celebratory feel, The Black Spider/Det Kollective Selvmord is almost entirely subdued, and its expressive sensibility comes through regardless of language.

Emile on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds store

 

Saturno Grooves, Cosmic Echoes

saturno grooves cosmic echoes

Sonic restlessness! “Fire Dome” begins with a riffy rush, “Forever Zero” vibes out on low end and classic swing, the title-track feels like an Endless Boogie jam got lost in the solar system, “Celestial Tunnel” is all-thrust until it isn’t at all, “Blind Faith” is an acoustic interlude, and “Dark Matter” is a punk song. Because god damn, of course it is. It is little short of a miracle Saturno Grooves make their second album, Cosmic Echoes as remarkably cohesive as it is, yet through it all they hold fast to class and purpose alike, and from its spacious outset to its bursting finish, there isn’t a minute of Cosmic Echoes that feels like happenstance, even though they’re obviously following one impulse after the next in terms of style. Heavy (mostly) instrumentalism that works actively not to be contained. Out among the echoes, Saturno Grooves might just be finding their own wavelength.

Saturno Groove on Thee Facebooks

LSDR Records store

 

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Review & Full Album Stream: Outsideinside, Outsideinside II

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 4th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

outsideinside ii

[Outsideinside’s II is out March 6 on Rock Freaks Records. Click play above to stream the album in full.]

Since they made their debut in 2017 with the somewhat undervalued Sniff a Hot Rock (review here), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, classic-style heavy rockers Outsideinside — who take their name from Blue Cheer‘s 1968 sophomore album — have toured Europe and signed to the Freak Valley-affiliated Rock Freaks Records as well as added a fourth member to the band in James Hart, who brings organ/keys and guitar to the proto-heavy style proffered by the returning trio of drummer Panfilo Dicenzo, bassist Jim Wilson and vocalist/guitarist Dave Wheeler. Accordingly, their own sophomore album, Outsideinside II, is a somewhat richer affair than its predecessor, but its root mission is nonetheless consistent with its predecessor in not only paying homage to the heroes of two generations prior — the names are myriad, but the band cites FreeHendrixSpooky Tooth and Funkadelic, among others — but in giving new life to the sound and style those bands proffered. Thus, songs like side B’s “Ancient Faces” and the earlier swaggering “Fine Line” are more vintage in construction and tone than actual production, which remains clear modern, if organic and live sounding, finding a balance throughout its unassuming 40 minutes that is neither pretentious nor overblown in either direction.

It’s a line Wheeler and Wilson were able to tread in their previous outfit, Carousel, as well, but as Hart finds his place in the mix by Nate Campisi, who also recorded at Mr. Smalls Studio, here alongside the other three players, be it in the brash and speedy “In Your Mind” or the near-10-minute “Maggot Brain”-plus-vocals-esque finale “Eventide,” Outsideinside also seem to come into their own, building on the accomplishments in songcraft and overarching flow of their first LP — learning those lessons well and integrating them into what they do — while exploring new challenges and methods with a rightly won confidence. Thus it is a song like the presumed side A capper “I Ain’t Waitin'” is able to place a multifaceted hook in a verse position and shift fluidly into a thrilling pair of organ and guitar solos ahead of its last fadeout — what might be called a “duel” if the two elements weren’t so clearly working as part of the same team and toward the same ends.

While Hart makes key contributions throughout Outsideinside II as much figuratively as literally, one would be remiss not to point out the presence Wheeler brings to his performance throughout this material. As he leads the way through the Humble Pie-style mid-tempo boogie opener “My Mother’s Son” — those waiting to spot the record’s first use of cowbell will not have to wait long — he taps into a particular kind of soulfulness that few modern singers can effectively portray. Dru Brinkerhoff of Stone Axe could do it, but one is hard pressed to come up with other names besides Wheeler. It’s a style that is able to conjure booze-addled sway and follow-the-riff party vibes and emotional sincerity in kind, and amid all the swing and shove of the penultimate “Top 10” or “In Your Mind,” it shouldn’t be forgotten that after “My Mother’s Son” at the album’s outset comes “Sisterman,” wherein the lyrics position the idea of a sister as one who helps shoulder burdens and provides support apart even from what a brother or a parent might.

outsideinside (Photo by Susan Pedrazzi)

The first two tracks, then — the most immediate impressions Outsideinside II makes — are about notions of family. The hook of “My Mother’s Son” is likewise heartfelt: “Born and raised my mother’s son/Mama prays/Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” It’s not only a welcoming groove to start the LP and warm in tone and general feel in a way that represents well what follows, but a sweet sentiment that “Sisterman” complements even as it brings on more of a strut and stomp in terms of its rhythm. That too represents a defining aspect of the album as an entirety — not just how one track shifts into the next, but how the songs play off each other as a result of that. The sleek motion of “Fine Line” picks up from the opening duo and smoothly leads the listener into the next section of the LP, with “In Your Mind” and “I Ain’t Waitin'” right behind to bolster and further flesh out side A.

And after that organ/guitar fade at the end of “I Ain’t Waitin’,” it’s also worth noting that “Ancient Faces” answers right back at the (again, presumed) outset of side B with a likeminded procession in its introduction, and though the personality of the song is more mellow and built around its changes in volume between the verse and chorus and a kind of noodling lead in its second half as it builds to a more patient but still effective payoff, ahead of the last shakedown in “Top 10,” that momentum brings them into the increased breadth of “Eventide,” wherein Hart arguably makes his presence most felt in filling out what would otherwise be empty spaces in the ensuing jam. It is a moodier vibe that persists in the closer, and purposefully so, but Wheeler‘s vocals are able to fit the shifts that ensue, and the subtle wash of Dicenzo‘s cymbals behind and the foundation of Wilson‘s low end prove no less crucial in the quiet places than in any of the album’s prior boogie.

Thus it is that Outsideinside become a genuine four-piece on their second offering, and the change in dynamic from a classic power trio is evident despite the fact that the natural feel remains paramount. “Eventide” breaks at its halfway point and goes to ground to begin the final instrumental build that will close, and it is an especially engaging moment of the band functioning at all levels to bring together old and new strengths. In more than just the actual makeup of the group, Outsideinside II is an important forward step in aesthetic as well as songwriting, and while it never veers — somewhat refreshingly — into territory one might call progressive, the evolution on display from Outsideinside could hardly be called anything else. As yet, they are a better band than people know.

Outsideinside on Thee Facebooks

Outsideinside on Spotify

Rock Freaks Records on Thee Facebooks

Rock Freaks website

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Holy Grove Touring to Psycho Smokeout with Andy Patterson (ex-SubRosa) on Drums

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 21st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

holy grove

Okay. Holy Grove doing a couple shows en route from their native Portland to play Psycho Smokeout in Los Angeles on April 18 is cool. It’s not the only US touring they’re going to do this year, reportedly, which is certainly good news as far as I’m concerned. But I feel like the real news here is that Andy Patterson will be drumming for them on the run. Patterson, formerly of Iota and SubRosa in Salt Lake City (as well as numerous others) and currently also in New York-based Insect Ark and SLC’s Døne, as well as SubRosa offshoot The Otolith — all in addition to recording bands — may or may not be permanent in the drummer role, I don’t really know, but what in life is permanent anyway? If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to watch him play, you know he brings a significant presence and creative pulse to the drums and the fact that that’s going to be a part of Holy Grove only makes me want to FINALLY see them live all the more.

I won’t on this brief West Coast run, which is a bummer as ever, but have my fingers crossed the opportunity will come sometime before the end of this year, one way or the other.

Either way, these shows, somewhat unsurprisingly, look killer:

holy grove tour

Holy Grove is hittin’ the ol’ dusty trail this April to support our invitation to Psycho Smokeout 2020. We’re also welcoming Andy Patterson to fold, who will be holding it down for us behind the kit. He’s best known as the drummer of the now defunct Subrosa of SLC, and more recently his work with Insect Ark of NYC.

Thursday 4/16 Eugene, OR at Old Nicks Pub w/ Gaythiest and Red Cloud
Friday 4/17 Oakland, CA at Jack London Elbo Room w/ Brume and Squalus
Saturday 4/18 Los Angeles, CA at Catch One for Psycho Smokeout w/Acid King, The Obsessed, Cough etc.

Artwork for the tour flyer was done by Dylan Garrett Smith (@dylanxvx on IG), lettering by Josh Yelle (@pencilmancer on IG) and layout by Eric Powers (@_punt_ on IG).

Holy Grove is:
Andrea Vidal – Vocals
Trent Jacobs – Guitar
Gregg Emley – Bass
Andy Patterson – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/holygroveband/
http://holygrove.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/

Holy Grove, II (2018)

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Pale Mare Premiere “Voidgazer” from II EP out April 3; Announce Live Dates

Posted in audiObelisk on February 11th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

pale mare

The first time you put on the new single from Pale Mare, it becomes obvious why they chose to name it as they did. Not much else to call such a thing other than “Voidgazer,” which is the title they gave it. The track is shorter by two full minutes than the next shortest of its three compatriot inclusions on the Toronto-based trio’s new EP, Pale Mare II — out April 3 through Seeing Red Records (world) and Ancient Temple Recordings (Canada) — and after the initial charge of “House of War” and the gallop-over-your-head groove in “Zealot,” the intensity and focus on impact feels nothing if not earned. Intensity is the fuel that Pale Mare seem to be huffing, but their pummel isn’t just down to tonal weight and speedy riffs, though as “Zealot” winds its way through its apex, they offer plenty of both. Instead, across the 27-minute EP, Pale Mare cast forth a pummel that harnesses High on Fire-style drive without aping Matt Pike‘s style of guitar playing and calls to mind earlier-Neurosis‘ intertwining vocal patterns without being really at all post-metallic. And not for nothing, but I was listening to a track off the new Sepultura record the other day on a whim and “House of War” kind of feels like there’s a little bit of that going on as well.

But this metallic amalgam has been duly internalized by the trio of guitarist/vocalist Eytan Gordon, drummer/vocalist Kevin Richards and bassist James Tulloch to a degree of surprising individualism. The elements are familiar pale mare iienough, as one might tell from above, and “Voidgazer” has its spoken sample and nine-minute finale “Remains” has its EP-unto-itself vibe and maybe-you’re-imagining-it wisp of a keyboard line worked into its fading guitar finish, but amid the immediate onslaught and the subsequent unfolding across such a compact offering, Pale Mare find footing on ground that’s their own as much as it’s grown up from underlying roots of heavy metal and noise. It is, in its execution, neither and both of these things, and it’s sludge and not sludge, but most importantly, it’s performed with the self-assurance of a band who know that what they’re doing is what they want to be doing. I wouldn’t call it poised, if only because it’s so brash in style that the word doesn’t seem to fit, but in terms of aesthetic, there doesn’t seem to be any doubt on the part of Pale Mare that they’re able to make their songs go where they want, and thus, able to make their audience go where they want. A flash of melody in the guitar during the second half of “House of War” — shh, don’t tell anyone — speaks of more complexity to come, but Pale Mare II already brings plenty to bear, without compromising aggression to do it.

Further, the tendency is to think of a band’s early EPs as preludes to full-length albums — because usually they are — but the form suits Pale Mare remarkably well and gives Pale Mare II an almost punkish edge. I’m not sure they’d be well served by having a bunch of filler or trying to play to a sense of breadth in the way an LP might require, since part of what makes these songs work so well is the upfront manner in which they’re presented, but of course there’s no real way to tell what the three-piece would do with a longer-form record until they do it. Presumably they’ll get there in time, and if they handle that task with the same formidable sense of presence they bring to Pale Mare II, they’ll be fine either way. Anything in their destructive path, however, might not be able to say the same.

Pale Mare have newly announced a stretch of live dates alongside Mother Iron Horse. You’ll find those below, following the premiere of “Voidgazer,” which it’s my pleasure to host ahead of the EP’s April 3 arrival.

Please enjoy:

Pale Mare was born out of the desire to play music that is loud, aggressive and full of thick groovy riffs. They released their self-titled EP in November of 2017 through Medusa Crush Records which was met with high praise.

Having provided Canadian support for touring artists such as Eyehategod, Corrosion of Conformity, Windhand, Satan’s Satyrs, Mutoid Man, Weedeater, Serial Hawk, Black Wizard, King Buffalo, Set and Setting and even Perturbator – Pale Mare have established themselves in their home town of Toronto as a massive force to be reckoned with. Their sound has been likened by some in the same sonic territory as early Baroness, High On Fire, Mastodon and Black Tusk; full of fire, attitude, brimstone, tone and soul – and with a new EP (mixed by Andrew Schnieder, Mastered by Brad Boatwright) ready to be unleashed, Pale Mare prepare to take their sound to the masses full guns ablaze.

Recorded at Locust Ridge studios outside of Kitchener, Ontario.

Mixed by Andrew Schnieder (Converge, Mutoid Man, Ken Mode, Old Man Gloom)
(http://andrewschneideraudio.com/what)

Mastered by Brad Boatright (Sleep, COC, Yob)
(http://audiosiege.com/About/engineers.html)

Inspired by the track “Voidgazer” the EP is completed with jawdroppingly dark and twisted artwork by Toronto based tattoo artist Arthur Mills.

Tracklisting:
1. House of War
2. Zealot
3. Voidgazer
4. Remains

PALE MARE live (April 10-16 w/ Mother Iron Horse):
Friday April 10th: Brooklyn, NY: Gold Sounds
Saturday April 11th: Pittsburgh, PA: Gooski’s:
Monday April 13th: Wichita, KS: TBA
Tuesday April 14th: Denver, CO: Seventh Circle
Wednesday April 15th: Colorado Springs, CO: The Nickle
Thursday April 16th: Las Vegas, NV: TBA
Friday April 17th: Phoenix, AZ: YUCCA TAPROOM
Saturday April 18th: Psycho Smokeout 2020: Catch one: Los Angeles, CA
Sunday April 19th: San Fran, CA: The Knockout
Monday April 20th: Portland, IR: High Water Mark
Tuesday April 21st: SEATTLE, WA: The Funhouse

Pale Mare is:
Eytan Gordon – guitar/vocals
James Tulloch – bass
Kevin Richards – drums/vocals

Pale Mare on Thee Facebooks

Pale Mare on Bandcamp

Seeing Red Records on Thee Facebooks

Seeing Red Records on Instagram

Seeing Red Records on Bandcamp

Seeing Red Records website

Ancient Temple Recordings on Thee Facebooks

Ancient Temple Recordings BigCartel store

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Death the Leveller to Release Debut Album II on Cruz Del Sur

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I was fortunate enough to be in Dublin, Ireland, in 2017 for the Emerald Haze festival (review here), which was a goddamn blast, and at which Death the Leveller featured. They were awesome, to the point that I made a note to myself in the review to go back later and check out their EP, I, as I had not been exposed to the band before that. As Cruz Del Sur has been on a bit of a tear in picking up quality bands of late — Ogre and Orodruin both had killer albums out this year, and Tower were newly picked up among others in newer movement of traditionalist metal and doom — but Death the Leveller aren’t so easily categorized, and that’s definitely part of the appeal.

Their debut full-length, counterintuitively titled II, will be out in March 2020, and if you’re not stoked on that news, really, take a minute to listen to the EP and give it a fair shake. I definitely got the impression live that they were onto something — and apparently the label did as well — but I think that comes through in the recording as well.

Enjoy:

Death the Leveller live at Emerald Haze 2017 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Irish Doomsters DEATH THE LEVELLER Sign With Cruz Del Sur Music

Cruz Del Sur Music is proud to announce the signing of Dublin, Ireland doom metallers Death The Leveller. The label will release the band’s first proper full-length album, “II”, in March 2020.

Originally formed in 2016 out of the ashes of long-running Irish metal ensemble MAEL MÓRDHA, DEATH THE LEVELLER released their debut “I” EP in 2017 to critical acclaim and positive fan reaction. The band’s sound — a melancholic, but strikingly epic take on doom metal — is the result of its four members taking their combined experience and working to create something entirely distinct.

“I think the big takeaway for us was the whole approach to DEATH THE LEVELLER had to be honest, about us, our lives, our losses and our passions,” says drummer Shane Achill. “Sure, we are all influenced by one thing or another, but I can’t say the bands we were in in the past influenced us in any big meaningful way. I know we are certainly influenced by the mistakes we made in the past and how not to recreate those mistakes in DEATH THE LEVELLER.”

DEATH THE LEVELLER (who are rounded out by vocalist Denis Dowling, guitarist Ger Clince and bassist Dave Murphy) fell onto Cruz Del Sur’s radar by way of fellow Irish metallers (and Cruz Del Sur act) Darkest Era. Cruz Del Sur label head Enrico Leccese was instantly a fan of “I” and started up a conversation with the band, with the two parties eventually putting pen to paper in 2019.

“The great thing about Cruz is the quality of bands writing quality music being released by a guy who is a fan of the bands and music he releases,” notes Cahill. “There are not many out there like Enrico at the moment and it was very refreshing for us to find a home for our music that cuts out all the crap that takes away from creating and writing music. Enrico is not looking for the next trend or fashion statement, which is good for us, right? Shortly after that, we demoed three tracks and we finally met at Doom Over Vienna where our relationship was cemented and Enrico got to see us live for the first time. Suddenly it looked like we had a label and that ‘II’ was starting to become a reality.”

The band is currently holed up at Trackmix Recording Studio in Dublin with engineer Michael Richards for the recording of “II”. According to Cahill, the album will comprise of four songs at 42 minutes that are more “introspective” and “reaches more emotional depths than ‘I’.”

“We’re still exploring the human relationship with death and concepts of mortality, but whereas the first release approached the idea of legacy after death, this one goes on a more soul-searching journey to some darker personal places of loss but ultimately also has its uplifting moments,” he says. “Sound-wise, this one has a more laid-back feel in places, giving the general tone of the album more space to breathe and a much more natural sound to come through. On saying that, it also has some of the heaviest sections we’ve done so far. For us, writing each song is a journey, and as we write this, we’re in the studio putting the final pieces of the jigsaw together and the landscape forms in front of us.”

The remainder of 2019 will find DEATH THE LEVELLER putting the finishing touches on “II” while preparing for a run of dates in Europe and Ireland alongside new labelmates, Argus. The band will also be appearing at the bi-annual Redemption Festival in Dublin, as well as Little Devil Doom Days in Holland.

“The main focus for 2020 is to get out there and play to as many people as possible,” wraps Cahill. “These songs mean the world to us. It was a fairly personal and at times, a very emotional journey, but now it’s time to have some fun and bring all of that to the stage and let it rip.”

https://www.facebook.com/deaththelevellerdoom/
https://deaththeleveller.bandcamp.com/
cruzdelsurmusic.com
facebook.com/cruzdelsurmusic
cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com

Death the Leveller, I (2017)

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Holy Grove Present Road Songs Playlist; Tour Starts Aug. 28; Benefit Live Album out Now

Posted in audiObelisk on August 7th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

holy grove

So, in basically the last week-plus, Portland, Oregon’s Holy Grove have announced their latest string of West Coast tour dates and released a live album captured at this year’s Ceremony of Sludge to benefit a three-year-old with leukemia. Get that here at name-your-price and pay handsomely for it. Here are the tour dates:

Holy Grove on tour:
8/28 – Tacoma, WA @ Spanish Ballroom
8/29 – Bellingham, WA @ The Shakedown
8/30 – Vancouver, BC @ SBC
8/31 – Seattle, WA @ Substation
9/1 – Boise, ID @ The Shredder
9/2 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
9/3 – Denver, CO @ Tooey’s Off Colfax
9/4 – Albuquerque, NM @ The Launchpad
9/5 – Tempe, AZ @ Yucca Taproom
9/6 – Los Angeles, CA – 5 Star Bar
9/7 – Oakland, CA – Elbo Room Jack London
9/8 – Cupertino, CA – X Bar
9/9 – Sacramento, CA – Blue Lamp

I’ve still never had the good fortune to see Holy Grove live, and especially after the release of Holy Grove II (review here) last November — the four-piece’s debut on Ripple Music that followed their 2016 self-titled debut (review here) on Heavy Psych Sounds — I feel like I’m genuinely missing out. Sadly, I won’t be anywhere they’re going on this tour — always wanted to hit Vancouver, and Albuquerque seemed like a cool town when I was there — but a bit of insight into what the touring experience is like for Holy Grove is most certainly welcome.

So, here are some road songs. You know, what they play when they’re in the van going from one show to another on those long drives where inside-jokes are made and the bonds between bandmates are formed. Also, you should know that when I was typing that last sentence just now, I first wrote “bongs” instead of “bonds,” so take whatever you will from that. Either way, those times can be drags or they can be great, but they’re an essential part of the touring experience.

As Holy Grove prepare to head out again, they were kind enough to put together a selection of some of their favorite tunes to take with them, and bassist Gregg Emley — joined in the band by vocalist Andrea Vidal, guitarist Trent Jacobs and drummer Eben Travis — also gives some background on their choices.

Please enjoy:

holy grove tour dates

One of the best things about playing in a band is going on tour. Seeing new places and playing your music for new people is always exciting. One of the best things about going on tour for me is spending time with your band mates in the van. This is where all sorts of band bonding occurs. Inside jokes are formed, laughs are had, stories are told. It’s truly the best. Something else I love about touring is getting to spend time on those long drives listening to tunes and turning your band mates on to something they may not have heard before.

Here’s a playlist of some songs we like, and we encourage you to crank ’em on your next road trip.

Popul Vuh – Kleiner Krieger: Sublime little instrumental from my favorite PV record to start things off. Sounds like the beginning of a journey to me.

Led Zeppelin – Achilles Last Stand: Why screw around? Perhaps the most epic band’s most epic song.

BÖC – Joan Crawford: Apparently, she’s risen from the grave. The hook in this one is huge and fun to sing along with in a van full of buds late at night.

ZZ Top – Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings: My favorite song from one of the best road trip bands ever. That riff, that feel. No one does it better.

Roky Erikson – Two-Headed Dog: This is a recent discovery for me, courtesy of Trent (our guitar player). He played the whole record on our last tour and I was hooked. I remember having headphones on listening to a podcast or something, hearing this and immediately taking my headphones off, asking who it was and listening to the record. It’s been in my rotation since.

Diagonal – Semi-Permeble Menbrain: Diagonal is (maybe was?) a great neo-prog band from the UK with shades of Camel, King Crimson, and UK. They never really did much in the US, but both records rule all the way through.

Opeth – Hjartat Vet Vad Handen Gor: As a prog guy, I wasn’t THAT upset when Opeth ditched the death growls and went full on prog. There has definitely been a bit of stumbling as they perfect their new thing, but if this song is any indication, they may have done it with this upcoming new record.

Cult of Luna – Finland: This band rules. They seem to get overlooked when people talk about the Neurosis/ISIS school of heavy rock, but I think they’re among the best. All of their records evoke a feel and place for me, and as this one comes from Somewhere Along the Highway, it makes sense to me that it would evoke staring out a van window watching the miles roll by. Oh, and those riffs.

Melvins – A History of Bad Men: the Big Biz version of the Melvins lineup is/was unstoppable. One of the greatest live shows I’ve ever witnessed. This is my favorite song from that era of the band. We opened for them two nights in a row in May, and they crushed which was to be expected, but still great to see from a band entering its 4th decade still destroying.

Iron Maiden – The Wicker Man: I remember when this record came out, and really steeling myself to be disappointed. It just didn’t seem possible that they would be able to release something as good as any of the “classic”-era records after Bruce being gone for a few years and the super bummer “Hey…that’s not Bruce!” years. I was wrong. This song was all I needed to hear to know I had nothing to worry about. If your fist isn’t in the air by the time the chorus hits, check yer pulse.

Metallica – Escape: If there is such a thing as an “underrated” Metallica song from the first four, this would have to be it.

Judas Priest – Hell Patrol: Just another great fist pumper about some sort of evil force ripping down the highway (I think?).

High on Fire – Death is This Communion: This band means a whole lot to all of us. Growing up in San Jose, I was lucky enough to be turned on to Sleep around the time Holy Mountain came out. They played the sound I heard in my head. Black Sabbath was my favorite band, and they were doing it. It was a revelation. When Sleep broke up, I was extremely bummed, especially because I had heard about this one epic song they were working on at the time, that I figured would never see the light of day. When I heard that Matt from Sleep had a new band with George from San Jose legends Dear Deceased on bass, my friends and I scoured the Bay Area weekly papers waiting for their name to show up. I must have seen them five or six times before the 12th Records demo came out. All of this to say, this band is in my blood. Getting to open for them in May was a dream come true for all of us.

Crowbar – The Lasting Dose: Riffs. Big giant crushing riffs. ‘Nuff said.

Tomb Mold – Planetary Clairvoyance: Modern Death Metal sounding like old Death Metal is pretty hip right now, and I’m 100% OK with that. These dudes do it right, caveman riffs and a VHS horror atmosphere. Last year’s Manor of Infinite Forms was my favorite DM release of the year, but I think I’m digging this new one even more. This is the title track.

Woe – Carried By Waves To Remorseless Shores Of The Truth: I love how this band combines elements of classic heavy metal, like guitar harmony parts, slower chugging riffs and anthemic choruses into this big swirling aggressive black metal stew.

Ludicra – Truth Won’t Set You Free: My favorite song from Ludicra’s final record, The Tenant. I love how this band incorporates so many different elements to create something distinctly Ludicra. My favorite USBM band ever and they’re sorely missed.

Krallice – Monolith of Possession: Have we been driving for two hours or has it been 19 minutes? Who knows, pretty sure we opened a portal to another dimension. Enjoy.

Torche – Tarpit Carnivore: Monumentally heavy.

John Carpenter – Escape from New York (main title): We’re all huge JC fans. This sounds like the end of a journey to me. Roll credits.

Clarence Carter – Patches: Not sure how this ended up as our band inside joke, but it did. If you’re not smiling by the time the chorus hits, well then I feel bad for you, son.

Holy Grove on Thee Facebooks

Holy Grove on Instagram

Holy Grove on Twitter

Holy Grove on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

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Wolf Blood, II: Beyond Cultistry

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

wolf blood ii

It’s a markedly outside-genre approach that Wolf Blood seem to be taking on their second album, II, and the only question one is left with when they’re done is who’s going to sign them. Because especially if they tour at all, it’s going to need to be someone, as their work is simply too engaging in its individualism to leave hanging out there on Bandcamp with the limited self-pressings it’s gotten. At times reminiscent of Kylesa, as in the dual vocals between guitarist Mindy Johnson and bassist Adam Rucinski — drummer Jake Paulsrud also contributes — during “Kumate,” their winding moments are able to conjure modern prog or even out to the straight-ahead drive of black metal as they will, with Johnson and fellow guitarist Mike Messina leading arrangements like that of the penultimate “Drowning Man,” which doesn’t offer much beyond the assumed guitar, bass, drums and vocals and yet manifests a resonant sense of atmosphere thanks to the patience of the delivery and the richness of the tones involved, the echoes seeming to rise from the guitar and bass lines like so much distant smoke.

With a pervasive sense of melody to coincide, Wolf Blood emerge five years after their self-titled debut (review here) with a six-song/41-minute LP that refuses to do anything other than stand on its own. The Duluth, Minnesota-based four-piece have clearly worked to discover who they are as players in the intervening half-decade from one release to the next — they also brought in Rucinski as a new member — but the manner in which they succeed across II‘s varied-of-intent-but-united-in-mood span is thrilling and immersive at the same time, even unto the post-Sleep march of 11-minute closer “Tsunami,” the louder parts of which live up to the name in tidal undulations of riffing ahead of quieter verses, creating a push-pull tension that, as one would hope, pays off in a fervent thrust to cap the album as a whole. That is just one more example of the ways in which Wolf Blood‘s II feels strikingly complete, as that last push carries some reminder of the outset of “Lesion” back at the start of the record.

Indeed, those opening seconds that introduce the opener and return as a bridge between verses at the beginning of II are a crucial nod to extreme metal that add an element of danger to everything Wolf Blood do subsequent to them, an undercurrent of volatility belying even the calmest of stretches. With Paulsrud blasting away on drums, “Lesion” revels in that elemental extremity, and that only makes the swinging groove of “Slaughterhouse” all the more satisfying as the vocal harmonies arrive in thoughtfully composed fashion over a push that’s more subtle than that of the opener but finds Rucinski — or Paulsrud — stepping forward in order to take a soaring chorus in an effective changeup of their approach to that point. A guitar solo leads to full-on instrumental charge as “Slaughterhouse” pushes into the aforementioned “Kumate” (a misspelled Bloodsport reference, perhaps?), the finisher for side A and the longest and most outwardly dynamic song yet, though frankly, neither of the preceding tracks wanted anything for dynamic.

WOLF BLOOD

The fluidity with which Wolf Blood are able to shift from churn to charge isn’t to be understated, and it’s almost before the listener realizes what has happened that a given song has taken off in one direction or the other. Like the blastbeats in “Lesion” the effect this has is to make the album overall less predictable and more exciting, and as the four-piece leave a trail of memorable parts behind, whether that’s the chorus in “Kumate” or the more rocking two-minute “Opium” that follows at the start of side B, topped with growls amid a cacophonous assault that would be post-metal were it not essentially a transmogrified desert rock riff put to inventive use. It’s not that Wolf Blood are doing anything at a given moment that’s willfully weird or over the top in terms of making a show of their “unique” aspects — there’s no check-us-out-we’re-weird-and-hyper-performative happening here — but the way they combine stylistic pieces to create the ambience of “Drowning Man” or “Slaughterhouse,” or even “Lesion” and “Opium,” is unquestionably their own.

And the thoughtfulness of their composition extends to the arrangement of the album itself, with each side running from its shortest track to its longest, though admittedly this is more noticeable on side B, where the difference is more stark. That Wolf Blood should so thrive in the longer “Drowning Man” and “Tsunami” isn’t necessarily a surprise, but the manner in which Wolf Blood execute the end of II reinforces the engagement that’s been happening all along and affirms their clearheadedness about who they are and what they want to be doing, be that the interplay of screams and clean vocals in “Drowning Man” or the already-noted rousing all-go at the end of “Tsunami.” With these moments and a full record’s worth of others, Wolf Blood seem to be skirting the line of sonic progressivism, not really willing to be so indulgent as to fully dive in, but neither content to simplify their impulses.

It’s hard to tell in II if this is a balance finding its way or the output of competing ideologies of craft, one of which will win out over the other in the longer term. And what does the longer term mean when a band takes five years between their first and second LPs, anyway? I said at the outset that some label or other needs to get behind II for wider release, and I genuinely believe it, but I don’t think Wolf Blood are finished growing, either. This, ultimately, makes them all the more vital as they continue to develop their approach, but the big question that needs to be answered is where they’ll take that from here and what their intentions are for all the potential shown in these tracks, because as much as they represent a realization of the band’s collective aesthetic ideals, they seem to speak to a forward-thinking mentality that will require its own manifestation. They have work to do, but that shouldn’t take away from the important steps made throughout II, which no matter what Wolf Blood come up with next will continue to stand as the moment they first hinted how much they truly had to offer.

Wolf Blood, II (2019)

Wolf Blood on Bandcamp

Wolf Blood on Thee Facebooks

Wolf Blood on Instagram

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IAH Announce First-Ever European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

iah

Argentinian progressive heavy rock three-piece IAH are about to take their doings to-date to a new level by embarking on their first-ever stint in Europe. That’s enough of a landmark for, you know, a European band, let alone one coming from South America, but IAH‘s two outings thus far have both been well received, with the second of them, II (review here), particularly so. The band will begin their run at Lake of Fire in Austria, which if you’ve ever seen photos from that festival — the stage is actually in a lake, of water, but still; one imagines that makes the photo pit somewhat untenable — you’ll know is quite a way to start any tour, and they’ll continue through with dates in France, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Italy and Germany, playing other fests along the way and club shows as well as they make their initial incursion to Europe. Hard to imagine that, barring some outside circumstance, they won’t be back.

Maybe come festival season next year?

Either way, this is a special moment for the band, and safe travels and all of that kind of thing.

Here are the dates, as posted on thee social medias and run through a translation matrix:

iah euro tour

Less than a month away of fulfilling a lifelong dream… Setting foot on Europe… Sharing the stage with great bands… See you soon!

AUG 03 – AT – Lake on Fire – Waldhausen
AUG 06 – FR – Supersonic – Paris
AUG 08 – FR – L’elastic Bar – Strasbourg
AUG 09 – CZ – Živá ulice – Plzen
AUG 11 – CH – PALP festival – Val de Bagnes
AUG 15 – IT – Frantic Fest / Francavilla al Mare – Abruzzo
AUG 17 – GER – TIEF – Berlin
AUG 18 – GER – MS Stubnitz – Hamburg

Gracias Rob Zim, HEADZ UP, Sophie Steff, No Vulture, Rob Fuentes, Audrey Uderya Camino, FURIO Camino, Flo Kaleidyscope, Kozmik Artifactz, Below the Sun, and to all those who helped us in this dream!

Poster by Jvan Machado

IAH is:
Juan Pablo Lucco Borlera: Bass
Mauricio Condon: Guitar
José Landín: Drums

https://www.facebook.com/IAHBanda/
https://iahbanda.bandcamp.com/

IAH, II (2018)

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