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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Holy Grove Announce West Coast Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

holy grove

Portland, Oregon, four-piece Holy Grove will head out this summer on a West Coast run supporting their second album and first for Ripple Music, II (review here), a record that for its landmark rocking ways has earned the nickname “The Big Dos.” Actually, I just made that up, but even so, the album was fantastic when it was released last year and it remains very much that way now. And hey, it’s super-duper that Holy Grove are getting out again to bring the rock to the people like some kind of collective of riffy tentpreachers. Really, my only gripe here is the word “West” when describing the coastal location of the tour. Surely we could change that to “East” and be fine, right? Come on, guys. It’s just the other side of the continent. You can make that happen at the drop of a hat, for sure. That seems like a totally reasonable expectation to me.

But, uh, are you holy groved? Have you ever been Holy Groved? Well… I haven’t, but I hear good things.

Speaking of good things, stream the album below and just make your day a little bit better, because that’s what it’s all about here. Love and volume.

Dates via social media:

holy grove tour

We’re hitting the road this summer. Hope to see you there.

More details soon.

Art by Alex Matus.

Holy Grove live:
08/28 Tacoma WA Spanish Ballroom
08/29 Bellingham WA The Shakedown
08/30 Vancouver BC SBC
08/31 Seattle WA Substation
09/01 Boise ID The Shredder
09/02 Salt Lake City UT Kilby Court
09/03 Denver CO Tooey’s Off Colfax
09/04 Albuquerque NM Launchpad
09/05 Tempe AZ Yucca Tap Room
09/06 Los Angeles CA 5 Star Bar
09/07 Oakland CA Elbo Room Jack London
09/08 Cupertino CA X Bar
09/09 Sacramento CA Blue Lamp
09/21 Portland OR Dante’s

Holy Grove is:
Andrea Vidal – Vocals
Trent Jacobs – Guitar
Gregg Emley – Bass
Eben Travis – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/holygroveband/
https://twitter.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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Quarterly Review: 11PARANOIAS, Robot Lords of Tokyo, The Riven, High Reeper, Brujas del Sol, Dead Witches, Automaton, Llord, Sweet Jonny, Warp

Posted in Reviews on March 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Day three. Cruisin’. Oh, another 10 reviews to write? Yeah, no problem. I’m on it.

Okay, maybe a little less that and a little more be banging my head against the wall of sound, but the point is we — you and I — move forward anyhow. The Quarterly Review continues today with the third batch, which at the end will bring us to the halfway point, 30 of the total 60 records done, and that always feels like an occasion. Also helps that it’s a pretty good batch of stuff, so let’s not waste time with formalities, right?

Quarterly Review #21-30:

11PARANOIAS, Asterismal

11paranoias asterismal

It’s a freakout, but not the good kind. More like a panic attack happening in slow motion on another dimensional plane. The masters of murk, 11PARANOIAS return through their own Ritual Productions imprint with Asterismal, collecting/conjuring upwards of nine tracks and 73 minutes of material depending on in which format one encounters it. The core of the outing is the six-song/45-minute vinyl edition, and that’s plenty fucked enough, to be honest, as bassist/vocalist Adam Richardson (Ramesses), guitarist Mike Vest (Bong) and drummer Nathan Perrier (ex-Capricorns) unfurl a grim psychedelic fog across songs like opener “Loss Portal” and tap into The Heads-style swirl on “Bloodless Crush” only to turn it malevolent in the process. The 12-minute “Quantitative Immortalities” finds Vest in the forward position as it summarizes the stretch of doom, psych, and bizarre atmosphere that’s utterly 11PARANOIAS‘ own, and that’s before you get into the experimental and sometimes caustic work on the CD/digital-only “Acoustic Mirror” (10:35) and “Acoustic Mirror II” (15:08), which both rise from minimalist bass to become a willful test of endurance only a select few will pass. All the better.

11PARANOIAS on Thee Facebooks

Ritual Productions website

 

Robot Lords of Tokyo, Rise Robot Rise

Robot Lords of Tokyo Rise Robot Rise

Was there ever any doubt Robot Lords of Tokyo could do it on their own? Not if you ever listened to Robot Lords of Tokyo, there wasn’t. The Columbus, Ohio-based outfit built a reputation in the earlier part of the decade by bringing guests onto their records, but their new EP and first outing in half a decade, Rise Robot Rise, features five songs of just the band itself, with founders Rick Ritzler (drums) and Paul Jones (vocals) joined by bassist Joe Viers and guitarists Steve Theado and Beau VanBibber. Their last outing was the 2013 full-length Virtue and Vice (review here), but they seem in “In the Shadows” and “Looking for the Sun” to come into their own with Jones bringing a John Bush-type edge to the hook of “Looking for the Sun” and echoing out a bit on centerpiece “Hell Camino,” which boasts not the band’s first nod to Clutch. With opener “In the Shadows” setting the tone for an undercurrent of metal, “My Aching Eyes” and “Terminus” pay that off without losing their rock edge and thereby highlight just how much force has always been in the core lineup to start with.

Robot Lords of Tokyo on Thee Facebooks

Robot Lords of Tokyo at CDBaby

 

The Riven, The Riven

The Riven The Riven

Issued by The Sign Records, the self-titled debut from Sweden’s The Riven (also discussed here) hones in on classic heavy rock but never actually quite tips all the way into vintage-ism. It sounds like a minor distinction until you put the record on and hear the acoustic guitar lines deep in the mix of “Far Beyond” or the echoing vocal layers in the second half of the later “Fortune Teller” and realize that The Riven are outright refusing to sacrifice audio fidelity for aesthetic. There’s no shortage of shuffle to be had, rest assured, but The Riven are less concerned with aping traditionalism than updating it, and while they’re not the first to do so, the fact that on their first record they’re already working to put their stamp on the established genre parameters bodes well, as does the bluesy float of “I Remember” and the mellow vibing early in “Finnish Woods.”

The Riven on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Bandcamp

 

High Reeper, Higher Reeper

high reeper higher reeper

Philadelphia exports High Reeper offer their second full-length through Heavy Psych Sounds in Higher Reeper, upping the stakes from their 2017 self-titled debut (review here) in more than just title. In the intervening two years, the five-piece have toured extensively, and it shows in the pacing and general craft of the eight songs/38 minutes here, from the perfectly-timed nod at the end of “Buried Alive” to the face-slap proto-trash riff that starts the subsequent “Bring the Dead,” from the mountaintop echoes of “Obsidian Peaks” (note the “Hole in the Sky” riff rearing its head) to the howling roll through “Plague Hag” and into six-minute closer “Barbarian,” as High Reeper hone elements of doom to go with their biker rock sleaze. Stellar guitar is a running theme beginning with opener “Eternal Leviathan,” and Higher Reeper quickly proves that if you thought the debut had potential, you were right.

High Reeper on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Brujas del Sol, II

brujas del sol ii

if the 6:40 album opener “Teenage Hitchhiker” from Brujas del Sol‘s Kozmik Artifactz-delivered II makes anything plain, it’s that the songs that follow on the seven-track/43-minute outing are going to pay attention to texture. Still about half-instrumental, the Columbus, Ohio, four-piece veer from that modus with “Sisterlace,” the New Wave-y “Fringe of Senility,” the delightfully dream-toned “White Lights,” and the final Floydian section of closer “Spiritus,” adding vocals for the first time and leaving one wondering what took them so long. Nonetheless, the winding lines and later subtly furious drums of “Sea Rage” and the scorching leads of the penultimate “Polara” bring the proggy mindset of the band that much more forward, and if II is transitional, well, it was going to be anyway, because a band like this never stops growing or challenging themselves. They certainly do here, and the results are an accomplishment more than worth continuing to build upon.

Brujas del Sol on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Dead Witches, The Final Exorcism

dead witches the final exorcism

The centerpiece of Dead Witches‘ sophomore album, The Final Exorcism, is a play on ’60s psych-garage-folk that asks “When Do the Dead See the Sun?,” and the rest of the LP that surrounds provides the answer: The sun isn’t showing up anytime soon, for the dead or otherwise. After issuing their first full-length, Ouija (discussed here), in 2017, the multinational horror-cinema doomers brought aboard vocalist Soozi Chameleone alongside drummer Mark Greening (Ramesses, ex-Electric Wizard), bassist Carl Geary and guitarist Oliver Irongiant, and one might be tempted to think of The Final Exorcism as a kind of second debut were it not for the fact that it’s so cohesive in its approach. With Greening‘s swinging march at the foundation, cuts like the title-track and “The Church by the Sea” stomp out thick-toned and grainy organic creep, plundering through the cacophonous “Lay Demon” en route to the abyssal plod of “Fear the Priest” at the end, fearsome in purpose and realization and hopefully not at all “final.” Like any good horror franchise, there’s always room for another sequel.

Dead Witches on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Automaton, TALOS

automaton talos

It was hard to know where Automaton were headed after they remixed their debut EP, Echoes of Mount Ida (review here), and released it in LP format with two additional tracks. The original version was raw and weighted, the remix spacious and psychedelic. With TALOS, their first proper long-player (on Sound Effect Records), they answer the question with seven songs/48 minutes of expansive and richly atmospheric post-metal, seeming to take from all sides and shift their focus between crushing with dense tones on 11-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Trapped in Darkness,” as well as the frantically drummed “Automaton Marching,” “The Punisher” or the end stage of “Talos Awakens” and honing more of a varied and atmospheric approach throughout the sample-laced “Giant of Steel,” the drifting “Submerged Again” and the minimalist acoustic-led closer “Epilogue,” all the while donning both an overarching concept and a new level of production value to bolster their presentation. It is a significant step forward on multiple fronts.

Automaton website

Sound Effect Records website

 

Llord, Cumbria

llord cumbria

Raging and experimental, the rumble-laden Barcelona duo Llord make their full-length debut on Féretro Records with Cumbria, which culls together five punishing-but-still-atmospheric tracks of plod and drive as bassist Aris and drummer David share vocal duties and bludgeoning responsibilities alike. Ill-intentioned from the get-go with the two-minute “Adtrita Sententia,” Cumbria unfurls its 29-minute run like a descent into low-end madness, varying speed and the amount of samples involved and bringing in some guest gralla on “Brega” and closer “Kendal/Crewe,” but finding itself in a consistent tonal mire all the same, shouts reverberating upward from it as through trying to claw their way up during the collapse of earth beneath their feet. It is brutal — an extreme vision of atmospheric sludge that makes the concept of a guitar riffing overtop seem like an indulgence that would only dull the impact of the proceedings as they are, which is formidable.

Llord on Bandcamp

Féretro Records on Bandcamp

 

Sweet Jonny, Sweet Jonny

sweet jonny sweet jonny

I can’t claim to be an expert on the ways of Britpunk classic or modern, but UK swagger-purveyors Sweet Jonny weave a heaping dose of snearing attitude into their self-titled, self-release debut album’s 12 tracks, and it comes set up next to a garage rock fuckall that isn’t necessarily contradicted by the actual tightness of the songwriting, given the context in which they’re working. “American Psycho,” well, that’s about American Psycho. “Sick in the Summer?” Well, guess that could be taken multiple ways, but somebody’s sick in any case. You see where this is going, but Sweet Jonny bring character and addled-punk charm to their storytelling lyrics and barebones arrangements of fucked-up guitar, bass and drums. I don’t know what the punkers are into these days, but the vibe here is rude in the classic sense and they bring a good time feel to “Superpunch” and “It Matters Not” — which stretches past the four-minute mark(!) — so what the hell? I’m up for something different.

Sweet Jonny on Thee Facebooks

Sweet Jonny website

 

Warp, Warp

warp warp

If the approval stamp of Nasoni Records isn’t enough to get you on board — and it should be, frankly — the Sabbathian lowercase-‘g’ ghost rock Warp proffer on their self-titled debut is bound to turn heads among the converted. The Tel Aviv-based outfit tear through eight tracks in a crisp, bitingly fuzzed 28 minutes, taking on classic boogie and doom alike before they’re even through opener “Wretched.” They get bonus points for calling their noise interlude “‘Confusion Will Be My Epitaph’ Will Be My Epitaph,’ as well as for the shuffle of “Gone Man” that precedes it and the stomp of “Intoxication” that comes after, the latter a rhythmic complement to the central progression of second cut “Into My Life,” which only departs that snare-snare-snare to soar for a dual-layered solo. Hard not to dig the space-punk edge of “Hey Little Rich Boy II” and the throttled-back stoner nod of closer “Enter the Void,” which is done in under five minutes and still finds room for the album’s best stop-and-crash. Fucking a.

Warp on Bandcamp

Nasoni Records webstore

 

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Wolf Blood Set June 1 Release for Wolf Blood II

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

I only have one question when it comes to Wolf Blood releasing their second album, Wolf Blood II, and it’s this: How much does the title of that album sound like an ’80s action movie? Like, “Dude, I saw Wolf Blood I and it was totally gnarly but Wolf Blood II is beyond rad!” Who stars in that movie? It’s gotta be Van Damme, right? And somehow he does a completely nonsequitor split that allows him to, I guess, take a human life without any consequence? Let’s face it, if that movie existed — and I’m not 100 percent sure it doesn’t — you would call it a classic.

You may well do the same when Wolf Blood II — the album — arrives on June 1 through Riff Merchant Records. Preorders start May 1 and the band will be at Chicago Doomed & Stoned and Maryland Doom Fest around the release.

As the PR wire informs:

wolf blood

WOLF BLOOD “II” release, Festival dates & East Coast Tour

Minneapolis, MN band WOLF BLOOD announce the release of their long awaited sophomore LP titled “II” out June 1st. “II” will be the first release on Syracuse, NY label Riff Merchant Records. Pre-orders start May 1st at wolfblood666.bandcamp.com. As a thank you to supportive fans “II” includes the crushing song “Tsunami” from their 2018 digital only release.

In support of the release they will make their debut at the CHICAGO DOOMED & STONED festival June 1st and will hit the road for a week culminating in a performance at the MARYLAND DOOMFEST on June 23rd.

June Tour Dates
June 1st Chicago, IL @ Chicago Doomed & Stoned
June 13th Minneapolis, MN @ Mortimers Vinyl Release
June 18th Chicago, IL @ Live Wire w/Sacred Monster
June 19th Cleveland, OH @ Symposium W/Frayle
June 20th Montclair, NJ @ Meatlocker
June 21st Philadelphia, PA @ TBA
June 22nd Lancaster, PA @ Lizard Lounge
June 23rd Frederick, MD @ Maryland Doomfest
Mon. 24th. Louisville, KY @Highland Taproom Metal Monday’s

Formed in a dank basement during one of the coldest winters on record in Duluth, Minnesota, guitarist Mike Messina and drummer Jakob Paulsrud (Dad’s Acid) started writing psycho-sludge experiments that sounded too stoned to be metal, and too baneful to be indie-rock. They recruited local renown hard-core guitar sorceress Mindy Johnson (The Keep Aways) and the newest addition of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Adam Rucinski (STRANGE) to flesh-out their menacing sound.

Their first album sold out within days, and caught the attention of Burning World Records who reissued it on Vinyl. After multiple cross country tours they settled in to record their long awaited follow up . “II” will be released June 1st 2019 on Riff Merchant Records, followed by a East Coast tour with appearances at CHICAGO DOOMED & STONED festival and The MARYLAND DOOMFEST.

Wolf Blood is:
Mike Messina – guitar
Jake Paulsrud – drums/vocals
Mindy Johnson – guitar/vocals
Adam Rucinski – bass/vocals

Wolfblood666.bandcamp.com
Facebook.com/wbminneapolis
instagram.com/wolfbloodmn
Twitter.com/wolfbloodmn

Wolf Blood, Tsunami / Home (2018)

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KOOK Premiere “Escape Velocity” Lyric Video; KOOK II out March 26

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

kook

Man, get ready for a trip. Due out March 25, II is the aptly-named second full-length from likewise aptly-named San Jose desert-style noise kooks KOOK, and it’s a far-out blower with an underpinning of the bizarre, earthy psychedelia born of Californian sands with just a bit of urbane crunch to its tones. Like if Queens of the Stone Age moved to Oakland, kept their edge and got weird, or if Fatso Jetson nixed the boogie and added more angry and a bit of Faith No More at their least predictable. The six-tracker runs 44 minutes and seems destined to be A research subject for years to come on the relative potency of edibles. Delivered through Glory or Death Records, it commences with “Escape Velocity,” which serves as an eight-minute barrage of you in the future asking what the hell just happened, and only ups the volatility factor with “Chains” and “Left Behind,” which offsets its languid groove and hook with a sense that at any moment it might haul off and punch you upside the head. Does it? Yeah, and a suitable reeling racket of noise follows as though KOOK also need to recover.

They don’t, but you might. Those three tracks are side A of the thing and they’re beastly in their scope and conjuring of ’90s bizarro threat rock and under-influence suggestion. “Escape Velocity” seems to tip hat to the Melvins in Karl Larson‘s guitar and the out-for-a-walk bassline of Jeff Wilson, but kook iithe punctuation of Erik Wilkins‘ drumming makes for sharper corners, and Troy Aschenbrenner‘s vocals are way out there on another plane, covered in hair, if you know what I mean. Still, they hold together this first of two cuts on II over eight minutes long — “Left Behind” is the other one, and it’s just a bit longer — and with the aggro strut of “Chains,” they preface the fuzzed swing of “Human Container” at the setoff of side B, which turns beastly in a second-half slowdown that devolves into a noise wash sustained in effects on a long fuckall fade ahead of “Frequency 8,” which underscores the you-are-not-in-control-but-they-might-be vibe while casting another assault of tone and coming out of it somehow making sense en route to closer “Chased by Monsters,” where they line up tense chug and subsequently tap into their inner Primus carnival manifestation. Shit gets wild. Shit starts wild, and then gets wilder. And then they end by thrashing out because fucking of course they do.

Being a gentleman of a certain age, I remember when the Heaven’s Gate cult warned that Planet Earth was about to be recycled and the only way to avoid that grim fate was to hitch a ride on the UFO hiding behind the passing comet Hale-Bopp. KOOK sample audio and imagery from Heaven’s Gate’s leader, Do — whose writings you can still find online, if you’re up for falling down a hole — and the somewhat futuristic but also completely off the rails thematic could hardly suit them better. It’s high time someone took on the subject matter, and KOOK would seem to be the perfect band to do it. It’s a riotously colorful niche of cultism.

Ahead of the official release next month, KOOK hit the road (they’ll have copies of the album at the merch table) and play alongside many righteous bands in and around appearances at SXSW, the stoner revival of which has not gone unnoticed. Nonetheless, it’s a schedule busy enough to suit KOOK‘s sound, and before they go, they’re giving another glimpse at the weirdo triumphs II has in store. Preorders for the record are up if that’s your thing, and you can check out the “Escape Velocity” lyric video below, with all the Hale-Bopp you need and some dizzying rocket footage to boot.

Dig and enjoy:

Kook, “Escape Velocity” lyric video premiere

The third lyric video and song released from KOOK’s upcoming album, II, available (digital, vinyl, tape, and CD) via Glory or Death Records 3/26/29 at http://wearekook.bandcamp.com. A song for those who follow the blind into the unknown and find only darkness.

Headed out to Texas this March to play some shows at SXSW and touring to California to celebrate the release of our second album, II. Playing with amazing bands along the way we can’t list them all, but come see a show if we pass near you!

kook tourKOOK live:
MAR 14 Austin, TX Spider House Cafe and Ballroom Wicked Bad Stoner Jam
MAR 14 San Antonio, TX The Mix
MAR 15 Arlington, TX Division Brewing
MAR 16 Austin, TX Kick Butt Café Gravity Fest
MAR 17 El Paso, TX The Rockin’ Cigar Bar & Grill
MAR 18 Albuquerque, NM Moonlight Lounge
MAR 20 Tempe, AZ Palo Verde Lounge
MAR 21 San Diego, CA The Bancroft
MAR 22 Los Angeles, CA 5 Star Bar
MAR 23 El Monte, CA Silver Dollar Saloon

KOOK is:
Karl Larson-Guitar
Troy Aschenbrenner-Vocals
Eric Wilkins-Drums
Jeff Wilson- Bass

KOOK, II (2019)

KOOK on Thee Facebooks

KOOK on Instagram

KOOK website

Glory or Death Records on Thee Facebooks

Glory or Death Records on Instagram

Glory or Death Records on Bandcamp

Glory or Death Records webstore

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