Chicago extremists Drug Honkey will release their fifth album, Cloak of Skies, May 5 via Transcending Obscurity Records. For those unfamiliar with the industrially-tinged sludge dystopias the band conjures, the opening roar of “Pool of Failure” will likely catch you off guard. Hell, even if you caught wind of their last outing, 2013’s Ghost in the Fire (review here), it’s entirely likely that Cloak of Skies will offer more than a few shocking moments in its play toward unremitting darkness, the breadth over which that darkness seems to stretch, the crushing nature of their churn and the somehow punkish undertones at work beneath cuts like “Sickening Wastoid” and “Outlet of Hatred,” which together with “Pool of Failure” form an opening salvo reimagining early C.O.C. or at times even Napalm Death through the lens of a terrible future that, one might argue, has actually come to pass.
As one might figure, Godflesh are a key influence. Enough so that the four-piece of vocalist/synthesist Paul Gillis, guitarist Gabe Grosso, bassist Ian Brown and drummer Adam Smith sought out Justin K. Broadrick to remix “Pool of Failure” as a bonus track. Vast, Jesu-style drone plays a role as well, as “(It’s Not) The Way” demonstrates, and certainly the more extended finale duo of the 10-minute “The Oblivion of an Opiate Nod” and the eight-minute title-track have their elements of soundscaping as well, but as textured as they are, they’re full of horrors, which is Drug Honkey‘s specialty to be sure. Their roots are in noise and Chicago’s extreme metal underground, but the actual sonics the band emits are twisted beyond whatever their inspirations might be, and through layered growls and spoken lines and a steady wash of synth and effects over the grueling roll of “The Oblivion of an Opiate Nod,” Gillis feels just as much like the one calling down the storm as the one being consumed by it. A deathly expanse at its most ranging, Cloak of Skies is defined by its tortured sensibility and passes its cruelty onto the listener in hyperbole-ready fashion. However one might feel about it listening to “Pool of Failure,” chances are ambivalence won’t be a factor.
But gruesome art is still art, and the band — now also veterans of Denmark’s prestigious Roskilde Festival — are frank in the purposefulness of what they’re doing on Cloak of Skies. These songs, from “Pool of Failure” through the title-cut, are built around the intent to convey a truly misanthropic feel, and accordingly, their churn is simply going to come across as overwhelming to some listeners. That’s been the case with their work for a long time, and while if we’re going by the level of what’s happening in terms of the superficial audio it certainly doesn’t sound like anyone is coming out on top, it’s the source of Drug Honkey‘s success on the record. They revel in these miseries, and by the time “Cloak of Skies” rounds out with its looped vocals — not even words, just syllables at that point — samples, guest saxophone from Corrections House/Yakuza‘s Bruce Lamont and droning abrasion, they’ve turned them into a potent ritual that’s as immersive as it is off-putting. Imagine swirling psychedelia but every color is black. Across seven songs and 50 minutes (including the remix), Drug Honkey bask in tragedy and come out on the other side having covered themselves in filth as if to show us our own complicity in its creation. If there were any justice in the universe, they’d be playing in art galleries.
Cloak of Skies will be out May 5 on Transcending Obscurity. I’m not sure “enjoy” is the right word, but you can hear the premiere of “Pool of Failure” below, followed by more info off the PR wire.
And yes, I hope you enjoy:
US band DRUG HONKEY have always been a step ahead of their peers, if there were any in the first place. There’s a form of tenacity in their music of the same kind that will have you crawl ahead in life despite all its inherent ugliness pinning you down. They are taking things to a different level, with guest contributions from the legend himself, Justin K. Broadrick (GODFLESH, JESU) and Bruce Lamont (YAKUZA, CORRECTIONS HOUSE) with his saxophone eeriness, and having the hand-painted artwork of Paolo Girardi (INQUISITION, CHTHE’ILIST) represent the pulsating sickness of this ambitious and unconventional release.
Album lineup – Paul Gillis (Honkey Head) – Vocals, Synths, Samples, FX Adam Smith (BH Honkey) – Drums Gabe Grosso (Hobbs) – Guitar Ian Brown (Brown Honkey) – Bass
Granted, we’re still running on the backup server, but it’s been a couple weeks at this point anyway, so it’s time for a new round of adds to The Obelisk Radio. Some of this stuff is brand new, some isn’t out yet, and some is older, so it’s a pretty decent mix on that front, and between REZN, The Fërtility Cült and Cosmic Fall, I certainly think we’ve got heavy psychedelia covered. Fortunately there’s the longform doom extremity of Oceanwake and the kraut-worship electronics of Jenzeits (also longform, as it happens) to offer some balance, lest we go drifting off into the universe never to be heard from again. Can’t have that happening.
Before we dig in, thanks to Slevin as ever for his diligent work in keeping the Radio afloat. He’s got a drive recovery running now that will hopefully bring back everything that was there before. It’s been a whole thing, but progress is being made and I appreciate him tossing this stuff in with the backup material in the interim. Thanks to you as well for reading and listening.
The Obelisk Radio Adds for March 14, 2017:
REZN, Let it Burn
All-caps Chicago-based newcomers REZN make their deceptively ambitious debut with Let it Burn, a self-released 10-songer checking in at a willfully sprawling 59 minutes that blends psychedelic drift, grunge fuckall and neo-stoner fuzz consumption to welcome effect. One gets shades of Mars Red Sky from opener “Relax,” but later doomer cuts like the blown-out cosmic smash of “Harvest the Void” or the rolling “Fall into the Sky” ensures the three-piece of bassist/vocalist Phil Cangelosi, drummer Patrick Dunn and guitarist/vocalist Rob McWilliams are working on their own wavelength, and flourish of sitar from McWilliams and Dunn on the dynamic raga-infused “Rezurrection,” as well as Dunn‘s percussion and Spencer Ouellette‘s modular synth in the two-minute interlude “Pipe Dream” that leads into the initial spoken sample of the Dead Meadow-style fuzzer “The Creature” only add further checked-out-of-life charm to the offering as a whole. “Relax” and “Wake” at the outset speak to some impulse on the part of the band to tie their material together, but that comes through even more as “The Creature” transitions into “Fall into the Sky” and the suitably-spacewalking “Orbit” leads to the noisy start of rumble-laden closer “Astral Sage” later on. REZN leave themselves room to grow into their approach in moments like these, and pieces like “Harvest the Void,” “The Creature” and “Wake” certainly speak to a memorable songwriting process in development, but Let it Burn already shows them a potent brew of weighted lysergics.
Nestled into the heavy hotbed of Tampere, Finland, The Fërtility Cült continue their progressive push into reverb-laden heft with late-2016’s A Forest of Kings, their third long-player behind 2013’s Heavenly Bodies and their 2011 debut, Eschatology (review here). In an admirably crowded scene, the five-piece are distinguished for their tonal breadth, use-not-overuse of echo-laden saxophone and organ and general willingness to meander without giving up an underlying principal of craft or direction. All of this is on display in the A Forest of Kings opener “Blood of Kings,” but the highlight of the album has to be the centerpiece “The City on the Edge of Forever” (taking its name from the highlight episode of the original Star Trek, written by Harlan Ellison), which successfully fuses jazzy rhythm with a patient, psychedelic execution to the sacrifice of neither. Also the longest inclusion at 10:58, it’s the umlaut-happy troupe’s most resonant melody and most singularly progressive stretch, but neither will I take away from the nod of “God of Rain,” which follows, or the manner in which the apex shuffle of closer “Cycles of Time” unfurls itself from the song’s initial subdued verses. Heady vibe throughout the total 46 minutes, as one might expect, but The Fërtility Cült‘s third is less self-indulgent than it might superficially seem, and their varied arrangements never fail to service what really matters to them, which of course is the material itself rather than the exercise of playing it. Rich and graceful when it wants to be, A Forest of Kings hones an endearing landscape without getting lost in it.
Mostly-instrumentalist trio Cosmic Fall — based in Berlin and comprised of guitarist/vocalist Mathias, bassist Klaus and drummer Daniel — formed in 2016 and worked quickly to turn around First Fall (discussed here), their first full-length of improv-based works. Kick out the Jams arrives with a fittingly quick turnaround and brings forth seven new pieces in its digital form, topping 93 minutes in its total space-bound push. More impressive than the quantity of the work — though I won’t take away from the sprawling appeal (or the delightful, influence-on-our-sleeve pun in the title) of the 21-minute “Earthfull” or 19-minute opener “Saturn Highway” — is the chemistry that seems to have immediately found root in Cosmic Fall‘s sound. They take a forward step in these tracks, to be sure, and there are more steps to be taken — a band like this, in the best case scenario, does not stop progressing, their material only comes to unfold more as a musical conversation between old friends; see Electric Moon — but as Kick out the Jams plays through its extended, immersive runtime, cuts like “Interstellar Junction” and “Stairway Jam” feel especially bold in how open they are in allowing the listener to hear that process happening. Songs are varyingly active — only “White Stone” (4:42) is under 11 minutes long — and allow for Mathias to lead the way into the spaciousness of “Purple Weed” while Daniel‘s toms propel “Cosmic Conclusion” at the album’s finish, but the core message behind Cosmic Fall less than a year into their tenure is one of ambition and the band’s deep motivation to develop the already palpable dynamic they have going. One can only look forward to hearing where their adventures take them and, indeed, where they take their audience.
With Earthen on ViciSolum Records, Finnish progressive death-doomers Oceanwake complete a trilogy that began on their 2013 debut Kingdom and had its second installment with 2015’s Sunless (review here). I’m not entirely sure what the overarching theme tying the releases together is — perhaps hearing the debut would help, but it’s not easily tracked down — but Earthen expounds on the blend of extremity, poise and emotional resonance the Luvia five-piece proffered their last time out, arriving as two massive tracks, opener “A Storm Sermon” (21:09) and closer “In Amidst the Silent Thrones” (24:04), both of which work in movements that shift between crushing, grueling doom and gorgeous, airy melodies. A depth of emotionalism isn’t necessarily anything new in the style — countrymen from Skepticism to Swallow the Sun have been morose for a long time — but what Oceanwake bring is a fluidity in their transitions and a sense of purpose to their songwriting beyond the usual miseries. Thus, like Sunless before it, Earthen emerges to bring significant character to familiar elements, drifting at times and explosive at others, but always under complete control, never wandering without a reason, and basking in low end that has to be heard to be believed. Earthen might fly under a lot of radars, but it shouldn’t be missed by those with an affinity for the extreme ends of doom. One hopes the now-completed trilogy project won’t be the sum total Oceanwake‘s output together.
Jenzeits may be a new incarnation, but the project stems from a familiar source. Relocated from North Carolina to San Francisco — also, apparently, to the cosmos itself — multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis (Hour of 13, Set, Anu, The Sabbathian, etc.) offers up two massive synthesized soundscapes on Jenzeits Cosmic Universe, as both “Alpha” (25:00) and “Omega” (21:53) channel krautrock exploration and progressive indulgence. A due amount of the release is given to hypnotics, as one might expect — that is, it’s an easy one to put on and zone out — but Davis isn’t without some sense of motion either as he makes his way through “Alpha” and the rightfully more foreboding “Omega,” the latter delving into a movement of key runs backed by wind swirl calling to mind any number of horror and/or retro-horror soundtracks, and even minor shifts in the elements at work at any given moment become more pronounced in the grand context of the whole work. Davis usually has his hands in a number of outfits (and a number of genres) at any given time — an Hour of 13 resurgence is pending, for example — but Jenzeits‘ debut is engaging in its textures and feels like a journey just beginning.
More to come as we get The Obelisk Radio back up and running at full capacity. I’ve purchased a new hard drive toward that end, so we’ll have even more room to work with as well. Will update when there’s an update.
Till then, thanks again for reading and listening.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Chicago heavy rockers Bible of the Devil, now five years removed from their last full-length, which was 2012’s For the Love of Thugs and Fools (discussed here), have confirmed that the new track they’re planning to include on an upcoming split with hiatus-bound New Mexican weirdos Leeches of Lore is currently in the mixing stage. They’ve made the 7″ available to preorder directly from them — as in, send-us-an-email-and-we’ll-get-one-to-you — and among the easier arguments one might endeavor to make in a given afternoon is they’re a cause worth supporting through that or whatever other means. Good band, pairing with another good band, and all that.
They sent along a winter newsletter that you can see below, including a couple live dates coming up in Wisconsin and their hometown. Dig it:
BOTD Winter Update 2017
We have just finishing mixing our 7″ track for our split with Albuquerque’s own Leeches of Lore to be self-released later this spring. This is another classic in the making for BOTD and we are sure you will be humming along to it soon! Pre-orders can be taken via PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org for $6 plus $3 shipping anywhere in the US. For European orders or anywhere else, please email for pricing first. We all had a blast making this and can’t wait to make the push to get the next record done. Don’t snooze on getting a copy as this is a limited run!
BOTD also will be making two appearances this spring:
March 25th Sat. Kenosha, WI @ Hattrix w/The Miners (record release), Amulance, Burn The Witch
RAWfest began in Chicago in 2005 as a vehicle to showcase the best of underground rock. While it has sat dormant over a decade (sometimes you get busy, you know?), we have decided to bring it back for a second edition for maximum fun. This is an incredible lineup and it’s highly suggested you buy a ticket. Poster made by Austin’s own Burger Ben.
June 3rd Sat. Chicago, IL @ Township RAWfest 2 Doors 4pm $10 adv/$12 dos w/The Safes, The Vibrolas, Buzzzard, The Evictions, Beggars, City Slang
Finally, a much anticipated tour of the south in July is being finalized as we speak. Texas, we had some weather trouble last time and will not be denied this time around! Dates coming soon.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Just to put something the band says below to scale: Novembers Doom trace their roots back to 1989. They’re coming up on their 30th anniversary before the end of this decade, and there’s nothing to make one think they won’t get there. So when vocalist Paul Kuhr notes that the upcoming Hamartia is the first time they’ve ever had the same lineup from one album to the next, it’s a pretty striking statistic. By my count, it’s their 10th album. That’s 10 records, each marked out by some change in personnel. It’s a wonder they’ve managed to survive, let alone progress through the darkened extremities they have as one of the US’ groundbreaking death-doom acts.
The lineup that Hamartia shares last appeared on 2014’s Bled White (review here), also released through the band’s longtime label home, The End Records. April 14 is the appointed issue date for Hamartia, cover art is by Eugen Poe, there’s a gloriously gloomy new single streaming, and more album details follow here, courtesy of the PR wire.
NOVEMBERS DOOM IS SET TO RELEASE NEW STUDIO ALBUM HAMARTIA ON APRIL 14 // PRE-ORDER
NEW TRACK & ALBUM DETAILS
Novembers Doom is set to release their tenth full-length album entitled Hamartia, out April 14 via The End Records. Formed in 1989, this release marks the band’s 28th anniversary year, and is a sonic testament to their legacy as one of the earliest U.S. dark & doom metal bands still active today. The album is available now for pre-order on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.
Considered by the band to be their best work to date, Harmartia’s mastery is due in part to the synergy of its lineup, who constituted their previous album Bled White: Paul Kuhr (founder/vocalist), Larry Roberts (guitars), Vito Marchese (guitars), Mike Feldman (bass), and Garry Naples (drums).
Recorded at Belle City Sound in Racine, WI, this album sees production from long-time Novembers Doom producer Chris Djuricic (Jungle Rot, Malevolence), and Mix Master metal legend Dan Swano (Opeth, Dissection, Katatonia). The album also sees guest appearances from Ben Johnson on keyboards, Rhiannon Kuhr on backing vocals (“Ever After,” “Miasma,” “Zephyr”), Andrew Craighan (My Dying Bride) on guitar melody (“Waves In The Red Cloth”), Bernt Fjellestad (Susperia) on backing vocals (“Borderline”), and Dan Swanö on backing vocals (“Borderline”).
Says vocalist Paul Kuhr, “For the first time in this band’s existence, we have the same line-up on two consecutive albums. Without the need to focus on a new element, we could concentrate on the writing process more clearly, and the synergy between the group is apparent in the end result. I actually mean it when I say in my own humble opinion, I truly feel Novembers Doom have created our very best work to date. From the writing, to the captured performances, to the overall mix and sound of this album. Hamartia is a logical evolution from Bled White but adds some of the darker elements from The Pale Haunt Departure. It’s a Novembers Doom album, through and through, and hopefully others will share my enthusiasm once they get a chance to hear it.”
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Been looking forward to news of Drug Honkey‘s next release for a while now, and the word from the band that they’ll issue the full-length Cloak of Skies through emergent Indian imprint Transcending Obscurity Records is welcome, since there’s little question the label will know exactly how to handle the Chicago-based outfit’s particular and at times peculiar brand of extremity. Their last album was 2012’s horrifying Ghost in the Fire (review here), which came out through Transcending Obscurity predecessor Diabolical Conquest, and the new record features guest contributions from Bruce Lamont and Justin Broadrick, meaning it could be as expansive as it is brutal. Sign me up.
Cloak of Skies is out May 5 and I’ll hope to have more to come on the subject before then. The band had the following to say about it:
We are very pleased to announce the new full-length “Cloak of Skies” will be unleashed on May 5th 2017 via the booming & ever-expanding Transcending Obscurity Records label. CD, digital, & vinyl platforms will all be available, along with some killer box set/bundle options as well.
Cover art painted by the ultra-talented Italian madman Paolo Girardi.
Avant-garde sax shaman bruce lamont (Correction House/Yakuza/Brain Tentacles) has etched his indelible mark on the title track of the album, and none other than one of our biggest influences – the main man himself; Justin K Broadrick (Godflesh/Jesu), has done an extraordinarily crushing remix/reconstruction of the opening track “Pool of Failure”, which bookends the album…
Pre-order details will be made available in the next week or so..
Tracklist: 1. Pool of Failure (5:44) 2. Sickening Wasteoid (6:12) 3. Outlet of Hatred (6:48) 4. (It’s Not) The Way (6:36) 5. The Oblivion of an Opiate Nod (10:00) 6. Cloak of Skies (8:11) 7. Pool of Failure (JK Broadrick remix) (6:29)
Paul Gillis – Vocals/Synths/Samples/FX Adam Smith – Drums Gabe Grosso – Guitar Ian Brown – Bass
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 2nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Guitarist Trevor Shelley de Brauw of Chicago instrumentalists Pelican will make his solo debut with Uptown, a collection of ambient pieces due out early next year via The Flenser. An initial track, titled “They Keep Bowing,” reveals textural atmospherics working in layers probably looped through but perhaps built one on top of the other, either way to satisfyingly rich tonal effect. I wouldn’t necessarily call it out of the range of what one might anticipate a solo record from de Brauw would bring, knowing the kind of heavy post-rock sprawl to which Pelican can be prone, but it’s a definite expansion on the theme, if nothing else, and it seems fair to imagine that Uptown will also serve as the beginning of a broader exploration of a solo aesthetic for de Brauw, making it all the more noteworthy as his first outing.
I haven’t heard the full thing yet, but we’ve got a while to go before Feb. 10 gets here, so I’ll hope the opportunity comes my way somewhere between now and then. The cut below makes a solid argument why and arrives accompanied by PR wire details:
GUITARIST TREVOR SHELLEY DE BRAUW ANNOUNCES DEBUT SOLO ALBUM, PREMIERES SONG
Uptown due out February 10th, 2017 from The Flenser / Listen to “They Keep Bowing” now
Chicago-based guitarist Trevor Shelley de Brauw (Pelican, RLYR) has announced the release of his first solo album – a collection of power-ambient compositions – entitled Uptown. Due out February 10th, 2017 on San Francisco’s acclaimed experimental label The Flenser, Uptown is a stream of consciousness sustained for too long, an aural pendulum swinging between poles of murky distress and cathartic resolve that takes shape somewhere in the hazy valleys between rock, ambient and experimental music. Listen to the album’s first single, “They Keep Bowing,” today.
Trevor Shelley de Brauw’s 20 year musical career has manifested as an exploration of the vast sonic possibilities of the guitar. Uptown marks a departure from the riff-oriented song writing of Pelican, taking a plaintive approach that unravels the meditative depth of washed-out riffs, deconstructed drones, and carefully controlled feedback. The album delves into complex dimensions of deeply layered textures: an evocation of haunting melodicism that shares more common ground with Brian Eno’s ambient work and drone wizards Barn Owl than it does a metal record. Written and recorded over the span of nearly a decade, Uptown represents a scrapbook from a formative era in de Brauw’s life, bookended by a stint on a remote tobacco farm in North Carolina and his return to the anxiety-ridden urban eccentricities of Chicago’s historic Uptown neighborhood.
Uptown is due for release on Feb 10th, 2017 from The Flenser. Stay tuned for more songs to premiere and pre-order info to surface soon.
Uptown track listing: 1. A New Architecture 2. Distinct Frequency 3. They Keep Bowing 4. You Were Sure 5. Turn Up For What 6. From The Black Soil Poetry and Song Sprang
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2016 by JJ Koczan
They should call it the Bands Who are Way Better than People Know split. The Bands You’d Probably Really Dig split. At very least the Bands I Really Dig split. It’s been since 2012 that Chicago’s Bible of the Devil last released an album. That record, For the Love of Thugs and Fools (discussed here), followed four years after 2008’s Freedom Metal and felt late at the time, so yeah, they’re due. No word on solid release date for a next full-length, but the metal/rock genrehoppers will issue a split 7″ in the fine company of Albuquerque weirdos Leeches of Lore, whose Toshi Kasai-helmed Motel of Infinity (review here) came out in 2015. There will be a new song on that, and at this point, I’m inclined to take what I can get.
To go with a handful of shows around the Midwest this summer/fall, Bible of the Devil are set to play Alehorn of Power IX (info here) on Nov. 12 at Reggies in Chicago. Full lineup and set times can be found with the split announcement below:
BIBLE OF THE DEVIL UPDATE + ALEHORN OF POWER IX @ REGGIES NOV. 12TH SAT.!!
BOTD has had quite a busy fall so far with successful October dates in Indianapolis and Columbus. They are now gearing up for the next installment of Alehorn of Power in two weeks with the mighty THOR headlining! Details with set times are listed below and tickets are only $20 to witness this barrage of heavy rock! BOTD will also return to the studio in December to continue working on its new album while recording a new track to be released as a 7″ with Albuquerque’s own LEECHES OF LORE. Look for it late spring next year along with some very special road dates in the summer of 2017. Stay tuned!
Slated for Saturday, November 12, 2016 at Reggies in Chicago, this year’s Alehorn of Power features an eclectic and formidable lineup of bands with one thing on their minds: exceptional heavy metal entertainment from the independent realm.
Alehorn of Power IX Set Times THOR 11:50-??? Professor Black 10:55-11:35pm Argus 10:00-10:40pm Bible of the Devil 9:05-9:45pm The Lurking Corpses 8:10-8:50pm Seamstress 7:25-7:55pm
Saturday November 12, 2016 Doors 7 PM / $20 / Ages 17+ Reggies, 2101 S. State, Chicago IL USA
Long-running Chicago act BIBLE OF THE DEVIL is not only Alehorn’s spiritual guidepost but also its musical cornerstone. The band’s unmistakable brand of heavy metal rock and roll embodies every bit the twin-guitarred, big-chorused, epic FM sound perhaps most associated with the festival’s history. This year’s set will include a selection of new material alongside hits from the band’s vast catalog.
Bible of the Devil is: Nathan Perry: Vocals, Guitars Greg Spalding: Drums, Loathing Darren Amaya: Bass, Vocals Chris Grubbs: Guitars
Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
I’ll admit I’m a little surprised at the shape this Quarterly Review has taken. As I begin to look back on the year in terms of what records have been talked about over the span, I find it’s been particularly geared toward debut albums, both in and out of wrap-ups like this one. There’s less of that this time around, but what’s happened is some stuff that doesn’t fall into that category — releases like the first two here, for example — are getting covered here to allow space for the others. Let’s face it, nobody gives a shit what I have to say about Russian Circles anyhow, so whatever, but I’m happy to have this as a vehicle for discussing records I still think are worth discussing — the first two releases here, again for example — rather than letting them fall through the cracks with the glut of new bands coming along. Of course things evolve as you go on, but I wish I’d figured it out sooner. Let’s dive in.
Quarterly Review #31-40:
Russian Circles, Guidance
From the warm wash of guitar that begins “Asa” onward, and no matter how weighted, percussive and/or chug-fueled Russian Circles get from there, the Chicago trio seem to be offering solace on their latest outing, Guidance. Recorded by Kurt Ballou and released through Sargent House, the seven-track offering crosses heavy post-rock soundscapes given marked thickness and distinct intensity on “Vorel,” but the record as a whole never quite loses the serenity in “Asa” or the later “Overboard,” crushing as the subsequent “Calla” gets, and though the spaces they cast in closer “Lisboa” are wide and intimidating, their control of them is utterly complete. Six albums in, Russian Circles are simply masters of what they do. There’s really no other way to put it. They remain forward thinking in terms of investigating new ideas in their sound, but their core approach is set in the fluidity of these songs and they revise their aesthetic with a similar, natural patience to that with which they execute their material.
Following their 2014 RidingEasy Records debut, …Lurar ut dig på prärien (discussed here) – which, presumably met with some pronunciation trouble outside the band’s native Sweden – Salem’s Pot return with Pronounce This!, further refining their blend of psychedelic swirl, odd vibes and garage doom riffing. They remain heavily indoctrinated into the post-Uncle Acid school of buzz and groove, and aren’t afraid to scum it up on “Tranny Takes a Trip” or the slower-shifting first half of “Coal Mind,” but the second portion of that song and “So Gone, so Dead” take a more classically progressive bent that is both refreshing and a significant expansion on what Salem’s Pot have accomplished thus far into their tenure. Still weird, and one doubts that’ll change anytime soon – nor does it need to – but as Pronounce This! plays out, Salem’s Pot demonstrate an open-mindedness that seems to have been underlying their work all along and bring it forward in engaging fashion.
International House of Mancakes – yup – is the follow-up to Bridesmaid’s 2013 long-player, Breakfast at Riffany’s, and like that album, it finds the Columbus, Ohio, instrumentalists with a penchant for inserting dudes’ names into well-known titles – see “Hungry Like Nick Wolf” and “Ronnin’ with the Devil” – but it also expands the lineup to the two-bass/two-drum four-piece of Scott Hyatt and Bob Brinkman (both bass) and Cory Barnt and Boehm (both drums). Topped off with KISS-meets-Village People art from W. Ralph Walters, there are shortages neither of snark nor low end, but buried underneath is a progressive songwriting sensibility that doesn’t come across as overly metal on cuts like “Ricky Thump” and doesn’t sacrifice impact or heft for the sake of self-indulgence. Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in “It’s Alectric (Boogie Woogie Woogie),” International House of Mancakes unfolds a heavy rock push that, while obviously driven in part by its sense of humor, earns serious consideration in these tracks for those willing to actually listen.
Too thick in its tones to be a completely vintage-style work, the sleazy vibes of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell’s Keep it Greasy! (on Rise Above) are otherwise loyal to circa-1971 boogie and attitude, and whether it’s the rewind moment on opener “U Got Wot I Need” or proto-metallic bass thrust of the “Hawkline Monster” or the brash post-Lemmy push of “Tired ‘n’ Wired,” the album is a celebration of a moment when rock isn’t about being any of those things or anything else, but about having a good time, letting off some steam from a shit job or whatever it is, and trying your damnedest to get laid. Radio samples throughout tie the songs together, but even that carries an analog feel – because radio – and the good Admiral are clearly well versed in the fine art of kicking ass. Familiar in all the right ways with more than enough personality to make that just another part of the charm.
The invitation to completely immerse comes quickly on the 13-minute “Delusion Sound,” which opens Landing’s Third Sight (on El Paraiso), and from there, the Connecticut four-piece sway along a beautiful and melodic drift, easing their way along a full-sounding progression filled out with airy guitar and backing drones, moved forward patiently by its drum march and topped with echoed half-whispers. It’s a flat-out gorgeous initial impression to make, and the instrumental “Third Site” and “Facing South” follow it with a tinge of the experimentalism for which Landing are more known, the former led by guitar and the latter led by cinematic keyboard. To bookend, the 14-minute “Morning Sun” builds as it progresses and draws the various sides together while creating a rising soundscape of its own, every bit earning its name as the vocals emerge in the second half, part of a created wash that is nothing short of beautiful. One could say the same of Third Sight as a whole.
While they’ve spent the last few years kicking around the deeper recesses of Brooklyn’s heavy underground, Reign of Zaius mark their debut release with the 26-minute Planet Of… EP, bringing together seven tracks that show what their time and buildup of material has wrought. Opener “Hate Parade” reminds of earliest Kings Destroy, but on the whole, Reign of Zaius are rawer and more metal at their core, the five-piece delving into shuffle on “Out of Get Mine” and showing an affinity for classic horror in both “They Live” – which starts with a sample of Roddy Piper being all out of bubblegum – and “Farewell to Arms,” previously issued as a single in homage to Evil Dead. The charm of a “Dueling Banjos” reference at the start of “Deliver Me” leads to one of the catchier hooks on Planet Of…, and the shorter “Power Hitter” closes with a bass-heavy paean to smoking out that digs into punkish summation of where Reign of Zaius are coming from generally as they continue to be a band up for having a good time without taking themselves too seriously.
Kind of a mystery just where the time goes on Sydney rockers Transcendent Sea’s self-released 50-minute first album, Ballads of Drowning Men. Sure, straightforward cuts like “Over Easy” and “Mind Queen” are easily enough accounted for with their post-Orange Goblin burl and boozy, guttural delivery from vocalist Sean Bowden, but as the four-piece of Bowden, guitarist Mathew J. Allen, bassist Andrew Auglys and drummer Mark Mills get into the more extended “Throw Me a Line,” “Blood of a Lion” and closer “Way of the Wolf” – all over 10 minutes each – their moves become harder to track. They keep the hooks and the verses, but it’s not like they’re just tacking jams onto otherwise structured tracks, and even when “Way of the Wolf” goes wandering, Bowden keeps it grounded, and that effect is prevalent throughout in balancing Ballads of Drowning Men as a whole. It takes a few listens to get a handle on where Transcendent Sea are coming from in that regard, but their debut proves worth at least that minimal effort.
Brothers Rael and Ryan Andrews, both formerly of Lansing, Michigan, art rockers BerT, revive their heavy punk duo Red Teeth with the four-song Light Bender 7” on GTG Records. Both contribute vocals, and Ryan handles guitar and bass, while Rael is on drums and synth through the quick run of “Light Bender, Sound Bender,” “Tas Pappas,” “134mps” and “Elephant Graveyard,” the longest of which is the opener (immediate points) at 4:49. By the time they get down to “Elephant Graveyard,” one can hear some of the Melvinsian twist and crunch that often surfaced in BerT, but whether it’s the ‘90s-alt-vibes-meet-drum-madness of “134mps” or the almost rockabilly riffing of “Tas Pappas,” Red Teeth – whose last release was eight years ago – have no trouble establishing personality in these songs. Approach with an open mind and the weirdness that persists will be more satisfying, as each track seems to have a context entirely of its own.
One can hear the kind of spacious darkness and through-the-skin cold of New England winters in this new split EP from Connecticut crushers Sea of Bones and grinding New Hampshire compatriots Ramlord from Broken Limbs Recordings. What the two share most of all is an atmosphere of existential destitution, but there’s an underlying sense of the extreme that also ties together Sea of Bones’ “Hopelessness and Decay” (10:36) and Ramlord’s “Incarceration of Clairvoyance (Part III)” (10:10), the latter of which continues a series Ramlord started back in 2012 on a split with Cara Neir. Both acts are very much in their element in their brutality. For Sea of Bones, this is the second release they’ve had out this year behind the improvised and digital-only “Silent Transmissions” 27-minute single, which of course was anything but, and for Ramlord, it’s their first split in two years, but finds their gritty, filthy sound well intact from where they last left it. Nothing to complain about here, unless peace of mind is your thing, because you certainly won’t find any of that.
Philadelphia-based five-piece Holy Smoke formed in the early hours of 2015, and the exclamatory Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo! three-track EP is their debut release. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points) in “Rinse and Repeat,” it finds them blending psychedelic and heavy rock elements and conjuring marked fluidity between them. As the title indicates, it’s a demo, and what one hears throughout is the first material Holy Smoke thought enough of to put to tape, but on “Rinse and Repeat” and the subsequent “Blue Dreams” and “The Firm,” they bring the two sides together well in a way it’s easy to hope they continue to do as they move onto whatever comes next, pulling off “The Firm” particularly with marked swing and a sense of confidence that undercuts the notion of their being their first time out. They have growing to do, and by no means would I consider them established in style, but there’s a spark in the songs that could absolutely catch fire.