Quarterly Review: Spiritual Beggars, Øresund Space Collective, Goya, Black Shape of Nexus, Cough, Oranssi Pazuzu, Karma to Burn, Black Mood, Nebula Drag, Ommadon

Posted in Reviews on June 21st, 2016 by JJ Koczan


Day Two of The Obelisk’s Summer 2016 Quarterly Review — that’s an awful lot of capital letters. I’m not sure if it’s quite such a formal occasion, but perhaps that’s just an effect of staring at some of the names in this particular batch, who from classic heavy rock to post-black metal to stoner riffs, drone, doom and beyond offer a pretty vast range and more than a small measure of profile throughout. It’s a substantial swath, is what I’m saying. If you can’t find something here to dig on, well, I’d say look again, but of course there’ll also be another 10 reviews tomorrow, Thursday and Friday, and there were 10 yesterday as well, so I’m sure something will turn up if it hasn’t yet. Here we go.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Spiritual Beggars, Sunrise to Sundown

spiritual beggars sunrise to sundown

More than 20 years on from their self-titled debut, Sweden’s Spiritual Beggars release their ninth LP, Sunrise to Sundown (on Inside Out Music). They seem to have set themselves to the sole task of making the records that one wishes Deep Purple were making, full of righteous organ-laced classic heavy thrust, driven by top tier songwriting and performance on every level. Founding guitarist Michael Amott (also Carcass) has assembled a lineup of masters, and since 2010’s Return to Zero (review here), frontman Apollo Papathanasio (also Firewind) has provided the soaring voice to add to the keyboard majesty of Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth, Candlemass) on songs like “I Turn to Stone.” The album’s 11 cuts are catchy, universally structured, and varied in their feel enough to carry the listener through fluidly, bassist Sharlee D’Angelo (Mercyful Fate) and drummer Ludwig Witt (ex-Firebird) locking in weighted grooves and underscoring the flow of what comes across like an increasingly collaborative songwriting process. Sunrise to Sundown is the sound of a band knowing what they want to do and how they want to do it and then doing precisely that.

Spiritual Beggars on Thee Facebooks

Inside Out Music website


Øresund Space Collective, Ode to a Black Hole

oresund space collective ode to a black hole

How many records does Ode to a Black Hole make it for Danish improve spacelords Øresund Space Collective? I honestly don’t know. Their Bandcamp lists 52 releases. Granted, not all of them are full-length studio LPs, but they jam whether they’re live or in the studio, so after a point it’s kind of moot. However many in the ultimate tally, Ode to a Black Hole is somewhat unique among them, exploring the darker side of the cosmic reaches in a bleaker, droning psychedelia spread across two instrumental tracks put to tape at the same time as 2015’s triple-LP Different Creatures (review here). Of course, it’s Øresund Space Collective, so there is still plenty of synth and effects swirl to be had, but it’s a slower galaxial movement as “Ode to a Black Hole Part 1” feeds directly into “Ode to a Black Hole Part 2.” Whatever their method of getting there, Øresund Space Collective prove once again how apparently boundless their scope has become with nuance of guitar and key flourish beneath the surface of the mix to let the listener know there’s life out in the expanse.

Øresund Space Collective on Thee Facebooks

Øresund Space Collective on Bandcamp


Goya, The Enemy

goya the enemy

Phoenix, Arizona’s Goya continue their forward march with The Enemy EP (on STB Records). Still fair to say Electric Wizard are a primary influence, but as shown on their last full-length, 2015’s charmingly-titled Obelisk (review here), the trio are increasingly able to put more of themselves into their sound. In “The Enemy,” “Last” and “Light Years,” that shows in tighter songwriting, some vocal harmonies on “Light Years,” and a harder overall tonal impact than the tenets of post-Witchcult Today doomery might lead one to expect, reminding in parts of the raw in-room feel that Egypt have come to proffer, burly but more about groove than attitude. The EP closes with a nine-minute take on “The Enemy” itself, adding more harmonies, some screams at the end, and a lengthy midsection jam to flesh out its extra four minutes. Goya have been and still are a bright spot (existentially, if not in mood) in up-and-coming US doom, and The Enemy might be a stopgap coming off of Obelisk, but it reminds listeners of their growth very much still in progress.

Goya on Thee Facebooks

STB Records


Black Shape of Nexus, Carrier

black shape of nexus carrier

In a universe full of pretenders to the throne of Eyehategod, German six-piece Black Shape of Nexus prove there’s room for genuine creativity in sludge. Their fourth offering, Carrier (on Exile on Mainstream), finds them past the 10-year mark and lumbering their way through five varied originals, from the cavernous opener “I Can’t Play It” through the droning “Lift Yourself” and the utter spacecrush that ensues in “Facepunch Transport Layer” before the villainous laughter at the end of “Sachsenheim” leads to a 12-minute take on Hellhammer’s “Triumph of Death,” which closes. It feels like no coincidence that of the Black Shape of Nexus-penned inclusions “Sand Mountain” is the centerpiece; the tortured screaming, claustrophobic riff and blend of rawness and lush depth speak to the originality at the core of their approach. There’s a firm sense of fuckall here, and my understanding is making Carrier was something of a trial, but the results are perhaps only more vicious for that, and thus stronger.

Black Shape of Nexus on Thee Facebooks

Exile on Mainstream Records website


Cough, Still They Pray

cough still they pray

Six years and the ascent of an entire movement of similarly-minded acts later, Cough ooze back to activity with Still They Pray (on Relapse), their dirt-caked third full-length. That movement, by the way, includes fellow Richmonders Windhand, with whom Cough now share bassist Parker Chandler and whose Garrett Morris recorded here along with Jus Oborn of Electric Wizard, who remain a major influence in Cough’s grueling, nodding filth, brought to bear over eight tracks and a purposefully unmanageable 67-minute runtime. Stylistically it’s not so far from where Cough were on 2010’s Ritual Abuse (review here), the bleak anarchistic lurch and tonal immersion still very much at the fore of “Possession,” “Dead Among the Roses” and the organ-inclusive “The Wounding Hours,” but though they can play slow enough to make “Masters of Torture” seem positively thrashy by comparison, they never lose their sense of atmosphere, as the acoustic-led closing title-track makes plain in fashion no less heavy than the punishment meted out before it.

Cough on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website


Oranssi Pazuzu, Värähtelijä

oranssi pazuzu varahtelija

It feels factually inaccurate to call something so wilfully charred “vibrant,” but Oranssi Pazuzu’s fourth long-player, Värähtelijä (on Svart and 20 Buck Spin), not only finds light in its overarching darkness, but makes it a pivotal aspect of the album’s 69-minute course. Open structures, an enviable depth of mix between far-off guitar, keys, organ, various layers of screams, etc., songs like 12-minute opener “Saturaatio” and the later 17-minute chaoswirl of “Vasemann Käden Hierarkia” offer stylistic breadth as much prog as they are psychedelia or black metal, perhaps the next phase of the latter’s cosmic wing come to fruition. Relatively speaking, the more straightforward “Havuluu” offers listeners a moment to catch their breadth, but the organ-led experimentalism of 10-minute closer “Valveavaruus” gurgles in an exploration of ambient downward plunge. One of the most adventurous black metal releases of 2016, if you can still even tag a genre to it, which I’m not sure you can. A band doing pivotal and forward-thinking work.

Oranssi Pazuzu on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin webshop

Svart Records webshop


Karma to Burn, Mountain Czar

karma to burn mountain czar

Though they just got off a lengthy US run, the fact that Karma to Burn’s webstore offers their new Mountain Czar EP in euro instead of dollars could easily be taken as a sign of where the band’s general priorities lie. I don’t know if founding guitarist Will Mecum is actually living abroad or remains in West Virginia, but their label, Rodeostar Records, is European, they maintain a close relationship with German artist Alexander Von Wieding, and their tour schedule keeps a definite continental focus. So be it. Mountain Czar brings five new cuts, three by-the-numbers Karma to Burn instrumentals, the highlight of which is patient, jangly-guitar closer “63,” and “Uccidendo un Sogno,” an Italian-language cover of Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ down a Dream” sung by guest vocalist Stefanie Savy and featuring Manuel Bissig of Switzerland’s Sons of Morpheus on guitar. Karma to Burn very much remain Karma to Burn throughout, Mecum joined by drummer Evan Devine and bassist Eric Clutter, but they’re changing what that means in interesting ways.

Karma to Burn website

Rodeostar Records


Black Mood, Squalid Garden

black mood squalid garden

Comprised solely of guitarist/vocalist Sleaze and drummer Izz, German Southern metallers Black Mood begin their seven-song sophomore outing, Squalid Garden (on Daredevil Records) with a sample of Cornelius from Planet of the Apes quoting the Lawgiver to “shun the beast man,” and so on. By the time they get around to the chugging and warbling “Ohh, save my soul” in second cut “IWNAR,” the Down/Crowbar vibe has been laid on so thick that it’s unmistakable. It’s been seven years since Black Mood made their self-titled debut in 2009 – they had an EP, Toxic Hippies, out in 2012 – but their chestbeating, dudely vibes are easily sourced, even in faster, more Pantera-style moments in “Reflected,” “100 Squalid Garden” or closer “Side,” making the album ultimately a matter of taste for anyone who’d take it on. For me, some aspects ring derivative, others show flashes of individualism, but it’s a very specific vision of Southern metal at work here, and it’s not going to be for everyone.

Black Mood on Bandcamp

Daredevil Records webshop


Nebula Drag, Nebula Drag


Newcomers Nebula Drag join the ranks of a crowded heavy psych scene in their native San Diego via their self-titled, self-released debut, but the trio distinguish themselves immediately with a solidified underpinning of punkish intent, so that the airy vocals of “Sano” float over an insistent, noisy crunch. That blend is toyed with in one direction or another throughout the release, the five-minute “So Low” finding some middle-ground in grunge push, but as the subsequent “Up and Down”’s Melvins-style roll and the hardcore-style drive of “Lost Time” play out, Nebula Drag seem far less tied to any single approach. It’s a dynamic that serves them well throughout the album’s 10-track/37-minute run, and they maintain a sense of rawness in the almost thrashy breakdown of “I Can Not Explain” that speaks to a lack of pretense to go along with their potential for development. Will be curious to hear if one side or the other wins out in their sound over the long-term, but in a town where so many bands are geared on being the most laid back, it’s refreshing to hear a group with a more forceful tack.

Nebula Drag on Thee Facebooks

Nebula Drag on Bandcamp


Ommadon, Ommadon

ommadon ommadon

After a series of numbered full-lengths, Glasgow consciousness-stompers Ommadon offer their self-titled sixth album through Dry Cough Records, Burning World Records and Medusa Crush Recordings. Doubtless the three labels were needed in order simply lift the 41-minute, single-song release, which is so unspeakably and ridiculously heavy as to warrant comparison to Buried at Sea’s Migration. Its retching lumber is superlative, and in giving it their name, Ommadon signal (and say outright) that it’s the work they’ve been driving toward all along. Fair enough. There is no moment of relenting from the abysmal intentions of “Ommadon” itself, and if this is to be the piece that ultimately defines the band, it’s one worthy of consideration for the outright extremity it brings to doom, sludge and drone, as well as the methodical nature in which it unfolds. Whatever its ultimate impact, Ommadon have pushed themselves forward and crafted an excruciating contribution that feels like a monolith bent to their will.

Ommadon on Thee Facebooks

Dry Cough Records webshop

Burning World Records

Medusa Crush Recordings on Bandcamp


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Spiritual Beggars Post “Hard Road” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 3rd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

spiritual beggars

Not for nothing, but if Spiritual Beggars are looking to convey a sense of struggle, they probably shouldn’t look like they’re having such a good time doing it. The Swedish heavy rock mainstays have a newly-unveiled clip for “Hard Road” from their new album, Sunrise to Sundown, which is out now on InsideOut Music, and it features culled footage from live shows at what seems to be a variety of different venues around Europe. And — as one would expect — they’re kicking ass. And people are very into it. And more over, people are there! You want to show a hard road? Show Spiritual Beggars loading in their gear, sleeping on floors, driving or waiting around the other 23 hours a day to actually get on stage and kick that ass. “Hard Road” gives you the good part, not the slog.

Of course, the good part makes for a much better video, and if it’s one or the other, I’ll take it as is. As for the track itself, it’s every bit as catchy and full of organ-driven classic vibes as one would expect, and if there’s a bonus to all that stage footage, it’s the chance to watch Ludwig Witt (ex-Firebird) play on a drum cam as he swings through the track, propulsive and vital. He and the rest of Spiritual Beggars — guitarists Michael Amott (Carcass), keyboardist Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth), bassist Sharlee D’Angelo (ex-Mercyful Fate) and vocalist Apollo Papathanasio (ex-Firewind) — are of course on point throughout, and in that, “Hard Road” represents Sunrise to Sundown well, since that’s pretty much the case throughout. Not much of a surprise, maybe, but no less satisfying for how much this band manages to deliver in songwriting and performance.

The people in the video for “Hard Road” sure seem to be enjoying it.

Find the clip below, followed by the latest from the PR wire, and enjoy:

Spiritual Beggars, “Hard Road” official video

SPIRITUAL BEGGARS – Launch video clip for “Hard Road”; 7″ and more shows announced!

Swedish vintage style hard rock pioneers SPIRITUAL BEGGARS have just wrapped up a European tour in support of their recently released 9th studio album “Sunrise To Sundown” and are now debuting a video clip for the song “Hard Road”.

Filmed & edited by Dirk Behlau /www.thepixeleye.com and produced by Beastwood Films / www.beastwoodfilms.com, the clip consists of footage gathered on the band’s latest European tour and highlights the band’s vivid on stage character.

SPIRITUAL BEGGARS guitarist and main songwriter Michael Amott comments:
“We just completed a three week tour through Europe and it was a very cool experience. Lots of love from our supporters out there and so awesome to see the new songs off our “Sunrise To Sundown” album go down so well! We had videographer Dirk Behlau come out to a couple shows in Germany to hang out, drink beer with us and capture some of the on and off stage action on camera – the result is a new clip for the song “Hard Road”…Enjoy!”

Next up, SPIRITUAL BEGGARS have announced a rare hometown show in Halmstad, Sweden. They will also play this year’s Stoned From The Underground festival.

Here is an overview of the band’s upcoming shows:
07.07.2016 – Ballenstedt, Germany- Rock Harz Open Air
08.07.2016 – Oulu, Finland – Jalometalli Metal Music Festival
15.07.2016 – Erfurt, Germany – Stoned From The Underground Festival
22.07.2016 – Halmstad, Sweden – Kajskjulet

In other news, SPIRITUAL BEGGARS will release a strictly limited 7″ EP including the album’s bonus cover versions of Mountain and Ten Years After via Germany’s H42 Records on May 30th.

Check out Mountain’s “Thumbsucker” streaming here: https://h42records.bandcamp.com/album/thumbsucker-stoned-woman-h42-032

And pre-order the 7″ EP as of May 9th here: http://h42records.8merch.com/presale

Spiritual Beggars website

Spiritual Beggars on Thee Facebooks

Spiritual Beggars on Twitter

Spiritual Beggars on Instagram

Spiritual Beggars at InsideOut Music

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Spiritual Beggars Post “Diamond Under Pressure” Lyric Video; Sunrise to Sundown Preorder Available

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 22nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

spiritual beggars

There is at least one, possibly two boatloads — depending, obviously, on the size of the boat in question — of information included with the new Spiritual Beggars lyric video for their new single with animation by Costin Chioreanu. Album preorders, for example. And the tracklisting for the special edition version of the record, which just happens to include two studio cover versions that may or many not be the ones that will also show up highlighted as the timely H42 Records single (info here) due out around the same time as the full-length Sunrise to Sundown, which is the Mike Amott-led Swedish outfit’s ninth. And tour dates! And some comment from Amott himself about how the track came together.

So yeah, plenty to dig into. As such, I don’t really feel the need to ramble about it, except maybe to note how righteously Deep Purple-fied “Diamond Under Pressure” is as presented here. Interesting to find Amott crediting Per Wiberg with the writing, because the organ definitely seems to be leading the charge throughout, and the push in the chorus is as much Spiritual Beggars as it is Machine Head, so all the better. If this is the first audio you’re hearing from Sunrise to Sundown, you might notice some more classic vibe in the recording than on the last couple Spiritual Beggars outings. I’m not sure how that will play out on the rest of the record — which is out March 18 on InsideOut Music — but I’m keen to find out.

But like I was saying, don’t want to ramble. Have at it:

Spiritual Beggars, “Diamond Under Pressure” lyric video

SPIRITUAL BEGGARS – Launch new single “Diamond Under Pressure”; Album pre-order!

It’s drawing closer…Swedish vintage style hard rock pioneers SPIRITUAL BEGGARS will release their 9th studio album entitled “Sunrise To Sundown” on March 18th, 2016 in Europe as well as March 25th, 2016 in North America via Inside Out Music.

Therefore, SPIRITUAL BEGGARS are now launching the album’s second single, “Diamond Under Pressure”, via a lyric-video created by Costin Chioreanu / Twilight13Media (At The Gates, Grave, Arcturus, etc.), who also did the artwork for “Sunrise To Sundown”.

SPIRITUAL BEGGARS guitarist and main composer Michael Amott checked in to comment about ”Diamond Under Pressure“ as follows:

“Diamond Under Pressure” is a song that our keyboard player Per Wiberg brought in as an awesome instrumental and I proceeded to write a lyric and vocal arrangement for it, I was inspired by a late night, alcohol fuelled conversation I’d had with our producer Staffan Karlsson for this one. Always a great time to be collaborate on music with Per and I think this is one of my favourites off the new album, despite all its obvious “Purple-esque” overtones it’s still retains a very typical Spiritual Beggars feel. Looking forward to playing this one live on tour this spring!”

The complete tracklisting for the new SPIRITUAL BEGGARS album is as follows:

SPIRITUAL BEGGARS – “Sunrise To Sundown”
1. Sunrise To Sundown
2. Diamond Under Pressure
3. What Doesn’t Kill You
4. Hard Road
5. Still Hunter
6. No Man’s Land
7. I Turn To Stone
8. Dark Light Child
9. Lonely Freedom
10. You’ve Been Fooled
11. Southern Star

Limited edition 2CD Mediabook bonus disc:
1. Thumbsucker (Mountain cover)
2. Stoned Woman (Ten Years After cover)
3. Wise As A Serpent (Live At Roadburn Festival 2013)
4. Turn The Tide (Live At Roadburn Festival 2013)
5. Drum Intro / Dreamer (Live At Roadburn Festival 2013)
6. One Man’s Curse (Live At Roadburn Festival 2013)
7. Kingmaker (Live At Roadburn Festival 2013)

Next to the CD formats, “Sunrise To Sundown” will of course also be available on vinyl. The LP format comes on 180gr. vinyl (Standard black, but also on limited coloured runs of 500x copies on dark green vinyl and 200x copies on yellow vinyl!) and in gatefold packaging with a double-sided poster as well as the full standard album on CD as bonus.
The album’s pre-sale in its various physical formats is starting TODAY via the IOM webshop here:

Just like on their previous two album releases, “Return To Zero” (2010) and “Earth Blues” (2013), SPIRITUAL BEGGARS stellar line-up is consists of bandleader Michael Amott (Arch Enemy, ex Carcass) on guitars, teaming up with Apollo Papathanasio (ex Firewind) on vocals, Sharlee D’Angelo (Arch Enemy, Witchery) on bass, Per Wiberg (Candlemass, ex Opeth) on keyboards as well as Ludwig Witt (Grand Magus, Firebird) on drums. And “Sunrise To Sundown” not only easily demonstrates how much on top of their game SPIRITUAL BEGGARS still are after over 20 years of activities, but also adds a fresh and spontaneous vibe to their impressive catalogue.

SPIRITUAL BEGGARS will be hitting the road soon to promote “Sunrise To Sundown”:

27.03.2016 – Schijndel, The Netherlands – Paaspop
28.03.2016 – Cologne, Germany – Club Bahnhof Ehrenfeld
29.03.2016 – Aschaffenburg, Germany – Colos-Saal
31.03.2016 – Leipzig, Germany – Hellraiser
01.04.2016 – Hamburg, Germany – Logo
02.04.2016 – Essen, Germany – Turock
04.04.2016 – Pratteln, Switzerland – Z7
06.04.2016 – Kortrijk, Belgium – De Kreun
07.04.2016 – Rouen, France – Le 106
08.04.2016 – Brest, France – Plougarock Festival Warm Up
09.04.2016 – Nantes, France – Le Ferrailleur
10.04.2016 – Paris, France – Backstage By The Mill
12.04.2016 – Munich, Germany – Strom
14.04.2016 – Karlsruhe, Germany – Substage
15.04.2016 – Malmö, Sweden – KB
16.04.2016 – Stockholm, Sweden – Göta Källare
17.04.2016 – Göteborg, Sweden – Sticky Fingers
28.04.2016 – Berlin, Germany – Desertfest
07.07.2016 – Ballenstedt, Germany – Rock Harz Open Air
08.07.2016 – Oulu, Finland – Jalometalli Metal Music Festival

Spiritual Beggars website

Spiritual Beggars on Thee Facebooks

Spiritual Beggars on Twitter

Spiritual Beggars on Instagram

InsideOut Music

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Spiritual Beggars Post Sunrise to Sundown Art; Add Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

The cover art for Spiritual Beggars‘ upcoming ninth album is by Costin Chioreanu, a Romanian artist of increasing repute who in addition to having done art for Roadburn fests and various others — including his own band — in the black metal realm has put a good deal of effort into raising funds and awareness in the wake of the nightclub fire in his home country last year. Chioreanu‘s piece for Sunrise to Sundown is among the more colorful of his works, at least that I’ve seen, but still demonstrates his penchant for muted tones rather than the brightness one might associate with a theme so classic as that he employs here, even if that lizard in profile in the foreground also recalls Spiritual Beggars‘ 1998 third album, Mantra III.

Makes me wonder if the audio too of Sunrise to Sundown won’t employ a more classic sound than we’ve heard from Spiritual Beggars on their last few records, which while clearly taking ’70s cues in structure, have been thoroughly modernized affairs. Guess we’ll find out in March when it comes out on InsideOut Music.

If you want a closer look at that cover, click the image below. More info and some new tour dates follow from the PR wire:

spiritual beggars sunrise to sundown

SPIRITUAL BEGGARS – Unveil “Sunrise To Sundown” Artwork, Tracklist and more Tour Dates!

Swedish vintage style hard rock pioneers SPIRITUAL BEGGARS return with their 9th studio album entitled ‘Sunrise To Sundown’, which will be released on March 18th, 2016 in Europe as well as March 25th, 2016 in North America via InsideOutMusic.

The album’s fantastic cover artwork (which can be now seen above!) has been created by Costin Chioreanu / Twilight13Media (At The Gates, Grave, Arcturus, etc.) and here is the album’s tracklisting:

SPIRITUAL BEGGARS – “Sunrise To Sundown”
1. Sunrise To Sundown
2. Diamond Under Pressure
3. What Doesn’t Kill You
4. Hard Road
5. Still Hunter
6. No Man’s Land
7. I Turn To Stone
8. Dark Light Child
9. Lonely Freedom
10. You’ve Been Fooled
11. Southern Star

The album’s limited edition version will be released as 2CD Mediabook with a bonus disc including 7 tracks (2 covers versions and 5 live songs) and an expanded booklet. The LP format will be on 180gr. vinyl and come in gatefold packaging with a double-sided poster as well as the full standard album on CD as bonus. More details about the album formats and pre-order links will be announced soon…

Supporting the release of ‘Sunrise To Sundown’, SPIRITUAL BEGGARS will also be hitting the road on the following club-dates as well as festivals (* New shows since last update!):

27.03.2016 Schijndel (The Netherlands) – Paaspop *
28.03.2016 Köln (Germany) – Club Bahnhof Ehrenfeld
29.03.2016 Aschaffenburg (Germany) – Colos-Saal
31.03.2016 Leipzig (Germany) – Hellraiser
01.04.2016 Hamburg (Germany) – Logo
02.04.2016 Essen (Germany) – Turock
04.04.2016 Pratteln (Switzerland) – Z7
06.04.2016 Kortrijk (Belgium) – De Kreun
07.04.2016 Rouen (France) – Le 106
08.04.2016 Brest (France) – Sale Odissey / Plougarock Festival Warm Up *
09.04.2016 Nantes (France) Le Ferrailleur *
10.04.2016 Paris (France) – Backstage By The Mill
12.04.2016 Munich (Germany) – Strom
14.04.2016 Karlsruhe (Germany) – Substage
28.04.2016 Berlin (Germany) – Desert Fest
08.07.2016 Oulu (Finland) – Jalometalli Festival
09.07.2016 Ballenstedt (Germany) – Rock Harz Festival
More dates to be announced soon…


Spiritual Beggars, “Wise as a Serpent” official video

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Bigelf to Release Into the Maelstrom on March 4

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 20th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

While I’m not sure I’d position Los Angeles-based rockers Bigelf as progressive — at least in the modern rock sense — I’m not sure I can come up with anywhere they’d fit better, and certainly having former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy in the lineup isn’t about to hurt their cred in that regard. Founded by oft-chapeaued frontman Damon Fox a long, long time ago, Bigelf‘s last album was 2008’s Cheat the Gallows, and to herald the March 4 arrival of Into the Maelstrom as their first LP in half a decade, they’ll be taking part in the Progressive Nation at Sea cruise/fest in February, which will see them perform alongside the likes of Devin Townsend and Adrian Belew. So, you know, very proggy there as well.

Interested to hear how all this proggy-prog-prog manifests on Into the Maelstrom and if Bigelf keep some of the classic psychedelia of their past efforts intact, but I guess we’ll have to wait until the New Year.

Till then, the PR wire has this:

Bigelf announce release of new studio album ‘Into The Maelstrom’ for March 2014

It’s been a long time coming, but Bigelf are at long last pleased to announce that they will release their brand new fourth studio album entitled ‘Into The Maelstrom’ on the 4th of March 2014 throughout North America. Frontman and mastermind Damon Fox had this to say:
“I think ITM is the best Bigelf record yet and I believe it is a real game changer for the band. It’s gonna put us over the top! Psychedelic cinematic landscapes and melodic prog-doom set the stage for the new album, I cannot wait for fans (old and new) to experience all of its apocalyptic color.”

‘Into The Maelstrom’ marks the recording debut of Mike Portnoy (Transatlantic, The Winery Dogs) with Bigelf, whose Progressive Nation At Sea Cruise the band will perform on from the 18th – 22nd February 2014, playing alongside bands such as Transatlantic, Devin Townsend Project, Riverside & Adrian Belew Power Trio. Tickets are available now from www.progressivenationatsea.com

Look out for more information in the coming weeks!

BIGELF online:

Bigelf, “Superstar” official video

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Bigelf Resurface with Mike Portnoy on Drums; Sign to InsideOut Music

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 3rd, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Not heard from since the 2009 re-release of 2008’s Cheat the Gallows, L.A.-based heavy prog weirdos Bigelf have come back to earth. Bechapeaued frontman Damon Fox has announced that he has joined forces with none other than former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy in a new lineup of the band and that they’ve signed to Century Media‘s prog-minded subsidiary, InsideOut Music.

If that seems like pretty wild news, kind of an unexpected pairing and it leaves you not quite knowing what to think about it, that’s precisely the arena in which Bigelf have always preferred to operate. Look for more on the album to come, but meanwhile, here are the details of the signing and a bit of a catch-’em-up from Damon Fox about this new era of the band:

BIGELF returns and signs new deal with InsideOut Music; Mike Portnoy to play drums on forthcoming new album

InsideOut Music is immensely pleased to announce the signing of progressive-rock powerhouse BIGELF for the release of their forthcoming new album later this year. Label-head Thomas Waber says about the signing: “We have been talking to BIGELF for quite some time now and I am really pleased that we finally managed to make this happen! BIGELF are an excellent addition to the InsideOut Music roster!”

It’s been a few years since we’ve heard any activity from the BIGELF camp, so who better to explain to us what’s been going on than the band’s mastermind Damon Fox himself:

“Finally! BIGELF lands on a planet whose atmosphere is synonymous with progressive rock and heavy metal. One of my all-time favourite quotes is, ‘Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid…’

I’m ecstatic that InsideOut/Century Media and Mike Portnoy have joined ‘forces’ with BIGELF.

First, I want to elaborate on what has been happening ‘inside’ the band since 2010, there have been numerous rumours on the internet that I fired everyone in BIGELF, this is completely untrue.

After the juggernaut of ‘Cheat The Gallows’ came to a halt, the business and personal infrastructure of BIGELF imploded and an unexpected hiatus occurred leaving the band in complete disarray. A myriad of personal, financial and domestic matters had enveloped myself as well as certain members of the group. There also comes a time when deep down inside it just doesn’t feel right anymore, and one has to face the music that the end is near. Transparency no longer exists and with that, clarity and perspective are lost. I’m speaking for myself now but clearly this was a mutual feeling and I believe it was obvious amongst the band. Subsequently, Ace Mark decided to move on and left BIGELF in the summer of 2011, and a request by the remaining members for a dissolution of business followed. To put it simply, we went our separate ways without malice.

I had been keeping in close touch with Mike Portnoy after his very public and difficult departure from DREAM THEATER. At this time, my musical future seemed quite bleak and I was very vocal to Mike about not being able to sustain the band any longer on my own. He implored me to carry on and to not let BIGELF slip away, his encouragement and enthusiasm meant the world to me. Recognizing that I needed some new allies, I asked him if he would help fight the good fight and lend his extraordinary drum majesty to the new BIGELF record and he readily agreed. Also…sharing a passion for all things rock & roll, my good friend Duffy Snowhill climbed aboard the Viking ship for another round of thundering bass guitar and for that too I am grateful.

I also want to acknowledge our amazing and dedicated fans that send emails all the time saying how they feel about BIGELF. These emails inspire me greatly and they’re the reason that I continue to play this kind of music, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I can’t wait for everyone to hear the new wondrous landscapes we’ve been sculpting, there are lots of surprises around the corner, stay tuned.”

–Damon Fox

Bigelf, “The Evils of Rock and Roll”

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If You Only Buy 24 Records Between Now and May 1…

Posted in Features on March 12th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

…Yeah, I know, 24 is a buttload of records to buy in the span of about a month and a half. To do the division, it would mean buying a new album every 2.04 days. Probably not feasible in terms of time, let alone budget, but hell, it’s a nice thought and seeing the onslaught of new stuff coming between now and the end of April, I thought maybe a list would help keep it all straight. Even if I’m only helping myself, I could probably spend my time in worse ways.

Worth noting that even with 24 albums, presented below in order of release, I feel like there’s stuff I’m forgetting. Frankly, it’s an overwhelming amount of material, so if I’ve missed something or there’s something you’d like to see added to the list, as always, that’s why there’s a comments feature.

Okay. These are numbered just for fun, but listed by date:

1. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Fans (March 12)

My understanding is that London’s foremost doom scoundrels, none other than Orange Goblin, have been selling copies of A Eulogy for the Fans since starting their US tour with Clutch on March 8 in Cincinnati, Ohio, but today is the official release date, and I can think of no better place to start than with the four-piece’s ferocious performance at the 2012 Bloodstock festival, captured audio and video in all its bloodsoaked glory. Not to be missed or taken lightly because it’s a live record. Album review here.

2. Borracho, Mob Gathering 7″ (March 13)

Even though it’s comprised of older tracks, the new Mob Gathering 7″ from Borracho is welcome by me for two reasons: I’ve never heard the songs before and Borracho rocks. The Washington D.C.-based riffers recorded “Mob Gathering” and “Short Ride (When it’s Over)” in 2009 and are set to release the cuts on a limited platter in black and orange swirl through Spain’s Ghost Highway Recordings and Germany’s No Balls Records. They’ve been playing live as a mostly-instrumental outfit while guitarist/vocalist Noah is out of the country on what I can only assume is an awesome spy mission, so if you need a Borracho fix — and it’s obvious from the way your hands are shaking that you do — this might be the way to go. More info here.

3. Inter Arma, Sky Burial (March 15)

Like Windhand below, Inter Arma are recent Relapse Records signees from Richmond, Virginia, and Sky Burial will serve as their first release for the label. Literally and figuratively, the album is expansive, topping 69 minutes and pummeling the whole way through with a genre-transcending concoction of bleakness that’s not so much aligned to any particular heavy aesthetic so much as it is set to its own atmospheric purposes. Through this, Inter Arma emerge terrifyingly cohesive where many others would falter, and their second LP behind 2010’s Sundown (review here) leaves a progressive impression despite an almost complete lack of sonic pretense. Mostly, it’s fucking heavy. Track stream and info here.

4. Clutch, Earth Rocker (March 19)

If 2013 ended tomorrow, Clutch‘s Earth Rocker would be my album of the year. That’s not saying the situation will be the same nine months from now when I actually start putting that list together (already dreading it), but as of March 12, it’s the cat’s pajamas and no foolin’. The long-running Marylanders outdid themselves and put together a surprisingly fast, energetic collection of songs that don’t forsake the bluesy tendencies of their last album, 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West, so much as they put some of the jamming on lockdown in favor of all-out pro-grade heavy rock and roll. The velocity is crucial and the wolfman is out, but it feels like the party’s just starting. Look for them on tour sometime between now and forever. Album review here.

5. Black Mare, Field of the Host (March 20)

Black Math Horseman and Ides of Gemini frontwoman Sera Timms (who’s also recently collaborated with Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce in the new outfit Zun) steps further out on her own with the solo-project Black Mare, from whom Field of the Host is the first album. Due March 20 on LP through The Crossing and on cassette through Breathe Plastic, limited in both cases and sure to be gone shortly after release if they’re not already taken through pre-orders. Fans of Timms‘ past works will be glad to hear the misty wash of melody and dreamy, somehow sad, languid roll of “Blind One,” for starters. Audio and info on the forum.

6. Kvelertak, Meir (March 26)

Short of setting themselves on fire, Norwegian triple-guitar six-piece Kvelertak did just about everything they could to get noticed in support of their 2010 self-titled debut LP (review here), and sure enough, their work paid off in getting signed to Roadrunner Records for all territories outside their native Scandinavia (where Indie Recordings holds sway) and trumpeting up a wave of anticipation for their second full-length, Meir. Their energetic, genre-crossing approach might not be for everybody, but the band have turned a lot of heads and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to find them on bigger tours this year with Roadrunner behind them. More info on the forum.

7. Black Pyramid, Adversarial (April 2)

This is actually the first time the Eli Wood cover art for Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial has been seen in full, so you know. The Hydro-Phonic Records release of the third Black Pyramid album and first to be fronted by guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard along with bassist David Gein and drummer Clay Neely punctuates the beginning of a new era for the Massachusetts trio. If the advance listen to closing track “Onyx and Obsidian” is anything to go by, they could very well be at their most potent yet, and though I’d hardly consider myself an impartial observer, as a fan of the band, this is one I’ve been looking forward to for a while now. More to come. Track stream here.

8. Moss, Horrible Night (April 2)

I’ve yet to hear the complete album, but UK trio Moss seem poised to surprise with a cleaner vocal approach on Horrible Night, their first offering since 2008’s impressive Sub Templum LP and two EPs in 2009, so in addition to wondering how they’ll pull it off, the level of the shift remains to be seen. That is, how big a deal is it? Should I call my mom? Is this something grandma needs to know about? Time will tell, but for it having been five years since the last time a Moss record reared its doomly head, it seems only fair to give the band a little breathing room on their evolution. More info and video here.

9. Mars Red Sky, Be My Guide EP (April 8)

How glad am I that French fuzz rockers Mars Red Sky have a new EP coming? Well, I’m not as happy that it’s coming as I am that it’s frickin’ awesome. The trio keep the weighted bass tones that gave so much depth to their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but they’ve also clearly set to work expanding the formula as well, adding stomp to second track “Seen a Ghost” and an eerie repetitive sense to side B closer “Stranger,” while also broadening their melodic reach and taking claim of whichever side of the line they want between fuzz rock and heavy psychedelia while remaining so much more to the ears than either genre descriptor can offer to the eyes. At half an hour, my only complaint with it is it’s not a full-length album. Video trailer and info here.

10. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era (April 9)

A sample of the poet Ron Whitehead — who also featured on Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s late-2012 debut EP for Tee Pee Records, The Storm Generation (review here) — comes to clarity just in time for the gonzo Boomer poet to let us all know that, “America is an illusion” (that may be, but it’s an illusion with an army of flying killer robots), and from there, the youngin’ desert transplants embark on a low-end-heavy freakout topped with sweet surf rock guitars and set to use in intricate, sometimes surprisingly jagged, rhythmic dances. Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson guests, Scott Reeder produced. Review is forthcoming, but till then, there’s more info here.

11. Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse (April 9)

Fate is Your Muse serves not only as Indianapolis rockers Devil to Pay‘s Ripple Music debut, but also as the double-guitar foursome’s first outing since 2009’s Heavily Ever After. With tales of lizardmen attacks and the alleged end of the world, it’s got its fair share of personality, and set to the chugging riffs, melodic vocals and straightforward heavy grooves, that personality still goes a long way. I’ll have a review up before this week is out (I hope), but still, I wanted to make sure to include Devil to Pay here too, since their songs command both attention and respect. To wit, I just can’t seem to get “This Train Won’t Stop” out of my head. Video and info here.

12. Cough & Windhand, Reflection of the Negative Split (April 15)

Virginian doomers Cough and Windhand share a hometown in Richmond, a love of volume, a bassist in Parker Chandler and now a label in Relapse Records, so yeah, a split makes sense. Reflection of the Negative will be Windhand‘s first release through Relapse ahead of their sophomore full-length, scheduled for later this year (info here). For Cough, this split marks their first outing since 2010’s An Introduction to the Black Arts split with UK masters The Wounded Kings (review here), and they’ll present the 18-minute “Athame,” while Windhand bring forth “Amaranth” and “Shepherd’s Crook.” More info here.

13. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control (April 15)

What the last Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats album, 2011’s Blood Lust (semi-review here), did so well was capture the atmosphere and the grainy imagery of late ’60s/early ’70s psychedelic horror and put it into audio form. For that, Blood Lust earned massive praise, but I still think that without the central core of songwriting underneath the genre trappings, it would’ve fallen flat. When it comes to Mind Control, the question waiting to be answered is if the band wants to stick to the blueprint they’ve established or go brazenly into uncharted weirdness. I’m not really sure they can lose, either way. Info and music here.

14. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar (April 16)

Their debut on new label Nuclear Blast and the quick-arriving answer to my pick for 2012 debut of the year, Abra Kadavar arrives with plenty of anticipation leading the way. The retro-rocking German trio have their work cut out for them in following that self-titled, but however it turns out in the comparison, it will be fascinating to learn how Kadavar develops the band’s sound and whether or not they prove able to push the boundaries of their aesthetic while simultaneously setting a new standard for promo photos. New video here.

15. Spiritual Beggars, Earth Blues (April 16)

I guess when it comes to these long-running Swedes, everybody’s got their favorite lineup, their favorite tunes, etc., but for me, I’m just impressed that Michael Amott — now more than 20 years on from starting Spiritual Beggars as a side-project while still in grindcore pioneers Carcass — still has any interest in keeping the classic rock Hammond-loving outfit grooving. Their last outing, 2010’s Return to Zero (review here), was the first to feature vocalist Apollo Papathanasio, formerly of Firewind, and though those songs were solid, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re more settled in on Earth Blues when it drops via InsideOut Music on April 16. More info on the forum.

16. Beastwars, Blood Becomes Fire (April 19)

Alternating between periods of brooding intensity and all-out crushing heaviness, the second full-length from New Zealand’s Beastwars, Blood Becomes Fire, is nasty, nasty, nasty. It’s nasty when it’s quiet and it’s nasty when it’s loud. It’s the kind of record you put on and you’re like, “Damn that’s nasty.” And you’re not wrong. The four-piece — touring shortly with Unida — upped their game even from 2011’s self-titled debut (review here), and for anyone who heard that record, you know that’s saying something. I’m still in the “getting to know it” phase, but so far all that nasty feels pretty right on. More info here.

17. Ghost, Infestissumam (April 19)

Man, this one just kind of happened, huh? I suck — and I mean S-U-C-K suck — at keeping up with band hype. I’m the dude who hears the record three months later and goes, “Yeah, I guess that’s cool,” as countless reviews here can attest, including the one for Ghost‘s 2010 debut, Opus Eponymous, but with the Swedish cult heavyweights, all of a sudden I turned around and blamo, major label deal, semi-name change to Ghost B.C., and enough slathering over the impending Infestissumam to make the first album seem like less than the hyperbole it was treated to initially. Funny how that happens. Out in April? I’m sure I’ll review in June and go, “Yeah, I guess that’s cool.” More info on the forum.

18. One Inch Giant, The Great White Beyond (April 19)

Now signed to Soulseller Records, Swedish heavy rockers One Inch Giant will unveil their debut full-length on April 19 and as three of my favorite words in the English language are “Swedish heavy rockers,” I’m excited to find out how this Gothenburg four-piece follow-up their Malva EP, and if they can capture some of the extreme dynamic they brought to their live show when they toured the US last summer — a run of shows that included a stop at SHoD. Hard not to pull for a band after they come over to play club dates. More info and music here.

19. The Heavy Co., Midwest Electric (April 20)

It was actually the other day writing about The Heavy Co.‘s Midwest Electric that I had the idea for this feature, so however high the profile might be for some of these albums — Ghost walks by on their way to cash a check — it was these unpretentious Hoosier rockers and their new outing, Midwest Electric, that started me off. From what I’ve heard so far, the new collection sounds a little more confident in exploring psychedelia than did the trio’s 2011 debut EP, The Heavy (Please Tune In…) (review here), so I’m looking forward to hearing if and how that plays out over the course of the whole thing. Video trailer here.

20. Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man (April 23)

I have an interview slated for later this week with Gozu guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney, and I’m even more excited for this time than I was when we last spoke, around their 2009 Small Stone debut, Locust Season (review here), since in everything but its goofball song titles, the sophomore outing marks a huge developmental step in the band’s melodic reach and songwriting chemistry. Stay tuned for that interview and check out the Bandcamp stream included with the album review here.

21. Yawning Man & Fatso Jetson, European Tour Split 7″ (April 26)

Note: I don’t actually know that April 26 is the day that what’s sure to be 2013’s most desert-rocking split is due to arrive, I just know that it’s Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man‘s European tour split, and that’s the day the Euro dates start — with performances at Desertfests London and Berlin, to be more specific. Given both the greatness of Fatso Jetson‘s last record, 2010’s Archaic Volumes (review here), and of Yawning Man‘s own 2010 outing, Nomadic Pursuits (review here), the bands’ shared lineage and the relative infrequency of their touring, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to hope that, even for a single, they pull out all the stops. And starts. And riffs. More info on the forum.

22. Serpent Throne, Brother Lucifer (April 29)

Philly-based instrumental heavy rockers Serpent Throne will follow-up 2010’s White Summer/Black Winter (review here) with Brother Lucifer, and while no one can ever really know what to expect, it’s a safe bet that the dual-guitar outfit will have the solos front and center once again. Having seen them do a couple new songs back in December, I can’t blame them in the slightest. Looking forward to letting these songs sink in for a while and having those solos stuck in my head. Track stream here.

23. Melvins, Everybody Loves Sausages (April 30)

Hey wow, a Melvins covers album. Finally, an opportunity for the band to let their hair down and go wild a bit, right? I mean, at long last, they can really feel free to indulge a little and explore their musical roots in a free and creative way. Okay, you get the point. In all seriousness, it’s a pretty cool idea and anything that teams the Melvins with Scott Kelly to do a Venom song is probably going to be a worthy cause. The most amazing part of it is they haven’t already done a version of “Black Betty.” More info on the forum.

24. Revelation, Inner Harbor (April 30)

Their most progressive outing yet and their first album since 2009, Revelation‘s Inner Harbor (review here) is bound to surprise some who thought they knew what to expect from the Maryland doom stalwarts who double as the classically rocking Against Nature. Good thing Inner Harbor had a digital release last year through the band’s Bland Hand Records to act as a precursor to this Shadow Kingdom CD issue. Rumor has it vinyl’s on the way as well, so keep an eye out, since John Brenner‘s guitar tone should be heard on as natural-sounding an apparatus as possible. More info here.

Okay, so you’re saying to yourself, “Golly, that’s a lot of stuff.” You’re absolutely right. But even as I was typing up this feature, I got word of a new Queen Elephantine full-length coming in April, so even as much as this is, it’s not everything. And that’s not even to mention May, which will bring a new Shroud Eater EP, a new Kylesa record and a new Mark Lanegan collaboration, among however much else. Tons of stuff to keep your ears out for, and like I said way back at the top of this thing, if you have something to add, a comment’s always appreciated.

Thanks for reading.

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