Posted in Whathaveyou on May 2nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Italian label Argonauta Records has announced the seven-band lineup for its second Argonauta Fest. Given the mathematically-accurate designation Argonauta Fest 2, it will boast performances from France’s Denizen as well as a strong host of varied acts from Italy, including Bantoriak, who debuted on Argonauta with last year’s Weedooism (review here), and a few acts who’ve just released new outings in the past month, Muschio and Jordaan, both of whom making their debut through the imprint.
Argonauta has grown quickly over the last couple years and evolved into a label with a strong and aesthetically-diverse roster of bands, but has managed that growth well along the way so that each group/artist is supported along the way. The first Argonauta Fest featured the likes of Nibiru and Varego, and I think the fact that there isn’t one act held over from last year to this year shows the kind of scope they’re working with.
Fest is set for May 7 in Vercelli, Italy. Info follows from the PR wire:
ARGONAUTA Records present: ARGONAUTA FEST second edition!
From the label: “After a whole year of massive work, great bands and tons of feedback across the board, we’re happy to officially announce the second edition of ARGONAUTA FEST! Seven (!) bands of our roster will create a night that will move into Stoner, Post Metal, Fuzz, Noise Rock and Doom territories. A fine opportunity to share with us a party made of great sounds and bands. Stay tuned on our official sites for more details. ARGONAUTA FEST 2016 is scheduled by Saturday May 7th, 2016 at OFFICINE SONORE (Vercelli, Italy).
Official poster run by MARCO CASTAGNETTO (www.zenpunkart.com), also known for his musical projects SHABDA and THEE MALDOROR KOLLECTIVE.
ARGONAUTA Fest 2016 features the following bands:
DENIZEN (France, Stoner Rock) SEPVLCRVM (Ita, Ritual Drone) BANTORIAK (Ita, Stoner Desert Rock) FILTH IN MY GARAGE (Ita, Noise Rock / Hardcore) MUSCHIO (Ita, Fuzz Rock) WOWS (Ita, Doom / Post Metal) JORDAAN (Ita, Psych Post Rock)
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 27th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Granted, the title Horta could refer to any number of different things. Any number of them. Horta is an ancient city in Italy. It’s a municipality in the Azores. It’s a Greek delicacy, an Etruscan goddess, on and on. You see where this is going, right? My brain puts Horta immediately in its most Star Trek-ian context as the silicon-based lifeform that killed all those miners in the one episode of the original series. I can’t help it. Spock had to mind-meld with it and it turned out it was just trying to protect its eggs, on and on. I can’t be the only one who remembers that episode. Such loneliness.
Among the many other things Horta is, it’s the forthcoming second LP from Italian trio Indivia, who have signed to Argonauta Records for the release. Due out this fall, to hear the PR wire tell it. There’s a new song streaming now as well:
NEW SIGNING: Indivia, Stoner Doom from Italy!
We’re more than proud to welcome an intriguing new name in the Argonauta Records family: INDIVIA, from Italy, authors of an exciting Stoner Doom Rock!
Indivia (Cichorium endivia, from the greek word) arises in a basement somewhere between the lowlands of Padova (Italy), during the autumn of 2012, due to the meeting between Andrea (guitar) and Nathalie (drums). In 2013, after the consequent entry of Diego (bass), the power trio starts organizing gigs under a fake name (Wedge), releasing its first 4-track EP ‘Belladonna’ (totally self-released) in 2014. In December 2015 the band recorded the second album, ‘Horta’, still unpublished.
The trio plays a blackened version of stoner doom through an experimental and hypnotic mood, highlighting the monolithic wall of sound, being influenced by bands as Sleep, Black Sabbath, Conan, Karma to Burn and Bongzilla, accompanied by green vibrations coming from the underground, raw fuzz, pierced eardrums, and vinegar.
Italian horror-themed doom rockers Arcana 13 released their debut album, Danza Macabra, last month via Aural Music, and their new video is comprised of footage from Dario Argento‘s 1980 film, Inferno. Not exactly small potatoes in terms of what they’re taking on to accompany the track in question, “Hell Behind You,” but the scale of the song works on a likewise ambitious scale, culling the raw classic doom of Pentagram and the more poised approach of Candlemass and setting it to a modern swing that’s not quite indebted to Uncle Acid, but definitely aware of the rise of garage doom this decade has wrought. It’s as much traditional as it is forward thinking, and while the roots are metallic, “Hell Behind You” finds the Ravenna foursome with a corresponding heavy rock sensibility.
That comes through especially in the solo section of “Hell Behind You” and in the drumming of the chorus, but as the horror show plays out in the video, the song develops a strong rhythmic push with cinematic elements of its own, layers of effects or keys and dramatic tempo changes, opening to crash cymbals and a brooding setup for the grand finale that ends out just as Inferno seems to be most living up to its title. If you’re not familiar with the movie, it’s got witches, murder, bizarre rituals, of course fire — pretty much everything one could ask, and the video does a good job of setting its timing to the song. Which you could find out for yourself easily enough just by watching the thing.
Danza Marcabrais out now. More info follows the clip itself, which you’ll find on the player below.
Arcana 13, “Hell Behind You” official video
ARCANA 13 – “Hell Behind You” official video from the album DANZA MACABRA with images taken from Dario Argento’s masterpiece “Inferno” (1980). Order DANZA MACABRA NOW (LTD MUSIC BOX / Digipak CD / 2xLP):http://www.auralwebstore.com
Italy-based Heavy Occult Rock legion ARCANA 13 unveil their Italian horror inspired debut album featuring cover artwork by legendary Enzo Sciotti. Imagine the ominous mystique of Lucio Fulci’s classic The Beyond or Dario Argento’s Inferno set to a Black Sabbath or Pentagram-inspired soundtrack: this is ARCANA 13.
[Click play above to stream Black Rainbows’ Stellar Prophecy in full. Album is out April 15 on Heavy Psych Sounds.]
With each new release, Roman outfit Black Rainbows continue to push themselves further and further into new ground between heavy psychedelia and fuzz rock. Each offering has been a marked step forward from the last. With Stellar Prophecy, their fifth LP — second through guitarist/vocalist Gabriele Fiori‘s Heavy Psych Sounds imprint — they have clearly figured out their sonic intent, but they brush past last year’s Hawkdope (review here) in terms of refining their melting pot of heavy ’70s vibes, lysergic space worship, and forward-driving fuzz.
It’s been nine years since they issued their 2007 debut, Twilight of the Desert (on Longfellow Deeds), and the strides they’ve made sonically and in their ambassadorship of bringing heavy rock to the people of Italy and bringing Italian heavy rock to the wider European scene, both on tour and in Fiori‘s work with the label, is simply unmatched. Through 2010’s Carmina Diablo and 2012’s double-exclamatory Supermothafuzzalicious!! (review here), Black Rainbows have demonstrated admirable creative will and energy, as well as a near-unmatched work ethic that shows itself in everything they do, including the quick turnaround between Hawkdope and this new collection. Stellar Prophecy comprises seven tracks and just under 44 vinyl-ready minutes of what has particularly over the last four years become their brand of upbeat, full-thrust heavy psych rock, still working from root influences like Nebula and Hawkwind, but having long since developed their own attitude and take on those influences.
Not only this, but with just about a year — and one in which Fiori also issued the Detroit (review here) debut from side-project Killer Boogie — between Stellar Prophecy and Hawkdope before it, Black Rainbows have still managed to produce a substantial progression in their sound. Fiori and drummer Alberto Croce (who joined after Supermothafuzzalicious!!) recently welcomed bassist Giuseppe Guglielmino into the lineup, but to the best of my knowledge it’s still Dario Iocca (who also joined after Supermothafuzzalicious!!) whose warm tone underscores the cosmic push of opener “Electrify.” Each side of Stellar Prophecy launches with a ripper — “Electrify” and “Evil Snake” — and works from shortest to longest in making its way toward an extended, languid finale, whether that’s side A’s album highlight “Golden Widow” (11:37) or its side B companion, “The Travel” (9:28).
These two distinct modes of songwriting, with shorter, faster cuts and slower, longer ones, might seem like setup for a hard contrast to reconcile, but the truth of the matter is that in whatever method they’re employing, Black Rainbows are so fluid that it doesn’t feel like much of a twist at all, and on side A, the bluesy swing of and catchy hook of “Woman” provides transition between that half of the album’s opener and closer in addition to being a standout on its own, so any way you want to look at it, it works. Plus, Fiori‘s vocals and liberal use of effects throughout the material tie the various sides of Black Rainbows‘ sound together so that when the opening bassline of “Golden Widow” arrives, soon joined by organ, samples and guitar in liquefied space revelry akin to former split-matesNaam, it is perhaps even more serene in its execution, jamming in a build structure before receding only to rise again, this time topping the song’s acid triumph with a furious guitar solo and swirling Echoplex or other looped noise.
Somewhat tucked away at the end of the album, “The Travel” will soon-enough echo that jamming-on-the-edge-of-time vibe and find Black Rainbows taking full advantage of the opportunity to ride off into the psychedelic sunset, but before they do, they toss out three banger hooks in “Evil Snake,” “It’s Time to Die” and “Keep the Secret,” skillfully bringing Stellar Prophecy back to its starting point with “Evil Snake”‘s faster pace and memorable chorus. That track is probably as close to bare-bones as they get this time out, but even in its 3:30, they find room for a bass and drum-led jam meshed with psychedelic noise and a solo over the swinging finish. Both “It’s Time to Die” and the cowbell-laden “Keep the Secret” follow suit ultimately, but the latter especially has a more open feel to its chorus, with Fiori‘s vocals pushed farther back, and an overall looser feel. Not only does it work for its position in the shortest-to-longest-on-each-side scheme — using its extra two minutes as compared to “Evil Snake” for a graceful, organ-inclusive jam — but it also works to set up the return to zero gravity with its peaceful and tripped-out ending, Black Rainbows working in a bit of hypnosis before the alternate universe kicks back in with the gradual unfolding of “The Travel.”
The song does solidify somewhat, if momentarily, after the halfway point, after the vast soundscape of its verses has given way to louder and more forward directionality, but it doesn’t last and “The Travel” is all the richer for that. Falling back to the open space of the verse, they build up again slowly on a final march of drum thud and heavy strum, but the volume seems to work on a doppler effect, and as the stomping goes by, the track fades its way out. That last detail is emblematic of the nuance at work under the outward thrust of Stellar Prophecy, which provides Black Rainbows with the realization of the ideas that Hawkdope put forth and further defines their place in the sphere of current heavy psychedelia. Propelled by songwriting and a vitality that bleeds into fast and slow songs that few can match, that position is becoming ever closer to the fore, and thought they’ve had their share of lineup changes, the central mission of Black Rainbows seems to remain the same in terms of ongoing progression and diffusion of influences into something original and individualized. To be blunt about it, Stellar Prophecy is the most accomplished Black Rainbows yet. As they continue to mature, their work only becomes more and more satisfying.
Posted in Reviews on April 1st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Thus ends another successful Quarterly Review. And by successful I mean I survived. There were a few minutes there when I actually thought about spreading this out to six days, doing another batch of 10 on Monday, but then what happens? Then it’s seven days, then eight, then nine, and before I know it I’m just doing 10 reviews every day and it’s more of a daily review than a quarterly one. Next week we’ll get back to whatever passes for normality around this place, and at the end of June, I’ll have another batch to roll with. Maybe the beginning of July, depending on time. In any case, thank you for reading this week. I hope you’ve found something in all this that you’ve dug, and that this final round offers something else that resonates.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
Chron Goblin, Backwater
Calgary party rockers Chron Goblin pay homage to Seattle with a song named after the city on their third album, Backwater (on Ripple Music), but they continue to have way more in common with Portland, Oregon. The follow-up to 2013’s Life for the Living (review here) pushes into psychedelic groove early in its title-track and gets bluesy for most of the subsequent “The Wailing Sound,” but it seems even that song can’t resist the urge to throw down and have a good time by the end, and cuts like “Give Way,” the galloping opener “Fuller” and the requisite “Hard Living” reaffirm the band’s commitment to heavy riffs and positive vibes. The stylistic elephant in the room continues to be Red Fang, but as they’ve done all along, Chron Goblin work in shades of other influences in heavy rock – if they were from the Eastern Seaboard, I’d call it Roadsaw – and put a stamp of their own on the style.
“Mercenary Blues” is near-immediate in telegraphing the level of heft Slabdragger will emit across their second album, Rise of the Dawncrusher, which tops an hour in five tracks (one of them four minutes long) and shifts between clean vocals, screams and growls from bassist/vocalist Yusuf Tary and guitarist/vocalist Sam Thredder as drummer Jack Newham holds together tempo shifts no less drastic. The shorter cut, “Evacuate!,” is an extreme take on heavy rock, but as Slabdragger move through the extended “Shrine of Debauchery” (12:23), “Dawncrusher Rising” (15:16) and “Implosion Rites” (17:20), their methods prove varied enough so that their material is more than just an onslaught of thickened distortion. I wouldn’t call it progressive exactly, but neither is it lunkheaded in its intention or execution, as the chanted melodies buried deep in “Shrine of Debauchery”’s lumber, derived perhaps in part from Conan and Sleep but beholden to neither so much as its own righteous purposes.
Finnish heavy psychedelic rockers Jupiter take a decidedly naturalist position when it comes to their style. Yeah, there are some effects on the guitars throughout Interstellar Chronidive, the trio’s second album behind 2014’s Your Eccentric State of Mind, but it’s more about what the three players can accomplish with dynamic tempo and mood changes than it is creating a wash, and that gives songs like “Stonetrooper” and “Dispersed Matter/Astral Portal” a classic feel despite a decidedly modern production. “Premonitions” provides raucous fuzz worthy of any next-gen stoners you want to name, and the 14-minute “In Flux” answers its own initial thrust with and expansive, liquefied jam that’s all the more emblematic of the organic core to their approach, Hendrix-derived but not Hendrix-emulating. Bright guitar tone, rich bass and swinging drums aren’t necessarily unfamiliar elements, but the touches of space rock narration on “Dispersed Matter/Astral Portal” and the consuming nod of closer “Vantage Point” assure there’s no shortage of personality to go around.
Also stylized as IZ? with a long accent over the ‘o,’ Izo is the self-titled debut from Italian double-guitar instrumental four-piece Izo, who bookend four flowing and densely weighted progressions with an intro and outro to add to the atmospheric breadth. Rather than choose between heaviness or ambience, Izo – guitarists Paolo Barone and Maurizio Calò, bassist Francesco de Pascali and drummer Luca Greco – play both into each other so that a song like “Hikkomori” is as engaging in its heft as it is hypnotic. That might be easier to do without vocals, but it’s essential to Izo’s approach, and something that, for their debut, sets up future expansion of post-metal and psychedelic elements. I’m not sure if there’s a theme or narrative for the album, but consistent use of Japanese language and imagery ties the material together all the same, and Izo emerge from their first album having shown a clearheadedness of purpose that can only continue to serve them well.
Cultist made their introductory statement in the early hours of 2016 with Three Candles, a five-song EP from the social media-averse Cleveland, Ohio, trio featuring members of Skeletonwitch, Mockingbird and Howl. In the wall of fuzz they construct, the swing injected into their rhythms and the use of multiple vocalists, there’s a strong undercurrent of Uncle Acid to “Path of the Old One,” but “Consuming Damnation” distinguishes itself with a more aggressive take, rawer in its melodies, and the creeping closer “Eternal Dark” is up to something entirely more doomed. How this balance will play out with the more familiar riff-patterning in “Follow Me” is the central question, but for their first tracks to be made public, Cultist’s Three Candles offers fullness of sound and the realization of an aesthetic purpose. Yes, there’s room to grow, but they already have a better handle on what they want to do than a lot of bands, so it should be interesting to keep up.
Ultra-thick, ultra-dank, Haoma is the work of Swedish duo R (bass/vocals) and S (drums), and the three-tracker Eternal Stash is their second self-released EP. The offering takes its title from the opener and longest track (immediate points), and wastes no time with subtlety in getting down on molten Cisneros-style stoner-doom grooves. Sleep meets Om isn’t a huge divide to cross, but there’s a blown-out sensibility to the vocals as well that speaks to some element of Electric Wizard at play, and the overarching roughness suits Haoma’s tonal crunch well. Even when they break to wah bass in the second half of “Eternal Stash” to set up the ensuing jam, this underlying harshness remains, and “Unearthly Creatures” and “Orbital Flight” build on that, the latter with a march that feels more decidedly individual even if constructed on familiar ground. Heavy, raw, unpretentious celebration of groove is almost always welcome by me, and so Haoma’s Eternal Stash is likewise.
Another boon to Poland’s emerging heavy rock scene, Wroclaw’s Spaceslug slime their way out of the ground with their debut long-player, Lemanis, a seven-cut paean to weighted tone and laid back roll. Vocally, the trio seem to take a cue from the Netherlands’ Sungrazer, but their riffs are far more dense and while the penultimate interlude “Quintessence” and the earlier “Galectelion” demonstrate a sense of spaciousness, the context in which that arrives is much more weighted and, particularly in the second half of “Supermassive,” feels culled from the Sleep school of Iommic idolatry. No complaints. The record clocks in at 43 minutes all told and in no way overstays its welcome, rounding out with the nine-minute title-track, an instrumental that’s probably not improvised but comes across as exploratory all the same. The CD version is out through BSFD Records, but don’t be surprised when someone picks it up for a vinyl issue, as both the front-to-back flow and the artwork seem to be made for it.
An element of twang that seems present even in the most uproarious moments of Slush’ American Demons tape comes to the fore with the brief “Leshy,” a quick, fleetly-strummed bit of slide guitar the follows highlight cut “Bathysphere” and precedes “Death Valley,” both of which bask full-on in the garage shake, proto-punk vibe and anything goes swagger the Brooklynite trio have on offer throughout their third EP. That countrified twist plays well alongside the drawling skate rock of “In the Flesh,” which seems to take on some of The Shrine’s West Coast skate vibes with a twist of New York fuckall, and the quick crotchal thrust off “Silk Road,” which serves as Slush’ most purely punkish moment. “Death Valley” closes out with a tale of drugs and the desert, the vocals somewhere between Misfits and early Nick Cave, drenched in attitude and accompanied by fuzz that seems to be likewise. Bonus points for the silver tape and copious included art and info.
Strange spirits are afoot throughout Menimals’ Menimals, the maybe-debut from the Italian troupe who engage wantonly in the proliferation of post-Mike Patton creepy darkjazz across five cuts of sparse, spacious weirdness. Issued through Phonosphera/Riot Season, it’s a work of high atmospheric density but ultimately more about mood than sonic impact, evoking complex shapes – dodecahedrons, tetrahedrons, octahedrons – as a mirror for its own quizzical mission. The kind of record that those who don’t spend time trying to figure it out are going to have more fun with, it makes its most effective impression on “Transitioning from a Cube to the Octahedron” on side B, evoking minimalist drone rock atmospheres as whispered vocals tie it to the rest of Menimals’ bizarre vibe. That’s not to take away from the noisy finish of closer “Bird on the Wind as a Hinge,” which follows, just to note that Menimals manage to somehow find balance in all the subdued seething and resonant experimentalism.
By way of a confession, I wanted to end this batch of 50 reviews with something I knew I dug, and that distinction goes to Houston rockers Linus Pauling Quartet, whose latest full-length, Ampalanche, is released via the label wing of Italian ‘zine Vincebus Eruptum. An album that offers some of the most pretense-free rock flute I’ve ever heard on “Slave to the Die,” it’s a down-home weirdo rocker that might, at a moment’s notice, plunge full-on into psychedelia in “Sometimes” or, say, include a 49-minute echoing space-drone “Vi, de Druknede (We, the Drowned)” as a download-only bonus track, and the fact that Linus Pauling Quartet can always be relied on for something different but consistent in charm and the quality of songwriting is not to be taken for granted, whether it’s the Midwestern noise rock of “Brisket” or the fuzzy roll of dreamy album-closer “Alive.” Yeah, I was doing myself a favor by finishing with Ampalanche. I have absolutely zero regrets. Linus Pauling Quartet continue to be woefully underappreciated.
Posted in Reviews on March 30th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
The Wednesday of a Quarterly Review is always special to me. In the six, maybe seven, times I’ve done this now, Wednesday has always been the marker of turning to the second half of the week. Hump Day in a bizarre context. That said, I feel good about how it’s gone so far and I feel very good about the stuff that’s being written about in more than just that getting-it-out-of-the-way spirit. Still, we start today with something that should’ve been reviewed months ago, and I’ll admit to being glad to have such a formidable weight off my chest.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Sunn O))), Kannon
Sunn O))) are without question among the most integral bands of their generation. I don’t feel like it’s going even remotely out on a limb to say that. With the three-song full-length, Kannon (on Southern Lord), they go back to exploring the waveforms and ritualistic atmospheres that helped their influence spread in the first place, after several years of collaborating with others like Scott Walker and Ulver. Kannon is the first Sunn O)))-proper LP since 2009’s orchestral Monoliths and Dimensions (review here), and while I understand any and everything I might have to say about it is barely a drop in the bucket compared to the from-all-sides laudits founding guitarists Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson have received, its three parts nonetheless demonstrate the fact that with Sunn O))), there is never any backward looking, and that even as they strip away elements that made Monoliths and Dimensions as expansive as it was in favor of the claustrophobic rumble and chants of “Kannon 3,” they move relentlessly forward. They remain necessary.
Hey, I like Swallow the Sun. I’ve dug the Finnish outfit since their debut, The Morning Never Came, but I gotta say, maybe a triple album, which Songs from the North I, II and III is, is a bit much? The concept is awesome – one record of light/dark, one record of light, one record of dark – but in practice it’s about a 160 minutes long and a considerable investment to ask of their audience. When it comes to repeat listens, I can’t help but continually go to Songs from the North III, the most extreme installment, which still has plenty of spacious guitar melodies to go with its death-doom emotional and tonal crush, and while I’m not sure that Swallow the Sun would’ve been doing themselves any favors if they spaced out three separate releases rather than bundling them together as they have, it’ll be years before a release of this scope can be properly digested, if it can at all, and for a band whose work is as complex and often lush as Swallow the Sun’s, one wants to absorb it in a way that such a massive offering doesn’t allow.
Italy’s heavy rock boom continues with the debut album from Roman riffers Beesus. The four-piece nod at desert grunge with “6 Ft. Under Box” and roll out thick, loosely-psychedelic vibes on the opening title-track, but The Rise of Beesus primarily tells its story in its plays of density and spaciousness – see “Waltzer” and the later “Sonic Doom/Stoner Youth” – and one is reminded a bit of Snail circa Blood in that, but a sense of variety brings moments like the quiet opening stretch of “Kusa” and the bass-led thrust of “Mata la Verguenza,” making The Rise of Beesus not as easy to predict as it might first appear. When it does indulge its heft, as on “Beesus in Dope,” it satisfies, but while consistent, it is by no means unipolar. It seems to set Beesus up for future expansion on any number of lines, but as their first outing, it also has a noteworthy sense of itself, carving out an identity from diversity of songcraft and an abidingly chaotic vibe.
Fall 2015’s Magnifier (on Sulatron Records) is the fourth LP from Italian psych/space rockers Giöbia, who launch with the ominous cosmic thrust of “This World was Being Watched Closely” and make their grandest statement on side B with the 15-minute lysergic noise excursion of “Sun Spectre.” There and elsewhere in “The Pond,” “The Stain” and the closing “The Magnifier,” Giöbia pursue shroomy sonic enlightenment through soaking reverb and wah, Moog, synth, bouzouki and so on – a somewhat kitchen sink approach resulting in a joyous front-to-back wash of spirited energy and engaging depth. The follow-up to 2013’s Introducing Night Sound (review here), Magnifier finds synth-laden prog swing in “Lentamenta la Luce Svanirà” and pushes air with the low end of its finale title-cut, a right-on dripper that’s round enough to make the world seem square by comparison. The place Giöbia inhabit between psychedelia and space rock is fast becoming a planet all their own, and for ambassadorship of their sound, Magnifier thrills.
Recorded by the band in 2014 and issued in 2015 as their debut EP, Decasia’s Decasia flows more like a long-player, with five cuts that unfold from the tanpura and didgeridoo immersion of opener “Halo,” but I won’t argue. While rawer than what one might commonly expect out of European heavy psychedelia, the French trio nonetheless cull aspects of that sound into their own, so that centerpiece “Blue Love” is right at home with its Hendrixian guitar swing, and closer “Dive” feels within rights to demonstrate a touch of Colour Haze in its initial rhythm, though on the whole Decasia are less laid back and more grunge-informed, resulting in an intriguing blend that, from the burst at the open of “Sherpa” through the crashing finish of “Dive,” shows them as a group able to play to either side at will. They’ve already followed up with the jam “Moodoo Majja,” but I wouldn’t speculate which side will win out as they continue to develop, if indeed any single one does.
The second long-player from London sludgers Sonic Mass, You People Never Learn… would seem immediately to be positioning itself as punishment. Fair enough – there’s certainly some abrasive aspect to its overriding rawness and liberal feedback – but the huge groove that pays off the build in the second half of “Butcher of Brogdael” is more righteous inclusion than it is masochistic, and even faster, shorter cuts like the blown-out punk of “Biker Satania” or “Toga”’s unhinged dual-guitar thrust feels more about a raucous vibe than putting someone off. In the title-track, they move from a wash of distortion into some caustic feedback by the end, but by then the context of You People Never Learn… is such that the nodding push of eight-minute closer “Quadranoid” is more a celebration than a beating, even if it does round out with two minutes of amp crackle, effects and feedback. If it was coming from a stage, you’d raise a pint to it.
Longform material is nothing new for Boise, Idaho-based duo Wolvserpent. Both of their two full-lengths to-date, 2010’s Blood Seed and 2013’s Perigaea Antahkarana, have found the ritual drone-doomers working in extended contexts. However, the newly-issued Aporia:Kala:Ananta EP (on Relapse) pushes that line even further. It is a single-song work running 40 minutes of spacious, sometimes grueling, thrillingly challenging heft, marked by a cinematic sense of drama in its use of violin, blackened extremity and striking depth. Drummer/violinist Brittany McConnell and guitarist/vocalist Blake Green aren’t so much taking any huge stylistic leaps from what they’ve done before, but the scope of “Aporia:Kala:Ananta,” as well as the overarching flow of the piece, its patient execution, and the masterful hand with which they guide it, cannot be called anything but progression. The only question I have is why they’re not calling it an album. Considering both its runtime and its breadth, to consider it anything less feels like selling it short.
Swapping back and forth between Spanish and English lyrics adds variety to Family, the 13-song/45-minute debut long-player from Uruguayan foursome Delouners, but they weren’t short on it anyway. Spacious, echoing guitars and a languid psychedelia-gone-heavy-blues carry across laid back blowout rolls like “Low” and the more uptempo “Secreto,” and all the more in the side A-ending “Mistery Caravan,” the lazy, hazy, take-it-way-down groove feels derived from an All Them Witches influence. There are more garage rock moments, as on the title-track, the earlier “Los Dormidos,” “Alain Delon” and closer “Mirtha Legrand,” and the shoegazing tropicality of “Sea/Side” furthers an individualized sensibility overall, but that naturalist spirit never departs completely. So be it. Delouners drench this central inspiration in their own sonic persona, and so come off influenced rather than derivative, setting themselves up to branch out their progression as they see fit on whatever they might do next.
There are five songs on the self-titled debut EP from Cleveland, Ohio’s Dead East Garden and three of them could be said to have something to do with cars – “Starting Line,” “El Camino Rock” and “Straight Burning Road.” That’s not a judgment, just a statement of fact. From the post-Pepper Keenan chug of opener “The Lurker,” one kind of knows what’s coming from the workingman’s heavy rockers, but “Mother’s Disease” fleshes out a less dudely aggro spirit with a more patient initial roll and satisfying lead work from guitarist Ryan Scheel. The beer-soaked vibes resume as “Straight Burning Road” comes on to close, vocalist Pat Homolish layering spoken and belted-out hooks as bassist John Roach (since out of the band) and drummer R.J. Drenski hold down one more straightforward groove, and Dead East Garden reinforce the plainspoken intent on display across the short release, as light on pretense as it is heavy on testosterone.
As with their 2013 sophomore outing, This Mountain Waits (review here), the third album from UK heavy blues/classic rockers Pearl Handled Revolver, titled If the Devil Cast His Net, uses synth, Mellotron, electric piano and organ to explore a wide variety of moods, from the soft-guitar blues of “Someone Like You” to the rambling “Absinthe in Adelaide.” All throughout, the band reaffirm their mastery of these styles as they go, be it the boogie shuffle of “Loverman” or the side A closing title-track, which sets forth one of the record’s most engaging bass grooves under gravelly verse before moving into an extended instrumental jam, no less poised than anything preceding or following. That plotted feel is at the core of Pearl Handled Revolver’s approach – nothing is here by accident – and it makes their songcraft all the more inarguable, taking in a post-The Doors bounce on closer “Into the Blue” as they mirror the end of the album’s first half for another striking finish.
It’s been less than a month since Italian doomers Bretus posted their last video, which, if you look at it on some grand cosmic scale rather than the valuable hours of your life you waste away at work having sold out your minimal talents on the cheap that seem to drag along as though a cart tied to a dying mule — holy shit I got sidetracked — is not very long at all. That song was the sludgy “From the South” (posted here) taken from the band’s 2009 self-titled EP, which was reissued last year.
I wondered at the time why they might make a clip for an older track rather than one from their 2015 sophomore full-length, The Shadow over Innsmouth, which came out on BloodRock Records, but being a sucker for a cool riff and a doomly vibe, quickly got over my curiosity in the face of a righteous groove. Not the first time that’s happened. Bretus, meanwhile, were secretly working on yet another video — one that they’ve now unleashed on an unsuspecting public — for the song “Abyss of Silent Screams.” We don’t yet know what release it comes from.
That basically puts Bretus going from one end of the spectrum to the other — earliest material to newest — in less than four weeks and in the span of two videos. Not too shabby. As to the song itself, I’ll admit it might be East Coast US regionalism on my part, but the darkened, DIY clip takes my ears to olden days of pure Maryland doom, thinking of the rough-edged work of bands like Unorthodox and Internal Void, and of course the scorching guitar of The Obsessed. It’s something of a contrast from where “From the South” found them, delving here and there into screams and more vicious chug, but the classic metal fist-pumping suits them.
Not sure if there’s an album on the way or a new split or what, but when I hear more, I’ll pass word along. In the meantime, enjoy:
[Stream Deadsmoke’s Deadsmoke by clicking play above. Album out March 25 on Heavy Psych Sounds.]
The name of the game is plod. Deadsmoke, a newcomer trio from Italy who formed last year and already count themselves as veterans of Duna Jam, play it well on their self-titled debut. Released through Heavy Psych Sounds as arguably the most doomed release the imprint has issued, Deadsmoke‘s Deadsmoke lumbers under massive tonal heft, offering five tracks in a relatively brief 30-minute span that feels like more because of the impact of its material. Channeling Conan and Ufomammut across earlier cuts like opener “Branches of Evil” and “Eyes of the Blind Man,” the album deepens its breadth as it plays out through “Liar Behind Me,” “Tornado” and “Night of the Vipers,” but holds firm to the spacious aggression shown in its early stretches.
Contextually, the artwork of a dark mountain scene, barren winding road, no colors, snow on the ground, makes sense as a complement to the Alpine weight of the tracks themselves, and while the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Matteo Lescio, bassist Gianmaria and drummer Maurice Belloti are still potentially in a nascent stage of development, they successfully avoid the trap of falling into line with post-Electric Wizard doom while expanding their basic sonic reach into psychedelia. Treatment of Matteo‘s voice, which shouts up from a trench of dense tones, adds to the spaces Deadsmoke create, but there really isn’t a moment in the five songs that the riff isn’t leading the way. That, of course, is the whole idea.
Repetition works out to be one of the most effective weapons in Deadsmoke‘s arsenal, and that, along with some of the use of synth/effects later in the record and the blown-out feel of the vocals in “Branches of Evil,” draws a line directly to Ufomammut as an influence. There are far worse acts to be working off of, frankly, and as they chug out the main riff in the opening track, Deadsmoke do so with flourishes of feedback, samples, effects and other sundry noises that add to the individual impression, though it’s not until halfway through the opener, when the chanting-style singing begins, that a fuller distinction is made. Touchstones in Monolord, Toner Low, and other bands whose largesse is a point of definition. “Branches of Evil” rolls to a finish and “Eyes of the Blind Man” seems to nod directly at Conan‘s “Crown of Talons” at its start, though it’s not long before it establishes its own vibe, again thanks in no small part to the vocals.
Like the opener, the pace is slow, deliberate and punctuated by low-toned snare as the vocals swap between cleaner singing, shouts and screams, the latter of which comes most forward in the second half as the guitar, bass and drums drop out for a measure and the abrasion hits in full force. The second track is the shortest at 4:41, but leaves a memorable impression nonetheless as its finish sweeps into the opening of centerpiece “Liar Behind Me,” more chugging and rumbling taking hold, but this time pushed faster. Particularly doomed as a foreshadow of “Night of the Vipers” still to come, “Liar Behind Me” also begins to shift the focus away from the raw tonal onslaught of “Branches of Evil” and “Eyes of the Blind Man” through an ambient break about 90 seconds in, steady drums topped with a quick tripped-out solo before the thrust resumes. It’s a brief interlude, but it effectively sets the stage for “Tornado” and “Night of the Vipers” on side B, and so serves as a fitting centerpiece.
In some ways, it’s a sign of both underlying consciousness and mercy that the album is only a half-hour long. Yes, repetition is an important factor, but even on “Tornado,” which creeps out its opening and establishes a central groove from there without letting go for its seven-minute span (the longest included here), one could hardly accuse Deadsmoke of overdoing it, and that sense of balance works greatly to their benefit. That, coupled with the gallop early, experiments in vocals — vague whispers, maybe samples, etc. — and the wash of psych guitar noise that emerges late — not to mention the bassline — makes “Tornado” both the stylistically boldest and most satisfying individual cut, and it too offers plenty of stomp, particularly in its repetitively marching midsection, stomping its way toward the aforementioned guitar wash with a chugging ritualism that rounds out to let the bass open “Night of the Vipers,” also nearly seven minutes long but darker in its overall direction.
Harsher vocals return to tie the album together, and “Night of the Vipers” seems to take a cue from Pallbearer and/or Candlemass in its mournful lead at the halfway point, which tops the excruciatingly slow pacing with an unexpected sense of emotionalism before the consuming whirlpool of fuzz resumes once again to draw Deadsmoke down to the album’s finish, which comes in a few final crashes and thuds and a minute or so of residual amp noise on an extended fade. It can be difficult for a band, especially for one so new, to mark itself out from prevalent modern influences, and where some groups spend years in the rehearsal room or in tiny bars, Deadsmoke are playing out the first levels of their progression here on this debut. I won’t say they don’t have growing to do, but the way they’ve structured their first album and the surehandedness with which they guide their aesthetic speak volumes as to their potential, and when it comes to anything voluminous, clearly Deadsmoke have it covered.