[Click play above to stream L’Ira del Baccano’s Paradox Hourglass in its entirety. Album is out now on Subsound Records.]
Roman heavy instrumentalists L’Ira del Baccano made their studio debut in 2014 with Terra 42 (review here), as a follow-up to their summer-2013 live offering Si Non Sedes iS …LIVE. It’s important to keep in mind as one makes their way through their second studio long-player, Paradox Hourglass, that the band’s roots are in playing live, and that when it came to what they wanted to put out into the world first, it was a live album rather than something more polished. Issued through Subsound Records, Paradox Hourglass is that something more polished, but it still maintains its core of live performance beneath its progressive overtones, and across its evenly-split two sides, four tracks and 39 minutes, guitarist Alessandro “Drughito” Santori, guitarist/synthesist Roberto Malerba, bassist Ivan Contini Bacchisio and drummer Sandro “Fred” Salvi don’t sacrifice one sensibility in emphasis of the other.
While Paradox Hourglass brings forward a proggier mindset than did Terra 42 — something the band credits in part to a Rush influence and I’m not inclined to argue — it keeps its tonal edge and strips away nearly 20 full minutes of runtime, so that the material is not only vinyl-ready, but all the more efficient in making its stylistic point known without lingering. That in itself isn’t to be understated as a recognized step forward for the band, as it shows an editorial mindset developing alongside these progressive tendencies, which is something all the more crucial for a group whose sound is only growing richer.
As to the origins of the title, it’s obviously harder to say without any lyrics to work from, but it’s another evocative element from L’Ira del Baccano, which seems to find its core in the partnership between Santori and Malerba. The two weave layers of riffs and synth and effects fluidly around each other throughout Paradox Hourglass, and while ultimately there isn’t much about the record that one might consider a paradox — that is to say, they’re not making it hard to figure out where they’re coming from or purposefully melding together disparate sonic elements — the new stage their approach has reached is plain to hear from the start of 11-minute opener. And, if we’re looking for clues as to where Santori, Malerba, Bacchisio and Salvi are coming from this time around, it is telling that the first piece of the two-parter title-track is subtitled “L’Ira del Baccano,” eponymous to the band itself.
Across its span and that of the complementary eight-minute “Paradox Hourglass – Part 2: No Razor for Occam,” the band touch on psychedelic melody without losing their real-world footing tonally or their underlying crunch of riff. Salvi‘s drums hold together the proceedings as they no doubt did the jams that birthed them, but whether it’s the departure-to-drift in the second half of “Paradox Hourglass – Part 1: L’Ira del Baccano” or the guitar scale-work fleshed out by layers of keys and effects swirl in the follow-up, a sense of control remains prevalent in their approach. The digital version of Paradox Hourglass presents a 19:42 bonus track that brings these two pieces together as one entirety, and while there’s still an audible break between one part and the next, hearing them in that form only highlights the nuance developing in L’Ira del Baccano‘s sound and the manner in which the band is drawing from multiple sides as they stomp and roll their way through movements tied to each other through rhythmic flow and conceptual consistency.
Side B brings a like-minded pair of tracks, also 11 and eight minutes, respectively, that push the aesthetic somewhat further out. “Abilene” leads off with a bit more patience than “Paradox Hourglass” and more of a psychedelic flourish to its beginnings, and unfolds to a blend of desert-style riffing and the progressive course-setting that the first half of the record had as its foundation — the notion that L’Ira del Baccano know where they’re headed even if they’re keeping it a surprise from their audience. They settle into a mid-paced chug at about two minutes into “Abilene” but have more spaciousness to offer from there, and the theremin-infused (or theremin-sounding, anyhow) reaches in which they wind up are perhaps the most satisfying stretch Paradox Hourglass has to offer in terms of immersing the listener in a hypnotic flow, pushing gradually toward an apex that brings together both sides — the breadth and the crunch — on the way to a clean, purposeful finish.
At 8:06, “The Blind Phoenix Rises” ends out with no less clarity of intent than its predecessor, synth and guitar once more working together to cast an impression both psychedelic and progressive. At about 4:45, there’s a turn toward straightforward riffing, and it seems like L’Ira del Baccano made a conscious decision at that point to let loose a little bit in the studio. No complaints. The uptick in tempo from the first half of the track is welcome and though to close out they fall back into the “chorus,” such as it is, the moment of airing out a more rocking impulse is welcome as an answer to the riff that started “Paradox Hourglass – Part 1: L’Ira del Baccano” and makes as fitting an end as one could ask.
They stretch a couple seconds of silence to get over the eight-minute mark, but with the clear drive toward symmetry, one is inclined to give that ground in service to the presentation of the album as a whole. With Paradox Hourglass, L’Ira del Baccano are less marking their arrival than they are establishing the path they want to take as a group, but the prevailing vibe toward direction is something of a landmark for them nonetheless, even if that landmark is in the shape of an arrow pointing toward the next one. I still won’t venture a guess as to what the overarching paradox here is, though, because from where I sit, it sure seems like L’Ira del Baccano have it all figured out as to who they want to be and what they want to accomplish as a band.
You may or may not be overly concerned to find out, but we’re still running on the backup server for The Obelisk Radio while the data is transferred to the new hard drive. Judging by the number of listeners at any given point, you’re not. The numbers are still pretty good. Nonetheless, I cannot express the depth of my appreciation to Slevin for sorting out this mess. I had no idea when I hit him up on a Sunday to be like, “Uh, the stream is down” that it would be a project requiring more than a month of his valuable time. Dude is a godsend. I should send him a cheese basket.
Instead, he gets a zip file with the following releases to add to that temporary stream (they’ll go on the new server as well when that’s operational). Because I am a shitty friend, and because cheese baskets are expensive as hell. Let’s do this.
The Obelisk Radio Adds for April 10, 2017:
Tia Carrera, Laid Back (Frontside Rock ‘n’ Roll)
It’s been a hot minute since last we heard from Austin, Texas, three-piece instrumentalists Tia Carrera. The last offering the heavy psych jammers had out with a 2013 vinyl edition (review here) of their 2011 full-length, Cosmic Priestess (review here). So upwards of six years, if you want to go by the original release date of what was their second album for Small Stone Records. They reportedly have a new one coming this Fall, so one might think of the nine-and-half-minute single “Laid Back (Frontside Rock ‘n’ Roll),” which was recorded live this past January with the lineup of guitarist Jason Morales, bassist Curt Christiansen and drummer Erik Conn, as a lead-in for that. True, Tia Carrera haven’t been completely absent — they played Psycho Las Vegas in 2016 and one sees their name on various SXSW bills each year — but either way, it’s a welcome studio return from a band who were ahead of the post-Earthless curve that has swelled further out West, and who, despite a kind of raw, garage-style recording here, nonetheless showcase the chemistry and fluidity that separated them from the pack to start with. As the title promises, the jam is laid back, rife with swirling guitar, winding basslines and drumming that, while propulsive doesn’t take away from the languid overarching vibe. They’ve made the song a name-your-price download, so all the better should you be inclined to dig in. And you should be.
With nodding groove, fuzzed tonality and, for good measure, flourish of psychedelia, Brescia, Italy, trio Humulus may be working amid familiar elements on their second long-player, Reverently Heading into Nowhere (on Taxi Driver and Oak Island Records), but the results are impeccably constructed. The album, which follows their 2015 Electric Warlrus EP (review here) and 2012 self-titled debut, offers six tracks that carefully balance atmosphere and heft, cuts like “Catskull” digging into classic desert rock sensibilities via the modern European approach of a band like 1000mods while longer pieces like opener “Distant Deeps or Skies,” “Anachronaut” and the 11-minute finale “Rama Kushna” save room for increasingly expansive jamming, the latter the most spacious of all with floating guitar over a satisfyingly warm bass in its midsection leading to an instrumental apex that, while predictable, is no less engaging for that upon its arrival. Even shorter pieces like “The Gold Rush” and “The Great Hunt” find a balance between rolling rhythm and broader psychedelic consciousness, and when guitarist/vocalist Andrea Van Cleef, bassist Giorgio Bonacorsi and drummer Massimiliano Boventi lock into a slowdown, as at the end of “The Great Hunt” or in the Snail-esque“Anachronaut” earlier, the effect is duly massive to fit with the rhinoceros on the album’s cover. Their reverence is palpable, and throughout the 43-minute outing, Humulus make it plain that wherever they’re actually heading, they welcome their audience to come along for the trip.
King Buffalo, Live at Wicked Squid Studios (6.16.16)
It’s nothing more or less than a live set, but as King Buffalo have already wrapped a round of US touring and were recently announced as support for Stickman Records labelmates Elder on their next European run, it seems only fair to grab the name-your-price Live at Wicked Squid Studios (6.16.16) while the grabbing’s good and consider the four-track/29-minute release a document of their chemistry as a live band as they marked the release of their debut album, Orion (review here), last summer. Not everything they play comes from that record — “New Time” was featured on their 2015 STB Records split with Lé Betre (review here) — but in their tone, breadth and expanse, they represent the full-length all the same. The psychedelic wash of “New Time” leads the way out of opener “Orion” and into a one-two medley of “Kerosene / Goliath Pt. 2,” and they finish by setting the controls for the heart of a nine-minute rendition of “Drinking from the River Rising,” which also closed Orion and proves no less immersive in this setting than it did on the studio offering. I’ve made no secret of the potential that I think resides in the Rochester, NY, three-piece, and as they move further into becoming a touring band, they’re only doing the work of bringing that potential to life. It may be that at some point we’ll look back on Live at Wicked Squid Studios as a kind of primitive beginning — I don’t want to predict where they’ll go or how their sound will continue to develop — but even so, it’s fortunate that we’ll have it to look back on at all.
This shit is like catnip for riff-hounds. Iowan two-piece Telekinetic Yeti stoner-march their way into the hearts and minds of the converted and onto the list of 2017’s best debuts with Abominable (on Sump Pump Records), a clean eight-track/41-minute long-player marked out by its tonal thickness and shifts between using it for Sleep-style roll and fuzzier fare, perhaps most directly and efficiently summarized on the single “Stoned and Feathered,” but in fluid proportion throughout cuts like the lumbering “Lightbearer” and the neo-stoner-delic chug of “Beneath the Black Sun” as well. Comprised just of guitarist/vocalist Alex Baumann and drummer Anthony Dreyer — though I’ll be damned if somebody isn’t playing bass on “Electronaut” — Telekinetic Yeti seem to burst out of the gate with a solid idea of who their audience is and what their audience wants, and to their credit, they deliver just that and have been met with a flurry of hyperbole for their efforts. I can’t really argue with the heft or cohesion of the material on Abominable, and the willingness on the part of Baumann and Dreyer to inject some atmospheric depth into the aptly-named nine-minute tour de force “Colossus” and closer “Himalayan Hymn” bodes well for their chances of leaving a mark over the longer term, even if there’s growing to be done before they get there. Still, as their first time out, Telekinetic Yeti‘s Abominable signals a righteousness of intent and wholly succeeds in capturing the attention it plainly seeks. The next few years will write their story, but if these guys take this show on the road, they could indeed turn into a monster.
The story goes that Cinderland was recorded in Wyoming in a refurbished schoolhouse by the duo of ambient multi-instrumentalist Scott Morgan and classical cellist Mark Bridges — working together under the moniker High Plains — and composed very much with that high-altitude, utterly empty landscape in mind. Represented in a pervasive minimalism that makes every swell of volume on “The Dusk Pines” stand out and shifts between piano, cello, guitar, drone and electronics cinematic in their drama like the soundtrack to one of those foreboding Westerns where nobody talks because they’re afraid that if the earth hears them speak it will open up and swallow them whole — which it might — it is an immersive, resolutely melancholy execution across nine tracks and 36 minutes that is likewise stark and beautiful. “A White Truck” and “Hypoxia” carry some nuance of the paranoid, but there’s resolution in “Blood that Ran the Rapids” and “Song for a Last Night” that, like the high desert itself, teems with life while giving the impression of being a void for the lack of human presence. Mood-affecting in its atmospherics, Cinderland draws the listener into this world that is both gorgeous and threatening, and fits itself to the narrative that birthed it with resonance and depth. One hopes it is not a one-off collaboration between the Canadian Morgan and Wisconsin-based Bridges and that wherever their next trip together takes them — go to New Mexico! — they’re able to likewise capture the setting in such evocative fashion.
Before we dig in here, I’d just like to point out that I don’t actually condone the killing of anybody — elderly, hippies or otherwise — and I sincerely doubt that if they were faced with the choice, Naples-based heavy psych jammers Lee Van Cleef wouldn’t do so either. Nonetheless, the three-piece who take their name from one of the greatest spaghetti western actors of all time and who released their debut full-length, Holy Smoke, last year on White Dwarf Records, have elected to call their new single “Everyone Should Kill an Old Hippy” for one reason or another. Sometimes someone says something in the studio and it sticks.
Whoever is or isn’t getting murdered, Lee Van Cleef nail a wah-soaked vibe on the freshly-tracked jam, which was self-recorded in their La Saleeta studio and mixed by drummer Guido Minervini. Trippy guitars flesh out over a heavy roll in the just-under-seven-minute instrumental, filling the spaces where vocal lines might otherwise be with drifting and/or swirling lead work that stays true to an improved-feeling foundation even as a second layer arrives later on. Entirely possible “Everyone Should Kill an Old Hippy” will show up on Lee Van Cleef‘s next album, as previously-issued singles “Mahana” and “Banshee” made their way onto Holy Smoke, and if that’s something that’s in progress, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out.
True to being an instrumental band, they didn’t have much to say about the release, but their words follow, as well as the stream of the new song, hoisted from their Bandcamp page.
Ehi Guys! Just Release a brand new track recorded some days ago at La Saletta! We hope you enjoy it!!!
“Everyone Should Kill An Old Hippy” comes to you!
Just give some info about the recording session, we recorded it by ourself in our studio called “La saletta” here in Naples, mixed by pur drummer Guido Minervini.
Our plan is for some dates this spring/summer, and we will be at Red Smoke Festival in Poland in July.
Lee Van Cleef is: Marco Adamo (Guitar) Pietro Trinità La Tegola (Bass) Guido Minervini (Drums)
Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Arrival. Welcome to the final day of The Obelisk’s Spring 2017 Quarterly Review. After today, I clean off my desktop and start over with a mind toward the next round, which in my head I’ve already scheduled for late June. You know, at the end of the next quarter. I do try to make these things make sense on some level. Anyway, before we get to the last 10 albums, let me please reiterate my thanks to you for reading and say once again that I hope you’ve found something this week that really speaks to you, as I know I have and continue to today. We finish the Quarterly Review out strong to be sure, so even if you’re thinking you’re done and you’ve had enough, you might be surprised by the time you’re through the below.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
Grails, Chalice Hymnal
Even if one counts the 2013 collection culled from Grails’ Black Tar Prophecies ongoing series of short releases that showed up via Temporary Residence, it’s been a long while since their last proper outing. Deep Politics (review here) was issued in 2011, but it seems the intervening time and members’ participation in other projects – among them Om and Holy Sons in the case of Emil Amos – disappear for Grails on Chalice Hymnal, which speaks directly to its predecessor in sequel pieces like “Deeper Politics,” “Deep Snow II” and “Thorns II,” taking the prog-via-Tangerine–Dream cinematics of Deep Politics to vibrant and continually experimental places on the surprisingly vocalized “Empty Chamber,” the soundscaping “Rebecca” and the imaginative, evocative jazz homage “After the Funeral,” the album’s 10-minute closer. Hearing the John Carpenter keyboard line underpinning “Pelham,” I’m not sure I’d call Chalice Hymnal limitless in its aesthetic – Grails have definitive intentions here, as they always have – but they continue to reside in a space of their own making, and one that has yet to stop expanding its reach.
Yes. Yes. This. With extended two tracks – “First Movement” (22:17) and “Second Movement” (27:04) – unfolding one massive longform immersion that drones pastoral, delves into hypnotic bliss and fills the soul in that way that only raw exploration can, the America Here and Now Sessions from Kansas City (by way of the moon) outfit Expo Seventy is an utter joy to experience. Purposeful and patient in its execution, graceful in the instrumental chemistry – even with a second drummer sitting in amid the core trio led by guitarist Justin Wright – the album well fits the deep matte tones and nostalgic feel of its accompanying artwork, and is fluid in its movement from drone to push especially on “Second Movement,” which sandwiches a resonant cacophony around soundscapes that spread as far as the mind of the listener is willing to let them. Whether you want to sit and parse the execution over every its every subtle motion and waveform or put it on and go into full-brain-shutdown, America Here and Now Sessions delivers. Flat out. It delivers.
After surviving the acquisition of Candlelight Records by Spinefarm, UK doom extremists Coltsblood return with their second album, Ascending into Shimmering Darkness, and follow-up 2014’s Into the Unfathomable Abyss (review here) with 54 minutes of concrete-thick atmospheric bleakness spread across five tracks. The headfuckery isn’t quite as unremitting as it was on the debut – a blend of airy and thick guitar in the intro of the opening title-cut (also the longest inclusion; immediate points) reminds of Pallbearer – but the three-piece thrive in this more-cohesive-overall context, and their lumbering miseries remain dark and triumphant in kind. A closing duo of “Ever Decreasing Circles” and “The Final Winter” also both top 12 and 13 minutes, respectively, but the shorter second track “Mortal Wound” brings blackened tendencies to the fore and centerpiece “The Legend of Abhartach” effectively leads the way from one side to the other. Still, the most complete victory here for bassist/vocalist John McNulty, guitarist Jemma McNulty and drummer Jay Plested might be “The Final Winter,” which melds its grueling, excruciatingly slow crash to overarching keyboard drama and becomes a work of cinematic depth as well as skull-crushing wretchedness. Such ambient growth fascinates and shows marked progression from their first offering, and even if the primary impression remains one from which no light escapes, don’t be fooled: Coltsblood are growing and are all the more dangerous for that.
Once they get past the aptly-titled minute-long “Intro,” Rhino keep their foot heavy on the gas for the vast majority of The Law of Purity, their Argonauta Records debut album. The 10 included tracks veer into and out of pure desert rock loyalism – “Eat My Dust” comes across as particularly post-Kyuss, perhaps melded with some of the burl of C.O.C.’s “Shake Like You” – and the throttle of “Nuclear Space,” “Nine Months,” “A. & B. Brown” and “Cock of Dog” later on come to define the impression of straightforward push that puts the riffs forward even more than earlier inclusions like the post-“Intro” title-track or the more mid-paced “Bursting Out,” which hints at psychedelia without really ever fully diving into it. Capping with the roll of “I See the Monsters,” The Law of Purity reminds at times of earlier Astrosoniq – particularly in the vocals – but finds the Sicilian five-piece crafting solid heavy rock tunes that seem more concerned with having a couple beers and a good time than changing the world or remaking the genre. Nothing wrong with that.
As it happens, I wrote the bio and release announcement for Cruthu’s debut album, The Angle of Eternity (posted here), and I count guitarist “Postman Dan” McCormick as a personal friend, so if you’re looking for impartiality as regards the self-released six-tracker, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for primo trad doom and classic metal vibes, the Michigan-based four-piece offer touches of progressive flourish amid the shuffle of opener “Bog of Kildare,” a grueling post-“Crystal Ball” nod in “From the Sea” and a bit of ‘70s proto-metallurgy in the closing title-track, which finds vocalist Ryan Evans at his most commanding while McCormick, bassist Erik Hemingsen (Scott Lehman appears as well) and drummer Matt Fry hold together the fluid and patient groove of weighted downer metal. The sense of Cruthu as an outfit schooled in the style is palpable through the creep of “Lady in the Lake” and the post-Trouble chug of “Séance,” but they’re beginning to cast their own identity from their influences – even the penultimate interlude “Separated from the Herd” is part of it – and the dividends of that process are immediate in these tracks.
From the Kozik-style artwork of their cover to the blown-out vocals on opener “New Pubes” of guitarist Matt Owen, St. Louis three-piece Spacetrucker – how was there not already a band with this name? – make no bones about their intentions on their late-2016, 26-minute Launch Sequence seven-track EP. Owen, bassist Patrick Mulvaney and drummer Del Toro push into a realm of noise-infused stoner grunge loyal to the ‘90s execution of “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop” in the stops of the instrumental “Giza” even as they thicken and dirty up their tonality beyond what Kyuss laid forth. The cowbell-inclusive “Science of Us” rests easily on Mulvaney’s tone and nods toward burl without going over the top, and cuts like “Old Flower,” the penultimate roller “Trenchfoot” and the closing post-Nirvana punker blast of “Ain’t Gonna be Me” reimagine a past in which the language of heavy rock was there to explain where grunge was coming from all along. Not looking to reinvent stylistic parameters in their image at this point, Spacetrucker is nonetheless the kind of band one might’ve run into at SXSW a decade and a half ago and been made a fan for life. As it stands, the charm is not at all lost.
Clocking in at half an hour, the self-titled debut release from viola-infused Arizona two-piece Black Habit could probably qualify as an EP or an LP. I’m inclined to consider it the latter considering the depths vocalist/guitarist/bassist Trey Edwin and violist/drummer Emily Jean plunge in the five included tracks, starting with the longest of the bunch (immediate points) in the slow-moving “Escape into Infinity” before shifting the tempo upward for “Suffer and Succumb” and digging into deep-toned sludge marked out by consistently harsh vocals. I wouldn’t be surprised if Black Habit became more melodic or at least moved into cleaner shots over time, as the doomly centerpiece “South Beach” and more fuzz-rocking “Travel Across the Ocean” seem to want to head in that direction, but it’s hard to argue with the echoing rasp that accompanies the rumble and hairy tones of finale “Lust in the Dust,” as Black Habit’s Black Habit rounds out with an especially righteous nod. An intriguing, disaffected, and raw but potential-loaded opening salvo from a two-piece discovering where their sound might take them.
Massive. Patterns in the Ashes is a malevolent, tectonic three-song EP following up on New Zealand trio Stone Angels’ 2011 debut, Within the Witch, as well as a few shorter live/demo offerings between, and it’s an absolute beast. Launching with the seven-minute instrumental “White Light, White Noise II” – indeed the sequel to a cut from the first album – it conjures a vicious nod and bleeds one song into the next to let “Signed in Blood” further unfold the grim atmospherics underscoring and enriching all that tonal heft. Sludge is the core style, but the Christchurch three-piece’s broader intentions come through with due volume on the grueling “Signed in Blood” and when “For the Glory of None” kicks in after its sample intro, the blasts and growls that it brings push the release to new levels of extremity entirely. As a bonus, the digital edition includes all three tracks put together as one longer, 21-minute piece, so the consuming flow between them can be experienced without any interruption, as it was seemingly meant to be.
If Switzerland-based resonance rockers Black Willows had only released the final two tracks, “Jewel in the Lotus” and “Morning Star,” of their late-2016 second full-length, Samsara, one would still have to call it a complete album – and not just because those songs run 15 and 25 minutes long, respectively. Throughout those extended pieces and the four shorter cuts that appear before them, a palpable meditative sensibility emerges, and Black Willows follow-up the promise of 2013’s Haze (review here) by casting an even more immersive, deeper-toned vibe in the post-Om nod of “Sin” (8:08) and the more percussive complement, “Rise” (9:28), keeping a ritualized feel prevailing but not defining. From the lead-in title-track and the spacious psych trip-out of “Mountain” that gives way to the aforementioned extended closing duo, Black Willows find their key purpose in encompassing tonality and languid grooving. Nothing is overdone, nothing loses its patience, and when they get to the linear trajectory of “Morning Star,” the sense is they’re pushing as far out as far out will go. It’s a joy to follow them on that path.
Anytime you’re at all ready to quit your job and explore the recesses of your mind via the ingestion of psychedelics, rituals and meditation, Sweden’s Lamagaia would seem to stand prepared to accompany. The Gothenburg four-piece offer two extended tracks of encouragement in that direction on their self-titled 12” (released through Cardinal Fuzz and Sunrise Ocean Bender), and both “Aurora” and “Paronama Vju” carry a heady spirit of kosmiche improvisation and classically progressive willfulness. They go, go, go. Far, far, far. Vocals echo out obscure but definitely there in post-The Heads fashion, but there’s Hawkwindian thrust in the fuzzed bass and drums driving the rhythm behind the howling guitar in “Aurora,” and that only sets up the peaceful stretch that the drones and expansive spaciousness of “Paronama Vju” finds across its 18:55 as all the more of an arrival. Immersive, hypnotic, all that stuff that means gloriously psychedelic, Lamagaia’s Lamagaia offers instrumental chemistry and range for anyone willing to follow along its resonant and ultra-flowing path. Count me in. I never liked working anyway.
Posted in Reviews on March 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Here we are, on the precipice looking out over a spread that will include 50 reviews by the week’s end. Somehow when it comes around to a Quarterly Review Monday I always end up taking a moment to ask myself if I’ve truly lost my mind, if I really expect to be able to do this and not fall completely flat on my face, and just where the hell this terrible idea came from in the first place. But you know what? I haven’t flubbed one yet. We get through it. There’s a lot to go through, for me and you both, but sometimes it’s fun to be completely overwhelmed by music. I hope you agree, and I hope you find something this week that hits you in that oh-yeah-that’s-why-I-love-this kind of way. Time’s wasting. Let’s get started.
Quarterly Review #1-10:
Three albums and nearly a decade into their tenure, Pallbearer stand at the forefront of American doom, and their third outing, Heartless (on Profound Lore), only reinforces this position while at the same time expanding beyond genre lines in ways that even their 2014 sophomore effort, Foundations of Burden, simply couldn’t have done. A seven-song/hour-long sprawl is marked out by resonant melodies, soulful melancholy conveyed by guitarist/vocalist Brett Campbell – the returning lineup completed by guitarist Devin Holt, bassist Joseph D. Rowland and drummer Mark Lierly – and tonal weight set to a mix by Joe Barresi, who from opener “I Saw the End” onward arranges layers gorgeously so that extended pieces like “Dancing in Madness” (11:48) and closer “A Plea for Understanding” (12:40) become even more consuming. What comes through most resolute on Heartless, though, is that it’s time to stop thinking of Pallbearer as belonging to some established notion of doom or any other subgenre. With these songs, they make it clear they’ve arrived at their own wavelength and are ready to stand up to the influence they’ve already begun to have on other acts. A significant achievement.
With the considerable frontman presence of Primordial’s Alan Averill on vocals and bass, the considerable riffing of guitarist Bones (also of Wizards of Firetop Mountain) and the considerable lumber in the drumming of Johnny King (ex-Altar of Plagues), Dread Sovereign make some considerable fucking doom indeed. Their second album, For Doom the Bell Tolls (on Ván Records), follows three years behind their debut, 2014’s All Hell’s Martyrs (review here), and wastes no time giving the devil his due – or his doom, if you prefer – in the span of its six tracks and 37 minutes. Atmospheric and seemingly on an endless downward plod, the 13-minute “Twelve Bells Toll in Salem” is a defining moment, but the trad metallurgy of “This World is Doomed” rounds out side A with some welcome thrust, and after the intro “Draped in Sepulchral Fog,” “The Spines of Saturn” and the thrashing “Live Like and Angel, Die Like a Devil” play dramatic and furious intensities off each other in a manner that would seem to truly represent the fine art of not giving a shit what anyone thinks about what you do or what box you’re supposed to fit into. Righteous. Considerably so.
Noise, largesse of riffs and shouted vocals that distinctly remind of Souls at Zero-era Neurosis pervade the near-hour-long run of Lizzard Wizzard’s Total War Power Bastard, but as much as the Brisbane four-piece willfully give themselves over to fuckall – to wit, the title “Medusa but She Gets You Stoned Instead of Turning You to Stone, Instead of Snakes She has Vaporizers on His Head… Drugs” – songs like “Shithead Nihilism,” “Pizza” and the droning “Snake Arrow” brim with purpose and prove affecting in their atmosphere and heft alike. Yes, they have a song called “Nerd Smasher,” and they deserve all credit for that as they follow-up their 2013 self-titled (review here), but by the time they get down to the roll-happy “Crystal Balls” and the feedback-caked “Megaflora” at the record’s end, guitarists Michael Clarke and Nick McKeon, bassist Stef Roselli and drummer Luke Osborne end up having done something original with a Sleep influence, and that’s even more commendable.
Should mention two things outright about Oulu Space Jam Collective’s EP1. First and foremost, its three songs run over 95 minutes long, so if it’s an EP, one can only imagine what qualifies as a “full-length.” Second, the Finnish outfit releasing EP1 on limited tape through Eggs in Aspic isn’t to be confused with Denmark’s Øresund Space Collective. Oulu is someplace else entirely, and likewise, Oulu Space Jam Collective have their own intentions as they show in the 57-minute opener “Renegade Spaceman,” recorded live in the studio in 2014 (they’ve since made two sequels) and presented in six movements including samples, drones, enough swirl for, well, 57 minutes, and a hypnotism that’s nigh on inescapable. I won’t take away from the space rock thrust of 14-minute closer “Artistic Supplies for Moon Paint Mafia” (also tracked in 2014), but the smooth progressive edge of three-part 24-minute centerpiece “Approaching Beast Moon of Baxool” is where it’s at for me – though if you want a whole galaxy to explore, hit up their Bandcamp.
They freak out a bit toward the end of 12-minute opener “Ascendant” and in the second half of the subsequent “Supersaturation,” but for the most part, Aussie three-piece Frozen Planet…. 1969 play it weirdo-cool on their fourth full-length, the excellently-titled Electric Smokehouse (on Pepper Shaker Records). From those jams to the dreamy beachside drift of “Shores of Oblivion” to the funky-fuzz bass of “Sonic Egg Factory” to the quick noise finish of “Pretty Blown Fuse” – which may or may not be the sound of malfunctioning equipment run through an oscillator or some other effects-whatnot, the instrumentalist Sydney/Canberra trio seem to improv a healthy percentage of their fare, if not all of it, and that spirit of spontaneity feeds into the easygoing atmosphere only enhanced by the cover art. On a superficial level, you know you’re getting psych jams going into it, but once you put on Electric Smokehouse, the urge to get lost in the tracks is nigh on overwhelming, and that proves greatly to their credit. Wake up someplace else.
Ananda Mida make their debut on Go Down Records with Anodnatius, fluidly working their way around heavy psychedelic and more driving rock influences propelled by drummer Massimo “Max Ear” Recchia, also of underrated Italian forebears OJM. Here, Recchia anchors a seven-piece lineup including two vocalists in Oscar de Bertoldi and Filippo Leonardi, two guitarists in Matteo Scolaro and Alessandro Tedesco, as well as bassist Davide Bressan and organist Stefano Pasqualetto, so suffice it to say songs like the subtly grungy “Passvas,” the dreamy highlight “Heropas” or the vaguely progressive “Askokinn” want nothing for fullness, but there seem to be moments throughout Anodnatius as on “Lunia” and the shuffling “Kondur” early into the proceedings where the band wants to break out and push toward something heavier. Their restraint is to be commended since it serves the interests of songcraft, but part of me can’t help but wonder what might happen if these guys really let loose on some boogie jams. Keep an ear open to find out, as I have a feeling they might be headed in just that direction.
The heart of Séance – The Satanic Sounds of Strange Broue might come in the 11-minute sample dump that is “Cults and Crimes,” late into the second half of the 52-minute album. Capturing meticulously compiled news and talk-show clips from the late ‘80s, some of which talk about the Satanic roots of heavy metal, it gets to the ritualism that Quebec four-piece Strange Broue proliferate elsewhere on the record in the lo-fi post-Electric Wizard doom of “Satan’s Slaves,” “Kill What’s Inside of You” and the rolling opener “Ritualize” (video here). These pieces offset by other interludes of noise and drone and samples like “Satanic Panic,” “In Nomine Dei Nostri Satanis, Luciferi Excelsis,” the acoustic-until-it-gets-shot-in-the-woods “Las Bas,” the John Carpenter-esque “Séance IV – L’Invocation” and the extended penultimate drone of “Séance V – The Mystifying Oracle with Bells” ahead of the countrified pop gospel of “Satan is Real,” which finishes in subversive fashion, interrupted by more news reports and a finishing assault of noise. Like an arts project in the dark arts, Séance crosses some familiar terrain but finds Strange Broue on their own trip through cultish immersion, as psychological as it is psychedelic.
Not much to argue with in the sixth long-player from Helge Kanck, Trond Slåke and Hallvard Gaardløs, collectively known as Orango. As they make their way onto Stickman Records (which also handled Euro distro for their last album, 2014’s Battles) with The Mules of Nana, the Norwegian trio deep-dive into harmony-topped ‘70s-style vibing that, well, leaves the bulk of “retro” bands in their V8-crafted dust. Mind you they do so by not being a retro band. True, the fuzz on “The Honeymoon Song” and “Head on Down” is as organic as if you happened on it in some forest where all the trees were wearing bellbottoms, but if you told me it was true, I’d believe Orango recorded The Mules of Nana onto – gasp! – a computer. I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but “Heirs,” the sweetly acoustic “Give Me a Hundred” and motoring “Hazy Chain of Mountains” find Orango making no attempt to cloak a lack of songwriting or performance chops in a production aesthetic. Rather, in the tradition of hi-fi greats, they sound as full and rich as possible and utterly live up to the high standard they set for themselves. Pure win in classic, dynamic fashion.
There’s an undercurrent of metal that’s quick to show itself on Set and Setting’s Reflectionless. The instrumentalist Floridian five-piece delve plenty deep into heavy post-rock on cuts like the shoegazing “Incandescent Gleam” and subsequent “Specular Wavefront Of…” but they’re not through opener “Saudade” before harder-edged chug emerges, and “…The Idyllic Realm”’s blastbeating nods at black metal while the churning endgame build of closer “Ephemerality” holds tight to a progressive execution. While its textural foundation will likely ring familiar to followers of Russian Circles ultimately, Reflectionless finds distinction in aligning the various paths it walks as it goes, creating an overarching flow that draws strength from its diversity of approach rather than sounding choppy, confused or in conflict with itself. Not revolutionary by any means, but engaging throughout and with a residual warmth to complement what might seem at first to be a purely cerebral approach. It offers more on repeat listens, so let it sink in.
Primo short offering of pure, fistpump-ready, violin-infused doom traditionalism. I don’t know what Norrköping, Sweden’s Dautha – the five-piece of vocalist Lars Palmqvist, guitarists Erik Öquist and Ola Blomkvist, bassist Emil Åström and drummer Micael Zetterberg – are planning to do for a follow-up, but this Den Foerste (or Den Förste) two-tracker recalls glory-era Candlemass and willfully soars with no sense of irony on “Benandanti” and “In Between Two Floods” after the intro “Horkarlar Skall Slås Ihjäl,” and having already sold out a self-released pressing leaves little to wonder what would’ve caught the esteemed tastes of Ván Records. And by that I mean it’s fucking awesome. I’m ready for a full-length whenever they are, and from the poise with which Palmqvist carries the melodies of these tracks, the quality of the riffing and the depth of arrangement the violin adds to the overarching mournfulness, they definitely sound ready. So get on it. 15 minutes of dirge-making this gorgeous simply isn’t enough.
[Click play above to stream Local Dogs by Doctor Cyclops in its entirety. Album is out March 31 on Heavy Psych Sounds.]
Italian heavy rockers Doctor Cyclops are gearing up to issue Local Dogs, their third full-length and Heavy Psych Sounds debut, on March 31. Recorded by James Atkinson of Gentlemans Pistols and boasting guest appearances from Bill Steer of Firebird (also of Carcass, but it’s the boogie that’s way more relevant in this context), the 10-track/47-minute outing follows 2014’s Oscuropasso (discussed here) and finds the three-piece skirting the line between classic heavy rock and more metallic impulses — songs dipping into NWOBHM stylizations in a way that, even three years ago, might have been out of character. As it stands, they find a basis for nuance in this meld, and with the clarity of production and the push of songs like “Wall of Misery” and the stomping “Druid Samhain,” it feels all the more intentional on their part that one might relate their work as much to Dio and Iron Maiden as to Sabbath and Atomic Rooster.
Of course, speaking stylistically (and literally too), it’s not the first time the ’70s have given way to the ’80s, but what Doctor Cyclops use to draw these elements and influences together is a healthy coating of tonal warmth, plus-grade songcraft and a clear-headedness of performance that makes songs like opener “Lonely Devil,” the acoustic-infused “Epicurious” and the swinging, organ-laced penultimate track “Witch’s Tale” all the more memorable before the finale “Witchfinder General” draws a direct link to the NWOBHM and brings Local Dogs to a galloping and righteous close. Striking throughout is the confidence and the poise with which the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Christian Draghi, bassist Francesco Filippini and drummer Alessandro Dallera pull off playing to one side or the other and the assured feeling that what they’re doing with their sound across Local Dogs‘ span is the right way to go, wherever an individual track may actually be headed. In no small part because of that confidence, they turn out to be 100 percent correct.
Doctor Cyclops have live dates lined up through the Spring — they’re working with Heavy Psych Sounds on booking as well, and in May, they will take part in the label’s Sonic Ritual Fest (info here) alongside Yawning Man, Ecstatic Vision and others, right after they hit the UK with Cybernetic Witch Cult (info here). One can only assume there are more shows to be announced through the end of 2017 and beyond, so keep an eye out., but here’s where they’ll be over the next couple months:
Doctor Cyclops on tour: 14.04 Pavia(IT) Spaziomusica 15.04 Francavilla (IT) Tikitaka Live Village 22.04 Tortona (IT) Dazibao 2.05 St.Gallen (CH) Rumpeltum w/Farflung 3.05 Ins (CH) Schuxenaus 5.05 Ipswich (UK) The Swan 6.05 Banbury (UK) The Wheatsheaf 7.05 London (UK) The Dev 8.05 Bristol (UK) The Gryphon 9.05 Plymouth (UK) The Junction 11.05 Olten (CH) Coq d’Or 12.05 Erba (IT) Centrale Rock w/Crowbar 20.05 Mezzago (IT) Bloom 07.07 Salzburg (AT) RockHouse “Dome of Rock Fest 08.07 Nandlstadt (DE) FreakinOut Festival
In the meantime, Local Dogs can be ordered now from Heavy Psych Sounds, and Draghi was kind enough to take part in a short interview about making the album.
Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:
Six Dumb Questions with Doctor Cyclops
Tell me about recording Local Dogs. How was it working with James Atkinson from Gentlemans Pistols as producer? What made you choose him to record the album?
Was nice and easy, as James is a super cool and easygoing guy. At the same time he is really professional and into the kind of music we are as well, so it was a relief for us to find someone we were in complete harmony to work with. We chose him as we knew he could have been the right person to help us catching on the record those dirty and honest sound you normally get just by recording on tapes in your rehearsal room. We met because of a common friend, Steve Lloyd. He introduced us to James, we had a talk and then we sent him some rough recordings we did. He understood immediately what we were looking for. He was the right guy at the right time.
What were you going for sound-wise coming off of Oscuropasso?
We decided to go for a simpler approach. We just wanted to capture the sound of the rehearsal room, so once in the studio we played all together in one room take after take, trying to put down every song in the faster and more natural way we could. No click tracks, not that many overdubbings, just straight playing, one song after the other… that’s it, good old ’70s rotten rock way.
Songs like “Stardust” have a lot of classic metal to them as well as ‘70s rock. What is the relation between classic and modern sounds for Doctor Cyclops at this point? Are there specific albums or bands that drove your love of older metal?
I guess some of our songs could sound like the lost connection between the early 70’s sound and the proto-heavy metal era… We are into bands like Captain Beyond, Dust, Sir Lord Baltimore, but also into the early Iron Maiden, Witchfinder General, Budgie. I guess in some songs we cheated on the pure ’70s groove by flirting (or petting) with the heavy metal/hard rock lustful chick.
This is your first full-length for Heavy Psych Sounds. How did working with the label come about and how has it been leading up to the release?
We know Gabriele [Fiori], the HPS master, since years as we played together with his band Black Rainbows somewhere around Europe. We are both in the same scene and country, so we kept in touch easily. Once we had this record done we started spreading it around, Gabriele gave his feedback, he was really happy and offered us to release it. We agreed that HPS is a growing label on the market. The names he is signing in and musicians he is working with prove that. He has very good connections in the scene and – things that is really important for a band – he does booking and follows his bands step by step with a careful promotion planning. He is passionate but also a wise business guy. A good mixture for a label boss.
How did having Bill Steer contribute to Local Dogs come about, and what was it like to work with him?
We’ve known Bill since years. We were great Firebird fans, we attempted many of their shows and we played with them as well in 2009. Since then we kept in touch. Of course we love Bill as a guitar player, but the cool thing is that he appreciated us as well as musicians. We simply asked him if he was into recording a couple of solos on the album and he said ‘yes’. He is also a really generous and humble person, a super cool guy. He overdubbed his solos after we finished our recordings as at the time we were in the studio he was busy with Carcass. But I can tell that we were amused about the work he did from the first listening on! We are proud and thankful he did that.
Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
Now we just have one thing to do…going back on the road and rock as many asses out as we can! Follow us on the web, Facebook or website… touring dates will be announced very soon.
Italian heavy space rockers Giöbia will reissue their latest full-length, 2015’s Magnifier (review here), via Heavy Psych Sounds this Spring. The new version of their fourth long-player — originally released by German imprint Sulatron Records — will include a bonus track in the Open Mind cover “Magic Potion” and new cover art by Laura Giardino that as you can see below plays off the centerpiece eyeball of the original while conveying in an intricate design the idea of a kind of ritualized swirl, which of course the album itself proffered readily, coated in effects and vibe.
Before they get to Magnifier, the Milano outfit are also set to have a new 7″ come out next month that includes a cover of Hawkwind‘s “Silver Machine” via H42 Records. It’s not streaming yet, but has already sold out on preorders, because yeah, it’s like that.
And speaking of “it’s like that,” pay attention to those label endorsements above, because there are three noted and none of them is insignificant in terms of conveying the quality of what Giöbia do.
From the PR wire:
HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS Records is proud to announce Giöbia to repress “MAGNIFIER”
Release Date May 5th
Released in: Limted Coloured Gray Vinyl Black Vinyl Cd
Second repress on Heavy Psych Sounds for this incredible Space Rock-Heavy Psych gem. New mastering, new graphics, and a new song added to the tracklist: the heavy psych/freakbeat masterpiece from the Londoner band The Open Mind called “Magic Potion.”
‘Magnifier’ as an album really does have it all…some ace psychedelic stylings, some heavy spacerock, some lysergic sixties grooves and some more delicate shimmery shoegazing.
It has a heaviness that will appeal to some, and the delicate touch that will appeal to others. Another undisputed success for Giöbia.
New incredible artwork by Laura Giardino
Giöbia has been one of the most influential psychedelic bands in Italy over the last years. Seduced by the lysergic side of the ‘60s, by exotic mantras and the evocative power of space-rock, Giöbia is a band from Milano, Italy with many facets and one only faith, that is to turn every encounter with sound into a psychedelic experience.
The band counts four members: leader Bazu (vocals and string instruments), Saffo (organ, violin, vocals), Detrji (bass) and Betta (drums) and their name – Giöbia – comes from an ancient pre-christian festivity celebrated in Northern Italy when a big straw puppet resembling a witch is burnt as a propitiatory ritual towards the forces of nature.
Italian cosmic doom masters Ufomammut will issue their new album, 8, Sept. 22 on Neurot Recordings. A behind-the-scenes video of the band in the recording studio has been posted, and festival dates announced before and after the release, which follows the band’s 2015 outing, Ecate (review here), and true enough to its title, is their eighth full-length. The long-running three-piece haven’t exactly been shy about their studio process, and last year found them posting regular updates, photos, videos, etc., as they put the record together, and it seems some more of that has made its way out too, so right on. The more the merrier, and as far as the rest of 2017 goes, hold a spot on your top 20 list, because Ufomammut never disappoint.
This just came in off the PR wire to make my day:
Ufomammut announce new album “8” incoming September 22nd via Neurot Recordings; plus live dates announced
Speak to any purveyor of the darkened heavy sonic and they’ll recommend Ufomammut. Masters of melding uncompromisingly heavy magic with psychedelic swirls, it is now with the heaviest and most immense pleasure to announce that the Italian alchemic juggernaut will be offering a new album this September 22nd (Neurot Recordings) consisting of eight darkened gems, aptly titled 8.
Sonically and symbolically, 8 is not only wickedly limitless in its heaviness, powerfulness and commanding nature, but how it arrests the listener’s mind creating a wholly unbounded and impenetrable sensory experience. Laden with symbolic nuances, 8 most obviously gestures towards this being Ufomammut’s 8th offering, comprised of 8 stunningly immersive tracks that flow into each other without interruption. This flow can also be seen when you tip 8 horizontally, thus it morphs into the leniscate from algebraic geometry – a plane curve that meets at central point – or more commonly known as the infinity symbol. A continuous stream of movement reflective of the uninterrupted nature of the album but also the continued togetherness of the essential elements of the band – Urlo, Poia and Vita – since the beginning of the band’s history. ? tipped vertically sees us return to the number 8. It must be stressed there is no singular pronunciation of the title, 8 is to be spoken in every language e.g. “eight” in English, “otto” in Italian, “acht” in German and so on.
As stated, 8 is a continuous flux of music, a singular entity, which can be defined in micro measurements by its eight satellite songs. Each track expands upon the preceding song, unfolding into an exceedingly dense, malevolent and formidable journey, resulting in this being Ufomammut’s most extreme venture yet, with no permittance for breathing space in the 48 minutes. The album’s predecessor Ecate has now been put to rest and we can be assured that 8 is an essential turning point in the infinity that is Ufommamut’s sonic.
Recorded at Crono Sound Factory in Vimodrone, Milano (IT), 8 is a major turning point in the heavy alchemic arts, with the elements of Ufomammut’s recording constellation being re-aligned. Although the musicians within Ufomammut’s collective remain unturned, a change in recording approach saw the trio playing and recording live together in the same room, even utilising their live sound engineer Ciccio and his project FEMORE for production purposes, with Fabrizio San Pietro on mixing duties. Overdubs were used only for vocals, synth sounds and small details with the result of such endeavour being a stricter focus on the soul, darkened groove and overall cohesion of the music and themselves as musicians. In turn, 8 clarified to Ufomammut who they are as a unit now and their new sonic path…
8 is due for release on September 22nd on vinyl and CD formats via Neurot Recordings and on a limited and regular edition vinyl via Supernatural Cat. Pre order information, album tracks and more to be revealed over the coming months.
In anticipation of Ufomammut’s 8 you can catch the conjurers of heavy mind swirls at the following:
UFOMAMMUT LIVE DATES 16/06 – Freak Valley Fest (Netphen, DE) 18/06 – Hellfest (Clisson, FR) 04/08 – Disintegrate Your Ignorance Fest (Giavera del Montello, IT) 06/10 – Up in Smoke Fest (Pratteln, CH) 13/10 – Korjaamo BlowUp Vol.3 Festival (Helsinki, FI)
Keep your ears and mind open for more news about 8 in the coming weeks…