Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Morag Tong, Holy Mushroom, Naisian, Haunted, Pabst, L.M.I., Fuzz Forward, Onségen Ensemble, The Heavy Eyes

Posted in Reviews on July 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

I always say the same thing on the Wednesday of the Quarterly Review. Day 3. The halfway point. I say it every time. The fact is, doing these things kind of takes it out of me. All of it. It’s not that I don’t enjoy listening to all these records — well, I don’t enjoy all of them, but I’m talking more about the process — just that it’s a lot to take in and by the time I’m done each day, let alone at the end of the week, I’m fairly exhausted. So every time we hit the halfway point of a Quarterly Review, I feel somewhat compelled to note it. Cresting the hill, as it were. It’s satisfying to get to this point without my head falling off.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Khemmis, Desolation

khemmis desolation

Continuing their proclivity for one-word titles, Denver doom forerunners Khemmis take a decisive turn toward the metallic with their third album for 20 Buck Spin, the six-track/41-minute Desolation. Songs like opener “Bloodletting” and its side B counterpart “The Seer” are still tinged with doom, but the NWOBHM gallop in “Isolation” and “Maw of Time” – as well as the sheer force of the latter – is an unexpected twist. Khemmis showed classic metal elements on 2016’s was-a-very-big-deal Hunted (review here) and 2015’s debut, Absolution (review here), but it’s a question of balance, and as they’ve once again worked with producer Dave Otero, one can only read the shift as a conscious decision. The harder edge suits them – certainly suits the screams in “Maw of Time” and side A finale/album highlight “Flesh to Nothing” – and as Khemmis further refine their sound, they craft its most individualized manifestation to-date. There’s no hearing Desolation and mistaking Khemmis for another band. They’ve come into their own.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin website

 

Morag Tong, Last Knell of Om

morag tong last knell of om

A rumbling entry into London’s Heavy Generation, the four-piece Morag Tong unfold voluminous ritual on their debut full-length, Last Knell of Om. Largely slow and largely toned, the work of guitarists Alex Clarke and Lewis Crane brings the low end to the forefront along with the bass of James Atha while drummer Adam Asquith pushes the lurch forward on cuts like “New Growth” and “To Soil,” the band seemingly most comfortable when engaged in crawling tempos and weighted pummel. Asquith also adds semi-shouted vocals to the mire, which, surrounded by distortion as they are, only make the proceedings sound even more massive. There’s an ambience to “We Answer” and near-13-minute closer “Ephemera: Stare Through the Deep,” which gives the record a suitably noisy finish, but much of what Morag Tong are going for in sound depends on the effectiveness of their tonality, and they’ve got that part down on their debut. Coupled with the meditative feel in some of this material, that shows marked potential on the band’s part for future growth.

Morag Tong on Thee Facebooks

Morag Tong on Bandcamp

 

Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul

holy mushroom blood and soul

Working quickly to follow-up their earlier-2018 sophomore long-player, Moon (review here), Spain’s Holy Mushroom present Blood and Soul, an EP comprised of two songs recorded live in the studio. I’m not entirely sure why it’s split up at all, as the two-minute “Introito” – sure enough, a little introduction – feeds so smoothly into the 19-minute “Blood and Soul” itself, but fair enough either way as the trio shift between different instrumentation, incorporating sax, piano and organ among the guitar, bass, drums and vocals, and unfold a longform heavy psychedelic trip that not only builds on what they were doing with Moon but is every bit worthy of being released on its own. I don’t know if it was recorded at the same time as the record or later – both were done at Asturcon Studios – but it’s easy to see why the band would want to highlight “Blood and Moon.” Between the deep-running mix, the easy rhythmic flow into and out from drifting spaciousness, and the turn in the middle third toward more expansive arrangement elements, it’s an engaging motion that makes subtly difficult shifts seem utterly natural along the way. And even if you didn’t hear the latest full-length, Blood and Soul makes for a fitting introduction to who Holy Mushroom are as a band and what they can do.

Holy Mushroom on Thee Facebooks

Clostridium Records website

 

Naisian, Rejoinder

naisian rejoinder

Sludge-infused noise rock serves as the backdrop for lyrical shenanigans on the three-song Rejoinder EP from Sheffield, UK, trio Naisian. Running just 12 minutes, it’s a quick and thickened pummel enacted by the band, who work in shades of post-metal for “90 ft. Stone,” “Mantis Rising” and “Lefole,” most especially in the middle cut, but even there, the focus in on harsh vocals and lumbering sonic heft. It’s now been seven years since the band sort-of issued their debut album, Mammalian, and six since they followed with the Monocle EP, and the time seems to have stripped down their sound to a degree. “Lefole” is the longest track on Rejoinder at 5:18 and it’s still shorter than every other song Naisian have put out to-date. Their crunch lacks nothing for impact, however, and to go with the swing of “Lefole,” everybody seems to contribute to a vocal assault that only adds to the punishing but thoughtful vibe.

Naisian on Thee Facebooks

Naisian on Bandcamp

 

Haunted, Dayburner

haunted dayburner

The effects-laden vocal swirl at the outset of Haunted’s “Mourning Sun” and moments in the Italian act’s longer-form material, “Waterdawn” or “Orphic,” for example, will invariably lead some listeners to point to a Windhand influence, but the character of the band’s second album, Dayburner (on Twin Earth, DHU and Graven Earth all), follows their 2016 self-titled (review here) by holding steady to a developing identity of its own. To be sure, vocalist Christina Chimirri, guitarists Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando, bassist Frank Tudisco and drummer Dario Casabona make their way into a deep, murky swamp of modern doom in “Dayburner” (video posted here), but in the crush of their tones amid all that trance-inducing riffing, they cast themselves as an outfit seeking to express individuality within the set parameters of style. Their execution, then, is what it comes down to, and with “Orphic” (12:46) and “Vespertine” (13:19) back to back, there’s plenty of doom on the 66-minute 2LP to roll that out. And they do so in patient and successful form, with marked tonal vibrancy and a sense of controlling the storm they’re creating as they go.

Haunted on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records website

DHU Records webstore

Graven Earth Records webstore

 

Pabst, Chlorine

pabst chlorine

So, the aesthetic is different. Pabst play a blend of noise, post-punk, heavy rock and grunge, but with the ready pop influence — to wit, the outright danceability of “Shits,” reminiscent in its bounce of later Queens of the Stone Age – and persistent melodicism, there’s just a twinge of what Mars Red Sky did for heavy rolling riffs happening on Chlorine, their Crazysane Records debut. It’s in that blend of dense low-end fuzz and brighter vocal melodies, but again, Pabst, hailing from Berlin, are on their own trip. Weird but almost more enjoyable than it seems to want to be, the 12-track/35-minute outing indulges little and offers singalong-ready vibes in “Catching Feelings” and “Waterslide” while “Waiting Loop” chills out before the push of “Accelerate” and the angularity of “Cheapskate” take hold. Chrlorine careens and (blue) ribbons its way to the drive-fast-windows-open stylization of “Summer Never Came” and the finale “Under Water,” a vocal effect on the latter doing nothing to take away from its ultra-catchy hook. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a record someone with just the right kind of open mind can come to love.

Pabst on Thee Facebooks

Crazysane Records webstore

 

L.M.I., IV

lmi iv

If you’ve got a dank basement full of skinny college kids, chances are Lansdale, Pennsylvania’s L.M.I. are ready to tear their faces off. The sludge-thickened riff punkers run abut 11 minutes with their five-song release, L.M.I. IV, and that’s well enough time to get their message across. Actually, by the end of “Neck of Tension” and “Weaning Youth,” roughly four and half minutes in, the statement of intent is pretty clear. L.M.I. present furious but grooving hardcore punk more given to scathe than pummel, and their inclusions on L.M.I. IV bring that to life with due sense of controlled chaos. Centerpiece “Lurking Breath” gives way to “First to Dark” – the longest cut at a sprawling 2:55 – and they save a bit of grunge guitar scorch and lower-register growling for closer “June was a Test,” there isn’t really time in general for any redundancy to take hold. That suits the feeling of assault well, as L.M.I. get in and get out on the quick and once they’re gone, all that’s left to do is clean the blood off the walls.

L.M.I. on Thee Facebooks

L.M.I. on Bandcamp

 

Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere

fuzz forward out of nowhere

Released one way or another through Discos Macarras, Odio Sonoro, Spinda Records and Red Sun Records, the eight-song/43-minute debut album from Barcelona’s Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere, has earned acclaim from multiple corners for its interpretation of grunge-era melodies through a varied heavy rock filter. Indeed, the vocals of Juan Gil – joined in the band by guitarist Edko Fuzz, bassist Jordi Vaquero and drummer Marc Rockenberg – pull the mind directly to a young Layne Staley, and forces one to realize it’s been a while since that low-in-the-mouth approach was so ubiquitous. It works well for Gil in the laid back “Summertime Somersaults” as well as the swinging, cowbell-infused later cut “Drained,” and as the band seems to foreshadow richer atmospheric exploration on “Thorns in Tongue” and “Torches,” they nonetheless maintain a focus on songwriting that grounds the proceedings and will hopefully continue to serve as their foundation as they move forward. No argument with the plaudits they’ve thus far received. Seems doubtful they’ll be the last.

Fuzz Forward on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Forward on Bandcamp

 

Onségen Ensemble, Duel

Onsegen ensemble duel

The kind of record you’re doing yourself a favor by hearing – a visionary cast of progressive psychedelia that teems with creative energy and is an inspiration even in the listening. Frankly, the only thing I’m not sure about when it comes to Oulu, Finland, outfit Onségen Enseble’s second album, Duel, is why it isn’t being released through Svart Records. It seems like such a natural fit, with the adventurous woodwinds on opener “Think Neither Good Nor Evil,” the meditative sprawl of the title-track (video posted here), the jazz-jam in the middle of “Dogma MMXVII,” the tribalist percussion anchoring the 12-minute “Three Calls of the Emperor’s Teacher,” which surely would otherwise float away under its own antigravity power, and the free-psych build of closer “Zodiacal Lights of Onségen,” which shimmers in otherworldly fashion and improvised-sounding spark. On Svart or not, Duel is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, and one the creativity of which puts it in a class of its own, even in the vast reaches of psychedelic rock. Whether it means to or not, it tells a story with sound, and that story should be heard.

Onségen Ensemble on Thee Facebooks

Onsegen Ensemble on Bandcamp

 

The Heavy Eyes, Live in Memphis

the heavy eyes live in memphis

Since so much of The Heavy Eyes’ studio presentation has consistently been about crispness of sound and structured songwriting, it’s kind of a relief to hear them knock into some feedback at the start of “Mannish Boy” at the outset of Live in Memphis (on Kozmik Artifactz). The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Tripp Shumake, bassist Wally Anderson and drummer Eric Garcia are still tight as hell, of course, and their material – drawn here from the band’s LPs, 2015’s He Dreams of Lions (review here), 2012’s Maera, 2011’s self-titled, as well as sundry shorter offerings – is likewise. They’ve never been an overly dangerous band, nor have they wanted to be, but the stage performance does add a bit of edge to “Iron Giants” from the debut, which is followed by singing “Happy Birthday” to a friend in the crowd. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Live in Memphis is hearing The Heavy Eyes loosen up a bit on stage, and hearing them sound like they’re having as good a time playing as the crowd is watching and hearing them do so. That sense of fun suits them well.

The Heavy Eyes on Thee Facebooks

The Heavy Eyes at Kozmik Artifactz

 

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Haunted Post “Dayburner” Video; New Album out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

haunted

The trippy visuals in Haunted‘s new video are almost as much a representation of the title-track of their new album, Dayburner, as the song itself. Amid deep-hued skylines, manipulated film footage, the cover art and sundry other elements, the Italian doomers give the nine-minute “Dayburner” over to the capable hands of Gryphus Visual for the proceedings, which are every bit full-screen-worthy and likewise suitable for maximum volume. The album “Dayburner” represents tops 66 minutes with its eight tracks, and is released with backing from Twin Earth Records (CD), DHU Records (LP, presumably) and Graven Earth Records (tape) as the follow-up to the band’s likewise immersive 2016 self-titled debut (review here).

Dayburner saw release June 8 and arrived even as it was announced Haunted would be included in the four-label split showcase Skull Mountain, which featured highlights from the rosters of Twin Earth, Ripple Music, DHU and Kozmik Artifactz, pushing even further the notion of Haunted catching the attention of some of the underground’s foremost tastemakers. Reasonably so. The outlander approach to rolling out stoner-doom groove fits into the post-Windhand cultistry, and yet there’s a sharper edge to Haunted‘s soulfulness. With Christina Chimirri at the fore vocally, the two guitars of Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando — that’s right, dueling Francescos — leading the charge with riffs and solos, and bassist Frank Tudisco (could he be Francesco number three?) and drummer Dario Casabona holding down the nodding grooves, Haunted hit just a little harder rather than get completely lost in the mire, and that difference proves crucial in the listening experience of Dayburner as a whole. It’s not just about hypnotic riffing, but about impact as well.

You can check out the clip for “Dayburner” below, followed by more info from the PR wire. I hope to have a review of the album in the next week or so, so please keep an eye out for that as well.

Dig:

Haunted, “Dayburner” official video

The international doom promises HAUNTED recently unleashed their new studio album, “Dayburner” via Twin Earth Records.

The band revealed the video of the new single ‘Dayburner’.

Francesco Bauso, guitar player, states:
“Basically, it’s one of the most spontaneous songs we have composed so far. We started from a verse and then built the rest around the main riff. The idea of the acoustic guitars came to our mind directly in studio, to add emphasis to the song’s intro. It’s actually the most catchy track on the record, boasting a Sabbathian riffing. On the finale we had the chance to experiment a bit with some overdubs, such as floor-toms for example; whose rhythm evokes a sort of witches dance.”

The video has been created by Gryphus Visual, who works with different labels (Twin Earth, Argonauta, Ripple Music) and made background visuals for Lucifer at Roadburn 2015, besides being the visual master of Addicthead and Echolot.

Purchase ‘Dayburner’ digitally here: https://hauntedband.bandcamp.com/track/dayburner

Haunted as:
Francesco Bauso: Guitars
Dario Casabona: Drums
Cristina Chimirri: Vocals
Francesco Orlando: Guitars
Frank Tudisco: Bass

Haunted on Thee Facebooks

Haunted on Bandcamp

Haunted on Instagram

Twin Earth Records website

DHU Records webstore

Graven Earth Records webstore

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Review & Video Premiere: Black Elephant, Cosmic Blues

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on June 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

black elephant cosmic blues

[Click play above to stream the video premiere for ‘Walking Dead’ by Black Elephant. Their album, Cosmic Blues, is out July 20 on Small Stone Records.]

Though they stay pretty much within the sphere of heavy rock throughout, the actual sound of Italian four-piece Black Elephant is much more nuanced in its refusal to simply do or be one thing. Within the first three tracks of Cosmic Blues, their second album and debut on the ultra-respected purveyor Small Stone Records, the band bounce around between hard-hitting riffs, psychedelic spaciousness, noisy crunch and meandering jams. Only then do they break into the three-minute riff-winding boogie and straight-ahead drive of “Walking Dead.” And yet, as the opening semi-title-track “Cosmic Soul,” the not-at-all-a-cover “Helter Skelter” and the 1:44 instrumental “Chase Me” play out, there’s nothing particularly jarring in the transitions wrought by guitarist/vocalist Caravelli Alessio, guitarist Giacosa Massimiliano, bassist De Stefanis Marcello, and drummer Brunzu Simone.

Particularly with Alessio belting out the vocals as he does on the swinging “Baby Eroina” later, or in the more subdued verses of “Cosmic Soul,” for that matter, there are elements of classic Swedish heavy rock at play in terms of style — that foundation in classic heavy rock melded with a post-’90s grunge groove — but Cosmic Blues is quick to establish its own identity in the sonic meld and thorough in its expansion thereof. The outing totals a relatively quick seven tracks/34 minutes, but that’s more than enough time for Black Elephant to convey their variety of influence, and it’s worth noting that while they seem to make a point of changing up their take throughout, doing so never seems to come at the expense of an individual song itself. From “Cosmic Soul” onward, they go pretty far out, and yet by maintaining a firm commitment to underlying structure, their feet never seem to leave the ground.

A striking balance, and it speaks to the eight years Black Elephant have been a band that they should be able to roll out the languid solo-topped nod early in “Baby Eroina” and move into and through the boogieing midsection of the 7:31 track — that’s the longest on the record, with “Helter Skelter” pretty close at 7:04 — and back to the central riff with such smoothness. Sure, Cosmic Blues has its jarring moments. Following the penultimate also-semi-title-track “Cosmic Blues for Solitary Moose,” the opening push of closer “Inno” hits like a slap to the face, but that’s what it’s meant to do, and this too becomes part of Black Elephant‘s overarching purpose. There’s a strong commitment to vibe throughout, and to be sure, the record has a front-to-back flow that holds firm throughout, but as many wandering solos as there are — they include a particularly resonant one in “Inno,” as one might expect for the finale — the band seem to have an eye on the overarching impression they leave behind them.

black elephant

It’s a positive one, gaining from the different faces Black Elephant show throughout and the efforts they make toward consistency in line with that. Hard not to consider the two longer tracks as highlights. With the extra room in “Helter Skelter” and “Baby Eroina,” Black Elephant flesh out stylistically. In the earlier cut, that means knocking out a noise rock riff early and taking it into a heavier groove before shifting via wah-drenched lead work into its jammed-out midsection, gradually getting more and more minimalist as it goes, only to build excitingly back to the chorus and end with some added crunch. “Baby Eroina” — funny how I keep wanting to put an ‘h’ in front of the second word — is looser in its march overall, but saves its trippiest guitar work for its ending, instead putting out thick distortion and funky vibes in its early moments before launching into its mostly-instrumental second half.

Those are by no means the only highlights of Cosmic Blues — I’ll take nothing away from the effectiveness of “Walking Dead”‘s momentum-maximization at the album’s center or the effectiveness of the brief “Chase Me” before it in capitalizing on a will toward sonic adventure — but they’re striking as focal points just the same, and like “Inno,” they do well to summarize the most important aspect of Black Elephant‘s methodology, which is that rather than jump from one sound to the next, they bring this diversity of ideas into their own approach. The difference is ultimately one of coalescence. Black Elephant are able to shift into and out of parts of songs without losing either their forward momentum or, in the case of some of the jammier moments, themselves in the process. This is what makes the album flow instead of having it be disjointed the whole way through. The intent is writ large throughout Cosmic Blues, but in kind with the album’s variety is that strong sense of identity that feels crafted with such care, and that’s what makes the collection work so well and ties the songs together, longer or shorter.

While Black Elephant don’t necessarily go anywhere that heavy and/or psychedelic rock hasn’t gone before, they do an excellent job of finding their niche in the genre and do even better in tipping the balance in their aesthetic to one side or the other. Some will dig it for its variety. Some will dig it for its familiarity. And some will just dig it because riffs. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, and the varied appeal speaks to Black Elephant knowing their audience — as with many bands in the genre, they play with a fan’s love for it — and knowing how to communicate their ideas through sound. Eight years will no doubt help that effort, but Cosmic Blues stands on its own outside of the time it took the band to realize it, and instead, calls back to its influences and inspirations and invites them, and everyone else, to check out how it all came together in the end. It would be hard to argue against doing so, and I find I’m not inclined to try.

Black Elephant, “Cosmic Soul”

Black Elephant on Thee Facebooks

Black Elephant on Bandcamp

Small Stone Records website

Small Stone Records on Thee Facebooks

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VVitch Festival 2018 Confirms Lineup with Dopethrone, Celeste, Eagle Twin and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Set in Milan across four nights and three different venues taking place over the course of two months, the full VVitch Festival is a season-long experience. It draws bands from multiple regions in Europe, the US and Canada, and is no less eclectic in its sound than in the geography. Each show has a different theme that feeds into the larger entirety of the experience, and VVitch Festival proper will be held as the last night, with Frizzi 2 FulciCeleste, KENmodeBelzebong and The Necromancers (who are touring together and also making a stop in Austria at the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest), Birds in Row and Coilguns. Seems like a pretty sick night and all over the place, but again, it’s just the last of four in the series.

Full lineups follow here, along with event links as per the PR wire:

vvitch festival lineup

-VVITCH-

Inspired by witchcraft and horror movies themes, between doom, sludge, black, grind, death and post metal, it?s coming soon in Milano, Italy, a new event for metal maniacs called “VVITCH FESTIVAL”. A trilogy of events plus a fourth one, the festival. Three different venues in Milano, 17 bands, some of them for the first time in Italy, some for exclusive Italian shows.

“..dark forces are going to cross the walls of the city, after the Sacrifice and the Ritual, the Evocation..”

VVITCH I – Sacrifice
September 19th 2018, Spazio Ligera, Milano
DEMILICH (FIN) exclusive Italian show
SPECTRAL VOICE (USA) exclusive Italian show
CARDIAC ARREST (USA) exclusive Italian show
FB event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1568544103256273

VVITCH II – Ritual
October 11th 2018, Kraken Pub, Milano
DOPETHRONE (CAN)
EAGLE TWIN (USA)
MESSA (IT)
FB event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1979301145733544

VVITCH III – Evocation
November 3rd 2018, Spazio Ligera, Milano
BOLOGNA VIOLENTA (IT) “Uno Bianca” full album set
FISTULA (USA) exclusive Italian show
GRIME (IT)
DEATH HAS GONE (IT)
FB event: https://www.facebook.com/events/2063352060550129

VVITCH FESTIVAL
November 25th 2018, Circolo Magnolia, Milano
FRIZZI 2 FULCI (IT)
(live soundtracks by Fabio Frizzi, of Lucio Fulci’s horror cult movies, for the
first time in Milano)
CELESTE (FR) exclusive Italian show
KEN MODE (CAN) exclusive Italian show
BELZEBONG (PL)
BIRDS IN ROW (FR)
COILGUNS (CH)
THE NECROMANCERS (FR)
FB event: https://www.facebook.com/events/172227866788138

https://www.facebook.com/vvitchfestival

Eagle Twin, The Thundering Heard (2018)

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Deadsmoke to Release New Single Forest of the Damned June 21

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

It hasn’t been all that long since Italian doom-sludgers Deadsmoke released their latest full-length, Mountain Legacy (review here), and with it marked the arrival of synthesist Claudio Rocchetti, but already they’re announcing a follow-up single due out later this month called Forest of the Damned, which will be released on limited wax via Let it Bleed Records.

Kind of curious that the announcement below still comes from Heavy Psych Sounds, which put out the last two Deadsmoke long-players, but doesn’t seem to be involved directly in this release. Maybe they’re just helping with promo, or maybe it’s a collaboration in some way? Either way, Deadsmoke are heavy as hell and that’s like their whole thing, so however you get to hear the new tracks, which seem to continue on from an atmospheric piece on Mountain Legacy, it’s probably worth your time.

Info follows from the PR wire:

deadsmoke forest of the damned single

Heavy Psych Sounds Records & Booking is really stoked to announce *** DEADSMOKE – FOREST OF THE DAMNED *** via Let It Bleed Records

Our beloved DEADSMOKE are coming back with a very special limited 7″ named FOREST OF THE DAMNED via Let It Bleed Records !!!

RELEASE DATE: 21st June

Deadsmoke is a doom sludge Italian band sounding like deep entombed amplifiers and downtuned monolithic guitars scraping the soil down to the core of the sphere.

Slow hypnotic not-harmonic cadences refresh the eternal need of isolation and the atavistic fear of nothingness. Sub lowered frequencies corrode the one last trace of human cognition, apprehension and judgment.

Your soul already burned, smoke is what remains.

AVAILABLE IN: 500 LTD TRANSPARENT-BLACK “MARBLED” SMOKY WAX

TRACKLIST
1. Forest Of The Damned II: Enter The Forest
2. Forest Of The Damned III: Gray Ashes Of Hope

Deadsmoke is:
gianmaria – bass
matteo lescio – guitars & vocals
claudio rocchetti – synth & noise
maurice bellotti – drums

produced, recorded, mixed & mastered by andrea polato @ beatsstudiosbz (march 2018)
cover foto & layout by m. klammsteiner
band foto by tiberio sorvillo

https://www.facebook.com/deadsmokedoom/
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS/
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com/
https://letitbleedrecords.bandcamp.com/album/deadsmoke-forest-of-the-damned

Deadsmoke, Mountain Legacy (2017)

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Review & Track Premiere: Demetra Sine Die, Post Glacial Rebound

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

demetra sine die post glacial rebound

[Click play above to stream the title-track of Demetra Sine Die’s Post Glacial Rebound. Album is out this month on Third I Rex.]

Their sound varies more or less on a per-song basis, if not a within-song basis, so if you’re looking for an easy-genre-tag-and-move-on kind of listen, look elsewhere. Demetra Sine Die‘s third offering, Post Glacial Rebound (on Third-I-Rex), requires cerebral engagement at almost all times. It’s like a movie with crucial plotpoints happening every minute, and that’s not a comparison I make lightly. The music itself throughout the seven tracks/46 minutes of the release is richly cinematic, and with vocals swapping between speaking, singing and screaming parts, one might listen to a song like the nine-minute black metal/noise-until-it-decides-not-to-be centerpiece “Gravity” and the later brooding swirl of the melodic “Liars” and wonder if it’s the same band.

Seems to be, yeah. Black metal is part of their approach, but by no means the totality. The Genoa, Italy, three-piece of Adriano Magliocco and founders Marco Paddeu and Marcello Fattore blend elements from noise rock, doom, post-metal and prog together to create a sound that reminds almost of Norwegian avant pioneers Virus in its encompassing style, but Demetra Sine Die‘s divisions are stark, and the tension they hold in “Lament” or the later moments of the closing title-track — a flurry of drums backing spacious clean vocals there — has a presence of its own.

The album is a multi-tiered challenge, then, since not only does it make such a requirement of attention, but it pays off that effort at its own will, without compromise, when and where it wants. That title-track, by the way? Yeah, it just ends. Cold. As if to reinforce the purview the listener is under and the idea of just who it is Demetra Sine Die are making this music for.

Themselves, if it’s not obvious. This kind of progressive, constantly shifting, varied sound of course isn’t without its tinge of self-indulgence. That’s practically a requirement. Still, with the breadth that Paddeu, Fattore and Magliocco cast from the opening bassline of the deceptively grunge and patiently executed leadoff “Stanislaw Lem” onward into the headfirst collision between melody and dissonance in the subsequent “Birds are Falling” and down through the rest of Post Glacial Rebound that follows, the sense is not that they’re trying to manifest chaos, but that their manner of expression simply refuses convention.

For example, “Birds of Calling” starts with shouts over distorted low end and an oft-heard torrent of drums, straightens out into a long forward, dual-vocal melodic verse, then turns back quickly to the shouts before renewing its push. It passes the halfway mark in this manner, then at 3:21, the progression shifts into a noisy lead that itself gives way to an effects-laden shove of a riff that closes out. Where did that riff come from? I have no idea. It just kind of showed up, but if you’re willing to go with it, Demetra Sine Die make it worth your while, in that track and the drama of “Lament” immediately following, which undergoes its own transformation from a poetry reading over drone to a drum-led build of vague spoken words swallowed by driving post-metallic riffs and, a bit later, screams and growls as it moves toward its apex.

demetra sine die

So, shit is weird? Yeah. Definitely. But it’s worth underscoring that Post Glacial Rebound isn’t just weird for its own sake, and it isn’t simply a work of self-indulgence. That ending of “Lament,” which delves into more extreme sounds seemingly out of nowhere, leads to and ultimately smooths the transition into “Gravity,” which marks the darkest and harshest moment on the record. I don’t know that the one song was written to complement the other, but it certainly feels like it was at least positioned that way when the album was actually put together after being recorded.

Likewise, “Gravity,” with its airy guitar and half-gurgled howls early, its middle-third onslaught and its ending melodic moans, in turn serves as an entry point into the even stranger second half of the outing, as “Eternal Transmigration” takes hold — the shortest inclusion at 4:08 — with laughter backing the spoken line “Free your spirit” as if to undercut the very notion. Echoing declarations are subsumed by noise and drums, and that itself bleeds into the more-straightforward-if-you’d-dare-to-call-it-that “Liars,” which rides loud/quiet tradeoffs and an easy melody that, in context, retains some of the threat of its surroundings without actually needs to make an assault of its own. Once again, effects fill out the arrangement, and Demetra Sine Die hold together the proceedings atop a consistent movement of drums.

With a last-minute devolution into ambience, “Liars” gives ground to the closing title-track, which opens much the same way. It would be hard to imagine Demetra Sine Die summarizing the entire record in one track, and even as “Post Glacial Rebound” approaches the nine-minute mark and moves from lumbering low end and roomy guitar over top to a reignited tension in the drums and moaning clean vocals to its almost Tool-esque prog metal finish of percussion and melody, the impetus seems less to reinforce how far the three-piece have journeyed than how far they might still go.

And fair enough. As the follow-up to 2012’s A Quiet Land of Fear and 2008’s debut, Council from Kaos, Post Glacial Rebound leaves some questions unanswered as to just where Demetra Sine Die are headed musically, but is nothing if not purposeful in that. Nonetheless mature, the band in no way sound like they’ve finished growing, nor like they will anytime soon. That might be the most progressive aspect of these tracks. Not only are they thoughtfully composed and executed, but they can’t help but lead the mind of the listener to imagine what Demetra Sine Die might do next.

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Demetra Sine Die website

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Black Elephant Release Cosmic Blues July 20

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

black elephant

Took me frickin’ forever to write the bio below for the Black Elephant record. Like, two months. Just ridiculous. I finally banged it out after I got back from Planet Roadburn last month, but yeah, it was embarrassingly long in the making. Not the record’s fault by any means. You can hear in opening track “Cosmic Soul” that the Italian outfit have their game together on their third record, Cosmic Blues, so yeah, the lag was all on my end. Turns out I just suck. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Lehman, was right all along.

Second grade was a real killer.

Anyhoozle, Black Elephant‘s Cosmic Blues, complete with a bio by yours truly, is out July 20 and available now to preorder from the ultra-venerable Small Stone Records. The PR wire brings release info, art, and some familiar words — which is doubly fortunate, since the document with the bio was on my stolen laptop. “Hooray for cloud backups,” he said far too late.

I just made myself sad twice in the span of one post. Quitting while behind:

black elephant cosmic blues

BLACK ELEPHANT: Psychedelic Fuzz Rock Unit To Release Cosmic Blues Full-Length Via Small Stone This July; New Track Streaming + Preorders Available

Italian psychedelic fuzz rock unit BLACK ELEPHANT will release their third full-length, and first under the Small Stone Records banner, titled Cosmic Blues, this July.

One would be hard-pressed to come up with a better descriptor for BLACK ELEPHANT’s Cosmic Blues full-length than the title of the album itself. Based in Savona, Italy, the four-piece have conjured ghosts of ’70s heavy fuzz and ’90s riff mongering offering up a sonic brew that’s both potent and thoroughly modern. Cosmic Blues follows 2014’s Bifolchi Inside and 2012’s Spaghetti Cowboys (get it?) and marks their debut on Small Stone Records. Comprised of lead vocalist/lead guitarist Alessio Caravelli, rhythm guitarist Massimiliano Giacosa, bassist Marcello Destefanis, and drummer Simone Brunzu, BLACK ELEPHANT makes their mark in their home country’s booming heavy rock underground with memorable songs and a sound that’s just as comfortable getting funky on “Chase Me” as it is reimagining Soundgarden as a riff rock outfit à la peak-era Dozer, rolling out huge grooves en route to “Cosmic Blues For Solitary Moose,” loaded with fuzz and scorching solos.

Given a brisk, live sound in its production – fitting for a group with hundreds of shows under their collective belt – Cosmic Blues comes across natural and at times maintains the intensity of BLACK ELEPHANTS’ earlier work (closer “Inno” walks by and waves), while simultaneously exploring more spacious realms in the not-a-cover “Helter Skelter” and the takeoff jammer “Baby Eroina,” which eases into and out of its nodding rhythm with a smoothness worthy of a group’s third album and a fluidity that typifies the record’s entire thirty-four-minute run. Leaving their own tracks in the footsteps of bands like Small Stone’s own Isaak, BLACK ELEPHANT hits a new level of craft with Cosmic Blues, and if the righteous drive of opener “Cosmic Soul,” the flowing progression of the LP that ensues, and the name they’ve given the whole affair are anything to go by, they know it for sure. All the better.

BLACK ELEPHANT’s Cosmic Blues was recorded and mixed by Giulio Farinelli, mastered by Maurizio Giannotti, and cames wrapped in the cover design of Robin Gnista. The record will see release on July 20th on CD, digitally, and limited edition purple vinyl.

For preorders, go to the Small Stone Bandcamp page at THIS LOCATION where you can also sample opening track, “Cosmic Soul.”

Cosmic Blues Track Listing:
1. Cosmic Soul
2. Helter Skelter
3. Chase Me
4. Walking Dead
5. Baby Eroina
6. Cosmic Blues For Solitary Moose
7. Inno

BLACK ELEPHANT is:
Alessio Caravelli – lead vocals, lead guitar
Massimiliano Giacosa – rhythm guitar
Marcello Destefanis – bass guitar
Simone Brunzu – drums

https://www.facebook.com/blackelephantitaly
http://www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords

Black Elephant, “Cosmic Soul”

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Review & Full Album Stream: Mr. Bison, Holy Oak

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

mr bison holy oak

[Click here to stream Holy Oak by Mr. Bison in full. Album is out May 25 on Subsound Records.]

The number of dudes in Mr. Bison? Three. The number of those same dudes named Matteo? Three. The number album their new one, Holy Oak is in their discography? Three. The number of bassists who appear on that same record? None. Number of times you’re going to be responsible for knowing these numbers? Zero, because by the time the Pisa-based sans-bass three-piece of guitarist/vocalists Matteo Barsacchi, Matteo Sciocchetto and drummer/vocalist Matteo D’Ignazi are about two songs in — to the total nine; because numbers — the sweet fuzz, classic style fuzz and periodic excursions into psychedelic space are going to melt the math away anyhow.

Mr. Bison, who release Holy Oak as their second offering through Subsound Records behind 2016’s Asteroid, hone in on the pivotal spirit of modern desert rock. There’s some element of push in songs like “Heavy Rain,” but they’re just as likely to spend their time spreading out an open atmosphere. Consider European acts of lore like Sgt. Sunshine and Lowrider, fellow Italians OJM, or American bands like Solace for a cut like “Earth Breath,” or even up and coming practitioners like Steak. Mr. Bison belong to this category of purveyors. Their third album is mature and aware of the moves it’s making between louder, more driving material and its more subdued places, and the Matteos effectively play different sides off each other both within songs — the 7:30 centerpiece title-track walks by and waves — and in the transition between them as well.

Like many acts who operate without a bass, their claim is that the guitar tones make up for it. And true enough, any band can tune lower to make up for the lacking thicker strings if they’re so inclined, but to think of the legacy of great heavy rock loadbearers — from Geezer Butler through Scott Reeder and so on — and it would seem to be not even so much the tone as the dynamic they’re denying themselves. They compensate by weaving different guitar parts in and around each other, and in so doing craft something that, admittedly, is more their own than it would be if they were a simple guitar/bass/drum configuration. Some of it is a familiar lead/rhythm dynamic, but “The Bark” operates tonally like a battle of dueling Hendrixes, and the results make for a legitimately exciting listen.

This is something that a band three records in can do much more effectively than a band making their debut, but it’s admirable nonetheless, and from the mid-paced groove of opener “Roots” and the blown-out shuffle swagger of “Sacred Deal” — there may not be any bass, but I’d swear I hear an organ — onward, Mr. Bison retain fervent control over their transitions and the fluidity of Holy Oak as a whole. At 46 minutes, it does not feel like a minor undertaking, but neither is it redundant, as “Heavy Rain” breathes ambient life into the initial salvo and “Earth Breath” contrasts with more straightforward edge and riffing. The appropriate metaphor would be to say these two sides are doing battle, but it’s more like they’re both fighting toward the same end than fighting each other. In the post-Black Rainbows sphere of Italian heavy, Mr. Bison make a place for themselves alongside acts like Tuna de Tierra, who take the established tenets of various forms of heavy and pull them together in varying balances in order to best serve their songwriting.

True, one could easily argue that “Red Sun,” from name, to riff, to its forward punkish rhythm, is probably direct Kyuss tribute, but consider that it arrives after the Golden Void-esque “The Bark” and the boogie-laden “The Wave” and the context becomes a bit broader than a band from Italy trying to sound like a band from California. It also precedes seven-minute closer “Beyond the Edge,” and where one might expect Mr. Bison to simply switch back into the psychedelia-as-primary modus of the earlier title-track, they instead hold to a blend of funkified start-stop fuzz and scorching lead, a gritty, Radio Moscow-style blues vocal laid overtop that leads to an extended but still mostly earthbound jam.

That is to say, the band doesn’t just have a couple of set methods of songwriting and swap one out for the other. Of course this works to the benefit overall of Holy Oak, which caps with a repetitive and duly hypnotic progression while also bringing back vocals to keep the song grounded even at its most “out there” moment, which is a pretty fair analog to the entirety of the record. I’m not sure I’d call myself 100 percent on board with the zero-bass philosophy, but there’s no question that for Mr. Bison, the numbers add up. Their sound is fluid and engaging and their songwriting is varied enough that indeed they leave nothing wanting for dynamic. Many elements of what they do will be familiar to those experienced with the genre, but it’s in how they’re melded that Mr. Bison make their statement, and they make it loudly.

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Mr. Bison on Bandcamp

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Subsound Records webstore

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