Quarterly Review: Kamchatka, Legion of Andromeda, Queen Elephantine, Watchtower, Ape Skull, Hordes, Dead Shed Jokers, These Hands Conspire, Enos & Mangoo, Band of Spice

Posted in Reviews on July 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk summer quarterly review

We’re on the downhill swing of this edition of the Quarterly Review, so it’s time to get into some extremes, I think. Today, between death-doom lurch, drone-as-fuck exploring, gritty aggression and a whole lot more, we pretty much get there. I’m not saying it’s one end of the universe to another, but definitely a little all-over-the-place, which is just what one might need when staring down the fourth round of 10 reviews in a row in a week’s time. Feeling good though, so let’s do it.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Kamchatka, Long Road Made of Gold

kamchatka long road made of gold

It would really be something if Swedish blues rockers Kamchatka released six albums over the course of the last decade and didn’t know what they were doing by now. Fortunately, that’s not the case with Long Road Made of Gold (Despotz Records), their sixth, as the Verberg three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Thomas Juneor Andersson, bassist Per Wiberg (see also: Spiritual Beggars, Candlemass, Opeth, etc.) and drummer Tobias Strandvik modernize classic heavy rock with equal comfort in including a banjo on “Take Me Back Home” and progressive-style harmonies on “Rain.” They seem to get bluesier as they go, with later cuts “Mirror,” “Slowly Drifting Away,” “Long Road” and “To You” rounding out the album with Clutch-style bounce, but the prevailing impact of Long Road Made of Gold is one of unflinching class, the chemistry of its players – not to mention Wiberg’s bass tone – ringing through loud and clear from the material as Kamchatka make their way down that long road to their inevitable next outing.

Kamchatka on Thee Facebooks

Despotz Records

Legion of Andromeda, Iron Scorn

legion of andromeda iron scorn

I said as much when the Tokyo duo released their 2013 debut EP (review here) as well, but their first long-player Iron Scorn (on At War with False Noise) only confirms it: Legion of Andromeda are fucked. Theirs is a doomed-out death metal given further inhumanity by programmed drums and the blown-out growls of vocalist -R-, while guitarist/programmer –M- holds down grime-encrusted chug and dirge riffing. Perhaps most fucked of all is the fact that Iron Scorn uses essentially the same drum progression across its seven tracks/44 minutes, varying in tempo but holding firm to the double-kick and bell-hit timekeeping for the duration. The effect this has not only ties the material together – as it would have to – but also makes the listener feel like they’ve entered into some no-light-can-escape alternate universe in which all there is is that thud, the distortion and the growls. Not a headphone record, unless you were looking to start psychotherapy anyhow, its extremity is prevalent enough to feel like a physical force holding you down.

Legion of Andromeda on Thee Facebooks

At War with False Noise

Queen Elephantine, Omen

queen elephantine omen

Relentlessly creative and geographically amorphous drone warriors Queen Elephantine compile eight tracks from eight years of their perpetual exploration for Omen on Atypeek Music, which launches with its titular cut, the oldest of the bunch, from 2007. It’s a gritty rolling groove that, even as nascent and riff-noddy as it is, still has underpinnings that might clue the listener in to what’s to come (especially in hindsight) and comes accompanied by the sludgy “The Sea Goat,” a rawer take recorded the same year in Hong Kong. Newest on Omen is the blissfully percussed “Morning Three” and an 18-minute live version of “Search for the Deathless State” from 2010’s Kailash full-length. Lineups, intent and breadth of sound vary widely, but even into the reaches of “1,000 Years” (2012, Providence, RI) and “Shamanic Procession” (2009, New York), Queen Elephantine remain unflinching in their experimentalism and the results here are likewise immersive. Vastly underrated, their work remains a world waiting to be explored.

Queen Elephantine on Thee Facebooks

Atypeek Music

Watchtower, Radiant Moon

watchtower radiant moon

Consuming undulations of tectonic riffing. Two of them, actually. Watchtower’s Radiant Moon EP serves as their debut on Magnetic Eye, and like their fellow-Melbourne-resident labelmates in Horsehunter, the four-piece Watchtower slam heavy-est riffs into the listener’s cerebral cortex with little concern for lasting aftereffects, all in worship of nod and volume itself. Where the two acts differ is in Watchtower’s overarching sense of grit, harsh vocals pervading both “Radiant Moon” (9:03) itself and the accompanying “Living Heads” (7:09), standalone vocalist Nico Guijt growing through the tonal fray wrought by guitarist Robbie Ingram and bassist Ben Robertson, Joel McGann’s drums pushing the emergent roll forward on “Living Heads,” a High on Fire-style startoff hitting the brakes on tempo to plod over any and all in its path. I’m trying to tell you it’s fucking heavy. Is that getting through? Watchtower had a live single out before Radiant Moon, but I’d be eager to hear what they come up with for a full-length, whether they might shift elsewhere at some point or revel in pure onslaught. Now taking bets.

Watchtower on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye Records

Ape Skull, Fly Camel Fly

ape skull fly camel fly

The use of multiple vocalists gives Roman trio Ape Skull’s ‘70s fetishism a particularly proggy air. Fly Camel Fly is their second full-length for Heavy Psych Sounds behind a 2013 self-titled, and the boogie of “My Way” and “Early Morning,” the solo-topped groove of “Fly Camel Fly,” and the raw Hendrixology of “A is for Ape” position it as a classic rocker through and through. Vocalist/drummer Giuliano Padroni, bassist/vocalist Pierpaolo Pastorelli and guitarist/vocalist Fulvio Cartacci get down to shuffling business quick and stay that way for the 39-minute duration, the Mountainous “Heavy Santa Ana Wind” missing only the complement of a sappy, over-the-top ballad to complete its vintage believability. Even without, the triumvirate stand tall, fuzzy and swinging on Fly Camel Fly, the cowbell of “Tree Stomp” calling to mind the earthy chaos of Blue Cheer without direct mimicry. A quick listen that builds and holds its momentum, but one that holds up too on subsequent visits.

Ape Skull on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds

Hordes, Hordes

hordes hordes

Mad-as-hell trio Hordes have had a slew of releases out over the last eight years or so – EPs, splits, full-lengths with extended tracks – but their experimental take on noise rock topped with Godfleshy shouts arrives satisfyingly stripped down on their latest self-titled five-track EP, recorded in 2013 and pressed newly to tape and CD (also digital). “Eyes Dulled Blind” dials back some of the pummeling after the bruises left by “Cold War Echo,” guitarist/vocalist Alex Hudson at the fore in the JK Broadrick tradition. Centerpiece “Summer” starts with a slow and peaceful ruse before shifting into brash and blown-out punk – Chris Martinez’s hi-hat forward in the mix to further the abrasion – and finally settles into a middle-ground between the two (mind you, the song is four minutes long), and bassist Jon Howard opens “Life Crusher,” which unfolds quickly into the most oppressive push here, while a churning atmosphere pervades the more echo-laden closer “Fall” to reinforce Hordes’ experimentalist claims and steady balance between tonal weight and noise-caked aggression.

Hordes on Thee Facebooks

Hordes on Bandcamp

Dead Shed Jokers, Dead Shed Jokers

dead shed jokers dead shed jokers

There’s a theatrical element underlying Welsh rockers Dead Shed Jokers’ second, self-titled full-length (on Pity My Brain Records). That’s not to say its eight songs are in some way insincere, just that the five-piece of vocalist Hywel Davies, guitarists Nicky Bryant and Kristian Evans, bassist Luke Cook and drummer Ashley Jones know there’s a show going on. Davies is in the lead throughout and proves a consummate frontman presence across opener “Dafydd’s Song,” the stomping “Memoirs of Mr. Bryant” and the swinging “Rapture Riddles,” Dead Shed Jokers’ penultimate cut before the cabaret closer “Exit Stage Left (Applause),” but the instrumental backing is up to its own task, and a clear-headed production gives the entire affair a professional sensibility. They veer into and out of heavy rock tropes fluidly, but maintain a tonal fullness wherever they might be headed, and Cook’s bass late in “Made in Vietnam” seems to carry a record’s worth of weight in just its few measures at the forefront before Davies returns for the next round of proclamations.

Dead Shed Jokers on Thee Facebooks

Dead Shed Jokers BigCartel store

These Hands Conspire, Sword of Korhan

these hands conspire sword of korhan

Berlin’s These Hands Conspire aren’t through the two-minute instrumental “Intro” before they’re showing off the heft of tone that pervades their metallized debut album, Sword of Korhan, but as they demonstrate throughout the following seven tracks and the total 45-minute runtime, there’s plenty to go around. Vocalist Felix delivers an especially noteworthy performance over the dual-guitars of Tom and Stefan, the bass of Paul and Sascha’s drums, but heavy metal storytelling – the sci-fi narrative seems to be a battle in space – is just as much a part of the record’s progressive flow, longer cuts like “Praise to Nova Rider,” “The Beast Cometh,” which directly follows, and “Ambush at Antarox IV” feeding one into the next sonically and thematically. The penultimate title-track brings swinging apex to an ambitious first outing, but the foreboding, winding guitar echoes of “Outro” hint at more of the tale to be told. Could be that Sword of Korhan is just the beginning of a much longer engagement.

These Hands Conspire on Thee Facebooks

These Hands Conspire on Bandcamp

Enos & Mangoo, Split

enos mangoo split

Maybe it doesn’t need to be said, since if it weren’t the case, they wouldn’t have paired at all, but Enos and Mangoo pair well. The UK chimp-obsessed space metallers – that’s Enos, on side A – and the Finnish modernized classic heavy rock outfit – that’s Mangoo, on side B – don’t ask much of the listener across their Son of a Gun/The Grey Belly split (on H42 Records) beyond a little over 10 minutes of time and a willingness to follow a groove. “Son of a Gun” finds Enos blending particularly well with Mangoo’s methodology via the inclusion of organ in their swinging but still forward-directed movement, and after that, it’s an easy mesh to flip the platter and find Mangoo’s “The Grey Belly” waiting, its own keys playing a huge role in carrying across the ‘70s-via-‘90s vibe the band projects so well. Flourishes of percussion in the former seem to complement the progressive guitar work in the latter, and whichever side happens to be spinning, it all works out just fine.

Enos on Thee Facebooks

Mangoo on Thee Facebooks

H42 Records

Band of Spice, Economic Dancers

band of spice economic dancers

Born in 2007 as Spice and the RJ Band and rechristened Band of Spice in 2010 prior to their third album, Feel Like Coming Home, the Swedish unit boasting vocalist Christian “Spice” Sjöstrand (founding vocalist of Spiritual Beggars, also Mushroom River Band, currently also in Kayser) release their fourth full-length half a decade later in the form of Economic Dancers on Scarlet Records. It’s a straightforward heavy rocker in the organ-laced European tradition that Spice helped create, with some shades of quirk in the intro to “The Joe” and the arena-ready backing vocals of “In My Blood,” but mostly cutting its teeth on modernized ‘70s jams like “On the Run,” “Down by the Liquor Store” and “True Will,” though the six-minute centerpiece “You Will Call” touches on more psychedelic fare and is backed immediately by two metallers in “You Can’t Stop” and “Fly Away,” so it’s not by any means one-sided, even if at times the mix makes it feel like the 11 tracks are a showcase for the singer whose name is on the marquee.

Band of Spice at Scarlet Records

Scarlet Records on Bandcamp

 

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Shabda to Release Pharmakon / Pharmakos in Sept.

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 26th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

shabda_2015

Italian ritual droners Shabda will release their new album, Pharmakon / Pharmakos, Sept. 7 on Argonauta Records. Last year the three-piece put out the Tummo LP, and proceeds from the new one will go toward aid for victims of the earthquake this past April in Nepal. The lush wash of Tummo can be sampled below, and I think if you haven’t heard it before, you’ll find the three tracks an immersive and worthy investment of time.

Will hope to have more on this one as we get closer to the release. Here’s the news until then:

shabda pharmakon pharmakos

SHABDA – Cover artwork and album details revealed

Pharmakon / Pharmakos is the third album by Shabda, a year after the highly acclaimed psychic journey of Tummo. Voluntary hermits established in the rural countryside of Canavese, Piedmont, they fulfill, with this work, a rite of foundation, emanating their blanket of dense droning sound to link distant yet compatible musical mythologies. The two suites forming the album shape time, space and repetition building a sound that drives West and East to confront in the field of pure sound: it’s not doom, nor folk, nor drone in strict sense, but the heavy golden thread that structures the homogeneity of compositions draws a monolithic identity, simultaneously saturnine and solar.

Stylistically, Pharmakon is based on Raga Kafi, tinging it in Middle Eastern shades before crashing on the obsessively guitar oriented drift of its climax. Pharmakos gives off its textural essentiality on the vocal and rhythmic cells of Tibetan mantric music, pushing tension towards the void: then its features are stripped to the bones of an overloaded metal behemoth to investigate pre-existence, life, death and continuity.

Pharmakon / Pharmakos speaks about alchemy without using words, through the evocation of pure sound images, vertically ascending the axis mundi. Like Janus, with one face to the west and one to the east.

Also, Shabda in partnership with Argonauta Records will actively support Nepal populations affected by the earthquake by donating 10% for each copy sold of Pharmakon/Pharmakos album to Nepalese children through Save the Children.

Those into Windhand, Mamiffer, Bong, Terry Riley and Popol Vuh will have something to rejoice by September 7th, 2015. Pharmakon/Pharmakos will be released by Argonauta Records on CD/DD.

Preorders: http://shop.pe/U2z9B http://shop.pe/pfWzY

https://www.facebook.com/shabdaofficial
http://shabdahq.bandcamp.com/
http://www.argonautarecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ArgonautaRecords

Shabda, Tummo (2014)

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Return from the Grave Announce New Bassist and EP Due this Fall

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

return from the grave

Venetian four-piece Return from the Grave have announced a return. They’re making a comeback. They’re the prodigal band. They’re… oh, come on, there has to be another phrase for it. They were gone and now they’re active again. You know, something that might give the fact that they’ve added a new bass player and have a new EP on the way a sense of drama, as though they were rising from a place where people don’t generally return from. Like the dead. Damn. I just can’t think of it.

Return from the Grave will release their new EP, Three(P), through Argonauta Records this fall. You’ll never guess how many songs it has. It hasn’t been that long since the band’s last outing — their second full-length, Gates of Nowhere, was issued by Argonauta last year — but this will be their first with the Davide Bressan in the lineup, the three cuts of the release draw from a singular concept. Perhaps about unexpected reappearances.

To the PR wire:

return from the grave ep

RETURN FROM THE GRAVE : New EP and new lineup

Italian stoner doom metal band RETURN FROM THE GRAVE has planned to record a new EP during next August, for a November release with Italian label ARGONAUTA RECORDS.

The new work will be entitled THREE(P) and will feature three new tracks, bonded together by a concept. More details, including artwork and song titles, will be revealed next fall.

We are also announcing the arrival a NEW BASS PLAYER, DAVIDE BRESSAN (previously guitarist on WILD PIPES) who will record the new songs and will also play live on the next gigs.

We would like to thank Christian for all the things he made with us in the last four years!

Stay tuned for more details, including artwork, tracklist, and future gigs!!!!

…. And, of course, DOOM ON !!!!

www.argonautarecords.com
www.facebook.com/returnfromthegrave
http://returnfromthegrave.bandcamp.com/

Return from the Grave, “Words in Words” official video

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My Home on Trees Sign to Heavy Psych Sounds

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

my home on trees

Milano four-piece My Home on Trees are the latest acquisition for Heavy Psych Sounds, the Italian label that has recently picked up bands like Old Man LizardApe Machine and Cosmic Wheels for releases while also working with Fatso Jetson and Farflung for a split and reissuing the out-of-print debut from Sgt. SunshineGabriele Fiori, who runs the label and plays guitar and sings in Black Rainbows and Killer Boogie, is on a bit of a tear, and My Home on Trees will have their label debut out in September as part of that.

Their second overall, How I Reached Home will be the follow-up to their 2013 self-titled debut, and a European tour is reportedly in the works for November, as Heavy Psych Sounds confirmed in the announcement of the band’s signing, which you can find below, delivered as though by magic from the PR wire:

my home on trees how i reached home

HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS Records is stoked to announce the signing of another awesome band *** MY HOME ON TREES ***

The freak dream about living on trees into the wild inspired on 2012 “My Home on Trees”, young band from Milano, influenced by 70’s gods as Black Sabbath or Jefferson Airplane and 90’s sons as Kyuss and Fu Manchu as well. Occult stoner rock from a dark forest, heavy riffs and psychedelic grooves. A storm of fuzz meeting powerful female voice, for fans of Jex Toth and Blues Pills. They shared the stage with Greenleaf and Toner Low, My Sleeping Karma and Mars Red Sky.

Debut album on Heavy Psych Sounds Records, with special guest as Steve Moss from The Midnight Ghost Train.

Artwork by Steuso.

“HOW I REACHED HOME” will be released in September in two coloured vinyl versions, cd, digital.

European tour in November.

https://www.facebook.com/myhomeontrees
http://myhomeontreesband.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS
www.heavypsychsounds.com

My Home on Trees, My Home on Trees (2013)

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GIVEAWAY: Enter to Win CDs from Minotauro Records!

Posted in Features on May 28th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

el-hijo-de-la-aurora-the-enigma-of-evil-and-strange-here-ii

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]

Two albums available this time, free of charge, from Minotauro Records. New stuff from Italian classic-style doom metallers Strange Here, and Peruvian conjurers El Hijo de la Aurora, going out. Two very different albums, to be sure, but both standing on their own merits as well, the former with a foot solidly in in the canon of doom and the latter off on a more bizarre, ambient tangent. Either way you go, you can’t beat the price.

Which, once again, is nothing. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post to be entered to win both CDs courtesy of Minotauro, which sent along the following background on both albums:

strange here ii

STRANGE HERE, II

In 2006, Alexander Scardavian (Paul Chain, Steve Sylvester) met Domenico “Dom” Lotito, a 20 year-old guitarist from Milan who had played in a few local bands, including the renowned Error Amplifier. The two immediately developed a strong friendship, and started to lay down the foundation of a new version of Strange Here with Dom moving over to the bass. Soon the two started to develop more material with the help of a few studio musicians on keyboards and drums, and in 2013 the pair started to focus more intensely on their objective, notwithstanding a geographical distance that separated them.

In August 2014 they entered into the studio with three songs ready and many more ideas. This was the culmination of 12 years of soul-searching and existential uneasiness. And so the Strange Here II came to be, recorded and mixed in 20 hours at Atomic Studios in Longiano, Italy. Recorded live, with lots of improvised meanderings, Alexander’s and Dom’s anger, frustration and suffering over the years was conveyed through intense and obscure music.

el hijo de la aurora the enigma of evil

EL HIJO DE LA AURORA, The Enigma of Evil

EL HIJO DE LA AURORA (The Son of Dawn) is an experimental doom metal band formed in Lima, Peru in May, 2008 by the musician and writer Joaquin Cuadra and guitarist Manolo Garfias. Over the years the lineup has changed several times, leaving Joaquin as the only remaining original member. In their lyrics, the band explores elements of philosophy, occultism, witchcraft, esotericism and spirituality. The album explores new sonic territories, and is a balance between classic 70s doom and experimental sounds with unconventional instruments like Tibetan bowls and gongs.

“The Enigma of Evil” explores the origin of the cosmos, and how we establish our relationship with the spiritual world. The album recalls concepts covered by Copernicus and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in her books Isis Unveiled, and The Secret Doctrine.

Again, how to enter:

Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form provided. Please note: I neither have the interest nor the capacity to save or sell any personal information given to me. You will not be added to any email lists as a result of entering. Frankly, I’m not that savvy.

Thanks to Minotauro Records for offering up the discs, and good luck to all who enter!

El Hijo de la Aurora on Thee Facbeooks

Strange Here on Thee Facebooks

Minotauro Records

Minotauro Records on Bandcamp

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Humulus Premiere Video for “The Liar Priest”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

humulus

Following a recent shift that brought aboard Andrea Van Cleef to handle guitar and vocals, Bergamo-based trio Humulus will this weekend issue their first release with the new lineup: A beer. A new collaboration with Birrificio Indipendente Elav arrives with a release party this weekend, and the three-piece also present their new video for the track “The Liar Priest” by Snakehill Productions to coincide.

The cut comes off Humulus‘ 2012 self-titled debut LP, which was released by Go Down Records, so it’s a bit of the old and new from the band, who are set to begin the process of songwriting for what will no doubt be a substantially different sophomore outing. In the meantime, “The Liar Priest” makes a stand in bruiser aggression residing on the border between heavy rock and sludge, thick riffery and gruff shouts abounding amid a catchy chorus and steady groove.

For the video, they — of course — perform at a brewery. Presumably, it’s Elav, and along with the trio kicking out “The Liar Priest,” we also get to see some beer being made which, again, of course, they sample at the end. Hardly the first to dig into a beverage after a hard day’s work, but they seem to be having a good time all the same. If you’re wondering, there will be fish sandwiches at the beer release party on Saturday. As if it would be a party otherwise.

I’m happy today to host the premiere of Snakehill‘s video for “The Liar Priest,” which is followed by some more background on Humulus for those who’d like to be filled in. Please imbibe responsibly:

Humulus, “The Liar Priest” official video

Humulus are a heavy-stoner power trio from Bergamo (Italy), formed in 2009. “The Liar Priest” is taken from the 2012 debut album “Humulus”.

Andrea Van Cleef (guitar-voice) Giorgio (bass) Massimiliano (drums)

Humulus are a heavy-stoner power trio from Brescia/Bergamo (Italy), formed in 2009. Their first self titled album is released by Go Down Records in december 2012. The ten tracks of this first work fully reflect the stoner attitude of the band and their aggressive sound that is best expressed during their live shows. 2013 and 2014 are truly years full of pivotal shows for Humulus career; the band shared the stage with bands like Corrosion Of Conformity, Karma To Burn, Naam and Truckfighters, and they participated also in festivals like Home Festival and Maximum Festival.

In 2014 another great love of the band sees the light: beer! Humulus produced for 2014 their eponymous black stoner IPA, brewed in collaboration with ELAV Indipendent Brewery. Humulus sound is just like that: a combination of fat and fuzzy guitars, heavy riffs…and a lot of beer!

In 2015, after a change of formation, Humulus are ready to write new songs for their second album that probably will see the light at the beginning of 2016

Beer release party event page

Humulus on Thee Facebooks

Humulus on Bandcamp

Snakehill Productions on YouTube

Go Down Records

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Live Review: Ufomammut, Usnea and Mountain God in Brooklyn, 05.19.15

Posted in Reviews on May 20th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Ufomammut (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The circumstances by which I found myself in the Tri-State Area were complex enough that I feel no need to recount them, but the point is, if you’re in town anyway, and Ufomammut are rolling through Brooklyn to hit the Saint Vitus Bar on their first US tour ever, supported by Portland’s Usnea and locals Mountain God opening, the obvious choice is to go. Yes, I was at a show in Boston on Sunday, but that seemed like long enough ago that it didn’t matter. It’s fucking Ufomammut. You show up.

Mountain God (Photo by JJ Koczan)I missed the three-piece at Roadburn in 2011, but saw them there in 2009, and even six years later, the impression they left behind was resonant enough that I could see them clearly on the Main Stage bludgeoning the room with their cosmic mastery. The image is vivid. They’ll play Maryland Deathfest this weekend and are out supporting their 2015 Neurot Recordings outing, Ecate (review here), the latest in a line of records a decade long proving their utter supremacy of sound. I felt fortunate to have the planets align in such a way as to allow me to make it to the show.

As I understand it, Mountain God were something of a late addition to the bill. Cool by me. Playing as the trio of guitarist/vocalist Ben Ianuzzi, bassist Nikhil Kamineni and drummer/backing vocalist Ryan Smith (also Thera Roya), they had new material on offer and included two cuts from their 2013 Mountain God (Photo by JJ Koczan)Experimentation on the Unwilling demo (review here), so yeah, sign me up. Their particular brand of atmospheric sludge has only become more visceral over the last couple years, and as expansive as their 2015 single-song Forest of the Lost EP (review here) is, its churn still seems to stir the guts. So it was on stage as well.

Worth noting that for all three bands, the stage was d-a-r-k dark. Most of all for Mountain God and Usnea, but even for Ufomammut the only real light was toward the back of the stage, and there wasn’t much of that. Might as well have been taking pictures in Boston, it was so fucking dark. So it goes. Mountain God‘s new songs, “Nasca Lines” and “Taxidermist,” pushed the limits of their extremity well, Ianuzzi‘s blown-out vocals cutting through his and Kamineni‘s rumbling tonal morass — a heft that would become a theme for the night. The interplay of Ianuzzi and Smith proved especially effective throughout, but either way, ambience remained thick and the effect remained crushing.

Usnea (Photo by JJ Koczan)They finished out with “Experimentation on the Unwilling” itself, a memorable pummel of a riff at its center, and received greetings and well-earned congratulations at the front of the stage while breaking down their gear to make way for Usnea, touring with Ufomammut from their base of operations in Oregon. It was my first exposure to the death-doom four-piece, who made their debut on Relapse last year with their second full-length, Random Cosmic Violence, and I found they were a completely different band from what I expected them to be. As in, I thought they were another band. It was a pleasant surprise when their ultra-nodding brutality held sway for the duration, both guitars tuned to the key of slow-motion destruction as drums and bass stood center-stage to punctuate and foster feel-it-in-your-stomach resonance. Can’t claim to have known the material, but the first impression was a positive one.

And by positive, I mean overwhelmingly negative — the downer vibes so dense they couldn’t seem to let any light escape. Right on. I knew Ufomammut would be headed for more psychedelic terrain, and indeed they were, so to have Usnea follow Mountain God‘s tectonics with their own lumbering doom was a solid fit and welcome complement to the bill. If I’d had any cash, I Usnea (Photo by JJ Koczan)probably would’ve picked up a CD of Random Cosmic Violence, but the water bottle I had in my camera bag I bought with quarters and I didn’t think I had that much change on hand. Maybe next time. Their closer was “Detritus,” the 15-minute finisher from their sophomore outing, and it was as vehement an endorsement of their wares as anything I might recount in a review, plodding and stomping en route to a building finish that left nothing else to say when it was done. Many bands would have trouble following it.

Ufomammut, however, are a different breed. I’m almost surprised this was their first US tour. It’s easy to imagine them — as so many of their contemporaries from around Europe did — coming to the States and playing to upwards of 20 people at The Continental in Manhattan a decade ago before any of this stuff caught on and it was suddenly reasonable to be positioned in front of the stage at the Vitus Bar next to a photographer from The New York Times (“Uh, I run a blog,” was my barely-stammered response when she asked who I was shooting for) at a sold-out show. As if the experience wasn’t surreal enough, Ufomammut — guitarist Poia, drummer Vita and bassist/vocalist Urlo arranged left to right — Ufomammut (Photo by JJ Koczan)played off a setlist that seemed to be written in code, with notations for synths and the mysterious light-up samplers and effects they had on foot-switches while a video screen projected behind.

Devastatingly heavy? Why yes, they were, but that’s really just one component of the experience. Watching Ufomammut play is like being stirred in a cauldron of something thick and molten. Somehow, it swirls, but on the surface level it doesn’t even seem like it should be able to move at all. Each song seemed to take them deeper into space, the entirety of Ecate rearranged for stage presentation and followed by “Oroboros” from Oro: Opus Alter (review here), “Stigma” from 2008’s Idolum and, finally, “God” from 2004’s Snailking, which was brought to a brutal finish as though the trio were trying to pull apart the remnants of the galaxy on a molecular level, some great cosmic code punched in to result in the end of all things in multi-dimensions. It was like that. Sound as force. Senses colliding, and Urlo headbanging with his entire body the whole time. The further they went the more righteous they became, and the room — sweltering, dark, vibrating — went with them all the while, that great cauldron made flesh. To call it breathtaking would be speaking literally.

Ufomammut (Photo by JJ Koczan)There was a moment after they were done that required a return to earth, more of a snap back than a gentle release, and you could feel it from others in the room as much as from yourself. An exhale and realization of the impressionist galaxial scope just witnessed, blurred lines fitting for the summer’s haze that seemed to be settling over the Manhattan skyline on the way into the city. Even having seen the band before, I did it too. People made their way to the bar and out blissfullly stunned, and I did likewise, almost tempted to call Ufomammut‘s arrival on North American shores overdue if they hadn’t rendered things like space and time so irrelevant.

A couple more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Nibiru, Kayleth, Varego and More Confirmed for Argonauta Fest 2015

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 27th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

The first Argonauta Fest is set for May 10 at Live23 in Alessandria, Italy. Confirmed for the lineup are NibiruInfection CodeVaregoLast Minute to JaffnaDeaf Eyes and Kayleth, and there’s free CD samplers to be on hand and much more slated for the inaugural event, which is put on by Argonauta Records, who explain their motivations as bringing their taste in music — from vicious sludge to far-ranging psych — to life on stage. Probably getting everyone together and turning the volume all the way up and partying and all the rest of it don’t hurt either, but you know, it doesn’t necessarily need to be one or the other.

Info for the fest came down the PR wire, if you’d care to peruse the links and so on:

argonauta fest 2015 poster

ARGONAUTA Records present: ARGONAUTA FEST first edition!

From the label: “We are proud to announce that May 10, 2015 will take place the first official Argonauta Records Fest! An event created primarily as a need to represent “on stage” our musical taste, giving a “live” vent to our first years of life as a label, enhanced by many feedbacks both nationally and abroad. Six bands of our roster will create an evening that will move into Stoner, Post Metal, Noisecore and Sludge territories. A fine opportunity to share with us what will be a feast made of extreme sounds and great bands. Stay tuned on our official sites (www.facebook.com/argonautarecords www.argonautarecords.com) for more details about the bands on the program and on further initiatives related to the event to be held in Alessandria (Italy) at LIVE23”.

ARGONAUTA Fest 2015 features the following bands:

NIBIRU (Psych Ritual Sludge)
https://www.facebook.com/nibiruritual
INFECTION CODE (Noisecore)
https://www.facebook.com/infectioncode
VAREGO (Post Metal/Stoner)
https://www.facebook.com/varego
LAST MINUTE TO JAFFNA (Post Metal)
https://www.facebook.com/jaffnatominutelast
DEAF EYES (Instrumental Post Metal)
https://www.facebook.com/deafeyesband
KAYLETH (Space Stoner Rock)
https://www.facebook.com/KAYLETHBand

Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1376440029345838

For more infos:
https://www.facebook.com/ArgonautaRecords
https://www.facebook.com/argonautafest

Varego, “Hesperian” official video

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