Inner Altar Premiere “Pagan Rays | Numbered Days”; Debut LP Vol. III out Jan. 18

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 7th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

inner altar

Kansas City doom rockers Inner Altar will release their deceptively numbered debut album, Vol. III, through The Company later this month. It is the third release from the five-piece outfit, preceded by two demo/EP outings similarly titled in succession. The full-length taps into a cave-echoed classic doom vibe, not such distant kin from some of what’s come in recent years from Scandinavian acts like Dunbarrow and Demon Head, or even some US practitioners like Magic Circle, but with elements of garage doom roughness to their riffing as well that help to push them into their own territory. To wit, the grueling rollout of “Pagan Rays | Numbered Days” and the chants of the near-seven-minute eponymous closer cast a particularly darkened aspect to the atmosphere that adds depth to the acoustic/electric ’70s doom-folk shuffle of “Undine’s Kiss” earlier. Wailing vocals add a distinctly proro-metallic vibe to the lyrical declarations, and an overriding naturalism to the production — not necessarily worshiping the vintage, but shooting at least for a live feel — only make that vibe more believable.

The touchstone in terms of aesthetics is of course Pentagram‘s First Daze Here material, but neither are the lessons of formative acolytes like Witchcraft lost on Inner Altar, and while we’re talking about Altars, there might be a bit of Pagan Altar‘s pre-NWOBHM style of heavy happening in the crunch and atmosphere of “Castle Storm” as well, the centerpiece pulling back from some of the immediacy of the post-intro opener “For the Gods to Swear By,” which kicks off Vol. III at a relative rush while prefacing some more of the progressive sensibilities of the band in a departure to minimal classic guitar in its second half — the two sides of its personality both proving as crucial to setting up the rest of what follows as the bass tone that leads back into the thrust. That’s not to take away from the impact either of the serenely-strummed “Intro” itself, the quiet and somewhat understated feel of which informs even the straight-ahead thickened-tone roll of the penultimate “Dethroned and Fugitive,” another sub-four-minute rocker that instead of progging out as does “For the Gods to Swear By,” goes the opposite way and kicks into another level of push.

That would seem to leave cuts like “Lives of Fire” and “Mother Eternity” with the task of establishing some middle ground, and the former, which is particularly memorable and which served as a pre-release single (with a video you can see at the bottom of this post), does just that while “Mother Eternity” takes notable command of the more doomed persona with fluid shifts in volume and room for a bit of Witchcraftian flute-ish sounds, though it could just as easily be keys at work there. All told, the record is a clean nine tracks (with intro) and 38 minutes that culminates in suitably dug-in fashion with “Inner Altar” itself, the band drawing together multiple sides of their sound to finish with a fitting representation of their overarching atmospheric intent. Along with the clarity of their stylistic vision — that is, the fact that they know what they want to sound like — the subtly progressive aspects of Vol. III represent Inner Altar well in terms of potential avenues for future growth, but as in the best of cases, that shouldn’t discount what they already bring in terms of songwriting, which only seems to grow in esteem with subsequent listens.

I’m thrilled today to be able to host the premiere of “Pagan Rays | Numbered Days” ahead of the album’s release. You can listen to the track below, followed by some words from the band and more info from the PR wire, including the preorder link for Vol. III. Please enjoy:

Lord Rewcifer on “Pagan Rays | Numbered Days”:

“Pagan Rays. This track is like when the pagan gods plotted the destruction of the human race for giving birth to judeo-christian thought which in turn destroyed them. Suicide is no longer a sin, it is your rite! And they will take us any way they can. Your prayers can’t save you and don’t bother running. Alright! Cheers and Hails!”

Inner Altar hails from very near the center of the US, in Kansas City, MO. Middle of the map. Consisting of friends who came up in the underground midwest punk/hc community who’ve always had an affinity for the classic doom sounds of the early 70’s, Inner Altar was born in 2015. With 2 demo Volumes completed and a some push from Kansas City based record label, The Company, Inner Altar began work on self recording and producing their first LP, Vol III, at the beginning of 2018.

Fast forward to the end of the year and Inner Altar is ready to release their hard work. 9 stand apart tracks of classic doom love with their midwestern land locked twist. Lives Of Fire, the first single from Vol III, has been released Dec 21st and vinyl be preordered through The Company’s website starting Dec 22nd. The official release for the album is January 18th, 2019. The album will be available on black, gold, and blood/bone.

Side A:
Prelude
For the Gods to Swear By
Lives of Fire
Undine’s Kiss
Castle Storm

Side B:
Pagan Rays | Numbered Days
Mother Eternity
Dethroned & Fugitive
Inner Altar

Inner Altar is:
Seasnake
Tunx
SSDB
Rewchild
Long Feather

Inner Altar, “Lives of Fire” official video

Inner Altar on Thee Facebooks

Inner Altar on Bandcamp

The Company webstore

The Company on Instagram

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Quarterly Review: Blood of the Sun, Evoken, IAH, Asylum, Merlin, The Hazytones, Daily Thompson, Old Man Lizard, Tuskar, Space Coke

Posted in Reviews on December 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

I had to think long and hard just now about what day it is. It’s Tuesday. — See how confident I was in saying that? A mask for insecurity, as always.

Anyway, the QR continues today with 10 more records and a pretty solid mix of whatnot. Some of this I’ve written about before here, but basically want to have another shot at the records themselves, so as we wind down 2018, it seems like the time to do that is now. As always, I hope you find something you dig. Seems pretty likely, frankly. If you go the entire 100 records with nothing but a “meh” to show for it, the problem isn’t likely to be the records. Not trying to insinuate anything, I’m just saying. 100 records is a lot. 10 records is a lot. And that’s what we’re doing today, so let’s get going.

Quarterly Review #61-70:

Blood of the Sun, Blood’s Thicker than Love

blood of the sun bloods thicker than love

Drummer Henry Vasquez (also Saint Vitus) returns to his ultra-Texan heavy rock roots with Blood of the Sun‘s first album in six years, Blood’s Thicker than Love (on Listenable). Driven by his own fervent rhythmic push, the six-song collection is given further classic heavy vibe through the prominent organ/keyboard work of Dave Gryder. Oh, and also the riffs from newcomer guitarists Wyatt Burton and Alex Johnson. Oh, and also bassist Roger “Kip” Yma‘s quick turns on bass. Oh, and also Sean Vargas‘ vocals. So yeah, pretty much the whole damn thing is classic uptempo heavy boogie, produced modern but making no mistake about where its heart lies. Vargas‘ voice has a pre-metal swagger that helps define tracks like “Livin’ for the Night” and the capper “Blood of the Road,” and while the follow-up to 2012’s Burning on the Wings of Desire (review here) is enough to make one wistful for the days when their contemporaries in Dixie Witch once also roamed the land, Blood of the Sun make classic rock their own and give it a vibrancy that’s nothing if not a show of love, regardless of how thick that may be.

Blood of the Sun on Thee Facebooks

Listenable Records on Bandcamp

 

Evoken, Hypnagogia

evoken hypnogogia

Unremitting. Unrelenting. Unforgiving. Whatever else one might say about New Jersey death/doombringers Evoken, it better start with the prefix “un-.” The negativity runs through the 60 minutes of their latest work, Hypnagogia (on Profound Lore), and one would expect no less than the ultra-mournful crush of “To Feign Ebullience” or the buzzing, resonant disdain of “Valorous Consternation,” the string sounds playing such a large role in crafting both the melodies and the relentless nature of their lung-deflating atmosphere. They may only break into speedier sections on rare occasion, but there’s no way to listen to Hypnagogia and call it anything other than extreme metal. It’s so cast down and so grinding that it not only conveys mood but affects it. Evoken are masters of the form, of course, and while Hypnagogia is their first full-length since 2012’s Atra Mors (review here), their history spans more than a quarter-century and time seems only to have made their miseries plunge even deeper.

Evoken on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore Records website

 

IAH, II

iah ii

In part, the gift that Argentinian trio IAH give with their aptly-titled second outing, II — following their 2017 self-titled debut EP (review here) — is to allow their parts to flesh out naturally across the six-song/38-minute span, so that even as second cut “HH” turns to more weighted chug, that in turn evolves into something no less spacious than the drift brought to bear in the second half of the later “La Niña del Rayo,” which makes its way ultimately through similar interplay. This back and forth is exceptionally smooth throughout II, as the instrumental outfit blend heavy psychedelia and progressive metal with an unflinching cohesion of their songwriting. The longest inclusion is the penultimate “Pri” at 7:35, which caps with massive start-stops en route to closer “Sheut,” which serves as one last showcase of the cosmic doom dynamic burgeoning in the band’s sound, as much ready to depart the earth as leave impact craters on it.

IAH on Thee Facebooks

IAH on Bandcamp

 

Asylum, 3-3-88

asylum 3-3-88

The band who a short time later would evolve into Unorthodox, Asylum have long stood as a testament to the enduring power of Maryland doom. 3-3-88 is the second official issue of their material Shadow Kingdom has stood behind, following 2008’s reissue of 1985’s The Earth is the Insane Asylum of the Universe (review here), and it’s no less a document of the classic metal that’s still very much the foundation of what Maryland doom is. From the Sabbathian opening of “World in Trouble” and the later “Psyche World” to the kind of feeling-out-the-riff happening in “Funk 69” and the concluding instrumental “Unorthodox,” there’s a rawness to the sound that suits it well in the spirit of Pentagram‘s First Daze Here, but even in barebones form, Asylum‘s doomly vibes brook no bullshit and weed out the feint of heart. Straightforward working-class doom grit stripped to its essentials. Hard to ask for anything more when you actually hear it.

Unorthodox on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records website

 

Merlin, Dank Souls and Dark Weed: A Live Experience

merlin dank souls and dark weed

Kansas City doom rockers Merlin expanded to a six-piece early in 2018, and Dank Souls and Dark Weed: A Live Experience, as the title hints, captures this form of the band on stage. They’re playing a hometown gig at the Riot Room, and from the nodding groove that opens with “Abyss” from this year’s The Wizard (review here) to the extended reaches of a 19-minute take on “Tales of the Wasteland” that’s actually shorter than the studio version from 2016’s Electric Children (review here), the band explore reaches that are vast with a patience befitting their quickly-earned veteran status. The recording is remarkably clear and allows for the wash of “The Wizard Suite” to be discernible in its progressive rollout, and as they close with “Night Creep” from the 2016 LP, their energy comes through no less prevalent than the distortion driving it forward. The crowd are right to holler.

Merlin on Thee Facebooks

Merlin on Bandcamp

 

The Hazytones, II: Monarchs of Oblivion

the hazytones ii monarchs of oblivion

Touching on garage-doom influences, Montreal three-piece The Hazytones effectively sleek into the groove of “The Great Illusion” on their second Ripple LP, II: Monarchs of Oblivion, finding a balance between swing, melody and heft that pushes beyond the seemingly-requisite Uncle Acid influence to a place that isn’t shy about working in crisp tones or unabashed vocal harmonies. The title-track is a two-parter, and touches on theatrics-sans-pretense in the first piece while dedicating the second to following a central riff well worthy of the attention they give it toward a galloping solo finish. Opener “Empty Space” sets a creper vibe, and by the time they’re down to finishing out with the “Hole in the Sky”-style riff of “The Hand that Feeds,” that sensibility is reaffirmed as an essential component of The Hazytones‘ aesthetic. Whether it’s the chugging “Hell” or the way-blown-out “The Beast,” they hold firm to that central purpose and work with it to effect a sound that one can hear becoming their own all the more.

The Hazytones on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Daily Thompson, Thirsty

daily thompson thirsty

Three albums in, Dortmund’s Daily Thompson indeed sound Thirsty — or maybe it’s hungry, but either way, the Dortmund trio’s MIG Music offering captures a tight presentation based around nonetheless natural energy born of their time on tour, as the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Danny Zaremba, bassist Mercedes, and drummer Stefan Mengel touch on Spidergawd-style classic heavy rock strut with “Brown Mountain Lights” and make their way through the semi-acoustic drift of “Stone Rose” and toward the later roll of “River Haze” with a trail of hooks behind them. Songwriting is central to what they do, but while Thirsty isn’t a minor undertaking at a CD-era reminiscent 10 songs/53 minutes, the band offer a chemistry between them and a fullness of sound that allows them to play to different sides of their approach, be it the fuzz-blues of “Gone Child” or the final summation “Spit out the Crap” that seems to shove all the more to its cymbal-wash finish. The title Thirsty brings to mind connotations of need, but Daily Thompson sound like they’ve got it all taken care of.

Daily Thompson on Thee Facebooks

MIG Music website

 

Old Man Lizard, True Misery

old man lizard true misery

A strong enough current of noise rock runs beneath Old Man Lizard‘s True Misery (on Wasted State) that leadoff track “Shark Attack” is enough to remind of Akimbo‘s Jersey Shores, and in under two minutes, the subsequent “Snakes” ties that into crawling-paced doom riffery such that the lumbering “Tree of Te?ne?re?” opens like the gaping jaws of some deep-sea trench. From there it unfolds a bit more uptempo than one might initially think, but it shows how fluidly Old Man Lizard shift from one impulse to the other. Accordingly, True Misery plays out with familiar-enough tones put to deceptively subtle and unpredictable purposes, making one-two highlights of the eight-minute back-to-backers “Cursed Ocean, Relentless Sea” and “Misery is Miserable” — which says it all, really — ahead of the finale, well titled “Return to Earth.” A better band than people know, Old Man Lizard bring a progressive touch to what from many others would just be sludge riffing — a bit of Elder on that closer — and manage to do so without losing touch with the righteousness of their groove. True Misery takes a couple listens to sink in, but well earns those and more besides.

Old Man Lizard on Thee Facebooks

Wasted State Records website

 

Tuskar, The Tide, Beneath, The Wall

tuskar the tide beneath the wall

Tuskar‘s second offering through Riff Rock Records arrives titled for its three songs, “The Tide,” “Beneath” and “The Wall,” and comprises three tracks of largesse-minded sludge, burying its shouted vocals beneath mountainous low end. The Tide, Beneath, The Wall sets itself up through noisy churn and a roll that’s somehow misanthropic at the same time it seems well geared to have an entire bar headbanging. Either way, the feedback-worship in “The Wall” — sure enough a massive thing to slam into — makes a fitting end to the 20-minute release that seems to run so much longer, as “The Tide” and “Beneath” each set forth a grueling sprawl of malevolence that touches on the chaos to come without ever fully giving away what’s in store for the finale. At the same time this assault is cast, there’s an atmosphere to the proceedings as well such that Tuskar aren’t simply bludgeoning for the sake of bludgeonry, but finding a place for themselves within that in order to develop their attack. They do that successfully here and sound well up to the inevitable task before them of a debut full-length.

Tuskar on Thee Facebooks

Riff Rock Records website

 

Space Coke, L’Appel du Vide

space coke lappel du vide

I just about never do this, but I’m gonna go ahead and make the call: Space Coke‘s L’Appel du Vide is going to get picked up for a vinyl release in 2019. I don’t know who, how or when, but it’s basically a lock. The Columbia, South Carolina, organ-laced four-piece play classic-as-now heavy rock with right-on songcraft and a hard-hitting presentation that’s begging for some label with ears to hear it and press it to the platter it deserves. Be it the molten unfolding of the title-track or the fuzz-swirl of “Thelemic Ritual” or the cosmic stretch of “Kali Ma,” they’re locked in to a degree that utterly defies the notion that this is their first record, and from the vocal-effects smash in “Lucid Dream” and the samples laid over-top of “Interlude,” there’s never really a sense of where Space Coke — extra kudos for the Cheech & Chong reference — might go next, and yet their sound is cohesive, directed, and well aware of exactly what it’s doing and what it wants to do. Never a guarantee of anything in this world, but with Space Coke‘s take on modern stoner sprawl, I’d be amazed if someone didn’t grab this in the New Year, if not before. Eyes peeled on the PR wire for the announcement.

Space Coke on Thee Facebooks

Space Coke on Bandcamp

 

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Hyborian on Tour with Weedeater Now; New Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I wish I had a title like ‘heavy metal riff machine.’ Best I can come up with is ‘dude who wakes up at 1:30 in the morning to write reviews,’ and frankly I don’t think that’s a title anyone wants. Kudos, then, to Kansas City’s Hyborian for earning that banner which they’re currently flying on tour with Season of Mist labelmates Weedeater. The run has been on for a few days, and it will take them into April, but they’ve got new fest dates booked in May and June as they continue to support the reissue of their Vol. 1 debut album on their already-noted new label home.

Hyborian also have a brand new video for the track “Maelstrom” that you can see below. It was directed by vocalist and guitarist Martin Bush.

Next time you’re looking for a definition of “up and coming,” here you go. Take it from me. I’ve been up since 1:30:

hyborian

HYBORIAN announce festival appearances, add new tour dates

Kansas City-based heavy metal riff machine HYBORIAN (Martin Bush – Guitar, Vocals, Ryan Bates – Guitar, Vocals, Justin Rippeto – Drums, and Anthony Diale – Bass) have announced new festival appearances in the months to come. HYBORIAN will appear at Kansas City’s Rock Fest on June 2nd alongside FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH, STONE TEMPLE PILOTS, and more. Additionally, HYBORIAN will play at Vintage Torque Fest in Dubuque Iowa on May 5. More information about Torque Fest can be found here. These two festival appearances follow the band’s previously announced North American tour alongside label-mates WEEDEATER. A full list of confirmed tour dates, including new shows in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Illinois can be found below.

HYBORIAN are touring in support of their acclaimed debut album ‘Vol. 1’. The album is streaming here.

‘Vol. 1’ is available across CD and limited edition LP formats at the Season of Mist E-Shop now.

HYBORIAN have been touring extensively since their 2015 formation. In addition to tours with GODMAKER and on their own, they have supported the likes of POWER TRIP, ACID KING, MUTOID MAN, WEEDEATER, IRON REAGAN, VEKTOR, WHORES and many more in the Midwest.

HYBORIAN TOUR DATES
Jun. 2 Kansas City, MI @ Kansas City Speedway (Rock Fest)
May 4 Dubuque, IA @ Fairgrounds (Vintage Torque Fest)

The “God Luck and Good Speed” tour w/ WEEDEATER and BASK
Mar. 21 Cambridge, MA @ Middle East
Mar. 22 Syracuse, NY @ Lost Horizon
Mar. 23 Pittsburgh, PA @ Cattivo
Mar. 24 Lansing, MI @ Mac’s Bar
Mar. 25 Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
Mar. 27 Lexington, KY @ Cosmic Charlies
Mar. 28 Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
Mar. 29 St. Louis, MO @ Fubar
Mar. 30 Memphis, TN @ Hi-Tone
Mar. 31 Little Rock, AR @ Whitewater
Apr. 1 New Orleans, LA @ Santos Bar
Apr. 2 Jacksonville FL @ Jack Rabbits
Apr. 3 Spartanburg, SC @ Ground Zero
Apr. 4 Asheville, NC @ Oddotorium *
Apr. 6 Champaign, IL @ Loose Cobra *
*No WEEDEATER

https://www.facebook.com/HyborianRock/
https://hyborianrock.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/seasonofmistofficial
https://www.twitter.com/seasonofmist

Hyborian, Vol. I (2017)

Hyborian, “As Above, so Below” official video

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Merlin, The Wizard: Reedy Conjurings

Posted in Reviews on March 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

merlin the wizard

Generally speaking, I’m not one for writing off entire genres of music whatever that genre might happen to be, but there comes a time in every listener’s life when they invariably have to ask themselves one crucial question: “Is this ska?” A few years back, when everyone was on the collective dudely-parts of The Budos Band, I took a listen, stopped, asked myself that very question, and found that the answer was yes. Needless to say, it was the last time I listened to that particular group. I’m sorry. Everyone has a sound they can’t relate to — for some it’s country, for others it’s heavy metal — and for me, it’s ska. But, when I heard that Kansas City doom rockers Merlin had acquired a saxophonist/second guitarist in Stu Kersting for their fourth full-length, The Wizard — it’s also their first outing with Chase Thayer on bass — I wasn’t necessarily too nervous about it.

The band has always had kind of a weirdo streak, always geared themselves toward storytelling, but as the remaining founders in the lineup, vocalist Jordan Knorr, guitarist/keyboardist Carter Lewis and drummer Caleb Wyles expand from a four-piece to a five- and push into this new sax-laden sonic territory, it once again became necessary to listen to the seven-track/39-minute The Wizard (released by The Company) and ask myself if what I was hearing was ska. Is The Wizard ska? No. It’s not. It’s doom rock with a saxophone. Oh, and a guest appearance of trumpet on opener “Abyss.” That’s it though. Still not ska.

Admittedly, that would’ve been a fascinating if unfortunate sonic turn for Merlin to have made three albums deep. Their last outing, 2016’s Electric Children (review here), was arguably their darkest, and as they returned to Bert Liber to record, collaborate on the mix, and master The Wizard, one can only consider the shift in vibe a conscious decision. Liber (who also donates that trumpet guest spot), working in conjunction with the band, is no mess masterful in setting the depth and spaciousness of The Wizard‘s mix than he was on Electric Children, and songs like the buzzing, tense, guitar and key led “Gravelord” (premiered here) benefit immensely from the space they’re provided in which to flourish. Likewise, the pairing of shimmering guitar and horn on opener “Abyss” immediately sets a different tone than anything Merlin have collectively conjured before, swinging, deftly arranged, and no, still not ska.

merlin logo

Also worth taking into consideration when thinking of The Wizard‘s overall spirit is that at 39 minutes, it’s about 12 minutes shorter than its predecessor, and as it moves through songs like the thudding atmo-jazz of “Sage’s Crystal Staff” or the organ-and-wah laced catchy centerpiece “Golem” and the subsequent post-“Hand of Doom” stonerism of “Iron Borne,” en route to the extended “The Wizard Suite” 11-minute finale, which includes chanting repetitions of “I am the wizard,” a King Crimson-style chase, begins with All Them Witches-style guitar shimmer and resolves itself in chug of increasing tempo that leads to a final crescendo of guitar and sax working together around a twisting progression that ends with thuds and the line “I am the wizard” repeated once more, a quick-fading echo being the last sound of the record itself as it makes a cold finish, having come a long way even from the two-and-a-half-minute galloping doom insistence of “Tarantula Hawk” just prior. All of this, delivered with a tighter approach, gives the listener more to grasp onto as they make their way through.

Aside from its sound, overarching sonic dynamic and willful shift in texture, another key difference in The Wizard is a return on the part of the band to a narrative sphere, from which Electric Children departed after the band followed a storytelling course on 2014’s Christkiller LP (review here). That either matters a lot or not at all depending on how much a given listener wants to interact with this material — for what it’s worth I know nothing of the plot and have received no word of what The Wizard is about (one assumes there’s a wizard in there somewhere); presumably that’s the kind of info one would find in liner notes absent from a digital release but present with a vinyl or CD — but it says something of Merlin‘s overarching progression that they so readily allow for both levels of engagement on the part of their audience.

I’ve been hesitant to call them progressive before — am significantly less so after that blatant “21st Century Schizoid Man” reference in “The Wizard Suite” — but there can be no question that The Wizard brings their sound to new places for them and offers something in style and substance that none of their previous work has offered. That’s not just about the sax, though certainly that’s part of it, but also in the level of songcraft, and the spirit of sureness guiding the listener across various sonic changes, Merlin sound rife with confidence, and especially for a band who’ve put out four long-players over the course of a five-year (to-date) run with singles and other releases posted besides, their level of growth has been underscored by a consistency of songwriting quality that, even here, as they push farther out than they’ve ever pushed before, remains perhaps the most crucial aspect of who they are as a band. The Wizard has its novelty, sure, but fascinates well beyond that, and maybe most important of all, it is in no way, shape or form a ska release. Whew.

Merlin The Wizard (2018)

Merlin on Thee Facebooks

Merlin on Bandcamp

The Company webstore

The Company on Thee Facebooks

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Merlin Premiere “Gravelord”; The Wizard Available to Preorder

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on December 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

merlin

Dramatic Kansas City heavy rockers Merlin release their new album, The Wizard, on Jan. 26 via The Company. With it, the band’s passions for sax and storytelling are revitalized in a fashion they haven’t presented since 2014’s Christ Killer (review here), their sophomore outing.  2016’s Electric Children (review here), then, may have been something of a detour in terms of approach, but either way, the thematic take is renewed here in songs like “Sage’s Crystal Staff,” “Gravelord,” “Iron Borne” and the 11-minute finale “The Wizard Suite,” which rounds out with insistent declarations of “I am the wizard” that come across remarkably like death throes.

And maybe they are — I don’t know. The plot of Merlin‘s latest opus remains something of a mystery, but their sound intrigues as ever, and The Wizard is available to preorder merlin gravelordfrom The Company as of today. To mark the occasion, I’ve been given permission to host a premiere for “Gravelord,” which you’ll find below in all its ragged and momentum-driven tidings. On the record, its garage-fuzz assault directly follows opener “Abyss,” and in comparison to cuts like the wah-drenched “Golem” or “Sage’s Crystal Staff,” it’s one of the more straightforward cuts The Wizard presents, with a strong foundation in its hook that forms the basis of what surrounds, which as ever feels chaotic and theatrical without ever actually losing its sense of craft.

That, to-date, has been Merlin‘s specialty. They revel in these dark, oft-obscured themes and take a correspondingly bizarre and quirky approach to songwriting, but they absolutely pull it off every time. Part psychedelia, part classic doom, part heavy rock, they refute easy classification and instead bask in a series of sonic turns that keep the listener attentive and guessing all the while. Don’t expect “Gravelord” to speak for the entirety of The Wizard, but do expect it to rock.

And please enjoy:

Merlin, “Gravelord” official premiere

Chapter II: Gravelord

In the Wizards absence, the world he had once protected has fallen victim to three ancient lords: The Gravelord, The Golem and the Atronach. The Gravelord being the Lord of the Dead has begun tainting the land of the living with his army of the undead…

It’s been 4 long years since Merlin’s last conceptual album, Christ Killer was released. In that time of chaos, band members have came and gone, the cast has changed, equipment has broke, alliances were created and a whole lot of rituals have been performed from KC to Psycho Las Vegas. Merlin have finally deemed it time to bring you their next concept story, The Wizard. Featuring new members Chase Thayer on bass guitar and Stu Kersting on Saxophone and Guitar, Merlin have twisted their sound even further into the realms of the mystic unknown and unfamiliar territory…

Tracklisting:
1. Abyss
2. Gravelord
3. Sages Crystal Staff
4. Golem
5. Iron borne
6. Tarantula Hawk
7. The Wizard Suite

Merlin is:
Carter Lewis – Guitars, Synth
Stu Kersting – Guitars, Saxophones
Chase Thayer – Bass Player
Caleb Wyels – Percussions
Jordan Knorr – Vocals, Storytelling, Omnichord

https://www.facebook.com/MERLIN666/
Merlin on Bandcamp
http://thecompanykc.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/thecompanykc

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Hyborian Sign to Season of Mist; Vol. I Reissue Due Early 2018

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Kansas City riff-bruisers Hyborian initially released their debut album, Vol. I, via local imprint The Company earlier this year, and thereby cleaned the clocks of many in their path. That number includes, apparently, Season of Mist, who announce below that they’ve signed the genre-skirting four-piece and will reissue Vol. I early next year. I can think of few endorsements that ring more clearly with the message, “You did something right.” So kudos to the band on that. Clearly they did something right.

Probably all that kicking ass. Yeah, that’s probably it.

Still, even with genre intricacy behind them, they’re an interesting pickup for Season of Mist, and one wonders where exactly they’ll fit on the label’s roster — other, of course, than very likely on tour with Weedeater again. Plenty of time for such things to shake out.

The PR wire made it official:

hyborian photo robert menzer

HYBORIAN sign to Season of Mist

Season of Mist are proud to announce the signing of HYBORIAN. The Kansas City-based heavy metal riff machine (Martin Bush – Guitar, Vocals, Ryan Bates – Guitar, Vocals, Justin Rippeto – Drums, and Anthony Diale – Bass) will reissue their acclaimed debut ‘Vol. 1’ through Season of Mist in early 2018.

Regarding their signing HYBORIAN comment: “Hyborian is beyond excited to be signing with Season of Mist. SOM is home to some of our favorite bands of all time, and we feel incredibly proud to be able to work with a label that has been so very crucial to creating the landscape of modern heavy music.”

‘Vol. 1’ was recorded by the band at their self-built studio, mixed by Justin Mantooth at Westend Studios (RADKEY, GODMAKER), and mastered by Nick Zampiello (TORCHE, ISIS, OLD MAN GLOOM, TRAP THEM) at New Alliance East. It was originally released by the band (in conjunction with friends The Company KC) in March 2017 and tells the tale of an extra-dimensional, cloaked being called “The Traveller”.

The band explains the concept of ‘Vol. 1’; “Hyborian-Volume I is a collection of stories from the dawn of humanity, events that occurred before the advent of the written word. It is the first in a series of legends from different epochs as told by a figure named The Traveller. The Traveller is a being that exists outside of humanity’s understanding of space and time. He is the source of all life in the universe, but is not omnipresent. He wanders the cosmos, visiting and recording times of great strife or hardship, great suffering or great triumph. We are his chosen mouthpiece on Earth, so we relate those stories, whether from far in the past or far in the future.”

HYBORIAN have been touring extensively since their 2015 formation. In addition to tours with GODMAKER and on their own, they have supported the likes of POWER TRIP, ACID KING, MUTOID MAN, WEEDEATER, IRON REAGAN, VEKTOR, WHORES and many more in the Midwest.

https://www.facebook.com/HyborianRock/
https://hyborianrock.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/seasonofmistofficial
https://www.twitter.com/seasonofmist

Hyborian, Vol. I (2017)

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Merlin Announce New Album The Wizard Coming Soon

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

No solid release date yet from what I can tell, but Kansas City, Missouri, storytelling doom rockers Merlin are gearing up to issue their next conceptual full-length, The Wizard. Set for pressing in a vinyl edition of 300 through The Company, the band’s third full-length follows behind 2016’s Electric Children (review here), which stepped away from the narrative focus of the prior Christ Killer (review here), released in 2014. As to what the plot of The Wizard might be, I haven’t the foggiest idea, but my understanding is one exists, and that’s enough for me to go on at least for today. There’s plenty of time to figure out the rest.

I don’t know how long it takes to print up fancy-looking LPs these days — and goodness these are fancy looking — but an early 2018 release seems to me more likely than not. If the case turns out to be otherwise, I’ll let you know, and either way, I’ll hope to have more on the record, like a review, before it hits, so keep an eye out.

Everyone’s happy when this one walks by:

merlin the wizard vinyl

It’s been 4 long years since Merlin’s last conceptual album, Christ Killer was released. In that time of chaos, band members have came and gone, the cast has changed, equipment has broke, alliances were created and a whole lot of rituals have been performed from KC to Psycho Las Vegas. Merlin have finally deemed it time to bring you their next concept story, The Wizard. Featuring new members Chase Thayer on bass guitar and Stu Kersting on Saxophone and Guitar, Merlin have twisted their sound even further into the realms of the mystic unknown and unfamiliar territory…

Christ is dead.

The Electric children are Dead.

Long live The Wizard.

Tracklisting:
1. Abyss
2. Gravelord
3. Sage’s Crystal Stafr
4. Golem
5. Iron Borne
6. Tarantula Hawk
7. The Wizard Suite

Cast:
Carter Lewis – Guitars, Synth
Stu Kersting – Guitars, Saxophones
Chase Thayer – Bass Player
Caleb Wyels – Percussions
Jordan Knorr – Vocals, Storytelling, Omnichord

Mastered by Bret Liber
Recorded at Red Roof Productions
Mixed by Bret Liber and Merlin
Album Art – Nikki Fenn Art
Album Layout – Josh Wilkinson
https://www.facebook.com/MERLIN666/
Merlin on Bandcamp
http://thecompanykc.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/thecompanykc

Merlin, Electric Children (2016)

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Quarterly Review: Grails, Expo Seventy, Coltsblood, Rhino, Cruthu, Spacetrucker, Black Habit, Stone Angels, The Black Willows, Lamagaia

Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-Charles-Meryon-Labside-Notre-Dame-1854

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

grails chalice hymnal

Even if one counts the 2013 collection culled from GrailsBlack 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-TangerineDream 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.

Grails on Thee Facebooks

Grails at Temporary Residence Ltd.

 

Expo Seventy, America Here and Now Sessions

expo seventy america here and now sessions

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.

Expo Seventy on Thee Facebooks

Essence Music website

 

Coltsblood, Ascending into Shimmering Darkness

coltsblood ascending into shimmering darkness

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.

Coltsblood on Thee Facebooks

Candlelight Records website

 

Rhino, The Law of Purity

rhino the law of purity

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.

Rhino on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

Cruthu, The Angle of Eternity

cruthu the angle of eternity

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.

Cruthu on Thee Facebooks

Cruthu on Bandcamp

 

Spacetrucker, Launch Sequence

spacetrucker launch sequence

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.

Spacetrucker on Thee Facebooks

Spacetrucker on Bandcamp

 

Black Habit, Black Habit

black habit self titled

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.

Black Habit on Thee Facebooks

Black Habit on Bandcamp

 

Stone Angels, Patterns in the Ashes

stone angels patterns in the ashes

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.

Stone Angels on Thee Facebooks

Stone Angels on Bandcamp

 

Black Willows, Samsara

the black willows samsara

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.

Black Willows on Thee Facebooks

Black Willows on Bandcamp

 

Lamagaia, Lamagaia

lamagaia lamagaia

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.

Lamagaia website

Cardinal Fuzz webstore

 

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