Quarterly Review: Hallatar, Alastor, The Dead-End Alley Band, Hair of the Dog, Soup, Kungens Män, Smoke Wizzzard, Highburnator, The Curf, Ulls

Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

Here we are, gathered for round four of the Fall 2017 Quarterly Review. After the technical issues with the site for the last couple days, I’m glad to have everything back up and running, and one more time I thank Slevin and Behrang Alavi for making that happen. Though I have no idea what it might actually entail, I don’t imagine switching hosts on the fly for a site with as much content as this one has is easy, but they of course killed it and it is thoroughly appreciated. We move forward, as ever, with 10 more records. So let’s go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Hallatar, No Stars Upon the Bridge

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Finland’s Hallatar was formed after the passing of Trees of Eternity vocalist Aleah Starbridge, life partner of guitarist and songwriter Juha Ravio (also Swallow the Sun). In the new outfit, Ravio pays homage to Starbridge with the debut long-player No Stars Upon the Bridge (on Svart) by using her poems as lyrics, samples of her voice reading on “Raven’s Song,” “Spiral Gate” and the piano-backed centerpiece “Pieces,” and by bringing in Amorphis vocalist Tomi Joutsen and ex-HIM drummer Gas Lipstick to complete a trio playing nine tracks/40 minutes of deeply mournful/beautiful death-doom. The extremity of lurch in “The Maze” late in the record is matched by the gorgeousness of the chants and shimmering guitar on closer “Dreams Burn Down,” and from the opening strains of “Mirrors,” the emotion driving No Stars Upon the Bridge is sincere and affecting. Cuts like “Melt” and the mostly-whispered-until-it-explodes “My Mistake” have a sense of the theatrical in their delivery, but that makes them no less genuine, and though one wouldn’t wish the circumstances leading to the band’s formation on anybody, there’s no question that with Hallatar, Ravio turns tragedy into a lush, resonant catharsis.

Hallatar on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records website

 

Alastor, Black Magic

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Cultish echoes pervade Black Magic, the debut album from Swedish doom-rolling four-piece Alastor, and it’s not so much that the initials-only four-piece of guitarists H and J, bassist/vocalist R and drummer S take influence from Electric Wizard and Black Sabbath, it’s what they do with that influence that’s most striking. Black Magic is made up of three extended tracks – “Enemy” (11:51), “Nothing to Fear” (7:42) and “Black Magic” (14:27) – and with a deep tonal engagement, each one embarks on a huge-sounding sprawl of doom. Yes, the guitars owe the swirl in “Nothing to Fear” to Jus Oborn, but the echoes behind R’s voice there and the melody have an almost New Wave-style feel despite the “all right now!” drawn right from the Ozzy playbook. In other words, Alastor are preaching to the converted, and that holds true in the snowblinded Luciferian spaciousness of the title-track’s early going as well, but the converted should have no problem finding the gospel in what they’re hearing, and as “Black Magic” rounds out with its chanted feel, Alastor affirm the potential to progress within this sound and to continue to develop it into something even more their own than it is now. Familiar superficially, but sneaky in the details, so watch out.

Alastor on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records webstore

 

The Dead-End Alley Band, Storms

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Lima-based four-piece The Dead-End Alley Band aren’t far into opener “Red Woman” before the dark-psych vibe and languid groove have properly emphasized just how much the guitar of Leonardo Alva and the organ of Sebastian Sanchez-Botta (also vocals) complement each other. Propelled by the rhythm section of bassist/vocalist Javier Kou and drummer Jafer Diaz, Storms is the third album from them behind 2015’s Odd Stories (discussed here) and 2013’s debut, Whispers of the Night (review here), and it continues to blend fuzz and classic garage doom impulses on songs like “Headstone Fortress” and the shuffling “Thunderbolts and Lace,” the latter of which wah-trips to the max around a stirring boogie before “The Clock has Stopped” weirds out on extra vocal echoes and nine-minute closer “Waiting for the Void” brings in the progressive touches of pan flute and percussion. Even in the earlier, shortest track “Need You (It’s Enough),” The Dead-End Alley Band bring no shortage of personality to the proceedings, and confirm that the rough edges of their early outings have matured into essential aspects of who they have become as a band, completely in control of their craft and able to conjure an atmosphere both classic and individual.

The Dead-End Alley Band on Thee Facebooks

The Dead-End Alley Band on Bandcamp

Forbidden Place Records website

 

Hair of the Dog, This World Turns

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Making their debut on Kozmik Artifactz, Scottish trio Hair of the Dog give their guitar-led compositions plenty of time to flesh out on This World Turns, their third album, as they demonstrate quickly on the nine-plus minute titular opener and longest track (immediate points), but one would hardly call their songwriting indulgent there or anywhere else as “This World Turns” flows easily into the following seven-minute push of “Keeping Watch over the Night” in a resolute one-two punch that soon gives way to the shorter and more driving “Ctrl-Alt-Del,” touching on influences from Thin Lizzy and Scorpions en route as well as modern practitioners like Kadavar, whose stamp can also be heard on side B launch “The Colours in Her Skin.” That’s not to say Hair of the Dog — guitarist/vocalist Adam Holt (interview here), bassist Iain Thomson and drummer Jon Holt – don’t leave their own mark as well, just that their blend stems from multiple sources. A bit of Lynottism surfaces in the penultimate “In Death’s Hands” as well, which has a more subdued feel despite fervent rhythmic movement underlying, and closer “4AM” soars with enough vigor and soul – and a little falsetto – to give This World Turns a suitably smooth and vibrant finish.

Hair of the Dog on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Soup, Remedies

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With ties to Motorpsycho through guitarist Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan, Soup issue their sixth long-player in the five-track lush melodicism of Remedies, which feels particularly aptly named for the immersion the wash that opener “Going Somewhere” is able to elicit. That is, of course, just the first of the spacious, semi-folk-infused progressions, and it’s with the longer-form “The Boy and the Snow” (11:33) and the psychedelic purposeful meandering of “Sleepers” (13:35) that Remedies truly unveils its considerable breadth, but the Crispin Glover Records release holds a sense of poise even in the two-minute centerpiece church organ interlude “Audion,” and the harmonies of “Nothing Like Home” bring to mind peak-era Porcupine Tree patience and fluidity while holding fast to the bright, orange-sunshiny warmth of the atmosphere as a whole, instruments dropping out just before three minutes in to showcase the vocals before returning to embark on the march to the final crescendo, not at all overblown but with just a touch of extra volume to let listeners dive deeper into the moment. Remedies feels quick at 42 minutes, but turns out to be just what the doctor ordered.

Soup on Thee Facebooks

Crispin Glover Records website

 

Kungens Män, Dag & Natt

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Prolific psych-progging Stockholmers Kungens Män return with Dag & Natt, a 2CD/2LP issued through Kungens Ljud & Bild (CD) and Adansonia Records (LP) that overflows with jazzy fluidity and gorgeous immersion. The band’s last studio outing was late-2015’s Förnekaren (review here), and whether it’s 13-minute pieces like opener “Morgonrodnad” and the even-more-krautrocking “Aftonstjärnan” or the seemingly complementary inclusions of the kosmiche-minded “Dag” and wonderfully drifting “Natt,” the album as a whole is a joy and a boon to anyone looking for an extended psychedelic meander. The saxophone of Gustav Nygren on the aforementioned leadoff and “Natt” makes a particularly striking impression, but with a steady, languid wash of guitar, synth and warm bass throughout, Dag & Natt wants nothing for flow, and the gentle, classy spirit is maintained even as the penultimate “Vargtimmen” ups the sense of thrust leading into the finisher payoff of “Cirkeln är Slut.” As of now, Kungens Män should be considered a too-well-kept secret of Scandinavia’s psych underground, though listening to Dag & Natt, one wonders just how long they’ll stay that way.

Kungens Män on Thee Facebooks

Adansonia Records website

 

Smoke Wizzzard, Run with the Wolf

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Whether it’s through the striking and gruesome cover art or through the lumbering post-Sabbath, post-Cathedral stoner-doom nod contained within, Smoke Wizzzard’s five-song self-titled debut LP thoroughly earns its third ‘z’ – and, for that matter, its second one – with played-to-form thickness and a tonal push that starts with 10-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “Astro Lord” and continues to swagger and swing with due viscosity through “Reptiles” after the minute-long punker curveball “Soul Train.” The highlight of the Pittsburgh trio’s first outing might be “The Pass,” which has a hazy patience and some rightly-featured bass tone, but as “Run with the Wolf” moves from its early Electric Wizard muckraking to cap with piano and included howls for a doomier feel, it becomes clear Smoke Wizzzard have yet to play their full stylistic hand and the real highlights may still be yet to come. Fair enough. Something tells me getting stranger is only going to be a boon to Smoke Wizzzard’s approach on the whole, so bring it on.

Smoke Wizzzard on Thee Facebooks

Smoke Wizzzard on Bandcamp

 

Highburnator, Keystoned State

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If you hit up Highburnator’s Bandcamp and download their name-your-price Keystoned State EP, you might note the fifth and final inclusion is the entire live-recorded, 28-minute release presented as a single track. No doubt the Pennsylvania three-piece intend the four-song outing to be taken just that way. They begin with the “mad as hell” speech sampled from the 1976 film Network and from there unfold a potent riffly brew met head on with harsh East Coast hardcore-style vocals and more metallic growls. That’s nine-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Brass Rail,” and it sets the tone for what follows on the eponymous “Highburnator” before “Desert Funeral” and the Sleep-style nod of “Peaking at the Coffin” push into even more stonerly vibes. This melding of pissed-off disaffection and mid-paced heavy rock groove is particular to the sludge of the Eastern Seaboard – think of it as regional fare – but Highburnator find space for themselves in the rawness of their riffs and the charm of their puns, and by the time they’re through the four songs, it makes sense why they might want to present the full onslaught as a single entity, essentially giving it to their listeners on one overflowing platter. Got the munchies? It’s right there waiting.

Highburnator on Thee Facebooks

Highburnator on Bandcamp

 

The Curf, Death and Love

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Greek psych-doomers The Curf made their debut in 2007 with I and then went radio silent until last year’s Royal Water EP. Their sophomore full-length, Death and Love, then, arrives via Fuzz Ink Records with some amount of intrigue behind it, but either way, the sans-pretense heavy roll the band unfurls on “Dark Hado,” and the more uptempo “Smoke Ring,” the dig-in low end of “Lunar Lair” and the scream-topped start-stoppery of “California” present a varied take brought together through heft as well as the crispness of production and delivery, such that when it wants to, Death and Love can bite down hard, but as on the closing title-track or the earlier “Order ‘n’ Sin,” it can rumble out spaciousness as well. Whatever might’ve taken The Curf so long to put together a second album beats the hell out of me, but if they were looking to make an argument for a third one, they do so convincingly across these nine songs, which hold firmly to their overarching flow despite the emergent stylistic range.

The Curf on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Ink Records webstore

 

Ulls, I

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For now, Ulls is the solo-project of Barcelona-based David Trillo, formerly guitarist/vocalist for the heavy progressive trio Lord Summerisle, but the hope seems to be to build a full band at some point in the future. The I EP might rightly be called a demo, then, but for the professionalism and cohesiveness of sound with which its three songs are presented and the clarity of intent behind them. With Trillo rumbling away on bass beneath, six-minute opener “Inhumat” fleshes out its arrangement with organ alongside guitar swirl and sets up the classically swinging strut of “Llot Convuls,” on which the drums post-midsection lead the way through starts and stops à la a restless King Crimson and the guitar joins with no less angularity. Eight-minute closer “L’Emersió de l’Executor” brings about a thicker overall tone, but holds to a similar mood through its first half, Trillo finding room after about the four-and-a-half-minute mark for a standout solo executed with the bass running fluidly alongside that carries the song to its fading finish just before seven minutes in, at which point a residual drone takes hold to lead the way out. That ending is telling when it comes to various impulses that might show themselves in Ulls going forward, but as an initial demonstration, suffice it to say that I makes it plain Trillo shouldn’t have much trouble finding other players to come aboard the band with him.

Ulls on Instagram

Ulls on Bandcamp

 

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Kungens Män to Deliver Dag & Natt July 31

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

kungens man

Drifting psych-jazz improvocateurs Kungens Män are gearing up to release a new 2LP in less than two weeks’ time. The Stockholm-based explorers — amorphous in personnel and sound, as ever — were last heard from in April with the offering Tomhetens Furste, a long-playing three-tracker streaming and pressed to limited tape through Eggs in Aspic. The latest work is Dag & Natt, and it will be out on vinyl through Adansonia Records and on CD through Kungens Ljud & Bild July 31 bringing a wash of psych-kraut who-knows-what that’s sure to melt brainstems and turn them into a lysergic homebrew at will in a prevailing weirdo wash. Don’t believe me? Tomhetens Furste is streaming at the bottom of this post. Put it on and just see if there’s any getting out alive.

Info on Dag & Natt comes courtesy of the PR wire:

kungens man dag natt

Kungens Män – Dag & Natt

A soothing Aylerian saxophone wakes you up in the morning. Your head gets going by lunch, while tapping your feet to a stomping groove with free flowing guitars on top. A hard driving krautrock song takes you through the evening. The veiled night enters in nuances of black. After the nightmarish turns inside your most hidden parts of the mind, a motorik beat picks you up to make the walk back home. And then it starts over again.

This is mood music for the adventurous. At all times.

Kungens Män are back with the new double-LP ”Dag & Natt” (Day & Night) on Adansonia Records (double vinyl-LP) and Kungens Ljud & Bild (double CD) on July 31st, 2017.

Kungens Män started out in 2012 in Stockholm, Sweden, when a bunch of good friends decided to bring some instruments when hanging out. The random jam sessions became more and more regular and soon Kungens Män started recording it all, completely unfiltered and without safety nets. The music soon found its way to the internet and a buzz occurred, connecting with listeners all over the globe. From the debut show with Master Musicians Of Bukkake and onwards, every show has been a different story. Always new sounds and improvisations, different guest musicians, different happenings. Kungens Män are rooted in the psychedelic/drone rock tradition of bands such as Träd, Gräs & Stenar, but also add influences from krautrock, shoegaze, noiserock and free jazz. They will always add something new to the mix to challenge themselves and the audiences’ preconceptions about what Kungens Män are all about.

Kungens Män have played at festivals such as The Psychedelic Network Festival (Würzburg, DE), PsyKA Festival (Karlsruhe, DE) and The Copenhagen Psych Fest (DK) and played with bands like Øresund Space Collective, Master Musicians of Bukkake, Yuri Gagarin, Spelljammer, The Spacelords and Radar Men From The Moon. They toured Europe in 2015 and 2016. In August 2017 they are invited by Mani Neumaier to play at the Guru Guru festival, Finki Open Air, along with acts such as Arthur Brown, The Pretty Things and of course, Guru Guru.

The first vinyl-LP “Förnekaren” by Kungens Män was released by the German label Adansonia Records in 2015, and was a success with critics and fans alike. The next double-LP “Stockholm Maraton” came out on Adansonia Records in September 2016. The third double-LP on Adansonia – “Dag & Natt” will be released on July 31st, 2017.

kungensman.bandcamp.com
facebook.com/bandetkungensman
instagram.com/kungensmanband
kungensman.tumblr.com
https://www.adansoniarecords.de/
https://www.facebook.com/adansoniarecords/

Kungens Män, Tomhetens Furste (2017)

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Kungens Män, Förnekaren: Fleeting Repudiation (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 20th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

kungens man fornekaren 1

[Please note: Click play above to hear the full album stream of Förnekaren by Kungens Män. Album is out Dec. 1 on Adansonia Records. Thanks to the label and band for letting me host the premiere.]

It is the first to be pressed to vinyl, but Förnekaren is upwards of the 15th or 16th full-length release by Stockholm-based jammers Kungens Män. If they’d been around for 20 years, that would still be impressive, but the band got together in 2012. Between Oct. 2013 and Sept. 2014, they released an album every month, and Förnekaren (released through Adansonia Records) is their third of 2015 behind April’s four-song Diskbänksockultism and January’s Kungens Män Spelar I Evighet. Amen.. It is a 2LP, mostly instrumental, comprised mostly of extended psychedelic jams, improvised at least in part and culminating in seven tracks/85 minutes of neo-krautrock immersion, rich in texture and almost universally hypnotic. Its lead-in with opener “Järnvägsdröm” transitions the listener between the waking world and Kungens Män‘s jammy realm, the vocals of guitarist Mikael Tuominen adding a Doors-style flair to what sets up the rest of the work’s mostly instrumental breadth.

Somewhere between Electric Moon or the Øresund Space Collective‘s jammy modus and the more plotted desert-prog style of Causa SuiKungens Män stake a claim in their own little slice of the cosmos, Tuominen joined throughout by guitarists Hans Hjelm and Björn Eriksson, bassist/graphic artist Magnus Öhrn, synthesist Peter Erikson and drummer Mattias Indy Pettersson as the band weaves their way through “Järnvägsdröm” and the title-track’s relative earthiness en route to the wholly-spaced fare of the 22-minute “Sista Ordets Krigsdans Genom Snickeriet,” which follows.

Pettersson‘s drumming is a foundational element throughout, as both the opener and quick-popping snare of the title-cut demonstrate, but on “Sista Ordets Krigsdans Genom Snickeriet,” it becomes even more apparent just how much is built on top of the laid back, steady percussion line. The song is not without movement between the interweavings of guitars and synth, and the bass, though deeper down in the mix, is pivotal as well, but it’s the drums that push the rest through the dreamy soundscape they’re creating as they go. A chugging undertone emerges as they pass the halfway point that becomes the bed for the fuzzy apex, but in the song’s fading finish, it’s only over when the drums stop. Kungens Män follow with “Krautespark,” which at 6:37 feels like an interlude in comparison, but no doubt that’s the idea. Öhrn‘s bass is more forward and more insistent and jazzy, as one might expect given the title, and the guitars add a touch of foreboding in their spacious overlaid noodling, a jazzy dissonance taking hold before they bring it together in the midsection only to have it turn jagged again by the finish, time more or less dissipating along the way.

kungens man

“Krautespark” is the shortest track on Förnekaren and the only one under 10 minutes other than “Järnvägsdröm,” which comes close at 9:47, but though instrumental, it serves a similar function as the opener, launching the second LP with a relatively grounded offering leading to more extended kosmiche fare. The bass makes the transition to “Kringströdda Silverbestick” particularly smooth, but it’s the lead guitar that gradually comes to the fore on the 13-minute jam riding a funky rhythm to a first-half crescendo before the vibe breaks — the drums holding steady — and things get quiet and spacious, building up again somewhat before some obscure speech echoes and effects noise bring the piece to a close.

Side D finishes out Förnekaren with a pair of cuts both over 10 minutes, “Förensligandet I Det Egentliga Aspudden” and “Hur Ska Vi Stå?,” the former of which starts out slow and contemplative before introducing a more active rhythm shortly before the two-minute mark that sets it on its building, ethereal course. Both the drums and the guitar sound noticeably bigger, more open, but it’s the guitar which slowly comes to swallow up the rest of the elements, a wah-drenched buzzsaw lead arriving at 6:41 and carrying through to the end, a patient swirl behind full of motion that seems to send ripples upward to the surface of the song itself.

The jam fades, presumably before it comes apart, and “Hur Ska Vi Stå?” comes in with a sleek guitar line over steady marching snare, jabbing proggy rhythms intertwined and fits of synth that arrive early and don’t come again, but continue to loom as a threat among the more peaceful noodling and frenetic but not abrasive manipulations of what may or may not be bass. A quiet guitar solo kicks in after halfway through, but the drum beat (maybe electronic or programmed?) and the other noise refuse to give ground and ultimately the jam unfolds, the kick drum run through echoing effects and manipulated as the final piece to go. It’s a fair enough ending to a record that has for the most part avoided showing its audience what it sounds like when the wheels come off an instrumental conversation, but the simple truth is that if you’re listening and you’re not already entranced by what Kungens Män have done in the prior 83 minutes, the last two of “Hur Ska Vi Stå?” aren’t likely to make a difference one way or another. A subdued, moody undertone can be felt throughout the album, but the prevailing spirit is nonetheless calm, and while one doubts they’ll wait around too long to let it sink in, Förnekaren has a wide enough scope that, if they were so inclined, Kungens Män could easily rest on its laurels for a while.

Kungens Män on Bandcamp

Kungens Män on Thee Facebooks

Adansonia Records

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