Quarterly Review: Wolves in the Throne Room, Gravy Jones, Marmora, Mouth, Les Lekin, Leather Lung, Torso, Jim Healey, Daxma, The Re-Stoned

Posted in Reviews on January 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Lodewijk de Vadder (1605-1655) - 17th Century Etching, Landscape with Two Farms

The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review continues today with day two of five. I don’t mind telling you — in fact I’m pretty happy to tell you — that this one’s all over the place. Black metal, post-metal, singer-songwriter stuff, psych jams, heavy rock. I feel like I’ve had to go to great pains not to use the word “weird” like 17 times. But I guess that’s what’s doing it for me these days. The universe has plenty of riffs. All the better when they start doing something different or new or even just a little strange. I think, anyhow. Alright, enough lollygagging. Time to dive in.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Wolves in the Throne Room, Thrice Woven

wolves in the throne room thrice woven

True, it’s something of a cliché when it comes to Wolves in the Throne Room to think of their work as “an awaited return,” and perhaps that speaks to the level of anticipation with which their outings are greeted generally. Nonetheless, Thrice Woven arrives via the band’s own Artemisia Records six years after Celestial Lineage, their last proper full-length, and three after its companion, Celestite (review here), so the five-track/42-minute offering from the USBM innovators is legitimately due. The Washington-based troupe’s black-metal-of-the-land remains heavily focused on atmosphere, with a sharp, experimental-feeling turn to ambience and melody in opener “Born from the Serpent’s Eye” and the later drone interlude “Mother Owl, Father Ocean” that precedes the rampaging closer “Fires Roar in the Palace of the Moon,” which caps Thrice Woven with a long fade into the sound of rolling waves. Between them, “The Old Ones are with Us” casts a vision of blackened folk-doom that seems to pull off what Agalloch was always aiming for, and centerpiece “Angrboda” blasts through an early wash before splitting near the midsection to minimalism and rebuilding itself on a slow march. 15 years on from their beginning, Wolves in the Throne Room still sound like no one else, and continue to push themselves forward creatively.

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Artemisia Records on Bandcamp

 

Gravy Jones, Funeral Pyre

gravy jones funeral pyre

It’s a crazy world into which Gravy Jones invite their listeners on their self-issued debut full-length, Funeral Pyre, and the fire they bring is born of a molten classic psychedelic rock underpinned by low end weight and further distinguished by its use of organ and proto-metallic vocal proclamations. Opener and longest track (immediate points) “Heavens Bliss” tops 10 minutes in its weirdo roll, and subsequent cuts “The Burning of the Witch” and “It Came from the Sea” do little to dispel the off-center vibe, the former dug into rawer NWOBHM-ism and the latter, the centerpiece of the five-tracker, beaming in from some kind of alt-universe Deep Purple idolatry to lead into the particularly doomed “Gilgamesh” and the shuffle-into-noisefest onslaught of the closing title-track. All told it’s 41 minutes of bizarre excursion that’s deceptively cohesive and feels like the start of a longer-term sonic exploration. Whether or not Gravy Jones even out sound-wise or hold to such an unhinged vibe, they definitely pique interest here.

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Gravy Jones on Bandcamp

 

Marmora, Criterion

marmora criterion

Criterion – yes, like the collection – is the debut EP from Chicago four-piece Marmora, who released a single in 2013 before the core brotherly trio of Zaid (guitar), Alejandro (bass) and Ulysses (drums) Salazar hooked up with vocalist/guitarist/synthesist Allan Cardenas in 2015. The three-tracker that has resulted begins with its title-cut, which thrusts forth a wash of heavy post-rock that makes an impression in weight as much as space before turning to the more grounded, propulsive, aggressive and punkishly noise-caked “Apathy” and closer “Flowers in Your Garden,” which turns traditional heavy rock riffery on its head with frenetic drum work and rhythmic turns that feel born of modern progressive metal. Significant as the crunch factor and aggro pulsations are, Criterion isn’t at all without a corresponding sense of atmosphere, and though there isn’t much tying these three tracks together, for a first EP, there doesn’t need to be. Let that come later. For now, the boot to the ass is enough.

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Marmora on Bandcamp

 

Mouth, Live ’71

mouth live 71

Perhaps in part as a holdover between their 2017 second album, Vortex (review here), and the impending Floating to be issued in 2018, German progressive retroists Mouth offer Live ’71. No, it was not actually recorded in 1971. Nor, to my knowledge, was it recorded in 2071 and sent back in time in a slingshot maneuver around the sun. It’s just a play on the raw, captured-from-the-stage sound of the 55-minute set, which opens at a 19-minute sprawl with “Vortex” itself and only deep-dives further from there, whether it’s into the keyboard throb of “Parade,” the nuanced twists of “Into the Light” or the more straightforward riffing of “On the Boat.” There’s room for all this scope and the stomp of “Master Volume Voice” in a Mouth set, it would seem, and if Live ’71 is indeed a stopgap, it’s one that shows off the individualized personality of the long-running band who seem to still be exploring even as they approach the 20-year mark.

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Mouth on Bandcamp

 

Les Lekin, Died with Fear

les lekin died with fear

A second full-length from Austrian heavy psych trio Les Lekin, Died with Fear is perhaps more threatening in its title than in its overall aesthetic. The four inclusions on the 43-minute follow-up to 2014’s All Black Rainbow Moon (review here) set their mission not necessarily in conveying terror or some overarching sense of darkness – though low end is a major factor throughout – as in cosmic hypnosis born of repetition and chemistry-fueled heavy psychedelic progressivism. Well at home in the extended and atmospheric “Orca” (10:41), “Inert” (10:21), “Vast” (8:59) and “Morph” (13:34), the three-piece of guitarist Peter G., bassist Beat B. and drummer Kerstin W. recorded live and in so doing held fast to what feels very much like a natural and developing dynamic between them, their material all the more fluid for it but carrying more of a sense of craft than most might expect from a release that, ostensibly, is based around jams. Sweeping and switched-on in kind, Died with Fear turns out to be remarkably vibrant for something under a banner so grim.

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Tonzonen Records webstore

 

Leather Lung, Lost in Temptation

leather lung lost in temptation

Oh, they’re mad about it, to be sure. I’m not sure what ‘it’ ultimately is, but whatever, it’s got Leather Lung good and pissed off. Still, the Boston-based onslaught specialists’ debut full-length, Lost in Temptation, has more to its cacophony than sheer violence, and though that intelligence is somewhat undercut by the hey-check-it-out-it’s-cartoon-tits-and-also-because-snakes-are-like-wieners cover art, the marriage between fuckall noise intensity on “Gin and Chronic” and trades between growl-topped thrust and more open and melodic plod on “Shadow of the Scythe” and upbeat rock on “Momentum of Misfortune.” Put it in your “go figure” file that the closer “Destination: Void,” which is marked as an outro, is the longest inclusion on the 28-minute offering, but by then due pummel has been served throughout pieces like “Deaf Adder” and “Freak Flag” amid the willful stoner idolatry of “The Spice Melange,” so there’s texture in the assault as well. Yeah though, that cover. Woof.

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Leather Lung on Bandcamp

 

Torso, Limbs

torso limbs

I won’t deny the strength of approach Austria’s Torso demonstrate across Limbs, their StoneFree Records debut LP, in the straightforward structures of songs like “Meaning Existence” or “Mirror of My Mind” or “Skinny and Bony” and the semi-acoustic penultimate grown-up-grunge alternarocker “Down the Highway,” but it’s hard to listen to the nine-minute spread of “Red Moon” in the midsection of the album and not come away from its patient psychedelic execution thinking of it as a highlight. Shades of post-rock and moodier fare make themselves known in “Come Closer” and the righteously melodic “Ride Up,” and closer “Voices” delivers a resounding payoff, but it’s “Red Moon” that summarizes the atmospheric and emotional scope with which Torso are working and most draws together the various elements at play into a cohesive singularity. One hopes it’s a model they’ll follow going forward, but neither should doing so necessarily draw away from the songwriting prowess they show here. It’s a balance that, having been struck, feels ready to be manipulated.

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StoneFree Records website

 

Jim Healey, Just a Minute More

jim healey just a minute more

Companioned immediately by a digital release of the demos on which it’s based, including four other songs that didn’t make the cut of the final, studio-recorded EP, Jim Healey’s Just a Minute More conveys its sense of longing in the title and moves quickly to stake its place in a long-running canon of singer-songwriterisms. Healey, known for fronting metal and heavy rock acts like We’re all Gonna Die, Black Thai, Set Fire, etc., could easily come across as a case of dual personality in the sweetly, unabashedly sentimental, acoustic-based opener “The Road” or the more-plugged-in “You and I” at the outset, but in the fuzzed-out centerpiece “Swamp Thing,” the emotionally weighted memorable hook of “Faced,” and the piano-topped payoff of closer “Burn Up,” the 18-minute EP unfurls a sense of variety and a full-band sound that sets the project Jim Healey on its own course even apart from the man himself. Some of those other demos aren’t too bad either. Just saying.

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Jim Healey on Bandcamp

 

Daxma, The Head Which Becomes the Skull

daxma-the-head-which-becomes-the-skull

Signed to Magnetic Eye for the release, Oakland post-metal five-piece Daxma answer the ambition of their half-hour single-song 2016 debut EP, The Nowhere of Shangri-La, with the even-fuller-length The Head Which Becomes the Skull, demonstrating a clear intent toward sonic patience and ambient reach that balances subtle builds and crashes with engaging immersiveness and nod. Three of the six total inclusions top 10 minutes, and within opener “Birth” (10:53), “Abandoning All Hope” (11:34) and the penultimate “Our Lives Will be Erased by the Shifting Sands of the Desert” (13:42), one finds significant breadth, but not to be discounted either are the roll of “Wanderings/Beneath the Sky,” the avant feel of the closing title-track or even the 80-second drone interlude “Aufheben,” which like all that surrounds it, feeds into a consuming ambience that undercuts the notion of The Head Which Becomes the Skull as a debut album for its purposefulness and evocative soundscaping.

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Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

 

The Re-Stoned, Chronoclasm

the re-stoned chronoclasm

For their first new outing since they revisited their debut EP in 2016 with Reptiles Return (review here), Moscow instrumentalists The Re-Stoned cast forth Chronoclasm, a six-track long-player of new material recorded over 2015 and 2016 that ties together its near-hour-long runtime with a consistency of guitarist Ilya Lipkin’s lead tone and a steady interweaving of acoustic elements. “Human Without Body,” “Save Me Under the Emerald Glass,” “Psychedelic Soya Barbecue” and the title-track seem to have some nuance of countrified swing to their groove, but it’s lysergic swirl that ultimately rules the day throughout Chronoclasm, Yaroslav Shevchenko’s drums keeping the material grounded around Lipkin’s guitar and Vladimir Kislyakov’s bass. The trio are joined on percussion by Evgeniy Tkachev on percussion for the CD bonus track “Quartz Crystals,” which picks up from the quiet end of “Chronoclasm” itself and feels like a nine-minute improve extension of its serene mood, adding further progressive sensibility to an already wide scope.

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Live Review: Kind, Worshipper, Summoner and Leather Lung in Massachusetts, 12.19.15

Posted in Reviews on December 21st, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Kind (Photo by JJ Koczan)

After spending the better part of the last month hobbling around on a bum right ankle, it was finally time for me to get the fuck out. Between work and that injury, which has endured in one degree or another since the beginning of the year, I don’t think I could even tell you how many shows I’ve missed in 2015, but this was at least my chance to end the year on a positive note, with Kind headlining a gig at Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain that I’d come to think of essentially as the office party for Boston heavy rock and roll. The place was packed, from before Leather Lung got started as the first of the three support acts, through sets by Summoner and Worshipper, and the spirit of the evening was Leather Lung (Photo by JJ Koczan)clearly celebratory. It’s the holidays. People were looking for a good time.

And they’d have one. Leather Lung gave the four-band night a sludgy start at about quarter to 10. Outright in their weedianism in a kind of “Hey check us out isn’t pot awesome?” sense, their sound ultimately fell flat with me. I’ll say immediately I was in a minority of about one in that regard, but with a sort of proto-rap-rock flow from their singer’s rhythmic screams, all I could think about was early Incubus or 311 crossed with Eyehategod-style aggro sludge, and the combo left me cold. So far as I know they have one 2014 EP out called Reap What You Sow — they may or may not have aired “Green Bitch” from it — and I don’t want to rag on a local band just getting their feet under them, so I won’t. Again, the crowd was into it.

It’s been a little more than a year since I last saw Summoner live (review here). Not much has changed — though vocalist/bassist Chris Johnson said from the stage that they had a new record in the works. Where they might be in that process, I couldn’t say, but the bulk of what they played came from their two full-lengths, 2013’s Atlantian and 2012’s Phoenix, both of which drew on heavy and progressive influences, plotted dual-guitar leads fSummoner (Photo by JJ Koczan)rom AJ Peters and Joe Richner and the foundation of Scott Smith‘s swings and builds on drums. Their material careens and turns on a dime, is atmospheric and heavy and melodic and propulsive, and their dynamic has been honed to a continually impressive degree. I don’t know how often they rehearse, but they sure sound rehearsed.

“Winged Hessians” and “Into the Abyss” fed one into the next to leadoff their comfortable but still engrossing set, and the peaks built on peaks of “Let the Light In” from Phoenix provided an apex before Atlantian‘s shuffling “Horns of War” closed out. I’d expect their next outing, whenever it might arrive, to follow the thread from those two records in Summoner‘s thought-out approach. Nothing they do seems to be an accident, and the fact that there’s consciousness at work behind it only makes their scope more impressive. They remain underrated, and were an upbeat lead-in for relative newcomers Worshipper, who’ve found near-immediate success, taking home a Boston Music Award for Best Metal Somethingorother. Fair enough.

My first time seeing the band, but I’ve dug both their two-song singles, so was eager to hear those cuts and whatever else might be on offer live. With a two-guitar assault that was at times Thin Lizzy and at times Iron Maiden/slow-SlayerWorshipper very nearly Worshipper (Photo by JJ Koczan)stole the night, and considering they don’t have a record out yet and considering who the headliners were, that’s saying something. Their singles — all four tracks of which were aired, “High Above the Clouds” opening, “Black Corridor” closing, with “Step Behind” and “Place Beyond the Light” appearing early on — have told only about one-sixth of the full story of their breadth, and fronted confidently by guitarist/vocalist John Brookhouse with on-point backing harmonies by bassist Bob Maloney, they found a niche for themselves between early metal, heavy and hard rock, adding just a touch of doom to the rolling progression of “Another Yesterday” but going into a more classic form for the shorter, penultimate “Julia.”

Guitarist Alejandro Necochea both took his own leads and held down riffs while Brookhouse did likewise, and drummer Dave Jarvis seemed to throw his whole body into the kit to pull off such swing. They played a nine-song set with poise that defied their being such a new band, and showcased a breadth that made me understand quickly why people seem to be getting so fervently behind what they do. I’ll look forward to hearing what comes out of their next studio session — my sense is they should skip the EP, go right for the album — but Worshipper (Photo by JJ Koczan)their potential and their awareness of what they wanted to be as a band bled into each piece they played. They looked like a group coming into the realization that they could be something special together, and it was exciting to watch.

Like I said, they very nearly stole the night, but it was ultimately Kind‘s evening. The headlining four-piece’s recently-issued Rocket Science (review here) is among the year’s best, debut or not, and opening with “German for Lucy,” they played a good portion of it. From the charmingly-titled “Pastrami Blaster” through the swinging “Fast Number One,” through the expansive “Hordeolum,” the hook-laced “Grogan” and the space-jamming “The Angry Undertaker,” Kind took Midway Cafe on a run that brought out the best from the four players onstage — guitarist Darryl Shepard (MilligramHackman, etc.), vocalist Craig Riggs (Roadsaw), bassist Tom Corino (Rozamov) and drummer Matt Couto (Elder) — without being adherent to the past work of any of them.

True to the record, the material live had a balance between up-front heavy rock riffing and more spacious psychedelia,Kind (Photo by JJ Koczan) whether from Couto working synth in addition to drums or Riggs running his vocals through a range of effects, and the combination of his singing being high in the venue mix and the propulsion provided by Couto worked particularly well compared even to other times I’ve seen them play. As Corino threw his bass behind his newly-shorn head and put a foot up on the stage monitor and Couto kept his head down to ride the grooves through between Shepard‘s riffs and leads, it became apparent just how quickly Kind have come together as a band. Of course the eternal fear with a side-project of any sort or other is that it’ll be left to rot while various main outfits take priority, but I remain hopeful that Kind continue to move forward from Rocket Science and embark on a progression of their own. It is an avenue worth pursuing for all involved.

I’ll admit that by the time they got around to “The Angry Undertaker,” I wasKind (Photo by JJ Koczan) in considerable discomfort. The crowd had thinned out somewhat by the time I made my way to a bar chair to get off my feet, between shout-outs to the New England Patriots — lest we forget we’re in Boston — and the liberal imbibing all around, clearly the party was still going. Fair enough. It was decided from the stage that everyone was going to Tom‘s house after the show to keep drinking, and that may well have happened, but I split out quickly when Kind were finished, with a sore foot, an hour drive and general social inadequacy for motivation. It was a dark and swervy night on the ride home (even sober, one tends to drift that late), but I felt glad to have made it. I don’t know if this one makes up for everything I didn’t get to see in 2015, but at least it wasn’t another one to go on that list.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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