Posted in Features on July 18th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
One could wax philosophical all day about the combination of weighted groove, lush melody, songcraft and tonal depth playing out across Elephant Tree‘s self-titled Magnetic Eye Records debut LP (review here), but as far as doing it justice, it seems like a futile enterprise. The album’s richness, the ease of its execution — nothing sounds labored, nothing feels overwrought — and its consistent sense of movement make it easily one of 2016’s best debut records, and one of the best records of the year overall. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to tell a friend they need to hear it, because invariably they do.
How’d they get there? The London-based four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley, bassist/vocalist Peter Holland (also Trippy Wicked), drummer Sam Hart and sitarist/vocalist/engineer Riley MacIntyre offered up their debut EP, Theia (review here), in 2014 (also through Magnetic Eye), and showed immediately a penchant for laid back heavy roll and psychedelic flourish, but a few key changes took place in the short time between Theia and Elephant Tree, among them a shift in focus away from incorporating screaming vocals — I’ll say that the advent of a genuinely psychedelic sludge is an intriguing prospect, and they made it work well — and MacIntyre‘s sitar alongside Townley‘s guitar and Holland‘s bass.
Townley is quick to point out there are still screams on the record, they’re just buried for atmospheric effect, but even that is a change from two years ago. Part of the driving force behind that would seem to be MacIntyre‘s work as producer, steering the sonic concepts with which the band would work as well as contributing to the music itself. Indeed, Elephant Tree sounds like an album thought out beforehand and during the process, and while recording the basic tracks in the room together gives it a natural underlying character, the blues and greens of its tones and the harmonies in the vocals over them are emblematic of the willful progression the band has undertaken.
And perhaps most encouraging of all, that progression would seem to just be at its outset. It’s important to keep in mind as the melancholy piano notes close out “Surma” that Elephant Tree is still just Elephant Tree‘s first full-length. In speaking to Townley, I tried to get an idea both of how this record came together and how the next one might move forward from here. The interview took place admittedly a while ago, just before Elephant Tree teamed up with Bordeaux, France-based heavy psych forerunners Mars Red Sky for a run of shows in the UK — they’ve also done stints with Bright Curse and they’ll play Cardiff’s Red Sun festival on July 29 with Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Grifter, Desert Storm, Old Man Lizard and many others — and so there was much to discuss.
Please find the complete Q&A after the jump, and enjoy. Thank you for reading.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
London heavy rockers Oak have issued Oak II, their aptly-titled follow-up to their self-titled debut EP (review here), which came out late last year. Like that release, the new four-tracker is available now as a name-your-price download via the band’s Bandcamp page. I haven’t seen anything about a physical release for either EP, or both together for that matter, or anything else, but Oak seem to be making their way toward these things one step at a time, and I look forward to digging into these new tracks to hear what they’ve been up to for the last seven months.
Art and release info follow, courtesy of the PR wire, Bandcamp, and the social medias:
We’re proud to announce that we’ve just released another batch of 4 tunes for you to enjoy. Several sets of strings, a few drumsticks and a studio loudspeaker have given their lives during the making process of this EP. So we’re hoping you’ll have as much of a blast listening to it, as us making it.
Recorded over a weekend in London’s Kore Studios back in May, Oak II sees the band take on a heavier, more focused sound with the new addition of Clinton Richie on drums.
Formed in the summer of 2015, London stoner rockers Oak have just released Oak II, the follow up to November 2015’s debut EP Oak.
The band combine desert rock grooves with fuzzed out 70s inspired hard rock and have spent 2016 gigging – sharing the stage with bands such as Elephant Tree, Welsh uber-dudes Sigiriya and Black Lung from the USA.
Oak II tracklisting: 1. Mirage 05:36 2. Against The Rain 05:41 3. A Bridge Too Far 06:30 4. Smoke 05:48
Andy Valiant: Lead Vocals Kevin Germain: Guitars, Backing Vocals (tr. 1 & 2), Talk Box Voice Scott Masson: Bass, Backing Vocals (tr.3), Talk Box Guitar Clinton Ritchie: Drums
All songs by Oak Engineered, mixed and mastered by Kevin Germain Artwork by Unexpected Specter
Posted in Reviews on June 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
This one’s for all the marbles. Or at very least tiddlywinks. The last day of The Obelisk’s Summer 2016 Quarterly Review begins. I’ll admit that when I was planning this out — started soon after the last Quarterly Review was finished in early April; that one ran late, this one has run early — I decided to take it easy on myself the last day. Still 10 reviews, so not that easy, but in terms of what’s included today, a lot of is stuff I feel pretty comfortable talking about, whether it’s bands I’ve covered before (which a lot of it is, now that I look at the list) or whatever. If you’ve been keeping up this week, thanks. I hope you found some cool music.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
From the Finnish hotbed of Tampere, Atomikylä made a striking impression with their 2014 Svart Records debut, Erkale (review here), giving a take on psychedelic black metal that was immediately and truly their own in its balance of elements. The band, featuring members of Dark Buddha Rising and Oranssi Pazuzu, return with doom-jazz fervor on sophomore full-length, Keräily, with three songs covering yet-unnamed stylistic reaches and offering a get-to-the-studio-and-see-what-happens experimentalism to go with their plotted course on 18-minute opener and longest track (bonus points) “Katkos,” which is followed by the building horn freakout “Risteily” (9:15), from which a space rock push takes hold on drums, resulting in maddening guitar swirl – because of course – and closer “Pakoputki” (6:55), which consumes with a darker thrust and more up-front blackened vibe that still holds onto some of the psychedelia in its layers of guitar. Keräily progresses effectively from Atomikylä’s debut and highlights just how individualized they are as a group. They continue to have the potential to do really special work, and the argument is easy to make they’re already doing it.
As opener and longest track (bonus points) “Beasts of Prey” careens toward its apex finish near the 12-minute mark and the title-track begins is crashing, harmonized intro before moving into an Alice in Chains-via-stoner verse, the distance Poland’s Sunnata cover on their second full-length, Zorya, begins to really unveil itself. There doesn’t seem to be a genre within the heavy sphere that’s off limits. They never get into death metal, but heavy rock, doom, psychedelia, prog, sludge – it’s all in play at one point or another in Zorya’s five-track/50-minute run. The reason the album works and isn’t just a haphazard mash of styles is because Sunnata, who’ve been active in Warsaw since the last decade, make each one their own and thus bend genre to suit their purposes and not the other way around. They continue to impress through the rush of “Long Gone,” the airy expanse of “New Horizon” and the more brooding closer “Again and Against,” conjuring effective flow from what in less capable hands would be disparate components.
I have kind of a hard time with White Dynomite. Not musically – the Boston five-piece’s new EP, Action O’Clock (on Ripple) typifies their accessible punk rock; a reminder of a time when the style used guitars – but conceptually. Their lineup features bassist Tim Catz and vocalist Craig Riggs (on drums) of Roadsaw, as well as guitarist Pete Knipfing (also Hey Zeus, Lamont), vocalist Dave Unger and guitarist John Darga, and while I can’t argue with the charm of a track like “Werewolf Underwear” or “Evil Ballerina” — the lyric “Tutu woman, too too much for me” alone makes Action O’Clock worth the price of admission, let alone “I got fangs in my pants” from “Werewolf Underwear” – but I haven’t yet been able to listen to the band in the context of it having been six years since the last time Roadsaw released an album, and thinking about years passing, priorities and whatnot. They sound they’re having a blast all the way through, and I won’t begrudge them exploring other influences, I guess I just miss that band.
Pittsburgh newcomers Horehound formed just last year, so one might go into their self-titled debut full-length thinking it’s an early arrival, but in an unpretentious seven-track/33-minute collection of straightforward but engaging doom rockers, the five-piece demonstrate a clear idea of what they want to do sonically. While it may not represent where they’ll ultimately end up as a band, its songs sound fleshed out in terms of direction and the resultant feel on the release is much more album than demo. So be it. A particular highlight is “The Waters of Lethe,” on which a sweeter melody emerges in the guitar and vocals, but neither will I discount the low-end crunch and vocal call-and-response in closer “Waking Time” or the more uptempo thrust of second cut “Sangreal.” Not that Horehound don’t have room to grow, but their initial offering preaches well to the converted and should give them a solid foundation to work from in that process.
Beyond the Hollow Mountain is the first full-length from Portuguese mostly-instrumentalists Sulfur Giant, who bring together influences from classic progressive rock, psychedelia and heavy rock so that when they dip into Iommic riffing on “Vertigo,” it’s no stranger than the peaceful jamming of “Whisper at Dawn,” which follows. Friendly if not exactly innovative, Sulfur Giant’s debut makes its chief impression with the four-piece’s instrumental chemistry, which brings about an easy flow within and between the eight tracks, which having already been issued digitally will see vinyl release later this year on Pink Tank Records. It’s hard to ignore what organ adds to “Evermore,” but “Sea of Stone” sneaks in some vocals amid its thicker-riffing and Sungrazer-style exploration, and “Magnolia” and the galloping “Unleash Fears” follow suit, so Sulfur Giant have a few tricks up their collective sleeve they hold back from the initial roll and gallop of the opening title-track. All the better.
New Planet Trampoline, Dark Rides and Grim Visions
Never say never in rock and roll. From Cleveland, Ohio, the psych-rocking four-piece New Planet Trampoline called it quits in 2008, leaving behind an unfinished album. After coming back together for 2014’s The Wisconsin Witch House EP, the ‘60s-stylized outfit set themselves to the task of finishing what became Dark Rides and Grim Visions, basking in the glow of early Floyd, Beatles and others of the ilk while keeping a harder edge to songs like “Grim Visions” and a healthy cynicism to “We’ll Get What We Deserve” and the tongue-in-cheek keyboard-laced closer “Haunted as Fuck.” Of the several more extended tracks, the nine-minute “Acts of Mania” is the longest, and provides suitable patience and atmospherics to stand up to its scope. All told, Dark Rides and Grim Visions is a formidable journey at 13 songs/68 minutes, but after more than half a decade away, it’s hard to hold New Planet Trampoline having their say against them, particularly when that say is as lush and dreamy as “This is the Morning.”
With their second LP, Cold Winds (on Crusher Records), Gothenburg’s Hypnos seem to be betting that the next step in the retro game is NWOBHM. They make a convincing argument; it’s kind of how it went the first time around, and their songwriting offers a top-notch look at the moment where Thin Lizzy bounce became Iron Maiden gallop, as on second cut “I’m on the Run,” just minutes after opener “Start the Hunt” featured a flute solo. Broken into two sides, each one works its way toward a longer finale – “Det Kommer en Dag” (7:23) on side A and “1800” (8:32) on side B – but sonic diversity and changes in song structure throughout do much to keep Cold Winds from feeling overly plotted, and like their countrymen in Horisont, Hypnos offer a seamless melding of classic heavy rock and metal, soaring and scorching on “Descending Sun (Unrootables White)” and swinging and swaggering immediately thereafter on “Cold September,” both accomplished with unwavering command.
Texas boogie rockers Honky were last heard from with 2012’s 421 – which I’ll assume is the “going to 11” equivalent for getting high – and their eighth outing, Corduroy, finds bassist JD Pinkus (Butthole Surfers, Melvins) and guitarist Bobby Ed Landgraf (Down) hooked up with drummer Trinidad Leal of Dixie Witch and Housecore Records for the release. To call is business as usual for the underrated outfit in the classic swing and grit they hone would only be a compliment, songs like “Baby Don’t Slow Down,” “Bad Stones” and the harmonized “Double Fine” offering soul as much as push, ‘70s influences given a modern kick in the ass throughout as a swath of guests, including Melvins drummer Dale Crover, come and go, perhaps none making their presence felt as much as Rae Comeau, whose work on “Bad Stones” makes that song a highlight – not to take away from the a capella cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick,” here retitled as “Mopey Dick,” that closes. Chicanery ensues, booze flows, good times are had for those who’ll have them.
Distinguished as on centerpiece “The Rambler” by their use of organ amid a semi-retro heavy boogie style, French five-piece Cheap Wine recorded Sad Queen – as the cover art says – live for Celebration Days Records. It’s somewhere between an EP and album, and strips away some of the individual track length of their 2013 debut, Mystic Crow, in favor of maximizing the energy put into each piece, the subdued “Intro” and “Opening” that start sides A and B, respectively, aside, though as “Opening” feeds cleanly into the quiet, airy and soulful beginning of the title-track, even that seems to have a tension that builds toward its eventual release, different from the shuffling raucousness of the post-“Intro” opener “Cyclothymic” maybe, but palpable nonetheless. They close somewhat melancholy on “Yesterday’s Dream,” but the complementary guitar of Valentin Constestin and keys of Ahn Tuan aren’t to be missed, nor how well work in concert with vocalist Mathieu Devillers, bassist Valentin Lallart and drummer Louis Morati.
Gurt & Trippy Wicked and teh Cosmic Children of the Knight, Guppy
The UK heavy scene excels at not taking itself too seriously. To wit, Gurt and Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight get together for a split (on When Planets Collide for CD and HeviSike cassette) and, they call it Guppy and the first two songs are “Owlmegeddon” and “Super Fun Happy Slide.” It kind of goes from there. Recorded together, sharing a drummer and collaborating on the centerpiece, “Revolting Child,” it’s basically two outfits who are close friends coming together to have a good time, but that doesn’t take away from Gurt’s sludgy intensity on “I Regret Nothing” or the nodding heavy rock Trippy Wicked hold forth on closer “Reign.” Taking its title from the two band names put together, one can only wonder if this will be the last conjoined offering Gurt and Trippy Wicked will make, or if there might be a whole school of guppies in the future. Frankly, this sounds like too good a party to only throw it once.
Posted in Reviews on June 23rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
We continue today to make our way through The Obelisk’s Summer 2016 Quarterly Review. Yesterday we passed the halfway point, always pivotal, and today brings another batch of 10 albums from the realms of doom, heavy rock, heavy psych, boogie rock, and beyond that I’m looking forward to digging into. I’ve been waking up early mornings all week to put these together — in bed circa 10PM, out of bed at 6AM — but it’s been worth it to see the response the posts have gotten so far and, I’ll say it once again, I hope you’ve found something you dig in what’s already out there, or if not, that by the time we wrap tomorrow something piques your interest. Let’s do it.
Quarterly Review #31-40:
The Order of Israfel, Red Robes
Swedish double-guitar four-piece The Order of Israfel make their second offering in Red Robes. Issued, like its 2014 predecessor, Wisdom, by Napalm Records, the new collection tops out at 59 minute/eight tracks of classically rolling doom. Guitarist/vocalist Tom Sutton (also Horisont, ex-Church of Misery) leads the charge for the Gothenburg-based unit, and along with guitarist Staffan Björck, bassist Patrik Andersson Winberg and drummer Hans Lilja, he brings to light a trad doom not so far removed in some of its impulses from some others throughout Northern Europe in the post-Reverend Bizarre sphere, but showing a personality of its own in the layered vocals of “Von Sturmer” and the acoustic “Fallen Children,” which follows, the choral arrangement in the earlier “The Red Robes” and the speedier “A Shadow in the Hills,” which precedes the crawling 16-minute closer “The Thirst,” its slow-nodding finish underscoring what The Order of Israfel bring of themselves to the classic form in songwriting and overall cohesion of purpose.
It’s a little bit of everything. Landskap’s aptly-titled third album, III, brings out ‘70s vibe with the organ and underlying shuffle of opener “Wayfarer’s Sacrifice,” but offers a doomier feel in the vocals and guitar, and the band go on to execute Doors-gone-prog moodiness on centerpiece “The Trick to Letting Go” and more psychedelic fuzz on the subsequent “The Hand that Takes Away.” So yeah, the London five-piece of vocalist Jake Harding, guitarist George Pan, bassist Christopher West (ex-Trippy Wicked, Groan), drummer Paul Westwood and keyboardist Kostas Panagiotou cover a good bit if ground in just five tracks, tying it all together via Harding’s vocals and a comfortable pace across the board, even on the more insistent “Awakening the Divide,” though that consistency gets toyed with some as nine-minute closer “Mask of Apathy” moves from its dreamy, spacious initial stretch into more uptempo push as payoff for the album as a whole. All the better to have Landskap shift their own methods as fluidly as they meld different styles across III’s engaging span.
If I have a speed at this point, Pooty Owldom is pretty much it. The Virginia-based duo of Matt “Big Jim” Shively and Walter Barry – also two-thirds of the trio Olson/Shively/Barry, which released their debut, Teirra del Fuego Blues (review here), in 2014 – cross the lines between psychedelia, krautrock, folk, weirdo prog and funk with the carefree fluidity of pre-jam-band Ween on their self-titled first outing under their new moniker, and hopefully it’s not the last one, because whether it’s the soap-opera daydream keys of “The Owlet” or any number of the other owl-themed cuts here – “Fuzzy Pellet” is a personal favorite, but who could argue with the bassline/piano tap of “Owls with Big Donuts?” – there’s a considerable creative breadth at work in kind with what sounds like a really good time in progress. Not one for everybody, but for me, I’d love to hear Shively and Barry flesh these ideas out further over longer pieces – “Torus Landing” goes furthest here at 4:53 – and bring the jazzy rhythmic sunbathing of “Target: Mouse” to even greater experimental realization. However it comes, more please.
A guitar/drum duo based in Cherkasy, Ukraine, Celophys issued their third album, Ammonite, last year through Robust Fellow Records. The CD arrives as yet another example of the Ukraine’s burgeoning heavy scene, along with Kiev acts like Stoned Jesus, Bomg, Soom, Mozergush, Ethereal Riffian and others, and brings a noteworthy sense of lumbering across its mostly-extended seven tracks, beginning with 12-minute opener and longest cut (immediate points) “Baron,” which melds slow-grind sludge riffing with deathly growls and rasp, which the charmingly-named “Spaceburger” and the later drumless drone-feast “Caveman Ritual” continue to build out in atmosphere and snail’s-pace intensity. Feedback, massive tonality, plodding groove – these are hardly unfamiliar elements, but drummer/vocalist Alexander Beregovoy and guitarist Miroslav Kopeyka bring about a fervent bludgeoning across Ammonite that should have even the jaded among those who approach it nodding approval. Also noteworthy is the limited-to-53 “Nautilus Pack” which comes in a hand-carved, custom-designed oversized wood case with special graffiti art, a sticker and a pin, as well as the digipak version of the album.
Dunbarrow’s self-titled debut hits at a curious moment. They might be a few years ahead of their time in returning to the roots of vintage-style heavy rock, but in so doing, they basically take up the mantle that groups like Witchcraft, Graveyard, Kadavar and Blues Pills have left behind in favor of more modern production styles. Specifically, the Norwegian four-piece, who had a handful of shorter digital releases out before, come across in direct conversation with the self-titled Witchcraft debut from 2004. Strange to think that a record with an aesthetic so bent on looking backward could actually be forward-thinking — portrait of what goes around, coming around — but Dunbarrow offer persuasive argument in favor of retro orthodoxy in the swaying “You Knew I was a Snake” and the subdued brooding of “Guillotine.” Whether their bet pays off will be something to find out over the next couple years and as their sound continues to develop, but for their first full-length, they show clever songcraft, a clear idea of what they want to do, and the potential to move that forward in intriguing ways.
I’ll rarely hone in on one instrument throughout an album, but the bass tone on Brutus’ third LP, Wandering Blind (on Svart), has to be heard to be believed. With a goodtime take on ‘70s shuffle, there’s plenty of room for the low end to wind its way around the guitar, and it does. Of course, that’s not all the Swedish/Norwegian five-piece have going for them in these nine live-sounding tracks, as shown in the swaying solo section of “Whirwind of Madness” or the stomp of “Blind Village.” They’re not through the opening title-track before multiple Sabbath references are dropped in the lyrics, and indeed they’re a touchstone, but the more upbeat feel of “The Killer” and the back and forth of closer “Living in a Daze” play to deeper influences from classic heavy rock and its modern incarnations, culminating in a multi-layer guitar solo backed by tambourine, bass, and drums that really seems to sum up the friendly and unpretentious vibe Brutus elicit.
Finnish trio Vallihauta make their self-titled debut on Future Lunch with eight raw tracks that span between the hardcore punk/death ‘n’ roll of “Puoliverinen” and the doomed churn in the early going of “Reviiri.” One can basically tell looking at the runtimes of the cuts where Vallihauta are headed with each song, and they adjust their songwriting capably to coincide with the given tempo shifts, resulting in a back and forth as playful as it is aggressive in its sound and harsh low-end buzz, but to their credit, they bring the two approaches together effectively on closer “Ote,” shifting from the record’s most gurgling rumble and tortured plod to increasingly intense punkishness that hits headfirst into a final slowdown to end the album. A multi-faceted approach is rarely something to complain about, and it certainly isn’t here, but the challenge going forward for Vallihauta will be to build on that bridging of gaps in “Ote” without losing either the ferocity of their faster material or the weight of the slower.
The third Pater Nembrot album, Nusun (on Go Down Records), follows five years behind 2011’s Sequoia Seeds (review here), and for Italian heavy rock, it’s been a hell of a half-decade. Now recognized as one of the strongest scenes in Europe, Italy has become a hotbed and Pater Nembrot’s return couldn’t be better timed. The nine-track outing brings some genuinely expansive moments, as with the 10-minute “Architeuthis” for which Christian Peters (Samsara Blues Experiment) guests on synth, or the wah-soaked second half of “The Rich Kids of Teheran,” but even shorter pieces like “Young Rite” effectively bring together grunge and heavy psych influences. The piano-laced opener “Lostman” and acoustic-strummed closer “Dead Polygon” seem to be speaking right to each other and are somewhat at remove with the rest of the record, perhaps the minute-long bass interlude “Uknap” aside (perhaps not), but the four-piece know their game by this point and just when a song like “Overwhelmed” seems like it’s going to lose its course, they bring it around to Nusun’s most satisfying instrumental build.
Almost immediately upon the band starting “Device,” the sense of ambition in Floodlore’s debut album, When it was Written, is palpable. A psych-infused trio from Northern Virginia, they range freely between the classic-minded “Justice” and fuzzy push of “Bars” before heading back to jammier fare for “Release,” which calls to mind All Them Witches for its meandering blues, and into harder-edged winding riffs for “Evening.” Both “Peace” and “Glow” continue to flesh out one side or the other, but an obvious focal point is the three-part/28-minute closer “Sun/When the Floodlore was Written/In Praise of Alan Watts,” which starts out nodding at surf rock before space-progging out for about 20 minutes, working into an out of extended solos and culminating in swirl and thrust that lives up to the band’s clear will for exploration. Some smoothing out to do in terms of balancing the mix (vocals came through high, though I’ll allow that could be my speakers), but When it was Written impresses in concept and execution and as Floodlore’s first full-length, it’s remarkably encouraging.
When it starts to feel like maybe you’ve got a given track figured out, that seems to be the moment when Eugene, Oregon, five-piece Red Cloud turn something around on their full-length debut, Ursa Minor, and though their foundation is still very much in heavy rock, they build on that shifting into and out of desert stylizations and psychedelic swirl. The band – here guitarist/vocalist/bassist Aaron Williams, guitarist Dennis Medina, drummer/engineer Lauren Roberts and bassist/guitarist Sean Loos, though Loos seems to have left the band and bassist Mike Nemeth and keyboardist Garrett Davis come aboard – keep the material consistent by going back to that heavy rock foundation and through a clear focus on songwriting. Even in the somewhat lumbering starts and stops of “Smoke Screen,” these tracks feel worked on and carefully arranged, and though they go different places – “Ghost Dance” with its manic shuffle, closer “Sick Eagle” with its Songs for the Deaf-style drive – they universally take an efficient route to get there.
London trio Bright Curse release their debut album, Before the Shore, May 13 on HeviSike Records. It’s among the most awaited debuts of the last couple years, the band having made a striking impression with their 2013 self-titled EP (review here) and subsequent Shaman single (review here) while cycling through a couple shifts in lineup that have brought guitarist/vocalist Romain Daut and drummer Zacharie Mizzi together with bassist Max Ternebring for the seven-track/43-minute LP, which was produced by the band and J.B. Pilon at Rock of London Studios with mastering by Jaime Gomez Arellano at Orgone Studios.
Topped off with striking artwork by Adam Burke, it’s also a release that dramatically repositions the group from where they were three years ago stylistically, swapping out the heavy psychedelia of their EP for a more clear-headed approach driven particularly by Daut‘s vocals and a spirit of modernized-sounding classic heavy rock that recalls the clarity in the production of the latest Kadavar without aping that band’s methods otherwise. Bright Curse‘s material is more flowing, more gradual, less directly playing to pop traditions, but a focus remains on songcraft, the bulk of the tracks running in the five-to-six-minute range, with brooding closer “Earth’s Last Song” longer at 8:29.
A rampant emotionalism ties the songs together, from opener “Lady Freedom” to the Graveyardian melancholia of “Candles and Flowers,” but moods nonetheless vary between them, and from front to back, Before the Shore moves smoothly through its course, flourishes like the spoken sample in “Cheating Pain” and the organ in the penultimate highlight “Northern Sky” adding to the context overall. And though they’ve grown into a more straightforward-sounding act overall, Bright Curse still find room to offer a jammy sensibility in the swinging solo section of “The Shore” and in the bluesy leads of semi-cultish centerpiece “Walking in a Graveyard (Bloody Witch),” which are offset by the album’s most fervent stomp, Mizzi‘s snare punctuating the natural but not vintage tones of Daut and Ternebring as Daut pushes his voice toward and past the breaking point for not the first time.
His stepping forward as a frontman becomes a defining characteristic of Before the Shore, and the command shown in either the quiet stretches of “Cheating Pain” and “Earth’s Last Song” or the more brash thrust of “Lady Freedom” and cowbell-inclusive swing of “Candles and Flowers” is not to be discounted in terms of the overarching impression the record makes. Listening back to the EP, Daut gave a strong vocal performance there as well, but the context was different, the tones surrounding thicker and more encompassing, whereas the crispness in the presentation of Before the Shore really gives him the space to shine in his delivery, somewhat indebted to Magnus Pelander in cadence but continuing to develop in identity as well.
That’s not to take anything away from the chemistry of Bright Curse as a whole, who’ve clearly spent the time since their first outing refining their approach. That shows itself throughout Before the Shore, whether it’s the catchy hooks of “Lady Freedom” and “Cheating Pain” or the more patient builds of “Northern Sky” and “Earth’s Last Day,” which takes a more linear turn where earlier cuts like “Walking in a Graveyard (Bloody Witch)” ebbed and flowed.
The plays in structure and what Daut, Ternebring and Mizzi are able to execute within them, particularly when taking into account that this is their first full-length, remain impressive, and while I’ll allow that part of me misses the psychedelic vibe of the EP — part of me always misses the psychedelic vibe — the flow they conjure here is palpable between tracks and goes a long way toward showing where their progression is headed. It’s a positive direction, and in the interim, Before the Shore marks the arrival of a band clearly ready to stand themselves out from a crowded London heavy rock scene, which, though it’s been a while in the making, means it got here right on time.
I have the pleasure today of hosting the premiere of “Lady Freedom,” which you’ll find below, followed by Bright Curse‘s latest European tour announcement.
Stoked to finally unveil our whole upcoming European Tour, in support of our debut album “Before The Shore”, out on May 13th on HeviSike Records! It kicks-off in less than a month! Who’s coming!?
20.05 (F) Lille | El Diablo (w. Space Fisters) 21.05 (F) Caen | Le Bocal 22.05 (F) Bordeaux | Void – Make It Sabbathy (w. Space Fisters) 23.05 (F) Tours | Puzzle Pub – CRYPTE (w. Space Fisters) 24.05 (F) Nantes | Scène Michelet – CRUMBLE FIGHT (w. Space Fisters) 25.05 (F) Paris | L’Espace B (w. Space Fisters) 26.05 (NL) Amsterdam | The Cave 27.05 (D) Cologne | The Odonien 28.05 (B) Arlon | L’Entrepôt 31.05 (F) Strasbourg | Mudd Club (NEW SHOW) 01.06 (F) Dijon | Deep Inside 02.06 (F) Lyon | Les Capucins 03.06 (D) Karlsruhe | Bistro KA 07.06 (CH) Geneva | L’Usine – Kalvingrad 08.06 (F) Reims | L’Appart Café
[Click play above to stream Wren’s Host in its entirety. EP out April 29 on Holy Roar Records.]
It was only two years ago that London post-sludge outfit Wren made their debut with a self-titled EP (review here) that found them immediately distinguished from among their many peers in the UK undergound. Since that early 2014 EP, Wren have put together a 2015 split with Irk (review here) the four-song EP Host, forthcoming from Holy Roar Records, both of which have featured changes in the lineup. Operating as the four-piece now of Owen Jones, Chris Pickering, Robert Letts and John McCormick, the band retain the sonic force of their two earlier/earliest offerings, but complement it with a cohesiveness of songcraft that’s on display here in a swaying cut like “The Ossuary” and the catchy “No Seance” (video posted here) that makes their overarching attack that much stronger.
Adding to that a structure that has Host playing two sides off each other to give its four inclusions a longer-shorter/shorter-longer flow and a pervasive sense of atmosphere in even the heaviest, rawest moments, and Host‘s densely weighted roll finds Wren beginning to pay off the potential that the first EP and split showed, even with different personnel involved at very least in terms of who’s fronting the band. A resounding churn will find Host compared to Isis and maybe Amenra, but there’s a post-hardcore bark in Wren‘s shouts that keeps them attuned to a sense of sludgy rawness while also adding aggression to the already smoldering material.
Opener “Stray” and closer “Loom” sandwich “No Seance” and “The Ossuary.” Both songs top eight minutes, and “Stray” begins with an immediate push of deep low-end and interplay of atmospheric riffing, the groove weighted but already in motion with the first verse. It’s not the most urgent thrust of Host, but it recalls some of Swarm of the Lotus‘ less chaotic moments and leads to an instrumental bridge that winds its way back toward a churn and interwoven layers of noise-rock guitar to fill out the chugging insistence. A slowdown before the halfway mark pushes the vocals farther back, but is short-lived as Wren are soon back up and steamrolling forward again toward a break of grabbed-cymbals and manic guitar-led rhythm that takes them to the song’s halfway point, which moves toward a wash of feedback that seems like it’s going to end the track, but at 5:39 kicks into a full-toned post-metallic crunch that provides an apex prior to the actual finish, also in feedback and noise.
Bass starts “No Seance” and is joined soon by guitar feedback and the drums. Though the shortest track on Host, “No Seance” is a highlight without question. More straightforward structurally than “Stray,” but also given a release-defining hook, it also makes no less of an impact, opening farther as it moves toward its second chorus, the drums holding a steady forward pattern to propel the chugging riff before swapping back to toms for nod-ready starts and stops that finish out, staggeringly heavy, completely in control and unremitting in their aggression.
That sense of poise and purpose continues onto “The Ossuary” at what’s the start of the vinyl’s side B. Though also shorter than either “Stray” or “Loom,” it’s nonetheless more open-feeling than “No Seance,” which was so much about its call and response in the chorus, and executes its linear course with a patient tempo early, swapping out at its midpoint toward a more unbridled push that gradually smooths itself into another crash-pushed nod, only to turn around again and move through once more. In that way, “The Ossuary” is almost like two songs put together, but especially in the context of Host as a whole, it works. Further, it readjusts the scope of the EP as a whole in a way that lets “Loom” go just about wherever it wants.
With echoing room-mic vocals over cycles of guitar, bass and tom runs, the opening of the closer recalls some of the first EP’s most post-rock moments, but on the whole, Wren have become a much more aggressive act in the last two years, and as “Loom” moves into its fierce push, a reminder of that is served. Some slow-motion blasting transitions back into the intro progression but degrades into noise to setup the final movement in the fuller second half, which plays out like a more single-minded version of “The Ossuary” but ultimately locks into a rolling riff that fades to close the EP, Wren leaving just a bit of threat behind that they might fade back in any any moment without actually doing so. I said as much when I posted the video for “No Seance,” but Host is an easy candidate for one of 2016’s best short releases, and while I don’t know if Wren have completely settled their lineup once and for all, if they were to press forward with a debut full-length as they are on these four tracks, there’s no way you wouldn’t call them ready for the task.
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you’re wondering where Gurt and Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight got the name of their new split, Guppy, that’s due to release on May 6, take a look at their names: “Gu” from the former, “ppy” from the latter. That bit of cleverness, no doubt, is emblematic of the shenanigans throughout the CD/DL set to arrive via When Planets Collide and the limited run of tapes that’ll be out through HeviSike Records, and it works even more because they not only recorded together and collaborated on a song, but they share drummer Bill Jacobs between them, so yes, the running theme is togetherness. And togetherness if great. Who doesn’t like togetherness?
A trailer for the release has surfaced that emphasizes the level of good times involved, if indirectly. Find that under the info below, which comes from the PR wire:
Gurt & Trippy Wicked team up for GUPPY split – May 6th
The build up has been pretty long and a lot of work has gone in to creating it but When Planets Collide are very happy to announce that ‘GUPPY’, the new split release between GURT and Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight is ready for release on Friday May 6th!
Digital / CD – When Planets Collide Limited Edition Cassette Tape – HeviSike Records
The release features 5 songs clocking in just short of half an hour with two brand new songs from each band and one epic collaboration which features both guitarists, both bassists and both vocalists… we really can’t wait for you to hear what we hope will be one of the best releases so far in 2016.
The bands have been close friends for many years (as well as now sharing a drummer in Bill Jacobs) so entering the studio together to create GUPPY was a natural move. With the help of Steve Sears and Tony Nigelson at TITAN Studios in Watford the record sounds absolutely massive and showcases the expert groove and wicked sense of humour that both bands pride themselves on!
The track-listing is as follows:
1: OWLMEGGEDON 2: SUPER FUN HAPPY SLIDE 3: REVOLTING CHILD 4: I REGRET NOTHING
You’ll have to work out for yourself which songs are by which band!
GURT are: Bill Jacobs – Drums Richard Williams – Guitar Gareth Kelly – Vocals David Blakemore – Bass
TRIPPY WICKED are: Peter Holland – Guitar/Vocals Dicky King – Bass Bill Jacobs – Drums
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 31st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Hell’s bells that’s a good show! Here I’ve been considering getting a crowdfunding page going in order to bring Elephant Tree over from their home base in the UK specifically to pair them up with Bordeaux, France, heavy psych masters Mars Red Sky at The Obelisk All-Dayer in August, and Snuff Lane has gone and beat me to making the match. It’s a five-show run through the UK, and they’ll meet up with Black Lung along the way and play Riff Conspiracy III in Manchester, but for however long these two are getting together, it’s a fit that works so well, it’s hard to imagine this will be the only time it happens.
If you haven’t heard it yet, Mars Red Sky‘s recently-issued third LP, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (review here), is currently holding my top spot for album of the year. Yeah, I know there’s a lot of year to go, but woof, that’s a good record. Elephant Tree‘s self-titled debut (review here), which is due out at the end of April through Magnetic Eye, is currently holding my top spot for debut of the year. Take that as an indication of how highly I regard these two bands at this point. These gigs are going to be killer. If you get to go, consider yourself lucky.
Dates from the PR wire:
MARS RED SKY’s will be touring the UK in May in support of their brand new album ‘Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul)’, pushing boundaries further into a colossal heavy sound like never before.
Produced by Gabriel Zander (from Brasil who also engineered ‘Stranded in Arcadia’) and Jacob Dennis in Studio Cryogene in Bègles in France – The band has forged grandiose and hypnotizing thickly produced songs rooted through a wider range of musical influences stretching from Robert Wyatt, The Beatles, Nick Drake, Neil young to bands like Electric Wizard, Acid King and obviously Black Sabbath.
French revered psych-pop doom fuzzers are set to grace the United Kingdom in May for 5 special events, with tour support will be provided by sitar welding, London based Elephant Tree, who are due to release their new album self-titled album through Magnetic Eye Records.
‘Prise for the Burning Soul’ May UK Tour: 12/05 – The Exchange, Bristol Alongside: Black Lung (ft. members of The Flying Eyes), Indica Blues, The Brackish, Raptor 13/05 – The Phoenix, Coventry 14/05 – Birthdays, London Support TBC 15/05 – Rebellion, Manchester Part of Riff Conspiracy III (Noiz) 16/05 – Audio, Glasgow