Six Dumb Questions with Forming the Void

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on April 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

forming the void

We’re at less than a month’s remove from the release date of Forming the Void‘s second album, Relic (review here), and already it’s apparent that the Louisiana four-piece are turning heads in their direction. The follow-up to 2015’s Skyward (review here) is also the first outing for the band to be issued through Italy’s Argonauta Records, and it further solidifies the progressive charge of its predecessor with a crisp delivery and a marked sense of scope across its span. It toys with but is by no means subject to heavy rock genre restrictions, and one finds it no less at home in the aggro-catchiness of “Biolazar” and the post-Torche lumber of “Plumes” than it is in the more tripped-out roll of “Unto the Smoke” or the take on Led Zeppelin‘s “Kashmir” that rounds out.

United by a clean and clearheaded production, Relic freely careens between a swath of influences from the modern sphere: here touching on Baroness-style melody, there on Eastern-scale guitar leads like that in “Endless Road.” And though they don’t shy away from acknowledging the complexity of what they’re doing, neither do the album’s eight tracks come across as inflated. If anything, as asserted below by guitarist/vocalist James Marshall — joined in the band by guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Luke Baker and drummer Jordan Boyd — they’ve become stronger in terms of their editorial voice, so that the resulting output is all the more efficient and communicative in its purposes. That’s an ongoing process, of course, but so is creativity as a whole, and Relic sees Forming the Void take pivotal forward steps on a number of levels, establishing them as an act consciously dedicated to their sonic progression.

Below, Marshall talks about the origins of the band, what they learned from Skyward going into Relic, the mysterious figure on the front cover of both their albums to-date, working with Argonauta and more.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

forming-the-void-relic

Six Dumb Questions with Forming the Void

Tell me about getting Forming the Void together. Did you have a sound in mind first, or did you start playing and then the band’s style began to take shape? 

When I first started looking for people to play in the band, I was just looking to play rock music. When we all got together in a room, each of our strengths just naturally came through in the music. As we’ve grown, we’ve steadily tried to play on those strengths more. The most drastic change is we’ve been steadily getting heavier.

Talk about your writing process, in general and for Relic particularly. What lessons did you learn from Skyward and how were you able to bring them into the new album?

With Relic the ideas were a lot more deliberate rather than the spontaneous jam room ideas that led to Skyward. I think each approach has its merits, but it was nice to be able to sit down and A-B parts to get a better idea of how we wanted something to flow. One lesson I think we took from Skyward was editing and trimming parts down if they didn’t serve a purpose. We have less long music breaks in Relic but I think it’s more well-packaged that way.

How long were you in the studio this time? How did the recording experience compare to when you put together Skyward? It seems like a really quick span between the two records.

We started tracking Relic in mid-July and finished reamping stuff mid-October. It was a very different experience than Skyward, which we tracked in a few days. We recorded drums at my buddy (and mastering engineer) Jai‘s house and tracked the rest at my house. It was a good and a bad thing to have that much time to obsess over it.

Both album covers feature hooded figures and the classic comic style of David Paul Seymour. Does that hooded character on the front of Relic have some special significance to the band? Does he have a name? Is there a story being told about him either through the album or the art?

There’s something nice about having a figure defined by his ambiguity. I think it’s a lot like our music; kind of hard to put a finger on it. There’s definitely a sense of mystery surrounding the artwork, especially the hooded figure, which is intentional. In that vein, I’ve never thought of giving him a name or a backstory. He’s just omnipresent; a veiled servant to a greater purpose.

How did signing to Argonauta Records come about and how has it been releasing the album with them?

Our friend Jason Ogle from Electric Age actually got me in touch Argonauta. It’s been really cool. [Label head] Gero has been incredibly helpful throughout the whole process and Argonauta has been really nice to work with. I couldn’t have asked for anything better from our first signing experience.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

We recently signed a deal with Lonestar Records from Germany to release Relic on vinyl. We’re pretty excited to have that coming. It should be released sometime between June 2nd and 9th. Vinyl has been a goal of mine for a while so we’re pretty stoked to finally have that come to fruition.

Forming the Void on Thee Facebooks

Forming the Void on Twitter

Forming the Void on Bandcamp

Relic at Argonauta Records

Argonauta Records on Thee Facebooks

Lonestar Records on Thee Facebooks

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Quarterly Review: Ulver, Forming the Void, Hidden Trails, Svvamp, Black Mirrors, Endless Floods, Tarpit Boogie, Horseburner, Vermilion Whiskey, Hex Inverter

Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

cropped-Charles-Meryon-Labside-Notre-Dame-1854

Feeling groovy heading into Day Two of the Spring 2017 Quarterly Review, and I hope you are as well. Today we dig into a pretty wide variety of whatnots, so make sure you’ve got your head with you as we go, because there are some twists and turns along the way. I mean it. Of all five days in this round, this one might be the most wild, so keep your wits intact. I’m doing my best to do the same, of course, but make no promises in that regard.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Ulver, The Assassination of Julius Caesar

ulver-the-assassination-of-julius-caesar

Norwegian post-everything specialists Ulver have reportedly called The Assassination of Julius Caesar (on House of Mythology) “their pop album,” and while the Nik Turner-inclusive freakout in second cut “Rolling Stone” (that may or may not be him on closer “Comign Home” as well) doesn’t quite fit that mold, the beats underscoring the earlier portion of that track, opener “Nemoralia” and the melodrama of “Southern Gothic” certainly qualify. Frontman/conceptual mastermind Kristoffer Rygg’s voice is oddly suited to this form – he carries emotionally weighted hooks like a melancholy George Michael on the electronically pulsating “Transverberation” and, like most works of pop, shows an obsession with the ephemeral in a slew of cultural references in “1969,” which in no way is likely to be mistaken for the Stooges song of the same name. While “So Falls the World” proves ridiculously catchy, “Coming Home” is about as close as Ulver actually come here to modern pop progression, and the Badalamenti-style low-end and key flourish in “1969” is a smooth touch, much of what’s happening in these eight tracks is still probably too complex to qualify as pop, but The Assassination of Julius Caesar is further proof that Ulver’s scope only grows more boundless as the years pass. The only limits they ever seem to know are the ones they leave behind.

Ulver on Twitter

House of Mythology website

 

Forming the Void, Relic

forming-the-void-relic

Last year, Louisiana four-piece Forming the Void had the element of surprise working to their advantage when it came to the surprising progressive edge of their debut album, Skyward (review here). Now signed to Argonauta, the eight-song/55-minute follow-up, Relic, doesn’t need it. It finds Forming the Void once again working proggy nuance into big-riffed, spaciously vocalized fare on early cuts “After Earth” and “Endless Road,” but as the massive hook of “Biolazar” demonstrates, the process by which guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Luke Baker and drummer Jordan Boyd meld their influences has become more cohesive and more their own. Accordingly, I’m not sure they need the 11-minute closing take on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” since by then the point is made in the lumber/plunder of “Plumes” and in the more tripped-out “Unto the Smoke” just before, but as indulgences go, it’s a relatively easy one to make. They’re still growing, but doing so quickly, and already they’ve begun to find a niche for themselves between styles that one hopes they’ll continue to explore.

Forming the Void on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

Hidden Trails, Instant Momentary Bliss

hidden-trails-instant-momentary-bliss

Though it keeps a wash of melodic keys in the background and its approach is resolutely laid back on the whole, “Beautiful Void” is nonetheless a major factor in the overall impression of Hidden Trails’ self-titled debut (on Elektrohasch), as its indie vibe and departure from the psychedelic prog of the first two cuts, “Lancelot” and “Mutations,” marks a major distinguishing factor between this outfit and Hypnos 69, in which the rhythm section of the Belgian trio played previously. “Ricky” goes on to meld acoustic singer-songwriterism and drones together, and “Hands Unfold” has a kind of jazzy bounce, the bassline of Dave Houtmeyers and drumming of Tom Vanlaer providing upbeat groove under Jo Neyskens’ bright guitar lead, but the anticipation of heavy psych/prog never quite leaves after the opening, and that doesn’t seem to be what the band wants to deliver. The sweetly harmonized acid folk of “Leaving Like That” is on a different wavelength, and likewise the alt-rock vibes of “Space Shuffle” and “Come and Play” and the grunge-chilled-out closer “Denser Diamond.” If there’s an issue with Hidden Trails, it’s one of the expectations I’m bringing to it as a listener and a fan of Houtmeyers’ and Vanlaer’s past work, but clearly it’s going to take me a little longer to get over the loss of their prior outfit. Maybe I’m just not ready to move on.

Hidden Trails on Thee Facebooks

Elektrohasch Schallplatten website

 

Svvamp, Svvamp

svvamp-svvamp

Naturalist vibes pervade immediately from this late-2016 self-titled Svvamp debut (on RidingEasy Records) in the bassline to “Serpent in the Sky,” and in some of the post-Blue Cheer heavy blues sensibility, the Swedish trio bring to mind some of what made early Dirty Streets so glorious. Part of the appeal of Svvamp’s Svvamp, however, is that among the lessons it’s learned from heavy ‘70s rock and from Kadavar‘s own self-titled is to keep it simple. “Fresh Cream” is a resonant blues jam… that lasts two and a half minutes. The bouncing, turning “Oh Girl?” Three. Even the longest of its cuts, the slide-infused “Time,” the subdued roller “Big Rest” and the Marshall Tucker-esque finale “Down by the River,” are under five. This allows the three-piece of Adam Johansson, Henrik Bjorklund and Erik Stahlgren to build significant momentum over the course of their 35-minute run, casting aside pretense in favor of aesthetic cohesion and an organic sensibility all the more impressive for it being their first record. Sweden has not lacked for boogie rock, but even the most relatively raucous moments here, as in the winding “Blue in the Face,” don’t seem overly concerned with what anyone else is up to, and that bodes remarkably well for Svvamp’s future output.

Svvamp on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records website

 

Black Mirrors, Funky Queen

black-mirrors-funky-queen

There are few songs ever written that require whoever’s playing them to “bring it” more than MC5’s “Kick out the Jams.” True, it’s been covered many, many times over, but few have done it well. Belgium’s Black Mirrors signal riotous intent by including it as one of the four tracks of their Napalm Records debut EP, Funky Queen, along with the originals “Funky Queen,” “The Mess” and “Canard Vengeur Masqué,” and amid the post-Blues Pills stomp of “The Mess,” the mega-hook of the opening title-track and the more spacious five-plus-minute closer, which works elements of heavy psych into its bluesy push late to welcome effect, “Kick out the Jams” indeed brings a moment of relative cacophony, even if there’s no actual threat of the band losing control behind the powerful vocals of Marcella di Troia. As a first showing, Funky Queen would seem to be a harbinger, but it’s also a purposeful and somewhat calculated sampling of Black Mirrors’ wares, and I wouldn’t expect it to be long before an album follows behind expanding on the ideas presented in these tracks.

Black Mirrors on Thee Facebooks

Black Mirrors at Napalm Records

 

Endless Floods, II

endless-floods-ii

No doubt that for some who’d take it on, any words beyond “members of Monarch!” will be superfluous, but Bordeaux three-piece Endless Floods, who do indeed feature bassist/vocalist Stéphane Miollan and drummer Benjamin Sablon from that band, as well as guitarist Simon Bedy, have more to offer than pedigree on their three-song sophomore full-length, II (on Dry Cough vinyl and Breathe Plastic cassette). To wit, 24-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Impasse” rumbles out raw but spacious sludge that, though without keys or a glut of effects, and marked by the buried-deep screaming of Miollan, holds a potent sense of atmosphere so that the two-minute interlude “Passage” doesn’t seem out of place leading into the 19-minute lumber of “Procession,” which breaks shortly before its halfway point to bass-led minimalism in setting up the final build of the record. Slow churning intensity and longform sludge working coherently alongside ambient sensibilities and some genuinely disturbing noise? Yeah, that’ll do nicely. Thanks.

Endless Floods on Thee Facebooks

Dry Cough Records on Bandcamp

Breathe Plastic Records on Bandcamp

 

Tarpit Boogie, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam

tarpit-boogie-couldnt-handle-the-heavy-jam

Boasting four eight-plus-minute instrumentals, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam finds New Jersey trio Tarpit Boogie rife with classic style heavy rock chemistry, bassist John Eager running fills around the dense-toned riffing from guitarist George Pierro as drummer Chris Hawkins propels a surprising thrust on opener “FFF Heavy Jam.” I’ve been a fan of Pierro and Eager’s since we were bandmates a decade ago, so to hear them unfold “Chewbacca Jacket” from its tense opening to its righteously crashing finale is definitely welcome, but the 37-minute offering finds its true reasoning in the swing and shuffle of the eponymous “Tarpit Boogie,” which digs into the very challenge posed by the title – whether or not anyone taking on the album can handle its balance of sonic impact and exploratory feel – inclusive, in this case, of a drum solo that sets a foundation for a moment of Cactus-style rush ahead of a return to the song’s central progression to conclude. They round out with “1992 (Thank You Very Little),” Chevy Chase sample and all, bringing more crashing nod to a massive slowdown that makes it feel like the entire back half of the cut is one big rock finish. And so it is. A well-kept secret of Garden State heavy.

Tarpit Boogie on Thee Facebooks

Tarpit Boogie on Bandcamp

 

Horseburner, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil

horseburner-dead-seeds-barren-soil

The self-released Dead Seeds, Barren Soil is Horseburner’s second full-length, and it arrived in 2016 from the four-piece some seven years after their 2009 debut, Dirt City. They’ve had a few shorter outings in between, demos and 2013’s Strange Giant EP, but the West Virginia four-piece of Adam Nohe, Chad Ridgway, Jack Thomas and Zach Kaufman seem to be shooting for a definitive statement of intent in the blend of heavy rock and modern, Baroness-style prog that emerges on opener “David” and finds its way into the galloping “Into Black Resolution,” the multi-tiered vocals of “A Newfound Purity” and even the more straight-ahead thrust of “The Soil’s Prayer.” Marked out by the quality of its guitar work and its clearly-plotted course, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil caps with “Eleleth,” which at just under eight minutes draws the heft and the complexity together for a gargantuan finish that does justice to the ground Horseburner just flattened as they left it behind.

Horseburner on Thee Facebooks

Horseburner on Bandcamp

 

Vermilion Whiskey, Spirit of Tradition

vermilion-whiskey-spirit-of-tradition

Lafayette, Louisiana, five-piece Vermilion Whiskey telegraph participation in the New Wave of Dude Rock to the point of addressing their audience as “boy” in second cut “The Past is Dead,” and from the cartoon cleavage on the cover to the lack of irony between naming the record Spirit of Tradition and putting a song called “The Past is Dead” on it, they sell that well. The Kent Stump-mixed/Tony Reed-mastered six-tracker is the band’s second behind 2013’s 10 South, and basks in dudely, dudely dudeliness; Southern metal born more out of the Nola style than what, say, Wasted Theory are getting up to these days, but that would still fit on a bill with that Delaware outfit. If you think you’re dude enough for a song like “One Night,” hell, maybe you are. Saddle up. Listening to that and the chunky-style riff of closer “Loaded Up,” I feel like I might need hormone therapy to hit that level of may-yun, but yeah. Coherent, well written, tightly performed and heavy. Vermilion Whiskey might as well be hand-issuing dudes invitations to come drink with them, but they make a solid case for doing so.

Vermilion Whiskey on Thee Facebooks

Vermilion Whiskey on Bandcamp

 

Hex Inverter, Revision

hex-inverter-revision

If the cover art and a song title like “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts” weren’t enough of a tip-off, there’s a strong undercurrent of the unsettled to Hex Inverter’s second long-player, Revision. The Pennsylvania-based experimentalists utilize a heaping dose of drones to fill out arrangements of keys, guitar and noise that would otherwise be pretty minimal, and vocals come and go in pro- and depressive fashion. Texture proves the key as they embark on the linear centerpiece “Something Else,” with a first verse arriving over a sweetened bassline after four minutes into the total 9:58, and the wash of noise in “Daphne” obscures an avant neo-jazz groove late, so while opener “Cannibal Eyes” basks in foreboding ambience prior to an emotionally-driven and explosive crunch-beat payoff, one never quite knows what to expect next on Revision. That, of course, is essential to the appeal. They find an edge of rock in the aforementioned “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts,” but as the loops and synth angularity of closer “Fled (Deadverse Mix)” make plain, their intentions speak to something wider than even an umbrella genre.

Hex Inverter on Thee Facebooks

Hex Inverter on Bandcamp

 

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Friday Full-Length: The Mystick Krewe of Clearlight, The Mystic Krewe of Clearlight

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 24th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The Mystick Krewe of Clearlight, The Mystick Krewe of Clearlight (2000)

Hard to believe nobody has stepped up to reissue the 2000 self-titled debut and only outing to-date from The Mystick Krewe of Clearlight, and likewise that some true believer heading a festival at home or abroad hasn’t convinced guitarist Jimmy Bower to play a reunion show under the weighty banner. Because even 17 years later, listening to this record, it’s as much a party as it is a collection of songs. True tonally to peer outfits like Spirit Caravan, Corrosion of Conformity and maybe even Sixty Watt Shaman in some of its Southern elements, the differentiating factor with The Mystick Krewe of Clearlight was the jam, and while the band may or may not have been started as a side-project from Bower looking to continue to scratch a groovier itch coming off his initial run in Southern metal supergroup Down, bringing on board Eyehategod bandmate Joe LaCaze (drums, R.I.P. 2013), bassist Andy Sheppard, fellow guitarist Paul Webb and keyboardist Ross Karpelman — whose organ work proves so crucial throughout to songs like “Ride Out” and “Trapeze” — they immediately made themselves stand out by being even more of and about their place: New Orleans. To wit, album opener “Swamp Jam” — as apt a description of their style as you’re going to come across — starts at a parade.

Let’s just assume that’s Mardi Gras, because even if it isn’t, it kicks off an absolute blast of a time. The Mystick Krewe of Clearlight was prescient in its incorporation of classic ’70s influences, and the dynamic between Bower and his cohorts comes through all the more as an instrumental band, since the jams just flow openly without the need for a rigid verse/chorus structure, allowing “Swamp Jam” to trip out in its second half, Sheppard‘s bassline holding it together as Karpelman‘s keys drive a sort of miniaturized Purple-tinged Made in Japan exploration. The tone thusly set, the band only pushes deeper into good vibes and heavy grooves. “Electrode” is the shortest track at five minutes and winds its way into some boogie, hitting into starts and stops that would seem a direct precursor for the kinds of funk Clutch would be proffering six years later, and “Ride Out” follows by smoothing its initial thrust into a slow-motion nod, the guitars milking every riff cycle for all it’s worth ahead of the aforementioned “Trapeze” delving into direct key-and-guitar conversation — not to mention the welcome advent of some cowbell from LaCaze. Also one of the more extended tracks at 7:25 along with “Swamp Jam” at the outset and 10-minute closer “El Niño Brown” still to come, “Trapeze” emphasizes how much The Mystick Krewe of Clearlight thrived in a longer-form context, and while they dip back into more straight-ahead fare with “A Fool’s Outfit,” putting some space between “Trapeze” and the finale, by then the vibe is so spread out that they basically can go wherever they want. If you’ve ever in your life uttered the phrase, “It’s all good,” side B of The Mystick Krewe of Clearlight would be a good reason why. Or side A, for that matter.

They had two splits out after the record, both in 2001. If you can get it, the Acid King split on Man’s Ruin is an absolute monster, both bands utterly on fire, and their let’s-cover-Skynyrd-and-we’ll-get-PepperKeenan-to-sing-on-it shared 7″ with The Obsessed on Southern Lord is as righteous as the concept sounds. But that’s it to-date, though a post just over a year ago on a seemingly official Thee Facebooks page read simply, “Riffs are being written….” and listed the band’s lineup as Bower on drums along with Aaron HillWebb and Kevin Bond (Superjoint, ex-Floodgate) on guitar, Sheppard on bass and Karpelman once again on keys, so who knows, maybe something will manifest. Particularly after revisiting the self-titled, you wouldn’t find me arguing. Let the parade begin again.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Next week is the Quarterly Review, and even as I’m signing off for today ahead of not posting tomorrow or Sunday, I’ve already begun and will be continuing to put it together as much as possible over the weekend. It’s 50 reviews this time, Monday to Friday. I could’ve added a sixth day again, but opted not to. Maybe next time. Probably not. For some reason, that extra 10 writeups made a really big difference in my head last time out.

There was supposed to be a Six Dumb Questions interview today with Doctor Cyclops along with a full-stream of their new album, but technical complications prevented it from coming together in time. So it goes. I’m sure as soon as this post goes live the embed code will come through. Because that’s pretty much how things happen these days. EDIT: Exactly what happened.

Anyhoo, that will be up Monday, in addition to the first day of the Quarterly Review, which is abbreviated in my notes as QR1. Here’s the rest of what’s on tap for the week to come, all subject to change as usual:

Mon.: QR1, Doctor Cyclops Six Dumb Questions, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard video.
Tue.: QR2, MotherSloth video premiere.
Wed.: QR3, The Whims of the Great Magnet Six Dumb Questions/song premiere, Devil to Pay video premiere/tour announcement.
Thu.: QR4, Here Lies Man track premiere.
Fri.: QR5, Lacertilia video premiere.

Pure. Fucking. Chaos. It’s gonna be a lot to put together, and I’m thinking about taking next Friday off work in no small part just to crash out after doing all of that nonsense — and of course news and whatever else on top of it — throughout the week, but yeah. That’s the plan. It’ll all work out as much as it’s going to, and if some stuff doesn’t, like that Doctor Cyclops thing today, there will be other stuff to step in and take the place of whatever falls out. So much music. No money in writing about any of it. No way to make a living off doing this.

Speaking of, you may notice the All That is Heavy sponsorship link is gone. Deal didn’t really work out to be that beneficial for either party, so we called it off. Just like that. If you managed to get 15 percent off an order, I hope you got some good stuff. Of course I still support Dan and his endeavors all the way and recommend ATiH for your heavy shopping needs happily.

What else? I don’t know. Roadburn’s coming. I’m basically counting the days until that happens, as one does.

Family coming north this weekend, which will be good. My sister and oldest nephew. Looking forward to seeing them both, getting up in the morning to work on Quarterly Review stuff, having good coffee and drinking it slowly, and generally chilling out, hopefully getting my head right and so on. Maybe watch some baseball. Weekend stuff. You know.

Whatever you’re up to, please have a great time and a safe time. Have fun, be careful out there and stay tuned for an absolute onslaught of music starting on Monday. It’s gonna be a marathon but it’s gonna be awesome.

Thanks for reading, and please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

 

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Forming the Void Premiere Video for “Unto the Smoke” from Relic

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

forming the void

Louisiana-based prog-metal tinged outfit Forming the Void release their second album, Relic, March 17 via Argonauta Records. The song for which they have a new video premiering below, “Unto the Smoke,” is the second to last track on that record. It arrives after a tumult of winding riffs, soaring shouts and rhythmic pummel, the four-piece outfit working in a range of modern influences from the post-Mastodon/Baroness sphere as they did on their 2016 debut, Skyward (review here), and then turning much of that on its head — they’re consistent in the regard of being quite heavy, despite pace or other aesthetic whatnots — with “Unto the Smoke,” opting for a slow, almost Sleep-minded crashing, lumbering doom riffing. Vocals hold to a sense of melody, but “Unto the Smoke” — well, the name says a lot. Compared to earlier tracks like the rushing “Biolazar” or even the rolling “After Earth,” which opens, it’s a departure from a lot of what Relic offers atmospherically.

If it tells you anything at all, the only thing that follows it is a cover of Led Zeppelin‘s “Kashmir.” Yeah, it’s like that.

You’d almost think Forming the Void have… range? Indeed, listening to the hook-laden “Plumes” before “Unto the Smoke” comes on, their production is steadily geared toward maximum largesse, but the band does work effectively within that to enact a scope between the various tracks. Admirable in intent, but more satisfying in the actual sound, and more so on repeat listens. It’s not a short record at a CD-era-esque 55 minutes — of which that Zeppelin cover accounts for 11 — but as with outfits like Summoner, there’s a purpose to every move the band makes throughout, and their careful execution, even in “Unto the Smoke,” gives Relic a sense of poise to go with that range. Nothing about it, front to back in that 55-minute span, is haphazard.

Hoping to have more to come on this one as we get closer to the release, or, you know, a review three months after the fact since that seems to be the timeline I work on nowadays (hangs head in shame). Either way, you can check out the premiere of “Unto the Smoke” below and beneath that find some comment from guitarist James Marshall about the clip’s origins as well as those of the song itself.

Please enjoy:

Forming the Void, “Unto the Smoke” official video

James Marshall on “Unto the Smoke”:

“The video was made by a Swiss artist who goes by ‘Gryphus’ who compiled it using clips from John Carpenter’s The Fog. The song itself is one of the more psychedelic songs on the album. There is a lead guitar odyssey at the end where Shadi really draws from his Middle Eastern roots. It’s also the slowest song on the album. The themes of the lyrics are transcendence and mortality.”

Relic by Forming the Void is released on 17th March 2017 via Argonauta Records.

Forming The Void:
James Marshall – Guitar/Vocals
Shadi Omar Al-Khansa – Guitar
Luke Baker – Bass
Jordan Boyd – Drums

Forming the Void on Thee Facebooks

Forming the Void on Twitter

Forming the Void on Bandcamp

Relic at Argonauta Records

Argonauta Records on Thee Facebooks

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GIVEAWAY: Win a Vermilion Whiskey T-Shirt & CD Prize Pack!

Posted in Features on February 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

vermilion whiskey prize pack

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

Feelin’ saucy? Well go ahead and get yourself in on the chance to win a free t-shirt and a copy of Vermilion Whiskey‘s new album, Spirit of Tradition. The Lafayette, Louisiana, double-guitar five-piece put the thing out just last week and if you leave a comment on this post, you can get your very own disc and a shirt with artwork by Mont Doom.

Bolstered via a mix by Wo Fat‘s Kent Stump and a mastering job by Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed, Spirit of Tradition lives up to its name in bringing together Southern heavy rock and metallic charge. Frontman Thaddeus Riordan and guitarists Ross Brown and Carl Stevens lead the way with Jeremy Foret on bass and Buck Andrus on drums, and Vermilion Whiskey ask nothing more than that you consume as irresponsibly and as often as possible.

You know how these things go at this point, so I’ll just remind you to please leave your email in the form when you leave a comment on this post. Without it I can’t contact you to let you know you’ve won, and it seems like an awful bummer to bother to enter and then basically make yourself ineligible. As always, I don’t keep email address, I don’t sell info. I wouldn’t know how to if I wanted to, and I don’t want to, so there. I’m way more about giving away free shit than adding spam to your inbox.

If you haven’t yet had a taste, you can hear Vermilion Whiskey‘s Spirit of Tradition in full below. Good luck to everyone who enters! And if you don’t, why the hell not?

Vermilion Whiskey, Spirit of Tradition (2017)

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

Vermilion Whiskey on Thee Facebooks

Vermilion Whiskey on Instagram

Vermilion Whiskey on Bandcamp

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Many Waters: Benefit Compilation Released for Baton Rouge Flooding

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Yesterday, members of Thou and Thrill Jockey Records issued the Many Waters: Baton Rouge Flood Relief 2017 benefit compilation. Proceeds go to the Greater Baton Rouge Good Bank in the wake of the flooding that took place in the area last summer. It’s 33 tracks long, and in addition to Thou taking on Neil Young, it’s got live stuff from Sumac and Mike Scheidt and Golden Void doing a cover of The Pretty Things, as well as art by Becky Cloonan. Hard enough to argue with that if the cause was lining a pocket, let alone feeding flood victims.

Give them your money:

va many waters baton rouge flood relief 2017

Many Waters – Baton Rouge Flood Benefit Compilation produced by Thou

Many Waters is a new compilation produced by Thou with help from Thrill Jockey to be released on January 30th, with proceeds going to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank to assist their efforts in aiding those affected by the Louisiana floods of August 2016. The compilation features a range of exclusive tracks from acclaimed metal acts as well as Louisiana DIY mainstays, including The Body & Full of Hell covering Devo, Thou covering Neil Young, Golden Void covering Pretty Things, special live tracks from SUMAC and Old Man Gloom, and a solo live recording by Mike Scheidt of Yob.

From Joshua Nee, drummer of Thou:
“I spent the better part of three weeks after the flood driving around neighborhoods looking for homes to help out. Every day after work and pretty much all day on the weekends was spent gutting damaged homes. A practice space we had been sharing with a slew of other bands was totally wrecked, and countless bands I know had their spaces and equipment destroyed.

When Mitch was getting this benefit together, he asked what organization would make sense to donate to. I told him the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, as they had been really amazing and helpful during the aftermath of the flood, and they themselves had even been completely flooded out.

I was thrilled to have so many local Louisiana bands on the compilation. All of those bands come from the same DIY community based background. Punk, pop, metal, whatever. They represent all kinds of music, but they all come from a similar, supportive culture.”

Tracklisting:
1. Cikada – 30 Dollar Bag 02:45
2. The Body & Full of Hell – Gates of Steel 03:44
3. Thou – Don’t Let It Bring You Down 04:23
4. Solid Giant – Dead Souls 06:57
5. Christworm – Mad World 06:33
6. Aseethe – Void 13:41
7. SUMAC – Hollow King (Live) 15:04
8. Thrush – Effete 04:44
9. Empty Vessels – Above Ground 02:41
10. The World Is A Vampire – Christian Brothers 05:28
11. Hand Grenade Job – Threat Assessment 03:32
12. Sandworm – Taverner 01:22
13. Old Man Gloom – Zozobra (I-III) [Live] 12:23
14. Recluse – Deluge 01:31
15. Cajun Clam – Seer Sucker Suits 02:46
16. Pudge – Moo Moo 01:39
17. Heavy Mantle – Weights and Measures 01:18
18. I’m Fine – Brindle Party Plus One 03:52
19. Donovan Wolfington – Slower Loris 03:28
20. Pope – The Ballad of Little Stevie 03:03
21. Black Abba – Demons 01:52
22. Gland – Kratom 8r 01:56
23. Mea Culpa – Ghost 03:17
24. All People – Ruff Dreams 02:30
25. Caddywhompus – First Date Anthem Part 2 01:32
26. Wildhoney – Thin Air (Drew Scott Remix) 03:33
27. Sharks’ Teeth – Melting Belief 03:58
28. Ize – Heart on Your Sleeve 04:01
29. A Living Soundtrack – Expanding Consolidation 04:57
30. Treadles – Feral Human 01:57
31. Mike Scheidt – Throw off the Dark 04:32
32. Proud/Father – La Paz en la Aqua 06:21
33. Golden Void – Sickle Clowns 04:08

Certain tracks were mastered by metal extraordinaire James Plotkin, while the whole compilation features mastering donated by Keith Souza and Seth Manchester at Machines With Magnets. Artwork was donated by Becky Cloonan, renowned for her work with DC and Marvel Comics.

https://thrilljockeyrecords.bandcamp.com/album/many-waters-baton-rouge-flood-relief-2017
http://thrilljockey.com/products/many-waters-baton-rouge-flood-relief-2017

Many Waters: Baton Rouge Flood Relief 2017 compilation trailer

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Forming the Void to Release Relic March 17

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

forming the void

Louisiana four-piece Forming the Void issued the deceptively metallic Skyward (review here) last year and have signed to Italy’s Argonauta Records for the follow-up, Relic, which will see release on March 17. One can hear the aggressive/progressive thread continuing from the debut in the new song “Bialozar,” which is streaming ahead of the record’s arrival, but the groove underlying still owes part of its stomp to the heavier end of rock, and the blend seems all the more resonant with the vocal melody that tops. Easy to understand why they’d put the track out first, as it shows clear forward movement in sound and presentation and makes one look forward to the album. Nice tease, gents. Well played.

The PR wire sends good reason for marking your calendar:

forming the void relic

FORMING THE VOID sign to Argonauta Records for release of new album Relic

Relic by Forming The Void is released on 17th March 2017

Following the release of last year’s impressive Skyward album, Forming the Void, originally formed in 2013 in Lafayette, Louisiana, has gained an impressive reputation for raising underground rock into realms of the previously unknown.

Atmospheric, heavy and progressive yet losing none of these earnest qualities at volume, they layer their ambitions as thickly as the riffs that help transmit their visions. Newly signed to Italian label Argonauta Records, this March will see the release of their third album Relic. Like Skyward before it, it draws on one hell of a colossal sound. New song ‘Bialozar’ is the first track lifted from said album and, as you will hear, it’s carried along on lead singer James Marshall’s soaring, practically airborne vocal about an epic voyage of a celestial beast: “Valiant mantra in mind, Radiant alive in light” / “Wings spread over the mountain, Bialozar”.

Summoning the towering hard rock riffs and progressive influence of bands like Mastodon, Baroness and Torche, it’s just one of many songs on Relic that finds the four piece illustrating their bold and adventurous ideas in the most vivid of colours.

Relic by Forming the Void is released on 17th March 2017 via Argonauta Records.

Forming The Void:
James Marshall – Guitar/Vocals
Shadi Omar Al-Khansa – Guitar
Luke Baker – Bass
Jordan Boyd – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/formingthevoid/
https://twitter.com/forming_thevoid
https://formingthevoid.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ArgonautaRecords
https://twitter.com/ArgonautaRex
http://www.argonautarecords.com/

Forming the Void, “Bialozar”

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Quarterly Review: Crowbar, Katatonia, Ethereal Riffian, Dot Legacy, Salem’s Bend, Thonian Horde, Second Sun, Ten Ton Slug, Komatsu, The Blue Sunshine Family Band

Posted in Reviews on December 29th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

We continue with day four of the Quarterly Review. This batch is numbers 31-40 of the total 60, not that the numbers really mean anything. I know it’s list season — believe me, I know — but there’s no actual ranking going on. It’s just basically so I can keep track and remember what day it is. That’s not to say this is done off the cuff. Actually, there’s an embarrassing amount of planning behind these things. Months. And when I start actually getting the posts ready and realize I’ve slated the same record on two different days — something that’s happened no fewer than three times so far, needing each time to be corrected — it’s a clear demonstration of the value of my planning. Ha. Anyway, we press on. Together. Into the thick of it. Thanks for reading.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Crowbar, The Serpent Only Lies

crowbar the serpent only lies

More than 25 years and 11 albums into a landmark career that helped prove the existence of the hairy beast known as “sludge metal,” Crowbar don’t owe anyone anything, and since returning to activity with 2011’s Sever the Wicked Hand (review here) and 2014’s Symmetry in Black, they’ve played like it. Their third post-resurgence outing is The Serpent Only Lies (on eOne Heavy), and though it works largely to form – that is, Crowbar are going to sound like Crowbar: low, slow, seeming to lurch even when dug into fits of gallop on “I am the Storm” or the early going of “The Enemy Beside You” – one still finds progression especially in the vocal approach of frontman and founder Kirk Windstein, who self-harmonizes effectively on the title-track’s standout hook as well as the later pair “On Holy Ground” and “Song of the Dunes,” the latter also resoundingly spacious in a way that offsets much of The Serpent Only Lies’ head-down intensity. This might be flourish or a companion to the core Crowbar sound that remains intact throughout, but the truth is it’s not like it needs to be there – Crowbar’s audience would still go to the shows even if the band stopped growing – but it’s entirely to the credit of the New Orleans legends that more than a quarter-century later they continue to progress. I guess that’s how Crowbar gets to be Crowbar.

Crowbar on Thee Facebooks

eOne Heavy on Thee Facebooks

 

Katatonia, The Fall of Hearts

katatonia the fall of hearts

Depending on what you count as a full-length, The Fall of Hearts (on Peaceville) is either the 10th or 11th studio record from Sweden’s Katatonia. It follows 2013’s acoustic Dethroned and Uncrowned, which reenvisioned 2012’s Dead End Kings and brings forth over an hour of new material from founding duo Jonas Renkse (vocals/guitar/etc.) and Anders “Blakkheim” Nyström (guitar/backing vocals), as well as Niklas Sandin (bass) and Daniel Moilanen (drums), who, working with engineer Karl Daniel Lidén (ex-Greenleaf, Demon Cleaner), continue to proffer resonant melancholy in abundance. As a band, Katatonia have had a number of different phases over the years, from their deathly beginnings through the later moves into melody, but as it stands on songs like “Decima,” with its acoustic and mellotron arrangement, and the seven-minute “Serac,” which plays back and forth between serene and some of The Fall of Hearts’ most intense thrust, they remain among heavy metal’s most recognizable acts. There is no one else who sounds like them, and they sound not quite like anyone else. This collection might be more about gradual steps forward than radical shifts in approach, but Katatonia have found a way to preach to their converted and keep growing at the same time, and that’s to be commended.

Katatonia on Thee Facebooks

Peaceville Records website

 

Ethereal Riffian, I am Deathless

ethereal riffian i am deathless

Issued via Robustfellow in a range of physical editions from an oversized CD digipak to cassette bundles, the two-song I. AM. Deathless EP from yet-underrated Ukrainian progressive ritualists Ethereal Riffian warrants the ceremony with which it arrives. Its two tracks, “Drum of the Deathless” (6:19) and “Sword of the Deathless” (9:57) closed and opened, respectively, the prior 2016 live outing, Youniversal Voice (review here), and in their studio form they bring to bear a vision of psychedelic metal given to atmospheric breadth that comes at the expense neither of purpose nor impact. The opener proves the more immediate of the pair, but as “Sword of the Deathless” plays out, it finds prog-metal swirl amid low-end starts and stops intertwined layers of multi-channel spoken word, acoustic and electric guitar and percussive tension, so that as it heads into its payoff and melodic finish, the resolution is both satisfying and something of a relief from the cacophony preceding. Forward-thinking and of marked substance, I. AM. Deathless offers a quick glimpse at the band’s scope and invites listeners to dive deep therein.

Ethereal Riffian on Thee Facebooks

Robustfellow Productions on Bandcamp

 

Dot Legacy, To the Others

dot legacy to the others

There isn’t much that’s off-limits to Parisian heavy rockers Dot Legacy. To wit, the near-rap-rock mania of opener “Horizon” from their second LP, To the Others (on Setalight Records), and the laid-back psych-lounge vibes that follow on “Grey Cardinal,” only to be swept away in crashes and chants later, leading to the driving desert punkery of “211.” Three songs, three distinct feels, and Dot Legacy only get weirder from there as they toy with fuzzed momentum on “5314” and “Dakota” before the dreamy post-rock meandering of “The Twelve,” the prog-pop of “Story of Fame” and piano-laden psych-drama of closer “Pioneer.” In 35 minutes, the four-piece cover more ground than most bands do in their whole careers, but that becomes even more admirable in that they manage not to just be all over the place, but to provide a consistent quality of songwriting to complement all that quirk. Add to that the attention to detail in vocal harmonies and arrangements, and as they follow-up their 2014 self-titled debut (review here), they reveal a clear sense of a master plan at work under all the brashness and genre-hopping.

Dot Legacy on Thee Facebooks

Setalight Records website

 

Salem’s Bend, Salem’s Bend

salem's bend self-titled

Self-released by the Los Angeles trio in late-2015 and picked up for a vinyl issue through Ripple Music, the self-titled debut from Salem’s Bend leaves little wonder as to why with its classic sensibility and the vibe proliferated by the natural-toned nod of a song like “Silverstruck.” Though still prone to a bit of Hendrix-style shred when it comes to lead guitar, the three-piece of Bobby (guitar/vocals), Kevin (bass) and Zach (drums) depart from some of the post-Radio Moscow all-thrust boogie in favor of more laid back fair and on that cut and the later “Sun and Mist,” which hits into a satisfying apex in its second half without feeling overcooked, as well as the six-minute finale “A Tip of Salem,” which nods through its initial movement before bursting out toward the end. In a crowded SoCal scene, just about anything Salem’s Bend can do to stand apart will serve them, and the fluidity they hone across these seven tracks sets them up to do just that.

Salem’s Bend on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Thonian Horde, Thonian Horde

thonian horde self-titled

Given the personnel involved, the black ‘n’ roll extremity of Thonian Horde’s self-titled debut full-length will no doubt come as a surprise to listeners. Formed in Boonsboro, Maryland, by bassist/vocalist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis (Pale Divine, Admiral Browning, etc.), guitarists Darren “Dirty” Waters (Weed is Weed) and Dan “D-Mize” Mize (Faith in Jane), and drummer Tyler “The Beast” Lee (Weed is Weed), one might expect high-order Frederick-style post-The Obsessed doom. Thonian Horde have more in common with Immortal on their centerpiece track “Darkest Nights Shadow,” and even as the closing “Psychonaut” finds a rock groove in its chorus, it does so with the hooky edge of Satyricon more than any of the members’ other outfits. No doubt that’s the point: doing something different. Indeed, the nine-tracker is a refreshing aesthetic reboot for the scene from whence it comes, holding fast to their region’s crucial lack of pretense even as they brazenly walk their own path – left-hand, of course.

Thonian Horde on Thee Facebooks

Thonian Horde on Bandcamp

 

Second Sun, Tachyonregenerator

second sun tachyonregenerator

I don’t know about you, but I missed out on Hopp/Förtvivlan, which was the 2015 debut full-length from Swedish rockers Second Sun, so to have Gaphals provide gentle encouragement to check it out by getting behind the two-songer single Tachyonregenerator is most welcome. Both cuts included – “Tachyonregenerator” and “Tror Faktiskt På Dig” – bask in classic vibe without being overly showy when it comes to retroism, and are marked out by the inclusion of organ amid the natural-sounding guitar, drums and bass, the vocals presented in Swedish across both pieces. It’s a quick eight-minutes perfect for the 7” pressing it’s been given, but again, makes enough of an impression that one is inclined toward further investigation, and given that, I can’t call it anything other than a success. I’ll go ahead and chalk up one more quality Swedish act to keep track of, because Second Sun offer tight-knit progressive leanings in a crisp package on Tachyonregenerator, and even if I’m late to the party, I’m glad I got to hear it.

Second Sun on Thee Facebooks

Gaphals Records website

 

Ten Ton Slug, Brutal Gluttonous Beast

ten ton slug brutal gluttonous beast

Some pretty clear self-awareness demonstrated in Ten Ton Slug’s self-released debut EP, Brutal Gluttonous Beast. The Galway, Ireland, five-piece had a prior live-recorded two-tracker, but these four songs mark their first studio outing, and as they draw together massive sludge riffing and more extreme, death metal-style growls, there’s precious little one might say to more accurately describe a track like “Trollhunter” – the opener and longest on the release (immediate points) – than that it lives up to the title, its second-half slowdown lurch prefacing a similar move in “Bloodburns” before the more rampaging “Subterranean” and noise-soaked burl of “Unit” take hold. Intense and vicious, but not necessarily unhinged, Brutal Gluttonous Beast finds Ten Ton Slug sounding remarkably sure in their approach, and one will await the news of their traveling to England to record with Chris Fielding at Skyhammer, since that seems to be the kind of presentation for which the tonal onslaught here is begging.

Ten Ton Slug on Thee Facebooks

Ten Ton Slug on Bandcamp

 

Komatsu, Recipe for Murder One

komatsu recipe for murder one

A half-decade after releasing their self-titled EP (review here), Eindhoven heavy/noise rockers Komatsu reemerge on Argonauta Records with the follow-up full-length, Recipe for Murder One. Boasting a guest appearance from Nick Oliveri on the suitably tumultuous “Lockdown,” the album leaves little to wonder what’s in that recipe in the darker-desert vibe of “So How’s About Billy” and “There Must be Something in Your Water,” which teases airy serenity in its first half only to go full-throttle for the second, but as the bass-driven lumber of the title-track and subtle melodic expansion of “The Sea is Calm Today” show, Komatsu haven’t wasted the last five years, instead constructing their own take on sonic density and sludge impulses that seems to hit with formidable impact regardless of tempo or tension level, both of which prove to be fluid elements at the four-piece’s disposal. They get the point across quickly in the stomp of “The Long Way Home,” but find suitable resolution in the nod of closer “Breathe,” rounding out a debut of significant character and depth with one last surprise in ambience it’s only fair to call progressive.

Komatsu on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

The Blue Sunshine Family Band, The Blue Sunshine Family Band

the blue sunshine family band self-titled

A double-guitar instrumental four-piece from Santa Rosa, California, The Blue Sunshine Family Band make their debut with a six-song/51-minute self-titled. Tracks presented as Roman numerals “I” through “VI,” though whether or not they’re actually the first six pieces the band has written, I couldn’t say. Either way, the impression immediately draws from “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” – that great king of nod riffs – and first-name-only guitarists Billy and Kevin, bassist Matt and drummer Quinten build outward from there, dipping below the eight-minute mark only on “V” (7:14) as they unfurl solid grooves and tonal heft, seeming to leave room for vocals either consciously or not. The converted will find engagement and immersion in the crash and swinging turn of “IV,” as well as the David Paul Seymour cover art, and if The Blue Sunshine Family Band is the sound of this foursome getting their feet under them, they manage to accomplish that preliminary feat and then some in these tracks.

The Blue Sunshine Family Band on Thee Facebooks

The Blue Sunshine Family Band on Bandcamp

 

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