Review & Track Premiere: Year of the Cobra, Burn Your Dead

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

year-of-the-cobra-burn-your-dead

[Click play above to stream ‘The Descent’ from Year of the Cobra’s new EP, Burn Your Dead, out Oct. 27 via Magnetic Eye Records.]

Play raw, take chances — this might very well be the ethic under which Year of the Cobra operate. The Seattle two-piece issued one of 2016’s finest debut full-lengths via STB Records with …In the Shadows Below (review here), and their follow-up EP, Burn Your Dead, arrives via Magnetic Eye Records with five songs that not only continue the thread from that offering, but push forward the sense of stylistic adventurousness that began to show itself there. To wit, no doubt the core of …In the Shadows Below was in the heavy rock roll conjured together by bassist/vocalist Amy Tung Barrysmith (interview here) and drummer Jon Barrysmith.

Together, they offered thickened groove and memorable nod given all the more of a post-Acid King feel thanks to the production of Billy Anderson (Sleep, Neurosis, so many others I get embarrassed even listing them). A song like “Vision of Three” reveled in a churning tempo where “Persephone” and “White Wizard” offered a speedier take, but heft was at the root one way or the other, and while that continues on the 25-minute Burn Your Dead, there’s also significant branching out being done on aesthetic terms, as Amy and Jon not only reaffirm what they did with the preceding album in a piece like “Cold” or “The Howl,” but move brazenly and boldly forward as songwriters less bound by genre than they were even a year ago with the LP.

They’ve done a fair amount of touring to support …In the Shadows Below and did for the prior 2015 three-songer The Black Sun (review here) as well, and if that’s the source of the progression shown in Burn Your Dead, then all the better for it being so well earned, but wherever it might stem from, it finds Year of the Cobra with a burgeoning sense of fearlessness when it comes to their craft. Yes, songs like opener “Cold” and the subsequent “The Descent” are still heavy in the sense of the weighted tonality of Amy‘s bass and the crash of Jon‘s drums. However, the confidence and range of Amy‘s vocals has seen a marked increase, and a headphone listen reveals in “Cold” vague, deeply-mixed whispers behind her verse lines that, along with the keys playing the root notes throughout and other vague samples in the open, between-chorus midsection, add not only a sense of the ethereal, but a sense of horror atmosphere as well that comes through subtler and creepier than the average Hammer Productions movie clip.

year of the cobra billy anderson

“Cold” revives its shove patiently and builds intensity on Jon‘s snare as it makes its way back to the hook, but the immediate message is that Year of the Cobra didn’t even come close to playing their full hand on the debut, and each of the songs that follows adds something of its own to the proceedings, whether it’s the late-Kylesa proggy melodicism of “The Descent,” the raw punker scathe and gang shouts of “Burn Your Dead,” the doom pop croon and swirl of “The Howl” or how “And They Sang…” rounds out seeming to smash “The Descent” and “Burn Your Dead” together with sudden changes in pace and spaciousness.

In this jumping from one feel to another, Burn Your Dead is very much an EP — essentially a showcase for Year of the Cobra‘s growing audience of ideas that might or might not come to further fruition in their sound that simultaneously expands the context of the band as a whole — but that does nothing to undercut the quality of their performance, construction or attention to detail. Whether it’s the thrust of “Burn Your Dead” and “And They Sang…” or the taking-its-time fluidity of “The Descent” from whence the former charges out, the duo are careful in their presentation. Not necessarily in a way that undercuts the natural feel of their sound as two players — “play raw, take chances” — but the taking-chances part of that equation finds them perhaps capitalizing on the impulse that drove “Temple of Apollo” toward such poppishness on …In the Shadows Below; that same feeling of not shying away from manifesting an idea because it might not strictly conform to the tenets of genre.

If Burn Your Dead has an underlying purpose, it might be to realize this notion as a central aspect of Year of the Cobra‘s approach, and if so, the EP is all the more praiseworthy both on its own level and in the metamorphic sensibility it adds to the release that came before it, essentially enriching an already rich listen by building so gracefully on its foundation. It may make it harder to predict where Year of the Cobra might go with their next batch of material — other than on tour; that’s a pretty easy guess — but whether they seek to tie the melodic airiness of “The Howl” to a more earthbound nodder vibe or simply take Burn Your Dead as a model for adopting multiple sonic facets simultaneously across a broader collection of tracks and somehow manage to create fluidity between them, the band leaves little doubt as to their ability to manipulate and foster their individualism as they see fit while maintaining a strong grip on their songwriting.

Wherever they go on Burn Your Dead, they never seem lost, and thus it is all the more a joy to follow Year of the Cobra along this brief journey. A sure-fire bet as one of 2017’s best short releases.

Year of the Cobra on Thee Facebooks

Year of the Cobra on Bandcamp

Magnetic Eye Records website

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

Magnetic Eye Records on Thee Facebooks

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Quarterly Review: Nibiru, The Ditch and the Delta, Cyanna Mercury, Surya Kris Peters, Golden Bats, Blind Hen, The Black Wizards, Low Flying Hawks, Brother Sister Hex, Cold Insight

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

the obelisk quarterly review

Ready for round three of the Fall 2017 Quarterly Review? I hope so, because it’s a doozy. Things get pretty weird and pretty rockin’ in this batch, and at the risk of being completely honest, I much prefer it that way. It’s a varied group — maybe the most diverse in terms of sound throughout the entire week, though there’s stiff competition still to come — and as we hit the 30th review, that brings us to the halfway point of the Quarterly Review itself, which if all keeps proceeding according to plan will wrap up on Monday with a grand total of 60 done. Let’s hope no pianos fall on my head between now and then, literally or figuratively. Onward.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Nibiru, Qaal Babalon

nibiru qaal babalon

The fourth full-length from Italian sludge ritualists Nibiru, Qaal Babalon (on Argonauta) is an encompassing, 57-minute grind comprised of four extended tracks, the longest of which is opener (immediate points) “Oroch” at 19:07 – a song whose depths run dark and cruel and which, even when the tempo pushes upward from its initial slow crawl, still feels massively slow. Still, the spirit behind “Oroch” as well as the following and much faster “Faboan” (10:51), the buzzsaw noise cutting avant insanity of “Bahal Gah” (16:40) and full-drone rite of “Oxex” (11:05) is less directly about the punishment itself than about the exploration enacted thereby. That is, Nibiru aren’t just heavy for heaviness’ own sake and they’re not just assaulting their listenership without reason. Though I won’t take away from its raw sonic impact, Qaal Babalon’s greatest asset is its atmospheric impression and the experimentalism it brings to bear, which moves Nibiru into a terrifying place sound-wise that they seem to have all to themselves.

Nibiru on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

The Ditch and the Delta, Hives in Decline

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Hailing from the unlikely heavy hotbed of Salt Lake City, Utah – though where better for a counterculture to emerge? – sludge rocking trio The Ditch and the Delta made their debut earlier in 2017 with the seven-song Hives in Decline via Battleground Records before being picked up by Prosthetic for this reissue. Comprised of bassist/vocalist Kory Quist (see also: Making Fuck), guitarist/vocalist Elliot Secrist and drummer Charles Bogus, the three-piece pummel handily throughout early cuts like opener and longest track (immediate points) “Hives in Decline” “Fuck on Asphalt” and the nodding “Sleeping Dogs,” but with the instrumental interlude “Dry Land,” they tap into post-Across Tundras heavy Americana and in that brief two-minute stretch deeply affect the mood of the release overall. They’re back to angular noise rock turns soon enough on “Till Body Quits” and the Remission-era-Mastodon-style “Mud” before alternating between lurching crush and airier prog/post-rock on closer “Dread Spectacle,” but by then the secret’s out of their underlying complexity, and rather than offset the sense of drive in the prior cuts, one finds them only enhanced by the later unfolding. Intense, and very much in the process of sorting through these impulses, but loaded with potential.

The Ditch and the Delta on Thee Facebooks

The Ditch and the Delta at Prosthetic Records

 

Cyanna Mercury, Archetypes

Cyanna-Mercury-Archetypes

From Greek dialogue in “Hermes” to the Nick Cave-style piano balladry of “Apollo” to the organ-and-handclaps Mediterranean pop underscoring “Lilith”’s boogie and the spoken verses and explosive hook of “Snake” ahead of moody closer “There will be a Time,” Cyanna Mercury’s debut long-player, Archetypes, seems to leave no sonic stone unturned. The Athens-based five-piece hone a thoroughly progressive approach across the 10-track/40-minute (plus a CD bonus track) outing, touching on heavy psych in opener “Horse Dark as Night” and injecting a darker theatricality into centerpiece “Ode to the Absent Father” and the later “Nothing We Can Do,” but refusing to relegate themselves ultimately to one sound or another. Elements of folk, heavy rock, psychedelia, classic prog, pop and more besides show themselves across what’s a legitimate head-trip of a record, and though it’s hard to get a grip on where Cyanna Mercury are ultimately headed with this sonic brew already so potent and already so much their own, they seem to be completely in control of how it all plays out in arrangement and songwriting, and they work quickly to earn the listener’s trust via a resonant overarching flow that renders Archetypes truly immersive. Will fly under most radar, but a stunningly creative debut.

Cyanna Mercury on Thee Facebooks

Cyanna Mercury on Bandcamp

 

Surya Kris Peters, 2nd Chances

surya-kris-peters-second-chances

Numerically-titled three-song EP 2nd Chances is – since we’re going by the numbers – the third release of 2017 from Surya Kris Peters, behind the synth-driven Dream Exit EP digitally-issued this past summer and January’s Holy Holy Holy (review here) full-length. With it, Samsara Blues Experiment frontman Christian Peters further expands the contextual breadth of his solo work, revisiting songs from his prior outfit Terraplane in the Mellotron-infused melancholy of “Smalltown Blues” and the quick, folkish rambling instrumental “Dark Euphoria” while also covering Jefferson Airplane’s “Come up the Years” between. All told, it’s only 10 minutes long, but Peters brings a particularly progressive psychedelic folk vibe to the tracks, and from the shimmering guitar lead that takes hold in “Come up the Years” and the intimate feel of “Smalltown Blues” despite an arrangement of keys, vocals, multiple layers of guitar and effects, an emotional and sonic resonance is still very much achieved. One never wants to guess what Peters will do next, but if he had a full-length of this kind of thing out at some point, you wouldn’t be likely to find me complaining.

Surya Kris Peters on Soundcloud

Electric Magic Records on Bandcamp

 

Golden Bats, Residual Dread

golden-bats-residual-dread

An underlying mournfulness pervades Golden BatsResidual Dread, or maybe that’s just the Brisbane-based solo-project of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/engineer Geordie Stafford living up to the title chosen for the album on “Nothing.” Elsewhere, Residual Dread takes on guitar-as-keyboard plotted soloing in 11-minute closer “The Crows Build a Fire” and find a place between black metal and doomly roll, and add piano to tapped Godflesh-style programming on opener “Trouble in the Sewers” and bring organ to the relative bounce of “Eye Juices” as far-back echoing shouts provide the vocal presence. Setting elements against each other would seem to be a core aspect of Stafford’s intent, and the feel on Residual Dread is more about the smashing them together and seeing what happens than trying to gently meld one idea from two or three. That lends a raw, experimentalist sensibility to the lumber of “Outer Body” and “Into the Silver Valley” that serves them well, like a Large Hadron Collider driven by riffs and thickness of tone.

Golden Bats on Thee Facebooks

Haemorrhage Records webstore

 

Blind Hen, Life

blind-hen-life

In its first two minutes, Blind Hen’s “As a Monster” moves from electronica-style Euro dance rock to heavy-riffed progressive metal. Then it turns back. This is just the start of the Finnish four-piece’s four-track/21-minute Life EP, and “Titanic” follows stylistic suit with an even more intense thrust early before moving into psychedelia in its second half with an underlying tension in its beat to contrast the melodic wash overtop. The chugging “The Maze” is more guitar-led and straightforward, but even there, Blind Hen find room for nuance in their vocal arrangement, also bringing in acoustics amid the multiple layers of singing, and with a sample at the outset, closer “Catch” moves once again toward the danceability of the earlier fare, if in a via-Mr.Bungle rhythmic restlessness rather than the fusion beatmaking. Weird, weird, weird. What draws Life together is the fact that Blind Hen cross this aesthetic swath with stuck-in-your-head choruses as a constant, essentially giving the audience something to grasp onto while they go wherever they want in terms of sound. It is appreciated to say the least, and shows the band to be all the more attuned to their craft, even when they seem at their most unhinged.

Blind Hen on Thee Facebooks

Blind Hen on Bandcamp

 

The Black Wizards, What the Fuzz!

the-black-wizards-what-the-fuzz

If you’ve got 68 minutes, Portuguese four-piece The Black Wizards are ready to have a heavy blues shindig on their second 2LP full-length, What the Fuzz!, and I do believe we’re all invited. The nine-song outing emphasizes the vocals of guitarist Joana Brito, who emerges on post-intro opener “Freaks and Geeks” with a prominent kind of trilling in her voice of the sort Parker Griggs brings to Radio Moscow that holds for the duration as a steady presence. Joined by guitarist Paulo Ferreira, bassist/acoustic guitarist B and drummer/backing vocalist Helena Peixoto, Brito leads the way through the fuzzy rollout of the nine-minute “The Story of an Hopeless Drummer” (sic), stepping back to let the guitar/bass have a righteously nodding moment late in the track, but holds firm in a forward position on the short, twanging “Just Not Today” as well as the early going of the prior subdued-blues-smoker highlight “Floating Blues.” “Build Your Home,” “I Don’t Wanna Die” and the particularly-classic-sounding “Fire” revive the classic heavy rock spirit of “Freaks and Geeks,” and 16-minute finale “Everything is Good Until Trouble Comes” uses its extra runtime for a satisfying and patient execution with an expanded arrangement including choral vocals, organ and additional guitar effects. You might be boogied out by the time they’re done, but as The Black Wizards crash through their big finish, they sound like their party’s just getting started.

The Black Wizards on Thee Facebooks

The Black Wizards on Bandcamp

 

Low Flying Hawks, Genkaku

low-flying-hawks-genkaku

One might expect that with all the Melvins affiliation going on in the second Magnetic Eye Records full-length from L.A. duo Low Flying Hawks, Genkaku would sound, you know, more like the Melvins, but despite working with bassist Trevor Dunn, drummer Dale Crover and producer Toshi Kasai, and despite bringing in Buzz Osbourne for guest vocal spots on eight-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “Smile” and side B leadoff “Space Wizard,” initials-only multi-instrumentalists EHA and AAL follow their 2016 debut, Kofuku (review here), with a sound even more their own, balancing between thick riffy rollout and post-rock atmospherics. Of course, they weird out a bit on “Smile” and the lumberingly spacious “Uncool” and “Virgin Witch,” but whether it’s the later mournfulness of “Hallucination” or “Twilight” toying with noisy fuckall while seeming to mock heavy rocker burl ahead of the melodic payoff in closer “Sinister Waves,” there’s more EHA and AAL in Low Flying Hawks than the prominent pedigree of their collaborators might lead you to believe. All the better for what becomes a richly satisfying 43-minute listen rife with depth, patience, and yes, personality.

Low Flying Hawks on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

 

Brother Sister Hex, End Times

brother-sister-hex-end-times

Coherent songwriting rests at the core of what Denver’s Brother Sister Hex bring to their five-song third EP, End Times, which darkens up Queens of the Stone Age-circa-Songs for the Deaf vibing on its title-track (also a bit of Kyuss’ “El Rodeo” in there for good measure) before delving into more ambient fare on the centerpiece “Confessions.” Vocalist/guitarist Colfax Mingo demonstrates SubRosa-style vocal command there, but the context is more rock-based, uptempo and straightforward as she, guitarist Patrick Huddleson, bassist Drew Hicks and guest-drummer Jordan Palmer (Plastic Daggers) meld traditionalist structures with atmospheric moodiness. Opener “Hey” offers a suitable greeting through hook and groove, and the shuffle of “Sweet and Sleazy” and the rumbling fuzz (Hicks makes it a highlight) of closer “News Feed” wraps with another grunge-style QOTSA melody efficiently drawn, shouting the question “what have we done?” as it thuds into its second half. Uh, you’ve made a professional-sounding, excellently-constructed EP that shows you’re more than ready to embark on a debut full-length, permanent drummer or no. So yeah, get on that.

Brother Sister Hex on Thee Facebooks

Brother Sister Hex on Bandcamp

 

Cold Insight, Further Nowhere

cold-insight-further-nowhere

As progressive as it is brutal, Further Nowhere is ostensibly the debut release from Paris’ Cold Insight. The material seems to date back at least to 2013, if not earlier than that, when band-spearhead Sébastien Pierre (also of Enshine, Fractal Gates, and others) first issued what’s now tagged as a “pre-production album” version, but it’s hardly as though the lush, growling, melodeathly doom sounds dated. With sonic likenesses throughout to bands like Amorphis, Dark Tranquility and Paradise Lost, Cold Insight – on which Pierre, who also did the artwork, is joined by drummer Christian Netzell while Jari Lindholm adds lead guitar – hit on a very particular, very European style, and not an unfamiliar one as displayed in the righteously driving “Distance,” but the find-the-beauty-in-darkness spirit behind “Close Your Eyes” and songs like “Even Dies a Sun” and the more uptempo later piece “I Will Rise” help ensure that the formidable 12-song/66-minute run of Further Nowhere never gets too bogged down in its melancholy. It may have been a while in the making, and one hopes a follow-up won’t take as long to arrive, but the precise execution Pierre hones in these songs and the depths to which he can bring a willing audience are a fitting payoff for the years of work that went into their construction.

Cold Insight on Thee Facebooks

Cold Insight on Bandcamp

 

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Year of the Cobra Tour Starts Sept. 28; Burn Your Dead EP out Oct. 27

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

year of the cobra

So here’s the deal: I’ve heard the new Year of the Cobra EP, Burn Your Dead, which as the headline above says is out Oct. 27 on Magnetic Eye Records. It’s got five tracks on it and each one gives a different look at a new place the Seattle two-piece of Amy Tung and Jon Barrysmith are going with their sound coming off their 2016 debut, …In the Shadows Below (review here). That’s a pretty impressive feat it itself, but you should note that while a given song might be more leaning toward punk or ambient fare, whatever it is, it’s still all tied together through a sense of sonic weight and so the progression from the LP makes sense. It’s like they took a cue from “Temple of Apollo” on the record, which toyed with poppishness in a particularly brave way, and decided they could do whatever the hell they wanted with their sound and it would be fine.

I’ll have a proper review up sooner or later, but that’s the gist of it. Bottom line is it bodes really well for their next full-length in terms of showcasing genuine growth on the part of the band.

You might recall Year of the Cobra did the first leg of a tour this past summer when the initial hints of the EP release were dropped. Well, the second leg starts Sept. 28. Dates are below.

Here’s a press release I wrote, as circled back through the PR wire:

year-of-the-cobra-burn-your-dead

YEAR OF THE COBRA Put the Past Behind Them; New EP ‘Burn Your Dead’ out Oct. 27

Year of the Cobra (Amy Tung and Jon Barrysmith) are moving forward. Unmitigated, unhindered, unrestrained. The Seattle bass and drum two-piece boldly tackle new styles and new substance on new EP, Burn Your Dead.

Produced like their 2016 STB Records debut full-length, …In the Shadows Below, by Billy Anderson (Sleep, Neurosis, the Melvins, etc.) at The Type Foundry in Portland, Oregon, Burn Your Dead still offers plenty of tonal largesse to go with its striking Joshua M. Wilkinson cover art.

But its five tracks also showcase new avenues of exploration for Year of the Cobra, whether it’s the ambience and creepy sampling worked into opener “Cold,” the progressive atmospheric rock of “The Howl” and centerpiece “The Descent,” reaching new heights of melodic accomplishment in Tung’s vocals, or the uptempo punker thrust of the gang-shouting title-track and the finale “And They Sang.”

That final track not only conveys the rawness of Year of the Cobra’s live show but – bolstered by the mastering work of Justin Weis at Trakworx in San Francisco – also the growth they’ve been able to enact through such relentless road work since their 2015 debut EP, The Black Sun, which has seen them quickly become coast-to-coast veterans, hit Europe for the first time and appear at Psycho Las Vegas and other festivals around the country, never failing to leave a trail of blown minds in their wake.

Look for Year of the Cobra to continue their refinement in live performances as they keep their momentum toward the future with Burn Your Dead. More tours, more fests, more trips abroad – and most of all – more evolution, because as YOTC put …In the Shadows Below behind them, they answer that album’s massive, rolling groove with a boldness of stylistic expanse that on Burn Your Dead serves as a funereal procession for the expectations of anyone who thought they knew what they were getting from the band. Pure, multifaceted fire.

Tracklisting:
1. Cold
2. The Descent
3. Burn Your Dead
4. The Howl
5. And They Sang…

Band:
Amy Tung: Bass / Vocals / Keys
Jon Barrysmith: Drums

On Tour:
Thu Sep 28 – Bozeman MT – The Filling Station
Fri Sep 29 – Black Hills Vinyl – Rapid City SD
Sat Sep 30 – Stoned Meadow of Doom – Sioux Falls SD
Sun Oct 1 – Kansas City – TBA
Mon Oct 2 – Highland’s Taproom Metal Monday – Louisville KY
Tue Oct 3 – Frequency – Madison WI
Wed Oct 4 – Reggie’s Music Joint – Chicago IL
Thu Oct 5 – Green Bay WI – TBA
Friday Oct 6 – Doomed and Stoned – Indianapolis IN
Saturday Oct 7 – Doomed and Stoned – Indianapolis IN
Sunday Oct 8 – Des Moines IA – TBA
Monday Oct 9 – Denver CO – TBA
Tuesday Oct 10 – Salt Lake City UT – Beehive Social Club
Wednesday Oct 11- Bottom of the Hill – San Francisco CA
Thursday Oct 12 – Bunk Bar – Portland, OR
Friday Oct 13 – Manette Saloon – Bremerton WA
Saturday Oct 14 – Eugene OR – The Black Forest

Pre-orders: https://yearofthecobra.bandcamp.com/album/burn-your-dead

http://yearofthecobra.com
https://www.facebook.com/yearofthecobraband/
https://yearofthecobra.bandcamp.com/
stbrecords.bigcartel.com/
https://stbrecords.bandcamp.com/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/STB-Records/471228012921184

Year of the Cobra, …In the Shadows Below (2016)

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Low Flying Hawks Announce Genkaku Due Aug. 25

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

low flying hawks

Atmospheric heavy rockers Low Flying Hawks are set to release their second full-length for Magnetic Eye Records this August. In keeping with the spirit of their 2016 debut, Kofuku (review here), the new offering, Genkaku, boasts a Japanese title and copious affiliation with the Melvins, be it through collaboration with drummer Dale Crover and bassist Trevor Dunn or producer Toshi Kasai, who also helmed the debut. This time they even go so far as to ring up King Buzzo himself for a couple of guest vocal appearances.

These sonic personae, as well as James Plotkin (Khanate, etc.), who mastered, form a circle around Low Flying Hawks‘ initials-only core two-piece of vocalist/guitarist/bassist EHA and bassist/guitarist/vocalist AAL, who’ve successfully managed to keep their own identities obscure while letting the focus be on the breadth of their sonic output — a clear and purposeful choice that one imagines will be another continuity from the first record to this one.

The PR wire checks in with artwork, band comment and album details:

low flying hawks genkaku

LOW FLYING HAWKS to Release New LP, ‘Genkaku’, August 25

Hazy, Heavy Record Featuring Members of Melvins, Mr. Bungle and Big Business Set for Summer Release

LOW FLYING HAWKS is a self-described “ambient metal” band featuring dummer Dale Crover (The Melvins) and bassist Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle) alongside multi-instrumentalists EHA and AAL. The group will release its sophomore LP, Genkaku, on August 25 via Magnetic Eye Records. Produced, recorded and mixed by Toshi Kasai (Melvins, Big Business) at Sound of Sirens and mastered by James Plotkin (Electric Wizard, Moon Duo) Genkaku is the follow-up to LOW FLYING HAWKS’ 2016 debut, K?fuku.

Unlike its predecessor, Genkaku (Japanese for “hallucination” or illusion”) also features Melvins frontman King Buzzo, who lends his unique vocals to the album’s titanic lead track, “Smile”, as well as the awesomely-titled song “Space Wizard”. Decidedly doomier and boasting bigger hooks than the debut, Genkaku is more riff-filled land than post-genre shoegaze, overflowing with Melvins-ready guitar work and darkly intense music-as-mood. Like a rumbling rain cloud, the record moves and morphs growing, grumbling and growling before bursting into brilliant sheets of saturated sound that soak speakers with hovering showers of ferocious feedback and electric energy.

“What we are trying to accomplish is that the listener enters a state of trance and confusion. Pounding guitars full of sludgy undertones fill ‘Genkaku’ from beginning to end, building to a sinister and almost out of body experience,” says both AAL and EHA. “This is ideal for anyone who´s willing to let go and hand over control to this hallucinating monster of a record.”

Dale Crover adds, “It was great recording with Low flying Hawks. Their psychotic, psychedelic, mind-bending compositions will take you on a journey through your inner space.” Toshi Kasai calls the finished album “A delicious mud-cake by LFH, flavored by Dale Crover and Trevor Dunn.”

Track listing:
1.) Smile
2.) Uncool
3.) Virgin Witch
4.) Space Wizard
5.) Hallucination
6.) Twilight
7.) Sinister Waves

Pre-order Genkaku at this location.

https://www.facebook.com/Lowflyinghawks-1626755734268513/
https://lowflyinghawks.bandcamp.com/releases
http://magneticeyerecords.merchnow.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MagneticEyeRecords
http://store.merhq.com/

Low Flying Hawks, Kofuku (2016)

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

Posted in Features on June 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top-20-2017-so-far

The time has come to take a look at some of the best albums of 2017 so far. I hardly know where to start. In some ways, this list is harder to put together than the end-of-year one that comes out in December, because by then not only do you have the full year to draw on, but it’s easier to sort of put a narrative to the course of events of 12 months, whereas in this case, obviously, the story is half told. So I guess if the list feels incomplete, that might be part of why.

Even with just six months to work from, the list has become fairly immense. I’ve been keeping track of 2017 releases since about September of last year, and the amount of stuff that’s come through has been staggering. Every year brings good music, and the basic fact of the matter is that if you don’t think so it’s because you’re either unwilling to find it or unwilling to let yourself hear it, but 2017 has been a multi-tiered assault of sounds from all over the world, and it seems like whatever you might be into, the universe stands ready to accommodate.

There’s a lot to say about that — is the market flooded? — but it’s a topic for a different post. I’ll keep it short here and just say that as always, it’s an honor to be covering the stuff that I cover and that I deeply appreciate you taking the time to read. I hope if there’s a release you feel deeply passionate about that you don’t see on my list below that you’ll please let me know about it in the comments.

Also, please note that in order to qualify for this list, a record had to come out on or before June 9. That’s the cutoff.

Okay, here goes:

The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

elder reflections of a floating world

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World
2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War
3. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe
4. Colour Haze, In Her Garden
5. Atavismo, Inerte
6. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us
7. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust
8. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn
9. The Obsessed, Sacred
10. Mothership, High Strangeness
11. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma
12. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
13. Alunah, Solennial
14. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical
13. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
14. Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
15. PH, Eternal Hayden
16. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
17. T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
18. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable
19. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
20. Lord, Blacklisted

Notes

If you keep up with this site at all, there probably aren’t a lot of surprises in there. These are all records that have been discussed at great length over the last six months, reviewed, streamed, analyzed, whathaveyou’d all the way. If you don’t believe me, search any of the names. Still, as far as my personal picks go and who I think has crafted something special over the last six months, this feels pretty representative to me. I managed to live for a full week with the list as you see it above, without making changes. That’s usually my standard.

And as always, it’s a combination of what I’ve listened to most and what I feel has had the greatest impact thus far into the year. Between the two, there was little doubt Elder would take the top spot. I’ve probably listened to the All Them Witches record more than anything else this year, including Elder’s Reflections of a Floating World, but the truth is the Massachusetts trio are working at a level of their own making in terms of their sonic progression, and that they’ve emerged as one of if not the most pivotal American underground heavy rock bands going. The situation was much the same when they put out Lore in 2015 and claimed that year’s top-album spot, but even since then their sound has expanded and they continue to demand ultimate respect.

As for the All Them Witches album — absolute stunner. The increased depth of their arrangements on Sleeping Through the War came at no expense of songwriting, resulting in ultra-memorable material that could either wash over you with melody or shove you out of your seat with the force of its rhythm, and that band continues to be a treasure. No other way to put it.

From there, we move into what I think are the four best heavy psych offerings of 2017 so far, with Samsara Blues Experiment, Colour Haze, Atavismo and Sun Blood Stories, in that order. Samsara Blues Experiment’s return has been a joy to witness and their first album in four years lived up to the occasion. Colour Haze expanded the palette from their last album with In Her Garden and proved as immersive as always. I’m still getting to know that record. Atavismo’s second full-length upped the progressive influences without losing fluidity or cohesion in songwriting, and Sun Blood Stories’ hypnotic shoegaze offered expansive thrills and a sense of varied, beautifully crafted exploration.

A pair of exciting young bands thereafter in Colorado’s Cloud Catcher, whose boogie is right-on-right-on and whose development continues to hold much potential, and Vokonis, whose crushing riffs on The Sunken Djinn were met with an increased focus on structure and tightening of approach that maximized overall impact. The Obsessed’s unexpected return could only be called a triumphant one, and Mothership’s third long-player found them working in a richer sense of mood than previous outings, adding yet more character to what was still a blast of good-time rock and roll. They round out the top 10 in full command of who they are as players.

Granted, the next 10 releases are kind of all over the place, but I think that just shows the overarching quality of work being done across the board. From Spaceslug’s melodic stoner-psych to Electric Moon’s studio return — so, so, so good — to Alunah’s continued growth in nature-worshiping heavy and Arc of Ascent’s comebacker of rolling heavy riffs and metaphysical themes, there’s been so much to take in. I especially like the pairing of Rozamov and Siena Root as a sense of scope for 2017 so far; the former being so dark and crushing and the latter who lived up to calling their record A Dream of Lasting Peace. You want to know both ends of the spectrum? There they are.

PH’s Eternal Hayden gets a nod for its effective reset of the context of that band following the completion of their trilogy of albums, and Geezer’s Psychoriffadelia might have been something of a tossoff in the making, but the level at which the New York trio jams nonetheless assures it a spot here. Plus, a Nazareth cover. So duh.

I couldn’t help but include T.G. Olson’s Foothills Before the Mountain on the list as the Across Tundras frontman creeps closer to a full-band sound for his solo work, adding to his acoustic singer-songwriter foundations, and the crush of Telekinetic Yeti’s post-Sleep riffing evoked so many nods I thought they deserved one here as well. Placing The Devil and the Almighty Blues was difficult, but especially after seeing them live, I felt like I had a better idea of where they were coming from on II, so knew they belonged somewhere, even if it was tucked in at the end. And of course, Lord. Always killer, always experimenting, always chaotic. Never have grind and sludge sounded more cohesive together. They’re the band I wish Soilent Green had become, and yes, I mean that.

Honorable Mention

Let’s do another 10 releases, shall we?

21. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
22. Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages
23. Brume, Rooster
24. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
25. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
26. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
27. Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
28. Steak, No God to Save
29. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
30. Dool, Here Now There Then

And just to make the point, here are even more worthy of note in this space:

Elbrus, Elbrus
Cortez, The Depths Below
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Child, Blueside (a December 2016 release, maybe, but I think the vinyl was this year, so whatever)
Pallbearer, Heartless
Spidergawd, IV
Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
Loss, Horizonless

There are of course other names as well that come to mind. Like I said at the outset, it’s a crowded field: Hymn, Arbouretum, Green Meteor, REZN, Demon Head, Galley Beggar, Devil’s Witches, Orango, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, Mt. Mountain, Vokonis, Solstafir, High Plains, on and on.

Also worth highlighting several really, really quality live records that have surfaced so far this year. I didn’t really know where to place them among the other studio offerings, but they deserve note for sure:

Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
Enslaved, Roadburn Live

More to Come

Of course, we’re still just barely halfway through the year, so keep on the lookout for more to follow. If you didn’t see my massive 200+ albums to watch for list in January, it has many that have come out and many more still to surface, but here are a few highlight names as well that you’re going to want to keep an eye on in the months ahead:

Queens of the Stone Age
Radio Moscow
The Atomic Bitchwax
Kadavar
Ufomammut
The Midnight Ghost Train
Moon Rats
Clamfight
Egypt
the Melvins
Bison Machine
Seedy Jeezus
High on Fire
Monster Magnet

Thanks for Reading

Before I check out, I’d like to give special mention to Lo-Pan’s In Tensions EP as the best short release of the year thus far. Along with EPs from Godhunter, Kings Destroy, Solace and Shroud Eater, it has assured those seeking a quick fix are handed their ass in return for asking.

Well, that’s about where I’m at with it. As per usual, I’m sure there are things I forgot and/or left off here, because I’m human and whatnot, so please if you have something to add, feel free to do so in the comments so long as you can keep it cordial. No name calling. I’m sensitive and you’ll ruin my whole day. I mean that.

Thanks again for being a part of this and here’s to an excellent rest of 2017.

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Six Dumb Questions with Summoner

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on June 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

summoner

It’s been five years since Summoner released their debut album, Phoenix, and nearly 10 since they first got together. In that span of time, the Boston-area four-piece have undertaken a willful creative development that’s led to the construction of material that cascades, careens, lands hard when it wants to or seems to float and drift away of its own volition. Their second long-player, Atlantian (discussed here), arrived in 2013, and after a four-year stretch of writing and playing shows, they follow it with the new, third full-length offering, Beyond the Realm of Light, and reach a fresh stage in terms of both craft and maturity.

Delivered like its predecessor through Magnetic Eye Records, the six-song Beyond the Realm of Light stands as proof that modern heavy need not choose between sonic weight and a progressive sensibility. Working in the model of thoughtful composition pioneered by the likes of Baroness and Mastodon, the foursome of bassist/vocalist Chris Johnson, guitarists A.J. Peters and Joe Richner and drummer Scott Smith create a full-album fluidity between songs like “The Huntress” and “Beyond the Realm of Light,” or between the crashing “The Emptiness” and the ambient beginning of “Skies of the Unknown,” the latter almost hopeful in its thrust as befitting a lyrical narrative playing out across the record’s span.

With considerable road-time under their collective belt and more to come — including a stop later this summer at Psycho Las Vegas (info here) — the still-fresh release of Beyond the Realm of Light provides Summoner their best reason yet to get out and spread their high-energy performance and writing style to as many ears as they can. In the Q&A that follows, Peters — with a quick contribution from Johnson as well — discusses the band’s writing processes, the recording of Beyond the Realm of Light, their upcoming plans and more.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

summoner beyond the realm of light

Six Dumb Questions with Summoner

Tell me how the songs came together for Beyond the Realm of Light. You were pretty assiduous in documenting the writing process for Atlantian. Was there ever any consideration toward doing the same kind of thing this time around?

The new album actually came together quite quickly as far as the writing was concerned. Our writing process hasn’t really changed much over the years. Sometimes we have bouts of writer’s block, but when things start happening they happen quickly. We didn’t really consider documenting the writing process too much with this one. Most of the time it’s just the four of us standing around noodling and then going, “so what about this?” Other times we write solo at home and bring what we have to table when we get together. Honesty it’s not that interesting of a process, haha.

It’s been four years since Atlantian came out, whereas it was only a year between Phoenix and Atlantian. You were doing shows, I know, but was there a reason for the longer stretch between albums? Do you feel the span affected the outcome of Beyond the Realm of Light at all? If so, how?

I feel like we had a lot more going on individually between Atlantian and BTROL than we did between Phoenix and Atlantian. Jobs, family… life in general, really. From our perspective everything was pretty evenly spaced, since Phoenix was pretty much written in full long before we ever went into the studio with it. We had been playing most of the songs off of Phoenix live for way too long before we recorded it. Once Phoenix was recorded, and even before the record was done we had started writing Atlantian.

After Atlantian we fell into a groove of gigging on those tunes. Eventually we got bored with them and decided to start writing the new one. When you lay it out according to each actual release date/year it seems almost hard to believe it was that long between the last two albums. I don’t think the span between albums had too much of an effect on BTROL, other than the fact that we all grew a little more musically and brought those influences to the table.

How do you feel the band has grown over the course of the three Summoner albums? You’ve always struck me as very purposefully pushing yourselves forward in terms of sound. Where do you feel this progression is leading?

We’ve definitely taken a more concise approach to our music lately and it shows on the new album. We work with a “cut the fat” mantra. BTROL, being only six songs, definitely shows this. There were many riffs and ideas that died horrible deaths on their way to becoming finished songs. One day we would be messing around with an idea and just stop and look at each other and say “this sucks.” We’d all kind of nod in agreement, let out a sigh of relief and move on. Why waste your time on a song you’re not proud of just to fill time? Doesn’t make any sense.

We do make a conscious effort to push ourselves musically, but are careful not to step too far away from makes us Summoner. I wish I could tell you how, or in what way, we’ll grow in the future but it’s really hard to tell. I know we want to focus more on the driving and energetic segment of our sound, but that doesn’t mean we won’t write another “Let the Light In” or “Reclaimer.”

Is there a narrative arc to the lyrics on Beyond the Realm of Light? What theme or themes are the songs exploring, and ultimately, what’s the story being told?

I’m actually going to step aside and let Chris answer this one. There is a very definite theme to the lyrics that Chris came up with. He’s much better suited than I to answer…

Chris Johnson: Well, Beyond the Realm of Light is essentially a concept album at its core. It’s a little far out there, so bear with me…

In the somewhat distant future, we find the Earth in a state of emergency and decay due to man’s exploitation of our resources, forcing humanity to seek another planet capable of sustaining life. (Sounds familiar, right?) We find something suitable in the depths of space which seems to have had a previous civilization inhabiting it. Were they humans? Did they leave that planet for Earth or kill themselves off somehow? We may never know.

From there, we return to Earth to “gather the masses” to relocate humanity to this new/old planet. Some governments are on board, some aren’t, and those not down have threatened the people who chose to stay behind with nuclear devastation. In the end, we launch our vessels and are peering down through the windows of the great ships at “the Earth below, awash with flame” and, with heavy hearts, begin our long journey towards our new home in skies of the unknown.

Summoner’s work in the studio always sounds so clean, so sharp in its delivery. How do you feel Beyond the Realm of Light represents what Summoner do live compared to its predecessors?

This is something we really focused on when recording this one. We wanted BTROL to be a much better representation of us live than the previous two albums. We’ve always tracked the meat and potatoes of our songs live as a band, but sonically we wanted something completely different. We really changed it up in the studio this time, from mics and mic placement to layering and production. We took a more stripped-down approach. One thing that really bothered us about Phoenix and Atlantian was that they didn’t sound like us live. They were tracked, mixed and mastered more like doom records and less like rock and roll albums. We wanted BTROL to be in-your-face and aggressive and I think we did pretty well achieving that.

You’ll play Psycho Las Vegas in August. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Well, we are really excited to be playing Psycho this year. The bill has shaped up to be quite impressive and we are truly humbled to be sharing the stage with all of those amazing bands. We only have one show in Boston lined up before that, with Mutoid Man, Helms Alee and Primitive Weapons, but there are some other things in the works for June/July.

In late September, we are playing Forge Fest in Providence which will be a blast also. Other than that we are anxiously awaiting the release of The Planet of Doom, which we contributed a yet to be released tune to, and also recording our song for the Magnetic Eye Records release of Pink Floyd’s The Wall [Redux]. We have also started putting together some ideas for our next release, so we’ll see…

Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light (2017)

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Review & Full Album Stream: WhiteNails, First Trip

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 24th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

whitenails first trip

[Click play above to stream First Trip by WhiteNails in its entirety. Album is out Friday, May 26, via Magnetic Eye Records.]

Quebecois six-piece WhiteNails make a resoundingly cohesive impression with First Trip, which telegraphs its self-awareness even unto its title. Delivered through Magnetic Eye Records, it is the debut release from the Canadian outfit, not just their first full-length, and as an opening argument it speaks to the band having come together last year with some clear idea of what they wanted to do sonically, in form and maybe general style if not the direct specifics of cuts like “Dead in Time” or “Damn Judas.” A mission to make catchy, uptempo, soulful heavy rock, perhaps, and First Trip is the result of that from the first-name-only lineup of vocalist Darcy, guitarists Danahé and Taylor, bassist JP, keyboardist Vince and drummer Maxx, who for all the personnel — they also bring in guest vocalist Gab Shonk on the aforementioned “Dead in Time” — don’t come across as overblown in the slightest.

Throughout the eight-track/41-minute offering, they endeavor to hone a foundation of songwriting to underscore the boogie in cuts like “In My Blood” and the thrust of opener “Shanghaied,” and though their arrangements are full, it’s perhaps in part thanks to the vocal command of Darcy that the record remains grounded, as from the leadoff onward, his presence as a frontman comes through in verses and chorus alike, whether he’s surfing the riff of “Shanghaied” reminding somewhat of Black Thai‘s Jim Healey or calling to mind Gozu‘s Marc Gaffney in “In My Blood” and the layered harmonies of “Silver Linings.” Gozu, in some of their harder-edged post-Queens of the Stone Age swagger, would seem to be an influence across the board.

Still, those vocals are well-balanced in the mix, and the aesthetic remains modern throughout, with a full and willfully distortion driving Danahé and Taylor‘s guitars that finds its most-doom moment in the penultimate “Brazen Bull” after a variety of executions playing around the central heavy rock theme in terms of pace, push and the structure of the riffs that lead, be it the all-forward movement of “Shanghaied” welcoming the listener to First Trip by pulling them through an open doorway of accessibility, or the ultra-catchy companionship that track finds as “Damn Judas” leads off side B. Some of the titles convey a sense of darkness, whether it’s the chugging “Done and Gone” or “Dead in Time,” which come back to back after the opener, or “In My Blood” and “Damn Judas” later — even closer “The Crooked Lake” seems to have some measure of threat in the use of “crooked” — but it’s not until “Silver Linings” that one finds that darkness beginning to come to fruition.

whitenails (Photo Caroline Perron)

And though their cover art might lead one to go into the album immediately searching for an Uncle Acid influence, the amount of strain required to hear it in the riff of “Damn Judas” is enough to make me think it simply isn’t there at all. Okay then. Basically, the crux of First Trip sets itself toward pursuing a solid execution of varied heavy rock songcraft, and it most certainly gets there, building in momentum through the first five songs — if one is listening on CD/DL, the linear momentum flows notably well; I haven’t heard a vinyl edition but the track structure is definitely two-sided — before shifting into that darker terrain on “Silver Linings” and “Brazen Bull” and airing out a bit of psychedelia on “The Crooked Lake,” which marks the most patient stretch of the record and a departure from the preceding ground covered.

Particularly for a debut, it would likely be enough for WhiteNails to acknowledge the need for aural diversity, let alone actually bring it to fruition in the manner they do, but they find a balance between consistency of tone and changes in structure and mood that hints either at prior experience among the members in bands together or at an especially quick-in-developing chemistry at work. One way or the other, the reward is palpable throughout First Trip, up to and including the closer, which with its more prominent keys and fluid guitar lines nods at Vangelis-style atmospherics early and drifts into a markedly satisfying linear build in its second half to pay off the album as a whole. It’s a long way from the party vibe of “Dead in Time” or “In My Blood,” which would seem to be the most motion-minded cuts along with “Damn Judas,” which is a highlight overall, but it serves as an encouraging last-minute defiance of the expectation WhiteNails have already put in effort to establish.

That is to say, they’ve set forth their rules and then almost immediately, gleefully broken them. Again, this is something a penchant one generally expects a group to develop over time — and WhiteNails may yet have more anti-conventionalism up their collective sleeve; I wouldn’t speculate after only one release — but it serves notice to anyone willing to hear it that the band are not at all finished growing. So be it. While the destination where that growth might take them ultimately in terms of style feels open to a range of possibilities, it seems safer to bet that the underlying quality of songwriting will be a continuing factor from WhiteNails as they move forward, as it proves to be the essential statement made by their impressive and cogent first offering.

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Review & Track Premiere: Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Summoner-Beyond-the-Realm-of-Light

[Click play above to stream ‘Into Oblivion’ from Summoner’s Beyond the Realm of Light. Album is out May 12 on Magnetic Eye Records.]

As they approach a decade of making music together, Boston four-piece Summoner bring forth the album which all that time seems to have been building toward. One can quibble on the “decade” figure depending on when they got going under their original moniker, Riff Cannon, but what’s undeniable is the mindful songcraft and crisp delivery across the two sides of Beyond the Realm of Light, released on Magnetic Eye Records as their third full-length. The basic elements at play aren’t all that different from what Summoner offered on 2013’s Atlantian (discussed here) or even their 2012 debut, Phoenix, but from the patience they bring to the post-rock textures early in “Skies of the Unknown” to the crushing roll in the apex of their near-eight-minute title-track, there’s a mature sensibility underlying this material that steers itself away from self-indulgence.

Instead, what bassist/vocalist Chris Johnson, guitarists A.J. Peters and Joe Richner and drummer Scott Smith conjure is a dynamic and efficient six-song/32-minute run that never stagnates and never overwhelms the listener with its technicality — though, as ever, Summoner tear it up; check the solo in “Into Oblivion” to confirm — at the cost of the impact either of a given track or the record as a whole. They pull together a brisk full-album flow that’s not overthought or hyper-cerebral, and while some will hear the initial vocal melody of opener “New Sun” and the subsequent “The Huntress” and compare them to Elder for their locality and proggy bent, Summoner emerge from Beyond the Realm of Light as their own entity driven by their own motivations toward their own ends.

That in itself is significant, as is the fact that Beyond the Realm of Light arrives four years after Atlantian, which itself came only one year after their debut. Summoner have played shows all the while, and no doubt a good portion of “real life” happens in a four-year stretch as well, but as “New Sun” and “The Huntress” unfold the okay-are-we-all-here-good-let’s-do-this-thing beginning of the album, the band displays a growth in their songwriting that simply can’t be faked. At four and five minutes, respectively, the opening duo are a pivotal introduction — not to mention a third of the tracklist, which is only six songs, remember — to where Summoner are at this stage in their tenure, and though they’re energetic and given to a thrust that’s long been present in their sound, the band themselves don’t actually sound hurried or like they’re in anything but total control of their direction.

In the sphere of modern progressive heavy rock, post-Baronesstodon, that’s important, but more so is the balance with which Summoner execute their prog influence, and the rocking start of “New Sun” and “The Huntress” leading into the longer, grander title-track is essential in establishing that. It affects the whole album following, so that when they do begin to unroll “Beyond the Realm of Light” itself, with its measured drum march, far-back echoing clean-sung verse and stomping largesse, the effect is that the palette is gracefully expanded rather than haphazardly thrown together. Summoner push further, and further still as “Beyond the Realm of Light” digs into a quick atmospheric midsection before resuming its roll toward a piano-topped apex and subsequent ambient epilogue, but because they’ve shown such mastery of their songwriting up to this point, there’s no question about the listener being able to follow them on the drifting fadeout that ends the record’s first half.

summoner

If there’s a narrative at work in Beyond the Realm of Light, one finds it growing richer on side B along with the band’s sound, a resolution perhaps in the melodic hook of “The Emptiness,” the multifaceted push of “Skies of the Unknown” and aforementioned bring-it-all-full-circle closer “Into Oblivion” that complements and builds on what the band accomplished with “New Sun,” “The Huntress,” and the title-track. One doesn’t want to speculate on their methodology in piecing the record together, but part of the front-to-back flow that proves so resonant across this still-brief span is a perceptible deepening of the exploration side A began.

To wit, “The Emptiness” is short at just over four minutes, but offers one of Beyond the Realm of Light‘s most engaging moments in its chorus, and the longer “Skies of the Unknown” seems to answer the title-track’s purposes with the winding course of its own, led as ever by the guitars through purposeful shifts in tempo and texture through its 6:42 that draw together the nuance thus far displayed and at about 4:30 in align them toward the solo crescendo of the album as a whole, which pulls back to the NWOBHM-style gallop and hook to finish ahead of the introductory crash of “Into Oblivion,” continuing the momentum with fist-raising righteousness. A last forward shove in “Into Oblivion” makes a fitting way to tie Beyond the Realm of Light together, but even this is just a part of the overarching and more complex trajectory Summoner have set for themselves.

Accordingly, when they hit into the last solo and around again through one last verse and chorus before a somewhat sudden, thudding stop, the sense of determination isn’t lost. It’s not that Summoner couldn’t say more or couldn’t keep going — Atlantian was 43 minutes, Phoenix 49 — but that they’ve come to know what best serves the purposes of the outing’s entirety, and the length of Beyond the Realm of Light becomes another aspect emblematic of that; less immediate than the progress they’ve made in songwriting or honing a flow between a given song’s parts and between the songs themselves, certainly, but important nonetheless. On the whole, Beyond the Realm of Light finds Summoner a more grounded, more engaging band than they’ve ever been, but among the most encouraging signals it sends is that even as they enter this new stage of their time together, they show no signs of slowing their creative development, and it is ultimately that will toward growth that defines them.

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