Dopelord, Weedpecker, Major Kong & Spaceslug, 4-Way Split: Finding a Place

Posted in Reviews on May 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

dopelord weedpecker major kong spaceslug split

They come from Lublin, from Wroclaw, and from Warsaw, and they bring riffs in bulk, but what’s even more striking about the four-way split from Polish heavyweights Dopelord, Weedpecker, Major Kong and Spaceslug — in that order — is the level of diversity between the bands and just how much of their own personality each one brings to the proceedings. These are four of Poland’s best, to be sure, but by no means representative of the entire underground in the country — that is, they’re not Poland’s only four heavy bands, nor do they represent the entire stylistic swath of their compatriots (Sunnata and Belzebong walk by and wave) — but in terms of groups who’ve emerged over the past five-plus years in order to make an impact on the wider European sphere, they’re a suitable representation, and with an exclusive cut from each act involved, the self-released CD and LP makes an all the more fitting sampler of what Poland’s long underrated scene has to offer. It’s telling that 4-Way Split is a DIY release, and it’s also telling that, having come out in February, most of the LP editions and CDs are mostly if not entirely sold out.

The underlying message would seem to be that Polish heavy deserves a broader look it hasn’t yet gotten, and the audio from each of these bands lives up to that narrative. They each have their own measure of accomplishments and have developed an identity of their own, whether that comes in the form of Dopelord‘s tonal largesse or the grunge-infused melodic wash of Spaceslug, and as this release demonstrates, the bands aren’t so much united by a singular approach — they don’t all sound the same — as they are by the fact that each one has embarked on finding its own place in terms of sound. Some of this can be related to geographic spread, with Lublin, which is home to Major Kong in the west, while Spaceslug‘s native Wroclaw is further east and Warsaw, from whence come Dopelord and Weedpecker is a bit further north on the eastern side of the country. But the diversity of influence would seem to speak more to a general creative will than the fact that these acts simply represent different scenes within the country.

Even just Dopelord and Spaceslug, in opening and closing the release and both representing the capital, have markedly different approaches. It’s the former’s “Toledo” that provides the seven-minute leadoff/longest track (immediate points), and Dopelord, who’ve kicked around since the 2012 release of their debut, Magick Rites (discussed here), show that they, almost in parallel to a band like Monolord have managed to carve an identity for themselves out of a core Electric Wizard influence. There is perhaps a bit of subtle commentary as a sample tops the initial bassline saying, “A city of the dead… the living dead” as “Toledo” gets started, but while what ensues may be informed by zombie horror, its procession is nonetheless emblematic of the band’s reaching toward an international aesthetic, taking something from outside and making it their own. This is essentially the story of how any “scene” organically develops, and as Poland’s scene has over the course of this decade, like Greece or even Australia, Dopelord have helped pave the way for others to follow.

dopelord weedpecker major kong spaceslug vinyl

One might say the same for Weedpecker, who by now have become a progressive enough group that some part of them probably wishes they had a different moniker. 2018’s III (discussed here) was their label debut for Stickman Records, and their “Rise Above” inclusion on 4-Way Split would seem even to push past that offering’s gorgeous melodic wash. Still holding to the weighted tones of their early work, they too would seem to have found their niche in terms of style, and at just five and a half minutes, “Rise Above” conveys that achievement with telling efficiency. It’s at least a minute shorter than anything they had on III, so it might be indicative of some tightening of their craft in the future, or it could just be a one-off. Either way, the flow Weedpecker hone in that relatively brief time is essential to understanding where they come from as a unit and what they bring to this release and Polish heavy as a whole, so mission well accomplished.

Side B leads off with the instrumentalist Major Kong, who bring forth the 6:11 “The Mechanism” and tap into a core modus of riffing that would seem to know no borders. Theirs might be the least nuanced of the four cuts here, but even for the lack of vocals there are backing swirls deep amid low end and other bits of sonic detailing, bass runs, etc., to dig into, and they demonstrate that if you’ve got groove, you’ve got everything. Some of Major Kong‘s work in the past has tended toward a burlier plod — the trio’s last LP was 2017’s Brace for Impact — but “The Mechanism,” while still out to leave a bruise or two, doesn’t want for melody. It is a clear-headed take on instrumental heavy rock that is pulled off with a live-feeling energy and finds the band able to portray a sense of structure even without the use of traditional verses and choruses. No doubt it should, as Major Kong have been at it for the better part of a decade, but the firmness of their purpose is refreshing and shows yet another side of Polish heavy.

Speaking of, I’m not sure another Polish band have come along in this decade who’ve been able to make a mark as quickly as Spaceslug. The three-piece have worked quickly to issue three full-lengths since 2016 — 2018’s Eye the Tide (review here) was among the year’s essential releases — and the 4-Way Split capstone “Ahtmosphere” underscores their ongoing creative growth, with laid back push into a tonal and melodic wash that, even as the central line becomes, “The atmosphere is gone,” indeed wants nothing for ambience. A solo takes hold in the last minute to bring the track toward its drawn-out conclusion — things fall apart, or maybe just roll to a stop — and “Ahtmosphere” rings out to 6:53 to bookend with Dopelord‘s “Toledo” and further highlight the sense of identity so crucial in what these bands are doing.

Each one has their root influences, and each one has done the work necessary to push past them and discover who they really are as a band. That’s not necessarily a process with a solid ending — who they are will inevitably continue to change — but this split feels like a declarative moment on the part of some of Poland’s strongest acts, telling those who care enough to hear them that their home country deserves consideration as a significant contributor to the greater European underground. They make the case well, and loud.

Dopelord, Weedpecker, Major Kong & Spaceslug, 4-Way Split (2019)

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Dopelord on Bandcamp

Weedpecker on Thee Facebooks

Weedpecker on Bandcamp

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Major Kong on Bandcamp

Spaceslug on Thee Facebooks

Spaceslug on Bandcamp

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Major Kong Set Sept. Release for Brace for Impact; New Song Posted

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

major kong

Polish riff aficionados Major Kong are giving a quick glimpse of their upcoming long-player, Brace for Impact, in the new streaming track ‘Rapid Star Formation.’ The cut is only a little over two minutes long, and one suspects that its fast push leads to some slower, weightier fare — would be a short album if not, but that could work too, of course — but still manages to showcase a bit of lumbering to offset the sprint, even if it’s an in-and-out kind of deal. Based in Lublin, the trio’s last offering was late-2016’s Brave New Kong (review here), which answered the heft of 2015’s Galactic Cannibalism (review here) with a crisper overall sound that seems to be a theme continuing into the new release. We’ll see when we get there, of course.

The band notes a September landing date for Brace for Impact, which is pretty quick considering they just wrapped the recording on July 1, and I’ll hope to have more to come either before or after it comes out. Until then, you can dig into “Rapid Star Formation” below:

major kong brace for impact

Major Kong – Brace for Impact

This is “Rapid Star Formation” from our upcoming third full-length called “Brace for Impact”. We are planning to release it at the beginning of September.

“Brace for Impact” – artwork by Maciej Kamuda.

As usual, all forms of spreading the word would be highly appreciated.

Enjoy!

Bio:
Major Kong was born in late 2010 in Lublin, Poland. From the beginning they were a non-vocal trio. Just riffs and heaviness exploding from the guitar, bass, drums, loud amps and large cabinets. Their first recording was “Orogenesis” EP, then in 2012 came the debut album called “Doom for the Black Sun”. In 2014 they moved to Warsaw and released “Doom Machine” – the second full-length. A simple joy of playing without any wicked studio-tricks continued with memorable gigs and more sets of tunes published in 2015: a split 12″ with Dopelord and an EP entitled “Galactic Cannibalism”.

Major Kong is:
Domel – bass
Misiek – guitar
Bolek – drums

https://www.facebook.com/majorkong666/
https://majorkong.bandcamp.com/
http://majorkong.bigcartel.com/
http://majorkong.8merch.com/

Major Kong, “Rapid Star Formation”

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Quarterly Review: Blues Pills, Arctic, Major Kong, Hands I Annul Yours, Storm Ross, Sinister Haze, Love Gang, Nap, Manthrass, Astral Cult

Posted in Reviews on October 5th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

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Today we hit the halfway mark on the Fall 2016 Quarterly Review. Always an occasion worthy of song — or, you know, another batch of 10 records — which happens to be precisely the plan. We pick up much where we left off yesterday in working across a broad spectrum of heavy, and though there are some major releases in here as seems to be the case increasingly, please make sure to note some of the deeper underground stuff as well, whether it’s Hands I Annul Yours or Astral Cult, as nothing here is included by mistake. Some of this I’m late on, some of it isn’t out yet, but all of it is pretty current, so if there’s something here you’ve missed, bigger name or smaller, I hope you get some use out of the lot of it. Here goes.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Blues Pills, Lady in Gold

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Blues Pills – like their Nuclear Blast labelmates in Witchcraft, Graveyard and Kadavar before them – have modernized. Their second album behind what became a landmark self-titled debut (review here) in 2014, Lady in Gold arrives with a slick production casting off the vintage vibes while holding onto classic sensibility and rightfully continuing to feature the soulfulness of vocalist Elin Larsson, joined in the band by guitarist Dorian Sorriaux, bassist Zack Anderson (ex-Radio Moscow) and drummer André Kvarnström (ex-Truckfighters). Its 10 tracks/40 minutes are unmistakably pop in their construction, and deftly, complexly arranged, and play to an alternative vision of commercial accessibility in rock that I’m not sure exists anymore even in Europe. Or needs to for an album like Lady in Gold to be successful. As they weave into and out of gospel and R&B conventions, Blues Pills take a bold step away from what one might have expected coming off their debut and ultimately define themselves precisely through that boldness. Whether that works for them in the longer term will have to remain to be seen. For now, Lady in Gold can be jarring at first, but one would be hard pressed to come up with something else out there that sounds quite like it.

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Nuclear Blast website

 

Arctic, Arctic

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Los Angeles three-piece Arctic make their entry into Southern California’s crowded sphere of heavy/psychedelic rock with their self-titled debut on Outer Battery Records. To call them skate rock seems fair enough, since guitarist Justin “Figgy” Figueroa (also Harsh Toke), bassist Don “The Nuge” Nguyen and drummer Frex are all professional skateboarders, but the core of Arctic’s five-track/half-hour-flat runtime is in mixing classic stoner impulses with heavy psych jamming. Most of the record is instrumental, including 8:51 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Over Smoked,” but vocals pop up to surprise on centerpiece “Burnt Ice” and return again in form drawled enough to justify their having called the nodding closer “High” as they do. At very least they make it believable. Between the dankness throughout, the guitar-led fuzz boogie of “Cryptic Black Sun,” the natural vibes, the Arik Roper cover art and the utter lack of pretense, Arctic summarize much of the appeal of the West Coast’s current heavy movement, and so, should have no trouble continuing to make their name as part of it.

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Outer Battery Records

 

Major Kong, Brave New Kong

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Three new tracks from Poland’s Major Kong is nothing to complain about. The Lublin trio have been not-at-all-quietly stomping out quality riffs for more than half a decade now, and with “Energy Whip,” “Escape from the Holodeck” and “Pollution Halo,” the instrumentalists are in and out of Brave New Kong in under 14 minutes, working quickly and efficiently with a crisp but still thick production that pulls away from some of the focus on crush from late last year’s Galactic Cannibalism EP (review here). That may well be the Brave New Kong to which the title refers, or it’s entirely possible they’re just having fun with their own moniker – subsequent offerings will tell the tale – but Major Kong continue to be a well-kept secret for Poland’s fertile heavy underground, and if nothing else, they sound like a group due for a third full-length album, which will hopefully arrive sooner than later.

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Major Kong BigCartel store

 

Hands I Annul Yours, Year of Death

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One could make the argument that given the swath of cultural icons passed away, 2016 is the Year of Death to which Hands I Annul Yours are alluding to in the title of their latest Major Destroyer Records three-song tape, but aside from the fact that they specify it was 2013, one seriously doubts they give a shit about famous people dying. Beginning with the drone and feedback noise of “Year of Death Part I,” the cassette moves into a 19-minute stomp and crush that’s as misanthropic as it is weighted, and much as there is one, the prevailing sentiment is less reflecting on loss than it is rolling out claustrophobic heft. Fair enough. Following the tape-only “Verloren,” “Year of Death Part II” boasts more sample manipulation and a discernible lead from the guitar, but finds its way toward abrasion as well, rounding out Year of Death with a dissolution into feedback that would seem to bring it full circle.

Hands I Annul Yours on Bandcamp

Major Destroyer Records website

 

Storm Ross, Welcome, Sunshine

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Fortunately, the fact that Storm Ross named the opening track of Welcome, Sunshine “We Need to be Fugazi Now, More than Ever” is only the start of the 37-minute/10-track LP’s experimentalist charms. The follow-up to the Michigan-based guitarist’s 2014 return full-length, The Green Realm (review here), this new collection finds Ross himself once again making his way through soundscapes manic and pastoral with like ease, and as one piece feeds into the next on “Please Don’t Kill My Family” and “Benzie County Farm Fire, 1973” or the synth-infused, tech-shredding “Atheon” fading into the penultimate post-rock drift of “The Smiler” later (think Dylan Carlson solo gone sentimental for the West, plus a late uptick of noise), the sense of Welcome, Sunshine as a whole work is even more palpable than was the last outing, even as Ross jumps from one style to another or incorporates keys, percussion, etc., following various whims toward a universally progressive payoff. Limited to 300 copies on yellow vinyl or on cassette through Already Dead Tapes and Records.

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Storm Ross on Bandcamp

 

Sinister Haze, Laid Low in the Dust of Death

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Virginian doomers Sinister Haze follow-up their 2015 debut EP, Betrayed by Time (review here), with the raw and scummed up Laid Low in the Dust of Death LP on STB Records. Recorded by Chad Davis (Hour of 13), it’s their first outing to feature Naam’s Eli Pizzuto on drums, and they do trip out a bit on guitar, but if you’re thinking slow space rock here you’ve got the wrong picture. Guitarist/vocalist Brandon Marcey (ex-Cough) and bassist/vocalist Sam Marsh lead the charge – the low-end is particularly satisfying in its roll throughout – and fellow newcomer JK (Lost Tribe) adds to the mix as well, so the spirit of Laid Low in the Dust of Death is bare-bones and classic, but positively covered in its titular dust. And maybe one or two other kinds. Six tracks split easily onto two sides, Sinister Haze’s first full-length outing comes across as a reaction against cleanliness in doom – call it gutter doom – flowing in its 12-minute closer “A Buried Dream,” but still clearly from the gut.

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STB Records BigCartel store

 

Love Gang, Love Gang

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The flute-laden heavy rock with which Denver’s Love Gang open their debut EP might stand among the best outcomes of Colorado’s marijuana legalization. A four-piece with a full sound only enhanced by the organ/woodwind work of Leo Muñoz, Love Gang self-release their first outing as four tracks that sap classic prog of its pretense and offer ‘70s heavy chemistry without leaning on vintage production. Guitarist/vocalist Kam Wentwork, bassist Grady O’Donnell and drummer Shaun Goodwin, together with Muñoz, get down to business on “Can’t Seem to Win” and the instrumental “Lonely Man,” go bluesy on “Highway” and boogie to a finish in “Sands of Time,” all the while sounding ready in their songcraft and execution for whatever label might come calling to stand behind their work. It’ll be somebody. Some bands take time to develop into their own sound, and some break the doors down out of the gate. Love Gang are the latter. Whenever they get around to a first full-length, I hope they remember to weird out a little bit.

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Love Gang on Bandcamp

 

Nap, Villa

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Though five of the eight tracks on Nap’s debut, Villa, have words at one point or another, it’s probably still fair to note the psych-inflected German trio as a mostly-instrumental outfit. The lyrics, when they’re there, arrive in short verses, lines included it seems more to create the impression of a human presence rather than affirm a structure. They are vague in theme for the most part, but there, though there isn’t a song in the bunch that goes as far as a chorus. No complaints. Nap, as a project, feel much more given toward the spacious and atmospheric exploration one finds in the midsection of second cut “Sabacia” than the four or five lines in the driving riff subsequent. As the record plays out, they incorporate elements of surf – surprisingly more on “Duna” and closer “Autobahn” than “Xurf,” but it could also be a Yawning Man influence surfacing – resulting in an overarching progressive feel that serves their fluidity on this first album.

Nap on Thee Facebooks

Nap on Bandcamp

 

Manthrass, Blues del Destino

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Heavy rocking Buenos Aires three-piece Manthrass issued their debut, Blues del Destino, last year and were subsequently snagged for release through South American Sludge Records, no doubt for the record’s cohesive, hard-driving bluesy push, natural tones and easy-grooving feel. The shuffle of “Una Flor” is a highlight, but neither will you find me arguing with the Pappo’s Blues cover “El Brujo y el Tiempo,” with a burlier vocal and a rolling progression that seems to sum up a lot of where Manthrass are coming from to start with, though closer “Navegar” gets down with more raucous fare. A quality first full-length with a crisp production balanced by a fervent live feel in the energy from the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mariano Castiiglioni, bassist/vocalist Ángel Rizzo and drummer/backing vocalist Fede Martínez, who are clearly versed in modern heavy as well as the classics, and are able to control their own destiny here accordingly.

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South American Sludge on Bandcamp

 

Astral Cult, The Sacred Flame

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Commencement comes on Astral Cult’s second album, The Sacred Flame, via the ritualized psychedelic incantations of “Prayer,” and from there, the Californian four-piece unfold a molten vision of heavy space rock that stands apart from a lot of what bands further sound in San Diego or even San Francisco are doing, vocalist Alexandre Lapuh, guitarist Ryan Musser, bassist Stefan Henskens and drummer Brazdon Goodwin (since replaced by Cristian Gonzalez) finding their footing in a lumbering and deceptively doomed “Quetzalcotl” after so much lysergic preaching on “Call of the Wild” and “Beacon of Darkness.” The range is surprising, but more so is the fluidity Astral Cult conjure between what are often disparate styles, the four-piece nearly hitting the 13-minute mark on the closing title-tack as they lay the two sides together, one into the next. It’s a rarer blend, but The Sacred Flame, at nearly an hour long, gears itself for maximum immersion.

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Astral Cult on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Saviours, Dave Heumann, The Dead Nobodies, Old Man Lizard, Kalamata, Unimother 27, Electric Magma, Mane of the Cur, Major Kong, Hellhookah

Posted in Reviews on January 7th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review winter

This, I suppose, is where things get interesting. As I normally would’ve been putting these reviews together, my laptop decided it had apparently had too much of riffs and decided to unceremoniously shit the bed. Naturally, this is a bummer of considerable proportion. As to what it means to the rest of this Quarterly Review, I guess we’ll find out over the next two days. For now I’m using an old machine of The Patient Mrs.‘ which, among other charms, has no battery in it and can only run when plugged in. Hope that cable doesn’t come loose. A goodly portion of the music I was going to review in this and tomorrow’s batch, of course, is on my busted, hopefully-soon-to-be-repaired laptop, but with Bandcamps and the fact that it’s not my first time hearing any of these records, I should be able to get by. Still, an element of adventure. Unexpected and shitty. Whether it’s repair or replace, I do not anticipate it will be a cheap fix, so I’ll relieve stress the best way I know how, which is by reviewing 10 albums in a row.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Saviours, Palace of Vision

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Strange to think of the decade that has passed since Oakland dual-guitar four-piece Saviours offered up their first EP, Warship, and yet it’s difficult to imagine the sphere of underground heavy rock without them. Particularly on the West Coast, their skate-thrash-meets-thick-grooves has had a marked influence, and their fifth full-length, 2015’s Palace of Vision (also their debut on Listenable Records), affirms their hard-driving take on classic metal even as “Flesh of Fire” and “Cursed Night” show an acute melodic awareness, the latter in doom-caked guitars and a rolling groove that, for many bands, would be enough to base their entire sound. For Saviours, it answers the gallop of the prior “The Beast Remains” and precedes 6:38 closer “The Seeker,” a vast departure from how raw they once were, but another example of the righteousness that has held steady throughout their growth. They’re an easy band to take for granted, mostly because they’re so damn reliable.

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Listenable Records

Dave Heumann, Here in the Deep

dave heumann here in the deep

The solo debut from underrated vocalist/guitarist Dave Heumann from likewise underrated Baltimore fuzz-folkers Arbouretum, Here in the Deep (on Thrill Jockey) basks in a glow of ’70s singer-songwriter intent, but tends to surprise with just how much is going on at any given moment. A solo album in name, it’s by no means minimal, even though it sometimes veers into guy-and-guitar methods, as on the sweet instrumental “Leaves Underfoot.” Elsewhere, arrangements of strings, drums, acoustic and electric guitars create a rich variety of mood and depth of mix, wistful on “Ides of Summer” and “Here in the Deep,” joyous on “Greenwood Side” and the pointedly psych-folk “Holly King on a Hill.” The seven-minute penultimate “Ends of the Earth” is as close as Heumann – who’s joined by a swath of players throughout, including the rest of Arbouretum on this track – comes to his main outfit stylistically, but by then the context is so much Here in the Deep‘s own and between that and the sonic clarity permeated all the while, it just becomes one more turn on an album that makes difficult ones seem effortless. Heumann remains a more accomplished songwriter than people know.

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Thrill Jockey Records

The Dead Nobodies, The Wake

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Between their underlying currents of grunge in the guitar, metal in the drums and an air of Foo Fighters in the vocals (“Blues in You”), Massachusetts trio The Dead Nobodies are up front about their ’90s influence. The 10-track, Tad Doyle-mixed/mastered The Wake is their third album behind 2014’s Return of the Tide and 2012’s Ride in with Death, and some of the material has been released by the band before on demos and other short offerings. Still, there’s an air of cohesion to the melodies that surface in “Somatic Complaints,” “Pancakes” and the later “Joel Returns.” Self-released on CD, the album eschews the trappings of genre – or at least of subgenre – for the most part and takes a more overarching approach to not-quite-metal, but what they’re doing seems to work for them, so I’m not inclined to argue. More hard rock than heavy rock for those inclined to split hairs, but accessible enough anyway.

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The Dead Nobodies on Bandcamp

Old Man Lizard, Old Man Lizard

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Making their debut on Heavy Psych Sounds, UK-based Old Man Lizard revisit a 2012 EP with what’s become their self-titled sophomore full-length. All the tracks from that five-song outing are included here, the order adjusted, and two more are added on in the closing duo “Craniopagus Parasiticus” and “A Gruesome Mess,” and what I don’t know is if the entire album was re-recorded, or it’s the old recording with two new songs tacked on, or all of it was recorded prior to the release of Old Man Lizard‘s 2014 debut LP, Lone Wolf vs. Brown Bear. It matters mostly because Old Man Lizard is good, and it’s a question of which came first to see how their progression is playing out, whether the techishred of “El Doctor” is the latest step or a first. Either way, the band skillfully brings together twanging riffs, neo-prog post-Mastodon crush and a swing that brings to mind the scope of Elder circa Dead Roots Stirring, sounding even more patient on the aforementioned “Craniopagus Parasiticus” than anything before it. If I continue to have questions about the release, the quality isn’t one of them.

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Heavy Psych Sounds

Kalamata, You

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An instrumental three-piece based in Hildesheim, Germany, Kalamata make their message pretty plain in the seven tracks of their debut album, You (originally released in 2014, with vinyl new from Pink Tank Records), which line up to form the sentence, “You have to die soon mother fucker.” The music is somewhat less aggressive, Peter Jaun leading the trio with open-spaced riffs as Maik Blümke fills those spaces — see “Have” — with an engaging rumble and drummer Olly Opitz holds tension until the gradual payoff hits. Never an easy thing for a band whose sound is by necessity based on dynamic to make a debut, but Kalamata pull off You without a second thought, making the centerpiece, “Die,” a highlight of classic semi-desert heavy rock that unfolds a patient linear build that leaves closer “Fucker” the task of rolling out the record’s largest nod. No doubt this material would make more of an impact live, but particularly on repeat listens, the depth of tone comes across well and the trio match their aggression to a crisp delivery.

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Pink Tank Records

Unimother 27, Frozen Information

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Italy’s futuristically named Unimother 27 – which sounds like the futurebot that raised some dystopian antihero protagonist of a novel/film franchise; I’m sure it’s a reference I’m too ignorant to know – is populated only by multi-instrumentalist and sometimes-vocalist Piero Ranalli. Ranalli, who also plays bass in Insider with his brother, Marco, progs out hard on the solo-project’s fourth full-length and first in eight years, Frozen Information (on Pineal Gland Lab). One expects a certain amount of indulgence on an album of keyboard-laden krautrock explorations, and “Clear Light Healing” certainly delivers on that, but from the opening “Moksha (to Huxley)” through the closing pair of “Hymn to the Hidden God” and “Brief Moments of Eternity,” which features an extended if vague spoken word from Ranalli, Frozen Information remains immersive and, with its quiet, maybe-programmed drums, hypnotic across its span. It is enduringly and endearingly weird, and experimental in a genuine way that most could only hope to be.

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Pineal Gland Lab

Electric Magma, Silverball

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The wah that shows up in the second half of “Tad” on Toronto instrumental trio Electric Magma‘s seventh full-length, Silverball, has a distinct mark of Clutchitude to it, but the band owe more to the Fu Manchu pastiche of trad heavy fuzz. Karma to Burn are a name that comes to mind out of necessity more than direct comparison, but the three-piece of guitarist Tim Reesor, drummer Neil Lukewich-Pheaton and bassist Tryg Smith aren’t quite so straightforward, “The Oscillator” tossing a Sleep-style riff into its middle and the later “Sidebar” finding itself on funkier ground altogether. The eight-track/32-minute release seems to set pinball as its central theme, starting with the intro “Silverball” and ending with the harmonica’d “Multiball,” but more than that, they’re preaching a riff-led gospel that the converted should have no trouble getting on board with, the band putting up no pretenses as to doing anything more than having a good time.

Electric Magma on Thee Facebooks

Electric Magma website

Mane of the Cur, Three of Cups

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Portland, Oregon’s Mane of the Cur would seem to be making a reboot with the three-song Three of Cups EP, some shuffling of lineup establishing them as vocalist Melynda Amann, guitarist Shawn Mentzer, bassist Cory DeCaire, keyboardist “Nasty” Nate Baisch and drummer Blaine Burnham (ex-Lamprey). The five-piece outfit are quick to establish themselves somewhere between classic doom and cult rock, but while Three of Cups doesn’t have the most elaborate production I’ve heard this week, it seems to avoid a lot of the ’70s traditionalism that much of the style embraces so wholeheartedly. That’s not to say the gradually-deconstructed “Kiss of Neptune,” the lightly progressive “Prehistoric Bitch” and the noddingly ethereal “Foolish are Magic” don’t sound natural, just that they don’t sound like it’s 1972. This is to their credit, ultimately, since it only helps Three of Cups give a more individual impression overall, which can’t hurt leading to whatever the band decides to do next.

Mane of the Cur on Thee Facebooks

Mane of the Cur on Bandcamp

Major Kong, Galactic Cannibalism

major-kong-galactic-cannibalism

Polish instrumentalists Major Kong oversaw a vinyl release of their 2012 debut, Doom for the Black Sun (review here), in 2014 on Transubstans, but they’re once again working under their own banner for the four-song Galactic Cannibalism, a 24-minute (or thereabouts) riffpusher that’s set its controls for the heart of oblivion and is happy to tone-crush anything in its path. Guitarist Misiek, bassist Domel and drummer Bolek also released a split with Dopelord in 2015 on which the EP’s closer, “Magnetar,” also appeared, but Galactic Cannibalism has them all on their own, and unsurprisingly they nail it. They’re not doing anything outlandish stylistically, but they effectively conjure and capture big riffs and big nod, varying pace between “Supercluster,” “Diabolic Mind Control” and the mega-chugging “Morlock” to give a sense of flow, but keeping in mind the next plus-sized groove, which seems always to be right around the corner. With two full-lengths out, I’m a little surprised they went for a shorter release rather than a third album, but they make it hard to argue.

Major Kong on Thee Facebooks

Major Kong on Bandcamp

Hellhookah, Endless Serpents

hellhookah endless serpents

Lithuanian two-piece Hellhookah make their debut with the full-length Endless Serpents, a seven-track/35-minute collection of tracks that’s shy neither about showcasing its influences — it caps with a cover of Saint Vitus’ “Born too Late,” for example — nor about rolling molasses-thick grooves one into the next. Recording as guitarist/bassist/vocalist Arnas and drummer Gintare, they meter out dense tonality and traditional formulations in the mission-setting title-track, which follows the somewhat quicker opener “A Storm in the Hidden World.” Rhythmically, they add some shuffle to “No Brakes,” “The Overman’s Eye” and even the midsection of “The Way,” which is the longest cut here at 6:34 and presumably the end of what would be a vinyl side A, but the core sensibility and atmosphere of doom is maintained throughout, and as the instrumental “Free Fall” leads into that aforementioned take on “Born too Late,” there’s no doubt as to where Hellhookah’s heart lies. Formative and raw it may be, but Endless Serpents hits its marks as the beginning of the band’s progression.

Hellhookah on Thee Facebooks

Hellhookah on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Blues Pills, Moab, Monobrow, Prisma Circus, Major Kong, Mope

Posted in Radio on July 3rd, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Click here to listen.

Lots to get to on this holiday week, but I didn’t want to let the Radio Adds slide any longer than I already have. As ever, there’s a lot of good stuff joining the ranks, and hopefully if you listen, you find something you dig. That’s what it’s all about. Also about giving me a never-ending playlist to listen to while I vacuum, apparently. But still, definitely both.

You’ll note six adds instead of five this time around. Every now and then there’s just too much going on to play by your own limits.

The Obelisk Radio Adds for July 3, 2014:

Blues Pills, Blues Pills


The awaited self-titled debut from Blues Pills arrives via Nuclear Blast in August and finds the four-piece with the blazing rhythm section of bassist Zack Anderson and drummer Cory Berry culled from the former ranks of Radio Moscow, French guitarist Dorian Sorriaux and Swedish frontwoman Elin Larsson almost frighteningly cohesive and cognizant of their blues rock lineage. Larsson does a solid Tina Turner on opener “High Class Woman” — as much as anybody can — and Sorriaux quickly proves himself a wunderkind in classic shuffle. Blues Pills offer all the heavy ’70s influence one could ask with less of the retro aesthetic, giving their first record a refreshing charge, though closer “Little Sun” has plenty of Graveyard-style melancholy for those looking to hear it. A relatively subdued midsection in “Black Smoke,” “River” and “No Hope Left for Me” adds emotional depth, but when Blues Pills decide to tear it up, as on “Devil Man,” they’re more than able to do so. A dynamic first full-length from an obviously powerful four-piece. On Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast.

Major Kong, Doom for the Black Sun


A two-years-later limited vinyl issue of Polish instrumental stoner doomers Major Kong‘s Doom for the Black Sun debut long-player courtesy of Transubstans Records should be a welcome advent for those who worship riffs, as the trio clearly do. The tracklist is shifted some from the original release and the artwork has changed, but Major Kong are true to the Kyuss reference of their album’s title in their commitment to heavy nod ‘n’ roll. Fuzz abounds and the grooves are smooth as “Witches on My Land” opens up into “The Swamp Altar,” each song getting progressively longer until bassist Domel, guitarist Misiek and drummer Bolek arrive at the 11-minute finale of “Primordial Gas Clouds,” a huge jam peppered by airy psychedelic soloing that doesn’t so much build to a grand finish as it does melt the album down into a molten stew of reverb and fermented buzz. Major Kong released a subsequent single, “Sequoia” early in 2013 and a follow-up full-length in Jan. 2014’s Doom Machine, so there’s plenty of ground to cover for further investigation. On Bandcamp, on Thee Facebooks, Transubstans Records.

Moab, Scion A/V Presents Billow


There are a lot of bands who balance riffs and melody, but few sound as natural or as fluid as Moab in doing so. The L.A.-based three-piece follow their 2011 Kemado Records debut, Ab Ovo (discussed here) with Billow, a self-produced nine-track collection presented by Scion A/V that furthers the noise-rock crunch of their guitars while also branching into languid heavy psychedelic washes (“Said it Would”), tribal-style percussive insistence (“I Concede”) and generally bigger, wider-sounding sonic spaces. Guitarist/vocalist Andrew Giacumakis holds mostly to a subdued delivery no matter the madness unfolding behind him — witness the stomp with bassist Joe Fuentes and drummer Erik Herzog on “No Soul” — and in addition to proffering some infectious hooks along the way, the approach also gives Billow a sense of purpose beyond heaviness for its own sake, Moab‘s element of restraint putting their material in league with Radiohead as much as the Melvins, while offering something that should appeal to fans of either, both or neither. Here even more than on the first record, they’ve crafted their own sound, and they’re giving it away for free. On Thee Facebooks, download Billow.

Monobrow, Big Sky, Black Horse


Big Sky, Black Horse is the third self-released vinyl from large-riffing Ottowa trio Monobrow following 2012’s Bennington Triangle Blues and their 2010 self-titled debut (review here), and immediately the instrumentalists set about knowing their business when it comes to putting the riffs front and center and backing up with strong, forward-pushing rhythmic drive. Parts of Big Sky, Black Horse feel derived from Karma to Burn‘s all-straightforward-all-the-time mentality, but by and large, Monobrow have a more upbeat approach, and even on a mid-paced groove like “These Mountains Don’t Want us Here,” the 8:27 second track of the total eight, they use their longer runtimes to showcase fluidity in pacing and genre-minded stylistic depth. It’s an easy record to dig, and I dig it, whether it’s the bass-led thud of “Old Man Mouthbreather” or the go-anywhere 11-minute apex the album receives in its title-track, which starts big, ends big and is big in the middle. Beware the quiet parts in that song and a cut like “Ancient Arctic Wanderer,” as stretches of silence only seem to presage the next round of riffy pummeling. Monobrow seem comfortable working in either modus, and their third offering is a primo boon to fellow riff-heads. On Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Mope, Mope

Put into the right hands and through the right effects pedals, a saxophone can be a formidable tool in the psychedelic woodshed. Slow-rolling Italian foursome Mope clearly realize this on their three-track self-titled full-length debut CD, which comes in a digipak with gorgeous Snailking-esque black and white art from guitarist Jessica Rassi. They’re not long into opener “Old Grey Street” (7:32) before Sara Twinn distinguishes herself in adding a smoky melody atop the doomly vibes unfolding from Rassi, bassist Stefano Parodi and drummer Fabio Cuomo, and the dreamy-but-still-very-very-heavy mood Mope establish in the first track holds firm on the subsequent “Doomed to Feed the Ground” (12:58) and “La Caduta” (9:58) as well, the instrumental band sticking to a balance between psychedelic and stoner-doom impulses. Hypnosis ensues. The centerpiece is perhaps the most immersive of the three inclusions on the Taxi Driver Records outing, with its surprise piano at the beginning and sparse, minimalist ending, but across the board, Mope hone an engaging depth of presentation by which it’s a pleasure to be subsumed. Ending slow and jazzy on “La Caduta,” Mope‘s Mope is one to close your eyes and just go with. On Thee Facebooks, at Taxi Driver’s Bandcamp.

Prisma Circus, Reminiscences

I don’t know how many times I’ve said it over the years, but, oh, what a difference a great drummer can make. Spanish classic heavy rock power trio Prisma Circus separate themselves on their World in Sound debut full-length, Reminiscences, from the scores of post-Graveyard retro worshipers thanks in no small part to the unmitigated swing in drummer Alex Carmona Blanco‘s playing. Couple that with the fiery leads of guitarist Oscar Garcia Albizu and warm, steady fills and bluesy exultations of bassist Joaquín Escudero Arce and Prisma Circus bang out thick-cut chops on their eight-track outing, starting with longest cut “The Mirror” (immediate points) and tapping into some Radio Moscow-style psych-blues volatility along the way. “Born in a Red House” slows the proceedings some, but Blanco kicks out a drum solo on the subsequent “Napalm” that lives up to the title, and the lighter back-half acoustics of “Cain” and the power trio thrust of “Onyx Star” ensure that Reminiscences stays satisfying to the bitter end, capping off with the smooth roll-out of “Joseph Merrick (The Elephant Man),” which turns tempos fast enough to require multiple listens just to keep up. They may not be innovating the style at this point, but Prisma Circus are tight enough to stand out anyway. On Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp, World in Sound.

Righteous though these grooves are, this is less than half of everything that joined The Obelisk Radio playlist this week. See the updates page for the complete list.

Thanks for reading and listening.
 

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audiObelisk Transmission 037

Posted in Podcasts on June 20th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Click Here to Download

 

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

The apparent hubris I showed in bragging last time around at the silly method by which I transferred audio editing software from one laptop to another came back to bite me in the ass as I put this podcast together. Finally, last night, I turned to Thee Facebooks for assistance and received an amount of input that was both useful and encouraging on a personal level. Thanks to everybody who took the time to help and to recommend alternative programs to the one I was using. I’m by no means technically inclined, so it is very much appreciated.

So yeah, there was a bit of drama in the making maybe — it was right around the Buzzo track that everything went to hell — but I don’t think you’ll get any clue of that from the audio, which has a few unexpected turns in its progression. At least in the first hour. Hour two is huge jams, because basically there was no way I wasn’t going to put that 17-minute-long Wo Fat song in there and I wanted to have some other stuff to stand up to it, but hour one takes a couple different avenues toward heavy rock and I guess I was feeling some bluesy psych this time as well. I won’t spoil it any more than I already have. Hope you enjoy.

First Hour:
The Scimitar, “Babylon” from Doomsayer (2014)
Moab, “No Soul” from Scion A/V Presents Billow (2014)
Monobrow, “Cicada” from Big Sky Black Horse (2014)
1000mods, “Horses’ Green” from Vultures (2014)
Mat McNerney & Kimmo Helén, “Blood and Bone Revival” from The World is Burning OST (2014)
The Atlas Moth, “City of Light” from The Old Believer (2014)
Highlands, “Your Let Down” from Dark Matter Traveler (2014)
Blues Pills, “River” from Blues Pills (2014)
Sea Bastard, “Door Sniffer” from Scabrous (2014)
Major Kong, “Acid Transmission” from Doom for the Black Sun (2014)
Buzz Osborne, “The Ripping Driving” from This Machine Kills Artists (2014)
Prisma Circus, “Napalm” from Reminiscences (2014)
The Heavy Company, “One Big Drag” from Uno Dose (2014)

Second Hour:
Mope, “Doomed to Feed the Ground” from Mope (2014)
Idre, “Witch Trial” from Idre (2014)
Harsh Toke, “Weight of the Sun” from Light up and Live (2013)
Wo Fat, “Dreamwalker” from The Conjuring (2014)

Total running time: 1:58:41

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 037

 

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