Quarterly Review: Holy Sons, WEEED, Mala Suerte, Eternal Black, Were-Jaguars, Vinnum Sabbathi & Bar de Monjas, Black Tremor, Aave, Derelics, Sisters of Your Sunshine VaporPosted in Reviews on September 29th, 2015 by JJ Koczan
Day one down, four more days to go. I forget each time how different it is writing shorter reviews as opposed to the usual longer ones, but kind of refreshing to bust through something, force myself to say what needs to be said as efficiently as possible and move on. Reminds me of working in print, with word counts and such. Only so much room on the page. Not something that usually comes up around these parts, but I guess it’s good to keep that muscle from complete atrophy. Though taking that line of thought to its natural conclusion, I have no idea why. Anyway, feeling good, ready to take on another 10 records, so let’s roll.
Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #11-20:
Holy Sons, Fall of Man
It would be hard to overstate the smoothness with which Emil Amos, who serves integral creative and percussive roles in both Grails and Om, brings different styles together on Fall of Man, his second album for Thrill Jockey under the Holy Sons solo moniker and upwards of his 11th overall. An overriding melancholy vibe suits dark, progressive pop elements on the opener “Mercenary World,” Amos at the fore playing all instruments and still vocalizing like a singer-songwriter, while the later wash of “Being Possessed is Easy” takes on ‘90s indie fragility and turns what was purposeful minimalism into an expanse of melody and “Discipline” creeps out lyrically while forming experimentalist soundscapes around a steady line of acoustic guitar. Joined by bassist Brian Markham and drummer Adam Bulgasem on “Aged Wine” – the only other players to appear anywhere on Fall of Man – Amos leads the trio through soaring leads and heavier crashing to give the album a crescendo worthy of its scope, which while astounding on deeper inspection presents itself with simple, classic humility.
WEEED, Our Guru Leads us to the Black Master Sabbath
From the opening drone-groan throat-singing of the 14-minute “Dogma Dissolver,” it seems like not-quite-Seattle trio Weeed are making a run for the title “Most Stoned of the Stoner” with their second full-length, Our Guru Leads us to the Black Master Sabbath. They earn that extra ‘e.’ A double-LP on Illuminasty Records, the album is a 54-minute trip into low tone and deep-running vibe, spaced way out, and well at home whether jamming heavy and hypnotized on “Rainbow Amplifier Worship” – a highlight bassline – or nestling into an ambient stretch like “Bullfrog” preceding. Mostly instrumental, Weeed hit their most active in “Enuma Elish” and then chill and strip back to acoustics and sax (yup) for the Eastern-flavored “Caravan Spliff,” bringing back the throat-singing in the process. How else to finish such a work than with the 15-minute “Nature’s Green Magic,” a 15-minute push along a single build that goes from minimal, pastoral acoustics to nod-on-this megastoner riffing? Weeed might be going for the gold, but they end up in the green, and somehow one imagines they’ll be alright with that. They get super-ultra-bonus points for sounding like Kyuss not even a little.
Mala Suerte, Rituals of Self Destruction
Formed in 1999 and having made their full-length debut a decade later with The Shadow Tradition (review here), last heard from in a 2012 split with Boise’s Uzala (review here), Austin, Texas, doomly five-piece Mala Suerte return with the 10-track Rituals of Self Destruction, which moves past its four-minute intro into chugging The Obsessed-style trad doom with a touch of Southern heavy à la Crowbar and a generally metallic spirit in cuts like “Utopic Delusions” that gets expanded on later cuts like the swirling, crawling almost Cathedral-ish “Labyrinth of Solitude.” Comprised of forward-mixed vocalist Gary Rosas, guitarists David Guerrero and Vincent Pina, bassist Mike Reed and drummer Chris Chapa (now John Petri), Mala Suerte sound as rueful as ever across the album’s span, rounding out with the hardcore sludge of “Successful Failure” and “The Recluse,” which builds from slow, brooding chug to a more riotous finish. It’s been a while, but it’s good to have them back.
Eternal Black, Eternal Black
Guitarist/vocalist Ken Wohlrob leads Brooklyn’s Eternal Black through the riffy doom of their debut self-titled three-track EP. Unpretentious in the style’s tradition, the trio is anchored by Hal Miller’s bass and pushed forward by the drums of Joe “The Prince of Long Island” Wood (also of Borgo Pass), the rolling groove of Sabbathian opener “Obsidian Sky” setting the tone for straightforward, few-frills darkness, and Eternal Black follow it up with the workingman’s doom of “The Dead Die Hard” and “Armageddon’s Embrace,” the former started out with an extra lead layer before it unfurls the EP/demo’s most satisfying crawl, and the latter a little more swinging, but still Iommic metal at its core, Wohlrob’s gruff vocal and Wino-style riff backed by Miller’s deep-mixed rumble as Wood goes to the cowbell/woodblock (it’s one or the other) during the guitar solo. Even if Joe Wood wasn’t one of the best human beings I’d ever met, it would still be pretty easy to dig what these cats are doing, and it’ll be worth keeping an eye for how they follow this first installment.
Austin, Texas-based trio Were-Jaguars have already issued a follow-up EP to their earlier-2015 second album, II, but from its opening and longest track “Between the Armies” (immediate points), the three-piece dig into weirdo psych vibes and dense tones across their latest full-length, released through respected Russian purveyor R.A.I.G. Not at all a minor undertaking at 13 tracks, 68 minutes, it gets into garage ritualism in “Let My Breath be the Air” and unfolds immediate doomadelia on “Bishop Kills Enchanter,” but if you need confirmation that Were-Jaguars – the three-piece of Chad Rauschenberg, James Adkisson and Rick McConnell – aren’t just screwing around in these songs and lucking into a righteous result, let it come on the later “Lost Soul,” which melds a flowing instrumental roll to a host of spiritual and pseudo-spiritual samples, loses itself completely, and then returns at the end to finish cohesive, engagingly complex and sure in the knowledge that all has gone to plan. Figuring out what that plan is can be a challenge at times, but it’s there.
Vinnum Sabbathi & Bar de Monjas, Fuzzonaut Split
The Fuzzonaut split between Mexico’s Vinnum Sabbathi and Bar de Monjas takes its name from the closing track, provided by the latter act, but it serves as a fitting title for the work as a whole as well. Vinnum Sabbathi launch the six-track offering with “HEX I: The Mastery of Space,” a slow-rolling instrumental topped by samples pulled from rocket launches, and after the 1:45 droning interlude “Intermission (Fluctuations),” they melt their way into the companion “HEX II: Foundation Pioneers,” doomier in its chug, but similarly-minded overall in intent, with the warm bass, copious samples, and planet-sized riffing. Though their portion is shorter overall, Bar de Monjas answer back with relatively upbeat push in “Hot Rail,” winding up in stoner rock janga-janga before stomping their way into “The Ripper,” cowbelling there as part of an impressively percussed spin and capping with “Fuzzonaut” itself, a shroomy 7:45 creeper with big-riff bursts that rises and recedes effectively, ending with a long residual hum.
Black Tremor, Impending
An immediate touchstone for the droning pastoral drear that Saskatoon three-piece Black Tremor elicit on their four-song debut EP, Impending, is Earth’s HEX: Or Printing in the Infernal Method, but the newcomer trio distinguish themselves immediately with an approach that replaces guitar with violin, so that not only can Black Tremor tie into these atmospheres, they can do so in a way that speak to country roots in a way their forebears didn’t at the time date. Bassist Alex Deighton, violinist Amanda Bestvater and drummer Brennan Rutherford have only just begun the work of developing their sound, but already nine-minute opener “The Church” and its buzzing follow-up “Rise” prove evocative and come across as more than exercises in ambience. “Markhor” hits with an even heavier roll and an almost Melvinsy undertone, while the title-track makes its way through horse-trod mud to emerge at the end not only clean but positively bouncing. It’s still pretty dark, but they’ve given themselves a vast Canadian Midwestern expanse to explore.
Aave, There’s Nothing
A bright tonal bliss pervades There’s Nothing, the Rock Ridge Music debut long-player from Nashville all-lowercase psychedelic post-rockers aave. The band court indie progressivism across the album’s eight component tracks, but with just one song over four minutes long – closer “Turn Me Off” (4:30) – there’s little about it that feels overly indulgent or beyond the pale stylistically. That is to say that while aave set a sonic course for great distances, they get to where they’re going efficiently and don’t hang around too long in one place. That has its ups and downs in terms of vibe, but the resonant vocal melodies of “Nothing Here” – hard not to be reminded of Mars Red Sky’s sweet emotionality, but there are other comparisons one might make – the focus remains grounded in an accessibility that goes beyond getting lost in dreamy guitars. Aesthetically satisfying, they find an intense moment in the later thrust of “Blender,” but even that retains the overarching wistful sensibility of what’s come before and that unites the material throughout.
Spacious, melodic and entrancingly heavy, Derelics’ debut EP, Introducing, indeed makes a formidable opening statement, and in a crowded London scene of post-Orange Goblin burl and Downy sludge, the trio set more progressive ambitions across “To Brunehilde,” “California” and “Ride the Fuckin’ Snake to Valhalla,” psych-funking up the centerpiece after the grooving largesse of the opener en route to the wider-spreading tones of the closer, guitarist/vocalist Reno cutting through his and bassist Nacim’s tones easily with higher-register vocals that push the limits of his range as he encourages one to “ride that fuckin’ snake,” before cutting out to let drummer Rich lead the charge with toms through a build-up bridge that returns to the echoing fullness conjured earlier, ending on a long-fading organ note. An encouraging first offering from the three-piece, and hopefully they continue develop along an original-sounding path as they move ahead. Already they seem to show a knack for melding atmospherics and songwriting toward the same ends.
Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor, Desert Brain
True to its krautrock-style cover art, Desert Brain, the third outing from Detroit’s Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor, has an element of prog at work within its psychedelic unfolding. But that’s reasonable. With four years since their second release, Spectra Spirit (review here), and the inclusion of bassist/keyboardist Eric Oppitz and drummer Rick Sawoscinski with guitarist/vocalist Sean Morrow, the dynamic in the band has legitimately shifted, even though Oppitz (who also did the aforementioned cover art) has recorded all three of their records. Still, they keep the proceedings fluid across the two vinyl sides, finding their inner garage on “Major Medicine” and tripping out easy on “What’s Your Cloud Nine, 37?” on side A before digging in with fuzz and push on side B’s “The Prettiest Sounds of Purgatory” and stretching into ritual stomp on the title cut. All the while, they’re drenched in vibe and a flow that’s languid even as it’s running you over, and while some songs barely have a chorus, they implant themselves in the mind anyway, almost subliminally.