Mangog Release The Ghost in the Room EP

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

mangog

With Maryland Doom Fest kicking off later this week, it is a fitting time to celebrate the region’s heavy output. Baltimorean four-piece Mangog won’t play in Frederick this year, but they’ve got a brand new two-songer called The Ghost in the Room out well in time for the occasion just the same. They would seem to have parted ways with masked drummer Dao Yu since the recording of the EP — we never did find out why he wore the mask, so let’s just assume it was because he was secretly WJZ Baltimore meteorologist Bob Turk in disguise and didn’t want anyone at CBS to know he’s super into heavy riffs. Fair. It would probably cost him his job.

The new guy is Russell Hayward III, and he’ll have to wait until the next outing to make his debut with the band, but I hear there’s a second album in the works. I wouldn’t be surprised if these tracks are on it in some form or other.

The PR wire has it like this:

mangog the ghost in the room

Baltimore doom unit MANGOG releases brand new EP; Out now on Argonauta Records!

Doom metal heavyweights MANGOG have announced the surprising release of a brand new EP titled The Ghost in the Room, which is out now on Argonauta Records!

MANGOG is a doom metal band based out of Baltimore, Maryland, formed by bassist Bert Hall Jr. (Revelation, Against Nature, Beelzefuzz ), assuming guitar duties, drummer Stephen Branagan (Revelation, Against Nature, and Yet So Far), Major Company bassist Darby Cox, and Final Answer vocalist Myke Wells. In early 2015 the band released the Daydreams Within Nightmares EP during their debut performance at the Maryland Doomfest. One year later, MANGOG completed its first and critically acclaimed full length album, Mangog Awakens, released with Argonauta Records in 2017.

The Ghost in the Room continues the band’s work and sets high anticipation for their sophomore album, MANGOG are currently working on. Their brand new, 2-track EP is now available for streaming and download HERE!

“We are stoked to give everyone a taste of some of the music we’ve been working on through our partnership with Argonauta Records!” MANGOG comments. “The Ghost in the Room has been a staple of Mangog set lists since shortly after the release of the “Awakens” album, with the track “Hubris” being written much more recently.

The road to getting out new music has been an epic one, paved with hospitalizations, birth, death, setbacks, frustration and lineup changes. These recordings feature former member Dao Yu on drums, who worked with the band between September 2017 and October 2018.

We recently also begun to perform acoustic versions of some of our new and old songs, and will have a video for “Ghost in the Room” about to enter the post production, so better watch out for many more great news to come soon!”

Tracklisting:
1. The Ghost in the Room 06:53
2. Hubris 04:01

MANGOG is:
Myke Wells – Vocals
Bert Hall, Jr. – Guitars, vocals, devices
Darby Cox – Basses
Russell Hayward III – Drums

www.facebook.com/MangogDoom
https://twitter.com/mangogdoom
https://www.mangogdoom.com/
www.argonautarecords.com

Mangog, The Ghost in the Room EP (2019)

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Beelzefuzz to Play Last Show at Maryland Doom Fest 2019

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Beelzefuzz will take the stage on Saturday, June 22, as part of the most packed Maryland Doom Fest lineup yet. As founding guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt recently made public, it will be the band’s last show. Ortt announced on Instagram that owing to ongoing drama surrounding the band’s name and former bassist Pug Kirby‘s claim thereupon — which is apparently valid so far as Facebook are concerned — he’s simply thrown up his hands and decided to put the band to rest.

We’ve been here before, of course. Five years ago, after making their self-titled debut (review here) in 2013, Beelzefuzz broke up owing to the same situation, and Ortt and drummer Darin McCloskey — also of Pale Divineformed Righteous Bloom with Bert Hall, Jr. of Revelation on bass. They, in turn, changed the name back to Beelzefuzz in 2015 and went on to release their second album, The Righteous Bloom (review here), in 2016.

In the meantime, they’d picked up Pale Divine guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener to handle lead guitar alongside Ortt, and Ortt last year joined Pale Divine as well to back Diener‘s frontman role in that band. So, although the last incarnation of Beelzefuzz is done as of later this month in Frederick, MD, Ortt, McCloskey and Diener will apparently continue to work together — alongside bassist/backing vocalist Ron “Fezzy” McGinnis — in Pale Divine.

Do I think we’ve seen the last of Beelzefuzz? Probably, but who knows. They were clearly affected by the initial fallout, and even when they came back after their time as Righteous Bloom, there was an edge of been-through-it about their material. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Ortt as a songwriter, however. He’s been doing solo shows around the Marylandosphere, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some other project popped up in addition to his ongoing work in Pale Divine. Some people are just too creative to sit still for very long.

But Beelzefuzz were a band of obvious potential who, especially live, were able to capture something of the spirit of classic progressive rock along with a groove drawn out from the traditions of Maryland doom. Their personality most came through on stage, but whether you were seeing them live or listening to their records, there was never any mistaking their sound. Here’s hoping a new one from Pale Divine shows up sooner than later, and here’s to one more blowout at MDDF. At least they’ll go out among family.

https://soundcloud.com/beelzefuzz
https://beelzefuzz.bandcamp.com/
http://doom-dealer.de/

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Spiral Grave Sign to Salt of the Earth Records; Premiere “Nothing” Lyric Video

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

You knew someone was going to step up and snag Spiral Grave for an initial release, whether it was Argonauta Records, with whom frontman Dee Calhoun works on his solo stuff, or Shadow Kingdom, which has in the past released outings from Iron Man, or somebody else. The label pulling this oh-so-doomly rabbit out of its hat is Salt of the Earth Records out of Connecticut, and they’ll release the band’s debut single, from which you can hear the premiere of the track “Nothing” in the lyric video at the bottom of this post.

A debut album is slated to follow either late this year or early in 2020, but Spiral Grave have been gearing up with live shows over the last month in their native Chesapeake region, and they’ll make their first appearance outside those geographical confines next month at the New England Stoner and Doom Festival, in which Salt of the Earth also has a hand. Given the band’s pedigree in Iron Man and Lord — a perennial favorite who were underrated from their outset to their demise — to say I’m looking forward to their set would be something of an understatement.

The PR wire has the signing announcement:

spiral grave

Spiral Grave – Salt of the Earth Records

SALT OF THE EARTH RECORDS is proud to announce the addition of Maryland Doom cult SPIRAL GRAVE to their roster.

Spiral Grave is comprised of the three surviving members of IRON MAN in vocalist “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun, bassist “Iron” Louis Strachan and drummer Mot Waldmann, as well as former LORD guitarist Willy Rivera, whose sharp-edged riffing sets the mood for the band as heavy-as-hell aggressive doom.

“The music Spiral Grave is creating is some of the most ferocious doom metal I have heard. Ever. They take tradition and fury, and melt them together for a devastating ride.” – Scott Of The Earth

SPIRAL GRAVE recently recorded two songs for an upcoming CD single release, which will be followed by a full-length release late-2019/early-2020. The band will be performing at The New England Stoner and Doom Festival next month (May 3-5) at Altones Music Hall in Jewett City CT. Tickets are available at www.NewEnglandStonerAndDoomFest.com

Preorder your CD Single @ www.SaltOfTheEarthRecords.com

Spiral Grave live:
May 3-5 Altone’s Music Hall Jewett City CT – New England Stoner & Doom Fest II
June 8 Guido’s Speakeasy Frederick MD

Spiral Grave is:
Screaming Mad Dee – voice
Willy Rivera – guitars
“Iron” Louis Strachan – bass
Jason “Mot” Waldmann – drums

https://www.facebook.com/SpiralGrave/
www.facebook.com/SaltOfTheEarthRec
www.saltoftheearthrecords.com

Spiral Grave, “Nothing” lyric video

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Spiral Grave Announce First Live Shows Including New England Stoner & Doom Fest and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

spiral grave

With members of Iron Man and Lord coming together for the first time on stage, Spiral Grave will make their first live appearance tomorrow night, March 15, at The Depot in Baltimore. The four-piece were in the studio last month putting together a single previously teased in a rehearsal clip on thee social medias, and I’m not saying I heard the results of that session or anything, but yeah, that is what I’m saying and if their intent was as stated to capture the feel of “doom meets Dehumanizer,” they’re well on their way to that. I don’t know if they just did the one song or what — I think so, but don’t quote me — but either way, they must have at least a few songs together, since they’ve got two shows this weekend and they’ll be at New England Stoner & Doom Fest II in May and playing sets requires, you know, a set.

Still looking forward to more from these guys, and to seeing them in Connecticut:

We’re hitting the ground running…

Spiral Grave Upcoming Shows:
Friday March 15 The Depot Baltimore MD
Sunday March 17 The Pinch Washington D.C.
Saturday March 23 Bricks Staunton VA
Friday March 29 VFW 9724 Falls Church VA
May 3-5 Altone’s Music Hall Jewett City CT – New England Stoner & Doom Fest II
Saturday June 8 Guido’s Speakeasy Frederick MD

Spiral Grave is the collaboration of the members of two legendary mid-Atlantic bands: Iron Man, who disbanded in early 2018 following the death of their guitarist and founder Al Morris III, and Lord.

In mid-2018, former Lord guitarist Willy Rivera reached out to longtime friend and former Iron Man voice “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun about forming a new project, something that Willy described as “doom meets Dehumanizer.” Former Iron Man rhythm section “Iron” Louis Strachan (bass) and Jason “Mot” Waldmann (drums) came onboard, and Spiral Grave was born.

Spiral Grave is:
Screaming Mad Dee – voice
Willy Rivera – guitars
“Iron” Louis Strachan – bass
Jason “Mot” Waldmann – drums

https://www.facebook.com/SpiralGrave/

Spiral Grave, “Abgrund” rehearsal clip

Spiral Grave, “Nothing” rehearsal demo

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Pentagram Announce Return to Stage for US Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Pentagram (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Pentagram‘s return to the stage was previously announced as part of Maryland Doom Fest 2019, though just who would be involved was something of a mystery. Perennially troubled frontman Bobby Liebling has returned to the band — you might recall guitarist Victor Griffin took the forward spot in 2017 following a mess around Liebling copping an assault charge and going to jail as a result, which itself followed accusations of sexual harassment on tour — and while Griffin is out of Pentagram at this time, his nephew, bassist Greg Turley, remains, and drummer “Minnesota Pete” Campbell continues to hold down that role.

Matt Goldsborough (ex-The Skull, ex-Carousel) has filled in for Griffin before and will do so again as they take to the road in March for a tour that will hit spots in the Midwest and Southeast. I’m not going to be so foolish as to predict what the future of Pentagram will hold, but as of now these shows are happening and that’s that. So there you go. Brother Dege and Dirty Streets — whose new album I never even got to hear, which made me a little sad — will support.

From the PR wire:

pentagram tour

Everything’s turning to night….

Doom metal patriarchs PENTAGRAM take the stage in 10 American cities this March 2019.

Remorseful and rehabilitated, legendary frontman and co-founder Bobby Liebling returns for a string of live performances. Greg Turley, longtime bass player and “Ram Family” member by blood, will appear alongside Liebling, drummer “Minnesota Pete” Campbell and the reemergence of Philadelphia’s electric axeman Matthew Goldsborough (Pentagram, ex-The Skull).

Experience a high volume delivery of their revered hard rock & doom metal classics that cover their near half-century career. This relentless setlist is sure to shine a blue light on Liebling’s pioneering “First Daze” favorites.

Handpicked support acts BROTHER DEGE, a NOLA soul who’s been called the “haunted enigma of 21st century delta blues” and Memphis’ hard rolling, blues-rocked power trio DIRTY STREETS complete this exceptional bill.

PENTAGRAM
Last Days Here
MARCH 2019
14th – Cincinnati, OH
15th – Chattanooga, TN
16th – Nashville, TN
17th – Atlanta, GA
19th – Dallas, TX
20th – Austin, TX
21st – Houston, TX
22nd – Little Rock, AR
23rd – New Orleans, LA
24th – Memphis, TN

http://www.PentagramOfficial.com
https://www.facebook.com/pentagramusa

Pentagram, “Last Days Here”

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Spiral Grave: New Band Brings Together Members of Iron Man and Lord

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

The surviving members of Iron Man have announced a new project together, as vocalist “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun, bassist Louis Strachan and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann have joined with guitarist Willy Rivera, who until this past summer was one of the essential figures behind heavy thrashers Lord. The new band is called Spiral Grave, and it will mark the first outing from WaldmannStrachan and Calhoun together since the death last January of Iron Man founder “Iron” Alfred Morris IIICalhoun and Strachan — the latter of whom seems to have inherited the “Iron in front of his name, and rightly so — have continued working together on Calhoun‘s solo-project, but Spiral Grave seems much more of a full-band entity than the singer-songwriter-gone-metal-isms of Dee‘s two to-date records.

Iron Man‘s final album was 2013’s South of the Earth (review here), issued by Rise Above Records and a fitting-if-unfortunate capstone on the band’s career of more than 20 years. Lord meanwhile announced their breakup last year even as they were getting ready to release their finest album in Desperation Finds Hunger in All Men (review here), which found their oft-chaotic approach on its most solid ground while giving up none of it razor-sharp edge. Spiral Grave would seem to draw from both sides in terms of its groove, though at least in the posted rehearsal room demo for “Nothing,” the band seems to lean much more toward doom than extreme sludge or thrash, as Lord sometimes would.

But they’re a new band, so it’s up in the air where their sound and exploration of influences might take them. They’re reportedly set to hit the studio next month for a single, and then I suppose it’s on from there. The start of a New Year is always supposed to hold some kind of promise of good things to come, so here’s this:

spiral grave

Spiral Grave is the collaboration of the members of two legendary mid-Atlantic bands: Iron Man, who disbanded in early 2018 following the death of their guitarist and founder Al Morris III, and Lord.

In mid-2018, former Lord guitarist Willy Rivera reached out to longtime friend and former Iron Man voice “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun about forming a new project, something that Willy described as “doom meets Dehumanizer.” Former Iron Man rhythm section “Iron” Louis Strachan (bass) and Jason “Mot” Waldmann (drums) came onboard, and Spiral Grave was born.

In February 2019, Spiral Grave will record their first single, and will take to the live stage.

Spiral Grave is:
Screaming Mad Dee – voice
Willy Rivera – guitars
“Iron” Louis Strachan – bass
Jason “Mot” Waldmann – drums

https://www.facebook.com/SpiralGrave/

Spiral Grave, “Nothing” rehearsal demo

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Maryland Doom Fest 2019 Early-Bird Tickets Limited; Day Lineups Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest 2019 poster square

The actual schedules aren’t out yet for the four days of Maryland Doom Fest 2019, but even the day-splits for the massive lineup are good to know since this will be the first one with two venues and, thus, the first one with schedule conflicts (assuming the rooms run at the same time). That will invariably lead to some difficult choices, but so it goes in the land of doom — aka Frederick, MD. One way or another, the lineup is maddeningly good from its headliners in Pentagram, Conan, Earthride and Mothership right on down through the likes of Seasick Gladiator and Greenbeard, playing earlier in the day. But it’s good to get some basic idea of who will be where, when, because given the swath of bands, it’s going to be one to schedule where your feet are at any moment in order to miss as little as humanly possible.

By the way, how fucking awesome is the idea of Maryland Doom Fest paying homage to the 20th anniversary of the long-running/now-defunct Stoner Hands of Doom festival? That lineup could hardly be more perfect if they got Eternal Elysium over for it as SHoD once did. Especially the top three there. Unstoppable.

Here’s the info. There’s a lot of it:

Early Bird Discount Ends 12/31! THE MARYLAND DOOM FEST 2019 – 5th Anniversary – June 20th-23rd with PENTAGRAM, CONAN, EARTHRIDE, MOTHERSHIP, WARHORSE, 40+ More!

The Maryland Doom Fest celebrates its 5th anniversary this upcoming June and has confirmed FIFTY of today’s heaviest bands to grace the stages of two venues in 2019. For the first time in its history, MD Doom Fest brings international artists, the mighty CONAN from the United Kingdom and INTERITUM from Tasmania, with 48 hallowed USA acts coming from coast to coast!

In a dual-ceremonial event, the MD Doom Fest Pre-Party on Thursday, June 20th is a 20th Anniversary celebration of the Stoner Hands of Doom Festival (ShoD), with a spectacular lineup. All bands have performed at fantastic SHoD fests of years past! The Pre-Fest / SHoD 20th Anniversary Celebration will be monumental. We invite everyone to become part of the family at The Maryland Doom Fest 2019 events for #4daysofdoom!!

THE MARYLAND DOOM FEST 2019
June 20th – 23rd, 2019 + Frederick, MD

PENTAGRAM + CONAN + EARTHRIDE + MOTHERSHIP

Year Of The Cobra + Lo Pan + Freedom Hawk + Warhorse + Pale Divine + Apostle Of Solitude + Kings Destroy + Solace + Foghound + Beelzefuzz + ZED + Wasted Theory + The Age Of Truth + Atala + Toke + Backwoods Payback + Weed Is Weed + Forming The Void + Sixes + After The Sun + Shadow Witch + Faith In Jane + Clouds Taste Satanic + Pale Grey Lore + Knoxxville + Devil To Pay + Eternal Black + Thonian Horde + Kingsnake + Greenbeard + Interitum + Benthic Realm + Horehound + Funeral Horse + Thousand Vision Mist + Deer Creek + Crooked Hills + Stone Dust Riders + Thunderchief + Wolf Blood + The Druids + Atomic 26 + Dead Sisters + Seasick Gladiator + Electric Age + Temptations Wings

+++ Early Bird Discount Weekend Passes available until December 31st +++

https://www.marylanddoomfest.com/tickets/

MD Doom Fest Pre-Party
SHoD 20th Anniversary Celebration
Thursday, June 20th

+ Cafe 611 +
Earthride
Warhorse
Solace
Wasted Theory
Devil to Pay
Deer Creek
Weed is Weed
Freedom Hawk
After the Sun

DAY ONE
Friday, June 21st

+CAFE 611+
Mothership
Pale Divine
Lo Pan
Year of the Cobra
The Age of Truth
Backwoods Payback
Kingsnake
Interitum
The Druids

+GUIDO’S SPEAKEASY+
Clouds Taste Satanic
Benthic Realm
Dead Sisters
Funeral Horse

DAY TWO
Saturday, June 22nd

+CAFE 611+
Pentagram
Apostle of Solitude
Foghound
Beelzefuzz
Atala
Sixes
Forming the Void
Knoxxville
Atomic 26
Eternal Black
Greenbeard

+GUIDO’S SPEAKEASY+
Electric Age
Pale Grey Lore
Thunderchief
Seasick Gladiator
Crooked Hills

DAY THREE
Sunday, June 23rd

+CAFE 611+
Conan
ZED
Kings Destroy
Toke
Thousand Vision Mist
Horehound
Thonian Horde
Shadow Witch
Faith in Jane

+GUIDO’S SPEAKEASY+
Temptations Wings
Wolf Blood
Stone Dust Riders

Early Bird Discount Weekend Passes are available until December 31st, 2018!
(Early Bird Discount is only for Weekend Passes- $74.)

On January 1, 2019, all regular price ticket options will be available.
Weekend Passes $89. Single Night: Fri. $35 / Sat. $40 / Sun. $35
Weekend Pass holders can attend Pre-Fest/SHoD for $15 at the door, all others: $30.

https://www.facebook.com/events/371836710006412/
https://www.facebook.com/MdDoomFest/
https://www.themarylanddoomfest.com/

Apostle of Solitude, “Keeping the Lighthouse” official video

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Quarterly Review: BongCauldron, Black Helium, Earthbong, Sir Collapse, Alms, Haaze, The Sledge, Red Lama, Full Tone Generator, Mountain Dust

Posted in Reviews on December 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Not to get off topic here, but it’s December, and god damn, I hate the fucking holidays. Christmas, even if you believe in the religious significance of the day, is pure garbage. I like giving presents well enough, don’t particularly enjoy receiving them, but even if you put aside the whole “oh it’s so commercial ‘now'” thing, like there was a time anyone now living ever saw when it wasn’t, it isn’t fun. The meal sucks. It’s dark. It’s cold. The songs are fucking endless and terrible — yes, all of them — and the whole experience is just a bummer the whole way through. If there was actually a war on it, I wish they’d drop the bomb and incinerate the entire thing.

Take Thanksgiving, make it start in November and end in December. A month-long festival for the season. You can even give gifts at the end, if you want. It could be like Ramadan, or, probably more likely and much on the opposite end of the spectrum, Oktoberfest.

There. Problem solved. Have a great day, everyone. Let’s do some reviews.

Quarterly Review #71-80:

BongCauldron, Tyke

BongCauldron Tyke

Biscuit, Corky and Jay of BongCauldron return less than 12 months out from their Binge LP (review here) with Tyke (on APF), three more cuts of weed-eating, dirt-worshiping, weed-worshiping, dirt-eating sludge, fueled as ever by fuckall and booze and banger riffs — and yes, I mean “banger” as in “bangers and mash.” There’s a lead that shows up in closer “Jezus Throat Horns” and some vocal melody that follows behind the throaty barks, but for the bulk of the three-tracker, it’s down to the business of conveying dense-toned disaffection and rolling nod. “Pisshead on the Moon” opens with a sample about alcohol killing you and works from its lumber into a bit of a shuffle for its midsection before hitting a wall in the last minute or so in order to make room for the punker blast of “Back up Bog Roll,” which tears ass and is gone as soon as it’s there, dropping some gang vocals on the way, because really, when you think about it, screw everything. Right? “Jezus Throat Horns” might be offering a bit of creative progression in closing out, but the heart of BongCauldron remains stained of finger and stank of breath — just the way it should be.

BongCauldron on Thee Facebooks

APF Records webstore

 

Black Helium, Primitive Fuck

black helium primitive fuck

Oh yes. Most definitely. From the Sabbath swing behind the chugging “Love the Drugs” and the march of “Wicked Witch” through the what-would-happen-if-Danzig-was-interesting “Summer Spells” and fuzzed-out post-punk shouts of “Videodrone” en route to the nine-minute “Curtains at the Mausoleum,” London four-piece Black Helium make heavy psychedelic songcraft into something as malleable as it should be on their Riot Season debut, Primitive Fuck, holding to underlying structures when it suits them and touching on drone bliss without ever really completely letting go. Opener “Drowsy Shores” is hypnotic. The aforementioned “Curtains at the Mausoleum” is hypnotic. Even the chug-meets-effects-blowout closing title-track is hypnotic, but on the handclap-laced “Do You Wanna Come Out Tonight?” or “Videodrone,” or even “Summer Spells,” there are hooks for the listener to latch onto, life-rafts floating in the swirling tonal abyss. The truth? There isn’t a primitive thing about it. They’re not so much lizard-brained as astral-planed, and if you want a summation of their sound, look no further than their name. It’ll make even more sense when you listen. Which you should do.

Black Helium on Thee Facebooks

Riot Season Records website

 

Earthbong, Demo 2018

earthbong demo 2018

The immediate association in terms of riff is going to be Sleep. “Drop Dead,” the 10-minute first of two songs on Earthbong‘s debut Demo 2018, rolls out with pure Dopesmoker-ism and follows the model of gradual unfolding of its weedian sludge riffery. No complaints. The Kiel, Germany, trio are obviously just getting their start, and since it’s a demo and not the “debut EP” that so many otherwise demos try to position themselves as, I’ll take it. And to boot, “Drop Dead” ultimately departs its Sleepy environs for altogether more abrasive fare, with Bongzilla-style screams and an increasingly aggressive shove, the drums crashing like the cymbals did something wrong, and feedback capping into the start of “Wanderer,” which is shorter at seven minutes and opens its assault earlier, the vocals no less distorted than the guitar or bass. There’s some space in a solo in the second half, but Earthbong again twist into harsh, crusty doom before letting feedback carry them out to the demo’s finish. Growing to do, but already their violence seethes.

Earthbong on Thee Facebooks

Earthbong on Bandcamp

 

Sir Collapse, Walk to the Moon

sir collapse walk to the moon

Grunge, noise rock and Queens of the Stone Age-style melody-making collide on Walk to the Moon, the debut full-length from German four-piece Sir Collapse, sometimes on disparate cuts, like the noisy intro given to the album by “Lower Principles,” and sometimes within the same song, as in the later “Like Me.” A jangly swing in “Mono Mantra” and the Nirvana-esque hook there soon gives way to the desert-hued thrust of “One Man Show” and the early ’90s fuzz of “Happy Planet Celebration,” while “The Great Escape” leads the way into some measure of evening out the approach in “Like Me,” “Too Late,” “Hey Ben” and “The Family,” unless that’s just the band acclimating the listener to their style. Fair enough either way. Sir Collapse round out with a return to the uptempo push shown earlier, giving their first LP an impressive sense of symmetry and whole-work presentation as layers of vocals intertwine with melody alternately lush and raw, sounding very much like a band who know the parameters in which they want to work going forward. So be it.

Sir Collapse on Thee Facebooks

Sir Collapse on Bandcamp

 

Alms, Act One

alms act one

Organ-soaked Baltimorean garage doomers Alms enter the conversation of 2018’s best debut albums with Act One on Shadow Kingdom, a collection rife with choice riffing, dynamic vocals and a nuanced blend of heft and drama. That a song like “The Toll” could be both as traditional sounding as it is and still modern enough to be called forward-thinking is nothing short of a triumph, and in the stomping “The Offering,” Alms cast forth a signature chorus that stands out from the tracks surrounding without departing the atmosphere so prevalent in their work. “Dead Water” at the outset and “For Shame” build a momentum through side A that the five-piece of keyboardist/vocalist Jess Kamen guitarists Bob Sweeney (also vocals) and Derrick Hans, bassist Andrew Harris and drummer Derrick Hans expand in the second half of the record, winding up in the early gruel of “Hollowed” only to resolve the album with speedier swing and as sure a hand as they’ve guided it all along. At six songs and 33 minutes, Act One unmistakably leaves the audience wanting more, and indeed, the plot may just be starting to unfold.

Alms on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records on Bandcamp

 

Haaze, Swamp Mama

Haaze Swamp Mama

It is a sharp, biting 27-minute run, but Swamp Mama isn’t just thrown together haphazardly. Alberta-based sludge metallers Haaze build a song like “35 Indians” to a head over the course of a deceptively efficient 4:44, following opening track “Beast of the Bog” with a developed sense of craft underlying the outward negativity of their sound. I’ll give the band bonus points for finishing side A with a song called “Stereotypically Doomed,” but more for the crash cymbal that seems to devour the mix. There’s a trashy undercurrent to the subsequent title-track, and as it finishes its pummel, it relinquishes ground to the acoustic interlude, “The Mechanic,” which I’m just going to assume is named for the Charles Bronson movie. That of course sets up the most extreme cut included in closer “AL,” which layers fierce growls and screams atop a rhythm clearly designed for maximum assault factor. A little more metal than sludge, it nonetheless remains tonally consistent with what comes before it, giving Swamp Mama a vicious ending and a feel that’s all the more lethal for it.

Haaze on Thee Facebooks

Haaze on Bandcamp

 

The Sledge, On the Verge of Nothing

the sledge on the verge of nothing

Copenhagen four-piece The Sledge boasts the three former members of heavy rockers Hjortene in guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Palle, drummer/vocalist Kim and bassist Claus, so while they’ve revamped their identity and gone on to add vocalist Magnus Risby — who appears here on “179 Liars” and “Yet Untitled” — perhaps its somewhat disingenuous to consider their first album under the new moniker, On the Verge of Nothing, a debut. Issued through Kozmik Artifactz, the record collects eight tracks produced by Anders Hansen (who also worked with Hjortene) and mixed by Matt Bayles, and in listening to the cuts with Risby in the lead spot, the vibe taps into a thicker take on late-era Dozer with no less righteous melodicism. That, however, is just a fraction of the total story of On the Verge of Nothing, which taps earlier desert idolatry on “Death Drome Doline” and brings in none other than Lorenzo Woodrose himself for guest spots elsewhere. People in and out of the lineup through different tracks should make the LP disjointed, but as ever, it’s the songwriting that holds it together, and one can’t discount the core band’s experience playing together as a part of that either. Debut or not, it’s an impressive offering.

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Red Lama, Dogma

red lama dogma

One tends to think of serenity and peaceful drift when it comes to Danish heavy psych rockers Red Lama, but as the seven-piece band quickly turn around follow-up to their 2018 sophomore LP, Motions (discussed here), cuts like opener “Time” and “RLP” unfold with a particular sense of urgency, the former seeming to showcase an acknowledgement of sociopolitical circumstances in Europe and beyond in a way that seems to readjust their focus. That’s a tidy narrative, but if it’s a case of priorities being rebalanced, it’s striking nonetheless. To coincide, “RLP” has a heavier roll in its second half, and while second cut “State of the Art” and closer “Tearing up the Snow” both make their way past the five-minute mark with post-rocking pastoralia and dreamy melodies, there remains a feeling of a tighter focus in the tracks that could portend a new stage of the band’s development or could simply be a circumstance of what’s included here. The next album will tell the tale.

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Full Tone Generator, Valley of the Universe

full tone generator valley of the universe

Fronted by Andy Fernando of Don Fernando, Full Tone Generator‘s debut long-player, Valley of the Universe, nonetheless bears the unmistakable hallmark of the Californian desert — in no small part because that’s where it was recorded. Fernando and guitarist/bassist/backing vocalist Brad Young traveled to that famed landscape to record with Bubba DuPree and Brant Bjork at Zainaland Studios, only to have the latter end up playing drums and contributing backing vocals as well to the eight-tracker. Not a bad deal, frankly. The key reference sound-wise throughout Valley of the Universe is Kyuss, particularly because of Bjork‘s involvement and Fernando‘s vocal style, but the slow-rolling “I Only Love You When I’m Loaded,” 59-second blaster “No Future” and the ending jam duo of “Preacher Man” and “Never to Return” make the ground their own, the latter with some surprise screams before it bounces its way into oblivion as though nothing ever happened. They’ve got the vibe down pat, but Full Tone Generator do more as well than simply retread desert rock’s founding principles.

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Mountain Dust, Seven Storms

mountain dust seven storms

Keys give Montreal four-piece Mountain Dust a tie to classic heavy blues and they use that element well to cast their identity in the spirit of a post-retro modern feel, details like the backing vocals of “White Bluffs” and the waltzing rhythm held by the snare on “Witness Marks” doing much to add complexity to the persona of the band. “You Could” goes over the top in its boozy regrets, but the dramas of “Old Chills” are full in sound and satisfyingly wistful, while closer “Stop Screaming” offers a bit of twang and slide guitar to go along with its sense of threat and consuming seven-minute finish. Tight songwriting and clean production do a lot to give Seven Storms a professional presentation, but ultimately it’s the band itself that shines through in terms of performance and as Mountain Dust follow-up their well-received 2016 debut, Nine Years, they sound confident in their approach and ready to flesh out in multiple directions while maintaining a central character to their sound that will be familiar to the converted enough to be a work of genre while setting the stage to become all the more their own as well.

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