The Druids, Totem: Effigy and Elogy

Posted in Reviews on April 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the druids totem

Riding a silver machine in search of elusive truth, Maryland’s The Druids make an encouraging full-length debut with Totem, which follows behind a few likewise-digital odds and ends, including an untitled 2016 EP and a couple singles here and there. They’ve used pseudonyms all along, but would seem to be transitioning out of that, as guitarist/vocalists Eli “Stone Druid” Watson and Danny “Spacehawk” Alger and bassist Jeremy “Weed Warlock” Dinges introduce drummer Gary “Iceman” Isom to the lineup. Isom, of course, has a pedigree in Maryland heavy that includes drum stints in Pentagram and Iron Man, King Valley and Nitroseed, as well as Shine/Spirit Caravan and, currently, playing guitar in Weed is Weed and fronting Electropathic. As Spirit Caravan are a primary influence for The Druids, he’s an excellent fit here on songs like opener “Cruising Astral Skies” and the wah-swirling “Sorcerers,” as the band push earthy visions of heavy into cosmic reaches — or, at least, they begin the process of doing so.

There’s a jammy undercurrent not just to the nine-minute “Hawkwind,” or the later “Turtles Dream,” but that serves as the foundation to even the more structured material like the duly Southern-tinged “Moonshine Witch” and the it’s-called-“lead-guitar”-because-you-follow-it “Atlantean,” which departs its early verses for solo-laced oblivion past the halfway point. There’s a cross-generational element at play, between Isom and WatsonAlger and Dinges, but that does nothing to interrupt the overall fluidity of Totem or bring any sense of incongruity to the band’s style. If anything, the inclusion of Isom seems to have tightened The Druids‘ songwriting approach, as heard in “Turtles Dream,” which takes elements from “Turtles” and “Dreams” from the EP and combined them into one progression. “Hawkwind” is an exception and clearly intended as such, but most of the material on Totem is shorter and more structurally sound, so that even as The Druids decide to take off on the occasional interstellar trip, they have solid ground from which to launch. That provides balance for the listener making their unsuspecting way through, and sees moments like the drift in the concluding “Sky Submarine” all the more effective.

Interestingly, Totem seems to be rawer in its production than was the EP. Listening to the sample from The Wild Angels that lets “Sorcerers” open what would be side B on a vinyl release before giving way to the trippier “Turtles Dream,” “High Society” and “Sky Submarine,” there’s an almost garage-psych sensibility to what The Druids conjure here, with a grit cast on some of the shimmer in the guitars their last time out. Could be a circumstance of recording live as they did, or could be a purposeful aesthetic choice on their part — I don’t think we can know until their next time out, but it enhances the ride that is “Cruising Astral Skies” and makes the nodding “Atlantean” all the more of a wash of dirty fuzz, classically doomed in the Maryland tradition, but not necessarily beholden to Maryland doom in terms of its psychedelic vibe and general stoned fuckall.

the druids

The leadoff and “Moonshine Witch” might be as straightforward as The Druids get, but even the second of those makes its way out on a solo, leaving behind the expectation that they might return to the verse or chorus and instead just jamming its way to wherever it might end up — the start of “Sorcerers,” as it happens. With Totem being the band’s first long-player, it’s hard to guess how that will ultimately develop in their sound — but that only makes the album more exciting to hear, since the four-piece have already essentially carved an identity for themselves that spans subgenres from psych to heavy rock to classic-style garage bikerism and more. Further, they vary that departure from core structure, so that “Atlantean” might not make its way back, but the would-be anthem “High Society” does, at least instrumentally, and even though they’re long-since gone by the time they get there, the sample at the end of “Hawkwind” works to tie that song together with “Atlantean” as well, so that side A ends up with an overarching symmetry one way or the other as “Cruising Astral Skies” and “Moonshine Witch” bookend the two jammier pieces.

Mark it a win, move on, wait for the next one? Okay, sure, but I think if you do, you’re missing out on a bit of the nuance The Druids have to offer. Not so much in terms of the technicality of what they do — though the solos are impressive and their tones are intricate — but stylistically overall. It’s easy, particularly for the converted, to listen to Totem and get where The Druids are coming from. And for some, that’s enough, but to take that approach misses perhaps the bigger picture of what’s at play throughout these songs in terms of bringing a generational freshness to these ideas and aesthetic elements. The Druids‘ raw fuzz is informed of course by the heavy rock that’s gone before it, but the homage they pay comes with a youthful vigor and an unfaded luster.

This, quite simply, is how rock and roll has survived despite being cast as dead — and maybe being dead — as a commercial enterprise. It has been handed from one group to the next. I won’t deign to predict where The Druids will go from their debut in terms of style or substance, but already in these songs they show a genuine affinity for heavy modes of expression and they work to make them their own with a quality of craft and a variety of moods. There isn’t much more one could reasonably ask of a young band putting out their first record. So yeah, one could dig into Totem and think “that’s cool,” grab a download or whatever and be done, or one could perhaps realize that even the name of the album speaks to a sense of monument-building and that essentially that’s what the band are doing in entering this conversation with their influences. The potential that gives them for moving forward and continuing to make those influences theirs is writ large throughout this material, and to miss that is missing the larger picture of what they accomplish here.

The Druids, Totem (2019)

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The Druids on Bandcamp

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Haze Mage Premiere “Storm Blade” from Debut Album Chronicles out April 19

Posted in audiObelisk on March 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Haze-Mage-photo-by-Shane-Gardner

Baltimorean double-guitar five-piece Haze Mage will issue their debut full-length, Chronicles, through Grimoire Records on April 19. Comprised of a briskly captured eight tracks and 45 minutes of material produced by the label’s own Noel Mueller, it is the band’s first outing since they changed their name from Blood Mist following the 2017 release of what was then their self-titled debut EP (review here), but which now you can probably just call Blood Mist. Either way, Chronicles brings the arrival of Haze Mage — the lineup of vocalist Matthew Casella, guitarists Nick Jewett and Kevin Considine, bassist Scott Brenner and drummer John De Campos — as a force to contend with in terms of their blend of classic metal, traditional doom and heavy rock and roll, parts of the eponymous opener and “Storm Blade”, which follows, reminded of Saint Vitus on a bender with Pentagram while “Bong Witch” is more purely self-aware stonerization and “Fire Wizards” asks the inevitable question of what might’ve happened if the NWOBHM had been infiltrated by operatives from Big Muff. So yes, it’s awesome.

And that’s really just the start. “Corpse Golem” teases out more complex vocal arrangements and in so doing serves notice of growth yet to come on the part of the band, all the while rolling forth the record’s most satisfyingly lumbering groove, right into “Priest of Azathoth” haze mage chronicleswhich fuzzes a kind of semi-shuffle that’s part Zeppelin preen and part Sabbathian cultistry but all righteous, right up to the laughter on the other side of the halfway mark and the riff-led bounce that follows. If you’re wondering where the blastbeats are hiding, that’d be in “Harbinger,” which starts out like a theatrical, grandiose classic metaller until it suddenly flips its wig with layers of growls under Casella‘s prominent clean vocals and, indeed, a bit of blast. They do it twice, and the second time, it’s screams layered on growls, just like Deicide used to make. Life is full of surprises. They summarize their findings effectively in the 10-minute finale — yeah, there’s some more blastbeating in there too — starting off with a patience that suits them and ending up in much the same place, but in between following a winding course to get where they’re going and executing the song with due drama wielded with a sense of control that seems greater than a first record should generally hold.

What does that mean? Could be a foreshadow for future progressivism in their songcraft, or it could just be a fluke, but what’s more important for the moment is that with ChroniclesHaze Mage establish a metallic hold on the tenets of heavy and traditional doom. And not only to do they do so, but they then essentially put the varying styles in their grasp to work as their plaything — because Chronicles is more than just one-sided, and a lot of it is unabashed fun — from Casella‘s over-the-top Danzig style to the bubbling over the drums that starts “Bong Witch” and the extra-right-on bassline that follows. Haze Mage know what they’re doing, as shown on multiple levels with the characters in their songs as depicted on the cover art and the hooks of “Storm Blade” and “Dread Queen.” That isn’t to say they don’t have room for refinement coming off this collection en route to whatever’s next, but it says that especially as their first record, Chronicles is a warning of what might follow and it’s a warning well worth heeding.

Get yourself impaled with “Storm Blade” via the player below. Comment from the band follows, as well as some PR wire this-and-that.

Enjoy:

Haze Mage on “Storm Blade”:

Forged in lighting, the Storm Blade is an ancient cursed blade which while powerful and deadly to anything in its path, it corrupts the mind of the wielder. To hold it is to release one’s self from mercy, to abandon choice and become an unstoppable, frenzied maniac christened in bloodshed while only a whisper of your own will remains. The Storm Blade, it thunders to kill.

We enjoy diving into the wide spectrum of stoner/doom sub genres and want each song on the album to take the listener to a different place while still feeling like each one belongs as part of the whole experience. Embodying the chaotic and hectic mental state of a person possessed by the Storm Blade, we allowed our mutual admiration for ’80s era UK heavy metal to let loose. With a decidedly doomier approach informing much of this album it was important to us have at least one biting ambush of a song. Frenetic, frantic, and an in-your-face fuel for a fight, Storm Blade is that song for us.

Chronicles will see release on limited edition CD, and digital download via Grimoire Records on April 19th. Preorders have been posted HERE.

Chronicles was recorded, mixed and mastered between fall 2018 and winter 2019 by Noel Mueller. Album art was created by John De Campos/Ghost Bat Illustration, with additional layout work by Noel Mueller, and photography by Shane Gardner. © 2019 Grimoire Records.

HAZE MAGE Live:
4/20/2019 Ottobar – Baltimore, MD @ Grim Reefer Fest

HAZE MAGE:
Kevin Considine – guitar
Nick Jewett – guitar
John De Campos – drums
Scott Brenner – bass
Matthew Casella – vocals

Haze Mage on Instagram

Haze Mage on Thee Facebooks

Haze Mage on Bandcamp

Grimoire Records website

Grimoire Records on Bandcamp

Grimoire Records on Thee Facebooks

Grimoire Records on Twitter

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Caustic Casanova Sign to Magnetic Eye Records; New Album out This Summer

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Magnetic Eye Records announced three pickups this week. Brume, who were posted about yesterday, Caustic Casanova, about whom I’m posting right now — fancy that! — and Leather Lung, and Leather Lung, who’ll get a post Friday. Busy label. Busy band as well, as I don’t know when you last saw a stack of Caustic Casanova tour dates, but they are generally fairly mighty undertakings. They’re a good pickup for Magnetic Eye even apart from their we’ll-just-go-ahead-and-hand-deliver-our-songs touring ethic, as their records pull off that rare feat — progressive punk — and make it heavy without falling all over themselves with self-indulgence in the process. Good stuff. I owe their The Pantheon Collection Vol. 1-3 a review — currently slated for Wed., April 24; because yes, I believe in advance scheduling (subject to change) — so uh, check back for that, I guess. Or you can skip my blah blah and just stream at at the bottom of this post. I won’t be offended either way.

Band and label announcements follow in that order:

caustic casanova magnetic eye

Alright everyone – it’s time! We are SO STOKED to announce that we’ve joined the Magnetic Eye Records roster!!! We’ve been huge fans of their bands, Redux records, and work ethic for a long time so we couldn’t be more thrilled or honored to join this magnificent, merry metal family!! Along with a new full length coming around late summer/early fall this year and accompanying national tours we still have a few more surprises up our sleeves so STAY TUNED! CC train never stops! From the desert, to the ocean, to the snowy tundra to your kitchens all across the globe – we are coming for you.

Keep it Sabbath y’all.

From the label: “CAUSTIC CASANOVA modestly describes themselves as, “a loud, heavy band from the nation’s capital,” but that hardly does justice to a band that’s been compared to bands ranging from Torche to Faith No More to Voivod… wtf? Hell, we don’t know, we just knew they belonged here with us. Happy to welcome this acrobatic D.C. three-piece to the roster, and you can look for their album to land sometime around late Summer!”

Caustic Casanova is:
Stefanie Zaenker – Drums, Vocals
Francis Beringer – Bass, Vocals
Andrew Yonki – Guitar

http://causticcasanova.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CausticCasanova
https://www.instagram.com/CausticCasanova/
https://twitter.com/causticcasanova
http://store.merhq.com
http://magneticeyerecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MagneticEyeRecords

Caustic Casanova, The Pantheon Collection Vol. 1-3 (2018)

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Quarterly Review: Bellrope, Cracked Machine, The Sky Giants, Sacred Monster, High ‘n’ Heavy, Warlung, Rogue Conjurer, Monovine, Un & Coltsblood, La Grande Armée

Posted in Reviews on March 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Day Six. Not that there wasn’t a bit of a crunch along the way, but I definitely think this Quarterly Review was aided by the fact that I dug so much of what I was writing about on a personal-taste level. You get through it one way or the other, but it just makes it more fun. Today is the last day and then it’s back to something approaching normal tomorrow, but of course before this thing is rounded out I want to thank you as always for taking the time and for reading if you did. It means a tremendous amount to me to put words out and have people see them, so thank you for your part in that.

This could’ve easily gone seven or eight or 10 days if scheduling had permitted, but here’s as good a place to leave it. The next one will probably be the first week of July or thereabouts, so keep an eye out.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Bellrope, You Must Relax

bellrope you must relax

How much noise can your brain take? I don’t mean noise like start-stop riffs and dudes shouting. I mean actual, abrasive, amelodic noise. Bellrope, with ex-members of the underrated Black Shape of Nexus start their Exile on Mainstream-delivered debut album, You Must Relax, with three minutes of chaff-separation they’re calling “Hollywood 2001/Rollrost.” It’s downright caustic. Fortunately, what follows on the four subsequent extended tracks devotes itself to lumbering post-sludge that’s at least accessible by comparison. “Old Overholt” is the only other inclusion under 10 minutes as the tracks are arranged shortest to longest with the 17:57 “CBD/Hereinunder” concluding. The thickened tones brought to bear throughout “Old Overholt” and the blend of screams and growls that accompany are more indicative of what follows on the centerpiece title-track and the penultimate “TD2000,” but the German four-piece still manage to sound plenty fucked throughout. Just not painfully so. There’s something threatening about the use of the word “must” in the album’s title. The songs realize that threat.

Bellrope on Thee Facebooks

Exile on Mainstream Records website

 

Cracked Machine, The Call of the Void

Cracked Machine The Call of the Void

Here be dragons. Though its core tonality is still within the bounds of heavy rock, Wiltshire, UK, four-piece bring a far more atmospheric and progressive style to fruition on their second album, The Call of the Void, than it might at first appear. With post-rock float to the guitar of Bill Denton, keyboard textures from Clive Noyes, and fluid rhythms carried through changes in volume and ambience from bassist Christ Sutton and drummer Blazej Gradziel, the PsyKA Records outfit present a cerebral seven tracks/47 minutes of immersive and seemingly conceptual work, with opener “Jormungandr” establishing the context in which each song that follows is named for a different culture’s dragon, whether it’s the Hittite “Illuyanka,” Japan’s “Yamata No Orochi” or the Persian “Azi Dahakar.” Cracked Machine use this theme to tie pieces together, and they push farther out as the record unfolds late with “Typhon” and “Vritra” a closing pair of marked scope. The shortest cut, the earlier 5:14 “Kirimu,” has probably the most straightforward push, but Cracked Machine demonstrate an ability to adapt to the needs of whatever idea they’re working to convey.

Cracked Machine on Thee Facebooks

PsyKA Records webstore

 

The Sky Giants, The Shifting of Phaseworld

the sky giants the shifting of phaseworld

Taking cues from psychedelia almost as much as jangly West Coast noise and punk, Tacoma, Washington’s The Sky Giants offer the 10-track sophomore outing The Shifting of Phaseworld, which finds a balance in songs like “Dream Receiver” between progressive heavy rock and its rawer foundations. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Jake Frye, bassist Jessie Avery and drummer/vocalist/engineer/graphic artist Peter Tietjen are comfortable tipping from one side to the other between and within songs, starting off with the shove of “Technicolor Kaleidoscope” and getting mathy on the later “Half Machine” ahead of the chunkier-riffed “Rhyme and the Flame,” which somehow touches on classic punk even as it hones a wash of distortion that that has to cut through. Closing each side with a longer track in the rolling, airy “Solid State” (6:53) and the frenetic ending of “Simian” (7:38), The Sky Giants stake out a sonic terrain very much their own throughout The Shifting of Phaseworld and only seem to expand their territory as they go.

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The Sky Giants on Bandcamp

 

Sacred Monster, Worship the Weird

sacred monster worship the weird

Topped off by the ace screams of vocalist Adam Szczygiel, who taps his inner Devin Townsend circa Strapping Young Lad on “High Confessor” and “Re-Animator,” Sacred Monster‘s debut album, Worship the Weird would seem to cull together elements of Orange Goblin and Bongzilla for a kind of classic-metal-aware sludge rock, the riffs of Robert Nubel not at all shy about digging into aggressive vibes to go with the layers of growls and throatrippers and the occasional King Diamond-esque falsetto, as on “Waverly Hills,” as bassist Guillermo Moreno and drummer Ted Nubel bolster that feel with tight turns and duly driven bottom end. I’ll take “Face of My Father” as a highlight, if only for the excruciating sound of Szczygiel‘s screech, but the swing in closer “Maze of Dreams” has an appeal of its own, and as a Twilight Zone and a Shatner fan, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” offers its own charm.

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Sacred Monster on Bandcamp

 

High n’ Heavy, Warrior Queen

high n heavy warrior queen

Shades of grunge and skate-fuzz fuckall pervade the Sabbathian grooves of High n’ Heavy‘s second album, Warrior Queen, as guitarist John Steele works some doomly keys into second cut “Shield Maiden” and vocalist Kris Fortin moves in and out of throaty shouts on side B’s “Lydia.” They thrash out in the noisy “Catapult” and Nick Perrone‘s drums seem to bounce even in the longer-winded “Lands Afar” and closer “Smell of Decay / Wings and Claw,” on which Mike Dudley‘s rumble backs classically metallic shred in the lead guitar after offering likewise support to the piano in the early going of “Join the Day.” Released through Electric Valley Records, the eight-song/36-minute LP comes across as raw but not without purpose in that, and its blend of tonal thickness and the blend of thrust and nod does well to ensure High n’ Heavy remain unpredictable while also living up to the standard of their moniker. There’s potential here that’s worth further exploration on the part of the band.

High n’ Heavy on Thee Facebooks

Electric Valley Records website

 

Warlung, Immortal Portal

Warlung Immortal Portal

Houston, Texas, four-piece make a quick case for the attention of Ripple Music on their sophomore outing, Immortal Portal, which is slickly-but-not-too-slickly produced and sharply-but-not-too-sharply executed, a professional sensibility in “Black Horse Pike” and the subsequent “The Palm Reader” — which manages to be influenced melodically by Uncle Acid without sounding just like them — ahead of the ’80s metallurgy of “Heart of a Sinner” and the reference-packed “1970.” “We All Die in the End” gives an uptempo swing to the opening salvo ahead of the more brooding “Between the Dark and the Light,” but Warlung hold firm to clearly-presented melodies and riff-led rhythms no matter where they seem to go in mood or otherwise. That ties the drift of the later “Heavy Echoes” to the earlier material and makes the harmony-laced “No Son of Mine” and the organ-ic proggy sprawling finale “Coal Minors” all the more effective in reaching beyond where the album started, so that the listener winds up in a different landscape than they started, still grounded, but changed nonetheless.

Warlung on Thee Facebooks

Warlung on Bandcamp

 

Rogue Conjurer, Of the Goddess / Crystal Mountain Lives

rogue conjurer of the goddess

Originally released digitally by the Baltimore-based unit in 2017, the two-songer Of the Goddess / Crystal Mountain Lives sees pressing as an ultra-limited tape via Damien Records and finds the three-piece of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Tonie Joy, drummer Colin Seven and organist Donny Van Zandt — since replaced by Trevor Shipley — honing a psychedelic take on doomly riffs and groove. “Crystal Mountain Lives” has a more distinct nod to its central progression, with a wah-drenched break and greater overall largesse of fuzz, but “Of the Goddess” brings an effective almost shoegazing sense to its downer spirit. The first track is also longer, so it has more time to move from that initial impression to its own payoff, but either way you go, Rogue Conjurer bring out their dead ably on the tape, showing influences from heavy psych and beyond as “Of the Goddess” winds its way to its close and “Crystal Mountain Lives” begins its fade-in all over again. No pretense, but a broad range that would allow for some if they wanted.

Rogue Conjurer on Instagram

Damien Records on Bandcamp

 

Monovine, D.Y.E

monovine dye

Athens heavy rockers Monovine wear their grunge influence proudly on their third full-length, D.Y.E, issued late in 2018 digitally with an early 2019 vinyl release. It’s writ large in the Nirvana-ism of the slurring “Mellow” at the outset and remains a factor through the melodies of “Void” and the later punkery of “Messed Up” or “Ring a Bell,” as well as the toying-with-pop “Me (Raphe Nuclei)” and “Your Figure Smells,” but where Monovine succeed in making that influence their own is by filtering it through a fuzzier presentation. The guitar and bass tones keep a modern heavy feel, and as the drums roll and crash through songs like “For a Sun” and “Why Don’t You Shoot Me in the Head,” that makes a difference in the overall impression the album leaves. Still, there’s little question as to their central point of inspiration, and they bring it out in homage and as a fairly honed mode of expression on closer “Haunt,” which teases an explosion in its melancholy strum and then… well, don’t let me spoil it.

Monovine on Thee Facebooks

Monovine on Bandcamp

 

Un & Coltsblood, Split

un coltsblood split

A festering 42 minutes of lurching agonies, Un and Coltsblood‘s split taps the best of modern death-doom’s emotionalism and bent toward extremity. Billed as a “tribute to grief: the final act of love,” it brings just two tracks, one per band, as Coltsblood open with “Snows of the Winter Realm” and Un follow with “Every Fear Illuminated.” Both bands proffer a terrifyingly weighted plod and offset it with a spacious ambience, whether it’s Un departing their grueling nod after about six and a half minutes only to build back up over the next six and grow more ferocious until devolving into noise and slamming crashes ahead of an outro of echoing, needs-a-tune-sounding piano, or Coltsblood fostering their own tonal brutalism and casting their lot with death and black metal while a current of airy guitar seems to mourn the song even as it plays out. Each cut is a monument built to loss, and their purpose in conveying that theme is both what unites them and what makes their work so ultimately consuming, as grief is.

Un on Thee Facebooks

Coltsblood on Thee Facebooks

 

La Grande Armée, La Grande Armée

La Grande Armée La Grande Armée

The blend of drifting guitar and psychedelic wash on opener “El Canto de las Ballenas” earns La Grande Armée‘s self-titled debut three-song EP immediate favor, and the patient execution they bring to the subsequent “Tripa Intergaláctica” and “Normandía,” particularly the latter, only furthers that appeal. The Chilean trio keep a decidedly natural feel to the exploratory-seeming work, and if this is them finding their sound, they seem happy to do it by losing themselves in their jams. All the better someone thought to press record, since although there’s clearly some trajectory behind the progression of songs — i.e., they know at least to a degree where they want to end up — the process of getting there comes across as spontaneous. Guitar pans channels as bass and drums hold down languid flow, and even in the more active midsection of “Tripa Intergaláctica,” La Grande Armée there’s a sense that it’s more about the space being created than the construction under way. In any case, wherever they want to head next, they would seem to have the means of travel at their disposal.

La Grande Armée on Thee Facebooks

La Grande Armée on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: JOY Feat. Dr. Space, Rosetta, Pendejo, Lightsabres, Witch Hazel, CBBJ, Seedium, Vorrh, Lost Relics, Deadly Sin (Sloth)

Posted in Reviews on March 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Day Five. What would traditionally be the end of the Quarterly Review if going to six wasn’t the new going to 11. Whatever, I can hack it. The amount of good stuff included in these batches really helps. I’m not saying there are days that are a flat-out bummer, but I feel like the proportion of times in this Quarterly Review I’ve gone, “Wow, this is pretty awesome,” has seen a definite spike this time around. I won’t complain about that. Makes the whole thing fun.

Today will be no exception, and then we finish up on Monday with the last 10. Thanks for reading if you do.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

JOY Feat. Dr. Space, Live at Roadburn 2018

joy feat dr space live at roadburn 2018

Brought together as part of the ‘San Diego Takeover’ at Roadburn 2018 that featured a host of that city’s acts performing in an even broader host of contexts, JOY and Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective took the stage at the tiny Cul de Sac near the very end of the festival. It was how I closed out my Roadburn (review here). Dr. Space did a short spoken introduction and then they were off and they didn’t look back. The centerpiece of the limited LP is an extended jam simply titled “Jam.” It’s edited on the platter, but the digital version has the full 54 minutes, and the more the merrier. They round out with takes on Road‘s “Spaceship Earth” and JOY‘s “Miles Away,” and those are cool too, but the real highlight is about halfway through the longer “Jam” when the drums kick into the next gear and you suddenly snap out of your trance to realize how far you’ve already come. And you’re still only at the midpoint. I don’t know. Maybe you had to be there. So be there.

Øresund Space Collective on Thee Facebooks

JOY on Thee Facebooks

JOY Feat. Dr. Space at Øresund Space Collective Bandcamp

 

Rosetta, Sower of Wind

rosetta sower of wind

Philadelphia-based post-whatever-you-got outfit Rosetta continue to set their own terms with Sower of Wind, a self-recorded four-track/half-hour offering that’s something of an outgrowth of their most recent album, Utopioid. Broken into four tracks each assembled from ideas and layers churning throughout the four sections of that record, it brings out the ambient side of the band as guitarist/keyboardist/bassist Matt Weed serves as engineer for “East,” “South,” “West” and “North” as he, guitarist/keyboardist Eric Jernigan and vocalist Mike Armine — who here just adds samples and noise — construct fluid soundscapes that can either build to a head, as on “East” or offer a sense of foreboding like “West” and “North,” depending solely on the band’s will. It’s intended as an exploration, and it sounds like one, but if that wasn’t the point, Sower of Wind probably wouldn’t have been released in the first place. It’s not at all their first ambient release, but this modus continues to be viable for them creatively.

Rosetta on Thee Facebooks

Pelagic Records webstore

 

¡Pendejo!, Sin Vergüenza

pendejo sin verguenza

Whatever your current working definition might be for “over the top,” chances are Pendejo — also stylized as the exclamatory ¡Pendejo! — will make short work of it. Sin Vergüenza, their third long-player, sees release through their own Chancho Records imprint, and it’s not through opener “Don Gernàn” before the Amsterdam-based outfit break out the horns. Fronted by El Pastuso, who supplies the trumpet, the band roll through dense toned heavy rock in a crisply-executed, high-energy 10 tracks and 40 minutes that, even when you think they’re letting up, on the later “El Espejo,” they still manage to burst out a massive riff and groove in the second half. It’s the kind of record that’s breathtaking in the sense of you’re trying to run to keep up with its energy. That, however, should not be seen as undercutting the value of the band’s songwriting, which comes through regardless of language, and whether it’s the start-stops of “La Mala de la Tele” or the gleeful weirdo push of “Bulla,” Pendejo have their sonic terrain well staked out and know how to own it. They sound like a band who destroy live.

Pendejo on Thee Facebooks

Pendejo webstore

 

Lightsabres, A Shortcut to Insanity

LIGHTSABRES A SHORTCUT TO INSANITY

It’s rare for an artist to grow less predictable over time, but Lightsabres mastermind and multi-instrumentalist John Strömshed hits that standard with his former one-man outfit. Joined by session drummer Anton Nyström, Strömshed brings forth 11 tracks of genre-bending songcraft, melding fuzz and progressive folk, downer rock and thoughtful psych, garage push with punker edge, and seemingly whatever else seems to serve the best interests of the song at hand. On “Born Screaming,” that’s a turn to classical guitar plucking sandwiched on either side by massive riffs and vocals, like that of “Tangled in Barbed Wire,” remind of a fuzz-accompanied take on Life of Agony. At just 36 minutes, A Shortcut to Insanity isn’t long by any means, but it’s not an easy album to keep up with either, as Strömshed seems to dare his listenership to hold pace with his shifts through “Cave In,” rolling opener and longest track (immediate points) “From the Demon’s Mouth” and the sweetly melodic finale “Dying on the Couch,” which is perhaps cruelest of all for leaving the listener waiting for the other shoe to drop and letting that tension hang when it’s done.

Lightsabres on Thee Facebooks

DHU Records webstore

 

Witch Hazel, Otherworldly

Witch Hazel Otherworldly

Classic-style doom rockers Witch Hazel shift back and forth between early metal and heavy rock on their second full-length, Otherworldly, and the York, Pennsylvania, four-piece of vocalist Nate Tyson, guitarist Andy Craven, bassist Seibert Lowe and drummer Nicholas Zinn keep plenty of company in so doing, enlisting guest performances of organ and other keys throughout opener “Ghost & the Fly” and “Midnight Mist” and finding room for an entire horn section as they round out 11-minute closer “Devastator.” Elsewhere, “Meat for the Beast” and “Drinking for a Living” marry original-era heavy prog with more weighted impact, and “Zombie Flower Bloom” plays out like what might’ve happened if mid-’80s Ozzy had somehow invented stoner rock. So, you know, pretty awesome. The strut and shuffle of “Bled Dry” adds a bit of attitude late, but it’s really in cuts like the title-track and the aforementioned “Midnight Mist” earlier on that Witch Hazel showcase their formidable persona as a group.

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Witch Hazel on Bandcamp

 

CBBJ, 2018 Demo

CBBJ 2018 Demo

To a certain extent, what you see is what you get with CBBJ‘s 2018 Demo, right down to the wood paneling on the cover art. The band’s name — also written as CB/BJ — would seem to be taken from its members, Cox (that being Bryan Cox, founding drummer of Alabama Thunderpussy), Ball, Bone, and Jarvis, and as they look toward a Southern Thin Lizzy on demo finale “The Point of it All,” there’s something of a realization in what they’re putting together. It’s four tracks total, and finds some thrust in “Wreck You,” but keeps it wits there as well as in the sleazier nod of “The Climb” that precedes it as the opener and even in the penultimate “Can’t Go Home,” which gives booziest, earliest AC/DC a treatment of righteous bass. They’re apparently in the studio again now, or they just were, or will, or won’t, or up, or down, but whatever. Point is it’ll be worth keeping an ear out for when whatever comes next lands.

CBBJ on Thee Facebooks

CBBJ on Bandcamp

 

Seedium, Awake

seedium awake

Go on and get lost in the depths of Seedium‘s debut three-songer, Awake. The Polish outfit might be taking some cues as regards thickness from their countrymen in Dopelord or Spaceslug, but their instrumental tack on “Mist Haulers,” “Brain Eclipse” and “Ruina Cordis” oozes out of the speakers with right-on viscosity and comes across as infinitely stoned. The centerpiece tops 11 minutes and seems to indicate very little reason they couldn’t have pushed it another 10 had they so desired, and through “Ruina Cordis” is shorter at a paltry 7:08, its blasted sensibility and ending blend of spaciousness and swirl portends good things to come. With the murky first impression of “Mist Haulers” calling like a prayer bell to the riff-worshiping converted, Seedium very clearly know what they’re going for, and what remains to be seen is how their character and individual spin on that develops going forward. Still, for its tones alone, this first offering is a stunner.

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Seedium on Bandcamp

 

Vorrh, Nomads of the Infinite Wild

vorrh nomads of the infinite wild

Programmed drumming gives Nomads of the Infinite Wild, the debut release from the Baltimore duo of Zinoosh Farbod and John Glennon an edge of dub, but the guitar work of songs like “Mercurial,” looped back on itself with leads layered overtop and Farbod‘s echoing vocals, remains broad, and the expansive of atmosphere puts them in a kind of meditative post-doom feel. Opener “Myths” strikes as a statement of purpose, and as “Morning Star” shows some Earth influence in the spaces left by Glennon‘s guitar, the band immediately uses that nuance to craft an individual identity. “Flood Plane” saunters through its instrumental trance before getting noisy briefly at the finish, only to let “These Eyes” work more effectively through a similar structure with Farbod on keys, seeming to set up the piano-foundation of “Ancient Divide,” which closes. This is a band who will benefit greatly from the fact that they record themselves, because they’ll have every opportunity to continue to experiment in the studio, which is exactly what they should be doing. In the meantime, Nomads of the Infinite Wild effectively heralds their potential for aesthetic innovation.

Vorrh on Thee Facebooks

Vorrh on Bandcamp

 

Lost Relics, 1st

lost relics 1st

Well, they didn’t call it 1st because it’s their eighth album. Denver noise rock trio Lost Relics debut with the aptly-titled 18-minute four-songer, bringing Neurosis-style vocal gutturalism to riffy crunch more reminiscent at times of Helmet‘s discordant heyday. Dense tonality and aggression pervade “Dead Men Don’t Need Silver,” “Scars,” the gets-raucous-later “Whip Rag” and closer “Face Grass,” which somehow brings a Clutch influence into this mix, and even more somehow makes it work, and then even more somehow indulges a bit of punk rock. The vocals and sense of tonal lumber tie it all together, but Lost Relics set a pretty wide base for themselves in these tracks, leaving one to wonder how the various elements at work might play out over the course of a longer release. As far as a debut EP goes, then, that’s the whole point of the thing, but something seems to be saying Lost Relics have more tricks up their sleeve than they’re showing here. One looks forward to finding out if that’s the case.

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Lost Relics on Bandcamp

 

Deadly Sin (Sloth), VII: Sin Seven

deadly sin sloth vii sin seven

Deadly Sin (Sloth) play the kind of sludge that knows how well and truly fucked we are. The kind of sludge that doesn’t care who’s president because either way the chicken dinner you’re cooking is packed full of hormones. The kind of sludge that well earns its Scott Stearns tape artwork. VII: Sin Seven is not at all void of melody or purpose, as “Ripping Your Flesh” and the Danziggy “Glory Bound Grave” grimly demonstrate, but even in those moments, its intent is abrasion, and even the slower march of “Icarus” seems to scathe as much as the raw gutterpunk in “F One” and opener “Exit Ramp”‘s harshest screams. Not easy listening. Not for everybody. Not really for people. It’s a malevolent bludgeoning that even in the revivalism of “Blood Bought Church” seems only to be biding its time until the next strike. It does not wait all that long.

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Quarterly Review: Electric Octopus, Crypt Trip, Love Gang & Smokey Mirror, Heavy Feather, Faith in Jane, The Mound Builders, Terras Paralelas, The Black Heart Death Cult, Roadog & Orbiter, Hhoogg

Posted in Reviews on March 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Day four of the six-dayer. Head’s a little reeling, but I’m not sure any more so than, say, last week at this time. I’d be more specific about that, but oddly enough, I don’t hook my brain up to medical scanners while doing reviews. Seems like an oversight on my part, now that I think about it. Ten years later and still learning something new! How about that internet, huh?

Since I don’t think I’ve said it in a couple days, I’ll remind you that the hope here is you find something you dig. There’s a lot of cool stuff in this batch, so that should at least make skimming through it fun if you go that route. Either way, thanks for reading if you do.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Electric Octopus, Smile

Electric Octopus Smile

It’s been about two months since Electric Octopus posted Smile, so they’re about due for their next release. So, quick! Before this 82-minute collection of insta-chill jams is out of date, there’s still time to consider it their latest offering. Working as the four-piece of Tyrell Black and Dale Hughes — both of whom share bass and guitar duties — drummer Guy Hetherington and synthesist Stevie Lennox, the Belfast improv jammers rightfully commence with the 25-minute longest track (immediate points) “Abberation” (sic), which evolves and devolves along its course and winds up turning from a percussive jam to a guitar-led build up that still stays gloriously mellow even as it works its way out. You can almost hear the band moving from instrument to instrument, and that’s the point. The much shorter “Spiral,” “Dinner at Sea, for One” and closer “Mouseangelo” bring in a welcome bit of funk, “Moth Dust” explores minimalist reaches of guitar and ambient drumming, and “Hyperloop” digs into fuzz-soaked swirl before cleaning up its act in the last couple minutes. These cats j-a-m. May they do so into perpetuity.

Electric Octopus on Thee Facebooks

Electric Octopus on Bandcamp

 

Crypt Trip, Haze County

crypt trip haze county

Onto the best-albums-of-2019 list go San Marcos, Texas, trio Crypt Trip, who, sonically speaking, are way more Beto O’Rourke than Ted Cruz. The three-piece have way-way-upped the production value and general breadth from their 2018 Heavy Psych Sounds debut, Rootstock, and the clarity of purpose more than suits them as they touch on ’70s country jams and hard boogie and find a new melodic vocal confidence that speaks to guitarist Ryan Lee as a burgeoning frontman as well as the shredder panning channels in “To Be Whole.” Fortunately, he’s backed by bassist Sam Bryant and drummer Cameron Martin in the endeavor, and as ever, it’s the rhythm section that gives the “power trio” its power. Centerpiece “Free Rain” is a highlight, but so is the pedal steel of intro “Forward” and the later “Pastures” that precedes six-minute closer “Gotta Get Away,” which makes its transport by means of a hypnotic drum solo from Martin. Mark it a win and go to the show. That’s all you can do. Haze County is a blueprint for America’s answer to Europe’s classic heavy rock movement.

Crypt Trip on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Love Gang & Smokey Mirror, Split Double EP

smokey mirror love gang split double ep

A bit of Tull as Love Gang‘s flute-inclusive opener “Can’t Seem to Win” skirts the line of the proggier end of ’70s worship. The Denver outfit and Dallas’ Smokey Mirror both present three tracks on Glory or Death RecordsSplit Double EP, and Love Gang back the leadoff with “Break Free” and “Lonely Man,” reveling in wall-o’-fuzz chicanery and organ-laced push between them, making their already unpredictable style less predictable, while Smokey Mirror kick off side B in particularly righteous fashion via the nine-minute “Sword and Scepter,” which steps forth to take ultra-Sabbathian ownership of the release even as the filthy tone of “Sucio y Desprolijo” and the loose-swinging Amplified Heat-style megashuffle of “A Thousand Days in the Desert” follow. Two bands in the process of finding their sound coming together to serve notice of ass-kickery present and future. If you can complain about that, you’re wrong.

Love Gang on Thee Facebooks

Smokey Mirror on Thee Facebooks

Glory or Death Records BigCartel store

 

Heavy Feather, Débris & Rubble

Heavy Feather Debris & Rubble

Very much a solid first album, Heavy Feather‘s 11-song Débris & Rubble lands at a run via The Sign Records and finds the Stockholm-based classic heavy blues rockers comporting with modern Euro retroism in grand fashion. At 41 minutes, it’s a little long for a classic-style LP if one measures by the eight-track/38-minute standard, but the four-piece fill that time with a varied take that basks in sing-along-ready hooks like those of post-intro opener “Where Did We Go,” the Rolling Stones-style strutter “Waited All My Life,” and the later “I Spend My Money Wrong,” which features not the first interplay of harmonica and lead guitar amid its insistent groove. Elsewhere, more mellow cuts like “Dreams,” or the slide-infused “Tell Me Your Tale” and the closing duo of the Zeppelinian “Please Don’t Leave” and the melancholy finisher “Whispering Things” assure Débris & Rubble never stays in one place too long, though one could say the same of the softshoe-ready boogie in “Hey There Mama” as well. On the one hand, they’re figuring it out. On the other, they’re figuring it out.

Heavy Feather on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Bandcamp

 

Faith in Jane, Countryside

Faith in Jane Countryside

Five full-lengths deep into a tenure spanning a decade thus far, Faith in Jane have officially entered the running to be one of the best kept secrets of Maryland heavy. Their late-2018 live-recorded studio offering, Countryside, clocks in at just under an hour of organic tonality and performance, bringing a sharp presentation to the chemistry that’s taken hold among the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Dan Mize, bassist Brendan Winston and drummer Alex Llewellyn, with Mize taking extended solos on the Wino model throughout early cuts “All is All” and “Mountain Lore” while the trio adds Appalachian grunge push to the Chesapeake’s flowing groove while building “Blues for Owsley” from acoustic strum to scorching cacophonous wash and rolling out the 9:48 “Hippy Nihilism” like the masters of the form they’re becoming. It’s not a minor undertaking in terms of runtime, but for those in on what these cats have been up to all the while, hard to imagine Countryside is seen as anything other than hospitable.

Faith in Jane on Thee Facebooks

Faith in Jane on Bandcamp

 

The Mound Builders, The Mound Builders

The Mound Builders The Mound Builders

Lafayette, Indiana’s The Mound Builders last year offered a redux of their 2014 album, Wabash War Machine (review here), but that was their last proper full-length. Their self-titled arrives as eight bruiser slabs of weighted sludge/groove metal, launching with its longest track (immediate points) in the 7:30 “Torchbearer,” before shifting into the outright screams-forward pummel of “Hair of the Dogma” and the likewise dry-throated “Separated from Youth.” By the time they get to the hardcore-punk-via-sludge of “Acid Slugs,” it’s not a little heavy. It’s a lot heavy. And it stays that way through the thrashing “Star City Massacre” and “Regolith,” hitting the brakes on “Broken Pillars” only to slam headfirst into closer “Vanished Frontier.” Five years later and they’re still way pissed off. So be it. The four-formerly-five-piece were never really all that gone, but they still seem to have packed an extended absence’s worth of aggro into their self-titled LP.

The Mound Builders on Thee Facebooks

Failure Records and Tapes

 

Terras Paralelas, Entre Dois Mundos

TERRAS PARALELAS ENTRE DOIS MUNDOS

It’s a fluid balance between heavy rock and progressive metal Terras Paralelas make in the six inclusions on their debut full-length, Entre Dois Mundos. The Brazilian instrumentalist trio keep a foundation of metallic kickdrumming beneath “Do Abismo ao Triunfo,” and even the chugging in “Espirais e Labirintos” calls to mind some background in harder-hitting fare, but it’s set against a will toward semi-psychedelic exploration, making the giving the album a sense of refusing to play exclusively to one impulse. This proves a strength in the lengthier pieces that follow “Infinito Cósmico” and “Do Abismo ao Triunfo” at the outset, and as Terras Paralelas move from the mellower “Bom Presságio” and “Espirais e Labirintos” into the more spaciously post-rocking “Nossa Jornada Interior” and the nine-minute-plus prog-out title-track that closes by summarizing as much as pushing further outward, one is left wondering why such distinctions might matter in the first place. Kudos to the band for making them not.

Terras Paralelas on Thee Facebooks

Terras Paralelas on Bandcamp

 

The Black Heart Death Cult, The Black Heart Death Cult

the black heart death cult the black heart death cult

Though one wouldn’t accuse The Black Heart Death Cult of being the first cumbersomely-named psych-rocking band in the current wave originating in Melbourne, Australia, their self-titled debut is nonetheless a gorgeous shimmer of classic psychedelia, given tonal presence through guitar and bass, but conjuring an ethereal sensibility through the keys and far-back vocals like “She’s a Believer,” tapping alt-reality 1967 vibes there while fostering what I hear is called neo-psych but is really just kinda psych throughout the nodding meander of “Black Rainbow,” giving even the more weighted fuzz of “Aloha From Hell” and the distortion flood of “Davidian Dream Beam” a happier context. They cap with the marshmallowtron hallucinations of “We Love You” and thereby depart even the ground stepped on earlier in the sitar-laced “The Magic Lamp,” finding and losing and losing themselves in the drifting ether probably not to return until, you know, the next record. When it shows up, it will be greeted as a liberator.

The Black Heart Death Cult on Thee Facebooks

Oak Island Records webstore

 

Orbiter & Roadog, Split

orbiter roadog split

I’m pretty sure the Sami who plays drums in Orbiter is the same dude playing bass in Roadog, but I could easily be wrong about that. Either way, the two Finnish cohort units make a fitting complement to each other on their two-songer 7″ single, which presents Orbiter‘s six-minute “Anthropocene” with the hard-driving title-track of Roadog‘s 2018 full-length, Reinventing the Wheels. The two tracks have a certain amount in common, mostly in the use of fuzz and some underlying desert influence, but it’s what they do with that that makes all the difference between them. Orbiter‘s track is spacier and echoing, where “Reinventing the Wheels” lands more straightforward in its three minutes, its motoring riff filled out by some effects but essentially manifest in dead-ahead push and lyrics about a motorcycle. They don’t reinvent the wheel, as it happens, and neither do Orbiter, but neither seems to want to do so either, and both bands are very clearly having a blast, so I’m not inclined to argue. Good fun and not a second of pretense on either side.


Orbiter on Thee Facebooks

Roadog on Thee Facebooks

 

Hhoogg, Earthling, Go Home!

hhoogg Earthling Go Home

Space is the place where you’ll find Boston improvisationalists Hhoogg, who extend their fun penchant for adding double letters to the leadoff “Ccoossmmooss” of their exclamatory second self-released full-length, Earthling, Go Home!, which brings forth seven tracks in a vinyl-ready 37 minutes and uses that opener also as its longest track (immediate points) to set a molten tone to the proceedings while subsequent vibes in “Rustic Alien Living” and the later, bass-heavy “Recalled to the Pyramids” range from the Hendrixian to the funkadelicness he helped inspire. With a centerpiece in “Star Wizard, Headless and Awake,” a relatively straightforward three-minute noodler, the four-piece choose to cap with “Infinitely Gone,” which feels as much like a statement of purpose and an aesthetic designation as a descriptor for what’s contained within. In truth, it’s a little under six minutes gone, but jams like these tend to beg for repeat listens anyway. There’s some growing to do, but the melding of their essential chemistry is in progress, and that’s what matters most. The rest is exploration, and they sound well up for it.

Hhoogg on Thee Facebooks

Hhoogg on Bandcamp

 

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Darsombra European Tour Starts March 29

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 11th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Like most of us, Darsombra are always somewhere, but unlike most of us, the places they are tend to change with exceptional regularity. Last Fall, they were out west for more than a month. Already this year, they’ve made quick stops through the Southeast, and later this month they’ll head to Europe for a stint that looks like it’s at least going to be a month in a half long already and for which they’re still filling in dates. They go, and go, and go. They’ll be playing Exile on Mainstream‘s 20th anniversary party in Leipzig on April 4, and the SWR Barroselas Metalfest in Portugal on April 28, but there’s plenty to still come together around both. You know the drill: if you have a spot where it’s cool to make noise, you should let Darsombra do that. I can’t think of a bill they wouldn’t fit on, because really, they don’t fit anywhere and that’s the point. So whether it’s a night of singer-songwriter coffee-house stuff or grindcore, book Darsombra. Because they’re awesome and it’s the right thing to do.

Dates thus far confirmed follow here, courtesy of the band’s social media:

darsombra euro tour

Here are the dates so far!!! More to be added!!!

DARSOMBRA EUROPE TOUR 2019

29 Mar Leuven BELGIUM @ Flugzeug Music-Art-Design
30 Mar Antwerp BELGIUM @ Palazzo sessions
1 Apr Cologne GERMANY @ Halle am Rhein
2 Apr Berlin GERMANY @ Zukunft am Ostkreuz
4 Apr Leipzig GERMANY – 20 Years of Exile On Mainstream festival
9 Apr Potsdam GERMANY @ Archiv
10 Apr Hamburg GERMANY @ Hafenklang
13 Apr Nuremburg GERMANY @ Z-Bau
17 Apr Maribor SLOVENIA @ Kibla
18 Apr Treviso ITALY @ Krach Club
19 Apr Milan ITALY @ Ligera
23 Apr Móra d’Ebre SPAIN @ Societat Obrera Móra d’Ebre
24 Apr Madrid SPAIN @ Rock Palace
26 Apr Lisbon PORTUGAL @ Zaratan
28 Apr Barroselas PORTUGAL @ SWR Barroselas Metalfest 22
2 May Paris FRANCE @ La Cantine De Belleville
5 May Newcastle Upon Tyne UK @ Cluny 2
6 May Inverness UK @ Tooth and Claw
8 May Glasgow UK @ BLOC
11 May Bristol UK @ The Cube
12 May London UK @ The Islington

http://facebook.com/darsombra
https://www.instagram.com/darsombra/
http://www.darsombra.com/
https://www.facebook.com/TranslationLossRecords/
https://translationlossrecords.bandcamp.com/
translationlossrecords.bigcartel.com/

Darsombra, Polyvisions (2016)

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Friday Full-Length: Swarm of the Lotus, The Sirens of Silence

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Swarm of the Lotus, The Sirens of Silence (2005)

When I think of music as being scathing, the standard I’m usually applying is Swarm of the Lotus. Before everyone and their cousin was walking around wearing His Hero is Gone shirts pretending the stuff they were listening to wasn’t just repackaged deathcore chestbeating, the Baltimorean outfit melded hardcore metal and extreme sludge in a way that sounded not only like the end of the world, but like the end of the world you were actively causing. The Sirens of Silence, which was their second and final album, came out in 2005. It was released through Abacus Recordings, which was one of Century Media‘s imprints, specifically designed for hardcore and metalcore, which made Swarm of the Lotus something of an outlier because they weren’t necessarily just about chugging their way into an emo part or a breakdown, and such a huge part of their impact came from the way they seemed able to slam their tone a hammer one second in “The Great Masquerade” and the next sprint off to grind at a sprint through “Vertigo.” I remember seeing them in New York at a place called The Pyramid in 2004. They usually had heavy shows in the basement, but Swarm of the Lotus were upstairs in the main room and it was box that when they started playing you just felt like there was no way out. It was manic. A chaotic, angular gnashing sound. The band were supporting their debut, When White Becomes Black, and their take was utterly ferocious and raw in a way that made perfect sense for the wider turmoil of those times, what with the apparently endless war and all. It’s the sound of human-caused global warming.

The Sirens of Silence is a more complex album than its predecessor in just about every way. I won’t take anything away from Swarm of the Lotus‘ debut — quite frankly, if the whole thing was on YouTube or Bandcamp, I’d be closing out the week with it — but from the initial winding surge of two-minute opener “Hookworm” through the sudden turn to a relatively patient march in “Call to Abandon,” it’s an album that 14 years later I still don’t really have a handle on what to expect from it. With guitarist Peter Maturi and bassist Chris Csar sharing vocal duties, Cole Krickenberger holding down guitar and Jon-John Michaud on drums, Swarm of the Lotus were able to pull off striking turns of approach while staying true to the aggressive sensibility at work beneath. The vocals still hurt my throat just hearing them, and seem to have bite that of all the screams swarm-of-the-lotus-sirens-of-silenceI’ve encountered in my time, realized a physical presence that almost no one else can match. Through the repeated lines, “If you could hold your last breath/How much longer do you think you could live?” in “Call to Abandon” and the searing shouts coinciding with the all-tumult assault in the back half of the subsequent “The Great Masquerade,” they harness a pain and disaffection that goes beyond sounding angry or metal or hardcore. In the angular “Yan Hou,” the filthy death groove of “Jackie G,” and the landmark slowdown of “Snowbeast,” Swarm of the Lotus unite in purpose in a way that seems coherent and yet doesn’t contradict the rawness on display. That is, they’re able to pull off these changes and expand their scope in a way that doesn’t make the elements tying them together or the moods they’re working in sound like a put-on. The hints toward melody in “Snowbeast” are a crucial moment for the band, where they bring in Melvinsian lumber and break to a quiet minimalist stretch before launching into an instrumental apex that’s a standout from both records, let alone just this second one.

What might’ve been side B starts with “Needles and Knives,” which is fitting enough. The tempo stays in the middle range for the brief instrumental and it feeds directly into “The Insect Trust Fund,” which brings together the stomp of “Snowbeast” with the meaner approach of “The Great Masquerade” as it works toward a massive, lurching finish that’s “heavy” in every sense of the word. It’s fitting they follow it with “Vertigo,” since it takes a couple minutes to recover from the fist-to-the-temple at the end of “The Insect Trust Fund,” but there’s little quarter afforded as “Vertigo” grinds and slams its way forward, aligning briefly at about two minutes into its 2:46 around a riff that drives to its end while still reeling up ahead of the start of “Judas,” which bring back some of the cleaner-ish shouting in its midsection and finishes with a plotted lead line that coincides with a half-time drum progression and a move toward genuine singing that Swarm of the Lotus never really try again. It’s buried in the mix, but it works, and it speaks to the growth of the band that was underway and never got fleshed out. They draw various sides together for the penultimate “House at the Bottom of the Sea” and cap with the all-out madness of “Nightmare Paint,” leaving behind a rumble that to my damaged ears just sounds like a speaker cabinet repair bill in the making. Even with fewer than 10 seconds of purposeful silence left, one almost expects Swarm of the Lotus to come back and renew the assault like some kind of horror movie monster refusing to die no matter how many times it’s killed.

Maybe that’s just the residual trauma on the frontal cortex brought on by listening, but Swarm of the Lotus indeed stayed dead, more or less. In 2015, they posted a single on Bandcamp, and they’ve put demos up for their two albums — presumably the albums themselves are still under someone else’s copyright — but they haven’t done really anything to follow that up. Maturi and Csar in the meantime released an awaited EP last year with the more outwardly grinding Graven called Heirs of Discord (review here), which, if it wasn’t named with the band’s relationship to Swarm of the Lotus in mind, easily could’ve been. That record was a beast, and in several ways more directly extreme than Swarm of the Lotus seemed to want to be, but the level of sonic catharsis that When White Becomes Black and The Sirens of Silence bring is not something so readily manifest.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

I needed that sonic catharsis this week, a kind of purging of the negativity I’ve been feeling all week, that kind of mouth-turned-down radioactive misery. Where’s the pill for that? Yesterday was a bit better, kind of coming out of it, but Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday were just fucking wretched. Doesn’t help that I’ve had the same headache since Saturday either. Still have that going. I’ve been on a regular ibuprofen regimen, but by Wednesday morning I was hearing a kid’s voice suggesting the possibility of a tumor in my brain à la Kindergarten Cop.

I’d say it’s not a tumor, but I don’t know that.

More likely, exhaustion and I popped something on stage last weekend with Clamfight because I don’t know how to breathe and sing anymore even to the minimal degree I ever did. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s this. Life event for yours truly, and worth the headache in the grand scheme.

So, perspective. I’m a lucky boy. Knowing that and living it are different things. Usually I just live like a dick.

Notes for next week:

MON 03/11 SWEET CHARIOT TRACK PREMIERE; OBSIDIAN SEA TRACK PREMIERE/REVIEW.
TUE 03/12 GONE COSMIC PREMIERE/REVIEW; MIDAS TRACK PREMIERE.
WED 03/13 CURSED TONGUE RECORDS ANNOUNCE/PREMIERE; SUPERLYNX ALBUM STREAM.
THU 03/14 THE GOLDEN GRASS PREMIERE/REVIEW.
FRI 03/15 KINGS DESTROY REVIEW; HORSEBURNER TRACK PREMIERE.

All subject to change of course. It’s extra busy because the week after is the Quarterly Review, which is early again because it was either early or late and I figured the less stress the better. So I’m making it stressful anyway. Because that’s what I do.

Thanks to everyone who asked me anything yesterday. I was worried I wouldn’t get any questions, so even if you were just goofing around, your time and interest were appreciated.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got. Thanks for reading. Great and safe weekend. Forum, Radio, merch at Dropout.

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